Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Law vs Brains

    My alarm clock tunes into a popular morning show in the Oklahoma City area, Jack & Ron. This morning, as it went off, some twit was calling in to the show and talking about how her 4-year-old daughter had been seriously injured in an ATV accident. No more details than that, unfortunately. But the next thing out of her mouth was how there is a bill pending in the Oklahoma state legislature, to ban all ATV riders under the age of 16, and how she wanted everyone out there to support it.


    How about "parenting"? Ever heard of keeping track of your 4-year-old daughter? Ever heard of personal responsibility? Why is it that everytime someone in this country suffers a tragedy, the first place they look to "fix it" is the government? My kid got injured in an accident. Fix it with a law. I can't find a job in my field, and I don't want to learn any new skills. Fix it with protectionism. I eat too much, and now I'm fat. Fix it by taxing junk food. I forgot to save for retirement. Fix it with a wealth redistribution program.

    And the real tragedy is, if you can make a good whine about it, and get enough others to join in your pity party, democracy will let you try to do just that: "fix it" by passing a law and forcing everyone else to live in your child-safe Nerfworld because you're too afraid to leave the house without Uncle Sam holding your hand. What a great system.

    Posted by Tom, 12/21/2005 7:09:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Quote of the Day

    "[I]n a free society, a profit is a signal that valuable services are being rendered to people on a voluntary basis."

    -- Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Speaking of Liberty

    Why quote of the day? Because it has become fashionable in American society to refer to "making a profit" as something akin to rape or murder: a crime which demands punishment and moral outrage. Never mind that every employee is making a profit from his or her work, or that without profits we'd have nowhere near the economy we presently enjoy in America. Making an honest, free-market profit should be seen as the good thing it is -- I offered a product or service for a price, kept my costs below that price, and someone else voluntarily chose to buy my product and accepted my price.

    Posted by Tom, 12/20/2005 7:21:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Goose-stepping to the feminazi march

    Cathy Young posts an excellent rant about the latest orders coming down to women from Feminazi HQ.

    For years, most feminists have stressed respect for women's choices. Now comes Hirshman, saying that ''choice feminism" was a mistake. Feminism, she argues, needs to become more judgmental and tell traditional women that their choices are bad for society...


    For one, the feminist movement is not a totalitarian regime. It has no power to mobilize women to follow the party line in their personal lives, as Hirshman wants. (Her script includes choosing a husband whose career is least likely to eclipse yours, and having no more than one child until the government coughs up day care.) And, if feminists start disparaging women's ''incorrect" choices, women will likely tell them to buzz off. Hirshman's tone is insufferably patronizing: women, she laments, think they're making free choices and never realize that their lives are shaped by traditional sex roles and by feminism's failure to revolutionize the family.

    Yeah, that's the way to get people to do what you want. Insult them.

    Cathy closes with this powerful slap:

    Should feminism strive for more flexible roles and more sharing of family responsibilities? Of course. But the way to do it is to expand options for both men and women, not to narrow women's options. And, by the way, to deride parenting as a demeaning task unworthy of an intelligent adult is not a good way to encourage men to become more involved fathers.


    Tom's Practical Dictionary, Part 2.5:

    Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as feminists do.

    Posted by Tom, 12/20/2005 7:11:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    How much is a loaf of bread?

    Nobody knows. Farm subsidies make it less expensive than it should be at point of purchase, and calculating the amount of one's taxes that goes into subsidizing that particular loaf of bread, once all the subsidies and taxes and money shuffling goes on, proves to be a particularly knotty problem. Two things we do know: it doesn't cost $1.69 (or whatever), and whatever it does cost is higher than it needs to be, thanks to protectionist policies in agriculture. That was the subject of the recent WTO talks in Hong Kong.

    The problem basically boils down to those in power in democratic societies. They work at cross purposes with themselves -- on the one hand, they ostensibly want to increase the standard of living in their country, which should lead them to lowering trade barriers, because trade = peace and prosperity. On the other hand, they need constituent groups who are beholden to them so they can be elected in the next cycle, and farmers/agribusiness are a powerful lobby in any nation. This leads us to the essential problem of democratic societies: Power is available generally to those who want it bad enough to work hard at getting elected, but once they have the power, doing the right thing for their society's welfare will most likely get them unelected. Thus you need people who desperately want to be elected, but are then willing to give it all up once they've gotten into power. Our failure to find such people is evident in the fact that instead we tend to wind up with messes that eventually metastasize into financial crises, famines, and war. It's no wonder Hoppe calls democracy the god that failed.

    Posted by Tom, 12/19/2005 5:58:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    Essential Texts

    Since at least one reader has expressed an interest in Austrian economics, here's a rundown on the books I've read, and some I haven't, and what I know about each of them. For those looking for something non-Austrian, like perhaps the musings of John Maynard Keynes, whose theories operate modern government and fiscal policy, I suggest a Tarot deck or some tea leaves or something equally useless.

    Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression, by Mary J. Ruwart. This is the starting point. It is essentially the second edition of her older work, Healing Our World: The Other Piece of the Puzzle, updated for the post-9/11 world. Dr. Ruwart explains the basic principles in about as simple and engaging language as there is to be found. Some concepts are rather difficult to wrap your mind around, especially if you're a product of modern education, because there will be nothing from your education to link it to and you'll have to start from ground zero. I should note that the previous version is (or was, at one time) available for free online at Dr. Ruwart's website, along with a great number of other resources for targeted arguments to various groups (liberals, conservatives, Christians, Pagans, etc.).

    Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. This clears away the more socially and morally oriented points of Ruwart and gets down to business. It covers much of the same ground, but does so in a purely scientific/economic sense, with a specific focus on the concept of Opportunity Cost. It is slightly less accessible than Ruwart, but still easy enough for anyone with a high school reading level.

    Economics for Real People, by Gene Callahan. I have not actually read this one, and until recently it was only available through the Mises Institute, but it is almost always referenced alongside Hazlitt's work as another good primer on the Austrian school. It is probably next on my list.

    Democracy: The God That Failed, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. This is where it gets heavy. Hoppe writes very accessibly, but he mercilessly destroys all of the preconceived notions that the average person has about the nature of monarchy, democracy, anarchy, the market, private property, immigration, individual rights, and so forth. It's among the most recent scholarship out of the Austrian school, and it breaks new ground in several respects. Pack a lunch, you're going to need it.

    Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes, by Robert Ellickson. This is not properly an Austrian book, but it contains some very relevant information. Ellickson does an intense study of informal, semiformal, and formal fence laws for ranchers and hobbyists in Shasta County, California, mulling over the implications of the way disputes are resolved in that area. The writing is about the most difficult of this list, and the topic is extremely narrow. But it makes an extremely valuable point about uncoerced cooperation and conflict resolution, as shown through a real-world example. It has the effect of opening one's eyes to other such examples.

    Speaking of Liberty, by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. This is a collection of speeches and articles by the founder and current head of the Mises Institute. It is less about the overall theories and concepts of Austrian economics, and more about addressing and explaining how Austrian theories are at work in specific areas of history, society, and government. I'm currently working on this one, don't have a lot to say about it just yet.

    Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises. This is, by all accounts, the quintessential treatise on Austrian Economics. It is available as a free download from the Mises Institute, as well as in print form. I have read the first couple of chapters in the electronic version, but I do much better with physical paper, so I'm waiting to finish it until I get it in that form. Mises was an extremely well-educated man, and while his style is congenial and conversational, he will test one's ability to keep up.

    Posted by Tom, 12/18/2005 6:29:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    When will you rage?

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    -- Dylan Thomas

    Posted by Tom, 12/18/2005 6:26:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    Tom's Practical Dictionary, Pt. 2

    Moron: Anyone driving slower than you

    Maniac: Anyone driving faster than you

    Music: Auditory recreational drugs

    Vice cop: Professional buzzkill

    Bureaucrat: Busybody doing busywork

    Broke: A destitute state of finances

    Poor: A destitute state of mind

    Political party: A ready-made brain substitute

    Totalitarianism: Do as I say or be shot

    Racist: Saying anything bad about a member of a protected group

    Sexist: Male

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2005 10:26:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Be careful, comrade...

    ...Secret Police are listening.

    Good. I hope they can hear this:

    (thanks to Annie for the tip)

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2005 10:08:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tom's Practical Dictionary

    Libertarianism: Christianity as applied to politics

    Cynical: Lacking the capacity to hope

    Democracy: Two wolves and one sheep voting on what's for dinner

    Video game: Electronic recreational drugs

    Democrat: Socialist

    Republican: Socialist

    Posted by Tom, 12/17/2005 7:19:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    On Money

    From Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.'s latest book, Speaking of Liberty, we get this peek at our past, and a look at how far we've fallen:

    In the 19th century, notes Murray N. Rothbard, debates on monetary issues were highly public and intensely controversial. Do you favor the national bank? The gold standard? Bimetallism? What is your opinion of the free silver movement? What is most important: a highly liquid money stock that can prop up commodity prices, or a sound dollar that promises thrift and discourages debt accumulation? Should the monetary system reward debtors or creditors?

    These were issues debated in the nation's newspapers, discussed in political meetings, and raged on in the streets. Every educated man had an opinion. Part of the reason is that, frankly, people were much better educated in those days. It is astonishing to imagine today, but average people had the mental equipment to enable them to understand these complicated issues, if not always to arrive at the right conclusions.

    Note this was before public school as we know it today. Note also that your average high school graduate today can barely balance his checkbook, much less discuss intelligently the pitfalls of the Federal Reserve. Mr. Rockwell goes on to discuss the gold standard, and what it does for an economy that we need done to our economy. He notes that the usual response from even many people knowledgeable about such matters is "it isn't realistic to expect us to return to a gold standard." His response is more than just a logical argument. He takes a moral stand:

    There are many objections to the conventional view of the gold standard, but let me just respond to the point about realism. There are a lot of policies which seem unrealistic to promote. We can admit that there is little prospect that the post office will be privatized anytime soon, but that fact does not diminish our responsibility to push the idea. Nothing could be more obvious than admitting that private enterprise would do a better job of delivering letters than the government. But if no one says it -- if people are not willing to state what is true, again and again -- all hope for change is lost. And sometimes, just stating what is true is enough to bring about change when conditions are ripe for it.

    This must be the economist's version of the St. Crispin's Day speech at the Battle of Agincourt. I know it set my blood to boiling, and my eyes looking for a stout claymore to begin lopping off the limbs of Greenspan fanboys. Who knew economists could be heroic?

    Posted by Tom, 12/15/2005 10:44:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Microsoft: Stop it with the iTunes

    Microsoft/MTV Urge users to ditch iTunes

    iTunes users: Get Bent

    Maybe Microsoft should focus on fixing their crummy operating system and office applications and media player and corporate attitude and all that before trying to go into a market that's clearly already covered (iTunes, Wal-Mart, etc) and launch another one of their craptastic beta tests disguised as real software.

    Posted by Tom, 12/15/2005 7:07:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Just for fun...

    The Top 10 Villainous Moments in Comic Book History

    My favorites are 9, 7, 6, and 4.

    Posted by Tom, 12/15/2005 6:28:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    What kind of intellectual are you?

    You're a political intellectual.

    What Sort of Intellectual Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Posted by Tom, 12/14/2005 7:18:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    "Civilians don't need guns for self-defense...

    ...because the only thing they need them for is to defend against other people with guns, and if we get rid of them altogether, problem solved."

    Tell that to Matthew Shepard.

    A firearm is not the only way to create disparity of force for an attacker. There are also such things as bigger, stronger, healthier, more numerous, and so forth. To claim that individuals only need guns to defend against other individuals with guns is to claim that:

    • A woman is the physical equal of a man. Sorry, but Hollywood's fascination with "skinny chicks kicking ass" doesn't make it so.

    • My 96-pound mother is the equal of a 230-pound rapist.

    • My grandfather, on oxygen and barely able to walk from the car to the front door without getting winded, is the equal of someone half his age without emphysema.

    • The average man (like me for example) is the equal of someone built like a pro football player. Much as I'd like to believe it's so, it probably isn't.

    These are just a few examples of how the defender might need a firearm to cancel a gross disparity in force. There are others; all you have to do is use your imagination.

    Posted by Tom, 12/14/2005 7:05:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Helping yourself

    I may have posted this before, but here's a link to Clayton Cramer's blog about civilians using guns in self-defense. He basically scours news reports and collects them in one place, since the use of guns in this way is not widely reported over the wire services.

    Another good source of this sort of information, though less focused on this one particular subtopic, is But it does have some very good information on what's going on in the world of firearms, policy, and research.

    Finally, a link to one of my favorite stories, about an American hero you've never heard of: Thomas Glenn Terry.

    Posted by Tom, 12/14/2005 1:39:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    My Brother

    Posted by Tom, 12/12/2005 6:29:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Chronicles of Narnia

    Probably the best movie I've seen all year, though I haven't finished remembering everything I've seen this year.

    Movies it definitely beats:

    Batman Begins
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (kicked the little twerp's butt!)
    Fantastic Four
    War of the Worlds

    Movies it edges out:


    I can't remember what came out about Memorial Day, that overshadowed Unleashed. And I don't remember anything from spring or winter.

    Posted by Tom, 12/12/2005 6:17:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, December 11, 2005


    More Black Families Home Schooling

    If there's anything that will singularly spur the black community's escape from the inner city poverty trap, home schooling is probably a great candidate. Getting out of the dismal failure that is public schooling, especially in the inner city, is a great first step for the next generation. I'm just THRILLED to read about this.

    Posted by Tom, 12/11/2005 9:48:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    On doing things the hard way

    TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    -- Robert Frost

    Posted by Tom, 12/11/2005 8:14:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, December 6, 2005

    Stupid Blogger

    Well, it's come to this. I'm back to publishing on the BlogSpot site because Blogger refuses to work and play well with others. I'll be switching as soon as I can figure out what to do next... either write a publisher of my own or pick a different service. I'll probably write something so I can be self-contained, but it probably won't happen until Christmas break.

    Posted by Tom, 12/6/2005 7:10:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, December 1, 2005

    This Generation's Rosa Parks

    Reason has a great article about Deborah Davis, a woman who's standing up to our ever-more-intrusive government on the issue of ID's, search and seizure, and the right to be anonymous.

    Guards nevertheless board buses as they enter the complex and demand IDs from passengers, whether or not they're getting off there. According to Davis, the guards barely glance at the IDs, let alone write down names or check them against a list.

    "It's just an obedience test," says Gail Johnson, a lawyer recruited to represent Davis by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. "It does nothing for security."


    Before taking the stand that led to her arrest, Davis says, "I spent the weekend making sure that the Constitution hadn't changed since I was in the eighth grade, and it hadn't....We're not required to carry papers....We have a right to be anonymous."


    "Enough is enough," says Davis. "Our rights are being taken away a little piece at a time, and people are letting it happen."

    Deborah Davis: Hero

    Posted by Tom, 12/1/2005 5:25:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Top 5 Books About Animals

    After a conversation yesterday, I started wondering, what are the best animal books (stories/fiction) I've ever read? It took me all of 2 minutes to compile the top 5. Here they are:

    5: Beautiful Joe, by Marshall Saunders. This is the story of a dog rescued from a cruel and abusive owner, as told from the dog's point of view. It's a truly moving story, and while much is made of being kind to animals, the author mercifully spares us any animal equality rhetoric, which just makes the story even better. An excellent book for teaching kids about kindness and compassion.

    4: Son of the Black Stallion, by Walter Farley. While The Black Stallion was a good book about love and partnership, this book is much darker. I liked it because it underscores the fact that even domesticated animals can have disturbing, even dangerous, personality traits. The appropriately named horse, Satan, is nothing but trouble from the first, and while eventually he becomes somewhat manageable, he's never truly tamed.

    3: Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. No list of this type would be complete without this classic. The love story between a spider and a pig, and the drama of saving the pig from becoming a side of bacon, is intensely captivating.

    2: Watership Down, by Richard Adams. Think of it as Lord of the Rings, as told with rabbits. This epic adventure takes us from a doomed warren to a new promised land, to adventures on a local farm, to all-out war with another warren. It also includes the absolute best telling of a main character's death I have ever read, bar none.

    1: Call of the Wild, by Jack London. This is the quintessential masterpiece of animal literature. It's the book that made me a dog lover. Buck's story of going from the lap of luxury to becoming a feral wolf-dog in the wastelands of Alaska, his battle with Spitz, his complete and utter devotion to John Thornton, his revenge on the Yeehats, all of it, just gives me chills any time I relive it. I've read this book so many times I can just about tell the story from memory. If ever there was a must-read book about animals, this is it.

    Posted by Tom, 12/1/2005 7:16:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...