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Potpourri

==> Nick Rowe agrees with me that Steve Landsburg’s analysis of paying down government debt is only true if we assume perfect certainty. (Steve I think would totally agree, and that’s why I said in my original post that this was an argument over specifying assumptions for the reader, not about the implications of those assumptions.) Incidentally, if you have never seen Rowe in action, just skim the comments section, only reading his posts. You literally could learn a lot of economics just reading him patiently arguing with people. (In contrast, I am so sarcastic in my comments section that even my allies aren’t quite sure what my point is.) The other good thing about Nick is, he’s pretty humble. So you walk away thinking, “It’s not that this Canadian guy is all that smart, it’s just he’s been studying this stuff longer than I’ve been alive.”

==> Speaking of debt, I’m pleased to announce that for once, I agree with Daniel Kuehn on the government debt stuff! I don’t think Arnold Kling’s response to Krugman’s “we owe it to ourselves” position really got at the fundamental problem. To be clear, it’s not that Kling said anything wrong, and in fact he is highlighting one of the serious, real-world problems with deficit finance. But Krugman really did handle this type of thing by admitting upfront that government debt could have distributional implications for future generations. The stuff Kling is talking about doesn’t really show that Krugman is just flat out wrong for focusing on “we owe it to ourselves,” the way Buchanan/Boudreaux/Rowe did.

==> Poor Ron Paul gets ambushed at 13:30 by this host asking about the Murphy-Krugman Debate.

==> It’s kind of interesting: Someone in the comments of my post about Keynesians and consumption pointed to this Krugman article, where he definitely talks about the limitations of the “paradox of thrift” etc. But if I wanted to be a jerk, I would say, “So you prove to me that Keynesians don’t focus much on consumption, by pointing to Paul Krugman chiding Keynesians for focusing too much on consumption?” Anyway in the interest of holiday charity let me say that actual Keynesian economists are not quite the mindless champions of “consume consume consume!” that their critics sometimes attack, but there is no doubt that the caricature is based on a germ of truth: Even Krugman admits as much in the opening paragraphs of that linked article. So it’s not this right-wing myth the way Gene Callahan and Daniel Kuehn are suggesting.

Ron Paul’s Farewell Address

Thirty-six years after first entering congress, Dr. Ron Paul gave his most memorable, and possibly final, speech on the House floor today. I believe his farewell address will go down as one of the greatest speeches in American history. As usual, he made a clear and passionate case for peace, free markets and sound money. If you’re reading this, then you have almost certainly heard these arguments many times. I want to focus on some ideas we haven’t heard from Dr. Paul before, and some ideas he hasn’t gone into as much detail about in the past.

The Constitution has failed

Dr. Paul has traditionally couched his arguments in terms of the U.S. Constitution. After years of being a lone voice in the wilderness, it appears he’s reached the only logical conclusion he could. To paraphrase Lysander Spooner, either the Constitution allows the tyranny we have today, or it has been powerless to prevent it, and either way, it is unfit to exist. Or as Dr. Paul phrased it:

Our Constitution, which was intended to limit government power and abuse, has failed… The Constitution has not prevented the people from demanding handouts for both rich and poor in their efforts to reform the government, while ignoring the principles of a free society. All branches of our government today are controlled by individuals who use their power to undermine liberty and enhance the welfare/warfare state-and frequently their own wealth and power.

Voluntarism

Dr. Paul has described himself as a voluntarist before; watch this if you don’t believe me. But when he is dealing with the mainstream media, he traditionally does not argue explicitly against the state. Now, that he isn’t looking to get reelected, he can say what he really feels. As I was taking notes for this article, I counted at least ten statements where Dr. Paul expressed the idea that the initiation of force is always immoral. Here is my favorite example:

First, we recognize that individuals shouldn’t initiate violence, then we give the authority to government. Eventually, the immoral use of government violence, when things goes badly, will be used to justify an individual’s “right” to do the same thing. Neither the government nor individuals have the moral right to initiate violence against another yet we are moving toward the day when both will claim this authority. If this cycle is not reversed society will break down.

All governments fail because they, by there very nature, violate the non-aggression principle. Giving a small group of people the right and obligation to initiate violence and coercion in order to “protect” society just does not work, because power always corrupts, and the more power you give someone, the more they will be corrupted. Dr. Paul recognizes this, and suggests that it’s time for humanity to take our next great moral leap forward.

The idealism of non-aggression and rejecting all offensive use of force should be tried.  The idealism of government sanctioned violence has been abused throughout history and is the primary source of poverty and war.  The theory of a society being based on individual freedom has been around for a long time.  It’s time to take a bold step and actually permit it by advancing this cause, rather than taking a step backwards as some would like us to do.

If you want more of the highlight quotes from the speech, Michael Dean of the Freedom Feens captured some of them here.

The Financial Crisis is a Moral Crisis

Someone once asked me, when did things start to go wrong in America. I thought about it for a minute, and said 1913, because that’s the year the Federal Reserve was created and the 16th and 17th Amendments were ratified. I could have also said the civil war, when habeas corpus was suspended and the first fiat paper money was printed by the federal government. I now realize both those answers are wrong.

Things were wrong from the beginning. Yes, the Constitution is the blueprint for the most limited government that has ever existed, with all the checks and balances and separation of powers that could be conceived of at the time. But the Constitution contained the seeds of it’s own destruction, the clauses relating to slavery, the power of taxation, the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and several other clauses violate either self-ownership principle or the non-aggression principle. Once you’ve compromised on the moral standard even a little bit, you’ve given up 100% of the principle, and the negative results are just a matter of time.

It is a testament to how otherwise philosophically sound the Constitution otherwise is, that it took this long to reach a state of tyranny. It is also a testament to the generations of Americans who came before us, who understood plundering their neighbors was immoral, even if it is done in the name of the common good. They would have been shocked and appalled at the idea of accumulating trillions of dollars of debt, using the unborn as collateral. Somewhere along the way, those values were lost.

Sadly, we have become accustomed to living with the illegitimate use of force by government. It is the tool for telling the people how to live, what to eat and drink, what to read and how to spend their money. To develop a truly free society, the issue of initiating force must be understood and rejected. Granting to government even a small amount of force is a dangerous concession.

Be the Change

Throughout his speech, Dr. Paul emphasized that government is not the path to a free society. The government we have is a reflection of the morals of society, of the rejection of the principles of liberty. All that can be achieved through the political process is education. We can do far more by changing ourselves, helping our families, and setting an example for others. He mentions the homeschooling movement as a positive example, since we can’t expect government run or regulated schools to provide children with an unbiased account of the ways the state threatens our liberty and safety.

Most of the change, if it is to come, will not come from the politicians, but rather from individuals, family, friends, intellectual leaders and our religious institutions.  The solution can only come from rejecting the use of coercion, compulsion, government commands, and aggressive force, to mold social and economic behavior.

There is a lot more to this speech, and I believe people will be quoting from it hundreds of years from now. Here is the video, it’s about 48 minutes long. If you have the time, watch the whole farewell address here:

position is clear: "Free trade with all and entangling alliances with none has always been the best policy in dealing with other countries on the world stage." This belief is a rarity in modern politics. Criticize it as dangerous if you wish. Call it foolish. Call it naive. Call it something accurate, but don't call it "isolationist."

You may think him an unelectable dogmatic kook. That is an opinion and you can have it. But when you describe actual policy, try not to make yourself look foolish. Use the actual meanings of words.


BlueCarp

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Calling Ron Paul “isolationist” is either ignorant or dishonest.

Words have meanings, people.

There are many legitimate criticisms of Ron Paul, but calling him “isolationist” is simply a misuse of the word. It is either done purposefully to misrepresent and impugn him or out of ignorance. From Merriam-Webster:

 Isolationism – a policy of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international political and economic relations.

(emphasis added).

Any statement that Paul wants the U.S. to refuse to trade with or engage in economic relations with other countries is nonsense. He is the furthest possible thing from a mercantilist. He is more of a free-trader than any of the other three remaining Republican presidential candidates.

Paul’s position is clear: “Free trade with all and entangling alliances with none has always been the best policy in dealing with other countries on the world stage.” This belief is a rarity in modern politics. Criticize it as dangerous if you wish. Call it foolish. Call it naive. Call it something accurate, but don’t call it “isolationist.”

You may think him an unelectable dogmatic kook. That is an opinion and you can have it. But when you describe actual policy, try not to make yourself look foolish. Use the actual meanings of words.

BlueCarp

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The flawed, short old man isn’t the answer. But his message is.

Ron Paul’s success in the Republican nomination process has very little to do with Ron Paul the candidate. It has everything to do with ideas. It has everything to do with a mission. After wandering in the big government political wilderness for over a century, Paul is leading us to the land of freedom promised in the Constitution. He probably won’t make it there himself, but like Moses, he’ll show it to us across the river. (OK, the Moses comparison is a bit much. I got carried away. Sue me.)

Paul would never be picked by central casting for the role of political leader. He’s old. He’s short. He’s far from  charismatic. He’s far from perfect.

But those imperfections are of the man, not of the ideas. People are starting to realize that government, indeed, is not the answer. Free markets and voluntary action is the answer. Less government is a start. Unfortunately, neither half of the two-party duopoly has ever – ever! – made the federal government smaller.

Voting for the same-ol’ same-ol’ results in ….. more of the same. At the very least, Ron Paul is not more of the  same. A libertarian philosophy may never win over a majority of voters. That makes it no less correct. But without someone spreading the message – even a flawed, short old man – we know for certain the philosophy will never win over a majority of voters.

And what if those that understand and believe in a constitutionally limited government actually vote for it? They might actually get it.

You want to throw away a vote? Keep voting like you have, America.

BlueCarp

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Terrorism and foreign policy.


Prologue.

I write this knowing full well the emotions the topic engenders. I am prepared for that. My intent, however, is to generate honest, thoughtful dialogue. Perhaps I am foolish in that hope.

A quotation.

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

— Sun Tzu

Intro.

There seems to be two polar positions regarding US foreign policy and terrorism. At one extreme is the belief that Islamic terrorists attack the US solely because of  US involvement overseas, particularly the Middle East. The other extreme is that the US can act overseas without regard to consequences because there are none. Neither is correct.

I agree with the notion that the United States is far too involved with far too many foreign countries. Our military is spread too thin across the globe. Forget nation-building policies, bringing democracy to authoritarian countries our protecting our allies in Europe. If nothing else, it is a matter of economics. We simply can not afford it.

This is not some Crazy Uncle Ron Paul wacky isolationist position. Colorado conservative Republican Congressman and U.S. Marine Mike Coffman agrees.

Close our military bases in foreign countries. If not all, then most. If not most, then half. If not half, then some. But start closing them.

The “pure blowback” position.

Some of the anti-war libertarians, and others, have this notion that Muslim terrorism is entirely a creation of U.S. policy overseas. They believe if we leave them alone, terrorism will stop. This is nonsense.

Elements within the Islamic culture believe in domination. This element believes the infidels must either be converted or killed. Pretending this is not so is foolish. This element exists regardless of U.S. foreign policy, and we must be vigilant against it.

The “love it or leave it” position.

It does not follow, however, that U.S. foreign policy is not relevant to this fight. Of course it is. The U.S. has propped up dictators like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, just to name one. We have given our enemies, at the least, pretext upon which to foment hate against us. It is just as foolish to believe our involvement in the Middle East is irrelevant to the Islamo-fascist terrorists as it is to think it is the sole cause.

Leaving aside the merits of our involvement in the Middle East, our involvement is used by our enemies to recruit suicide bombers and generate sympathy for their fascist cause.  One may (and should) ultimately conclude, for example, that killing Osama bin Laden was absolutely the correct action, even if failing to inform the Pakistani government cost us good will in that country.

To ignore that our action made some people angry and will be used to recruit further terrorists is as foolish as the “pure blowback” position. To understand the consequences, to weigh them, and then decide the appropriate action is the prudent course.

Conclusion.

One may ultimately decide it is a good idea to poke a hornets’ nest, but to make that decision without considering the hornets will be displeased is absurd. Likewise, to assume the hornets will never sting you or expand their hive just because you ignore them and leave them be is just as foolish.

Phoenix Gets Ready for Round 2!

This is Round 2 for those of you who missed September’s splash. So come down and get a drink with friends of liberty! Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, conservatives, liberals who understand the meaning of the word–you know who you are! All are welcome!

Location:

Monti’s
100 S. Mill Ave. 85281
Tempe, AZ