Sunday, December 23, 2012

End of the world madness

It appears at times as if the end of the world is an increasingly popular topic. There were, unfortunately, many people frightened by the end of one of the Mayan calendars, even though the meaning was that the calendar was supposed to start over at the beginning. Many others were scared back in 1999 over the year 2000 being an ending, and there was also the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult that happened when the Hale Bopp comet was passing close to the earth. Meanwhile there are many jokes circulating about the Zombie Apocalypse.

Although one can point out various doomsday movements that have occurred throughout history, there seems to be a particular frequency of them as well as an underlying dread that these movements feed upon. Why then are people so concerned with doomsday? The answer is that the average person is not well versed in politics or in economics.

In terms of foreign policy, the most that many people is that the USA is at war because some "terrorists" attacked on 9/11/2001. Any analysis of underlying causes immediately results in the accusation that the analyst wants to blame the USA for the many problems around the world. A full analysis shows that the United States is an empire in decline, following the path recently trod by the British Empire, or possibly by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In either case it is clear that the United States has far less influence than in the past and that the only real remaining influence of the United States is a far overstretched military.

Domestically the people of the United States are losing civil liberties at an accelerating rate. It is quite clear to the informed observer that the United States is a police state, where the law givers and law enforcers are basically above the laws that they are supposed to protect and enforce. The law is instead a weapon to be used against ones enemies when one has power.

Finally the economy of the United States is in a tailspin only partially disguised by repeated and ever increasing doses of various types and modes of stimulus. Great Depression II started in 2007, and ever since the election of Barack Obama the press has been reporting recovery. There has been no recovery. The debate over the Fiscal Cliff shows that either those in congress don’t know how to fix the problem or don’t care to since they are not having a real debate.

None of this is new to someone who follows the issues. Yet all of this is new to those who don't, and most of it is new to those who mistakenly think they are following the issues because they pay attention to what the leader of their major party tells them. Since people are told one thing, but the evidence points in another direction, this causes a certain unease. Since the evidence points to a severe and major decline - economically, politically, and internationally - this causes even more unease.

Nobody wants to face the ugly truth of decline, those who do so only do because of a devotion to the truth overcoming a desire for false comfort. Yet the knowledge, if not appreciated consciously, is still there that there is something fundamentally wrong with the United States and the direction it is going, and much of the rest of the world as well. This creates the feeling of impending doom among those who do not study the issues, and that feeling is what the various doomsday cults feed into. The mess made by the political leaders of the United States and various other countries created this mess as well.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Libertarianism, the Atheism of Politics

Some people look at the full glory and diversity of the environment and come to the conclusion that it cannot have just happened naturally, that there must have been some guiding hand behind it otherwise it could not have happened. Proofs that it can and does happen naturally fail to convince, because the system is just too diverse and complex for these people to accept it as something that happened without a guiding force. These people are Creationists.

Creationists refuse to believe that evolution can happen because there is so much complexity and diversity. It boils down to an argument from incredulity. Although there are Theistic Evolutionists (not to be confused with advocates of Intelligent Design) the arguments from Creationists focus on trying to accuse atheist opponents of supporting evolution as a religious doctrine. They try to paint Darwin as a prophet, and random mutation and natural selection (RM/NS) as divine forces.

Some people, of the more liberal persuasion, look at the full glory and diversity of the economy and come to the conclusion that it cannot have just happened naturally, that there must have been some guiding hand behind it otherwise it could not have happened.

Statists refuse to believe that the economy can simply happen spontaneously because there is so much complexity and diversity. They see that economies can only happen with a central plan. They try to accuse libertarians as having the central market as a mystical central planner and the invisible hand as a divine force, when in fact "invisible hand" and "free market" are only metaphorical representations of what is happening in the market.

Some people, of the more conservative persuasion, look at the full glory and diversity of society and come to the conclusion that it cannot have just happened naturally, that there must have been some guiding hand behind it otherwise it could not have happened.

Statists refuse to believe that society can simply happen spontaneously because there is so much complexity and diversity. Much as theists often ask atheists "what is to stop you from committing crimes without god?" statists often ask libertarians "what is to stop you from committing crimes without government?" Atheists and libertarians both reply "because I choose to be so, I don't depend on an outside agency to tell me right from wrong."

Atheism is simply the lack of a belief in God and a divine morality. Libertarianism is simply the lack of belief in government and a mandated morality.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Theater

As the fiscal cliff looms, there is intense debate in Washington about striking a deal to avert the automatic spending cuts and automatic tax increases that will go into effect otherwise. The debate has boiled down to an increase of a few percentage points of tax on the top two percentage points of income owners. The Republicans claim to want to maintain the current tax rates on all income earners, and the Democrats claim to want to maintain the current tax rates on the bottom ninety eight percent of income earners. The offer from the Democrats is that if this tax increase is granted, then there will be unspecified spending cuts at some future date.

Both sides are lying so badly that it is surprising anyone is able to take their claims seriously. It is even surprising that the major media outlets, paid to believe the claims of politicians, are able to do their job and keep the American public sufficiently worried.

According to Wikipedia for the 2012 Federal budget, the combined federal outlays were $3.795 Trillion and the combined federal revenues were $2.469 Trillion, leaving a deficit total federal deficit of $1.327 Trillion. There appears to include off budget spending. That means that tax revenue accounted for 65% of the total spending.

If the goal is to balance he budget, which is what is being claimed, then there are three options. Using the figures from 2012, analysis of these three options reveals the lies coming from both sides of the debate.

The first option is to raise taxes sufficiently to balance the budget. This means raising taxes by a significant amount on everyone, not just a few percentage points on the rich. Anyone who proposes merely raising taxes on the rich as a solution is lying. Anyone who proposes raising those taxes just a few percentage points as a solution is lying. President Obama is telling the truth about his desire to raise taxes on the top two percent, but lying when he claims that this will have any impact on the budget deficit. The total tax burden would have to be increased by 54% to cover spending. There is no way to increase tax revenue by that amount by increasing taxes only on the rich, even if there is a top rate of 100% on income over $250,000. All taxes would have to go up, which means personal and corporate income taxes and tariffs and excise taxes, and the personal taxes would have to be raised on all brackets. There is some room to try to juggle the burden away from lower incomes and towards higher incomes, but not much, meaning that even lower income earners will feel the effect.

The second option is to cut spending sufficiently to balance the budget. Spending will have to be cut by 35%. This means real cuts, not "Washington cuts." This is where the Republicans are shown to be lying to the American public. Every cut proposed is a reduction in the rate of increase, a “Washington cut”. Moreover, these cuts are delayed in implementation, a second lie by the Republicans. It has often happened in the past that a budget deal would be made with front loaded tax increases and several years later there would be accompanying spending cuts. Every time that deal was allegedly made the spending cuts did not happen. Only one person in the Senate proposed a budget with real cuts, and his cuts only came to $500 billion, and he admitted that his cuts did not go far enough. The rest of the political class thought he was crazy and instead looked at the Ryan budget, with no actual cuts, and talked about what a fiscal hawk Representative Paul Ryan was.

The third option is a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Meeting half-way this means increasing tax revenue to 82% of 2012 expenditures and reducing spending to 82% of 2012 expenditures. This would require a total revenue increase of 26%. It will be easier for those who favor taxing the rich for the crime of being rich to be able to adjust the burden away from the lower incomes, but it will still be necessary to increase taxes on the middle class as well as excise taxes and tariffs. Spending cuts also have some interesting implications as this will require a total spending cut of 18%.

Social Security, unemployment, and labor are 34% of the budget. Medicare and health are 24% of the budget. The military is 18% of the budget. Debt financing are 7% of the budget. Food and Agriculture, Veterans Benefits, Transportation, Education, Housing and Community, International Affairs, Energy and Environment, Science, and Government (everything else) are 18%. If a policy of peace were to be adopted, the military budget can be cut in half easily, saving 9% and leaving another 9% to cut. Perhaps a percentage point can be cut from "everything else." That leaves 8% remaining to cut, which means that either Social Security or Medicare will have to be cut, perhaps both. Any plan which doesn’t include cutting Social Security or Medicare is not an honest plan.

Nobody in Washington is discussing anything close to any of those three proposals, except for Senator Rand Paul. Therefore nobody in Washington except for him is doing anything about the crisis that the Fiscal Cliff discussion was supposed to try to avert.

Friday, November 30, 2012

American Economic Fascism in Action

By now everyone who actually reads the news, as opposed to watching Fox News or CNN, is aware that Intrade is currently unable to do business with anyone in the United States. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is the responsible agency, and has issued two edicts that are often considered separately but together paint a full picture of how fascism works in the United States today.

The first edict is that Intrade cannot offer its services without a license from the United States government. The second edict is that Intrade cannot get a license from the United States government.

It is yet another example of Backdoor Forbiddance, the only thing surprising about it is how blatant it is. One might think that those who rule this country are starting to no longer care about keeping up appearances and fooling people into thinking they are free.

Very little in the United States is actually forbidden. According to the United States government, marijuana is even legal provided one can get the tax stamp for it, the only problem being that nobody can get the tax stamp for it. In many jurisdictions, concealed carry is legal, provided one can get the permit. The catch is that nobody can get the permit. Also in many jurisdictions simple gun ownership is also legal only with a permit, and nobody can get the permit.

Even the IRS has gotten into this act, working to forbid people who are delinquent on their taxes from getting passports. Those people are not forbidden from leaving the country, but they need a passport to do so and they cannot get a passport.

Whatever the motives, and there is actually good analysis of that by Michael S. Rozeff, the action would not have been possible were the economics and politics of the United States so far descended into the fascist model. Anything is allowed, with a permit, but no permits are given if the leaders do not like the activity in question.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Marijuana Legalization Lacks

The states of Washington and Colorado have gone farther on fighting against the drug war than other states have. Instead of merely legalizing medicinal marijuana, voters in those states have legalized marijuana. It does not matter if it is medicinal or recreational, it is legalized. Officials in the Justice Department are already figuring out what to do about this, how to enforce federal law in spite of the wishes of the voters. Elected officials in those states appear poised to cooperate with the Department of Justice.

This is, sadly, the fate of most marijuana legalization bills, whether medicinal or general. Federal lawyers argue in front of federal judges that the federal government’s drug policy preempts state drug legalization efforts, and the local police then cooperate on enforcing federal law when in the past they enforced both federal and state law.

There is one state where this is different. The statute in question isn’t a drug law, although it is a law where a state has asserted preemptive powers over the federal government through the tenth amendment. This would be Montana, and the subject of the dispute is in gun rights. While the law is winding its way through the court system, so far the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has not interfered in the state.

What made the state law special was a clause that instructed police to arrest federal officials attempting to enforce federal laws on those firearms covered by the state law.

That clause should be strengthened. Not only should the police be instructed to arrest, the district attorneys in the state shall be instructed to try the case and to not drop charges, the state judges should be instructed to deny any arguments based on federal preemption or immunity, and the law should include mandatory minimum sentences.

This clause is more likely to happen on firearms legislation than on marijuana legislation, which is unfortunate because it is needed in both. Libertarians cannot carry the whole burden of getting these initiatives to the ballot, and therefore need allies. Those who advocate firearm liberty are more likely to be friendly to tenth amendment arguments than are those who advocate marijuana liberty, even though both are making the same tenth amendment argument.

It is therefore unlikely that a marijuana legalization ballot initiative will have a shall arrest state supremacy clause, which is unfortunate because that is exactly what those initiatives need. If enough drug warriors are put in cells with the same drug users they helped to arrest, it might actually cause them to rethink the drug war as a whole, and it would become a true turning point in the war on drugs.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Greece, Twinkies, and the Fiscal Cliff

By now Hostess, as a company, no longer exists. The upper management of that company ran it into the ground and drove it into bankruptcy. A bankruptcy judge created a plan that would make Hostess sustainable for the near term, and it involved cutting the pay of the workers. One of the two unions balked at that, and Hostess, unable to continue operating, has closed down.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but once the impartial bankruptcy judge made his decision the union really had a Hobson’s choice, a "take it or leave it." And they decided to leave it. They decided it is better to not receive a bigger paycheck than it is to actually receive a smaller one, and they got exactly what they asked for.

Meanwhile, in the bankrupt country of Greece, every time there is an attempt to balance the national budget, or at least make it less unbalanced, the result is riots in the streets and a change in the national government. The fact that the money simply isn’t there does not deter the Greek people from demanding that they receive the benefits promised to them.

This demand for entitlement has reached a peculiar stage. It doesn't matter if the money isn't there, those making demands still want their checks anyway. Where the money comes from isn't a concern, that the money isn't there in the first place isn't a concern, that the checks are written against an account that does not exist isn't a concern. Explaining the math to those making the demands does not work. Apologists for the Bakers Union are left saying that it is the responsibility of Hostess to provide a job whether it can be afforded or not.

It is a situation analogous to the later parts of Atlas Shrugged. Hank Rearden had just been introduced to the Steal Unification plan, and when he points out that the plan cannot work, the response from everyone in the room is that he can make it work somehow. They do not know how, and they do not care to hear his explanations of how it cannot work.

The United States is heading down that road. So many people have their tiny portion of the Federal Budget as their subsidy, and they do not want it cut. They each have allies that do not want their own parts cut, and they work together to protect the whole. The politicians know that something needs to be done to avoid national bankruptcy (either by default or by inflation) but cannot work together to solve the problem.

There is little reason to worry about the Fiscal Cliff. If one still believes in government, those currently in office are too afraid of the cliff to happen. They will find the way to kick the can down the road for a few more months until it finally becomes impossible to do so any farther. Then those who scream every time there is a threat of cuts will discover that the money really isn’t there, and their choice to not receive a larger check instead of actually receiving a smaller check will be granted. If one doesn't believe in government then it is apparent that it is nothing more than a minor adjustment that won't have any real effect except to kick the can down the road for a few more months.

And eventually, like Greece and like Hostess, those screaming "all or nothing" will find out just how much "nothing" really is. Austerity doesn't come because it is chosen, it comes because the money is no longer there.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Upside to Obama's Victory?

Now that the least important election in the past century is finished, the big question is what does this mean to the liberty movement. Clearly President Obama is no friend to individual liberty, and has no intention on helping the movement in any way. Democrats theoretically support civil liberties, but President Obama has only ever been decent in this area when forced to by his own party.

But given that there was no substantive differences between the two leading candidates, then who won that election scarcely matters to liberty. The only things that matter then are peripheral matters connected to who won and who lost.

According to Austrian Economics, the next four years are going to be rough for the United States. In exactly what way it will be rough is difficult to determine, but that it will be, and that it will be within the next four years.

So what matters is the implications of who will be in office when the collapse occurs. As it turns out this matter is rather critical.

Had Mitt Romney been elected then he would be the one blamed when the collapse occurs. Had he been in office then, because he is a Republican, his free market beliefs would have gotten the blame. That he doesn’t have any free market beliefs won’t matter, Republicans get credit for having free market beliefs even though they don’t. It would be quite parallel to how Herbert Hoover’s non-existent free market beliefs received the blame for the crash of 1929 and George W. Bush’s non-existent free market beliefs received the blame for the crash of 2008.

Because Barack Obama was elected, his free market beliefs will not be blamed. He is perceived as more socialist, even though he is nothing more than a left Keynesian. The mainstream view is that Barack Obama is at best hostile to the free market.

Also given that the Ryan Plan, which was unrealistic at best, was criticized for having deep cuts when all it did was have is smaller increases, would mean that the budget slashing that would allegedly go on under Republicans would get the blame. Never mind that there would be no budget slashing no matter which one won, the Republican budget slashing would get the blame.

Given that free market beliefs and slashing the budget are two positions that libertarians strongly support, and that Republicans say they support when they do not, the last thing that libertarians would want is those to positions getting the blame for a problem they did not create. Given all of that, as bad as Barack Obama winning is, perhaps there is a silver lining that there would not be had Mitt Romney won.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The two choices when you vote

As Thomas Knapp correctly pointed out, "This is not only not the most momentous presidential election in US history, it's not even the most momentous presidential election of the last two." And he is right. For all the attempts to hype of the differences between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the biggest difference has actually been which one like Big Bird more.

Partisans of the one party, in a desperate attempt to build up sufficient fear are trotting out the old chestnut about how the two candidates of the one party would appoint radically different judges. Even that falls flat considering the surprise swing vote that upheld Obamacare was a Chief Justice John Roberts, and Mitt Romney said that he would appoint judges like John Roberts. If the claim that the judges Mitt Romney would appoint are so critical that people should turn out and vote, then the situation is rather paradoxical in that it means Republicans must turn out to support judges that would support Obamacare and Democrats must turn out to support judges that would oppose Obamacare.

Given that the candidates are so similar, and that most people are not in swing states and most swing states don’t even have a tiny margin like Florida in 2000, that leaves only two ways to vote. A person can either register satisfaction with the status quo by voting for a major party candidate, or register dissatisfaction with the status quo by voting for a third party candidate.

Those really are the only two choices if someone decides to take the time to vote. Not only do the numbers show that voting third party has a greater impact, the premise of giving a vote is "the one I am giving my vote to has earned it, the one I am not giving my vote to has not earned it."

Those who are satisfied with the direction of the United States can vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. The vote says that the country is in great shape from the point of view of the person casting the vote. If war, deficits, debt, and economic depression are good things, then go ahead and vote for a major party candidate. If a person doesn’t approve of war, deficit, debt, and economic depression the only way to signal that is by going beyond the two approved choices.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

California Proposition 37

Within libertarian circles no proposition is more controversial that California Proposition 37. The purpose of this measure is to force producers to add a label to food products if those products contain any Genetically Modified foods.

The libertarian argument against is very simple. This is an additional regulation. If people genuinely did not want GMO in their food then the free market would solve this problem. All other things being equal that is itself a good argument, and the libertarian instinct to be suspicious of every new law is a good instinct to have. But those who support Proposition 37 would be glad to say that all other things are not equal, which is why they support Proposition 37.

The reason so many libertarians support Proposition 37 is because of a perception that the free market is unable to function in this instance - not because there is no market for GMO free products, but because the federal government restricts that form of advertising. The label is not outright forbidden, but as is the case with modern American fascism, its use is restricted to the point where it is essentially unusable.

Consumers are not able to get the knowledge necessary for the free market to work. Those who have products that are GMO free are not able to advertise such, and those who have products that are not GMO free are not willing to advertise such. Therefore, to undo the mess created by the federal government at the behest of agribusiness, this ballot initiative seeks to force the opposite condition. Since "GMO free" is forbidden, therefore those protected by that ban must label their foods as containing GMOs.

It is not a perfect measure, it does indeed have exceptions. The big targets of wheat, corn, and soy are covered though. One of the major examples of the discrepancies in Proposition 37, that milk is not covered but soy milk is, is explained by the proposition covering the big three. Soy milk is made of soy while real milk is not made of soy. Restaurants are not covered, so if one buys a prepared meal there is no label. To buy the raw materials at a supermarket and to prepare that meal at home, those raw materials are covered.

Even with those exceptions, this proposition amounts to the State of California giving consumers the knowledge they need for the free market to work, knowledge that is being forcibly withheld by the federal government. This is not the case of the liberal fantasy of law being used to correct a flaw in the market, but is instead a case of law being used to correct law.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

California Propositions 30 and 38

From a libertarian point of view, California Proposition 30 and California Proposition 38 are both bad ideas. They both are tax increases in what is already one of the most heavily taxed states in the country, a state that suffers more than others from Great Depression II. They both claim to do the same thing and for the same goal. But even though they are both bad ideas, one of them is clearly more of a bad idea than the other.

The supporters of Proposition 30 advertise it as a tax increase on the rich. It is true that it does increase income taxes on higher income earners, but it also increases the sales tax. The sales tax is a regressive tax that impacts everyone. The supporters of Proposition 38 advertise it as an income tax increase, which it is. Only the income tax is raised, but it is raised on everyone.

Both of these measures are supposed to be for education, to fund the schools. The monies that might be raised by Proposition 30 go into the general fund and are not dedicated to the schools. The reason school funding is impacted by Proposition 30 is because the legislature and the governor put a trigger in the budget to cut school funding if Proposition 30 is not passed. Proposition 38 dedicates all of the revenue that might be raised to the schools bypassing the general fund.

Given these differences, if someone is inclined to agree with the arguments used to sell these propositions, it makes sense that Proposition 38 would be the preferred ballot measure. While the California PTA prefers Proposition 38, the California teachers unions have come out strongly for Proposition 30.

The unions join the rest of the political classes in favor of supporting Proposition 30. Across the state, the more strongly tied to the unions or the Democratic Party a group is, the more likely it is to support Proposition 30 over 38. The arguments in favor of Proposition 30 are very disingenuous.

Both of these propositions are bad ideas, but it is quite clear that Proposition 30 is a far worse idea than Proposition 38.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Going Back, in Theory

It may seem hard to believe, but there are Democrats trying to argue that raising taxes would be a good idea, even though the United States is still in the middle of an economic depression. Democrats have not been so bold about raising taxes since Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign. To support this argument, the economic conditions under Bill Clinton and John Kennedy are brought up. Taxes were somewhat higher under Bill Clinton, and they were a lot higher under John Kennedy. If that were all that were different, there would be an argument in favor of that point of view.

As all libertarians know, total taxation is always equal to total spending. Based on that bit of economic knowledge, taxes were definitely higher under George Bush Jr. than they were under Bill Clinton. The only difference is that Bill Clinton favored direct taxes while George W. Bush favored indirect taxes.

While income taxes were higher under John Kennedy, those same taxes were reduced under John Kennedy. When he assumed office he lowered the top marginal rate from 90% to 70%, making that an argument in favor of cutting taxes. That would seem to be an argument in favor of significantly cutting taxes.

The most important flaw is that the argument is nothing more than a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. To demonstrate this is actually very easy. If everything was so much better under John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, then the United States should go back to that in full. The regulatory state has advanced greatly since then, as has the security state and the welfare state.

Those who insist that those eras were better with those higher tax rates should also insist those eras were better with less regulation. The return to the taxes of that era should be accompanied by the repeal of all laws passed since that era. If, for some reason, the Democrat making that pro-tax argument doesn't agree, their own position of how conditions were better in that era can be used against him.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Next Marriage Battle

Libertarians already know it. Progressives hope libertarians won't show up when they are arguing with conservatives, because progressives don't want to admit that libertarians already know it. What’s the point of being at the forefront - by definition - if other people are already farther ahead on the issues?

What the libertarians already know and the progressives hope to forget is the history of the battle for marriage equality. The history that progressives hope people forget is why marriage licenses were instituted in the first place, because they were instituted specifically in order to deny them to people whom others did not want to be allowed to get married. In the era of Jim Crow that meant forbidding interracial marriages, and when those laws were initially passed progressives were quite in favor of them. The early libertarians, still called liberals in those days, were not because it was seen as a government intrusion into a private contract.

Eventually the civil rights movement started in the 1950s, not the 1960s as is commonly believed. One of the many struggles of that era was to end racial segregation in marriage. The battle took many years to complete, but eventually it was won and people of different races were allowed to marry. The libertarians had always been there fighting to end marriage discrimination. The progressives arrived late in the game, proclaimed themselves to be at the forefront, and claimed all the credit when marriage equality in race was finally achieved. Then they turned and proclaimed that libertarians are right wing conservatives in spite of being on the same side of that issue.

Those who were opposed to ending racial marriage discrimination would sarcastically ask what would be next, trying to invoke a slippery slope argument that ended with two people of the same gender getting married. Progressives, at the forefront by definition, laughed at it insisting that their current position was the goal and anything else was absurd. Libertarians, on the other hand, were quite willing to embrace same sex marriage even back then. Progressives didn’t want to talk to libertarians about it.

A generation later, and the progressives finally arrived at the position held by libertarians and proclaimed themselves to be at the forefront of the battle to grant marriage equality to same sex couples. Libertarians had always been there fighting to end marriage discrimination. The battle there is slowly being won, and the progressives are claiming all the credit for it happening. They are also proclaiming that libertarians are right wing conservatives in spite of being on the same side of that issue.

Those who are opposed to ending marriage discrimination based on gender sarcastically ask what is next, trying to invoke a slippery slope argument that ends with polyamorous relationships. Progressives, at the forefront by definition, laugh at it insisting that their goal current position is the goal and anything else is absurd. Libertarians, on the other hand, are quite willing to embrace polyamorous marriages. Progressives don’t want to talk to libertarians about it.

One could argue that the reason for the dissent is because the methods of ending inequality are so very different. Libertarians correctly point out that eliminating marriage licenses back in the days when the hot issue was racial marriage equality would have prevent the whole same sex marriage discussion and in the near future would have the same benefit on the polyamorous marriage discussion. Progressives do not want to be behind anyone else on any issue so insist that there is no future polyamorous discussion. Also they do not want to give up on marriage licenses, because even though the goal is to grant them to anyone it is still asking the state for permission to marry. It is very important to progressives that the state get the authority and respect it deserves.

So when the polyamorous discussion finally arrives, progressives will discover that they are suddenly at the forefront again, refusing to acknowledge anyone who was there before they were. And libertarians will correctly point out that if libertarians had been listened to back when the issue was race or gender then there would be no need for a polyamorous discussion.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Downside of Paul 2012

There were many who were challenged by the 2012 campaign by Representative Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign for president. There were unique challenges for both liberals and conservatives as they were forced to confront what they really believe. Now that the campaign is over there is a whole new challenge for libertarians based on the campaign.

His campaign has given new life to the old lie about how libertarians and conservatives have some sort of closeness that excludes liberals and progressives. Because Representative Paul ran in the Republican Party instead of the Libertarian Party, he somehow demonstrated that libertarians have a home there.

It doesn't matter how poorly Ron Paul was treated through the primary, and how reprehensibly his supporters were treated at the Republican convention. It doesn't matter that Governor Mitt Romney and Representative Paul have nothing in common ideologically, or how much Governor Romney and President Obama do have in common. It doesn't matter how Ron Paul's ideas were kept out of discussion through the whole process from first debate to convention close.

None of that matters. All that matters is that Ron Paul has an "R" after his name. The fact that he ran in the Republican Party instead of the Libertarian Party is proof of that closeness. Never mind that in order to have a reasonable chance at victory he had to run in some major party - that he ran in a major party proves that there is some special affinity for the major party he ran in.

Since the argument being made is not a logical argument, there is no logical counter-argument. One could point out how much Ron Paul was at odds with his own party. One could point out how he wasn't even given a speaking spot at the convention. One could point out how he had to fight for speaking time at the debates. One could even point out how Romney cheated Paul of his delegates even though Romney didn't need to because his victory was already assured.

This isn't an argument meant to appeal to the intellect. It is an argument meant to appeal to the emotions. There is no counter-argument to be made as a result. Although one can say many good things about the Ron Paul 2012 effort, it also gave new life to the big lie.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hyperinflation or Default?

The big debate in libertarian circles regarding the economic future of the United States government managed economy is whether the future contains hyperinflation or if it contains default. The answer is really quite simple; the question cannot be answered. An economist cannot predict the actions of politicians, but can instead only tell what will be the result of decisions made by politicians. What path exactly the United States will follow when conditions worsen is a question that can be answered only by politicians.

The biggest question can only be answered by the Federal Reserve, which has a hybrid nature that is partly political and partly private. If the "Audit the Fed" bill passes, then the resulting audit will surely reveal facts that will not please the political class. Given that the only advocate of a sound currency is retiring from the congress, the result of an audit will instead result in tighter governmental controls over the Federal Reserve, which could ultimately end up in nationalization of the Federal Reserve.

This would be the solution favored by the other great opponents of the Federal Reserve, the Greenbackers. If the Federal Reserve is brought under greater governmental control it will result in a Federal Reserve that has no choice but to continue purchasing worthless government bonds and in that event the flood of worthless currency will indeed result in hyperinflation.

On the other hand, the Federal Reserve as it is currently structured is ultimately owned by the private banks that do not desire hyperinflation. If the Federal Reserve remains mostly independent of the government, the private banks could order the Federal Reserve to purchase no more bonds that it can sell on the market. As the federal budget remains unbalanced, with almost half of the revenue the result of borrowing that will result in the Federal Reserve refusing to purchase any more bonds from the government. That ends with a government default as the money to pay for more than can be sustained simply isn’t there anymore.

Both cases hinge on the decisions made in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Congress and the President are in full control of that decision, and thus no economist can actually predict what will happen.

In either case, though, there will be upheaval and social unrest. Again, there are many options but no economist can predict which will happen. Economists can only outline the different options and describe the resulting conditions of each.

In one scenario the unrest results in riots. There may be riots due to the banks being unable to process any more payments as an emergency measure. If the electronic payment network breaks down, most people do not have enough currency on hand to purchase more than a few trinkets or a few snacks. Currency riots would lead to food riots.

In another scenario, politicians actually act before the riots start by declaring martial law before the riots instead of after them. Strict controls barely contain the chaos, with political control breaking down farther away from the armed encampments of the cities.

In a third scenario the infrastructure grid in the country cannot sustain the delicate balance and this ultimately results in food shortages, which will result in even more desperate riots throughout the country as people flee the cities to find food.

Of course, in order to preempt those outcomes, the political class may decide that a war against an external enemy is necessary to distract the population. This would most likely result in a war against Iran If that happens, there will be both high inflation but not necessarily hyperinflation, as well as shortages and other hardships. There will be much more direct management of the economy, with people receiving their basic sustenance from the government.

That is also an unsustainable solution, but the additional bloodshed abroad may forestall the inevitable result of either hyperinflation or default for a short time. But as any economist can predict, the government cannot ignore reality forever.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why did they find him?

Recently an absurdity of a film called "Innocence of Muslims" has been making the rounds in the news. Although all the evidence indicates that the attacks on the embassies and consulates had been planned long in advance, the film is being blamed for the attacks.

Although it is understandable that some people are curious about who produced this teaser for a movie that doesn’t even actually exist, and therefore various news media organizations have been trying to find out who it is so that they can satisfy the demand, there is a very disturbing element to the quest for the identity of the producer.

Why is the United States government involved in trying to figure out his identity? Has the producer of this teaser actually broken any laws of the United States or of the fifty states? What law could he have broken that would spur such an investigation? And if he were put on trial, say for incitement, would he not have a solid first amendment defense under freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion?

Having the Associated Press try to find his identity is one thing. If a person thrusts himself into the public eye, then the public has every right to try to find out more. But having the government do the same without any identifiable cause is itself cause for concern.

Yes, people can say things that impede the foreign policy of government officials. People can say things that embarrass government officials to, although far less so than in the past.

This following so closely on the heels of having Brandon Raub committed to a psychiatric hospital for the “crime” of criticizing the government, while having the British "ally" threaten Ecuadorean sovereignty to claim Julian Assange shows that the line has been crossed a long time ago with regards to the lawlessness of the United States regime.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Government by Blackmail

There is a tax initiative on the California ballot for November; Proposition 30, Sales and Tax Increase (2012), otherwise known as Jerry Brown's Tax Increase. All of the public unions support it, of course, because it backfills the pension programs for state employees. But it has other groups supporting it as well.

There is a lot of support coming from the film companies in Hollywood. At first glance that would make sense, given how strongly most people in that industry support the Democratic Party. But even so, the studios are trying to fight against films being shot in more business friendly environments. More and more films are being shot out of state and out of country. So why is there such support for a measure that would only accelerate the trend?

There are special tax exemptions for filming in California, to support the local film industry. And unlike many parts of the tax code, these exemptions are renewed annually instead of being a normal (until a new bill is passed) part of the tax code. The threat is implicit, that if the studios do not support measures supported by the permanent Democratic Party majority in the legislature, those exemptions could easily and quickly disappear simply by failing to renew them. That would not even need the 2/3 vote required by Proposition 13, passed many years ago in order to combat ever increasing taxes.

The American Beverage Association is also backing this measure, in spite of how easily it can harm their operations in California. Shortly before gaining the support of the American Beverage Association, there was much discussion among prominent Democrat politicians about how the state needs to combat obesity by putting punitive taxes on sugary drinks as is happening in other areas of the country. This discussion died down quickly after the American Beverage Association gave its backing to Proposition 30. They even donated $250,000 towards the passage of Proposition 30.

Although there is no explicit threat, at least not one where there is a written demand that could be used as proof, this is pretty clearly a case where various organizations are being threatened to support a measure that they otherwise would not, in exchange for not being harmed more directly. It is the highway man saying "your money or your life" to these groups.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Paul Ryan is no Objectivist

As soon as Paul Ryan was chosen to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate, there was dialogue in both parties about how he was supposedly quite libertarian, to the point where he was inspired by Ayn Rand. If Paul Ryan was inspired by Ayn Rand, it is likely that upon finishing the reading of Atlas Shrugged he said "I want to grow up to be just like Wesley Mouch."

The weaker version of this argument comes from Republicans. They act as if simply mentioning that Paul Ryan has read Atlas Shrugged is sufficient to convince Ron Paul voters to abandon all principle and support the Romney/Ryan ticket, even though it is far from sufficient and Ron Paul supporters are not buying it. Then there are those who should know better. The Ayn Rand institute has an article on various statements made by Paul Ryan that would indicate that he leans that way, ignoring the rich history of conservatives saying one thing and doing another. Objectivism does not advocate ignoring reality, and the reality of Paul Ryan's voting record is something that should not be ignored.

There is a slightly stronger version of this argument from Democrats. Many of them also act as if simply mentioning that Paul Ryan has read Atlas Shrugged is sufficient to tar him as libertarian. But there are a few who are making a very interesting argument to try to support that accusation.

Their argument is based on the principle of rational self interest. They argue that, even though Paul Ryan’s voting record is antithetical to Objectivist principles, that same voting record is exactly the series of choices a person would make if he had the goal to rise through the ranks of his party.

It is true that, given a particular goal certain choices become inevitable if one actually wishes to achieve that goal. But there is a problem with that interpretation. Objectivism does not allow for seeking power over others as a rationally chosen goal. Nor would it advocate any goal that would lead to the choice to violate the rights of others as a means to achieve that goal.

Assuming the best about Paul Ryan, an assumption he does not deserve, the character then to compare him to would be Doctor Robert Stadler. In the novel, Dr. Stadler decided that the use of ignoble means was appropriate to achieve noble ends; specifically, to use politics to advance the quest for knowledge. It was that contradiction that eventually led to Dr. Stadler's downfall. But since Paul Ryan isn't up to the level of a Dr. Stadler, he has more in common with the Eugene Lawson, Chick Morrison, Wesley Mouch, and Mr. Thompson characters. One could say that Wesley Mouch made all the choices one would rationally choose if the desire is to become "economic dictator of the economy." But becoming "economic dictator of the economy" is not a rational choice.

Also, by that same logic, one could argue that Barack Obama made all the choices one would rationally choose if the desire is to rise through the ranks of a political party. He made all the right choices given his situation for one desiring to become president. But yet the argument is not made that Barack Obama is an Objectivist for that reason, and is in fact refused. The fact that the argument does not work both ways is proof that there is no genuine substance behind it, and that it is only a rationalization instead of a proof.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Russia Confronts Britain regarding Assange

Russia's Foreign Ministry has issued a statement today warning Britain against attacking the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, saying it was unthinkable for a nation to violate "the spirit and the letter" of the Vienna Convention, which makes diplomatic premises inviolable - This really is a fascinating situation on many levels, given the threat by members of the British government to use force to extricate Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean Embassy.

The first thing to notice is the role reversal involved given the cold war history between Great Britain and the United States on one side and Russia on the other in its former guise as the Soviet Union. It was the United States and allies that were considered the guardians of human rights and the protectors of international law. The western powers were those most involved in protecting the sanctity of the embassy against more despotic regimes. Granted, Russia is not the Soviet Union, but this is a situation that would cause uncomfortable feelings were politicians in Great Britain and the United States capable of feeling irony.

But there is more to this situation than this. The premise that the Russian officials are operating from is that they are actually warning their British counterparts against setting a precedent with undesirable results. Great Britain currently has residents that are claiming asylum, and a significant number of them are from Russia. The Russian government has asked for these people to be extradited, and the British government has refused.

If the British government breaches the sanctity of the Ecuadorian embassy, then the precedent set is that it is perfectly acceptable to use force to gain extradition of wanted fugitives from foreign lands. The Russian officials are saying "The British are saying it is acceptable to send troops in to foreign territory to apprehend people claiming asylum. The British has people claiming asylum in their territory. We have troops we can send to apprehend them."

What would the members of Parliament say if the Russians were willing to follow through on that threat to the final conclusion? Would they protest that this is somehow different? Actually, that does seem somewhat likely, as it appears the mindset of the United States Imperium is that international law is there to protect the Imperium and to punish those who resist.

If a third world war does break out, Britain and Russia would be on opposite sides making this a very dangerous game of brinkmanship. It will also encourage more countries from Latin America and South America to side against the United States Imperium. Venezuela is already opposed, and the residents of Columbia are being heavily punished for supplying a product that people in the United States are eager to purchase.

The only way this can end well is if the British government backs down. It would be an embarrassment to the United States, and the emperor has an image that needs to be maintained. This is a no-win situation for the western powers, unless one is willing to say that victory comes from being willing to descend to any level to get what one wants. Or perhaps the Russian officials, in making these veiled threats, are not intending to follow through.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Would India Fight Against Russia?

In response to Worst Case War Scenario the comment was made that a portion of the scenario was off because India would not fight against Russia.

It is true that, for a while during the Cold War, India and Russia were close to each other. This was a balance to closeness between Pakistan and the United States, which was part of an encircling attempt around Iran. This does not mean that India wouldn’t fight on the side of the United States in a worst case war scenario.

A key point in the scenario is that China and Russia are allies against the United States. However, there was a time during the Cold War, when China and the Soviet Union were very close to going to war against each other. That was part of the strategy behind President Nixon visiting China, as part of the plan to eventually pull out of Vietnam. By visiting China, President Nixon caused concern in the Soviet government that the United States and Chine might coordinate against the Soviet Union.

But as bitter enemies the United States and the Soviet Union were during the Cold War, they were allies during World War Two. The Cold War blossomed under President Truman as a way to justify intervening in Greece, turning a former ally into an enemy.

In World War Two, Germany and Japan were the main enemies of the United States. Today both are considered friendly countries. Germany in particular is now the anchor to the European Union with many former enemies.

Political alliances shift constantly. It is part of the nature of the game. Just because two governments were enemies doesn’t mean that they cannot shift to allies, and just because two governments were allies doesn’t mean that they cannot shift to enemies. George Orwell noticed this, which is why he included it in "1984" when he had Oceana constantly shift between alliance with Euraisa and alliance with Eastasia.

So, why would India side with the United States against Russia?

There exists tension between India on the one hand, and both Pakistan and China on the other. There has been concern at times that if nuclear war were to break out it would be in the Himalayan Mountain range, either between India and Pakistan or India and China. There is still disputed territory at the intersection of those countries, and religious conflict is particularly strong between the people of India and Pakistan. Plus, relations are souring between Pakistan and the United States while relations are improving between Pakistan and China.

If India were to intervene on the side of the United States, going against Russia would be incidental instead of purposeful. Just as Finland, by being an enemy of the Soviet Union, was an enemy of chance against Great Britain and the other allied powers, India would be fighting primarily against Pakistan and China and not primarily against Russia.

Pakistan and China would both be against the United States in that scenario. That would mean, even if India doesn’t intervene, that India would be closer to the side of the United States and therefore farther from the side of Russia. If India doesn’t intervene, that would make that country a silent ally instead of active ally of the United States, similar to the role played by Spain to Germany in World War Two.

Of all the parts of the scenario, that is the one with the lowest probability. Just because India would be favoring the United States and experiencing poor relations with both Pakistan and China doesn’t mean that intervention has to happen. The government of India has the least cause of all the countries mentioned in the scenario. That could mean that some sense would break out, the government of India could choose to sit out the war, and therefore emerge as very dominant in the area after China, Russia, and the United States finish tearing each other apart. But if it were to intervene, it would not be on the same side as China and Pakistan, and therefore on the opposite side of Russia.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Worst Case War Scenario

It is becoming increasingly likely that eventually either the government of the United States or the government of Israel will launch an attack against Iran. The current support for the Syrian rebels by President Obama is to undermine a mutual defense treaty between the governments of Syria and Iran that if either is attacked by the United States the other would respond. If the rebels take control of Syria, that isolates Iran from one more ally.

But if either the United States or Israel attacks Iran, not only will the other country be brought into the conflict, many other countries are poised to be brought into the conflict as well. The support that the government of the United States shows for the government of Israel has been a source of discontent in many other Middle Eastern countries.

If Israel attacks Iran, it would be with the understanding that the United States will support Israel against a counter-attack, thus proving the dangers of entangling alliances once again. As the Iranian military launches what counter-attacks they are capable of, the government of Israel will be calling upon the United States to save Israel from destruction.

If the United States launches an attack against Iran, Israel will likely be drawn in by popular sentiment among the peoples and government of the other countries in the area. Popular support no longer exists for the United States in most countries, and the various "Arab Spring" revolutions have not brought to power governments friendly to the United States. It would not be hard to imagine these new post-revolution countries retaliating against Israel for an attack by the United States against Iran.

A general war against many Middle-East countries is not the worst scenario though. The whole situation can get very bad very quickly if the governments of Russia and China get tired of provocations by the United States and come to the aid of Iran. The government of Iran has been carefully cultivating ties with both of those countries, and China in particular is very interested in more sources of petroleum.

It could start like Vietnam, with the armies of various countries supporting one side and armies of various countries supporting the other side. It would be a terrible war for the Persian people, with United States troops fighting Russian and Chinese troops on Persian soil, but there is no need to believe that the war would be maintained there.

With the United States so heavily engaged in Iran, the government of Pakistan would finally see an opportunity to act against the United States in retaliation from drone bombings. Working with the people of Afghanistan, the Pakistani military would also come to the support of Iran. China and Pakistan have been cultivating closer ties in an effort to put pressure on a mutual rival of India.

A general Muslim uprising coupled with Russian and Chinese support would force the call-up of the NATO allies. Britain would already be heavily involved because the United States is involved, but this would mobilize the militaries of several other countries, especially former Warsaw Pact members. In 2008 the government of Georgia tried to pull the United States into a conflict with Russia over the Georgian province of South Ossetia. The government of Russia saw the admittance of former Warsaw Pact and former Soviet Socialist Republics into NATO as a provocational encroachment.

Although the war would not be directly between NATO and Russia, the war would be directly between Europe and the Middle East. Many European countries are already experiencing difficulty assimilating immigrants, although it is politically incorrect to discuss the subject. These people would be easily made into scapegoats for the problems in various European countries, from Algerians in France to Pakistanis in England to Turks in Germany. A similar conflict might also occur in Australia.

The country with the most to lose at this point is Turkey. Straddling the border of Europe and the Middle East as it does, being a predominantly Muslim country with a secular government, already a NATO member and trying to gain entry into the European Union, a war between Europe and the Middle East spells disaster for Turkey no matter which side is chosen. Relations between Turkey and Israel have cooled significantly over the Gaza flotilla issue. While Turkey wouldn’t mind a weakened Iran, giving Turkey more influence in the Middle East, it is questionable if the population would support Turkey siding with Europe. Siding with the Middle East, on the other hand, would be in violation of both treaties and political objectives.

Finally, in the worst case scenario, tension between Pakistan and China on one side and India on the other brings India into the conflict on the side of the United States. Although that would be a great relief to the United States considering the population of India rivals that of China, it would in the long run only make the war worse for everyone. Plus North Korea might try to take advantage of the confusion to attack South Korea, although that would not work very well for North Korea. It could draw the United States into another front, fighting North Koreans and Chinese on the east side of Asia.

With the United States, Israel, India, and NATO on one side, and China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East on the other, this would be a devastating war. So devastating, in fact, that it is surprising that politicians in office today are still calling for action against Iran. This is not the only possible outcome, and might not even be the most likely outcome, but World War One was started by a complicated series of entangling alliances as well.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

An Uninspired Campaign

The strongest argument that the Republican Party can make in favor of candidate Mitt Romney is that he isn't Barack Obama. He most certainly was not the candidate favored by the Tea Party or many other more conservative Republicans, in spite of efforts to paint him as such. The nomination of Mitt Romney was a fairly decisive defeat of the Tea Party's influence within the Republican Party and a victory for the central leadership over the base.

The strongest argument that the Democratic Party can make in favor of candidate Barack Obama is that he isn't Mitt Romney. He fails to inspire the base, even with his alleged achievements. The strongest argument in favor of Barack Obama is potential judicial appointments, as Mitt Romney would appoint people like John Roberts who voted to uphold Obamacare. "Hope and change" makes a good mantra when a candidate is fresh, but not after failing to deliver either for four years.

Small wonder that partisans react so angrily to having it pointed out how little difference there is in this campaign. The standard comparison of "not a dimes worth of difference" is even stronger given just how similar the two candidates really are. Mitt Romney wrote the rough draft of Obamacare, and Barack Obama has shown greater militarism than even George W. Bush.

The cries of "this is the most important election ever" are even louder than before, and yet those cries fail to inspire the base of either party. These cries are meant to convince the reluctant base to come out and vote in spite of, not because of, the candidates that the party is running. They are also a vain attempt to convince third party voters to cross party lines, which sometimes does happen if a candidate is appealing enough. In the 2012 electoral race, it would be hard to describe either candidate as "appealing enough."

It will be interesting to see how a campaign between two unappealing candidates develops. Negative campaigning, trying to appeal to fear in order to bring out the base, will be the only option for both candidates, but ultimately that will reinforce the basic problem that neither candidate is good. It will also be interesting to see how the two parties arrange to negate the opportunity being given to third parties this time around.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bain Capital

People within the Obama campaign are making comments about Mitt Romney’s involvement with Bain Capital. It is possible that Mitt Romney is much more heavily involved in his company than previously claimed, and that there may be legal grounds to prosecute Mitt Romney for such. Some even comment that the charges may rise to the level of felony.

The question is, if the Obama campaign is confident enough to make these allegations, why is the Obama administration not confident enough to press charges? If there exists sufficient grounds to suspect illegal activity, then there should be sufficient grounds to open an actual investigation into those potential activities.

Of course one could claim that opening up an investigation at this time would be clearly politically motivated. A stronger claim could be made that doing so after the convention, once Mitt Romney is officially the nominee, is politically motivated because to do so then would hamstring the Republican campaign. If an investigation is opened before the primary the Republican Party would have time to recover and potentially select a new candidate.

Another possible interpretation is that those making the claims against Mitt Romney know that sufficient grounds for an investigation do not actually exist, but that the public might become sufficiently convinced that the eventual vote in November can be swayed against him to a degree sufficient that Barack Obama is reelected.

Finally there is a lesser but real chance that there is substance to the accusations, but an actual investigation would not be launched unless it appears that Mitt Romney actually poses a threat to the Obama reelection campaign. Barack Obama won his first office primarily by having his opponents removed from the ballot on technicalities, so this would be in character.

A best case scenario would be if an investigation is launched before the Republican convention, tainting Mitt Romney sufficiently that a new candidate has to be found at the last minute. A sufficiently large number of delegates are either open or stealth supporters of Ron Paul, which would mean he has a very realistic shot at the nomination in that event. Since the Obama campaign is gearing up for a fight with Mitt Romney, this scenario would result in chaos all around. Still, it would be a chaos with a chance of producing a desirable outcome.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

We Need More Fear

According to the Department of Homeland Security, warned that hackers are attacking software that controls medical devices, elevators, video cameras, security systems and a wide array of other sensitive operations. Except that is not included in the details of the report.

In the details of the report, a software vulnerability was found. There was no indication of any planned or attempted attacks by hackers into those systems. It was revealed that hackers could access through the discovered vulnerabilities, but not that this weakness had been exploited.

The internet has been a major problem for government officials. News reporting and political commentary are no longer confined to the major media outlets anymore. Not only does it disseminate news stories that said officials would rather keep buried, and not only does it enables large scale organization to oppose controversial decisions, through the actions of people like Julian Assange the users of the internet can now rip the mask off of the government and enable people to see just how ugly it really is.

In "Atlas Shrugged," the character Francisco Danconia compared the San Sebastian Mines to ripping the cover off of hell and letting people see it, saying that he had outdone Nero. Wikileaks has done the same thing outside the realm of fiction.

It is no surprise that congress was recently debating SOPA and PIPA. Small wonder as well that net neutrality is so heavily discussed. Government officials are afraid, and want more power to deal with what they fear. To get more power, they need to make a significant portion of the population afraid as well.

Threats need to be exaggerated. Just as when the neocons warned about the Iraqi threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and just as they warn about Iran's nuclear capabilities, in both cases exaggerations, the threat of the hackers has to be magnified to a degree sufficient to terrify people.

If remote control medical devices are hacked and disabled by hackers, that would be terrible. If an elevator was to suddenly plummet due to the actions of a hacker, that would also be terrible. There is no indication that this is happening, and those who issued the press release know this. The vulnerability was all they needed to hype it into a threat though. They needed more fear, and that is why they reported this the way they did. Only with enough fear can they try to take on the internet.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Child Labor

A fourteen year old boy goes to the grocery store to ask for a job. He is turned away, told that hiring him is against the law. He’s not seeking full time employment; he’s seeking to bag groceries for a few hours on the weekend. He is not allowed to because the law, which knows better, tells him he is not yet ready to work for income. The only income allowable to people his age comes from chores, or sometimes lawn mowing or babysitting.

Mention allowing that child to get a job, and the response is horror stories about factories and coal mines. It is a temporal fallacy because while that was once the case it is not the case today. Allowing people under the age of sixteen to seek employment will not result in children being taken out of schools and locked in dangerous factories.

It is not as if there are no exceptions to child labor laws. Minors are employable on family businesses and in artistic pursuits. Allegedly these are different because of parental involvement, which would mean that those in favor of child labor laws believe that parents would abuse their children if given any other labor option for their children.

There are jobs today that are just as safe for a person of fourteen years as they are for a person of sixteen years. Those jobs involve asking "paper or plastic" or "would you like fries with that." Those jobs are there as entry level positions that enable a person to learn how to hold down a job. Some people even go so far as to suggest that those jobs are created specifically for teenagers to soak up some surplus labor.

Given that conditions have changed much since the days of the coal mines and the locked factories, it is clearly time to stop thinking of those times as a basis for restricting child labor, and allowing those who wish to succeed a chance to do so.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Due to some personal problems, including my motorcycle getting stolen, I am unable to post a blog entry this week.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Let Them Eat Healthcare

It is not true that Marie Antoinette said "let them eat cake" when informed that the peasants had no bread. The point of that quote, however apocryphal, isn't to show her as callous though. The point is to show she had no comprehension of the plight of the poor. In the myth she was trying to be helpful by way of suggesting that since cake is like bread if someone is out of bread they can eat cake instead.

In the healthcare debate, with regards to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the debate often centers about people who do not have healthcare. In fact, many of those so described do have healthcare, they do not have health insurance. Those described as lacking care can easily get care, and in many cases do not have to pay.

An unfortunate aspect of the whole Healthcare Reform debate is that advocates of increased government intervention routinely confuse care and coverage. Even after this obfuscation is pointed out, advocates of increased government intervention continue to make the same error. There seems to be no way to shame an advocate of increased government intervention to accurately describe the debate as over healthcare coverage and not over healthcare itself.

And yet, that is the point. Healthcare does become less available the more the government intervenes. "But everyone is covered" does little good if there is nothing the coverage can buy. Many dentists refuse to accept Medi-Medi patients, and more doctors are refusing to do so as well. Massachusetts had to pass a law stating that all Ob-Gyns had to accept the state sponsored insurance. There is a crisis in West Virginia as more and more doctors flee the state due to malpractice lawsuit abuse.

Coverage is expanding, yet what that coverage can buy is shrinking. It leads to the question of what that coverage is supposed to purchase. Is someone in need of a bandage supposed to wrap insurance forms around the injury? Once there is plenty of healthcare coverage and yet no healthcare, perhaps it will be reported that some senior government official will be heard to say "let them eat healthcare."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Collapse in Motion

For some reason there exists a belief that economic collapses are sudden events. Because the collapse isn’t happening all at once, those who see what is happening must be wrong. This is true even in the rather fast collapse that started in 2008 with the housing collapse.

People generally think that the Great Depression of 1929, which started officially in, happened all at once with the stock market crash of 1929. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the crash was not the cause of the Great Depression, but was instead the trigger.

The same is true of the Great Depression of 2008 in that it was not caused by but was instead triggered by the collapse of the housing market. The second Great Depression actually started in late 2007, but the effects weren’t noticed until the housing market was no longer able to disguise the symptoms in the rest of the economy.

Collapses take time. This is true even of rapid collapses like in 1929 and 2008; it takes time for the many failed institutions to wind through and finish - longer if the government attempts intervention to rescue failed institutions.

Political collapses take even longer. The reason people do not believe that the current United States imperium is not in decline is because the decline has been going on for several decades. If the several years of an economic decline are too long for the average observer, then the several decades of political decline are beyond notice for the average observer.

Like an economic collapse, political collapses aren’t single events but often have a single event trigger. The collapse of the Roman Empire didn’t occur when barbarians invaded, but was made real when barbarians invaded. Until the invasion, Rome looked as might as ever, but was a hollow shell.

This decline, economic and political, will not be visible to someone who hasn’t studied history. Because it is not apparent on the surface it is something that won’t be believed, especially since so many people have an emotional investment in the current greatness of the United States. Reality doesn’t care of people don’t believe in the collapse.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The Hidden Premise of Collectivism

At the Library of Economics and Liberty, another argument was made to see if a justification for aggressive force could be made in certain limited circumstances. The situation is pretty simple, an island with ten people. Eight of them can produce enough food for one person each, one of them named Able Abel can produce enough food for all ten people, and one of them named Hapless Harry cannot produce any food at all.

The goal is to prove that under certain conditions it is justified to take from Able Abel and give to Hapless Harry, and for the other eight people to engage in the use of force in order to do so. In fact, there are some who already agree that use of force against Able Abel is justified.

There is one major problem with the scenario. It conflates a political obligation to help Hapless Harry with a moral obligation to do so, and that conflation is exactly the trap that Progressives hope people will fall in to. If Abel Able helps because it is the right thing to do, he is not a slave unless one is to call him a slave to his conscience. But according to progressives, unless Able Abel is forced to help then he will refuse to help. That hidden premise, that Able Abel would not help unless forced to, is actually quite monstrous, and says far more about progressives than libertarians.

Of course, the progressive response would be to say that libertarians are of course selfish. This is asserted without support, as if it is somehow self-evident that a desire to not steal from others is selfish.

Contrast this to the way the heroes of Ayn Rand’s novels behaved. The Classically Liberal Student described the scene from Atlas Shrugged where Dagny Taggart saw a beggar on a train.

Dagny actually looks at both men and sees that neither views the other properly: "The two men were not human beings to each other any longer." The tramp gets up, ready to jump, grabbing the small bundle of his belongings. Dagny yells out: "Wait." Rand wrote, "'Let him be my guest,' she said to the conductor, and held her door open for the tramp, ordering, 'Come in.'"

She offers the man a seat and asks him when he last ate. He responds, it might have been the day before. "She rang for the porter and ordered dinner for two, to be brought to her car from the diner." Damn, Rand, she missed a chance to prove that her critics aren't liars!

The tramp and Dagny talk. He tells her he doesn't want her to get in trouble. She wonders why she would, and he says because she must be traveling with a tycoon to be in her own car. She says she isn't. He assumes she must a tycoon's wife then. She says she isn't. He responds with a knowing, "Oh," implying her purpose was that of a prostitute or mistress. Was this where she sends him flying to his demise? Damn, not again! Instead, she laughed and told him she ran the railroad. They share dinner and conversation for several more pages. What a monster!

He goes on to describe how Ayn Rand herself reflected the generosity of the characters that are heroes in her novels. And yet it is still asserted that libertarians are greedy, objectivists are greedy, that those who advocate liberty and the free market would never help Hapless Harry without being forced to do so.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lese Majesty

A farmer decides, in the wake of the Mad Cow outbreak to conduct tests above and beyond those required by the government in order to advertise that his beef is safer than the national standard. The USDA doesn’t allow him to do so, he cannot conduct his own tests with his own money.

Many consumers are worried, maybe rightly and maybe wrongly, about Genetically Modified Organisms in their food. Seeing that there is a demand, some food producers decided to label their food as "GMO free." The FDA would not allow it, not because the advertisement was false, but because the FDA has decided that GMO foods are safe and this label would cause some to think otherwise.

When the banks were bailed out, it is rumored that some of the banks didn’t need a bailout. They were told that they had to accept a bailout anyway lest the public come to the conclusion that said banks were safer. The government had determined that the bailout would make the unsafe banks as safe as the banks that did not need a bailout. A bank not receiving a bailout would be an indication it was more safe in spite of the government saying all the banks were now safe. Of course this is more of a rumor than a substantiated story.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, private efforts to assist people in New Orleans attempted to operate along side the government efforts. The private rescuers were turned aside prolonging the suffering of some in New Orleans.

When the TSA first launched the BXR and MMW body scanners, it was pointed out repeatedly that these scanners cannot scan inside a body cavity. A news story from Saudi Arabia was presented pointing out that a terrorist there had hidden a bomb in his rectum. Eventually the TSA announced that their searches would be intensified because of the possibility of surgically implanted device. Those who most vociferously criticize the TSA realized this was their response to realizing the presented threat was valid but not being able to acknowledge an idea coming from outside their own organization.

What these all have in common is an effort by the government to forbid doubt of the competence and effectiveness of the government and its actions. It is Lese Majesty in its modern form, where it is wrong to insult the image of the king. This isn’t Sedition, which also should not be considered wrong, but merely the crime of causing people to doubt the goodness of the government. It has died out in most monarchies. In the United States it has returned and is regulated out of existence rather than banned because that would be too obvious.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Recasting Romney

For several decades Senator John McCain was regarded as the Democrat's favorite Republican. He was widely praised for cooperating with the Democrats on bi-partisan legislation while in the Senate. He was not considered radical or extreme at all, except by libertarians who viewed him as extreme for having the flaws of both Democrats and Republicans in one person.

Then Senator McCain became the Republican presidential nominee. In the course of one month he was regularly regarded and depicted as a radical hard-core right-wing extremist. All of the people who had previous praised him as a model of what a Republican can be and should be forgot everything nice they had ever said about him.

Once the election was over, Senator McCain was "rehabilitated" and is again regarded as a positive example of a Republican. Once President Barack Obama started experiencing problems during his administration it became important to portray Obama has having defeated a much more moderate Republican in order to show he had wider support when he had run.

There is no question about Governor Mitt Romney's conservative credentials. He is approximately as conservative as Senator McCain. It is Governor Romney who introduced Romneycare as the most glaring example among many of how his own beliefs are so far out of line with what Republicans allegedly believe (but quite in line with what they actually believe).

During the Republican presidential primary, it was widely regarded that the Tea Party constituency had no love for Governor Romney, preferring candidates such as Governor Rick Perry or Herman Cain. Now that the primary is essentially over, Governor Romney is being recast.

Looking at the preliminary Democratic campaign material in support of the reelection of President Obama, there is an attempt to associate Governor Romney with the Tea Party, portray him as an opponent of government-run health care, and strangely enough as radically different from President Obama.

The problem is, this rhetoric trying to portray Governor Romney as different from President Obama may work. With many of the United States electorate educated by government schools, and getting their news only from CNN or Fox, the facts matter less and less each year. And with the rhetoric from each side presenting the opponent as different in spite of the facts, this will become yet another in a long line of "most importation election ever" campaigns that will be used to argue that it is now too critical to vote third party.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Outrage Fatigue

At the Independent Institute, Anthony Gregory asks the question "Have We Become Accustomed to Police Brutality?" He makes a strong case, in that incidents of police brutality, had they occurred in the past, would have evoked a much stronger reaction than they do today. Comparing the beating of Rodney King to the beating of Kelly Thomas leaves a person wondering what has happened in the years between the two beatings.

One could argue that police brutality is a new prison normal and that what is actually an unnatural situation has become normal because people have adapted, adjusted their expectations. Just as people have come to regard 3% inflation as normal, they come to regard police not being held accountable for violating the law as normal, and they come to regard police brutality as normal. If a person were to argue that, it would be a pretty strong argument as well.

Another factor, though, could be outrage fatigue. There are more and more stories about police abuse, it is difficult to get outraged over and over again. It is especially difficult when those experiencing the prison normal of police abuse seem to not understand why civil libertarians are getting all worked up over what is, to them, just a police beating.

Eventually it becomes difficult to maintain any sense of urgency for what is becoming a common occurrence, and it becomes difficult to maintain any sense of importance in the face of masses who cannot see any significance to the incident being discussed. It becomes tiring to try to fight for liberty get a disinterested reaction from the very people they are trying to protect from the government.

To answer Anthony Gregory’s question, for many people it is a new prison normal. And for libertarians it is outrage fatigue.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Third Party Game

The Third Party Game refers to all the ways the major parties use or manipulate third parties for their own advantage. The Republicans are far better at it than the Democrats are.

One way that it is played is to make donations to third parties that rival the opposition party. Democrats are still complaining about how Ralph Nader "stole" the 2000 election from Al Gore, but what made that "theft" possible was Republican donations to Nader. It is no secret that many of the donations for Nader's campaign came from Republicans.

If someone were to suggest to a Democrat that a donation be made to, say, the Constitution Party, the response would be shock and horror. "Oh no, they're evil, they want to destroy everything I believe in, I could never donate to them." Republicans didn't donate to Nader in order to advance Nader's agenda, but their donations weren't intended to advance Nader's agenda.

The other way that the Third Party Game is played is to nullify threats. Republicans also are better at this, sending Patrick Buchanan into the Reform Party, Alan Keyes into the Constitution Party, and sending Bob Barr into the Libertarian Party. Patrick Buchanan was able to destroy the Reform Party through an internal civil war. Alan Keyes didn't get the Constitution Party nomination, but did get the ballot line in California and thus lowering the nation-wide totals for their candidate Chuck Baldwin. Bob Barr (who has since endorsed Newt Gingrich) and Wayne Root (who has since endorsed Mitt Romney) alienated a sufficient portion of the Libertarian Party base that many wrote in Ron Paul, and thus lowered the totals for the Libertarian Party as well.

These tactics may be underhanded, but there are no rules saying not to do either of those actions with regards to third parties. What is interesting is that the Democratic Party leadership does such a poor job of doing the same thing. Perhaps it is a lingering sentiment of there being "no enemy to the left" so they cannot bring themselves to label parties such as the Green Party as enemies. Republicans have no such compunctions holding them back. Democrats are quite willing to share a stage at allies with various independent groups of a shared platform; the Republicans did a deliberate take over of the Tea Party when it appeared that a stage might be shared.

It will be interesting to see how the Third Party Game might be shared in the 2012 election cycle.

It is also possible, but somewhat far fetched, to suggest that occasionally Republicans support a party or candidate outside their own party that they would normally squash. This would be done to prevent a different third party from gaining prominence. Although Ross Perot did much to spoil George Bush's chances at re-election, he also gathered up all of the internal dissent that might have gone to more established third parties and catapulted them to prominence. Although John Anderson did not threaten Reagan, he did absorb much of the third party protest vote without even having much to offer in the way of concrete ideas. Perhaps Republicans are willing to throw an election in order to preserve the status quo of two parties interchangeable.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Libertarian Party Identity

Thomas Knapp makes an interesting argument, pointing out that the Libertarian Party is having identity problems. He points out how the "pragmatic" libertarians nominated conservative former Republican Bob Barr, selling out what the Libertarian Party for a vote bonus that never arrived.

And he is right. The watered down platform of the 2006 convention, the nomination of Bob Barr (who subsequently endorsed Newt Gingrich) and Wayne Root (who subsequently endorsed Mitt Romney), and the 2010 election of Wayne Root to the Libertarian National Committee and appointment to chair the Libertarian National Congressional Committee have all contributed to a very severe confusion of the libertarian message.

Now, in 2012, the same people who supported those previous actions are the strongest proponents of Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party nomination for president. Although far better than Bob Barr or Wayne Root, he has people nervous because of his foreign policy positions and his position on the fair tax.

But there is no need for the Libertarian Party to have such an identity problem. There is a ready-made identity for the Libertarian Party - it can embrace and endorse libertarian positions. Why is this hard?

It is hard because libertarianism is, for some people, too consistent. If one wishes to be libertarian only in economics, that person is an unusually enlightened conservative. If one wishes to be libertarian only in civil matters, that person is an unusually enlightened liberal. And if one wishes to be libertarian only in foreign policy, that person would actually not be libertarian in foreign policy but would be an actual isolationist.

That last of the three is the greatest problem because many of those who are causing an identity problem for the Libertarian Party have great reservations with being libertarian on foreign policy. Peaceful trade with all, entangling alliances with none, and the military (if one exists at all) is only to be used defensively - and defense does NOT include "pre-emptive counter-attacks." Nor does it include wars of liberation, which always manage to accomplish the exact opposite of the stated goal.

If the Libertarian Party is to return to having a core established identity that sets it apart from other political parties, it is in foreign policy where people must start. The Libertarian Party must make it explicit that the Zero Aggression Principle also applies to foreign policy and that the Membership Oath about not advocating violence to achieve political aims also applies to foreign policy.

Perhaps that is why the Reformers want to do away with the oath as well.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tax Increase Theater

In order to score rhetorical points, the Democrats are proposing raising taxes on the rich back up to Clinton-era levels. That means that the top tax rate will rise from 35% to 39.6%. That is an increase on one tax bracket of about 11%, and it shows not only that the Democrats are not interested in balancing the budget it shows that they believe the voters are idiots for thinking that 8% increase is what is needed to balance the budget.

Currently, approximately 66% of the government spending is paid for by taxation and 33% is paid for by borrowing. If the Democratic Party wants to balance the budget through tax increases, it would require approximately a 50% tax hike across the board, on all taxes and tax brackets. The top tax bracket would have to go from 35% to 52.5% which would not be displeasing to Democrats if they feel the voters wouldn’t react negatively. But that involves only taxing the rich, and a serious attempt to balance the budget through taxation will involve more than just taxing the rich.

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That doesn’t include the other taxes, which must also be raised by a similar amount. The 7% employee contribution and 7% employer contribution to Social Security must go to 10.5%, and similar increases are needed to all other federal taxes. This includes, by the way, the very unrealistic assumption that this massive across-the-board tax increase will not result in a severe and nearly immediate economic downturn.

Some Democrats will protest that tax increases on the wealthy would be enough if they were high enough, but that argument is absurd. There aren’t enough people in the top two brackets and their combined incomes are not enough to cover the 33% of the budget that is in deficit. Only by taxing the rest of the population as well, including the 42% of the public that doesn’t pay taxes at all, can the budget be balanced. The taxes have to be on everyone, which is a proposal the Democrats are not courageous enough to make.

There are two ways to balance the budget, and they are through either tax increases or spending cuts. The Democrats clearly prefer the idea of using tax increases, but if their proposal is only a mild tax increase on the top brackets, their proposal is as much about balancing the budget as the Ryan Plan is about spending cuts – theater designed to give the illusion and appearance of doing something without any of the hard work of doing something.

If the Democrats in office are serious about using tax increases to balance the budget, and do without any spending cuts, then there is only one proposal that shows they are serious. It would be the Democratic Party equivalent of the Randall Paul budget proposal which cut the budget by $500 billion and even Senator Paul admitted didn’t go far enough. The real point of the current tax increase proposal isn’t to raise revenue or balance the budget, it is to encourage class jealousy in order to increase votes this coming November.