Monday, April 14, 2008

The Economic Scale

I had another admirer leave a comment on my last blog, and it got my mind moving once again. This person claims that our fate is in the hands of the wealthiest 1% of Americans and that the economy's decline is their fault. That's about all you need to know of what was said, in case you don't want to go back and read it yourself.

The economy is obviously a very delicate thing. There's a way it can succeed and thrive, and about 10 million different ways that it can fail. This doesn't mean it's necessarily difficult to keep it going, it just means it's less likely for people to catch on and understand why it's falling to begin with. Since it is in fact so delicate, it requires a very special balance to run properly. Let's look at this balance as we would view a scale. On the right, you have the word "Economy" in big, bold letters. On the left, you have all our country's sources of income and all of it's products and services. If it's involved in the flow of money, it's on the left. The only thing unique about our scale is that it doesn't necessarily have to sit level. On our scale, the "Economy" side can sit at the top and that's just fine. "Economy," by the way, represents all the people.

The "humanitarians" have many common targets on this subject, but to keep things simple I'm going to use Wal-Mart for an example. Who hasn't heard the "bring down Wal-Mart" chant? This chant has one goal: to obliterate Wal-Mart simply because they don't like it. Let's look at our scale. Wal-Mart is a big company. They take up quite a bit of room on that scale. To simply pull Wal-Mart suddenly from the left side of our scale would be to let the right side, meaning all of us, sink. Why? To get rid of them so suddenly would mean an instantaneous loss of thousands of jobs and also bring production of countless products to halt. However, if you were to simply take your money elsewhere, you'd take part in a gradual shift from Wal-Mart to, say, Target. If everybody went to Target instead, all that "weight" placed by Wal-Mart would transfer rather than simply disappearing. Target builds more stores and, as they notice that Wal-Mart is only still there because they provide X service or Y product, they expand their services to take over completely. This balance is the beauty of Capitalism. This way, the company that wins is the company that provides the best products and service.

Wal-Mart's continued success is proof that plenty of people out there still see fit to shop there. That being said, it's time to drop it. That goes for every other company out there.

The response I received stating that control was all in the hands of the wealthiest 1% wasn't entirely false. There are indeed plenty of wealthy people shifting the laws to their advantage with political pull. If Sam Walton had stood behind and funded this or that politician, said politician would be sure to slip a subclause into a law somewhere that shifted the law to favor Mr. Walton over everybody else. And yes, this is in fact a very malicious practice. It too unfairly upsets the balance of our scale. It knocks out the competition by sheer force as opposed to the gradual shift.

Ultimately, however, this is not entirely the fault of the rich. Who's more evil, in the end? Is it the man who pulls the trigger or the man who let's the gun-man in? That second person is, in fact, the rest of society. It is every single individual person out there. Think about it honestly: could 1% of the population REALLY beat the other 99% if we didn't let them? They're winning by default. These people are getting their way because nobody is stopping them.

The absolute only thing speaking in any way in favor of us, the 99%, is that there's not a whole lot of leadership out there trying to actually call specific attention to these practices. Politicians thrive on it, so why should they genuinely try to stop it? The ones you could count on are the ones to don't have quite as much available for the ridiculous amounts of advertising. Candidates like my personal favorite, Ron Paul, focus more on restoring our laws to protect everybody equally than on how to bend the laws in order to get more support. Sadly, this is also why Ron Paul is so far behind. I don't know about the majority of the country, but I know in my community his name is almost completely unknown. This is where the blame comes back down on every individual in society. It's YOUR job to go out an learn about your potential president. It's not up to the TV ads to tell you everything. They just tell you what they think you want to hear. If you want to make a truly informed decision, you have to do some research for yourself.

This same apathy applies in other ways to the economic scale. What do you do for a living? Are you in a union? I'd bet that the VAST majority of you say, "No, I don't belong to a union." Why did unions start exactly? Back before minimum wage, people fought for their worth. If a company paid well, they kept reliable employees who strove to provide a great service for their company in exchange for a nice pay check. companies that didn't pay well wasted countless dollars training employee after employee to do the simplest of jobs because they thought it'd save them a few bucks to drop the wages down to nearly nothing. This, mind you, is still largely true today. However, the practice of fighting for your own worth wasn't always safe. People who went on strike because they didn't feel they were being properly rewarded for their work often lost their jobs. Unions played their hand in protecting jobs while workers were on strike. Somewhere along the way, however, people decided instead that it should be the Government's job to decide how much we make, and minimum wage was introduced.

Now, do you go out every day ready to work hard and try to provide a great service for a just pay check? Or do you do as I have done entirely too often and just take what the company gives you? Pay is distributed no longer by value or ability, but instead by the "politically correct" system of seniority. Now, the only way to make money is to stay put for a long period of time. This also has an adverse affect on the company. Who wants to go and put out decent work when they're not going to make any more money than the next guy who does half as much?

I realize there's a chance that this all seems incredibly scattered at this point, so to bring it together: our economy is on an obvious decline, and most people find it very easy to blame the minority of people for this. Unfortunately, when two sides are actually both FIGHTING for something, it's the majority that wins. This means that the fault lies not on a few rich people, but on EVERY PERSON LIVING AND WORKING IN THIS COUNTRY. If you're in the rich, there's a good chance that you don't recognize employees based on actual value but rather based on politically correct standards such as race, sex, or seniority. So what if your staff is all one race or all one sex, so long as they're all hard workers capable of doing the job you ask of them to it's fullest extent? If you're in the middle to low class, then your blame lies on your apathy. Either you have the leadership present around you to get out and fight for what you're worth, or you're too apathetic to stand out and become that leadership. It's a journey I've just begun on, but in just a couple of short months I've begun to lose count of the number of people I've converted to the views of Capitalism and, of course, of rationality. The latter is incredibly important because with that behind you, the rest practically works itself out.

Ultimately, if this country is to save itself, it has to start with individuals. Individuals have to step up and be worth something, then demand exactly what they're worth in return. Along the way, or political structure needs to be restructured to do what the government is in fact supposed to do: protect our assets. It is the government's Constitutional duty to protect us and our possessions equally. Nothing more. Not provide health care for everybody, not to provide welfare for everybody. They're supposed to GIVE nothing, only protect. The rest is up to you. It worked through the industrial revolution, just as it could work now if only people would be willing to actually put in a little effort.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Let the Poor Murderer Go! Can't You See He's Black?

According to the January, 2008 issue of Wired magazine, Tony Frudakis can narrow down a suspect by race using DNA samples. In Baton Rouge, it says, various law enforcement agencies were searching for a "white man who drives a white pickup" based witness reports. After over 1,000 failed DNA tests on white males, they gave Tony Frudakis a chance to prove his technology. They gave him 20 swabs for test runs to see how accurately he could predict race, and he got every single one correct. He did, in fact, manage to turn up results that led to the capture of a BLACK serial killer, not a white one.

The comments of a prosecutor over one of these Baton Rouge murder cases sum up why Tony Frudakis might not be in the business much longer. He said, "If I could push a button and make this technology disappear, I would." Apparently, he likes to believe we all "bleed the same blood."

It's a matter, of course, of being politically correct. This is the worst epidemic spreading through our time. Or rather, part of. The root of the epidemic is simply ignorance. People choose who they vote for based dominantly on party alone. I've been in discussion with people about Ron Paul, and though they agree with all the stands I promote, they say they wouldn't vote for him because they "don't know enough about him." No, let's not use this as an excuse to do a little RESEARCH, just don't vote for him. Makes more sense, doesn't it? People can't stand to "waste" time on research. Then there was all that business with shock jocks getting laid off for being "offensive." If somebody hears a shock-jock on the radio that offends them, they can't just change the station and avoid listening to him, they have to gather to have him fired by their will alone rather than by ratings. If nobody wanted to hear him, they'd tune him out until the radio station decided he was hurting their ratings and found somebody else.

Sure, Frudakis' test costs over $1,000 dollars to run, but don't people place a greater value on human life than money? My stand, personally, rests a little more in the realm of taking responsibility for your actions. If you feel so justified in your actions that you would take a persons life, stand trial and prove to us that you can justify murder. If not, either don't do it or face the consequences. Not only that, but how much money do law enforcement agencies waste searching for the wrong suspects in the first place? As I said, they swabbed over 1,000 white males, and unless their version of a DNA test runs at a dollar a test, they really ought to just suck it up and go for the gold right off the bat.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Atlas Will Shrug

Between an anonymous antagonist and an article I was reading just recently, I couldn't help but go back to battery power once again. My antagonist tells me that anybody in support of battery power as a primary "fuel" source is foolish and doesn't know what a car is supposed to do. He/she tells me that batteries are way too much of a hassle. I mean, of COURSE a car should continue to burn away precious and limited resources.

As I replied to my antagonist, of course an electric vehicle couldn't possibly do everything that we can do with a combustion engine. But, who really needs the same amount of horsepower it takes to tow our boats and trailers on a day-to-day basis? Many of these diesel truck owners already rely on more fuel efficient cars for everyday business, however, and that's where the electric system comes it.

As for his/her remark about "who really likes using batteries?" or something to that extent, who wouldn't favor batteries in light of how much money they save? If there's one reliable fact in society right now, it's that the general population likes money. Who can blame 'em?

This bizarre hostility to the whole "green solutions" ideal is everywhere. A lot of people lose interest when I start going off on a Green tangent. They usually either don't care or are openly against it, though when I try to find out why, I get "I just don't know enough about it." Since when is this an excuse? I also get this response, interestingly though completely unrelated, when I talk about voting for Ron Paul ;)

I've been reading a book lately that, as far as I've gotten, discusses this attitude people have. It's called "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. Brief explanation of the 1/5 or so I've read:

Taggart Transcontinental is the leading railroad system in the nation. It's officially run by James Taggart, though all the real work and planning is usually accomplished by his sister and Vice President Dagny Taggart. Their most important line is suffering and must be fixed in less than a year, and the necessary rebuild is not happening with James in charge. He's relying on an "old friend" for steel, and this old friend is not delivering. So, Dagny bets it all on an up-and-coming revolutionary in the steel industry, Henry Rearden, who's invented a metal much stronger and much lighter than conventional steel.

So far, this story mirrors the current energy situation. There's a very clear problem: oil is limited and we need to find a way to break away from it now before we just run clean out and the world's economy crashes. There are actually several "Rearden metals" out there right now. Just pick up any recent issue of Popular Science and I'm sure you'll see at least one new proposal for an energy source of some kind. Many of them promise to be much more efficient than oil and at a fraction the cost.

How did the people react to Rearden metal in the story? With hostility. Rearden's accomplishment was seen as nothing more than greed and corruption. They started making and relying on false claims about his metal. They said that it would fail. The bridges would collapse and the rails wouldn't hold. They based these opinions on no actual scientific research. So, as my antagonist tries to tear apart my beloved dream of an electric society, I'd like to counter with only a small amount of research that shows that no invention is perfect the first time. Sure, the original EV-1 only drove 30 or so miles. What was the first combustion engine capable of? The later electric cars were starting to show potential 300 mile limits with lithium-ion batteries. So, let those few who want to put their faith in the car do so. There was already a greater demand than there was a supply for electric cars. In the face of such demand, innovations and improvements are sure to take place. Thankfully, other technologies (such as laptop computers) give us reason to continue to improve battery life so hopefully one day soon the electric car will come back.

The research I mentioned led me to an article about a group from Stanford who have increased the capacity of lithium-ion batteries tenfold. How about that? Could you stand a car that was only capable of driving 3,000 miles on a charge? I believe I've already mentioned Toshiba's SCiB batteries that charge 90% of the way in just 5 minutes as well, haven't I? If not, now you know.

People fight alternatives to the lifestyle they're used to living all the time, but why? Is this ridiculous fear of change really worth relying on a limited resource until it runs out and not having a back-up plan ready? The biggest problem is that people don't know what's going on around them. That, and they're afraid to put their hopes into one particular solution. They just think, "Sure, electric cars are a great dream, but the combustion engine already works. Why change it?" Sometimes it's absolutely necessary to practice other ideas. Times like now. Why are people content to wait for the oil to actually run out to solve the problem? It will be WAY too late by then. Our society will face a devastation that nobody could possibly imagine or predict. You can't just bring the world to a screeching halt and expect everything to be okay anyway.