November 10, 2005

Oil Company Profits vs. Government Gas Taxes

Today, I was reading a newspaper article concerning the recent Congressional Witch Hunt in the Oil Industry for "absurd profits", which apparently total around $33 billion. As I read, I began to wonder how this compared to government profit on the oil industry via taxation. A brief internet search quickly confirmed my suspicion that US governments actually collect more in taxation than oil companies receive in profits, at least until they have since I was born until perhaps this year:

Tax Foundation

Apparently, while the oil industry is reporting profits of around $33 billion, Federal and State governments are collecting more than that. Last year, oil profits totaled $42.6 billion while government taxes collected $58.4 billion from gas taxes alone. Assuming that the oil companies actually sell more than gasoline (which is quite reasonable since oil is used in the production of tons of products, from kerosene, to motor oil, to plastics), that means that oil company profits from all gasoline and all those other products are less than the governments revenue from taxation on a single product (admittedly, probably the largest by far) of the oil industry. Of course, the number reported as corporate profit is probably far below corporate gross revenue, which most likely far exceeds government income from gas taxes. However, the difference between the gross revenue and profits will be used to pay wages and invest in capital stock.

I couldn't find oil revenue quickly, but I found an article on Exxon that gives a brief example of revenue vs. profit:

Washington Post

Interestingly enough, I have heard it suggested that one possible contributor to the "high" profits of oil companies is the lack of incentive for them to invest. As we learned after Katrina hit, there are not many oil processing plants in the US, largely due to excessive government regulation. The inability to adjust for the shock of the damage of Katrina contributed to a relative shortage of gasoline which increased it's price, following the principles of supply and demand.

However, if oil company profits are increasing by about 75%, it is possible that we oil company profit might exceed government revenue from gas taxes this year. Assuming the 75% increase is recent and generously estimating an actual 50% increase over the year, one could predict that oil profits will be about $63.9 billion this year. In other words, unless government revenue increases by about $6 billion this year (around a 10% increase) oil companies may actually profit more from their endeavors than the government does from taxation of one of their products for the first time in my life. Perhaps thats what really has Sen. Barbara Boxer outraged, a US company profiting more from their own enterprise than the government! What a horrible outrage!

Perhaps instead of excoriating executives and proposing that government tax oil companies more, she should really ask why government needs to make gasoline prices so high...

November 8, 2005

Considering the Future

A reply to Josh's response.

I will agree that simple emphasis is part of our disagreement, but I do not think it can account for it all. We still seem to have a fundamental difference on the proper outlook on a Christian in viewing the present and the future. You assert that:

I am of the opinion that the future stuff is nice, but the things of tomorrow are not things that we are to be worrying about; those things will take care of themselves.


I feel like we turn away from God's grace if we ignore it and its sufficiency in the present. There will be time to appreciate and live in the future things when they come.

While I agree that God has provided the strength and grace we need in the present, I can not accept the proposition, which you present, that we should not pay much attention to the blessings of eternity future. I understand, as you point out, that an otherworldly attitude can be overdone to great loss. As it has been said, some become "so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good". However, we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. When we have both Paul and Christ repeatedly pointed to the future and emphasising a heavenly outlook by calling us to:

1 - Lay up your treasure in heaven - Christ

2 - Run so that ye may receive the prize (at the end of the race, that is, when our life is done) - Paul

3 - 1Th 4:17 - 18 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Here we are specifically commanded to comfort each other with a look to the future by Paul!

4 - Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Christ won our salvation spurred by a future minded outlook. Looking towards the joy of our salvation which was to come, He endured the torment of the crucifiction. Certainly, we would not be wrong to follow His perfect example.

Therefore, I would argue that the future is something we are not just to look forward to, but commanded to keep in mind. Furthermore, it might be considered part of God's present grace to reveal future blessing to us.

Finally, you argue that "the things of tomorrow are not things that we are to be worrying about; those things will take care of themselves", a clear reference to Matt. 6:34:

Mat 6:34 So never worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - ISV

I do not think this verse applies to the present topic for two reasons:

1 - Christ commands us not to worry about tomorrow. He says nothing about anticipating the glorious promises of future blessing. In fact, as I pointed out above, His example is the opposite as He anticipated future joy in enduring the pain of the cross.

2 - I do not think that Christ's use of tomorrow applies to eternity future. Christ is specifically speaking about individual days, and it seems to me, that these days would be restricted to life on earth. Once we reach heaven, I doubt each day will involve much trouble. ;)

Furthermore, it is important, as I am sure you know, not to confuse worry with thinking or planning ahead. While we are commanded to be "wise as serpants", we are also commanded to trust God. Thus, thinking ahead and anxiously agonizing over possible problems are two different things. It is wise to consider the future, but foolish and sinful, exhibiting a lack of faith in God, to anxiously obsess over future problems.

November 3, 2005

Continuing Eternity is not the Present


In response to Josh's response to my last post, he made three comments or questions. My response is as follows:

1 - In your terms, yes. My view of time breaks into three distinct segments:

A - Eternity Past - Before God created the heavens and the Earth and only he existed.
B - History - Creation to the last judgement.
C - Eternity Future - The time after the last judgement in which believers live forever with God.

Thus, the eternity in question here (Eternity Future) begins at a point of time in the future (end of the last judgement) and run forever after.

This follows from the nature of God (eternal, always existing), the temporal nature of creation (began at a point in time, when God began creating), and the nature of our future (neverending), and the ever relatively changing nature of present History and the relative consistency of eternity past and eternity future.

2 - Unfortunately, while I suspect it was not your intention, the overzealous language which you used to describe the present give the impression that the question of good things in the future is irrelevant or in fact, that the future holds nothing. Primarily, this impression stems from your statement here:

The kingdom of God is within me; eternity is here and now. If I miss that--if I miss the present--then I've missed everything. - JDK

The present is important, but it is not eternity and it is not everything. Logically, as the present progresses, one may argue that your statement implies that the future also has good in it, but I think that fails to maintain the distinction between the good of the present and the good of the future and eternity. The good of eternity future is different than the good of the present.

3 - Of course God's grace is sufficient. He told Paul so concerning his thorn in the flesh and promises that we will not be tempted beyond that which we are able to bear.

2Co 12:8-9a For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee...

1Co 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

But grace is not all we are promised. Having his grace and love in the present is not having everything we are promised in eternity, therefore eternity is not the present and should not be confused with it.

Twinkie Geek

In response to Twinkie Geek's reply at Live Journal

I believe that if we are made of God, and that if we are surrounded by His creations (and subsequently surrounded by Him, being that the creations would be imbued with His spirit/a part of Him), then we are able to find love within these creations on this Earth and find evidence of God in them (Note: I am judging His creations based on an Emersonian viewpoint; man's spirit is good, but the addition of "reason" obliges him with the ability of corruption and man-made things that are created with the impurities of competition [and most of their] ambitions(which is why I believe this whole "race" idea is bad)).

Are you suggested that God is in everything? I am not familiar with Emerson, but it seems to me that if we accept the proposition that God is in everything, then He is not perfectly good. Rather, he is either evil or neutral, in which case, morality is either arbitrary or irrelevant.

Why do you say that "reason" makes man corruptible? What is it about rationality that causes corruption? Why does irrationality not cause corruption? It seems to me that what really gives man the power to do evil is not reason, but simple freewill. We can choose to do evil and good, and often, it is selfishness or pride that leads to sin, not necessarily reason.

I am also confused by your reference to the "race" idea. To what are you referring? The idea of racial distinction between people of different skin colors or geographical origin? If so, how does that relate to the Emersonian view that man is basically good?

Scripturally, my view is the converse of yours in two ways:

1 - Man and God's creation is distinct from God. He is neither contained by His Creation, existing within the essence of His creation, or the essential existence of His creation. However, I do agree that having created the universe, the universe contains evidence of God's existence. This follows from passages such as the following:

1Jo 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Gen 3:17-19 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

A - If God has no darkness in Him, He does not seem that He could be part of this dark world.
B - When God punished Adam, He cursed the "ground" which later passage reveal includes the whole creation. It makes little sense for God to curse Himself.

2 - Man is not essentially good. Rather, man is essentially sinful:

Rom 3:10-12 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

In otherwords, man is inherently corrupt. No man has lived a perfect life and our nature is not to seek good, that is, God, but rather evil.

Therefore, since one has the ability to become connected with one's surroundings (God), one should be able to expect such a connection and feeling when "their time comes."

What do you mean to "[connect] with one's surroundings" and "their time"?

Rom 8:17-18 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

I think it is key to acknowledge the careful word usage and sentence structure here. The value (the amount of goodness, I believe, in this case) of the sufferings is outweighed by the glory (read: essentially God's presence, by Latin terms) that will be revealed WITHIN OURSELVES to us by God. IOW, the goodness (presence of God) that we see in sufferings is less than the presence of God that is actually there, *because* it is within each of us (the sufferers as well as the watchers).

I do not follow your inference that glory is God's presence. According to Strong's, the word here is:

G1391 δόξα
doxa (dox'-ah)
From the base of G1380; glory (as very apparent), in a wide application (literally or figuratively, objectively or subjectively): - dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, worship.

Furthermore, the New Testament is written primarily in Greek, not Latin (although early on it was translated into the Latin Vulgate).

You seem to be suggesting that the proper interpretation is as follows:

The suffering (perception of a lack of goodness) of the present is not actual, but perceptual. We perceive certain events as suffering because we fail to see God in them. Later, the God that He was in those involved in the event.

There are several problems with this interpretation.

1 - Paul does not seek to explain how God is can be seen in suffering to avoid the perceptual disjunct with reality.
2 - He delineates the suffering and the glory with clearly temporal terms. The suffering is "present" and the glory is future ("shall be revealed").
3 - Context presents major problems for this interpretation as well. In the next few verses, Paul further explains his meaning:

Rom 8:19 & 22-23 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God...For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Here, Paul explains that the glory is:

A - The manifestation of the sons of God.
B - The redemption of our bodies.

Furthermore, this glory is not something that presently exists, but will come in the future. It is something we wait for and indeed groan for.

As a side not, this passage further explains the difference in the blessings and joys of the present and the future. They are not the same, as Josh's original post seemed to imply.

Please comment here.

October 31, 2005

Eternity is not the Present

Josh Kerr argues in a recent post that "...eternity is here and now. If I miss that--if I miss the present--then I've missed everything."

In a dissenting comment, Adria remarks that:

I think the idea of acting for now is important. I think forces every action to be important, instead of distant consequences.

Simultaneously, though, I've always believed that I'm running with endurance the race marked out for me, and that I'm running in such a way as to get the prize.

I have to agree with Adria. It seems to me that Josh is confusing the possibility of the joy and blessings in the Christian Walk on earth in the present with future rewards and joys in the next world. Both are available to the believer, but they are not the same thing.

Regarding future rewards and joy, as Adria already pointed out, Paul does not simply present us with a view to the present. He provides analogies and examples of enduring present suffering with future blessing in mind.

First, there is the example of the race:

1Co 9:24-27 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Paul speaks not of running the race for the races sake or because the race itself is enjoyable. Rather he speaks of running the race explicitily for future gain. To reinforce the analogy, he clearly compares it to a races familiar to the people of the time in which the winner received a "corruptible crown" of leaves that shortly withered and died. Those who ran did not win the crown by virtue simply of running. Indeed, only 1 of many received the crown. Furthermore, even the winner did not receive the crown while running. Certainly, the very act of running can be enjoyable at times, but that does not mean that the joy and blessing of running is the same as the joy and blessing of winning a race or the rewards of victory. Thus, it also seems falacious to me to assume that the rewards Paul speaks of are necessarily the same rewards as we currently enjoy.

Second, Paul points to the example of previous faithful men (Heb. 11) and Christ's own example:

Heb 12:1-2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Frankly, I do not care how you look at it, but I would not consider the shame and torment of the crucifiction, the agony of Him who knew no sin becoming sin for us, or this list of tortures:

Heb 11:36-38 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

to be the kind of rewards we are promised or that Paul is referring to. Josh attempts to address this problem here:

Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear. Why? Because of the presence of God. Because of God's present comfort. Because God prepares for us a table in the very presence of our enemies. The shadow is of what is to come; the fear is of the possible future. But the prize is here, and now. Christ doesn't not promise us Christ's eventual presence: "Lo, I will be with you eventually, if you tough it out." Rather, Christ promises us love, which is always present. Love takes no record of the past, nor suspect of the future. Love is always a relatedness oriented toward the present. Greater love is that which lays down its life: completely present, giving up all claim to the future. The greatest form of love is not that which promises something later, if things go well. "If you can just suffer through this painful time, I'll love you again." Such are not the assurances of Christ.

However, while we need not fear and we have His love, we are promised much more than that! One must also be careful not to confuse one blessing with all blessings and NOTHING can separate us from the Love of God, that is not what this discussion is about at all. This is about enduring the refining fire of the difficult times of the present with the perspective of eternity rather than exclusively the present.

Paul presents some of the future blessings we will receive here:

Rom 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

1Co 3:12-15 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Rom 8:17-18 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

First, we are promised the redeption of our bodies at His coming. Second, the rewards of works. Certainly, obedience to God and good works have their own inherent reward in the present, but more than that is promised. Third, we are promised joint-heirship with Christ if so be that we suffer with him. That is, heirship and blessing is promised to all, but only those who endure the race receive the greatest rewards. Not all that we receive in this life is the prize. We have also to endure the suffering of life in a cursed world.

The present is not everything and can often be less than desirable, even if there is comfort available even for the darkest of times. However, the suffering of the present is not all that is not everything. Eternity is NOT here and the present is NOT everything. Eternity will not be more of the same, but something quite different, even if it includes some familiar features (such as God's love).

October 17, 2005

Comments on Miers

Heston posted an excellent piece on Abortion here.

While I completely agree with most of the post, he tags a brief section on Harriet Miers on the end, an issue which I have previously avoided commenting on, primarily because I am undecided. On one side, I am, like Heston, disappointed by the lack of clarity on Miers regarding her position due to her lack of a paper trail. I also am concerned about her lack of experience as a judge (nil).

On the other side, I recognize that President Bush knows a lot more about her than would be in her paper trail due to his extensive experience with her. Furthermore, I have gathered that she was either in charge of or one of the major people in charge of helping President Bush select judges, which would seem to indicate that she has a lot of experience with the right kind of judicial philosophy, as reflected in other nominees. Therefore, I think it is likely that she knows what the "right kind" of judge from our perspective is and most likely holds similar views. I have also heard positive things concerning her position on abortion and gun ownership, but again, almost everything we "know" about her is second hand, anecdotal, or circumstancial. And as for the lack of judging experience, it seems to me that judges are just the other side of lawyers. Lawyers act as advocates for positions, just as debaters do, and properly advocating that position to the important audience (judges) requires a proper understanding of judicial philosophy.

In conclusion, my position is this:

1 - I am disappointed in the lack of certainty concerning Miers. I would have preferred a candidate with a more concrete position.

2 - While I am inclined to dismiss her lack of judicial experience, this is the highest court in the land, which makes me leery of putting people with no real judicial experience on it.

3 - As others have argued, the choice of Miers seems to reflect a deeper conviction in that either open presentation of a strict interpretation judicial philosophy as opposed to an activist judicial philosophy can not win or be approved or would be more work/damaging than it is worth. Such an approach may have been neccessary under the Democratic dominated Congress of Ronald Reagan, but Bush doesn't have that problem.

4 - The supreme court position is a very serious lifetime position to the highest court in the land. This means that no longer can she not be removed later (the decision is permanent), the decisions she will be making at the Supreme Court can not be over-ruled by a higher court. This also concerns me a lot.

5 - Thus, while I am very concerned and apprehensive concerning the choice of Miers, I am not convinced that President Bush made a horrible mistake in appointing her, although I am inclined to agree that he made a mistake. This is primarily because most of my concerns are regarding our ignorance of her, an ignorance which President Bush most likely does NOT have. Thus, in evaluating her, he is not concerned about a lack of information on her, he has 1st hand information. We do not. What concerns me more is the ability of the Senate to adequately exercise its obligation of advice and particularly consent concerning someone about whom so little is known.

October 15, 2005

Dark Matter and the Unobservable in Science

I highly recommend this post on ID the Future. It provides a great discussion of the relationship between science and the unobservable, an oft cited argument against ID, which demonstrates that Evolutionary theory actually makes appeals to unobservable events and beings as well. The post lists 3 other parts of the series, which are also fairly good, especially 3 and 2 in that order.

The discussion of the unobservable reminded me of the recent refutation of Dark Matter. From what I understand, it sounds like astronomers applied a certain mathematical model to the universe which indicated that more matter existed than they had previously observed. This matter today remains unobserved, but numerous Dark Matter theories have sprung up to explain the descrepancy between the observed mass and the theoretical mass indicated by the model.

The funny part, which is the primary focus of the paper by Cooperstock and Tieu, is that the model was based on the assumption that Newtonian physics, particularly relating to gravity was a good enough approximation and an the fact that it was also an easier conceptual model to deal with. Cooperstock and Tieu adjusted the model to use General Relativities gravity model and poof, the dark matter (that is, the descrepancy between observed matter and theoretical matter) vanished.

Response to Earthenvesselmz on Minimum Wage Laws

In response to Earthenvesselmz reply to my recent discussion of minimum wage laws:

Minimum Wage

1 - Definately not! Which freedom would be limited? Bob and Jack FREELY agree to a contract. Neither is required to do so. Having once made the agreement, both parties are legally required to follow through, but Bob and Jack have already surrended the right not to do what the contract specifies by signing it.

2 - The incentive may not make ALL people care, but it will likely make some people care, depending on the expected outcome. Essentially, all investment is the postponement of present good for expected future greater good, even if that greater good is unsure. If companies (and by application, people) would always choose to take the short term benefits over vague long term benefits, there would be no saving, no entrepaneurs investing in new ideas, no research and development firms, etc. Take the medical industry for example. Within the medical industries are lots of businesses willing to invest in research projects that won't generate profits for years as new drugs and medical tools are developed, which then have to go through a lengthy FDA approval process before they can even be sold and the possibility exists that the FDA could reject the drug making it impossible to profit from the project. I see no justification for your unsupported ascertion that people ignore long term unquantifiable benefits for short term quantifiable benefits.

Furthermore, I see no justification for the idea that given the assumption that people (for that is what businesses and governments are composed of and the ones who make the decisions we are discussing) will suddenly become more concerned with the long term benefits if we relabel their institution as a "social" institution. People still have self-interest and the governments job would still be the same.

3 - Which problem are you refering to? The fact that legislating higher wages can not increase the capital to pay for wages by the same proportion? That actually isn't a capitalist problem, it's a monetary problem (in part). Simply by legislating that 10 employees formerly paid out of $100 now be paid 50% more, the $100 does not become $150. Theoretically, the government could either print more money, raise taxes, or borrow to compensate the $100 with the additionally $50, but that money has to come from some where. In the case of printing money, the currency is devalued, which is essentially a flat tax on everyone. If the government raises taxes, it is effectively decreasing the wages of other workers to increase the wages of other works. Another 10 workers who are paid out of $200 are taxed $50 to pay for the other 10 workers and they now effectively make less. Finally, if the government borrows money, it has to pay it back later with one of the other options, so that is only a short term solution. Therefore, I reject your unsubstantiated assertion that "captialsim" causes "this" problem. Furthermore, if capitalism is the problem, what would your solution be? Clearly, if capitalism is a problem, minimum wage laws are just a symptom solution. Capitalism remains to continue causing problems.

As for the lack of freedom in worker-employer contracts, this is absolutely not the case. My sister and I worked minimum wage jobs at Target one summer (or rather, she did and I opted to work at night for an additional $ an hour) and our alternative certainly was not starvation. We freely chose the jobs valuing the contribution to our college educations and augment our life-styles (I was able to afford the laptop I am typing this on). The pitfall of the "living wage" argument which you seem to be ascribing to here is that it seems to me that most of the people seeking minimum/low income jobs are younger people like me, who are supported to an extent by others but want to get a job to augment our lives or save for the future. We aren't in danger of starving.

As for work vs. starving, there is no right to food. God had the following to say about getting food:

Gen 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

The apostle Paul had this to say about the relationship between working and eating:

2 Thes. 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

Therefore, I find the starve or work a minimum wage job to be hardly terrifying or some kind of inherent problem that condemns capitalism and necessitates legislation of any kind. In fact, I find the ascertion that the alternative of starvation entitles the poor man to something to be unbiblical.

Furthermore, how does the fact that I wish to employ low cost labor and someone else agrees to work for that price suddenly make me responsible for guaranteeing an arbitrary minimum quality of living or justify forcing me to act as some kind of charity? If I am not mistaken, that is why we have charities and welfare (which is another topic).

Ownership Derived from Investment

I suspect you are referring to Locke's argument that property rights dervice from the infusion of something (say land) with one's own labor (building a house and a fence). However, you omitted a key component of Locke's argument which is that that that which is made personal property by an infusion of labor is necessarily previously unowned. Thus, his argument, while it suggests a reasonable justification for the emergance of private property, does not provide the definitive means of gaining property. We are not in a system of nature or lack of ownership within which Locke applied his argument. Today, nearly all goods and land is owned. Thus, I can not go and build a house in your backyard and claim I therefore own your backyard because that violates your property rights. Today, ownership is achieved through free legal transfers of previously owned property, not the creation of new property through the infusion of labor. Therefore, the short answer to your question is no.

Likewise, the answer to your second question is no. The company is pre-owned. If I go into a factory and work, I do not become an owner of the company. There are two ways to look at this. First, if I am not hired by the company, I am violating their property rights in the first place by breaking into their factory and trying to work for them. Second, if I am legally hired by the company, I have already agreed on a form of compensation, my salary. I do not receive ownership in the company, but I receive ownership in currency. Another way to look at the 2nd case is to observe that my labor for the company is not owned by me, and therefore the infusion of that labor with the companies goods makes the goods the company's and not mine, for I have sold the ownership or property of my labor to the company in exchange for ownership of some other property.

October 12, 2005

Solving Chemical Reactions Without Guessing

For those who have every been tormented by the evils of playing guessing games with balancing chemical equations, I have news for you. There is a way to solve them that involves real math, not adding magic/houdini numbers until both sides are balanced. The first and simplist way involves only simple algebra. For this reason I am surprised and somewhat shocked that even in College Chemistry, they teach the guessing method, which leads me to wonder if this is something that only math nerds know, if Chemists have some aversion to math, and how late, if ever, it is taught to Chemistry majors. Hopefully they do, but I wouldn't be surprised... :-/

Anyway, the first method works like this. Say you have an unbalanced reaction as follows:

H2 + O2 -> H2O

Begin by adding coefficients (variables representing the number of molecules of each part in the equation), which is what you are going to solve for:

A*H2 + B*O2 -> C*H2O

Now we can write a balanced equation representing each chemical contribution in the equation as follows:

H: 2A = 2C
O: 2B = C

Before proceeding, allow me to further explain how I arrived at the above equations. The equations are arrived at by isolating each element in the equation and the coefficients related to it. For Hydrogen, this is A and C on either side (A = C). To properly balance the equation, we have to multiply coefficients by the subscripts for the number of atoms in each molecule, to get the number of atoms on each side (which have to add up to the same thing for the equation to balance).

The next step is very simply, but conceptially probably the most advanced, having a connection to linear algebra. Essentially, the equation has an infinite number of answers (which makes sense, because once you balance the equation, you can multiply across the equation by any number, and still have a balanced equation). Furthermore, since we have 3 variables and 2 equations, we can not solve for any variable. To fix this problem, we simply assign an arbitrary value to one of the variables, and because there are an infinite amount of multiples which balance the equation, this "free" variable will lead us to a ratio of coefficients for which any multiple balances the equation. To keep things simple, it is usually easiest to simply assign A the value of 1 (A = 1). Which leads to the following conclusions:

2A = 2C : 2C = 2(1) : 2C = 2 : C = 2/2 = 1
2B = C : B = C/2 : B = (1)/2 = 1/2


A = 1
B = 1/2
C = 1

Which gives us the balanced equation:

A*H2 + B*O2 -> C*H2O
1 * H2 + 1/2*O2 -> 1*H2O

At this point, some of you are probably wondering what insanity leads me to think that a system that yields fractionally balanced equations (half a molecule you say?) is a great thing, because such answers are unacceptable. However, remember that this is simply a multiple of ratios for which their are an infinite number of alternative multiples, and that we can simply multiply across the reaction to scale to whatever we want. In this case, we want the smallest balanced equation with whole number coefficients. Therefore, the final step is to multiply the reaction by the smallest value which will yield all whole number coefficients. In this case, that number is 2:

2 * (1 + 1/2 -> 1)
2 + 1 -> 2
2 * H2 + 1 * O2 -> 2*H2O
2*H2 + O2 -> 2*H2O

Which is the final, balanced quation, having 4 atoms of H on the left and 4 on the right (2*2 = 2*2) and 2 atoms of O on each side (2 = 2). While this method might be a bit longer than just guessing for a reaction this simple, the guessing method can quickly become painful with reactions slightly more complex. That and methodical people like me cringe whenever we hear "just guess". :o

The second method is essentially the same thing in a different format, using matrices and linear algebra to speed the process up a bit. However, the theory is a little more detailed and draing matrices is a bit difficult with text. Somehow I strugged through Highschool Chem without this, but taking it over again at the University reminded me how evil it was. Also, from what I was learning in linear algebra, I was pretty sure their had to be a systematic way to solve these problems. I got pretty close to figuring it out by myself, but had to check the web (where I found the above way of doing it) and my linear algebra book (which had the matrix method). Of course, our instructor simply recommended a 3 step guessing plan (1 - Guess 2 - Add up 3 - Repeat).

October 11, 2005

Minimum Wage Laws

Last week in Macroeconomics, we were covering minimum wage laws and are instructor claimed that it wasn't certain whether they hurt the economy/poor people or not. He said that on one side, there is the argument that the articifial increase in cost decreases incentive to hire people. On the other side, he said others argue that the increase wages stimulate economic growth to maintain a similar level of jobs or that due to decreased turnover, it is actually better for businesses in the long run. I reject those arguments for 3 reasons:

1 - As I pointed out earlier, government's proper role is not simply doing what economists or economics seems to indicate would be best for the economy. The governments role is to protect the rights of it's citizens, maintaining their freedom and protecting them from the assaults of others upon that freedom. Thus, the fact that "society" might be slightly better off if Bob gave Jack a raise, that is not sufficient warrent to force Bob to give Jack a raise. Bob and Jack have entered into a free agreement whereby Jack works for Bob for an agreed upon price.

2 - As our instructor pointed out, part of the assumption behind the pro-min. wage argument is that businesses only consider the short term and not the long term, while government considers the long term. How, by virtue of being a beaurocrat, one mysteriously loses self-interest and short-term tunnel vision and becomes a selfless civil servant dedicated to the best long term interest of society, nay, the WORLD as a whole, I doubt I shall ever know. Indeed, the facts seem to contradict this. Consider the recent Oil for Food Scandal, the New Orleans Debacle, and Social Security. In all cases, beaurocrats either acted on self-interest or lacked long term vision. People are people whether they work in the private sector or the public sector, and as such business will have at least as much interest in their long term success as some random beaurocrat who has no self-interest in the company whatsoever. In fact, they have every incentive to care MORE. ;-)

3 - Regarding the final reason presented, that the additional wages somehow stimulate the demand for minimum wage jobs, I see no reason to suspect this is the case, primarily because legislating a higher wage does not increase the capital available for labor investments. The capital remains the same, but is simply more concentrated into the hands of fewer laborers, which would seem to indicate that the same money that was going into the hands of these laborers is going to them and they have the same amount to spend. The only difference is that there are now fewer laborers receiving a higher wage. Those few may be better off, but those who have a harder time finding jobs are worse off.

October 2, 2005

The Horrors of Dover

The Distant Collegian has posted a hilarious and telling examination of a news article dealing with the Intelligent Design policy of the Dover School here.

I particularly "like" the article section here:

"A defense attorney argued that it could have been the result of a fundamentalist Bible club her daughter had joined at school. But Smith told a court full of people yesterday that her daughter's comment was one way the mention of intelligent design in her daughter's high school has affected her."

So let me get this straight, the kid attends a public school and a Bible club.  She comes home one day and confronts her mother about inconsistencies in her own faith.  Having no answer for her daughter, she decides that instead of educating herself and finding the answer, she sues the school, somehow concluding that the school (which admittedly did expose kids to ID), not the Bible club was the cause of this unsettling discussion revealing her own ignorance/inconsistencies.  

Obviously, may be reasons why the school is suspected.  Perhaps the daughter herself said it was the ID at school and not anything at Bible club.  Does the article every address this?  No.  It dismisses is solely based on the mother's unfounded claim, leaving us to with the unsupported impression that a school has been the sole prompting for a confrontational discussion concerning religion about her mother, and this is so horrible, it requires court intervention because children are starting to think about what they are learning.  Horrors!  If only the young woman had come home and asked her mother about drugs the world would be fine!

September 29, 2005

Externality Debate Continues

Earthevenvesslemz replied to my response here
The Distant Collegian posted an excellent addition to my orignal argument there as well.

Even if Nash's cooperative game theory does provide a precise solution, Earthenvesslemz did not mention, refer to, or argue for it. Therefore, I fail to see how he can claim that a vague reference to game theory equates to a clear presentation of an exact solution. I could equally say that by saying God discussed the problem of salvation in His awesome book the Bible, that I had clearly presented a solution to sin, obviously being Christ's death on the cross. A quick glance over his recent reply once more reveals that he still has not presented any solution, leaving us, within the context of this discussion, as advocating a vague middle ground between socialism and laissez-faire.

Earthenvesselmz argues that the "cooperative system is irreguar". What do he mean by this? If by this he means that cooperation is irregular because not all people seek the same social ideal or personal ideal, then I would say that you are correct and that is the beauty of the laissez-faire system. Under the system, each man is free to determine for himself what he wants society and his life to look like and freely pursue those goals while not being able to violate the freedom of others to do the same by using coersive methods. The problem with ANY middle ground, then, is that it carries with it the implied justification of that coersion based upon a single set of social or even personal ideals which are then forced upon the rest of the nation whether in part or in whole.

As for maximization of the economy, although this is a worthy goal, it is important to remember 4 things:

1 - The meaning of human life is not maximized economies. They are good, but not our purpose for living. Thus, the fact that a specific system may fall short of the maximum possible material production is NOT an issue that demands government intervention.

2 - Because maximization is dependant upon value and value is subjective, maximization is not a concrete state. Various people view maximization differently based on their valuations of various products.

3 - No man or group has the right to define the ideal and force everyone else to follow their ideal. That's why we recognize the divinely granted rights to life, liberty and property/pursuit of happiness in our government. Government is not about maximizing social "good" which requires the previous defining of a social good and forcing everyone else to seek it. Government is about allowing individuals to freely define their own ideal and seek it to the best of their ability while not violating the freedom of others.

4 - The world is imperfect, man is fallible, and the world is indeed fallen. We will not succeed in establishing Utopia under our rule.

September 25, 2005

Response to Earthenvesselmz

Earthenvesselmz commented on my last post here.

Although his comment is interesting and appears to attempt to contradict the conclusion I reached, it does not deal with the arguments I provided in support of my conclusion, and I believe it also demonstrates a misunderstanding of my conclusion itself.

In summary, my basic argument was that externality benefits do not justify government intervention for two primary reasons.

First, government's role is to protect property rights and individual liberty through the maintanance of a legal system. Both are violated by any coercive effort by government to correct for externality benefits, because an correction involves government arbitrarily determining a "social benefit" (violation of liberty/pursuit of happiness) and forcing individuals to pay in some way for that benefit which they otherwise would not have payed for (violation of property rights). To this end, I provided two lawn mowing examples demonstrating the absurdity of the arguments applied. Furthermore, I argued that an externality argument can conceivably be applied to ANY commodity, which means that if the criteria for government intervention is simply an externality occuring, logically, the government must intervene in ALL situations, which is pure socialism.

Second, economic history and theory demonstrate that the alternative, laissez-faire, works much better than socialism. Thus, while in theory, some corrections might be necessary to attain an ideal economy, due to the subjective nature of value (being essentially the average of all arbitrary values attributed to product X by all market players in the case of individual value, and the arbitrary social value attributed to product X by all market players), exact corrections as demonstrated in economic theory are virtually impossible. Furthermore, any estimate of social value depends upon a social philosophy of what society should look like, and thereby any government intervention based upon social value is based upon a social philosophy with the end goal being the forming of society in the image of that philosophy, whether the citizens want it or not. Additionally, it introduces further problems of the majority forcing the minority to conform to their wishes.

For these reasons, I reject the argument that externality benefits demand government correction. Furthermore, I reject Earthenvesselmz argument, which appears to me to be this:

Laissez-faire, under which individuals make decision based purely on their own benefit disregarding the views of others completely, and socialism, under which the government defines a social ideal and forces those under it's control to conform to this image, are both extremes and neither presents an ideal economic situation. The ideal economic system is found somewhere in between, where individual freedom is respected, but social value is taken into account, presummably by government coercion.

Before dealing with the errors specific to the above argument, I must first point out the lack of any specific vision as contrasted with the visions I presented earlier (laissez-faire and socialism). Even if neither is ideal, it is clear what is meant by them. With the presentation of two extremes and the vague argument the somewhere in the middle lies the solution, we are presented with no clear picture of how this middle ideal is to be determine or worked out. Furthermore, no attempt is made to refute the argument I presented dealing with externality benefits which led me to conclude that laissez-faire was the lesser of two evils (socialism and laissez-faire). Namely, a criteria by which externality benefits justify government intervention logically justifies government intervention in ALL cases. Thus, within a simple observation of externality benefits, we are left with only two choices, government intervention in all cases or no cases based upon externalities. Thus, in context, no middle ground was logically offered, and no logical argument to support that ground has been provided by any but utilitarian means, and the utilitarian argument remains clearly refuted by the argument I present that any intervention necessarily justifies all intervention, an evil which even Earthenvesselmz opposed.

Finally, in pointing out the error in Earthenvesselmz argument, I believe it lies in a misunderstanding of laissez-faire. As an economy, it does deal with individuals and their personal valuations. However, no man is an island unto himself. Each of us has contact with other humans, and we value their input and well being. Thus, our true value takes into account both the value to us and possible values within our social network (if it were not so, no games requiring more than one person, such as chess, would ever be sold). Furthermore, a close examination of my proposed correction for externality benefits within the private sector (reasoning and private non-coercive intervention) also contradict Earthenvesselmz mis-characterization of laissez-faire within a larger social structure. The advantages of such a system are four fold. First, it allows for the freedom of individuals in a laissez-faire system. Second, it avoids any coercion. Third, it provides a mechanism for correcting externality benefits. Fourth, the correction is based upon the perceived benefits to third parties, not an arbitrarily determined social value by social engineers. Thus, one would expect the benefitted third parties to apply their reason and resources in direct relation to their expected benefit, arriving more accurately at the true aggrate social value than any arbitrary method is likely too. In this case, I believe Earthenvesselmz has made the common mistake of forgetting that any economic system must reside in a larger social system, and that the social system must not be forgotten if we are to see the complete picture.

September 22, 2005

Dr. Shawn Knabb, my Macroeconomics instructor, remarked yesterday that most economists agree on the basic principles and models of economics, and therefore almost any macroeconomics class (and I suspect microeconomics class) will cover virtually the same material regardless of who teaches them. What economists disagree on is how well markets (and by that, I suspect he means the market model) work and thus what the appropriate policy conclusions are, and that the reasons for this are related to assumptions and views beyond economics. In other words, economists generally agree on the market model. What they disagree on, for reasons external to economics, is the accuracy of the model.

This is doubtless an over-simplification, but in some ways it is likely true. For example, in reading the textbook (which was a grossly over-priced $98) they covered externalities (something we covered in micro as well). The basic ideas of externalities is that a product may have costs or benefits not accounted for in the price. For example, a steel plant which takes in clean air for free and releases dirty air for free costs the surrounding area by increasing respiratory irritants, dirt settling on property, etc. Another example, such as a vaccine, can be seen to have an externality benefit. Those who do not receive the vaccine pay nothing, but receive a decreased risk of getting sick because possible carriers of the disease to them are reduced. In other words, they become freeriders, receiving a benefit from a product without paying for it.

Both examples make some sense and seem like something most people would agree on. The disagreement, however, is in how to deal with the externalities. The first, externality cost, seem easier to deal with. As the actions of the steel mill damages the property of others, it owes them some kind of compensation through the legal system (although, determining the appropriate method of compensation is much more difficult to determine). However, the issue of externality benefits is much stickier. While it would seem on first glance that something should be done, the government has only several options available to correct this "problem". For example, subsidies, public distribution, etc. Unfortunately, all government options essentially involve forcing "free-riders" (those who receive a benefit they did not pay for) to pay for that benefit whether they want to or not. Such forced payment rests upon the idea that a provided service inherently demands a fee.

In other words, if I provide a service for you, you owe me regardless of any agreement between us. The classic argument demonstrating the absurdity of this idea involves the mowing of lawns. Assume that I come to your house and mow your lawn, without your permission or a previous agreement between us. Then, I come to your door and demand $20 in payment. Should you be required to pay? Do you really owe me anything? Certainly, I have provided a service for you. You have benefited without payment. You have received an externality benefit from my efforts and therefore owe me money. The clear answer is no. There is no agreement between us, and therefore you have no right to demand compensation for services rendered.

Some may object that the above example is not a good example of an externality benefit because it is a direct benefit to you, not an indirect benefit of a legitimate transaction between two people. However, consider this variation on the theme.

Your neighbor hires me to clean up his lawn, which is a complete mess. It is so ugly that it has a negative affect on its own property value and on your property value. I clean up the property and receive the agreed compensation from him. However, you have received an externality benefit of increased property value because I have corrected the negative influence of the neighbors mess. Thus, the real "value" of my labor is greater than the compensation received from the neighbor, whose payment represents only the value of the benefit received by him. Acting upon this reasoning, I continue on to your house and demand $40 for my services.

In the above, I put value in quotation marks because I believe that is where the core of the issue lies. The principle of externalities, when applied to public policy involves the pre-empting of personal freedom regarding determination of value. An individual (A) who agrees to pay a vaccination fee of $20 values his personal benefit at $20 or more and therefore freely agrees to pay $20. However, the government decides that the real value of the vaccine is $30 because the chances that another individual (B) will become sick is decreased. Thus, the value of the vaccine is $30 and to correct the production generated by supply and demand by the lower price does is less than the real value to society. To correct this, B is fined $10, which is then given to the provider of the vaccine, signaling increased demand and therefore increased production, allegedly correcting the "underproduction".

When viewed from a "societal" perspective, this appears to make sense. However, when viewed from the perspective of individuals, it makes little to no sense and adheres to the lawn mower counterexamples. The issue then, is one of determination of value. Does society (which inevitably translates into government) determine value or does the individual? This is not limited to a single product. This is really a question regarding the value of any product.

The book attempts to argue that their are products that have no externalities, such as burgers, due to exclusivity of consumption. My consumption of a burger does not in any way harm or benefit you, right? However, while most people would probably agree that this is generally true, it is not necessarily true. Consider this. A burger is generally considered to be a relatively unhealthy food. Thus, consumption could be argue to decrease your value to society, decreasing your output, making you sick, shortening your life, etc. The externality cost then, is decreased benefit to society. Thus, government should step in and "correct" this externality cost with a "fat tax". You may laugh, but the above argument in various forms and arguments of a similar nature have already been advanced for the "fat taxes".

Thus, the real question is not regarding a few commodities, but ALL of them. Logically, if we accept the argument of externality benefits demanding government intervention, a criteria of societal value is implicitly accepted. Thus, the individual loses the freedom to determine his own actions. What he would choose to do is limited by governmental skewing of prices and coerced distribution of resources (your own resources).

Therefore, in this case, it seems to me that my professor was correct. Most people agree on the model. The question is how well the market model works without government intervention, and model evaluation depends upon one's perspective or adopted criteria (in this case, the perspective and criteria of determining value). Thus, the real question here is one of socialism or laissez-faire, public control or private (individual control), communism or property rights. Essentially, to accept government interventions on an argumentation of externality effects is to accept a criteria of social rather than individual valuing of products based on majority decisions and enforcing that choice on all of society.

Clearly, I fall on the side of laissez-faire, private control, and property rights. My reasons for this are 2 fold. First, I believe freedom and property rights are important rights of individuals granted by our Creator, as stated essentially stated by the Declaration of Independence. Second, I believe that both market history and the clarity of the market model do (in contradiction of my professors initial premise) demonstrate that a free market based on property rights and individuals acting in their own interest leads to a much productive and richer economy than a socialist or communist system of "social" (ie. government ownership and control of everything) control.

In closing, one might be wondering what I would recommend we do with externality. The first, external costs, are clear. External costs represent a real cost to individuals, damaging their property and thereby violating their property rights. A free, rights based legal system has built in handling of externality costs, which are more than just externality issues, but issues of property rights as well. However, externality benefits are not property rights issues and therefore not really governments business. If a group of citizens believe the societal value of a product is greater than the current price indicates, they have two options. First, they can convince more people to freely purchase the product based on the social benefits. Second, they can personal contribute private subsidies or extra incentives for the production or consumption of the product.

September 19, 2005

Various Thingamabobbers...

On the 3rd, Cameron and I moved to Bellingham and have been living up here since. It took until a couple days ago to finally get the internet set up, so I have been mostly reading and playing games. Since we moved, I have read:

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (all 5 books)
Harry Potter (1-4)

All were pretty good.

On the 12th, we went to Transitions and started registering for classes. So far, it looks like I will be taking the following:

Ada for C++ and Java programmers (1 credit)
Macroeconomics (4 credits)
Chemistry (5 credits)
Linear Algebra (4 credits)

Unfortunately, as most of the programming classes at Western are taught in the obscure language Ada, I can not take to many of the other classes until I learn it. Fortunately, it looks like it should be pretty easy to pick up, but the syntax looks evil, particularly because it is needlessly verbose. One of the things I really like about C/C++ is it's respect of the fact that those using it will be repeatedly typing the same syntax over and over again, and therefore the syntax is a brief as possible. A great example of this is the naming of types, such as int (integer), bool (boolean - true/false), and char (character). Of course, in Ada, the type names are the full word (integer, boolean, etc.). To make matters worse, instead of simply following a specific syntax to declare a function, you have to begin with the word function like so:

function X
random code
end X

Instead of the beautiful simplicity of C/C++:

void X()
random code

Another example of the unnecessary verbosity of Ada is in the if operator:

if condition then
end if;

as compared to:

if (condition)

At least it looks like it has some redeeming features, or I would seriously wonder what illness plagued the Computer Science department at WWU, and if they caught it from UW, where they teach in Java (a thoroughly horrid language which doesn't even have the excuse of being ancient. At least it is widely used though...).

Linear Algebra should be fun though. It will help me understand a lot of the math behind 3D graphics programming, such as that in DirectX and OpenGL, especially the uses of matrices.

As a start at a new college, one of the things that strikes me is how many people I will know on campus as a I start. Not only do I already know my room mate, but serveral people from Edmonds that I know at least a little bit will be here, Joel (Pax) from debate, and a few other people. I even ran into John from Science Olympiad on campus today.

The other interesting thing that happened today was the working on campus workshop that Cameron and I went to. We were the only people there, so we got to chat with the speaker for a bit. Turns out he started at Edmonds Community College like we did and even pursued a Computer Science degree for a while, before deciding that he didn't want to spend his life tracking down misplaced or missing semicolons and decided to major in math/economics. He even said that he and some of his buddies are into computer gaming and have lan parties about once a quarter. We'll have to keep him in mind when we try to start a club on campus.

August 25, 2005

Main Blog

Although I like some some of the features Blogger has to offer, I prefer Xanga because of the digest feature. My Xanga blog can be accessed here: