Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why VW Was Right

Volkswagen Group made a deliberate, calculated decision to make cars that were more fuel efficient, better performing and better for the environment at the expense of taking liberties with ill-conceived and somewhat arbitrary emissions standards.

In the end, I expect they will be exonerated for considering the long-term greater good even at short-term disadvantage to themselves.

A diesel engine operates fundamentally differently to a spark-ignition engine.  Diesel engines require very high pressure in the combustion chamber, and consequently very high combustion temperatures.  This enables them to be more fuel efficient and cleaner-burning than gasoline/petrol engines while producing more torque at lower RPMs.  That means that a given vehicle with a diesel engine can go further faster on less fuel with less CO2 emissions than the same vehicle with a gasoline/petrol engine.  Add a turbocharger and it gets even better:  the engine can be smaller and lighter, meaning the vehicle chassis can be smaller and lighter, less steel is required (meaning less lifecycle CO2 burden) and fuel consumption falls even further, as do direct CO2 emissions.

However the higher combustion temperature comes with a sting.  Air is only 21% oxygen, the component required to burn fuel and release the stored energy therein.  The rest is mostly nitrogen (78%).  And at high temperatures, fuel isn't the only thing burning.  Nitrogen burns, too, and produces oxides of nitrogen, NO and NO2, collectively called NOx.  (Not to be confused with N2O, also sometimes called "nitrous" or "NOX.")

NOx can contribute to smog and acid rain, is a short-lived greenhouse gas, and ends up contributing to nitrogen content of soils and waterways.  While it is therefore undesirable on the whole, it is not the worst thing ever.  There are much worse things, which we will get to in a moment.

In order to reduce NOx emissions, the combustion temperature must be kept in check.  In a diesel engine this has the direct effect that cylinder pressure is also proportionately reduced, and therefore torque output is reduced, and therefore power is reduced, and therefore efficiency is reduced.  Also, fuel combustion can be negatively impacted by lower temperature, resulting in more soot, more un-burned hydrocarbons (HCs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coming out the tailpipe.   Lower efficiency and lower specific power means higher fuel consumption and higher CO2 emissions.

Hydrocarbon emissions and VOCs can have direct adverse effects on human health.  NOx emissions on the other hand have only indirect effects, as a part contributing factor to smog (the main factors being ozone, particulates and coal-fired power plants).  NOx also contributes to acid rain, but there again the main culprit and more dangerous one is sulfur compounds emitted by coal-fired power plants.

While NOx can be a short-lived greenhouse gas, CO2 is by far the greater long-term threat, because it persists in the atmosphere forever and ever, or until absorbed by a plant.  Or deliberately captured and stored by humans at considerable monetary and energy cost.

Therefore, when striking the balance between NOx and the far worse HCs, VOCs, and CO2, what should we do?  What should Volkswagen have done?  I am convinced that VW did the right thing.  This episode will undoubtedly draw attention to the current incorrect balance in emission standards, and prompt a re-evaluation and rationalization of them.  Perhaps different emission standards for diesel and gasoline/petrol vehicles would be appropriate.

On the whole, small efficient diesel cars are better for the environment.  The fact that they are now being made imminently drive-able by innovative carmakers like VW makes them more attractive and promotes their widespread acceptance.  This is a good thing, and VW was undoubtedly considering the greater good when they unilaterally decided that a bit of NOx was a small price to pay for the significant benefits to human health and the environment of better fuel efficiency and lower HC/VOC emissions. Way to go, Volkswagen!  Keep it up.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What Is Religious Freedom?

Congratulations on your religious liberty!  Here is what you've won:

  • You have the right to believe any damn thing you want in the privacy of your own mind, regardless of how absurd it is, how far removed from reality and provable fact, or how anathema to morality and ethics it may be.  
  •  um . . . that's . . . pretty much it, I'm afraid.

Please note that religious freedom does not grant you any of the following:

  • The right to go to church.  This is not a guaranteed right for anybody. However, you may exercise this privilege in certain cases, provided that you first work hard and buy a goddamned car.  It's what everyone knows they ought to do, because it's simply the right thing to do (according to Saint Jeremy of Clarkson).
  • The right to impose your beliefs on others.  Even if God tells you it's ok, it's still not actually ok. Refer to the "golden rule."  (God sometimes forgets that he issued that one, so help him out once in a while.) 
  • Your beliefs enshrined in legislation.  Larceny was made illegal not because it is a "sin," but because it is a gross trespass upon the right of an individual to retain his lawful property.  Good government does not pass laws or create policy on the basis of religious belief.  The ten commandments never were the basis of modern jurisprudence, nor can they ever be.
  • The right to break laws you don't believe in.  Break them you may, but "religious belief" is never a valid defense and you will be fully culpable for any penalties that your wicked lawbreaking incurs.   
  • The right to be insufferable.  Golden rule, again!
  • The right to judge and discriminate against those who do not share your private beliefs. If "religion" is your reason for doing shit like this, then man do you have some fucked-up ideas about what religion is supposed to be for.  And you wonder why religion is in general decline in the world. 
  • The right to express your religion publicly.  Most of the time you will not be materially impeded in this regard, but in cases of e.g. school dress & jewelry policies, you could be prevented from displaying your idolatrous religious iconography.  Where security and identity are a concern, the State has the right to require you to remove coverings over your face, even if your religion prohibits this.
  • The right to murder small children.  You're thinking, "WTF?"  No, this actually happens quite a lot, sadly.  Certain religious people do this by attempting to deny life-saving medical treatment to children on the basis of their bizarre and easily disprovable religious theories.  This is child abuse and is against the law for very good reasons.  Religious freedom, they say, makes it ok; but they are lying.  It is not ok.
  • The right to over-populate the planet.  Why are some religious people still going around the world telling poor people not to use contraception?  This is evil.  I oppose the practice of not using contraception at all times.  One should only have children when one can guarantee their adequate provision and if one is capable of being a suitable parent. 

Enjoy your one (1) religious freedom!  

UPDATE:  The Masses Respond

"I'm a religious American, and that alone gives me the following Special Rights you forgot to mention.
1. The Right to tell as many people as possible about my totally awesome beliefs.
2. The Right not to be criticized, persecuted or ridiculed in any way for my beliefs while telling everyone about them.
3.The Right to PRACTICE my religious expression at any time and in any place that my religion requires me to."

Ahem, no.  The things you mention are not Rights, but Freedoms, some of which do not actually exist (see below).  Also, any freedoms you have are not extended just to religious people of the favored faith, but to anyone and everyone no matter what they believe or don't believe.  

1.  The right to tell everyone about your religion.  You have the freedom of free speech to say what you want within certain limits (e.g. "fire in a theater" limits.)  But the legislature is also free to restrict nuisance activities or speech that is causing problems.  Just because your message is religious in nature does not give it special priority over any other form of speech.  This is because the law cannot properly determine what is religious speech and what isn't.  One cannot allow "hate" speech or inciting to violence just because someone somewhere claims it is their religious belief.  Therefore all speech must be evaluated equally and have the same limits without special regard as to whether it is religious in nature or not.

2.  The right for you not be criticized for your beliefs.  Never.  If you say something in the public space, you do so with the understanding and acceptance that anything you say can and will be stress-tested to the limit.  You can and will be criticized (fairly or not), ridiculed (deservedly or not), and required to defend your statements.  That is the agreement.  Deal with it.  There is no special "protection" for religious claims, and no one ever anywhere in the history of everything has ever promised you freedom from criticism.  That is simply not a thing that exists.  So, in other words, No.  The only place you can expect to never be ridiculed for the things you believe is inside your own mind, and so that is the best place to keep your beliefs.

3.  The right to religious expression.  In a free society with true religious liberty (if such a place existed), the law cannot and must not distinguish between one subjective belief and another.  Therefore there is nothing to prevent people from claiming religious belief for almost anything whatsoever that they may wish to do.  You may be in a fortunate special case for which almost all (probably all) of your religious observances involve perfectly legal activities that are appropriate for their time and place.  But this is not the general case of all possible beliefs and observances that could potentially exist.  Therefore - which would you say ought to take precedence?  A person's subjective beliefs and whims?  Or the objective law of the land?  Of course it has to be the law that takes precedence so that people don't do things like murder small children out of a silly religious antipathy for medicine, ritualistically mutilate small furry animals, or embezzle money out of a sincere religious conviction that god wants them to have the money.

But if you try to compromise and bestow special privilege upon one religion deemed to have "acceptable" practices, while prohibiting religious beliefs that the law deems "unacceptable," then you no longer have any true religious liberty at all.  It has been completely done away with.  You really do have to treat all religions equally if you are to have religious liberty.  In other words, true religious liberty depends on the law having no opinion of what is religion and what isn't.

You do not have the right to practice or express your religious observances anywhere, anytime.  All your acts whether religious or not will either comply with the law or be subject to its consequences.  You have the freedom to try to practice your religion, but society and the government are not required to let you do anything whatsoever, do not need to help you do it, nor are they required to assure you succeed in everything you want.

There is a difference between rights and freedoms.  You are often free to try to get your way, but you do not have the right to always get your way.  The one right you do have that cannot be taken from you is the right to believe any damn thing you want in the privacy of your own personal brain.  And that truly is the limit of your religious rights.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The One Technology That Will Save Us All

THERE ARE certain individuals and organizations who do not support universal access to the one technology that will save humanity.  Possibly without realizing it, these people are therefore also supporting the following:

  • Poverty
  • Crime
  • Hunger
  • Oppression of women
  • Disease
  • Human trafficking
  • Violence and conflict
  • Environmental degradation and climate disruption
  • Famine
  • Increased vulnerability to natural disasters
  • Overcrowding and congestion in cities
  • Yet more disease, crime, violence and suffering
  • Inflation, devaluation of wealth
  • Scarcity of vital resources
  • Many, many dead and dying children

Population growth is always one step ahead of humanity's ability to feed and house its global population, and science has continually struggled to keep up.  But as soon as one problem is solved, the population surges ahead to create the next crisis.  Where disease was once dragging on the rate of population growth and keeping it from getting out of hand too quickly, science has fixed that and the population zoomed ahead.  Where lack of food has previously limited the population by starving some of us to death, science has developed better, higher-yielding and more resilient crops, allowing us to have the same problem again, but at a much higher level of population.  Rather than reduce suffering in the world, all our best efforts have apparently only increased the scale and magnitude of human suffering.

There is one technology, however, that is capable of breaking this deadly cycle - capable of vastly reducing if not entirely eliminating most of the problems listed above.  Yet, for superstitious, ignorant and irrational reasons, many people resist the use of this technology and prefer to put all their faith in Science's ability to keep saving us again and again.

They pretend that their refusal to support the widespread use of this technology is based on "moral" grounds.  Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the definition of morality and measure it according to some more objective criteria.  I propose that the number of dead, starving and suffering children in the world offers one such reliable quantitative measure of Morality, with increasing numbers of course corresponding to lower overall levels of morality.

All Hail, Our New Yabbie Overlords
Corporate Religianity today is self-absorbed, hypocritical, politically and financially motivated, superstitious, and ultimately immoral in its refusal to support universal access to Contraception and Abortion.  It expects the world to suffer all of the above calamities just for the sake of its own tiny superstitions, traditions, philosophies and dogmas.

If humans possess the technology to save themselves, save all other life on this planet and the planet itself from destruction and yet refuse to use it, then when we are all gone in a few hundred years' time, Evolution will have to start all over.  Next time, I hope it chooses an intelligent species.

I'm guessing it will be Yabbies.

-           -           -

Side Note:

If you have a problem with Abortion (and it's something that I, too, would rather didn't happen if at all possible), then there is one thing you can do about it.  One of the most effective forms of contraception that drastically reduces the incidence of unwanted pregnancies, teen pregnancies, and pregnancies in households lacking the means to give a child anything but misery, is the following:

Education for girls and women.

If you don't support that, then you clearly love Satan and enjoy child-murder.  Enough said.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Brief History Of Marriage

In recent times good people everywhere are being urged to step forward and protect Marriage.  But what exactly would we be protecting?   The 1950's definition of marriage?  The 1920's definition?  The 1360's definition?  The paleolithic definition? One reason why the public debate over marriage sounds nonsensical with neither side able to understand the other is because everyone talking about marriage is talking about a different thing.

Therefore in the public interest I herewith undertake to present to you a brief history of Marriage.

Modern humans have been around for somewhere between 200,000 and 1,000,000 years.  So this problem with marriage isn't exactly a new thing.  Humans have these genes that have one goal and one purpose: to reproduce; to perpetuate themselves; to carry on.  Those genes are not by nature monogamous, but they are by nature highly jealous.  "MY genes are being perpetuated here, not YOURS.  So get your paleolithic paws off my woman!  That one, too.  And that one."

This tended to lead to a lot more clubbing and stoning than was strictly necessary, and so in the best interests of our reproducing genes humans formed societies.  These societies solved the problem of jealousy-related manslaughter and other reproductive misunderstandings by pairing off and marking spouses in some way as off-limits to others.  Not that that ever really stopped any mischief from happening; it merely set down the ground rules, indicating where extra discretion was needed, and providing a framework for dispute-resolution.

So we have the earliest definition of marriage, consisting of socially-recognized reproductive partners as a way of heading off potentially deadly disputes among your basic cave-man types.

Much later as societies became incredibly complex, it became increasingly difficult for an individual to determine one's actual place in society.  In European cultures and others it became usual for people to belong to classes or categories, and for certain categories to exist under the protection of more powerful ones which they served.  Marriage paralleled this arrangement by placing women socially under protection of men whose status offered them a position in society.  Marriage in this type of feudal society became then a contract between a man and his father-in-law in which property was exchanged; namely a woman.  In every legal sense she was considered property, first that of her father, and then that of her husband.   A woman simply had no status without being legally deeded to some man or another, and the definition of marriage in such societies was the arrangement by which a man extended some of his legal, social status to a woman in exchange for subservience and offspring. This is the origin of the legal definition of marriage that people defend so vociferously today.

Much, much later we witness shifts in society leading to more enlightened concepts such as human rights, freedom and democracy.  Just for men, initially, but eventually for women as well.  In most countries this has only happened within the last 100 years or so; in some countries it has not even happened yet. With that change, marriage quietly changes as well.

Since women no longer need a man's legal status in order to own property, to be recognized under the law, to have rights etc., what is marriage now for?  Well, the law conveniently provided another reason for marriage by outlawing fornication and adultery.  By inserting itself into the bedroom, government held onto its medieval authority over the family, and marriage became basically a license to have legal sex.

In the last 50 years or so in most jurisdictions, "blue laws" have been struck down as impractical, unnecessary, backwards, unenforceable, inhumane, and generally stupid.  So where does that leave marriage?  Unwilling to surrender power in any domain, the law gradually and sneakily found a way to keep the marital handcuffs on:  Insurance.  Taxation.  Property.  Identity.  Each of these areas in our complex lives are affected by one's marital status.  When a relationship breaks down, it leaves a path of legal destruction a mile wide which supports a thriving industry all its own.

Not only that, the law as it stands discriminates and disadvantages people who for any number of reasons cannot or will not participate in traditional marriage.  The law in regard to marriage is increasingly being recognized as deeply unjust, outdated, destructive, and pointless.  Children?  There have long been adequate laws on the books which protect the rights and enforce the responsibilities of biological mothers and fathers.  Laws regarding marriage are more often an obstacle and a distraction to paternity/maternity laws being fairly and evenly enforced.

What should the future of legal marriage hold?  None.  Nothing whatsoever.  It is far past time to dissolve any and all legal definitions of marriage, whether it be:

  • Ownership of women;
  • Legalized sex;
  • Eligibility for citizenship, insurance, education, or any other specific benefit;
  • Inheritance and property;
  • "Next of kin" recognition.

If two (or more) people choose to say they are married, then they are the only people eligible to define what exactly that means.  The Law, to be fair and just, must restrict itself to recognizing individuals only, and must accept that individuals will at times be in relationships with each other.  And when those relationships dissolve, the Law does not need to become involved.

Will this be better or worse for children and families?   I assert that it will be better.  My reasoning is as follows:

A marriage is often regarded as an extant thing apart from the individuals, as some gold-plated unassailable fortress of permanence.  If that illusion were not reinforced with legalistic documents, elaborate state-issued certificates and the like, then perhaps more attention would be given to the fragile, ever-changing and ethereal thing called a relationship.

Without the legal fiction of Marriage to muddy the waters and distract everyone, substantive legal concepts such as property and paternity could be dealt with rationally and in the best interests of all involved including and particularly children.

Without a legal definition to consider, individuals would be free to consider their decision to marry entirely within the context of their particular religious faith should they have one, or entirely in the context of their relationship.  This would seem to present a clearer, more focused idea of just what it is they are choosing for themselves, and in my opinion would lead to stronger families less likely to be torn apart by financial, employment, religious, social or legal considerations, well-meaning though they may be.

Therefore the question of gay marriage is the wrong question entirely.  We should not be asking whether gay marriage is legal, but why the Law has anything at all to say about our most intimate, personal relationships in the first place.

The government is neither our parent nor our priest.  We are not feudal serfs, nor cave-men.  It is time to establish the preeminence of human rights and freedom, and to eliminate any reference to marriage in the Law.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Economics Explained

(so that even a moron can understand it)

When an inventor comes to me for help with a totally new idea for an internal combustion engine that he promises will save the planet while producing emissions no more harmful than ice cream sundaes, I immediately know for a fact that this individual knows less about internal combustion engines than my belly-button lint does.

The same is true when some naive intellectual comes up with a new economic system that he claims is more "fair," meaning that people like him with absolutely no useful skills will not have to work for a living.  The arrogance of ignorance knows no bounds.

Taking economics lessons from someone who has no money and no clue about what it is, where it comes from or what it's for is like asking my grandma to fix the internet.  It can only lead to one place:  the emergency room.

So, if you're one of those smug hippies who think they know better how to organize everybody's lives for them, then put down your goddamned bongos for half a goddamned minute and learn how economics really works.

Economics is all based on Human Rights.  Yes, you read that right.  It is all about the most basic, fundamental and universal human right there is:  the right of the individual to self-determination.  In other words, it is the individuals' right to chose his own actions rather than being compelled in his actions by force.  In the most basic terms, this means that people have the right not to be the slaves or the property of other people, even of the State.

This further means that the most fundamental human right is the right to ownership over one's own labor, and by extension, the results of one's labor.  If you go out and gather, kill, make or grow some food, then you and you alone have the right to eat that food or to decide who besides you eats that food.

Whether to feed yourself, your spouse, your offspring, your parents, your neighbor's kids or the guy who in exchange gives you some of his nice dry firewood is entirely 100% your own personal individual right to determine.   Your labor and the products of your labor (which I call stored labor) belong to you and to no one else - not your parents, not the community, not the State, not even the almighty Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other mythological being.  

Does this mean that all taxation is theft and slavery?  No, silly.  Only that all excessive taxation without democratic consent and without a return to the taxpayer of goods or services of commensurate value is theft and slavery.  There is a legitimate role for the state, but politicians seem never content to limit their power to the small handful of legitimate areas of government involvement.

Equality does not mean that people have equal assets.  There is no requirement for or benefit from that kind of fairy tale.  Equality means every person has the equal right to ownership over his or her own labor and stored labor (property).  Besides, everybody has assets whether they understand them or not.

Your time is your most basic asset and property, and it is your human right to decide what to do with that asset.  Many people will choose to apply that asset to their best interests by utilizing it for the urgent matter of survival - food, shelter, clothing and security.  But if people chose to do otherwise, you can't suddenly revoke their human rights just because it's not exactly what you would have done.

Other assets that people own for themselves include innate talents, learned skills, tools, and property that meets a person's basic needs (apparel, housing, personal care implements, weapons for self-defense,  implements for communication, tokens of identity or status.)  To in any way deprive a person of his personal property is a violation of his human rights.

But what if someone appears to own far more than they actually need?

Oh?  Who gets to decide that?  You just worry about yourself and let other people worry about what they need.  To do otherwise is the height of arrogance - thinking that you know better what someone else's needs are.

Whether it is a hovel on half an acre or an estate on a thousand square miles, a person's property is a person's stored labor and therefore his life, and no one besides her has any right or claim over it.  That is even true if it was her great-great-grandfather's stored labor and not hers personally.  If you grow food (store labor) and bestow it upon your children, then it becomes their life and their right to do with as they determine.  If they exchange it for something else, then that article takes the place of stored labor and remains their right.  Because your time, tools or acreage makes it possible for you produce food, then that property is as much your human right as the sustenance you produce therewith, and bestows on you the right and duty to determine how that sustenance is disposed of.

Why is that in any way "fair" to people who don't have the same assets?  A) because "fair" is a subjective and imaginary concept that is pointless to bring up, since it involves making invalid comparisons between nonequivalent entities, and B) the basic human right to control one's labor and stored labor, if denied to anybody, is very soon denied to everybody.  If it is the poor (people suffering deprivation) you are so concerned about, then know that it is the poor who are always the first to suffer and suffer the hardest whenever this has been tried.  Equality does not mean that everyone has the same assets.  It means that everyone, without exception, has the same basic human rights - the right to ownership over one's own labor and stored labor.

With the sanctity of property explained, let's talk about wealth and where it comes from.  But let's not be confused by the concept of money, because money is not wealth.  Cash currency is at best a temporary storage container for wealth that facilitates exchange of value; nothing more.  Wealth is the ability to create things that meet one's own ongoing needs and the needs of one's dependents.  Thus, money is not wealth, and giving money to the poor does not make them un-poor.  By "needs" I refer to both the physiological needs of any human (food, water, shelter, energy, security) as well as the often paradoxical psychological needs (uniqueness and conformity, novelty and sameness).

Wealth consists of the assets I mentioned previously and occurs in the following four categories in the following order:

0.  Time and labor, which may be exchanged by agreement for basic needs;
1.  Talents and acquired marketable skills, which may be exchanged by agreement for basic needs and/or other assets;
2.  Tools which may be used to produce valuable articles for exchange;
3.  Productive property that enables the creation of desirable goods and sustenance.  Farmland,  factories, dwellings, businesses, or shares thereof.

Everybody has the zeroth asset category from birth, but not all in equal measure. Some people are stronger, some people live longer.  Get used to it.

Most people acquire some assets of the first and second categories by the time they reach adulthood. Anybody can eventually acquire the third asset category these days, since previous illegal restrictions on ownership (affecting women and minorities mainly) have been mostly abolished as a gross violation of human rights.

Wealth is created in two steps.  First, when an individual gets busy and uses any of the above assets to produce something of value, wealth appears as if out of thin air.  Assets are valueless unless they are used to provide for ones needs; but when they are used, that's called wealth.  Second, every time a willing informed exchange takes place, wealth increases.  How does that work?

If two people have dissimilar articles and willingly agree to an exchange, it is because each of them would rather have the other article.  In other words each person values the other article more than they value their own item.  Therefore the exchange of articles makes sense and actually increases the total value of the two articles.

If a seller has an article and a buyer agrees to purchase the article in exchange for an agreed amount of currency, then it is because the buyer values the article more than that amount of currency, and the seller values that amount of currency more than they do the article.  Again, value increases and wealth grows.

But, for this to work the exchange must be without compulsion, and the exchange must be informed, i.e. each party knows exactly what they are giving and getting.  Those are two pretty big if's, admittedly, and both account for a large measure of how the poor often act against their own best interests.  They buy stuff that is of no value for too much money, and sell their time (usually their only asset) for too little.  They also fail to acquire assets, frequently out of ignorance or due to cultural conditioning.

The other problem often encountered by the poor is being in a skewed market, which also happens out of ignorance or irrational human behavior.  Remaining in a labor market that is too far skewed in favor of the employer is not rational and not informed.  Move somewhere else, for Frodo's sake.  Or get out of the labor market and get into something more suitable by acquiring some category 1 or 2 assets.

We are now prepared to speak intelligently about price.  It takes two people to set a price:  the seller and the buyer.  Together they set the price of things by simply agreeing to the exchange, and it is nobody's business but theirs.

It may seem stupidly obvious that the number of items bought is always equal to the number of items sold, but this is a very important fact to keep in mind.  In an open and informed market, a large number of transactions for the same item can establish an average price point that may fluctuate from time to time.  But at any given time, the price being offered and accepted for an item is the price at which an exactly equal number of buyers and sellers agree is the exactly correct price for the number of items transacted.  Think about it:  at higher prices, more sellers would agree, but fewer buyers.  At a lower price, more buyers but fewer sellers would be willing to transact.  Therefore any murmuring about the price of an item not being "fair" is nonsense.

Often, people who don't understand economics propose the artificial setting of prices by non-involved third parties whose business it is none of.  The government, for example.  Also trade unions, produce cartels, monopolies, criminal gangs and the like.  Good company, apparently.  Things that have been or are being artificially price controlled in various markets include rent, gasoline, medicine, wages, electricity, and potatoes. (I am NOT making this up!  Western Australia has an all-powerful potato cartel that fixes the price of spuds.  Or tries to.)

The effect of setting a maximum price for things like gasoline, rent or potatoes is that there are fewer sellers willing to exchange items at that artificially low price and too many buyers eager to buy at that price.  In other words, shortages.  Long lines.  Black markets.  Poverty, crime and deprivation ensue.

The effect of setting a minimum price for things like wages is the opposite:  too many sellers entering the market with too few buyers interested in paying an artificially high price for something that is in plentiful supply.  The result is unemployment, slow economic growth, and fewer goods and services being made available to the population. In either case, meddling with private transactions between two informed parties wrecks everything and infringes on people's basic human rights to deal with their own property, labor and lives as they see fit.

There is nothing to be gained by lamenting the prices of things, as though the power to set prices was some magic belonging only to the rich and powerful.  Or something that politicians do.  Such woolly-headed paucity of reason distracts from the real issues of availability and desirability.  Supply and demand.   It is not a man-made system or an arbitrary rule someone made up: it is just the natural way that things work.  When you try to meddle with it, things always go wrong.

-    -    -

Worrying about other people's problems is a popular pastime these days, and so there are many theories about what to do about those people who can't seem to provide for themselves - the poor.  why is that my problem?  Because the poor in desperation turn to crime, and crime ain't good for nobody.

Here too price becomes a pointless distraction and leads to more harm than good.  Some people propose to "solve" poverty by forcing prices to be low enough for poor people to buy what they need.  This results in supply shortages and nobody getting anything.  Except the resourceful rich, who always know how to get what they need.  This benefits only extra-resourceful people who know how to supply the rich with what they want, and the poor continue to be poorer still.

The other solution is to just give currency to poor people.  This has a number of interesting effects, none of which helps the poor in any way.  A) It devalues the currency.  B) It increases the demand on goods.  C) A + B = prices go up, so that the poor are no better off.  D) It creates dependency while punishing resourcefulness, leading to an entire culture of people who are incapable of providing for themselves. Most programs to help the poor accomplish only two things:  They assuage middle-class guilt while assuring the continuing existence of poverty and suffering.

If it's the relief of suffering you're actually interested in, there's nothing stopping you but lack of generosity.  If someone is hungry or sick, give them food or medicine, no questions asked.  No paperwork to make sure they qualify under federal regulations, no cash payments.  Just relief of suffering.  Doing it that way is much cheaper than paying an army of bureaucrats to work out who gets it and who doesn't.  "But someone might take advantage of our generosity!"  So?  A truly generous person doesn't give a shit about quibbles like that.

In the battle against poverty, wealth is the only thing that has ever prevaled.  By affirming individuals' right to their own labor and stored-labor, by providing education and opportunity as well as non-cash relief of immediate suffering, the poor (and everyone else) get to choose whether to be poor or resourceful.  On a practical level, we do this by ceasing to bog small businesses down in regulation and double-taxation.  This allows previously poor people (newly educated about how economics actually works) to create their own jobs and jobs for each other rather than waiting around for a corporation to move in and flood the labor market with low-wage jobs.

The Big Secret to money is this:

Always have plenty of it.  

If for any reason you don't have plenty of it, then do these three things:

1.  Realize what money is: just a temporary storage media of value that facilitates exchange of stored-labor for productive assets.  Money is never the problem, so stop blaming it for your situation.  (And if you wish to accumulate wealth, do not accumulate currency.  Accumulate assets instead.)
2.  Start creating more value every day.  If you live somewhere where this is not possible, THEN MOVE!
3.  Manage your resources better.  Stop buying worthless crap and start acquiring value-producing assets, starting with category 1 assets such as education and skills.