Monday, March 29, 2010

Ron Paul: Healthcare and Economic Realities

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulWith passage of last week’s bill, the American people are now the unhappy recipients of Washington’s disastrous prescription for healthcare “reform.” Congressional leaders relied on highly dubious budget predictions, faulty market assumptions, and outright fantasy to convince a slim majority that this major expansion of government somehow will reduce federal spending. This legislation is just the next step towards universal, single payer healthcare, which many see as a human right. Of course, this “right” must be produced by the labor of other people, meaning theft and coercion by government is necessary to produce and distribute it.

Those who understand Austrian economic theory know that this new model of healthcare will cause major problems down the road, as it has in every nation that ignores economic realities. The more government involves itself in medicine, the worse healthcare will get: quality of care will diminish as the system struggles to contain rising costs, while shortages and long waiting times for treatment will become more and more commonplace.

Consider what would happen if car insurance worked the way health insurance does. What if it was determined that gasoline was a right, and should be covered by your car insurance policy? Perhaps every gas station would have to hire a small army of bureaucrats to file reimbursement claims to insurance companies for every tank of gas sold! What would that kind of system do to the costs of running a gas station? How would that affect the prices of both gasoline and car insurance? Yet this is exactly the type of system Congress is now expanding in health insurance. In a free market system, health insurance would serve as true insurance against serious injuries or illness, not as a convoluted system of third party payments for routine doctor visits and every minor illness.

While proponents of this reform continue to defy all logic and reason by claiming it will save money, I worry about cataclysmic economic events. Already investors are more reluctant to buy US Treasuries, fearing that the healthcare bill, along with other spending, will cause government debt to explode to default levels. I had the opportunity last week to address my concerns with both Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, especially about the potential for the coming serious inflation. I am not optimistic that these important decision makers truly understand what is coming, why it is coming, and how best to deal with it.

The Federal Reserve finds itself in an unprecedented and unenviable position. To keep up with government spending and corporate irresponsibility, it has increased the monetary base by nearly $1.5 trillion since September of 2008. Excess bank reserves remain at historically high levels, and the Fed's balance sheet has ballooned to over $2 trillion. If the Fed pulls this excess liquidity out of the system, it risks collapsing banks that rely on the newly created money. However, if the Fed fails to pull this excess liquidity out of the system we risk tipping into hyperinflation. This is where central banking inevitably has led us.

The idea that a handful of brilliant minds can somehow steer an economy is fatal to economic growth and stability. The Soviet Union's economy failed because of its central economic planning, and the U.S. economy will suffer the same fate if we continue down the path toward more centralized control. We need to bring back sound money and free markets- yes, even in healthcare- if we hope to soften the economic blows coming our way.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ron Paul vs Fed and Treasury

Over the last week Ron Paul had the opportunity to question Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner once and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Benranke twice! Check them out:

Ron Paul vs Ben Bernanke 3/17/10:

Ron Paul vs Tim Geithner 3/23/10:

Ron Paul vs Ben Bernanke 3/25/10:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nothing Outside the State (Robert Higgs)

An outstanding blog post by Robert Higgs on our "Land of the Free":

A popular slogan of the Italian Fascists under Mussolini was, “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (everything in the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state). I recall this expression frequently as I observe the state’s far-reaching penetration of my own society.

What of any consequence remains beyond the state’s reach in the United States today? Not wages, working conditions, or labor-management relations; not health care; not money, banking, or financial services; not personal privacy; not transportation or communication; not education or scientific research; not farming or food supply; not nutrition or food quality; not marriage or divorce; not child care; not provision for retirement; not recreation; not insurance of any kind; not smoking or drinking; not gambling; not political campaign funding or publicity; not real estate development, house construction, or housing finance; not international travel, trade, or finance; not a thousand other areas and aspects of social life.

One might affirm that the state still keeps its hands off religion, but it actually does not. It certifies certain religious organizations as legitimate and condemns others, as many young men discovered to their sorrow when they attempted to claim the status of conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. It assigns members of certain religions, but not members of others, as chaplains in its armed services.

Besides, isn’t statism itself a religion for most Americans? Do they not honor the state above all else, above even the commandments of a conventional religion they may embrace? If their religion tells them “thou shalt not murder,” but the state orders them to murder, then they murder. If the state tells them to rob, to destroy property, and to imprison innocent people, then, notwithstanding any religious strictures, they rob, destroy property, and imprison innocent people, as millions of victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and millions of victims of the so-called Drug War in this country will attest. Moreover, in every form of adversity, Americans look to the state for their personal salvation, just as before the twentieth century their ancestors looked to Divine Providence.

When the state produces unworkable or unsatisfactory conditions in any area of life, and therefore elicits complaints and protests, as it has for example in every area related to health care, it responds to these complaints and protests by making “reforms” that heap new laws, regulations, and government bureaus atop the existing mountain of counterproductive interventions. Thus, each new “reform” makes the government more monstrous and destructive than it was before. Citizen, be careful what you wish for; the government just might give it to you good and hard.

The areas of life that remain outside the government’s participation, regulation, surveillance, and other intrusion or control have become so few and so trivial that they scarcely merit mention. We verge ever closer upon the condition in which everything that is not prohibited is required. Yet, the average American will declare loudly that he is a free man and that his country is the freest in the world. Thus, in a country where virtually everything is in the State, nothing is outside the State, and nothing against the State is permitted, Americans have become ideal fascist citizens. Like the average German during the years that Hitler ruled Germany, most Americans today, inhabiting one of the most pervasively controlled countries in the history of the world, think they are free.

Render Unto Caesar: A Most Misunderstood New Testament Passage, by Jeffrey Barr

For those who think that Jesus' admonition to "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" instructs us to dutifully pay whatever taxes are demanded of us, Jeffrey Barr offers this persuasive argument to the contrary:


Christians have traditionally interpreted the famous passage "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's," to mean that Jesus endorsed paying taxes. This view was first expounded by St. Justin Martyr in Chapter XVII of his First Apology, who wrote,

And everywhere we, more readily than all men, endeavor to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by Him; for at that time some came to Him and asked Him, if one ought to pay tribute to Caesar; and He answered, ‘Tell Me, whose image does the coin bear?’ And they said, ‘Caesar’s.’

The passage appears to be important and well-known to the early Christian community. The Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke recount this "Tribute Episode" nearly verbatim. Even Saying 100 of non-canonical Gospel of Thomas and Fragment 2 Recto of the Egerton Gospel record the scene, albeit with some variations from the Canon.

But by His enigmatic response, did Jesus really mean for His followers to provide financial support (willingly or unwillingly) to Tiberius Caesar – a man, who, in his personal life, was a pedophile, a sexual deviant, and a murderer and who, as emperor, claimed to be a god and oppressed and enslaved millions of people, including Jesus’ own? The answer, of course, is: the traditional, pro-tax interpretation of the Tribute Episode is simply wrong. Jesus never meant for His answer to be interpreted as an endorsement of Caesar’s tribute or any taxes.

This essay examines four dimensions of the Tribute Episode: the historical setting of the Episode; the rhetorical structure of the Episode itself; the context of the scene within the Gospels; and finally, how the Catholic Church, Herself, has understood the Tribute Episode. These dimensions point to one conclusion: the Tribute Episode does not stand for the proposition that it is morally obligatory to pay taxes.

The objective of this piece is not to provide a complete exegesis on the Tribute Episode. Rather, it is simply to show that the traditional, pro-tax interpretation of the Tribute Episode is utterly untenable. The passage unequivocally does not stand for the proposition that Jesus thought it was morally obligatory to pay taxes.

Read the rest

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Peaceonomics, by Don Emmerich

Dom Emmerich wrote this great open letter to the peace movement:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Why do you love the state? That’s one thing I’ve never understood. For the past ten thousand years, the state has wreaked more death and destruction than any other human institution—and yet whenever I go to an anti-war rally, I always find you guys decked out in your Che Guevara t-shirts, distributing your little socialist newspapers. The last time I went to a rally, I had to listen to a couple of you blather on and on about the Soviet Union, explaining how crop failure, and not communism, was the cause of its downfall.

My friends, I can’t take it anymore. We need to talk peaceonomics.

Let me start by asking you a question. Why are you peaceniks anyway? Obviously because you hate war. But why do you hate war? What makes war so bad? No doubt most of you will respond by saying that it’s unjust, that it inflicts violence on innocent people, taking their lives and stealing their property.

Okay, let me now ask you another question. If it’s wrong for the state to use violence against people living overseas, then why don’t you think it’s wrong for it to use violence against those living within its borders? Because, whether you realize it or not, that’s exactly what you believe. You see, violence and theft are the lifeblood of every state, even those with dovish foreign policies.

To see why this is so, consider any one of your beloved social welfare programs. Now on the surface, things like unemployment insurance and Medicaid hardly seem pernicious. After all, if someone falls on hard times, it only seems right to lend them a helping hand.

And, of course, it is right to help those in need—provided that you’re helping them with your own money. If a man decided to withdraw $100 from his savings account and give it to a homeless shelter, then he would obviously be doing a good deed. If, however, someone were to corner an old lady, stick a gun to her head and demand everything in her purse—well then, even if he proceeded to donate this newly acquired money to charity, he would rightly be regarded as a thug and a criminal.

The problem with the state is that it doesn’t have any money of its own. Everything in its possession has been extorted from others. It’s not like the man withdrawing money from his savings account, but like the one sticking a gun up to the old lady’s head.

In order to grasp this point, just imagine what would happen if you didn’t pay all your taxes. Say you didn’t like how the state was spending your money and decided that, instead of giving up 35% of your income, you were only going to give up 34%. Well what do you suppose would happen to you?

At first not much; you’d just receive a series of reminder letters from the IRS. Then they might send a bureaucrat to talk to you or they might go ahead and start seizing your assets. Eventually, if after all this you still refused to pay, you would find some gun-totting federal agents at your doorstep with a warrant for your arrest. If you tried to defend yourself, you would most certainly be shot, probably killed.

This of course is barbaric. Nobody has the right to use violence against someone because they refuse to surrender their personal property. And it makes no difference that the people committing the violence are sanctioned by the state. What gives the state the right? If neither you nor I have the right to engage in non-retaliatory violence, then why should it? The state is composed of human beings just like us, human beings whom, as far as I can tell, haven’t been given any special divine mandate to murder and thieve.

So what gives this group of people the right to commit actions that we would condemn in anyone else? It can’t be that they’ve been democratically elected. Morality is not decided by a majority opinion. And it can’t be that they perform a necessary evil, that life without their coercive measures would be nasty, brutish, and short. First of all, Hobbes died over three hundred years ago and, as far as I’m concerned, has been thoroughly refuted by the likes of Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe. And second, and more importantly, certain actions, things like theft and non-retaliatory violence, are always wrong, regardless of their consequences.

Stop making excuses, fellow peaceniks. It’s time you start seeing the state for what it is: a criminal organization whose every action is enforced at the barrel of a gun. Be true to your professed beliefs, fellow peaceniks. Renounce violence. Renounce violence abroad, and, just as importantly, renounce violence at home.

Your loving fellow peacenik

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk: Supporting the War Instead of the Troops

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast week, Congress debated a resolution directing the President to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan no later than the end of this year. The Constitution gives the power to declare war to the Congress, so it is clearly appropriate for Congress to assert its voice on matters of armed conflict. In recent decades, however, Congress has defaulted on this most critical duty, essentially granting successive presidents the unilateral (and clearly unconstitutional) power to begin and end wars at will. This resolution was not expected to pass; however, the ensuing debate and floor vote served some very important purposes.

First, it was important to finally have an actual floor debate on the merits and demerits of continuing our involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan. Most congressional action regarding Afghanistan has concerned continued funding for the conflict. Thus, members of Congress have cloaked their support for an increasingly unpopular war in terms of financial support of the troops. But last week’s resolution had nothing to do with funding or defunding the war, but rather dealt directly with the wisdom of an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops (and hundreds of billions of tax dollars) in Afghanistan. Members opposing the resolution had to make their case for the ongoing loss of American lives as well as the huge expenditures required for an intractable conflict.

In my opinion, this was an impossible case to make.

Supporters of the war made the same intellectually weak arguments for continuing our occupation of a nation with a long and bloody history of resisting foreign occupation. Ultimately, the war supporters in Congress prevailed in the vote on the resolution. Still, the vote was significant because it places every member of Congress on the record as supporting or not supporting the unconstitutional, costly, violent occupation of a country that never attacked us. This vote should serve as an important reminder to the American people of where their representatives really stand when it comes to policing the world, empire building, and war.

The War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973 in the aftermath of Vietnam. It was intended to prevent presidents from slipping this country so easily into unwinnable wars, wars with indistinct enemies and vague goals. Unfortunately, it has had the opposite effect by literally legalizing undeclared wars for 90 days. In the case of Afghanistan, 90 days has stretched into nearly a decade. The original purpose of the initial authorization of force – to pursue those responsible for the attacks on September 11 – is no longer applicable. Al Qaeda has left Afghanistan; we are now pursuing the Taliban, who never attacked us. The Taliban certainly are not our friends, but the more of them we kill, the more their ranks grow and the stronger they become. Meanwhile, we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan and accelerating our plunge toward national bankruptcy. Whose interests do we serve by continuing this exercise in futility?

Osama Bin Laden has said many times that his strategy was to bankrupt America, by forcing us into protracted fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union learned this lesson the hard way; and ultimately was forced to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in defeat and humiliation. This same fate may await us unless we rethink our policy and resist any escalation of our military efforts in Afghanistan. Our troops should be used for defending our country, making us safer and stronger at home- not for occupying foreign nations with no real strategy or objective.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Butler Shaffer: Culture is Running on Empty

A terrific article by Butler Shaffer:

Conservative, n.: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

~ Ambrose Bierce

Butler ShafferIt is not surprising that, when culture is in collapse, so too is the level of thinking upon which it is based. This is doubtless the social equivalent of the proposition that water can never rise higher than its source. For a civilization to be creative and to thrive, it must have a substructure capable of producing the values that can sustain it. Our present civilization is dying because it no longer has such a base of support.

Western society has become so thoroughly politicized that it is difficult to imagine any area of human activity that can be said to be beyond the reach of the state. People’s diets, weight levels, child-raising practices, treatment of pets, how he can express anger, whether one can make alterations to his/her home – including replacing a lawn with rocks or plants: these are but a handful of private decisions intruded upon by the state. Other than complaints voiced by those directly affected by the state’s intervention, there are few who consistently defend the liberty of individuals to live as they choose.

A free, orderly, and productive society is held together not by the armed might of the police and military, nor by the dictates of rulers or the edicts of judges, but by a shared sense of the conditions that foster rather than inhibit life. At the core of such thinking is a belief in the innate worthiness and inviolability of each person, an attitude that manifests itself in terms of respect for one another’s property boundaries, within which each of us is free to pursue our respective self-interests. Peace and liberty are the inevitable consequences of living in a society so constituted.

Sadly, as our world has become increasingly infected by the virus of institutionalism – and its coercive agent, the state – men and women have intensified their attachments to these organizational forms. As we see in the repeated failures of government schools and the criminal justice system to meet the expectations so many have of them, people continue to invest heavily in the promotion of such governmental interests. The more such agencies fail, in other words, the more most people are willing to support them, an absurdity that provides such programs with an incentive to fail.

As the business world has experienced the consequences of moving from the self-disciplining nature of a free market system to the mercantilist coziness of the modern corporate–state arrangement, we find the same institutionally-serving impulses to use governmental force to benefit failing firms. Under the mantra "too big to fail," the corporate–state establishment has been able to bamboozle most Americans into believing that it is in their individual interests to be forced to support business enterprises that lack the resiliency, creativity, and other capacities to respond to competition; that they should be compelled to do what more and more would not choose to do in the marketplace.

I went to an Internet site and found a listing of now-defunct American auto manufacturers. Their numbers ran to some fifty-one pages. I am certain that, at their demise, the owners of such firms might have wished for the kinds of government-funded bailouts that their successors now enjoy. I can understand – although do not accept – the kind of thinking that would like to be on the receiving end of such state largess. It is not unlike Linus – in an early Peanuts cartoon – contemplating his death. After declaring "I’m too young to die," he finally admits "I’m too me to die!"

What I do not understand, however, is the innocence – the gullibility, if you prefer – of so many men and women who have brought themselves to share in the institutional mindset that the organizational system is to be more highly-valued and defended than the marketplace processes that created such enterprises in the first place. Such thinking is a symptom of just how deeply the virus of institutionalism has infected American society.

For various reasons that go beyond a principled criticism of our centrally-directed, vertically-structured society, the institutional order is in a state of turbulence. Political, corporate, and educational systems are increasingly unable to meet even the most meager of popular expectations. Our world is becoming more and more decentralized, with vertical systems being challenged – and even replaced – by horizontal networks governed by autonomous and spontaneous human activity. In the face of such changes, the establishment has become desperate to reinforce its crumbling walls. Because the state is defined in terms of its monopoly on the use of violence, it is not surprising to see it escalating the use of brute force in an effort to maintain its position.

Because, as Randolph Bourne advised us, "war is the health of the state," governments have sought to reinforce the support they enjoy from Homo Boobus by engaging in what the historian Charles Beard called the "perpetual war for perpetual peace." Whether such wars be undertaken for so-called defensive or preventive purposes is no longer a relevant consideration. The core offense at the Nuremberg Trials was the starting of a war; such aggression now serves, among many Americans, as an occasion for slapping bumper-stickers on their cars with the vulgar message: "support the troops." The war frenzy brings forth such displays of flag-waving as will cause the statists to give serious consideration to using nuclear weapons against Iran, as well as to warble idiotically: "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" during the 2008 presidential campaign!

The general absence of criticism over "preventive warfare" has led the defenders of statism to extend the practice to "preventive detention," by which men and women can be thrown into prisons and held without trial – or even charges filed against them – and without benefit of the writ of habeas corpus. While being so held, the captives may be subjected to all kinds of torture, a practice the statists wish to distinguish by calling it by a different name!

In an effort to plumb the shallowness of the minds of most Americans, the statists have reiterated the proposition, first enunciated by George W. Bush and continued under the Obama administration, that American citizens could be targeted for assassination as part of the "global war on terror." Just who the targeted persons might be, or who would have the authority to authorize their murder, was left unsaid. At long last, we have come full-circle from the political wisdom offered by Pogo Possum in the 1950s: "we has met the enemy, and they is us."

What next in the offing? Shall we soon be hearing of concentration camps, complete with gas chambers, to which Americans – or anybody else – might be sent for the "final solution" to the terrorism problem? Of course, the terminology will have to be cleaned up a bit, just as it was for the Japanese-Americans who, during World War II, were sent to "relocation centers" for the offense of having the politically-incorrect ancestors! As a recent bumper-sticker reads: "there will never be concentration camps in America; they’ll be called something else."

Nor would modern death-camps have to be specialized to the elimination of so-called "terrorists." What about other enemies of governmental programs? After all, if former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright can rationalize the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children in furtherance of her more mundane policies, how many millions might be sacrificed to such nobler ends as, well, saving the planet?

At last! A project to which Al Gore could be put in charge; one that would allow him to realize his life’s dream: to be in control of all life on the planet. How better to reduce carbon emissions on the planet than to systematically exterminate their contributors (i.e., human beings)? Of course, enough people would have to be left living in order to provide the energies with which to serve the state. But this is simply a matter of careful calculation to be engaged in by neo-philosopher-kings!

Will there be no end to the efforts of statists to keep upping the ante in their quest for absolute control over their fellow humans? Is there any indecency or atrocity which most Americans would be unwilling to embrace? Is there a moral threshold that most would refuse to cross?

As America continues to unravel, expect even more intensive efforts by the statists to regain and solidify their power. Look, further, to increasing numbers of your neighbors who sense that something is terribly wrong – quite evil – in America that must be resisted. To whom can we look for an assessment of the problem? Do the conservatives have anything to offer? Sadly, they are still too strongly attached to the kinds of thinking that got us where we are (e.g., the war system and police-state authority). As I read or listen to them, I find little more than name-calling, jingoism, and fear-mongering coming forth from those who lost their passion for liberty once the Soviet Union collapsed.

For the time being, at least, most of the liberal community is still in too much of a stupor over the election of a black president to be of much use in confronting the wrongdoing of the current state. The so-called moderates (i.e., the worst of all "extremists," who congenitally insist upon compromises between equally untenable positions) are, as in most matters, of little benefit. Nor will much assistance be found within most of academia, so many of whose members are in a terminal state produced by the institutional virus. The mainstream media will likewise prove to be a dry hole for enlightenment: they are the voices of the establishment; their job is to reinforce your institutional commitments. The Internet, by contrast, continues to be the best source of alternative thinking, what with entry into this medium being so easy. It is, perhaps, the best spur to individualized thinking since Gutenberg upset the established order of his day.

Because of the uncertain and unpredictable nature of complex systems, I don’t know of anyone – including myself – who has a monopoly on "all the answers" to what plagues us, both personally and socially. What we need to focus on, instead, are those who might have a better set of questions to ask as we try to distill a free, peaceful, and orderly society out of the carefully-organized insanity into which we find ourselves twisted and knotted. Perhaps it would do us well to recall the lessons from an etymological dictionary: that the words "peace," "freedom," "love," and "friend," have interconnected histories. Might our ancient ancestors have known what we have long-since forgotten as we traipse about in search of one divisive ideology after another?

March 9, 2010

Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival. His latest book is Boundaries of Order.

Copyright © 2010 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Butler Shaffer Archives

Ron Paul on the Census: A Little Too Personal

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Last week Congress voted to encourage participation in the 2010 census. I voted “No” on this resolution for the simple, obvious reason that the census- like so many government programs- has grown far beyond what the framers of our Constitution intended. The invasive nature of the current census raises serious questions about how and why government will use the collected information. It also demonstrates how the federal bureaucracy consistently encourages citizens to think of themselves in terms of groups, rather than as individual Americans. The not so subtle implication is that each group, whether ethnic, religious, social, or geographic, should speak up and demand its “fair share” of federal largesse.

Article I, section 2 of the Constitution calls for an enumeration of citizens every ten years, for the purpose of apportioning congressional seats among the various states. In other words, the census should be nothing more than a headcount. It was never intended to serve as a vehicle for gathering personal information on citizens.

But our voracious federal government thrives on collecting information. In fact, to prepare for the 2010 census state employees recorded GPS coordinates for every front door in the United States so they could locate individuals with greater accuracy! Once duly located, individuals are asked detailed questions concerning their name, address, race, home ownership, and whether they periodically spend time in prison or a nursing home - just to name a few examples.

From a constitutional perspective, of course, the answer to each of these questions is: “None of your business.” But the bigger question is - why government is so intent on compiling this information in the first place?

The Census Bureau claims that collected information is not shared with any federal agency; but rather is kept under lock and key for 72 years. It also claims that no information provided to census takers can be used against you by the government.

However, these promises can and have been abused in the past. Census data has been used to locate men who had not registered for the draft. Census data also was used to find Japanese-Americans for internment camps during World War II. Furthermore, the IRS has applied census information to detect alleged tax evaders. Some local governments even have used census data to check for compliance with zoning regulations.

It is not hard to imagine that information compiled by the census could be used against people in the future, despite claims to the contrary and the best intentions of those currently in charge of the Census Bureau. The government can and does change its mind about these things, and people have a right to be skeptical about government promises.

Yet there are consequences for not submitting to the census and its intrusive questions. If the form is not mailed back in time, households will experience the “pleasure” of a visit by a government worker asking the questions in person. If the government still does not get the information it wants, it can issue a fine of up to $5000.

If the federal government really wants to increase compliance with the census, it should abide by the Constitution and limit its inquiry to one simple question: How many people live here?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Conservatism Is Not What We Need, by Tom Mullen

Tom Mullen wrote this great article on why "conservatism" should not be our goal:

If you are going to listen to Washington politicians at all, it is always best to listen to the party that is currently out of power. After each election, it is the job of the losers to try to attack the winners in any way they can. Often, they inadvertently advocate genuine principles of liberty in the process.

During the 8-year nightmare that was the Bush administration, it was the Democrats that stumbled upon these principles in their efforts to regain the throne. It was they who pointed out that the government should not be spying on its own citizens, that the president was assuming un-delegated powers through executive order, and that it was neither morally justified nor prudent to invade a third world nation that had committed no acts of aggression against the United States and lacked any reasonable means to do so. Their hysterical mouthpiece, Keith Olbermann, even went so far as to cite a long-forgotten document, the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, it is now abundantly clear that these arguments were made simply out of expediency. With the Democrats in power, it is now the Republicans’ turn to “fight City Hall,” and they have rolled out their usual rhetoric about small government, free markets, and traditional family values. Moreover, they, too, have rolled out the U.S. Constitution and waived it around in opposition to the Democrats' plans to “spread the wealth around.”

Let’s take note that the Republicans are now correct in opposing the main tenets of the Democratic agenda, including expansion of government involvement in health care, “Cap and Trade,” and other wealth redistribution schemes. Amidst all of the usual noise coming from Washington and its media pundit class, it is only the Republicans that are making any sense at all.

Unfortunately, this is shaping up to produce familiar results. There is a growing movement for “change” that promises to “throw the bums out” in the next two elections. However, those who are part of this movement do not stop to consider what the Republicans' true agenda will be once they regain power. As they have for over 100 years now, Americans are dashing to the other side in their perennial political game of “pickle in the middle.” They still haven’t learned that the pickle never wins.

The Republicans are having remarkable success in painting President Obama’s agenda as socialist and their “conservatism” as its antithesis. Most average Americans who identify themselves as conservatives accept this argument. If socialism redistributes wealth through the force of government, then conservatism, being its opposite, must oppose such redistribution of wealth. If socialism means that the economy will be centrally planned by government “experts,” then conservatism, being its opposite, must leave those decisions with private citizens. If socialism results in big government, conservatism, being its opposite, must result in small government. These are the assumptions that inform the political decisions of most conservative American voters.

There is only one problem. None of them are true.

The conservative-liberal dichotomy is as old as politics itself. It was present at the founding of the American republic. However, despite the Republicans’ claim to represent America’s founding principles, America was actually founded upon radically liberal ideas. The secession from the British Empire was in essence a complete rejection of conservatism.

Most Americans today believe that the primary motivation for the American Revolution was a separation from the British government. However, the revolutionaries only acquiesced to the necessity of complete separation as a last resort. Even after Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, the colonists were still making attempts to settle their differences with the British king and remain in the British Empire. The primary objection of the colonists was not the British king being their executive, but the conservative, mercantilist economic system that the British government enforced. The colonists objected to the policies of corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, a central bank, militarism, and the taxes levied upon them to support these and other aspects of the worldwide British Empire. Had the British not imposed this system upon them, they would have been content to remain British citizens.

As soon as the Revolutionary War was won, the exact same debate erupted within the new American political system. Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists wished to replicate the British mercantilist system under an American government that would closely mirror the constitutional monarchy of Great Britain. The Federalists were the party of big government, national debt, corporate welfare, militarism, and central bank inflation.[1]

They wished to preserve the status quo insofar as the role of government and the nature of civil society was concerned, which benefitted a privileged, wealthy elite. They were the conservatives.

Socially, this party was the less tolerant of dissenters and tended to promote religion as useful in informing public policy. During Adams’ presidency and with the Federalists in control of Congress, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed, making it illegal to criticize the government. These also are core conservative principles.

Their opponents, Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans, promoted exactly the opposite ideas. They wished to radically change the role of government in society to one that was strictly limited to enforcing the non-aggression principle of liberty, most importantly economic liberty. They were opposed to corporate welfare or any other government redistribution of wealth, railed against the dangers and injustice of standing armies and the national debt, and opposed the central bank. Over and over again when asked about the role of government, Jefferson consistently applied the non-aggression principle to arrive at an unambiguous answer. Always his answer supported each individual’s right to do as he pleased as long as he did not violate the rights of others, and to keep the fruits of his labor.

Jefferson and his followers insisted upon a “wall of separation” between church and state and denounced the Alien and Sedition Acts. They advocated free speech, civil liberties, and tolerance. These are core liberal principles.

While the conservatives gained the early lead due to George Washington’s election as president and subsequent appointment of Hamilton as treasury secretary, it was not a decisive victory. Washington, who along with Vice President John Adams was certainly a more moderate Federalist, also appointed Jefferson to his cabinet as secretary of state. This set the stage for an epic battle between the two ideologies after Washington departed from politics. Adams eventually broke with Hamilton and his party, costing him the 1800 election, and resulting in a decisive liberal victory by Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans. For the next 60 years, it was the liberal ideology of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom that dominated federal politics.

During this time, the conservatives constantly fought to establish bigger government, the central bank, and the other tenets of mercantilism that defined American conservatism. After the Federalist Party disbanded, they were replaced by the Whigs, a party made up of the same people and advocating the same principles as the Federalists. By this time, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans had also had a split, and had emerged as the Democrats.

The Whigs were never successful in achieving their goals, and eventually disbanded. However, as before, the same people and the same principles of big government were back again in 1860, this time calling themselves “Republicans.” They finally won a decisive victory in electing Abraham Lincoln to the presidency and a majority in Congress. Immediately, the Republicans began implementing their agenda of corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, and higher taxes. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it was this economic agenda (particularly the tariff) that motivated the southern states’ secession from the Union, not a disagreement over slavery.

It is vital to understand that the Republican Party was born as the party of big government, inheriting traditional, conservative big government principles from its conservative philosophical ancestors, the Whigs and Federalists. For most of its history, it has remained true to these principles, up to and including the Bush II adminstration. Barry Goldwater’s more libertarian platform during the 1960’s was a divisive anomaly in the conservative movement. Its popularity was later exploited by Ronald Reagan’s administration to implement the usual conservative philosophy of bigger government, militarism, and debt.

The problem for Americans today is that there is no longer an opposition party that represents a true antithesis of these principles. By the dawn of the 20th century, the Democrats had completely abandoned their core principles of individual liberty and economic freedom and adopted a socialist, democratic ideology of popular wealth redistribution. Where the Republicans continued to promote a system which plundered the many for the benefit of the privileged few, the Democrats no longer objected to government as an instrument of plunder and now merely fought to divide up the loot differently. They were no longer truly liberal, although they perverted that word in popular culture to mean exactly the opposite of what it really means. Since then, Americans have had to choose between two parties whose ideologies are fundamentally hostile to liberty.

One week ago, Congressman Ron Paul gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that both mainstream Republicans and Democrats disagree with. Of course they do. It was an eloquent articulation of America’s founding principles of individual liberty and limited government. Like Jefferson, Paul consistently applied the non-aggression principle of liberty to every aspect of government, concluding that we must end our worldwide military empire, end the welfare state (both corporate and popular), and get rid of the plundering Federal Reserve.

Socially, he advocated tolerance, civil liberties, and the right of every American to express his or her opinion, even if those opinions contradicted Paul’s own most preciously-held beliefs. Despite being likely the most truly Christian person in any branch of the federal government, he never once made any allusion to religion during his entire speech, except for a purely philosophical reference to Thomas Aquinas’ principle of the just war (he alluded to this as part of his anti-war argument). Young Americans for Liberty, an affiliate of Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, invited a gay pride group to the conference, invoking a bigoted outburst from one of the younger conservative speakers just before Paul took the stage. Paul’s followers roundly booed him out of the auditorium.

Ron Paul pitched his ideas as “conservative,” but they are not. During one point in the speech, libertarian radio commentator and publisher of Liberty Pulse, Kurt Wallace, turned to me and exclaimed delightedly, “Ron Paul is a radical!” He is. Like Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and the rest of the most pro-liberty founders of the United States, Ron Paul is a radical liberal (in the true sense of the word “liberal”). He is also an extremist, in the true sense of that word. He refuses to compromise his principles regardless of the political consequences.

Average Americans elect Republicans because they believe that Republicans will give them small government, low taxes, and economic freedom. They are mistaken. What they are yearning for has nothing to do with the Republican Party or the more general ideology called “conservatism.” What they really want is radical change. They demonstrated this in giving Ron Paul a victory in the CPAC straw poll. They also proved once again that they are wiser than the political class in Washington. At this critical juncture in American history, there is only one thing that can bring America back from the brink of social, economic, and political collapse: radical, anti-conservative change from leviathan government to extreme liberty.

[1] Thomas Dilorenzo’s books, Hamilton’s Curse and The Real Lincoln document the true roots and history of American conservatism superbly.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!


© Thomas Mullen 2010

New Jordan Page Song: "Liberty" (Acoustic Version)

Here's a great video of a powerful new song by musician and freedom fighter Jordan Page called "Liberty":

The video was shot, edited, and directed by the great Chris Rye, who was heavily involved in the production of the Ron Paul documentary For Liberty.