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TGIF: The Knowledge that Only Free Markets Disclose

As a follow-up to my recent article about F. A. Hayek’s classic article “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945), I thought it worth extending Hayek’s exploration of this area of social theory. In 1968 the Nobel laureate-economist delivered a lecture in German known in English as “Competition as a Discovery Procedure.” It’s an alluring title, and anyone concerned with what makes for a good and prosperous society should be familiar with Hayek’s basic point.

Hayek gets right to it. He notes that standard macroeconomists are guilty of having “investigated competition primarily under assumptions which, if they were actually true, would make competition completely useless and uninteresting.” By that, he meant, “If anyone actually knew everything that economic theory designated as ‘data,’ competition would indeed be a highly wasteful method of securing adjustment to these facts.”

In other words, if all the “data” were actually accessible data, solving society’s scarcity problem would be a piece of cake, at least if the government’s computer was powerful enough. (I’m led to understand that, fortunately, many economists have advanced since he gave this lecture, probably in part because of his challenge.)

“Hence,” Hayek went on,

it is also not surprising that some authors have concluded that we can either completely renounce the market, or that its outcomes are to be considered at most a first step toward creating a social product that we can then manipulate, correct, or redistribute in any way we please.

Unfortunately, lots of such people are still around today.

Hayek (like his teacher Ludwig von Mises) knew that he needed to show that Adam Smith’s “system of natural liberty” performed a critical service to mankind that could not be otherwise performed: the production of knowledge that is needed in a changing world of scarcity in which each individual must make plans but also be ready to adjust his or her plans in light of what other free individuals are doing. And that’s what Hayek did, building on Mises and others. Hayek made contributions to the economic, or “practical,” case for freedom that have been woefully unappreciated. The Austrian school of economics that Hayek was part of needs to be discussed more than ever.

Just as any sort of contest would be pointless if we infallibly knew the outcome in advance, Hayek wrote, so would marketplace competition. He considered “competition systematically as a procedure for discovering facts which, if the procedure did not exist, would remain unknown or at least would not be used.” (Emphasis added.)

(Although, Hayek’s German title, Der Wettbewerb als Entdeckungsverfahrenh, has been translated as “competition as a discovery procedure.” I regard the word process as more appropriate because, unlike procedure, it suggests improvisation, spontaneity, and serendipity. Hayek’s work overflows with an understanding of what he called spontaneous, or unplanned, order.)

Hayek reiterated his theme from “The Use of Knowledge in Society” even as he extended it. He wanted to know how can we even identify goods apart from what the market discloses over time through free producer and consumer action.

Which goods are scarce, however, or which things are goods, or how scarce or valuable they are, is precisely one of the conditions that competition should discover: in each case it is the preliminary outcomes of the market process that inform individuals where it is worthwhile to search. Utilizing the widely diffused knowledge in a society with an advanced division of labor cannot be based on the condition that individuals know all the concrete uses that can be made of the objects in their environment. Their attention will be directed by the prices the market offers for various goods and services.

Bottom line: government administrators may be able to give orders, but they cannot benefit the population. The Soviet Union no doubt used up resources making things that few people wanted. Hayek went on:

This means, among other things, that each individual’s particular combination of skills and abilities—which in many regards is always unique—will not only (and not even primarily) be skills that the person in question can recite in detail or report to a government agency. Rather, the knowledge of which I am speaking consists to a great extent of the ability to detect certain conditions—an ability that individuals can use effectively only when the market tells them what kinds of goods and services are demanded, and how urgently.

It’s not magic that produces the knowledge that makes abundance possible for everyone. It’s freedom of action, contract, and private property in a legal-political environment in which people peacefully and cooperatively pursue their happiness. The discoveries Hayek was talking about can take place only when people can 1) freely produce and offer products and services to others and 2) freely buy or not buy according to their own judgment. This includes labor services. Without that freedom, which is limited if not precluded by central planning and less-comprehensive regulation, an economy cannot be expected to benefit a large population.

The full case for a free society obviously has a rights-based, or justice-based, component, We are reasoning social beings who seek happiness. And the also has an important epistemic component, which Mises, Hayek, and others have laid out. We want justice for all individuals, and we want them to flourish. In a world of scarcity and dispersed and tacit knowledge, the free market is required. The moral is also practical.

Trying to Build Peace One BRICS At a Time

In the early days of the war in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was open to negotiating a peace. The United States was not. State Department spokesman Ned Price explained, oddly, that the midst of a war is not the time for diplomacy. “This is not real diplomacy,” he said, “Those are not the conditions for real diplomacy.”

A month later, the State Department was still rejecting a negotiated end to the war, even if the negotiated settlement met Ukraine’s goals, because “this is a war that is in many ways bigger than Russia, it’s bigger than Ukraine.”

That same month, then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was talking to both Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, attempting to mediate negotiations that he said had “a good chance of reaching a ceasefire.” But, once again, according to Bennet, the United States “blocked it.”

In April 2022, promising negotiations in Istanbul produced a “tentatively agreed” upon settlement. A negotiated end to the war seemed to be within reach. But, once again, the United States and United Kingdom put a stop to it. Then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson rushed to Kiev to gain control of Zelensky, telling him that Putin “should be pressured, not negotiated with.” He added that, even if Ukraine was ready to sign some agreements with Russia, the West was not. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Numan Kurtulmus, the deputy chairman of Erdogan’s ruling party, have both said that “Zelensky was going to sign,” but “the United States…want[s] this war to continue.”

The U.S. has consistently prevented peace talks while pouring weapons into Ukraine and pushing for war, leading a frustrated Brazilian President Lula da Silva to complain,  “The United States needs to stop encouraging war and start talking about peace.”

With the fall of Bakhmut, the massive loss of Ukrainian life and artillery and the Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian Patriot and other air defenses as well as Ukrainian ammunition storage sites, it is conceivable that those denied diplomatic solutions could have offered a result more favorable to Ukraine than the one that is shaping up on the battle field. Ukrainians may come to wish that Zelensky had listened to saner counsel.

But the United States is no longer the only power offering counsel. Other poles are emerging from this war larger. And those poles are pushing for peace.

BRICS is an international organization made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and growing, that does not seek to confront the United States but to balance its hegemony and foster a multipolar world. Brazil has suggested that BRICS could help negotiate an end to the war.

Lula has insisted that negotiations are “the only viable way out of the crisis” in Ukraine and has proposed a joint effort, or a “peace club,” that could include BRICS members China, India, Brazil and possibly Indonesia. Indonesia has been a leader in the nonaligned world. They have declared their interest in joining BRICS and were recently welcomed as a guest at the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has also offered “to contribute in any way towards peace efforts.”

However, Lula’s determination to broker a peace may have suffered a set back in Zelensky’s intransigence. There was hope that Zelensky and Lula, who have not spoken yet, would meet on the sidelines of the recent G7 meeting. That meeting collapsed, though, when Zelensky did not show up. Zelensky explained that the two did not meet because of scheduling difficulties. Zelensky said that he met almost all the leaders and that “all of them have their own schedules, that is why we couldn’t meet with the Brazilian president.” But Lula rejected that explanation, saying that he had scheduled a meeting with Zelensky for 3:15pm on Sunday. Lula says, “I had an interview, a bilateral one with Ukraine here in this room at 3:15 p.m.” He says that he “waited” but that Zelensky “did not show up.”

Brazil has also backed China’s efforts to broker a peace. Brazil says that they “positively received the Chinese proposal, which offers reflections conducive to the search for a peaceful way out of the crisis.”

On February 24, China, another BRICS member, published its Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, which pledged that China is willing to assume “a constructive role in this regard.” The position paper calls for “ceasing hostilities” and “resuming peace talks.” It stresses that “[t]he sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld.” But, to the concern of the United States, it also objects to “military blocs” and “the Cold War mentality” and insists that “[t]he security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others.” It also says, “China opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council.”

China recently began to actualize their diplomatic role. Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Eurasian Affairs Li Hui has traveled to several countries to initiate the talks. But, in a demonstration of the new multipolar world in which the United States is no longer essential, according to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Li Hui will travel to Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia for communication on a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” China will negotiate with Russia, Ukraine and Europe: the U.S. is not invited.

Though the Chinese efforts at mediation are indicative of the new multipolar world, it may yet be difficult to leave Washington out. Though China is a superpower who would provide strong assurance to any agreement, and though Russia trusts China, Russia may not trust an agreement absent from assurances from the United States. Russia has seen already that Ukraine may be unwilling or unable to implement an agreement without American pressure to ensure that they do so. Had the U.S. pressured Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreement—which they did not—the current war may never have happened. Russia may only trust an agreement that has the signature of Ukraine’s patron.

Completing the BRICS entries into diplomatic negotiations is the appearance of South Africa. On May 16, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he had held phone calls with Putin and Zelensky, who both agreed to separately receive a delegation of African heads of state in their capitals to discuss a possible peace plan to end the war. Joining South Africa in the delegation will be Senegal, Uganda, Egypt, the Republic of the Congo, and Zambia.

South Africa’s membership in BRICS makes it perhaps the only important international organization in which an African country has an equal voice. The insertion of Africa into the negotiating arena is an important announcement of Africa as an independent pole in the newly forming multipolar world.

The U.S. pole has not only declined to push for peace negotiations in favor of continuing to feed the war with the constant flow of weapons, but it has forcefully blocked other countries from encouraging them. But the United States may no longer be the world’s only pole. A new multipolar world, led by the BRICS nations, is attempting to compensate for the American refusal of peace talks and to take the lead in trying to start negotiations toward a peaceful resolution of the horrible war in Ukraine.

Jack Teixeira, the Deep State, and ‘Captured Media’

Suspected Pentagon documents leaker Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Dighton, Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, allegedly released classified documents without permission about the sobering U.S. intelligence assessment of Ukraine’s prospects in the Russo-Ukrainian War (i.e., Ukraine can’t win, despite public official pronouncements about their imminent battlefield victories). Those documents he allegedly leaked also revealed several dozen U.S. soldiers were operating in the war zone (the equivalent of two special ops teams), despite official denials, along with CIA operatives already known to be calling missile and artillery strikes in the war.

Just days after his April 13 arrest, local Boston television news stations were broadcasting Teixeira’s high school disciplinary record. He was suspended in high school for “threatening” language, don’t-cha know?

It’s like the old joke about the principal telling a kid that “this is going on your permanent record,” except it’s now reality. If only Teixeira could have cut a deal like Bart Simpson, we wouldn’t have to be having this discussion right now.

What does Teixeira’s high school disciplinary record have to do with his revelations about official lies and secrets about the America’s involvement in a war with the world’s other nuclear superpower?

Nothing at all. Zip. Zero. Nada. A whole number between -1 and 1.

There’s no journalistic value in the story that Teixeira was suspended in high school for “threatening” language (he said he was describing a video game at the time). It has no relationship to the story about Ukrainian war lies, and has as much journalistic value as my own high school disciplinary record (or yours). Such dirty laundry in decades past used to be relegated to discussions of celebrity divorces in supermarket tabloids.

But it has a lot of value if your goal is to engage in a general character-assassination using compliant media.

So it brings up a couple of questions: Why is the news media reporting this? And how did they get this information?

The second question is the easiest to answer: The U.S. government’s executive branch careerists gave it directly to them. It was part of the official filing by (now former) U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins asking the federal district court to keep Teixeira in jail until trial.

And one must wonder how that made it into the official filing. How is this relevant to the legal need to deny Teixeira bail and keep him in jail until trial, if the worry was that he wouldn’t return to court for his trial or would publicly reveal more official state secrets?

Again, it doesn’t. At all.

The purpose of including Teixeira’s high school disciplinary record—one that was confidential and which could only be obtained through court warrants or Intelligence Community (IC) surveillance—in the filing was to engage in a deliberate and planned public character-assassination of Teixeira through compliant media organs.

Rollins—or more likely, her handlers in Washington—wanted to destroy this young man publicly by unnecessarily releasing his private sins to the press in an attempt to distract the media from exposing the official lies that Ukraine can win its war against Russia and that U.S. combat troops are not present on the ground. Plus, as a bonus, it serves the double-purpose of poisoning the available pool of unbiased jurors in advance of trial and making a public example to deter future whistle-blowers.

Say what you will about Rollins, the Feds assigned this role to someone who has hands-on experience in this specific task. Rollins resigned Friday, May 19 from her role as U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts because an Inspector-General Report by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed she’d done the same thing to a candidate for Suffolk County District Attorney (an elected state position).  According to the Inspector General report on Rollins, “Rollins assisted a candidate in a partisan political election and sought to influence the election by, among other things, disclosing non-public, sensitive DOJ information to the press.”

In other words, she conspired to engage in a media smear of a public person using confidential, non-public information.

Sound familiar?

But there’s an important difference between both the Teixeira case (and the Trump-Russia collusion hoax) and the local candidate Rollins was accused of smearing. Disclosing private information to defame a candidate in a local election is a no-no, unless he is an enemy of the Deep State. But if the Deep State wants to character-assassinate someone, whether holder of the highest office in the land or all the way down to some lowly Air National Guard private, then that’s just spiffy.

Rollins suffered no negative consequences from smearing Teixeira. Only when smearing someone who wasn’t an enemy of the Deep State did she face an inquiry.

Now back to the original question about CBS-Boston and other media reporting that Teixeira was suspended during high school. Why are they reporting something that has no news value? Because word was put out to destroy his character in order to distract from his revelations about the Russo-Ukrainian War, and they used compliant media networks to do just that.

Some time after the defection of Soviet spy Anatoliy Golitsyn in 1962, the former KGB officer suggested to his CIA handler that National Review founder and syndicated columnist William F. Buckley help edit the book he was working on, and that it be serialized in Reader’s Digest. It was a logical request. Conservative icon Buckley was known to be a CIA veteran (and had formed National Review around his Langley friends), and with circulation in the millions Reader’s Digest was probably the highest circulation periodical with CIA assets on staff. The late 1960s and early 1970s were the height of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, where agents infiltrated and controlled hundreds of media corporations and journalists, respectively, toward the CIA’s stated goals of fighting the Cold War against the Soviet empire. Operation Mockingbird is a campaign still officially denied by the CIA, so its activities can be said to have never been completely shut down, even if they were suspended for a few years.

The reforms of the 1970s imposed some nominal restraints via executive order upon the rogue CIA (along with the FBI) in the reforms of the post-Vietnam era. After the contentious Church and Pike Committee hearings, CIA officials publicly promised they weren’t infiltrating media and poaching journalists as spies and influence-peddlers. But even by the mid-1980s, CIA chiefs were publicly stating they might have to do so again in the future.

The restraints came off the IC (“Intelligence Community”) in the wake of the 9/11 attacks with Congress passing the USA PATRIOT Act. It’s hard to say when the IC began to focus more upon the U.S. domestic media than foreign media, but it’s safe to say it was having a measurable impact upon domestic media by the early 2010s. It was at that point even media traditionally antagonistic to government power had been transformed from watchdogs into Deep State lapdogs.

The “Deep State” can be loosely defined as executive branch careerist bureaucrats and their nominally private sector but government-funded “NGO” contractors who don’t have to face elections or the voters, and who make policy outside of directives from elected officials in the legislative branch and the president.

During the Cold War, the U.S. government used to curate a list of the “Captive Nations” who were under the thrall of the Soviet empire based upon subservience to the Soviet imperial interests. Today, much of the U.S. corporate media is obviously captive to the American empire’s intelligence behemoth in its recent expansion of Operation Mockingbird. I’ve come to call it the “captive media,” in homage to the Cold War-era “Captive Nations” terminology.

The last hurrah of journalistic independence and antagonism to power for The Washington Post was the Edward Snowden affair in 2013. After Snowden’s revelations, the Post never seriously challenged the Deep State again, including its Big Pharma subsidiary, nor have they engaged in any significant actions against the government’s other alliances with giant corporations. The New York Times had been captured by the Deep State as early as 2002 when Judith Miller was acting as stenographer for lies about Iraqi WMDs. The Times and Post both became de facto state assets, along with the five giant U.S. media conglomerates (ABC-Disney, NBC-Comcast, CBS-Viacom, CNN-TimeWarner and Fox-Newscorp), and all today routinely condemn enemies of the national security state and Big Pharma rather than expose the excesses of those powerful special interest groups within the executive branch of government. Likewise, many social media and tech corporations have been revealed by the #TwitterFiles to be adjuncts of what journalist Matt Taibbi accurately labels the “Censorship Industrial Complex.”

One key “tell,” to use a poker term, to identify a likely captive media organ is to observe media character-assassination of a person threatening the primacy of the military-industrial complex. This label of captive media is all the more likely to be accurate when the character assassination doesn’t even address the newsworthy revelations or political positions of that person, and when all the other captive media organs are chiming in chorus with the same condemnation.

The Teixeira case is instructive on the Deep State’s penetration of U.S. media. The modus operandi of the Deep State is to distract from their own corruption by smearing anyone who exposes them or opposes them, and to publicly ruin someone in a key government position who expresses intolerable levels of heterodoxy from the official narrative. The latter was the reason for smearing presidential candidate Donald Trump with the gamut of their arsenal: he was an apex-level racist, a Russian asset, probably an anti-Semite, a threat to democracy, etc.

All this is not to say that Donald Trump was a good president. He wasn’t, and his politics were seriously deficient from a libertarian perspective on many fronts. But he wasn’t enough on “Team Deep State” to avoid the careerists in the executive branch conspiring with the Hillary Clinton campaign to bring him down with multiple lies, as the Durham Report makes eminently clear.

None of the Russia-collusion hoax lies against Trump were true, but truth—like the words coming out of Trump’s own mouth—was immaterial to the issue. One of my favorite podcasts used to be Unfilter, and one of the libertarian hosts revealingly noted back before the podcast went dark, “Trump is not a liar. He’s a bullshitter.” This distinction is highly significant. A liar expects you to believe his lies, but to a bullshitter both the truth and your level of belief in his lies are irrelevant. A bullshitter doesn’t care if you believe him; the only important thing is how you react to his lies. Trump was—and remains—an expert-level bullshitter. He can trigger the corporate media into giving him free press coverage constantly; the CNN Town Hall spectacle with Trump serves as the most recent hilarious example. Everything he says is to get a reaction, not to reveal some truth.

That’s the Deep State’s working model right now. They don’t care if you believe them. All that matters is your emotional reaction: to hate Donald Trump, to hate Jack Teixeira, and to hate anyone else they believe is a threat to their power and their agenda. They’re confident they can dig up dirt on every person with their surveillance panopticon, and can find enough sin on anyone to ruin any heterodox person publicly. They’ve taken the Orwellian “two minutes of hate” and perfected it, treating Nineteen Eighty-Four as a roadmap rather than a warning.

That’s why my working thesis on media corporations is that any company which focuses upon personal attacks rather than the relevant issues to journalism and public policy, especially if the personal attacks coincide with the official Deep State narrative (and they usually do), they’re likely among the captive media.

This also works to some degree for individuals, even if they’re not explicit agents of the Deep State. Anyone who hates a political figure—whether Donald Trump, Ron Paul, or Joe Biden—based upon personal characteristics rather than public positions and routinely resorts to baseless smears of being a racist, an anti-Semite or a foreign agent is probably compromised (or at the very least, a toxic person) whose opinions are worth ignoring entirely.

It should go without saying Americans can’t trust the captive media, of whom it could be accurately said that truth and factual accuracy are irrelevant. The long-running Russia-collusion hoax is but the latest example exposed. There’s a long list of official lies: cloth masks stop transmission of COVID-19, the vaccine stops transmission of the virus, gas attacks in Syria, Ghaddafi’s imminent genocide in Libya, all the way back Judith Miller. And those are just a handful of hundreds of examples.

The good news is that The New York Times and Washington Post‘s circulation reach new lows every month, as do the ratings of CNN, Fox and MSNBC. CNN’s ratings hilariously fell below NewsMax last week.

Lies don’t sell well.

So look for the Deep State to infiltrate ever-more media outlets in the future as their lies and captive media platforms lose audience and, as a result, the impact of the captive legacy media wanes. Those of us opposing the surveillance panopticon and the perpetual warfare state will need to use both the patterns described above and leaked truths to reveal the captive media, as they are taken over.

The Jack Teixeira and #TwitterFiles revelations are but the latest in a line of exposures of official lies beginning with Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Reality Winner. There will be others.

It’s also encouraging to hear the U.S. House of Representatives is holding at least some tentative hearings on the weaponization of the executive branch in the election cycle. Liberty-loving individuals need to encourage more of those hearings, and a much deeper-dive into revealing their secrets, followed by legislation that would (if not outright abolish) at least re-impose some limits upon the “Intelligence Community.”

EXPOSED: Biggest FBI Spy Scandal of the Year

A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion released last week revealed that the FBI violated the constitutional rights of 278,000 Americans in 2020 and 2021 with warrantless searches of their email and other electronic data. For each American that the FISA court permitted the FBI to target, the FBI illicitly surveiled almost a thousand additional Americans. This is only the latest federal surveillance scandal stretching back to the years after 9/11.

The FISA law was enacted in 1978 to curb the rampant illegal political spying exposed during the Richard Nixon administration. After the 9/11 attacks, the George W. Bush administration decided that the president was entitled to order the National Security Agency to vacuum up Americans’ emails and other data without a warrant. After The New York Times exposed the surveillance scheme in late 2005, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that “the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander in chief, to engage in this kind of activity.” Gonzales apparently forgot the congressional impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. The Bush White House also asserted that the September 2001 “Authorization to Use Military Force” resolution Congress passed entitled Bush to tap Americans’ phones. But if the authorization actually allowed the president to do whatever he thinks necessary on the homefront, Americans had been living under martial law.

Federal judges disagreed with Bush’s prerogative to obliterate American privacy. The result was a 2008 FISA reform that authorized the feds to continue commandeering vast amounts of data. But under Section 702 of that law, the FBI was permitted to conduct warrantless searches of that stash for Americans’ data only to seek foreign intelligence information or evidence of crime.   

President Barack Obama responded to the new law by sharply expanding the NSA’s seizures of Americans’ personal data. The Washington Post characterized Obama’s first term as “a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.” Obama’s Justice Department thwarted court challenges to the surveillance, thereby permitting the White House to claim that it was respecting Americans’ rights and privacy.

Edward Snowden blew the roof off the surveillance state with his disclosures starting in June 2013. But there was no reason to presume that federal crime sprees were not occurring before Snowden blew the whistle. Professor David Rothkopf explained in 2013 how FISA’s Section 702 worked:

“What if government officials came to your home and said that they would collect all of your papers and hold onto them for safe-keeping, just in case they needed them in the future. But don’t worry…they wouldn’t open the boxes until they had a secret government court order…sometime, unbeknownst to you.”

The 2008 FISA amendments and Section 702 snared vast numbers of hapless Americans in federal surveillance nets. The Washington Post analyzed a cache of 160,000 secret email conversations/threads (provided by Snowden) that the NSA intercepted and found that nine out of ten account holders were not the “intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.” Almost half of the individuals whose personal data was inadvertently commandeered were U.S. citizens. The files “tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and  disappointed hopes,” the Post noted. If an American citizen wrote an email in a foreign language, NSA analysts assumed they were foreigners who could be surveilled without a warrant.

Snowden also leaked secret court rulings that proved that the FISA Court had “created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans,” The New York Times reported in 2013. FISA judges rubberstamped massive seizures of Americans’ personal data that flagrantly contradicted Supreme Court rulings on the Fourth Amendment. The Times noted that the FISA court had “become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues,” and almost always giving federal agencies all the power they sought.

Unfortunately, Snowden’s courageous disclosures did not stop the outrages. The heavily-redacted 2022 opinion finally released Friday revealed that the FBI wrongly searched almost 300,000 Americans’ online lives. And this was on top of the roughly 3.4 million warrantless searches of Americans in 2021 via Section 702 that the FBI conducted that the Justice Department claimed was justified.

The latest disclosure from the FISA court signals that the FBI presumed that any American suspected of supporting the January 6, 2021 protests forfeited his constitutional rights. Roughly 2,000 pro-Trump protestors (including an unknown number of undercover agents and informants) entered the Capitol that day. But an FBI analyst exploited FISA to unjustifiably conduct searches on 23,132 Americans citizens “to find evidence of possible foreign influence, although the analyst conducting the queries had no indications of foreign influence,” according to FISA Chief Judge Rudolph Contreras. The court ruling did not disclose the standards (if any) the FBI used for its warrantless January 6 searches. Did Twitter retweets suffice?

The FBI exploited FISA to target 19,000 donors to the campaign of a candidate who challenged an incumbent member of Congress. An FBI analyst justified the warrantless searches by claiming “the campaign was a target of foreign influence,” but even the Justice Department concluded that almost all of those searches violated FISA rules. Apparently, merely reciting the phrase “foreign influence” suffices to nullify Americans’ rights nowadays. (In March, Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) revealed that he had been wrongly targeted by the FBI in numerous FISA 702 searches.)

The FBI conducted secret searches of the emails and other data of 133 people arrested during the protests after the killing of George Floyd in 2020.

The FBI conducted 656 warrantless searches to see if they could find any derogatory information on people they planned to use as informants. The FBI also routinely conducted warrantless searches on individuals listed in police homicide reports, including victims, next-of-kin, witnesses, and suspects.” Even the Justice Department complained those searches were improper.

Judge Contreras lamented: “Compliance problems with the querying of Section 702 information have proven to be persistent and widespread.” The FBI responded to the damning report with piffle:

“We are committed to continuing this work and providing greater transparency into the process to earn the trust of the American people and advance our mission of safeguarding both the nation’s security, and privacy and civil liberties, at the same time.”

In 2002, the FISA court revealed that FBI agents had false or misleading claims in 75 cases and a top FBI counterterrorism official was prohibited from ever appearing before the court again.

In 2005, FISA chief judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly proposed requiring FBI agents to swear to the accuracy of the information they presented; that never happened because it could have “slowed such investigations drastically,” the Washington Post reported. So FBI agents continued to have a license to exploit FISA secrecy to lie to the judges.

In 2017, a FISA court decision included a 10-page litany of FBI violations, which “ranged from illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight.”

In 2018, a FISA ruling condemned the FBI for ignoring limits on “unreasonable searches.” As The New York Times noted, “F.B.I. agents had carried out several large-scale searches for Americans who generically fit into broad categories…so long as agents had a reason to believe that someone within that category might have relevant information. But [under FISA] there has to be an individualized reason to search for any particular American’s information.” The FBI treated the FISA repository like the British agents treated general warrants in the 1760s, helping spark the American Revolution.

In April 2021, the FISA court reported that the FBI conducted warrantless searches of the data trove for “domestic terrorism,” “public corruption and bribery,” “health care fraud,” and other targets—including people who notified the FBI of crimes and even repairmen entering FBI offices. If you sought to report a crime to the FBI, an FBI agent may have illegally surveilled your email. Even if you merely volunteered for the FBI “Citizens Academy” program, the FBI may have illegally tracked all your online activity. As I tweeted after that report came out, “The FISA court has gone from pretending FBI violations don’t occur to pretending violations don’t matter. Only task left is to cease pretending Americans have any constitutional right to privacy.” FISA court Chief Judge James Boasberg lamented “apparent widespread violations” of the legal restrictions for FBI searches but shrugged them off and permitted the scouring of Americans’ personal data to continue.

The FISA court treats the FBI like liberal judges treat serial shoplifters. Going back more than 20 years, FISA court rulings have complained of FBI agents lying to the court and abusing the law. As long as the FBI periodically promises to repent, the FISA court entitles them to continue decimating the Fourth Amendment.

Federal intelligence agencies refuse to even estimate how many Americans’ private data has been rounded up in government databases. There is no reason to presume that the feds have disclosed all their FISA wrongdoing. Prior to Edward Snowden’s leaks, the feds probably admitted less than 1% of federal surveillance abuses.

Section 702 will expire this year unless Congress reauthorizes that provision of the law. But the FBI’s perpetual crime wave has created a hornet’s nest on Capitol Hill. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) asked: “How much longer must we watch the FBI brazenly spy on Americans before we strip it of its unchecked authority?” Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) declared, “We need a pound of flesh. We need to know someone has been fired.” Even Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, opposes reauthorizing Section 702 without fundamental reforms.

But will Congress finally stop the federal spying spree on Americans? As I tweeted on December 27, 2012, “FISA Renewal: Only a fool would expect members of Congress to give a damn about his rights and liberties.” Without radical reform, FISA should be renamed the “Trust Me, Chumps!” Surveillance Act.

Three Lies They’re Telling You about the Debt Ceiling

Negotiations over increasing the federal debt ceiling continue in Washington. As has occurred several times over the past twenty years, Republicans and Democrats are presently using increases in the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip in negotiating how federal tax dollars will be spent.

Most of this is theater. We know how these negotiations always end: the debt ceiling is always increased, massive amounts of new federal debt are incurred, and federal spending continues its upward spiral. In fact, since the last time we endured a major debate over the debt ceiling—back in 2013—the national debt has nearly doubled, soaring from $16.7 trillion ten years ago to $32 trillion in 2023. Over that same period, federal spending has increased more than 80 percent from $3.4 trillion in fiscal year 2013 to $6.2 trillion in fiscal year 2022.

So here we are again with policymakers essentially discussing how long it will take for the national debt and federal budget to double again. As far as Washington is concerned, that’s all fine. The debt ceiling will rise sizably. We know this because what really matters—as far as DC policymakers are concerned—is that the taxpayer gravy train never stops. Equally important is that the federal government not default on any of its massive debt to ensure continued access to cheap debt—and thus massive amounts of deficit spending—now and forever.

To take this narrative at face value, however, we have to buy into some big myths that policymakers are quite enthusiastic about repeating. These lies persist because the regime needs to convince the voters and the taxpayers that no matter what happens, no major changes to the tax-and-spend status quo can ever be allowed to occur.  Let’s look at three of those myths now.

One: The Republicans Want Austerity

In Washington, when politicians use the word “cut,” they usually are talking about small reductions in the rate of increase in spending. For example, if Pentagon spending has been increasing at 2 percent per year (which has indeed been the average for the past decade) then an increase next year of 1.5 percent will be denounced by some as a “cut.” In reality, it’s not a cut at all, of course. Spending has increased. But in the minds of Washington policymakers, taxpayer money is rightfully theirs, so any slowdown in the flow of free money is branded a “cut.”

That’s the basic premise of what we’re seeing now when advocates of limitless increases of the debt ceiling bemoan “cuts” to Social Security or any other welfare program. In the current debate, the Republicans say they want “less spending than last year” for the 2023 fiscal year, and then a “cap” on spending at 1 percent increases in each year for the next ten years.

But before anyone claims that this is indeed some sort of meaningful “cut” let’s look at the federal outlays over the past twenty years (the 2023 FY total is CBO’s forecast):


After some moderation in spending during the second Obama term, spending again accelerated during the Trump years as then surged to new off-the-charts highs as Trump doubled down on massive spending increases during the COVID panic. Naturally, this surge continued during the Biden years, and spending now remains well above trend. Indeed, to bring spending back to the pre-2019 trend would require massive budget cuts totaling more than a trillion dollars to the annual budget

That’s certainly not in the cards right now. Rather, the Republicans are seeking a tiny reduction in spending from the CBO 2023 estimate of $6.4 trillion down to slightly below 2022’s spending of $6.27 trillion. Even with this slowdown, there is no danger of the 5-year moving average falling below where it was in 2022.

According to the GOP plan, after the proposed miniscule reduction for 2023, it’s back to annual increases of one percent. But, it’s important to remember that this “cap” on annual increases to one percent is in no way binding on future Congresses. Congress can—and will, if history is any guide—forget about any previous agreement and increase spending to meet perceived “needs” at any time.

Rather, the “cuts” we keep hearing about—even if the GOP is successful—are likely to look like the so-called “sequestration” we kept hearing about back in 2013. That was supposed to usher in an age of austerity. Instead, federal spending and debt has nearly doubled in the decade since.

In other words, any claim that Republicans want to cut spending is true in only the most narrow short-term sense. Spending remains and will likely continue to remain, far above even Trump’s huge (at the time) 2019 budget increases. The post-COVID mega-spending isn’t going away.

Two: The U.S. Has Never Defaulted

Central to the debt-ceiling and budget debate is the often-repeated claim that negotiations must be concluded immediately to ensure that the U.S. does not miss payments on any of its debts. After all, we are told, the U.S. has never missed a payment.

This is an out-and-out lie. The U.S. has absolutely, indisputably defaulted before. This began in in the wake of the American Revolution when the U.S. defaulted on domestic loans. After the new constitution was in place in 1790, the federal government renegotiated past debt at less favorable terms for investors. That’s a default.

Then there was the Greenback default of 1862. The original greenbacks were $60 million in demand notes which were redeemable in specie. Less than five months later, in January of 1862, the U.S. Treasury defaulted on these notes by failing to redeem them on demand.

Perhaps the most egregious case was the Liberty Bond default of 1934. The U.S. was contractually obligated to pay back its debts on these bonds in gold. Franklin Roosevelt decided to default on the whole of the domestically-held debt by refusing to redeem in gold to Americans and devaluing the dollar by 40 percent against foreign exchange. The U.S. refused to make good on its end of these bond contracts. That was also a default.

Then there was the short default of 1979. As Jason Zweig noted in 2011:

In April and May 1979, amid computer malfunctions, heavy demand from small investors and in the wake of Congressional debate over raising the debt ceiling, the U.S. failed to make timely payments on some $122 million in Treasury bills. The Treasury characterized the problem as a delay rather than as a default. While the error affected only a fraction of 1% of the U.S. debt, short-term interest rates—then around 9%—jumped 0.6 percentage point and the U.S. was promptly sued by bondholders for breach of contract.

So, the next Time Joe Biden or Janet Yellen go on television to insist the U.S. has never defaulted, know that you are being lied to.

Three: Default Is the End of the World 

Any talk of default is sure to bring predictions of economic devastation. Those who have lived through a financial crisis or two will know how this works. As soon as signs of trouble in the economy appear, the regime lines up “experts” to tell us that unless the government is empowered to spend endlessly on bailouts and “stimulus,” then the economy will collapse, unemployment will surge, and hell on earth will ensue.

The taxpayers certainly heard this repeatedly in 2008 and 2009 as the regime insisted it must be free to hand over trillions of dollars in bailout funds to wealthy bankers and auto makers and financiers. We were told that the central bank must be able to print up trillions of dollars so as to buy up government bonds and mortgage backed securities to pad the balance sheets of the investor class. We were told this would “fix” the economy.

Naturally, when the recession turned out to be the worst since 1982, the “experts” then said—without any evidence whatsoever—that things “would have been worse” without all their bailouts.

We’re hearing the same thing now about possible default on the $32-trillion national debt. “Give us new debt ceiling increases with no strings attached” appears to be the constant refrain. Without this carte blanche, we are told, there will be economic catastrophe.

But it is all the same scare tactics the regime trots out every time it wants a new series of bailouts or immense amount of new spending. Trump hysterically said the same thing when he demanded passage of his $2.2 trillion covid “rescue plan.” We’re told there is no alternative, and any opposition is “reckless.” Rather, we must approve any and all new spending now and deal with the consequences later. But “later” never comes because the strategy is always to just kick the can further down the road. To not do so, the experts insist, will destroy the economy.

Well, the time has come to start doubting this narrative and demand that the federal government start being more honest about its runaway and unpayable debt. And yes, today’s massive federal debt is unpayable. It’s not even manageable. For an example of how it is unmanageable, just look at how interest on the debt is gradually consuming all other federal spending. With interest rates rising, debt service is ballooning. According to an analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Net interest will surpass defense spending by 2028, Medicare spending by 2044, and Social Security spending by 2050, becoming the largest single line item in the budget. By 2053, net interest will consume approximately 7.2 percent of GDP – nearly 40 percent of federal revenues.

It’s clear at this point that the only strategy the federal government the Federal Reserve have for dealing with this is to inflate away the dollar with easy money so as to bring interest rates back down and pay back the debt in devalued dollars. Paying back debts with devalued dollars is a type of default, of course, but this method helps hide the fact. But make no mistake: when the U.S. government chooses to manage its debts by inflating away the dollar, it is defaulting.

A more honest and rational approach would be to explicitly default. Rather than trying to dishonestly inflate away the debt obligation, a less deceptive federal government would simply admit that it can only afford to pay back its debt at some reduced amount, say 90 cents on the dollar, or less. Naturally this would cause interest rates to surge as has occurred in the past when the U.S. has defaulted. This, however, would simply be the process of bringing interest rates more into line with the real risks that go with investing in government debt.

The current political status quo, however, is built around protecting investors—rather than the taxpayers who ultimately pay all the billsfrom risk. This method of turning debt into inflation is attractive to governments and their Wall Street enablers because it shifts the burden of runaway spending to ordinary savers and consumers who pay the real price of de facto inflationary default through price inflation, unaffordable homes, stagflation, and falling real wages.

When the experts who oppose any sort of explicit default insist that default would bring disaster, what they really mean is that it would bring disaster for their friends on Wall Street and in the government. The experts prefer the status quo which is instead a slow-motion inflationary disaster that’s playing out in the household budgets of ordinary Americans.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.


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