Monthly Archives: February 2006

Thoughts Along The Same Lines

Sean Lynch has an interesting discussion at Catallarchy in a post called Connecting The Political Circle. He puts quite a few words into discussing the differences, and similarities, between libertarians (aka anarcho-capitalists) and anarchists (aka anarcho-syndicalists) and socialists.

It’s occurred to me that the main difference between libertarians or anarcho capitalists and socialists or communists is beliefs about what is likely/possible rather than what is desirable. I think the main reason anarchists say anarcho-capitalists are “not anarchists” is that they think anarcho-capitalists just want to eliminate government and want/expect the existing corporations to stay as they are, with the end result being that the corporations become the new government (hence calling us not-anarchists).

I think the last sentence is clearly how Libertarians are perceived. It is, in fact, one of my primary issues, as has been evident in the discussion between Doug Mataconis and I here on The Liberty Papers (see this, this and this for examples). Yes, I believe in individual rights and liberties and the power of markets, I detest the idea of “positive freedoms”, and agree with much else that libertarians believe in. But, I’m not a libertarian, and rarely describe myself as being one. Then it is usually because I’m closer to that position than anything else. The thing I think that libertarians and anarcho-capitalists basically lose sight of is that all concentrations of power are destructive to individual liberty, whether they are formal governments, or not.

Speaking of collusion, this brings up another issue that keeps people on the socialist side of the fence: monopolies. We’re all taught in school that artificial monopolies (i.e. those that are created intentionally by monopolists) can be created and sustained, that they harm the consumer, and that they must be broken up or controlled by government. In school, these were simply called “monopolies” and natural or state monopolies simply weren’t addressed. In actuality, it’s not hard to show that historical monopolies have always failed except when the state has intervened to support them, and that even where natural monopolies persist, they do not harm the consumer (at least not more than a state monopoly) and advances in technology eventually make them competitive anyway.

I think there’s some important thoughts in here, one of which Sean sort of glosses over. First, I agree that artificial, legal and natural monopolies are not permanent things. Second, I agree that government intervention does much more harm than good. In my opinion, the anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft actually helped to sustain the monopoly they currently have over consumer operating systems and the desktop office suite markets, rather than breaking it up. If nothing else, it convinced people that they had to buy Microsoft products because they were the only viable product. It also convinced competitors to come to terms with Microsoft in a way that favored MS when the government failed to do anything meaningful (from their perspective). Probably the most important thought is downplayed, in a deprecatory sort of fashion. And that is that non-government monopolies hurt consumers. Of course they aren’t worse for consumers than legal monopolies, but that doesn’t mean that Microsoft being able to artificially control scarcity in the office suite market is good for consumers.

So, what does all this make me? I’m clearly neither a socialist nor an anarcho-syndicalist. But, my perspective on corporations, monopolies and concentrations of power seems incompatible with libertarians, conservatives and anarcho-capitalists. I usually describe myself as a rational anarchist. I believe in the sovereignty and responsibility of the individual, and oppose the concentration of power aimed at coercing the individual. I think that is, ultimately, the disconnect between libertarians and I.

Update: A thought struck me, and I think it’s one worth exploring, on this whole issue of libertarians, corporations and monopolies. I think that what is happening is that libertarians are stepping over a line that they should reconsider. They go from defending the market against government intrusion to defending the actual entities within the market that are the proximate cause of the desired intrusion. While government intervention and/or intrusion into the market is something we don’t desire and should actively work against, that doesn’t mean that the target of the intrusion, Microsoft for example, is something good that needs to be defended. In fact, neither Microsoft nor Wal-Mart are shining examples free market practices to hold up to the world. We have a tendency to defend the target of the government intervention, which is a mistake.

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Carnival Of Liberty XXXIV

Carnival of Liberty 34 is up at Committees of Correspondence. Once again, we’ve had another week of great posts contributed. Thanks to everyone who did…..and if you didn’t, why not ?

Next week’s carnival will be hosted at Owlish Mutterings. And, if you’re intereted in hosting a Carnival yourself, I’ve got slots open in late April and all of May. Let me know.

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Quote for this Week

I’d say this fits in well with our current education discussion.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

William Pitt (1759-1806) British Prime Minister (1783-1801, 1804-06) during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Who Is The Sacramento Republicrat???

Republicrat-

“Republicrat” or “Demopublican” (or the shorter “Democan”) are portmanteaus of the names of the two main political parties in the United States, the Republicans and the Democrats. The terms are used pejoratively by those on both the right and left who allege the policies of the two parties are in practice indistinguishable, and so form essentially one party with two names.

Well, I am a mid 30’s guy who has just about had enough with all of the political stereotyping.

If you claim to be “Conservative” or “Republican”, you catch flack from the “Left” for being too up tight. If you claim to be “Liberal” or “Democrat”, then you catch equal flack from the “Right”.

So, I became a Republicrat. I have always drifted to the Republican side when it involves “Fiscal Responsibility” and more moderate on “Social Issues”. It seems you are always expected to vote within your party. I do not always agree, so a Republicrat was the right choice.

It is true that we need a governing body, but that governing body does not need to be overly controlling or “In Your Face” all of the time.

As you will see on my personal blog, The Sacramento Republicrat, I have zero tolerance for crime against children. I am a supporter of Jessica’s Law. I have never been a “Political” type person. However, as I hit my thirties, I realized that politics did interest me. So, I started reading, listening and here I am.

I would like to thank Eric for his allowing me to be a contributor here at The Liberty Papers.

A Final Word On Monopolies

About two weeks ago, we had quite a spirited debate here about the question of monopolies in a free market system, and specifically the question of whether Microsoft, or any other supposed monopoly was a problem that libertarians and classical liberals needed to concern themselves with. For a recap of those arguments, you should start here and then go here, and then here, then here, then here, and, finally, here. Be sure to read the comments along the way.

On several ocassions during our discussion I started, then stopped, writing a more detailed post discussing what a monopoly actually is in economic terms and whether a monopolist in a free market economy, should one exist, would be a problem worth worrying about. For many reasons, I never got around to it, and now it looks like someone has beat me to it.

Over at Liberty Corner, there’s an excellent post titled Monopoly And The General Welfare that puts the issues forward fairly succintly. The post goes into detail to explain why, in a free market economy, a monopolist would be no different than any other market player and would still be subject to the same free market forces that any other company would be, with the added benefit that the monopolist would not be able to appeal to the state for protection from competition.

The only kind of monopoly that harms consumers is a legal monopoly, one that is operated or regulated by government. Such a monopoly isn’t harmful per se, it’s harmful because the government’s operation or regulation of the monopoly ensures that it cannot and will not respond to price signals. A natural monopolist (like Jack the breadmaker) must bargain with his customers, and must be alert to the possibility that his customers will turn to substitutes and near-substitutes if he doesn’t bargain with them. But when government operates and regulates whole sectors of the economy (e.g., telecommunications and health care), price signals are practically meaningless — there is no bargaining — and substitutes are hard to come by (near-substitutes will be regulated, of course).

The only real monopoly, then, is one that is operated or regulated by government. It is that kind of monopoly — not Microsoft or Wal-Mart (for example) — which ought to be broken up or fenced in by the trust-busters.

As usual, the real harm comes from the state.

Teacher’s Unions: The Enemy Of Education

Reading Brad and Eric’s posts on education earlier today brought to mind this post I wrote recently:

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a piece cataloging the ways in which teachers unions in Florida and Wisconsin are acting to prevent any efforts to reform education in a way that will actually help students.

First in Wisconsin:

Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, enacted with bipartisan support in 1990, provides private school vouchers to students from families at or below 175% of the poverty line. Its constitutionality has been supported by rulings from both the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts.

Yet [Wisconsin Governor Jim] Doyle, a union-financed Democrat, has vetoed three attempts to loosen the state law that limits enrollment in the program to 15% of Milwaukee’s public school enrollment. This cap, put in place in 1995 as part of a compromise with anti-choice lawmakers backed by the unions, wasn’t an issue when only a handful of schools were participating. But the program has grown steadily to include 127 schools and more than 14,000 students today. Wisconsin officials expect the voucher program to exceed the 15% threshold next year, which means Mr. Doyle’s schoolhouse-door act is about to have real consequences.

“Had the cap been in effect this year,” says Susan Mitchell of School Choice Wisconsin, “as many as 4,000 students already in the program would have lost seats. No new students could come in, and there would be dozens of schools that have been built because of school choice in Milwaukee that would close. They’re in poor neighborhoods and would never have enough support from tuition-paying parents or donors to keep going.”

In other words, Governor Doyle is fine with forcing poor students in Milwaukee to stay in underperforming, sometimes dangerous, public schools in order to placate his NEA supporters. Given the clearly beneficial results that the school choice program has had, this is scandalous:

A 2004 study of high school graduation rates by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute found that students using vouchers to attend Milwaukee’s private schools had a graduation rate of 64%, versus 36% for their public school counterparts. Harvard’s Caroline Hoxby has shown that Milwaukee public schools have raised their standards in the wake of voucher competition.(emphasis added)

In other words, school choice has had precisely the impact that its supporters predicted it would. Its made education better at all levels. The fact that the Governor and the teachers union would even think of being opposed to expanding this program demonstrates, quite plainly, that they don’t care about improving education. They care about preserving their power, and school choice is a threat to their power base.

Meanwhile, in Florida:

The unions scored a separate “victory” in Florida three weeks ago when the state supreme court there struck down the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Passed in 1999, the program currently enrolls 700 children from chronically failing state schools, letting them transfer to another public school or use state money to attend a private school. Barring some legislative damage control, the 5-2 ruling means these kids face the horrible prospect of returning to the state’s education hellholes next year.

The decision is a textbook case of results-oriented jurisprudence. The majority claimed the program violates a provision of Florida’s constitution that requires the state to provide for “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” Because “private schools that are not ‘uniform’ when compared with each other or the public system” could receive state funds under the program, the majority deemed it unconstitutional.

And thanks to a teachers union who thought nothing of using its vast funds to bankroll this lawsuit, the students of Florida are victimized once again.

The Journal’s closing paragraph says it best:

What the Milwaukee and Florida examples show is that unions and their allies are unwilling to let even successful voucher experiments continue to exist. If they lose one court case, they will sue again–and then again, as long as it takes. And they’ll shop their campaign cash around for years until they find a politician like Jim Doyle willing to sell out Wisconsin’s poorest kids in return for their endorsement. Is there a more destructive force in American public life?

When it comes to education, I can’t think of one.

This was originally published at Below The Beltway in January and titled Teacher’s Unions Don’t Care About The Grade

Previous Posts On This Topic:

Covering Up A Failing Grade
Handing Out A Failing Grade

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The Education Monopoly

The current paradigm in this country is that education for our children is provided by public institutions, paid for with tax money. Not only that, but that education by institutions controlled, either directly or indirectly, by the state is mandatory for all children through the end of high school. I’m positive that some of you will point out to me that children can be educated by home schooling or private schools and thus my claim is wrong. I’m not wrong, but I’ll come back to that in a moment. This is a situation that, in the world of business, we would call a monopoly.

In economics, a monopoly (from the Greek monos, one + polein, to sell) is defined as a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a particular kind of product or service. Monopolies are characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide, a lack of viable substitute goods, as well as high barriers to entry for potential competitors on the market.

The public education system is actually a coercive or state monopoly, which means that means of force (or in this case, the threat of force) is used to coerce the consumer to adhere to the monopoly and to prevent competition. In the United States (as in most Western nations) the consumer (the student and his parents) have no choice, they must attend school. And the school must be accredited by the state. Thus only schools which the state approves can exist and do business. If you believe that the public education system is not coercive, imagine trying to tell your local school board that your child is not going to attend their schools, nor any other accredited school, be it public or private, but that you, as the parent, will take personal responsibility to ensure that your child is appropriately educated. I would suggest that the next thing that will happen is that you will receive a court order to have your child attend school. If you refuse that order then you will be arrested and child placed in protective custody.

The basis for doing this is that all children should be educated to a certain minimum standard in order to be competitive in society after childhood and able to function as adults. So far, so good and a concept I can agree with. The concept is further extended to declare that education is a sure and certain means to combat poverty, crime and tyranny. Yet again, I won’t argue. In fact, just the opposite, I agree wholeheartedly. Now we get to the meat of the matter, and where I diverge from the publicly held conventional wisdom. The argument that favors gathering tax money from me and funding public schools that your child must attend (or an equivalent “private” institution) is that the aforementioned reasons for education and benefits to the society and the individual means that the state should intervene to ensure the positive outcome desired.

I disagree with this position for two reasons. The first is the obvious position of a libertarian. Coercion by the state is wrong. But there’s another reason, and I believe this one is more compelling for those who are not necessarily as likely to believe state coercion is always wrong as I am. The reason is simple really. The state’s coercive monopoly in education is a worse choice for promoting the goals we enumerated in the prior paragraph:

  • The individual is socially competitive
  • Able to function at a minimum level of sophistication and knowledge
  • Combating poverty and crime
  • Safeguarding against tyranny

The problem is not so much the consumer (students and parents) in a monopoly, as it is the monopolistic entity. The monopoly has no incentive to innovate, improve efficiency, or lower cost. The reason for this is that there is no competition. At the risk of this not being fully understood, I’m not going to go into the details of why this is so. Earlier I linked to a Wikipedia article on monopolies that explains the phenomenon quite well. It should be obvious, once you recognize this, that it is not the wealthy and privileged who are hurt by such a situation, but rather the poor and unprivileged since competition drives innovation (better products), efficiency (products delivered more effectively), higher quality (differentiates the product) and lower prices. The answer provided to monopoly by the socialist (or statist to use libertarian parlance) is government intervention and/or control.

By looking at the telecom market in the United States we can understand that state intervention distorts the market. During the years that AT&T was a state enforced monopoly telephone service was provided at a certain basic level to all who would pay the price (not all that high) that AT&T charged for that service. But there were no additional services (voice mail, call waiting, caller ID, multiple lines and much more). Today, I pay little more (I pay less after adjusting for inflation) for my residential phone line in a competitive market than I did for my phone line in a monopoly, yet the services I get are much better than I did then. And that service is ubiquitous because we all see the value in it, thus we are willing to pay a reasonable price for that service. By 1970 a natural monopoly existed in the United States in the automobile market. The “Big 3″ auto manufacturers (GM, Chrysler, Ford) sold somewhere on the order of 85% of all cars sold in the USA. Low quality, high price and lack of innovation was an accepted fact in the automobile market. Today, with a dozen or so manufacturers competing in the US auto market, that situation is changed. The large increase in cost is due to a combination of much better features than previously available and government safety and environmental regulations (i.e. distortion of the market by government intervention).

Would anyone reasonably suggest that we return to the days of the AT&T or “Big 3″ auto manufacturers monopolies? Of course not, we see the benefits to us for products that are nearly universally in demand. We see the fact that we can exert control over the market for these products and we see that the suppliers are working to attract our business with innovation, quality, price, features, efficiency, etc.

I propose that we should remove government intervention and control from our “education system” and make it an education market. Given the universal desirability of education I suggest that we will not end up with a less educated population. Parents would be able to afford education for their children due to their reduced tax burdens. Since the market would almost certainly dictate a lower price per year than the current price we pay per student there should be a net economic benefit (the net difference between current cost and market cost). It is almost certain the situation could not be worse than our current situation. I’ve read far too many studies that show that our real literacy rate, as opposed to the high school graduation rate, today is below 80% in the adult population. This despite the fact that all children are now required to attend school until the receive a high school diploma or GED. And most of that illiteracy is concentrated among the poor and unprivileged of our society. If we, as a society, decide that the poor need some assistance to pay for their education then we could certainly provide scholarships and tuition assistance through public and private organizations. And still our total cost for education would be lower than it is today, through the market mechanisms. Not only that, most of the other problems we decry on a regular basis, poor teachers, lack of innovation and so forth, would be dealt with on a competitive basis. A school whose students had poor records after graduation would not attract more students.

An interesting case study is the situation of education in North America prior to the American Revolution. By and large there was no “public education” as we understand the term today. Not only that, the American colonies were 95% agrarian, with a much lower demand for education than our current industrial society transitioning to information society. Yet the colonists had the highest literacy rate in the Western world (which is to say in the entire world), higher even than Great Britain, which was about to launch the Industrial Revolution. Education was recognized as desirable (and thus in demand) and there was a free market for education. This resulted in good quality and low cost. It should also be noted that the United States had one of the highest standards of living by the early 19th century and that the high literacy rate almost certainly contributed to the rise of American political philosophers like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine and so on, and ultimately to the American Revolution. The bottom line is that the free market applied to education will be more beneficial to those who most need the education than the current state monopoly.

Update 2/23/2005: Micha Ghertner over at Catallarchy posts on school choice based on policy analysis done by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The article clearly supports my position, with real evidence, that the poor and unprivileged would most benefit from an education system freed of government monopoly. Go read it and see what I mean.

I originally wrote this and posted this at Eric’s Grumbles almost exactly one year ago.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Threat of Teachers Unions

Neal Boortz made a bold statement on his show the other day. He said “the teachers unions are a greater long-term threat to freedom and prosperity than Islamic terrorists”. I’m guessing he came under some fire for that one, because the very next day, he was talking about it again. He said he’d given it a lot of thought, really examined the implications of his statement, and stood behind what he said.

Now, that’s a pretty strong statement, and one that I agree with. Before you all think I’m crazy, I point out the words “long-term”. In the short term, conflict with Islamic terrorists is a direct threat to our freedom and prosperity, and one that needs to be taken very seriously. On the bright side, however, it is one that we’re taking very seriously. We understand the stakes in the conflict, and we are determined to defeat the terrorists. Furthermore, as the Islamic world begins to liberalize and democratize, the threat will diminish significantly on its own.

But the threat of the teachers unions is considerably different. Only a minority of people consider them to be a threat in the first place. Most people in this country think that the unions have education of students as their primary goal, when it is obvious to anybody paying attention that they act in the interest of teachers, often to the detriment of students.

They fight any implementation of standards or testing, because they wish to resist accountability. They fight every program that will increase educational choice for families, because it will lead to a reduction of their bargaining power. They wish education to be handled at the government level, because the government is much easier to lobby and fight than a distributed network of privately-managed schools.

They push endlessly for two specific goals, higher funding and lower class sizes. Higher funding will directly increase teacher salaries. Lower class sizes create a need for higher and higher numbers of teachers, essentially forcing shortages. Hence: higher teacher salaries. It keeps going. They push for a requirement of a “teaching credential” before they push for a requirement that teachers are experts in their subjects. They want to make sure that bright, knowledgeable folks with teaching talent are not allowed to teach unless they have a teaching “credential”. What does all this amount to? Like any cartel, they seek one thing above all: to remove competition. Lower class sizes and credentialing requirements ensure that existing teachers have a strong bargaining position when the union fights for more benefits.

But the biggest problem eclipses all of the above. Their threat to our freedom is not that of newsworthy attacks on human life, but the incremental destruction of human individualism. Boortz explains it much better than I do, when he points out the fact that the government is the actor in our world that we give a monopoly on the power to initiate force. That is an awesome power, and its application must be feared and curtailed whenever possible. But the people we ask to teach our children feed at the trough of government! You will never teach children to fear the application of government power by sending them to government schools. When the teachers unions are helped by a greater concentration of power– as that gives their lobbying much more effect– they will by design support greater government power. And where government power increases, human individualism recedes.

The teachers unions benefit greatly from a public that believes in the idea of collective action, be it union action, government welfare, or simply the “world community”. They benefit greatly from the idea that kids fit into cookie-cutter molds, and if one dares to exhibit individuality, they should be immediately muted with high doses of ritalin. The teachers who benefit from power in government, from keeping children from growing up to question teachers unions, and who prefer the orderly medicated classroom to one that they must keep orderly by inspiring and motivating students, are doing damage to the very fabric of this country. They are creating a nation of citizens who don’t question authority and who don’t have a love of truth and learning. Even worse, they’re creating a nation of citizens without the tools (i.e. logic) to understand the very forces pulling on the levers of their psyche. A nation filled with that sort of citizen is doomed to rot from within.

What will happen if the current situation is continued to exist? What will happen if teachers unions, who have the public on their side (after all, everyone loves and reveres teachers!) continue to stifle competition and standards? Well, I would argue that we’re already seeing the effect, in the inability of schools in much of the country to turn out graduates with a meaningful diploma. I’ve said before that I moved to Georgia partially for the schools, but that is because I moved to an area of Georgia populated by concerned parents who demand accountability from the local schools. Where I moved is somewhere that I might not be ashamed to send my future children to public schools. But my community is an exception in this state, where the schools lag behind the rest of the dullard states in this nation. The situation is bad here and across the country, and it is getting worse.

The teachers unions are not in the slightest bit interested in fixing the problem, except to the extent that it keeps their necks off the chopping block another year. Much like politicians, the status quo is more than suitable for them as long as they don’t awaken the sleeping giant that is the American public. To beat them, we will need to shine a light not only on the results of their actions– the absolutely atrocious education that children in our schools are receiving– but on the fact that the teachers unions are the root cause behind those results. Unions in this country have long received unjustly favorable media treatment, and everyone loves to be on the side of teachers. But unless we can point out the specific ways that teachers unions are harming our children, we won’t stand a chance of beating them.

I’ll be frank. Terrorists setting off a nuclear device in a major American city are a more pressing concern for me over the next 10 years than the actions of teachers unions. But assuming that we can avoid that nightmare scenario, I worry greatly about the world my children will grow up in if we can’t find a way to fix the problem those unions have caused.

Update: Welcome to readers joining us from Neal’s Nuze. The Liberty Papers is a not for profit news and opinion blog that focuses on topics dealing with individual liberty and freedom. If you enjoyed this article, poke around the site. I’m sure you will find more to interest you.

Freedom Of Speech Means Freedom To Offend

Writing in today’s Washington Post, George Will uses the example of the recent prosecution of historian David Irving for the crime of denying the truth of the Holocaust to make the point that freedom of speech sometimes means letting some truly offensive people speak their minds.

In 1989, in two speeches in Austria, Irving said, among much else, that only 74,000 Jews died of natural causes in work camps and millions were spirited to Palestine after the war. An arrest warrant was issued. Last November Irving was arrested when he came to Austria to address some right-wing students. Last week, while Europe was lecturing Muslims about the virtue of tolerating free expression by Danish cartoonists, Irving was sentenced to three years in prison.

Is David Irving wrong ? We know without a doubt he is. Is he offensive ? To those whose family members died in Hitler’s gas chambers or died on the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from Nazi tyranny ? Absolutely. Should he have the right to say what he says ? Without question, yes.

What dangers do the likes of Irving pose? Holocaust denial is the occupation of cynics and lunatics who are always with us but are no reason for getting governments into the dangerous business of outlawing certain arguments. Laws criminalizing Holocaust denial open a moral pork barrel for politicians: Many groups can be pandered to with speech restrictions. Why not a law regulating speech about slavery? Or Stalin’s crimes?

Exactly. And what about the hypocrisy that Europe displays ? What right do they have to complain about the Muslim reaction to the Mohammed cartoons when they are putting a man in jail because he dares to right a history book that makes conclusions they don’t like ?

I am not a supporter of David Irving, but he has as much right to say what he says as Danish and French newspapers have to publish cartoons making fun of extremist Muslims.

Things are much better here in the United States right ? After all, we’ve got a First Amendment and no law against denying the truth of the Holocaust ? Don’t be so sure about it.

Just consider these examples:

For several decades in America, the aim of much of the jurisprudential thought about the First Amendment’s free-speech provision has been to justify contracting its protections. Freedom of speech is increasingly “balanced” against “competing values.”

(…)

On campuses, speech codes have abridged the right of free expression to protect the right — for such it has become — of certain preferred groups to not be offended. The NCAA is truncating the right of some schools to express their identity using mascots deemed “insensitive” to the feelings of this or that grievance group. Campaign finance laws ration the amount and control the timing and content of political speech.

(…)

To protect the fragile flower of womanhood, a judge has ruled that use of gender-based terms such as “foreman” or “draftsman” could create a “hostile environment” and hence constitute sexual harassment.

And then there’s an example that’s been in the news lately that Will does not cite. Over the past several weeks, several states have taken steps to prevent protesters from picketing at funerals, a move propelled by the fact that an objectively offensive group of extreme Christians have been staging protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq claiming that the deaths America is experiencing in Iraq are God’s punishment for tolerating homosexuality. Offensive ? Absolutely ? Should they have the right to be offensive ? I can’t see any reason why not.

Freedom of speech means that, sometimes, we will hear some truly offensive things. When government starts regulating speech based on the fact that it may offend, though, it diminishes freedom for everyone.

Vouchers: A Panacea?

Neal Boortz, famed Atlanta libertarian talk show

host, commented on something that has the potential to

revolutionize the public education system:

In Georgia the governor is considering a plan whereby the state could help fund some community social service projects initiated by churches. The truth here is that these private churches do a better buying amoxicillin online job of delivering many of these social services than government does. Can you guess who is stepping up to loudly protest the idea? Well, that would be the Georgia Association casino online of Educators, our wonderful teacher's union. One union spokesman said “It would open a floodgate to vouchers and that is our primary objection to this bill.” Vouchers! Union government teachers go to sleep at night worrying about vouchers. They wake up to nightmares about australian casinos online vouchers. They arise in the morning shivering in a cold sweat brought on by thoughts of vouchers. They see vouchers in every dark corner and under every

rock. It seems at times that their entire life is occupied by a focus on keeping that floodgate to vouchers from ever opening.

…any thoughts on the subject?

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Undercover Economics: Free Trade vs. Environmentalism

Recently, Patri Friedman posted an excerpt from the Copenhagen Consensus over at Catallarchy. He pointed out that economists agree that the removing trade barriers globally is one of the best ways to spend money from a cost/benefit perspective. I commented fairly extensively on that thread, suggesting that free trade really should be ranked #1 on the list, not #3, behind spending on HIV and malnutrition. This is because I believe that free trade will increase wealth, which will, in turn, increase the money available to be spent on problems like HIV and malnutrition.

I’ve also been, concurrently, reading The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! by Tim Harford. I got turned on to the book by another post Patri wrote, actually. In any case, although there are quite a few areas where Harford and I don’t see eye to eye politically, he has written an entertaining book explaining some of the core ideas of economics in a way that most people should be able to understand. In the second to last chapter of the book, which I just finished, he tackles globalization and free trade. There are quite a few myths surrounding globalization, most of which are memes created by special interest groups that appeal to progressives. This is neither the time nor the place, so I won’t get into what a contradiction in terms the label “progressive” actually is. Aside from that, two of the myths that Harford tackles quite well are that international free trade is bad for the environment and bad for the citizens of poor countries. I won’t tackle the issue of free trade being bad for workers in poor countries, that particular myth has been dispelled quite well many times over. I’m going to tackle free trade and environmental issues. I found the discussion surrounding environmental issues particularly enlightening, especially if you combine it with the realities of environmentalism and global warming. You’ll have to actually read the book to get all of the details, I’m not going to quote the whole chapter here. He lays out evidence for the following points, however:

  • Agricultural subsidies and tarrifs lead to mono-cultural ecologies and increased use of pesticides and fertilizers. The evidence correlates nicely. Industrialized nations that protect their agriculture have the highest rate of use of pesticides and fertilizer in the world.
  • Industries that pollute the most are located in rich, industrialized countries and not relocating to poor countries. These happen to be industries that require good infrastructure, rule of law, strong political institutions and well educated workers. The industries that are relocating are low polluting, such as textiles.
  • As nations grow wealthier, the rate of pollution per person begins to level off and then decline around the point of $5,000 of per capita income. This is a reason to want to see an increase the wealth of poor countries.
  • Manufacturers tend to use technologies that are low polluters because it turns out that they are, for the most part, also more efficient and less expensive once implemented. They tend to do this in all countries, not just the ones with tougher environmental regulations.
  • Economists believe that we are seeing the peak of energy demand in wealthy countries. This is primarily because of saturation, not cost. In other words, when every family in the US has a place to live with an air conditioner, two cars, a computer and a couple of TV’s (more or less), there really isn’t much that is being introduced to increase energy use. It’s a demand issue, rather than a supply and cost issue.

He then goes on to say:

What, really, are we to make of the environmentalist attack on free trade? We’ve seen that the race to the bottom is nonexistent; that polluting industries are still based in rich countries, rather than poor countries; that environmental standards are rising in China, Brazil, and Mexico, the major destinations for foreign investment into poor countries; that protectionist measures such as those on farming, steel, and coal, which sometimes claim environmental justifications in fact are tremendously harmful to the environment; that taxes on transportation fuels are consistent with free trade and much better for the environment than trade restrictions; and that the worst environmental problems, at least of today, are caused by poverty not wealth. The environmentalist movement should be manning the barricades to demand global free trade immediately. One day, perhaps they will.

I wouldn’t hold your breath. The environmental movement is also, for the most part, convinced that managed economies are the solution to the world’s ills. These folks believe in egalitarianism to the nth degree, which will simply result in all of us being equally poor except a privileged few living in privileged splendor. Kind of like the old Soviet Union was.

Environmentalism is sadly out of touch with reality in so many areas that I fail to see how we can possibly take them seriously.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Read Recently on a Local Forum

I participate in a local forum for my city. We discuss local and national politics, sports, poker, TV shows, and much more. Sometimes the things I read are just amazing. Like this, for example, in a discussion of the recent redistricting ballot initiative in California.

…. the problem with the gerrymandered districts is there needs to be a consistent nationwide method. Why should Tom Delay get to gerrymander his state in favor of his party while California has fair districts? I believe the Republican + seat gain in the House in 2004 was exactly the same number of rigged seats in Texas.

I voted against redistricting in California until it’s fair in Texas and other redstates as well.

For those who don’t know, California so badly gerrymandered the political districts in the last go round that not one single state Legislature or Congressional seat has changed parties since. It was a deal worked out between the state Democratic leaders and the national Republican leaders that finally led the deal being brokered. The state Democrats wanted to ensure they would have enough seats in the Legislature to be able to push their agenda without significant worry about Republican opposition. The national Republicans wanted to ensure that they would not lose any Republican Congressional seats in 2002 and 2004. The deal was reached. The politicos chose their own voters. And the rest is history.

Not to mention completely ignoring the principles of Federalism, the person who wrote this misses the point that the Legislature of the state of California actively worked to frustrate the intent of the citizens of the state and guarantee their own personal power. The end result is that the state is run by a political machine that is completely isolated from the voters. And Karl Rove traded the state of California for a promise that he wouldn’t lose any Republican seats in the California Congressional delegation. This was as crucial to 2004 as the gerrymandering in Texas.

Ooooops.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Celebrating A Secret Anniversary

In today’s Washington Post, Anne Applebaum notes that today marks the 50th anniversary of an entirely secret, yet incredibly important, speech by former Soviet dictator Nikita Krushchev. As Applebaum explains, it was 50 years ago today, that Krushchev spoke to a closed door meeting of Communist leaders and denounced, albeit selectively, the actions of his predecessor Joseph Stalin.

In essence, Khrushchev’s speech (which didn’t remain secret very long; Polish communists leaked it to the Israelis, who leaked it to the West) was a piece of theater, a four-hour harangue during which the new Soviet leader denounced the “cult of personality” that had surrounded Stalin, condemned torture and acknowledged that “mass arrests and deportation of thousands and thousands of people” had “created insecurity, fear and even desperation” in his country

Of course, Soviet Communism being what it was in 1956, he wasn’t entirely honest:

Khrushchev accused Stalin of many crimes, but deftly left out the ones in which he himself had been implicated. As William Taubman, author of “Khrushchev: The Man and His Era,” has documented, the Soviet leader had in fact collaborated enthusiastically with Stalinist terror, participating in the very mass arrests he condemned. Khrushchev’s speech was intended as much to consolidate his own power and intimidate his party opponents — all of whom had also collaborated enthusiastically — as it was to liberate his countrymen.

It was understandable, then, that the speech didn’t lead to immediate repudiation of Stalinism and its crimes. The men that Krushchev was speaking to were complicit in what had happened over the previous 25 years, and Krushchev was as guilty as the others. Nonetheless, it was a chink in the armor:

Two more decades were to pass before Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the young communists who had been electrified by Khrushchev’s secret speech, restarted the discussion of Stalin’s crimes, and launched, finally, the reforms that brought the system down.

While I think Applebaum shares the tendancy of the Western media to turn Gorbachev into more of a hero than he deserves to be, its clear that the young generation that heard Krushchev’s speech were energized by it, at least in some way.

As with everything else, of course, there is a lesson for today in the events of history, and it has to do with just how long it takes to turn a country away from the decaying effects of dictatorship:

The death of a dictator or the toppling of his statues does not necessarily mean that a complete political transformation has occurred, or even that one will occur soon. On the contrary, it takes a very, very long time — more than a generation — for a political class to free itself of the authoritarian impulse. People do not easily give up the ideology that has brought them wealth and power. People do not quickly change the habits that they’ve incurred over a lifetime. Even people who want to reform their countries — and at some level Khrushchev did want to reform his country — can’t necessarily bring themselves to say or to do what is necessary. Certainly they find it difficult to carry out political reforms that might hasten their own retirement.

It took more than 30 years for the USSR to finally collapse, and, 15 years later, the remanants of dictatorship are still influencing politics in Russia and the other republics that made up the Soviet Union. Doesn’t that make those people who complain about the lack of progress in Iraq after 3 years sound just a little silly ?

It Must Not Be Important

Interesting that this story is not at the top of the headlines in the country. Iraq is close to exploding into civil war, a scenario that many opposing the Bush Administration’s actions in Iraq predicted would come about. Yet, Google’s current “Top Stories” don’t include it, it’s not on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle or the Sacramento Bee. We have more than 100,000 American military in the country who are, potentially, about to be embroiled in an outcome that was predicted by many, yet it’s not leading the evening news. Nor is it the hottest topic for blogs, which currently appears to be reserved for a story that looks like a dud to me, the UAE port maintenance deal. Side note on that, the UAE company that won the contract will NOT be providing security, regardless of what you read on dozens of blogs out there.

So, what’s the deal?

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

The Legacy of the Cold War

If you haven’t read Raymond’s piece on ideological and memetic warfare, you really should. Although neither Raymond nor I are old enough to remember the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, we both remember the 70’s onwards and many of the points he makes can be seen in the changes from then to now in our culture, our society and our view of ourselves and the world. Much of what he discusses is a legacy of the Cold War that has resulted in profound changes in the way we think about ourselves and our culture. He points out to us the key memes of what he terms “suicidalism”, and others commonly refer to as post-modern leftism:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of
    racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such
    standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be
    impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

I can remember a time when people espousing such thoughts were considered to be on the ludicrous fringe of politics in this country. Now they dominate the left and right coasts. I know, I live in the middle of these people. On a local discussion board I belong to someone seriously said (here’s the link to the conversation):

Although I consider my self centrist leanning to the left currently because power is in the hand of right wingers and rligious extremest, I do like Lungren, to me he represents a middle of the road candidate who works for the voters for the most part

This has got to be one of the sillier things I have read recently. If Bush and co are religious extremists, I can not even begin to imagine what Islamic terrorists are considered. Oppressed victims reacting with justified anger, probably. Right wingers is, I presume, part of the Bush and the Republican Party = proto-fascists meme, which would be funny if it wasn’t such a sad distortion of what authoritarianism, fascism and a police state actually are. Centrism is your standard code, these days, for folks who actually don’t, at least to outside appearances, adhere to any set of principles, but instead believe that compromise is the best way forward. They completely ignore the fact that compromise with those who wish to strip our liberties and rights from us is just feeding the monster. Lungren, who is my Congress Critter, does “work for the voters”. He brings home tons of pork spending to the district. The point is, of course, that the memes are so alive and well that we have supposed moderates pretty well spouting their end results unconsciously.

One of the better bits of the piece focuses on an issue I’ve commented on myself. The people working so hard to make sure that the West is unable to be effective in this war completely fail to understand that they are the enemies that Osama bin Laden most wants to destroy. He, and the rest of his ilk, abhor the multi-culturalism that the left cherishes. Homosexuality, secular humanism, Hollywood, intellectualism and so forth are on their list of things that must be destroyed. Or, as Raymond puts it:

Another consequence of Stalin’s meme war is that today’s left-wing antiwar demonstrators wear kaffiyehs without any sense of how grotesque it is for ostensible Marxists to cuddle up to religious absolutists who want to restore the power relations of the 7th century CE. In Stalin’s hands, even Marxism itself was hollowed out to serve as a memetic weapon — it became increasingly nihilist, hatred-focused and destructive. The postmodern left is now defined not by what it’s for but by by what it’s against: classical-liberal individualism, free markets, dead white males, America, and the idea of objective reality itself.

Raymond, further on, points out the danger that this poses. The real danger of the rise of authoritarianism. Ultimately, Islamic extremists such as bin Laden, cannot defeat the US. But, they can, in conjunction with the nihilism of the post-modern Left, defeat classic liberalism and individualism and leave us with no place to go but authoritarianism and a response to their savagery that will make our waging of WWII seem like a pillow fight. For all that the left now abhors how we fought that war, the truth is we didn’t go all the way, didn’t descend into full on barbarism in our urge to destroy our enemies. But, it could happen this time.

Brittingham and other have worried that postmodern leftism may yet win. If so, the victory would be short-lived. One of the clearest lessons of recent times (exemplified not just by kaffiyeh-wearing western leftists but by Hamas’s recent clobbering of al-Fatah in the first Palestinian elections) is that po-mo leftism is weaker than liberal individualism in one important respect; it has only the weakest defenses against absolutist fervor. Brittingham tellingly notes po-mo philosopher Richard Rorty’s realization that when the babble of conflicting tribal narratives collapses in exhaustion, the only thing left is the will to power.

There’s so much more there I can’t begin to touch it all in this commentary. Go read it. Then read it again. It’s a long, thought provoking essay that deals with much of the core issue that the West faces today.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Carnival of Liberty XXXIII

Its that time of the week again, the latest edition of the Carnival of Liberty, number 33 to be exact, is up at Peter Porcupine. Go check it out.

Next week’s edition of the carnival will be hosted at Committees of Correspondence, so start getting those submissions in now. And, if you’re intereted in hosting a Carnival yourself, I’ve got slots open in late April and all of May. Let me know.

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The Harvard Fiasco

As Stanley Kurtz, at NRO, points out:

So Summers behaved badly. But that just shows how serious the problem of our politically correct campuses is. Students face a daily choice between speaking their mind and harming their own career prospects by alienating the professors who control their grades and recommendations.

The Harvard faculty continues it’s tyranny of the majority. Summers was one of the folks actively working to reverse the politically correct and authoritarian culture of our university campuses. It appears, at least in the short term, that the culture tyrants have won. Intellectual honesty and open discussion of issues will not be tolerated at Harvard. The lesson will not be lost on the students.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Quote for Today

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

— Thomas Jefferson (First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801)

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Who Benefits Most From AMT Reform?

In the news recently, and in Congress, discussion has focused upon how the AMT’s net is widening, and the looming “crisis” when it spreads. There’s expected to be an enormous (4x or more) increase in the numbers of taxpayers subject to the AMT in the next year, and the ramifications of this will be brutal if nothing is done. How brutal? Instead of the current 3-4% of households subject to the AMT, we’ll be looking at about 15%:

This parallel tax system was created two generations ago to take away tax breaks from about 150 wealthy taxpayers who had piled up write-offs to erase their tax bills. Chances are, it seems irrelevant if you aren’t among the 4 million taxpayers who owe it for 2005.

But give it time – a year, to be exact. These days you don’t have to be rich for the AMT to wipe out your write-offs.

Though most of them are unaware of it, 21 million Americans are on the hook to pay the AMT next tax season barring intervention from Congress. Some experts predict lawmakers will restore an expired tax provision that had slowed the AMT’s spread through 2005. If they don’t, however, it will unleash a fivefold increase in the number of taxpayers who will owe what one prominent U.S. senator calls the “Darth Vader of the tax code.”

The AMT will strike 35 percent of all taxpayers with $50,000 to $100,000 of adjusted gross income in 2006 – up from 1 percent in 2005, according to the CBO. Two out of three will owe it in 2010.

The AMT will hit 81 percent of taxpayers with $100,000 to $200,000 of adjusted income in 2006, nearly five times the 17 percent share in 2005. It will net more than 95 percent in 2010.

To understand the problem, a little bit of history is in order. The AMT was started in 1969 after it was found that a few very wealthy Americans managed to completely evade paying income taxes. The idea behind the AMT is a brute-force solution to a complex tax code, telling individuals that despite the fact that lawmakers have written thousands of deductions, exemptions, and special rules into the tax code, there is a certain minimum that must be paid. Rather than fix the root problem, which is the carving out of deductions and rules to please special interests, they said that all those rules apply, but only to a certain point.

All the AMT was designed to do is to reduce the impact of all the loopholes and deductions in the tax code, and ensure that those with the means to direct their assets to reduce their taxable income still pay “their fair share”. I personally believe that if we want to look at the problems correctly, we should solve the source (special interest loopholes and deductions), but I’m also an engineer. I know as well as anyone that at times, solving the root problem is simply too difficult. I’ve worked with customers who are running into a technical problem, and it is simply more effective, less costly, and quicker to brute-force a solution than to go fix to the root cause. Given that fixing Congress is probably not going to happen any time soon, the AMT is good legislation– in theory.

In theory, Congress is trying to blunt the tax implications of a few very rich people who are able to shuffle assets and income to reduce tax liability. It is designed for those people who have much more economic freedom than the “average” taxpayer. But therein lies the problem. Congress didn’t design this legislation well, and it’s increasingly affecting the “average” taxpayer (quotes added as it is still restricted to the upper-income taxpayers, but increasingly affecting people who do not employ the sort of advanced tax strategies this legislation was targeting).

It’s somewhat likely that I will be feeling the effect of the AMT next spring, and I can tell you I’m not happy about that. I, like many other people, have to plan my finances based upon certain information. One aspect of that information is the level of mortgage interest I pay, which is deductable. Given that I’ve only owned this home for a year, I’m still at a point where the bulk of my monthly payments are interest, and thus get a fairly substantial deduction. I don’t yet have kids, so perhaps I may be spared. I know lots of young professionals with kids, though, living in places like California or the Northeast, who will run into the AMT next year because their deductions are just “too large”. Especially with the larger mortgages they carry, the interest deduction and exemptions for kids will quickly put them in the AMT’s clutches. For people like me, who base certain financial decisions on what we know of the tax code, getting snared in the AMT net could be tremendously painful.

Congress have their backs against a wall. Budget and revenue projections depend upon the income of the AMT to continue as if there is no reform. Our legislators are expecting to spend the money raised by ensnaring millions of people in this net. When the President’s tax panel gave their recommendations, the reason they had to cut so many personal deductions was to offset the cost of fixing the AMT. They know that to fix the AMT will be incredibly painful, because they either have to reduce their spending plans (not likely!) or find revenue elsewhere– raising other taxes or eliminating deductions.

Congress does not want to fix the AMT. In fact, given that Congress really doesn’t care very much about the “average” taxpayer– as evidenced by their spending habits rewarding people who contribute to campaigns and screwing the rest of us– I don’t think they even care about the financial implications of the AMT upon us. After all, what we earn is legitimately the government’s money, and we should all be grateful they let us keep so much of it. They do care, however, about the political implications. If the AMT ensnares 21 million people this year, the backlash will be enormous. While Congresspeople don’t regularly pay attention to the worries and concerns of us plebes, they saw after Kelo that we can be a sleeping giant. They know that 21 million people feeling the pinch of the AMT may result in them losing their seat of power, which is their greatest and only fear.

Congress is starting to realize that they must reform the AMT or they’ll be in serious political jeopardy. For those of us who pay taxes, however, we know they’re not going to cut spending, so they’ll find another place to squeeze money from us. They’ll distribute the pain the AMT would have caused, in small changes to deductions and exemptions that cause just as much pain for taxpayers, but are harder to spot. We’ll still be screwed, but they’ll be safe. And then they’ll trumpet how wonderful they are for saving 21 million Americans from the AMT, when all they’ve done is to hide that taxation elsewhere.

So who benefits the most from reforming the AMT? Congress. Not that anyone should be surprised by this, of course. The only reason Congress does most things is to increase their own power, and shore up their own safety in office, as we saw from the Bipartisan Incumbent Protection Act of 2002. Remember who’s running this shell game, and you’ll realize that despite how close you’re watching, the shell you pick will be empty.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

As America celebrates President’s Day by taking the day off, Lee Harris has penned this piece at TCS Daily paying homage to our nation’s first, and arguably greatest, President.

As Harris points out, the office of the Presidency as it was set forth in the Constitution was specifically designed with George Washington in mind. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Washington, one doubts that the Presidency could have been given the powers that it has by virtue of Article II of the Constitution:

When Thomas Jefferson first read a copy of the United States Constitution, he was appalled. He was particularly scandalized by the office known as the Presidency, comparing it to the elective king of Poland. By using the dreaded and hated word “king,” Jefferson became among the first to denounce the Presidency as a step backwards into monarchy—the very kind of government that the Americans had rebelled against in their revolution.

In creating the Presidency, the Founders were quite obviously trying to create a balance between the tyranny created by the supreme executive personified by King George III and the chaos created by the legislative supremacy of the French Revolution. Nobody wanted a King, but, at the same time, everyone had seen what happened when power was put in the hands of the collective body rather than an individual who could speak for the nation as a whole:

The framers of the U.S. Constitution, on the other hand, rejected the idea that a legislative body could govern their nation by itself. Americans had tried out this approach during the dismal days of the ill-fated Continental Congress, and they had recognized the perils of trying to operate a government in which there was virtually no one in charge. That is why they turned to George Washington—he had proven his ability to take command and to act decisively. Furthermore, he was a national hero, with wide support among the people and in every region. It was also known that Washington had flatly refused to entertain the idea of setting himself up as a military dictator when this proposal had been aired as the only remedy against the anarchy and disorder bred by the failure of the Continental Congress.

And Washington recognized the dangers of the Presidency becoming more than what it was intended to be:

By a stroke of extraordinary good fortune, the man for whom this office was designed was also a man who was profoundly aware of the potential dangers inherent in the office that had been specially designed for him. Washington was keenly aware just how easily the Presidency could degenerate back to a monarchy, or worse; and, shrewd man that he was, he clearly saw that there was nothing in the written Constitution that could prevent such a process from occurring.

For example, there is a remarkable letter that Washington wrote, before assuming the Presidency, in which he argues that he is peculiarly qualified to be President because he has no son. Now imagine a candidate for the Presidency today making such a claim: Vote for me, because I have no son. How strange it would sound to our ears. Yet Washington regarded this as virtually an indispensable desideratum in a President—or, at least, in the first President. Nor is it difficult to see why this mattered to him so much. He did not want the office of the Presidency to become the possession of a dynasty.

In this and many other ways, Washington established precedents that created limits on the powers of the Presidency beyond those set forth in the Constitution. Sadly, as the national security and welfare states have grown, the influence of Washington’s example has faded, as has the true meaning of his legacy.

blockquote>Today we now call it President’s Day, and no longer celebrate Washington’s Birthday. This is a pity. For without the greatness, wisdom, and humanity of our first President, the office of the Presidency would almost certainly have become something radically different from what any of us are familiar with—indeed, it might well have become something that none of us would feel much like celebrating. It was not the written document called the Constitution that protected us from tyranny; it was the shining example of a single man.

Well said.

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