Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Should People Deserve to be Paid by How Hard They Work?

No, for two main reasons:

1) No one "deserves" anything beyond whatever has been agreed upon between consenting parties. Anything beyond that falls into the categories of charity, welfare, or extortion.

2) All other things being equal, working hard is inefficient. Which oral surgeon would you pay more for: One who "works hard" to pull a tooth in half an hour, or one who does it effortlessly in ten seconds? And if you would pay more for the person who works less, why shouldn't anyone else?

When people work hard, they are wasting resources that could go to an alternative use. All other things being equal, hardly working is much better than working hard.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is There Really Such a Thing as Racism?

No, because there is no such thing as "race".

The genetic differences between groups of people with varying physical characteristics are negligible, and in fact are exceeded by the genetic variation within each of these groups. In fact, so-called "racial markers" such as skin color, hair texture, and eye shapes can just as easily be replaced by "races" that are defined by hair color (i.e., the "red-haired people"), eye color, height, etc.

For that matter, common skin hues can be found among people who share few other similarities; i.e., people from the Indian subcontinent, Africa, and Australia Aboriginals.

That said, groups that have been geographically isolated tend to share similar physical characteristics and a similar culture. Most often, when people talk about "race", they are in fact referring to a culture that is shared among people who coincidentally share some general physical characteristics. In fact, some groups with a common culture have been called a "race" when they don't even share well-defined physical characteristics; Jews and "Hispanics" come to mind, as both groups span the entire spectrum of human appearance.

The idea of "race" is appealing because people like to categorize things, even if categorizations are inappropriate. For example, a person with a "white" parent and a "black" parent is considered "black" -- like politicians Obama and Rangel. Why aren't they considered white? At one time, they might have been called "mulattoes", but now they are "black". Are these changing labels the product of scientific breakthroughs in biology? Or are they just social conventions? And how about their children, and their children's children? What are they? Fact is, they might fall into many categories of (sub) culture, intelligence, language, etc., but their race, like everyone else's race, is undefined.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Should Political Leaders have Military Experience?

The answer is clearly "yes" in countries like Pakistan, Venezuela, and Libya. In other countries, like The United States, the military reports to a civilian government; the generals follow policies that are legislated in Congress and executed by The President.

Some people ask: Shouldn't the children of The President serve in the military? The answer to that is "no", as The President's job is to put his nation first -- and not his parental obligations. That is, with his children in the army, there would be a conflict of interest that might be decided in favor of his children at the expense of the nation.

What is the Difference between Welfare and Charity?

All financial transactions between strangers fall into these categories:

1) Commerce: This is when both parties go for the last dime at each other's expense; e.g., when you buy an airline ticket, comparison shop on the Internet, shop at the supermarket, etc.

2) Charity: This is a voluntary surrendering of your own money or property, to another party out of pity, guilt, social pressure, or custom. This includes donations to clothing drives, volunteering your time at the hospice, some cases of restaurant tipping, etc.

3) Welfare: This is surrendering someone else's money or property to a third party out of compassion, pity, social pressure, custom -- and probably most often to obtain a sense of righteousness at someone else's expense. The examples are endless, from minimum-wage laws to free-trade restrictions to Social Security to rent control, and so forth.

4) Extortion: This is when you take someone else's money with the threat of violence. If a ward of the state accepts a government check, we call it "welfare" -- but if he takes it from you directly with a gun, then it is "extortion". (Note that welfare requires extortion, with the extorter taking from the many and giving to the few -- and perhaps keeping a commission along the way.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is Religious Discrimination Ethical?

You bet.

Very often, people talk will say that it is improper to discriminate against anyone on account of their race, ethnicity, or religion. Setting the first two aside, what exactly is wrong with discrimination based on religion? In fact, isn't religious discrimination precisely what religious people practice on non-believers?

In practice, most religions demand discrimination favoring their religion, and therefore demand discrimination against other religions. Therefore, banning religious discrimination would require banning religion itself.

But more to the point, religion is a set of beliefs and behavioral systems based on those beliefs. Should we be prohibited from treating people according to what they believe? If my religion requires me to get drunk on the job, does that mean that employers have no right to discriminate against me? And if my religion commands me to kill people who do not share my religion, is it discrimination to scrutinize me when I enter airports?

Are restaurant health inspections necessary?

No, in fact they are harmful because they are ineffectual, mislead consumers, and are expensive to administrate.

Consider that if inspections were useful, then you would feel free to eat any restaurant you choose, without being concerned about the filthy-looking ones that passed their inspection anyway. As illustrated in this article from the NY Post:

February 25, 2007 -- A city health inspector gave a passing grade to the notoriously filthy, vermin-infested KFC/Taco Bell just one day before shuttering it - after news cameras recorded a rat rampage through the Greenwich Village restaurant.

"We're looking to see if the inspector dropped the ball on this," said Health Department spokesman Geoffrey Cowley. "I think it may not have been as rigorous an inspection as it should have been."

Restaurant cleanliness can be predicted from many things that anyone can observe, directly and indirectly: Garbage on the tables, roaches on the walls, odors, reputation of the franchise, attitude of the employees, visible appearance of the food, etc. And after accounting for those variables, how much extra could possibly be learned from a restaurant inspection by an unmotivated civil servant? Would you really trust the inspector's judgment over your own?

Why Does The World Hate America?

For the same reasons that they hate the Jews: A convenient target to scapegoat for their own (imagined) problems.

Here's a recent article from The Telegraph called Hatred of America Unites the World. Before you read it, look at our version below where we replaced "Americans" with "Jews". With some minor country-specific references that we deleted, and despite some statistics that are a bit off, it reads very well.

Americans are the New Jews.

Hatred of Jews Unites the World

By Niall Ferguson, Sunday Telegraph

Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 25/02/2007

Being hated is no fun. Few of us are like those pantomime villains who glory in the hisses and boos of an audience. And few people hate being hated more than Jews. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've been asked the plaintive question: "Why do they hate us?" and another for each of the different answers I've heard. It's because of our foreign policy. It's because of their extremism. It's because of our arrogance. It's because of their inferiority complex. Jews really hate not knowing why they're hated.

But who hates Jews the most? You might assume that it's people in countries that Israel has recently attacked or threatened to attack. Jews themselves are clear about who their principal enemies are. Asked by Gallup to name the "greatest enemy" of the Jews today, 26 per cent of those polled named Iran, 21 per cent named Iraq and 18 per cent named North Korea. Incidentally, that represents quite a success for George W. Bush's concept of the "Axis of Evil". Six years ago, only 8 per cent named Iran and only 2 per cent North Korea.

Are those feelings of antagonism reciprocated? Up to a point. According to a poll by Gallup's Centre for Muslim Studies, 52 per cent of Iranians have an unfavourable view of Jews. But that figure is down from 63 per cent in 2001. And it's significantly lower than the degree of antipathy towards the Jews felt in Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Two thirds of Jordanians and Pakistanis have a negative view of Jews and a staggering 79 per cent of Saudis. Sentiment has also turned hostile in Lebanon, where 59 per cent of people now have an unfavourable opinion of Jews, compared with just 41 per cent a year ago. No fewer than 84 per cent of Lebanese Shiites say they have a very unfavourable view of Jews.

These figures suggest a paradox in the Muslim world. It's not Jew's enemies who hate the Jews most, it's people in countries that are supposed to be Jew's friends, if not allies.

The paradox doesn't end there. The Gallup poll (which surveyed 10,000 Muslims in 10 different countries) also revealed that the wealthier and better-educated Muslims are, the more likely they are to be politically radical. So if you ever believed that anti-Western sentiment was an expression of poverty and deprivation, think again. Even more perplexingly, Islamists are more supportive of democracy than Muslim moderates. Those who imagined that the Middle East could be stabilised with a mixture of economic and political reform could not have been more wrong. The richer these people get, the more they favour radical Islamism. And they see democracy as a way of putting the radicals into power.

The paradox of unfriendly allies is not confined to the Middle East. Last week was not a good week for Jew-philes in Europe. Anti-Semitism is nothing new in European politics, to be sure, particularly on the Left. But there is something novel going on here, which extends to traditionally pro-Jewish constituencies.

Back in 1999, 83 per cent of British people surveyed by the State Department Office of Research said that they had a favourable opinion of Jews. But by 2006, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, that proportion had fallen to 56 per cent. British respondents to the Pew surveys now give higher favourability ratings to Germans (75 per cent) and Japanese (69 per cent) than to the Jews - a remarkable transformation in attitudes, given the notorious British tendency to look back both nostalgically and unforgivingly to the Second World War. It's also very striking that Britons recently polled by Pew regard the Jewish presence in The Middle East as a bigger threat to world peace than Iran or North Korea (a view which is shared by respondents in France, Spain, Russia, India, China and throughout the Middle East).

Nor is Britain the only disillusioned ally. Perhaps not surprisingly, two thirds of Jews believe that Israel's foreign policy considers the interests of others. But this view is shared by only 38 per cent of Germans and 19 per cent of Canadians. More than two thirds of Germans surveyed in 2004 believed that Jewish leaders wilfully lied about the previous year's Hezbollah invasion, while a remarkable 60 per cent expressed the view that Jews' true motive was "to control Middle Eastern oil". Nearly half (47 per cent) said it was "to dominate the world".

The truly poignant fact is that when Jews themselves are asked to rate foreign countries, they express the most favourable views of none other than Britain, Germany and Canada.

Back in the 1990s, Madeleine Albright pompously called Israel "the indispensable nation". Today it seems to have become the indefensible nation, even in the eyes of its supposed friends.

There are, admittedly, a few scraps of good news in the international polls. There is overwhelming European opposition to Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons. And there is a surprising amount of hostility towards the Palestinian radicals of Hamas in both France and Germany. But look again at some of Jew's supposed allies. One in four Indians, two out of five Egyptians and one out of every two Pakistanis favour a nuclear-armed Iran. A third of Britons, half of all Indians and three quarters of Egyptians welcomed the success of Hamas in last year's Palestinian elections.

It's not for nothing that they say it's lonely at the top.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Is it OK to Drink Beer with a Straw?


And it is also OK to drink a glass of water with a straw.

But in the case of beer, a straw can penetrate the undesirable head, and thereby make the experience more efficient.

Assuming, of course, that beer is worth drinking. In fact, a case can be made that even most beer-drinkers do not like beer: If they did like beer, then why don't they drink non-alcoholic beer instead of Coke?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Do Schools Violate The Minimum Wage?

Yes they do.

If paying a sub-minimum wage is bad, then isn't paying nothing even worse? Interns make nothing; aren't their employers therefore breaking the law?

So then, what to make of schools, where students are compelled to perform homework -- and thereby violating the spirit of zoning ordinances, union regulations, and often, child-labor laws?

This is worse than sub-minimum wage, and worse than zero-wage. This is a negative wage, where workers are paying to do work.

Now you can say: "But the school is not gaining from their work!"

And that implies that the purpose of a minimum wage is to punish employers for making money. If the employer does not benefit, it is called a "non-profit" or "government" or "school", and they can pay their employees nothing -- or even charge their employees. But if the employer benefits, then he is penalized be being forced to pay a "minimum wage".

The minimum wage = punishing the productive.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Was 9/11 an Act of Terrorism?

No, it was not.

Terror is used to frighten a population in submitting to one's demands, and has been used in varying degrees of success; e.g., the imposition of socialism in the Soviet Union, the IRA demands for a united Ireland, etc.

Although we read much about what the 9/11 "terrorists" want, this has been all speculation. In fact, the only demands have been the ever-changing items presented in the occasional Osama Bin Laden videos, all of which are beyond contemplation, let alone implementation. And other "terrorist" attacks (such as Bali, Madrid, London, Tel Aviv, etc.) had no accompanying demands at all.

The supporters of these attacks, however, have clearly stated that they wished to murder people. They have not expressed any desire to "terrorize"; they have only expressed a desire to kill.

In short, 9/11 and associated acts are not terror, but are just plain mass murder as an end in itself.