Steve G.

Archive for the ‘Personal Responsibility’ Category

Earl Ofari Hutchinson Scares Me

In Drug War, History, Immigration, Libertarian, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Minorities, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Republican, Ron Paul, US Government, War on February 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Three days ago, Mr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson posted a piece at The Huffington Post concerning Ron Paul, the man who won the straw poll at the 2010 CPAC thanks largely to the huge number of young people who attended the event.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hutchinson’s post contains a number of errors as well as a number of rather disturbing comments and implications.

Before I address those concerns, however, I wanted, simply as a point of objectivity, list some things on which I disagree with Dr. Paul:

(1) Although Paul does supports gay marriage (as he made clear in interviews with Elliot Schrage and with John Stossel), he unfortunately also supports the so-called Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is both unconstitutional and heterosexist. I do not understand how Paul can rationally defend his support for this legislation, since it creates a federal definition of marriage which the federal government has no authority to create, and since it is, once again, heterosexist.

(2) Ron Paul unfortunately does not support open borders, even though government regulation and planning of human migration is both economically backward and unconstitutional.

(3) Ron Paul supports copyrights and patents, whereas I do not.

(4) Ron Paul does not share my nuanced (and difficult to describe in short passages) view on abortion.

And, finally, (5) Ron Paul is not an anarchist, and as such, is simply not radical enough.

These are all flaws that Ron Paul has, but compared to other politicians, these flaws are so few in number that I’m willing to look past them and throw my support to Ron Paul. He is one of the few politicians in either establishment party for whom I would not feel uncomfortable voting.

With these points dutifully addressed, I believe it is now appropriate to detail the flaws I find with Mr. Hitchinson’s post.

Mr. Hutchinson comments on what he calls Ron Paul’s “controversial off beat quips on race matters,” but fails to give even one quote to illustrate what sort of “quips” Paul allegedly makes.

It is possible that Mr. Hutchinson is referring to the Ron Paul Newsletters from the ’80s and early ’90s, but I believe it has been fairly-well demonstrated that Ron Paul did not author these, and was likely unaware what the specific articles in his newsletters even said. Of course, this isn’t to say we should not hold Paul to task for being an irresponsible editor; we most absolutely should. There is no defence for his irresponsible failure to even read what was being published in his newsletters. But, at the same time, there is not one shred of empirical evidence I have ever come across to indicate that Ron Paul himself is in any way racist or has ever said anything disparaging about other “races.” (I have opted to put the word “races” in quotation marks for, in my opinion, “race” does not actually exist; it is nothing more than a social construct. I regard myself as a member of the human race.) In 2007, I conducted a detailed analysis of the Newsletters. The results of my analysis are available here.

Mr. Hutchinson also references “a 30 second TV spot that ran in New Hampshire during the 2008 campaign,” an ad that was not particularly tasteful, nor particularly individualistic. What Hutchinson fails to mention is that many grassroots Ron Paul supporters disliked the ad and made their discontent known. I should know: I was one of them. Here is what Justin Raimondo, another Ron Paul supporter, had to say of the ad.

I suspect that Paul issued this ad to appeal to those conservatives who viewed him, ignorantly enough, as “soft on terrorism.” I actually approve of Mr. Hutchinson’s critique of the ad itself, but it would have been nice if he had presented a balanced acknowledgement of its negative reception amongst Paulians.

Then, shockingly and disgustingly, Mr. Hutchinson attacks Ron Paul for not being bloodthirsty enough. Ron Paul had correctly asserted that slavery could have been and should have been ended without war. Paul had also correctly asserted that no other country that abolished slavery engaged in civil war to do so. Mr. Hutchinson refers to this as “historical dumbness” but fails to show even a shred of evidence to the contrary of Paul’s claims.

I don’t if Mr. Hutchinson has ever studied in detail the civil war era, but I have studied it to some degree, and what I discovered had caused me to lose all respect for Lincoln. Growing up, I had considered Lincoln a hero. But upon studying the matter, I discovered (1) that the war was not even fought on the grounds of ending slavery, and that the slavery issue was not even brought up until halfway into the war; (2) the slavery issue was only brought up as a means of enticing the South to rejoin the union, and Lincoln made it abundantly clear that he was willing to keep slavery going if it meant the union would be reunited; (3) the abolitionists of the day were not fans of Lincoln, and were the first to point out that his Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave; (4) Lincoln engaged in a form of enslavement called conscription; (5) Lincoln jailed dissenters for speaking out against war, and even suspended habeas corpus; and (6) Lincoln made openly racist statements about black people that ought to sicken any modern American, liberal or conservative.

I must admit, I find it downright scary that Mr. Hutchinson dismisses Paul’s claim that we can make meaningful change without resorting to war.

Mr. Hutchinson claims that Paul “asserted that blacks are criminally inclined, political dumb bells, and chronic welfare deadbeats.” I would like to see Mr. Hutchinson present one verified quote from Paul on this. Again, while there were indeed disgusting, racist comments that made their way into the Newsletters, there is no evidence that Ron Paul wrote or even read said comments. If any evidence were to arise, I would be the first to denounce Paul; yet empirical evidence remains un-presented.

While there was indeed a few white supremacists who supported Dr. Paul, there is no evidence that a “hobnob” occurred with them. Moreover, the vast majority of Paul supporters were extremely embarrassed when it came to light that there was some racist scumbag who was planning to vote for Paul. This is why so many Ron Paul supporters in 2007 came to Paul’s defence, saying that Paul was not a racist and that the tiny number of white supremacists ought there planning to vote for Paul did not represent the rest of us.

Hutchinson scares me when he criticised Ron Paul for correctly pointing out that “[g]overnment as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry.” Does Mr. Hutchinson not know that government is a particularly racist institution? It was an institution called “government” that murdered innocent Jews simply for being Jewish; it was an institution called “government” that sent innocent Asians into dirty camps in California; it was an institution called “government” that instituted Jim Crow laws, which systematically infringed upon the rights of a people simply for looking a little different; it was an institution called “government” that protected and defended the institution of slavery centuries. In fact, the U.S. government is still racist: just look at how the war on drugs is used to attack blacks so much more often than whites, despite the fact that whites use just as much drugs as blacks. Government is racist, government is patriarchal, government is evil. Mr. Hutchinson cites a few tiny examples of a government doing some less-indecent things, as though this somehow undoes or excuses governments around the world for all the horrors they have unleashed upon people. It does not! Moreover, if Paul errs in any way on this matter, it’s in not being even more opposed to statism than he is.

Mr. Hutchinson also writes that “Paul’s views are a corn ball blend of libertarianism, know-nothing Americanism, and ultra conservative laissez faire limited government.” I hold, however, that there is nothing “limited government” about conservatism. Perhaps this is a minor complaint, since so many people do define the term in so many different ways; but, I nevertheless desire to state my position on the matter, and in so doing, to promote the definition I employ for the term.

More importantly, Mr. Hutchinson makes the error of describing Paul’s foreign policy as “neo-isolationist.” In reality, Paul’s foreign policy is far more similar to that of the classical liberal Richard Cobden, as Dr. Thomas Woods has pointed out. Paul has nothing against employing diplomacy and open dialogue with other countries, nor has he anything against trade with other countries; in fact, it is still the popular liberal foreign policy view that open trade between countries diminishes or eliminates the tendencies for war-making between said counties. Paul isn’t supporting the goal of cutting America off from the rest of the world, he simply opposing American imperialism in other countries. I do not know if I should infer from Mr. Hutchinson’s comments whether or not he supports imperialism, war-mongering, and militarism, but if he does, then I should hasten to add that such an aggressive foreign policy scares me.

Finally, Mr. Hutchinson says that Paul’s speech at CPAC contained “a pinch here and there of racial baits,” but again Mr. Hutchinson fails to give even one example.

In conclusion, Hutchinson’s piece is poorly researched and poorly argued. While I believe there are legitimate criticisms one can make about Paul, this article reiterates many of the unfounded ones that have been demonstrated to be false time and time again. While Hutchinson does make a couple good points, these are unfortunately overshadowed by his veiled militarism and other statist viewpoints. Thus, I would hope to see less articles of this nature from The Huffington Post in the future.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Margaret Chase Smith’s “Declaration of Conscience” (1950)

In Communism, Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Republican, US Government on February 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I was recently reminded of this speech by Margaret Chase Smith, the legendary female moderate Republican from Maine (she served in BOTH the House and the Senate). The only thing which Maine’s two current female Senators have in common with her is that they are female and Republicans. The link is to the text of Chase’s incredible “Declaration of Conscience” speech. It is as applicable today as it was when she delivered it 60 years ago, and I believe that it should be required reading in every introductory course on American government. Margaret Chase Smith was still in the Senate when I was a child in the 1960s and is one of the remarkable politicians and leaders who, in my opinion, made the Senate in the 60s arguably the greatest collection of Americans in service to their nation since the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The example that was set by those men and women are why I believe so strongly that government CAN be a good thing in all of our lives.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/margaretchasesmithconscience.html

Mr. President:

I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear. It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as briefly as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.

It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to any American who is not a Senator any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American—and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us—yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we “dish out” to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul-searching—for us to weigh our consciences—on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America—on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.
I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism:

The right to criticize;

The right to hold unpopular beliefs;

The right to protest;

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know someone who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as “Communists” or “Fascists” by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases, such as the Amerasia case, the Hiss case, the Coplon case, the Gold case, to cause the nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln’s day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation—in addition to being a Party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of “know nothing, suspect everything” attitudes. Today we have a Democratic Administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself—and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic Administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic Administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic Administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances–that show the people that our Democratic Administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic Administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia though key officials of the Democratic Administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could—simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.

I don’t want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.

As members of the Minority Party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in the Senate debate—and I use the word “debate” advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from the side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don’t like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the Floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the Floor of the Senate.

As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of “confuse, divide, and conquer.” As an American, I don’t want a Democratic Administration “whitewash” or “cover-up” any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican “Fascist” just as much I condemn a Democratic “Communist.” I condemn a Democrat “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Republican “Communist.” They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts that I have drafted what I call a “Declaration of Conscience.” I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye, and Senator Hendrickson have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence.

Why I Reject Mike Gravel’s National Initiative

In Activism, Democracy, Libertarian, Local Politics, Minorities, Personal Responsibility, Spending, US Government on February 10, 2010 at 6:37 pm

For some time now, Mike Gravel, a former Democratic Senator representing Alaska, has been advocating the National Initiative for Democracy (NI4D).  It was, in fact, the main focus of his 2008 campaign for the U.S. presidency.

The NI4D is a proposal, put forward by The Democracy Foundation, to create ballot initiatives at the U.S. federal level, that is, allow the American people the power to propose and vote on laws directly, bypassing the politician in Washington.  Along with Gravel, Ralph Nader and Tom Knapp have also endorsed this proposal.

Gravel makes this sound good, claiming that the people can, under his proposal, repeal the many egregious laws foisted upon us by the political class.  He provides a solidly libertarian defence, saying that this initiative will “stem[] government growth.”  Writes Gravel,

American citizens can gain control of their government by becoming lawmakers and turning its purpose to public benefit, and stemming government growth—the people are more conservative than their elected ofcials regardless of political party.

With all due respect to Mr. Gravel, whom I still consider to be a hero for his role in ending the draft and the Vietnam War, I reject the NI4D proposal.  While it’s not the worst proposal in the world, it fails to address the fundamental problem of governance vis-à-vis the natural, inalienable rights of the individual.  It does not promote true self-government, but rather erects an illusory self-governance.

We need to devolve all government power, not simply down to the state level, not simply down to the county level, not simply down to the level of the local community (although that would certainly be a step in the right direction), but all the way down to the individual level.  No person should be able to have power over another person’s life except insofar as the second person chooses to allow the person to have said power, and for a duration no longer than the second person allows. Unfortunately, democracy allows majority factions to rule over minorities, and as such, I have to reject democracy in favour of individualist anarchism.

Now, by anarchism I certainly do not mean that chaotic state of existence we call lawlessness or anomie.  By anarchy, I merely mean that state of existence in which no person is considered to legitimately rule over the person or justly-acquired property of anyone else.  My anarchism is clearly a libertarian anarchism, for I consider such actions as rape, murder, and the theft or unconsensual destruction of someone’s justly-acquired property as violations of natural law, what I call “natural crimes.”  Of course, one is justified in using defensive force, if one so wishes, against these “natural criminals,” so long as the defensive force used is proportional to the initiatory forced employed by the criminal.

Benjamin Tucker, the nineteenth century individualist anarchist most famous for his newspaper Liberty, defined anarchists as

simply unterrified Jeffersonian Democrats.  They believe that “the best government is that which governs least,” and that that which governs least is no government at all.  Even the simple police function of protecting person and property they deny to governments supported by compulsory taxation.  Protection they look upon as a thing to be secured, as long as it is necessary, by voluntary association and cooperation for self-defence, or as a commodity to be purchased, like any other commodity, of those who offer the best article at the lowest price.  In their view it is in itself an invasion of the individual to compel him to pay for or suffer a protection against invasion that he has not asked for and does not desire.

Gravel correctly notes, in his defence of the NI4D, that “[g]overnments throughout history have been tools of oppression,” but he then incorrectly adds: “they need not be.”  The state is an inherently oppressive, inherently aggressive institution, for all states, in order to be states, either must steal the products of someone’s labour, must dictate how people may live their lives and spend their money (even when said people are acting entirely nonviolently), or must use aggression to prevent private security agencies from having an equal footing under the law with itself.  If the state were to cease doing these three things, then it would cease to be a state, but would instead become simply a private charity or firm.

In an address delivered in 1877, the venerable liberal Lord Acton stated,

It is bad to be oppressed by a minority; but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority.  For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist.  But from the absolute will of an entire people there is no appeal, no redemption, no refuge but treason.  The humblest and most numerous class of the Athenians united the legislative, the judicial, and in part, the executive power.  The philosophy that was then in the ascendant taught them that there is no law superior to that of the state, and that, in the state, the law-giver is above the law.

If the NI4D is established, people will be no freer than they were prior to its establishment.  All that will have changed is that the individual will gain a single, minuscule vote on matters of dire importance, a vote that will be completely overwhelmed by the combined votes of the others.  In other words, the individual will still be under the tyrannical control of others, will still be a victim of oppression.

If people are reticent in telling George Bush and Barack Obama, “No, you don’t have a right to run my life,” how much less willing will they be to say that to the supposed vox populi?

In summation, the National Initiative for Democracy sounds nice, but it won’t give people the freedom to control their own lives, all it will give them is a vote in the control of the lives of their neighbours.  Worse yet, because it will create the illusion of self-rule, of self-government, it will discourage people from fighting for their own liberation, and as such, is a highly anti-libertarian and counter-revolutionary idea.

—Alexander S. Peak

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The Next Greatest Generation?

In Activism, Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Economics, Fraud, Libertarian, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Pork, Republican, Spending, Taxation, US Government on January 13, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I know of very few people in America today who would disagree with the statement that America is heading for a mountain cliff heedless of the dangers which will await us once we plunge over it. While people of differing ideologies might not agree about the various factors which are pushing us farther and farther into danger, I think that one thing that can be agreed upon by all factions is that our national budgets / spending are out of control and is one of the contributing factors. There are two basic topics which I want to discuss with this article. One is about some factors which I think compound the problems and combine to make our nation fiscally unsustainable. The other is a call to action and sacrifice by my own generation.

Have you ever wondered how one politician can claim that government spending has been reduced while another politician can claim that government spending has been increased and, yet, they can both be telling us the “truth” while our financial problems continue to get worse and worse with each passing year? Well, we can thank the idea of “baseline budgeting” for making such political contortionism possible. Baseline budgeting is the concept that, for a new budget year, you will draw a line at specific totals of spending from the previous budget (the baseline) and you then incrementally increase spending above that baseline. Thus, one politician can say that spending has been cut if the amount of money that will be allocated above the baseline is less than what might otherwise be allocated while the other can say that spending has increased because the current budget is higher than the previous one. In neither case, however, has the issue of the already bloated budget mess been addressed.

On the opposite end of the possible budgeting methods is “zero-based budgeting”. Zero-based budgeting is the process of building a brand new budget from the ground up each and every year. As stated in the Small Business Accounting Guide, “(ZBB) is a method of budgeting which requires you to justify all planned expenditures for each of your new business period[s]. It defers [sic] from traditional incremental methods which may only require you to explain the amounts you need in excess of the previous period’s funding.” (http://www.small-business-accounting-guide.com/zero-based-budgeting.html)

Baseline budgeting is easier for politicians who either can’t be bothered to spend the time necessary to actually create an annual budget from the ground up or who don’t want to cut pet projects and excess pork that benefits their own constituents (and thus, their chances of getting re-elected). Baseline budgeting also increases the likelihood that expenditures will be made annually that no one is actually aware of. To make a baseline budget sustainable over a period of years or even generations, you must have an infinite and ever increasing source of money and resources. Without such an infinite or growing pool of resources, taxes must be continually raised and new sources of taxation must be found, otherwise you have a system which continually increasingly overextends itself. Eventually, the golden goose (the taxpayers and revenue sources) die, leave or rebel because they have no more to give.

If you want to see a demonstration of why continuous baseline budgeting without a sufficient resource pool to draw from creates an unsustainable economy try this, get some Legos® and attach one block to a Lego base. So far, so good, it is solidly grounded. Now, what you do from there is to continue adding new Legos to the stack (not the base, the stack) you have started EXCEPT that, instead of placing new Legos completely over the ones already there, you add each subsequent Lego one step off from the one below. This creates a stair-like effect. The problem is that, without addition support from its base, you eventually reach a point where the weight on the topmost and farthest point of the stack is too great to be supported by the base and the end topples over. When it does collapse though, the top block is not the only one that falls off. Because of the connectivity of the blocks to the ones above and below them, most of the stack will collapse. THAT is the end result of continuous baseline budgeting.

Another way to look at it is that our government is a drug addict and the drug which they need to get high is tax dollars. As with any long-term and strung out junkie, the amount of drugs needed to give them their fix increases. Junkies do not make wise choices. The will ignore food, hygiene, love, any and everything which does not contribute to their high. They will also beg, borrow and steal money from anywhere that they can in order to buy them their drugs because they can’t make rational decisions. Eventually, those who have willingly or unwillingly financed their habit want their money back. If you don’t see where this is going, try watching the movie Less Than Zero and imagine that the character played by Robert Downey, Jr. is our government.

Things would be bad enough if baseline budgeting was the ONLY budgeting problem that our government has. Unfortunately for us (the taxpayers) there are quite a few other flaws in the system. As a result, simply changing our budgeting method to a zero-base budgeting system (or to any one of several other possible ideas, such as program based budgeting) will not fix the problems with government expenditures.

Another of the problems (out of many) is that budgets are made based on PROJECTIONS of what Congress and the President THINK our national income will be for a given year. As a result, the actual amount of what is available is always wrong. If the projection is too high, then money will have to be “borrowed” to make a budget work. If the projection is too low then the excess money will STILL be used to fund SOMETHING. How this problem works is that taxes are due in April and usually by October, the government has a pretty good idea of what they actually have to spend. This is good because it coincides with America’s fiscal year. This is bad because what is being budgeted for is the fiscal year starting the NEXT October. While it would be painful to remedy this (and take several years), the time to present the next year’s budget can be moved back by two or three months each year until eventually budgets that are presented are based on what the real government income was (and which has been in “the bank”) since the PREVIOUS October. This, again, draws back to the analogy of the drug addict and trying to clean him up and wean him off of his drugs. Right now, we are theoretically spending money a year before we have it. We need to move things back until we are only allowed to spend what we have had in our hands since the previous October.

On another front, while in THEORY the budget is made up of a lot of individual budgets for all of the different budget areas, what is now the common practice is to make the process so continuous and time consuming that eventually Congress is forced by time limits to roll everything up into huge and monstrous constructs, so big that NO ONE can actually know what is contained within them, called omnibus budget bills. ( http://corporate.cq.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=232) As a way to delay the “need” of passing of omnibus budget bills, Congress can, and does, pass what is called a “continuing resolution” or a CR. (http://www.thisnation.com/question/003.html) What a CR does is authorize the government to continue spending what it is already spending based on the lowest possible amount… the amount proposed by the Senate, the amount proposed by the House, or the actual expenditure. While holding spending at the lowest level asked for might, on the surface, sound good, it is usually a political ploy to either hurt programs not liked by some members of Congress or to continue funding a pet project that might otherwise be cut. This game is played out until the “clock” runs out and, viola, the only option available is to pass yet another omnibus package.

There are many more problems which simply screw the taxpayer each year, such as earmarks, pet projects, hidden budgets, etc. Did you know that Congress gets an AUTOMATIC pay raise every year unless it votes to specifically NOT give itself a pay raise in any particular year? Because of a law passed in 1989, Congress doesn’t have to do anything or pass anything to get their automatic raise each year. If they do NOTHING they get the raise. (http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/agencies/a/raise4congress.htm) In addition, for a nation which was designed to have no permanent political class, elected office now comes with huge pensions and benefits. (http://money.cnn.com/2006/01/20/commentary/wastler/wastler/index.htm).

In addition, our legislatures operate under a sort of reverse-NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) philosophy when it comes to spending taxpayer’s money. I say reverse because (unlike politicians doing whatever they can to keep anything potentially negative from happening in the locations that they represent, no matter how necessary they might be or how they might be the best solutions for our nation, as a whole), politicians will say that we need to reduce spending EXCEPT for the spending that benefits their districts or states. Hey, we have too many military bases; no problem, we will close some, EXCEPT for the ones in my district. Wow, that project is a huge sinkhole for money but the money goes to my constituents so, by God, I will fight tooth and nail to keep it funded. Everyone agrees that spending needs to be cut but no one is willing to cut spending that benefits them or their businesses, no matter how much sense it might make to stop that spending. We have become a nation of whores who will justify any and every atrocity as long as we personally make money off of it. Such spending is nothing more that wholesale bribery by our legislatures to us, the people, to buy our votes to keep our Senators and Representatives in their jobs. “Every government is a parliament of whores; the thing is, in a democracy, the whores are us.”(Anyone who is interested in how our government works, or doesn’t work, but has not read P. J. O’Rourke’s brilliant Parliament of Whores needs to read it as soon as they can.)

So, what are some of the actual ways in which our government budgeting process and its resulting need for ever larger amounts of revenue harm the people of America. Well, for one thing, if we go back to the drug addict analogy, our government is not just addict, it is also a powerful “crime lord”. For a nation born from a tax revolt, America has become one of the most, if not the most, greedy and oppressive nations in the world when it comes to collecting taxes, even to the extent of its belief that collecting American taxes justifies its right to bully other nations into cooperating with the IRS. The United States is unique in the world in its obsession with collecting taxes from any and every American living outside of the US. (http://www.ivdgl.org/pages/c-lifeevents/expatriation.html) (http://wapedia.mobi/en/Tax_evasion) (http://www.richw.org/dualcit/faq.html#discover)

Unfortunately, this standard only seems to apply to individuals who the government can beat up on. Large American corporations can, for all intents and purposes, buy their way out of being taxed, even when they “base” themselves outside of The United States, by simply giving politicians “great heaping wads of cash” or, to use O’Rourke’s phrase, “more money than you can shake a stick at AND the stick”. If individual citizens were to do this, they would be considered “tax evaders” and prosecuted wherever they might relocate to. America wants “its” money and it is damn well going to get it, even if it means hounding geriatrics into their graves.

So, how can our national and state budgets be fixed before everything collapses? First, some generation is going to have to accept that it is going to be screwed, either by cutting or losing their own benefits or by being left holding the hot potato when it blows up. I realized this many years ago, when my own grandparents were still alive and I, in my twenties, listened to my grandfather get very angry about anything being done or even talked about by the government which might lessen his own benefits without any concern for what kind of mess would be left behind. Now, I loved my grandfather, he still is one of my heroes, but, at that moment, all I could think was “You selfish bastard; what about your own grandkids?

I realize that it is unconscionable to take away from people who have already entered their last years because they cannot rebuild their own lives. We cannot expect those generations to harm themselves like that. If sacrifices are going to be made, one of the younger generations will have to make them. Just as it is not reasonable to ask the dying generations to make such sacrifices, it is immoral to say to younger generations “I don’t care what happens to you or what you are left with. I’m going to get mine while I can and to Hell with anyone else.” (This, of course, is essentially the foundation of Ayn Rand’s objectivist “philosophy”.) This is where my call to action comes in. While this mess was created and worsened by the generations of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, if my own generation doesn’t simply suck it up and take the bullet, it will be the generations of our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will be hurt, and even worse than we would be by taking the hit now.

My grandfather’s generation has been called “the greatest generation” because it fought and died to save the world from the Axis powers in WWII. How can any of us expect to beat what they did? What we can do is harm ourselves in order to make things better for the generations which follow us and, maybe, give them something to live up to. We can become “the NEXT greatest generation”. This is my call to my own generation; this is my call for us to be heroes to the generations that follow us. Let us make the painful choices now. Let us absorb the harm, the lessening of benefits, the belt tightening, the need to rely on others to personally help us because we won’t be getting the help from the government that many of us will need.

I would also ask my readers to keep in mind that not only is my monthly government disability check my own source of income; I have no children to either rely upon or to worry about leaving our messes to. I have every reason to keep things the way that they are now and no reason to worry about how any future generations might be harmed. I have nothing to gain in this and everything to lose, but, if it would help future generations, I would willingly give up what I personally get and need. Would any others from my generation agree to make the necessary sacrifices themselves? Can we be the ones who clean up the mess that has been left to us? Do we have to courage to make ourselves “the next greatest generation”?

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”

© copyright 2010 by Rhys M. Blavier

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

A Modest Libertarian Proposal: For Secessionists, Separatists, Radical Anarchists, Anti-Government Absolutists, Conservative Neo-Republicans, Randian Objectivists, Tea-Baggers, “Me, First & Last” Social Darwinists, and Conspiracy Theorists

In Corruption, Democracy, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, literature, Personal Responsibility, Politics on November 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I did a LOT of driving this last week-end, a LOT. This gave me a great deal of time to think and process recent experiences. One conclusion that I did arrive at is that if a group of people gather together for a common cause (other than masturbation) and then spend their day in a mutual masturbation circle jerk, they will have accomplished nothing.

On Saturday, I went to a libertarian gathering which seemed to be more about libertarians telling themselves how successful they have been at furthering their cause even if they haven’t been able to actually get anyone elected to a significant office. There were no strategies or concrete ideas for getting anyone elected or for spreading the libertarian idea to a wider audience. While I met some good people, I found that the main value for me to have made the trip was in observing and listening to the others there. What I did not hear were any words which spoke of libertarianism as being about anything except “me”. One speaker even lived up to the cliché view of what current libertarians are when she spoke about reading Ayn Rand and realizing that caring about others or helping to make the world a better place has no value.

On Sunday, I drove to my old home town to help some friends do some work on a house. This house has been a special place for a long time. In 1972, a group of college friends found a place to live in off-campus. During the 70s, it was pretty much a commune for the local science fiction group. For probably 15 years it was home to a rotating group but the house was always there for us. For most of the last 20 years, it has been the permanent home to a few of the gang but the house has remained a constant in the lives of many. I moved away and moved on with my life but 17 years later I came back and the group still gathered at the house on regular annual times. I have never lived there or even spent a night there but, when the message went out that there would be a work day on the house, I was there. I gained nothing, at least in objectivist terms, by helping out but it was a small gesture of thanks for what the house and the people who have lived there have meant to me.

The stark contrast between how the two days were spent was startling. A second conclusion I arrived at is that I think that there is more to be gained by working together to build a better world around us than there is from seeing the world as a place where it is ok for the strong to prey on the weak. The week-end reinforced what libertarianism meant to me when I was first attracted to the movement.

Thirty years ago, I had the profound honor of hearing a man named Ed Clark speak at Texas A&M University, courtesy of the Memorial Student Center’s Political Forum committee. Rudder Theater was full that night. There were many there who were, like me at age 20, preparing to vote in our first Presidential election (and for me, my first government election as I briefly lived in the United Kingdom in 1978 – 79). This man was the candidate for a new political party, and was that Party’s first candidate to be on the ballot in all 50 states. The Libertarian movement and idea was getting some national attention because of how “radical” and fresh it was. They had a vision of a limited government which would combine the best facets of conservative fiscal policies with progressive social policies. In a radio interview, Clark described libertarianism as “low-tax liberalism”. Hearing him speak in person was a remarkable experience for me. Not only were his ideas progressive and forward-thinking, they were inclusive and logical.

To this day, I still call myself an Ed Clark libertarian. Unfortunately, the Party pushed Ed Clark and his liberal / moderate wing out during their 1984 convention. If you ask people today what a libertarian is, most of what you will hear are descriptions of a radical, conservative, neo-Republican lunatic fringe group. In 1980, it looked like the Libertarian Party might, one day, have a legitimate influence on American government. Coming up on 2010, it looks like we have crawled beyond the fringe to create our own unique brand of American political lunacy, on a par with the Anti-Masonic “Know Nothing” Party of the 1800s. With this in mind, I want to make a modest proposal to all of those who hate government, despise paying any taxes, want to “be off of the grid” and want to be left completely alone by every government.

We will GIVE you a 5,000 square-mile plot of land in Alaska. Not enough? How about 10,000 square miles? We will set aside that land and will legally declare it to be independent of the United States of America or of any other nation of the world. It will be free land on which you can settle and create your own society with a complete absence of government. You will not be subject to any law or be a part of America in any way… no taxes, no military service, and no government interference of any kind. We will also shoulder the costs to relocate anyone who wants to leave the United States to participate in this experiment. This will be a one-way, one-time ticket. We will take all of you to the border of your new homeland and let you enter it freely and of you own volition. Further, we will assume all of your debts, (up to, say, $25,000). If your debts are greater than that, so what? You will be moving to a place where you will be free from debt collectors. What will your credit score matter up there? We will arrange for the sale of your American property, both to free you from the burden and to help pay for the costs which The United States will incur on your behalf so that you will not be beholden to any other person or nation. In short, we will do everything necessary to help you sever all ties between you and the United States. We will give you what you are asking for in its entirety. You can be completely free from any and all government control or responsibility. By doing this for you, however, there would be a lot of changes that you would need to be aware of.

Remember, infrastructure is created by governments. There will no roads, electricity, water, sanitation, waste removal, hospitals, medical care, medicines, schools, postal service, police or fire departments, judiciary, defense, phones, internet or any other public “improvements” other than what you will be able to create for yourselves. In your new haven, there will be no government, no law, no order, and no society which you do not create for yourself.

We understand that you don’t like anything that is “tainted” by being provided to the general public, and / or bought or created through the use of “Federal Reserve Notes” (and yes, this week-end I heard someone talking about their new business and saying that they would not accept “Federal Reserve Notes”). So you will not be allowed to take any United States currency with you because you will not, of course, need it. You will not be allowed to incur any additional debt through credit so, in preparation for your move, you will be limited to dealing on a cash only basis. If you want to convert it all to gold or silver or gumdrops, you can, but remember, you will have to carry everything you will take in with you. I assume your economy would be based on the barter system. I will be curious, though, about what you will be able to barter with to get AT&T to provide you with communications capabilities, as one example.

Your American citizenship will be permanently revoked, as will those of any of your families, dependents, and friends who join you. As such, you can never again vote in any American election. You can never again enter the United States without proper documentation and / or visas. If you try, you will be subject to being arrested and deported back to your homeland, the same as any other illegal alien, you know, like Mexicans. You will never again receive any government payments, benefits, healthcare (federal or military) or assistance which would “force” you to possess any documentation, utilize our immoral currency or rely in any way on the government which you hate so much. This means that you will never receive any social security payments, Medicare, retirement funds, insurance payments, not even the annual payout made to citizens of Alaska because, of course, you will be citizens of your own non-nation. Oh, and about that land, you will each be able to possess as much of it as you can take and hold onto. You will have the absolute freedom to make your land your own BUT you will not, of course, be given any actual legal title to the land because to give you such title would require a legal and judicial system… and you wouldn’t want that either, would you, because they are also creations of government.

While I suppose that we could allow you to take in a suitcase of your own clothes (whatever you can carry), to fully honor your John Galt desires, we would not allow you to take any tools or other products created by our industrial mass production system. You see, we would want to respect your wishes to not allowing you to be burdened with anything so ignoble as having been purchased with “Federal Reserve Notes”. Maybe we could provide some of you with forges but how you would carry them into your new nation without tools or carts made by tools that you have made for yourself, I don’t know. Even if I had the answer to that, though, you wouldn’t want to know it because you want be pure, untainted and left entirely to your own devices. Each of you, after all, is John Galt.

Of course, you would be completely landlocked by the United States but that, again, would only be out of respect for your demands for complete independence and your wishes to have no “foreign entanglements”. We would thus ensure that you would be free of the temptation and taint of dealing with other nations or, even worse, with the United Nations. No, you will be completely and entirely free. You will be given your own country and cut off from any influence, hindrance, or assistance from anyone outside of your own borders. Imagine if “Escape from New York” was about turning Manhattan into a self-contained country instead of a prison… but without all of the inconvenient reminders of civilization and development like buildings and roads.

We will give you all of it. All you would have to do is give up everything else… oh, and allow those of us who do not believe as you do, those of us who do not share your vision of an anarchist “Heaven on Earth”, free to carry on our ridiculous desire to actually improve the society that we are part of. You will all agree to leave us alone in this immoral world which we believe can be improved. We leave you alone and you leave us alone… for ever (or until you all die off). Do we have a deal?

Now, for those of us who are left when the dust of the mass migration settles, let’s work together to figure out how to make the government we do have better. Let us create a fair and equitable tax system. Let us work on the problem of creating a society which benefits all of the people. Remember, political and philosophical extremes create unworkable absolutes. Some of us believe that the only way to make the system better is by working within it. We can have less government, lower taxes, and a beneficial society. All we have to do is be willing to work for it.

I, for one, will not abandon my fellow Man. My desire for a limited government does not mean that I reject the idea and value of government altogether. I believe in government and I believe that it can be improved, that it can be designed to function effectively. Remember, we get the government that we deserve. In a free society government is the creation and responsibility of a free people. If our government does not work properly, it is our fault for not caring enough to figure out how to make it better. It is also our responsibility to make government work for the people it serves, not be served by the people who work under its system. I am willing to stay here and do what I am capable of doing to make it better for EVERYONE… even those who don’t believe as I do. How many of you out there will help me? Can we work together to create a practical, rational and realistic idea of libertarianism and, from there, a practical, rational and realistic idea of libertarian anarchy which can be “sold” to those outside of our movements? I think that we can and I, for one, am ready to start trying.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor” 

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

Wal-Mart Embraces Fascism

In Corruption, Economics, Health, Media, Personal Responsibility, US Government on July 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Wal-Mart embraces fascism.

Is this claim too extreme?  Am I guilty of hyperbole?  In this case, I think not.

According to the 1 July 2009 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Wal-Mart, the largest “private” employer in the United States, is backing a federal initiative that would require employers to provide health insurance to workers.1

There are many reasons to oppose such a requirement—especially if you are a member of the working class.  As John Stossel writes,

Why on earth would we want mandated insurance from employers?!  Do our employers pay for our food, clothing or shelter?  If they did, why would that be good?  Having my health care tied to my boss invites him to snoop into my private health issues, and if I change jobs I lose coverage.  Employer paid health insurance isn’t free.  It just means we get insurance instead of higher salaries.2

According to Ms. Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, “four in ten Americans change their job every year. ”3  This makes employment-based healthcare all the more problematic for workers.  Moreover, Mr. Neil Trautwein with the National Retail Federation has described the employer mandate as “the single most destructive thing you could do to the health-care system shy of a single-payer system.”4

But the undesirability of employment-based health coverage does not alone make Wal-Mart’s Tuesday announcement a support for fascism.  To understand more clearly why the move is in a fascistic direction, we must first know what fascism is.

Fascism is an ideology that holds the state to be the supreme organisation in and engine or society, outside of which all else and everyone else is unimportant.  Mr. Sheldon Richman defines its economic system as “socialism with a capitalist veneer,” one that seeks to control the means of production “indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners.  …[F]ascism [nationalized property] implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the ‘national interest’—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it.  (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.)”5

Perhaps the best description of the fascist economic model comes from John T. Flynn, who described the system in detail in chapter ten of his 1944 classic As We Go Marching.  The first explicitly fascist state, Italy under Mussolini, established corporatives to direct economic activity and production.  Flynn defines fascist system as “(1) a capitalist type of economic organization, (2) in which the government accepts responsibility to make the economic system work at full energy, (3) using the device of state-created purchasing power effected by means of government borrowing and spending, and (4) which organizes the economic life of the people into industrial and professional groups to subject the system to control under the supervision of the state.”6

Does the federal state’s most recent initiative take us fully into fascism?  Probably not, but it is certainly a step in that direction.

So why, then, would a business want to see the central state usurp greater degrees of power?  The state offers to Big Business what it cannot achieve on the free market: the means to keep out competition.  As historian Gabriel Kolko wrote,

The dominant fact of American political life at the beginning of this century was that big business led the struggle for the federal regulation of the economy.

If economic rationalization could not be attained by mergers and voluntary economic methods, a growing number of important businessmen reasoned, perhaps political means might succeed.7

Kolko’s main thesis is that it was big business that spearheaded governmental regulation of business during the Progressive Era.  The same happens today, and can be exemplified in Wal-Mart’s recent decision.

The Wall Street Journal explains Wal-Mart’s motivation in benign-sounding terms:  “Wal-Mart—which provides insurance to employees”—“wants to level the playing field with companies that don’t.”8  This is a sugary way of saying that Wal-Mart wishes to use the aggressive controls of the state to force firms smaller than it to provide what they may or may not have the resources to provide.  Those firms that are unable to continue operating under the state’s new regulations will, of course, be forced to go out of business (unless they’re able to procure bailouts—this is also problematic), thus leaving less firms with whom Wal-Mart will need to compete.  This is bad not only for workers but also for consumers.

We shouldn’t really be surprised by Wal-Mart’s recent move.  As Mr. Lew Rockwell reported in 2005, Wal-Mart called for an increase to the minimum wage so as to impose a higher cost on smaller competitors.  As Rockwell wrote, “if Wal-Mart can successfully lobby the government to abolish lower-wage firms, it has taken a huge step toward running out its competition.”9

That Wal-Mart would again advocate statist interventions that it knows it can overcome but that its competitors will have more difficulty overcoming goes to show what little Wal-Mart has in way of business ethics.

Notes

1 Janet Adamy and Ann Zimmerman, “Wal-Mart Backs Drive to Make Companies Pay for Health Coverage,” The Wall Street Journal CCLIII, no. 152 (Wednesday, July 1, 2009): A1, A4.

2 John Stossel, “Health Insurance Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be: Mandating Medical Coverage May Sound Good, but You’ve Got to Read the Fine Print,” ABC News, October 16, 2006, http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PrescriptionForChange/story?id=2574980&page=1 (accessed July 1, 2009).

3 John Stossel, “Whose Body is it, Anyway?: Sick in America,” 20/20, September 14, 2007.

4 Adamy and Zimmerman, op. cit., A4.

5 Sheldon Richman, “Fascism,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Fascism.html (accessed July 1, 2009).

6 John T. Flynn, “What is Fascism?” in As We Go Marching (orig. 1944; New York, N.Y.: Free Life Editions, Inc., 1973), pp. 54–55.

7 Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900–1916, (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1963), pp. 57–58.  Butler Shaffer picks up where Kolko leaves off with Butler Shaffer, In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938, (orig. 1997; Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1999).

8 Adamy and Zimmerman, op. cit., A1.

9 Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., “Wal-Mart Warms to the State,” Mises Daily, December 28, 2005, http://mises.org/story/1950 (accessed July 1, 2009).

—Alexander S. Peak

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Groupthink as a Political Mental Illness (Part II)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Health, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Military, Minorities, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Republican, Science, US Government on June 30, 2009 at 1:56 pm

From the studied literature on groupthink, there are a few points which merit mention here.  Smith and White say that:

Fantasies about invulnerability, and about the persecutory intent of external enemies and collective rationalizations of group actions could be understood as a system to help allay the unconscious anxieties of the group-as-a-whole.

A phenomenological approach to what Janis describes as groupthink indicates that a group overwhelmed by internal conflict may gain a great deal of relief if it can locate or create [emphasis added] a strong external enemy (Coser, 1986).  Internal dissension can be seen as trivial in contrast, thereby enabling the displacement of within-group tensions into the relations among groups (Smith, 1982b). In this regard, such internal properties of the group as illusions of unanimity and invulnerability, which may be views as pathological from one perspective, may in fact serve a valuable social function by providing a particular cognitive set to enable a group to “create” an enemy.

(Smith & White, 1983, p. 71)

Anne Gero tells us that:

In a consensus [emphasis in original] decision process, subjects expect [emphasis added] more cooperation and friendliness and less disagreement that they would anticipate in [a] majority decision process.

(Gero, 1985, p. 487)

And that:

I would again emphasize the importance of disagreement to the outcome of group decisions… members may approach a consensus process with anti-disagreement norms.  Preventative or remedial measures should be taken to encourage members to disagree in the consensual process.  If disagreement is suppressed, the conditions of groupthink may develop and threaten the quality of the group’s decisions.

(Ibid., p. 498)

Finally, Callaway, Marriott & Esser mention that:

Highly cohesive groups provide support to their members that reduces conflict and disagreement and hence the stress inherent in decision-making.  However, this stress reduction is achieved at the price of suppressing critical inquiry.

(Callaway, Marriott & Esser, 1987, p. 949)

And that:

In groups of low-dominance individuals, perhaps the assignment of the roles of critical evaluator and devil’s advocate) prescribed by Janis, 1972, to counteract groupthink) must involve personal responsibility in order to overcome the natural reticence of such individuals.

(Ibid., p. 952)

There is one other study which should be mentioned here, although, by title, it does not actually deal with the groupthink phenomenon, and that is a paper by Thomas J. Scheff called “Shame and Conformity: The Deference-Emotion System”.  In the introduction to his paper, Scheff informs us that:

… exterior constraint has become a basic premise for modern sociologists.  Yet, an adequate model has never been conceptualized, much less proposed in an operationally definable way.  Conformity poses a central problem for social science not only in its normal, but also in its pathological form.  What gives rise to excessive and rigid conformity?  This is the question posed by many modern analyses of bureaucracy and authoritarian forms of social organizations.

There is wide consensus that conformity is encouraged by a system of sanctions: we usually conform because we expect to be rewarded when we do and punished when we do not.  However, conformity usually occurs even in the absence of obvious sanctions.  Durkheim’s formulation [the idea that the force of social influence is experienced by individuals as exterior and constraining [emphasis in original] (Durkheim [1987] 1951)] refers to the ubiquity of conformity.  The reward of public acclaim and the punishment of public disgrace rarely occur, yet the social system marches on.  Formal sanctions are slow, unwieldy, and expensive.  In addition to the formal system, there must be a complex and highly effective system of informal sanctions that encourage conformity’

A clue to this puzzle can be found in Goffman’s treatment of interaction ritual (Goffman, 1967).  He notes that the emotion of embarrassment or anticipation of embarrassment plays a prominent role in every social encounter [emphasis in original.  In presenting ourselves to others, we risk rejection.  The form the rejection takes may be flagrant, but it is more frequently quite subtle, perhaps only a missed beat in the rhythm of conversation.  Depending on its intensity and obviousness, rejection leads inevitably to the painful emotions of embarrassment, shame, or humiliation… when we are accepted, as we present ourselves, we usually feel rewarded by… pride…

(Scheff, 1988, pp. 395 – 396)

Scheff also says that he feels that we should be aware of Helen Lewis’s theory of shame since it is a direct opposite of Goffman’s.  Whereas Goffman viewed shame as an external influencing factor, Lewis dealt only with the internal process of shame.  Scheff used an analogy to a metaphor about a contagion between people and pointed to what Lewis called a “feeling trap”, or an inner contagion.  In Goffman’s analysis, one becomes ashamed that the other one is being shamed, w, who, in turn becomes shamed, which increases the first person’s shame, and so on – an inter-personal feeling trap.  In Lewis’s analysis, one becomes ashamed that the one is ashamed, an inner loop which feeds on itself – an intra-personal feeling trap.  However, unlike Goffman, Lewis does not separate her analysis of shame from her analysis of anger.  Instead, she postulates, an affinity between the two emotions, with shame usually being followed by anger.

Scheff explains to us that the reason he has introduced us to these two different concepts of shames and its relationship to anger is the he believes that if we combine Goffman’s ‘social’ analysis with Lewis’ ‘psychological’ one, it is possible to convey the extraordinary of what he calls “the deference-emotion system”.  He believes that this system occurs both between and within interactants, and that it functions so efficiently and invisibly it guarantees the alignment of individuals with mutual conformity and respect leading to pride and fellow feeling, which, in turn, leads to further conformity, which then leads to further positive feeling in a system which seems virtually automatic. (Ibid., pp. 396 – 397)

Scheff next delves into the biological and social sources of shames, with a great deal of emphasis on the work of Charles H. Cooley.  Some of what Cooley goes into is almost frightening in its implications of how deeply Man, himself, and society, as a whole, is built upon a foundation of shame of and a need for pride.  He includes the following to illustrate the power of what he calls “social fear”:

Social fear, of a sort perhaps somewhat more morbid, is vividly depicted by Rousseau in the passage of his Confessions where he describes the feelings that lead him to falsely accuse a maid-servant of a theft which he himself had committed. ‘When she appeared my heart was agonized but the presence of so many people was more powerful than my compunction.  I did not fear punishment, but I dreaded shame: I dreaded it more than death, more than the crime, more than the world.  I would have buried myself in the center of the earth: invincible shame bore down every other sentiment: shame alone caused all of my impudence, and in proportion, as I became the criminal, the fear of discovery rendered me intrepid.  I felt no dread but that of being detected, and of being publically and to my face declared a thief, liar and calumniator.

(Ibid., pp 399 – 400 [emphases added by Scheff])

Scheff uses this episode to make a point he wants us to understand before telling us that:

In modern societies, adults seem to be uncomfortable manifesting either pride or shame.  The emotions of pride and shame often seem themselves to arouse shame [emphasis in original].

(Ibid., p. 400)

Scheff also emphasizes the 1956 conformity studies of Solomon Asch, who testes the hypothesis that;

“Given the kind of task demanded, a majority of the subjects will find group standards compelling, even though they are exterior and contradictory to their own individual standards.

(Ibid., p. 403)

Asch’s conformity studies give a considerable insight into the outer workings of conformity and found that only one-quarter of the test subjects remained completely individual throughout their involvement in the study.

Even though Asch did not design his tests to examine the effects of emotions upon his subjects (he was focused on the ‘what will happen’ of the tests rather than on the ‘why it happens’) and, while he did not ask his subjects about their emotions, he found that many of the responses to his post-study interviews suggested that emotions played an important, if not critical part in how his subjects reacted to situations during the study.  Among the subjects who had yielded to the majority views at least once, he found that many of them found the experience of being in the minority extremely painful.  They felt a negative view of themselves from the point of view of the others.  They were dominated by their exclusion from the group, which they took as a reflection of themselves, and were unable to face a conflict which threatened, in some undefined way, to expose a deficiency in themselves.  Asch also found that the responses of the yielding subjects suggested a denial of conflict, and of the feelings resulting from that denial.  Some of the responses were of complete denial, some were slight, and some were evasive about it.  Some of those subjects also granted to the majority the power to see things correctly, which they came to believe they could not do, and had allowed themselves to become confused so that at the critical point in the study, they adopted the majority judgments without permitting themselves to know of their activity or shift [emphasis added]. (Ibid., pp. 403 – 404)

As for the subjects who had remained completely independent throughout the course of the studies, Asch found that they, too, felt that they were suffering from a defect, as well as their also being troubled by disagreeing with the majority.  They, like the yielding subjects, had felt deep internal conflict and overt shame; however, they persevered through those feelings of conflict and shame and responded according to their own personal perceptions, despite their strong emotional reactions and feelings of personal discomfort. (Ibid., p. 493) What’s more, during their post-study interviews, the independent subjects were apt to be open, frank and forthright about the feelings and doubts which they had experiences over the course of the studies.  One of Asch’s own summaries of these interview responses included the following passage:

“… independence requires the capacity to accept the fact of opposition without a lowered sense of personal worth.  The independent person has to organize his overt actions on the basis of experience for which he finds no support; this he can do only if he respects his experiences and is capable of claiming respect for them.  The compliant person cannot face this ordeal because he equates social opposition into a reflection of his personal worth.  Because he does so, the social conflict plunges him into pervasive and incapacitating doubt.

(Ibid., p. 404)

To bring Asch’s work into its place within his own theory about the role of shame in conforming behaviors, Scheff says that:

The subjects who remained independent, although they experiences shame, had sufficiently high self-esteem to act on their judgments despite [emphasis added] their feelings of shame.  Thos who yielded had low self-esteem and sought to avoid further feelings of shame by acting contrary to their own judgment.

(Ibid., pp. 404 – 405)

Since the yielding subjects had found it easier to deny and go against their own internal judgments that to go against the contrary judgments of the group, it would also seem logical to draw a conclusion that those subjects who had remained completely independent could later face up and admit to their previous feelings of shame and doubt because those feelings had not overwhelmed and conquered them and, thus, they had no further reason to hide from the or from openly admitting to them, while the yielding subjects later had difficulty owning up to their previous feelings of shame and doubt which caused them to conform to the judgments of the group because those feelings had overwhelmed and conquered them and for them to openly admit to having had those feelings would cause them to lose to those feelings all over again.

As a final note, which he makes on his own reactions to Asch’s findings, Scheff tells us that he found one particular remark, which had been made by one of the yielding subjects, to be “troublesome” and “baffling”.  That remark was about how the subject said that he had voted for Dewey in the 1948 Presidential election, even though he preferred Truman, because he thought that Dewey would win and was, thus, preferred by most Americans.  Scheff sums up his own personal reaction to this remark by saying that:

Apparently unacknowledged shame is not only invisible, but insidious.

(Ibid., p. 405)

Scheff closes his paper by postulating that:

If the deference-emotion system is universal, the theory would provide a unitary explanation of conforming behavior, the central problem of social science.

(Ibid., p. 405)

If Scheff’s theory were to be applied towards some of the on-going groupthink research, it could possibly help work out some of the variables which the various researchers have, as yet, been unable to confront or utilize.  It could be especially helpful in such studies conducted within the field of political science because the emotional needs and inherent fears and insecurities of people about their government seem to make them particularly susceptible to groupthink tendencies.

An awareness of what groupthink is, by political scientist, political analysts and commentators, and by ethical political leaders might help them to, if not prevent, then to make the public aware of occurrences of groupthink within political parties and ideologies, as well as in our various branches and levels of government.  Those who actively work to prevent or publicize groupthink and groupthink tendencies within their spheres of influence, interest or study might also find our political world becoming more responsive to the average citizens, as a result.  Those in all fields relating to politics need to make themselves more aware of the potential negative aspects of group dynamics within our political systems for; only by being objective and honest about our political systems and being open to criticism of their negative aspects can they effectively prepare for and combat those aspects.  Conducting groupthink research specifically within the political sciences field might provide the edge we so desperately need to keep our government vibrant and effective and, thus, able to properly serve our citizens better in the future than it has in the past.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 1989 by Rhys M.  Blavier

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

A House Majority for Federal Reserve Audit

In Austrian Economics, Corruption, Economics, Libertarian, Media, Personal Responsibility, Press Release, Ron Paul on June 11, 2009 at 8:56 pm

In a March 10th speech on the House floor, Ron Paul said, “I have introduced a bill, it’s called H.R. 1207, and this would remove the restriction on us to find out what the Federal Reserve is doing.  Today, the Federal Reserve under the law is not required to tell us anything.”

Earlier today, Paul’s Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009 (H.R. 1207) received its 218 cosponsors in the House of Representatives.  The significance of this number is that it represents a majority of House representatives.  The 218th co-sponsor, according to a press release released today by Dr. Paul’s congressional office says that the 218th co-sponsor was none other than Paul’s friend Dennis Kuchinich.

“The tremendous grass-roots and bipartisan support in Congress for H.R. 1207 is an indicator of how mainstream America is fed up with Fed secrecy,” said Congressman Paul.  “I look forward to this issue receiving greater public exposure.”

As do we all.  The Federal Reserve board was created in 1913 by an act of Congress to help big bankers do what they could not do on a free market: cartelise the banking industry.  The Fed today sets the interest rates instead of allowing the market to set the interest rates.  It also lowers the reserve ratio required for banks to 10%.  This means that banks are given the statist luxury of lending out up to 90% of the money you put into it.  The Fed uses these controls to encourage or discourage lending at its own discretion—a discretion that is always inevitably tainted by politics.  The Austrian school of economics holds that this manipulation of the money supply is the prime, if not the sole, cause of the business cycle.

Anti-Fed sentiments have been on the rise ever since the Fed-created housing bubble burst in 2008.  For more on this, see Dr. Thomas E. Woods’s excellent book Meltdown.  For a basic overview of the Fed itself, see the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s fantastic documentary 42-minute Money, Banking, and the Federal Reserve. (Don’t be scared by the title, the documentary really is fascinating!)

Right now, the number of co-sponsors on Paul’s bill is up to 222.  Hearings on Federal Reserve transparency are expected within the next month, “as part of the Financial Services Committee’s series of hearings on regulatory reform.”  This is the same committee chaired by the notorious Barney Frank.  Despite some clear flaws on his part regarding Fanny and Freddie, he has been a critic of the Federal Reserve system.

An identical bill, titled the Federal Reserve Sunshine Act of 2009 (S. 604), was introduced on March 16th in the Senate by the independent from Vermont, Bernard Sanders.  Thus far, the Senate version has no co-sponsors.

—Alexander S. Peak

Voluntary Action: Going Green Without State Coercion

In Activism, Environment, Personal Responsibility on June 3, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Chances are, you have heard of the boycott.  But have you ever heard of the carrotmob?

The carrotmob is the reverse of the boycott.  A short yet fascinating article in the most recent issue of Time explains how it was invented by Brent Schulkin to “reward businesses with mass purchases if they promise to use some of the money to become greener” (8 June 2009, p. 54).

A carrotmob in San Fransisco

A carrotmob in San Fransisco

In traditional boycotts, people avoid businesses that employ policies with which they disagree.  This new activist tactic is just the reverse.  When a business agrees to alter its policies, by e.g. choosing to use more energy-efficient lighting, activists swarm the business in question to make purchases.

The tactic is completely voluntary.  And it’s been a success.

It was first used last Spring in San Fransisco and is now starting to get outsourced to 14 other U.S. cities—and three other countries, as well!

One example Time gives is of a San Fransisco store called K&D Market, where carrotmobbers spent $9,200.  Profits create incentives, as these activists clearly realise.

From the libertarian view, this news is thrilling.  It confirms what we’ve been saying all along: voluntary action works.  And perhaps best of all, although the carrotmob has been used mostly for environmental purposes, it could just as easily be used for any other progressive social policy.

To learn more about the carrotmob, visit carrotmob.org.

—Alexander S. Peak

John Hospers and the Libertarian Temperament

In Crazy Claims, Libertarian, literature, Personal Responsibility on May 26, 2009 at 9:17 pm

I recently came across an article by former Libertarian Party candidate for president Mr. John Hospers in which he discusses the interaction of both anarchists and minarchists within the libertarian movement.  There are, as one might expect, some good things and some bad things to say of Mr. Hospers’s analysis.  I will first discuss and provide insights on what I like about the article—specifically his call for alliance between the two aforementioned libertarian factions.  I shall then explain what I see to be the failings of Mr. Hospers’s analysis.

Let me begin by saying I agree with Mr. Hospers when he says,

Anarchism, as I see it, is an issue for the far future as far as practical application is concerned.  If we get to the point where 9/10 of the present government functions are government functions no longer, then we can consider the question whether what remains is best performed by government or by private individuals and organizations.  But it is virtually certain that we shall never reach that point if we do not present a united front to the world.

This is a point Mr. Harry Browne made often, and it is a point with which I agree.

As an anarchist, and one who is optimistic for the long-run but pessimistic in the short-run, I do not believe we will achieve even minarchy (i.e. limited, constitutional government) within my lifetime, let alone anarchy (i.e. the replacement of the entire state with private, voluntary institutions).  Therefore, my own anarchism is explored for predominately philosophic reasons.

That’s not to say that I do not also embrace it for practical reasons.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m not only an anarchist in theory but also an anarchist in practice.  That is to say, I “live anarchy” every day.  In my every interaction with people, I always eschew aggression.  I do not steal, I do not rape, I do not accept welfare, and, if I were to get elected to some legislative body tomorrow, I would refuse to accept even a cent of tax-payer money for the job.  I engage in voluntary action at all times.1

But I recognise that America is not going to accept anarchism yet.  The people are, unfortunately, not yet independently-minded enough to come to a total and complete rejection of all aggression entirely, nor even is a 50% majority yet going to make such a commitment.  Far too many people believe in continuing the war on drugs (as just one of many examples) to as of yet come to a total rejection of aggression.

But this is no reason for me to turn my back on anarchism.  Ultimately, reason compels me to embrace anarchy as the only ethical and practical system of government.  And I see no harm in promoting this view, in explaining politely and hopefully-convincingly to people how the alternative institutions we radical libertarians advocate would function in the real world.

I believe there is no inconsistency in being an anarchist—in promoting anarchism—and in allying myself with minarchists.  As Mr. Hospers implies, should we ever get to the point where the vast majority of the government has been eliminated, at that point we’ll have to get down to the nitty-gritty of what divides anarchist libertarians from minarchist libertarians.  At that point, we’ll have to end our alliance.  In the meantime, Mr. Hospers is right: we should work together toward our common goals.

At the same time, I also hold that there is nothing wrong in trying to convince minarchist libertarians that libertarian anarchism is superior to libertarian minarchism.  And I will attempt to do so because to achieves my own aims.  Thus far, I’m proud to say, I have helped to turn no less than four limited-state libertarians into no-state libertarians.

It should become immediately clear that I therefore have two goals when it comes to the promotion of my political views: (1) to convert non-libertarians into libertarians and (2) to convert minarchists into anarchists.  Since I’ve had far more success with my second objective than my first, I can only conclude that the second objective is easier to accomplish than the former.  But the former is just as important, and if I were somehow able to convert the statists of the world into minarchists en mass, I would consider this a triumphant victory for Liberty.

Because I recognise that both of these tasks are difficult, I try to be respectful when engaging someone in political discourse.  I want to win people over, and I realise that name-calling and temper-tantrums is not the way to achieve this.  So you can imagine just how embarrassed I was by many of my fellow Ron Paul Revolutionaries when I was reading blogs and whatnot two years ago!  I wanted Ron Paul to win, and unfortunately many of his followers were acting like fourth-graders in their discourse with random Internet-users.

Political discourse has been a prime concern of mine for quite some time now.  It’s been such a concern because I truly want us to achieve Liberty, and I know that this will not happen as long as we push people away through rudeness.

This brings me to the unfortunate flaw in Mr. Hospers’s analysis. He readily recognises a problem exists involving discourse. However, he seems to assume that the problem is entirely on the anarchists’ end.  Although he does not say so, he implies that minarchists are always respectful and rational in their outlook while anarchists are chaotic, rude, childish, and emotionally-driven.  I do not believe this stereotype holds.

The reality is much more nuanced.  There are some anarchists, naturally, who are quite rude with people—even with fellow libertarians, much to my chagrin.  There are also plenty of anarchists who are extremely respectful individuals.  Could you imagine the mild-mannered Jeffrey Tucker throwing profanities at a political opponent, or stamping his foot?  I certainly cannot.

Yet this is precisely how Mr. Hospers paints all of us anarchists.  Writes Hospers,

There is either an unwillingness [no the part of anarchists] to enter into calm sustained argument about it [the virtues of statism], or a childish frenzy in which they conduct argument, which makes it difficult for anyone to enter into it with them without being at the receiving end of name-calling and numerous personal slurs.  I have seen this tendency reach the point of petulant screaming and stamping of feet.

Hospers does not say that this is simply a problem with specific anarchists he’s encountered, but rather that this is a “psychological aspect[] of anarchism.”  The implication is clear: if you are an anarchist, you are likely immature.  Even if you’re not immature, it’s not because anarchism does not entail this personality defect, but because you’ve somehow suppressed your natural anarchist tendency to embrace immaturity.

But this is simply not so.  For one thing, I would estimate that most libertarian anarchists are those who were at one time libertarian minarchists.  I know that I was a minarchist up until July of 2007, and that I only came to embrace anarchy after years of reflection.  Slowly but surely I came around to conclusion after conclusion that this or that aspect of the state was not necessary, that this or that regulation actually caused more harm than good.  For me, straw that broke the camel’s back was the environment.  I had held that free-market environmentalism was a good and necessary thing, but kept telling myself that we needed the state so that we could have appropriate regulations where needed.  The only problem was, I couldn’t think of a single regulation that only the state and nothing else could provide.  At that point, I had no alternative but to consider the matter of anarchism once more, to consider it objectively and intelligently.  I did not embrace anarchism whimsically, but only after a great deal of reflection and thought.  Even after embracing it, I still gave the matter a great deal of thought and reflection, as I believe was appropriate.  I still question it every once in a while to this day, but every time I do, I come back to the same conclusion: it is the only system that conforms to the way humans really work, the only system that conforms to human nature rather than trying to mould humans in some other image.  It is, in short, the only system that can work.  (After all, as we all know, government doesn’t work.)

Thus, since most libertarian anarchists were at one time libertarian minarchists, either Mr. Hospers would have to hold that their personalities changed upon converting to anarchism or that they were just as immature when they were minarchists as they are now. I do not believe Mr. Hospers wishes to concede either of these points.

For another thing, it is simply incorrect to say that all communication breakdowns between minarchists and anarchists are on the anarchists’ end. Just as there are some anarchists who are clearly immature, there is a great deal of minarchists who are just as immature. Believe me, I have engaged in my fair share of discussions with immature minarchists, people who embarrass me as a libertarian just as much as the immature anarchists do. I do not pretend, however, that there is any uniform minarchist psychological mindset, or that all minarchists are appropriately represented by the immature ones I’ve encountered. In short, some anarchists and minarchists alike engage in unproductive discourse, while plenty in both camps understand that mindless name-calling gets us nowhere.

Mr. Hospers writes, “I have certainly noticed, as doubtless many of you have, a recurring personality pattern among those who label themselves anarchists.” But, alas, if I were to paint minarchists under the same broad brush that Mr. Hospers uses to paint anarchists, would this be anything other than stereotyping?

Where, pray tell, is the respectable discourse in that?

_______

1Among other things, Mr. Hospers claims in his article that anarchists engage in “a strong, usually…neurotic, rebellion against all forms of discipline, especially self-discipline.”  If this point about “living anarchy” proves anything, it is that this Hosperian statement is (in addition to being extremely insulting) fundamentally wrong.

Anarchy is Coming to America

In Art, Entertainment, Libertarian, Media, Personal Responsibility, Police State, US Government on May 23, 2009 at 1:52 pm

With massive government debasing of the fiat U.S. Dollar, with mounting decades of hypermilitarism, with the destabilising effects of ever more central planning, could the statist American Empire collapse within the next four years?  And if it does, how will citizens cope?

These are the questions aimed to be addressed by a daring new web series, Anarchy in America.

Written and produced by Sky Conway, President of Renegade Studios, Anarchy in America takes place in 2013, in a bankrupt America where “food riots erupt and mobs loot stores.”  While preachers on street corners claim this is “Armageddon,” the president addresses the nation on live TV.  He declares Martial Law.

I first learned of this project from Laissez-Faire!, a new magazine/catalogue being released by Laissez-Faire Books (which was recently acquired by the International Society for Individual Liberty).  In this magazine, Ms. Joyce Brand writes,

In a small coastal community in California, a band of colorful residents rally together to solve social problems from looting to feeding the elderly.  This is not utopia but flawed characters struggling to make their community work, battling each other and the remnants of government while building voluntary institutions for currency, charity, protection, and more.  But even as freedom takes root, the government returns.  State agents with guns demand taxes and obedience.  And, then, a tank rolls down the center of Main Street; the federal government has reconstituted (p. 9).

Professor Randy Barnett, author of The Structure of Liberty, is one of the consultants on Anarchy in America.

This show will be released as a series of webisodes at anarchy.tv, each approximating seven minutes in length.  Each set of twelve episodes will be “structured like a three-act feature film.  …  This allows us to consolidate each set of webisodes into movie-length DVDs,” writes the producer, “with extras, to market to a wide audience.”

Production will not begin until enough money has been raised to fund the first three episodes, but once things are under way, “Laissez Faire Books will publish the novelization of the series, and we expect to have graphic books as well.  We will have merchandise to sell, such as tee shirts, posters, baseball caps, mugs, etc.  There will be 15 second commercial spots available in front of each episode.  The DVD sales will bring in more revenue as the series continues, and there is the potential for a cable TV deal.”

All in all, I’m quite excited about the prospect of watching this show.

—Alexander S. Peak

PART I: An Introduction to American Involvement with War Crimes Trials

In Activism, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Crime, George Bush, Guantanamo, History, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Military, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Terrorism, Torture, US Government, War on May 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm

If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.

 

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of The United States
Robert H. Jackson

 

Justice Jackson was asked by President Truman to represent The United States in establishing the process for trying German war criminals after Germany’s surrender in World War II. The above quote was made by him in 1945 during the negotiations of The London Charter of The International Military Tribunal (IMT) which established the legal justifications and basis for the trials. He later acted as the Chief Prosecutor for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (IMT) of the major war criminals.

 

I was probably only 12 years old when I first saw the movie ‘Judgment at Nuremburg‘ (based on the Judges’ Trial of the twelve subsequent Nuremberg Trials held after the one for the major war criminals). Even at that age, several things about the trials didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t have much more of an understanding of law or philosophy than that of any other child of my age, but I have always had a very natural understanding of logic… especially in my ability to recognize what ISN’T logical. The main question I have always had about the Nuremberg Trials is: “Why didn’t the losers get to file any charges against the winners?” That, to my mind, would be the primary aspect of a war crimes trial which would keep it from being simply ‘victors’ justice’

 

As I got older, more questions came to my mind about the Nuremberg Trials. The two most prominent of these questions are:

 

(1) We judged that those who were indicted and tried should have resisted or refused to obey laws and/or orders which they thought were immoral. However, what about those who did not have personal moral objections to those laws and/or orders? If they agreed with them but had no hand in giving or enacting them, weren’t they operating both within the law AND within their own moral codes and, if that was the case, then why weren’t they protected from prosecutions such as those at Nuremberg?; and

 

(2) If we wanted to establish that “I was just following orders” is NOT a valid defense, why doesn’t The United States put procedures and practices into place for our own soldiers and citizens who hold such objections to laws and/or orders which they are expected to follow and for which they would face court-martial and/or civil prosecution if they did refuse to obey.

 

In World War II, while there were several localized instances of American War Crimes which could be truthfully judged to be individual aberrations which could be properly, adequately and legally dealt with internally through courts-martial (the Biscari massacres, the Chenonge massacre, and the Dachau massacre, to name just three), there were no attempts to try larger scale incidents against any of the Allies for potential war crimes which originated at a command level or higher. Examples of these would include: the Dresden fire bombings of a non-strategic civilian city for the psychological effect it would have throughout Germany; the re-designation by the Allies of some German POWs (who were protected by The Geneva Conventions) to ‘disarmed enemy forces‘ (who, allegedly, were NOT protected he Geneva Convention) and their subsequent use as forced (i.e. – slave) labor by the French to clear minefields in France and The Low Countries (while this was provided for by the Armistice, the French government conceded that the practice was ‘perhaps‘ not in accordance with The Geneva Conventions. By December of 1945, the French government estimated that 2,000 German prisoners were being killed or maimed each month in accidents); and American food policy in post-war Germany which directly and indirectly caused the unnecessary suffering and deaths, from starvation, of large numbers of civilians and POWs in occupied Germany in violation of Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Rules of Land Warfare.

 

As we look at the debates our nation faces today about war crimes, it is ironic that, at the end of World War II and during the post-war period, it was The United States which took the lead in demanding legal actions and prosecutions to establish both guilt of those who would be punished AND legal precedence for the future. As early as December 1941, British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, was a vocal advocate for summary executions of war criminals, even to the point of being willing to use Acts of Attainder to circumvent any legal obstacles. It was leaders in The United States who eventually dissuaded him from this stance.

 

In 1943, at the Tehran Conference, Stalin proposed summarily executing 50,000 – 100,000 German Staff Officers. President Franklin Roosevelt tried to lighten this attitude with the suggestion that maybe only ‘49,000’ would need to be executed. Churchill followed this up by denouncing the “cold-blooded executions of soldiers who fought for their country”. In 1945, America’s Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, and his staff at The War Department drafted a plan for the ‘Trial of European War Criminals‘, which was strongly approved by President Truman. This plan formed the basis for negotiations of The London Charter.

 

While there may have been legitimate criticisms of the Allied war crimes trials, including by at least three other members of The United States Supreme Court… Chief Justice Harlan Stone (who called the Nuremberg trials “a fraud” and a “high-grade lynching”), Associate Justice William O. Douglas (who said that the Allies were guilty of “substituting power for principle” and that “law was created ex post facto to suit the passion and clamor of the time”), and Associate Justice Frank Murphy (who said, in protest of the war crime trial of Japanese General Masaharu Homma, “Either we conduct such a trial as this in the noble spirit and atmosphere of our Constitution or we abandon all pretense to justice, let the ages slip away and descend to the level of revengeful blood purges.”), it was The United States of America which led the path to the establishment of norms of public international trials for war crimes. Now we face showing ourselves as a nation of hypocrites who are quick to judge others but unwilling to have judgment turned on our own.

 

The war crimes trials of World War II may have utilized ex post facto laws and rules to judge and condemn Axis war criminals but, thanks in large part to The United States, they establish the precedent for holding accountable those at any and all levels of military, political, civilian AND economic structures for both actions AND decisions which lead to the systematic rule of brutality, terror and violence of both the German and Japanese regimes.

 

The United States considered such trials so important that after growing differences between the four major Allied Powers made additional international trials under the International Military Tribunal impossible, that they held 12 subsequent trials on their own at Nuremberg. Under Control Council Law #10, which empowered any of the occupying authorities to try suspected war criminals in their respective occupation zones, The United States alone, between December 1946 and October 1948, conducted:

 

01.) The Doctors’ Trial (Medical doctors and Nazi officials)

 

War Crimes: Performing medical experiments, without the subjects’ consent, on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, in the course of which experiments the defendants committed murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts. Also planning and performing the mass murder of prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, stigmatizated as aged, insane, incurably ill, deformed, and so on, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals, and asylums during the Euthanasia Program and participating in the mass murder o concentration camp inmates.

 

Crimes Against Humanity: For performing those same acts on German nationals.

 

02.) The Milch Trial (Field Marshall of the Luftwaffe, Erhard Milch)

 

War Crimes: Knowingly committed war crimes as principal and accessory in enterprises involving slave labor and having also willingly and knowingly participated in enterprises involving the use of prisoners of war in war operations contrary to international convention and the laws and customs of war. Also, knowingly and willfully participated in enterprises involving fatal medical experiments upon subjects without their consent.

 

Crimes Against Humanity: For slave labor and fatal medical experiments, in the same manner as indicated in the first two counts, except that here the alleged victims are declared to be German nationals and nationals of other countries.

 

03.) The Judges’ Trial (German jurists and lawyers)

(Held responsible for implementing and furthering the Nazi “racial purity” program through the German eugenic and racial laws)

 

War Crimes: Abuse of the judicial and penal process, resulting in mass murder, torture, plunder of private property.


Crimes Against Humanity: The same grounds, including slave labor charges.

 

04.) The Pohl Trial (Employees of the SS Economics and Administrative Department)

(Held for active involvement in and administration of the “Final Solution”; they also handled the procurement for the Waffen SS and the administration of the SS ‘Totenkopf’Divisions)


War Crimes: Administration of concentration camps and of extermination camps, and the mass murders and atrocities committed those camps.

 

Crimes Against Humanity: The same grounds, including slave labor charges.

 

05.) The Flick Trial (high-ranking directors of Flick’s group of companies)

(Charges centered on slave labor and plundering, but Flick and the Otto Steinbrinck, were also charged for their membership in the “Circle of Friends of Himmler”, a group of influential German industrialists and bankers for the purpose of giving financial support to the Nazis. Its members “donated” annually about 1 million Reichsmark to a “Special Account S” in favor of Himmler.)


War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Participating in the deportation and enslavement of the civilian populations of countries and territories under the belligerent occupation of or otherwise controlled by Germany, and of concentration camp inmates, for use as slave labor in Flick mines and factories.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants both in the west (France) and the east (Poland, Russia). Crimes Against Humanity: participation in the persecution of Jews and the ‘aryanization’ of their properties.

 

06.) The Hostages’ Trial

(Regarding the taking of civilian hostages; wanton shootings of hostages and ‘partisans’)


War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Mass murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia by having ordered hostage taking and reprisal killings.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Plundering and wanton destruction of villages and towns in Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, and Norway.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Murder and ill-treatment of prisoners of war, and arbitrarily designating combatants as “partisans”, denying them the status of prisoners of war, as well as killing them after such a designation.

 

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity: Murder, torture, deportation of, and sending Greek, Albanian, and Yugoslav civilians to concentration camps.

 

07.) The IG Farben Trial (directors of IG Farben)

(IG Farben was a large German civilian industrial conglomerate of chemical firms)


War crimes and crimes against humanity: Through the plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, France, and Russia.

 

War crimes and crimes against humanity: Through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.

 

08.) The Einsatzgruppen Trial (Officers of SS mobile Death Squads)

 

Crimes Against Humanity: Through persecutions on political, racial, and religious grounds, murder, extermination, imprisonment, and other inhumane acts committed against civilian populations, including German nationals and nationals of other countries, as part of an organized scheme of genocide.

 

War Crimes: For the same reasons, and for wanton destruction and devastation not justified by military necessity.

 

09.) The RuSHA Trial (Various SS officials of various political and administrative

                  departments)

(For implementation of the ‘pure race’ program [RuSHA])


Crimes Against Humanity: Implementing “racial purity” programs; kidnapping children; forcing ‘non-Aryan’ pregnant women to undergo abortions; plundering; deportation of populations from their native lands in occupied countries and resettling of so-called Volksdeutsche (‘ethnic Germans’) on such lands; sending people who had had ‘interracial’ sexual relationships to concentration camps; and general participation in the persecution of the Jews.

 

War Crimes: For the same reasons.

 

10.) The Krupp Trial (Directors of the Krupp Group)

                  (The Krupp Group was a collection of large German civilian industrial companies)


Crimes Against Humanity: Participating in the plundering, devastation, and exploitation of occupied countries; participating in the murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, and use for slave labor of civilians, German nationals, and prisoners of war who came under German control.

 

11.) The Ministries’ Trial (officials of various Reich ministries)

(Charged for their participation in or responsibility for atrocities committed both in Germany and in occupied countries during the war)


Crimes Against Peace: Planning and waging aggressive war against other nations and violating international treaties.


War Crimes: Being responsible for murder, ill-treatment and other crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents.


Crimes Against Humanity: Committing atrocities and crimes against German nationals on the grounds of political, racial, or religious discrimination.


War crimes and crimes against humanity: Participating in or being responsible for atrocities and crimes committed against civilians in occupied countries; plundering and spoliation of occupied territories; participation in the enslavement, deportation for slave labor, and ill-treatment of civilians in both Germany and occupied countries, and of prisoners of war.

 

12.) The High Command Trial (Senior Flag Officers of the German High Command)

(Charged with having participated in or planned or facilitated the execution of the numerous atrocities committed in countries occupied by the German forces during the war)


Crimes Against Peace: Waging aggressive war against other nations and violating international treaties.

(The tribunal considered all of these accused to be not guilty of this charge, stating that they were not the policy-makers and that preparing for war and fighting a war on orders was not a criminal offense under the applicable international law of the time.)


War Crimes: Being responsible for murder, ill-treatment and other crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents. Crimes Against Humanity: participating in or ordering the murder, torture, deportation, hostage-taking, etc. of civilians in occupied countries.

 

All of the judges for all twelve of these trials were American, as were all of the prosecutors. As a result of these trials, 142 out of 185 total defendants were found guilty of at least one charge. Out of the 142 guilty verdicts, those convicted received 24 death sentences, 20 life sentences, and 98 other prison sentences of varying lengths. In addition to the 35 of the accused who were acquitted, 4 were removed from the trials due to illnesses and 4 others committed suicide during the trials. All of these trials also included charges of conspiracy to commit the various crimes and to initiate and engage in wars of aggression but those charges were mostly dropped either because of poor wording in the orders which provided the legal justification the tribunals or because of beliefs among many of the judges that consideration of those charges was outside of their scope of authorization, or various other concerns. Any future war crimes trials would have to be aware of these difficulties so that they could adequately justify including conspiracy charges in those trials.

 

The United States has prosecuted our vanquished opponents in war for war crimes at least since the trial of Henry Wirz, Commandant of Camp Sumter, the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville. We also had a history going back just as long of denying full justice and fair trials to those we have accused while, at the same time, have not held our own accountable to the same standards of justice we have condemned others for. A large part of the problems at the Andersonville Prison, for example, occurred because the Union ended the policy it had with the Confederacy of exchanging prisoners in an effort to cause hardship for the Confederacy, which resulted in the massive overcrowding and food shortages at Camp Sumter (which, at its maximum occupation, held enough Union prisoners to make it the 5th largest city in The Confederacy).

 

In 1902, the Lodge Committee in the United States Senate was supposed to investigate allegations of American war crimes committed in The Philippines, which had been building until they eventually ignited when Brigadier General Jacob Smith remarked to a reporter from The Manila News that he “intended to set the entire island of Samar ablaze” and would probably wipe out most of the population of the island. At Nuremberg, Karl Dönitz Commander In Chief of the Kriegsmarine, was charged, tried and found guilty of violating the Second London Naval Treaty (1936) which prohibited unrestricted submarine warfare even though Admiral Chester A. Nimitz stated that The United States also conducted unrestricted submarine warfare in the Pacific Theatre from the first day we entered the war (Great Britain had also violated the treaty itself).

 

During the Vietnam War, The United States used Agent Orange and other defoliants in Operation Ranch Hand, even though the use of poison agents as weapons in war has been banned since World War I, and initiated The CIA’s Phoenix Program, which was designed to identify and ‘neutralize’ (via infiltration, capture, terrorism, or assassination) the civilian infrastructure supporting the National Liberation Front (NLF) of South Vietnam (or Viet Cong) insurgency. In addition, the files of The Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, a Pentagon task force created to detail endemic war crimes, compiled documentary evidence which confirmed 320 incidents committed by U.S. forces (NOT counting the massacre at My Lai), including seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died; 78 other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted; and 141 instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured prisoners of war or civilian detainees.

 

These examples show how The United States has not been consistent in its pursuit of international justice regarding war crimes investigations or trials, especially when such investigations or trials should focus ON Americans. However, WE established the precedents at Nuremberg that any and everyone within a nation is accountable to the world for their belligerent actions and intentions against other nations and that, once a nation has acted ON those intentions and engaged in such actions, they are also accountable to the world for their actions regarding how they treat their own nationals, citizens and those within their own borders during such international actions. The United States has also set its own precedents for the legality of removing persons who it considers to be criminals in violation of its own laws, most notably with our invasion of Panama and the forcible removal of Manuel Noriega from his own country to The United States to stand trial under our laws and then be imprisoned in our jail system. This case also demonstrates very nicely our own view that being a head of state is not a protection against international justice.

 

It seems to me that war itself is a crime not ONLY because of what one nation does to another nation and its people in the course of war but also because of what it inevitably causes any warring nation to do to its own people while it is in preparation for and engagement of such wars. This would seem to make the investigation and prosecution of war crimes to be a domestic civil necessity as well as an international criminal one. In 1945, in his opening statement before the IMF during the Nuremberg Trial of the major war criminals, Justice Robert Jackson, in his role as Chief Prosecutor said:

 

Any resort to war – to any kind of war – is a resort to means that are inherently criminal. War inevitably is a course of killings, assaults, deprivations of liberty, and destruction of property. An honest defensive war is, of course, legal and saves those lawfully conducting it from criminality. But, inherently criminal acts cannot be defended by showing that those who committed them were engaged in a war, when war itself is illegal. The very minimum legal consequences of the treaties making aggressive war illegal is to strip those who incite or wage them of every defense the law ever gave, and to leave war-makers subject to judgment by the usually accepted principles of the law of crimes.

 

The United States of America has not demonstrated itself to be deserving of the trust of its own citizens or of the world in examining our own for potential war crimes. Nor would it seem that we could be trusted conducting trials for such crimes internally. Since World War II, the prosecution of war crimes has become, of necessity, an increasingly international matter. The United States needs to cooperate with the international community to investigate and try such crimes. Part II of this article topic will cover the rise of and legal justification for international courts for conducting war crimes trials.

 

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

 

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor”

 

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

 

 

The accused and trial results of the Nuremberg Trial (IMT) of the major war criminals were:

 

Martin Bormann: Nazi Party Secretary

(Bureaucrat)

            Sentence: Death

 

Karl Dönitz: Commander-in-Chief of the Kreigsmarine / Hitler’s successor as President of Germany

            Sentence: 10 years

 

Hans Frick: German Law Leader and Governor-General of Poland.

            Sentence: Death

 

Wilhelm Frick: Minister of the Interior and Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia

(Authored the Nuremberg Race Laws)

            Sentence: Death

 

Hans Fritzsche: Radio Commentator and Head of Nazi Propaganda Ministry’s news divisions. (Tried in place of Joseph Goebbels who had committed suicide)

            Sentence: Acquitted

 

Walther Funk: Minister of Economics and head of the German Reichsbank.

            Sentence: Life

 

Hermann Goring: Reichsmarshall

(Second highest Nazi official after Hitler)

            Sentence: Death

 

Rudolf Hess: Hitler’s Deputy until 1941

(Flew to Scotland in 1941 to try to broker peace)

            Sentence: Life

 

Alfred Jodl: Wehrmacht Generaloberst

(Military leader)

            Sentence: Death

 

Ernst Kaltenbrunner: Chief of the central Nazi intelligence agency.

(Highest surviving SS official)

            Sentence: Death

 

Wilhelm Keitel: Head of the Wehrmacht command structure

(Military leader)

             Sentence: Death

 

Baron Konstantin von Neurath: Foreign Minister and Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (Resigned in 1943)

            Sentence: 15 years

 

Franz von Papen: German Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor under Hitler, Ambassador to Austria, and Ambassador to Turkey

(Politician and Diplomat)

            Sentence: Acquitted

 

Erich Raeder: Commander-in-Chief of the Kreigsmarine (before Karl Dönitz)

(Resigned in 1943)

            Sentence: Life

 

Joachim von Ribbentrop: Ambassador-Plenipotentiary and Minister of Foreign Affairs

(Politician and Diplomat)

            Sentence: Death

 

Alfred Rosenberg: Party Ideologist, later Minister of Eastern Occupied Territories

            Sentence: Death

 

Fritz Sauckel: Plenipotentiary of slave labor program

            Sentence: Death

 

Hjalmar Schacht: Banker and economist

(Admitted violating the Treaty of Versailles)

            Sentence: Acquitted

 

Baldur von Schirach: Head of the Hitler Youth and Gauleiter of Vienna

(Retired in 1943)

            Sentence: 20 years

 

Arthur Seyss-Inquart: Various political positions and instrumental in the Anschluss

(Political functionary and Diplomat)

            Sentence: Death

 

Albert Speer: Architect and friend of Hitler, later Minister of Armaments

            Sentence: 20 years

 

Julius Streicher: Gauleiter of Franconia, and the publisher of a weekly pro-Nazi newspaper

            Sentence: Death

 

 

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Why I Am Pro-Choice… A Constitutional Literalism Opinion

In Children, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Democracy, Drug War, Health, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Science, US Government on May 1, 2009 at 6:01 am

Amendment 9:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

My sister got pregnant when she was only 17 (and unmarried). She got married before the baby was born, but she always carried a chip on her shoulder about that. She is also a far-right, Ayn Rand style objectivist-conservative (but without the actual philosophy to understand what that means). I used to be content to merely say that I supported a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body, including a decision about whether or not to have an abortion. That, however, wasn’t good enough for my sister. She is strongly against a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and, one day, forced the issue and made me think about what my true, bottom line, no holds bar reason for my pro-choice belief is. It comes down to this. I don’t care when a life starts. When a fetus is inside a woman’s womb it has no more rights than any other parasite does.

Now, I am sure that what I just said has REALLY upset at least half of the people reading this but I am willing to admit what most people won’t on this issue. It isn’t a matter of a fetus being capable of living on its own outside of a womb, or a fetus’ soul or anything else. It is, purely and simply, that a fetus meets the biological definition of a parasite and a parasite has no rights. All rights belong to the parasite’s host.

par•a•site (p r -s t )
n.
1. Biology— An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.

parasite (p r -s t )
An organism that lives on or in a different kind of organism (the host) from which it gets some or all of its nourishment. Parasites are generally harmful to their hosts, although the damage they do ranges widely from minor inconvenience to debilitating or fatal disease.
A parasite that lives or feeds on the outer surface of the host’s body, such as a louse, tick, or leech, is called an ectoparasite. Ectoparasites do not usually cause disease themselves although they are frequently a vector of disease, as in the case of ticks, which can transmit the organisms that cause such diseases as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
A parasite that lives inside the body of its host is called an endoparasite. Endoparasites include organisms such as tapeworms, hookworms, and trypanosomes that live within the host’s organs or tissues, as well as organisms such as sporozoans that invade the host’s cells. See more at host.

Now, I like babies as much as anyone, however, I was not allowed by my sister to have a belief that was not utterly devoid of emotion. As a result, I came to an emotionless conclusion on this issue. It simply doesn’t matter to me how far along a fetus is. Nor does any other factor external to a woman matter to me. As long as a fetus is inside its mother, as long as it draws its nourishment and life directly from her, it is not, in my opinion, a person. It might be a ‘life’ but many things are alive which are not granted the status of a person. Once a child is born, by whatever means, it is IMMEDIATELY a person will all individual rights, privileges and protections thereof, but until it is outside of its mother it has no rights.

Ok, I have heard some pro-lifers argue that if a fetus is NOT a person, then someone who injures or kills a mother has not committed murder by killing the fetus. This argument is also nonsense because only the mother has the right to determine if her fetus will be born or not. Anyone who might take that choice away from her has committed murder because of the simple fact that they, and not the mother, took away the mother’s right to have that baby, to give it life.

Now, I have seen people who want those of us who believe in a woman’s right to have complete control over her body try to get us to look at pictures of aborted fetuses in order to try to evoke an emotional reaction. Sorry, this isn’t about emotion, it is about The Constitution. So, you might ask, how does that apply to anything else a person, male or female, might want to do to their own body. I say that it isn’t my right or the government’s right to tell them what they can and cannot do to themselves. This does not apply to those who are not of a sufficient age or intelligence to make an informed consensual decision about themselves but, other than that, if a person wants to have sex with people(s) of their own gender or with prostitutes; if they want to take drugs; if they want to ride a motorcycle with a helmet; or they want to shoot themselves in the head or otherwise end their own lives; if they want to marry someone that they love, serve in the military or raise children, I believe that The Constitution says that they have the rights to do so.

The only valid purpose of law is to protect people from other people; not from themselves or to tell them how to live their lives.

I am a Constitutional literalist, an absolutist. I do not believe that rights are given by The Constitution, nor are they hidden and waiting to be discovered in The Constitution. I believe that The Constitution guarantees that we have ALL rights except those specifically denied to us… and the line is where we take away those rights from someone else. I believe in freedom, and I believe that we can only truly be free when we are willing to allow everyone else to be as free as we ourselves want to be. The only question I have for my readers is this… do you have enough faith in our nation and our Constitution to trust that, with equal freedom, everyone else is capable of determining the courses of their own lives? Do you have enough faith to let everyone else be free?

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

A Short on the Sundwall Campaign

In Activism, Candidate Endorsement, Congress, Economics, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Politics on March 28, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Yesterday a friend sent me a link from the LP site about the challenge brought against Sundwall’s campaign.  She, like me, missed this news in the flood of news that seems to come through everyday.  Also, it was on the LP site, does anyone even go there anymore?  My immediate thoughts were, “I wonder who brought that challenge forward?  I wonder if any past candidates there have been removed for technicalities before?  I wonder if any of the past elected candidates were elected with technical problems?

When I’m in Dutchess County, NY sometimes I’ll I listen to WHUD. I hear them mentioning the names of the candidates to fill Gillibrand’s seat I get excited hearing them mention Eric’s.  It makes me smile.  I knew he was probably going to fight this, but I didn’t really see it being successful.  Talking Points Memo asks, “Qui Bono?” and they fill us in on details of who brought the complaint:

The complaint was brought by two voters who were registered with New York’s Republican and Conservative parties.* As such, some Democrats believe this was really engineered by the GOP side. As one Dem source told us: “The only reason the Republicans fought to keep Eric Sundwall off the ballot is because they knew he was stealing from their flawed candidate’s fading support.”

Thinking on it some more, the Eric Sundwall election brings up for me the same problems that the Ron Paul election did.  Perhaps even more.  Leaving aside issues of justice and ethics for the most part (as libertarians will argue over the problems of non-aggression and politics), I’m thinking about it in terms of economics.  Frequently, it would be asked by libertarian supporters of Ron Paul when they spoke among themselves, “just what could Paul do in office?”  We knew when thinking in context that he’d have to fight against political reality even if he became POTUS, a reality that had been shaped by powerful forces with mutual interest in maintaining their power.  From the state governments to the federal government, from the house to the senate, from big business to big education, from wealthy individuals to the labor unions, interlocking power had reasons to fight a Paul presidency and support one another while they individually had a go against the White House.  Still, Paul had the veto pen, the power of pardon, the power to appoint justices to the SCOTUS, nearly unilateral control over executive branch policy.  The hopeful assumed that those abilities might be enough to permanently change the US from an empire to a “normal” country if not a republic as imagined by 18th century liberals.

On the other hand Eric in NY would be a lot like Paul in the house, a lone voice crying into a near void, a Cassandra among rubes.  He would be running for congress, and not president.  Knowing this, would it have been worth it to support the Sundwall campaign?  It might give me a kick to know that someone I pretty much totally agree with was in office somewhere near me, but unless we had something like virtual cantons I don’t see it doing me much good.  The economic problem brought up by anti-political libertarians with regards to electoral politics is this.  Economics is about the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.  We use the word “trade-off” to describe the choice of one use of scarce resources over others.  One of our scarce resources is time.  Our ultimate goal, as we all ostensibly agree, is a free society.  Is it a better use of our scarce resources to support and get elected candidates who will participate in the political process of majoritarianism and logrolling, or are there other alternatives that will help us achieve our goals?  Perhaps the time, money, energy, and will, used in supporting candidates can be put toward actually making a free society rather than hoping that our one candidates will prevail.  Agorists, at least, propose exactly this.

I have nothing against Eric Sundwall, in fact I wish him all the best.  If he had won I would’ve been glad.  This goes for all other libertarians that are going the political route.  It looks like Eric got too close to becoming a swing vote and had to be knocked out.  If he cannot receive the majority of the votes that would’ve gone to him then it seems like a wasted effort.  I ask other libertarians out there, about the larger point: Is the very idea of state politics a folly?  Should we continue these indirect efforts for liberation, or should we engage in direct action?  I have my answer, but I’m willing to listen to an argument for other points of view.

Update: Eric has released a statement of his intent to end his candidacy.  He fingers the Tedisco campaign for playing dirty politics.  I’m inclined to agree.  This merely highlights one of the main problems of putting hopes into electoral solutions for liberty. The powers that be want to remain the powers, and playing their games or following their rules simply seems like a fool’s game to me.

Barr on DOMA 12 years later

In Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Convention, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Personal Responsibility, Politics, US Government on January 5, 2009 at 2:57 pm

From the Los Angeles Times, 1-5-09:

No defending the Defense of Marriage Act

The author of the federal Defense of Marriage Act now thinks it’s time for his law to get the boot — but for political reasons, not in support of gays.
By Bob Barr
January 5, 2009
» Discuss Article
In 1996, as a freshman member of the House of Representatives, I wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, better known by its shorthand acronym, DOMA, than its legal title. The law has been a flash-point for those arguing for or against same-sex marriage ever since President Clinton signed it into law. Even President-elect Barack Obama has grappled with its language, meaning and impact.I can sympathize with the incoming commander in chief. And, after long and careful consideration, I have come to agree with him that the law should be repealed.

The left now decries DOMA as the barrier to federal recognition and benefits for married gay couples. At the other end of the political spectrum, however, DOMA has been lambasted for subverting the political momentum for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In truth, the language of the legislation — like that of most federal laws — was a compromise.

DOMA was indeed designed to thwart the then-nascent move in a few state courts and legislatures to afford partial or full recognition to same-sex couples. The Hawaii court case Baehr vs. Lewin, still active while DOMA was being considered by Congress in mid-1996, provided the immediate impetus.

The Hawaii court was clearly leaning toward legalizing same-sex marriages. So the first part of DOMA was crafted to prevent the U.S. Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause — which normally would require State B to recognize any lawful marriage performed in State A — from being used to extend one state’s recognition of same-sex marriage to other states whose citizens chose not to recognize such a union.

Contrary to the wishes of a number of my Republican colleagues, I crafted the legislation so it wasn’t a hammer the federal government could use to force states to recognize only unions between a man and a woman. Congress deliberately chose not to establish a single, nationwide definition of marriage.

However, we did incorporate into DOMA’s second part a definition of marriage that comported with the historic — and, at the time, widely accepted — view of the institution as being between a man and a woman only. But this definition was to be used solely to interpret provisions of federal law related to spouses.

The first part of DOMA, then, is a partial bow to principles of federalism, protecting the power of each state to determine its definition of marriage. The second part sets a legal definition of marriage only for purposes of federal law, but not for the states. That was the theory.

I’ve wrestled with this issue for the last several years and come to the conclusion that DOMA is not working out as planned. In testifying before Congress against a federal marriage amendment, and more recently while making my case to skeptical Libertarians as to why I was worthy of their support as their party’s presidential nominee, I have concluded that DOMA is neither meeting the principles of federalism it was supposed to, nor is its impact limited to federal law.

In effect, DOMA’s language reflects one-way federalism: It protects only those states that don’t want to accept a same-sex marriage granted by another state. Moreover, the heterosexual definition of marriage for purposes of federal laws — including, immigration, Social Security survivor rights and veteran’s benefits — has become a de facto club used to limit, if not thwart, the ability of a state to choose to recognize same-sex unions.

Even more so now than in 1996, I believe we need to reduce federal power over the lives of the citizenry and over the prerogatives of the states. It truly is time to get the federal government out of the marriage business. In law and policy, such decisions should be left to the people themselves.

In 2006, when then-Sen. Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, he said, “Decisions about marriage should be left to the states.” He was right then; and as I have come to realize, he is right now in concluding that DOMA has to go. If one truly believes in federalism and the primacy of state government over the federal, DOMA is simply incompatible with those notions.

Bob Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the Libertarian Party’s 2008 nominee for president.

EXCLUSIVE: More LP Executive Session Info Leaked

In Activism, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics 2008, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Protest on December 9, 2008 at 10:45 pm

This is the letter I just sent to the LNC.

*****

December 9, 2009.

To the LNC:

In open session on Sunday, December 7, LNC Region #7 Representative Rachel Hawkridge was observed inadvertently mentioning Executive Session material. She immediately realized her mistake and publicly apologized.

It is in the best interest of the LNC to not pursue any sanctions of any sort against Ms. Hawkridge in this matter, because it will open another can of worms the LNC does not want to deal with. Please remember that I was present, not only broadcasting the meeting over the Internet, but also recording the broadcast and Twittering it out as well, where the Twitters were captured and blogged. In terms of what happened, I am an expert witness, and the events in question are well-documented.

That recording indicates that while Ms. Hawkridge undoubtedly leaked Executive Session material, she was not the first to do so. That would be the Treasurer, Mr. Aaron Starr. I also noticed it myself and Twittered the event.

To quote myself directly from the Twitter feed, in chronological order, typographical errors and all:

Starr just leaked that ES was about “staffing changes”. You draw the conclusions. 11:20 AM Dec 7th from web

Hawkridge also leaks ES on “staff cuts.” Mea cupla for her. But Starr already did it earlier. 11:37 AM Dec 7th from web

The words on the Twitters are quoted accurately, and the taped evidence of the open session confirms it, and is easily available to the public for viewing.

The difference in the words is irrelevant, as anybody who watched the budgetary part of the open session could plainly deduce that the “staffing changes” Mr. Starr refers to is the “staffing cuts” that Ms. Hawkridge refers to—the worst-kept secret in the room, in any case.

The only other difference is that Ms. Hawkridge expressed remorse for her accident and immediately apologized. Mr. Starr neither indicated remorse nor apologized. The conclusion is easily drawn that Mr. Starr’s actions were intentional and contemptuous of the rules. If they were not intentional, then Mr. Starr’s lack of awareness of leaking Executive Session material indicates an incompetence level unworthy of the office of LP Treasurer, and Mr. Starr ought to consider resigning in favor of someone more aware.

If the LNC chooses to pursue action against Ms. Hawkridge for an accidental slip of the tongue, then it is obligated to pursue more severe action against Mr. Starr for a deliberate one—perhaps even the actions sought in the most recent deliberate instance, meaning those sought in the shameful kangaroo case brought against Ms. Keaton, which if I recall correctly, was suspension from the LNC.

So the LNC is faced with four options.

Should action be pursued against Ms. Hawkridge and not Mr. Starr, then the membership will conclude it to be further evidence of a “purge” within the LNC—the very thing that further erodes the credibility of the LNC as a leadership body.

Should action be pursued against Mr. Starr and not Ms. Hawkridge, then the membership will conclude it to be Justice for past issues which may or may not have any bearing on the current situation.

Should action be pursued against both Ms. Hawkridge and Mr. Starr, then the membership will conclude it to be consistent but evidence of further unproductiveness, further eroding credibility of the LNC as a leadership body.

The only tangible and credible option left is to drop both matters completely and move on to much more important matters, perhaps with an appropriate public apology by Mr. Starr for his transgression.

At the end of the public comments section that day, I warned the LNC that while videotaping the meetings could produce evidence of liability, it could also provide exculpatory evidence, and that it all depended on how the LNC conducts itself. Here we see a perfect example of what I was referring to in how the body conducts itself. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a million pictures.

I am very sure the LNC does not wish to further expand on its current public relations disaster by pursuing this now or any time in the future. It is in the best interest of the LNC to simply let both matters drop, and I strongly encourage that route of inaction. Discretion is the better part of valor, and sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Sincerely,

Michael W. Seebeck

*****

Ironic, though, it bounced on Sullentrup, who had his email changed recently.  They can’t seem to get contact info for the officers updated very fast, but they wasted no time at all in removing Ms. Keaton from the page…and Mr. Squyres, who has also resigned, remains up as well.  Nice priorities!

Jason Gatties resigns as Boston Tea Party Chairman

In Boston Tea Party, Health, Libertarian, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Press Release on November 21, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Dear Freedom Fighters,

I would like to thank those who have expressed concerned over the illness in my family. Trust me, it does help. I also want to thank everyone who in this brief period of serving as chairman, supported my efforts. However, sometimes in life, there are more important battles and I’m at that stage right now. When I decided to run for the Chair seat, I could not foresee the issues that have popped up in my life personally over the past two weeks.

The Boston Tea Party deserves a Chairman who can dedicate 100% towards the cause. I’m simply unable to do that at this time. Family comes first and politics will always take a back seat to that. It is for this reason that I must officially resign as Chairman of the Boston Tea Party. I need to tend to family & more importantly, my pregnant wife. There is nothing more important to me than her health and I want to make sure that I can be there to hold her hand during this stressful period. She is very close to her family, but they live an ocean away, so hearing about someone she was close to dying of cancer is just a bit much right now. I’m all she has and I must be there for her.

I’m sure there will be those who will rip me for this decision and that is within your right to do so. However, I will never put politics ahead of family.

It was an honor to be elected your Chairman and I’m confident Douglass Gaking will be a fantastic Chairman, as he takes over my duties on a full time basis. The timing is just bad. I wish I could stick around and help this party grow, and perhaps I can in the future in some capacity, but right now just isn’t that time.

Thank you all so very much. Take care and keep fighting the good fight.

Jason Gatties

BTP Chair Jason Gatties steps back from duties due to personal issues

In Boston Tea Party, Libertarian, Personal Responsibility on November 17, 2008 at 10:18 pm

I wanted to make everyone aware that I’m going to step away from my
duties as Chairman of the Boston Tea Party National Committee to take
care of some personal issues. There’s an illness on my wife’s side of
the family and we have very few details at the moment.

My wife, who is pregnant, is pretty stressed out and rightfully so.
She deserves my love and attention right now, as any good husband
would provide.

Vice Chairman Douglass Gaking will take over my duties for the time
being. Right now, there is no set time line for my return, but I hope
to resume my duties in the very near future.

Please keep my family in your thoughts.

In Liberty,

Jason Gatties
Chairman
Boston Tea Party National Committee

 

Positive thoughts and best wishes go out to Jason and Cilla Gatties (and their family) from everyone at LFV.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if there is anything we can do to help.  In the meantime, we’ll keep your place on LFV warm for you, until you are in a position to return.

LFV Exclusive! Steve Kubby “Our Time Has Come”

In Activism, Barack Obama, Health, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Medical Marijuana, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Republican, Science, Steve Kubby on November 7, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Our time has come
By Steve Kubby


This weekend, the leadership of the Republican Party will be assembling at a secret location in Virginia, to try to decide what to do with the shattered remains of their party.

Conspicuous in his absence, Congressman Ron Paul, who holds many of the answers his party is seeking, was never invited.  Dr. Paul believes the GOP lost because it has lost the trust of their constituents, many of whom chose to stay home rather than vote.

Ron Paul tells us that the Republicans are unwilling to deal with the basic issues that have derailed their party.  Those issues, like ending the wars, downsizing government, cutting taxes and more personal freedom, are fundamentally Libertarian issues and the leadership of the GOP to unwilling or unable to embraces such a Libertarian platform.

Some conservatives like Richard Viguerie, understand this and have made sincere efforts to absorb and promote Libertarian views, but as Viguerie admitted privately to me, the GOP leadership has led the party astray and refuses to be replaced.

So the stage is set for the Libertarian Party to receive a stream of refugees from the GOP.  These Recovering Republicans have already been washing up on our shores and even former GOP operatives like Bob Barr have found a new home with the LP.

Unfortunately, many of our new friends from the GOP have insisted that we tone down the Libertarian message and water down our platform to make it more appealing to mainstream voters.  That’s the same nonsense that destroyed the GOP.

The Recovering Republican view prevailed at the LP presidential convention and the majority of delegates backed two GOP refugees as their ticket.  The Libertarian wing of the party may have suffered a defeat, but the results of this election show that the Recovering  Republican wing of the party was a dismal failure at delivering the numbers or outcome they had promised.  Thus, instead of $30 million, they raised just over  $1 million.  Instead of 5% of the popular vote, they delivered no more than past campaigns.

In contrast, Obama succeeded because he used the Net to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, one hundred dollars at a time.  Using the lessons of Howard Dean, Obama broke away from conventional political fundraising and created his own ground game.  Is there any reason the LP cannot do the same?

Of course our GOP refugee friends have their own reasons why things didn’t go right for them, but they had their chance and the results are clear.  Now it is time for the LP to adopt a truly Libertarian platform, elect a seriously Libertarian Executive Committee and sponsor real Libertarians for office.

Liberty works.  It’s time for the LP to make a real commitment to real Liberty and give people what they want and deserve: Smaller Government, Less Taxes and more Personal Freedom.  If our party can just focus on these simple but powerful ideas, we can overtake the GOP and replace it with what people really want and need.

Our time has come.  Are we prepared to show real leadership and stand up for our Libertarian principles, without excuses or  watered down language? The choice is ours.

__________

Steve Kubby is a respected longtime libertarian activist, and one of the world’s leading experts on medical marijuana.  His newest project is a publicly-traded company, DYMC, which is developing cannabinoid medications; you can read more about that exciting project here.

It’s Okay to Not Vote

In Civil Liberties, Libertarian, Personal Responsibility on November 6, 2008 at 8:42 pm

In every election, there are always a hand-full of people who, for one reason or another, do not vote.

In this article, I explain some of the reasons why people choose not to vote.  Following that, I defend the right to choose not to vote, explaining how it’s impossible for one to have an intrinsic responsibility to cast a ballot.