Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tony Stark Knows that War is a Racket

This is too awesome....

.... Great stuff from Peter Santa-Maria ("Attack Peter") matching up the great character of Tony Stark with the legendary piece by Major General Smedly Butler called "War Is A Racket."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Betty Buys Into War

Remember the good old days of an anti-war Democratic Party? Of course not! Ten years after both Parties in the US Congress gave Republican President George W. Bush a blank check on the Iraq War, Democratic President Barack Obama now desires the exact same thing as the drums beat for a new war in Syria.

This time, the American people are not particularly interested in jumping into another war in the Middle East. Good reason exists for this. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is clearly a monster but, amidst all the atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict, the United States has not been threatened. Also, the specifics of the conflict in Syria are complicated and the case for jumping into action is subsequently harder to make. All of this, along with the general war weariness felt throughout the United States, has kept public opinion firmly in the “opposed” camp nationwide. Representatives in Congress are getting an earful from constituents with a directive to keep the US out of Syria and some active members of the armed forces are even controversially protesting the possibility of war.

The only group of people in the United States that seem to be chomping at the bit to engage Syria militarily are politicians in Washington. Congresswoman Betty McCollum, representing Oakdale inside Minnesota’s 4th congressional district, recently released a statement regarding her position on the possibility of a new war in Syria (refer to a previous Patch article to read the statement in its entirety). This statement was no doubt carefully crafted to suggest that McCollum is in a state of deep deliberation on the matter but declarations sprinkled throughout about supposed “undeniable intelligence,” the necessity of “an unequivocal response from the US and the international community” and other nonsense about how “to do nothing... undermines fundamental global norms of conduct that keep Americans safe” reveal the opposite.

In other words, Betty McCollum plans to follow lock-step with the political establishment regarding a war against Syria. In repeating the bipartisan talking points in favor of a war in Syria and promoting this dangerous foreign policy that designates the United States as the policeman of the world, McCollum seems to feel that:

A) The US government (and its “allies”) can bomb any nation it chooses even if that nation has not threatened national security.

B) The possibility of a Russian and/or Iranian response to an attack on their ally Syria is of no concern to the United States... for some reason; likewise, a response from Syria itself against US allies in the region is apparently of no concern despite its probability.

C) Publicly announcing military strategies to the entire world, always stressing the "limited" part of the proposed strike (and therefore sounding awful threatening and effective, no?), is a really super idea.

D) The Syrian civilian deaths that would result from a US-led military strike are worth it in the long run to, as both the US and French governments have put it, "punish" the Assad regime.

E) Aiding the Syrian rebels, which includes elements of Al Qaeda and other government-defined terrorist groups, who have been actively and violently persecuting minority Syrian Christians, is in the best interest of the American people.
McCollum may need to see something in writing before she signs on the dotted line, true. However, by repeating the administration-approved case for a new war in Syria, McCollum’s statement certainly seems to reflect a keen interest to serve first the best interests of the military industrial complex and the government ruling class. But what about Minnesota's 4th congressional district? Are the American people that McCollum supposedly represents as willing as she to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war? Doubtful. Americans are catching on to the unintended consequences that result from the foreign policy conducted out of Washington. The many decades of heavy political and military involvement by the United States has not made the Middle East a freer place and the state of the region will not be improved by any future bombing of Syria.

Thanks to Oakdale Patch for also running this piece.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Justin Amash... Liberal?

Karl "MC" Rove was on the warpath for Michigan Representative Justin Amash in Denver earlier this week, calling him "the most liberal Republican" in Congress. Amash has since shot back citing his top ratings with limited government organizations. Of course, MC Rove, top lackey for the GOP establishment, calling anybody the "most liberal" of anything is more of a badge of honor than an insult considering how often Rove is on the wrong side of the issues.

But MC Rove can't be that stupid, can he? Maybe by calling Amash "the most liberal Republican" Rove meant "the most classical liberal Republican" because Amash is certainly cut from the same cloth as such great classical liberals as Frederic Bastiat and Thomas Jefferson.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Minnesota Needs Mises Not Minimum Wage Laws

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill last Friday that could give Minnesota the highest minimum wage rates in the United States:
"Under the plan, Minnesota’s minimum wage for companies with $500,000 or more in earnings would go to $8 this summer, $9 a year later and $9.50 in 2015. After that, it would rise according to inflation, with possible yearly bumps up to 2.5 percent."
Although the bill is not law yet, its legislative advancement is no doubt celebrated by many as a victory for low wage workers. However, minimum wage laws actually achieve unintended results that end up hurting the entire population.

Economist Ludwig von Mises skillfully explains the situation in only 12 words: "As wages rise, so must the costs of production and also prices." Workers gain an increase in pay due to individual performance towards a productive end. By not allowing wages to rise and fall naturally as businesses attempt to produce to meet consumer demand, minimum wage laws simply make production, labor and consumption more expensive.

Companies are forced to compensate for a government-mandated higher wage rate by setting higher prices in order to maintain their cost of production. This makes prices go up for every class of buyer, including the minimum wage earner who recently saw the now-fleeted raise in his or her pay. The increase in prices forces everyone to consume less and subsequently causes demand to fall. This decrease in the consumer's demand for products sees an equal decrease in an employer's demand for labor. Many of the workers who initially supported the State-enforced increase of their minimum wage now find themselves unemployed because companies can no longer afford to keep them. Meanwhile, current job-seekers cannot gain employment because employers cannot afford to employ new workers at the higher wage rate. Since inflation is seemingly endless, this specific bill will continually "bump" up wages in accordance with inflation and reengage this cycle of unemployment and higher prices for years to come.

Proponents of this minimum wage bill are incorrect when claiming that its only effects will be an increase in pay for minimum wage earners. Raising the minimum wage will result in higher unemployment and higher prices which will hurt workers (especially low wage earners) but also businesses and consumers alike. Clearly, Minnesota should heed the economic guidance of Ludwig von Mises and not bow to more legislative interference into the market.

Thanks to Oakdale Patch for also running this piece.

Poking the Bear - July 4, 2013

In other news, self-described libertarian commentator/activist Adam Kokesh plans an armed march through Washington DC on July 4th of this year. The march will take a group of people carrying arms lead by Kokesh from Arlington National Cemetery throughout the Capitol, circling the White House and other prominent government buildings.

I am a fan of Adam Kokesh in general. I do not always agree with what he has to say or how he has to say it but his show is consistently entertaining and enlightening. No one argues against Kokesh and company's rights to protest or to carry arms but I agree with Lew Rockwell that this planned march is an unnecessary provoking of government. The government would love nothing more than a group of self-identifying "libertarians" to march on Washington DC with loaded weapons; what an excuse to not only brand an entire group of individuals as terrorists but to possibly practice shooting at live targets. So why poke the bear?

What ends up happening anyway if Kokesh's march does not end in violence? If Kokesh and company are allowed to conduct their armed march throughout Washington, it will simply reinforce the ideas of those who claim that government is our benevolent protector. "See! The government isn't tyrannical because, if it was, it would never have allowed Kokesh march through Washington!" Also, if Kokesh and company are not allowed to conduct their march in Washington, if they are stopped by troops before entering DC and end up simply holding a rally in Virginia, people will ignore the fact that Washington rejects the 2nd Amendment and their oath of office in general by pointing out that Kokesh is leading a self-described "armed revolt."

If libertarianism is based around one idea, it is the non-aggression principle. Kokesh is right to encourage the peaceful submission of those who march with him if they are to be arrested - the last thing anyone wants or needs is for someone to be shot. However, is it not an aggressive act to march upon the US capitol with loaded weapons? If one is to engage in civil disobedience regarding the government's stance on guns, an armed march through DC is not a good example. Civil disobedience would entail not registering your weapon or something like that; an armed march is not comparable to an act of civil disobedience. This leads me to think that Kokesh's march will misrepresent libertarianism by violating the non-aggression principle and set the libertarian movement back, especially since there are so many other non-aggressive ways to promote the ideas of liberty. If you think that the government has placed more than enough barriers in the way of owning a gun or that libertarianism has been demonized enough, you have not seen anything yet if one bad thing is to occur at Kokesh's march.

I hope for the best possible outcome with this march but I am not convinced that it is a necessary or even wise endeavor.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Problem with Gary Johnson

Former two-term Republican Governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson has many qualities that attract the attention of libertarians. His views on states' rights, the economy and job creation are quite good and his views on foreign policy and taxes at least rub the establishment the wrong way. Johnson put his philosophy into practice as he, in a sense, "governed as a libertarian" during his two terms as Governor of New Mexico. He explains his many vetoes of Republican and Democrat legislation during his time in office, his many policy decisions, often choosing private rather than government solutions, and more in his short book Seven Principles of Good Government which I recommend. Perhaps not up to the standard set by other "Big 'L'" libertarians like Harry Browne, I cannot say that Johnson's views completely exclude him from being a libertarian - unlike, say, socialist Bill Maher or the self-described "low-tax liberal" Ed Clark - the tent is bigger than not. However, Johnson holds and promotes other views that I think does libertarianism a great disservice.

I usually approach Gary Johnson's articles and TV appearances with excitement, since libertarians do not get nearly as large of a voice amidst the interventionist US media, but I was disappointed by his latest appearance on Alan Colmes' Fox News radio show this past Wednesday.

The interview immediately begins with Colmes insinuating that Johnson is the leading libertarian voice in the country, ahead of that of Ron and Rand Paul. I will agree that Rand Paul has a number of ideological problems of his own but I find it impossible to agree with the claim that Johnson's libertarian credentials exceed those of Ron Paul.

Colmes asks Johnson flat-out if he thinks "Ron and Rand Paul are mislabeling themselves as 'libertarian,'" a question that sees Johnson initially fumbling for words. Colmes thinks that Ron and Rand Paul are not as libertarian as Gary Johnson because "they are anti-choice," alluding to the issue of abortion. Many libertarians do argue that abortion should be legal because of that tired old platitude about "a woman's right to choose." Johnson even goes as far as speaking for libertarians as a whole saying, "a libertarian would fundamentally believe that this issue belongs with the woman involved." What a grave misrepresentation. Many libertarians argue that the "fetus" is a human being that has a fundamental claim to his or her life. Few would argue that a woman has "the right to choose" to murder an adult, so pro-life libertarians argue that a woman does not have the right to choose to end the life of her unborn baby either. It is a legitimate libertarian argument that Johnson chooses to ignore.

Ron Paul's own position on abortion is basically two-fold. The first plank includes the recognition of the 9th and 10th Amendment that excludes the Federal Government from the issue altogether, which leaves the States to enforce abortion laws just as they enforce laws against murder. The second plank includes the idea that an unborn baby is a life and should be protected from aggression just as a life should not be violated outside of the womb. Ron Paul's position is a far more consistent libertarian position since it follows the Constitution and the non-aggression principle; also, as a practicing OB/GYN for many decades, Paul's position on abortion includes a unique medical perspective.

Johnson also misrepresents the libertarian position on gay marriage - or, rather, marriage as a whole - when he says people identifying as "Republican/libertarian" are "punting" on the issue that the States should deciding the legality of gay marriage. Johnson's main point on gay marriage is that he considers it a Federal issue: a "Constitutionally-guaranteed right on par with Civil Rights of the 60s." 

First of all, I find it ironic that Johnson considers the position of leaving the marriage issue to the States as "punting" while his own stated position is to "let each State decide" the issue of outlawing or legalizing abortion!

Secondly, marriage is a Constitutionally-guaranteed right? Really? Where is it written in the Constitution that the States have given the Federal Government authority to regulate marriage? (I'll give you a hint: it's not in there.) It is true that some libertarians argue for the Federal legalization of gay marriage; however, I would argue that the more consistent libertarian position on marriage (between gay or straight couples) is one that advocates the removal of government from the entire institution.

Government-sanctioned marriage (again, gay or straight) is not a "Constitutional right" - the government has no authority whatsoever in marriage. The "civil right" in question regarding marriage between people of any sexual orientation is the right of individuals to enter into voluntary relationships without the force of government in the way to ensure compliance with bureaucratic regulations or demand fees. I agree with Johnson insomuch that leaving marriage "to the States" is not good enough (even though I understand the 10th Amendment application there); however, I disagree with Johnson that government needs to be involved in marriage at all. I say leave marriage to the individuals! Whose idea was it anyway to fork over your cash, property, so that the government can sign off on your marriage?

As if it were not bad enough that Johnson misrepresents the "libertarian" brand regarding marriage, he continues to misrepresent the specific position of Ron Paul himself saying, "Ron Paul would say 'Give [gay marriage] to the States.'"

Johnson makes a special effort to separate the words "tolerant" and "accepting" on the idea that "tolerance" suggests a personal objection to a certain lifestyle. His view is noble but flawed. Everybody objects to particular lifestyles by the very fact of living the way they choose: straight people personally object to engaging in homosexual activities themselves by choosing to date people of the opposite sex, vegetarians personally object to eating meat by avoiding it, etc. Everybody personally objects to other particular lifestyles, that is why they chose not to engage in them; but that does not mean that they object to other people engaging in those particular lifestyles.

Problems arise when people try and force others (usually using the force of government) to halt activities they personally disagree with and force others to conform. There is a difference between a person who is personally against an activity, ideology or lifestyle, choosing not to subscribe to or engage in them, and a person who is trying to stop someone from engaging in that activity, ideology or lifestyle. Here is where Johnson's view comes in line with libertarian thought: Johnson says he takes the attitude of "I don't care what you do with your life as long as it doesn't adversely affect mine." Of course, this is exactly what libertarians believe and this is exactly the position that Ron Paul (and many other libertarians) take regarding marriage! Paul specifically says gay people "can do whatever they want and call it whatever they want. .... The government should just be out of [marriage] .... I have my standards, but I shouldn't have to impose my standards on others; others have standards but have no right to impose their standards on me." This position is pretty cut-and-dry - and far more libertarian than arguing that the Federal Government has regulatory control over marriage.

Luckily, the interview with Colmes was not a complete loss since Johnson had good things to say regarding drones, the surveillance state, the PATRIOT Act, the Federal Reserve, the income tax and competition. But that does not make up for the way that Johnson misrepresented the libertarian position on abortion and marriage. Johnson also continued to flimsily defend the martial law in Boston and promotes the fair tax. You might be wondering what Ron Paul's position on those two things would be.... Well, amazingly, the man whom Colmes feels is not as libertarian as Johnson spoke out against the martial law and has his own, superior, idea of an acceptable flat tax.

Some may think that my entire article is pointless: Why compare Johnson to Paul or any other libertarian? Some may think that such a discussion is distracting from promoting the message of liberty. But I argue that defining the libertarian positions on issues is important. Not every libertarian agrees on every single issue and there are points that can be argued in libertarian circles. However, Gary Johnson is not helping promote the message of liberty when he misleads others so far away from positions that are far more libertarian. Johnson's voice is welcomed in the libertarian debate. However, libertarians need to speak up when his positions do not match up with the libertarian position; especially if Johnson is to be considered a leading libertarian figure.