Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Black Markets

Every time there is a law passed restricting a market while there is significant demand in that market the illegal activity in that market will increase.

That is a fact.

In other words, the more laws we pass the more of the market is driven underground.

When alcohol was restricted total alcohol sales increased.  Not just the illegal sales, total sales increased to above pre-restriction laws.

When recreational drugs were restricted total recreational drug sales increased.

Not only did both of these markets actually increase after being restricted the violence associated with these markets increased exponentially.

Exactly when do we turn the corner from appropriate restriction into creating a violent black market?  The truth is we don't know, but, we can predict some things fairly accurately.

The first thing we can predict is that once developed the illegal market will not return to pre-restriction levels when the restrictions are lifted.  In other words when restrictions on alcohol were lifted more people kept dealing in illegal alcohol than had dealt in illegal alcohol before the restrictions.

The second thing we can predict is that the more vocal the opposition to the restriction the more likely the illegal market is to grow.

In fact, just threatening to restrict a market can cause an increase in both legal and illegal activity in the market.

The current political mess about firearms is creating an increase in the black market in firearms.

More and more people are building their own firearms.  As restrictions increase the market for illegally manufactured firearms increases and more and more people will become involved in making illegal firearms.

At this point, I don't think it matters.  The illegal market in firearms is exploding and I don't think anything can be done to stop it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Abortion from a Christian Perspective

I wrote this for a class and received a good grade for it.  I'm sharing it here.

One of the most contentious subjects in the United States today is abortion, the act of terminating a child prior to birth. Abortion has a long history throughout the world and thousands of wise people have argued for and against the act of abortion from many different perspectives. As a Christian I take a Biblical perspective on the act of abortion. God has given us clear biblical instruction on how to judge acts of abortion. God invented choice. God is pro-choice.
Terminating a pregnancy is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. In Exodus 21:22 (KJV) the Bible tells us: “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” Prior to the advent of Christianity, the Jewish people extracted 613 Biblical Laws from the first 5 books of the Bible. These commandments are known as “The Mizvot”. Even though this passage seems to be a commandment concerning the termination of a pregnancy no such prohibition occurs within the 613 Mizvot.1
The Bible tells us that Judges shall determine the punishment for the termination of a pregnancy. In Exodus 21:22 (KJV) we are told “... shall pay as the judges determine.” Biblically, God gives us the law in the first five books of the Bible. In the Bible God established Judges to interpret the laws separate from the King or leader of the nation. In the United States, the Constitution has established a group of nine judges called the Supreme Court of the United States to interpret laws. In the Bible, John 19:11, Christ tells us that people in authority could have no power at all “except it were given thee from above”. In 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the punishment for either performing an abortion or having an abortion is nothing.2
The Bible addresses abortion. An abortion is the voluntary termination of a pregnancy. The Biblical passage, Exodus 21:22, addresses the termination of a pregnancy under many circumstances. “ If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her...”. The use of the word “strive”, in this context, means to deliberately struggle with difficulty. God could have used words more indicative of deliberate physical violence in this commandment, such as “fight”. God could have chosen words more indicative of deliberate abuse, such as “abuse”. God could have chosen to address this issue with many commandments as God did when addressing the death of an animal. Instead, God chose to address the termination of a pregnancy with a single, comprehensive, command.
The Bible tells us that women should never be held accountable for an abortion. The passage, Exodus 21:22, implies that God is well aware that a woman's pregnancy can be terminated and yet this is the only passage relating to terminating a pregnancy in the Bible. This passage deals strictly with the punishment of those who perform that termination. Since no Biblical instruction from God exists pertaining to the punishment of women who have “lost their fruit,” either voluntarily or through misfortune, women should not be punished nor held accountable in any way for terminating a pregnancy.
In the eyes of God a fetus is the fruit or the seed of a tree. In Exodus Moses reports the commandments given to Moses by God. In Exodus 21:22 God addresses the termination of a pregnancy through the use of an analogy, comparing a fetus to a piece of fruit. God has continued the analogy between humans and trees that is common in scripture. A person can be represented as a tree or the branch of a tree as Christ is represented in Isaiah. God uses the analogy of fruit to represent a fetus suggesting that God considers the fetus to be a seed rather than a person. God makes this “seed” analogy often in the Bible, through his servants and prophets: Psalms 127:3 “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward”, Isaiah 13:18 “...they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children“, Hosea 9:16 “...yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb”, Luke 1:42 “...blessed is the fruit of thy womb”. In Hosea in particular the analogy of using trees for people and fruit for fetuses is apparent. Hosea 9:16 “Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.
A seed is not a tree. A seed is one of the raw materials required to create a tree. In the Bible people are described as trees or branches. A fetus is described as fruit, the seed of a tree. A tree is a completed, living and growing organism. This analogy works for us today as it did thousands of years ago. Another analogy would be comparing a person to a car and a fetus to the iron ore required to build a car. The iron ore is the raw material which, when processed properly, becomes a car. When we examine a fetus, a seed or a piece of iron ore we can imagine the potential, yet, none of these is its own potential. A seed is not a tree. A piece of iron ore is not a car. A fetus is not a person.
Abortion is not murder. The Bible tells us not to kill (Exodus 10:13). God explicitly prohibits killing and yet allows for a woman's pregnancy to be terminated. Abortion is not explicitly prohibited. Killing is explicitly prohibited. If God considered a woman losing her fruit as a killing, the voluntary termination of a pregnancy would be explicitly prohibited as killing. God does not consider an abortion as killing or God would have expressly forbidden abortion.
God is pro-choice. God invented choice. God chose to create a world in which people had the ability to choose to follow the direction of God or their own minds. God could have created people without the ability to do anything which God does not approve of. Instead God created choice because God believes that people should be able to choose freely. While God does give us commandments about what choices we should make, God has not physically prevented us from making poor choices. The fact that God does not restrain us from making choices God has determined to be wrong indicates that God expects and desires us to choose for ourselves.
An abortion should not be punished. There is no punishment for sin in the New Testament. The first evidence of this is the analogy of the “Mote” in Matthew 7:3-4, “3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” In this analogy we see that God believes that those who have sinned should not verbally berate other sinners. A second analogy is often mis-understood, John 8:6-7 “6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.“ People often use this passage incorrectly as if it refers to berating others. Stoning is an accepted form of punishment in many places even today and this passage directly addresses punishment. In this passage Christ was telling people that they had no right to punish someone.
The punishment people should assign to sin is nothing. Christ gives us specific instructions on how to handle someone who has sinned against us in Matthew 18 “5Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” There is no punishment involved in a transgression although some use this passage as an excuse for a congregation to shun a person. This passage expressly address the two individuals in conflict and does not require everyone within the congregation to shun an individual. The lack of punishment for an offense is not limited to the New Testament, Proverbs 17:9 tells us, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.”
An abortion should be thoughtfully considered. Throughout the Bible the value of life is constantly reiterated. The Psalmist tells us that “children are an heritage of the Lord”. Since God addressed the concept of the termination of a pregnancy we know that God cares if and when someone terminates a pregnancy. Job tells us “...did not one fashion us in the womb?” Obviously God knows us from the moment of conception, yet, God chose to use the analogy of a seed to identify with a fetus. God chose not to command that the fruit of the womb be treated as one would treat a person. Seeds are important, planted they grow to become plants and trees from which many more seeds may grow. God understood the significance of the seed and the significance of the plant. Both are important, yet, a seed is not a plant. An abortion must be thoughtfully considered and undertaken only as necessary.
In this paper I have used a specific commandment given by God to Moses in Exodus 21:22 as well as analogies used by God to establish that God is pro-choice and abortion is not a sin against God. God does address the termination of a pregnancy in the Bible. God does not forbid abortions. God does not relate the termination of a pregnancy to murder in any way. This paper presents the Biblical facts concerning the termination of a pregnancy as clearly as possible. As a Christian the misuse and twisting of Biblical commandments to support the concept that “abortion is murder” is very troubling to me. In conclusion I leave the reader with one final thought, Matthew 15:8-9, “8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.


Friday, March 08, 2013

Gasoline is way too high

So how do we know gasoline costs more than it should?  What does that mean anyway, "should".

Supposedly the price of everything is driven by demand and supply, but, that isn't really the way it works.  There are many ways to control the markets and falsifying demand is one of them.  People buy a lot of options on gasoline and this inflates the demand.  There is a process called "arbitrage" which describes how to make money buying options and selling a commodity or a stock.  If you want you can study how that works.  Maybe you can make some money and maybe you'll understand how the artificial demand created by options speculation is used to artificially manipulate markets.

To understand the price of gasoline over the last fifty years, or how ever many years you can get data for, we have to get some data.

This website gives us the average price of a gallon of gasoline for every year since 1971.

This gives us the median income and mean incomes for families of all races from 1953 to 2011.  This data is wacked, compare the mean income to the way I generated mean income numbers in my last blog.  We can use it anyway, just for fun.

Okay, take the data from the EIA website and enter it into your excel spread sheet from

Now we will create a simple ratio, how many gallons of gasoline will the average income buy?

So, looking at this simple chart we can see that gasoline is more than twice as expensive as it was in 2001 and almost three times as expensive as it was in 1998.

Gasoline is more expensive today than it has been in the past.  I have done this before, going back into the 1950s and the data looks even worse.  As we can see from this chart, since 2004 the price of gasoline is going way up.

This is not a demand issue.  This is a price manipulation issue.  I could get more into that, but, for now I will just point out that gasoline is expensive.

Interesting U.S. income factoid

There is an IRS website where they publish the tax statistics for the last few years, back to about 1996.  I analyze the numbers from time to time, trying to get a better understanding of income distribution in the United States.

I use: Table 1.2: All Returns: Adjusted Gross Income, Exemptions, Deductions, and Tax Items

For any year between 1996 and 2010 take the total adjusted gross income, 8,030,842,945,000 dollars in 2006 and divide that by the number of returns, 138,394,754 returns in 2006.  This gives us the mean or average income, $58,028.52.

Double that number, so $116,057.04.  About 90% of familes in the United States make less than this number.  How do we know?

Insert two columns before column B, the number of returns.
In cell C9 type: =(E10*1000)/D10  (This is the mean income)
In cell C10 type: =SUM($D$10:D10)
Now select C10, left click on the lower right corner to drag the cell down and drag it down to C28.
This gives you a running total of how many returns are submitted.  For 2006 the number 122,241,449 should be in cell C20 showing that there are 122,241,449 returns under $100K.

In cell B9 type: =D9/100
In cell B10 type: =C10/$B$9
Now select B10, left click on the lower right corner to drag the cell down and drag it down to B28.
This gives you a running percentage of families earned the amount or less than the amount shown in column A.  For 2006 B20 should show 88.33

If you earn more than double the mean you are in the top 10% of income in the United States.  My wife and I were in that 10% for many years and I never thought of us as particularly well off.  Kind of scary.

Essentially this proves politicians are full of shit.  "middle class" can't be more than what 90% of people in the States earn.

I will believe the economy is doing better when less than 80% of people in the United States earn less than twice the mean income.