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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Fruits of Intervention

We ran Saddam out of Kuwait and put U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia. And we got Osama bin Laden's 9-11. We responded by taking down the Taliban and taking over Afghanistan. And we got an eight-year war with no victory and no end in sight. Now Pakistan is burning. We took down Saddam and got a seven-year war and an ungrateful Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Turks, who shared a border with Saddam, have done no fighting. Iran has watched as we destroyed its two greatest enemies, the Taliban and Saddam. China, which has a border with both Pakistan and Afghanistan, has sat back. India, which has a border with Pakistan and fought three wars with that country, has stayed aloof.

The United States, on the other side of the world, plunged in. And now we face an elongated military presence in Iraq, an escalating war in Afghanistan and potential disaster in Pakistan, and are being pushed from behind into a war with Iran.

"America rejects the false comfort of isolationism," said George W. Bush in his 2006 State of the Union. And we did reject that false comfort. And now we can enjoy the fruits of interventionism.
-- from "The Fruits of Intervention" by Patrick J. Buchanan

Climate change suicide

Thanks to misreading the significance of a brief period of rising temperatures at the end of the 20th century, the Western world (but not India or China) is now contemplating measures that add up to the most expensive economic suicide note ever written.
-- from "The real climate change catastrophe" by Christopher Booker

Climate change groupthink run amok

Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly exaggerated computer predictions combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a rollback of the industrial age.
-- MIT's Richard Lindzen, as quote by Christopher Booker in "The real climate change catastrophe "

The real climate change catastrophe

More and more eminent scientists have been coming out of the woodwork to suggest that the IPCC, with its computer models, had got it all wrong. It isn’t CO₂ that has been driving the climate, the changes are natural, driven by the activity of the sun and changes in the currents of the world’s oceans.

The ice caps haven’t been melting as the alarmists and the models predicted they should. The Antarctic, containing nearly 90 per cent of all the ice in the world, has actually been cooling over the past 30 years, not warming. The polar bears are not drowning – there are four times more of them now than there were 40 years ago. In recent decades, the number of hurricanes and droughts have gone markedly down, not up.

As the world has already been through two of its coldest winters for decades, with all the signs that we may now be entering a third, the scientific case for CO₂ threatening the world with warming has been crumbling away on an astonishing scale.

Yet it is at just this point that the world’s politicians, led by Britain, the EU and now President Obama, are poised to impose on us far and away the most costly set of measures that any group of politicians has ever proposed in the history of the world – measures so destructive that even if only half of them were implemented, they would take us back to the dark ages.
-- from "The real climate change catastrophe" by Christopher Booker

Healthcare reform and other fairy tales

Like an uninquisitive child, most people seem willing to believe politicians when they promise to subsidize and compel the use of medical “insurance” while reducing prices without controlling choices. And while they’re at it, they’ll cut the budget deficit and boost economic growth. One shouldn’t have to be an economist to smell a scam.
-- from "The Goal Is Freedom: The Welfare State Corrupts Absolutely / What's wrong with healthcare reform" by Sheldon Richman

Thursday, October 29, 2009

If the science is settled, why so many climate models?

It has been often said that the "science is settled" on the issue of CO2 and climate. Let me put this claim to rest with a simple one-letter proof that it is false.

The letter is s, the one that changes model into models. If the science were settled, there would be precisely one model, and it would be in agreement with measurements.

Alternatively, one may ask which one of the twenty-some models settled the science so that all the rest could be discarded along with the research funds that have kept those models alive.

We can take this further. Not a single climate model predicted the current cooling phase. If the science were settled, the model (singular) would have predicted it.
-- from "Physicist Howard Hayden's one-letter disproof of global warming claims" by Stephan Kinsella

Howard Zinn on Obama

Everyone wants to support Obama, [Howard Zinn] continued, or at least everyone in his circle. Everyone wants to love Obama. But let's face it: "His presidency doesn't measure up. I have to say that. But why? How? How come?"

Militarism, he answered. Obama has kept the troops in Iraq. He's sent more troops to Afghanistan. "He's continued a military foreign policy."

Not to be a know-it-all, Zinn said ("though I do know it all," he joked), but those who expected great change from this president were fooling themselves. Look at history, he urged, invoking his mantra; Democrats are as aggressive as Republicans.

"They're all in this for war," he said. "That's what we call bipartisanship." Those surprised or disappointed are those who "exaggerated expectations, romanticized him, idealized him. Obama is a Democratic Party politician. I know that sounds demeaning. It is."
-- from "The Return of Howard Zinn, and Company / A packed house hears a left-wing critique of Obama" by Seth Rolbein

How does Afghanistan pose a threat to the United States?

Syndicated columnist Gene Lyons asks the question "Why are we still in Afghanistan?"

"One of the enduring oddities of the American foreign policy debate," he writes, "is that asking the most obvious questions is all but forbidden. For example, how does Afghanistan pose a threat to the United States?"

It doesn’t.

The 9/11 attacks were an aberration. So many people in our internal security and law enforcement structure were asleep at the wheel that it’s downright criminal. An attack like 9/11 shouldn’t occur again. Nobody in our Homeland Security apparatus wants to be the schmo who let it happen on his watch. "Fighting them over there" has nothing to do with national security. They don’t have an air force or a navy that can get us over here.

As Lyons says, "Terrorists can’t defeat the United States; they can only cause American politicians to self-destruct in fear of taking blame for future atrocities."

That, unfortunately, is precisely why Obama is going along with this cockamamie escalation. Imagine how Dick Cheney and the rest of the war banshees would wail if Obama stiff armed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s escalation demand and somebody snuck through the Homeland Defense screen and blew up a school or a stadium or something. Ouch!

Military pundit Ralph Peters is on the right side of the Afghanistan issue. "Even if everything went perfectly in Afghanistan — which it won’t — the results would be virtually meaningless: Our mortal enemies (above all, al-Qaeda) have dug in elsewhere, from Pakistan to Somalia," he wrote recently in the New York Post. "Our soldiers are dying for a fad, not for a strategy. Our vaunted counterinsurgency doctrine is the military equivalent of hula hoops, pet rocks and Beanie Babies: an oddity that caught the Zeitgeist." Indeed, counterinsurgency (COIN) is the "it" strategy now, the Army’s reason for being. There won’t be any big tank battles in the Fulda gap. COIN is the only kind of war left; without it, there is no Long War.

Of course, if we don’t need the Long War, we don’t need to do COIN in Afghanistan.

And we don’t need the Long War. But it looks like we’re going to get it.

-- from "Alas Afghanistan" by Jeff Huber

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another scientific revolution?

I see many parallels between the struggle for acceptance of a heliocentric solar system and the acceptance of a free-market, stateless society. The cast of characters has changed somewhat: Galileo’s Papal State is today’s democratic state; Catholic doctrine has been replaced by statist, democratic doctrine; the geocentric view is now the leviathan central government; the religious intelligentsia have been replaced by high level bureaucrats; and the illiterates can now read but they are ignorant of economics.

The scientific intellectuals, who furthered Copernicus’ work, are today the anti-intellectual intellectuals(5), striving to spread the notion of liberty. They continue to work and expose the evils of majority rule, often at the expense of advancement in their careers, subjecting themselves to ostracism, ridicule and sometimes, even being jailed for refusing to obey the laws of the state.

Galileo’s premise was accepted as truth because the predictions that it made were ultimately visible. As his followers perfected the technology required to observe the phenomena he had described, they became evident and accessible to more and more people. It was then impossible for the (Papal) State to deny the reality.

This is what I see happening with the freedom movement. Our technology is the Internet and the Mises Institute, the centre for development of free-market theory. The predictions that were made by Mises, Rothbard, Hazlitt and so many others are coming true and we, the ignorant masses of today, are finally being enlightened.
-- from "Copernican Shift, then and now" by Catherine LeBoeuf-Schouten

Rationally ignorant healthcare "reform"

The Senate Finance Committee has filed its current version of healthcare reform. . . .

It is 1,502 pages long and it is in legislative language. If passed, it will affect our lives in important ways. Let me suggest that you all read it carefully and then let your senators know what you think.

Of course you won’t do that and neither will I. We are rationally ignorant and we shall remain that way.

Will the senators, not on the committee, read it? I doubt it. They will be too busy giving their opinions on selected portions. However, special interests will know about the particular provisions that affect them. As to the senators on the committee, staffers will give summaries. How much they understand or care about provisions that affect the general interests in contrast to the interests that elect them is unknown.

The welfare state makes a mockery of the rule of law and of representative democracy.
--from "Planning And Democracy: Redux" by Mario Rizzo

Economic Correction Disease

Another national emergency! Terrorism…the banking crisis…now Swine Flu.

Why it is an emergency, we don’t know. Our sister, living in Virginia tells us that several of her grandchildren have come down with the Swine Flu. It doesn’t seem to bother them anymore than any other flu.

But every emergency is an opportunity. The feds don’t want to waste it. Instead, they swing into operation with a rescue plan. It will end up costing billions…hundreds of billions…or maybe even trillions. We don’t know what they’ve got in mind. But we know what will come of it. It will end up extending the power and influence of the government. So far, the feds are the only real winners from any of these crises. Federal outlays, as a percentage of GDP have shot up from less than 20% of GDP in 2000 to more than 26% in 2009.

Will it do any good? Public health is not central banking. And it’s not economic planning. Force everyone to wear a surgical mask and maybe lives would be spared. Or, maybe not. Without the immunity of occasional bouts of flu, who knows? Maybe people would be more susceptible to the next disease. The American Indians were almost wiped out…because they had no immunity to European diseases. . . .

David Einhorn, one of the few people to make money in the crash of sub-prime debt:

“The financial reform on the table is analogous to our response to airline terrorism by frisking grandma and taking away everyone’s shampoo. It gives the appearance of ‘doing something’ and adds to our bureaucracy without really making anything safer.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that even bankruptcy can be a good thing. “Household Debt Can Hasten Recovery…when it goes unpaid,” says a headline.

The whole idea of a correction is to wash out mistakes. If people can pay their debts down, the mistakes are corrected. The system is strengthened. If they can’t, the process of correction can happen faster. Bad debts are written off quickly. Then, a real recovery can begin. Either way, the system comes back in better shape.

Too bad the feds are getting in the way!

A decent correction should carry off those who made the biggest mistakes – in the present case, the firms on Wall Street that wagered billions on a bigger and bigger bubble. But instead of letting them go broke, the feds rewarded them.

Wall Street profits are a ‘gift’ from the state, says George Soros.

But wait, what kind of gift is this? If you give $100 to your neighbor, that’s a gift. But what if you tax your neighbor on the left $100 in order to give the money to your neighbor on the right? That’s a gift too…but of a special kind. You’re ‘redistributing the wealth,’ you might say.

And what if you do a quantitative easing? You know, you print up a $100 bill and give it to your neighbor? That’s a gift too.

Yeah, thanks a lot.

Meanwhile, the recession is said to have come to an end in the US. GDP growth is positive, say the papers. But if this is a recovery, let’s hope it comes to an end soon.

Existing house prices continued to fall in September.

Unemployment continued to worsen. “Signs of recovery don’t extend to jobs,” says the WSJ.
-- from "Economic Correction Disease" by Bill Bonner

Democracy’s Most Critical Defect

[I]f I were to send a private Predator drone to Pakistan to fire explosive missiles into villages, killing women, children, and other innocent persons, I would be seen as a monstrous mass murderer, and demands would be made that I be apprehended and “brought to justice” or killed. Yet when President Obama causes deaths in this way, no such demands are made. How did Barack Obama come by the right to kill innocent people? By democratic election to the presidency of the United States, of course. Most people actually believe, and act on the belief, that mere election to a political office can endow a person with standing to disregard the moral requirements applicable to people in general. And not only the elected official, but all those officials beneath him in the chain of command ― nobody demands that the technician who sits comfortably in the United States and directs the exact operation of the lethal drone be brought to justice; he, as the saying goes, is “only following orders.”
-- from "Democracy’s Most Critical Defect" by Robert Higgs

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Democrats in Congress have the power to end war

“Every thinking person wants to take a stand against hate crimes, but isn’t war the most offensive of hate crimes?” asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who did not vote for the bill, when I spoke to him by phone. “To have people have to make a choice, or contemplate the hierarchy of hate crimes, is cynical. I don’t vote to fund wars. If you are opposed to war, you don’t vote to authorize or appropriate money. Congress, historically and constitutionally, has the power to fund or defund a war. The more Congress participates in authorizing spending for war, the more likely it is that we will be there for a long, long time. This reflects an even larger question. All the attention is paid to what President Obama is going to do right now with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is the Democratic Congress could have ended the war when it took control just after 2006. We were given control of the Congress by the American people in November 2006 specifically to end the war. It did not happen. The funding continues. And while the attention is on the president, Congress clearly has the authority at any time to stop the funding. And yet it doesn’t. Worse yet, it finds other ways to garner votes for bills that authorize funding for war. The spending juggernaut moves forward, a companion to the inconscient force of war itself.”
-- Dennis Kucinich, as quoted by Chris Hedges in "War Is a Hate Crime"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Society cannot be planned from the top down

Mises died a year before what is usually considered the Austrian revival, which is often dated from 1974 when Hayek received the Nobel Prize, a prize that was entirely unexpected and which had to be shared with a socialist and which shocked a profession that had no interest in the ideas of either Mises or Hayek, whom they considered to be dinosaurs.

It is interesting to read Hayek's acceptance speech, which the Mises Institute published this year. It is a tribute to a profession to which he wanted closer ties. But it was not a loving presentation of the glories of academia. In fact, it was the opposite. He said that the most dangerous person on earth is an arrogant intellectual who lacks the humility necessary to see that society needs no masters and cannot be planned from the top down. An intellectual lacking humility can become a tyrant, and an accomplice in the destruction of civilization itself.

It was an amazing speech for a Nobel Prize winner to give, an implicit condemnation of a century of intellectual and social trends, and a real tribute to Mises, who had stuck by his principles and never given into the academic trends of his time.
-- from "Economics and Moral Courage" by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's time to pusue a foreign policy of noninterventionism

It’s high time we adopted the isolationist policy recommended by our founding fathers. I’m not talking about withdrawing from the world as an economic and diplomatic superpower. I’m suggesting that we just say no to strewing our military strength far and wide every time we have a temper tantrum. The past eight years have shown that our military might doesn’t accomplish our national objectives. Let the crazy world take care of itself.
-- from "Make the World Go Away" by Jeff Huber

A kinder, gentler city on the hill

The neocons would have us believe that we can be a force for good in the world by blowing it up bits at a time. Can a belief get any sillier? (If she floats, she’s a witch.)

The oceans and our size provide us with ample security protection, just as they did in the day of Washington and Jefferson and Franklin. No one can invade and occupy us. Nobody would ever be crazy enough to pop a nuclear missile off in our direction, or in the direction of any of our friends (do we have any of those left?)

No one is interested in competing with us militarily, not even Russia or China. Let’s start coming home and fixing our own problems, and take the world off our shoulders. It will get along fine without us bombing it on a regular basis.

It’s time to become that kinder, gentler nation and that shining city on the hill that Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush exhorted us to be.
-- from "Make the World Go Away" by Jeff Huber

Friday, October 23, 2009

Too much debt in the public sector = default and hyperinflation?

Richard Koo, author of The Balance Sheet Recovery, recalls how it was during Japan’s long, dark passage:

“We had these false starts… The economy would begin to improve and then we’d say ‘oh my god, the budget deficit is too large.’ Then we’d cut fiscal stimulus and collapse again. We went through this zigzag for 15 years.”

Koo understands what is going on, more or less. Companies and households are paying off debt. He and Paul Krugman believe the feds have to continue pumping money into the system or they’re going to have a “lost decade,” just like the Japanese.

You have to keep the stimulus money flowing “until the private sector de-leveraging is over,” he says.

By our calculations, it will take 5-10 years for the private sector to de-leverage. By that time, the feds will have added trillions in debt to public finances. Since they can’t finance that much from private domestic savings, and since foreigners will be wary about lending that much even if they had it, the Fed itself will have to pony up the money. This will put the dollar in further danger…along with the entire global financial system.

Koo may be right – as far as his thinking takes him. He should think a little further. The problem is debt. Too much debt in the private sector caused bear markets and a bank crisis. Too much debt in the public sector will cause big problems too – a default…and hyperinflation. Worse than a depression.

-- from "How Much Juice is Left in this Bear Market Rally?" by Bill Bonner

Will the Dow/gold ratio reach 1/1?

The typical major bear market lasts 15-20 years. The last one began in 1966. It wasn’t until 1982 – 16 years later – that the next major bull trend began.

This bear market is already 10 years old. Perhaps it will end in 2015. Maybe in 2020. We don’t know when. We only know how it will end – in misery.

Now, despite 10 years of stinkin’ returns, investors still believe in stocks. They still hope to find the ‘next Google.’ They still punish fund managers who hold back. They still read the financial press. They still watch CNBC. They still want to know what stock to buy.

Yesterday, they bid up the Dow 131 points. The price of stocks to gold is about 10 to 1. When this trend began ten years ago, we predicted that the Dow and gold would go all the way to 1 for 1. We guessed it would happen at the 3,000 to 5,000 level. We’ll stick with that prediction until it proves correct…or it makes us look like a fool.
-- from "How Much Juice is Left in this Bear Market Rally?" by Bill Bonner

Macro for Dummies

Visitors to this blog know that when I'm not letting loose with my own opinions, I try to except just the best passages from blog posts by other authors. Well, I've met my match in "Macro for Dummies" by Bill Bonner. I don't think I can or want to leave out a single word. So, instead of quoting the entire post here, I urge you to read it in its entirety! Just click here.

War Between The Generations

There was no cost of living increase in Social Security payments this year because ... well, there was no increase in the cost of living.

But this isn't fair to Seniors because they've always gotten raises in the past and, you know, they expect it. And American politics is not about dampening expectations among any voter group and especially not the one with the highest percentage likely to actually go to the polls. Old people, you see, vote. Young people go skateboarding and middle-aged people are too tired from working those two jobs.

So, a nice little $250 check will be going out to everyone on Social Security – to include, one assumes, Ross Perot and others in his tax bracket –and these checks will be honored by people who are, at present, too young to vote.
-- from "War Between The Generations"

10,000 is the new 7,500!

[W]hen adjusted for inflation, the bear market that concluded in the early 1980s was almost as severe as the one that concluded in the early 1930s. Also, the inflation-adjusted Dow is now a little more than double where it was at its 1929 peak and trades a mere 51% above its 1966 peak – not that spectacular of a performance considering the time frames involved. It is also interesting to note that the Dow is up 54% from its March 9, 2009 low which is actually slightly more than what the inflation-adjusted Dow gained from its 1966 peak to today. . . .

--from Chart of the Day

For comparison, here is the unadjusted chart of the Dow (note that the time scales on the two charts are different):

--from Chart of the Day

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What happened to global warming?

For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?
-- from "What happened to global warming? " by Paul Hudson

There's more to peace than the absence of war

[W]e are used to thinking of peace merely as the absence of full-scale military conflict. But this is a very narrow notion of peace. Real peace is the absence of aggression, whether on an international scale or localized within a small area. Real peace requires not merely the absence of large-scale military conflicts, but also the absence of aggression in domestic affairs concerning individual citizens.

While foreign affairs and military operations are no doubt an important aspect of world peace, fixation solely on these issues concedes a fundamentally statist premise: that peace concerns only those conflicts occurring between governments and other large and militarily powerful entities (such as terrorist groups). Under this view, to use force against a government or paramilitary organization is "war," but to aggress against an unarmed citizen is mere "public policy."

This view is extremely shortsighted and cannot be expected to yield any genuine or lasting peace. The reason is simple: peace is not a concept which should be restricted — or even primarily directed — towards conflicts between governments and other military entities. It applies just as much to domestic conflicts between governments and their own citizens as to conflicts between military powers.

Peace should also not be restricted solely to the prevention of killing. It applies just as much to conflicts involving tax collectors and the appropriation of private property as to conflicts involving helicopter gunships and the killing of people. . . .

[T]o be a genuine and effective advocate for peace, one must oppose the initiation of force in principle and in all its manifestations. One must oppose the initiation of force whether it is undertaken on a small or a large scale, and whether it is directed towards the killing of people, other trespasses against their bodies, or the appropriation of their property. In short, one must accept the nonaggression principle and all that it implies in both domestic and foreign policy. . . .

Unfortunately, many of the so-called "peace activists" celebrated for their opposition to wars are hostile to the very social system that would ensure a genuine and lasting peace. In fact, these "peace activists" are not in favor of peace at all. They are merely opposed to certain large-scale military operations.

Such activists are often quite happy to lend their support to the initiation of force against domestic citizens, to plunder them of their property for the purposes of redistribution, or to enslave them under the watchful eye of government bureaucracies. In these smaller-scale conflicts, many allegedly "peace-loving" people routinely support statism and aggression as the means to achieve their domestic policy goals. . . .

Some have argued that it is incongruous to award a peace prize to a president currently locked in two wars. But even this is a rosy view of the situation; for one needn't look as far as foreign policy to find a host of other issues on which this "champion of peace" favors violence as the means of obtaining his desired goals. As president of the United States, he presides over a coercive apparatus larger and more powerful than any in human history, and like his predecessors, he wields his political power against both domestic citizens and foreigners to routinely deny them their property rights, their liberties, and even their lives.

In drug policy, the president is locked in a "War on Drugs" in which he commands government agencies as they violently assault, rob, and imprison people who attempt to trade or ingest substances prohibited by their political masters. In social policy, he is fighting a "War on Poverty" in which millions of people are robbed of their rightful property in order to fatten the wallets of social-service bureaucrats and associated lobbyists, with the residual left over for poorer people. In economic policy, he fights a "War on Greed," in which people are forcibly prevented from trading their own property as they see fit, and entire industries are nationalized to the inept hands of government masters.

The Principle of Nonaggression

These smaller-scale assaults and robberies are no different in their moral principles from larger-scale conflicts involving armed military forces. The same moral rules apply to both situations. In either context, the initiation of violence is morally wrong, and incompatible with a peaceful society.

If we look to the root of the problem, to the aggression lying behind these "public policies," then we see that supposedly serene nations like the United States are far from peaceful — notwithstanding the absence of tanks in the streets. . . .

The apparent serenity of neighborhoods with white picket fences and lush lawns can be deceiving, and it leads many residents of developed countries to believe that peace has been achieved in their own backyard. Indeed, some believe that statist policies such as taxation, regulation, and other property-right violations are still "peaceful," notwithstanding the threat of force involved, since the enforcement of these rules generally does not involve the use of actual physical violence against the body of any person.

After all, in most "peaceful" nations we are not used to seeing people shot in the streets or hauled off to the gulag. Even under fairly repressive domestic conditions, things can still be "peaceful" in the sense that there is not much overt violence or rebellion.

But this simply means that people have been brought to a state where they routinely comply with the edicts of their political masters, and avoid the incarceration or violence that would result from their refusal to do so. This is clearly not genuine peace, any more than a slave house is peaceful if the will of the slaves for resistance has been broken and overt violence has become unnecessary.

Military Conflict and Domestic Repression

The foregoing analysis is not intended to imply that there is no difference between overseas military adventures and instances of statist domestic policies. Nor is it intended to imply that the analysis of military conflicts is in any way less important than the analysis of domestic policies. The point is that only a principled stand for peace, including consistent opposition to statist policies, can be expected to yield a more peaceful society over time.

There are, of course, many differences between military conflicts and domestic public policies. Military struggles are likely to be far more destructive than domestic ones, but they are also far more complex. While particular war crimes may be morally clear cut, moral arguments over the legitimacy of the wars themselves are often complicated by long histories of retaliation and escalation, involving many different groups, often fighting for generations. On the other hand, taxation, regulation, and the suppression of legitimate civil liberties are quite clearly acts of aggression, in which there is no question of the victim having previously aggressed against the attacker.

For this reason, it is all the more imperative for genuine advocates of peace to take a stand against unambiguous cases of domestic aggression embodied in the statist policies that abound in their own homelands. For if one cannot even recognize the immorality of clear-cut instances of government violence at home, what hope can there possibly be to understand the moral imperatives applying to convoluted, foreign, military struggles with histories tracing back over generations?

Peace versus Statism

While specific conflicts are often complicated, the fundamental principles underlying a peaceful society are relatively simple. If the members of a society accept the nonaggression principle and repudiate the initiation of force, then there will be peace; if instead they support statism, there will be violence, repression, and war.

Once a person knowingly countenances a single act of aggression against property rights, any moral objection to violence they may have had is breached. Regardless of whether the issue in question is drug prohibition, estate taxes, zoning regulations, or government welfare schemes, support for the violation of property rights establishes the principle that the initiation of force is a legitimate means for achieving one's ends — that it is morally proper.

The transition to supporting larger-scale acts of aggression is then just a matter of degree, with the extent of support differing from person to person. Such a person may certainly oppose large-scale military conflicts out of concern for the scale of the destruction. But theirs is not an objection to the use of aggression itself; it is merely a concern that this much violence goes too far!

Without a principle against aggression per se, there is no logical basis for any agreement on the level of violence that is legitimate. There is no logical basis to say that this much violence is okay, but that much is too much. And so, inevitably, once the principle of nonaggression is tossed aside, people are led on a path to statism and destruction, upping the ante until full-scale war is the result.

The Nobel Peace Prize for Barack Obama makes perfect sense. It is an award routinely bestowed on those who do their utmost to aggrandize government and agitate for increased statism in pursuit of their goals. As philosopher Hans Hermann-Hoppe once noted, "If you want to win the [Nobel Peace Prize], it is good that you are a mass murderer; at least that helps." Although President Obama is by no means the most oppressive recipient of this infamous prize, his penchant for statist policies at home and abroad makes him an ideal candidate for the award.

Since some have charged that awarding the prize to President Obama is premature, I will save them the suspense: Obama will continue to work to expand US government power both abroad and over its domestic citizens. He will continue to push forward a statist agenda and he will routinely use violence to plunder people of their rightfully owned property, suppress their civil liberties, and deprive them of their lives. As such, he will become, if he is not already, a perfectly fitting recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize.
--from "Peace and the 'Peace Prize'" by Ben O'Neill

What government needs to do to improve healthcare

[B]elieve me, I understand why people think, "The government needs to do something!" Those people are right, the government does need to do something. Specifically, it needs to get out of healthcare.

How Government Screws Up Health Insurance

It's not an accident that health insurance tends to be tied to employment. During the wage-and-price controls of World War II and the Nixon era, companies competed for employees not by offering higher salaries (which was illegal) but by offering perks such as health insurance.

Currently, one of the major reasons companies offer insurance as part of compensation packages is that it is tax deductible. In other words, if a corporation pays $10,000 a year to insure you and your family, they can write it off as a business expense, and you won't pay taxes on it. But if the corporation increased your salary by $10,000 and told you to buy your own insurance, you would get taxed on that money.

Another major distortion is that there are barriers to interstate competition among health insurers. If all the Obama administration wants to do is promote options for consumers, this seems like low-hanging fruit.
-- from "The Wall Street Journal Defends the Predator State" by Robert P. Murphy

Friday, October 09, 2009

The time to shut down this madness is now

It’s time to bring our troops home. They’re not doing any good. That’s not their fault. At the tactical level, the level at which combat occurs, they’re unbelievably competent. But strategically, use of military force by global hegemon America has become a losing proposition.

We need to let the Afghanistan conflict blow itself calm at the nearest opportunity. We can best do that by fading away and letting the natural political forces that exist in that part of the world duke things out among themselves.

We don’t need to send any more kids over there to get killed or have their legs blown off, or to take part in the slaughter of innocents that they’ll experience trauma about for the rest of their lives.

We need to shut down this madness now.
-- from "Just Say No to McChrystal" (October 09, 2009 ) by Jeff Huber

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A stimulus that has failed to stimulate?

Unemployment hit 9.8 percent last month (a conservative estimate, to be sure). The Obama administration once said it would approach 9 percent -- if the "stimulus" did not pass. With the "stimulus" it was supposed to be less than 8 percent by now. (See graph.)

When do we declare the "stimulus" a failure? Huh?

--from "Unemployment Keeps Rising" (October 04, 2009) by Sheldon Richman

The four-party healthcare system

Did it ever make sense to create a health care system in which fourth-party employers purchase insurance for their first-party employees from third-party corporations, which in turn pay second-party providers for health care products and services?
--from "The Modern Health Care Maze: Development and Effects of the Four-Party System" by Charles Kroncke and Ronald F. White

What it feels like to be a libertarian

Libertarians spend their lives accurately predicting the future effects of government policy. Their predictions are accurate because they are derived from Hayek’s insights into the limitations of human knowledge, from the recognition that the people who comprise the government respond to incentives just like anyone else and are not magically transformed to selfless agents of the good merely by accepting government employment, from the awareness that for government to provide a benefit to some, it must first take it from others, and from the knowledge that politicians cannot repeal the laws of economics. For the same reason, their predictions are usually negative and utterly inconsistent with the utopian wishful-thinking that lies at the heart of virtually all contemporary political advocacy. And because no one likes to hear that he cannot have his cake and eat it too or be told that his good intentions cannot be translated into reality either by waving a magic wand or by passing legislation, these predictions are greeted not merely with disbelief, but with derision.

It is human nature to want to shoot the messenger bearing unwelcome tidings. And so, for the sin of continually pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, libertarians are attacked as heartless bastards devoid of compassion for the less fortunate, despicable flacks for the rich or for business interests, unthinking dogmatists who place blind faith in the free market, or, at best, members of the lunatic fringe.

Cassandra’s curse was to always tell the truth about the future, but never be believed. If you add to that curse that she would be ridiculed, derided, and shunned for making her predictions, you have a pretty fair approximation of what it feels like to be a libertarian.

If you’d like a taste of what it feels like to be a libertarian, try telling people that the incoming Obama Administration is advocating precisely those aspects of FDR’s New Deal that prolonged the great depression for a decade; that propping up failed and failing ventures with government money in order to save jobs in the present merely shifts resources from relatively more to relatively less productive uses, impedes the corrective process, undermines the economic growth necessary for recovery, and increases unemployment in the long term; and that any "economic" stimulus package will inexorably be made to serve political rather than economic ends, and see what kind of reaction you get. And trust me, it won’t feel any better five or ten years from now when everything you have just said has been proven true and Obama, like FDR, is nonetheless revered as the savior of the country.
--from "What It Feels Like To Be A Libertarian" (January 2009) by John Hasnas

How to stop the Senate healthcare plan

My inclination is to say: let this healthcare program happen. The only real check will be the bankruptcy of the welfare state. Trouble is that many good people will get hurt.
-- from "Delusions of Healthcare Policy" by Mario Rizzo

Cognitive dissonance

Reviewing the Sunday news shows and newspapers creates the most intense cognitive dissonance:  a nation crippled by staggering debt, exploding unemployment, an ever-expanding rich-poor gap, and dependence on foreign government financing can't stop debating how much more resources we should devote to our various military occupations, which countries we should bomb next, which parts of the world we should bring into compliance with our dictates using threats of military force.  It's like listening to an individual about to declare personal bankruptcy talking about all the new houses and jewels he plans on buying next week and all the extravagant trips he's planning, in between lamenting how important it is that he stop spending so much.  That would sound insane.  And that's exactly how our political discourse sounds.

-- from "The sources used by the Liberal Media" by Glenn Greenwald