Chinese CIA Assets Killed

ChineseThere is an interesting story in the news indicating that about seven years ago a number of spies, or assets as the CIA refers to them, were discovered by the Chinese government and imprisoned or executed. What I find interesting about the story is that the comments seem to be focused exclusively on trying to blame someone. I find this troubling.

I think there are a number of questions this series of events brings to mind and yet everyone only cares about using it to their political advantage. I shouldn’t say everyone, I’m sure the people in the CIA who investigated the case and others care deeply about the security of the nation and what went wrong. It can’t be good when most of the people they are trying to protect don’t seem to care at all.

What I think about is why we so want to gain political advantage rather than actually figure out what happened? Why are most of the commenters finding a way to blame Hillary Clinton and President Obama for what went wrong or, on the other side, assuming that the problem predated them and blaming President Bush. It’s all about how it’s the opposition’s fault and not about the actual problem. I have not read a single comment about the poor people who lost their lives. The families devastated by the breech. The loss of intelligence gathering capabilities and the threat this does or does not present.

Where is our humanity? If we are focused so sharply on destroying each other, what will happen to our nation? Will we grow more and more divided? Will the United States break up? I think these are real possibilities.

I also question the very nature of the operations that got those people killed. Is it really necessary to do all that spying? Certainly, China isn’t acting in the best interest of the United States. They have spies in this country and their software developers have stolen trade secrets and important information from the United States and companies that operate herein. Still, the reason all those people are dead is because we asked them to spy on China for us. Yes, they decided on their own to do it, but it sometimes seems so unnecessary to me.

What if we just left other countries alone? I know most people will say that we leave ourselves open to attacks if we don’t know what is going on in China, but I’m not as convinced that is the case in this connected world. It would be catastrophic for China to financially harm the United States. They are as dependent on us as we are on them, this is one of the most beneficial things that comes from globalism. When everyone is in economic partnership with one another, there is increasingly less reason to attempt violence.

If we didn’t have those spies, they’d still be alive. We’d also have a lot less government and a lot more money.

The reality is no one actually knows how the Chinese discovered the agents. The most likely answer is a spy working for the Chinese and embedded in the CIA. There is one suspect who it is strongly assumed revealed the identity of the various assets but there was never enough proof to imprison the person. Eventually the suspect was no longer given sensitive information and subsequently the ability of the Chinese to identify spies dropped off.

We will most likely never know how the security of those spies was compromised but the disturbing thing for me is that no one seems to care to learn that information. They just want to blame someone.

Tom Liberman

Race Relations are Great but that’s not a Good Headline

race relationsI hate to break the bad news to all the alarmist, but race relations are absolutely fantastic in the United States. Interracial marriages are at an all-time high. Tolerance of homosexuals is growing beyond any level seen before. Atheists like me are freer to come out and talk about our lack of belief with greater security than at any time in the history of our nation. I’m of Jewish descent as well and it’s never been a better time to be a Jew.

Ladies, Gentleman, Transgenders, Blacks, Whites, Asians, Gays, Straights, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Old People, Young People, Hipsters, and all the rest; don’t believe the haters that crowd the comment sections or the talking heads who thrive on ratings. We are more willing to understand each other and put up with each other than ever. Race relations are better than ever.

A black man dating a white woman in Kansas, a cowboy in New York City, a hipster in Stillwater, a Cardinals fan in Chicago, we are more willing to live and let live than ever. Be a decent human and work hard, you are welcome just about everywhere.

That reality doesn’t make people who have a vested interest in keeping us apart happy. There are virulent racists in the world. There are misogynistic cretins. There are religious extremists. There are violent anarchists. These people are out there and their voices are loud but their numbers are dwindling.

The reason Islamic terrorists are blowing things up is because tolerance is winning. The reason White Supremacists are marching is because they are losing. The reason the comment section is filled with hate-filled rants is because these sorts are afraid others just want to lead their lives, that they don’t care about those other things. The internet has connected us to people all over the world who share like interests.

Does a redneck from Alabama love model trains? You bet. So too does a wealthy banker from New York City. They are online friends. They discuss their mutual interests and learn about each other. The difficulties of children, marriage, the hard day of dairy farming or investment banking. They discuss model trains and learn their mutual interests far outweigh their insignificant differences.

We are closer than we’ve ever been. We are not far from a world in which nothing matters but that which we enjoy. It is on the horizon, just in sight if you’re willing to squint and look closely. Kids today are more connected than they’ve ever been and they are linked with a wider array of friends than the world could even imagine twenty years ago. They are growing up in this world where all the meaningless external things that used to drive a wedge between us are invisible.

This frightens people. This terrifies authoritarian figures. This alarms those who don’t want you to be friends with people who are different in meaningless ways. They are reacting violently and that means the rest of us are winning, we just have to wait for them to die, and they will. Sad, angry, and surrounded by hate filled associates. They will all die.

This world is for the next generation, the tolerant generation. The best news of all is that it’s a wonderful time to be alive. It’s a fantastic time to be able to share your interests with people all over the world. It’s a time to learn and make friends that it would have been impossible to meet not long ago.

Relish this wonderful world. Find people who share your interests and ignore the angry voices that vie for your attention.
Forget about the fake troubles you read from various news sources that simply want your clicks. Those voices of hate? They are lying to you. They want something from you. Don’t give it to them.

Tom Liberman

Insulin and the Web a Story of Anti-Capitalistic Self-Interest

insulinWhat do Insulin and the Internet have in common? The person must responsible for each patented the technology and gave it away for free. There is a lesson to be learned for ardent Libertarians and capitalists.

Back in 1922 a fellow named Frederick Banting, later Sir Frederick, managed to extract and purify something called insulin. Eventually, along with partners J. J. R. Macleod, Charles Best, Clark Noble, and biochemist James Collip, he created a version of the drug that did not cause side effects. Soon children in diabetic wards across the world were being injected and waking up. Prior to that discovery, the parents of those children simply waited for them to die. Diabetic shock was essentially a death sentence.

Sir Frederick and his partners then sold the patent for a whopping sum of $3. The reason they did this was to ensure insulin would be available to all at a reasonable price. They put their humanity ahead of their desire to earn money. The drug patent was worth millions, if not billions, of dollars.

You will note even today there is no generic version of insulin because the patent is essentially available to all. Anyone can come up with a method to produce insulin and sell it. They have to pay no one for the right to do so.

Not that long ago a fellow by the name of Tim Berners-Lee, later Sir Tim, was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as an independent contractor. He came up with an idea called Hypertext which would allow researchers to share and update information. Over the years, he and others expanded on this idea. The result is the World Wide Web.

Eventually, Sir Tim organized the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which oversees all the protocols of the WWW. He made all of his ideas freely available with no patent or royalties due. He did this because he saw how much good the technology could do and wanted to make sure it spread across the world for the benefit of all.

Speaking from a misunderstood interpretation of Libertarian philosophy, it would seem the decisions of these two titans was rather stupid. Both of them could have gained considerable wealth from their discoveries. By giving them away they forsook riches, or so it would seem.
In actual practice, the situation is different. Because of their generosity and humanity, both received many rewards after essentially giving away multi-million dollar ideas. These rewards included a place in history and also financial success. Both men went on to rewarding careers and lives in which they were not only financially successful but renowned throughout the world.

Too often those who espouse a Libertarian philosophy or a Randian mantra, after Ayn Rand, focus on the financial rewards that success brings. This is a mistake. It is important to understand that financial success is only a byproduct of doing great things. There is also the reward of personal satisfaction. There is also the reward of public acclaim. Both of these things are not to be discounted in regards to self-interest.

If you were to do something that changed the world for the better, the personal satisfaction engendered would be of tremendous value to you as you aged. The continuous support you received from those you helped would be an all but endless source of joy and happiness.
Too often in this world we focus on money. It is merely the byproduct of doing good things for those around us. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with financial success and both Sir Tim and Sir Frederick achieved it despite their apparently altruistic goals. Still, I think it’s clear they made the right decisions.

Tom Liberman

Bad Logic Memes

bad logicGood old memes. The idea verbalized by Richard Dawkins twisted into a phenomenon seen everywhere in Social Media. Generally, memes are simplistic and shallow but they are also often filled with bad logic and that’s where I get annoyed.

If you post a meme with bad logic, that tells me you have a flawed brain. This conclusion might not be completely fair. Perhaps you saw the meme and didn’t bother to think about it too much. You just saw it corresponded with your political point of view and shared it without thinking too much.

However, it’s my opinion not bothering to think about something is perhaps even worse than being stupid. A person who thinks the meme they are posting makes sense when it clearly does not, is stupid. The person who is capable of understanding the logic is bad but posts it anyway, is showing a deeper form of ignorance. Willful ignorance.

Basically, a person has intentionally turned off her or his brain so that person can say something she or he knows is untrue or illogical, simply because it is politically expedient. I think we see all too much of that these days. People are completely willing to say illogical and stupid things about opponents while defending allies with equally bad logic.

It’s rampant and it doesn’t help solve the problems we have in this country and in the world. Not only is it rampant but it’s virulent. People call each other horrible names and say vile things about one another in response to the illogical memes. The sort of words that if used face to face would result in violence. Because they are being said from a distance there is a security otherwise not available. The rage engendered from such words is real, even if it cannot be consummated with fisticuffs.

It is clear to me the way to solve large problems is to work together. Working as a team involves communication and working through disagreement in a productive and positive manner. That is the best way to come up with lasting resolutions.

That’s the serious problem with all these nonsensical and illogical memes. We think they don’t do any harm, but they encourage people to turn off their minds and blindly state things that don’t make any sense. Not that people aren’t responsible for their own actions. If someone posts such an idiotic meme, then it probably means they are an idiot. That’s reality.

And, in case you’re wondering, the meme that set off my rant was about the removal of monuments in southern states that were dedicated to confederates. It read something along the lines of: If you remove Confederate Monuments then the Civil War never happened and that means slavery never happened.

There examples of bad logic in that meme. Can you spot them?

Tom Liberman

NBA Draft Lottery and the Appearance of Impropriety

draft lotteryThe NBA Draft Lottery is an annual event in which the fourteen teams that failed to make the playoffs in the National Basketball Association determine in which order they will draft players. In every other sports league there is no lottery, the team with the worst record drafts first and it proceeds in reverse order from there. Why does the NBA do this? Particularly with the potential for accusations of impropriety all but inevitable.

In the lottery system, the team with the worst record has a greater chance of drafting first, but an element of randomization makes it entirely likely this does not come to fruition. In fact, the team with the worst record has drafted first only seven out of thirty-three times. The team with the second worst record has drafted first four times while the team with the fifth worst record has drafted first five times.

In this year’s draft the Los Angeles Lakers ended up with the second pick, which is in line with their record for the season. Even with this statistically probable outcome, people are outraged. It is considered extremely likely the team will select a young player named Lonzo Ball. Ball is from the Los Angeles area and it was widely speculated the lottery would be rigged to have the Lakers draft second.

This is not the first time such accusations have plagued the league. The very first draft lottery was in 1985 and the New York Knicks were awarded the first choice despite finishing the previous season with the third worst record. They selected Patrick Ewing. This was widely considered to be what the NBA desired and the league has been beleaguered by insinuations of foul play in the lottery ever since.

Certainly, the days up to the lottery are filled with speculation about which team will draft where and on the day of the draft there is a special television show. This is no different than it is for the NFL and, to a lesser extent, the other professional sports leagues.

So why does the league persist with the lottery? In essence it unfairly both penalizes and rewards teams for their actual finish in the league standings. It gives rise to conspiracy theories of all kinds which the league must battle. I’m honestly not sure what is the answer.

In reality I think the entire draft is a shady process. Should not every young athlete have a chance to negotiate with any team that desires her or his service? I suppose that’s an argument for another day.

Does anyone else have a theory why the NBA uses the lottery system? It’s beyond me.

Tom Liberman

Kara McCullough and Feminism

Kara McCulloughA nuclear scientist by the name of Kara McCullough is in the news because of the answer she gave to a question about feminism while on her way to winning the Miss USA pageant. I think her answer, and the ensuing uproar, gives us interesting insight into what it is to be rationally moderate in this world. We are the majority but feel vastly outnumbered.

McCullough was asked if she considered herself a feminist. She answered that she preferred to use the term equalist. She went on to add she doesn’t consider herself one of those die-hards. By this she meant radicals who have made inflammatory statements.

She was immediately attacked on Social Media as mischaracterizing feminism as a man-hating movement. These attacks largely came from individuals who identify as left-wing.

The reaction to the reaction was swift, thanks Internet! Those on the opposite side of the spectrum quickly tried to associate every democrat, liberal, or feminist, as being part of the small group that was criticizing McCullough. And here we see the problem.

McCullough doesn’t want to associate herself with what are called radical feminists who have made any number of man-hating comments. And rightly so. This small group of people have hijacked the word feminism and given it a terrible connotation. Of course, the vast majority of feminists are more in line with McCullough. They want equality, they don’t see men as an obstacle or an enemy.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of people who are now attacking those making nasty comments about McCullough are actually pretty much equalist as well. They don’t think women are chattel to be owned. They don’t imagine that women are incapable of being lawyers, doctors, soldiers, or anything else.

If only those two groups could somehow be made to realize they are basically on the same side. We make up the majority. We outnumber the few man-haters and misogynists by enormous numbers.

Yet the vocal few taint the image of all the rest. Those screaming and yelling and refusing any compromise paint an entire group with the red brush of hate. They benefit from the duality of left and right. They profit because the majority are centrists, equalists. By splitting those in the center toward their wing, they bolster their numbers and impact.

Every time I read an article, I scroll down to the comments section. There is always someone making a moderate and rational point about the story in question. Every time this is immediately drowned out by the roar of the few. This roar gives the impression of many. It lures moderates into one camp or the other by portraying enemies as irrational, angry, and violent.

The opposite is true. If only we knew it, the vast majority of people would find they largely agree on issues.

I absolutely believe most people in this world are equalists, like McCullough. Yet the few who are not seem to drive a wedge between the nuanced many. Yes, people who are equalists differ in certain small factors of that equality.

The problem is that we get nowhere by yelling at each other, by refusing to compromise on minor points. And yet we seem to go further down this path every day, driven by those who gain from strife and rage. Those few.

Tom Liberman

WannaCry Illustrates a Strange Path to Combat Software Piracy

wannacryIt may seem like a strange connection but the WannaCry virus that spread wildly in Russia and China illustrates the best way forward in combating software piracy. Up until now, the heavy-handed use of criminal charges has been used by government to protect software development companies.

The government of the United States spent the last few decades passing law after law against those who illegally download files, largely at the behest of the Motion Picture, Music Recording, and software industries. These laws generally caught up a few minor criminals who downloaded a small number of songs or movies while leaving the vast majority of activity unchecked. Our nation then used strong-arm tactics on other countries trying to get them to extradite and otherwise punish pirates.

Meanwhile, in response to the growing virus threat, the software industry has long pushed security updates as a way to ensure the safety of their customers’ computers. This basically means those who have a legitimate copy get these updates.

The idea is simple enough. In China and Russia there is a plethora of pirated software and thus those two nations were far more vulnerable to the WannaCry Ransomware attack. The people of those nations suffered the most when hospitals and other important services were curtailed. An oversight in the coding of the Ransomware allowed the attack to be muted to some degree, but it doesn’t change the overall lesson.

If you want your computer to be safe, you really need to have legally licensed and fully updated software on it. No matter how many laws the government passes and no matter how rigorously they enforce these regulations, software piracy will continue. It is only when the ever-increasing threat of Ransomware and other risks becomes dangerous enough that people realize the need to have licensed software.
It is the criminals who are forcing people to obey the law.

Ironic, ain’t it?

Tom Liberman

Kimberly Guilfoyle and Unseemly Eagerness

Kimberly GuilfoyleA Fox News personality named Kimberly Guilfoyle is actively admitting she is interviewing to get the job of White House Press Secretary, currently held by Sean Spicer. I suppose I’ll get labeled a Liberal Shill or a Snowflake but this public lobbying for someone else’s job seems pretty gross to me. It’s just a lack of decency.

I mean, I get it, people get fired. Someone takes that job. That’s part of the business and political world. A business has to interview for a position they know is going to be vacant, but everywhere I’ve been it was done quietly. Other people in the office weren’t told about it, and certainly the person interviewing for the promotion didn’t go on Facebook and tell all their friends.

I’m not in the White House making decisions about who to hire for any position. I’m not hiring or firing anyone. My opinion is pretty much worthless in all of this. Still, if it was me, I’d certainly eliminate Guilfoyle as a candidate the moment I saw the interview. If she can’t be discreet enough to keep the talks quiet, then why would I want her working for me?

I suspect, as usual, thoughts about her behavior will be split along political lines, and that’s a shame. All too often we are willing to put up with bad behavior from someone who espouses the same political philosophy as us, while eagerly denouncing those who support the opposite side of the aisle.

When it comes to that sort of situation, I too feel the pressure. More than once, friends of mine who largely agree with my political point of view have spouted off inanities on their Social Media accounts. I always hesitate before saying something. On the occasions I do chastise an ally, I risk their friendship. I try to put my criticisms in a positive way. That doesn’t always work. I’m an abrasive fellow, there is no denying it. I’m not the most popular kid in school.

The problem is that the only people Guilfoyle is going to listen to are those who largely agree with her politics. She certainly won’t let my opinion influence her. It is only if someone with whom she largely agrees and respects sits her down and tells her how deplorable is her behavior, that she will mollify it.

That’s why I think it’s imperative to be critical of those with whom you largely agree when you see them doing something wrong. I think that’s what is largely missing in our current political climate. The ability to be critical of those with whom we find like cause.

And, of course, don’t lobby publicly for someone else’s job.

Tom Liberman

13 Reasons Why Romanticizing is no Reason to Censor

13 reasons whyOf late, various news stories and my Facebook wall made me vaguely aware of a television show called 13 Reasons Why which is based on a book named Thirteen Reasons Why. I knew the show and novel had suicide as a central theme and that a number of people were upset by it. Now I see it is being censored, ostensibly because it romanticizes suicide.

I don’t want to talk about the book or television show because I have neither read or seen either. There is clearly a lively debate on exactly how suicide is portrayed in the book and show, but to me it’s irrelevant. Movies, books, fictional television shows, the news, and many other sources romanticize things all the time. War is romanticized, violence is romanticized, sex out of wedlock is romanticized, horribly behavior is romanticized. Frankly, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a human behavior that is not being romanticized somewhere, in some medium.

Throughout history censorship has almost always been rationalized by a need to protect people, particularly children, from ideas. In most cases the censoring agency does nothing more than promote the particular book or content. This was true back when it was difficult to get such material. In today’s world, it far easier for anyone to get content through the internet.

This fact, to my way of thinking, makes this latest case of censorship more egregious. It is moralistic self-delusion of the worst kind. Does any librarian actually imagine by removing the book from the library they will prevent people from reading it, seeing the show? Thus, the censorship is seen for its true nature. Nothing more than a moral pat on the back. Look at me, I’m a good person. I’m helping the children! I’m so good and wonderful. I’m protecting children, look at me!

The reality is simply the opposite. By proudly flaunting the censorship, more people are made aware of the book and television show. Censors do not inhibit children from watching and reading but encourage them. They achieve the opposite of their stated goal. They know this. They are fully aware their censorship does not achieve what they claim. It reveals their actual motivation, a need to stroke their own ego.

I do not deny ideas are dangerous. People are inspired by what they see and what they read. We fear people will read and see things and be motivated to act in ways they would not before consuming such material. Ideas are also wonderful. People are inspired by ideas in beautiful and amazing ways, each and every day. This is life.

I certainly support a parent who chooses not to allow their child to watch the show or read the book. I just don’t think it’s a decision to be made by anyone else. Be they a librarian or a politician. I do caution parents who refuse to allow their children to see the show; your child is going to learn about it through outside agencies. If you refuse to allow them to watch or read it, they will likely find a way to do so without your permission.

I strongly believe enforced ignorance is not an educational tool. Those who promote censorship think otherwise.

Tom Liberman

The Glory of the Vending Machine

vending machineI’ve long been a fan of vending machines. They allow people to purchase products they desire without interference from outside agencies. This ability to get what I want is a wonderful manifestation of capitalism. This is empowerment.

The glory of the vending machine is, much like that of online shopping, you get to purchase a product without interacting with anyone. It has the added advantage of immediacy. This is the way life should be. You should be able to purchase the product you want, when you want, and be able to enjoy it immediately.

This is capitalism at its finest.

I just read about a new vending machine on a college campus that dispenses Plan B birth control as well as other products like allergy medication and feminine hygiene items. Another article I read was about the plethora of smart vending machines that are soon to be in markets everywhere.

I’m envious of vending machines in other countries around the world. In Japan and Germany, you can get beer from a vending machine. In France, you can get a baguette. There is a vending machine in China which dispenses live crabs! I imagine 3D Printers embedded in such machines.

Vending machine technology continues to improve and soon we will be able to use money in our various accounts directly with the machine. This allows us to not only get what we want but also gives autonomy to others.

For example, perhaps a parent wants their child to be able to purchase $100 worth of food while at camp. Maybe a supervisor want a quick and easy way to reward an employee for some achievement. A couple of clicks and their card has a $5 credit at the ice cream vending machine. Maybe teachers want to reward students for good grades. I can see a time when vending machines recognize you and dispense medication and other regulated items.

Naturally there are concerns about security in these cases, I don’t deny as much. Still, I see more and more vending machines with a variety of products making their way into our lives.

As the technology gets better and the quality of the items in the vending machines improves, I see no end to the possibilities.

In addition, the machines will keep track of purchases allowing them to understand what the customer wants. They will send this information back to the vendor. The vendor will load trucks specifically designed for each particular machine with the exact quantity need.

This improves inventory control and means more profit for the company and lower prices for the consumer.

At the heart of vending machine industry, we see consumers getting the product they want at an acceptable cost and in a timely fashion.
It’s really that simple and vending machines are a beautiful symbol of capitalism.

Tom Liberman

What Being Tough on Drug Crime Means

tough on drug crimeAre you, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an advocate of being tough on drug crime? If you are; I think you should examine why you feel that way. Some time ago, the nation of Portugal decriminalized drugs. This resulted in a number of outcomes long predicted by those against the War on Drugs. I’d like to take some time to examine these results and also compare and contrast those who gain and those who lose from such policies.

Portugal decriminalized drugs in 2001. What this means is it was still illegal to possess certain amounts of drugs but that people caught with more than that are not prosecuted criminally. Basically, they are given treatment for drug addiction. Thus, they are not tough on drug crime.

What has been the result?

Those people seeking treatment has increased dramatically as one might suspect. That means many people whose lives were destined to be destroyed by drugs were saved. Certainly, not everyone who seeks treatment avoids the ravages of drugs but at least some do. Many lives were saved and improved. Treatment costs money, this is true. But as we’ll see in a moment, it is far less expensive than current treatment costs.

The rate of HIV infection dropped dramatically. This means many people are alive today who would otherwise have died after extended hospitalization. We save lives and enormous amounts of money in the healthcare industry.

Drug related hospitalizations declined. Again, this means lives and money were saved.

Interestingly, the total number of people who used drugs at least once increased, although this may be related to people more willing to admit so in an era of decriminalization. In any case, even if more people tried drugs, fewer became addicted and were harmed by them. It is much like having alcohol at an early age in a supervised fashion. Those who do so are less likely to become alcoholics.

Drug use as a whole remained about equal with the nations around it. Thus, decriminalization did not cause more people to use drugs, one of the main arguments against decriminalization.

Drug use among adolescents declined. The idea that we must protect children is one of the most frequently used arguments by those who oppose legalization or decriminalization. Portugal shows us we accomplish this more readily with decriminalization. If you want to discourage drug use among children, you must support decriminalization.

The drug related criminal workload decreased dramatically. Basically, law enforcement and the court system saw a dramatic saving in time, work, and money because they were no longer prosecuting all those drug cases. People were sent to treatment instead.

The price of drugs decreased dramatically. This means the criminals who sell these drugs are getting far less profit. This takes money out of the hands of criminals which means they are less able to commit crimes.

Finally, the number of drug related deaths dropped immensely. This includes law enforcement officers killed while prosecuting drug dealers and users, and also innocents killed by drug dealers or users.

If I can sum it all up quickly. Decriminalizing drugs saves lives, reduces drug use, saves money, and makes society a better place for almost everyone.

Almost?

Yes, the fact that using and selling certain drugs is a crime does benefit several groups of people.

It benefits the penal system. More people are needed to work in prisons. Companies that supply those prisons have more customers. The penal system in the United States is an enormous business with powerful lobbyists. Decriminalization would cripple their industry.
Law enforcement agencies benefit in some ways. Certainly, we must hire more interdiction officers to police drug use. Entire federal agencies depend on the illegal drug trade to finance their departments. It must be noted that actual officers do not benefit in all ways. They are the ones who prosecute the war on drugs and are often the victims. Their lives are destroyed. They alienate the community they are supposed to police. But, they have jobs. Without the illegal drug trade, many would not have jobs. Police forces would be reduced dramatically and those officers who remained would return to the duties they performed before drugs became their main job.

One of the most important considerations in any policy decisions is the outcome. If the outcome is going to cause tremendous suffering and create significantly more violence and pain, perhaps, you should think twice about backing such policies.

I’m here to tell you, if you are an advocate of being tough on drug crime; you are causing tremendous human suffering. You are destroying the lives of millions of people. I’m certain those who support such policies believe they are helping and making things better. I’m sure they think they are a good, decent people.

They aren’t.

Tom Liberman

J.K. Rowling and Stolen Intellectual Property

intellectual propertyThere have been a number of cases involving stolen intellectual property in the news lately and a short story written by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling is the latest. In addition, episodes from Orange is the New Black were stolen and released after Netflix refused to pay a ransom.

This is an issue that touches close to home as I’m an author. I’ve written nine Sword and Sorcery fantasy books and I’m close to releasing my tenth. I’m certainly not nearly as famous as Rowling nor do I have as much to lose as Netflix, but I like to think of myself as a kindred spirit. What would I do if someone broke into my cloud account and stole the latest version of my book? Or, as in the case of Rowling, physically stole the manuscript I’m proofing? What if they released it for free on the internet? What if they attempted to extort money from me before doing so?

Rowling is imploring people not to purchase the stolen story which is, I suspect, about the only thing she can do. Anyone who wants to read the story and not pay for it, will be able to do so. In fact, anyone who wants to read any of her novels or watch any of her movies can illegally download them for free. It’s not particularly difficult. A collector can purchase they actual, physical story as a keepsake.

We live in a world in which intellectual property is all but impossible to protect. Even if television episodes, novels, movies, music, or any other information is not stolen; once it is released to the public, the ability to copy and redistribute it is all but unstoppable. People who want to purchase it from third parties who don’t own the intellectual rights will always find a way to do so.

What’s interesting about intellectual property theft, as opposed to physical theft, is the person stealing the information wants it. The exception being those who steal with the intent of extortion. Most people are not downloading music, movies, or novels because they plan to resell to a third party. They want to listen to, watch, or read the content. Thus, an appeal like Rowling’s makes an impact.

That’s reality and it’s important for those of us producing such content to understand it. Certainly, the Motion Picture and Music industries have lobbied Congress and gotten stringent and punitive piracy laws enacted. Some people have paid large fines for stealing music and other files but it hasn’t slowed down illegal downloading.

I can rely on the government to pass laws protecting intellectual property. I can rely on cyber-police to attempt to enforce those laws. I can rely on the court system to prosecute those few they catch in violation. What I can’t rely on is any of these methods to stop the theft.

The only way to stop most people from illegally purchasing or downloading such content is to ask them not to do so and to price the content in a way that is friendly. If Rowling were to put her story for sale at $20 a copy, that tempts people to steal it. However, if she places it on sale for $1.99, it is a very short story written on a single A5 postcard, I think the vast majority of her fans would simply shell out the two bucks. Why bother stealing when you know you can support the artist for a nominal price?

There will always be those who refuse to pay even a small price for such content but the various industries and artists have to balance their own profit margin with the potential for theft. As awful as it sounds to moderate our price because of thieves, there really doesn’t seem to be any other option. I currently cannot charge $20 for my novels because I’m an unknown, but if I was famous and my novels were hugely popular I might be able to do so. I wouldn’t.

That’s the only pragmatic solution to this problem. Make content cheap enough that regular people are willing to purchase it. That and use strong passwords!

What else is there to do?

Tom Liberman

Globalization China Style One Belt One Road

one belt one roadThere is a lot of strong sentiment about Globalization in the United States and other parts of the western world. The United States and some other European countries are moving away from it but China is moving forward with something called One Belt One Road (OBOR). This creates an interesting situation.

I’m not going to try and convince you of the virtues of such initiatives. That’s your decision and nothing I say will likely change your opinion. What I will talk about is the result of China moving forward while the United States retreats, that’s something it would be wise to understand.

Globalization is largely about economic development through trade. When raw materials are developed in one location, moved to a second location to be processed, shipped to a third location to be assembled, and finally transferred to a market; it becomes cheaper to produce said products. This is undeniable. Any single nation doesn’t have the ability to do all those things as cheaply or efficiently as a group of nations.
In the last decades, China has initiated massive projects around the globe and particular in Asia, designed to speed this process. A massive port in Genoa, highways to connect the biggest markets in Asia, railways in Nairobi, even canals in Nicaragua. The plans are enormous and there is some doubt they can be achieved, but it is a bold move. If Asia, parts of Europe, Africa, and South America succeed with these projects it means enormous employment and wealth. And China is leading the way.

There is, of course, the potential some or all of these projects will fail in their goals.

The populations of United States and some of western Europe are clearly in an Anti-Globalization mood. They’ve elected leaders who advocate an Us First policy. The leaders of United States are moving forward with plans to disentangle our nation from such projects.
Again, I don’t want to tell you what China is planning and implementing is good or bad. I just want people who advocate Us First to be aware that it creates a void. Where there is a void, something will fill it. In this case, it is China.

These projects are going forward. China has a huge number of highly educated college graduates and these are the people who will be developing, innovating, and leading these projects. When the young people of other nations start working on these projects, they will be working for Chinese supervisors. They will take trips to Beijing to discuss the plans. China will become the center of commerce in the world.
Again, this might be a bad thing. All the projects could go badly and China might go bankrupt. Those who advocate an Us First policy might end up laughing all the way to the bank.

On the other hand, the projects might create enormous wealth for the countries and the people who take part. The European, African, and Asian nations that participate in these projects might reap rewards in the trillions of dollars. The people of these nations might see reduced cost of goods and all the benefits that come with it.

The United States once led the world in projects like this. We, through our votes, expressed the idea that we don’t want to do so anymore. That’s fine. That’s what living in a Representative Republic is all about. We the People get to, through our proxies, decide.

Just be aware of the potential ramifications of what you are deciding, and the possibilities for good and ill.

Tom Liberman

It is National Fill in the Blank Day and that is Good

national holidayThis month is apparently National Hamburger Month. At least that’s what Facebook tells me. Or more accurately, one of my friends on Facebook.

These things are often called Hallmark Holidays because they encourage people to purchase greeting cards. Hallmark denies responsibility for this phenomenon, but it cannot be denied it exists. The commercialization of various products is largely the reason such days litter our social media walls. Every industry worth their salt … hey, is there a National Salt Day? Let’s find out! Off to the internet.

Now, I want you to know this was a complete coincidence. I’m writing this post on May 12, 2017 and I just found out National Salt Day is May 17! That is hilarious. There is also National Salt Awareness week in late February and early March but that is actually a holiday trying to keep us from buying something. So, it doesn’t count.

Is there any end in sight? A simple answer, no. As long as there is profit to be made, we’ll have more and more of these consumer holidays. And, to be honest, it’s not a bad thing. If a company wants to promote their product and they find a good way to do it, why shouldn’t they? No one is forced to purchase Salt on National Salt day. You don’t have to buy a Mother’s Day card, flowers, or candy. Consumerism is a wonderful thing because it is largely voluntary. We buy things we want.

It is only when capitalism is constrained that we should start to be worried. When one company is not allowed to sell their product because it competes with another favored by the leaders of a country, then there is a problem.

We buy the things we want because they are priced attractively. This is the very nature of consumerism. We too often blame the corporate world for causing us to eat too much, go too far into debt, or something else related to capitalism. I won’t deny these things exist. We have an unhealthy population in the United States because of abundantly available food of a type we like. People go into debt because they want things, this overwhelms their financial good sense.

If I happened to want a nice hamburger, I might use the excuse that this is National Hamburger Week to purchase one. I’d be interested in seeing the metrics involved with many of these new holidays. Certainly, we see an enormous uptick in sales of flowers around Mother’s Day and ties around Father’s Day. If not, we wouldn’t see all these new holidays appearing on our calendar.

Naturally they are somewhat self-defeating in that as we see more and more of these holidays appear, we become inured to them. That’s perfectly normal as well and eventually someone will find a new way to market their product.

Here is an interesting theoretical question. If the government banned such days, would it reduce consumption of that particular item? I think the answer is yes, but no one is calling for such bans. Mother’s Day is a huge boon for the flower industry but we don’t see consumer protection groups advocating the end of the holiday to prevent people from spending their money.

On the other hand, we do see all kinds of groups promoting the outlawing of particular items, be they drugs or simply large soda containers. The thrust of these laws is that we don’t know what is good for ourselves. That we lack the impulse control to stop self-destructive purchases. This is true. We do lack such control, but solutions based on legal remedies are doomed to fail.

We must teach people impulse control. We must educate them on financial realities. These are the methods by which we improve the lives of citizens, by helping them improve themselves.

It’s just not the role of government to protect us from ourselves, or made up national holidays.

Tom Liberman

Steve Harvey and the Message vs the Delivery

steve harveyI just read an interesting story about entertainer Steve Harvey and a memo he released to his staffers. It’s getting a lot of bad press. What I find fascinating is that his basic message is perfectly reasonable. It is the delivery that gives rise, and reasonably so, to the criticism.

That difference between the message itself and the manner in which it was delivered is what I’d like to examine today. Let’s pretend we are on the receiving end of the memo in question. Let’s imagine our reaction depending upon the way it is written, rather than the content. We are an employee of Harvey or perhaps a perspective employee reading the memo in the news. How would we react? What actions would we take depending if we heard the basic premise or, instead, read the actual memo?

Now, as to the memo itself. Apparently, Harvey is often approached by staff while in his dressing room and during his time in the makeup chair. These disruptions make it difficult for him to focus on his job and cut dramatically into his free time. That makes perfect sense to me. When you are the lead talent on a television show, it’s important to manage your time properly. You can’t have unscheduled meetings throughout the day or you will find your performance suffers. Harvey is completely right about this.

Yet, his message repeatedly states the same point over and over again. He starts off in an extremely friendly tone but quickly degenerates into all capital shouting including threats of removal for as much as opening his dressing room door.

The first five paragraphs of the new rules basically list the same rule five times. Please don’t do A. If you do A, I will be angry. Don’t do A. If you do A you will be punished. Has anyone ever sat you down and told you the same thing over and over again? It’s incredibly condescending and annoying. The entire message could have been delivered in short but coherent memo not more than three paragraphs long. It could have been sent in a polite fashion or perhaps a firm fashion. That would be up to Harvey to decide.

It’s so fascinating to imagine myself on the receiving end of such a memo and my reaction to it. I’d like you to do the same. Let’s say you actually get the ranting, repetitive, all cap filled memo. If it was me I’d be thinking about a new job. The person who wrote it is clearly unstable. The person who wrote it most likely has anger management issues. It’s clear to me the person who wrote this doesn’t have impulse control and working for such a person is a nightmare. Even if I desperately needed the job, I’d immediately be putting my resume out there. I’d certainly think twice before taking a job for the person who wrote that memo. I would imagine anyone working for Harvey pretty much lives in constant fear of a mercurial and autocratic maniac.

On the other hand, if someone simply told me that Harvey doesn’t like being approached while in his dressing room or during makeup, I’d simply shrug my shoulders and say it sounds pretty reasonable. I’d go about my day without as much as another thought.

Now, maybe I’m fooling myself. I don’t actually work for Harvey. But the stark difference in the reaction I think I’d have is profound. If you are angry about a situation and thinking of writing a memo, I’d urge you to think about the situation. What impression do you want people to have of you?

It’s much more than the message itself, it’s the manner in which it is delivered.

Something to consider at least.

Tom Liberman

Why is Stealth Marketing Illegal?

stealth marketingThe Federal Trade Commission is apparently quite concerned people are mentioning they like particular products without revealing they are paid for these remarks. It’s called Stealth Marketing. Basically, someone who has a large number of Social Media followers is paid by a business to mention a particular product.

The FTC requires that people who do so use #ad or #sponsor to indicate they are being paid for their opinion. Why does it matter? Why would government feel the need to secure us from this apparently dire threat?

Certainly, there is all sorts of Stealth Marketing going on in movies and television shows from which the government does not see fit to protect us. In addition, every time an athlete wears a jersey or shirt, swings a golf club, or hits a ball it is an advertisement for the apparel company that pays the university, league, or athlete. Every time an actor wears particular clothes to some award ceremony it is because they are paid to do so.

I could ask why there is apparently a different standard for the two but I just don’t care. Why on earth does the government care? Why is it against the law? It’s utter insanity. The government, as usual, couches their blatant interference in terms of protecting us. If we don’t force them to tell you they are paid sponsors, you won’t know! We’re doing it to save you from them!

In reality it is just another way for the government to justify its existence. There are apparently people at the FTC spending their time monitoring this situation and we pay the salaries of those people. Congress likely had to have hearings and who knows how much time went into writing these regulations. All to what end? From what are we being protected? Who does Stealth Marketing hurt?

Who cares if a celebrity says they like something on their Twitter account and they are being paid to do so? How is ensuring we know it’s an advertisement any different? I think Emily Blunt is a talented actress. If she happens to endorse Yves Saint Laurent Opium perform why do I care if she mentions it in a Twitter post as opposed to a commercial? Wait, there is a fragrance called Opium? Seriously? That’s awesome. I’m surprised the government hasn’t outlawed that.

Will I suddenly be less inclined to buy a product that a celebrity I admire uses if I know they are sponsored by the manufacturer? Gosh, I was all set to by that Opium perfume for my pretend girlfriend Emily Blunt but I found out she really doesn’t use it. She just shills for it on television. Now I won’t. Thank you, government for saving me from this terrible decision to purchase a product of my own free will.

I reiterate, who cares? Why do we care? What business is it of the government to tell a person they must reveal if they are just saying they enjoy a product or if they are being paid to say they enjoy a product? What’s the practical difference?

Who is hurt? The consumer is purchasing a product that was promoted. Whether it’s a paid promotion or a genuine promotion is irrelevant.

The people of the United States are fully capable of making their purchasing decisions without being protected by the government.

Tom Liberman

Parking Tickets Shouldn’t be the Cost of Doing Business

parking ticketsThe city of New York is crowded and parking is at a premium. Because of this the city rakes in millions of dollars in revenue from parking tickets. How many millions? Over $500 million last year and on pace to top that by $100 million this year. For companies that have to work in the city, this is largely considered to be a business expense. Want to work in New York city? Put a few thousand in the budget for parking fines.

You can’t provide a service in the city without racking up thousands of dollars in parking tickets. Tickets are such an important factor in doing business in the city that they actually created an industry of their own, people who get the fines reduced or removed. All for what? Money. That’s a big problem. A business wants to make money and this is a good and normal thing. The role of government is far different.

One of the primary functions of municipal government is to make life better for those who live and do business in the city. It is not to harass them and fund government coffers with fines. I understand the city is crowded and people will park illegally. However, I wonder how many lovely parking lots could be built for $500 million?

That’s what a responsible government does. It sees a need that can’t easily be solved by local businesses and people and goes about fixing the problem. At least that is what government is supposed to be about. Naturally, government has simply become a money churning machine. It takes money from citizens and redistributes it to a chosen few.

When government pursues a course of action simply designed to sustain itself, it has failed. Yes, parking in cities like New York, Chicago, London, Mexico City, and other crowded metropolis’s is a serious problem. So is traffic. The function of government is to resolve these issues, not profit off of them. The city of New York issues citation for good reason. When cars and trucks are parked illegally, it causes congestion on the roads. Businesses use vehicles to delivery their goods and transport personnel from one location to another. Parking is all but impossible to find because there are far too many vehicles and not enough parking spaces.

The answer is not easy. Every parking lot takes up space which otherwise might be used for a residence or business. Underground parking lots are expensive. That being said there must be creative solutions available. Perhaps a massive parking lot in central New York built underground with rentable powered sleds that allow transport of large items a nominal distance. The lot has a small fee associated with it paying for upkeep and monitoring. I find it impossible to believe the many people who do business in the city wouldn’t be happy to use such a lot, rather than pay fines and clog up traffic.

In addition, it means fewer people must be employed by the government to issue the parking tickets. To roam the city continuously looking for violations. Fewer people must process the tickets.

The end result is always an incredibly important consideration. If the businesses that work in the city simply assume paying parking tickets are part of standard operations, that means traffic gets clogged up anyway. The tickets aren’t successfully achieving the desired result.

Creative solutions to parking issues isn’t my specialty, I admit as much. But I imagine, with absolute conviction, that $500 million might well be able to create and maintain solutions that not only unburden those doing business in the city but also help those who must get from Point A to Point B by actually helping alleviate the traffic problems.

I’m certain there are other people with great ideas out there that don’t involve tickets, but I’m not sure the municipal governments want to consider them. That’s a shame, for all us.

Tom Liberman

Sears was too Big to Fail but It Did

SearsI’d guess the majority of people under my age, fifty-two, don’t remember how dominate Sears, Roebuck and Company was in the retail industry. Sears was enormous. Too Big to Fail according to a metric that seems to be prevalent in this political era. Sears has pretty much failed and it hasn’t affected the economy or jobs in a significant way. There’s a lesson to be learned in that.

First let’s take a look at how dominant was Sears prior to the Wal-Mart and Internet era. At the turn of the century, that’s nineteenth century youngsters, people purchased things from their local general store. The selection was limited and the price was exorbitant. Then came the Sears Catalog. It changed everything in the same way as did Amazon and online shopping. People no longer had to rely on their local store. People simply sent an order form in and, within a few weeks, they had their item. It was revolutionary. It was the beginning of the end for small stores across what was then the largely rural United States.

Sears grew from that initial catalog until they were the dominant retail sales company in the country. There were, and remain, Sears stores in every city. The Sears Tower was for a time the largest building in the world. They employed huge numbers of people and their sales methods allowed others all over the country to purchase the goods they wanted at an affordable price.

I feel confident suggesting that if someone back in 1980 told Congress Sears was going to fail, there would have been panic. The thought of all those lost jobs and the fact that so many wouldn’t be able to purchase cheap goods would have caused an immediate effect. We would have seen a rush of public committee meetings, speeches about how vital was Sears to the economy, and a plethora of grim looking politicians pledging to save us from this impending disaster.

Happily, no one knew. Wal-Mart came along. The Internet came along. Sears pursued a bad business model and now they stand on the brink of insolvency. They are closing stores all over the country but, and this is important, politicians don’t care. It’s the natural course of business in their eyes and, for once, they are right.

Businesses fail. When executives make poor decisions, when the nature of the market changes, when circumstances and luck go against it, a business fails. The vital factor is that it failed for reasons. Another business model can succeed and provide profit, and people who pursue a good strategy will fill the void.

If the car manufacturers had been allowed to fail someone else would have stepped up to take their place. If the financial institutions that badly managed their affairs had been allowed to fail, others would have ably stepped up to replace them. For every job lost to the failing company, another one would have been created, if not two.

There is no such thing as too big to fail. What exists is too much vested interest in politics. The businesses that were going to fail had the Democratic and Republican Nation parties in their pockets. It was in the interest of the two major political parties to save those companies. The politicians and their parties don’t want the gravy train to stop.

The lesson to be learned is that there is no too big to fail. Failure is as much a part of capitalism as is success. Where one business fails, for whatever reason, another arises with a better model. Where one job goes away, two more appear.

Does it hurt for those who lose their job? Is it painful for the executives who have failed? Yes.

That’s capitalism.

Tom Liberman

Battlegrounds Anarchy and Benevolent Dictatorship

battlegroundsAmong my few pursuits in life is watching people play video games on Twitch.tv and recently a new game called PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has stormed the site. It is being played by tens of thousands of watched by more. One of the coolest features is the ability create a server where the host sets up many of the rules.

The games so created are a strange blend of Anarchy and Totalitarianism and I find the combination interesting. By technical definition, no two political philosophies could be further apart. In an Anarchic state, there is no real central government, just a collection of individuals with like interests. In a Totalitarian state the government makes all the rules.

What happens when a streamer on Twitch creates their own Battlegrounds server is that other players join and begin to play. When the host, or benevolent dictator as I prefer to call her or him, sets up the game, there are generally rules. Yet, there is no way to enforce these rules.

One example is a Zombie Apocalypse style game. In such a game one team of players is allowed to equip whatever weapons and armor they desire. These are the survivors. The other team must strip naked and grab only melee weapons like pans. There are several other rules designed to create a fairly balanced environment where both sides have a good chance of victory but, as I said, there is no real way to enforce these restrictions.

If a Zombie player chose to pick up a gun and start shooting, there is no mechanism to prevent it. Certainly, the benevolent dictator can alert other players and they can gang up on the person not playing by the rules. However, if a half dozen or so players decided to disregard the rules, the game would be largely ruined.

You must remember it is in the best interest of the players to have an evenly matched game. This is the absolute key to making such a system work. It must be understood that a poorly balanced game, in which one side completely destroys the other, just isn’t as much fun as a finely balanced match. It’s not much fun for the winning side and even less for the losers.

In these two things, we have a combination of a benevolent dictatorship and anarchy. The players who join the Battlegrounds game do so because they enjoy spending time with like-minded people. They agree to a set of rules designed to make the game more enjoyable. The rules actually change as balance shifts but the players largely follow them. The dictator sees how a session goes and tweaks the rules in order to create a game in which all players enjoy themselves.

No one has to join the server. Participation is completely voluntary and if a dictator creates a set of rules in which one team or group has an unfair advantage, she or he would soon find it impossible to get people to play the game. And, here’s the good news. It largely works. Sure, there might be an isolated case of someone breaking the rules now and again, but the vast majority of players abide by the rules and have a fantastic time while doing so, even when their team turns out to be the loser. For winning is less important than having fun, and much fun is had. Much.

Can you imagine a world that followed this pattern? People setting up systems in which everyone benefits. The people that create the most beneficial systems, those that are fun and fair, get more and more players. Those who create environments that are not so, are left behind. Would you want to live in such a world?

Certainly, we wouldn’t all choose to live on the same Battlegrounds server. Some people enjoy one thing and others might relish something else. As long as someone was creating environments, we could pick and choose that which we liked the most.

The world we live in today is not like this.

However, I believe we are headed toward such a world. I think the boundaries we call nations are at the beginning of the end. We separate ourselves by arbitrary differences like race, geography, gender, age, and more. In the future world, we will all be connected through technology, and we will choose with whom we wish to associate.

A fun, fair, and well-managed server succeeds because people join it. Seems like a good system to me.

Tom Liberman

The Decline of Golf

decline of golfThe year was 2006 and Tiger Woods won The Open Championship, the PGA Championship, and six other events. The game of golf had 30 million regular players. Courses both public and private were being opened and designed all over the country. The world was bullish on golf and apparently rightly so.

Since then the total number of players has dropped by more than five million despite the population rising. More golf courses are closing than opening and only a small number of highly exclusive courses are even in the planning stages anymore.

What happened? It’s a complex question and there are many factors involved; including lack of star power, economics, and the time and difficulty required to play. What I’d like to focus on is the nature of economics. If golf was banking or car manufacturing there would be panic in Washington D.C. and in statehouses across the country. How can we save golf? It employs so many people. It provides an entertainment outlet for many more. We can’t let it fail.

A once thriving industry is struggling badly. People just don’t want to play anymore, for whatever reason. That’s the nature of economics and capitalism. The fact courses are closing all over and the government isn’t intervening is exactly how it should work. If a golf course cannot generate enough revenue to stay open, it should close. This means economic hardship for the employees. It means I have fewer options when I want to play a round.

What will be the result? The golf industry is coming up with innovate ways to solve the problem. There is talk of six hole courses. Courses with bigger holes to make playing a round easier. There are many ideas being discussed and implemented. Perhaps some of them will work and a new generation of golfers will once again fill courses, or perhaps it will go the way of the horse and buggy. I don’t know. I can’t know. No one knows. That’s the nature of this world.

What government often tries to do is alleviate this uncertainty. It is not merely economics. It is lives. When the golf industry falters, any number of people are affected in a negative way. Government tries to assure people it will be fine. They will prop up the golf industry so no one loses their job. So there is always a place to play. It’s a reassuring thought. Gosh, it’ll be great. We’ll never have to worry about the course closing. I’ll always have a job and be able to pay for the food on my children’s table. Thanks, government.

The problem is that it doesn’t work. When the government attempts to prop up a failing business or industry they are merely delaying the inevitable. When a business fails through natural capitalistic forces, it does so in a way that allows for it to be replaced. If people are not playing golf, they are doing something else. In this other thing there are jobs, there is security.

I think it’s important to consider where we would be today if the government hadn’t intervened in the Global Financial Crisis of 2015. Many of the car dealerships and the ancillary suppliers would have had a hard time, but now we’d have vigorous young companies established in their place. The industry would have been reborn, people need cars, that is not going away. Perhaps in the innovative storm that followed the demise of the industry we’d have fully automatic cars by now.

It is clear to me if those banks that made foolish loans had simply been allowed to go bankrupt, others would have risen in their place. And the new ones would probably not have charged me nearly as much to simply withdraw my money from my own accounts.

It is important to remember one vital fact. While failure is a disaster for one person, it is opportunity for a dozen more. It eliminates the bad and allows for new ideas to enter the market. These new companies are agile, vigorous, and provide a service wanted by the people. This is why capitalism, largely unfettered, is such a good thing for all of us.

The decline of golf is an important lesson in economics.

Tom Liberman