Friday, February 26, 2010

The Toyota Shakedown

The facts:

20,451,000 Toyotas sold in U.S between 2000-2009

34 deaths reported because of potential problems with recalled Toyotas from 2000-2009

Or 1 death per 601,500 cars sold

Or 3.4 deaths/avg. per year

Compared to 110 deaths in 1999 to occupants of animal drawn vehicles

The conclusion:

Toyota does not have a safety problem

In fact we should marvel at the safety record

One needs to ask: who will gain from encouraging the so called “safety problems?”

Sources: NTSB, NCHS, NSC, US Census Bureau, CNN

Gaming the system

Local referendum op-ed

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Declaration of Liberty

>Please read, sign if you agree, and forward to your patriot friends.-Dean

The Declaration of Liberty

February 24, 2010

When, in the course of twenty-first century events, it becomes necessary for the American people to re-affirm the political bonds which have maintained a great nation and connected them to one another; humbly assuming among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them. A decent respect to the opinions of those who would dismantle our constitutional republic requires that we should declare and defend the principles which guide us as one nation under God and indivisible.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property to ensure happiness and define morality. That to secure these rights, our national governance derives it’s just powers from the consent of the governed. That if our republic ventures beyond its rightful functions, so order and liberty is diminished or destroyed, then it is the right of the American people to alter it, and to re-institute fundamental constitutional ideals, laying their foundation on such principles and re-organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect change in promoting their safety, happiness, and civility.

Natural law dictates that governments long established will invariably be weakened by the human condition, and thus the bell of liberty must ring often, re-establishing representation to the people. This is not done for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown that peaceful Americans are more disposed to suffer, than to right themselves by standing up and abolishing the very seeds of their destruction to which they have grown accustomed.

We have warned our elected leaders from time to time of the attempts by the legislature, executive and judiciary to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us, but they have been deaf to the voice of reason, common sense and justice. Now, when a long train of abuses and encroachments, pursuing invariably the same abuse of power evinces a design that is leading to tyranny, it is our right and duty to remove the affliction and to provide new guards for our future security.

Let these fundamental principles be submitted to a candid American electorate who believe and demand the following in our system of governance:

A nation that understands that our rights come from God, not government, that liberty is indivisible, and political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom, free will, and personal responsibility for the costs of choices freely acted upon.

A nation consistent with the words of our founders where individuals derive the right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force, while protecting the defenseless and securing the blessings of freedom and liberty to ourselves, our children, and our posterity.

A nation of limited government based on the rule of law and ordered liberty for the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense to defend our rights against all enemies foreign or domestic, and the administration of justice, free speech, religious liberty, and right to arm in defense of tyranny.

A nation built on representative self government where sovereignty rests in the consent of the governed, refining popular will trough a series of checks, balances, and division of powers through the several branches of government under a federal system that reserves primacy to the states, or to the people, in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government by the strict interpretation of the Constitution.

A nation that supports and defends free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur’s productive ingenuity, equality of opportunity, and fiscal policy grounded in free market capitalism where incentives reward accomplishment and hold failures accountable.

A nation that identifies the market economy as the only economic system compatible with both the requirements of personal freedom and moving scarce resources productively for the efficient meeting of human needs.

A nation that understands when government interferes with voluntary exchange, based on property rights to ourselves and our efforts, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation; and that when government takes from one man to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both.

A nation that takes a firm defense of traditional family, neighborhood, community, and faith, embracing personal responsibility and autonomy enforced by self-restraint and community standards. Where education is focused on reason and purpose guided by parents, and where peace and safety are achieved through preparation and strength based on the principle that evil exists in the world and must be defeated.

A nation that welcomes newcomers of all nationalities, languages, religions, and beliefs who assimilate legally and who cherish and are willing to defend against all enemies the ideals of ordered liberty, as expressed in the Constitution of the United States, where American exceptionalism and enlightened self-interest serves the greater cause of humanity.

A nation that understands that although as imperfect as man, The Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power.

We are now engaged in a great political and cultural battle, testing whether our nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We must remember those who gave their lives so that our nation might live. It is time for us to be dedicated to the unfinished work which others who fought have thus far so nobly advanced. The great task remaining before us is to take increased devotion to that cause for which patriots gave the last full measure of devotion, so that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

We therefore, the people of the United States of America, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority God’s natural law, solemnly publish and declare, that the United States of America and its Constitutional principles will guide this great nation, and support this declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, and in honor to those who have served and died to maintain these principles, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Dean Kalahar

Sources: The Declaration of Independence; The Sharon Statement; The Thurmont Statement; The Mount Vernon Statement; The Gettysburg Address.

Friday, February 19, 2010

George Washington- capitalist

George Washington- capitalist

Excerpts: Founding Father By John Berlau

During a time period of America's existence as an English colony and then a young nation . . . this businessman's enterprise processed 1.5 million fish per year sent throughout the 13 American colonies and the British West Indies. The mill he built grinded 278,000 pounds of branded flour annually that was shipped through America and, unusual during colonization, even exported to England as well as Portugal. And in the 1790s, during the last years of his life, this mogul built one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the new nation.

Washington's background wasn't exactly poor, but it was not as rich as many of his contemporaries among the Founders. His father died when he was 11, and, among the youngest of many brothers, he didn't inherit much, and the family lacked money to give him a formal education.

So at 16, Washington became an apprentice land surveyor for Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. From Fairfax (namesake of Fairfax County, which is now part of the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Washington learned about land acquisition, and became skilled in the practice that today we would call a real estate speculator.

After fighting with distinction in the French and Indian War, Washington inherited the 2,000-acre Mount Vernon farm from his older brother Lawrence and began acquiring other land around it, extending his homestead to 8,000 acres at the time of his death. In 1759, Washington married the widow Martha Custis, and she and her two children came to live at Mount Vernon. But although Martha had considerable wealth, as has been noted, running a productive farm against the backdrop of British trade restrictions and taxes, as well as nature's unpredictability, was not an easy task. It was then that Washington began his innovative agribusiness practices that made Mount Vernon, as described in a paper (not available online) by Mount Vernon director of restoration Dennis J. Pogue, "an expansive and ambitious commercial enterprise."

Washington's first step to becoming an entrepreneur was to abandon the most common cash crop of his native Virginia. That would be the now-dreaded tobacco. But it was not for health reasons that Washington stopped planting it. It was because of taxes and duties that reduced his profits and the fact that the tobacco crop was hurting Mount Vernon's soil. . . "By 1766 the disappointingly low prices that he was receiving in return for his tobacco harvest convinced Washington that he would be better off devoting the labor of his workers to producing other commodities that had a more dependable payoff."

Washington grew hundreds of crops, many of which were imported from Europe. (And yes, he did grow hemp, but not very much and not for very long.) But for his main cash crop, he chose wheat. But he didn't stop fulfilling the market need with the growing of this wheat. He became a manufacturer of two products that contained his crop: flour and distilled whiskey.

Recently replicated on their original foundations at Mount Vernon, Washington's gristmill and distillery are architectural wonders that anticipated modern factories. The flour mill is three levels high with two sets of mill stones, including French buhr stones that were used to make the finest quality of flour. The mill produced about 278,000 pounds of flower per year, branded with the Washington name, sold throughout the colonies and exported to England and as far away as Portugal. The flour bore the identification of George Washington, in effect making it similar to a modern branded food product.

Washington also "farmed" the banks of the Potomac for shad, herring and other fish. His fishery consisted of rowboats and large nets, and in a six-week fishing season each spring, Washington's men netted about 1.5 million fish, according to the Reynolds museum at Mount Vernon. And the inedible portions of the fish were used as fertilizer for crops such as wheat

But it is the distillery may offer the most fascinating example of Washington's entrepreneurial prowess. After retiring from the presidency and returning to Mount Vernon -- setting a precedent for voluntarily relinquishing power -- Washington built a distillery in 1797 on the advice of his plantation manager James Anderson, a native of Scotland who knew a thing or two about distilled spirits. The whiskey was made largely from crops grown at Mount Vernon. As one Virginia magazine describes it, "rye, malted barley and corn were mixed with boiling water to make a mash in 120 gallon barrels."

This process is now reenacted at Mount Vernon at the distillery that was reopened in 2007, thanks to a grant from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. A few times a year, Washington's whiskey -- using one of the old recipes -- is even sold to Mount Vernon visitors.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Can regulators who failed be trusted to regulate again to prevent failure?

Or has perdition frozen over!

Excerpts: The Naive Conceit of Banking Regulations By John Tamny

Past troubles within the U.S. financial system continue to generate a great deal of feverish commentary from allegedly wise minds in the economic commentariat about how to fix what was broken. The general view is that something must be done in terms of legislation and regulation to ensure that another banking crisis of the kind which occurred in 2008 never happens again. . .

Unfortunately for both sides, the calls for more regulation will not work for ignoring greater realities about talent, incentives, and the certain truth that failure of any kind is an essential economic input, along with a clean form of regulation itself.

Implicit in the argument for more or better financial regulation is the naïve assumption that the kind of person willing to work for the government has the skills necessary to regulate a financial sector which, by virtue of the profits historically achieved in the space, attracts some of the greatest minds in the world. More realistically, it should be said that the individuals who populate the Fed, SEC and Treasury in many instances couldn't get jobs in banking, which points to a certain talent deficit when it comes to overseeing the activities of those that could.

Some might point out that many regulation functionaries are in possession of talent, but view government experience as a way of gaining skills that will make them even more valuable to Wall Street in the future. No doubt that's true to an extent, but their private-sector designs make them even more unworthy of the regulation they're entrusted with. . .

When we consider incentives, in the private sector managers are rewarded for doing more with less, and generally for figuring out how to destroy jobs. Within government, however, the opposite is the case. If government employees do their jobs too well, then they essentially put themselves out of work.

Looked at in light of financial regulation, ever since the crisis the Fed, SEC and Treasury have asked for and received more money and resources to root out financial malfeasance. To put it very simply, the regulatory bodies charged with overseeing finance labor under perverse incentives whereby their failures are rewarded.

Most glaring about the conceit of regulatory policy is the certainty that we're asking regulators to do the impossible, as in see in the present what will be problematic in the future. In that sense, when politicians and commentators complain about regulatory failure, they're in truth paying those who supposedly failed the highest of compliments whereby they ascribe to the prosaic government bureaucrat a level of intelligence that logic tells us is non-existent.

If regulators were actually in possession of the kind of otherworldly skills allowing them to see into the future, they most definitely would not be working for the government. Instead, they'd be making billions in the private sector. . .

there is no "third way" when it comes to failure. Implicit in their proposals is the utopian notion that failure can be simplified.

Instead, it's very necessary that the externalities of bank failure be felt acutely by all investors and counterparties so that the same mistakes aren't made again.

So that we can avoid a repeat of the horrors felt in the markets when the federal government used money taken from the private sector to save institutions that the private sector rejected, it's essential to simplify, rather than confuse or expand regulation of finance. Basically we need to reduce the presumption of financial regulation to twenty-three words: financial institutions that can't access private funding in order to continue their operations will be allowed to go bankrupt free of government interference.

Only then will self-interested investors enforce the kind of barriers to extreme risk taking that had most of the financial sector near death less than two years ago. Indeed, if made aware that failures will be their own, banks, investors in same, and counterparties will surely amend their activities with this new "freedom to fail" in mind.

If not, if we're truly gullible enough to believe that the very regulatory conceit that has failed so impressively for so long should be given another chance to succeed, we'll only have ourselves to blame when the next financial crisis reveals itself. It will most definitely be the result of false hope wrought by naïve arrogance suggesting under-qualified bureaucrats, as opposed to self-interested investors, know best how to protect what is theirs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who is hiring now?

Is this the America we want to see?

Figure 1-2

Non-sense and the Census

The Census and the Constitution by Walter E. Williams

The Census Bureau estimates that the life cycle cost of the 2010 Census will be from $13.7 billion to $14.5 billion, making it the costliest census in the nation's history. Suppose you suggest to a congressman that given our budget crisis, we could save some money by dispensing with the 2010 census. I guarantee you that he'll say something along the lines that the Constitution mandates a decennial counting of the American people and he would be absolutely right. Article I, Section 2 of our constitution reads: "The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct."

What purpose did the Constitution's framers have in mind ordering an enumeration or count of the American people every 10 years? The purpose of the headcount is to apportion the number of seats in the House of Representatives and derived from that, along with two senators from each state, the number of electors to the Electoral College.

The Census Bureau tells us that this year, it will use a shorter questionnaire, consisting of only 10 questions. From what I see, only one of them serves the constitutional purpose of enumeration -- namely, "How many people were living or staying at this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?" The Census Bureau's shorter questionnaire claim is deceptive at best.

The American Community Survey, long form, that used to be sent to 1 in 6 households during the decennial count, is now being sent to many people every year. Here's a brief sample of its questions, and I want someone to tell me which question serves the constitutional function of apportioning the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives: Does this house, apartment, or mobile home have hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, a bathtub or shower, a sink with a faucet, a refrigerator, a stove? Last month, what was the cost of electricity for this house, apartment, or mobile home? How many times has this person been married?

After each question, the Bureau of the Census provides a statement of how the answer meets a federal need. I would prefer that they provide a statement of how answers to the questions meet the constitutional need as expressed in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

The Census Bureau also asks questions about race, and I want to know what does my race have to do with apportioning the U.S. House of Representatives? If I'm asked about race, I might respond the way I did when filling out a military form upon landing in Inchon, Korea in 1960; I checked off Caucasian. The warrant officer who was checking forms told me that I made a mistake and should have checked off "Negro." I told him that people have the right to self-identify themselves and I'm Caucasian. The warrant officer, trying to cajole me, asked why I would check off Caucasian instead of Negro. I told him that checking off Negro would mean getting the worse job over here. I'm sure the officer changed it after I left.

Americans need to stand up to Washington's intrusion into our private lives. What business of government is the number of times a citizen has been married or what he paid for electricity last month? For those who find such intrusion acceptable, I'd ask them whether they'd also find questions of their sex lives or their marriage fidelity equally acceptable.

What to do? Unless a census taker can show me a constitutional requirement, the only information I plan to give are the number and names of the people in my household. The census taker might say, "It's the law." Thomas Jefferson said, "Whensoever the General Government (Washington) assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force."

Competition and free markets in education

Excerpts: Education: Too Important for a Government Monopoly by John Stossel

The government-school establishment has said the same thing for decades: Education is too important to leave to the competitive market. If we really want to help our kids, we must focus more resources on the government schools. . . Since 1980, government spending on education, adjusted for inflation, has nearly doubled. But test scores have been flat for decades. Today we spend a stunning $11,000 a year per student -- more than $200,000 per classroom. It's not working. So when will we permit competition and choice, which works great with everything else? . . The people who test students internationally told us that two factors predict a country's educational success: Do the schools have the autonomy to experiment, and do parents have a choice?

Parents care about their kids and want them to learn and succeed -- even poor parents. Thousands line up hoping to get their kids into one of the few hundred lottery-assigned slots at Harlem Success Academy, a highly ranked charter school in New York City. Kids and parents cry when they lose. Yet the establishment is against choice. The union demonstrated outside Harlem Success the first day of school. And President Obama killed Washington, D.C.'s voucher program. This is typical of elitists, who believe that parents, especially poor ones, can't make good choices about their kids' education. . .

To give the establishment its best shot, consider Head Start, which politicians view as sacred. The $166 billion program is 45 years old, so it's had time to prove itself. But guess what: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently found no difference in first-grade test results between kids who went through Head Start and similar kids who didn't. President Obama has repeatedly promised to "eliminate programs that don't work," but he wants to give Head Start a billion more dollars. The White House wouldn't explain this contradiction to me.

Andrew Coulson, head of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Reform, said, "If Head Start (worked), we would expect now, after 45 years of this program, for graduation rates to have gone up; we would expect the gap between the kids of high school dropouts and the kids of college graduates to have shrunk; we would expect students to be learning more. None of that is true."

Choice works, and government monopolies don't. How much more evidence do we need?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cartoon from James Crain

Government union monopoly

Excerpts: The Problem Is Government Unions by Phyllis Schlafly

Older Americans may fondly remember bygone days when some unions played a positive role in our free economy. In the 1950s, many unions expelled communist agitators. Today's unions, by contrast, promote big-government solutions to every problem. That's because of the dramatic change in the membership of powerful unions.

An important milestone was reached last year when, for the first time, the majority of union members (51.4 percent) were federal or state government employees. The political power of government workers unions is a major reason why government spending is now out of control.

The average pay of federal workers is over $71,000 (in Washington, D.C., it's $94,047), whereas the average pay in the private sector (if you have a job) is $50,028. Annual raises are a matter of course, and government employees enjoy close to lifetime job security and benefits including retirement. Rising star Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, commented, "I about fell off my chair when I saw that the number of federal employees making more than $150,000 have more than doubled in the last 18 months."

Another Washington labor lawyer, Joseph Sandler, who is described as a "renowned expert on election law," has created a crow's nest of front groups whose goal is to undermine the Tea Party movement. These groups have funneled vast amounts of union dues money, including $10 million from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), into fronts with innocuous names such as "Patriot Majority" and "Citizens for Progress."

To defeat Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to protect traditional marriage, the SEIU spent $500,000 and the California teachers union spent $1,250,000. After the voters approved the measure, over 50 unions (including the national AFL-CIO) signed a brief asking the courts to overturn the will of the people.

Classic words from Mr. Olympia

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is as green as any governor, from promoting alternative fuels to imposing carbon limits on California to fight climate change. But even he's had enough of the mindless interference with development that characterizes the actions of many environmentalists. In a state where one out of eight workers is unemployed, Mr. Schwarzenegger is asking the legislature for more authority to fast-track projects after they have undergone an environmental impact study.

"Right now the way it's written, a lot of those laws, it's an invitation to misuse them," he told reporters last week. "And it holds up projects for too long a period of time, especially now."

Mr. Schwarzenegger singled out environmental obstacles that are blocking construction of alternative energy farms in the Mojave Desert. Some of his green allies have become "fanatics," he said, and "go overboard." He then launched an extended riff explaining why he thought environmental objections to the Mojave Desert projects on the grounds they could hurt endangered species were, well, specious.

"So the environmentalists . . . are confused because they want to have renewable energy but then when it comes to the permitting process, creating that renewable energy and building the solar plants, they are then in the way. And they then talk about, 'You cannot go and destroy this squirrel.'"

"I say, 'What squirrel? I was out there, I didn't see a squirrel.'

"They say, 'Well, there could be a squirrel coming very soon.'

"So I say, 'But there's no squirrel there right now.'

"'But you've got to protect things that could be there.'"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hamilton and the Desire for Fractional Reserve Banking

High school students are taught that Alexander Hamilton pushed for and won the establishment of a central bank, commonly referred to as the Bank of the United States (BUS). As Secretary of the Treasury, he sent a "Report on a National Bank" to the Congress on 13 December 1790. In the report, he lists multiple reasons for the establishment of such a bank. The first of these reasons is as follows:

"First. The augmentation of the active or productive capital of a country. Gold and Silver, when they are employed merely as the instruments of exchange and alienation, have been not improperly denominated dead Stock; but when deposited in Banks, to become the basis of a paper circulation, which takes their character and place, as the signs or representatives of value, they then acquire life, or, in other words, an active and productive quality...It is evident, for instance, that the money, which a merchant keeps in his chest, waiting for a favourable opportunity to employ it, produces nothing 'till that opportunity arrives. But if instead of locking it up in this manner, he either deposits it in a Bank, or invests, it in the Stock of a Bank, it yields a profit, during the interval..."

In this section, Hamilton describes the necessary, proper role for a bank in society; the lender of capital. In this scenario, a person deposits a sum of money for a specified term for the ability to accrue interest and receive his money back plus interest at the end of the term.

Hamilton then describes, what in his opinion is a more desirable function of a bank.

"His money thus deposited or invested, is a fund, upon which himself and others can borrow to a much larger amount. It is a well established fact, that Banks in good credit can circulate a far greater sum than the actual quantum of their capital in Gold & Silver."

This function is none other than the fractional reserve banking system, which is currently employed today. The current banking system is a system that once there is a scare in the economy or confidence in the banking system is lost, investors will attempt to recall their investments. The problem is that there is far less money in the banks than has been issued in the form of loans based upon fractional reserves.

Economist Jesus Huerta de Soto explains in detail the nature of a system of fractional reserve banking in his book, Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles. In the book, de Soto describes a system of 10 banks each recieving $1 million from one investor. The initial amount of money in the system is $10 million. The banks' reserve ratio is 10%. Once the banks conduct fractional reserve loans on the initial $1 million invested in it, the amount of money in the system created ex nihilo is $90 million. The total amount of money in the system is $100 million, but is only backed by $10 million in actual deposits. Now imagine this on a nation-wide basis!

Despite backing a system that would inevitbaly collapse he still attempted to persuade Congress to adopt the Bank of the United States. He too realized the fragile nature of the system.

"These different circumstances explain the manner, in which the ability of a bank to circulate a greater sum, than its actual capital in coin, is acquired. This however must be gradual; and must be preceded by a firm establishment of confidence; a confidence which may be bestowed on the most rational grounds; since the excess in question will always be bottomed on good security of one kind or another."

The fractional reserve banking system is the system in which the contemporary banking system is based. America's association with it began with the First Bank of the United States.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Statism or freedom?

Excerpts: Hurtling Down the Road to Serfdom by John Stossel

Government is taking us a long way down the Road to Serfdom. That doesn't just mean that more of us must work for the government. It means that we are changing from independent, self-responsible people into a submissive flock. The welfare state kills the creative spirit.

F.A. Hayek, an Austrian economist living in Britain, wrote "The Road to Serfdom" in 1944 as a warning that central economic planning would extinguish freedom. . . .

Hayek meant that governments can't plan economies without planning people's lives. After all, an economy is just individuals engaging in exchanges. . . . scientific-sounding economic planning hides the fact that people must shelve their own plans in favor of government's single plan.

At the beginning of "The Road to Serfdom," Hayek acknowledges that mere material wealth is not all that's at stake when the government controls our lives: "The most important change ... is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people."

This shouldn't be controversial. If government relieves us of the responsibility of living by bailing us out, character will atrophy. The welfare state, however good its intentions of creating material equality, can't help but make us dependent. That changes the psychology of society.

According to the Tax Foundation, 60 percent of the population now gets more in government benefits than it pays in taxes. What does it say about a society in which more than half the people live at the expense of the rest? Worse, the dependent class is growing. The 60 percent will soon be 70 percent.

Kurt Vonnegut understood the threat of government-imposed equality. His short story "Harrison Bergeron" portrays a future in which no one is permitted to have any physical or intellectual advantage over anyone else. A government Handicapper General weighs down the strong and agile, masks the faces of the beautiful and distracts the smart.

So far, the Handicapper General is just fantasy. But Vice President Joe Biden did shout at the Democratic National Convention: "Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you." If he meant that we're all equal in rights and before the law, fine. If he meant government shouldn't put barriers in the way of opportunity, great. But statists like Biden usually have more in mind: They want government to make results more equal.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hamilton in His Own Words

It is a well known fact that Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, was the favored cabinet member of President George Washington. Hamilton was a leader of the Federalist Faction in the Constitution Debates. Hamilton railed against the ineffective Articles of Confederation and also opposed the Anti-Federalists on the grounds that these entities did not create a central government that was energetic enough.

On June 27, 1788, Alexander Hamilton gave a speech in which he discussed the distribution of powers in the new federal government. Hamilton said,

"The great leading objects of the federal government, in which revenue is concerned, are to maintain domestic peace, and provide for the common defence. In these are comprehended the regulation of commerce; that is, the whole system of foreign intercourse; the support of armies and navies, and of the civil administration...Every one knows that the objects of the general government are numerous, extensive and important...This principle assented to, let us enquire what are the objects of the state government. Have they to provide against foreign invasion? Have they to maintain fleets and armies? Have they any concern in the regulation of commerce, the procuring of alliances, or forming treaties of peace? No: Their objects are merely civil and domestic; to support the legislative establishment, and to provide for the adminstration of the laws."

It is true that the Constitution reserves for the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce and commerce with foreign powers and to initiate war and conclude peace treaties.

What Hamilton discounts completely is the notion of a federated republic; the idea that the states themselves created the federal government for expressed benefit of the states themselves. Under this theory of a federated republic, the states then have the power to alter, abolish or leave the federal government should the federal government no longer committ to the original contract. Hamilton sought to turn the sovereign states into mere appendages of the federal government.

This is an argument that helped create the conditions for the initiation of the Civil War. The Civil War decided the fate of states' rights forever, the federal government was supreme in all matters, even those of a truly intrastate flavor.

From even before the ratification of the Constitution, there were those that sought to undermine the Constitution for personal gain and power.

The cause of depressions

Excerpts: John Tamny, Searching for a better understanding of depressions

What economists, commentators and politicians refer to as economic "depression" is not really economic at all. Instead, it should be said that when economies incur prolonged downturns, they do so as a result of governments putting a wedge between the natural instinct to work, and reward for that same work.

In short, business failure of any kind logically could not lead to a lengthy recession thanks to the existence of entrepreneurs eager to fix that which hasn't worked in the past. Instead, the word "depression" can only be a governmental phenomenon whereby governments tax, regulate, inflate and generally reduce our ability to trade freely such that our economic freedoms are compromised, and entrepreneurial incentives are taken away.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Man vs. man

A alarming story of human nature, religious fanaticalism, and a history lesson we all should add to our cultural understanding. Graphic depictions are given, readers are advised. -Dean

Excerpts: Zen Violence by Marvin Olasky

A panel of Japanese and Chinese scholars recently completed a three-year study aimed at reconciling differences of viewpoint on contentious historical issues involving the two nations—and concluded the study without reconciliation. . .

In particular, the scholars could not agree on the number of Chinese civilians killed by Japanese soldiers in Nanjing in 1937 and 1938, when Nanjing (sometimes called Nanking) was the capital of China. The Japanese suggest tens of thousands. The Chinese insist that 300,000 were killed. But more is at stake than numbers.

The best book I've seen on the subject is Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking (Basic, 1997), which quotes Japanese eyewitnesses who, for example, witnessed Japanese officers training soldiers in cutting off heads: "Standing behind the prisoner, Tanaka steadied himself, legs spread apart, and cut off the man's head with a shout, 'Yo!' The head flew more than a meter away. Blood spurted up in two fountains from the body and sprayed into the hole. The scene was so appalling that I felt I couldn't breathe."

Utter brutality was common. Rapes in front of family members tied up and forced to watch, with the women then mutilated and killed. Soldiers betting on the sex of unborn children and using their bayonets to cut open women and find out who won. Soldiers forcing family members to commit acts of incest, with any resistance leading to immediate execution.

Three Japanese generals were eventually executed for their roles in the Rape. For a time it was convenient to blame just "Japanese militarism." But some contemporary Buddhists acknowledge that Buddhism was not innocent. In particular, Zen priest Brian Victoria's Zen at War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2nd edition, 2006) and Zen War Stories (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003) bravely revealed how Zen leaders in the 1930s applauded killing.

As some Buddhist scholars increasingly acknowledge, militant Buddhism is not new. Warring Buddhist armies from dueling monasteries dominated Japan in medieval times. Their tradition gained applause from Shaku Soen (1859-1919), the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States. He argued that everything is of one essence, so that war and peace are the same—and the soldier who doesn't care whether he lives or dies, and doesn't worry about killing others, is getting closer to "the final realization of enlightenment."

The year 1937 brought not only the Nanjing terror but also Zen and Japanese Culture (republished in 1970 by Princeton University Press). Its author, D.T. Suzuki (1870-1966), who became the leading Zen popularizer in the United States, acknowledged that Zen "treats life and death indifferently" and can be "wedded to anarchism or fascism, communism or democracy . . . or any political or economic dogmatism."

That's what is key. Adherents to the key Buddhist doctrine of non-attachment—to things, people, or life itself—argue that we only imagine the difference between war and peace, civilization and savagery: All are illusions.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Political psychology and President Obama

Excerpts: Jonah Goldberg, Obama Appears Blinded by His Own Ideological Biases

‘I am not an ideologue,” President Obama insisted at his truly refreshing confab with the Republican caucus in Baltimore last Friday. When he heard some incredulous murmurs and chuckles from the audience in response to the idea that the most sincerely ideological president in a generation is no ideologue, he added a somewhat plaintive, “I’m not.”

The president’s defensiveness isn’t surprising. He holds his self-definition as a pragmatist dear,

It’s clear from interviews that he is fond of the notion that he is above ideological squabbles and is a clear-eyed appraiser of facts and adjudicator of political disagreements. He’s described himself as a “pragmatist,” even a “ruthless pragmatist,” countless times. . .

Of course Obama is an ideologue. The important question is whether he is sufficiently self-aware to recognize the truth.

I, for one, would be horrified to learn that the president is working from the assumption that ideological biases are something only other people have. That is the surest route to hubris and groupthink (which might explain Obama’s political predicament).

Obama routinely insinuates that all of the facts are on his side. He invokes a confabulated consensus of experts to suggest that there is no legitimate reason for anyone to disagree with his agenda. After all, with the eggheads and “facts” in his corner, only the other side’s ideological blinders — or stupidity — could account for any dissent.

Political psychology and the President

read the entire piece

"How odd that Obama, the rhetorician, forgot that words matter — and that the truth is not a trifle, a mere construct predicated on the particular situation at the moment it is voiced."
-Victor Davis Hanson