Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Me!? Speak at the Jeffersonville Rotary Club?

HARBESON: Remember, it’s ‘The Law’

>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — I have a magnet on my fridge a friend gave me that says “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

The quote is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, so naturally the first thing I thought of doing was to learn more about her husband’s actions while in charge of this country.

That was scary. So scary in fact, that another friend’s magnet gift sits right next to it. That one says, “Mommy, I’m scared of the government.”

However, I truly jumped up the scariness scale when I decided to accept an invitation to speak to the Jeffersonville Rotary Club, which I did last week.

Eleanor would be so happy. I think.

For those who didn’t attend and are curious as to how it went, let me just say that I feel pretty good about it because I accomplished my main goal: Making it to the podium without tripping. But that could be because I was sitting about two steps away from it.

Let me also say I had a great time and everyone I met was extremely gracious and welcoming. I even received an e-mail a couple days later from a gentleman who said we were probably very far apart philosophically but he really enjoyed it and hoped I would return sometime.

If you want to know more, then I suggest you contact a local member of the Jeffersonville Rotary who attended and get his or her thoughts.

I do need to express a couple of regrets though. The first is not being able to meet the lady in the crowd who seemed to get a particularly big kick out of the problem I have with annoying black hairs growing out of my chin. I think she and I might have a lot in common.

I also regret being unprepared for a question asking where interested people could find more information on the liberty-oriented topics I brought up. I tried to anticipate the questions I might get but was stupidly unprepared for the obvious.

I suspect I looked like a deer in the headlights but I’ve never had the opportunity to make recommendations in front of a group of people, rather than on an individual level. On an individual level, I always direct people to more information that will be pertinent to their specific concerns and questions.

But even so, I’m happy I recommended Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” as a great short introduction. This book was already at the top of my mind because I was discussing it just a few days earlier on the phone with my friend, Ben.

And interestingly, the book came up again during my pre-speech lunch conversation with Charley Reisert, the gentleman who first contacted me about speaking to the Rotarians.

Then, later this same week, the recommendation was further confirmed when I found myself in Jeffersonville’s Warder Park. I originally went to observe what I mistakenly thought was to be a Tax Day protest, but discovered it was just another political candidate rally.

So, I strolled over to the Timeline Of Liberty sculpture again and there was Bastiat, standing there holding a copy of “The Law.”

Once I saw him, I knew I made a good recommendation. I was reminded that anyone reading Bastiat would be well on the way to coming into contact with ideas about liberty in general, and might even eventually run into philosophical ideas that mean a lot to me, such as market anarchy and voluntaryism.

So I invite everyone to read “The Law” and let me know what you think. And thanks again to the Jeffersonville Rotary Club for a very enjoyable afternoon.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson tries to do one thing every day that scares her so on most days, she just reads a .gov website.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm Not a Social Media Bigot

Column Notes: This is a follow up column I decided to do after receiving some wild responses to the previous week's. There's another response in the comments section on the paper's website to this one that makes one wonder if people actually read an entire column before composing a comment.

Harbeson: In Other Words

>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — Last week’s column caused some readers to think I am somehow against social media. Upon reflection, I have to agree that the headline sure made it sound like that could be the case.

I rarely write my headlines because I enjoy the suspense of seeing what the newspaper staff will create. Plus, I don’t want to hog all the fun. So I didn’t write it, but I certainly take responsibility for the result.

I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to insert a provocative wordplay that popped into my head. I figured the newspaper staff wouldn’t be able to pass it up either, so it’s my fault if the headline overshadowed my actual points.

But now that I’ve been accused of having discriminatory feelings about social media, I feel I must respond. I am not a social media bigot. Heck some of my best friends are in social media. I think I even dated a social media proponent once.

If I was truly full of hate against social media as a form of communication I certainly would not have helped Mr. Crum promote the voluntary private side of his business by mentioning localshoutouts.com. Oops, I did it again.

Which reminds me — did you know that Britney Spears has more than 4.6 million Twitter followers!? (Oh, sorry, my attention span seems smaller lately.)

Someone also suggested that if I don’t think the city of Jeffersonville should use government funds to learn about social media then I should get out there and help the city myself. So I’ve decided to share the most valuable thing I’ve learned this past week about effective communication:

To grab the attention of a populace bombarded with information 24 hours a day, word choice is vital. Therefore, to hook your audience, I highly recommend including the word “socialist” in your message. It definitely grabs attention and should be easy for a government entity to do.

At least I think it would be easy. But I might be wrong because another result of last week’s column is that I’ve been accused of being ignorant about socialism. Some say I have no idea what socialism means. They are absolutely right.

The term has stumped me for a long time because people define it and use it in so many different ways. But this is very common with abstract political concepts created by humans.

Socialism seems to be one of the most hotly debated topics ever. Many books and articles have been written about the theory and ideas contained within socialism since the early 1800s. We’re talking billions, maybe even trillions of words.

Why, there have probably been more words written in reference to socialism than dollars spent by the federal government to bail out failing businesses. You know, companies that used to privately own and control their means of production and distribution.

So, yeah, I’m pretty darn confused about socialism.

The funny thing about socialism is that in its original theoretical essence, all of us would agree that it’s a fine thing to do, as far as people voluntarily working toward a common goal. But good ideas like this get all jumbled when people start using force as a means to the end.

So that’s where I prefer to focus my energies. It doesn’t matter to me whether something is labeled socialism, capitalism, anarchism, or whateverism — what matters is whether one individual or a group of individuals is initiating force on others in order to get what they want.

I’ve found that when I think about human behavior this way, abstract political theory becomes much simpler and for a simple-minded person like me, it works well.

SIGLINE: Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson never hogs all the fun because it’s more fun when others are in the slop with her.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Would You Call It When Using Social Media to Spread the Word about Government?

COLUMN NOTES: If you go to the newspaper's website (the headline below links to the page), you'll see some interesting comments. I received more comments through other venues too and I ended up writing a follow up column for this upcoming week.

HARBESON: Is it social media or socialist media?

CLARK COUNTY — I was online doing important research for my column — watching horror movie clips on Youtube.com — when I heard my computer click. Someone wanted to “chat” online. The screen name was Young Adult Person (YAP) …

YAP: Hey, RU that old lady that writes in The Evening News?

ME: Umm, I guess so.

YAP: Cool, I’m glad I caught you online because I want to ask you something while I’m waiting 4 my boyfriend to Skype me.

ME: Oh, isn’t Skype great?! I still can’t believe I can talk to someone anywhere in the world and see them on video too. For free!

YAP: Yeah, I luv it 2!

ME: So what did you want to ask me?

YAP: Well, I heard that Jeffersonville is hiring some consultants to do social media work. Is that true? It sounds like an Internet hoax. Or maybe an article from The Onion, that free site that publishes fake news.

ME: It’s not a hoax. Why would you think that?

YAP: Well, I just don’t see why they need to hire more people. The city has a communications director already, right? And social media is just communication. What’s he do all day anyway?

ME: I have no idea, but the city apparently needs help reaching young people like you. That’s why they’re paying a couple of guys to help them with social media.

YAP: How much are they going to pay them?

ME: I heard $5,000.

YAP: $5,000?! RU kidding? Don’t they realize that the whole point of social media is that people share ideas and information for FREE?

ME: Well, supposedly the consultants are working on a “very intensive program.”

YAP: What’s that mean? Who are these consultants anyway?

ME: One of the consultants is Lincoln Crum of localshoutouts.com and I’m not sure what “intensive program” means. But that’s the kind of language used when people want to justify taking thousands of taxpayer dollars.

YAP: Lincoln?! The dude that does those goofy shoutouts? I luv those vids! He reminds me of a Kewpie doll!

ME: LOL, yeah that’s him. I think it’s great that he’s out there promoting local entrepreneurs, too. But if he’s so hot on small businesses, he’s not helping by convincing the government to spend more.

YAP: Yeah, He’s only making it harder for young people like me to start my own business. Grr.

ME: Well, besides “educating” the old folks in city government, they’re going to create and post 16 videos about what’s going on around Jeffersonville.

YAP: Well that’s just stupid. They want to reach me? Gr8. But they don’t have to reach into my pocket to do it.

ME: Sorry young person, but this is how your government works. I guess you could say they want to turn social media into socialist media. I don’t know who would want to watch government-authorized videos made using taxpayer money.

YAP: Why didn’t they just invite us young people to make Youtube videos about living in Jeffersonville and then spread the links on the free Facebook and Twitter accounts they already have?

ME: Wow, that sounds like a fun idea that wouldn’t cost taxpayers $5,000. Wonder why the consultants didn’t think of that?

YAP: I really hate that Lincoln is part of the whole scheme. I feel like my little Kewpie doll has suddenly turned into that creepy Chuckie doll in those horror movies!

ME: LOL! Hey, that’s just what I was watching on Youtube before we started chatting. Want to see the clip I thought was the creepiest?

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson once accidentally tweeted when she should have Twittered, which made her fall flat on her Facebook.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Brain is Melting

HARBESON: And the moral of the spending is ...

>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — As I studied my calendar, making plans and deciding what I had to do this week, I felt an odd sensation inside my skull. A strange thought entered my head - maybe I’ve been completely wrong about government as a valid means to accomplish goals.

My brain felt like it was melting yet I experienced an amazing sense of inner peace and couldn’t stop smiling. The thoughts continued…

… Maybe force is legitimate when used under the veil of government if determined to be for the “common good.”

… Maybe government can fix all the problems individuals face as they work their way through the maze of life.

… Maybe government is full of benevolent leaders who never think in terms of their own self-interest.

Suddenly everything seemed right about government and I couldn’t believe I ever thought otherwise. You might be wondering if a nasty demon had entered my body, but I just noticed today is April Fools Day.

And speaking of foolish things, how about that recent remark from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels?

When talking about a possible tax to counter the deficit the health care act would bring he said, “This is going to be an immorally — and I choose that word carefully — immorally huge burden we’re about to place on our children. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

This is an amazing statement that demands much more explanation. What does he mean? To make this statement, there must be a specific number inside his head that clearly defines the moral limit for a tax burden forced upon citizens. One cent more and we’re in immoral territory. So what is that limit?

I’m asking for a number because obviously Daniels is telling us he has discovered where the moral equilibrium falls in regards to a tax burden. Knowing this number would be great news because we could at least quit fighting over the amount that’s morally proper to take from people without their consent. But I don’t understand why he didn’t tell us the number.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not numerical. Maybe Daniels meant that this will be an “immorally huge” tax burden because health care is not a moral and proper government expenditure. In other words, a deficit-inducing expenditure can be moral if it’s spent on the “right” items like, say, a preemptive war in a far-off land.

But wait. It can’t depend upon a particular expenditure because Daniels was part of an administration that passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act. This health care spending also increased the deficit by an amazing amount. I don’t remember any talk of morality when this happened.

So I guess I’m wrong again. The moral nature must not be numerical nor specific expenditure item related. So what else could it be?

Who knows, but reviewing his quote above, I see that he said he chose the word “immoral” carefully. If this is true and since he didn’t speak of morality when his party was increasing deficits, it appears that he chooses to use it when it benefits him and his political party.

Therefore the only conclusion I can make is that, for him at least, tax burden morality must be dependent on who controls the spending.

I suppose it’s foolish to listen to a politician when he tries to bring morality into a discussion of taxation because nothing is ever said about taxation itself. This is where the real problem of morality needs to be discussed, not whether a debt load goes over some undefined number apparently based on a fuzzy moral code which can only be determined based upon which party is in power.


Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson enjoys the feeling of her brain melting but hates cleaning the dried pieces out of the carpet.