Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Libertarian Rubicon

Over on Rad Geek People’s Daily the Rad Geek recently made some interesting comments. These comments were regarding the death of FBI Narcotics Agent Sam Hicks while executing a no-knock raid.

Seeing as Sam Hicks was a professional thug who was shot in the course of violently enforcing a tyrannical law on an innocent man — and endangering that man's whole family in the process — I'm glad he got himself shot while he was doing it. That was a righteous kill. If only more of his fellow gangsters had reason to fear that they might get shot whenever they attempted these storm-trooper raids on innocent families to enforce unjust laws. And I don't even care whether FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks could have saved his own skin by enforcing that tyrannical law through other, less confrontational means.

He goes further.

But, speaking only for myself, as a libertarian, I think that drug dealers' lives are worth far more than the lives of FBI agents, because at least some drug dealers make their living nonviolently, by peddling a valued product to willing customers. Whereas FBI agents, and especially FBI agents on drug task forces, make their livings by imprisoning people who have done nothing to deserve it, in the name of "protecting" people who never asked for it and often don’t want that kind of "protection," and taking home a salary that was extracted from their "protected" victims at the point of a gun.

This is a courageous stand to take. Libertarians are accustomed to disagreeing with police, even to the point of describing them as tyrants or thugs. But libertarians often stop short of cheering for the death of police officers, no matter how well deserving.

While libertarians generally embrace a revolutionary spirit and talk about the possibility of some day needing to rebel and fight back against government oppressors, the tendency is to couch such language in the future sense and always theoretically. Some of the more disgruntled libertarians like to say "is it time to shoot the bastards yet?"

Another step taken by the Rad Geek is to say that the life of a drug dealer is worth more than that of a police officer. People are trained since childhood to respect police as heroes doing an important and difficult job. While libertarians in general have a dissenting view, they often stop short of actively demeaning officers or glorifying those who defend their homes as heroes, especially when the person the so-called criminal was defending from was a police officer.

In other cases where a person shot a police officer who was presumed to be a home invader, the debate sometimes devolves to whether or not burglary is a death sentence offense. Since it isn't in a court, there is no reason for a person to shoot a burglar, other than the obvious one of the burglar being a threat. Other times the debate devolves into whether or not it is credible that the person didn't know the intruder was a police officer. Plus, given the self-defense angle of those who shoot invading burglars (and police officers) there will be those who insist that the lives of criminals are of equal value to others and therefore should never be taken. That argument is used to make libertarians appear callous for thinking that those who violate the rights of others have forfeited those rights themselves, even though it is true. What makes a police officer different is only a mistaken identity in those arguments.

While cheering is short of actually advocating armed resistance, it is a step closer. The first ones to take it will, of course, be jeered and treated as just a step above criminals themselves even among libertarians. But if the government is oppressive enough it is a necessary step and the first ones to take it will eventually be joined with other voices cheering when a home invader with a badge is treated like any other home invader. And daring to say that the police officer is not a valuable member of society, and that a drug dealer is, is another important step. This goes a step beyond simply comparing police to the criminals they "protect" us from.

This is a Rubicon that each libertarian needs to cross individually, but it is an important one. It's time to stop showing criminals respect simply because they have badges. It's time that people start saying that these thugs get what they deserve when they act like criminals.

Please give to the Salvation Army. They are a charity with a good record on how much of each donation goes to the intended recipient, and this year due to the depression their donations have fallen significantly. That’s unfortunate because in depressions is when charities like this are needed most. Yes, they are a religious based charity, and while I don’t agree with their religious beliefs they do good work. If you’re going to give to a non-political charity, please consider the Salvation Army.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Comparing 1929 to 2008

One of the rebuttals to those who compare the depression of 1928 to 2008 is that unemployment is far lower today than it was then. Of course there are problems with that comparison.

One problem is that every government statistic is a poor reflection of reality. It is well known that inflation calculations exclude certain high inflation items in order to bring the actual rate down. The same is true for unemployment statistics that do not count those who are underemployed, have multiple jobs, and have given up on looking for work or are looking for their first job.

But there is another entirely different factor in the unemployment rates that is overlooked even by most who know how government statistics are inaccurate. A greater portion of the population today work for the government than did in 1929.

This is an important statistical variance. Government jobs are not productive jobs, but instead are a drain on the wealth of those who have actual productive jobs. It is hard to accurately measure the number that work for the government, because in addition to three levels of government to count (federal, state, and local) there are many contractors and subcontractors who directly or indirectly work for the government.

According to government statistics direct government employees include 2.7 million people employed by the federal government, 5 million employed by the state governments, and 14 million people employed by local governments. With a total workforce of 136 million people that’s 16% who are government employees.

The official unemployment rate is 6.7 percent. According to Shadow Stats Alternate Data the actual unemployment rate is about 7 percent higher. That would make an alternate unemployment rate of about 14 percent.

Add to that the number who are government employed, and that puts the non-productive employment rate at 30 percent.

That makes an interesting comparison to the unemployment rate during the Great Depression. In 1930 the unemployment rate was comparable to the current rate, and in 1931 the rate was comparable to the alternate unemployment rate. In 1932 the rate was below the current non-productive employment rate.

Year Unemployment Rate
1929 3.2
1930 8.7
1931 15.9
1932 23.6
1933 24.9
1934 21.7
1935 20.1
1936 16.9
1937 14.3
1938 19.0
1939 17.2

The problem with those numbers is that government employment greatly increased due to public works projects due to the Hoover/Roosevelt New Deal.

Given all the factors that go into calculating employment, the rate of those who are productively employed is indeed comparable already to the Great Depression. The usual proposed Keynesian solution, even more public works programs, will be extremely difficult to implement given the large percentage of people who already work for the government.

Please give to the Salvation Army. They are a charity with a good record on how much of each donation goes to the intended recipient, and this year due to the depression their donations have fallen significantly. That’s unfortunate because in depressions is when charities like this are needed most. Yes, they are a religious based charity, and while I don’t agree with their religious beliefs they do good work. If you’re going to give to a non-political charity, please consider the Salvation Army.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

States and the Recession

In spite of federal efforts to stop it, the recession is continuing unabated. Unemployment is rising while prices and property values are falling. While the federal government has mismanagement options that enable it to spend in spite of decreased revenues, other levels of government do not have the same capabilities.

The states generally get funding from income taxes and sales taxes. Cities and counties generally get funding from property taxes and sales taxes. As unemployment rises, income tax revenues decline. As sales decrease, sales tax revenues decline. As property values plummet, property tax revenues decline.

Government officials find the prospect of cutting the budget abhorrent. That leaves the states in a quandary.

Some states are already turning to the federal government for bailout money. Not all agree, but the trend is there. Other states are looking for which taxes can be raised. Some are increasing their ticketing to increase revenue.

On the issue of raising taxes during a recession, Keynesians and Austrians agree it is a bad idea. States that do so are implementing bad economic programs, often in opposition to tax decreases implemented by the federal government.

A better solution would simply be for the states to do what everyone else has to do, and to adjust expenditures downward to match revenues.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Liberals versus the Nolan Chart

To those who followed the link here from Rational Review, I did not suggest there is an economic relationship between conservatives and libertarians. One of the links goes to an entry called "Conservatives versus the Nolan Chart" which argues that the relationship does not exist. References to that relationship in this article are meant to be used as "that one was false, what about this one?"

It's often assumed that libertarians share a civil outlook with the liberals and an economic outlook with conservatives. The economic differences between conservatives and libertarians have been documented several times here and here. That leaves the question of whether or not libertarians share a civil outlook with liberals, or if that is as accurate a representation as the economic relationship between libertarians and conservatives has proven to be.

The problem is both camps do appear to be talking about different things when the subject of civil liberty is mentioned. When California Proposition 98 was put on the ballot to oppose eminent domain, the ACLU of Southern California opposed it while the Libertarian Party of California supported it. Liberals do not seem to regard surety of property as a civil liberty, but only an economic one.

That’s the first difference. Libertarians believe you cannot have civil liberty without private property, but liberals believe the two to be entirely different and, in some cases, antithetical.

But if it were possible to separate out the economic from the civil are there differences remaining? Indeed there are, and both sides consider themselves to be on the correct side of each divide because both define the matter differently.

The biggest area of difference is freedom of association. Libertarians would not restrict distasteful choices people make. Liberals would. Both sides say that by doing so they are advancing civil liberty. For the greater good liberals are willing to eliminate freedom of association and call it racial justice, or gender justice, or some other group justice. Affirmative action programs and other similar programs will force individuals to act in ways that the liberal feels with expand civil liberty.

The libertarian feels that there is no civil liberty unless it is on the individual level, that there is no such thing as civil liberty for groups, that groups do not have rights. Libertarians feel that if the rights of the individual are diminished for the sake of any group right then the rights of all individuals are diminished.

Much like when the conservative is unable to differentiate between a libertarian and a libertine, accusing a libertarian who would never touch drugs of being a druggie since he supports drug legalization, a liberal is unable to differentiate between a libertarian and a bigot due to the libertarian's objection to the entire concept of group rights. In both cases the libertarian's position has been either misunderstood or is being distorted.

Both the conservative and the liberal in that example are ascribing to libertarians a sort of legal positivism, an ideology that is as far removed from libertarianism as it is possible to be. The legal positivist believes something good because the law says so. From a legal positivist point of view, the libertarian call to legalize drugs is the same as the libertine call to do drugs, and the libertarian call to end group rights is the same as the bigot's call to discriminate against those groups.

It’s a straw man.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Automotive Bailouts

The "Big Three" of the automobile industry are lining up to be next at the trough of government funds. For a pleasant change, Congress is insisting on knowing what the money will be spent on before wasting it on yet another bailout that will do more harm than good.

If they do not get a bailout, they will probably have to go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which will cause a restructuring of the companies and a renegotiation of the contracts. The companies will not actually disappear.

While it was the executives that went to Washington to ask for the bailout, the major supporter of the bailout is the unions.

The United Auto Workers is a very large an important union. If the "big three" go into bankruptcy, it will cause a renegotiation of the contracts they have with the unions. That will severely weaken the UAW, and through them, the unions as a whole. This comes just when the unions were eagerly anticipating the Orwellian "Employee Free Choice Act" which will greatly strengthen the unions. Just as they were expecting to increase their power is when their power was suddenly threatened.

This bailout may look like a bailout to big business, but it is more a bailout to big labor. The ability to drain the wealth of those who purchase their goods through restraint of trade being threatened, the unions are instead attempting to drain the wealth of everyone without regards towards purchases by having the government do it through taxation.

Given that the government is bankrupt and that the country is in a recession that is turning into a depression, the UAW might try to set more realistic goals regarding their ability to squeeze more money out of the consumer through anti-competitive practices. Once there are no longer any jobs, it doesn’t matter how much those jobs pay

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama the war hawk

Barack Obama has not yet been sworn in as President and already he is abandoning campaign promises.

In the primaries, when campaigning against Hillary Clinton, she ran as a staunch hawk on foreign policy issues. Obama ran a campaign opposing both Clinton and Bush by running as a peace candidate, pledging to withdraw from Iraq and to favor diplomacy over military action. By successfully tying Clinton to Bush and running against both and for peace, he was able to defeat her in the primaries.

Then, in the general election, his anti-war rhetoric was dramatically softened. He still ran on a pledge to withdraw from Iraq and to engage in diplomacy with other countries perceived as potential threats, but favored escalation in Afghanistan. That was sufficient given that his opponent publicly stated he was willing to remain in Iraq for one hundred years and joked in song about bombing Iran.

After having won the general election, Obama’s first major cabinet appointment was pro-war Rahm Emanual for Chief of Staff. Now it appears he is planning to offer the major diplomatic spot, the Secretary of State, to Hillary Clinton. The Secretary of State is the highest diplomatic office, and Obama is offering the spot to someone whose position on diplomacy is the opposite of Obama’s campaign rhetoric.

This follows quickly on the heels of his promise to not hire lobbyists, another change that he quickly abandoned. Already the special pleading has begun to explain why this shows he is showing superior judgement.

Combine his newfound hawkishness with his calls for national service, and the potential for a draft becomes quite ominous.

When Obama promised change, many people assumed he meant to change the country, but it seems that instead he proposed to change himself once elected. Which Barack Obama was actually elected, the one whose record he appears to continue or the one his supporters thought he was?

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Path Ahead

Now that the election is over, and Obama has beaten McCain, the question for libertarians is "now what?"

There are several things that a lover of liberty must do now that the socialist and reluctant warmonger beat the warmonger and reluctant socialist.

First, it is important to keep pressure on the Democrats to remember that one of the reasons Obama won their support was because he was allegedly the peace candidate. Granted that compared to McCain in the general election or Clinton in the Democratic primary he does appear to be a peace candidate, but compared to actual peace candidates like Paul or Kucinich he’s very much a hawk.

Pressure must be kept on the Democrats to actually work to disengage militarily. During the next year they are going to discover that they do like war after all, because the President leading the war effort is of their party instead of the other party. The appointment of Rahm Emmanuel to Chief of Staff is disturbing because it shows the process is already underway.

Second, all libertarians should prepare for when Obama (and a compliant congress) tries to introduce Universal Health Care or some other version of Socialist Medicine. It may even be necessary to work with the underdog Republicans on this. A necessary step for the Democrats to take if they want to implement this will be to change the cloture rules so that the Republicans cannot filibuster the proposal. Loudly and publicly proclaim any tinkering with the cloture rules to be a power grab and vociferously denounce it.

Third, be prepared to oppose calls for national service. Obama already wants us to perform national service simply in order to graduate from high school. His Chief of Staff has different plan for forcing everyone to do community service, and it is even less voluntary than the allegedly voluntary plan of Obama.

Fourth, many Obama supporters believed he was going to act in direct contrast to his record on issues other than the war, on issues like the USAPATRIOT Act and FISA Amendment, the Wall Street Crisis, and NAFTA, as well as a few others where (perhaps by accident) Obama was actually right and his supporters still believed he held the opposite view. Every time Obama acts in a manner consistent with Obama's record but inconsistent with how his supporters thought he would act is another moment to say "see I told you so." It will not likely work as on each of those positions his supporters will discover that the position Obama actually supports was what they supported all along, just like Oceana was always at war with EastAsia.

Fifth, the Republicans are busy trying to figure out where they went wrong. Be sure to tell them that they had a candidate who could have beaten Obama, and they wouldn’t even count his votes at the convention. Be sure to remind the local Republican organizations about that. Send them the message "don't blame me, I voted Paul." Even if it isn't true, because not all libertarians did so, it should be said because all Republicans need to hear that.

Sixth, work should not stop on trying to open up the electoral process, a task that is never finished.

Seventh, there will be an effort by Democrats to blame the depression on a hypothetical laissez faire attitue of Bush that must be countered at every turn. Do not allow anyone to describe the financial meltdown as the result of deregulation as Hoover leaves office and Roosevelt enters office.

Finally, never forget to ask the Reform Caucus where are the additional votes Barr was supposed to deliver.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Conspiracy Theory and its Discontents

In 2006 the Reform Caucus radically watered down the LP platform. In 2008 the Reform Caucus pushed forward Bob Barr and Wayne Root as the nominees. Due to these two efforts it is now difficult to distinguish the Libertarian Party from a watered down Republican Party. The Drug War is perhaps the only area of clear difference, as the War Caucus (misnamed as the Defense Caucus) insists that it is wrong to list being against wars of aggression as a libertarian value.

In 2008 Alan Keyes also attempted to gain the nomination of the Constitution Party, but succeeded only in getting their ballot line in the state of California. Being the most populous state that ballot line is crucial to any party that seeks to grow large enough to be considered a major party someday, and the vote is split between Keyes and the actual Constitution Party nominee. In 2000 Patrick Buchanan sought and won the nomination of the Reform Party, and that party has since disappeared.

It would not be far fetched to suggest that the Republican Party has been cynically manipulating third parties for their personal gain. It would not be far fetched to suggest that Buchanan, Keyes, and Barr are all Republican Party plants to either neutralize or destroy third parties that are perceived as threats. It’s not a secret that Republicans have also donated to Ralph Nader and the Green Party in order to bolster threats to the Republican Party.

The problem with saying that that is the case is that there is insufficient proof. Every bit of evidence is circumstantial. None of it proves an actual policy on the part of Republicans or the Republican Party.

That’s the problem with conspiracy theory. It’s obvious who would benefit if there is a conspiracy of this sort. What is missing is any actual proof.

In all attempts to participate in the political process, roadblocks are placed in the way of anyone outside of the party machinery to get anything done. These roadblocks are said to be there to regulate what is done, not to prevent people from acting. They do, in fact, prevent people from acting. If two people get together to make signs against a ballot proposition, they are in fact an unregistered political action committee and their signs therefore do not contain the appropriate legal notices of the committee that put them up, and therefore those two individuals could be subjected to thousands of dollars of fines for violating campaign finance laws.

The authors of those laws claim that the purpose of those laws is to regulate the process, not to exclude. In no public statement have they said otherwise. Therefore to suggest otherwise is to engage in conspiracy theory, since actual proof is lacking. It’s obvious by effect what these laws do, but one cannot prove that the effect is the desired effect of the law.

The First Brigade has been deployed to the United States. The major media doesn’t cover it, much as major media doesn’t cover third parties and the major media doesn’t cover non-mainstream candidates from the major parties. All four of the Campaign for Liberty candidates aren’t covered (Barr is one of them whether he admits so or not) just as the founder of the CfL wasn’t covered when he was a candidate for a major party. Some suggest they aren’t newsworthy, because that is the non-conspiracy viewpoint. It can be shown that they are newsworthy but still not covered. To suggest there’s a deliberate effort to exclude these stories is to engage in conspiracy theory as there is no actual proof, only circumstantial evidence.

Is there a police state coming in the United States? The expanded police powers of the USAPATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act, and similar laws, coupled with the domestic deployment of the First Brigade suggest as much, but since nobody in any official position of power has come out and said "yes, we are planning on a police state" the position that there may very well be a police state coming is not considered a credible position and is considered instead to be conspiracy theory in spite of the circumstantial evidence.

The problem with asserting these as true is that there is no proof that it is true. The problem with asserting these as false is that the circumstantial evidence all points the other way. The problem with dismissing these as conspiracy theory is that just because something is a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean that it is false, only that it is unproven.

If there are these conspiracies, then the labeling of anyone who investigates them as a “conspiracy theorist” and then to have anyone with that label considered mentally unbalanced would be their biggest triumph. Anyone who looks for anything beyond what the media reports is therefore unbalanced.

To be fair, many conspiracy theorists brought this on themselves because faced with circumstantial evidence but no proof too many have declared that to be sufficient and declared their theory to be true. Having found who benefits they decide that the same are the initiators of the conspiracy itself.

Also the question needs to be asked of those who harp on insufficient proof if they actually expect those who would be the conpirators to confiess to what they are planning? If there is a plan in the Republican Party to nullify third parties (or take them over) would Republican leaders admit to this? If there is a plan for a police state, would politicans admit to this? If there is a conspiracy to black out certain candidates and parties from the media, would the media cover it?

The rational and skeptical point of view is that there may be truth to these conspiracies, that they should not be dismissed out of hand, but not proclaimed true until further proof is forthcoming. Those who benefit from these measures should be treated with suspicion instead of being treated as guilty (as the theorists do) or as innocent (as the critics do). Those who are interested should work to find proof or disproof, using qui bono and circumstantial evidence as a starting point.

On a final note, is it possible that Republicans, anticipating the demise of their own party, degraded the Libertarian Party platform in 2006 and alienated the "purists" in 2008 so that the LP could be a replacement of their own party in 2012?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Arizona Proposition 105

Innovative ways to restrain the state are always interesting and always a good idea, provided that they actually do restrain the state. Proposition 13 of California was such a one, restricting the ability of governments in California from raising the property taxes.

Arizona is set to vote on another way of restraining the state by restraining taxation, Proposition 105.

The proposition requires that any tax increase, in order to pass, gain a true majority in the polls. A true majority is a majority of all registered voters, not just those that show up to the polls.

This means that unless a majority of the voters show up at all, tax increases will fail. This means that if a majority does show up, and a majority of that majority votes for the tax increase, it does not mean it will pass because 50% of 50% is 25%, which is a minority of the voters.

Critics of this measure decry this as a way to count the votes of those who did not vote, because there is truth to the argument that any absent vote counts against the measure. The argument is that the state is unable to determine the true intent of those who do not vote, and therefore should not be able to count them in favor or against any tax increase.

The critics acknowledge that raising taxes via ballot initiatives, a popular method among state legislatures that do not want to take responsibility for tax increases, will be much harder.

And that is good. That is why 105 should pass.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Issues Designed to Divide

In California there is a proposition on the ballot of very little importance. It is the one receiving the most media attention and has passions running the highest. Proposition 8 is about gay marriage.

There are two aspects to the gay marriage debate. The first is whether or not homosexual couples should have the same legal rights in their unions as heterosexual couples do in their unions. The second is whether or not these unions can be called "marriages." The first touches on libertarian issues, in an oblique way. The second is utterly irrelevant.

The libertarian take on the first question is that government should not be in the marriage business in the first place. The debate in the public arena is whether the government’s involvement should be to recognize or not recognize with government approval and government licensing the gay union. Libertarians who take a stand on this question will often come down on "if the have to be involved, they should at least treat everyone equally" which is a fair position.

There is absolutely no libertarian take on the second question. It is designed to keep the public debating a completely irrelevant point. It doesn't matter if congress just is busy incrementally voting in a police state if everyone is debating whether or not homosexual unions can be called "marriage". It doesn’t matter which direction the question is settled, the fact that everyone is debating the question is sufficient to keep people from questioning other issues.

If everyone is debating whether or not McCain looked Obama directly in the eyes during the debate, nobody is noticing that they didn't disagree on any basic issues.

If everyone is debating whether or not ACORN submitted phony voter registrations (or had infiltrators submit them) they do not see the bigger voter fraud picture of Ballot Access Laws, Campaign Finance Laws, and Safe Districts.

Distractions are the method of modern politics. Many are distracted by the tabloids. For those who actually think politics is important, there are distraction issues to deal with them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

George W. Bush is Herbert Hoover

George W. Bush is very much like Herbert Hoover, but not in the way most people understand that statement.

Herbert Hoover was, contrary to the myths, a very economically activist president. When the Great Recession started, he worked tirelessly to try to bail out the failing banks. He started many of the programs that eventually became part of FDR's "New Deal". In doing so he made the Great Recession worse, and since his programs were those of the New Deal, he started the Great Depression. As a result he lost his party the office of the Presidency for decades. The other party (in the person of FDR) gained power and formally instituted the New Deal.

Some of the blame Bush is getting is for allegedly being too free market, allowing the market to proceed unchecked. Allegedly his disbelief in government caused him to deregulate the banking industry, even though there is no truth to that belief.

It should be noted that the Republican Party does not believe in deregulation. The Republican Party believes in regulation, just to the benefit of a different group than the Democratic Party does. Both of them have faith in the government; they just have different faiths from each other. Libertarians are the ones without faith in the government. The Democrats seem confused on the issue of this faith, mistaking heresy for disbelief, but the truth is that compared to the Democrats the Republicans are heretics of big government instead of atheists of big government. Even then few regulations were removed or changed.

The free market got the blame in 1929 for the inflation of the Federal Reserve and the failure of the market interventions of Hoover. The free market is getting the blame in 2008 for the inflation of the Federal Reserve and the failure of the market interventions of Bush.

Bush is in the process of losing his party control of the Presidency, and will be handing the office over to Barack Obama, who will bring us a New Deal to try to solve the economic woes of the United States, completing the cycle and bringing a new Great Depression out of Bush’s Great Recession.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Party Divide in the Bailout

Now that the bank bailout has been passed it should be obvious to everyone that there are no real differences between the two primary political parties of the United States. Both the presidential candidates voted in favor of the bailout both the times it was presented to the Senate. The voting was not divided along Republican versus Democrat lines. The voting was divided along rank-and-file versus maverick lines.

Those who are not highly regarded by their own parties did not heed the call to vote for the bailout, opting to represent regular Americans instead of their parties and the special interests that control them. These are the Representatives and Senators who seldom get committee assignments and are seldom invited to speak at conventions or other party events.

Those who voted for the bailout represent the mainstreams of both parties, those that follow the line of the party leadership. These are the Representatives and Senators who always get the spotlight and they chose to represent Wall Street instead of Main Street as directed by their financial backers.

The divide isn’t between the parties, it's within the parties. It isn't between Obama and McCain, it is between Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich on one side and John McCain and Barack Obama on the other.

This was part of the message of the Campaign for Liberty. The parties do not represent the American People, and have not for a very long time. The only politicians who might actually and truly represent the people is if the people vote third party. Of the four that should have been there it is certain that at least one of them would have been an optimal candidate for any American who isn't dedicated to party first and foremost.

The optimal solution is for the maverics of both parties to join the Campaign for Liberty. That is not likely but it would be best for the United States.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

President Bush really is the worst spender

Bush really is the least fiscally responsible president the United States has ever had

It is often claimed that George W. Bush is the biggest spender. The numbers used to prove it are the current deficit figures, which form a very poor basis for comparison based on the fluctuating value of the dollar.

However, it is still true. Taking the National Debt figures from the United States treasury, one can calculate the deficit for each year. The deficits were then converted to 1794 constant dollars based on the value of gold for each year. The four years of each president’s term were added together to determine the overall per-term deficit or surplus.

It is necessary to consider each term separately because otherwise a two term president would default to a worse spender than a single term president given nearly equal deficits for each.

The figures for each president are as follows:

-99,776,642,401.45 Bush Jr Term 1
-96,408,875,337.91 F Roosevelt Term 3
-90,255,665,689.94 Bush Sr
-63,508,876,217.31 Clinton Term 1
-60,226,092,484.91 Bush Jr Term 2
-55,620,058,613.77 Reagan Term 2
-37,083,571,857.12 Nixon
-34,590,184,231.84 Reagan Term 1
-31,541,432,371.56 Clinton Term 2
-30,632,171,603.66 Nixon / Ford
-30,513,251,062.43 F Roosevelt / Truman
-25,169,881,466.50 Carter
-22,277,279,516.03 Wilson Term 2
-19,947,226,430.95 L. Johnson
-14,907,433,625.97 Kennedy / Johnson
-9,064,312,546.96 F Roosevelt Term 1
-8,064,456,770.95 Eisenhower Term 1
-7,979,119,959.91 Eisenhower Term 2
-5,516,035,432.17 F Roosevelt Term 2
-4,087,245,363.90 Truman
-2,006,485,523.53 Hoover
-1,750,942,082.69 Lincoln Term 1
-845,903,480.62 Lincoln / Johnson
-738,552,212.80 Wilson Term 1
-366,738,464.61 McKinley
-362,676,610.68 T Roosevelt Term 2
-241,610,193.89 Taft
-181,124,526.17 Cleveland Term 2
-126,862,797.32 T Roosevelt Term 1
-82,125,195.84 Madison Term 2
-32,869,749.98 Buchanan
-23,583,209.73 Polk
-19,154,479.48 Taylor / Fillmore
-18,210,776.96 Tyler
-6,534,247.41 Washington Term 2
-3,535,830.77 VanBuren
-3,450,826.53 Jefferson Term 1
-1,764,448.14 Washington Term 1
745,788.38 Monroe Term 2
785,877.72 John Adams
19,986,580.07 Madison Term 1
21,230,802.91 Jefferson Term 2
22,794,733.90 John Quincy Adams
24,284,722.13 Jackson Term 2
34,226,803.81 Pierce
36,319,367.59 Monroe Term 1
43,152,808.69 Jackson Term 1
59,905,475.18 Hayes
72,820,997.22 Grant Term 2
104,415,146.68 Harrison
137,703,187.95 Cleveland Term 1
289,746,134.16 Garfield / Arthur
408,388,139.06 Grant Term 1
3,647,830,832.07 Coolidge
4,686,460,530.01 Harding / Coolidge

George W. Bush’s second term is not yet finished, and yet it is already in fifth place for cumulative constant dollar deficits. His numbers are comparatively reduced due to the price of gold shooting up during his term.

There is a definite correlation between how recently the president served and how large the cumulative constant value deficit is. Every president during or after the Great Depression is represented at the top of the list of deficit spenders, along with Wilson for the costs incurred during World War One. The top ten includes all recent presidents except Carter, but also includes FDR for his Word War Two spending. Both of Clinton’s terms are in the top ten, even though Clinton ran the smallest deficit in recent history during his last year in office. The other three years of deficits were enough to place the term in the top ten.

The last administration to have a cumulative surplus is the Coolidge administration. The biggest saver of all times is the Harding / Coolidge administration, ranked by historians as one of the worst presidential administrations of all time. Although not reflected in the chart, the last president to actually run a surplus was Eisenhower, but the cumulative deficits put his terms into the negative.

In the nineteenth century there was a more consistent effort to reduce the debt, excepting during wars. Presidents of both parties worked to run surpluses to that the debt may be reduced.

Counter arguments to these figures could be using federal budget figures instead of federal deficit figures, and using other means of adjusting to a constant dollar.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Campaign for Liberty

Ron Paul attempted to get the four leading third party candidates together at a joint press conference. The concept was that there were certain principles that all four were supposed to agree upon, although for different reasons, and most importantly the principle that third parties should be heard.

Unfortunately Bob Barr did not show, snubbing Ron Paul’s effort. If he had been there the message of the Campaign for Liberty would be unmistakable. The candidates that did show also received criticism for doing so. Chuck Baldwin is criticized for sharing a stage with Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader. Alan Maass of the Socialist Worker newsletter objected to Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader for sharing a stage with Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin. Baldwin supporter are sniping at Barr supporters over who is better fit to carry Ron Paul’s torch into the general election.

That is not the message Ron Paul was trying to send.

The message is not that supporters of one candidate should vote for the other candidates. The message is not that the four invited candidates are equally good. The message is actually pretty clear, and would be more so had Barr done the right thing and attended this joint press conference.

The message is as follows:

Take any average American voter. Take stock of what he wants of the government, what he wants a politician to do. It is more likely that said voter will find one of those four candidates to be in greater agreement than said voter would be with Barack Obama or John McCain. The four candidates on the stage collectively represent the different poles of political opinion in their four different directions than Obama or McCain can hope to.

The message continues:

Third party voters shouldn’t vote against their conscience by supporting a candidate with whom they truly disagree. They should vote for a candidate for whom they truly agree. The obligation third party supporters have towards each other is assistance in getting the candidates on the ballot so that the American people can have a choice. Third party supporters are not required to vote for each others candidates or donate to each others parties. They should assist in every other way.

Given that message, there is no reason at all for supporters of the fourth candidate to fight, beyond the fact that Barr apparently does not fully support the four points:

Foreign Policy: The Iraq War must end as quickly as possible with removal of all our soldiers from the region. We must initiate the return of our soldiers from around the world, including Korea, Japan, Europe and the entire Middle East. We must cease the war propaganda, threats of a blockade and plans for attacks on Iran, nor should we re-ignite the cold war with Russia over Georgia. We must be willing to talk to all countries and offer friendship and trade and travel to all who are willing. We must take off the table the threat of a nuclear first strike against all nations.

Privacy: We must protect the privacy and civil liberties of all persons under US jurisdiction. We must repeal or radically change the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the FISA legislation. We must reject the notion and practice of torture, eliminations of habeas corpus, secret tribunals, and secret prisons. We must deny immunity for corporations that spy willingly on the people for the benefit of the government. We must reject the unitary presidency, the illegal use of signing statements and excessive use of executive orders.

The National Debt: We believe that there should be no increase in the national debt. The burden of debt placed on the next generation is unjust and already threatening our economy and the value of our dollar. We must pay our bills as we go along and not unfairly place this burden on a future generation.

The Federal Reserve: We seek a thorough investigation, evaluation and audit of the Federal Reserve System and its cozy relationships with the banking, corporate, and other financial institutions. The arbitrary power to create money and credit out of thin air behind closed doors for the benefit of commercial interests must be ended. There should be no taxpayer bailouts of corporations and no corporate subsidies. Corporations should be aggressively prosecuted for their crimes and frauds.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Lesson of 9/12/2001

As the anniversary of 9/11 arrives and then leaves, people reflect on the lessons of 9/11. What specifically are those lessons? "There are people out there who wish to do us harm" is an oft used answer, and an accurate one. "That we should defend ourselves from them" is the same. "That there are consequences to our policies in the Middle East that result in people wanting to do us harm" is not a common answer to the question, although it should be.

Some of the lessons of 9/11 were learned. Others were mis-learned, which caused people to exacerbate the policies that led to the attack in the first place. Objecting to those policies has caused people to say "Have you learned nothing from 9/11? Do you want the terrorists to win?" That is not the lesson of 9/11.

The lessons of 9/11 are important. So are the lessons of 9/12.

What are the lessons of 9/12? That life goes on. The earth continued its spin on its axis as it continued to orbit the sun. People continued to wake up in the morning, go to work, come home in the evening, and then go back to bed. Life goes on.

Another lesson of 9/12 is that because life goes on, we have time to calm down and make rational decisions based upon traumatic events that happened in the past. For some it takes longer to get over trauma than others, but in all cases passions subside and thought can take over.

Taking the time to recover so that we can think clearly instead of simply reacting emotionally, we can come up with ways to make ourselves safer from terrorists. Learning the lessons of "blowback" would be a great place to start. It is not "blaming the US" or "wanting the terrorists to win" (both emotional responses) to change any actions of ours that might have caused or contributed to 9/11.

Few people have learned the lessons of 9/12. The existence of the War on Terror and the Department of Homeland Security are a testament to some people never leaving that day. For them life did not go on, they are stuck in one moment. They never learned that it is possible to move on and think clearly about what happened.

It is time for everyone to learn the lessons of 9/12. It is time to get rid of the DHS and end the War on Terror, because it is no longer 9/11/2001. It hasn’t been 9/11/2001 in a very long time.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Bugger the TSA part 2

The TSA Blog has answered some of the questions put to them from Bugger the TSA, but their answers and subsequent actions have raised more questions. So for those who wish to force answers, here are additional questions that can be used.

1. The Blog Team has stated that those who refuse to show ID will not be allowed access to the terminals. TSOs who write comments have stated otherwise. Who is correct?

2. Given the new ID requirement, you have stated that your name won't pe but on a terrorist watch list if you forget your ID. Will it be put there if you politely refuse to show ID?

3. Is a person who politely refuses to show ID more dangerous than someone who forgot his ID?

4. If someone is barred for politely refusing to show ID, and someone else is allowed access for claiming to have forgotten ID when that someone else hasn't, isn't that a censoring of political opinions?

5. Is there a single authoritative list of rules that passengers must obey to quickly and efficiently get through the TSA checkpoints? (Thanks to blogger Phil)

6. Please reconcile the mandatory showing of ID with C.F.R. 49 § 1540.5. (Thanks to blogger Trollkiller)

7. How can someone find out if he's on the watch list? What is the procedure to be taken off the watch list or the no fly list?

8. How do the "on the spot" fines align with the Administrative Procedures Act? How does doubling of the fines for those who ask how to context fines align with the Administrative Procedures Act?

9. Why does the TSA care if a domestic passenger (not an overseas passenger) is carrying a large amount of cash?

10. Given that the TSA is supposed to guard access to the sterile areas of the airport, what is the legal basis for having passive MMW technology installed in other areas of the airport? Why are those monitoring the screens not sheltered from public view?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Democracy is not a Panacea

Over the course of the 20th Century and leading into the 21st Century there has been a goal in mind over much of the world to expand democracy, to spread democracy, to make the world safe for democracy.

This is done because it is imagined that if more countries were democratic, more countries would be like the Western Democracies.

The point that is being missed is that form is not function. Just because a country is a democracy does not mean that the country is a liberal democracy. Take, for example Iraq. There are three religious/ethnic groups in Iraq, the largest being the Shiites in southern Iraq. The Shiites are a majority.

It has been predicted by some that if actual democracy were instituted in Iraq, the Shiites would vote to violate the rights of the Sunni and the Kurds, because they are a majority. This would be a "sectarian democracy", and not a liberal democracy. This may not necessarily be the case, but it is a possibility founded on the basic demographics of the country in question. It is the reason why some call for a partitioning of Iraq, to guarantee each population group the ability to not be dominated by the others.

People seem to think that "democracy" automatically means "liberal democracy". They forget that "democracy" is the form, and that "liberal" is the function. It is the "liberal" in "liberal democracy" that provides the restrained government instituted to protect the rights of the people.

In terms of respecting the rights of the people, what is the effective difference between a liberal democracy and a liberal monarchy? One could argue that democracy gives people checks on the government should the government decide to move in an illiberal direction, whereas there are no checks if the king should decide so. The problem is what would be the check if the public decided to move the democratic government in an illiberal direction? Proponents of democracy do not have an answer for that.

It should be remembered that it was a democracy that martyred Socrates. The majority did not care for what he taught, and as a result he was tried, convicted, and executed. This was all done according to the proper democratic procedures.

Instead of spreading democracy, what should be spread are the liberal values that are often associated with democracy. This cannot be done at the point of a gun.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Positive and Negative Liberty

Isaiah Berlin once did a valuable service to the cause of liberty. He wrote a rather muddled book that discussed the difference between positive liberty and negative liberty. People are familiar with negative liberty - it is the "leave me alone" liberty that forms the cross-axis of the Nolan Chart, stretching from Statist to Libertarian. What is less familiar to most people is positive liberty, which is the liberty of having a voice in government, be it the ability to vote, to create and implement ballot initiatives, or to run for office.

This is an important distinction because occasionally these two come into conflict. When the come into conflict, the libertarian believes that negative liberty must win while the democratic statist believes that positive liberty must win.

A common theme among those who would argue against libertarianism is that the will of the majority must be obeyed. "What if the majority is wrong?" and often ducked question, is occasionally answered with "then work within the system to change the system."

It is a commonly used argument, to obey the majority, often expressed in the fallacious argument that by refusing to obey the majority the one doing so is imposing his will on the majority. This is an accusation that disturbs libertarians because the one thing the libertarian doesn't believe in is forcing others to comply with his will, but instead wished to be left alone and to leave others alone on all matters political.

It is a fallacious argument because it ignores the difference between initiated force and responsive force. When a libertarian says "you cannot pass that law", he is not saying "you must do as I say" but "there is no just reason for me to do as you say." Others can still choose of their own free will to act as if the unpassed law applies to them, by refraining from whatever activity the law was supposed to restrict or engaging in whatever activity the law was supposed to mandate.

The difference between initiated force and responsive force is glossed over in an effort to create a moral equivalent that takes the issue outside of the question of whether force itself is justified. Having dispensed with the integral moral question, the only remaining question is whether the majority or the minority shall have dictatorial power. By that mindset, a libertarian saying "no" is imposing dictatorial power.

The proper response by the libertarian when accused of imposing his will on others is "Yes, I do impose my will on muggers when they ask for my wallet." That places the question firmly back in the realm of whether or not the resisted action is justified, the one place statists do not wish it to go. The counter arguments range far and wide to try to distinguish between different types of initiatory force.

But even those who wish to engage in initiatory force through democratic action seem to have limits to what they would consider a justified action for the government to take. Based on the principle that a government action is good because it is approved by the majority, an inevitable conclusion is that it is perfectly justified for 90% to strip the remaining 10% of all of their rights, including the right to protest such a stripping. This is an issue always avoided by democratic positivists.

If one is to be consistent, there are absolutely no limits on what a democratic positivist would place on the majority’s decision making power.

Often times the question is phrased in terms of the social contract, and that the libertarian saying "no" is somehow violating the social contract. It should be noted that the social contract is a myth, nothing more. It is a useful myth, but it is still a myth. It is useful in that it is an intellectual tool used to analyze the relationship between the individual and the society as expressed through the government.

In this myth, people had the freedom to kill each other but not the right to life, the freedom to steal, but not the right to property, et cetera. Dissatisfied with that state of affairs they banded together and agreed to certain terms, that they would respect each others rights in exchange for a respect for their own rights. In order to safeguard this arrangement government was established to protect and enforce these rights.

The problem is that now those who wish to impose their will on others through the government have co-opted the term "social contract" and use it to mean that since government has decided everyone else is obligated to obey. What they do not realize, or hope nobody else realizes, is that by using the term "social contract" they undermine their own case. The Social Contract is specifically about respecting people's rights, and under social contract theory any government that violates the contract is not a legitimate government and the people have the right to overthrow said government.

Saying "social contract" in the abused sense of it as used by statists is simply another way to say that positive rights trump negative rights.

Positive and negative liberty can be arranged into a four quadrant chart similar in appearance to the Nolan Chart or Pournelle Chart. In the quadrant where both are low the result is despotism. In the quadrant of low positive and high negative the result is a libertarian monarch. In the quadrant of high positive and low negative the result is mob rule and the martyrdom of Socrates. Finally in the quadrant where both are high the result is anarcho-capitalism or other variants on libertarianism.

The important point of all of this is to remember that democracy is simply a form, not a function, of government. Libertarianism is concerned with the function, that government maximizes the rights of the people. When politicians talk about spreading democracy, they express their own ignorance of the difference between function and form. What should be spread isn’t democracy, but liberty.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Missing Case for Military Intervention

Whenever a conflict erupts somewhere in the world, invariably there are calls for the United States to intervene. If there are no actual United States interests at stake in the conflict invariably the argument comes up that if Hitler had been opposed early enough there would have been no World War Two.

There is only one valid response to arguments from Hitler, and that is to point out that the person making the argument that World War One proves intervention necessary.

It is inarguable that way World War One ended was the primary cause of World War Two. The only way to avoid that point is to only look at causes that occurred after Hitler’s rise to power in Germany.

Starting the search at that point and forbidding earlier causes is intellectually not a supportable practice. The only reason to do so is to advance a particular political agenda, but those who support that agenda do so fiercely and insist on only analyzing causes that support interventionism and never analyzing causes that oppose it.

The largest contributing factor to World War Two was the resolution of World War One. The Treaty of Versailles imposed overly harsh and punitive terms on Germany. The economic damage caused by the harsh terms, coupled with the social insult of being made to admit full fault in a war that was as much the fault of France as it was Germany and having those terms imposed even though foreign troops never actually entered Germany laid all the groundwork for the rise of Hitler and the waging of World War Two.

If it were not for the Treaty of Versailles, there would have been no World War Two.

The Treaty of Versailles was made possible by the intervention of the United States, both before and after the United States entered the war officially. Before the United States declared war the support given to the Allied Powers gave them an edge against the Central Powers in terms of supplies. It was an open secret that the United States was shipping munitions to Great Britain, and that the submarine warfare that Germany condemned so loudly was aimed at munitions. Sinking a cargo ship full or arms was not sufficient to for President Wilson to goad the USA into war, which is why they were later shipped on civilian cruise ships.

Even with that edge, the Central Powers were able to maintain the stalemate that was draining the wealth and population of both sides. That is why President Wilson was seeking a plausible excuse, such as the Lusitania, to actively involve United States troops. The entry of a powerful country that was not drained by several years of warfare was too much for the Central Powers to withstand, and the war ended with an Allied victory that made the Treaty of Versailles possible.

If it were not for United States entry into World War One, there would have been no Treaty of Versailles.

Anyone who expresses the idea that World War Two proves interventionism is sometimes necessary is, if educated, expressing the idea that Wilson’s intervention against Germany is an example of necessary interventionism. The two wars are the same war.

The causes of World War One itself are also examples of interventionism on the part of the European powers. Germany and Italy, late in becoming unified countries compared to the Renaissance unifications of France, England, or Spain, were behind on the drive to have colonies in distant lands. France and England ruled large parts of Africa and Asia, while Spain had ruled large parts of the America. Both Germany and Italy were able to grab parts of Africa. Austria-Hungary was left out of the colony race completely so tried to compensate by picking up the pieces of the decaying Ottoman Empire. Before the fighting actually started the Allied Powers were those with colonies (and also Russia which while lacking colonies had large amount of land within Russian borders ready to colonize) while the Central Powers were those without many colonies, including Italy even though it was an Allied Power once the shooting started, and also including the Ottoman Empire which while large was decaying at a rapid pace, in effect losing colonies.

Since none of the European powers were able to mind their own business the series of alliances formed that led to a small conflict exploding into a world war.

World War One was the disastrous result of intervention gone haywire, leading to further intervention, leading to devastating results that are used to justify intervention.

No sensible, educated, and honest person can use World War Two as a justification for intervention given that it is the result of layers of intervention piled up until the result was Hitler. A better argument for intervention needs to be found for those who advocate meddling in the conflicts of others.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Prevalence of Police Abuse

There are certainly more stories of police abuse hitting the news outlets, at an accelerating pace. This is resulting in greater awareness in the general public of the police abusing their powers. Whether it is tasering a driver on the highways of Utah, tackling a kid in Baltimore because he is riding a skateboard, strip searching the victim of an assault, or the many examples of SWAT team raids of wrong houses often resulting in the death of either the occupants or even police, these stories are circulating with an ever increasing frequency.

There are two theories about why this is so. One is that the rise of inexpensive digital cameras and video cameras has made it easier to capture police misconduct, and the rise of YouTube has made it easier to spread the stories captured. In the past these issues were investigated only if the news were to make an issue of it. As video cameras became more popular it was still up to the news, but it was harder for news outlets to ignore police abuse. As a result of private footage of Rodney King being aired on television the police involved were eventually held accountable.

The television networks can choose whether or not to air any privately recorded footage, and as a result it is possible that many recorded incidents never were shown to the public. The internet enables people to bypass the major media and as a result those incidents are available to be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. Being viewed, it then becomes possible for the public to pressure the media into covering the story in ways never before possible.

Another theory is that these incidents are indeed becoming more common. The erosion of civil liberties that has taken place over the last seven years of the war on terror, coupled with the almost forty years of waging the drug war, has created a climate where government enforcement officials are not only given greater authority, but given more incentive to act against those who question their authority. Failure to show respect, or even obeisance, is considered a direct challenge to the authority of the officers and it must be punished.

This is abetted by the taser, which is considered a non-lethal instrument (except for the times when it is lethal). This leads to it being used as a method of “pain compliance”. This is in violation of the entire Anglo system of law because pain compliance is a euphemism for “punishment” and that can only be decided in a court of law by a judge and a jury, not by a law enforcement official. Any officer who uses a taser for the purpose of disciplining someone who is not a threat but guilty of not obeying an officer is guilty of assault and battery – and that is before the question of whether an officer can give a "lawful order" in the first place that must be obeyed.

It is clear that many police feel that they are above the law that they are sworn to enforce. This is shown in so many ways, most recently by Jimmy Justice as he films the police breaking even simple laws and their irate reactions as he calls them on their activities. Sometimes catching police breaking the law can lead to legal trouble for the person with the camera, which is why Jimmy Justice acts pseudonymously.

Sometimes filming of law enforcement officials leads to their discipline, although not as often as it should. This trend is only going to accelerate. Some jurisdictions are fighting back with laws that prevent us from videotaping the police or even taking still photos as they perform their duties, calling these activities spying or obstruction respectively. The question remains how well ordinances and charges of this nature will hold up in court against what is left of our civil liberties.

Given the abusive nature of police today, it is a good idea to have a camera handy even if local ordinances forbid it. When accused of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct – a charge used when there is no specific law being broken but the officer simply doesn’t like what is being done – a camera recording the incident may be the best defense as it was in the case of a bicyclist assaulted by the NYPD. It can be used as evidence against the charges, and may even be useful if the department actually decides to discipline the officer.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Vosem Chart

In an earlier article, the subject of the Vosem Cube was briefly mentioned as an attempt to deal with an economic axis that failed to sufficiently differentiate between mercantilism and socialism with respect to economic liberty. While both systems are a diminishment of economic liberty they are so in different ways to the point where it is difficult to get a more accurate measure of economic liberty. This is compounded by the deliberate refusal of those with a more socialist mindset to differentiate between mercantilism and capitalism.

Name "Vosem" for the Russian word for "eight" because a cube has eight sides, this chart has one civil liberty axis identical to the civil liberty of the Nolan Chart. It has two economic axes which the author labels as "Fiscal" and "Corporate".

The Fiscal axis is clearly the spectrum that runs from socialist to capitalist, whether or not the government should redistribute wealth or directly control certain industries (the two separate definitions of socialist will be discussed in a later article). It is on the Corporate axis where things get muddled.

CLASS 1: People who are in the first camp on this final dichotomy are, all around, pro-corporate. The way they see it, corporations should be treated and protected with the same rights as individuals. They want businesses to have the power to hire and discriminate against whom they want -- if an employer doesn't want an immigrant or a member of an ethnic minority working for him, he shouldn't be required by hire any people in that group, even if they are indisputably qualified. They also want everyone's business to be protected by private property rights -- the owner paid to keep the space and he can insist in anyone he wants leaving the business, including using the police to enforce this wish. Anyone walking on a business' premises against the wishes of the owner is viewed as trespassing. They oppose the right of people to strike or otherwise rebel against a business, and will favor laws that allow a corporate head to have his employees arrested for striking. They can be very strongly anti-union and view management as knowing best. Corporate monopolies are just seen as part of the game. As they see it, pure freedom of the market will take care of any injustices or inequities, and will promise diversity and creativity. If something done by a business is unethical and/or harmful, people will make the right choice by choosing another business, thereby regulating themselves. They trust the patron public will know and decide what is right. Some even support reversing government restrictions on dishonestly mislabeling or misrepresenting your advertised product. They are not quite as concerned with or offended by Enron/WorldCom type corporate dishonesty as their opponents. Strongly pro-copyright, they favor punishing Napster and want to hunt down other music site offenders on the Internet. Characteristic catchwords: it's their business, free enterprise, the magic of the market, property rights, intellectual property violator.

CLASS 2: Someone in the second camp opposes corporate power and rule of the business over the individual. They believe that a corporation is not a person and cannot be a person, and therefore does not deserve the same rights as a person. Businesses are viewed as a form of authority, akin to government authority, that can be oppressive. The major heads behind huge corporations, furthermore, are viewed as greedy rich folks who will do anything to make even more and keep the oil flowing to them. Many of these people are anti-WTO, anti-IMF, etc. If you see someone engaged in a protest against "corporate goons", taking it to the streets like the Seattle protestors of 1999, they no doubt belong to this camp. They consider discriminatory or otherwise unethical behavior by a business owner or manager completely inexcusable. They consider it unacceptable to have to watch anyone -- even one person -- be legally hurt by a business' practices in order to get people to finally bring the business down with their own boycott. They do not trust the common people alone to be able to drive every and any immoral business into the ground with their purchasing choices. They fail to see any flourishing of diversity or creativity of products due to the market; rather, they view increasingly richer cannibal companies as having homogenized the market and given us too few different companies and too few products. The overwhelming power of a few names over radio stations has likewise ruined the diversity of music. Some even turn to Internet file-sharing. They are opposed to the concept of "intellectual property". Characteristic catchwords: corporate greed, people before profits, Naderism, sell-out, monolithic corporate culture, pigs, Micro$oft.

This is problematic because on the whole it fails to place those who subscribe to Austrian Economics. On the whole Austrians would be on the pro-corporate side, but certainly do not believe that striking workers should be penalized. This should be analyzed by looking at it through the capitalist versus mercantilist question.

In that perspective, a new result is given.

CLASS 1: Someone in the second camp opposes any government protection or favoritism of corporations. They believe in a free market, and if a corporation cannot survive it deserves to fail. The major heads behind huge corporations are viewed as too intimately involved in government. Many of these people are anti-WTO, anti-IMF, etc on the grounds that a "free trade organization" is a contradiction of terms. They also oppose regulation of businesses beyond dishonesty to be a restriction on the right of people to do business. While Enron is looked down on for their unethical practices, Michael Milken is looked as heroes of free enterprise and examples of unjust government interference in economics. Characteristic catchwords: Free enterprise, corporate welfare, REAL free trade

CLASS 2a: People who are in the first camp on this final dichotomy are, all around, pro-corporate. The way they see it, corporations should be treated and protected with the same rights as individuals. They want everyone's business to be protected by private property rights -- the owner paid to keep the space and he can insist in anyone he wants leaving the business, including using the police to enforce this wish. Anyone walking on a business' premises against the wishes of the owner is viewed as trespassing. They oppose the right of people to strike or otherwise rebel against a business, and will favor laws that allow a corporate head to have his employees arrested for striking. They can be very strongly anti-union and view management as knowing best. Corporate monopolies are just seen as part of the game. They support protective tariffs to keep out foreign competition or import quotas to protect domestic industries. They also support subsidies from the government to businesses on the grounds that it helps domestic corporations, especially against countries where governments support their corporations. Some even support reversing government restrictions on dishonestly mislabeling or misrepresenting your advertised product. They are not quite as concerned with or offended by Enron/WorldCom type corporate dishonesty as their opponents. Strongly pro-copyright, they favor punishing Napster and want to hunt down other music site offenders on the Internet. Characteristic catchwords: dumping, domestic industry, what’s good for GM is good for America, intellectual property violator.

CLASS 2b: Someone in the second camp opposes corporate power and rule of the business over the individual. They believe that a corporation is not a person and cannot be a person, and therefore does not deserve the same rights as a person. Businesses are viewed as a form of authority, akin to government authority, that can be oppressive. The major heads behind huge corporations, furthermore, are viewed as greedy rich folks who will do anything to make even more and keep the oil flowing to them. Many of these people are anti-WTO, anti-IMF, etc. If you see someone engaged in a protest against "corporate goons", taking it to the streets like the Seattle protestors of 1999, they no doubt belong to this camp. They consider discriminatory or otherwise unethical behavior by a business owner or manager completely inexcusable. They consider it unacceptable to have to watch anyone -- even one person -- be legally hurt by a business' practices in order to get people to finally bring the business down with their own boycott. They do not trust the common people alone to be able to drive every and any immoral business into the ground with their purchasing choices. They fail to see any flourishing of diversity or creativity of products due to the market; rather, they view increasingly richer cannibal companies as having homogenized the market and given us too few different companies and too few products. The overwhelming power of a few names over radio stations has likewise ruined the diversity of music. Some even turn to Internet file-sharing. They are opposed to the concept of "intellectual property". Characteristic catchwords: corporate greed, people before profits, Naderism, sell-out, monolithic corporate culture, pigs, Micro$oft.

The drawback is that this still splits the mercantilist axis. The problem is with Class 2b, which doesn’t really belong in this axis but needs to fit in somewhere. The problem is to find a location for it.

On the other hand, perhaps libertarians are 1a, the anti-corporates are 1b, and the mercantilists are 2.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Combined Chart

Recently the Pournelle Chart was analyzed. It has both its advantages and disadvantages when compared to the Nolan Chart, but overall is a good way to represent the political spectrum.

That leads to the question of what the result would be if the two charts were combined. Given that the liberty axis of the Pournelle Chart is basically the vertical cross axis of the Nolan Chart, it would simply be a matter of substituting the one axis with the two axes to create a cube. The three axes would be Economic Liberty, Civil Liberty, and Rationality.

To view it directly on the Rationality axis it would look exactly like the Nolan Chart, which means that the only thing to describe is the high and low rationality end of each of the four corners.

Starting with the corner of high economic liberty and high civil liberty, the high rationality aspect is libertarianism, including anarcho-capitalism and objectivism. The low rationality aspect is counter-cultural anarchism.

In the corner of high economic liberty and low civil liberty, the high rationality aspect should be considered conservatism excepting the fact that conservatives do not embrace economic liberty. Either the theoretical model needs a new name, or the modern conservative needs to embrace a new name. A low rationality equivalent would be the Theocrat. The difference is that one is the security conservative and the other the moral conservative. The theocrat, the moral conservative, is technically an authoritarian but as Ayn Rand pointed out they consider economics to be less important than civil matters and are willing to not regulate it because other matters are more important.

In the corner of low economic liberty and high civil liberty, the high rationality aspect is the welfare liberal. These are the ones that support welfare due to the belief that government can solve economic problems. Their low rationality counterpart is the libertine who relies on government to support. There is no overarching philosophy behind this position other than a feeling of entitlement.

In the final corner of statism, the high rationality aspect is communism, in which there is a belief in government planning of all aspect of society, while the low rationality aspect is fascism.

Perhaps there could be further refinements, especially further examination how to effectively measure the rationality axis, but this could also be considered a more descriptive model than either of the parent models when considered alone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anonymous versus Scientology

Mr. William Lind has created the foundation on the subject of Fourth Generation Warfare. In that warfare, a centralized force, more powerful but less able to apply that power, is faced by a decentralized disorganized force. While the more powerful force could prevail if the two were to meet openly, they never meet in that way. Instead the smaller force strikes at random and melts away into anonymity.

The primary conflict is to cause the more powerful force to lose their morale, to lose the public relations war, to lose the will to continue the fight. The smaller force expends few resources for a large impact. The larger force expends many resources for a smaller impact. This played out in Vietnam. This is playing out in Iraq. Some call it guerilla warfare. Some call it terrorism.

And it may be playing out in an unexpected front in the United States in the war between the Anonymous of the Internet versus the Church of Scientology. Attempts to get the opinion of Mr. Lind on this subject have not been successful, but that does not mean independent analysis is not possible. Although this conflict is not lethal like the Iraq conflict, it does have many of the characteristics of fourth generation warfare.

Scientology is a large and powerful organization with a reputation for fiercely attacking critics. The organization is quite centralized with massive resources.

Anonymous is a group if independent individuals communicating anonymously through various message boards including 4chan, 711chan,, and IRC chats, as well as Encyclopedia Dramatica. None of these boards lead the effort, there are no leaders to the war anonymous is waging. They serve instead as a way to relay information to interested parties.

In a standard confrontation with Scientology, scientologists have the advantage of numbers and organization. A single protestor can be met by many scientologists, investigations run, and harassments through lawsuits can cripple the financial resources of the person attacking scientology. If Chanology (the code word for this war among Anonymous) is analogous to Fourth Generation Warfare, then the tactics of Anonymous turn those advantages on their heads. Scientologists do not know who the protestors are, and the protestors turn out in (masked) numbers to overwhelm the Scientologists who normally react to individual protestors.

Whereas a large portion of Forth Generation Warfare takes place on the realm of psy-ops, winning the hearts and minds of the people while demoralizing the opposition, again Anonymous has the advantage. Anonymous knows how to use the internet to its advantage, which is a very inexpensive tool. Documents are lifted (possibly by illegal means) and posted to wikileaks, while videos by anonymous are posted on Youtube.

Like a regular government in a 4GW, Scientology is slow to react to each new attack, and is always preparing for the last attack. Individual Scientologist are not able to create their own responses without permission, much like individual commanders of military units have to get proper permission to deviate from the plans of the military central command. Individual members of Anonymous are under no such constraint and are free to come up with creative attacks of their own, much like how individual terrorists are under no constraints about where and when to attack government forces.

Scientology has main bases, the various locations of the churces as well as various headquarters. Anonymous does not have those, although the nearest analogous structures would be the redundant lines of communication. The attacks are direct protests as well as politic, economic, and social. The attacks by anonymous are directly against the culture of Scientology, while the attacks by Scientology are against individual protestors.

The war between Anonymous and Scientology is in every way except for bodycount a classic example of Fourth Generation Warfare.

Comments are open. Due to a software bug Blogger is not automatically showing the link. Since I already have one comment I am reluctant to delete this entry and repost it. Seriously, you can comment. I'm trying to find out what is wrong with Blogger's software.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another political spectrum

While libertarians are quite familiar with the Nolan Political Science Chart, it isn't the only attempt to more accurately graph the political map. Moreover, as shown in Conservatives Versus the Nolan Chart it doesn't depict the political landscape as accurately as it could, given that modern American conservatism isn't synonymous with Nolan conservatism.

Another chart that is slowly making waves is the Pournelle Chart, another two dimensional representation. He starts his essay with the standard attack on the inconsistencies of the standard one-dimensional spectrum, but proceeds from there to describe his own alternative model.

The first axis of his chart is "liberty", which could be considered the cross-axis of the Nolan chart ranging from statist to libertarian. That is common to many attempts to rectify the political spectrum, but Jerry Pournelle felt that was inadequate. The reason is that it groups fascists and communists on one end as if they are the same, and it groups anarchists and libertarians at the other end as if they are the same. He felt a second axist was necessary to separate out these ideologies.

The axis he came up with is called "attitude towards planned social progress" or "rationalism", the belief that society's problems can be solved by reasoned solutions. After adding this axis he was able to differentiat the communist from the fascist and the libertarian from the anarchist.

On the corner of statist and rationalist one finds Communists and Socialists. The corner of statist and irrationalist one finds Fascists and Theocrats. The corner of rationalist and anti-statist is occupied by the libertarians and objectivists. Finally the corner of irrationalist and anti-statist is Anarcism and counter-culturalism. Conservatives and Liberals are both near the center by having midway opinions of both the state and the ability of planning to achieve social goals.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Conservatives versus the Nolan Chart

The Nolan Chart defines a conservative as someone who advocates economic liberty but also advocates government regulation of civil matters. Is that definition accurate? Within the context of the chart it is certainly accurate but does a modern American conservative hold the same beliefs?

The problem with the Nolan Chart is that modern American conservatives do not necessarily hold those beliefs. As discussed in Liberalsim, Conservatism, and Libertarianism a there are several factions all sharing the label "conservative", and only one of them is strong on economic liberty. Other schools show general disinterest, and a couple of schools favor government involvement in the economy. Mercantilism is not capitalism, and advocates for mercantilism are not the same as advocates for the free market.

A tangent is necessary here as some will object to the term "mercantilism" as it is used with reference to a school of conservative thought. Mercantilism originally described policies of Great Britain in the 19th century with regards to the gold supply. Some wish to keep the definition so restricted, but if that is the case there is no suitable term for similar policies in other locations or in other times. Mercantilism, some would say corporatism, refers to using the government for the benefit of domestic industries by a variety of methods including but not limited to import quotas or tariffs, subsidies and tax breaks to domestic industries, and government contracts. These are all designed to restrict the amount of competition a domestic company faces or to support a failing domestic industry. Union-unfriendly legislation is also used to increase profits without the necessity of competition.

The problem most people have with thinking about mercantilism as not being an anti-liberty ideology is twofold. First people often think of socialism as being the anti-liberty economic ideology, and mercantilism certainly isn’t socialism except in the most outrageously loose sense of the term. Second, mercantilism doesn’t have an ideological base the way that capitalism and socialism do. It borrows somewhat from capitalism, but the arguments in favor of mercantilism are either purely emotional (appeals to patriotism quite often) or simply lobbying.

Socialists in a truer sense often think mercantilists are not advocates of government intervention in the economy, as shown by Democrat accusations of that nature towards Republicans. The problem isn’t that Republicans don’t advocate intervention, it is that Republicans advocate the wrong interventions. If an analogy could be made between religion and politics, liberals are theists because they believe in government while libertarians are atheists because they do not believe in government. Conservatives, under that analogy, are heretics. They do believe, they have the wrong beliefs, and because they have beliefs (however wrong) they are not atheists. When a liberal accuses a conservative of being anti-government, the accusation is based on the inability (due to intellectual laziness) to tell the difference between atheism and heresy.

Unfortunately there is no spot on the Nolan chart for a real world conservative. What would be needed is a third dimension to show this different means of economic interventionism. An attempt has been made here but the labels need further adjustment to more closely fit the model to the real world.

Friday, June 27, 2008

History of the United States

History can be viewed at from various perspectives, the most common of which being the names and dates method. The problem with said method is that it fails to give any insight into the causes of the various memorized events. To study history from that perspective is similar to studying biology without evolution; it becomes little more than a disparate set of fields and zoology is reduced to cataloging. To properly understand the history one needs to look at the causes of the events, and a way to do that is by studying the ebb and flow of competing ideas that are brought to a head by the issues studied in the name and date form of history. Professional historians know this, but their knowledge seldom translates down to the public school history lessons where most people are fed the simplistic version of history.

The United States was founded with two competing schools of thought, which can be exemplified by two early representatives of those schools, the Hamiltonian school and the Jeffersonian school. The Hamiltonians desire an activist government that intervenes on behalf of major industry and financial institutions, while the Jeffersonians desire a minimalist government. The signing of the Constitution was a Hamiltonian victory, but the ratification of the Bill of Rights was a Jeffersonian victory.

Early in the history of the United States, the Jeffersonians had the upper hand due to the disintegration of the Federalist Party and the ineffectiveness of the Whig party. The economic issues that divided the country were more easily reconciled by Jeffersonians who did not favor economic policies that benefited one region over another, while the interventionist Whigs had to balance competing demands from different regions of the country with different activist goals. Meanwhile several Jeffersonian presidents in a row in first the Democratic Republican Party and then the Democratic Party ensured a court that was primary Jeffersonian.

But as the economic divide in the United States grew more severe the issue of slavery became more polarized with the pro-slavery forces aligning with the Jeffersonians (even though Jeffersonians themselves aren’t pro-slavery) and the anti-slavery forces aligning with the Hamiltonians (even though Hamiltonians themselves aren’t anti-slavery). Slavery and States Rights were blocking the Hamiltonian agenda, which led to the Hamiltonians switching from the Whig Party to the Republican Party and bringing the conflict to a head in the United States Civil War.

Not all Jeffersonians were Southern. The "copperheads" were Northern Jeffersonians who objected to what they perceived to be an unconstitutional extension of Federal power enacted under Lincoln during the war. What the war did settle was which interpretation of the constitution was to dominate, the Jeffersonian version or the Hamiltonian version. Having lost the debate on the field of ideas, the Hamiltonians turned to debate on the field of battle, and there they won.

The United States was locked for a while into the Hamiltonian model, but having determined that an economically interventionist government is good the question that originally divided the Whigs arose in a new form: which model of interventionism is to be implemented? A new ideology grew in the United States after the Civil War, imported from Europe, Progressivism. These progressive initially applied themselves in the Republican Party, influencing the decisions of Theodore Roosevelt. It was the internal struggle between the Hamiltonians and the Progressives that caused the Republican Party to briefly split enabling the election of Woodrow Wilson.

During the time progressivism was trying to influence the Republican Party, it was also trying to influence the Democratic Party. The loss of the Civil War had been devastating to the efforts of Jeffersonians to limit the power of the government, and as a result the Democratic Party was open to takeover by the new ideology. This started under President Wilson but was carried to fulfillment by President Franklin Roosevelt who, while he campaigned as a Jeffersonian in 1932, acted as a full progressive once in office.

The remaining Jeffersonians, already in decline, defected from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in response to the positions taken by the Progressives. The Hamiltonian reaction to the progressive agenda was in opposition for several reasons, including the difference between the forms of interventionism advocated, the scale of interventionism proposed by Roosevelt being beyond that of most Hamiltonians, and that Roosevelt was in the wrong party.

For a while the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians were uneasy allies, but did work together to try to rein in the proposals of Roosevelt and subsequent Democrat presidents, and during that time many people mistook the Republican Party as being a small government party as the Jeffersonians shaped the rhetoric while the Hamiltonians shaped the policy, but under President Nixon the strain of holding together such a coalition finally broke and a core of Jeffersonians broke away and formed the Libertarian Party.

Freed from the constraints of the Jeffersonians and no longer shocked by the scale of the progressives, the Hamiltonians finally shed their small government rhetoric and embraced a full mercantilist system under President George W. Bush of subidies for domestic industries and militarism.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Home Business opportunities

In response to How to Survive the Upcoming Economic Collapse the question was asked what home businesses a family can start.

The problem is that several of the businesses that have high profit potential and low startup costs are also subject to specialized licensing. The Institute for Justice has an page Study on Barriers to Entrepreneurship that shows all the businesses that it would be difficult to get into due to prohibitive entry requirements. It is difficult at best to: community transport, cosmetology and hair braiding, catering, and child care.

All businesses, to be formal, will need a business license purchased from the city or the county. To go through this one should consult a lawyer, which is an additional cost. Then, depending on the business there are specialized licenses that must be acquired at various costs and difficulties. Then there is the issue of zoning laws that may prohibit any sort of business in a residential area, more common inside city limits than outside.

Businesses that are among the least licensed are those that manufacture, tailor, and sell clothing. This can be done by sewing or knitting, made to fit, done with minimum startup costs, and even be worked on at odd hours such as when relaxing. Another home business without licensing is for those with woodshop skills to manufacture furniture. Although the specialized tools are an investment, good furniture commands an impressive price.

Another business would be in education, but only in certain areas to reduce the prohibitions and regulations. Teaching in the arts is one option, and tutoring the academic subjects is another. Tutors are technically not teachers, and therefore exempt from some of the regulation, even though in practice they often provide high quality education outside of the formal educational establishment. The only thing a tutor cannot provide is academic credit. In some areas it is possible to formally open a private school in the home, and give academic credit, without possessing educator credentials. A private school does not always need to hire formally trained teachers.

Becoming an eBay vendor is easy, requiring basically registering with eBay and PayPal to start up the business, except in areas that require auctioneering licenses. To collect items worthy of sale on eBay all a person needs to do is scour garage sales for items that would do well in an expanded market.

While some areas require extensive licensing for anyone to tend yard, others are open about it and that would enable someone to get into a home landscaping business that includes mowing lawns, tilling gardens, and even trimming tress. The same applies to animal care short of actual veterinary services, where a person could clean stables and animals and tell the owner when it would be a good idea to refer an animal to a veterinarian.

Those who have formal training in specific fields may find that they can operate a home business completely legally. A licensed electrician may use the home as a location from which to operate on calls, while a licensed therapist may have an office at home avoiding the expense of a separate office. All such efforts are based on the zoning laws, of course.

This all implies that the business relationship is formalized. It is also possible to run an informal business arrangement out of the home, although the legal impediments to doing so need careful examination. Doing so loosens up the business model, but also makes it impossible to apply for small business loans. This could easily cause the entrepreneur to run afoul of the law, so care must be taken if this model is to be embraced. A way to avoid trouble is to engage in a barter economy.

The options aren’t as many as in the past, but there are still home business opportunities for those who want to expand their options.