Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Decentralizing Power is the Essence of the American Ideal

It is probably accurate to say that America was founded upon the colonists’ desperate desire for decentralization of power.

During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, the British Parliament passed a law in 1582 that made it treason, punishable by death, to worship in any way other than that permitted by the Church of England which, of course, was controlled by the queen.

When King James took the throne upon Queen Elizabeth’s death, one thousand hopeful clergyman signed the Millenary Petition in January of 1604 asking for greater freedom and purer worship within the state-governed Church of England.

King James scorned their request, declaring “I will make them conform themselves or I will harry them out of the land.” The king correctly recognized that a free church was inherently a threat to the centrality of his power. “I will have one doctrine,” he said, “one religion in substance and ceremony.”

The merchants, yeomen, farmers and tradesmen who came to America for financial reasons were desperate for a home where they would be free to prosper or fail in a system of meritocracy without the central government dictating to them the terms of their labor.

The world’s people had never been free before America was colonized.

The tribal chiefs and kings of the Guinea Coast of Africa had been practicing slavery for hundreds of years before they began trading captured slaves for European trade goods in the 16th century.

American Indians also captured and traded slaves. The Native American tribe known as the Illinois had an extensive trade network in which they would trade captured Pawnees and other Great Plains tribes as slaves. In the East, the Eno were a slave-trading tribe of the Virginia and North Carolina Piedmont who used Occaneechi Island as a trading mart to distribute slaves captured from enemy tribes. (One historian even theorizes that Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony got lost by dispersion through the Eno slave market.)

In China in the 1600s, under the Ming Dynasty, the hereditary chieftains and “manorial lords” kept taxes and tribute flowing to the Ming royal court, often through the use of slavery, but always with the use of forced labor.

In Europe, people lived under the feudal or “tied labor” system as bondmen, villains, and serfs. It is estimated that a quarter to half the population of 17th century England could not make enough money in one day to buy a loaf of bread. They had no rights to own land or property, but were paid with shares of the produce they labored for, and received only the few privileges which the lords who held the land chose to grant to them. The lords themselves also had no true freedom, but were under a strict and often arbitrary system of submission to their king.

Before the colonists landed at Jamestown and Plymouth, no person on earth had any real freedom, nor any hope of obtaining it. They could only wish for whatever prerogatives might be granted to them by their king, emperor, master, chief, or warlord. Before that day, nowhere on earth did a person have the full collection of rights that we do: to own our own land; to choose our occupation; to select our leaders; to worship as we wish; or, simply, to be free.

The rights to life, liberty, and happiness are, and have always been, inextricably intertwined with individual freedom which can only exist where religious, financial and political powers are decentralized. That was, and should continue to be, the essence of the American Ideal.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Time For Overhauling Our Ship of State

A ship’s most important component is its keel. It is the structural member to which all the other parts of the ship are directly or indirectly attached.

When a ship has a broken keel, it is said to have “broken its back” and salvage companies declare it to be a total loss. Only a total overhaul can then rebuild the ship, which must be done literally from the ground up.

Our ship of state was built with such a well-designed and well-built keel that she has sailed longer, straighter and truer than any other ship of state ever built.

Our keel is the Declaration of Independence. All of the other parts of our national structure and existence flow from it, and specifically from the first phrases of its second paragraph:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”[1]
A ship’s keel won’t break except under severe structural stress such as by being run aground, or in the case of Captain Ahab’s longboat, being struck by the monster white whale, Moby Dick. [2]

Undeterred by cares for his crew or his ship, Ahab simply had the ship’s carpenter carve a new wooden leg for him out of his longboat’s broken keel and continued on the obsessive chase that ended only with his own death.[3]

We need to seriously ask ourselves whether we have allowed our ship of state to be run aground or smashed by a force of fabled proportions, and whether we, like Capt. Ahab, are simply using its broken pieces to hobble toward our eventual destruction.

Do we still believe that the “truths” in our Declaration to be so obvious that they are self-evident? If God’s existence is so obvious it needs no other evidence, why do we shape our public policy as though there is no provable evidence of His existence?

We appear to have also ceased to believe that all men are created equal. No longer do we ask to be judged solely by the content of our character and to be allowed to rise or fall on our own merits.

Look further down the length of our keel – if we believe that the entire purpose of government is to secure the self-evident rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, then why do we constantly legislate against life? Why do we increasingly indenture ourselves and our children with each subsequent piece of expensive legislation?

Ahab refused to listen to the good advice of his first mate, Starbuck, who cried out to the obsessed captain: “In Jesus' name no more of this, that's worse than devil's madness. Two days chased; twice stove to splinters; thy very leg once more snatched from under thee; thy evil shadow gone - all good angels mobbing thee with warnings: - what more wouldst thou have?”[4]

Rather than ignore the clear warnings we’ve been given and perversely maintain a course toward our own destruction, there is yet time for us to return to the safe harbor established by our Declaration and begin, with integrity, the steady and sure process of rebuilding our ship from the ground up.

[1] “The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription”, The National Archives, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
[2] Melville, Herman Moby Dick Or the Whale, p.474, Kessinger Publishing, 2004
[3] Melville, Herman Moby Dick Or the Whale, p.474, Kessinger Publishing, 2004
[4] Melville, Herman Moby Dick Or the Whale, “Chapter cxxxiv - THE CHASE - SECOND DAY” p. 553,

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The 2012 Election Day Lesson for Oil and Gas Economics 101

Welcome to the 2012 lesson on Oil and Gas Economics 101 in preparation for Election Day, November 6th, 2012. Please use this material when making your selections for local, state, and federal candidates. Your final price at the pump will be affected by a right or wrong answer for any of the candidates in those categories.

Consumer Reports says the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States was $1.85 when President Obama took office on January 20, 2009.[i]

The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report says that the cost of a gallon of gas on April 22, 2012 was $3.86.[ii]

On January 23, 2009, the price of a barrel of crude oil was $46.47. By April 20, 2012, the price per barrel had climbed to $103.88.[iii]

So, from Inaugural Day 2009 to April, 2012, the price of a gallon of gasoline increased 209%, but the price of a barrel of oil actually had a significantly higher increase of 223%.

Thus, the price of a barrel of oil bears no direct economic relationship to the price of a gallon of gasoline.

But have our gas costs increased because of increases in the costs of producing a barrel of oil?

The Department of Energy says the average global production cost for a barrel of crude in 2003 was $17.45. In 2009, (the most recent year that the figures are available) the average worldwide production cost was estimated at $28.35 per barrel.[iv] Assuming the cost of production increased from January 2009 to April 2012 by the same amount as our Consumer Price Index, a 7.4% increase, the total production cost is now around $30.44 per barrel.

Therefore, the $17.45 cost of producing a $27.69 barrel of oil was 63% of its sale price in 2003, but by April 2012 the $30.44 cost of producing its $103.88 barrel of oil was proportionately much less, only 29.3% of its sale price.

So, we see that the cost of producing oil has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the increasing price of oil.

Perhaps a scarcity of the future supply of the raw materials of production, the proven oil reserves, is a likely speculative cause for the gasoline price increase?

Worldwide, in 1973 there were just over 600 billion barrels of petroleum proven reserves[v] known to exist. Today, that number has doubled to 1,317 billion barrels[vi].

Here in the United States, in 1944, we had 20,064 million barrels of known reserves, and we now still have 20,972 million barrels of known reserves.[vii] Despite the United States producing 167 billion barrels of oil between 1945 and 2010, our exploration and development has kept pace with our consumption.[viii] The “proven reserves” number, therefore, has nothing to do with the actual amount of commercially viable U.S. petroleum reserves.

And, since we see that in the past 65 years we have actually produced 8 times our proven reserves and our proven U.S. reserves number has remained unchanged, we have also learned that the apparent present availability of the proven oil reserves has no connection whatsoever to the increasing price of oil.

For the multiple choice final exam coming up on Election Day, here is the key to selecting the correct answer: If a candidate for any office suggests that the reason for our high cost at the pump is a) because it costs too much to produce the fuel, or b) because we are running out of fuel, that candidate would be the WRONG answer.

[i] “Average Gas Prices, January 19, 2009”, Consumer News, Consumer Reports, January 21, 2009. http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/01/gas-prices-2.html
[ii] http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/?redirectto=http://fuelgaugereport.opisnet.com/index.asp
[iii] http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/Inflation_Rate/Historical_Oil_Prices_Table.asp
[iv] “ Oil and Natural Gas Production” http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/06_production.pdf
[v] http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/envronmt/general/2007/10oilstudylong.pdf, Figure 12: Development of proved reserves of oil worldwide according to public domain statistics
[vi] http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/reserves.html
[vii] http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/hist/mcrfpus1M.htm Table, U.S. Crude Oil Proved Reserves (Million Barrels)
[viii] “Exposing the 2 Percent Oil Myth”, March 13, 2012, http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2012/03/13/exposing-the-2-percent-oil-reserves-myth/

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Eight Tuition-Free Colleges Help Make College Dreams Come True

Getting a college education is still a wise choice. On average, college graduates make 41% more money than high school grads and the unemployment rate for those with a college degree is exactly half the rate for high school graduates.

The bad news is that CNN Money reports the average 2011 college graduate finished undergraduate school carrying $25,250 in student loan debt.

To help make college dreams come true for students who otherwise could not afford it, free college is available from eight very unique colleges.

Deep Springs College, http://www.deepsprings.edu/home, is a two-year liberal arts college located on a cattle ranch in California’s high desert. An alumnus quoted in The New Yorker said: “Deep Springs does its own thing in its own time even when it not politically expedient or even relevant.” Founded in 1917 on the three pillars of academics, labor, and self-governance, it will open enrollment to women for the first time in 2012.

Deep Springs’ students work each day on the college’s ranch and help administer the college as a self-governing student body. All students receive a full scholarship, but only 10 to 15 students are admitted each year.

Despite its extreme small size (a student body of 26 and a faculty of 20), its alumni have gone on to Congress, become ambassadors and Deep Springs even boasts two winners of MacArthur “Genius” Grants.

The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, http://www.williamson.edu/, in Media, Pennsylvania has Associate Degree courses of study in carpentry, masonry, horticulture, machine technology, and power plant operation. The Williamson student-athletes compete within the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Williamson provides all of its 250 students with complete “full-ride” scholarships, with an education described on its website as “based on the Judeo-Christian perspective that fosters the values of faith, integrity, diligence, excellence, and service.”

The 1500 students who attend the College of the Ozarks, http://www.cofo.edu/, at its 1000-acre campus in Branson, Missouri, get an entirely free education with a mandatory work-study program at the college’s hotel, restaurant, dairy, crafts center, gift shops, greenhouses, newspaper, theatre, and radio and television stations.

Two other colleges were founded with a mission of providing mountain folks with a tuition-free higher education: Alice Lloyd College (http://www.alc.edu/) and Berea College (http://www.berea.edu/), both of which are in the Appalachian areas of Kentucky. These schools do charge for room and board, but 68% of the students from Alice Lloyd College owe nothing upon graduation. The remaining 32% had an average debt of $3,108. The average student debt at Berea College is only $5,836.

The big city has free colleges, too.

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, http://www.cooper.edu/, is the only full-scholarship college in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to preparing students for the professions of art, architecture and engineering.

Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, http://www.curtis.edu/ , is the only major music conservatory to provide merit-based full-tuition scholarships to all students regardless of their financial situation. Admission is by live audition but only 5% of applicants are admitted. Enrollment is limited to about 160 musicians-in-training.

The students at the tuition-free Webb Institute on Long Island Sound, http://www.webb-institute.edu/, are all studying the college’s only major: Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

Webb Institute students take fall and spring academic courses, but every January and February they have a paid internship experience in the marine industry.

Regardless of a student’s financial situation, one of these eight schools can help transform their college dreams into reality.