Another 2 Million Americans File Unemployment Claims, Bringing Total to 33 Million

Another 2 Million Americans File Unemployment Claims, Bringing Total to 33 Million

05/14/2020Ryan McMaken

The surge in unemployment isn't over. New jobless claims data released today by the US Department of Labor showed that total claims surged again in the week ending May 9, exceeding 2 million for the eighth week in a row.

Last week there were 2.6 million new claims for unemployment insurance. That was down from 2.8 million the previous week, and down from the peak of 6.2 million on the week of April 4.

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Since claims began to surge on the week of March 21, 33.3 million new claims have been filed.

Last week the Department of Labor released monthly data estimating that 20 million jobs have been lost in recent months. That means nearly all the job gains of the last twenty years are gone.

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This drove the unemployment rate above 14 percent, although Chicago Fed economists suggest that it may really be above 25 percent.

It's unclear how many of these workers will make an effort to return to the workforce. Many potential workers will simply leave the workforce and not return for many years as they wait for the economy to recover. Many older workers may never return.

In April, labor force participation in the 25–54 age group plummeted to a 37-year low, dropping to 79 percent. That's the lowest since 1983. (Keep in mind that we're looking only at workers in the 25–54 age range. We're avoiding the issue of students staying in school longer and Baby Boomers retiring.)

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The overall effect, of this, of course, is that workers and entrepreneurs are producing far less than they were a few months ago. This presents a serious inflation risk, since the money supply has continued to increase at breakneck speed. Consumer price inflation is mitigated by gains in productivity. But that's certainly not where we are right now, and we have many more dollars competing for a shrinking pool of available goods and services.

Not surprisingly, grocery prices shot up last month at the fastest clip in forty-five years. Whether this lasts, however, depends in part on how well markets adjust to the new demand patterns that have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 panic. Food purchases have shifted dramatically away from restaurants and toward grocery stores. If markets are allowed the freedom to adjust as needed, price inflation will be mitigated in this regard, although it's unclear to what extent, and depends also on how many more rounds of helicopter money (i.e., the $1,200 per person stimulus checks) are implemented.

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Libertarian, Conservative, and Postliberal: Is There a Common Ground for the Right?

It’s been already two weeks since I began my own fellowship at the very Mises Institute, and during this time, a lot of things have already happened, both in the local American scene, as well as in the rest of the world, my own country, Ecuador, included.

However, given my own affinities with ideas from various sources in the political right, from the classical liberalism of Mises and Hayek and the anarcocapitalism of Rothbard and Hoppe to the traditional conservatism of Burke and Scruton and the novel postliberalism of Deneen, Vermeule and Ahmari, I was amazed and intrigued to read a fairly recent article (https://mises.org/wire/new-postliberalism) by the Mises Institute President, Jeff Deist, discussing about the rise in the popularity of this last group and of its ideas.

This is because, for a person like me, who tries to navigate through the moody waters between libertarianism and conservatism, ideological tags have become meaningless, and most particularly when this categorization has no place in my local context, where media and academia are dominated by the progressive left and its liquid culture, and politics have become synonymous with nepotism, corruption, and inefficiency.

There have been instances where I have tried to combine my libertarian and my conservative leanings into a single philosophy, as some kind of liberal illiberalism (https://thelibertariancatholic.com/liberal-illiberalism-illiberal-liberalism/), an economic skepticism of the organization of the modern State (https://thelibertariancatholic.com/the-myth-of-the-separation-of-powers/), a practical and moral defense, from a socialist and nationalist perspective, of the existence of private property (https://thelibertariancatholic.com/rootlessness-alienation-and-the-problem-of-property/) and even a conservative interpretation of the tenet of the Austrian School of Economics (https://thelibertariancatholic.com/the-austrian-school-as-a-conservative-school-of-economics/), but none of these attempts seem to get to the point where a viable mix of libertarianism and conservatism is developed.

In what could seem like a spontaneous coincidence, more than a deliberate attempt, Jeff and I have been thinking about the same issues, and for him, this is not the first time he has theorized on ways to introduce free market and sound money ideas into the school of conservative thought that seems to be fashionable in the moment.

But in a paradoxical way, Austro-libertarianism seems to follow the Burkean way, in which our intellectual development as a doctrine expands with moderation and prudence, whereas conservatism, or at least, American conservatism, has adopted the old leftist vice of infighting, reducing itself into warring factions against each other, where the least difference in theory (or the popularity of a certain leading figure) is reason enough for the movement to break its fragile peace or for a new faction to arise.

For us, conservatives and libertarians in the ground, working 8 to 5 jobs, trying to get involved in local and grassroot politics, and most importantly, struggling to survive with freedom and dignity in a world where the most ridiculous whims of our ruling classes get imposed with legislation and enforced with the most heavy burdens of the State’s monopoly on taxation and violence, the petty conflicts within the conservative intellectual and managerial class seem truly unimportant, as they not only demonstrate the instability of a movement that lacks power, but also steal our most precious and irreplaceable resource, which is time.

Nonetheless, there seems to be something different about the rise of post liberalism, even with its internal differences and with career politicians trying to capitalize on its apparent success.

It may be because its leading figures, having learnt from the Donald Trump experience and from his successes and mistakes in the American presidency, have become wiser in the handling the conservative movement.

For instance, the political Catholicism of the likes of Vermeule, Deneen and Ahmari don’t seem to be at odds with the Aristotelian nationalism of the Claremont Institute leadership, and in many senses, both end up embraced by institutions like Hillsdale College or the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, who doesn’t shiver to invite people like Jordan Peterson, Michael Rectenwald, or SCOTUS Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (all of them cancel culture victims) speak at its events.

With the notable exception of the neocons, well represented by opportunistic career Republicans, like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney, who seem to be despised and rejected by all factions of this new American Right (https://nationalinterest.org/blog/jacob-heilbrunn/the-claremont-institute-ron-paul-the-state-conservatism-6063), the Conservative movement looks to be building bridges, both internally and externally, creating platforms like the NatCon conferences to allow for their ideas to spread indiscriminately, and promoting them in countries with likeminded governments (like Orbán’s Hungary) to get connected to their fellow figures (like Nigel Farage or Marion Maréchal) in Europe.

But the Austro-libertarian movement is missing on the opportunity to participate in the development of this new New Right, even if this could be the right opportunity for a true Paleo revival, without the mistakes in economical doctrine that made the first attempt fail, with Rothbard pushing for his free-market vision and Pat Buchanan twisting his view on economic protectionism into an outright state-planned economy.

In two occasions, while hosting my podcast for the Spanish newspaper España - Navarra Confidencial (https://www.españaconfidencial.com/), I had the chance to discuss the possibility of a new libertarian-conservative fusion, the first one with our aforementioned Jeff Deist and Hillsdale professor Brad Birzer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd8Lm7J_4ck), and the common ground between the two views were that the State was indeed a danger for freedom and community, and that a neo-fusionist movement could indeed work to recover culture, family values and decentralization.

In here, the term neo-fusionist that both Jeff used and I am now using is a clear reference to the doctrine of Frank Meyer, considered by President Ronald Reagan as his most intellectual influence (https://isi.org/intercollegiate-review/from-communist-to-reagan-conservative/), a political philosopher who tried to unite elements of libertarianism and traditionalism into a single philosophical synthesis of the two, to much criticism of both libertarian and conservative figures like Harry V. Jaffa (the intellectual father-figure of modern Claremonters), Paul Gottfried (a paleoconservative thinker and now the editor of the Chronicles magazine) and our own Murray Rothbard (who saw in Meyer a rather lost and confused libertarian).

The second time was in another podcast discussion, with our own Mises Wire assistant editor Tho Bishop and his peer at Chronicles, Pedro Gonzalez (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhatLGK-DY0), where the main focus was the political strategy for a Paleo revival, considering the cultural and demographic changes the US has suffered since the 90s, and both of them agreed with me on most issues, from local political action and the main problems to tackle, to the immediate use of state power to solve those problems, given there was no private alternative, and that, moreover, the private sector was caught itself into the woke madness.

And while in the US, there is a genuine opportunity to allow for right-libertarians a space into the postliberal Right, outside of it, the libertarian name is getting tarnished by the inoperancy, alienation and cluelessness of beltway libertarian-influenced politicians such as my own country’s president, Guillermo Lasso, and his advisors, whose public policy ideas are as unrelated to the local situation, with its many security and poverty problems, as DC staffers are unrelated to the issues of Common Joe in Middle America.

Quoting from the end words of Jeff’s essay, "Have we lost "liberal" forever? Maybe. If liberalism is dead, then liberals killed it. I'm doubtful we can ever reclaim it. Perhaps we need a new word for organizing society through property, peace, trade, and sound money”, but I also add, have we lost “libertarian” too?

While I am not as pessimist with that, and I still believe there is chance for right-libertarianism to be a force for political action, I wouldn’t call myself as such, not only because there is a concern for me to be put into the same bag as my unlikely-to-get-reelected local government, but because it is only half of what I believe.

I do think, though, that we should remember and apply what Jeff proposed in his “For A New Libertarian” speech, that is, to fight for what matters for the common man, understanding that these fights, pretty much unrelated to libertarianism, are what form the basis of the abstract freedom libertarians strive for.

We cannot forget both Rothbard and Hoppe began with the most absolute individualistic rationalism in their thinking to end up admiring the freedom of traditional medieval order in Europe in his first volume of his Austrian. Perspective on the History of Economic Thought and developing a rather reactionary and aristocratic communitarianism in his magnum opus, Democracy: The God That Failed, respectively.

Neither should we forget that the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, came from a fairly liberal and Whig background, both as an intellectual and as a statesman, without that getting into conflict with his Anglo-Irish and Christian (both Anglican and Catholic) roots.

At last, more as an anecdote than as an example, both great English traditionalist of the XXth century, G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc were involved with classical liberalism while maintaining their own religious and traditionalist beliefs, the first stating, in his book Orthodoxy that Orthodoxy, “I was brought up a Liberal, and have always believed in democracy, in the elementary liberal doctrine of a self-governing humanity”, and the second getting elected as a Member of the British Parliament supported by the British Liberal Party.

I would like to finish by bringing up John Adams famous words about the US Constitution, “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. […] The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.”

John Adams understood that self-government, decentralization, and individual freedoms needed a moral framework to thrive, to develop to its full potential, for their respect was not enforced by an all-powerful government, but by a shared common tradition that guided the lives of all under their same provisions.

It was the moderation and tolerance of the Christian tradition in the Anglosphere the created the right conditions for classical liberalism to be applied and be the framework for the establishment of the American Republic, and the Catholic virtue of the Habsburgs in their rule over the Spanish and Danubian Empires that led to the development of the Salamanca and Austrian Schools.

On the other hand, it was the excesses of the Continental Liberals, as christened by F.A. Hayek, with their hyper-rationalist constructivism that led from Revolution, Jacobinism, expansive nationalism and Marxist Socialism up to the horrors of Bolshevik Leninism, Soviet Stalinism, and German Nazism.

Continental Liberalism, as extreme as today’s Progressive Liberalism, also lead to the radical ideas of ultramontanism and dictatorship promoted by Maistre and Donoso Cortés and later taken up by Carl Schmitt.

It is better for us libertarians and conservatives to be together and follow Burke and Meyer into a neo-fusionist path, before our bona fide conservative intellectuals, pushed to the extreme by our corporatocratic elites and their loyal woke hordes, decide to follow the Counter Enlightenment path.

So even if libertarians and conservatives seem opposed at times, we both belong together as different sides of the same golden coin, counterbalancing each other excesses, and recognizing each other’s value.

Only through virtue, we can get order and freedom, understood as self-government, and only through free self-government we can get prosperity. There is no other way.

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The State (Not Nina Jankowicz) Invented Disinformation

05/28/2022Jason Morgan

In recent weeks Americans have been debating, and appalled by, the Disinformation Governance Board set up by the Department of Homeland Security. The Disinformation Governance Board was established by the government to counter “disinformation” and present the “correct” view of current events.

The Disinformation Governance Board was “paused” by the federal government when it became clear that Nina Jankowicz (https://nypost.com/2022/04/29/biden-disinfo-czar-nina-jankowicz-ripped-over-tiktok/), who was chosen by the Department of Homeland Security to be the executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board, was herself guilty of proliferating disinformation—on behalf of her boss’s son. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/disinformation-head-nina-jankowicz-addresses-hunter-biden-laptop-remarks/ar-AAWGM7G)

After intense criticism from Glenn Greenwald, Tucker Carlson, and a raft of other pundits and average people, Jankowicz resigned from the Disinformation Governance Board in disgrace. (She blamed “disinformation” for her departure.( https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10837567/Nina-Jankowicz-blames-DISINFORMATION-resignation-Bidens-disinformation-board.html))

Nina Jankowicz’s resignation was a good thing for freedom. The Disinformation Governance Board should never have existed in the first place. But in focusing on the TikTok-loving Jankowicz (https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2022/04/29/joe-bidens-disinformation-chief-nina-jankowicz-playacted-her-male-trolls-tiktok/) we lose sight of the real problem with the Disinformation Governance Board. The problem is not Jankowicz, and not even the Board. It’s that the state—any state—is fundamentally incapable of not disseminating disinformation.

Why not? Because the state is disinformation. Without disinformation, there would be no state. One TikTokking statist is out of a job, which is wonderful. But why stop with Nina Jankowicz? Why not call a spade a spade and admit that the federal government which created Jankowicz’s position is also illegitimate and built on lies?

Consider how a state begins and how it perpetuates itself. From the first moment, a state is disinformation. A state is parasitic on human labor. Statists steal our money and the things we produce, period. Statists have big weapons and small consciences, and they come around, village to village and door to door, and demand tribute as the sensible alternative to armed robbery. There are any number of justifications for this. The statist needs our money to protect us (from other statists), the statist is appointed by God, the statist is a god, the statist is the state, the statist’s ancestors have always sat on the throne paid for by our and our ancestors’ stolen property, and so forth. When the inevitable clash with rival statists comes, the statist cranks up the tax rate, clamps us in helmets and chainmail, and sends us to loot our neighbors. All for the “security” of the “homeland.”

But all of this is disinformation. The fundamental bait-and-switch of the state is that gangsters are kings or presidents, that theft is taxation, and that dying to protect statists from other statists is patriotic. That is the bedrock disinformation on which the state rests. Once question that original disinformation, and the state comes tumbling down (usually taking a lot of innocent people down with it). Seen this way, it becomes obvious why states must resort to “disinformation boards” and the like. Without a monopoly on propaganda, the state is revealed as just a common criminal.

The state is just this, disinformation backed by violence, violence justified by disinformation. Don’t believe me? Reach into your wallet and take out a dollar bill (if you have any left a year and a half into the Biden regime). That piece of paper is a certificate of disinformation. It is phony money. It is a scam. It is a receipt entitling the bearer to one byte of disinformation from the state’s central bank (which contains nothing of value and which is parasitic on the state which is parasitic on us). Every dollar bill the state issues is fake news. But what happens if you say so? Someone like Nina Jankowicz accuses you of conspiracy theories and sowing disinformation. You could easily end up in jail for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, and that his currency is a lie.

There are many other lies besides this. FOIA is a wonderful thing, it has pulled back the curtain on statism and shown us the true nature of “governance.” Investigative journalists like Peter Schweizer and Tom Fitton, and regular people of all backgrounds, use FOIA to expose what the state does behind our backs. For example, FOIA has helped reveal that the Attorney General of the United States (doesn’t that title sound grand?) thinks that parents asking school boards not to indoctrinate their children are “domestic terrorists”. (https://reason.com/2021/10/06/ag-merrick-garland-fbi-critical-race-theory-parents-schools-domestic-terrorists/)

However exalted the bureaucratic station, it is beneath our human dignity to go along with outrageous calumnies like these. We owe no loyalty to our enslavers, to those who take from us on pain of violence and under cover of lies. We don’t have to play along with the statists who give themselves exalted titles and pin medals on one another for their skill in raiding and plundering other statists’ slaves. The state is disinformation. FOIA is showing that when the state is deprived of its fundamental prerogative—the disinformation prerogative—it lashes out and cracks down. This is the state in full. It lies to us and steals what we produce. It always has, and it always will.

Truth is not the first casualty of war. It is the first casualty of the state. The wars come later, once the state has fattened itself on its takings from all of us.

Nina Jankowicz has resigned as the executive director of the Disinformation Governance Board. Banzai! But when will the state itself admit that it is a liar and also go away?

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The Federal Reserve Policies Promote Crony Socialism

05/28/2022James Anthony

Criminals seriously harm people here and there, but to systematically harm people everywhere takes governments.

Organized Predation

The Fed disincentivizes working. It enables banks to create money, lend out the money, and transfer losses to taxpayers. As a result, over time the same nominal amount of pay buys less and less. People work less.

The Fed disincentivizes saving. Its new money reduces the interest earned by people who would save. People save less.

The Fed incentivizes borrowing. People find loans even harder to resist since interest is artificially low, and since payments and principal both are easier to repay after inflation. (On net, this is a bad deal. Loans still extract interest. Also, as elaborated below, the people who gain, on net, from money creation and the resulting lending are governments and cronies. Everyone else loses.)

Producers and customers both succumb. Producers borrow more, make riskier investments, pay more interest, get smaller returns on their investments, and suffer more losses. Customers borrow more, pay more interest, have less to spend on what they want, and get fewer products.

The Fed incentivizes government spending. The Fed buys national-government Treasury bonds, and government people spend this money. Also, the Fed enables banks to create money. This reduces interest rates, making government debts less costly to pay the interest on. Creating money also reduces the real value of the debts’ interest and principal, making government debts progressively get defaulted away. Since interest becomes a smaller consequence and debt becomes a smaller consequence, government people borrow more, charging the debts to future taxpayers, and spend more now.

Producers pay more taxes, so products cost more. Customers pay more taxes, so they have less to spend; and with the products also costlier, they get even-fewer products.

Governments and cronies take more of the value that people create. Everyone else still spends substantial time working—using up substantial portions of their liberty—but takes home less of the value they create.

Organized Corruption

Control of money has always provided opportunities to not add value that customers would choose to buy and to instead take advantage of others. The lure of not adding value and instead just taking other people’s money has always attracted criminals.

The original sin with money has been the fraud of accepting deposits and promising to return them on demand, and then not holding the full deposits in trust and instead turning around and lending out a fraction of the deposits to others.

No banker has perfect foreknowledge, so just as everyone else gets surprised by sudden turns of events, bankers have gotten surprised too. But since government people have let bankers hold in reserve only fractions of the deposits that people have entrusted them with, this sin has produced bank failures. And bank failures have visited the consequences of this action not on the government people themselves nor just on the bankers themselves but also on most all of the bankers’ customers.

The compounding sin with money, once some banks have failed, has been the true greed of the remaining bankers and lenders as a group.

When some banks have failed, the money which has been on their books but not on reserve in their vaults has been destroyed. As a result the remaining amount of money still in use has been less. Customers have had mostly the same needs they had before, but less money to spend.

To keep producing, producers have reduced their product prices, and ultimately reduced their employees’ wages.

Borrowers with existing loans have been saddled with contracts that have required them to make the same nominal payments and to pay off the same nominal balances, even though these nominal amounts have suddenly become far-more costly. For existing borrowers, this has been a sudden loss.

For the remaining bankers and lenders who have still been in business, this has equally been a sudden windfall. They hadn’t originally lent out such large real amounts, and they hadn’t originally contracted to be repaid such large real amounts, and yet they suddenly had gotten the opportunity fall in their laps to collect far more real value than they originally contracted to receive. Bankers and lenders as a group haven’t relieved these debts by renegotiating contracts that would restore the contracts’ original real terms.

Their cronies, the national-government people—who granted them the problematic permission to hold only fractional reserves, the permission that enabled the money supply to suddenly get smaller, making the loan contracts’ real terms suddenly more costly—haven’t rolled back the fractional-reserve privilege that had long ago been unconstitutionally granted to bankers.

The national-government people also haven’t relieved borrowers of the pressure of these unforeseeable sudden losses.

Instead, they have tripled down on their original sin and their compounding sin by also inventing and perpetuating the Fed.

The Fed is a cartel owned by bankers.

When it seems like the Fed does everything it can do to shake down the national government to protect banks, that’s because the Fed does do everything it can do to shake down the national government to protect banks. Because the Fed is a cartel of the banks.

Which means that the present financial system is crony-socialist central planning of money production that has been substituted for what by law are supposed to be our free and voluntary actions to produce and consume all products. Including money.

Free Customers to Choose Moneys, and Free Producers to Produce Moneys

The organized predation and organized corruption that are the Fed are immoral. They are criminally illegal (since they deprive persons of property without due criminal-justice or civil-tort process). And they are not only undesirable but also unnecessary.

A money can be produced, cleared between providers, saved, and lent out without creating it out of thin air and fraudulently making it unavailable on demand.

Gold money can be used without creating it out of thin air, and it will hold its value.

Equity-based money can be used. It would be legal ownership of fractions of businesses, including all their assets. Equity-based money could not be created out of thin air. Over the long run it would not just hold its value but increase in value, as the businesses’ productive assets are used by the businesses’ employees to add more value.

As usual with governments, what’s mandatory is to get the governments out of the way. To get the governments’ monopolistic operations out of the way. Here, to get the national government’s criminal corruption of the law out of the way. This is simple.

TL;DR. Want to end inflation permanently? Want to reclaim financial power as customers? Here’s how.

Two actions are required:

  1. Formally outlaw fractional-reserve banking.
  2. Formally repeal legal-tender laws and the Fed monopoly on money production.

Both actions together are the minimum action required to satisfy the rules in the Constitution. And as centuries of Constitution defiance on money have clearly shown, both requirements need to be made explicit.

And that is all that’s required. Fixed that for you.

Wherever we the people free ourselves from government predations, as customers we drive producers to work out the best solutions themselves. Including the best moneys, clearinghouses, and lending.

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Oops, We Did it Again

Or rather, in the case of Somalia, we never stopped – and we just keep doing it!

As the Biden administration orders U.S. troops to back to Somalia in significant numbers, several things are worth noting in opposition to yet another military response to a faraway crisis of small stakes and absolutely no consequence to Americans.

First, U.S. military and intelligence operatives have been operating in Somalia continually for the past 20 years. Along with their allies in Ethiopia and Kenya, a playbook all too familiar to observers of the concurrent Afghanistan debacle was followed. Arming the warlords, asking no questions and paying no mind, led predictably to the Somalia of today. The warlords took the money, arms, and US-bestowed patina of legitimacy and set to fighting with one another and oppressing the population. Meanwhile, successive human rights abusing central governments, including the present one, enjoyed U.S. backing.

At least, until they didn’t.

Between overthrown governments, civil wars, drone attacks, direct U.S. bombardments, invasions, and the birth of Islamic extremism in the country as a product of US actions, Somalia has been unquestionably among the worst places on earth to be from George W. Bush onward – rivaled only by perhaps Afghanistan or the dystopian nightmare of North Korea.

Further, while successive administrations have been responsible for more or fewer civilian deaths and war crimes in the country since 2001, no doubt in accordance with the levels their national security councils had advised the current situation merited, the policies have been nothing but a disaster for the people living there and are yet another blight on the record of an American establishment that has produced nothing but failures and civilian casualties for twenty years.

Another thing to point out: prior to any of that, the U.S. backed the sadistic dictator of Somalia, Siad Barre. In a familiar Cold War move, principles were sacrificed to geostrategy, and the U.S. backed his brutal regime to the end. In another familiar move, it then backed various factions in the civil war it helped provoke and that has basically carried on to this day.

Lastly, just as in Afghanistan, the only thing that prevents the fall of the corrupt and hated government is U.S. backing. Reading between the lines, the situation for America’s proxies must be bleak if actual American blood is being shoved back on the line again. Mind, this is after twenty years of involvement couldn’t conclude the situation to the hawks’ liking.

As stated in opening, the stakes in Somalia are unimaginably small: whether a corrupt, abusive, and non-service providing central government can defeat a collection of homegrown Islamic fighters, which rose up as a response to the misrule of the U.S.’s chosen favorites, and who eventually pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in order to open up funding networks through Saudi Arabia.

But never mind the facts – as one of the New York Times’ resident hawks, Charlie Savage, approvingly observed in response to the Biden administration’s announcement: the decision represented a resumption of the “open-ended” American commitment.

How much has this cost? How much will it cost in the future?

No one knows – and certainly, when it comes to the corporate media, no one even cares to ask.

One thing is certain though: between the decades of war and the famines it helped induce, the cost can’t simply be weighed in dollars. Because for Washington it’s just a matter of turning on the printing press – at least for now.

Anyone interested in reading about the details of the extent of U.S. involvement in Somalia since Ronald Reagan can find it in Scott Horton’s Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terror.

Everyone else should complain loudly as midterms are right around the corner.

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The Real Dual Mandate

05/25/2022Robert Aro

Members of the Federal Reserve often discuss their dual mandate of promoting both maximum employment and price stability. The St. Louis Fed even provides a picture to illustrate the alleged balancing act to get the economy functioning properly:

According to the seesaw infographic above and the economic myth known as the Phillips Curve, there is a perpetual trade-off between (price) inflation and unemployment.

However, in the article: Phillips Curve: Read the Fine Print, I share the Fed’s data, referred to as a “cloud of points,” to show no correlation between inflation and unemployment existed in the last 50 years. The origin of the arbitrary 2% inflation target, as well as various problems with inflation data have also been explored. Notably, countless decades of Austrian economists have maintained that the Fed’s doctrine has a detrimental impact on society.

The necessity of maintaining the dual mandate simply doesn’t add up. If the Fed cannot control inflation, as it claims, and if inflation is not actually tied to employment, then either the Fed is pursuing a known falsehood or it doesn’t understand the false premise it has been assigned.

If this dual mandate is not feasible, then what, if any, is the Fed’s “real” dual mandate?

Keeping interest rates low and asset prices high sounds more achievable. They’d never officially say it, understandably so, but in this arena the Fed has excelled far better than anywhere else. Consider that since the early ‘80’s interest rates have only trended down due to the Fed’s policies. See Federal Funds Effective Rate below:

Low rates come with benefits such as cheap and easily acquired debt, facilitating the growing national debt. Easy money kept rates low, boosting asset prices like stocks, bonds and real estate.

Unlike the success the central bank found in rate suppression and asset bubble creation, the Fed failed miserably at maintaining price stability of the U.S. dollar. By definition, there is nothing stable about a currency devaluing year over year with the potential of falling into oblivion. See Purchasing Power of the Consumer Dollar in U.S. City Average below (Indexed 1913 = 100):

While inflation and unemployment matter to society, we should question just how much they mean to the Fed. A new narrative can always be spun to justify whichever inflation rate or employment number the Fed desires. Whether some inflation is good or transitory, or whether employment and inflation targets should be changed to allow the Fed to better meet its objectives, there will always be a reason to justify the Fed’s actions. Inherent in the dual mandate is a grave falsehood which few economists are willing to pinpoint in order to warn the public. Yet, a crushing interest rate on an unmanageable debt, plus a prolonged downturn in the stock market are two things the Fed, nor the people, will tolerate for long.

On last week’s Human Action Podcast, I mentioned that I would be hard pressed to believe the Fed was able to tighten into October of this year. It’s difficult to imagine a near-future where the Fed’s fund rate is over 2%, and where rates on home mortgages and US debt are at levels a few multiples higher. Then consider how poorly the stock market has performed from just the anticipation of the Fed’s tightening. To think the stock market would change its downward spiral after $350 billion is removed from the balance sheet in just a few months from now sounds more naive than optimistic.

History and a look at the world today indicates that “high” inflation eventually leading to a currency crisis is the norm, not the exception. That some years are perceived to be more ruinous to dollar purchasing power than others misses the long term trend, or inevitable conclusion of a debt based monetary system. No matter how painful inflation becomes, and regardless of what job data reads, it’s even more difficult to see a future where the Fed does nothing. In due time, they will rescue the stock market through inflating the money supply, lowering rates and letting all asset bubbles continue once again; no matter the consequence. 

Stranger things have happened, but we are all forced to place our bets. We are all stock market speculators now.

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Bribing Seniors to Volunteer

Donating time and/or resources is a virtuous activity. Parishioners volunteer for church. Parents help with their kids’ school functions. Citizens clean up parks.

Some state and/or local governments have monetized this by offering volunteering seniors a break on their property taxes. While total elimination of this odious tax is the ultimate goal, any reduction of it in the interim will do. 

There are a few problems with such carve-outs though.

One thing that enables us to volunteer is our prosperity. Despite declarations by some politicos, things are shaky right now. In addition to the eyewatering price of gas, tanking stock markets, and other residual effects of government lockdowns, we’re experiencing continued labor shortages.

These discounts exacerbate that problem.

In a recent interview, one councilwoman here in San Antonio asserted that their plan is aimed at those “already” volunteering. “They may as well get credit,” she said. The official policy proposal implies otherwise

Citing “isolation and loneliness” studies, it points to the benefits of getting seniors out of the house, how it can stem cognitive decline, among other negative effects associated with aging. 

As a consequence, they’re lured away from the private sector, where seniors like my father feel they “still have more to give.” 

Regardless of property tax credits’ respective sizes, seniors could still possibly lose their home, just like the rest of us, if they’re unable to pay the balance. Thousands are already more than two years late ponying up to the taxman. 

It’s distinctly possible that municipalities that seek to be an “’employer of choice’” fail to see this link. It points to an underlying concern: the disconnectedness that exists between governments and citizens.

When the vast majority of staff and elected representatives favor a more active government, it’s no surprise to see official documents tout that tax “revenues performed well,” even though they weren’t earned. Respect for individuals and independent wealth-creators takes a backseat. 

They can dictate “the maximum number of participants and … reduction (they) can receive,” protecting their own “so as to not adversely impact … operations.”

The media add to this chorus by characterizing exemption savings to taxpayers as what the “city loses.”

Property tax systems essentially amount to little more than social engineering tools. If programs like these “work well,” governments reserve the power to determine “other populations that may be vulnerable.” 

As public appraisers themselves point out, property taxes are also an instrument for cronyism, given the inequitable favoritism shown to commercial property.

The only time politicians extend such favor to homeowners is when their respective states compel them to. Ironically, sometimes it’s the state itself that permits levying this tax in the first place. 

Cracking that nut is another task altogether.

For the time being, to paraphrase Chris Rock, just because a municipality can do it, doesn’t mean it should. Alas, we keep getting the Will Smith smackdown. Political openings do however, occasionally present themselves. 

Politicians like to say that their “vote is based on the needs of (their) constituents.” Too often that’s used to justify taking from some to give to others. Paid sick leave laws come to mind. 

When they extend this “belie(f) in representative government” to pleas they’re hearing for “property tax relief,” voters should pounce. 

These flexible principles, and any newfound religion (from “meaningless” savings of a 5% exemption, to wanting to “(go) big”), should be exploited to abolish this antiquated tax scheme for good.

People are more generous when they’re more prosperous. Government bribes need not apply.

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How the Old Right Vindicates Murray Rothbard

05/24/2022Aaron Cummings

As geopolitical tension reaches a historic peak in recent memory, it reveals some of the earliest lore from 20th century libertarian thinkers and the conservatism that flourished at the time.

Ludwig Von Mises was establishing his ideas during the distressing times of WWII. Rothbard was also analyzing the Great Depression with economic concerns rather than political ones.

The Wall Street Journal generally has been supportive of libertarians in the past, but their Old Right allies have been recently critiqued for holding the same views. Among many others, J. Edgar Hoover is cited as a pivotal figure for the Cold War, while Rothbard highlights his populist approach to politics. This was among the most effective examples of the era and those who were receptive to the writings of Russell Kirk or the campaign of Huey Long had a space to call their own.

Warren G Harding and Calvin Coolidge represent the Old Right, which is free from the clutches of the postwar era and best identified by Robert Taft. Many of his quotes resemble a GOP platform that are rarely promoted publicly:

“Our armament program should be based on defending the United States and not defending democracy throughout the world.”

The momentum of the Old Right is often juxtaposed against the foreign policy decisions of WWII. Not only was it a humanitarian endeavor, many 20th century thinkers saw the nonintervention stance as a figment of the past that didn’t adapt to international threats. The Old Right emphasizes that the anti war sentiment is a timeless one and not excused based on emerging ideologies. The libertarians continue that legacy to this day by focusing on national topics over intervention.

Many of these views are not represented in modern campaigns. However, Ron Paul championed them on the national stage with his presidential run. The nonintervention consensus was a key distinction between Donald Trump and the 17 Republicans he ran against. The historic significance around ending the War in Afghanistan harkens back to Taft’s America First platform.

The FDR era was deemed as a watershed moment that, “won the enmity of conservatives.” Like the aftermath of WWII, the right would continue to respond based on the most influential aspects of The New Deal. Its revolutionary impact on the nation left conservatives trying to outcompete it with economic substitutes and cultural trends. The most visible example of Roosevelt’s impact was the continuation of Wilsonian foreign policy. Despite his reputation, Eisenhower was much more in tune with Taft’s hesitation on world affairs and that became a rarity after the FDR presidency.

Nostalgia has been a key asset to postwar conservatism, defined by its sympathies to Wilsonian foreign policy and Cold War framework. The fiscal priorities that were expected from both parties were shattered by The New Deal. Despite the Great Depression remaining in the collective psyche, it was popular to fund any projects that benefited financiers and supported anti-communism. This trend continued beyond the destruction of the Soviet Union and while this helped libertarians in terms of rhetoric, it was a short-term trade off that didn’t accommodate their anti-war stance. Rothbard outlined that a shift in one aspect of policy would not address all political concerns. Instead, there lies a systematic task ahead of conservatives and libertarians alike. He prescribes a new outlook on future platforms by confronting the policies of the past and writes:

We shall break the clock of the New Deal. We shall break the clock of Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom and perpetual war. We shall repeal the 20th century.

Donald Trump was a breakaway from that trend and his legacy is part of an inter-generational history of populism. Contrasting with the climate of 1920s conservatism, the concerns of the prewar right have deeper roots outside their respective eras. As these populist strains spread through Europe, it is clear that the Old Right has revitalized energy that thrives beyond economic reform. It was not a platform exclusive to the early 20th century, since many policymakers are moving away from neoconservatism and embracing the populist approach.

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End the Incorporation Doctrine

05/24/2022Ryan McMaken

Since the Civil War, perhaps no development in American law or politics has done more to expand the de jure power of the federal government than the Incorporation Doctrine. This legal doctrine took a Bill of Rights designed to limit federal power over the states and did exactly the opposite: it greatly expanded the role of the federal government in potentially regulating every aspect of daily life within the states themselves. 

So what is the Incorporation Doctrine?

Stephan Kinsella defines it:

The meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, “ratified” in 1868, has been debated for about 140 years now–and increasingly so in the last 90 or so years as the “Due Process” clause of that Amendment was used as a source of federal power over the states, via the “incorporation doctrine,” under which many of the rights implicit in the first 8 amendments of the Bill of Rights have been “incorporated” into the Due Process clause and thereby “applied” to the states.

Then concludes: 

I come to my main point. If it is true that, at best, the Fourteenth Amendment does not clearly grant to the feds a host of new powers–and even if there are arguments for it (as Thomas himself leans toward), it is clear that there is no such clear grant–then it does not grant them. Just as we interpret serious agreements strictly, and against the drafter; just as we require formalities and writings for serious matters (such as living wills, sales of real estate, and so on), so a wide grant of power to the central state, in the context of a decentralist Constitution where the states historically jealously guarded their sovereignty, must be clear and expressly written to take effect. In other words, the central state should not be allowed–as a matter of constitutional or libertarian norms–to legitimately shift the balance of power away from the states, and toward itself, by vague and ambiguous wording that it itself drafted.

There is no historical or legal basis for the Doctrine in the actual texts of the Constitution, but as a matter of limiting state power, the Doctrine must also be opposed on practical grounds. After all, it is the Incorporation Doctrine which has provided legal scholars and politicians a pretext under which to claim that the federal government should be the last word in virtually every legal conflict in America, from school prayer, to local taxes, to gun ownership. One even often encounters self-identified laissez-faire libertarians who completely accept that the federal courts should intervene in local city council meetings to decide the propriety of local eminent domain laws. Lew Rockwell has explained just how wrong this approach is: 

 [I]t would be no victory for your liberty if, for example, the Chinese government assumed jurisdiction over your downtown streets in order to liberate them from zoning ordinances. Zoning violates property rights, but imperialism violates the right of a people to govern themselves. The Chinese government lacks both jurisdiction and moral standing to intervene. What goes for the Chinese government goes for any distant government that presumes control over government closer to home.

How is the libertarian to choose when there is a conflict between the demands of liberty and strictures against empire? The answer is not always easy, but experience and the whole intellectual history of liberalism suggest that decentralized government is most compatible with long-run concerns for liberty. This is why all the founders were attached to the idea of federalism: that the states within the union were the primary governing units, and the Bill of Rights was to protect both individuals and the states from impositions by the central government—even when liberty is invoked as a justification. 

Just so that we are clear on this last point: the purpose of the Bill of Rights was to state very clearly and plainly what the Federal Government may not do. That's why they were attached to the Constitution. The states, under the influence of skeptics of the Constitution's limits on the central power, insisted that the restrictions on the government be spelled out. The Bill of Rights did not provide a mandate for what the Federal Government may do. You can argue all you want about the 14th amendment and due process. But a reading that says it magically transforms the whole Bill of Rights to mean the exact opposite of its original intent is pure fantasy.

At the heart of all this is the fact that a federal government that has the power and authority to decide what is "constitutional" in every corner of the empire also has the power to force state and local governments to submit to federal laws. 

In other words, the Incorporation Doctrine largely abolished the United States as a confederation of independent states, and moves it far down the road toward becoming a unitary consolidated government. The more practical and wise classical liberals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries understood this and opposed the consolidation of American law under a national government. Mike Maharrey explains why

I think centralizing power is always a net loss for liberty. So did the founding generation. This is why the framers of the Constitution emphatically rejected a proposal to give the federal government veto power over state laws. It’s also why the first Congress rejected applying some provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states.

When I say this, it tends to confuse people, because, in today’s political system, the federal government vetoes state laws all the time through federal courts. And virtually every time somebody perceives that a state government has violated their rights, they run straight to federal courts to stop the offending state action.

Despite my protests, the application of the federal Bill of Rights to the states has become a key feature of the American political system.

As I said, I believe this will ultimately prove to be a net loss for liberty. When you turn to federal courts to protect your liberty from state actions, you’re playing a game of Russian roulette with five bullets loaded into your six-shooter. Despite a few minor victories here and there, federal courts almost always come out with opinions that expand government power, not protect individual liberty. And these expansions of government power become the law of the land across the entire United States. In a decentralized system, bad state court decisions only impact the people in that one state.

The risk isn’t worth the reward.

Essentially, the Incorporation Doctrine renders the Tenth Amendment null and void. We can have a functioning Tenth Amendment or we can have an Incorporation Doctrine. But not both. 

It's also why here at mises.org, we are explicitly decentralist and opposed to applying the Bill of Rights to the state governments. It's a good thing when the state constitutions have their own bills of rights, naturally. Most states do have them, and most of them are quite good. But it is both dangerous and illiberal to insist that the federal government meddle in state and local governments to change state laws and dictate to states what is "constitutional." That was never the intent of the American constitutional system, and the very idea of incorporation destroys the original intent of the Bill of Rights, which was to limit federal law. 

Rather, the idea of the American confederation was to provide protections for liberty through competition among states, and through balancing state power against federal power. The Incorporation Doctrine, however, has greatly tipped the legal scales in favor of federal power and makes the United States far more of a consolidated state than was ever intended. If we're serious about expanding laissez-faire and true self-determination in the United States, the Incorporation Doctrine must be abolished. 

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Biden: A Proxy War with Russia Is Not Enough. We Must Also Seek War with China

If you need any more evidence that U.S. foreign policy is completely out of control, look no further than Commander-in-Chief Biden’s latest pronouncements regarding Taiwan – which is not a country.

That’s right. Not according to the United Nations or the United States government.

In fact, it is acknowledged by both that Taiwan is part of China.

Still, since its decision in the 1940s to begin seriously intervening on the side of the corrupt but nominally republican government of Chiang Kai-Shekin his decade-long struggle for power against Mao and his communist peasant guerillas, it has been U.S. policy to prevent the conclusion of the war by communist Beijing reunifying Taiwan with the mainland.

From Eisenhower to Clinton, any saber-rattling by Beijing was met with the same response: a U.S. carrier sailing through the narrow waterway separating the island(s) from the mainland.

After it recognized Beijing’s legitimacy in the 1970s, the U.S. ripped up its prior defense guarantee to the island, replacing it with security assurances akin to those received by Ukraine via the Budapest Memorandum. Officially, the U.S. position was “strategic ambiguity.” That is, it would not say one way or the other whether or not it would intervene militarily in the event of a mainland attempt to retake the island.

The tactic, maintained through six administrations and four decades, has now been thrown out the window.

After hinting this past year that he favored military intervention, Biden has now declared openly that the U.S. would militarily intervene in the event of an attack by Beijing

This amounts to a de facto preemptive declaration of war on China whenever Taipei decides.

While one is tempted to say the Senate ought to be consulted and their assent given, so mad for war is Washington these days the administration would no doubt get it.

 

The strategy of moving to contain China, a slow creep these past years, is now being escalated dramatically.

Other economic news announced by the White House the same day as Biden’s unilateral decree gives one to understand the Biden administration will not be risking Congress’ interference in U.S. grand strategy – which apparently amounts to needlessly escalating the single most dangerous point of transitional friction between great powers in the world.

Seeing the need to economically as well as military contain China, the Obama administration worked hard to negotiate the TPP: the largest free trade zone in the world for the next century, with the rules written largely by Washington, it could be used to constrain Beijing’s growing economic might.

When then-President Donald Trump tore up the TPP, China hawks were incredulous: after all, how could someone who wanted to get tough with China do something so obviously counterproductive?

As Thomas Freidman at the New York Times fumed at the time: why go it alone when you could gang up on Beijing?

But no matter.

With the announcement of the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework the China hawks and geo-economic strategists have gotten the beginnings of what they wanted. With the war in Ukraine as a backdrop, they will no doubt feel confident they can get the rest.

Most troubling in all of this is whether or not it is even Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan & Co. making these decisions at all. Remember, Obama admitted to being led by the hand, while Trump was beaten into line by Russiagate and a thousand lies and leaks from the departments of State, Defense, and the National Security apparatus. How much of this was Biden being sat down and told what was happening?

Afterall, as the Wall Street Journal broke this fall: Joe Biden was informed upon taking office that the U.S. military had inserted special operators into Taiwan as Trump was leaving office.

It may very well be, as Stephen Walt wrote in his book The Hell of Good Intentions: American Foreign Policy and the Decline of U.S. Primacy, “when it comes to foreign policy, the President is less decider than presider.”

But whether it is Biden or the deep state, the future looks deeply troubling.

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What to Do with War Criminals, Foreign and Domestic

By now everyone has heard or seen it, the thirty-second video clip having been destined to go viral the moment it happened.

In an understandably rare public speaking event at the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University, the 43 president made a Freudian slip of almost unimaginable proportions: he admitted to being a war criminal.

The moment came at the end of an extended condemnation of Vladimir Putin, his regime, and his war in Ukraine. It was in his condemnation of the last of these that the younger Bush familiarly stumbled, saying out loud what critics of the Second Iraq War have said all along: criticizing the systemized stealing of elections and repression of critics, Bush indicated his belief that it was this system which had led to “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.”

Dead silence.

“I mean, of Ukraine,” Bush corrected himself.

He gave a laugh and so did the audience.

Bush continued: “Iraq too…Anyway.”

While some in the hypocritical corporate media were quick to express their own disapprobation and condemnation, this in the name of at a war they had screamed for and called traitors everyone who didn’t support it, the rest quietly observed Bush’s humble willingness, after 20 years, to admit that he had been responsible for the unnecessary and criminal deaths of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of Iraqis. Together with his disastrous and unnecessary invasion and occupation of Afghanistan—we now know from Donald Rumsfeld’s own papers that the Taliban regime had offered to surrender Osama and itself within weeks of the initial US special operations beginning—the body count Bush Jr. is responsible for is likely some millions, to say nothing of the tens of millions of refugees.

“…Anyway.”

And that is exactly how it looks.

In a country where the politicians are at least nominally carrying out the will of the people, they get to casually mention they destroyed the Middle East under false pretenses to a response of chuckles and collective ethos of “we don’t really care.”

Because it doesn’t matter to them, the political elites. And frankly, to any objective observer it didn’t and doesn’t seem to matter to the great majority of Americans. The American public would have let the war in Afghanistan go on forever, never mentioning the war in their pre-election priorities, and the corporate media collectively going months without even mentioning it. As for Iraq War Two, all the American public really objected to were the American casualties, though this could be attributable to the fact that the corporate media had obediently conjoined the two under the black and white rubric of the War on Terror—which was always an obvious lie, since Sadaam hated and killed every Islamist and Jihadi he could get his hands on.

This isn’t world leadership, not worthy leadership: it is criminal, and Bush has finally made a public acknowledgement of it. However late, however inadequate, it should do.

The path now is clear: charge and hand him over the International Criminal Court at the Hague. That is where war criminals belong - and if we're being completely honest George W. Bush isn't the only living US president of recent memory who should go. 

Whatever else it might do—from encouraging Russians to throw Putin in the docket, to keeping Xi patient over Taiwan—it would at least begin the process of trying to account for the great stain upon the nation George W. Bush and the Congresses that abetted him perpetrated during their time in office.

Of course, many of those who voted for the war are still in Congress—or like perma-hawk Hillary Clinton went on to be Secretary of State and the Democratic nominee for president.

And while Bush gave the order and so should take the blame, no one believes for a second that it wasn’t the decision of his advisors, especially his vice president, Dick Cheney. The fact that those same advisors suffered no great personal loss for their deceptions and miscalculations, but sit comfortably in think tanks, or appear on nightly television news broadcasts to tell us how to fix the current crop of messes their policies created in the first place, is a continuing reminder of the failure of the American people to fulfill what democracy says is its most basic function: public accountability.

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