Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
Warning of an imminent"Islamic takeover of a paralyzed United States," Peikoff proclaimed that permission to build "should be refused, and if they go ahead and build it, the government should bomb it out of existence, evacuating it first, with no compensation to any of the property owners involved in this monstrosity."
David T. Beito
I’d ask “what on earth is she thinking” with her poking China, but at this point in her storied diplomatic career I’ll make no such attempt. I've read her"It Takes A Village", and believe you me critical thinking is not her strong (pants)suit. There must be a deeper problem, though.
Keeping in mind that she is a child of the 60s, it is high time we instituted a policy of drug testing Mrs. Clinton on a weekly basis, live and on TV, if not for her own health then for the security of our country. Fox TV will undoubtedly pay a pretty penny for the rights to"Mrs. Clinton Meets The Cup" and we, and the world, may be able to breathe a little easier.
Codevilla cuts immediately to the core: the United States today is divided into (a) a ruling class, which dominates the government at every level, the schools and universities, the mainstream media, Hollywood, and a great deal else, and (b) all of the rest of us, a heterogeneous agglomeration that Codevilla dubs the country class. The ruling class holds the lion’s share of the institutional power, but the country class encompasses perhaps two-thirds of the people.
Members of the two classes do not like one another. In particular, the ruling class views the rest of the population as composed of ignoramuses who are vicious, violent, racist, religious, irrational, unscientific, backward, generally ill-behaved, and incapable of living well without constant, detailed direction by our betters; and it views itself as perfectly qualified and entitled to pound us into better shape by the generous application of laws, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and unceasing declarations of its dedication to bringing the country – and indeed the entire world – out of its present darkness and into the light of the Brave New World it is busily engineering.
This class divide has little to do with rich versus poor or Democrat versus Republican. At its core, it has to do with the division between, on the one hand, those whose attitudes are attuned to the views endorsed by the ruling class (especially “political correctness”) and whose fortunes are linked directly or indirectly with government programs and, on the other hand, those whose outlooks and interests derive from and focus on private affairs, especially the traditional family, religion, and genuine private enterprise. Above all, as Codevilla makes plain, “for our ruling class, identity always trumps.” These people know they are superior in every way, and they are not shy about letting us know that they are. Arrogance might as well be their middle name.
The ruling class, not surprisingly, is also the statist party:
[O]ur ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government – meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc.
Despite the rulers’ chronic complaints about people’s exercising “discrimination” of one kind or another, they have no intention of treating everybody equally. Hence, “[l]aws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally.” As the recent health-care and financial-reform statutes illustrate perfectly, however, much of the inequality is achieved not directly, but by the statutes’ delegation of authority to countless regulatory and administrative bodies, which will use their ample discretion to do the desired dirty work.
Codevilla’s description of the ruling class and its modus operandi is longer and more detailed than his account of the country class, which is probably inevitable in view of the latter’s extreme heterogeneity. And the force of his argument wanes a bit toward the end of the essay, when he muses about how a country party might turn the tide against the domination and contempt it presently suffers at the hands of its officious rulers. Nevertheless, I heartily recommend this magnificent essay, which is one of the most intelligent, forthright discussions of America’s current socio-political condition I have ever read. If we serfs are ever to escape the grip of our overbearing, self-appointed nobility, the first requirements will be to recognize correctly our current condition, to denounce openly its injustice and idiocy, and to deride every claim of legitimacy or entitlement our rulers have the temerity to make or presume.
Amy H. Sturgis
Best Novel: The Unincorporated Man, Dani and Eytan Kollin (TOR Books)
Hall of Fame: “No Truce with Kings,” Poul Anderson
The winners will receive their awards at a ceremony at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, Aussiecon 4.
From the LFS:
The Unincorporated Man is the first novel publication by the Kollin brothers. It is the first novel in a planned trilogy to be published by Tor. The Unincorporated Man presents the idea that education and personal development could be funded by allowing investors to take a share of one’s future income. The novel explores the ways this arrangement would affect those who do not own a majority of the stock in themselves. For instance, often ones investors would have control of a person’s choices of where to live or work. The desire for power as an end unto itself and the negative consequences of the raw lust for power are shown in often great detail. The story takes a strong position that liberty is important and worth fighting for, and the characters spend their time pushing for different conceptions of what freedom is.
Poul Anderson’s novels have been nominated many times, and have won the Prometheus Award (in 1995, for The Stars Are Also Fire), and the Hall of Fame Award (1995 for The Star Fox and 1985 for Trader to the Stars). He also received a Special award for lifetime achievement in 2001. This was the first nomination for “No Truce With Kings."
Poul Anderson’s “No Truce with Kings” was first published in 1963. Like many science fiction stories of that era, it was set in a future that had endured a nuclear war. Anderson’s focus is not on the immediate disaster and the struggle to survive, but the later rebuilding; its central conflict is over what sort of civilization should be created. The story’s title comes from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Old Issue,” which describes the struggle to bind kings and states with law and the threat of their breaking free. Anderson’s future California is basically a feudal society, founded on local loyalties, but it has a growing movement in favor of a centralized, impersonal state. As David Friedman remarked about this story, Anderson plays fair with his conflicting forces: both of them want the best for humanity, but one side is mistaken about what that is. This story is classic Anderson and, like many of his best stories, reveals his libertarian sympathies.
Amy H. Sturgis
(On a side note, thanks to everyone who listens to and supports StarShipSofa. Thanks to you, SSS has become the first podcast ever to be nominated for a Hugo Award. We appreciate it!)
Among Priest and Arkin’s findings from a two-year study are the following:
The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.
[We] discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.
Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
According to retired admiral Dennis C. Blair, formerly the director of national intelligence, after 9/11 “the attitude was, if it’s worth doing, it’s probably worth overdoing.” I submit that this explanation does not cut to the heart of the matter. As it stands, it suggests a sort of mindless desire to pile mountains of money, technology, and personnel on top of an already enormous mountain of money, technology, and personnel for no reason other than the vague notion that more must be better. In my view, national politics does not work in that way.
As Priest and Arkin report, “The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 2 ½ times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn’t include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.” Virtually everyone the reporters consulted told them in effect that “the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending.” To be sure, they received more than they could spend responsibly, but not more than they were eager to spend irresponsibly. After all, it’s not as if they were spending their own money.
Why would these hundreds of organizations and contracting companies be willing to take gigantic amounts of the taxpayers’ money when everyone agrees that the money cannot be spent sensibly and that the system already in place cannot function effectively or efficiently to attain its ostensible purpose? The question answers itself. It’s loot for the taking, and there has been no shortage of takers. Indeed, these stationary bandits continue to demand more money each year.
And for what? The announced goal is to identify terrorists and eliminate them or prevent them from carrying out their nefarious acts. This is simultaneously a small task and an impossible one. It is small because the number of persons seeking to carry out a terrorist act of substantial consequence against the United States and in a position to do so cannot be more than a handful. If the number were greater, we would have seen many more attacks or attempted attacks during the past decade – after all, the number of possible targets is virtually unlimited, and the attackers might cause some form of damage in countless ways. The most plausible reason why so few attacks or attempted attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out. (I refer to genuine attempts, not to the phony-baloney schemes planted in the minds of simpletons by government undercover agents and then trumpeted to the heavens when the FBI “captures” the unfortunate victims of the government’s entrapment.)
So, the true dimension of the terrorism problem that forms the excuse for these hundreds of programs of official predation against the taxpayers is small – not even in the same class with, say, reducing automobile-accident or household-accident deaths by 20 percent. Yet, at the same time, the antiterrorism task is impossible because terrorism is a simple act available in some form to practically any determined adult with access to Americans and their property at home or abroad. It is simply not possible to stop all acts of terrorism if potential terrorists have been given a sufficient grievance to motivate their wreaking some form of havoc against Americans. However, it is silly to make the prevention of all terrorist acts the goal. What can’t be done won’t be done, regardless of how many people and how much money one devotes to doing it. We can, though, endure some losses from terrorism in the same way that we routinely endure some losses from accidents, diseases, and ordinary crime.
The sheer idiocy of paying legions of twenty-something grads of Harvard and Yale — youngsters who cannot speak Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, or any of the other languages of the areas they purport to be analyzing and know practically nothing of the history, customs, folkways, and traditions of these places – indicates that no one seriously expects the promised payoff in intelligence to emerge from the effort. The whole business is akin to sending a blind person to find a needle inside a maze buried somewhere in a hillside. That the massive effort is utterly uncoordinated and scarcely able to communicate one part’s “findings” to another only strengthens the conclusion that the goal is not stopping terrorism, but getting the taxpayers’ money and putting it into privileged pockets. Even if the expected damage from acts of terrorism against the United States were $10 billion per year, which seems much too high a guess, it makes no sense to spend more than $75 billion every year to prevent it – and it certainly makes no sense to spend any money only pretending to prevent it.
What we see here is not really an “intelligence” or counterterrorism operation at all. It’s a rip-off, plain and simple, fed by irrational fear and continually stoked by the government plunderers who are exercising the power and raking in the booty to “fight terrorism.”
Now, I am not comparing Shirley Sherrod to my cousin, nor am I comparing the Obama Administration to Hitler’s regime, but I do believe that the situations are similar in that they both teach the same lesson. Just because you are part of an organization or culture pursuing evil policies does not mean that you are immune from the consequences of those malevolent practices. There are, of course, important differences between the two cases. First and foremost my cousin joined an organization that persecuted Jews and used violence to advance political ends, while Shirley Sherrod did absolutely nothing wrong.
When the victim of your supposed racial bias comes strongly to your defense it seems to me you have been wrongly accused and punished. Barak Obama should apologize to Sherrod and give her job back immediately. However, plenty of other people and groups also share responsibility for her plight. For example, the reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who both work so assiduously to maintain a climate of hyper-racial sensitivity. Also, the website, biggovernment.com who essentially manufactured this controversy. There is nothing wrong with exposing the very serious problem of real incidents of racial discrimination committed by the Obama Administration, such as the Justice Department’s decision to drop the charges of voter intimidation against New Black Panther Party members, though, when you create them yourselves, as in this case, you are no better than Jackson or Sharpton.
However, just as my cousin should not have been surprised when the violence his party espoused became an instrument to be used against him, neither should Sherrod be taken unawares when an accusation of racial bias, comes from her organization, which uses this political tactic on a regular basis.
David T. Beito
The Florida ACLU is suing a local sheriff to get a citizen's gun returned.
Florida ACLU attorney Barry Butin observes matter-of-factly:"Under the Second Amendment, he has a right to have his guns in his house. He's not a convicted felon. It is unusual for the ACLU. But the ACLU supports all constitutional rights. We don't pick and choose."....
Hat Tip: Brian Doherty at Reason's Hit and Run.
David T. Beito
A new book has rocketed to the the top of my already too-long reading list: Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea. It is already winning praise from across the political spectrum ranging from Richard Epstein, the distinguished professor of law at the University of Chicago to Thom Hartmann, an Air America Radio Network host.
The author C. Bradley Thompson, the Executive Director of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, has come forward not only to be the academic grave digger of the movement but expose its history beginning with neoconservativism's godfather, Leo Strauss. As someone who once often moved in Straussian circles, he can write with rare authority. I only hope that his"obituary" is not premature.
David T. Beito
As one of several prominent examples, it quotes Phillip Dennis, Texas state coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, who states:"I do think it's a state's right. I believe that if the people in Massachusetts want gay people to get married, then they should allow it, just as people in Utah do not support abortion. They should have the right to vote against that."
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
Amity Shlaes, in her excellent The Forgotten Man, makes the very same point as the Chamber, using FDR’s unending assault on private property as her example and, taking a page from Robert Higgs, she lays the blame squarely (and convincingly) on the New Deal for lengthening and deepening the Great Depression.
Naturally, the people who make up the Obama Administration are all deep admirers of FDR and the New Deal, and they responded to the letter by stating, “we are all working toward the same goal of putting Americans back to work and getting our economy back on track.”
I agree with that statement, as I am sure Obama and his friends are working with that very goal in mind but, like an auto-mechanic tasked to perform open-heart surgery, they simply have no idea how to do what they wish to do. To the man, they all suffer from a bad education, so they cannot even fathom the possibility that through the simple act of obeying the Constitution and leaving well enough alone the economy would recover without their “help”.
A little less hubris and a little more humility on their part would go a long way for the rest of us.
Amy H. Sturgis
Read "The BP/Government Police State" (with updates).
David T. Beito
We ask that participants in comments behave collegially, which includes but is not limited to: refrain from name-calling and ad hominem, do not attribute views to others without citation, exercise charity in interpretation, avoid high levels of sarcasm which might come off as hostility.
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HOMESCHOOLING A HOPE FOR AMERICA is a collection of articles taken from The Voluntaryist, a newsletter with a libertarian outlook which has been published since 1982. The anthology has been assembled by Carl Watner (from many of his past articles, as well as those of others), and contains an original Foreword by John Taylor Gatto.
This anthology argues against government education in a unique way. One who advocates voluntaryism opposes government schools, not because he opposes schooling but, because he opposes coercion, which is to be found in government taxation, compulsory attendance laws, and in the monopolization of public services. Most of us would agree that there should not be any state religion; that religion should not be supported by taxation; and that people should not be compelled to attend religious services. Why shouldn't the principles of voluntaryism in religion apply to education?
All government depends on the cooperation and/or tacit consent of the majority of its citizens. When the state could no longer use government churches to legitimize its rule of the divine right of kings, some other institution had to be found that would induce consent among the masses. Government schools became the chosen instrument to produce good citizens for the state. Indoctrinate the young: then they will support the state for the rest of their lives.
America is at a cross roads of cultural and economic disintegration, yet voluntaryists believe that there is hope. It is to be found in home schooling. Rather than cursing the darkness, parents can light one small candle of wisdom and learning and pass it along to the next generation."Ages of experience testify that the only way society can be improved is by the individualist method; ... that is, the method of each one doing his best to improve one." This is the quiet or patient way of changing society because it concentrates upon bettering the character of men and women as individuals. As the individual units change, the improvement in society will take care of itself. In other words, if one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself.
Ordering Information - Softcover, 247 pages. $20 postpage paid. Send silver, gold, cash, check or money order (payable to The Voluntaryist) to P.O. Box 275, Gramling, SC 29348
For more commentary, please visit WendyMcElroy.com.
Amy H. Sturgis
Now you’d think any relaxation of the hands about Gaza’s throat would be a welcome change for the (…ahem) gentlemen who run Hamas, but that would be asking a bit too much. Amazing but true, it seems they are a bit taken aback by the Israeli decision to open the Gaza juice market to imports, the best minds in Israel finally declaring fruit juice to be an item not fitted for military operations. And now from the sordid coupling of politics with business is birthed an abomination - in this case Hamas re-instituting the blockade in fruit juices. Yes. The one Israel just lifted. That one.
For the Palestine Food Industries Co. (PFI) ( the only functioning juice maker in the Gaza Strip ) sales have increased ten fold since the seige began as they have been handed a (literally) captive audience thanks to the Israeli military. Since the PFI is under the umbrella of the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), which is a political entity controlled by Hamas (in 2006 Omar Abdel-Razeq, at the time Hamas finance minister, referred to the PIF as “our Palestinian Investment Fund”), here you have the root of the continuing blockade of Gaza in the area of fruit juices, the ultimate aim of every political creed: Other Peoples’ Money.
Israel has removed the blockade, lightening the load off the working masses of Gaza, and Hamas quickly slaps it right back on, all so they may continue to take more from the pockets of the Palestinian workers than would be possible under a free market in fruit juices. As always when it comes to political maneuverings, the politicians insist it is being done for the benefit of a beloved, mythical unicorn called The People and not to line the pockets of them and their politically connected cronies. Per Bloomberg:
** The policy of the government is to protect and maintain local products and industry and employ a large number of workers
who have no job due to the siege," Ziad Zaza, the Hamas economy minister, said in an e-mailed response to questions about the
restrictions on Israeli goods. **
Excellent logic! Irrefutable! In fact, so much so that I ask why lift the Israeli blockade at all? If the policy of restricting imports - in effect, blockading yourself – is such a wise, beneficial economic policy, why isn’t Gaza blessed with a booming economy already? So if I follow his train of thought correctly, according to Hamas official Ziad Zaza the Israelis (bless their altruist hearts!) by blockading imports have been protecting and maintaining Gaza products and industry and making sure that they’re employing a large number of workers. I suppose Amnesty International, the G8 leaders, and myself all owe the Israelis an apology. And so does Hamas, for that matter, if they too believe economic blockades, whether internally or externally imposed, are of benefit to the working masses.
Forget all the blathering of the Hamas talking heads and focus on what they’re doing – maintaining a blockade on the people they supposedly speak for in order to keep alive their sordid, politically protected monopoly in the fruit juice market. And forget all the blathering of the Ivy League “economists” who agree with Ziad Zaza’s protectionism for a moment and think about their logic. If restricting your own imports – blockading your own country – was of such economic benefit, why do we strive to do exactly that to our enemy during times of war?
So either Adam Smith was a fool or Hamas owes Israel an apology and should, by their logic, stop biting the hand that feeds them and embrace the Israeli blockade.