Posts Tagged ‘government’

Or at least I could be, if this report by the Missouri Information Analysis Center (a government agency that researches terrorism) is to be taken seriously.

If you’re an anti-abortion activist, or if you display political paraphernalia supporting a third-party candidate or a certain Republican member of Congress, if you possess subversive literature, you very well might be a member of a domestic paramilitary group.

[…] People who supported former third-party presidential candidates like Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr are cited in the report, in addition to anti-abortion activists and conspiracy theorists who believe the United States, Mexico and Canada will someday form a North American Union.

“Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups,” the report reads. “It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty or Libertarian material.

After all I believe in freedom, possess plenty of ‘subversive’ books, have a Reason sticker on my car bumper, donate to several libertarian activist groups and would have voted for Bob Barr in the last election if I had been eligible to vote.

As long as they keep their fat asses in Missouri, I suppose I shouldn’t be bothered.

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The New Republic has a fascinating article on the dynamics between Lawrence Summers and Tim Geithner, the two principal players of Obama’s economic team. An excerpt:

It’s only natural that a man who was hailed as one of his generation’s great academic minds by age 30 and who’d become Treasury secretary by 45 would have strong opinions on a thick menu of issues. Or, for that matter, that he’d have an urge to share them. In the years before he joined the Obama administration, Summers showcased his thinking on practically every economic ailment facing the country in a monthly Financial Times column. He is, in other words, not so much a bureaucratic imperialist as a natural-born economist, with all that implies about argumentative style.

[…] Having to share territory with the inadvertently expansionist Summers could easily lead to a demoralizing trench war. But that won’t be the case with Geithner. He’s a man who made a career not only of exerting subtle bureaucratic influence, but of happily co-existing with Summers himself. (The two are good friends.) Even during the tax flap’s most fevered moment–a Maureen Dowd column titled “Tim Geithner! Why Are Rich People So Cheap?” comes to mind–Geithner remained an internal force. At the time, Politico suggested Summers had horned in on the bank bailout–ostensibly Treasury’s portfolio–noting that it was his name, not Geithner’s, that appeared on a letter to Congress about the second $350 billion installment. But, while Summers did affix his name to the letter, Geithner and his staff actually authored it. Administration officials simply felt Summers was the more appropriate public face until Geithner could be confirmed.

Read the whole thing.

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Jim Lindgren thinks he is a great choice.

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My position on the auto bailout is simple. The big three should be allowed to go bankrupt. This is true even if one ignores the moral hazard and other intrinsic costs of bailing out private firms.

Bankruptcy now is, quite simply, the best course of action not just for the taxpayer and the rest of the economy but also for the auto companies themselves. For a short but excellent analysis, read this post by Prof. Becker.

Here’s hoping that the Democrats and the Republicans, in all their partisan politicking and in-fighting, end up doing the right thing.

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A PIL has been filed in India asking to get Google Earth banned. Apparently the terrorists used Google images to plot their attacks.

Considering that the terrorists also used buses, trains, cellphones and a fishing boat, perhaps we should ban those as well.

And while we are at it, we should make sure that there are no loopholes. After all, most of the data supplied by Google is provided by other parties. Even if Google Earth is no longer accessible from India, one would be able to get the information from other sources. So let us block those sites as well, indeed ban all data obtained by satellites or cameras, and ensure that such data cannot be sent into India from outside the country. Regulating the internet would be a good start.

But here’s a prediction: after all this is done, a resourceful individual will still be able to get any information he wants. For information is a rebellious bird, it can never, ever be caged. The same however, is not true of the government.

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In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, Ramesh Srivats explains, in a long but very readable post, why our unrealistically high expectations of what the government ought to do for us leads to a bloated maai-baap sarkar that loves to intrude into matters that are not its business, yet fails to perform its most basic task — keeping us secure. It is mostly standard libertarian fare that has been discussed many times here and elsewhere; but the matter is important enough to merit reiteration. Highly recommended.

(Hat Tip: Aristotle The Geek)

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There are at least two good reasons why libertarians should not be supporting McCain this election.

One of those is fairly straightforward: Obama is better. I have written several posts in the past elaborating on this point. To put it briefly, Obama is no libertarian, not even close, but on some of the most important issues facing us — foreign policy, civil liberties, war on drugs, thwarting the Christianist agenda — he is better than McCain. Even on the economy, where libertarians usually agree with the conservatives, I’d go with Obama — McCain has been an erratic, populist, nightmare.

The second issue is one that I have not posted on as often but it is as important, if not more. The libertarians and the country need to teach the Republicans a lesson. The party of Goldwater and Reagan — once a friend to so many libertarian principles — is in its present avatar a populist, dogmatic, anti-intellectual, collectivist nightmare.

No one has expressed this second viewpoint more eloquently than Radley Balko. In a recent article, published at Fox and Reason, he writes:

While I’m not thrilled at the prospect of an Obama administration (especially with a friendly Congress), the Republicans still need to get their clocks cleaned in two weeks, for a couple of reasons.

First, they had their shot at holding power, and they failed. They’ve failed in staying true to their principles of limited government and free markets. They’ve failed in preventing elected leaders of their party from becoming corrupted by the trappings of power, and they’ve failed to hold those leaders accountable after the fact. Congressional Republicans failed to rein in the Bush administration’s naked bid to vastly expand the power of the presidency (a failure they’re going to come to regret should Obama take office in January). They failed to apply due scrutiny and skepticism to the administration’s claims before undertaking Congress’ most solemn task—sending the nation to war. I could go on.

[…] A humiliated, decimated GOP that rejuvenates and rebuilds around the principles of limited government, free markets, and rugged individualism is really the only chance for voters to possibly get a real choice in federal elections down the road.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that’s how the party will emerge from defeat. But the Republican Party in its current form has forfeited its right to govern.

Here’s the whole article.

And while I am at it,  if you are an eligible voter and a friend to individual freedom, do consider voting for Bob Barr. I’ll post more on Barr in the future, but suffice it to say that he is the real deal — a man who was won over by the power of libertarian ideas. He is an intelligent and experienced politician and his conversion to libertarianism — from every piece of evidence I have seen — is a genuine one. So do consider him,  especially if you live in a non-swing state.

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The Austrian school of economics is in a permanent “We told you so” mode these days. In this very readable post, Roderick Long gives the Austrian economist viewpoint of the current financial meltdown. After offering a detailed explanation of why it is regulation that got us into this mess (most of his points I agree with, some I am skeptical), he asks the million dollar question:

Okay, some will say, maybe it was government, not laissez-faire, that got us into the mess; but now that we’re in it, don’t we need government to get us out?

His answer is that the government cannot get us out.

There’s just not much the government can do that will help (apart from repealing the laws, regulations, and subsidies that first created and then perpetuate the mess – but that would be less a doing than a ceasing-to-do, and anyway given the incentives acting on government decision-makers there’s no realistic chance of that happening). The bailout is just diverting resources from the productive poor and middle-class to the failed rich, which doesn’t seem like a very good idea one either ethical or economic grounds. The only good effect such a bailout could possibly have (at least if you prefer costly boondoggles without piles of dead bodies to costly boondoggles with them) is if it convinced the warmongers that they just can’t afford a global war on terror right now – but there’s no sign that they’re being convinced of anything of the sort.

So what should the government do? Nothing, is his answer.

I don’t know if I agree with him. Even if he is right on the economics, there are political consequences to doing nothing, and not all of them are good for freedom or economic health. Furthermore, not beng a trained economist, I cannot fully measure the accuracy of his claims or pass a judgement on whether the Austrian approach to money is superior to, say, that of the more mainstream Chicago school of economics. The fact that the Austrian economists have — unlike everyone else — always used verbal, imprecise and non-mathematical arguments, does not exactly inspire scientific confidence.

However, I do recommend that you read the whole thing.

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I don’t usually agree with the National Review, but this article is bang on the money.

During the presidential debate Tuesday night, Barack Obama was asked if he thought health care was a “right.”

He said he thought it was a right. Well, if you accept that premise, I think you can ask some logical follow-up questions: Food is more important than health care. You die pretty quickly without food. Do we have a “right” to food in America? What about shelter? Do we have a “right” to housing? And if we do have a right to housing, what standard of housing do we have a right to? And if it is a right, due to all Americans, wouldn’t that mean that no one should have to accept any housing, or health care, which is inferior to anyone else’s… since it’s a right?

Do we have a right to be safe? Do we have a right to be comfortable? Do we have a right to wide-screen televisions? Where does this end?

There are a lot of things that a person needs to live a decent life. However, the word “right” implies something much more fundamental — it means that the government is legally bound to provide you that. It is not a word to be used loosely. In the libertarian worldview, the only fundamental rights are those that protect you from the initiation of force. In other words, it means that you have a birthright to free speech, complete sovereignty on your private properties, the freedom to do whatever you want with your body, the right to associate freely with others and to engage in any consensual activity. The law is bound to treat you equally and to protect these freedoms from other citizens and the government irrespective of your wealth or your status.

In other words, you ought to be able to do anything you want provided you respect the equal liberty of others. The freedoms that stem from this basic principle are the only legitimate rights. It is not a big list. However governments already do a terrible job of safeguarding these. Obama ought to strengthen these constitutional rights before pandering to his audience.

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“India’s redemption lies in the inherent anarchy and factiousness of its people, and in the legendary inefficiency of the Indian state…”

Arundhati Roy.

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In this post, I’ll defend a thesis that my libertarian friends will probably disagree strongly with — that the economic panic culminating in the $700 billion bailout isn’t all that bad for capitalist and libertarian ideals in the long run.

Don’t get me wrong. The bailout is a monstrosity, a tremendous allocation of power to competent but unaccountable (and unelected) officials like Paulson and Bernanke and will add an unbelievable $2500 per person to the national debt. It will tax the many and reward the few. It will use the power of the state to reward businesses that ought to fail and will nationalise a significant chunk of the banking sector. As a measure, the whole thing is as unlibertarian as it gets.

But my point is this: it could have been worse. Under the current circumstances, the bailout might be one of the better things that may have happened. Here’s why:

1. Capitalism, especially of the kind that we have currently, invariably produces booms and busts. Some businesses will fail and others will grow. In the long run, it is one of the best concepts man has ever come up with. Unfortunately, voters are more impatient than that. It is a fact that with the economic turmoil of the last week and with the housing market yet to bottom out, a diving stock market would bleaken the economic outlook of the country to the extent that a new administration, likely a democratic one, would be emboldened to enact far worse regulation that the bailout itself. Think of a socialistic counterpart of ‘disaster capitalism’. The bailout will reduce the chances of that happening.

2. Yes, there were other ways the government could have intervened instead of buying bad assets, such as partial debt forgiveness or infusion of capital. However the proposed prescription has the advantage of creating a strong backlash from the electorate about their tax money being used directly to rescue the fat cats of Wall Street. There is some evidence that this is already happening. In the long run, this sentiment may develop into a general mood against government intervention and corporate subsidy. And that would be a really good thing.

3. There have been many comparisons made between the present bail-out and the massive government intervention almost eighty years ago which ended up prolonging the Great Depression. However, such comparisons miss a crucial point. The fall of the money supply that happened then under the aegis of the Federal Reserve will not happen today. As Bernanke himself said in 2002, “Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

4. The plan is a vague one. It is not clear that Paulson actually intends to spend the entire $700 billion, nor is it clear how the government will price these bad assets. The liberal economist Paul Krugman suspects that the whole thing “looks like an attempt to restore confidence in the financial system” rather than go to the root of the problem. From a libertarian perspective, this is not such a bad thing. Remember that Paulson and Bernanke, the architects of the bailout, are no socialists. I am hopeful that their vision of the plan centers not around massive spending but in giving investors enough confidence and the banks enough time so that they can recover. (As Paulson himself has remarked in the past, “If you’ve got a bazooka, and people know you’ve got it, you may not have to take it out.”) If the government does buy mortgage assets, I hope that they do so at a price that transfers a signicant burden upon those who made these bad decisions.

5. The events of the last week essentially kills the Glass Steagall Act, one of the lasting vestiges of Roosevelt’s policies. Essentially, that act separated the commercial and investment banking sectors, which was unfortunate because unified banking is now recognized to be much safer. The act was basically repealed during the Clinton era but BOA’s acquisition of Merrill last week was the final nail in the coffin. We are now back to the situation of the 1920s, when commercial banks could plunge into the market, and that’s a good thing.

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Bob Barr, the Libertarian nominee for president, speaks out on the jurisprudence on the two major presidential contenders and argues that people who will be voting for McCain because of worries about a possible left-turn of the supreme court under an Obama administration will be making a mistake.

The judiciary is becoming an important election issue. John McCain is warning conservatives that control of today’s finely balanced Supreme Court depends on his election. Unfortunately, his jurisprudence is likely to be anything but conservative.

The idea of a “living Constitution” long has been popular on the political left. Conservatives routinely dismiss such result-oriented justice, denouncing “judicial activism” and proclaiming their fidelity to “original intent.” However, many Republicans, like Mr. McCain, are just as result-oriented as their Democratic opponents. They only disagree over the result desired.

Nor is it obvious that Barack Obama would attempt to pack the court with left-wing ideologues. He shocked some of his supporters by endorsing the ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms, and criticizing the recent decision overturning the death penalty for a child rapist. With the three members most likely to leave the Supreme Court in the near future occupying the more liberal side of the bench, the next appointments probably won’t much change the Court’s balance.

But even if a President McCain were to influence the court, it would not likely be in a genuinely conservative direction. His jurisprudence is not conservative.

Mr. McCain has endorsed, in action if not rhetoric, the theory of the “unitary executive,” which leaves the president unconstrained by Congress or the courts. Republicans like Mr. McCain believe the president as commander in chief of the military can do almost anything, including deny Americans arrested in America protection of the Constitution and access to the courts.

Ok, Barr makes a common error here, as Ilya Somin and others have pointed out. The term “unitary executive” usually refers to expanded presidential power vis-a-vis the rest of the executive but not necessarily the other arms of the government. Nonetheless, there is a lot of sensible stuff in Barr’s op-ed and I recommend reading the full version.

If, like me, you are a libertarian with a preference for Obama over McCain, Barr increasingly looks like the candidate you should vote for (assuming of course you are eligible to vote — I am not!). I will expand on this point in a future post.

(Hat Tip: Reason Hit and Run)

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“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand”

Milton Friedman.

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The wages of sin is death. What constitutes sinful behavior is going to be decided by us, the government. We will do everything in our power to ensure that your children grow up in a moral environment.

Sometimes shit will happen in the process. Culosi— poor guy — his fate was an unfortunate one. But you know what, some collateral damage is unavoidable in matters like these. Don’t worry about Culosi, he was a martyr to a great cause, he will surely go to heaven.

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If you, like me, think it is outrageous that the US government tells you that you may not indulge in internet gambling, you can call, fax or email House Financial Services Committee and let your views be known. For more details, click here.

If you decide to act, please do so by Tuesday. That’s when the house will consider the bill, co-authored by Barney Frank and Ron Paul, which aims to remove some of the most draconian aspects of the internet gambling ban. Here is what they have to say about the matter.

“These regulations are impossible to implement without placing a significant burden on the payments system and financial institutions, and while I do disagree with the underlying objective of the Act, I believe that even those who agree with it ought to be concerned about the regulations’ impact,” said Rep. Frank.

“The ban on Internet gambling infringes upon two freedoms that are important to many Americans: the ability to do with their money as they see fit, and the freedom from government interference with the Internet. The regulations and underlying bill also force financial institutions to act as law enforcement officers. This is another pernicious trend that has accelerated in the aftermath of the Patriot Act, the deputization of private businesses to perform intrusive enforcement and surveillance functions that the federal government is unwilling to perform on its own,” said Rep. Paul.


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