Monday, December 2, 2013

Government Regulations Screw the Little Guy, Episode 4762

(See my previous installment in this series here).

So, I got an email from my bank about "Regulation D":
which places a limit of six withdrawals or outgoing transfers per month from savings or money market accounts via several transaction methods. Transactions counted against the limit include "preauthorized or automatic transfer, or telephonic (including data transmission) agreement, order or instruction, or by check, draft, debit card, or similar order made by the depositor and payable to third parties." Transactions not counted against the limit include "mail, messenger, automated teller machine, or in person or when such withdrawals are made by telephone (via check mailed to the depositor)."
Violating this limit results in a $15 fee (at my bank) and repeatedly doing so will force the account to be converted to checking or closed.

I'm posting this because it never ceases to amaze how deep the state reaches in its control and regulation of every aspect of our life. This is another example of the government screwing us over, and violating our basic rights of customers and businesses to make their own contracts. It is another example out of a billion that we've long abandoned the title "free country". We supposedly learned long ago to separate the church and state; it's about time we do this to banking (and everything else).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Move Review: "Terms and Conditions May Apply"

I just viewed the movie "Terms and Conditions May Apply". While it doesn't seem to be a film produced by libertarians, it does a decent job highlighting how extensive the collection, permanent storage, and use of information about us has become. And it is alarming, even to those of us who were quite aware of the situation: nothing - nothing - you share online is really private. No matter how long you have known this, it remains a stunning fact.

A large amount of this information sharing is something we agree to without fully realizing it. This, of course, does not violate libertarianism; we just sign contracts without reading them. Dumb, but not illegal. (I might add, a lot of this legalese garbage is only required because of a vast number of absurd, anti-libertarian lawsuits that are allowed in today's society). Of course, I do not argue that all information should be private. 100% privacy and 0% privacy would both be unnecessary, impractical, and destructive. It should be up to the individual to strike the right balance. Unfortunately, many people- due to ignorance and/or laziness- are not making these decisions for themselves as they should, and end up giving businesses vast quantities of data under conditions that allow it to be used differently than they would expect. It's good to see efforts to educate others about the situation as this film does.

I do not agree that "privacy legislation" is the solution to businesses collecting, storing, and sharing our data, as this film seems to suggest at a few points. First of all, it's impossible to believe any legislation coming out of Washington D.C. would actually restrict data collection, storage, and sharing valued so highly by politicians and large corporations (which donate to politicians). Secondly, it's not a legitimate role of the state, and would be unconstitutional, for the government to control the contracts people make with businesses about their data.

The other entity collecting, storing, and using our info is the government. As noted at the end of the film, the Snowden leaks have revealed a trove of additional details about what’s really going on, but there is still a lot we don’t know. However, we know enough to say there’s a gigantic surveillance state that fundamentally violates the 4th Amendment. While government does directly collect information about us, most of the time it does so indirectly, by forcing businesses like Verizon, Google, or Facebook to turn over data. Shamefully, there has been little resistance to this by corporations.

Governments possessing our private information are a much greater concern than business possessing it. Businesses cannot obtain your information by force; you have to give it to them. Business cannot use the information for much more than improving marketing, which is actually a good thing (if we are going to see an advertisement, its better if it provides us with useful information). Governments, on the other hand, can abuse the information (inadvertently or not) and do anything with it, including entering your home, detaining you, and throwing you in jail, or worse.

The film takes on the common argument "if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide". It also provides the correct answer, that's garbage nobody really believes and puts to practice. (Next time someone offers that argument, see if he is willing to turn over all his passwords, keys, etc. or have cameras installed in his home.) There are plenty of activities that are not wrong yet may need to remain private. Humans act different- self-censoring- when they are being watched, and the end of the film brilliantly demonstrates this, when the crew meets Mark Zuckerberg, who asks to not be recorded and then acts differently when the cameras are "turned off".

It may be possible for all this to change, but all the powerful business and governmental interests are lined up behind the status quo, meaning the only hope is changing the minds of millions of Americans. It is hard to see a widespread recognition of the value of privacy trump the lazy convenience of going with the flow. Whatever happens, all we can do now is be prudent with what we share, knowing that whatever we post online or do in public view is likely recorded, analyzed, and permanently stored by someone else.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Some "Free Country": Why is it Illegal to Trade with an Employer?

One of the most basic components of liberty is freedom of trade. Yet in this "free country", it's illegal for me to make numerous trades with an employer. Back in the days when I was young and unskilled with no work history, I looked for months before I could find someone willing to hire me. There was plenty of work to be done at hundreds of businesses around me, but I wasn't allowed to do it and build the skills and reputation needed to start climbing the ladder. All because I wasn't productive enough, or at least could not prove that with a work history.

Why wasn't I productive "enough"? I was productive- just about anyone can do hundreds of basic jobs with no significant training costs. But I wasn't productive enough because there was a barrier that neither I nor my potential employers had any control over. I had to be worth a specific amount of money per hour- something north of $8 once all employer costs are counted. Sounds bizarre, arbitrary, and unjust, right? It is, and it is called the minimum wage. And it's still outlawing jobs today, and many people that want to raise this barrier even higher. Worse, they actually think they are being helpful and caring.

But the minimum wage doesn't increase anyone's productivity. It only outlaws the employment of anyone who doesn't have the ability to produce whatever arbitrary value is set by the state. As a result, those people, which I was one of, earn a wage of $0.00. They miss out on an income, the chance to build their skills, and establish a work record; and our economy loses out on their production and is that much poorer as a result.

Though I eventually made it past that barrier, I continue to face others just as arbitrary and unjust. Where I'm currently employed there is no shortage of work to be done, and by supervisors are very happy with my productivity. Meanwhile, my budget is tight and I'd be happy to trade additional hours of labor to increase my income. It's another trade that benefits both of us, but it's illegal.

The same federal legislation that started the minimum wage barrier is also outlawing other trades. I can't work more than 40 hours a week without my employer being forced to pay an "overtime" rate of 150%. They can't afford to do this right now, so I do not have the opportunity to easily increase my income and they do not have the opportunity to benefit from the extra labor of an experienced employee.

As a result, I and many others in my shoes are forced to look for a secondary job elsewhere to get the same number of hours per week (say, 60) without overtime pay rates. Overtime pay law does not actually give us extra pay, it only instead limits choices for workers like me. Choices I would certainly make- just consider the extra costs I face by working for two employers instead of one. Upfront, I'll have to hunt for the job, interview, deal with training; and then daily face an extra commute and uniform changes, all while balancing the schedules between the two. The math quickly becomes clear: I'd be much better off doing over 40 hours with just my current employer - but once again people that think they are helping workers are just making life a whole lot harder for them.

If you're the average reader, you're supportive of the web of regulations in place today, including minimum wage and overtime pay. Do you realize the harm you are causing with these policies you support, which limit choices for employees, reduces our productivity (and thus the whole economy's), and violates our most basic liberties such as freedom to trade? How can you possibly justify this? Let us make our own choices, and you make your own. Everyday issues like these is why I am a libertarian, the only ethically, economically, logically sound political philosophy I can find.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Government Worker's Day, Again

As Laurence Vance points out, "Veteran's Day" is the third holiday (after Memorial Day and Independence day) Americans celebrate and honor certain government workers that make up the military and increasingly, police and firemen and such:
 This holiday began as Armistice Day – a day to commemorate the signing of the armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that ended fighting on the Western Front in World War I, "the war to end all wars." A few years after World War II, the holiday was changed to Veterans Day as a tribute to all soldiers who fought for their country. Veterans Day has now become a day to honor, not just those who have served in the military during wartime, but those who have served during peacetime or are serving now. It is now just a day to honor all things military.
Unfortunately, these government workers working in the military are some of the most expensive, unnecessary, and destructive of the bunch. Why? Instead of serving as only a means of self-defense,  most everything they do is a boondoggle, and it involves exploding property and killing innocent people- activity that would be criminal in any other situation. What is possibly honorable about that? Nothing. To the contrary, it is dishonorable. I would be ashamed if I were a military veteran. We should not honor them or thank them for their service to the state its corporate benefactors. They should not accept our thanks, but rather apologize to us for helping to further destroy our freedoms and possibly putting us in greater danger by provoking blowback.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Libertarian Thoughts on the Government “Shutdown”

First off, it’s not really a shutdown. At best, it’s a slight shutdown. Only a small fraction of government workers are sent home and only a fraction of government activities are reduced or stopped. I am not aware of any regulations or taxes that will cease. Worse, it’s not clear that we will come through this paying less net taxes. Government workers may well be getting a paid vacation, depending on what Congress does.

In other words, this shutdown is hardly libertarian in the end- certainly nothing to get too excited about. We’ll have to see what happens. At the same time, it doesn't seem to be anti-libertarian. And the longer it lasts, the more ridiculous media and government hysteria will look. We frankly don’t miss what is shut down as much as they would like us to. And the only reason Americans will miss it at all is because the state has monopolized some services we want, not allowing them to be provided in the private sector.

Republicans, including Rand Paul, sadly want to fund all of the government except Obamacare. Anyone that wants even a small move towards libertarianism is foolish to put their hope in the GOP. The party is nowhere near ready to deliver anything except more government.

It is, however, not accurate to hold Obama and the Democrats blameless for the shutdown, as many try to do. The fact is, Republicans have offered to fund just about everything and the Democrats have taken up the role of obstructionists and absolutely refused any compromise. Republicans have even offered to reduce their demands but the Democrats won’t budge from my way or the highway. An objective look at this situation leaves the majority of responsibility for the shutdown on the shoulders of Democrats.

Every talking point offered by the Democrats crumbles easily, usually by flipping it around. The GOP is holding us “hostage”, they say. Yeah, just like Democrats are holding us “hostage”, by preferring shut down over giving up even part of Obamacare. But Obamcare is a “law”, they say. It’s also the law the House can fund what it wants. But funding the government is too important and should never be connected to other agendas. Cute opinion, but it can be, so deal with reality. If funding the government is so important you wouldn't prevent it over not getting everything you want on Obamacare.

Now that Republicans have gone this far, they had better go all the way and actually get something in return. If they cave now, they did the shutdown for nothing. The longer Democrats refuse negotiation, the worse they will look. If Republicans have any political smarts they will wait and get something out of this. Hopefully, they manage to get something libertarian, even if just a delay of Obamacare.

As for really shutting down the government, we will accomplish that one mind at a time. Ron Paul’s new curriculum and book is another exciting development in that process.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Matt Druge: It's Authoritarian vs. Libertarian, not Democrats vs. Republicans

This is the real divide in politics. Those who want to control your life and rule over you, and those who don't. The typical left vs. right, republican vs. democrat, etc. is just Authoritarian A vs. Authoritarian B. It's a distraction that enables authoritarianism.
Because they are caught up in the authoritarian A vs. B game, and because they are authoritarians (whether they realize it or not).

Authoritarianism is simply disgusting. People that espouse it and defend it are everywhere right now and it's not completely fair to be angry with them about it, because it's really all they know. Just like we typically 'forgive' famous past figures such as Jefferson or Lincoln for their views on slavery and race, the same could be said for many people today. However, there are many who don't have this excuse: they understand libertarianism but continue to advocate authoritarianism. Their philosophy is much worse than racism, one of the most discussed taboos in America. I look forward to the day when authoritarians are shunned as much as - and more than - racists.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gotta Laugh When Some Complain About Their Liberty Being Violated

It's never a good thing when libertarianism is discarded, such as this judge apparently did in changing a baby's first name against the parents will. But I can't muster much sympathy for most people whining about this case, because nearly every other aspect of their politics involves imposing a myriad of other views on everyone. It's rather amusing but also sad to watch the ignorance and hypocrisy of statists as they get a taste of their own medicine.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Libertarianism Would Have Saved Trayvon Martin's Life

Putting libertarianism to practice would have prevented the death of Trayvon Martin, as Robert Wenzel notes in an excellent post (he also has a follow-up). Obviously, there was an aggressor in the altercation. Many people are convinced it was Geroge Zimmerman, but such could not be proven. Rather, from my casual observation, just about all the evidence seems to line up with Geroge's story-line. And that means Trayvon Martin was, as best we can tell, the aggressor.

Far to many don't even seem able to acknowledge this a possibility, no doubt because of a strange campaign that portrayed Trayvon as an innocent kid merely trying to walk home with iced tea and a bag of Skittles, only to be killed by a racist wanna-be cop. Yet even if George was the aggressor, unlikely as that is, libertarianism would have prevented needless death and injuries.

Why? Because libertarianism is non-aggression, exactly the principle that someone violated that unfortunate night. That's why I find libertarianism such a meaningful and pressing issue: tragic events like this are happening all the time because people as individuals or groups, including and especially governments, are committing acts of aggression. Humans will never cease all aggression - that is a utopian dream - but I know improvements are possible, particularly in reducing institutionalized aggression (the government).

Let our energies in reaction to this case be channeled towards decreasing aggression, not increasing it, as many are wont to do.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Intellectual Barbarians Attack Jack Hunter

It's amusing to watch the dim-wits get in a tizzy over their discovery of Jack Hunter, a former radio host and current aide to Senator Rand Paul. They can't stand that he would support the right of secession, even though they just got through celebrating the 237th anniversary of our secession from Great Britain. You've got to be a part of the Lincoln cult to be respected by them, as that is what the whole federal government is based on today.

Over his career Hunter has made some inflammatory statements, some of which I would not be able to agree with, either. But never mind that. Chris Hayes' segment on the issue is why I'm posting in the first place. You can watch it here. He says:
"In the final analysis, there are certain things, certain views, that just put you outside of the boundaries of being listened to on anything. I'd say White supremacy is one of those. And association with people that hold those views or endorsements of feature of those views, well, they render you unfit. even if you take the most charitable view possible, that say, you get three white supremacist strikes, Rand Paul is in trouble."
He goes on to list three "strikes". I am not very familiar with the first one and don't really care about it right now. So I will grant, for the sake of argument, that you could fault the Rand Paul team for hiring a spokesperson like that.

The second strike, Hayes claims, is consistently supporting private property. No kidding. In the delusional world of Chris Hayes, there is only the false dichotomy of being for the Civil Rights Act or being a white supremacist.

The third strike is Jack Hunter. Evidently, he is a racist/white supremacist, despite the lack of evidence in the original hit piece at Free Beacon or any of the follow-up stories. That doesn't stop raving lunatics like Chris Hayes from trying to make a connection, though.

I have followed Hunter's work for some time, though I stopped after he drifted to far from libertarianism to be worth my time. I never saw anything racist at all. Leftist morons really need to let go of the race card. It's sad and comical how they see racism everywhere, when most of it is all in their head. Perhaps they should get out of their cocoons and meet the people they demonize.

As far as Chris Hayes and his ilk, I'd say his worldview of statism puts him outside of the boundaries of being listened to on anything, and intellectually bankrupt segments like he did for MSNBC render him unfit to be given any respect at all.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Government Doesn't Like it When You Know the Rules

Here's a new video from this past July 4th (a belated happy Secession Day, btw!). It's always nice to see people asserting their rights like this. Unfortunately, most of us do not know the "law" well enough and frequently waive our rights without realizing it. Note the police admits the driver's innocence as he continues his illegal search - after which he finds the camera.

Here's another classic - the government is again caught trying to pry far beyond what its own law says it can do. We need more of this educated resistance. Each state needs organizations to help citizens understand their rights under the arbitrary "laws" of their area. If enough of us know the basics and assert our rights, this routine abuse can be greatly curtailed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

John Stossel is Right and Wrong on NSA Spying: Can I Convince Him?

It made my day to get a direct response on Twitter from none other than John Stossel of Fox News:

Background: Stossel has stated his view many times, including in these two Reason articles (here, here). I think this summarizes his argument best:
“So it's invasive, probably illegal and maybe useless. I ought to be very angry. But I'm not. Why? 
I need to keep thinking about this issue, but for now, two reasons: 
  1. Terrorists do want to murder us. If the NSA is halfway competent, Big Data should help detect plots.
  2. My electronic privacy has already been utterly shredded by Google, Amazon, YouTube and so on. 
They know with whom I talk, what interests me and how much time I spend doing this or that. They creep me out with targeted ads. How did they know I want that?! Oh, right ... I spent an hour searching ... 
Then I go outside in New York City, where 16 cameras record me on my way to work.
Greedy lawyers can subpoena my private records. My employer has a right to read my emails. 
My privacy is already blown. 
I'm angrier about other things Big Government does in the name of keeping me safe: forcing me to wear safety gear, limiting where I may go, stripping me at airports, forcing me to pay $2,300 for more military than we need.”
For a libertarian, Stossel’s take on the NSA spying is mind-boggling at first glance, but he does have a point. There’s a hundred other things to be angry about, and more. Some which have been around a long time, unlike the news of NSA spying. Naturally we are focused on that topic while it’s hot, and for good reason, strategically: now is the time to nip it in the bud, before it becomes entrenched policy like the 100 other things in John Stossel’s list.

Stossel is not wrong to prefer certain freedoms over others. We all have our own preferences. For a famous media figure, privacy is largely "blown", in exchange for the other rewards that come with your work. That’s fine… but what about the rest of us? Not all of us make that choice. And it is our right to do so, as much as any other right.

Stossel argues that private companies have a lot of our data. But surely the difference is glaring. We gave these private companies our information. The NSA, on the other hand, takes it by force.

What about the terrorists? I say, what about the 4th amendment? We are not going to give that up, are we, John?

Stossel is a spokesman for the cause of liberty. We’re disappointed because he doesn't seem interested in defending a right he personally doesn't find important. We don't ask that he change his own preferences, but merely that he defend all of our freedoms. Likewise, there are freedoms I would not find personally important- such as the freedom to smoke marijuana- but I will vigorously oppose the drug war because it is right to do so and because it has negative consequences on me (e.g. higher tax and crime rates). There's also negative consequences from NSA spying: higher taxes, people refraining from exercising their rights because the government is watching their data, etc.

I hope you're on the way to being convinced, Mr. Stossel.  If not, what is wrong with our rebuttal? Now is the perfect time to defend privacy, while momentum is on our side. Please join us!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Amid Scandals and Leaks, Obama Escalates Syrian War

With the various scandals and especially the NSA leaks, it's an awfully convenient time to throttle up a new unnecessary, unconstitutional, wasteful, and evil war, by arming the Syrian rebels. Everyone openly admits the rebels are partially composed of Al-Qaeda. It's so transparently absurd, I cannot believe decent, rational people could possibly support this. It remains to be seen how the public will react; we can only hope the government is vastly overreaching and about to shatter the consent of it's victims. Every bit of education for liberty makes that more likely.

As usual, Ron Paul's response to the news is spot on.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A "Progressive's" Anti-Progressive Argument Against Liberty

Michael Lind of thinks he has us stumped. " If your approach is so great, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it?"

I really liked Tom Wood's response, as well as Bob Murphy's brief note. Here's what I have to add: this  attack is supposedly from a "progressive" author and website. The irony is palpable, then, to see them use such an anti-progressive line of argumentation: If x hasn't been tried, it must not be that great.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rand Paul, the Apple Who Fell Far from the Tree

Rand Paul is becoming less like his father every day, it seems. His obvious desire for higher office is technically not a problem, if he goes about it the right way. Unfortunately, he is moving toward the middle instead of trying to move the middle toward him. This undermines his effectiveness, and at some point he becomes no better than any other Republican. I don’t think we are there yet, but it’s frightening that we seem headed in that direction.

This Washington Post article highlights Rand’s latest moves. He is meeting with evangelical leaders, who are often very confused about liberty, as are most Republicans and Democrats. One that he met with stated “Straight libertarianism has nothing Christian about it.” Such ignorance is palpable. Libertarianism is non-aggression, a key teaching in the Bible. Rand Paul has the opportunity to explain this and how it relates to government. He also has the chance to explain how the Constitution does not provide for federal power over many issues evangelicals are concerned about, including marriage and the drug war. These are very reasonable, moderate, and consistent arguments that would do the cause of liberty much good.

But what is Rand advocating? To his credit, he still thinks marriage is a state issue, but I don’t see him laying out the Constitutional reasons for this. Unfortunately, on the drug war, he wants to continue it but try and reduce some of the penalties. That’s nice, but that is not a defense of liberty. It’s support for a failed, rights-violating, unconstitutional, and moronic drug prohibition.

We are going to need people who actually support liberty to make the changes we want. Rand Paul is not laying the foundation for a Presidential run based on liberty. He is more likely, as Bob Wenzel points out, to end up being the next Ronald Reagan, one who often talks nice but doesn't stop or reverse the growth of the state.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Nullification Going Mainstream, Despite the Mainstream Media

This encouraging news comes as I read Thomas E. Wood's Nullification. If you want to read some fascinating untold history of the Constitution, I strongly recommend this book.

Meanwhile, over at The Economist they are not too happy about nullification and the recent Kansas gun nullification legislation. Their post is the product of minds that are alien to freedom, and federalism. There are too many problems to address but this one stands out the most:

[ERIC HOLDER] Under the Supremacy Clause…Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities. And a state certainly may not criminalise the exercise of federal responsibilities. Because SB102 conflicts with federal firearms laws and regulations, federal law supercedes this new statute; all provisions of federal laws and their implementing regulations therefore continue to apply.
It is remarkable that a civics lesson like this is necessary.

It's beyond remarkable that this passes anyone's sniff test. Have they not even bothered to read the Supremacy Clause in its entirety? This is but one of the many holes in nationalist constitutional thinking. Their theories are not based on reality. Happily, Americans are beginning to realize this, and the fact that it's way past time to think outside the box if we're going to make any of the big changes for liberty that we advocate.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Commercial Spaceflight Continues to Advance

Despite all the space socialism of the past century, the market is stepping up with some very interesting private spacecraft. My latest news article in Examiner covers Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo and it's first powered flight that occurred yesterday.

This highlights, once again, the market will provide what is demanded, and absent government taxes, regulations, and crowding out we would have certainly seen this happen much earlier than 2013. Whatever the right time is for these projects, we will never know without a free market and it's price system to guide us rationally through the endless number of choices we face. This insight of economic calculation was first brought to us by Ludwig von Mises nearly 100 years ago, and one I stressed in my old Striking at the Root article on NASA.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Are we allowing the terrorists to win?

It would seem so. The level of fear we have allowed ourselves to succumb to is irrational. What message did that lock down of Boston - all for just one criminal - send? Fueling and feeding off this fear is a growing police state. The Patriot Act used to be very controversial, but no more. It, and a host of other radical police/war powers, are institutionalized. While one Senator standing up for 13 hours for the fifth amendment was widely supported, even that very narrow defense of one of our most basic and important rights was viewed as paranoid and dishonest by a large minority of Americans.

America was once a great bastion of liberty and prosperity one could be proud of, despite numerous problem we did have. I can’t say that about modern America. There’s really nothing much “exceptional” left about the USA. Republicans and Democrats, for the most part, are a delusional, destructive bunch hurling us all over a cliff with no parachute. It won’t end well no matter good it feels now. Some of us see the ground below, getting closer and closer.

Friday, April 19, 2013

An Alternative to Politics: Agree to Disagree

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. ~Thomas Jefferson
In my last two posts, I asked 1). how Republicans, given their long record, are better than Democrats, and then 2). briefly explained why I consider Democrats to be completely delusional and destructive. I concluded with a proposal to solve our irreconcilable political differences:
“we should just agree to disagree. Don’t force your ideas on us through the government. Do what you want to yourselves, and leave the rest of us alone”
Opposing agendas cannot be forced on the same region at the same time, much as one cannot move in opposite directions simultaneously. When people compete via democracy to use the government to impose agendas on others, there will be some who are forced to live under an agenda they may largely or entirely oppose.

Our differences are irreconcilable and substantial- we’re talking about completely different rules for society, not a few small quibbles. And that’s why the only solution is agreeing to disagree. You do things your way, and I’ll do things my way. We’ll not try to force our agenda on each other. This is the civilized, moral way to deal with conflicts we cannot resolve.

Of course, this is not a solution in dealing with crime (e.g. theft). Force is required to deal with acts of aggression. But all other issues should be subject to agreeing to disagree when we can’t agree.

How can we begin doing this? Presently, most of us are trying to impose our agenda on others, through the government, on millions of people, rather than a more local area. Whenever a “national” agenda is legislated by the federal government, it’s being imposed on hundreds of millions of people over a vast area of millions of square miles.

Therefore, one way we can begin agreeing to disagree is to restore a federal system of government as the Constitution originally gave us. Issues that have been dealt with at the “national” level can go back to more local regions. Of course, we should not stop with our decentralization there. Further localization is surely desirable, right down to the individual level.

Take the New York “soda ban” for example. I believe this is extremely stupid policy, and a violation of the rights of anyone living there. I would advocate decentralization, allow individuals or restaurants to decide whether to ban sodas for themselves, i.e. repeal the soda ban. But look on the positive side; though it’s not much of one for New Yorkers: the soda ban is not being imposed on the rest of the state, let alone the whole country. So at least we have a partial case of agreeing to disagree.

Our differences are much greater than a soda ban. As I said, we envision completely different rules for society, because of our fundamentally different understandings of economics and individual rights. Ignoring this and attempting to bind everyone under centralized political control is a recipe for friction, irrationality, and mass injustice. Let’s work to take issues out of politics and deal with them between each other, agreeing to disagree when that isn’t possible.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gun Control Shot Down

Unfortunately, these days liberty does not score many victories, but there are exceptions. One of the most organized attacks by the gun controllers in the last twenty years was repelled in a Senate vote last night.

It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly they were defeated. Their campaign was revived when they decided take advantage of the tragedy in Newtown, but it took over a month before the new Congress was settled in and the President decided on his goals. Attempts to renew “assault weapons” bans were ditched when it became clear that the votes were not there. And now, after five months of work, the rest of their agenda was given a kick to the curb, with the help of several Democrats and most Republicans. Even if the Democrat-controlled Senate had passed it, the bill would have been DOA in the House.

They cannot be allowed the slightest victory. Give them an inch and they will take a mile. They don’t have the support to pass their agenda now, but they will keep trying. So we must keep fighting, and not just on the defensive. Liberty has lost much territory to gun controllers and the rest of the statist agenda. It’s not enough to defend what’s left, we need to actually go on the offensive and recapture what has been lost – stolen – from us. That means repealing gun control that is in place now, at all levels of government.

We will always have guns, and unfortunately, human nature is such that murder will always be a problem. It's unfortunate that gun controllers want to disarm the innocent and embolden criminals. The solution is not more guns, though that's what gun controllers ironically bring about, by threatening to make future gun purchases more expensive. The solution may be called "more gun rights", though it is better understood as follows: Respect the natural right to both own property (including guns) and use it however you like, provided you don't violate other's rights. When our rights are respected the cost of committing a crime increases, as the criminal cannot know who is packing heat and the people do not fear legal trouble for merely exercising their rights. When our rights are not respected the criminal gets the advantage, as he ignores the government's decrees and thus is not constrained by them as much as the rest of us.

It's embarrassing that gun controllers, despite some good intentions, are actually helping the criminals and hurting everyone else. That's why they must be defeated. Liberty is the only sensible idea, once again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Democrats: Delusional and Destructive

In my last post I questioned the point of being a Republican, since the record shows nothing but increasing government power for decade after decade. Republicans always promise “smaller government”, but clearly are not delivering. In this post I will turn my attention to the Democrats.

The only good thing about Democrats is they aren’t very dishonest about their goals. They say they want to grow the government, and they do just that. Actually, no; they are dishonest too. They were supposed to be the party to stand for civil liberties and less militarism. This illusion has enabled them to get away with the opposite, institutionalizing radical republican policies are introducing new extreme policies, including codifying indefinite detention, due-process-free assassination of American citizens, and war without any Congressional approval.

So maybe there is nothing good about the Democrats. One would surely think so after considering what happened at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Someone went around asking various delegates and other attendees if they would support a federal ban on corporate profits. Repeat, a federal ban on corporate profits. Easy, that proposal was roundly rejected, right? Wrong. About a quarter of them said yes. Another quarter said meh, let’s go halfway and just cap profits. It’s stunning that so many Democrats are willing to embrace such an extreme, idiotic idea without thinking at all.

This episode highlights the where Democrats are most delusional. Democrats and economics are like water and oil. What they want is destructive to everyone, including the people they always talk about helping: the poor, the middle class, seniors, college students, women, African Americans, and all other groups they pander to. Democrats do help some people, though; and ironically, it’s the rich (or some of them, anyway) and big business. A perfect example of this is the minimum wage- which outlaws jobs for those with the least skills and eliminates some competition for those higher up the ladder.

The Democrat’s concept of liberty is a confusion of liberty with the freedom that comes from affluence. They think it’s about equality and having enough to enjoy some minimum standard of living. I have nothing against these ideas but they are not what liberty is.

There is no room for real private property in Democrat world, where a massive, centralized, hyper-interventionist state is needed for survival. For them, it’s even okay for the government to prevent a business from selling a 20 oz. drink to a customer. Which just serves to highlight that nothing is off limits, in principle they have conceded absolute power to the state. Their complaints about people wanting to end their sacred ‘right’ to kill the unborn rings hollow for this very reason, not to mention the question of whether abortion is murder (it is). “It’s her body”, they say. Well, it’s her restaurant, too.

Democrats won’t like this post and will disagree with the adjectives I describe their ideas with, but it is fair commentary. Maybe I should have been friendlier? No, sorry, not with what they are doing to us. Democrats, your delusional ideology is destroying America.

What’s the solution? Democrats are unlikely to change their minds, so we should just agree to disagree. Don’t force your ideas on us through the government. Do what you want to yourselves, and leave the rest of us alone. Then I’ll have much more respect for you.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What’s the Point of Being a Republican?

No need to type a thousand words. The picture says it all. It shows government spending, corrected for inflation and population. A chart showing the total number of government regulations over the years would look similar.

Yet Republicans are supposed to be the lesser of the two evils. How so?

The only good thing about the Republican Party is a few real defenders of liberty are able to get elected, like Congressman Justin Amash. The most famous example is of course Ron Paul. Meanwhile, 100% of elected Democrats I’m familiar with are absolutely terrible. Republicans, maybe just 99% are bad.

I still remember the tea party from a few years ago. It gave me hope because it was not just going to oppose Democrats but also some of the bad Republicans. Maybe we were finally going to end the regressive course seen in the chart posted above and start shrinking the state. Unfortunately I was mistaken. Most so-called tea party politicians and voters are just a subset of the GOP.

The reason for Republican failure is simple. Republicans agree with Democrats: maintain and increase government power. Just admit it. If that is not true for you, what are you doing supporting Republicans? Your actions speak louder than your words. At least be honest and stop disguising your agenda as something it is not.

So, Republicans, am I not right? What is the point of being a Republican? It’s an honest question.

Monday, April 8, 2013

STRATEGY: Three Essential Guidelines for the Liberty Movement

Ron Paul attracts support from a diverse group of libertarians, constitutionalists, ‘conservatives’, and some ‘liberals’. Even anarcho-capitalists, the “purest” libertarians out there, respect and support Ron. As many of you know, though, pretty much no other politician has been able to do this.

Working almost alone for the majority of his career, Ron Paul didn’t get his agenda through Congress, and he never gained much power as a politician, only becoming a subcommittee chairman in his last term. Up till recently, most people would have concluded that he labored in vain. They would have argued, perhaps, that he should have compromised to get more power. He could have worked up to a top position in the House, Senate, or even the White House had he gone that route, but his hands and probably his mind would have been tied to a agenda that we would not even recognize. To my surprise, I have noticed some people in the liberty movement don’t quite understand this.

Ron Paul followed three strategic principles throughout his political career. As a result, he changed millions of minds and kept his integrity and credibility. He did far more than one Congressman could have been expected to accomplish. Imagine what would happen if there were more like him? What could two, ten, or fifty “clones” of Ron Paul achieve?

There can be more. We need only find effective ambassadors for liberty that will adopt a strategy based on those three guidelines, which Murray Rothbard talked about in his exceptional article “The Case for Radical Idealism”:
  1. Whatever the means to the end are, an ultimate goal should be clearly upheld
  2. Strive to achieve the goal as rapidly as possible
  3. No steps should ever be taken that contradict the ultimate goal
This is what Ron Paul did for decades, and it is what we should expect of ourselves and especially all “Ron Paul Republicans” that seek public office.

What is the ultimate goal? That’s up to you. You don’t have to be a “purist libertarian” (though I wouldn’t discourage it!). Just figure out what your ultimate goal is- and constantly uphold it- despite the fact that it will probably not be achieved quickly or in one step. Even as you support baby steps towards your goal, continue to uphold your ultimate goal.

It is worth noting, moderating your ultimate goal, merely because it may be extreme, is to pass up two opportunities: First, the enthusiasm that a logically consistent goal inspires (think Ron Paul’s deep support); second, watering down your demands reduces your ability to sway the ideological matrix in your direction.

Dr. Paul upheld the Constitution and a fairly minarchist vision as the ultimate goal, and acted consistent with it. This is the reason he won support from all of us, including anarcho-capitalists who want less government than he did and some tea party types who would have more government than him.

To illustrate that we can all adopt this strategy without even being libertarian, let alone anarcho-capitalist, I point you to several more examples: Glenn Greenwald (proud “civil liberties extremist”, but no libertarian) and Jacob Hornberger, Ludwig von Mises, and Gary North (all three can probably be considered “minarchists”).

The conservative movement has failed because their strategy is primarily one of incrementalism. They lack clear goals, urgency, and consistency. Meanwhile, “progressives” and their socialist ilk have followed a more radical and consistent strategy and have implemented much of their agenda. Let’s learn from this, and not allow ourselves or our “Ron Paul Republicans” go down that slippery slope of obfuscation and hypocrisy. There is no shortcut to liberty. As Ron Paul has noted many times, people’s attitude (ideology) must change first. Politics will follow.

“Purity” – consistent support for liberty - is important, but I dare say smart strategy is more important than absolute purity, if we want to make progress. We can disagree on how libertarian we need to be and yet be strong allies and friends because we are employing Ron Paul’s and Murray Rothbard’s effective strategy for radical change.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Canadian Governemnt Steals $10,000 from Someone

Disgusting. Unbelievably, the author of the news article isn't even sure if he can feel sorry for the victim.

(ht Robert Wenzel)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Protecting Restaurants from Food Trucks

If “American” means anything good, then this is surely un-American: politicians restricting some businesses to protect others. What politicians are doing here is not only trying to override the decisions of business owners but also that of customers. This is just a bunch of arbitrary, chaotic intervention that does nothing but hold back progress and prosperity.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

No, Steve Kornacki does not 'Keep His Politics to Himself'

Is Steve Kornacki An Objective Political Analyst? has unexpectedly been my most popular post here at LPJ. It's main points are: Steve Kornacki is an impressive wonk of recent political history, and his writing sticks to a more objective approach, though he too slips in his own political opinions. For many readers, this is hard to spot and that's a disservice to them.

Now that Kornacki is moving up (pun intended) the ladder and replacing Chris Hayes on MSNBC's show Up, he is a getting a bit more attention. The Daily Beast features him in this article, which  unfortunately perpetuates the idea that objectivity is possible, and goes so far to claim that Kornacki "keeps his politics to himself":
Kerry Lauerman, Kornacki’s editor at Salon, hired him after watching Kornacki appear on Hardball With Chris Matthews one afternoon...
“Usually people, if they know who voted for what in 1984, aren’t able to do anything with that,” Lauerman says. “They are just another political fanboy or fangirl. He is very able to apply his knowledge, and you know he is able to do that without seeming like he has any kind of agenda. He is coming at it pretty ingenuously and clear-eyed. You never have to wonder who is taking him out to dinner.” 
Which puts him at a different approach than his predecessor. Hayes was very much a creature of the left... Kornacki... generally keeps his politics to himself. “I am hesitant to put any kind of ideological label on it and say that’s what this show is. I would rather say this is a show that seeks out intelligent conversation and is not going to be afraid to let that conversation take place organically.”
And yet, as I showed in my post back in June 2012, this is hardly the case, he does slip in political opinion and - as with everyone else- his worldview does affect what he chooses to write and not to write.

Once again, it's fine for anyone to write about politics but let's stop pretending that objectivity is even possible.

Bottom line: Like everyone else, Kornacki has an agenda.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why the Soviet Union Collapsed

It's good to finally have a face to associate with EPJ, a very important blog for Austrian economics and liberty. Robert Wenzel's excellent speech at the Mises Institute on the Soviet Union's collapse is going to be a classic:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't Hide the Cost of Government

Politicians try their best to hide the cost of government, by withholding taxes and placing tax day as far from election day as possible. Let's fix that, says Gary North in this classic article.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Glenn Greenwald is Not a Libertarian (Yet)

On one of his side blogs, Glenn Greenwald writes an interesting post on “frequently told lies” about himself. One lie, he says, is that he is a libertarian, and he certainly is correct, as several public positions he documents are blatantly anti-libertarian.

Yet Greenwald is very much a “civil libertarian”; in fact, he is proud to be a “civil liberties extremist”. This is why libertarians so frequently applaud his work. It’s a bit confusing for us, though, why he supports liberty in some cases and not others. Is “economic liberty” or any kind of liberty less important? Why is my right to work for an employer on terms we agree to, for example, less of a right than free speech? If I want to take a job for $5 an hour, shouldn't that be just as much of a right as free speech?

This is where the non-aggression principle is so instructive. It is the foundation of libertarianism, and very difficult to reject. In short, it states that using force is unjustified except in self-defense. Any other use of force is a violation of someone’s ownership in their body and their other property. Therefore, just as it would be illegitimate for the government to outlaw my speech, it would be just as illegitimate for them to outlaw trade.

For another example, take Social Security, which Greenwald doesn't want to cut at all. Forcing me to participate in a retirement savings program is no more legitimate than, say, forcing me to participate in some religion. Civil liberties and economic liberties are really the same thing: it’s all liberty. As Ron Paul has correctly urged, we had best stop separating the two. It’s both inconsistent and unjust.

It’s my hope that Greenwald winds up becoming a consistent libertarian.  What he wrote further down in his post, is similar to the process all of us go through on the way to becoming libertarians, and thus may be reason for optimism (emphasis mine):

I had to rely back then on standard political and media venues to form my political impressions of the world. When I first began writing about politics, I had a whole slew of conventional political beliefs that came from lazy ingestion of the false and misleading claims of these conventional political and media sources. Having the time to examine political realities first-hand has led me to realize how many of those former beliefs I held were based on myth or worse, and I've radically changed how I think about a whole slew of issues as a result of that re-examination.

…When I still trusted and relied upon the claims of the political and media class - when I was basically apolitical and passive - I tacitly accepted all sorts of views which I've come to see are warped and misleading. I've talked often about this process and am proud of this evolution.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Glenn Beck: Newcomer Libertarian?

I haven’t been keeping up with Glenn Beck, but he has come to my attention again because of a recent video where he talked with Jack Hunter, Jacob Hornburger, and Zak Slayback on his The Blaze show. Apparently, Beck is becoming more of a libertarian these days. That’s welcome news, but he is not there yet.

Before we get to Beck, though, we need to step back and address a comment by Students for Liberty co-founder Alexander McCobin that probably prompted Beck’s video above:
“…if Glenn wants to call himself a libertarian, I am happy to accept him as one…on the condition…that he comes here to our community and proclaim ‘mea culpa’ for his past defenses of social and neo-conservatism…”
Here McCobin perpetuates a myth that libertarianism is in conflict with “social conservatism”. It’s absolutely not. One can hold “socially conservative” views on drugs, Israel, marriage, etc. and still be a libertarian, i.e. not forcing such views on others. (Abortion is the exception: depending on your stance it is an act of aggression). (Borowski video) McCobin is correct, though, that anyone, like Beck, who has taken very public, anti-liberty positions, is going to have to repudiate what he said in order to have any credibility.

Beck responded to McCobin’s comments on his radio show:
“This guy wrote, and said if Glenn Beck wants to join our club — meaning Libertarianism — then he has to come and atone for his past transgressions, and I thought, ‘Is that you grand inquisitor?’ What is this, the Spanish Inquisition? You’re more Fascist than some of the Fascists that I’ve seen. And the same thing with many of the hard core Ron Paul supporters. You are supposed to have a brain of your own, and you’re not supposed to be about an individual. I mean Libertarianism is about a set of ideas: maximum freedom. Not about a person.”
Of course, we accept newcomers, even if they don’t support liberty to the extent we do. But to claim the libertarian label, you have to actually be a libertarian. Beck may be moving in the right direction, but he isn't quite there. A few recent examples demonstrate this:

  • Lincoln: Honoring Lincoln with a poster on your show’s set is honoring a man who rejected the central principle of the Declaration of Independence: the right of secession. It’s honoring a man who did more to destroy the Constitution’s federal government in favor of a national government than any other President. Lincoln’s agenda was anti-liberty: high tariffs and corporate welfare. If you like Lincoln, you’re probably not a libertarian.
  • The Military: People who take a government job to participate in an aggressive, unconstitutional war are not heroes. They are participators in aggression, they are attacking our liberty, whether they know it or not. To call them all heroes is irrational and certainly not libertarian. If you think Chris Kyle was a hero because he was an effective sniper in Iraq for the military, you’re probably not a libertarian.
  • War on Drugs: This is another stumbling block for social conservatives. They correctly recognize certain activities are bad, like drug abuse, but incorrectly assume that it’s acceptable to force this view on others by prohibiting them from doing what they want with their property. That’s not what liberty is. With liberty you are legally free to do whatever you want as long as you don’t violate other’s rights. If you don’t want to end the war on drugs, you’re probably not a libertarian.
If you don’t accept libertarian views on major issues, you’re probably not yet a libertarian. Until you do, it’s best that you don’t describe yourself as such, at least without qualifying it. People who take on a name but act inconsistent with it cause confusion and that requires others to correct their error. To call out those who misuse the name is not authoritarian, but an attempt to preserve the integrity of our language.

Incidentally, this is why we have to spend a lot of time on Rand Paul. The public perception is that he is a libertarian, when he usually is not.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Senator Feinstein Is Offended by a Good Question

Senator Cruz asks Diane Fienstein, the key Senator pushing new gun bans, a good Constitutional question. Unfortunately for Feinstein, it’s a hard question to answer, so she tries not to answer at all. Instead, she acts personally offended, says she has been in Washington for years, says her views should be respected even as she “respects” ours, blah, blah, blah. (If she actually respected our views, she wouldn't be using the force of the state to impose her views on the rest of us).

Everything she said could be said by someone claiming it was constitutional to ban certain books or religions, or to in some situation suspend the fourth amendment or any other part of the Bill of Rights for some reason. Feinstein is about to admit this.

Cruz insists on an answer: if there are exceptions to the second amendment what about the others? Okay, now she answers, "...obvious, no", before trotting out the child pornography card as an example that all rights can be restricted. Dick Durbin then joins in condemning the idea of absolute rights. And since they are not absolute, they are not really rights at all, as the Democratic Senators demonstrate. The government can restrict them however they like.

They are wrong. A good understanding of natural rights really helps clear up issues like this.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Real Problem with the Keystone Pipeline

It’s not because oil is bad (though general environmental concerns are legit and should be handled bythe free market). The real problem with Keystone is that it relies on eminent domain, i.e. aggression, as Chris Mayer explains.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rand Paul's (Mostly) Fake Victory

It is with great sadness that, upon further reflection and research, I report Rand Paul's epic filibuster didn't actually accomplish very much at all.

Let's re-cap the exchanges between Paul and the Administration:

Rand Paul asks on February 20th:
Do you believe that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial?
Attorney General Eric Holder responds March 4th:
 "The U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so.... It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001."
In other words, yes, the President does claim that power.

Unfortunately, Paul's question in the February 20th letter did not exclude imminent, immediate threats, which he and most others agree the President has the Constitutional authority to respond with force. So, Holder was able to answer that question instead of the real question, does the President have the power to kill an American citizen on American soil, who is not actively engaged in combat?

Following the filibuster holder finally responded: "no".

"Hooray!" declared Rand Paul, claiming victory as he first heard the answer during a TV interview. Not only did the filibuster draw much attention to this neglected issue, we actually got an answer, and it was a good one.


Not so fast. It didn't take long for some people to realize the White House response dropped the word "actively" and beyond that left so much wiggle room as to not really be an answer at all. It's all in the key phrase "engaged in combat", which as Willaim Grigg reminds us, can mean whatever the President wants:
"Combat" can consist of expressing support for Muslims mounting armed resistance against U.S. military aggression, which was the supposed crime committed by Anwar al-Awlaki, or sharing the surname and DNA of a known enemy of the state, which was the offense committed by Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdel. Under the rules of engagement used by the Obama Regime in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan, any “military-age” male found within a targeted “kill zone” is likewise designated a “combatant,” albeit usually after the fact. 
Glenn Greenwald's echos the same concerns in a Tweet this morning:
 Until we know how the OLC memos define "engaged in combat", Holder's letter to Paul tells us nothing meaningful
Unfortunately, this didn't stop Rand Paul from claiming victory, even though it was fake.

None of this would be a problem were it not for what happened after 9/11, explains Jacob Hornberger:
The problem occurred on 9/11, when Americans permitted President Bush to get away with treating the 9/11 attacks as an act of war. But they weren’t, any more than the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center constituted an act of war … or Timothy McVeigh’s terrorist attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City … or the Unibomber’s acts of terrorism …  or any other act of terrorism. Again, terrorism is a federal criminal offense, which is why accused terrorists are indicted and prosecuted in federal district court. 
Once Bush was permitted to get away with labeling his “war on terrorism” a real war, like World War II, he decreed that he now possessed the extraordinary powers associated with a military commander-in-chief, which necessarily includes killing enemy soldiers. In the war on terrorism, he said, the terrorists are the enemy soldiers or “enemy combatants.” In war, it’s legal to kill the enemy. 
Bush’s position was fully endorsed by President Obama. It will also undoubtedly be fully endorsed by Hillary Clinton if she is elected president four years from now. 
Equally important, both Bush and Obama have always emphasized that in the war on terrorism, the entire world is the battlefield. That includes the United States. Therefore, it logically follows that whatever powers Bush and Obama claim, as a wartime commander in chief, to kill people overseas extends to the United States. Again, in the war on terrorism, as U.S. officials have never ceased to remind us, the entire world is the battlefield. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the entire world includes the United States. 
Thus, there can be no doubt whatsoever that President Obama claims the authority to assassinate the enemy not only abroad but also right here in the United States. After all, ask yourself: why would he say that he lacks the authority to wage war here in the United States when the United States is part of the worldwide battlefield in the global war on terrorism? 
Eric Holder’s initial statements confirm that position. Saying that the president isn’t currently planning to assassinate Americans isn’t the same thing as saying that the president lacks the legal authority to assassinate Americans. Instead, it’s saying the exact opposite. It’s saying that while the president does, in fact, have the authority to assassinate Americans, he’s simply not choosing to exercise that authority at the present time. However, if there is another major terrorist attack on American soil or some other big crisis, then, as Holder makes clear, all bets are off and the president might well expand his assassinations to American terrorists operating within the United States. 
What about Holder’s supplemental letter read yesterday by White House Press Secretary Carney? A careful reading of it reveals that it’s simply a clever device to obfuscate Obama’s real position. It’s saying that the president lacks the authority to use a drone to assassinate an innocent American—i.e., an American “not engaged in combat on American soil.” 
But neither Bush nor Obama have ever claimed the authority to assassinate innocent Americans. The authority they have always claimed has been to assassinate guilty Americans (and guilty foreigners)—that is, those people who are guilty of being terrorists.
Well, guess who decides whether a person is a terrorist. You got it! The president makes that determination. And once he decides that a person is a terrorist in his global “war on terrorism,” that’s the end of the discussion. The assassination is carried out by his loyal military and intelligence forces, and that’s the end of the matter. Under our post-9/11 system of government, neither the president nor the military nor the CIA is required to explain, justify, or even acknowledge the assassination.
If we are going to strike at the root of this problem, we will have to deal with this issue. War is the health of the state. The "war on terrorism", which is war on a tactic, is necessarily endless and claims the whole earth as battlefield. The extraordinary powers of a state reserved for a time of war have thus become permanent and can be used anywhere, thanks to the "war on terror". What more could a state pursuing its own self-interest ask for?

In this context, Obama's alarming claims of power make sense. The legal case for them is airtight, as neocon Charles Krauthammer explains. The only place Krauthammer is wrong is in mixing up which planet we and him live on. The trouble started with our erroneous response to 9/11. Terrorism is a crime, not a war.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rand Paul’s Filibuster was Brilliant...

...from a political, moral, and constitutional point of view. It may well have been an act of opportunism, but it was also the right action to take, and I believe he is sincere. Obama’s radical claims, or should I say usurpation of power, is extremely dangerous and demands a filibuster and much more.

What has been incredible is how little attention this policy received up till very recently. Wither all the civil liberties concerns of the ‘left’? Crickets, ever since Obama took office, with few exceptions. On the ‘right’, sadly, there is little reason to think that there is much genuine resistance to this usurpation, but since Democrats are in power Republicans will take the opportunity to oppose Obama.

Kudos to Rand for bringing much needed attention to this issue. The White House has no choice but to respond and probably back off. (Update: Sure enough, they did).

There was little political risk in Rand Paul launching what turned into a 13-hour, old-fashioned "talking" filibuster, the longest of it's kind in recent years. The rewards have been significant: not only in all the headlines and Twitter trending, but also in the excitement it is generating among the public and the voters. It will surely boost his career going forward, and hopefully he uses his increasing political capital productively.

Monday, March 4, 2013

What Does the Sequester Hysteria Say About America?

The “Sequester” slightly reduces the rate of government growth, and took affect March 1st. There are no real cuts, but you couldn't tell from all the hysteria from the political class (including the mainstream media). Here are a few observations on the whole situation:

  1. The political class is committed to maintaining and increasing their power, and will make themselves look like fools to avoid any roadblocks to this, no matter how minor or necessary they are. Exhibit A is the President himself, who said he would veto Congressional attempt to dodge thedeal that help prevent additional downgrade to the U.S. credit rating. When time came to make good on his promise, he led the charge to kick the can downthe road again.
  2. There is no substantial, organized opposition to lead the charge for sanity. Only a few individual politicians are committed to actually cutting spending. This is a symptom of the real disease: the people’s ideology. Most Americans don’t care, are ignorant, and show little capacity to think long term. This is the core problem we must address- completely reshaping the average mind via education. We’re not going to trick anyone into supporting liberty. There’s no shortcut. Ron Paul Republicans should not try the slippery slope of compromise to get power, they should do as Rothbard noted, uphold the ultimategoal of liberty and act consistent with it. That’s how Ron Paul made a difference and changed so many minds. We have to build on that with the same strategy.
  3. It’s pretty clear that Americans will behave recklessly, driving up debt and inflation until they reach market imposed ceilings. TheReal Crash is coming and we had better get ready for the fallout. We also need to be ready for educational opportunities it will bring, which means working on our own education in economics and liberty. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rolling Back the Propaganda

The human race is incredibly fortunate to have the state, an indispensable and usually benevolent institution also known as simply “the government”. Without its central planning, life would be miserable, if existing at all. Children would be working in mines for a dollar a day, consumer products would be exploding, there would be no science or art, and we would all be ignoramuses.

At least, that’s the story the state itself tells us. This is unsurprising- it is simply pursuing its own self-interest by perpetuating propaganda that leads the masses to ignore and be ignorant of other possible solutions to problems the government claims to solve.

Exploding some of these myths is the goal of Rollback, the most recent book by historian Thomas E. Woods. It didn’t come off the presses a minute too soon, either. Americans face a crisis, and with that comes the opportunity for change.

What crisis?
“The federal entitlement programs on which generations of Americans have been taught to rely and to base their expectations for retirement will go bust in our lifetimes. The aging of the population guarantees it. The resources do not and will not exist to make good on these promises.”
A rosy economic outlook, responsible management of the federal debt, and readiness to pay much higher interest on the debt will not avert the looming disaster. Woods meticulously documents the statistics to back up his claims. It was a pretty startling chapter- that’s coming from someone who was already somewhat aware of these problems.

As these problems were created by steady government growth, they will be solved by reversing the trend. “This is no calamity to be deplored. It is an opportunity to be seized,” Woods writes. Rahm Emanuel was right when he observed that a crisis presents the opportunity for change. That change can be good or bad, and Rollback attempts to demonstrate the inevitable cutting back of government is actually a boon for all of us.

To do that, the large middle portion of the book is devoted to addressing a myriad of issues ranging from recent items like health care, stimulus, the housing bubble, to major but oft-overlooked things such as the monetary system, military spending, and the war on drugs. He also wisely spends some time on relatively inexpensive programs and regulations that “form a significant part of the mythological edifice that gives rise to the public’s na├»ve confidence in government”. Woods rolls back the propaganda and makes some of the best cases for less government that I have read.

The final chapter discusses possible solutions but is prefaced with an important warning for those who are tempted to put their faith in today’s Republican party. The 2010 elections- and no doubt several more to come, will not put genuine friends of freedom in office who are prepared to responsibly address the crisis. No, the GOP’s history proves it buys into the Official Story, just like the Democrats.

The solutions Woods proposes are mostly unconventional, which seems appropriate given the severity of the crisis and the failure of traditional solutions. The chapter is concluded with a brief moral case for freedom; it’s not a strictly economic problem we face.

Rollback’s 232 pages are jam packed with fascinating information and over 400 footnotes. Despite the tea party appealing cover*, issues are dealt with in a fair, non-partisan manner. It is a book that makes you think. Both laypersons and sophisticated political junkies should read this timely work. In fact, if I were to add just one book to everyone’s reading list, Rollback would probably be it.

Read the first chapter for free here. Or listen free here.

*That was the publisher’s choice, not the author's.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Does Obama Claim Legal Power to Kill American Citizens on American Soil Without Due Process?

He won’t answer. It’s alarming that this is now a serious question, and more alarming that it’s treated as a mundane controversy rather than an impeachable offence. Americans have pretty much lost all of the exceptionalism (liberty) they once had. We really have to start from scratch; the Republican Party won’t save us, even if led by someone relatively decent like Rand Paul.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Favicons For Bob Murphy

Favicon stands for "favorite icon"- favorite as in browser favorites. Here’s a few I quickly made for Robert P. Murphy’s website, which really needs one (if you’re not following his blog, go ahead and fix that right now).

Here’s a Wordpress Favicon tutorial, in case it’s needed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What’s Wrong with Krugman’s Baby-Sitting Co-Op Model?

The famous Keynesian economist Paul Krugman says a story about a baby-sitting co-op “changed my life”, and he argues that it’s a “story that could save the world”. From his 1998 Slate article:

The Capitol Hill co-op adopted one fairly natural solution. It issued scrip--pieces of paper equivalent to one hour of baby-sitting time. Baby sitters would receive the appropriate number of coupons directly from the baby sittees. This made the system self-enforcing: Over time, each couple would automatically do as much baby-sitting as it received in return.

Okay, so an economy with “money” that can only be used for one thing. This is not really money, more like barter. Couples trade baby-sitting services for promises to babysit in the future. Note also, prices are fixed to one hour of babysitting per coupon.

The story continues:

[F]or complicated reasons involving the collection and use of dues (paid in scrip), the number of coupons in circulation became quite low. As a result, most couples were anxious to add to their reserves by baby-sitting, reluctant to run them down by going out. But one couple's decision to go out was another's chance to baby-sit; so it became difficult to earn coupons. Knowing this, couples became even more reluctant to use their reserves except on special occasions, reducing baby-sitting opportunities still further.

In short, the co-op had fallen into a recession.

In other words, the supply of coupons was reduced, increasing demand for the remaining coupons. Evidently, unlike the real economy, prices were not allowed to adjust. One coupon was officially worth one hour, even though the market clearing price was higher. Naturally couples preferred hoarding/saving the more valuable coupon instead of getting one hour of babysitting. 

This is where the model completely fails to resemble the market economy. Prices are apparently not free to adjust, and the coupons- good for only one product- don’t even resemble money in the first place. Yet this doesn't stop Krugman, he equates the coupons with money:

Since most of the co-op's members were lawyers, it was difficult to convince them the problem was monetary.

Now in his model, he is correct to say, with prices not allowed to adjust, that increasing the number of coupons to the original ratio would reduce their value to a market clearing price, ending the “recession”. Of course, failure to return the supply of coupons to the original ratio will result in continued supply or demand problems. This is because prices are fixed one coupon equals one hour of baby-sitting, so mismatching obviously leads to trouble.

Thus the story ends:

They tried to legislate recovery—passing a rule requiring each couple to go out at least twice a month. But eventually the economists prevailed. More coupons were issued, couples became more willing to go out, opportunities to baby-sit multiplied, and everyone was happy. Eventually, of course, the co-op issued too much scrip, leading to different problems ...

Once again, this model has nothing to do with the real market economy, but Krugman continues as if it does:

For example, suppose that the U.S. stock market was to crash, threatening to undermine consumer confidence. Would this inevitably mean a disastrous recession? Think of it this way: When consumer confidence declines, it is as if, for some reason, the typical member of the co-op had become less willing to go out, more anxious to accumulate coupons for a rainy day. This could indeed lead to a slump—but need not if the management were alert and responded by simply issuing more coupons. That is exactly what our head coupon issuer Alan Greenspan did in 1987—and what I believe he would do again. So as I said at the beginning, the story of the baby-sitting co-op helps me to remain calm in the face of crisis.

Money printing in the real economy has entirely different effects. Prices adjust so there is no lack of "aggregate demand" and the only impact is distortion, with those getting the money first effectively taking purchasing power from those who get it last. The distortions temporarily result in false prices, which cause malinvestment, creating an unsustainable boom in some areas that must result in a bust (a.k.a. the business cycle).

Additionally money printing is plain theft and leads to a more powerful government, the latter of which is certainly consistent with Krugman’s ideology.

* * * * *

In January a video was post of economist Hans Herman Hoppe explaining how to deal with Keynesians like Paul Krugman. He strips it down to the fundamental question, does printing more paper money make society as a whole richer?

Krugman, of course, refers us to the babysitting co-op story, which doesn't properly model the market economy:

Well, it may be ridiculous, but it’s also true, under certain conditions — namely, when the economy is suffering from inadequate demand. And you don’t have to use highly abstruse reasoning to see this, either; all you need to do is think in terms of some kind of model, not necessarily of the mathematical kind. The whole point of the true story of the baby-sitting coop, which brings it down to a human scale, is that it’s quite possible for economies to get into a snarl that can be solved by printing more money, or having the government spend more.

So Krugman's answer is yes, in certain conditions. What's the next step in the conversation? Robert Wenzel nails it:

The way to counter this is to continue as Hoppe suggests, keep asking the baby questions of Krugman. By him writing that an economy can suffer "from inadequate demand," he is suffering from the delusion that supply and demand doesn't work. We should ask him if he accepts the proposition, that in a free market economy, market clearing prices will result because of supply and demand. If so, then how can he say that there is such a thing as "inadequate demand?" Prices will simply clear and wages and capital goods will be priced based on the prices of consumer goods. Where's the problem?

Krugman and his babysitting co-op model can’t answer this, without denying that supply and demand works. There is no such thing as inadequate demand, and printing money is never the solution.

Free Markets FTW!