Monday, July 31, 2006
Non-interventionism means peace, free trade, civil diplomacy and cultural exchange - without entangling alliances and enemies with other nations. The old Jeffersonian phrase is "Peace and trade with all nations, entangling alliances with none". This is a vital principle that was present at the founding of America. A non-interventionist strongly believes that the only justification for war is self-defense. They are therefore strongly opposed to militarism and empire/nation-building.
Isolationism, on the other hand, means wide-spread trade barriers, huge walls on the borders, no diplomacy and no cultural exchange. Many isolationists believe in having no foreign immigration at all. Wheras the non-interventionist would openly trade, the isolationist would put up tariffs and completely block trade with countries they do not like. Isolationists are protectionist. Whereas the non-interventionist would allow people to freely immigrate, most isolationists are quite hostile to the entire concept of immigration. The isolationist is hostile to a global free market, while the non-interventionist wants to protect the global economy.
Whereas the non-interventionist would support free cultural exchange, the isolationist is a seperatist and some of them are segregationists. Isolationists have a socially conservative impulse in them, although perhaps not as strong as other conservatives. The isolationist On the other hand, what binds isolationists and non-interventionists is opposition to war, although the reasoning is different for both and non-interventionists are often more consistant about it.
A non-interventionist simply is against war because it is mass-destruction of life and private property, and holds a "just war theory" in which war is only justified under limited grounds, of self-defense; of a defensive force. While some isolationists may take this view as well, many have their own alternative motives and reasoning for opposing war. Some separatist isolationists oppose war simply because they are against cultural contact, in other words for racist reasons. Some isolationists mingle with the religious right and are engaged in their absurd cultural warfare.
Non-interventionists are for pure neutrality in foreign relations, in which there are no official allies and enemies, in which sides are not chosen for foreign factional conflicts. Many isolationists, on the other hand, hold "beef" with certain groups and therefore are not truly neutral. The non-interventionist is quite likely to be sympathetic to the value of human life, regaurdless of race or religious creed. An isolationist would likely advocate cutting off all contact with China due to their fears about communism. While the non-interventionist may very well be completely opposed to communism, they would advocate cultural exchange and free trade with China.
A non-interventionist simply contends that foreign intervention into the internal affairs of other countries is full of unintended consequences and danger. They see a history of foreign intervention doing nothing but creating problems that are reacted to with more foreign intervention, in an endless cycle. And they see the invasion of liberty that takes place as the state grows at home and abroad. An isolationist does not have that ethical underpinning. Liberty is not their main motive. The non-interventionist's goals are peace and cooperation, while the isolationist's goals are seperation and no cooperation.
While Pat Buchannan was correct to come out against the Iraq War, and some of his reasoning was dead on, some of his reasoning was also arbitrary and not supported by an underlying dedication to liberty and peace. Isolationists and non-interventionists should not be mixed up and lumped together. One is a libertarian creed (non-intervention) while the other is a conservative creed (isolation). Thus, the word "isolationist" is constantly misapplied as a tool of stifling dissent to foreign policy. It is important for libertarians to make the distinction clear: we are NOT isolationists.
Yet I've encountered quite a few leftists that blindly support this oppurtunist politician, no matter what facts one throws at them. Such people seem to be blinded by their partisanship. For a simple look at the woman's record in the senate should reveal her to be an enemy, even by liberal standards. The list is endless. She voted for the Patriot Act and still supports it. She voted for the use of force and still supports the Iraq War. She supports government spying on civilians and the Department of Homeland Security, and voted Condi Rice in. She strongly supports censorship, with both the liberal bugbear of violence and the conservative bugbear of sex. She supports the Drug War. She believes in "strong police powers". She votes yes on flag burning amendments. She votes yes on corporate welfare. She supports much of the right's social programs, and yes, the right do have their own social programs (check my essay "Big Government Conservatism: An Analysis of the Modern Right" for details). In short, she is completely complacent to if not supportive of the neoconservative's foreign policy and police state agenda. And people consider such a person to be "the leading liberal of our time"? Jehosephat!
Of course, on the economic plane, Hillary is a total train-wreck. She has not one ounce of "fiscal conservatism" in her. She wouldn't cut a budget, lower a tax or abolish a tarrif if her life depended on it. Thus, it should be obvious that such a person is no help in (if not hostile to) decreasing government spending, balancing the budget, or lowering the tax burden of everyone (which obviously includes the poor and middle class). Take practically any economic issue and she will be on the socialist side of the equation, which includes much of the corporate welfarism of the right. It should be no wonder that Rupert Murdock, the neoconservative owner of Fox News and other tabloid-esc corporations, is an ardent financial and political supporter of Hillary Clinton.
One would think that her stance on the Iraq War alone, war being perhaps the most important issue of our time, would be enough to exile her from the left. But no, it seems that she is merely a reflection of the establishment left. However, while I am not coming out in support of him, figures such as Russ Feingold appear to be true liberals in comparison to the Hillaries and Liebermans of the world. The grass-roots leftists and anti-war movement should be absolutely appauled and enraged at their own party. The majority of the Democrats have been nothing short of complacent and supportive of most of the Bush administration's most agregious violations, abuses and usurpations. Even with their shouting in congress about "the culture of cronyism and corruption", a good deal of their criticisms are misplaced and misinformed to begin with, especially on economic matters.
Democrats should think twice when they fancy their side of the aisle to be somehow dissident. For sure, in the current political atmosphere it is in comparison to the rubber-stamping Republicans, but the vast majority are also either rubber-stampers or oppurtunists. When one's own party is in power, things change quickly, positions are reversed and the very things critisized are put into practise by the very same critics. Afterall, the left is fooling itself if it claims to stand for peace and liberty. The Cold War was originally initiated by the left, multiple Democratic presidents presided over Veitnam and Korea, Clinton attacked Bosnia and had secret bombing campaigns on Iraq, FDR interred Japanese Americans in what amounts to concentration camps, Woodrow Wilson got us into WWI. Indeed, the old left played a vital role in the developement of the Military-Industrial-Complex and Corporate State. These things may have been taken over by the right, but much of it was initiated by the old left.
And lo-and-behold. Here we have Hillary Clinton, supporting the neoconservative's agenda on some of the most important issues of our modern times. I do not think it going to far of me at all to pretty much consider her a neo-con, or a neo-lib, which is not very different from a neo-con. Neoliberals are leftists that have retained left-socialistic tendencies in economics while moving towards conservative and fascist tendencies on the social and foreign policy domain. It is the result of a certain fusionism between left and right politics, a fusion of much of the "bad" tendencies of liberal and conservative. Hillary Clinton presents a glaring example of the bad consequences of the fusionist/centrist movements - a move towards authoritarianism.
There is a way out for the left and it's called libertarianism. For a leftist (and I am a former leftist turned Libertarian myself), Libertarianism could be considered the result of taking a strong liberal that is opposed to war, the police state, the government-buissiness alliance, and imbueing them with strong economic/free-market tendencies. To the libertarian, it is a fusion of the "good" tendencies of left and right. The anti-war movement and anti-authoritarian leftists have no real solance or fulfillment in the establishment left, in the Democratic Party. Figures such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Leiberman are betrayers of the "good" parts of the current grass-roots liberal cause. They are completely determental to the cause of liberty and peace. Unfortunately, such people are the mainstream in the Democratic Party, and it's about time people on the left figured that out. As Murray Rothbard once beckoned conservatives to leave their hijacked movement in the 60's, I beckon liberals to leave their hijacked movement today.
Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal
by Murray Rothbard
This classic piece appeared in Ramparts, VI, 4, June 15, 1968. It was the fulfillment of an ideological trend that began a few years earlier when consistent libertarians, led by Rothbard, sensed an estrangement from the American right-wing due to its support of militarism, police power, and the corporate state. Here Rothbard presents a rationale for why he and others had, by 1968, largely given up on the Right as a viable reform movement toward liberty, realized that the Right was squarely on the side of power, and thereby developed an alternative intellectual historiography. The relevance of this essay in our own time hardly needs to be explained, given the record on liberty of the Republican president, congress, and judiciary, to say nothing of conservative and right-wing media.
Twenty years ago I was an extreme right-wing Republican, a young and lone "Neanderthal" (as the liberals used to call us) who believed, as one friend pungently put it, that "Senator Taft had sold out to the socialists." Today, I am most likely to be called an extreme leftist, since I favor immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, denounce U.S. imperialism, advocate Black Power and have just joined the new Peace and Freedom Party. And yet my basic political views have not changed by a single iota in these two decades!
It is obvious that something is very wrong with the old labels, with the categories of "left" and "right," and with the ways in which we customarily apply these categories to American political life. My personal odyssey is unimportant; the important point is that if I can move from "extreme right" to "extreme left" merely by standing in one place, drastic though unrecognized changes must have taken place throughout the American political spectrum over the last generation.
I joined the right-wing movement – to give a formal name to a very loose and informal set of associations – as a young graduate student shortly after the end of World War II. There was no question as to where the intellectual right of that day stood on militarism and conscription: it opposed them as instruments of mass slavery and mass murder. Conscription, indeed, was thought far worse than other forms of statist controls and incursions, for while these only appropriated part of the individual's property, the draft, like slavery, took his most precious possession: his own person. Day after day the veteran publicist John T. Flynn – once praised as a liberal and then condemned as a reactionary, with little or no change in his views – inveighed implacably in print and over the radio against militarism and the draft. Even the Wall Street newspaper, the Commercial and Financial Chronicle, published a lengthy attack on the idea of conscription.
All of our political positions, from the free market in economics to opposing war and militarism, stemmed from our root belief in individual liberty and our opposition to the state. Simplistically, we adopted the standard view of the political spectrum: "left" meant socialism, or total power of the state; the further "right" one went the less government one favored. Hence, we called ourselves "extreme rightists."
Originally, our historical heroes were such men as Jefferson, Paine, Cobden, Bright and Spencer; but as our views became purer and more consistent, we eagerly embraced such near-anarchists as the voluntarist, Auberon Herbert, and the American individualist-anarchists, Lysander Spooner and Benjamin R. Tucker. One of our great intellectual heroes was Henry David Thoreau, and his essay, "Civil Disobedience," was one of our guiding stars. Right-wing theorist Frank Chodorov devoted an entire issue of his monthly, Analysis, to an appreciation of Thoreau.
In our relation to the remainder of the American political scene, we of course recognized that the extreme right of the Republican Party was not made up of individualist anti-statists, but they were close enough to our position to make us feel part of a quasi-libertarian united front. Enough of our views were present among the extreme members of the Taft wing of the Republican Party (much more so than in Taft himself, who was among the most liberal of that wing), and in such organs as the Chicago Tribune, to make us feel quite comfortable with this kind of alliance.
What is more, the right-wing Republicans were major opponents of the Cold War. Valiantly, the extreme rightist Republicans, who were particularly strong in the House, battled conscription, NATO and the Truman Doctrine. Consider, for example, Omaha's Representative Howard Buffett, Senator Taft's midwestern campaign manager in 1952. He was one of the most extreme of the extremists, once described by The Nation as "an able young man whose ideas have tragically fossilized."
I came to know Buffett as a genuine and thoughtful libertarian. Attacking the Truman Doctrine on the floor of Congress, he declared: "Even if it were desirable, America is not strong enough to police the world by military force. If that attempt is made, the blessings of liberty will be replaced by coercion and tyranny at home. Our Christian ideals cannot be exported to other lands by dollars and guns."
When the Korean War came, almost the entire old left, with the exception of the Communist Party, surrendered to the global mystique of the United Nations and "collective security against aggression," and backed Truman's imperialist aggression in that war. Even Corliss Lamont backed the American stand in Korea. Only the extreme rightist Republicans continued to battle U.S. imperialism. It was the last great political outburst of the old right of my youth.
Howard Buffett was convinced that the United States was largely responsible for the eruption of conflict in Korea; for the rest of his life he tried unsuccessfully to get the Senate Armed Services Committee to declassify the testimony of CIA head Admiral Hillenkoeter, which Buffett told me established American responsibility for the Korean outbreak. The last famous isolationist move came late in December 1950, after the Chinese forces had beaten the Americans out of North Korea. Joseph P. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover delivered two ringing speeches back-to-back calling for American evacuation of Korea. As Hoover put it, "To commit the sparse ground forces of the non-communist nations into a land war against this communist land mass [in Asia] would be a war without victory, a war without a successful political terminal . . . that would be the graveyard of millions of American boys" and the exhaustion of the United States. Joe Kennedy declared that "if portions of Europe or Asia wish to go communistic or even have communism thrust upon them, we cannot stop it."
To this The Nation replied with typical liberal Red-baiting: "The line they are laying down for their country should set the bells ringing in the Kremlin as nothing has since the triumph of Stalingrad"; and the New Republic actually saw Stalin sweeping onwards "until the Stalinist caucus in the Tribune Tower would bring out in triumph the first communist edition of the Chicago Tribune."
The main catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right wing from an isolationist and quasi-libertarian movement to an anti-communist one was probably "McCarthyism." Before Senator Joe McCarthy launched his anti-communist crusade in February 1950, he had not been particularly associated with the right wing of the Republican Party; on the contrary, his record was liberal and centrist, statist rather than libertarian.
Furthermore, Red-baiting and anti-communist witch-hunting were originally launched by liberals, and even after McCarthy the liberals were the most effective at this game. It was, after all, the liberal Roosevelt Administration which passed the Smith Act, first used against Trotskyites and isolationists during World War II and then against communists after the war; it was the liberal Truman Administration that instituted loyalty checks; it was the eminently liberal Hubert Humphrey who was a sponsor of the clause in the McCarran Act of 1950 threatening concentration camps for "subversives."
McCarthy not only shifted the focus of the right to communist hunting, however. His crusade also brought into the right wing a new mass base. Before McCarthy, the rank-and-file of the right wing was the small-town, isolationist middle west. McCarthyism brought into the movement a mass of urban Catholics from the eastern seaboard, people whose outlook on individual liberty was, if anything, negative.
If McCarthy was the main catalyst for mobilizing the mass base of the new right, the major ideological instrument of the transformation was the blight of anti-communism, and the major carriers were Bill Buckley and National Review.
In the early days, young Bill Buckley often liked to refer to himself as an "individualist," sometimes even as an "anarchist." But all these libertarian ideals, he maintained, had to remain in total abeyance, fit only for parlor discussion, until the great crusade against the "international communist conspiracy" had been driven to a successful conclusion. Thus, as early as January 1952, I noted with disquiet an article that Buckley wrote for Commonweal, "A Young Republican's View."
He began the article in a splendid libertarian manner: our enemy, he affirmed, was the state, which, he quoted Spencer, was "begotten of aggression and by aggression." But then came the worm in the apple: the anti-communist crusade had to be waged. Buckley went on to endorse "the extensive and productive tax laws that are needed to support a vigorous anti-communist foreign policy"; he declared that the "thus far invincible aggressiveness of the Soviet Union" imminently threatened American security, and that therefore "we have to accept Big Government for the duration – for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged . . . except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores." Therefore, he concluded – in the midst of the Korean War – we must all support "large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington."
The right wing, never articulate, has not had many organs of opinion. Therefore, when Buckley founded National Review in late 1955, its erudite, witty and glib editorials and articles swiftly made it the only politically relevant journal for the American right. Immediately, the ideological line of the right began to change sharply.
One element that gave special fervor and expertise to the Red-baiting crusade was the prevalence of ex-communists, ex-fellow travelers and ex-Trotskyites among the writers whom National Review brought into prominence on the right-wing scene. These ex-leftists were consumed with an undying hatred for their former love, along with a passion for bestowing enormous importance upon their apparently wasted years. Almost the entire older generation of writers and editors for National Review had been prominent in the old left. Some names that come to mind are: Jim Burnham, John Chamberlain, Whittaker Chambers, Ralph DeToledano, Will Herberg, Eugene Lyons, J. B. Matthews, Frank S. Meyer, William S. Schlamm and Karl Wittfogel.
An insight into the state of mind of many of these people came in a recent letter to me from one of the most libertarian of this group; he admitted that my stand in opposition to the draft was the only one consistent with libertarian principles, but, he said, he can't forget how nasty the communist cell in Time magazine was in the 1930's. The world is falling apart and yet these people are still mired in the petty grievances of faction fights of long ago!
Anti-communism was the central root of the decay of the old libertarian right, but it was not the only one. In 1953, a big splash was made by the publication of Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind. Before that, no one on the right regarded himself as a "conservative"; "conservative" was considered a left smear word. Now, suddenly, the right began to glory in the term "conservative," and Kirk began to make speaking appearances, often in a kind of friendly "vital center" tandem with Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
This was to be the beginning of the burgeoning phenomenon of the friendly-though-critical dialogue between the liberal and conservative wings of the Great Patriotic American Consensus. A new, younger generation of rightists, of "conservatives," began to emerge, who thought that the real problem of the modern world was nothing so ideological as the state vs. individual liberty or government intervention vs. the free market; the real problem, they declared, was the preservation of tradition, order, Christianity and good manners against the modern sins of reason, license, atheism and boorishness.
One of the first dominant thinkers of this new right was Buckley's brother-in-law, L. Brent Bozell, who wrote fiery articles in National Review attacking liberty even as an abstract principle (and not just as something to be temporarily sacrificed for the benefit of the anti-communist emergency). The function of the state was to impose and enforce moral and religious principles.
Another repellent political theorist who made his mark in National Review was the late Willmoore Kendall, NR editor for many years. His great thrust was the right and the duty of the majority of the community – as embodied, say, in Congress – to suppress any individual who disturbs that community with radical doctrines. Socrates, opined Kendall, not only should have been killed by the Greek community, whom he offended by his subversive criticisms, but it was their moral duty to kill him.
The historical heroes of the new right were changing rapidly. Mencken, Nock, Thoreau, Jefferson, Paine – all these either dropped from sight or were soundly condemned as rationalists, atheists or anarchists. From Europe, the "in" people were now such despotic reactionaries as Burke, Metternich, DeMaistre; in the United States, Hamilton and Madison were "in," with their stress on the imposition of order and a strong, elitist central government – which included the southern "slavocracy."
For the first few years of its existence, I moved in National Review circles, attended its editorial luncheons, wrote articles and book reviews for the magazine; indeed, there was talk at one time of my joining the staff as an economics columnist. I became increasingly alarmed, however, as NR and its friends grew in strength because I knew, from innumerable conversations with rightist intellectuals, what their foreign policy goal was. They never quite dared to state it publicly, although they would slyly imply it and would try to whip the public up to the fever pitch of demanding it. What they wanted – and still want – was nuclear annihilation of the Soviet Union. They want to drop that Bomb on Moscow. (Of course, on Peking and Hanoi too, but for your veteran anti-communist – especially back then – it is Russia which supplies the main focus of his venom.) A prominent editor of National Review once told me: "I have a vision, a great vision of the future: a totally devastated Soviet Union." I knew that it was this vision that really animated the new conservatism.
In response to all this, and seeing peace as the crucial political issue, a few friends and I became Stevensonian Democrats in 1960. I watched with increasing horror as the right wing, led by National Review, continually grew in strength and moved ever closer to real political power. Having broken emotionally with the right wing, our tiny group of libertarians began to rethink many of our old, unexamined premises. First, we restudied the origins of the Cold War. We read our D.F. Fleming and we concluded, to our considerable surprise, that the United States was solely at fault in the Cold War, and that Russia was the aggrieved party. And this meant that the great danger to the peace and freedom of the world came not from Moscow or "international communism," but from the U.S. and its Empire stretching across and dominating the world.
And then we studied the foul European conservatism that had taken over the right wing; here we had statism in a virulent form, and yet no one could possibly think these conservatives to be "leftist." But this meant that our simple "left/total government – right/no government" continuum was altogether wrong and that our whole identification of ourselves as "extreme rightists" must contain a basic flaw. Plunging back into history, we again concentrated on the reality that in the 19th century, laissez-faire liberals and radicals were on the extreme left and our ancient foes, the conservatives, on the right. My old friend and libertarian colleague Leonard Liggio then came up with the following analysis of the historical process.
First there was the old order, the ancien régime, the regime of caste and frozen status, of exploitation by a despotic ruling class, using the church to dupe the masses into accepting its rule. This was pure statism; this was the right wing. Then, in 17th and 18th century western Europe, a liberal and radical opposition movement arose, our heroes, who championed a popular revolutionary movement on behalf of rationalism, individual liberty, minimal government, free markets, international peace and separation of church and state, in opposition to throne and altar, to monarchy, the ruling class, theocracy and war. These – "our people" – were the left, and the purer their vision the more "extreme" they were.
So far so good; but what of socialism, which we had always considered the extreme left? Where did that fit in? Liggio analyzed socialism as a confused middle-of-the-road movement, influenced historically by both the libertarian left and the conservative right. From the individualist left the socialists took the goals of freedom: the withering away of the state, the replacement of the governing of men by the administration of things, opposition to the ruling class and a search for its overthrow, the desire to establish international peace, an advanced industrial economy and a high standard of living for the mass of the people. From the right the socialists adopted the means to achieve these goals – collectivism, state planning, community control of the individual. This put socialism in the middle of the ideological spectrum. It also meant that socialism was an unstable, self-contradictory doctrine bound to fly apart in the inner contradiction between its means and ends.
Our analysis was greatly bolstered by our becoming familiar with the new and exciting group of historians who studied under University of Wisconsin historian William Appleman Williams. From them we discovered that all of us free marketeers had erred in believing that somehow, down deep, Big Businessmen were really in favor of laissez-faire, and that their deviations from it, obviously clear and notorious in recent years, were either "sellouts" of principle to expediency or the result of astute maneuverings by liberal intellectuals.
This is the general view on the right; in the remarkable phrase of Ayn Rand, Big Business is "America's most persecuted minority." Persecuted minority, indeed! Sure, there were thrusts against Big Business in the old McCormick Chicago Tribune and in the writings of Albert Jay Nock; but it took the Williams-Kolko analysis to portray the true anatomy and physiology of the American scene.
As Kolko pointed out, all the various measures of federal regulation and welfare statism that left and right alike have always believed to be mass movements against Big Business are not only now backed to the hilt by Big Business, but were originated by it for the very purpose of shifting from a free market to a cartelized economy that would benefit it. Imperialistic foreign policy and the permanent garrison state originated in the Big Business drive for foreign investments and for war contracts at home.
The role of the liberal intellectuals is to serve as "corporate liberals," weavers of sophisticated apologias to inform the masses that the heads of the American corporate state are ruling on behalf of the "common good" and the "general welfare" – like the priest in the Oriental despotism who convinced the masses that their emperor was all-wise and divine.
Since the early '60s, as the National Review right has moved nearer to political power, it has jettisoned its old libertarian remnants and has drawn ever closer to the liberals of the Great American Consensus. Evidence of this abounds. There is Bill Buckley's ever-widening popularity in the mass media and among liberal intellectuals, as well as widespread admiration on the intellectual right for people and groups it once despised: for the New Leader, for Irving Kristol, for the late Felix Frankfurter (who always opposed judicial restraint on government invasions of individual liberty), for Hannah Arendt and Sidney Hook. Despite occasional bows to the free market, conservatives have come to agree that economic issues are unimportant; they therefore accept – or at least do not worry about – the major outlines of the Keynesian welfare-warfare state of liberal corporatism.
On the domestic front, virtually the only conservative interests are to suppress Negroes ("shoot looters," "crush those riots"), to call for more power for the police so as not to "shield the criminal" (i.e., not to protect his libertarian rights), to enforce prayer in the public schools, to put Reds and other subversives and "seditionists" in jail and to carry on the crusade for war abroad. There is little in the thrust of this program with which liberals can now disagree; any disagreements are tactical or matters of degree only. Even the Cold War – including the war in Vietnam – was begun and maintained and escalated by the liberals themselves.
No wonder that liberal Daniel Moynihan – a national board member of ADA incensed at the radicalism of the current anti-war and Black Power movements – should recently call for a formal alliance between liberals and conservatives, since after all they basically agree on these, the two crucial issues of our time! Even Barry Goldwater has gotten the message; in January 1968 in National Review, Goldwater concluded an article by affirming that he is not against liberals, that liberals are needed as a counterweight to conservatism, and that he had in mind a fine liberal like Max Lerner – Max Lerner, the epitome of the old left, the hated symbol of my youth!
In response to our isolation from the right, and noting the promising signs of libertarian attitudes in the emerging new left, a tiny band of us ex-rightist libertarians founded the "little journal," Left and Right, in the spring of 1965. We had two major purposes: to make contact with libertarians already on the new left and to persuade the bulk of libertarians or quasi-libertarians who remained on the right to follow our example. We have been gratified in both directions: by the remarkable shift toward libertarian and anti-statist positions of the new left, and by the significant number of young people who have left the right-wing movement.
This left/right tendency has begun to be noticeable on the new left, praised and damned by those aware of the situation.
(Our old colleague Ronald Hamoway, an historian at Stanford, set forth the left/right position in the New Republic collection, Thoughts of the Young Radicals [1966.) We have received gratifying encouragement from Carl Oglesby who, in his Containment and Change (1967), advocated a coalition of new left and old right, and from the young scholars grouped around the unfortunately now defunct Studies on the Left. We've also been criticized, if indirectly, by Staughton Lynd, who worries because our ultimate goals – free market as against socialism – differ.
Finally, liberal historian Martin Duberman, in a recent issue of Partisan Review, sharply criticizes SNCC and CORE for being "anarchists," for rejecting the authority of the state, for insisting that community be voluntary, and for stressing, along with SDS, participatory instead of representative democracy. Perceptively, if on the wrong side of the fence, Duberman then links SNCC and the new left with us old rightists: "SNCC and CORE, like the Anarchists, talk increasingly of the supreme importance of the individual. They do so, paradoxically, in a rhetoric strongly reminiscent of that long associated with the right. It could be Herbert Hoover….but it is in fact Rap Brown who now reiterates the Negro's need to stand on his own two feet, to make his own decisions, to develop self-reliance and a sense of self-worth. SNCC may be scornful of present-day liberals and 'statism,' but it seems hardly to realize that the laissez-faire rhetoric it prefers derives almost verbatim from the classic liberalism of John Stuart Mill." Tough. It could, I submit, do a lot worse.
I hope to have demonstrated why a few compatriots and I have shifted, or rather been shifted, from "extreme right" to "extreme left" in the past 20 years merely by staying in the same basic ideological place. The right wing, once in determined opposition to Big Government, has now become the conservative wing of the American corporate state and its foreign policy of expansionist imperialism. If we would salvage liberty from this deadening left/right fusion on the center, this needs be done through a counter-fusion of old right and new left.
James Burnham, an editor of National Review and its main strategic thinker in waging the "Third World War" (as he entitles his column), the prophet of the managerial state (in The Managerial Revolution), whose only hint of positive interest in liberty in a lifetime of political writing was a call for legalized firecrackers, recently attacked the dangerous trend among some young conservatives to make common cause with the left in opposing the draft. Burnham warned that he learned in his Trotskyite days that this would be an "unprincipled" coalition, and he warned that if one begins by being anti-draft one might wind up opposed to the war in Vietnam: "And I rather think that some of them are at heart, or are getting to be, against the war. Murray Rothbard has shown how right-wing libertarianism can lead to almost as anti-U.S. a position as left-wing libertarianism does. And a strain of isolationism has always been endemic in the American right."
This passage symbolizes how deeply the whole thrust of the right wing has changed in the last two decades. Vestigial interest in liberty or in opposition to war and imperialism are now considered deviations to be stamped out without delay. There are millions of Americans, I am convinced, who are still devoted to individual liberty and opposition to the leviathan state at home and abroad, Americans who call themselves "conservatives" but feel that something has gone very wrong with the old anti-New Deal and anti-Fair Deal cause.
Something has gone wrong: the right wing has been captured and transformed by elitists and devotees of the European conservative ideals of order and militarism, by witch hunters and global crusaders, by statists who wish to coerce "morality" and suppress "sedition."
America was born in a revolution against Western imperialism, born as a haven of freedom against the tyrannies and despotism, the wars and intrigues of the old world. Yet we have allowed ourselves to sacrifice the American ideals of peace and freedom and anti-colonialism on the altar of a crusade to kill communists throughout the world; we have surrendered our libertarian birthright into the hands of those who yearn to restore the Golden Age of the Holy Inquisition. It is about time that we wake up and rise up to restore our heritage.
I have heard several individuals make that claim recently and I felt as though it is appoprate to divide the Libertarian hiarchy in however, silly different distinctions.
Nevertheless, libertarian socialism [which] I suppose has always been confronted as "organizational socialism." Depicts the release of individuality consequent upon the eradication of the oppressive structures of class and state, and has often thought in terms of the self-direction of small communities.
The term ‘libertarian socialism’ is fairly imprecise and in some ways misleading. We can contend that there is no “organizational socialism.” In the first place, socialism moves, between the idea of individualism and collectivism, between diversity and uniformity.
The idea of socialism exhibits some very un-libertarian tendencies like emphasis on over-egalitarianism and hyper-moralism, Libertarianism by its very nature, finds the idea of equality irrelevant and morality a relative investment.
This why “Libertarian-Socialism” in singular, is thus a contradiction in terms. Libertarianism means freedom, not democracy, equality, creativity or a guaruntee of happiness. It aims to promote maximum individual freedom, whatever the outcome of the exercise of that freedom for individuals or the wider society.
Another important difference is the concept of self-ownership. This means that individuals are not seen as having commitments to their fellow human beings and forcing them to accept such commitments (through the imposition of redistributive taxation, for example) which undermines their self-ownership. This view of the position of the individual is in tension with a number of socialist commitments, including the values of equality, planning, and democracy and the notion of the essential sociality of people. Yet, another reason why libertarian-socialism is impossible to accept.
The supporters of libertarian socialism claim they do not want to see the type of inequality that can result from the exercise of self-ownership. They argue, in applying a left-libertarian approach to the question of basic income: A Left-libertarian approach to basic income must address the question of what extent self-ownership and self-determination can be limited by the constraints imposed by egalitarian thinking, as there may be some necessary trade-off between liberty and equality.
However, the problem this position raises relates to the meaning of self-ownership. Not only does it defy the purest concept of self-ownership. I argue it is not logically possible to have simply have a sense of self-ownership? Or for self-ownership as a concept to be meaningful, do you not have to make it a reality throughout society? Surely it is not possible to have a little self-ownership? Which is what makes this argument utterly pointless.
One would think, on the other hand that socialists should logically support autonomy and self-ownership to foster a healthy democracy. The socialist conception of autonomy, however, recognizes that there are occasions when that autonomy has to be exercised collectively, rather than individually. Hence the diffculuty, with libertarian-socialism. Which will eventually bring us to the realization that libertarian-socialism is not a theory or even applicable in anyway.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
How Law is Sufficating America
by Philip K Howard
The Collapse of the Common Good: How America's Lawsuit Culture Undermines Our Freedom
by Philip K Howard
There is a temptation to secure liberty by restricting authority through the law, but this can be overdone, and it carries a high price: "Put law or any other formal construct in the middle of daily dealings, and people will start looking to the law instead of to one another." Then things get much worse: "The more our common institutions fail us, the more Americans want to limit their authority."
Such interventions and expansions are merely throwing gasoline on the fire. Instead of curing the problems, they add new problems and complicate matters. They make the problem worse. And then the new problems are used as a rationale for further expansions and interventions, in an endless cumulative cycle. All the while, things keep getting worse and your liberty is eliminated. People are discouraged from questioning if the government's own interventions are the problem. The government is then exempted from natural law, and is free to do as it pleases. This is why government needs to be expressly limited, so that it doesn't become an agressor.
A modern liberal may put forth the contention that "how can people believe that they can live forever because some man in a pointy hat told them it was true?". I agree and sympathize with this contention, but I would "counter" with "how can people believe that they can turn the poor into a vibrant middle class because some man in a suite told them it was true?". In either case, trust has been transfered into power. Of course, in each case, that trust is quite likely to be based on a complete impossibility, half-truth or lie. The power achieved from that trust is therefore exploited, and the real effect is to harm the individual's liberty in some way.
When the government taxes the middle class to send money to foreign governments "in the name of" helping fight poverty abroad, it is really robbing the people both domestically and abroad. When the government taxes the middle class to provide someone with a weekly welfare paycheck, this actually functions to rob from the middle class while keeping the poor in a complacent state, not rising up the economic ladder at all. Of course, the other method used to spend money on these things is fiat printing, which worsens the poverty and erodes the middle clsss even more through price inflation, which constitutes a hidden tax on the middle class and poor. Furthermore, the high adminastrative costs of a centrally planned beuracracy inevitably renders the service inneficient, as beuracrats and the connected rich politicians and buisiness leech money from the system.
Of course, a common rallying cry at such a point is to raise the minimum wage. And a raise of the minimum wage functions to outlaw the very jobs formerly available to the poor, minority and young workers. If the minimum wage was 6 dollars an hour, and it was raised to 7.10 an hour, this would function to outlaw all jobs between those given wages. As a result, unemployment for people who would have taken such jobs, which leads to massive homelesness and poverty problems down the line. Furthermore, in relation to the fiat printing, the wage increase itself becomes negated by inflation. In relation to welfare, if the welfare rolls are increased, this makes not working more desirable, which leads to more unemployment and welfare recipients.
Why would someone that genuinely cares about the economic well-being of the country want to increase everyone's tax burden. Do such people not realize that they are harming the very people they profess to value and be protecting? The average person already pays around half of their money in taxes. Add up federal income taxes, state income taxes, property taxes, social security, medicare, sales taxes and the inflation tax - and it becomes apparent that everyone is being robbed of the vast majority of their prosperity and well-being simply to run the government as it is. In short, one's ability to voluntarily improve one's own economic and physical well-being is completely eroded. The fact that someone might recieve a lesser service from the government later down the line does not negate this, and the person could have gotten the exact same service cheaper and at better quality voluntarily through private means.
The governments out of control spending on such things leads to deficits and debt, which leads to more taxing and printing, which leads to more impoverishment of the people. It's like an endless cycle of erosion in property rights and liberty, while people are always being convinced that it's "for their own good", that government is robbin hood. But the reality is that the government is robbing the neighborhood while duping the people into thinking that it benefits them somehow. Government is acting as a criminal, as an aggressor, and the vast majority of people allow and even enthuisiastically support it under the false notion that the government is acting as a savior, healer and all-knowing deed to mankind. It is a diefication of political power of sorts - government as superman. Cumulatively, this process does nothing but rob the middle class and increase the poverty problem.
The debate about taxes has been a longstanding theme between Liberals and Libertarians over the morality of labor taxation. Most liberals have taken a consistent position that taxation is a necessary variable and is perfectly compatible with individual liberty. Libertarians on the other hand have taken the position that taxation on labor is tantamount to slavery. Use of the term liberal has changed as has the term libertarian over time. "Language of proprietorship," is what Alan Ryan has called the differential source of their disagreement (it truly boils down to semantics sometimes) and to assess the relative strengths of their arguments. The respective definitions of self-ownership used by liberals and libertarians are deeply problematic—though for entirely different reasons.
The idea of Ownership, when focusing on two major classes: the control rights and the right to income. A minimalist definition of self-ownership consisting of this control rights (called, appropriately enough, "control self-ownership") and will also show that control rights do not directly imply a right to income, a result that greatly complicates libertarian efforts to argue against redistributive labor taxation. Liberal and libertarian definitions of self-ownership will also determine whether any architectonic principles exist to justify the configurations of incidents contained in these definitions. As we see, libertarians face a difficult, perhaps insuperable, challenge in getting the various elements of their conception of self-ownership (namely, the control rights and the right to income) to cohere, whereas liberals face the very different challenge of integrating a coherent conception of self-ownership into an ideological environment that may be inhospitable to it.
Determining the meaning of a right to income is a surprisingly challenging task. This right figures prominently in libertarian arguments against labor taxation. Libertarians count it among the standard incidents of the "liberal concept of ownership. Its meaning is not immediately obvious; however, one can proceed by considering several alternative definitions of it. One rather direct interpretation of the right to income would be that it guarantees the owner a specific sum of money. This right might or might not be contingent upon an actual economic exchange taking place. Clearly, any such right would imply a duty on the part of others to transfer money to the owner. A number of reasons militate against the adoption of this direct approach, though. Such a right seems to be of a type fundamentally different from that of the control rights.
To find a definition of the right to income that fits well into the system of control rights that we have already developed could become a daunting task. A second, related point is that positive rights such as the proposed right to income are difficult to fit into any system of compossible rights, owing to their tendency to conflict with other rights in the system. Finally, the proposed right to income is inherently vague, and leads to questions about the specific level of income to be provided and the identity of those persons obligated to provide it.
An alterative approach to defining a right to income is to think about this right as being a direct implication of a seller's power of transfer. If a seller has the power to transfer a product, service, or factor to a buyer, then does he not as a necessary consequence have a right to the income of that sale from the buyer? The price that a seller receives in an economic exchange is, strictly speaking, independent of his power of transfer; rather, it is dependent on the buyer's power of transfer.
The seller's right to income is directly implied by the buyer's power of monetary transfer. In other words, all that a seller needs to have a secure right to the income from the sale of some item is the protection of the power of potential buyers to transfer money to him. Notice that the right to income is: the right of use, the power of transfer, and an immunity from expropriation form a coherent grouping with the right of exclusion (which serves a justificatory role), while the right to income stands apart due to its derivation from an entirely different source—namely, the (monetary) transfer powers of other people. This cleavage between control rights and a right to income is implicitly exploited by liberals in their ongoing debate with libertarians over the meaning of self-ownership and its implications for redistribution.
America was created, in part, to protect the minority and individual from this. There are fundamental inherent rights that no majority should be able to vote away. This sentiment is clearly reflected in the declaration of independance, which was heavily inspired by the natural law/natural rights principles of John Locke. To be clear, that does not mean that I think oligarchy is any better, it is tyranny for different reasons. But it is important to not buy into the cliche of "democracy = freedom", which is not the case. It is a pure misconception, as is the notion that America is supposed to be a pure democracy, which is not the case either. Whenever someone suggests that majority rule is freedom they're lining us up for tyranny. "Society" is not an existing individual of its own that chooses, acts and thinks on its own - it does not have rights of its own the supercede the rights of the individual.
America was not founded as a Democracy, it was founded as a Constitutional Republic with strict protections of the individual's freedom through strict limits on government power. "A Republic, if you can keep it" were Franklin's words when asked after the constitutional convention what kind of government was created. John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect pre-existing rights. Ron Paul's old article "Democracy is not Freedom" put the point very well. Ultimately, Democracy is not compatable with individual rights, as it is a collectivist construct. An endless majoritarian rat-race for control over others. Furthermore, a pure direct democracy is likely simply not possible.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
For A New Liberty by Murray Rothbard
Human Action by Ludwig Von Mises
No Treason: Constitution of No Authority by Lydsander Spooner
What Has Government Done To Our Money? by Murray Rothbard
Planned Chaos by Ludwig Von Mises
Let us start with the concept of the natural right of each individual in their own person, to own and control their own body, free from aggression and coercion. This is the most fundamental property right there can possibly be. If people do not own themselves, then literally all other rights one can concieve of would cease to exist. All rights are inherently based off of this basic pillar. It should obviously follow that if one has a natural right in their own person, then they are "free" to injest whatever substances they please into their own body. This would include anything from food to cocaine. Such things are actions of the self, and therefore in no way constitutes the use of force against the person or property of others (which is the true definition of crime). What is the effect of prohibiting this voluntary human action of the self? A blatant violation of one's natural right in one's own person, to use and control their own body.
And there is more, homestead. One also has a natural right to freely exchange goods and services with others. Free Exchange and Free Contract. Prohibition of drugs also is a violation of possession/homestead, the free market economy. The effect of the prohibition is to deny a seller the natural right to sell the particular good/service, to deny a buyer the natural right to buy the particular good/service. And to deny the natural right of both to possess the particular good/service. Furthermore, the people's property rights in person and possession are violated further when they are thrown in jail for sale and possession. In short, it is a complete violation of the free market. It should be treated no differently than as if cars or meat were prohibited. Both cars and meat have potential for harm, but that does nothing to negate one's right to possess and exchange such things.
Of course, the drug war obviously requires billions of tax dollars, fiat money printing and therefore government spending. That most definitely creates an erosion of the property rights in possession, as you are increasing how much money is taken from people's taxes and the inflation from money supply increases raises their consumer prices. This is the inevitable result of balooning government spending. The drug war has been tied into foreign policy for a long time now, as the government sends military planes to spray pesticides on poppy plants in Afghanastan and coca plants in Columbia, which presents an extreme problem of sovereignty to boot, and a blatant violation of the property rights of the farmers and countrymen of those foreign countries.
On the more utilitarian plane, there is a basic reality of supply and demand. Reality should tell us that the demand for drugs will always exist, and the most the drug war can do in terms of supply and demand is lower the supply through the prohibition. Of course, in doing this, the effect is to create a defacto domestic black market for the drugs, with generally inflated prices due to the diminished supply. No matter what the government does, it will never realistically curb the demand. As a result, the effect is worse conditions and a real incentive for real violent crime.
Particularly in "lower-class" neighborhoods and ghettos, the environment created by prohibition is one where people have a very big incentive to turn to criminal means when dealing with drugs because of the inflated price and turf wars over the supply. Thus, the violent crime commonly associated with drugs is largely the result of the prohibition itself. It is inherent - when you criminalize voluntary human action in such a way, you are practically making people into criminals. The Organized Crime and chaos of the 20's during alchohol prohibition is a clear testament to this, just as today street gangs and border-hopping black market dealers are the direct result of the drug war. You are forcing some people to use criminal means to obtain, sell or use their desired product or service. And of course, there are the corrupt police forces that introduce the drugs back into the black market.
There is also simply a naturalistic consistancy about drug use. Someone who is addicted to heroine is naturally punished already through the health problems that it yields. Someone who drinks too much is naturally punished with liver and stomach problems. Someone that snorts too much cocaine is naturally punished with erosion of nose cartelidge. It seems that the natural result of such risky decisions already punishes these people, so why would you react by punishing them further? That surely makes no sense and makes the drug war seem more about vile, misinformed revenge for puritans.
And, what of personal responsibility? The prohibition functions to take away one's ability to be personally responsible for their own actions and has the state be an omnipotent nanny that takes responsibility for them, always under the instance that its "for their own good" and "for the public good" and such absurdities. Without the capabilitiy of free choice, genuine morality ceases to exist (as was part of the lesson from Clockwork Orange). The government or the majority are not all-knowing omnipotent sages that know what is best for everyone else, and they certainly do not respect one's ability to decide such personal matters for themselves. There is a term for people that are hellbent on dictating the personal choices and actions of others - lifestyle fascists.
Of course, there are always those that would ask the question, "But what if some guy does heroine and then goes off and murders someone?". This question presents a straw man to begin with. The crime itself would be the act of murder, not the fact that they do heroine. This would constitute very good and ethical reason to prohibit murder, but not heroine. The law could and should react to the murder by prosecuting and convincting within the bounds of a fair trail (if such things exist anymore). Another common theme is "but what about the children?". This is perhaps the most annoying and weak of all. If a child is coerced to endure being drugged, then obviously a case could be made for a crime. However, again, this does not provide a legitimate reason for drug prohibition.
The drug war has never been about morals or safety. It is a violation of the free market, a breeder of crime, an invasion of responsibility and a bastion of a police state. It is the manipulation of protective and puritan emotions in people by the government to gain support for an oppressive and counterproductive policy that also indirectly functions to shield established buisinesses and industries from competition (as in the case of the banning of industrial hemp). It doesn't matter if 95% of the population supported drug prohibition. It's a war on the American people and should be abolished. Private property wins. Big government loses.
Why should we continue to work within the UN? When the Secretary General power has been broken by a corruption scandal. The hope that Mr. Volcker’s report would perhaps end doubts about
The real issues at stake require a little bit of history. The structure of the UN was agreed upon post-WWII and it was-in the
It could not defend the human rights of the citizens of
The uselessness of the UN has been solidified by the US-Iraq debacle. When
“To be or not to be…”
Short of complete abolishment the only reforms of the UN that would be meaningful would be to abolish the Security Council and give all power to the General Assembly. We should also move the headquarters to
So long as the governments of those countries continue to be corrupt, the extreme poverty will continue, as those governments are the main culprit in much of that poverty. So it surely makes zero sense to give out billions of tax dollars to the very governments that keep their people in poverty. It's like giving a robber money in the name of helping his victim. Of course, the robber is most likely to not use that money to help his victim(s) and will use it for his own benefit. The same works with foreign aid. You're giving tyrannical governments billions of dollars that is supposed to go to relieve poverty, but it doesn't, because they are tyrannical governments that persue their self interest.
The conclusion that I draw from this is that best and most realistic way to help these poor people in other countries would be to majorly limit/overhaul their governments if not institute new governments altogether, for the heart of the problem lies in their corrupt systems of governance and the economic policies persued by them. That could entail anything from revolt of its people against their government to mild economic reform to "regime change" conducted unilaterally (conservatives like it that way) or multi-laterally (liberals like it that way). Out of these kind of options, what I am immediately 100% against "regime change".
I do not like that kind of foreign intervention, because I strongly believe that freedom and "good government" (a questionable term in the first place) is not something that can be imposed through military might or political power. The hypocrisy of sending billions of tax dollars to support tyrannical governments and military actions, and then using those very things that the government supported as reason to "fix" what we already started by starting wars and engaging in special military operations should be obvious. Yet this seems to be the endless cycle of the post-WWII foreign policy of the United States. Financial support of corrupt foreign governments, regime change, imposed economic planning and guerilla war in a jungle or desert. Rinse and Repeat.
Furthermore, while such countries need to "liberalize" (in the classical sense of the word) their economic policies, it also is something that cannot be imposed on other countries, and trying to do so through foreign intervention will only do exactly the opposite and end up as central planning of a foreign economy. If the political history of the 20th century teaches us anything, it should be that central planning of an economy always fails and is detrimental to the individuals that make that economy up. True economic "reform" must start in those countries themselves, as initiated by the individuals that make up those nations.
As a constitutional matter, it should be a cut and dry case that foreign aid is not constitutional. Eitherway you cut it (double entendre), foreign aid needs to be stopped. Abolished. "Kaput". It only functions to impoverish our own country while making governments and special interests richer, especially with the domestic economic interventions that are "required" to sustain it (taxation, big deficit spending, inflation, protectionism, etc.). It may come off as twisted to the misinformed or egalitarian mind, but reality dictates that foreign aid must be stopped for the well-being of both our own country and other nations of the world.
Friday, July 28, 2006
I'm not an anarcho-capitalist - but it certainly doesn't take an anarchist to see something terribly wrong with this picture. What is truly ruining the movement is people who want to abandon the very foundation of the ideology for political pragmatism. By presenting such a picture, not only is it entirely misleading as to what Libertarianism actually is, but it threatens to make Libertarianism itself become something entirely different. The point should be to bring liberals and conservatives towards libertarianism through education, but I fear what this functions to do is bring libertarianism closer to liberalism and conservatism. While demonizing the "radicals" that are actually the foundation of the movement itself. Where are the radicals? Lord, give us radicals, be they anarchists or not!
People who are interested in Libertarianism would be better suited going to Lee Rockwell's website then the LP's, because it appears that the LP is slowly turning into a front for something very un-libertarian. Rothbard wrote about these problems long ago (http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard75.html - Do You Hate The State? http://www.mises.org/fullstory.aspx?Id=1709 - The Case For Radical Idealism). Rothbard has an important point - you can be a minarchist and be absolutely radical (which describes me quite well) and an anarcho-capitalist with no fire. The people starting to dominate the LP are the worst possible, as at best they are minarchists with no fire. At worst, they are conservatives and liberals that fancy themselves libertarians. If Libertarianism becomes nothing but a euphamism for people who are weary of both left and right, it poses the risk of becoming nothing but "centrism". Someone that is 50% "socially liberal" and 65% "fiscally conservative" on the politcal spectrum is not a Libertarian, they are a right-leaning centrist. But with the FALSE designation of "socially liberal and fiscally conservative" being libertarianism itself, then that's what the movement becomes, centrism.
“The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions”
Rights in a Modern Society:
Every government will abuse its power. Libertarianism holds the key to ending the power of an illegitimate and immoral government’s power over individuals. The rights of citizens are constantly violated by over-regulation. In all situations the powers of the government to invade your private life can be seen. The greatest example of this violation is the use of force and corrosion against citizens to help the needy, pay for public goods and finance social security. If one does not voluntarily agree to share one's wealth in this way, the mere fact that one reaps a benefit from the services does not, on libertarian grounds, generate an enforceable duty to pay one's fair share.
In the modern welfare state we deal with these grievous violations. We are told that these uses of force and corrosion are acceptable and the restrictions that are placed on our freedom to engage in activities that do not violate anyone’s rights are wrong. We are not only restricted from exercising our freedom but encouraged to use agents of the state to enforce our rights rather than relying on our own abilities to do so. Although most states recognize a right to use force in self-defense, few states recognize a legal right to forcibly extract compensation from, or punish, a person who has violated one's rights. The state may punish those who attempt to impose the relevant rectification—even if the private citizens impose the very same rectification that the state would impose. One can argue that each individual has the right to enforce and protect his rights in a manner he/she sees fit. The objection is not that the state can enforce those rights (if asked) but that the agents of the state prevent citizens from enforcing their own rights.
This method measures your political views by actually determining how much government interference you are willing to tolerate or promote. One dimension is economic interference, and the other is essentially social interference. It should be clear that the standard view on politics leaves out half of the political spectrum. It should also be clear that even within the realms of "liberal" and "conservative" there is a certain diversity. For example, certainly a "conservative" at X50 and Y20 is quite different then a "conservative" at X100 and Y50. They both may be "rightists", but it is clear that they are extremely different. One believes in much less government then the other does (less than half as much).
The characterization of Hitler as "far right" and Stalin as "far left" is entirely wrong. As a rough estimate, I would place Hitler around X90 Y75, and Stalin at X75 Y90. We should clearly see that Hitler and Stalin have much in common, they are very similar, regardless of one leaning left and the other leaning right. They both are totalitarians, relative partners in action. What defines them is totalitarianism, not left or right. In comparison, a right-leaning libertarian like Ron Paul is quite diametrically opposed to Hitler, and a left-wing Gandhi is by the very least socially diametrically opposed to Stalin. The true diversity of the political spectrum should start to show here.
By thinking solely in terms of left and right, political conflict is only confined to one half of the spectrum, while what is the most important conflict to me is entirely left out - look at the spectrum from up to down. Totalitarian vs. Libertarian, or big government vs.. small government. In a certain way, left and right is a total distraction from this. The farthest "left" you can go is total economic interference and zero social interferences, and the farthest "right" you can go is total social interference and zero economic interference. Such positions can easily be seen as contradictory, to be diametrically opposed in the two realms. It also strikes me as practically impossible for someone to be quite THAT polarized. If we are to re-apply the one-dimensional view of politics to the spectrum, we are presented with a blatant absurdity, because libertarianism, anarchism and totalitarianism are all lumped into "the center". If anything, this best demonstrates the huge error of a one-dimensional spectrum. An anarchist and a totalitarian are diametrically opposed - one wants no government at all, while the other wants total government. In a sense, the general characterization functions to pretty much eradicate knowledge of the existence of these things.
When factional strife is put in terms of left vs.. right, it blurs and obscures the reality of the situation. Many people often make the mistake of only choosing to see one dimension of the spectrum (social for left, economic for right), and therefore are only judging differences based on that one dimension. This produces an entirely misleading picture. Both dimensions have to be combined to produce a more accurate picture.
For example, many rightists seem to be convinced that "liberalism" is the ultimate threat to them, that it is their diametric opposite or enemy. Yet let us return to our "conservative" at X50 and Y20. In truth, to be more specific, the authoritarian section of "the left" around X 50 and Y 80 is their true enemy, while the anti-authoritarian section actually has more in common with them and may actually be a good ally against the authoritarian left. The grass roots "leftist" at X 20 and Y 50 is not their diametric opposite or enemy, yet many conservatives specialize in attacking such people. Furthermore, there are "enemies" within one's own ranks in "the right". An authoritarian "conservative" at X 80 and Y 50 prefers twice as much government interference that the anti-authoritarian "conservative" does - they actually are a greater "threat" to his ways then the anti-authoritarian leftist. Social permissiveness is not the "small C" conservative's true enemy, economic intervention is.
Many leftists seem to be convinced that "conservatism" or "capitalism" is the ultimate threat to them, that it is their diametric opposite or enemy. Yet let us take a "liberal" at X 20 and Y 50. In truth, to be more specific, the authoritarian section of "the right" around X 80 and Y 50 is their true enemy, while the anti-authoritarian section actually has more in common with them and may actually be a good ally against the authoritarian right. The grass roots "rightist" at X 50 and Y 20 is not their diametric opposite or enemy, yet many liberals specialize in attacking such people. Furthermore, there are "enemies" within one's own ranks in "the left". An authoritarian "liberal" at X50 and Y 80 prefers twice as much government interference that the anti-authoritarian "liberal" does - they actually are a greater "threat" to his ways then the anti-authoritarian rightist. Capitalism is not the "small L" leftist's true enemy, social intervention is.
It should be noted that both of the anti-authoritarian leftist and rightist has loads more in common with a libertarian then they do with the authoritarians within their own ranks. It should also be clear that the media characterizations in politics sets up an entirely false debate. Even if I split up the spectrum into two halves of left and right, within those halves I am presented with three basic subsections as well: An anti-authoritarian or libertarian section, a centrist section, and an authoritarian section. A relatively authoritarian "leftist" like Hillary Clinton is worlds apart from the grass-roots pro-civil-liberties, anti-war "liberal". Even figures on the right such as Pat Buchanan is worlds apart from a Neoconservative. However, due to the confusion and disorientation of politics, many people are supportive of people within their own ranks that do not represent them and are even opposed or harmful to them.
So, along with the misplaced oppositions comes misplaced alliances, where peaceniks support war-hawks and fiscally minded people support big spenders. It is my contention that in the process, most of the politicians themselves are basking in power in the center (which includes totalitarianism) while the people are polarized between a "left and right". This polarization serves as a distraction from the general unity of those in the government, the simple fact that most of them are on the side of power overall. In short, it is a dupe. And this dupe is the basis of our modern political situation in America, as well as many places around the world. Politicians will do anything in their power to ensure that the people do not unite against power itself, so they concoct devices to pit people against each other and create straw men.
After all, the greatest threat to political power, even greater than an armed populace, is an informed populace. If the people stopped fighting each other and banded together against their government in general, this would potentially serve as a true check on their power. But so long as everything is done in terms of a misguided battle between the forces of "left and right", the status quo will remain. Left and right, liberal and conservative have become utterly meaningless terms that do nothing but signify certain special interests, and doesn't even do very good of a job of it at that. To Libertarians, Anarchists and Independent minded people, the battle has historically always been and still is between social power and political power (as Franz Oppenheimer put it), or between freedom and oppression. One-dimensional politics obscures this. The vital question is the power and size of government, not left and right or which special interest to give control of the government to.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Government Spending and Welfare
In the modern political arena, where do most rightists stand? Let us analyze the picture solely in economic terms. For the fiscal year 2001, the federal government's budget was 1.2 trillion dollars, a significant sum of money. For the fiscal year 2007, under George W. Bush and a Republican congress, that budget has increased to 2.7 trillion dollars. That means that the budget has increased by around 250% in only six years, which means that the federal government has nearly tripled in size. Add to that an 8 trillion dollar debt and half a trillion dollar deficit. When presented with this basic fact, the typical conservative reaction is either to try to talk away such big spending with the excuse of our foreign policy issues, or they outright don't care. I've heard many conservatives simply take the view that deficits don't matter.
Granted, there are some conservatives who do have a problem with the government's overall spending, but they do little to nothing to oppose it and often get into the semantics of what the money is going to. Some conservatives argue that the big spending on foreign policy is necessary, but the social and domestic spending should be eliminated. But this merely presents them as hypocrites that refuse to apply the same principle to both foreign and domestic policy. The conservative simply has no valid excuse for such things. "The Iraq War" is not a valid excuse, and neither is "it's because of the democrat's social programs". If the government was too big under Clinton, it has comparably turned into a monster under Bush. There is no getting around this. To truly be consistent and principled one surely must call for a significant decrease in government spending across the board. Yet mainstream conservatives and the establishment would never allow even a 1/3 reduction in overall federal spending, let alone 2/3 or 9/10. They certainly would never accept a meaningful cut to the military/defense budget, let alone a decentralization and downsizing of the military.
And what of welfare? Aren't conservatives supposed to be opposed to welfare on the grounds of personal responsibility and the free market? This notion must be called out for being an illusion. To start, back to the split between foreign and domestic policy, many conservatives may be (at least in rhetoric) opposed to domestic welfare, but they strongly support foreign welfare. Foreign aid is welfare going to foreign nations. Just like domestic welfare, the stated goal is to bring people out of poverty, yet this goal never seems to approach actually being completed. The reality of this foreign aid is that it is a transfer from our treasury department to the governments of other countries. It must be noted that many of the governments of these countries are socialist, fascist or generally tyrannical. Some of them are run by dictators. This money has little to no accountability, and often ends up going into the coffers of foreign dictators and bureaucrats, as well as American corporate contractors. In short, it is corporate welfare and tax-payer support of tyrannical governments under the disguise of helping the needy people in those countries.
Many conservatives also support domestic welfare, both corporate and personal, perhaps without realizing it. Farm subsidies is personal and corporate welfare for farmers. Faith-based initiatives is government welfare that goes through religious organizations. No-bid military contracts is corporate welfare. Conservatives are no more opposed to welfare then liberals are - the only difference is the special interests that the welfare is going to. For conservatives, that usually means welfare for the south, agriculture, business and religious institutions. Billions of tax payer dollars goes directly to entire industries and corporations, such as pharmaceutical and oil companies. And, on the front of the old welfare for the poor that was started by the old left, these things have only been increased under Republican governance. While Democrats in congress ramble about the Republicans making "cuts", the reality is that there is no cutting going on at all. At best, the Republicans increase overall spending while slightly slowing the rate of future growth of select programs and policies. At best, they shift spending around while increasing the general budget.
Want to talk about social programs? Republicans supported, voted for and signed into law a Medicare prescription drug bill that set a social and fiscal liability over twice the size of social security. Of course, this functions as welfare for the pharmaceutical companies at the expense of the multitude. Education? Republicans have increased federal spending on and federal involvement in education (which the No Child Left Behind Act is part of), yet I remember not to long ago when the abolition of the federal department of education was actually on the GOP's platform. These days they push for various uniform standards in the schools based on personal, religious and ideological opinions; such as intelligence design and abstinence. Very few modern conservatives seem to have the understanding or bravery to question any of this.
Taxation, Monetary Policy and Trade
Taxes? While it is true that Republicans have had a policy of cutting taxes (1) they have not cut spending on par with that tax reduction, which inherently yields the deficit (2) in the grand scheme of things, they've barely cut taxes at all/enough, especially as it affects the average person (3) their huge spending increase inherently represents future taxation, which in turn means tax increases and (4) they use the federal reserve to print excess paper money out of thin air to function as an alternative to taxation, which in reality constitutes a form a special indirect taxation on the middle class and below, regressive wealth redistribution essentially. It must be realized that all government spending represents a tax, because the government's money inherently is acquired through taxation. In this sense, the big spending of conservatives in the government represents a future tax increase on you. It must be realized that a deficit is the result of government revenue being lower then the government's spending, and therefore a deficit is inherently the result of excessive spending. Furthermore, some conservatives support special "sin taxes" on various "politically incorrect" or risky things, such as alcohol or fatty foods. Republican politicians tend to pledge not to raise taxes, but they always do it in some form or another.
And then we get to the federal reserve and monetary policy, which is used as a means to finance and/or sustain that deficit and the debt through inflation. Of course, when we make it to this point, the reality of Republicans and taxes starts to become particularly dire. In short, the federal reserve functions as an alternative to taxation. Republicans raise your taxes through printing paper money. When the money supply (which is no longer backed by a gold standard) is increased, the value of the individual dollar naturally lowers. When the value of the dollar lowers, the market reacts to this by raising prices to make up for it. This increase in prices inherently raises the cost of living, which lowers the standard of living. In turn, this functions to erode the middle class.
This is nothing short of a hidden tax on the middle class and poor. It is at the heart of "the middle class squeeze", and it constitutes legalized counterfeiting. When the money is freshly printed, it is used on the government's wars and special interest programs (many of which go to the rich and corporations - and is also used to bail out private banks that would have gone bankrupt on the free market) before the affects of the inflation settles in. By the time the dollar gets down to the average person, it has already been diluted and therefore has less purchasing power. Ever since after WWII, the printing press has been on auto-charge essentially, varying in its rate from time to time. Not coincidentally, ever since after WWII, prices and therefore the cost of living has been perpetually increasing.
To make matters worse, the federal reserve and its credit expansion is at the heart of "the business cycle". Central banking and credit expansion always creates a speculative "boom". This "boom" is usually or always hailed as economic growth and prosperity. But as described above, it is detrimental to the economic growth and prosperity of the average person. In truth, the credit expansion "boom" only gives prosperity to whatever or whoever the government's excess spending is on, which is often special interests, corporations and the rich. It is simply impossible to create prosperity by printing and spending, it is only the illusion of prosperity. Inflation is not prosperity; a price increase for most of everyone is not prosperity. It can only distort the economy, destroy the standard of living and be misleading to investors and speculators.
The biggest problem of all, as the great Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises theorized long ago, is that the boom created by the credit expansion always turns into a "bust". In other words, a depression or recession. A boom cannot be sustained forever, and it inherently distorts the economy. The great depression was the result of huge credit expansion to fund WWI and the special interests of the day, during the "roaring twenties" (It is very important to note that the Federal Reserve was created in 1913). Eventually it could not be sustained, and the economy tanked. A recession or depression (recession is just the "light" word used for the same thing) is the painful but necessary process of the market clearing itself out of the distortions of the preceding boom. Thus, the best or ideal thing to do during the recession is stay out of the economy and let it heal itself, so to speak - and then not start a new boom ever again. Refrain.
Typically, the market is allowed to adjust for a while, and then the government starts a new boom again, pushing the illusion on the people that it is the boom that helps them prosper. This process has been played out over and over again, from the WWII "boom" to the Oil "bust" in the 70's to Reagan's "recession" in the late 80's to Clinton's "boom" in the 90's to the inevitable recession at the turn of the millennia to the modern war-time "boom" that we are in right now. And I predict that on the horizon is the inevitable recession, no matter how much they try to stall it in the present. Where do most conservatives stand on this matter? Mostly in support of inflationism. It was Nixon that officially abolished the gold standard and switched to pure fiat money in the 70's, and he also imposed wage and price controls.
Chicago School economist Milton Freidman spent his whole career making excuses for and outright endorsing inflationomics. There is a whole school and breed of conservatives that spend much of their time trying to blame the problems of the federal reserve system on other factors. But these people are either misinformed, corrupt or both. By the very least, the Gold standard needs to be reinstituted. The principled and bold thing to do, however, is abolish the federal reserve, liquidate its assets and then follow the constitutionally mandated law of coinage, which requires a gold and silver standard. This would function as a strict restraint on the ability of the government and private bankers to increase the money supply, and a strict restraint on government spending.
Free Trade? Yes, many conservatives ramble and lecture to you endlessly about free trade. However, many of them wouldn't know free trade if it was under their nose. The North American Free Trade Agreement and its later versions are anathema to what free trade really means and is. What they really support is selective protectionism. For example, we still have a total barrier to trade with Cuba. The rationale of this for many people is likely the cold war, but the cold war is over. There is no good reason not to trade freely with such countries. Ironically, at least in the case of Cuba, a leftist may actually be more likely to side with free trade than your typical rightist. I've heard many conservatives call for a boycott, which amounts to a barrier to trade, with Venezuela. Regardless of the threats of the Venezuelan president, the true free trade way would be to react with that with the message of neutrality and free trade, not to start a trade war.
The Bush administration has been more then happy to be protectionist about the exaggerated "Bird Flu" threat. There also seems to be many conservatives that are blatantly protectionist about China. There are paleo-conservatives that believe in completely sealing up the borders, ending all foreign immigration and throwing 100% barriers to trade up with particular disliked countries. The Republican Party has a long history of tariffs on steel, going back to the party's conception in the 19th century. And to this day, conservatives support steel tariffs, which functions to protect certain corporations from competition in the global economy. No, the conservative's globalization is not one of free trade and cooperation. It is one of special privilege to certain special interests, and dictating the markets of other countries.
Individual Liberty, Peace and Foreign Policy
And what of social and personal matters? And peace? If anything, conservatives have the worst track record in this regard. Domestically, conservatives tend to strongly support the drug war and police powers. Surely, a police state does not adhere to a principle of limited government. Conservatives have greatly expanded executive powers and diminished civil liberties with the Patriot Act. Conservatives support government spying on American citizens, which has been demonstrated based on Bay's Theorem to be virtually useless to find terrorists. Habeas Corpus is being slowly nullified. There are moves being made in congress to essentially censor the internet. And of course there is the FCC itself, which is used as government control and censorship of the media. The prison system is filled to the brim, partially with innocent, non-violent people who were "victims" of the drug war or a bad trial. I will guess that this group constitutes at least 1/3 of the prison population. If the media reports the truth for once about something questionable the government is doing, the modern conservative's reaction is to punish them for treason.
The creation of the Department of Homeland Security took all of the government's intelligence and defense agencies and departments and centralized them into one monstrous bureaucracy. Republicans in congress push for something as trivial and outrageous as a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. There are huge data mining databases that soak up information about everyone. Video cameras on the street corners increases in populated areas. There are detention camps in which torture is being used that are being given immunity from both federal and global law. Prisoners of war are being given secret military trials outside of U.S. law. The country is in a guerilla war with a nation that did not aggress against us. The typical modern conservative supports most if not all of these things, with little to no concern for the individual's liberty in their person or property. They seem determined to expand or at least preserve police powers no matter what.
Many conservatives, the religious right in particular, spend their time focusing on stopping homosexual people from getting married, forcing creationism or mandatory prayer into the public schools, taking television shows they don't like off the air, stopping a person in a vegetable state from being "put to sleep" at the consent of their spouse and/or based on their will, and outright banning abortion. In the realm of "victimless crimes" (which shouldn't be called crimes at all, rather, voluntary human action that has unjustly been criminalized), conservatives are little to no help. Prostitution prohibition, Gambling prohibition, Suicide prohibition, "Assisted Suicide" prohibition, Pornography prohibition, State-wide smoking bans, "Click It Or Ticket" laws. Most conservatives range from passive to supportive of these things. Very few are against them. The only "victimless crime" that a majority of conservatives seem to be against is gun prohibition.
The modern conservative seems to be unquestioningly supportive of war and the military industrial complex, regardless of the big spending, taxing and printing that it inherently requires, and the general ethical concerns that any war should present a civilized human being with. Foreign intervention is their preferred tool, especially for Neoconservatives. It is my view that the neoconservatives use the religious right and social conservatives as dupes for support of their policies and laws. Some of these people have a Trotskyite or Straussian view of perpetual war. In short, the idea is that war is necessary for the health of the state, essentially as a means for expanding the state through empire. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". Leo Strauss theorized that the only way to unite a nation is to be against an enemy, and therefore it is necessary to always have an enemy, even if one has to falsely manufacture one. Such is the dangerous view that lies behind the foreign policy concocted by the Project For A New American Century and various figures within the Bush administration. Famous and powerful figures ranging from Irving Kristol to Donald Rumsfeld are former students of Leo Strauss himself, and take this kind of view on foreign policy.
This leads to huge nation building projects that drain the taxpayer, transfer wealth to the rich and special interests and cause other countries to hate us, which in turn fuels terrorism and economic hostility. It also leads to the mass-murder of civilians, the mass-destruction of private property, endless insurgencies and puppet governments. Economically, all wars seem to come with an increase in credit expansion, which of course only makes inflation worse. While the boom may be stalled, the bust is inevitable and you are only going to make the coming recession worse by prolonging the falsely manufactured boom. Many conservatives don't seem to see any problem with spending tax payer dollars to build schools in the middle east while tuition costs rise exponentially from inflation here at home. Indeed, tax payer dollars are sometimes used to fund foreign elections, and this has become a rather common practice for the Bush administration. If one dares to question or criticize Israeli policy, they are automatically branded as an anti-semite. If one dares to question or criticize middle east policy, they are automatically branded as unpatriotic and supporting "the enemy".
On a much grander scale, the government is trying to centrally plan the economy of an entire country (Iraq). The typical modern conservative will defend this practice and then criticize central planning of the economy domestically. It is a complete contradiction between foreign and domestic policy. If central planning of an economy fails and is socialism, then also means that centrally planning another country through nation building will be no different. So, in truth, many conservatives are socialists or leaning in that direction on foreign policy matters. War is equated to liberty and the state and its military industrial complex are worshiped as infallible defenders of freedom and "security". If liberals believe in a nanny state, conservatives believe in a daddy state. Military might and police power is equated to freedom.
Many conservative administrations have used the CIA and the military to assassinate foreign leaders, place in puppet dictators, meddle in foreign elections and build extensive military bases. There have been quite a few military occupations, both in official wars and special or even secret military operations, of foreign countries in a guerrilla war (Korea, Vietnam, etc.) for completely political reasons. There has also been many questionable allies of the past, which are often turned into enemies later on due to politics. In the early 1950's, the Eisenhower administration assassinated the democratically elected leader of Iran and placed the Sha in power. Reagan had his Geneva and Panama escapades, as well as the famous Iran-Contra deal.
During the Reagan years, Saddam Hussein was a U.S. "ally" that we funded through foreign aid and supplied weapons to; "we" even supported his invasion of Iran based on politics. Many conservatives brush such things off as insignificant, or even try to argue for them ethically, but it all adds up. The foreign interventions inherently come back to haunt us, and they were wrong in the first place. It should be no wonder why so many people around the world seem to hate America so much, especially in the middle east. Supporting the tyrannical actions of foreign dictators and oligarchies and then occupying those countries, overthrowing the tyrannical governments while tyrannizing the people through war and placing in new tyrannical governments. And then have the gall to imply that you are "freeing people" and "spreading peace and democracy around the world" through military conquest. Nation building, foreign intervention - these things do not work.
So, what is the modern conservative movement? It is a bunch of global crusaders, puritans, collectivists and socialists. They stand for rigorous social control of people's personal choices and actions, special privilege to certain groups at the expense of others, inflationism, big spending, perpetual war, a police state, protectionism, and stifling dissent. A welfare/warfare state. In short, big omnipotent, paternalist government. To the modern conservative, the state is an all-knowing father that protects you from "the enemy", protects you "from yourself" and keeps you "safe". The government is allowed and encouraged to expand in the name of enforcing "order", "tradition" and "morality". The only thing that they are willing to "conserve" or limit is your liberty. The only kind of "order" they stand for is the use of force to mold you into a particular mold. The only "tradition" they stand for is force; the bayonet. The only "morality" they stand for is coercion. They do not stand for free markets, they stand for a government-business alliance and welfare state under the disguise of free market rhetoric.
In the first half of the 20th century, it could be said that the Republican Party contained elements within it that were libertarian-leaning or even anarchist. It wasn't ever the mainstream, but it certainly was an existing and populated sub-group. The general ideology of the party leaned closer to it then it does now. There was a clear anti-war subsection of the GOP during that period, which started with WWI and peaked during the Korean War. Such elements had something of an understanding and true principle of limited government, individual liberty, free markets and free trade. These terms have been hijacked and perverted by people who violate them religiously. That old libertarian-leaning, individualist strand of the GOP either faded into obscurity or went on to become libertarians long ago. It was replaced with ex-socialists, war-mongers, traditionalists and fusionists that twisted the original ideas into their diametric opposites. Eventually, somehow, these people became the mainstream of Republican politics.
There was a major ideological change within the GOP in the 50's and 60's, lead by a new breed of "fusionists" such as Bill Buckley. If the "conservative spectrum" could be divided into three parts, it would have a libertarian, fusionist/centrist and authoritarian strand. The early ideological change was the fusionists, during the cold war. The fusionists accepted some of the socialist welfare state ideas and started a trend of hawkish foreign policy; they also accepted a warfare state, and that was their emphasis. In the 60's and 70's, these ideas eventually evolved more into the authoritarian strand of conservatism, neo-conservatism and totalitarianism at its farthest reaches. Neo-conservatism functioned to provide authoritarian policies to conservatives while disguising them in the quasi-libertarian rhetoric of the "old right". In the 60's and 70's, the religious right was brewing, but not quite into a position of power federally. It officially became powerful in the Reagan era and has increased in power considerably since then. The Reagan and Bush I Era succeeded in adopting the Neoconservative ideas, but the Bush II Era is clearly currently taking it further then they did. The modern conservative era is essentially the epitome of an authoritarian welfare/warfare state, with a right-wing flavor. It is a nationalistic, moralist and reactionary kind of socialism, but socialism all the same.