Saturday, April 22, 2006

Truth Denying Timid People
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 21, 2006

Traumatic events can induce dissociation, especially in childhood. Dissociation is a natural response to pain and to threats of pain. Dissociation isolates our decision-making selves long enough for us decide to fight or flee.

However, with repeated traumas, dissociation can become ingrained. When ingrained dissociation becomes the only learned method of coping with stress, people may become unable to function in society. Such people are said to have dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders often include elements of paranoid, narcissistic, and passive-aggressive, negativistic personality disorders.

Another way to describe such people is to say that they are timid. They have been frightened too often, and they have not learned affirmative coping skills. Timid people operate more on superstition (supposition and how they feel about things) than on facts. They prefer to use their imagination to find relief from stress instead of using their analytic skills to affirmatively resolve the stressful situation. They prefer dreams to research.

They often retreat into rich fantasy lives. They prefer fantasies to facts because they can control their fantasies, but they can’t control the facts.

Timid people often poorly imitate their fantastic ideas of courage, so that running away (e.g., dodging the draft) is imagined to be courage, whereas actually confronting their enemies is imagined to be foolhardiness. They tend to be abrasive. As Hoffer said, rudeness is the weak man’s idea of strength.

Timid people tend to develop a “tough guy” routine. When the “tough guy” routine doesn’t work, they panic. They have nothing to fall back on. They may try to hide, escape, or to be so offensive that other people just give up and go away. The strategy seems to be to become invisible, and if that doesn’t work, run away, and if that doesn’t work, become so obnoxious that they leave you alone. Their primary coping method is to get sufficient distance between themselves and their stresses so that they feel safe. They have never learned how to simply stand up for themselves.

One particularly aggravating variation of truth denying timid people is the sullen type. For the sullen types, happiness is the enemy. Happiness brings only disappointment and heartbreak. Heartbreak is intolerable. Happiness must be perfect, utopian, without risk. Anything less than perfect happiness is intolerable. Happiness cannot be allowed. No one is allowed to be happy. Happiness is for fools. Happiness must be killed. Most of all, no one is allowed to be happy without the express permission of the sullen, truth denying timid person.

Truth denying timid people have learned to cope with fear by avoiding fearful things. Avoidance includes minimizing, denying, stuffing, projecting, misunderstanding, overreacting, and so forth.

Many truth denying timid people fear being controlled, bullied, manipulated, or intimidated by others. Fear of being controlled prompts them to preemptively take control instead of just leaving well enough alone. Taking control causes no end of unnecessary hardship for such people. Normal people don’t like truth denying timid people taking control of them, so they resist. Conflict ensues, conflict that could have been avoided if the timid person had just left everyone alone.

Truth denying timid people have no concept of consequences. They do not comprehend consequences. They consistently fantasize about the consequences of their own behavior or the behavior of others, and are consistently confounded by the actual consequences. They believe that consequences can be controlled by intense and sincere wishing. They believe that actual consequences can be avoided, that they didn’t actually happen, or that they don’t matter when they do happen.

Truth denying timid people swim in a sea of paranoid fantasies. To them, there is always greater danger than normal people can imagine. Imagining fantastic, virtually impossible dangers gives the truth denying timid people a sense of being special and enlightened. They believe that they can see danger when others can’t. They are right statistically often enough to convince themselves that they possess special insight. Here is an exercise in paranoia: Tell yourself everyday that you will be in a motor vehicle accident, then, when you are in one, you can say that you knew it all along. It is paranoid, not paranormal. What you usually find is that paranoid people are completely surprised when something bad does happen.

The difficulty for all of us is that once a person learns to cope with stress by denying facts, there really isn’t much we can do to communicate with them. Your best course of action is to learn to identify such people and defend yourself from them. Most of all, don’t let them pollute you with their paranoid fantasies.

As for the matter of happiness, there is no perfect happiness. There doesn’t need to be. All happiness contains risk.

It is impossible to experience the enriching, life affirming joy of love without knowing the crushing misery of grief. The only sure way to avoid grief is to become a stone. Stones don’t cry.

Denying the truth of the terrible things that happen to us causes us to become timid. We seek to avoid pain in life. And in avoiding the pain in life, we avoid the very experiences we need to become strong, able, and happy.

Give yourself permission to be happy no matter who objects.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

One Hot Tamale
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 21, 2006

Having already allowed millions of people from Mexico and Central America to enter the U. S. illegally, and having allowed millions of these same people to illegally enter the work force, America is holding one hot tamale. The old saying is, “You get what you pay for”. You also pay for what you get.

The bill for allowing these millions of people to enter America’s work force against the law will come due soon. The cost to send them back to their countries of origin will be catastrophic. The cost to absorb them into American society will also be catastrophic. The cost to add them to the welfare roles for the working poor and the unemployed likewise stands to bankrupt the country.

American business and government have been cheating for decades; cheating the law, cheating consumers, cheating tax payers, and cheating millions of illegal immigrants. America has been abusing millions of Mexican nationals for decades. Now the bills are coming due. The position of business and government that the law doesn’t matter has resulted in a crisis. Does government now enforce laws that they have chosen to ignore for over a generation? Does the private sector understand the long-term cost of ignoring the law? Will the voters put up with much more of this idiocy?

If you don’t enforce existing laws, don’t expect any new laws to have any deterrent effect. If you don’t move significant numbers of Mexicans and Central Americans out of the U. S., expect them to assert political and popular influence, and not necessarily for the good of our nation. If the voters don’t like what the politicians are doing, expect a bunch of them to get fired.

Allowing millions of semi-literate, unaccounted for non-English speakers into our country is another example of modern American bone-headedness, sort of like electing Bill Clinton as President for two terms. You remember Bill Clinton, don’t you? He is the spineless wimp who will be forever remembered as the President who got his butt kicked by Fidel Castro over the Elian Gonzalez affair.

Hmm. Send the illegals to Castro. Now there’s a thought.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

The Big Bamboozle
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 21, 2006

Since the 1970’s, I have watched Denver taxi companies skillfully manipulate the political and legal system in Colorado to effectively divest themselves of their responsibility to actually deliver taxi service. They have become little more than urban sharecroppers. They collect rents, and complain that the cab drivers are dishonest and that there is nothing they can do about it. It’s not their fault. They are helpless victims in the whole mess.

Such is the Big Bamboozle.

It is interesting to study the dynamics of the relationship between the regulators and the regulated taxi companies. It is a classic case of seduction and manipulation. Denver taxi companies, like taxi companies around the world, have seduced government into believing that they are merely hapless victims of unreasonable laws and regulations while manipulating the regulatory agencies into taking on responsibilities that rightly belong to the taxi companies, such as policing the behavior of the drivers and answering complaints from dissatisfied citizens. The shift of responsibilities from the taxi companies to government has been extremely detrimental to the taxi drivers, the taxi companies, government, and most of all, to consumers. So, who benefits and how?

Owners and managers of taxi companies along with the lawyers and lobbyist make out like bandits in this urban sharecropping system. The managers are relieved of the primary duties of overseeing the delivery of service. The owners are relieved of major expenses and of the headache of fighting with the regulators over prices and other matters. The lawyers and lobbyist remain gainfully employed fighting off any attempts to reform the system. Not bad work if you can get it, especially when you know which person to influence in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time. Seduce and manipulate.

Considering that the Denver taxi market with worth between thirty million and forty million dollars a year in gross revenues, there is always enough money to pay the hired guns to preserve the status quo. Taxi companies complain that they don’t have money to deliver prompt, reliable service, yet they always have enough money to pay the lobbyists and lawyers to stifle any attempts at reform. The taxi industry worldwide is notorious for dishing out bribes. However, if lobbyists do their job of keeping the right people in the legislature, the Governor’s office, and the regulatory agencies in line, then bribes are not necessary.

While the behavior of the taxi companies is interesting in itself, the real phenomenon to watch is the behavior of government. You would think that government would be very concerned with fulfilling their mission, namely, to protect the public interest. However, the public interest doesn’t have lawyers and lobbyists. Government officials who actually have to take the heat day in and day out react to the Big Bamboozle by assuming the role of the Great Nanny, becoming grossly overprotective of the regulated companies, and assuming responsibilities that rightly belong to the regulated companies. Government repeatedly swallows--hook, line, and sinker--the taxi company canard that if they have to obey the laws, rules, and regulations, they will go out of business.

The answer to this nonsense is that the laws, rules, and regulations have taken all this into consideration, and that the answer is to adhere to the law, not to constantly grant taxi companies exemptions from the law. Government might also suggest, in their politest tone of voice, that the taxi companies hire managers who actually know how to manage, and not let the door hit the incompetent managers in the backside on the way out. In other words, the answer to the Big Bamboozle is to hold the taxi companies accountable for their behavior, not to constantly let them off the hook and have government assume responsibility for the failures of the taxi companies. Once government takes responsibility for the managerial failures of the taxi companies, there will be no end. As long as government assumes more and more responsibility for the taxi companies, the taxi companies will eagerly hand over more responsibility, and more of the expenses of managing taxi companies, to government.

The worst thing that can happen to any government agency is to appear to be unnecessary. The Big Bamboozle serves the needs of the regulators by making them look necessary. Rather than hold the taxi companies accountable for their failures to provide service and adequate working conditions for their drivers, regulators choose to ride to the rescue of the taxi companies by granting liberal exemptions from the rules, and then by assuming many of the duties of management.

Over the years, I have watched Colorado government fly in headlong retreat from their own laws, rules, and regulations on the assumption that it is more important to keep any Denver taxi company from going out of business than it is to protect the public interest from abuses by taxi companies and taxi drivers. Saving the taxi companies from crippling laws and from their own mismanagement allows government to argue that they are necessary.

This dysfunctional relationship between government and public utility taxi companies reminds me of the books I have read on incestuous relationships within dysfunctional families. Everyone within the relationship must keep the actual goings on a secret. The Big Secret then becomes the driving force within the relationship. Outsiders must be kept away. No one must ever speak of it. Lying is accepted, expected, and ultimately demanded.

The relationship between the Denver taxi companies and the Colorado regulatory system looks like a dysfunctional, incestuous relationship to me. No one in the taxi companies or in government is allowed to talk about the Big Secret. So, what’s the Big Secret?

The Big Secret is that the taxi companies are leasing their licenses to the drivers in violation of Colorado law, that the PUC knows about it and is a party to it, and that everyone involved in the system, all the way up to Governor Owens, knows what is going on. Worst of all, everyone involved knows that the public suffers because of this, and no one in the system has the nards to blow the whistle on the whole thing. All they want to do is circle the wagons, keep telling the Big Lie about the Big Bamboozle, and hope that they can keep the lid on the whole thing just a little while longer.

Too late. Time’s up.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Attila Goes to Washington
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 21, 2006

What do you suppose would happen if you handed the U. S. Constitution to Attila the Hun? That’s right. Attila would wipe his back side with it and keep on pillaging and generally behaving barbarically. The Constitution would have no civilizing influence on Attila because there would be no enforcement and no education. Without education in the principles of property rights and the Rule of Law and without actual enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution, it is little more than a piece of paper.

No population can succeed in self-government until they adopt the idea of personal self-restraint and until government enforces laws that mandate personal self-restraint. American culture has been hostile to self-restraint since the 1960’s.

Large segments of the American population, including lawmakers and law-enforcers, have abandoned the idea of enforced self-restraint in favor of an anything goes outlook. They think that the ability to do as you damned well please is more important than the greater public good. After all, this is a free country, right?

Not exactly. We cannot have absolute freedom without absolute anarchy. Under the Rule of Law, we retain those freedoms that are most important to us in exchange for other freedoms that are less important. For example, I preserve the limited freedom to vote for candidates and issues on the ballot in exchange for the absolute freedom to rampage through the streets and set fire to everything.

The question I pose is: Can the Rule of Law survive the barbarizing influences of mass media and American popular culture, war with fanatical fascist Moslems, and the influx of millions of semi-literate non-English speaking people who think that liberty means obedience?

If the Rule of Law cannot survive, then our Republic cannot survive. It will be no different than handing the Constitution to Attila the Hun.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Entertaining the Masses
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 18, 2006

It occurs to me after listening to the babbling heads in the Bush-hating media that they are more entertaining than convincing, and that they misinterpret their audience’s approval of their entertainment as support for their political posture. The audience’s applause is in response to being entertained, not an indication that they have been persuaded.

Michael Moore serves as a fine example of this misunderstanding. The enthusiastic response to his propaganda pieces thinly disguised as documentaries has convinced Moore that he is being taken seriously. In light of the fact that it is impossible to take anything Michael Moore says seriously, Moore has managed to convince himself that he is much more influential than he actually is.

Many in the Hollywood loony left believe the same of themselves. It does not occur to them that it is not possible for any audience to take seriously such unserious tirades as the Hollywierdo’s and their fellow travelers consistently deliver. Anyone who mistakes entertainment for education is not capable of reasoning.

I think that people who mistake entertainment for education are looking for some emotional pay out from the event. They seek entertainment to escape feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Any show that provides emotional relief will satisfy this need, regardless of how senseless or impotent the actual content of the message. I think this pretty well sums up hippy-ism: Peace, love, understanding, and most of all, total escape from reality.

Rhetoricians throughout history have understood that entertaining the audience is one way to get the crowd on your side. They seem less aware of the fact that audiences are fickle, and when the audience is no longer entertained, they tend to kill the speaker.

Perhaps those who choose to slander public figures may want to consider that he who lives by slander dies by slander.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Dirty Dozen of Control
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 17, 2006

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. Nothing in the article is intended to diagnose or treat any illness. If you or anyone you know needs assistance, seek professional help.

In his book If You Had Controlling Parents (reprinted in soft cover by Quill, 2002), Dan Neuharth, Ph. D. identifies twelve methods of abuse that parents use to control their children.

  1. Food control
  2. Body control
  3. Boundary control
  4. Social control
  5. Decision control
  6. Speech control
  7. Emotion control
  8. Thought control
  9. Bullying
  10. Depriving
  11. Confusing
  12. Manipulating
Each of these methods of abusive control contain elements of dictating, dominating, interfering, intruding, discouraging, violating, ridiculing, blaming, shaming, scapegoating, overriding, prohibiting, harassing, intimidating, bullying, and depriving.

The common theme in abusive control is the idea that the abusive parent is primarily intent on asserting unconditional dominance without regard to the damage done to the child, to his own reputation, or to the relationship in general. In the mind of the abusive parent, dominance is prime. Failing to assert dominance can cause intense, uncontrollable anxiety. The controlling parent needs control. He has no interest in mutually beneficial, cooperative relationships with his children, and usually not with anyone else, either. Imposing your will on others is their idea of strength, and cooperating with others is considered weakness. To them, strength is virtue and weakness vice. Therefore, imposing your will on others, especially over their objections, is considered a virtue.

Most people are inclined by nature toward constructive, mutually beneficial interactions. They react very poorly to attempts to dominate and abuse them. They avoid people who demonstrate that they will take everything and give nothing in return.

Dr. Neuharth goes on to describe how abusive control affects children. He notes that the affects include decreased autonomy, increased dependence, distrust, gullibility, eating disorders and other addictive behavior, self-doubt, low initiative, no self-confidence, confusion about emotions, feelings of isolation and abandonment, distorted ideas about how people actually feel and behave, low expectations about self, depression, anxiety, obsession over who is right and who is wrong, poor impulse control, and rage.

The central theme in how children react to abusive control seems to be that they never develop into healthy adults. They remain stuck in their childhood methods of coping with their unhealthy relationship with the abusive parent. For example, a child who was subjected to constant humiliation and scapegoating may cope by feeling such intense rage that he feels momentarily invincible. Relying on rage to cope with stress can cause serious problems in school, and can be catastrophic in adulthood. Until the adult survivor of childhood abuse learns positive methods of coping with stress, he will revert to self-destructive methods of coping.

I find Dr. Neuharth’s ideas very interesting and very useful. I will explore some of the themes of the “dirty dozen” methods of abusive control in future posts. Stay tuned. It’s gonna get good.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Proposed Amendment to the Constitution
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 12, 2006

The greatest threat to the future of liberty in the United States is not abortion, illegal immigration, bans on firearms, tax cuts, tax increases, or the Patriot Act. It is socialized medicine. Once voters turn government into their primary health care provider, it will be impossible to sustain liberty.

The purpose of this proposed Amendment is to spare the United States the fate of Europe and Canada by outlawing Federal government delivered medical services. This proposed Amendment does not prohibit Congress to funding medical services, but does prohibit Congress from authorizing the Federal government to provide medical services. It also gives Congress until 2025 to repeal any existing laws that provide medical services directly from the Federal government. The Armed forces and veterans’ services are exempted. State governments are free to choose to provide direct medical services depending on the will of the voters.

The proposed Amendment reads:

  1. Congress shall make no law that authorizes the Federal government to provide medical services of any kind directly to any person at any time.

  2. This Amendment shall not restrict the power of Congress to authorize funding for existing and future programs that provide medical services, nor shall this Amendment restrict the power of the courts to restrict the power of Congress to authorize funding for existing and future programs that provide medical services.

  3. Congress shall repeal all laws that authorize the Federal government to provide medical services of any kind directly to any person at any time not later than 2025.

  4. The Armed Forces of the United States, including veterans’ services, are expressly exempted from the provisions of this Amendment.

  5. This Amendment shall not infringe on the right of the States to determine for themselves whether or not they will provide medical services of any kind directly to any person at any time.
I don’t want to hear any garbage about how this will never fly. Of course it will, especially if it is presented the right way.

All suggestions for how to improve the wording are welcome.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Surrendering False Ideas
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 11, 2006

I was struggling with some way to cope with people who are unable to understand that their actions have real consequences. It seems that they reflexively retreat into fantasy when faced with the reality of their own behavior, in effect, manifesting dissociation by fantasy.

They reflexively fantasize about the outcomes of their actions. They also seem to reflexively fantasize about their problems. They vividly imagine what the problem is, but then don’t spend any time verifying what the problem is in reality. They seem to trust their imagination more than they trust their reasoning skills. Their behavior suggests that they are primarily concerned with avoiding being confronted with the consequences of their own behavior.

Imagination can be very helpful. In therapy, imagination is critical for recovery. Imagination frees us from the rigid restrictions of reality. For example, we cannot fly, but we can imagine what flying might be like, and we can find a sense of relief in imagining that we are flying.

Fantasy is necessary in research, also. Researchers can imagine what might happen if they take certain actions. However, simply imagining what might happen provides no value until it is verified. Fantasies that are verified to be true, or a least probable, are worth holding onto.

However, fantasies that are verified to be false become destructive when they are not surrendered. And, there’s the rub.

One of my greatest difficulties in solving problems is convincing people to surrender ideas that are verifiably false. They just won’t do it. I can’t reason with them. Even when they agree with me, they revert to their old ideas. Their ideas are their safety and comfort. God have mercy on the unsuspecting (and, therefore, untrained) philosopher who dares to challenge the ideas that give people validation, meaning, and that affirm their sense of their own ability to cope with things beyond their control.

As demonstrated by the ideas of the Imperial Army of Japan in World War II and by the fascists who blaspheme Mohamed in recent times, some ideas are more valuable than human life. Other ideas are more valuable than human happiness, freedom, safety, or prosperity. For example, the idea of allegiance as practiced in feudal societies is more important than public well-being.

In our time, I observe that the idea of “inexplicable malice” is more important than personal success to many, many people. The idea of “inexplicable malice” consists of the notion that some people are just corrupt, and that there is nothing that you can do about it. This is a clear manifestation of general paranoia, that is, unfounded and exaggerated anxiety. People who hold strongly to the idea of “inexplicable malice” are manifesting general paranoid ideation (as differentiated from psychotic paranoid ideation). (Old Klem would say, “Days a whole lotta paranoidy manifestin’ goin’ own out dayah!”)

Ideas that are verifiably false become destructive when they are not surrendered. Another way to say this is that people who believe that things will happen that cannot possibly happen are profoundly impaired in their decision making. The same is true for people who believe that things have happened which verifiably did not happen, with things they believe are happening that verifiably are not happening, and with things they believe did not or are not happening that are verifiably false. They’re not actually crazy, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

People who do not surrender verifiably false ideas do not take their own behavior seriously. They do not take responsibility for their own behavior. As a result, many people, including and primarily themselves, suffer needlessly. Such people tend to be self-defeating and self-destructive, and they tend to inflict unnecessary harm on their community.

Surrendering verifiably false ideas can be heartbreaking. Some people would rather die than live with the grief of losing cherished but false ideas. I wish I could ease their pain.

The problem for me, then, is: How do I persuade people to take certain things seriously, to accept the idea that their behavior matters, that their behavior has consequences that can have irreversible effects on their own lives and on the lives of others?

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Desperate Cab Drivers
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 6, 2006

Denver taxi companies have a policy of deliberately impoverishing cab drivers in order to make the cab drivers so desperate for money that they will jump any trip they can get their hands on. This policy is apparently supported by the PUC. The stated purpose of the policy is to ensure prompt, reliable service to all costumers.

The Denver taxi companies and the PUC assert that a cab driver who needs money desperately will take any trip that is available no matter how much or how little it pays. This begs the question: Does being desperate for money induce cab drivers (or anyone else, for that matter) to lose all their capacity to know the difference between adequate and inadequate?

For example, if you need $50, and someone offers you a job for only $10, would you settle for the $10 knowing that $10 is not adequate to meet your needs? Now ask yourself this: If your rent is due, will your landlord settle for less than the full amount? How about the grocery store? Can you walk out with a cart full of groceries without paying the full amount?

The answer in every case is no. When the desperate cab driver has to pay his lease fee at the end of the shift, the taxi company doesn’t settle for an inadequate sum. If the cab driver doesn’t pay up, he is out of a job on the spot.

Why is this reality any different for cab drivers? Why do the PUC and the Denver taxi companies expect desperate cab drivers to settle for compensation that is not adequate to meet their needs?

I use the word “adequate” with deliberate intent. If any cab driver is desperate for money, it is very likely that he is desperate because his compensation is not adequate. (The Denver taxi companies and the PUC argue that cab drivers who don’t make enough money don’t work hard enough. I will refute that argument shortly.) The idea that cab drivers’ compensation is adequate is important because Colorado law states very clearly that all transactions between every Colorado public utility (Denver taxi companies are public utilities) and every other party must be “adequate, efficient, just, and reasonable”. The fact that cab drivers in Denver are classified as “independent contractors” does not exempt them from the aforementioned provision of law.

At the same time that the Denver taxi companies and the PUC work hard to impoverish cab drivers, they vociferously and publicly complain that cab drivers are dishonest. This is particularly perplexing considering that the PUC is a creation of the Progressive movement, and that the Progressive movement has always asserted that poverty causes crime. I cannot disagree that desperation is a powerful incentive to disregard personal honesty in favor of personal survival. I have seen it happen often.

Yet, the Denver taxi companies and the PUC maintain a policy of deliberately impoverishing cab drivers on the belief that impoverished, desperate cab drivers will provide superior service while at the same time refraining from cheating their customers. If desperate cab drivers provide superior service, why is it not the policy of the Denver taxi companies and the PUC to impoverish all cab drivers? Why not unleash an army of desperate cab drivers on the public? Why not double the number of cabs on the street tomorrow? That should give the public the best service possible, if we are to believe the Denver taxi companies and the PUC.

I have seen no evidence that desperate cab drivers provide better service than satisfied cab drivers. However, even if desperate cab drivers did provide superior service, no desperate cab driver will provide any service, good or bad, for very long.

Denver cab drivers have to take in about $12 per hour on average to cover basic expenses, including lease fees and gas. This figure does not include any compensation for the driver.

If a desperate cab driver runs 4 trips per hour at $4 each ($16 per hour) for a ten hour shift ($160 total), he will make less than the minimum wage, even though he is providing the best service in town. It is impossible to argue that any driver who runs 40 trips in a ten hour shift isn’t working hard. Any cab driver who runs 40 trips per day, no matter how desperate he may be, will not survive in the business for very long, maybe only a few weeks until his savings and credit run out.

The rate structure for Denver taxi companies (the PUC is ultimately responsible for the rates Denver taxi companies charge) punishes hard work, and rewards gambling and dishonesty. To be fair to the cab drivers, dishonesty in this case is little more than any cab driver looking out for his own self-interest in light of the circumstances imposed on him by the taxi companies and by government.

The elephant in the living room that no one will acknowledge is the fact that the rate structure is inadequate and unreasonable for the stated goals of the PUC and the Denver taxi companies. The flag drop is too low relative to the mileage rate. This encourages cab drivers, desperate or not, to ignore some calls for in favor of other calls, or in many cases, in favor of simply parking their cabs and providing no service at all.

The PUC has the ultimate authority over the incentives that influence Denver cab drivers to be dishonest, and if Denver cab drivers are dishonest, it is ultimately the responsibility of the PUC to mitigate incentives that influence cab drivers to be dishonest. This includes the Denver taxi companies’ policies that transform normal, hard working people into desperate cab drivers.

The policy of impoverishing cab drivers clearly adds to the problem of cab drivers being dishonest, and I believe it is the duty of the PUC to put a stop to practices by Denver taxi companies that provide incentives to cab drivers to cheat consumers and in any other way to behave dishonestly. I also believe that the PUC must take seriously the allegation by the Denver taxi companies that cab drivers are dishonest, and not simply shrug their shoulders and complain that there is nothing they can do about it.

It is my position that government policies and practices significantly contribute to the problems of dishonest cab drivers, poor service, and for many indigent elderly, no service at all, and that government is bound by law to institute reforms that will protect the public interest. The current system of laws, rules, regulations, and policies not only rewards dishonest, reprehensible behavior in cab drivers, it also rewards taxi companies for not providing service. So, the next time you can’t get a cab, you know that government is at fault.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Outside the Law
Opinion © 2006, by Guy L. Evans

April 5, 2006

I’m staying up late tonight trying to get a grip on what America is turning into. Rich Lowry of National Review wrote a piece yesterday entitled Poor Trend, We’re importing Latin America’s poor. He makes a number of good points. The one that interests me the most is this:

Steve Camarota of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies estimates that illegal immigrants cost the federal government $10 billion a year. State and local governments lose even more. Illegals pay some taxes, but not enough to cover governmental expenses like Medicaid and treatment for the uninsured.

According to Camarota, if illegal immigrants were legalized, their net annual cost to the federal government would only increase, tripling to $30 billion a year. Immigrant workers don’t earn enough to pay much in taxes, while they qualify for all sorts of governmental assistance. As they become legal, they will get even more assistance -- the benefits that they get from the Earned Income Tax Credit, for instance, would increase by a factor of 10.
I inferred from this that American workers who are covered by labor laws and regulations cost employers and government three times more than undocumented workers. Undocumented workers may be covered by labor laws and regulations, but government doesn’t know about them, and they have little recourse to the courts. They are outside the law.

If Camarota is correct, operating outside the law saves employers and government agencies billions of dollars per year in mandated benefits to the working poor. Operating outside the law pays huge dividends to both the private and the public sectors.

Operating outside the law, however, is not limited to undocumented workers. Colorado has developed a sterling example of how government and the private sector work together to evade State and Federal labor laws, contract laws, and safety standards. Yep. It’s taxis.

Denver taxi companies with the cooperation of the Colorado legislature, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and more than one Governor have successfully evaded existing State and Federal laws for over fifty years. From the 1940’s through the 1980’s, Denver taxi companies evaded tax laws by classifying their drivers as “independent contractors” for tax purposes and employees for labor purposes. The drivers wanted to keep their union, but not pay taxes. Depending on which government agency you were talking to, the drivers were either employees or they were not.

The State of Colorado didn’t fare any better. Depending on which legislative subcommittee the taxi lobby was talking to, the drivers were either employees or they were not. That all changed in the late 1980’s. The Denver taxi companies successfully evicted the drivers’ unions. From then on, all drivers have been classified as “independent contractors”.

The entire purpose of the “independent contractor” classification is to evade tax and labor laws that benefit employees but raise costs to employers. The Denver taxi companies probably decided that lowering overhead was the best way to support their profit levels. I’m not sure if they ever discussed raising service levels, and therefore, I don’t know if they decided that raising service levels would not yield satisfactory profits. It seems to me that when the law becomes overly complex or burdensome, evading the law is easier than trying to understand and comply with it. And to be fair to both the Denver taxi companies and the PUC, Colorado law regarding the regulations of taxis is Byzantine at best and self-contradictory at worst.

For Denver taxi drivers, and for undocumented workers in general, employers and government have worked together to deprive them of their benefits under law (I deliberately avoid the term “rights” because benefits mandated by law are not rights, and also because people who work in our country illegally do not have the rights of citizens). By depriving taxi drivers of benefits they would enjoy if they were classified as employees, taxi companies probably save a few hundred thousand dollars per year in overhead.

Big whoop. Now, let’s take a look at what this actually costs.

Because taxi drivers are classified as “independent contractors”, the Denver taxi companies do not require the drivers to respond to calls for service. Some laws and regulations require drivers to respond to some calls for service, for example, if you hail a taxi on the street. However, there is no meaningful enforcement. If a taxi driver doesn’t want to take you, say, because you are black, then all he as to do is say that he already has a call and that he can’t take you right now. Without enforcement, the law is impotent.

The result is that taxi service in Denver is generally unreliable, and for many indigent elderly, completely unavailable. Many consumers choose to take their business elsewhere. They do not use taxis.

I estimate that lost revenues due to unreliable or unavailable service costs Denver taxi companies two million dollars per year in lost revenues, possibly more. Two million dollars per year is a high price to pay for the privilege of cheating the tax collector. On top of that, the State of Colorado receives no tax revenue from the estimated two million dollars per year that the Denver taxi companies are giving up, as well as from potential income taxes from drivers.

The taxi drivers themselves also pay a huge price. In addition to the benefits they would receive as employees, Denver taxi drivers would earn about half the estimated two million dollars per year lost due to unreliable service. Lost revenue also means lost jobs.

The “independent contractor” scam ultimately hurts consumers. Consumers complain to the taxi companies, the PUC, the Governor, and the Colorado legislature, but nothing ever changes. The “independent contractor” system has the ultimate effect of silencing consumers. Consumers who have no voice in any economic relationship can and do take their money elsewhere (e.g., the Ford Motor Company of the 1920’s and IBM in the 1980’s).

Government and employers do not seem to understand the concept of value. Consumers certainly do. Consumers have limited funds and virtually unlimited choices. Government and employers do not have the power to dictate to consumers which products and services they will consume.

Yet, both government and employers think that they actually have the power to tell consumers what to do. In the case of the Denver taxi companies, this self-delusion costs government, the taxi companies, and “independent contractor” taxi drivers millions of dollars per year on lost business.

In the case of undocumented workers, the same applies. Employers who hire undocumented workers, like employers to engage in the “independent contractor” scam, have little or no understanding of the value of their goods and services to consumers. Nor do they understand that producers are obliged to respond to consumer demand or else go out of business.

I have noticed a very disturbing trend among people of my generation (TV, Disneyland, public school education). Instead of enforcing or amending laws they don’t like or understand, they simply cheat. It’s so much easier. On an aside, I think it’s more ignorance than malice. If you take a very good pilot who has been trained on single engine piston aircraft and plop him down behind the wheel of a 747, what do you think is going to happen? People of my generation just don’t know the law.

Rich Lowry makes a good point. As we continue to import Latin America’s workers, we also adopt Latin America’s way of life. Generation after generation, America descends into lawlessness and feudalism. Local and State governments as well as the Federal government have conspired with employers, owners, and shareholders for several generations to live outside the very laws they themselves passed. Living outside the law has reduced many parts of America to mere colonies of Latin America, lowering standards of living, lowering education standards, lowering the quality of goods and services offered, and worst of all, creating an entrenched, self-serving, self-important, unaccountable, irresponsible, and increasingly hostile upper class.

The Clinton years made it clear that America is becoming less government by representation and more government by tribute. Money grants access, and access grants influence. No money, no influence.

As I witness more assaults on the First Amendment and the Rule of Law, I also witness America becoming Europe, with its institutionalized class system. We cannot have liberty without the Rule of Law. Operating outside the law means the death of liberty.

Guy L. Evans
Aurora, Colorado

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