Looking on the bright side at year’s end 4

We are to a large extent libertarian conservatives.

We agree with Libertarians on many issues.

Where we part company with them is chiefly over foreign policy. A realistic understanding of what is happening in the world cannot but be pessimistic. War is raging in the Middle East as a horrifying army of Islamic savages – ISIS – spreads its tyranny and commits atrocities. The war sends millions of Muslim “refugees” into Europe, which will before long become a continent dominated by Muslims and subjected to the cruelties of Islamic law.

The evil tentacles of ISIS stretch far and reach America. The worst terrorist attack in America since 9/11 was carried out by ISIS affiliates late this year at San Bernardino in California. Islam is a growing menace to the Western world, to America, to liberty.

Deliberately to ignore this reality is obviously and astonishingly foolish.

Yet Libertarians do ignore it. Or, if they have to notice it, they play it down and brush it aside. They prefer to look on the bright side of current events.

John Stossel, a cheerful Libertarian, writes at Townhall:

Terrorism! Crime! Deadly storms! Hillary Clinton!

We like the inclusion of Hillary Clinton among the horrors.

We reporters focus on bad news, but at year’s end, let’s remember what went right. 2015 was a better time to be alive than most any prior point in history.

He means, of course, to be alive in America.

The rich got richer. Some people think that’s a problem, but why? Do rich people sit on their piles of money and cackle about how rich they are? Do they build giant houses that damage the environment? Well, they sometimes do.

But mostly they invest, hoping to get richer still. Those investments create jobs and better products and make most everyone else richer. Even if the rich leave money in banks, banks lend it to people who put it to productive use.

Sure, income inequality has grown – but so what? The rich don’t get richer at the expense of the poor. Poor people’s income grew 48 percent over the past 35 years. Bernie Sanders says that “the middle class is disappearing”. But that’s mainly because many middle-class people moved into the upper class. Middle class incomes grew 40 percent over the past 30 years.

We receive all that with nods and smiles.

This year we heard more horror stories about bad schools and students who don’t learn. But take heart: Seven more states passed education choice legislation.

That means more students can opt out of bad schools and pick better ones, and over the long haul competing schools will have to get better at what they do. That will lead to a brighter future for all students – and for society, which will benefit from their improved skills.

That too is good news.

In 2015, two more states and Washington, D.C., legalized marijuana. Authorities are always reluctant to give up control, but gradually the end of the expensive, destructive and futile drug war will come.

We have no quarrel with him there.

Meanwhile, real crime – violence and thefts – continue to fall. We cover horrible mass shootings and spikes in crime in cities like Baltimore and St. Louis, but overall, crime is down – over the past 20 years, down by about half.

And that is very good news.

He comes back to terrorism:

Unfortunately, terrorism has increased – mainly because of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, there are far fewer deaths from war and terror than there were 30 years ago, and in America, the odds of you or your family being killed by a terrorist are infinitesimal compared to disease, accidents and a thousand more-ordinary threats.

And that is where our nodding stops and our smiles vanish.

In our experience – not inconsiderable  – of dealing with terrorism, we have all too often heard glib apologists, mainly spokesmen of the Left but also Libertarians, bring up the statistics of deaths in accidents outnumbering deaths in terrorist attacks. To do so is not just stupid, not just irrelevant, but bad. Accidents are by definition events that nobody is responsible for. To compare the danger of accidents with the danger of terrorism – to treat terrorism as just another hazard in contemporary living – is to remove the moral dimension from the frightful business of deliberately terrifying, killing, maiming, and shattering lives which is what terrorists do.

To disregard the immorality of terrorism is tantamount to condoning it.

Nothing ensures the triumph of evil as effectively as the abandonment of moral judgment.

Of course John Stossel does not mean to abandon moral judgment. He, like most Libertarians, has simply not given enough thought to the matter.

So on that point his optimism lapses into sheer insouciance.

But he moves on to other topics:

Marriage is good for civilization. This year the Supreme Court declared that gay people may get married. Government shouldn’t be in the marriage business at all, since marriage is a contract between individuals, but if it’s going to wade into that issue, it’s better to have one clear rule instead of ugly ongoing fights about it.

Ending the political squabble means we can all go back to minding our own business and worrying about our own marriages.

We won’t quarrel with him over that either, although we think the word “marriage”, with its age-long connotations, is unsuitable to describe a contractual union between two people of the same sex.

In 2015, women in Saudi Arabia got to vote.

But a woman in Saudi Arabia still may not drive. Or walk abroad without a male relative escorting her. Or inherit as much her brothers. Or be fully believed in court unless a second woman backs up her testimony.

More countries elected leaders, rather than inheriting them.

But some may not be able to replace them in another election.

With what he says next, we heartily agree:

The picture isn’t all rosy. As I mentioned, terrorism is up. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on track to lead America into bankruptcy. We have eternal problems like hunger and disease.

But even those “eternal” problems are closer to being solved than they used to be.

Thanks to better vaccines, 6 million fewer children under the age of 5 die each year compared to 30 years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, 2 billion people lived in extreme poverty – that meant surviving on about a dollar a day, often with little access to basic needs like water and food. “Experts” predicted that number would rise as the population grew. Happily, thanks to the power of free markets, they were wrong. In the space of a generation, half the people most in need in the world were rescued.

Ten percent of the world’s people still live in dire poverty, but the trend is clear: Where there is rule of law and individual freedom, humanity is better off.

But then again, he makes a recommendation we cannot like:

As Marian Tupy of HumanProgress.org puts it, “Away from the front pages of our newspapers and television, billions of people go about their lives unmolested, enjoying incremental improvements that make each year better than the last.”

So enjoy it.

Away from the sources of news about what’s going on in the world? There again is the misguided aspect of the Libertarian outlook. See, hear, speak no evil and it will be just as if there is none? Dangerous nonsense!

But with his last words we cordially join in:

Happy New Year!

The Left against science (1) 1

Rogue scientists going along with the Anthropogenic Global Warming hoax have brought science itself into disrepute. However, good science persists – however much the Left fears it and tries to hamper it with laws snd regulations.

Here’s an article from Townhall, by John Stossel – a libertarian we often but not always agree with. We agree with this:

This year is the 10th anniversary of a book called The Republican War on Science. I could just as easily write a book called The Democratic War on Science.

The conflict conservatives have with science is mostly caused by religion. Some religious conservatives reject evolution, and some oppose stem cell research.

But neither belief has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. Species continue to evolve regardless of what [religious] conservatives believe, and if [they] ban government funding of stem cell research, private investors will continue the work.

By contrast, the left’s bad ideas about science do more harm.

Many on the left – including a few of my fellow libertarians – are paranoid about genetically modified organisms. These are crops that have DNA altered to make them grow faster or be more pest-resistant. The left calls that “playing with nature” and worries that eating GMO food will cause infertility, premature aging and a host of other problems.

The fear makes little scientific sense. There is no reason to think that precise changes in a plant’s genes are more dangerous than, say, the cross-breeding of corn done by American Indians centuries ago or a new type of tomato arising in someone’s organic garden. Nature makes wilder and more unpredictable changes in plant DNA all the time.

Yet the left’s fear of GMOs led activists to destroy fields of experimental crops in Europe and, most tragically, bans on GMO foods that might help prevent hunger and malnutrition in African and Asian nations.

Leftists often claim to be defenders of progress, but they sound more like religious conservatives when they oppose “tampering with nature”. 

The new movie Jurassic World, in which scientists tamper with DNA to create a super-dinosaur that gets out of control, doesn’t just recycle ideas from the original Jurassic Park. It recycles the same fears that inspired the novel Frankenstein 200 years ago – the idea that if humans alter nature’s perfect design, we’ll pay a terrible price.

But it’s nature that is terrible. We should alter it. “Living with nature” means fighting for food, freezing in the cold and dying young.

The left’s anti-science fears also prevent us from building new nuclear reactors …

Humans thrive by improving technology, not abandoning it.

Lately, some people think they’re “erring on the safe side” by avoiding vaccinations. The result is outbreaks of diseases like mumps and measles that we thought were all but eliminated. …

The left also objects to science that contradicts their egalitarian beliefs. A few years ago, I interviewed scientists who had discovered ways in which male and female brains differ from birth. The scientists told me that they wanted to continue such research, but political pressure against it was too intense. Men and women clearly have different aptitudes, but today leftists demand that government punish any company that treats genders differently.

Few scientists today would even study relative IQs of different ethnic groups. They know they’d be de-funded if they discovered the “wrong” facts.

I say, follow the truth wherever science leads.

So do we.

The Left is the side of the emotions. But science is the child of reason. The two are as antithetical as science and religion.

In fact, Leftism is a religion. 

A libertarian view of the state we’re in 2

John Stossel, in his plain-speaking, clear-headed way, deplores Obama’s failed economic policies:

President Obama sure is consistent. His State of the Union address sounded like his other speeches: What I’ve done is great! America is in a much better position. We’ve created a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs. More oil is produced at home. I cut deficits in half!

Give me a break. The deficit is lower now not because of any prudence on Obama’s part but merely because the $800 billion stimulus spending blowout didn’t continue. All the president does is increase spending: free community college, free Obamaphones, free birth control, etc. Yes, our annual deficit is lower, but it’s still $488 billion! Our $18 trillion national debt increases by $3 million every minute!

Yes, more oil is produced at home, but that’s in spite of the administration. Oil production is down on public land.

Yes, the manufacturing sector added jobs, but that’s mostly because of cheaper natural gas created by fracking, which Obama’s cronies opposed. Also, America is finally recovering from recession. Obama’s policies probably slowed that recovery.

Does the President delude himself when he takes credit for oil production, lower deficits, etc.? Or does he mislead on purpose? I don’t know.

More recently he bragged, “I created the lowest unemployment rate in years.” He created it? He must know it’s “low” only compared to the 10 percent reached during the recession — and because millions have simply given up looking for work. This recovery is the slowest in 70 years.

Then he goes on to propose a very different speech from the one Obama gave last night:

If Obama gave the State of the Union address I’d like to hear, he’d say this:

I heard you, voters, in November when you took control of the Senate away from my party. I get it. I overreached. I was arrogant. I imposed Obamacare on a nation that was deeply divided about it. I ruled through executive orders instead of legislation. I threw money at “green” nonsense.

We’ve cut a bit out there, because at that point he pulled out the biggest bone of contention we have with libertarians like John Stossel: defense. He wants less spent on it – as Obama does – and  we want more spent on it. 

But on: 

I’ve been in government for years now. I know how badly it works. The last thing I should try to do is make it bigger. In fact, with Republicans now in control of Congress, it’s time I worked with them to shrink government. If we shrink it, we might even dig our way out of the debt hole we’re in. Heck, if we just slow the growth of government to 2 percent a year, we’d be in better shape.

But I didn’t even try to accomplish that. I pretended taxing the rich would solve our financial problems. But there aren’t enough rich people to tax.

That’s not what’s wrong with the idea. What’s wrong is the idea of redistribution itself. The right argument is against any form of redistribution by a central agency.

But on again:

I got drunk on the idea of promising voters “free” stuff such as low down-payment mortgages and guaranteed paid family leave. I told them that all good things come from government. That’s nonsense.

We should put an end to all bailouts. Businesses that screw up should accept the consequences, just like ordinary people who spend recklessly. Main Street should never again be forced to rescue Wall Street.

Instead of expanding government control of health care, we should phase it out. That includes Medicare. I know Medicare is popular, but it is unsustainable. Let current retirees receive their benefits as promised, but younger people should pay for their own health care.

People criticize the economic distortion created by welfare, but Medicare and Social Security are almost as bad. Both redistribute money away from the young and struggling toward those of us who have had decades to invest and save up.

To make these challenges a little easier to deal with, let’s make America richer by abolishing most regulations. They strangle opportunity.

The more I think about it, the more Congress and I could transform America for the better just by getting out of America’s way. The state of our union will be truly strong if the state – by which I mean government – is strictly limited.

That we would applaud.

Thanks to private property 7

There is much that we like about libertarianism, but have points of strong disagreement with most of the libertarians we listen to and read. The one we find ourselves most often in agreement with is John Stossel.

Here is his reminder of what we ought to be thankful for on Thanksgiving day: private property. The history of the Pilgrims bears a powerful message that private property is a way to life, liberty, and happiness, while communism is the road to starvation:

Had today’s politicians and opinion-makers been in power four centuries ago, Americans might celebrate “Starvation Day” this week, not Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims started out with communal property rules. When they first settled at Plymouth, they were told: “Share everything, share the work, and we’ll share the harvest.”

The colony’s contract said their new settlement was to be a “common.” Everyone was to receive necessities out of the common stock. There was to be little individual property.

That wasn’t the only thing about the Plymouth Colony that sounds like it was from Karl Marx: Its labor was to be organized according to the different capabilities of the settlers. People would produce according to their abilities and consume according to their needs. That sure sounds fair.

They nearly starved and created what economists call the “tragedy of the commons.”

If people can access the same stuff by working less, they will. Plymouth settlers faked illness instead of working the common property. The harvest was meager, and for two years, there was famine. But then, after the colony’s governor, William Bradford, wrote that they should “set corn every man for his own particular,” they dropped the commons idea. He assigned to every family a parcel of land to treat as its own.

The results were dramatic. Much more corn was planted. Instead of famine, there was plenty. Thanks to private property, they got food — and thanks to it, we have food today.

This doesn’t mean Pilgrims themselves saw the broader economic implications of what they’d been through. “I don’t think they were celebrating Thanksgiving because they’d realized that capitalism works and communal property is a failure,” says economist Russ Roberts. “I think there were just happy to be alive.”

I wish people understood. This idea that happiness and equality lie in banding together and doing things as a commune is appealing. It’s the principle behind the Soviet Union, Medicare, the Vietnam War, Obamacare and so on. …

The Pilgrims weren’t the first settlers on the East Coast of the New World to make this mistake.

Just a few years before, the colony of Jamestown was almost wiped out by the same idea.

Historian Edmund S. Morgan, in “American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia,” describes what happened in 1609-1610: “There are 500 people in the colony now. And they are starving. They scour the woods listlessly for nuts, roots and berries. And they offer the only authentic examples of cannibalism witnessed in Virginia. One provident man chops up his wife and salts down the pieces. Others dig up graves to eat the corpses. By spring only sixty are left alive.”

After that season, the colony was abandoned for years.

The lesson that a commons is often undesirable is all around us. What image comes to mind if I write “public toilet”? Consider traffic congestion and poor upkeep of many publicly owned roads. But most people don’t understand that the solution is private property.

When natural resources, such as fish and trees, dwindle, the first impulse is to say, “Stop capitalism. Make those things public property.” But they already are public — that’s the problem.

If no one owns the fishing rights to a given part of the ocean – or the exclusive, long-term logging rights to part of the forest – people have an incentive to get there first and take all they can before the next guy does. Resources are overused instead of conserved. We don’t maintain others’ property the way we maintain our own. …

No one starves when ranchers are allowed to own land and cattle. Or turkeys.

Private ownership does good things.

Cut the government 4

We hold personal liberty to be the highest value, which is why we are sympathetic to libertarianism.

One of our favorite libertarians  is John Stossel, who writes today at Townhall:

When Congress and President Obama agreed on a deal last week to raise the debt ceiling and resume government spending, people reacted as if a disaster was averted — instead of reacting as if a disaster had resumed. It has. And it continues.

Congratulating ourselves for raising the debt ceiling once again, the way we do every time this drama plays out, is like congratulating an alcoholic for talking the bartender out of cutting him off.

As with alcoholics, there’s a deeper problem here. It’s not just that America is addicted to debt. Everyone agrees we should pay our bills, just not when or how. The deeper addiction is to government.

For most of the history of America, federal spending never took up more than 5 percent of the economy. Spending increased during wars, but after World Wars I and II, spending dropped back to prewar levels.

Then came Presidents Johnson and Nixon and the “great society.” From then on, spending rose even in peacetime. Now, if you include local government, government spending makes up more than 40 percent of the economy.

When Obama campaigned for the presidency, he … complained, “The way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the bank of China. … We now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back. … That is irresponsible.”

I agree! $9 trillion in debt is totally irresponsible. That makes it all the more remarkable that just a few years later, under President Obama, debt increased to $17 trillion. But now, suddenly, this vast debt is no longer irresponsible. Today the president says what is irresponsible is for Congress not to constantly raise the debt ceiling.

Let me make some suggestions: Eliminate NPR and PBS funding. Cut foreign aid. End the war on drugs. Kill Fannie and Freddie, which financed America’s mortgages and helped cause the financial crisis. Eliminate cabinet departments like Commerce, Energy, Agriculture and Education, all activities that happen without any need for the federal government. (Education is a local function, and the department spending $100 billion a year hasn’t raised test scores one bit.)

Oh yes, all those should go.

Reform Social Security by raising the retirement age.

Or phase it out altogether, we would suggest.

And instead of increasing government involvement in health care, turn Medicare into a self-sustaining insurance program.

But with his next suggestion we do not entirely agree. It is a point on which we diverge from our libertarian friends:

Shrink the military by reducing our overseas commitments. …

We do not want to see a shrunken military (although we do think many of the soldiers stationed abroad – in Western Europe for instance – should be brought home*). We think much more should be spent on defense – and preparation for wars abroad that may very well become necessary. (Why not robot armies?)

We are emphatically against the “Responsibility to Protect” resolution of the UN (for which Samantha Power, the present US ambassador to that corrupt and ridiculous institution, was the inspiring muse). America has no responsibility to be the world’s policeman. But aggression against us – by the mullahs of Iran, for instance – should be met with overwhelming counter-force. No absurd notions of “proportionality” should ever be entertained.

But to return to domestic woes – John Stossel makes another suggestion:

To save America from bankruptcy … we could grow our way out of debt if Congress simply froze spending. They won’t do that either, but if they limited spending growth to 2 percent per year, we could balance the budget in just three years.

And he ends on a dramatic note with words that ought to be read not as a mere rhetorical flourish but as a real warning:

Limiting government growth is politically difficult, but if we don’t do it, America is doomed.

 

*Footnote: From Wikipedia: “The military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with 172,966 of its 1,372,522 active-duty personnel serving outside the United States and its territories.” See the list.

Someone in charge 58

We are libertarian conservatives, “minarchists”, emphatically not anarchists.

Having a libertarian bent, we like much of what John Stossel writes in an article at Townhall:

Here’s my fantasy: Libertarians are elected to the presidency and to majorities in Congress. What would happen next? Well, if libertarians were “in charge,” you’d have more freedom and prosperity.

Freedom frightens some people. They say if no one is in charge there would be chaos. That is intuitive, but think about a skating rink. Before rinks were invented, if you proposed an amusement in which people strap blades to their feet and skate around on ice at whatever speeds they wish, you’d have been called crazy. There’s got to be speed limits, stoplights, turn signals. But we know that people navigate rinks safely on their own. They create their own order, with only minimal rules.

Society would work the same way — and does to a large extent even today. “Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government,” Thomas Paine, the soul of the American Revolution, wrote. “It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. … Common interest (has) a greater influence than the laws of government.”

Yes. Common interest is the wellspring of morality.

If libertarians were “in charge,” there would be laws to protect us from foreign enemies and those who would steal from us or injure us. Today, by contrast, under the rule of Democans and Republicrats, we’re drowning in rules — 160,000 pages’ worth. Micromanagement kills opportunity and freedom.

Maybe if there were a way to have more competition among governments, things would be better. Competition forces people to become more efficient and to get rid of stupid rules. What if we let people take over some unused land in America to create areas with fewer rules, simpler legal systems, smaller government?

Stossel quotes Michael Strong , who with his wife Magatte Wade founded the Free Cities Project.

Strong said, “We want to encourage thousands of people to create new governments that have different rules, each competing for customers with the best education and best health care, the most peace and prosperity you could imagine.”

We expect that where government interfered least with the economic life of the people there would be the greatest prosperity. Where it had nothing at all to do with education or health, the people would stand the best chance of being well educated and effectively cured. Where it most strongly protected liberty, they would probably endure the least crime. Where it armed the people most formidably they might least expect to be invaded.

Are there any free cities along the lines Strong and Wade envision?

“Hong Kong and Singapore are the best examples,” Strong said. “Now they are among the wealthiest places on earth.”

True – and proof that small government, doing little more than enforcing the rule of law, works well.

And there is a free city in Dubai because the emirate wanted to create a financial sector …

And did, though the emir had to abandon sharia law in the free city to achieve what he wanted:

“Dubai was brilliant,” Strong said. “They looked around the world. They saw that Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Chicago, Sydney, London all ran British common law. British common law is much better for commerce than is French common law or sharia law. So they took 110 acres of Dubai soil, put British common law with a British judge in charge, and they went from an empty piece of soil to the 16th most powerful financial center in world in eight years.”

It’s what libertarians have said: Freedom works, and government, when it grows beyond the barest minimum, keeps people poor.

As liberty is most likely to bring prosperity, why are libertarians a political minority?

Is it because many people fear it, and if so why?

Some want governments to be parental and care for them “from the cradle to the grave”. They think such welfare governments can guarantee that they’ll  be fed, housed, educated, medically treated all through their lives.

They could not be more wrong. The welfare states of Europe are rapidly going bankrupt.

And besides, what a government provides a government can withhold. To put yourself wholly in the power of a government is to put yourself not into safety but into danger. You are most safe when you control your own life, and the government does no more than guard your liberty. (And as everything governments do they do badly, it is wise to own a gun.)

Some need to feel that there is “someone in charge” – a king, a chief, a Secretary-General of the Communist Party, a powerful president, a Father in Heaven.

We don’t want someone in charge. Neither on earth nor “in heaven”. Throughout our earthly lives we want the rule of law, that wholly abstract authority, emotionless, fixed. (As Lord Denning, the British judge, said: “Be you ever so high, the law is above you”.)

And we delight in a universe that does not have and does not need “someone” to make, maintain, rule, watch over, manipulate, or give a damn about it.

An atheist’s story 8

An ABC news film, not new (May 11, 2007), but still interesting.

John Stossel talks to atheists. Richard Dawkins says a few words.

Nicole Smalkowski, 13, a talented athlete and musician, tells how she was hounded out of school by “good Christians”, who deny doing any such thing of course.

 

A measure of freedom 2

As everyone knows or ought to know, socialism and freedom are opposites.

The more socialist a state becomes, the less freedom remains to the people.

Under President Obama the US has become an ever more socialist state; and as  it has become more socialist it has become, of course, less free – though it’s still a long way from the totalitarianism which the Maoists and Alinskyites who officially advise the President would like him to aim for.

To bolster our argument we quote the libertarian free-marketeer John Stossel, who writes:

Last year, I reported that the United States fell from sixth to eighth place … in the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom. Now, we’ve fallen further. In the just released 2011 Index, the United States is in ninth place. That’s behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland [?] and Denmark [?].

The biggest reason for the continued slide? Spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. (State and local spending is not counted.)

The debt picture is dismal, too. We are heading into Greece’s territory. …

New Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republicans who now control the House, says he wants to cut spending. When he was sworn in last week, he declared: “Our spending has caught up with us. … No longer can we kick the can down the road.”

But when NBC anchorman Brian Williams asked him to name a program “we could do without,” he said, “I don’t think I have one off the top of my head.”

Give me a break! You mean to tell me the Republican leader in the House doesn’t already know what he wants to cut? I don’t know which is worse — that he doesn’t have a list or that he won’t talk about it in public.

The Republicans say they’ll start by cutting $100 billion, but let’s put that in perspective. The budget is close to $4 trillion. So $100 billion is just 2.5 percent. That’s shooting too low. Firms in the private sector make cuts like that all the time. It’s considered good business — pruning away deadwood.

GOP leaders say the source of their short-run cuts will be discretionary non-security spending. They foolishly exclude entitlement spending, which Congress puts on autopilot, and all spending for national and homeland security (whether it’s necessary or not). That leaves only $520 billion.

So even if the Republicans managed to cut all discretionary non-security spending (which is not what they plan), the deficit would still be $747 billion. (The deficit is now projected to be $1.267 trillion.)

This is a revolution? Republicans will have to learn that there is no budget line labeled “waste, fraud, abuse.” If they are serious about cutting government, they will ax entire programs, departments and missions.

I’m not confident they have it in them. …

And we are also supported in our opinion by the economist Walter Williams, who writes:

Here’s the House of Representatives new rule: “A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for printing in the Congressional Record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.” Unless a congressional bill or resolution meets this requirement, it cannot be introduced.

If the House of Representatives had the courage to follow through on this rule, their ability to spend and confer legislative favors would be virtually eliminated. Also, if the rule were to be applied to existing law, they’d wind up repealing at least two-thirds to three-quarters of congressional spending.

You might think, for example, that there’s constitutional authority for Congress to spend for highway construction and bridges. …

But there isn’t. Williams goes on to point out that President James Madison was not persuaded that there should be, though a law establishing such an authority might “facilitate commerce”, and even strengthen “the common defense“. So in 1817, Madison “vetoed a public works bill, saying: “Having considered the bill this day presented to me … which sets apart and pledges funds ‘for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense,’ I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States and to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.”

Defense of the nation and the individual citizen is the first duty of government. It is the essential thing that government is for. Yet here was Madison, “the father of the Constitution”, refusing to sign into law a bill that was being promoted as an aid to defense, because he could not reconcile the nature of the expenditure with the Constitution.

“What about handouts to poor people, businesses, senior citizens and foreigners?” Williams asks. And to that too Madison gave an answer:

Madison said, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

Some of his successors took the same view as Madison: if the Constitution does not authorize a dip into the public purse for this or that purpose, then neither should Congress:

In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill to help the mentally ill, saying, “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. (To approve the measure) would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”

President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill for charity relief, saying, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.” …

But, someone may ask, doesn’t the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution allow tax-payers money to be spent on “compassionate” projects?

To this President Thomas Jefferson had an answer, Williams tells us:

Suppose [Williams writes] a congressman attempts to comply with the new rule by asserting that his measure is authorized by the Constitution’s general welfare clause. Here’s what Thomas Jefferson said: “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

And he adds these words of Madison:

“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

The Constitution was designed to preserve liberty under the rule of law. It was not a set of rules for a Benevolent Association.

If  the government turns itself into an agency for succoring the poor and handicapped, it can only do so by robbing the people of liberty.

Williams quotes a warning given by President John Adams:

“A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

Which means that any governmental program of wealth-redistribution, all socialist legislation  – social security, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, sub-prime housing loans, state-provided education and health-care, government compensation for loss caused by natural disasters, government grants to sport and the arts (to take only the most obvious examples of benevolent spending)  – is unconstitutional and should be repealed and never introduced again.

Then there would be small government, low taxes, and true liberty – and money enough in every earner’s pocket to donate to charity if he chooses to.

Beware of the government 2

Almost everyone is superstitious to some degree, even the most rational among us.

John Stossel, that consistently rational, commonsensical, free-marketeer and libertarian, who also has the virtue of expressing his ideas clearly, writes:

We human beings sure are gullible. Polls report that 27 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, and 25 percent in astrology. Others believe mediums, fortunetellers, faith healers and assorted magical phenomena. …

Whether you believe in God — or psychics, or global warming — that’s your business. …

Well, a belief in psychics will probably only harm the believer; but believers in God or global warming are dangerous to us all.

And so is belief in government, as Stossel points out:

Being gullible about government hurts everyone. Government is force. When it sells us bunk, we have to pay even if we don’t believe in or want it. If we don’t pay up, men with guns will make sure we do.

It’s good to be skeptical. It’s really good to be skeptical about government.

Posted under Commentary, government, Religion general, Superstition by Jillian Becker on Thursday, December 16, 2010

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Of liberty, libertarians, and charity 0

A nice column by John Stossel at Townhall explains what a libertarian is/believes.

We think it likely that most of our regular readers are, like ourselves, libertarians, and need no such explanation.

Still, the column is a good read. Here’s a taste of it:

Libertarians want government to leave people alone — in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don’t hurt anybody else.

Ironically, that used to be called “liberal,” which has the same root as “liberty.” Several hundred years ago, liberalism was a reaction against the stifling rules imposed by aristocracy and established religion.

I wish I could call myself “liberal” now. But the word has been turned on its head. It now means health police, high taxes, speech codes and so forth. …

When I first explained libertarianism to my wife, she said: “That’s cruel! What about the poor and the weak? Let them starve?”

For my FBN [Fox Business Network] show tomorrow, I ask some prominent libertarians that question, including Jeffrey Miron, who teaches economics at Harvard.

“It might in some cases be a little cruel,” Miron said. “But it means you’re not taking from people who’ve worked hard to earn their income (in order) to give it to people who have not worked hard.”

But isn’t it wrong for people to suffer in a rich country?

“The number of people who will suffer is likely to be very small. Private charity … will provide support for the vast majority who would be poor in the absence of some kind of support. When government does it, it creates an air of entitlement that leads to more demand for redistribution, till everyone becomes a ward of the state.” …

David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, took the discussion to a deeper level.

“Instead of asking, ‘What should we do about people who are poor in a rich country?’ The first question is, ‘Why is this a rich country?’ …

“Five hundred years ago, there weren’t rich countries in the world. There are rich countries now because part of the world is following basically libertarian rules: private property, free markets, individualism.” …

Before the New Deal, people of modest means banded together to help themselves. These organizations were crowded out when government co-opted their insurance functions, which included inexpensive medical care.

Boaz indicts the welfare state for the untold harm it’s done in the name of the poor.

“What we find is a system that traps people into dependency. … You should be asking advocates of that system, ‘Why don’t you care about the poor?'”

I agree. It appears that when government sets out to solve a problem, not only does it violate our freedom, it also accomplishes the opposite of what it set out to do.

It should be taken as a general rule that everything government does it does badly. Even the one thing it alone can and must do – protect the nation and the individual – it messes up. The less we allow government to do, the better for all of us.

As for helping the helpless (other than privately), here’s an idea. Why not shift all responsibility for welfare on to the churches? After all, Christians claim that their earthly mission is indiscriminate loving, giving, caring. The churches will need much more money than their congregations willingly give, but they can easily raise it from liberals, from innumerable Bill Clinton types who say they feel the pain of others, from all who sigh for the poor because it makes them feel they’re good persons –  a numerous crowd in every Western nation. Let the churches have the honor of being the soul distributors of such prospectively vast funds to those condemned to be, through no fault of their own, at the receiving end of charity; and also – because they’ll not be able to avoid it – to those who’ll demand a share whether they need it or not.