Friday, December 31, 2010

The Day Social Security Fails

Austrian Economists, and anybody capable of doing simple arithmetic, have all said that Social Security is in near danger of bankruptcy. For many years the date to watch was 2018, and recently due to Great Depression Two it has moved up to 2016.

The date is based on when Social Security starts paying out more than it receives in revenue. The predictions, based on extensions of existing trends, is that the surplus revenue would slowly diminish until finally the fund breaks even, and then as the trend reverses would cause annual deficits in the Social Security budget.

That leads to two possible interpretations of what will happen next.

Those who fervently believe in government, in spite of all the evidence, are convinced that there will not be a problem until 2038 (previously 2042) because the Treasury Bonds that comprise the Trust Fund will be cashed in.

Everyone else considers 2016 to be the day the program goes bankrupt.

To cash in the treasury bonds will require that the federal budget be running a surplus.

Even though the Social Security budget is running lean, barely breaking even, this problem could be dealt with even now by politicians with courage and intelligence to tackle the hard problems. Based on that this problem will not be dealt with until the last moment, at which time it will be too late.

But none of this is new. Why mention it now? It was previously noted that there was a potential for the United States government to attempt to shore up the losses by seizing private retirement funds.

It is already happening in Europe.

Planning for the future is the responsible thing to do - depending on the government to provide is both irresponsible and unethical. But planning for the future is also something that the government may be making it more difficult to do and punish people for doing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Freedom is Slavery

The United States is, of course, a free country.

There is evidence that the law serves the government instead of serving the people, that those who irritate authority will be punished without regards to law, and that when police misconduct becomes so blatant that it cannot be ignored the offenders will not be punished. But the United States is still a free country.

We have freedom of movement in this country. True, the screening standards by the TSA are secret so those who travel cannot make an informed decision before entering the airport about whether or not they wish to submit to the intensive physical search. The intensive search, compared often to molestation or rape, is the alternative for those who do not wish to submit to a nude screening. Those who, upon finding out what the search entails decide to not be searched, instead of merely being denied entry to their flight, are threatened with a fine of approximately $10,000 and sometimes arrested. When someone is giving the choice of submitting to sexual advances or being hurt for failing to do so, it is considered sexual assault. But the United States is still a free country.

Of course, there are choices other than flying. One can avoid the TSA by taking the bus, or one can drive. Soon all methods of transportation will be under TSA control and all citizens will need TSA permission to go anywhere. But the United States is still a free country.

Originally the Interstate Commerce Clause was interpreted to only apply to actual interstate commerce. In the 1930s the Supreme Court found an interpretation whereby any activity that impacts interstate commerce can be regulated under that clause. Any item grown for personal consumption is something that would otherwise be purchased, and if purchased might possibly be purchased from someone out of state. That is one of the alleged constitutional supports for the drug war. Now, with the healthcare reform passed by President Obama, even even inactivity is considered activity with regards to the commerce clause. The government has the power to dictate both what we purchase AND what we do not purchase. But the United States is still a free country.

Since the United States is a capitalist country, people are still free to engage in many business opportunities in spite of the restrictions of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Of course there are many licensing requirements that prevent people from entering many fields that would allow people to rise out of poverty. There are still more fields than can ever be covered by piecemeal regulations, so sweeping legislation has been enacted to cover all fields and limit or prevent the ability of the people to conduct business. But the United States is still a free country.

The Third Amendment to the Constitution was written to secure people from being compelled to act as agents of the government. When it was written there were few ways in which that could happen, the most common was forcing people to quarter troops. Today there are many more ways in which a person can be forced to act on behalf of the government. There is no proof that Joseph Nacchio of Qwest was indicted for refusing to be a government spy. Anyone who thinks so is a conspiracy theorist. And there is no proof that the women who accused Julian Assange had political motivations. It is true that due to the proliferation of laws, anyone can be accused at any time for unknown and obscure crimes, and that the government could use that power to punish those whose actions are otherwise untouchable. But the United States is still a free country.

When those issues are brought up, people insist that they are all necessary to maintain freedom in the United States, because otherwise there would be anarchy. Someone, somewhere, will describe each of those intrusions as a necessary price to pay for freedom. People are required to submit because of the social contract which is the price people pay for living in society. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote "None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." With all these freedoms, because the United States is still a free country, it certainly is true that Freedom is Slavery.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ignorance is Strength

The recent controversy over Wikileaks has put the position of government officials on an informed population in plain view. It is obvious to everyone that the government officials do not want people to know what the government is doing, and are going to great lengths to keep people uninformed, not only by targeting Julian Assange with trumped up charges, but by keeping the conversation focused on the act of leaking instead of on the content of the leaks. But the Wikileaks controversy is just one of the many ways in which there is a demonstrated preference for an uninformed population.

In "The Fountainhead", the antagonist Ellsworth Toohey described the general terms of his plans for taming mankind by comparing it to growing a garden. Instead of spending time plucking out each weed one at a time, he described preparing the soil in such a way that certain crops are encouraged and others are discouraged. Then he described intentionally preparing the soil so that weeds strangle other plants.

Starting with the preparation of the soil, John Taylor Gatto has described government education in very severe and exacting detail, pointing out over and over how government schools not only fail to educate on the topics one traditionally thinks schools should cover, but teach many topics one would not think schools should cover.

The superficial design flaws of the public school system help mask the fundamental design flaws. In general people are so busy worrying about why the schools don't teach our kids to read that they don't notice what they ARE teaching them. Schools teach conformity above all else. Schools, in addition to teaching us to conform and obey, are very purposeless. The article Why Nerds are Unpopular shows the nature of the social structure of a school. This is the down side of the herd mentality. The up side (which is even worse) is the herd mentality itself.

The result is a population that is largely illiterate in English, Math, Science, Economics, and Philosophy. Although the empire needs educated people to administer the empire, it also needs a population that is uneducated in everything except conformity to be an empire - a crippling internal contradiction.

Next is the planting of intellectual seeds, in which the range of allowable ideas is strictly controlled through an infotainment industry encouraged by the ruling class. Much of the news is celebrity personality gossip, and what little issue-oriented debate that occurs is careful to be confined to an allowable range of ideas. This was most blatantly on display when Fox News refused to allow Ron Paul to attend a debate of Republican Presidential Candidates, as he was considered "not legitimate." Certain seeds are not planted - very few colleges or universities teach Von Mises in their economics department or Ayn Rand in the philosophy department or literature department. Usually in order for such classes to exist there has to be a special endowment from an outside source.

Once the allowable range of ideas is fully defined, everyone can have their choices carefully tailored to guarantee the correct outcome. Everyone is asked if they will choose between a Republican or a Democrat on election day. Other options simply aren't discussed. People can have a choice, but the choice is meaningless.

Finally there is the full bloom of the garden described by Ellsworth Toohey. Very few people question the official narrative of events. When George W. Bush spoke about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, it was only the non-mainstream media that questioned him. When George W. Bush and Barack Obama enacted bailouts, the only debate was on the size, and not if bailouts work in the first place as that was settled Keynesian economics. And when Julian Assange posted leaked government documents, the debate centers on whether or not he was right to do so, whether he is a journalist or an activist, what crimes the Obama justice department would charge him with, and not on the content of the documents themselves and not on the crimes committed by government officials as described by the documents.

The final harvest is an undereducated ignorant population so that those who are in the ruling class can have the power to deal with the population from a position of strength.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

War is Peace

One of the effects of the Wikileaks document dump has been to undermine the case for the war on terror by showing how many of the supposed reasons were fabrications, as well as the opinions of the allies of the US with regards to the war on terror.

Of course, apologists for war point out the necessity of each involvement. But examining the root of each argument finds that the arguments themselves are unsupported. Each intervention is necessary because of the prior intervention, but what was the basis for the prior intervention? The War on Terror is a result of the interventions during the Cold War, the Cold War was a result of interventions during World War Two, and World War Two was a result of interventions during World War One, but what was the basis for intervening in World War One?

It is an elaborate interdependent structure, each piece connecting to every other piece, every facet supported by some other facet, and the whole structure supported by absolutely nothing.

That is important. The whole structure is supported by nothing.

That is what Wikileaks has shown us. There is no support for this whole structure. The US has a military presence in so many countries around the world because the US has a military presence in so many countries around the world. It is not in actual defense of anything, unless you count bases in one foreign country defending bases in another foreign country.

Of course, noticing this will get a person labeled "Isolationist" by those who refuse to tell the difference between "isolationist" and "noninterventionist." Yes, all isolationists are by default noninterventionists, but not all noninterventionists are isolationists, with some preferring to have peaceful relations with all and entangling alliances with none.

So the reason there are bases all around the world waging war in distant lands? It is to keep the peace, because if the US were not waging war on everyone there might be war, even war against the US. Instead the US is waging "peace" in Afghanistan, waging "peace" in Iraq, and threatening to wage "peace" against Iran as a way to prevent the US from having to wage war.

It’s nothing more than a circular argument suspended in midair. Wikileaks has committed the crime of pointing that out.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

More on Unions

In order to prove that libertarians are hostile to unions in general, and not merely hostile to them receiving special favors or benefits from the government, a staunch progressive referenced an article by Professor William Hutt: Trade Unions: The Private Use of Coercive Power. In it, Professor Hutt makes the argument that the strike or threat of a strike is a coercive act.

That article is actually little better than a diatribe against the economic ignorance of unions, their members, and their leadership. While it is clear that Professor Hutt stops short of forbidding unions the right to act, and thus the article does fit in within the realm of libertarian thought, it is also clear that the article is quite far off base when it describes a strike as coercion.

Only at the very end of the article does Professor Hutt actually get to one of the legitimate critique of unions expressed by libertarians, and that is their political activities to get them special favors or special benefits from the government.

But by calling a strike "coercion" he opens the door for asking for government intervention, the step he stops short of. If there must be a government, acting against coercion, acting against the use of force or the threat of force, is one of the few areas where it should act.

If there is a right to conduct business, there is also a right to not conduct business. It cannot be coercion to refuse to conduct business. There cannot be one without the other. That is what a strike is. And unions themselves are a right of free association.

The other factor is that he describes how unions hurt their own cause. Take any issue libertarians stand for, and it is obvious that libertarians have absolutely no interest in stopping people from hurting themselves. This is evident in every single moral issue on which libertarians and conservatives disagree.

The only redeeming factor in the essay is that Professor Hutt did stop short of advocating legal restrictions on unions. But he is truly straying beyond libertarian thought when he goes so far as to call striking or threatening to strike by the term "coercion."