Thursday, July 23, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup

I just came across this article about some recent work revealing potential problems with high fructose corn syrup. It seems consumption of HFCS, ubiquitous as a sweetener in packaged foods, has been linked with things like obesity, diabetes, and such. But in addition to this, apparently the process used to produce the stuff results in mercury contamination, as well. All in all, not a good thing.

How long, I wonder, until someone starts a campaign saying the Government should do something about HFCS? Maybe a ban, or a tax, or some other measure designed to reduce the amount of the stuff that gets used. Before such a thing is even considered, hopefully people will remember that the relative prices of high fructose corn syrup, and plain old sugar, is not a natural relationship. Sugar is rendered artifically expensive by import quotas (limiting how much sugar can be imported and therefore providing higher prices for domestic producers), while corn syrup is rendered less expensive through corn subsidies. Actually... I've noticed a recent trend toward greater use of regular sugar as a sweetener (always well advertised, such as Pepsi Throwback), which I suspect may have something to do with rising corn prices associated with corn ethanol fuel requirements.

Thus, solving America's "obesity epidemic" may well be as simple as eliminating a few subsidies and import quotas. Certainly reduction of government should be the first solution tried, if only to reduce the chance of multiple conflicting programs wasting resources and accomplishing nothing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Governor Schwarzenegger: Baby Geoist?

Over at, I discovered a reference to a letter California Governor Schwarzenegger sent to the California Assembly Bill 32, which would, among other things, create a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system for the State of California. Among the options mentioned are both the free distribution and the auctioning of emissions rights. And it looks like the main purpose of the letter is to promote the idea of auctioning those rights and then distributing the money back to the people.

This is a tiny step toward a more fully geo-libertarian policy. For the right to the limited capacity of the atmosphere to absorb pollution qualifies as a form of Rent, in the classical sense; and distributing that rent, rather than spending it centrally, is specifically geo-libertarian in nature. Does Governor Schwarzenegger know this? Could this be the beginning of a more general trend in favor of geo-libertarian ideas?

All in all, I am very much in favor of this policy.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Restraining Presidential Warmaking

Here's an idea I had the other day. The problem is that, despite the fact that the constitution lodges the power to declare war in Congress, the President's status as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, combined with the existence of a standing army, enables the President to prosecute wars, particularly small ones, without orders to do so from Congress. At present, the only way to deal with this is impeachment: Congress would have to impeach the president to stop him from commanding the armed forces to commit acts of war.

An additional protection could be added. Congress could pass a bill, perhaps an addendum to the War Powers Act, perhaps something else, doing three things. First, it would explicitly reaffirm the Constitutional arrangement: Congress declares War, and any acts of war outside such a declaration is illegal. Secondly, it would approve and encourage the refusal of deployment and combat orders not sanctioned by Congress by military personnel, and declare that persons being court marshaled for refusing orders on these grounds have a right to have their case heard in a civilian court.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

California IOUs

So the budget problem in California has gotten bad enough that instead of paying their suppliers and contractors with Federal Reserve Notes (aka US Dollars), they're paying some with IOUs. This is the result of a system that makes it very difficult for the legislature to raise taxes, alongside a initiative system that makes it very easy for "citizens" (actually groups with enough money to circulate and advertise the petitions necessary to get initiatives on the ballot) to force spending. Like that isn't going to result in a problem?

But what I'm wondering about is this: are IOUs technically the same thing as "Bills of Credit", which are forbidden to the States under Article 1, Section 10 of the US Constition? Would anyone care if they were?

The Constitution is not a living document. It is quite dead, in my opinion.