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Charity, Compulsion, and Conditionality – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Charity, Compulsion, and Conditionality – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Libertarians’ opposition to coercive redistribution of wealth does not mean that they are opposed to charitable giving that improves people’s lives.

In this video, Mr. Stolyarov analyzes why private charities are more effective in benefiting their intended recipients than programs which involve coercive redistribution of wealth. Paradoxically, it is the extreme conditionality of many coercive welfare programs that leads them to be less effective than the voluntary decisions of diverse individuals and organizations.

References

– “The Costs of Public Income Redistribution and Private Charity” – James Rolph Edwards – Journal of Libertarian Studies – Summer 2007
In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State (2006) – Book by Charles Murray

Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Putting innovation to a vote is never a good idea. Consider the breakthroughs that have improved our lives the most during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Did anyone vote for or ordain the creation of desktop PCs, the Internet, smartphones, or tablet computers?

It is only when some subset of reality is a fully open playing field, away from the notice of vested interests or their ability to control it, that innovation can emerge in a sufficiently mature and pervasive form that any attempts to suffocate it politically become seen as transparently immoral and protectionist.

All major improvements to our lives come from these open playing fields.

References
– “Putting Innovation to a Vote? Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Satoshi Nakamoto” – Wikipedia
The Seasteading Institute

Interview with Chuck Grimmett on Dogecoin – Video by Jeffrey A. Tucker and Chuck Grimmett

Interview with Chuck Grimmett on Dogecoin – Video by Jeffrey A. Tucker and Chuck Grimmett

The New Renaissance Hat
Jeffrey A. Tucker and Chuck Grimmett
February 8, 2014

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Commentary by Gennady Stolyarov II, Editor-in-Chief, The Rational Argumentator:

Jeffrey Tucker interviews Chuck Grimmett on Dogecoin and emerging cryptocurrencies.

They engage in a fascinating discussion on the 2-month-old cryptocurrency Dogecoin. Some excellent points include the following:

(1) It is pronounced “doge” as in “Venetian doge”.

(2) This conversation would have seemed ridiculous 1 year ago and unimaginable 5 years ago, yet it reflects reality today. (Even I, upon initially finding out about Dogecoin, had the thought that truth is stranger than fiction recurring in my mind for an entire day without pause.)

(3) Dogecoin offers an excellent opportunity for testing Milton Friedman’s monetarist rule of building a predictable rate of inflation into the money supply.

Dogecoin_logoChuck Grimmett is the Foundation for Economic Education’s Director of Web Media. Get in touch with him on Twitter: @cagrimmett

Jeffrey Tucker is a distinguished fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), CEO of the startup Liberty.me, and publisher at Laissez Faire Books.

This video is a production of Liberty.me.

Wow much dogecoin. Very competition. So money. – Article by Chuck Grimmett

Wow much dogecoin. Very competition. So money. – Article by Chuck Grimmett

The New Renaissance Hat
Chuck Grimmett
February 8, 2014

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Dogecoin_logoI’ll admit, I was skeptical when I first heard about dogecoin. I even wrote it off. Part of my living comes from running various social media profiles, so I recognized the doge meme from having seen it at least 30 times a day since the beginning of 2013. “A bunch of redditors are, once again, taking things too far,” I told myself.  A cryptocurrency based on a meme? Yeah, okay.

Boy, was I wrong. Dogecoin has proven itself to be money. Here’s why.

First, what is money? The short answer is that money is as money does. More specifically, money is a medium of exchange, unit of account, and store of value that helps people trade for goods and services.

Now, before you go yelling that no one actually accepts dogecoin in your town or even in your state, let’s dig a little deeper. For any money, it is important to define exactly where it is a medium of exchange. My Turkish lira have little value outside of sentiment for me here in Irvington, N.Y. But in Turkey, I can exchange those pieces of paper for nearly anything.

So, where is dogecoin money? Right here on the Internet. DOGE (shorthand symbol for dogecoin) has spontaneously emerged as the Internet’s tipping currency. All across the Internet, folks are tipping fellow Internet-goers who create or share good content. From dogecoin.com, “Think of it as a more meaningful ‘like’ or upvote, with real value that can be used all across the Internet.” What I totally missed about DOGE in the beginning is that being based on a meme provided an instant bridge for the community that already existed to be introduced to cryptocurrency. Those people embraced it quickly and it took off. The small individual value relative to the US dollar or bitcoin means that people regularly send 10 or even 100 DOGE when they like a piece, which adds to the currency’s popularity and widespread use.

There is quite a debate raging on the forums about whether DOGE is a viable competitor to bitcoin or the US dollar for everyday purchases. It has already proven itself as the dominant Internet tipping currency. It even crossed over into the non-digital world when fundraisers collected 26 million DOGE, worth nearly $25,000 at the time, to send the Jamaican bobsled team to the Sochi Olympics. Additionally, the dogecoin community raised $30,000 worth of DOGE to help provide service dogs to children in need.

One of the great things about cryptocurrencies is that they provide a low cost way to have real currency competition. Each competes on different margins like security, number of coins to be produced, transaction times, and so on. Another major debate in the DOGE world right now is whether having a steady inflation rate in perpetuity with the number of coins is a good idea. Would DOGE be Milton Friedman’s cryptocurrency of choice to maintain stable prices into the foreseeable future?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I am so very glad that we finally have a mechanism by which to test theories like that in real time. Some currencies will win over their respective markets and some will fall into obscurity, and I’m ready for the ride.

Let a thousand currencies bloom!

Wow.

Like this piece? You can tip Chuck in DOGE:
DQsQVGmKm51iSR1BXDxbf7prZqHvjTShun

Chuck Grimmett is the Foundation for Economic Education’s Director of Web Media. Get in touch with him on Twitter: @cagrimmett

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.
Machines vs. Jobs: This Time, It’s Personal – Article by Bradley Doucet

Machines vs. Jobs: This Time, It’s Personal – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
February 5, 2014
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For much of human history, the vast majority of people worked in agriculture. Today, thanks to the Industrial Revolution, that has fallen to about 2% of the population in wealthy countries. But all of us whose ancestors used to produce food have not just been joining the ranks of the unemployed for the past couple hundred years. We’ve been working at other jobs, in many cases doing things our grandparents’ grandparents could not imagine. Luddites were wrong to worry back then, but is it different this time?
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MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson, co-author of The Second Machine Age, thinks it is different this time, but he is qualifiedly optimistic nonetheless. During an hour-long EconTalk with Russ Roberts, he points out that the first wave of machines replaced human muscle, to which we responded by shifting to more cognitive tasks. The second wave, however, is automating cognitive work, which scares people. If machines have both muscles and brains, how can we compete? Are we staring down mass unemployment in the coming decades?
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For Brynjolfsson, the fear itself is a big part of the problem, pushing us to do counter-productive things like “trying to preserve the past at the expense of the future.” He argues that we can’t stop technology, and actually, we shouldn’t try. “What we need to do is embrace the dynamism that helps us adapt to that. The more we do to try to slow down change, I think the more stagnant we become and the worse off we become.”

So how can we best embrace change? Two things Brynjolfsson mentions are education and entrepreneurship. Regarding the former, he argues not only that we need to become more educated, as the future jobs that have yet to be invented will likely require a more educated workforce, but also that education itself needs to be reimagined to take advantage of new technology instead of carrying on lecturing small groups as we have done for millennia. And how exactly we should do that is, like so much else, up to entrepreneurs. We need to make entrepreneurship easier in a number of ways so that millions of new ideas can be constantly battling it out in the marketplace. “A lot of them are going to be really dumb and they are going to fail,” says Brynjolfsson. But some of them are going to be revolutionary, creating jobs we haven’t even dreamed of yet that allow us to work with the machines instead of trying to compete with them.

And yes, we will probably end up working less, just as we now work fewer hours than we did two hundred years ago. But we will work less to produce more, with many goods and services—think Wikipedia—becoming free or almost free. We already get on the order of $300 billion a year in free stuff from the Internet. As long as we embrace the future and focus on being as adaptable as we can, there’s no reason to fear that the increased wealth of tomorrow cannot be widely shared.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.
Putting Innovation to a Vote? Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Putting Innovation to a Vote? Majoritarian Processes versus Open Playing Fields – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
February 4, 2014
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Putting innovation to a vote is never a good idea. Consider the breakthroughs that have improved our lives the most during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Did anyone vote for or ordain the creation of desktop PCs, the Internet, smartphones, or tablet computers? No: that plethora of technological treasures was made available by individuals who perceived possibilities unknown to the majority, and who devoted their time, energy, and resources toward making those possibilities real. The electronic technologies which were unavailable to even the richest, most powerful men of the early 20th century now open up hitherto unimaginable possibilities even to children of poor families in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On the other hand, attempts to innovate through majority decisions, either by lawmakers or by the people directly, have failed to yield fruit. Although virtually everyone would consider education, healthcare, and defense to be important, fundamental objectives, the goals of universal cultivation of learning, universal access to healthcare, and universal security against crime and aggression have not been fulfilled, in spite of massive, protracted, and expensive initiatives throughout the Western world to achieve them. While it is easy even for people of little means to experience any art, music, literature, films, and games they desire, it can be extremely difficult for even a person of ample means to receive the effective medical care, high-quality formal education, and assurance of safety from both criminals and police brutality that virtually anyone would desire.

Why is it the case that, in the essentials, the pace of progress has been far slower than in the areas most people would deem to be luxuries or entertainment goods? Why is it that the greatest progress in the areas treated by most as direct priorities comes as a spillover benefit from the meteoric growth in the original luxury/entertainment areas? (Consider, as an example, the immense benefits that computers have brought to medical research and patient care, or the vast possibilities for using the Internet as an educational tool.) In the areas from which the eye of formal decision-making systems is turned away, experimentation can commence, and courageous thinkers and tinkerers can afford to iterate without asking permission. So teenagers experimenting in their garages can create computer firms that shape the economy of a generation. So a pseudonymous digital activist, Satoshi Nakamoto, can invent a cryptocurrency algorithm that no central bank or legislature would have allowed to emerge at a proposal stage – but which all governments of the world must now accept as a fait accompli that is not going away.

Most people without political connections or strong anti-free-enterprise ideologies welcome these advances, but no such breakthroughs can occur if they need to be cleared through a formal majoritarian system of any stripe. A majoritarian system, vulnerable to domination by special interests who benefit from the economic and societal arrangements of the status quo, does not welcome their disruption. Most individuals have neither the power nor the tenacity to shepherd through the political process an idea that would be merely a nice addition rather than an urgent necessity. On the other hand, the vested and connected interests whose revenue streams, influence, and prestige would be disrupted by the innovation have every incentive to manipulate the political process and thwart the innovations they can anticipate.

It is only when some subset of reality is a fully open playing field, away from the notice of vested interests or their ability to control it, that innovation can emerge in a sufficiently mature and pervasive form that any attempts to suffocate it politically become seen as transparently immoral and protectionist. The open playing field can be any area that is simply of no interest to the established powers – as could be said of personal computers through the 1990s. Eventually, these innovations evolve so dramatically as to upturn the major economic and social structures underpinning the establishment of a given era. The open playing field can be a jurisdiction more welcoming to innovators than its counterparts, and beyond the reach of innovation’s staunchest opponents. Seasteading, for example, would enable more competition among jurisdictions, and is particularly promising as a way of generating more such open playing fields. The open playing field can be an entirely new area of human activity where the power structures are so fluid that staid, entrenched interests have not yet had time to emerge. The early days of the Internet and of cryptocurrencies are examples of these kinds of open playing fields. The open playing field can even occur after a major upheaval has dislodged most existing power structures, as occurred in Japan after World War II, when decades of immense progress in technology and infrastructure followed the toppling of the former militaristic elite by the United States.

The beneficent effect of the open playing field is made possible not merely due to the lack of formal constraints, but also due to the lack of constraints on human thinking within the open playing field. When the world is fresh and new, and anything seems possible, human ingenuity tends to rise to the occasion. If, on the other hand, every aspect of life is hyper-regimented and weighed down by the precedents, edicts, compromises, and traditions of era upon era – even with the best intentions toward optimization, justice, or virtue – the existing strictures constrain most people’s view of what can be achieved, and even the innovators will largely struggle to achieve slight tweaks to the status quo rather than the kind of paradigm-shifting change that propels civilization forward and upward. In struggling to conform to or push against the tens of thousands of prescriptions governing mundane life, people lose sight of astonishing futures that might be.

The open playing fields may not be for everyone, but they should exist for anyone who wishes to test a peaceful vision for the future.  Voting works reasonably well in the Western world (most of the time) when it comes to selecting functionaries for political office, or when it is an instrument within a deliberately gridlocked Constitutional system designed to preserve the fundamental rules of the game rather than to prescribe each player’s move. But voting is a terrible mechanism for invention or creativity; it reduces the visions of the best and brightest – the farthest-seeing among us – to the myopia of the median voter. This is why you should be glad that nobody voted on the issue of whether we should have computers, or connect them to one another, or experiment with stores of value in a bit of code. Instead, you should find (or create!) an open playing field and give your own designs free rein.

Internet Sales Tax Could Crush Small Businesses – Article by Ron Paul

Internet Sales Tax Could Crush Small Businesses – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 26, 2013
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One unique aspect of my homeschool curriculum is that students can start and manage their own online business. Students will be responsible for deciding what products or services to offer, getting the business up and running, and marketing the business’s products. Students and their families will get to keep the profits made from the business. Hopefully, participants in this program will develop a business that can either provide them with a full-time career or a way to supplement their income.

Internet commerce is the most dynamic and rapidly growing sector of the American economy. Not surprisingly, the Internet is also relatively free of taxes and regulations, although many in Washington are working to change that. For example, earlier this year the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, more accurately referred to as the national Internet sales tax act. This bill, which passed the Senate earlier this year, would require Internet businesses to collect sales tax for all 10,000 American jurisdictions that assess sales taxes. Internet business would thus be subject to audits from 46 states, six territories, and over 500 Native American tribal nations.

Proponents of the bill deny it will hurt small business because the bill only applies to Internet business that make over a million dollars in out-of-state revenue. However, many small Internet businesses with over a million dollars in out-of-state revenues operate on extremely thin profit margins, so even the slightest increase in expenses could put them out of businesses.

Some businesses may even try to avoid increasing their sales so as to not have to comply with the Internet sales tax. It is amazing that some of the same conservatives who rightly worry over Obamacare’s effects on job creation and economic growth want to impose new taxes on the most dynamic sector of the economy.

Proponents of the law claim that there is software that can automatically apply sales taxes. However, anyone who has ever dealt with business software knows that no program is foolproof. Any mistakes made by the software, or even errors in installing it, could result in a small business being subject to expensive and time-consuming audits.

Some say that it is a legitimate exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause power to give state governments the authority to force out-of-state businesses to collect sales taxes. But if that were the case, why shouldn’t state governments be able to force you to pay sales taxes where you physically cross state lines to make a purchase? The Commerce Clause was intended to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across state lines, not to help states impose new burdens on out of state businesses.

The main proponents of this bill are large retailers and established Internet business. Big business can more easily afford to comply with a national Internet sales tax. In many cases, they are large enough that they already have a “physical presence” in most states and thus already have to collect state sales taxes. These businesses are seeking to manipulate the political process to disadvantage their existing and future small competitors. The Internet sales tax is a bad idea for consumers, small Internet business, and perhaps most importantly, the next generation of online entrepreneurs.

For more information about the small business program well as all other aspects of the Homeschool curriculum, please go here. And to purchase a copy of my new book, The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System, please go here.

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.

The Rational Argumentator’s Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2013
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In another productive and transformative year for The Rational Argumentator, I have been able to realize a series of long-held ambitions. New and improved editions of Eden against the Colossus, The Best Self-Help is Free, and Implied Consent have all been released since TRA celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. In addition, the Guide to Stolyarovian Shorthand renders my unique system of efficient note-taking available to the public for the first time. Furthermore, numerous new articles, YouTube videos, and links to Resources on Indefinite Life Extension have been created and published, along with several new and even more remastered musical compositions.  This has been a year of rejuvenating the accomplishments of the past while also shaping the future with new creations. I continue to experiment with and implement new approaches for spreading rational enlightenment to all who are willing. My Open Badges on Indefinite Life Extension are a proof of concept of what could be possible when it comes to motivating free, open-source education that produces externally verifiable outcomes. Of course, developing and expanding the system of Open Badges in any range of conceivable subjects will require a considerable amount of time and exertion of effort. However, TRA now has an embedded system for developing multiple-choice quizzes whose completion will result in the awarding of an Open Badge.

Total eleventh-year visitation for all TRA features was 1,077,192 page views, compared to 1,302,774 during the tenth year and the peak of 1,398,438 during the ninth year. While this was a decrease, it is still a higher number than was observed during any of the first eight years of TRA’s existence. TRA’s lifetime visitation stands at 6,746,360 page views.

I attribute the recent trend in reduced visitation to a decrease in new publication activity. During its eleventh year, TRA published 208 features, compared to 306 during its tenth year. The rate of publication slowed because of an unusually turbulent year, both in terms of events that affected me directly and took me away from a more steady publication regimen, and in terms of larger attention-absorbing, paradigm-shattering developments on a world scale, such as the recent revelations of Orwellian NSA surveillance of the general population.

Still, the fact that visitation slipped by less (a decrease of 22.97%) than the number of published features (a decrease of 32.03%) shows that TRA’s content remains sought-after and relevant, perhaps especially so in light of the very troubled and troubling era in which we live, when the direct threats to our personal liberty and privacy continue to mount and to become unavoidably palpable. The message that individuals have rights, that their lives have inherent value, that no “national security” or “greater good” can trump that value, needs to be proclaimed with renewed urgency and commitment. An alternative to the status quo needs to emerge through intellectual, technological, and political innovation, and it needs to emerge sufficiently soon that the Orwellian boot on the face of mankind does not stamp it out forever. The comprehensive surveillance regime unleashed in secret by the Bush and Obama administrations has no historical parallels; it is what the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century could only have dreamed of. At the same time, an increasing disconnect has occurred between the actions of national-government politicians and anything resembling what the people actually think: witness the rampant war hysteria that the Obama administration is currently attempting to stir up for a pointless, counterproductive invasion of Syria that would already be one of the least popular military undertakings in US history.

What can be done to change the political and cultural status quo to anything resembling sanity – even the kind of sanity that could have been said to characterize the 1990s in the United States? Hundreds of distinct approaches, implemented by millions of individuals, are most certainly required.  This problem is not easy; the world took a wrong turn, probably sometime around September 11, 2001, when the fear of “terrorism” led the political leaders of the Western World to use an infinitesimal threat to justify restrictions and invasions of personal liberty and even bodily integrity, which would have been unthinkable in any other context. After the economic collapse of 2008 and the subsequent bailouts of politically connected cronies, it seemed clear that the national governments of the world have sided with the “men of pull” – as Ayn Rand would have called them – against everybody else.  A free system which rewards merit and undermines stagnant hierarchies of rent-seeking privilege was not allowed to manifest itself. Instead, the very people who caused the world to take a wrong turn remain in charge.

While changing the current state of affairs is no easy task, I can confidently say that, in a hypothetical world where all humans were philosophically inclined, informed on current events, concerned with questions of morality, and interested in continual learning and self-improvement, the wrong turn would never have been taken. In a world that suddenly found itself filled with such enlightened individuals, the harms of the status quo would quickly be undone. The goal of The Rational Argumentator is to assist such enlightened individuals, both those who already are and those who might become enlightened through their independent intellectual explorations. While we are far from a world filled with purveyors of philosophical enlightenment (in the 18th-century sense of that term), every individual who becomes a true rational intellectual and a person of moral conscience can take us one step closer in that direction.

Pervasive NSA surveillance, fortunately, is no threat to TRA, because TRA has always been a publicly accessible endeavor. As I have written previously, if  those employed by the NSA and other spy agencies throughout the world were to read information on The Rational Argumentator, this could only benefit humanity by possibly exposing these individuals to ideas of rationality and moral conscience. The truly troubling aspect of universal surveillance is that it seeks to pry into the communications that we do not wish to disclose to anyone and everyone – private e-mails, phone calls, social-media conversations, financial transactions, and search terms. It is reasonable and justified for individuals who wish to preserve a shred of privacy to change their approach toward such communications. However, as far as TRA is concerned, its work can proceed unimpeded, for its message is meant to reach as many people as possible, NSA agents or not.

However, the recent revelations of NSA spying did lead me to reconsider one matter from my March 2012 statement, “A New Era for The Rational Argumentator”. I no longer consider social-networking sites, such as Facebook or Google+, to be effective ways for individuals to create custom repositories of knowledge. While it is still the case that individuals can access content somewhat tailored to their interests through such networks, the fact remains that the networks have been co-opted through NSA backdoors into their systems. The companies running these networks are no longer benign free-market entities whose goal is to exchange value for value with their customers. Rather, the original market-oriented purpose of these companies has been subverted in favor of becoming privatized arms of the surveillance state. Perhaps these companies had little choice but to comply with requests to spy on their users; observe the fate of Lavabit, whose founder tried to stand on principle and refuse such intrusions. The fact remains, though, that it is not prudent to rely for one’s information and philosophical development solely on sources whose role to gather information about one can affect one’s life far more than any of their incidental ability to give information to one. Does this mean that one should abandon all social networks or even Facebook and Google+? I am not advocating this, though I do advocate extreme prudence on these networks. The path-dependency and network effects are too great at present for such abandonment to be a practical choice for many people, myself included. Rather, I wish to emphasize the continued importance of self-contained online information repositories that do not vary based on the visitor and do not seek to do anything to the visitor other than provide content and elicit feedback in public comments. The Rational Argumentator is just such a source, and I hope in the coming months and years to increase its rate of publication and resume its previous modus operandi of publishing both original content and some of the most thought-provoking content that has appeared elsewhere, relying on TRA’s excellent network of authors and articles published under the Creative Commons License. If I can convince you to access TRA directly (rather than only through a social network) on a routine basis as part of your quest for knowledge and edification, then my planned endeavors will be successful.

You will see, in the coming months, the realization of still more ambitious projects, some of which are presently underway. Through all of the changes, improvements, and revitalizations of past materials, I can make you the same promises that I have made throughout TRA’s lifetime: that I will retain all content ever published on TRA; that I will continue to vigorously promote the ideas of liberty, reason, and technological progress; and that this site shall always remain a haven for high intellectualism and civilized discourse. In whatever way I can, I hope to make this magazine a valuable asset to those of us who have the most at stake in the outcome of the continuing and accelerating race between technological progress and authoritarian intervention.

Why Won’t They Tell Us the Truth About NSA Spying? – Article by Ron Paul

Why Won’t They Tell Us the Truth About NSA Spying? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 10, 2013
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In 2001, the Patriot Act opened the door to US government monitoring of Americans without a warrant. It was unconstitutional, but most in Congress over my strong objection were so determined to do something after the attacks of 9/11 that they did not seem to give it too much thought. Civil liberties groups were concerned, and some of us in Congress warned about giving up our liberties even in the post-9/11 panic. But at the time most Americans did not seem too worried about the intrusion.
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This complacency has suddenly shifted given recent revelations of the extent of government spying on Americans. Federal politicians and bureaucrats are faced with serious backlash from Americans outraged that their most personal communications are intercepted and stored. They had been told that only the terrorists would be monitored. In response to this anger, defenders of the program have time and again resorted to spreading lies and distortions. But these untruths are now being exposed very quickly.

In a Senate hearing this March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Senator Ron Wyden that the NSA did not collect phone records of millions of Americans. This was just three months before the revelations of an NSA leaker made it clear that Clapper was not telling the truth. Pressed on his false testimony before Congress, Clapper apologized for giving an “erroneous” answer but claimed it was just because he “simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.” Wow.

As the story broke in June of the extent of warrantless NSA spying against Americans, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers assured us that the project was a strictly limited and not invasive. He described it as a “lockbox with only phone numbers, no names, no addresses in it, we’ve used it sparingly, it is absolutely overseen by the legislature, the judicial branch and the executive branch, has lots of protections built in…”

But we soon discovered that also was not true either. We learned in another Guardian newspaper article last week that the top secret “X-Keyscore” program allows even low-level analysts to “search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.”

The keys to Rogers’ “lockbox” seem to have been handed out to everyone but the janitors! As Chairman of the Committee that is supposed to be most in the loop on these matters, it seems either the Intelligence Community misled him about their programs or he misled the rest of us. It sure would be nice to know which one it is.

Likewise, Rep. Rogers and many other defenders of the NSA spying program promised us that this dragnet scooping up the personal electronic communications of millions of Americans had already stopped “dozens” of terrorist plots against the United States. In June, NSA director General Keith Alexander claimed that the just-disclosed bulk collection of Americans’ phone and other electronic records had “foiled 50 terror plots.”

Opponents of the program were to be charged with being unconcerned with our security.

But none of it was true.

On August 3, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard dramatic testimony from NSA deputy director John C. Inglis. According to the Guardian:

“The NSA has previously claimed that 54 terrorist plots had been disrupted ‘over the lifetime’ of the bulk phone records collection and the separate program collecting the internet habits and communications of people believed to be non-Americans. On Wednesday, Inglis said that at most one plot might have been disrupted by the bulk phone records collection alone.”

From dozens to “at most one”?

Supporters of these programs are now on the defensive, with several competing pieces of legislation in the House and Senate seeking to rein in an administration and intelligence apparatus that is clearly out of control. This is to be commended. What is even more important, though, is for more and more and more Americans to educate themselves about our precious liberties and to demand that their government abide by the Constitution. We do not have to accept being lied to – or spied on — by our government.

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

This article is reprinted with permission.

Internet Fascism and the Surveillance State – Article by Ben O’Neill

Internet Fascism and the Surveillance State – Article by Ben O’Neill

The New Renaissance Hat
Ben O’Neill
July 16, 2013
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What is the purpose of telecommunication and internet surveillance?

The NSA presents its surveillance operations as being directed toward security issues, claiming that the programs are needed to counter terrorist attacks. Bald assertions of plots foiled are intended to bolster this claim.[1] However, secret NSA documents reveal that their surveillance is used to gather intelligence to achieve political goals for the US government. Agency documents show extensive surveillance of communications from allied governments, including the targeting of embassies and missions.[2] Reports from an NSA whistleblower also allege that the agency has targeted and intercepted communications from a range of high-level political and judicial officials, anti-war groups, US banking firms and other major companies and non-government organizations.[3] This suggests that the goal of surveillance is the further political empowerment of the NSA and the US government.

Ostensibly, the goal of the NSA surveillance is to prevent terrorist acts that would harm or kill people in the United States. But in reality, the primary goal is to enable greater control of that population (and others) by the US government. When questioned about this issue, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was unequivocal about the goal of the NSA: “to own the internet and find out what everybody is doing.”[4]

“To own the internet” — Public-private partnerships in mass surveillance

The internet is, by its very nature, a decentralized arrangement, created by the interaction of many private and government servers operating on telecommunications networks throughout the world. This has always been a major bugbear of advocates for government control, who have denigrated this decentralized arrangement as being “lawless.” Since it began to expand as a tool of mass communication for ordinary people, advocates for greater government power have fought a long battle to bring the internet “under control” — i.e., under their control.

The goal of government “ownership of the internet” entails accessing the facilities that route traffic through the network. This is gradually being done through government control of the network infrastructure and the gradual domination of the primary telecommunications and internet companies that provide the facilities for routing traffic through the network. Indeed, one noteworthy aspect of the mass surveillance system of the NSA is that it has allegedly involved extensive cooperation with many “private” firms operating under US law. This has allegedly included major security, telecommunications and internet companies, as well as producers of network software and hardware.

Examples of such “public-private partnerships” are set out in leaked documents of the NSA. An unnamed US telecommunications company is reported to provide the NSA with mass surveillance data on the communications of non-US people under its FAIRVIEW program.[5] Several major computing and internet companies have also been explicitly named in top secret internal NSA material as being current providers for the agency under its PRISM program.[6] Several of these companies have issued denials disavowing any participation in, or prior knowledge of the program, but this has been met with some scepticism.[7] (Indeed, given that the NSA did not anticipate public release of its own internal training material, it is unlikely that the agency would have any cause to lie about the companies they work with in this material. This suggests that the material may be accurate.)

Many of these companies have supplied the NSA with data from their own customers, or created systems which allow the agency access to the information flowing through telecommunications networks. They have done so without disclosure to their own customers of the surveillance that has occurred, by using the blanket advisement that they “comply with lawful requests for information.” By virtue of being subject to the jurisdiction of US statutes, all of these companies have been legally prohibited from discussing any of their dealings with the NSA and they have been well placed for retaliatory action by the many regulatory agencies of the US government if they do not cooperate. In any case, it appears from present reports that many companies have been active partners of the agency, assisting the NSA with illegal surveillance activities by supplying data under programs with no legitimate legal basis.

This has been a common historical pattern in the rise of totalitarian States, which have often sought to incorporate large business concerns into their network of power. Indeed, the very notion of “public-private partnerships” in this sector readily brings to mind the worst aspects of fascist economic systems that have historically existed. The actions of US companies that have cooperated in the NSA’s mass surveillance operations calls into question the “private” status of these companies. In many ways these companies have acted as an extension of the US government, providing information illegally, in exchange for privileges and intelligence. According to media reports, “Such cooperation is an extremely delicate issue for the companies involved. Many have promised their customers data confidentiality in their terms and conditions. Furthermore, they are obliged to follow the laws of the countries in which they do business. As such, their cooperation deals with the NSA are top secret. Even in internal NSA documents, they are only referred to by the use of code names.”[8]

We began this discussion by asking the purpose of telecommunication and internet surveillance. The answer lies in the uses to which those surveillance powers are being put, and will inevitably be put, as the capacity of the NSA expands. The true purpose of the NSA is not to keep us safe. Its goal is to own the internet, to own our communications, to own our private thoughts — to own us.

Ben O’Neill is a lecturer in statistics at the University of New South Wales (ADFA) in Canberra, Australia. He has formerly practiced as a lawyer and as a political adviser in Canberra. He is a Templeton Fellow at the Independent Institute, where he won first prize in the 2009 Sir John Templeton Fellowship essay contest. Send him mail. See Ben O’Neill’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Notes

[1] Mathes, M. (2013) At least 50 spy programs foiled by terror plots: NSA . The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 June 2013.

[2] MacAskill, E. (2013) New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies . The Guardian, 1 June 2013.

[3] Burghardt, T. (2013) NSA spying and intelligence collection: a giant blackmail machine and “warrantless wiretapping program.” Global Research , 24 June 2013. Reports are from NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, who is a former intelligence analyst at the NSA.

[4] Wolverton, J. (2012) Classified drips and leaks. The New American, 6 August 2012. Emphasis added. Capitalization of “Internet” removed.

[5] Greenwald, G. (2013) The NSA’s mass and indiscriminate spying on Brazilians . The Guardian, 7 July 2013.

[6] Gelman, B. and Poitras, L. (2013) US, British intelligence mining data from nine US internet companies in broad secret program . The Washington Post, 7 June 2013. See also NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collecting program . The Washington Post, 6 June 2013.

[7] McGarry, C. (2013) Page and Zuckerberg say NSA surveillance program is news to them . TechHive, 7 June 2013.

[8] Ibid Poitras, p. 3.