Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Misrepresenting Libertarianism

The editors of the New York Times misrepresent libertarianism by way of Rand Paul and his statements about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying:

As a longtime libertarian, he espouses the view that personal freedom should supersede all government intervention. Neighborhood associations should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, he has written, and private businesses ought to be able to refuse service to anyone they wish. Under this philosophy, the punishment for a lunch counter that refuses to seat black customers would be public shunning, not a court order.

It is a theory of liberty with roots in America’s creation, but the succeeding centuries have shown how ineffective it was in promoting a civil society. The freedom of a few people to discriminate meant generations of less freedom for large groups of others.

It was only government power that ended slavery and abolished Jim Crow, neither of which would have been eliminated by a purely free market. It was government that rescued the economy from the Depression and promoted safety and equality in the workplace.

Let’s start with the most obvious canard, which is the proposition that Jim Crow had anything to do with free markets. They were called “Jim Crow Laws“, not “Jim Crow Markets”, the obvious reason for which is that separate accommodations were mandated by state governments, not organically grown in some mythical garden of free association rights. Indeed, the entire reason for the corrupt deal behind the presidential election of 1876 was to throw the South’s support behind a president who would end Reconstruction.

It was government–in this case, the state governments in the South–that imposed Jim Crow, and government that forced private companies to impose the desired restrictions on blacks.  If government intervention was required to Jim Crow, that was only because governments had imposed it in the first place.  And it certainly wasn’t the free market that imposed racial segregation on federal government employment, or military service. Nor was it the free market that imposed poll taxes or literacy tests aimed at preventing blacks from voting in elections. The argument of the New York Times’ editors is essentially that because one level of government ended the racial segregation that another level of government imposed, this shows the superiority of government over the free market.

Now, this is not to say that the owner of a drug-store lunch counter would have served blacks.  Some most certainly would not.  But we’ll never know how long that state of affairs might have lasted, because the state governments of the South did everything in their power to ensure that it would last, until forced to do otherwise. And to argue that the free market would never have eliminated Jim Crow is to argue an unprovable negative.  What we do know, however, is that there are examples, such as bus companies refusing to make blacks sit in the back of buses until forced to do so by state law, that indicate otherwise.

To the extent that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was necessary, it was only so by virtue of eliminating state laws that imposed segregation, and restricted free markets from functioning.So, what “succeeding centuries have shown” is that government restriction of free markets kept segregation alive for a century after the Civil War. In presenting such a revisionist version of history, either the editors of the New York Times are abysmally ignorant, or they are actively malign.

Or both.

As far as government rescuing the economy from the Great Depression, a number of serious economic historians would argue precisely the opposite. To the extent that the government did end the Great Depression, it did so by absorbing 12 million citizens into the armed forces, and producing billions of dollars worth of war materials, a great proportion of which were destroyed between 1942 and 1945, along with about half a million of those uniformed Americans. Which, I shouldn’t have to point out, hardly commends it much as a general recipe for escaping economic downturns.

In any case, the child-like trust the editors of the New York Times seem to have for government action hardly seems warranted in either instance.

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-05-21

The Red Badge of Courtesy #lesserbooks #

A Midsummer Night's Insomnia #lesserbooks #

A Brief History of Tim #lesserbooks #

Mein Kampfire #lesserbooks #

I'm taking out my new Hobie Revolution Kayak for the first time tomorrow–today, actually–to Lake Hodges. Very excited. Expect pics, vid. #

The Puppy of the Baskervilles #lesserbooks #

The Sandwich of Monte Cristo #lesserbooks #

Tarzan of the Suburbs #lesserbooks #

The Moon is a Gentle Mistress #lesserbooks #

The Caves of Tissue #lesserbooks #

The Postman Never Rings #lesserbooks #

The Three Bruises Of Palmer Eldritch #lesserbooks #

The Day of the Truffles #lesserbooks #

A Clockwork Papaya #lesserbooks #

The Andromeda Stain #lesserbooks #

Ender's Nap #lesserbooks #

Starship Paralegals #lesserbooks #

A Connecticut Janitor in King Arthur's Court #LesserBooks #

Mopey Dick #LesserBooks #

Tom Swift and his Common Butter Knife #LesserBooks #

A Journey to the Center of Town #LesserBooks #

A Picture of Mars #LesserBooks #

The Food of the Dogs #LesserBooks #

The Timeshare Property of Doctor Moreau #LesserBooks #

The Comptroller of the Rings #LesserBooks #

To Mildly Irritate a Mockingbird #LesserBooks #

Heart of Moderate Discoloration #LesserBooks #

The History of the Peloponnesian Wart #LesserBooks #

The Administrative Assistant of Oz #lesserbooks #

Barleby the Scribbler #lesserbooks #

All Quiet on the Western Side of the Yard #lesserbooks #

A Good Manatee is Hard to Find #lesserbooks #

The Lingonberries of Wrath #lesserbooks #

Lord of the Moths #lesserbooks #

Indigestion Comes for the Archbishop #lesserbooks #

Remembrance of Things That Happened Yesterday #lesserbooks #

The Vaguely Satisfied Wives of Windsor #lesserbooks #

The Taming of the Vole #lesserbooks #

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Spain Admits “Green Jobs” Program A Disaster

Eventually, no matter hard one tries to wish it away, reality will smack you in the face. Hard.

As predicted was inevitable, today the Spanish newspaper La Gaceta runs with a full-page article fessing up to the truth about Spain’s “green jobs” boondoggle, which happens to be the one naively cited by President Obama no less than eight times as his model for the United States. It is now out there as a bust, a costly disaster that has come undone in Spain to the point that even the Socialists admit it, with the media now in full pursuit.

[...]

La Gaceta boldly exposes the failure of the Spanish renewable policy and how Obama has been following it. The headline screams: “Spain admits that the green economy as sold to Obama is a disaster.”

According to the Spanish government, the policy has been such a failure that electricity prices are skyrocketing and the economy is losing jobs as a result (emphasis added):

The internal report of the Spanish administration admits that the price of electricity has gone up, as well as the debt, due to the extra costs of solar and wind energy. Even the government numbers indicate that each green job created costs more than 2.2 traditional jobs, as was shown in the report of the Juan de Mariana Institute. Besides that, the official document is almost a copy point by point of the one that led to Calzada being denounced [lit. "vetoed"] by the Spanish Embassy in an act in the U.S. Congress.

The presentation recognizes explicitly that “the increase of the electric bill is principally due to the cost of renewable energies.” In fact, the increase in the extra costs of this industry explains more than 120% of the variation in the bill and has prevented the reduction in the costs of conventional electricity production to be reflected on the bills of the citizens.

[Translation of Spanish article provided by Chris Horner]

Despite these facts, which quite frankly have been known for quite some time, the Obama administration is still planning to move ahead with its own policy based explicitly on the Spanish one. As Horner states:

That fight [over the "green economy" policy] begins anew next week with the likely Senate vote on S.J. Res. 26, the Murkowski resolution to disapprove of the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to impose much of this agenda through the regulatory back door without Congress ever having authorized such an enormous economic intervention.

Just as with the ObamaCare boondoggle that was rammed into law despite its (a) known problems that are only now being admitted to, (b) real costs that are only now becoming evident, and (c) unacceptability to the vast majority of Americans, Obama is going full steam ahead with this “green economy” nonsense. Regardless of facts or reality, this administration is dead set on re-creating America in the image it likes best (i.e. European social democracy), regardless of the costs. So long as we end up with all the bells and whistles that are the hallmarks of our European betters (e.g. universal health care, carbon taxes, depleted military, enhanced welfare state, overwhelming government controls of the economy, sufficiently apologetic “transnationalist” foreign policy), the actual results of that transformation are unimportant. We may end up an economic basket case a la Greece, but hey, at least we’ll have all the nanny-state accouterments necessary to commiserate with the cool European kids.

It’s gotten to the point where pointing out that the emperor has no clothes only results in naked orgies of Utopian spending. This cannot end well.

[HT: InstaDriscoll]

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ICE Chief says he may not enforce immigration law

Do you know John Morton?  He’s the chief of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Note the last word in his agency’s name.  Enforcement.

That’s his job.  Yet he says:

Echoing comments by President Barack Obama and others in the administration, Morton said that Arizona’s new law targeting illegal immigration is not “good government.” The law makes it a crime to be in the state illegally and requires police to check suspects for immigration paperwork.

Morton said his agency will not necessarily process illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona officials. The best way to reduce illegal immigration is through a comprehensive federal approach, not a patchwork of state laws, he said.

“I don’t think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution,” Morton said.

It really doesn’t matter what you think, does it Mr. Morton – your job is to enforce the federal laws against illegal immigration.  And if a state sends you “illegal immigrants” which it has rounded up, I don’t believe you should have or do have any other choice but to “process” them.

~McQ

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Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, asked to resign

In one of the few cases in DC of responsibility being attached to failure, Blair has been asked to resign in the wake of the failure of intelligence agencies, especially the National Counterterrorism Center which he oversees, to foil the Christmas day bomber and the more recent Times Square bomber.

The NY Times says of his resignation:

It also fuels new doubts about the success, and wisdom, of the major intelligence overhaul in 2004 that created the spymaster position.

It does more than “fuel new doubts”, it points to two distinct failures in which mass casualty events were avoided only because the bombs themselves failed.  But there was more than just the failures going on within the organization established to oversee our intelligence community.  Apparently the usual infighting, something most wanted to see eliminated as much as possible, was rampant and, it appears, the CIA won:

Mr. Blair’s relationship with the White House was rocky since the start of the Obama administration, and he fought a rear-guard action against efforts by the Central Intelligence Agency to cut down the size and power of the national intelligence director’s staff. He is the first high-ranking member of the Obama national security team to depart.

Mr. Blair’s departure could strengthen the hand of the C.I.A operatives, who have bristled at directives from Mr. Blair’s office. In recent months, Mr. Blair has been outspoken about reining in the C.I.A.’s covert activities, citing their propensity to backfire and tarnish America’s image.

For the most part, the CIA’s drone fight – and successes – in Pakistan have been the most evident success to date for the administration and given the CIA some weight in the war among the agencies.  As the Times notes of Blair’s position:

Yet most intelligence experts agree that the job has been troubled from the start, having little actual power over the operations and budget of a sprawling intelligence infrastructure that the Pentagon and C.I.A. still dominate. The vast majority of America’s annual intelligence budget, nearly $50 billion, is spent on spy satellites and high-tech listening devices under Pentagon control.

Humint – one of the most important and mostly ignored element of intelligence gathering (and noted as such by every board and agency post-9/11 review) apparently continues to be ignored and the walls appear to be just as high as ever between the agencies. Additonally, the usual suspects appear to have the same power and weight as they had pre-9/11.  The bureaucrats created a new position, but gave it little power and little aurthority, but plenty of responsibility.  The usual results have obtained from such an arrangement.

Meanwhile, we have an nifty new name and acronym for the “war on terror”.  Yes, folks, important stuff – it is now called “Countering Violent Extremism” or CVE.  I’m sure you’ll sleep better tonight knowing that’s been settled.

~McQ

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Dale’s Observations For 2010-05-20

WW1 started when Gavrilo Prinzep shot Franz Ferdinand. Germany's ban on naked short selling yesterday may be the financial equivalent. #

Richard Blumenthal says he "misspoke" and had a few misplaced words". Yeah. The words were "I" and "Vietnam". http://bit.ly/bMqEp0 #

Dow closes -376.51. 10-year Treasury Yield drops 95 basis points. There's no way to come up with a positive spin on today. #

http://bit.ly/a5gUVa The Democrat-controlled House Armed Services Committee has dealt a potential deathblow to plans to close Guantanamo Bay #

Ask yourself a question: if the economy is recovering so nicely, then why has the Dow dropped 800 points in the last month? #

Both the Dow and NASDAQ are essentially where they were during the "flash crash" low last week. Dow 4000 doesn't seem as silly as it did. #

http://bit.ly/aw88fd Dow Theorist Richard Russell: Sell Everything, You Won't Recognize America By The End Of The Year. #

The Times of London asks "Can the Euro survive?" I suspect the Euro will, though the Euro-zone may be a LOT smaller. http://bit.ly/d9T5W4 #

The good news: Treasury prices rise, sending interest rates down. Bad news: weekly claims jump, leading indicators decline, Dow -200. #

Hawaii 5-0 is coming back. The old show had the best credits: With Zulu as Kono…and Kam Fong as Chin Ho. #

You only live once. Might as well enjoy it. My new Hobie Revolution Mirage Drive Kayak. http://twitpic.com/1p958a #

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Mexican President Calderon – flaming hypocrisy from the lawn of the White House

Anyone who reads this blog for more than a day or so is probably familiar with the fact that I’m not a big fan of hypocrisy.  Especially when it presents itself as self-righteously as it did yesterday in the words of Mexican President Calderon.  Specifically, this paragraph:

In Mexico, we are and will continue being respectful of the internal policies of the United States and its legitimate right to establish in accordance to its Constitution whatever laws it approves.  But we will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals.  And we oppose firmly the S.B. 1070 Arizona law given in fair principles that are partial and discriminatory.

Take sentence one – a country that allows the wholesale illegal immigration of a large part of its citizenship into the United States is respectful of nothing concerning the internal policies of the US or it’s “legitimate right” to establish its laws.

Second sentence: pure bovine feces.  It’s a strawman – no law that I know of, either federal or state “criminalizes migration”.  It make it a crime to try to immigrate ILLEGALLY.  I.e. not go through the proper procedures as outlined in those law Calderon claims to so highly “respect”.

Last sentence – SB 1070 does not introduce “partiality’ or “discrimination”.  It enforces federal laws already on the record (for instance, federal law requires all legal immigrants to carry their immigration identification paperwork with them at all times).

The real hypocrisy, however, comes from Mexico’s own immigration laws.  If Arizona’s SB 1070 is “draconian” come up with a good description of these:

Mexico welcomes only foreigners who will be useful to Mexican society:

– Foreigners are admitted into Mexico “according to their possibilities of contributing to national progress.” (Article 32)

– Immigration officials must “ensure” that “immigrants will be useful elements for the country and that they have the necessary funds for their sustenance” and for their dependents. (Article 34)

– Foreigners may be barred from the country if their presence upsets “the equilibrium of the national demographics,” when foreigners are deemed detrimental to “economic or national interests,” when they do not behave like good citizens in their own country, when they have broken Mexican laws, and when “they are not found to be physically or mentally healthy.” (Article 37)

– The Secretary of Governance may “suspend or prohibit the admission of foreigners when he determines it to be in the national interest.” (Article 38)

Mexican authorities must keep track of every single person in the country:

– Federal, local and municipal police must cooperate with federal immigration authorities upon request, i.e., to assist in the arrests of illegal immigrants. (Article 73)

– A National Population Registry keeps track of “every single individual who comprises the population of the country,” and verifies each individual’s identity. (Articles 85 and 86)

– A national Catalog of Foreigners tracks foreign tourists and immigrants (Article 87), and assigns each individual with a unique tracking number (Article 91).

Foreigners with fake papers, or who enter the country under false pretenses, may be imprisoned:

– Foreigners with fake immigration papers may be fined or imprisoned. (Article 116)

– Foreigners who sign government documents “with a signature that is false or different from that which he normally uses” are subject to fine and imprisonment. (Article 116)

Foreigners who fail to obey the rules will be fined, deported, and/or imprisoned as felons:

– Foreigners who fail to obey a deportation order are to be punished. (Article 117)

– Foreigners who are deported from Mexico and attempt to re-enter the country without authorization can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. (Article 118)

– Foreigners who violate the terms of their visa may be sentenced to up to six years in prison (Articles 119, 120 and 121). Foreigners who misrepresent the terms of their visa while in Mexico — such as working with out a permit — can also be imprisoned.

Under Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony. The General Law on Population says,

– “A penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of three hundred to five thousand pesos will be imposed on the foreigner who enters the country illegally.” (Article 123)

– Foreigners with legal immigration problems may be deported from Mexico instead of being imprisoned. (Article 125)

– Foreigners who “attempt against national sovereignty or security” will be deported. (Article 126)

There are scads more you can read through that make what Calderon is squealing about seem like child’s play.

Calderon and Mexico are part of the problem, not part of the solution.  And feting this crew who come here and mischaracterized immigration in general and what is going on in Arizona while doing nothing to stop the problem is simply nonsense.  Until they begin to be part of the solution, they don’t deserve the time of day, much less a state dinner.   Until they step up to stem the tide of ILLEGALS we owe them nothing.  And the irony of having a immigration code of their own that is much more draconian than anything we have shouldn’t be lost in this either.  They don’t put up with what they demand we put up with and we ought to call them on that.

But we won’t.  Instead this administration will call out Arizona which has only attempted to enforce the laws the federal government refuses to do all the while Obama smiles and fetes the source of the problem and refuses to demand Mexico do anything on its end.

~McQ

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Who Does Obama Represent Anyway?

When the office of President was created in 1787, its primary function was to be the face and voice of the nation to the world. Above all else, the executive branch represents Americans in the diplomatic and, when necessary, martial contexts to friend and foe alike. Given the foregoing, what exactly are we to make of Obama aligning himself with Mexican President Felipe Calderon against citizens of the United States?

Mexican President Felipe Calderón, arriving at the White House for a state visit, wasted no time today criticizing Arizona’s new immigration law as unfair and discriminatory.

The law makes it illegal to be in the United States without permission, and requires police to demand documentation from anyone suspected of doing so [ed. - Wrong, on both assertions]. Such a law, Calderón asserted at a Rose Garden news conference with President Barack Obama, will subject Mexican citizens to discrimination and was created so that people who “work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals.”

Obama also condemned the law, and left open the possibility he’ll try to block it.

Leaving aside the editorializing about Arizona’s law in this “reporting,” it’s a bit puzzling as to what Calderon is even complaining about. First of all, his country has far more draconian laws regarding illegal immigration than the U.S. Secondly, there is a real question regarding whom he thinks he represents. As Allahpundit noted:

I’m not sure which Mexicans Calderon’s presuming to speak for. If he means Mexican citizens who are in the country legally, fair enough. If he means illegals, i.e. if he’s actually complaining on behalf of people who aren’t even supposed to be here, his balls are even brassier than I thought. And if he means Americans of Mexican descent, he’s belittling Obama’s own authority. Last time I checked, if anyone’s going to do any diplomatic conveying on behalf of U.S. citizens, it’s the president of the United States.

What’s really sad is that, of the two heads of state, Calderon is the only one actually looking for the interests of his own people. For his part, Obama stood firmly against his own citizens and with the interests of another country:

President Obama left little doubt Wednesday that his administration will challenge Arizona’s divisive new immigration law, saying the measure “has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion.”

After a private meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the Oval Office, Obama denounced the state law cracking down on illegal immigration, and he also sent a clear message that a review led by Justice Department lawyers is likely to culminate in legal action.

Obama said that “a fair reading of the language of the statute” suggests those who appear to be illegal immigrants could be “harassed or arrested.”

Er, wouldn’t a “fair reading” involve, y’know, actually reading the law? To date, no one in the Obama Administration has bothered to do so, although they have all been quite ready to castigate it anyway.

The truly disturbing thing, however, is the sheer abdication loyalty (not to mention responsibility) on the part of our chief executive, by taking a hostile stance against those whom Obama (nominally) represents, all in support of the interests of the foreign nation most responsible for our border mess in the first place. It’s almost as if Obama thinks he represents the rest of the world in its dealing with Americans.

Perhaps, when Obama finally gets around to reading SB-1070, someone should slip a copy of the Constitution in there as well. He seems to have forgotten about … if he ever cared in the first place.

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Nice – lectures on fiscal responsibility from … China

Who would have ever thought to see the day the US was lectured on its economic policy by the Red Chinese?  Even worse, who would have believed the Chinese would be right?

Sovereign debt troubles in Europe underscore how important it is for the United States to control its own borrowing as its indebtedness reaches concerning levels, a senior Chinese official said on Thursday.

With China facing criticism for holding its currency in a de facto dollar peg, assistant finance minister Zhu Guangyao shifted attention to Beijing’s own worries about U.S. policies, especially its soaring deficit, ahead of high-level bilateral meetings next week.

[...]

China will look to coordinate its economic policies with the United States as a buffer against the turbulence and would also like the G20 group of nations to play a role in strengthening the global response, Zhu said.

But the United States needs to take a hard look at its own fiscal situation in the light of what has happened in Europe, he said.

We continue to hear from those like Paul Krugman that debt is fine in conditions like this, that in fact, we haven’t spent enough.  Obviously that’s not worked out too well, has it?  And, as we’re seeing in Europe, especially Greece, when debt reaches a certain proportion of GDP, it becomes unsustainable.  Guess what China, a country holding almost a trillion dollars of our debt, is worried about?

“We hope that the U.S. deficit will fall as a proportion of GDP as the economy recovers and reach a sustainable level,” Zhu said.

Well, Mr. Zhu, if you look at the projected 10 years of budgeting the Obama administration has forecast, you’re not going to get a very warm and fuzzy feeling about that. 

But here’s a promise – you will get all the lip service to that end that you can stomach.  And, as most Americans are learning, this administration considers talking about something akin to doing something about it.  In the meantime watch closely as they continue to spend us into oblivion and eventually erode the value of the treasury holdings you hold.

All the while they’ll continue to say to anyone who will listen – “we’ve got to address this debt, it is unsustainable” all as trillions in borrowed money continue to go flying out the door.  

~McQ

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Guess what unexpectedly rose again?

If you said jobless claims, you’d be right:

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 471,000 in the week ended May 15, the highest level since the week ended April 10, the Labor Department said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 440,000 from the previously reported 444,000, which was revised marginally up to 446,000 in Thursday’s report.

The four-week moving average of new claims, which is considered a better measure of underlying labor market trends, rose 3,000 to 453,500.

To give you an idea of what the nation is facing in unemployment, a little chart to make the point:

Remember, President Obama continues to claim that without his pork laden “stimulus” package (something the “party of ‘no'” voted against as a bloc), things would have been much, much worse. Really?

And also remember that when he touted that “stimulus” he promised it would halt the unemployment slide at 8%.  I assume the GOP sees his strategy, given the numbers and the promised results as an effective counter to his claim the “stimulus” worked.

On a non-political note, this week’s claims simply point out that we still have a long way to go before we begin to see a steady improvement in the unemployment rate.  And, with the European crisis festering, we may see it get worse again, before it gets better.

~McQ

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