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Thursday, March 15, 2018

The 10-Second Fast

The Ten-Second Fast

A lot of people want to test themselves during Lent by learning how to fast. That is a laudable endeavor. But not everyone can fast.

Diabetics, children, the aged, pregnant women... there is a long list of people who, for various medical reasons, simply cannot fast. Or, you might not have a medical reason, but you might still be unable to fast. For instance, you might find yourself in a social situation where it would insult the host if you did not consume food. Catholic Faith is not meant to insult people. As long as you break no Church law, then breaking your fast with your host is the charitable thing to do. The person you interact with is an image of Christ, the Bridegroom. You don't want to let your personal fast turn you into the man at the wedding feast who refuses to eat.

So, does this mean that if you have a medical condition or are in an awkward social situation, you cannot fast?

No, not at all.

Remember, apart from the prescribed fasting times, such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday or the Eucharistic Fast, there is no "minimum length" to a fast. There are people who have tried to fast for 40 days (the Church recommends against this, by the way). Bully for them. But that is really not necessary. The Eucharistic fast used to be a lot longer than the single hour we now observe. But the fact that it is shorter is not really the problem people make it out to be.

As St. Thérèse of Lisieux observed:
I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is wholly new. We live in an age of inventions; nowadays the rich need not trouble to climb the stairs, they have lifts instead. Well, I mean to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. [...] Thine Arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven. To get there I need not grow; on the contrary, I must remain little, I must become still less.
In honor or her brilliant, insightful way of presenting the ancient teaching, we recognize the truth: it isn't the length or difficulty of the task that makes it holy, it is the love which with the task is done. The rich man may give away his wealth, but if the beggar woman throws her penny into the collection with great love, than her contribution is greater than that of the rich man who loves less.

And so we find the meat of the matter. If the length of the fast isn't really relevant (and, apart from the Church's prescribed fasts, it isn't), then a Catholic's voluntary fast can be of any length. Even ten seconds is enough. And anyone can do a 10-second fast.

Have you just become aware that you are thirsty?
Then, while you contemplate God with love, simply refrain from drinking anything for a count of ten.

You have fasted.
Now take your drink of water, satisfy your health needs, make your host smile, and no one is the wiser but you.

Done with great love, this ten-second fast is a greater accomplishment than a 40-day fast. You can fast for the whole of Lent, in ten-second, five-second, one-second increments, here and there, scattered throughout your day. Diabetic, pregnant, child - it matters not. You still consume all you need for health of the body, while fasting as you need for the health of the soul.

And so the day becomes holy, and God is woven into your life, and Lent fulfills its purpose.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Laissez-Faire Capitalism is a Unicorn

Everyone goes on about how chimerical socialism is. The defenders of socialism always insist that it has never actually been implemented anywhere. The opponents of socialism point out that every attempt to implement it results in economic collapse and a slew of body bags. Opponents are therefore correct to point out that socialism is a complete failure.

But laissez-faire capitalism is no better. Supporters insist that small government is really best, as small government encourages the free reign of capitalism. But every time capitalism is tried, we get big government, not small government. The only time anyone ever got small government was right after a revolution turned over the apple cart. As soon as the revolution is over, government grows, because it can't do anything else. 

Just as socialism always leads to big government and body bags, so laissez-faire capitalism always leads to big government and bureaucracy. It cannot do anything else. The very definition of how to be a good capitalist involves maximizing all streams of revenue. Government is, and always will be, one of those revenue streams, so it is always in the interest of capitalists to grow the government, just as he would grow any other aspect of his business.

Big government allows successful capitalists to suppress the competition, via government's law-making ability, and to increase revenue, via government's taxing ability. Any good capitalist is going to take advantage of those attributes. If he doesn't, he isn't a good capitalist.

This is why there is always a revolving door between business and government. Business needs ex-government leaders in-house, so they have experts available in how to co-opt government. Government needs ex-business leaders in-house so it knows how best to facilitate income generation and tax revenue streams. A good businessman always tried to capture government, and government will always allow itself to be captured, because it is run by businessmen who came in through the revolving door.

Laissez-faire capitalism ineluctably grows the government. Precisely because capitalism leads to the best businessmen getting the best outcomes for their businesses, it cannot do anything else.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How to Teach Math

Several years ago, I wrote a column explaining why math is an important subject. In it, I pointed out that the actual content, that is, the actual mathematical manipulations, didn't really matter.  What matters in math is the meta-concepts.

To be successful in math, you have to master an approach to the world that is inherently useful. College majors typically require mastery of a math course not because anyone cares about math, but because passing a math course is the easiest way to demonstrate mastery of the meta-concepts that everyone actually does care about.

Once you realize that math is about meta-concepts, and not about math at all, teaching math becomes really very easy.

1) Buy a math notebook.

Every frustrated math student, everyone who is poor at math, has one thing in common: they don't organize their work. They scribble numbers down all over the page without regard to sequence. If students learn ANYTHING in math, they must learn to break that habit.

So, beginning students should be actively discouraged from doing math in their heads. Yes, I know the Math-Bowl encourages this for the advanced students who compete, but it's not a good idea for beginners. Beginners need the external structure. So, buy a THICK, empty math notebook, with lots of empty pages.

2) Throw out the calculator

For basic math, they don't need it.

Calculators interrupt the student's concentration, forcing him to alternate between doing the procedure the problem requires and doing the procedure the machine requires, figuring out the correct sequence of key punches.

Calculators are mostly a distraction. No one needs a calculator until they start doing trigonometry or statistics. If they aren't doing either, then let them learn the multiplication tables.

If you think calculators should be allowed on basic math tests, then why shouldn't cell phones and internet access be allowed for reference on history or English tests? The Internet is the equivalent of a history or grammar calculator. Why bog down the student with memorization of useless dates and grammar rules when they could be doing higher-order stuff?

Now, watch the history and English teachers howl in outrage that you should suggest such a thing. Watch the math teachers smile sadly and say, "Yeah, well, welcome to our world, suckers."

3) Write down each step

The student must write down each problem as follows:
  1. On the first line, the problem itself
  2. On the second and subsequent lines, write each successive step.
  3. No more than one operation (add, subtract, multiply, divide) is permitted in any step.
  4. The answer is written at the bottom of the step sequence. 
No scribbling in side margins allowed at all. Don't allow multiple operations in any one step because beginning students get themselves confused easily. Each step does exactly one thing, that is all.

Ignore their whining. Even if a beginning student gets the answer correct, the problem is wrong if they haven't shown all their steps. Make that clear. Stand over them for a month, enforce it, and they will gain the habit. Ingraining into them this single, solitary little trick solves over half your math problems overnight.

4) A fresh sheet of paper for every problem 

Math is not an exercise in conserving paper. Be profligate. Paper costs less than half a cent a sheet. Splurge. Once they have successfully trained themselves to write out every step, you can alter this rule to allow more than one problem per page, but even then NEVER let them break a problem over two sheets of paper. Ever. No. I mean it, don't do it.

Beginning students get a feeling of accomplishment from seeing all their work laid out neatly at a glance. It feels restful, as the eye glides downhill through the gears of the problem and finally takes up its ease at the bottom of the sequence, peacefully resting upon the (correct) answer.

5) When they get stuck

First, if there is ANY sign of margin scribbling, turn the old sheet of paper face-down, start on a fresh sheet.
Do it.
If you start on the old sheet, all the old scribblings will be a distraction. The student will wander down rabbit-trails trying to figure out what went wrong with the previous procedure. Clear his mind. Start fresh. Give him the gift of new eyes and a clean slate.

Now, math teaches a lot of (seemingly) arbitrary procedures. The student has to know all the procedures and know when to apply which procedure. Both parts of this are hard, but the second part - knowing when to apply which procedure - is the hardest. So, when he gets stuck and isn't sure what to do next, here's what you do:
  • Ask him a question you are sure he can answer.
  • When he answers correctly, affirm it ("That's right."), 
  • Rinse and repeat. Ask a series of questions, each one of which you are confident he can answer.
  • Build that series of questions so as to lead him to or through the correct procedure.
  • In basic math, this question will always come up at some point: "Do you think you would add, subtract, multiply or divide?" Those are the four basic operations, and one of them is almost certainly going to be part of the path to solving the problem. 
  • The student is almost always able to weed out at least a couple of the operations. That instills self-confidence, it shows partial mastery.
  • Don't give the student the answer. 
  • Ever. 
  • Always respond with a question you know s/he can answer.
  • Once s/he has gotten the answer, point out the truth: "I didn't tell you the answer. All I did was ask questions. You KNEW all the answers. You already KNEW how to do it."
  • And the student DID know how to do it. He just needs to internalize how to ask himself the same series of questions you asked.
  • Don't point this out. 
  • Simply keep repeating this sequence with him on every problem he has, week in, week out, making sure he writes down every problem step-by-step
  • He will learn to internalize the question sequence himself. He will start asking and answering his own questions. 
  • At that point, you can go bake brownies.
  • This whole sequence only takes a couple of months to instill. 
Once this basic skill set is instilled, it is now permissible to have the student walk through the steps of a failed problem to see where the mistake was made.
  • If each step has only one operation, it will be relatively easy to see which step failed. 
  • Now the student will see the wisdom of the step-by-step process.
  • He doesn't have to re-do every problem from scratch. 
  • He can find and correct his own mistakes easily.
  • Once he realizes this, math becomes almost bearable.

6) When YOU get stuck

Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know. Let's Google it." You don't have to know everything in math. In fact, you don't have to know ANYTHING about math. Remember, math isn't about math. Math is about learning how to be
  • organized, 
  • good at documenting details, 
  • good at being detail-oriented, and 
  • good at following and trusting arbitrary procedures.
None of those skills require you to know the arbitrary procedures yourself. Even if you are no good at math, you will naturally be better at searching for the correct way to do it. Model how to search for the right way to do things. Have your student watch you as you bumble along, figuring it out.

The student thereby learns:
(1) it is ok to not know something,
(2) this is how you find out what you don't know,
(3) Searching for the right procedure takes time and that's also ok,
(3) Perseverance can be as important, or more important, than possessing knowledge.

That's all there is to teaching math.

Well, that and liberal use of Khan Academy. Yes, I have a degree in computer science, minor in math, and have taught developmental math at the college level for years, but I taught my children almost no math at all. There's no point. Khan Academy teaches the concepts as well or better than I could. I only got involved if a video was opaque (unusual) or a solution sequence unclear (also unusual).

Often-times, I would walk along through the Khan Academy solution to the problem as perplexed about the correct sequence as my child was. It's not like I remember most of the stuff I learned thirty or forty years ago. We would discover the solution together, which was rather fun.

No, the only way I have ever taught math was to follow the sequence I have described above. It works.


A friend reminds me that I have omitted an important step.  Obviously, patience on the part of both teacher and student is a developed skill that is the absolute key to the method, on both parts.

But here's the step I'm missing: constantly remind the student that math requires only one thing - it simply requires you to be as perfect as God. You can't make any mistakes. Easy, eh?

I used to regale the children with stories of mathematicians who made very simple mistakes and destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment, or entirely killed people. Everyone makes math mistakes, even the most skilled engineers and mathematicians. As I have frequently pointed out, I am a math teacher because I have gotten thousands more problems wrong than any of my students. My students can only become math teachers if they have failed as often as I have.

Fail early and often!
Join our club!

Is Wealth Inequality Bad?

Many people, including Pope Francis, rail against wealth inequality. From an economic perspective, it is not at all clear why. Wealth inequality actually corresponds quite well with the rising tide of affluence throughout the world. Right now, during a period of the most extreme wealth inequality between nations ever, we are also on the verge of wiping out extreme poverty. This is not a coincidence.

I have noted before that the office of the papacy does not include the requirement that the Pope be very knowledgeable of economic theory, nor that he be very intelligent in his comments on it. While the Church has a duty to serve the poor, the method by which the poor are best served is largely prudential - different people might legitimately choose different means to solve it. Wealth inequality, by itself, is not a sin so long as everyone's minimum requirements for food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care ad basic human dignity are being met. Quite frankly, all but the last of those minimum needs are being met much better today, in a time of enormous wealth inequality, then they have ever been met in the entire course of human history.

In fact, things have gotten so much physically better precisely as a result of growing wealth inequality. Wealth inequality is correlated with EVERYONE getting out of poverty.
The "trickle-down" theory of Reaganomics is a fine example of how inequalities actually help everyone. Even Ted Kennedy admitted that much. The rising tide which brings incredible wealth to the 1% ALSO lifts the 99% out of poverty. The mechanics for how it works is very straightforward.

Take laparoscopic surgery, for instance. When I was young, that was only an option for millionaires. But, as more millionaires bought the procedure, economies of scale kicked in and semi-millionaires could afford it. There were a lot more semi-millionaires than there were millionaires, so scale kicked in again, repeatedly. As cost fell, more and more people could afford it, so more and more people did it, which dropped costs still further. The increase in scale also meant the procedure became increasingly streamlined and efficient, if only so as to handle the demand better.

Today, laparoscopic surgery is standard procedure for gallbladder and appendix removal, among a host of other applications. It provides cheap out-patient surgery that simply didn't exist 50 years ago. Why? Because millionaires volunteered to act as the guinea pigs. They were the only ones who could originally afford it. As they and their extremely well-paid doctors refined the procedure, it became increasingly available to the rest of us. Today, it is so common that it doesn't merit mention.

The same thing happened with cell phones. The original radio phones and cell phones were the size of bread boxes and cost more than any average Joe could possibly afford. But millionaires needed to stay in constant contact with their businesses and with the stock market, so they bought the tech. They served as the guinea pigs. As scale increased, price dropped, efficiencies improved. Now, literally everyone in the US can afford cell phones. And not just cell phones. Today's phones are the 1960s equivalents of super-computers that fit in our pocket and put us in touch with most of humanity's combined store of knowledge. The rich people and their richly rewarded tech outfits worked out the kinks. We have all benefited.

THAT is what wealth inequality does. It allows millionaires to act as guinea pigs for new tech. If it doesn't work, they waste their money and/or die. If it DOES work, then I get the tech about fifteen years later, because by then, the cost has dropped down to where even I can afford it.

Wealth inequality is an extremely efficient way to utilize resources. If I have a new tech idea, I can either try to convince tens of thousands of middle-class people to fund my idea, at great personal risk to each of their wealth stores, OR I can convince one extremely wealthy person to fund it at minimal risk to his wealth store. It was easier to do the latter than the former. Even today, being on Shark Tank will bring you funding in literally 20 minutes, while promoting the same project on Kickstarter will take days, weeks, or months to accomplish the same level of funding. It is far easier for Elon Musk to guide a project like the Falcon Heavy or BFR to successful completion than it is for ten thousand people to agree on how to do so, and that assumes you could get the funding from that ten thousand at all.

Wealth inequality is not the problem many people make it out to be. In fact, wealth inequality has historically been the solution which has made us all fabulously wealthy by any historical standard you care to name. Because of wealth inequality, the rich are willing to serve as the experimental guinea pigs necessary to bring functioning solutions to the masses. That's not a bad thing.

We have a knee-jerk reaction against wealth accumulation because we innately see the world as a zero-sum game. And the fallen world often acts and reacts as if it were. But the whole point of Christianity is to change our world-view. A Christian understands that God's grace and power are infinite, therefore the zero-sum game view can never be correct. Insofar as we image God, we have the ability to change our world from being zero-sum to being infinitely resourceful and wealthy.

Can we create Utopia? Physically, sure. Spiritually, not a chance. We are still fallen creatures, and that will always prevent us from establishing any real paradise on earth. We are slowly solving the problem of physical poverty. It really is going to disappear, possibly in our lifetimes.

But spiritual poverty? As long as anyone in the world is not Catholic, then the world still suffers from extreme spiritual poverty. THAT is the wealth inequality which we, as Catholics, need to remedy. Fortunately, from that viewpoint, Catholics are the rich one-percent. We have infinite resources that can be delivered to the poor among us, and make them all wealthy too. As physical riches percolate out into the world, that is the only wealth inequality we really need to be concerned about.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Hepatitis C: We Pay More, Thank God

This is a popular meme floating around the Internet. Sometimes it picks India, sometimes Egypt, but the idea is the same. The US pays 84 times or 250 times or some ungodly percentage more than these lousy third world countries! Why are US citizens being gouged?

Well, to put it bluntly, US citizens are NOT being gouged. When all things are considered, those prices are all pretty fair. To begin with, let us simply accept the numbers above without argument. For this analysis, we shall add some numbers of our own.

Country  Price / pill  % of US cost Median Income  % of US Income  Hep C Prevalence 
 USA  $1000  100%    $51,700   100%   3.2 million
 Egypt  $    11      1%    $  5,680     11%   38 million
 India  $      4      0.4%    $  3,800       7%  10-15 million

So, the average American earns 10x as much as the average Egyptian and roughly fifteen time as much as the average Indian. One would think, based just on this, that the average Egyptian treatment would cost one-tenth as much. That is, it would seem the price should be $100 per pill in Egypt, for instance.

But, then we have to factor in the prevalence of the disease. Egypt has 10x as many cases of hepatitis C, India has 3-5x times as many cases of the disease. So, we have to knock down the Egyptian price by another factor of ten (due to volume) and lo! The price is pretty much correct. When you factor in both India's disease prevalence and income, even the Indian price is not that far off.

There's no reason to stop with the table above, though. Try factoring in the sub-populations that actually get infected with hepatitis C and therefor have to pay these different prices. The "disparity" becomes even more interesting.

In the United States, hepatitis C is primarily the scourge of IV drug users and, to a lesser extent, homosexuals. Homosexuals tend to be richer than the average American. They are narcissists who have no children, and who claw their way up the corporate ladder quite efficiently, that is, they tend to get paid more. Conversely, in Egypt and India, hepatitis C most adversely effects the poorest of the poor. It is the poor in these countries who are the least likely to have access to clean water.

So, let's summarize those numbers with fresh eyes. In general, American IV drug users and homosexuals are subsidizing the medical treatment of the poorest of the poor in the Third World.

Personally, I can find no reason to object to this arrangement.
Can you?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

On the Absurdity of IQ Tests

My daughter read this Huffington Post story, and asked me what the big deal was about IQ tests. Here's what I told her.
What you are reading is one voice in a LONG argument that has extended for at least the last fifty years.

IQ testing unquestionably has eugenics origins. It was invented by eugenicists, administered by them and normed by them.
The whole point of IQ testing was originally to keep southern Europeans, Mexicans and Asians out of the country.

This is bad. Eugenicists are not nice people. They say that some people are more valuable than others, they support abortion, euthanasia, yada, yada, yada. It is a very ugly philosophy. Unfortunately, a lot of interesting results have come from these eugenics-inspired tests.

For instance, over the course of time, IQ has steadily risen across the board throughout every aspect of the population. No one is quite sure why this has been happening for the last century, but the suspicion is that improvements in nutrition and medicine, along with reductions in pollution (especially the removal of lead from gasoline and household paints, which greatly reduced the blood levels of lead in all populations, especially the poor) contributed quite a lot to this effect.

No matter how the tests have been "fixed", on average, Asians always score the best, whites second, Hispanics third and blacks fourth. Women always cluster close to the mean, men always scatter out so that (a) their mean is lower and (b) there are more outliers at BOTH ends of the IQ scale. This doesn't speak to any particular individual, of course, only averages.

During the 1950s and 60s, the argument was made that the IQ test was really a test of culture, not a test of IQ, so in the intervening 50 years, there have been many attempts to "fix" them so that they really do measure intelligence. The problem is, none of the "fixes" seemed to cause the various sub-populations to test the same. Some subpopulations always test smarter, other always test stupider.

No matter how the tests have been "fixed", on average, Asians always score the best, whites second, Hispanics third and blacks fourth. Women always cluster close to the mean, men always scatter out so that (a) their mean is lower and (b) there are more outliers at BOTH ends of the IQ scale. This doesn't speak to any particular individual, of course, only averages.

People who want the tests to reveal absolutely no real differences between different genetic populations always insist the tests are skewed, but they can't figure out how to fix them so that they don't produce these results. Psychologists have pretty much given up. They admit privately that there are real differences in the average IQ of various populations, but they can't say this out loud without being called "racist" or some such, so you get articles like the one you found, where people who don't like the results sob loudly for their lost cause, and psychologists shift uncomfortably from foot to foot, then state firmly that they are going out for a beer and does anyone else want them to pick up something while they are out?

The major problem with IQ tests is that they only measure the ability to engage in rational thought. They don't measure a person's happiness in life, they don't measure how happy one person makes someone else. They don't measure artistic ability, musical ability, the ability to care for or empathize with animals, other human beings, etc.

The original high-IQ society, Mensa, was envisioned to become a powerhouse of world happiness. Put all these really smart people together in a room, the reasoning went, and they would solve the world's problems. But the actual organization has never solved anyone's problems. None of the dozens of high-IQ societies that have been created since Mensa have done anything useful either. Each one seems to be a way for one smaller group of people to pretend to be superior to some other slightly larger group of people (the top 1% vs the top 0.1% vs the top 0.01% and so on).

In fact, all IQ tests seem to do is produce high-IQ societies filled with people who do really hard crossword puzzles and odd math sequences while dressing oddly. So, the whole debate is, at this point, kind of stupid. Sure, some high-IQ people do useful things, but a lot of high-IQ people really don't do anything useful, so what's the point here?

It's the modern equivalent of arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin: how many IQ points does it take before you actually accomplish something useful? Take Marilyn vos Savant, for instance, who has highest IQ ever recorded (note that she is female, in contradiction to the average). She hasn't done a single useful thing in her life, apart from making money off her IQ score. She hasn't invented anything, accomplished anything that helped anyone in any serious way - in terms of helping society, she has completely wasted her life. So... who really cares about IQ? What does it ultimately buy us?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Paying Tribute to America

In ancient times, any country conquered by Rome had to pay tribute to Rome. These vassal states had to spend their own resources to build up stores of grain, honey, and other trade goods in order to ship them to Rome for free, or at a greatly reduced price. This was how they acknowledge Rome's hegemony over them.

Today, countries acknowledge America's hegemony by doing the same thing. Other countries build up stores of trade goods at their own expense and ship those goods to us at a greatly reduced price, a price subsidized by foreign governments, in the hopes that we will buy those goods.

From an economic perspective, Trump's "Buy American" policy runs counter to his "Make America Great Again" policy. America proves her economic greatness when vassal countries ship us cheap goods whose manufacture has been subsidized by foreign governments. Whenever the foreign government throws government money at producing a good that will be sold in the US, that government has essentially sent us a check to help us prop up our economy. Foreign-subsidized goods that enter the US are as much free money as any cashier's check, grain shipment or oil shipment we send for cheap or free to a third-world country.

Americans frequently complain about the amount of free money we send to other governments, other countries. They almost never acknowledge that foreign-subsidized goods are free money that those foreign states send to us. Every dollar a foreign government spends to produce a good is a dollar in tax that they pay to America in exchange for the privilege of being allowed to sell to Americans. Foreign subsidies of goods are nothing more than tax dollars paid by foreign citizens, collected and paid, by foreign governments, as tribute to the United States.

Thus, forcing American government projects to "buy American" is absurd. We should be buying the least expensive material from whoever produces it. If we are lucky, foreign countries will subsidize the production of the steel, oil, etc., that we use in our projects. When we build American projects on American soil, any decent economist would much prefer the material in those projects come from companies that are subsidized by foreign governments. That's free money for us.The "trade deficit" is not a bug, it's a feature. It proves that America receives more money from vassal states than she sends out.
"It is no coincidence that the smallest American merchandise trade deficit since 1982, $74 billion in 1991, occurred during the period’s only recession."

To reiterate, foreign government subsidies of any industrial good we import is nothing more or less than a foreign country paying tribute to America. Foreign subsidies acknowledge American economic superiority. THAT is what I want. Do you want to Make America Great Again? Buy foreign goods. Make sure the world keeps paying its taxes to us.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Corporations and the American Dream

Libertarians, those political teenagers who want to have their cake and eat it too, always complain about government over-regulation and the imposition of other people's values. "We should have the right to live as we please, without government interference!" they cry. "Enough of government regulation!"

But the absurdity of their position is apparent after a moment's thought. The government "over-regulates" - what a judgemental word! Doesn't that word impose libertarian values on others, wherein some random libertarian gets to determine what counts as 'over-regulation'? And what if large corporations WANT a lot of regulations? Shouldn't it be their right to try to get those regulations in place, if they want them?

Corporations donate their executives to government and draw their executives from government. Corporations write and pay for the implementation of laws that will protect their business from competition. "Government" is just the word we use for corporations working together to protect their respective turfs. Large government and "over-regulation" is a natural result of a free market in which some people do MUCH better than others, and want to keep it that way. Has it never occurred to anyone that using words like "crony capitalism" and "over-regulation" is just as much an imposition of values on everyone as insisting on income equality is?

And this is another point that libertarians don't quite understand. Yes, it is demonstrably true that income inequality has been associated with the largest improvement of the world's general welfare in human history. In 1800, everyone was equally poor: no matter how much money you had, you still got smallpox and polio, your cattle died of rinderpest, you couldn't buy air-conditioning, antibiotics, analgesics, laparoscopic surgery, a cellphone, or a 2017 Honda Odyssey. Now, you can be in the most extreme poverty, yet you won't die of smallpox, your cattle won't die of rinderpest, and you had, as of 2017, 16 chances out of 7 billion of getting polio. You may not have direct access to air-conditioning, antibiotics or a cellphone, but you likely know someone who could gift you any of those things in a heartbeat. Income inequality is real, and it is one of the hallmarks of a much less impoverished world.

In short, it is demonstrably the case that income inequality has reduced poverty throughout the world. Income inequality arises because some people are much better at serving everyone's needs than other people are. The people who are best at serving other people's needs get physically rewarded. They are rich.

I don't have any problem with people being unequally rewarded for having unequally served people's needs - those who do it better should be better rewarded. I am perfectly fine with income inequality. But let's not pretend that "over-regulation" and "crony government" is anything other than what it is: "over-regulation" is the capitalist system working as libertarians think it should. Big government is the result of successful corporations creating favorable turf for themselves out of a shared resource (government).

According to libertarian theory, there should be nothing wrong with that, especially if it contributes to income inequality. And it will, because "over-regulation" and "cronyism" will keep out most entreprenurial upstarts, forcing those wannabees to endure poverty because they can't get past the government regulations. This allows corporations to continue to acquire massive wealth and increase the income inequality that ends up helping everyone. Just as jailers find it easier to serve prisoners if every prisoner is regimented in his own cell, so corporations find it easier to serve customers if all the customers can be trained to want the same thing and respond the same way to the same stimuli.

You own a gun, corporations pretty much own law enforcement. You have pets, corporations have customers. You allow your pets to do what they want, as long as they aren't defecating in your house or getting on the couch. Corporations allow customers to do what they want, as long as they don't compete with the corporate profits at year's end.

If corporations are "persons", and they are, then they have as much right to do what they want as you and I. If what corporations want is to regulate things so as to maximize profits, well, that's the American dream, right?

Perversion on the Liberal Left

The left lionizes homosexuality, trans-sexuals and the whole LGBTQwxyz thing but is happy to label heterosexual interactions (men chasing women or women chasing men) "perversion".