Thursday, March 31, 2011

Almost persuaded...

I would guess it would be accurate to assume that everybody has been influenced by another person at sometime in their lives. I remember that back at Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont influenced me and a few others into trouble on more than one occasion. Invariably, when a questionable activity was discovered by a non-participating student who was on the playground safety patrol, and we were pleading our case before Principal Baker, the first line of defense was usually "Stinky made us do it!". That line of reasoning never carried much weight with the powers to be at the time, and as I grew a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, it started to carry a little less weight with me.

I think what the principal knew at the time, and what I figured out later, is the difference between persuasion and coercion. Admittedly, Stinky could be pretty persuasive, but as long as he didn't threaten us with bodily injury or some other measure of force, we were at liberty to walk away and join Bernice Hawkins on the maypole or some other less controversial means of entertainment.

My parents, who raised 8 of us kids just up the road from Millville, were always pretty good at persuasion, too, although when persuasion failed, they weren't above a little coercion if the situation or attitude made it necessary. Like most families, once we reached adulthood, the use of coercion and force gave way to persuasion and logic.

I think that's how things ought to work. Most of us in our day to day lives rely on persuasion. I operate a small construction business, and I spend part of my time trying to persuade people to hire us for the job they want done. If I can't come up with a way to persuade them to do that, then I start looking for people with another job that I can persuade.

Sometimes people try to persuade us to work for them, and sometimes we just can't work it in to our schedule. I assume they end up persuading someone else to work for them. However things work out, it's all based on persuasion. I don't get to force anybody to hire us, and no one gets to force us to work for them.

Every Sunday, the newspapers are chock full of advertisements that try to persuade us to buy from one store or another. It's been my experience that some stores are more persuasive than others, and certainly some people are more easily persuaded than others, but you likely won't see a store employee dragging a customer in from the street and forcing them to make a purchase.

That's how people generally deal with other people. Government, however, doesn't quite work that way. George Washington correctly pointed out that: "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master."

Every law, regulation, rule or tax that the government adopts is backed with force or the threat of force. While on a personal level we might try to persuade our friends to wear their seatbelts or donate to a charity, when the government gets involved, persuasion gives way to coercion and force, in the form of fines and jail sentences. Or worse.

Libertarians believe that the proper role of government is to protect us from the initiation of force and fraud, and otherwise allow adults to make their own decisions based on peaceful persuasion. We think limiting government to its proper role is the best way to limit the amount of force and coercion it can inflict on its citizens.

I hope eventually we're able to persuade more people to feel the same.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Between the lines...

Our house is located in with a row of houses along the highway, and when I'm telling someone who is trying to locate our house how to identify it, along with telling them the address, I usually say "There is a flagpole in the front yard".

I guess I can still do that, but after a driver apparently dozed off and ran off of the road, the description "flagpole in the front yard" has taken on a different meaning.

We were glad, of course, that no one was injured, but we did hate to lose that flagpole. And then there's also the matter of the flagpole being stuck to the front of his truck as it continued across the driveway, hooking on the telephone and cable television lines as it went.

I figured I could live without the internet for a few days until the phone company was able to get out and hook the lines back up, and cell phones have replaced the land line for the most part, anyway. I guess we keep the land line for the fax machine that we don't use all that much anymore.

We still had the TV stations that come in over the satellite dish, which we kept because of the channels our children and grandchildren like, that we couldn't afford from cable TV, which we got because we couldn't get local news stations on the satellite.

But since the usual option of getting most of my news from the internet and local TV stations didn't exist, I tried a couple of satellite TV options. Briefly.

We've been trying to teach our grandchildren, as we were taught, and as we tried to teach our children, that it's proper and polite to allow another person to finish speaking before you speak. Apparently nobody taught the people at FOX or MSNBC anything along those lines.

At any rate, I'm glad I still get newspapers, and I'm glad the cable guy and the telephone guy showed up today.

And I thanked them when they were done.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Seems to me...

A couple of decades ago, we built a new house for Wally and Sarah on their farm north of Hagerstown. Shortly after we started the project, I noticed Sarah was carrying around a huge alarm clock while she was working in the yard.

When I scolded Wally soundly for being too frugal to buy her a wrist watch, Sarah spoke up and explained that she had turned on the water to fill the tank for the cattle, and she wouldn't put the alarm clock down until she remembered to turn the water off.

Things aren't always as they seem.

Lee Wrights wrote today that Democrats can't sleep because they are worrying that someone somewhere is making to much money, and Republicans can't sleep because they are worrying that someone somewhere is having to much fun.

I'm not sure that's true, but sometimes that sure how it seems.

Sounds fair to me...

I guess it doesn't take much to make some people mad. A lot of the public employees in Wisconsin are upset because the legislature in Wisconsin has proposed a bill that would require government employees to pay 5.8% of their own pensions & 12.6% of health care, and allow government employees the freedom to choose to not join the union.

I've always figured the fairest way to handle such things would be to pay people a reasonable wage for the service they perform, and then allow them to decide how to handle their own pensions and heath care. And I always figured people have always had the right to decide whether or not they wanted to join a union. Of course, I also figured people have the right to decide whether or not they want to deal with someone that is in a union.

But sometimes just thinking that seems to be enough to make some people mad,too.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

More or less...

Susan and I went out for a sandwich tonight, and a young man approached our table and told us that he found my name on the wall of a house that he had just purchased. He was stripping wallpaper that I had hung in 1977 according to the diary that I wrote on the wall.

I started signing the walls before I papered them because I always enjoyed uncovering the dates, along with the signatures and thoughts of Merton Grills and Russell Werking, a couple of Hagerstown paperhangers that preceded me in the trade. I wrote on the walls of a lot of homes and businesses in Wayne and Henry counties. If you want to know what the weather was like on November 12th, 1976, I imagine it's recorded on a wall somewhere. Maybe in Martha's kitchen or dining room. Or maybe Thelma's.

When I started hanging wallpaper 40 years ago, a roll of wallpaper contained 36 square feet. We usually bought it in double rolls, 72 feet if I did my gazinta's right. Somewhere along the line they started selling wallpaper in bolts. 28 square feet. 56 in a double bolt. Then, after a few years they started calling the bolts, rolls. I think they just figured out a way to beat us out of 8 feet of paper.

I imagine most people today think a roll of wallpaper is supposed to contain 28 square feet, but Merton and Russell and I know better. They're probably over it by now. Me, not so much.

Sometimes when I wasn't hanging wallpaper, I was nailing on shingles. When I first started nailing on shingles, you could buy them at Losantville Lumber for $7.00 per square. Back then a square was 100 square feet. I always figured that was something we would be able to count on for a long time, and I guess we did count on it for quite a while.

But the other day I was nailing on some shingles, and I noticed on the wrapper that a square now contains 98.4 square feet. Of course, now they call it a "sales square", and they charge $83.90 for it.

And probably before too long they'll just call it a square.

But I'll know better.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Say watt?...

From the "Glimmer of Hope" department, I saw the other day that a couple of legislators from South Carolina have introduced a bill that would allow people to manufacture and sell incandescent light bulbs in South Carolina. That normally wouldn't be such a big deal, except that a couple of years ago the federal government passed a law making incandescent light bulbs illegal starting in 2012.

You might ask just where the federal government thinks it gets the authority to tell us what kind of light bulbs we have to use. Good question. They'll tell you that the interstate commerce clause, which was inserted into the Constitution to prevent individual states from adopting protective tariffs, now gives the federal government the power to regulate everything from soup to nuts, to health care. Of course, they'd be wrong.

So if the bill in South Carolina passes, light bulbs made in South Carolina and used in South Carolina won't be subject to federal regulation on interstate trade, just as guns made in Montana and sold in Montana won't be subject to federal law.

Hopefully, if this catches on, we'll end up with all 50 states thumbing their collective yet individual noses at every over-reaching law or mandate Washington throws our way.

That would be a switch.


The writing on the wall...

There are a lot of things that I don't remember from high school. I don't remember much from Mrs. Warner's Latin I or Latin II. Sometimes I think I can remember things that I really can't, and then sometimes I just remember them wrong. I guess as soon as I realized that I probably wasn't going to be accepted to medical school, Latin just didn't seem quite so important.

I do tend to remember things that I think are important a little bit better. In Driver's Education, Mr. Harrison taught us that we should stay behind the car we were following the distance of one car length per each 10 miles per hour we were traveling, so that if you were driving 60 miles per hour, you would be six car lengths behind. He said that even if you couldn't get stopped in that distance, at least you would have time to swerve and avoid a crash, or slow down enough that the damage wouldn't be as great. I always thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. My old buddy Stinky Wilmont always thought it was just a waste of road.

I guess cars are a lot shorter now than they were when I was in high school, so I'm not sure that strategy would be as effective nowadays. I heard a commercial a while back from an insurance company, and they recommended staying three seconds behind the car in front of you. That sounded like a good idea too, but the last time I left three seconds between me and the car in front of me, two semi's, a motor home, and a Good Humor ice cream truck managed to squeeze into the opening.

I'm convinced we could save ourselves a lot of misery if we paid a little more attention to what was happening in front of us, and reacted a little better before we reach that point.

We've known for a long time that the federal government has been spending more money than it is collecting. Some people see this and think the federal government ought not to spend so much money. Some people just think it ought to collect more. And while we were watching that, but not really doing anything about it, the individual states started doing the same thing.

This year California is on pace to spend $25 billion more than collects. Illinois is looking at $13 billion. New Jersey is at about $11 billion. Some states decided that it might be time to put a check on some of their spending, but once you're $25 billion in the hole, it's about like hitting the brakes after you've already hit the wall. And then there are some people in some of those states don't believe they have a problem, just like Stinky Wilmont never believed it was possible he could ever have an accident.

Indiana's budget gap is still in the millions instead of billions. I'm not sure that qualifies us to consider ourselves lucky, but it does give us a little more braking time than some of the other states have allowed themselves.

Hopefully we can take advantage of that and start making the necessary adjustments before we hit the wall.