Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rand Paul Tells It Like It Is

Senator Rand Paul is asserting himself as a spokesman for liberty in the Senate! In this first video, he tears into a bureaucrat at the Department of Energy on their stupid rules and regulations for seemingly everything in our lives:

Great stuff!

In the next video, this time on the Senate floor, Dr. Paul shows why neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to have a grasp on the enormity of the budget woes:

"Democracy" in Action

Justin Amash continues to set the standard for transparency by posting all his votes on his Facebook page, and today he included this gem:

In case you missed it . . . Today, the United States House of Representatives voted on a modified amendment that was scribbled onto a piece of paper just moments before the vote, which I discovered only through considerable effort, which only a few other Reps read via the photo on my iPhone, and the amendment still passed 278-147. Here's the roll call:

Here is the "amendment":

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why Is Social Security Going Broke? (Glen Allport)

Glen Allport wrote this outstanding article on the enormous Ponzi scheme known as Social Security:

- 1 -

In plain language, there is no good reason for the unfolding Social Security nightmare. Yes, the Baby Boomers are retiring, but so what? It's a big group, but this same big group has been paying into Social Security their whole adult lives. It's not like the money hasn't been set aside or anything.


- 2 -

Of course, you know better: the money that should have been set aside wasn't. That is the entire Social Security problem in a nutshell.

How did this happen? Government happened (as in, "Be careful not to step in the government"). Ringo's Law happened: "Everything government touches turns to crap."

Any demographer could have told you fifty years ago -- or before the start of Social Security during the Roosevelt administration, for that matter -- that a "pay tax as you go" system like Social Security has inherent problems, because (among other things) the generation following any "Baby Boom" group will almost certainly be smaller -- a non-Boom generation, if you will -- and will thus be strained to support the Boomers in their old age.

When other government revenues (taxes) are high enough and overall government spending is low enough, surplus tax revenue can paper over shortfalls in such situations -- but this only works if there is a tax surplus.

How often does the federal government run a surplus? In recent times (say, the last half-century), the answer is "never."

Read the rest

March 9, 1945: The Night Tokyo Burned

In a war crime that rivals the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US Air Force stripped hundreds of B-29 bombers of their defensive weapons, equipped them with incendiary bombs, and sent them to Tokyo on March 9, 1945. War criminal General Curis LeMay noted that the city was packed with wooden buildings, and napalm and other incendiary devices would cause widespread destruction. The resulting firebombing resulted in at least 100,000 deaths, with many more wounded. According to researcher Mark Selden:

No previous or subsequent conventional bombing raid ever came close to generating the toll in death and destruction of the great Tokyo raid of March 9-10. The airborne assault on Tokyo and other Japanese cities ground on relentlessly. According to Japanese police statistics, the 65 raids on Tokyo between December 6, 1944 and August 13, 1945 resulted in 137,582 casualties, 787,145 homes and buildings destroyed, and 2,625,279 people displaced. Following the Tokyo raid of March 9-10, the firebombing was extended nationwide. In the ten-day period beginning on March 9, 9,373 tons of bombs destroyed 31 square miles of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe. Overall, bombing strikes destroyed 40 percent of the 66 Japanese cities targeted, with total tonnage dropped on Japan increasing from 13,800 tons in March to 42,700 tons in July. If the bombing of Dresden produced a ripple of public debate in Europe, no discernible wave of revulsion, not to speak of protest, took place in the US or Europe in the wake of the far greater destruction of Japanese cities and the slaughter of civilian populations on a scale that had no parallel in the history of bombing.

In July, US planes blanketed the few remaining Japanese cities that had been spared firebombing with an “Appeal to the People.” “As you know,” it read, “America which stands for humanity, does not wish to injure the innocent people, so you had better evacuate these cities.” Half the leafleted cities were firebombed within days of the warning. US planes ruled the skies. Overall, by one calculation, the US firebombing campaign destroyed 180 square miles of 67 cities, killed more than 300,000 people and injured an additional 400,000, figures that exclude the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Between January and July 1945, the US firebombed and destroyed all but five Japanese cities, deliberately sparing Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital, and four others. The extent of the destruction was impressive ranging from 50 to 60% of the urban area destroyed in cities including Kobe, Yokohama and Tokyo, to 60 to 88% in seventeen cities, to 98.6% in the case of Toyama. In the end, the Atomic Bomb Selection Committee chose Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki as the pristine targets to display the awesome power of the atomic bomb to Japan and the world in the event that would both bring to a spectacular end the costliest war in human history and send a powerful message to the Soviet Union.

Lew Rockwell blogged a couple years ago:

Writes Eli Cryderman:

Knowing my hobby for history, a relative gave me a “This Day in History” desk calendar from the History channel. The historical accounts of the events recognized are dubious at best and offer a unique perspective on the State’s propaganda machine, though the basic facts of each day are somewhat accurate; today’s entry doesn’t disappoint.

March 9, 1945: Firebombing of Tokyo

The United States instigated the worst firestorm on record against Tokyo on this day in 1945. The attack, which involved over two thousand tons of incendiary bombs and raged for two days, killed as many as 130,000 Japanese civilians. The United States Air Force, which had convened earlier that day to plot the attack, lightened the war planes and increased storage space for the incendiary bombs by unloading virtually all of the guns onboard. Thanks to this strategy, the planes not only were able to carry more bombs, but the lighter vessels could maneuver more quickly and precisely. A total of 243 Americans died during the firestorm.” [emphasis mine]

Incendiary bombs do not kill like traditional bombs that destroy with massive concussions; they burn buildings and people. Let me rephrase that: THEY BURN PEOPLE TO DEATH! It wasn’t until August that we decided those dirty Japs didn’t burn fast enough with white phosphorous and came up with the brilliant plan of vaporizing them in a matter of seconds with a couple of well placed new-ku-ler bombs over known civilian cities with little to do with Japan’s pitiful end-of-war-time production industry.

March Madness indeed: Go, State, Go! Go, State, Go!

UPDATE from Carl Schmahl

Defensive armaments (and camouflage paint) could be removed from those B-29s because they encountered no significant resistance from the Japanese air force, which had been effectively destroyed by then. In other words, American flyers dropped incendiaries at will over a population center full of, mostly, old men, women and children, who had no way to resist.

By this period of the war, the area bombing of civilian population centers had sufficiently hardened the strategic planners to the death and mayhem that they caused that dropping the atomic bomb was only the next logical step – more bang for the buck so to speak: instead of a thousand plane raid, one plane would suffice.

My hope is that as the “Greatest Generation” and its rationalizations fade away, people will begin to understand the horrors which we perpetrated in WW2. But I wouldn’t take any bets on that.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Does History 'Prove'? (Butler Shaffer)

An outstanding article by Professor Butler Shaffer at

What Does History 'Prove'?
by Butler Shaffer

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
~ Albert Einstein

We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.
~ Marshall McLuhan

As popular respect for political systems continues to erode, you may have noticed the statists frantically trying to deflate emerging inquiries and debates on the topic of secession. Their principal argument has been the non sequitur "the American Civil War answered that question." Such a response presumes that history expresses immutable principles that transcend time, a proposition that would at once be seen for its inherent absurdity were it applied to scientific understanding. Who was Copernicus to suggest that we live in a heliocentric universe after Ptolemy informed us of the geocentric nature of our world? Furthermore, the American Revolutionary War was premised on the right of people to secede from existing political systems; and yet the statists are not to be heard using that period as precedent for condemning Lincoln’s suppression of that principle.

If history is to be the standard for propriety in our world, would we not have to defend the principle of slavery, given that the 1857 U.S. Supreme Court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford upheld the legality of the practice? And wouldn’t the fate of Joan of Arc have "answered the question" that political dissenters could be burned at the stake? Or are we, like lawyers, entitled to pick and choose the precedents that serve our particular cause, while carefully "distinguishing" other instances that don’t serve our purposes?

The intellectually dishonest nature of this highly selective use of history is revealed in the corollary practice – often engaged in by the same people – of projecting into history modern biases and attitudes, and judging our ancestors accordingly. A number of years ago – while visiting the restored Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts – I watched two college-aged women ask a guide in Puritan dress questions such as: "with all the smoke produced by their fireplaces, weren’t these people concerned about the environment?" The Puritan actress replied that they were principally concerned with staying alive in a harsh New England winter. "Ohhh," the young moderns responded. "Did Puritan women have the same rights as men?," was next asked. "Yes they did; they had to work from sunup to dark – just like the men – just to stay alive," they were told. "Ohhh," came another innocent gurgle.

It is difficult to use history to "prove" the consequences – be they good or bad – from following a given course of action. Any complex system – of which few are more complicated than mankind’s record – contains far too many variables to allow for either prediction or past explanations. Heisenberg reminded us that the observer is inseparable from what is being observed, meaning that our capacities for interpretation are difficult to separate from our prior experiences. It was this limitation that framed the questions of these college students at Plymouth, and makes the study of "chaos" both so enlightening and liberating.

We can learn much from history, particularly when we see the same patterns recurring over and over from one culture or time period to another. When free-market societies consistently outperform politically-planned systems, we are well-advised to take note of that fact. At the same time, the high correlation between large states and the war system should make us distrustful of size. But we must remain aware that the questions we ask of our ancestors reflect the backward projection of our present concerns and interests. As despicable as the practice of slavery is, we cannot grasp how ancients could regard the practice as a more humane way of treating a defeated enemy than the earlier tradition of slaughtering them. Likewise, our modern sensibilities make it difficult for us to understand how our grandparents and great-grandparents welcomed the automobile for the improvement it provided over horse-drawn carriages in the smells of urban streets.

Einstein, Heisenberg, and chaos theory, remind us that what we can know about the world often has a transitory quality to it; with doubt and uncertainty waiting offstage with previously undiscovered facts or, more profoundly, with a major improvement in the sophistication of the questions we ask of it. How we learn reminds me of driving in a blizzard, peering through a frosted windshield, watching for any signs that assure me I am still on the road. I know that I dare not stop – lest someone crash into me from behind – but must keep going forward into uncertainty.

As difficult as it is to get history to disgorge its empirical truths with mathematical certitude, such inquiries become even more pronounced when we ask about the validity of normative values and other philosophic principles. It borders on the delusional to believe that the study of history can either prove or disprove our value judgments. Using the best of historiographic methods, we can get some sense of the consequences of having followed a given course of action, but whether such effects were moral or otherwise virtuous – indeed, whether it is appropriate to even ask such questions – can only be determined by the subjective judgments of individuals.

Butler ShafferWhether the state has any legitimacy that can rightfully bind men and women to its coercive authority, is a question that can never be foreclosed to humans by prior examples of its affirmation. No more so can the writings of Plato, or Hobbes, or Locke, or Marx, or Jefferson, or the Constitution, set the boundaries of the inquiries or expectations that free minds may consider and act upon. That Lincoln was able to mobilize the violent and destructive energies of the state to suppress the efforts of those who sought to secede, carries no more of an unalterable principle to which succeeding generations are bound, than did earlier tyrants who pillaged, decreed, and slaughtered in pursuit of their ambitions over the lives of others.

Such inquiries are not meant for our entertainment, but go to the core of what it means to be human, and what conditions are essential to our survival. When, as modern statists insist, it becomes inappropriate for the individual to question the arrangements under which society is to be conducted, mankind will have positioned itself to join the untold numbers of other species to have failed the life force’s wondrous experiment on this planet.

March 8, 2011

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 © 2011 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Articles of Confederation Day!

Articles of ConferationToday is the 230th anniversary of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation! Here's a brief description of the Articles from the Mises Wiki:

The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States of America, describing the purpose and function of the federal government. The Articles were drafted by a committee appointed by the Second Continental Congress in June 1776, and the final draft was approved November 15, 1777 and sent to the states for ratification, a process that completed in March 1781. During this time, however, the Articles were the de facto system of government in use. Once ratified by all thirteen states, on March 1, 1781, Congress became the Congress of the Confederation.

The Articles established rules for the operation of the federal government, giving it the power to make war, engage in diplomacy, and handle issues in the western territories. Under the Articles, the states retained all powers not granted to the national government.

The representatives in the Second Continental Congress felt a need for a confederacy that would secure the independence of the United States while in the midst of the American War of Independence. However, Nationalists argued that the Articles were inadequate because they did not grant the federal government a taxing power, nor did they create executive or judicial powers. The Nationalists prevailed in the writing of the United States Constitution in 1787, and succeeded in gaining its ratification by 1788.

I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read the Articles and admire their simplicity. For more on why the Articles were so much better than the Constitution that (illegally) replaced them, see Scott Trask and Murray Rothbard (PDF, scroll to Chapter 45, page 253).

Under the Articles, the "President" was nothing more than a presiding officer. Just imagine: a government with no executive!