Monday, October 26, 2009

Corruption of Rights

Welfare rights, animal rights, health care rights, and, now, a "right to housing." If we are not careful to call people out when they misuse the term "rights," the term will cease to be useful for its original meaning and our real rights will become fair game for demagogues and tyrants.

Even this self-styled progressive emergency room physician recognizes the dangerous trend to corrupt the language:
Fellow bleeding heart (and shyster) JimII said it well in the comments the other day: rights are limitations on government power. Exactly. When we use the language of "rights," we are generally discussing very fundamental liberties, which are conferred on us at birth, and which no government is permitted to take away: free speech; religion and conscience; property; assembly and petition; bodily self-determination; self-defense, and the like. Freedoms. Nowhere in that list is there anything which must be given to you by others. These are freedoms which are yours, not obligations which you are due from somebody else. There is no right to an education, nor to a comfortable retirement, nor to otherwise profit by the sweat of someone else's labor.
Even though I disagree with the fellow's politics and some of his opinion, especially his comment about Objectivists' being hopelessly muddled (follow the link he provides and decide for yourselves), the entire post is worth reading.  Also see David Kelley's work on this subject, A Life of One's Own and "Is There a Right to Health Care?"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where is the Inflation?

With so much money-printing at the Federal Reserve, one wonders.    Professor Alan H. Meltzer has some explanations in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Preventing the Next Financial Crisis :"

Many market participants reassure themselves that inflation won't come by noting the decline in yields on longer-term Treasury bonds and the spread between nominal Treasury yields and index-linked TIPS that protect against inflation. They measure expectations of higher inflation by the difference between these two rates, and imply long-term investors aren't demanding higher interest rates to protect themselves against it. But those traditional inflation-warning indicators are distorted because the Fed lends money at about a zero rate and the banks buy Treasury securities, reducing their yield and thus the size of the inflation premium.
Further, the Fed is buying massive amounts of mortgages to depress and distort the mortgage rate. This way of subsidizing bank profits and increasing their capital bails out these institutions but avoids going to Congress for more money to do so. It follows the Fed's usual practice of protecting big banks instead of the public.
He states what many economists know:  Public perceptions are being manipulated by government intervention in and influence over a variety of markets.  The results (suppressed prices in this case) are not substantive and fundamental.  Rather, they postpone the day of reckoning.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Still No Outrage

Mike ("Mish") Shedlock, whose site, "Mish's Global Economic Analysis," is linked below in the left column, has been discussing the origins of the financial crisis for years in strong terms.  He now asks, "Where the Hell is the Outrage?" in which he identifies the principal culprits and summarizes the cases against them.

Please revisit my July 2008 post, "How Can They Do This??!!" in which I submitted James Grant's answer to Shedlock's question and suggested that they can do this because you let them.

I agree with Mish that these people are criminals and wonder where are the indictments.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Crisis, Emergency and Devastation

"It is no exaggeration to say that unless we act, [health care] costs will devastate the U.S. economy," President Obama asserted yesterday in his weekly address.  When the government leaders apply such rhetoric, either there is an actual and obviously immediate emergency, or there is not.  If the alleged problem is not imediate, you should be almost as worried as you would be if there were a real emergency.  Why?  Because the government is preparing to move immediately on an issue that requires deliberation and debate and they wish to avoid any studious evaluation of what they are up to.

Emergency power is something we identify with the two-bit banana republic dictators who regularly "suspend the Constitution" when faced with dissent.  There everything becomes an emergency with the fate of the nation at stake -- like when when the Hilton will not let the Presidente use the premises for a conference (just nationalize the hotel).

In the U.S.  it is not so easy to suspend the Constitution.  More subtle measures are necessary to circumvent the charter developed by the founders.  Yet it its done.  The time proven measure to avoid Constitutional constraints is to argue that the Congress can do anything that is not expressly forbidden in the Constitution -- despite the fact that the 10th Amendment reserves to the states and the People all of the powers that are not expressly granted in the Constitution.  The power granted the Federal government "to regulate commerce among the several states," originally intended to assure free movement of trade between the states, has morphed into the power to control all commerce, and commerce touches almost everything.  And the Constitutional power to enact any laws "necessary and proper" to support the other powers granted by the Constitution has been used as the back door to justification for all sorts of legislation that has only an arguably tenuous connection to any power enumerated by the Constitution.  Thus, rather than suspend the Constitution, Presidents and legislators alike simply argue that the Constitution authorizes their action.  That is how they rationalize an omnipotent United States government.

Those in power realize that if they can enact legislation, it is especially difficult to repeal.  And in the case of entitlements programs, it is well-nigh impossible to undo.  Moreover, under today's Constitutional jurisprudence, it is even more difficult to get the legislation struck down in its entirety by the courts.  The only real threat to the designs of omnipotent government here is opposition by the voters before legislation is enacted.  And the way to avoid that threat is to treat the voters like mushrooms (keep them in the dark and feed them cow manure), and to move fast before the voters realize what is happening.  So, it is an emergency.  Earth altering consequences will occur.  Populations will be wiped out.  The economy will be destroyed.  The government is all-powerful; they should dooo something -- quick!

Here are some examples:

The Health Care Crisis:

One wonders why, after more than 200 years as a republic built on individual rights, we are just now realizing that government mandated health care is an "right"?  Why, now, is it such an emergency that 15% of the economy needs to be set on the inevitable road to nationalization? Why is it such an emergency that Congressional leaders oppose giving Congressmen and the public 72 hours to read legislation before calling for a vote?  Why was it such an emergency that the leaders of Congress strove mightily to ram through an unread 1000 page bill only a few days after its introduction?

The real emergency was that the Congress and the Administration all knew that if the American people had time to understand what was really being done to them, a majority of the voters (those whose wealth was being redistributed) would oppose what the lawmakers were doing.   Fortunately, the tactics attempted by the Congressional leaders to eliminate due deliberation about health care legislation failed.  And we now are beginning, after careful and public analysis, to understand the logical consequences of the legislation being proposed.

And who caused the so-called problems with the health care system in the first place?  Who placed an army of bureaucrats and clerks between doctor and patient and caused the individual to become disconnected from the cost of his own care?  Who is forcing hospitals to take people into their emergency rooms who will not pay?  Who has allowed a legal system that encourages medical malpractice suits and causes doctors to take extreme and costly measures to protect their reputations?

The proponents of change do not appear to have studied the reality of the "high cost of health care" in the U.S.   Some of the costs reflect beneficial contributions to the quality of health care (See "Health Care Mythology").  Perhaps as advocates for a certain result, they conveniently overlook these separate elements in the overall health care costs.

Global Warming

The proponents of global governance and those who see an opportunity to line their own pockets with a new government tax and bureaucratic system, have attempted to create a panic about global warming (now called climate change because no one could see any warming), rushing to draw conclusions from pseudoscience and theories about data that support a variety of conflicting conclusions, none of which seem to establish scientifically that reduction of industrially-created carbon dioxide will have any significant influence to cause the climate to remain the way it is now.  The viciousness with which scientists who disagree with the proposed government control are attacked smacks of postmodernist tactics, which are used when a proponent knows he cannot prove his case by civil discussion and debate.

The Credit Crisis

You have read enough on this blog and its links to the commentaries of others to know that the so-called credit crisis is a circumstance that was caused by The Creature from Jekyll Island and other monsters and policies created and imposed by the Federal government, described in detail here.  The debacle which the Bush Administration predicted would happen unless they were given a blank check to bail out anyone without oversight was one that should have been allowed as a catharsis to purge the financial system of toxic assets and practices.  Instead, we have zombie banks and a central bank that now has toxic assets on its own books, circumstances that guarantees low real economic growth for a decade or more.  The "crisis," which was an economic event that should have been left alone to cure itself quickly, has instead been used to justify the nationalization of all sorts of private businesses. 

The Next Crisis:  The Swine Flu Pandemic?

To defend the right of individual citizens not to be subjected to outside exposure to disease, governments legitimately have a public health function.  Part of the proper implementation of that function is to be a competent gatekeeper at the nation's borders.  The U.S. government in the enforcement of its immigration laws has not been adequate.  As in earlier cases like the bird flu, U.S. public health officials have taken the usual precautions thus far, even though U.S. Homeland Security has declared an emergency.  A serious epidemic is always a possibility, and stringent public health measures, such as quarantine and government school closings might be necessary.  But look out:  the people populating the Obama administration are well schooled in the technique of capitalizing on real emergencies to expand government powers far beyond what is absolutely necessary to deal with the emergency and to integrate the new-found powers permanently into the fabric of government.  [UPDATE 12/5/09:  See Swine Flu Hoax Exposed:
The majority of the world's population refuses to take the swine flu vaccine. The climategate scandal and hacked emails proving that climate change is a hoax and the realization that those in power are totally corrupt and tyrannical has led to the massive awakening throughout the planet that has the scumbag elite shaking in their boots. People all over the world are shattering the left/right paradigm and realizing that both parties are controlled by the same corporate interests and the same global elite who have the objective for a totalitarian one world government. The people are waking up and reclaiming their individual sovereignty, freedom and taking back their own personal power refusing to sit idly by while their liberties are being stripped away day by day by those who consider us their slaves.

Examples from Earlier Times

From almost the beginning of the Republic a titanic struggle has been waged between those who wanted limited government and those who felt that government could make decisions for citizens better than the individuals could make for themselves.  The people thought that the words in the Constitution would protect them; but history shows that eternal vigilance, not words on paper, is the price of liberty.  Here are just two historical examples of significant power grabs in an emergency.

The Tonkin Gulf Resolution

The Congressional Resolution that effectively enabled Lyndon Johnson to undertake a war in Vietnam, was justified by the attack by 4 North Vietnamese patrol boats on a U.S. destroyer, which was damaged  by "a single 14.5-millimeter machine gun bullet."  No Declaration of War, as required by the Constitution, was ever passed by the Congress.  Ultimately, over 58,000 American troops died in the conflict, which ended with the total withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam.

FDR's Confiscation of Gold from All U.S. Citizens

From Confiscation and The Gold Clause:
"Even knowing that it actually happened, it still is almost unthinkable that the United States government would nationalize the personal assets of its citizens, give paper in exchange at 60% of the value of the assets - and book a profit. The public begrudgingly recognizes that the government can take private property as long as the taking is accomplished by due process (such as an eminent domain proceeding) and the owner receives just compensation. However, we expect those cases to be relatively isolated and infrequent. In 1933, the U.S. government devalued the dollar by 40% in less than eight months, but not before it ordered a docile population to exchange their gold for paper and banned gold ownership and transactions in gold to keep citizens from escaping the devaluation. The combined actions operated as a confiscation of the property of every citizen, all at once, with no compensation."
Apparently working behind the scenes with the Fed, knowing that he could very quickly secure the legal support from the Democrat Congress, he declared a bank holiday on March 6, 1933, two days after his inauguration. (Proclamation No. 2039). Three days later, without seeing the bill and with only 38 minutes of debate, Congress ratified the new President's Proclamation in the Emergency Banking Act, 48 Stat. 1, and amended section 5(b) of the Trading with the Enemy Act to read as follows:
(b) During time of war or during any other period of national emergency declared by the President, the President may, through any agency that he may designate, or otherwise investigate, regulate, or prohibit, under such rules and regulations as he may prescribe, by means of licenses or otherwise, any transactions in foreign exchange, transfers of credit between or payments by banking institutions as defined by the President, and export, hoarding, melting, or earmarking of gold, or silver coin or bullion or currency, by any person within the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof; and the President may require any person engaged in any transaction referred to in this subdivision to furnish under oath, complete information relative thereto, including the production of any books of account, contracts, letters or other papers, in connection therewith in the custody of or control of such person, either before or after such transaction is completed. Whoever willfully violates any of the provisions of this subdivision or of any license, order, rule or regulation thereunder, shall, upon conviction, be fined not more than $10,000, or, if a natural person, may be imprisoned for not more than ten years, or both; and any officer, director, or agent of any corporation who knowingly participates in such violation may be punished by a like fine, imprisonment, or both. As used in this subdivision the term 'person' means an individual, partnership, association, or corporation. [Emphasis added.]
Thus, what was solely a wartime measure that many believed had expired was converted into a statute granting war time powers to the President in times of "national emergency," a term which was not defined in the law (and which, if such an emergency existed in 1933, itself had been precipitated by government mismanagement). This law identified a new "enemy" - domestic "hoarders" who would be subject to imprisonment for violating any rule laid down by the President at any future time during a period of national emergency declared by him based on undefined criteria. Professor Henry Mark Holzer's monograph "How Americans Lost Their Right To Own Gold And Became Criminals in the Process" catalogues the events of 1933, and more.
Since Thomas Jefferson first lost the debate with Alexander Hamilton over the use of the Necessary and Proper clause, it seems that, to a greater or lesser degree, there has been an unrelenting trend toward more government.  It did not start with Bush or Obama.  And it will not end without changing the prevailing attitudes of the voters who accept the role that the government has taken in our lives and the futility of changing that role.   To do nothing is to join them.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Debating Charles Manson

Leigh Scott opines that Debating Leftists is Like Debating Charles Manson.  His point is that they are so disconnected from reality that rational people cannot engage them in meaningful discussion or debate:
For an actual debate, two things are needed.  One, there must be a logical and factual distinction between two separate positions.  Two, there must be equally matched participants, each one prepared and versed enough to intelligently present their side of the issue.
We don’t have that.  We have one group of people who live in a fantasy world, full of twisted facts, backwards logic and wishful thinking.  You can’t debate that. There is no factual, honest, or logical way to support their positions.  It’s like arguing the best way to take a cross-country trip with a delusional Dungeons and Dragons geek.   You want to reroute to avoid traffic on the I-10.  He wants to  “avoid the realm of the Bugbears.”
The other side of the “debate” isn’t operating in the same reality.  They do not operate in reality at all.
You should read the entire post.

Now you know why this blog is devoted to evaluating history, philosophy and economics as part of reality. Otherwise, there is nothing worthwhile to say.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Murkey Deception by Paulson and Bernanke Revisited

Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (the "SIGTARP") issued an audit report Monday, Emergency Capital Injections Provided to Support the Viability of Bank of America, Other Major Banks, and the U.S. Financial System, October 5, 2009
in which, according to CNN Money, the SIGTARP said that "officials painted an overly rosy picture, creating 'unrealistic expectations' when they called the first bailout banks 'healthy' institutions that would be able to lend more with government help."

What an understatement. As I discussed earlier, Bernanke and Paulson intentionally mislead the American Public regarding the true financial conditions of the banks, preferring to shore up a failed system rather than allow banks to come clean about the nature of their assets and allow individuals to protect themselves.  They are criminals who strong-armed and colluded with banks to conceal the truth in violation of the securities laws.  Now, adding insult to injury, the Fed continues to fight a court disclosure order, with the "You can't handle the truth!" argument.

The SIGTARP Report concludes with the following statement:
It is apparent …  that senior government officials had affirmative concerns, at the time the nine institutions were selected, about the health of at least some of those institutions: the Federal Reserve had concerns over the financial condition of several of these institutions individually and for all of them collectively absent some governmental action; and former Secretary Paulson noted concern about the potential of an outright failure of one of the institutions.  In addition to the basic transparency concern that this inconsistency raises, by stating expressly that the ”healthy” institutions would be able to increase overall lending, Treasury may have created unrealistic expectations about the institutions’ condition and their ability to increase lending.  Treasury and the TARP program lost credibility when lending at those institutions did not in fact increase and when subsequent events – the further assistance needed by Citigroup and Bank of America being the most significant examples – demonstrated that at least some of those institutions were not in fact healthy. [In other words, they lied.]

It is not our intent to suggest that Government officials should make public their concerns over the financial health of individual institutions, but rather that government officials  should be particularly careful, even in a time of crisis, of describing their actions (and the rationales for such actions) in an inaccurate manner.  [I.e., they should not lie.] Ultimately, the lesson is straightforward: accuracy and transparency will enhance the credibility of government programs like TARP and restore taxpayer confidence in the policy makers who manage them;  inaccurate statements, on the other hand, could have unintended long-term consequences that could damage the trust that the American people have in their government.” [I.e, don't lie; it's stupid.]
Barofsky is wise beyond his years. 

In a former life, I had occasion to study the methods of the investigators and prosecutors of white collar crimes.  One technique was going after "the highest indictable officer."  They would chase the evidence up the chain of command, giving immunity to lesser employees in return for their testimony until they reached the culpable individual in the highest position; and that's who they would charge with the crime.  Barofsky is a ninny if he pulls his punches and does not seek indictments of Paulson and Bernanke.  Hey, they are Republicans after all.

Barofsky seems to be doing a yeoman's job ferreting out the fraud being perpetrated on the public.  Do follow his progress.  Other inspectors general have been fired for doing their job.  If that happens to Barofsky, you will know, for sure, that - Republican and Democrat - your government is corrupt to the core; and you should run for cover and protect your own.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Defense of Glenn Beck

Jonah Goldberg written and editorial in USA Today: In Defense of Glenn Beck.  Even if you haven't experienced Glenn Beck, Goldberg's view about the lack of good humor on the left is worthy of consideration.  Beck presents important public issues from a mostly libertarian perspective at a level that most folks can appreciate.  And he is entertaining.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Paying for Your Own Propaganda

What with political correctness and speech codes on campus, legislative and regulatory moves to shut down talk radio, introduction of vague legislation to control speech on the internet, suppressing information about Wall Street bailouts, and attempts to ram through legislation before it can be read much less studied, it is clear that the left and people running the government have no respect whatsoever for the First Amendment.  The latest assault is the Administration's attempt to use taxpayer dollars for partisan political gain by propagandizing the sheeple.  See

No matter how distasteful it is to put up with people whose opinions are offensive, you need to defend their right to express them because by doing so you are protecting your own right to speak out.  The other side of this coin is your right not to be taxed (coerced) to subsidize the political speech of those who are out to shut you down.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tax and Spend

Despite the Bush Administration's profligate spending, the Democrats have now rehabilitated their traditional role as the party of Tax and Spend.  Their bailouts of Wall Street dwarfed those of the Bush Administration (which were supported by a Democrat Congress).  The so-called reform of the health care system will impose huge taxes on anyone with income marginally capable of coming up with the cash and heap huge unfunded financial burdens on States that are already bankrupt, causing more taxes from governments that can't print money.  Any doctor who accepts Medicare or Medicaid will see his already inadequate income from these sources nosedive, yet another tax.  And now, according to Democrat Senator Ben Cardin from Maryland, the Democrats will pass cap and trade, "the most significant revenue-generating proposal of our time,"  No wonder it's called "Cap and Tax."  Oops, I forgot newspeak.  Freedom is Slavery.  War is Peace.  And it's not a tax.  Taxes are voluntary.

[Update 10/5/09] Senator Boxer says that , cap and trade will create jobs by creating an entirely new industry.   She is unquestionably correct: full employment for pseudo scientists, bureaucrats, and eco-freaks and their ilk whose strange religion casts mankind and his reason as the evil destroyer of morally superior plants and fish.  Of course, we know who will profit.

Congress Has Their Own Health Care

ABC News has published an expose on Special Health Care for Congress, detailing the health care perks for the lawmakers. (Hat tip to Robert Bidinotto.)  This information probably will not set well with the public.

In fairness, there is some validity to the idea that special care should be taken to assure the good health of Congresspeople.  But when those Congresspeople then presume to pass laws that are intended to keep you from securing similar care for yourself, it is outrageous.

When many of the tyrannies we see around us are totalitarian governments run by single dictators, it is easy to forget that the population can be oppressed by any form of government.  Athens, a democracy, deteriorated into tyranny by the majority.  The French revolution resulted in a republican form of government that tyrannized the population with purges.  Our founders crafted a unique republican form of government that they attempted to preclude from tyranny by limiting its functions to avoid the scope of damage it could do to the people.  But, as Ron Paul notes,  it ultimately is the responsibility of the people to protect themselves and preserve the original intent of the founders:
Mr. Franklin in his plea to those attending the Convention also issued a warning which we have not heeded. A Constitution is only as good as the people who administer it. If the people become corrupted, the government will become corrupted, and the Constitution will become a worthless piece of paper. The wisdom and integrity of the governors of the Constitution are the strength that makes the document so powerful. The American people have failed to take note of Benjamin Franklin’s warning.
Have a majority been so dumbed down by a government education system designed to produce a nation of sheep, so ignorant of the principles on which our freedoms are based, and so misled by corrupt politicians and their surrogates, that they have been rendered incapable of defending their own liberties?  Will the great American experiment implode suddenly like the Soviet Union?  Or will it just slowly slide into historical oblivion as a temporary anomaly, with neither a bang nor a whimper?

It will take more than you and me to change the trend.  So if you care, you need to persuade others to get politically involved and work to limit government to the defense of our individual liberties, not to curtail them.