September 18, 2014

Even libertarians wrong on Monsanto Protection Act

TAMPA, April 3, 2013 ― While the high priests in black robes were hearing arguments on gay marriage, President Obama quietly signed the continuing resolutions act that keeps the federal government operating in the absence of a budget. Buried inside the bill was language that has become notoriously known as “the Monsanto Protection Act.” The blogosphere exploded with cries of conspiracy, crony capitalism and corruption.

Liberals oppose the provision for the usual reasons: It lets a big corporation “run wild” without appropriate government oversight, free to (gasp!) make bigger profits on food. More thoughtful liberal arguments have suggested it may threaten the separation of powers by allowing the executive branch to override a decision by the judicial.

The lunatic fringe believes that Monsanto will control the world’s food supply through intellectual property laws and enslave us all, like the evil corporation did with oxygen in Total Recall. Of course, let’s not forget that old saying. “Just because I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.”

The liberal reaction to this bill and Monsanto’s activities in general is not surprising. It’s the libertarian reaction that’s surprising and disappointing. Even the Ron Paul crowd sounds like New Deal Democrats when it comes to this corporate farming giant.

They say that regardless of how much he supports the free market, everyone has that one issue that he is hopelessly socialist on. For some, it’s roads and so-called “infrastructure.” For others, it’s intellectual property. For Thomas Jefferson, it was education. Apparently, for libertarians it’s farming.

Now, if libertarians want to argue that corporations shouldn’t exist at all, that the privilege of limited liability violates individual rights and leads to market distortions, that regulating the markets only insulates large corporations from competition, that’s one thing. I’ve been there, written that.

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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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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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Libertarians are not corporate apologists

TAMPA, October 22, 2012 – In the wake of Ron Paul’s campaign and with Gary Johnson rising in the polls, libertarianism may just get a hearing for the first time in decades.

Already, the usual fallacies have resurfaced. If you don’t want the government to run education, you must be against education. If you don’t want the government to run healthcare, you must not want people to get healthcare.

This misunderstanding is often summed up with comments like, “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with an ‘every man for himself’ society.” This springs from the absurd assumption that human beings never confer benefits upon one another except when forced to do so at gunpoint.

One corollary of the “every man for himself” theory is that a libertarian society would “let corporations run wild,” resulting in a small, wealthy elite controlling all of the resources and exercising oligarchical rule over the rest of society. (So do we live in a libertarian society now?)

Most people would probably be surprised at the libertarian stand on corporations. In a libertarian society, they wouldn’t exist. Corporations are creatures of the state. They are created by the government and endowed with privileges that individuals do not have. This contradicts a fundamental premise of libertarianism, that all people are created equal and have equal rights.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

Questions Obama and Romney won’t have to answer at tonight’s debate

TAMPA, October 16, 2012 – Tonight, we will be subjected to another presidential “debate,” in which two candidates who agree that government is the solution to everything argue about whose central plan is better. With the questions coming directly from the electorate and super-liberal Candy Crowley deciding which ones to ask, there is not much chance that big government will be challenged by anyone.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the candidates were actually asked substantive questions that couldn’t be answered with rehearsed talking points? Here are just a few that you won’t hear asked in any debate or interview:

1. Both of you support U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and elsewhere against nations that have committed no acts of war against the United States. How do you justify planned military action when no state of war exists?

2. Both of you support employing the U.S. military to promote “democracy” in other countries. Why is the U.S. taxpayer financially responsible for the liberty and security of everyone on the planet? When will this financial responsibility end?

3. You both agree that President Obama was right in signing the last NDAA bill which has provisions allowing the arrest and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military without due process. How do you reconcile this policy with the 4th and 5th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

4. It is almost universally acknowledged that Social Security and Medicare have unfunded liabilities that can never be paid, with Medicare representing the graver financial threat. Both of you argue that the programs must be preserved. However, don’t U.S. citizens who weren’t even born when these programs were started have a right to opt out of them, if they agree to waive all benefits in exchange for not being required to pay in? Would you sign a bill allowing younger workers to opt out under those conditions?

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

How long are Ron Paul’s coat tails?

TAMPA, August 29, 2012 ― As I walked up to the Gate B entrance of the Tampa Bay Times Forum last night, I was greeted by the sound of a large crowd inside chanting “President Paul!” followed by “End the Fed!” For a moment I thought I was back at Ron Paul’s “We are the Future Rally.” I was not. I was entering the Republican National Convention.

While Paul was not nominated and will not be a speaker at the RNC, he has something usually reserved only for winners in the general election. Ron Paul has coat tails.

After weeks of negotiations culminating in a heated debate at the RNC on Tuesday, Ron Paul finally had a portion of the delegates he’d won at Republican state conventions seated on the RNC floor. Even with his total diminished by agreement, Paul actually won Iowa, Minnesota and Nevada, garnering approximately 200 delegate votes total.

That delegate strength has allowed Paul to achieve his secondary goal of influencing the Republican Party platform. According to senior campaign advisor Doug Wead, the Republican Party platform will contain major planks of Paul’s, including auditing the Federal Reserve System, requiring a congressional declaration of war before engaging in military operations, a commission to examine instituting a gold standard, and keeping the internet free and unregulated.

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

Repealing Glass-Steagall did not create the banking monster

TAMPA, August 22, 2012 – As we approach the Republican and Democratic National Conventions with two major party candidates that don’t substantively disagree on anything, debate about the causes of the housing bubble and what should be done about it will inevitably recur.

Both candidates advocate massive government intervention. They just disagree about the details.

Neil Barofsky weighs in with the generally accepted argument that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was the creator of what he calls “the monster,” highly leveraged investment banks taking extraordinary risks that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Barofsky is right about Wall Street being a monster, but the repeal of Glass Steagall wasn’t its Frankenstein. As Tom Woods explains in his bestseller, Rollback,

“But did the repeal of two provisions of Glass-Steagall allowing affiliation of commercial banks with securities firms through their control by the same holding company contribute to the losses and risk that permeated the system? Certainly not. For one thing, commercial banks bought mortgage-backed securities for their AAA rating, their attractive return, and the minimal capital requirements associated with holding them; they did not acquire these assets because they were connected to investment banks that were trying to unload them.

Moreover, severe regulatory firewalls essentially prevent this kind of affiliation from contributing to losses or increased risk on the part of the commercial bank involved. The reverse problem, that affiliation with a commercial bank might bring down and investment bank, is exceedingly unlikely, given the relative magnitudes of assets held by each institution. The commercial banks’ assets were only a tiny fraction of those held by the investment banks they were affiliated with. These banks were in no position to cause the investment banks any serious problem, much less their complete downfall.”

If that’s true, then why was that “sucker going down,” as President Bush so eloquently put it?

Continue at Washington Times Communities…

Everything the government does is a mandate

TAMPA, April 4, 2011 – Despite the drama created by the two days of oral arguments on Obamacare, I’m sticking to my original prediction that the controversial law will be upheld by the Supreme Court.

Let’s face it, if the Court upheld a law limiting the amount of crops that someone can grow on their own land for their own consumption, they’ll find a way to uphold this. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press (AP) provides some of the possible reasoning that the Court may rely on.

The AP article points out that there are many other federal government healthcare mandates already in place. Medicare is an individual mandate. There is no option to “opt out.” Conservatives make the distinction that one is only taxed for Medicare if one has an income, while Obamacare forces you to buy a product just because you’re alive. That distinction is valid, but how what does it really mean?

If you choose not to have an income then you either starve to death or live off previously taxed income. Those living off savings and investments haven’t escaped the mandate. Those assets were acquired by previous income. If you’re living off public welfare, then the tax has simply been paid by somebody else. “Income” is necessary to human life. One cannot consume what one has not produced unless someone else produces it for you. Thus, you either comply with the Medicare mandate or die.

Lost in all of these minutiae is a core principle. Government itself is an individual mandate. You have no choice whether to purchase its services. You have no choice whether to obey its laws or pay its taxes. You either comply or you are dragged away by force or killed while resisting. Americans used to understand this.

Continue at The Washington Times Communities…

Why is health care so expensive? (Washington Times Comm.)

TAMPA, Fl., March 29, 2012 — The nation waits with baited breath while the high priests of the federal government prepare to issue a pronouncement on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The legislation purports to make health care more “affordable” by among other things, forcing every soul in the United States to purchase health insurance. It also mandates several other new government interventions into the health care market.

While conservatives are arguing that this represents some enormous crossroads between socialism and freedom and progressives are replying that it’s nothing more than “Medicare for all,” everyone has become distracted from the most important questions. Why is health care so expensive? Why does the price continually rise?

The proponents of Obamacare say that it’s capitalism; allowing health care to be delivered in a free market results in “putting profits before people” and other snappy alliterative slogans. In a word, the problem is the age old progressive boogeyman: greed.

That begs several questions. If capitalism is the problem, then why does the price of computers and cell phones continually go down? Aren’t the producers of these products greedy? Does anyone seriously believe that technology corporations “put people before profits?”

Continue at The Washington Times Communities…

Government Cannot Be Run Like a Business

Despite his big-government record as a governor, Mitt Romney has run for president as a conservative who would allow the free market to work. To bolster his credibility, he points to his success as CEO of Bain Capital. Romney led that company to become one of the largest and most successful private equity investment firms in the nation.

Many of his supporters have been able to look past the fact that he consistently raised taxes and pioneered Obamacare in Massachusetts because of this private sector success. They echo Romney’s argument that “the government should be run like a business” and believe that only a proven, successful businessman can do the job.

There are two problems here. The first is that history has already shown that successful businessmen are terrible for the free market whenever they get anywhere near government power. The second is that government cannot ever be run like a business. Its very nature makes that utterly impossible.

Regarding the first problem, one need only study the 19th century. If you don’t like the progressive movement, you can thank the 19th century Republican Party for creating the conditions that led to its birth.

The entire period is a record of big business getting together with government to intervene into the free market. Always under the pretense of protecting consumers, the true purpose of these interventions was limiting or eliminating competition for connected companies.

For example, Republicans wrote and passed the Sherman Anti—Trust Act. Standard Oil’s competitors were unable to deliver similar quality oil at the same price, so they went to the government for help. They successfully broke up a company that at the time the Act was passed had over 300 competitors and had lowered its prices for decades. Why? So that they could survive selling their oil at higher prices.

John D. Rockefeller, founder and chairman of Standard Oil, learned from this experience. Contrary to popular myth, Rockefeller was not a robber baron in the oil business. Like Romney, he had achieved his success honestly in the market through reinvestment, voluntary contracts, and his commitment that ““we are refining oil for the poor man and he must have it cheap and good.”[1]

However, when he got into banking, his strategy was different. Having seen the advantages of having government as a partner, Rockefeller made sure that he was well-represented at the secret meetings held on Jekyll Island to create the Federal Reserve System.

Pitched as a consumer protection against bank instability, it set up a government cartel that controls the money supply, interest rates, and most banking activity in general. Free market economists cite the Federal Reserve System as the chief cause of economic booms and busts, including those that led to the Great Depression and the 2008 housing crisis.

Railroads provide another example. 19th century government-subsidized railroads were plagued by fraud, waste, and recurring bankruptcies, while James J. Hill’s non-subsidized Great Northern Railroad operated profitably. Unable to compete, his subsidized competitors persuaded the government to pass the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 and the Hepburn Act of 1906. As Thomas Dilorenzo observes, “What these two federal laws did was to outlaw Hill’s price cutting by forcing railroads to charge everyone the same high rates. This was all done in the name of consumer protection, giving it an Orwellian aura.”[2]

Romney’s economic policy as laid out on his issues page continues in the interventionist tradition. According to Romney, “History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology.” He must read the same history books as Barack Obama. True proponents of free markets argue that entrepreneurs have moved the United States forward despite government intervention, not because of it.

Romney makes the distinction of “investing” in basic research rather than “politically favored approaches” to energy solutions. However, basic research is just another investment that should be made by private capital in the hope 0f profits, not by government for “the common good.” The latter is just more of Barack Obama’s collectivism repackaged. It will yield similar results: more bridges to nowhere, bankruptcies, and waste.

Despite the popular conservative misconception, government cannot be run like a business. Government simply does not exist under the same conditions as private firms. It does not receive its money voluntarily from its “customers.” The ability of customers to choose not to buy is the driving force behind all market innovation and efficiency. Private companies are not owned and run by more noble creatures. They are simply under conditions that force them to innovate and control costs in order to survive.

Contrary to the arguments made by Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich, there is only one role for government in a free market economy: to protect private property rights and enforce contracts. Regardless of good intentions, anything else the government does destroys the market. Only Ron Paul understands this. If you truly believe in free markets, he is your choice for president.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.


[1] Folsom, Burton, Jr. John D. Rockefeller and His Enemies from The Freeman http://www.fee.org/pdf/the-freeman/0805FreemanFolsom.pdf.

[2] Dilorenzo, Thomas How Capitalism Saved America Three Rivers Press New York 2004 pg. 120