Monday, October 31, 2011

Welcome aboard Julian, person number 7 billion

Last week my friend Dylan wrote, "We're about to reach 7 billion beautiful human beings on this planet."

Well put, old bean.

This week the estimates finally added up to 7 billion. Humanity has reached an amazing milestone, but all I can hear on the subject is the familiar cry of the doomsayer. Harold Camping is a nut for making his Biblical prediction that the world would end earlier this month, but the people claiming 7 billion is too many get a pass in polite society.

It's been 200 years since Malthus predicted the world would be crushed under the weight of human beings, and the cranks just keep delaying the date every generation. People like Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren should be court jesters or lead around on a leash, not placed in academia or made presidential science advisers.

There's no way to know who this 7 billionth person really is, so I will refer to him as "Julian" after economist Julian Simon . The doomsayers believe that people will keep eating resources at a constant rate until the supplies run out, then starve. They have not considered that as a resource runs low, the price will rise and people will be forced to reduce consumption and look for alternatives.

We will not stop at 7 billion. The United Nations predicts the human population will peak at 11 billion in 2050 and then fall. I wish to challenge that view.

As long as we have science and reason, as long as we have innovation and discovery, we will continue along our path of finding new ways to make life better for the many people of this glorious world. We can all live longer, fuller lives, and what's more, I think we will.

I welcome Julian to our world with open arms and I hope to live to see another 7 billion standing next to him.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Lying about police brutality

I'm trying to understand what the left thinks of police officers, and it doesn't make sense

One minute the police are hardworking union members. They are public servants who hold society together, and it's a scandal that Republicans and Tea Party members want to reduce or restrain taxes and risk putting them out of work.

The next minute the police are evil thugs who make unprovoked attacks on innocent protesters. These police officers can't stand the anti-rich and pro-union statements the peaceful Occupy Wall Street and anti-globalization protesters make and assault them.

For some reason, those same police officers don't get in fights with the low-tax anti-union right wing protesters. These same protesters who want to reduce the benefits of public employees, such as for the police department, are never brutalized.

I understand that there's a diversity of opinion on the left, and individual progressives should not be expected to hold views consistent with every other leftist.

But the logic still doesn't make sense if you believe the fable that modern American police are fascist thugs who make a habit of attacking left wing protesters. The simple answer is the protesters are lying.

We already know Occupy Wall Street is filled with people who want to smash things and fight the police. A third in a recent poll said they believe in violence to advance their goals. There's no great mystery here, the protesters are causing violence and then pretending to be the victims.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

That's the cost of destruction, someone's got to lose

Dorian Electra, the same singer-songwriter who brought us I'm in Love with Friedrich Hayek last year has brought us a song about Keynes, and it's not a love letter.

This second song is a departure from the rap genre for Keynes vs. Hayek music and it may open the door for others. I'm waiting for Merle Hazzard to record a Marty Robbins-style gunfighter ballad between the two gentlemen from Europe.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

I was wrong

There's a lot of fun things going on with the Transportation Security Authority - "fun" being a synonym for a farcical horrors - from yet another case of TSA agents going mad with their moderate amount of power to a satirical Playmobil Security Check Point playset posted on All of this has caused me dig up a post I wrote almost a year ago.

I predicted that the public outcry would continue to rise on the Sophie's Choice scenario the TSA was giving passengers of being felt up or photographed with an 80's teen movie clothing-penetrating nudie camera. Public opinion would cascade into people finally evaluating the trade-off between security and freedom, and the public would finally stand up and say the terrible cost does not justify the limited benefit and self-interested politicians would cave and interfere.

What happened instead was, nothing.

Nothing has changed, we're just where we were a year ago. Members of the general public have now absorbed the phrase "security theater" into their vocabularies and understand that a lot of these civil right violations give us no actual increases to security in return.

I still have a month to go from a full year when I made the prediction, but I'm calling it here. We're going to be stuck with this, and it'll get worse before it gets better.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Inside an anarchism convention

I'm finally getting around to expanding on my "Knee-deep in subculture" tag where I record my observations from interactions with various groups, which so far includes yoga hippies and the Occupy Boston protest.

In January 2008, I attended a free weekend anarchism convention in downtown Portland Maine that was promoted on an acquaintance's MySpace page. I wanted to hear what they were all about, as I was still somewhat new to calling myself a libertarian and expected to find a lot of common ground.

I was completely wrong about that.

I was also completely wrong in my jokes that an anarchist convention would be fatally disorganized. There was about 40 of us sitting close together on the carpet while the organizers spent more than an hour explaining the rules for us. The weirdest one was how we were to use "caususes" in case we belong to minority groups that are offended and wanted to pause the meeting.

For example, if someone said something about gays that a gay person didn't like, they could pause everything like a Zack Morris "Time Out." All the gays would discuss the issue outside while everyone else waited in silence until the gay caucus came back in and presented their findings. Fortunately, that never actually happened.

We were told to introduce ourselves by our names, why we were there and what gender of pronoun we preferred. Seriously.

I made no attempt to infiltrate the group as a rebel. I wore a tie while everyone else was in gutterpunk garb. Most of the attendees were in their teens or early twenties and there was one bearded elder who attended Woodstock and never hatched from his tie-dye cocoon.

The discussions were like a pageant for who could display the most economic ignorance. I quickly learned the difference between individual anarchism, the kind I was hoping to hear about, and collective anarchism, which is just ho-hum anti-capitalism, anti-corporation, anti-globalization Marxist opium dreams. There was applause when someone talked about their "vote for no one" campaign, which included putting signs around town that said "Don't vote, they're all Nazis".

Everyone spoke starry-eyed about the concept of "rising up," where the general public would become swayed to their side and overthrow the system from the inside. No one offered example of this actually happening. I repeatedly heard people say that graffiti messages would help the public learn and appreciate their political messages. During a workshop on how to get Bank of America to stop loaning money to companies that perform mountaintop removal mining, one girl suggested that they go into a Bank of America branch and smoke a bunch of cigarettes to mimic air pollution, and this would cause the employees to rise up and change the company from the inside.

This suggestion received a ton of applause, and no one questioned that giving low-level bank clerks a tough time is going to sway them to your side, and even if it did, how that would translate to changes in corporate policy.

To their credit, activists from Earth First! had a good understanding of focusing on cause and effect to achieve their goals, instead of just feel-good public spectacles. They lead a discussion on spiking trees to stop logging companies. Someone in the audience spoke up about how tree spiking poses bodily risk to the laborers and they were immediately shushed by everyone else. An Earth Firster said they were just talking about effectiveness of the tactic now, and would discuss the ethics of it later. That discussion never happened, as should be expected.

After a free lunch of vegan-friendly food swiped from dumpsters, everyone started talking about how they were going to stop the "Iron Sea." This sounded menacing, and I finally asked what it was.

It turned out to be the upcoming 2008 Republican National Convention, or RNC. We broke into groups to brainstorm ways to disrupt the RNC, and everyone submitted illegal ideas like sabotaging the bus system and blocking the streets to keep people from attending the convention. It was clear the spirit of democracy was absent.

I learned that anarchist protesters divide themselves into different sections depending on their rioting preferences. Non-violent people will be in one place and those who want to assault the police and burn cars go elsewhere. They have "medics" with red cross decorations to help get pepper spray out of rioters eyes and they get free legal help from the National Lawyer's Guild activist group.

This should sound familiar with anyone who read the Occupy Boston post I made last week when I interviewed Mark. The same breed of violent protesters are intertwined with the gentle reformers of Occupy Wall Street, and I don't think enough supporters realize who they're marching with.

The anarchists were not the least bit shy about talking about these intentions to commit violent crimes. I was a clean-cut guy in a tie and vest who was taking notes and they still spoke about openly about terrorizing political rivals. These groups start riots and when they get arrested they lie to the public and say they were peaceful protesters who were attacked by evil police.

There are anarchists who don't participate in violence, but they are still willing to work with the bomb-throwers. Tolerance of evil is corrupting. I think it's telling that they claim the police are Nazi-like thugs, but a lot of their tactics depend on the police respecting their civil liberties, like chaining their hands together in tubes or tying themselves to buildings. How would it have gone if a group had chained itself to the gates of Auschwitz?

I'm not sure if anyone from the convention was part of a group of masked rioters arrested at the Republican National Convention for the usual stuff: fighting police, burning cars and macing old women. The local alternative weekly repeated all the usual lies in support of the rioters, and then praised them when a judge threw out the case because their masks spoiled photographic evidence.

This is what I've been trying to warn my liberal friends about when they say they support the Occupy Wall Street movement and tolerate the extremists inside. Anarchists are brutes who want to violently overthrow the country, and they have murdered people on Wall Street before. I've seen masked men in Boston with my own eyes and I can't overlook the threat they represent. These people want blood, not reform, and I have trouble seeing how anyone could justify having them as allies.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Procedural liberalism requires consistency

I've been reading about "procedural liberalism" and the idea that all members of a just society must play by the rules, and I'm having trouble reconciling this with the actions and philosophy of the American left.

As I wrote last time, some members of the left purposely break the law to get arrested, then present themselves as martyrs. If you trespass while shouting to legalize human-onion marriage, you are not a victim of interkingdom romance puritanism. Your freedom of speech has not been trampled. You are simply someone who tried to hang out where they're not allowed to hang out.

"I Am Not Moving" is the title of the obnoxious video comparing Occupy Wall Street protesters to Arab Spring protesters, which is like comparing George of the Jungle to Tarzan. Despite this stern title, when you violate a no-trespass order and the blue-shirted union workers with black boots and billy clubs come for you, you are in fact moving.

If you supporting breaking the law as part of a protest, from mild civil disobedience to property destruction and rioting, then you can no longer claim to be a procedural liberal. My point is not that something is immoral or bad because the legislature had declared it illegal - Bryan Caplan has already destroyed that view - but that once you've thrown that out the window, you have lost all claim to the philosophy of respecting fair procedures.

Not that the left has any claim to greater respect for the rule of law or fair procedures. Former President George W. Bush certainly broke his share of laws, but President Barack Obama instructed the Justice Department not to defend a law he doesn't like. Sure, that law was a federal ban on gay marriage, but that's not the way we do things here. The correct answer to bad legislature is to change it, not break it or ignore it.

The reason we should follow written legislation is that it is a contract of rules to follow. I don't like our strict immigration laws and I want to see them relaxed, but I can't find myself getting worked up because a public school wants to only accept pupils that are legal residents, or a police agency wants to check if a suspect was violating immigration laws. The government should be bound to follow the law.

Procedural liberalism is lumped in with concepts the left claims to hold a monopoly on, like fairness and justice. They want no such things. To the left, fairness means handicapping someone who plays by the rules.

If a white male student works and studies hard, affirmative action proponents say he should have a tougher time getting into a particular college than a black student. This is being purposely unfair to individuals to attempt to create fairness in totality. They assume they have overcome the Hayekian knowledge problem and have perfect information so they can balance the scales flawlessly. In fact, they throw out the natural fairness of the world and impose a flawed attempt at artificial fairness. Neither approach is actually fair, but one incorrectly claims to be.

The same thing carries over to wealth "redistribution," limiting corporate speech, eminent domain and retroactively banning Wall Street bonuses from bailout money. People have a nasty habit of supporting the rules when it suits them, and abandoning them when they don't. The right is just as guilty of this, but it never branded itself the defender of fairness.

You can't claim to be a defender of consistent procedures and equal observation of the rules and still break the law when it helps your political goals. That is the mark of barbarism, not liberty. It's entirely possible that there are members of the left who reject law-breaking protests, inconsistent judicial actions and the handicapping of the innocent, but they have been drowned out by the rest.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Conversations with Occupy Boston

Because the Occupy Wall Street movement is leaderless and does not fall behind a single cohesive message, nearly every conversation about it devolves into discussing what the real purpose of movement is.

So last weekend, I headed out to Boston to talk with the Occupy Boston protesters in person to see what its all about. I wanted to base my opinion on my own observations and interactions with the group.

This is not an exercise in idiot hunting; I did not search for people I could make look foolish, and I do not present any of them as official spokesmen. Everyone I talked to was friendly to me and eager to speak, even after I said what kind of blog I write. I enjoyed our conversations and I want to be as fair to them as I can.

Garrett was holding a sign listing specific financial legislation he'd like to see. "Restore Glass-Steagle, Replace the SEC, Regulate hedge funds, tax carried interest and protect our economy."

He's been following financial issues issues for five years and this was the first time he's protested since Richard Nixon's second inauguration in 1973. His plan was to display his sign for a few hours and he was there with Max, his gentle goldendoodle dog.

Garrett is very specific about what changes he wants to see for the country, as listed on his sign, and he expressed mild frustration that the Occupy Boston isn't targeting Wall Street the way the New York protests are. Instead, he said, the focus is on inequality and freedom of speech

I spotted Kevin wearing a Ron Paul shirt. He said he did not support the anti-capitalism message that's so common at the protest and supports ending the Federal Reserve, which is a libertarian message that was extremely popular with everyone at the Boston protest.

The protesters were camped a few hundred feet from the Federal Reserve bank of Boston and I wandered through the tent city and found a young man and woman with a cardboard sign about legalizing medical marijuana in Maine. They said they'd rather I talk to Victor, a young, shirtless tough-looking guy who didn't want to appear on camera.

Scrawled on his left forearm in sloppy permanent marker was the phone number for the National Lawyers Guild in case he was arrested.

Victor said the people there feel like outcasts. He said the protest has a real "community vibe" and its not controlled by any outside political groups, including liberal ones. From my own observations, I saw zero no signs supporting Obama or the Democratic party while I was there, nor did I hear anyone say much about them.

George Orwell would have loved Victor's no-nonsense honesty when I asked him what solutions he supports. With no hesitation, he said he wants to support the middle class by depopulating the Earth. In his world, rich people would be allowed to exist unless they get lazy and do nothing productive. Victor said rich people who get lazy would be "murdered."

I appreciate Victor's boldness and inability to mask his views. I asked him if he's read Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," as his clarity is exactly what Orwell endorsed, and he confessed he's not much of a reader. Despite the violence of his message, he was completely civil to me.

Mark had just arrived a few hours before as a "weekend warrior" who planned to protest until Monday's college classes. Safety-pinned to his sleeve was a red cross labeling him a protest "medic."

Mark's medical background is limited to lifeguard duty and he's there to clean pepper spray out of people's eye and help with any bumps and scrapes in case anyone tripped on the concrete.

"Capitalism is basically collapsing around us," Mark told me. The issues he cares about are the income gap and injustice. This was his first protest and he said everyone is there for scattered reasons, but the event feels like a big party.

"I think it's fair to say a lot of people here are pissed-off liberals," Mark said. He considers himself somewhat of an anarchist and wants to see the world organized with more local control. He'd rather decisions be made in the community, rather than at the state or federal level.

As I spoke with Mark, a protester named Justin came by and picked up some litter around us.

"I don't want this place to get shut down because there's trash everywhere," said Justin. He said the organizers asked for a few volunteers to help keep trash managed and he was eager to help.

At first glance Vlad seemed like a stereotypical surfer dude with a hippie drum, but his positions were nuanced and thoughtful. He's opposed to inequality between the rich and poor, greed and the way the banks are run.

However, after taking business classes he opposes the minimum wage because it will "drive jobs away." He said he was at the protest to help send a message that people are unsatisfied with the nation and the economy.

Vlad deserves a lot of credit for saying he doesn't have a firm opinion on the Federal Reserve because he doesn't know enough about the issue. It's somewhat rare to hear someone say "I don't know" or "I was wrong" in any political discussion, and I see them as a sign of thoughtful engagement, independent thinking and honesty.

Daniel had a table filled with socialist books and newspapers and he said while the movement has a lot of different viewpoints, the protest is socialist at its core. He said the reason the anti-FED view is so big is that the Federal Reserve is part of the corporate structure that controls the world.

I talked to him a bit longer than anyone else, and once again, everything was civil and courteous.

For econ nerds, when he tried repeating Marx's theory that firms with the lowest wages would be the most competitive, driving down wages, I cited Sean Masaki Flynn's book Economic for Dummies and the response that there is a finite supply of workers firms compete for by offering higher and higher compensation packages, and his only response was that there is an infinite supply of workers, which is silly.

As I was leaving, Daniel offered me a newspaper titled from his stand. It turned out to be a Dutch treat, as after I picked it up he asked for a "suggested $1 donation." In the spirit of capitalism and free market loopholes, I paid him for his product.

This movement is like a horoscope where everyone reading it thinks it is tailored to their own experiences.

Occupy Wall Street started as routine anarchist/Marxist protest, and regular liberals have jumped on, so now the protest is a mix of anti-capitalists and Democrats. Each group thinks the movement is about their beliefs, not the others, and the Democrats get really upset when the movement is characterized as socialist.

It'd be really easy for me to take Victor and Daniel and say they are the core of this movement, but that would be dishonest. I saw a lot of average-looking young people mixed in as well, and a lot of moderate liberals support the movement from afar. However, the bomb-throwers can not be ignored

Anarchists protests do contain people who want to riot and assault police officers. They carry clubs disguised as flags and wear masks to cheat video evidence. This is not a news flash.

The National Lawyers Guild number Victor and Mark wore demonstrate organizers expected arrests, and a few days after I was there more than 100 protesters went out of their way to trespass and resist arrest. The left has this habit of trying to get arrested, then looking at the arrests as a noble sacrifice and proof that the police are thugs. That doesn't mean that police never brutalize protesters, of course, but the protesters aren't always the victims they claim to be.

If you've never heard "The people's Mic," than you have no idea how annoying it is. Try watching this Occupy Atlanta clip without skipping ahead. Speakers have to stop every few words to allow the audience to repeat them in a jumbled fashion. It's supposed to amplify the message, but it comes out like Apache Chief on an old radio. The sound rings of conformity, not solidarity.

All the classic criticisms of the Tea Party were there in Boston. It was mostly white people, there were poorly-written signs, plenty of people were angry, some protesters didn't know what they were talking about, established political activists are pushing it along and protesters started with an unfocused goal. Because there is no central leadership, anyone can idiot hunt and drag up something stupid a protester said. Critics will say that person is a typical member of the group, and supporters will say they're not.

I'm glad I went, as I feel I have a firmer grasp of why people feel so energized by this movement. I support few of the causes they care about, and even less of the solutions they support.

We really do have problems with a lack of jobs, an expensive arms race for college education, an out-of-control Federal Reserve, corporate bailouts and high health care costs. Those problems need to be addressed, but I see hands-off government policy as the solution, not expansion of Washington I heard on the streets of Boston.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs wasn't in the 99%

I became aware of a strange contradiction this past week while my Facebook news feed blew up with my 20-something friends posting about the recent death of Steve Jobs and their support of Occupy Wall Street, which I've already written about more times than I expected to.

The same people that saw their lives enriched by Steve Jobs and Apple computer products are claiming that the richest 1 percent of Americans got that way by taking things away from other people. This is the mistake of assuming that acquiring wealth is a zero-sum game.

Steve Jobs got rich by helping create wealth. He made others better off by helping focus a lot of ideas from other people into useful applications. His gains carried with them gains to other people by putting iPhones and MP3 players into their hands. Why isn't he being demonized at these protests?

I don't like when someone claims to speak for me, such as these protesters declaring they represent the bottom 99 percent of Americans. I've been poor the last three years, although I made a great comeback this spring, and I still share few of the values these groups express.

In addition, by claiming they speak for nearly everyone, they're lumping in a lot of rich people. As Ezra Klein put it in an otherwise sympathetic post:
Let’s be clear. This isn’t really the 99 percent. If you’re in the 85th percentile, for instance, your household is making more than $100,000, and you’re probably doing okay. If you’re in the 95th percentile, your household is making more than $150,000.
You can't claim the richest Americans got that way only by harming people, and then turn around and praise a members of that group for enriching your life. I'm willing to grant these protesters that there are some bad things coming out of Washington, like bailouts, agricultural subsidies and the war on drugs, but that doesn't mean the wealthy are refugees from a Thomas Nash cartoon.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Goodbye, Steve

Today the world lost innovate and entrepreneur Steve Jobs to cancer. If this wasn't enough of a tragedy already, Brian Dunning reports that the odds are Jobs would still be alive if he had gone to a hospital instead of a witch doctor when he was found out he had pancreatic cancer.

Dunning writes:
Most pancreatic cancers are aggressive and always terminal, but Steve was lucky (if you can call it that) and had a rare form called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, which is actually quite treatable with excellent survival rates — if caught soon enough. The median survival is about a decade, but it depends on how soon it’s removed surgically. Steve caught his very early, and should have expected to survive much longer than a decade. Unfortunately Steve relied on a naturopathic diet instead of early surgery. There is no evidence that diet has any effect on islet cell carcinoma. As he dieted for nine months, the tumor progressed, and took him from the high end to the low end of the survival rate.

Eventually it became clear to all involved that his alternative therapy wasn’t working, and from then on, by all accounts, Steve aggressively threw money at the best that medical science could offer. But it was too late. He had a Whipple procedure. He had a liver transplant. And then he died, all too young.
When something terrible happens, people like to blame the things they already dislike. I am no exception, but in this case I just happen to be right.

Edit: Dunning has since edited the post I drew the quote from to say Jobs adopted a magic diet from Dr. Dean Ornish, not a naturopath. This does not change my overall point, but does shift it from one form of alternative medicine to another.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is like social media

Judging by what I'm observing on Facebook, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gained a lot of popularity with starry eyed 20-something liberals and bitter old progressives. I am now of the opinion this isn't going to just die down like the left's last attempt to replicate the Tea Party with the recent pro-union protests.

But that doesn't mean the protests will actually accomplish anything. Since they made the critical error of having no actual goals, they may be end up wasting their momentum by trying to adopt every vaguely left-wing position and spreading themselves too thin.

All that angry shouting may make the protesters feel energized, but if its not focused it won't actually accomplish anything.

As science-based marketing champion Steve Cuno has said, "Never mistake marketing-related activity for actual marketing." What we have here is social media popularity, where a lot of people may click "like" on a picture of the item your selling, but never actually buy one.
There have been a few sprawling lists of demands from the protest organizers, or people claiming to be in charge. I think the response was so much bigger than anticipated that the anti-capitalists who helped start the protests quickly lost control. Movements like the Tea Party and Earth First! function without central leadership, which makes it difficult to hash out cohesive doctrines.

The demands I have seen emerge are all over the place. There are some I agree with, like ending the war on drugs and Patriot Act, but others are so ignorant I had to check to make sure they weren't a parody. For example:
Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.
Good grief. With so many unattainable, awful demands like this one, any movement that tries to establish them is doomed to failure. This is a complete divorce from economic reality. The ignorant protectionism is then curiously followed with a demand for free and open borders. This is strange, as open borders are essentially free trade for labor.

Along with other demands, the little darlings put a bow on top with the line: "These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy."

This is a recipe for unemployment and high prices, not prosperity.

The stupidity of these demands suggests that police have indeed been hitting the protesters in the head with billy clubs. I think if the smart liberals who are jumping on board see some of these ideas like a $20 minimum wage become central to the movement, they will either try to change them or abandon ship.

This movement can only be popular as long as it doesn't try to accomplish anything. If it never narrows down its demands, it will never accomplish anything. If it chooses moderate liberal positions, it will just be swallowed up by the Democratic party. If it chooses the radical demands being floated at this point, membership will drop and the movement will be marginalized.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pretty pretend guns are not a right

Lately my fellow bloggers have been writing about the importance of rights, like the right to a trial in relation to the safety of the public over at Congress Shall Make No Law, and fictional rights that fools cherish, such as the right not to be offended as Popehat and For The Sake of Science both did a great job of hammering out.

So with that in mind, I'm going to tackle the issue that really matters to me - the false claim that Gears of War 3 players have a natural right to pretty guns.

Gears of War 3 is an Xbox game that retails for $60. In some online multiplayer modes, there are some purely aesthetic customizations one can make to their character, the relevant one here being "weapon skins," where the guns players uses can have different paint jobs or animated graphics to make their pretend guns dazzle. Some of these weapon skins are unlocked by completing specific tasks in the game, but a set of 22 was made that players have to pay real money to use.

For $3, you can unlock a static paint scheme like tiger stripes or a flower pattern for all five starting weapons. For $4, you get an animated graphic, like an ocean ripple, for all five. For $15, you can unlock all 22 skins for one of the five weapons, and for a poorly-spent $45 you can unlock each and every one of them.

Predictably, there has been a lot of complaints on the Internet, most of it whiny. The best articulated criticism I have seen is from a level-headed competitive player named K.L. who made a very reasonable video saying this isn't the end of the world, but he doesn't like the policy of incorporating money-making tactics normally reserved for freemium games into a retail game. He hit all the normal points, such as making people pay to use content on the disc, something I don't have a problem with.

Let me start by saying K.L., or "arCtyC" as he likes to be called, has hit upon a gut feeling I share. There is something disappointing about having to pay to use these fun weapon skins. He also does a good job of stressing that this is an entirely voluntary transaction.

Paying to make your pretend guns prettier goes beyond voluntary and satisfies all of the criteria of Michael Munger's "euvoluntary" or "truly voluntary" criteria. Epic Games created the skins, has the legal right to sell them and customers know what they're getting. The weapons skins have no impact on weapon performance, and there are still zero-dollar unlockable weapon skins, so players are not punished for failing to buy them. There is no coercion vaguely associated with this transaction.

So that leaves one criteria to be considered euvolunary. How terrible is the Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA? If not buying a product will result in the death of a consumer, the BATNA differential is said to be very large.

I have trouble imaging a smaller BATNA than not being able to use a pretty pretend gun without paying $3. Sure, it's foolish for most people to pay $45, and I imagine most people chose not to, but a lot of people paid an extra $90 to have their copy of the game bundled with a cheap desk statue, a few trinkets, fake documents and a few different weapon skins and aesthetic downloads. For some reason, offering special editions of games and movies to consumers doesn't draw the same complaints, but the same elements are all there.

I gave it some thought and paid $3 to have the pretty flower imagine at the start of this post put on some of my pretend guns. This small price acts as a barrier, preventing every other player from having an obnoxious arsenal, and as a result I haven't run into anyone else with the same pretty guns.

There is no way to know if Epic Games planned to include the weapon skins, and later decided to charge for them, or were simply looking for another source of revenue and put a little bit of work into creating these for-pay paint jobs. The intent is irrelevant. The weapon skins are a fun addition to the game that I was happy to pay a small amount of money for, and in result, I received exactly what I wanted.