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Food for Thought

January 8, 2010 2 comments

Isn’t it ironic that liberals care so much about long term environmental sustainability, yet show utter disregard when it comes to pressing issues like our fiscal solvency or the war being waged on our country by Islam?

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A Call to Arms

November 2, 2009 5 comments


American populist angst has been rising for some time now. The optimist in me hopes that the Tea Party movement, and with it the rekindling within Americans of the vision of the founders and the defense of our Constitution can “fundamentally transform the United States of America” to coin a phrase from our old socialist pal in the Oval Office.

Yet while my heart tells me that there is a chance to turn this ship around, the overwhelming evidence that I have documented in my more sober if not brutally honest moments speaks to just the opposite. The progressives have been hammering away at our freedoms for well over a century, aggressively indoctrinating the citizenry with their perspicacious propaganda campaign. While our ideas are better, we have not adequately defended them.

Today it occurred to me that the perturbed conservatives I saw on Ailes’ evil news network harping on the blasphemous spendthrift blowhards in Washington were missing the point in blaming our politicians for their actions. Sure I am just as outraged as the next fellow at the spending of taxpayer money on projects fraught with waste and corruption, the sheer arrogance of our leaders in running roughshod over our economic liberty and in general the out of control growth of the nanny state.

But just as it was these political leaders who were the great enablers for the bankers in the financial crisis, through the gobs of cheap government credit provided by the head of the banking cartel – the government’s Federal Reserve, through their implicit guarantees of too-big-too-fail taxpayer protection and through their push along with the ACORN thugs for providing housing for even the least creditworthy among us, so too was it the American people that have enabled this government.

James Madison said of democracies that they “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Perhaps more prescient, Marx posited that “Democracy is the road to socialism.” But alas, this is the system that we allowed to take hold though the Constitution never once mentions it, and we the people, who were supposed to vigilantly defend our liberty, have allowed our government to devolve into an instrument whereby each group plunders each and every other group. And what is this instrument of plunder of government but a representation of the people?

Herein lies the problem with blaming the politicians. It is we that have elected these scallywags. Their sole goal is retaining power in office, future of the nation-be-damned. Like for the bankers, though they know the system to be unsustainable in the long run, what matters to politicians is reaping the rewards before the storm. It is the American public that has let them continue to be irresponsible, leaving us with over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. We have condoned the profligacy and pillaging of our rights.

Throughout history in this country there has been a constant battle waged between those who espouse liberty and those who would sooner trade liberty for tyranny than live in a society based on self-reliance, merit and morality. Even if we have voted against the bad apples, we are complicit in having not convinced our fellow citizens to do so. Instead, we allowed the so-called elites, the political entrepreneurs to take over Washington, D.C., promising the people healthcare, housing and the rest of the hogwash spelled out in the Second Bill of Rights. They debauched our great nation by our sanction.

Now let me turn from criticizing us Americans (I am as complicit in this lack of vigilance as all my Libertarian brethren), lest I start to sound like Barack Obama. What we must do as the antidote to the growing Leviathan is to fight the intellectual fight for liberty on every street corner, in every classroom and through every other media possible. We must infiltrate corrupt and destructive institutions and reveal the truth to our fellow countrymen. We must seek out candidates with no interest in political power – no desire to cut deals but a sheer wish to restore America to its rightful place in the world; to serve as honest and capable stewards aiming to leave a better country for their children and children’s children. We must seek people willing to take unpopular positions with a firm and steadfast resolve, equipped with the knowledge of and confidence in the tenets of classical Liberalism. A good start would be to seek out those who have no desire to hold office.

Good government requires a populace that seeks good government. Further, it requires representatives with the courage to fight for prudent policy, not the petty politics of payoffs and plunder. Most importantly, it beckons those who wish to honor the vision of our Founders, in which the liberty of the most important minority, the individual is protected, in which free market capitalism is advanced through the protection of private property and contract rights and in which the defense of our citizenry and by extension the securing of our freedom is the highest priority of government.

Demoralizing as our situation as a nation may be as a result of a government that we have allowed to run amok, I should say that in some ways I am optimistic no matter what direction this country takes. Should we rally to fight the fight against the socialist sophists and begin to roll back the last hundred-plus years of disgraceful governance, we will succeed. On the other hand, if we continue to hurtle towards the day of reckoning of default and/or hyperinflation in von Mises’ “crackup boom,” the welfare state will collapse of its own weight, and those of us armed with the right ideas will be able to step out of the darkness and help lead the country back to peace and prosperity.

Either way, we must fight on every front to advance the ideals of liberty and engage the leftists (many Republicans included) in debate. We can no longer blame our politicians, but must heed our own advice and take the individual initiative and personal responsibility to ourselves battle to make this country once again a shining city upon a hill. Nothing less than the future of the nation depends on it.

Credit Cards and the Collapsing Country

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The policy of credit card companies charging an annual fee for those cardholders with solid credit is a good proxy for the state of the nation, and also a microcosm of both the progressive (read socialist) movement in this country and the unintended consequences of an economic policy destined to fail — or succeed if you measure success by increased impoverishment.

Those two solvent, reputable, dare I say creditworthy institutions Bank of America and Citi are reportedly

starting to charge fees to reliable customers in response to a slew of new credit card industry regulations that will limit when banks can hike interest rates. Cardholders who get a new annual fee notice in the mail will be in a no-win situation.

“They can either pay that fee or they can close the account, and if they have had the account for a while and they close it, they are potentially going to hurt their credit card score,” said Woolsey (Director of Consumer Research at CreditCards.com).

This response to government intervention provides great insight into the problems with regulations the government claims will help the consumer. By preventing banks from increasing their rates in response to a lack of creditworthy borrowers in the markets, those who have proved creditworthy customers over time will be forced to subsidize those less reliable to make up the difference, proving yet again that there is no such thing as a free lunch. We could examine the further consequences for the macroeconomy of these creditworthy people being incentivized to become less creditworthy or if nothing else losing purchasing power as a result of this policy, but the above synopsis should do.

This policy reflects what happens every time the government tries to set prices – in this case the price of credit. Some people are aided, while others lose as a consequence. Further, as with the way in which government seems to favor the debtor over the creditor today, here the less responsible is favored over the more responsible. Adding insult to injury, the more responsible cardholder must subsidize the less responsible one. In essence, this is the basis of the welfare state. Those who generate more wealth must have a significant percentage of it expropriated to help out those who do not create as much wealth. We can argue over whether wealth generators are more responsible than the indigent, but I think you understand my point.

As I have mentioned before though, this liberal system in the end devours itself. First, it is economically unsustainable. At some point, those continually forced to subsidize the reckless and feckless will either go broke or go Galt. As a consequence, so too will the whole system (go broke that is). Second, from a moral perspective, the values engendered in rewarding people for being unproductive and penalizing those who create will pervert society, leading to its malaise.

As I have harped on continually here, the problem with the development of a capitalist system is that if not constantly fought for on both economic and perhaps more importantly moral grounds, it ends up sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Wealth begets wealth until it begets redistribution of wealth. Redistribution of wealth destroys the mechanisms that create it in the first place and weakens the moral fiber of a society. Much like organisms in nature that grow beautiful and strong only to decay in old age, capitalism seems to grow great only to end in grief.


Tax the rich
Feed the poor
Til’ there are no, rich no more

The Significance of 24

January 13, 2009 3 comments


24 has captured the imagination of the American public for the last 8 years, and with good reason. While the plots often border on ridiculous, nevertheless we keep watching, knowing that no matter how death-defying the situation, somehow Jack is going to save (or should I say bail out) the nation. It is refreshing that in this day and age there are still some people that value a good old-fashioned American hero.

In addition to 24‘s always entertaining story lines, the show presents both sides of many political and moral issues. This season of 24 particularly has focused on four themes worthy of examination: protection of our rights from the government, government corruption, intervention in foreign conflicts and political correctness and the issue of torture. While these themes have marked many a 24 season, in particular they pervade the current one, undoubtedly as a reflection of our current political climate. Let us analyze them.

On Protection from the Government

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this season has been the reemergence of CTU as a four-person team, fighting to protect the US citizens from the government itself. This is something that should convert liberals and libertarians alike into fans of the show. Our political officials and intelligence agencies have become so corrupted that only four people left in the country have the ability to defend the rights of millions. I have often asked myself the question, “If the government is supposed to protect our life, liberty and property, then who is supposed to protect our life, liberty and property from the government?” I’ll tell you who: Jack Bauer, Bill Buchanan, Tony Almedia and Chloe O’Brien. Though I doubt that Joel Surnow (awesome as he may be) et al really thought this point through, they should be lauded for exposing a fundamental problem with our governmental system, and showing that when threatened by enemies both foreign and domestic, citizens must band together to protect their rights.

On Government Corruption
In the current season of 24, government officials in the President’s inner circle and in the FBI privy to classified information are working for the bad guys – a rogue regime in fictional Sengala, Africa committing mass genocide. While the details are lacking, it seems clear that there are certain kickbacks monetary and perhaps political involved. Could our own government officials ever be working to undermine our nation for self-interested reasons?

While I do not think (and certainly pray) that any of our leaders would sell us out to the point of encouraging terrorist attacks against our citizens, there are ways that leaders more subtly have cultivated ties with our enemies. For starters, take a look at this recent WSJ editorial on Bill and Hillary’s dubious donors. With links to corrupt officials from Nigeria to the Dnieper, needless to say we may want to reconsider Hillary as our Secretary of State. I presume that the Clintons are just one of many political families with ties to less-than-stellar regimes (think of the Bush’s oil ties in the Middle East for example).

This is not to say that these pols are plants for foreign governments working to undermine our state, but we need to recognize that political influence as always has a price that many are willing to pay. Access is king. If someone can pull off a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, is it really impossible to believe that people in our government could subtly or not-so-subtly abet our enemies? I am no conspiracy theorist, but I do believe it pays to always be cynical of our representatives. Moreover, the general concept here of using political clout to receive favors, monetary or otherwise is timely in the wake of Blagojevich, Stevens and Spitzer…and all of political history for that matter.

On Intervention in Foreign Conflicts
The President in the current season finds herself in a bind largely as the result of engaging in foreign entanglements. Trying to act as a liberator of innocent civilians being murdered in Africa, the President prepares to attack Sengala, only to find that the Sengalese have taken control of America’s infrastructure and have the power to strike the nation’s most vital organs. Stand down she is told, and America will go unharmed; invade, and face the consequence of having American blood on her hands.

This scenario is quite prescient as we try to figure out as a nation what our role should be in the world. The predominant view had been that the US as the most powerful nation economically and militarily should serve as the world police, and that promoting democracy throughout the world, sometimes through outright nation-building, was the way to ensure our safety and the freedom and prosperity of others. Obviously, this philosophy needs to be reworked.

I do not view it as the proper role of our government to intervene throughout the world. When it comes to spreading democracy via nation-building, this has never worked well, with the exception of in Japan (a state with a democratic past). As we have seen in Iraq and Gaza, democracy does not ensure freedom or peace, nor do all peoples have the will for these values. While the American government should vocally support the cause of freedom, and not impede the American citizens from supporting the movement for freedom abroad through whatever means they so choose, it behooves the people of other nations to fight for these freedoms if they so desire them. As Mencken proclaims in his Notes on Democracy, “for the loftiest of all the rights of citizen, by the democratic dogma, is that of the franchise, and whoever is not willing to fight for it, even at the cost of his last drop of gore, is surely not likely to exercise it with a proper sense of consecration after getting it.”

This principle goes for trying to defend people suffering from grave injustices as well. I unequivocally stand in opposition to all tyranny and repression. If a people is being massacred, it is incumbent upon those who feel strongly on the matter to defend those people. This does not mean however that it is the job of our government to do so, unless our citizens explicitly request it. Our government’s number one priority is to protect our “life, liberty and property.” To get involved militarily with extraneous conflicts as we have seen on 24 and through practical experience poses a threat to our essential rights. It is the right of the people to defend others, but there should be no mandate on the government to do so.

On Political Correctness
Last year, a representative from Blackwater came to speak at Columbia University. I had the opportunity to ask him about the biggest ongoing challenges facing the defense community, and without pause, he answered that it was political correctness. Given today’s society, it is amazing that we are even able to fight wars anymore. As we see on 24, almost every intelligence decision is made while walking the fine line between balancing delicate political interests and the innate desire to defend our people. In my opinion, this political correctness not only cripples our education and economic systems, but proves most debilitating when it comes to intelligence. Without being able to obtain necessary information, we can kiss goodbye all of the other aspects of society we so cherish because we will be defeated.

Though I did not intend to go into it, this brings up the moral question of torture. Foreshadowing what I would bet we will see here, the season begins with Jack Bauer testifying in front of the Senate about the interrogation methods he used to help foil terrorist attacks in prior seasons. As one might expect, this testimony is pure political theater. The Senator grilling Bauer wants to hear Jack admit to ruthlessly torturing people. This is what the left has been fighting the Bush administration on throughout his tenure, and the objections they raise to torture should be vigorously debated.

To me it all seems very simple: if you believe that someone knows of an imminent, credible threat, torture, be it waterboarding, sleep deprivation or otherwise can be effective, and should be used. Otherwise, for numerous reasons it is best to avoid it. I understand that underlying the issue of torture are questions like its definition, and the guidelines of international law. I am no expert in these areas, nor have I given them sufficient study for my opinion to bare significant weight. But to a man, my humble opinion is that if you think your citizens are in danger, it is necessary for you to use whatever means possible to protect them. Our elected officials have an obligation to our safety first.

Forgetting about these weighty matters however, most of all 24 is entertaining, and should be appreciated by all. Long live Jack Bauer.