Reporters routinely describe Ron Paul’s foreign policy views as “isolationist” because he opposes the promiscuous use of military force. This is like calling him a recluse because he tries to avoid fistfights.
The implicit assumption that violence is the only way to interact with the world reflects the oddly circumscribed nature of foreign policy debates in mainstream American politics. It shows why Paul’s perspective is desperately needed in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
Category Archives: Quote of the Day
Radley Balko, on the late Christopher Hitchens:
The only time I drank with Hitchens… he entertained us with dirty limericks. But the guy’s vocabulary and syntax were so beyond me, I really only know they were dirty because he said so.
In the hyper-partisan political world in which we live, there are some people who take themselves so seriously that even the idea of sitting down for beers with someone who holds beliefs ideologically widely-divergent from ones own is anathema. For the life of me, I can’t understand those people.
I have nothing to say about Hitchens. I haven’t been lucky enough to read much of his work as of yet, know little of his politics, and generally have only seen him a handful of times on TV interviews. The little I know suggests that I’d strongly agree with him in places, and strongly disagree with him in others. Yet it is the praise above of folks like Radley that make me sorry to say that with his passing, I’ll never get the chance to meet him.
December 15, 2011 marks the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights – at least what is left of them. Anthony Gregory’s article at The Huffington Post runs through the list of violations of these precious rights from the Adams administration’s Alien and Sedition acts all the way to the present day violations of the Bush/Obama years via the war on terror. I encourage everyone to read the whole article and reflect on what these rights mean to you on this Bill of Rights Day. If you read nothing else from the article, at least read Gregory’s conclusion:
Clearly, we fall far short from having Bill of Rights that we adhere to and that was designed for our future posterity over 220 years ago. In the end, it is public opinion that most restrains political power — not words on paper, not judges, not politicians’ promises. A population that is not decidedly and passionately against violations of their liberties will see their rights stripped away. If we want to have a Bill of Rights Day worth celebrating, we must demand that officials at all levels respect our freedoms — and not let the government get away with abusing them.
Gregory is right: preserving the Bill of Rights ultimately rests with all of us.
Julian Sanchez on security theater:
Security theater, then, isn’t only—or even primarily—about making us feel safer. It’s about making us feel we wouldn’t be safe without it. The more we submit to intrusive monitoring, the more convinced we become that the intrusions are an absolute necessity. To think otherwise is to face the demeaning possibility that we have been stripped, probed, and made to jump through hoops all this time for no good reason at all. The longer we pay the costs—in time, privacy, and dignity no less than tax dollars—the more convinced we become that we must be buying something worth the price.
If we don’t need pornoscanners, it makes each traveler bad about surrendering their dignity and freedom to go through pornoscanners. Therefore, we must need pornoscanners. QED.
“Liberty. It’s a simple idea, but it’s also the linchpin of a complex system of values and practices: justice, prosperity, responsibility, toleration, cooperation, and peace. Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. They’re called libertarians.”
-From Cato Institute’s new website libertarianism.org
I haven’t had much time to check it out yet but I can tell there is some very, very, good stuff there. Essays, video, and audio from great thinkers such as Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard (just to name a few) as well as contemporary libertarian thinkers provide something for those who are curious about libertarian ideas and long time libertarians alike.
The idea is, of course, that men are successful because they have gone to college. No idea was ever more absurd. No man is successful because he has managed to pass a certain number of courses and has received a sheepskin which tells the world in Latin, that neither the world nor the graduate can read, that he has successfully completed the work required. If the man is successful, it is because he has the qualities for success in him; the college “education” has merely, speaking in terms’ of horticulture, forced those qualities and given him certain intellectual tools with which to work-tools which he could have got without going to college, but not nearly so quickly. So far as anything practical is concerned, a college is simply an intellectual hothouse. For four years the mind of the undergraduate is put “under glass,” and a very warm and constant sunshine is poured down upon it. The result is, of course, that his mind blooms earlier than it would in the much cooler intellectual atmosphere of the business world.
A man learns more about business in the first six months after his graduation than he does in his whole four years of college. But-and here is the “practical” result of his college work-he learns far more in those six months than if he had not gone to college. He has been trained to learn, and that, to all intents and purposes, is all the training he has received. To say that he has been trained to think is to say essentially that he has been trained to learn, but remember that it is impossible to teach a man to think. The power to think must be inherently his. All that the teacher can do is help him learn to order his thoughts-such as they are.
Hat Tip: “JKB”, in a comment over at EconLog
Glenn Greenwald writes in response to the overall positive reaction of the drone assassination of American born Anwar al-Awlaki:
What’s most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government’s new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President’s ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki — including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry’s execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists — criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed.
From an authoritarian perspective, that’s the genius of America’s political culture. It not only finds way to obliterate the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power (such as extinguishing the lives of citizens without due process). It actually gets its citizens to stand up and clap and even celebrate the destruction of those safeguards.
Sadly, among those that cheered this assassination of an American citizen are none other than pro war on terror libertarians Neal Boortz and Larry Elder. When Boortz heard that Ron Paul and Gary Johnson condemned the assassination, he called that notion “a bunch of horse squeeze.” After playing Ron Paul’s very well reasoned response explaining his objections, Larry Elder said that Paul “doesn’t get it” and “we are at war.”
I’m sorry gentlemen, I wasn’t aware that there was a “war on terror” exception to due process. But hey you guys are both attorneys who claim to hold the Constitution in high regard so what the hell do I know?
If there is anything our government does well its convicting people, putting them in prison, and/or executing them. If the government really had the goods on this guy, there’s virtually no chance he would have been found not guilty.
President Obama not only ordered the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki but the Fifth Amendment as well.
Ahh, that veritable font of blogging material, Kevin Drum:
And yet, to a large extent, governments are merely responding to the wishes of the public. It’s a simple fact that the average Joe (or Dieter or Emile or Carlotta) believes pretty strongly in folk economics — low inflation, a strong currency, and balanced budgets — and decidedly doesn’t believe in bailing out people who aren’t them. On the latter front, this applies both to Germans who don’t want to bail out Greeks and Americans who don’t want to bail out underwater homeowners.
Apparently the problem in the world is that we’ve been listening to the folk economists, and following policies of low inflation, a strong currency, and balanced budgets. Damn our fiscal solvency getting us into all this trouble!
From a commenter over at Kevin Drum’s place. The discussion was about problems with the American educational system:
Yep. And as the posts by Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt have shown over the last year (link below) the same is true of our health care system. We’ve gone through a 30+ year binge of hypercapitalism, naively believing the free market is a magic bullet for all problems. Health care and education stand as clear counter-examples and unless we get our act together national decline is inevitable.
Yes, the intense reliance on the free market in our education and healthcare systems clearly proves that capitalism doesn’t work. And here I thought that those areas of our economy were dominated by government, not the free market. Silly me!
Is Gold in a bubble? The Economist thinks so. But instructive is something they wrote back in 1980, just before the culmination of the last major gold bubble:
In equity markets, there is much truth to the saying never sell on a strike. In the gold market, which has become in some ways the reverse image of equities, a suitable variant might be never buy on the end of the world. You cannot, after all, take it with you.
A year from now, I’d think that gold will be well under $1,000 per ounce, or as high as north of $5,000 per ounce. That’s not a recommendation to buy gold, however. If it’s north of $5,000 per ounce, that means that things in the United States will have gone so horrendously wrong that owning the gold at that price will be little solace, as you very well may not even want to trade it for dollars.
I learned years ago to never bet against my alma mater, the Purdue Boilermakers. Even if I win my bet, I’m still unhappy with the outcome. It’s much the same with gold. Betting on the end of the world sucks if you’re wrong, but sucks even more if you’re right.
Apparently Federal Employees in many jobs are more likely to die than be fired… And we’re not talking the Dept. of Defense here…
Of course, it’s entirely understandable, as the Federal Government only hires dutiful, public-minded and competent people:
HUD spokesman Jerry Brown says his department’s low dismissal rate — providing a 99.85% job security rate for employees — shows a skilled and committed workforce. “We’ve never focused on firing people, and we don’t intend to start now. We’re more focused on hiring the right people,” he says.
Spoken like someone who has never had to decide anything based on P&L, in an industry without competition.
And, of course, there’s the implication that greedy money-grubbing corporations are less focused on hiring the right people. Considering they have a bottom line to meet, I’d say they’re *more* likely to be so focused.
Hat Tip: Reason Hit & Run
President Obama and his sycophant Keynesian friends in the MSM can’t quite figure out why his policies haven’t improved the economy. Maybe President Obama should listen to an actual job creator, Steve Wynn to get some clue about why businesses aren’t expanding.
Here is an excerpt from Wynn from a recent conference call where he describes Obama’s policies as “the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime.”
[Partial transcript, Wynn responding to a question during the Q&A portion of the conference call]
“Well, here’s our problem. There are a host of opportunities for expansion in Las Vegas, a host of opportunities to create tens of thousands of jobs in Las Vegas. I know that I could do 10,000 more myself and according to the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Convention Bureau, if we hired 10,000 employees, it would create another 20,000 additional jobs for a grand total of 30,000 […] And I’m saying it bluntly, that this administration is the greatest wet blanket to business, and progress and job creation in my lifetime. And I can prove it and I could spend the next 3 hours giving you examples of all of us in this market place that are frightened to death about all the new regulations, our healthcare costs escalate, regulations coming from left and right. A President that seems — that keeps using that word redistribution. Well, my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration. And it makes you slow down and not invest your money. Everybody complains about how much money is on the side in America. You bet. And until we change the tempo and the conversation from Washington, it’s not going to change. And those of us who have business opportunities and the capital to do it are going to sit in fear of the President. And a lot of people don’t want to say that. They’ll say, “Oh God, don’t be attacking Obama.” Well, this is Obama’s deal, and it’s Obama that’s responsible for this fear in America. The guy keeps making speeches about redistribution, and maybe we ought to do something to businesses that don’t invest or holding too much money. We haven’t heard that kind of talk except from pure socialists. Everybody’s afraid of the government, and there’s no need to soft peddling it, it’s the truth. It is the truth. And that’s true of Democratic businessman and Republican businessman, and I am a Democratic businessman and I support Harry Reid. I support Democrats and Republicans. And I’m telling you that the business community in this company is frightened to death of the weird political philosophy of the President of the United States. And until he’s gone, everybody’s going to be sitting on their thumbs.
Coyote, on Paul Krugman’s claim that the Isaac Asimov Foundation series was an inspiration for him to go into economics:
I find it absolutely unsurprising that Paul Krugman was enthralled by the vision of a science that can be used by a few people to control the actions and futures of all humanity. He said “I want to be one of those guys!” I was captivated by the vision in the book as well, but my thought was always “how do we avoid these guys?” The second two books were about how government planners used mind control to deal with humanity whenever individuals had the gall to circumvent their plans. Lovely.
It somewhat reminds me why many dystopian novels started out as utopian novels. People like Krugman actually believe they can design out humanity’s desires in favor of their own preferences.
While I am sympathetic to issues folks have with taxation, from a legal and Constitutional perspective the income tax actually comes from a better, almost more quaint time. Why? Because instead of dealing with the Constitutional problems with the income tax by having a series of judges stare at the Constitution with their eyes crossed until the problem disappears, they actually wrote and passed a freaking Constitutional amendment.
In fact, the 18th Amendment (prohibition) and the 21st Amendment (its repeal) were the last times the Constitution has been amended to give or take away Federal powers (everything since has been related to voting and elections). Ever since 1933, we have effectively added non-enumerated powers by essentially ignoring the Constitution, such amendment process being seen as too much of a hassle to stand in the way of critical regulations on seat belts or marijuana.
Everyone knows it took a Constitutional Amendment to get alcohol prohibition, but think about this in today’s world. Would we even bother? No way! Congress has taken on the power to regulate or prohibit just about anything it wants by stretching the commerce clause form its original meaning of preventing states from setting up barriers to interstate trade to an all-encompassing power of fiat to do anything Congress freaking wants.
In those “quaint” times, one might suggest that a Constitutional amendment would be required to begin a War on (some) Drugs. It was done without one, and now it’s threatening to take the 4th Amendment down with it.
Seen over at Megan McArdle’s place today (original source unlinked):
Dear Dr. Boli: How can I progress from ordinary sleep into slumbering dogmatically? –Sincerely, “cs.”
Dear Sir or Madam: Dogmatic slumber, that easy and comfortable state of resting on one’s unexamined assumptions, has been shown in multiple studies to be greatly desirable for promoting health of mind and body. Fortunately most people have little trouble achieving this state, and indeed many are seldom roused from it. If, however, you are one of those miserable unfortunates who suffer from dogmatic insomnia, or a perpetual restless examination of what most people take for granted, only a change in habits is likely to bring relief.
The works of David Hume are frequently blamed in cases of dogmatic insomnia, but unjustly so. The problem is not in the works themselves, but in our employment of them. In particular Hume’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, a weighty tome in every sense, is often misused. The mistake most sufferers have made is to open the book and read it, exposing themselves to the disturbing ideas in the text. If, however, when you retire for the evening, you instruct one of the servants to smack you forcefully on the head with the book, you will be virtually assured of a good eight hours of dogmatic slumber.
I’m not sure whether “ignorance is bliss”, but I’ll be damned if I haven’t seen a correlation.
As reported in Politico:
“I can’t think of too many tribal countries with which we’ve been involved — Afghanistan is another one — where it’s easy to extricate yourself once you get involved,” Huntsman told reporters here after finishing a cruise with Republicans on northern New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee. “So it might sound like it’s a tangential supportive role at the beginning even if it’s just a no-fly zone. But you’re making a commitment … and sometimes those things become very hard to unwind.”
“We’re deployed in some quarters in this world where we don’t need to be. It’s time we take a look at the map and we start to clean it up,” he said, arguing that both national security interests as well as financial costs should affect the decision.
And in addition, “we need to do a better job of identifying who our friends and allies are around the world,” Huntsman said.
Very, very important:
When I hear communitarians like Etzioni describe the libertarian view of individualism, I wonder if they’ve ever read any libertarian writing other than a Classic Comics edition of Ayn Rand.
There’s no conflict between individualism and community. There’s a conflict between voluntary association and coerced association. And communitarians dance around that conflict.
H/T: David Boaz @ Cato
I think it’s a very important point. People assume that because libertarians object to many government programs centered around helping people in need, that we don’t care about helping people in need. That’s not true at all; many of us simply prefer to do it through voluntary charity that might show results. We resent being told that we must surrender our paycheck to government programs, designed around bad incentives, and that we’ll be locked in a cage if we refuse.
There’s no conflict between libertarianism and being a force for good in your community. Anyone who thinks otherwise takes Ayn Rand’s points on altruism FAR too seriously. I don’t think even Ayn Rand was against charity, she was against feeling guilty for achievement and against the idea that charity is OWED by the giver.
“Oil hearings: Government taxes account for 15% of gas price, company profits only 5%. Follow the dots: The government has 3x the incentive to keep prices high and engage in gouging and restrict further supply as the companies do.”
Wrong. Well, 90% wrong.
The bulk of taxes on gasoline are not charged as a percentage of purchase price, they’re charged as a flat excise cost per gallon. Some states (CA amongst them) also pack a sales tax on top of this, but that’s hardly the key to Congressional hearings, as the federal tax is PURELY a per-gallon tax.
If anything, the Feds actually have an incentive to keep the cost of gas as low as possible, so that Americans will use more of it, and thus pay more excise taxes on that gasoline. In addition, low gas prices help their chances of re-election.
I’ve got my reasons to call the feds hypocritical (they claim to be trying to help the “Average Joe”, but you don’t see them offering temporary reductions in gas taxes) on this issue, but they have no economic incentive to keep prices high. The political incentive is a balancing game between pissing off voters and pissing off environmentalists and NIMBYs, but it’s certainly not a tax revenue game they’re playing.