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Archive for November, 2019

Give thanks for property rights

Posted by Richard on November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re enjoying this day with family and/or friends and thinking about all you have to be thankful for. It may not occur to you, but you should spend a moment being thankful for property rights. That’s the point of a decade-old post of mine about the real story of Thanksgiving, which I urge you to read. Back then, this blog was hosted at, and a search for that phrase returned my post as the first, or at least top 5, result for several years. Those canny Scots who ran Blog City had some mad SEO skills, I guess.

John Stossel, whom I consider a national treasure, addressed the same topic at Reason yesterday (emphasis added):

The Pilgrims were religious, united by faith and a powerful desire to start anew, away from religious persecution in the Old World. Each member of the community professed a desire to labor together, on behalf of the whole settlement.

Actually, he’s wrong about that. As my post (link above) noted, they were forced into this communal arrangement by their sponsors.

In other words: socialism.

But when they tried that, the Pilgrims almost starved.

Their collective farming—the whole community deciding when and how much to plant, when to harvest, who would do the work—was an inefficient disaster.

That went on for two and a half years before Bradford and the others decided something needed to change. For more details, see my post above or Bradford’s book.

His answer: divide the commune into parcels and assign each Pilgrim family its own property. …

Private property protects us from what economists call the tragedy of the commons. The “commons” is a shared resource. That means it’s really owned by no one, and no one person has much incentive to protect it or develop it.

The Pilgrims’ simple change to private ownership, wrote Bradford, “made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.” Soon they had so much plenty that they could share food with the natives.

The Indians weren’t socialists, either. They had property rules of their own. That helped them grow enough so they had plenty, even during cold winters.

When property rights are tossed aside, even for the sake of religious fellowship or in the name of the working class, people just don’t work as hard.

Why farm all day—or invent new ways of farming—when everyone else will get an equal share?

But once Bradford created private lots, the Pilgrims worked hard. They could have sat around arguing about who should do how much work, whether English tribes or Indian ones were culturally superior, and what God would decree if She/He set rules for farming.

None of that would have yielded the bounty that a simple division of land into private lots did.

When people respect property rights, they also interact more peacefully.

At this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, if people start arguing about how society should be run, try being a peacemaker by suggesting that everyone should get to decide what to do with their own property.

If your uncle wants government to tax imports or thinks police should seize people’s marijuana, tell him that he doesn’t have to smoke weed or buy Chinese products, but he should keep his hands off other people’s property.

If your niece says everyone loves socialism now, remind her she has enough trouble managing her own life without telling the rest of the world what to do. When families don’t agree, they certainly shouldn’t try to run millions of other people’s lives.

In America today, religious groups practice different rites but usually don’t demand that government ban others’ practices. Private schools set curricula without nasty public fights. Businesses stock shelves without politicians fighting about which products they should carry.

All those systems work pretty well. That’s because they are private.

In most of our lives, private ownership makes political arguments unnecessary.

I’m thankful for that.

Amen. Did anyone bring blueberry pie? What time does the game start? Pass the wine!

And again, a most Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this!

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Remember the vets

Posted by Richard on November 11, 2019

On this Veterans Day, please make a contribution to an organization (or two, or three) that supports veterans or active-duty military personnel. A couple of my favorites are the VFW and the Wounded Warrior Project.


To those who have served, and to those who serve today:

Thank you.

It Is The Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005

The Signaleer has a nice history of Remembrance Day, which begat Armistice Day, which begat Veterans Day, and he includes the classic World War I poem, In Flanders Fields. Well worth a visit.

On this Veterans Day, as always, I remember my late father, Col. Samuel R. Combs. The obituary by Robert Denerstein published in the Rocky Mountain News on August 28, 2006 (copyright Rocky Mountain News 2006) follows. I especially appreciated Denerstein’s line at the end of the second paragraph, highlighted.

Samuel Raymond Combs stopped celebrating his birthday in 2001. It wasn’t that Combs, 85 at the time, fretted about his advancing age. No, scrapping birthday plans had more to do with the fact that the 27-year military man was born Sept. 11, 1916. For the deeply patriotic Col. Combs, celebrating on Sept. 11 became impossible after the events of 9/1 1/01.

Col. Combs, who died Aug. 16 at age 89 in Knoxville, Tenn., as the result of complications from a fall, neatly fits the profile of what has become known as “the Greatest Generation.” He answered his country’s call even before the phone rang, volunteering for the Army after Pearl Harbor.

Born in Joplin, Mo., and raised in Colorado after his father relocated to Glenwood Springs, Col. Combs attended Glenwood Springs High School and graduated from Colorado State University.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps. A few days after DDay, he landed at Omaha Beach, serving with the Seventh Army, 26th Infantry Division. Col. Combs later was part of the postwar administration in Berlin and Heidelberg, Germany, and in Vienna, Austria.

Col. Combs also fought in the Korean War, but like many of his generation, he wasn’t big on war stories.

“He didn’t talk much about it,” said his son, Richard Combs, of Denver. “He talked a little more about going to CSU and playing football.”

Despite his father’s reticence, Combs noted his father’s military accomplishments included the Legion of Merit, Military Order of Scabbard and Blade, Defense Department Commendation Medals and four Battle Stars.

“My dad was a complex person,” said Combs. “The relationship he had with us kids was pretty rocky for a long time. But I’m glad of the fact that we became friends and were able to express our love for each other.”

Combs knows his father’s strengths were of a kind that turned men like him into the country’s backbone.
“He didn’t talk about how he reacted when Pearl Harbor occurred,” Richard said.

“But I know he expressed a number of times that he really loved the Army: the discipline, the structure and the camaraderie. By the end of World War II, he probably decided to make it his career.

“He had some great strengths, and I guess that’s what we talk about when we talk about the ‘Greatest Generation.’ They came out of the Depression and into the Nazi threat. We owe those guys a lot. They really sucked it up when they had to suck it up.”

Col. Combs’ daughter Linda Palmer of Alcoa, Tenn., concurred. “He was very brave,” Palmer said. “He was so devoted to his country.”

If old soldiers are supposed to fade away, Col. Combs didn’t quite follow the plan.
“A week before he died, he was out driving his car,” Palmer said. “He was determined to live life his way to the very end.”

Col. Combs married several times and settled in Knoxville in 1968 after his retirement from the military. His former wife Margo, the mother of his children, died in 1973. Another former wife, Mary, died in 2004.

“He had the virtues of the others of his generation,” Richard Combs said. “He had a great capacity to love others and especially to love his country. He had a great sense of honor and duty, and he took pride in his military career.”

Services for Col. Combs were held Aug. 19 in Knoxville; burial followed on Aug. 20.
Col. Combs is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of Knoxville; a son, Richard Combs, of Denver; daughters Margo Walsh, of Punta Gorda, Fla., and Linda Palmer, of Alcoa, Tenn.; three grandchildren; and three greatgrandchildren.


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