Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Better living through technology.

Y'all know I'm not a great fan of regulatory agencies in general, particularly at the federal level. Nitpicking and line-drawing issues aside, I think most reasonable people can at least agree that our current system, in which regulatory agencies generate libraries of micromanaging rules for every conceivable industry, creates costs that are undesirable.

That doesn't mean all reasonable people dislike the system, of course, because a goodly chunk of the citizenry believes those costs buy a worthwhile return. In particular, even people who believe in free market capitalism very often have concerns that a fundamental imbalance of information between merchant and consumer can undermine the ability of the market to remove bad products. In theory if Harry's Veeblefetzer Works produces shoddy veeblefetzers, traditional economic theory says Sally can drive him from the market with her superior veeblefetzers. The concern is that a customer in the shop trying to decide between a Harry's Old Time Veeblefetzer and a Sally's Home Style Veeblefetzer may be unable to assess their relative quality, and be taken in by the inferior product. Thus, we need government to step in with a Federal Bureau of Veeblefetzers, Widgets, and Gewgaws to set minimum veeblefetzer quality and safety standards, veeblefetzer labeling requirements, and mandatory pre-market veeblefetzer testing.

I disagree with this, as you'd probably expect, but it can't be glibly dismissed as irrational. While my libertarian attitude is that people can do a bit of research and take their own responsibility for knowing what they're buying, people need lots of things, and not everybody's good at dodging SEO and finding useful product information. There are certainly people for whom researching products would be a pain, and I can understand how a fan of the regulatory system could rationally come to the conclusion that the costs of our hyperregulatory system are worthwhile if they spare those people that pain.

But after all that, here's my point: Will they feel the same way when most people are walking around with a HUD that automatically displays a community consensus of every logo they see?

Technology can be oppressive, but free technology is the best thing there is for freedom. Flying cars are probably not especially useful for normal purposes, but they'd be worth it just to kill the old "I'll bet you drove on an interstate to get to your libertarian rally" fallacy.

[Thanks to Ian Argent for the link.]

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love and guns

On Valentine's day, I went to a Starbucks in Manhattan. If there were no anti-gun protesters there, it's hard to believe there were any elsewhere.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In for a penny

Once again, a US Congressman wants to talk about making pennies cheaper. His proposal is to make them from copper-plated steel. If we assume the much more sensible option of abolishing the one-cent piece entirely is off the table--as it almost certainly is*--this is a sensible option. Our northern neighbors have been striking their pennies this way since 2000.

Not news. I bring the topic up specifically because of the comical rationale used to sell a bill that doesn't need rationalizing:

[Bill sponsor Steve] Stivers** and co-sponsors of the bill hail from a steel-producing state.

"At a time when too many of our products are being manufactured in other countries, we should at least be able to buy those products with money produced using materials made in America," Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, a co-sponsor, said in a statement. Stivers said that much of the copper, zinc and nickel used in coins comes from Canada.

Swarthy Canadians are stealing our jobs! Secure the border! Learn the language, you milk-bagging Cuban-smokers!

[* - It would be easier if Lincoln hadn't landed there. But his adorers want to maintain his place of "honor" on the world's most valueless coin, and our benevolent governors presumably enjoy having a Caesar on a coin, to remind us who to render unto.]
[** - "Fun" fact: the name Stivers derives from a variant of "stuiver," a nickname for several silver and copper coins of northern Europe and colonial states influenced by trade with the Dutch East India Company. This is the kind of thing coin nerds think is hysterical.]

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

And if wishes were horses...

There's a meme going around, and I picked it up over at Tam's:

"What would you get if you could get any five guns, cost and practicality be hanged?

Cost be hanged? I'll rule out fixed and crew-served guns here, to keep the decision making process manageable.

1 - A registered, transferable Thompson submachine gun. I could never possibly afford one at closed-registry prices, and even when we get the machine gun registry reopened, I could never afford to feed the damned thing. But if it was free, I'd put the purchase price into ammo.

2 - A Savage Arms US Army Test Pistol.* It could never beat John Moses Browning's pistol, but if it had, this would have been the issue pistol of the US military for the better part of a century. Losing the 1911 would be a tragedy, but having our soldiers look more like Buck Rogers characters would give me a lot of solace. The closest I'll ever get IRL is the much smaller Model 1907 pocket pistol, after which the .45 Test Pistol was designed.

3 - A Nazi K98 rifle, with the swastika overstamped with Hebrew arsenal marks. I would make a point of taking it out to the range every April 19th, which is of course the anniversary of both the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

4 - A Winchester model 1892 with a 16" barrel, in .357 magnum. Takedown model. The Winchester name cranks the price above comparable models in the first place, and you pay half again more for the takedown mechanism. But it's gloriously slim, and would be useful when travelling in those bleak backwater states (like New York and Massachusetts) that restrict handgun possession. I'd get a fitted leather shoulder bag made to hold both halves and a couple dozen rounds.

5 - A full-auto Mauser C96. With original detachable shoulder stock holster. It's on Tam's list, too, but frankly this should be on everybody's.

[* - Many thanks to The Weasel King for the correct link.]

Starbucks Appreciation Day update

So. Gun control advocates announced a Valentine's Day boycott of Starbucks because that company won't abuse its gun-carrying customers. As discussed last week, gun owners called for an informal buycott to balance the scales.

Before they hid the number of attendees out of embarrassment, their Facebook page showed 137 participants, most of whom, according to the comments, already don't patronize Starbucks.

As of right now, the opposing pro-gun Support Starbucks Facebook page shows just a hair over ten thousand attendees.

It's nice to have something going right with my country.