While I have much sympathy for the many movements across America and the world to legalize marijuana and other drugs, the idea that they will be treated (and regulated) like alcohol tempers my enthusiasm.
Thanks to the cartelizing government regulations in legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, these industries are dominated by large, mega-corporations. It's the only business structure that can survive this economic climate, and this is not done by accident.
Regulatory capture and corporatism are the norm in the American economy, and they almost always benefit entrenched, centralized interests at the expense of small, local businesses and the consumer.
Do we really want to Wal-Mart-ize the marijuana industry? No thanks. It's (almost) enough to want to keep these drugs illegal.
But then again, legalizing drugs - even under this current corporatist structure - would still likely prevent thousands upon thousands of people out of a government cage and perhaps even limit the police state.
So I say decriminalize, but don't legalize. This would have the benefit of reducing violence against peaceful buyers and sellers of drugs while keeping the market grey enough to be run by small entrepreneurs in a relatively free market. Remove the government gun from societal interaction, and bottom-up markets flourish.
The Silk Road may have been thwarted by the federal thugs, but its spirit lives on through the crypto-currency platform, agorism, counter-economics and by those of us embracing our natural right to liberty and simply exercising it - without politics or permission.
As Ed Bugos at The Dollar Vigilante writes, a "bottom-up revolution" - led by the free flow of information - is increasingly decentralizing decision-making, spreading knowledge, freeing up markets, creating entrepreneurs, and undercutting corporate-state cartels:
"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable?" --Jefferson, Notes on State of Virginia, 1787
That’s one of the most recurring thoughts in my mind these days. I’m usually thinking specifically of the hazards associated with central banking and fiat currencies, ideas brought to the west only a few centuries ago to support fractional reserve banking, a scheme that produces a recurring “cluster of errors” – i.e., and boom-bust cycle – in its wake. It has fueled popular delusions of grandeur and manias from tulip speculation to world conquest, and is responsible for many economic collapses.
But history extends beyond the origin of government supported fractional reserve banking systems, Jefferson was no doubt aware, and much of it can be presented as a timeline in human fallibility.
Many important ideas widely considered good today were condemned once, and vice versa.
Most people even today are blithely unaware of what doctrines they hold are true and which are not.
Thankfully, some scholars, not disconnected with Jefferson’s time, came to see it is perhaps better, then, not to sanction force to promote ideas and particularly religious doctrine. How novel a time!
Jefferson’s critics believe it is naïve to think that general truths would win out by their shear veracity.
But what a farce it is to think that the bad men who would keep them from you might not somehow find their way into politics. Standing armies were not used to realize truths such as: the sun does NOT revolve around the earth, the world is not flat, wants are infinite, means are scarce, value is subjective, and so on.
But they were certainly used to rob, loot, murder and commit atrocities in the name of God.
Historically truth has come about because someone stood up to hegemony and coercion.
The relevant lesson of history being that fallible humans endowed with too much power for their own good, or for anyone’s good, have always used force to suppress the truth…never to protect it!
But more than anything, as a classical liberal, Jefferson saw the use of initiatory force as immoral.
I don’t know whether he valued diversity of opinion for its own sake. But I am convinced that he would have valued the free exchange of ideas, and certainly would have tolerated dissent. He promoted it.
No doubt he understood the importance of consensus on core values, like the nonaggression axiom, property law, etc. But the use of force to realize these truths would defeat their purpose. Besides, we are taught government is benevolent and run by all knowing philosopher kings elected by the general population prepared to implement its general will to the betterment of everyone when it is really just an institution run by “Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons.”
So even the justification of initiatory force is based on a lie –a lie that the truth will one day bulldoze.
Antiquity will see men like Rothbard, Mises, and Hoppe as the Socrates, Galileo’s, and Bruno’s of the day.
For the thing about truth is that once it becomes generally realized it sure is hard to stamp out.
Indeed, while critics of the laissez faire system will tend to point to the fallibility of man as a weakness of such a system, others have long realized, ”If one rejects laissez faire on account of man’s fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action” (LvM).
In the real world, much error results from the well-intended misdirection of coercion and force.
If something is true, as Jefferson said, it does not need the support of government.
If an enterprise (or idea) is truly profitable, it doesn’t need subsidies and support from government.
Of course, separation of church and state is no longer that controversial. But separation of education and state, banking and state, money and state, security and state, and now healthcare and state all rank high as areas of substantial controversy, and industries where government still supports error.
The Bottom Up Revolution of Truth Continues, One Industry at a Time
“Uber Technologies Inc. has expanded a fundraising round by $1 billion amid swelling investor appetite for the mobile car-booking application. Uber submitted a filing Wednesday to the Delaware Secretary of State to bump up its fundraising by $1 billion, according to a representative of the San Francisco-based company. That would bring the total in the round, known as the Series E round, to $2.8 billion. Uber had previously collected $1.8 billion of the financing. Uber has been on a money-raising tear. The company, led by Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, raised $1.2 billion in financing in December, which valued the startup at $40 billion, one of the highest valuations for a closely held technology startup. It recently topped that off with another $600 million. Last month, Uber also closed $1.6 billion in convertible debt…” Bloomberg February 18, 2015
Huge! A new “sharing” economy is trying to emerge thanks to the internet; ushering in new concepts like ride-sharing (Uber), home-sharing (BnB), crowdfunding, bitcoin, and other innovative services that would have never been conceivable before the internet, which would have never been conceivable before computers, which in turn would have never been conceivable before the existence of electricity, or whatever. Imagine today what new layers of capital goods the human mind will think up next.
It’s nigh impossible to go far beyond “next” though.
But I diverge, as this isn’t supposed to be a refutation of central planning (yet maybe it is that simple).
What is interesting to note here is the reaction from the man on the street to these newly developing technologies, and the industries emerging from them. Skepticism is high today. He thinks that bitcoin, uber, and kickstarter are all fads; more examples of human error – like tulip mania and other bubbles.
Who knows. It’s hard to tell in an economy where so many industries are propped up or artificial.
I’m not going to claim they won’t fail.
However, they all share in at least two telling aspects.
First, they represent a bottom up revolution of entrepreneurs challenging various government supported cartels and monopolies. For example, ride sharing represents a challenge to the taxi and other transportation monopolies; home sharing services are challenging the hotel cartels; crowdfunding, the exchange monopolies; bitcoin, the money, banking, and financial monopolies; and so on.
In each case consumers benefit from increased accountability, cheaper and better services, more innovative products, and in the case of bitcoin, a wonderful get around the giant banking leviathan.
Second, and most importantly, the rise of these industries is occurring voluntarily; neither by fraud nor coercion. This means that many people find true value in them, regardless of your or my opinion.
The only coercion or government support existing here is on the side of established industries.
Typically this support is justified in the name of consumer safety; but anyone with an economics background knows regulation is actually used to raise barriers, restrict competition, and rent-seek.
That’s one reason new competition can emerge –because profits are artificially high to begin with.
Yet ironically while nobody is using a gun to force the acceptance of bitcoin as currency that’s what backs the fiat and monopoly currencies that we use every day. If it didn’t they would fail.
The first monopoly the Internet ever broke was the media and information monopoly.
No wonder the FCC has to clamp down on this thing! It’s anarchy!
They have to protect Warren Buffett’s profits.
Heaven forbid should consumers take economic power back.
Lest that all leads to challenging the biggest monopoly of monopolies of all. Yikes!!
What makes a country miserable? According to the World Misery Index, the five "most miserable countries" are Venezuela, Argentina, Syria, Ukraine, and Iran. The common denominator behind these statistics in these countries is a lack of economic freedom, markets, price structures, secure property rights and lots and lots of government intervention.
The US ranks 14th, and is gradually slipping in all metrics of economic freedom.
In general, the least miserable countries are those that have the highest degree of private enterprise and free markets.
– Caleb Carr
Barak Obama is a facile and Machiavellian intriguer of the highest order. I will leave to others in the commentariat to discuss his bona fides for President, his abhorrent collectivist notions of governing and all the other platitudes that point to a creature that has provided the planetary if not historical model for the dangers of the Peter Principle. He is a man out of his depth, which may be anything beyond a minor city council position, and even that would be a stretch.
His keen narcissism keeps him wandering through ironic swamps without realizing he is soaked through. Recently, his teleprompters gave yet another interminable and meandering speech on “violent extremism,” rich in historical ignorance and laced with rhetorical nonsense befitting a man who can speak for hours and not say a word of any consequence. The National Socialist and Communist bloviators of old don’t hold a candle to the verbal hypocrisy and magniloquence this man spews without communicating anything but the status quo.
I have insisted this is Bush’s fourth term and this latest milquetoast broadside does nothing more than confirm that. I suffer through these speeches and, thanks the Gods, I never had such a feckless and talent-less professor chain me to a classroom to listen to such drivel for a semester much less four years.
If Obama does anything morally right, it will usually be by mistake and not design.
In his usual doublespeak, he continuously weaves over the line but never reaches the target.
“By “violent extremism,” we don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people. We also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists –the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence. We all know there is no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist, so there’s no way to predict who will become radicalized. Around the world, and here in the United States, inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths, by people of different faiths — which is, of course, a betrayal of all our faiths. It’s not unique to one group, or to one geography, or one period of time.”
His protestations ring hollow; fine words and empty promises. The faiths are irrelevant and the modes of operation are the key. Ask any aboriginal American.
This is much like Hitler criticizing the brutality of the communist regime in the USSR or vice versa. This is the same administration that complains about the incineration of a Jordanian pilot and then glibly justifies the drone attacks and indiscriminate bombings that have characterized aspects of the robot war in the conflicts in the Middle East. Apparently, the drones are equipped with water balloons and party hats that they drop as a deadly payload instead of incendiary devices.
The international community and the West has wrestled with the definition of terrorism for decades because it just tread a very delicate path. Simply, terrorism is politically motivated violence against innocents and combatants. The US Department of Defense (an ironic sobriquet in itself) defines it as “the unlawful use of violence or threat of violence to instill fear and coerce governments or societies. Terrorism is often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs and committed in the pursuit of goals that are usually political.” You’ll note the graybeards in the DoD are very specific in the use of the term lawful because government is the self-satisfied arbiter of lawful terrorism. Absent the terrorist methodology, no government on earth or in history would last a day. Governments and the state invest themselves with right to initiate, threaten and commit violence against the entire populace in their respective tax jurisdictions.
Let’s conduct a thought experiment: if IS (or ISIS or whatever today’s new version is) wore US police uniforms and conducted their daily savagery in that mufti, would they be the subject of the White House broadsides and misdirection? If the IS wore Western style military uniforms and gave lip service to the laws of land warfare and international codes of conduct yet proceeded apace with this barbarism, would the Offal Office be up in arms, as it were?
IS is brutal and murderous by any standard but this staged revulsion on the part of the Western media sycophants and their political betters is heart-warming but they don’t like the messiness and untidiness of the violence in the conflict. They much prefer the antiseptic bombing and gunship campaigns that level communities and incinerate human beings in the name of whatever agenda they are following at the moment. IS is a direct result of these behaviors by the West in the Middle East since 1526. IS is both a direct and indirect creation of meddling in the calamitous region. The US urged the formation of these elements to fight the Syrian government and like the unintended consequences of Noriega, the Shah of Iran, Osama bin Laden and countless other former Federal satraps planet-wide. I’ll let others bicker about the degree of US and Western meddling, if not support given to the formation of IS and its behavior since, but the fact is a former revolutionary movement built on a terror and guerrilla infrastructure has matured into a regional military powerhouse toppling the very expensive Iraqi army like dominoes before its progress forward.
A Jordanian combat aircraft pilot is burned in a cage in an eerie fashion similar to what happens to countless human torches lit on the ground by Western aircraft sorties against surface targets through these combat theaters. Much like the chest-thumping by US church-goers who brag that we should simply glass the entire Middle East in a nuclear conflagration as they sip their sweet teas and praise Jesus. IS serves an up close and personal version of the violence and bloodlust that these non-military cherubs nonchalantly champion and they are aghast. Cognitive dissonance anyone?
Yet for all the media noise of Islamic terror, the EU and the US have seen a downturn indomestic incidents.
Not all European terrorists are Muslim either. According to the Center for American Progress’s analysis of data from Europol, the European Union’s equivalent of the FBI, less than 2 percent of terrorist attacks in the EU between 2009 and 2013 were religiously inspired. Separatist or ultra-nationalist groups committed the majority of the violent acts. Of course, jihadists have perpetrated some of the most horrific attacks in Europe in recent memory: the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the 2005 attacks in the London subway, and, of course, last month’s murders at Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher. But there have been gruesome attacks by non-Muslims too. Right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s 2011 assault on a summer camp near Oslo, for instance, killed far more people than the recent, awful attacks in France.
This may be the latest desperate act of the statist money-laundering interests of the Western military-industrial complex to start another broader conflict. Trillions of both existing and funded debt dumped into the Middle East conflicts with no end in sight nor improvement on the ground.
The whole mess in the Middle East is a brutal combination of Western meddling and persistent internecine conflict that cannot be disposed of with the flick of a pen or the jogging of an arming switch.
The dirty little secret is that effete bumblers like Obama possess neither the sophistication nor maturity to determine the fate of millions at home much less abroad. He is not alone, for no single human could do so. That may be the great irony of politics in this case: the stumbler in the Offal Office thinks a few casual platitudes can hide the very apparent fact that terrorism is bad in the hands of non-state actors but the absence of the institution would render ANY political power on earth moot if it couldn’t be practiced at home on a daily basis.
Terrorism in the broader sense is the basis of the state, for fear and obedience are the brick and mortar of all government edifices.
One can take the morally enfeebled speech that Obama delivered, substitute some words, and it may be a serviceable jeremiad against the Western police state but that is the subject of another essay.
One singular lesson stands out: mind your own business.
Persist and resist.
“…it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.(…) …voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked…”
– Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg Trials
I truly believe that voting with your feet and local, principled activism is the best way to implement libertarian ideas and build a freer society. Give the world an example of what liberty looks like; no more, no less.
That is what is happening in New Hampshire, one mover at a time.
Jim Bovard memorializes the man who produced or co-produced a number of superb films that vividly explained why the feds were lying about the carnage and bloodshed that they unleashed in Texas.
Also, here is the best documentary out there on what really happened at Waco, Texas in 1993.
There has been some controversy over whether ISIS, or the Islamic State, is truly a state. Even according to the standard definition of “territorial monopoly of force” (which I think is too restrictive anyway), it would be difficult to justify not calling it a state, if something of a ragtag one.
And its rise as a state in the crucible of wars in Iraq and Syria is a fairly typical one. For, just as, in the words of Randolph Bourne, “war is the health of the state,” war is also the birth of the state.
This is not only true of states born amid already state-dominated societies, but also of the emergence of primordial states in otherwise non-state societies. This was exhaustively detailed by Franz Oppenheimer in his classic work The State (1908). He explained how land states in the Old World virtually always emerged out of war and conquest: specifically the conquest of nomadic herdsmen over settled peasants. The conquerors graduate from shortsighted wanton ravaging to prudentially-curbed exploitation. They then evolve from alien tribute demanders to domestic tax collectors, and become progressively entangled with their subjects as a ruling class.
The great classical liberal philosopher Herbert Spencer also pointed to war as the crucible of the primitive state. In his The Man Versus the State (1884), he wrote:
“Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is begotten of aggression and by aggression.”
By “aggression,” Spencer specifically meant martial aggression. While Oppenheimer explained how a conquering population establishes a state ruling over a vanquished population, Spencer explained how the martial leadership within a conquering population establishes a state ruling over both the vanquished and the conquering populations. He continued:
“In small undeveloped societies where for ages complete peace has continued, there exists nothing like what we call Government: no coercive agency, but mere honorary headship, if any headship at all. In these exceptional communities, unaggressive and from special causes unaggressed upon, there is so little deviation from the virtues of truthfulness, honesty, justice, and generosity, that nothing beyond an occasional expression of public opinion by informally-assembled elders is needful. Conversely, we find proofs that, at first recognized but temporarily during leadership in war, the authority of a chief is permanently established by continuity of war; and grows strong where successful war ends in subjection of neighbouring tribes.”
Spencer went on to explain how war not only gives birth to the state, but sustains and strengthens it, presaging Bourne’s insight that war is the health of the state.
“And thence onwards, examples furnished by all races put beyond doubt the truth, that the coercive power of the chief, developing into king, and king of kings (a frequent title in the ancient East), becomes great in proportion as conquest becomes habitual and the union of subdued nations extensive. Comparisons disclose a further truth which should be ever present to us—the truth that the aggressiveness of the ruling power inside a society increases with its aggressiveness outside the society. As, to make an efficient army, the soldiers must be subordinate to their commander; so, to make an efficient fighting community, must the citizens be subordinate to their government. They must furnish recruits to the extent demanded, and yield up whatever property is required.”
ISIS, however, started not as conquerors but as an insurgency opposed to American conquerors and their local clients. But war is not only the birth and health of states, but the birth and health of brutal, extremist insurgencies. And this is true because of the same dynamics outlined above by Spencer.
When people are subjected to war and military occupation, they seek defense by rallying around and deferring to the warlike, just as conquering populations seek victory by rallying around and deferring to their Alexanders and Caesars. War empowers the vanguard of every side, and vanguards are naturally made up of the most belligerent.
This explains the rise of ISIS in its original incarnation as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the US occupation of Iraq, and its second rise during the US-fomented civil war in Syria.
Buttressed by war, ISIS has since graduated to conquest, as insurgencies often do, and its campaigns of conquest have strengthened its extractive grip over its subjects just as Oppenheimer and Spencer would have expected. As CNN reported in October:
“…ISIS can demand money from people wherever it has established control. Want to do business in ISIS-controlled territory? You pay a tax. Want to move a truck down an ISIS-controlled highway? You pay a toll. Villagers in ISIS territory reportedly are charged and pay for just about everything.
‘There are reports that people in Mosul (Iraq) who want to take money out of their own bank accounts need to make a ‘voluntary’—not so voluntary—donation to the Islamic State, to ISIS,’ [terrorism expert Matthew] Levitt says. ‘So controlling territory has given them opportunities that other groups like al Qaeda, who haven’t controlled real territory, haven’t had.'”
Amusingly, Levitt sees these “not so voluntary” taxes as indication of the singularly criminal and marauding nature of ISIS.
“The group, says Levitt, was born among crooks and thugs from a broken Iraq, and at its root it is a criminal enterprise.
‘We shouldn’t be surprised,’ says Levitt. ‘Remember, the Islamic State called ISIS is what used to be called the Islamic State of Iraq, and al Qaeda in Iraq, the Tawhid Network, the Zarqawi Network; it’s all the same. And they were always primarily financed through domestic criminal activity within the borders of Iraq.’
Levitt says ISIS operates as a massive organized crime group with virtually no law enforcement to rein it in—and its long history has allowed it to set roots and develop over many years. (…)
It is the centuries-honored tradition of conquest and control: What you take is what you have.”
This handwringing over ISIS’s extortion, tyranny, and conquest is a bit rich coming from Levitt, who has worked for the U.S. Treasury, the FBI, and a warmongering Washington think tank. As the blogger “Anarcho Mama” pointed out, Levitt is oblivious to the fact that every state is essentially, as Murray Rothbard put it, “a bandit gang writ large.” ISIS has simply grown out of its “writ small” youth. And of course it also escapes Levitt that, as Oppenheimer and Spencer taught, all states ultimately stem from and thrive on war and conquest.
Andreas Antonopoulos on the revolutionary implications behind bitcoin technology and radical decentralization:
Open-source technologies such as bitcoin are a combination of open-source software, common technology standards, and a participatory decentralized network. These layers create a three-tiered commons where innovation contributed by users adds to the common platform, which makes it better for everyone.
But for the last few hundred years, we have generally thought of goods as best belonging to the private domain. Consider that, in economic terms, the “tragedy of the commons” is a market-failure scenario where a shared public good is overexploited. In this scenario, each user has an incentive to maximize his or her own use until the good is depleted.
The example used to illustrate this economic theory is a grassland (a “village commons” in British English) that is unregulated and overgrazed by cattle until it deteriorates to a muddy field. The tragedy of the commons occurs when individual self-interest combined with a large economic externality (the cost to the commons) create a market failure for all.
The opposite of the tragedy of the commons is called a “comedy of the commons,” but I prefer to use the term “festival of the commons,” which conjures a better visual example: a grassland used to hold a community festival that benefits everyone. The comedy of the commons was first stipulated as an economic theory governing public goods such as knowledge, where individual use of the common good does not deplete the good but instead adds to it.
The sharing economy, which consists of open-source software (for example, Linux), participatory publishing (Wikipedia), and participatory networks (BitTorrent), creates conditions where increased participation adds to the good’s underlying value and benefits all participants. In such cases, the underlying good is knowledge, software, or a network, and its availability is not depleted by individual use.
Software applications are themselves open-sourced and add to the commons, offering new capabilities for all subsequent innovators. Enhancements to the protocol bring new features across the entire network, allowing the ecosystem to build new services around them. Finally, as more users adopt the technology and add their resources to the P2P network, the scalability and security of the entire network increases.
Open-source currencies have another layer that multiplies these underlying effects: the currency itself. Not only is the investment in infrastructure and innovation shared by all, but the shared benefit may also manifest in increased value for the common currency. Currency is the quintessential shared good, because its value correlates strongly to the economic activity that it enables. In simple terms, a currency is valuable because many people use it, and the more who use it, the more valuable it becomes. Unlike national currencies, which are generally restricted to use within a country’s borders, digital currencies like bitcoin are global and can therefore be readily adopted and used by almost any user who is part of the networked global society.
The underlying festival-of-the-commons effect created by open-source software, shared protocols, and P2P networks feeds into the value of the overlaid shared currency. While this effect may be obscured in the early stages of adoption by speculation and high volatility, in the long run, it may create a virtuous cycle of adoption and value that become a true festival of the commons.
The festival is now open. Who will join it?
You can thank the doctrine of "sovereign immunity" for the frequency with which police murder, harass, assault, steal lie - and get away with it - like this rapist cop who will walk away free from his repeated acts of assault and violence on innocent people. A slap on the wrist any one of us would spend life in prison for (and justifiably or so). Shouldn't the armed agencies of government, which we supposedly entrust with the goal of law and order, obey the same laws as the rest of us, or perhaps have even higher standards of conduct?
But this is "immunity" is necessary, you see, a "necessary evil," because without the state there to legally rape, kidnap, steal and murder there would be chaos and anarchy and gangs and...ya, you know how the argument goes. Statism, basically, is always a cure worse than the disease, centralizing and codifying the worst in human behavior.
By Ron Paul:
The president is requesting Congress to pass an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) resolution against ISIS. Congress has not issued a similar resolution since 2002, when President Bush was given the authority to wage war against Iraq. The purpose of this resolution is to give official authority to the president to do the things that he has already been doing for the past six years. Seems strange but this is typical for Washington. President Obama’s claim is that he does not need this authority. He claims, as have all other recent presidents, that the authority to wage war in the Middle East has been granted by the resolutions passed in 2001, 2002, and by article II of the Constitution. To ask for this authority at this time is a response to public and political pressure.
It has been reported that the president is going to request that the authority limit the use of ground troops. However it would not affect the troops already engaged in Syria and Iraq to the tune of many thousands. This new authority will acknowledge that more advisors will be sent. Most importantly it will appear to have given moral sanction to the wars that have already been going for years.
Interestingly it actually expands the ability of the president to wage war although the president publicly indicates he would like to restrain it. The new authorization explicitly does not impose geographic limits on the use of troops anywhere in the world and expands the definition of ISIS to that of all “associated forces.” A grant of this authority will do nothing to limit our dangerous involvement in these constant Middle East wars.
The war propagandists are very active and are winning over the support of many unsuspecting American citizens. It is not difficult to motivate resistance against an organization like ISIS that engages in such evil displays of horrific violence.
We have been fighting in the Middle East for 25 years. There have been no victories and no “mission accomplished.” Many needless deaths and dollars have been spent and yet we never reassess our policies of foreign interventionism. One would think after the humiliating defeat of the Republicans in 2008, as a reaction to the disastrous foreign policy of George W. Bush, that the American people would be more cautious in granting support to expanding our military presence in that region.
Even if our policies led to no boots on the ground, the unintended consequences of blowback and the enemy obtaining more American weapons will continue. The CIA has said that 20,000 foreigners are on their way to Iraq and Syria to join the ISIS. Our government has no more credibility in telling us the truth about the facts that require us to expand our military presence in this region than Brian Williams. Constant war propaganda has proven too often to be our nemesis in supporting constant war promoted by the neoconservatives and the military industrial complex.
It’s my opinion that giving additional authority to wage war in the Middle East is a serious mistake. Instead, the authority granted in 2001 and 2002 should be repealed. A simple and correct solution would be for our elected officials to follow the rules regarding war laid out in the Constitution.
Ironically there may well be some Republicans in the Congress who will oppose this resolution because of their desire to have an all-out war and not be limited in any way by the number of troops that we should be sending to this region. The only way that Congress can be persuaded to back off with our dangerous interventionism, whether it’s in the Middle East or Ukraine, is for the American people to speak out clearly in opposition.
There is no doubt that ISIS represents a monstrous problem – a problem that should be dealt with by the many millions of Arabs and Muslims in the region. ISIS cannot exist without the support of the people in the region. Currently it is estimated that their numbers are in a range of 30,000. This is not the responsibility of American soldiers or the American taxpayer.
Declaring war against ISIS is like declaring war against communism or fascism. The enemy cannot be identified or limited. Both are ideological and armies are incapable of stopping an idea, good or bad, that the people do not resist or that they support. Besides, the strength of ISIS has been enhanced by our efforts. Our involvement in the Middle East is being used as a very successful recruitment tool to expand the number of radical jihadists willing to fight and die for what they believe in. And sadly our efforts have further backfired with the weapons that we send ending up in the hands of our enemies and used against our allies and Americans caught in the crossfire. Good intentions are not enough. Wise policies and common sense would go a long way toward working for peace and prosperity instead of escalating violence and motivating the enemy.
Bob Murphy at The Freeman explains how state licensing cartelizes industries while harming consumers and the cheaper, better and more peaceful alternatives found in a free society:
Economics columnist Eduardo Porter gave fans of economic freedom a pleasant surprise when he recentlypraised Uber in the New York Times. He even wondered whether other occupations besides taxis suffered from artificial state restrictions. As welcome as this analysis was, Porter still conceded the basic premise of occupational licensing and made a smart-aleck remark about the bad old days of medical quackery under pure laissez-faire.
I will push his analysis to its logical limits and show that there is no justification for the state to declare certain professionals off-limits to willing customers.
To reiterate, the gist of Porter’s article was very encouraging, especially considering its location in the NYT. Even so, he pulled his punches and gave the state too much credit by writing:
Sometimes professional licenses make sense, ensuring decent standards of health and safety. I’m reassured that if I ever need brain surgery, the doctor performing it will have been recognized by the profession to be up to the task. We don’t want to return to the 19th century, when barbers pulled teeth and freelance doctors with no certification peddled miraculous cures.
It’s true that few Americans today would go to a barber to get a tooth pulled. But this is precisely why unlicensed tooth extraction wouldn’t be a problem nowadays, even if the state allowed it. You don’t need to pass laws to protect the public against doing things that the overwhelming majority recognize as stupid. Furthermore, even if you do pass laws against stupid things, a few people are still going to do them.
There is a fundamental problem with state-issued standards, whether we’re discussing occupational licensing, product safety, or academic accreditation. If some particular criterion of quality or safety is deemed so obvious that no one could possibly object, then by the same token, the state doesn’t serve a function by mandating the standard.
The problem that Porter’s glib quotation ignores is that some people might think “miraculous cures” really exist. For example, suppose someone is peddling a little white pill that rapidly alleviates headaches and other pains, and also reduces the chance of a heart attack for those with heart disease. Sounds like a quack product, doesn’t it? I sure hope that Porter’s zeal to ban “miraculous cures” wouldn’t have taken aspirin off the table when it was sold, unregulated, in the late 1800s. Similarly, in our haste to regulate professions, we exclude people who have the aptitude and skills to make our lives better at far lower cost. It’s not that people don’t want safety and efficacy. They do. The point is that there are far better and lower-cost ways of getting these outcomes than the procedures most state licensing regimes set up. (In this context, Uber has become a paradigmatic case.)
When it comes to licensing professionals, there are two distinct considerations. First, even if the public and experts all generally agreed on standards of quality, there would be the issue of price. Milton Friedman popularized the analogy of automobiles in this context, asking readers to imagine the government mandating a “Cadillac standard” for motorists. By driving up the cost of vehicles, such a measure would obviously hurt those former motorists who couldn’t afford a Cadillac and so had to take the bus, ride a bike, or walk. Yet, even considering the Americans who could afford a Cadillac, the measure would still be harmful. Forcing such people to spend their scarce dollars on a nicer car, rather than on housing, clothes, or their children’s education, doesn’t make them better off — it just imposes the officials’ value scale.
What is obvious with our hypothetical “Cadillac standard” for cars carries over to medical licensing. Even if everybody could agree that a doctor with an MD from Harvard and 20 years experience in a major hospital was better than someone fresh out of high school, to insist that all doctors in the United States meet the former requirements would be absurd. It would force people to spend more on medical care than they would have voluntarily chosen in a freer system.
Things are even worse when we recognize that people can’t agree on standards of quality. There is genuine debate over the efficacy of certain treatments and the value of certain types of medical education (such as homeopathy). By declaring certain professionals off-limits to consumers because of a genuine disagreement — even among experts — about qualifications, occupational licensing from the state prevents services that would benefit some consumers. A society doesn’t solve the problem of different opinions by telling its political officials to designate the experts; that is merely one mechanism of anointing some professionals as suitable.
We can imagine alternative, voluntary mechanisms of telling the public which professionals are qualified, such as fraternal organizations, guilds, unions, and other private certification associations. With medical care in particular, surely hospitals and insurance companies would exercise a large degree of quality control. For example, a major hospital wouldn’t allow someone to work in the operating room without good credentials, and an insurance company wouldn’t issue malpractice coverage to a surgeon who merely had an undergrad degree in biology.
It is a paradox of our age that the interventionists think the public is too stupid to consult Angie’s List before hiring a lawyer, and so they need politicians to weed out the really bad ones by requiring law licenses. Yet, who determines whether a person (often a lawyer!) is qualified to become a politician? Why, the same group of citizens who were too stupid to pick their own lawyers.
In conclusion, it is a mistake to confuse the public’s need for expert guidance on professionals with the public’s need for political intervention in various occupational markets. Telling political officials to weed out the unqualified members of a profession merely pushes the problem back one step. Whatever story we can tell that would make a democratic “solution” work would show how a voluntary system of ratings and peer review would be even better.
The Guardian reported last week on some bad news for people in Somalia who rely on monetary remittances from America—and that's a lot of people:
On Friday, Merchants Bank of California is expected to close the accounts of all Somali-American money transfer companies on its books.
The bank sent out letters to customers at the end of January informing them of the decision. The bank has not responded to the Guardian’s requests for comment. If it goes ahead with its decision, it would be the second time the bank has warned Somali remittance companies of pending account closures; in October 2014, the bank reversed a prior decision to close their accounts.
It's a big deal, if you are Somalian or have relatives or friends you are trying to help there:
Remittance payments to Somalia dwarf aid spending. Overseas development assistance to Somalia is $75 (£50) per capita, including both humanitarian and development aid, compared with an estimated $110 per capita in remittances entering the country, which amounts to 35% of GDP, the highest level in the world. Somalis in the US alone send more than $200m, according to Oxfam; the UK sends more than $162m, followed by Germany and the Netherlands.
But regulatory pressure is throttling the life-saving inflows. Money transfer operators, which work like Western Union, but reach remote locations at a fraction of the cost, have come under scrutiny in the past few years for potentially laundering money or funding terrorism. In response, banks have been closing their accounts.
Columnist George Monbiot, no stranger to complaining about the crimes of Western governments, has an impassioned rant on the topic in yesterday's Guardian, fingering U.S. financial regulators for a heartless crushing of a much-needed free flow of money in the name of maybe keeping some cash out of the "wrong hands":
Last Friday, after the OCC [U.S. Office of Comptroller of the Currency] had sent it a cease-and-desist order, the last bank in the United States still processing money transfers to Somalia closed its service. The agency, which reports to the US treasury, reasoned that some of this money might find its way into the hands of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. It’s true that some of it might, just as some resources in any nation will find their way into the hands of criminals (ask HSBC). So why don’t we shut down the phone networks to hamper terrorism? Why don’t we ban agriculture in case fertiliser is used to make explosives? Why don’t we stop all the clocks to prevent armed gangs from planning their next atrocity?
Ridiculous? In fact it’s not far off. Remittances from the Somalian diaspora amount to $1.2bn-$1.6bn a year, which is roughly 50% of the country’s gross national income, and on which 40% of the population relies for survival. Over the past 10 years the money known to have been transferred to suspected terrorists in Somalia amounts to a few thousand dollars. Cutting off remittances is likely to kill more people than terrorists will ever manage....
So you take a country suffering from terrorism, massive youth unemployment and the threat of famine, and seek to shut off half its earnings. You force money transfers underground where they are more likely to be captured by terrorists. You destroy hope, making young men more susceptible to recruitment by an organisation promising loot and status. Through an iniquitous mass punishment, you mobilise the anger and grievance on which terrorist organisations thrive. You help al-Shabaab to destroy Somalia’s economic life.
Foreign Policy wrote with some good background on how and why U.S. financial regulators are out to smash the Somalian remittance industry last year.
Yet another reason why cryptocurrencies are not just for libertarians, but more importantly for the un- or poorly banked across the world with access to the informational ether via smartphones or computers.
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"I like to believe that people, in the long run, are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." -Dwight D....