Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cartoon Compilation

A friend of mine sent me these by e-mail. Had to find it in the intertubes so I could link it here. Headline/Subject line is The Political Cartoonists Have Finally Awakened. I thought maybe they had, or that they had their own Journ-O-list and had decided privately to all attack Obama. Then I found the same heading from a mid-2009 compilation. And in fact all of these are labeled '2009'. So they haven't awakened, at least not recently. Still funny though. My favorites are these:

Apologies if you've already seen this months ago.

Cass Sunstein Wants You Gagged

This is Cass Sunstein, our President's Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. That office "oversees the implementation of government-wide policies in the areas of information technology, information policy, privacy, and statistical policy." This is someone you need to pay attention to. He's also an alleged constitutional scholar and professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Harvard Law School (yet another reason universities should be cut off from federal funding and federally guaranteed student loans).

According to Wikipedia:
In his book Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech Sunstein says there is a need to reformulate First Amendment law. He thinks that the current formulation, based on Justice Holmes' conception of free speech as a marketplace “disserves the aspirations of those who wrote America’s founding document.”[14] The purpose of this reformulation would be to “reinvigorate processes of democratic deliberation, by ensuring greater attention to public issues and greater diversity of views.”[15] He is concerned by the present “situation in which like-minded people speak or listen mostly to one another,”[16] and thinks that in “light of astonishing economic and technological changes, we must doubt whether, as interpreted, the constitutional guarantee of free speech is adequately serving democratic goals.”[17] He proposes a “New Deal for speech [that] would draw on Justice Brandeis' insistence on the role of free speech in promoting political deliberation and citizenship.”[15]
If the intention of that is unclear, he clarifies the application and the motives in this clip (from Feb 2001):



From the audio:
Cass Sunstein: ...sites of one point of view agree to provide links to other sites. So that if you're reading a conservative magazine they would provide a link to a liberal site. And vice versa. Just to make it easy for people to get access to competing views. Or maybe a pop-up on your screen that would show an advertisement or maybe even a quick argument for a competing view. If we could get voluntary arrangements in that direction it would be great. And if we can't get voluntary arrangements, maybe congress should hold hearings about mandates.
The interviewer then asks why she should have to provide space for opposing views, what would constitute an opposing view and if she writes an article about loving one another does she have to link the KKK. All good questions. Sunstein then blathers for a bit about an asinine mechanism and surprisingly gets back on topic:
Cass Sunstein: The best would be for this to be done voluntarily. But the word 'voluntary' is a little complicated and sometimes people don't do what's best for our society unless congress holds hearings or unless the public demands it and the idea would be to have a legal mandate as the last resort and to make sure its as neutral as possible if we have to get there but to have that as an ultimate weapon designed to encourage people to do better.
Looks to me like Sunstein went 'off script' here. He should have confused not clarified. He should have kept the practice unconnected to principles. He should have reassured us about his intentions instead of bearing them for the world to see. What he's after is power. When someone says "'voluntary' is complicated", you can guess what their response will be if you refuse to comply. It sounds like a line from a gangster in a B movie, but its coming from a university professor and presidential adviser.

Sunstein wants you to provide counter arguments to your own positions, on your own blogs and articles, by your own effort, arguments that you probably disagree with vehemently and think are shite. If you don't, he'll force you to do it or presumably shut you down. Why? Because you only have a right to free speech if what you say is for the common good. And Cass and his buddies will be the judge of that.

The insanity of this is amazing. I queried the local blogs on blogspot the other day. Turns out there are 500+ blogspot bloggers in Encinitas alone. What will be the size of the agency that reads all the blogs in the U.S. and insures that opposing views are linked? And how exactly will they decide whether a viewpoint is sufficiently opposite. The non-objectivity of this suggestion is breathtaking. In practice it'd be the administration targeting and shutting down blogs that are critical of them.

Which illustrates another point. Non-objective standards ('the common good' 'opposite views') work to the benefit of the corrupt and evil. Power lusters can twist those undefined terms to whatever ends they desire and no one can say they're wrong. Because they aren't! There is no right and wrong if you start with undefined terms like 'the common good' or 'best for society'. All of the worst dictators in history have been spokesmen of 'the common good'. Whose to say that Cass Sunstein is wrong about the common good? No one can. Those that support the non-objective are after unconstrained power or asking to be enslaved by that power.

Years later, after extensive scrutiny, Sunstein got back on script conceding his idea was 'bad'. Something that it would take the rest of us 5 minutes to figure out. But he never repudiated the 'best for society' principle that spawned his 'pop-ups with opposing views' proposal.

Here's another quotation from Sunstein's Wiki entry:
Sunstein co-authored a 2008 paper with Adrian Vermeule, titled "Conspiracy Theories," in which they wrote, "The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be." They go on to propose that, "the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups",[22] where they suggest, among other tactics, "Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action."[22]
Get that? He suggests that your tax dollars be used to employ government agents to come on your blogs and troll. To guard against undefined "extremism". Guess who decides what's extreme? And why should the government be interested at all in conspiracy theorists? The role of government is to respond to acts or threats of physical violence or fraud. Conspiracy theorists have a right to be as nutty as they like until they start planning violence. (The real target isn't conspiracy theorists anyway, its Tea Partiers.) Sure the FBI should monitor, but for them to participate, dissuade, troll, is something out of Communist Russia or China.

If you're a blogger or a social networker, share some of this information. Expose Sunstein and the free-speech-only-for-socially-useful-ideas crowd. This guy and this administration are after you and want to shackle your mind.

(HT Ilyn Ross and Robert Reed Daly)

Blogs discussing other aspects of Sunstein's views:
Death By 1000 Papercuts
Liberty Juice
Conservative Daily News
Ed Cline

According to Open Congress, these are the Republicans that voted FOR Cass Sunstein:
Sen. Robert Bennett [R, UT]
Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME]
Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT]
Sen. Richard Lugar [R, IN]
Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME]
Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH]
(Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT])

Most Democrats voted FOR, discrediting the idea that liberals are for free speech.

Here are the (brave?) Democrats that voted AGAINST:
Sen. Mark Begich [D, AK]
Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR]
Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE]
Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR]
Sen. Jim Webb [D, VA]
(Sen. Bernard Sanders [I, VT])

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Draw Your Battle Lines

THE issue in politics is freedom vs. statism. By 'freedom' I don't mean that undefined state of magical bliss promoted by marxist professors. Freedom is the absence of physical coercion. A government that protects freedom, protects its citizens from attacks by their neighbors and protects them from the government itself. This last was the beauty of the United States Constitution. Our founders recognized the principal threat to freedom is not fellow citizens but the institution that has a monopoly on physical force, the government. Our founders subordinated the government to strict limits, granting it no powers other than what could be legitimately delegated by citizens, i.e. the right to defend themselves from aggression. All other powers were forbidden the federal government (and should have been forbidden state governments).

The protection of freedom rests on individualism and, at least implicitly, on a morality of rational self-interest. It rests on the idea that individuals are sovereign, that they are capable of making their own decisions, that they are capable of supporting their own lives. It also rests on the premise that it is right for individuals to pursue their own happiness and that coercion is antithetical to the interests of both victim and aggressor.

Statism is the idea that the government is sovereign and the individual subordinate, that the state has unlimited powers and that citizens have only those privileges granted to them, that the state exists by right and individuals by permission. Statism comes in many forms: communism, socialism, nationalism, fascism, monarchy, (pure) democracy, theocracy. Even anarchism is a form of statism since its logical consequence is unlimited rule by local thugs.

Freedom versus statism is life versus death. It is the difference between being left to live your life and having a 'boot on your neck.' It is a wide open vista and freedom to act in collaboration with willing and happy neighbors versus having a gun pointed at your head. Freedom versus statism illuminates every social topic: history (statist countries are aggressive and poor, free countries are peaceful and rich), economics (command economies distort and fail, capitalist economies function and thrive), politics, science/literature/arts (free countries allow free inquiry, statist countries control, distort and destroy free thinking).

The reason I bring this up is that there's a lot of confusion in the press and blogosphere regarding current politics and the Tea Party movement.

Statism in the U.S. has been expanding without reversal since the early 20th century. FDR is the prime villain, but he was anticipated by Hoover, The Federal Reserve and Sherman Anti-Trust. His program was expanded by Johnson, Kennedy, G.W. Bush and left fundamentally untouched by every Republican president and congress. The Tea Party is a rebellion against this relentless statist march. Disaffection with Bush exploded after the (bipartisan) bank bailouts and continues to intensify in response to Obama's massive statist push. With the Tea Party we are reasserting our right to live free of government interference and government bailouts. We are rededicating ourselves to our constitutionally-limited, republican form of government. We are once again defending individualism and freedom against welfare and corporate statism.

To be sure there are other elements within the Tea Party, but the dominant theme is freedom vs. statism.

And yet it gets characterized from within and from without in other terms. These other descriptions fall in three categories:

The Dishonest

Poor vs. Rich -- This tired Marxist saw is pervasive in the mainstream media, but freedom is in the interest of rich and poor alike, especially the poor that want to become rich. Tea Party participation reflects this. The only element of truth here is the anger against banks, but that's not an anti-rich message, its anti-bailout and anti-government supports message.

White vs. Black -- "Racism" has to be the most ludicrous charge against a movement that's so much about individualism. Another dishonest tool of the discredited marxists that's been thoroughly exposed elsewhere.

Christian vs. Atheist -- Um no. The connection between either and any political system is so loose that this too is ludicrous. The Tea Party is not about returning to 'traditional [code for religious] values.' That was Bush's battlecry and got us nowhere.

Confused

Republican vs. Democrat, Conservative vs. Liberal, Right vs. Left -- The problem here is that while the Left, Liberalism and Democrats are fairly monolithic and all statists, their 'opposites' are an undefined mixture of various forms of statism and individualism. There are small government and big government Republicans, there are 'fiscal' conservatives concerned with economic freedom and 'social' conservatives concerned with imposing traditional values. As I've said, I believe disaffection with big government Republicans started the whole Tea Party movement.

Intelligentsia or Elites vs. 'The People' -- Rush Limbaugh loves bashing people that 'think they know everything', experts, elites, snobs, etc. Certainly most politicians 'think they know better' than us, but that's not the problem. The problem is the idea that one person has the right to think or decide for another and impose that decision on him (statism). Intelligence is not a threat and the Tea Party has plenty of it. Nor is unlimited majority rule by 'the people' desirable.

Grass-Roots vs. Organized, Anti-establishment vs. Establishment -- Given the track record of our institutions, we have reason to be wary, but organizations and individuals should be judged on their positions, on whether they support freedom or statism. There are (deservedly) some decent established, well-organized participants in the Tea Party.

Near Misses

Incumbent vs. Non-incumbent -- Statism and pragmatism are so widespread in politics that you almost can't go wrong by kicking out the incumbents, but hopefully we will get to a position soon where some of the incumbents are worth keeping.


The problem with these other descriptions, however well-meaning, is that they end up defining the allies and enemies by non-essentials. If you don't identify the essential, critical, defining issue, you end up (at least at the margins) allying yourself with enemies and ignoring or discarding allies. The battle line is between freedom and statism. Its a bit blurry and deserves restatement. Only by keeping that line clear can we avoid shooting our allies and harboring our enemies.

As Ayn Rand wrote in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (almost in answer to Alinsky's dishonest tactics):
When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

Oceanside Tea party 10-10-10

I'll be here:




Wearing this:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review: Give Us Liberty by Dick Armey & Matt Kibbe

After reading Dick Morris' Catastrophe, I was wary of another mainstream politician's take on the Tea Party and Obama. (Morris, despite his popularity on the Right, is a progressive. In Catastrophe he bashes "ideology", "insatiable greed", the rich, business, deregulation, equates union tactics with employers' and praises FDR among others.)

Armey's Give us Liberty surprised me. He makes a principled, consistent case for limited (secular) government. His impressions of the origins of the Tea Party and its meaning make sense. And his Austrian economics understanding of the housing and financial crises is right on.

He starts out by describing the grass roots opposition to the Bush-Obama bailouts and the Santelli rant, then describes the original Tea Party and some of its parallels/lessons. He then enumerates what he believes are the Tea Party principles (section headings):
1. The Constitution is the Blueprint of Good Government
2. In a Free Society, Actions Should Have Consequences
3. The Federal Government is Addicted to Spending
4. Our Bloated Bureaucracy is Too Big to Succeed
He spells out each of these in the book. He then goes on to describe the backlash against the Tea Party by the mainstream media, liberals and some conservatives and closes with descriptions of a few of the Tea Party's principle successes.

My two favorite aspects of the book are first that he takes the big government conservatives (e.g. G.W. Bush) and the neoconservatives (David Brooks and David Frum) to task. He points out for example the conservative organizations (Americans For Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation) and politicians (McCain, Bush) that supported the bailouts. And he quotes the neoconservative opposition to the Tea Party. E.g. David Brooks:
There is an argument floating around Republican circles that in order to win again, the GOP has to reconnect with the truths of its Goldwater-Reagan glory days. It has to once again be the minimal-government party, the maximal-freedom party, the party of rugged individualism and states' rights. This is folly.
This opposition to the Tea Party within conservatism deserves more attention, because it is the key to why Republicans have been supporting government growth since Hoover.

The second aspect I greatly appreciate is the lack of religiosity. The "Creator" is mentioned once in a paraphrase of the Declaration of Independence and never again. Armey does not address the role of religion in government or the Tea Party, but by leaving it out he effectively sanctions a secular movement, a separation of religion and politics. Though there is more religiosity in the Tea Party and Tea Party discussions than this stance lets on, I think that Armey's leaving it out is truer to the grass-roots revolt against Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' and big government policies.

Give Us Liberty is filled with good stories, reminiscences and has an excellent narrative covering most of the Tea Party's origins, opposition and initial successes. It perhaps exaggerates the role of FreedomWorks, but it is from within FreedomWorks that Armey was connected to the movement. I only raised my eyebrows once, when he called Schumpeter an Austrian economist. Otherwise I enjoyed the entire read and recommend it for anyone interested in the Tea Party, politics or history.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The GOP Pleads to America: We're Listening!

The GOP Pledge to America is a mixed appeal to constitutionalism, religious conservatism, democracy and statism. The message I hear is "please don't cast us off, we're listening!"

In general its a pledge to reverse the worse policies of Obama, to repeal Obamacare, to end TARP, to roll back spending to pre-bailout levels. Its hopelessly confused as to why though. It alternately cites 'the will of the people', religious principles, the constitution, and leaves unchallenged the altruistic premise of the nanny state.

Remember that the United States was not founded as a democracy, but as a constitutionally limited republic. The role of the constitution was to severely confine the government to one role: defending and protecting citizens from physical coercion. The citizenry's freedom of action was everything else, everything that was not an initiation of force. In a pure democracy, the majority rules and can do what it will with the minority. Democracy in the basic structure and laws of a country (vs. a mechanism of electing officials who govern under the restrictions of a constitution) is antithetical to freedom. And yet freedom has been edged out by 'democracy' in political speeches. So it is with the Pledge to America. We learn that
an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people

and that
An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.
The rest of the document is peppered with references to the 'will of the people', listening to the people, the 'hands of the people', American being a beacon of 'democracy'. At one point it promises a
prolonged campaign to transfer power back to the people and ensure they have a say in what goes on in the Congress.
The Agenda even appeals to that non-objective destroyer of individual rights 'the common good' on several occasions.

You get the sense that besides not understanding our constitutional republic, undermining it with leftist principles like 'democracy' and 'common good', the GOP is really begging to tea partiers and disaffected Republicans. The GOP is saying, 'we screwed up, but we're listening now.' Paul Ryan, one of the authors, confirmed as much on the radio today.

The GOP might be listening, but they clearly can't make sense of what they're hearing. There have been Tea Party protest signs that say 'can you hear us now?' But the Tea Party is not a bunch of brats wanting to be 'heard', wanting some kind of kindergarden democracy. Most in the Tea Party want the state to get out of their lives, so they can go back to living. They don't want to be heard, they want to be ignored, ignored by the state, ignored in the sense of the government not looking over their shoulder, picking their pockets, telling them every hour what they can and can't do.

The second main thread in the Agenda is the religious. Its most distasteful aspects are muted, but they are there. From the intro:
We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.
I take honoring traditional marriage to mean outlawing gay marriage. Honoring 'life' must be new code for banning abortions. Apparently all that listening, hasn't clued the GOP into the fact that freedom loving, secular Americans rejected the social conservative agenda. We don't want religion in government. At all.

The third thread is the appeal to constitutional principles. The references aren't quite as numerous as the 'will of the people' references. I won't list them here because they are completely negated by the support the Agenda gives to the welfare and regulatory state. It pledges to repeat the same mistake the last half dozen Republican presidents have made, i.e. leave the welfare state alone. It pledges to remove some of the most recent expansions (Obama's) but wants to leave all the rest intact.
we will reform the budget process to ensure that Congress begins making the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations.
Get that? The GOP, riding the most revolutionary wave of support for limited government since the original revolution propose to "protect our entitlement programs". It flies in the face of a Jefferson quote IN THE AGENDA
“A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.” – Thomas Jefferson

In case you think "protect entitlement" is a misprint its repeated later on:
We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs for today’s seniors and future generations.
Its not talking about phasing out here. It says 'future generations.'

And that's not all for entitlements. Even though the agenda proposes to repeal Obamacare, it seeks to 'Ensure Access For Patents With Pre-Existing Conditions' making it 'illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone...on the basis of a pre-existing condition.' This is one of the worst elements of Obamacare that is already causing insurance companies to raise rates.

You can guess the rest. There's lots of discussion about halting new regulation, but no discussion of eliminating existing regulations, or god-forbid, abolishing entire agencies. It promises to slow down new spending, but not eliminate long-term spending. It promises to repeal Obamacare, but wants to replace it, no doubt with a less worse version. It proposes to end the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and shrink their portfolio and establish capital standards. No mention of privitization or eliminating government guarantees.

All in all, the agenda proposes to roll-back Obama's policies. People are in a revolutionary mood, talking about abolishing the regulatory state, abolishing entitlements, going back to constitutional principles, and the best the GOP can come up with is "lets roll the clock back 2 years." Pathetic. Not surprising given they don't know whether they want the constitution, democracy, theocracy or a welfare state. How about we embrace capitalism, rational self-interest and repeal the 20th century, all the way back to FDR, with the Fed, income tax and Sherman Anti-Trust thrown in? Now that would be an agenda!

Update 9/26/10: added paragraph on pre-existing conditions.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The War on Free Speech

Its hard to keep tabs on all the fronts in the modern war against free speech so I'll focus on just a few.

Legal Attacks on Free Speech

One front is the legal/academic attack, which amounts to "the rich have no rights". The premise is egalitarianism. Since the rich have more resources to exercise their rights, the egalitarians attempt to confiscate their resources and simultaneously limit their rights. In the case of speech, the purchase of airtime by corporations allegedly 'drowns out' those that can't afford the airtime (i.e. Democrats). Thats not FAIR!

The Supreme Court affirmed the right of a group of individuals (a corporation) to free speech when it struck down McCain-Feingold (the Citizens United case). Since then progressives have been scrambling to muzzle corporations and organizations once again. Well, except for unions, environmental groups and the bought off NRA. And they'd like to do it in time for the 2010 elections. So they've been trying to pass the DISCLOSE act, requiring extensive FEC filings by advertisers, prohibiting advertising by 20% foreign owned entities and requiring disclosure of the top 5 contributors to the organization within the advertisement.

Supporters have been pushing the 'fairness' and 'transparency' angles. Coming from the same people that made the SEC immune to Freedom of Information Act requests, gutted Ron Paul's Fed audit, and have been involved in numerous behind the scenes sleazy deals, this later appeal to 'transparency' is laughable. Their attitude seems to be that citizens have no right to privacy and the government has unlimited right to secrecy.

The practical consequences of the DISCLOSE act will be the elimination of short ads, the silencing of individuals and companies vulnerable to counterattack (see below), and in general an even further dumbing down and sterilization of campaign ads. The morality of the DISCLOSE act is atrocious. It amounts to: in order to speak, you have to show your ID and file some paperwork (exposing yourself to whatever smear campaign the administration or the journolists decide to wage). Its a blatant attack on free speech and an attempt to silence opposition, especially the tea party. If it passes everyone knows it'll be used to silence not just corporations, but any freedom-loving American that attempts to stop Obama's march towards totalitarianism. Lets all hope it fails.

Officials Attack Speakers

A second front is the bullying the Obama administration is using against opponents speaking out against its policies. These are direct assaults on named individuals or corporations that have the gall to make statements embarrasing to the administration. This kind of thing has undoubtedly being going on for decades behind closed doors and partially explains the reluctance of corporations to take controversial stands. Government officials have a maze of non-objective laws they can use to shut down any dissenters. But the bullying is so blatant and out in the open now, its breathtaking.

When several insurance companies announced rate hikes in response to the passage of Obamacare, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius warned them that she had zero tolerance for the spreading of such 'misinformation'. She further warned that they could be banned from government run health exchanges. More recently an anonymous white house official implied that the Koch brothers, reluctantly well-known supporters of conservative causes, are tax cheats. The lesson is clear, 'get on message or prepare to be crushed by Big Brother.' This is the inevitable result of the massive growth of government, its intrusion in all aspects of our lives and the pretense that politicians 'wouldn't dare' use all the power the laws give them. They will and that makes you a target should you speak out of turn.

Declaring Open Season on Speakers

The third front is the failure to protect free speech against Islamist threats of violence. The government has made clear, starting with its timid response to the fatwa on Salman Rushie's life, that they will not protect free speech if it offends muslims. When Terry Jones threatened to burn the Koran, they cajoled and likely intimidated him into stepping down, rather than protecting his American right to free speech. Molly Norris' protest against religious intolerance (Draw Mohammed Day) went viral and now she's in hiding. U.S. law enforcement had little interest in tracking down her tormentors or protecting her.

When the government or police openly declares its unwillingness to protect some class of citizens or type of speech it amounts to censorship as well. Individuals delegate their right to self-defense to the government to be administered under objective law. The government in turn forbids individuals from acting in their own defense in most instances. For the government to disarm citizens in this manner and then invite any thug to attack them for 'insults', amounts to government censorship of those insults.

Let us be clear. If a person insults another (in fact or in merely by 'perception'), and they take offense, it is no matter for the government. Noone has initiated force or violated rights. The insulted can respond in kind, ignore the insult, call for a boycott, etc. And it is still not a matter for the government. If however he decides to respond with violence (or threats thereof), he is the initiator of force, putting himself outside the realm of the civilized, and the government should respond swiftly and overwhelmingly against him to protect the victim. The violence is in no way the product of the insult, it is the product of a brutes premise that words should be answered with fists.

With regard to Islam we are fast approaching a situation where noone can say anything critical, no matter how true, of Islam without being threatened or attacked. And the U.S. government will do little to protect this kind of speech. Just yesterday there was a story about the Texas State Board of Education reconsidering the pro-Islam slant in its textbooks. The board's only muslim member said “It will make national and international news. It’s just not good. The board will have to be very, very careful in recognizing that we are throwing gasoline on the fire.” Looks like he learned the lesson of Rauf and Terry Jones well. If you don't get your way, make a veiled threat, the government won't do anything to protect your victims.

There are other fronts in this war against free speech, Net Neutrality being another assault, but I'll leave those discussions for another time.

Be careful. Guard your freedoms. Call your congressmen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wall Street to America: "Thanks for the bailout, now Suck it up!"


Amazing. The vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charles Munger last week praised the bank bailouts ("you shouldn’t be bitching about a little bailout") and in the same talk told the rest of America to "Suck it in and cope."

The stock market is a wonderful thing. It is the place where people who have accumulated wealth go to invest it in those companies they believe are healthy and have a future. It has a well-earned central place in capitalism. The stock market traders and analysts, the companies that manage the transactions and the derivatives industry all perform functions valuable to capitalism. Ultimately they get payed to channel money to the best companies and siphon credit from bad companies.

Thanks to government intervention, the modern stock market is losing all resemblance to what it should be. Credit itself is a plaything of the Federal Reserve, arbitrarily setting interest rates in its pretense of stabilization. Massive regulations serve both to distort the flow of money, keep out newcomers and as a stick to threaten the unpopular. Oversight bodies give the illusion of safety, blinding participants to risk, and do little to stop actual fraud and abuse. The Too Big to Fail premise has made taxpayers ultimately responsible for insane financial policies. Government backing of mortgage securities created the secondary market for mortgages and then fostered the housing bubble AND the derivatives bubble build on those securities. Favorable tax treatment of 401k investments has put trillions of dollars into the stock market from amateurs with no time or interest to maintain accountability.

I've read, from Michael Lewis I believe, that banking used to be a boring industry. No longer. There are smart people in wall street and they are making a lot of money, but I suspect that much of modern wall street is a mirage of productivity created by the federal government at the expense of the rest of the rest of the world. What has it wrought recently? Stock market bubble, collapse and bailout, housing bubble, collapse and bailout, tech bubble and collapse.

Insofar as all of these disasters were ultimately caused by government policy, its not the fault of the smart people. But they are complicit insofar as they support the government policies that redirect money into their pockets. Like when the bankers support bailouts for AIG or when the bond funds support bailouts of Fannie Mae. As soon as they start advocating for the government interference, they declare themselves willing parasites on everyone else.

And that's what Munger has done. He says in effect 'bailouts are good for me, but not for thee.' He tries to argue that we should all be thankful. That without the bailouts we'd be worse off and perhaps even in the hands of a new dictator.

Would the crisis have been bigger without the bailouts? Undoubtedly, but better to have had it over with than deal with the next much worse crisis the politicians and bankers are engineering for us now. And better that the risk takers (the investors, homeowners, bankers) suffer the largest loses, rather than the American taxpayer.

Would a larger crisis lead to political turmoil, a dictatorship? Turmoil yes, but the Tea Party movement has shown that Americans were more likely to turn to freedom and the constitution at that point, than dictatorship. Perhaps a bit of turmoil would have been good, instead of simply lining the pockets of the bankers, keeping the same politicians in power, making the too big to fail, bigger, increasing the scope of all the discredited regulatory agencies, etc. etc.

And seriously, Munger trying to scare us with the threat of fascism? What kind of system does he think he's supporting? Fascism is a statist political system wherein industry is held 'privately' but entirely under the control of the government. In a fascist system, 'businessmen' become agents of the government, implementing its policies, filling its quotas and defending its role. Sound familiar? Fascism is communism for the rich, a system that imposes government control on all of industry (and life) but leaves the pre-fascist proprietors in their roles, ensconced and safe with nice big salaries. When Munger supports bailouts, he's supporting fascism. This is rich vs. poor class warfare. Despicable. The answer is a return to laissez-faire capitalism, under which Munger might or might not flourish, but if he did it certainly wouldn't be at our expense and if he didn't he wouldn't be getting bailouts from us.

(HT Mike Shedlock, whose analysis is worth reading. Karl Denninger's thoughts here.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Peggy Noonan on the Tea Party

Here is an excellent analysis on tea party motives by Peggy Noonan. It's titled Why It's Time for the Tea Party: The populist movement is more a critique of the GOP than a wing of it.
But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they're dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It's always grown! It's as if something inexorable in our political reality—with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy—has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches [the midpoint between leftist statism and freedom on a yardstick], and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point.
That inexorable something is the morality of altruism, which liberals embrace whole-heartedly and conservatives embrace guiltily. Stopping that inexorable something will take a moral revolution that sanctions the pursuit of happiness, i.e. a morality of rational self-interest.
The second thing is the clock. Here is a great virtue of the tea party: They know what time it is. It's getting late. If we don't get the size and cost of government in line now, we won't be able to. We're teetering on the brink of some vast, dark new world—states and cities on the brink of bankruptcy, the federal government too. The issue isn't "big spending" anymore. It's ruinous spending that they fear will end America as we know it, as they promised it to their children.
Exactly.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yaron Brook on Capitalism


I've been incredibly impressed by Yaron Brook's writing and appearances these last couple years. The following is so good, I'm just going to link all 8 parts. Its a speech he gave in Chicago recently defending the morality of capitalism. His explanations are clear, principled and supported with examples. He's also very natural in the Q&A and gives great answers.

Intro of part 1 is a bit long but you can skip forward to 6:50.















Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Undo Principle



This is a paraphrase and expansion of something Peter Schiff said in one of his podcasts. Schiff is a financial analyst, Austrian economist and predictor of the financial crisis we're living through. He recently ran for the Republican Senate nomination in Connecticut but lost to Linda McMahon. He is very critical of government intervention and ran on a platform of eliminating regulation, cutting spending and shrinking government. As he recounts, a skeptic said to him "you're against everything, but if you're elected what are you going to DO?" His response was that he wasn't planning to DO anything, he was planning to UNDO.

Its a mistake to expect the government to fix problems. The function of government is to protect us from aggression, foreign and domestic, not to provide us with jobs, healthcare, retirements, schools, etc. Every time politicians try to DO something, its a disaster.

The government (through the Federal Reserve) tried to DO something about credit in the 1910s and 1920s, the result was the roaring 20s, a property bubble, then the stock market collapse and the great depression. The government tried to DO something about housing and the result was first the destruction of the inner cities and then the housing crisis of 2006-7. The government tried to DO something about the bank failures and the result was an enormous spike in the deficit, banks still holding toxic assets and banks either not willing to lend or customers not willing to borrow. The government tried to DO something about oil drilling onshore and near shore and the result was massively limited oil exploration and an offshore disaster. The government tried to DO something about employment with minimum wage and collective bargaining laws and the result was chronic unemployment and the union salary/pension mess. The government tried to DO something about education, and the result was a public school system that doesn't educate, endangers children and is bankrupting cities and states. The government tried to DO something about healthcare and the result is costs rising in multiples of inflation and soon rationing. The government tried to DO something about retirements and the result is a nation of absentee investors whose trillions of 401k money is being pushed around the stock market without accountability. Do I need to go on?

Every time the government tries to DO something beyond protecting us from aggression, the result is disaster. Even if what its doing is provide a service that's desirable, the result is inefficiency, poor service, and suppression of private competition. The post office used to be the epitomy of inefficient, poor government service, but the public schools have far surpassed it in all measures.

What we need is more UNDOING. Financial crisis? UNDO the Federal Reserve, implicit government guarantees, regulation. Housing crisis? UNDO housing supports, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, FHA. Energy crisis? UNDO limitations on drilling, exploration and alternate energy sources like nuclear. Healthcare crisis? UNDO medical welfare and tax breaks that discourage individual coverage. Entitlement crisis? UNDO welfare programs and let private charitable organizations accountable to their donors take care of charity.

Government is not instituted to tax one class of citizens so that it can pay its own salaries and restrict the freedom of another class, or provide them with livelihoods. Its a triple abomination, stealing money to provide government jobs that shouldn't exist that are used to enslave through restrictions or dependency.

When the government stops playing nanny and trying to fix our problems and gets the hell out of the way, then the right people can start solving problems, the DOERS. Left free Americans have always shown tremendous energy, engenuity and productivity. They brought us cars and oil and computers. Free Americans can solve the rest of our problems as well (government created or not), and it probably wouldn't take very long either. And then perhaps congress, the president and the courts can mind their own business, which is to undo each others attempts to enslave the rest of us. (P.S. Republicans -- this doesn't mean REDOING or DOING 'BETTER' what the Democrats are trying to do.)

You know the expression, "something oughta be done." Lets change it to "something oughta be undone."

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Agenda for Freedom


Stopping illegal immigration, reducing taxes, restoring 'honor', term limits...these are the goals of conservative talk show hosts and Republicans. I won't go through why each is misguided or relatively unimportant. Let me instead indicate what I think is important:

1. Deregulation - because the government has no right to regulate voluntary trade among adults and because it'd be a no cost way of increasing freedom and prosperity. Pick an industry (energy, finance, farming, pharmaceuticals, medicine, etc.), start abolishing agencies and regulations, then watch it fluorish. This would have the added bonus of returning legislative power back to Congress (and away from presidential appointees).

2. Reduce Spending - I am not my brothers keeper. People need to support themselves or rely on their families or private charity. American's are generous and will be even more so when they're allowed to keep their own money. Start phasing out medicare, medicaid, social security, prescription drug coverage, etc.

3. Abolish 'Collective Bargaining' - unions have the power they do by virtue of laws protecting 'collective bargaining'. Its nothing less than extortion. Let employers fire union members en masse and the only unions that will survive will be those that recognize the harmony of interests between employer and employees.

4. Privatize Education - free minds are more important to long-term change than free markets. Give parents the responsibility and choice of how to educate their children. Perhaps start with vouchers or individual tax refunds to support choice among schools. Then completely privatize lower education. Also, abolish government grants to universities and government supported education loans. If a transition is necessary, give tax breaks to private industry for funding academic research. Get rid of teacher certification and all paperwork for homeschooling. A private system won't turn out the uneducated drones that our public system is turning out now.

5. End the Fed - government manipulation of the money supply supports the welfare state and bankster cronies. There's a reason people freely use gold as money and have to be forced to use paper. Cut it off at the source. Everyone's hollering for bank regulations, but there's a much better solution: Give them freedom! The freedom to fail, which the croniest of them will.

6. Tort Reform - liability law is a huge hindrance to free contract today. I don't know how a change would be effected, but the courts need to embrace once again the individuals right to agree to risk, sign a contract, and abide by it. Can this be done by wholesale reappointment of better judges, or does it trace back to the law schools? I don't know.

Those are the high points in my mind. Except for the tort reform, most of it amounts to undoing FDRs policies.

Please stop obsessing about the Bush tax cuts. Better to repeal the Bush spending increases first.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Too much religion in san diego tea parties


I was all excited about attending an East County Tea Party event next saturday and then I found this on the Santee - East County TEA Party message boards. The original post quotes some libertarian criticisms of Republicans, including a lot of stuff I agree with:
"Republican Newt Gingrich and the Contract with America promised to eliminate the Departments of Education and Energy. Yet once Republicans took control of Congress, they failed even to reduce the spending on those departments.

"Republican President George Bush, Sr. remains famous for coining the phrase 'Read my lips, no new taxes,' and then raising taxes.

"Republican President Ronald Reagan grew federal government spending to the highest level it had reached since World War II. He also 'saved Social Security' by raising payroll taxes.

"Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole was a huge supporter of taxpayer subsidies for corn and ethanol.

"In 1971, Republican President Richard Nixon instituted wage and price controls. That made a group of free-market supporters so angry that they decided to form the Libertarian Party.

"Republicans seem to think we're idiots. For decades they have paid lip-service to shrinking government, while consistently doing the opposite in office.

"Our fear is that Tea Partiers might say 'This time it will be different.' No it won't. If you vote for Republicans this time, it will just reinforce the message that they can lie to you and grow government with impunity.
Then the Organizer of that site (and the above event), instead of recognizing the problem or at least disagreeing with it and making an argument, responds with contentless sarcasm:
Wow, I love mindless propaganda! love struck

I can feel myself turning Libertarian already. Thanks Monica for showing us all how stupid and evil we are for not going with a party that has ZERO chance of being effective at anything
And before long another poster jumps in with this:
The men who founded America and the men who wrote the constitution were grounded in a Christian Faith. Who does the moral code come from? God, who created us in his image or created us with the ability to decide right from wrong, good from bad and free will to do so.

If there is no definitive right or wrong, how can there be any laws? Without any laws how can we govern ourselves. Since the 60s people have gotten away from a definitive right and wrong a definitive moral code. Now it's OK to pretty much do anything because we are not grounded in morals we are grounded in 'what feels right'. If it feels right, it must be OK. You cannot have a successful society where everyone lives by their own moral code, there must rules, there must be laws.

I found this disheartening because I had exactly the same argument on the San Diego TEA Party site. I think the whole thread is worth reading but it essentially came down again to an argument about god and morality:

You can not have a reformation without a foundation. The ideas that you have espoused are that of relativism. Relativism is the prescriptive or normative position that, as there is no universal moral standard by which to judge others, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards.
Robert Tracinski has written an excellent piece about limiting the goals of the tea party movement in order to maintain a workable coalition with religious republicans.
The key to the power of the Tea Party movement is the way it makes it possible for religious tea partiers and secular free-marketers, such as myself, to work together without having to compromise our principles. It allows us to work together precisely because we keep the movement focused on economic freedom and avoid the issues on which we disagree, leaving each of us free to be activists on those issues separately (and, sometimes, on opposite sides). So we are not asked to back a religious agenda in exchange for some promise that later on, they will back us on economic freedom
...
The moral crusade I'm focused on is: does the individual have a right to exist independent of the state--or all we all just faceless cogs of the all-powerful collective? That's a pretty darned big moral issue, and if you agree with us on that issue, then you should support the Tea Parties.

But honestly, if every time you criticize a Republican, God jumps into the discussion, how can you keep to those goals? Do you then betray your principles and back down, "oh well I guess Bush wasn't so bad." Or do you point out that we should keep religion out of it and focus on reducing the government? And if you do that, can you continue to criticize big government Republicans? Or will God just jump right back in?

I don't know. For now, I'm staying clear of the organizations that seem dominated by vocal religiosity. As that original poster pointed out, religious Republicans always grow the government.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11/2010


Leonard Peikoff's 2001 piece is my favorite of all the articles I've read on this September 11th.

Fifty years of increasing American appeasement in the Mideast have led to fifty years of increasing contempt in the Muslim world for the U.S. The climax was September 11, 2001. Fifty years ago, Truman and Eisenhower surrendered the West's property rights in oil, although that oil rightfully belonged to those in the West whose science, technology, and capital made its discovery and use possible. The first country to nationalize Western oil, in 1951, was Iran. The rest, observing our frightened silence, hurried to grab their piece of the newly available loot.

The cause of the U.S. silence was not practical, but philosophical. The Mideast's dictators were denouncing wealthy egotistical capitalism. They were crying that their poor needed our sacrifice; that oil, like all property, is owned collectively, by virtue of birth; and that they knew their viewpoint was true by means of otherworldly emotion. Our Presidents had no answer. Implicitly, they were ashamed of the Declaration of Independence. They did not dare to answer that Americans, properly, were motivated by the selfish desire to achieve personal happiness in a rich, secular, individualist society.
Go have a read.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Tea Partiers Are Old

Talking with my friend John at lunch today and he suggested an answer to a question that I've been pondering for a while. Why are tea partiers old?

I had thought the answer was our poor education system, that kids aren't taught history, economics, logic, how to construct a coherent paragraph (or thought), politics or philosphy, and that therefore there's no way they could understand what's happening in U.S. politics as it relates to freedom and the constitution. Those of us that are older either had a better education or managed to educate ourselves after leaving school.

John's alternate suggestion is that you have to have lived through the disappointment of the Bush administrations to want something drastically different from the Republican party. The implication is that the Tea Party is as much (or more) a reaction against the big government Republicans as it is against Obama. I find this an attractive hypothesis. Certainly Santelli's rant that really got the ball rolling was against mortgage bailouts, supported by members of both parties, including McCain and Bush. And its also true that if it was simply a backlash against Obama, it should have coalesced into support of the Republican establishment, which it hasn't. An interesting hypothesis to ponder. I hope its true and that the Tea Party goes after big government Republicans (aka 'social conservatives' or 'compassionate conservatives') next.

At any rate, I guess it doesn't matter that much whether the tea party is young or old. Jefferson was 33 at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 44 for the Constitution.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Castro and Greenspan

No, Fidel Castro doesn't think his communist economic model should be exported, it doesn't even work in cuba! This admission was made to a reporter from The Atlantic. One must be careful not to read too much into it, but still it would be surprising even if said half-jokingly. The long-time leader of one of the last communist countries admitting failure? Should we say "better late than never"? I don't think so. A fat lot of good it does any of the dead, starved to death, drowned victims of Castro's Cuba.

A bluff isn't a bluff if noone believes you. Has anyone really thought that communism works these last six or seven decades? I doubt it. Our own leftist mainstream media spent a lot of time bluffing as well, telling us how wonderful the healthcare system is in Cuba, how vibrant the culture, etc. etc. But they didn't talk too too much about Cuba. Mostly they spent their time attacking 'capitalism' at home. Nevermind that it wasn't capitalism anymore, that it hadn't been capitalism since at least FDR confiscated gold, created a thousand alphabet agencies, empowered unions, and did all he could to cartellize business.

Thus the media will probably take Castro's statement in stride, newsworthy but not important on any historical scale. Greenspan's recantation of capitalism on the other hand was met with glee and gets continued reference. Greenspan was an early defender of laissez-faire capitalism and an associate of Ayn Rand. He later 'mellowed' (Barbara Walters' word I believe) and ultimately became the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, that vile institution responsible for taxing the citizenry through inflation and supporting the welfare state long past solvency. By running the Fed for so long, Greenspan became in fact (if not in word) a champion of government manipulation of money and interest, a supporter of massive deficit spending, a supporter of the idea that the government knows better how to manage your life than you do.

When he said he was 'mistaken' in counting on the 'self-interest' of bankers, it was laughable. He made it in their interest to lend with abandon and he made everyone else carry the risk of the bubble popping consequences. As everyone well knows, you can't count on 'self-interest' when you rig the system to behave badly. We even have a word for it, its called 'moral hazard', a situation typically created by government that incentivizes bad behavior. In that type of situation its not the self-interest that's the problem, its the government rigging. If Greenspan actually believed in capitalism and self-interest, he would have quit and publicly campaigned against the Federal Reserve. He would have exposed all the moral hazards it creates. He would have counted on the self-interest of everyone to manage their own money and finances and fought the power lust of state banks that subvert self-interest at every turn.

The recantation of a true communist will have little impact on the world or history. The 'recantation' of a pretend capitalist, on the other hand, will haunt us.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Public Education Killed Phoebe Prince

Since I became a father I've been especially sensitive to stories about child abuse and mistreatment. They hit me much more viscerally now. One that turned my stomach when I first heard about it and every time it comes up again, is the story about Phoebe Prince, bullied and harassed relentlessly until she committed suicide by hanging herself with a scarf in her home. Bullying was much in the news before her tragedy and has been even more since.

When Phoebe was mentioned on the radio again the other day, I got that familiar sickened feeling in my stomach and my first thought, before I was even really paying attention was, 'what kind of parent leaves her daughter in a school with such a bullying problem?'. As I turned my full attention to it, I remembered. She was probably forced to go to that school, forced by compulsory education requirements, forced by a public school system supported by taxes with few options on school choice, forced by that same public school system having prevented any affordable private schools from entering the market. On top of it all the school she had no choice in attending was probably staffed with teachers and administrators burnt out from years of working for and side by side with incompetents who can't be fired. Teachers who saw no reward for teaching well or guiding students properly. Administrators who saw no reward in fixing problems.

My real question should have been 'what kind of school system treats its students that way?' The answer is a compulsory, public, unionized school system. Parents don't leave their kids to be treated like Phoebe was. Our daughter is in private school and every year, we and the other parents we know reconsider whether or not to leave our kids in that school. We have plenty of other options and we weigh such things as bullying, the level of environmentalist indoctrination, the methods of education, the teachers. I can say with some confidence that if there was a private school that allowed the level of bullying that Phoebe's school did, its attendance would plummet.

If all schools were private (or if there were widespread school choice through vouchers or tax deductions) then the schools and teachers would figure out how to handle bullying. Not all of them, immediately. But some of them would and the ones that didn't figure it out would languish. Its only in a statist system that every problem becomes universal and has to be debated and a solution arrived at and imposed universally. In a capitalist system, someone would figure it out and our job would be simply to find that person and send our kids to their school. Quite beautiful actually.

In other words, if we had private schools, if we had capitalism in education, Phoebe's teachers would be happy, motivated problem solvers. Her tormentors would never have become the brutes they became. Phoebe would still be alive.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How to Tame Unions

The Problem

Pretty much everyone is aware now that there is a problem with unions. They featured in the government bailout of GM and Chrysler, both as the cause of the uncompetitiveness of the American automotive industry and as the primary beneficiaries of the bailouts (at the expense of bond holders and taxpayers). They've appeared repeatedly in smaller stories about salary and pension abuses. For example the case of the San Luis Obispo County Under Sheriff collecting $640,000 in compensation. Stories on teacher's union abuses often feature the honest and disturbing quotation from the former president of the American Federation of Teachers, Al Shanker: "When school children start paying union dues, that 's when I'll start representing the interests of school children." (Disturbing because it recognizes there's a conflict between unionized teachers and school children and rather than addressing that conflict, sides with the teachers.)

The biggest stories however are about the shear costs of paying the salaries and pensions for public employees, salaries that are much higher than the private sector equivalents and pensions that are generous and largely non-existent in the private sector. Add that union members cannot be fired (even policemen or teachers who are known sexual predators). Nothing has been effected by the recession. Numerous cities and states are being driven into insolvency by unions. And yet unions remain immune to any demands, any negociation until bankruptcy is actually declared. Why?

There's an excellent book on the subject of unions called Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation. Mike Shedlock's blog has also kept tabs on how unions are affecting cities, states and the economy. As good as these sources are, and I highly recommend both, they haven't been illuminating with regard to the causes of the union mess, why against all reason unions are able to extract the concessions they've been able to extract. As a consequence the solutions they propose are limited. Shedlock frequently recommends bankruptcy or privatization. Privitization is certainly part of the solution for teachers and firemen, insofar as these should be private anyway and then they would no longer be subject to laws governing public employees. But this doesn't address the wider union issue affecting even the private sector. With regard to bankruptcy, what will have changed after bankruptcy and renegotiation of union contracts? What measures will then prevent a repeated march towards higher salaries and abuses? Plunder similarly recommends pay/pension reform, privatization, outlawing public unions, restrictions on political contributions and several other minor measures.

What is behind the rise of union power, power which can only be checked by the literal destruction of unionized companies, industries and jobs?

History

It is largely two legislative events that have given unions the power they now wield. FDR's Wagner Act (1935) prohibited employers from 'interfering' with the organization of unions and compelled them to negociate with union representatives ('collective bargaining'). Laws granting similar privileges to public employee unions were passed locally starting in the late 1950s and JFK extended them to federal employees in 1962 by executive order 10988.

What does the Wagner Act ban as 'interference'? Firing employees for joining unions, hiring only non-union employees, stipulating in contracts that employees won't form unions, hiring workers to replace strikers, even talking disparagingly of unions. What did it require for 'collective bargaining'? Resolving labor disputes by 'good faith' negociation with union representatives and exclusive recognition of the majority union. Complaints are brought before the National Labor Relations Board, which mediates conflicts and implements its decisions through fines and court issued injunctions.

One could reasonably conclude from the consequences alone, the destruction of American heavy industry, automobile industry, education and the abuses evident in public employee unions, that the Wagner Act and its extension to public employees were bad ideas. Still, it is worthwhile identifying and resolving some of the moral issues involved.

Moral Issues

The 'problem' the Wagner Act intended to correct was the vast inequality between employer and employee in contract negociations. The employer is rich and has vast options. He can hire the worker in question or another. He could operate with a reduced work force. Presumably he could shut down the plant entirely, sell the equipment and go into another business or retire in comfort. The worker on the other hand has no options. He can accept the job the employer offers him, with the conditions the employer attaches, or he can starve in the streets.

The Wagner Act attempts to diminish this inequality by restricting the employers right to set the terms of employment, by eliminating his right to ban or even discourage unions from operating within his property, and by forcing him to negociate with union representatives.

If of two men stuck on a desert island, one set aside some of his time to fashion a net and learn to fish and the other spent all his time eating bugs, bark, carrion and feeling sorry for himself, would you say that the former achieved a better diet at the expense of the latter? No, of course not. The options were open to both and one choose the more rational path and gained more from nature. If the former continued on his path and converted the extra fish into a boat, and converted that into experimentations in gardening (through the use of the time his earlier achievements freed up), would those have been gained at the expense of the bug eater? No.

If the fisherman then met the bug eater and offered him a job, would you decry the inequality of the situation. No. Justice requires that you recognize that the fisherman earned his relative riches and the bug eater did not. If after a time the bug eater cum manual laborer become resentful of his better, you might remind him that his proper response ought to be gratitude, since without the ingenuity of the fisherman, he would likely be dead. Not only is the fisherman's success not a detriment to the bug eater, it is a positive benefit. By affording him the opportunity to labor using the capital (the nets, boats, tools) of the fisherman, the laborer can be paid for his output much more than he could produce on his own. If the bug eater persisted in his resentment and attempted to rob or enslave the fisherman, he risks destroying the source of the wealth that has so recently raised him from bug eating. He also exposes himself to more desperate newcomers. It is not in his interest to turn to force to remedy his unequal relationship. He should rather exchange freely and benefit from the ever greater productivity of his industrious cohabitant.

That over time and generations (to the extent that men are free) the net and boat become tools, then artisan shops, then factories, heavy machinery and computers, does not change the principles. Wealth is created not stolen, the proper response to the creators is gratitude, and the attempt to rob the producers leads to destruction of production and ultimately the return of everyone to poverty (as Atlas Shrugged showed in fiction and Chavez and our own Obama are so busy showing us in real life). Egalitarianism is wrong and destructive, even to its supposed beneficiaries.

The last moral aspect worth discussing is this: does the fisherman or the factory owner have a moral responsibility to help or serve the unfortunates? In a word, no. The responsibility of every individual is to pursue their own happiness. Their own life is what gives meaning to their actions. There is no rational reason for the contrary, for the sacrifice of one's own life and values to more unfortunate neighbors. Since poverty is widespread and sometimes willful, sacrifice to the less fortunate ultimately means complete self-annihilation for the sake of the lowest and most despicable. The fisherman, factory owner and laborer need to decide under what terms will an exchange be mutually beneficial. The laborer's poverty or lack of options is no justification for enslaving the fisherman or factory owner. For the laborer to earn the job, he must convince his employer that employing him is more to the employers benefit then any of the employers other options.

The Wagner Act's motivation was to equalize and its tactic was the destruction of the concept of 'rights'.

The proponents of the Wagner act did not deny that employers had a right to decide who they employed, who they fired, who could have access to their property, and the contents of the employment contract. They did not deny that the Wagner Act violated the employer's freedom of contract, association, and speech. The proponents simply claimed that the laborer had a right to a job and a right to associate, that in society the various rights of competing 'power interests' always conflict and that in such a conflict the 'good of society' should be deciding. Since laborers are more numerous than employers, their 'rights' represent the 'good of society'. (They also got a lot of mileage out of the undefined term 'power', with which they conflated coercive power and the opportunities that wealth affords.)

Freedom is the absence of physical coercion. A right defines mans freedom of action in a social context. People have rights because their survival depends on their use of reason, and coercion is the negation of reason. A man compelled to act against his understanding is doomed. Rights are negative claims, e.g. a claim that your neighbor refrain from threatening you with a gun. Rights are not positive claims, e.g. a claim that your neighbor supply a turkey dinner for you. They could not be, since the latter would entail violating someones actual rights in order to obtain the dinner. This in brief why there can be no such thing as a right to a job (or healthcare or vacation). There can be no conflict of rights. There is not right to rob your neighbor and his right to property does not conflict with that right. One persons freedom of action ends where another's person and property begin. An employees or unions freedom of action ends where the employers factory begins.

It should also be pointed out that the motivation behind the Wagner Act and the entire history of unions since the late 19th century has been gang warfare, the attempt by union leaders to seize 'power' and wield it over every other group of Americans. Unions have used the force of the government (the Wagner Act and other measures) to pillage employers, keep the unemployed out of jobs, raise the prices and lower the quality of their products (esp. education) and harm consumers. Since they 1960s they've added taxpayers to their list of victims and are attempting to put us all on the hook for their extravagant, extorted pensions. Its clear that unions no longer, if they ever were, beneficial even to their own members. Their long-term impact is to destroy every industry they touch.

The Solution

The solution to the union mess is to fully recognize employers rights, specifically the employers right to determine the terms under which he will employ a worker. An employer has a right to hire labor at the lowest rate he thinks advisable, he has the right to fire employees individually or en masse for striking and replace them, he has the right to negociate or ignore a union, he has the right to recognize a minority union or create his own union, he has the right to prohibit union members from employment. All of these rights are part of his right to dispose of his property (his factory, office building, parking lots, etc.) as he sees fit. Contra the Wagner Act, an employer has the right to 'interfere' with unions in any way he deems fit short of actual violence or fraud and should not be compelled to bargain with any group concerning the use of his own property.

An employee has the right to refuse an employment contract and seek work elsewhere. He also has the right to form associations (unions), on company time and property if its permitted, at home in his free time if not and at risk of termination should his employer prohibit such activities as a condition of employment.

All of which is to say that the Wagner Act (and other infringements of an employers freedom to contract) should be repealed.

If employers once again had the freedom to contract as they see fit without being forced to make special concessions to unions, the entire tragedy we're now witnessing would be wiped out. Schools and police departments could fire poor performers and convicted sex offenders. Contracts and pensions could be renegotiated. Recalcitrant unions could be threatened with termination of their entire membership. Workers would no longer have to pay compulsory dues to support the political activities of the unions. Unions that only exist to pit employer against employee and the expense of the actual work (like educating children) would cease to exist. The only unions that would survive would be the ones that actually are interested in supporting their membership and at the same time recognize the importance of the employer and of productivity.

Although tempting, I believe it would be a mistake to outlaw public employee unions. Public employees are not literally servants, i.e. forbidden from pursuing their own happiness. Of course public employees should have the freedom to associate and make demands. But their employers, cities, states and federal agencies, acting on our (the taxpayers) behalf should be able to fire them individually or en masse in order to resolve problems and pay the lowest wages to get the jobs done.

Repealing the Wagner Act and abolishing all 'collective bargaining' laws is the solution to the union problem. Granted, its unlikely to happen anytime soon. Nevertheless, unions are in the news and criticism of unions is widespread. As long as repealing the Wagner Act is recognized as a long-term goal, it'll eventually happen.

In the meantime, short-term solutions should be pursued as well: privatization of schools and fire departments, outsourcing to non-union companies, eliminating union requirements in competitive bidding for public contracts, pension/salary reform, bankruptcy, etc. Card check is a particularly bad bit of legislation that should be fought. It gives union thugs the ability to pressure employees for support by divulging their names on open ballots. For workers wanting to save their companies and willing to face union scorn, union decertification is worth pursuing.