Drug Raid in Kansas City nets Three Tomato Plants

Tomato GardenI’ve posted about the stupidity of the “War on Drugs” several times before so I’m not going to write a lengthy article here on yet another example of that idiocy. I do want to use a recent incident to draw a direct correlation to the argument that our safety is inversely correlated with our freedom.

The basic story is that the states of Missouri and Kansas use a day celebrated by marijuana enthusiasts, April 20, to launch raids against those they think are growing that drug. These raids are highly publicized when marijuana and drug paraphernalia is seized. In this case one of the homes raided belonged to a moderately wealthy family in an upscale Kansas City neighborhood. The police found no evidence of drugs in the house.

Why is this a big deal? Because the family in question seems to have had nothing to do with illegal drugs except the fact that they do some indoor gardening and frequent a store that supplies equipment for that hobby. This sort of equipment can also be used by marijuana growers. There seems to be no other evidence of drug use and the assumption is that the police department used sales records of hydroponic equipment to convince a judge to allow a search warrant.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is clear and it is vitally important to our freedom, to your freedom, and most importantly, to my freedom.

I don’t do any indoor gardening but I stand by Adlynn and Robert Harte. In this case they represent my lost freedom. If you purchase cough medicine, fertilizer, or a myriad of other common items then you have something in common with terrorists and drug lords. Does that give the government the right to search your home? To insult your family?

The reason we must be protected from the government is that it represents a real threat to our freedom. In many ways much more of a threat than foreign enemies. Yes, our laws protect criminals also. Yes, our constitution is used by the guilty to get away with criminal activity. That’s the price of freedom. So called patriots yelp about how “Freedom isn’t free” but the reality is that such phrases are used to frighten people into giving up their freedom. In my opinion the phrase should be, “Freedom isn’t safe”. Freedom isn’t safe. It’s dangerous. It’s also glorious. To be free we must allow people to do as they will and sometimes this means danger. We can’t insulate ourselves from the world. There are people trying to hurt us. We can be hurt.

My argument is that the methods used to give us safety are actually far more dangerous than the threats they claim to thwart. Terrorists killed 3,000 people on September 11th. That’s true. How many men and women have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world trying to keep us safe? How many Americans have been wrongly imprisoned? Brutalized? Let’s just play a numbers game and see who loses. How many have died in the “War on Drugs”? How much money pours into the hands of bad people because an adult chooses to smoke a plant?

The War on Drugs is a threat to our freedom and in the end doesn’t make us any safer.

Finally, I strongly support anyone doing indoor gardening to raise healthy fruits and vegetables for their family. The idea that they will be raided for this noble effort infuriates and frightens me.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (A book about overcoming fear)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The Shrinking Middle Class

Middle ClassMy middle younger sister (yes, I have three younger sisters) recently linked an interesting radio show from This American Life on her Facebook page. The topic of the show was the precipitous rise in disability claims in the United States over the last twenty years. It’s an interesting show for a number of reasons. While I somewhat disagree with its conclusions, it did lead me to some interesting thoughts. Here is a summary of what it talks about.

In 1996 the United States passed a sweeping welfare reform act largely at the behest of the newly elected Republican Congress as part of their Contract with America. President Clinton signed it into law. Clinton had vetoed two earlier attempts and with Congressman Newt Gingrich arrived at this compromise bill.

The main focus of the bill was to allow each individual state more leeway in who was allowed to be on welfare and for how long. The state took over some of the funding for welfare although still received much federal money. Largely the bill only allowed people to get welfare if they were actively looking for work and stopped welfare after a period of time, largely five years although this varied by state.

In the early years there was a large reduction in welfare recipients and decrease in the unemployment rate although this was certainly at least somewhat related to the dotcom boom of the time. The radio broadcast points to a direct link between the rise in disability claims of that era and said reductions of welfare. That those leaving welfare took up disability instead.

I took some time to look up a few statistics and I see the point made by the broadcast but I’ve come to a different conclusions. Disability is not necessarily replacing welfare as a place to get free government handouts for doing nothing, although I’m sure there are many who abuse the system. Since 1990 the number of disability claims has been going up, this started six years before the 1996 welfare reform act.

What we see in our country are two trends that both drive people onto disability and increase the wealth gap between those who have sufficient money and those who do not. This gap, this increase in people unable (or unwilling) to work presents real problems for our country. A strong middle-class is vitally important to a strong nation. When the poor have real opportunity to gain wealth we have a fairly equitable society. When they do not, we risk revolution, the possibility of becoming a police state, or both.

I think the rise in disability claims is more closely tied to an increasingly unhealthy population and stupid people. Unhealthy people cannot work. This didn’t used to be true for stupid people. Prior to the last ten years or so there were always plenty of jobs for stupid people. Not the highest paying jobs, but jobs that provided adequate income. Stupid people are seeing their employment opportunities dwindle and are essentially disabled because they cannot work productively in modern society. They can’t do simple jobs because modern jobs, even simple ones, require an education.

As the ability for stupid and the ever-growing number of unhealthy people to get jobs diminishes, the middle class vanishes. This is very dangerous. We have moderately high unemployment but a quick, unscientific survey of my friends indicates their companies would hire more people if they could find qualified people.

There is no effective way to legislate health or study habits. By the way, when I say stupid, I generally mean people who choose not to learn. Not the mentally disabled. I think the vast majority of people could learn simple tech jobs. Not the highest paying jobs, but people would be able to support themselves with this sort of work.

So, what is the solution?

Value education. Value health. That’s the only answer. We cannot make people eat healthy food and study in school. Legal remedies will never work. But, why do Jewish kids generally do well in school? Asian kids? We cannot deny these facts. Why are some people healthy? Why do they exercise? Why do they eat better? I argue that it is because they grew up in a home, in a society, that valued these things.

We can blame Democrats, Republicans, laws, liberals, conservatives, Paris Hilton, McDonald’s, whoever. I don’t think it’s their fault. Our society is raising hordes of people who cannot hold down a job. Let’s look in the mirror. Let’s make some changes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (totally awesome, I might add)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

What Went Wrong in Cyprus?

Cyprus Bank CrisisOne of the biggest financial stories in recent weeks is the bankruptcy of several large banking institutions in Cyprus and the methods needed to bail them out. I don’t want to talk about the methods for solving the financial crisis but analyze the reasons behind it. It’s an interesting case and in the United States you don’t see too many Democrats or Republicans lining up to blame each other, there’s a reason for that.

Cyprus has a long and complex history but the parts that pertain to our story have to do with its politics and economics. Politically it is split between a Turkish faction and a Greek faction dating back to the 1974 when the country reunited after an invasion by Turkey split the region. The Turkish part of the island is allocated seats in the government but refuses to take them because they will not acknowledge a Greek government.

The country is what we would call socialist or liberal in many regards but not in a special few. As of 2002 Cyprus has the lowest corporate tax rate in Europe and is considered very business friendly. It has become a hub for foreign investment because of few restrictions. Many Russians and other eastern tycoons placed huge sums of money in its banking system because of the tax friendly status. Thus it is an odd mix of what people call Conservative and Liberal.

They have also recently had an energy boom thanks to deposits of natural gas found offshore. They have little other than that as a natural resource and derive much of their income from tourism.

So, with all this business friendly, low-tax conservative money policy, why are they bankrupt?

Much of the money that was coming in was given back out in what eventually became bad loans. Thus the banks went bankrupt much as they did in the United States. They also have a public debt of 84% of the GDP which is one way to determine, with modest accuracy, how much they owe. This means despite lots of economic growth prior to 2012, when the crisis hit, they were still in debt.

The reason we don’t see an uproar among conservatives to raiding the savings accounts of citizens to bail out the banks is that a lot of very wealthy people have their money in Cyprus banks and they don’t want to lose it. The reason we don’t see liberals decrying the situation is that even with excellent economic growth a liberal government was still in debt. Neither system worked.

My point here is that the economic system as it stands is unsustainable with any model. We insist on growth with flattening populations and when we don’t get it, make it happen through stimulus packages. We loan money to aid growth and count on being paid back with interest. There is currently so much debt that much of that money will never be repaid. The few countries not in debt will be driven into it because the money they supposedly are owed will not be repaid. If everyone is in debt then no-one can make payments. It’s that simple. There is no money.

I don’t want to devolve into a conversation about how to solve the situation, I just wanted to point out an instructive event currently taking place in Cyprus. If you are a Democrat or a Republican I urge you to look at the situation closely and make a particularly hard examination of the policies you endorse. We must stop bickering over which failed policy we want to pursue, it gets us deeper into trouble.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

The best laid schemes of Dongles and Men

Twitter FiringThe tech world is currently in an uproar because of this.

In a nutshell there was a conference for developers using an open-source programming language called Python in which two male attendees were supposedly making crude jokes about dongles and forking. Both are legitimate computer terms rich with humor potential. Use your imagination. A female attendee grew disgusted with the jokes and snapped a picture of the men and tweeted about it.

The result is that one of the men telling the jokes was fired as was the woman.

To give some clarity I’d like to elaborate on the male dominated culture of IT. It’s male dominated. It’s nerd dominated. Nerdy males sometimes don’t have the best social skills. Ask anyone who knows me. However, it can also be misogynistic. Really, really misogynistic. I’ve seen some things. My job as a technical trainer takes me to many different companies and I’m often immersed in the backroom getting things setup before class. I’ve seen women IT staffers treated like garbage. I’m talking, “Go get us coffee” type behavior. Crude jokes about body parts. I’ve seen women employees who needed help from the IT staff treated in humiliating fashion, forced to almost beg. I’m not saying it’s common, I’m not even saying I’ve seen it frequently, but I’ve seen it.

It’s quite likely that the women who tweeted the message was just fed-up after being immersed in that atmosphere. It’s quite likely that the men meant no harm or even knew they were being offensive. I don’t know, I can’t say for sure. Maybe she lied and there were no crude jokes? Maybe the guys were intentionally trying to humiliate her? It’s impossible to say.

What is clear is that two people have lost their jobs. Why?

I’ll take it at face value. They told some off-color jokes. She was a little peeved and tweeted it. That’s the end of their part in this. What happened next has to do with the companies that employed them. One company decided to fire the jokester. When the internet storm began to slam the other company because of the tweet-instigated firing, they fired the tweeter.

In the end a company can generally fire people for any reason other than one protected by the government; age, sex, race, religion, etc. If they want to fire, they can fire. The publicity from the tweet was bad for both companies although the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity isn’t without merit. Both companies were afraid and that’s the crux of the issue.

Ok, I’ll finally get to my opinion. What is happening to the United States? We have become a nation of cowards. Our politicians tell us to be afraid, our media tells us to watch out what we say, our employers fire us for the least sin. We eagerly attack anyone who makes a mistake and roast them on the spit of public opinion. Fear is not our friend. Fear is the enemy. When we embrace fear, and that is all the two firings represent, we destroy freedom.

My most recent novel, the Sword of Water addresses the concept of fear directly. There are two characters who embody the opposite ideas of how to treat fear. I’m going to include an excerpt here from both of them.


High Priest Amalagaz talking to his son:

“Do you see what a little fear injects into the relationship?” said Amalagaz with a smile as he leaned back on the cushions, a satisfied smile on his face. “As I have told you many times, you must befriend fear, you must take it close to your heart and understand it completely, fully, intimately. Without fear you cannot rule. Without fear your subjects will overthrow your throne and burn you on a pyre. They will rape your wife and they will murder your children. You must instill fear in their hearts and then they are yours. You must make them afraid of you. Your enemies must fear you and they will react to your moves. Your allies must fear you and they will do as you say. If your enemies don’t fear you then they will take the initiative, they will deploy their forces with vigor and energy. If they fear you they will hide in their citadels and await your approach hiding behind useless defenses, slowly sapping their will to fight, waiting for you to conquer them.”

Taragaz stared raptly at his father, “Fear.”

“Yes, my son. It is not limited to your enemies; it is your most potent weapon in driving your people. Tell them the enemy is plotting against them, tell them the enemy is waiting to destroy them, tell them that the enemy is lurking behind every shadow and they will do anything to stay safe. They will throw their own children onto the flames to keep the fear at bay. Lie to your people to inflame them. Wipe out a little village on your border and claim it was your neighbor’s rapacious armies. Tell them that an unknown enemy is building a fleet, arming ten thousand soldiers for an invasion and they will jump up and shout your name as they kill anyone who speaks against you. The voice of reason is the first casualty to the blade of fear.”


Jon Gray to Silenia:

“There’s always reason to fear,” said Jon waving his hands to both sides. “The world is a dangerous place. Someone might be lurking around every corner, waiting to stick a dirk in your ear. You could fall off a horse, you might slip on the ice and break your leg, get an infection, die. You might fall out of a tree because you climbed too high and smash your brains on a rock.”

“So, you’re telling us to just do anything without thinking about the dangers?” said Sorus. “Come now, Jon. These are children. Do you mean to frighten them?”

“She is already afraid. Fear is the great enemy,” said Jon. “Fear can destroy a man or an entire nation.”

“Or a little girl,” said Silenia trembling but standing firm before Jon.

Jon nodded his head and smiled narrowly at the girl, “Exactly. I say that there is much to fear. Sorus suggests we must use caution because of those dangers. He is not far wrong, but we must never succumb to fear. Fear is the tool of evil. Fear is the tool of the despot. The first time you hid from your siblings you did so because of fear. Did that help you?”

“No,” said Silenia, blinking back tears as the memories flooded into her mind with such vividness that she suddenly felt back in that place, hiding, always hiding. “Eventually I had to come out and they used the flat of the knife on me,” she sniffled.

“Yet was it ever easier to hide the next time and the time after, wasn’t it?”

Silenia nodded her head, pursed her lips together, and stifled another sob, “It got easier each time.”

“Fear is the enemy,” repeated Jon. “Sorus, when you were a boy and the others were being chosen as squires did you stand up, did you shout out?”

Sorus shook his head, “I was smaller, sickly.”

“Did not standing up serve you well, each time you failed to say something was it easier to remain silent the next?”

Sorus nodded his head, “Yes, each time was easier, but it did work out in the long run though. You arrived in Elekargul and now I’m here.”

“True enough,” said Jon. “But would you rely on luck, on coincidence, to drive your life?”

“No,” said Sorus, Jerichi, and Silenia in the same whispered tone.

“When your father first murdered an innocent in front of you, Silenia. Did you say anything?”

Now the girl was crying, “No, I didn’t say anything.”


“I was afraid.”

“Fear destroys nations,” said Jon. “People think that it’s fine to say nothing when they see an atrocity, when they see evil. It’s easier to let it be than to get involved, it’s dangerous to try to stop something like that. When you let evil have its way, when you stand idly by, then people who do evil are emboldened. They think they can do more evil and no one will stop them. A petty man with a petty life sabotages a good man to get ahead. An inferior warrior gets an ally to weigh down his opponent’s armor and gains a promotion. Then he becomes a captain, then a general and he promotes his equally unethical companion. Then the battle is lost, the war is lost. All because the person that saw it happening was afraid to step in and do something.”

“But they might die if they step in,” said Jerichi his hands now at his side and his voice barely audible.

“They might,” said Jon. “They often do.”

“What good does it do if they die?” said Jerichi.

“What you are asking me is, ‘What good does it do to conquer your fear and act?” said Jon with a snort. “It makes a nation strong. It inspires those around you to do the same.”


Would you take the advice of Amalagaz or of Jon?

Make no mistake, the firings were based on fear. So many other options were available. I’m not going to discuss them today. Fear won again.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Rise of the Mexican Drug Trade

Foreign EntanglementsI’ve posted on numerous occasions why I think the so-called War on Drugs actually promotes criminal activity and engenders huge amounts of violence. I’ve also talked about how my Libertarian philosophy suggests that the United States should not be involved in the internal affairs of foreign countries; even those that are our enemies.

Those two ideas came to a surprising conjunction when I happened to be watching a Hulu show called Bordertown: Laredo and did a little research. It’s a story that is so incredible it can only be true. No one can make this stuff up.

In the 1980’s the most profitable drug was cocaine and the production and distribution of this came primarily from a Columbian drug organization called the Medellin Cartel headed by a fellow named Pablo Escobar. At this time Mexico was not a significant drug supplier to the United States.

Meanwhile, in the country of Nicaragua a fellow named Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista government supported Cuba and their communist agenda. President Reagan decided that we would fund a guerilla organization called the Contras in an attempt to overthrow this government. The Sandinistas and Ortega came into power in 1979 and President Carter agreed to allow the government to pursue its agenda without sanctions. Reagan reversed this policy.

Following so far?

Impartial organizations claimed that the elections in Nicaragua were fair and free although the Reagan administration disputed this and provided financial aid and military training to the Contras. In 1983 the U.S. Congress forbid any more funding on the Contras. The Reagan administration refused to admit defeat and began to channel funds to the rebels through outside sources including selling Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Iran which led the Iran-Contra scandal although this is outside the scope of today’s post.

Meanwhile, it turns out there was a fellow in Mexico who was helping fund the Contras. His name was Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo. Gallardo was a high-level security official in the government of Mexico and, because of his generous donations to the Contras, immune to interdiction from the CIA. In addition to helping President Reagan fund the Contras he was also working directly with the Medellin Cartel to bring cocaine to the United States.

Gallardo essentially created the entire Mexican drug cartel organization that exists today. This is the organization that is behind the vast majority of drugs that are shipped into the U.S. and commits much of the horrific violence that pervades Mexico. The violence funded by the massive appetite for illegal drugs in the U.S. and carried out largely with guns manufactured in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico. Gallardo’s activities were apparently known to the CIA and other U.S. agencies but allowed to continue because he was giving large amounts of money to the Contras.

Gallardo ordered the capture, torture, and murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique Carmarena. For this he was arrested and eventually convicted. This led to the splintering of his organization and the Mexican drug wars we see today.

As an aside, a fellow named Oliver North in addition to helping funnel money from Iran weapon sales to the Contras was also in contact with Panamanian strong-man Manuel Noriega who was eventually brought to trial in the United States. There is some evidence to suggest that North was at least aware of the distribution of cocaine into the United States from Panama and allowed it to happen because some of this money was also given to the Contras.

Meanwhile the funding for the Contras to overthrow the apparently fairly elected government of Nicaragua was eventually stopped by the Iran-Contra scandal. However, we continued to support anti-Sandinista efforts and achieved election “victory” as Ortega was defeated in 1996. To this day the United States is trying to influence politics in Nicaragua against the Sandinista government which came back into power in 2006.

I don’t mean to suggest that President Reagan wanted to create the drug situation we now face but I strongly argue that his policies led directly to it. The best intentions often lead to horrible results. No one can say that the Mexican drug cartels would not have arisen even without U.S. policies towards Nicaragua but the results of that meddling are undeniable.

We should stay out of the internal affairs of other nations even if those nations are our enemies. Our meddling does us no good and often results in real harm. Oh, and we should make all drugs legal; manufacture, distribute, and tax them in the same way we do any of our legal drugs.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

PokerStars vs the US Casino Trade Group

GamblingThere is an interesting situation developing in regards to gambling in the United States that in some ways epitomizes one of the things that Crony Capitalism does to destroy true capitalism. It’s a complex situation and I’m certain that I don’t fully understand all the legal technicalities but I thought it was a story worth exploring.

What is happening is that the state of New Jersey, and several other states, have legalized online gambling. A company called PokerStars is hoping to leap back into that market. Yes, back into that market. For a number of years online gambling was legal and then in 2006 Congress passed a law making it illegal. PokerStars was one of two companies that were market leaders in the industry. Congress passed that law largely not to keep American citizens safe from the awful scourge of making a bet of their own free will but because the gambling industry wanted Americans to only be allowed to make such wagers in their casinos. Crony Capitalism at its finest.

If, horror or horrors, someone comes up with a business model that beats my business model, I can always bribe Congress to pass a law putting my rival out of business. Hooray for the American entrepreneurial spirit. In this case PokerStars created out of country sites and continued to take bets from U.S. citizens. This of course led the gaming industry to convince Congress in 2011 to seize the assets of these companies (essentially stealing money from gamblers who had made wagers but not yet collected their winnings).

This drove PokerStars main rival out of business and PokerStars stayed around by agreeing to pay a $771 million bribe … er settlement to the U.S. government so as to avoid further prosecution. Capitalism as it is now practiced in the United States in full bloom.

So, back to now. With New Jersey and other states legalizing what the U.S. government made illegal in 2006; companies like PokerStars are now ready to resume their former operations. The gambling industry is represented by the American Gaming Association. This group wants to institute their own online gambling business in New Jersey and the other states. They have now asked the state governments to ban PokerStars from being allowed to participate because of their supposed past crimes; continuing to take bets offshore after it was made illegal to bet in the U.S.

Basically it comes down to the idea that a company bribes government officials into passing laws that make it difficult, impossible, or illegal for their rivals to do business. This is what capitalism has come to mean in the United States. This is not an isolated case. Large businesses routinely bribe, I mean contribute to elections hoping to get laws passed that favor them. This sort of crony capitalism is destroying small business, it has essentially eliminated what used to be called the family farm. It is skewing the wealth of this country towards an increasingly unfavorable distribution with a steadily declining middle class.

This sort of unfair business field in which people with good ideas, energy, and drive are prevented from succeeding not only destroys true capitalism but it deprives the citizens of this country great products at a reasonable price.

Anyone remember Tanya Harding hiring a thug to kneecap Nancy Kerrigan? Was that right? That is a microcosm of new capitalism in the United States. We are becoming Tanya Harding. So afraid of losing that we beat up our opponents rather than working hard to make a better product. Nice.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (It’s awesome! Buy it now!)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Mike Trout vs Albert Pujols – Salary Wars

Albert Pujols Mike TroutThere is an interesting story occurring in Major League Baseball in regards to the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. The reason I find it fascinating is because it parallels quite nicely with a situation we had here in St. Louis with my beloved Cardinals. I think it is instructive from a human resources point of view.

Essentially the story is that the Angels have a player by the name of Mike Trout who had a spectacular rookie season and won the Rookie of the Year award. Because of the way baseball salaries are structured, players with less than a certain number of years of major league experience have very little power to bargain over their pay. After they reach a certain point these restrictions are removed and the players are free to seek a rate of pay their play deserves.

I’m not here to argue  the benefits and drawbacks of such a system but merely to compare how the St. Louis Cardinals handled a very similar situation with Albert Pujols after his own astounding rookie campaign.

In the year 2000 the rookie minimum wage was $200,000 and Pujols was given this salary. He had an astounding season hitting .329 with 37 home runs, 130 RBI, a slugging percentage of .606 and an OPS of 1.013. You don’t really need to be a statistical guru to understand that he had a spectacular year. One of the most useful modern statistics is something called Wins Above Replacement which shows how many games the Cardinals won because Pujols was better than the average player at his position. His WAR in 2000 was 6.3

In the year 2012 the rookie minimum wage was $480,000 and Mike Trout was paid $490,000. He also had an astounding season hitting .326 with 30 home runs, 83 RBI, a slugging percentage of .567, OPS of .963, and a WAR of 10.7. Trout missed the first few weeks of the season before being called up so played about twenty fewer games than Pujols and is better than him in most defensive comparisons although they play different positions.

Major league teams are not obligated to give second year players any particular percent raise for their second season. The Angels agreed to give Trout a $20,000 pay raise so that he will make $510,00 this season. The Cardinals voluntarily gave Pujols a $400,000 raise to give him a second year salary of $600,000.

That’s what I find interesting. This was not just a one time thing. The Cardinals gave Adam Wainwright an $80,000 raise in his second year and a further $260,000 raise for his third when they were under no obligation to do so.

From a human resources perspective the question becomes what is it worth to make a valued employee happy. If you are under no legal obligation to give a larger raise then why would any company do so? I’d love to hear from HR people out there on the topic!

Personally, I’m of the opinion the Cardinals did the correct thing although Pujols eventually did leave to join the Angels. He played for eleven seasons in St. Louis when the reality is that after his sixth season he could have simply taken a much larger contract from a wealthier team like the Yankees. Instead he stayed in St. Louis and the Cardinals won the 2006 and 2011 World Series and made the playoffs almost every year.

Now, it’s entirely possible Trout will remain with the Angels for many years. They are a large market team with a great deal of money although much of that is tied up in the lucrative contract they gave Pujols to entice him away from St. Louis. The future is unpredictable. Still, I think that spending a smaller amount to make a key employee happy is almost always a good idea. Good employees, be they baseball players or computer software programmers, are not easy to find.

I think most people enjoy a good working environment where they are valued. Certainly for a talented individual there will be offers of more money and at some point they cannot be refused. But, a little proactive generosity can go a long way.

In any case, I’m glad the Cardinals were generous with Pujols in the early years because I got to see him play and lead us to two World Series victories. It’s impossible to say what would have happened if we hadn’t given him those early pay raises but I stand by my opinion that it was not only a nice thing to do, but the right thing to do. What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (it’s really good, I promise!)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Sequester Doom – Not so Much

SequesterOver the last few years we’ve seen politicians decrying the danger that will befall this great union we call the United States because of the awful, horrific, terrible, mindless, stupid, dastardly, evil, other side’s fault, sequester. If the evil Republicans allow this to happen the nation is doomed! If the nasty Democrats force this upon us all is lost! Flee, weep, hide your children!

Ok, well, this round didn’t have that effect but we promise that when the March 27th deadline arrives it will be disaster! Trust us. You cannot allow these budget cuts to occur or our nation will face destruction. All because those evil people on the other side hate America! They hate it!

The United States currently owes $16 trillion to its creditors. The western world is largely bankrupt because of current economic policies. Don’t fool yourself. We’ve had Republicans and Democrats in the White House, controlling Congress, we’ve had all combinations and the debt keeps going up. There is only one final solution. Default. The end result is the same as the sequester. The government will not meet its financial obligations. The armed forces will be reduced, social security will be reduced, farm subsidies will be reduced, aid to the poor will be reduced. It’s inevitable but, contrary to what your trusted politicians are telling you; it’s not the end of the world.

Will it mean hardship for many? Probably. Will businesses go bankrupt because they existed solely thanks to government funding? Likely. Will people lose their jobs? Most likely. When the colossal bust of this massive boom cycle hits it will be painful. We’ve been running up debt pretty much since the day President Reagan took office in order to sustain an unsustainable economic model. We’ll have to pay for that. But what happens then? When the chips fall where they may and the government no longer supports the country but merely governs it.

New business will arise. New companies will fill the void. Hopefully they will work with a sustainable business model. The idea of business ownership should be to create a quality product, to provide a useful service, to employ good people, to make some money. With western style republics spreading women’s rights and lowering birth rates we will eventually go back to this model instead of expecting growth, growth, growth. It will be good. Maybe very good. Maybe a real utopia with a steady population, where energy is cheap and abundant, where people are allowed to do their job well and go on freely about their lives.

Of course, maybe I’m an idiot and you should keep listening to the politicians.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (it’s a really good book, honestly, buy it today!)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt