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Archive for the month “May, 2016”

Free Trade with Dictatorships: Could Donald Trump Be Right? By Branehart

Free Trade with Dictatorships: Could Donald Trump Be Right?

By Branehart

dship

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is talking about penalizing companies or countries that don’t engage in what he calls ‘fair trade’.  In particular he has a get-tough policy for China, a dictatorship which regularly devalues its currency to make it more difficult for its people to buy imported goods, and which also engages in dumping goods in other countries at below-market prices. I generally am a believer in free trade and like many conservatives I am concerned about his ideas.  However, I see that what China is doing can cause serious economic damage to the United States, and am coming around to the more general notion that free trade only works to improve people’s lives when it’s done between people in free countries.

The virtues of free trade at lifting living standards were discovered during the Enlightenment in Europe, a period lasting roughly from 1550 until 1800.  Political freedom and limited government were popular during the Enlightenment as exemplified by the ideas of that era’s two greatest thinkers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Hobbes believed in an absolute monarchy whose purpose was to enforce a social compact among its subjects to prevent them from initiating force or fraud against each other.  Locke believed that the purpose of this social compact was to protect the individual rights of everyone to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.

It was against this backdrop of limited government freedom at the end of the Enlightenment when Adam Smith and David Ricardo, two of the most influential advocates of free trade, wrote about its benefits at helping raise standards of living internationally and influenced the opinions of generations of free market advocates.

The Enlightenment ended around 1800. What replaced the ideas of political freedom was a tyrannical philosophy in academia throughout Europe and the United States. The leader of this trend, German philosopher Immanuel Kant, believed that people could not think for themselves and needed to be told by an authority what values to pursue, and they had to obey under penalty of law regardless of their personal desires to the contrary.  Kant’s protégés, in particular Georg Hegel and Karl Marx, picked up where Kant left off, eventually causing the development of both variants of socialism: fascism and communism.  The result was a string of murderous dictatorships during the twentieth century including Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union – and the People’s Republic of China.

Because free trade advocates like Smith and Ricardo lived before the advent of the Kantian dictatorship, they could not evaluate such a system or whether it would be beneficial for free countries to trade with it. Therefore the principle accepted by free market thinkers that free trade between nations is always beneficial may not be correct.

If someone trades with a dictatorship, it won’t necessarily improve the lives of people there or abroad and may even make them worse.

When people in free countries where individual rights are respected trade with each other the benefits from doing so go to the private sector participants in the trade, allowing them to improve their businesses and livelihoods. If one of these participants truly builds a better mousetrap or other product for less money, it helps elevate the standard of living of everyone he trades with. There is therefore no reason to penalize him in any way, with tariffs, import quotas or any other protectionist measures. Rather, it is up to the people in other countries to stay competitive with him or suffer from failing to do so.

In contrast, when anyone trades with a dictatorship the benefits from doing so do not necessarily go to the private sector participants in the trade, but rather to the dictator and his hand-picked cronies. That’s because whenever anyone deals with a dictatorship they do it on the dictator’s terms – and whatever the dictator wants, that’s what happens.

If a government crony does not build a better mousetrap for less money, but can still undercut market prices when he sells it abroad because the dictator gives him a subsidy or allows him to use what is essentially slave labor, then his sale of such a product will be detrimental everywhere. Abroad, the availability of the product at below market prices can drive out of business producers who don’t receive subsidies from their own governments and have to pay their labor market wages. Meanwhile domestically the sales proceeds could prop up the dictator fiscally and perpetuate human rights abuses when otherwise the dictatorship could’ve bankrupted itself and collapsed.

There are other problems.  As alluded to above, dictatorships do bankrupt themselves – and sometimes in response start wars with other countries to seize their economic assets to fiscally prop themselves up. If a country trades new technology with a dictatorship it could increase the likelihood of such wars by making the dictator more powerful militarily.  Nuclear technology is the best example.

In light of the fore-going, what would be sensible?  It should certainly not be penalizing free countries engaging in fair trade such as Portugal, Israel, Estonia or the United Kingdom; but China is the opposite end of the spectrum. For dictatorships like China I might favor a surcharge, like a tariff, against Chinese imports to bring them up to the market price – and no higher  that they can be produced and sold for in a free country.

If a dictatorship wants the surcharge lifted, it needs to do two things: first, it needs to improve its trade policy by ending protectionist measures like dumping or currency manipulation. Second, it must improve its human rights policy to respect individual rights. This means no perpetual sweatshop slave labor; instead, companies must be allowed to accumulate their profits so they can reinvest them in their businesses and improve working conditions, and labor must be allowed to price its services at market rates. This will allow wages to eventually rise, greatly reducing the dictator’s ability to undercut production costs in free countries and allowing a more level playing field.

Free trade – with free countries, only.

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Which Bathroom Should I use? By Branehart, Esq., blogger, and lifelong men’s room user

Which Bathroom Should I use?

By Branehart, Esq., blogger, and lifelong men’s room user

Bathroom

There’s a law in Charlotte, NC that says people can use the restroom for the gender they “identify with”, regardless of whether they were born that way or actually have “the junk”, so to speak, of that particular gender.  Then the State of North Carolina moved to pass a bill blocking local governments from enacting laws like this one – and, as expected, the Democrats went nuts calling the State homophobic and bigoted, and a bunch of celebrities including Bruce The Boss and companies like PayPal decided to boycott the State.  Hey, I always thought Springsteen was and is a darn good songwriter but he couldn’t tell the difference between Julianne Phillips and Patty Scialfa, I mean I know they look alike but… that wasn’t too bright.  And PayPal – don’t they do business in countries where homosexuals are brutally killed by law for being gay?  PayPal’s just a bunch of liberal America bashers.  Maybe some university in love with Immanuel Kant’s anti-thinking ideas is paying them to be; anyway, it is hypocritical to the max.

I’m not gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that – a little Jerry Seinfeld lingo there), but it does cause a problem for me in analyzing this issue.  Lots of African Americans tell whites that whites can’t know the “black experience”.  Well, I as a life-long heterosexual feel I don’t know the “gay experience” – more specifically, exactly what homosexuality really is. Is it voluntary?  Or involuntary?  Genetic?  Or a result of environmental factors after birth?  No way for me to know directly. I don’t want to “discriminate” – okay, let’s use a more precise term, be unjust – to someone who is the way he is through no fault of his own, so I’ll reserve judgment on homosexuality for the moment.

However, I think I have a real problem with this “transgendered” stuff. I’m not sure what that is either but, I get a bad feeling about it.  What it sounds like to me is: I’m one gender but I want to be, or “identify with”, another – so I’m going to say I’m the other even though I’m the one.

This gives me trouble because as the Rolling Stones – good liberals they are! Once sang, “you can’t always get what you want”.  As I (very seriously) said in my blog “So What are Values, Anyway?” (August 2015), values have to be real – and they have to be real because reality is always there, always setting the terms of our lives whether we like it or not.  To go with reality, therefore, is to exercise proper humility in accordance with the requirements of our survival. To love life means to respect reality. Of course you can change reality, but only by acknowledging it first. Or, as Ayn Rand once said, “reality to be commanded, must be obeyed”.

The “transgendered” folks, however, and correct me if I’m wrong on this, don’t like that reality is an absolute.  They want to control reality and spit in the face of it –if they feel like it.  And, they want to go along with it – if they feel like it.  Either way, it’s their feelings, not the facts, that are supreme (just as they are with the jerks in MoveOn.org or a bunch of namby-pamby cupcake nation Ivy League or University of Missouri students on the lookout to rail against the next micro-aggression from someone with white privilege).

What’s wrong with this, aside from everything?  To live, we must achieve values that will allow us to do so – and to achieve them, as I said in my post “How we get our Values: The Thinking Process” (October 2015), we have to think to get them.  Not feel, but think.  And as I went on to say in that post, the thinking process begins with observing and acknowledging not our feelings but the facts of reality.  Start with your feelings rather than the facts and you’re not thinking; you’re speculating or fantasizing, which leads to disaster.  See the discussion of Plotinus’ philosophy regarding emotions in my post “The History of Thinking in Western History” (November 2015).

I went on to say, in my post “Why Liberals are such, uh, JERKS (and what to do about them)” (November 2015), that people often don’t learn how to think because they don’t learn how to handle abstract concepts properly.  When they don’t learn how to handle abstractions, they feel cut off from values that can only be achieved by understanding abstractions, and from the happiness that results from achieving these values.  They therefore turn against values and happiness and become the monsters they are.  Rather than restate what I said about the need to reduce abstract concepts to concrete ones, I’ll just let the reader check out those three posts.  What I want to say here, however, is that, and like I said I don’t really know what “transgender” is so maybe I’m wrong, it seems “transgenderism” is really hatred of thinking, values and happiness by people who don’t know how to think, disguised as some kind of uncontrollable physical condition like possibly homosexuality.

If I’m right about transgenderism then no, I don’t want people using any bathroom open to the public based on what gender they want to be; I want them using the bathroom for the gender they really are.

So what gender are you and which bathroom should you use?  Here’s a simple guide:

  1. If you have testicles and a penis, regardless of whether you look like Caitlin Jenner or one of the band members of Poison, it’s the men’s room for you.
  2. If you do not have a penis and testicles, and have a vagina, either from birth or from reconstructive sex change surgery, I don’t care if you look like Hulk Hogan or Barney Frank or anyone or anything else, go to the ladies room.

And, speaking of Caitlin Jenner, I have a theory.  There is something called a sexual fetish, which is a sexual arousal that results from observing some object that someone associates with sex.  Fetishes are probably genetic as they are much more common in men than women.  Some common fetishes include the shape of a woman’s legs; woman’s high boots; certain women’s hairstyles; blonde hair; lingerie; shiny satin fabric; the shape of women’s lips; high heeled pumps; etc. There was a movie, The Man who Loved Women starring Burt Reynolds, about a man who had a fetish with women’s legs.

I think Caitlin Jenner is an example of an extreme fetish.  Fetishes are normally very powerful, as Burt Reynolds demonstrates (spoiler alert) when he gets himself killed running after a pair of great legs, but nowhere near as powerful in the average person who has one as they were for Bruce Jenner.  He had to have the things he associated with sex – which, based on what he has done to his appearance, include just about every physical feature of a woman – or he’d go nuts.  (Note he didn’t want to actually be a woman, so genital sex change surgery wasn’t an issue; and he certainly isn’t gay.)

I’m not a therapist so I don’t know the proper way to treat a fetish.  But I would imagine that the Caitlin Jenner route isn’t the right one.  I believe that reality is real, one’s feelings are also real, but what gives rise to those feelings may not be correct.  It seems to be that, if someone always wants to observe things that get him or her sexually aroused, he should acknowledge that that’s not a proper way to go through life.  What is a proper way to go through life is to do that some of the time, but most of the time realize that you have to engage in thinking and productive activity and otherwise do what you have to-to achieve your values.

Now, if you have achieved your values (as I’m sure Bruce Jenner has – he’s one of the best athletes ever and probably has more money than God though not as much as Rush Limbaugh) and you can afford to parade around looking like Kim Kardashian, you should be free to – but don’t allow yourself to be used by crazed liberal anti-thinking Kantian professors who want you to start spouting that unthinking, emotionalistic hedonism is an okay way for everyone to live or be a poster child for the idea that reality is an unknowable chaos and that thinking is therefore useless. Oh, and uh Caitlin, you still have to use the men’s room.  Don’t worry if my kids (I know I don’t have any but if I did, hypothetically speaking) see you; I’ll explain it to them.

PayPal shame on you, and Bruce, as Laura Ingraham once said, just shut up and sing.

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