May 4, 2016

Ron Paul’s 2012 delegate strategy isn’t cheating when Cruz uses it against Trump

trump cruz croppedDonald Trump lost it on Fox News Monday after learning Ted Cruz has secured 34 of Colorado’s 37 delegates to the Republican National Convention. The Colorado GOP canceled its caucus vote last August, electing to choose its delegates at its state convention. The Centennial State is only the latest in which Cruz has won a larger percentage of the delegates than his percentage of the popular vote.

Trump called the process “a crooked deal,” adding, “That’s not the way democracy is supposed to work.”

Newsflash to Trump: This isn’t a democracy. It’s a republic and this is exactly how a republic is supposed to work. The whole reason Colorado and many other states don’t assign their delegates on a winner-take-all basis after the popular vote is they want their nominating process to be more republican (small “r”) than democratic.

If this sounds like déjà vu, it’s because Ron Paul employed the same strategy in 2012, winning the most delegates in eleven states, despite not winning a single primary or caucus popular vote (although he may have been robbed in Maine). Paul was the anti-establishment candidate that year and many of the same people who are now riding the Trump train were Paul supporters who defended the strategy vehemently.

But while it is widely accepted that Trump picked up a large portion of Paul’s 2012 supporters, he obviously hasn’t captured the contingent that mastered Robert’s Rules of Order and took over state conventions in 2012. That’s not surprising, given the difference between the candidates. Paul’s delegate core were highly principled libertarians who typically understood and believed Paul’s message of limited, constitutional government.

That’s what saw them through the long, tedious process of advancing through local, district, county and state conventions. It’s relatively painless to show up at your local polling place and pull a lever behind a curtain. It doesn’t cost anything in time or money. But when the “beauty contest” is over, the real political work has just begun. The months-long process requires would-be delegates to make their candidate’s arguments hundreds of times and hear their opponents’ arguments just as many. By the time they are elected at a state convention, they are fully informed and vetted.

These aren’t the type of people likely to respond to Trump’s largely emotional pitch. Yes, Paul’s supporters may have been “angry” with the status quo, but it was a much more deliberative anger. Unlike Trump’s supporters, Paul’s were always the victims of any violence that broke out at meetings and conventions. And these followers of Austrian economics would never support Trump’s spurious economic theories, although some of his statements on foreign policy may have caught their attention.

While it is true Trump’s support is much wider than merely white working class voters, as pundits initially described it, it is still largely a protest vote. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals can be just as justifiably fed up with Washington, D.C. and its connected interests. It’s not surprising an independent candidate like Trump, apparently impervious to the influence of the donor class, would appeal to voters over a wide demographic. But while their dissatisfaction with the status quo is legitimate, whether Trump is the solution is another story entirely.

The truth is Trump is the type of candidate the whole republic-not-a-democracy idea is supposed to prevent. The founders’ chief concern with democracy was its susceptibility to the “turbulence” resulting from “common passion,” as James Madison put it. That was the reason for the electoral college. They wanted to give the people a direct say in choosing their government’s leadership, but they also wanted a buffer between the multitude’s passions and the reins of power. They would have been horrified by Trump’s rhetoric, no matter how refreshing his destruction of “political correctness” might be.

Trump can rage all he wants about the nominating process being rigged, but the truth is he’ll have to inspire something besides fist-shaking in his supporters if he wants to be president. In many states, it takes more than a fifteen-minute commitment to pull a lever behind a curtain to get your candidate nominated. That’s not such a bad thing.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Thought for the day March 30, 2016 Free Trade, the New Deal and the Federal Reserve

NewDealThought for the day: Free trade agreements haven’t hurt Americans; they’ve helped. They just aren’t enough to overcome the combined economic destruction wrought by the Federal Reserve System and the New Deal, both of which must be abolished root and branch before there is anything resembling a free market in the USA.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump Isn’t Hitler; He’s Hamilton

trump hamiltonAs Donald Trump closes in on the Republican nomination for President, comparisons to Hitler continue. And while references to the dictator are never absent from political hyperbole, one can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a bit more legitimacy to them when it comes to the Donald. Even the creator of Godwin’s law won’t dismiss the comparison out of hand.

Superficially, there is something there. Trump appeals to the same kind of nationalist worldview that inspired Hitler’s supporters. Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” isn’t substantively different than Hitler’s. Neither are his arguments for what has caused the decline: corrupt politicians who have sold out the nation, the presence of subversive or merely unwanted elements (Jews and communists for Hitler; illegal immigrants and Muslim refugees for Trump), and inept economic policy, meaning not enough of or the wrong kind of state intervention.

Like Hitler, Trump touts himself as the only hope to save his country, a strongman-type leader who will run a command economy, rid the country of subversive elements, and restore lost international respect. His disdain for civil liberties like free speech and open support of torture are an even more chilling similarity. For Trump, government isn’t the problem, it’s the solution, as long as the right leader is running it.

But for all the similarities, there are important differences. He certainly can’t be accused of sharing Hitler’s racial beliefs. Trump’s wall to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico will have a yuuuuge door in the middle to admit legal immigrants of the same ethnicity. He has repeatedly voiced his admiration and respect for the Chinese, because “you can still respect someone who’s knocking the hell out of you.”

Most striking is Trump’s foreign policy differences with the Fuhrer. While Trump does advocate some sort of military action against ISIS, he’s strikingly noninterventionist in general. His willingness to come out and admit the Iraq War was a mistake – in South Carolina no less – and his general view that America should start questioning its ongoing military posture everywhere, including NATO, are the opposite of the aggressive military component integral to Hitler’s plan from the beginning.

So what do you call Trump’s brand of nationalism, if not outright fascism? If you take away the boorishness of Trump’s personality and insert more thoughtful, elegant rhetoric, you’d call it traditional American conservatism, before it was infiltrated by more libertarian ideas. American conservatism was always about creating an American version of the mercantilist British Empire and it really never changed.

Since the founding of the republic, American conservatives have argued for a strong central government that subsidized domestic corporations to build roads and infrastructure, levied high protectionist tariffs and ran a central bank. This was Alexander Hamilton’s domestic platform, championed by his Federalist Party. Henry Clay and the Whigs adopted it after the Federalist Party died. From the ashes of the Whigs emerged Lincoln and the Republicans, who were finally able to install Clay’s “American System” after decades of electoral failure.

The Republican Party has remained startlingly consistent in its economic principles, despite incorporating free market rhetoric in the 20th century. Republicans from Lincoln to McKinley to Coolidge to George W. Bush have been protectionists. Hoover reacted to the Depression by signing the Smoot-Hawley tariff, for all the same reasons Trump threatens tariffs now. And what was the first thing Republicans did in the 1950s, after two decades of Democratic Party domination? A huge government roads project that had Hamilton smiling in his grave.

Trump promises more of the same, justifying his stance against nation-building by saying, “I just think we have to rebuild our country.” Make no mistake, Trump isn’t suggesting cutting military spending and allowing the private sector to build what it chooses to build. “We” is the government, with Trump as its intellectually superior leader.

Trump isn’t Hitler; he’s Hamilton, advocating the kind of centralist government Hamilton spoke about in secret at the Constitutional Convention and attempted to achieve surreptitiously throughout the rest of his political life by eroding the same limits on federal government power he had trumpeted to sell the Constitution in the Federalist Papers. Trump wants to be Hamilton’s elected king, running a crony-capitalist, mercantilist economy just as Hamilton envisioned. Even Trump’s campaign slogan is Hamiltonian. Hamilton’s stated goal was “national greatness,” something he referred to again and again in his writing.

And while Hamilton was certainly a more eloquent and well-mannered spokesman for conservatism, Trump is actually superior to him in at least one way: Hamilton was a military interventionist, whose ambition to conquer the colonial possessions of Spain was much more like Hitler’s desire to seize the Ukraine for Germany than anything Trump wants to do internationally.

One has to wonder: Is that the real reason neoconservatives like Bill Kristol, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are so anti-Trump?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump Protesters, Free Speech and Property Rights

Protestors rally outside the Plaza Hotel on December 11, 2015 in New York, where Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump was speaking at a fund-raising luncheon for the Pennsylvania Republican Party. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump had another big night on Tuesday, winning at least three states, including winner-take-all Florida and its 99 delegates. This despite protesters disrupting Trump rallies in Ohio and Kansas and shutting Trump down in Chicago.

The protests have both pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions invoking the First Amendment. Pro-Trumpers say the protesters are violating Trump’s and their own right to free speech. Anti-Trumpers say they are exercising their own. The media are all over the road. The worst assertion is that some sort of “balance” or “compromise” between the two groups’ rights is necessary. It isn’t.

First, let’s get the First Amendment out of the way. There is no way any private citizen can violate the First Amendment. The First Amendment doesn’t govern the citizens. It governs the government. It begins, “Congress shall make no law…”

Originally, this restriction applied only to the federal government. Since a 1947 Supreme Court decision, the courts have considered the First Amendment applicable to state governments as well. But in no case does it apply to private citizens. So, let’s please dispense with statements that include “violating their First Amendment rights,” in relation to Trump, his supporters or their opponents.

The right of free speech doesn’t come from the First Amendment. The right preexists the government. The First Amendment merely guarantees the government won’t violate it, in keeping with the purpose of government itself, according to the Declaration of Independence: to secure these (natural, preexistent) rights.” The First Amendment recognizes the right preexists government explicitly when it says “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

We don’t talk enough about natural, inalienable rights. “Inalienable” means they can’t be taken away, not even by majority vote. So how do we know where one person’s rights end and another person’s begin? The answer can be summed up in two words: property rights.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The encryption court order to Apple is conscription

Tim_Cook_WWDC_2012Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have weighed in on the controversy over a government court order requiring Apple, Inc. to develop software enabling the FBI to hack into an iPhone recovered in the home of the San Bernardino shooters. The iPhone’s security system is encrypted and automatically erases data after a certain number of unsuccessful attempts to enter a correct password to unlock the phone’s home screen.

CEO Tim Cook has issued an open letter explaining why he is resisting the order.

Cruz said the government “had the better argument” and its request was “consistent with the Fourth Amendment” because the phone was obtained pursuant to a legitimate search warrant that was specific to the place to be searched and the items to be seized.

Trump based his support of the government on the same foundation he based most of his positions: nothing.

No one is disputing the government has a right to the phone. But that doesn’t mean it has the power to force Apple to create a new product to help them.

Cook’s letter and much of the commentary by civil liberties defenders have concentrated on the potential security risk to the millions of other iPhone users, both from government intelligence agents and criminals (but I repeat myself). While these concerns are serious and relevant, they seem to concede the answer to several previous questions:

Can the government issue a writ compelling a private company to commit significant time, labor and other company resources to assist in a criminal investigation? Why does this not violate the 13th Amendment? If the government can compel Apple to work for it when it is unable to do its job alone, who is immune from being conscripted in the name of national security?

The government claims access to the phone is crucial to gather evidence, including the possible involvement of others, including overseas terrorists, who may have directed or otherwise been involved in the attack. But given what the government already knows about this crime and its perpetrators, that seems unlikely.

It’s more likely this is just the excuse the government has been looking for to pick a legal fight over encryption in general. That there is any information anywhere that is beyond its reach is intolerable to the intelligence and law enforcement communities. They prefer the populace figuratively and (sometimes) literally naked before them.

Contrary to the mantra you’ll hear repeated ad nauseum over the course of this battle, there is no question of “balancing liberty and security” here. The government has a perfect record of failure in never preventing a single terrorist attack it hadn’t fabricated itself to entrap would-be terrorists, despite access to metadata on every phone call and e-mail made to or from anyone in this country. Allowing them even greater access into the personal information of millions of innocent people isn’t going to help them improve.

The government isn’t supposed to be trying to prevent anything. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments assume the government can only act after a crime has been committed. This does not leave the citizenry exposed like sitting ducks. The Second Amendment assumes individuals can and will defend themselves.

It’s time to stop attacking the Bill of Rights to double down on what doesn’t work. We’ll all be safer and freer if we make the government more strictly obey all ten of those amendments.

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

McConnell and Obama Both Wrong on Scalia Replacement

220px-Obama_and_Mitch_McConnellOne of the dumber debates in recent history has broken out in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested that President Obama shouldn’t nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia because Obama is in the last year of his final term.

Opponents, including the president himself, have responded that the Senate has a constitutional duty to bring Obama’s appointments to a vote and to confirm one, if qualified.

Both sides are completely wrong. The President has the legitimate authority to nominate a successor on every day of his presidency, up to and including the very last day. That precedent was set by no less than the second president of the United States. As Elizabeth Warren astutely observed,

Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can’t find a clause that says “…except when there’s a year left in the term of a Democratic President.

But neither can be found the words “shall bring to an up or down vote” or anything to the effect that the Senate is required to take action on the President’s nominees. The Constitution was deliberately constructed so that inaction would be the starting point in all matters. The reason for the separation of powers was to ensure that things didn’t get done efficiently within the federal government, because efficient government is a threat to liberty.

Read the rest on The Huffington Post…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Exclusive Interview: Kevin Gutzman on Justice Antonin Scalia (podcast)

If podcast player does not appear, click here.

220px-Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portrait

Tom Mullen Speaking/Book Signing Event Feb. 17, 2016 Buffalo, NY

Click on image to enlargeBook signing flyer 20160217 Daily Planet

Rand Paul’s Campaign Proved Libertarianism and Conservatism Are Antithetical to Each Other

1024px-Rand_Paul_by_Gage_Skidmore_7Google Rand Paul today and you’ll find stories about him suspending his presidential campaign under “Breaking News.” In one way it is; in another it isn’t. It’s really an old story, but those who don’t know history have been doomed (again) to repeat it.

Since William F. Buckley started National Review in the 1950s, libertarianism has been viewed as a subset of conservatism. Reagan affirmed this view in the 1970s, before rising to the presidency selling that same theory.

But what caused Reagan to fail to shrink the federal government (it doubled in size during his presidency) is the same problem that doomed Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. Libertarianism and conservatism are antithetical philosophies and any attempt to combine them will fail.

It is important to understand the philosophical differences here, because they do indeed dictate political positions today. I’ve written an entire book about this, but the crucial difference between libertarians and conservatives is this: true conservatives don’t believe man keeps his natural rights when he enters society. Understood properly, they don’t even believe they exist in nature at all.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Without Rand Paul It Isn’t a Debate, Trump or No Trump

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The big news from last Thursday’s Republican Presidential Debate on Fox News was the absence of what Meghan Kelly called, “the elephant not in the room.” Thanks to the ongoing feud between her and front runner Donald Trump, the latter was not on the stage. In what was largely treated as a footnote, Rand Paul was.

Several media have asserted the debate was more substantive without Trump, the issues having more space in the absence of his overpowering personality and the likely attention that would have been paid to his controversial style. But it wasn’t Trump’s absence that made this debate more substantive. It was Rand Paul’s presence. Without him, the last spectacle wasn’t a debate at all.

Debate moderators are television people. They are interested in whatever makes the best television and gets the highest ratings. The debate moderators on Thursday, echoing the larger media narrative, continually pushed the establishment vs. anti-establishment theme. That’s certainly a phenomenon in this election cycle, but it really means nothing in terms of policy.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to determine the difference, if any, between the candidates seeking the presidency. Without Rand Paul, there isn’t a difference to determine, not even with Trump. Trumps style might be different, but he’s a lot more like an establishment Republican than the media narrative would have one believe.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.