Issues

Abortion

Abortion is actually a tricky issue because we have two individuals whose lives are involved.
1. the potential baby
2. the mother
Once the baby is alive, we cannot perform an abortion because we cannot get the consent of the baby. I think we can all safely agree that a baby inside the womb at 9 months is alive. An abortion at 9 months would most certainly be murder.
This is really all these is to this issue. When does life begin?

When does life begin

To determine when life begins, we must use science and logic as the determining factor.
conception----------——birth
somewhere along this axis is where life begins. Is it at conception? One month? 3 months?…We don't know.
Truth be told, we don't have the technology or the science to truly determine when life begins.
If you believe that a human life begins with a soul, can we detect this soul? No.
So we have to go with out best indications of when life begins. I would argue, we should err on the side of life when possible.

I do not think life begins at conception. All it is one cell (sperm) joining another cell (egg). Some DNA is transferred. There is no conscious life here. Killing a sperm or egg on their own/together is no different than scratching your skin and killing some cells, or killing a cell that was infected with a virus.

I would we use all the scientific ways we use to determine conscious life (brain waves, feel pain…). Again, erring on the safe side, let us find the earliest point at which brain waves can be detected in the potential baby. Bare in mind, any law the state makes is just an estimate. Further advances in science could change these results at any point.

Brain waves can be detected at around 6-8 weeks.
Pain has been found to be felt as early as 20 weeks
(Both of these stats taken from various internet sites. I do not reference them, as I do not vouch for their authority)

So a reasonable law, erring on the side of safety for the child would allow abortion anytime within 8 weeks of conception.
After that, barring health reasons, abortion would be murder.

Of course, such a question is best left to medical doctors to determine scientifically and the answer might change with time as our detection methods improve.

But my religious text says life begins at conception

I don't know of your religion and I don't want to interpret your own religious books for you.
But we cannot use a religious text to make a law in a free society. I might not believe in your religion and you might not believe in mine.
By all means, you may use your religious text to not have an abortion.
Free free to lecture your children about it.
Free free to disown your children if they have an abortion.
Free free to stand outside an abortion clinic with big signs says "ABORTION IS MURDER"…thats your right.
But don't make laws about it, don't bomb the clinic, don't directly interfere with someone else's right to an abortion.

Healthcare and Education

I group these two together as they are essentially share the same arguments. Requiring them is a violation of freedom as they require teacher and doctors… to be forced into labor. However, there is an argument to be made for everyone getting the opportunity to get educated and have healthcare…and this come down to the following

Your family affects your life.

Let's face it, as a child you are born to parents. They may be rich. They may be poor. They may be intelligent. They may be stupid. When you are born, you have no choice in this. Yet, your parents would play a very significant role in your upbringing. And of course how you are raised for the first 18 years of your life is going to affect you when you become a free adult. So what is the state's responsibility to you to make sure everyone a fair chance once they become a free adult. I emphasize here, this is going to be a balance. Balancing the state's responsiblity to you, with your parent's rights.

Solution

The state can require that all children receive reasonable healthcare and reasonable education. However, the state must minimize its offence on the rights of parents and the rights of doctors, teachers… The best way it can do this is by providing direct vouchers to parents. Vouchers for education and vouchers for healthcare. This will insure that all children receive needed healthcare and education, but the parents/child are free to choose their providers and the providers (doctors, teachers..) are also free to practice their trade without state interference.

Examples

Countless countries have implemented vouchers (Sweden, Chile, most of Europe actually does, J
I can't think of any countries that have a healthcare system that preserves freedom, though some fare better than others. Many have strict price controls (Singapore) or have heavy subsidies. Again, the attempt should be to maximize freedom. A system like Singapores does this the best though their price controls do infringe on the rights of medical professionals.

Regulation in healthcare

One of the biggest limitations to reasonable cost healthcare is actually the idea that only medical professionals can treat patients. For example, in many countries only doctors can prescribe drugs. It's effective a government granted monopoly. This is done to ensure quality of the system, but in exchange for this monopoly, it is reasonable that the state gets to implement price controls or other measures. The is one of the reasons the US healthcare system is so expensive. It maintains the monopoly medical professionals have over the system, but does not require anything of them (like price controls…).

To better see how this is a problem, imagine if the government mandated that you car had to be serviced by a government licensed mechanic. You can be darn sure, your $30.00 oil change is suddenly going to cost $150… :)

The best thing to remember is that healthcare is ultimately an infinite demand equation. We are all going to die of something eventually. Should society really spend more resources than most people earn in a lifetime trying to fend off death? Ultimately, such a society would bankrupt itself with all the resources of the country going straight in the pockets of health providers. The health providers would themselves be unhappy trying to serve an infinite demand.

Ultimately, you have to let individuals choose how much they want to spend on healthcare and the rest of life. some of us are more than content to spend a small amount staying healthy and then just pass away instead of fighting disease after diseases trying to fend off death.

Not to mention, who gets to receive the services of the rare health professionals who can treat these diseases? It will be rationed. If there were enough health professional to serve us all, the price would be cheap given supply and demand and a free market would suffice :P

I should go in depth here.

Regulation in Education

It is tempting to try to enforce education standards or mandatory testing… Again this must be done maximizing freedom. To protect the children, a government can ask each school to have policies in place to protect children (sexual assault). State wide exams are also possible to ensure quality.

Taxation and Funding

Taxation is one of the most hated aspects o government. Taxation is the result of poor government policy. That is something I always say, and I will discuss it further. First we discuss the types of taxation.

Income tax

Income tax is one of the worst form of taxation. It remove any notion of choice from the individual. Is there any way to boycott an income tax? It also removes the fruits of your labour. 'Progressive' taxation where the richer you are, the higher your tax rate is the least free income tax. It now starts treating citizens differently and robs them at different levels. Many countries around the world have a flat tax or no income tax at all. The notion that any civilized society must have a high progressive income tax is just ridiculous. Do we call the Japanese uncivilized with their 28% maximum income tax? Are the people of Singapore uncivilized with their 20% maximum income tax? These are hardly uncivilized poor societies.

Consumption Tax/VAT

Sales taxes are reasonable way for the government to raise money. The number one reason is that you as the individual have the freedom to boycott the tax. Suppose you have a government that you totally disagree with. Can you as the individual limit the amount of money you send it? Of course you can. Don't go out to eat, don't buy that new tv… I would argue that the basic neccessities of life should not have a sales tax attached for this very reason. Unprepared food and clothing under $10 dollars for example should not have a sales tax attached. Other consumption taxes (Alchohol, tobacco, gasoline…) are useful as they try to efficiently capture the costs these items have on society. Alcohol for example has policing costs attached to it.

Property Taxes

Property taxes are the WORST form of taxation as they are essentially a tax on existence. To have shelter, you must pay this tax.

However, usage fees are possible. Roads/pipes/cables leading to the property fall into this group. I do not think the government should be able to take over your home if you do not pay property taxes. Rather they should be able to remove the privileges your property taxes pay for. For example, they should be able to cut off your water, electricity, driving privileges…

Taxation is the result of bad policy

If you have good policy, you don't need high levels of taxation…especially income taxes.
Consider healthcare and education as I talked about above. I already spoke to why they are 'special' in terms of children.
One argument against for-profit healthcare is that money is spent on advertising and profit…well why doesn't the government operate a non-profit health insurance company. You still pay into it at your level, but the profit motive is removed. Japan follows a similar model in that all hospitals are privately run…HOWEVER, the law states all hospitals must be NON-PROFIT. Now this maximizes freedom for consumers, though it does limit freedom to health professionals and business. But as I said above, the tradeoff is fair as medical professionals are granted monopolies to conduct their trade.

Most other issues in terms of raising money (be it for roads or public transit) are best done via collective ownership. Those who use it should pay as much as possible the costs associated with it.

Pensions and other forms of collective wealth

First and foremost, collective wealth is a good thing. In enables poorer and middle class people to achieve the monetary strength and power of even the wealthiest. That should be the role of government in this respect…to organize such system. Yet they must all preserve the idea that what you put in is yours. For example, sweden has switched to privatized pensions system (basically you are mandated to put some money away for retirement, but you choose from a list of state mutual funds to invest in). The government should organize such funds and use it for the benefit of its citizens. For example, in Ontario, Canada one of the newer highways is a toll road (ETR 407), which was sold to a private consortium. Imagine if Ontario had an Ontario investment fund, it could have owned the toll road, keeping the profits within Ontario. This same idea could be used for telecommunications and other communal infrastructure. This is one of the reasons Japanese infrastructure is so good.

Probably the worst form of pensions are those that treat individuals in different ways. Many western countries are facing two tier pension schemes. One defined benefit guaranteed pension for public sector workers. While private sector workers fend for themselves. One way out of this is the free Swedish approach as above. The other is the Japanese system, where everyone gets the same pension. Even the private sector contributes to a government run pension plan.

They key here, is the collective wealth is powerful and allows the 'people' not to be ruled by wealthy overlords. Again, these should be made as voluntary and fair for all people. If a politicians cannot convince people to voluntarily give their wealth for a collective fund, they don't deserve to take your money in the first place.

Integration of Minorities

ah yes, the old integration of minorities argument that seems to pop up in western countries. Yet, in a free society, these become a non-issue. Unless you are stealing or killing or raping, you should be able to do what you want. How does the way another person dress affect you or eat affect you?

Strange how most western nations gleefully accept the alternative cultures within their society (gothic, hip hop, grunge…), but throw a fit just because a Muslim Women wants to wear a scarf on her head. Strange how a scarf bothers them, but the way gothic people dress doesn't?

If you analyze it carefully, most of the cultures who talk about 'integrating' minorities are dying cultures. Let's look at it from a reverse position. An immigrant Indian family can fly thousands of miles away to settle in a western nation. Yet, they somehow still maintain a fair bit of their language and culture and it thrives. yet, you mean to tell me, British or French people who live in their native land cannot hold on to their culture? No indeed, the problem British and French societies face is their youth don't want to be British or French. So they lash out at the immigrants. Yet, any logical person can quickly realize how does an Indian family moving next door affect your own culture? Does it stop you from eating British food, sing British songs, and just have pride in Jolly Old England? It shouldn't.

Now, there are some perverse situations when some 'liberal' members of countries try too hard to help immigrants and in the end only hurt them. Britain is famous for caving in to its immigrant population. Just recently a school board thought to ban a children's book featuring pigs because Muslim's (who don't eat pork) might be offended…It is exactly in these situations, that societies must embrace freedom. A school board should not ban a book because it might offend someone like that. The Islamic prophet Muhamed cartoon is another case where free speech should have prospered (not just in law…but in attitude).

All issues of 'integration' are in theory mute, and also in practice. In Ontario for example, school choice is often shot down because of fear that people would not integrate properly (read Muslims would open up their own schools and wouldn't interact with other students, and then they would become radicals). Yet, in British columbia and Alberta, there is ample school choice, and the result is not as Ontario would suggest.

Digital Media Rights

The rights concerning digital media are very crucial. Yet, more crucial is how they are enforced by the state. Let me be very clear on one thing:

Copying music/movies/games… is wrong. You are robbing potential income from the producers. Yet it is not theft. If a person has downloaded 100 movies, if we lived in a world without movie download, would they have actually bought those 100 movies? Probably not. They might have only bought 1 or 2 movies. This is why piracy is very different from theft.

Yet, what should the state do to combat it? Should the state be allowed to 'listen' in on your internet to see if you are doing anything illegal? Should the state be able to scan your hard drive without just cause to see if you have any illegal material? Those are violations of personal freedom.
I am against such measures.

So what is a content producer supposed to do? Well, I think you have to really look at their market segment. Movies/music… operate on disposable income. You purchase these as a matter of convenience…for entertainment. You don't 'have' to purchase it as you would a housing food… When times are tough, Movies/music would be the first thing you cut back on. I could download movies, but I still go to the movie theatre and pay the 10 bucks. Why? I like going out…it's an event. Just as people will always go to concerts even if they could download the music itself. At the end of the day I'm paying $10 for 2-3 hours of entertainment. That's not a bad deal. People are willing to pay for convenience as well. For example, there are plenty of books available on line. Yet, I like to read from a real book instead of a screen…so I've purchased many.

Movies and music can be viewed in a similar way. If it was convenient to go download a movie or a song from an official website instead of wandering through torrents or shady download sites, people would take advantage of it. This is even more true of the price is reasonable. Yet, the industry has failed at that. They've actually done the opposite and more often than not make it more inconvenient to purchase their products. They impose things like DRM (Digital Rights Management) which at times can prevent you from playing music you bought on a device you want. It's quite stupid really.

With digital media, the producers really have to view it as a simple equation, stripping away all the self-righteousness and bs. You have your costs (arists, editors, producers….) and you have your revenue (direct purchases, concerts, advertisements…). As long as you're making a good profit, what loss is it if a million people are enjoying your media for free? That's how a productive person thinks. I've yet to see Britney Spears in poverty because too many people are pirating her music.

Trying to intrude on personal freedom to enforce sales of your product is suicidal and bad for business.

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