Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; (D&C 98:10)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Write Your Elected Officials

Here is a link for Arizona that allows you to easily find out who your state and federal elected officials are.

Use it or something similar in your state. Be involved.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Capitalism and Consecration

There is an interesting discussion here about how capitalism and consecration can work together. 

First off I state the short conclusion of Geoff  B in another post "capitalism is the least worst system available to us — until Zion can be achieved"

If Zion is what we are working towards what is it? How might we define it in terms all people might be able to agree on? I think you might say that Zion or utopia is where every one is free to do as they will and are able. Those that are more able are willing to help those that are less able to assist them in becoming more able. Those that are less able are willing to accept help and responsibility to become self-sufficient and then pay it forward.

In order to freely give you must first truly own.

one needs to actually have property (or a substantial amount of property) as well as freedom to be ABLE to live consecration. The morality of libertarianism is freedom and the right to reap what you sow. The morality of consecration is to freely give of your reaping to others and have that be a blessing to the giver and the receiver. You can’t really have one without the other, in my view, which is why I think that individualism plays a big part in the gospel. Libertarianism doesn’t tell you what you are supposed to do with your property, or that you can’t be a collectivist. But it does give more freedom and means to actually be a collectivist if you so wish it. Could we not substitute individualism in a political sense for agency in a gospel sense and find a similar set of values? (Pierce)

It is not really up to only ourselves to decide who to help and how

If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that at times, we are selfish. Regardless if you believe in a Supreme Being, we all are alive now because of the willing gift of someone else. Someone to care for us as infants and children. We should look to a Greater Good when trying to discern how to best lift others and to be lifted ourselves.
I think a lot of those member think that it is up to them as individuals how and to whom they are to redistribute wealth and property, whereas the law of consecration tells us that it is up to the Lord and His church to do this. These are two very different moralities and right-wing members too often confuse the two. (Jeff G)
How many Mormons are willing, right now, to scale down their living style and actually give the excess to other poor LDS families to the point that the other families would be on a similar socio-economic footing as them?
Probably none. (Pierce)

The Lord intends the poor to be exalted and the rich to be made low

 15 ...it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
 16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
 17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. (D&C 104:15-17)

Giving is better than Coercion 

fundamental to democracy, and fundamental to capitalism is a religious sense, is a religious life. And out of that grew this idea that what we have to enforce the unenforceable. You have to voluntarily choose to be honest. You have to voluntarily honor a contract. You have to voluntarily care about what the course of your community is, or the integrity of your leaders. We can’t hire enough policemen to do that. You can’t get a government oppressive enough or large enough to manage all of that. That has to be something from the human heart. That has to be something from the soul. And that’s what a morally honest and a religiously oriented people do for democracy. ("A Conversation with LDS Elder Jeffrey Holland", Jeffrey R. Holland, Feb 2015)

What do we do with those who do not want to give?

We do, in fact, live in a modern society. We do have a responsibility to take care of the poor and disadvantaged, and the combined charities (including all churches) do not have the wherewithal to do so. This is one reason why we have governments. 
It is, therefore, not confiscation (I think that’s the word you were after, not compensation) when the government taxes us in order to create some sort of minimum level of suffering in society as well as provide all the things we think government ought to do (streets, libraries, police, etc.) It is simply the price of living in a modern society. 
The hyperidealistic delusion of libertarians that we still live in the wild west where rugged individualism reigns and everybody is able to make it on his or her own is a utopia that never existed and never will. 
Consider please that even the city of Enoch had a government and required certain things of its citizens. (Lew Scannon)
It seems that we have one of two choices or somewhere in between.

One, we could kick out anyone who is not willing to freely give what has been gifted to them from God. I imagine that this is what the Celestial Kingdom is. Only those that are full willing to give all that they have can be in such a perfect society.

Or two, We could compel those in the society to give.

It seems to me that the first option is preferable, this gets to the crux of "capitalism is the least worst system available to us — until Zion can be achieved".

Consecration is based on voluntary giving and then receiving private property by mutual consent

Jeff, my understanding of the United Order is a bit different; so please let me know if I’m wrong. But as I understand it: 
1. The United Order *did* entail private property–you deeded your property to the Church on entry but then had a stewardship–often the same land/house you’d consecrated–deeded right back to you. 
2. Periodic contributions of “surplus” to one’s ecclesiastical leader were not based on an assessment from a bishop who arbitrarily decreed that one “had enough”; but by mutual consent between the member and the bishop. The ability to improve your lot in life over last year provided continuing incentive for work even after one’s own basic needs were met–an incentive that altruism alone doesn’t have a great track record of providing. 
3. If you look up the D&C passages regarding “idlers”, they are actually quite harsh. I don’t know that the United Order would have completely cut such people loose and leave them to their own devices for sustenance, as many libertarians seem willing to do; but I think that (with the possible exception of medical care) they’d be afforded a standard of living somewhat below what can be had through American government assistance programs (and far below what can be had through similar programs in western Europe). 
There are most likely conservatives who use libertarian theory as a crutch to justify personal stinginess (as King Benjamin himself noted); but I don’t think conservativism/libertarianism is uniquely uncharitable. Both sides essentially provide a theoretical “other” who should do my alms for me–“the taxpayers” (a group that, statistically, has a 53% chance of *not* including me) in the case of the left, and “private charities” (a group that includes me only if I want it to) in the case of the right. (JimD)

Capitalism (and Collectivism) is concerned with how to acquire goods and services not what to do with them

I think a relevant question is how to acquire goods. The gospel doesn’t tell us how to acquire goods in an economic sense–only what to do with them once we have them. Capitalism, on the other hand, teaches how best to acquire goods, but not how to use them. So I don’t think one can merely separate the two and say that adopting capitalist doctrine doesn’t follow the gospel, since the gospel doesn’t deal with acquiring goods, and capitalism doesn’t tell you what to do with the goods. The gospel merely picks up at the point of “once you have goods, you need to impart it to the poor and live for the good of the group.” 
There’s no doubt that most members are selfish (how many of us live on what we need and donate the rest?) and that can be reflected in our politics (how can we get more for ourselves?), but that really has more to do with acquirED goods rather than acquirING goods. I still think individualism plays a crucial role in gospel/church instituted collectivism. 
Especially with libertarianism, the mantra regarding collectivism is: individuals can do it better than a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy. So the more we retain (from the government, not necessarily for ourselves), the better it will be for everyone. (Pierce)

What might be some good guidelines for a modern implementation of consecration?

- Entering into the Order is voluntary
- Once a year, you consecrate all your possessions to the church. Then you and the bishop council together to see what is best to deed back to you. I see the consecration as an act of faith. That the counseling together the bishop, acting as the Lord's representative, is in the driver's seat. If there is no mutual consent, I imagine that you may just leave with what you came in with, but that would certainly bring a lot of consequences. Such as being kicked out of the order. And peer pressure from family and friends.
- You may leave the order at any time. In fact in fact you are really only formally a part of the order when you give a donation.

This arrangement seems to require someone with a Zion-heart and a critical mass of these kinds of people to start and sustain the order. This is why I have so often fallen back to "capitalism is the least worst system available to us — until Zion can be achieved"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Why Power Companies Want to Discourage Customers Generating Electricity

"If SRP is buying the excess for 10 cents/kwh, and selling it to the neighbor for 10/kwh, there is no profit. It's a wash." ("Critics question SRP's solar-energy payments", Ryan Randazzo, AzCentral.com, Mar 15, 2015)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Everything Is Amazing and Nobody Is Happy

Jan 29, 2014

Expanding on my belief that everything is amazing and nobody is happy, here are 50 facts that show we're actually living through the greatest period in world history.
1. U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950, and 79 years today. The average newborn today can expect to live an entire generation longer than his great-grandparents could. 
2. A flu pandemic in 1918 infected 500 million people and killed as many as 100 million. In his book The Great Influenza, John Barry describes the illness as if "someone were hammering a wedge into your skull just behind the eyes, and body aches so intense they felt like bones breaking." Today, you can go to Safeway and get a flu shot. It costs 15 bucks. You might feel a little poke. 
3. In 1950, 23 people per 100,000 Americans died each year in traffic accidents, according to the Census Bureau. That fell to 11 per 100,000 by 2009. If the traffic mortality rate had not declined, 37,800 more Americans would have died last year than actually did. In the time it will take you to read this article, one American is alive who would have died in a car accident 60 years ago. 
4. In 1949, Popular Mechanics magazine made the bold prediction that someday a computer could weigh less than 1 ton. I wrote this sentence on an iPad that weighs 0.73 pounds. 
5. The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51. Enjoy your golden years -- your ancestors didn't get any of them. 
6. In his 1770s book The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote: "It is not uncommon in the highlands of Scotland for a mother who has borne 20 children not to have 2 alive." Infant mortality in America has dropped from 58 per 1,000 births in 1933 to less than six per 1,000 births in 2010, according to the World Health Organization. There are about 11,000 births in America each day, so this improvement means more than 200,000 infants now survive each year who wouldn't have 80 years ago. That's like adding a city the size of Boise, Idaho, every year.  
7. America averaged 20,919 murders per year in the 1990s, and 16,211 per year in the 2000s, according to the FBI. If the murder rate had not fallen, 47,000 more Americans would have been killed in the last decade than actually were. That's more than the population of Biloxi, Miss. 
8. Despite a surge in airline travel, there were half as many fatal plane accidents in 2012 than there were in 1960, according to the Aviation Safety Network.  
9. No one has died from a new nuclear weapon attack since 1945. If you went back to 1950 and asked the world's smartest political scientists, they would have told you the odds of seeing that happen would be close to 0%. You don't have to be very imaginative to think that the most important news story of the past 70 years is what didn't happen. Congratulations, world. 
10. People worry that the U.S. economy will end up stagnant like Japan's. Next time you hear that, remember that unemployment in Japan hasn't been above 5.6% in the past 25 years, its government corruption ranking has consistently improved, incomes per capita adjusted for purchasing power have grown at a decent rate, and life expectancy has risen by nearly five years. I can think of worse scenarios. 
11. Two percent of American homes had electricity in 1900. J.P Morgan (the man) was one of the first to install electricity in his home, and it required a private power plant on his property. Even by 1950, close to 30% of American homes didn't have electricity. It wasn't until the 1970s that virtually all homes were powered. Adjusted for wage growth, electricity cost more than 10 times as much in 1900 as it does today, according to professor Julian Simon. 
12. According to the Federal Reserve, the number of lifetime years spent in leisure -- retirement plus time off during your working years -- rose from 11 years in 1870 to 35 years by 1990. Given the rise in life expectancy, it's probably close to 40 years today. Which is amazing: The average American spends nearly half his life in leisure. If you had told this to the average American 100 years ago, that person would have considered you wealthy beyond imagination. 
13. We are having a national discussion about whether a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage is too low. But even adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage was less than $4 per hour as recently as the late 1940s. The top 1% have captured most of the wage growth over the past three decades, but nearly everyone has grown richer -- much richer -- during the past seven decades. 
14. In 1952, 38,000 people contracted polio in America alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2012, there were fewer than 300 reported cases of polio in the entire world. 
15. From 1920 to 1949, an average of 433,000 people died each year globally from "extreme weather events." That figure has plunged to 27,500 per year, according to Indur Goklany of the International Policy Network, largely thanks to "increases in societies' collective adaptive capacities." 
16. Worldwide deaths from battle have plunged from 300 per 100,000 people during World War II, to the low teens during the 1970s, to less than 10 in the 1980s, to fewer than one in the 21st century, according to Harvard professor Steven Pinker. "War really is going out of style," he says. 
17. Median household income adjusted for inflation was around $25,000 per year during the 1950s. It's nearly double that amount today. We have false nostalgia about the prosperity of the 1950s because our definition of what counts as "middle class" has been inflated -- see the 34% rise in the size of the median American home in just the past 25 years. If you dig into how the average "prosperous" American family lived in the 1950s, I think you'll find a standard of living we'd call "poverty" today. 
18. Reported rape per 100,000 Americans dropped from 42.3 in 1991 to 27.5 in 2010, according to the FBI. Robbery has dropped from 272 per 100,000 in 1991 to 119 in 2010. There were nearly 4 million fewer property crimes in 2010 than there were in 1991, which is amazing when you consider the U.S. population grew by 60 million during that period. 
19. According to the Census Bureau, only one in 10 American homes had air conditioning in 1960. That rose to 49% in 1973, and 89% today -- the 11% that don't are mostly in cold climates. Simple improvements like this have changed our lives in immeasurable ways. 
20. Almost no homes had a refrigerator in 1900, according to Frederick Lewis Allan's The Big Change, let alone a car. Today they sell cars with refrigerators in them. 
21. Adjusted for overall inflation, the cost of an average round-trip airline ticket fell 50% from 1978 to 2011, according to Airlines for America. 
22. According to the Census Bureau, the average new home now has more bathrooms than occupants. 
23. According to the Census Bureau, in 1900 there was one housing unit for every five Americans. Today, there's one for every three. In 1910 the average home had 1.13 occupants per room. By 1997 it was down to 0.42 occupants per room. 
24. According to professor Julian Simon, the average American house or apartment is twice as large as the average house or apartment in Japan, and three times larger than the average home or apartment in Russia. 
25. Relative to hourly wages, the cost of an average new car has fallen fourfold since 1915, according to professor Julian Simon. 
26. Google Maps is free. If you think about this for a few moments, it's really astounding. It's probably the single most useful piece of software ever invented, and it's free for anyone to use. 
27. High school graduation rates are at a 40-year high, according to Education Week.  
28. The death rate from strokes has declined by 75% since the 1960s, according to the National Institutes of Health. Death from heart attacks has plunged, too: If the heart attack survival had had not declined since the 1960s, the number of Americans dying each year from heart disease would be more than 1 million higher than it currently is.  
29. In 1900, African Americans had an illiteracy rate of nearly 45%, according to the Census Bureau. Today, it's statistically close to zero.  
30. People talk about how expensive college is today, but a century ago fewer than one in 20 Americans ever stepped foot in a university. College wasn't an option at any price for some minorities because of segregation just six decades ago. 
31. The average American work week has declined from 66 hours in 1850, to 51 hours in 1909, to 34.8 today, according to the Federal Reserve. Enjoy your weekend. 
32. Incomes have grown so much faster than food prices that the average American household now spends less than half as much of its income on food as it did in the 1950s. Relative to wages, the price of food has declined more than 90% since the 19th century, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
33. As of March 2013, there were 8.99 million millionaire households in the U.S., according to the Spectrum Group. Put them together and they would make the largest city in the country, and the 18th largest city in the world, just behind Tokyo. We talk a lot about wealth concentration in the United States, but it's not just the very top that has done well. 
34. More than 40% of adults smoked in 1965, according to the Centers for Disease Control. By 2011, 19% did.  
35. In 1900, 44% of all American jobs were in farming. Today, around 2% are. We've become so efficient at the basic need of feeding ourselves that nearly half the population can now work on other stuff. 
36. One of the reasons Social Security and Medicare are underfunded is that the average American is living longer than ever before. I think this is literally the best problem to have. 
37. In 1940, less than 5% of the adult population held a bachelor's degree or higher. By 2012, more than 30% did, according to the Census Bureau. 
38. U.S. oil production in September was the highest it's been since 1989, and growth shows no sign of slowing. We produced 57% more oil in America in September 2013 than we did in September 2007. The International Energy Agency projects that America will be the world's largest oil producer as soon as 2015. 
39. The average American car got 13 miles per gallon in 1975, and more than 26 miles per gallon in 2013, according to the Energy Protection Agency. This has an effect identical to cutting the cost of gasoline in half. 
40. Annual inflation in the United States hasn't been above 10% since 1981 and has been below 5% in 77% of years over the past seven decades. When you consider all the hatred directed toward the Federal Reserve, this is astounding. 
41. The percentage of Americans age 65 and older who live in poverty has dropped from nearly 30% in 1966 to less than 10% by 2010. For the elderly, the war on poverty has pretty much been won. 
42. Adjusted for inflation, the average monthly Social Security benefit for retirees has increased from $378 in 1940 to $1,277 by 2010. What used to be a safety net is now a proper pension. 
43. If you think Americans aren't prepared for retirement today, you should have seen what it was like a century ago. In 1900, 65% of men over age 65 were still in the labor force. By 2010, that figure was down to 22%. The entire concept of retirement is unique to the past few decades. Half a century ago, most Americans worked until they died. 
44. From 1920 to 1980, an average of 395 people per 100,000 died from famine worldwide each decade. During the 2000s, that fell to three per 100,000, according to The Economist. 
45. The cost of solar panels has declined by 75% since 2008, according to the Department of Energy. Last I checked, the sun is offering its services for free.  
46. As recently as 1950, nearly 40% of American homes didn't have a telephone. Today, there are 500 million Internet-connected devices in America, or enough for 5.7 per household. 
47. According to AT&T archives and the Dallas Fed, a three-minute phone call from New York to San Francisco cost $341 in 1915, and $12.66 in 1960, adjusted for inflation. Today, Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $5 a month. 
48. In 1990, the American auto industry produced 7.15 vehicles per auto employee. In 2010 it produced 11.2 vehicles per employee. Manufacturing efficiency has improved dramatically. 
49. You need an annual income of $34,000 a year to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic's 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it's $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America's poorest are some of the world's richest.  
50. Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are you're one of them. We've got it made. Be thankful. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What if there had been Obamanet instead of the open Internet?

What if at the beginning of the Web, Washington had opted for Obamanet instead of the open Internet? Yellow Pages publishers could have invoked “harm” and “unjust and unreasonable” competition from online telephone directories. This could have strangled Alta Vista and Excite, the early leaders in search, and relegated Google to a Stanford student project. Newspapers could have lobbied against Craigslist for depriving them of classified advertising. Encyclopedia Britannica could have lobbied against Wikipedia. (L. Gordon Crovitz, "Liberals Mugged by Obamanet", Wall Street Journal, Mar 1, 2015)
"Internet is not broken. There is no problem for the government to solve." ("Oral Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Ajit Pai", Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, GN Docket No. 14-28.)

'So called net neutrality rules are designed to solve a non-existent problem and threaten to restrict consumer choice, Hazlett tells Reason's Nick Gillespie. "The travesty is there's already a regulatory scheme [to address anti-competitive behavior]—it's called antitrust law." '

Net Neutrality

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fundamental to Democracy and Capitalism is a Religious Life

A couple of quotes from Jeffrey R. Holland from his interview with Hugh Hewitt.

nothing could combine us better, nothing calls for our service more, nothing, there’s almost nothing on which we could stand shoulder to shoulder given circumstances of today than this matter of religious freedom and the chance for every man or woman of whatever religious conviction to have the freedom to say what they want to say and believe what they want to believe.
fundamental to democracy, and fundamental to capitalism is a religious sense, is a religious life. And out of that grew this idea that what we have to enforce the unenforceable. You have to voluntarily choose to be honest. You have to voluntarily honor a contract. You have to voluntarily care about what the course of your community is, or the integrity of your leaders. We can’t hire enough policemen to do that. You can’t get a government oppressive enough or large enough to manage all of that. That has to be something from the human heart. That has to be something from the soul. And that’s what a morally honest and a religiously oriented people do for democracy. 
Elder Holland also referred to a saying Michael Novak said,
the family is the fundamental unit of society. It is certainly the fundamental unit of a church. I guess, probably, it’s the fundamental unit of everything. And our friend, Michael Novak, said once this law obtains that when things go well with the family, life goes well. And when things do not go well win the family, life is, can be really miserable. Let’s start there. Let’s work better at home. Let’s work better with parents and children. And if we can master some principles in that little circle, maybe we can extend them to the state and the nation and the world. But better to start closer to home, and I believe God will bless us in every way to succeed in that most fundamental mission we all have, and that is to save and bless the next generation.
Here is the quote, "if things go well with the family, life is worth living; when the family falters, life falls apart." ("The Myth of Romantic Love and Other Essays", quoted at michaelnovakonlinearchive.blogspot.com)

(Also quoted in "Faith, Family, Religious Freedom" an address given by Jeffrey R. Holland at a fireside during the annual J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference in Washington D.C. Feb, 15, 2015)

Picture of Jeffrey R. Holland