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Welcome Aboard, But First US Marshals Will Scan Your Retina – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
******************************
For some 15 years, airport security has become steadily more invasive. There are ever more checkpoints, ever more requests for documents as you make your way from the airport entrance to the airplane. Passengers adapt to the new changes as they come. But my latest flight to Mexico, originating in Atlanta, presented all passengers with something I had never seen before.

We had already been through boarding pass checks, passport checks, scanners, and pat downs. At the gate, each passenger had already had their tickets scanned and we were all walking on the jet bridge to board. It’s at this point that most people assume that it is all done: finally we can enjoy some sense of normalcy.

This time was different. Halfway down the jetbridge, there was a new layer of security. Two US Marshals, heavily armed and dressed in dystopian-style black regalia, stood next to an upright machine with a glowing green eye. Every passenger, one by one, was told to step on a mat and look into the green scanner. It was scanning our eyes and matching that scan with the passport, which was also scanned (yet again).

Like everyone else, I complied. What was my choice? I guess I could have turned back at the point, decline to take the flight I had paid for, but it would be unclear what would then happen. After standing there for perhaps 8 seconds, the machine gave the go signal and I boarded.

I talked to a few passengers about this and others were just as shaken by the experience. They were reticent even to talk about it, as people tend to be when confronted with something like this.

I couldn’t find anyone who had ever seen something like this before. I wrote friends who travel internationally and none said they had ever seen anything like this.

I will tell you how it made me feel: like a prisoner in my own country. It’s one thing to control who comes into a country. But surveilling and permissioning American citizens as they leave their own country, even as they are about to board, is something else.

Where is the toggle switch that would have told the machine not to let me board, and who controls it? How prone is it to bureaucratic error? What happens to my scan now and who has access to it?

The scene reminded me of movies I’ve seen, like The Hunger Games or 1984. It’s chilling and strange, even deeply alarming to anyone who has ever dreamed of what freedom might be like. It doesn’t look like this.

Why Now?

I’ve searched the web for some evidence that this new practice has been going on for a while and I just didn’t notice. I find nothing about it. I’ve looked to find some new order, maybe leftover from the Obama administration, that is just now being implemented. But I find nothing.

Update: a reader has pointed me to this page at Homeland Security:

As part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) border security mission, the agency is deploying new technologies to verify travelers’ identities – both when they arrive and when they leave the United States – by matching a traveler to the document they are presenting. CBP’s goal is to enhance national security and protect a traveler’s identity against theft through the use of biometrics.

Biometric information (such as finger, face, or iris) measures a person’s unique physical characteristics. CBP incorporated fingerprints for biometric identification and verification in 2004, and is now testing facial and iris imaging capabilities to help improve travelers’ identity protection, the integrity of our immigration system, and our national security.

I happened to be on the “one daily flight” that gets exit scanned.

Another change has to do with new rules for Homeland Security just imposed by the Trump administration. They make deportation vastly easier for the government. I have no idea if these rules are the culprit for intensified emigration checks.

What people don’t often consider is that every rule that pertains to immigration ultimately applies to emigration as well. Every rule that government has to treat immigrants a certain way also necessarily applies to citizens as well.

Chandran Kukathas is right when he says that “controlling immigration means controlling everyone.”

Regulating immigration is not just about how people arrive, but about what they do once they have entered a country. It is about controlling how long people stay, where they travel, and what they do. Most of all, it means controlling whether or not and for whom they work (paid or unpaid), what they accept in financial remuneration, and what they must do to remain in employment, for as long as that is permitted. Yet this is not possible without controlling citizens and existing residents, who must be regulated, monitored and policed to make sure that they comply with immigration laws.

To be sure, there might have been some tip off that security officials received that triggered these special measures for this flight only. Maybe they were looking for something, someone, in particular. Maybe this was a one-time thing and will not become routine.

The point is that it happened without any change in the laws or regulations. Whatever the reason, it was some decision made by security. It can happen on any flight for any reason. And who is in charge of making that decision?

On the plane, finally, my mind raced through the deeper history here. Passports as we know them are only a little over a century old. In the late 19th century, the apotheosis of the liberal age, there were no passports. You could travel anywhere in the world through whatever means you could find. Nationalism unleashed by World War I ended that.

And here we are today, with ever more controls, seeming to follow Orwell’s blueprint for how to end whatever practical freedoms we have left. And we are going this way despite the absence of any real crisis, any imminent threat? The driving force seems to be this: our own federal government’s desire to control every aspect of our lives.

Think of it: there might be no getting out of the country without subjecting yourself to this process. It’s a digital Berlin Wall. This is what it means to put “security” ahead of freedom: you get neither.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

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. Read the original article.

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

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

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.

***

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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Witness to the End of Soviet Power: Twenty-Five Years Ago – Article by Richard M. Ebeling

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

The New Renaissance HatRichard M. Ebeling
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Twenty-five years ago, on August 22, 1991, I stood amid a vast cheering crowd of tens of thousands of people outside the Russian parliament building in Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union. They were celebrating the failure by diehard Soviet leaders to undertake a political and military coup d’état meant to maintain dictatorial communist rule in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Soviet regime had ruled Russia and the other 14 component republics of the U.S.S.R. for nearly 75 years, since the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917 led by Vladimir Lenin and his communist cadre of Marxist followers. During that almost three-quarters of a century, first under Lenin and especially Josef Stalin and then their successors, historians have estimated that upwards of 64 million people – innocent, unarmed men, women and children – died at the hands of the Soviet regime in the name of building the “bright, beautiful future” of socialism.

Millions Dead

The forced collectivization of the land under Stalin in the early 1930s, alone, is calculated to have cost the lives of nine to twelve million Russian and Ukrainian peasants and their families who resisted the loss of their private farms and being forced into state collective farms that replaced them.

Some were simply shot; others were tortured to death or sent to die as slave labor in the concentration and labor camps in Siberia or Soviet Central Asia known as the GULAG. Millions were slowly starved to death by a government-created famine designed to force submission to the central planning dictates of Stalin and his henchmen.

Millions of others were rounded up and sent off to those prison and labor camps as part of the central plan for forced industrial and mineral mining development of the far reaches of the Soviet Union. In the 1930s and 1940s, Stalin’s central plans would include quotas for how many of the “enemies of the people” were to be arrested and executed in every city, town and district in the Soviet Union. In addition, there were quotas for how many were to be rounded up as replacements for those who had already died in the GULAG working in the vast wastelands of Siberia, northern European Russia and Central Asia.

By the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s the Soviet system had become increasingly corrupt, stagnant, and decrepit under a succession of aging Communist Party leaders whose only purpose was to hold on to power and their special privileges. In 1986 a much younger man, Mikhail Gorbachev, who had worked his way up in the Party hierarchy was appointed to the leading position of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R.

Gorbachev’s Attempt to Save Socialism 

Gorbachev believed that the Soviet Union had taken several serious wrong turns in the past. But he was not an opponent of socialism or its Marxist-Leninist foundations. He wanted a new “socialism-with-a-human-face.” His goal was a “kinder and gentler” communist ideology, so to speak. He truly believed that the Soviet Union could be saved, and with it a more humane collectivist alternative to Western capitalism.

To achieve this end, Gorbachev had introduced to two reform agendas: First, perestroika, a series of economic changes meant to admit the mistakes of heavy-handed central planning. State enterprise managers were to be more accountable, small private businesses would be permitted and fostered, and Soviet companies would be allowed to form joint ventures with selected Western corporations. Flexibility and adaptability would create a new and better socialist economy.

Second, glasnost, political “openness,” under which the political follies of the past would be admitted and the formerly “blank pages” of Soviet history – especially about the “crimes of Stalin” – would be filled in. Greater historical and political honesty, it was said, would revive the moribund Soviet ideology and renew the Soviet people’s enthusiastic support for the reformed and redesigned bright socialist future.

However, over time the more hardline and “conservative” members of the Soviet leadership considered all such reforms as opening a Pandora’s Box of uncontrollable forces that would undermine the Soviet system. They had already seen this happen in the outer ring of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe.

The Beginning of the End in Eastern Europe

In 1989 Gorbachev had stood by as the Berlin Wall, the symbol of Soviet imperial power in the heart of Europe, had come tumbling down, and the Soviet “captive nations” of Eastern Europe – East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria – that Stalin had claimed as conquered booty at the end of the Second World War, began to free themselves from communist control and Soviet domination. (See my article, “The Berlin Wall and the Spirit of Freedom.”)

The Soviet hardliners were now convinced that a new political treaty that Gorbachev was planning to sign with Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Soviet Federation Republic and Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, would mean the end of the Soviet Union, itself.

Already, the small Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were reasserting the national independence they had lost in 1939-1940, as a result of Stalin and Hitler’s division of Eastern Europe. Violent, and murderous Soviet military crackdowns in Lithuania and in Latvia in January 1991 had failed to crush the budding democratic movements in those countries. Military methods had also been employed, to no avail, to keep in line the Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. (See my article, “How Lithuania Helped Take Down the Soviet Union.”)

Communist Conspirators for Soviet Power

On August 18, 1991, the hardline conspirators tried to persuade Gorbachev to reverse his planned political arrangements with the Russian Federation and Soviet Kazakhstan. When he refused he was held by force in a summer home he was vacationing at in the Crimea on the Black Sea.

Early on the morning of August 19, the conspirators issued a declaration announcing their takeover of the Soviet government. A plan to capture and possibly kill Boris Yeltsin failed. Yeltsin eluded the kidnappers and made his way to the Russian parliament building from his home outside Moscow. Military units loyal to the conspirators ringed the city with tanks on every bridge leading into the city and along every main thoroughfare in the center of Moscow. Tank units had surrounded the Russian parliament, as well.

But Yeltsin soon was rallying the people of Moscow and the Russian population in general to defend Russia’s own emerging democracy. People all around the world saw Yeltsin stand atop an army tank outside the parliament building asking Muscovites to resist this attempt to return to the dark days of communist rule.

The Western media made much at the time of the apparent poor planning during the seventy-two hour coup attempt during August 19 to the 21. The world press focused on and mocked the nervousness and confusion shown by some of the coup leaders during a press conference. The conspirators were ridiculed for their Keystone Cop-like behavior in missing their chance to kidnap Yeltsin or delaying their seizure of the Russian parliament building; or leaving international telephone lines open and not even jamming foreign news broadcasts that were reporting the events as they happened to the entire Soviet Union.

The Dangers If the Hardliners had Won

Regardless of the poor planning on the part of the coup leaders, however, the fact remains that if they had succeeded the consequences might have been catastrophic. I have a photocopy of the arrest warrant form that had been prepared for the Moscow region and signed by the Moscow military commander, Marshal Kalinin.

It gave the military and the KGB, the Soviet secret police, the authority to arrest anyone. It had a “fill-in-the-blank,” where the victim’s name would be written in. Almost 500,000 of these arrest warrant forms had been prepared. In other words, upwards of a half-million people might have been imprisoned in Moscow, alone.

The day before the coup began, the KGB had received a consignment of 250,000 pairs of handcuffs. And the Russian press later reported that some of the prison camps in Siberia had been clandestinely reopened. If the coup had succeeded possibly as many as three to four million people in the Soviet Union would have been sent to the GULAG, the notorious Soviet labor camp system.

Another document published in the Russian press after the coup failed had the instructions for the military authorities in various regions around the country. They were to begin tighter surveillance of the people in the areas under their jurisdiction. They were to keep watch on the words and actions of everyone. Foreigners were to be even more carefully followed and watched. And their reports to the coup leaders in Moscow were to be filed every four hours. Indeed, when the coup was in progress, the KGB began to close down commercial joint ventures with Western companies in Moscow, accusing them of being “nests of spies,” and arrested some of the Russian participants in these enterprises.

Fear Underneath a Surreal Calm

During the coup attempt Moscow had a surrealistic quality, as I walked through various parts of the center of the city. On the streets around the city it seemed as if nothing were happening – except for the clusters of Soviet tank units strategically positioned at central intersections and at the bridges crossing the Moscow River. Taxi cabs patrolled the avenues looking for passengers; the population seemed to go about its business walking to and from work, or waiting in long lines for the meager supplies of everyday essentials at the government retail stores; and motorists were as usual also lined up at the government owned gasoline stations. Even with the clearly marked foreign license plates on my rented car, I was never stopped as I drove around the center of Moscow.

The only signs that these were extraordinary days were the grimmer than usual looks on the faces of many; and that in the food stores many people would silently huddle around radios after completing their purchases. However, the appearance of near normality could not hide the fact that the future of the country was hanging in the balance.

Russians Run the Risk for Freedom

During the three days of that fateful week, Russians of various walks of life had to ask themselves what price they put on freedom. And thousands concluded that risking their lives to prevent a return to communist despotism was price they were willing to pay. Those thousands appeared at the Russian parliament in response to Boris Yeltsin’s appeal to the people. They built makeshift barricades, and prepared to offer themselves as unarmed human shields against Soviet tanks and troops, if they had attacked. My future wife, Anna, and I were among those friends of freedom who stood vigil during most of those three days facing the barrels of Soviet tanks.

Among those thousands, three groups were most noticeable in having chosen to fight for freedom: First, young people in their teens and twenties who had been living in a freer environment during the previous six years since Gorbachev had come to power, and who did not want to live under the terror and tyranny their parents had known in the past. Second, new Russian businessmen, who realized that without a free political order the emerging economic liberties would be crushed that were enabling them to establish private enterprises. And, third, veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, who had been conscripted into the service of Soviet imperialism and were now determined to prevent its return.

The bankruptcy of the Soviet system was demonstrated not only by the courage of those thousands defending the Russian parliament, but also by the unwillingness of the Soviet military to obey the orders of the coup leaders. It is true that only a handful of military units actually went over immediately to Yeltsin’s side in Moscow.

But hundreds of Russian babushkas – grandmothers – went up to the young soldiers and officers manning the Soviet tanks, and asked them, “Are you going to shoot their mother, your father, your grandmother? We are your own people.” The final act of the coup came when these military units refused to obey orders and seize the Russian parliament building, at the possible cost of hundreds or thousands of lives.

Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!

On that clear, warm Thursday of August 22, that huge mass of humanity that had assembled in a large plaza behind the Russian parliament stood and listened as Boris Yeltsin told them that that area would now be known as the Square of Russian Freedom. The multitude replied in unison: Svoboda! Svoboda! Svoboda! – “Freedom! Freedom, Freedom!”

A huge flag of pre-communist Russia, with its colors of white, blue and red, draped the entire length of the parliament building. The crowd looked up and watched as the Soviet red flag, with its yellow hammer and sickle in the upper left corner, was lowered from the flagpole atop the parliament, and the Russian colors were raised for the first time in its place. And again the people chanted: “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”

Not too far away from the parliament building in Moscow, that same day, a large crowd had formed at Lubyanka Square at the headquarters of the KGB. With the help of a crane, these Muscovites pulled down a large statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police that stood near the entrance to the KGB building. In a small park across from the KGB headquarters, in a corner of which rests a small monument to the victims of the Soviet prison and labor camps, an anti-communist rally was held. A young man in an old Czarist Russian military uniform burned a Soviet flag, while the crowd cheered him on.

The seventy-five-year nightmare of communist tyranny and terror was coming to an end. The people of Russia were hoping for freedom, and they were basking in the imagined joy of it.

Freedom’s Hope and Post-Communist Reality

The demise of the Communist Party and the Soviet system was one of the momentous events in modern history. That it came about with a relatively small amount of bloodshed during those seventy-two hours of the hardline coup attempt was nothing short of miraculous – only a handful of people lost their lives.

The last twenty-five years have not turned out the way that many of the friends of freedom in Russia had hoped.

Indeed, post-communist Russia saw a contradictory, poorly organized, and corrupted privatization of Soviet industry, plus a high and damaging inflation in 1992-1994; a severe financial crisis in 1998; a return to authoritarian political rule following Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 1999; two bloody and destructive wars in the attempted breakaway region of Chechnya; widespread and pervasive corruption at all levels of government; state controlled and manipulated markets, investment, commerce, and the news media; assassinations and imprisonments of political opponents of the regime; and significant nostalgia among too many in the country for a return to “great power” status and the “firm hand” of the infamous Stalinist era. Plus, Putin’s recent military adventures in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria.

Nonetheless, for those of us who were fortunate enough to be in Moscow in August 1991, it remains in our minds as an unforgettable historical moment when the first and longest-lived of the twentieth century’s totalitarian states was brought to the doorstep of its end. The Soviet Union, finally, disappeared off the political map of the world on December 24, 1991 with the formal breakup and independence of the 15 Soviet republics that had made up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Soviet nightmare of “socialism-in-practice” was over.

Richard M. Ebeling is BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He was president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) from 2003 to 2008.

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.

See the original article here.

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

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

The New Renaissance Hat
David Bier
******************************

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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Don’t Turn Foreign Tragedies into Domestic Tragedies – Article by Doug Bandow

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The New Renaissance HatDoug Bandow
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Americans Enjoy Prosperity and Peace in a Dangerous World
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The Islamic State’s March attacks in Belgium reinforce Americans’ belief that we live in a dangerous world, perhaps the most dangerous ever. Thankfully, most of the horror bypasses the United States, which remains a global oasis.

Americans can help alleviate the ugliness elsewhere. But rarely can they remake other nations, at least not at a reasonable cost in lives and resources. Americans’ priority must remain safeguarding and uplifting the United States.

I recently visited the city of Erbil, Iraq. Briefly threatened by the Islamic State two summers ago, Erbil is the capital of largely autonomous Kurdistan. Today, the city operates without evident fear, though security remains heavy. The Kurdish people are spread throughout Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, and are the largest ethnic group without their own nation. They have suffered oppression and violence at the hands of all four states.

In Erbil, one government official spoke of fleeing his home with his family years ago as Saddam Hussein’s air force attacked from above. Hussein employed mustard gas against Kurdish civilians who opposed his brutal rule. The official’s father explained that they could count on no one else and should be prepared to die fighting. Many did.

Kurdistan remains largely separate from the Baghdad government and has become a sanctuary for others, especially religious minorities. I attended a training seminar on religious liberty organized by the group HardWired, headed by Tina Ramirez, who previously worked on Capitol Hill handling foreign policy and religious persecution. The meeting brought together people of all faiths to deepen their commitment to protecting the religious liberty of all.

Every group had suffered. Christians fled the Islamic State’s takeover of the Nineveh Plain. A Baha’i who lived close to Baghdad went to Turkey with her son. A Sunni judge got out of Mosul three days before the brutal ISIS takeover. Many in his family were not so lucky: the Islamic State detained his youngest brother for more than a year before beheading the 17-year-old. A Yazidi abandoned her home when her city was overrun by ISIS forces. Many people lost contact with friends or relatives left under Islamic State rule.

Even those who escape suffer. A church turned its grounds across the street from my hotel into a mini-refugee camp for 94 families. Homes went from tents to metal containers, but kitchens and bathrooms remain communal. People play soccer and volleyball in the common area, marking time while hoping to return home or find refuge abroad.

Even more people have been displaced by the Syrian conflict. The European migrant crisis is a result of millions fleeing their war-ravaged nation. Many have crossed into neighboring Turkey. Refugees make up an astonishing one-third of Lebanon’s population. Last summer, I visited Jordan’s Zaartari camp, home to some 80,000 people. Many residents have been there for years. Some, in a mix of frustration and desperation, return to Syria aflame.

Only today, decades into a widespread insurgency in eastern Burma, is there hope for the 50,000 residents of Mae La refugee camp, across the border in Thailand. For years, when I visited, children would tell stories of murdered parents, wrecked homes, and desperate flight across the Moei River. Few people could leave the camps and none could work legally.

Today, an uneasy peace has descended upon most of the land also known as Myanmar. In fact, it now may be freer politically than Thailand, which suffered a coup two years ago. Although the Burmese military retains much influence, it is yielding ground. In contrast, the Thai junta seems determined to hold on to power and to construct a faux democracy in which the generals will rule however the people vote.

In many other nations, the threat similarly is repression and persecution rather than conflict and war. Turkish journalists risk jail and ruin for criticizing the new sultan-wannabe, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Christian minister’s wife lost a leg in a church bombing in Indonesia. Russians are arrested for demonstrating against the Putin government. Palestinian Christians are unable to worship in Jerusalem or to farm ancestral lands due to the Israeli occupation. Chinese students are angry over censorship and curious about the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Pervasive repression is evident in totalitarian systems, in which the state claims authority over almost every aspect of human life, including religious faith. North Korea, Eritrea — known as Africa’s North Korea — and Saudi Arabia come to mind. An accident of birth separates those with a future of freedom and opportunity from those who endure a modern form of serfdom.

Americans face many challenges, too, especially this political season. What believer in liberty could savor a presidential match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Or Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz? It’s enough for many of us to consider committing ritual seppuku.

Nevertheless, the United States remains largely invulnerable to foreign attack. Only a couple of nations could launch a nuclear assault, and they would be annihilated in return. None can challenge America conventionally: indeed, Washington spends so much on the military to enable it to attack others, not to protect the homeland. Yet, America’s prosperous and populous allies, like the Europeans, prefer to fund generous welfare states rather than potent defenses.

Horrific conflicts elsewhere appropriately tug at Americans’ heartstrings, but that is no reason to turn foreign tragedies into domestic tragedies. Terrorism remains America’s most serious security concern, but it does not threaten the nation’s existence, as did conflict during the Cold War. Less promiscuous intervention abroad is the surest means to limit such attacks at home.

America’s economic dream of a constantly improving future has lagged, but the United States is not alone in that regard. And the wounds are largely self-inflicted: foolish regulatory, spending, and tax policies that weaken Americans’ ability to compete in the world. It’s a lesson that even Europe has had painfully to learn.

No one should wish America’s political system on anyone else, yet a similar populist uprising is occurring in many European nations. It’s a problem born of frustration with bipartisan elites who rig the game for their own benefit. Who can blame people for believing that it really doesn’t matter who they vote for? There is a permanent national government that works most assiduously to ensure its permanence, irrespective of the wishes of those it governs.

The ongoing populist response is fraught with danger. Nevertheless, American supporters of liberty remain alert, constitutional protections persist, checks and balances abound, and for at least two decades, Washington pols have perfected their ability to block and frustrate their opponents. Despite fevered claims this political season, America remains far from a fascist dictatorship.

There is much in America about which to be concerned and even anguished. Yet, traveling the world reminds one just how special Americans remain. Rather than give up in despair, we should remember our blessings and redouble our efforts to reclaim the Founders’ revolutionary legacy. We don’t need to try to remake the world, as so many people seem to desire. Rather, we should concentrate on reviving America.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

This article was originally 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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Waking Up to the Reality of Fascism – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

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The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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The great extant threat to liberty is nativist authoritarianism

Donald Trump is on a roll, breaking new ground in uses for [centralized] power.

Closing the internet? Sure. “We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people… We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some ways.”

Registering Muslims? Lots of people thought he misspoke. But he later clarified: “There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases. We should have a lot of systems.”

Why not just bar all Muslims at the border? Indeed, and to the massive cheers of his supporters, Trump has called for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Internment camps? Trump cites the FDR precedent: Italians, Germans, and Japanese “couldn’t go five miles from their homes. They weren’t allowed to use radios, flashlights. I mean, you know, take a look at what FDR did many years ago and he’s one of the most highly respected presidents.”

Rounding up millions of people? He’ll create a “deportation force” to hunt down and remove 11 million illegal immigrants.

Killing wives and children? That too. “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.”

Political Vocabulary

This litany of ideas has finally prompted mainstream recognition of the incredibly obvious: If Donald Trump has an ideology, it is best described as fascism.

Even Republican commentators, worried that he might be unstoppable, are saying it now. Military historian and Marco Rubio adviser Max Boot tweeted that “Trump is a fascist. And that’s not a term I use loosely or often. But he’s earned it.” Bush adviser John Noonan said the same.

The mainstream press is more overt. CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Trump point blank if he is a fascist. The Atlantic writes: “It’s hard to remember a time when a supposedly mainstream candidate had no interest in differentiating ideas he’s endorsed from those of the Nazis.”

There is a feeling of shock in the air, but anyone paying attention should have seen this last summer. Why did it take so long for the consciousness to dawn?

The word fascism has been used too often in political discourse, and almost always imprecisely. It’s a bit like the boy who cried wolf. You warn about wolves so much that no one takes you seriously when a real one actually shows up.

Lefties since the late 1930s have tended to call non-leftists fascists — which has led to a discrediting of the word itself. As time went on, the word became nothing but a vacuous political insult. It’s what people say about someone with whom they disagree. It doesn’t mean much more than that.

Then in the 1990s came Godwin’s Law: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 100 percent.” This law provided a convenient way to dismiss all talk of fascism as Internet babblings deployed in the midst of flame wars.

Godwin’s Law made worse the perception that followed the end of World War II: that fascism was a temporary weird thing that afflicted a few countries but had been vanquished from the earth thanks to the Allied war victory. It would no longer be a real problem but rather a swear word with no real substance.

Fascism Is Real

Without the term fascism as an authentic descriptor, we have a problem. We have no accurate way to identify what is in fact the most politically successful movement of the 20th century. It is a movement that still exists today, because the conditions that gave rise to it are unchanged.

The whole burden of one of the most famous pro-freedom books of the century — Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom — was to warn that fascism was a more immediate and pressing danger to the developed world than Russian-style socialism. And this is for a reason: Hayek said that “brown” fascism did not represent a polar opposite of “red” socialism. In the interwar period, it was common to see both intellectuals and politicians move fluidly from one to the other.

“The rise of Fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period,” wrote Hayek, “but a necessary outcome of those tendencies.”

In Hayek’s reading, the dynamic works like this. The socialists build the state machinery, but their plans fail. A crisis arrives. The population seeks answers. Politicians claiming to be anti-socialist step up with new authoritarian plans that purport to reverse the problem. Their populist appeal taps into the lowest political instincts (nativism, racism, religious bigotry, and so on) and promises a new order of things under better, more efficient rule.

Last July, I heard Trump speak, and his talk displayed all the features of fascist rhetoric. He began with trade protectionism and held up autarky as an ideal. He moved to immigration, leading the crowd to believe that all their economic and security troubles were due to dangerous foreign elements among us. Then came the racial dog whistles: Trump demanded of a Hispanic questioner whether he was a plant sent by the government of Mexico.

There was more. He railed against the establishment that is incompetent and lacking in energy. He bragged about his lack of interest-group ties — which is another way of saying that only he can become the purest sort of dictator, with no quid pro quos to tie him down. (My article on this topic is here.)

Trump is clearly not pushing himself as a traditional American president, heading an executive branch and working with Congress and the judicial branch. He imagines himself as running to head a personal state: his will would be the one will for the country. He has no real plans beyond putting himself in charge — not only of the government but, he imagines, the entire country. It’s a difference of substance that is very serious.

The rest of the campaign has been easy to predict. He refashioned himself as pro-family, anti-PC, and even pro-religion. These traits come with the package — both a reaction to the far left and a fulfillment of its centralist ambitions.

The key to understanding fascism is this: It preserves the despotic ambitions of socialism while removing its most politically unpopular elements. In an atmosphere of fear and loathing, it assures the population that it can keep its property, religion, and faith — provided all these elements are channeled into a grand national project under a charismatic leader of high competence.

Douthat’s Analysis

As the realization has spread that Trump is the real deal, so has the quality of reflection on its implication. Most impressive so far has been Ross Douthat’s article in the New York Times. As he explains, Trump displays as least seven features of Umberto Eco’s list of fascist traits:

A cult of action, a celebration of aggressive masculinity, an intolerance of criticism, a fear of difference and outsiders, a pitch to the frustrations of the lower middle class, an intense nationalism and resentment at national humiliation, and a “popular elitism” that promises every citizen that they’re part of “the best people of the world.”

In this, Trump is different from other American politicians who have been called fascist, writes Douthat. George Wallace was a local-rights guy and hated Washington, whereas Trump loves power and thinks only in terms of centralization. Pat Buchanan’s extreme nativism was always tempered by his attachment to Catholic moral teaching that puts brakes on power ambitions.

Ross Perot was called a fascist, but actually he was a government reformer who wanted to bring business standards to government finance, which is very different from wanting to manage the entire country. And, for all his nonsense about jobs going to Mexico, Perot generally avoided racialist dog whistles.

Why Now and Not Before?

Why has genuine fascism been kept at bay in America? Why has the American right never taken the final step that might have plunged it into authoritarian, nativist aspirations?

Here Douthat is especially insightful:

Part of the explanation has to be that the American conservative tradition has always included important elements — a libertarian skepticism of state power, a stress on localism and states’ rights, a religious and particularly Protestant emphasis on the conscience of an individual over the power of the collective — that inoculated our politics against fascism’s appeal.

Douthat singles out libertarianism as an ideological brake on fascist longings. This is precisely right. Libertarianism grows out of the liberal tradition, which is about far more than merely hating the ruling-class establishment. Classical liberalism has universalist longings, embodied in its defenses of free trade, free speech, free migration, and freedom of religion. The central-planning feature of fascistic ideology is absolutely ruled out by libertarian love for spontaneous social and economic forces at work in society.

As for “energy” emanating from the executive branch, the liberal tradition can’t be clearer. No amount of intelligence, resources, or determined will from the top down can make [central planning] work. The problem is the apparatus itself, not the personalities and values of the rulers who happen to be in charge.

(I’m leaving aside the deep and bizarre irony that many self-professed libertarians have fallen for Trump, a fact which should be deeply embarrassing to anyone and everyone who has affection for human liberty. And good for Ron Paul for denouncing Trump’s authoritarianism in no uncertain terms.)

Can He Win?

Douthat seriously doubts that Trump can finally win over Republicans, due to “his lack of any real religious faith, his un-libertarian style and record, his clear disdain for the ideas that motivate many of the most engaged Republicans.”

I’m not so sure. The economic conditions that led to a rise of Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and Franco in Spain are nowhere close to being replicated here. Even so, income growth has stagnated, middle-class social ambitions are frustrated, and many aspects of [federal] government services are failing […] Add fear of terrorism to the mix, and the conditions, at least for some, are nearly right. What Trumpism represents is an attempt to address these problems through more of the same means that have failed in the past.

It’s time to dust off that copy of The Road to Serfdom and realize that the biggest threats to liberty come from unexpected places. While the rank and file are worrying themselves about the influence of progressive professors and group identity politics, they need to open their eyes to the possibility that the gravest threat to American rights and liberties exists within their own ranks.


If you want to understand more about fascism and its history, see this chapter from John T. Flynn’s As We Go Marching.

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 published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States 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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Just Cause, or Just ‘Cause? – Article by Bradley Doucet

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

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
November 9, 2014
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The fact that there are some bad people doing some bad things halfway around the world does not mean that “we” have to do something about it. There can be no such thing as an open-ended obligation to help everyone who’s being oppressed, pillaged, raped, enslaved, or murdered by their unprincipled fellows, because such an obligation would be effectively infinite. It would eat up all of our resources. And by and large, we don’t help every person or group of people fight off every aggressor or group of aggressors. Which is a good thing, because our “help” often makes things worse.

So why do we choose to respond when we do choose to respond? Or rather, why do our leaders choose to respond when they do? Is it because it’s the right thing to do? Or do they do it simply because, for whatever combination of factors, they can? A particularly unflattering enemy, perhaps, who can easily be demonized, for reasons both justified and not, and one who cannot really fight back, at least not in any way that would impose serious, widespread repercussions on the voting populace. An enemy, furthermore, who is far enough away that all the collateral damage, all of the innocents killed by our noble bombs dropped from our heroic jets, can be easily ignored, and who anyway look different and talk different and worship the wrong deity.

There is injustice, to be sure, and the gut reaction to want to fight injustice is a good and noble one, but we successfully repress it, or rather our leaders do, when it comes to places like North Korea and Russia, which would be very costly adventures indeed. We cautiously avoid getting into a war with such villains, whom we engaged with zeal just a couple of generations ago. Mutually Assured Destruction surely has something to do with it, but I think we can claim a certain moral progress as well, though perhaps it has not quite kept pace with our material progress.

No more great wars, then, even if they could be justified, because the cost is just too great. But little wars are fine, once in a while, when they can be justified, even if they always seem to do more harm than good. Keeps the troops in fighting form, you know, and keeps the voting public from focusing on domestic problems.

Keeps us from having to come up with more creative ways of responding to aggressors, also. Like, for the billions spent on all those guns and bombs, all those fighting forces and roaring jets and aircraft carriers, above and beyond what is needed to legitimately dissuade or fend off foreign aggressors, we could maybe do something to impede the recruiting efforts of terrorist organizations instead of helping them sign up new members. Instead of feeding their grievances by bombing weddings, maybe we could, I don’t know, drop crates filled with delicious food, or DVDs of television programs showing the richness and complexity of Western life in order to counter their caricatures of our depravity. Maybe we could support the translation of classic liberal tracts into all the languages of the world, as some organizations already do, and smuggle them across the various walls and checkpoints that keep our fellow human beings from escaping their prison countries, in order to counter the propaganda that keeps those walls from crumbling and those checkpoints from being overrun.

These are just the most obvious ideas off the top of my head, but I’m sure we can crack this nut and come up with a thousand innovative ways of responding to homicidal whack jobs that would be better than sending in the flying aces with their deadly payloads. It’s tempting, and even justified, to want to fight fire with fire. But the properly understood cost, in terms of money and lives and opportunities lost and enemies strengthened, even for the “small” wars we fight nowadays, is higher than the meagre benefits we imagine they will bring us. A proper accounting would show the folly of just about every war, and show that just about every war is really fought just because.

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.

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Lessons on Dictatorship in Da Chen’s “Colors of the Mountain” (2003) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 29, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2003 and published in two parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay received over 500 views on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 29, 2014

**

A Glimpse into the Mindset of a Dictator

 

In Colors of the Mountain, the autobiography of Da Chen, the author relates an interesting episode from his life as a student in the Chinese schools. As Chinese schools rapidly convert from anti-intellectualism to centers of educational encouragement, the quotes of Chairman Mao are used to uphold the new shift. Yet Chen comments on Mao’s incompatibility with genuine intellectual progress.

It was ironic to bring Mao into this drive for intellectual excellence. If Mao had known what his Little Red Guards were doing, he would have howled like a lonely wolf in his icy coffin and cried his smoke-ridden lungs out. Mao, the dictator, was the friend of the devils…” (256)

This passage directly and brilliantly unveils the essence of dictatorship and the means by which a dictatorial entity seeks to maintain its power. The philosophy of Mao the dictator had been to foster perpetual conflict among the Chinese and create the impression of an imminent crisis where none existed. In the words of the author, Mao “made fake smoke over fake fires.”

The mindset of the dictator suggests to him that his subjects will flock to his side at a time of urgency, while peace and prosperity will breed unrest, and, worse, an across-the-board desire for individual autonomy. Chen shows the consequences of this approach with a chillingly perceptual flair: “And strewn down his long path lay the bones of millions of angry ghosts.”

The soil in which autocracy springs its roots is chaos and suffering; this is required to drain resources from the general population for the alleviation of the imagined threat, as well as for the amassing of attitudinal support for the dictator’s initiatives. All the while, it is key to keep the masses ignorant and quell intelligent dissent, as Mao’s Red Guards had undertaken throughout China during the Cultural Revolution.

It is quite convenient for the dictator to brand as the source of the newest “crisis” those autonomous individuals with the greatest potential to establish social justice. This, in effect, kills two birds with one stone. Hence, extending Mao’s policy to its logical conclusion, it would come as no surprise that the man was categorically averse to any genuine, objective education.

Mao’s ruling style reminiscent of another masterful analysis of a totalitarian regime, George Orwell’s 1984, in which the collectivist ruling elites overtly claim that the purpose of their power is to inflict suffering and thereby secure their power, in brazen disregard for standard of living, while squandering the country’s resources on a perpetual world war.

Control from Beyond the Grave

***

In Colors of the Mountain, the young Da Chen is declined the opportunity to attend Chairman Mao’s funeral ceremony and laments this, as he has developed a vague cultist devotion to him. Da recalls,”As though the rift between the Red families and the landlords’ families were widened by the death of Mao, I was told by the school authorities not to attend the ceremony…” (138).

Despite the horrendous harm inflicted by Mao’s policies upon his family, Da Chen continues to harbor a mentality of unquestioned devotion to authority, whoever may hold such a position. His social upbringing has inculcated him with a mindset of never seeking to analyze Mao’s actions, for “he was wiser, no, the wisest.”

The submission of Da is Mao’s even beyond the grave, even though the physical control of the dictator over the lives of the Chinese people has already crumbled and been replaced with a more benign regime. The general Communist Chinese sociocultural milieu preaches that the people exist to serve the government and scorns the individualist philosophies of the Enlightenment.

Despite his striving for individual success and his recognition of the colossal obstacles placed in his way by Mao’s regime, Da cannot help but absorb this perception, almost subconsciously. There are numerous references to this: “I had been told…,” “I was to follow him…,” “I didn’t know any better,” “A cult mentality had already been forged in me…”

This is the consequence whenever an individual rejects the laws of objective reality in favor of the arbitrary edicts of other people. Because the laws of reality can be grasped by reason and authoritarian whims cannot, the individual’s rational sovereignty is discarded and he comes to worship that which possesses the greatest potential of harming him.

Simultaneously, this devotion to authority will never ingratiate the outcast individual with the elites of his society. Just as Da’s former record of academic excellence had failed to advance his prospects for a successful future, so does his reverence for Mao fail to convince the elites of his community to permit him to attend the funeral ceremony. The intent of authoritarianism is not to reward those who espouse love for it, but to punish invented “enemies” by deprivation or outright assault.

In Colors of the Mountain, Da Chen powerfully demonstrates that a cultic devotion to another human being, especially a powerful and brutal one, is always a self-defeating proposition. Dictators such as Mao are always thirsty for the blood of the innocent; the devotion of the latter will merely fuel the destroyers’ appetites.

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Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published August 9, 2009,
as Part of Issue CCII of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 2, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CII of The Rational Argumentator on August 9, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator. The arguments in it continue to be relevant to discussions regarding minarchism and anarcho-capitalism, and therefore it is fitting for this publication to provide these arguments a fresh presence.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 2, 2014
***

As one of the many libertarians who loves individual freedom and free markets but nevertheless perceives an important role for government, I have been challenged numerous times on my stance. The best way to describe my position is that I am a minarchist in theory; I happen to agree with Thomas Jefferson that “that government is best which governs least,” and yet I recognize that an active government is necessary for combating force and fraud and for ensuring that the natural rights of individuals are not transgressed upon by other private parties. In practice, I am an incrementalist – a strong supporter of evolutionary change rather than revolutionary change of any sort. I believe that real-world political reform is a delicate process, and that the sequence of transitions matters just as much as the abstract desirability of any given transition. We want to implement the right changes, but we also need to implement them in the right order – just as a doctor who wishes to cure a patient using theoretically sound procedures cannot just apply the procedures in an arbitrary sequence and hope to succeed.

Following Murray Rothbard (who, unlike me, was a noted anarcho-capitalist), I believe that liberty is the most desirable political end, but it is not necessarily the most desirable end of all. The length, prosperity, and security of every individual’s life are to me much more important – and I see liberty as the surest means of attaining those ends to the greatest extent. However, it is possible for those ends to also be partially and tolerably well attained – at least in the short term – in an environment that lacks complete liberty. This is why I developed a rough system that “measures” degrees of government oppression using a mixture of cardinal and ordinal approaches. Irrespective of the particular criteria of comparison, any reasonable thinker will agree that some governments today are much more tolerable than others – and a few are quite innocuous and even outright beneficent, especially when we consider governments over smaller jurisdictions, such as states and localities, and particular agencies of those governments which do not employ coercion to any substantial extent. Metaphysically, I agree with Ayn Rand that there is an objective reality, where A = A – i.e., every particular thing is what it is and not what one’s mental model of it happens to be. Thus, I believe in judging every particular instance of government or governance not just as “government or governance in general” but rather as precisely what it is specifically – which means that a government is nothing more than the sum of the people who compose it and their actions, which need to be judged on their own merits or lack thereof. I am therefore open to the possibility that some governments may be able to solve some problems without infringing on natural rights at all. I am equally open, of course, to the possibility that those problems may be solved on the free market without government participation.

Here, I will present a basic outline of my objections to anarcho-capitalism as it is typically presented today. Anarcho-capitalism can be defined as the position that government is unnecessary altogether and that market-based services can provide all of the essential functions of government recognized by the minarchist as legitimate – including police protection, protection from foreign invaders, enforcement of contracts, and adjudication of disputes.

My Foremost Political Goal

I define a state of complete liberty as the absence of the initiation of violence or coercive dishonesty by any individual against any other individual. By “violence” I mean the physical disruption of either the integrity of an individual’s body or that of the material things which that individual owns. The term “coercive dishonesty” encompasses fraud, breach of contract, bad-faith dealings, and failure to fully disclose information that would affect the decision of a party in a business transaction. By “initiating” violence or coercive dishonesty I mean being the first party to inflict such acts on another, without having had such acts inflicted on oneself by that other and without defending some other innocent party against those acts inflicted by that other. I do not consider retaliatory force – provided that it is a proportional response to the initiated force and does not harm innocent parties – to be illegitimate or undesirable.

Thus, I believe that the state of the world which minimizes violence and coercive dishonesty as much as possible is the most desirable state. To be sure, both many governments and many private parties throughout history have engaged in these heinous acts – and I am not defending any entities that have. My position does not embrace governments as they currently are, but as they can be and ought to be. Anarcho-capitalists may object to my position by arguing that few, if any, governments in history have subscribed to minarchist principles and initiated no violence or coercive dishonesty. To this, I will reply by quoting John Lennon: “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Few, if any, societies in history have been viably anarcho-capitalist, either. Neither my position nor the anarcho-capitalists’ has any existing real-world incarnation. The question before us, then, is which of these positions would result in less overall violence and coercive dishonesty if implemented in practice?

Objection 1: Lack of an Ultimate Arbiter

Anarcho-capitalists posit that dispute resolution – be it of the character of police action or judicial proceedings – can occur among entirely private entities on the free market without any government involvement at all. For sake of conciseness, I will call the entities that engage in this manner of dispute resolution DRAs – or dispute resolution agencies.

It is true that many forms of dispute resolution can occur without government participation and do occur in this manner today – within families and business arrangements subject to private arbitration. If a private dispute is resolved satisfactorily by the relevant private parties themselves, then there is no need for recourse to government. However, there also exist instances – all too many today, as evidenced by the overwhelmed American judicial system – where private parties cannot reconcile their differences solely through private means. Anarcho-capitalists’ typical response to this is that in a wholly free market (as they define it, that is, with no government altogether) ex ante arrangements would exist whereby, if DRA X and DRA Y – representing two different and opposing parties in a dispute – could not reach a mutually satisfactory decision, the power of decision would be delegated to a third DRA – Z. This is conceivable, but it is by no means guaranteed that such an arrangement would occur in all cases. Thus, under anarcho-capitalism, there is nothing theoretically preventing there being no ultimate resolution to a dispute – ever – from the standpoint of legitimacy, in which case there would be no recourse left but to the principle of “might makes right.” If a dispute cannot be resolved peacefully, then it will devolve into violence – which is the least desirable of all outcomes. Anarcho-capitalism lacks an ultimate arbiter that would step in irrespective of prior contractual arrangements or lack thereof in order to quell the initiation of violence if it were to occur.

It is conceivable that a government could leave most dispute resolution to the private market – unless the market has demonstrated its failure to achieve lasting, peaceable resolution. In that case, the government, as the ultimate arbiter, would need to intervene and offer a resolution, either through a decision of its courts or through the interposition of armed agents whose presence would prevent violence from erupting. It is important to remind my readers that my foremost objective is the prevention of violence breaking out. If two private DRAs were about to begin a miniature war – and they happened not to have contractual procedures in place for preventing it beforehand – then it is desirable for a third agency with greater powers than a mere private entity to decisively put an end to such coercive and damaging behavior.

Objection 2: Lack of Legitimate Enforcement against Violent Non-Parties to Contracts

The way an anarcho-capitalist society would work – according to most of its advocates – is that all members would bind themselves by contracts in their mutual interactions, and the contracts would stipulate consequences for non-compliance. This raises an interesting issue: What if a person within the society refused to bind himself by any contracts whatsoever and simply raided, stole, and murdered as he saw fit? If there is no law other than what individuals choose to bind themselves by, then what legitimate recourse do other non-coercive members of the society have against this initiator of violence? Moreover, if this person were to team up with a host of others who similarly chose not to bind themselves by any contracts that prohibit initiation of force, could not a formidable criminal gang form and terrorize – if not overwhelm – the peaceful portions of the anarcho-capitalist society? Of course, somebody in the anarcho-capitalist society could always simply kill or detain the aggressors in practice, without regard for whether the aggressors broke a contract or not. However, such an act would not be legitimate in an anarcho-capitalist society. Illegitimate acts can and do occur – both with and without governments – but what counts as an illegitimate act matters. Under a government, murder can and does happen, but murder is considered illegitimate. Under anarcho-capitalism, murder by non-parties to any contracts is not illegitimate, but punishing by force a person who commits such a murder is illegitimate. A system where legitimacy fails to apply to actions with obvious morality and desirability is a troubling system indeed.

Objection 3: The Oxymoron and the Danger of Markets in Force

A market arrangement is an arrangement based on voluntary participation of all parties – an arrangement where trading is substituted for compulsion. On a free market for a typical good or service – such as an item of food or a construction job, for instance – no individual is required to buy and no individual is required to sell, except on terms mutually favorable and explicitly agreed upon. However, the term “market” no longer applies in this sense when any element of compulsion is introduced. When a “market service” involves wielding weapons and enacting violence against individuals who do not wish to have this violence inflicted upon them, it ceases to be a “market service” and becomes something quite different. This does not necessarily make such a service illegitimate, of course – as the potential for retaliatory force is a necessary component in minimizing the initiation of force. However, this difference does invalidate the application of typical principles of analyzing markets to such “services.” There can be no market-based analysis of a service that does not entirely rely on voluntary consent from all parties involved.

One of the glaring dangers of a “market service” specializing in the use of force is that such a service could simply use the force it “produces” to extort or steal other people’s wealth instead of earning it in voluntary trades. Without an external authority to enforce a prohibition on this behavior, there is no guarantee that such behavior would not occur. A free-market DRA would not always do this, of course, but there are conceivable scenarios where every incentive would favor such behavior. Only when there are substantial disincentives to the use of force from other armed parties on a free market or when the DRA administrator is particularly humane, benevolent, and enlightened could a DRA be reasonably expected not to violate individual rights. There are two ways for such incentives to arise without reliance on anyone’s personal virtues. Either 1) there could exist a “balance of power” among the DRAs such that each of them is afraid of transgressing against clients of the other or 2) there could exist an authority external to the DRAs that would always protect the parties unjustly aggressed upon, irrespective of the power differential between the aggressors and the targets of aggression. I favor solution 2), because it is not as contingent on a particular balance of power being in place.

Moreover, many anarcho-capitalists claim that one of the problems with government is that it has a monopoly on the use of force and that, as a monopoly, it necessarily offers a lower quality and lower quantity of its product at higher prices. I urge the reader to recall, however, that we are not here discussing a monopoly on otherwise entirely voluntary transactions. It is useful to ask the question whether it is desirable to have force offered in “higher quality,” higher quantities, and a lower price. I, for one, would prefer it to be more expensive to kill a person rather than less – and for the methods of killing to be both of lower quality (i.e., less reliable at killing) and available in lower quantities. Perhaps a monopoly on force has the potential to minimize the use of force compared to “competition” in force. This, I believe, is an empirical question – but even the question itself challenges many anarcho-capitalists’ assertions that governments are necessarily bad because they are monopolies on the use of force.

Objection 4: Each Person a Judge in His Own Case

This objection to anarcho-capitalism comes from none other than one of history’s first libertarians – John Locke. Locke believed that a government is necessary to resolve disputes and decide on punishments, because no individual is qualified to be an impartial judge in his own case. Virtually all of us, when we feel wronged, have a tendency to exaggerate the magnitude of the injury we have suffered and to demand a punishment that is likely to be disproportionate to the offense. On the other hand, when a person has wronged somebody else, he has an incentive to maintain his innocence or to argue that his act was not as grievous as was truly the case. A third party, not itself a victim or a perpetrator of the wrongful act, is needed to ascertain both the facts of the case and the apportionment of guilt and punishment. Sometimes, such a third party could indeed be a private arbiter. However, it is entirely possible for two private DRAs to each be vested – either emotionally, financially, or both – in the interests of their particular clients in a manner that would detract from objectivity in reaching a decision. In that case, I believe that an indispensable role exists for government to provide the desirable impartial arbitration.

Objection 5: Over-Emphasis on Names, Under-Emphasis on Reality

My concern with anarcho-capitalism is it substitutes consideration of the names of political arrangements for the reality of those arrangements – i.e., the physical actions performed by physical people in the physical world. Whether a function is called a “market” function or a “government” function is not as important as the physical movements involved in carrying out that function. If the physical movements involved do not cause disruption of body or property (as in violence) and do not involve the formation of chemical reactions corresponding to false impressions of reality in the brains of parties to a transaction (as in coercive dishonesty), then the action is legitimate from the standpoint of natural law. On the other hand, if the physical movements of individuals correspond to acts of violence or coercive dishonesty, then these actions are illegitimate – irrespective of whether the individuals call themselves (or are called by others) government officials, free-market DRAs, or private gangsters.

Anarcho-capitalists might respond here by noting that, in the 20th century, governments have killed more people than possibly all private crime in human history. This is true – but it does not undermine the case for any government whatsoever. The killing was done by some governments – such as the governments of Nazi Germany, the USSR, and Maoist China – but not others, such as many of the governments of American cities, towns, and villages. Moreover, even in the governments that perpetrated the killings, only some of the officials were responsible for either ordering the killings, promoting them as desirable, or carrying them out. Millions of government employees have never committed a single coercive action (and yes, that even includes their mode of earning a living – as quite a few government positions are not tax-financed). It does not seem fair to lump a peaceful bureaucrat doing research or mediating consumer complaints at his desk with an NKVD officer massacring villagers in the Ukraine. Both are “government” functionaries, but they could not be farther apart in terms of what they do, and the atrocities of the latter do not de-legitimize the former. The anarcho-capitalist characterization of all government as violent, coercive, and unnecessary is a poor substitute for a thorough consideration of reality. Moreover, it is a violation of the principle of methodological individualism, which evaluates the actions of each person as an individual person, and not primarily as a member of a collective. Collectives do not act or think; only individual people do – although the incentives people face depend on the institutional structure to which those people are subject.

Objection 6: No Practical Application

To date, I have not found a single viable proposal for the attainment of anarcho-capitalism in the real world. Anarcho-capitalists have tended to spend most of their time on either 1) describing what an ideal anarcho-capitalist society would be like or 2) discussing why government, in its various manifestations, is undesirable. At the same time, some anarcho-capitalists have disdained and even actively discouraged participation in “the system” as it currently is, because that would grant “implicit recognition” to existing power structures. During the 2008 Republican Primaries, for instance, many anarcho-capitalists (though, of course, not all of them; I do not mean to offer a blanket characterization) endeavored to actively dissuade people from supporting the Ron Paul movement, arguing that attempting to reform the U.S. government from within would grant legitimacy to the structures of the U.S. government. These anarchists were preoccupied with formal structures over the substantive functions of the government – which could be better or worse than they are today. Moreover, these anti-Ron-Paul anarcho-capitalists undermined a movement that had the potential to eliminate many of the abuses of the U. S. federal government against its subjects’ liberties.

I happen to believe that political theory is more than a mind game; it has relevance to the real world, and it ought to have real-world implications for how we act in our own lives. It is not enough to simply state that one would like the world to be a certain way. Rather, a specific, technical, and quite involved series of steps is necessary to transition from the status quo to any state considered desirable. To simply contemplate the end outcome without any idea of how to attain it or even approach it is to divorce one’s political thinking from reality. We find ourselves today with a highly imperfect political system – one that involves numerous violations of individual liberties and also jeopardizes the economic prosperity and technological progress of the Western world. To solve today’s political problems, we cannot but participate in government in some way for the purposes of reforming it or at least protecting ourselves. To reject government altogether instead of endeavoring to improve it is to hide from the real, pressing problems of our time.

Perhaps the anarcho-capitalist ideal will be realizable in some distant future time, once human beings have progressed morally and technologically to such an extent that the initiation of force is no longer lucrative to anybody. I even suggested that this would happen in my short story, “The Fate of War.” In that enlightened time, violence would altogether not be within the realm of human consideration, and a viable anarcho-capitalism would be the natural corollary to that state of affairs.

Meanwhile, however, we are alive today – and if we do not have that which we consider good within our lifetimes, we shall not have it at all. If it is liberty we want – and the anarcho-capitalists have not come up with a viable way to have it without government – then we must have liberty with government. This endeavor will require working through government as well as through private channels; it will require not rejecting the existing system, but modifying it incrementally to move it toward more liberty and less violence. At the same time, a revolution against government is the least desirable course of action, because it would devastate our current levels of prosperity, health, and stability. Individuals who are wealthy, productive, and in control of their lives will come, over time, to civilly demand increasing amounts of independence from centralized control. On the other hand, individuals whose livelihoods have been ruined and whose prospects for upward mobility have been thwarted by an unstable macroeconomic and political climate – which inevitably accompanies revolutions – are easy prey for demagogues and would-be tyrants. Advocates of freedom must be patient, civil, and cautious. While challenging abuses of government authority as such abuses occur, freedom-loving people ought never to do anything that would undermine the standard of living or the safety and comfort of people in the Western world.

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What Does The US Government Want in Ukraine? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
May 11, 2014
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In several eastern Ukrainian towns over the past week, the military opened fire on its own citizens. Dozens may have been killed in the violence. Although the US government generally condemns a country’s use of military force against its own population, especially if they are unarmed protesters, this time the US administration blamed the victims. After as many as 20 unarmed protesters were killed on the May 9th holiday in Ukraine, the State Department spokesman said “we condemn the outbreak of violence caused by pro-Russia separatists.”

Why are people protesting in eastern Ukraine? Because they do not believe the government that came to power after the US-backed uprising in February is legitimate. They do not recognize the authority of an unelected president and prime minister. The US sees this as a Russian-sponsored destabilization effort, but is it so hard to understand that the people in Ukraine may be annoyed with the US and EU for their involvement in regime change in their country? Would we be so willing to accept an unelected government in Washington put in place with the backing of the Chinese and Iranians?

The US State Department provided much assistance earlier this year to those involved in the effort to overthrow the Ukrainian government. The US warned the Ukrainian government at the time not to take any action against those in the streets, even as they engaged in violence and occupied government buildings. But now that those former protesters have come to power, the US takes a different view of protest. Now they give full support to the bloody crackdown against protesters in the east. The State Department spokesperson said last week: “We continue to call for groups who have jeopardized public order by taking up arms and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukrainian law to disarm and leave the buildings they have seized.” This is the opposite of what they said in February. Do they think the rest of the world does not see this hypocrisy?

The residents of eastern Ukraine have long been closer to Russia than to the US and EU. In fact, that part of Ukraine had been a part of Russia. After February’s regime change, officials in the east announced that they would hold referenda to see whether the population wanted autonomy from the US-backed government in Kiev. The US demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the US claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.

Even though the Russian president followed US demands and urged the eastern Ukrainians to hold off on the vote, the US State Department announced that the US would apply additional sanctions on Russia if the vote is held! Does this make any sense?

The real question is why the US government is involved in Ukraine in the first place. We are broke. We cannot even afford to fix our own economy. Yet we want to run Ukraine? Does it really matter whom Ukrainians elect to represent them? Is it really a national-security matter worth risking a nuclear war with Russia whether Ukraine votes for more regional autonomy and a weaker central government? Isn’t that how the United States was originally conceived?

Has the arrogance of the US administration, thinking they should run the world, driven us to the brink of another major war in Europe? Let us hope they will stop this dangerous game and come to their senses. I say let’s have no war for Ukraine!

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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