April 21, 2014

Every law is a threat of violence

TAMPA, December 29, 2012 – The new U.S. Congress will convene on January 3rd with two high profile issues to consider. There is zero chance that they will get either one of them right. The debates on both are already framed into a lose-lose proposition for the American people, as are virtually all “debates” on Capitol Hill.

One issue is “How should the right to keep and bear arms be further infringed?” The other is “How much less of their own money should Americans be allowed to keep?”

With a more enlightened populace, there is always some chance that pressure on the legislators could produce a more positive result. However, the gullible American public has already taken the bait that “something must be done” on both issues. “Something” means Congress passing a law, which means the perceived problem will be solved with violence.

Every law is a threat of violence. Americans used to understand that. In their present condition, they are aware of little beyond football on Sunday and Dancing with the Stars during the week. Fat, progressive and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Government itself is an institution of violence. That’s not an opinion. That’s what it is. That’s all it is. Governments are constituted for the express purpose of pooling the capacity for violence of every member of the community.

Every law promulgates human behavior that is mandated under the threat of violence. It either prohibits certain activity or requires certain activity. Failure to behave as the law proscribes results in violence against the transgressor. He is kidnapped at best, killed resisting at worst.

Putting aside the question of whether this power should ever be invested in a regional monopoly, every society must first answer the question of whether this power should be exercised by anyone at all. Is violence ever justified?

In a free society, there is only one circumstance under which it is. Violence is only justified as a reaction to aggression committed in the past. Murder, assault, and theft are all examples. These justify the use of force against the perpetrator. Consider this statement.

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The Newtown tragedy should not prompt a “national discussion”

TAMPA, Fl, December 26, 2012 ― Perhaps 21st century Americans are not worthy of liberty. Reason is a prequalification of liberty, and Americans don’t demonstrate the ability to exercise it at all, at least not in a political context. It may be time to admit that a century of “progressive” education has transformed Americans into a herd of dependent, unthinking sheep.

Any person capable of even the most elementary reasoning would immediately conclude that not only shouldn’t the Newtown tragedy prompt a national discussion, but that there is no such thing as a “national discussion” in the first place.

Do Americans really believe that the 300 million people occupying this nation are actually participating in a discussion?

During the Republican primaries, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich often referred to “having a conversation with the country.” I assumed that I was not alone in rolling my eyes. Any lucid person would assume that Gingrich was either delusional, insincere or both to even suggest that any “conversation” he could participate in actually involved the wishes or interests of every individual in the country.

If most Americans believe there is a “national conversation” going on about guns, a reason to have one or even the possibility that one could be had, we’re in deep trouble. This is all just a well-orchestrated show to herd Americans to a place where they will accept being disarmed without raising too much fuss.

The debate is already framed. “Something must be done.” Now “we’re” just bickering about what that will be.

Think for a moment how idiotic this is. It is suggested that we pass a law that affects 300 million people because of the actions of a solitary lunatic. It’s happened before? So what? You could fit every person that has committed a similar crime during the past fifty years into the kitchen of a Greenwich Village apartment. Somehow we’re to believe that the actions of these few have some relevance to the rights of hundreds of millions.

The math doesn’t work.

Yet, this is only a secondary and utilitarian argument for rejecting gun control. The most important is that keeping and bearing whatever arms one wishes is a right, not a privilege. It is not granted by the 2nd Amendment. That amendment merely attempts to ensure that the right it refers to is not violated by the government.

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Merry Christmas: Mary gives birth to a great libertarian

TAMPA, December 24, 2012 ― It’s not a surprise that libertarian themes pervade many iconic Christmas specials. After all, they celebrate the birthday of one of the great libertarians of all time.

In the Gospels, government is exposed as evil right from Jesus’ birth. A paranoid Herod is willing to kill all of the babies in the kingdom to try to eliminate the perceived threat represented by Jesus.

 

Tax collectors are considered de facto sinners, on a par with prostitutes. Libertarians would consider this unfair to prostitutes, but for the times this couldn’t land better.

Jesus himself doesn’t disappoint, either. From the moment he begins his ministry, he wages a nonstop verbal war against the hypocritical, oppressive, tax-devouring Temple priests. Jews at the time were required to pay annual taxes to the priests and were also expected to come and make sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple. Of course, they had to buy the livestock for the sacrifices from the priests and deal with the priests’ money changers in order to do that.

That’s why the libertarian from Galilee kicked them out. This would have been considered a revolutionary act.

One can’t help but equate Jerusalem at that time with Washington, DC, an entire city of tax-fed, opulent wealth.

Jesus has no patience for excessive regulation, either. When he encounters a Jewish law that does not address actual criminal activity, he encourages his followers to break it. When the meddling scribes confront Jesus with allowing his disciples to eat without washing their hands, Jesus lets loose with his customary anti-government invective, calling them hypocrites and then instructing “the people” to ignore this idiotic law and focus on not committing real crimes instead. (Mark 7:1-23)

But aren’t right-to-work laws also unjust?

TAMPA, December 13, 2012 ― As expected, the reaction to Monday’s column about Michigan’s right-to-work legislation inspired spirited discussion.

Weeding out both praise and invective that were unresponsive to my argument, there was a dissent that had merit. It was the libertarian argument that right-to-work laws also violate the rights of employers and employees to make a voluntary contract. An employer should be free to require membership in the union and/or payment of dues as a condition of employment.

Like most libertarians, I agree with that argument in principle, but one cannot evaluate right-to-work laws in a vacuum.

Right-to-work laws and the Taft-Hartley Act from which they proceed are wholly a reaction to the Wagner Act. The proponents of Taft-Hartley first tried to get the Wagner Act repealed. When the Supreme Court ruled Wagner constitutional, conservatives passed Taft-Hartley. If the Wagner Act were not already law, Taft-Hartley would be both unnecessary and unjust.

However, in the context of the Wagner act, neither is necessarily true. A brief allegory will illustrate.

Employer Smith sits down at the bargaining table with Union Jones. The two discuss potential terms of an employment contract, but are unable to reach an agreement. Jones wants more than Smith is willing or able to pay. Smith gets up to walk away.

Just then, Luca Brasi walks up and makes Smith “an offer he can’t refuse.” Brasi puts a gun to Smith’s head and invites him to sit back down, assuring him that at the end of the meeting, either his brains or his signature will be on a collective bargaining agreement.

Brasi is the Wagner Act.

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Michigan unions say no right to work

TAMPA, December 10, 2012 – Lansing, Michigan is bracing for an onslaught of protestors following Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s indication that he would sign “Right to Work” legislation currently making its way through the state legislature. President Obama and Harry Reid have both joined Michigan Democrats in denouncing the bill.

As usual, both liberals and conservatives are already demonstrating their skewed perception of reality in weighing in on this debate. President Obama told workers at an engine plant outside Detroit that “what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages,” as if the law would do any such thing.

However, Harry Reid surpassed all in obtuseness when he called the legislation a “blatant attempt by Michigan Republicans to assault the collective bargaining process and undermine the standard of living it has helped foster.”

Perhaps the senator should ask the residents of Detroit, an entire city laid waste by New Deal union legislation, how they are enjoying the standard of living it has produced.

Libertarians haven’t been able to say this in quite a while, but the conservatives are mostly right on this one, although perhaps for the wrong reasons.

The only troubling sentiment coming from grassroots conservatives is the animosity towards labor unions themselves. Many seem to believe that the mere existence of labor unions causes economic distortions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Labor unions themselves are not the problem.

Like virtually all human misery, labor market distortions are caused by the government. Specifically in this case, they are rooted in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (a.k.a. the Wagner Act).

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Libertarian themes pervade The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

Tampa 8 December 2012 – “And it came to pass that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, everyone to his own city, for to disobey the Roman emperor meant certain death.”

The message in the opening lines of The Little Drummer Boy (1968) is as rich and pleasing to the ear as Greer Garson’s euphonious narration.

First, that Bethlehem was so crowded and there was “no room at the inn” for Joseph and Mary was not at all a natural occurrence. It was caused by the government, like virtually all human misery. Second, that all taxation occurs under the threat of violence, for to refuse to pay would result in “certain death.”

This is all within the first 30 seconds of the film. A libertarian couldn’t ask for a better start.

Taxation is repeatedly denounced throughout the story. Garson continues by noting that, “There were good people who could ill afford the cruel tax.” Even the film’s chief villain, Ben Haramad (voice by Jose Ferrer), who kidnaps Aaron in order to compel him to perform in his traveling show, addresses his audience as “fellow taxpayers,” indicating that as bad as he might be, he is one with his audience in suffering under a much more cruel and malicious oppressor.

I couldn’t have been happier that my seven-year-old daughter was exposed to all of this, along with a very age appropriate introduction to the gospel stories. With the central lesson of Thanksgiving – that communism is lethal and that private property is essential to human survival – effectively erased from popular consciousness, it was refreshing to see these foundational libertarian ideas surviving in a classic Christmas special.

Next, we queued up another oldie from the same DVD compilationSanta Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970). This one didn’t disappoint, either.  Again, the general misery within the aptly named “Sombertown” has the same source: government. One cannot help but see the parallels between Burgermeister Meisterburger’s idiotic law against toys and the U.S. government’s War on Drugs. All of the familiar characteristics are there.

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Mitt Romney did not pay less in taxes than his secretary (and raising capital gains tax will destroy the economy)

TAMPA, December 1, 2012 ― President Obama and the Democrats were successful in 2012 largely on the strength of some rather outlandish demagoguery. “Billionaires pay fewer taxes than their secretaries” was one slogan that was particularly successful.

The Obama campaign successfully made an issue out of Mitt Romney’s taxes, finally getting Romney to admit that he paid around 13% of his earnings in taxes over the past several years. The “fair share” crowd contrasted this with the higher percentage that would have been paid by a secretary in the 28% bracket, for example, who would still pay more than 13% even after deductions.

That Americans bought this specious argument is more worrisome than that the Democrats made it.

Romney’s tax percentage was low because most of earnings came from capital gains, not income. Capital gains are just what they sound like. They are the appreciation in the value of one’s capital. If you buy a stock at $5 per share and its price goes up to $7 dollars per share, you have realized $2 in capital gains. If you sell that stock at a $2 dollar profit, the government wants a percentage.

Right now, Mitt Romney would pay 35% income tax and 15% on capital gains. The average secretary would pay 15% income tax and 15% on capital gains. So, Romney’s tax liability as a percentage of income is more than double the average secretary’s. His tax liability on capital gains is the same. Obviously, Romney’s nominal tax payments in both categories would exceed the secretary’s by orders of magnitude.

That’s how things actually are out here in the real world.

So why is the tax rate on capital gains lower than on income? Because “capital,” by definition, comes from previously taxed income.

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The fiscal cliff: Another phony emergency to give the government more power

TAMPA, November 27, 2012 – The 24-hour news cycle is dominated with frantic warnings about the “fiscal cliff.” If you merely listen to the sound bites, there is another “emergency” facing the United States of America and only some drastic action by Congress can avert it.

What nonsense. Don’t Americans ever learn anything from even the recent past?

Just four years ago, we were told that if we didn’t allow Congress to give Wall Street almost a trillion dollars of our money, the end of the world would occur. The “bold” legislation was necessary to “save the financial system.” Other than preventing a lot of billionaires who made bad investments from losing their money, I’m not sure what that was supposed to mean.

It didn’t prevent millions of borrowers from losing their homes. That happened anyway.

We were told after 911 that “the world changed” and the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments to the Constitution would have to be trashed. Americans now subject themselves to unreasonable searches without warrant merely for the “privilege” of getting on a plane. They allow presidents to arrest American citizens without a warrant or charges and hold them indefinitely without recourse to a writ of habeas corpus.

The president can even kill American citizens without due process.

It was all supposedly necessary to protect us from…the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. Both defeated the new government security apparatus and were subdued by private citizens.

Both initiatives were accompanied by a non-stop barrage of media propaganda trumpeting impending doom if the government wasn’t given more power.

The fiscal cliff scam is playing out exactly the same way. Day and night, Americans are bombarded with the same message. If Congress doesn’t do something, the world will end.

There are two components to this supposed disaster. The first is the “draconian cuts” to government spending built into the Budget Control Act of 2011. Supposedly, they will “gut the military,” while plunging the economy back into recession.

There is only one problem. Even if Congress fails to make a deal, nothing is being cut from the federal budget.

Let me repeat that. Nothing is being cut.

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2nd Third Party Debate: Will Americans Remember the 5th of November?

TAMPA, October 31, 2012 – “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” When uttered in a political context, there is no passive-aggressive cliché that I detest more than this one,

Invariably, this is the rejoinder offered by the statist who has painted himself into a corner while trying to justify his invasion of the life and property of others. Unable to honestly answer the question, “Aren’t you advocating the initiation of force against your fellow man?” the statist will end the conversation with this insipid bit of anti-reason, usually with condescending sanctimoniousness.

The problem is that one side of the argument is agreeing to refrain from invading the property of anyone else, while the other side claims doing so is his right. There is nothing either fair or civilized by “agreeing to disagree” under these circumstances.

Of course, the problem isn’t that the statist holds this opinion.

It is his right to hold any opinion he wishes and to express that opinion freely. The problem is what happens next. Informed by his opinion, the statist then goes into the voting booth and votes himself the life and property of other people.

Worse yet, according to the bizarre principles presently governing American society, he is then provided with the ill-gotten gains by the politician.

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Libertarians vs. Conseratives on the welfare state

TAMPA, October 26, 2012 – Many people think of libertarianism as a subset of conservatism, but that’s not true. Libertarianism and conservatism are completely separate philosophies with distinct and separate philosophical traditions. The philosophical differences result in very different positions on issues, from domestic to foreign policy. Their differences on the welfare state provide a perfect example.

Most Americans believe that President Obama and the liberals believe in wealth redistribution and that Republicans/conservatives are against it. That just doesn’t line up with the facts.

While Republicans make general statements against the welfare state, they actually support 95% of the actual spending. A key plank of the Romney/Ryan campaign is “preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare.” That’s more than half of welfare spending alone. They also support government subsidization of housing, agriculture, energy and other “job-creating” programs. They are willing to support corporate welfare if they believe it will be good for the overall economy.

The only criticisms Republicans generally make are for social safety nets like TANF. This illustrates a key difference between conservatives and libertarians on welfare.

Libertarians object to the welfare state on this basis: Any taxes collected from citizens are collected under a threat of violence. You pay or you get kidnapped at best, killed resisting at worst. Therefore, libertarians object to using the taxing power to take money from one person or group and give it to another. When individuals do this, it is called “armed robbery.” For libertarians, it is no different when the government does it. It is the crime itself that libertarians object to.

Conservatives see it differently. They don’t object to the crime itself. Rather, they formulate their positions based upon who will receive the benefits. Redistribution to certain types of people is acceptable, to others it is not. That is why they will excoriate the “welfare queen,” whose impact upon the budget is minimal, while fully supporting Social Security and Medicare, which will eventually bankrupt the entire government.

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