Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Just Ditch Medicare and Medicaid
I just don’t get conservatives. They say they support individual freedom, economic liberty, free markets, limited government, and the Constitution.
They also say they oppose socialism, interventionism, collectivism, and paternalism. They point out that such isms just don’t work.
Then why don’t conservatives call for the immediate repeal of Medicare and Medicaid? Why do they focus their entire attention on calling for the immediate repeal of Obamacare and its health-insurance mandate?
Surely conservatives realize that Medicare and Medicaid are socialistic programs. The government takes money through taxation and uses it to fund the healthcare expenses of the elderly and poor.
Surely conservatives realize that there is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the federal government to provide healthcare to people.
Surely conservatives realize that the root of America’s health-care woes lies in Medicare and Medicaid as well as other interventions into healthcare, such as medical licensure and insurance regulations.
Surely, they don’t think that simply repealing Obamacare is going to resolve America’s healthcare woes.
So, why do conservatives continue to support Medicare and Medicaid? Why do they continue to obsess only over Obamacare? Why don’t they call for repealing not just Obamacare but also Medicare and Medicaid?
For that matter, why not also repeal medical licensure, an idea that Milton Friedman, whom conservatives extol, recommended decades ago? Wouldn’t that increase the supply of healthcare providers, thereby helping push healthcare prices down?
Indeed, why not repeal all regulation of the healthcare industry, thereby liberating healthcare providers and insurance companies to offer their array of products all across the nation? Aren’t conservatives supposed to be against regulation?
In other words, why not implement a total free market in healthcare?.
I think the reason that conservatives can’t bring themselves to call for the end of statism in healthcare is the same reason that most people can’t do it: because they’re afraid of freedom. Socialism has seduced people into believing that life is not possible without government’s taking care of people. People are as hooked on Medicare and Medicaid as a heroin addict is hooked on his narcotic. They can’t get off it, even when they know that it’s destroying them.
The best thing America could ever do is to ditch Medicare and Medicaid, immediately, along with medical licensure and medical/insurance regulation.
Ending state involvement in health care would bring an end to the never-ceasing upward spiral of healthcare and insurance costs.
And by ending the taxation used to fund Medicare and Medicaid, people would have more money at their disposal to handle healthcare expenses.
Suppose, for example, that the income tax had been abolished ten years ago. Let’s say that a family has paid $10,000 a year in income taxes. That would mean that that family would have $100,000 in savings in the bank. That’s not a small amount of money to cover healthcare and insurance expenses, especially if healthcare costs are reasonably priced, as they were before Medicare and Medicaid were enacted.
What about the poor?
Socialism destroys our faith in our fellow man. The poor would be handled voluntarily by doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers. They would be making so much money (no more income tax on them too) that most of them would have no reservations about helping those in need as part of their regular medical practice. They’d feel good about it.
I grew up in Laredo, Texas, which the U.S. government said was the poorest city in the United States in the 1950s. Every day, the doctors’ offices in Laredo would be filled with poor people. There was no Medicare or Medicaid. I never heard of one single doctor turning anyone away because the patient couldn’t pay. Nonetheless, the doctors were among the wealthiest people in town. They used the money that they were making from the middle class to underwrite their providing free health care to the poor.
That’s the way things would be without Medicare and Medicaid. That’s the way things should be. Charity means nothing when it comes out of government force.
Americans simply need to start believing in freedom and free markets. Preaching free-enterprise mantras is not enough. You’ve got to live freedom, not just preach it. And you’ve got to believe not only in yourself but in others too.
The best thing we could ever do is to go cold turkey and just end healthcare socialism. We need to separate healthcare and the state in the same way our ancestors had the courage and wisdom to separate religion and the state. There is no other solution to America’s healthcare crisis.
Monday, January 30, 2012
The year before a presidential election is a period of great euphoria for the American people, for this is the period of time when presidential candidates are extremely nice to the American people.
And why not? They’re seeking votes. They’re seeking to be elected or reelected. They have to be nice.
This is the time when presidential candidates promise tax cuts and increases in welfare benefits. They promise to create jobs. They assure us that they’re going to bring prosperity. Community grants. Educational assistance. Tax code reform. Hope. Change. Restore civil liberties. Keep the people safe and secure. Whatever makes people happy.
The candidates smile at people. They shake their hands. They mingle with the common folk.
What a wonderful, euphoric time for the American people. This is when the people feel like they’re in charge — like they’re the masters and the presidential candidates are the servants.
And then comes Election Day. Reality sets back in. The president is boss once again. The people are the servants.
For the next three years, the president doesn’t have to be nice to anyone, except those bigwigs to whom he feels beholden. He can break all those promises with impunity.
He can get Congress to raise taxes and cut welfare benefits. He can keep the tax code the same. He can immunize federal officials for criminal acts conducted against the citizens. He can violate people’s privacy and infringe on their liberties. When campaign time comes around again in three years, everyone would have forgotten anyway.
He can crack down in the war on drugs, prosecuting drug users, drug addicts, and drug sellers with a vengeance and seeking maximum jail sentences for all of them. And he can ramp up the drug war in other countries as well, especially with the use of the army and the CIA.
Most important, the president can now exercise the wide range of totalitarian powers that the president now wields. He can order that Americans be rounded up and transported to concentration camps or military prisons, where they can be tortured and held for the rest of their lives. He can order his military and intelligence subordinates to sneak into people’s homes and businesses and peek into their private affairs. He can order the assassination of American citizens.
He can do the same to foreigners. He can order his forces to enter any country on earth to kidnap people and rendition them to some friendly totalitarian regime for the purpose of torture. Or he can order that they be carted away to the gulag at Guantanamo Bay.
He can sanction and embargo any nation he wishes for whatever reason he wishes, including maneuvering another nation into going to war against the United States. He can freeze bank accounts and other assets of any foreign regime. Indeed, he can order his military and intelligence forces to invade and occupy any nation on earth, without a congressional declaration of war. Or he can simply order them to assassinate a foreign official or take other steps to effect regime change in foreign countries.
And make no mistake about it: the president’s military and intelligence forces will follow whatever orders he issues, especially when he tells them that “national security” is at stake and that they’re protecting our rights and freedoms.
For the three years after the election, it’s clear that the president is the master and the American citizenry are the servants. And then the process is ostensibly reversed during the pre-election year, with the presidential candidates once again catering to the citizenry, being nice to them, and pandering for their votes.
People should enjoy the euphoria now because on Election Day next November, everything returns to normal.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Conning the Poor
The biggest con in history — bigger even than Social Security — might well be the one in which statists have conned the poor into believing that the welfare state helps them. If those at the bottom of the economic ladder were ever to realize how badly they’ve been conned, that could spell the end of the welfare-state way of life.
The welfare state is obviously a seductive notion, one that makes the poor especially susceptible to the con. The government offers free money (or other benefits) to people. Who’s going to turn down free money? For the person who is struggling just to survive, it’s a no-brainer. He’s inevitably going to take the money.
By the time the person has been on the dole a while, he starts to realize how dependent he has become on it. But by that time, it’s oftentimes too late. He’s too hooked on the money to give it up. And he realizes that with his dependency has come government control over his life.
The welfare process is much like how heroin dealers operate. The drug dealer offers cheap samples to his customers. Before long, they’re hooked. The dealer has them right where he wants them.
When I practiced law many years ago in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, I represented a young couple who lived in a public-housing project, along with their children. They explained to me that they really hated living there but felt that they were locked in to staying there. Why? Because in order to live there, the government prohibited them from earning too much money. If their income exceeded the allowed amount, the government would kick them out of the project. Since they didn’t have the money to move into a private apartment or house, they stayed in the project and kept their income low in order not to be kicked out.
That’s what statists call “helping the poor.”
Actually, the welfare state helps the rich — that is, the big, well-established businesses.
Think of it this way: Imagine there is no welfare (and warfare) state, regulated or managed economy, and income tax. In that society, the poor (and everyone else) are free to keep their entire income. They inevitably save a percentage of that income.
Let’s assume that 10 workers in a particular business each save $10,000 per year. At the end of five years, each of them has $50,000 in savings. The total amount of savings for all of them is half-a-million dollars.
One day, the ten of them decide to leave the firm and to start up their own business, one that will compete against the former employer. They go out and hire a bunch of people in the neighborhood at very low wages (there would be no minimum wage law) and long hours (no overtime laws) but with stock options given to the workers, who readily accept the deal.
The new company struggles but ultimately succeeds in satisfying the consumers, taking market share from its competitors. Its revenues and profits soar. Both the owners and employees benefit. Some of them become rich. That is, poor people have become rich people.
Isn’t that a much better outcome than one in which people are placed on a welfare dole for the rest of their lives, a dole that prevents them from becoming rich?
Under the welfare state, however, that scenario is virtually impossible. For one thing, because of withholding and other taxes, the employees are unable to save the nest egg that is necessary to start the business. They can’t afford the start-up costs to comply with the mountains of government permits, regulations, and tax provisions. They can’t hire people in the neighborhood at below the minimum wage. They are forced to pay overtime for employees who work more than 40 hours a week.
Thus, the welfare state ends up protecting the big, well-established companies, which don’t have to worry as much about competition from new start-up firms. They know that it is virtually impossible for the poor to establish companies that will take customers away.
The poor have been conned long enough, and they have paid the biggest price for the con. The best thing they could ever do is to join up with us libertarians to dismantle the welfare state (and warfare state), including the income tax.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Thou Shalt Not Covet
President Obama says that people are poor because others are rich. What a crock that is. It’s nothing more than a refusal to accept personal responsibility for the failure of the welfare-warfare way of life and the managed-economy way of life that that statists have foisted upon our nation.
What’s even a bigger crock is Obama’s solution for making the poor better off. He says that if the government seizes more money from the wealthy, that will improve the lot of the poor.
Oh? And how is that?
Let’s assume that someone is worth $10 million and that there are thousands of people in society who are worth $1,000. The government decides to seize $3 million from the rich person. Okay, so the government now has $3 million more dollars in its coffers and the rich person is now worth $7 million.
How does that help those poor people except to satisfy their sense of envy and covetousness? So what if those poor people are celebrating that the rich person isn’t as rich as he was before. What does that do for them?
Let’s take it a step further and say that the government distributes the $3 million to all those poor people in equal shares. Sure, they’d all be wealthier, but wouldn’t that be the case if they had simply stolen the money from the rich person, without the forcible intervention of the government? Isn’t a thief always wealthier after the theft?
Where does it stop? Won’t there be people who are worth $2,000 — the new poor — demanding “equality”? Won’t the government have to seize another $3 million from the rich person and give it to that group of people?
And then what about the people who are worth $4,000, who are now on the bottom rung?
The process just keeps going on and on, until there are no more rich people. Everyone is now truly equal. But in the long run, everyone ends up poor, equally poor. The rich no longer have private businesses in which they are employing the poor. That leaves the government as the sole employer in society.
People end up realizing that a tree based on violations of the natural law and God’s law that prohibit covetousness, envy, and stealing will inevitably produce bad fruit, which includes poverty across society.
We have a real-life example of this phenomenon — Cuba. When he took over as president of Cuba, Fidel Castro had the exact same mindset that guides President Obama. Castro believed that the reason there was so much poverty in Cuba was not because of the U.S.-government-supported “crony capitalism” that characterized Cuba but rather because there were so many wealthy people in society. So, Castro, like Obama, began taking money from the rich and redistributing it to the poor, with the aim of equalizing wealth in society.
But with each distribution, more confiscation was necessary in order to equalize the new segment of poor people at the bottom of the economic ladder. Castro decided to take the socialist principle to its logical conclusion. He ended up seizing all the wealth of the rich people, including their money, their industries, and their mansions.
No longer would money be wasted in the form of “profits” because the government would be running all the industries. No longer would people face unemployment because the government would be the sole employer. No longer would there be disparities of wealth because everyone would be working for the government on salary.
The result has been mass impoverishment in which most everyone is on the verge of starvation. Like Obama, Castro refuses to acknowledge that the root cause of the impoverishment is Cuba’s socialist system. He blames Cuba’s poor economic conditions entirely on the U.S. embargo.
The question that Castro and Obama and other statists never ask is: What are the causes of wealth in a society? That’s the critical question. That’s the question that Adam Smith asked in his landmark treatise, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. He wanted to know what it was that made some nations wealthy.
The answer is one that doesn’t please statists. The key to rising standards of living in a society is the following:
1. Prohibit government from waging war on poverty by confiscating and redistributing wealth.
2. Prohibit government from managing the economy and intervening in economic activity.
3. Prohibit government from controlling and regulating economic activity.
4. Prohibit government from engaging in imperialist military adventurism that inevitably contributes to excessive spending, debt, and bankruptcy.
5. Prohibit the government from managing the monetary system, especially with paper money and a central bank (i.e., the Federal Reserve).
In other words, the key to ending poverty in any society is to prohibit the government from using its coercive power to help the poor. Leave everyone, including the poor, free to engage in economic enterprise free of government control, permit, or regulation. Leave people free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth. Leave people free to do whatever they want with their own money.
No income tax. No welfare programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. No regulatory programs. No warfare programs. No monetary programs. Just nothing but free enterprise — that is enterprise totally free of government control and intervention.
That’s the key to ending poverty in every society on earth. When people are free to engage in enterprise and to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, the poor have the chance to become wealthy. When people are free to accumulate wealth, they inevitably save some of their income. That savings goes into capital, which is then converted into tools and equipment, which make employees more productive. More productivity means higher revenues. Higher revenues mean higher wages. Higher wages mean higher standards of living, especially for the poor.
Thus, contrary to what Obama, Castro, and others of the statist ilk suggest, there is a natural harmony between the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy risk their money to establish businesses. They hire the poor to work there. To succeed, the business must produce goods or services that please consumers. If the business succeeds, the owner wins, the consumers win, and the employees win. Thus, employees have a vested interest in helping the business succeed.
God did not create an inconsistent, contradictory universe, one in which such sins as covetousness, envy, and stealing produce good results. On the contrary, such wrongful actions inevitably bring bad consequences, not only personally but also when they are enshrined within government policy.
The best thing that could ever happen to the poor is the dismantling of America’s immoral and destructive experiment with socialism, interventionism, and imperialism.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Bert Sacks: A Hero in Our Time
It’s fascinating to see the GOP presidential candidates supporting the principles of economic liberty while, at the same time (except Ron Paul), ardently supporting Obama’s imposition of sanctions against Iran. Not only are sanctions an attack on the people of the foreign country on which they are imposed, they are also an attack on the economic liberty of the American people.
The heritage of liberty in America is based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence. People have been endowed by nature and God with fundamental rights, ones that cannot legitimately be taken away by anyone, including people’s own government. The only reason for government to exist is to protect the exercise of such rights.
Such rights include, but are not limited to, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Most every American would agree, for example, that such rights as freedom of speech and freedom of religion are fundamental, natural, God-given rights that no one, including a democratically elected government, can legitimately take away or infringe.
But as libertarians have long emphasized, economic liberty stands in the same position as free speech and religious freedom. Your money belongs to you, not to society and not to the government. It’s yours. As such, you have the fundamental, natural, God-given right to do whatever you want with it — spend it, donate it, invest it, hoard it, save it, or whatever.
Others might not like what your do with your own money. That’s their problem. They can ask you or even try to persuade you to do something else with your money, but they have no legitimate authority to force you to comply with their wishes.
Enter sanctions and embargoes. Those governmental actions do precisely the opposite of what the Declaration of Independence says that government should be doing. Sanctions and embargoes don’t protect the exercise of people’s fundamental rights — i.e., their right to do what they want with their own money — they destroy their right to do what they want with their own money.
With sanctions and embargoes, the government prohibits the citizenry from spending their money the way they want. If an American spends money in the targeted nation, the U.S. government targets him with criminal prosecution and a civil fine. And all because the American has spent his money in a way that isn’t allowed by the government.
Consider the case of 69-year-old American citizen Bert Sacks. He’s a real-life example of how sanctions operate as a violation of economic liberty.
During the brutal sanctions that the U.S. government imposed on the Iraqi people for some 11 years, Sacks was aware of the high death toll that the sanctions were producing among Iraqis, especially Iraqi children. Every year, tens of thousands of Iraqi children were dying as a result of the sanctions.
One possible reaction to that death toll, of course, was indifference. After all, Americans were told, “national security” was at stake. And everyone knows that when “national security” is at stake, the death toll among foreigners is irrelevant. All that matters is “national security.”
Recall, for instance, what U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright told “Sixty Minutes” upon being asked whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.” Expressing the mindset of U.S. officials, Albright responded that the deaths were, in fact, “worth it.”
Not everyone had that sort of reaction. For example, two high UN officials — Hans von Sponek and Denis Halliday — were appalled by the high death toll among the Iraqi children. Suffering a crisis of conscience, they finally resigned their positions with the UN, arguing that they could no longer participate in what they themselves considered was genocide, even when it was the U.S. government producing it.
That was the reaction of Bert Sacks. He was shocked over what his own government was doing to the Iraqi people and obviously didn’t buy into the “national security” justification for killing the Iraqi children. So, he decided to travel to Iraq to take medicines to the Iraqi people.
What’s wrong with that? Well, you see, by spending his own money in Iraq Sacks was violating the sanctions that the U.S. government had imposed against the Iraqi people.
So, the U.S. government went after Bert Sacks. It fined him $10,000 for violating its sanctions. And it has never given up trying to collect the money. Ever since Sack’s 1997 trip to Iraq through January 2012, the feds have pursued him relentlessly to collect the fine, plus interest, making the total amount now $16,000.
To his everlasting credit, Sacks, a true hero of our time, consistently told the feds to take their fine and shove it. To their everlasting shame, the feds continued going after him with an unbelievable vindictiveness and vengeance.
And keep in mind that it wasn’t just President Clinton and President George W. Bush who went after him. It was also President Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who went after him.
Recently, a federal judge dismissed the federal government’s lawsuit against Bert Sacks. The judge held that the government waited too long to file its lawsuit for recovery of its fine. The statute of limitations had expired, the judge held.
That’s too bad, as Sacks himself feels. It obviously would have been much better if the judge had dismissed the government’s suit on the ground that its cruel and brutal sanctions on the Iraqi people were not only unconscionable but also an unconstitutional infringement on the economic liberty of the American people.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
GOP Cold War Time Warp on Cuba
When I heard what Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum said about Cuba in last night’s Florida presidential debate, I felt like I was in a Cold War time warp and that we were about to see flower children, hippies, go-go girls, and CIA LSD experiments once again appear before our eyes.
Gingrich said that he wants the U.S. government to engage in new regime-change operations with what he calls “covert operations,” those in which the U.S. government keeps its role secret from the American people and the people of the world. You know, sort of like the CIA’s invasion at the Bay of Pigs.
Or maybe Gingrich was advocating more CIA state-sponsored terrorism against Cuban businesses, hotels, and enterprises. Or maybe just operations to destroy Cuba’s economy, much like the CIA did in Chile prior to the U.S.-supported coup that ousted Chile’s democratically elected president and installed an unelected military strongman in his place.
Or maybe he was telling us that under a Gingrich administration, the U.S. government’s current assassination program would be redirected toward Fidel Castro as a follow-up to the unsuccessful attempts by the CIA and Mafia, working together, to assassinate Castro during the 1960s.
Another fascinating aspect to this is that these three presidential candidates obviously believe that the Cuban people are eagerly waiting for the U.S. State Department, CIA, and Pentagon to show up in Cuba and declare, “We’re from the U.S. government and we’re here to help you.” At that point, their mindset goes, the Cuban people will supposedly embrace the U.S. government eagerly and enthusiastically.
Is that delusional or what? In fact, correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t that the type of delusional thinking that went into the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs? Weren’t the CIA and every right-wing anti-communist in America convinced that the Cuban people would rally to the cause of the U.S. invaders and join them in their quest to oust Castro from power?
It didn’t happen, and the reason it didn’t happen is that most Cubans were sick and tired of decades of U.S. control over their island. That’s what Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney just don’t get. The Cuban people are not interested in another U.S.-installed regime in their country. They’re not interested in sacrificing one bit of their hard-earned independence from U.S. control, not even in exchange for millions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid.
What Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney fail to realize in their Cold War la-la land is that while Cubans are undoubtedly disenchanted with their socialist economic system, they nonetheless revere Fidel Castro for finally bringing Cuba independence from U.S. government control.
The irony of all this is that Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney all support many of the socialist programs that Castro has brought to Cuba. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, free public education, income taxation, a managed economy, a regulated economy. All of them form the core of Cuba’s socialist system, and all of them are enthusiastically embraced by Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney here at home.
Let’s not forget the cruel embargo that the U.S. government has enforced against the Cuban people for more than half-a-century, an embargo that Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum wish to continue, no matter how much suffering it has brought — and continues to bring — to the Cuban people.
In fact, it’s funny to see Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney professing to be so concerned about the well-being of the Cuban people. The three of them know that the U.S. embargo on Cuba has helped squeeze the lifeblood out of the Cuban people, especially in combination with Cuba’s cruel socialist economic system.
Has all that suffering caused Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney to call for an end to the embargo? Are you kidding? Despite the fact that more than 50 years of embargo has failed to achieve its goal of regime change in Cuba, they want to continue it indefinitely into the future.
The Republicans who cheered Gingrich’s, Santorum’s, and Romney’s bellicose Cold War attitude toward Cuba no doubt failed to recognize that they were cheering infringements on their own economic liberty. After all, don’t forget how the embargo against Cuba (and Iran) apply to the American people. The embargo is a federal prohibition on Americans’ spending their money in the way they choose. If an American travels to Cuba and spends his money there without official permission, U.S. officials will prosecute, jail, and fine him for doing so. How is that reconcilable with such natural, God-given rights as freedom of travel, freedom of association, and freedom of commerce? Indeed, how is it different from the economic controls that communist Castro imposes on his own people?
In response to a hypothetical question about Castro’s dying, Gingrich responded, “I don’t think Fidel will meet his maker… He will go to another place.” I’m no theologian but that answer seems to be inconsistent with the Catholic faith to which Gingrich has converted. I thought that Catholicism holds that God, not Gingrich or anyone else, will judge who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell and that every person is capable of being saved, no matter the gravity of his sins prior to death.
But it’s also curious as to which of Castro’s sins Gingrich was referring that caused him to conclude that Castro is going to hell. If the sins to which Gingrich was referring involve such things as murder, assassination, torture, indefinite detention, or killing during wars of aggression, Newt might want to reflect on Matthew 7:1-3: Judge not lest ye be judged.
Monday, January 23, 2012
We Don’t Need No Stinking SOPA
As Glenn Greenwald points out in his excellent analysis of the Megaupload case, immediately after opponents of SOPA and PIPA caused congressmen to back off from their proposed Internet legislation, the Justice Department stepped up to the plate and arbitrarily shut down Megaupload, one of the world’s largest websites. As Greenwald put it, the message from the Justice Department, whether intended or not, was clear:
Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial; we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.
I wish to amplify on the due process considerations that Greenwald emphasizes in his blog post.
The term “due process of law” stretches back to the year 1215, the year of Magna Carta. In that document, King John acknowledged that his power over the English people was not total. He agreed that no longer could the King (or the British government) seize people or their property in violation of the “law of the land.”
That phrase — “law of the land” — ultimately evolved into the phrase “due process of law,” a phrase that our American ancestors incorporated into the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
While there has never been a precise definition of “due process of law,” at a minimum it has come to entail the concept of notice and hearing. Before the government can deprive a person of life, liberty, or property, due process requires that notice first be given to him and then he be accorded a hearing or trial at which he has the opportunity to contest what the government is doing to him.
Consider, for example, the Megaupload case. The government wants to punish the owners of that website for allegedly engaging in intellectual piracy. The government is convinced that the website owners have violated federal criminal law. What many U.S. officials would like to do, in their ideal world, is simply arrest the malefactors and punish them with fines and incarceration, just as they do with some suspected terrorists.
The problem is that our constitutional order and legal system don’t permit them to do that with respect to intellectual piracy. That’s not to say, of course, that our constitutional order and legal system permit them to do so with suspected terrorists either. But they simply haven’t gotten to the point where they’re willing to stretch the no-due-process principle to intellectual piracy cases. (We’ll omit from this discussion the U.S. government’s assassination program, which, of course, deprives a person of life without due process of law.)
The grand jury indictment in the Megaupload case is the notice requirement involved in due process of law. An indictment is nothing more than a formal statement advising the person of what particular federal law he’s being charged with violating. As the judge will later tell the jurors in the case, an indictment does not constitute evidence of wrongdoing. It is nothing more than an accusation.
Later comes a trial, where the government is required to prove the accusation. The burden is not an easy one. The government must provide competent, relevant, and legally acquired evidence that convinces the jury of the person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The person has the right to challenge the veracity of the government’s witnesses and the validity of the evidence against him. In other words, he has the opportunity to deny what he’s being accused of.
Now, compare that type of system to one in which the government can punish a person without going through all that difficulty — that is, a system in which a person can be picked up and incarcerated (and tortured) without having to provide formal charges and a fair trial. That’s the kind of system they have in, say, places like China, North Korea, and Cuba — on both Castro’s side of the island and Obama’s side of the island.
In principle, due process operates the same way when the government wishes to seize a person’s property. It requires the government to provide notice and hearing as a prerequisite to seizing someone’s property.
Yet, while the feds obviously have provided notice to the Megaupload defendants of the criminal charges and will have to proceed to trial, that’s not the case with respect to their website. There, the feds did what King John did prior to Magna Carta. Indeed, they did what the Chinese communist authorities do to websites they don’t approve of. The feds simply shut down the website without any notice or hearing — that is, without due process of law.
How could the feds have proceeded if they had wanted to comply with the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution? They could have gone to a federal judge with an application for a restraining order and a temporary injunction, seeking the temporary closure of the website. To grant the injunctive relief, the judge would have had to find that “irreparable injury” would occur if the relief were not granted. That’s a difficult burden to meet.
If the judge granted a restraining order, it could be done without notice to the defendant but it can last no more than 10 days. Also, the judge would require the government to post a bond to cover possible economic damage caused to the defendant. Such a bond can be quite high.
At the same time, the judge would order a hearing on the application for temporary injunction. That’s where notice and hearing come into play. Prior to the hearing, the defendant must be served with the application for injunction and the order setting the date, time, and place of the hearing.
At the hearing, the defendant has ample opportunity to challenge the granting of the injunctive relief. If the injunction is granted, the judge again sets a bond to cover possible damages until the final trial in the case is held. Moreover, the defendant can appeal the granting of a temporary injunction prior to the regular trial, and the federal court of appeals will give priority to such an appeal.
All of this is to show how ingrained due process of law is in our constitutional and legal order.
Or at least used to be. As we all know, the feds no longer feel obliged to follow the principle in terrorism cases. And as we now see with the Megaupload case, they no longer feel obliged to follow the principle in seizures and closures of websites.
If there is an upside to all this, it’s that at least Americans can get a sense of what life was like for the average British citizen prior to Magna Carta and, indeed, what life is like in places like China, Cuba, and other totalitarian regimes.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Free Enterprise versus Immigration Socialism
Well, the GOP candidates had all the correct libertarian, free-market mantras out last night: pro-free enterprise, pro-capitalism, pro-free market, pro-private property, pro-fundamental rights, pro-Constitution, anti-socialism, and anti-regulation.
And then came immigration, and all those mantras went out the window.
It was actually amusing, not only because the candidates didn’t seem aware of the contradiction, but also because neither did the mainstream commentators. It’s just one of those fascinating disconnects that people just treat as normal and rational.
It’s as if the candidates were saying, “We firmly believe in free enterprise but we don’t believe in enterprise that is free from government control.”
Under the freedom mantras that the candidates were espousing, my money belongs to me, not to society and not to the government. I have the fundamental, God-given right to do whatever I want with my money.
If I choose to use my money to open a business, that’s my right, just as it’s everyone else’s right to avoid buying things at my business. But regardless of what consumers decide to do with their money, it’s still my business. It was purchased with my money.
It’s my natural, God-given right to hire anyone I want in my business. Why? Because it’s my money and my business, not society’s and not the government’s. If I wish to hire an American, that’s my right. If I choose to hire a Mexican, that’s my right. If I choose to hire no one, that is my right. Again, it’s my money and my business.
This might come as a shocking notion to Republicans but the term “free enterprise” does not mean that the government is free to control and regulate enterprise. It means, instead, enterprise that is free of government control.
Under what moral authority does the government raid my private business, check identity cards of my employees, and seize them if they happen to be people from another country? Don’t natural, God-given rights mean that people are immune from such government interference? Would we permit the government to raid my business to stop employees from publishing pro-Marxist (or pro-capitalist) books? Why is freedom of association any different in principle from freedom of the press or freedom of speech?
People respond, “But the law is the law.” That begs the question: Is the law legitimate or illegitimate? Should it be illegal for a business owner to do whatever he wants with his own money, including hiring whomever he wants? Is such a law moral?
Shouldn’t people be making moral judgments on laws? Or do we want to take the same position that many Germans took in the 1930s — that the law is the law and must always be obeyed until it is changed? When Germany enacted laws making it illegal to hide Jews in people’s homes, would we have condemned people for disobeying the law?
When man’s laws violate God’s laws, isn’t it incumbent on Christians to obey God’s laws and disregard man’s laws?
Immigrants come to the United States seeking work in order to sustain and improve their lives and the lot of their family. They enter into mutually beneficial arrangements with people who wish to hire them with their own money. Isn’t all that consistent with God’s laws?
Statists say, “But American employers have a duty to hire Americans rather than foreigners?” Oh? And pray tell, where does that “duty” come from? If someone feels such a duty, he’s free to open his own business and hire nothing but pure-blooded Americans. But neither he nor the state has the legitimate authority to dictate to someone else what he should do with his own money.
There is one — and only one — reason that there is a perpetual crisis in immigration. It’s the same reason that there is a perpetual crisis in health care, the drug war, foreign policy, terrorism, the economy, and most everything else — federal government central planning and intervention. That’s what causes the chaos and crises.
Look at immigration. You’ve got the federal government planning the economic activity of millions of prospective employers and employees. It decides how many immigrants should come from each country, what their qualifications should be, how long they should wait, and a multitude of other factors.
That’s socialist central planning in its purest form. How can it surprise anyone that there is a perpetual crisis in immigration? Central planning always causes crises. It’s called “planned chaos.”
There is only one solution to immigration: the free market, fundamental rights, free enterprise, and private property. Yes, all the pro-freedom mantras that the GOP candidates employed last night. All we have to do is apply them to immigration and everything comes out fine. No more crises, no more chaos. Nothing but peace and harmony.
We don’t need to be building walls or fences or sending troops to the border. Let’s leave that to totalitarian regimes. We need to “tear down this wall” and restore our nation’s heritage of open borders — the free movements of goods and services across borders, just as we have between the respective states. That’s our heritage. That’s the gift that our American ancestors gave the world. We need to embrace, not shun, the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of their teeming shores, the homeless, the tempest-tost. We need to relight the lamp beside the golden door.
We need to reject the isolationism that Republicans and Democrats are foisting upon our land. The future of our country lies not in isolationism but rather in free trade, open relationships, and free enterprise, free markets, private property, and the protection of natural, God-given rights.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry Hoisted on Their Own Petard
A federal appeals court in Richmond has ruled against GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s request to be placed on Virginia’s GOP primary ballot. The ruling came in an appeal of a U.S. district court’s ruling against Perry, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich that denied their request to be put on the ballot.
Talk about hypocrisy and double-standards! It doesn’t get any better than that.
Virginia has one of the highest ballot-access barriers in the country. That’s why Virginia voters in statewide races usually have only two candidates on the ballot from which to choose — a Republican and a Democrat.
The ballot-access barrier is obviously directed to anyone who does not share the political philosophy of the two major political parties, e.g., the Libertarian Party. The idea is to ensure that the two major parties maintain a monopolistic lock on the state’s political system by inhibiting competition from candidates who don’t share their statist political philosophy.
Republicans and Democrats would say that there is plenty of competition between the two parties. Sure, just as there is competition between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. But the point is that it’s still one league — the National Football League — that is divided into two football conferences. That’s the way it is in American politics. There is one major political party — the Statist Party — that is divided into two political wings, the Democrat Party and the Republican Party.
As we are seeing in the current presidential race (with the exception of Ron Paul), there isn’t any difference philosophically between the GOP candidates and President Obama. They share the same views with respect to the role of government in society. They all believe in, for example, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, foreign aid, the drug war, regulation, foreign wars, empire, the military-industrial complex, torture, indefinite detention, undeclared wars, the CIA, the Federal Reserve, paper money, income taxation, government management of the economy, and the other aspects of America’s welfare-warfare state.
In a word, the two major political parties are statists. They believe in a statist political philosophy. Both Democrats and Republicans believe that the primary purposes of government are to take money from one group of people in order to give it to another group of people, to control and regulate peaceful behavior, and to police the world.
What about the battle that takes place between the two major parties? It’s over control. Which party will get to control the levers of the welfare-warfare state?
What about people who don’t believe in statism, such as libertarians? They’re effectively shut out of the process. Not totally, of course. It is possible to meet Virginia’s high ballot-access barrier but everyone knows, including Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry, that it is extremely difficult to do so. And the barrier is clearly designed to lock candidates out of statewide races who don’t fit the statist mold and who might wish to challenge the philosophy of both parties.
To get on the statewide ballot in Virginia, a person must secure 10,000 signatures from registered voters. That means he actually has to turn in about 17,000 to be safe, given that many signatures will be invalid.
That is an enormous undertaking, but one that the two major parties are usually able to accomplish easily, given their party’s resources, prestige, and manpower — until they have to compete against each other and cannot rely on the party machinery to help them out, as Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry have discovered.
Finding volunteers who have the time and expertise to get such signatures is extremely difficult. So is finding places to secure such signatures, given that most private establishments don’t want their customers hassled by petitioners. Usually the person must purchase the services of professional signature collectors, who usually charge by the number of signatures collected, valid or not.
It gets worse. Out of the total number of signatures, the person must secure 700 valid signatures from each of Virginia’s congressional districts, which means about 1,500 signatures to be safe. That means that the person and his fellow signature gatherers have to travel all over the state, expending money on hotels, meals, and gas, not to mention taking time off from work.
Why should a person have to get his 10,000 signatures from around the state rather than in one area, like where he lives? After all, in an election does it matter where a candidate’s votes come from? The answer is: to make it more difficult to get onto the ballot to compete against the Statist Party in statewide races.
Virginia’s ballot barrier also has racial overtones. Suppose, for example, a poor, inner city African-American wants to run for statewide office based on his conviction that Virginia’s (and America’s) drug war, which both Democrats and Republicans favor, is racist to the core. What are the chances that he and his friends are going to be able to find places to gather and secure signatures from some of the white, upper-crust areas of the state? Indeed, what are the chances that they’d even have the money to pay signature gatherers or pay for hotel, meal, and gas expense traveling all over the state to gather signatures? What are the chances that they could take off from work to gather such signatures? The chances are nil.
For years, the Libertarian Party has complained about such ballot-access barriers, here in Virginia and elsewhere, to no avail. Throughout that time, people like Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry have had plenty of opportunity to come to the defense of the Libertarian Party by trying to have ballot-access barriers removed.
Instead, they chose to remain passive — until now, when it’s their ox that is being gored. Thus, while it’s obviously ridiculous that major presidential contenders are being kept off the ballot in Virginia owing to the state’s ridiculous ballot-access barrier, there is at least some justice in seeing major-party candidates being hoisted on their own petard.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Conservatives versus Libertarians on Income Taxation
The current debate over income-tax rates in the GOP presidential race highlights another major difference between conservatives and libertarians. It is a debate that involves moral, philosophical, economic, and practical issues. Most important, it is a debate over the meaning of freedom.
In the recent South Carolina debate, the candidates were asked what they would like to see as the top rate for the income tax. Four of the candidates responded as follows:
Rick Santorum: two rates, 10 and 28 percent.
Mitt Romney: 25 percent.
Newt Gingrich: 15 percent.
Ron Paul: 0 percent.
At first blush, it might appear that the differences simply relate to percentages. Not so. The difference between Ron Paul’s answer and the other answers is the difference between day and night. By responding with a “zero percent,” Paul is giving the standard libertarian position, one that differs fundamentally from that of conservatives: that there should be no income tax at all.
In other words, libertarians don’t simply advocate a zero income tax rate. We call for the abolition of the income tax and the IRS.
Conservatives, on the other hand, advocate the continuation of the income tax and the IRS. The fight among themselves and among liberals is over the precise rate of income taxation and over how progressive the income tax should be.
Why do libertarians oppose income taxation? For the same reason our American ancestors opposed income taxation: It is inconsistent with the principles of a free society. As long as government has the power to seize people’s income, there is no way that people in that society can legitimately be considered free.
It’s not a coincidence that Americans lived without income taxation and the IRS for more than a century. Our American ancestors knew that by surrendering to government the power to take their income from them, they would be surrendering their freedom at the same time.
Freedom is what matters to libertarians. That’s our highest value. That’s why we often mention freedom in our speeches and articles.
Obviously, freedom is not the highest value for conservatives or, for that matter, liberals. What matters to them is the preservation of the welfare-warfare state, which both conservatives and liberals embrace. That’s their highest value. For them, nothing must be permitted to interfere with that goal.
How would the welfare-warfare state be funded in a libertarian society? It wouldn’t be because there would be no welfare programs and no warfare programs to fund. Like our American ancestors, libertarians oppose Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, foreign aid, corporate bailouts, SBA loans, FDIC, and all other socialist programs. We would abolish them, along with the army of departments, agencies, and bureaucracies that administer them.
We’d also dismantle the regulatory state, including such destructive schemes as the drug war, insider-trading laws, monetary central planning, along with the DEA, the SEC, the Federal Reserve, and the army of bureaucracies that administer the hundreds of thousands of federal regulations that would disappear in a libertarian society.
We’d also dismantle the warfare state and limit the federal government to the genuine defense of the United States. That would mean no more U.S. government as world policeman, no more imperialist overseas bases, no more foreign interventions and foreign wars, no more coups, kidnapping, assassinations, rendition, and torture, no more entangling alliances, no more CIA, and no more military industrial complex.
Why do libertarians oppose such programs? Again, because such programs, like the income tax that funds them, violate the principles of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.
For those who say that that simply is impractical, let’s not forget that our American ancestors lived without all those programs for more than 100 years — and without the income tax that funds them.
Without an income tax, everyone keeps whatever he earns , receives in gifts, or inherits. He decides what to do with his own money — spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. For libertarians, that’s an essential part of what freedom is all about. The freedom to keep one’s own money and to decide how to dispose of it is as important to us as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to keep and bear arms.
What the income tax essentially did was to nationalize everyone’s income. Once the statists succeeded in foisting income taxation onto America, the government was made the owners of people’s income. By having the power to set the percentage—10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 90 percent, or even 100 percent — the government now wielded the power to decide how much income people would be permitted to keep, much like a parent setting the amount of allowance a child would be permitted to have.
Sometimes the government is nice to the people and sets the percentage low. Sometimes it’s not so nice and sets the percentage high. But make no mistake about it: By wielding the power to set the income-tax rate, the government ultimately decides how much people will be permitted to keep from their earnings.
America has lived under two separate economic systems: one with no welfare-warfare state and no income tax and the other with a welfare-warfare state and an income tax. In a time when federal spending and debt are hurtling our nation toward privation, it would be wise and prudent for Americans to be discussing and debating such fundamental questions as: What does it mean to be free? What is the role of government in a free society? Are a welfare state, a warfare state, and an income tax consistent with the principles of freedom? How much does freedom mean to you? Has the time arrived in our nation’s history to reject the statism foisted upon our land by conservatives and liberals and to embrace libertarianism?
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Killing Dissent with War
A point made by James Madison might well explain the U.S. government’s strangulation of Iran’s economy with ever-tightening sanctions: “Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended.”
What better way to rally people to the government than a war? Wouldn’t we expect many American dissidents, especially those in the Tea Party and Occupy movements, to immediately set aside their dissatisfaction with the U.S. government’s domestic policies, especially out-of-control federal spending and debt, if war were to break out with Iran?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a large segment of the American populace is starting to realize that the U.S. government’s domestic and foreign policies are at the root of America’s woes. Socialism at home and imperialism abroad have led to ever-increasing spending and debt, anti-American anger and hatred, and infringements on our rights and freedoms here at home.
Look at the support that the Ron Paul campaign is garnering from a large segment of American voters. Look at the Tea Party movement. Look at the Occupy movement. Discontent is growing. Equally important, increasingly people are correctly aiming their dissatisfaction at Washington, D.C., because they’re realizing that it’s the U.S. government’s policies that are causing the problems.
But as Roman officials understood, there is a very effective way to suppress domestic dissatisfaction with the government: Start a war. Many people, out of sense of “patriotism,” will immediately set aside their complaints and rally to the flag.
Of course, one option is simply to attack Iran first, like the U.S. government did with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The problem with that route is that it doesn’t inspire Americans to rally to the flag as much as when the United States is attacked. When officials want to go to war against another nation, the ideal is to maneuver that nation into doing the attacking. In that way, U.S. officials can exclaim, “We’ve been attacked! We’re innocent! We were just minding our own business! This is another day that will live in infamy!”
Of course, when the attack comes, people are expected to forget the maneuvering that took place prior to the attack — maneuvering that was intended to provoke the other nation into firing the first shot.
That, of course, was how FDR did it prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. He placed an embargo on oil to Japan, knowing that it would strangle the Japanese war machine. FDR also did his best to humiliate the Japanese in negotiations prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the attack came, FDR appeared shocked but he had gotten what he wanted — America’s entry into World War II, thanks to the attack by Japan on the United States.
That’s obviously what the ever-tightening sanctions on Iran are designed to do — to cause Iran into responding to the strangulation with a military strike — not against the mainland of the United States but against some U.S. Naval vessel operating thousands of miles away from American shores in the Persian Gulf.
If that retaliation comes, the U.S government will have its excuse to do to Iran what it has done to Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan — to bomb Iran to smithereens, with the aim of effecting regime change in Iran, as it did in those three countries and, for that matter, as the CIA did with its coup in Iran in 1953.
And with the exception of libertarians and possibly a small number of conservatives, liberals, and independents, the likelihood is that Americans will immediately suppress their complaints against the U.S. government and rally to the government in a display of “patriotic” wartime fervor.
Equally important, U.S. officials will be able to use such a war to continue strangling the freedoms of the American people. That’s another point made by Madison — that of all the enemies to freedom, war is the biggest, simply because war encompasses all the other threats to freedom.
As the possibility of war with Iran increases by the day, it would be prudent for Americans to ponder and reflect upon the following words of James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.
A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Socialism Violates Christian Principles
Amidst all the discussion and debate over the theological differences between Mormons and Protestants and Catholics, most everyone fails to focus on a critical issue: Are welfare-state programs consistent with Christian principles?
Suppose Peter’s elderly parents are ill and need medical attention. Suppose also that Peter has a friend who cannot afford to adequately feed, clothe, and educate his children.
Peter accosts Paul with a gun and forces him to withdraw $10,000 from his bank account. Peter uses $5,000 to purchase the needed medical care for his parents and he gives the other $5,000 to his friend. He doesn’t use any of the money for himself.
What can we say about Peter’s conduct? Libertarians would say that Peter has done something wrong — morally, legally, and religiously. He has taken money that didn’t belong to him without the consent of the owner. He has violated God’s commandment against stealing. He is a thief.
Peter responds, “Wait a minute! I haven’t done anything wrong. On the contrary, I helped out people who needed help. I didn’t use the money on myself. I’m a compassionate, caring person.”
Libertarians would disagree with Peter’s assessment of himself. He didn’t use his own money to help out people. He used the money that he forcibly took from Paul. He could have asked Paul for the money, either in the form of a donation or a loan, but he chose not to do that. He was “caring and compassionate” with the money that he stole from Paul.
I think that most conservative and liberal Christians would agree with that analysis. However, what changes for conservatives and liberals is when the government enters the picture. At that point, their moral and religious values change, while those of libertarians remain the same.
What is the fundamental feature of any welfare-state program? It’s that the government forcibly takes money from people through the taxing process and gives it to other people through the welfare-distribution process.
When it comes to moral and religious principles, the welfare-state program is no different from our hypothetical about Peter and Paul. The government forcibly seizes money from Paul, through the tax process, and gives it to Peter’s parents and friend to help with medical expenses, food stamps, clothing, and education.
Legally, the taking is permissible, which is one reason that conservatives and liberals approve of the process. They figure that if it’s legal, then it must be consistent with moral and religious principles.
For libertarians, on the other hand, just because something is legal doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s consistent with moral or religious principles.
Conservatives and liberals claim that welfare-state programs are different from our hypothetical because they have been enacted by the majority through the democratic process. For them, the fact that a law has been democratically enacted necessarily means that the welfare-state program must be consistent with religious and moral principles.
Not so, say libertarians, who hold that the freedom to do with one’s own money is a fundamental, God-given right which cannot legitimately be infringed upon by the majority. For libertarians, the right to do what one wants with his own money is as sacred as the right to worship God (or not) and the right to read whatever one wants.
Another part of this is the concept of free will. Conservative, liberal, and libertarian Christians would all hold that from a religious standpoint people should help out their parents and others in times of need. What distinguishes conservatives and liberals from libertarians, however, is that conservatives and liberals use the state to force people to make the right decision, while libertarians use the state to protect the exercise of the choice, even if it’s the wrong choice.
Let’s assume that there is no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, or any other socialist program. There also is no income tax. People are free to keep everything they earn and decide what to do with the money. Let’s also assume that 10 percent of the population refuses to help their parents or others with voluntary donations of money.
Conservatives and liberals would call on the government to force those 10 percent to give money to the elderly and the poor. Since it’s morally and religiously wrong for people to turn their backs on their parents and the poor, conservatives and liberals argue, it is morally right for the state to force them to do the right thing.
Not so, say libertarians. Free will entails the right to say no. The state has no legitimate role in forcing people to share their money with others. Forcing people to make the right choice denigrates and destroys free will.
Conservatives and liberals also hold that welfare-state programs engender a sense of compassion and caring within society. The Congress, the president, the IRS, the federal judiciary, the Social Security Administration, the taxpayers, the voters, and, well, the American people are all considered to be good, caring, compassionate people because they are citizens of a welfare-state society.
Not surprisingly, libertarians disagree. They say that such values as compassion and charity can only come from the voluntary heart of an individual, not through the collective force of the political process. Moreover, libertarians argue that it is through the process of making decisions that such things as conscience, responsibility, and charity are strengthened within a society.
The issues that Americans should be discussing and debating are: What is the role of government in a free society? Should it be the role of government to forcibly take money from a person to whom it belongs in order to give it to another person? Is that role consistent with Christian principles? Is it consistent with moral principles? Is it consistent with freedom principles?
Once people arrive at the right answers to those questions, the direction our society should take becomes clear.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Conservatives Are Socialists Too
Conservatives love to accuse President Obama of being a socialist. But as the old adage goes, when they point their finger at Obama, they’ve got three fingers pointing back at themselves.
Consider, for example, three of the biggest socialist programs in America: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. How many conservatives want to repeal those three programs? Hardly any. Almost all of them say they want to save these programs and simply reform them.
Now, that’s not to say that conservatives favor a complete government takeover of all property in the country and total control over economic activity, as, say, socialists did in Cuba and North Korea. But then again neither does Obama, and conservatives nonetheless call him a socialist.
We’re talking about socialist programs — those in which the government takes money from one group of people in order to give it to another group of people.
That’s what Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid do. They forcibly take money from one group of people through the tax system and give it to another group of people through the welfare system.
Yes, I know — conservatives, like liberals, claim that Social Security isn’t really a welfare program but instead a retirement account. But that’s just a rationalization for their support of a socialist program. There isn’t a Social Security fund and there never has been such a fund.
Social Security is a straight tax and spend welfare-state program. It is the crown jewel of the welfare state. Liberal icon Franklin Roosevelt brought it into existence. He got the idea from Otto von Bismarck, the so-called Iron Chancellor of Germany, whose bust is on the website of the U.S. Social Security Administration. Bismarck got the idea for Social Security from socialists in Germany.
What about the so-called Social Security fund? Suppose a parent has saved $20,000 for his child’s college education. The money is in the form of cash in a home safe. One day, the parent takes the money out and spends it on a new stereo system. But he places a promissory note for $20,000 into the safe. When his kid asks how his college fund is doing, the parent responds, “Don’t worry. It is fully funded.” That’s what the Social Security trust fund is all about.
Medicare and Medicaid are no different. They too are socialist programs. The government forcibly takes money from one group of people to pay for the health-care costs of another group of people. The program was enacted during the regime of liberal icon Lyndon Johnson, whose mentor was Franklin Roosevelt.
Do conservatives want to repeal Medicare and Medicaid? Are you kidding? They are as committed to those two socialist programs as liberals are. At best, all they want to do is repeal Obamacare and substitute their own reform plan that they’re convinced will finally fix the health-care crisis produced by government intervention into health care (including medical licensure, which conservatives also endorse and which libertarians oppose).
Consider the Federal Reserve. Here we have a classic example of the concept of central planning, which is also a feature of socialism. A small group of government officials purports to have the requisite knowledge to plan the monetary affairs of hundreds of millions of people.
No wonder there are booms and busts, recessions and depressions, deflation and inflation, and all sorts of monetary crises.
But when libertarians call for the Fed be abolished and replaced by a gold standard or a free-market monetary system, conservatives go ballistic, claiming that such an idea is “loony.” I suppose they’d say the same thing about Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, both of whom (here and here) favored the abolition of the Fed, even though, ironically, conservatives often praise them in their speeches and articles.
While we’re on the subject of loony, I ask you: What could be loonier than to call yourself a capitalist when you embrace big socialist programs? I mean, if a person came up to you and said, “I believe in God and I believe the atheists have it right,” wouldn’t you think he might be a bit loony?
And hey, let’s not forget that it’s not just those three big socialist programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — that conservatives support. They’re also firmly committed to other statist programs, as reflected in the following statement that most conservatives would undoubtedly embrace:
As a conservative, I support economic liberty, free markets, and limited government, and I fervently oppose socialism and statism … well, except for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, corporate bailouts, education grants, foreign aid, SBA loans, FDIC, food stamps, public works, the Federal Reserve, immigration controls, agricultural subsidies, public (i.e., government schooling), trade restrictions, and drug laws.
With all due respect, what could be loonier than that?
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Ron Paul, Foreign Policy, and the Republican Mainstream
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Ron Paul campaign is the standard reaction of his opponents to Paul’s foreign-policy positions. They say that Paul’s libertarian foreign-policy views are outside the Republican mainstream.
What is the Republican mainstream view on foreign policy? Here are its essential components:
1. Undeclared wars.
2. Wars of aggression — that is, wars in which the United States is the attacking nation.
3. Invasions and occupations.
7. Indefinite military detention without trial.
8. Military tribunals.
9. Foreign aid, including to dictatorships.
10. An empire of 1,000 military bases in 130 nations around the world.
11. A national security state, consisting of a military-industrial complex, a standing army, and the CIA.
12. A conflation of government and country.
13. A “My government, never wrong” sense of patriotism.
Those are the things that characterize U.S. foreign policy within the mainstream of the Republican Party. Ironically, they also represent the views of President Obama and the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
That’s what the mainstream in both political parties says America is all about and should be all about.
Ron Paul and the libertarians stand against all those things. Unlike the mainstream, we oppose a foreign policy based on empire, interventionism, and militarism. We believe in individual liberty, free markets, and a limited-government, constitutional republic, just as our nation’s Founding Fathers did.
Another interesting phenomenon is the fact that young people are flocking to the Paul campaign in droves. In fact, it seems that as the mainstream press has ramped up its criticism of Paul’s foreign-policy views, for being outside the mainstream, his support among young people has soared.
What’s the explanation for that?
One reason might be that young people tend to be more idealistic than old people and more willing to change their views if they conclude they’re wrong about something. Old people tend to be more cynical about things and their views oftentimes become concretized with age, making it more difficult for them to reexamine and change long-held perspectives.
My hunch is that as young people flock to the Ron Paul campaign, they’re thinking to themselves: “We don’t want a country that is perpetually starting wars and crises. We don’t want an imperialist, militarist regime within our midst. We want a country that is leading the world in the principles of liberty, free markets, and limited constitutional government. We want a country in which the American people are interacting with the world in trade, peace, and harmony. We want a free, prosperous, peaceful, harmonious society.”
I also think that another factor here is that young people are discovering that old people, especially in the Republican Party, have been lying to them. For decades, Republicans have been telling young people that the Republican Party supports “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government” and the warfare state, and many young people have believed it and accepted it.
But then along came libertarians, who also support “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government” but who oppose the warfare state.
Obviously, something is wrong with that picture. You have two separate groups of people both standing for the same principles but standing on opposite sides of the line with respect to the warfare state. They both can’t be telling the truth. Either the warfare state is “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government” or the absence of the warfare state is “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government. It can’t be both ways.
One can imagine a young Republican asking a Republican oldster, “If the warfare state is freedom, free enterprise, and limited government, where does that place Ron Paul and the libertarians? They also support freedom, free enterprise, and limited government but oppose the warfare state.”
What’s the Republican oldster say? He answers in the only way he knows how: “Ron Paul and the libertarians are outside the mainstream. They’re on the fringe. Don’t listen to them. Don’t read what they’re saying. Stay away from them.”
But that’s not good enough for many young people. That just causes them to ask more questions and to seek answers.
And that’s why so many in the Republican Party resent Ron Paul and libertarians so much. We have exposed their lie and their life of the lie.
Without libertarians — without Ron Paul’s campaign — the Republican mainstreamers could just keep telling young people and everyone else that the warfare state is “freedom, free enterprise, and limited government,” and there would be no one to call them on it.
With libertarianism on the rise, it has become increasingly difficult for them to get away with their lie. And the more they attack libertarians for being outside the mainstream, the more their lie is exposed.
What really frightens the Republican mainstream is that their statist view on foreign policy is in danger of no longer being mainstream. After all, a mainstream view is never set in concrete. If enough people shift to a new view, that view becomes the new mainstream.
Don’t forget that the libertarian view on foreign policy was once the mainstream view among our American ancestors, including the Founding Fathers. The statists slowly gained ground in attracting people to imperialism, militarism, and interventionism until things shifted, making the warfare state the new mainstream view.
Today, nothing is clearer than that the mainstream view on foreign policy is finished, not only because of the damage it has done to our country and to people around the world, not only because it’s sending the government toward more spending, debt, and inflation, not only because its features are characteristic of totalitarian regimes, but also because its consequences include ever-increasing infringements on our rights and freedoms here at home.
As more and more people realize that the current mainstream view on foreign policy violates principles of freedom and morality, the libertarian perspective on foreign policy is certain to become the new mainstream view in America.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Liberals Love Their Daddy
Twelve years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Electing Our Daddy,” which pointed out that every four years Americans go to the polls not just to elect a president bur also to elect a daddy, one who will take watch over them and take care of them, send them to their room when they put bad things in their mouths, force them to share with others, and protect them from the boogeyman.
Well, you’ll never guess what happened this week. A liberal named Carl Gibson wrote an article inappropriately entitled “Grow Up, Ron Paul,” which, hilariously, confirms what I stated in my article.
The reason that Gibson’s article is inappropriately titled is because it suggests that Ron Paul’s (and libertarians’) desire to end the paternalistic state reflects that he’s not “grown up.” Gibson thinks a grown up should want the government to care of adults just as a parent takes care of his children.
Don’t believe me? Read what he says:
Ron Paul and his right-libertarian ideology does espouse a new kind of freedom, just as rebellious children who fantasize about running away from home dream of a new kind of freedom. But as much as we may have rebelled against our parents as little kids, we eventually matured and realized that the rules and regulations our parents imposed on us were meant so we’d grow up to be responsible, functioning adults in society.
An unregulated little kid free to eat junk food and play video games all day won’t ever learn the responsibilities of adulthood. And an unregulated society where every individual is out for themselves will quickly collapse.
It’s one thing to support parental rules and regulations over how children are raised. But isn’t it quite another thing to suggest that adults should be treated the same as children, with the government serving as their daddy?
Consider Social Security, one of the government programs that Gibson brings up. He is aghast that “employees would no longer be required to pay into Social Security.”
You see, America’s child-adults might not do the responsible thing if there is no Social Security program. They might not save for their retirement. And they might refuse to help out their aging parents.
So, our government daddy must force the child-adult to save for his retirement and to care for his aging parents by forcing him to do so with a mandatory program that takes money from young people through taxation and redistributes it to seniors through welfare.
Gibson is also scared that the “Social Security trust fund would become insolvent … for those who have paid into it all their lives.” He honestly believes what his daddy has told him about there being a Social Security trust fund. He thinks that the monies that are taken from him in Social Security taxes are being placed into a nice, little fund that will be available for him when he retires. Isn’t that cute? Gibson obviously places as much faith and trust in his government daddy as he did his regular daddy when he was a growing up.
Consider big business, another thing that frightens Gibson to death. Without our daddy protecting us from mergers and acquisitions, companies would get bigger and bigger. What could be scarier than that, well except for communists, terrorists, illegal aliens, speculators, radical Muslims, and other scary creatures in the world?
Unfortunately, however, Gibson fails to understand the concept of consumer sovereignty. Who cares if a company gets bigger and bigger in a genuine free market — that is, one in which there is no combination of business and the state? Doesn’t that reflect that the company is pleasing consumers by providing goods and services that they’re willing to buy? And if a company fails to do that, doesn’t it lose market share and maybe even end up going out of business? I wonder how Gibson would explain the fact that the top 25 companies today are different than those 10 years ago.
Gibson is also scared that the government might not protect him from tainted food. I hope no one tells him about the people who sometimes get things like salmonella poisoning or listeria from tainted food — people who thought that the government was protecting them from such things.
Gibson is also scared that without a federal Department of Education “millions of college students dependent on Pell grants would be forced to move back home and work minimum-wage jobs, no longer financially able to further their education.”
I wonder where he thinks the government gets the money to fund those Pell grants. Maybe he thinks the government is like the tooth fairy or Santa Claus when he was a child, able to provide child-adults with unlimited gifts produced by an independent fountain of wealth. I wonder if his natural daddy ever told him who the tooth fairy and Santa Claus really are.
Gibson is also worried about libertarian calls to eliminate the minimum wage. He believes that if our government daddy didn’t set a minimum wage, employers would be paying people a pittance. I wonder how he would explain the fact that many employers pay their workers more than the minimum wage. I wonder if he knows that the minimum wage prevents some people from getting a job.
Gibson is also concerned that people wouldn’t be held responsible for torts in a libertarian society. I wonder where he got that notion. The libertarian position has always been that people should be held responsible for acts of negligence or any other violation of the rights of others.
Speaking of responsibility, at some point or other shouldn’t a person be free to be an adult — free to make his own decisions and live his life the way he wants, so long as his conduct is peaceful? Apparently not in Gibson’s mind. For him, even a 60-year-old should be prevented from being irresponsible, uncompassionate, or selfish.
The terrible twist to Gibson’s paternalistic philosophy, of course, is that it produces a nation of child-adults — people who live their lives in constant fear, who are unable to make decisions, and who defer to authority.
That’s how we have ended up with a society in which government manages the most minute aspects of our lives, controls the amount of money we’re permitted to keep out of the income we produce, and forces us to share with others, including not just seniors and college students but also brutal foreign dictatorships through foreign aid.
It’s also how we have ended up with a society in which the government wields the omnipotent authority to invade and occupy other countries and kidnap, incarcerate, torture, and assassinate anyone in the world, including American child-adults. After all, isn’t the government just keeping its adult children safe?
A libertarian society is one in which adults are treated as adults rather than child-adults. They are free to make whatever choices they want and live their lives any way they choose, so long as their conduct is peaceful. In other words, no murder, rape, theft, fraud, and so forth, but otherwise free to do whatever they want. It’s the free society, not the paternalistic society, that nurtures the values of responsibility and compassion.
For some reason, while Gibson mentions the FDA, he failed to mention the DEA and the war on drugs, a 40-year-old paternalistic program in which the government sends adults to their room in some penitentiary for putting bad things in their mouths. Maybe he just decided to leave that issue to conservatives, who look upon the government as their daddy too.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
No Moral Standing to Complain about Iranian Conviction of American
U.S. officials are objecting to Iran’s criminal conviction of an American for spying on behalf of the CIA. The Iranians have sentenced the American, 28-year-old Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, to death.
Unfortunately, however, the U.S. government has no moral standing to object to the conviction, given its longtime policy of foreign interventionism in Iran as well its own judicial misconduct since 9/11.
Consider the judicial proceedings in which Hekmati was convicted. His trial was conducted in secret and undoubtedly he was denied a jury trial and independent counsel to defend himself. U.S. officials claim, with justification, that Hekmati has been convicted and sentenced without due process of law.
But wait a minute! Isn’t the Iranian judicial process a mirror image of the U.S. government’s judicial process in terrorism cases, at least those in which the defendant is relegated to the Pentagon’s post-9/11 judicial system at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?
Indeed, doesn’t any criticism leveled by U.S. officials against Iran’s judicial system apply equally to the Pentagon’s judicial system at Gitmo, given the similarities of the two systems?
The U.S. government’s initial plan for its prison camp in Cuba was that it would be a Constitution-free zone, one in which the federal judiciary would have no jurisdiction. The idea was that the military would have omnipotent power to run things on its own, without outside interference. While U.S. military personnel take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, the last thing they wanted in their system at Gitmo was to have to apply the principles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They were going to run their system the same way that the Iranians run their system, without having to bother with silly constitutional technicalities.
Until the U.S. Supreme Court put the quietus to its plans, the military denied suspected terrorists incarcerated at Gitmo access to attorneys, families and friends, and the press. Suspects were presumed to be guilty of the terrorism-related crimes for which they had been arrested. The prisoners at Gitmo were subject to being tortured, incarcerated indefinitely without trial, and even executed.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court dashed the Pentagon’s hopes and dreams of having Gitmo be a Constitution-free zone, ruling that the Pentagon would ultimately have to give the prisoners a trial.
Thus, two competing jurisdictions to try people suspected of having committed terrorist acts were now in existence — the federal court system, in which the Constitution and Bill of Rights applied, and the Pentagon system, which was essentially a duplicate of the judicial system in Iran.
Terrorist suspects at Gitmo are presumed guilty and are treated accordingly. There are no jury trials. The judges consist of military personnel belonging to the same institution that is responsible for arresting, incarcerating, and punishing them. Proceedings are often in secret, just as Hekmati’s trial was. There is no right to speedy trial, which means that people can be held for decades without trying them.
In fact, I could be wrong but in the 10 years that Gitmo has been operating, I don’t think there has been one single trial that has been held there. People just continue languishing there indefinitely, with the hope that one of these days the Pentagon will finally give them a trial, even if it is before a kangaroo tribunal whose verdict will be preordained by higher officials, just like in Iran.
U.S. officials are mocking the fact that Hekmati has openly confessed to spying for the CIA. Why are they mocking the confession? Because they say that undoubtedly it has been coerced.
But wait a minute! Ever since 9/11, U.S. officials have secured plenty of coerced confessions, especially through waterboarding. If it turned out that the Iranians waterboarded Hekmati into confessing his crime, would U.S. officials still be mocking the confession? Let’s keep in mind also that ever since 9/11 U.S. officials have themselves relied on evidence acquired by torture (i.e., coercion) to justify their indefinite incarceration of prisoners suspected of terrorism.
U.S. officials are denying that Hekmati is a CIA spy. But how credible is that denial? If Hekmati really is working for the CIA, does anyone really think that the CIA is going to admit it? That’s ridiculous. Even the CIA would admit that it would lie about it.
Moreover, who doubts that that the CIA does have agents operating within Iran, just as it did in 1953 when CIA agents operating within Iran destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy by ousting the democratically elected prime minister of the country and installing a brutal unelected pro-U.S. dictator, the Shah of Iran, in his stead?
Those recent mysterious assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists have all the earmarks of CIA hits. And it’s not as though the CIA’s international assassination program is a secret. Why, they’re even now openly assassinating Americans without providing any reason or justification for the hits.
Moreover, can anyone blame the Iranians for being even more paranoid than U.S. officials when it comes to “national security”? Wasn’t it the CIA that brought about regime change in Iran in 1953? Wasn’t it the CIA that worked closely with the Shah’s domestic intelligence force to brutalize, torture, and oppress the Iranian people for the next 25 years, until the Iranians ousted their CIA-installed dictatorship in a violent revolution?
It may well be that Hekmati is innocent of the spy charges leveled against him. Unfortunately, however, given the U.S. government’s longtime history of meddling in Iran and its decision to impose an Iranian-like judicial system at Guantanamo, U.S. officials are not in a very solid moral position to demand his release.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Liberal Minimum-Wage Nonsense Hurts the Poor
The liberals are at it again. They’re calling for another increase in the minimum wage in their purported attempt to help the poor. Two new minimum-wage articles have recently been posted on the liberal websites Counterpunch and Common Dreams. One is entitled “The Bogus Case Against the Minimum Wage Hike” by Dean Baker and John Schmitt and the other is “America’s Skimpy Minimum Wage” by Savatore Babones.
Before I get to the fundamental flaw in both articles, I can’t help but initially wonder whether these authors actually hate the poor.
Why do I say that?
Because all three of them are such pikers! They would like to see the minimum wage raised from the current $7.25 per hour to somewhere between $10 and $27 an hour.
Imagine that! I thought liberals loved the poor. Why stop at $10 or even $27? Why not a really large increase in the minimum wage, like, say, $100 per hour or even $1,000 per hour?
Let’s do it this way. Let’s figure out how much the members of Congress receive on an hourly basis and then let’s make that the minimum wage. Congressmen receive an annual salary of $174,000. That’s comes out to $3,346 per week. With a 40-hour work week, that means that the members of Congress are receiving $83.00 per hour.
Why not set the minimum wage at $83? Why should ordinary people get less than what the members of Congress get paid? Don’t liberals believe in equality? Do they think that the members of Congress are better than the rest of us?
If you examine the reasoning in both of those articles, all the arguments for raising the minimum wage to $10 to $27 an hour would apply three or four times as much to an increase in the minimum wage to $83 per hour. Workers would become more excited about their jobs, causing them to produce more. There would be more income equality.
I can only hope that those three authors would immediately recognize how ridiculous such a notion really is. If not, then how about if I propose that the minimum wage be raised to $1,000 an hour? Would they be able to recognize how ridiculous that would be? I sure hope so.
Obviously, there is a fundamental problem with minimum wage laws, one that liberals rarely confront directly. The problem is this: the value of labor, like anything else is subjective. That is, when an employer is evaluating whether to hire someone or to retain an employee, he places a value on that person’s work. That value is entirely subjective. The worker, on the other hand, does the same thing. He places a value on the money and other benefits that are being offered to him. That value is entirely subjective.
Let’s assume that an employer is considering hiring a person. He subjectively places a value of $10 per hour on the person’s labor services. Let’s say that the worker offers to work at $12 per hour.
Will the person be hired? No. The most the employer is willing to pay is $10 per hour because that’s the value that he has subjectively placed on the value of the person’s labor services.
So, if the employee wants the job, he has to drop down to $10 per hour. If he does so, then there is a meeting of the minds. The employer values the work more than he does the $10. The employee values the $10 more than he values what he could otherwise do with his time and labor.
What happens if the government establishes by law a minimum wage of $12? Well, we know that the minimum-wage law doesn’t force the employer to hire the worker. It simply says that if the employer does hire someone, he is required to pay $12 an hour.
In our example, the employer will simply not hire the worker, given that he places a subjective value of only $10 on his services. And the employee will not be able to lower the amount he’d be willing to accept to $10 because the law prohibits him from doing so.
Theoretically, it’s possible that the minimum wage could be set so long that it’s irrelevant. For example, suppose every employer in the country places a minimum value on workers of $5 an hour. If the minimum wage is set at $3 an hour, obviously it becomes irrelevant because it doesn’t prevent anyone from getting employed. Even though the minimum wage is set at $3, everyone will be getting paid at least $5 because that’s the value that employers place on everyone’s labor.
In fact, think about all the businesses that pay workers more than the legally established minimum. The reason they do that is because the value that they place on their workers is higher than the legally established minimum. In such cases, the minimum wage is irrelevant. It’s not causing harm in the sense of locking people out of the labor market.
The problem with unemployment arises when some people’s labor is valued by employers at an amount that is lower than the legally established minimum.
Consider, for example, if the minimum wage was established at $1,000 per hour. Isn’t it easy to see that many employers would not place a value of $1,000 per hour on their workers? What would happen to such workers? They would be without jobs, most likely permanently.
As one moves down the range of minimum-wage figures, the problem becomes less aggravated. At $100, less would be unemployed. At $10 an hour, even less.
The problem is that the minimum wage is inevitably set at a level at which at least some people are going to be locked out simply because their labor is not valued by employers at that price.
What happens to those people? They’re prevented by law from entering the workplace, where they could have learned skills and a work ethic that would make them more marketable in the future.
Rather than advocating an elimination of the minimum wage to enable those people to work at a lower wage, liberals advocate that they go on welfare, where some of them stay the rest of their lives.
And guess where the welfare comes from. You guessed it — from taxes that are imposed on the business that would have been willing to hire the worker at a lower wage and which the worker would have been willing to accept.
In other words, in the mind of the liberal, a person is better off sitting at home on government welfare rather than working at a business at a lower wage.
And there’s another factor to consider here. The minimum-wage law also prevents the poor from opening businesses in which they hire friends and relatives at low wages in order to compete against the rich, well-established businesses.
Minimum-wage laws show that when it comes to government policy, good intentions are irrelevant. While liberals purport to love the poor, their minimum-wage laws are among the worst things that could ever do to the poor.
Friday, January 6, 2012
Time to End the War on Poverty
Wouldn’t it be great if some mainstream pundit were to ask the following question of the Republican presidential candidates: “Do you believe that the time has come to end the war on poverty?”
Alas, it’s not going to happen. The question would obviously be considered outside mainstream America and, therefore, not the subject of legitimate debate among the presidential candidates. Moreover, all but one of the candidates, along with all the mainstream press, are as enthusiastic supporters of the war on poverty as President Obama and liberals/progressives.
But the question should be asked. And the right answer is the libertarian one: It’s time to end the war on poverty.
After all, statists have had 40 years to wage their war. Aren’t four decades long enough? If they haven’t ended poverty by now, then why in the world should anyone believe that this federal program is going to be any more successful in the future? In fact, from what I understand, liberals/progressives believe that there is more poverty than ever before.
It almost seems as though we have to continue old, failed welfare-state programs indefinitely into the future simply because it’s the mainstream thing to do. Ending an old, failed welfare-state program would obviously be too extreme, too loony, too fringe. The 40-year-old, failed war on drugs comes to mind here too.
How have the statists waged their war on poverty? The main way is by forcibly taking money from people in the private sector through the taxing process and giving it to the poor.
But notice something important here: The war necessarily depends on the existence of people in the private sector who have money. If people in the private sector don’t have money, then the state cannot give anything to the poor because there is no one in the private sector to take the money from.
So, I repeat: The war on poverty necessarily depends on having people in the private sector with money. The state takes their money and gives it to the poor.
One of the big problems with statists is that they believe that a wealthy private sector is a given. That is, they just assume away the problem. They assume that people in the private sector have money. And then they say, “Let’s take some of their money and give it to the poor.”
That’s a big assumption. And an invalid one.
The critical question that needs to be asked is: How does wealth come into existence within the private sector? That’s the question that liberals/progressives never ask, given their assumption that wealth in the private sector is simply a given.
That’s the question that Adam Smith asked in his treatise: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
The answer is: Wealth comes into existence when people are free to engage in economic enterprise and free to accumulate wealth — without governmental interference.
In fact, that’s the key to ending poverty. That’s the only way to end poverty. When people are free to engage in economic enterprise and to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, poor people are able to become wealthy people.
The problem is that once that happens, statists see all that wealth that has been accumulated in the private sector and exclaim, “Wow! Those people don’t need all that money. Let’s wage war on poverty by taking some of their money through taxation and giving it to the poor.”
As they do that, however, they push people who are on the margin back into the ranks of the poor. They also put marginal enterprises out of business. That increases the demand for more welfare. Over time, as the number of people on the dole increases, the amount of wealth in the private sector decreases. Ultimately, the end of the road is a totally impoverished society — that is, one in which there is no money left in the private sector.
That logical end result of the war on poverty is Cuba. In that society, the state took everything from the private sector and gave it to the poor. Today, there is only a very tiny private sector in Cuba. Everyone had to end up working for the government, which for a long period of time depended on financial assistance from foreign governments. The entire society is on the verge of starvation and has been for a long time. Another example is North Korea.
There are, of course, less extreme examples of the direction that the war on poverty takes a nation. Look at Greece. Their welfare recipient class kept growing and growing. Their welfare was financed by both taxes and ever-increasing debt. Today, the government is faced with a quandary. If it imposes more taxes on the private sector, it shrinks the private sector, thereby making it more difficult to collect money next year from the private sector. Yet, the recipient class continues to demand the payment of its dole and the creditor class continues to demand repayment of its debt.
In the United States, despite 40 years of the war on poverty, there is still a very wealthy private sector. But with the enormous and ever-growing demands of both the welfare state and the warfare state, one can only wonder how long America’s private sector can withstand the burden. We all know what a difficult time the American middle class is having under the tax burden of America’s welfare-warfare state.
There is a solution to ending poverty—the libertarian solution, which entails prohibiting the government from waging war on poverty. The best way to help the poor is by ending the government’s 40-year-old, failed war on poverty and by dismantling both the welfare state and the warfare state and the enormous taxes that fund them.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Life in Bizarro World
Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an alternative universe, one that is similar toBizarro World, which was introduced in the early 1960s in Superman comics. It’s a world in which everything that is normal is considered abnormal, and everything that is abnormal is considered normal.
Look at Iraq. Statists say, “Isn’t it wonderful how fantastic Iraq has turned out. We should be so grateful to the troops for what they have accomplished in Iraq. It’s such a wonderful paradise of freedom and democracy. Why, Iraq is a model of peace and stability thanks to the U.S. invasion and liberation of the country. The Iraqi people are so grateful to us and they love us so much. What a beautiful, peaceful, prosperous, harmonious society we have brought into existence.”
On the other hand, libertarians see something completely different. We say, “Are you kidding? Iraq is nothing but a hell-hole. It’s a war-ravaged desolate wasteland of strife, conflict, death, and destruction. It is run by a crooked, corrupt, authoritarian regime that kills its own people, detains people indefinitely without trial, tortures them, and even executes them. The regime is more aligned with Iran than it is with the United States. The Iraqi people have lost tens of thousands of family members to the U.S. invasion and occupation of their country. Many of them hate the United States. It is not safe for Americans to travel to Iraq for either business or vacation.”
The statists look at us libertarians like we’re crazy. They just cannot understand how we see something that is completely opposite to what they’re seeing. For them, Iraq is a perfectly normal society. For us libertarians, Iraq is a perfectly abnormal society. And the statists look upon libertarians as weird for refusing to buy into the Iraq-as-paradise view.
Sometimes I can really feel how that little boy felt in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Everyone points to the beautiful clothing that the emperor is wearing and has absolutely no doubts that what he is seeing is reality. The little boy, who undoubtedly was a libertarian, exclaims that the emperor isn’t wearing anything at all — that he’s naked as a jaybird. Of course, everyone is aghast over the boy’s observation.
Consider the drug war. The statists within the Republican Party are shocked — absolutely shocked — that Ron Paul and libertarians want to end the drug war. They just can’t believe it. For them, the drug war is a very model of a successful federal program. It gets the bad guys and jails them. It protects people from getting their hands on drugs and ingesting them. It ensures that our economy remains prosperous by keeping the citizenry healthy and productive.
Libertarians, on the other hand, see the situation entirely differently. We see nothing but an immoral, deadly, destructive, and failed decades-old federal program. Consider just the 45,000 drug-war deaths in Mexico during the past six years, along with overfilled prisons in the United States. We see the corruption among the police and the judiciary, not only in Latin America but also here in the United States. We see the racism. We see the asset forfeitures in which cops have been granted a license to steal from Americans, especially the poor. We see the massive ever-growing infringement on the freedom, civil liberties, and privacy of the American people.
Statists can’t believe it. For them, the drug war is everything good about America. For libertarians to question the drug war is proof positive that they must hate America and love drug lords and drug dealers. Indeed, many Republican statists are convinced that the only reason that most people are supporting Ron Paul is because they’re drug users and drug sellers. In fact, some of the statists are undoubtedly convinced that the only reason that Paul wants to end the drug war is so that he can finally shoot up with heroin or snort some cocaine. Undoubtedly, they felt the same thing about Milton Friedman when he called for an end to the drug war some 40 years ago.
Meanwhile, even as they support the drug war, Republican statists continue to spout how devoted they are to “freedom and free enterprise.”
Speaking of free enterprise, the liberals remain more convinced than ever that their icon Franklin Roosevelt saved America’s free-enterprise system by foisting a regulated or managed economy onto America. That’s what they inculcate in their children at home and in public (i.e., government) schools that they send them to.
We libertarians say, “But wait a minute. ‘Free’ in ‘free enterprise’ doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost money. ‘Free’ means enterprise that is free of government control. That’s what made this particular system unique. For the first time in history, business and commercial enterprise was free of government control or management.”
Liberal statists are shocked, absolutely shocked. No one is supposed to talk like that. Everyone knows that America has a free-enterprise system. Who doubts that? Isn’t that what government schoolteachers teach us? Franklin Roosevelt saved our free-enterprise system by subjecting it to government control and management. How else could he have kept it free?
For a libertarian, that is really a bizarre concept. For us, a system of free enterprise is a system in which enterprise is free of government control and management, not one in which the government is controlling and managing enterprise to keep it free.
But, the liberal statists say, free enterprise failed, which is why Roosevelt had to save it by making enterprise subject to government control and management. For them, the Federal Reserve System is free enterprise. Thus, when the Federal Reserve manipulated the money supply, bringing about the 1929 stock-market crash, that proved that free enterprise had failed.
We libertarians say, “What? The Federal Reserve is a government agency, one that was instituted in 1913 and that engages in the central planning of the monetary sphere. Given its socialist nature, why would it surprise anyone that it would produce nothing but chaos and crisis, including the Great Depression?”
Again, the statists are shocked. They simply cannot understand how it is that libertarians don’t see the world as they do. America has a free-enterprise system. Everyone knows that. Therefore, all agencies and departments of the federal government, including the Federal Reserve, must be free-enterprise too. What’s so hard to comprehend about that?
Or consider Social Security, the crown jewel of the welfare state that both conservative and liberal statists embrace. To them, this program has to be “free-enterprise” because, again, everyone knows that America has a free-enterprise system.
But then we libertarians point out that one of the features of a socialist program is when the state takes money from people through taxation and gives it to other people. We point out that Social Security is one of core programs in Cuba, a socialist-communist country.
How do the statists respond to that? They either walk away or they exclaim, “You mean, Cuba has a free-enterprise Social Security system too?”
Like I say, it’s all very bizarre. The way I figure it though is that we libertarians are much like societal therapists: We’re making statists confront their lies, myths, and delusions about life and society whether they like it or not.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
National-Security Assassination of Americans in 1973
A Chilean judge has indicted a retired U.S. Naval officer, Capt. Ray E. Davis, in the murder of two American citizens in Chile during the U.S.-supported Pinochet coup in 1973. The indictment indicates that the U.S. military and the CIA may have been responsible for the national-security assassination of two Americans several decades before the start of the war on terrorism.
The two Americans were journalists — 31-year-old Charles Horman and 24-year-old Frank Teruggi. During the Pinochet coup in 1973, both men were taken captive and executed in cold blood.
For decades, the CIA, playing the innocent, denied any involvement in the murders.
Then, in 1999 a declassified State Department document revealed that the CIA had, in fact, played some unidentified role in at least Horman’s murder.
What role? We don’t know. Ever since the revelation of that State Department document, the CIA has remained mum on the case, obviously taking the position that secrecy and cover-up is the best policy.
By the same token, despite the fact that the State Department document clearly furnished sufficient cause to impanel a federal grand jury to investigate the CIA’s role in the murders, the Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic regimes has steadfastly failed and refused to do so.
At the same time, Congress has failed and refused to open an investigation into the murders, in the process subpoenaing CIA officials to testify what exactly the CIA’s role was in the murders, the identity of the CIA officials who participated in the murders, and whether President Richard Nixon or other high U.S. officials ordered the hit to be made on the two Americans.
Horman’s murder was the subject of the movie “Missing,” starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek.
The Chilean indictment of a retired U.S. military officer brings a new dimension to the case — the confluence of the two branches of the U.S. national security state — the military and the CIA — to allegedly bring about the murder of two American journalists, on grounds of national security.
What did Horman and Teruggi supposedly do to justify being taken out? The allegation is that during the coup, Horman acquired evidence documenting the U.S. government’s complicity in the coup. Therefore, the argument goes, by acquiring such information Horman became an immediate threat to the national security of the United States.
Moreover, the fact that Horman and Teruggi were leftists, liberals, or socialists who were supporting the socialist regime of Salvador Allende might have also constituted evidence of their being a grave threat to the national security of the United States during the Cold War.
The Chilean indictment of Davis alleges that he gave Horman a ride from the U.S. military installation in Valparaiso, where Horman allegedly acquired the information showing U.S. complicity in the coup, to Horman’s apartment in Santiago.
After that, Horman was picked up by Pinochet’s national-security goons, taken away, and executed.
While no one except the CIA, and possibly the U.S. military, knows exactly what the CIA role was in the murder, the allegation is that the CIA and the military signaled Pinochet that they wanted Horman (and possibly Teruggi) executed but without any evidence pointing to U.S. complicity in the murders.
One ironic twist to this saga involves the murder of a Chilean citizen by the Pinochet regime, on grounds of national security. During his brutal dictatorship, Pinochet sent a national-security hit team to Washington, D.C., where it murdered Orlando Letelier, who had served in the Allende government, on the streets of Washington, D.C. Even though the person who orchestrated the murder, a man named Michael Townley, ultimately got a sweetheart plea deal, no doubt because he had been an agent of the CIA, at least the Justice Department treated the hit as a murder rather than a legitimate assassination by the Pinochet regime to protect Chile’s national security.
On the other hand, however, the U.S. government has never treated the executions of Charles Horman and Michael Teruggi in the same way. Apparently, the notion has been that once the U.S. national security state decides that someone is a threat to national security, including an American, it has the legal authority to eliminate such a threat through assassination.
Equally important, the presumption seems to be that the final judge of what constitutes a sufficient threat to national security to justify an assassination of an American or anyone else lies with the national-security state itself, either through the CIA making the determination itself or by following orders of the president.
All of this, of course, is sheer nonsense. There is clear evidence indicating that two Americans have been murdered by agents of the U.S. national security state. This is not a case where the victims are alleged to have played an “operational role” in attacking the United States or even releasing classified information embarrassing to the U.S. government. The very worst thing Horman and Teruggi allegedly did was acquire information from military sources indicating U.S. government complicity in a regime-change operation in a foreign country and of being liberals, leftists, or socialists.
Since when do such things justify the national-security assassination of American citizens by either the U.S. military or the CIA?
There is no statue of limitations on murder. The U.S. government, including the Justice Department and the Congress, owe it to the American people, including the families of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, to open official investigations into the murders of these two young men and to bring to justice every U.S. official who participated in such murders.
If Chileans aren’t scared to confront the truth, why should Americans be?
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
The Statist Attacks on Ron Paul
The most fascinating aspect of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign is how it is revealing the real nature of the battle facing our country. It is not a battle between left and right, as we have all been taught, but rather between libertarianism and statism.
From the first grade on up, we’ve all been inculcated with the notion that there are fundamental philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives. As they’re growing up, people go through all sorts of contortions deciding whether to be a liberal or a conservative and just assume that they are diametrically opposed to each other.
Or course, the mainstream press plays into this charade. When a liberal marries a conservative, the media exclaims, “Oh, my gosh, they’re going to be arguing with each other all the time.”
But as we are now seeing with the attacks on Ron Paul, there is no fundamental disagreement between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. The attacks that conservatives are making on Ron Paul are ones that could be wholeheartedly embraced by liberals, and vice versa.
Ron Paul’s campaign is exposing a decades-long charade. Or to be more precise, his libertarian positions are showing the American people the statism to which both conservatives and liberals have become committed over the decades.
The fact is that conservatives and liberals have become the premier exponents of statism in America. Sure, there are variations among them, especially with their multitudinous reform plans. But at the core, they are fundamentally in agreement with each other.
Philosophically, both liberals and conservatives believe it is a legitimate role of government to take money from people through the taxing process and dole it out to other people. That’s the essence of socialism.
Thus, when conservatives love to call President Obama a socialist, they also want to play the pretend game, pretending that they, on the other hand, are “free enterprise.”
If that’s the case, then why do conservatives ardently support such socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, corporate bailouts, and foreign aid to dictators? Sure, they might call for repealing Obamacare, but have you ever heard them call for ending Medicare and Medicaid?
It’s because conservatives are socialists, just like Obama is. They have been for decades.
Conservatives have just been living the life of the lie, repeating ad infinitum, ad nauseam their favorite mantra, “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” They’ve been pretending, to their children, to liberals, and to themselves, that they oppose socialism and favor free enterprise, even while supporting the fundamental precepts of the welfare state, which is founded on socialist principles.
By and large, they’ve gotten away with it. But along came libertarians, who exposed the life of the lie that conservatives were living by opposing all those socialist programs, including Social Security. That scared the dickens out of conservatives. Those darned libertarians were really and truly committed to the principles of free markets, private property, and limited government. And they were calling out conservatives for their support of statism. How dare them?
What to do? One strategy was to ignore the libertarians. Another was to block them from the political process with ballot barriers, such as petitioning requirements and campaign contribution limits. Another was to marginalize them by referring to them as fringe.
But as the old adage holds, truth will out. For the past several decades, libertarians just keep advancing libertarian principles and opposing the statism of both conservatives and liberals. We just kept speaking our truth and spreading the word.
Consider the drug war, a war that has long been embraced by both conservatives and liberals. Not surprisingly, they’re now both attacking Ron Paul and libertarians for wanting to end this immoral, failed, and destructive war.
How do conservatives reconcile their support of the drug war with their purported support of “free enterprise, private property, and limited government” and their purported opposition to paternalism? They can’t, and they know it. Under genuine principles of freedom and free markets, people have the right to ingest any substance they want and to buy, sell, and possess anything they want.
How do conservatives justify their support of the drug war? In the same way that liberals justify their failed, decades-old war on poverty — by exclaiming, “Please judge us by our good intentions, not by the actual consequences of our policies.”
Look at liberals. They say they oppose racism and favor civil liberties. How do they reconcile that position with their decades-long support of the drug war? They can’t, and they know it. The drug war is most racist government program since segregation, and it has provided the excuse for the most massive infringement on civil liberties, until the war on terrorism came along, another war embraced by both liberals and conservatives.
Look at foreign policy. Both liberals and conservatives now embrace the role of the U.S. government as a worldwide military empire and the concept of foreign interventionism. They’re both furious that people are gravitating to a libertarian political campaign, one that opposes wars of aggression, undeclared wars, invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, assassination, torture, military detention, indefinite detention, kangaroo tribunals, and all the other things that are normally associated with totalitarian regimes.
Consider the monetary system. Both liberals and conservatives remain deeply committed to a system based on irredeemable paper money and a Federal Reserve System that is nothing more than a system of socialist central planning in the monetary sphere. It is only libertarians who advocate sound money and a free-market monetary system. That scares statists to death, especially given that would mean the end of out-of-control federal spending, debt, and inflation.
Ron Paul’s campaign is showing what we libertarians have said for years: There isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between liberals and conservatives. They are both statist to the core. They are statist when it comes to foreign policy. They are statist when it comes to domestic policy.
The battle between liberals and conservatives is over control. Who is going to get to control the levers of power of the welfare-warfare state? Who’s going to get the appointments? Who’s going to get the money?
The reason that libertarians are such a threat to these people is that we’re committed to dismantling the welfare-warfare state that they fighting to control.
The good news is that a growing number of Americans are obviously discovering the truth. You see genuine liberals gravitating to Paul’s campaign because they place a high value on civil liberties and a foreign policy based on trade, friendship, and diplomacy rather than one based on militarism, empire, and interventionism. Some of them are even discovering that liberalism was once based on the principles of free enterprise rather than the principles of socialism.
By the same token, you see conservatives gravitating to Paul’s campaign because they place a high value on economic liberty rather than on socialism. Some of them are even discovering that conservatism was once based on a foreign policy of trade, friendship, and diplomacy rather than one based on militarism, empire, and interventionism.
And you also see independent-minded voters gravitating toward libertarianism, people who are discovering that America’s woes are rooted in statism and that the solution lies in libertarianism — in freedom, free markets, and a limited-government constitutional republic.
The Ron Paul phenomenon obviously has statists scared to death. “We can’t afford to ignore the libertarians any longer. We’re losing too many people from the statist cause,” they’re thinking to themselves. “We’ve got to go on the attack, at once.”
And their attacks, in principle, are the same, whether written by a liberal or a conservative. At their core, they constitute a fundamental defense of statism and a desperate attack on freedom.
What’s exciting is that as the attacks on Ron Paul increase, more and more people are discovering and becoming attracted to libertarianism.