Ron Paul Asks Congress: “What If…?”

Channel: C-SPAN
Date: 02/13/2009

Ron Paul: “Madam Speaker, I have a few questions for my colleagues.

What if our foreign policy of the past century is deeply flawed and has not served our national security interest?

What if we wake up one day and realize that the terrorist threat is the predictable consequence of our meddling in the affairs of others, and has nothing to do with us being free and prosperous?

What if propping up repressive regimes in the Middle East endangers both the United States and Israel?

What if occupying countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and bombing Pakistan is directly related to the hatred directed toward us?

What if someday it dawns on us that losing over 5,000 American military personnel in the Middle East since 9/11 is not a fair tradeoff with the loss of nearly 3,000 American citizens no matter how many Iraqi, Pakistanian, Afghan people are killed or displaced?

What if we finally decide that torture, even if called “enhanced interrogation technique”, is self-destructive and produces no useful information and that contracting it out to a third world nation is just as evil?

What if it is finally realized that war and military spending is always destructive to the economy?

What if all war-time spending is paid for through the deceitful and evil process of inflating and borrowing?

What if we finally see that war-time conditions always undermine personal liberty?

What if Conservatives who preach small government wake up and realize that our interventionist foreign policy provides the greatest incentive to expand the government?

What if Conservatives understood once again that their only logical position is to reject military intervention and managing an empire throughout the world?

What if the American people woke up and understood that the official reasons for going to war are almost always based on lies and promoted by war propaganda in order to serve special interests?

What if we as a nation came to realize that the quest for empire eventually destroys all great nations?

What if Obama has no intention of leaving Iraq?

What if a military draft is being planned for for the wars that would spread if our foreign policy is not changed?

What if the American people learned the truth, that our foreign policy has nothing to do with national security, that it never changes from one administration to the next?

What if war in preparation for war is a racket serving the special interests?

What if President Obama is completely wrong about Afghanistan and it turns out worse than Iraq and Vietnam put together?

What if Christianity actually teaches peace and not preventive wars of aggression?

What if diplomacy is found to be superior to bombs and bribes in protecting America?

What happens if my concerns are completely unfounded?


But what happens if my concerns are justified and ignored?

Nothing good.

And I yield back the balance of my time.”


Intellectual Property vs. Human Capital

Walls of Uruk

No man is immortal, but the walls of Uruk are still standing.

Innovations and developments of “intellectual property”, when they are protected by government action, have one and only one result, and it never varies. It moves human capital from one group of people, typically an established group that has been in their trade for a long time, and a larger group that are equipping themselves with the skills to enter that trade (actively increasing their human capital in terms prior to the innovation), to another, usually a small and emerging group that are in the know of the new trade, and also to a very small degree, society at large, who benefit from cheaper goods and services. The obstacles to innovation are pervasive in an unconstitutional democracy, because those who are materially or sufficiently interested, which generally does not include society at large because each individual’s marginal interest is too small to expend the energy necessary to become involved in these power struggles, the many will always seek government interference to retain their human capital, the market value of their work-hours. This, as opposed to a constitutional democracy or republic, provided the limits to government intervention prevent this kind of protectionism. This interest in the status quo can be seen everywhere, but especially in the automotive industry, where to produce a vehicle that can legally travel on roads, the financial barriers–the result, in part, of distorted labor costs (union “bargaining”), import tariffs, and vehicle regulations–are immense (billions of dollars). In rare cases where a status-quo behemoth with considerable political influence innovates, they will seek to use government interference to establish their innovation as a market standard, and ban alternatives. This can easily be seen in the cases of carbon taxes which favor the renewable energy industry (which is not really innovation, because it’s less efficient, but they desperately want it to be) and fluorescent light bulbs (which is also not really innovation, because they provide the users with less satisfaction, and the cost of each fluorescent light bulb outweighs the cost of energy savings as compared to traditional alternatives). The point is, true innovation and ‘intellectual property’ can effect an increase in aggregate human capital (typically on an S curve, where the highest costs are borne by a few, average costs are borne by many, very small benefits are awarded to most, and extreme benefits are awarded to a few), but it does not have any value on its own. To protect innovations from imitation is precisely the mechanism by which the human capital of those materially interested people not in the know is lost. How would the markets respond to intellectual liberation? I believe that if the concept of intellectual property was no longer defined as a resource privy to legal protection, then the interest to innovate would continue to be inextricably linked to the innovator’s perceptions of how much they would personally profit from their innovation, and that they would be forced to innovate expedient market practices that either protect their intellectual property from imitation for a sufficiently long time, or to reach the largest part of the market in a sufficiently short time. Either outcome is beneficial to society at large, while not nearly as detrimental to materially interested individuals not in the know.

If a man falls into disgrace, and nobody notices, does it make a sound?

Evolution & Uncertainty

After all the virtues of man are gone, what's left?

The Gods of the Copybook Headings
Rudyard Kipling, 1919

As I Pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

Rational Irrationality

Rational Irrationality

Dumb enough to land 20 seasons of prime time international fame and oodles of money.

Rational irrationality is an interesting concept that I have been thinking of lately. I believe that the concept of irrationality is nothing more than a label to describe behavior or thought which is too difficult or complex to easily and quickly understand. As that implies, every thought and action that is carried out is in fact rational. Take for example, the irrational act of sacrificing a valuable asset, such as a lot of money, for a less valuable product, such as a wrist watch, when the irrational person knows that the same product could be had at half the cost across the street, and from a seller that they trust and want to do business with just as much. Very few examples could better illustrate the meaning of irrationality. What the observer doesn’t know is his motives. He may be buying the more expensive watch to display his indifference to money, and thereby serve a more valuable goal of gaining social acceptance, or at least the kind of social recognition that he desires. Let’s suppose this is the case, then one must ask, is it rational to pay for social acceptance or status? It most certainly is, only that the mechanisms by which we do are convoluted and indirect, by necessity of our culture. One might point out, this suggests that our culture, necessitating this, is a product of collective irrationality in the expectations of its members. We must then bear in mind that a culture is nothing more than a tenuous equilibrium of interests, working together and conflicting to pave direct links to the most common interests, or those interests held by its most influential members, and indirect links to the less common interests, or those interests held by its least influential members, and to attempt to close off completely, typically by law or social ostracism, any interests which are fully outweighed by the counter-interest. For example, for most of the 20th century, the dominant culture of the US attempted to close off completely the ability to gamble, do drugs, and engage in illicit sex, invoking the moral and rational high ground on these issues. Reality always wins in the end, and since the rational interests of enough people create a market for these things, the dominant culture is gradually weakened to accept them. That example serves to illustrate how today’s market is the arbiter of tomorrow’s culture and moralities. In policy, this is especially important in that any law which is passed on the grounds of morality above all other considerations, but which is consistently broken, will eventually be overturned or rendered unenforceable.

Legislating Outcomes vs. Legislating Methods

Car Fire

Because black painted cars are the root cause of global warming. /sarc

The story about California’s ban, or attempted ban, on black cars has been out of the news for so long that I’m not even sure what eventually happened in the end. It may still be going, but either way I want to use it to illustrate an idea that I have been thinking about. I can scarcely think of any law that does not either tell you what to do, or how to do it. Where laws fail is typically in telling you to do something that you don’t want to do, or in telling you to do something in ways that generally result in failure. In the case of the black car ban, the law would be telling people how to do something, with preconceived expectations. The problem is, banning black cars does not necessarily have the effect they desired. Black paint on cars does trap slightly more heat in a car, but it doesn’t mean the passengers will attempt to cool it to the same degree that passengers of white cars will attempt to cool their cars. This assumption that passengers of all colors of cars want to equally cool their cars was made without any research on the subject. Another assumption was made in that it is significantly more costly to cool a black car than any other color. I have only one thing to say, have you ever driven a maroon colored car? And the last thing I want to point out about the failure to legislate methods is that it fails to take into account what people do in response to their own environment and resources. In the black car example, if it requires more work to cool a black car, it will cost the driver more, which will disable him from consuming goods and services that themselves would otherwise leave a carbon footprint. So the moral of the story is, when you legislate outcomes, people will meet your expectations if they are reasonable, but when you legislate methods, reasonable or not, they rarely ever will.