Monday, February 11, 2019

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #203 "COMPENSATION PACKAGES FOLLOW-UP"

     Last week’s edition brought up the dilemma of the Increasing disparity of compensation packages of high-ranking executives of public companies as opposed to the company’s lowest-paid workers, and requested a response from our “2 Paragraphs” Family as to how to address it (if it should be addressed at all).  Several of you responded, and I am following up this week with some of the thoughts expressed.  For background, one reader pointed out that CEO pay in the US was documented in the year 2000 to be 376 times the pay of the typical worker. In 1995, the ratio was 123-to-1, in 1989 it was 59-to-1, in 1978 it was 30-to-1, and in 1965 it was 20-to-1.  So the disparities have increasingly been wider over time.  (See [https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelliekarabell/2018/02/14/executive-compensation-is-out-of-control-what-now/#754ff6c0431f]).  So what were the suggestions?  One was to have governments implement higher marginal income tax rates for the very top public company earners, which would have a dampening effect upon increasing packages.   A second was to set high corporate tax rates for firms that have very high CEO-to-worker compensation ratios.  A third was for shareholders themselves to vote upon the compensation packages of high-ranking executives.  A fourth was for the law to direct public companies to have these compensation packages set by truly independent boards of directors.  And a fifth was to require public companies to disclose the range of the highest and lowest compensation packages so that the customers could use their inherent power to decide whether to purchase that company’s products and services or not.
     Personally, I think taxes are already too high even for high-ranking executives, and increasing them further would both produce even more “creative” chicanery in the corporate world, as well as having more of our companies take their business operations off shore.  And besides, sometimes these packages result in more innovations and productivity for companies, so society does not want to discourage those results.  The third suggestion has some superficial attractiveness, but the problem is that shareholders would mostly both be acting upon imperfect and incomplete information, and would also be easily subject to manipulation.  So that option is more likely to hinder than help.  And, although it certainly would be a good idea to have a truly independent panel set these compensation packages, probably based upon comparisons with similar executives in other companies, implementing the appointment process would almost be impossible from a practical standpoint.  (Not only is every company different, but imagine how many lawsuits would be filed contesting whether the boards were really independent or not!)  So all of these four suggestions would result in major unintended consequences.  That leaves the fifth suggestion, which rightly relies upon the Free Market for relief.  But to a large degree laws and regulations already require these packages to be publicly disclosed.  The problem is that no one really is digging into and widely publicizing the information, so the beneficial effect of this approach has been minimal.   Accordingly, other than renewing attempts more broadly to disseminate this information in the marketplace, and even though the status quo does sometimes give us some obscene results, I recommend that we leave this problem alone.

Question for the Week: How do billboards communicate?  Answer: In sign language.

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President



By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Monday, February 4, 2019

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #202 "A COMPENSATION DILEMMA"

     One of the issues today that appears mainly unfixable but also eminently unfair and even infuriating is the disparity of compensation paid to the lower working classes versus that sometimes provided to some senior employees and officers of some public companies.  For example, when I read about severance packages in the tens of millions of dollars for some senior executives, it feels obscene.  Why should any such person ever be in the position to receive any such payout?  It is simply too much money!  I know that life is often unfair and it is certainly complicated, and that compensation is also often reduced by a progressive income tax system, but this still bothers me.  But the problem is, what can be done about it, if anything? 
       For the government to reach in and put limits upon compensation packages in the private sector both strongly violates my libertarian philosophy as a clear violation of Liberty, and is also impractical.  It is clear that private competing companies must be able to attract and retain gifted, experienced, creative and insightful leaders, and one effective way to do that is to offer attractive compensation packages.  For example, most people probably agree that people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Thomas Edison should be well compensated by their companies.  The problem is that the compensation packages of most CEOs and other high officials are mostly set by the board of directors.  But, as a practical matter, most of the members of the boards have their positions at the pleasure of those same officials.  So the relationship can be incestuous and often hollow.  An alternative would be for there to be a law that everyone’s compensation package be capped at something like ten times that paid to the lowest-paid worker.  But formulas like that can bring both substantial philosophical and practical problems of their own, depending upon many variables.  (Remember the Law of Unintended Consequences?)
         I don’t have a proposed resolution for this nagging and sometimes even galling problem, but instead bring it to you for your thoughts and suggestions.  Please respond as to those thoughts.  It is an important issue that bothers many people in our country in a time that we need both to heal many wounds and also have people believe that they are being addressed and healed.  Do you agree?  If so, what should be done about this issue, if anything?

Quote for the week:  “Dreams are not so different from deeds as some may think.  All the deeds of men are only dreams at first.  And in the end, their deeds dissolve into dreams.”                                                                                          Theodore Herzl:  Old New Land (1902)

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) 
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
 Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President



By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Monday, January 28, 2019

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #201 "UNALTERABLE LAWS"

        Regardless of what legislatures, courts or juries say, there are some laws in life that always affect human conduct that are unalterable.  One of these laws is the Law of Supply and Demand.  This law certainly can be affected by other laws, regulations and mores, but it can never be repealed.  One explanation for this is that, to the degree that people have Liberty to make choices, they will always consider their own self-interest when it comes to spending their money, time or labor.  Of course, some of those self-interests can be altruistic, but at least to some degree, this law always affects human conduct.  And no educated person is unaware of this reality that Incentives Matter! 
  
            The second is the Law of Unintended Consequences.  This law demonstrates that, no matter what the good intentions are of the people making rules or passing laws, there are often to even a great extent other consequences that provide results that are unforeseen and frequently negative.  Dr. Milton Friedman proposed the best antidote to this law by suggesting that we should judge programs by their results, not their good intentions.  Some good examples of those results are minimum wage laws that purport to want to increase wages for low-paid workers.  But the blunt reality is that some people’s labors, most often those of young people and other unskilled laborers, simply are not worth the increased expense to their employers.  So, as a result, they lose their jobs or don’t get hired in the first place.  Is this a bad thing?  Actually, most sociologists would agree that it is far better for society, for example, to have 100 people at work earning $10 per hour than 65 people earning $15 per hour.  Other similar laws of purportedly good intentions are rent-control laws, which attempt to keep rents below market rates.  Those laws work fine, at least temporarily, for the fortunate few people who already have apartments at the lower rates.  But landlords mostly will do anything they reasonably can to maximize their profits.  (Remember, Incentives Matter!)  So they will attempt to evict lower-paying tenants, or convert their apartments into condominiums or even parking lots that will bring a market rate of return on their investments. And they most certainly will not invest in building new apartments.  So all of this results in a decrease in the supply of apartments, which further exacerbates the problem.  And this is normal human conduct.  So listen to Milton Friedman.  Regardless of good intentions, and even voters’ perceptions of those intentions, the only fair yardstick of good laws is their actual results.  If people were to understand this basic concept, this would be a positive revolution in our country.   
  
            Quote for the week:  “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”  Thomas Paine


Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President



By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Monday, January 21, 2019

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #200 "OUR MOST IMPORTANT JOB"

     This is the last in my non-expert series about parenting and mentoring our children, which are probably the most important jobs that most of us will ever have.  We have already covered many important aspects of raising children, such as loving them and setting boundaries and expectations.  So this edition will wrap it up with a few more abstract thoughts on these important subjects. 

·         The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
·         Teach children not to cry or whine when things go poorly, but instead to use words.
·         If children fall down, teach them to get up – on their own.
·         When looking for a mate, project who you would like to be the mother/father of your children.  That approach alone has changed numbers of lives – for the better.
·         Within reason, if someone is “bullying” your children, give them some advice, but let them deal with it themselves.
·         The classic father is gentle beneath his firmness, and the classic mother is firm beneath her gentleness.
Finally, although it may for some people not be politically correct to discuss this issue so bluntly, one of the best things that parents can do for their children is to be married to each other.  How and with whom people live if they are not parents I leave to their own sense of morals and views of Liberty.  But if people have children they owe it to their children to be legally as well as morally committed to each other in marriage.  Without this commitment, in so many ways the children of those parents are virtually condemned to having lives of substantially reduced opportunities!  And, tragically, today’s social mores appear almost routinely to accept this as the status quo.  For example, if Google is accurate, something like 39.8 percent of ALL births in the United States come to unwed mothers, with a breakdown of 29 percent for Caucasians, 53 percent for Hispanics, and 71 percent for African Americans.  So what can we do about this?  We should hammer this thought into children we can influence from an early age, and when we hear laudatory reports about male celebrities who have children “with their girlfriends,” we should respond with sadness and even shame.  This issue should not be left to religious and spiritual leaders alone, each of us must all vocally do our part. Liberty comes with responsibilities, and where better to place our efforts than the future of so many of our children?  

Quote for the week:  “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”  Margaret Mead

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) 
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President



By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Monday, January 14, 2019

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #199 "CHILDPROOFING THEIR CHILDHOOD"

     The response to last week’s 2 Paragraphs edition about the parenting and mentoring of children was gratifying, but I received only a few additional suggestions to pass along to you.  Nevertheless, it’s not too late.  So if you have additional thoughts about what works and what doesn’t, please don’t be bashful.  But one more thought occurred to me after the column was distributed, and it came from the DEA agent on the first narcotics case I tried as a federal prosecutor.  The agent told me that the prime defendant had been his friend when they were in high school together.  But the huge difference between the paths they chose was caused by their mentors: the agent had been mentored by his basketball coach, and his friend had been mentored by a drug dealer.  “There but for the Grace of God” the situations could and likely would have been reversed.
       And to follow up on last week’s concept, what many parents are doing too often today is childproofing the development of their own children.  What does that mean?  Because of fears that our children will be hurt or harmed, we don’t allow them to walk to school by themselves, play unescorted in parks where they can make up games to play with their friends, go to a market or travel on public transportation unchaperoned, climb trees or generally learn how to take care of themselves until dark when it’s “time to come home for dinner” – which was the rule when I was growing up.  Furthermore, during my childhood there were no terms like “Helicopter Parents,” and my friends and I were not protected by a “safe space” or from “trigger words” so that we could be kept from being confronted or otherwise forced to think on the spot for ourselves.  Yes, we certainly want our children to be safe, but many too many ways we have overdone it!  Not only do these “protections” breed a lack of ingenuity, creativity and independence, they also develop in many children a fear of life itself unless there is plenty of structure and supervision.  So what good is Liberty if people are too fearful even after they have “grown up” to give it a try?  Yes, Liberty can be scary in lots of ways, but it still is the best and most productive and gratifying way to live our lives!!

Quote for the week:  “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”  Abraham Lincoln

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) 
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President



By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Monday, January 7, 2019

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #198 "THE PARENTING/MENTORING OF CHILDREN

There are many things where I am not an expert, and parenting and mentoring children is certainly on that list.  But taking from my experience both as a parent and as a judge on the Juvenile Court and with Peer Court, I have gathered some thoughts over the years as to what works in that regard.  So with the New Year now with us, I thought that, in addition to loving our children, which is probably the most critical element in their positive  development, I would share some of those additional thoughts with you:


·         Teach our children the critical lesson that: “It’s fun to learn!”  Once they start to appreciate that fact, they will see that everything is interrelated.  So learning about one thing teaches them about many others.  And that makes life much more fascinating.

·         Another critical guideline to teach our children is to “Eschew Mediocrity.”  (I know this word is pompous, but I used it for emphasis in my high school musical “Americans All,” and it worked.)  Make excellence a pattern so if people know that, for example, Ellen did the job, they would know that it had been done right.  Thus “Good Enough” seldom is good enough.  One way to accomplish that outcome is to require all children to have regular chores to do from an early age, and be sure they are consistently done and done well.  Once again, excellence is a learned pattern of conduct.

·         “You Show Me your Friends, and I’ll Show You your Future!”  For example, if you hang out with colleagues who ditch school, smoke marijuana, talk back to their teachers and don’t apply themselves in their studies, the odds are overwhelming that you will do the same.  So, to pursue that thought, ask teenagers to close their eyes and think about the three people they hang out with the most.  And, without telling you who they are, ask the question: “Do you think they will be successful in their lives?”  If not, maybe you should hang out with a different group of people.   Another approach is to ask the question: “What is a friend?”  Does someone who encourages you to shop lift a CD, be truant or lie about your conduct really a “friend?”  Maybe that person is just a former friend, or maybe has always just been an acquaintance

·         Children should know where their boundaries of conduct are, and that those boundaries will be enforced – and then they will thrive within those boundaries.  Teenagers expect their parents to parent – and are inwardly disappointed when they don’t.  (Some parents are amazed at this thought, as they have instead simply tried to be their children’s “friends.”  But that is not the same thing!)

·         Ask teenagers how old they are right now, and then how old they will be ten years from now.    (I only had one young man get the wrong answer to this question.)  Then ask them what they want their lives to look like ten years from now.  (We all know that those ten years will go by quickly, but for a teenager it will seem like an eternity.)  So if you want to be an engineer, attorney, mechanic or medical doctor, what are you doing right now to further those worthwhile goals?  And will shoplifting at Target help you achieve them? 

·         “Your Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do.”  Another way to drive home this thought is for a parent, teacher or other mentor to say: “I help those who help themselves.”

·         Teach children to question information, regardless of its source.  For example, one of my triumphs of parenting occurred one day when my three children, then at ages 9, 9 and 6, were driving with me through an area where there were sheets of plastic on the ground to nurture the growth of young strawberry plants.  So I said casually, “Look kids, this is where they grow plastic,” to which they responded: “Oh really Daddy, oh really?”  I said nothing.  But after we had driven another five miles down the road one of my children piped up and said: “Oh, come on Dad.”  I still see that as an important lesson for them.

·         Teach children that it often pays to postpone gratification.  People who can do that are much more likely to be successful than those who cannot.

·         Of course, grandparents should strongly to assist in the development of children, but it is also their obligation to spoil the grandchildren.  So do it without apology!
Okay, this edition has been much longer than I was expecting, but if even some of these thoughts make sense and are helpful, please use them and pass them along to other parents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and other mentors as well.  It is hard for me to come up with a more important subject.  And if you have some other suggestions for successful parenting and mentoring, please pass them back to me.  If there are enough suggestions, we can revisit this issue in a future edition of 2 Paragraphs.

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President


Thought for the week:  “I ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon.  I’ll let you know.”
                                                                              
By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2 PARAGRAHS 4 LIBERTY: #197 "SOME REFLECTIONS DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON"

     As this Christmas and Holiday Season is upon us, please join me in two reflections.  The first is: “We should pause to consider how our lives have been enhanced by some other people, and be grateful for them.”  And the second is: “We should pause to consider how we ourselves have been able to have enhanced the lives of others, and be grateful for those opportunities.”  For me, these reflections both originated from Frank Capra’s classic 1947 film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and in many ways they embody the Christmas Spirit.  So I wanted to share them with you.
        As to the first reflection, and as I wrote in the first sentence of the Introduction of one of my books,* the best decision I ever made in my life was choosing my parents.  And this is simply true.  Being born to the loving, wonderful and supportive Elizabeth and William Gray provided me fantastic benefits that many people have never come close to receiving.  And, to my everlasting gratification, they knew I loved and appreciated them!  (Don’t let you or anyone close to you leave this earth without ensuring that they also know that you love and appreciate them!)  And there were many others as well, such as my wonderful wife and children; my sister and her loving and supportive husband; several good and close friends (one of whom helps by giving me suggestions and criticisms of most of my writings, including this 2 Paragraphs series); several former teachers and mentors (some of whom I have subsequently written to express my appreciation); and many more, many of whom I recognize and some of whom I will never know.  Imagine how my life would have been different had they not been in it!  But also don’t forget to include in your reflections how you have made positive differences in the lives of others – whether they have realized and expressed appreciation for them or not.  It brings genuine gratification just to know that a few things you have done have brought happiness, opportunities and warmth to others – and that should be enough.
                

So I hope you savor and bask in this Give and Receive Christmas Spirit with me.  Life is Good!

Wearing the Robe: the Art and Responsibilities of Judging in Today’s Courts (Square One Press, 2009)


Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President




Question for the week: What did Adam say to his wife on the day before Christmas?  “Merry Christmas Eve.”
                                                                              
By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #196 "IT'S ABOUT WHO WE ARE"

      Last August Reason magazine editor Matt Welch commented in an editorial in the New York Times about the teachings of the late Senator John McCain on the subject of torture.  He said that McCain taught us that torture “produces faulty intelligence, that ‘every man has a breaking point,’ (and) that military personnel derive a motivational pride from America having higher moral standards than its debased adversaries.  ‘Your last resistance, the one that sticks, the one that makes the victim superior to the torturer, is the belief that were the positions reversed you wouldn’t treat them as they have treated you.’”  But we must continue to learn from McCain, because interest in this important issue appears to have waned.  And it should not because, as Mc Cain says, “This is a moral debate.  It is about who we are.”
     The prison at Guantanamo is still open, much to our discredit!  And, although President Obama banned torture as soon as he took office, our present president has stated publicly that torture “absolutely works.”  Furthermore, our government even under Obama has continued secretly to send terrorist suspects off to third-party countries to be “questioned.”  So do we care?  Have we learned from Senator McCain that unaccountable power behaves unaccountably?  Yes, we know that after Osama bin Laden was located and killed, many officials in our government widely spouted that this never would have happened without using “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.”  But was this true?  Ask McCain, who subsequently wrote: “In truth, most of the C.I.A.’s claims that abusive interrogations of detainees had produced vital leads to help locate  Bin Laden were exaggerated, misleading, and in some case, complete bullshit.”  But even if it worked, the very soul of the United States of America is its Freedoms and its Liberties.  Do we not believe that our soul is under direct attack if we do not treat everyone in our custody humanly?  Of course, we should also define what we mean by the word torture because there is a significant difference between breaking bones and subjecting people to sleep deprivation and loud music.  But in the end, it is not about other people, other countries or even the Geneva Convention, it’s about who we are!  

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President



Thought for the week:  Technically Moses was the first person with a tablet to download data from the Cloud.

By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #195 "A BETTER FORM OF HEALTHCARE"

     Last week’s edition attacked the direction we are presently going toward, which is socialized medicine.  This edition outlines a better way, which would be to reduce the involvement of government for people who are able to take care of their own healthcare needs simply to requiring each of them each year to invest about $5,000 in a Medical Savings Account.  This would be a separate ATM-type account that they would use to pay for their own healthcare needs.  In addition, they would be required to purchase catastrophic healthcare insurance, which would basically be insurance with a $5,000 deductible.  Research shows that most people spend less than $5,000 per year for their healthcare needs until reaching the later years of their lives.  So if they have an incentive to spend their money wisely, and know that the remaining amount will be rolled over into the next year’s account and eventually be available for their retirement, they will do just that.  This program will produce at least three beneficial results.  The first would be to increase competition for healthcare dollars, which will bring down those costs.  The second would be that the amount of money paid to healthcare professionals would be materially increased, and the amount paid to administrators and bureaucrats materially decreased.  And the third would be once again to encourage people more to act as active partners with their healthcare professionals in their own health.   All of these are good results.
       But what about people who are not able financially to take care of their own needs?  They would be provided with government-paid vouchers which could be used by them to pay for their own healthcare needs as well as insurance.  These vouchers would be provided on a sliding scale based upon each person’s financial condition, but there would always be some form of co-pay, however slight, to encourage responsible purchases.  This approach would then furnish the same basic results as set forth above.  Thus everyone would be encouraged to spend their money/vouchers productively thus bringing costs down.  In addition, more of the money would go to healthcare professionals and less to bureaucrats, which would also reduce fraud in medical billing.  And this approach would also remove inequitable tax breaks for employer-based insurance plans, and encourage everyone to act as partners in their own healthcare.  So what’s not to like?

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President




Quote for the week:  “The trouble with the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat.”  Lilly Tomlin
                                                                              
By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Friday, December 14, 2018

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #194 "MEDICAL INSURANCE: WHAT HAVE WE WROUGHT?"

     As we all have seen, over the last few decades the costs of medical care have quadrupled in the United States as a percentage of our GDP.  How and why has this happened?  That is an easy question to answer, because as the costs have become less transparent, they have risen – enormously.  And how has this come about?  It began during World War II, when the wages that employers could pay their employees was frozen.  So how could employers entice more skilled and able employees to work for them if they couldn’t increase their salaries?  The answer was to offer the employees benefits like medical insurance that were in addition to their wages.  And this situation was compounded again under President Nixon’s system of wage and price controls.  So now, as we know, a large percentage of employees have their health insurance paid for by their employers. 
     How has that raised prices?  Again an easy question to answer.  Today, for example, if people covered by health insurance see their doctor about a knee problem and the doctor asks them if they want to have an MRI, what goes through the patients’ minds?  ”Well, I have health insurance, and the co-pay for me will only be about $30, so why not?  I might as well get the best.”  But if those patients actually paid their own money for the MRI, what would they be asking?  “Okay doc, what will the MRI show us and how much will it cost?”  But unfortunately today cost is not even a factor, to the extent that most of the time not even the doctors know what the cost is.  So that is how the costs have skyrocketed.  How can we bring them down?  Bring in Liberty, which will have patients pay for their own healthcare.  That will not only make the patients larger partners with their doctors in their own healthcare, but it will bring in competition back into healthcare which will, in turn, bring costs back down.  How can this be done?  It’s not that hard.  Just bring in a system of medical savings accounts for those of us who can take care of our own medical needs, and combine it with a system of vouchers on s sliding scale that will address the medical needs of those who are not so financially secure.  And we will discuss this approach next week.

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President



Sign on the wall I say in a dining room at a lodge I stayed at in the Boundary Waters area between Minnesota and the Canadian border that was 30 miles away by canoe from the nearest competitor: “Two choices for dinner: take it or leave it.”

Like everyone else there, I took it.



By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #193 "THE 'TRANSFER STATE' IN ACTION"

 Recently I read the book Your Money or your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax by Sheldon Richman (The Future of Freedom Foundation, 1999), which discusses how we have spawned such an expensive and intrusive federal government, and what it does to repress Liberty.  It truly is worth the read in itself. But he wrote the following three paragraphs, beginning at page 93, that I simply had to pass along to you.  Please think about this situation and share your thoughts with others.

“The irony is that even people who claim to support limits on government power play the transfer game.  The late libertarian teacher Robert LeFevre used to ask conservative businessmen to list the government activities they liked. These people, who claimed to favor limited government, would each write a short list of programs.  The lists would differ, though; so when they were consolidated, the result was a government that had its hands in many areas of the economy.  The point of LeFevre’s exercise was that the political process can produce big government even when self-styled limited-government advocates are calling the shots.
“Observe the transfer state in action.  Social Security imposes taxes on working people and hands the money to retired people.  Medicare does almost the same thing, except the money goes to doctors and hospitals.  Agricultural programs take money from taxpayers and consumers and give it to farmers for not growing or for growing particular crops.  Welfare programs give the taxpayers’ money to people who do not work. Subsidies reward well-connected business people with the hard-earned money of the middle class and working class. Foreign aid indirectly subsidizes particular American businesses by giving tax money to foreign governments that will buy American products and services.  Government cultural agencies transfer wealth to artists, musicians, broadcasters, and humanities scholars.  The education bureaucracy subsidizes trendy social experiments on children.  The defense bureaucracy floods contractors with cash for equipment that is not needed and for missions that are improper.  The list goes on and on.
“In each case, people seeking reelection and aspiring to prestigious ‘public’ careers extract wealth from the general population to finance their schemes and benefit those with the time and resources to gain influence.  The textbook model of democratic government responsive to the people is not found in the real world.  Rather, government is a vast auction hall (to use Mencken’s metaphor) in which people enter bids for access to politicians and the vast booty collected by the tax system.”

Thomas Jefferson famously said that we should have a bloody revolution every generation to keep the vested interests at bay.  Well, our Constitution can keep it from being bloody, but how long has it been since we had a revolution?  The 1860s when the Republicans took over from the Whigs?  So maybe it’s long since time! And the Libertarian Party is the only hope in sight!

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President


Quote for the week by Author Unknown: “Dreams don’t work unless you do.”                                                                                
By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #191 "DRUG PROHIBITION KILLS AGAIN!"

      Many prior 2 Paragraphs editions have outlined how our government’s policy of Drug Prohibition is killing people, both through the absence of quality control as well as the rampant violence of Mexican drug cartels and juvenile street gangs which emanates from the sales of illicit drugs.  But now we can update those unnecessary deaths with the current so-called opioid crisis.  Yes, drug “overdose” deaths have increased recently, many coming in combination with alcohol and other substances.  But a closer look at the news reports shows that many of these deaths are caused by the synthetic form of heroin called fentanyl.  This is manufactured in Mainland China that is as much as 50 times more potent than heroin, such that a sugar-packet-sized bag of it is strong enough to kill 500 people!  But, since it is so potent, only small amounts are needed, and they can be shipped into our country without detection fairly easily.  So it is the absence of quality control and accurate labeling caused by the illicit market spawned by Drug Prohibition that is killing so many people.            
     As reported on October 21, 2018 in the Orange County Register, the Zheng drug trafficking organization in Shanghai advertises and sells fentanyl and its synthetic cousins quite cheaply and openly in 35 languages on the internet.  And since the DEA is now monitoring our country’s medical doctors so strongly when they prescribe narcotics as pain medication, many doctors are hesitant to provide them to their patients.  So this either leaves the patients in needless pain, or forces them to seek relief from street drugs, like heroin.  And the result?  Last year there were 28,826 recorded deaths in our country from overdoses linked to synthetic opioids, mostly fentanyl, which is up from “only” 3,100 such deaths in 2013.  But in countries that do not prosecute the possession and use of heroin, such as Portugal and the Netherlands, fentanyl is virtually unknown.  So, for all of the potential harm that can be caused by heroin, don’t you agree that the quality control and death prevention efforts would be better left in the hands of a legal market overseen by medical professionals, than an illegal one overseen by mobsters?  In other words, the term “Controlled Substances” is the biggest oxymoron in the English language.  Why?  Because as soon as we prohibit a substance, we leave all of the control regarding quantity, quality and age restrictions in the hands of the bad guys!  There must be, and is, a better way!

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with

Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President


Image result for terezin poemsThe quote for the week comes in the form of a poem written at the Terezin Nazi Concentration Camp in what is now the Czech Republic by a 12 year-old boy, who soon was killed. It brought tears to my eyes.  

                                By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.

Monday, December 3, 2018

2 PARAGRAPHS 4 LIBERTY: #192 "MAKE THE SYSTEM WORK"

     Those of us who are citizens of this great country are blessed because this brings us many benefits.  But it also brings responsibilities, and this edition of 2 Paragraphs will briefly discuss four of them.  The first is not only to vote, but first to prepare so that we are educated about the candidates and the issues.  The second is to serve on juries when called upon to do so.  That means that we, as civilians, will in many ways have the final say about how various civil and criminal disputes are resolved.   And by doing that we sometimes can exercise great civilian control over our governments.  Thirdly, we should pay our taxes.  Of course, I’m a libertarian and believe those taxes are much too high, but that is a subject for another day.  Fourthly, and no matter what social or economic position we are in, all of us are sometimes in a position in small and even large ways to Make the System Work. 
       For example, if we see some people who are being mistreated, cheated or humiliated, and they are unable to defend themselves, we should, as citizens, step forward and help them.  I’m not saying that we should unnecessarily put ourselves into danger, or be busybodies, but sometimes the situation calls for involvement by third parties, and we should be those people.  Or if we see potentially dangerous conditions either on public or private property, we should report it so that the chances of injury to others or damage to their property will be reduced.  Most of the time things like this don’t take much effort, but they can be effective.  As an illustration, recently when I had a speaking gig at Columbia University in New York City, I noticed that Grant’s Tomb was just a few blocks away.  So I went back to see it.  Inside it was still clean and impressive, but outside there was a beautiful tile bench that went about 270 degrees around the tomb that had weeds growing all through it.  And the National Monument sign from the US Park Service was also sitting on its side.  So I took some pictures of the situation and sent them along with a letter of complaint to the Head of the Park Service, which quoted Bob Dylan that we are “either busy being born or busy dying.”  And, since that is true both for individuals as well as countries, I didn’t want anyone “on my watch” to think our country was busy dying.  This was not a question of money, it was a question of caring.  Happily, I received a letter back about two weeks later saying that the problem was fixed.  The sign was up and the weeds were gone.  (I verified this later with my contact at Columbia.)   Yes, this is just a small thing, but I think it helps  And all of us are sometimes in similar positions to make the system work and, in my view, our obligations as citizens demand it!

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President, along with
Governor Gary Johnson as the candidate for President

   (Silly) Thought for the week: “If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.” 

   By the way, these columns are now on Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray@wordpress.com.  Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty.