Archive for July, 2012

Steam

I have a couple of video game reviews in the works but I figured I should first make a quick post about my favorite place to buy video games, Steam.

Steam is a digital download service created by the American software company Valve. You may know Valve from their extremely popular video games Half Life, Portal, and Team Fortress.  Steam offers an enormous selection of PC video games both old and new which can be purchased and downloaded direct from the internet.  There are a lot of great things about Steam which I will list here for any who might be interested in checking it out:

1. Huge Selection

As I mentioned already, there are a lot of games available from the late 1990s to today that are available for purchase.  Many of the old games have been configured to work on modern computers although they often require a few tweaks in order to make 100% playable.  The games are not just restricted to Valve titles either as virtually every major publisher makes their games available on Steam.  During the last year or so, independent developers have been given access to the service allowing some real gems to find an audience.  The only big exception is games by EA.  While most of their games are available through Steam, EA recently launched their own digital download service Origin and there has been some fierce competition between the two (although Origin hasn’t made much of a dent in Steams dominant position).  Because of the rivalry between the two services, EA has pulled a few titles from Steam or made them exclusive to Origin including Dragon Age 2 and Battlefield 3.

2. Easy DRM for multiple computers

Every gamer knows that one of the biggest inconveniences associated with PC gaming is Digital Rights Management or DRM.  DRM is supposed to prevent digital piracy but more often than not it just makes life difficult for those who actually purchased the game by hogging computer resources, adding layers of authenticity checks that take time and don’t always work properly, add spy software to computers without owners knowledge, and make it impossible or difficult to have a game installed on more than one computer at a time.  The irony is while it creates all of these problems, DRM seems to do little to actually prevent piracy.  Steam on the other hand makes DRM easy.  When a game is first purchased, it is authorized to the Steam account that made the purchase (or attached to the account when first installed for Steam enabled discs).  After that, the game is only authorized for the one account and can only be installed on computers that have also been authorized for that same account.  The only catch is that no two computers can be logged into Steam at the same time with the same account.  That’s it.  No need for obnoxious software programs or layers of protection.

3. Steam Sales

Other than the convenience of the service, the thing that makes me a big fan of Steam are the sales.  Every day a game goes on sale with anywhere from a 10% to 80% discount.  There are also weekday sales (one or two games on sale from Tuesday to Thursday) and weekend sales (one or two games on sale from Friday to Monday).  Steam also has bigger week-long sales a few times a year where half a dozen or more games will go on special discount for a day, with new games going on sale the next.  I’ve picked up some games that normally sell for $30 or more for as little as $5.  This makes gaming a lot easier for those of us on a tight budget

Steam boasts a host of other features and perks like community channels, forums, news items, friends lists, mobile app, etc. that make the service more than just a place to buy stuff.  I don’t use many of those features so I wont go into them here.  Steam is also not just for PC as it can be installed on Macs and Playstation 3 consoles although most publishers don’t make Mac compatible games and I have no idea what is available for PS3.

If you own a PC and are a fan of video games, I highly recommend Steam.  It is not only a convenient service but can save you a lot of money if you are willing to wait for sales.

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Once again, Obama’s understanding of reality is backwards

Via one of my favorite news blogs hotair.com, some comments our President made about how businesses owe society for their existence.  To be fair, Mr. Obama is not the first person to put forth this theory and he will surely not be the last.  The idea wont get any less stupid or false no matter how many times people say it.

The money quote:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look,if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen

This statement has been commented on to death by many a conservative blog, radio show, and newspaper column so rather than a full on analysis of all that’s wrong with this statement, I’ll only list a few short points:

1. Government needs businesses and business owners more than businesses and business owners need government

No one can doubt that businesses do benefit from government to a certain degree through a variety of protections and other benefits (ie. roads, police, regulations, etc).  Even so, business can exist without government and often has throughout history.   There are some businesses that have existed for hundreds of years and survived different forms of government, revolution, and anarchy. Governments on the other hand cannot exist without businesses created by risk taking individuals.  If every business owner in the U.S decided to go on strike, the federal government would collapse in a matter of days. That leads us to…

2. Society and government owe more to the creators of business than the creators of business owe society or government.

Who do you think paid for all those roads and internet research that Obama is talking about in the above statement?  It wasn’t politicians and bureaucrats.  No, it was the creators of business who created wealth and wages that were taxed, resources that were utilized, and innovations that government research was based on.  Once again, the internet is something private business could have and likely would have eventually created on its own.  The government would have never had the knowledge, funding, or technology to develop the parts of the internet it was involved in without business.  In fact, the internet never would have become a widespread and revolutionary service if not for businesses and business leaders. Likewise, those roads Obama talks about were built by private construction companies, with tools vehicles and supplies created by private businesses, funded by taxpaying business owners.  Government played a role in getting all the resources together, but the resources would not have existed without private business.

3. Business owners actually did create businesses on their own.

Sure, if you want to get technical, nobody does anything on their own.  The mere existence of any man or woman is due to actions of their parents. No one is entirely self sufficient these days as we buy clothes from clothing shops, food from grocery stores, appliances from appliance shops, etc..  Even so, hard work and smarts are not enough to create a business.  You first have to develop a good idea, then you have to be willing to take some serious risks and make serious sacrifices to start a business.  Most first time business owners go into big time debt and/or put their entire life savings at risk in order to acquire the funds they need.  They then often have to work virtually every waking hour of the day, every day, for at least a few years just to get the business off the ground.  With all that, they odds are still against them as only about 1 in 3 new businesses become successful.  Even most smart and hard-working folks aren’t willing to work that hard or take those kinds of risks to start a business.  Those that do and who succeed create all kinds of benefits for society.  Their products and services fill a need in the market, they employ people who can eat and pay taxes, and a big chunk of their profits goes to local, state, and federal governments which (in theory if not in reality) goes to projects that benefits those who didn’t have the balls to start a business of their own.

I’m sick of people who believe that anyone who is successful must have somehow cheated and therefore are undeserving of the benefits of that success.  Newsflash for Obama and others who share the same beliefs: No one owes you anything. If you think business owners didn’t do it on their own, try creating a business yourself and see how it goes.  You’ll quickly find out that not only does government not help, but it actually gets in the way more often than not

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Taxes are a violent act

To kick things off on this here blog, I thought I would start with something that on the surface would seem to be an “extreme” view but I think with some analysis will prove to be reasonable.  In many ways, this is the bedrock of libertarianism.

Taxes are a fact of life.  While libertarians like myself believe in small government, we aren’t anarchists.  There has to be some government in order for society to function and taxes are a requirement for government to function.  Even though they are a necessary reality, taxes are a violent act.  Don’t believe me?  Try not paying your taxes and see what happens.  That’s right, if you don’t pay your taxes, men with guns will come find you and either force the taxes out of you, lock you in a cage for a few years, or both.  So, it would seem to me, we have a moral responsibility to tax at a minimum and to be extra careful about what we spend those tax dollars on.

The reality of course is that we do not tax at a minimum and government at all levels spends violently collected taxes on all kinds of wasteful and corrupt programs.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the money taken from citizens under threat of violence is often used to restrict the freedoms on citizens.  For example, the people of San Francisco have to pay a lot of money to fund the Sand Francisco city government.  That city government then turns around and bans the sale of Happy Meals in the city.  Citizens of New York city are about to face a similar ban on large sodas.  This happens at the federal level too with bans on light bulbs and drinks that contain both alcohol and caffeine.  Don’t think that this is just limited to food and drink either.  Virtually every economic decision we make is limited in some way by government decree, funded by the very dollars forcibly taken from us.

Now, I understand a lot of you will say that we as a society chose to live by a certain set of standards and each of us gets a vote in how those standards are created.  This is a valid point but we also must consider that not everyone votes the same way and there are many issues where public opinion is pretty evenly split.  You could say that majority rules but I would point to the ways blacks, Hispanics, women, and other minority groups have been treated in this country’s history for an indication of the virtues of majority rule. This isn’t to say that soda bans are as bad as slavery but both represent restrictions to freedom imposed on one group by another group, just to a different (and in this case drastic) degree.

So, where am I going with all of this since I acknowledge the need for taxes and government then go on to talk about how horrible both of those things are?  Again, we need a government and we need rules but we must remember that taxes and government regulations are a form of violence, perhaps necessary violence, but violence none the less.  What this means is that for every tax, regulation, and law that we support we must consider the associated violence or threat of violence that accompanies them.  Would you go to your neighbor’s house, hold a gun to their head, and threaten death or imprisonment if they don’t support a law you like?  Perhaps that action could be justified if we are talking about national defense, funding a police force, or creating government stockpiles of vaccines for deadly diseases.  Would you threaten your neighbor with violence over funding NPR?  How bout locking your brother or sister in a cage if he or she doesn’t want to fund Social Security?  Would you be willing to throw your kids in jail if they refused to fund the bailout of GM or subsidies for people to purchase a Chevy Volt? I hope most people would answer these questions with a loud and defiant “NO” but many of those same people vote for politicians or support policies that essentially do the same thing.

Think about that the next time a politician talks about raising taxes as an act of compassion, patriotism, or duty

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Welcome to Libergeek

I was looking at the internet today and thought to myself, “Hey, the internet doesn’t seem to have any websites where random people can spout of their opinions”.  I should probably do something about that.

Truth is, I love a good debate.  That’s a fortunate fact because as a libertarian I tend to be at odds with both conservatives and liberals on  a variety of issues.  Even though I am very secure in my convictions, I am not arrogant enough to believe I am right about everything so I particularly enjoy talking to people who disagree with me and/or possess knowledge and experiences which I do not.  My mind doesn’t change easily or often but I do appreciate when people try.

So, if you enjoy debate and can effectively back up your points of view, please stop by regularly to read my posts and tell me why I am right or why I am wrong.  I’ll be sure to read all responses and return the favor.

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