Archive for July, 2009

h1

Beer diplomacy

July 31, 2009

Yesterday President Barack Hussein Obama invited Officer James Crowley, Professor Henry Gates and Joe Biden to the White House to sit down and talk their differences out over beer.

Never mind the fact that Obama’s choice of beer is Bud Lite (Biden went for a non-alcoholic Buckler). This “Beer Summit” is just another example of Obama’s cavalier attitude towards the obvious mistakes that he makes. After realizing the gravity of his major faux-pas when he exposed his obvious racism when asked what he thought about the Gates arrest, his preferred strategy for amending the situation was to resort to his usual holier-than-thou attitude towards the general public. He called it a “teachable moment,” as though never before in the history of the human race have a black man and a white man sat down and talked before.

“Beer Summit” became a trending topic on Twitter today, probably because everyone in America is trying to make light of the situation that this little stunt made us look downright ridiculous and ignorant to the rest of the world. And that’s all it was–another stunt that our Rockstar President used to show what a populist he is and how he’s all about reconciliation. If Bush had tried to do this, he would have been mocked mercilessly for weeks.

Obama, Gates and Crowley drink to a false sense of improved race relations while the economy disintegrates and Obamas poll numbers plummet.

Obama, Gates and Crowley drink to a false sense of improved race relations while the economy disintegrates and Obama's poll numbers plummet.

It should be interesting to see how BHO deals with the latest news on the economy–that the media has largely overestimated lied about the state of the economy and that the recession has been twice as bad as previously thought. We’d be much better off right now if Obama cracked another cold one, kicked back and let people run the country who actually understand how an economy works.

h1

Libertarians and immigration policy: first things first

July 30, 2009

The mainstream libertarian view on immigration is that open borders are necessary. This rests on the premise that a free immigration policy goes hand-in-hand with free trade and that restrictions on border crossings are by their nature coercive.

Murray Rothbard, in the last chapter of For a New Liberty, argues that libertarianism cannot succeed unless we advocate an immediate and total transition to a libertarian society; that is, we cannot take things one at a time or prioritize some types of reform ahead of others. That is to say that if we were to prioritize the privatization of a particular industry for 15 years down the line, it would be like saying that the socialization of that industry is acceptable for now until we can get to it lat, which would be a false statement, as all socialization is wrong now, and we must abolish all of it now.

While Rothbard’s logic is quite persuasive and reasonable, I cannot accept that logic when it comes to immigration. Illegal immigration in America has been proven to create a greater drain on government subsidized programs–healthcare, education, and hundreds of others. Illegal immigration therefore promotes government’s plunder of individuals because we live in a welfare state where such plunder is acceptable and encouraged.

If Rothbard’s desire for wide open borders were to come to fruition tomorrow, we would be in trouble. The welfare state would be forced to deal with them by increasing taxes, and the right to be free from plunder would be eroded very quickly.

Since it is certain that in a welfare state illegal immigration requires increased taxation to handle the social problems that result, we cannot decriminalize illegal immigration until we abolish the welfare state. To do so would be contrary to the goal of libertarianism, which is to decrease plunder and coercion at the hands of government rather than to increase it.

Thus, while Rothbard is correct in saying that libertarians must pursue an immediate and total transition to a libertarian society, libertarians must also be careful to recognize the potential practical consequences of not prioritizing certain reforms ahead of others. Unless we can open the borders and abolish the welfare state simultaneously, we must prioritize the latter ahead of the former to avoid making our situation worse than it already is.

Comments and debate from other libertarians are highly encouraged.

h1

Creating artificial demand

July 30, 2009

I spoke with a friend of mine last night on the issue of infrastructure-building in cities as a means of creating economic stimulus and reducing environmental impact. Our debate turned to proposals to build both light rail and heavy rail systems in Ohio’s cities, especially in Cincinnati.

The support for these proposals is based on these principles:

  1. People want and need mass transit, because it will be cheaper than driving cars.
  2. Cities want and need mass transit to alleviate congestion problems and to create jobs.
  3. These mass transit systems, once created, will be sustainable, profitable and successful.

I will not get into the specifics of #1 and #2, since a number of other studies have already addressed these misconceptions. One in particular dispels the myths of the environmental and economic benefits of these systems, and even points to the role that government-subsidized rail systems played in causing the economic collapse in Japan (the so-called “Lost Decade,” from which Japan has yet to fully recover).

But all the research I have ever read suggests that #3, the sustainability and profitability of mass transit, is unlikely. Most mass transit programs in major cities have to be subsidized by the government because the general public does not use them enough to be profitable.

Why would the government use tax dollars to build something that the average person doesn’t want and wouldn’t use anyways? Why, to “stimulate the economy” and “create jobs,” of course. This is the principle of creating artificial demand.
Keep reading…

h1

10 Conservative Principles

July 29, 2009

I was recently introduced to Russell Kirk’s “10 Conservative Principles.” These, he says, are the closest thing to ideology and dogma present in the persuasion of conservatism, as conservatism is neither.

I have largely departed from a purely “conservative” worldview as of late, mostly because I feel that libertarianism is the true heir of the American Revolution. Conservatism promotes the mixture of state politics with religious doctrine; libertarianism holds that religion exists outside the sphere of state politics and can only be freely practiced without state involvement. Conservatism promotes the mixture of corporate interests with those of the state; libertarianism seeks a complete separation of the state from the economy just as from religion. The list goes on. Libertarianism is the best way to promote that central ideal of the American Revolution: the right to be left alone.

But the beautiful thing about libertarianism is that it does not prescribe doctrine, belief or morals. It is a theory of the state, not a moral code. A libertarian may pass moral judgment in any way he wants on anything whatsoever; what separates him from the “liberal” or “conservative” is that he does not see the state as a legitimate apparatus for promoting that particular view and imposing it on others. A libertarian may be pro-choice but still vehemently oppose abortion; he may support the legalization of marijuana but oppose its general use; he may be an avid philanthropist but categorically reject the welfare state. Libertarianism does not preclude an individual from passing moral judgment; it merely seeks to prohibit the state from doing so.

Over the next few days I will take a look at Kirk’s 10 Conservative Principles and discuss them in relation to libertarianism.

h1

A quick note on Sotomayor

July 28, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor will be one step closer to becoming the newest justice of the Supreme Court after her final Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 5 minutes.

Republicans are split on whether or not to vote in the affirmative for her confirmation. Most who support her are just jumping on the Obama bandwagon and choosing to ignore her blatant racism and intent to bring race politics to America’s Constitution. Other rogue Republicans just want to pander to the Hispanic vote.

Should Republicans choose to vote in favor of her confirmation, they will be affirming not only her racist attitudes against non-approved social demographics, but also Obama’s pick of an activist judge who wishes to replace over 225 years of Constitutional precedent with a new standard of “judicial empathy.” While many would argue that Republicans have no chance of fighting her confirmation anyways, and that they should approve her in that case, this is contrary to the oaths the Senators have taken (and the President and Supreme Court justices, for that matter) to defend the Constitution and the United States of America.

God save the Constitution.

h1

Germany shows some common sense on the environmental front

July 27, 2009

“Eco” is like the carbon molecule of political vocabulary. You can combine it with so many other words to get new words. Eco-feminism, eco-terrorism, eco-mysticism, etc. Germany takes the cake for inventing “eco-imperialism” and introducing serious questions into the debate over the effects of environmental reform on national economies and free trade.

Reuters reported last week that Germany’s State Secretary for the Environment Matthias Machnig used the word to attack  a French plan to levy tariffs on imports from countries that haven’t tried hard enough to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Such a plan, he said, would amount to “eco-imperialism” and are a violation of World Trade Organization rules. You see, the French need to impose tariffs on other countries because their own environmental regulations make their domestic goods and services too expensive to be competitive. That means:

  1. France passes environmental taxes.
  2. France cripples its economy.
  3. France petitions EU to tax imports from non-EU countries in order to keep its domestic goods competitive in domestic markets.
  4. Other economies suffer.

On top of the issue of tariffs being a threat to free trade, there is the issue of supernational governments/treaties and how they hurt even countries that don’t participate in them in the first place.  Non-EU members and non-signatories of the Kyoto Protocol get screwed. Actually, it’s the consumers in EU and signatory countries that get screwed. They pay higher prices because their governments don’t believe in free markets, competition and free trade. But…they will get what they voted for. I hope it’s worth it.

The worst part of this article? It states that the cap-and-tax bill that just passed the House is serving as a model for the EU to enact carbon tariffs. That means that the American Clean Energy and Security Act is so socialist that Europe hasn’t even thought of it yet, and they have to play catch up to us in the game of “let’s ruin free markets to solve a problem that isn’t even our fault in the first place.”

In other news, tax-delinquent Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geitner is finding it hard to sell his home, too…even though he “saved the economy.”

h1

Race politics and police powers

July 27, 2009

The Gates arrest in Cambridge, Mass. last week re-introduced America to the ongoing problem of race and identity politics. Henry Louis Gates, a prominent black professor at Harvard, was arrested for disorderly conduct outside his home when a Cambridge police officer was dispatched to the house to investigate a possible break-in. Officer James Crowley determined that the home indeed belonged to Gates, but arrested Gates after he became loud and violent and refused to cooperate with a request to produce his identification.The incident report has been published on The Smoking Gun. Read it and draw your own conclusions.

President Obama’s reaction was to say that the Cambridge Police “acted stupidly” and used the arrest as an excuse to launch into a tirade about racism in America. There was no discussion of whether the officer acted within his Constitutional and legal boundaries, which is the question that everyone should be asking. Rather, Obama harped on how black and Latino men are only arrested because of the color of their skin.

Libertarians should be asking themselves what it means to have a president who claims to be “post-partisan” and “post-racial” but then argues every chance he gets that minorities should not be subject to the same rules that apply to everyone else. While this case plays into legitimate questions of the role police play in protecting Americans’ rights to life, liberty and property, bringing race into the debate mucks everything up and serves as a distraction from the real questions about police powers.

The fundamental issue here is the overwhelming politicization of the police functions of the state. When governments control police, politicians like Obama get to dictate how those police conduct their daily business, rather than the people whose rights the police are hired to protect in the first place.  How are race politics interfering with your rights to protection?

Obama and Gates should stop playing the race card, and should instead ask  how public (i.e. “government”) ownership and administration of protective services directly interferes with the ability of individuals to hold police accountable. Situations like this could be avoided in the future. That will require an introduction of free-market, non-state  solutions to Gates’ problem.

Murray Rothbard produced a chapter on free-market solutions to the problems of police powers and protective services in For a New Liberty. Check it out.