Monday, May 26, 2014

Austerity did exactly what it was supposed to do

I write a lot about Europe despite being an American on my blog, but Europe is too important and interesting to ignore.

President Hollande said today that the EU should be scaled back given the large gains by what I would describe as fascist parties. I am convinced this is exactly what Merkel and Sarkozy intended. If you look at right win parties across the world there is consistently very little that distinguishes their policies from blatantly fascist parties apart from intensity. The same can not be said about center left parties which propose radically different means and proposed ends from full fledged communist parties, including a separate heritage of thought. The same can not be said about today's right wing across the world. The purpose of austerity was never to reduce the debt of Southern European countries and it has failed remarkably at making any improvement to the budgets of those governments as claimed. There is no history of austerity alone having such an effect on any economy without an expansion in the private sector which was unable to happen in these countries given heir policies. The policies that would have expanded the private sector were not part of the austerity measures. The economists who advise the EPP must have known this would happen and this was never meant to help these economies in the first place.

Then why spend so much political capital on this program? Because the goal was to damage the ability of liberals to implement social reform on a continent wide scale. The defection of millions of right wing voters this month shows the ultimate goal of these people which is to separate the union, end free travel, and implement nationalistic legislation that defines people by their nationality. Fortunately for these people the strong left wing leaders of the 1950s through 1970s are all but extinct with the exception of a few people in legislatures across the world. Reagan, Thatcher, and Kohl succeeded in this.  The rise of Clinton, Blair, and Schroeder who were Janus faced in their policies and sold the souls of their nations to fascists ended the liberal consensus that their predecessors worked hard to end. The fact that the CDU can block gay marriage while over 80% of Germans support it is proof. The fact that so many Americans still don't understand the Affordable Care Act is also important in how the fascists won.

A combination of poor leadership on the left and radicals on the right being treated as mainstream has furthered people's perception that all politicians are corrupt. This keeps people from remembering the great leaders of Attlee, Kennedy, Johnson, and Schmidt who expanded the liberty of their countries. The personality cult of Reagan and Thatcher which even some liberals buy into shows the power of this new narrative which the left has so far failed to counter on a cultural scale. This is a culture war, and freedom is losing. Equating economic liberty as social liberty is a powerful weapon while destroying our hard earned rights with such ease in the fascist arsenal which gains them votes.

How do we (liberals) win the war? First, we need to either recapture the existing formerly left wing parties to bring them back to our roots. We need to reembrace and spread the message of Locke, Mill, and other great philosophers. We need to demonstrate trade is superior to tariffs and division. Education needs to free people from assumptions and myths so science and compassion can remake the world's systems. We must be hard headed and soft hearted to raise people from the evils of poverty and division. Only through leadership can we free the world. We cannot continue to allow our leaders to surrender without putting up a fight. Only by fully loving the whole world will we have the strength to confront evil.

Let freedom ring. Let all people have the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest in peace.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The power of the people (corporate edition)

One of the first things you learn in any beginning economics course is that corporations exist to make a profit. This isn't necessarily an evil thing, and Adam Smith is the best explainer of why this is indeed the case.

The situation with internet security is an excellent example of how corporations best understand customers more than anything else. Standing up for our rights has pressured them into standing up for our rights and this is what we must do.

This is applicable to everything we do as activists, and we need to be able to have something to affect them with, because people don't listen to people who have no ability to act on their convictions. If progressives continue this sort of action (demanding the providers of services we use change their policies, or else) there is no force in the world that can stop us from making a gigantic change. We need to buy the voting stocks of companies that need to change, we need to continue to organize strong consumer advocacy organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation that amplify our demands, we need to be politically organized, and we need to not let down our demands with the exception of a more reasonable or more ethical argument. Only then will we be able to change the world.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Stigmatization of sex supports rape

In many conservative sub-cultures in America people are taught that sex is a bad thing, a gift of Satan, and other things. This is first of all damaging to people, because it makes it difficult to develop the emotions that are needed and knowledge of how to deal with sexual attraction which is completely natural. People need to learn how to use a condom, what other forms of birth control are, how to effectively express emotions, and this is conditioned. If someone always grows up in a situation with strong gender roles, and never gets exposed to ideas outside of their sub-culture on different gender roles it is very difficult to break out of those roles. Thing like appreciating beauty, (like the Rachmaninoff Sonata I am listening to as I write this which is a little piece of heaven) can be hurt in a macho culture, and reinforces damaging gender roles. Teaching women that they will be housewives from the time they are born closes doors to science and engineering that is equally damaging as it is to men who are taught to not appreciate beauty.

I am fairly certain in my hypothesis, and I would like to see more scientific research on this question focusing in on how the people were raised and if they lived in a good home, if they were exposed to high-quality sexual education and the ability to find themselves without necessarily being held in any particular gender role. The ability to see people of all genders as equals and growing up in a loving community might have an effect in the amount of violence perpetrated. Teaching people to treat others with respect is the core of the issue I think because all a victim needs to do is say no and the rapist needs to respect that decision. Indeed, research from my second reference supports this belief.

So, what can we do? First of all, we need to respect all people equally regardless of their gender. This is the first and largest step at fighting rape culture and making a world where all people can be treated equally. Stigmitizing sex makes it less understood and harder for people from those sub-cultures to fully understand what sex is, which is very sad, and makes it so rape is more likely to be considered appropriate at some level. We need people to understand what sex is, how it works, and what people can do to have safe sex.

The best thing about this is that there are communities and cultures that already do this, and it works extremely well.


Population Council, June 2004. Web. 5 May 2014. .

"A Longitudinal Study of Rape Attitude Correlates among College Men."UNT Digital Library. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014. .

Inspiration: which I completely agree with.

Friday, May 16, 2014

India 2014 shows the faults of FPTP

The largest election in the history of the world just finished in India, with a turnout of over 800 million people. The election saw a landslide victory in terms of seats for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been criticized as being too far right by America's Republican Party, so that is not a good thng.

I'm analyzing the details of the election by vote count and party share in the Lok Sabha and this is like the most recent elections in Canada and the UK which saw an immense difference between vote share and seat share by party in the election. Here is a basic summary table for the largest winners of the vote and seats:

Party Vote share Seat share Election error (Seat share-Vote Share
BJP (right-wing) 31.3% 51.9% +20.6%
Indian national congress (center-left) (INC) 19.4% 8.1% -10.7%
Bahujan Samaj Party (center-left) (BSP) 4.2% 0 -4.2%
All India Trinamool Congress (center-left) 3.9% 6.3% +2.4%
Samajwadi Party (SP) (center-left) 3.4% 1% -2.4%
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam 3.3% 6.8% +3.5%
Communist Party of India (far-left) 3.3% 0.1% -3.2%
Independents 3.0% 0.6% -2.4%

Needless to say it is obvious that India is not doing well with First Past the Post given the extreme swing in vote share and seat share. This is not healthy for democracy and they clearly need to reform their system so that their elections can be more fair. Looking a the previous year at breakdown state by state shows that this huge swing which is almost certainly due to vote splitting goes down to the local constituency level which creates huge imbalances with over 500 seats in the Lok Sabha. The only solution that will guarantee local representation along with proportionality is the single transferable vote.

Official website
2014 Wikipedia
2009 Wikipedia

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Reincarnation and Copyright

If people truly are reincarnated when they die, as many people in the world believe, than having copyright on a work after someone dies is very problematic because it means that in order to stay by their contract publishing companies need to search for the reincarnation of that person when they die so that they keep paying the creator of their work. Because of this, having copyright after death could become very expensive in terms of legal fees if someone ever proved that they were the reincarnation of someone like George Gershwin or Jean Sibelius whose work is still undercopyright and are not getting paid for their work.

This also means that keeping copyright in the hands of the company that publishes the work is stealing from the creators because they stop giving them their dues after they are reincarnated.

I'm waiting now for the first time someone sues a company for stealing their work in a country like India which has a majority-Hindu population. The publication companies are running a horrible risk by allowing governments to retain copyright after reincarnation. In interest of legal fees these corporations should push for public domain for art after death/1st reincarnation.

If the Hindus are correct of course.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bring down unemployment, improve labor laws

America has some of the most lax labor laws in the world. Mother Jones published an article outlining the laws we have in our country. I find job offers saying you have to be willing to work (and this is current, not 100 years old) 7 days a week on a frequent basis. This is immoral, and we need to have free time to spend our income, and work more efficiently when we have breaks.

Countries that lack basic labor rights for private sector workers are few in number nowadays, paid maternity leave is not in place in only 6 countries, paid annual leave is not in place in only 9 countries, and required time off each week is not required in 16 countries. (13 undeveloped or developing countries, the US, New Zealand, and Australia)

There are several reasons we should change our laws. First of all, when people are working two jobs, unemployment rises. It would be better for everyone if people made more at their current jobs so they don't need to work multiple jobs and more people fill the number of jobs available. Companies shouldn't be legally allowed to ask for people to work for more than 40 hours a week and should be required to hire someone else when they need people on staff all the time. This is the most direct way better labor laws reduces unemployment.

Companies (or at least large companies) should be required to pay their workers enough so that they don't qualify for Medicaid and food stamps.

Workers should be able to unionize so that skilled professionals will get paid what they deserve and at least can see cost of living increases to their wages which has not been happening. The consequence of this is unionized workers are paid more than non-unionized workers (as Mother Jones has found). A decreasing quality of living, combined with the marginal propensity to consume, means that our demand curve and economy will continue to decline if people don't see their quality of life continue to stay at their current level at a minimum. With middle income employees getting paid more they will spend more which will give businesses and incentive to grow and hire more people (or face competition that will gladly take the business) which will bring our employment-population ratio up which is currently at a level I would consider a crisis, given how it hasn't significantly moved up since the recession in 2008. Businesses won't expand if they don't have the demand for their services, and the private sector as a whole obviously will not grow if businesses aren't growing.

People should be required to have at least some vacation time in their jobs every year, and 4 weeks is a reasonable amount of time.

This will directly boost the pay that workers receive in unskilled professions. This will have a positive effect to the economy because they spend close to 100% of their income while their employers who are middle class or wealthy will spend significantly less than 100%, diverting a lot of funds to investments and pay more in taxes. The other benefit to increasing pay for people in retail and food service (etc.) is they will qualify for fewer state benefits, reducing the need for welfare, and making it so their employers will directly pay them enough to live on. Because of this, and how states usually make up the difference, improving labor laws will have a positive effect on the economy and decrease the need for welfare.

The other major benefit I must mention is how unions are more effective than minimum wages. For people in unskilled professions that can be quickly learned on the job, the minimum wage will work well, but for skilled professionals the minimum wage rising will have almost no effect on their wages. When people are unionized by their profession (and have the ability to form new unions if one union has trouble, competition is very important for unions to be successful) they can negotiate for pay raises which keeps the distribution of income closer. There is ample evidence that union workers are paid more (BLS) and this has a positive effect on the economy because most of these workers are in the middle class and lower classes, so they spend a larger percent of their income than someone who makes a million dollars a year. By having unions by profession we can have the market set rates in a more fair way, and a faster way, than an economist can possibly calculate by calculating numbers. Unions are also more resilient to growth, and are more able to respond to a sudden increase in technology by demanding a pay raise to go along with their productivity. Increasing workers wages across the board boosts the demand curve, which makes it more attractive for entrepreneurs to enter those businesses due to larger earning potential, which helps move our economy to be more competitive which increases innovation. Increasing the number of small businesses also increases the demand for labor which offsets any decrease in employment from higher wages. Without the increase in demand from fair wages we will not see that increase in innovation from more entrepreneurs and have fewer businesses to choose to purchase from. This is why higher wages are better for the entire economy and the actual effect in the long run is small, because it is more a redistribution of wealth than anything else.

The alternative to having unions or a minimum wage is as I outlined above a stagnant demand curve which directly harms the private sector, which is unacceptable. There will be times of expansion where we are operating above our potential (such as the 1990s with the computer revolution) where this will be not noticed, but the vast majority of the time this will be the case.