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Does America Ban Immigration? – The Land of the Free Isn’t, For Most People – Article by David Bier

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Categories: Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
David Bier
August 3, 2015
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The United States has a de facto ban on immigration. We can debate about whether this prohibition is necessary, but its existence is undeniable. Other than a few exceptions for family members, refugees, and the highly-educated, it is virtually impossible to come to the United States to live and work legally.

Historically, America held its doors open to all. But in the 1920s, a coalition of unions, progressives, and eugenicists combined to slam them shut. Within a year of passing Alcohol Prohibition, America also banned almost all forms of immigration, cutting immigration by nearly 80 percent.

Alcohol regained its legal status, but immigration never quite recovered.

Today, the government lets in almost a million immigrants each year, but this impressive-sounding number misses the entire legal, historical, and global context of our immigration system. We must compare it to the number who would come if only they could do so legally — and the reality is that most types of immigration are entirely prohibited. To deny the ban on immigration because it has exceptions is like denying Alcohol Prohibition because it allowed communion wine.

The half million people apprehended at the border each year and the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country are the clear evidence of this prohibition. The massive immigration underground points to an obvious yet largely ignored fact: If there was a legal way for them to come, they would have taken it. But, trouble is, one doesn’t exist.

The drastic shortage of visas is evident in the unbelievably long wait times for permanent residency. For certain categories, the wait is decades. For employment-based visas, certain Indian and Chinese workers will wait more than a decade. For Mexico, three different family-based categories have wait times over 18 years. There’s northward of 4.3 million people in these lines alone.

Yet these impossible lines hide a deeper problem: most would-be immigrants have no line to stand in at all.

The reality is this: 92 percent of legal immigrants are either 1) immediate family members of US citizens or permanent residents, 2) refugees or asylees, or 3) college graduates — and over 80 percent those needed an advanced degree or at least $500,000 to invest in projects in the United States.

This leaves less than 65,000 visas for everyone else. More two-thirds of these come through a lottery system for which 11 million people applied last year. People in most of the largest countries in the world, including India, China, and Mexico, aren’t even eligible to apply.

This legal flow amounts to barely 7 percent of the average number of immigrants apprehended at the border each year since 2004 (and, of course, that doesn’t count those who crossed successfully, or those who entered and overstayed their visas, or those who would come if there was a legal opportunity). For people without a college degree or a close American relative, the Statue of Liberty’s “Golden Door” is almost completely shut.

Meanwhile, PhDs, scientists, movie stars, pro-athletes, and other elites have a number of different work visas available to them. These allow them to live and work year-round in the United States.

By contrast, there is no work visa that allows lesser-skilled laborers to live and work year-round in this country. Unsurprisingly, this lesser-skilled demographic is disproportionately represented in the illegal population, 85 percent of whom lack a college degree.

Another reason we know that illegal immigration is being driven by the lack of a legal alternative is because of what happened when the government allowed foreign workers to come and go legally.

Thanks to a fluke of history, America had a brief period when it experimented with freer migration between the United States and Mexico. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the Bracero guest worker program let in about 5 million Mexican farmworkers. From 1956 to 1965, when the program was at its height, the number of unauthorized immigrants at the border averaged just 41,000, compared to over 436,000 a year in the prior decade.

After it was terminated in 1966 by another union-led coalition, illegal immigration never again fell to such low levels — not even for a single year, let alone an entire decade. By the 1980s, a million or more immigrants were routinely being caught by Border Patrol every year.

Supporters of the ban on immigration will say that America is at its breaking point, that we’re overwhelmed, that we can’t “handle” any more immigrants. But this fear is groundless: As a share of its population, America admitted four times as many immigrants each year in the early 1900s as it did in 2014. For a century from 1830-1929, immigration was twice as high as a share of the population as it was in the last two decades.

In absolute terms, America admits more immigrants than any other country, but relative to its size, US immigration levels are far lower than many Western countries. Controlling for population, CanadaAustralia, and New Zealand all have higher levels of immigration than America today — even as high as the United States in the early 20th century — and they have not collapsed into chaos or poverty.

Immigration prohibition is real. Millions of people cross the border illegally (and thousands of businesses hire them illegally) for the same reason bootleggers had to brew booze in bathtubs. And, for the same reasons we repealed Alcohol Prohibition, we should also finally end America’s ban on immigration.

David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Niskanen Center. He is an expert on visa reform, border security, and interior enforcement. From 2013 to 2015, he drafted immigration legislation as senior policy advisor for Congressman Raúl Labrador, a member of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Previously, Mr. Bier was an immigration policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Ayn Rand and Friedrich A. Hayek: A Side-by-Side Comparison – Article by Edward W. Younkins

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Categories: Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatEdward W. Younkins
August 1, 2015
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Ayn Rand and Friedrich A. Hayek did more than any other writers in the Twentieth Century to turn intellectual opinion away from statism and toward a free society. Although they are opposed on many philosophical and social issues, they generally agree on the superiority of a free market. Rand’s defense of capitalism differs dramatically from Hayek’s explanation of the extended order. In addition, Hayek approves of state activity that violates Rand’s ideas of rights and freedom. The purpose of this brief essay is to describe, explain, and compare the ideas of these two influential thinkers. To do this, I present and explain an exhibit that provides a side-by-side summary of the differences between Rand and Hayek on a number of issues.

In their early years of writing, both Hayek and Rand were dismissed by intellectuals, but they were heralded by businessmen. Hayek began to gain some respect from intellectuals when he published The Road to Serfdom in 1944. He wrote a number of scholarly books, attained formal academic positions, and earned the Nobel Prize for economics in 1974. Rand never did write scholarly works or hold a formal academic position. Her philosophy must be extracted from her essays and her fiction.

Hayek was read in college classes sooner, and to a much greater extent, than was Rand. He was viewed by intellectuals as a responsible and respected scholar, and Rand was not. His vision of anti-statism was more acceptable to intellectuals because he called for some exceptions to laissez-faire capitalism. In his writings he permitted concessions for some state interventions. In his immense and varied body of work, he touched upon a great many fields, including anthropology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, philosophy, economics, linguistics, political science, and intellectual history. During the last 25 years or so, Rand’s works have been increasingly studied by scholars. There is now an Ayn Rand Society affiliated with the American Philosophical Association and a scholarly publication devoted to the study of her ideas—The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. In addition, her writings are now being covered in college classes.

A Summary Comparison

Exhibit I provides a summary comparison of Rand and Hayek based on a variety of factors and dimensions. With respect to metaphysics and epistemology, Rand holds that “A is A” and that reality is knowable. Contrariwise, Hayek argues that reality is unknowable and that what men see are distorted representations or reproductions of objects existing in the world. The skeptic Hayek goes so far as to state that the notion of things in themselves (i.e., the noumenal world) can be dismissed. Whereas Rand’s foundation is reality, the best that Hayek can offer as a foundation is words and language.

Hayek supports the view that the human mind must have a priori categories that are prior to, and responsible for the ability to perceive and interpret the external world. He adds to this Kantian view by making the case that each individual mind’s categories are restructured according to the distinct experiences of each particular person.   Each person’s neural connections can therefore be seen as semi-permanent and affected by his or her environment and experiences. The mind’s categories evolve as each specific person experiences the world. According to Hayek, there is pre-sensory knowledge embedded in the structure of the mind and the nervous system’s synaptic connections which can be further created and modified over time. For the neo-Kantian Hayek, knowledge always has a subjective quality.

Reason for Rand is active, volitional, and efficacious. It follows that she sees rationality as man’s primary virtue. She sees progress through science and technology as the result of the human ability to think conceptually and to analyze logically through induction and deduction. Rand also contends that people can develop objective concepts that correspond with reality.

In his philosophy, Hayek relegates reason to a minor role. He argues for a modest perspective of people’s reasoning capabilities. He contends that reason is passive and that it is a social product. Hayek’s message of intellectual humility is primarily aimed at constructivist rationalism rather than critical rationalism. As an “anti-rationalist,” he explained that the world is too complex for any government planner to intentionally design and construct society’s institutions. However, he is a proponent of the limited potential of critical rationalism through which individuals use local and tacit knowledge in their everyday decisions. Hayek views progress as a product of an ongoing dynamic evolutionary process. He said that we cannot know reality but we can analyze evolving words and language. Linguistic analysis and some limited empirical verification provide Hayek with somewhat of an analytical foundation. His coherence theory of concepts is based on agreement among minds. For Hayek, concepts happen to the mind. Of course, his overall theory of knowledge is that individuals know much more than can be expressed in words.

Rand makes a positive case for freedom based on the nature of man and the world. She explains that man’s distinctive nature is exhibited in his rational thinking and free will. Each person has the ability to think his own thoughts and control his own energies in his efforts to act according to those thoughts. People are rational beings with free wills who have the ability to fulfill their own life purposes, aims, and intentions. Rand holds that each individual person has moral significance. He or she exists, perceives, experiences, thinks and acts in and through his or her own body and therefore from unique points in time and space. It follows that the distinct individual person is the subject of value and the unit of social analysis. Each individual is responsible for thinking for himself, for acting on his own thoughts, and for achieving his own happiness.

Hayek denies the existence of free will. However, he explains that people act as if they have free will because they are never able to know how they are determined to act by various biological, cultural, and environmental factors. His negative case for freedom is based on the idea that no one person or government agency is able to master the complex multiplicity of elements needed to do so. Such relevant knowledge is never totally possessed by any one individual. There are too many circumstances and variables affecting a situation to take them all into account. His solution to this major problem is to permit people the “freedom” to pursue and employ the information they judge to be the most relevant to their chosen goals. For Hayek, freedom is good because it best promotes the growth of knowledge in society. Hayek explains that in ordering society we should depend as much as possible on spontaneous forces such as market prices and as little as possible on force. Acknowledging man’s socially-constructed nature, he does not view individuals as independent agents but rather as creatures of society.

According to Rand, the principle of man’s rights can be logically derived from man’s nature and needs. Rights are a moral concept. For Rand, the one fundamental right is a person’s right to his own life. She explains that rights are objective conceptual identifications of the factual requirements of a person’s life in a social context. A right is a moral principle that defines and sanctions one’s freedom of action in a social context. Discussion of individual rights are largely absent from Hayek’s writings. At most he says that rights are created by society through the mechanism of law.

Whereas Rand speaks of Objective Law, Hayek speaks of the Rule of Law. Objective laws must be clearly expressed in terms of essential principles. They must be objectively justifiable, impartial, consistent, and intelligible. Rand explains that objective law is derived from the rational principle of individual rights. Objective Law deals with the specific requirements of a man’s life. Individuals must know in advance what the law forbids them from doing, what constitutes a violation, and what penalty would be incurred if they break the law. Hayek says that the Rule of Law is the opposite of arbitrary government. The Rule of Law holds that government coercion must be limited by known, general, and abstract rules. According to Hayek certain abstract rules of conduct came into being because groups who adopted them became better able to survive and prosper. These rules are universally applicable to everyone and maintain a sphere of responsibility.

Rand espouses a rational objective morality based on reason and egoism. In her biocentric ethics, moral behavior is judged in relation to achieving specific ends with the final end being an individual’s life, flourishing, and happiness. For Hayek, ethics is based on evolution and emotions. Ethics for Hayek are functions of biology and socialization. They are formed through habits and imitation.

Rand advocates a social system of laissez-faire capitalism in which the sole function of the state is the protection of individual rights. Hayek, or the other hand, allows for certain exceptions and interventions to make things work. He holds that it is acceptable for the government to supply public goods and a safety net.

For Rand, the consciousness of the individual human person is the highest level of mental functioning. For Hayek, it is a supra-conscious framework of neural connections through which conscious mental activity gains meaning. He states that this meta-conscious mechanism is taken for granted by human beings. The set of a person’s physiological impulses forms what Hayek calls the sensory order. Perception and pattern recognition follow one’s sensory order which is altered by a person’s own perception and history of experiences

Aristotle is Rand’s only acknowledged philosophical influence. They both contend that to make life fully human (i.e., to flourish), an individual must acquire virtues and make use of his reason as fully as he is capable. Hayek was influenced by Kant and Popper in epistemology, Ferguson and Smith in evolutionary theory, Hume in ethics, and Wittgenstein in linguistics.

Although Rand and Hayek are opposed on many philosophical questions, they generally agree on the desirability of a free market and are among the most well-known defenders of capitalism in the twentieth century. The works of both of these intellectual giants are highly recommended for any student of liberty.

 Exhibit I

A Summary Comparison

 

Rand

 

Hayek

Foundation Reality Words and Language
Knowledge Reality is knowable. Skepticism – The idea of things in themselves can be dismissed.
Reason Reason is active, volitional, and efficacious. Reason is passive and a social product.
Progress Based on power of human reason and conscious thought Evolution and social selection
Analytic Method Logical analysis, including induction and deduction Linguistic analysis and empiricism
Theory of Concepts Objective concepts that correspond with reality Coherence or agreement among minds
Freedom Positive case for freedom Negative case for “freedom”
Free Will Man has free will. Man is determined but acts as if he has free will.
Subject of value and unit of social analysis Individual happiness Perpetuation of society (i.e., the group)
The Individual Independent Dependent—man is socially constituted
Rights Based on the nature of the human person Created by society through law
Law Objective Law Rule of Law
Ethics and Morality Rational objective morality based on reason and egoism Evolutionary and emotive ethics based on altruism which is noble but cannot be implemented because of ignorance. Established through habits and imitation
Desired Social System Laissez-faire capitalism Minimal welfare state that supplies public goods and safety net
Highest level of understanding and mental functioning Consciousness of the Individual Meta-conscious framework—neural connections
Philosophical influences Aristotle Ferguson, Smith, Kant, Hume, Popper, Wittgenstein

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Handcuffed and Helpless – Article by T.K. Coleman

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Categories: Culture, Justice, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatT.K. Coleman
July 28, 2015

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There’s a naive idea floating around that an innocent person should never be afraid of cops.

 

Editors’ Note from the Foundation for Economic Education: FEE faculty T.K. Coleman is consistently one of our students’ favorite speakers and teachers. His insight and magnetism would be impossible to replace. We not only consider him a friend, but a member of the FEE family.

Recently T.K. related the story of his experience with police abuse. We cannot independently verify the account he gives here, but we offer his story based on our belief in T.K. Coleman as a human being and as a friend to our organization.

We believe it is important to cover the problem of police abuse from the perspective of one who has experienced it.

What you are about to read is not a philosophical argument. It’s a personal testimony. The aim of telling this story is neither to make a political statement, nor to score points for a particular ideology. For almost three years, I’ve mostly held it in. But it’s become clear to me that it’s time to give a more detailed account to a broader audience.

*             *             *

One Friday night, my wife and I were driving through a small town on the way to a comedy club in Manhattan Beach, California. We were going to hang out and share a few laughs. On the way, we were pulled over by the police.

Two officers approached our car. One of them came to my window. The other one came to her window.

Without asking to see my license or registration, the officer on my side told me to get out of the car. I immediately and respectfully complied without raising a single question or objection. And in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t dressed in gang colors, nor was I wearing a hoodie.

When I exited the car, he turned me around, handcuffed me, threw me against the side of my car, and did a complete body search on me. As he groped me, he said, “This is how we do it in LA.”

I remember seeing a woman walking across the street holding hands with her little girl. We made eye-contact. She picked her little girl up and jogged in the other direction. Who could blame her? If I saw one of society’s most trusted authority figures manhandling a guy, I’d also assume this was a potentially dangerous situation.

The officer then removed the wallet from my pocket and pulled out the cash.

“Why do you have so much cash on you?”

“Sir, I honestly didn’t feel like a $100 was a lot of cash to have on me. I’m going out with my wife tonight and just wanted to have a little cash on me.”

“We’ll see.”

Next, he asked me where I lived. I told him my address. He laughed and said, “This n****r knows his address.” Then he walked me to the police car and literally threw me in the back seat and shut the door. From the back seat of a police car, I watched the officer join his partner who was already busy questioning my wife. They also made her get out of the car. They both got in her face and started questioning her.

Imagine what goes on inside of a man’s head when he’s handcuffed and helpless as he watches two men with guns get in his wife’s face. Imagine the complex blend of confusion, fear, irrational optimism, and rage that festers inside one’s soul as he watches one cop take his wife’s purse and pour all the contents out, while the other officer literally crawls around inside our car for several minutes.

They spent about 10 more minutes aggressively questioning my wife.

One of the officers returned to the car with my wallet and proceeded to look up my info in the system.

“You got any baby momma drama?” he asked me.

“I don’t have any children, sir.”

“You sure you ain’t got no baby momma drama?”

“I am certain I have no children, sir. There are no women out there who are even under the impression that I am the father of their child.”

“Are you clean? Are you clean? You ain’t got no drugs? You ain’t got nothing on you? No baby momma drama?” he says.

“I am clean,” I said.

For the entire time we were talking, my eyes were deadlocked on that other officer and my wife. After what felt like an eternity, the officer let me out of the car and took off the handcuffs.

“You’re good,” he told me.

As I slowly walked back to our car, I said to one of the officers, “Sir, I’m not trying to be antagonistic or disrespectful, but is there a reason for why I was pulled over?”

“We just had to check you out.”

I wanted to say, “What does that even mean?” But more importantly, I wanted to get us out of that situation safely. Given the way he man-handled me earlier, it was obvious to me that I was dealing with guys who weren’t above breaking protocol. So I just walked back to the car, took a deep breath, asked my wife if she was alright, and did my best Denzel Washington from Glory impersonation as I tried to keep it together.

Our comedy show started at 8 P.M. We were pulled over at about 7:30. When they let us go, it was about 10 minutes after the hour. We decided we couldn’t go home, or it would feel as if we let them win. So we drove to a local cinema, watched a movie, came back home, had some coffee, and just stayed up talking with each other about it.

*             *             *

I’m grateful that we didn’t get killed. I’m grateful that my wife didn’t get assaulted. I’m grateful that they didn’t plant drugs on me or put me in the hospital.

But my gratitude doesn’t change the fact that these men abused their power, disrespected my wife, laid their hands on my body in an inappropriate way, scared the hell out of us both, made us miss our show, and treated us like criminals simply because they felt entitled to do so.

They will not ruin my life, nor will they determine my destiny, but I want to put this story on the record because this was neither the first nor the second time something like this happened to me, and I sincerely believe that things like this happen all over the country.

There’s this naive idea floating around that people should never be afraid of cops as long as they’re innocent and compliant. For a lot of people in this country, that’s simply not true. This isn’t about playing some mythical race-card, nor is it about me promoting the idea that all cops are evil. I’m sure there are lots of cops who are nice to their kids and fun to hang out with when they’re having beer with their buddies. (I’m also sure that’s true of a lot of so-called thugs.)

But if we want to have intelligent discussions about authority in this country, we have to stop using a logic that tells us that people in authority always have a fair reason for doing what they do. We do a lot of talking about what people can do to avoid being abused by cops. We don’t talk as much as we should about the abuse that happens to people who follow all those instructions. If we can’t question authority, we are doomed.

*             *             *

Here’s a habit I picked up early on: When I see police officers, I shift into my A-game.

If I feel an itch on my forehead, I’ll notify the cops first before scratching the itch because I want them to feel safe and secure about the movement of my hand. This is a technique I refer to as “not getting shot.”

I learned techniques like this from the first day I received my driver’s license. Growing up in the suburbs, I was always afraid to drive my dad’s Lincoln Town Car.

I was too afraid to tell him, but I would cringe when he’d ask me to drive his car because I knew I would be pulled over and harassed by cops whose worldview wasn’t big enough to imagine me in a nice car (even though it was normal to see young people driving nice cars in the neighborhood where I grew up).

I remember driving my dad’s car once, and he left his toolbox in the back seat. A cop pulled me over and asked why I had a toolbox. Fair enough. I told him my dad was in real estate and construction, and that I was working with him at one of his buildings. The cop had me step out of the car, handcuffed me, and searched the toolbox while I sat on the curb in handcuffs.

“Are there any other weapons in this car besides this hammer here?”

My overly diplomatic reply was this: “With all due respect, sir, the hammer is not a weapon, but rather one of many tools in that toolbox we use for work. However, I understand where you’re coming from and I can see how you might be inclined to see it as a weapon, but those tools are only used for work.”

He let me go. I can only imagine what my fate would have been if I hadn’t learned about the loaded question fallacy. Two points for philosophy. Hurray.

By the way, the officer gave me no warnings, citations, or explanations. Like the guys from my earlier story, he just wanted to “check me out.”

Unfortunately, my techniques don’t make me feel all that secure, nor does the fact that today I drive a car that’s a lot more modest than my dad’s. At every stage of my adulthood, I’ve been pulled over by cops, dragged out of my car, handcuffed, spoken to like I was a stupid little boy, humiliated in public, called racial slurs, and manhandled by multiple guys with badges multiples times (without being arrested or charged with anything), in spite of the fact that I’ve never been armed, and I’ve always complied with their every request.

When I spent two years without having a car, it was one of the most peaceful, cop-free times in my life. I would still get harassed at times, but it was so much harder for them to come up with excuses for stopping me. I have never been physically or psychologically abused by drug-dealing “thugs,” but I have definitely been abused by police who thought it was okay to push me around because I fit their stereotype of a thug.

Some people automatically feel safer when cops are around, but that’s not a universal experience. It’s certainly not mine. I’m not angry at every cop, but I am deeply concerned about the frighteningly popular belief that you must have done something wrong if you were abused by one.

*             *             *

When I first wrote about this on my Facebook page, I only had my family and friends in mind. Prior to that, I’d never shared the full details with anyone except for a small group of people.

But more and more, I’d been involved in conversations about police brutality. It seems to be on everyone’s mind. And while I acknowledge that these issues are more complex than many people make them out to be, there was one recurring element in many of these conversations that really irked me: The idea that a police officer would never mistreat someone if they conducted themselves in the right way. I know from personal experience that this assumption is false.

Indeed, I know many people who have been mistreated by authorities who abuse their power and they’re simply afraid to talk about it. Since I shared a version of this account on Facebook, over 1500 hundred people have shared my Facebook post. I’ve received tons of messages from people who have been victims of various kinds of abuse, not just from cops, but abuse in general. Many of them thanked me for inspiring them to tell their own story. I’ve even had police officers apologize to me on behalf of other police officers.

But why are people so often silent in the face of abuse? They don’t want to risk their careers; they don’t want to make enemies at their church; they don’t want to be associated with the wrong political party; they don’t want to be seen as liars; they don’t want anyone targeting them.

And I get it. Just since I shared this on social media, people have called me a liar, a bullshitter, a slanderer, a cop hater and an attention seeker. Honestly, I can relate with those people who would rather just stay silent than suffer the indignity of the aftermath — which so often just adds insult to injury.

But then there are the people who find inspiration, perhaps to tell their own story. I wrote this for them. Some have asked why I would write something like this if I have no chance of bringing the cops to justice. My answer is that I wrote this primarily in hopes that some people’s minds will be opened and others’ hearts will be healed due to what I went through. Most importantly, I wrote this so that people who stay silent — for whatever reason — will know they aren’t alone.

I wish I had footage of what happened. I wish I had had the opportunity to obtain badge numbers, names, or license plate numbers without fear. Instead all I could think was “Please God let me out of this situation alive.” “Please don’t let them hurt my wife.” “What in the world is happening to me?” When they finally let me go, I was mostly just relieved that we were going to get out safe.

Believe it or not, there was a point when it did occur to me to try to get some information on these police officers. When I asked the one cop why we had been stopped, I thought about getting a look at their license plate number right then. But it occurred to me that things could escalate again if they perceived me as antagonizing them. I was scared of what they might do next if they noticed me looking at their car as if I were trying to obtain their information.

*             *             *

After my wife and I left, we calmed down. I started to reflect on things. I wished I could have gotten something — a badge number, a license tag, anything. Still, I decided to report it. The next day, I called the police department in the town where we were pulled over. I spoke with an officer who was appalled by my story, but who said it couldn’t be his department. He asked me if I was sure it wasn’t the state police. I honestly didn’t know. He believed my story, though, and he told me that if those were his guys, he would deal with them harshly. He apologized on behalf of police officers. We talked for almost an hour and he promised to have a meeting with his department about my story.

I also called state police as well as the departments for a couple surrounding towns but with the same results. My lack of evidence made things difficult. I tried hard to channel my anger in the direction of holding those officers accountable, but ultimately fell short. So, all I have is my story and the hope that some good can come from telling it.

All I ask of you, dear reader, is that you consider it an invitation to rethink the way some of these police encounters are framed and construed by all parties. If you’re skeptical of my version of events, that’s fine. I encourage you to keep on doubting.

But please don’t be selective in your skepticism. Question me. Question others. Question the police. Question authority. Most importantly, question your own assumptions. The truth will come will eventually come from people willing to search for it.

T.K. Coleman is a philosopher, writer, lecturer, entrepreneur, and life coach living in Los Angeles, California. He is the co-founder and Education Director for Praxis, a 10-month apprenticeship program that combines a traditional liberal arts education with practical skills training, professional development, and real-world business experience.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Do We Need to Bring Back Internment Camps? – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
July 28, 2015
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Last week, Retired General Wesley Clark, who was NATO commander during the US bombing of Serbia, proposed that “disloyal Americans” be sent to internment camps for the “duration of the conflict.” Discussing the recent military base shootings in Chattanooga, TN, in which five US service members were killed, Clark recalled the internment of American citizens during World War II who were merely suspected of having Nazi sympathies. He said: “back then we didn’t say ‘that was freedom of speech,’ we put him in a camp.”He called for the government to identify people most likely to be radicalized so we can “cut this off at the beginning.” That sounds like “pre-crime”!

Gen. Clark ran for president in 2004 and it’s probably a good thing he didn’t win considering what seems to be his disregard for the Constitution. Unfortunately in the current presidential race Donald Trump even one-upped Clark, stating recently that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor and should be treated like one, implying that the government should kill him.

These statements and others like them most likely reflect the frustration felt in Washington over a 15-year war on terror where there has been no victory and where we actually seem worse off than when we started. The real problem is they will argue and bicker over changing tactics but their interventionist strategy remains the same.

Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, who was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, told al-Jazeera this week that US drones create more terrorists than they kill. He said: “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”

Still Washington pursues the same strategy while expecting different results.

It is probably almost inevitable that the warhawks will turn their anger inward, toward Americans who are sick of the endless and costly wars. The US loss of the Vietnam war is still blamed by many on the protesters at home rather than on the foolishness of the war based on a lie in the first place.

Let’s hope these threats from Clark and Trump are not a trial balloon leading to a clampdown on our liberties. There are a few reasons we should be concerned. Last week the US House passed a bill that would allow the Secretary of State to unilaterally cancel an American citizen’s passport if he determines that person has “aided” or “abetted” a terrorist organization. And as of this writing, the Senate is debating a highway funding bill that would allow the Secretary of State to cancel the passport of any American who owes too much money to the IRS.

Canceling a passport means removing the right to travel, which is a kind of virtual internment camp. The person would find his movements restricted, either being prevented from leaving or entering the United States. Neither of these measures involves any due process or possibility of appeal, and the government’s evidence supporting the action can be kept secret.

We should demand an end to these foolish wars that even the experts admit are making matters worse. Of course we need a strong defense, but we should not provoke the hatred of others through drones, bombs, or pushing regime change overseas. And we must protect our civil liberties here at home from federal-government elites who increasingly view us as the enemy.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Central Banks and Our Dysfunctional Gold Markets – Article by Marcia Christoff-Kurapovna

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Categories: Economics, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Marcia Christoff-Kurapovna
July 23, 2015
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Many investors still view gold as a safe-haven investment, but there remains much confusion regarding the extent to which the gold market is vulnerable to manipulation through short-term rigged market trades, and long-arm central bank interventions. First, much of the gold that is being sold as shares, in certificates, or for physical hoarding in dubious “vaults” just isn’t there. Second, paper gold can be printed into infinity just like regular currency. Third, new electronic gold pricing — replacing, as of this past February, the traditional five-bank phone-call of the London Gold Fix in place since 1919 — has not necessarily proved a more trustworthy model. Fourth, there looms the specter of the central bank, particularly in the form of volume trading discounts that commodity exchanges offer them.

The Complex World of Gold Investments

The question of rigging has been brought to media attention in the past few months when ten banks came under investigation by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the US Department of Justice in price-manipulation probes. Also around that time, the Swiss regulator FINMA settled a currency manipulation case in which UBS was accused of trading ahead of silver-fix orders. Then, the UK Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates derivatives, ordered Barclays to pay close to $45 million in fines against a trader who artificially suppressed the price of gold in 2012 to avoid payouts to clients. Such manipulations are not limited to the precious-metals market: in November of last year, major banks had to pay several billion dollars in fines related to the rigging of foreign-exchange benchmarks, including LIBOR and other interest-rate benchmarks.These cases followed on the heels of a set of lawsuits in May 2014 filed in New York City in which twenty-five plaintiffs consisting of hedge funds, private citizens, and public investors (such as pension funds) sued HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Bank Scotia, and Société Génerale (the five traditional banks of the former London Gold Fix) on charges of rigging the precious-metals and foreign-exchange markets. “A lot of conspiracy theories have turned out to be conspiracy fact,” said Kevin Maher, a former gold trader in New York who filed one of the lawsuits that May, told The New York Times.

Central Banks at the Center of Gold Markets

The lawsuits were given more prominence with the introduction of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) on February 20, 2015. The new price-fixing body was established with seven banks: Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, UBS, HSBC, Barclays, Bank Scotia and Société Génerale. (On June 16, the Bank of China announced, after months of speculation, that it would join.)While some economists have deemed the new electronic fix a good move in contrast to behind-closed-door, phoned-in price-fixing, others beg to differ. Last year, the commodities exchange CME Group came under scrutiny for allowing volume trading discounts to central banks, raising the question of how “open” electronic pricing really is. Then, too, the LBMA is itself not a commodities exchange but an Over-The-Counter (OTC) market, and does not publish — does not have to publish — comprehensive data as to the amount of metal that is traded in the London market.According to Ms. Ruth Crowell, the chairman of LBMA, writing in a report to that group: “Post-trade reporting is the material barrier preventing greater transparency on the bullion market.” In the same report, Crowell states: “It is worth noting that the role of the central banks in the bullion market may preclude ‘total’ transparency, at least at the public level.” To its credit, the secretive London Gold Fix (1919–2015) featured on its website tracking data of the daily net volume of bars traded and the history of gold trades, unlike current available information from the LBMA as one may see here (please scroll down for charts).

The Problem with Paper Gold

There is further the problem of what is being sold as “paper” gold. At first glance, that option seems a good one. Gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs), registered with The New York Stock Exchange, have done very well over the past decade and many cite this as proof that paper gold, rather than bars in hand, is just as sure an investment. The dollar price of gold rose more than 15.4 percent a year between 1999 and December 2012 and during that time, gold ETFs generated an annual return of 14 percent (while equities registered a loss).As paper claims on trusts that hold gold in bank vaults, ETFs are for many, preferable to physical gold. Gold coins, for instance, can be easily faked, will lose value when scratched, and dealers take high premiums on their sale. The assaying of gold bars, meanwhile, with transport and delivery costs, is easy for banking institutions to handle, but less so for individuals. Many see them as trustworthy: ETF Securities, for example, one of the largest operators of commodity ETFs with $21 billion in assets, stores their gold in Zurich, rather than in London or Toronto. These last two cities, according to one official from that company, “could not be trusted not to go along with a confiscation order like that by Roosevelt in 1933.”Furthermore, shares in these entities represent only an indirect claim on a pile of gold. “Unless you are a big brokerage firm,” writes economist William Baldwin, “you cannot take shares to a teller and get metal in exchange.” ETF custodians usually consist of the likes of J.P. Morgan and UBS who are players on the wholesale market, says Baldwin, thus implying a possible conflict of interest.

Government and Gold After 1944: A Love-Hate Relationship

Still more complicated is the love-hate relationship between governments and gold. As independent gold analyst Christopher Powell put it in an address to a symposium on that metal in Sydney, October 2013: “It is because gold is a competitive national currency that, if allowed to function in a free market, will determine the value of other currencies, the level of interest rates and the value of government bonds.” He continued: “Hence, central banks fight gold to defend their currencies and their bonds.”It is a relationship that has had a turbulent history since the foundation of the Bretton Woods system in 1944 and up through August 1971, when President Nixon declared the convertibility of the dollar to gold suspended. During those intervening decades, gold lived a kind of strange dual existence as a half state-controlled, half free market-driven money-commodity, a situation that Nobel Prize economist Milton Friedman called a “real versus pseudo gold standard.”The origin of this cumbersome duality was the post-war two-tiered system of gold pricing. On the one hand, there was a new monetary system that fixed gold at $35 an ounce. On the other, there was still a free market for gold. The $35 official price was ridiculously low compared to its free market variant, resulting in a situation in which IMF rules against dealing in gold at “free” prices were circumvented by banks that surreptitiously purchased gold from the London market.

The artificial gold price held steady until the end of the sixties, when the metal’s price started to “deny compliance” with the dollar. Still, monetary doctrine sought to keep the price fixed and, at the same time, to influence pricing on the free market. These attempts were failures. Finally, in March 1968, the US lost more than half its reserves, falling from 25,000 to 8,100 tons. The price of other precious metals was allowed to move freely.

Gold Retreats Into the Shadows

Meawhile, private hoarding of gold was underway. According to The Financial Times of May 21, 1966, gold production was rising, but it was not going to official gold stocks. This situation, in turn, fundamentally affected the gold clauses of the IMF concerning repayments in currency only in equal value to the gold value of such at the time of borrowing. This led to a rise in “paper gold planning” as a substitution for further increases in IMF quotas. (Please see “The Paper Gold Planners — Alchemists or Conjurers?” in The Financial Analysts Journal, Nov–Dec 1966.)By the late 1960s, Vietnam, poverty, the rise in crime and inflation were piling high atop one another. The Fed got to work doing what it does best: “Since April [1969],” wrote lawyer and economist C. Austin Barker in a January 1969 article, “The US Money Crisis,” “the Fed has continually created new money at an unusually rapid rate.” Economists implored the IMF to allow for a free market for gold but also to set the official price to at least $70 an ounce. What was the upshot of this silly system? That by 1969 Americans were paying for both higher taxes and inflation. The rest, as they might say, is the history of the present.Today, there is no “official” price for gold, nor any “gold-exchange standard” competing with a semi-underground free gold market. There is, however, a material legacy of “real versus pseudo” gold that remains a terrible menace. Buyer beware of the pivotal difference between the two.

Marcia Christoff-Kurapovna is at work on the biography of a prominent European head of state and businessman.  Her work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Foreign Affairs.

This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

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Golden Whorl – Fractal Art by Wendy Stolyarov

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Categories: Art, Mathematics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Golden Whorl I - by Wendy Stolyarov

Golden Whorl – by Wendy Stolyarov

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

An intricate, intertwined, interlocking interplay of light and geometry, created using the program Chaotica.

See the index of Wendy Stolyarov’s art works. 

Visit Wendy Stolyarov’s website and view her art portfolio.

Wendy D. Stolyarov is an accomplished writer, thinker, artist, and graphic designer, who brings her immense talent and capacity for innovation to The Rational Argumentator and the wider movement for the advancement of Reason, Rights, and Progress. Mrs. Stolyarov uses computer technology masterfully to produce precise, realistic, life-affirming art. She has also contributed multiple essays to TRA and designed many of the magazine’s newer logos, including its banner and the New Renaissance top hat. Mrs. Stolyarov is married to G. Stolyarov II, the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator and The Progress of Liberty. She is the illustrator for Death is Wrong, the children’s book on indefinite life extension written by Mr. Stolyarov in 2013. 

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Rainbow Fish I – Fractal Art by Wendy Stolyarov

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Rainbow Fish I - by Wendy Stolyarov

Rainbow Fish I – by Wendy Stolyarov

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

Fractal art created using the program Chaotica, reminiscent of fish scales.

See the index of Wendy Stolyarov’s art works. 

Visit Wendy Stolyarov’s website and view her art portfolio.

Wendy D. Stolyarov is an accomplished writer, thinker, artist, and graphic designer, who brings her immense talent and capacity for innovation to The Rational Argumentator and the wider movement for the advancement of Reason, Rights, and Progress. Mrs. Stolyarov uses computer technology masterfully to produce precise, realistic, life-affirming art. She has also contributed multiple essays to TRA and designed many of the magazine’s newer logos, including its banner and the New Renaissance top hat. Mrs. Stolyarov is married to G. Stolyarov II, the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator and The Progress of Liberty. She is the illustrator for Death is Wrong, the children’s book on indefinite life extension written by Mr. Stolyarov in 2013. 

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The Fed’s Confusion Over the “Natural Rate” of Unemployment and Inflation – Article by Frank Shostak

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Frank Shostak
July 20, 2015
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In May, the US unemployment rate stood at 5.5 percent against the rate of 5.3 percent for the “natural unemployment,” also known as the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU).

According to the popular view, once the actual unemployment rate falls to below the NAIRU, or the natural unemployment rate, the rate of inflation tends to accelerate and economic activity becomes overheated. (This acceleration in the rate of inflation takes place through increases in the demand for goods and services. It also lifts the demand for workers and puts pressure on wages, reinforcing the growth in inflation).

By this way of thinking, the central bank must step in and lift interest rates to prevent the rate of inflation from getting out of control.

daily july 17 350

Recently, however, some experts have raised the possibility that the natural unemployment rate is likely to be much lower than the government official estimate of 5.3 percent. In fact, earlier this year, economists at the Chicago Fed argued that the natural unemployment rate since October last year has fallen to 4.3 percent.

The reasons for this decline are demographic changes and an increase in the level of education. (The natural unemployment rate tends to fall, so it is held, with the rising age of the labor force and with its education.)

Experts are of the view that these factors should continue to lower the natural unemployment rate for at least the remainder of the decade.

It is held that a lower natural rate may help explain why wage inflation and price inflation remain low, despite the actual unemployment rate recently reaching 5.5 percent.

Advocates for a lower natural rate also claim a lower rate would mean the Fed can keep interest rates lower for longer without worrying about lifting the rate of inflation.

Why NAIRU Is an Arbitrary Measure

The NAIRU however, is an arbitrary measure; it is derived from a statistical correlation between changes in the consumer price index and the unemployment rate. What matters here for Fed economists and others is whether the theory “works” (i.e., whether it can predict the future rate of increases in the consumer price index).

This way of thinking doesn’t consider whether a theory corresponds to reality. Here we have a framework, which implies that “anything goes” as long as one can make accurate predictions.

The purpose of a theory however is to present the facts of reality in a simplified form. A theory has to originate from reality and not from some arbitrary idea that is based on a statistical correlation.

If “anything goes,” then we could find by means of statistical methods all sorts of formulas that could serve as forecasting devices.

For example, let us assume that high correlation has been established between the income of Mr. Jones and the rate of growth in the consumer price index — the higher the rate of increase of Mr. Jones’s income, the higher the rate of increase in the consumer price index.

Therefore we could easily conclude that in order to exercise control over the rate of inflation the central bank must carefully watch and control the rate of increases in Mr. Jones’s income. The absurdity of this example matches that of the NAIRU framework.

Inflation Is Not Caused by Increased Economic Activity

Contrary to mainstream thinking, strong economic activity as such doesn’t cause a general rise in the prices of goods and services and economic overheating labeled as inflation.

Regardless of the rate of unemployment, as long as every increase in expenditure is supported by production, no overheating can occur.

The overheating emerges once expenditure is rising without the backup of production — for instance, when the money stock is increasing. Once money increases, it generates an exchange of nothing for something, or consumption without preceding production, which leads to the erosion of real wealth.

As a rule, rises in the money stock are followed by rises in the prices of goods and services.

Prices are another name for the amount of money that people spend on goods they buy.

If the amount of money in an economy increases while the number of goods remains unchanged more money will be spent on the given number of goods i.e., prices will increase.

Conversely, if the stock of money remains unchanged it is not possible to spend more on all the goods and services; hence no general rise in prices is possible. By the same logic, in a growing economy with a growing number of goods and an unchanged money stock, prices will fall.

Frank Shostak is an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and a frequent contributor to Mises.org. His consulting firm, Applied Austrian School Economics, provides in-depth assessments and reports of financial markets and global economies.

This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

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Iran Agreement Boosts Peace, Defeats Neocons – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
July 20, 2015
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Last week’s successfully concluded Iran agreement is one of the two most important achievements of an otherwise pretty dismal Obama presidency. Along with the ongoing process of normalizing relations with Cuba, this move shows that diplomacy can produce peaceful, positive changes. It also shows that sometimes taking a principled position means facing down overwhelming opposition from all sides and not backing down. The president should be commended for both of these achievements.

The agreement has reduced the chance of a US attack on Iran, which is a great development. But the interventionists will not give up so easily. Already they are organizing media and lobbying efforts to defeat the agreement in Congress. Will they have enough votes to over-ride a presidential veto of their rejection of the deal? It is unlikely, but at this point if the neocons can force the US out of the deal it may not make much difference. Which of our allies, who are now facing the prospect of mutually-beneficial trade with Iran, will be enthusiastic about going back to the days of a trade embargo? Which will support an attack on an Iran that has proven to be an important trading partner and has also proven reasonable in allowing intrusive inspections of its nuclear energy program?

However, what is most important about this agreement is not that US government officials have conducted talks with Iranian government officials. It is that the elimination of sanctions, which are an act of war, will open up opportunities for trade with Iran. Government-to-government relations are one thing, but real diplomacy is people-to-people: business ventures, tourism, and student exchanges.

I was so impressed when travel personality Rick Steves traveled to Iran in 2009 to show that the US media and government demonization of Iranians was a lie, and that travel and human contact can help defeat the warmongers because it humanizes those who are supposed to be dehumanized.

As I write in my new book, Swords into Plowshares:

Our unwise policy with Iran is a perfect example of what the interventionists have given us—60 years of needless conflict and fear for no justifiable reason. This obsession with Iran is bewildering. If the people knew the truth, they would strongly favor a different way to interact with Iran.

Let’s not forget that the Iran crisis started not 31 years ago when the Iran Sanctions Act was signed into law, not 35 years ago when Iranians overthrew the US-installed Shah, but rather 52 years ago when the US CIA overthrew the democratically-elected Iranian leader Mossadegh and put a brutal dictator into power. Our relations with the Iranians are marked by nearly six decades of blowback.

When the Cold War was winding down and the military-industrial complex needed a new enemy to justify enormous military spending, it was decided that Iran should be the latest “threat” to the US. That’s when sanctions really picked up steam. But as we know from our own CIA National Intelligence Estimate of 2007, the stories about Iran building a nuclear weapon were all lies. Though those lies continue to be repeated to this day.

It is unfortunate that Iran was forced to give up some of its sovereignty to allow restrictions on a nuclear energy program that was never found to be in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But if the net result is the end of sanctions and at least a temporary reprieve from the constant neocon demands for attack, there is much to cheer in the agreement. Peace and prosperity arise from friendly relations and trade – and especially when governments get out of the way.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Abstract Orderism Fractal 67 – Art by G. Stolyarov II

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Categories: Art, Mathematics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Abstract Orderism Fractal 67 - by G. Stolyarov II

Abstract Orderism Fractal 67 – by G. Stolyarov II

Note: Left-click on this image to get a full view of this digital work of fractal art.

This is a frosty fractal of spirals upon spirals.

This digital artwork was created by Mr. Stolyarov in Apophysis, a free program that facilitates deliberate manipulation of randomly generated fractals into intelligible shapes.

This fractal is an extension of Mr. Stolyarov’s artistic style of Abstract Orderism, whose goal is the creation of abstract objects that are appealing by virtue of their geometric intricacy — a demonstration of the order that man can both discover in the universe and bring into existence through his own actions and applications of the laws of nature.

Fractal art is based on the idea of the spontaneous order – which is pivotal in economics, culture, and human civilization itself. Now, using computer technology, spontaneous orders can be harnessed in individual art works as well.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s art works.

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