Category Archives: Liberty

Utopia, Do Not Enter

People who claim to know the ultimate, perfected state of society are dangerous maniacs.  This claim is in the same category as perpetual motion and quack cures for cancer, only more dangerous.  The patient may choose his own treatment, but a utopian will foist his delusion on us all.

Obviously, if you are working to bring about paradise on Earth, you have a license to kill.  Utopia is worth any sacrifice of human dignity.

This has been going on from Aristotle to Marx, and the victims never wise up.  When Plato writes about his “philosopher king,” whom do you suppose he has in mind?  We must have the gold people to rule over the bronze people, the shepherds to lead the flock.  That’s right – the flock.  Sheep.

Marx claimed that his utopia was the inevitable result of inexorable “laws of history” that he, alone, had discovered.  LOL.  Gee, Karl, if it’s inevitable, maybe we don’t need to put quite so many people in the gulag!  Utopia probably doesn’t need a barbed wire fence to keep people from escaping.

Perfect societies like Aristotle’s usually depend on a caste system, which the inventor has to justify.  In fairness to Marx, he was hoping for some kind of self-organizing collective.  In practice, though, you get the Party, and the Party rules just like any other despot.

The needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.

The first thing to consider when you read this stuff – especially if you are reading it in school – is the plight of someone not born into the ruling class.  Would you have any kind of social mobility?  Would you have any free will at all?  Often, the answer is simply “no.”

Individuals exist to serve the greater good.  The metaphor of a beehive is invoked, which sounds lovely until you actually think about it.  Fascists love to say that “the needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.”  This is great if you are the one implementing the needs of society – not so great for the individual whose rights are outweighed.

Individual freedom must be the basis of any just society.  Beyond that are philosophical questions about where individuals’ rights may conflict, how much power to delegate to the government, etc.  The real work lies in creating institutions that appropriately safeguard the rights of the people, joint and several, and then revising the institutions over time.

This is an incremental, and difficult, process wherein society may improve steadily over time.  Anyone who has worked at it will tell you that “better than before” is sufficiently grand.  Someone claiming to know the ultimate answer is either clinically insane – or a charlatan.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Liberty

Allegiance to the Flag

Nationalism is on the march, and not only in America.  Britain wants to leave the EU, and Scotland wants to leave Britain.  Across Europe, nation states are erecting barriers as they come to disagree with immigrations policy made in Brussels.

It’s nice to see the nationalists have their day, if only because the globalists have been on top since the Clinton administration.  To be honest, nationalism has a poor record.  It is associated with ugly tendencies like xenophobia and war.  On the other hand, globalism is the enemy of democracy.

The larger any government’s span of control, the less responsive it is … and the sums available for graft are larger.

You can see undemocratic processes at work today in Brussels and Washington.  Now imagine if the whole world were ruled out of Davos.  The policies go by different names, but globalism is a coherent movement with its own leaders and institutions.  The Council on Foreign Relations thinks that Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. should be a single administrative unit.  That’s no secret.  They published a white paper, and then we got NAFTA.

It is important to understand the tension between globalism and nationalism.  President Obama is on the record as a globalist.  This is why he recently visited London and advocated for Britain to stay in the European Union.  It is also why The Economist always, always labels nationalist parties in Europe as “racist,” “neo-Nazi,” or at least “far right extreme.”

Jeremiah, as you know, eschews labels and generalizations.  There is a balance to be achieved between national sovereignty and global institutions.  Free trade, for example, has lifted millions out of poverty.  Even as Americans have lost jobs and earning power, we have gained access to cheap foreign goods.  The right balance is one struck by negotiation among self-interested leaders of sovereign states.

Democracy works better at smaller scales.  British voters can be reasonably confident of influencing policy in London.  In Brussels, not so much.  Not only immigrations policy, but monetary policy, environmental and trade regulation, and foreign policy are made there, “one size fits all,” for Europe.

The larger any government’s span of control, the less responsive it is.  Leaders are physically more distant, and the sums available for graft are larger.  The right solution is smaller units of government, delegating strictly limited responsibilities to a federal system – kind of like our Constitution.  Does anybody still read that?

Leave a comment

Filed under Liberty

Alien Invasion

You fled the daily dangers of a threadbare dictatorship – the violence, the corrupt officials, and the armed factions. You came here in search of a better life, to find work, and safety, and a future for your children. No one can blame you for that. We welcome you, but with some trepidation.

Immigration without assimilation is just another name for “invasion.”

We fear that you will import the very attitudes and beliefs that made a wreck of your former home. Maybe not you, personally, but many of your kind seem to reject our culture and our way of life. Worse, they affect a moral superiority, as if they are the righteous ones and we are somehow evil because we have been successful.

We fear that, once you have the numbers, you will recreate your native laws and institutions. Stop and think about that, for a moment. It will not serve your interests to make in our home a replica of the very system which you have fled. You would only be carrying the seeds of your own (and our) destruction. If you can’t grasp that, maybe you don’t belong here. Maybe you should go back to California.

Leave a comment

Filed under Liberty

More Lethal than Plague

Karl-MarxRobert Conquest died last month. The Economist ran a proper tribute, and even the left-leaning New York Times gave him his due. It is fashionable to dismiss Conquest as merely an accountant, the first to calculate how many people Stalin had killed, and obsolete now the Soviet archives are open. This misses the point entirely.

The point is that Western observers were so enamored of communism, in theory, that they were willfully blind to what it was doing in practice. Six to eight million died in the famine. Something like ten million were sent to Siberia. Millions more died in the Gulag. Conquest’s estimate of total deaths is 20 million.

Even after flag-waving supporters of the Soviet Union had dwindled to irrelevance, the conviction that communism was a good idea poorly executed persisted

Lenin thought mass murder was justified because he was building a socialist utopia. Stalin, Mao, Che, and Pol Pot thought the same. This is no coincidence. When a leader believes he is obeying the law of history – Marx’s idea – he can justify unspeakable atrocities.

Here is an idea that killed millions. Millions! People were starved, shot, gassed, imprisoned, and tortured – all over the world. Pol Pot killed two million, and there is no telling how many tens of millions Mao put to death. You really have to believe in your workers’ paradise to sweep that under the rug.

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Rights, Liberty

When America Fails

The natural state of man is slavery. Throughout history there have always been the rulers – and the ruled. Depending on your tradition, you may say serf, or peasant, or even proletarian. Jeremiah prefers the more personal slave. Occasionally, the slaves rise up and … choose new masters. Even in supposed democracies, like the Roman Republic and the American, people want a Caesar.

When fascists write about utopia, they imagine themselves on the throne.

When fascists write about utopia, they imagine themselves on the throne. From the pyramids to Versailles, we marvel at what slaves have built for the glory of their masters. Classical democracy meant power sharing only among the nobility. England still has a governing body called the House of Lords.

GovernmentWork

In America, our revolutionary struggle against tyranny was illuminated by a bold, new idea. This was the idea that all power ultimately comes from the people. The people grant to the government only such power as is needed to maintain an orderly society, and no more. The power of the government is constrained by laws, and the people elect the lawmakers.

This idea lasted for roughly two hundred years. It seems apt, historically, for the light of liberty to fail at the millennium. It is fashionable to say that we were duped by the phony war on terror, but there was a phony war on drugs before that, and a phony war on poverty. The statists will always find a phony war to fight when, of course, the real war is against the people.

Two hundred years of liberty, for a tiny fraction of humanity, was just a flash in the darkness. When Rome fell, no paragon of liberty, humanity endured one thousand years of darkness – backward, anarchic mayhem. Liberty was difficult to imagine, and unbearably difficult to create. It may never come again. The natural state of man is slavery.

Leave a comment

Filed under Liberty

American Oligarchy

Former president Jimmy Carter is now the most prominent figure to warn of America becoming an oligarchy. This term, “oligarchy,” is generally applied to post-Soviet Russia, where it took on a special meaning beyond the dictionary definition.

Oligarchy

When the Russians tried to liberate their economy, all of the important assets – oil fields, power plants, and so forth – ended up in the hands of people with political connections. The oligarchs now control the economy, the government, and the state security apparatus.

It is painful to watch a formerly free economy, like ours, degenerate into the same condition. Russia simply failed to privatize properly her state-owned enterprises. Our shame is much greater. We are standing idly by, as an emerging oligarchy takes control of our government and our economy.

The so-called left and right have made common cause. The left loves government meddling in private enterprise – while the right thinks it is protecting same, when in fact they are only protecting entrenched corporate interests. We have written before about this mote in their eye.

The bailout of General Motors nicely illustrates this convergence. The left was able to claim they were “saving jobs,” which, as we explain here, is a chimera. Capitalism, as Detroiter Seth Godin explains, means letting incompetent companies go bust. Keeping zombie companies alive, with taxpayer money, prevents the creation of new jobs in vibrant new companies.

Not only should Congress facilitate the organized bankruptcy of the Big Three, but it should also make it easy for them to be replaced by 500 new car companies.

Our auto industry is a ward of the state, as is Boeing. Banking depends on the Federal Reserve’s largesse. Mortgage lending, and thus the housing industry, depends on the Fed and the FHFA. High tech avionics and robotics, obviously, are funded by the military. Including the Pentagon, as much as 20% of America’s labor force may depend ultimately on tax dollars.

Competition is what once made our economy stronger than the command economies of Russia and China. Even as their leaders are trying to wean China off state owned enterprise, we are allowing our economy to be nationalized by stealth. Businesses are capitalist when they start up but, once they are in a position to buy favors from the government, they become statist.

It is easy to see this unholy alliance of government and big business (and big unions) as a statist conspiracy. Jeremiah does not see conspiracy, however. He simply sees moneyed interests buying influence – to make more money – and government officials selling it, with a revolving door between the two.

Here is a long article in the New York Times explaining how the Clinton family raked in a little over $35 million during a mining rights transaction involving a Russian company and uranium in Wyoming. We write “during,” of course, because we don’t want to imply anything so crass as an outright sale of the State Department’s approval. Oh, and they paid Bill Clinton $500,000 to make a speech.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation.

America is being looted, and all of our assets will soon be in the hands of an oligarchy no different from Russia’s. We will be renting tiny homes from Blackstone, on a tiny stipend from HUD. Jeremiah has been watching this for a long time, and he can tell you that the pace is picking up. There has always been corruption, of course, but nothing so big and brazen as what we’ve seen lately.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any policy recommendation much better than those naïve calls to “clean up government.” One possibility might be to dismantle the regulatory agencies, the tax preferences, and corporate welfare. At this point, a return to laissez faire would be just as painful for the (faux) right as for the left.

This is not to endorse laissez faire, mind you. That would mean big setbacks for labor and the environment. The idea would be to “drain the swamp.” The less power government has over business, the less opportunity for corruption. Unable to buy favors from the state, companies would again be forced to compete.

Admittedly, this is not a great solution. At this late stage, it’s hard to imagine the oligarchy being rolled back by any means, and certainly not by the same voters who allowed it to develop in the first place.

Leave a comment

Filed under Liberty

Land of the Free

PassportSomewhere along the line, the Constitution became associated with the political right. This was not a good move for the Constitution. Maybe it has something to do with partisan attitudes toward domestic surveillance, as we discussed here.

The right likes old timey language. They see the depredations of the IRS, for example, as “tyranny.” Jeremiah, his political sensitivities formed in the Sixties, sees fascism. The blog has tags for both. Libertarians are for liberty, broadly construed, while the left will settle for “civil rights.”

You would think that protecting our, um, freedom would be a concern for all Americans. Everyone in government takes an oath to defend the Constitution, and President Obama was a professor of Constitutional law.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution are the Bill of Rights, one of history’s most profound statements of human freedom. Other charters are merely aspirational. The UN declaration wants us all to have good jobs, with time off and a health plan.

The Bill of Rights is more pragmatic. Instead of what the government should do for you, it lists what the government may not do to you. Readers will have noticed a theme lately, as we have chronicled the erosion of your personal freedoms.

  • The Fourth Amendment, against unlawful search and seizure, was the first casualty in our Orwellian “war on terror.”
  • The First Amendment, freedom of speech, has been replaced by a censorship regime with potent sanctions.
  • Even the Eighth Amendment, against cruel and unusual punishment, has been shredded by a prison industry that is paid on volume.

Those are (were) the big ones. Ilya Somin has even found a violation of the Third Amendment. Six and Seven are pretty much toast, too. You can play this game at home by following the news, and tracking how many of your Constitutional rights are still standing.

The stated purpose of this blog is to explore solutions for America’s problems. If no one is going to defend the Constitution, though – despite having taken the oath – then it’s not really America anymore. It might be time to go Simon Black, and start working on that second passport.

See also:  Rule of Law

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Rights, Liberty