Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cuckoo Land

I read a very interesting article today (thanks to my husband who sends me these links) and I wanted to share a passage from it that I found very refreshing. The article is about protests in Madison, WI recently because a bill was submitted to have public employees contribute 5.8% to their pension plans and 12.6% to their health care. The public is outraged! How could the government ask public employees to be more fiscally responsible by actually making them help pay for their benefits just like everyone else does?! ... the main point of the article is actually in the following quotation about the world debt.

"Indeed, the entire GDP [Gross Domestic Product] of every single country in the world only amounts to around $60 trillion. How can we ever hope to pay off $1,400 trillion dollars?

We can’t and we won’t. The only way that this $1.4 Quadrillion mountain of debt will disappear is a total and complete collapse of the global economy and its replacement with a new financial system.

Whether that also simultaneously brings down the US dollar and the United States itself as a first world country remains to be seen, but anyone who believes that a few years of austerity can redress the balance is living in cloud cuckoo land."

I guess this goes along well with my previous post about whether or not we are prepared for chaos.

Click here to read the whole article.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Something to Do

I haven't posted anything on my blog in well over 6 months now so I certainly don't expect anyone to read this post. It is Sunday evening and at any minute Ken will ask to use my computer so that he can finish a project on Excel (he uses a Mac). Haha...just as I was finishing that sentence he asked for it. So this really will be short because I know that he needs to use it before it gets too late.

An interesting subject was the topic of an e-mail discussion amongst several people on Ken's side of the family recently. Ken started it by relating to all of us a conversation that occurred at his work about the US Government falling apart. This post is not actually meant to be a commentary on whether or not it is falling apart. Actually, the most interesting part to me was the fact that a one of the guys said he does believe it is falling apart and that anything could break it "because we are not strong." However, he then brushed off his own comment as if it were impossible. Later a short discussion occurred around the idea of "what would we do if it all fell apart?" They all pretty much agreed that they don't really know how to do anything such as grow their own food. One guy said "yeah I guess I would just have to pillage around town." Ken felt that the guys were in essence saying that they didn't prepare for such an event because they did not want to be thought of as "paranoid" about it. But if we are not prepared for such things then we really are just left to pillage and probably do things we never thought we would do in order to get food and protect our families.

The e-mail discussion amongst his family was about whether or not we are prepared for chaos should our government fall just as nations such as Egypt and Lebanon or financial chaos such as in Greece. So my thoughts tonight are just to think about whether or not I am lulled into the sense of security that nothing like that could ever happen to me or to this country, or am I alert and prepared in case such a thing does happen?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Are You Liberal? Conservative? or Confused?"

Although I have been so overwhelmed by my internship and other jobs during that last month and have not made any time for writing on here, I have still managed to find time to read books, mainly while I was commuting or just waiting for participants of our program to arrive or to be picked up. One of the most recent books I finished was by Richard Maybury (who I've mentioned in a previous post about money.) He writes books as if he were writing letters to his nephew explaining about different topics. He signs his name "Uncle Eric." I've read several of his books including one on economics, on the World Wars, on the war in the Middle East, about justice, and most recently "Are you...Liberal? Conservative? or Confused?" He of course is neither, he calls himself a juris naturalist, like unto a libertarian. In this book Maybury explains basic platforms of the left-right political spectrum, which are of course generalizations, but hold true for most people who claim to be of one camp or the other.

Not withstanding the dominance of the left-right political spectrum in the United States,(which is really rather centralized compared to other political systems around the world, ex. communism is far left and fascism is far right,) Maybury claims that the juris naturalist is in fact not even a part of the spectrum. Here is why:

"Liberals and conservatives both agree that [government] encroachments on you is a fine and necessary thing. They disagree only over the specific details, which can be placed in two categories 'economic' and 'social.'"

He then goes on to explain that in all matters economic such as money, work, production, trade, investments etc the conservatives want freedoms and liberals willingly encroach (force, intrude, restrict, etc). In everything social such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, media, sexual practices etc, the liberals want freedom and the conservatives willingly encroach. Another way to look at it is as an issue of privacy in economics (right) verses privacy in social life (left.) Still another way is to say that the right wants to use force to stamp out immorality whereas the left wants to use it to stamp out inequality of wealth. Food for thought, why do the Republicans get the reputation of being "anti-government" when democrats are too, just in a different area of life?

For those who are moderates or centrists, even though they claim to be avoiding extremes, they want to control both economic and social conduct.

The juris naturalist, however, wants liberty in all areas of life. He does not want government encroachment anywhere. That does not mean he supports illegal business transactions or drug use, but he believes that there are other more effective means than government force by which to prevent or eradicate these problems. He therefore does not fit anywhere on the spectrum. No government encroachment.

Therefore what? There are so many angles you could take with this but I guess I would just encourage you to consider your political claim, whether you think government encroachments are necessary, if so where, and be aware of what others mean when they say they are a liberal or a conservative or a moderate, etc.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I don't really have a specific topic yet so I thought I would just write a little bit and see what comes out. It's been awhile since I've written anything so I just wanted everyone to know that I am still alive and thinking about writing on my blog -- I just haven't done it. My not-so-busy life got a whole lot busier when I started my full-time internship a few weeks ago, which is normally more than 40 hours a week plus at least half an hour commute each way, sometimes more depending on traffic. The day after I started the internship the tutoring company that hired me a couple months before finally got a placement for me so I agreed to be a math tutor for a couple of hours each week. Then I also started training a couple of hours every week for a job that I will get after my internship ends. Today at church another person asked me to be a Spanish/geometry tutor for their daughter and I agreed to that so that's another couple of hours of work each week. (But money is money when you only get a stipend for your internship...)

I had said that I was going to write a few posts about the topic of money but I haven't come up with any brilliant ideas lately so maybe I should stop announcing beforehand what I am going to talk about in the next post since that hasn't been working out for me thus far. To not just drag on about nothing I think I will just leave a quote for thought and call it good. This quote was by the American revolutionary Thomas Paine:

"Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another… It is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man.” (P.P.N.S., p. 134)

I think about this in the context of "the right to" vs. "entitled to" Does every man have a right to health care or is every man entitled to health care? (or you could choose a different issue such as property or education etc.) Do you think there is a difference?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Is there anyone in your life who is constantly making silly and stupid mistakes? In my life, that person is me. I never recognized it really until I met my husband, oddly enough, so maybe he has somehow influenced me but it seems like he never makes any mistakes. That is really hard for me sometimes because I feel foolish when I make mistakes and it can be really difficult for me to take criticism, which is what I always interpret laughter to be when I am the cause of the laughter. But, because this blog is about doing things that are "scary" and out of my comfort zone, I decided that sharing a personal vignette would fall into that category. Having recently moved to the great Northwest living about 20 miles outside of downtown Portland (where we work and go to school), transportation with just one car between two people becomes an issue. Fortunately, when we first moved here I met a really generous family at church who offered to let me borrow their extra car for awhile. After about 3 months of using their car I felt like it was time to give it back. Then they informed me that they decided to sell the car so I really had to give it back. In thinking about transportation options I decided that I would like to be part of the bicycle commuters community that is HUGE in Portland. So began the bicycle hunt. After agreeing on a price range with my husband we decided that craigslist would be the best route for searching. I started trying out at a lot of bikes but nothing fit me quite right. Then one day I found a super great deal on a nice bike. I tried it out and was instantly in love. Even though the asking price was slightly higher than Ken and I had originally planned on we agreed that it was a good deal. This past Saturday I excitedly picked up the bike, paid the man, and went home. Naturally, that evening I couldn't wait to go out for a bike ride. The bike was super light and a really smooth ride. Everything was going good until I started up a hill. I went to shift down a gear and ...what?! This is a SINGLE speed?! How did I buy a bike without realizing that it was a single speed?! I was so shocked and disappointed and frustrated and any other word you can think of that I might have been. I really don't know how it happened but I can only guess that in my intense infatuation with the bike I didn't realize that I had never checked the gears liked I had done with the many other bikes I looked at. Obviously the bike still work but it really stinks for living on a hill.

I had to try really hard not to be offended when Ken laughed. I know it was funny. I would have laughed at someone else if it had happened to them too. So this is me trying to get over people laughing at my mistakes, especially when they really are funny.

Now your turn; what stupid things have you done lately?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Money is the root of...what?

Once upon a time I read a book that literally changed my life. Until I had devoured "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand I could not have put into words what I already knew to be true about many different topics such as the value of work, what charity is and is not, the role of government and the role of money. This book helped me find clarity on these issues and much more. I think the overall message of this book is what would happen to this country if people were not allowed to use their innate ability to be creative and to produce through hard work. That might seem a bit strange or that it could never happen in a free country but you'd be amazed at how similar a chord this book strikes with the policies that are guiding our nation at this moment. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is willing to look past a bit of swearing and sexual content. One of the powerful speeches from this book is given by one of the great industrialist characters in response to overhearing a comment that money is the root of all evil. I'd like to devote a couple of posts to elaborating on this topic.

So first, what is money? Money is simply a medium of exchange for goods and services rather than using a straight-up barter system. For example, if I want a loaf of bread from the bakery and the baker happens to need 4 eggs but I only have 2 gallons of milk then I can give the baker money, which he can then use to buy his 4 eggs from another farmer. That farmer may not want bread but he wants some milk so he can take money from the baker and give it to me in exchange for the milk that he wants. I in turn can use that money to buy some more bread or any other product that I happen to be desiring. Money represents exchange of products. Money saves time. With a barter system you would have to spend time finding someone who has exactly what you want and is willing to exchange it for something that you have and that you are willing to give up. This would not be an easy task. By using paper money men trade what they value; they trade hard work, effort, and their minds.

This form of trade by means of money is what Rand calls "the code of the men of good will." It is "the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value." This process of exchange of money for effort and effort for money is in fact the blood life of society. It requires men to recognize that they must work for their own benefit and progression. "Is this what you consider evil?" Rand asks. And to those who say well, actually it's the love of money that is the root of all evil Rand responds that to love is to know and love the nature of something. Therefore, when I acknowledge that money is created only through the power of the best within me, through my effort, then I am a lover of money because I am willing to work for it and I will know that I deserve the money that I make.

Again, money is the life line of the society which we hold dear. It is "the barometer of a society's virtue" or in other words, if a society is honest and hard working then there will be a lot of money and a lot of exchange. Those who are willing to put effort into making money through the power of their mind and their will and their physical labor are those who sustain society. As pointed out by author economist and author Richard Maybury in his book "Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?" the American nation was the first to use the phrase "to make money." (For example, in Spanish the phrase for making money 'ganar dinero' literally translates into 'win money.' You may know more examples.) Our great nation was built on the backs of self-made wealthy men who made money because they worked hard, not because they conquered it. They loved money.

The opposite of those hard workers are the people who expect to receive a lot of money in exchange for mediocracy or privileges in exchange for nothing. They would rather use force (weapons or laws) to steal money rather than to actually put in effort to produce. These are the leaches on society that drain it. These are the people who promote the idea that money is the root of all evil but would sell their soul to get a hold of a little bit of it. They do not truly love money, they hate it.

Therefore what? Let us not be leaches demanding that we receive the benefits of the efforts of those who have rightfully earned their money. We must respect money and the power that it gives us through our honest efforts to produce. Let us be deserving of the money that we make.

For a full script of this spectacular speech click here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I've been struggling to figure out where to go next after my last post, hence it has been over a week since I've posted anything. I'm reading the book that I mentioned in the last post, "Human Action: A Treatise on Economics" and although I find the concepts very interesting it is really dry and written in the early 1900's therefore I do not understand everything. Furthermore, I am on about page 105 of 800 something. So....I am going to take a break from how our actions are calculated to make us happy and talk about something that perplexes me. Charity.

Ok, so it doesn't really perplex me but I think that some people (I mean people who make laws, etc.) really get confused about what charity truly is. Charity is benevolence, or an act based upon a belief in the goodness and worth of other people. In other words doing something for someone because you think he is a human being and should deserve it (even if he hasn't done anything to deserve it), and it is good to give and to help others in need, right? But what if you were forced to help other people? First of all, that negates the true meaning of charity because the action of goodwill has to be a result of an internal belief, not an external force. This is why I disagree with social programs that receive funding from the government. For example, in working at a community center I recently had the opportunity to see the "Fishes and Loaves/Meals on Wheels" program in action. This senior citizen serving non-profit organization's motto is "no senior will go hungry." I completely agree that seniors should not go to bed hungry, but I disagree with the federal government taking responsibility for them all. Why? Because of their source of funding! Government grants that fund 1/3 of the Meals on Wheels program (as published on their website and large portions of the vast majority of non-profit organizations comes from taxes, paid by you and me of course. In my mind that means money I am forced to pay (because I will go to jail, etc if I don't pay taxes) goes to feed needy seniors, the homeless, the diseased or others. That means I don't have a choice about serving someone, there is no internal belief or desire to serve this particular person that is receiving a meal at this moment, to give shelter to a particular family, to help find a cure for a particular disease or to help with any other cause because I have no say in exactly where my tax money goes. I am forced to be "charitable" to a cause that I may or may not have empathy for. My right to choose who I serve is essentially taken away from me.

I'm not saying the whole Meals on Wheels program is bad, after all there are only 3 paid employees for the entire city they serve and the rest of the work is done by volunteers, plus the vast majority of the funds come through donations and small fees. It's just the 1/3 that really irks me. By depending so heavily on government funds the responsibility and accountability for our seniors is shifted from the family and local communities of individual seniors to a big government disconnected with the individuals and with those who should be taking care of them. It gives us an easy way out of fulfilling our duty as human beings to personally care for those in need around us.

Therefore what? I am responsible and you are responsible for taking care of the individuals who are in need around us or for the causes that we have empathy for. By allowing the government to take our taxes and make the decision for us of where that money goes we shirk our responsibility. I believe that the proper way to care for those needs would be social programs that are run by non-government organizations (private businesses, non-profits without government grants, etc), or in other words, leave it in the hands of the public. "But could that really work?" a skeptical friend recently asked me, "don't we need those programs?" I agree that it would be extremely difficult to make it work, but we as a people have the goodness within us to take care of those in need if we choose to. If we were not required to pay a large amount of taxes we would have the extra money needed to donate to causes or personally help individuals around us. So where do we start? I think it has to start with electing government officials who would back away from big government and return responsibility and accountability to those who rightfully own it; to me and to you.