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Who Won in Iowa? And Why? – Article by Daniel Bier

Who Won in Iowa? And Why? – Article by Daniel Bier

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier
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It depends on what was really at stake

On Monday, the political world watched as the early results trickled in from the Iowa caucuses. First, Donald Trump was ahead, then Ted Cruz overtook him, then Marco Rubio started creeping up. In the final count, Cruz won convincingly with 28 percent, Trump came in second with 24 percent, and Rubio took home bronze with 23 percent.

Commentators are scrambling now to read the tea leaves of these results. A lot of the alleged meaning depends on the hopes and expectations people had before. The last (and typically best) Iowa poll, released just two days before the caucuses, had Trump at 28 percent, Cruz at 23 percent, and Rubio at 15 percent.

Trump, it was thought, had run a lazy campaign and had very little grassroots mobilization, so maybe he would get crushed by better organized rivals. And though he did lose to Cruz, and barely beat Rubio, it’s hardly the death blow some hoped. It turns out that at least a quarter of the highly motivated GOP base in Iowa really do like Trump, in spite of his lackadaisical operation, and the polls that show him in the lead aren’t skewed or exaggerated.

Cruz’s triumph, driven by evangelical voters, might seem to bode well for his nomination prospects. Rubio did better than expected, so maybe that means something. Carson, Jeb, and Rand garnered very modest support; the rest of the pack did so poorly they didn’t received any delegates at all, and some are already dropping out.

This week, pollsters will be furiously dialing potential voters. Pundits will be scribbling and shouting, all angling for some unique or authoritative or contrarian perspective on these results.

But there’s one source of information that’s a better predictor of where the wind is blowing than polls, statistical models, or expert forecasts: the market. Specifically, betting markets, where people are forced to put their money where their mouth is.

With hard cash on the line, the incentive to be right is powerful — and, it turns out, pretty effective.

Here’s what the betting odds looked like for most of this endless campaign season. Early on, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but the odds of Trump actually winning the nomination were always consistently low, despite his huge leads in the polls. Bettors didn’t believe voters would really go for him, or that the party insiders would allow him to succeed.

betting-odds-oct-dec

But in the last month, something changed. Maybe it was because the party insiders didn’t seem to be doing anything to stop Trump. Maybe it was because the mainstream never coalesced around a “establishment” candidate. Maybe it was because Trump’s long-predicted crash in the polls never materialized.

Either way, Trump’s odds started steadily improving in January, and Christie, Cruz, and Rubio started slipping. On January 13, at 7:01 AM, Trump took the lead for the first time, and after that, his odds soared. On the day of the Iowa caucuses, bettors put his probability of winning the Republican nomination at over 50 percent.

betting-odds-january

But as the results started trickling in, and it became clear that Cruz would beat Trump, the markets reacted.

In just 90 minutes, Trump’s odds of winning the nomination cratered — falling from over 50 percent to about 25 percent — and Marco Rubio’s soared, from about 30 percent to over 55 percent. As for Cruz’s big win, it barely brought him back to where he stood two weeks ago.

betting-odds-feb

According the markets, Rubio won in Iowa, and Trump lost.

If you’re concerned about the rise of Trump’s fascist, populist demagoguery — its virulent and xenophobic identity politics, economic nationalism, and lawless authoritarianism — this might seem to be good news, of a sort.

But the bad news is that Trump’s loss is probably due in large part to his rival’s embrace of Trumpism. At the Atlantic, Peter Beinart notes that Rubio “surged by borrowing Trump’s message while pledging to more effectively package it.”

In the final weeks before Iowa, Rubio grew markedly more anti-immigration. Having previously warned against using terrorism as a pretext to restrict legal immigration, the Florida senator in mid-January declared that because of the rise of ISIS, “the entire system of legal immigration must now be reexamined for security first and foremost.”

He also followed Trump’s lead on trade, suggesting that he might oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement he had once praised.

Rubio echoed Trump when it came to the rights of Muslims, too. Asked in a January debate about Trump’s call for banning Muslim immigration, Rubio praised the billionaire for having “tapped in to some of that anger that’s out there about this whole issue because this president has consistently underestimated the threat of ISIS.” … The listener who didn’t already know Rubio’s position might well have thought he supports Trump’s plan.

When asked about Trump’s call for closing mosques, Rubio did Trump one better, declaring that, “It’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an Internet site — any place where radicals are being inspired.”

… Having once pitched himself as a bridge between the GOP and the changing face of twenty-first century America, Rubio instead began appealing to “all of us who feel out of place in our own country.”

Here is the moderateestablishment candidate calling the whole system of legal immigration into question, attacking foreign trade, fear-mongering about religious minorities, calling to shut down and censor the Internet, and blowing tribalist dog whistles.

Of course, Rubio isn’t Trump: he’s a politician. If he captures the nomination, he’ll try to pivot from identity politics and emphasize his “moderate” credentials. He’s still an establishment figure, with the credibility of being sophisticated, eloquent, and (above all) “electable” — everything Trump isn’t.

But this is the larger problem. Trump has convinced the establishment that they need to embrace his priorities and methods in order to maintain control. Worse, he might be right. This may be the most troubling development in the whole Trump saga, and not just because the establishment won’t flatly repudiate a man conjuring up religious tests, concentration camps, and mass deportation.

By rallying long-suppressed nationalist factions, Trump has shifted the margins of acceptable debate more than any other political figure in recent memory. “Trump has redefined what “moderate” means,” Beinart argues.

In 2008 and 2012, Mitt Romney and John McCain never had to praise a rival for suggesting a religious litmus test for entering the country. During their presidential bids, Romney and McCain both shifted right on illegal immigration. But they didn’t backpedal on their support for legal immigration.

Trump probably couldn’t win the general election, and if he did, he couldn’t institute his agenda effectively without the network of interest groups that make policy happen. That’s what makes him so dangerous: he’s unconstrained by the traditional network of interests, compromises, and pressures of the status quo — nobody has any idea what he might try to do.

But that’s also what makes his candidacy a long shot. The more established candidates might very well win and effectively implement their agenda — pushing the bounds of executive power that Bush and Obama softened into playdough — without triggering an open constitutional or political crisis. Their embrace of Trump’s agenda is a troubling sign both of how the political landscape has shifted and what might now come from even a “moderate” presidency.

The ballots say Cruz won. The markets say it was Rubio. But, in time, we may find that it was Trump after all.

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

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.

Is Congress Declaring War on ISIS…or on You? – Article by Ron Paul

Is Congress Declaring War on ISIS…or on You? – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Passage of Senator Mitch McConnell’s authorization for war against ISIS will not only lead to perpetual US wars across the globe, it will also endanger our civil and economic liberties. The measure allows the president to place troops anywhere he determines ISIS is operating. Therefore, it could be used to justify using military force against United States citizens on US territory. It may even be used to justify imposing martial law in America.

The President does not have to deploy the US military to turn America into a militarized police state, however. He can use his unlimited authority to expand programs that turn local police forces into adjuncts of the US military, and send them increasing amounts of military equipment. Using the threat of ISIS to justify increased police militarization will be enthusiastically supported by police unions, local officials, and, of course, politically-powerful defense contractors. The only opposition will come from citizens whose rights have been violated by a militarized police force that views the people as the enemy.

Even though there is no evidence that the federal government’s mass surveillance programs have prevented even a single terrorist attack, we are still continuously lectured about how we must sacrifice our liberty for security. The cries for the federal government to take more of our privacy will grow louder as the war party and its allies in the media continue to hype the threat of terrorism. A president armed with the authority to do whatever it takes to stop ISIS will no doubt heed these calls for new restrictions on our privacy.

Following last year’s mass shooting in California, President Obama called for restricting the Second Amendment rights of any American on the “terrorist watch list.” The president also used the attacks to expand the unconstitutional gun background check system via executive action. Can anyone doubt that President Obama — or a future anti-gun president — will use the absolute power to do whatever is necessary to stop terrorism as a justification for imposing new gun control measures? Using the war on ISIS to justify more gun control will be particularly attractive since even many pro-gun politicians will support gun control measures if they are marketed as part of the war on terror.

As the American economy faces continued stagnation, and as challenges to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency mount, an increasingly authoritarian government will impose new restrictions on our economic activities and new limits on our financial privacy. In particular, our ability to move assets out of the country will be limited, and new reporting and other requirements will limit our ability to use cash without being treated as criminals or terrorists. Those who carry large amounts of cash will find themselves at increased risk of having the cash confiscated by police under civil asset forfeiture laws.

If Senator McConnell’s declaration of perpetual war passes, presidents could use the war on ISIS as a justification to impose new restrictions on our use of cash and our financial privacy via executive action. After all, they will say, the government needs to make sure cash is not being used to support ISIS.

The only way to protect both liberty and security is to stop trying to impose our will on other countries by military force. The resentment created by America’s militaristic foreign policy is ISIS’s most effective recruiting tool. Adopting a non-interventionist foreign policy that seeks peace and free trade with all would enable the government to counter legitimate threats to our safety without creating an authoritarian police state.

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.

Congress is Writing the President a Blank Check for War – Article by Ron Paul

Congress is Writing the President a Blank Check for War – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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While the Washington snowstorm dominated news coverage this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was operating behind the scenes to rush through the Senate what may be the most massive transfer of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch in our history. The senior Senator from Kentucky is scheming, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, to bypass normal Senate procedure to fast-track legislation to grant the president the authority to wage unlimited war for as long as he or his successors may wish.

The legislation makes the unconstitutional Iraq War authorization of 2002 look like a walk in the park. It will allow this president and future presidents to wage war against ISIS without restrictions on time, geographic scope, or the use of ground troops. It is a completely open-ended authorization for the president to use the military as he wishes for as long as he (or she) wishes. Even President Obama has expressed concern over how willing Congress is to hand him unlimited power to wage war.

President Obama has already far surpassed even his predecessor, George W. Bush, in taking the country to war without even the fig leaf of an authorization. In 2011 the president invaded Libya, overthrew its government, and oversaw the assassination of its leader, without even bothering to ask for Congressional approval. Instead of impeachment, which he deserved for the disastrous Libya invasion, Congress said nothing. House Republicans only managed to bring the subject up when they thought they might gain political points exploiting the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.

It is becoming more clear that Washington plans to expand its war in the Middle East. Last week the media reported that the US military had taken over an air base in eastern Syria, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US would send in the 101st Airborne Division to retake Mosul in Iraq and to attack ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria. Then on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden said that if the upcoming peace talks in Geneva are not successful, the US is prepared for a massive military intervention in Syria. Such an action would likely place the US military face to face with the Russian military, whose assistance was requested by the Syrian government. In contrast, we must remember that the US military is operating in Syria in violation of international law.

The prospects of such an escalation are not all that far-fetched. At the insistence of Saudi Arabia and with US backing, the representatives of the Syrian opposition at the Geneva peace talks will include members of the Army of Islam, which has fought with al-Qaeda in Syria. Does anyone expect these kinds of people to compromise? Isn’t al-Qaeda supposed to be our enemy?

The purpose of the Legislative branch of our government is to restrict the Executive branch’s power. The Founders understood that an all-powerful king who could wage war at will was the greatest threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is why they created a people’s branch, the Congress, to prevent the emergence of an all-powerful autocrat to drag the country to endless war. Sadly, Congress is surrendering its power to declare war.

Let’s be clear: If Senate Majority Leader McConnell succeeds in passing this open-ended war authorization, the US Constitution will be all but a dead letter.

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.

Why Trump and Sanders See Losers Everywhere – Article by Steven Horwitz

Why Trump and Sanders See Losers Everywhere – Article by Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Competition and the Zero-Sum Fallacy

Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, many political actors, too many intellectuals, and much of the general public share a false and destructive belief about the nature of exchange: that economic activity is something akin to a battle or a full-fledged war in which the goal is for one group to “defeat” another. We see this mentality across the political spectrum.

Zero-Sum Losers

Think of the ways Trump and others on the political right talk about international trade. The basic framework is to see other countries as enemies in competition with us. The goal of trade policy is somehow to “beat” them, because if they are “winning” by selling us a lot of stuff, we must be losing. The result is mistaken policies such as Trump’s proposed 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports.

We see the same us-and-them thinking on the left, where progressives perceive a persistent battle between capital and labor, each trying to defeat the other. For leftists, capital is always the winner and labor is always the loser — unless the government intervenes. The appropriate policy response, from this perspective, is either to limit capital’s gains or, if you’re a bit more radical, to help labor vanquish capital once and for all. One of the related beliefs on the left is that the wealth of capital comes at the expense of labor. That is, capital’s gains come from labor’s losses.

Both arguments share the underlying belief that the winners’ gains must come at the losers’ expense. Economic activity, and specifically wealth creation, is at best seen as what economists would call a “zero-sum game.”

In zero-sum games, the winners’ gains do, in fact, come at the losers’ expense. Think of a poker game where each person buys $100 worth of chips. If there are five players, there is $500 to be apportioned out. If the game ends with me having $250, then the remaining $250 will be split among the other four players. My gain of $150 comes from others’ losses. Playing the game creates winners and losers because it simply reallocates fixed wealth around the group.

Positive-Sum Winners

Market economies, however, are not zero-sum games. Consider the profits of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or any of thousands of lesser-known inventors who have become fabulously wealthy by providing us with products and services that we value. Their gains are not our losses. To the contrary: markets are what we call positive-sum games. Entrepreneurs make huge profits, but they can only do so by providing us with products and services we value more than what we give up to obtain them.

Every time you get something yummy from a food truck, for example, you demonstrate the mutual benefit of trade: the truck owner gets your money and you get something delicious to eat. You both gave up something you valued less than the thing you acquired. Trade is made of win.

So when people complain that the United States is “losing to China,” presumably because we have a trade deficit with them, they are falling for the zero-sum fallacy. A trade deficit simply means that we are buying more of their goods and services than they are of ours. This doesn’t mean “they” are winning. First, there’s no “they.” The winners are individual Chinese sellers and the people they employ on one side, and individual US consumers on the other. Portraying trade as a contest between countries is deceptive: trade is always among specific individuals and groups.

Second, both sides are winning. Chinese sellers get US dollars and US consumers get products they like at low prices, which frees up income to buy other goods and services, creating jobs in other sectors of the US economy. Those US dollars, it is worth noting, make their way back to the US as Chinese firms invest in US assets, funding everything from private-sector construction to a small part of our government debt. The dollars we spend on Chinese goods do not just disappear; they come back as investments in US capital goods.

It would be more accurate to see what’s happening here as Chinese sellers arriving at the US border with boatloads of cheap goods for us to buy. Under what logic are we made worse off by the “gift” of lower priced goods?

Misunderstanding “Competition”

I suspect that much of the zero-sum thinking we see with trade is based on a misplaced application of the idea of “competition.” Competition in the market does share a number of features with the sorts of competition that people are more familiar with: sports, games, and war.

All are what F.A. Hayek called “discovery procedures.” We play games as a way to discover which individual or team is best. There’s no way to know who the best hockey team is without the discovery process of the Stanley Cup playoffs. We can’t know the answer just by looking at statistics, as every major upset in sports history demonstrates. In markets, we discover who is producing the best product at the best price by letting sellers and buyers compete. One might say the same about war.

Despite these similarities, however, there’s a critical difference: athletic competition and war are zero-sum and negative-sum games, respectively. In sports, one team wins and the other loses, or there’s a tie. Both of those outcomes are zero-sum. War destroys human and physical capital, and even when one country “wins,” everyone is worse off, making it negative-sum.

Market competition, by contrast, is positive-sum. When sellers compete with other sellers to keep prices low, it’s true that some sellers will win and others will lose, but in that process, all of the buyers win, too, not to mention the other people who will receive more income because the buyers who are paying less for the original product can now buy their products. Wealth is not redistributed, as in a poker game, and there is not an offsetting loser for each winner, as in sports. Instead, additional wealth is created. That makes it a positive-sum game.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

CEOs are used to seeing this process from the narrow perspective of their firms, which often do lose in competition with other firms, leading them to believe the same principles apply between countries, or for the economy as a whole. This may explain why Donald Trump thinks he can “defeat” China in the same way he might outcompete another firm. It also explains why Sanders can believe that we are in a competition to preserve jobs. By focusing on the growth in manufacturing jobs in China, Sanders sees trade as “stealing” US jobs rather than being part of the larger competitive process responsible for the overall growth in US jobs and wealth.

Yes, markets share much with other forms of competition, but the key difference is the one that matters. Markets are positive-sum games, and they are not about one country, one group, or one class defeating another. Competition and trade are the way we produce cooperation and mutual benefit. Failing to understand this important difference easily opens the door to demagogues on both the right and the left.

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.

Now If Someone Could Just Invent Actual Reality Goggles – Article by Bradley Doucet

Now If Someone Could Just Invent Actual Reality Goggles – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance HatBradley Doucet
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It seems like virtual reality goggles are the hottest tech gadget at the moment. I mean, they’ve been around for a while, but I guess they’re really coming into their own. But allow me to put on my grumpy-old-man hat for a second and say that what the world could really use in 2016 and beyond are some actual reality goggles. You know, so that wearers could see reality as it actually is, instead of as they imagine or wish it to be.

The value of such a tool would be incalculable. Of course, if you were wearing a pair and looking at another pair, then you would instantly know the true value of this invention, measured in dollars, or ounces of gold if you prefer, or even (leaving out the middleman altogether) in utils of happiness. But for now, I think we can safely assume that it would be worth a lot.

For instance, say you were reading an opinion piece arguing that the minimum wage should be bumped up to $15 an hour. A little display in the upper right corner of your actual reality goggles might pop up, with a tiny graph illustrating how, as long as they are allowed to fluctuate freely, prices are determined by supply and demand. Raise the price of labour artificially with a legislated price floor, though, and the amount supplied will become greater than the amount demanded. In other words, while some workers will benefit from higher wages, others will become unemployed. This illustration might be followed by suggestions of better ways to help the less fortunate.

Or say you were watching a certain Nobel Peace Prize winner condemn the politics of fear in his State of the Union address. Your goggles might remind you that politicians of all stripes use fear to manipulate you, whether it’s fear of immigrants or fear of markets, fear of recreational drugs or fear of guns (unless held by police, soldiers, or politicians’ bodyguards). They might give you a quick lesson on how realistic different fears are, how statistically likely or unlikely they are to come true, and whether you might be exaggerating the dangers posed by immigrants, markets, drugs, or guns, while underplaying their potential benefits.

Or again, imagine that you’re wearing these goggles while seeing an ad for a really big lottery. Your goggles might point out to you that your chances of winning are infinitesimal, that you’re more likely to get hit by a bus or a lightning bolt, and that a $10-million jackpot and a $1.6-billion jackpot would be almost identically life-changing. And if they caught you nodding your head when you saw that Internet meme proposing that $1.6 billion was enough to wipe out poverty in a nation of 300 million, it would administer a mild electrical shock to your temples and send you back to primary school.

Of course, the real question is whether anyone would want to buy such a useful gadget. Do we want to see the world as it really is, or are we content to misperceive it? Are we happier believing that we are already wise and well-intentioned, or do we want to learn what kinds of actions would actually be of benefit to ourselves, our loved ones, and the wider world? As I don’t have a pair of actual reality goggles on hand to tell me the answer, your guess is as good as mine.

Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL’s English Editor.

The Conservative Meltdown, Courtesy of Trump – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The Conservative Meltdown, Courtesy of Trump – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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Trumpflag2For 60 years, the conservative establishment has worked to overcome the biggest leftist lie of them all: that non-leftists are really Nazis in disguise. To wreck that view, conservatism reinvented itself after World War II.

William Buckley, editor of National Review, led the way. He purged the hard racists, dedicated segregationists, the Falangists, the anti-semites, the crypto-Nazis, the theocrats and ecclesiocrats, and the wildly paranoid conspiracy mongers.

Buckley was the one to do it too, because he was erudite and educated, with a subtle sense of things. It was a massive effort in social and political control, and it mostly worked. The culminating victory came with the election of Ronald Reagan.

So sensitive was Buckley to the charge of Nazi sympathies that he lost his composure completely, on live television, when in 1968 Gore Vidal charged him with being a crypto-Nazi. It was enough to cause Buckley, again on live television, to threaten Vidal with a punch in the face.

And Buckley never stopped the purges even through the 2000s. To be in the Buckley circle, you had to be housebroken. You had to avoid the fever swamps.

Many of these purges were wholly justified, but there was also collateral damage. He also purged the libertarians and the Randians too, for different reasons. Libertarians weren’t on board with the Cold War, so that was enough for him. As for Rand, perhaps it was the atheism above all else, since by this time, a firm defense of religious faith had become essential to the package of this new thing called conservatism.

If Buckley was so worried about the impression that the only alternative to leftism was Nazism, he might have cooled it a bit on suggesting nuclear war against the North Vietnamese and the Russians. If a distinguishing mark of Nazism is the use of mass violence to serve political ends, an ideological change would have been more effective than purges in countering the smears against the right. He might also have shown less affection for police-state tactics against antiwar protestors. After all, these smears from the left have the whiff of credibility for a reason.

And now in 2015 enters Donald Trump. He is not a marginal candidate. His rise and persistent dominance of the Republican field has establishment conservatives panicked, simply because it’s proof that their ideology is not dominant among GOP voters. Every demographic analysis of his supporters shows that they do not get their news from magazines or the internet. These people (middle age, middle income, white) are TV watchers and mostly haven’t been to college. What the intelligentsia says doesn’t impact their lives at all.

And yet their voices have a plurality in the Republican party. We haven’t heard from them that much in recent years because they’ve not had a standard bearer and the establishment has exercised such tight control. Now with Trump, we have the perfect storm: a person who is the caricature of the ugly American. He pushes patriotism to the point of nativism, energy in the executive to the point of fascism, police power as a solution without limits, and military strength to the point of outright worship of war as the only suitable means.

The latent statism of the right reaches its apotheosis in Trump, and it is driving the conservative establishment crazy. He is the painting in the attic, and they want it to remain hidden.

As for populism generally, both conservatives and libertarians have variously toyed with it in the past. Surely the people want liberty. Surely the only real problem is the ruling class and its power. If the people get their way, through an assertive wresting of control from the elites, the result would be a freer America. The real problem traces to the people controlling the party, not the voters as such.

But look at what’s happening. The establishment is losing control, but the result is not a movement that favors freedom but something more like the right-wing version of the Red Guard. The Trump movement is unleashing unguided hate: it was Mexicans, then Syrians, then all Muslims, and now he can stand in front of audiences ridiculing free speech and elicit cheers from the frothing masses.

H.L. Mencken is making much more sense to me today. This is a change for me. I’ve always appreciated Mencken’s love of freedom, his suspicion of the state, his appreciation for high culture, his disdain for the age-old superstitions. All that I could grasp and share. What I could not entirely share was his dread of the common man, and his absolute loathing of the political system that puts the hoi polloi in charge of choosing political leadership. He found the system preposterous.

I’ve always understood the intellectual arguments against democracy and agreed more or less. But I could never muster Mencken’s passion concerning the topic. I’ve never fully understood his intense conviction that democracy is the single biggest threat to liberty.

Trump has changed all that. Now I see it fully. The common man is gold as a consumer, worker, family member, church goer. As a voter and political influencer, the common man is a disaster waiting to happen.

What effect does this have on conservative ideology? It makes the job of seeming intelligent and responsible ever more difficult. If I were a leftist, I would be laughing out loud at all these upheavals. Trump as the only alternative to Sanders/Hillary is not a world I want to inhabit.

My prediction is this. Whether or not Trump snags the nomination, his dominance of the polls in 2015 has given the biggest boost the left has received in half a century. It also calls on conservatives to clean up their act: get more libertarian or prepare for the full Trumpization of your movement.

Read more:
Trumpism: The Ideology
Why We Should Talk About Fascism
The Eff Word Goes Mainstream
Has Donald Trump Unleashed the Neo-Nazis?
How Carly Fiorina and a Boring Debate Took Out Trump
The Rand Paul Campaign: A Retrospective

The featured image was taken by Michael Vadon (CC BY-SA 2.0 — photoshopped).

Jeffrey Tucker is Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me (http://liberty.me/join), a subscription-based, action-focused social and publishing platform for the liberty-minded. He is also distinguished fellow of the Foundation for Economic Education (http://fee.org), executive editor of Laissez-Faire Books, research fellow of the Acton Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, and author of six books. He is available for speaking and interviews via tucker@liberty.me.

Nevada Transhumanist Party – Formation and Membership Invitation – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Nevada Transhumanist Party – Formation and Membership Invitation – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance HatG. Stolyarov II
September 22, 2015
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Mr. Stolyarov introduces the Nevada Transhumanist Party, officially registered with the Nevada Secretary of State on August 31, 2015. All individuals who have a rational faculty and ability to form political opinions are welcome to become either Nevada Members or Allied Members.

Read the Constitution and Bylaws of the Nevada Transhumanist Party.

See the official filed documents with the Nevada Secretary of State.

Join the Nevada Transhumanist Party Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NevadaTranshumanistParty/.

NTP-Logo-9-1-2015References

Website of United States Transhumanist Party
Zoltan Istvan’s Webpage
Immortality Bus Website
– “The Transhumanist Wager” – Wikipedia
– “Thoughts on Zoltan Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager: A Review” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the “F” Word – The Electoral Clown Car Is Full of Nationalistic Socialists – Article by Steven Horwitz

Why the Candidates Keep Giving Us Reasons to Use the “F” Word – The Electoral Clown Car Is Full of Nationalistic Socialists – Article by Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
August 6, 2015
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“There are far too many candidates,” writes Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. “And to gain attention they are juggling, tooting horns and blowing slide whistles like so many painted performers emerging from a clown car.” The two clowns making the most noise in recent weeks are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

At first glance, it would seem they couldn’t be more different: a Democrat and a Republican, a friend of the unions and a CEO, a man of relatively modest means by congressional standards and one of the wealthiest men in the United States. But a closer look reveals some interesting similarities and teaches us an important lesson about the history of ideas. What Sanders and Trump have in common is no laughing matter.

Recent articles by libertarians on both candidates have suggested that they are both strongly nationalist. Dan Bier tore apart Sanders for his views on immigration, and both Jeff Tucker and Jason Kuznicki have associated Trump with nationalism and perhaps even a variant of fascism. I think they are all on to something: Sanders and Trump have a lot more in common than many think. But before I get there, we need to take a detour into the history of socialism and fascism.

In its original conception, Marxian socialism was strongly internationalist. Marx’s theory was based on the idea of class struggle and the disparity in power between those who owned the means of production (the capitalists) and those who did not (the proletariat).

Marxism has nothing to do with nationality. It’s all about class, defined as whether or not one owns capital. For true Marxists, a German worker has much more in common with a Russian worker or an Italian worker than he or she does with a German capitalist. Marxism did not give any importance to national borders.

For many in the early 20th century, this was a problem with Marxism, especially in the aftermath of World War I. Much like today, people were looking for a “third way” between capitalism and socialism. For many of those people, that third way was fascism.

Today we use the word fascism as an epithet, especially for bossy people. We associate it with dictatorships, and especially with Nazism. It turns out that fascism was a fairly well-worked-out theory of how to organize a society, and in its original form was not about racism or anti-Semitism directly. Fascism was an attempt to combine what people saw as the best parts of capitalism and socialism, and then to do so in the context of putting nationality before class.

The most extensive writing about how fascism would work came from the Italians in the 1920s and 1930s, and interested readers should find a copy of Luigi Villari’s The Economics of Fascism to see the details. (You can find a nice summary of those ideas in Sheldon Richman’s entry on fascism in the online Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.)

The fascists argued that the whole notion of class conflict was the problem. Instead of pitting class against class and tearing nations apart, why not bring all the parties together and give them the chance to cooperate with each other rather than struggle their way to socialism? The fascist economy was built around a series of cartels where the state, the nominal owners of the means of production, and the workers (represented by labor unions) would get together and figure out what to produce, how to produce it, what to charge, and how much profit would be “allowed.”

The fascists agreed with socialism’s desire not to leave markets to spontaneous ordering forces, but they thought the nation-state should direct the economy, not the workers. Both capitalism and socialism involved conflict, not cooperation. The same third-way thinking, and some of the same structures, were present in the first two years of the New Deal in the United States. The cartels of the National Recovery Administration were modeled after Italian fascism, and FDR and Mussolini were mutual admirers.

You can see how fascism took elements of both capitalism and socialism, then added nationalism. The idea was to look out for the welfare of the nation-state first. The Italian capitalist and the Italian worker were both Italians first and foremost, and that should be the first call on their allegiance. Lashing socialism to the glorification of the nation-state gives us fascism, and you can see why anyone who represented a threat to national identity would quickly become a problem.

This is one reason why the German version of fascism so easily linked up with a long history of German anti-Semitism. The Nazis were undoubtedly socialist (recall that Nazi is short for National Socialist German Workers Party), as even a quick glance at their 1920 platform will tell you. They were also, even at that date, fiercely nationalist. In Hitler’s hands, that national pride quickly became a desire to glorify the Aryan race.

Plus, recall that Jews were disproportionately both capitalists and supporters of the Marxist revolution in Russia — not to mention the symbol of the cosmopolitan, rootless nomad for centuries. Many of those who wanted to reject both capitalism and Marxian socialism saw the Jews as the symbol of both.

So what does this have to do with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?

I would argue that they are both “nationalist socialists.” That is, they both embody key elements of fascism. They both think the nation comes first, and they both think the United States is an organization (not a spontaneous order) that should be under someone’s control.

The difference is that Sanders sees both the problems and the solutions from the workers’ perspective, so he’s focusing on both the exploitation by capitalists and keeping immigrants out to protect the wages of US workers. The losses to US workers matter more than the large gains to foreign-born workers coming here.

Trump sees all of this from the CEO/owner/capitalist perspective. He thinks the United States is, or should be, like a big firm where we all work together for a common goal. He envisions himself as the CEO, negotiating deals with other countries as if they, too, were just big corporate firms. But nations are not firms — they are spontaneous orders.

As I argued in an earlier column, “Socialism Is War and War Is Socialism,” this desire to turn spontaneous orders into hierarchies is characteristic of both war and socialism. It is also deeply embedded in fascism, and Sanders and Trump exemplify that tendency among the presidential candidates, though they do so with different emphases and rhetoric.

Their commonalities are also why our conventional binary left-right political spectrum makes no sense. That one candidate is perceived as far to the left and the other as (to some degree) a right-wing capitalist shows the depth of our failure to understand history. They have both rejected the spontaneous order of the market as well as the cosmopolitanism of liberalism and socialism. They are fascist brothers under the skin.

That both are getting the attention and support of so many Americans should be a matter of grave concern. After all, some clowns are far more scary than funny.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Microfoundations and Macroeconomics: An Austrian Perspective, now in paperback.

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.

Imagine a Political Party That Really Supports Equal Rights – Real Heroes: William Leggett – Article by Lawrence W. Reed

Imagine a Political Party That Really Supports Equal Rights – Real Heroes: William Leggett – Article by Lawrence W. Reed

The New Renaissance Hat
Lawrence W. Reed
July 10, 2015
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Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


Death from yellow fever complications claimed journalist William Leggett at the tender age of 38, days before he would have assumed his first political office. President Martin Van Buren had just named Leggett US ambassador to Guatemala. In the early 19th century, as temptations were rising to divert Americans’ constitutional framework toward bigger government, Leggett (to borrow a phrase from 20th-century journalist William F. Buckley) stood athwart history yelling, “Stop!”

Leggett’s fame is inextricably intertwined with the term Locofoco. Here’s the story.

Imagine a political movement that says it’s committed to “equal rights” — and means it. Not just equality in a few cherry-picked rights but all human rights, including the most maligned: property rights. Imagine a movement whose raison d’être is to oppose any and all special privileges from government for anybody.

When it comes to political parties, most of them in recent American history like to say they’re for equal rights. But surely the first lesson of politics is this: what the major parties say and do are two different things.

In American history, no such group has ever been as colorful and as thorough in its understanding of equal rights as one that flashed briefly across the political skies in the 1830s and ‘40s. They were called “Locofocos.” If I had been around back then, I would have proudly joined their illustrious ranks.

The Locofocos were a faction of the Democratic Party of President Andrew Jackson, concentrated mostly in the Northeast and New York in particular, but with notoriety and influence well beyond the region. Formally called the Equal Rights Party, they derived their better-known sobriquet from a peculiar event on October 29, 1835.

Democrats in New York City were scrapping over how far to extend Jackson’s war against the federally chartered national bank at a convention controlled by the city’s dominant political machine, Tammany Hall. (Jackson had killed the bank in 1832 by vetoing its renewal.) When the more conservative officialdom of the convention expelled the radical William Leggett, editor of the Evening Post, they faced a full-scale revolt by a sizable and boisterous rump. The conservatives walked out, plunging the meeting room into darkness as they left by turning off the gas lights. The radicals continued to meet by the light of candles they lit with matches called loco focos — Spanish for “crazy lights.”

With the Tammany conservatives gone and the room once again illuminated, the Locofocos passed a plethora of resolutions. They condemned the national bank as an unconstitutional tool of special interests and an engine of paper-money inflation. They assailed all monopolies, by which they meant firms that received some sort of privilege or immunity granted by state or federal governments. They endorsed a “strict construction” of the Constitution and demanded an end to all laws that “directly or indirectly infringe the free exercise of equal rights.” They saw themselves as the true heirs of Jefferson, unabashed advocates of laissez-faire and of minimal government confined to securing equal rights for all and dispensing special privileges for none.

Three months later, in January 1836, the Locofocos held a convention to devise a platform and to endorse candidates to run against the Tammany machine for city office in April. They still considered themselves Democrats: rather than bolt and form a distinct opposition party, they hoped to steer the party of Jefferson and Jackson to a radical reaffirmation of its principled roots.

“We utterly disclaim any intention or design of instituting any new party, but declare ourselves the original Democratic party,” they announced.

The “Declaration of Principles” the Locofocos passed at that January gathering is a stirring appeal to the bedrock concept of rights, as evidenced by these excerpts:

  • “The true foundation of Republican Government is the equal rights of every citizen, in his person and property, and in their management.”
  • “The rightful power of all legislation is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us.”
  • “No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all the law should enforce on him.”
  • “The idea is quite unfounded that on entering into society, we give up any natural right.”

The convention pronounced “hostility to any and all monopolies by legislation,” “unqualified and uncompromising hostility to paper money as a circulating medium, because gold and silver are the only safe and constitutional currency,” and “hostility to the dangerous and unconstitutional creation of vested rights by legislation.”

From affirmative action to business subsidies, today’s Congress and state legislatures routinely bestow advantages on this or that group at the expense of others. The Locofoco condemnation of such special privilege couldn’t be clearer:

We ask that our legislators will legislate for the whole people and not for favored portions of our fellow-citizens, thereby creating distinct aristocratic little communities within the great community. It is by such partial and unjust legislation that the productive classes of society are … not equally protected and respected as the other classes of mankind.

William Leggett, whose expulsion from the October gathering by the Tammany Democrats sparked the Locofocos into being, was the intellectual linchpin of the whole movement. After a short stint editing a literary magazine called the Critic, he was hired as assistant to famed poet and editor William Cullen Bryant at the New York Evening Post in 1829. Declaring “no taste” for politics at first, he quickly became enamored of Bryant’s philosophy of liberty.

He emerged as an eloquent agitator in the pages of the Post, especially in 1834 when he took full charge of its editorial pages while Bryant vacationed in Europe. Leggett struck a chord with the politically unconnected and with many working men and women hit hard by the inflation of the national bank.

In the state of New York at the time, profit-making businesses could not incorporate without special dispensation from the legislature. This meant, as historian Richard Hofstadter explained in a 1943 article, that “men whose capital or influence was too small to win charters from the lawmakers were barred from such profitable lines of corporate enterprise as bridges, railroads, turnpikes and ferries, as well as banks.”

Leggett railed against such privilege: “The bargaining and trucking away of chartered privileges is the whole business of our lawmakers.” His remedy was “a fair field and no favor,” free-market competition unfettered by favor-granting politicians. He and his Locofoco followers were not anti-wealth or anti-bank, but they were vociferously opposed to any unequal application of the law. To Leggett and the Locofocos, the goddess of justice really was blindfolded. His relentless rebukes of what we would call today “crony capitalism” are well represented in this excerpt from an 1834 editorial:

Governments have no right to interfere with the pursuits of individuals, as guaranteed by those general laws, by offering encouragements and granting privileges to any particular class of industry, or any select bodies of men, inasmuch as all classes of industry and all men are equally important to the general welfare, and equally entitled to protection.

The Locofocos won some local elections in the late 1830s and exerted enough influence to see many of their ideas embraced by no less than Martin Van Buren when he ran successfully for president in 1836. By the middle of Van Buren’s single term, the Locofoco notions of equal rights and an evenhanded policy of a small federal government were reestablished as core principles of the Democratic Party. There they would persist for more than half a century after Leggett’s death, through the last great Democratic president, Grover Cleveland, in the 1880s and 1890s. Sadly, those essentially libertarian roots have long since been abandoned by the party of Jefferson and Jackson.

Upon Leggett’s untimely death in 1839, poet William Cullen Bryant penned an eloquent obituary in which he wrote, in part, the following tribute:

As a political writer, Mr. Leggett attained, within a brief period, a high rank and an extensive and enviable reputation. He wrote with great fluency and extraordinary vigor; he saw the strong points of a question at a glance, and had the skill to place them before his readers with a force, clearness and amplitude of statement rarely to be found in the writings of any journalist that ever lived. When he became warmed with his subject, which was not unfrequently the case, his discussions had all the stirring power of extemporaneous eloquence.

His fine endowments he wielded for worthy purposes. He espoused the cause of the largest liberty and the most comprehensive equality of rights among the human race, and warred against those principles which inculcate distrust of the people, and those schemes of legislation which tend to create an artificial inequality in the conditions of men. He was wholly free — and, in this respect his example ought to be held up to journalists as a model to contemplate and copy — he was wholly free from the besetting sin of their profession, a mercenary and time-serving disposition. He was a sincere lover and follower of truth, and never allowed any of those specious reasons for inconsistency, which disguise themselves under the name of expediency, to seduce him for a moment from the support of the opinions which he deemed right, and the measures which he was convinced were just. What he would not yield to the dictates of interest he was still less disposed to yield to the suggestions of fear.

We sorrow that such a man, so clear-sighted, strong minded and magnanimous has passed away, and that his aid is no more to be given in the conflict which truth and liberty maintain with their numerous and powerful enemies.

If you’re unhappy that today’s political parties give lip service to equal rights as they busy themselves carving up what’s yours and passing out the pieces, don’t blame me. I’m a Locofoco and a fan of William Leggett.

For further information, see:

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in 2008. Prior to that, he was a founder and president for twenty years of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan. He also taught Economics full-time and chaired the Department of Economics at Northwood University in Michigan from 1977 to 1984.

He holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Grove City College (1975) and an M.A. degree in History from Slippery Rock State University (1978), both in Pennsylvania. He holds two honorary doctorates, one from Central Michigan University (Public Administration—1993) and Northwood University (Laws—2008).

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.
Fearless, Provocative, and Inescapably Thought-Provoking: Review of Kyrel Zantonavitch’s “Pure Liberal Fire” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Fearless, Provocative, and Inescapably Thought-Provoking: Review of Kyrel Zantonavitch’s “Pure Liberal Fire” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 16, 2014
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Pure Liberal Fire by Kyrel Zantonavitch is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
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There is perhaps not a single thinker in the world more fearless than Kyrel Zantonavitch. Pure Liberal Fire is the direct, provocative distillation of his thoughts on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, economics, culture, religion, and the history of philosophy – including Objectivism and Classical Liberalism. Zantonavitch seeks to evoke a pure, true liberalism, and he shows no mercy for ideologies and attitudes that constitute its antithesis. He certainly leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about where he stands on the issues addressed – and each article within the book employs an abundance of superlative expressions – be they positive or negative. When Zantonavitch praises, he really praises – and the same goes for when he condemns.
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I give this book a rating of five stars because it invariably makes people think – no matter who they are or what their starting persuasions and assumptions might be. There are many areas in which I strongly agree with Zantonavitch – and quite a few where I strongly disagree as well. He articulates many valid points about the fundamentals of philosophy, the importance of liberty in political theory, atheism, the damage perpetrated by various political movements and policies, and the unfortunate tendencies among historical and current Objectivists toward dogmatism and conformism instead of independent thought and the honest pursuit of truth. Some of our areas of disagreement include war, areas of foreign policy, and, perhaps more generally, the desired mechanisms for achieving societal change.

Zantonavitch’s approach and style would entail achieving a fiery, dramatic, immediate deposition of everything (every person, every policy, every idea) he considers evil, dangerous, or damaging. My view of reform is more surgical, focused on getting the sequence of steps right so as to minimize the damage inflicted during the transition while ridding the world of the disease of bad policies (and, in a more long-term fashion, through persuasion and free-market education, also ridding it of bad thinking of the sort that motivates bad policies).

Zantonavitch combines his no-holds-barred treatment of his subject matters with a unique dialectical technique. There are several places in a book where he characterizes a particular set of ideas (or people) in a strongly negative way – but then later (or earlier) also portrays them as either highly praiseworthy, or at the very least understandable and characterized by redeeming attributes. Two examples that come to mind are (1) his discussions of Objectivism as a brainwashing cult in some places and as the most advanced, best-developed philosophy to date in others, and (2) his characterizations in some places of religious believers as not particularly bad as long as they do not take their belief too seriously – and in other places of anyone who believes in a god or teaches his/her children such beliefs as being guilty of evil and/or abuse. The reader can glimpse in this a deliberate juxtaposition of these opposing characterizations in a dialectical fashion – in an attempt to examine both the positive and the negative aspects of the ideas and behaviors Zantonavitch is writing about. (With regard to Objectivism, there is definitely merit in pointing out both the great strengths and the failures, as I have myself done, for instance.) This also creates a second layer of meaning in Zantonavitch’s work, as his uses of positive and negative superlatives with regard to the same subject are seldom immediately close to one another. While the rest of his writing endeavors to be extremely direct (indeed, provocative) with regard to its meaning, he seems to expect his readers to make their own connections in this respect without him deliberately pointing them out. As a result, with regard to Objectivism especially, Zantonavitch’s readers have the opportunity to acquire a more balanced, nuanced view after having been exposed to both his glorious praise and his scathing condemnation of the philosophy.