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The ABC’s of PRO

Just when you thought our wise overlords in government couldn’t make our economic situation any worse, Joe Biden dares to dream the impossible dream endorses legislation to stick it to freelance contractors called: The PRO Act. This is nearly identical to the legislation California’s democratic super-majority pushed through on a State level.

I covered that bill’s causes and effects in both an article and podcast episode called “California Reaming” (https://youtu.be/00p4YcQhjmE)

That may be helpful to watch or re-watch, to compare California’s Assembly Bill 5 (or AB5) with Biden’s current PRO act legislation.

As we all know, there’s nothing democrats care more about than looking out for “the little guy”. It’s precisely that selfless compassion that makes them a better person than the rest of us. But their genuine belief that the important thing is to do something to feel like you are helping, instead of judging their success by a real-world assessment of this kind of legislation’s effects has already proved ruinous to California businesses. There is no reason to expect any difference on a national level, should the PRO Act pass.

In this article, I want to discuss what is known as the ABC test that has been used to apply to judicial scrutiny in places like CA where this law is in effect and is a central feature of the PRO Act as well. Followed by a deep dive into the Constitution’s
“Contracts Clause” to discuss what this clause means and the myriad ways it relates to modern legislation like AB5 or Pro Act

California’s bill to regulate the gig economy of freelance contractors… regulate out of existence. Unless, your freelance job is protected by a powerful, well-funded Union, like the truckers union, who have received exemptions. A judge has ruled that truck drivers in California are not subject to Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), a new gig economy law that seeks to reclassify many contractors as employees. 

The regulations, which went into effect January 1 of 2020, were drafted in response to 

Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles.

Filed by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, the landmark court case established a three-pronged “ABC test” to determine if an individual is properly labeled as an employee versus a contractor.

What Is ABC Test

The PRO Act uses an identical ABC test to delineate employers and contractors and is crucial to understand. So precisely what does it entail and how does it function

  1. A contractor must control their workload,
  2. Not perform work within the business’s primary scope of operations,
  3. And be “customarily engaged” in the occupation.

This test constitutes the level of judicial scrutiny applied when a law is challenged. In this case it is done so as a matter of rational basis review. Rational basis review seeks to determine whether a law is “rationally related” to a “legitimate” government interest, whether real or hypothetical.

Companies are trying their level best to circumvent that standard, which would unravel large portions of the gig economy. 

Workers who fail even one leg of this test are considered employees, a status that entitles them to certain benefits and protections while also imposing a long list of regulations on their relationship with their employer. Unless you are represented by a powerful union with deep pockets who can get entire industries exempt, despite their legally failing the ABC Test

Enter Judge William Highberger of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Highberger did not find that truckers specifically pass the ABC test, but that the test itself “clearly run[s] afoul” of federal law. He cites the 1994 Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which stipulates that the “use of non-employee independent contractors (commonly known in the trucking industry as ‘owner-operators’) should apply in all 50 states to increase competition and reduce the cost of trucking services.” At the same time, things are going from bad to worse for ridesharing companies during the coronavirus pandemic. Business is way down, while legal troubles continue to mount.

California AG Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against Uber and Lyft. Their complaint accuses the companies of misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors, not employees, in violation of the state’s law.

The lawsuit is the latest flashpoint in rideshare companies’ long battle with state and local governments over what rules should govern their relationship with their drivers.

Tuesday’s lawsuit accuses the two companies of a litany of local and state labor code violations stemming from their alleged misclassification of drivers as independent contractors, including not paying minimum wage, not paying overtime, not offering sick leave and meal breaks, and not paying into the state’s unemployment and disability insurance funds.

Rideshare companies have a strong case in classifying their drivers as employees, which they say would be both incredibly costly and destroy the flexible work arrangements that make these app-based services appealing to many drivers. Bloomberg reports that reclassifying drivers as employees would raise rideshare companies’ costs by as much as 20 percent.

The companies insist that their status as tech firms who only connect drivers and riders, but who don’t tell drivers when or where they have to work, means those offering rides on their platform don’t qualify as employees under the ABC test.

So what about the Constitution’s contract clause

No State shall…pass any…Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts….

-Article I, § X, Clause 1

Article I, Section 10 contains a list of prohibitions concerning the role of the states in political, monetary, and economic affairs. As the Constitutional Convention was completing its work on prohibiting states from issuing paper money as legal tender, Rufus King of Massachusetts rose to propose “a prohibition on the States to interfere in private contracts.” King relied on a central provision of the Northwest Ordinance:

[I]n the just preservation of rights and property, it is understood and declared, that no law ought ever to be made, or have force in the said territory, that shall, in any manner whatever, interfere with or affect private contracts or engagements, bona fide, and without fraud, previously formed.

The Obligation of Contract Clause thus had its origins in earlier national policy, by extending to the states a prohibition that was already in effect in the Northwest Territory. In the brief debate that followed, George Mason feared the prohibition would prevent the states from establishing time limits on when actions could be brought on state-issued bonds. James Wilson responded that the clause would prevent “retrospective interferences only,” that is, impairment of contracts already made. These comments suggest that the Framers may well have intended to limit states in their impairment of private contracts already made. But the issue is not completely free from doubt. The words “previously formed” were not carried over to the Obligation of Contract Clause, so that the text could read as though it has some prospective application.

The twin protections found in Article I, Section 10 prohibited the state from issuing paper money and, to some extent at least, from regulating economic affairs. That one-two combination troubled the Anti-Federalists, who feared that the two clauses operating in tandem would prevent the states from assisting the debtor classes. The states could no longer debase the currency with new issues of paper tender. In reporting why he had voted against the clause at the Constitutional Convention, Luther Martin asserted that the states would no longer be able “to prevent the wealthy creditor and the monied man from totally destroying the poor though even industrious debtor.” In response to the Anti-Federalists, James Madison declared in The Federalist No. 44 that *the Obligation of Contract Clause was essential to “banish speculations on public measures, inspire a general prudence and industry, and give a regular course to the business of society.” Debtor relief was regarded as undermining the long-term stability of commercial expectations.

Support for the Obligation of Contract Clause was found in other quarters. In the South Carolina ratifying convention, Charles Pinckney argued that these two limitations on the states would help cement the union by barring the states from discriminating against out-of-state commercial interests. Edmund Randolph, in the Virginia ratifying convention, declared that the Obligation of Contract Clause was essential to enforcing the provision in the peace treaty with Great Britain guaranteeing private British debts.

The Obligation of Contract Clause, therefore, served a double duty: it afforded both a protection to individuals against their states and a limitation on the states that prevented them from intruding on essential federal interests.

In tone, the clause reads as a stern imperative. Unlike the Import-Export Clause (Article I, Section 10, Clause 2) and the Compact Clause (Article I, Section 10, Clause 3), Congress cannot override the prohibition by giving its consent to any state action that violates this provision. The brief terms of the clause, however, cover more than the endless round of debtor-relief statutes the Framers had in mind, for the clause textually covers all types of contracts, not just debt instruments. Further, unlike the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) the Obligation of Contract Clause applies not only to those contracts with interstate connections, but also to all contracts, even local contracts.

What is clear is that in the antebellum period, the Obligation of Contract Clause was the only open-ended federal constitutional guarantee that applied to the states. As such, the Obligation of Contract Clause came by default to be the focal point of litigation for those who sought to protect economic liberties against state intervention. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of the clause, both before and after the Civil War, has been filled with odd turns and strange surprises.

Everyone conceded that the clause applied to ordinary contracts between private persons, including partnerships and corporations. That seemed to be the understanding at the Constitutional Convention. But did the Obligation of Contract Clause also reach actions by the state so as to prevent it from repudiating its own contracts, including those that granted legal title of state-owned lands to private persons, Fletcher v. Peck (1810), or sought to revoke state charters for private colleges, Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)? In both of these cases, Chief Justice John Marshall opted strongly for the broader reading of the clause in order to restrain conduct by government—reneging on grants—that would be regarded as unacceptable if done by any private individual. In this instance, moreover, the broad reach of the Obligation of Contract Clause uneasily coexisted with the principle of sovereign immunity, which Alexander Hamilton had strongly defended in The Federalist Nos. 81 and 82. That principle prevented the state from being sued for breach of its own ordinary commercial contracts. But that immunity did not allow the state to undo its own contracts once their performance was completed. This reading fits so well with the Framers’ antipathy to corrupt self-dealing as well as the general purpose of limited government that to this day no one has rejected the view that the Obligation of Contract Clause applies to state contracts. But there remains a spirited debate as to how much protection it supplies in light of the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

Certainly much is to be said on behalf of the stability of titles to property obtained in grants from the states. And it has been universally held that the Contracts Clause does not authorize actions for money damages. But we cannot ignore the reciprocal problem: if the Obligation of Contract Clause is read so broadly so as to invite groups to lobby for sweetheart agreements, reformist governments would not be able to set such agreements aside.

Most of the interpretive questions regarding the clause, however, deal with the impact of the Obligation of Contract Clause on the state regulation of private agreements, where the issue of sovereign immunity does not arise. That issue, in turn, is divided into two parts. The first asks whether the Obligation of Contract Clause protects the rights that are vested in private party contracts that are in existence at the time the state legislates a new regulation that could apply to the contract. The second asks whether the Obligation of Contract Clause imposes limitations on the power of the state to regulate contracts not yet established.

The answer to the first question is relatively uncontroversial. The clause must apply to pre-existing contracts, for otherwise it would be a dead letter. Hence, early decisions held that state insolvency laws could not order the discharge of contracts that were formed before the state statute was passed *Sturgesv. Crowninshield (1819). The legislature could not flip the background rules of the legal system to the prejudice of individuals who had advanced money on the faith of earlier arrangements. The clause also applied to a wide range of debtor-relief laws, wherein individuals sought to escape or defer the payment of interest, or to avoid foreclosure of their mortgages in hard economic times.*

It was, however, one thing to say that the Obligation of Contract Clause applied, and quite another to say that all forms of debtor relief were regarded as beyond the power of the state. Many cases adopted the slippery distinction that the Obligation of Contract Clause preserved the obligation under contract, but did not prevent the state from limiting one or another remedy otherwise available. The result was that small erosions of contract rights came to be accepted, but large deviations were not, even though the clause speaks of all impairments (large or small) in the same breath. Still, in general, the prohibition against state intervention into the substance of existing contracts continues to hold today, unless (as will be discussed later) the state offers some police-power justification for its actions. 

The Supreme Court reached a much more definitive conclusion on the second question in 1827, by holding in Ogden v Saunders (4–3, with Justices John Marshall and Joseph Story dissenting) that the Obligation of Contract Clause did not apply to those contracts that had not been formed as of the date of the passage of the regulatory legislation. In that case, Justice Bushrod Washington, for the majority, made a distinction between laws that affect contracts generally, such as statutes of limitations, and laws that affect the obligation of contracts. In one sense, Justice Washington’s distinction is surely unexceptionable, for it would be odd if a revision of, say, the parol evidence rule in 2000 could not apply to any contracts signed before that date. The rule itself does not bias the case one way or another, but it is intended to improve the overall administration of justice. Individuals typically do not rely on these rules at formation, either. It would be contrary to its original design to read the Obligation of Contract Clause as blocking any improvements in the administration of commercial justice.

By the same token, the broad refusal to apply the Obligation of Contract Clause prospectively could go too far. For example, suppose a state just announced that from this day forward it reserved the right to nullify at will any contracts that were thereafter formed. At that point, it would take only a short generation after passage of this statute to gut the Obligation of Contract Clause making it “mere surplussage,” something that is normally not permitted under standard rules of statutory interpretation. Thus, notwithstanding intimations in the Convention that it only had retroactive application, the courts have interpreted the clause to hold that its prohibitions are prospective but not absolute. The state may alter the rules governing future contracts in ways that offer greater security and stability to contractual obligations. Procedural legislative reforms that arose most frequently in the early debates—a statute of frauds, a statute of limitations, and recording acts—are all measures that meet this standard.

Beyond allowing for procedural changes for future contracts (and modifications of remedy for existing contracts), the Court’s refusal to give the clause any other prospective role opened the way to partisan legislation that limited the ability of some parties to contract without imposing similar restrictions on their economic competitors. In practice, Ogden meant that all general state economic regulation lay outside the scope of constitutional limitation. That gap in the system of constitutional regulation remained until after the Civil War, at which time some protection against state interference with future contracts was supplied under the so-called dormant Commerce Clause (with respect to interstate agreements only) and under the doctrine of liberty of contract as it developed under the Due Process Clause, and, in certain limited cases, under the equal protection clauses. But since Ogden, the Obligation of Contract Clause has been an observer, not a central player, in the constitutional struggle to limit prospective state economic regulation.

The Obligation of Contract Clause continued to have some traction with respect to contracts previously formed, but even in this context, two types of implied limitations on its use were introduced: the just-compensation exception (i.e., the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause) and the police-power exception. In principle, the initial question is why any implied terms should be read into any constitutional provision, when no mention of them is made by the Framers. Here the simplest answer is that the logic of individual rights and liberties requires that adjustment. The Constitution thus creates presumptions and leaves it open to interpretation as to how these should be qualified in ways that do not gut the original guarantee.

Consider first the question of property takings with just compensation. Suppose that A buys land from B, which the government then wishes to condemn with payment of just compensation. Surely the government’s right to condemn is not blocked by A’s declaration that he received absolute title to the property from B in a contract that cannot now be impaired by the government. There is, however, a general principle deriving from the common law and Anglo-American constitutional history that the power to take property for public use is “inherent in government,” so that the condemnation can go forward even when a person buys the land from the government. West River Bridge Co. v. Dix (1848). Thus, the Obligation of Contract Clause has to be read subject to a just compensation exception, even though the condemnation can be seen to “impair” the contract right by denying the owner’s right to hold out for an above-market price.

The second set of exceptions to the Obligation of Contract Clause involves the police power. Again, this power is nowhere mentioned explicitly in the Constitution, but it is read in connection with every substantive guarantee that it supplies against the exercise of federal or state power. The customary formulation allows the state to override (without compensation) private rights of property. It should, therefore, do so with ordinary contracts as well. Nonetheless, because no compensation is provided, logically, the class of justifications should be more stringent than the public-use requirement that allows the impairment of contracts with compensation. The canonical formulation defines the state police power as regulation in the name of safety, health, morals, and the general welfare. Stopping contracts to pollute, to bribe, or to fix prices has always been held to fall within the police-power exception.

The New Deal constitutional transformation of 1937, however, expanded the scope of the police power beyond these limited objectives, so that it no longer was possible to distinguish between general welfare and special interests. Home Building & Loan Ass’n v. Blaisdell (1934) vastly multiplied the police-power exceptions to the contractual guarantees offered by the Obligation of Contract Clause, even when no compensation was supplied. The actual decision, dealing with a state-imposed mortgage moratorium, could be explained in part as an effort to counter the ruinous effects of deflationary policies (which in effect increased, in constant dollars, the amount of the debts), but the decision itself was cast in broader terms and unleashed many other legislative initiatives that sought to neutralize the protections secured by individual contracts. Most notably, in Exxon Corp.v. Eagerton (1983), the Court found that a “broad societal interest” was sufficient to justify a decision to prevent a company from asserting its explicit contractual right to pass on any increased severance tax to its consumers.

At present, therefore, it is virtually certain that the Supreme Court will find a police-power justification for any piece of special legislation with interest-group support, thereby gutting the clause insofar as it applies to broad classes of existing contracts. Ironically, however, the Court has remained more suspicious of government’s efforts to use legislation to extricate itself from its own covenants, noting the obvious risk of self-dealing that this behavior represents. It thus struck down efforts of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to nullify bond covenants that prohibited it from using bond proceeds to support mass transit. United States Trust Co. v. New Jersey (1977). And in Allied Structural Steel Co. v. Spannaus (1978), the Court refused to allow Minnesota to impose retroactively more-stringent financial obligations on an employer in the winding up of its pension plan. Ironically, the most active use of the contracts clause today is over the unresolved issue of the power of state and local governments unilaterally to restrict pension benefits with public employees, both union and nonunion. Dealing with private contracts, however, the modern age often finds little intellectual respect for freedom of contract or for the sanctity of contracts validly formed. More than any fine point of the law, that initial intellectual predilection explains the lukewarm reception of Obligation of Contract Clause claims in dealing with these private arrangements.

The Central Banking Scam

Oddly enough, the one question that finally brought me to anarchy was: “where does money come from?”

It was perplexing to me that the answer to such a simple question could be so simple, yet so complex—and, moreover, absurd.

So? Where does money come from?

I found that the short answer is that new money is created by either 1) artificial bank credit expansion through the fractional-reserve lending process; or 2) the Central Bank prints it (It then uses the newly printed money to buy assets from private banks and adds said assets to its balance sheet). In both instances, new money is conjured, being created out of thin air, and injected into the economy through various means, thus eroding the purchasing power of those not privileged enough the enjoy the new money.

In other words, a state-enabled cartel of banks counterfeits it.

As Murray Rothbard explained in The Case Against the Fed, the counterfeiting process is enabled through the institution of Central Banking:

The Central Bank has always had two major roles: (1) to help finance the government’s deficit; and (2) to cartelize the private commercial banks in the country, so as to help remove the two great market limits on their expansion of credit, on their propensity to counterfeit: a possible loss of confidence leading to bank runs; and the loss of reserves should any one bank expand its own credit. For cartels on the market, even if they are to each firm’s advantage, are very difficult to sustain unless government enforces the cartel. In the area of fractional-reserve banking, the Central Bank can assist cartelization by removing or alleviating these two basic free-market limits on banks’ inflationary expansion credit.1“The Case Against the Fed” page 58.

Central Banking is incredibly damaging to the economy.

In short, the Central Bank’s manipulation of interest rates sends false signals to businessmen, causing malinvestments in high-order capital goods, “which could only be prosperously sustained through lower time preferences and greater savings and investments[.]”2Murray Rothbard, America’s Great Depression

The “boom” signifies this period of malinvestment. Therefore, the resulting “bust” that rocks & shocks the nation, is the market clearing out the “wastes and errors of the boom.” Of course, the common people, seduced by the false promises of a “booming” economy do not receive a bailout, as do the private friends of government. The result is a massive transfer of wealth from the people and into the coffers of the state and their private-sector cronies.

Not only is the entire institution of Central Banking steeped in counterfeit and fraud, but it also encourages irresponsible behavior. Central banking gives the illusion of pooled resources where scrupulous toil and savings have created none. Therefore, artificially cheap credit encourages high time preference throughout society: get something for nothing today and shift the cost to future generations.

An additional driver of this high time preference behavior is inflation. Inflation is the increase in the money supply that occurs when the Central Bank prints more money. Inflation is usually signified by rising prices. From the point of view of consumers, why save money when it will be worth half as much in ten years?

Aside from siphoning wealth from the people and encouraging high time preference behavior, Central Banks facilitate the one of the vilest operations of the State apparatus.

In chapter four of “End the Fed,” Ron Paul identifies this most destructive consequence of central banking:

It is no coincidence that the century of total war coincided with the century of central banking. When governments had to fund their own wars without a paper money machine to rely upon, they economized on resources. They found diplomatic solutions to prevent war, and after they started a war, they ended it as soon as possible.3End the Fed, page 63

To better explain how the above process occurs, consider a simpler example:4This is Rothbard’s explanation of coin clipping from the Mystery of Banking

The King of Ruritania decides that he does not care for the King of neighboring Moldovia. In preparation for his invasion of Moldovia, the Ruritanian King requisitions of his finance minister an accounting of the royal treasury.

Alas for the King, the royal coffers are bare. He may not be able to finance his new war! In response, the King issues a royal decree: all the official coinage of the land is to be recalled for reminting.

Once the currency is collected, the King melts the coinage down, removes ten percent of the silver content in each coin, and replaces it with nickel. The King then remints the new coins and fills the royal coffers the ten percent surplus of new coins. Suddenly, the King’s coffers are full, and the people are ten percent less wealthy. This process is called “debasing the currency.”

Since the invention of the printing press, the State has been able to replace hard money with paper deposit tickets, untether the hard reserves to those deposit tickets through legislation, and purchase assets with printed deposit tickets. The process becomes a bit more evolved, but money is created through the magic of the lending process.


With the above answers in tow, it became clear to me that the Central Banking institution lies at the very core of the state apparatus. Without monopoly rights to print fiat currency, many of the State’s most destructive endeavors would be logistically impossible. This knew-found knowledge of this immoral practice hardened my natural skepticism of the state.

Even more perplexing than the answers I found regarding central banking, were the questions they evoked: how is the truth so well hidden from everyone? Why does no one even think to ask where money comes from? Why didn’t we learn about something so important in school? If a question this profound is so well hidden, is it deliberate?5It is deliberate. See James Corbett, a Century of Enslavement; How Big Oil Conquered the World If so, why? What else is being hidden from us?

TGIF: Is “Free Election” an Oxymoron?

American leaders and their loyal media pundits love to sit in judgment of other countries’ election, declaring them fair or rigged according to their seemingly meticulous standards. In fact, the real standard is that the regimes “we” like hold free and fair (enough) elections, while the regimes “we” dislike don’t. What about regimes “we” like that hold no national elections at all, like Saudi Arabia? They are forgotten whenever the loveliness of democracy is the topic of discussion.

Maybe a broader approach would shed light on the matter. We could ask: does any country have really free and fair elections? In other words, could an election be described that way even if the authorities did not engage in blatant voter or candidate suppression or outright vote fraud?

I’m not trying to be clever here. I am not one of those people who might say that since free will is an illusion, the idea of a free election must also be an illusion. Free will is real. To borrow a trope from philosopher Etienne Gilson (1884-1978), free always buries its undertakers. (Gilson said this about philosophy, though many people think he said it about metaphysics or natural law. What he said applies to these.)

I’m saying that other features intrinsic to political elections prevent them from being truly free and fair. First, the people who cast votes do so under duress. Not that armed agents of the state literally hold guns on to their heads as they go to the polls. It’s more subtle: opting out of an election is not the same as opting out of the consequences of the election. The latter cannot be done. Nonvoters are subject to the same impositions as voters are. If the winning candidate raises taxes and interferes with peaceful conduct, everyone will be caught in the net. The only way to escape is literally to leave the jurisdiction, which implies that government owns all property. Of course, one cannot leave a jurisdiction without entering another, which will likely have similar impositions. (Political competition among jurisdictions may provide some relief at the margin.)

Because of the duress under which people vote, Lysander Spooner acknowledged that a person might vote simply in self-defense: “In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former.”

I’m reminded of Herbert Spencer’s sarcastic comment on the popular idea that nonvoters are not entitled to complain about the outcome of elections. But, Spencer pointed out, according to the conventional wisdom, voters–no matter whom they voted for–are not entitled to complain either. Why not? Because those who backed the winner can hardly have grounds for dissatisfaction, and those who voted for the loser knew the risks when they chose to participate in the election. So everyone must shut up and do what they are told. How convenient!

We have other grounds for questioning the fairness and freedom of any election. Even if we concede that voters freely elect the officeholders by majority rule–ignoring all the obstacles to maverick parties and candidates–can we really say that voters select the policies that the resulting regime will carry out. I don’t think so. For one thing, the connection between what candidates say and what they do in office is extremely weak. Candidates are often vague about what they will do, but even when they aren’t, voters have no good reason to think the candidate will do more than make symbolic moves in the direction of keeping their promises. Voters have little and mostly no recourse. They cannot take back their votes or sue the candidate for breach of promise. (Some jurisdictions have recall procedures, but they are expensive and require a majority vote.) Voting is like buying a pig in a poke.

Another problem is that most voters most of the time vote behind a veil of ignorance. They not only do not know what a candidate will do if elected; they also don’t understand the issues that governments deal with. For example, if candidates differ on the minimum wage–whether to raise it or to have such a law at all–how are voters who know nothing about economics to make an intelligent choice? They will be unable to, so they will vote on the basis of feelings, a candidate’s campaign skill, or sheer tribal partisanship. (See Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.) That’s an unreliable way to make good decisions.

The same goes for foreign policy and any other area in which government officials act. Each of these areas require study, which requires time and resources. How many people will have the resources, not to mention the inclination, to acquire the knowledge needed to make good choices about all the things candidates promise to do?

A final problem is one that most people understand but don’t like to talk about: no single vote counts. People who have abstained from voting their whole lives can rest assured that no election would have come out differently had they voted. One thing that tells us is that each individual is free to vote on any basis they like because they know the consequences of that one vote are nil. In that sense, elections are free, but that’s not what the democracy advocates mean by free elections. We might call them free and irresponsible.

Critics of democracy are often accused of favoring authoritarianism because most people think that is the only alternative. Some people who dislike democracy indeed favor authoritarianism, but that certainly cannot be true of libertarians. The libertarian alternative to democracy is the removal of matters from the political sphere so that they can be addressed in the social sphere, that is, the sphere of consent, cooperation, and contract, where persuasion replaces force. That’s what created human progress in the first place.

Have We Learned Nothing? Biden Backs Mass Murder in the Middle East

The Gaza Strip, measures only 25 miles long and five miles wide. It is one of the most densely populated places on the planet.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a full blockade on Gaza from the air, land, and sea. The two million Palestinians living there (half of which are under the age of 18) are trapped in an open air prison where food, potable water, electricity, medicine, building materials, etc. are severely restricted by the Israeli authorities.

The latest Israeli military operation in Gaza was called “Guardian of the Walls,” a reference no doubt to the walls enclosing the Palestinian population of mostly refugees, victims of Zionist settler colonialism, forcibly prevented from returning home. Highlighting the unfairness of the fight, at the war’s onset reports described Israeli tanks and 80 aircraft, including  F-35’s, being deployed against a people militarily conquered and occupied since 1967. The Gazans have no air force, no navy, and no control over their borders, airspace, or coasts.

Following 11 days of bombing, an Egypt brokered ceasefire was accepted after multiple offers were rejected by Tel Aviv.

Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem

Last month’s war on Gaza was largely precipitated by an ethnic cleansing campaign occurring in East Jerusalem, illegally occupied by Israel. The threatened evictions of dozens of families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood sparked protests among the Palestinians.

Writer and researcher Yanis Iqbal provides some background;

Beginning from May 2, 2021, Israel has begun its attempts to forcibly evict 26 Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. These families consist of refugees since the Nakba (the 1947-49 expulsion and forced exile of over two-thirds of the population by Zionist forces) and have been denied their United Nations (UN)-mandated right to return home. They were relocated in the neighborhood when it was under Jordanian control between 1948 and 1967.

Israeli propaganda attempts to present the idea that the homes being seized were once owned by Jews. This is a complete lie – the Jordanian authorities were the ones to finance the construction of the homes. Since the early 1970s, Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah have been battling a series of Jewish settler organizations who filed lawsuits claiming the land belonged to them. Many Palestinians have been kicked out of the neighborhood and replaced by Israeli settlers. The current standoff and protests came about after an Israeli court ruled in favor of Nahalat Shimon International – an organization based in the US – and Ateret Cohanim, another settlement group that seeks to take over the properties.

In its bloody quest to eliminate Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah, the settler state has left no stone unturned. Combat-clad murderers have been sent in to terrorize Palestinian sit-ins with skunk water, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and shock grenades. Protesters have been physically assaulted, kneeled on, choked, and shot at with live rounds. On May 7, 2021, the Israeli police forced its way into the neighborhood as Palestinians and solidarity activists gathered to break their Ramadan fasting in solidarity with 40 Palestinians, including 10 children.

Far right violence had already been ramping up in Jerusalem. In one illustrative example from late April, a Israeli brownshirt-like group named Lehava led marches with memorable choruses such as “your village will be burnt down,” “may your village burn,” “Arabs get out,” and “death to Arabs.” The demonstrations saw large groups of Jewish youths hurling rocks at Palestinians, including inside their homes and vehicles. Participants were encouraged to arm themselves and get violent. Haaretz reported on a social media group administered by far right Knesset member, Itamar Ben-Gvir, that included somebody enthusiastically promoting plans to burn Palestinians with Molotov cocktails. A video shared on social media showed an Israeli man driving through East Jerusalem firing his gun in the air to frighten the occupied Palestinian residents. The Lehava event was explicitly promoted to “restore Jewish dignity” to Jerusalem. Palestinian counter protests at Damascus Gate in the Old City were responded to by police using similar measures to those deployed against the sit ins described above by Iqbal: 105 people were injured, with 22 hospitalized.

During Israel’s crackdown on early May protests against the planned dispossession in Sheikh Jarrah, settlers again chanted “death to Arabs” and the police used cannons to fire the aforementioned “skunk water” into people’s houses. The pervasive stink spray smells like sewage and remains for weeks. After drying, it is only made worse when it coming into contact with water making it especially arduous to clean.

Attacks at the Al Aqsa Mosque

Just prior to the war on Gaza, tens of thousands came to worship during the final days of Ramadan, at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque (the third holiest site in Islam) and its surrounding compound. The Israeli police, four times over five days, stormed the holy site making the area a battleground. They fired off stun grenades, sound bombs, tear gas, and rubber bullets, including inside the Al Aqsa Mosque terrorizing the unarmed occupied population. These rubber coated steel bullets were often aimed at the heads, faces, and eyes of worshippers and protesters.

In an interview with Scott Horton, journalist Alan Macleod discussed the corporate media’s cynical efforts to create a “both sides narrative” despite the huge power disparity painted by vivid scenes of occupied civilians armed with “stones and prayer rugs” standing off with the Israeli security forces sporting their “machine guns and stun grenades.”

Even clinics were not spared. At Mondoweiss, Yumna Patel reported[v]ideos from a clinic in East Jerusalem where injured Palestinians were being treated showed Israeli forces firing sound bombs into the clinic itself.”

As a result of consecutive days of Israeli violence and “clashes,” hundreds of Palestinians were injured and hospitalized. On May 10th, even before the rockets and bomb attacks, those at the Mosque and the surrounding neighborhood described the area as a “war zone.”

Hamas Retaliates on Behalf of The Palestinians

The armed brigades of Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, gave Israel an ultimatum that evening to withdraw from Sheikh Jarrah, the al Aqsa Mosque, and release Palestinian prisoners. The Israelis refused. Hamas retaliated on behalf of Palestinians throughout the occupied territories. Those Palestinians have essentially no other armed force to deter or defend against Israeli aggression. The first of the crude rockets launched by Hamas into Jerusalem killed nobody and “lightly injured” one Israeli. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza that killed 20 people, nine of which were children.

As Al Jazeera reported:

Most of the children belonged to the same extended family. Two siblings, 11-year-old Ibrahim and seven-year-old Marwan, were the only children of Yousef al-Masri.

The children were playing outside their homes before the Ramadan iftar meal in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, before two explosions rocked the street.

Youssef al-Masri, the father of the siblings was quoted in the media as well, “My children were martyred. I cannot find any justification whatsoever for targeting someone passing through overcrowded civilian neighborhoods where dozens of children usually play.”

For nearly two weeks Israel then proceeded to pummel Gaza with high explosives.

Disgracing The American People

Along with the already massive but growing military and financial aid to Israel, the American government underwrote every bit of the massacre with diplomatic cover as it ensued. At the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. blocked three successive statements urging a ceasefire and cessation of attacks against Palestinians in just the first week of bombings. The third statement blocked was introduced by Norway, China, and Tunisia.

The French later introduced a draft Security Council Resolution demanding a ceasefire which the U.S. threatened to veto.

On the domestic scene, mainstream media sprang into action providing an abundance of hasbara to American audiences attempting to muddy the waters sufficiently to keep people from taking the obvious moral position against the U.S. backed canned hunt.

Along with his underlings, though given countless opportunities, Biden, long known as “Israel’s man in Washington,” repeatedly refused, to condemn the apartheid state even as it mass murdered children.

Indeed, both the executive branch and much of the legislature are eager to provide “more for Israel” at the American people’s expense. In early June, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who in a video message during the war threatened “Gaza will burn,” visited Washington D.C. to request another billion dollars in military aid. Many in Congress are thrilled at the opportunity to fulfill his request and Biden has promised to “replenish” Israel’s U.S. funded Iron Dome missile defense system.

Once again, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a complete mockery of his post as America’s top diplomat. As Dave DeCamp, news editor at Antiwar.com, has written:

In a pathetic attempt to pretend that the Biden administration cares about the suffering Israel is causing… Blinken announced additional aid for the Palestinians after the truce was reached. The assistance includes about $5.5 million to rebuild Gaza, a pittance compared to what the US is poised to give Israel.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Blinken somehow claimed that Israel took “significant steps” to avoid killing civilians in Gaza. This ignores the deliberate targeting of civilian homes. In one Israeli air raid, bombs hit a residential building in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, killing 10 people; two women and eight children…

The violence was not limited to Gaza. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, at least 29 Palestinians were gunned down by Israeli security forces.

Not to be outdone by the Democrats, in the neoconservative wing of the Senate, Marco Rubio used Israel’s slaughter in Gaza as a political opportunity to sabotage renewed talks with Tehran. Rubio led an effort, backed by more than forty other Republican lawmakers, to thwart all sanctions relief and end talks with Iran. Rubio was hoping to preclude any U.S. return to the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA constitutes the most intrusive international inspections regime in history over Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Iran is a long time signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty unlike Israel, who has a clandestine but well known nuclear weapons arsenal.

Killing Gazans

More than 250 people were murdered in Gaza, including 67 children, another 2,000 were wounded. Almost 17,000 homes were demolished, displacing tens of thousands within Gaza. The Israeli airstrikes and artillery onslaughts hit water supplies, refugee camps, apartment buildings, schools, Gaza’s only Covid-19 test center, a Doctors Without Borders clinic, and towers housing media offices.

On top of the annual $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel, five days before the war, Biden approved another $735 million weapons sale. The sale consists primarily of Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). The JDAMs are used to convert unguided bombs into precision guided munitions or “smart bombs.” JDAMs were a weapon of choice during the assault on Gaza.

In one instance, Israel dropped a “smart bomb” on a building that contained offices used by the Associated Press, Middle East Eye, and Al Jazeera.

As Newsweek reported,

The targeting and destruction of Al-Jalaa Tower have been condemned by a number of local and foreign media groups, including two of its occupants, The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, which launched its own investigation identifying the weapon that wrecked its offices as a GBU-31, one of several JDAM variants known to have been exported by the U.S. to Israel in past years.

Israel even bombed roads around hospitals impeding ambulances from helping victims reach healthcare centers. A week into the war, Gaza’s Ministry of Information was reporting $18 million worth of damage done to streets and other key infrastructure alone.

“Why Do They Hate Us?” 20 Years Later

In the wake of the events of September 11th, 2001, Americans often pondered “why do they hate us?” The best way to answer this question is to analyze the words of Osama Bin Laden, the words he used to convince others to follow him and join his cause.

Throughout the 1990s, he called for violence against the U.S. explicitly for the U.S. Army and Air Force bases occupying Muslim holy land on the Arabian Peninsula. He railed against America, under then President Bill Clinton, for making the Peninsula a “staging post” for the bombing and blockade of Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims. He also pointed to U.S. support for myriad authoritarian Middle East dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He hoped to bait us into a protracted war that would bleed us dry. The plan is for us to eventually leave, but only after bankrupting ourselves and destabilizing the region, making al Qaeda’s long desired local revolutions more plausible. His plan is working better than expected.

In 1996, Bin Laden issued his first “fatwa” against the United States, he did not incite hate against Americans for their love of freedom and liberty. Contrarily, he specifically complained about U.S. support for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.

From his “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,”

The youths hold you responsible for all the killings, evictions, and displacements of the Muslims and the violation of their sacred places which were carried out by your Jewish brothers in Palestine using moneys and arms you supplied them with. [emphasis added]

Bin Laden later told CNN in 1997,

We declared jihad against the U.S. government because the U.S. government is unjust, criminal, and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal, whether directly or through its support of the Israeli occupation of [Palestine]… we believe the U.S. is directly responsible for those who were killed in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq. [emphasis added]

Along with some of the other fellow lead hijackers, Mohammed Atta, the man who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, was motivated to attack Americans over their government’s support for Israel. In the book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, Scott Horton details Atta’s trajectory,

…as Lawrence Wright reported in The Looming Tower, in April 1996, after Israel launched their Operation Grapes of Wrath campaign in Southern Lebanon,… Atta signed his last will and testament, a symbol of his willingness to die in the fight against those he blamed for the war. As journalist Terry McDermott explains in Perfect Soldiers, his book on Atta’s so-called “Hamburg cell” of September 11th plotters, they had all agreed it was the Americans who were responsible for what Israel was doing since the U.S. government gives Israel so many billions of dollars in military equipment and other financial aid.

During Operation Grapes of Wrath, in what is called the First Qana Massacre, the Israelis infamously bombed a U.N. compound killing more than one hundred civilians seeking shelter. Qana was referenced often by Bin Laden in the speeches and writings that influenced Atta and his associates to join up the jihad.

In reality, Israel is ruthlessly occupying about six million people in Palestine with virtually no rights while expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The so called “Two State Solution” is dead. Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, Israel’s top human rights organization, issued reports this year calling the situation in Israel/Palestine a one-state situation akin to apartheid. As Sheldon Richman says, one state “dedicated to Jewish supremacy or domination.” Lately, Israeli ultra-nationalism, with the accompanying street violence, has been on full display without the establishment media’s filters. During the war, evidence proliferated across social media with videos exposing, yet again, the dystopian reality that is the life of Palestinians not just in the occupied territories but, within the 1948 borders too, in what is called Israel proper. In cities like Bet Yam and Lod, Arabs were attacked in the streets by roving mobs of Israelis destroying Palestinian owned businesses and storefronts.

What Must Be Done

It’s been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. On Memorial Day, neoconservative spokesman and Senator Lindsey Graham, with an ear to ear grin, stood next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and lied to the American people’s faces. He said “nobody does more to protect America from radical Islam than our friends in Israel.” He was lobbying his own country for another billion dollars in weaponry for the Israelis. Ironically, Tel Aviv has, for years, supported al Qaeda during the war in Syria against their common enemy in Damascus. So much for our ‘greatest ally’ in the Middle East.

From the beginning, the al Qaeda/terrorism issue was framed in a kind of unreality that shared little to no resemblance with the truth. At the time of the 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda was only a few hundred men, formally backed by Ronald Regan against the Soviets, tucked away in Nangarhar Province. It was the U.S. and its allies that started this fight when we supported Israel’s occupations, put troops on Saudi soil and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

And therefore, aside from dealing with those directly responsible for the attack, whom the Taliban offered to hand over anyway, there was no need to become further bogged down in the region. As it would only kill exponentially more innocent people, create more enemies, more war, more blowback, and destroy our economy.

But we were ceaselessly told by our government that September 11th, 2001 changed everything. Under the spell of the Cathedral, our society accordingly goosestepped into an era of totalitarianism at home to defeat the artificially inflated threat abroad. And what do we have to show for it? Record breaking “defense” budgets, unending mass surveillance, trillions of dollars in crushing debt, indefinite global wars against vaguely defined enemies, millions killed and displaced, torture prisons, assassinations of American citizens, thousands of dead and maimed soldiers, a suicide epidemic among veterans, militarized police, hyper divisive fake corporate news, ongoing economic crises and moral decay. In the end, we sacrificed our character and our way of life. And none of it was necessary.

U.S. support for Israel is a travesty, a stain on our history and present. And because of our own corrupt, imperialist government, Americans are still in the line of fire as Tel Aviv continues to kill men, women, and children on our dime and in our name. We can no longer morally, financially, legally, or strategically afford to offer aid to a regional superpower violating international law. Israel, an internationally notorious apartheid state, killing civilians, perpetually at war, armed with nuclear weapons, and comfortably surrounded by friendly dictatorships, has received well over $200 billion in U.S. money, adjusted for inflation, since its founding. Netanyahu himself once remarked, it is “absurd.”

As Jason Ditz, news editor at Antiwar.com, points out, “Israel’s relationship to the US has long centered around intense lobbying and getting embarrassingly large amounts of military aid ($58 billion in 20 years, more than all other US aid recipients combined).”

Israel uses its American taxpayer-funded, state of the art military to subjugate Palestinians, stealing their property in East Jerusalem and the West Bank while bombing those held prisoner in the Gaza concentration camp. Israel is also constantly attacking its neighbors, such as Syria, whom the Israelis conduct airstrikes against on a weekly basis.

It is a supreme disservice to the victims of 9/11, their memory, and their survivors, to continue down this road, year after year, still funding Israel’s atrocities and fighting the endless Middle East wars. It is time for the American people to not only renounce Washington’s permanent war agenda but emphatically refuse to foot the bill for Israel’s crimes against humanity.

Or have we learned nothing?

What Does the Biden-Putin Summit Mean for Russian Relations Going Forward?

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up talks in Geneva on Wednesday. Both leaders had positive things to say about the meeting, but the tensions between the U.S. and Russia were on display during press conferences that followed.

World leaders typically hold joint press conferences after summits, but Biden and Putin spoke to the media on their own. Putin spoke with reporters first and described the meeting as “constructive.”

“There has been no hostility,” Putin said. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.” At the same time, Putin made it clear that Moscow blames US hostility for the sorry state of U.S.-Russia relations.

Asked if U.S.-Russia relations have hit rock bottom, Putin Said, “It’s hard to say at the moment because all steps in regard to the deterioration in the Russian-American relations were not initiated by us and they were taken by the American side.”

One constructive agreement Putin said he reached with Biden was to return ambassadors to the other nation’s capital. Russia recalled its U.S. ambassador in March, after an interview aired where Biden said Putin is a “killer” who has “no soul.” In April, the U.S. ambassador to Russia headed back to Washington after the US imposed fresh sanctions on Moscow and expelled Russian diplomats.

“As for the return of ambassadors to their places of work—of the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, and, respectively, of the Russian to Washington, we agreed that this issue is resolved,” Putin said in Geneva.

During his press conference, Biden portrayed the meeting as a necessary step for the “self-interest” of the U.S. “It was important to meet in person so there could be no mistake about or misrepresentations about what I wanted to communicate. I did what I came to do,” he said. “This is not about trust. This is about self-interest and verification of self-interest.”

Biden repeated the typical talking points about Russia’s alleged human rights violations and warned of “devastating” consequences if opposition figure Alexei Navalny were to die in prison. “I made it clear to him that I believed the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia,” Biden said.

Putin and Biden released a joint statement on “strategic stability” that discussed arms control between the two powers. The statement reads: “The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Putin said he and Biden agreed to begin negotiations on the replacement of New START, which will expire in 2026. The joint statement said the U.S. and Russia agreed to begin nuclear talks in the “near future.”

Biden suggested future talks on “major strategic stability” but sounded less certain than Putin. He said the next few months will serve as a “test” to see if U.S.-Russia relations could improve.

“What is going to happen next? We’re going to be able to look back, look ahead, in three to six months and say, did the things we agreed to sit down and work out, did it work? Do we—are we closer to a major strategic stability talks and progress?” Biden said.

While Biden portrays Russia as the party that needs to take steps for better relations, the reality is, the US has been the aggressor. The question is if the U.S. will back off Russia and take steps towards arms control.

Biden said neither country has an interest in a “Cold War” and suggested Moscow might want better relations with the U.S. because of China. “Russia is in a very, very difficult spot right now. They are being squeezed by China. They want desperately to remain a major power,” he said.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Cops Break In Locked Gate in Wrong Yard, Shoot Dog In Front of 8 Year Old

It is no secret that cops shoot dogs — a lot. Frequent readers of TFTP know too well how many beloved family pets are gunned down every year by public servants in the U.S. It happens so much that there is a term for it called “puppycide.” We have an endless archive of stories in which dogs meet their untimely ends at the end of a cop’s gun.

According to an unofficial count done by an independent research group, Ozymandias Media, a dog is shot by law enforcement every 98 minutes. That number could be higher too as many of the cases never make the media reports.

When these cases do make the local media, often times, they are dismissed by apologists who claim the dogs’ owners were committing crimes or should have had better control of their dog. Unfortunately, however, it is not just people suspected of crimes who see their dogs gunned down in front of them. Cops go onto the wrong properties all the time and kill the dogs of innocent families — and they do so with impunity.

The Perez family in Los Angeles found this out the hard way last week when police were raiding the house behind them. On June 8, 2021, around noon, multiple Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies were serving a warrant at the house behind the Perez’s home.

According to Leticia Perez, while serving the warrant on the home behind theirs, cops came into their locked gate—despite protests and warnings from the neighbors.

They knew they were at the wrong house and our nextdoor neighbors told deputies that Princess was in the yard, but they came on our property anyway,” explained Leticia.

“I’m yelling at the cop, ‘Don’t go in there, there’s a dog, don’t go in there!” the Perez’s neighbor, Mona Foster recalled to reporters. But police didn’t listen.

As police entered the yard—unlawfully—Leticia says her 8-year-old daughter was in the backyard feeding their dog Princess “when a deputy with a shotgun shot Princess twice, hitting her in the mouth and shoulder.”

“It’s not fair what happened to her, she was just doing her job defending her family,” Alfredo Perez told local news FOX 11. Luckily, Princess survived, but she is fighting for her life.

Naturally, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department made no mention of the officer being in the wrong yard and they issued a cookie cutter statement about a dog charging them during the execution of a search warrant.

“During a search warrant, a large dog (Bull Mastiff) rushed towards deputy personnel. Fearing they would be attacked, a deputy fired 2 rounds from his weapon. The dog was stuck by the gunshots and was alive in the yard. Animal Control was notified of the incident and the dog was later transported to a veterinarian by a neighbor.”

But they had no warrant to be on the Perez family’s property which makes them liable for shooting their dog. According to the Perez family, so far, no one from LASD has apologized or offered to pay the medical bills.

“I was telling my wife,” Alfredo Perez said. “We’re surprised that they haven’t tried to communicate. Nothing with us.”

According to the family, “the estimate is $20,000 for the surgery and care to repair the damage done to Princess by LA County Sheriff deputies. Princess needs a jaw surgery and treatment for a wound in her neck/shoulder as well as both paws on her left side.”

The family has since launched a GoFundMe account to raise money for Princess’ surgeries and it is currently sitting just shy of the goal. If you would like to help the Perez family undo the damage caused by negligent and apparently trigger-happy deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, you can donate here. 

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

The GOP Is Not Your Savior

If Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) had not gotten sick and resigned his Senate seat, then the title of this article would have been “Will the Republicans Save Us?”

After serving in the Georgia state house and senate, Isakson served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was re-elected in 2010 and 2016. Although his Senate term did not expire until January 2023, in August 2019 he announced that because of his Parkinson’s disease and other health challenges, he was resigning his Senate seat effective at the end of 2019. Under Georgia law, the governor—Brian Kemp, a Republican—was allowed to make an appointment to fill the unexpired term until the next regularly scheduled statewide election (November 3, 2020). He selected Republican Kelly Loeffler, the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), who had never held political office. She assumed office in January 2020.

Under Georgia election law, all candidates for a special election, regardless of their political party, compete in a “jungle primary” where every name is on the November general election ballot. If no candidate in what is usually a crowded field receives more than 50 percent of the vote, then a runoff election is conducted in January. All told, there were twenty-one candidates—including a write-in candidate who received seven votes—most of whom received less than 1 percent of the vote. Loeffler finished second in the special election with 25.9 percent of the vote. That is why she was in the January 5 runoff election for the Senate seat she held at the time. But although Loeffler claimed to be the most conservative Republican in the Senate, and was considered to be the richest member of the Senate, she lost in the runoff election to the Democrat Raphael Warnock by the slim margin of 50.8 to 49.2 percent.

It is because of this special election that Georgia was the only state to hold two Senate elections in 2020. In the Senate, the 100 senators are divided into three classes with staggered terms. Thus, only one-third of the Senate seats are contested at any election, and never more than one Senate seat in a state. In the regular Senate race in Georgia, the incumbent Republican David Perdue—the cousin of former Georgia governor and Trump administration Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue—was seeking a second term. But as he received only 49.7 percent of the vote (47.9 percent went for Democrat Jon Ossoff and 2.3 percent went for Libertarian Shane Hazel), Georgia law required a runoff election between the top two candidates. But in the January 5 runoff election, Ossoff defeated Perdue by a margin of 50.4 to 49.6 percent.

Winning these two Georgia Senate seats is how the Democrats wrested control of the Senate from the Republicans, who had controlled the Senate since January 2015. Prior to the Georgia runoff election, there were 50 Republicans in the Senate and 48 Democrats (including the two independent members of the Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, who caucus with the Democrats). So now that the Senate is tied 50-50, the Democratic vice president, the former senator Kamala Harris, gets to cast the tie-breaking vote, effectively giving Democrats control of the Senate.

The Democrats

One-party control of the government is dangerous. Gridlock in the Congress helps prevent one party — whether Democrats or Republicans — from exercising unbridled power. Thus, even if one Georgia Senate seat had been won by a Republican, it could have stopped bad legislation proposed by Democrats from passing (assuming that all of the Senate Republicans voted together). But the reality is that life under Democratic rule will be especially dangerous to privacy, liberty, and property.

Now, we know that the Democratic Party for many years has been the party of liberalism, progressivism, collectivism, socialism, paternalism, statism, environmentalism, “social justice,” economic egalitarianism, organized labor, taxpayer-funded abortion, public education, climate change, affirmative action, welfare, higher taxes on the “rich,” universal single-payer health care, increased government regulation of the economy and society, increased government spending, larger and more-intrusive government, and assorted income-transfer programs and wealth-redistribution schemes. The Democratic solution to every problem, injustice, or crisis — real, imaginary, or contrived—is invariably more government, more government intervention, or more government money.

The Democratic Party is not just going to pick up where it left off at the end of the Obama administration. Democrats in Congress will stop at nothing to achieve their agenda. The Democratic Party of today is even more radical than it was twelve years ago during the first two years of Obama’s first term, which was the last time that Democrats had total control of the federal government (House, Senate, presidency).

What’s On the Table

In an episode of “The Libertarian Angle” recorded just two days after the Electoral College vote was certified, Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger and Citadel professor Richard Ebeling examined the question of life under Democratic control and it was not a pretty picture they painted. According to Hornberger and Ebeling, we are going to see massive increases in federal spending, and the debt ceiling rendered totally irrelevant; massive foreign intervention, since Biden is essentially owned by the national-security state; increased focus on official enemies, expansion of the role of the military in American life, expansion of the welfare state, the revitalization of Obamacare, the attempt to implement a full-fledged government health-care system, and the expansion of the war on drugs (a war that Biden supported when he was vice president and Harris supported as a prosecutor); increased federal regulations, massive welfare-state socialism, a more centrally planned economy, massive debauchery of the currency, tax increases, increased anti-trust enforcement, a national increase in the minimum wage, elements of the “green new deal,” and emphasis on equality of outcomes and proportional representation of minorities in all groups; and more money creation by the Fed, increased inflation, wage and price controls to combat inflation, and a more interventionist foreign policy. They concluded that under a Biden administration, everything is on the table that could be a danger to our liberty, privacy, income, wealth, property, and freedom in the marketplace.

To this we can certainly add increased deficit spending, further increases in the national debt, unrestricted funding for Planned Parenthood, loosened restrictions on taxpayer-funded abortions, increased enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, expanded gun-control laws, a federal family-leave policy, government-funded child care, increased resources devoted to fighting climate change, increased violation of privacy and civil liberties in response to the coronavirus, fewer welfare-work requirements, and increased promotion of the transgender movement.

On the basis of statements in the 2020 Democratic Party platform, the recommendations in the “Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations,” and statements from Biden himself, we can also look forward to extended unemployment benefits, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and more-generous refundable tax credits that give even more Americans tax refunds of money that they never paid in; increased funding for food stamps, WIC, and school-meal programs; greater “investment” in mass transit and transportation public-works projects, “fair” trade policies and deals, expanded farm and housing subsidies, a national goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings and vehicles, and “environmental justice”; increases in corporate tax rates, aggressive attempts to increase the supply of “affordable” housing, increased government efforts to close the racial wealth gap, increased spending on K-12 education, tuition-free college, increased federal education grants, extended student-loan payment suspension, and student-debt relief; and making Washington, D.C., the 51st state, an increased push for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, the ending of cash bail, the passing of an Equal Rights Amendment, increased condemnation of “hate speech,” the reauthorization and expansion of the Violence Against Women Act, the securing of equal pay for women, and increased funding for arts and culture.

The Republicans

Could the Republicans have saved us from this unprecedented imminent upheaval and destruction of liberty, freedom, wealth, privacy, and property in America? If either Loeffler or Perdue had just received a few thousand more votes and kept the balance of power in the Senate with the Republicans, could the Republicans have saved us from the impending doom we face? Since anything is possible in politics, the answer has to be that, yes, the Republicans could have saved us from the Democrats. No matter what evil legislation the Democratic-controlled House passed, and the Democratic president was eager to sign, the Republican-controlled Senate could have stopped it (assuming that the Republicans had no defectors). Because Republicans are, after all, Republicans, the nature of this “salvation” would certainly have been limited and ephemeral, but at least Americans would have a temporary reprieve from the Democratic debacle that we are facing. But a more important question than “Could the Republicans have saved us” is “Would the Republicans have saved us.”

Unfortunately, the answer is that the Republicans would not have saved us, and for two reasons, one historical and the other philosophical: (1) Republicans have never saved us from the bad policies and programs of Democrats, regardless of whether they had partial or total control of the government and could have done something, and (2) Republicans are philosophically not much different from Democrats, regardless of how often and how loud they recite their conservative mantra about the Constitution, the free market, limited government, federalism, traditional values, free enterprise, a balanced budget, individual freedom, free trade, and property rights.

Republican Failures

Republicans failed to save us when they had partial control of the government. After World War II, the first Republican majority in Congress (1947–1949) since the New Deal under Harry Truman authorized millions of American taxpayer dollars to be spent on foreign aid for Greece and billions more for the Marshall Plan. Passing the National Security Act of 1947 that reorganized the military and established the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was one of the worst things that the Republicans have ever done.

The Republicans had a majority in the Senate during Ronald Reagan’s first six years in office, but never made an attempt to repeal the Great Society. Instead, the budget increased, the deficit exploded, the national debt skyrocketed, the drug war expanded, and Social Security and Medicare tax rates were raised.

During the last six years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Republicans had majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet federal spending went up every year and the national debt increased by $1.4 trillion. Republicans expanded the welfare state by increasing the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) every year and creating a new program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), to provide federally funded health insurance to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. No real attempt was ever made to eliminate a major government program or agency.

The 114th Congress of 2015–2017, which met during Barack Obama’s last two years in office, had huge Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Yet profligate federal spending continued, and the national debt climbed to almost $20 trillion. Donald Trump still had a Republican-controlled Senate his last two years in office, but even before Congress opened wide the spigots of federal spending to combat the coronavirus pandemic, federal spending on the welfare and warfare states continued to climb.

Republicans failed to save us even when they had total control of the government. That has happened three times since World War II. During the 83rd Congress of 1953–1955, when the Republicans had absolute control of the government during the first two years of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, they could have repealed the New Deal in its entirety. They, of course, failed to do anything. And Eisenhower even wrote in a letter,

Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions…. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything — even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things…. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

The second time the Republicans had total control of the government was when they had a majority in Congress for more than four years under George W. Bush. Republicans effectively controlled both houses of the 107th Congress from January to May 2001 (the Senate was split 50/50 with the Republican vice president having the deciding vote), and had actual control of the entire 108th Congress from 2003 to 2007. But instead of repealing the Great Society, they almost doubled the budget and the national debt, created the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA, greatly expanded the Department of Education, instituted Bushcare (the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act), passed the USA PATRIOT Act, began letting the NSA spy on all Americans, and started two senseless wars—which led to indefinite detention, indiscriminate drone strikes, kangaroo military tribunals, Gitmo, torture, assassinations, and secret prisons, all to keep us safe, of course.

The third time the Republicans had total control of the government was when they had majorities in both Houses of the 115th Congress (2017–2019) during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. But again, more failure. The Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare, failed to cut federal spending, failed to balance the budget, failed to lower the national debt, failed to end the welfare state, failed to end federal control over local education, failed to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, failed to end the foreign wars, failed to close overseas military bases, failed to bring any troops home, and failed to end the national-security/police state. About the only thing that the Republicans  succeeded in doing was increasing military spending, which of course, is not a good thing.

Republican Values

Republicans are philosophically not much different from Democrats. George Wallace famously said during his third-party bid for president in 1968, “There is not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties.” But if one ignores the conservative mantra and the libertarian rhetoric that comes out of the mouths of Republicans, and instead looks at their actual proposals and actions, no other conclusion is possible. Here are just a few examples.

Although Republicans used to call for the elimination of the federal Department of Education, they, like Democrats, fully support federal involvement in all facets of education: Pell grants, student loans, accreditation, mandates, research grants, and school breakfast and lunch programs.

Republicans, like Democrats, believe that some Americans should be forced to pay for the health care of other Americans through Medicare and Medicaid.

Republicans, like Democrats, have always supported refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that give some Americans tax refunds of money that they never paid in. And they not only supported their existence, they regularly increased their payouts when they controlled the Congress.

Republicans, like Democrats, are big believers in federal subsidies to certain occupations and sectors of society: agriculture, the arts, cultural organizations, scientific and medical researchers, low-income renters. And in spite of their professed opposition to abortion, Republicans in Congress have regularly funded Planned Parenthood — America’s largest abortion provider.

Republicans, like Democrats, think it is perfectly acceptable for the federal government to take money from hard-working Americans and give it to foreign countries with authoritarian governments and corrupt regimes that regularly violate the human rights of their citizens—countries that many Americans couldn’t locate on a map or haven’t ever heard of.

Republicans, like Democrats, believe in an interventionist foreign policy. Trump and congressional Republicans continued military actions against the very same countries that Obama and congressional Democrats did.

Republicans, like Democrats, have no philosophical objection to any government program. They just prefer that it looks as though it is run efficiently, doesn’t appear to waste too many taxpayer dollars, doesn’t have too much fraud, or furthers some right-wing agenda such as sex-abstinence education or school vouchers.

Republicans, like Democrats, fully support federal anti-discrimination laws that violate the rights of private property and free association.

Although Republicans, like Democrats, rail against socialism, they are huge supporters of the largest social socialist program in the United States: Social Security—an intergenerational wealth-redistribution scheme that takes money from those who work and gives it to those who don’t. In fact, both parties strive to convince Americans that they will “save” Social Security for future generations.

Republicans (no matter how “conservative” they claim to be at election time), are statists just like Democrats. They believe that the federal government should take money from some Americans and redistribute it to other Americans: individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses—after it is filtered through a massive government bureaucracy—in the form of subsidies, vouchers, loans, EBT cards, grants, and cash payments.

Democrats are setting the stage for a massive crackdown on civil liberties in the name of fighting domestic terrorism. For this they have a good example—Republicans after the 9/11 attacks. When South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond officially left the Democratic Party in September 1964 and joined the Republican Party, he declared that the Democratic Party was “leading the evolution of our nation to a socialistic dictatorship.” That day is now here. And not only would the Republicans not have saved us from it, they have actually hastened its arrival.

This article was originally featured at the Future of Freedom Foundation and is republished with permission.

Stimulus Is Not the Answer to Your Economic Woes

Congress is hard at work on a stimulus bill. Doubtless their efforts will pay off. Does anyone stop to ask what it is about stimulus that stimulates? And what, exactly, does it stimulate? Start by spending a lot of money that the government does not have, borrow the difference, and the central bank prints the difference and buys up the debt. But does that increase the production of useful things? To answer this, we look at an unlikely friend, Keynes and his General Theory.

The British Austrian school economist William Harold Hutt penned a devastating critique of the new economics, The Keynesian Episode: A Reassessment. In this book, Hutt explained why Keynes’s views were able to gain a foothold in the Britain of 1937. The economy was stuck in an intransigent slump of many years’ duration. The cause of the problem? Many workers were priced out of the labor market by unrealistically high wage demands. A welfare system that enabled them to remain unemployed contributed to the problem. The wages that were too high had been negotiated by labor unions using the threat of strike, and the full awareness that the government would look the other way when unions employed coercive measures. Other workers were forced into underemployment, doing something less remunerative or a job they cared for less.

Say’s law is the observation that each supply of a good to the market constitutes a demand for some noncompeting good. As workers add to supply, they add to demand. In reverse, when workers withdraw their services, they cease their contributions to supply and in so doing withdraw their ability to demand to the same degree. The withdrawal of demand made conditions worse in other industries not constrained by labor union contracts, and made the more marginal workers in those industries unnecessary (or at best able to work only at a lower wage).

The solution—according to Hutt—was that statesmen and economists should have told the public the truth. Naming and shaming the antisocial behavior of the price-fixing labor unions and calling for cuts to the public benefits that encouraged nonparticipation were called for. Visionary leaders could have fought the good fight for free labor markets, participation in labor by all who wished, more production, and lower prices. A rising standard of living would have ensued.

However, bold moves were at the time considered “politically impossible.” The phrase was a way of saying that those who could have spoken out but did not would have sacrificed their political careers, even if they had moved public opinion toward the truth. The message would have required more than a bit of political skill to sell the idea to the public. On the same issue, Hayek wrote that Keynes assumed that “a direct lowering of money wages could be brought about only by a struggle so painful and prolonged that it could not be contemplated.”

No doubt the harsh message—that those on the dole would have been required to lift their sorry backsides off the couch and pull their own weight—would have been unpopular at first. But it would have been in service of the greater good.

Instead, the Keynesian policy of inflation won. Inflation can clear out markets in surplus. Sort of. Not very well. But if the prices of goods that businesses sell were to rise faster than wages, labor would become more affordable to business. This is a bit like a decline in nominal wages while the money supply remains unchanged. If the process worked exactly as intended, real wages would fall and surplus labor would be put back to work. One possible reason that things went as intended in Britain in 1936 is that the wages in the unionized parts of the labor market were set by long-duration agreements between industry and the unions. There were no such restrictions preventing consumer prices from rising or falling, so the inflation would tend to act on consumer prices and wages would lag, at least until the next round of contract negotiations.

And that is what happened the first time. When the labor unions figured it out, and demanded inflation indexing in their contracts, or annual cost-of-living adjustments, it stopped working. Hutt makes a distinction between unanticipated and anticipated inflation. In the latter case, market actors front run inflation by raising their asking prices before the money is created. Deliberate inflation from that time forward produced only what Hutt called “purposeless inflation”—an inflation that created many negative effects but did nothing to bring idle resources back into productive use.

Absent the special conditions present in Britain in 1936, Keynesian economics would not have been even plausible. If wages could keep up with prices, inflation would not bring idle resources back into employment. Today, in the United States, are we in the same situation as Britain in 1936? The US economy does have an excess of unemployed workers, empty storefronts, and idle resources of all kinds. Why not give it a go? A bit of stimulus could not hurt.

Not. So. Fast.

While the first part is true—we have a lot of idle resources—the problem is not a pricing problem. The problem is that businesses have been prohibited from operating. As The Onion explains, “Study Finds Most Restaurants Fail within First Year of It Becoming Illegal to Go to Them.” In a similar vein, the Babylon Bee published “California Ends Exploitation of Workers for Good by Banning All Jobs.” Resources are not priced out of the market. People and businesses are instead banned from producing. This is a problem that pricing cannot solve because the transactions are not allowed. Venues can legally operate only at a reduced capacity at which they are not profitable. We have a “making it illegal to produce things” problem. And stimulus can’t do anything about that even if you are stupid enough to be a Keynesian.

The inflation policy might have worked once, and only once, but even then not well. In Britain in 1937, due to a perfect constellation of factors, inflation had its fifteen minutes. The institutional arrangements of the time prevented wages from not only falling but also rising quickly; there was relatively unregulated markets for goods; and the public was not conditioned to expect inflation and had not prepared for it. The conditions for its success had been exploited. Fooled once, the public got smarter. Unions began to bargain for inflation indexing. Wall Street front runs the Fed. Financial markets now rise in anticipation of central bank asset purchases.

Yet the Keynesian revolution gave us stimulus as a permanent policy option. Stimulus is now untethered from its roots. At one time it was a cynical response to institutional conditions that prevented wages from keeping up with prices. Today, no longer a particular response to the unique conditions in one place and time, stimulus has become a universal solvent to heal all economic ills. Stimulus has become 1) wish for something, 2) print money, 3) profit.

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

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