Friday, November 30, 2012

American Economic Fascism in Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Marijuana Legalization Lacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Greece, Twinkies, and the Fiscal Cliff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Upside to Obama's Victory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The two choices when you vote

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

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

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

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

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