Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why Republicans Must Choose Ron Paul

Every single election, the Republicans make the same sales pitch to independent libertarian voters: this election is so critical, support us in this, and maybe later once the enemy is defeated we can maybe support issues that are important to you.

It is an offer that will never be reciprocated. In the odd even that a Libertarian candidate is the stronger candidate, the Republican Party has no intention of ever supporting that candidate. Although Massachusetts senate races are usually decided by a 2-1 ratio in favor of the Democrat candidate, in 2002 when there was no Republican candidate the Libertarian candidate only received 18% of the vote. There is no evidence of Republican support.

Progressives like to make rhetorical use of the alleged sympathy between libertarians and conservatives, and one of their few offered proofs is Ron Paul and his election to the House of Representatives as a Republican instead of as a Libertarian or Democrat. The treatment of Representative Paul by the Republican Party should be sufficient disproof of that point, but facts do not interfere with that rhetorical usage.

Further disproof of that sympathy is shown by the upcoming Iowa caucus. The Republican Party leadership has come out strongly against Ron Paul winning that caucus, to the point where they have threatened to strip Iowa of their "first in the nation" status if Paul wins, and have even moved the counting over alleged threats from Occupy.

If Representative Paul does win Iowa, the threats are there for the whole Republican establishment to come out and attack him. It is unknown what will happen if Representative Paul manages to pick up a majority of delegates, although it does appear they have a plan in place to discount the effect of all delegates from early states.

If the nomination is actually stolen from Representative Paul, if it is given to Mitt Romney, that would be an absolute proof that the "big tent" ceased to exist years ago and that the whole "Libertarian Republican" meme is nothing but a charade designed to fool libertarians into wasting their votes with Republicans and to give rhetorical ammunition to progressives.

If the Republicans want to keep up the sales pitch to libertarians, they have to allow Representative Paul to win. The alternative is to stop pretending there is a big tent, to stop pretending that there is anything in common between libertarianism and the Republican Party, and to lose the race by losing Ron Paul. If the Republican Party wants a future, they must choose Ron Paul.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't do it Gary

Right now there is intense speculation (in libertarian circles) about Republican Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson and a possible move from the Republican Party to the Libertarian Party to seek the presidential nomination.

That would be a bad idea.

Yes, Governor Johnson has reason to feel slighted. The press is giving much more coverage to all the other two-term governor candidates than to Governor Johnson, and he is being snubbed from the debates in spite of having polling numbers similar to other two-term governor candidates. The second debate that he was invited to was to see if the press could get him to attack Representative Ron Paul on who is more libertarian, and when Governor Johnson refused to play that game the press lost all interest.

Governor Johnson entered the race hoping to be the "Ron Paul of 2012" but when Representative Paul entered the race the two had to compete for the same initial slice of support, donations, and votes. While followers of one would generally be content with the other, a choice had to be made factoring in both the credentials of the candidates and the likelihood of making it through the primaries. The public settled on Representative Paul as the one most likely to have an impact in the 2012 race.

But that is not a reason to quit. Representative Paul has indicated that if he does not receive the nomination in 2012 he will retire from politics. If Governor Johnson sticks through with the Republican Party he can go in four years from ignored to a prominent voice, much the way Representative Paul did from 2007 to 2011. He will have shown the determination to pick up where Representative Paul has left off and move forward from there.

However, if he leaves to join the Libertarian Party and seek the presidential nomination there are many problems associated with doing so. The first of such problems is that the Libertarian Party is NOT a dumping ground for disaffected Republicans. The Libertarian Party of Alaska was wise enough to say no to Lisa Murkowski, and the Libertarian Party of Rhode Island was wise enough to say no to Daniel Gordon.

But the Libertarian Party was not wise enough to rebuff conservative Bob Barr, with whom Governor Johnson will be repeatedly compared. This is a comparison that will not go well considering that Governor Johnson's views on war are reported to be not as pure as those of Representative Paul's views. It is true that Governor Johnson initially supported the war in Afghanistan, but does not currently do so. It is also true that Governor Johnson wants to tie United States foreign policy to another country. A foreign policy of non-intervention is core to libertarianism. Given how both the Republican Party (except for Ron Paul) and the Democratic Party are pro-war, being pro-peace is very critical for anyone who would be as much of a spokesperson as the presidential nominee.

And on the issue of peace and war, the person who appears to be doing the most to bring Governor Johnson into the Libertarian Party is pro-war soi disant libertarian spokesperson Wayne Allyn Root, Bob Barr’s former running mate on the libertarian ticket in 2008. Perhaps Governor Johnson doesn’t know just how controversial Wayne Root is within the Libertarian Party, and how much his endorsement can actually hurt Governor Johnson within the party.

Riding on Bob Barr's coattails and being associated with Wayne Root - that is not the way to make a grand entrance into Libertarian Party politics. Doing so after not gaining ground in the Republican Party does damage to the image of the Libertarian Party with all of the false associations the press creates between the two parties. It would be a bad idea, both for Governor Johnson and for the Libertarian Party, for Governor Johnson to seek the Libertarian Party nomination.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This is not a victory for Obama

When Senator Obama ran for the presidency he promised, among other things, to end the Iraq war. Upon achieving the office, President Obama made it very clear that he had no intention of keeping that promise. It was the peace vote that formed a very solid vote in his favor, even though Candidate Obama had promised to escalate hostilities in Afghanistan. He did promise to end the occupation of Iraq, and won a Nobel Peace Prize for the achievement of being someone other than George W. Bush.

The final insult to those who vainly supported President Obama in the hope that he might, eventually, possibly keep his Iraq promise was when he declared that all "combat troops" were leaving Iraq, and that the 50,000 remaining troops were "non-combat troops." It was a clear signal that President Obama had absolutely no intention of even pretending to end the occupation of Iraq.

Since then, the Iraqi government has directed the United States government to withdraw all troops.

This puts the United States government in an awkward position. The rhetoric is that the current government of Iraq is legitimate and democratically elected. This legitimate and democratic government voted that the United States military should depart. If the United States government refuses the directive it puts to lie many of the already shallow claims about the Iraq war.

So in spite of not wanting troops to depart, in spite of all his efforts to keep troops in Iraq, President Obama has reluctantly decided to declare victory instead. He is claiming that he worked to keep his campaign promise, when the truth is that the promise was kept in spite of his best efforts otherwise.

The broader implications of this move are yet to be determined, as Iraq is a central launching ground for attacks throughout most of the Middle East and obviously a front in the evitable war with Iran.

Sadly, most of the Republican candidates will likely not only allow the lie by President Obama, but will encourage it. Their rhetoric will be that President Obama withdrew troops too early and is leaving behind a fragile Iraq, so that they may appear to be strong and determined on foreign use of the military. Only one candidate, Ron Paul, has the credentials to actually challenge President Obama on the actual facts of the Iraq withdrawal.

It is a good thing that the Iraq war is finally ending. It is unfortunate that President Obama will get credit for achieving that which he opposed simply because he happened to be in office at the right time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Economic Principles outside Economics

Although most people would deny it, economic principles apply in many areas of human life, beyond the labor market and the shopping market. Most people do not think of it in this way, but exchanges of value occur in every aspect of life. Perhaps that is why Ludwig von Mises referred to the subject as "Praxeology" instead of "Economics" because Praxeology is the study of human action. Praxeology studies what people do, in contrast to Psychology which studies what people think.

The simple act of who a person chooses as a friend to spend time with is in this sense an economic decision. When a person chooses a friend, the person says "you have sufficient value to me that I consider you worthy of the investment in time and emotion." As Ayn Rand noted, a person would not choose a friend who does not reflect the values of that person, but this can be expanded through an economic perspective.

A person would not invest with someone beneath them, and would be unlikely to achieve that investment from someone far above them. Of course value is relative, so therefore the terms "above" and "beneath" are relative as well, so that statement does not imply that there is an objective system of values that says some people are intrinsically better than others.

This is even more true in more intimate relationships. It is true that if someone were desperate enough that a sexual partner could be easily found, but there are many who would never lower themselves to the necessary level simply for some physical satisfaction. A persons body is a commodity that is not shared freely, but is instead traded with those who a person feels worthy of the trade.

Social activities outside of work and family reflect economic decisions as well. Some people are involved in religious activities, others in athletics, others in community artistic endeavors, and yet others in politics. The choice one makes are an investment of time at the expense of the opportunity cost of other activities.

This isn’t news to anyone who has studied the basics of economics, which includes all libertarians. Why therefore does it need to be stated? Because while most people have various economic beliefs other than laissez faire, they do not practice those other beliefs in their own lives. And their failure to do so, and what they actually practice, should be noted to them.

There are some ways this is done contrasting capitalism and socialism, such as various stories about students sharing grades. But that fails to capture the full range of economic ideologies, leaving out most notably Kenyesian and Welfarist economics. That leaves only the question of how one would apply those decision making theories to the decisions that take place outside of the labor market and the shopping market.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Progressives Did It to Themselves

It is a rather humorous take on Occupy Wall Street - the corporations control the government, so therefore we need more government to control the corporations. It would seem to indicate a flaw in progressive thinking, if the goal of progressivism was to regulate the economy for the benefit of the people.

But a look at history, when liberals and progressives were considered to be something different instead of today's misunderstanding which considers them the same, reveals a different picture of what progressives stand for and why.

When the so-called "Gilded Age" gave way to the "Progressive Era" the succession of William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft show the actual motives of the progressives, and why they actually sought to increase government power in spite of claims that it was for the good of the masses.

A significant portion of United States history can be explained by the conflict between the Rockefeller family and the Morgan family, with each family backing political candidates. The goal was to use the government to attack the interests of the other. Theodore Roosevelt was sponsored by, and acted for, the Morgan family. William McKinley and William Howard Taft were candidates of the Rockefeller family.

With all three, the appeal was made to give the government more regulatory powers, while the motive was to use those powers to attack the interests of the other family.

Libertarians and progressives both have a product to sell, and the target audience of both is liberals. Right now progressives are the more successful salesmen. They know how to frame their ideas in terms that appeal to liberals. They are able to frame the issues more successfully, because control for the sake of control isn't a liberal value.

The combination of Occupy Wall Street and Ron Paul preparing to face Barack Obama in the general election has thrown the whole issue of progressivism's true values into sharp relief. It is getting harder and harder for progressives to sell their poisoned product to liberals, and that is why progressives really are more terrified of libertarianism than ever before and so staunchly oppose the candidacy of Ron Paul.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Those who wish to rule must rue that the government ever created the internet. It has, since it branched beyond military use, become a big thorn in the side of the political class. In terms of shopping, it has enabled people to bypass sales taxes and to find bargains from a great distance as well as purchase used items at deep discounts on sites such as eBay. In terms of news it has allowed non-mainstream providers and their audience to find each other, and allowed greater dissemination of stories that the mainstream media would prefer to bury. In terms of law enforcement, incidents of an individual being mistreated are no longer considered isolated incidents local to one area but are instead indicative of a pattern with each new "isolated incident" feeding into the general outrage of the people being mistreated by the police. In terms of political activism, it has created the Ron Paul campaign as well as other issue focused campaigns that in the past would have died for lack of coverage.

Various attempts at "net neutrality" have been a topic of conversation, in which the cover of safeguarding the net is used to control the net. While there is some merit to some aspects of the discussion in favor of net neutrality measures, the discussion as a whole lacks much merit. It is obvious by the way the internet was constructed that it was a government project initially, as the methods of allocating bandwith are somewhat crude compared to how one might design the internet if one was starting from scratch.

But "net neutrality" keeps getting a justified defeat, so false claims of fairness have proven to be far insufficient. So in the name of stopping piracy a bill has been introduced to congress that will effectively shut down large swaths of the internet for those who access in the United States. It is the Stop Internet Privacy Act. A better, although more biased and more vulgar link can be found here although it would be a bad idea to open that link at work.

This bill has the potential to, in the name of stopping piracy, shut down many sites that contribute the value to the internet today. Any site that has user-provided content is at severe risk lest one of the users provides copy-righted content. If the content falls under fair use, the burden of proof is on the accused. Currently, under DCMA, if someone sees copyrighted material they must submit a letter to the site requesting the material be taken down. Under the SOPA bill, a site must instead actively monitor all content lest something be copyrighted, and failure to do so is a crime. YouTube, which receives a vast number of videos every day, could not handle the burden and would have to shut down. That would stop the embarrassing videos of police abusing people from surfacing and spreading.

Other sites that share content, such as Rational Review News Digest and Freedom's Phoenix which excerpt portions of an article and link to the original article at the original site may be considered to be at risk if the original provider does not want their article shared with a particular audience. Righthaven was shut down for their abuse of copyright law, but this new bill strengthens the position of similar copyright trolls.

The internet has been a force for freedom in this increasingly oppressive world. Given how many content provider websites are headquartered in the US, and disputes are supposed to be settled in the US no matter where the content provider website is located, this amounts to world-wide censorship. Currently this bill is in committee, but given what it could potentially accomplish this is bill should be stopped.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Democrat Argument for Ron Paul

If one must waste their vote by voting for a major party candidate instead of a third party candidate, there is no law saying that one must do so in an unintelligent manner. It still can pay to be smart and think ahead.

Most people who vote major party do not do that. Comments such as "I hope Bachmann wins because that would mean an easy victory for Obama" are common enough. The problem with such a wish is that it can too easily backfire. People saying such a thing should remember that whoever wins the Republican nomination does stand a good chance of winning the presidency.

It is therefore much smarter to hope that the best person wins the Republican nomination instead of the worst person. And if both parties are having a primary, as happened in 2008, it is better to hope that the best person in each race wins so that no matter which party wins the ultimate winner is better than he would otherwise be.

Although there are plenty of short-sighted reasons for the Democrats to support various candidates, the list of candidates that a Democrat could positively support is much shorter. It comes down to two candidates; Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Which candidate the Democrat should choose depends on whether the Democrat is a liberal or a progressive.

Progressives, if thinking strategically, would prefer Governor Romney. He is typical of a "moderate Republican" in that he supports the worst aspects of both the Republican agenda and the Democrat agenda.

Liberals, on the other hand, have every reason to support Representative Paul. He wants to end the wars in the Middle East. He would achieve the greatest advancement in civil rights since granting minorities the right to vote by ending the war on drugs. Although he is pro life, he would do more for guaranteeing the right to choose by sending the issue back to the states than either Romney or Obama. But most importantly he will end the wars, bring the troops home, and stop wasting money spent on these adventures, money that is currently being taken from the poor through inflation.

Democrats can influence who will be the Republican nominee, and if they honestly assess what they stand for they should admit that Ron Paul actually is the best in the Republican field. An honest answer should be "if we have to have a Republican as President, then it might as well be Ron Paul." For that reason they should help him win instead of participating in the blackout.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Local Politics is also the most Corrupt

Local politics is not only the most intense, local politics is not only the most blatant, local politics is also the most vicious and corrupt in its pettiness.

In Los Angeles County there are many rural town councils to help the county administrate the rural area of the county. These boards, although elected by the communities they represent, do not have any legislative power. The best description for these boards is that they are elected lobbying firms, lobbying the county on behalf of the communities.

They do have the power to write the rough draft of the zoning laws, but the rough draft is then turned over to the county to implement, and the county does rewrite them before they implement them. They collect community complaints and relay them to the county, whether it be road conditions or any complains that the community may have with regards to law enforcement and other county services.

Given the importance of these boards, one might think that they are not important enough for political corruption. That would be an unfair assumption.

The political intrigues that go on, although on an amateur level, are vicious. There are attempts to stack committee meetings and council elections, taking advantage of the low involvement in general at politics.

At higher levels of politics, the corruption actually eases the activity. Democrats and Republicans will vote for each others programs in order to get votes for their own programs, since they have exempted themselves from the laws and they are not paying for the programs themselves.

At local levels, things get mean. On condo boards, people do sue each other. On town councils people have been known to lodge baseless police complaints against each other, calling law enforcement to harass the competition.

The stakes are so small, the fights are so vicious, and most of the people involved have no intention of using the local boards as a stepping stone to higher office.

Why are things so vicious? Some people sarcastically answer that it is because the stakes are so small. Others point out that there actually are some results. Whatever the reason, local politics really is the meanest.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Supposed Campaign against Bullying

A seventh grade student is reading his history book. The subject is the Cherokee constitution and Cherokee law from early in United States history. He runs across a line stating that if man is attacked, and in the act of defending himself he kills the person who attacks him, that man is not to be punished.

The student is amazed. He tries to point out to adults around him this unique concept.

Their reaction puzzles him further. They see nothing amazing. They are confused as to why he is amazed. They react as if he is telling them how amazing it is that the sky is blue and the water is wet. Of course people are allowed to defend themselves.

Why is he amazed? Because self defense is not a protected concept in his world, the very artificial world of public schools.

The current focus of public schools, as expressed through public service announcements that run as if they were commercials, is a campaign against bullying. News stories hit the press about people who, unable to suffer any more, kill themselves. Teachers give occasional sermons about how school children should treat each other more kindly.

The problem is, students in school have figured out how the game operates. Those who would be cruel to their peers know that as long as the teachers don’t see it then it didn’t happen. As long as any cruelty ceases as soon as an authority figure enters the room then nothing happened.

Now if a victim actually stands up for himself, then it becomes a fight. The victim has to be taught a lesson, and that overrides the desire to stay out of trouble. Then the two students are brought to the school authorities, and both are punished for fighting.

Speaking to actual teachers about the need for them to do actual policing of bullying, how they need to determine who is the aggressor and the victim, leads to the cop-out that they are not police officers. And yet they are indeed given disciplinary authority, authority they could use to intervene if they desired.

The system, as it is currently set up, creates people who are supposed to be docile, to take any punishment, to never stand up for oneself. Some people take advantage of that system by aggressing against those who are being trained to be docile. The docility is a desired end by a government that doesn’t want anyone to stand up to the government. The bullying is a byproduct.

It is possible for the schools to determine who is an aggressor and who is a victim. The schools could curb bullying easily if they tried. The principle that both participants are equally guilty is what makes bullying possible, because refusing to acknowledge the difference between bulling and self defense is the only way to encourage docility. It also explains why the student would be surprised at a law that authorizes self defense.

Friday, October 28, 2011

To Be a Real Radical

It disconcerts progressives to learn that libertarians enjoy and appreciate Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. For a very long time they have tried to equate the term "progressive" with "radical" - but only sometimes - to try to portray their demands as daring, avant-garde, leading edge, or in some other way innovative.

For an example of this viewpoint, just peruse any comparison of the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement that is written by a progressive. Libertarians understand that the two movements, when at their best, are very nearly identical in meaning. The demands of those Occupiers that are less appealing to libertarians are the same demands progressives have been making for decades, and are considered "revolutionary" by the progressives commenting on the Occupy movement.

From a progressive point of view Saul Alinsky is supposed to be "left" and libertarians are supposed to be "right," whatever those terms mean. Plus libertarians support capitalism, therefore libertarians "can't be radical," ignoring the many and profound differences between corporatism and capitalism.

This must be made clear: the twentieth century was the century of government. That means advocating government is advocating what currently exists. That means there is nothing radical about seeking governmental solutions to society’s problems.

Everything that the progressive has to offer is a governmental solution to society's problems. Their only defense of that single track argument is to engage in the fallacy that if the government is not acting then nobody is acting to solve those problems.

The radical wants something different from the status quo. The conservative is comfortable with the status quo. The political and economic situation of the United States is a mix of mercantilist and Keynesian economics with a near-limitless government. The status quo is "progressive," and that means progressives are not only conservatives, they are arch-conservatives.

The real radical doesn't support more of the same. There are real radicals in both the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement. Anyone who claims that one is good and the other bad is in support of "keep them divided" and thus in support of the 1% of the population that is composed of elected and appointed government officials with actual power - the real ruling class. The real danger is that the radicals in each movement might discover a common cause with each other.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Macroethics and Microethics

It is common, upon finding out that libertarians oppose coercive wealth redistribution, to accuse libertarians of opposing charity as a whole. This is due to a basic confusion between macroethics and microethics.

Macroethics is the ethics of the macro scale, much like macroeconomics. It encompasses two fields; politics and economics. Microethics is ethics on the personal scale, the more traditionally understood field of morality. Of course the distinction between the two is as artificial as the distinction between microeconomics and macroeconomics, but doing so is useful to understand how the macro and the micro are different, just as in economics.

The two fields do relate, as is to be expcted, and holding certain macroethical positions will necessitate holding certain microethical positions, and vice versa. It is impossible to consistently hold a political belief opposing the initiation of force without also holding the moral belief opposing the same.

But the connections aren't direct and easy to misinterpret, much like how the connections between microeconomics and macroeconomics are not direct and easy to misinterpret. One can point out how microeconomically it doesn't matter to an individual whether his wage comes from the government or from the private sector, as long as he is working he will have both the satisfaction of a job and the satisfaction of an income. It takes looking at the matter from both the micro and macro perspective to notice the essential difference.

And it takes looking at ethical activities from both a micro and macro perspective to correctly identify them. Accusing a libertarian of wanting people to starve (microethics) simply because he opposes wealth redistribution (macroethics) is an unwarranted extension. It is quite clear that the two positions are in the two different fields. Having identified that they are in different fields, one can then challenge the person claiming there is a connection to substantiate the claim.

Since the extension is unwarranted the claim cannot be substantiated. But a converse claim can be made. This converse claim will be a lot harder for the critic of libertarianism to defuse because it invokes the critics own logic. By claiming that force of government is needed because otherwise old people will be starving in the street, the person making the claim is admitting an unwillingness to care for family members if not forced to by the government. It is also a spurious claim.

The ability to distinguish between the macroethcial and the microethical, between the political and the moral, is important. The ability to point out the different is also important. It enables one to put away the fallacies that libertarians often face.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ron Paul and the Progressive Dilemma

There have been a series of articles explaining exactly why Ron Paul should appeal to progressives, and counter-arguments by liberals and progressives as to why Ron Paul should not appeal to them.

Given that Ron Paul is not the leading Republican candidate, that the nomination is more likely to go to Mitt Romney, then why is there so much frenzy, both for and against, for Ron Paul?

There are two potential reasons. The first is that it actually is possible that Ron Paul will win the Republican Party nomination. He is the true second place candidate in the primary in spite of being eclipsed by various temporary other "flavor of the month" candidates.

The other reason is, for all the reasons explained by Charlie Davis, he does have reason to appeal to liberals. Charlie Davis uses the word "progressive" but there are reasons why “liberal” would be a better term.

Some people are led by their ideology to choose a political party, and because they are idealists are willing to reject the party when the party strays from what it is supposed to stand for. Some people are led by their party to choose an ideology, and if the party changes they change along with it. For some, ideas come first. For others, power and party come first.

Because of all the reasons detailed by those authors who wrote in favor of Ron Paul, he has some very strong appeal to those who place ideas as their primary motivation. And Barack Obama has very weak appeal to those same people. He could easily enough steal the support of those idealists from the Democratic Party where they are more often found, and therefore away from Barack Obama.

Those who place party first recognize this as a very real threat. Since their primary motivation is victory for their party, they are out to nullify Ron Paul before he becomes an actual threat. And that means convincing independents and Democrats that they have no reason to vote in Republican primaries for him.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Tea Party

Watching the activities of Occupy Wall Street is quite like watching the history of the Tea Party played at high speed.

Both movements started out grass-roots, comprised of a diverse range of ideologies. Both are spurred by the excesses of the collusion between the banking system and the government and the abuses contained therein, and therefore have appeal to libertarians. Both started under presidents that it is assumed the movements would support. Both were ignored by the media at first, until the country's political leadership decided it was time to co-opt the movement by sending in a stooge to claim to be in charge of and represent the movement. Both have a big name partisan speaking for the group, Michael Moore as the analogue to Sarah Palin. Both are being fully Astroturfed, with the Tea Party being taken over by theocons and Occupy Wall Street being taken over by unions.

Whereas this is working faster, Occupy Wall Street has already reached certain end conclusions that took the Tea Party years to achieve. Already leaders have appeared to present lists designed to discredit any participants who aren’t amenable to being steered in an appropriate direction. Given the two party paradigm, the effort is to shoehorn them into the Democratic Party.

Apparently the Tea Party proved to be a lesson for those in charge. It was ignored too completely, and became an actual movement before there was an opportunity to capture it and control it. Diligent work was required by Sarah Palin and Glen Beck in order to slowly co-opt the movement, and for a while there was a strong conflict between the "Sarah Palin faction" and the "Ron Paul faction" over control of the Tea Party. Even then the Tea Party did partially steer the 2010 mid-term elections, although they did “deliver the vote” as required by the Republican Party,

The Tea Party movement was ignored for one year, and it took two years to tame. Clearly the political elite do not want to go through that again. After ignoring the Occupy Wall Street movement for one week and determining that it is not going way, they moved in quickly to ensure that this movement doesn’t get away from them. Until then, the Democrats finally have their own Tea Party to go to.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Phony Arguments

"If you removed EPA regulations on BP, does that mean they will suddenly become good citizens and not pollute anymore?" That is an example of an argument used against libertarians when the subject of regulation comes up. It contains many premises not shared by libertarians: under current law individual land owners were not able to file legal suits against BP, the state of Louisiana was not able to take independent action to protect coastal properties from the spill, and the owners of BP were not held liable for the damage caused by the company.

"If you change this one little point, and leave everything else exactly the same, doesn't that prove that libertarianism doesn't work?" Pointing out all the unshared premises, that "everything else exactly the same" is not something libertarians agree to, does nothing to those making the argument. The response, over and over, is to say that anyone who points out it is a loaded question is actually ducking the question.

Does the argument represent a misunderstanding about libertarianism? Or is it a deliberate distortion of what libertarians believe? Given the refusal to allow any discussion of unshared premises it seems like a shallow attempt to conflate the corporatism and capitalism, a conflation that can only benefit the progressive belief in a thoroughly regulated economy.

People who make that argument forget that libertarianism is indeed comprehensive. Changing just one point, the endpoint regulation that appears to be necessary because of all the prior interventions, does not negate the theory that would deny all the previous interventions as well.

That leads to another, even worse argument used against libertarianism: the Somalia argument. Given all the times libertarians object to government interventions that make the situation worse, both in economic and civil matters, those who favor an activist government argue that libertarians should move to Somalia where they would be more comfortable. The argument also implies that the chaos that takes place in Somalia is exactly what libertarians advocate.

History clearly and easily shows the truth about Somalia, in which it was the fallen government of Somalia that brought the country to the lowest point a country could possibly reach. Those in the government forgot that a parasite is not supposed to kill the host, and proved that it takes a government to create the degree of chaos normally thought of as anarchy. Once the government fell, the people started to rebuild. Occasionally some government sends in a peace-keeping force to break everything again and install a temporary government that will fall once the foreign troops leave. The resulting destruction is considered further proof of how lack of a government is unworkable.

Given those facts, then why is that argument made? Like the loaded question, it is not made for the purpose of genuine discussion. The thing to do is, as always, to point out the facts, but there is no reason to suppose that doing so will actually work. Those making the two arguments are not interested in facts, they are merely hoping that others witnessing the argument will be more impressed with the argument than the facts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Official Accountability

Troy Davis has been executed for killing a police officer. There appear to be a large number of people convinced of his innocence, but the courts did not stop the execution. Some even claim that they have a confession by the actual murderer.

Assuming those protesting this execution are correct, then what does that mean? It means that the prosecutors, police, and a few other officials are guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. But what does that mean? Tragically, that means nothing.

First, the state holds a monopoly on criminal prosecutions. It is impossible to hold anybody in the law enforcement apparatus responsible unless they agree to do so. In the case of Kelly Thomas of Fullerton, CA, the worry of many was that the District Attorney would decline to prosecute entirely. That particular case had the population so enraged that it was impossible to bury without damage to the government structure, so two of the six police were charged. That case was very much an exception. In other cases where a criminal member of the law enforcement apparatus was held accountable, Mike Nifong got a single day in jail because neither the prosecutor nor the judge could believe that a prosecutor was being held accountable.

Second, assuming there was sufficient evidence to prove that an innocent was executed there is no guarantee that in a civil court these people could be held accountable. The law enforcement apparatus have granted themselves immunity for their actions. It takes a significant effort to prove that those responsible were acting outside what is legally allowable for them, and prosecuting someone who they have reason to believe is guilty at the time and then later ignoring the case when contradicting evidence comes to light is considered allowable. Refusing to reconsider a case is not forbidden.

If Troy Davis is innocent, as many claim, that means that there are several murderers in Georgia, from the police to the prosecutors to the judges, and it also means they have gotten away with it. Meanwhile in Fullerton there are four police officers who are accomplices to murder who are getting away with it. Both cases emphasize the need to reform the whole of law enforcement by stripping prosecutors of their monopoly on criminal prosecutions and severely diminishing the nearly all-encompassing protections of official immunity. Essentially there is no accountability anymore, and that is the indicator of a police state.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

TSA won't molest kids anymore ... maybe

The TSA has recently changed the rules for subjecting minors to the highly invasive pat-down that is given to those who opt out of the Advanced Imaging Technology (formerly Whole Body Imaging.) The problem is, according to the TSA, this doesn't mean anything is actually changing.

Please understand that this isn’t a free pass. TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures and nobody is guaranteed expedited screening.

The procedure is changing except for when it isn't?

Another problem with this announcement is that it is not the first time the TSA has made this announcement. There seems to be a real recidivism problem with the TSA, their policies, or their agents. The stories about the TSA and the invasiveness of their pat-downs are coming faster and more detailed, with the comments the stories receive showing the public gives more credibility to the passengers than to the TSA.

There is something deeply wrong when an agency has to promise to not molest children. There is something even more deeply wrong when an agency has to promise to not do it anymore. The recent rule change is the TSA promising to stop molesting children - unless the front line agent feels it is absolutely necessary.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Who Is a Libertarian (and won't admit it)?

Given the different people and groups trying to attach themselves to the libertarian label in spite of there being no actual connection, it may seem odd to find that there are people who fit neatly within the basic definition yet often wish to deny that label for themselves. Such is the case with Objectivists.

Libertarian and Objectivist are not synonyms. That is one of the reasons Objectivists like to not use the term. Objectivism is a fairly comprehensive philosophy, touching on all five major branches: Epistemology, Metaphysics, Ethics, Aesthetics, and Logic. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, which means it exists really only within the realm of Ethics, and mostly within macro-Ethics.

Also the major concern of each varies slightly from the other. Libertarians are concerned with the relationship between the individual and the state, while Objectivists are concerned with the relationship between the individual and society. These two causes overlap significantly, but not entirely.

Even so, when a basic definition of libertarianism is given, such as calling it a political philosophy that seeks to maximize the rights of the individual, or a philosophy that objects to the initiation of force, there really is no discord between Objectivism and other schools of libertarian thought.

Objectivists try to argue that because other libertarians arrive at similar conclusions from different basic premises that the agreement is more coincidental than based on common ground. The problem with that is twofold; first it argues that agreement is basically issue specific instead of philosophy based as the two above definitions would show, and second it neglects that the basic definition of a political philosophy is based on agreement on certain core principles without regard for how those core principles were derived.

Given that second argument, Objectivists try to argue that since the derivation is unimportant it means that libertarian has no actual definition and can mean anything. That's clearly not the case given that two non-conflicting definitions were already given that effectively describe what it is to be a libertarian. The term does have a meaning, and Ayn Rand had some pretty choice words to describe those would shy away from the meaning of a word. Objectivists, if they want the term "Objectivist" to have meaning, should heed her position on the meaning of words and realize that "libertarian" also means something.

When they do admit that "libertarian" means something, then they will have to confront what it does mean. That means that Objectivists, if they are true to their philosophy, are indeed libertarians in the political sphere

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More War on Home Business

There are two ways a person can go into business, and that is either providing a good or providing a service. Based on two laws, the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, it is potentially impossible for an individual to sell a product as a means of earning a living.

But there is no consistent regulation of providing services instead. The Institute for Justice has detailed many instances of local regulation regarding taxi service, interior decorating, or hair cutting. One area that has been ignored until now has been house cleaning or babysitting.

The state of California is now making an inroad on this means of augmenting a family budget - it has introduced Assembly Bill 889 that covers "persons who engage in specific types of domestic service." It leaves out those who provide health care through various state programs.

There are exemptions from those covered in the proposed law. Those under 18 are not covered by it, and family members who provide those services are not covered by it. This will not impact the income bondage of teenagers forbidden from earning a real living since it is unlikely they would ever earn much through babysitting, and so they are exempted. The bill requires extensive record keeping and benefits to accompany domestic employment and the fines are per violation per day so can quickly add up.

This will not impact the wealthy who hire domestic help, as they are capable of affording the paperwork that the bill demands. But a maid who works for several different middle class clients will find those clients have a hard time keeping up with the paperwork. It also creates a disincentive to do this without paperwork on the grounds that only the employer is liable and the employee is not. Therefore it sets the scene for a domestic employee to be able to turn around and threaten to report the employer unless unreasonable demands are met. Finally those who depend on babysitters will have a harder time having their needs met.

It is obvious who will be hurt by it; all who make money from babysitting or house cleaning, and those who depend on the services but are not wealthy enough to afford the employee paperwork. Who will benefit from it though? The bill sponsor claims that it is to protect domestic laborers, many of who are poor, minority, and even illegal aliens. That is not a politically powerful group. Who actually benefits from it?

House cleaning services, babysitting services, and day cares all benefit on the financial side. It will drive out the independent operator as those in the middle class who would hire domestic help will be forced to contract with the agency that handles the paperwork. On the political side the government will definitely benefit from more and more people being employed instead of self-employed and thus easier to track and record in accord with the war on home based businesses.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why Monetarism?

Although Monetarism, as an interventionist economic policy, clearly isn’t libertarian, people continue to consider it as such. The basic difference between Keynesian Economics and Monetarist Economics is that one favors fiscal policy while the other favors monetary policy as a way for the government to manage the economy through the manipulation of aggregate demand.

And yet many people do consider Monetarism to be more libertarian, to the point where if a spectrum is arranged Monetarism is listed as basically a midpoint between Keynesian and Capitalism.

Considering Keynesian Economics, a reason to consider it as such is because all Keynesians are both Monetarists and Progressives, they believe in both monetary policy and in regulation as ways to manage the economy. A textbook Keynesian is no closer and no farther from libertarian than any Monetarist.

So there is reason to make a spectrum. But why go so far as to insist that instead of being a midpoint between real Keynesian and libertarian Capitalism, Monetarism is so often wrongly lumped with Monetarism?

It would best be described by Rothbard’s Law. "people tend to specialize in what they are worst at. Henry George, for example, is great on everything but land, so therefore he writes about land 90% of the time. Friedman is great except on money, so he concentrates on money." Rothbard went farther to describe Friedman in even harsher terms, saying "And so, as we examine Milton Friedman’s credentials to be the leader of free-market economics, we arrive at the chilling conclusion that it is difficult to consider him a free-market economist at all."

Then perhaps there is one reason left why people would consider Monetarism to be libertarian in any respect. It is because the current center of United States politics is so far devolved towards the regulatory state, with the government enmeshed in so many aspects of the American economy that to embrace textbook Monetarism is to embrace a reduction in the government's role in the economy.

Unfortunately there is a lot of room between slightly decreasing the role of government and actual libertarianism. Being in favor of slightly less regulation, slightly less control, slightly less taxing and spending, does not make one a libertarian.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

And there goes the Power

The United States economy is crumbling. The Federal Reserve has a program of inflating the currency in an effort to stave off much needed deflation. Instead the stagnant wages of those outside government are being stretched farther and farther to cover rising costs of food and energy, two of the highest costs in a household budget yet also items underrated in the official inflation rate.

So what is the newest interesting activity by the government? A phony jobs project? A new subsidy that does more harm than good?

No, it is shutting down power plants and raising the cost of energy.

And with much of the nation in a heat wave, this could lead to rolling blackouts when people need their air conditioners most.

It is true that there is a rationalization, although not a justification, for this. Given that the law no longer is about providing a level playing field and is instead about begging favors and granting favors there is no reason that the government cannot waive any EPA regulations that force these closures. Moreover since the government wrote these rules there is no reason they cannot be rewritten to allow the plants to save open.

It is unlikely that this is done deliberately to hurt people. Instead it is more likely that this is an example of gross incompetence combined with tunnel vision on the part of EPA regulators.

Even so, it is simply an interesting detail in the greater picture of the decay of the United States.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Downfall Begins in Earnest

The economy has been in a state of flux ever since the recent debt showdown. Before the deal was made it was obvious that Keynesians would use the lack of a deal to describe any downturn that might have occurred had no deal been made. But there was no indication as to what Keynesians would blame for a downturn if a deal is been made.

A deal was made at the last minute. There were some attempts to blame the lateness of the deal, but those attempts fell rather flat. Then S&P downgraded the credit rating of the United States from AAA to AA+. As Lew Rockwell pointed out, this would not cause a crash unless people knew matters were much worse.

Are matters worse? A trip to the grocery store can answer that. Prices on food are going up. The official inflation rate is measured by a basket of goods that underrates the impact of food and energy. Those are the areas that are more important on the budget of the middle to lower classes. As Gonzalo Lira pointed out only some prices rise in an hyper-inflation. Food, energy, medicine all rise in price, while the price of everything else collapses.

The creditors of the United States did not view the increase in the debt limit, without any actual accompanying reforms, as a financially sound thing to do. The view was instead that the Unites States continued to live beyond its means.

Food prices are rising. This is obvious to anyone who actually have to consider the price of food. Utility prices are trending upwards as well. The cost of health care is in an even greater state of uncertainty due to the phenomenon called “regime uncertainty.”

Although the decline has been going on for a long time, and the point of no return was passed a long time ago, the decline has started to accelerate to the point where the average person is beginning to notice. And they notice just as it has started to accelerate in earnest.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Why the Budget Won’t be Cut

On a message board an experiment was tried. A very precisely worded question was posed to the members of this board.

Imagine you are in congress. Public pressure to cut the budget has grown so strong that the leadership of both parties has decided to actually at on it. Not with reductions of planned future increases, but with actual cuts. A special bi-partisan committee has been assembled, with the membership equally divided between the two parties. In order to keep argument to a minimum, the co-chairs have established one rule.

You can only suggest cuts to programs you support.

The theory is each party would support cutting the other party’s programs, and all it takes is one person to break ranks to get a majority in favor of cutting a program.

So, what program will you offer up to the chopping block?

It is a very difficult question for many people. The test was to see if Republicans would be willing to sacrifice any aspect of their many and multitudinous wars, or if Democrats would be willing to sacrifice any entitlement giveaway program. After all, the question was designed to eliminate any partisan cuts, cutting the programs of "the other guy."

The results were not encouraging. There was only one program that achieved any sort of consensus for cutting, and that was NASA. Strangely enough, both sides claimed it as one of the programs favored by "their side," and both sides were willing to put it on the chopping block.

There was no touching of the real budget eaters, the wars or Social Security and Medicare. Yes, every little bit helps, but the cuts that would help the most were left out.

When faced with a hypothetical scenario, partisans who aren’t elected to any office, with comments that would have no impact on the real world, were unwilling to admit that the real consumers of the budget should be cut. How much worse can it be for those in congress who will be voting on actual budgets and are locked in to special interests who forbid any cuts to their particular programs? If thinking people cannot even make hypothetical cuts, politicians cannot make any cuts.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Eliminate the Debt Ceiling

The official position of the Libertarian Party is to say "No" to raising the debt limit. It is a perfectly sensible position, because the alternative is the destruction of the dollar through inflation, and then hyper-inflation. The federal government is going to have to adopt austerity measures someday, whether by choice or by circumstance inflicted on the country. Of all the major party presidential candidates, only Ron Paul and Gary Johnson have spoken about the need to bring the finances of the government under control, and have spoken about how if the hard choices aren’t made now they will be made for the country later.

The problem is, the sane voices won't be heard. The Keynesians and Monetarists who control fiscal and monetary policy in the government will never accept that anything should actually be cut, other than a few token items of window-dressing. Their plan is to keep raising the debt limit every time it is reached. The entire show is Kabuki Theater because the Congress and the President know that the voters are actually watching this time and actually demanding that something be dome about the excessive spending.

But they do not believe in restraint. So perhaps the opposite approach should be taken on the debt ceiling issue. Give them exactly what they want, but give them more of what they want than what they are asking for. Eliminate the debt ceiling. Pass the necessary legislation to tie all government debt issuances to the budget, so that the Department of the Treasury can automatically sell debt as needed when needed without any restraint other than the budget passed by congress.

As crazy as that idea sounds, it has some advantages. The first is that, since sane voices are not able to engineer austerity measures directly, this would be a way to engineer them sooner rather than later, perhaps avoiding the final stage of hyperinflation. Although the Keynesians and Monetarists will never understand it, eliminating the limit entirely will signal to lenders that the United States government has no intention of getting spending under control and therefore is not a good risk for lending. This will cause the austerity measures to start sooner rather then after hyperinflation ruins the country.

Another benefit is that it ends what is a side-show, albeit a side-show that is much closer to the real issue than those in charge would like. Even after two congressmen in a row have resigned over sexual misconduct issues the attention of the public is still on excessive spending. Since the public is actually watching the government instead of the tabloids the debt limit is what is being debated instead of the actual imbalance. A "ten year plan," reminiscent of Soviet five year plans, is introduced with back-loaded spending cuts, and the public isn't buying it. Tax increases, which will eventually be necessary, are proposed without actual cuts, and the public isn't buying it. So everyone in Washington is debating the debt limit, and how the government will shut down without an increase to the debt limit. Eliminating the debt limit will force discussion on the budget instead of on an artificial self-imposed limit.

Although it would be disaster, there is a disaster coming anyway. So perhaps the best thing is to be intentionally wrong so that when the San Sebastian Mines are seized, the truth about them is laid bare for the world to see.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why the Government is out of Money

Recently the University of California has provided a microcosm of what is wrong with the government budget. The University system is cutting back programs and tuition is going up to pay for the budgetary shortfalls. Of course, that is not all there is to the story. Not all programs are being cut. The diversity programs are thriving.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time "vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion." This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

The University of California San Diego is cutting its master's degree programs in computer and electrical engineering, showing that according to the leadership of that university it is not engineering that will lead to a productive and prosperous future but it is diversity training that is what students need most to succeed after graduation. Meanwhile prize faculty are being bid away to other schools, such as three professors from the biology department who were offered a 40% raise to teach elsewhere.

Already it is apparent that college education is the most recent bubble to start to go down in an economy composed almost entirely of bubbles. Due to unemployment and underemployment as well as due to the ever accelerating increase in costs, the lifetime earning differential of a college education is falling below the cost of that education. In general college education is becoming a bad investment.

This one example from the University of California San Diego combines many of the problems with government today. Diversity programs are emphasized at the expense of science programs in an education that costs more and delivers less. The political is emphasized at the expense of the economic to deliver high cost solutions that fail to solve anything and due to their cost interfere with actual efforts to solve society’s problems.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What does "Environmentalist" mean?

One of the greatest challenges in political discussion is undefined terms. Not all terms are undefined, but those that are generally are deliberately undefined. Being deliberately undefined, it enables the speaker to shift between definitions whenever it is advantageous to do so. One such term is "environmentalist."

The term can mean anything from "someone who wants a clean environment" to a specific ideology. But if a critic uses the latter definition, those criticized default back to the former definition in an effort to use the government fallacy to prove the critic desires a dirty environment.

But if one tries to start by defining the term ahead of time, those who use the term "environmentalist" as a self-descriptor complain bitterly about how the critic is defining terms in a negative way.

The best approach seems to be in the way of Socratic reasoning to narrow down the show the distinction between hyphenated environmentalists (such as libertarian-environmentalists) and those who use the term without any modification.

The first thing to do is to ask what is an environmentalist, pointing out that by the basic meaning of the word it would indicate someone who wants a clean environment. Then point out the problem with that definition: it includes people who want one but not badly enough to do anything about it, and it includes people who want one but consider pollution the price to pay for progress.

That will get the unhyphenated environmentalist to agree that definition is too broad, and that it should be narrowed to "someone who wants a clean environment badly enough to do something about it."

This is where it gets tricky, and the critic of the unhyphenated environmentalist must stay on the offensive. The thing to do is to point out that according to most who use the term "environmentalist" as a self descriptor, libertarians are not considered to be environmentalists. Then challenge the statist environmentalist to deny that point.

If the statist environmentalist does deny that point, then the critic can call himself an environmentalist without fear of contradiction, and then put forward free market solutions to environmental problems as environmentalism.

More likely the statist environmentalist will not deny that point, meaning that the critic can now say "therefore the definition includes 'and advocates certain solutions' to environmental problems." That turns the definition into a political definition instead of concern about the environment itself. That is the definition that would be hotly denied without the Socratic lead in, and in order to prevent referring to free market environmentalists as environmentalists the statist environmentalist will have to agree.

A clear and concise definition is exactly what is needed to argue with statist environmentalists. The Socratic elimination is one of the most effective ways to achieve that definition.

Friday, July 08, 2011

California Shoots Self in Foot

Because California legislators are unable to control their urge to spend, especially their urge to spend on public employee pensions and salaries, they are always looking for new sources of revenue. There was one major stream of business not taxed, so the inevitable occurred. The government of the state of California decided to force businesses that do business over the internet to collect sales tax.

It is already law that residents of the state are supposed to pay the sales tax for all internet purchases. There is a line on the state income tax forms for that purpose - a line ignored by Californians. Frustrated by their inability to force Californians to pay yet another tax in one of the highest taxed states in the country, the idea was to “close a loophole” and force internet businesses to do the same tax collection that stores physically located in the state collect - a service they provide “free” to the state.

Already and are reacting to this new law. They are not collecting the sale taxes, though. They are pulling out of the state.

Both businesses have affiliate programs whereby people can sell their products through these major corporations. Both partners in the affiliate programs profit. The major corporations profit by getting a portion of the proceeds, and the small affiliates profit by having their products listed through major outlets where they can reach larger audiences.

These affiliate programs are all ended. The business connections have been severed. Amazon alone had 10,000 affiliates in California, and has ceased to do business with them unless they leave the state.

This law, instead of raising revenue, has created a revenue loss. Instead of increased sales tax, it has resulted in decreased income tax. It may have even resulted in increased unemployment compensation.

One would hope that the legislators and the governor would see the results and admit that a mistake has been made. One would hope that they would see the decreased revenue and the increased unemployment. Of course one would also hope that politicians are honest, capable, and intelligent, but the evidence indicates otherwise.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Judicial Reform in Defense

Since we have a government court system, one thing to do until liberty is achieved is try to make it function in a way that promotes actual justice. There are many ways in which the court system could be improved, some of them simple and some of them radical. One proposal is to hold judges accountable. Another would be allowing private citizens to file criminal charges. But there is one change that can be implemented right now, without any structural changes to the system. All it would require is a willingness to do the right thing. The part to change is the Public Defender's Office.

Currently, the Public Defender only defends the truly indigent. If someone cannot afford an attorney without going deeply into debt, but has an income above poverty, that person does not qualify for a public defender. Unlike civil suits where loser pays, a malicious prosecutor can financially break someone simply by filing spurious charges against them. The only reason that the Duke Rape Case turned out as well as it did was because the accused students came from wealthy families who were able to gather the resources to fight the charges.

The role of the Public Defender needs to be greatly expanded. Anyone accused of any crime should be entitled to representation by a Public Defender. A person still would have the right to hire additional representation, and would have the right to refuse a Public Defender, but the offer must be made. The problem with that is that the Public Defender’s office is already overwhelmed. Even with only defending the poor they have more cases than they can actually handle, and cannot devote enough time to mount a real defense of those they already represent.

The office itself should therefore be expanded. The Defender's office should have a budget equal to that of the District Attorney's office, and staffing levels of each office should vary by, at most, one person. Just as District Attorneys are promoted based on successful prosecutions, Public Defenders should be promoted based on successful defenses. Give full and equal resources and power to the two offices, to make one a real and actual check on the other.

If the average person is not equipped to face the full might of the government, unable to match the "unlimited" resources of the government, then the response should be to offer those same resources to the average person in defense as well as in prosecution.

The best part of this particular reform is it requires absolutely no structural changes to the justice system. It would not require any fundamental changes; it would not require amending any constitutions and it would barely require any changes to the law. All it would really take is the will to include it in the budget.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hail Caesar

From a constitutional point of view, every single war waged by the United States after World War Two was unconstitutional and therefore illegal. None of them had a proper declaration of war, passed by congress.

The federal government has given itself some cover by issuing various declarations and authorizations that fall short of an actual declaration of war. Additionally the War Powers Act, also unconstitutional, gave the President the authority to wage war without congressional approval if the war was under sixty days in duration.

None of these legalistic covers actually follow the constitution, but at least they have provided a method by which elected officials can assure the public that everything is being done properly.

Even when President Bush lied the country into war with Iraq, he used an Authorization for the Use of Force as his authority to send troops in. But that principle has escaped President Obama.

Obama has added a war with Libya to the long list of wars the United States is involved in. He claimed authority under the unconstitutional War Powers Act to initiate hostilities. And then the sixty day limitation passed, and the war did not end. President Obama still does not seek congressional approval.

And what was the reaction of congress? The House of Representatives passed a resolution rebuking the President, but it failed to halt funding for the Libya War. The one meaningful power the congress retained for itself - funding - is the one power that congress lacks the will to use.

The only thing left is for President Obama to appoint a horse to the Senate. "Hail Caesar" was the cry that brought down the Roman Republic. Will we hear a similar cry with regards to Obama?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Analysis of the June 13th Republican Debate

Sorry this is so late, the outside world is rather hectic right now.

Romney's performance was adequate enough to establish that he's still the front runner. He neither gained nor lost ground, and that technically counts as a victory for him.

The debate organizers left out Johnson. He is a former two term governor, like Pawlenty. They included a former two term governor, a former two term senator, and a congresswoman who has just started her third term and hadn't even officially declared yet - she declared AT the debate. Gary Johnson’s inclusion would have provided a nice counterpoint to Ron Paul as happened in the previous debate, with one arguing theory and the other arguing practicality for the same points.

Gingrich did little to advance himself; he won't last long given that his whole staff just quit. He gave some muddled answers about whether he likes or dislikes the Ryan plan. He's the most hawkish candidate, but that's not a huge achievement since the GOP has mellowed just a little on wars.

Cain is starting to give disturbing answers. He really is in favor of having no Muslims on his cabinet unless he knows for sure they are loyal, but insisted he was misquoted on loyalty tests. Then he said he would restructure Social Security they way it was done in Chile. That's a position many libertarians will not appreciate, since free market libertarians are always given broad-brush blame for what monetarists (not libertarians) did there in cooperation with dictator Pinochet. If he continues that answer will come to haunt him..

Bachmann was a surprise. Given what is commonly said of her by political commentators, a viewer could be excused for expecting guttural grunts as her means of communication. Instead she not only used complete sentences, she seems smarter than Palin with whom she is commonly compared.

On gay rights issues there were two big questions.

First, would the candidate interfere if a state passed a law allowing gay marriage, would the candidate support a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. Some said they would interfere and would support such an amendment. Ron Paul of course said he wouldn't interfere and went even further and said get the government out of marriage.

Second, DADT is going away. Would the candidate overturn the repeal or would the candidate leave it as is. There were several who said they would overturn it. Ron Paul is good with DADT being gone. Two for two, he is better on gay rights than Obama, and that is certain to annoy a few progressives. Bachmann and Pawlenty both came out strongly anti-gay.

Most of the candidates, except Newt and Santorum, have mellowed on the war, making hat tips to Ron Paul on that that. There were also a few hat tips on economic matters such as the bailouts. He is very much the second place candidate against Romney.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Extremists Only

Wendy McElroy had a comment rejected from an NPR article when she made a comment critical of the science behind Anthropogenic Global Warming. Szandor Blestman at Fr33 Agents had someone accuse him of being a creationist when he expressed skepticism towards the extreme claims of Al Gore regarding the environment.

The latter is an example of the "package deal" where unrelated positions are lumped together under the two party label, wherein someone is supposedly forced to choose between civil liberty and economic oppression on the Democrat side, or economic liberty and civil oppression on the Republican side. The Republican side also combines skepticism of AGW with faith in creationism. The Democrat side also combines skepticism of creationism with faith in AGW. That is all part of the package deal where one is supposed to accept both the good and bad points of a position.

But there is more at play than a mere package deal, and that is why Wendy McElroy was censored.

There is a political tactic that, when there is a divisive issue, to pick the most extreme member of the other side and to treat that person as if he was representative of the other side. Take the person who wants taxes the highest and treat him as if he speaks for all who want to raise taxes. Take the person who wishes a violent overthrow of the government and treat him as if he speaks for all who would want to restrain government.

So what happens if a reasonable comment slips through? In the case of Szandor Blestman the reaction is to try to cast someone as more extreme than he really is. Insist that he must be a creationist because of the package deal. It is similiar to when someone objects to government spending, respond by saying discussing how much Bush's wars cost and how he did the bailouts.

When that fails, just ignore the comments, pretend they don't exist, and when possible, censor the comments as what happened to Wendy McElroy. The comment was "held for moderation" and her posting access was for a time suspended. She posted a scientific critique of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Allowing her comment will prevent NPR from pretending only the extremists disagree.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Progressive Feudalists

In Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty, Murray Rothbard makes a good case about how Socialists are actually the middle ground between monarchists and libertarians. He does so by tracing the evolution of the political ideologies from the original French Assembly spectrum (wrongly considered to be the definitive political spectrum) to modern times where the different ideologies are thrown together basically at random until the original leftists are now considered to be on the right with their original opponents and the middle ground between the two is considered to be on the left.

He also neatly ties in progressives and fascists in with the feudalists, demonstrating how they are all superficial variations on each other, through a combination of direct ownership of the means of production, government and corporate mergers, and the regulatory state.

Progressivism has finally reached its final conclusion and become indistinguishable from the more extreme members of its family. Under President Bush and President Obama it has come to mean absolute power in the government and endless war, both for the sake of the ruling class. The rhetoric about having an omnipotent government for the sake of the people is rapidly fading away. First President Bush dropped any pretense about how "conservatives" favor any lessened role for the government in the lives of the people through the creation of the Transportation Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, and the passage of the USAPATRIOT Act, No Child Left Behind, S-CHIP, Prescriptions Drug Coverage for Seniors, and capping it off with the first round of Bailouts and Stimulus. Then President Obama dropped any pretense of how "progressives" favor any sort of civil liberty or commonality with the common man by continuing the bailout of Wall Street, expanding the War on Terror to include directed assassinations without a court order, expanding the War on Terror to include congress having no role at all, and passing a version of healthcare reform that as none of the goals that Democrats have clamored for years over such as Single Payer or other versions of socialized medicine, while also failing to move on any gay rights issues and expanding the Drug War.

Based on all of that, it is clear that Progressive now means an absolute authoritarian state with no concern for the people governed. It can still be debated if the US is a free country or a dictatorship, but there is no debate left that the leadership certainly has no regard for freedom and only has concern for their own power, and a willingness to shed as much of other peoples blood may be necessary to hold and increase that power. They have returned to their original root, described by Rothbard, as feudalists, the original enemy of libertarians.

It is time for liberals to abandon their “progressive” brothers if they want to reclaim what is left of their original identity as holding their ideology for the sake of improving the world and not just themselves. It is time for liberals to decide which way they want to go, it is time to choose between government and freedom, they cannot have both and they can no longer pretend that they can have both. It is also time for liberals to stop consider the term "liberal" and the term "progressive" to be interchangeable.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Indirect Subsidies

Sometimes the activities of the government can be truly mystifying when trying to understand. The whole subject of tobacco is one where nothing done makes sense. The product is both subsidized and taxed, subsidized so that the producers can make profits, and taxed to discourage people from the activity. The states simultaneously encourage people to quit smoking but depend on the tax monies generate from people smoking.

Moreover, in the 1990's, when lawsuits against tobacco companies by the states were popular as a way of recouping healthcare expenditures by the states, there were even more inexplicable complications. One company, subject to a lawsuit for the crime of selling a legal product to the citizens of a state, offered to stop selling the product in the state at all. The state responded by filing an injunction to force the company to conduct business while simultaneously suing them for conducting business.

The combination of supports to the activity and restrictions on the activity may seem puzzling, especially given the combination of subsidies and taxes. From an accounting point of view alone, removing both the subsidies and the taxes will result in savings through efficiency. The lack of subsidies will raise the price of tobacco to somewhere near the taxed price, but since the government isn't doling out money with one hand and collecting it with the other then there will be no transaction costs.

The reason this is not true though is because the layer of government that subsidizes the activity is not the same layer that taxes the activity.

In the federal system of the United States is that the states do not receive their income from the federal government but are instead responsible for their own budgets, their own revenue, and their own expenditures. Like any principle in modern government it is full out countless exceptions, most often in the form of directed funds for special projects, such as giving money for the construction of a community center. But unless there is a bailout of a state by the federal government, federal expenditures are not directed into the general fund of state revenues.

But if the federal government artificially lowers the price through subsidies, and the state government artificially raises the price through taxes, then the final effect is of the money being funneled through intermediaries to be received by the states. The consumer pays basically the same price, approximately, but a portion of that money is going to the states instead of to the farmer, and the federal government is paying the farmer so that the states can receive the money. So yes, the federal government does supply funds to the general revenue of the states, yet another way to prevent the states from gaining any ideas that they have any independence to stand up to the federal government when the federal government acts in an unconstitutional manner.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Backdoor Forbiddance

One of the ways to know if a government is tyrannical is when the law places demands on the people to not own various goods. Many of these regimes will declare various items to be contraband or forbidden, such as subversive literature or the means of self defense.

There is actually very little in the way of economic interactions in the United States that are actively forbidden for purchase. The list is actually limited to various illegal drugs and, in most states, prostitution. Technically everything else is available for public ownership.

But that is not the whole of the interference in private transactions. There exists a whole second class of goods that can only be acquired with special permits, such as firearms and prescription medication. In order to own any of those goods it is necessary to get special permission from various authorities.

By manipulation of permission various levels of the government have been able to turn de jure legality into de facto forbiddance, such as with the Chicago handgun bans. Anyone in Chicago can own a gun if they have a permit, but nobody can get a permit. It was due to the technicality that guns were not actually forbidden that Chicago tried to defend their ban at the Supreme Court.

The most insidious method by which the United States government says that the people may not own various goods is not through saying that the people may not purchase or own goods, but by forbidding instead the sale or manufacture of those goods.

When the incandescent bulb ban goes into effect, it will be perfectly legal for anyone to own any bulbs already purchased. It will even be legal to buy those bulbs if a store actually has them to sell. What won’t be legal is for the store to sell them. The same is the situation with raw foods, especially raw milk. Anyone can own raw milk, and there are no laws against purchasing raw milk. But nobody can get permission to sell raw milk, and those who do are subject to harsh government action for peaceful, voluntary transactions.

It is even true selling rabbits, or when kids set up lemonade stands, or when people sell rides, flower arrangements, hair care, or interior design services. While it is legal for some people to sell these products, it is not legal for anyone to sell these completely legal products.

It is actually quite clever on the part of the United States government to ban only the production or sale and not the acquisition or ownership. Although the effect is the same in terms of what the people can own, it is not the people who are being restricted and thus the people are not aware of the laws limiting what they can own.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rules for thee, not for me

It seems that many of the same organizations that supported the passage of Obamacare are also the organizations that have been
granted waivers to not be subjected to that legislation. It seems rather ironic, because if the people involved in those organizations really believed in the program then they would have no reason to ask for a waiver.

On the other hand, those groups that were not favorable to Obamacare are not being granted any waivers.

In a previous experiment in discussing healthcare reform it was shown that the point of healthcare reform was to force people in to it who didn’t want to be in it. The offer was made that those who oppose healthcare reform would be willing to fund it in exchange for not being part of it. The socialists argue that everyone needs to pay in to it in order for the program to work, so that was given to them. The socialists argue that government healthcare is better, so that was given to them. The price was that those who want a private system get a fully private system, private in every way. The offer was treated with horror.

The previous experiment proved that the whole point of healthcare reform was to force objectors in to a government run system. The current waivers show that the rule is intended only for those who do not want to be in it.

Such blatant hypocrisy can only be the result of a a truly authoritarian mindset where the rules are intended only and completely for political opponents. People are required to either support the ruler and get exemptions or suffer the consequences. By that standard, Obamacare is far more fascist than initially realized.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Keynesian Economics and Regulation

It may seem rather odd to say this, but it is actually true that Keynesian Economists are not automatically advocates of the regulatory state. By definition, Keynesian economics is concerned with fiscal policy, using federal budgetary policy to moderate the economy. There is nothing about that which would indicate that a Keynesian must embrace regulation - it is theoretically possible to encounter a Keynesian who is only concerned about fiscal policy.

The reason it appears that Keynesians must be in favor of regulation and the attendant bureaucracy is because all Keynesians are. There is no economic activity they are content to leave alone.

The right-Keynesians and the left-Keynesians differ on who should be the beneficiary of the demand pushing government spending. Right-Keynesians would prefer to benefit the upper classes, leading to supply side economics as the outgrowth. Left-Keynesians prefer to benefit the lower classes, leading to demand side economics as the outgrowth.

The unnecessary (from a textbook point of view) embrace of the regulatory state has a similar division. Right-Keynesians prefer regulations that benefit the upper classes, leading to Mercantilism or Corporatism as the outgrowth. Left-Keynesians prefer to benefit the lower classes, leading to Progressivism as the outgrowth.

When cornered in a debate, it does happen occasionally that Keynesians will admit that regulation is not part of Keynes’ General Theory. Perhaps it would be more interesting to corner the Keynesian on that and try to force an admission about how far from Keynes’ writing they have gone in their embrace of regulation.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Local tyranny is also the most blatant

If a person is unlucky enough to rent an apartment in the cities of Lancaster, California or Palmdale, California, that person no longer has any fourth amendment protections against searches. It is written in to the law of both cities. The setup is convoluted, but the end result is that no renter has rights.

It starts with code enforcement, as do many of the evils of local government. In order to ensure that apartment complex managers and owners are not mistreating the tenants, code enforcement officials are authorized to enter any rental unit without the permission of or a warrant against the people dwelling there.

So in order to ensure that, for example a fire detector has the batteries installed, agents of the government are allowed in with only the requirement that the property owner, not the renter, be notified. And this only applies to rental properties; homeowners are not subject to these inspections.

The problem is that anything that the renter might be doing is reportable to the police, and the word of the safety code inspector is all the police need to get a warrant. That means that apartment renters are subject to criminal searches under building and safety codes.

Given the vast number of laws that people are subjected to, and nobody knows all the laws that a person must obey, this means that the one guarantee people have to protect them from malicious prosecution – the fourth amendment prohibition against warrantless searches – is null and void for anyone who rents an apartment in Lancaster or Palmdale.

The theory behind the reportability is that since the government agent already has permission to enter the home, anything found is legally reportable. But the search is technically on the property of the lessor, not the dwelling of the lessee. It is a difference without a difference as far as the city governments are concerned.

One could make an argument that this is a coincidental byproduct, an unintended consequence. That would be understandable, except for the wording of the ordinances. Lancaster has the more severe wording.

5.40.020 Purpose

The existence of substandard and unsanitary residential rental properties and residential rental units, the physical conditions and characteristics of which violate applicable state housing, county and local codes and render them unfit or unsafe for human occupancy and habitation, threatens the physical, social, and economic stability of sound residential buildings and areas, and their supporting neighborhood facilities and institutions; necessitates disproportionate expenditures of public funds for remedial action; impairs the efficient and economical exercise of governmental power and functions; and destroys the amenity of residential areas and neighborhoods and the community as a whole. It has been statistically demonstrated that areas with rental housing facilities are responsible for a disproportionate share of police calls for service.

The disproportionate demand upon police services necessitates a disproportionate expenditure of public funds for such properties and impairs the property value of these properties and the surrounding neighborhoods as well as community as a whole.

It is the purpose of this chapter to implement a crime free rental housing program ("LANCAP") to provide a stable, more satisfied tenant base; increase demand for rental units with a reputation for active management; lower maintenance and repair costs; increase property values, and improve the personal safety for tenants, landlords, and managers.

It is also the purpose of this chapter to identify the existence of substandard and unsanitary residential rental properties and rental units and to cause the owner thereof to cure such defects.

For these reasons, it is in the public interest for the protection of the health and safety of the people of Lancaster to protect and promote the existence of sound and wholesome residential rental properties and residential rental units by the adoption of regulations for participants in LANCAP training and the periodic inspection of such structures.

The second paragraph is a key point. Given that the description of how substandard construction drains resources is already in the first paragraph, the second paragraph as a stand-alone describes apartment dwellers alone as being more prone to uncivil behavior.

On the national level, the TSA already has completely dispensed with the fourth amendment, but at least they do so on the refuted claim that they are trying to keep people safe from terrorists. In the case of Lancaster and Palmdale they lack even that much of a justification for eliminating the rights that should belong to every American.