Monthly Archives: December 2012

Against “Objective” Journalism

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http://c4ss.org/content/13708

One of the questions I often ponder is, Why is statism so prevalent, especially in American societies where freedom is supposedly the default position? And statism in the sense that I’m using it here isn’t simply being juxtaposed to anarchism, but in another way: belief in the State as the primary, most effective, and most just means of dealing with any social (or personal) problem. A mass shooting? It must be because the State doesn’t have enough control over firearms, not because the State was in control of the security where the shooting was (or the maker of “laws” that severely restrict the ability of people to protect themselves). A financial collapse caused by too much extension of credit? The Fed can fix that by…extending more credit. People are fat? The mayor of New York City can fix that by forcing everyone to drink what he approves. Regulation, tax, and licensure laws make medical care way too expensive? Maybe some more will fix that.

How does one explain how such a large portion of people are suckered into advocating the use of the State apparatus, which most likely either caused or exacerbated the problem in the first place, to mitigate or “solve” it? Often, libertarians will point towards the public schools and the news media. This seems to be a plausible suggestion since these two institutions are purveyors of ideas with which a majority of Americans come into contact. However, it seems like more of an explanation is necessary. For instance, it seems difficult to believe that it was the goal of most of my teachers to inculcate me with a love for the State. Of course, there are things to which I can easily point that would seem in pursuit of that goal. Lincoln worship was alive and well (I had to memorize the Gettysburg Address twice and was shocked when my unorthodox history teacher of my junior year told me that “the Civil War was not about slavery”), in my early years I was forced to pledge allegiance to the flag every morning, I was kicked out of a geography class for refusing to vote for student’s maps for various awards (this wasn’t some stance against voting. My maps simply never won and I grew bored with the process. But coupled with the propaganda that voting is a “civic duty” and “privilege,” one can see how it could be argued that voting gives approval or legitimacy to the State), the extent of my economics training was a three-week summer class that taught me the Fed had to step in to prevent the economy from “overheating”, I didn’t know diddly about the US Constitution after graduating, and so on. To me, it seems what wasn’t mentioned is more important than the lies that were. But, I went to public school in Bismarck, ND and realize my experience might be different than that in other parts of the Union and so that might not be the case for others.

The point is, I think that the explanation for why public schools churn out kids unquestioning of the state is more complex than “The teachers are state employees and therefore have an interest in making children love the government.” Same case for the news media: it doesn’t seem totally obvious what they have to gain by being an apologist for the State. And so here, I finally get to the title article by mutualist Kevin Carson: “Against ‘Objective’ Journalism.” In it, Carson explains how the attempt to seem objective (that is, only reporting what “he said, she said”) actually results in being the State mouthpiece. If you only have “Here’s what the Democratic Administration says,” and then “This is what the Republican Congress says,” or something to the tune of that and then pretend like you’ve given the whole story, all you’ve reported is what the government has said. And since the two major political parties are barely distinguishable in terms of their love of the State, statism is most of what will be reported and frame the terms of debate, which is typically between two statist alternatives. Carson then frames a superior alternative philosophy for news commentary. Thank God we have the Internet, eh?

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“I Like the Health Insurance Plan”

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I think this is a very interesting video:

I’m quite baffled and disappointed that 1) people are so grossly uninformed about someone whom they are ready to give the god-like powers of the US presidency, and 2) are ready to pardon a murderer because they like his health care plan. I talk more about the cognitive dissonance displayed in this video at the website, notime4bull.com. What I would like to talk about here is disappointment number 3) that people for whom a health care plan is so important that they will excuse extensions of the Patriot Act and the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA and the kill lists, they clearly don’t know ANYTHING about it. Here are some excerpts from an article by Cato health care policy analyst, Michael Tanner.

Of course, it is not just the “rich” who will be hit with Obamacare taxes next year. Nearly 30 million workers, most of them middle-class, currently participate in Flexible Spending Account programs at work. Next year, the maximum tax-exempt contribution to those accounts will be cut in half, from $5,000 to just $2,500. That change will hit nearly 5.7 million workers who currently exceed the $2,500 cap, and will now have to pay more of their medical bills with after-tax dollars.

Middle-class workers will also be among the biggest losers from the changes that Obamacare imposes on tax-deductible medical expenses. Currently, Americans can take a tax deduction for medical expenses above 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI). According to the most recent IRS data, 6 percent of all taxpayers, 7.5 million Americans, took advantage of this provision. But starting next year, that floor will be raised to 10 percent of AGI, meaning that millions of middle-class workers will lose this deduction. Among those most likely to feel the pinch are older and sicker workers, especially older workers and near-retirees with limited incomes but high medical bills. For a family with an adjusted income of $80,000 per year and medical expenses of just under $8,000 per year, a not uncommon situation, this amounts to a $500 tax hike.

As well,

Workers will also be indirectly socked with the cost of Obamacare’s new business taxes. For example, next year there will be a new 2.3 percent excise tax on medical-device manufacturers. Especially pernicious, this tax is assessed against a firm’s total revenue rather than its adjusted income, making the real impact far greater than for a traditional income tax of the same size. While the industry’s 360,000 employees could pay the highest price in lost jobs and lower wages, all of us could end up paying more in higher medical costs, as much of the tax will be passed on in higher prices. We can expect everything from pacemakers to wheelchairs to become more expensive.

And

Another wave of Obamacare tax hikes will hit in 2014, including the individual-mandate “tax,” courtesy of John Roberts, that is expected to fall on as many as 6 million workers, as well as the tax accompanying Obamacare’s employer mandate. There will also be another batch of business taxes, including some levied on hospitals and insurers. Notably, there is a new assessment levied on health plans for three years starting in 2014, designed to raise $25 billion to cushion health-insurance companies from the costs of covering people with pre-existing conditions. This just-announced fee, which will start at $63 per person and fall on employer and individual health plans covering an estimated 190 million Americans, appears to be the latest invention of the far-reaching discretion granted to HHS under the health-care law.

I highly recommend reading the full article. But from these excerpts, we can gather this:

  1. People will have to pay more in taxes for their medical expenses. If people cannot afford to pay for medical care, surely they can’t afford to pay taxes on it!
  2. Same case with health insurance. It seems strange that a plan that ostensibly intends to increase health care coverage would do things to make it more expensive.
  3. Obviously, increasing taxes on medical-device manufacturers will not do anything to make them any less expensive, but the opposite. Yet this plan does so anyway.

Conclusion: It doesn’t take much understanding of economics to know that raising taxes on something does not make it cheaper. A person who wants to make medical care and health insurance more affordable would do THE OPPOSITE of much of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prescribes.

It is my sincerest hope that those who would consider themselves compassionate and caring would at the very least put in the effort to find out whether these politicians and policies they claim to support would do anything even close to what they promise and are promised to do. And then they should read some Rothbard.

Lawmaker asks to be paid in gold – Kevin Cirilli – POLITICO.com

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http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1112/83767.html#ixzz2CDdaQL3T

To be honest, I like some of the things coming out of Montana recently, such as the Firearms Freedom Act. State governments are still States, and are therefore illegitimate, but decentralization is preferable to centralization. In this case, an MT legislator says he should be paid in gold, that the US Constitution requires it. Now, he may have an argument since it states that the states are to use nothing but silver and gold as tender in payment of debts. But it’s not like the government hasn’t done things directly contradicting the Constitution before.

I doubt he’ll be successful in getting his request granted but it’s good to see someone who is part of the state apparatus to point out the emperor’s lack of clothes, especially in something as crucial as the Federal Reserve and paper money, which might as well be the single most important thing in terms of how the State has gotten as large as it is today. If they didn’t have a monopoly on money, it is very unlikely that we would have as many wars, business cycles, inflation, welfare-statism, or many other of the myriad of things that exist.

I certainly hope that Jerry O’Neil will exchange his paper dollars for metal. As more people refuse to do transactions in Federal Reserve Notes that they could do through barter or some other exchange, the currency will lose legitimacy and we can move past this period in history that I’m certain our posterity will say, “Didn’t those idiots know that paper money was bound to become worthless?”

Serve and Protect?

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It seems strange that so few people admit, though they seem to know well enough, that the presence of cops does not make them feel safe, but uneasy. Nobody else even thinks of giving you tickets for doing the most harmless of acts. Perhaps they are annoyed by it, or even think there ought to be a law against it, but will not do the dirty work themselves of using force to prevent and/or punish the one doing such an act. In the video above, a man is cited by two police officers for spitting. Now, this is much preferable to them kicking down innocent people’s doors and shooting them. However, I hardly think I’m being too idealistic or Utopian in saying that it is possible to have such a world where police have a mandate only pursue those who have aggressed against another’s person or property, since for most of the world’s history police weren’t knocking down people’s doors to prosecute them for having illegal substances, nor were they harassing them for expelling saliva.

What’s necessary is for people to stop being sheep and defending the statist policing institution regardless of what crimes they commit.

Roderick Long: “”Capitalism” and “Socialism” Are Anti-concepts

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Without a doubt, Roderick Long has blown my mind as many times as any other person by way of explaining answers to questions that I’ve often had been struggling with for a time (and sometimes to questions I didn’t know I had). Expect to see more of his work featured on this blog.

Here, he explains the concept of “anti-concepts”; that is, words that obscure understanding rather than facilitate it. As a freedom advocate, one needs a word to signify the concept of self-ownership and the corollary of one owning the goods she produces and being allowed to voluntarily trade with others. Some would use the term “capitalism” to describe such an economic system. However, as explained in the video, such a term means different things to different people. Such problems render meaningful discussion difficult, to say the least. I remember attending a forum on campus where the advertised topic for discussion was, “Is Capitalism a Good Thing?” After several people had pointed out how some statistics were favorable in the “social democracies” of Western Europe when compared to the United States, I pointed out that according to the Index of Economic Freedoms, some of those social democracies had higher rankings than the capitalistic US, thereby rendering such labels not only meaningless but obfuscating. Another person considered human trafficking a “capitalistic” enterprise. Obviously, no such institution has any place in a free market based on self-ownership. Hence, with such disparate meanings and connotations from the word, “capitalism,” I have for the most part stopped using it in favor of the phrases, “free market”, or “freed market” (left-libertarians such as Long are quite particular about making it clear that the present state of affairs in the US do not even closely resemble a free market and thus use ‘freed market’ to imply that it such an economic system is something to be obtained in the future and does not exist in the present).

Please check out Long’s awesomely named blog, Austro-Athenian Empire.

Self-Correction in Markets and Politics

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http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/11/self-correction_1.html

Bryan Caplan offers an interesting insight about “self-correction,” which seems to mostly apply when one is the caretaker of her own resources or the resources of one (or a group) whom she cares about. I doubt this will strike any reader as a revelation. But it does provide an explanation of why so many bad economic policies seem to never die. The reason they exist is economic illiteracy, the reason they are so difficult to repeal is that there are diffused costs and concentrated benefits.  So even if economic literacy went up, to 51% let’s say, repeal would be a difficult process since the individual gains from doing so are much smaller than the individual losses. The group of would-be losers are small and able to organize, thereby making themselves better lobbyists. LearnLiberty has a good video explaining this in terms of sugar production:

This is clearly a bad thing. How do we solve it? Well, widespread economic literacy (real economics, not the mathematical garbage taught in most classrooms) would be a start. Such knowledge of economic reasoning should lead people to the conclusion that government intervention in markets rarely, if ever, leads to the purported outcome; indeed, it usually makes things worse. Built on the foundational idea that initiated force is unacceptable and that all government action is backed by such force, rejection of the State is the only logical conclusion at which one can arrive. I have my doubts that the State will be dismantled piecemeal (that is, it’s not going to be the case that the public sees the harms of import quotas then abolishes them, sees the evils of the minimum wage laws and then abolishes them, etc.). Rather, large swaths of the State will be rejected wholesale. Hopefully trade protections (as well as a host of other interventions) will be included.

Thanks for reading.

People in Police Custody Shoot Themselves?

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One is an anomaly. Two is a coincidence. Hopefully there isn’t a third.

There have been two recent cases of individuals in the back of police cars shooting themselves in the head, despite being searched and handcuffed. At least that’s the official story. I certainly hope it’s not the case that police officers were able to shoot a handcuffed man and pass it off as suicide, but they obviously failed in their search for weapons if their story is what happened. Whatever the case may be, this shouldn’t have happened.

Why the World Is Ignoring Congo War

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http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/27/opinion/congo-war-ignored-vava-tampa/?hpt=hp_c1

Though I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions in the above link (after seeing what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Philippines, Iran, Pakistan, etc., etc., etc., do you really want US policymakers to intervene in the Congo?), I think it is important to consider the question of “Why the World Is Ignoring Congo War”. Vava Tampa, the author and Congo native, offers the following possibilities:

Is it due to the geographical or cultural distance between London or Washington and Congo? Or are Western media just reluctant, if not uninterested, to cover it because no Western interests or ally is endangered by it?

Would the coverage the situation in Congo receives be the same if it was happening in Europe or if Congo spoke English rather than French?

What if Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or his disciples were implicated in funding murderous militia gangs in Congo? Or if the killing was between black Africans and Arabs? Or if minerals funding Congo’s killing and raping industries benefited the East more than the West?

Taking them in order: 1) No, it is not due to geographical or cultural distance. We need only look at all the other places that US and British powers have invaded and attempted to colonize to know that that can’t be the answer. 2) This is the most likely explanation. Western media’s reporting is highly in-line with what Western governments are doing and what their interests are. I’m sure the reader can think of numerous examples off the top of his or her head of places where the outright disregard of individual rights is rampant but only spoken of when Western governments have some kind of interaction with them (such as Myanmar when Hilary Clinton was negotiating with their military junta about trade barriers, North Korea whenever the US government decides to send sanctions or aid, or sub-Saharan Africa whenever the US government decides to respond to a video fad about a military dictator using child soldiers). 3) Obviously not! to the former part of the question. Why is this the case? Inevitably, some will point to the answer of racism but this is overly simplistic and not helpful, in addition to being wrong. If this were the situation in Europe, the US government would have a far greater interest. Poor people in sub-Saharan Africa can pose little challenge to US-led hegemony. The language spoken is irrelevant except to the extent that if it were English then it would be likely that English or American powers had colonized the Congo and would therefore have more of an interest. 4) Not sure that it would matter, in terms of media coverage, if Mugabe were involved. The US is currently funding rebels in Syria, some of them known to be al-Qaeada. It is also beyond dispute that third-world dictators receive funding from the US, hence the question. Should we really be surprised that it is used to abuse human rights? This should be obvious. It seems that major media outlets could really take the US government to task for this; I’m not entirely sure why they do not. (Though it is possibly the case that since most news reporting involves what government officials say that major outlets don’t want to jeopardize their access to them by embarrassing them.) 5) Again, I don’t think it’s about race but about the interests of the US government and its cronies. 6) We are getting somewhat closer to the answer with this question. I imagine if it were oil then this would be much bigger news (notice how the “humanitarian” war in Libya could have easily taken place in a number of other countries if the goal were really about “liberating” people? Is it just a coincidence that Libya has massive oil resources?).

Regardless to the answer of why the world is ignoring what is going on in the Congo, it is an absolute and utter tragedy. I want to thank the reader in joining me in refusing to ignore it. I would ask the faithful among us to pray that situation may take a turn for the better. I would also ask that those of us who do not profess such a faith would excuse us who do. Let us demonstrate to any and all who may notice that adherents of the non-aggression principle, whether they be theists or atheists, can live at peace among one another. This should be one of our great legacies to the world.

August 16 Gem County Sheriff’s Office SWAT raid

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I would strongly advise before watching this video to read William Norman Grigg’s explanation of what happened over at his blog, Pro Libertate. What I find surprising about this incident is that it took place in rural Idaho, which I don’t think is yet considered a hotbed of drug dealing. Yet I have personally had problems with the police state in Meridian, Idaho, where my vehicle has been searched twice by what I strongly suspect of being fabricated evidence (“The K9 alerted on your door handle. Have you been giving rides to people who use drugs?”). Likewise, in this case there were officers conducting an illegal search for marijuana, as well as assaulting an innocent couple.

When will people realize that you don’t have to be involved with any illegal substance to be a victim of the State’s war on drugs?

The Anti-Nullifiers

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http://lewrockwell.com/woods/woods213.html

This article by my boy Tom Woods seems to be a good primer on the merits of nullification and answering some common objections. For a more complete list of objections and his responses, see here.

As far as legal arguments go, my question is, “Who cares?” (Please see my article on No Time 4 Bull regarding this.) Since I already take the view that the “social compact” called the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply to me since I never signed it, I hold that its enumerated powers that are coercive, such as the power to tax, are illegitimate. See Lysander Spooner’s No Treason for more on this. However, we should use the means we have available to us, and if the state governments can be used to nullify federal laws, that is useful in and of itself. I also think it’s useful in the sense that the greater utilization of nullification will increase its acceptance and legitimacy. Hopefully, the devolution of power from the federal government to the states will put a check on Leviathan, as well as further the march of the very radical goal of secession. And once secession of the states from the Union is widely accepted, how long until secession of individuals from the State is accepted and the “gang of robbers” loses legitimacy entirely?

Yeah, I’ll admit that this process of dissolving the State sounds a little farfetched. But if so, then I would like to ask: if the free society is to be achieved, however unlikely, what is the most likely method that it will be brought about?