Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lil' Round Up Jan 31, 2008

Monica at Spark a Synapse does a pretty thorough job of exposing the misanthropic nature of many animal rights activists especially PETA and USHS. She also has an impressively long list of anti-man quotes right from the non-horses mouth so to speak. What is the name of the philosophy that teaches hatred of man? Altruism and its requirement of sacrifice.
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Rule of Reason has an editorial by Ed Cline noting the parallels between today's political climate and that which existed when the ink on our Constitution was still drying. He correctly points out that:
“Confidence” is nearly all we have heard now from the candidates for the presidency of both parties this year, coupled with vapid assertions of “experience,” “vision,” and the need for “change.” And the Constitution has been so adulterated with statist amendments and skewed by non-objective interpretations that its chains have less power to bind men from mischief than Styrofoam. To the statists whose ambitions compel them to “lead” and to mold America into a nation of sacrificing toilers and tax cows, the Constitution is a paper dragon.
I recommend reading the whole thing.
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Junkfoodscience reports that a Mississippi congressman has introduced legislation that would require restaurants to refuse to wait on anyone who is obese. The man doesn't believe the bill will pass but is serious about the so-called obesity crises. I hope it does pass. Maybe the Miss. electorate will throw this thug out on his ear. Then again, the people will be getting what they deserve, a life regulated by the whims of men.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Talk About the Sanction of the Victim!

In Monday's Jan. 28th. Detroit News business/auto section is an article titled "Tire rules to improve safety" which says in part:
A three-judge federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit by tire makers who said that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's ruling requiring tire pressure monitoring systems wasn't strict enough.(!!!!--ME) Tire makers argued that NHTSA's regulation put drivers and passengers at risk because it didn't warn drivers of low tire pressure soon enough; didn't require the systems to work with replacement tires and allowed tire monitors to be tested under conditions that don't take into account cold weather extremes, which can alter tire performance.
"Beat me harder, I'm not bleeding enough! No wait! Give me the whip, I'll do it myself!

The auto industry was happy because some of the guidlines are voluntary instead of manditory. But are these voluntary chains impressing anyone?
Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies Inc., said the regulation was "a good first step, but we need to do more than apply a Band-Aid to a system that hasn't worked for 30-plus years."
This isn't about safety. It's about some people's desire to control others on the premise that some people can be given the right to initiate force against others. A social system where no one is allowed to start the use of force against his fellow man is becomming more alien to the minds of Americans. They are getting too comfortable with the idea of submission as the tire makers demonstrate.

It also illustrates how a mixed economy will chase out independent minded businessmen and replace them with the kind second-hand, favor groveling, regulation protected commisars we see today. But this is what the dumbed down American people have been led to believe is good for them by their equally dumbed down intellectuals. What neither the intellectuals nor the public can imagine is how a free laissez-faire economy would provide safety, the same way it provides everything else, by supply and demand.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Denial of the Curriculum

The Friday Jan.25th Detroit News offers an interesting contrast by way of two articles as to what's wrong with Michigan schools. First is an op-ed under Labor Voices in the editorial section by Iris Salters president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA, a teachers union) titled "How Michigan Should Improve Schools." My comments will be in brackets.

Ms. Salters reports on a visit to Chicago where she observed smaller schools within schools and this seemed to be having good results. Then adds:
Regardless of school size, students need a sense of belonging. [No, they need a sense of efficacy, of competence in dealing with the real world] They need to take responsibility for decisions about their learning. [How can a student take responsibility for his learning except by showing up hoping his teacher will teach him something?] In a transformed high school dedicated to building relationships, [What about building knowledge?] empowered staff members learn to share leadership responsibilities, [With whom?] innovative ideas, student profiles and best practices. [What best practices?]
There are lots of feel good words and adjectives in the op-ed but no mention of any desire or plan to develop students' conceptual faculties. No mention of the need to teach kids how to think instead of what to think. It's as if these concepts are totally irrelevant to today's educational leaders. Ms. Salters goes on to use the 'without access' argument so often used by modern intellectuals to explain problems with which they don't know how to deal.
Beyond these areas, all students need a strong foundation with access to solid preschool and kindergarten programs, highly qualified teachers, up-to-date books and technology, consistently high expectations and a safe environment where basics are taught well.
One can see the influence of Immanuel Kant as that entire paragraph is a description of appearances with no mention of how to make them happen. 'Strong', 'solid', 'highly qualified', 'up-to-date', 'high', 'safe', 'well' are nice touchy-feely, who can argue with such desirable images, kind of words. But no mention is made as to how to bring them into existence. I will only add that if teachers are teaching the whole language method of reading and/or the shotgun approach (new math) to mathematics, they are not qualified to teach anything.

The next item is a front page article "Volunteers needed to tutor kids" by News writer Jennifer Mrozowski. It starts:
The United Way of Southeastern Michigan on Thursday launched a new early education initiative to improve dismal reading test scores in Metro Detroit by recruiting and training more than 2,000 volunteers to serve as tutors.

Dubbed Operation ABC, the plan seeks to improve the reading levels of first- and second-graders by joining together school districts, nonprofits, corporations and volunteers. The project is a component of United Way's Agenda for Change.

United Way President and CEO Michael J. Brennan, who unveiled the new initiative at the UAW Solidarity House, issued a formal call to action for volunteers, who will be required to commit one to five hours each week.
You know, we have charter schools, private schools, home schooling, the commercial marketing of "Hook On Phonics" and many others, and now the labor unions and private charities are getting involved all trying to make up for the utter cognitive destructiveness of the public school curriculum of whole language reading. At least United Way understands the importance of learning to read:
"The reason this is so important is that you learn to read up through grade three, and you read to learn from grade three and on," Brennan said. "Third-grade learning is one of the key academic metrics you want to see success on."
But even in this article there is no questioning as to why these efforts are needed, why aren't the public schools teaching kids to read today the same successful way kids were taught 50 years ago? The answer is of course the curriculum.

In reading education articles today, one never sees the issue of curriculum discussed. It's as if the subject is off limits; as if the whole language method of reading is sacred ground not to be questioned in any way. Of course, if the United Way and Ms. Salters really wanted to improve education, they would be screaming at the top of their lungs "Get the government out of it."

The essence of education is developing the reasoning mind. The essence of government is physical force. To mix the two is to eventually force reason out. That is why we have an irrational curriculum in public schools. And it isn't just public schools. Wherever government influence is felt, reason will be subordinated to justifying government policy. Why? "Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe the false to be true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood"--Ayn Rand, and she was so right.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Good News for Capitalism

The Charleston Daily Mail reports that BB&T will donate $1 million to Marshall University. It reads in part:
The BB&T Charitable Foundation was expected to announce a $1 million gift to Marshall University's Lewis College of Business during a press conference today in Huntington.

The contribution, to be made over 10 years, will establish "The BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism," Phyllis Arnold, president of BB&T Corp. in West Virginia, said in remarks prepared for delivery at the event.

Arnold said the center's purpose will be to provide students with a solid grounding in the workings of capitalism and free-market forces. Components of the center's curriculum will include:

n An upper-level course focusing on the principles outlined in author Ayn Rand's book, "Atlas Shrugged," and author Adam Smith's book, "The Wealth of Nations."

n A lecture series, named the BB&T Lectures, with speakers advocating public policies that promote economic and political freedom.
This is good news because there are way too many businessmen who simply don't understand properly the nature of capitalism as evidenced by this post at Galileo Blogs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Scientific Authority" an Anti-Concept

The Jan 22nd, Junkscience.com links to an article at Spiked by Frank Furedi. Mr. Furedi makes many good points about how science is morphing into dogma and I recommend reading the whole thing. Gus Van Horn posted on this article Friday here and I agree with Gus's assessment of it. But I want to focus on a specific concept Mr. Furedi cites.

In his essay, Mr. Furedi mentions the use of the word 'scientific authority.' This term is a cognitive anti-concept. It is trying to package together two ideas that do not belong together, that are essentially different. In terms of essentials, the essence of science is reason and the essence of authority is power. So packaging the two together will give us science where truths are determined by force, that is, where reason has been forced out.

In science there are hypotheses and facts that are either true, false or not yet determined either way. There are no authoritative facts or hypotheses. A scientist can be an authority in a given field. But his facts and theories do not give orders to other facts and theories or lord over them. He discovers what is true by whether or not it corresponds to reality. He discovers this relationship by means of testing and experiment, not by demanding reality conform to his theories. Authority is a political concept. It does not belong in science.

But what does putting it there do? Its purpose is to destroy a valid meaning and replace it with a new meaning. The valid meaning to be exorcised is scientific knowledge. The new intended meaning is scientific belief. The coiners of the term 'scientific authority' want their reality to be accepted in the same way religious people accept as true the tenants of their religion as revealed by religious authorities. Religious authorities don't have to prove their tenants. They are accepted on faith. The new 'authority' scientists want the same luxury. They can have it if they can get society to accept the notion that knowledge doesn't exist, only beliefs do. Therefore, the beliefs that governments are to consider important and thus enforce, are not those that have truth, but those that have "authority." The concept 'scientific authority' achieves that goal by defining out of existence the idea of scientific knowledge and replacing it with scientific beliefs.

One of the reasons this seems to be working so well is the fact that Americans still have respect for science and its ability to discover the truth about reality. It is this positive respect for the concept scientific knowledge that is used by the pushers of 'scientific authority' to smuggle into the minds of the public the idea that science deals in beliefs that have or don't have authority. If someone asks about a scientific hypothesis or theory, they must be referring to beliefs they'll be told. Provable knowledge? There is no such thing they will intone. (The concept belief is such a mixed bag, it means different things to different people, it needs a post of its own which I will attempt soon.)

The IPCC has been declared the 'authority' on climate change we are told. They have 'revealed' the reality that it is all man's fault and will lead to disaster for life on Earth unless we all make sacrifices. Those who disagree are not called critics which is what they are, but "skeptics", "deniers" and "doubters." Just like the dark ages. It's my guess that if the greenies could burn a Richard Lindzen or John Christy at the steak, they readily would. But I digress.

In his excellent lecture series Clarity In Conceptualization: The Art of Identifying Package-Deals, Peter Schwartz pointed out that package-deals and anti-concepts are spread through a culture like drugs, by two kinds of people, pushers and users. The pushers would be university professors of philosophy and maybe social sciences and the users pretty much everyone else who unquestioningly accepted the concepts. I entirely agree with this assessment.

So when I hear or read a scientist, reporter or politician using the term 'scientific authority' I know I'm listening to a user I can no longer trust for credible info.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Life After People?

Last night (Monday Jan 21st.) I watched a history channel special on what the Earth would be like after people were all gone. The title, "Life After People" should read "Life Without People, the eco-ideal". Needless to say, most of the two hour special was pure speculation. While parts were mildly interesting, as far as I'm concerned it was nothing more than an exercise in environmentalist wishful thinking.

The feature-I hesitate to call it a documentary-(how can you document the future now?) was sprinkled with quotes like (from memory) "Man's mastery over nature has always been an illusion", and referring to the gradual greening of the cities as "nature's revenge". There were several mentions of the fact that man is the only species capable of destroying itself, as if this were some kind of flaw or original sin. Such a claim ignores the fact that that same power--if used rationally--provides man with the ability to survive that no other life form possesses. It is not surprising of course, that they would fail to mention this fact. And what is that power? The reasoning ability of a volitional mind.

But you know, I wondered out loud, if these narrators and interviewees took ideas seriously, why didn't they point out the contradiction in the claims that man's mastery of nature is an illusion, but we can control climate change? Duh!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hanging In There

It looks like I'll be around for another year. My visits for 2007 increased by 2572 over 2006. Not great but fine with me. I noticed that I've been averaging about one or two visits every other day from universities or colleges. I've decided that I like that. If I can get just a few of these students to further investigate concepts like rational self-interest, egoism, primacy of existence, laissez-faire capitalism, it will have been worth it. Since Feb 1st of 2007, I've had 200 visits from institutions of higher learning. Sure, many are google searches but that's fine with me. I am doing this part time so I'm happy with these results.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How Not to Promote Capitalism

Junkscience.com of 1/15/07 links to a WSJ article on how the free market works best at providing prosperity for poor countries. I was hoping to see an explanation as to how freedom unleashes the power of the mind and/or how the concept of individual rights provides that freedom. But alas, it was not forthcoming. In fact there was no mention of the role of the mind at all. The word capitalism was not mentioned once either. What I read was:
Yet the evidence is piling up that neither government nor multilateral spending on education and infrastructure are key to development. To move out of poverty, countries instead need fast growth; and to get that they need to unleash the animal spirits of entrepreneurs.
Animal spirits? Voluntary free trade between individuals to mutual benefit is an example of animal spirits? The freedom to think, the right to act on those thoughts and keep the just rewards is now reduced to animal spirits?
"Economic freedom" is good because it unleashed not man's mind but his animal spirits? What is the nature of these spirits? How do they create wealth? The reporter, Mary Anastasia O'Grady doesn't say but goes on to cite the 2008 index of economic freedom which she correctly notes that: "In other words, economic freedom and prosperity are strongly correlated." Very true. But as rational people know, correlation is not causation. So what is the cause? No mention though 3 feeble attempts are offered. As you read these, keep in mind the efforts used to avoid any mention of the role of the mind in production.

Three essays in the 2008 Index help illustrate why economic liberty matters to human progress. In "Economic Fluidity: A Crucial Dimension of Economic Freedom," Carl Schramm, president of the Kaufmann Foundation, explains that growth-driving innovation results not only from sound macroeconomic policy, but also from dynamism at the micro level.
What is "economic fluidity" precisely? It can't mean economic freedom because it is part of that. If he means the free flow of capitol sans government regulations, why doesn't he say so? I take the rest of the sentence to mean that "growth-driven innovation results not only from" the guys with the guns (government) backing off a little and being nice to our businessmen so they will be more dynamic "at the micro level". He continues:
Most important is the interaction between "institutional, organizational and individual elements of an economy," which gives rise to "the entrepreneurial energy and the speed of economic evolution." Such "fluidity," he writes, "facilitates the exchange and networking of knowledge across boundaries. This fosters both innovation and its propagation through entrepreneurship."

Mr. Schramm's essay illuminates why successful economies cannot be centrally planned. Fluidity, he writes, resembles "the idea of the 'the edge of chaos,' the estuary region where rigid order and random chaos meet and generate high levels of adaptation, complexity and creativity." It is "ideas on the margins, challenging the status quo, that lift the trajectory of an economy's performance." Try that in Cuba.
So "high levels of adaptation, complexity and creativity" are generated when rigid order (government controls) meet random chaos (the free market) and magically bring about prosperity. Also, "fluidity is not 'the edge of chaos' but only resembles the idea of it. This gives new meaning to the concept obfuscation. But we plod on:
In "Narrowing the Economic Gap in the 21st Century," Stephen Parente, associate professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, debunks several World Bank myths by showing that it is not the resources -- land, workforce and capital -- of an economy that play the most important role in explaining higher income countries. Instead it is "the efficiency at which a society uses its resources to produce goods and services."

Mr. Parente cites the microeconomic research of McKinsey Global Institute, which estimates that modern industry in India could take a huge bite out of its productivity gap with U.S. competitors by simply upgrading production techniques. India doesn't need another multilateral education project. It needs to tap into knowledge already available in successful economies -- the information and technology is out there. The trouble is that it is unavailable in many countries like India, because government barriers and constraints to limit competition make access difficult or impossible.
While this last sentence is manifestly true, it is manifestly not true that the cause of poverty is the inefficiency with which society uses its resources and that the solution is "simply upgrading production techniques". How does one do this 'simple' thing? blankout. If it is so simple, why doesn't North Korea or Cuba or Africa do it? The last essay says:
French journalist Guy Sorman's "Globalization is Making the World a Better Place" is a treatise on "one of the most powerful and positive forces ever to have arisen in the history of mankind." It fosters economic development, moves countries from tyranny to democracy, sends information and knowledge to the most remote corners of the globe, reinforces the rule of law, and enriches culture. International commerce in post-World War II Europe, he reminds us, wasn't invented by diplomats, but by entrepreneurs who wanted to end centuries of strife on their continent and build a peaceful union based on commerce.

Today's entrepreneurs, across the globe, have similar aspirations and abilities. If only the politicians would let them be free.
I have not read those 3 essays myself so I don't know if they get better or worse than the quotes given. But it is true that globalization is helping economic development. It is not true that entrepreneurs were motivated by a desire to end centuries of strife and build a peaceful union. They did it for reasons of rational self-interest. For profit. For self-interested reasons. It is this rational selfishness that created America's great wealth.

While Ms. O'Grady was right on many of her practical reasons for promoting economic freedom-capitalism-it is futile to defend or promote it solely on those grounds, especially when the dominant moral code of our culture considers any self-interested action to be immoral. Nobody will buy the idea that entrepreneurs seek to sacrifice themselves for any noble, social 'good'. Nor should they. To promote capitalism, one must promote the ethics on which is rests, rational self-interest. To do that, one must adopt it first.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Allowing Colleges to Make Money Off the Ignorent is Wrong, and other inanities.

David Veksler at Truth, Justice and the American Way reports on a Boston Globe news article in which Boston Mayor Thomas Menino wants to ban retail stores from opening low cost health clinics in them. The Mayor's argument is that such clinics will not provide a continuum of quality health care to its customers.

Of course the Mayor thinks he knows better than poor people what is good for them and plans, like the primitive savages of the past, to force his idea of the good on the rest of society. Our Constitution was written precisely to prevent men like Menino from violating the rights of citizens by forcing them to comply with his whims, and they are whims. If one ever needed proof that altruistic government controls are not about concern for others, this is a prime example. As I wrote here about the same clinics reported in Detroit's papers:
But, as the main headline reveals "Quick, low-cost outlets prompt medical turf war", this is about political control.
And so it is. Mr. Menino may have strong feelings about wanting to do good by poor people. So what? Feelings mean nothing in this world, not his or mine or anyone else's. What matters are facts. And when Mr. Menino decides to forcibly prevent poor people from getting a more affordable medical care in these clinics, he is violating their rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". He is also violating the same rights of of the businessmen to provide that care. They have a Constitutional right to do so.

But the Meninos of the world are like the distraught recipient of unrequited love who kills the object of his affection on the grounds that if he can't have her then no one can. If Bostonians can't have the kind of health care Menino wants them to have, too bad they're not going to get any other. Again, our Constitution was written to prevent this sort of thing. The right to 'liberty and pursuit of happiness' means that every person has the right to determine what kind of health care he wants and can afford without any interference from government.

Ayn Rand once said (from memory) that man's capacity for evasion was almost limitless. Mr. Menino is evading the fact that poor people have rights to think for themselves. What the Mayor also evades is that it is not up to him to decide what kind of health care anyone gets and that our Constitution was written to protect citizens from government, not themselves. But the biggest evasion is his equating mutual trade for mutual benefit in the marketplace, which is what buying and selling health care is,--with the activities of robbers, theives and other hustlers when he said:
"Limited service medical clinics run by merchants in for-profit corporations will seriously compromise quality of care and hygiene. Allowing retailers to make money off of sick people is wrong."
The absolute asininity of that statement was nailed by David when he pointed out that "Allowing restaurants to make money off hungry people is wrong." I would add "Allowing newspapers to make money off the uninformed is wrong" or "Mayors, like Menino, who collect paychecks off the backs of their poorest citizens are wrong." He evades the fact that health care is a commodity and service just like any other. If one wants to make affordable health care available to the masses, then put in on the free market like all other plentiful commodities. Keep the government out of it.

You know, back in the 60s and 70s we had hoards of mindless hippies and emotionally oriented nit wits running around our university campuses holding sit-ins, lay-ins, love-ins and assorted other brainless feel-ins. Well, these twits have since moved into and control most of our universities. Every year they graduate classfuls of unthinking clones who now have spread into all parts of the culture. I think America will survive these zombies but there will be some convulsions along the way. I hope the people of Boston wake up to the kind of Marxist, power luster they have for a mayor and decide not to return him to office. But I'm not optimistic, Boston is after all, in Massachusetts.


Update: corrected typo in headline.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Supporting Evidence for Self-Reliance

In my last post I wrote about the futility of government attempts to protect us from ourselves and all other things. I tried to make the point that to surrender any responsibility for our own survival is actually a surrender of our freedom and those to whom we surrender that freedom will necessarily control that part of our lives.

As supporting evidence I offer an excellent article at Junkfoodscience.com about how many parents are upset that their children in school are being screened for mental illnesses, some, without their (parent's) consent. I recommend reading the whole long but worth it article. It's scary. But in closing, the article points out that:
These mandated and school-backed screening programs show that intuitively believing that officials or credentialed experts always knows what’s best for us, and have carefully and impartially weighed the evidence, isn’t always true. In fact, it has never been more important for us to become informed and to think critically about things we hear when making decisions about our own health and those of our children. This isn’t about the value of having a trusted health advisor.

The greater danger in regularly letting others decide what’s best for us is that we assume a passive and dependent, patient role. And that makes us more vulnerable to being taken advantage of, rather than know we are empowered and capable.
Yes indeed. Every person is capable of discerning what is good for him and what is not. I don't mean that we have to make every decision on every medical or scientific subject. The Reagan saying "trust but verify" should be reversed, "verify then trust." Find doctors and scientists you can trust by verifying their work. But the only way to know is to learn to trust one's own judgement. The more one does it, the better one gets at it.

In the same vein, Galileo Blogs also has a good post on the banning of incandescent bulbs in which he correctly observes:
It is in a shower of small infringements of my freedom such as this one that I will find myself one day drowning in a society that is not free. The American Revolution was fought over stamp taxes and tea duties. But was it really? Our forefathers understood that a government that has the power to dictate even the smallest part of our lives has the power to direct all of our lives.
It certainly does. Which is why we all should seek candidates who are committed to phasing out government control of the economy. At present none exist. But I do believe they'll start showing up soon.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Futility of Safety Regulations,FDA and CPSC

On the Dec. 26th Detroit Free Press editorial page was an op-ed by congressman John Dingell who represents Dearborn Michigan. I can't link to it because it is now in the paper's archive which requires money to access and I'm cheap. Mr. Dingell laments the sad state of consumer protection recently provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). He lists what he sees as failures of these agencies:

"With over 500 products and million of pounds of food recalled this year, it is no wonder U.S. consumers are nervous."

[...]

"To date this year, more than 20 million toys have been recalled because of high lead content and other hazards--including one toy containing chemicals that, when ingested, have the effect of a date-rape drug.
Earlier this month, the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center released the results of a study in which it tested more than 1,200 toys and baby products--most of them purchased in Michigan.
The center found that 35% of the toys tested contained lead, half at a level above the allowable federal standard. Only 28% of the toys tested were free from hazardous materials, including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This means that more than two in every three toys tested contained one or more of these poisonous substances."

He also shows how understaffed the CPSC is and how "overburdened" the FDA is:

"Though the value of all imports increased by 67% from 2000-06, the CPSC now operates
with half the staff it employed nearly three decades ago. Today, just 15 CPSC inspectors police the millions of toys and products entering the United States. By one CPSC commissioner's estimates, less than 1% of all imported products are properly inspected.
The FDA is also overburdened, able to inspect less that 1% of all food imports. With
13% of our food supply arriving from other countries, current inspection levels are
unacceptable and dangerous."

So what is Congressman Dingell's solution?

"On Nov. 1, I joined my colleagues Reps. Bobby Rush, D-Ill, Joe Barton, R-Texas, and
Cliff Stearns, R-Florida., in introducing the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act."

[...]

"This legislation provides the funding the CPSC needs to hire additional staff and modernize its testing lab. It also increases the panel of commissioners from two to five and provides the tools and flexibility necessary to better protect America's consumers--and America's kids."

It seems to me Mr. Dingell is evading four facts of reality.
First, there is no such thing as completely safe.
Second, no organization will ever be able to inspect the millions of products in the market.
Third, it is not the responsibility of government to protect citizens from unwise or unsafe decisions.
Fourth, the congressman is practicing a double standard and setting up future generations to be victims of the same failures.

Now lets look at these four evasions. First, there is no such thing as completely safe. Safe is a relative term. All products have some chemicals in them that could be harmful to humans at high enough doses but which are harmless at low doses. Even the FDA's "safe" threshold is many times higher than the actual harmful level to humans. Needless to say, the one toy that had the chemical that acted like a date-rape drug should result in law suits by Americans against the foreign manufacturer. But I didn't see Mr. Dingell calling for this. This whole idea of government provided safety leads to the second evasion.

Second, no organization or group of same can make everything safe for everyone else. It's not going to happen. If the FDA can only inspect 1% of all food imports, then it is not the FDA that's making us safe. Shut them down. They're ineffective big time. Also, presumably, to inspect all imported goods, that part of the FDA would have to be expanded by 99%. By the same standard, the CPSC estimates that only 1% of imported products are inspected. Well, if so, then it's not the CPSC that's keeping us safe either. Shut them down too for the same reasons. Can you imagine a private corporation surviving on 1% efficiency?

Third, it is not the job of government to provide safety for everyone from everything. Our Constitutional guarantees of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" means that every person has the right to judge what is in his own interest, and has the freedom to act on that judgement so long as he does not infringe on the same rights of others.

In such an atmosphere, people are left free to make rational and irrational decisions and to enjoy or suffer the consequences of those actions. In this way such a society begets a learned citizenry. Decisions that sustain and advance life will be rewarded and recorded in the popular literature. So will decisions that will threaten or harm life. Both what works and what doesn't will be recorded and from that record future generations will be able to learn.

But not in a regulated society. Such a society is one in which the judgements of a few regulators are substituted for the judgements of the citizens and then forced on those citizens at the point of a regulatory gun. The regulators do not explicitly say to the populace "Do not think about this subject. We'll do your thinking for you." But that is the exact consequence of regulatory action. When the responsibility for one's own welfare is assumed by a second or third party, it is human nature that one will do that much less thinking about it. I once questioned an acquaintance on why he didn't seem to know what his Senator was doing regarding a certain topic. His response was "If I have to concern myself with that, what do I need him for?" By trying to protect everyone from everything, Dingell et al are creating not a learned citizenry but a dumbed down one. The congressman and colleagues are in denial of this reality.

Fourth, Mr. Dingell is practicing a double standard. It does not occur to him that all those reasons he cited as regulatory failures are in fact good reasons to abolish those agencies entirely and/or privatize them. The alleged reason usually given for government regulations is that private companies failed in some way so the government must step in. But when the government fails on an even bigger scale, it becomes unthinkable to take that responsibility away from them. This is a double standard.

To put it another way, if a handful of government inspectors is a good thing as Mr. Dingell obviously believes, and if more handfuls are a better thing as his legislation portends (or is that pretends?), then why not shoot for the optimum--300 million inspectors, i.e. an educated citizenry and get government out of the safety protection business altogether? Sure, some people will have to learn the hard way. So what? At least they'll learn. Those who refuse to learn will only hurt themselves. They will not have the power to force the rest of the population to support their irrationality. There is nothing more efficient about government. In fact the exact opposite is true. Private enterprise is always--when left alone--more efficient than government.

Lastly, I want to address the issue of integrity. In a private market, there would be a financial demand for integrity. In fact, there were businesses specializing in that commodity in the past. Just to name two off the top of my head, there was Good Housekeeping magazine and its Seal of Approval. Underwriter Laboratories made its money by charging corporations to test their products for safety--safety being a selling point for most products.

But the population at the time viewed those companies as an aid to rational decision making, not a substitute for it. People were learning about the world and becoming more adept at survival. Life expectancy was increasing. However, the massive expansion of regulatory agencies snuffed out that learning process. It made people dependent on the government for some of their survival needs. Government regulations in effect, tell people that they no longer have to evaluate products approved by it. One of the free market advisories, caveat emptor, let the buyer beware, has always been disdained by intellectuals and politicians. But that phrase really means let the buyer think. Mr. Dingell and crowd say no, he don't have to anymore. We'll take care of that.

Another evil is that government regulations tend to place all businessmen under the same cloak of suspicion. The honest businessman and the fly-by-nighter are treated by the government regulators as equal malfactors not to be trusted. This attitude is often explicitly conveyed to the public by intellectuals and politicians. I just heard John Edwards in a campaign speech, say he would protect Americans from greedy selfish corporations. In his mind businessmen are automatically evil. Under this onslaught, the public eventually adopts the same mistrust. An atmosphere is created where businessmen eventually realize that competition for a good reputation is no longer rewarded, that competition for government favors, licenses, permits and subsidies is. If there were no dishonest businessmen anywhere, such a regulatory atmosphere would create them.

In closing I just want to say that what many people don't seem to understand is that when one relinquishes responsibility for any part of one's survival, one is also surrendering control over that part of one's survival. It is freedom one is really relinquishing.