Saturday, May 03, 2003

CALIFORNIA IS TOTALLY SCREWED: Clayton Cramer is my hero, and here he excerpts some choice quotes from an article titled Descent into Madness: 48 Hours in the California Legislative System.
California is struggling with the biggest budget crisis in its history. Take note: we are not talking about your run-of-the-mill budget shortfall where teachers and medical services are cut as a first-line response. California is so awash in red ink that on the day I arrived, the Sacramento District Attorney's office filed a proposal with the state under which it will simply stop prosecuting misdemeanor crimes because it cannot afford the staff. A subsequent component of that proposal will cease supervision of all paroled criminals, misdemeanor and felons alike, for lack of parole officers. Jails are releasing prisoners they can't afford to house. The implications of this are staggering. The message to criminals is clear-- hunting season is open on law-abiding Californians because the government can't afford to prosecute you!
ELECTION 2004: Ah, the Democrats... scrambling puppies, nipping on issues that fall like scraps from Bush's dinner table. The Democratic candidates debated tonight in a taped format that I haven't had a chance to see yet (who knows when it will be broadcast), but here's a summary from WaPo. What's the only morsel they can dig their teeth into to use against Bush?
But the candidates, and moderator George Stephanopolous of ABC News, turned the focus mostly to the bread-and-butter domestic issues that Democrats hope will drive the 2004 campaign.
Of course they want so-called "bread-and-butter" issues to take center stage (WaPo got the DNC memo on which catch-phrases to use, I see) because they know they'll lose if world events are allowed to remain in the public eye.

Lieberman is the most hawkish of the Dems (and actually seems like a pretty good guy) but he could never represent the US effectively to the rest of the world. Why? Well, I hate to say it, but it's because he's Jewish. In case you haven't noticed, there's been quite a resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world, particularly in Europe. Oh right, and Arabs hate Jews almost as much as Europeans do. Frankly, there's probably enough anti-Semitism in America to keep Lieberman from winning as well, particularly among black Americans who make up a large Democratic constituency. If Lieberman were even nominated the conspiracy theorists would have a field day. Which could be quite entertaining, actually.

Most of the candidates are jokes that stopped being funny back in the '80s; the newcomers just don't have the gravitas necessary to displace Bush. In the end, it will probably be Sen. Edwards or Sen. Kerry up against the Pres, and the polls don't make it look like it will even be close. Sure, the election is 18 months away, and a lot can happen, but the economic cycle is just now starting to turn around and by next November I expect that the Dems' only issue will have dissipated into the ether.
PITH: Setting the World to Rights has a pithy response that can be used to undermine almost all anti-war/anti-Iraq partisans. The fact is, most such positions are based on obfuscation and distraction, and few anti-war polemicists actually have any beliefs they would risk their own lives for.

Friday, May 02, 2003

CALIFORNIA IS SCREWED: Ok, seriously, I'm about to go eat my food... but first I wanted to begin my new series titled "California is Screwed". I love California, don't get me wrong, but our great state is getting totally hosed by Gov. Gray Davis and the Democrats in our state legislature. I see this evening that our state controller is going to borrow maximum cash of $11 billion to try and get us through our current fiscal crisis. Hmmm, how about if you cut our massive overspending instead? Nah, better to apply a temporary fix that ensures we'll be screwed even harder later.

This is the last bit of money that we're allowed to borrow by law, and the state is already deep in debt. It's actually possible that we'll have to declare bankruptcy. I'll write more later, but meanwhile why don't you head over to RecallGrayDavis.Com, print the petition, sign it, and mail it in.
VARIETY SHOW: I just went to an elementary school Variety Show which featured three little girls who I work with at church. My girls were brilliant, of course, and performed magnificently -- but they were wise not to call it a "Talent Show". I was surprised to see many of the little girls performing rather risque song and dance numbers, but I guess that's just how pop culture is these days. The audience (mostly parents) wooooed and cheered when the kids shook their hips and stuck out their chests to Britney and Christina and J Lo, but it seemed a bit surreal to me.

By the time I left the school it had started to rain, so I decided to head on over to Tito's Tacos, naively thinking that it might not be crowded for once because of the outdoor lines. The inside was packed, but only a few people braved the weather and I managed to get my food in less than 15 minutes (surely a record for Tito's on a Friday night). Now I'm going to go watch Law & Order: SVU and eat my taco with cheese, bean and cheese burrito, and tamale.

Tomorrow: begin intensive study for my WQEs.
PEDANTIC: GeekPress quotes this Mercury News article which says: "IBM researchers have created the world's smallest solid-state flashlight -- a tube 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. It emits a glow that is invisible to our eyes, but ideal for devices that use light to send data in fiber-optic cables and the like." Nifty! Except, what does "50,000 times thinner than a human hair" mean?

Now, if something is 50,000 times thicker than a human hair then that's pretty clear, because "thickness" is a property that all physical objects possess and which can extend, in theory, to infinity. How thick is your car? How thick are you? Easy to answer. If a human hair has a thickness of 1 Human Hair Unit, then something 50,000 times as thick has a thickness of 50,000 HHUs. "Thinness" however, is a property which can only go down to zero, and which implies that a comparison has already been made to some "standard" thickness. The author is mixing denotation. If you're fat and your friend's waistline is half of yours, is he half as thick as you or twice as thin? Well, you're not really thin at all: you're negative thin, since you're fat. Likewise, I'm not a thousand times thinner than a skyscraper -- that just doesn't make any sense. "50,000 times" implies that the flashlight is much more something than a human hair, but "50,000 times thinner" attempts to say that it's "50,000 times more less thick" -- strange and twisted.

Although I'm sure everyone knows what the writer means when she says "50,000 times thinner than a human hair", it would annoy me less if she had written "1/50,000th as thick as a human hair".
EDUMACATION: I'm interested in education issues, largely because a good chunk of my tax dollars to towards it and I think our system is a miserable failure. Apparently, I'm not alone. Let me make a brief list of things that won't solve the education problem in our country:

  • Spend more money. We've tried this for the past 50 years, and hey, things keep getting worse. Between 1978 and 1999, inflation-adjusted spending on education in California increased 39%. Most of the money pays for beauracracy and overhead. In California, teachers "earn" tenure after two years and are then assured a job for life -- high school teachers and below shouldn't get tenure ever, what's the point? Of course, if Governor Davis wasn't such a special interests whore the teachers' union wouldn't have so much power.
  • Increase diversity. I know a lot of kids, and most of them are far less concerned with racial issues than adults are. Their biggest problem isn't that they can't get along with other races (because they generally can), it's that they have no discipline or interest in education.
  • Make school easier. Most high school graduates are illiterate and incapable of solving math problems; how much easier can it get? Heck, even college grads can't read (see subsequent slides for definition of terms).

    The problem with public education is the first word: "public". People don't value things they perceive as being free, even when in fact it is their tax money paying for education. The whole system is a socialistic relic that should be gutted and turned over to the private sector. Let capitalism and competition (overseen by limited government regulation) turn our pathetic education system around.
  • ONE OF THOSE DAYS: Good thing there isn't much going on today, I've been up to my neck in meetings. Just got a new list of Action Items to work on that should keep me pretty busy for the next few weeks... but first, time to surf the web.

    Thursday, May 01, 2003

    CONCEALED WEAPONS IN CALIFORNIA: If anyone else out there lives in California and is considering buying a weapon and applying for a concealed-carry permit, allow me to point you to a couple of resources on the web.

    Equal Rights For CCW Home Page -- run by Jim March, and largely dedicated to exposing the hypocritical manner in which CCWs are (not) issued to law-abiding citizens of California. Contains this excellent page on California laws that govern carrying knives.

    Packing.Org -- awesome site that describes concealed-carry laws in all 50 states, and describes how they interact. There are also tips on how to write "cause statements" for each state.

    Ruger P95 -- this is the gun I'm going to buy (real soon now). I like the Rugers because they're good, reliable, cheap guns, and they have an ambidextrous safety -- important because I'm left-handed.
    KIDS THESE DAYS: My friend and I ran a workshop tonight for the high school juniors at our church, the purpose of which was to help them sign up for the SATand make them aware of the upcoming college application deadlines. We're going to be meeting again near the end of summer to help them with financial aid forms and the actual applications themselves. We announced the workshop in advance and talked to 12 or 15 juniors about coming, but in the end only 3 students showed up. I wonder why the others didn't come?

    It's not because they've filled out the forms on their own: we had asked them that previously and were met with blank stares. Most of them have no idea what kinds of things need to be done in order to successfully apply to a college. So why didn't they come? I guess that many of them don't plan on going to college, or they expect that they won't be able to get into a "good" college and will just end up at one of the local community colleges. Who knows, maybe they're right, but there are plenty of cheap state schools that are higher quality than the community colleges and that accept students who don't have stellar academic records. There is also financial aid available to help pay for school. The only reason that a high school graduate in California should end up at a community college is if they are too lazy to put in the effort to apply to one of the UCs or CSUs.

    Even with all the help we offered at the workshop I guess many of the kids were too lazy to show up. Or they just don't care. I don't know. I'm glad we had the opportunity to help a few of them, but I don't understand why the others weren't interested.
    RETREAT!: Here are a few pictures from the A-Life retreat. Courtesy of Yoosook Lee.
    OWNERSHIP 2: Go read my previous post on the subject of intellectual property or else this one won't make sense.

    I've been thinking about intellectual property again, and the fact that digital encoding can basically reduce all IP to a number (or set of numbers) makes me think that it's going to be very difficult to enforce copyright laws in the future; basically, extend the effect Napster had on music to everything. This isn't a very profound realization, but the underlying question seems important to me: how can anyone ever claim to own a number?

    I was reading a little bit about how radio frequencies are licensed by companies for use but are considered to be "owned" by the public as a whole and administered by the government. If numbers can be considered to be owned by anyone, they should fall into the public domain in the same way that radio frequencies do. But then what? Government-run licensing for companies that want to monopolize certain numbers (such as the number that encodes a specific song in the MP3 format)? Would they have to pay to hold these licenses? How then would they make money, through advertising like a radio station? It just doesn't make any sense.

    The end result is that I think we're nearing the end of the period in human history wherein it has been possible to "own" a representation of an idea (through copyright). Inventions and processes that depend on physical constructions will be protectable into the forseeable future (until we have replicators?), but the concept of the copyright will probably disappear by 2050 (my conservative guess). As it is, many societies are incapable of / unwilling to enforce existing copyright treaties, and the difficulties will only grow. Social momentum will eventually overwhelm the existing order, and it will collapse.
    WHY ARE PRETTY GIRLS SO DUMB? 2: Who knew that the post I'd get the most comments on ever would be about pretty girls being dumb? Maybe I've found my niche!

    More seriously though, I've thought of a genetic angle to the question. I'm sure this is obvious to real biologists out there, but here it is anyway because I thought of it myself: men may show more variation in intelligence because they exhibit recessive genes carried on the X chromosome more strongly than women do. This is because men only have one X (and one Y); women have two Xs, of course, and any recessive genes carried on one of the two Xs will be damped out if there is a dominant gene on the other X. A man who gets a recessive gene on his one X will display it more strongly. One example of this is that while 1/12th of males are color-blind only 1/144th of females are -- due to the fact that the color-blindness gene is recessive and located on the X chromosome.

    If there are equivalent genes for certain types of intelligence, then it's clear that sex-linkage could account for the greater standard deviation in intelligence among men, even though both genders have the same mean intelligence.

    I asked the girl from my population genetics class about my theory and she gave it a resounding endorsement: "yeah, maybe". QED.

    Wednesday, April 30, 2003

    POWELL SOUNDS RUMSFELDIAN: Here are a couple of quotes by Colin Powell regarding the new French/German/Belgian/Luxembourgian European military operations center:
    The project was immediately dismissed by Colin Powell, U.S. secretary of state, who called it "some sort of plan to develop some sort of headquarters." He said the four would have done better spending more money on guns, manpower and equipment. ...

    For Powell, addressing the project in Senate committee testimony in Washington, the need was for more European manpower, a denser structure and better weapons - "not more headquarters."
    Just from the tone it sounds like Powell may have been hanging out with Rumsfeld recently.
    WHAT THEY AREN'T TELLING US: I think it's important to realize that even as trickles of information are now coming out of Iraq that implicate France (France, France, France), Russia (Russia), Germany, George Galloway, and aliens as aiding and abetting Saddam's thugocracy, there are likely to be pieces of juicy blackmail material that the US government is going to secretly hold on to for now. We're going to air enough filth to put our enemies in their places, and we're going to let them know through channels that there's plenty more where that came from and if they don't want it relvealed then they had better keep their mouths shut and stay out of our way.

    That's how the world works, and the fact that our enemies don't know exactly what we've found gives us that much more power over them. I expect that we've got the goods on the various surrounding Arab countries as well, but it will be harder to blackmail the governments of nations that don't have a reasonably free press. Obviously the US government would never release incriminating evidence itself; rather, it would be leaked through media sources as having been "just discovered" so as it give it more credibility among anti-American populations.

    Many of the links above are via Instapundit.
    SEA CHANGE: I love it when I read an essay that plainly articulates something that I've been thinking about for a while but just haven't found the right words for. Robin Goodfellow writes "we are at a time where a change of political axis is needed and will likely occur within the next few years" and I think he's correct. Both major political parties are losing ground to "independents", most of whom can be categorized as either socialists or libertarians. For the past couple of decades these growing factions of socialists and libertarians largely adhered to the Democrat and Republican parties respectively out of convenience and pragmatism, but it appears that we're nearly to the point where fewer than half of the population actually identifies themselves with one of these parties.

    Imagine a game of tug-o-war. The rope is the people, and the Republicans are on one end of the rope and the Democrats are on the other. Between the two of them the middle of the rope isn't free-moving: it's strung through a ring that holds it in place. Now, if that makes sense, try and keep up here. When the parties were aligned with the desires of the people, the rope made a straight line, sliding back and forth through the ring as it it wasn't there. Now that the parties do not represent the ideologies of the population, they are pulling the rope into a V shape. The ring near the center of the rope sits at the point of the V, and the two parties are pulling partially against the ring and partially against themselves. The parties are trying to pull the population into the discussion that they want to have, but a large segment of the population doesn't care about the issues that the parties do anymore, and don't align themselves in the same manner.

    I feel like I just wrote a bunch of nonsense. Oh well, it's a cool picture in my head, and if you draw out the force vectors on the rope you might get an idea of what I'm trying to explain with my dumb analogy. The point is that eventually the population will get tired of hearing the debates that the parties want to have, and will dump the parties altogether. For example, both parties are strongly behind the "War on Drugs", but a good portion of the population (maybe not quite a majority) thinks that this so-called war is a sham and a waste of money. Another example is social security... everyone knows it's not sustainable, but neither party has the guts to actually face the problem.

    So, what's going to happen? I like Robin's conclusion and basically agree that the parties will re-form into a basically libertarian party and a basically statist party. The real question is, which goes which direction?
    POST-WAR IRAQ: Here's a datasheet that was prepared by the UN (April 29th, 2003) and gives some details on the humanitarian situation in Iraq. There are some numbers, as well as regional reports from various cities and towns in the country. Via Instapundit.
    WHY ARE PRETTY GIRLS SO DUMB?: I realize this is a controversial question, but this post by The Diablogger has forced it to the front of my mind, and I'm not one to shrink back in fear of the politically correct crowd. There are three possibilities that I can see:

    1. Beauty and intelligence are both rare. If, say, 1 in 100 girls are beautiful and 1 in 100 girls are smart, then only 1 in 10,000 girls are both smart and beautiful.

    2. Beautiful girls have learned that they can get whatever they want by using their looks; even the ones with the potential to be intelligent have not developed it. They have invested their time cheerleading rather than studying, and reading YM and uh... Cosmo (?) rather than Dostoyevsky and Tolkein. This is, in some ways, a function of our culture which values the appearance of a woman more than her brains; such a trade-off will not benefit an intelligent woman in the long run, however, since by neglecting her brains she is only increasing her attractiveness to unintelligent men. Intelligent men who are attracted to her will lose interest quickly enough.

    3. Maybe beautiful and intelligent women are everywhere, and they avoid me. I just threw this in for completeness -- I think we can safely rule it out.

    Whatever the reason, brilliant and studly men such as myself have a hard time finding women who are worthy of us.
    FANTASY VS. REALITY: Jane Galt writes about one of the main differences between the humanities and the sciences.
    What is the difference? I'd argue that it's a mindset. The scientific mindset is about a system of interlocking falsifiable premises that form a falsifiable theory. This system encourages mental habits that go beyond the "critical thinking" facility that liberal arts colleges like to tout. It means knowing your premises, and examining every theory, including your own, for how they conform to your premises, to other theories you have examined and believe to be true, and for possible disconfirming evidence. ...

    The humanities simply doesn't have this rigor. In some cases, such as literature, you really can't, although you can certainly be more rigorous than many of the programs devoted to exposing the obvious truth that Shakespeare and company did not have the same racial and gender sensibilities as 21st century Americans, yawn. In other cases, such as sociology and political science, it's possible that you could, but don't yet. That's why discussions in those courses tend to revolve around the speakers' opinions on human nature, interesting and possibly right but very difficult to either prove or falsify.
    As both a student at UCLA who is surrounded by liberal artists (or whatever liberal arts students are called) and an engineer who works at a major aerospace company, I can attest to the gaping philisophical chasm that exists between these two groups. To liberal artists it's more important to be interesting and provocative than "correct", if they will even conceed that there is such a thing as correctness. To an engineer, nothing is interesting unless it's correct. Liberal artists get emotionally attached to their pet ideas (I won't call them "theories" because they aren't) and can react violently when you disagree with them or *gasp* disprove them entirely. A true engineer, on the other hand, wants to know when they're wrong and should be grateful to whoever points it out.

    Via SDB who comments and adds a double-helping of agreement with regards to engineering.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2003

    FUNNY BUT DEADLY: A lot of people seem to be laughing it up that Iraq's former information minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf is probably alive and trying to surrender to US forces. Sure, his ridiculous pronouncements were amusing, but people should recognize that by making them he encouraged hundreds or even thousands of Iraqis to their deaths who would have otherwise given up and gone home.
    GET RICH SLOW: Clayton Cramer (who I really like) has a series up about how to become wealthy in a realistic fashion. Check it out.
    ARTIFICIAL LIFE: Most of the people at the conference I went to over the weekend were biologists, and I felt pretty lonely as the only computer scientist present. It's good to see that programmers will still have plenty to do even once the biologists take over the computer world! Really though, it's amazing to see the confluence of everything with computer science -- that's why I went into CS in the first place. As soon as biologists get these cellular computers working they'll need someone to show them how to best make use of them, and the theory and engineering will fall to those of us in computer science. Not that the biologists couldn't learn it, but I imagine that just as I get glassy-eyed when they talk about restriction enzymes and organelles, they won't have much patience for the complexity theory and distributed algorithms that will be necessary to make these cells perform useful tasks.

    As an aside, these biological computers are a fascinating parallel line of research to nanotechnology. Sure, nanotech microbes will be much smaller, but I expect there will be a lot of crossover. Biological machines will have certain advantages over nanotech, and vice versa, and they will be able to play off each other significantly. Most obviously, nanotech will be incredibly useful for designing the biological computers and monitoring their function. Imagine developing a cell piloted by nanotech microbes! The cell could serve as a spaceship for the nanotech crew and provide transportation through the environment and protection from the elements, as well as microscopic tools orders of magnitude larger than the nanotechs themselves. Of course, we could always just build micro-spaceships for our nano-nauts rather than relying on biological components at all. Lots of details to sort out before we'll know what's optimal for a given circumstance.

    (Link via GeekPress.)
    SARS IN CHINA: Apparently, the Chinese people don't trust their government and are afraid that being quarantined with SARS will amount to a death sentence. So rather than obeying the government's requests and orders that are intended to stop the spread of the virus people are fleeing infected areas so that they don't get grabbed.
    China has also ordered hospitals to treat or at least hold potential SARS patients until better-equipped hospitals can admit them. And it has told the poor that they will be given free treatment if they are infected.

    Many people do not seem to believe that.

    "Free medical care for me?" laughed Huang Dongshan, a 28-year-old laborer who left his job as a house painter to head back to his home in Guangxi, 1,000 miles to the south. "No one has ever given me anything for free. If I'm going to die, I want to die in my home. I don't trust the hospitals." ...

    "Who knows where they'll put me in Chongqing?" [another man] said. "The hospital could be worse than the jail. I know I should have told them about this in Beijing. But I just didn't believe they would really help me. My life means nothing to them."
    As direct result of it's oppressive, fascist government China is on the brink of a serious epidemic that could cost thousands or even millions of lives. South-East Asia has a rather high rate of AIDS infection as well, and I still predict that once SARS and HIV/AIDS meet we're going to see some tremendous death tolls.
    POPULAR CAPITALISM 3: Continuing the series (completely unplanned), consumer confidence "leaps" 32% in the wake of the successful Battle for Iraq. Consumer confidence is a really interesting metric that economists use to represent how positive the average person feels about the economy. Why does it matter how people feel? Because people who feel good about their economic future will tend to spend more money that people who are apprehensive or fearful, and consumer spending accounts for more than two thirds of the United States Gross Domestic Product. People who expect to remain employed or are confident of finding a job soon spend money. People who get a raise or expect to get one soon spend money. People who own property or stocks or bonds that are increasing in value spend money. People who own businesses that turn a profit spend money. And the more money people spend the healthier our economy is.

    Why does spending help the economy? Here's a primitive example based on bartering. Say that I can craft an excellent knife, but I can't make a wheel to save my life. Likewise, you make top-notch wheels but your knives suck. I can sit around all day making knives, but they aren't worth that much to me because I can make them any time I want, and I've got a bunch of them already. Same with you and your wheels. However, when I give you one of my knives in exchange for one of your wheels we both get richer. The wheel you give to me is worth more to me than the knife I give to you, and vice versa, so both of us gain in wealth. It's very profound when you think about it.

    My explanation is somewhat simplistic, but that's the basic idea behind capitalism. Trade is good, and trade increases wealth even if it doesn't increase production because it optimizes ownership and transfers products to those who value them the most. Growning consumer confidence indicates that people are more hopeful for the future and will be willing to trade their money/products to other people because they are sure there's more on the way.

    Monday, April 28, 2003

    POPULAR CAPITALISM 2: One of the most important components of popular capitalism is freedom of information. Private investors need to have open access to financial information, otherwise they won't be able to make wise use of their money and will end up getting fleeced by the so-called professionals. Government regulation of industry leads to inefficiency, but truthfulness in financial markets must be enforced by legal authority simply due to the fact that private individuals cannot accumulate the information they would need in order for market forces to weed out the deceptive investment firms.

    The Republicans are often accused of being too close to business, but this article describes how the Bush SEC has come down on 10 of Wall Street's largest firms, and even fined some executives personally for their deceptive and fraudulent actions.
    SARS IN AFRICA: I haven't read much about the possiblity of SARS eventually reaching Africa, but it seems like a virtual certainty. With HIV and AIDS so widespread among the African population, I expect that SARS will have a substantially higher death rate there than it has had even in Asia. Those with weakened immune systems (such as the old, the young, and those with AIDS) are more likely of dying even in Canada, which has a relatively modern medical system.
    NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM: It must be recognized that the past two decades really have ushered in the New Order of the Ages that is proclaimed on the back of our $1 bills. I like "New World Order" better, but apparently that's not an acceptable translation. Same difference.

    Anyway, this article by Gregg Easterbrook in the NY Times claims that the sea, air, land, and space arms races are essentially over, and that every nation has surrendered and resigned itself to American superiority. He makes some persuasive points, including
    global military spending, stated in current dollars, peaked in 1985, at $1.3 trillion, and has been declining since, to $840 billion in 2002. That's a drop of almost half a trillion dollars in the amount the world spent each year on arms. Other nations accept that the arms race is over.
    He concludes his article by arguing that the result of this American superiority may be a strengthened desire among some nations to acquire nuclear weapons -- the only trump card that could possibly discourage American military action.

    Frankly, I see it as inevitable that every country will at some point possess nuclear weapons. They're expensive and complicated, of course, but as technology advances the difficulties will grow less and less. This inevitability is the primary reason that it is essential for America and our allies to spread our New political Order to the rest of the world, and to encourage, coerce, and even force other nations into the liberal democratic mold. It is essential to our long-term security, and even to the survival of humanity as a species. With great power comes great responsiblity, as we've been told, and the awesome power of nuclear weapons cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of autocratic dictators whose only goals are their own survival.

    We can discuss the morality of forcibly changing other nations' governments later, but it seems very simple to me. A dictator like Castro or Mugabe has no more right to rule a nation than I do, and far less right than the people of that nation themselves.

    (Article found via Donal Sensing.)
    POPULAR CAPITALISM: Donald Sensing notes that this week is the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase, and points out that widespread property ownership is critical to successful economic and political development. The land purchased from France by the federal government was sold off to private citizens -- an otherwise unheard of practice in a world where property ownership was highly concentrated among royalty and nobility.

    For some reason, I had been under the impression that home ownership rates in American had been dropping over the past few decades, but according to the US Census website, I was wrong. In fact, the rate appears to have held pretty steady since 1965, the first year with statistics on the Census site.

    This article by Walter Mead describes some of the essential elements of popular capitalism, and why it is necessary that capitialism be popular in order to be successful. In post-industrial-revolution countries, it is inefficient for individuals to own small plots of agricultural land, and so home ownership takes the place of the small farm as the standard unit of ownership. By government encouragement of home ownership through tax breaks and other subsidies, and with the creation of the self-amortising mortgage by banker AP Giannini, it became possible for every American family to buy into the capitalistic dream. The stock market boom of the 1990s and the increased access to financial markets that the internet has brought to the average man have worked to open up another field of ownership that had previously been largely dominated by the wealthy. Far from concentrating wealth as "liberals" oftan claim, capitalism is the surest way to diffuse wealth throughout the population by enabling the people to directly own the assets and resources of their nation. The "means of production", if you will.

    Sunday, April 27, 2003

    GOING HOME: I've put up a new short story titled Going Home. Everyone wants to go home I think, but who knows where that really is sometimes?