Why Did Edmund Burke so Inspire Leonard Read?"

Why Did Edmund Burke so Inspire Leonard Read?"

01/12/2018Gary Galles

Leonard Read, founder, leader and long-time heart and soul of the Foundation for Economic Education, and one of liberty’s most insightful adherents, took seriously his belief that the purpose of one’s life was to grow. He sought out sources of light, wherever he could find them, and incorporated them into his thoughts.

Those familiar with Read, whose works are now easily available online, know that he peppered quotations throughout his work. Those quotations provide us an added window into his thoughts. The person Read quoted most frequently in his books was Edmund Burke, which reveals a great deal about Read. In How Do We Know?, Read said “I am often criticized — in a friendly way — for so copiously quoting those whose wisdom is far superior to mine, Edmund Burke, for instance…why not share the wisdom of seers—those who have seen what most of us have not—with freedom aspirants!”

So as we mark Burke’s January 12 birthday, consider some of the words that inspired Leonard Read to cite Burke so copiously:

He who profits of a superior understanding, raises his power to a level with the height of the superior understanding he unites with.

How often has public calamity been arrested on the very brink of ruin, by the seasonable energy of a single man? Have we no such man amongst us? I am as sure as I am of my being, that one vigorous mind without office, without situation, without public function of any kind, I say, one such man, confiding in the aid of God, and full of just reliance in his own fortitude, vigor, enterprise, and perseverance, would first draw to him some few like himself, and then that multitudes, hardly thought to be in existence, would appear and troop about him.

No government ought to exist for the purpose of checking the prosperity of its people or to allow such a principle in its policy.

It is a general error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

It is not only our duty to make the right known, but to make it prevalent.

I hope to see the surest of all reforms, perhaps the only sure reform—the ceasing to do ill.

Example is the school of mankind. They will learn at no other.

But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, [your representative] ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living…They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither…is safe.

Power gradually extirpates from the mind every human and gentle virtue.

Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing on the rights of others, he has a right to do for himself.

All men have equal rights, but not to equal things.

The great difference between the real statesman and the pretender is, that one sees into the future, while the other regards only the present; the one lives by the day and acts on expediency; the other acts on enduring principles and for immortality. 

Depend upon it, the lovers of freedom will be free. 

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity; in proportion as their soundness and sobriety is above their vanity and presumption; in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.

Tell me what are the prevailing sentiments that occupy the minds of your young men and I will tell you what is to be the character of the next generation.

Having looked to government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them.

The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.

All who have ever written on government are unanimous that among a people generally corrupt liberty cannot long exist.

If circumspection and caution are a part of wisdom, when we work only upon inanimate matter, surely they become a part of duty too, when the subject of our demolition and construction is not brick and timber, but sentient beings, by the sudden alteration of whose state, condition and habits, multitudes may be rendered miserable…the true law-giver ought to have an heart full of sensibility. He ought to love and respect his kind, and to fear himself.

Leonard Read quoted Edmund Burke in roughly two-thirds of his books. And when you consider those quotes in connection to Read’s work, you can see why Read held Burke in such high esteem and echoed so many of his views.

In The Path of Duty, Read commented on Burke’s views of the American experiment in liberty — “He was sympathetic to and promotive of the American colonies and had no hesitancy in proclaiming his position. Stalwart! He was blest with foresight, seeing into the future: America, home of the free and land of the brave! Here was found the purest practice of freedom in world history, and Burke’s support was based on ‘enduring principles and for immortality.’ In my reading of history, never before or since his time has there been a greater statesman.” In The Freedom Freeway, Read wrote “Edmund Burke has put the solution for disunion better than anyone known to me.” 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

How the Soviets Replaced Christmas with a Socialist Winter Holiday

12/10/2019Ryan McMaken

Leftist revolutionaries have long been in the habit of reworking the calendar so as it make it easier to force the population into new habits and new ways of life better suited to the revolutionaries themselves.

The French revolutionaries famously abolished the usual calendar, replacing it with a ten-day week system with three weeks in each month. The months were all renamed. Christian feast days and holidays were replaced with commemorations of plants like turnips and cauliflower.

The Soviet communists attempted major reforms to the calendar themselves. Among these was the abolition of the traditional week with its Sundays off and predictable seven-day cycles.

RELATED: "When the Communists Abolished the Weekend" by Ryan McMaken]

That experiment ultimately failed, but the Soviets did succeed in eradicating many Christian traditional holidays in a country that had been for centuries influenced by popular adherence to the Eastern Orthodox Christian religion.

Once the communists took control of the Russian state, the usual calendar of religious holidays was naturally abolished. Easter was outlawed, and during the years when weekends were removed, Easter was especially difficult to celebrate, even privately.

But perhaps the most difficult religious holiday to suppress was Christmas, and much of this is evidenced in the fact that Christmas wasn't so much abolished as replaced by a secular version with similar rituals.

Emily Tamkin writes at Foreign Policy:

Initially, the Soviets tried to replace Christmas with a more appropriate komsomol (youth communist league) related holiday, but, shockingly, this did not take. And by 1928 they had banned Christmas entirely, and Dec. 25 was a normal working day.

Then, in 1935, Josef Stalin decided, between the great famine and the Great Terror, to return a celebratory tree to Soviet children. But Soviet leaders linked the tree not to religious Christmas celebrations, but to a secular new year, which, future-oriented as it was, matched up nicely with Soviet ideology.

Ded Moroz [a Santa Claus-like figure] was brought back. He found a snow maid from folktales to provide his lovely assistant, Snegurochka. The blue, seven-pointed star that sat atop the imperial trees was replaced with a red, five-pointed star, like the one on Soviet insignia. It became a civic, celebratory holiday, one that was ritually emphasized by the ticking of the clock, champagne, the hymn of the Soviet Union, the exchange of gifts, and big parties.

In the context of these celebrations, the word "Christmas" was replaced by "winter." According to a Congressional report from 1965,

The fight against the Christian religion, which is regarded as a remnant of the bourgeois past, is one of the main aspects of the struggle to mold the new "Communist man." … the Christmas Tree has been officially abolished, Father Christmas has become Father Frost, the Christmas Tree has become the Winter Tree, the Christmas Holiday the Winter Holiday. Civil-naming ceremonies are substituted for christening and confirmation, so far without much success.

It is perhaps significant that Stalin found the Santa Claus aspect of Christmas worth preserving, and Stalin apparently calculated that a father figure bearing gifts might be useful after all.

According to a 1949 article in The Virginia Advocate,

at children’s gatherings in the holiday season … grandfather frost lectures on good Communist behavior. He customarily ends his talk with the question “to whom do we owe all the good things in our socialist society?” To which, it is said, the children chorus the reply, ‘Stalin.’

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

The Warfare State Lied About Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. They Will Lie Again.

12/09/2019Tho Bishop

Today the Washington Post published a bombshell report titled “The Afghanistan Papers,” highlighting the degree to which the American government lied to the public about the ongoing status of the war in Afghanistan. Within the thousands of pages, consisting of internal documents, interviews, and other never-before-released intel, is a vivid depiction of a Pentagon painfully aware of the need to keep from the public the true state of the conflict and the doubts, confusion, and desperation of decision-makers spanning almost 20 years of battle.

As the report states:

The interviews, through an extensive array of voices, bring into sharp relief the core failings of the war that war is inseparable from propaganda, lies, hatred, impoverishment, cultural degradation, and moral corruption. It is the most horrific outcome of the moral and political legitimacy people are taught to grant the state. persist to this day. They underscore how three presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders have been unable to deliver on their promises to prevail in Afghanistan.

With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation....

The documents also contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

None of these conclusions surprise anyone that has been following America’s fool's errand in Afghanistan. 

What makes this release noteworthy is the degree to which it shows the lengths to which Washington to knowingly deceive the public about the state of the conflict. This deception extends even to the federal government’s accounting practices. Notes the report, the “U.S. government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war in Afghanistan.”

As the war has dragged on, the struggle to justify America’s military presence. As the report notes:

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary.

“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the senior NSC official told government interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.

Making Washington’s failure in Afghanistan all the more horrific is how easily predictable it was for those who desired to see the warfare state for what it is.

In the words of Lew Rockwell, in reflecting on the anti-war legacy of Murray Rothbard:

War is inseparable from propaganda, lies, hatred, impoverishment, cultural degradation, and moral corruption. It is the most horrific outcome of the moral and political legitimacy people are taught to grant the state. 

On this note, it is important to note that the significance of the Washington Post’s report should not distract from another major story that has largely been ignored by mainstream news outlets.

Recently, multiple inspectors with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have come forward claiming that relevant evidence related to their analysis of the reported 2017 chemical gas attack in Syria. As Counterpunch.org has reported:

Assessing the damage to the cylinder casings and to the roofs, the inspectors considered the hypothesis that the cylinders had been dropped from Syrian government helicopters, as the rebels claimed. All but one member of the team concurred with Henderson in concluding that there was a higher probability that the cylinders had been placed manually. Henderson did not go so far as to suggest that opposition activists on the ground had staged the incident, but this inference could be drawn. Nevertheless Henderson’s findings were not mentioned in the published OPCW report.

The staging scenario has long been promoted by the Syrian government and its Russian protectors, though without producing evidence. By contrast Henderson and the new whistleblower appear to be completely non-political scientists who worked for the OPCW for many years and would not have been sent to Douma if they had strong political views. They feel dismayed that professional conclusions have been set aside so as to favour the agenda of certain states.

At the time, those who dared question the official narrative about the attack - including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Rep. Thomas Massie, and Fox News’s Tucker Carlson - were derided for being conspiracy theorists by many of the same Serious People who not only bought the Pentagon’s lies about Afghanistan but also the justifications for the Iraq War.  
 
Once again we are reminded of the wise words of George Orwell, “truth is treason in an empire of lies."

These attacks promoted as justification for America to escalate its military engagement in the country, with the beltway consensus lobbying President Trump to reverse his administration's policy of pivoting away from the Obama-era mission of toppling the Assad regime. While Trump did respond with a limited missile attack, the administration rejected the more militant proposals promoted by some of its more hawkish voices, such as then-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. 

In a better timeline, the ability of someone like Rep. Gabbard to see through what increasingly looks like another attempt to lie America into war would warrant increased support in her ongoing presidential campaign.

Instead, we are likely to continue to see those that advocate peace attacked by the bipartisan consensus that provides cover for continued, reckless military action abroad.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

The Greatest of Modern Demagogues

12/09/2019David Gordon

We usually think of Friedrich Hayek as a moderate, as least when compared with Mises and Rothbard, but he had a radical side as well. Hidden away in a note to the third volume of Law, Legislation, and Liberty, he makes a comment that puts him far outside “respectable” public opinion. He says that the inventor of “freedom from want” was “the greatest of modern demagogues.” Hayek’s condemnation of Franklin Roosevelt  is as forthright as any radical could wish.

The passage where he says that is this: ”In view of the latest trick of the Left to turn the old liberal tradition of human rights in the sense of limits to the powers both of government and of other persons over the individual into positive claims for particular benefits (like the 'freedom from want' invented by the greatest of modern demagogues) it should be stressed here that in a society of free men the goals of collective action can always only aim to provide opportunities for unknown people, means of which anyone can avail himself for his purposes, but no concrete national goals which anyone is obliged to serve. The aim of policy should be to give all a better chance to find a position which in turn gives each a good chance of achieving his ends than they would otherwise have.” (Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Volume 3, note 42, pp.202-203 in the one-volume edition of the trilogy published by Routledge, 1982)

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

We're Told Americans Have No Free Time, Yet We're Watching More than Four Hours of TV Per Day

12/06/2019Ryan McMaken

We are repeatedly told that basic human rituals are falling by the wayside. Why don't we all sit down to dinner as a family anymore? Why don't we spend time with each other anymore? Why are we all sleep deprived?

Sometimes these problems are blamed on people spending too much time devoted to kids' intramural activities or other types of school- and recreation-based activities. Some analysts note people can't tear themselves away from their smart phones in order to go to bed at a decent hour.

But very often, we're told, this lack of time comes down to too much work. The articles covering these topics are full of anecdotal evidence of people with multiple jobs, long commutes, and crushing work responsibilities.

These problems no doubt afflict many people. They're certainly an issue for people at that state of life where couples have school-age children, and have a host of bills from many responsibilities that comes with raising a family.

But, the anecdotal evidence is contradicted by years of data showing people aren't nearly as hard pressed for a few free moments as is supposed.

Specifically, consider the 2019 Q1 data provided on media consumption by the Neilsen Company. According to their extensive sampling of TV, smart phone, and video game console users, American adults spend an average of four-and-a-half hours per day watching television. The spend an additional 54 minutes using TV-connected devices such as DVD players and video game consoles.

neilsen2.PNG

People over fifty watch the most television and generally consume the most screen-based media. People in the 50-64 age bracket watched nearly six hours of television, and spend an additional two hours and forty-seven minutes on smart phones. People in the over-65 category watched even more television than that.

Not surprisingly, people in the 18-34 age group consumed the least media overall, and also used televisions the least. Those people have younger children — which makes TV viewing harder — and may be spending more time outside the house with friends. In this group, people watched on average one hour and fifty-four minutes of television, but were on phone apps for three-and-a-half hours.

Across age groups, media consumption ranged from nine hours to nearly thirteen hours. Per day.

But to err on the conservative side, let's remove radio time — which could just be part of the daily commute — and "internet on a computer," which could be chores and work time. Even if we do this, we find Americans are on average watching videos, playing video games, and consuming media seven or eight hours per day.

And yet, media outlets and pundits are often telling us that ordinary people absolutely don't have time to prepare a meal or maintain friendships. Given the data here, I'm skeptical of these assertions.

Now, these are averages, so it may be that people are very squeezed for time during the week, but then consume enormous amounts of media on the weekends. Certainly, there are people out there who consume live sports programming virtually all day on Sunday during football seasons. But then that would imply these people at least have time to spend with friends and family on weekends.

neilsen1.PNG

But if people have more than seven hours per day on average to watch re-runs of Friends, watch in-depth analysis of NBA games, and fire up the Playstation, why can't they manage to get eight hours of sleep?

If this data is correct, then the anecdotal evidence just doesn't add up, and it's simply not the case that people don't have time to do anything other than work, eat some fast food, and then do it all over again.

This isn't to say that poverty doesn't exist or that everyone is more or less average. We've all encountered people who at least sometimes work multiple jobs or are pushed to their limits by family obligations, work, and medical problems.

But the statistical data on media consumption suggests this isn't the typical experience.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Prohibition Ended Today 86 Years Ago

12/05/2019D.W. MacKenzie

Today is an interesting milestone for libertarian-minded people, as well as those with a fondness for trivia.

86 years ago today FDR 86’d prohibition.

Drinking became a crime starting on January 17th 1920, and remained a crime until December 5th 1933. Prohibition serves as a leading example of what happens when people in a largely free society lose part of their freedom. Prohibition did not stop Americans from drinking, it just drove an industry underground and into the control of gangs. Consequently, gang violence escalated during the prohibition years.

Prohibition also escalated police raids against harmless commerce. Prohibition fueled speakeasies as dispensers of beer & booze. Speakeasies obviously dealt with violent gangs as suppliers, but speakeasy customers engaged in voluntary transactions for desired goods. Police raids on speakeasies drove willing customers out of these businesses now and then, and these raids prompted both corruption and a minor change in the English language.

One speakeasy was “Chumley’s” located at 86 Bedford Street in Manhattan. Some police acted as informants to the bartenders at Chumley’s: shortly before a raid they would call with the message to “86 the customers”, to stop business and push all customers out the door. Hence the term 86’d began as a term for putting a stop to illicit business in one bar, but developed subsequently into a more general term for getting rid of something or refusing service. Prohibition ended 86 years ago today.

This is perhaps the only day during any year that libertarian-minded person might find it appropriate to raise a toast to FDR.

Cheers to the 32nd President, for just this one occasion.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Who Is on the Shortlist to Lead the Bank of England?

 A few months ago, just after Boris Johnson had become Prime Minister, I wrote an article addressing the ongoing selection process for the next Governor of the Bank of England, in which I gave my prediction of who the top 5 most likely candidates might be.

Much has changed in the British political landscape since then, including the decision to hold a general election on 12th December. As a result, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid has announced that he will not be making his selection for the next BoE Governor until after the election, to avoid compromising the Bank’s independence by announcing during a “politically sensitive” time.

However, an official shortlist has been delivered to the Treasury, and the 5 names “thought to be” on the shortlist, as reported by the Grauniad, are Andrew Bailey, Minouche Shafik, and Ben Broadbent (who were on my predicted shortlist) as well as Shriti Vadera and Jon Cunliffe (who were not).

I included Vadera as an “honourable mention” in my article, but am admittedly surprised she made it onto the official shortlist, given her reputed “fiery” management style and strong partisan links to the Labour Party. However, bearing in mind the government’s stated intention to make this a diverse hiring process, and their use of the headhunting firm Sapphire Partners which “specialises in diversity and placing women in top roles”, it makes sense that they would have wanted to include her, at least to avoid the shortlist being 80% pale, male, and frail.

Everyone seems to be surprised that former Reserve Bank of India Governor and central banking superstar Raghuram Rajan was not included on the list, having previously been second only to Andrew Bailey in the bookies’ estimations. It’s perfectly true, as has been pointed out, that his failure to be included on the shortlist (or even interviewed) doesn’t necessarily mean he’s out of the race; current Governor Mark Carney was not included in the shortlist to replace Mervyn King in 2013. However, I have long had my doubts about the likelihood of Rajan getting the job, mainly due to the simple fact that (through no fault of his own, mind you) he isn’t British. I imagine this wouldn’t be such an issue in normal circumstances, but current Governor Mark Carney is the first of the Bank’s 120 Governors to have been foreign, and his tenure has been marked by repeated accusations of insufficient familiarity with the British economy. So it’s easy to imagine the pressure that must exist to not give the job to a second full-blown foreigner in a row.

I say “full-blown” foreigner to distinguish Rajan from the person who I personally believe is most likely to get the job, Egyptian-born Nemat “Minouche” Shafik. As I mentioned in my original article, Shafik’s status as a woman of colour would tick all the diversity boxes the government could reasonably hope for, yet she has sufficient “insider status”, both within the British economy and the Bank of England itself, to shield her from the sort of criticism to which Rajan might be subjected, and to be a considerable advantage in its own right. Educated at Oxford and the London School of Economics (two damn fine institutions, in my own entirely unbiased opinion), Shafik is the current Director of the latter institution, and was formerly a Deputy Governor at the Bank of England, having sat on its rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee from mid-2014 to early-2017. During her tenure, Shafik typically voted with the rest of the MPC, making it difficult to isolate her personal views on monetary policy. The only factor I can imagine holding her back would be her reportedly difficult working relationship with current Governor Mark Carney. However, if I were a betting man the research for my original article would have led me to bet on Shafik, and that remains true now that the official shortlist is out.

The only character on the list who I didn’t mention in my original article is Sir Jon Cunliffe, who is currently the Bank’s Deputy Governor for Financial Stability. Cunliffe has held a wide variety of senior civil service positions since 1990, and is currently on the Bank’s Financial Policy and Monetary Policy committees. He was educated at the University of Manchester, with his highest degree being a Master’s in English Literature, which, more than anything else, illustrates Britain’s unique status as a country where you can work in the financial sector with a degree in almost any subject. Cunliffe recently made headlines when he gave a speech arguing that low long-term interest rates put pressure on financial stability, and risk more severe downturns; a potentially welcome sentiment for Austrian ears.

When Mark Carney’s term as Governor comes to an end in late-January, the situation in British politics could potentially be very different: either the Conservatives will win the election and pass Johnson’s EU withdrawal bill, in which case Britain will be out of the EU by February, or Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister, Brexit will be delayed (potentially indefinitely), and this shortlist of candidates might be re-thought or thrown out entirely. For the time being however, this shortlist provides an interesting insight into the priorities and policy goals of Britain’s government and central but doesn’t provide much hope for Austrians.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Fight Another "Terror War" Against Drug Cartels? There's a Better Way!

12/02/2019Ron Paul

The 50-year US war on drugs has been a total failure, with hundreds of billions of dollars flushed down the drain and our civil liberties whittled away fighting a war that cannot be won. The 20 year “war on terror” has likewise been a gigantic US government disaster: hundreds of billions wasted, civil liberties scorched, and a world far more dangerous than when this war was launched after 9/11.

So what to do about two of the greatest policy failures in US history? According to President Trump and many in Washington, the answer is to combine them!

Last week Trump declared that, in light of an attack last month on US tourists in Mexico, he would be designating Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations. Asked if he would send in drones to attack targets in Mexico, he responded, “I don't want to say what I'm going to do, but they will be designated.” The Mexican president was quick to pour cold water on the idea of US drones taking out Mexican targets, responding to Trump’s threats saying “cooperation, yes; interventionism, no.”

Trump is not alone in drawing the wrong conclusions from the increasing violence coming from the drug cartels south of the border. A group of US Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging that the US slap sanctions on the drug cartels in response to the killing of Americans.

Do these Senators really believe that facing US sanctions these drug cartels will close down and move into legitimate activities? Sanctions don’t work against countries and they sure won’t work against drug cartels.

A recent editorial in the conservative Federalist publication urges President Trump to launch “unilateral, no-permission special forces raids” into Mexico like the US did into Pakistan to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda!

I am sure the military-industrial complex loves this idea! Another big war to keep Washington rich at the expense of the rest of us. And the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force can even be trotted out to fight this brand new “terror war”!

Perhaps unintentionally, however, this sudden push to look at the Mexican drug cartels as we did ISIS and al-Qaeda does make sense. After all, the rise of the drug cartels and the rise of the terror cartels have both been due to bad US policy. It was the US invasion of Iraq based on neocon lies that led to the creation of ISIS and expansion of al-Qaeda in the Middle East and it was the US war on drugs that led to the rise of the drug cartels in Mexico.

Here’s another suggestion: maybe instead of doing the same things that do not work we might look at the actual cause of the problems. The US war on drugs makes drugs enormously profitable to Mexican suppliers eager to satisfy a ravenous US market. A study last year by the CATO Institute found that with the steady decriminalization and legalization of marijuana across the United States, the average US Border Patrol agent seized 78 percent less marijuana in fiscal year 2018 than in FY 2013.

Instead of declaring war on Mexico, perhaps the answer to the drug cartel problem is to take away their incentives by ending the war on drugs. Why not try something that actually works?

 

 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Catholics and Libertarians

11/27/2019David Gordon

Can a Roman Catholic be an Austro-Libertarian as well? Christopher Ferrara in a book called The Church and the Libertarian says that one cannot. In Ferrara’s view, Austrian  economists deny that the moral law applies to the economy. Instead, Austrians say, strictly scientific laws govern the economy and these limit what the State or the Church can do. Minimum wage laws, for example, tend to cause unemployment, like it or not.

Ferrara challenges this contention. Economic laws are not absolute but must be subordinated to the moral law. For example, a worker must be paid a “living wage” that enables him to raise a family. To deny this, he thinks, is to reject Catholic Social Thought, and to do that is to put oneself outside the Church.

Tony Flood, who is both a believing Catholic and sympathetic to the thought of Murray Rothbard, who was a friend of his, subjects Ferrara’s book to close examination and finds it lacking.  In his book, Christ, Capital and Liberty: A Polemic Flood argues thatAustro-libertarian thought is compatible with the key teaching of the Church,  In contending that it is, Flood draws attention to the writings of the great Jesuit Father James Sadowsky, S.J., a distinguished Catholic philosopher and theologian who was also a Rothbardian in his political philosophy.

Flood analyzes in detail the errors in Ferrara’s book. In one case, for example, Ferrara included in a quotation from Murray Rothbard words that were not Rothbard’s but in fact were from a polemical discussion by Kevin Carson, a writer of different views altogether

Flood has ably shown that Ferrara’s assault on Austro-libertarianism is baseless.

 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Why Denmark Is not Part of the Eurozone

Denmark as a country in Europe with a population around 5.8 million people and with a GDP per capita of more than 60 thousand dollars. Since 1973, Denmark has been a part European Union, which at that time was called the "European Community." Despite being a part of EU, Denmark is not a part of Eurozone, and it looks like Denmark won't be joining any time soon.

The Voters Say No

According to the public opinion surveys in the European Union (research held in Spring 2018) only 29% of Danish responders were in favor of accepting the Euro as potential National currency. EU-wide, this number was 61%. The vast majority — 65 percent — of Danish responders were against monetary union.  EU-wide, this number was 32 percent. The only area where the Danish are in line with European average is the 6% of respondents that do not have opinion on that topic.1

Moreover, in Danish modern history two referendums have taken place in regards to Euro implementation. The first referendum was held in June 2, 1992 and was a “proxy referendum.” The vote was for or against ratification of the Maastricht Treaty, which established the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union. The idea of the Maastricht Treaty was minimally rejected by Danish voters — 50.7 percent of the voters were against while 49.3 percent where in favor. The rejected referendum had impacted further negotiations, leading to the Danish-government negotiating limitations on EU mandatesknown as the Danish Opt-outs. One of these opt-outs was the decision to not adopt the europ. In 2000, Danish voters voted on whether or not the country should join the euro zone or stay with its national currency the Danish krone. The measure was rejected by 53.2 percent of voters.

Why There is Opposition

One advantage to joiuning the euro zone would be a decrease of the interests rates on Danish government bonds, despite the fact that since 2014, the interest rate of 10 years government bond is below 1%. (Denmark’s government bonds are rated with rating AAA with stable outlook.)

On the other hand, a disadvantage of adopting the euro — as the voters see it — would be a loss of domestic control over monetary policy. However, under current policy, the independence of the Danish krone is only an illusion. Since 1982 ,the currency of Denmark has had fixed exchange rate with the German mark. When the mark was changed to the euro, the Danish central bank joined the ERM II (European Exchange Rate Mechanism). This mechanism fixes the currency exchange rate at 1 euro to 7.460 Danish krone with the possibility of fluctuation of 2.25 percent. Naturally, this limits the independence of the Danish central bank. Each deviation above or below 2.25 percent triggers intervention by the Danish Central Bank.

By the standards of the EU itself, Denmark is more than qualified to join the euro zone. All the criteria have been met, including the inflation rate, the size of the budget deficit, the Debt-to-GDP ratio, and more. But it looks like the Danish voters are not yet prepared to hand over control of monetary policy to the EU's central bankers.

Further reading:

 

  • 1. "Standard Eurobarometer" Spring 2018, European Commission
When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Which Branch of Government Is the Worst? A Ranked List

11/21/2019Ryan McMaken

The US federal government is divided up into a variety of institutions, with the three main "branches" of government designed to compete against each other. Theoretically, these three branches were initially thought to place checks on the other branches of government, thus minimizing abuses of power by the federal government overall.

Things haven't really worked out that way. Thanks to the rise of political parties, coordination between the branches — along party lines — has often replaced competition between the branches. Moreover, as political parties vie for the a controlling majority in the various branches, they are loath to limit the power of these institutions lest these partisans limit their own power in the process. Nor do the different branches represent different socio-economic groups in the manner imagined by John Adams in his Defense of the Constitutions.

So weakened had this imagined separation of powers become by the time of the New Deal that Franklin Roosevelt asserted during the days of his court-packing scheme that the various branches of government existed to work together, rather than to mutually obstruct each other. In a 1937 "fireside chat," Roosevelt claimed the federal government is

a three-horse team provided by the Constitution to the American people so that their field might be plowed. The three horses are, of course, the three branches of government – the Congress, the Executive and the Courts. Two of the horses are pulling in unison today; the third is not.

FDR's point was that the Supreme Court was being obstructionist, and it ought to conform itself to the other two branches of government, since it was the duty of each branch to assist the other branches in "plowing the field."

The fact many people would find this theory remotely plausible speaks to the magnitude of the public's disregard for the notion the division of the federal government into branches was supposed to prevent government action, not facilitate it.

Not All Branches Are Equally Terrible

FDR, of course, is the poster child for claims the presidency has become lopsidedly more powerful than the other branches of government. Through the party structure, FDR was able to dominate Congress, and through the cult of personality that surrounded him, he was even able to intimidate the Supreme Court as well.

But FDR certainly isn't the only example of how the presidency has come to be the driver behind most of the federal government's worst abuses and usurpations of power.

For detailed accounts of these many crimes, the reader may consult Reassessing the Presidency, published by the Mises Institute in 2001.

In it, the authors explore how the presidency has greatly expanded its power at the expense of Congress (of, of course, ordinary Americans).

This has been made possible by both inaction and support from the other branches. For example, except in rare cases, the Supreme Court has tended to defer to the other branches of government — and especially the presidency — when the court perceived both of the other branches were unlikely to oppose the court's decisions on a topic.

Meanwhile, the Congress's danger has mostly manifested itself through inaction and through its deference to both the Presidency and the Supreme Court. Over the past century, Congress has repeatedly handed over its lawmaking authority to the executive branch and to a variety of independent regulatory agencies.

The Rise of the Fourth Branch

This capitulation to the presidency and the administrative state, however, has enabled what has become an essentially independent fourth branch of government. Yesterday, in an article titled "The Deep State: The Headless Fourth Branch of Government," I described how the regulatory and national-security agencies of the executive branch have evolved over the past century to become more or less autonomous in their own right.

These organizations are sometimes collectively called "the deep state," and their are characterized by a lack of responsiveness to the electorate or to any other branch of government.

Although the president is technically the head of these agencies, he can only count on cooperation if there is general agreement among the agencies' personnel that the president's agenda does not threaten them. In other words, the president can often count on cooperation from this deep state to expand the executive branch's power. These same agencies, however, tend to place insurmountable obstacles in the way of any president who might attempt to significantly curtail the powers of the federal bureaucracy.

While the president's formal power is certainly quite vast, the informal power of this permanent bureaucracy is much greater. The agency personnel can usually wait out any president, and if a president becomes too inconvenient, these same bureaucrats can engage in a variety of investigations, indictments, and leaks designed to undermine the president. What they do is often secret, protecting it from public scorn.

The fact many of these bureaucrats have tenured positions, and function largely in the shadows, increases their power further. Even enormous failures on their part — as evidenced in the failure to prevent 9/11, or to "win" the failed War on Drugs — only leads to even larger budgets and even broader prerogatives.

From Worst to Least-Awful

Since the New Deal, and especially since 9/11, I suggest this fourth branch of government has actually become the most dangerous one. Ranking the branches of government from the worst to least bad, it looks like this:

  1. The Permanent Administrative State
  2. The Presidency
  3. The Supreme Court
  4. The Congress

The bureaucracy, as we've seen, is dangerous largely because of its permanence and the lack of any means in ensuring accountability. While elected officials come and go, career bureaucrats (military and otherwise) are more or less permanent. Moreover, since the other branches depend on the bureaucracy to enforce the "rules," there is no means of enforcing accountability on the bureaucracy beyond the short term.

The Presidency, on the other hand, is dangerous for both administrative and political reasons. It can use hero worship and mass media to ram through legislation. The President can also issue executive orders, essentially creating new legislation without Congressional approval.

The problem with the Supreme Court stems largely from its exalted position in the minds of voters. Polls show Americans trust the "judicial branch" more than either the Presidency or Congress. Thus, when the Supreme Court hands down its decisions, these decrees are often considered to be indubitable fait accomplis. On the other hand, the court has no means of enforcing its decisions, lessening its de facto power.

And then there is the Congress — the least popular, least respected, and most disorganized branch of the federal government. This is the branch which has the least ability to capitalize on a cult of personality given its lack of any single established figurehead. Moreover, turnover in Congress is higher than most people think. Although some members of Congress serve for decades, most members have tenures that are much shorter. The average tenure for current members is 8.6 years in the House and 10.1 years in the Senate.This means many members of Congress come and go as quickly as the presidents.

So What?

But if we've determined which federal institutions are the worst, the question remains: so what?

Well, this sort of analysis may help us determine which side is the greater threat when observing conflicts within the federal government. It also helps us to see through the rhetoric of political parties who always insist attempts at limiting their guy's power is unconstitutional or inappropriate.

One example of this was Nancy Pelosi's diplomatic trip to Syria in 2007, during which the Speaker attempted to assert some Congressional control over the White House's foreign policy. Vice president Dick Cheney denounced the move, insisting "we don’t need 535 secretaries of state" and claiming Congress should defer to the president on all matters of foreign policy. Cheney, of course, was wrong, and it would be a good thing if Congress spent quite a bit more time "meddling" in the White House's foreign policy agenda. The proper view of this relationship between Congress and the White House, however, is often clouded by partisan loyalties.

On the other hand, during the Trump administration, we've seen the permanent bureaucracy assert itself in its attempts to undermine the presidency, and to protect the deep state's own interests. The House majority has been supportive of this for partisan reasons. But more fundamentally — as a recent New York Times article concludes — this has really been a conflict between the presidency and the deep state. Although the presidency's power is already bloated to dangerous levels, the power of the permanent administrative state is even greater, more unaccountable, and most dangerous of all.

Mere partisan analysis would impel us to overlook this, but by keeping an eye on the relative danger of each branch within the federal government, we may perhaps be more able to identify the worst of the bad guys in each new political controversy.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here
Shield icon power-market-v2