Monday, April 26, 2010

Ron Paul: Socialism vs Corporatism

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLately many have characterized this administration as socialist, or having strong socialist leanings. I differ with this characterization. This is not to say Mr. Obama believes in free-markets by any means. On the contrary, he has done and said much that demonstrates his fundamental misunderstanding and hostility towards the truly free market. But a closer, honest examination of his policies and actions in office reveals that, much like the previous administration, he is very much a corporatist. This in many ways can be more insidious and worse than being an outright socialist.

Socialism is a system where the government directly owns and manages businesses. Corporatism is a system where businesses are nominally in private hands, but are in fact controlled by the government. In a corporatist state, government officials often act in collusion with their favored business interests to design polices that give those interests a monopoly position, to the detriment of both competitors and consumers.

A careful examination of the policies pursued by the Obama administration and his allies in Congress shows that their agenda is corporatist. For example, the health care bill that recently passed does not establish a Canadian-style government-run single payer health care system. Instead, it relies on mandates forcing every American to purchase private health insurance or pay a fine. It also includes subsidies for low-income Americans and government-run health care “exchanges”. Contrary to the claims of the proponents of the health care bill, large insurance and pharmaceutical companies were enthusiastic supporters of many provisions of this legislation because they knew in the end their bottom lines would be enriched by Obamacare.

Similarly, Obama's “cap-and-trade” legislation provides subsidies and specials privileges to large businesses that engage in “carbon trading.” This is why large corporations, such as General Electric support cap-and-trade.

To call the President a corporatist is not to soft-pedal criticism of his administration. It is merely a more accurate description of the President’s agenda.

When he is a called a socialist, the President and his defenders can easily deflect that charge by pointing out that the historical meaning of socialism is government ownership of industry; under the President’s policies, industry remains in nominally private hands. Using the more accurate term – corporatism - forces the President to defend his policies that increase government control of private industries and expand de facto subsidies to big businesses. This also promotes the understanding that though the current system may not be pure socialism, neither is it free-market since government controls the private sector through taxes, regulations, and subsidies, and has done so for decades.

Using precise terms can prevent future statists from successfully blaming the inevitable failure of their programs on the remnants of the free market that are still allowed to exist. We must not allow the disastrous results of corporatism to be ascribed incorrectly to free market capitalism or used as a justification for more government expansion. Most importantly, we must learn what freedom really is and educate others on how infringements on our economic liberties caused our economic woes in the first place. Government is the problem; it cannot be the solution.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Napolitano Phenomenon (Jacob Hornberger)

Jacob Hornberger comments on the astonishing announcement that Judge Napolitano's Freedom Watch is coming to TV:

The Napolitano Phenomenon
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last October I wrote an article entitled “Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Libertarian Phenomenon,” in which I stated: “Fox News legal commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Internet program Freedom Watch is one of the most fascinating phenomena in the history of the libertarian movement. There’s never been anything like it and if it were to break out to the Fox News television channel, it would constitute nothing less than a revolutionary development in American politics.”

Well, guess what has just happened! Judge Napolitano recently announced that Fox has given him his television show! It will be on the Fox Business Network, the same network where libertarian John Stossel has his show.

This is truly an amazing development because as most everyone in the libertarian movement knows, Fox News is predominantly conservative while the good judge is a hard-core, take-no-prisoners libertarian. That has all the makings of a fascinating dynamic.

There had to be considerable handwringing within the group at Fox that decides these sorts of things. After all, in many ways conservatives are as different from libertarians as liberals are. While conservatives often use libertarian rhetoric (“free enterprise, private property, and limited government”), the truth is that they love big government, big spending, big taxes, big debt, and big inflation. Just look at the 8 years of the Bush administration.

Why, just this week famed Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly emphasized to libertarian Stossel how necessary it is for big government to protect people from those scary Wall Street bankers. In essence, he was explaining how the chickens need to keep looking to the fox (small f) to take care of them.

And as we witnessed for 8 years under Bush, conservatives also love undeclared wars of aggression, torture, indefinite detention, suspension of habeas corpus, kidnapping, rendition, foreign aid to dictators, empire, militarism, denial of due process, warrantless searches, illegal wiretaps, governmental immunity, and assassination, even while repeatedly proclaiming, “We favor limited government.”

Not so with Napolitano. As a libertarian, his perspective is entirely different. Unlike O’Reilly and the other conservative commentators at Fox, he correctly sees the federal government in the same way the Framers did — as the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people. And unlike conservatives, Napolitano has the deep visceral distrust of the welfare state, regulatory state, and warfare state that characterizes libertarians.

So, moving Napolitano’s show to television had to have presented quite a quandary for Fox management. On the one hand, Napolitano clearly does not have the same conservative mindset as O’Reilly and others at Fox. On the other hand, however, the Fox people know that Napolitano is an inspirational star for the entire libertarian movement, especially college-age libertarians and libertarians in their 20s and 30s. In fact, in personal appearances on college campuses he’s treated like Mick Jagger! His Internet show Freedom Watch has only grown in popularity, week after week.

I think it’s a fantastic decision that Fox has made. Clearly they had to have sensed that libertarianism is rising in popularity among the American people. Clearly they had to have sensed that libertarianism might yet become the predominate political and economic philosophy of our time. Napolitano’s new show won’t just be riding that wave, it will be helping to produce it.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.

Copyright © Future of Freedom Foundation

Ron Paul Speaks Against Iran Sanctions

Dr. Paul rises to speak up against the immoral sanctions against Iran (H.R.2194):

Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives

Statement on Motion to Instruct Conferees on HR 2194, Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act

Congressman Ron PaulMr. Speaker I rise in opposition to this motion to instruct House conferees on HR 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, and I rise in strong opposition again to the underlying bill and to its Senate version as well. I object to this entire push for war on Iran, however it is disguised. Listening to the debate on the Floor on this motion and the underlying bill it feels as if we are back in 2002 all over again: the same falsehoods and distortions used to push the United States into a disastrous and unnecessary one trillion dollar war on Iraq are being trotted out again to lead us to what will likely be an even more disastrous and costly war on Iran. The parallels are astonishing.

We hear war advocates today on the Floor scare-mongering about reports that in one year Iran will have missiles that can hit the United States. Where have we heard this bombast before? Anyone remember the claims that Iraqi drones were going to fly over the United States and attack us? These “drones” ended up being pure propaganda – the UN chief weapons inspector concluded in 2004 that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had ever developed unpiloted drones for use on enemy targets. Of course by then the propagandists had gotten their war so the truth did not matter much.

We hear war advocates on the floor today arguing that we cannot afford to sit around and wait for Iran to detonate a nuclear weapon. Where have we heard this before? Anyone remember then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s oft-repeated quip about Iraq: that we cannot wait for the smoking gun to appear as a mushroom cloud.

We need to see all this for what it is: Propaganda to speed us to war against Iran for the benefit of special interests.

Let us remember a few important things. Iran, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has never been found in violation of that treaty. Iran is not capable of enriching uranium to the necessary level to manufacture nuclear weapons. According to the entire US Intelligence Community, Iran is not currently working on a nuclear weapons program. These are facts, and to point them out does not make one a supporter or fan of the Iranian regime. Those pushing war on Iran will ignore or distort these facts to serve their agenda, though, so it is important and necessary to point them out.

Some of my well-intentioned colleagues may be tempted to vote for sanctions on Iran because they view this as a way to avoid war on Iran. I will ask them whether the sanctions on Iraq satisfied those pushing for war at that time. Or whether the application of ever-stronger sanctions in fact helped war advocates make their case for war on Iraq: as each round of new sanctions failed to “work” – to change the regime – war became the only remaining regime-change option.

This legislation, whether the House or Senate version, will lead us to war on Iran. The sanctions in this bill, and the blockade of Iran necessary to fully enforce them, are in themselves acts of war according to international law. A vote for sanctions on Iran is a vote for war against Iran. I urge my colleagues in the strongest terms to turn back from this unnecessary and counterproductive march to war.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It’s Official! Freedom Watch Coming To TV!

Thanks to Marc Gallagher for this wonderful news:
Freedom WatchAfter a little more than a year in existence Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano will be making the switch to television. We just received official word that this is happening.

The new show will air during a weekend prime time spot on the Fox Business Network. The exact debut date/time are not known at this time.

You have helped make this happen by supporting and watching the Judge’s show since it debuted on the Web in mid-February of last year. If you are feeling nostalgic you can listen to that first show here.

We have to continue supporting the Judge and the freedom message by spreading the word about the TV show once it begins airing on the Fox Business Network.

Let the ratings soar and make “Stay Free!” the mission statement of every American!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk 4/19/10: End the Mandate!

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast week I introduced a very important piece of legislation that I hope will gain as much or more support as my Audit the Fed bill. HR 4995, the End the Mandate Act will repeal provisions of the newly passed health insurance reform bill that give the government the power to force Americans to purchase government-approved health insurance.

The whole bill is rotten, but this provision especially is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Defenders claim the Congress’s constitutional authority to regulate “interstate commerce” gives it the power to do this. However, as Judge Andrew Napolitano and other distinguished legal scholars and commentators have pointed out, even the broadest definition of “regulating interstate commerce” cannot reasonably encompass forcing Americans to engage in commerce by purchasing health insurance. Not only is it unconstitutional; it is a violation of the basic freedom to make our own decisions regarding how best to meet the health care needs of ourselves and our families.

The new law requires Americans to have what is defined as “minimum essential coverage.” Some people may claim that the requirement to have “minimal essential coverage” does not impose an unreasonable burden on Americans. There are two problems with this claim. First, the very imposition of a health insurance mandate, no matter how “minimal,” violates the principles of individual liberty upon which this country was founded.

Second, the mandate is unlikely to remain “minimal” for long. The experience of states that allow their legislatures to mandate what benefits health insurance plans must cover has shown that politicizing health insurance inevitably makes it more expensive. As the cost of government-mandated health insurance rises, Congress will likely respond by increasing subsidies for more and more Americans, adding astronomically to our debt burden. An insurance mandate undermines the entire principle of what insurance is supposed to measure – risk.

Another likely response to rising costs is the imposition of price controls on medical treatments, and limits on what procedures and treatments mandatory insurance will have to reimburse. This is happening in other countries where government is intrinsically involved in these decisions and people suffer and die because of it.

This will only increase the bottom line of the very insurers the legislation was supposed to control. Meanwhile, alternate methods of healthcare delivery and financing, such as concierge doctors, alternative medicine, or physician owned hospitals will be greatly harmed, if not put out of business altogether, when the entire country is forced into the insurance model. It will be difficult for families to come up with extra money to pay for alternate healthcare of their choice when their budget has been squeezed by this mandate to buy insurance. This will in turn reduce competition for healthcare dollars. Health insurers, like many other corporations in other industries, have now used the legislative process anti-competitively to corner the healthcare market. Instead of calling this socialized medicine, we should call it corporatized medicine, since the reform is to force us all into being customers of these corporations, whether we like it or not.

Congress made a grave error by forcing all Americans to purchase health insurance. The mandate violates fundamental principles of individual liberty, and will lead to further government involvement in health care. It is time for legislation that fights back for the freedom of the people on this issue. It is time to End the Mandate.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ron Paul and the Libertarian Moment (Justin Raimondo)

Justin Raimondo wrote this terrific article on the astonishing rise of Ron Paul and the libertarian movement:

"Freedom in our time" – is it possible?

by Justin Raimondo, April 16, 2010 |

The news that a Rasmussen poll has Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) running in a dead heat against President Barack Obama in a hypothetical Paul-Obama face-off for the White House has the pundits fuming. Ben Smith, over at Politico, can hardly contain his annoyance: the poll "is a useful reminder of how totally flaky early polling is," he rants, and "this is the Ron Paul who polled, literally, thousands of votes placing fifth in the Iowa caucuses," and then only breaking ten percent after everyone but McCain had bailed. This evaluation depends on a static model, however: back then, there was no bank bailout, no insurance industry takeover, no tea party movement, and Ron had no real public record to run on – the 2008 campaign, in short, was a way for the country to get to know Rep. Paul, and the Rasmussen poll is a clear indication they liked what they saw. Instead of invoking Paul’s showing in the Iowa caucus, it’s more useful to compare this poll to the results of another similar Rasmussen poll taken in 2008, in which, as the pollster reported, "For Ron Paul, 10% of all voters would definitely vote for him. Fifty-nine percent (59%) say it’s No, no matter what."

Voter sentiment is now completely reversed: today, he’s in a dead heat with a sitting President. No matter how hard you try to minimize that, it’s an astonishing fact.

Read the rest, and also see Lew Rockwell's reaction to the article:
Justin Raimondo has written many great articles, but his latest on Ron Paul and the libertarian movement ranks with his best. As Justin shows, Ron’s long record of being right on the Rothbardian synthesis of Austrian economics and anti-imperialism, his never-failing eloquence and courage in telling the truth about what the Fed is doing to our economy, and the empire to our freedoms, is resonating with the American people. We all know we’re in a pickle, but in DC, only Ron Paul says so, explains why, and shows what to do. We also admire Ron for his refusal to knuckle-under to the power elite. The “eccentric billionaire,” who Justin notes controls the Beltway “libertarian” movement, and who is also the Republican party’s biggest moneybags, has instructed his minions to marginalize and even smear Ron, a man whose yard he isn’t fit to mow. This obsession has gone on for more than 20 years, beginning when he ordered Ron to stop criticizing the Fed and otherwise to obey him. But just as, incompetent in ideological matters as he is competent in the state-related oil business, he tried to destroy Murray and Austrian economics, and failed abysmally, so he has failed against Ron. How blessed are we to be living in the Age of Murray and Ron, and to be able to join the right for freedom, peace, economic truth, and honest money. Austro-ibertarianism has a very bright future indeed, in the US and around the world. Carpe diem!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ron Paul: The FCIC: Passing the Buck

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulLast week the federal government’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission held hearings as part of their continuing investigation into the causes of the acute economic meltdown which occurred in late summer 2008. This bipartisan commission, partly inspired by the Pecora Commission- which investigated the causes of the Great Depression- is expected to report back to Congress before the end of the year.

Things don’t seem to be going well. The individuals questioned by the commission mostly seem to be diverting blame for the whole fiasco to someone else. Nobody is offering any tangible insights into the causes of the financial crisis.

Predictably, the commission will avoid calling any witnesses who might unequivocally indict the federal government for its role in the crisis, or suggest solutions which take away government power. Government commissions have a remarkable tendency to recommend granting even more power to the same useless government agencies that so utterly fail to prevent crises in the first place. We saw this with the Pecora Commission, we saw it after 9-11, and we’re seeing it again today with regard to financial regulations. For example, this latest commission almost certainly will suggest granting more power to the SEC, when in fact the SEC should be abolished as an embarrassing farce. Rest assured that this recommendation will be made without apology or sense of irony.

The reality is that the Federal Reserve relentlessly expanded the money supply through artificially low interest rates for over two decades, and this expansion of easy money caused a wholly predictable bubble. To a myopic Keynesian regulator, the bubble may appear to be caused by greed, but in truth it is completely predictable that humans will act in their own perceived self interest. If the Fed wants to dole out artificially cheap money, people and businesses- including Wall Street businesses- will line up to take it. We can condemn this as greed, but the fundamental problem is Fed policy itself. There will always be demand for cheap money, but we should not allow the Fed to debase our currency and create bubbles of false prosperity to satisfy that demand.

What the commission really needs are experts who understand free market economics rather than big government Keynesian fantasies. The commission has none of these, and has called no true free market witnesses. That perspective would only distract from their predetermined goals.

The commission will bemoan the complexity and inscrutability of our economic problems, but the solution is simple: allow freedom to operate in our markets. Allow U.S. financial, labor, and housing markets to normalize without political interference. Though solution is simple, and rather obvious, it would not be easy or painless, but we’d be so much better off for it in the long run. It would require admitting fiat money is a tangled web of monetary deception prone to catastrophic failure. It would require allowing Americans to choose a system of sound money, where the money supply and interest rates are set by market forces rather than centralized economic planners. Unfortunately, fiat money is like a drug to a Congress hopelessly addicted to spending vastly more than the Treasury collects in revenues. Because of this, our problems can only get worse and more complex before they get better.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Summers to the US Economy: Bang, Zoom, Straight to the Moon! (Bill Bonner)

Summers to the US Economy: Bang, Zoom, Straight to the Moon!

By Bill Bonner | The Daily Reckoning

04/06/10 Baltimore, Maryland – No matter how absurd things get, they can always become more absurd.

“Summers: US nears ‘escape velocity’

That’s the headline on the weekend Financial Times.

Summers is jubilant. He got the latest employment figures on Friday. They tell the story of an economy that he thinks is headed into outer space, with 162,000 new jobs created in March. Hallelujah…all this intervention by the feds is paying off! Thank God Summers was on the job. If he hadn’t been…well, the economy would have had to get along on its own…right here on planet earth…just like it did for all those centuries up until the feds got control of it during the Great Depression (or shortly after).

Heck, you know how terrible it was back then. People would go broke… Speculators. Bankers. Promoters. They would be wiped out. Jobs would be lost. Businesses would go bankrupt. And then, a few months later, they’d have to get back on their feet…begging, borrowing, or stealing enough capital to make a fresh start.

But now things are different. Now, we have a better world, designed in part, by Mr. Summers himself. Now, people don’t go broke. Well, at least, major campaign contributors don’t go broke. They get bailed out. They stay in business. The feds give them money so they can keep doing what they did before. And then, the feds put a booster rocket under the whole economy…

Yes, dear reader…this is a happy day for Summers. But it also marks a giant stoop for mankind. Finally, man is free from the discipline of the market system. Now, Werner von Summers et al are on the case. So you can forget about anything really bad happening. Now, it’s to the moon and beyond…growth and prosperity from here to kingdom come.

Summers is not crazy. He is merely lost in space. He thinks you can manipulate the economy all you want…like solving an engineering problem…well…like sending a man to the moon. But you could say that about almost all modern economists. At about all those that don’t agree with us.

The other 2 or 3 are muttering to themselves while rummaging through trashcans hoping that someone left a little liquor in the bottle before throwing it away.

At least our president has his feet on the ground. Obama believes the US has “turned the corner” on the jobs issue.

But wait. The private sector added 123,000 jobs last month. According to our sources it needs to create 100,000 just to stay even with population growth.

So, we’re not at all sure that 23,000 jobs is really that great after two years, 8 million job losses and $10 trillion of stimulus.

Let’s see, at that rate, it will take approximately 320 years to get back to full employment…doesn’t sound like ‘escape velocity’ to us. We’ve seen Amtrak trains going faster. Maybe we’re missing something.

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Author Image for Bill BonnerBill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily Reckoning.

Copyright @ The Daily Reckoning

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk: Government and Gasoline

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulAs we head into the summer driving season and gasoline prices are again creeping up, the administration has announced plans to explore opening up more off-shore areas for exploration and drilling. On the one hand this can be lauded as a positive step. On the other hand, it is too little, much too late to have any meaningful or long-term effect on what Americans pay at the pump any time soon, if at all.

Indeed, if increasing domestic energy production was really a priority, the administration would direct the EPA to remove its many roadblocks and barriers to energy production. In fact, abolishing the EPA altogether would do much to improve our country's economy. Instead of protecting the environment as they are supposed to do, most of what they do simply chills the economy. Polluters should be directly liable in court to any and all parties they harm, rather than bureaucrats at the EPA.

Of course, last week's announcement was couched in terms of removing barriers and red tape. However, the fact that we had these barriers in the first place is yet another reminder of how the energy market is hampered and controlled by bureaucrats and central planners in Washington, rather than the demands of the people and the decisions of private investors.

Consider how extremely negative our government's reaction has been to other governments around the world that have nationalized their oil and energy industries, such as Venezuela and Iran. We deposed a democratically elected leader in Iran in 1953 for this very reason. Yet the level of involvement of our government and bureaucrats in energy is nearly absolute. Of course, the only thing worse than our government dictating energy decisions to its own citizens is our government dictating energy decisions to the citizens of other countries.

Along with the waste of prohibitions that leave our own natural resources untapped is the waste our government perpetrates with subsidies to alternative fuel sources. There is certainly profit to be made in perfecting cheaper, cleaner fuel sources, but government subsidy programs interfere with finding realistic long-term solutions. Subsidies divert resources towards certain politically-favored fuel types while ignoring others. If the market were left alone, private investors would put their own capital into the most promising alternative fuels. Instead, due to government incentives, resources are concentrated into politically chosen endeavors that could very well end up being dead ends. Meanwhile, precious time and money is wasted.

The government has the opposite of the Midas touch. This has been observed over and over by the reduced quality and rising prices in every private industry in which it entangles itself. Yet somehow people still seem willing, even eager, to relinquish to government control the most important and sensitive portions of our economy and society. Education, healthcare, and energy are all unfortunate examples of industries that are in my opinion, far too important to be left to government control when it is the market that has the golden touch.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday, AKA a Day of Roman “Justice” (Ryan McMaken)

A terrific blog post by Ryan McMaken on the evil Roman Empire:

The civilization of the Roman Empire was bloodthirsty, militaristic, scientifically backward, and philosophically stunted. They had an inferiority complex about not being Greek for good reason. Politically, the Romans took war and terror everywhere they went. I’m amazed when people speak of the Roman for spreading “civilization.” The Pax Romana was the worst kind of international oppression and intimidation. An avaricious kleptocracy that built cities upon the backs of slaves, the Romans deified their rulers and slaughtered those who would not bow to the decadent parasites of the imperial palaces. Warmongers and statists of every age speak well of the Romans, from Hamilton to Napoleon to the Straussian neoconservatives of today.

Pontius Pilate, a first-century bureaucrat, soldier, and politician, condemned Jesus of Nazareth to death for reasons of political expediency, and then proceeded to use the Roman torture-execution method of crucifixion. If only that had been the only time Rome had tortured and murdered an innocent person. Killing Jews was pretty much a hobby for the Romans, as was defiling Jewish holy places.

Later, the Christians were treated to the same sort of Pax Romana that the Jews had endured. Here’s an example of Roman justice in AD 69:

When I was an atheist, I used to hear my co-religionists extol the many virtues of the Romans since we perceived them as the victims of those nasty Christians. “If only Roman civilization had not fallen” we used to say, “then there would never have been a dark age, and we’d all be living in a technological utopia today.” (This was a favorite claim of Madalyn Murray O’Hair) Yeah, right. Beyond roads and aqueducts, the Romans had no aptitude for science at all, and advancements in agricultural production and manufacturing were non-existent for centuries under the Romans. The far more scientifically-adept Europeans of the Middle Ages would have seemed magical to the witch doctors who passed for scientists in ancient Rome.

The primary legacy of the Romans is death. What few contributions they did make—such as that of legal codes—were accidental, and even then just part of the machinery they employed to murder Gauls and Celts and Germans and Jews and Christians.

See also Rev. Emmanuel McCarthy on Holy Week.