Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Corruption

The natural state of all government is to be corrupted by moneyed interests.

It would be pretty easy to 'prove' this by simply pointing to every government throughout history and daring any skeptics to find one that doesn't fit the pattern.  They would, of course, fail, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

More difficult, yet ultimately more satisfying, is to lay out a logical foundation showing how admitted human nature inevitably leads to a large, unwieldy, inefficient, and thoroughly corrupt government.  The starting point is as J.E.E.Dahlberg (Lord Acton) once warned us:  'Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely', and the essence of government is power — over people, over the economy, over corporations.  Aided and abetted by a population insufficiently wary of government's tendency to grow, government will grow incrementally at first, then by leaps and bounds until powers never intended for government to have will now seem ordinary and everyday functions of government.  Normalized by long-use, functions that once were solely the province of non-governmental entities appear so natural for a central government to handle that people forget the times when government didn't do such things.

This has been the path followed by all governments — ours is not an exception — as they grow from cottage industries to leviathans.  The reason is intuitively obvious.  Friedrich Hayek offers an alternative view to that of Acton:  government itself does not corrupt, but the power inherent in government tends to attract the corruptible.  That is: bureaucrats start out corrupted and gravitate toward an environment where their natural corruption is both tolerated and nourished.  Someone, say that this is not so.  Experience has shown us that it is the most true thing one can say about government, not just our government; all governments.

It's not even certain that a Libertarian administration — populated by people who are ideologically committed to minuscule government — would not fall into this same trap.

But it might be worth a try.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bad News from Alabama

Mike Vanderboegh who runs Sipsey Street Irregulars announced on his blog today that his cancer is back with a vengeance.  His doctor told him '6 months'.

For the 'patriot movement', this counts as Very Bad News.  Mike has been the voice and the pamphleteer of that movement, sometimes called 'the 3% movement', for a dozen years or more.  We can now see the day, sadly not too far in the future, when that voice will be stilled and his pen stop writing.

Mean-spirited trolls who publicly wished for his death will soon have what they want.  The rest of us merely wish that his doctor will turn out to be an incompetent pessimist.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Obama's "answer" to the problem (sic) of guns

I put 'answer' in quotes because what the President announced today really answers nothing.  There is this weird meme floating about that gun shows are some sort of magical land where all the rules are different and those who believe this think Obama has done something to change it back to reality.  He didn't, largely because gun shows operate just like the rest of the real world.

If someone buys a gun from someone who is not a federal firearms licensee (FFL), there is no requirement to perform a BGC as long as both of those people are residents of the same state and are IN that state at time of sale.  In all other cases, a BGC is required by federal law.  ALL other cases, period.  At a store, in a garage, behind the cathedral at dawn, or at a gun show; it doesn't matter where, and it doesn't matter when.  Virtually NO ONE who sets up a (gun sales) table at a gun show is NOT a FFL.  Now for the logic problem:  what percentage of gun sales at a gun show will NOT be accompanied by a BGC?  Answer:  virtually none.

It is possible that Jed will walk the aisles with a cardboard sign around his neck saying "Colt .44 Magnum; make offer" and it is possible that someone will make him an offer that he accepts, and a gun will be sold without a BGC.  This will happen rarely, and what Obama announced today will not stop it because he didn't do what many in the Second Amendment Community suspected he might:  declare that everyone who sells a gun is automatically "a dealer".  Why didn't he do that?

Back in the 80s and 90s it was fairly easy to become a FFL.  File the paperwork, pay a nominal fee, suffer a BGC that's somewhat more elaborate than the BGC for buying a gun or getting a concealed weapons license (CWL).  Presto, change-o, you're a dealer.  You can now buy at wholesale but you have to keep meticulous records of what you buy, what you sell, and from whom and to whom.  All your sales then require a BGC and a 4473 which ATF must (by law) process and destroy in 72 hours.  You keep your copies of the 4473s for 20 years before you can destroy them.

Damn, that sounds like the kind of Action Demanded by those Moms, doesn't it?  Yes and no.  They would take exception to the 'proliferation of gun dealers operating out of garages and living rooms', and that is why, in the 90s, Bill Clinton directed ATF to clamp down on 'kitchen table dealers'.  If you didn't have a real place-of-business and only made occasional sales and purchases, they said, you're not a real dealer and just revoked your FFL.  It would be difficult for Obama to have to admit that Bill Clinton screwed up, even if he did.

ATF (short for 'Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives') now considers a person 'a dealer' if they regularly buy and sell firearms and make a profit doing so, even if they don't have a real place-of-business, so Obama announcing that from now on ATF will require such persons to register as dealers is nothing more than declaring — to the blare of trumpets — that current policy will henceforth be enforced as current policy.  In short, it's all hot air.

Outside of the Second Amendment Community, none of this is common knowledge, so all those Obama cheerleaders will be confident that their man in DC has just struck a blow for common sense.  I think it would be cruel to spoil their euphoria, don't you?  So let's just not mention to them that nothing happened today, okay?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Phi-bonacci's Mysterious Series

I'm fascinated and intrigued by Leonardo Bonacci who was, oddly, called 'Fibonacci'.  He introduced what we now call 'arabic numerals' to Europe in 1202 in what was the forerunner of all mathematics texts in the Western World, the Liber Abaci.  In that book he introduced what today is known as 'the Fibonacci sequence':

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, &c.,
wherein each new term is the sum of the previous two, e.g.:
2 + 3 = 5.
And that about sums up what we know about Leonardo Bonacci.

What he didn't put in the book is also significant, mostly because he probably didn't realize it.  Understand that computing with arabic numerals was brand-new in Europe, even for Bonacci.  The thing he missed was that the limit of the ratios of the Fibonacci sequence homes or 'asymptotes' to 1.6180339887, e.g.:

832040 / 514229 = 1.6180339887...

"Big deal," I just heard someone mutter.  Well, yes, when you consider that the inverse is almost exactly identical:

514229 / 832040 = 0.6180339887...
514229 / 832040 = (832040 / 514229) - 1
Slightly weird.

Mathematicians find this number (1.618...) very useful and it lends itself to beautiful graphic explanations as well.  Since it's used so often, it has become a convention to use the Greek letter phi (Φ) to represent 1.618033... and its lower case form (φ) to represent 0.618033...  That means that

Φ - φ = 1 and Φ × φ = 1.

This number, Φ, is also called 'the golden ratio' and is found nearly everywhere you look, especially in architecture, botany, biology, and meteorology.  Φ is implicated in the spiral shapes of the chambered nautilus, sunflowers, and hurricanes.

YouTube has many great short videos that talk about Φ-bonacci, the Φ-bonacci sequence, and the Golden Ratio.