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Liberty

A recent analysis of bus drivers for the Minnesota Metro Transit system provided some interesting data:

  • Base pay for drivers is nearly $50,000 a year.
  • The top earner in the system made $120,000 a year.
    • He did this by working, on average, 74 hours a week.
  • Overtime in the system has jumped by 52 percent from 2008 to 2010.
  • A driver on overtime – paid at time and a half – saves Metro Transit $4 an hour on average.
    • This due to the fact that the agency would have to pay for training, additional benefits and pension.
  • A union agreement says that no more than 24 percent of Metro Transit’s workforce can be part time – prompting the agency to turn to overtime.
  • In October, 89 percent of weekday overtime assignments were during rush hour and lasted less than three hours.

The incentives are undeniable.  For a system that demands flexibility; traffic doesn’t occur in neat 8 hour blocks, the rules prohibit the proper response.  Further, regulations surrounding benefits, those benefits that include vacation, retirement and health care, make it more cost effective to work an already employed person than to hire someone else.  And lastly, being a Metro Transit driver isn’t all that bad; 50 large is a good deal of money.

Finally I’d like to point out that for at least one of these drivers, the overtime is a feature and not a bug.  And it’s a feature because of decisions HE’S made in HIS life:

Lance Wallace is happy to drive a few extra hours if it means his wife can stay home with their four children – all younger than 5.

The New Hope man is among the top 5 percent of overtime earners at Metro Transit. Picking up extra shifts and working nearly every day, he averages 60 to 70 hours a week. The $37,700 in overtime he earned last year pushed his total earnings to $86,400.

“I don’t really want to work overtime,” Wallace said. “But I do it to make up the income.”

The extra work doesn’t make him “overly tired,” Wallace said. In fact, after working two jobs before, he “feels good” to now work where he can dictate his own hours.

Mr. Wallace is a father.  A father of FOUR.  A father of FOUR in a family that has the mother stay home.  And of those FOUR kids, all are younger than 5.  And this father of four young children is happy that he’s able to work the hours he does in order to prevent having to carry two jobs.

My point?  Incentives matter.  Raising the cost of hiring means that you will see less hiring.  Wage earners will enjoy working more hours if it benefits them, not the other way around.  Government union work pays well.  People who have 4 kids in 4 years time have a more limited ability to dictate their time.

The Tragedy of the Commons.

I don’t remember when it was that I came across the specific term, when I read about it.  But I resonated with it immediately.

In short, it’s the idea that a shared resource made available to the whole of the community will languish and suffer abuse in a manner that would not exist if that same resource were owned and used by a single individual.

The classic example is that of a pasture.  Multiple shepherds begin by grazing their sheep in the common pasture.  When the shepherds grow their herds, they begin to understand that the pasture will, in time, become over grazed.  However, because the pasture is communal there is no incentive to preserve the pasture; if Farmer Johnson doesn’t increase the aggregate herd size by one, surely his neighbors will.  In time, the incentive is perverse, the shepherd accelerates the growing of his herd to make sure that “he gets his.”

The tragedy of the commons.

Of course, there are two solutions to this problem:

  1. Privatize the pasture.  Assign an owner of it all or simply divide the pasture into plots.
  2. Form a government and regulate it.

I don’t wanna get into the 1’s and 2’s right now.  Rather, I’m interested in why the Tragedy occurs to begin with.  For example, if we begin the story with a single shepherd and a pasture that he alone owns, he will expand his herd to the size at which the pasture is able to sustain it.  At that point he either begins to cull the herd or expand the pasture.  Now, we can assume that this shepherd has a family, some old enough to be responsible for work and productivity.

Why doesn’t each member of the family act in the manner described above?  Why don’t individual family members engage in the destructive activities of the Tragedy?

Because they have stronger social bonds that hold them together.  A family has the ability to shape expectations, to punish members who fail to live up to those expectations.  A family can control behavior.

No one minds sharing. Hell, we TEACH our kids to share.  However, the unspoken, perhaps even unthought of corollary, is that the sharing is done among a group of people whose actions we can influence.

We are willing to share with those people who would react in the same manner should our circumstances be reversed.  That is, I am willing to share my good fortune with friends and family should they be equally willing to share in reverse.

Note, this does not mean they “owe” the sharer.  Only that, found in similar circumstances, they be willing to share back.  And should they fail, the “social” penalties would be significant.  Up to and including exclusion.

We find that socialism or communism works in the family or small groups of communities.  But when expanded to the point that social penalties lose bite, those constructs breakdown.  They breakdown to the point that people begin to act in rational ways to existing incentives.

What does it mean to carry a concealed weapon in North Carolina?  It means that you are about 20x more likely to obey the law: via Coyote Blog

A front-page story in today’s New York Times tries to stir up alarm about liberalized carry permit laws, which let people carry concealed handguns if they meet a short list of objective criteria. To illustrate the hazards of that policy, the Times cites crimes committed by permit holders in North Carolina. How many crimes? Excluding traffic offenses, the Times counts 2,400 over five years, of which 200 were felonies. More relevant (since critics of nondiscretionary permit laws worry that they contribute to gun violence), “More than 200 permit holders were also convicted of gun- or weapon-related felonies or misdemeanors, including roughly 60 who committed weapon-related assaults.” That’s a dozen gun assaults a year. How many permit holders are there in North Carolina? According to the story, “more than 240,000.” So 0.2 percent of them are convicted of a non-traffic-related offense each year, about 0.017 percent are convicted of a felony, and only 0.005 percent are convicted of a gun assault. The Times concedes that the number of permit holders convicted of crimes “represents a small percentage of those with permits.” More like “tiny.” By comparison, about 0.35 percent of all Americans are convicted of a felony each year–more than 20 times the rate among North Carolina permit holders.

I didn’t know this.  However, it kinda makes sense.  See, in order to get a conceal carry permit, you have to have a clean record.  Considering that most criminals begin young, this would seem to only include law abiding people.  Do folks suddenly have occasion to make a poor decision?  Certainly.  But not typically.

I don’t like guns.  I think they’re dangerous.  But they’re less dangerous than swimming pools and I have no problem with people having them.  I even let my kids play with swimming pools.

I also think that it’s okay to regulate guns.  No one needs a fully automatic assault rifle.  And you’d be hard pressed to convince me that we need armor piercing ammunition to take down Bambi.  We already agree that criminals shouldn’t have guns.  So it isn’t a case of “should we regulate” it’s more of a case on “where do we draw the line.”

The more I see that gun owners are safer and law abiding, the more I’m willing to push that line out a little further.

Got a bunch of baseball cards in the attic?  Beanie Babies maybe?  How about some old CD’s?

Now, say ya wanna sell ’em.  Everyone knows that if you start the bidding to high you won’t get any takers.  Bring the price down and you can sell almost anything.

Simple:  More expensive, fewer people buy.  Less expensive, more people buy.

Which makes this so mind boggling:

Eight states will ring in the New Year with a higher minimum wage, under state laws that require wage floors to keep apace with inflation. San Francisco, one of the few cities that sets its own minimum wage above the federal level, is also raising wages for the lowest-paid workers in the new year. It will become the first big city in the country to require companies to pay their workers more than $10 an hour.

The minimum wage increases in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington will be 28 cents to 37 cents an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project. That is an extra $582 to $770 a year for a full-time minimum wage worker, and resets these states’ minimum wages to $7.64 to $9.04 an hour.

At that higher end is Washington State, which will become the first state in the nation to set its minimum wage above $9 an hour. For reference, the federal wage floor for most workers is $7.25 an hour.

I get it, I do.  No one’s time should be worth so little.  However, by forcing businesses to pay more for labor than they otherwise should, they will buy less labor.  And lastly, should an individual be free to bargain for the value of his time?

 

As I sit here “flying my desk” I continue to receive confirmation notes from Amazon that:

  1. My order has been confirmed
  2. My order has been shipped

These notes come complete with tracking numbers that allow me to view the status of each order and, then, to see where FedEx is in shipping each order.  It’s my hope that in the coming year I will have outdoor cameras/locked delivery boxes that will allow me to view the delivery of each package.

In any event, I am struck by the absolute and sheer awesomeness of a marketplace that is open 7x24x365.  I’m able to shop for goods around the globe at any time of the day.  Most specifically, a time of day that is convenient for me.

In addition to the fact  that the market makes available global goods of all kinds at any time of day, I don’t have to leave my desk, or sofa, or tub or wherever I am accessing that market place from.  I am able to order, pay for and then have delivered to me my goods and never even leave the house.  Depending on my specific state of organization, this may be literally true.  I could order a book and have it delivered to me before I even ever need to leave the house.

And this whole trade I make with the market place makes me richer.

I value having a book delivered to me more than I value the $10.50 it cost me.  By definition, I become more “wealthy” as a result of this transaction.  As each transaction adds up, I become even MORE wealthy.  Bird food delivered to my door?  More wealthy.  Bakugans for the boy?  More wealthy.

And the genius is that Amazon becomes more wealthy too!  They value the $10.50 more than they value the capital it took to establish the infrastructure to facilitate the sale.  Same with FedEx and the imbedded shipping charges.  And the publisher who printed the book.  And the author who penned it.  None of them would have entered into the arrangement had they not felt so.

We ALL become more wealthy as a result.

And it struck me.  If we reject capitalism, that each man is out to obtain the best value for himself, then what we are saying is that we would only desire to read books written by ourselves.  To wear clothes woven and stitched by ourselves.  Eat food grown or raised by ourselves.  And live i houses built by ourselves.

That, or enjoyed at the coercion of others.

Are there losers in capitalism, even as it functions “properly”?  Yes, without a doubt.  But it is the unmistakable sting of failure that drives us to succeed.  It is the joyous sense of success that drives us to avoid failure.

And so it must be.  It is how we evolved from that first strike of lighting in the primordial mud.  A series of experiments where some failed and withered while others succeeded and thrived.  Evolution is, in a sense, capitalism.

To reject the free market is to reject truth.  And instead rely on “faith”.  Faith that all men, or enough of them, will act in such a manner that is contradictory to his nature.

Last night I spent some time over at alan.com.  Alan Colmes is a liberal commentator on Fox.  He has his own radio show that I enjoy and his blog and chat room are both exceptional.  In fact, it’s because of Alan that I started TarheelRed.  Anyway, so, I was chattin’ up the locals and, as you would expect, found myself in the minority on many topics.

We discussed taxes, education, labor, Presidential politics and even Iran.  The banter was back and forth, very quick and not unpleasant.  It’s hard and frustrating, to be sure, being the only Voice of Reason in a room full of Liberals, but hey, good times.

As I left I had two takeaways:

  1. Democrats and Republicans are very nearly the same.
  2. Very few people understand Liberty

I think that all people, from the Left and the Right, want good things to happen to people.  I think all people wanna help people when they need that help.  I think all people feel that everyone should contribute to society.  I think we’re all on agreement there.  And it goes even further.

Both Republicans and Democrats want to coerce man to cast aside their wicked ways.

The vehicle for the Republicans is Religion.  Via faith and God, the Right attempts to coerce people into doing good things.  The vehicle for the Democrats is the State.  Via laws and guns, the Left attempts to coerce people into doing good things.

We were discussing education.  I tried to make the case that given we ALL want a great educational system, up to and including college, we should work towards building a system that works.  I was immediately accused of wanting to privatize education.  When I admitted that would be preferable I also ceded the argument for the sake of discussion and said we could keep it public.  Even in a public setting, we have room for reform.  For example, disband the unions and allow administrations to hire and fire based on merit.  Provide bonuses and pay increases based on performance.

The response?

I hate teachers and don’t wanna educate the poor.  Why don’t I want the whole country to be educated?  It’s for my own good.  Even evil capitalists want and need educated children and adults.

The premise?

People, left to their own devices, will not find it within themselves to provide an educational experience that satisfies the needs of the society.  And so the Leftist enacts laws, the Conservative pulls on faith, all in an attempt to coerce people into doing what is deemed to be in their self interest.

The folks felt that even college education ought to be free.

I asked them if my neighbor to the west was unable to provide college tuition for his daughter, would I be within my rights to knock on the door of my neighbor to the east and demand money and time from him, by force of gun or sword, in order to provide tuition for my neighbor’s daughter.

They laughed and considered me extreme.

I then asked what real difference is there in THAT scenario and the one where a bunch of people vote to take my eastern neighbors money via the state.  I mentioned that they had a confused sense of Liberty.

Which brings me to point number 2 and perhaps the quote of the year:

Liberty Schmiberty

Sadly, I had to acknowledge that neither the Democrat nor the Republican are interested in Liberty.  Rather, only forcing their brand of charity through their approved vehicle of coercion.

Liberty Schmiberty indeed.

Obama may be the least business friendly President we’ve had in my lifetime:

Washington — Federal regulators have delayed the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy late Wednesday, setting back into plans to merge the two North Carolina-based utilities by the end of the year.

How many corporate deals has this man’s administration destroyed?

Off the top of my head:

  1. Duke-Progress merge
  2. AT&T – TMobile merge
  3. Pipeline
  4. Boeing
  5. Obamacare

That’s just 5.  Right here with little or no thought.

I often tell people that America and being “American” is more of an ideal than a real descriptor of one’s nationality.  For example, if you say he is a “Japanese” you will know that he is a man born and raised in Japan.  His heritage is Japanese.  Same for a German or a Mexican.

But when you say he is an American you can not assume him to have been born in America.  Nor can you assume race or historical nationality.  Rather, American means that quality that embraces the pioneer, the risk taker the lover of freedoms and Liberty.  It is an ideal of hard work results in hard rewards.  Of all the nationalities that one could be, American conjures the bootstrap.

Obama is not American in that sense.  And in that way and measure, when he says he is going to fundamentally transform America, I believe him.