I intend to use this blog as a platform for my daily thoughts on a variety of topics. I welcome comments, objections, and questions.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Resolutions

I think one of our greatest holiday traditions is having New Years Resolutions. Granted, people should have goals all year-round, and should be ambitious in achieving them. But, this end of the year tradition reminds us of our goals and perhaps by sharing them with each other, we all get a little boost in ambition.

So in that spirit, I would like to share my New Years Resolutions:

1. Get into grad school (St. Johns in Annapolis, Maryland is my preferred choice).
2. Continue to work out well and even step up my routine.
3. Join a squash league.
4. Continue to publish daily on this blog - I love writing like this.
5. Make more time to read, starting with Tara Smith's two books: Viable Values and Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist.
6. Start taking piano lessons, and maybe trumpet lessons as well.
7. And this should go without saying...go into NYC a lot to see the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center! :-D

I'd like to hear yours. Comment! And, happy new years!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Economic Arguments Against Public Education and Medicare

I've barely received any comments far. For shame. C'mon people. Even if your comment is one sentence, I want to see it and will appreciate it.

I've been writing a lot of e-mails lately. What follows is from another e-mail where I am explaining why public education and medicare are economically harfmul. I pretty much covered my moral arguments against them in my first post, and most of you who know me are pretty familiar with them anyway. (However if you are curious, please ask).

It would take a much more extensive argument than the one that follows to fully demonstrate the economic harm of government-subsidized industry, particularly in education and healthcare. But, I think what follows is a pretty good summary.

I want people to be educated, healthy, and not suffering. But as I've said, the ends do not justify the means. The benefit of society NEVER outweighs the rights of the individual.

Economically speaking, there is no reason to assume that effective social programs could not be created on a private basis. Take your assumptions about public and private school specifically. Why is private school often so expensive? Is there something about the very nature of education that will always make it expensive, or is there something currently in the nature of the market that makes it expensive? Private school is so expensive because it cannot compete in a free market. Since education is not thought of as a for-profit business, but rather this right that everyone has, no one is really thinking much about the quality of education. There is very little or no economic competition between schools.

What is a major reason for decrease in price in a highly-valued product or service? Profit. As demand for the good or service increases and profit increases, price is reduced to make it more available to a larger quantity of people, thus yielding more profit. When competition is introduced, the company that can sell the best product at the lowest price often wins out. Other companies must either match the quality or price or go out of business.

There's another analogy that helps: the introduction of new technology. When a new technology first comes on the market, it is incredibly expensive - and only the select few can purchase it. Over time, as knolwedge of how to produce the product/service grows, it becomes cheaper to manufacture. That is, companies can create the product more efficiently and thus at cheaper cost. New companies emerge that have discovered how to make the product/service cheaper and can get more profits by beating out their competitors with lower prices. This continues as a cycle until a piece of technology that once seemed incredibly expensive and available only to the elite is now a commonplace item. There are countless examples of this that it is not necessary to make a list.

Now, what is one of the most highly demanded and needed services in the country? Education. If schools were run as for-profit businesses, I guarantee you that the price of education would plummet. Education treated as a for-profit business would have the same effect as in any free industry, but to an even large degree given how much of a demand there is for good education. By artificially subsidising education through government, this process is completely wrecked. In a market, businesses are rewarded directly by market success - it is a completely objective measure. In a government industry, "success" is measured and rewarded by less objective, more artificial means. For one thing, there is a lot of back-scratching based solely on political pull, and not the reflection of any actual merit. A state politician wants to gain popularity, so he pledges more money to education. This does not reward any specific merit, in fact it only encourages lethargy and inefficiency. Actual merit is not the key - knowing the right politicians is.

Is it any surprise that our public schools are failing? In any normal business environment, if we hire someone to do a job, and they fail miserably, we fire them. In the realm of public education, if a school fails miserably, we throw more money at them! What does this accomplish? Does this address the cause of that school's failure in any substantial way? Some schools may fail because they lack funds, most schools fail because of more important problems like bad teachers or bad educational philosophy. Furthermore, there is no possibility for the financiers of public education to remove their funds if they think that a school is doing a terrible job! The money that finances public school is taken forcibly from taxpayers, and they have no say in the educational philosophy of the school, the curriculum, or the teachers. And even worse, teachers are given tenure for no reason other than simply having been at one school for a designated period of time! This is not a reward based on merit or effective results but rather just simple patronage!

Are you starting to get the point? Everything about our educational system encourages not competition, ambition, and merit but rather the exact opposite. To the extent that some schools are able to muster these qualities is a testament to the merit of certain teachers and certain schools fighting against an educational system that encourages anything but. It is for the very reason that education is so incredibly valuable to every individual that it must be completely private! If we really want to give the best education, it must be one that is based on merit and competition, not political patronage.

This is only a portion of my economic argument against public education. I'm sure that you can imagine what my moral argument against it would be. I believe that I have partially mentioned it before, but I will summarize again here. The individual who's money is forcibly seized (which is a crime in itself) has absolutely no say over how that money is to be used. Specifically, he is forced to support ideas that he may loathe, or even find to be evil. That is an utter perversion of morality and justice.

A similar economic argument must be made for healthcare. Most people do not want to think of hospitals as for-profit businesses, but that is exactly what they must be. Any good or service cannot be created out of thin air, no matter how much we would wish them to be. If it were up to my whim right now, not a single person in the world would be sick, and all would be healthy. But this is obviously not the case. The goods and services needed to treat the sick and ailing cost money.

Specifically, as the quality of life in this country has improved so drastically, we are now able to live much longer than we ever could. But, this creates an unintended problem, it now costs much more to live, because in order to extend our lives in the way that we have, we must use all sorts of technologies and medicines. As our life expectancy continues to get older, and as we have more people who are old, overall medical costs become higher and higher.

So what is the most important thing needed to get prices to come down? Greater efficiency. Like with any other industry, we have to become more efficient in our production of medical goods and services. How do we do this? We do it through research, innovation, and ultimately implementation into the market. But, we have to be pushed hard to become more efficient. That is, if market forces dictate that prices are going to skyrocket and we're going to lose profits and be unable to continue our business, we must become more efficient. The facts of the medical market are in fact telling us this.

But on the whole, the medical industry is not trying to become more efficient. What has been the primary solution offered to solve this problem of increasing healthcare costs? Government subsidy. Government has increasingly stepped in to foot the bill for the increase in healthcare costs. In other words, hospitals do not have to worry about becoming more efficient, because the government bails them out. Are you starting to see the problem here? Now, hospitals don't have to act based on market conditions - they can do whatever the hell they want. All of a sudden, hospitals are ordering a lot of really expensive surgeries for patients with good medical insurance because hey, the government is footing the bill. You see...medical costs, instead of decreasing, begin to skyrocket. What incentive do they have to become more efficient in their service? They are making hand over fist and don't have to put a damn bit of effort into it - because the government has deemed that healthcare is a needed service and will foot the bill. While before, struggling hopsitals were doing everything they could to keep costs down because they needed to stay in business, now the nature of their market encourages them to spend as much as possible.

What has happened when healthcare costs increase even more as a result? There are calls for more government intervention! As I think you can clearly see by now, this only worsens the problem.

It's true that healthcare costs are increasing - but this is the result of natural market forces. Demand has been increasing with supply slow to catch up, thus, increased prices. The solution is not to throw money at the problem. As I've shown, this leads to disaster. The only real solution is to actually get supply to outproduce demand - which requires an actual increase in productive efficiency. This will never happen under government-subsidized medicine.

Thus, we must remove government subsidy from education and healthcare. Let's get them out of the rest of the market while we're at it...but that is another post.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rational Mind as Ultimate Survival Tool

A quick but fun thought for today. Like my first post, this came from an e-mail. The recepient had claimed that though there are no innate ideas, there are innate structures in the brain that allow us to develop later through experience. Specifically, she referenced a study that suggests that certain part of the brain are stimulated specifically by religious belief. My response:

You're absolutely right that there are certain innate structures in the brain that form the foundation for what is developed later. It is really interesting to speculate on where these structures came from, especially this apparent part of the brain that specializes in religious belief. I'm a pretty firm advocate of evolution, and I think it explains a lot. There's a philosopher named Daniel Dennett who teaches up at Tufts University in Boston. He argues that the capabilities of our brain, and in particular, volitional consciousness, emerged from evolutionary pressures. Think about it this way. All animals act on instinct. They are hard-wired to interact with their environment in a particular way. Thus, if something radical happens in their environment, it is very difficult for them to cope. In a lot of ways, animals are very dependent on their particular environment. Human beings however developed an amazing capacity: the rational mind. We can gather and store vast amounts of information about of environment, and using this knowledge,change our environmental conditions in a fundamental way. Disease killed millions, we created medicine. Floods destroyed homes and killed many, we create dams and levees. The rational mind is the ULTIMATE survival tool! So this capacity for rational thought becomes hard-wired into our DNA and becomes the very essence of our species. (This stuff is so cool).

A really interesting question comes from this. Is there an evolutionarily beneficial reason for religious belief? Based on the line of reasoning I just gave, the answer would be an unquestionable no. If it is very beneficial for us to know as much about our environment as possible, then we would benefit most from knowing the exact causes of several environmental phenomena so that we can best avoid death and live the best life possible. If, on a very basic level, we simply attribute various environmental phenomena to a god or supernatural force, we learn very little about what is happening and are thus more likely to be aversely affected by it. In other words, religious belief is harmful from a survival standpoint! So if there are structures in the brain designed for religious belief, perhaps they will disappear over time since they are not evolutionarily beneficial! ;-)

(I should point out that this argument does not logically refute religious belief. It does make a pretty good case for a scientific understanding of the material world as opposed to a religious one. However, religion assumes that there is a world separate from the material, and this argument doesn't address that. Besides, I was kinda being facetious.) Cheers!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Various Thoughts

I'm sure that my last post was rather daunting, but I'd still appreciate comments!

This post is going to be a little more ecclectic since I have several things on my mind that are not really related.

I played in an online poker tournament for several hours this afternoon, and I did quite well! The buy-in was $4, with 180 players paid in. I reached the final table, and in quick order became the chip leader by a 2-to-1 margin with only two other players remaining. Then came a disastrously unlucky hand. I started off with an Ace and Jack off suit, a pretty good hand pre-flop in a three-player match, so I raised. I was called, and out came the flop. I flopped an inside straight-draw, so I bet. The other player called, so now we have the turn. Bam! There is my straight card. I now have a straight to the Ace. I bet hard. He goes all-in and I call. He has pocket 10's, with a 3rd ten on the board, giving him trip 10's. At this point I am ecstatic. I have a great hand, and I am about to knock out the 3rd player, guaranteeing me at least a $144 prize, or quite possibly the $212 1st prize (since I would have had a 4-to-1 chip lead). But, the last card comes out.....the board pairs Kings. He now has a full house, and I lose 3/4 of my chips. It was only a matter of time before I was done, and I finished in 3rd place, with a prize of $85.68. I was so close to 1st place....

I'd like to quickly comment on an amazing piece of music that I also heard this afternoon. Shortly after my tragic defeat, I heard the Adagietto from Mahler's 5th Symphony. It's an astoundingly beautiful piece, which is surprising, because what I have heard from Mahler has often been chaotic, undisciplined, and mediocre. But in this one movement (the fourth movement of Mahler's 5th Symphony, for those of you who are counting), Mahler presents a deeply clear, focused, and pristine work. If anyone else can point out works of Mahler that fit these characteristics (not like the rest of Mahler's 5th Symphony), I'd be happy to hear them! I was feeling a little frustrated that I did not capture first place, when, after the work was finished, the radio announcer immediately said "You feel better now, don't you?" I quite literally laughed out loud.

My final thought, randomly enough, has to do with our penal system. I was watching a very good episode of the science fiction television show, The Outer Limits, in the early afternoon. David Hyde Pierce (of Fraiser fame) plays a character named Dr. Jack Henson, whom I would presume to be a psychologist/neurologist/scientist of some sort. He is demonstrating his new invention to several Senators who will be voting on whether or not to use this invention for the federal penal system. A convict is "plugged in" to this invention wherein he experiences the full prison sentence that the court has laid down. A virtual prison is created in the mind of the convict, and the nature of his punishment is custom fit to his own mind. His body remaining in a chair for only a few hours, the mind of the convict experiences a full 20 years of his sentence. When he awakens, he discovers that he has been given a second chance and is now completely rehabilitated (or so Dr. Henson claims). The character is clearly distraught and confused, but off he is taken to soon be re-entered into society.

Another subject, Corey Isaacs, is brought in to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system once more. However, as he is brought in, he is repeatedly screaming, "I'm innocent! I didn't do it! Don't do this to me!" Despite reservations from his assistant, Dr. Henson puts Isaacs in the machine. Suddenly, Isaacs goes into cardiac arrest. Suddenly they realize that if they had just put an innocent man into that machine, it would have disastrous results on his health and would, in all likelihood, kill him. So, Pierce's character decides to go into the virtual world to pull the man out. He successfully gets him out and awakens in his lab, only to find the man collapsed on the floor and being given CPR. He is dead.

As Dr. Henson and his assistant try to figure out what has happened, he is arrested for the murder of Corey Isaacs. At his trial, he is convicted and sentenced to 20 years without the possibility of parole. He enters the very harsh prison environment to find only brutal conditions existing there. There is very little activity, food is scarce, and attempts at rehabilitation are feeble at best. After an escape attempt, he is put into a solitary confinement chamber bordering on sensory deprivation. There is very little room to move, no books or other input of any kind, and no sound. He has a clear emotional breakdown and screams, "If you treat men like animals they are going to act like animals!" As he tries to cope with this torture, he finally says that he will obey, he will do everything that he is told. In this moment you can see a man fall apart. If this is not the definition of cruel and unusual punishment, I do not know what is.

What follows is a grueling montage sequence of the next 20 years of his life in prison. As it ends, Dr. Henson is about to leave the prison as his 20 year sentence has been completed. Spiritually broken and enfeebled, he moves painfully towards the exit of the prison. He sees a reflection of himself in the wall panel, and both he and the audience realize that he has been through torture, and that he is a broken man. There is a flash of white light and he sees his reflection yet again, however, he is once again a young man. He looks around his environment to find that he is back in his lab, with the Senators thanking him for saving Corey Isaacs' life. They had their reservations about the project, but now they are convinced. Dr. Henson's invention will go into full federal service by next year! Dr. Henson convulses with shock and disgust and immediately moves to destroy everything in the lab. Shocked security guards quickly restrain him and remove him from the room, frantically screaming, "You can't do this to people! It isn't right! Don't let this happen!" Oh my god, his assistant says, he sentenced himself to life in there. End of episode.

One of the things that I love most about science fiction is its ability to say so much through analogy. I will comment on what is wrong with our actual penal system in a later post. Food for thought.

Comments welcome!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Inaugural Post

Welcome to my new blog. I hope to make good use of this platform for debate, discussion, and contemplation. As my introduction says, my primary purpose is to put my thoughts out there in order to have them scrutinized and challeneged so that I may improve them. Thus, I welcome your thoughts.

I had decided that I was going to start blogging several weeks ago and so I created this account. However, it was not until earlier this afternoon that I wrote something substantial that I really wanted to see published on this forum. So here we go.

This is a general summary of my political beliefs. I adapted it from an e-mail that I just recently sent out. For those of you who know me, most of this will sound familiar, although some of it may be a surprise. For others who do not, it may appear quite out of the ordinary. I welcome your reaction.

I am very socially liberal. From a political standpoint, I think every individual has the right to do whatever they want with their own lives, as long as it does not directly harm anyone else. I am against any law designed to protect us from ourselves. Taking drugs and using alcohol excessively is absolutely harmful to the individual. However, if a person wants to make that awful choice, that is their own right. If a person wants to smoke or eat excessively, despite the negative health effects, that is their right. So, I am completely against all drug laws, and penalties against food & tobacco companies. Granted, I think huge harms are being done by tobacco companies, certain food companies, and drug dealers. Regardless, it is the right of every individual to control their OWN body. (The only fuzzy area here is with children. I think we have a general health epidemic in children today, and I find the targeting of children by food & tobacco companies to be appalling. It is one thing for grown adults to make bad choices - that is their own fault. But most children do not know any better, and I find the general lifestyle of many of today's children to be tragic. That however, is another topic).

Immigration is a good topic. I am extremely liberal on immigration policy as well. I believe that we should have completely open borders. I do think that we should be checking for criminal or terrorist backgrounds - but it should be VERY easy to become a citizen of the U.S. The main reason why so many "illegal" immigrants enter the country instead of applying for citizenship is that it is really difficult to become a U.S. citizen due to quotas and waiting periods. We live in a HUGE country with tons of opportunity. We are not even close to being overcrowded - and there is a ton more room for economic development. If it were extremely easy to be granted citizenship, I guarantee that the vast majority of "illegal" immigrants in this country would vie for citizenship. There is no benefit in being an illegal unless it is really hard to actually become a citizen - which unfortunately it currently is.

Gay marriage is another good topic. On this issue I am also extremely liberal. We should recognize gay marriage completely - not just civil unions. Who cares about the sex of the person that other people love? We are all human beings, let people love whomever they want. The only potential issue here is in the economic benefits of marriage. Married couples, by law, enter a contractual relationship that provides them with different economic benefits than single individuals. I could see certain situations where the sex of the individuals in the marriage could have an impact. Insurance companies often give different rates to men and women, for a variety of reasons. It's certainly possible that insurance companies would want to give two married men a different economic benefit than a married man and women, for valid economic reasons. But, this is a trivial issue. It would be extremely easy to resolve any such situations, and it has absolutely no effect on the morality of same-sex marriage.

So, you can probably see a pattern developing. Every single individual has the right to their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. What they want to do with their life and their property is absolutely their own affair, regardless of whether their decision is a good one or not. Politically, the ONLY check against their behavior is that they must not violate the same right of other individuals to live their own lives.

Government, most of all, must stay out of everyone's lives. As you'll see, this makes me an economic conservative. I do not believe in any form of government welfare, social security, medicare, public school education, or any other social program created and controlled by the government. Yes, there are a lot of people who need a great many things, but no amount of need places a mortage on your own life. It is my firm belief that no individual can impose an unwarranted obligation on the other. If I am rich, it is not my obligation to redistribute that wealth - especially if my fortune was created through my own effort. If you are rich, and you want to help out others, that is absolutely your right. Create private charities, raise a lot of money, and help those people out. But, to go to the government, have them point a gun at everyone else, and forcibly take money from them to serve what you think is right - that is the ultimate perversion of justice and morality. The graduated income tax is one of the most perverse injustices that our government has ever perpetrated. Money is forcibly stolen from the most productive members of society. The kicker - the more productive and virtuous you are - the more money is to be stolen from you! Now, I understand that there are a lot of people out there that are suffering through no fault of their own. It is not my intention to punish such people for the increased benefit of those who already have a lot. I do claim however that NO amount of suffering creates an obligation on anyone else. As unfortunate and tragic as a person's suffering may be, it does not erase the right of another individual to his own life and property. There is a lot more to say about the kind of society that I think would exist without government-sponsored welfare, but for now I will settle for just a statement of principles.

There is a lot to say about our foreign policy, but it is also the area in which my opinions have experienced the most flux over the years. I think that the legitimacy of a government is founded upon the treatment of every one of its citizens, NOT upon whether it is a "democracy." Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were voted into power by the majority of the German populace, but the Nazis did not constitute a legitimate government, and deserved to be attacked and toppled. As a mostly free society, we do have the right to defend ourselves against dictatorships and totalitarian regimes that threaten us directly. However, I am of the opinion that the strongest weapon we have is our values, not our military. The best way to spread freedom and maintain peace is through completely free trade and open borders. Through free trade and open borders, we export the best of American values to everyone else. I consider globalization to be a very positive thing. Also, I see no reason why we cannot all benefit from global trade and also preserve our cultures and live together. That being said, there are people who do not want any part in a global economy, a global culture. As much of the world has progressed into modernity, I see much of the Middle East stagnating in the Middle Ages. Of all the world's religions, Islam has maintained the most antiquated notions of morality and politics, and has refused to modernize. While we recognize and appreciate the value to the separation of church and state (well the good ones among us, anyway), many in the Middle East want the infusion of mosque into EVERYTHING in our lives. The worst of this comes from militant Islam that seek to establish a global Islamic theocracy. Unfortunately, I do not think that this militant position of Islam exists only in the very small minority. Quite the opposite, I think the majority of Muslims want a world dominated by Islam. While many disagree with the extremely brutal tactics that some militants use, I think that many agree with the ultimate goal. (I should state that American Muslims - as far as I know, are more assimilated and less interested in the global influence of Islam - they simply want to be able to perserve their culture and worship in their own way). To sum up, I honestly think that what we are seeing is fundamentally a clash of civilizations - of basic philosophies and ways of looking at the world. I also think that many in the Islamic world are very serious about seeing their goals fulfilled. What we are facing is not a conflict against a small band of criminals but rather a large conflict of world war proportions.

What remains to be seen is how exactly to confront this problem. I think that nothing short of the modernization of Islam will do. Long ago, Christianity was insistent that the church control the state, and that Christianity be spread beyond its borders. But then we had the Renaissance, the rebirth of reason, and the flourishing in Western Civilization that has been the result. The Islamic world needs to go through the same process. I am of the position that military intervention and occupation will not forcibly create this monumental shift. Revolutions that attempt to force an ideology onto the populace that does not already have the preconditions for accepting those principles on their own always fail in the long-run. The American Revolution was a success because as colonists, the American people had come to value self-reliance, independence, and freedom. These preconditions do not yet exist in the Islamic world, and they cannot be forcibly applied. President Bush is of the opinion that since these values exist inherently in all people, all that is necessary is to liberate people from tyranny and they will become the perfect society. As we can clearly see, that is not the case. Many of the people in Iraq are motivated by adherence to their particular religious sect, and they care very little for self-reliance or autonomy. Many do what their clerics tell them to do - which at the moment is - kill each other and fight for dominance. They do not want to vote for leaders that will bring freedom and self-reliance, but rather they vote for those politicians that reflect their particular religious sect. The majority of Iraq consists of Shi'ite Muslims, and surprise surprise, the current Iraqi government is a coalition of several Shi'ite religious parties. The Sunni's, having terrorized and oppressed the rest for generations, now rightly fear that they are going to be oppressed by the Shi'ites. Thus, they would rather see Iraq implode and return to Sunni dominance.

What ultimately creates stability and prosperity in a country is NOT democracy. Democracy is simply allowing the populace to vote for their preferred leaders. That in itself does absolutely nothing to secure stability and freedom. If the people vote for bad leaders who choose to run their country into the ground, there is nothing that can be done to counter this, if democracy is the only cornerstone of a country. What DOES make up the foundation of a prosperous society is the recognition and protection of the rights of the individual. The protection of these rights must be firmly entrenched in a constitution, with the institutions present to continually ensure that they are protected. But most importantly, a prosperous society requires the convinction in its citizens that freedom, independence, and capitalism are good things. These paramount conditions do not exist in the Middle East at all. Therefore, President Bush's mission to bring "democracy" to the Middle East was destined to be an utter failure from the very beginning. It is true that what the Middle East needs is an ideological revolution, but this cannot be successfully imposed through military force.

Now, our hands our tied in a complete waste of a war that will not improve. As far as I am concerned, Iraq is not really a country. It consists of three different groups (Kurds, Shi'ites, and Sunni's) that only got along because of fear of the iron fist of Saddam Hussein. In recent months I have been getting closer and closer to the convinction that we should withdraw our troops immediately, and move on. However, I will say that our military strategy and tactics are quite up to debate in my mind.

What I am very concerned about is Iran. Iran is the essence of everything that is wrong with the Middle East. They are the founders of modern Islamic theocracy, and they are extremely militant. We have very clear evidence of their direct influence in creating chaos in Iraq as well as Lebanon. President Ahmanedijad is an aspiring Hitler as far as I am concerned. I am unsure how much you follow the news and what you have heard about him, but he has repeatedly called for the complete destruction of Israel and denies the existence of the Holocaust. Iran was just the host to a worldwide conference questioning the Holocaust, which included a vast array of anti-Semitic and hateful groups. Iran started the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and, we have alarming evidence about Iran's influence in manipulating pre-war intelligence about the nature of Saddam's WMD program. Most importantly, they are determined to have a nuclear weapons program. An Islamic state that wants to create a global theocracy and has shown on countless occasions that it does not shy away from bloodshed scares the living crap out of me. I am utterly convinced that a larger war in the Middle East, involving Iran, is completely inevitable, whether it is started by us, by Israel, or by something done by the Iranians.

So what should our foreign policy be in general? There's still so much ground to cover, and so many other issues to comment on, but there are plenty of more discussions for that! But to sum up, free trade, open borders, and capitalism should be our primary means of creating and maintaining peace. However, there are people and countries out there that want to destroy us and the West, and simply wishing that they will change their minds somehow will only lead to trouble in the long-run. President Bush's plan to revolutionize the Middle East through occupation and bringing democracy is and always will be an utter failure. The only option that I see left is to use the military simply to reduce the capability that countries have to harm us. Nothing will come of an invasion and occupation of Iran. Their nuclear ambitions however could be halted through precision air strikes, covert ground operations, and wholesale support of Iranian student opposition groups. But, to do so would require for Bush to admit that his democratization of the Middle East was a complete mistake, and to commit himself to another war. Politically, there is no way he can do this. In other words, we live in a very scary world.

If you are still reading by this point, I thank you for your attention and welcome your thoughts. I look forward to using this forum frequently.