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Tag Archives: america
Posted: at 12:20 pm
Washington Post Peddles Tarring of Ron Paul Institute as Russian Propaganda, via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,
The Washington Post has a history of misrepresenting Ron Pauls views. Last year the supposed newspaper of record ran a feature article by David A. Fahrenthold in which Fahrenthold grossly mischaracterized Paul as an advocate for calamity, oppression, and poverty the opposite of the goals Paul routinely expresses and, indeed, expressed clearly in a speech at the event upon which Fahrentholds article purported to report. Such fraudulent attacks on the prominent advocate for liberty and a noninterventionist foreign policy fall in line with the newspapers agenda. As Future of Freedom Foundation President Jacob G. Hornberger put it in a February editorial, the Posts agenda is guided by the interventionist mindset that undergirds the mainstream media.
On Thursday, the Post published a new article by Craig Timberg complaining of a flood of so-called fake news supported by a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, To advance this conclusion, Timberg points to PropOrNot, an organization of anonymous individuals formed this year, as having identified more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season. Look on the PropOrNot list. There is the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperitys (RPI) website RonPaulInstitute.org listed among websites termed Russian propaganda outlets.
What you will not find on the PropOrNot website is any particularized analysis of why the RPI website, or any website for that matter, is included on the list. Instead, you will see only sweeping generalizations from an anonymous organization. The very popular website drudgereport.com even makes the list. While listed websites span the gamut of political ideas, they tend to share in common an independence from the mainstream media.
Timbergs article can be seen as yet another big media attempt to shift the blame for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clintons loss of the presidential election away from Clinton, her campaign, and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that undermined Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) challenge to Clinton in the Democratic primary.
The article may also be seen as another step in the effort to deter people from looking to alternative sources of information by labeling those information sources as traitorous or near-traitorous.
At the same time, the article may be seen as playing a role in the ongoing push to increase tensions between the United States and Russia a result that benefits people, including those involved in the military-industrial complex, who profit from the growth of US national security activity in America and overseas.
This is not the first time Ron Paul and his institute has been attacked for sounding pro-Russian or anti-American. Such attacks have been advanced even by self-proclaimed libertarians.
Expect that such attacks will continue. They are an effort to tar Paul and his institute so people will close themselves off from information Paul and RPI provide each day in furtherance of the institutes mission to continue and expand Pauls lifetime of public advocacy for a peaceful foreign policy and the protection of civil liberties at home. While peace and liberty will benefit most people, powerful interests seek to prevent the realization of these objectives. Indeed, expect attacks against RPI to escalate as the institute continues to reach growing numbers of people with its educational effort
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Ron Paul Lashes Out At WaPo’s Witch Hunt: "Expect Such …
Posted: November 27, 2016 at 9:53 am
Infrastructure Build or Privatization Scam?
Trumpists are touting the idea of a big infrastructure build, and some Democrats are making conciliatory noises about working with the new regime on that front. But remember who youre dealing with: if you invest anything with this guy, be it money or reputation, you are at great risk of being scammed. So, what do we know about the Trump infrastructure plan, such as it is?
Crucially, its not a plan to borrow $1 trillion and spend it on much-needed projects which would be the straightforward, obvious thing to do. It is, instead, supposed to involve having private investors do the work both of raising money and building the projects with the aid of a huge tax credit that gives them back 82 percent of the equity they put in. To compensate for the small sliver of additional equity and the interest on their borrowing, the private investors then have to somehow make profits on the assets they end up owning.
You should immediately ask three questions about all of this.
First, why involve private investors at all? Its not as if the federal government is having any trouble raising money in fact, a large part of the justification for infrastructure investment is precisely that the government can borrow so cheaply. Why do we need private equity at all?
One answer might be that this way you avoid incurring additional public debt. But thats just accounting confusion. Imagine that youre building a toll road. If the government builds it, it ends up paying interest but gets the future revenue from the tolls. If it turns the project over to private investors, it avoids the interest cost but also loses the future toll revenue. The governments future cash flow is no better than it would have been if it borrowed directly, and worse if it strikes a bad deal, say because the investors have political connections.
Second, how is this kind of scheme supposed to finance investment that doesnt produce a revenue stream? Toll roads are not the main thing we need right now; what about sewage systems, making up for deferred maintenance, and so on? You could bring in private investors by guaranteeing them future government money say, paying rent in perpetuity for the use of a water system built by a private consortium. But this, even more than having someone else collect tolls, would simply be government borrowing through the back door with much less transparency, and hence greater opportunities for giveaways to favored interests.
A lot of people in politics and the media are scrambling to normalize what just happened to us, saying that it will all be OK and we can work with Trump. No, it wont, and no, we cant. The next occupant of the White House will be a pathological liar with a loose grip on reality; he is already surrounding himself with racists, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists; his administration will be the most corrupt in America history.
How did this happen? There were multiple causes, but you just cant ignore the reality that key institutions and their leaders utterly failed. Every news organization that decided, for the sake of ratings, to ignore policy and barely cover Trump scandals while obsessing over Clinton emails, every reporter who, for whatever reason often sheer pettiness played up Wikileaks nonsense and talked about how various Clinton stuff raised questions and cast shadows is complicit in this disaster. And then theres the FBI: its quite reasonable to argue that James Comey, whether it was careerism, cowardice, or something worse, tipped the scales and may have doomed the world.
No, Im not giving up hope. Maybe, just maybe, the sheer awfulness of whats happening will sink in. Maybe the backlash will be big enough to constrain Trump from destroying democracy in the next few months, and/or sweep his gang from power in the next few years. But if thats going to happen, enough people will have to be true patriots, which means taking a stand.
And anyone who doesnt who plays along and plays it safe is betraying America, and mankind.
As I said in todays column, nobody who thought Trump would be a disaster should change his or her mind because he won the election. He will, in fact, be a disaster on every front. And I think he will eventually drag the Republican Party into the abyss along with his own reputation; the question is whether he drags the rest of the country, and the world, down with him.
But its important not to expect this to happen right away. Theres a temptation to predict immediate economic or foreign-policy collapse; I gave in to that temptation Tuesday night, but quickly realized that I was making the same mistake as the opponents of Brexit (which I got right). So I am retracting that call, right now. Its at least possible that bigger budget deficits will, if anything, strengthen the economy briefly. More detail in Mondays column, I suspect.
On other fronts, too, dont expect immediate vindication. America has a vast stock of reputational capital, built up over generations; even Trump will take some time to squander it.
The true awfulness of Trump will become apparent over time. Bad things will happen, and he will be clueless about how to respond; if you want a parallel, think about how Katrina revealed the hollowness of the Bush administration, and multiply by a hundred. And his promises to bring back the good old days will eventually be revealed as the lies they are.
But it probably wont happen in a year. So the effort to reclaim American decency is going to have to have staying power; we need to build the case, organize, create the framework. And, of course, never forget who is right.
Its going to be a long time in the wilderness, and its going to be awful. If I sound calm and philosophical, Im not like everyone who cares, Im frazzled, sleepless, depressed. But we need to be stalwart.
Anyone who claims to be philosophical and detached after yesterday is either lying or has something very wrong with him (or her, but I doubt many women are in that camp.) Its a disaster on multiple levels, and the damage will echo down the decades if not the generations. And like anyone on my side of this debate, I keep feeling waves of grief.
Its natural, only human, to engage in recriminations, some of which are surely deserved. But while a post-mortem is going to be necessary, lashing out doesnt seem helpful or good for the lashers-out themselves.
Eventually those of us on the center-left will have to talk about political strategy. For now, however, I want to share some thoughts on how we should deal with this personally.
First of all, its always important to remember that elections determine who has the power, not who has the truth. The stunning upset doesnt mean that the alt-right is correct to view nonwhites as inferior, that voodoo economics works, whatever. And you have to hold to the truth as best you see it, even if it suffers political defeat.
That said, does it make sense on a personal level to keep struggling after this kind of blow? Why not give up on trying to save the world, and just look out for yourself and those close to you? Quietism does have its appeal. Admission: I spent a lot of today listening to music, working out, reading a novel, basically taking a vacation in my head. You cant help feeling tired and frustrated after this kind of setback.
But eventually one has to go back to standing for what you believe in. Its going to be a much harder, longer road than I imagined, and maybe it ends in irreversible defeat, if nothing else from runaway climate change. But I couldnt live with myself if I just gave up. And I hope others will feel the same.
I tweeted this out earlier, but for blog readers here it is in this form.
Some morning-after thoughts: what hits me and other so hard isnt just the immense damage Trump will surely do, to climate above all. Theres also a vast disillusionment that as of now I think of as the end of the romantic vision of America (which I still love).
What I mean is the notion of US history as a sort of novel in which there may be great tragedy, but theres always a happy ending. That is, we tell a story in which at times of crisis we always find the leader Lincoln, FDR and the moral courage we need.
Its a particular kind of American exceptionalism; other countries dont tell that kind of story about themselves. But I, like others, believed it.
Now it doesnt look very good, does it? But giving up is not an option. The world needs a decent, democratic America, or were all lost. And theres still a lot of decency in the nation its just not as dominant as I imagined. Time to rethink, for sure. But not to surrender.
Binyamin Appelbaum has a nice piece about the stall in world trade growth, which I (and many others) have been tracking for a while. And I thought Id write a bit more about this, if only to serve as a much-needed distraction from the election.
If theres a problem with the Appelbaum piece, it is that on casual reading it might seem to suggest that slowing trade growth is (a) necessarily the result of protectionism and (b) necessarily a bad thing. Neither of these is right.
I found myself thinking about this some years ago, when teaching trade policy at the Woodrow Wilson School. I was very struck by a paper by Taylor et al on the interwar decline in trade, which argued that much of this decline reflected rising transport costs, not protectionism. But how could transport costs have gone up? Was there technological regress?
The answer, as the paper correctly pointed out, is that real transport costs will rise even if there is continuing technological progress, as long as that progress is slower than in the rest of the economy.
To clear that story up in my own mind, I wrote up a little toy model, contained in these class notes from sometime last decade (?). Pretty sure I wrote them before the global trade stagnation happened, but theyre a useful guide all the same.
As I see it, we had some big technological advances in transportation containerization, probably better communication making it easier to break up the value chain; plus the great move of developing countries away from import substitution toward export orientation. (Thats a decline in tau and t in my toy model.) But this was a one-time event. Now that its behind us, no presumption that trade will grow faster than GDP. This need not represent a problem; its just the end of one technological era.
It is kind of ironic that globalization seems to be plateauing just as the political backlash mounts. But were not going to talk about the election.
Both Ross Douthat and David Brooks have now weighed in on the state of conservative intellectuals; both deserve credit for taking a critical look at their team.
But of course theres a but Id argue that they and others on the right still have huge blind spots. In fact, these blind spots are so huge as to make the critiques all but useless as a basis for reform. For if you ignore the true, deep roots of the conservative intellectual implosion, youre never going to make a real start on reconstruction.
What are these blind spots? First, belief in a golden age that never existed. Second, a simply weird refusal to acknowledge the huge role played by money and monetary incentives promoting bad ideas.
On the first point: Were supposed to think back nostalgically to the era when serious conservative intellectuals like Irving Kristol tried to understand the world, rather than treating everything as a political exercise in which ideas were just there to help their team win.
But it was never like that. Dont take my word for it; take the word of Irving Kristol himself, in his book Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. Kristol explained his embrace of supply-side economics in the 1970s: I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities. This justified a cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or financial problems, because political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.
In short, never mind whether its right, as long as its politically useful. When David complains that conservative opinion-meisters began to value politics over everything else, hes describing something that happened well before Reagan.
But shouldnt there have been some reality checks along the way, with politically convenient ideas falling out of favor because they didnt work in practice? No because being wrong in the right way has always been a financially secure activity. I see this very clearly in economics, where there are three kinds of economists: liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists, and professional conservative economist the fourth box is more or less empty, because billionaires dont lavishly support hacks on the left.
There was a time, not long ago, when deficit scolds were actively dangerous when their huffing and puffing came quite close to stampeding Washington into really bad policies like raising the Medicare age (which wouldnt even have saved money) and short-term fiscal austerity. At this point their influence doesnt reach nearly that far. But they continue to play a malign role in our national discourse because they divert and distract attention from much more deserving problems, depriving crucial issues of political oxygen.
You saw that in the debates: four, count them, four questions about debt from the CRFB, not one about climate change. And you see it again in todays Times, with Pete Peterson (of course) and Paul Volcker (sigh) lecturing us about the usual stuff.
Whats so bad about this kind of deficit scolding? Its deeply misleading on two levels: the problem it purports to lay out is far less clearly a major issue than the scolds claim, and the insistence that we need immediate action is just incoherent.
So, about that supposed debt crisis: right now we have a more or less stable ratio of debt to GDP, and no hint of a financing problem. So claims that we are facing something terrible rest on the presumption that the budget situation will worsen dramatically over time. How sure are we about that? Less than you may imagine.
Yes, the population is getting older, which means more spending on Medicare and Social Security. But its already 2016, which means that quite a few baby boomers are already drawing on those programs; by 2020 well be about halfway through the demographic transition, and current estimates dont suggest a big budget problem.
Why, then, do you see projections of a large debt increase? The answer lies not in a known factor an aging population but in assumed growth in health care costs and rising interest rates. And the truth is that we dont know that these are going to happen. In fact, health costs have grown much more slowly since 2010 than previously projected, and interest rates have been much lower. As the chart above shows, taking these favorable surprises into account has already drastically reduced long-run debt projections. These days the long-run outlook looks vastly less scary than people used to imagine.
Like Claudia Sahm, I was struck by polling results indicating that around half of Trump supporters completely distrust official data although maybe a bit less surprised, since Ive been living in that world for years. In particular, the failure of high inflation to materialize led quite a few people on the right side of the political spectrum including the likes of Niall Ferguson to insist that the numbers were being cooked, so this is neither a new phenomenon nor one restricted to Trump types.
As it happened, there was a very easy answer to the inflation truthers: quite aside from the absurdity of claiming a conspiracy at the BLS, we had independent estimates such as the Billion Prices Index that closely matched official data. And theres similar independent evidence for a lot of the things where people now claim that official numbers are skewed. For example, the Gallup Healthways index provides independent confirmation of the huge gains in insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
But aside from validity, what explains this distrust of statistics? Is it because peoples own experience clashes with what theyre being told? I dont think so. In fact, when people are asked about personal outcomes, not about the economy, the story they tell is a lot like the official numbers. From that poll about Trumpian distrust of the data:
So people are feeling better, in line with what the data say, but claim that the economy is getting worse. Hard to believe that this isnt political, a case of going with the party line in the teeth of personal experience.
Ive posted other performances of this song by this band, but this is a good one and topical this week!
The much-hyped severe Brexit recession does not, so far, seem to be materializing which really shouldnt be that much of a surprise, because as I warned, the actual economic case for such a recession was surprisingly weak. (Ouch! I just pulled a muscle while patting myself on the back!) But we are seeing a large drop in the pound, which has steepened as it becomes likely that this will indeed be a very hard Brexit. How should we think about this?
Originally, stories about a pound plunge were tied to that recession prediction: domestic investment demand would collapse, leading to sustained very low interest rates, hence capital flight. But the demand collapse doesnt seem to be happening. So what is the story?
For now, at least, Im coming at it from the trade side especially trade in financial services. It seems to me that one way to think about this is in terms of the home market effect, an old story in trade but one that only got formalized in 1980.
Heres an informal version: imagine a good or service subject to large economies of scale in production, sufficient that if its consumed in two countries, you want to produce it in only one, and export to the other, even if there are costs of shipping it. Where will this production be located? Other things equal, you would choose the larger market, so as to minimize total shipping costs. Other things may not, of course, be equal, but this market-size effect will always be a factor, depending on how high those shipping costs are.
In one of the models I laid out in that old paper, the way this worked out was not that all production left the smaller economy, but rather that the smaller economy paid lower wages and therefore made up in competitiveness what it lacked in market access. In effect, it used a weaker currency to make up for its smaller market.
In Britains case, Id suggest that we think of financial services as the industry in question. Such services are subject to both internal and external economies of scale, which tends to concentrate them in a handful of huge financial centers around the world, one of which is, of course, the City of London. But now we face the prospect of seriously increased transaction costs between Britain and the rest of Europe, which creates an incentive to move those services away from the smaller economy (Britain) and into the larger (Europe). Britain therefore needs a weaker currency to offset this adverse impact.
So, now were supposed to feel sorry for Paul Ryan?
For years, Ryan has cultivated a reputation on both sides of the aisle as a paragon of decency, earnestness, and principle; that rare creature of D.C. who seems genuinely guided by good faith. To many in Washington including no small number of reporters Ryans support for Trump is not merely a political miscalculation, but a craven betrayal.
Ugh. Ryan is not, repeat not, a serious, honest man of principle who has tainted his brand by supporting Donald Trump. He has been an obvious fraud all along, at least to anyone who can do budget arithmetic. His budget proposals invariably contain three elements:
1. Huge tax cuts for the wealthy. 2. Savage cuts in aid to the poor. 3. Mystery meat claims that he will raise trillions by closing unspecified tax loopholes and save trillions cutting unspecified discretionary spending.
Taking (1) and (2) together that is, looking at the policies he actually specifies his proposals have always increased the deficit, while transferring income from the have-nots to the haves. Only by invoking (3), which involves nothing but unsupported and implausible assertion, does he get to claim to reduce the deficit.
Yet he poses as an icon of fiscal probity. That is, he is, in his own way, every bit as much a fraud as The Donald.
So how has he been able to get away with this? The main answer is that he has been a huge beneficiary of false balance. The media narrative requires that there be serious, principled policy wonks on both sides of the aisle; Ryan has become the designated symbol of that supposed equivalence, even though actual budget experts have torn his proposals to shreds on repeated occasions.
And my guess is that the media will quickly forgive him for the Trump episode too. They need him for their bothsidesism. After all, its not as if there are any genuine honest policy wonks left in the party that nominated Donald Trump.
Simon Wren-Lewis has an excellent new paper trying to explain the widespread resort to austerity in the face of a liquidity trap, which is exactly the moment when such policies do the most harm. His bottom line is that
austerity was the result of right-wing opportunism, exploiting instinctive popular concern about rising government debt in order to reduce the size of the state.
I think this is right; but I would emphasize more than he does the extent to which both the general public and Very Serious People always assume that reducing deficits is the responsible thing to do. We have some polling from the 1930s, showing a strong balanced-budget bias even then:
I think Simon would say that this is consistent with his view that large deficits grease the rails for deficit phobia, since FDRs administration did run up deficits and debt that were unprecedented for peacetime. But has there ever been a time when the public favored bigger deficits?
Meanwhile, as someone who was in the trenches during the US austerity fights, I was struck by how readily mainstream figures who werent especially right-wing in general got sucked into the notion that debt reduction was THE central issue. Ezra Klein documented this phenomenon with respect to Bowles-Simpson:
For reasons Ive never quite understood, the rules of reportorial neutrality dont apply when it comes to the deficit. On this one issue, reporters are permitted to openly cheer a particular set of highly controversial policy solutions. At Tuesdays Playbook breakfast, for instance, Mike Allen, as a straightforward and fair a reporter as youll find, asked Simpson and Bowles whether they believed Obama would do the right thing on entitlements with the right thing clearly meaning cut entitlements.
Meanwhile, as Brad Setser points out, the IMF whose research department has done heroic work puncturing austerity theories and supporting a broadly Keynesian view of macroeconomics is, in practice, pushing for fiscal contraction almost everywhere.
Again, this doesnt exactly contradict Simons argument, but maybe suggests that there is a bit more to it.
Ive been writing about Donald Trumps claim that Mexicos value-added tax is an unfair trade policy, which is just really bad economics. Heres Joel Slemrod explaining that a VAT has the same effects as a sales tax. Now, nobody thinks that sales taxes are an unfair trade practice. New York has fairly high sales taxes; Delaware has no such tax. Does anyone think that this gives New York an unfair advantage in interstate competition?
But it turns out that Trump wasnt saying ignorant things off the top of his head: he was saying ignorant things fed to him by his incompetent economic advisers. Heres the campaign white paper on economics. The VAT discussion is on pages 12-13 and its utterly uninformed.
And its not the worst thing: theres lots of terrible stuff in the white paper, at every level.
Should we be reassured that Trump wasnt actually winging it here, just taking really bad advice? Not at all. This says that if he somehow becomes president, and decides to take the job seriously, it wont help because his judgment in advisers, his notion of who constitutes an expert, is as bad as his judgment on the fly.
Last nights debate was an incredible blowout yet both candidates were pretty much who we already knew they were. This was the Hillary Clinton of the Benghazi hearing confronting the Donald Trump weve seen at every stage of the campaign.
But this then raises a question: how did the race get so close? Why, on the eve of the debate, did polls show at best a narrow Clinton lead? What happened to the commanding lead Clinton held after the conventions?
You might say that Clinton ran a terrible campaign but what, exactly, did she do? Trump may have learned to read from a TelePrompter, but was that such a big deal?
Well, my guess is that it was the Goring of Hillary: beginning in late August, with the AP report on the Clinton Foundation, the mainstream media went all in on abnormalizing Mrs. Clinton, a process that culminated with Matt Lauer, who fixated on emails while letting grotesque, known, Trump lies slide. Heres a graphic, using the Upshots estimate of election probabilities (which is a useful summary of what the polls say):
The thing is, it was all scurrilous. The AP, if it had been honest, had found no evidence of wrongdoing or undue influence; if meeting a Nobel Peace Prize winner who happened to be a personal friend was their prime example But dinging the Clintons was what the cool kids were supposed to do, with normal rules not applying.
And this media onslaught pushed the race quite close on the eve of the first debate. It was feeling like 2000 all over again; and I think Jamelle Bouie got this exactly right:
But it all went off script last night, partly because HRC did so well and DJT so badly but also, I think, because pressure from progressives ensured that there was a lot of real-time fact-checking.
Whether it turns out to have been enough to turn the tide remains to be seen. But anyone in the media who participated in the razzing of Hillary Clinton should think about what we saw on that stage, and ask himself what the hell he thought he was doing.
Read this article:
Posted: November 25, 2016 at 10:19 am
In a letter written on March 19, 1944, Ayn Rand remarked: Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Socialism are only superficial variations of the same monstrous themecollectivism. Rand would later expand on this insight in various articles, most notably in two of her lectures at the Ford Hall Forum in Boston: The Fascist New Frontier (Dec. 16, 1962, published as a booklet by the Nathaniel Branden Institute in 1963); and The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus (April 18, 1965, published as Chapter 20 in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal [CUI] by New American Library in 1967).
The world conflict of today is the conflict of the individual against the state.
Rand knew better than to accept the traditional left-right dichotomy between socialism (or communism) and fascism, according to which socialism is the extreme version of left-ideology and fascism is the extreme version of right-ideology (i.e., capitalism). Indeed, in The Ayn Rand Letter (Nov. 8, 1971) she characterized fascism as socialism for big business. Both are variants of statism, in contrast to a free country based on individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism. As Rand put it in Conservativism: An Obituary (CUI, Chapter 19):
The world conflict of today is the conflict of the individual against the state, the same conflict that has been fought throughout mankinds history. The names change, but the essenceand the resultsremain the same, whether it is the individual against feudalism, or against absolute monarchy, or against communism or fascism or Nazism or socialism or the welfare state.
The placement of socialism and fascism at opposite ends of a political spectrum serves a nefarious purpose, according to Rand. It serves to buttress the case that we must avoid extremism and choose the sensible middle course of a mixed economy. Quoting from Extremism, Or The Art of Smearing (CUI, Chapter 17):
If it were true that dictatorship is inevitable and that fascism and communism are the two extremes at the opposite ends of our course, then what is the safest place to choose? Why, the middle of the road. The safely undefined, indeterminate, mixed-economy, moderate middlewith a moderate amount of government favors and special privileges to the rich and a moderate amount of government handouts to the poorwith a moderate respect for rights and a moderate degree of brute forcewith a moderate amount of freedom and a moderate amount of slaverywith a moderate degree of justice and a moderate degree of injusticewith a moderate amount of security and a moderate amount of terrorand with a moderate degree of tolerance for all, except those extremists who uphold principles, consistency, objectivity, morality and who refuse to compromise.
In both of her major articles on fascism (cited above) Rand distinguished between fascism and socialism by noting a rather technical (and ultimately inconsequential) difference in their approaches to private property. Here is the relevant passage from The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus:
Observe that both socialism and fascism involve the issue of property rights. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Observe the difference in those two theories: socialism negates private property rights altogether, and advocates the vesting of ownership and control in the community as a whole, i.e., in the state; fascism leaves ownership in the hands of private individuals, but transfers control of the property to the government.
Ownership without control is a contradiction in terms: it means property, without the right to use it or to dispose of it. It means that the citizens retain the responsibility of holding property, without any of its advantages, while the government acquires all the advantages without any of the responsibility.
In this respect, socialism is the more honest of the two theories. I say more honest, not betterbecause, in practice, there is no difference between them: both come from the same collectivist-statist principle, both negate individual rights and subordinate the individual to the collective, both deliver the livelihood and the lives of the citizens into the power of an omnipotent government and the differences between them are only a matter of time, degree, and superficial detail, such as the choice of slogans by which the rulers delude their enslaved subjects.
Contrary to many conservative commentators during the 1960s, Rand maintained that America was drifting toward fascism, not socialism, and that this descent was virtually inevitable in a mixed economy. A mixed economy is an explosive, untenable mixture of two opposite elements, freedom and statism, which cannot remain stable, but must ultimately go one way or the other (Extremism, or The Art of Smearing). Economic controls generate their own problems, and with these problems come demands for additional controlsso either those controls must be abolished or a mixed economy will eventually degenerate into a form of economic dictatorship. Rand conceded that most American advocates of the welfare state are not socialists, that they never advocated or intended the socialization of private property. These welfare-statists want to preserve private property while calling for greater government control over such property. But that is the fundamental characteristic of fascism.
A mixed economy is ruled by pressure groups. It is an amoral, institutionalized civil war of special interests and lobbies.
Rand gave us some of the finest analyses of a mixed economyits premises, implications, and long-range consequencesever penned by a free-market advocate. In The New Fascism, for example, she compared a mixed economy to a system that operates by the law of the jungle, a system in which no ones interests are safe, everyones interests are on a public auction block, and anything goes for anyone who can get away with it. A mixed economy divides a country into an ever-growing number of enemy camps, into economic groups fighting one another for self preservation in an indeterminate mixture of defense and offense. Although Rand did not invoke Thomas Hobbes in this context, it is safe to say that the economic chaos of a mixed economy resembles the Hobbesian war of all against all in a state of nature, a system in which interest groups feel the need to screw others before they get screwed themselves.
A mixed economy is ruled by pressure groups. It is an amoral, institutionalized civil war of special interests and lobbies, all fighting to seize a momentary control of the legislative machinery, to extort some special privilege at one anothers expense by an act of governmenti.e., by force.
Of course, Rand never claimed that America had degenerated into full-blown fascism (she held that freedom of speech was a bright line in this respect), but she did believe that the fundamental premise of the altruist-collectivist moralitythe foundation of all collectivist regimes, including fascismwas accepted and preached by modern liberals and conservatives alike. (Those who mistakenly dub Rand a conservative should read Conservatism: An Obituary [CUI, Chapter 19], a scathing critique in which she accused conservative leaders of moral treason. In some respects Rand detested modern conservatives more than she did modern liberals. She was especially contemptuous of those conservatives who attempted to justify capitalism by appealing to religion or to tradition.) Rand illustrated her point in The Fascist New Frontier, a polemical tour de force aimed at President Kennedy and his administration.
There is no such thing as the public interest except as the sum of the interests of individual men.
Rand began this 1962 lecture by quoting passages from the 1920 political platform of the German Nazi Party, including demands for an end to the power of the financial interests, profit sharing in big business, a broad extension of care for the aged, the improvement of public health by government, an all-around enlargement of our entire system of public education, and so forth. All such welfare-state measures, this platform concluded, can only proceed from within on the foundation of The Common Good Before the Individual Good.
Rand had no problem quoting similar proposals and sentiments from President Kennedy and members of his administration, such as Kennedys celebrated remark, And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what America will do for youask what you can do for your country. The particulars of Rands speech will come as no surprise to those familiar with her ideas, but I wish to call attention to her final remarks about the meaning of the public interest. As used by Kennedy and other politicians, both Democratic and Republican, this fuzzy phrase has little if any meaning, except to indicate that individuals have a duty to sacrifice their interests for the sake of a greater, undefined good, as determined by those who wield the brute force of political power. Rand then stated what she regarded as the only coherent meaning of the public interest.
[T]here is no such thing as the public interest except as the sum of the interests of individual men. And the basic, common interest of all menall rational menis freedom. Freedom is the first requirement of the public interestnot what men do when they are free, but that they are free. All their achievements rest on that foundationand cannot exist without them.
The principles of a free, non-coercive social system are the only form of the public interest.
I shall conclude this essay on a personal note. Before I began preparing for this essay, I had not read some of the articles quoted above for many, many years. In fact, I had not read some of the material since my college days 45 years ago. I therefore approached my new readings with a certain amount of trepidation. I liked the articles when I first read them, but would they stand the test of time? Would Rands insights and arguments appear commonplace, even hackneyed, with the passage of so much time? Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Rand was exactly on point on many issues. Indeed, if we substitute President Obama, for President Kennedy or President Johnson many of her points would be even more pertinent today than they were during the 1960s. Unfortunately, the ideological sewer of American politics has become even more foul today than it was in Rands day, but Rand did what she could to reverse the trend, and one person can only do so much. And no one can say that she didnt warn us.
Republished from Libertarianism.org.
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Posted: at 10:13 am
On a bright Sunday afternoon, in a colourfully decorated scout hut on the outskirts of Sheffieldin Britain, a dozen or so people are clustered around a table, on which lies a plastic human torso. It looks like the kind of prop that might be used by trainee doctors, the chest cut away to reveal its white ribcage and pink intestines.
But these are not doctors they are members of Cryonics UK, the charity that cryogenically froze a 14-year-old girl who won the right to have her body preserved after her death from cancer, and whose heartbreaking landmark court case was reported this week.
Cryonics UK claims to be the only group in Britain working in the legal but unregulated field of cryonic preservation where a person is frozen in time after their death, and then woken up at a point when scientific advances allow them to be revived and cured of whatever caused them to die. The not-for-profit organization charges CAD$25,000to freeze and transport a body to storage facilities in America or Russia.
Today, members of the group, many of whom have themselves paid to be frozen after death, are rehearsing the preservation process. They watch closely as a clear solution is pumped through plastic tubes snaking around the torso a biological version of antifreeze which prevents the bodys cells from shattering when its core temperature is lowered.
The 14-year-old, known only as JS, was the tenth Briton to undergo the procedure, and the first British child. Her mother had supported her wish to be cryogenically frozen, but her father had opposed it, and so the girl had asked a High Court judge to intervene. In a letter to Justice Peter Jackson, she wrote: I dont want to die but I know I am going toI want to live and live longer I want to have this chance. She learned that the judge had granted her wish shortly before her death in a London hospital on October 17. With money raised by her maternal grandparents, the girl made arrangements with the Cryonics Institute, a cryopreservation company based in Michigan; Cryonics UK prepared her body and arranged for it to be flown there.
Interest in cryo-preservation is growing. Across the world, around 2,000 people are thought to be signed up for cryonic preservation, with about 200 already frozen after death.
A majority are from the scientific community, says Marji Klima, of Alcor, another cryopreservation company in the U.S. Many people understand the direction science is heading.
In Sheffield, Mike Carter, a 71-year-old retired geotechnical engineer who has paid $120,000 from his savings to have his head preserved after he dies. (Many cryonicists choose this option, the idea being that the brain contains all the vital matter, and in the future can be attached to a new body or robot.)
He says he found the idea of death upsetting from an early age. I decided that, despite what was drummed into me at school, there was no evidence for either a god or an immortal soul. My conclusion was therefore that death was followed by oblivion.
In 2008, after reading about cryogenics in a science fiction novel, he looked online, almost on a whim, to see whether it was actually possible, and discovered the existence of storage facilities abroad and the Cryonics UK community.
While accepting that the idea of reanimation was something of a long shot, he says my mantra was, and still is, what have I got to lose?
He says his two daughters are all right with it, and while his wife is not happy, I support her in her views and shes agreed to support me in mine.
David Farlow, a thoughtful 34-year-old property manager from west London, is also at the rehearsal.
Having come across the concept as a computer science student at Kings College London, Farlow went to his first training session in 2008, which became the first of many. His friends, he says, understand once hes explained the idea. His family does not share his interest, but he wishes they did. If I was going to live longer, then Id like my family members to be there, he says.
Critics of cryopreservation say, variously, that it offers false hope in a process not backed by science, that it is unethical to live longer than ones natural lifespan, and even, perhaps prematurely, that it could exacerbate the worlds overpopulation problem.
Aside from the many scientific hurdles that would need to be overcome to resurrect frozen humans, the cost of preservation is prohibitively high, with the most expensive packages at $270,000.
However, life insurance packages are now available which allow you to spread the costs out, an option that Farlow is considering. An office in Devon called Unusual Risks Mortgage & Insurance Services helps would-be cryonicists route their life insurance to cryogenics securing, as it were, a chance at a second life in exchange for down-payments of $75 amonth.
Its like being on a plane, and they announce that its going to crash, and theres nothing you can do.They offer you a parachute, and theres only a small chance of it working, but would you take it?
In the U.S., Alcor and the Cryonics Institute employ trained personnel to carry out the urgent preparatory work on a body before it is placed in storage. In the UK, this is done by volunteers who undergo training in sessions. The organization describes itself as a mutual assistance group and some who sign up to be frozen also train to be volunteers. Cryonics UK says it has around 50 members on call to help with preservation. Their first job is to administer chest compressions, as soon as is feasible from the moment of death, to supply blood and oxygen to the brain to prevent the cells from deteriorating. The body is then packed in ice and transported to a cryonics facility where an embalmer makes an incision in the corpses neck and gradually replaces the blood with a cryoprotectant solution, using a cannula like the one on the table in the scout hut, with a cryoprotectant solution.
Finally, sealed in a well-insulated box packed with dry ice, the body is flown to the storage facility where it is preserved in liquid nitrogen at -196 C.
Mike Carter has now helped to carry out three cryopreservations, including one on a terminally ill person he had got to know through Cryonics UK.
The first time, he says, he was nervous as hell but in the end it went pretty well. Once, he says, there was a situation where the family members were uneasy with it, but they still supported it because they knew it was the persons wishes.
Scientists remain sceptical of the practice of cryonics. This week, it was revealed that doctors at the hospital where JS was cared for felt deep unease about her decision and accused Cryonics UK of being underequipped and disorganized in its handling of her body after she died last month.
In a statement, Cryonics UK said: We always seek to negotiate before acting and our protocols were carried out with the permission of the hospital. A successful outcome was achieved as a result of the determination of the family and their legal representation and the resourcefulness of Cryonics UK.
It said that better regulations of cryopreservation would be likely to lead to more people signing up.
For many, the notion of bringing humans back to life remains very much the stuff of science fiction. But the extraordinary case of JS sheds light on the small, but growing handful of people willing to take a leap of faith.
Its like being on a plane, and they announce that its going to crash, and theres nothing you can do, says Peter Farlow. They offer you a parachute, and theres only a small chance of it working, but would you take it?
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Posted: November 23, 2016 at 10:05 pm
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Supporting these opinions is a finding… The dire state of our nation (what you won’t hear from the politicians) 12/10/2015 – “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.” –… Vaccine vs. Virus: Which is the bigger threat? 12/3/2015 – Mainstream media clamor for mandatory vaccines, ignoring official statistics that show the drug is more dangerous than the disease. Should government force parents to vaccinate their children? 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And yet, for some reason, Uncle Sam seems to have something to hide out there… DARPA creates search engine to expose the dark web to government surveillance 10/21/2015 – The Defense Department’s most secretive research division has created a new computer program giving America’s spies a powerful tool to search the so-called “dark web,” where some of the most sophisticated terrorist organizations operate. DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – recently… The Gestapo is alive and well in Obama’s America 10/18/2015 – Hi. I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. Barack Obama is going rogue. By every metric, the Obama economy is melting down. We are seeing the beginning stages of another recession, at best, or a total economic meltdown, at worst. (Story by Wayne Allyn Root, republished from PersonalLiberty.com) At… Russian government to outlaw all GMO food products to protect citizens’ health 10/3/2015 – As the American people are being force-fed GMOs and petitioning their government for honest food labels, other countries around the world are already removing the transgenic ingredients from their food supply. As Americans beg to know what kind of agro-chemicals and GMOs are in their food, the Russian… UK government to require registration of all religious leaders 9/16/2015 10:29:24 AM – In September 1620, pilgrims from England set sail for the “new world,” hoping to find new opportunities and escape religious persecution. Today, hundreds of years later, its possible British subjects might once again be forced to flee religious oppression. 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Posted: at 9:57 pm
President-elect Donald Trump is expected to push to relax gun laws when he takes office, but significant changes in the firearms industry began as soon as he was elected and some put the law of unintended consequences squarely in the cross hairs.
For instance, while Trumps unapologetic pro-Second Amendment stance may be good for gun owners, it has already dealt a blow to manufacturers, who enjoyed record sales throughout President Obamas eight years in office. Stocks in companies like Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co. plunged on Nov. 9, and experts say it is because Trumps election erased fears that guns would become harder to get.
A lot of people were buying guns simply because they were worried Hillary Clintons regulations would make it more costly and more difficult to buy guns, and people are not going to feel quite the need to go out and buy guns now, Crime Prevention Research Center President John Lott told FoxNews.com. I think the stock market is a pretty good predictor of whats going to happen, and the fact that you see drops in stock prices by almost 20 percentage points I think thats pretty significant.
While the government does not publish an official number of gun sales, background checks, a gauge of how many people try to buy guns, skyrocketed under President Obama. In 2008, 12.71 million background checks were conducted, a number on pace to double this year, to set an all-time record.
The prospect of a pro-gun control administration of Hillary Clinton following Obama, together with a campaign that put gun rights in the spotlight, was the likely driver of the firearms boom, acknowledged Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. But he was skeptical that a rise in 2016 gun sales or an anticipated dip in the coming year will have a major effect on crime.
Gun violence is obviously a complicated issue and doesnt just turn around because of a month or two of different sales, Horwitz said. There are so many guns in America that a blip in the sales rate is not going to change the death and injury rate in any meaningful fashion, and its just too early to tell.
The weekend following Trumps election, arms vendors from all over the country set up their exhibits in Oklahoma for the semi-annual Wanenmachers Tulsa Arms Show, the largest gun and knife show in the world. Show founder Joe Wanenmacher told FoxNews.com sales were steady, but wouldve been through the roof if Clinton had won.
Had Secretary Clinton been elected, it would have been panic sales, because gun shows were in her sights to either be eliminated, or make it so difficult to sell that they wouldnt be effective, Wanenmacher said. When there is complacency, there isnt the motive to buy guns in anticipation of something bad happening.
One attendee agreed.
I think if Trump hadnt won, it would have been chaos, she said. It was a relaxed atmosphere and everyone was upbeat.
Fear of new gun control laws was not the only sales driver in recent years, said National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman Mike Bazinet. He said local crime also spurred people to buy guns, and does not expect that factor to diminish in the near future.
There is no question that the concern over political situations over the past several years, where people may have feared additional restrictions of access to firearms was a motivator, but it wasnt the only one, Bazinet said. Our retailers tell us that a more important factor is local crime.
Trump has said he intends to work with state and local governments to repeal gun-free zones, do away with the special tax on silencers, encourage expansion of conceal carry laws and carry out a host of other pro-gun industry initiatives. Advocates of gun control say such measures will put more people at risk of becoming victims of gun violence, but Trump and other Second Amendment stalwarts disagree.
If you get rid of gun-free zones and make it easier for people to carry, you will deter criminals, Lott told Fox News. You will be able to reduce crime.
The irony is that an administration more sympathetic to the gun industry could hurt its bottom line.
There is no doubt that the firearms industry will not be treated as a social disease by the Trump Administration, Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told Fox News. The president-elect will make the Second Amendment great again.
Posted: November 21, 2016 at 11:08 am
Eugenics is a belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population. (Wow! Every word in that sentence is a landmine of problems!) Although the idea of eugenics (but not the term) is contained in the Greek philosopher Plato’s Republic, the modern concept became prominent during the second half of the 19th Century. Its predecessor was the group of sociological theories known as Social Darwinism. The favorite phrases of Social Darwinism “struggle for existence” and “survival of the fittest” – when applied to humans in society, suggested that the rich were better endowed than the poor and hence more successful in life. The continual and natural sorting out of “better” and “worse” elements would, in theory, lead to continued improvement of the human species. Eugenics differs from Social Darwinism because Social Darwinism was characterized by its laissez-faire attitude, that is, letting nature take its course so that the worst elements of society were eventually be eliminated. Eugenics, on the other hand, preaches that proper breeding is the key to bettering society. In other words, you push for the higher reproduction of people with desired traits (called “positive eugenics”) and prevent the reproduction of those with less-desired traits (called “negative eugenics”).
This can’t be serious, can it?
Oh, it is. The modern eugenicsmovement was closely associated with a sense of white Anglo-Saxon superiority. Sir Francis Galton (Charles Darwin’s cousin), the founder of the English eugenics movement, for example, had been drawn to the study of human heredity and eugenics by his curiosity about what he called the hereditary “genius” in his own family… as in, “Damn, we’re a smart bunch. We should be breeding more.” (I’m guessing his knighthood went to his head.) The publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species in 1859 was an event that changed Galton’s life. He became obsessed with the first chapter about the breeding of domestic animals (um, what?) and devoted the rest of his life to exploring the variations found in the human population. In so doing, he established a research program which categorized multiple aspects of humans, from mental characteristics to height; from facial images to fingerprint patterns. In 1883, a year after Darwin died, Galton took the Greek root words for “good” and “origin” and named his research “eugenics”.
As a social movement, eugenics reached its greatest popularity in the early decades of the 20th Century. By this point, eugenics was practiced around the world and promoted by imperialist governments. Many countries enacted eugenic policies, including genetic screening, birth control, marriage restrictions, segregation (both racial segregation and segregation of the mentally ill from the rest of the population), forced sterilization, forced abortions, forced pregnancies… and genocide. The movement was especially strong in England, the U.S., and Germany from 1910-1940.
In the U.S., the eugenics movement received extensive funding from major corporations, including the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation. Even the inventor of corn flakes, J. H. Kellogg, launched the Race Betterment Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. (Yea, now your cereal tastes like shame! But trust me, that was one weird dude. Real the caption under his picture. And then go eat some cereal…) Renowned biologist, Charles B. Davenport, organized the Eugenics Record Office in New York and the American Breeder’s Association (ABA). He formed the ABA specifically to “investigate and report on heredity in the human race, and to emphasize the value of superior blood and the menace to society of inferior blood.” One of the ABA’s biggest members wasAlexander Graham Bell. (Yea, now your phone sounds racist.)
Eugenics exerted considerable influence on popular opinion and was reflected in some state and Federal legislation. Starting with Indiana in 1907,31 states passed sterilization laws aimed at breeding out various social “misfits”: the mentally retarded, criminals, and the insane. (Indiana was the first, California conducted the most, and North Carolina was the most aggressive: an IQ lower than 70 meant sterilization was appropriate.) Laws were also passed restricting marriages between members of various racial groups. Even the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the National League of Women Voters were among major feminist organizations that lobbied in favor of eugenics, specifically birth control and sterilization in order to prevent unwanted children from being born into poverty and to curb passing on mental diseases or birth defects. However, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, made it abundantly clear that it wasa woman’s decision and not the state whether or not to have a child. (Some see this as the start of the Pro-Choice Movement.)
The key triumph of the U.S. eugenics movement came in 1924, when a coalition of eugenicists and some big-business interests pushed through the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the National Origins Act. The actseverely limited immigration into the U.S. from Eastern European and Mediterranean countries. Eugenicists claimed that these immigrants were inferior to Anglo-Saxons (whites) and were “polluting” the “pure” American bloodstream. By 1928, there were 376 courses in some of America’s leading universities, enrolling more than 20,000 students.
After the eugenics movement was firmly in place in the U.S., it spread to Germany. Eugenicists in California began producing literatureto promoteeugenics and sterilization and sent it to German scientists and medical “professionals”. By 1933, California had subjected more people to forced sterilization than all other U.S states combined.(Most werepoor, sick, and non-white.)The sterilization program engineered by the Nazis wasinspired by California’s.
But wait… it gets worse.
The Rockefeller Foundation helped develop and fund various German eugenics programs, including the one that Josef Mengele worked in before he went to the concentration camp Auschwitz. (Mengele was the notorious Nazi doctor that performed horrific experiments on people.) Upon returning from Germany in 1934, where more than 5,000 people per month were being forcibly sterilized, the California eugenics leader C. M. Goethe bragged to a colleague: “You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought. I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.”
After World War II, however, historians began to portray U.S. eugenics as different from Nazi eugenics. (Of course they did!) The movement in the U.S. was largely discredited by the fact that eugenics was central to both the theory and practice of Nazism. Still, California continued forced sterilizations on prisoners as late as the mid-1960s, mostly because California’s long-time attorney general was a big supporter of the practice, and it wasn’t formally outlawed there until 1979. (In fact, from 2006-2010, 148 women were illegally sterilized in California’s prisons.)
Eugenicsis rightfully andseverely criticized for what can be calledovert racial bias, subjectivity in the use of evidence, and lack of scientific “proof”.Eugenics isa shameful reminder of what happens when science mixes with racism. But don’t worry. You can sleep on this fun fact: eugenics is still officially permitted in the U.S. today. WHAT?!