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Do You Know Who the Swiss President Is? – Article by Bill Wirtz

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The New Renaissance HatBill Wirtz
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Doris Leuthard. That’s the name of the incumbent Swiss president in case you wondered or might need it in a general knowledge quiz any time soon. But how come a country this well known on the international stage happens to have such an unknown executive?

The Swiss Opposed Centralization from the Start

The beginning of the Swiss confederacy wasn’t about power.

From the 14th century on, while Europe was torn in territorial conflicts or the religious Thirty Years War of 1618 to 1648, the (originally) 8 cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy were a microcosm of peace and prosperity. These cantons in themselves did have religious differences, but preferred to agree on a pact of mutual military assistance to protect the neutrality of the region and its peace. The Holy Roman Empire had granted this community of cantons imperial immediacy, meaning they were declared free from its rule while being a part of it. As the European royalties raised massive amounts of taxes to finance their decade-long wars, being Swiss was comparable to living in the first true tax haven: by any means the destruction in all of Europe made the differences that these cantons have look insignificant.

Later, religious differences in Switzerland grew, sparkling battles between Catholic and Protestant cantons. Each of these battles had winners, yet none were able to impose a true change of regime, as the cantons were too diverse to be governable. The cantonal governments refused to cooperate with each other: the only foreign policy they could agree on was that of neutrality, which ended up saving it from war.

The French Revolutionary army invaded the Confederacy in 1798 and established the Helvetic Republic, a centralized state, abolished cantonal sovereignty and feudal rights and reduced the cantons to administrative districts, all in the image of France itself. This French nation-building project failed 5 years later, as the population didn’t cooperate with any centralization attempts. The Helvetic Republic was incompatible with the Swiss mentality: the people demanded that government decisions be made at the canton level, not at the federal level.

Centralization and Switzerland’s Civil War

After decades of struggles over the centralization of power, a civil war ended the everlasting Swiss question of the legitimacy of a federal government. The Sonderbund War started in 1847 and was a fight between seven conservative and Catholic cantons who opposed the centralization of power and rebelled against the Confederation which had been in place since 1814. What followed was probably one of the least spectacular wars in world history: the federal army had lost 78 men and had 260 wounded. The Sonderbund conspiracy dissolved and Switzerland became the state it is today in 1848.

Think about this, the Swiss fight (which was marked by its incredible lack of violence in comparison to others) was purely over the rejection of the centralization of power, the skepticism of the responsibilities that a large entity has, while, mind you, we’re only talking about a country of 16,000 square miles. The result is a relatively neutral state which maintains a greater amount of freedom and prosperity than most European nations.

The Federal Council, Impotent by Design

The executive of the federal multi-party directorial republic is a body called the Federal Council. It is composed of 7 members (each one responsible for one of the seven departments in Switzerland) who are voted into their position by both chambers of the Federal Assembly. Their presidency and vice-presidency is rotating each year, their mandate is four years. The current council is composed of 2 social democrats, 2 center-right conservatives, 2 national conservatives, and one Christian-democrat (Doris Leuthard, who’s the current president).

While the Confederation of Switzerland was designed to follow the example of the United States when it comes to federalism and states’ rights, the Swiss avoided the concentration of the executive into one person. It is interesting to note that although every European country made (and makes) constant changes to their form of government, this council has not changed since 1848. The only political change has been made to the Federal Council, is the reversal of the Magic Formula, or also known as the Swiss consensus, a political custom which divided the 7 seats in the country between the four ruling parties. With the arrival of billionaire industrialist and EU-opponent Christoph Blocher and his Swiss People’s Party, this political agreement had been shaken up and, furthermore, made Switzerland’s accession to the European Union more and more unlikely.

The council shows unity towards to the public and most decisions are made by consensus. That is largely because their function is more decorative than functional, as most of the power is still held by the cantons. Decisions related to education and even levying taxes are made at the regional level. There is no executive action or veto which the federal government could use.

The president of Switzerland has little to no room in public political discourse. So if you don’t know who the new president of Switzerland is, don’t worry. Some Swiss people might not know either.

Localism Works in Switzerland

The Swiss cantons perform the balancing act of politics: the conservative cantons are those outside of the big cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Bern (the capital). The population in the smaller communities reject the tendency to govern from the capital. As a result, the Swiss have continuously rejected proposals like the ones phasing out nuclear energy.

This push for localism would be considerably more difficult if it wasn’t for the system of direct democracy that is very common in the Confederacy.

All federal laws are subject to a three to four step process:

  1. A first draft is prepared by experts in the federal administration.
  2. This draft is presented to a large number of people in an opinion poll: cantonal governments, political parties as well as many NGO’s and associations out of civil society may comment on the draft and propose changes.
  3. The result is presented to dedicated parliamentary commissions of both chambers of the federal parliament, discussed in detail behind closed doors and finally debated in public sessions of both chambers of parliament.
  4. The electorate has a veto-right on laws: If anybody is able to find 50,000 citizens who will sign a form demanding a referendum within 3 months, a referendum must be held. In order to pass a referendum, laws need only be supported by a majority of the national electorate, not a majority of cantons. It’s not unusual for Switzerland to have referenda on more than a dozen laws in any given year.

These referenda are the reason why the political majorities have decided to include their own opposition in government: if the majority does not seek a consensus, the oppositions can use a citizens initiative (referendum) to overturn any decision made on the national level.

The system of checks and balances through both the aggressively localist cantons and the tool of direct democracy has made Switzerland particularly resistant to the growth of government, and one of the few relatively liberty-minded bastions in Europe.

Bill Wirtz studies French Law at the University of Lorraine in Nancy, France.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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Trump: The Moral Monster Beyond Hope – Post by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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Two excellent recent editorials highlight the unprecedented danger that Donald Trump poses to liberty and basic human decency in America.

Nina Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, writes of how Donald Trump has brought Soviet-Style politics, particularly the sweeping use of the Big Lie, to the United States. (“Trump Through Russian Eyes”. Project Syndicate. September 27, 2016)

Khrushcheva observes,

Indeed, from my perspective, many of the nastiest and most perverse features of Russian politics now seem present in the United States as well. The Big Lie – invented in Nazi Germany, perfected in the Soviet Union, and wielded expertly by Russian President Vladimir Putin – is today a core component of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

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So far, Trump has been allowed to get away with his lies. The news media have largely been what Lenin called ‘useful idiots,’ so eager to use Trump to boost their own ratings that they did not notice or care that they were also boosting his. No surprise, then, that an emboldened Trump now delivers lies of ever more breathtaking audacity.

Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen likens Donald Trump to Gilgamesh – and not in a flattering manner. (“Donald Trump is a walking, talking example of the tyrannical soul”. The Washington Post. October 8, 2016.) In the early “Epic of Gilgamesh”, the king Gilgamesh (before he journeys on his quest to obtain eternal life) is an arbitrary, capricious tyrant with no regard for any other individuals’ rights or for basic human dignity and decency. Only when Gilgamesh realizes that death is a fundamental problem affecting everyone (him, too), is he impelled away from tyranny and toward wisdom.

But it is too much to hope that Trump would all of a sudden turn from a populist demagogue and would-be tyrant into a life-extension supporter. Instead, Trump should be recognized as completely devoid of moral character, and a completely lost cause for anyone who thought that he might somehow magically transform himself into a reasonable person.

It is time to break free from the spell of the Big Lie and universally denounce Trump for the moral monster he is. All people of good moral character must stand against Trump. Support anyone else you wish (Libertarian, Democrat, Green, Transhumanist, McMullin, none of the above) – but express the conviction that a decent, humane society should not allow such an unseemly, tyrannical brute as Trump to have any degree of power.

This post may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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59 Policies from One Year of Donald Trump – Article by David Bier

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The New Renaissance Hat
David Bier
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One year ago, Donald Trump thrust his bizarre, erratic, and incomprehensible campaign on the world. Much has been said about Trump’s “rhetoric” during his campaign — the racism, sexism, incivility, and much else besides — but rhetoric is not what makes a Trump administration a unique threat to the country. It is his policy proposals that should receive our closest attention and concern.

Below is a list of 59 “policies,” if you can dignify them with such a title, that Trump has proposed during his campaign. The list drives home how truly frightening a Trump presidency would be for the country and the world. Skimming the surface of Trump’s stream of consciousness brings out some particularly disturbing aspects of his agenda: notably, the way he singles out specific businesses and individuals for targeting by the government, as well as his obsessions with China, Mexico, Muslims, and immigrants.

Perhaps worst of all, Trump’s proposals expose how broad he thinks the powers of the presidency are: virtually infinite. There is never a glimmer of understanding that the government is bound by the Constitution, that the federal government has limited scope and authority, or that president is just one of three equal branches of the federal government.

Instead, it is Trump, and Trump alone, who will transform American laws, government, and society, from the top down. Trump will bomb and invade countries, Trump will steal their oil, Trump will kill deserters, torture suspects, bypass courts, ban Muslims, break treaties, and have the military do things like mass executions with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood — all while getting Americans to say “Merry Christmas” again.

Well, all I can say is Merry Christmas, America. Here’s what the primaries brought us this year.

Bold: attack on individual or business.
Italics: attack on Mexico or China.
Underlined: attack on immigration.

June 2015

1. Make Ford Scrap Expansion Plan in Mexico

August 2015

2. Deport 11 Million Immigrants
3. Triple Number of Deportation Agents
4. Force Cities and States to Help Deport Immigrants
5. Force Mexico to Pay for Wall on US Border
6. Strip US Citizenship from Babies Born to Immigrants

September 2015

7. Use FCC to Fine His Critic, Rich Lowry
8. Place 35% Tariff on Ford Cars Made in Mexico
9. “We Will Break” North American Free Trade Agreement
10. “Government Will Pay” for Health Care for “Everyone”

October 2015

11. Deport Syrian Refugees Legally in the US
12. Soldiers Who Desert Should Be Shot
13. Spend Tens of Billions on Border Wall
14. Keep Troops in Afghanistan

November 2015

15. Kill TPP Free Trade Agreement
16. Get Americans to Say “Merry Christmas”
17. Create Special Deportation Force to Remove Immigrants
18. “Bomb the S***” Out of Syria
19. Close Mosques in the United States
20. Create Database for Muslims
21. Bypass Courts in Mass Deportation Plan

December 2015

22. Restart Warrantless Surveillance, Metadata Collection
23. Kill Family Members of Terrorists
24. Washington Post Is a “Tax Shelter” for Amazon, Jeff Bezos
25. Ban All Muslim Travel to US
26. Shut Down “Parts” of the Internet
27. Issue Executive Order Mandating the Death Penalty for Killing Police

January 2016

28. Impose 45% Tariff on Chinese Products
29. Throw Bowe Bergdhal Out of a Plane in Afghanistan

February 2016

30. Tells Supporters to Knock Out Protesters
31. Use Eminent Domain for Economic Development
32. Tax Carrier-brand Air Conditioners Made in Mexico
33. Force Apple, Tim Cook to Break into iPhone for FBI
34. Keep Obamacare’s Individual Mandate for Health Insurance
35. Praises Mass Executions of Captured Soldiers with Bullets Dipped in Pigs’ Blood
36. Threatens Donor for Giving to Opponent’s Campaign
37. Prosecute Hillary Clinton
38. Proposes “Trade War” with China
39. “Open Up Libel Laws” to Sue Critical Press

March 2016

40. Force Apple to Make iPhones in US, not China
41. Force Military to Follow Illegal Orders
42. Prosecute Ed Snowden for “Spying” for Russia
43. “Torture” Terrorism Suspects
44. Increase Military Spending
45. Steal Iraqis’ Oil
46. “Pause” Legal Immigration
47. Send 20,000 or 30,000 Troops to Middle East
48. Trump Could Envision a Nuclear First Strike
49. Appoint Supreme Court Justice to Investigate Clinton’s Email

April 2016

50. Raise Taxes on the Wealthy

May 2016

51. Threatens Pfizer, Carrier, Ford, and Nabisco With 35% Tariff
52. Increase Minimum Wage
53. “Go After” Amazon for Anti-Trust and Taxes
54. Bomb Libya
55. Threatens “Mexican” Federal Judge Trying His Case

June 2016

56. “Keep Business Out of Mexico”
57. Ban All People from Countries with “History of Terrorism”
58. Surveillance of US Mosques
59. Ban Guns for People on Secret “Watch Lists”

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.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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Interest in Libertarianism Explodes – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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 Johnston / Weld

For forty years, the Libertarian Party has worked to survive. Then, in what seems to be a brief flash of time, it is suddenly at the center of American political life. It’s absolutely remarkable how quickly this has happened.

It’s a perfect storm that made this happen. Party A has become a plastic vessel for pillaging pressure groups, with a phony at the top of the ticket. Party B has been taken over by a cartoonish replica of an interwar strongman. Like beautiful poetry, or like the third act of a 19th-century opera, the Libertarian Party has risen to the occasion to represent a simple proposition: people should be free.

And that theme seems interestingly attractive, enough to draw more media attention to the Libertarian Party in the last week than it had received in the previous 40 years combined. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But a Google News search generates 600,000 results right now, and more recent coverage than I could read between now and midnight. Meanwhile, the Johnson/Weld ticket is polling at 11% nationally, which is essentially unprecedented.

Given today’s information flood, do you know how difficult this is to accomplish? It’s unbelievably difficult to cause anything to trend in this world. That this has happened is amazing. Plus, “libertarian” is a weird word to most people. In some ways, for a party that represents a beautifully simple idea, and the most important idea in the history of the world, this is word is a handicap.

And yet it is happening anyway.

Libertarian_Interest

Friends of mine have taken issue with this or that position held by Gary Johnson and William Weld. This is not the point. Every time I speak to either them, they are immediately quick to clarify that this election is not about them as people or the particulars of their policy positions. It is about representing an idea and a body of thought — an idea that has otherwise been nearly vanquished from public life. They admit to being imperfect carriers of that message. But this humility alone contrasts with the arrogance of the other two parties.

Nor is this really about getting Johnson/Weld elected. It is about clarifying the very existence of an option to two varieties of authoritarianism that the two main parties represent.

This ticket is not an end but a beginning.

For many months, I watched in horror as the only home that tolerated something approaching the old liberal idea has been taken over at its very top by a political force that now has had nothing good to say about liberty.

I’ve looked for an upside but had a hard time finding.

Now I do see the upside. The purging of freedom-minded people from the national end of the Republican Party has created an amazing opportunity. And the Libertarian Party is stepping up to play its historical role.

What is that role? Here has been the controversy for many years. Initially, many people believed it could actually compete with the two parties. When it became obvious that this was not possible, the role became one of ideological agitation and education. Thus ensued a 30-year war over purity of ideology. After all, if the point is not to win, and rather only to enlighten, it becomes important to offer the most bracing possible message.

But that conviction alone does not actually solve the problem. Which version of libertarianism, among the dozens of main packages and hundreds if not thousands of iterations, should prevail? This becomes a prescription for limitless factionalism, arguments, personal attacks — which is pretty much a description of how people have characterized the party and libertarianism generally over the years.

It is for this reason that the Johnson/Weld run this year is so refreshing. They are sometimes called moderates. I don’t think that’s right. It is more correct to say that they are interested in the main theme of the party, and that theme is freedom. No, they are not running to implement my vision of what liberty looks like in all its particulars. But they are on message with the essentials: freedom is what matters and we need more of it.

There was a time when such a message was redundant of what was already said by the Republicans and, perhaps, even the Democrats. But with the whole messaging of the two-party cartel having become “what kind of tyranny do you want?” there is a desperate need for someone to change the subject.

All issues of ideological particulars aside, this is what we need right now. And it will make the difference. Having this ticket become a part of the debate structure can provide that needed boost to liberalism as an idea, saving it from the desire on the part of the Trump/Clinton to drive it out of public life.

These are enormously exciting times. Six months ago, I would have never imagined such opportunities. As I’ve written elsewhere, the choice is at last clear, and clearer than it has been in my lifetime.

We can do socialism, fascism, or liberalism. Which way we take forward will not be determined by who gets elected but by the values we hold as individuals. And here, at long last, national politics can make an enormous contribution to changing hearts and minds.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was originally published on Liberty.me.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

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You Are Not Obligated to Support Trump – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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It does not matter that Donald Trump will win the Republican Presidential nomination. In his new video, Mr. Stolyarov emphasizes that you should vote your conscience and support the candidate closest to your personal ideals, not the candidate who has an “R” next to his name.

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Vietnam War at 50: Have We Learned Nothing? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Last week Defense Secretary Ashton Carter laid a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in commemoration of the “50th anniversary” of that war. The date is confusing, as the war started earlier and ended far later than 1966. But the Vietnam War at 50 commemoration presents a good opportunity to reflect on the war and whether we have learned anything from it.

Some 60,000 Americans were killed fighting in that war more than 8,000 miles away. More than a million Vietnamese military and civilians also lost their lives. The US government did not accept that it had pursued a bad policy in Vietnam until the bitter end. But in the end the war was lost and we went home, leaving the destruction of the war behind. For the many who survived on both sides, the war would continue to haunt them.

It was thought at the time that we had learned something from this lost war. The War Powers Resolution was passed in 1973 to prevent future Vietnams by limiting the president’s ability to take the country to war without the Constitutionally mandated Congressional declaration of war. But the law failed in its purpose and was actually used by the war party in Washington to make it easier to go to war without Congress.

Such legislative tricks are doomed to failure when the people still refuse to demand that elected officials follow the Constitution.

When President George H. W. Bush invaded Iraq in 1991, the warhawks celebrated what they considered the end of that post-Vietnam period where Americans were hesitant about being the policeman of the world. President Bush said famously at the time, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.”

They may have beat the Vietnam Syndrome, but they learned nothing from Vietnam.

Colonel Harry Summers  returned to Vietnam in 1974 and told his Vietnamese counterpart Colonel Tsu, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.” The Vietnamese officer responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

He is absolutely correct: tactical victories mean nothing when pursuing a strategic mistake.

Last month was another anniversary. March 20, 2003, was the beginning of the second US war on Iraq. It was the night of “shock and awe” as bombs rained down on Iraqis. Like Vietnam, it was a war brought on by the US federal government’s lies and propaganda, amplified by a compliant media that repeated the lies without hesitation.

Like Vietnam, the 2003 Iraq war was a disaster. More than 5,000 Americans were killed in the war and as many as a million or more Iraqis lost their lives. There is nothing to show for the war but destruction, trillions of dollars down the drain, and the emergence of al-Qaeda and ISIS.

Sadly, unlike after the Vietnam fiasco there has been almost no backlash against the US empire. In fact, President Obama has continued the same failed policy and Congress doesn’t even attempt to reign him in. On the very anniversary of that disastrous 2003 invasion, President Obama announced that he was sending US Marines back into Iraq! And not a word from Congress.

We’ve seemingly learned nothing.

There have been too many war anniversaries! We want an end to all these pointless wars. It’s time we learn from these horrible mistakes.

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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The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible – Video by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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Were it not for the deeply fallacious and self-defeating mindset of voting for the “lesser evil”, the rise of a demagogue such as Trump would have been impossible in the United States.

Though it may be alleged that economic fascism has characterized America’s “mixed economy” since at least the New Deal of the 1930s, the resurgence of cultural fascism would have been unthinkable even during the 2012 Presidential Election. Yet it is here in the form of Donald Trump’s campaign. Mr. Stolyarov considers what made possible this frightening resurgence of the worst tendencies in American politics. He concludes that the biggest underlying facilitator of Trump’s frightening rise is the very two-party political system in the United States and the “lesser evil” trap it engenders in the minds of many voters.

References

– “The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “Why Republicans Deserved a Crushing Defeat in the 2012 Presidential Election” – Article by G. Stolyarov II –
– “Black students ‘outraged’ after being escorted from Trump rally” – Article by Lindsey Bever – The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune
– “Technically, it is illegal to protest inside of Trump rallies” – Article by Colin Daileda – Mashable –
– “Rejecting the Purveyors of Pull: The Lessons of Atlas Shrugged: Part II” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “Trump is Phony, a Fraud” – Speech by Mitt Romney – PBS NewsHour
– “Hating the Establishment Is Not the Same as Supporting Liberty” – Article by Jeffrey Tucker
– “On Moral Responsibility in General and in the Context of Voting” – Article by G. Stolyarov II
– “The Importance of Zoltan Istvan’s Transhumanist Presidential Campaign” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The US Two-Party System Made Donald Trump’s Fascist Campaign Possible – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
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                It is disconcerting to watch as the front-runner for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination in the United States espouses a genuinely fascistic agenda – not just in terms of protectionism, economic nationalism, militarism, and the desire to centrally plan economic greatness – but also in terms of the overtly uglier sides of historical fascism: the xenophobia, racism, advocacy of torture and blood guilt, desire to silence political opponents, and incitements to violence against protesters and dissenters. Yet this is precisely what Donald Trump has done, unleashing the long-dormant worst tendencies of American politics. He has emboldened the crudest, least enlightened, most hide-bound enemies of tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and liberty to emerge from well-deserved disgrace to fuel the campaign of a cynical, unprincipled opportunist who thrives by pandering to their lowest impulses. Trump is vulgar, volatile, and unhinged. He has already turned his rallies into miniature versions of the police state he would create if elected – evicting even protesters who simply stand there with signs or clothing that express disagreement with Trump, or even individuals who attract the ire of the frenzied Trumpists for having the “wrong” color of skin or the “wrong” incidental expressions. Because of a bizarre law (H. R. 347, enacted in 2012), it is illegal to protest inside Trump rallies (or rallies of any candidate that receives Secret Service protection), so Trump is already utilizing coercive police powers to suppress dissent.

                Though it may be alleged that economic fascism has characterized America’s “mixed economy” since at least the New Deal of the 1930s, the resurgence of cultural fascism would have been unthinkable even during the 2012 Presidential Election. Mitt Romney, who seemed to me at the time to represent a paradigm of crony capitalism that inched toward overarching totalitarianism, now appears to be a gentleman and an intellectual – a voice of reason, class, and prudence in his eloquent denunciation of Donald Trump. Romney, as President, would have been unlikely to avert an incremental descent into fascism (although, in retrospect, he seems to be a decent human being), and his own candidacy was marred by manipulations at various State Republican Conventions, but, compared to Trump, Romney is a model of civility and good sense. Romney, if elected, would primarily have been the next status-quo President, overseeing a deeply flawed and deteriorating but endurable economic, political, and civil-liberties situation. Trump, however, would plunge the United States into an abyss where the remnants of personal liberty will suffocate.

                And yet the manipulations that occurred in 2012 to aid Romney paved the way for a Trump candidacy and its widely perceived “unstoppable” momentum. (Let us hope that this perception is premature!) I was a delegate to the Nevada State Republican Convention in 2012, where I helped elect a pro-Ron Paul delegation to the Republican National Convention. However, upon learning of the events at the National Convention, I became forever disillusioned with the ability of the Republican Party to become receptive to the advocacy of individual freedom. I wrote after Romney’s electoral defeat that

the rule change enacted by the party establishment at the National Convention, over the vociferous objections of the majority of delegates there, has permanently turned the Republican Party into an oligarchy where the delegates and decision-makers will henceforth be picked by the ‘front-runner’ in any future Presidential contest. Gone are the days when people like me could, through grass-roots activism and participation at successive levels of the party conventions, become delegates to a state convention and exert some modicum of influence over how the party is governed and intellectually inclined.

                The Republican Party establishment intended its rule change to prevent the ability of motivated grass-roots activists to elect delegates at State Conventions who would vote against the “presumptive nominee” and in favor of an upstart – presumably more libertarian – contender such as Ron Paul. Little did the establishment expect that this rule change would prevent its own favored candidates from effectively contesting Donald Trump’s nomination if Trump continues to win popular votes, especially in “winner-take-all” primaries, and approaches a majority of the total delegates. The most that the Republican Party elites can hope for now is that a candidate such as Ted Cruz eventually overtakes Trump, or that the remaining candidates – Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich – split enough of the delegates to deny Trump the majority and lead to a brokered convention. But as the narrative of inevitability continues to be spun in Trump’s favor and he amasses prominent endorsements and even promises from the other candidates that they would support him if he were the nominee, these damage-control plans seem quite vulnerable. Blind party loyalty, combined with a bandwagon mentality, appears to be driving the Republican establishment to a reluctant capitulation to Trump – which would be political suicide, but they are apt to do it anyway.

                If Trump trumps the old Republican Party establishment, however, this would be nothing to cheer. It would be a replacement of a defunct, cronyist, and backroom-dealing oligarchy – but one considerably tempered by satiation from its own decades of comfortable dominance and the remaining checks and balances of the political system – with a vicious, crass, completely unrestrained new oligarchy headed by Trump himself, and fueled by populistic pandering to masses about whom Trump personally could not care less. Trump asserts that he is incorruptible because he is funding his own campaign. However, the truth is that he does not need to pay anyone off for special political privileges, because he is the special interest that would be garnering the favors during “normal times”. If elected, he will simply do so without the intermediaries of the traditional political class. As Jeffrey Tucker eloquently explains,

many have fallen for Donald Trump’s claim that he deserves support solely because he owes nothing to anyone. Therefore, he is not part of the establishment. Why is that good for liberty? He has said nothing about dismantling power. […] He wants surveillance, controls on the internet, religious tests for migration, war-like tariffs, industrial planning, and autocratic foreign-policy power. He’s praised police power and toyed with ideas such as internment and killings of political enemies. His entire governing philosophy boils down to arbitrary, free-wheeling authoritarianism.

                Yet the biggest underlying facilitator of Trump’s frightening rise is the very two-party political system in the United States. Had the ballot-access laws not been rigged against “third” political parties and independent candidates, and had representation been determined on a proportional rather than a “winner-take-all” basis, there would have been genuine alternatives for voters to choose from. At present, however, every recent election season has degenerated into a spectacle of demonizing “the other side” – even if that side is just a different wing of the same political establishment. Far too many people vote for “the lesser evil” in their view, rather than the candidate with whom they agree most (who will most likely be a minor-party or independent candidate, since both the Republican and Democratic Parties are widely perceived as ineffectual and misguided once actually in power). Instead of evaluating specific candidates based on their stances on the issues as well as their personal record of integrity (or lack thereof), too many voters have learned to viscerally hate “the other” party’s brand and exhibit unconditional loyalty to their own. During the primary process, even voters who prefer the candidates who did not become the nominee will often capitulate and embrace a deeply flawed frontrunner. If too many Republican voters come to believe that Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be intolerable choices for President, then they may come to rally behind Trump even if they personally would have preferred Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich – and that is how a fascistic campaign could elicit the support of even the many non-fascists who simply cannot distance themselves from the “R” next to a candidate’s name.

                The only way in the long term to defeat Trump and those like him (because, in the wake of Trump’s bewildering popularity, others will emerge to imitate his tactics) is to renounce the two-party political system and judge each candidate solely on his or her policies, record, and personal merits or demerits. As I pointed out in 2012 in “On Moral Responsibility in General and in the Context of Voting”,

The most reliable way to avoid adverse moral responsibility in voting is to vote for a candidate whom one considers to be an improvement over the status quo in absolute, not relative, terms – and without regard for how others might vote. Morality is not based on consensus, but on objective truth. One’s own understanding of objective truth, and the continual pursuit of improving that understanding, is the best path to moral action and the habits of thought that facilitate it.

More recently, in 2015, I explained that

voters who are caught in the expectations trap will tend to vote for the “lesser evil” (in their view) from one party, because they tend to think that the consequences of the election of the candidate from the other party will be dire indeed, and they do not want to “take their vote away” from the slightly less objectionable candidate. This thinking rests on the false assumption that a single individual’s vote, especially in a national election, can actually sway the outcome. Given that the probabilities of this occurring are negligible, the better choice – the choice consistent with individual autonomy and the pursuit of principle – is to vote solely based on one’s preference, without any regard for how others will vote or how the election will turn out.

             Had Trump been one candidate among tens of independent contenders, he would have been rightly recognized as a demagogue whose base of support is a xenophobic, poorly educated fringe. Had numerous political parties been able to compete without major barriers to entry, today’s “moderate” establishment Republicans and movement conservatives would have had no need to fight with Trump over a particular party’s nomination, since they – having little in common – would have likely fielded multiple candidates of their own from multiple parties. As it stands now, however, the two-party system has destroyed the checks that would exist in a truly politically competitive system to prevent a fascistic demagogue’s meteoric rise. Only the consciences of voters stand between Trump and the Republican nomination, as well as the Presidency. Now, more than ever, it is imperative to vote solely on principle and escape the “lesser evil” trap, lest the greater evil of untrammeled illiberalism trap us forever.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

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Trump and Sanders Are Both Conservatives – Article by Steven Horwitz

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

The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Shared Visions of Fear, Force, and Collectivism

Those of us who reject the conventional left-right political spectrum often see things that those working within it cannot. For example, in “Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the ‘F’ Word” (Freeman, Winter 2015), I argue that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, seen by many as occupying opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, both embrace the thinking of economic nationalism, if not fascism.

They also share a different political tradition. It may seem to contradict their shared fascist pedigree, but Trump and Sanders are both, in a meaningful sense, conservatives.

Trump, of course, has been lambasted by many self-described conservatives precisely because they believe he is not a conservative. And Sanders, the self-described “democratic socialist,” hardly fits our usual conception of a conservative. What exactly am I arguing, then?

They are both conservatives from the perspective of classical liberalism. More specifically, they are conservatives in the sense that F.A. Hayek used the term in 1960 when he wrote the postscript to The Constitution of Liberty titled “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” There he said of conservatives,

They typically lack the courage to welcome the same undesigned change from which new tools of human endeavors will emerge.… This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to two other characteristics of conservatism: its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces.… The conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes. He believes that if government is in the hands of decent men, it ought not to be too much restricted by rigid rules.

That description would seem to apply to both Trump and Sanders. They share a fear of uncontrolled and undesigned change, especially in the economy. This is most obvious in Trump’s bluster about how America never “wins” and his desire to raise tariffs on Chinese imports and close the flow of immigrants, especially from Mexico. Economic globalization is a terrific example of uncontrolled change, and using foreign workers and producers as scapegoats for that change — especially when those changes have largely benefited most Americans — is a good example of this fear of the uncontrolled.

Those policies also show the much-discussed economic ignorance of Trump and his supporters, as shutting off trade and migration would impoverish the very people Trump claims to care about — those who are, in fact, supporting him. International trade and the free migration of labor drive down costs and leave US consumers with more money in their pockets with which to buy new and different goods. They also improve living standards for our trade partners, but Trump and his followers wrongly perceive their gains as necessitating American losses.

The same concerns are echoed in Sanders’s criticisms of free trade and in his claim that immigration is undermining good jobs for the native-born. Trump’s rhetoric might be more about how the US needs to “beat” the Chinese, and Sanders might focus more on the effects on working class Americans, especially union workers, but both fear the uncontrolled change of globalized markets, seeing commerce as a zero-sum game. (See “Why Trump and Sanders See Losers Everywhere,” FEE.org, January 20, 2016.)

For Sanders, fear of change also bubbles up in his criticisms of Uber — even though he uses the service all the time. Part of Hayek’s description was the fear of change producing “new tools of human endeavor.” The new economy emerging from the reduction of transaction costs will continue to threaten labor unions and the old economic understanding of employment and the firm. Sanders’s view of the economy is very much a conservative one as he tries to save the institutions of an economy that no longer exists because it no longer best serves human wants.

In addition, both Trump and Sanders are more than willing to use coercion and arbitrary power to attempt to resist that change. These similarities manifest in different ways, as Trump sees himself as the CEO of America, bossing people and moving resources around as if it were one of his own (frequently bankrupt) companies. CEOs are not bound by constitutional constraints and are used to issuing orders to all who they oversee. This is clearly Trump’s perspective, and many of his followers apparently see him as Hayek’s “decent man” who should not be too constrained by rules.

The same is true of Sanders, though he and his supporters would deny it. One need only consider his more extreme taxation proposals as well as the trillions in new spending he would authorize to see that he will also not be bound by constraints and will happily use coercion to achieve his ends. This is also clear in his policies on trade and immigration, which, like Trump’s, would require a large and intrusive bureaucracy to enforce. As we already know from current immigration restrictions, such bureaucracies are nothing if not arbitrary and coercive. Both Trump and Sanders believe that with the right people in charge, there’s no need for rule-based constraints on political power.

Hayek also said of conservatives that they are characterized by a

hostility to internationalism and [a] proneness to a strident nationalism.… [It is] this nationalistic bias which frequently provides the bridge from conservatism to collectivism: to think in terms of “our” industry or resource is only a short step away from demanding that these national assets be directed in the national interest.

As noted, Sanders and Trump share exactly this hostility and proneness. And despite being seen as political opposites, their distinct views converge in the idea that resources are “ours” as a nation and that it is the president’s job (and the state’s more generally) to direct them in the national interest. For Trump, that interest is “making America great again” and making sure we “beat” the Chinese. For Sanders, that interest is the attempt to protect “the working class” against the predation of two different enemies: the 1 percent and foreign firms and workers, all of whom are destroying our industries and human resources.

All of this fear of uncontrolled change and economic nationalism is in sharp contrast with the position of what Hayek calls “liberalism” or what we might call “classical liberalism” or “libertarianism.” In that same essay, Hayek said of classical liberalism, “The liberal position is based on courage and confidence, on a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead.”

This is why classical liberalism rejects the idea that the path toward progress entails electing the right people (the “decent men”) and the cult of personality that frequently accompanies that idea, as we’ve seen with Trump and Sanders. Classical liberalism understands how, under the right rules and institutions, progress for all is the unintended outcome of allowing each to pursue their own values and ends with an equal respect for others to do the same, regardless of which side of an artificial political boundary they reside on.

If we want to live in peace, prosperity, and cooperation, we need to recognize that progress is a product of unpredictable, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable change.

Trump and Sanders can stand on their porches telling us to get off their lawn, but we’re going to do it in an Uber imported from Asia and driven by a nonunionized immigrant, because we classical liberals welcome the change they fear.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

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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No, Mr. Trump, Victims of Eminent Domain Do Not “Get a Fortune” – Article by George C. Leef

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The New Renaissance HatGeorge C. Leef
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Trump’s huge mistake about eminent domain

During the debate among Republican presidential candidates last month, Jeb Bush hammered Donald Trump on his abuse of eminent domain. But Trump apparently sees nothing wrong in having government officials force people to sell their property.

Trump replied,

Eminent domain is an absolute necessity for a country, for our country. Without it, you wouldn’t have roads, you wouldn’t have hospitals, you wouldn’t have anything. You would have schools, you wouldn’t have bridges.

And what a lot of people don’t know because they were all saying, oh, you’re going to take their property. When somebody — when eminent domain is used on somebody’s property, that person gets a fortune. They at least get fair market value, and if they’re smart, they’ll get two or three times the value of their property.

This last assertion led George Mason law professor Ilya Somin (an expert on eminent domain) to quip at the Volokh Conspiracy, “If eminent domain really were a good way to make a fortune, the Donald Trumps of the world would be lobbying the government to condemn their property. But that rarely, if ever, happens.”

Put aside Trump’s hyperbole about the supposed impossibility of schools, hospitals, and bridges without eminent domain. What I want to focus on is his claim that eminent domain is not objectionable because people who have their property taken make out just fine financially.

That claim is simply indefensible. The truth is that people who lose their property to eminent domain proceedings are almost never made whole.

Legal scholars have for many years been writing about the injustice that usually befalls people who have to settle for what the government deems “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment. I wouldn’t expect Mr. Trump to know about that because he is too busy making deals. But the kind of deals businessmen usually make involve two parties who can say “no,” unless and until they think the deal will improve their positions.

With eminent domain takings, however, the property owner can’t say “no,” and usually must settle for much less than he or she would have bargained for in a voluntary setting.

Professor Gideon Kanner has written extensively about the problem of inadequate compensation for people who’ve been forced to sell under eminent domain. In his article “[Un]Equal Justice under Law: The Invidiously Disparate Treatment of American Property Owners in Taking Cases,” he writes:

The true standard of compensation is not indemnity, but rather fair market value so artfully defined as to exclude factors that sellers and buyers in voluntary transactions would consider, and that the government need only pay for what it acquires, not for what the owner has lost.

Those losses include business goodwill, relocation expenses, and the emotional damage of having to leave a community where one may have strong ties. In the government’s calculus, people are expected to suffer such losses as part of the price of living in America.

As the Supreme Court stated in the 1949 takings case Kimball Laundry v. U.S., “Loss to the owner of non-transferable values … is properly treated as part of the burden of common citizenship.” That “tough luck, property owner” mindset still prevails.

Knowing that they hold the high cards (and ultimately the guns) when they deal with property owners, government officials take full advantage. As Kanner observes, “Condemning agencies regularly reap unjustified windfalls from the fact that the majority of their offers (including the many low-ball ones) are accepted without litigation or even involvement by a private appraiser or lawyer.”

Therefore, eminent domain causes many property owners to suffer uncompensated losses.

Far from “getting a fortune” or “two or three times” the market value of their property, most owners are left substantially worse off for their unwanted encounter with condemning government agencies. Few if any of them shrug off the losses as their part of the “burden of common citizenship.”

Although the eminent domain issue came up during a debate among presidential candidates, there is hardly anything that the president can do to rectify the problem of under-compensation for property owners. He (or she) cannot issue an executive order mandating that property owners be made whole.

If there is to be a solution, it must come from the judiciary.

Judges, and especially the justices of the Supreme Court, will have to stop ruling that merely because an individual is paid an amount deemed “fair market value,” the Fifth Amendment’s requirement of “just compensation” has been satisfied.

It would also help property owners if the Supreme Court would overturn Kelo v. New London and establish that property can only be taken for actual “public use,” as the Fifth Amendment requires, and not for private use that local politicians think might have some “public benefit.”

Since we are going to have confirmation hearings for a new member of the Court eventually, it would be important to find out precisely what the nominee thinks “just compensation” and “public use” actually mean.

George Leef is the former book review editor of The Freeman. He is director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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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