Ostrowski: Pro-Gun-Rights Tactics Are "Archaic, Dated, Spent"

Ostrowski: Pro-Gun-Rights Tactics Are "Archaic, Dated, Spent"

04/16/2018Ryan McMaken

In a talk at the Second Amendment Town Hall in Batavia, New York, James Ostrowski discusses how the long-used efforts to preserve gun rights are doomed to failure. Shouting "the second amendment is enough for me!" is a failed tactic:

We are losing the fight for the Second Amendment. We are losing it in the courts. We are losing it in the legislatures. We are losing it in the media, in the schools and with young people. The approach we have been using to protect the Second Amendment for many years has failed, is failing and will continue to fail. That approach has basically focused on lobbying, elections, voting and using the litigation process without any serious attempt to change the philosophical or ideological bent of the country or to change the ideological trajectory of the country to the left which in the last five years has been accelerating, and without any attempt to change the basic progressive mindset which has dominated American politics for many decades. The tactics we have used are archaic, dated, spent, don’t work and there has been no attempt to use bold new innovative tactics and unless that changes, we are going to lose this fight.

We are close to losing a right that has been recognized in the West for many, many centuries. It’s an ancient right that great minds had to first do the philosophical work to identify, then define, then do the hard political work to have this right recognized by governments and by government law. We are on the verge of losing this ancient right in these times and perhaps very soon because of our own failure to properly defend it with good arguments and good strategy and tactics and the efficient execution of those strategies and tactics.

Read the full talk.

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Spitznagel on Bloomberg: Future Financial Crises Will Be Deeper

1 hour agoMark Spitznagel

Recently Mark Spitznagel, Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Universa Investments, joined Bloomberg to discuss the lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis.

"What [the 2008 financial crisis] taught us ultimately is that interventionism - monetary interventionism - is a Faustian bargain. It gives us short term gains, and longer term pains."

Watch the full video here.

 
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The Supreme Court Is Even Worse than You Think

1 hour agoRyan McMaken

This morning on The Wasatch Report on the Cerberus Radio Network, Suzanne Sherman and I discussed how the US Supreme Court has become far more powerful than was ever intended. We also looked at the problem with the common American idea that the Supreme Court exists to limit federal power, or that its judges are impartial and non-political, seeking only a reasoned, legal interpretation of the laws. This has never been true, but the political nature of the court is far more damaging now because so much power has now been concentrated in the federal government.

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Three Lessons from the Kavanaugh Debacle

3 hours agoJeff Deist

You might not particularly care if the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court or not, but we should care very much about the spectacle playing out in the press and social media. The overall effect is to remind us of Washington DC's status as the center of the universe, how Supreme Court justices necessarily and justifiably wield tremendous power over our lives, and why we should feverishly vote this fall to make sure the bad guys don't win and inflict their judges on us for the next fifty years. 

It's hysterical, and demeaning. But people understandably feel forced into treating the Supreme Court makeup as a life and death political struggle. 

All of this diverts attention from what should be a key issue, if not the key issue, in Kavanaugh's nomination: the 4th Amendment. Judge Andrew Napolitano, who knows and likes the nominee, makes the damning case that his views regarding the misnamed Patriot Act, FISA courts, search warrants, and domestic surveillance are deeply illiberal and dismissive to constitutionalism.

Kavanaugh's legal opinions are nothing short of terrible when it comes to an individual's basic right to live free of government searches, snooping, or seizures of property without specific proof that rises to the level of reasonable suspicion. His record is not one of "originalism," but rather undue deference to the wishes of a rapacious executive branch. 

His nomination will not turn on this, however.

Instead it appears we will be subject to lurid testimony before the Judiciary Committee about the nominee's alleged high school groping, delivered by his accuser, in a dramatic turn that can only result in two segments of the country adamantly believing and disbelieving her. Are Senators on that committee prepared to act as would-be judges in what amounts to an accusation of criminal conduct? Are they competent triers of fact in a he said/she said scenario from 30 years ago?

These hearings showcase several particularly American phenomena. They're televised, which turns every Senator into a grandstanding showman intent on bolstering a national image. They're voyeuristic, taking us inside the presumably boring personal lives of federal judges: Mr. Kavanaugh apparently drinks beer, uses credit cards, holds season tickets to the Washington Nationals, and is either a sexual assaulter or unassailable soup kitchen volunteer. Above all, they inject the phoniest of politics into what should be a simple inquiry into the nominee's basic fitness as a judge. Even when that nominee is a native of DC, a true company man who has been around the federal government all his life (Kavanaugh worked a stint in the Bush I administration), his Senate interrogators have to make a big show of some imagined clash of worldviews.   

Three clear lessons emerge from the Kavanaugh fiasco:

First: the politicization of the Supreme Court is total and cannot be undone. You'd be hard pressed to find an American who views the Court as anything other than an unelected super-legislature that issues sweeping "laws" governing everything from abortion to guns to healthcare mandates to government surveillance and spying. There's a reason people say any given court decision is "the law of the land." Justices are black-robed tenured monarchs, selected by presidents as a form of political spoils to carry out a political agenda. They are Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, and rule accordingly-- starting with their intended political result in any given case, and working backward to fashion a legal argument justifying that result. Judicial activism is triumphant, and no pretense of impartiality remains regardless of the shifting "philosophies" offered for statutory interpretation.

Second: judicial overreach has not limited executive or legislative overreach. The doctrine of judicial review is specious at best, with no support in Article III of the Constitution. Our understanding of Marbury v. Madison is deeply flawed. Yet millions of American kids escape high school believing the Supreme Court is supreme not only over lower federal courts, but also over the other branches of government. 

Has this extra-constitutional power assumed by the Court served to limit the unconstitutional actions of those branches? Hardly. Congress runs roughshod over Article 1, section 8, while cravenly refusing to declare war; the General Welfare Clause and Commerce Clause are interpreted laughably; economic substantive due process--read "property rights"-- hasn't been recognized for nearly a century; the 9th and 10th Amendments are dead letters, the 4th Amendment is on life support; and the entire 20th century serves as stark evidence of the Court's willingness to rubber stamp unchecked executive power. 

Judicial review serves as legal cover for government power, not a check on it.

Third: centralized judicial power is as damaging to liberty as centralized executive and legislative power. Having a single court run by nine humans make top-down decisions for 320 million people is a recipe for disaster. Common law is inherently decentralized; it evolves locally and slowly creates universal precepts (i.e. prohibitions on murder) only when there is near unanimity of agreement across time and geography. The gradual imposition of positive civil law in America, along with the federalization of vast areas of law that once were determined locally, created a federal judiciary that is unworkable and unresponsive to millions of Americans. For the vast majority of us, recourse against the federal government for its lawless acts is an illusion-- we don't have 10 years and millions of dollars for lawyers.

***********

The divisive nature of Supreme Court nominations is a feature and not a bug of our federal politics and government.. Truth, justice, and fairness, the hallmarks (or at least goals) of a decent legal system, must give way to tribal war and endless "whataboutism" in any culture where politics predominates. This is what politics does to all of us, and to a judiciary that is supposed to constrain the politicians.

 

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Higgs on Hulsmann and Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism

09/17/2018Robert Higgs

I have known Guido a long time, and when he was working on the book, I used to goad him by asking frequently, “When are you going to finish that Mises book?” I had no idea what a tremendous project that research was or what magnificent fruit it would bear. After reading it, I wrote to Guido as follows:

“I have finally finished reading your great book about Mises. When I use the word ‘great,’ I mean not simply that it weighs at least a kilo and contains more than 1,000 pages. I mean most of all that it is a magnificent scholarly achievement. I can’t remember when I have taken more pleasure from a book. It is a joy to read, in every way. The English is precise and polished, and everything is put just right. The research is amazingly broad, yet deep, too. The judgments are sensible and mature. The coverage–from the personal details to the content of Mises’s ideas to the context in which he lived and worked–is extraordinary, and the organization puts everything into comprehensible order. The bibliography is more than impressive. All in all, the book is simply an amazing accomplishment, and a fitting tribute to its great subject.

The Mises Institute deserves great credit, too, not only for its support of your work on this project, but also for producing a book that is a fine example of the publisher’s art: the typeface is clean and clear, and large enough to permit effortless reading; the layout is spacious and proper; the footnotes are where they should be, and they, too, are large enough to be read without a magnifying glass; the illustrations are splendid complements to the text; and the indexes are terrific. The work is thus not simply beautiful intellectually, but beautiful physically, as well.

If I had ever written anything half so wonderful–and I recognize that I lack the abilities to do so–I would consider my career a complete success, and feel myself justified in taking my ease, to rest on my laurels. I do not perceive that you have this plan in mind for yourself, and therefore the world will be the better, not only for your great book on Mises, but also for all the great achievements that lie in your future. I salute you, my friend, not without a touch of envy, but with my whole heart.”

(Hardcover and Audio book available now at the Mises Bookstore.)

h/t  LewRockwell.com
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What Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Need to Learn About Income Inequality

09/14/2018Tho Bishop

Earlier this week Aaron Ross Sorkin wrote an interesting article at the New York Times where he draws the connection between many of the political trends in this country—Trump and attacks on trade, rise of democratic socialist politicians, and the rise of general skepticism of the "expert class"—to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Of course issue that has been driven to the forefront of American politics since 2008 has been heightened awareness about growing income inequality in the country. Naturally the American left looks at the issue and gets it completely wrong, but that doesn't mean that the issue isn't completely without merit. There is in fact a faction in America that could be considered as the "unjust rich" who benefit directly as a result of a parasitic government and the modern financial system. 

This is all why I think one of the most important contributions Austrian economics offers to modern political discourse is connection between monetary policy and income inequality.

At Mises University this year, Dr. Karl-Friedrich Israel gave an excellent lecture on this topic, looking at the relevant data that exists, analyzing the work of non-Austrian scholars like Thomas Piketty, and focusing on the ways artificial credit expansion directly feed into this issue. Consider sharing it the next time a friends quotes Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the topic.

Monetary Policy and Inequality | Karl-Friedrich Israel

Read more about the topic:

Central Banks Enrich a Select Few at the Expense of Many by Thorsten Polleit
How Central Banking Increased Inequality by Louis Rouanet
How Central Banks Widen Wealth and Income Gaps by Hal Snarr

More from Karl-Friedrich Israel:

How Much Do Central Banks Cost Us?
Inflation May Be Causing a Long-Term Rise in Unemployment
Five Reasons for Central Banks: Are They Any Good?

 

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Without the Federal Government, Who Will Regulate Dog Meat?

09/13/2018Ryan McMaken

The federal government is running a massive deficit right now. American wages are stagnant. The US is involved in multiple costly wars with no apparent objective. And the president raises taxes on Americans at will through his tariff policy.

But fortunately the Congress is getting down to what is really important. Federalizing laws banning the sale of cat and dog meat.

The silliness of Congress's involvement in the matter is so obvious that even CBS news begins its article on the topic with a snide comment:

The government shuts down at the end of the month, and Democrats and Republicans seem unable to make a deal to keep it open. They are, however, united in trying to stop people from eating pets.

But the new bill does provide a chance for politicians to crow about "accomplishing" something in Congress. Bill sponsor and Florida Democrat Alice Hastings released a glowing statement:

"The House of Representatives has voted to unify animal cruelty laws across the country, which would prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption," Hastings said. "I am proud to have championed this effort in Congress to explicitly ban the killing and consumption dogs and cats across the United States, and am greatly appreciative of my friend and colleague Congressman Buchanan for taking the 'Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act' across the finish line today."

Boy, without the federal government, who could possibly regulate such things? I mean, other than the county commissioners who could just as easily pass an ordinance on the matter? The sale and handling of dog meat is already illegal nearly everywhere in the US. The new federal law is being passed because it gives politicians a shiny object to distract the voters with on the campaign trail this fall.

Keep in mind also that if the feds plan to enforce the new regulations, it will require work from federal employees who will need to surveil, investigate, and prosecute any suspected lawbreakers. The people who do it will collect a federal salary and, eventually, a federal pension.

Needless to say, there's no section of the Federal Constitution that expresses the necessity of federal involvement in regulating cat meat. But such trifles don't concern Congress when there is good politicking to be had. After all, from the politician's standpoint, only a few odd eccentrics like yours truly are going to bother condemning the bill. Meanwhile, the bill's supporters will be able to make stump speeches to suburban moms and college activists about how "I am fighting for you" in Congress by making dog-meat boutiques illegal under federal law.

This leads us to ask the question of how widespread this black-market industry even is. If is is not widespread then why the need for federal legislation? And if consumption of dog meat is widespread, then this tells us that somewhere in America private citizens — presumably taxpayers — like to eat dog meat. So, the federal legislation is either pointless, or it's trampling on the property rights of someone somewhere.

In either case, the question must be answered: are we to believe that dog-meat lovers have no rights just because lots of people think dogs are cute? Yes, I get it, I have a dog too and she's swell. Barring a Venezuela-style apocalypse, I'm totally not going to eat her.

On the other hand, if some people somewhere like eating dog, why is it my place to sign off on threatening those people with fines imposed by federal agents for doing something I find distasteful.

At this point in the debate, of course, the opponents of dog meat will start repeating totally arbitrary reasons for why eating dog ought to be verboten. "They' cute, they're intelligent, they make good companions." And so on.

But as anyone who has worked with pigs knows, those animals are very intelligent, too. Some are even cute. Some people keep pigs as pets. And yet, many of the same people who sob over dog meat have few scruples about ordering a sausage pizza.

Hardliner animal rights people are, at least, consistent in this. They are against all animal slaughter. And that's a respectable position — although not one I agree with.1

Dog Meat vs. Horse Meat

Unfortunately, we've already been over this, and the federal government has already been blazing the trail for regulating meat slaughter and sales for quite some time. In fact, it was just late last year that the Congress was debating ending an existing federal ban on the processing of horse meat. And although I've been a personal fan of many horses I have met, I also came out against that federal ban.

[RELATED: "Do We Really Need a Federal Ban on Horse Meat?" by Ryan McMaken]

In that case, though, opponents of horse-meat bans had something more in their favor: Americans were still eating horse meat in the mid twentieth century. Even more recently, Americans were feeding horse meat — ironically, given the current debate — to their cats and dogs. Moreover, as I pointed out in the article, Western society has a long history of eating horse meat, although it was never especially popular in the United States. But in the case of horse meat, why ought the "rights" of horses trump those of private taxpaying citizens who happen to make their living from selling horse meat? Or who enjoy eating it?

With cats and dogs, of course, there is very little history of them being eaten in the US or in Europe.

Eating dogs, however, is apparently common in China, Indonesia, and Korea. Some immigrants from those places still eat dogs.

But, there aren't enough people in the US who like dog meat to make the pro-dog-meat lobby in the US politically significant. Congress simply doesn't have to worry about any of those people when campaigning for re-election this November. Those horrible foreigners and new arrivals who like dog meat? To hell with them. And if they get caught eating a dog or cat? Well then its a $5,000 fine. Xenophobia continues to be great politics, just not in the way you think. It's not the Trump voters in this case who are wanting to stick it to foreigners and immigrants. This time, banning dog meat is all about pandering to soccer moms and well-to-do twenty-somethings who refer to their dogs as their children. It's probably a winning strategy.

  • 1. Unfortunately, with many hardcore animal rights activists, this admirable consistency often fails to extend to opposing the killing of human life pre-birth.
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Price Gouging: A Life-Saving Market Mechanism

09/13/2018TJ Roberts

As Hurricane Florence prepares to ravage the Southeastern United States, social media warriors, and “news” outlets are exclaiming their outrage at the business owners who are raising prices on essential items such as water, food, gasoline, plywood, and even hotel rooms. This “price gouging,” however, is absolutely essential, for people’s lives are at risk due to this storm. When clouded by emotion, increasing the price of these commodities may come across as detrimental, and even malicious. But a sober mind must acknowledge the necessity of price flexibility.

Price Gouging and Basic Economics

We can look at the effects of price gouging from two perspectives: supply and demand.

On the demand side, increasing the price of these goods makes consumers more conscious of their purchases. In other words, this encourages people to live within their means. When a disaster is incoming, such as a hurricane or a blizzard, people will see others at grocery stores stocking up on water and other essentials. They will, however, purchase too much if the price stays the same. Whereas a storm and its immediate aftermath may last for a few days, people will purchase enough to last them for months, resulting in shortages.

By increasing the price of a good, customers are more likely to purchase only what they need to survive. Now, many will say that this just means that the rich will outbid the poor on necessary resources. But this is not the case when one thinks on the margin. In everyday life, the rich don’t outbid the poor on food because the rich do not need all the food in the world. They will only purchase food so long as the perceived benefit acquired is worth more than the money they will have lost if they make the purchase. In other words, price gouging stops the rich from buying all of the water and thus allows the poor to buy water that they may desperately need.

Keeping the Prices the Same Hurts Everyone

Suppose water stayed at the same price throughout a disaster. The receivers of the water will then be the first to show up. But what if the first comers take far more than they need for this disaster? Then there will be nothing left. By increasing prices, store managers are making sure that people only buy what they find to be necessary so that they do not run out of goods. This allows for a greater distribution of essential goods.

On the supply side, price gouging helps increase the quantity. The rich can only outbid the poor if there is a fixed amount of a given resource within the area in which a disaster has occurred. This is far from the case. By increasing prices, the market is signaling to businesses to reallocate resources to the area in need of resources. This has two effects.

First, entrepreneurs who live outside the disaster area see a willingness of consumers to purchase items at a higher price. That means that entrepreneurs will be far more likely to take the risk of traveling to the area to sell the items. This makes the number of goods to rise, allowing for more people to be able to access essential resources.

Second, charities see higher prices and begin initiatives to give resources to those in need. Governments cause shortages by implementing price controls. Charities and entrepreneurs save lives. There is not a fixed amount of goods. The price system readjusts incentive structures to ensure that enough people have what they need to survive a natural disaster.

Price gouging is no different from any other instance of price flexibility. Those who charge a higher price despite popular outrage deserve a medal, for they are saving lives by ensuring people only purchase what they need to survive a disaster. For all of you who will be affected by Hurricane Florence, stay safe and thank a price gouger!

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Great New Lew Rockwell Interview

09/13/2018Ryan McMaken

I've been following Lew Rockwell's work pretty closely for more than 15 years, but there's a lot of good stuff I haven't heard before in this new interview between Tom Woods and Lew. He goes a little more deeply into some of his work with Ron Paul in Congress, and Lew apparently has a new book coming out soon, called Against the Left.

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Barack Obama's Return Just Reminds Us How He Fueled American Distrust

09/13/2018James Bovard

Former president Barack Obama is back. He kicked off a series of campaign appearances last week with a blistering attack on the Trump administration and said the Republican Party had “embraced a rising absolutism.” President Donald Trump deserves plenty of harsh criticism, but Obama’s indictment is akin to the kid who killed his parents and then sought mercy from the judge because he was an orphan.

Obama declared that“the biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism.” He also called for “a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government.” But his eight years as president fueled the distrust of Washington that Obama now condemns.....

When Obama took office, the United States had the 20th-most-free press in the world, according to the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. By 2016, it had fallen to 41st — worse than South Africa and barely ahead of Botswana. Obama appointees severely undermined the Freedom of Information Act.

“It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel,” the former president said. Trump’s declarations about federal prosecutions are appalling. But while the FBI was investigating the legality of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Obama repeatedly publicly declared that she had committed no crime. 

The Inspector General report released in June revealed that, after a half-hearted probe, the FBI planned to absolve Clinton unless she openly confessed to wrongdoing when FBI agents finally talked to her. The stifled investigation of her email shenanigans helped assure her the Democratic Party presidential nomination and, indirectly, paved the way to a Trump presidency.

Read the full article at USA Today
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The Great Cryptocurrency Crash of 2018

It looks like we have an asset bust for the record books in the making.  The cryptocurrency crash now under way today surpassed the dot-com bust that occurred at the beginning of the millennium,.  While the NASDAQ Composite Index suffered a decline of 78% from its peak in March 2000 to its trough in October 2002, the MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 10 Index, has tumbled 80% from January of this year to today.  During this period, the price of bitcoin, which represents 55% of the value of all cryptocurrencies, has plunged from around $19,300 at its January peak to $6,300 as I write this.  In the estimate of one commentator, the only "currency" in the world that is now faring worse than bitcoin is the Venezualan bolivar.  Whether or not cryptocurrncies recover--and I doubt they will--it is clear that their volatility make them unfit to serve as a general medium of exchange. However this lesson will likely be lost on the promoters of cryptocurrency.  As Tyler Winklevoss put it:

As you get older your brain loses its plasticity at some point and you get wedded to the frameworks that you have.

 By the way, Mr. Winklevoss, one of the Winklevoss twins of Facebook lore and one of the first self-proclaimed bitcoin billionaires, was speaking about the critics of cryptocurrency. 

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