Monthly Archives: May 2007

Ron Paul’s Reading List

Ron Paul has given Rudy Giuliani a reading assignment:

“WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Longshot Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul on Thursday gave front-runner Rudy Giuliani a list of foreign-policy books to back up his contention that attacks by Islamic militants are fueled by the U.S. presence in the Middle East.

“I’m giving Mr. Giuliani a reading assignment,” the nine-term Texas congressman said as he stood behind a stack of books that included the report by the commission that examined the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.”

Okay, I don’t care what your political views are…this is pretty dang funny. A reading assignment. So how do you feel about Mr. Giuliani, Rep. Paul?

“I don’t think he’s qualified to be president,” Paul said of Giuliani. “If he was to read the book and report back to me and say, ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ I would reconsider.”

Mr. Giuliani, your response?

“A spokeswoman for Giuliani derided Paul’s latest comments.

“It is extraordinary and reckless to claim that the United States invited the attacks on September 11th,” Maria Comella said in an e-mail.

“And to further declare Rudy Giuliani needs to be educated on September 11th when millions of people around the world saw him dealing with these terrorist attacks firsthand is just as absurd.”

Judging by his comments (outlined by Kevin here) that “they hate us for our freedom,” I’d say that Mr. Giuliani could probably use a bit of an education. In case you were wondering what the books were:

Among the books on Paul’s reading list were: “Dying to Win,” which argues that suicide bombers only mobilize against an occupying force; “Blowback,” which examines the unintended consequences of U.S. foreign policy; and the 9/11 Commission Report, which says that al Qaeda leader
Osama bin Laden was angered by the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.

Another book on the list was “Imperial Hubris,” whose author appeared at the press conference to offer support for Paul.

“Foreign policy is about protecting America,” said author Michael Scheuer, who used to head the CIA’s bin Laden unit. “Our foreign policy is doing the opposite.”

An interesting reading list. While I don’t agree wholeheartedly with the viewpoint of many of them, the only way we’re going to win this war is by stopping people from subscribing to the terrorists’ ideology in the first place. Mr. Giuliani’s simplistic “they hate us for our freedom/kill ’em all” rhetoric certainly isn’t going to do it.

Politics, Polls, And The War In Iraq

Unless you’re fully into drinking the Bush Administration Kool-Aid, it’s hard to deny that the Iraq War is becoming more and more untenable by the day:

Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the war began, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Six in 10 Americans surveyed say the United States should have stayed out of Iraq, and more than three in four say that things are going badly there — including nearly half who say things are going very badly, the poll found.

Still, the majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war, as long as the Iraqi government meets specific goals.

President Bush’s approval ratings remain near the lowest point of his more than six years in office. Thirty percent of poll respondents approve of the job he’s doing overall, while 63 percent disapprove. Majorities of those polled disapprove of Mr. Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq, of foreign policy, of immigration, of the economy and of the campaign against terrorism.


A large majority of the public — 76 percent, including a majority of Republicans — say that the additional American troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush have either had no impact or are making things worse there. Twenty percent think the troop increase is improving the situation in Iraq.

A majority of Americans continue to support a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty-three percent say the United States should set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq sometime in 2008.

While the troops remain in Iraq, the overwhelming majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war, though most want to do so with conditions. Thirteen percent want Congress to block all spending on the war. The majority, 69 percent, including 62 percent of Republicans, say Congress should appropriate money for the war, but on the condition that the United States sets benchmarks for progress and that the Iraqi government meets those goals. Fifteen percent of all respondents want Congress to approve war spending without conditions.

Now, does anyone really want to make a bet that a pro-war candidate like Rudy Giuliani really has a chance of winning in November 2008 ?

When corporations fight proxy wars using governments

It is always depressing to see a political battle erupt where you know, no matter who wins, the average citizen will be screwed. One such slow motion train wreck is taking place in Massachusetts as we speak. I became aware of it when one of the groups put an ad on TV that was so offensively anti-consumer that I knew some bait and switch had to be taking place. What I found was quite an interesting battle.

In Massachusetts, most roads are owned and operated by local governments. Among the many decisions these owners have to make are ones concerned with services run under or over these roads. One set of services are television cables. Generally, and perhaps universally, these towns select a single cable provider and give them a monopoly on television service, allow them to run lines along the roads, and grant them exclusive access to the market composed of the town’s residents.

The towns also made similar arrangements with telephone providers.

These monopolies are starting to break down due to technical advances. A thin fiber-optic line can carry the same amount of data that a thick cable would be used for 20 years ago. The technologies have converged to the point that the cable infrastructure can provide telephone service, and the telephone infrastructure can provide television service.

The two types of companies went from indifference to each other to competing with each other. Since they are used to having governments kneecap competition, they each tried to use local governments against their competitors. In the case of my home town, Comcast very effectively lobbied town authorities to prohibit Verizon from offering television, even though the infrastructure was in place. Apparently Verizon got tired of this, and decided that they would have an advantage if these legislative battles were fought in the statehouse rather than in town council meetings. And so, they drafted this law:


The law basically shifts control of the monopolies (which they call franchises) to the state-house. Once the state approves of a monopoly, the towns must make their roads available for whatever cabling is required.

They then set up what looks to me like an astroturf group called Consumers For Tech Choice, which appears to be sponsored by Verizon.

The New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, which appears to me to be dominated by Comcast, didn’t like this, and they set up a competing organization: Keep IT Local MA which tries to look non corporationy by only listing members of local governments as members. They were the ones who produced the execrable ad.

I spent an hour or so noodling around the two astroturf sites, and noticed some really amusing parallels:
1) Neither site provides a link to the legislation.
2) Neither site is actually providing a forum for the citizenry to actually communicate with each other.

In other words both groups have utter contempt for us citizens. They want to treat us like mushrooms. They also seem to have studied the same textbook.

While I am sympathetic to Verizon because of the disgusting way in which local towns governments have screwed the citizenry by trying to keep them out, in the end, I think the NECTA has the stronger case. If one accepts that towns must “own” the roads then the towns should control who or what travels on them. But given the way that town councils mismanage the road system and abuse their monopolies, I don’t for a minute think they are fighting this battle on principle. They are fighting Verizon merely because they wish to keep their little empires, either because of the graft they collect or the psychic pleasure they derive from pushing their neighbors around. It’s just a shame that there is no actual grass-roots group fighting to end government control of telecommunications in the first place.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Mercantilism, Fascism, Corporatism — And Capitalism

In politics, language is crucial. When different sides of a debate use the same term in different ways, the entire debate becomes fruitless. When terms for different ideas are thrown around as if they’re identical, the debate becomes muddled. It’s even more difficult to understand when people on the same side of the debate use terms differently.

Recently I’ve been listening to Free Talk Live quite a bit, and have enjoyed it greatly. The hosts are Ian, an anarchist (although he calls himself a “free marketeer, choosing to leave the baggage caused by misuse of the term anarchy behind), and Mark, who would best be described as a small-government Republican, in the RLC bent. They put on an entertaining show, but when it comes to economic matters, they get deep into the muddled mess of ill-defined terms. They use the terms mercantilism, fascism, and corporatism quite interchangeably. They further use mercantilism as their default term for what would be much more accurately termed corporatism. In the interest of clarifying the debate, here’s a basic rundown of what we’re talking about.


Mercantilism is separated from corporatism and fascism simply by its nature. Corporatism and fascism are political systems. Like capitalism, mercantilism is an economic theory. Mercantilism is a theory that the wealth of a nation is based upon its ability to amass gold and silver (and other valuable “money”), and thus a nation who exports more than it imports will be getting richer and richer every day. Of course, this theory on the wealth of nations was debunked rather thoroughly by Adam Smith in The Wealth Of Nations.

Mercantilism usually requires government intervention to be truly practiced. But mercantilism isn’t about regulation, or government sticking its hand into domestic industries. It is primarily a theory that discusses such things as balances of trade, and in the modern area, ideas of “dumping”, devalued currencies, and outsourcing. Though Adam Smith debunked the theories of mercantilism, and economists ever since have taken an exacto knife to the remaining pieces, mercantile thinking still resonates with the masses. Like many popular theories, it may not be right, but to a lot of people it “sounds” right.

To confuse it with corporatism or fascism, however, is mistaken.

Corporatism and Fascism

I place these two together because there are many similarities. They’re both political systems based on widespread government intervention and planning in the economy. They’re both seen as a bit of a third-way between capitalism and socialism, with corporatism seemingly nearer to capitalism, and fascism seemingly nearer to socialism. There are a few main differences though, most notably that fascism is a complete political system, whereas corporatism mainly deals with economic matters. But the biggest difference is who is pulling the levers of central planning, and for what purpose.

Fascism is a political system where individual interests are subservient to those of the state. In fascism, this occurs in all spheres of life, but this post deals purely with the economic. As I mentioned, fascism involves extensive central planning. It doesn’t abolish private property, but it drastically curtails the scope of property rights. Property can be used by owners for all “approved” state purposes, and only for those purposes. Venezuela, for example, would be more of a fascist state than a socialist state. But the key point of fascism is that it is an authoritarian state where the needs of the individual or corporation are subservient to those of the state. It is the politicians who are pulling the levers, and they’re doing it for national honor.

Corporatism, on the other hand, is a political system dominated by corporate interests with the stated goal of improving the economy. Individual rights are a little more widespread, but economic liberty is curtailed to ensure smooth and planned economic growth. While many would consider eminent domain cases like Kelo to be “fascist”, it’s more accurate to describe it as corporatist, as it involves economic actors pushing government into violating individual rights to promote business interests. America would be an example of a true corporatist state, where high-dollar business interests get politicians to write regulations friendly to their interest and punishing their competitors, under the false front of “protecting the consumer”. The businessmen pull the levers, for their own interests.

Corporatism and fascism have similarities, in that both involve widespread government intervention into an economy, but the former involves businesses controlling politicians for business interests, and the latter involves the politicians controlling business to further state interests.


Capitalism is neither mercantilism, corporatism, or fascism. Capitalism is an economic theory based upon the free exchange of goods and services. As a political system, capitalism thrives with almost no political interference at all. In fact, the big debate amongst libertarians is whether or not government itself is even necessary to keep a capitalist system afloat. But I think everyone would agree that capitalism and strong government are almost never found together. Most capitalist systems, when paired with strong government, devolve into corporatism. In fact, it is America’s descent into corporatism that has caused so many people to believe that capitalism and corporatism are the same thing.

In politics, we’ve let a situation fester for years where words mean different things to different people. That’s dangerous; a politician can say one thing and it’s heard by different people to have different meanings. Thus, politicians love to muddy the waters. Let’s make sure that words have meanings, and so let’s try to agree on them and use them properly.

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