— St. Thomas of Villanova, Second Sunday of Advent, Sermon 3
Disgraced Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella Jr has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for conspiring with private prisons to sentence juvenile offenders to m
This is a huge issue going on around the country
The super-maximum-security prison in Parchman, Mississippi responded to an outburst of violence in 2007 in a way previously unheard of: instead of locking more prisoners in solitary confinement for…
Above is a menu from the Metropolitan Club, a fancy private club in DC, from 1901. I was invited to an event there this week, and stumbled across this menu while researching the venue. At first I was shocked at how high the prices were — even by modern standards, $20 is ridiculous for a celery appetizer.
Then I realized: These prices are in cents, and the most expensive things on this fine dining menu cost all of $1.
60¢ for lobster salad. 20¢ for spaghetti. 40¢ for brandy peaches.
This is inflation writ in asparagus and meringues.
The extreme differences between the prices on this menu and the prices we’d pay today (between 10 and 40 times the 1901 prices — e.g. $8 for a dessert rather than 25¢), is due to a century-long trend of the Dollar’s decline into near-worthlessness.
As you can see, the value of our currency has steadily dropped over the course of the last hundred years. (It was also on the decline before then, but not so steeply.)
If you’d like to play with the numbers on a year-by-year basis, try this inflation calculator. As the results of my calculation put it, “What cost $1 in 1900 would cost $25.85 in 2010. Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2010 and 1900, they would cost you $1 and $0.04 respectively.” Those results match well with our menu above (erring on the conservative side, perhaps), where entrées that today would run at least $30 depending on the restaurant location are listed for just $1.
That’s a lot of inflation, especially considering the lowering of prices which has been produced by technological advances, economies of scale, etc. So why is everything so much more expensive? Well, the rise in prices we see is a symptom of inflation rather than inflation itself. The underlying problem of the growth of our money supply, as our central bank, the Federal Reserve, creates more and more Dollars with nothing to back them.
This process raises the prices at expensive restaurants, to be sure, but it has a far graver result for those with low or fixed incomes. Corporations with close ties to the government often receive new money as soon as it is created in the form of bailouts, subsidies, or contracts, which allows them to spend it before the decline in the Dollar’s value it produces really takes effect. As Ron Paul has put it:
As government and central banks continue the cycle of spending and inflating, the purchasing power of their currencies is constantly being degraded. These currencies are what the people are working for and saving. This inflation guts the savings and earnings of the people who have very limited options for protecting themselves against these ravages….Fiat currencies trade the people’s freedom and security for the government’s freedom to squander the wealth of the nation on wasteful pet programs, wars, and corruption.In short, inflation robs the poor to help the rich afford the lobster salad whose time of costing 60¢ grows more distant by the day. If you seek a mass injustice, look at the bills in your wallet.
|This dialogue will explore the proposition, “It is immoral to force feed a political prisoner against their will.” The characters are Cicero and Machiavelli. It is cheesy at first but gets better.|
|M:||Cicero, let’s talk, I’m having a problem with my prisoners who don’t seem to understand the vital importance of their being imprisoned, and have commenced a hunger strike to protest the “awful” -ha!- conditions they are living under. I’ve ordered the guards to begin force feeding them.|
|C:||Aw, the more power one has, the more problems one has. Right Machiavelli? Let us explore the situation of your prisoners further to ascertain whether their hunger strike, and your force feeding of them, is moral and proper.|
|M:||It’s clear the it can’t be immoral to force feed someone. Why in hospitals we feed the severely mentally ill, we feed infants and children who otherwise couldn’t feed themselves and sometimes don’t want to eat! The act of force feeding cannot be inherently immoral.|
|C:||This is certainly true, but the two cases you have cited involve those who do not have full freedom over themselves and their actions. It is thus proper to feed them, even against their will, because we are doing it for their ultimate good. It is in fact an act of sacrifice endured by the feeder to patiently feed an infant or severely ill patient who refuses their food. Yet this does not apply to a fully free and mature adult. Would you tolerate me shoving grapes down your throat if you did not want them? Would this not be an assault?|
|M:||You are right that there is a distinction between an able bodied and free man and an infant or ill patient. But I still don’t see how this would constitute an assault! These men are not free, they are my prisoners! They have given up their lives in committing their crime, they now belong to me, and I will not tolerate their starving to death to make a fool of me!|
|C:||Why would they be starving themselves to make a fool of you? No man starves himself to make a fool of another. It would seem clear that their motivation is not in making a fool of you, but in drawing attention to their plight. The question for us will be to determine if this is legitimate.|
|M:||Preposterous! It is suicide! These prisoners are starving themselves and I will not allow them to take their own lives and embarrass me. You are not saying that a man has a legitimate “right” to kill himself do you? Suicide is heinous and against the Law of Nature! As their sovereign, I cannot allow for this practice be sanctioned under my watch.|
|C:||I will grant you that suicide is immoral, and further that if one sees someone attempting to commit the act, that person should come to their aid. Let us look though, at the method these people have chosen. It is undebatable that food is a good of the world, and that without food one would eventually die. Thus nature would tell us that someone giving up food, all things being equal, is acting contrary to nature. Is this your position?|
|M:||Yes, and this is precisely why I am right to intervene.|
|C:||We will come back to that point later, but let’s stick to the person for now. The persons in your prisons have not ceased eating for the sake of giving up eating. If this were the case, it would be reasonable to conclude that the person was mentally unstable, and could be legitimately placed under medical care. But the persons in your prison have ceased eating because they are seeking to draw attention to the terrible conditions they feel they are under. Thus the persons under your authority have a different motivation and end as the goal of their action. Allow me to ask you a question, if you were pinned under a rock, would it be proper to cut off your arm to free yourself after all alternatives were exhausted?|
|C:||So it would follow that the body, or some aspect of it, can be surrendered in order to save one’s life; such as an amputation in the case of infection. Would you agree with that?|
|M:||Yes, this is undeniable.|
|C:||Thus a person could legitimately, after all other means have been exhausted, give up food and endure the bodily consequences of that action, if they feel that it is the best way to save their life. Does this not follow?|
|M:||I have to agree that it does, but how is it not suicide? These prisoners are starving themselves to near death!|
|C:||I must disagree with you that the actions of the persons under your authority are suicidal in nature. This is because no one commits suicide with the goal of saving their life. The person in this case is giving up a good for the greater good of preserving their life in the face of intolerable conditions.|
|M:||Nonsense! While I am forced to agree with you that these actions are not suicidal, it still does not excuse them from performing it in the first place. These prisoners are terrorists! They have no rights!|
|C:||At least we can agree that this action is not suicidal, but you do raise a subtle point that I agree on: this action should only be taken is an absolute last resort after all alternatives have been exhausted. Do tell me, have these persons in your care brought their grievances to you before?|
|M:||Some of these prisoners have been here for 10 years! Sure, these scum have demanded lawyers, claimed innocence, demanded a trial, thrown things at the guards, things of that nature. I won’t stand for it though, I am right to keep them there because they are too dangerous to be elsewhere.|
|C:||I’m afraid that I’m not following you. Please clarify something for me, have these men been charged with a crime? Have they been granted due process, tried by a neutral arbiter, and found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?|
|M:||Of course not! They’re terrorists and they have no rights. It would be too dangerous to treat them as I would treat an ordinary citizen.|
|C:||How do you know that they are in fact guilty of their crimes?|
|M:||I know that they are guilty because they are terrorists, thus I do not need to put them on trial. It could put the entire war at risk.|
|C:||These men then are forced to live in this prison solely because you believe them to be guilty?|
|M:||Thank goodness too, if they were still out in the world they would be attacking our soldiers or our homeland.|
|C:||It is tyranny for one man to hold another in prison solely because he believes that man to be guilty. It is nothing short of a gross abuse of power. All men deserve due process, not just citizens. This is because it is the role of government to protect all life. Government does not have the authority to separate the living in an arbitrary manner by recognizing some as more worthy of life and protection than others. If you believe these men to be guilty, you must grant them due process.|
|M:||I’m not willing to do that. There are midterm elections coming up and it wouldn’t be a popular move.|
|C:||No wonder the men of the prison have resorted to their hunger strike. They are being treated as caged animals held only by the whim of one drunk on power and afraid of his party's’ electoral prospects if he does the right thing. If these men have truly tried for years to draw attention to themselves and nothing has worked, it seems not only right, but reasonable that they should resort to this tactic.|
|M:||But they are still bent on dying, what good is that?|
|C:||That is only because you are killing them! By holding them without due process, they are no more than animals in a slaughterhouse pen. It is as if they do not exist. By refusing to acknowledge their natural rights, you have dehumanized them by treating them as a rancher treats his cattle. It is impossible for the men to kill themselves because they are already being killed by you. If their desperate attempt to save their life by forgoing food fails, they have failed no more than the hiker who cuts off his pinned arm and soon dies of blood loss.|
|M:||Again with the hiker? You can’t equate a boulder pinning someone down with me detaining these dangerous terrorists.|
|C:||You would be correct if you bothered to grant these men due process. It is imminently reasonable to detain a man on a charge of terrorism; and for there to be a reasonable amount of time prior to a trial so that the proper evidence may be collected, a case made, and so forth. But by refusing to grant them due process, in effect all you are doing is holding these men in a cage indefinitely.|
|M:||Then in your world any man detained by the military or police would be proper in going on a hunger strike?|
|C:||If a man had a trial set, or knew that a trial date was going to be set; he would have no legitimate reason or motivation to go on a hunger strike. In fact, if a man began a hunger strike prior to his trial, it would be just for the State to put him under medical care. This is because the State has a vested interest in justice. The man in this scenario could be wholly innocent and in despair resort to self harm. In this case, you would be right to step in and render aid whether it was desired or not. This is because all parties, including the State, have the right to their day in court. But you have not done this at all because you have detained these men and have said that they will be held indefinitely without trial. In effect, you have given them a death sentence, with the method of death being time. Since the men are in the process of being killed by you, why should they not attempt to save their life in whatever way they know how?|
|M:||What am I to do then? How do I not have a right to intervene and keep them from starving themselves?|
|C:||You bring up a new point and I thank you for it. You could always choose to intervene by granting them due process rather than shoving food down their throats. Yet you have instead chosen to intervene for other reasons. Tell me, in our conversation you have called these men “scum” and “terrorists” is that correct?|
|C:||Have you ever had the experience of an enemy aiding you, and knowing that the reason they are helping you is ultimately to further their own interests?|
|M:||Ha! I didn’t become emperor by accident you know. The royal court these days is full of liars, backstabbers, and the like.|
|C:||And of course, sometimes we have been helped by an enemy and have falsely assumed that they were doing it for genuine reasons, only to later find out that they were false. Have you had this experience?|
|M:||*Sigh* yes this has happened to me.|
|C:||It seems to follow that when someone helps another but has ulterior motives for their action, that the action is morally wrong; regardless of whether or not the victim is aware, or ever becomes aware, of this fact. Would you agree?|
|C:||In which case even someone who seemingly does something noble could still ultimately perform a morally wrong (or neutral) act. For example, a man runs into a burning building and saves a kitten, but only because he wants the adoration of the crowd and hopes for a reward. While we can be happy for the kitten, it seems as though his actions were not selfless and done out of love. Would you agree?|
|M:||Yes all of these things follow.|
|C:||Good. It seems to me that when you claim to be intervening to keep the men at your prison alive, you are not really doing so out of great care for their lives. Rather it seems that you are intervening because you fear the fallout from the consequences of their deaths. Their deaths could cause you political embarrassment, their deaths could inspire your enemies and motivate other acts of terrorism.|
|M:||I’ve already told you that I thought the prisoners are scum because that is what they are! You are also correct to perceiving my motivations. I’m quite happy that you have chosen philosophy as your field, if you were a journalist many more people would be reading what you had to say about me, ha! Fortunately for me the press hasn’t solved my true motivations yet, and it has granted me a great deal of political cover as this has unfolded over the years.|
|C:||The responsibilities of the press notwithstanding, given the admission of your motivation for keeping these men alive for reasons other than care for their lives; you have shown that they do not belong to the group where medical feeding would be proper and necessary: infants, the sick, and detained prisoners before their trial. In those three groups, the feeding is done either through love for the person (in the case of the infant and the ill), or to keep someone alive to face rightful justice in court before a judge. These men at your prison do not fall into either of those categories. You are not force feeding them out of justice because you refuse to grant them a trial. You are not feeding them out of love because you have ulterior motives not related to caring for them as persons, but rather as political pawns. Thus it is clear, Machiavelli, that this situation in your prison is entirely on your plate. We have established that the men have legitimate grievance. We have established that the men are not performing suicide, but rather giving up food in an attempt to save their lives from the animal pen you are holding them in. Finally we have established that it is not right for you to intervene to save political face, because you are not acting out of care for the men as persons.|
|M:||While you may be right about this Cicero, you know my heart. It seems clear that there are only two ways out of this. I could release or put on trial the men you love so dear, or the people could grow outraged at me keeping them safe from the terrorists! Ha! I’ll let you decide which will happen first my friend...|
"Why Tad Lost His Job" -Jeffrey Tucker tells a heart breaking story on his disabled friend Tad being fired because of an increase in the minimum wage.
The Student Loan Crisis has been picking up interest in the media lately. Especially with Senator Elizabeth Warren attempting to fix the problem in a well intentioned bill that would make the problem even worse. In order to understand the problem in student loans, you have to understand why artificial bubbles form in the economy; if we look at the housing bubble, we can see how the same factors are in play.
The Housing Bubble has its roots in decisions made by government policy makers in the 1990s. The first problem was the Clinton Administration forcing banks to lower lending standards in the mistaken belief that minorities were being discriminated against as they applied for loans (you can read more about why this was wrong, HERE). Second, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates in a bid to “spur” the economy following the Dotcom bust. Third, the Administration of George W. Bush actively promoted the goal of “home ownership” and used the quasi government enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help bring about this goal artificially (Good books on this can be found HERE and HERE).
Remember that nothing in economics is done without reason, saying that “greed” and “deregulation” caused the Housing Bubble is like being surprised that kindergartners left alone with pixie sticks and finger paint would make a big mess, and then punishing them for what they did. What people on the left are doing is refusing to see how the stage was set in the first place. Home mortgages were one of the most stable loan enterprises in American industry for 75 years, it all unraveled within a few short years, and no one seems to ask “why”.
What we have here are three factors which brought about a “perfect storm” in the housing market: 1) Government forcing lenders to make riskier loans 2) The Fed supplying nearly unlimited money to make loans to lenders 3) A quasi government enterprise heavily involved in the mortgage market, guaranteeing nearly 90% of home mortgages implying to lenders that their loans were “risk free” because they were backed by the government.
What happened? Banks, feeling regulatory pressure from the Clinton and Bush administrations to make more home loans, begin to do so. They find out that an easy way to do this is to offer “teaser” rate home loans to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage. But this isn’t a problem to the people buying the home, because home values are artificially rising because so many people are getting into the market that otherwise wouldn’t be. Simple supply and demand says that when supply goes down and demand goes up, prices go up. During the housing boom, they went up astronomically, and so home loan borrowers knew they could pay back the money by selling the house, and banks knew that if the borrower couldn’t afford the mortgage, that they would make money in foreclosure anyways. All parties involved had every reason to get involved in the market.
There was no risk, the media trumpeted constantly rising home values as proof that we were all wealthier than ever before. It all worked until enough people couldn’t pay back their mortgages at once, and once that happened, the house of cards fell. Too many homes were put up for sale at once, leading to an increase in supply and zero demand, which caused home prices to plummet. Banks foreclosed on homes and lost huge money selling them for pennies on the dollar (whatever they could get). In short, the market never failed, the market just showed what it could do drunk with artificial money and regulatory laws. (Side note: the media is seeing the bubble re-inflating and mislabeling it as “recovery” which would be equal to me saying that a heroin addict is doing better now that he has re-injected himself).
Okay, now how does this relate to student loans? There are government programs designed to help “make college affordable” (AKA: free money for students). The Federal Reserve under Ben Bernanke has brought interest rates nearly down to zero, which means banks are flush with cash for lending. This means that banks have every incentive to make loans, and because of government “backing” they have nothing to lose when they make student loans.
Example: a kid can borrow 200k to get a BA in Religious Studies (my major so don’t judge lol) without having to care how the student will ever find a job well paying enough to pay off the loans. Because the banks don’t care what students are spending huge amounts of money on as they earn their degrees, students have access to borrow nearly unlimited amounts of money. When students have access to unlimited amounts of money, colleges have NO REASON TO LOWER TUITION. Colleges can RAISE prices, and the students can ALWAYS get the loan money to pay whatever that semester costs. Look: College tuition is rising at an even higher rate than houses during the Housing Boom.
Why is it that in the Great Recession, the price for college education is going up, even as the quality of education is going down? Because of artificial government policies distorting the market and creating incentives that would never exist in a free market. Can you imagine playing Roller Coaster Tycoon and your patrons having unlimited money? You could charge ANYTHING on for your rides, even going to the bathroom, and your guests wouldn’t care, if they wanted they would pay it. That is what is going on in colleges right now! All parties involved have every reason to get involved in the market.
That is why you are looking at a huge student loan bill. The solution to this problem is the exact opposite of what Sen. Warren suggests (let’s make even more money available to kids). The solution is to get government out of distorting the student loan market. If you understand the disease rather than the symptoms, it is easy to see what is wrong. We as a country are refusing to properly diagnose the disease, and it is why we are stuck in this economic quagmire.
Peter Schiff schools Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, healthcare and education are NOT Constitutional rights. They can never be considered “rights”. They ARE moral rights and obligations, but NOT legal obligations. Liberals make this mistake all the time, and creates confusion as to the role and purpose of government. To top it off their “solutions” have destroyed healthcare and education.
The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix
Social justice types should read this. These banksters are what the Liberty movement is attacking. These banksters are not a product of capitalism, but government supported cronyism. If you wish to fight for a just society, join the Liberty movement in attacking cronyism aka corporatism.
Pro Life Alert: Here is another example of Leftist voters being played by the establishment. Typically these voters rightly oppose the death penalty, and thus supported Obama in the hopes that he would be better on the issue than other candidates. Because Obama knows he can count on these voters to vote for him no matter what, he can do things like override a state than bans the death penalty (States rights don’t sound so bad now do they?) and these same voters will vote for the democrat in 2016.
Remember that in 2012 there was only one candidate who opposed the federal death penalty. Yet these voters ignored him. Until these voters hold Democrats accountable for playing them like a drum (Just like Republicans play the pro-life movement), we will not get real change in this country.
So I urge my followers on the Left to make note of this egregious offense against life and justice, and hold Obama and any Democrat’s feet to the fire on this issue. REFUSE TO VOTE FOR THEM if they do not. The Right is undergoing real change because the grassroots are demanding integrity from their candidates. I was hoping that the “Occupy movement” would do the same on the Left, but so far this has failed to materialize.
As always, we have a spending problem, NOT a revenue problem.
You want to talk Catholic social teaching? Institutional injustice? Let’s talk about the Federal Reserve system.
Fr. Z on Pope Francis’s economic comments:
People in business have to act morally and responsibly, with an eye on their neighbor, and not just...
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Had a really good...