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Court Refuses to Pay Flood Victims After Gov’t Released Dams and Flooded Their Homes

Court Refuses to Pay Flood Victims After Gov’t Released Dams and Flooded Their Homes

HOUSTON (CN) – A federal judge dismissed the claims of Houston residents seeking to hold the government liable for flooding their homes with Hurricane Harvey storm water released from two dams, finding there is no constitutional right to perfect flood control.

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Loren Smith’s Tuesday order came the same day the Weatherwise magazine published a study naming Hurricane Harvey the most extreme storm of the 2010s, responsible for $108 billion in property damage and 82 deaths.

Harvey stalled over the Houston area for four days in August 2017, swamping neighborhoods and freeways and forcing people to evacuate in chest-deep water as first responders and good Samaritans rescued others in boats, and Coast Guard crews threw down rope ladders from helicopters for people who had climbed on their roofs to escape the rising water.

The largest storm in the recorded history of the United States, Harvey dumped an average of more than 33 inches of rain over the Houston area, with some parts of the city getting more than 50 inches.

The storm created a no-win situation for the Army Corps of Engineers as Harvey runoff pooled behind two earthen dams 20 miles west of downtown Houston and flooded dozens of upstream homes and businesses.

The Corps of Engineers decided to open the floodgates full bore, something the agency had never done since building the dams in the 1940s to control the flow of Buffalo Bayou, which increased the normal 2,000 cubic feet per second rate of release from the dams to 13,000.

The release flooded homes along the bayou that had never flooded before and thousands of downstream homeowners brought a class action against the government, claiming it had to compensate them for storing water on their property under the Fifth Amendment’s Taking Clause.

Upstream property owners also sued the government under the same takings theory, claiming it had not bought enough land for the reservoirs, which are usually dry and empty as the Corps only impounds water in them from sustained rains, to keep surrounding properties dry.

The upstream owners hit pay dirt in December as U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Charles Lettow, a George W. Bush appointee, determined the upstream flooding was the foreseeable result of the Corps of Engineers’ design of the dams and its operating plans for them.

The upstream litigation is now headed for a second trial to determine damages, with arguments set for April 28 at the National Courts Building in Washington, D.C.

Some compensation seemed likely for the downstream litigants as well as Judge Smith, a Ronald Reagan appointee, ordered attorneys for the government and property owners in a Dec. 11 hearing to hold settlement meetings in December and January.

“I think it’s an ideal case for settlement,” he said at the time. “One thing that makes a settlement easier is when it’s about money. This is about money.”

Those talks apparently bore no fruit as Smith ruled Tuesday that the government cannot be held liable for an act of God.

“This storm, which overwhelmed the system’s capacity was classified as a once in 2000-year event, which means the last such event occurred during the life of Jesus!” Smith wrote in a 19-page order.

Government attorneys argued the flooding was inevitable –homes upstream and downstream were flooding before the dam gates were opened, and without the dams it would have been worse.

Class member Dana Cutts said in an December interview she felt like she had dodged a bullet watching the water drain off her property near Buffalo Bayou in August 2017 and feeling the sun on her face after Harvey moved southeast after four days of pounding Houston.

But Cutts said she then watched the water go right back up again as the Corps of Engineers released it from the dams. Her home, which had not flooded since she bought it in 1976, took on 8 inches. “Enough to wreck the whole house,” she said.

She said given Houston’s history of tropical storms that routinely swell bayous beyond their banks, she would have avoided the area if not for the dams.

But Judge Smith sided with the government, writing, “These were flood waters that no entity could entirely control.”

He added, “Plaintiffs also claim that the mere presence of the water control structures means that the government owned all waters that passed through them. So, do plaintiffs have the right to be perfectly protected from flooding? The simple answer is no; the right to perfect flood control…is not recognized by either Texas property law or federal law.”

Class counsel H.C. Chang of the Houston firm McGehee, Chang, Landgraf, Feiler said, “We respectfully disagree with the judge’s ruling and conclusion.  We will review and research our options for appeal.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Reprinted from The Free Thought Project.

Beyond the Frontiers

Beyond the Frontiers

The darkness was permanent, even during the daylight hours it was grim. Smoke, fire, drones, death all blocked the sun. The smiles were brave but behind them lay hungry mouths and empty stomachs. Parents watched their children with a distance that only a loving helplessness knew. They could hold them, kiss them, wipe away the tears but they could not make the lights go on, could not fill their stomachs.  They could not end the killing.

Outside the darkness, beyond the grey of helplessness glows a light of enlightened arrogance. A brilliant bulb that consumes with its ever reach, like a sun of magnificence it can nurture instead it kills.  It casts shadows, tears love from every moment, shreds dignity from any pride. It is the mandate of the civilized. Those outside of its borders in the frontiers of peasantry and barbarity, they must suffer. It is policy. 

Local master’s rule with shrill recklessness, born from golden eggs or the strong men who seized power upon waves of revolutionary energy. They now stand in pools of local blood, enemies whether real or invented die, are tortured, raped and lost to the prisons of power.  Their real enemy is the great empire, the distant master of the Earth.  Not a God but with a god’s power it can take and destroy, jealous, greedy and vengeful its testament is an ancient hubris that commands the latest technologies wielded by professionals with endless resources.

The peasant, the impoverished, the ruled they wish for no master, but it is the distant killer that hurts them most.  The picket line of warships, the blockade of fighter jets, the swarms of drones that snatch life and strangle without mercy they all do so for the starving strangers own good. So, they lie. If only the meek could rise, with emaciated limbs clench their fists and with rusty rifles storm the Bastille. They cannot and even if they did then what?

It would be with the dictates from a distant master that the new rulers should abide. Those dying, the dead, the unburied who would avenge them? What champion stands above the crying rags of the desperate? The great nations of the civilized and their proxy killers really could not care, it is not their concern and yet they are so involved, so intricate in the misery. 

While those inside the civilized march for social justice, their obese bodies cry in anxiety trembling voices they speak nothing of their nations victims.  Those beyond the frontier witness through the same technologies and mediums the concerns and lusts of those who have it all. Yet from within the empire few speak about the anguish, the pain, the shame. Instead the civilized look into a mirror of neurotic imperfection celebrating in their own endless glory.  No matter how much murder, depression, suffering the elites and their supporters are never in doubt, never questioned. 

The civilized have faith, it differs from those who are desperate. For the flabby in the light of modernity they celebrate the rituals of elections and worship in their governance. They cheer for it to provide, to take and to command. Those beyond look to the heavens to a God that has been absent for centuries. Though they pray and beg, with noble patience that often simmers into a boiling rage.  Terrorists do not come from Hell but from man’s own policies. 

It is with God’s blessing that all seem to boast righteousness, whether it is in the pursuit of hedonism, to conquer strangers in distant territories, to snatch life with instantaneous vulgarity or for patriotic pride. The hungry, the sick, the thirsty they never seem to have enough prayers for a God who is supposed to be concerned with the material majesty of the civilized. God is too busy winning Oscars and sports trophies for the wealthy inside the empire to care about the milk less breasts of a mother who cries dry tears.  

If only the dirty and unwashed would heed to the supremacy of a civilized system of law and government. Despite histories of self rule and independent distinction. The modern era is defined by the educated foreigner who needs to heal, who brings a gospel of control, who brings armed check points and mandates. Market places that are regulated and elections that do not reflect the number of ink stained thumbs are progress it is claimed. Instead the term democracy, Christianity, freedom, liberty and so on really mean hunger, death and dictators. The missionaries now wear camo. 

The language is meaningless when the actions are everything. Those beyond the frontiers do not have the luxury of choice, no supermarkets, streaming services or bustling districts to visit upon with frequent joy. Their perspective is defined by what they are allowed, whether by the local war lords, the civilized empires beyond their waters or what aid workers can bring in. The black markets bustle when they can but with little wealth the starving only has their weak bodies to sell and some do. 

It is for them to decide apparently. Celebrity flab concealed inside tailored suits surrounded by armies of armed professionals and bureaucratic tinkerers beat their chests, wave their swords and send gunboats. But it is always them going to the lands of the poor, it is always them entering the homes of the starving. There is no more bread to take, no more wine to steal. The Earth is shrinking, you have all but won.  It chokes from the wars, it bleeds from the exploitation. The cancer of foreign policy consumes the planet. 

Another election cycle for the civilized looms. The talking points lack concern for the hungry, like the Biafrans or Ethiopians they are lost souls that a photographer may capture for a prize. Their eyes absent as the camera bulb flickers into the darkness. Will history be kind to an empire, a culture that swallows so much up with little regard?  Who remembers the bombs that litter Laos and Cambodia but the poor and mutilated? The future will forget the desperate of now just as easily. Yemen, Syria, Libya they are not broken nations but millions of individual human beings. 

The names on the map, the different flags only separates but love, art, food, friendship, trade all of these unite. A baby sobs regardless of the crying national anthem, love transcends the borders of nation, friendship glows when policy segregates. The murder and torture does not protect, it endangers. Indifference does not strengthen, it empowers the worst in humanity and strangles the innocent. 

The civilized empires God claims that the meek shall inherit the Earth. Perhaps this is so, as they fill it with their bones inside of unmarked graves as the land above is destroyed by arrogant. There is nothing romantic in starving the desperate, no crusade in murdering the weak, no glory in snuffing babies. But sometimes the powerful kick over ant hills regardless. 

When It Comes to Raw Power, Few Have More of It Than Central Bankers

When It Comes to Raw Power, Few Have More of It Than Central Bankers

A common retort to the claim that in voluntary exchange both parties expect to become better off (or they wouldn’t do it) is that exchanges are seldom, if ever, a matter of horizontal, equal exchange of values. Instead, any such interaction between people is ultimately a matter of their exercising power over one another. The implication, and often explicitly stated conclusion, is that there is no voluntariness, that exploitation is always present, that one party necessarily gains at the other’s expense.

This rather dismal view of man makes clear that people apparently are slaves to power, their own hunger for it as well as others’ wielding of it. We are forever at each other’s throats in some kind of hyper-Hobbesian fashion:

Although power is always involved, barter trade, in which goods are traded for other goods, sees significantly less of it. Here, the exchange of, for example, fish for bread reduces our ability to rely on power, and we are thus forced, as it were, to accept a somewhat equal trade. But the introduction of money exacerbates the problem by having a seemingly mysterious magnifying impact on the underlying power structures.

In a recent Twitter exchange, the tweeter summarized the issue with admirable (and rare) clarity: “a dollar is a unit of entitlement, an authorization to obtain resources, goods, and services.” In other words, the person with the dollar does not simply have something to use in exchange with others. Money is a means to command others to give up their goods, the ultimate expression of power. Money releases our savage lust for power and innate desire to cause harm to one another.

Consequently, markets unleash the barbarian within us and worse: they provide a framework that rewards greed by providing numerous goods and values, all expressed in money, to be used in our quest to subdue others. The only way to stop this destructive process from running amuck is to establish a social institution to keep these forces at bay, to leash the beast. In other words, it requires a state strong enough to counterbalance the detrimental impact of markets and also to suppress and control our basic destructive desires.

Or so the reasoning goes. But let’s unpack this all-too-common view, because it doesn’t make much sense even on its own terms.

What Is Money?

Those claiming the power of money hesitate to define this mysterious institution. The resulting lack of clarity explains some of the confusion. A money is simply a medium of exchange, something that is generally accepted—universally employed—in trade.

Money helps facilitate exchange throughout the economy by releasing actors of the necessity of finding exchange partners who want exactly what they are offering in trade and have exactly what they want to acquire. In other words, where there is money we can engage in indirect exchange: instead of being limited to situations of coincidence of wants for trade, person A can sell what they produce to person B for money and then use that money to pay person C for what they sell.

Simply put, money earned represents one’s value contribution to the economy and, since money is a generally accepted medium, it has purchasing power roughly representing that value. We produce in order to consume, and our production facilitates our consumption by earning us purchasing power—which is generally usable through the institution of money.

So where do power and command enter this picture? They do not, because there is no requirement that a potential seller accept money in exchange for what they are selling. And there certainly is no magic power in money to buy what is offered for sale regardless the amount of money offered.

The seller typically has a reservation price below which they will not sell. Unless the potential buyer offers a sufficiently high amount, the seller will not accept and there will be no trade. And the seller will accept money in exchange for the good simply because it is money, and so can be used in terms of its purchasing power. Similarly, the buyer would not part with his money unless he considered the good more valuable to him than the purchasing power of the money given up.

Consequently, the voluntariness of exchange remains a fact. Both parties can veto the exchange, meaning that it will take place only if both parties consider it worth it. Assuming no fraud and that what is offered in exchange is legitimately theirs, we have no reason to question the ethics of this situation.

This holds true virtually regardless of the nature of money, since it is traded (and traded for) given its estimated purchasing power. It doesn’t matter if the money exchanged is a gold coin, a fully backed bill of exchange, or a fiat currency like the dollar. However, those believing money is power should recognize the fact that an economy that relies on a commodity money is practically still a barter economy, but with the difference that actors released from the burden of coincidence of wants. They should thus be comparatively in favor of an economy with, say, a gold standard, since it leaves less room for the exercise of power than one with a fiat money regime.

When and How Power Enters

Where money is a commodity, regardless of which particular commodity, it is simply a good like any other except that it is also used in indirect exchange. This does not in itself imply that this money provides the holder with power. Nobody, or at least very few, would claim that bread in a bread commodity-money economy is a source of power over people that other types of food (or any other types of goods) are not. It is still just bread, the difference being only that people would accept bread as payment even if they do not actually want bread—because they expect that they can use the b

read as payment when trading with others.

The bread itself is still useful. Even if we do not particularly care for it, whether temporarily or at all, we can see that it is a good with specific uses. The same is true with any commodity money, even though precious metals likely have fewer specific uses to us personally than bread does.

Fiat money changes the situation somewhat, but not regarding the actual use and nature of money in exchanges. Money is still used and accepted for its (expected) purchasing power. However, it is not a good that we can use for anything other than as money. So, in a sense, we’re stuck with it as money only, whereas bread can be eaten, gold can be used in jewelry, and bills of exchange are direct claims on such goods.

For this reason, the bearer of noncommodity money is more vulnerable: if the money loses its purchasing power, partially or completely, there is no alternate course of action. A $20 bill is a $20 bill whether or not the purchasing power of the dollar plummets (or surges), whereas it might make sense to eat one’s bread money if its purchasing power falls.

The holder of cash in a fiat money regime is thus subject to the monetary policymakers. Should the latter choose to double the money supply, which would severely undermine the currency unit’s purchasing power, it would affect the money in your pocket, mattress, or bank account. You are made the victim of another’s decision, which is certainly a form of power. But this is the very opposite of what is claimed by those insisting that money is power. To them, to hold money is to have power. Yet in this example whoever holds money is powerless against any changes in monetary policy.

What about money as the power to command? As we saw above, there is no such thing in a barter economy. But fiat money may be different, and in our day and age typically is. This is due to legal tender laws. As is printed on every federal reserve note, “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” In other words, if someone is indebted to you, you are legally required to accept payment in dollars. So whoever has borrowed can, due to the powers of the state, require that the lender accept dollars in repayment.

Although this does not mean that you can, as a holder of dollar bills, command anyone to sell to you, other laws introduce such power. For instance, Michigan’s Scanner Law requires stores not only to display prices for all goods offered for sale, but to accept the displayed price in dollars. This means the customer has the (legally granted) power to command the store to sell an item for the price displayed even if it was a mistaken one.

Consequently, we cannot fully dismiss the view that “money is power.” However, this power is not due to money being money, as is often and widely believed. Money is not mysteriously powerful. But there are situations in which money constitutes power. This is the case under fiat money regimes and legal tender laws, and other laws that may be in force to change the power dynamics. Whereas money is involved in all of these examples, the common source of such powers is not the money itself. The source is the state.

Reprinted from the Mises Institute.

Libertarians Have to Cope With the Real World

Libertarians Have to Cope With the Real World

Imagine you’re starving to death in a desert and you happened across a man who has a loaf of bread. He takes pity on you and offers you a slice. But you refuse it and go on your way because he won’t give you the whole loaf.

That would be pretty dumb, wouldn’t it?

But this is exactly how a lot of libertarians approach political activism. They reject small steps forward that would make us a little bit freer because it’s not complete liberty.

I’ll give you an example.

Last week, the Kentucky House passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. Activists have been pushing toward this for years. But a big chunk of the Facebook comments I saw were libertarians crapping on the bill. Here’s just one of dozens of comments I read.

“So can I grow it? Can I smoke it? Do I need the state to grant me permission, on any level, to use it? Smells like more garbage legislation with built in victimless crime laws. Oh wait, the entire thing is victimless crime. Y’all see this as a win?”

Yes. Yes I do.

As somebody who used to live in Kentucky, used CBD capsules containing a small amount of THC, and worried about going to jail, I would definitely see legalized medical marijuana as a win . Even with the restrictions on growing and smoking. Even with the taxes. Even with the government regulation.

Why? Because I could have my little marijuana-derived CBD pills (that have zero psychotropic effect) without having to worry about armed government thugs locking me in a cage or taking my car.

I get it. Legalized marijuana in Kentucky would not be “liberty.” There would stlll be government control. Of course, it would be a lot better if the government stopped regulating marijuana completely. But call me crazy, I still view a change in the law that means fewer people getting locked in cages because of a plant “a win.”

Far too many libertarians let ideological purity get in the way of their common sense. As Murray Rothbard wrote:

“Libertarians must come to realize that parroting ultimate principles is not enough for coping with the real world.”

We live in a real world with real governments. Posting on Facebook isn’t going to change that. Your memes aren’t going to make you any more free. And turning down a slice of bread because you want a whole loaf will just leave you hungry.

As much as I wish it would happen, government isn’t going to disappear from the face of the earth any time soon. So, shouldn’t we push forward any measure will mitigate some of the intrusion of government in our lives?

William Lloyd Garrison was a prominent abolitionist when abolishing slavery was still a radical and unpopular position, even in the North. He believed slavery should end immediately, and he constantly said so. Garrison wasn’t concerned about winning a popularity contest or convincing people he was properly mainstream. He unapologetically wore a badge of radicalism. He unwaveringly pursued the ideal.

But Garrison was also a political pragmatist. He didn’t reject steps toward emancipation just because they didn’t bring about complete and immediate emancipation. Read carefully what he wrote.

“Urge immediate abolition as earnestly as we may, it will, alas! be gradual abolition in the end. We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be, we shall always contend.”

I’m not suggesting we should jettison our radical philosophy of liberty. But I am suggesting that we should take a slice of bread when we can get one. And then another. And then another.

Eventually, we’ll have the whole loaf.

I’ve watched this play out in over 10 years of cannabis activism. Do you realize that every state that has legalized adult-use marijuana started with legalizing medical? And crappy medical program always expend over time. Just last year, five states loosened up restrictions on their existing medical marijuana programs. And several states with legal recreational marijuana passed laws that will encourage the cannabis market to expand in the future.

In other words, if Kentucky can get a medical marijuana program established – however limited – it will almost certainly expand over time.

So, you have a couple of choices. You can sit on the sidelines and throw rocks at the people actually doing the work. Or you can get out from behind your keyboard and do something that will bring about just a little more liberty.

Debilitating Pessimism

Why do so many libertarians spend so much time complaining and running down every effort to advance liberty? I think it oftentimes stems from a sense of hopelessness. I think a lot of people in the so-called liberty movement suffer from what Rothbard called “debilitating pessimism.”

That’s quite an indictment. But you know what? It’s true.

Pessimism is debilitating. It motivates us to do — well — nothing. It even leads some people to tear down the efforts of others. Here’s the thing; no matter how small the odds are of winning are even if you do something, I can guarantee you this — if you do nothing, you’ll get nothing.

My point is that if you believe in something – if you are convinced something is right and true – you have to fight for it. Even if the odds seem insurmountable. Even when you’re tired. Even when the crowd tells you you’re wasting your time. Because you never know when something is going to tip that scale and kick off an avalanche of change.

Rothbard was right. We have to cast off the needless pessimism and keep up the good fight for liberty.

Rothbard offers us some sage advice.

“For the libertarian, the main task of the present epoch is to cast off his needless and debilitating pessimism, to set his sights on long-run victory and to set about the road to its attainment.”

TGIF: The Nonintervention Principle

TGIF: The Nonintervention Principle

Anyone old enough to think about “America’s” role in the world ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. For example, one ought to be able to argue firmly against U.S. intervention in other countries without feeling obliged to downplay or deny the real crimes that the tyrant du jour has committed. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees.

I can see the temptation here. Many people believe that all one needs to do to establish a case for intervention is to portray the target as egregiously bad. Consequently, a noninterventionist may think that the easiest way to rebut the interventionist is to deny the claim that the target is as bad as “they say.” But this is a lousy, short-sighted, and ultimately self-defeating move. For one thing, it implies that intervention would be acceptable if the target were that bad. Unsurprisingly, it’s better to stick to principle.

The principle of foreign nonintervention has nothing to do with the record of the foreign government in question. It is perfectly coherent to identify Ruler X as a brutal dictator and to oppose a U.S. government action aimed at regime-change and nation-building. Thus the noninterventionist has no need to blunt the move toward intervention by misstating or obscuring facts to make the targeted ruler appear less bad than he really is. If someone is puzzled by the the statement “The ruler is as horrible as you say, but that is no justification for intervention,” it’s the noninterventionist’s job to straighten that person out because he clearly misunderstands the nature of noninterventionism.

The world is full of egregiously bad rulers — as distinguished from merely garden-variety bad ones — but when the matter turns to U.S. foreign and military policy, the appropriate question is, “So what?” As I say, the case for nonintervention doesn’t rest on the target’s record. So noninterventionists should have no trouble identifying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (among many others) as egregiously bad guys while also opposing U.S. government action against them.

Noninterventionists should also be able to state, assuming of course it is true, that a particular bad ruler is not as bad in every respect as the interventionists say without being smeared as an apologist for that ruler. For example, we can note that Assad, although a brutal dictator, has protected religious minorities, such as Christians, from the fanatical Sunni Muslims, such as al Qaeda and the late Islamic State. (Assad himself is a member of a religious minority, the Alawites, which is in the Shia branch of Islam.) Acknowledging Assad’s record of protecting minorities does not make one a fan, much less a tool, of the Syrian ruler. Similarly, one ought to be able to point out that U.S. sanctions are partly responsible for Venezuela’s problems without being accused of defending or overlooking Maduro’s authoritarian state socialism, which by nature will always harm the very people it is perhaps intended to benefit.

Thus the case for nonintervention is independent of Assad’s policy toward minorities and the consequences of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. (Those sanctions should end.) Nonintervention stands on its own merits.

I find it necessary to discuss what ought to be obvious because recently I’ve seen people committing these fallacies: a few noninterventionists have appeared to suggest that a potential target of U.S. intervention, Maduro, isn’t really so bad, while some interventionists have accused noninterventionists of being soft on some demonstrably horrible rulers.

Another fallacy I’ve encountered is the equation of noninterventionism with nationalism, specifically with a belief that national borders are sacrosanct. The fallacy here is in thinking that the libertarian case for nonintervention rests on a reverence for national for boundaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. Noninterventionism and open (i.e., essentially abolished) borders go hand in hand.

So why the iron rule against nonintervention if borders are not sacrosanct? Albert Jay Nock and Murray Rothbard both answered this question: as long as we live in a world of states, to minimize the harm, we are obliged to keep the the state we labor under on, as Nock put it, as short a leash as possible. This is true in domestic policy, but it is every more urgent in foreign affairs since presidents have frightening and acutely lethal autonomy in that realm. We should need no reminder that when the U.S. government intervenes in a foreign conflict, it makes things worse — much worse — especially for noncombatants. So nonintervention is motivated not only by a wish to keep the state as small as possible, but also to minimize bloodshed by abstaining from exacerbating other people’s conflicts. Bluntly put, we must keep states from clashing. It’s got nothing to do with a reverence for borders.

In the harsh light of 21st-century American foreign policy, we can see that the cause of nonintervention has never been more urgent. Let’s not burden it with irrelevant considerations.

(For a statement of libertarian noninterventionism, see my “Libertarianism Means Noninterventionism.”)

TGIF –The Goal Is Freedom — appears occasionally on Fridays.

Taliban: No Peace Deal If US Troops Stay in Afghanistan

Taliban: No Peace Deal If US Troops Stay in Afghanistan

Deputy leader says withdrawal is main thing the Taliban wants

With a potential US-Taliban peace deal in Afghanistan potentially at hand, Taliban Deputy Leader Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote an op-ed in the New York Times clarifying exactly what the Taliban hopes to get out of the deal, what is expected and what is their red line.

For a war that’s dragged on for 19 years, Taliban demands are still straightforward and easy to understand. The main goal is, as ever, the removal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, and the deal was conditioned on the US withdrawing from the country.

Haqqani dismissed reports that the US would try to keep residual troops in Afghanistan under the deal, saying that there would be no peace deal that involved US troops staying in Afghanistan.

This has been well-established since long before the most recent peace talks began, and any reticence the US has shown toward a deal has necessarily raised questions about whether the US still wasn’t ready to commit to having no troops in Afghanistan.

President Trump has already planned cuts ahead of this year’s election, and that’s expected to happen whether a peace deal comes or not. Though a peace deal could also be something to campaign on, it remains to be seen if Trump will go that route, or continue to drag on the conflict.

Trump’s Budget: More Warfare, Slightly Less Welfare

Trump’s Budget: More Warfare, Slightly Less Welfare

Listening to the howls from Democrats and the applause from Republicans, one would think President Trump’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is a radical assault on the welfare state. The truth is that the budget contains some minor spending cuts, most of which are not even real cuts. Instead they are reductions in the “projected rate of growth.” This is the equivalent of saying you are sticking to your diet because you ate five chocolate chip cookies when you wanted to eat ten.

President Trump’s plan reduces the Department of Education’s budget by nearly 8 percent, leaving the department with “only” $66.6 billion. Cuts to other departments are similarly small, while reductions in entitlement spending consist mostly of reforms that will not affect most of those dependent on these programs.

President Trump deserves credit for proposing an $11.6 billion cut in funding for the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Foreign aid does little to help impoverished people overseas. Instead, it benefits foreign government officials willing to do the US government’s bidding. The State Department and USAID are extensively involved in US intervention abroad, including efforts to overthrow governments.

President Trump’s budget proposes a number of increases in spending. For example, his budget spends around 900 million additional dollars on vocational education. It also includes additional spending on items including infrastructure and childcare.

Few in DC have expressed concern over the fact that President Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal is the largest budget in American history. There is also little outcry from supposedly antiwar progressive Democrats over Trump’s proposal to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on militarism. This is not surprising, as many progressives are happy to support increased warfare spending as long as conservatives go along with increased welfare spending. Similarly, many conservatives are happy to support increased welfare spending as long as it means that progressives will vote for increased warfare spending. So, Congress is unlikely to approve any of President Trump’s spending cuts, but Congress will gleefully agree to all of his spending increases.

Even if Congress agrees to all of President Trump’s cuts, federal deficits will still be over $1 trillion for the next several years. However, President Trump claims that the budget will balance in fifteen years. In order to show a balanced budget by 2035, the administration assumes 3 percent economic growth for most of the next decade. This level of growth is unlikely to come to pass. Instead, the current boom will likely end soon, and the economy will experience another major recession. Signs that we are on the verge of a downturn include rising homelessness and the Federal Reserve’s bailout of the repurchasing market.

The current economic boom is built on debt, and the debt-based economy is facilitated by the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies. The massive amount of debt held by consumers, businesses, and especially government is the main reason the Fed feels compelled to maintain historically low interest rates. If rates were to increase to market levels, government interest payments would be unstable. This would cause the government debt bubble to burst, leading to a major crisis. However, continuing on the current path of low interest rates will inevitably lead to a dollar crisis and the collapse of the welfare-warfare Keynesian system.

Continuing to waste billions on wars abroad and failed programs at home while pretending that we can avoid a crisis via phony cuts and Fed-fueled growth will only make the inevitable collapse more painful. The only way to avoid economic disaster is to cut spending and audit, then end, the Federal Reserve.

Reprinted from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Another Massive Budget Deficit to Start 2020

Another Massive Budget Deficit to Start 2020

The Trump administration posted another massive budget deficit to start out calendar-year 2020.

According to the latest data released by the U.S. Treasury Department, Uncle Sam spent $32.6 billion more than it took in last month. That compares with an $8.7 billion surplus in January 2019. Analysts had projected an $11.5 billion shortfall in January.

That brings the total deficit in FY2020 to $389.2 billion. So far, the deficit in fiscal 2020 is about $79 billion bigger than it was at this point in FY2019, a 25 percent gain.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget shortfall will hit $1.02 trillion in FY 2020 and rise into the foreseeable future.  The CBO warns that the ballooning national debt poses a “significant risk” to the economy and financial system.

Overspending continues to drive the ever-widening deficits. The federal government took in $372 billion in January. That was a 10 percent increase in revenue compared with January 2019. But spending was up $405 billion. That represents a 22 percent increase year-on-year.

Through just the first four months of FY2020, Trump and company have already spent nearly $1.5 trillion.

These are the kind of budget deficits one would expect to see during a major economic downturn. The federal government has only run deficits over $1 trillion in four fiscal years, all during the Great Recession. We’re approaching that number today, despite having what Trump keeps calling “the greatest economy in the history of America.”

Generally, during economic expansions, government spending on social programs shrinks and tax revenues climb with increased economic activity. Revenues have increased over the last year, even with the Republican tax cuts, but they haven’t kept pace with the increase in government spending.

President Trump didn’t even mention the growing national debt during his State of the Union address. As Peter Schiff noted in a tweet, “During his 90-minute #SOTU address President Trump did not urge Congress to cut one dime of government spending, or eliminate one government agency or department, even as the national debt is soaring by record amounts during an economy he claims is booming.”

Much has been made in cuts to social programs in Trump’s proposed 2021 budget. But there are spending increases in other areas and the overall spending plan comes in at $4.8 trillion compared to $4.4 trillion in actual outlays during FY2019.

Republicans argue that economic growth will ultimately fix the national debt. The Trump plan claims to balance the budget in 15 years. But this scenario depends on 3 percent GDP growth every year and no recession. Last year, GDP growth was 2.3 percent.

The CBO warns that the growing “debt would dampen economic output over time.”

In fact, studies have shown that GDP growth decreases by an average of about 30 percent when government debt exceeds 90% of an economy. Total U.S. debt already stands at around 106.9 percent of GDP. Ever since the US national debt exceeded 90 percent of GDP in 2010, inflation-adjusted average GDP growth has been 33 percent below the average from 1960–2009, a period that included eight recessions.

Europe’s spending binge serves as a prime example of the impact of debt on economic growth.

The reality is America’s fiscal condition is circling the drain. The bottom line is that the spending trajectory is unsustainable. If the U.S. government is running $1 trillion deficits now, what will the country’s financial situation look like when the next recession hits?

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

Church Support for War Created Social Justice Rage

Church Support for War Created Social Justice Rage

“’Saul, why do you persecute me?’ (Acts 22.7). This is the fundamental question. Christian conversion is our discovery that we are persecutors without knowing it. All participation in the scapegoat phenomenon is the same sin of the persecution of Christ. And all human beings commit this sin.” – Rene Girard, Evolution and Conversion (142)

We discovered the scientific method because we stopped burning witches. We stopped burning witches because, despite the slowness in understanding and stubborn choice to disregard the question at the heart of Christian conversion, the story of Jesus saving people through his refusal to return violence against his persecutors slowly undermined the millenia-old groupthink that witches, or other misfits, are the primary cause of plagues, droughts, and infant deaths.

The question “Why do you persecute me?” inspired the West to create hospitals with universal admittance, give the handicap our best seats in theaters, and wrestle with notions of restitution for past persecutions like slavery and land confiscation. It allowed us to consider treating the last as if they were first. However, our increasing awareness for the plight of those we sacrifice for the greater good can get warped and redirected into new, clever ways of sacrifice.

Humanity is like a recovering heroin addict. In ancient times, ritual sacrifice and violence against misfits was our false transcendence. It felt good and it helped us function and avoid worse demons. We slowly realized how ugly and oppressive the drug is to those around us and are now in the process of weaning off the substance. However, along the way, there are pitfalls, momentary relapses, where we do not realize we are still sneaking in a quick fix of sacrificial violence.

Any time we consent to using violence against nonviolent people to preemptively protect “the greater good” we are falling back into this fix. So how do we educate ourselves in the way of becoming aware of our complicity in persecution? How do we train ourselves to see with new eyes that those who seem to deserve to be blamed the most for our problems are, in fact, hidden scapegoats?

If you want to study how to found a remarkable company, you read Steve Jobs biographies and discuss it with fellow entrepreneurs. If you want to exercise, you go to the gym or hike with friends.

If you want to learn the story of Jesus and how to imitate him, you go to church. These gyms for Jesus imitation should unlock the meaning of “Saul, why do you persecute me?” and apply it to society. They should unpack what Jesus meant by God “desiring mercy, not sacrifice,” how he was “the stone the builders rejected,” and how we should not resist evil with violence.

With almost 400,000 churches in America and 70% of Americans claiming to be Christian, which means “Jesus imitator,” we should be able to spot the hidden scapegoats found in the specks of our eyes. But what does one get when you visit a local congregation?

By omission or commission, we get leaders using their role model platform in the name of Jesus to side with persecution. We are getting gyms with pools made of ice cream and barbells racked with donuts. For decades, church leaders have remained silent in the face of elective wars. Rather than warning their flocks to discourage their children from participating in elective wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria or aiding chaos in Yemen, Libya, or Pakistan, they have stayed silent, neutral, or even celebratory of such endeavors.

War, if it is to be done, should only be in self-defense from actual, initiated violence. Working alongside rebels and terrorists to benefit financial interests is no place for any person representing a nation of Jesus imitators.

Church leaders should denounce elective wars. They should know that a state commission, a helmet, and a uniform does not act as an exemption from the question, “Why do you persecute me?” To betray young men and women’s valor to serve for placating the state-serving status quo is a betrayal of Jesus himself. It is a slander of the Gospel.

Unjust sacrifice of soldiers’ lives and limbs is not the only form of persecution church leaders have aided. If a person goes into a house of Jesus, they should be equipped with the ethical model of Jesus in their personal and civic life. That message would challenge Christians to consider their obligation to imitate Jesus in participating in jury duty. If a nonviolent person who is not a danger to society is being put on trial, a Jesus imitator should know that they have the power to throw away the stone in their hand and render a “Not guilty” verdict as a judgment against bad law.

The Founders created jury nullification as a tool that allows people who feel powerless to effect elections to make a difference, one persecuted neighbor at a time.

If church leaders explained how laws against nonviolent, victimless behaviors actually create fatherlessness, separated families, prison assault, PTSD, generational violence, poverty, and empower gangs, society would not flock to other church-like communities based around race, gender, sexuality, or political ideology. Such “social justice” movements are motivated by anger, fear, hate, and an overriding sense of despair that victims are being oppressed. Because they create groups based on external identity conformity, they are necessarily antagonistic to outside scapegoats that are the opposite of their shared identity.

Churches can heal the cultural sickness of which identity politics is a symptom. If church leaders start speaking out with grace against elective wars here and abroad, they can heal the national body. When church leaders enter the public square to defend the individual person against collective violence and face the question, “Why do you persecute me?” we can put aside identity politics and unite the culture in imitation of Jesus.

Reprinted from LibertarianChristians.com.

How the Fed Rules and Inflates

How the Fed Rules and Inflates

[From chapter 23 of The Case Against the Fed.]

Having examined the nature of fractional reserve and of central banking, and having seen how the questionable blessings of Central Banking were fastened upon America, it is time to see precisely how the Fed, as presently constituted, carries out its systemic inflation and its control of the American monetary system.

Pursuant to its essence as a post-Peel Act Central Bank, the Federal Reserve enjoys a monopoly of the issue of all bank notes. The U. S. Treasury, which issued paper money as Greenbacks during the Civil War, continued to issue one-dollar “Silver Certificates” redeemable in silver bullion or coin at the Treasury until August 16, 1968. The Treasury has now abandoned any note issue, leaving all the country’s paper notes, or “cash,” to be emitted by the Federal Reserve. Not only that; since the U.S. abandonment of the gold standard in 1933, Federal Reserve Notes have been legal tender for all monetary debts, public or private.

Federal Reserve Notes, the legal monopoly of cash or “standard,” money, now serves as the base of two inverted pyramids determining the supply of money in the country. More precisely, the assets of the Federal Reserve Banks consist largely of two central items. One is the gold originally confiscated from the public and later amassed by the Fed. Interestingly enough, while Fed liabilities are no longer redeemable in gold, the Fed safeguards its gold by depositing it in the Treasury, which issues “gold certificates” guaranteed to be backed by no less than 100 percent in gold bullion buried in Fort Knox and other Treasury depositories. It is surely fitting that the only honest warehousing left in the monetary system is between two different agencies of the federal government: the Fed makes sure that its receipts at the Treasury are backed 100 percent in the Treasury vaults, whereas the Fed does not accord any of its creditors that high privilege.

The other major asset possessed by the Fed is the total of U.S. government securities it has purchased and amassed over the decades. On the liability side, there are also two major figures: Demand deposits held by the commercial banks, which constitute the reserves of those banks; and Federal Reserve Notes, cash emitted by the Fed. The Fed is in the rare and enviable position of having its liabilities in the form of Federal Reserve Notes constitute the legal tender of the country. In short, its liabilities — Federal Reserve Notes — are standard money. Moreover, its other form of liability — demand deposits — are redeemable by deposit-holders (i.e., banks, who constitute the depositors, or “customers,” of the Fed) in these Notes, which, of course, the Fed can print at will. Unlike the days of the gold standard, it is impossible for the Federal Reserve to go bankrupt; it holds the legal monopoly of counterfeiting (of creating money out of thin air) in the entire country.

The American banking system now comprises two sets of inverted pyramids, the commercial banks pyramiding loans and deposits on top of the base of reserves, which are mainly their demand deposits at the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve itself determines its own liabilities very simply: by buying or selling assets, which in turn increases or decreases bank reserves by the same amount.

At the base of the Fed pyramid, and therefore of the bank system’s creation of “money” in the sense of deposits, is the Fed’s power to print legal tender money. But the Fed tries its best not to print cash but rather to “print” or create demand deposits, checking deposits, out of thin air, since its demand deposits constitute the reserves on top of which the commercial banks can pyramid a multiple creation of bank deposits, or “checkbook money.”

Let us see how this process typically works. Suppose that the “money multiplier” — the multiple that commercial banks can pyramid on top of reserves, is 10:1. That multiple is the inverse of the Fed’s legally imposed minimum reserve requirement on different types of banks, a minimum which now approximates 10 percent. Almost always, if banks can expand 10:1 on top of their reserves, they will do so, since that is how they make their money. The counterfeiter, after all, will strongly tend to counterfeit as much as he can legally get away with. Suppose that the Fed decides it wishes to expand the nation’s total money supply by $10 billion. If the money multiplier is 10, then the Fed will choose to purchase $1 billion of assets, generally U.S. government securities, on the open market.

Figure 10 and 11 below demonstrates this process, which occurs in two steps. In the first step, the Fed directs its Open Market Agent in New York City to purchase $1 billion of U.S. government bonds. To purchase those securities, the Fed writes out a check for $1 billion on itself, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It then transfers that check to a government bond dealer, say Goldman, Sachs, in exchange for $1 billion of U.S. government bonds. Goldman, Sachs goes to its commercial bank — say Chase Manhattan — deposits the check on the Fed, and in exchange increases its demand deposits at the Chase by $1 billion.

fed1

Where did the Fed get the money to pay for the bonds? It created the money out of thin air, by simply writing out a check on itself. Neat trick if you can get away with it!

Chase Manhattan, delighted to get a check on the Fed, rushes down to the Fed’s New York branch and deposits it in its account, increasing its reserves by $1 billion. Figure 10 shows what has happened at the end of this Step One.

The nation’s total money supply at any one time is the total standard money (Federal Reserve Notes) plus deposits in the hands of the public. Note that the immediate result of the Fed’s purchase of a $1 billion government bond in the open market is to increase the nation’s total money supply by $1 billion.

But this is only the first, immediate step. Because we live under a system of fractional-reserve banking, other consequences quickly ensue. There are now $1 billion more in reserves in the banking system, and as a result, the banking system expands its money and credit, the expansion beginning with Chase and quickly spreading out to other banks in the financial system. In a brief period of time, about a couple of weeks, the entire banking system will have expanded credit and the money supply another $9 billion, up to an increased money stock of $10 billion. Hence, the leveraged, or “multiple,” effect of changes in bank reserves, and of the Fed’s purchases or sales of assets which determine those reserves. Figure 11, then, shows the consequences of the Fed purchase of $1 billion of government bonds after a few weeks.

Note that the Federal Reserve balance sheet after a few weeks is unchanged in the aggregate (even though the specific banks owning the bank deposits will change as individual banks expand credit, and reserves shift to other banks who then join in the common expansion.) The change in totals has taken place among the commercial banks, who have pyramided credits and deposits on top of their initial burst of reserves, to increase the nation’s total money supply by $10 billion.

fed2

It should be easy to see why the Fed pays for its assets with a check on itself rather than by printing Federal Reserve Notes. Only by using checks can it expand the money supply by ten-fold; it is the Fed’s demand deposits that serve as the base of the pyramiding by the commercial banks. The power to print money, on the other hand, is the essential base in which the Fed pledges to redeem its deposits. The Fed only issues paper money (Federal Reserve Notes) if the public demands cash for its bank accounts and the commercial banks then have to go to the Fed to draw down their deposits. The Fed wants people to use checks rather than cash as far as possible, so that it can generate bank credit inflation at a pace that it can control.

If the Fed purchases any asset, therefore, it will increase the nation’s money supply immediately by that amount; and, in a few weeks, by whatever multiple of that amount the banks are allowed to pyramid on top of their new reserves. f I it sells any asset (again, generally U.S. government bonds), the sale will have the symmetrically reverse effect. At first, the nation’s money supply will decrease by the precise amount of the sale of bonds; and in a few weeks, it will decline by a multiple, say ten times, that amount.

Thus, the major control instrument that the Fed exercises over the banks is “open market operations,” purchases or sale of assets, generally U.S. government bonds. Another powerful control instrument is the changing of legal reserve minima. If the banks have to keep no less than 10 percent of their deposits in the form of reserves, and then the Fed suddenly lowers that ratio to 5 percent, the nation’s money supply, that is of bank deposits, will suddenly and very rapidly double. And vice versa if the minimum ratio were suddenly raised to 20 percent; the nation’s money supply will be quickly cut in half. Ever since the Fed, after having expanded bank reserves in the 1930s, panicked at the inflationary potential and doubled the minimum reserve requirements to 20 percent in 1938, sending the economy into a tailspin of credit liquidation, the Fed has been very cautious about the degree of its changes in bank reserve requirements. The Fed, ever since that period, has changed bank reserve requirements fairly often, but in very small steps, by fractions of one percent. It should come as no surprise that the trend of the Fed’s change has been downward: ever lowering bank reserve requirements, and thereby increasing the multiples of bank credit inflation. Thus, before 1980, the average minimum reserve requirement was about 14 percent, then it was lowered to 10 percent and less, and the Fed now has the power to lower it to zero if it so wishes.

Thus, the Fed has the well-nigh absolute power to determine the money supply if it so wishes.1 Over the years, the thrust of its operations has been consistently inflationary. For not only has the trend of its reserve requirements on the banks been getting ever lower, but the amount of its amassed U.S. government bonds has consistently increased over the years, thereby imparting a continuing inflationary impetus to the economic system. Thus, the Federal Reserve, beginning with zero government bonds, had acquired about $400 million worth by 1921, and $2.4 billion by 1934. By the end of 1981 the Federal Reserve had amassed no less than $140 billion of U.S. government securities; by the middle of 1992, the total had reached $280 billion. There is no clearer portrayal of the inflationary impetus that the Federal Reserve has consistently given, and continues to give, to our economy.

    • 1. Traditionally, money and banking textbooks list three forms of Fed control over the reserves, and hence the credit, of the commercial banks: in addition to reserve requirements and open market operations, there is the Fed’s “discount” rate, interest rate charged on its loans to the banks. Always of far more symbolic than substantive importance, this control instrument has become trivial, now that banks almost never borrow from the Fed. Instead, they borrow reserves from each other in the overnight “federal funds” market.

Reprinted From Mises.org.

FDA Expands Ecstasy Access to Veterans with PTSD

FDA Expands Ecstasy Access to Veterans with PTSD

In 2006, Johnathan Lubecky was deployed to Iraq. While fighting for his country, Johnathan faced constant enemy strikes, one of which resulted in a traumatic brain injury. Exposures to the horrors of war resulted in Johnathan developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Tragically, many soldiers share similar experiences. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimates between 11 and 20 percent of veterans serving in the War on Terror develop PTSD. Even for those with no military experience, PTSD is surprisingly common. An estimated 8 percent of the U.S. population (roughly equal in size to the population of Texas) will experience PTSD.

Treating PTSD is challenging, often requiring both medicinal treatment and considerable time spent in therapy. Unfortunately, some patients struggle to relive their traumatic experiences without suffering extreme emotional distress. In these cases, available treatments rarely help.

Many veterans fall into this category.

Read the rest at The Lighthouse.

Taliban: Afghanistan Peace Deal Terms Finalized

Taliban: Afghanistan Peace Deal Terms Finalized

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen reported on Monday that the US and Taliban have finalized the language of the Afghanistan peace deal. The US has not confirmed this yet, but had indicated in recent days that such a deal was imminent.

Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah confirmed the deal is finalized, saying that his understanding is that the signature depends on the success of the reduction of violence. If all goes well, the deal should be signed by all sides by the end of February.

The exact language of the deal has never been public, though indications are that it was effectively finalized in October of last year and has not substantially changed. The deal sees the US commit to a withdrawal from Afghanistan, negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and a commitment by the Taliban to fight al-Qaeda and ISIS to keep them out of the country.

The deal should end a 19-year US occupation of Afghanistan, and bring American troops home. It is expected that NATO forces will be withdrawing with the US, and the Afghan factions will reach a power-sharing deal.

Cross-posted at Antiwar.com.

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

“I was just following orders” is the mantra of everyone who has found themselves on the wrong side of history – who is called into account for their actions as an order taker. How is it possible that everyone from corrupt mayors, to murderous tyrants have been able to get so many people to obey them and march in lockstep? When you take into account there are people who are willing to defend them, it’s easy to understand how these organs of the State are allowed to get away with everything from ticketing people for non-violent crimes, to the worst atrocities one could ever imagine. When you have cheerleaders, as athletes do, you are often looked at as a hero. Why else would other people be championing you and your profession? 

From the day they’re born, the overwhelming majority of people are raised in environments that teach them to obey “authority” and never question it.  

A perfect example is unquestioning nationalism. A quote on nationalism by Albert Einstein which he spoke before the rise of Hitler was, “nationalism is an infantile disease, it is the measles of mankind.” That makes sense especially when you consider that people who are unquestioning nationalists are generally taught it from a young age.  

Nationalism doesn’t have to be a negative. To the contrary, many people who identify as such can articulate the difference between having an affection for the people and the society into which they were born, or chose, and their radical distrust of the government they live under. But those who can’t (or won’t) separate the State from their neighbor, have been shown in history to be the ones who either become the order-follower, or blindly worship and make excuses for them. 

The much rarer trait is to see someone raised as a radical individualist. Homeschooling numbers from 1990- 2019 have grown from 275,000 to 2,300,000. Reasons for wanting to keep your children out of government schools can vary. Some of the earliest started out for religious reasons. Today, many people who call themselves libertarians/anarchist/voluntaryists do it because they don’t want their children to grow up in an environment which fosters and actively promotes obedience to the State apparatus.  

Law Enforcement Worship 

From a young age, many parents teach their kids that law enforcement are the good guys and if they ask you a question, you better answer and be respectful. You can be respectful and still understand the nature of the job of the police in this country. They are evidence gatherers. That is their main task since they rarely show up in time to stop a crime. They have rightfully been referred to as “historians.” If a statute has been broken, it is their job to figure out who did it and they do this by detaining or arresting people and asking them questions. 

Any lawyer worth their salt will tell you to never answer questions unless they, or another attorney is present, even if you know you are not guilty. In the must-read book, “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent,” James Duane details by citing case upon case how innocent people have talked their way into losing decades of their lives even though they didn’t commit the crime of which they were convicted. He explains how police can ask you 100 questions, and while you may have answered 98 of them correctly, even proving your innocence, the 2 that you answer in a wishy-washy way can be used to convict you while the other 98 (ones that prove your innocence) will be thrown away and declared inadmissible in court. 

This continues to be a blight on the criminal “justice” system and police officers are aware that this happens. Yet they continue to do their job as they always have with no regard for whether they are contributing to the jailing of an innocent person. They, and their defenders, will often blame it on the prosecutors. Yes, they will pass the buck so to speak. And what is their excuse? It’s just part of the job and we are “just following orders.” “We’re just doing our jobs!” 

Military Members are Beyond Reproach 

At this point in the “War on Terror” it’s impossible to argue that those fighting it are expected to be held up as heroes by the government and general public, even to the point of excusing the worst atrocities and war crimes imaginable. 

Recently, president Trump granted clemency to war criminal, special operations chief Eddie Gallagher. Gallagher, a Navy Seal and platoon leader, is described as, “a “toxic” character who was “OK with killing anything that moved”, according to fellow Iraq veterans who reported his conduct to military investigators.” “In the interviews, conducted by navy investigators looking into Gallagher’s conduct during a tour of duty in Iraq in 2017, fellow platoon members told of a ruthless leader who stabbed a captive to death for no reason then forced his troops to pose for a photograph with the corpse.”  

At his court martial Gallagher was acquitted of murder but lost rank because of the pictures posing with the dead body. “In a lengthy criminal investigation report, the navy detectives laid out other allegations against Gallagher, including shooting a schoolgirl and elderly man from a sniper’s roost. Members of Alpha Platoon’s Seal Team 7 alarmed by their leader’s conduct said they were initially shut down by military chiefs when they first spoke up, and told their own careers would suffer if they continued to talk about it” 

“The guy is freaking evil,” special operator first class Craig Miller, one of the platoon’s most experienced members, told investigators in sometimes tearful testimony. “I think Eddie was proud of it, and that was, like, part of it for him.” 

This is the man Trump gave clemency from any future charges to. And when he did, Gallagher’s defenders came out of the woodwork to defend him from anyone who dared make the claim that this man not only deserves to be locked up, but that his sanity should be called into question. Trump went so far as to hint that he would take Gallagher out on the campaign trail with him. 

Eddie Gallagher was the platoon leader, the one who gave the orders. But he also took them. Testimony shows that these military chiefs did everything they could to protect Gallagher. Even threatening those under his command if they spoke of this. It’s hard to judge from afar whether those men who posed with the dead body wanted to, or they were just following orders and feared retribution. When you see that Gallagher’s bosses actively sought to protect him, is it unreasonable to ask whether Gallagher was “just following orders” when he committed these atrocities? 

As was stated at the start, “order-followers” have found themselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to decency, not to mention liberty. Their defenders are vocal and can rarely be reasoned with. They see people in these positions as heroes and will make any excuse for actions that could be stood right next to the worst atrocities committed by Pol Pot. As we progress into a future where it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people intend to grow the size and scope of government, those who value individual liberty and justice may have to decide whether they will stick it out and attempt to change this culture, or look for alternate solutions lest they wake up in a State in which their every deed and word is under the purview of the unthinking automaton. 

Short-sighted state governments rack up $1 Trillion in liabilities

Short-sighted state governments rack up $1 Trillion in liabilities


As if the national debt and federal entitlement liabilities weren’t enough. Now we get word that state governments have racked up more than a trillion dollars in unfunded healthcare benefits for state government workers. That’s trillion – with a ‘T’.

In a report released earlier this month, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) revealed the total, adding “That’s an average of $3,107 of unfunded OPEB liabilities for every resident of the United States.” 

The financial liabilities, labeled “Other post-employment benefits,” or OPEB for short, calculate the present value of health insurance coverage benefits promised to state government employees when they retire.

Virtually every state government promises fully- or partially- paid health insurance coverage to their employees in retirement.  

More than 40 percent of the benefit plans, according to the ALEC report, operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning there has been no money set aside. And the states that do set aside some funds to help pay for the benefits typically don’t set aside much. Indeed, the ALEC report notes “The average funding ratio for state OPEB plans is 9.4%.”

States with the highest OPEB liabilities per capita are Alaska at $18,500 followed by New Jersey at $14,500 and Hawaii at $12,200.

The liability totals disclosed in the ALEC report differ from the “official” figures produced by most state governments, however. This is because ALEC uses a more realistic discount rate to calculate the present value of the liabilities. State governments are notorious for using impractical discount rates in order to make liabilities look less daunting.

This latest trillion-dollar revelation of yet more irresponsible government promises turning into taxpayer-crushing liabilities illustrates a key point made by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his 2001 book “Democracy: The God That Failed.”

Because a politician’s top priority is getting re-elected, they have a high time preference. That is, they place a high priority on spending now with little regard for future consequences, because several years down the road they will no longer be in office and the mounting debt and liabilities will become someone else’s problem.

Referring to elected officials in a democracy as “temporary caretakers” of government assets and finances, Hoppe wrote that such caretakers are “not held liable for debts incurred during his tenure of office. Rather, his debts are considered ‘public,’ to be repaid by future (equally nonreliable) governments.”

There is no incentive for elected politicians in a democracy to concern themselves with the long-term value of the government’s financial condition. “A democratic ruler can use the government apparatus to his personal advantage, but he does not own it,” wrote Hoppe. Because there is no ownership, politicians are incentivized to use the resources temporarily at their disposal for their own personal gain, which often results in long-term financial pain.

Which brings us back to the OPEB liabilities faced by state governments. For decades, state politicians have promised generous retirement benefits to state employees to curry favor (and donations) from state employees, and to access the deep pockets of state government unions.

Such retiree health benefits for state government employees are far more generous than the private sector, where owners need to be more conscious of long-term financial implications.

According to this recently-released report by the Manhattan Institute, the growing OPEB liabilities have “also revealed the extent of the gulf between the public and the private sectors. Larger private-sector firms began to offer retiree health-care coverage in the 1940s, but new accounting rules issued in the 1980s drove most firms to halt the practice.”

The report continues, “The portion of large and midsize firms offering retiree health benefits fell from 45% in 1988 to 24% in 2017. Smaller companies were less likely to offer such benefits. Today, only 15% of private-sector workers have access to employer-provided retiree health benefits. In contrast, 70% of state and local workers are eligible for employer-provided retiree health benefits.”

Naturally, politicians who are merely temporary caretakers of money taken from citizens by force will be quite willing to exchange generous benefits for better odds of winning re-election. 

Leftists accuse capitalists of being greedy and self-interested. But the latest revelation of another trillion-dollar government liability underscores the greed and self-interest of the political class. Short-sighted desire to win the next election and maintain power is the driving force behind mounting government debt and liabilities. Not some altruistic desire to take care of others.

A free society based on private property would not only be morally preferable but would enjoy a far better preservation and accumulation of wealth. Private ownership incentivizes the increase of asset values, while democratic government incentivizes elected officials to use up resources in the short-term for personal gain at the expense of impoverishing future generations through crushing debt.  

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website Erasethestate.com and is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics.

Follow him on twitter: Bradley Thomas @erasestate

The Establishment Feels the Bern

The Establishment Feels the Bern

With the rise of Bernie Sanders in the polls, the establishment is worried. The prospect of a two-way race between Trump and Sanders in the general election has the powers-that-be out in full force.

The problem is that they don’t want to make it look too obvious with their opposition to Bernie. Many people, particularly Bernie supporters, already feel that the DNC rigged the primaries against Bernie in 2016.

Hillary Clinton obviously sought to take the nomination in 2016 (and would take it in 2020 if given the chance) because her goal is political power. But the issue is a little more complex regarding why the establishment fears a Bernie presidency.

Bernie is disliked by the establishment for similar reasons as Trump. They both sometimes tell the truth, particularly in regards to U.S. foreign policy.

There is a difference between the average person on the street who is a Trump hater and those within the power network of Washington DC. Someone may hate Trump because of his brashness, his rude Tweets, and his overall arrogant demeanor.

This does not get to the core hatred from the establishment. They don’t like Trump mostly because of his inconsistent views on foreign policy. They want someone consistent, but not consistent in the views of someone like Ron Paul. They want someone who will uphold the aims of the U.S. empire and military-industrial complex.

Trump sometimes tells the truth. He sometimes makes gestures towards peace, at least rhetorically. But even when he is siding with the regime, his truth telling can still be damaging.

For instance, he said that U.S. troops would stay in Syria to control the oil. This is no different from previous administrations, but Trump bluntly told the truth, which the establishment doesn’t like because it can de-legitimize U.S. foreign interventions.

And this may be the greatest thing Trump has done on behalf of liberty. His policies have been mostly horrible (continuing the tradition), but he is helping to de-legitimize the U.S. empire. Sometimes it is inadvertent, but we should take what we can get.

Of course, Trump has had some good things to say on foreign policy, particularly when he was campaigning. He said that we were lied into war in Iraq. He said he wanted to get along with Russia. This most likely explains why the establishment doesn’t like him. They are afraid that he may follow through on some of his rhetoric and that it will be persuasive to the American public.

Trump Over Bernie

The establishment doesn’t hate Bernie because he has described himself as a socialist. I doubt that Wall Street is even that worried. If stocks begin falling prior to the election, Trump will try to blame it on the prospect of a Bernie Sanders presidency. But if stocks do fall, it will be because we are in a massive bubble (which Trump described in 2016 before the bubble got bigger).

Bernie’s domestic policies do seem scary, but they are likely no bigger a threat than any of the other presidential contenders. We already have a disastrous healthcare system. It’s possible Bernie could get his universal healthcare system (i.e., government healthcare), but that is still somewhat of a long shot.

In terms of spending, it really can’t get any worse than it already is. We have one trillion dollar deficits, and this is during a supposedly prosperous period. If anything, the Republicans in Congress may actually start caring about federal spending again if Bernie is in the White House.

The reason the establishment is against Bernie is mainly due to foreign policy. They are afraid he might disrupt the military-industrial complex.

I don’t have a great degree of confidence that a Bernie presidency will lead to a significant change in U.S. foreign policy, but it’s certainly more likely than with a Biden or Buttigieg presidency. But we shouldn’t be fooled.

Bernie is rather weak. After having the DNC snatch the nomination from him in 2016, he endorsed the bloodthirsty Hillary Clinton, who never met a war she didn’t like. That alone should tell you how strong Bernie will be in office.

It is also important to consider that Bernie puts little emphasis on foreign policy. He tends to be good on the issue (relatively speaking) when asked, but he is more obsessed about taxing the top 1% than he is about stopping the bombing of innocent people in foreign countries.

Even though we don’t know for sure how a Sanders presidency would turn out, it is certain that the establishment media and the rest of the cesspool in Washington DC are trying to prevent his nomination because of the uncertainty. He may actually follow through with some of the things he says, and they can’t take that risk.

If Bernie actually gets the nomination, I think the establishment may quietly side with Trump. They would rather the devil (from their perspective) they know. Trump has been in office for over 3 years, and while he has done some damage rhetorically to the establishment, foreign policy has not changed much up to this point. The wars go on.

With Bernie, there is more uncertainty. Therefore, the military-industrial complex and the rest of the establishment may prefer Trump over Sanders. It would not be surprising if they put someone up like Michael Bloomberg to run as an independent in the general election in order to take votes away from Sanders. It would split the anti-Trump votes.

It will largely depend on how Bernie acts if he gets the nomination. I think he will moderate his views in the general election. He won’t call himself a socialist when he is up on stage debating Trump. He will come across as more reasonable, at least on domestic issues.

The big question will be his views on foreign policy. The establishment will try to get close to him in order to control him. If Bernie starts hiring foreign policy advisers who have been pro war in the past, then they will feel reasonably comfortable that they can control him.

It will be a different story if Bernie keeps speaking against U.S. wars and interventions. If he suggests having someone like Tulsi Gabbard as Secretary of State, then the establishment will really flip out. They will prefer Trump at that point. You will see the establishment media change its tune on Trump. They won’t be outright nice to him, but they will quietly change the narrative to make Bernie look like more of a crazy person.

The good news in all of this is that we have reached a point where the deep state is not in full control. We could have a general election with two candidates who are not approved by the establishment. Regardless of how bad they may govern, this is still a positive sign for liberty.

My Convict Road Gang Summer

My Convict Road Gang Summer

I may have been a rube, but I knew enough not to startle the gargantuan glowering prison guard with that double-barreled shotgun propped on his beer belly. As a sixteen-year-old toiling in the hot sun in 1973 alongside convicts on a road gang, I understood that the summer help was not exempt from the laws of physics. It was so easy being polite downwind from the shotgun that working for the Virginia Highway Department was my southern etiquette finishing school.

A couple times a week, a bright orange dump truck toting a cage full of convicts from a nearby state prison pulled up to work sites on rural back roads in the Shenandoah Valley. The hairless-headed guard would take his crouched position, ready to start blasting anyone who took off running. The convicts would exit single file from the cage and pick up their shovels, picks, or other tools. “Make my day!” was that guard’s motto long before Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry debuted. 

There were no restrictions on contact with the convicts as long as you didn’t help them escape. I was fascinated to  hear the convicts’ life stories – or, more accurately, the story of how their lives turned to crap. 

A few black convicts on the road gang  had been busted for drug dealing. Two years earlier, President Richard Nixon had proclaimed that drugs were “public enemy number one” and  that drug use was a “national emergency.” Prosecutors around the nation took the cue and started busting narcotics offenders by the busload. 

  I often shot the bull with an amiable mid-20s black guy from Richmond, Virginia.  Willie’s colorful bandana stretched across his head trumpeted his disdain for drab prison garb. He admitted to me that he had been a dealer but swore he’d never met the key trial witness who claimed to have bought heroin from him. Willie was stunned by the fabrications prosecutors used to nail him. He didn’t seem particularly bitter about doing time but was convinced the justice system was a crock.  Decades later,  I wrote in Playboy about the Drug Enforcement Administration knowingly using  dishonest “confidential informants” to fabricate evidence at federal trials.

Willie was already half way through his prison sentence and was counting on getting out early for “good behavior.” Unfortunately, thanks largely to mandatory minimum laws, the number of drug offenders in prisons rose tenfold between 1980 and 2005, spawning a vast prison industrial complex. More people were locked up for drug offenses than for violent crimes, and possessing trace amounts of cocaine was often punished with longer sentences than rape, murder, or child molesting. And prison guards became one of America’s fastest growing occupations, increasing five-fold and becoming one of the most powerful political lobbies in California and other states. Americans who a century and a half earlier recognized how slavery corrupted slaveowners failed to recognize that being a prison guard can also deprave human nature. 

Prior to goofing off on the highway department payroll, I toiled two summers in a peach orchard in a job enlivened by nonstop profanity from an ornery former Army drill sergeant foreman.  Most of the convict road gang didn’t seem that different from some of the down-and-out peach pickers who busted their tails for $1.40 an hour to fill metal buckets around their necks with cursedly fuzzy peaches. At least convicts never showed up drunk at the start of the workday. But the judicial system treated narcotics violators as demons who needed to be scourged, not like human beings who transgressed an arbitrary line between licit and illicit conduct.  

Several convicts bragged to me that summer long ago about having access to the best illicit drugs.  Government could not even control its own prisons, much less every street corner in the land.  The following decades saw one campaign after another to banish drugs from behind bars. In 1999, President Clinton proudly announced an initiative for “zero tolerance for drugs in prison,” plowing more millions of dollars into canine teams and new drug-detection technologies. But  scandals kept on coming. In 2013, a convict who was also the boss of the Black Guerilla Gang impregnated four beefy female guards at a state-run jail in Baltimore. That gang practically ran the jail, bringing in as many cell phones and narcotics as they pleased.  Last week, a federal grand jury in Maryland indicted another 15 prison guards, inmates and outside “facilitators” for smuggling narcotics and cell phones into prison. 

Seeing first-hand the boundless bullshit of the war on drugs planted seeds of skepticism in my thick young head. I scoffed at “Reefer Madness” in my high school health class.  I had smoked marijuana a few times but did not feel compelled to burn down any orphanages afterwards. A decade later, I published my first attack on marijuana prohibition in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.  

Nowadays, many activists are pushing for laws expunge drug possession convictions from people’s records  – a reform that could improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans who did no violence to fellow citizens.  That humane reform would be far more effective than the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s crusade to make it a federal crime not to hire ex-convicts.

Some leftists are going further and calling for closing down all jails and prisons and releasing all convicts. In New York City, activists disrupted a public meeting with the chant: “Hell no to the status quo! These prison walls have got to go!”  Apparently, anyone who is incarcerated is a victim of social injustice. This is where activism descends into lunacy.  

Some of the guys on that 1973 road gang were behind bars for savage rampages.  A sullen, Hulk-sized white dude told me he was in prison because he had beat hell out of his girlfriend’s husband. I never aspired to test the boundaries of that guy’s sense of humor. But he seemed like a ticking time bomb who could explode no matter where he was.  Simply because many people are wrongly incarcerated or unjustly convicted doesn’t turn all convicts into angels.  

  Regardless, permitting politicians to demonize anyone possessing “controlled substances” is nuts as long as there is no way to control politicians.   The demagoguery that has pervaded the War on Drugs for half a century is one of the great disgraces of American democracy. Maybe my time working alongside those convicts helped spur the theme of Lost Rights: “America needs fewer laws, not more prisons.”

Socialism in Education

Socialism in Education

It would be virtually impossible to find a better example of socialism here in the United States than the public schooling systems that exist in every U.S. state. Ironically, it is this socialist system that is primarily responsible for the widespread belief among non-libertarians that “the United States has never been a socialist country,” as New York Times columnist Timothy Egan stated in a recent NYT op-ed. (See my two recent articles “A Life of the Lie on Socialism” and “Socialism in America, 31 Years Ago.”)

It is worth noting that public schooling is a core feature of the educational systems in Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam, all three of which are widely known as socialist countries. That’s because public schooling is a socialist system.

Perhaps it’s also worth noting that while we call it “public” schooling, a more accurate name for it is government schooling or state schooling. That’s because state and local governments own and operate the educational systems. If state and local governments owned and operated churches, would we call them public churches or state churches?

Under public schooling, the government owns, operates, controls, and dictates the provision of education in society. In a purely socialist system, like North Korea, this means that every child in the nation is required to receive his education in a government facility.

Things are done differently here in the United States. While everyone is required to subject his children to a state-approved education, there are two additional options that the state permits parents to have: private schools and home-schooling.

It’s worth reminding ourselves though that homeschooling is a relatively new option. Up until the 1980s, the only two options were public schools and private schools. Anyone who insisted on homeschooling his children would be hauled into court and jailed and fined until he complied with the law that required parents to submit their children to either public schools or private schools.

In fact, as late as 1979 state officials in Utah killed a man named John Singer for insisting on homeschooling his children. They called it “resisting arrest” but the killing stemmed from Singer’s refusal to comply with state orders to send his children into the state’s education system.

 Even though the state permits these two additional options, most parents choose the public-school option, either because they can’t afford private schools or because home-schooling doesn’t suit them.

Oftentimes, however, private schools end up as mirror images of public schools, either because they are afraid of losing their state-issued license to operate the school or because the teachers and administrators are themselves products of the public-school system.

Moreover, in most states homeschooling parents are required to periodically meet with state officials to demonstrate that the children are being educated to the state’s satisfaction. If parents refuse to do that or if the state doesn’t approve of how the children are being educated, state officials will order the parents to send their children into the public-school system.

Whether in Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, or the United States, the educational system is based on force. Under what are called compulsory attendance laws, parents are required to submit their children to a state-approved education. If they refuse, they are threatened with jail and fines until they comply.

In public schools, everyone, including the teachers, is an employee of the state. The state establishes the curriculum and determines which textbooks are to be used. The entire operation is run in a top-down, command-and-control manner, much like the military.

In fact, public schooling could easily be referred to as “army-lite,” given that the students are there as a result of compulsion and are receiving a government-approved education. Moreover, the core features of public schools are regimentation, deference to authority, and obedience to orders, just like in the military.

The worst part of public schooling is what it does to children’s minds. From birth to six years of age, children are wide-eyed and curious about life and the universe. They absorb everything they see and experience life with a sense of awe and wonder. When they learn to talk, they inevitably bedevil their parents with endless repetitions of that three-letter word, “Why?”

By the time they end their 12-year sentence in public schools, all of that has been smashed out of them. They have learned to memorize and regurgitate but they have lost the natural love of learning that characterized them before they were forced into the state’s educational system. Oftentimes, it takes people many years before they find themselves in life, if they ever do.

This is where the indoctrination takes place. Day after day, American students are ingrained with the notion that they live in a free country, one based on a “free-enterprise” system. Every day, they pledge allegiance to a nation which has “freedom and justice for all.” As an aside, I can’t help but wonder how many graduates of America’s public schools know that the Pledge of Allegiance, which many of them still loyally recite as adults, was written by a self-avowed socialist named Francis Bellamy

By the time students graduate from this socialist educational system, they are totally convinced that America has never been a socialist country and will never become one. Their life of the lie and their denial of reality demonstrate that horrible “success” of public schooling.

That raises one of the distinguishing characteristics of us libertarians: We have succeeded in breaking through the years of state indoctrination. That enables us to recognize socialism when we see it. We favor an educational system based on liberty, free markets, and parental control — that is, one that separates school and state

Reprinted from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

TGIF: Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom

TGIF: Anti-BDS Laws Violate Our Freedom

Americans’ free-speech and other rights are being violated by state laws aimed at stifling the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement against Israel’s illegal rule of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both conquered over half a century ago. Twenty-eight states have enacted anti-BDS laws or executive orders that prohibit state agencies and state-financed entities, such as colleges, from doing business with any person or firm that hasn’t pledged never to boycott Israeli goods. 

Appropriately, these laws have come under fire as violations of both free speech and the right to engage in boycotts, which consist of peaceful decisions not to buy products of a particular origin.

The latest case to hit the news is concerns journalist and filmmaker Abby Martin and the state of Georgia. Martin explained the case in a January 11 tweet:

After I was scheduled to give keynote speech [about the media, not about BDS] at an upcoming @GeorgiaSouthern [University] conference, organizers said I must comply w/ Georgia’s anti-BDS law & sign a contractual pledge to not boycott Israel. I refused & my talk was canceled. The event fell apart after colleagues supported me.

This sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. To speak at a Georgia institution that gets state tax money (with a minimum honorarium), you must pledge never to boycott Israel. Here’s how the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law, which supports such laws, described Georgia’s situation:

Georgia’s State Senate passed an anti-BDS bill which states that “a company or individual seeking a procurement contract worth at least $1,000 with any state agency would have to certify playing no party in a boycott of Israel.” When making his claim for passage on the floor of the Senate, Senator Judson Hill cited companies like HP and Motorola as examples of companies that use Israeli technology, and stated that boycotting any products or companies that were developed in Israel goes hand in hand with discriminating against the people of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. [Emphasis added.]

One would be hard-pressed to show that boycotting Israeli goods discriminates against all Jewish people. Many Jews support BDS and condemn Israel for its brutal mistreatment of the Palestinians. Sen. Hill merely repeated the pro-Israel smear that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, which is patently absurd. As for BDS constituting discrimination against the people of Israel — perhaps it does (except for Israelis who oppose the occupation of Palestinian territory and support efforts to end it). But why don’t Georgians and other Americans have a right to do that? It’s a peaceful decision to not buy certain products, and it violates no one’s rights.

Martin’s exclusion from Georgia Southern is under legal challenge by her, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).

At least one other legal challenge on this issue has succeeded on constitutional grounds, and similar laws are now in the courts. Regarding the successful case, MPN News reports,

In 2018, Bahia Amawi, a Houston-based children’s speech pathologist who worked with autistic, speech-impaired and other developmentally disabled children, lost her job after she refused to sign a similar document. Amawi had been at her job for nine years previously without a problem. CAIR took up Amawi’s case and managed to overturn every Texas boycott law on the grounds of their unconstitutionality and she is now free to return to work. They appear confident of a similar victory in Georgia.

Quoting a previous case, federal district Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the Texas anti-BDS law “threatens to suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate” on Israel and Palestine “through coercion rather than persuasion.” Judge Pitman added: “This the First Amendment does not allow.”

This issue ought to be a no-brainer. By what right does a state government require contractors, including speakers, to sign what is in effect a loyalty oath to Israel (or another other country)? That those laws have passed state legislatures and been signed by governors is more evidence of the influence — dare I say power? — the Israel lobby routinely wields in American politics. The lobby along with the Israeli government works overtime to destroy the BDS movement and discredit the activists who participate in it. (See my “The Art of the Smear — The Israel Lobby Busted.”)

To address an objection (which I’ve already seen), anti-BDS laws are nothing like antidiscrimination laws that prohibit state agencies and state-funded entities from contracting with firms that practice racial, ethnic, religious, or sex discrimination. As long as states exist (hopefully for not too much longer) they will surely tax everyone without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, or sex. Therefore, it is wrong for the state — or tax-financed entities — to discriminate in hiring, contracting, etc., on the basis of those incidental characteristics. The liberal principle of equality before the law demands such nondiscrimination. But one cannot move from that reasonable principle to other kinds of conditions on contracting, particularly conditions that infringe the right to free speech (say, advocating BDS) or peaceful action (say, boycotting for any reason).

Finally, a word about BDS itself. The movement aptly models itself on the effort to boycott, divest from, and sanction South Africa during its apartheid days. Israel has deprived the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip of their rights since the war of 1967. Gaza is a prison camp under a long-standing Israeli blockade, punctuated ever few years by full-blow military assault. Peaceful protesters in Gaza have been shot by Israeli military snipers from outside the prison fence, killing hundreds and wounding tens of thousands. The Palestinians in the West Bank have no rights and are subject to military surveillance and Jewish-only settlements and roads, as well as separation wall that snakes through the territory. It is naked apartheid in that Jews have full rights while Palestinians are treated like nonpersons. Meanwhile, Israeli officials, encouraged by the Trump administration, have been moving toward formal annexation of key parts of the West Bank. Thus, no mystery surrounds the selection of Israel for boycott and divestment. (The Palestinians inside Israel, 20 percent of the population, are treated no better than second-class citizens, which is not surprising since Israel bills itself as the state of the Jewish people everywhere, not the state of all its citizens regardless of religion or ethnicity.)

I have no problem with the B and the D, and I applaud those who refuse to do business with companies and individuals associated with the oppression of the Palestinians and who liquidate investments in Israeli firms. That’s a proper and peaceful exercise of their rights. But we advocates of liberty should draw the line at S — sanctions — because we should on principle reject the state’s power to impose sanctions on anyone. Sanctions punish people who don’t wish to boycott the targets. But the right to boycott logically entails the right not to boycott. Also, if the state has the sanction power, it will surely use it against targets we wouldn’t want targeted.

I propose a different S instead: Strip Israel of its $3.8 billion annual military appropriation.

TGIF — The Goal Is Freedom — appears occasionally on Fridays.

Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution

Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution

In a vote of 55-45, the Senate passed the Iran War Powers Resolution on Thursday afternoon, setting out opposition to any unauthorized war with Iran, and instructing the president not to deploy troops for such a war.

Voting was heavily along party lines, with Democrats and some antiwar Republicans managing to pass the resolution in the face of mocking opposition from the Republican leadership, who insisted the resolution could never survive a Trump veto, and was a sign of weakness against Iran.

The Senate Republicans supporting were Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Trump has opposed the resolution, arguing overwhelming support for his recent hostility toward Iran. Trump has broadly opposed war powers challenges to his wars, arguing he is allowed to launch such conflicts without Congress.

A veto has the potential to be overridden in the House, but it so far looks unlikely that the Senate could do so. That may ultimately depend on growing opposition to the war by the time the override happens.

Cross-posted at Antiwar.com.

Foreign Aid Just Empowers Corrupt Regimes. End It.

Foreign Aid Just Empowers Corrupt Regimes. End It.

The Senate’s vote to acquit Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment this month brought a much-needed end to the tiring impeachment saga America has been subject to in the last few months.

The impeachment controversy arose when President Donald Trump initially withheld military aid from Ukraine unless President Volodymyr Zelensky provided revelatory information about political rivals such as presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings. After a whistleblower alleged that Trump may have abused power, the managerial class was off to the races to launch an impeachment inquiry against him. For the past few months, DC pundits have yammered on about the implications of impeachment while the rest of the country has been busy getting on with their lives the way that normal people not living off government largesse do.

Now that the impeachment trial is over, maybe we can actually talk about more relevant issues like foreign aid. For more than seventy-five years, foreign assistance has played an integral role in American foreign policy. In 2019, a total of $39.2 billion was spent on foreign assistance, and at a quick glance it has left a lot to be desired.

School textbooks tend to make foreign aid look like a simple process, but as with anything the government runs, foreign aid has its obligatory share of red tape. Fergus Hodgson of Econ Americas noted that “Little of the development funds trickle down to the target communities,” in explaining why countries like Ethiopia and Haiti remain backwards. More importantly, Hodgson provided an unpleasant depiction of where foreign aid money generally goes:

A confiscatory portion goes to the pockets of federal bureaucrats and U.S. contractors, and another sizable chunk goes to urban, middle-class, or affluent partners in recipient countries. Further, one-fifth of U.S. aid goes through local governments, which tend to be corrupt and incompetent.

As far as the countries where the bulk of foreign aid is going, they’re not necessarily the most institutionally sound. War-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan ($5.1 billion), Iraq ($880 million), and Yemen ($565 million) received substantial aid in the fiscal year of 2018—be it in economic or military form. The first two countries have been subject to US invasions, in which the US government may have spent more than $5 trillion trying to turn them into Western-style democracies. In the case of Yemen, the US has been dragged into a proxy war all thanks to its “special relationship” with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After nearly two decades of nation building, there appears to be no end in sight to American involvement in the region.

Thanks to the ruling class’s Russophobia, Ukraine was easy to side with in the Crimean conflict after Russia ramped up its intervention in the Crimean Peninsula. This resulted in the US disbursing a total of $559 million in aid to Ukraine in 2018. Foreign aid to Ukraine was at the center of the now concluded impeachment charade.

None of the aforementioned countries are exemplars of clean governance. Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index revealed that Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, and Yemen have putrid corruption rankings of 172nd, 168th, 120th, and 176th place, respectively.

Foreign Aid Encourages Bad Behavior

Foreign aid is not a get-rich-quick scheme for developing countries. Instead of building wealth, it comes with some not-so-pleasant consequences for the recipient nation. Also, such programs aren’t free. Someone ultimately has to pay for them. At the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference, former congressman Ron Paul famously declared that

Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country.

Thanks to a steady flow of outside funding, governments receiving aid no longer have to be accountable to their citizens. Knowing that US taxpayers will bail them out, some governments have no incentive whatsoever to innovate or keep corruption in check. Like subsidizing American banks making bad decisions at the domestic level, giving foreign aid to corrupt governments or factions within a country only encourages bad behavior.

DC has become so detached from the concept of rational economics that it treats the blood and sweat of taxpayers as malleable inputs that can be squeezed out of the population and sent abroad on a legislative whim. All of this is done with complete disregard for the unforeseen consequences that these policies inevitably produce.

Economist Frédéric Bastiat’s essay “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen” offers various points to consider when approaching the subject of government transfers such as foreign aid. What is seen is the recipient government being propped up thanks to the aid injection, which pleases both the recipient country’s elites and US foreign policy wonks.

However, what is not seen are the potential reform movements that would emerge under normal political circumstances. These movements often hold the key to breaking free of the cycle of corruption and poverty that many of these countries find themselves in. But when foreign aid enters the equation, the establishment government is artificially propped up at reformist factions’ expense. Domestically speaking, foreign aid money is clearly coming from American taxpayers. In an ideal world, this money would be in the hands of American taxpayers and put to use in the private sector. Sadly, most political leaders will never take these concerns into consideration. The signing ceremonies of foreign aid agreements and the subsequent ego boosts are too irresistible to DC do-gooders, so they’ll work diligently to keep the foreign aid gravy train in place.

Let’s not kid ourselves. It is the height of naivete to believe that developing countries will magically become rich via wealth transfers from First World countries. It ignores many of the institutions of freedom—private property and federalism—that enabled countries like the US to become the most prosperous societies in human history. Policymakers will have to think outside the box if they want to see more nations join the ranks of the developed world.

Some Alternatives to Consider

Indeed, there are more practical alternatives to using heavy-handed state measures to help developing countires. First off, bilateral free trade is a much better way to handle the issue of economic development. Expanding trade relations makes sense with regions such as Central America, which stand to benefit from the inflow of North American capital. Increased trade and investment will raise living standards in these capital-starved regions while also providing American consumers and entrepreneurs access to a new market of goods and services.

Another foreign aid alternative to consider is the revival of exchange programs such as the renowned collaboration between the University of Chicago and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in the 1950s. This program helped create a new generation of free market economists who would craft the very policies that catapulted Chile into the highest echelons of economic development in Latin America. The exchange program between the two universities still exists, but these efforts could be replicated and expanded to other countries without much state sponsorship.

Neither of these solutions involve dumping foreign aid into these regions or using military intervention to help them. The key to beating poverty from Santiago de Chile to Kinshasa (in the Congo) is still to increase these countries’ capital stock, not confiscate Americans’ wealth and ship it off in the form of foreign aid packages. The only serious way to do this is through policies which reduce regulatory barriers, respect property rights, expand commerce, and otherwise facilitate capital formation.

But this may be too much to ask of Western politicians who are fixated on using the government to solve every conceivable socioeconomic problem they encounter.

Reprinted from the Mises Institute.

Small Countries Are Better: They’re Often Richer and Safer Than Big Countries

Small Countries Are Better: They’re Often Richer and Safer Than Big Countries

In the wake of the Brexit vote, Scottish nationalists have renewed their calls for a new referendum on Scottish independence. But many remain unconvinced, and many claim Scotland is “too small” to be an independent country. Others claim that Scotland is too poor, since Scotland’s GDP per capita is only 90 percent that of England.

But by no measure is Scotland a “poor” country. It may be poorer than England, but Scotland’s GDP per capita puts it about halfway down the rankings of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. That means it’s similar to France and Japan by this measure.

If Scotland is relatively less well off than many other rich Western nations, there is no reason to assume that this is due to its size. With 5.4 million people, Scotland is about the same size as New Zealand and Finland, and only slightly smaller than Denmark. None of these countries are “barely scraping by.”

Yet this hasn’t stopped critics from claiming that even the United Kingdom is itself small. Scottish pundit George Galloway, for instance, denounced the idea of Scottish independence because it would “break up this small country.” He meant the United Kingdom. The UK, however, is larger than all but twenty countries. If Scotland seceded, the Rump UK would still be the most populous in Europe except for Germany, France, and (of course) Russia.

Bigger Is Not Better

But why this obsession over bigness? There is no evidence that bigger countries are wealthier, happier, or more orderly than small countries.

After all, many of Europe’s wealthiest countries have fewer than 10 million people. Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland are among the wealthiest places on earth.

If anything, experience suggests that bigness is an impediment to health and wealth.

For instance, in his new book on American secession, F. H. Buckley notes that small northern European countries tend to be relatively wealthy and healthy. But this isn’t due to these countries’ supposed socialism. More likely, these countries are notable for their economic and political stability because they have small populations with a high degree of social cohesion. Buckley notes Finland, for example, is

one of the richest and least corrupt countries in the world. It also has the kind of social cohesion and unity that only small countries can have….If the country were twenty times bigger, it would be more diverse and less unified. Its leaders would be more remote from the people, and their policies more tainted by interest group corruption.

Americans, of course, don’t think this way. Living in a huge and diverse country ruled by a distant political elite in a city thousands of miles away might seem normal to many Americans. But it’s not normal for most of the world’s most well-off populations.

Nevertheless, Buckley writes in the New York Post:

[The United States is] overly big, one of the biggest countries in the world. Smaller countries are happier and less corrupt. They’re less inclined to throw their weight around militarily, and they’re freer. If there are advantages to bigness, the costs exceed the benefits. Bigness is badness.

Buckley employs the usual statistical comparisons popular among social scientists today, and he concludes that bigness is not necessarily an obstacle to relative safety, prosperity, and social cohesion. But it doesn’t help. And there are steps that can be taken to lessen the effects of largeness. Decentralization helps, as does the presence of a relatively high degree of economic freedom. But it appears that the US is prosperous in spite of its size rather than because of it.

The Economics of Small Countries

Indeed, small countries have been notable for their economic success. The authors of a study from the World Bank (“Small States, Small Problems?“) conclude that “controlling for location, smaller states are actually richer than other states in per capita GDP.” It is true that, because of their small size, these countries can be more susceptible to volatility in times of economic crisis. This is partly driven by the fact that small countries tend to be more interconnected with other countries in terms of trade and investment. But the authors conclude: “their openness pays off in growth.”

Research devoted to the issue of smallness as a national economic characteristic has been relatively sparse. Nonetheless, it has been observed that small countries were notable in the days of the Great Depression because they “adjusted better.” Small countries have been of interest since the end of the Cold War, because they embraced economic globalization quickly.

For instance, in the 1990s, although many pundits and social theorists warned that the post-Cold-War break-up of large countries into smaller ones posed an economic danger, the empirical evidence suggested otherwise. Economist Gary Becker noted, “since 1950 real per capita GDP has risen somewhat faster in smaller nations than it has in bigger ones.” Becker concluded that “the statistics on actual performance show that dire warnings about the economic price suffered by small nations are not all warranted….Smallness can be an asset in the division of labor in the modern world, where economies are linked through international transactions.” Of the fourteen countries with populations over 100 million, only the US and Japan are wealthy.

None of this should be shocking. As historian Ralph Raico has shown, Europe’s rise to prominence as a world economic power was driven in large part by the smallness of Europe’s political jurisdictions in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. A lack of large states meant a higher degree of de facto economic freedom. This meant more economic growth.  The rise of large states and absolutist regimes during the Renaissance was in many cases an impediment to growth, not a driver of it.

But what about metrics beyond income?

When it comes to crime, there are three big ways to achieve low homicide rates: be authoritarian (i.e., Saudi Arabia and Vietnam), be ethnically and culturally uniform (i.e., Japan), or be small. Indeed, countries with remarkably low homicide rates include Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Malta. At the other end of the spectrum are large diverse countries such as BrazilMexico, and Colombia.1

Nor is smallness a problem in terms of health. While small countries don’t necessarily outpace medium-sided countries like Spain or Italy in terms of life expectancy, we see once again it’s the large countries that tend to struggle by this measure.

Some researchers have paired these metrics with survey data to compile an alleged “happiness index.” While survey data should always be taken with a grain of salt, it’s not entirely implausible that in the World Happiness Report, we find that no country with more than 50 million people ranks in the top ten.

happiness
Source: World Happiness Report 2018 and UN Population estimates.

The Geopolitical Problem

In spite of their economic and social advantages, small states are nonetheless eschewed by many because they are presumed to be weak in geopolitical and military contests. These concerns often drive the creation of larger states. To state it more precisely: it is assumed that there are advantages of economies of scale in military affairs.

Militarists, of course, tend to come down on the side of presuming that one can never be too safe in terms of building up a huge military apparatus. Among the worst offenders in this case have been American conservatives, whose intellectual godfather William F. Buckley once insisted so long as there are military threats to the US “we have got to accept Big Government for the duration—for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged…except through the instrumentality of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.”

More level-headed theorists, however, have recognized the downside of this sort of paranoia, and the fact remains that large states—although assumed by some to be militarily safer—often underperform in economic and social indicators. In the long term, this will negatively impact a state’s ability to project power and to maintain stable alliances. Rich countries have greater access to the best military hardware, and they can wield soft power more easily than less rich ones.

For these reasons, even where defensive military coalitions are necessary, it is best to avoid centrally managed political and economic unity. After all, the presence of large and diverse populations within a single jurisdiction—a problem encountered by nearly every large country—comes with considerable costs. As noted in this study of the political economy of large countries, democratization drives populations in large diverse countries toward secession. That is, unless a state becomes dictatorial, largeness eventually leads to more instability—and presumably, greater geopolitical weakness.

The solution, not surprisingly, is decentralization, and the authors conclude, “rather than thinking about the division of the world into different countries, think about the division of a country into autonomous regions.” If there is a need for “economies of scale” in terms of defensive capability, the need for social, economic, and political autonomy at a smaller scale remains of great importance.

The world, unfortunately, is moving for now very much in the opposite direction. Although the United States is clearly headed down the road of political and social disunity, the central state has only become more aggressive in asserting both economic and political control. Meanwhile, in Europe the EU—with the exception of the United Kingdom—asserts ever greater regulatory and unifying force. Promises of a liberalized China are as yet illusory.

This isn’t to say that movements for greater decentralization and independence aren’t bubbling under the surface. Those trends are there, but the machinery of the modern nation-states has yet to show much willingness to acknowledge the benefits of smallness and political independence.

Reprinted from the Mises Institute.

Socialism Always Fails

Socialism Always Fails

The Nation, which enthusiastically has supported every totalitarian communist regime that has existed in the past century (and that includes Pol Pot’s Cambodia and North Korea) is now firmly riding the Bernie Sanders bandwagon. This article, entitled “Why American Socialism Failed—and How It Could Prevail Today,” unwittingly gives away the mentality of American socialists which claims all economic issues as being “solved” by the implantation of socialism—regardless of the actual economic outcomes.

Three years ago, I wrote “The End of Socialists is Socialism, Not Prosperity,” and this article follows some of the same themes…

Read the full article at the Independent Institute.

China’s Economic Schemes Hurt the Chinese Most of All

China’s Economic Schemes Hurt the Chinese Most of All

In his State of the Union Address—February 4, 2020—President Trump outlined his reasons for punishing nations that manipulate their economies in order to achieve some internal policy goal, such as China. The president claimed that such manipulation was unfair and harmful to its trading partners. His main concern is that by manipulating its economy China “steals” jobs. It does this in several ways:

  1. By keeping the yuan at a lower exchange rate against other currencies—meaning that the People’s Bank of China gives more yuan for each dollar than would occur in a free currency market—Chinese goods are cheaper in terms of foreign currency than they would be otherwise.
  2. By subsidizing its industries, Chinese goods can be offered at a lower price.
  3. By erecting tariffs against some imported goods, China prevents foreign companies from producing more and employing more people than they would otherwise.

The president claimed that his policies were working, that manufacturing jobs were returning to the US and have created a “Blue Collar Boom,” with unemployment statistics at very low levels for many politically sensitive segments of the labor market.

I agree with the president in his desire that China cease manipulating its economy, but my reasons are not the same as his. More importantly, I would not recommend reciprocal interventions to punish China. Instead, I would follow the Barron maxim of “minding our own business and setting a good example.” I would point out the following consequences of Chinese economic interventions:

  1. China itself pays for the interventions, not its trading partners. In fact, Chinese economic interventions constitute a transfer of wealth from China to its customers overseas. Goods that previously cost X in the US market now cost less than X. Americans pocket the difference, which increases our wealth. The Chinese people pay high taxes or higher prices. China’s subsidies to business distort the Chinese economy away from producing more desirable products. (If this were not the case, there would be no need for subsidies.) Its tariffs on imported goods reduce the supply of them within China, leading to higher prices and/or shortages within China. In other words, Americans and the rest of the world benefit at the expense of the Chinese people.
  2. This is good for Americans, so why should we complain? That Chinese economic interventions are good for Americans is true in the short run, but what about the long run? By intervening in its economy, China weakens its productive capital base. It is this capital base that will pump out the many things that Americans will desire in the future. Anything that weakens a trading partner’s capacity to generate wealth means that its trading partners will be less wealthy too. Therefore, even loyal Americans should advise China to eschew economic manipulations that benefit them in the short run.

No one has ever explained this phenomenon better than Frederic Bastiat in his classic essay “That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen.” Henry Hazlitt brought Bastiat’s insights up to date in Economics in One Lesson. There are actually two lessons: the first is that one must consider the consequences of an economic act not only for those who will benefit but also those for who will be harmed. Of course, it is usually easy to point out those who will benefit. It is difficult if not impossible to quantify those who are harmed, especially if the harm constitutes benefits that never occurred but would have absent the intervention. Hazlitt’s second lesson is that one must look not only to the short-term benefit of an economic act but also to its long-term costs. For example, steel import restrictions may result in a boom for the US steel industry with no apparent short-term consequences. But if US steel were already competitive in terms of price, quality, and service, there would be no need for import restrictions. We can conclude through economic logic that steel prices, quality, and/or service will deteriorate with the restrictions in place, harming Americans in the long run.

Conclusion

The president measures economic progress in terms of increase in employment (or decrease in unemployment) rather than an increase in wealth. Laboring more is not necessarily a sign of economic progress. Communist countries, such as the former Soviet Union, had zero unemployment! The state chose a job for everyone. But no one would claim that decades of full employment made the unfortunate citizens of the Soviet Union wealthier. The opposite occurred. In a free market economy without the burden of onerous labor laws, high taxes, and other interventions, there is no barrier to full employment for the simple reason that there is no limit to economic satisfaction. Even a frugal person who desired no additional economic goods certainly would be pleased that he need labor less to achieve and maintain his current level of economic satisfaction.

The greater China’s capital base, the greater the potential for a further expansion of the division of labor to employ this additional capital more productively. We Americans should wish that the entire world were free market capitalist economies so that we would have access to cheaper, better, and more varied products and services. China’s integration into the world economy has benefited Americans tremendously. So, Mr. President, I also want China to end its economic interventions, but I do not want to punish China through tariffs and other means for doing so. Our response should be to declare unilateral free trade. Let’s lead the world by setting a good example and look forward to a world of peace and prosperity.

Reprinted from the Mises Institute.

Blog

Common Objections to Free Markets – REBUTTED! Antony Davies and Keith Knight

Antony Davies is an associate professor of economics at Duquesne University and Mercatus Affiliated Senior Scholar at George Mason University. His primary research interests include econometrics and public policy.

Find Mr. Davies at his website: antolin-davies.com

His podcast: www.wordsandnumbers.org

And on Learn Liberty: http://www.learnliberty.org/speakers/antony-davies/

#126 Stephan Livera

Stephan Livera and I discuss Austrian economics, libertarianism, personal responsibility, and much more.

Poor America

It's just going to be like this from now on you know. https://twitter.com/ryangrim/status/1231343189396803584

The Scott Horton Show

2/21/20 Sheldon Richman on the Nonintervention Principle

Sheldon Richman discusses what he calls "the nonintervention principle," a corollary of libertarianism's nonaggression principle. Richman says that in the face of those who advocate foreign intervention and regime change, libertarians have a tendency to deny the...

2/21/20 Grant Smith on IsraelLobbyCon 2020

Grant Smith joins the show to promote his upcoming conference, Transcending The Israel Lobby At Home And Abroad, to be held in Washington D.C. this May. The conference, as with most of Smith's work, is focused on exposing the power the Israel Lobby wields in America...

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Foreign Policy Focus

The Senate Takes a Stand on Iran

On FPF #455, I discuss the Senate voting on a War Powers bill to constrain Trump's ability to start a war with Iran. Trump has continued on the presidential tradition of killing whoever he wants, and he is unbound by the Constitution. The House will also need to pass...

Peace with the Taliban?

On FPF #454, I discuss recent progress made in negotiations with the Taliban. The US and Taliban will soon implement a reduction in violence pact. If successful, the pact could be the first step in a peace deal between the US and the Taliban. However, there are a lot...

Is ISIS Exploiting Trump’s Iran Policy?

On FPF #453, I discuss Trump's firing of impeachment witnesses, insider attacks in Afghanistan, and Iraq. Trump fired EU Ambassador Sondland and NSC Ukraine expert Vinland. Both men testified in the House impeachment hearing providing Democrats with great soundbites...

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#126 Stephan Livera

Stephan Livera and I discuss Austrian economics, libertarianism, personal responsibility, and much more.

#123 Paul Snow

CEO of Factom, Paul Snow, gives me the 101 on Factom. We also discuss blockchain use cases (especially having autonomy over your digital ID and data), tokenization, and the overall importance of bitcoin and crypto. This is how we become sovereign individuals. Factom...

#121 Pierre Rochard

@krakenfx 's "COSO" (Chief Open-Source Officer 😉) @pierre_rochard indoctrinates me on FOSS, Austrian Econ, Volcker, The Fed, & Lightning ⚡️We also debunk #bitcoin FUD & EMH. Thanks for coming on, dude! Listen on all Podcatchers!...

#120 Parker Lewis

Parker Lewis of Unchained Capital gives the 101 on fractional reserve banking, quantitive easing, the problems of the current financial system, what money is, and why we need bitcoin. Check out the Unchained Capital Blog

Freedom Zealot Radio

The Stolen Life of Christopher Tapp

Freedom Zealot Podcast March 11, 2017: If he can withstand one final assault from the evil people who have stolen 20 years from his life, Christopher Tapp -- wrongfully convicted of murder in 1998 -- can walk out of prison a free man on April 25....

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Freedom Zealot Podcast February 4, 2017: There are two varieties of Trump Derangement Syndrome on display -- both of them inspired by the idea that he is an anomaly. One leads to riots over Trump's exercise of the deadly powers of his office; the other celebrates it....

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