Monthly Archives: February 2007

Conservatives, Libertarians, And Fusionism

To put it nicely, the political alliance between those who consider themselves classical liberals and/or libertarians and conservatives has been under strain for some time now. During the Cold War and the rise of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the two groups were united in opposition to Communism and the growth of the welfare state. In the years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the political alliance between libertarians and conservatives has suffered significant strain. Republicans have governed like Democrats, and libetarians find themselves wondering if an alliance with the left would be more successful.

Edward Feser approaches this issue from a different direction today at TCS Daily and asks whether it is possible to create a political philosophy that unifies conservate and libertarian ideas.

Many think the obvious answer is no. Libertarians want to maximize individual freedom, including the freedom to do many things traditionally regarded as immoral – using recreational drugs, watching pornography, engaging in extramarital sex, and so forth. Conservatives want to uphold traditional morality. So aren’t they unavoidably at cross purposes?

The obvious answer would be yes, but in starting in 1924 Frank Meyer argued in favor of a philosophy called fusionism which attempted to unite these two seemingly incompatible views of the world.

The standard fusionist retort is that there need be no conflict here as long as what libertarians insist on is only the legal right to do the things in question. If they allow that such behaviors might nevertheless be morally wrong, the conservative can in principle endorse the libertarian program. Indeed, the conservative should endorse it, according to fusionists. For virtue, they say, is only virtue if it is freely chosen. Hence, while vigorously promoting a return to traditional moral standards through persuasion and private initiative, conservatives should, so the argument goes, join hands with libertarians in opposing the use of governmental coercion to do so.

The problem, as Feser recognizes, is that libertarians and conservatives don’t always start with the same moral premises. Conservatives generally believe that all pre-marital sex is bad, that drug use is per se harmful, and that a belief in God is essential to moral behavior. I would venture to say that most libertarians and classical liberals would not agree with most, if not all, of these assumptions.

Feser goes on to argue that the ideas of F.A. Hayek, who considered himself neither a conservative nor a libertarian, could serve as a bridge between the two philosophies, but I think the fundamental mistake lies in trying to find such a bridge to begin with.

Conservatives and libertarians/classical liberals have fundamental disagreements that I do not think can be resolved philosophically.  The libertarian belief in the importance of individual liberty is quite simply not shared by conservatives, who believe that individual liberty can and should be restrained in the name of tradition, morality, and, in some cases, the law of God. I just don’t think it’s possible for two such incompatible belief systems to be merged.

This doesn’t mean that a political alliance between libertarians and conservatives doesn’t make sense. Though they come from different world views, the two groups do share goals in common, and there is nothing wrong with forming a political alliance with someone who doesn’t agree with you completely. The time has come, though, for philosophers to stop trying to turn libertarianism into a step-child of conservative philosophy and let it develop in its own right.

Venezuela Undergoes 1000% Deflation

Or so Hugo would have you believe…

President Hugo Chavez said he will chop three zeros off new bolivar currency bills to bolster Venezuelans’ perception of a strong currency in a bid to curb inflation, which is now highest in Latin America.

But an ex-central bank director said the measure may have the opposite effect because it could give people the idea they have more buying power and businesses may round up their calculations so that consumers will pay a little extra.

The bolivar, named after Chavez’s 19th century hero Simon Bolivar, trades above 4,000 bolivars to the dollar on the parallel market, around double the official fixed exchange rate is 2,150 bolivars.

Chavez said he wants to alter the bills so that for example, a 1,000 bolivar note would be a one bolivar coin.

Just another improvement brought to the people of Venezuela by socialism.

You see, when you’ve hyperinflated your currency, the fix is just to change the numbers on the bills, and all is well!

The FCC Wants To Regulate Television Again

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission says that Congress should grant it the authority to regulate violence on television:

WASHINGTON — Television networks are free to sprinkle their programs with shootings, slashings, torture and other gore because the government has no regulatory authority over violent programming. But a draft report being circulated at the Federal Communications Commission says Congress can change that, without violating the First Amendment.

The long-overdue report suggests Congress could craft a law that would let the agency regulate violent programming much like it regulates sexual content and profanity _ by barring it from being aired during hours when children may be watching, for example.

“In general, what the commission’s report says is that there is strong evidence that shows violent media can have an impact on children’s behavior and there are some things that can be done about it,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said Thursday.

Such as turning off the television or changing the channel.

Federal Judge Places Limits On Police Videotaping

A U.S. District Court Judge in New York has placed strict limits on a police practice that has become common in New York City since September 11th:

In a rebuke of a surveillance practice greatly expanded by the New York Police Department after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge ruled yesterday that the police must stop the routine videotaping of people at public gatherings unless there is an indication that unlawful activity may occur.

Four years ago, at the request of the city, the same judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., gave the police greater authority to investigate political, social and religious groups.

In yesterday’s ruling, Judge Haight, of United States District Court in Manhattan, found that by videotaping people who were exercising their right to free speech and breaking no laws, the Police Department had ignored the milder limits he had imposed on it in 2003.

Citing two events in 2005 — a march in Harlem and a demonstration by homeless people in front of the home of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — the judge said the city had offered scant justification for videotaping the people involved.

“There was no reason to suspect or anticipate that unlawful or terrorist activity might occur,” he wrote, “or that pertinent information about or evidence of such activity might be obtained by filming the earnest faces of those concerned citizens and the signs by which they hoped to convey their message to a public official.”

A victory for the little guy, and a defeat for Big Brother.

The Present And Future Of The Blogosphere

A few days ago, I reposted The Future Of Liberty, in order to set the stage for a post on the American’s article on Milton Friedman & blogging. Yesterday, though, Doug jumped in between steps A and B with his own post… But I think there’s more that can be said.

A lot of people these days don’t understand blogging. Even several of the commentors on a recent post seem to view blogs as little more than an expansion of IRC, or in their parlance, little more than a bathroom stall wall, full of potty-mouthes and bravado, but lacking in any intellectual heft. In some ways, they’re quite right. But that’s the thing… If you try to compare blogging to mainstream newspapers, it’s apples and oranges. Trying to refer to “the blogs” as if they’re an organized or cohesive group completely misses the point. As The American’s article points out:

The “blogosphere” is like a little experimental universe validating consumer choice vs. regulation—and consumer choice has won a colossal victory. Trial and error may not help find the right surgeon, but it seems to be a great way to find your right media diet. By and large, blog consumers have shown an incredible sense for quality and reliability.

Blogging’s greatest “weakness” is thus its greatest strength: Web authors and their sites come with no expectations, claims, or certifications of quality or reliability. Precisely because there is no authority filtering our blogged content, because of this healthy lack of “if it is printed, it must be true”, the reader can and must judge for himself. Instead of floundering helplessly in a sea of (mis-) information (the self-serving admonition from media traditionalists), the internet news-and-entertainment hungry reader develops a knack for picking the cherries out of the innumerable offerings. The blogosphere has something for everyone. Viewpoints are chosen, not dictated, and niches of interest explored, not marginalized.

Bloggers and pundits refer to “the blogosphere” in the same erroneous way that economists and journalists refer to “the market”. The market is simply a collection of sellers and buyers, each doing what they want to do for a whole host of reasons. You don’t look at McDonald’s as an expression of what “the market” produces, you look at it as an actor within the market. Likewise, you can’t look at the blogosphere by what its individual blogs put out.
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Bank Of England Honors Adam Smith

Adam Smith is widely regarded as the father of free-market capitalism, and that status will be honored by the Bank of England

The contribution of world-renowned 18th century philosopher and economist, Adam Smith, is to be acknowledged on a new-design £20 banknote the Bank of England is to introduce into circulation next Spring. Changes to the design mean that the note will start a new series of Bank of England banknotes.

Making the announcement yesterday, Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, said, “It is such a pleasure to use the occasion of the launch of a new series of notes as an opportunity to recognise Adam Smith’s contribution to the understanding of society and its development. Smith’s insights into human nature, the organisation of society, the division of labour and the advantages of specialisation remain at the heart of economics.” The Governor was giving the Adam Smith Lecture at the Adam Smith College, Kirkcaldy, Fife.

“As the central bank for the United Kingdom, the Bank of England is in a privileged position to acknowledge the enduring contribution of its most talented citizens over their lifetime to the advancement of society. Our choice of Adam Smith reflects the keen importance we attach to that position and the place of the notes themselves as a record of Britain’s heritage.”

As Glenn Reynolds said, perhaps this means we need to put Milton Friedman on the new $ 1 coin.

Health Care @ Coyote Blog

Over at Coyote Blog, Warren takes WaPo columnist Steven Pearlman to task for an article on health care. It’s far too extensive to summarize, but I highly recommend taking a look. An excerpt:

But let’s get into all that money-grubbing. Mr. Pearlstein reads the study as saying the problem is all that profit. Because we have layers of profit in the distribution channel, our health care costs more than it does in Europe, where you have the efficiency [sic!] of government management. Before we get into detail, I would observe that this fails a pretty basic smell test right off: Nearly every single product and service we Americans buy, all of which are rife with layers of nasty profits in the supply chain, are cheaper than their counterpart services and products in Europe. If this layering of profit without government management is a problem, why is it only a problem in health care but not a problem in thousands of other industries.

Go check out the rest.

Giving Libertarians Their Due

John Fund reviews Brian Doherty’s new book Radicals For Capitalism and in the process has this to say about the contribution of libertarian ideas to the United States:

Scores of books have been written on the role of communists and socialists in the U.S., dour chronicles of welcome failure. But very few writers have devoted much attention to the role of libertarians, a more appealing and optimistic group of thinkers, political activists and ordinary citizens who believe that respect for the individual and the spontaneous order of market forces are the key to progress and social well-being.

The neglect is strange, given how much libertarians and their limited-government logic have shaped the culture and economy of the U.S. The ideas of John Locke and David Hume animated the writings of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Libertarian principles kept what we think of as “big government” in check for much of the 19th century and well into the 20th, despite tariffs and war. The federal income tax officially arrived, in permanent form, as late as 1913. Coolidge and his Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, took a famously minimalist approach to governing. Of course, we now live in a post-FDR age, with government programs everywhere. Still, the libertarian impulse is part of our political culture. “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism,” Ronald Reagan declared.

And then there’s the question of what libertarians may accomplish in the future:

Today the Internet has become, Mr. Doherty notes, an efficient way to transmit libertarian ideas and show their practical application. (With its decentralized, free-wheeling ethos, the Internet is itself libertarian without even trying to be.) Jimmy Wales, the man who started the interactive online encyclopedia Wikipedia, believes that “facts can help set the world free.” The largest retail market in the world is eBay, which allows anyone to buy and sell without a government license.

Louis Rosetto, the “radical capitalist” who founded Wired magazine, notes that, even if libertarian ideas must now push against a statist status quo, “contrarians end up being the drivers of change.” Among the most ornery contrarians, he says, are the libertarians “laboring in obscurity, if not in derision.” They have managed “to keep a pretty pure idea going, adapting it to circumstances and watching it be validated by the march of history.” Mr. Doherty has rescued libertarianism from its own obscurity, eloquently capturing the appeal of the “pure idea,” its origins in great minds and the feistiness of its many current champions.

My copy of Radicals For Capitalism is already on the way, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Anne Frank — Killed By US Immigration Policy

I saw this and was immediately saddened…

Anne Frank’s father tried to get to U.S. (emphasis added)

Anne Frank’s father tried to arrange U.S. visas for his family before they went into hiding, but his efforts were hampered when Allied and Axis countries tightened immigration policies, according to papers released Wednesday.

Otto Frank also sent desperate letters to friends and family in the U.S. pleading for help with immigration costs as the family tried to escape the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

“I would not ask if conditions here would not force me to do all I can in time to be able to avoid worse,” Otto Frank wrote to his college friend Nathan Straus in April 1941. “It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance.”

The documents show how Frank tried to arrange for his family — wife Edith, daughters Margot and Anne and mother-in-law Rosa Hollander — to go to the U.S. or Cuba. He wrote to relatives, friends and officials between April 30, 1941, and Dec. 11, 1941, when Germany declared war on the U.S.

But immigration rules were changing under the Nazi regime and in the U.S. There were nearly 300,000 people on a waiting list for a U.S. immigration visa. Besides, since Frank had living relatives in Germany, he would have been unable to immigrate under U.S. policy at the time.

As you know, I’m in favor of almost completely open immigration. I don’t object to having some knowledge of who is coming in, but don’t think our current immigration quotas are very realistic. One of the cases I point out is that often people in other countries are desperately trying to get out of their home countries to avoid persecution, and it is flatly cruel to refuse them.

This puts that opinion into sharper perspective. Almost everyone in my generation read The Diary of Anne Frank as a requirement in school. As young children, we could barely begin to imagine the sheer terror of living in hiding, knowing that capture by the authorities meant death. At most, we were impressed with the idea “never again”. We made a promise to ourselves that we had learned our lesson.

But I don’t think our current immigration policies live up to that promise. Anne Frank could be alive today, if America hadn’t shut our doors. How many people now are desperately trying to get out from under the thumb of autocratic despots, only to be told by the United States that “we’re full”?

Protectionism— Wall Street Style

When jobs go offshore, it’s normal for the affected industries to go crying to Congress. Usually, Wall Street tells those affected industries to suck it up and stop whining. What happens when foreign market exchanges start attracting business away from Wall Street, though? They go crying to Congress…

When Main Street jobs go overseas, Wall Street generally shrugs. The typical response from the nation’s financial elite is that people who have lost work should tough it out and acquire new skills.

Now the tables may be turning, as Wall Street ponders its own potential job losses. Foreign companies are increasingly bypassing New York and listing their shares on overseas markets. If the trend continues, it could mean the migration of high-paying investment banking jobs.

The horror! Faced with this threat, Wall Street and its political supporters have sprung into action, commissioning studies and urging that the government help by easing post-Enron accounting regulations, adopting lawsuit reform and pre-empting state banking regulations.

The article points out that the regulatory and legal framework could use some relaxing. And I completely agree. If Wall Street’s version of protectionism is to get the government out of the freakin’ way, I guess I’m a protectionist today!

The tone of this article is a bit of schadenfreude, “look at how Wall Street is hypocritical about outsourcing!” But it’s not true. The other industries are looking for government to step into their industries, increasing regulation on other people to make it harder for them to compete. Wall Street is asking for a reduction in regulations in order to allow them to compete.

Now, I’m sure the writer hasn’t really studied how regulations get written, based on this statement:

Moreover, regulations are not designed to protect investment bankers. They are to protect investors and consumers.

They’re designed to make investors and consumers think they’re being protected while forcing small and medium-sized businesses to spend exorbitant amounts complying with regulatory hurdles, which give big businesses an advantage. Regulations benefit the people who write them, and those people are the lobbyists for big business.

Instead, this story is about one group (investment folks on Wall Street) pushing back against regulations paid for by other privileged groups (big business). It’s easy to lump Wall Street in the same bucket as big business, but they’re very different, and they’ve got different incentives in their businesses.

If we’d relax our regulatory burden on all American business, including Wall Street, we’d see less outsourcing overall. Not that we’d see none, of course, because division of labor is a fundamental good, and sometimes it makes more sense to move jobs overseas. But our government is actively forcing outsourcing with their insane regulatory burden. The author of this article lambasts Wall Street for their “hypocrisy”, but I’ll bet that Wall Street is advocating less regulation on other businesses, not just their own.

Let’s get the government out of all of our paths. If they start with Wall Street, that’s just fine. As long as they start!

Venezuela continues to suffer under Chavez

Chavez is threatening to take over more privately controlled markets:

President Hugo Chavez threatened Wednesday to nationalize any privately owned supermarkets and food storage facilities caught hoarding inventories or violating price controls imposed on basic goods.

Accusing private companies of hoarding beef and other foods, Chavez warned supermarket owners and distributors that he would nationalize their facilities as soon as they gave him “an excuse.”

“If they remain committed to violating the interests of the people, the constitution, the laws, I’m going to take the food storage units, corner stores, supermarkets and nationalize them,” Chavez said during a televised broadcast. “So prepare yourselves!”

[…]

Earlier this week the government signed deals to buy stakes in local companies owned by two U.S. corporations — Verizon Communications Inc and CMS Energy Corp. There are no major U.S. interests, however, involved in the supermarket or food storage business in Venezuela.

Chavez said his decree permitting takeovers of food stores and warehouses will take effect upon publication in the official gazette this week.

“The large storage installations, distribution chains, if we have to take them over and nationalize them, wait a few hours for the law to be approved,” he said.

Will Toyota Become A Trade War Scapegoat ?

Sometime in the coming year, Toyota will surpass General Motors to become the largest carmaker in the world and executives at the company are afraid that event will serve as an excuse for the anti-trade forces to make Toyota a scapegoat in the continuing debate over interenational trade:

Toyota Motor Corp. is bracing for possible political and consumer backlash caused by its rapid U.S. growth, according to an internal report obtained by the Free Press.

Toyota executives have publicly downplayed the importance of predictions that the Japan-based company will pass General Motors Corp. this year as the world’s largest automaker. But the Toyota report says the company could face criticism because its U.S. sales are increasing while Detroit’s automakers are losing sales and shuttering plants.

(…)

In the briefing to other Toyota managers, Sudo cited political and social risks. The report, left unsecured on computers at the company’s Georgetown, Ky., complex, said Toyota could come under fire for:

• Selling vehicles to U.S. customers with high proportions of foreign-made parts. Less than half of all content of Toyota vehicles sold in the United States is made in the United States or Canada.

• Not including enough minority-owned businesses in its supplier base. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, leader of the Rainbow PUSH activist group, has asked Toyota to improve diversity efforts.

• Leaving a vacuum in U.S. communities as GM, Ford, Chrysler and their suppliers shed plants and workers.

“A Democratic Congress, particularly those members with districts hit by Big 3 and supplier plant closings, may call for further oversight of the industry and Japanese companies in particular,” the presentation said.

And it would appear that those fears are well-founded:

Toyota’s concerns are not far off the mark. With a new Democratic majority in Congress, Michigan’s Democratic lawmakers have pledged to press harder on trade and other issues where Detroit automakers say Japanese companies have an unfair advantage.

Last week, two Democratic House members from Michigan — Levin and Rep. John Dingell of Dearborn — sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, urging him to press Japan over the value of the yen during a meeting of world economic powers.

Dingell, Levin and two other congressmen said that a weak yen had helped Japanese automakers increase their exports to the United States by more than 30% in 2006. Detroit automakers and their congressional allies say the yen bestows up to a $4,000-per-vehicle benefit for Japanese automakers.

Instead of looking to international monetary markets for the blame, perhaps Congressman Dingell and Senator Levin need to ask themselves this question —- isn’t it just possible that Toyota is succeeding because it makes better, more reliable cars ?

The Blogosphere As A Spontaneous Order

American Magazine has an interesting article arguing that the blogosphere is the perfect example of a spontaneous order in action:

Left to the free market of ideas and instant reader feedback, good writing, quality and reliability in blogging secures a readership and reputation solely on merit. The analogy to “democracy” may be clichéd but the blogosphere is a prime example of Milton Friedman’s credo (“Capitalism and Freedom”) that minimal (or no) regulation and state licensing are best; they are too often a pretext to shut down competition not protect the populace.

All the more reason, then, why Friedman should be the patron saint of the Age of Blogging:  people with brains, networks, and powers of self-expression don’t wait for journalism degrees anymore to have an impact. Indeed the response of ‘mainstream’ journalism to blogging (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em) vindicates Friedman’s skepticism of credentialing like few other phenomena of the past 50 years.  This may be a sub-part of what Friedman saw as the power of the Internet:  “The Internet is the most effective instrument we have for globalization,” he said in 2005, referring to the power of instant electronic connections for commercial purposes.  The same applies, of course, to the world of ideas, flourishing free of the state.

Professional journalists often say that blogs will never compare to the “tradtional” media because they lack the discipline that comes with experience and a trained editor. However, blogs have something that the traditional media lacks — an evolving tradition of self-regulation that correction. A blog post based on information that turns out to be incorrect is not going to be ignored; it’s going to be critiqued and criticized, and the writer is going to be under pressure to come clean when it’s been proven that a mistake was made. When was the last time the MSM admitted it was wrong ?

Quote Of The Day

Barry Goldwater:

“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.

I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom.

My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution … or have failed their purpose … or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden.

I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is ‘needed’ before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.

And if I should be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty, and in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

The War On Drugs Helps Terrorists

James Joyner and Steven Taylor both write about a Time Magazine story of an Afghan warlord and ally of Taliban leader Mullah Omar who came to the United States in April 2005 prepared to aid the United States in the continued hunt for Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, only to find that the War On (Some) Drugs took precedence over finding the men who conspired to murder 3,000 Americans:

For a week and a half in April 2005, one of the favorite warlords of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was sitting in a room at the Embassy Suites Hotel in lower Manhattan, not far from where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. But Haji Bashar Noorzai, the burly, bearded leader of one of Afghanistan’s largest and most troublesome tribes, was not on a mission to case New York City for a terrorist attack. On the contrary, Noorzai, a confidant of the fugitive Taliban overlord, who is a well-known ally of Osama bin Laden’s, says he had been invited to Manhattan to prove that he could be of value in America’s war on terrorism. “I did not want to be considered an enemy of the United States,” Noorzai told TIME. “I wanted to help the Americans and to help the new government in Afghanistan.”

For several days he hunkered down in that hotel room and was bombarded with questions by U.S. government agents. What was going on in the war in Afghanistan? Where was Mullah Omar? Where was bin Laden? What was the state of opium and heroin production in the tribal lands Noorzai commanded–the very region of Afghanistan where support for the Taliban remains strongest? Noorzai believed he had answered everything to the agents’ satisfaction, that he had convinced them that he could help counter the Taliban’s resurgent influence in his home province and that he could be an asset to the U.S.

He was wrong.

As he got up to leave, ready to be escorted to the airport to catch a flight back to Pakistan, one of the agents in the room told him he wasn’t going anywhere. That agent, who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), told him that a grand jury had issued a sealed indictment against Noorzai 3 1/2 months earlier and that he was now under arrest for conspiring to smuggle narcotics into the U.S. from Afghanistan. An awkward silence ensued as the words were translated into his native Pashtu. “I did not believe it,” Noorzai later told TIME from his prison cell. “I thought they were joking.” The previous August, an American agent he had met with said the trip to the U.S. would be “like a vacation.”

The intelligence cost to the continuing war in Afghanistan cannot be understated:

Noorzai was also a powerful leader of a million-member tribe who had offered to help bring stability to a region that is spinning out of control. Because he is in a jail cell, he is not feeding the U.S. and the Afghan governments information; he is not cajoling his tribe to abandon the Taliban and pursue political reconciliation; he is not reaching out to his remaining contacts in the Taliban to push them to cease their struggle. And he is hardly in a position to help persuade his followers to abandon opium production, when the amount of land devoted to growing poppies has risen 60%.

As the article goes on to point out, opium cultivation in Afghanistan has increased dramatically since the fall of the Taliban, and much the money generated from the illegal cultivation and sale of the drug goes to finance the terrorists our soldiers continue to fight today in a war that has largely taken a back seat to the struggle in Iraq.

In the context of the Afghan opium trade, Noorzai was, as Taylor points out, a relatively small fish in a big pond. Sending him to prison will do nothing to stop opium trafficking, but it does remove from the playing field someone who had offerred to become a major intelligence asset in a war against enemies that have repeatedly vowed to destroy us.

Stupid. Just Stupid.

Ron Paul Speaks On Attacking Iran

United States House Of Representatives February 6, 2007:

It’s a bad idea.

There’s no need for it.

There’s great danger in doing it.

America is against it, and Congress should be.

The United Nations is against it.

The Russians, the Chinese, the Indians, and the Pakistanis are against it.

The whole world is against it.

Our allies are against it.

Our enemies are against it.

The Arabs are against it.

The Europeans are against it.

The Muslims are against it.

We don’t need to do this.

The threat is overblown.

The plan is an hysterical reaction to a problem that does not yet exist.

Hysteria is never a good basis for foreign policy.

Don’t we ever learn?

Have we already forgotten Iraq?

The plan defies common sense.

If it’s carried out, the Middle East, and possibly the world, will explode.

Oil will soar to over $100 a barrel, and gasoline will be over $5 a gallon.

Despite what some think, it won’t serve the interests of Israel.

Besides – it’s illegal.

It’s unconstitutional.

And you have no moral authority to do it.

We don’t need it.

We don’t want it.

So, Mr. President, don’t do it.

Don’t bomb Iran!

The moral of the story, Mr. Speaker, is this: if you don’t have a nuke, we’ll threaten to attack you. If you do have a nuke, we’ll leave you alone. In fact, we’ll probably subsidize you. What makes us think Iran does not understand this?

H/T: Lew Rockwell

Lou Dobbs On The War On (Some) Drugs

Not content to continue solidifying his reputation as a raving economic nationalist, Lou Dobbs has waded into the debate over the War On (Some) Drugs:

NEW YORK (CNN) — We’re fighting a war that is inflicting even greater casualties than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, incredibly, costing even more money. We’re losing the War on Drugs, and we’ve been in retreat for three decades.

That statement may come as a surprise to John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, who spent last week trumpeting the Bush administration’s anti-drug policies. He claims these policies have led to a decline in drug abuse and improvements in our physical and mental health.

While Walters focused on a marginal decline in drug use, he made no mention of the shocking rise in drug overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week reported unintentional drug overdoses nearly doubled over the course of five years, rising from 11,155 in 1999 to 19,838 in 2004. Fatal drug overdoses in teenagers and young adults soared 113 percent.

More than 22 million Americans were classified with substance abuse or dependence problems in 2005, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Nearly 8,000 people are trying drugs for the first time every day — that’s about 3 million a year. The majority of new users are younger than 18, and more than half of them are female.

Think about this for a second. Despite thirty years of the drug war, increased penalities for possession of even small amounts of marijuana and cocaine, and one of the largest prison populations in the world, we still haven’t succeeded in stopping people from using substances they obviously want to use.

At the same time, we’ve paid a price for this war. Civil liberties have been curtailed. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments have been eroded. And millions of people have been forced to live a life underground and outside the legitimate economy.

The obvious conclusion would be that it’s time to rethink the War on Drugs itself. But this is Lou Dobbs we’re talking about:

In the midst of the global war on terror along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have forgotten about the brutal effects of narcotics trafficking on millions of American lives. We must end the abuse of drugs and alcohol, and provide successful treatment for Americans whose addictions are destroying their own lives and wounding our families and society.

Dobbs is confusing two different things here. Narcotics trafficking is a problem; it’s a currently illegal activity engaged in by some very bad people. Just like Prohibition solidified the Mafia’s rise to power, the War On (Some) Drugs has made criminal gangs in Central and South America and the United States very rich and very powerful. Thanks to the traffic in illegal drugs, entire neighborhoods of cities like Los Angeles are under the control of gangs who get their money and their guns from selling illegal drugs. They exist and prosper solely because drugs are illegal and they victimize Americans on a daily basis.

Addiction, however, is different issue. It’s a medical, or psychological, problem that can only be dealt with through treatment and counseling. And, think of it this way, isn’t it likely that people who are addicted to illegal drugs resist getting treatment because they’re afraid of getting caught ?  These people would be addicts whether drugs were legal or not, and the addiction “problem” has no bearing on the issue of when we are going to end the monstrous failure that is the War On Drugs.

Why The Federal Budget Keeps Rising

Robert Samuelson has an excellent column in today’s Washington Post explaining why the federal budget keeps going up, and why neither political party wants to do anything about it:

The welfare state has made budgeting an exercise in futility. Both liberals and conservatives, in their own ways, peddle phony solutions. Cut waste, say conservatives. Well, network news reports of $20 million federal programs that don’t work may seem — and be — scandalous, but like Amtrak they’re usually mere blips in the total budget. For its 2008 budget, the Bush administration brags it would end or sharply reduce 141 programs. But most are microscopic; total savings would be $12 billion, or 0.4 percent of spending. Worse, Congress has previously rejected some of these cuts.

(…)

Annual budget debates are sterile — long on rhetoric, short on action — because each side blames the other for a situation that neither chooses to change. To cut spending significantly, conservatives would have to go after popular welfare programs, including Social Security and Medicare. To raise taxes significantly, liberals would have to go after the upper middle class, a constituency they covet (two-thirds of all federal taxes come from the richest fifth). Deficits persist, because neither side risks its popularity, and, indeed, both sides pursue popularity with new spending programs and tax breaks.

It’s really quite simple to understand once you think about it. In 1956, Social Security and other welfare-type payments constituted 21% of the Federal Budget and defense spending constituted 57% of the budget. Today, as Samuelson points out, the situation is entirely reserved, so-called “entitlement” programs constitute 59% of the budget and defense spending only 21%.

This graphs says it all:

Politically, neither party thinks it can afford to go after the source of the problem. And until that happens, spending will only continue to increase.

Thomas Paine: More Harm than Good?

Thomas Paine is one of the least respected figures of the American Revolution and early American history. Many of Paine’s compatriots believed that his anti-religious ideas found in The Age of Reason were so dangerous that they would undermine the moral character of America (Keane 475). Paine further caught the ire of the American public with his open letter to President George Washington in which Paine called Washington “a cold blooded traitor” (Keane 429-33). Upon Paine’s death, The New York Citizen had eulogized: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm.” Criticism for Paine and his works continued long after his death. Theodore Roosevelt once referred to Thomas Paine as a “filthy little atheist” (Stade 382). There has never been a shortage of criticism of Paine or his work whether in his own time or since. Certainly, some of the criticism is warranted, but the notion that Paine “did some good and much harm” is hardly fair for a man who sacrificed his wealth, risked his life, and inspired countless others in the cause of America’s independence from England.

When Thomas Paine arrived for the first time in America on November 30, 1774, no one could have predicted the enormous influence he and his writings would have on citizens of every class. Paine was not well known at this time, but Benjamin Franklin’s letter of introduction to Philadelphia’s movers and shakers would soon change that. As Paine became comfortable with his new surroundings, he spent many hours in book stores and conversing with others about his literary interests. One day, Paine was in one of his favorite stores visiting with the store’s owner, Robert Aitken. Aitken was so impressed with Paine that he offered Paine a job as the editor of the upstart periodical Pennsylvania Magazine (Kaye 49-50).

Rather than writing directly about controversial issues, Paine used allegory and the increasingly popular medium of the fable to express his ideas. The fables opened up the world of politics to the general public; something which was not done in literature prior to Paine’s writing and editorship of Pennsylvania Magazine. Paine’s impact on the magazine was immediate. Circulation of the fledgling magazine more than doubled in the first month of Aitken’s hiring of Paine as contributing editor. The magazine would sell more copies than any other magazine up to that time (Larkin 261).
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In memory of Charlie Norwood (R-GA)

I’ve been a fan of Charlie Norwood since I’ve been paying attention to Congressional politics. He had been a member of Ron Paul’s Liberty Committee, a group of libertarian leaning members of Congress. He was the only Republican member of the Georgia delegation to vote against the 2003 expansion of Medicare. He also voted for 17 of the 19 Flake Amendments last year. Norwood did do things that I disagree with…that is to be expected though.

Norwood’s death put a damper on my day. He was a good guy. He cared for his constituents and had integrity, which is rare in a city that is so corrupt.

Keep the Norwood family in your thoughts and prayers.

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