Friday, June 27, 2008

History of the United States

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Home Business opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Liberalism, Conservatism, and Libertarianism.

This text uses America Centric definitions.

In America there are several different factions of liberals.

First there are the civil libertarian liberals, not to be confused with the minority rights liberals. These are the types most aligned with libertarians. Whether the issue is pornography, gay marriage, drug legalization, or prostitution, these are the ones (found in the ACLU or the Democratic Freedom Caucus) that agree with libertarians. They are very strong on civil issues, and slightly less on economic issues.

Then there are the union liberals. For them, protecting the working class is their motive. They are not overly concerned with civil issues, but are very concerned with protecting American Jobs. They aren't concerned about economic issues over much, but are quite interested in government regulation of the economy. Ironically this school of liberalism finds itself in alliance with one of the schools of conservatism, Mercantilist conservatism.

Then there are the environmental liberals. This faction is quite often at odds with the union liberal, as the environmental regulation proposed can quite often be harmful to the creation of jobs. While compromise makes all schools of progressive liberalism (except union liberalism) advocate the measure of environmental liberals to some extent, these are the core of that movement. They are not overly concerned with civil issues, but are quite interested in government regulation of the economy, just in a different way from union liberals and mercantilist conservatives.

Welfare Liberals are very much the core of American Progressive Liberalism. They range from the moderates of implementing a safety net to the extreme of a totally managed economy, all for the sake of helping the poor through taxation policy, government hand out policies, outright nationalization of portions of the American economy (such as health care), and regulation of the rest. While there isn't great concern for civil liberties here, economic liberties are completely dead within this tradition.

Finally there are also minority rights liberals. They are separate from civil liberty liberals for a reason, and that reason is the radicalization of this faction. Too many members of this faction are bigoted against groups outside their own minority. To hold up examples of the most extreme, look to Andrea Dworkin as an extremely radical misandrist feminist, or La Raza for Hispanic rights, or Louis Farakhan for African-Americans. They are quite opposed to both economic and civil issues as defined by classic liberals, and quite in favor of reverse discrimination.

There are also several smaller schools of liberalism.

Then there are several different factions of American conservatism.

Paleoconservatives, a smaller faction, are the one type which can be considered moderate libertarians. On economic matters they agree almost entirely with libertarians, and on civil matters they agree mostly.

Mercantile conservatives are the leading faction, and have been since the Republicans were called Whigs, and since the Whigs were called Federalists. Some may object that they should oppose government regulation when it harms their own interests, but that is not always the case. They dislike government regulation on themselves but accept it if it gives them an advantage. On civil issues they care little either way and are quite willing to advocate increased government control of civil matters in exchange for increased government control on economic issues provided that control gives them an advantage. While they are often seen as opponents of Union Liberals, they are often allies of Union Liberals. A tariff that increases the cost of imports protects American Industry (which satisfies the mercantilist conservative) also protects American Jobs (which satisfies the union liberal).

Moral conservatives are another major faction. While most exemplified by the Religious Right, it includes all those who advocate security above liberty. The moral conservative stands in distinct opposition with libertarians on civil matters. This school is not strong on economic thought, and is willing to exchange advocacy of government control of economic issues for advocacy of government control of civil issues. Any suggestion that drug laws or prostitution laws be loosened causes panic among this crowd.

Closely allied to the moral conservatives are the security conservatives. Like the moral conservative the security conservative stands in distinct opposition with libertarians on civil matters, and is not strong on economic though. While they lack the motive to police drugs or prostitution the way the moral conservatives do, they view any civil rights that impede police work as detrimental to society. While not strongly inclined by nature towards moral legislation the way the moral conservatives are, the fact that said legislation is law is enough to make them react with horror to any suggestion the laws be loosened.

Then there are the neoconservatives. These are the worst that conservatism has to offer. They are quite fond of regulation both economic and civil. They have no problems at all with a welfare state, since their ideology has a root with Trotsky. Because of that root, they have no problem with military adventurism, reshaping the world in their image in the spirit of Trotsky's "eternal revolution." They also have from Leo Strauss the belief in an elite that rules the ignorant masses, and from Machiavelli the belief that it is quite acceptable for leaders to lie to their subjects for the subjects own good. This, by the way, is the faction currently occupying the White House.

There are also lesser schools of conservative thought.

Then there are the factions of libertarians.

First there are the civil libertarian liberals, already described.

Then there are the paleoconservatives, already described.

Then there are the anarcho-capitalists, the most extreme form of libertarian. While most libertarians come out in favor of very limited government power, they come out against all government power.

Then there are the classic liberals, the core libertarians to the point where classic liberal and libertarian can be used interchangeably, who are considered soft by the anarcho-capitalists for our minarchism. This is by far the largest faction of libertarians.

Then there are the objectivists. While in agreement with classic liberals on almost everything there are a few key points of difference regarding the respect to be shown to those who disagree.

The leading schools of economic thought among conservatives are mercantilism, supply side / right Keynesianism, and some monetarism. Capitalism can be found among the paleoconservatives.

The leading schools of economic thought among progressive liberals are socialism, demand side / left Keynesianism, and some georgism. Capitalism can be found among the civil liberty liberals.

The leading schools of economic thought among libertarians are Capitalism, with traces of monetarism and georgism.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Importance of Strategy

One thing libertarians often lose sight of is strategy. This applies to both those inside the party and those outside, and to both the libertarian caucus and the reform caucus.

In California two ballot propositions were up for vote. Both of them promised eminent domain reform. Proposition 98 included very strong eminent domain reform, and also included rent control reform. It was a perfect libertarian initiative in that if it had passed it would have restored and protected the right of private property. Proposition 99 was a very weak eminent domain reform that basically left the balance of power in the hands of the city and county governments. Proposition 98 was written because of the discontent with Kelo versus New London. Proposition 99 was written to protect the cities and counties from proposition 98.

The advertisements for 99 pointed out that 98 was advertised as an eminent domain reform but contained a "hidden agenda" against rent control. The advertisements neglected to mention that rent control is a failure every time it is tried. Instead they simply ended by saying 98 was against rent control as if that alone were proof of the sinister nature of 98, and they correctly pointed out that 98 was a bundled measure and if one part passed the whole thing passed.

Proposition 99 feed on the discontent against eminent domain, and the measure that protected eminent domain rode to victory with the votes of those who wanted to reform eminent domain. Proposition 98 was defeated by the same margin by those who felt that the measure was dishonest.

At the 2008 Libertarian Party convention, the Reform Caucus beat the Libertarian Caucus. Mainstream libertarians are not represented on the 2008 Libertarian Party presidential ticket. It would have been a good move on the part of the Reform Caucus to sponsor a unity ticket with a prominent member of the Libertarian Caucus in the Vice Presidential Candidate slot. Failing to think strategically the Reform Caucus wanted their victory over the Libertarian Caucus to be thorough. Now the result is a weakened candidate. There is much discontent within Libertarian Party ranks over this ticket.

Bob Barr is campaigning for votes outside the Libertarian Party. What he is neglecting is that he should be campaigning for votes inside the Libertarian Party as well. The Reform Caucus has, by choosing victory over strategy, alienated a large portion of the Libertarian Party. The reaction from the candidate himself has been "I'm the candidate so you will vote for me." The reaction from the Reform Caucus has been to accuse everyone who hasn't warmly and happily embraced the ticket of being sore losers, wanting to destroy the party, et cetera. The truth is that by placing victory at the convention over strategy, the Reform Caucus is more guilty of trying to fracture the party than the disenfranchised Libertarian Caucus is.

Barr does need to spend time advertising to the base. He is neglecting that duty, relying on "you have to vote for me" to get the votes from the base. Libertarians are notorious for rejecting calls for "you have to vote for me" as a substantial portion of libertarians are converts from major parties and those converts realized that they don’t have to vote for the candidate of the party. It doesn’t matter that the hated other party will win if the candidate for the party is just as bad. That’s not to say that Barr is as bad as Obama or McCain – he most certainly is not as bad as them. The question resolves to is he good enough to get the vote of those who will actually analyze a candidate instead of showing blind party loyalty.

Strategy is important. A better thinking of strategy by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assocation and Proposition 98 would have passed. A better thinking of strategy by the Reform Caucus and Barr wouldn’t have to worry about getting the libertarian vote and could concentrate on the independent vote. As it stands now he has the potential to gain one at the expense of the other, and that will not result in the growth that the Reform Caucus promised the rest of the party when they rammed a double reform ticket down the throats of everyone else.