Trading cards

Random thoughts

Recently a local chain restaurant closed, and friends at dinner expressed disappointment that they would now have to drive to the next town over to use their gift cards. Those gift cards had lost value. If the whole chain went out of business, I guess their gift cards would become worthless. If there were similar cards for milk, or McDonald’s hamburgers, or cups of Starbucks, people could trade them.

If there were a Chicago Gift Card Exchange, people could sell theirs and buy others that were still locally available. But if there were a CGCE, transaction costs would be prohibitively high for just one card. Sharpers from the city would come around every few weeks buying up cards at steep discounts.

It would be interesting if you could buy a card from Shell or BP that was good for fifty gallons of gas, instead of fifty dollars worth. I suppose they don’t exist (at the consumer level, as far as I know) because nobody would buy them at the price the seller would need to charge to make a profit.

If these existed, and you’d had a few fifty-gallon gas cards six months ago, you might have thought yourself a clever fellow, not like those saps with their money in US dollars. Who knows? Maybe now is a buying opportunity.

If you hired illegal aliens you could pay them with these, although I guess you could pay them with Walmart gift cards denominated in plain old dollars just as well. It seems like that wouldn’t give anybody any advantage over just paying cash though.

Using the enemy’s weapons

Chesterton thought it was a bad idea:

“Whatever else is right, it is utterly wrong to employ the argument that we Europeans must do to savages and Asiatics whatever savages and Asiatics do to us. I have even seen some controversialists use the metaphor, ‘We must fight them with their own weapons.’ Very well; let those controversialists take their metaphor, and take it literally. Let us fight the Soudanese with their own weapons. Their own weapons are large, very clumsy knives, with an occasional old-fashioned gun. Their own weapons are also torture and slavery. If we fight them with torture and slavery, we shall be fighting badly, precisely as if we fought them with clumsy knives and old guns. That is the whole strength of our Christian civilisation, that it does fight with its own weapons and not with other people’s. It is not true that superiority suggests a tit for tat. It is not true that if a small hooligan puts his tongue out at the Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Chief Justice immediately realises that his only chance of maintaining his position is to put his tongue out at the little hooligan. The hooligan may or may not have any respect at all for the Lord Chief Justice: that is a matter which we may contentedly leave as a solemn psychological mystery. But if the hooligan has any respect at all for the Lord Chief Justice, that respect is certainly extended to the Lord Chief Justice entirely because he does not put his tongue out.

“Exactly in the same way the ruder or more sluggish races regard the civilisation of Christendom. If they have any respect for it, it is precisely because it does not use their own coarse and cruel expedients. According to some modern moralists whenever Zulus cut off the heads of dead Englishmen, Englishmen must cut off the heads of dead Zulus. Whenever Arabs or Egyptians constantly use the whip to their slaves, Englishmen must use the whip to their subjects. And on a similar principle (I suppose), whenever an English Admiral has to fight cannibals the English Admiral ought to eat them. However unattractive a menu consisting entirely of barbaric kings may appear to an English gentleman, he must try to sit down to it with an appetite. He must fight the Sandwich Islanders with their own weapons; and their own weapons are knives and forks. But the truth of the matter is, of course, that to do this kind of thing is to break the whole spell of our supremacy. All the mystery of the white man, all the fearful poetry of the white man, so far as it exists in the eyes of these savages, consists in the fact that we do not do such things. The Zulus point at us and say, ‘Observe the advent of these inexplicable demi-gods, these magicians, who do not cut off the noses of their enemies.’ The Soudanese say to each other, ‘This hardy people never flogs its servants; it is superior to the simplest and most obvious human pleasures.’ And the cannibals say, ‘The austere and terrible race, the race that denies itself even boiled missionary, is upon us: let us flee.'” — G. K. Chesterton, Humanitarianism and Strength

If this seems offensive, remember that Chesterton was a man of his time, and so took for granted that cannibalism was bad.

Anyway, it’s counterproductive to fight terrorists with their own weapons. We’ll do better if we fight them with our own weapons. Four other things we should not do:

  1. Respond to attacks proportionately; this is a variation on fighting with our enemy’s weapons, and it’s a fool’s game. We should instead respond disproportionately. [updated for clarity] If someone beheads an American, we should bomb an oil refinery.
  2. Lie about Islam. Islam is “false in its claims and pernicious in its moral and political consequences.” Our leaders should not try to ingratiate themselves with middle-eastern fanatics who want us converted or dead, or with their better-dressed apologists in our own country who ultimately want the same thing.
  3. Give money to our enemies, whether buying stuff from them or giving them “humanitarian aid” so they can buy bullets.
  4. Reward our enemies and punish our allies, ’cause that’s just stupid.

Americans died while the state collected taxes

on whiskey

“The Whiskey Rebellion, or Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest in the United States beginning in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington. The rebellion was provoked by the imposition of an excise tax on distilled spirits.”

Maybe there should not have been and should not be an excise tax on whiskey; but there was, and President Washington enforced the law. That’s what presidents, governors, and mayors are supposed to do.

Phony Islam

If ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, how come they keep recruiting in mosques?”

That question is similar to the question Muslim leaders face: How to condemn ISIS without contradicting the Koran?

Liberal Christians like President Obama spend a lot of time telling everyone, including Muslims, what Islam really is. President Bush did it too, promoting the idea that Islam is really a “religion of peace.” Maybe they should just go ahead and tell the Muslims that what Islam really is, is wrong. That Jesus died for their sins, rose from the dead, and will come again to judge all of us. Stop trying to trick Muslims into some kind of phony liberal Islam made up by the State Department, and start telling them to repent and be baptized. They might not believe it, but they are more likely to respect it. And this may not make it more attractive to a politician, but it has the added feature of being the truth

More on law enforcement

“The Pentagon Finally Details its Weapons-for-Cops Giveaway.” See what your town got.

There are legitimate concerns about militarizing our police forces, but I’m not against dispersing surplus military weapons all over the country. It gives us a little defense in depth, and local law enforcement is local. We have more say in what our Sheriff does than in what the FBI does. Granted it would be better if the DOD would make military weapons available cheap to gun clubs or individuals generally, with minimal requirements. In fact if the federal government were sane they would give tax breaks or even a small stipend for ammo to any law-abiding citizen who would maintain an M-14 and shoot it every month. But if I could change one thing about law enforcement today it wouldn’t be the weapons. I’d get rid of civil asset forfeiture.

Use of force

Somebody said the cops in New York choked a man to death for selling untaxed cigarettes. That’s dishonest. The man wasn’t choked to death for selling cigarettes, he was killed while resisting arrest.

Law enforcement by its nature is coercive. The cops tell you to stop. If you don’t stop, they tell you you’re under arrest. If you resist, they take you by force. Maybe they use a taser and then handcuff you and take you in, or maybe they use a taser and your heart stops. Maybe they tackle you and you hit your head on the pavement and you die. If you resist to the point of endangering the cops or bystanders, maybe they shoot you.

The cops did not set out deliberately to kill Eric Garner, but the force they used to arrest him did kill him. Anytime the law is enforced, even over a parking ticket, there’s a risk of somebody getting killed. Think of it as the “force” part of “enforcement.” You might say if selling untaxed cigarettes isn’t worth killing for, then it shouldn’t be illegal. Okay, but taxes must be paid.

If you sell drugs or steal a little money, you may be arrested. If you resist, they’ll take you by force. If you resist enough, they’ll kill you. That’s how government works, and that’s a good reason to keep the government as small as possible. It’s ironic that people complaining about law enforcement work hard to make us subject to ever more laws.

Government is not simply another name for the things we do together. Government is the institution that can legitimately kill you for defying it.