Libertarian Jackass

"Life is short, but truth works far and lives long; let us speak truth." -- Schopenhauer

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Mao Enters The Rap Game

Does desperation fuel creativity? Telegraph:

In a desperate appeal to China's fashionable youth, the Chinese Communist Party has approved the repackaging of Mao Zedong as a rap artist.

Mao's favourite exhortation -- the Two Musts -- is to be set to music and released alongside pop versions of all the Great Helmsman's old slogans, such as The East is Red and Serve the People.

[. . .]

As Mao's anniversary on December 26, 1893 approaches, the party is keen to use the opportunity to revive interest in his ideology, increasingly regarded as irrelevant by younger, more money-oriented, generations.

Star Jones: Am I Annoying Or Not?

Is Star Jones just a fat, annoying pig? Some seem to think so. Christ, even the atheists hate her guts! And now you will be able to walk a mile in her big, fat shoes--she has her own Payless Shoe line:

The Starlet by Star Jones line will be available at Payless ShoeSource stores starting in November, the company announced recently.

Jones, a co-host of ABC's "The View," was named chief of consumer style and spokeswoman for the footwear retailer in
2002. She is a self-proclaimed shoe junkie who claims to have 500 pairs of shoes in her closet.

"We played with the latest trends, colors and styles to create a collection that delivers designer flair at affordable prices," Jones said in a statement.

The line, which ranges from $15.99 to $21.99, includes a strappy dress sandal, a T-strap style, a mule with brocade velvet, a two-piece silhouette with an ankle strap and a strappy slide. The styles will be offered in wine, chocolate brown, forest green, champagne and deep black.

As Daniel McCarthy writes: "I just saw a television ad for Payless Shoe Store. Star Jones is their pitch-woman. Why choose someone who can't even see her own feet to sell shoes?"

Dan, she is the "Chief of Consumer Style," not the pitch-woman. Get it straight. Please help fund her eating habits: hire Star Jones to speak at your next event on "Diversity, Politics & Current Events, and Women's Issues" for a cool $40,000! (Note: be sure to make that "entrance" just a little wider before she arrives.)

Friday, November 28, 2003

Trade War Hurts The U.S. Dollar

An excellent, brief report (.pdf) on retaliatory measures being taken against U.S. imposed trade restrictions. They compare today's trade wars to the 1930s:

A trade war will cause a decline in global trade and put into question the US’ ability to find sufficient demand to fund their current account deficit. In the 1930s, the US imposed huge trade tariffs to protect domestic farmers from the overproduction in Europe following WWI. President Hoover tried to help the struggling US farming industry by passing the Smoot-Hawley tariffs on agricultural products. Unfortunately, things quickly got out of control in Congress as politicians tried to out do each other by expanding the size and scope of the tariffs. The tariffs provoked a storm of retaliatory measures, (similar to what is happening today) causing a 66% decline in world trading activity between 1929 through 1934. If history repeats itself and there is once again a pronounced decline in foreign demand for US goods, we expect the US current account deficit to widen as US exports decline and imports remain stable.

And, once again, the Europeans are being so naughty! See this:

Europe - Europe has warned that they will impose their own tariffs on December 15th if the US fails to lift the steel tariffs. To show their commitment at pressuring the US, Europe has chosen to impose duties on goods from states that will be very important to President Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. Specifically, the tariffs will be on products that include citrus and rice, which come from Florida, California, Louisiana and Arkansas – all of which are swing states. So the President faces a tough decision, if he lifts the tariffs, he risks negating his pledge to revive the steel industry, but if he keeps the tariffs intact, he risks hurting his electoral votes in 2004.


Victor Davis Hanson worries about illegal immigration in Cali:

Thus do we get in the habit of talking about illegal immigration in economic rather than in moral terms. But consider the situation from a moral perspective. Do we really expect hard-working youths from central Mexico to work 30 years in construction, hotels or the fields without marrying, having children, losing jobs or getting hurt? And how can such workers without legal status, education or mastery of English support a family on $10 an hour when most native Americans can't do so on $20? Will we continue to shrug and say, "At least the money is better than in Mexico," or, "None of our own people will do the work," or, "They are going to drive anyway, so let's give them driver's licenses," all the easy platitudes that justify the current chaos?

Translation: Hanson can't find any economic data to support his anti-immigrant stance. Individuals in California must benefit from illegal immigrant employees, why else would they be hired? Vic, I'm with you bro, let's do away with all driver's licenses! He continues:

Tragically, political correctness makes it nearly impossible to discuss illegal immigration in any kind of rational way without being labeled racist or nativist. Indeed, even the legal term "illegal alien" is now politically incorrect, and is being replaced by "undocumented worker." But most know that not all illegal immigrants are workers, and that the problem of illegal immigration involves more than a lack of proper documentation.

Let me see your papers, comrade! Why the need for all this documentation? I traveled many places in Europe and never once needed to present an "ID card". Could it be the expanding public property and public benefits extended to illegals--in other words some bureaucratic mechanism (IDs, papers) are needed to control redistribution? Despite arguments to the contrary, I think racism is at play here, folks. If I was a conservative defending the democratic nation-state, granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants (voters) would be nauseating. The conservative guagmire: defending the democratic state or solving the "chaos" of illegal immigration. Both cannot be done.

Unfortunately, the situation will continue to devolve for the forseeable future as factories leave Mexico for the more attractive low wage, low crime opportunities of China.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

On Conformity

I caught the segment of Dead Poets Society on TV where John Keating encourages the boys to avoid conformity, choose their own path and march to their own beat. I began thinking about the idea of conformity and my interest peaked during a conversation with a friend today about "being like everyone else." I then found this quote: "The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater is our desire to be like others." -- Eric Hoffer. Aside from the obvious response--of course you choose the action that grants greater satisfaction--I think there is much truth in this statement, for individuals that have yet to discover themselves constantly try to emulate the characteristics of others--in dress, actions and even ideas. They derive comfort out of being like the others, being accepted by the group. (I also found this hilarious paper on Harvard's economics department page: The Economics of 'Acting White'.) I often receive the admonishment : "Most people in the world think we need a government, so you are wasting your time." I wonder how much the myth of the State rests on the nature of conformity? On the other hand, Ayn Rand definitely had it right when she said, "There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist." By the way, how many libertarians are really of that ilk? Cowardly conformists and cowardly non-conformists--the root of all evil?

What I Am Thankful For . . .

On Thanksgiving Day the Libertarian Jackass takes a moment to thank important individuals, ideas and events. I am thankful to George W. Bush for always providing a laugh (come on, George, it's Nevada, not Kazakhstan!) I am thankful for the triumph of private property over socialism in the Plymouth Colony. I am thankful the pathetic Republican Party is celebrating the socialist healthcare bill--as if they've never heard of the Plymouth Colony! I am thankful for NYC's Thanksgiving Day Parade and 'Jake The Turkey'! I am thankful for Jesus, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Guido Hulsmann and Lew Rockwell. I am thankful for Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and Beethoven. I am thankful for Laguna Beach and the Gallery Walk, Keira Knightley and J.R. Tolkien's The Lord of The Rings--the fictional account of a battle much like our own. I am thankful for love, forgiveness and the one that got away. I am thankful the ladies tell me I look like Mark McGrath.

PowerPoint Is For Sissies

If you've been to an academic conference or lecture, this article is for you:

All right, not for sissies, exactly, but it's being done to death. PowerPoint Makes Everything Really Important in a Telegraphic Way. That's Fine in Some Cases, But It Gets Tiring When It Happens Too Much. Besides, PowerPoint is the triumph of the quick "fact" over the art of argumentation. And a lecture is, or should be, a kind of argument. It's more, too -- a chance to observe a voice, a body, a brain, and a personality engaging an audience with similar interests. If you put your bulleted ideas up on slides, your audience will look at the slides, not at you. You'll also be teaching them that What You Have to Say Can Be Summarized in a Few Words. Can it?

I guess I violated this rule a few times.

On Getting Dome

In Singapore, the debate rages over legalizing oral sex. That's right, will 'getting dome' be legalized? Don't know what 'dome' is? Foo, you best be bumpin' rap in your ride, for real though.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

United Nations: We Are A Complete Failure

The number of hungry people is increasing, the U.N. reports. Memo To Clowns At The U.N.: Please add me--a poor gradudate student--to the list of "hungry" people. Thanks.

You have to adore the title of the U.N. report: "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003." Food insecurity, the pangs of hunger . . . damn this sounds like an Oprah topic.

You Better Believe That, Homeboy

A lot of people say, "Hey, Libertarian Jackass, what the hell does the free market have to do with me? Honestly, who gives a flying fu*k?"

Well, sports fans, let's take a look at our friend Alonzo Mourning of the pathetic New Jersey Nets. 'Zo has retired from basketball because of a kidney condition. He now seeks a kidney transplant.

The guys at Marginal Revolution have been tossing around the topic of an organ market recently. Alex Tabarrok writes:

Currently we have organ socialism - anyone who needs an organ is allowed access to the organ pool regardless of whether or not they contributed to the upkeep. As with other resources owned in common we get over-exploitation and under-investment. Consider, instead a "no-give, no-take policy" - only those who have previously signed their organ donor cards are allowed access to the pool. Not only is this more moral than the current policy it creates an incentive to sign your organ donor card. Signing your card becomes the ticket to joining a club - the club of people who have agreed to share their organs should they no longer need them. Equivalently signing your organ donor card becomes analogous to buying insurance.

Of course, in the case of 'Zo, a basketball celebrity, many volunteers may be interested in being "The Donor." Important point: without a market for organ donors (meaning any individual may sell any of their 2000 body parts for any price they wish) other methods (discrimanation) must emerge to allocate these resources. That is, only the celebrities, or those in an organ club (do you get a cool Honeycomb Kid's Club decoder ring with that?) have access to resources.

Another thread on Marginal Revolution brings the "incentives" word into the debate. First, I'm not in favor of any government program to "create incentives" for organ donors or anything else for that matter. Are you? Do we need a government program to "create incentives" for shoe manufacturers?

Second, I'd love to throw the term "incentives" in the box of nonsense churned out by economists of all stripes--and then light the box on fire for a nice, cheery, Holiday season burn. Other words/phrases included in this box: "transaction costs," "institutions," "rules of the game," "transparency," "stability," "equilibrium" and more. When in doubt, never fear, just blame it on a lack of institutional structure!

The Big Fat Commie Bastard Law School?

We only admit those students who, regardless of their quite varied political, spiritual, cultural or social backgrounds, have demonstrated a commitment to progressive social change, have an awareness of working class issues and will employ the skills gained at the school to further these goals in their own way. Thus, if you want to be a prosecutor or a corporate attorney, don't waste our time applying; there are plenty of other schools out there for you!

Our graduates work as lawyers, state and federal administrative judges and commissioners, activists and union organizers, labor and legislative leaders (including the former Speaker of the California State Assembly Antonio Villaraigosa). All have shared the unique and galvanizing experience of graduating from the only non-competitive, cooperative, student and community-run, progressive law school in the world!

Finally, An Honest Government Stooge!

The district attorney making child molestation allegations against Michael Jackson welcomed reporters to Santa Barbara by saying: "I hope that you all stay long and spend lots of money because we need your sales tax to support our offices."

Not to take sides here in the M.J. Case (yet), but what kind of legal system allows a family to live off of abuse allegation payoffs?

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Most New Spending Since 2001 Unrelated to the War on Terrorism

Heritage Foundation: "Since the 9/11 attacks, lawmakers have classified as "defense" or "homeland security" everything from levitating trains to farm subsidies."

"From 2001 through 2003, the federal budget expanded by $296 billion. (See Table 1.) New defense spending accounted for $100 billion of that amount, and other 9/11-induced spending on homeland security, international aid, and domestic rebuilding totaled $32 billion. (See Table 2.) That leaves $164 billion in new spending completely unrelated to defense and the 9/11 attacks."

The Top Ten Conservative Idiots

Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War

A new documentary on the Iraq war:"Interrupting a meeting on UN sanctions against Iraq one day in March 2002, Bush popped in on national security adviser Condi Rice. Getting a whiff of the subject matter, W peremptorily waved his hand and told her "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out."

This controversial and arresting film takes you behind the walls of government, as CIA, Pentagon and foreign service experts speak out, many for the first time, detailing the lies, misstatements and exaggerations that served as the reasons to fight a "preemptive" war that wasn't necessary. This documentary offers an in-depth look at the unsettling distortion of intelligence and the "spin and hype" presented to the American people, the Congress and the press. Fighting wars to bring about regime change is in breach of international law. Yet, throughout the fall of 2002, and into the weeks preceding the war in Iraq, the Bush administration systematically distorted intelligence evidence and misled the public in order to turn opinion favor of "regime change" in Iraq.

The film will present interviews with more than 20 experts, all of whom have informed opinions about the reasons we were given for war and the evidence presented to support those reasons. Some supported the war itself but are deeply concerned about the way information was misused. All believe it is their duty to speak up.

Among those interviewed are former Ambassador Joe Wilson, weapons inspectors Scott Ritter and David Albright, anti-terrorism expert Rand Beers, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former CIA operative Robert Baer and Washington editor of The Nation, David Corn.

The Truth About The War On Terrorism

An informative review of James Bovard's Terrorsim and Tyranny:

Bovard asks: Should the government have suspected that al Qaeda planned to launch attacks on the U.S.? Answer: Absolutely.

In 1998, the CIA determined that Osama bin Laden was "actively planning against U.S. targets." Also in 1998, U.S. intelligence learned that al Qaeda planned to fly planes into the World Trade Center towers. In 1999, a study for the National Intelligence Council warned that al Qaeda could crash-land planes into the Pentagon. In 2000, U.S. intelligence learned that bin Laden planned to hijack 747s. In 2001, an FBI agent warned that an al Qaeda network was training pilots in the U.S. to hijack planes. In July 2001, a National Security Council counterterrorism specialist warned: "Something really spectacular is going to happen, and it's going to happen soon."

Implant Available For 'Cashless' Transactions

The end of money: In his speech today at the ID World 2003 conference in Paris, France, Scott R. Silverman, CEO of Applied Digital Solutions, called the chip a "loss-proof solution" and said that the chip's "unique under-the-skin format" could be used for a variety of identification applications in the security and financial worlds.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Who The Hell Is Emily Cochran?

And what product is she smoking? You be the judge based on blog post: "President Bush delivered one of the best presidential speeches of modern times in London last week. While it might be a bit premature, I believe he will go down in the books as one of the greatest presidents."

Boy, did I get a chuckle out of that one! Karl Rove is such a genius! Moonlighting as a female blogger named Emily Cochran? Karl, you rascal!

Czech President On Collectivism

From that other Washington newspaper: The biggest challenge for the Czech Republic, Mr. Klaus said, is to avoid falling into the trap of "a new form of collectivism." Asked whether he meant a new form of neo-Marxism, he said, "Absolutely not, but I see other sectors endangering free societies.

"The enemies of free societies today are those who want to burden us down again with layer upon layer of regulations," Mr. Klaus said.

We had that in communist times. But now if you look at all the new rules and regulations of EU membership, layered bureaucracy is staging a comeback."

The European Union's 30,000 bureaucrats have produced some 80,000 pages of regulations that the Czech Republic and the other applicants for EU membership will have to adopt.

Is The Global Trade Engine At Risk Of Being Derailed?

"Cross-border trade flows are the glue of globalization," writes Stephen Roach. "They are the means by which the world creates ever-virtuous circles of prosperity. The theory is simple: As poor countries enter the global supply chain, their increasingly prosperous workers eventually become consumers. Supply creates new demand, and the world is a net winner. While it’s hard to argue with this theory, today’s world is having an increasingly difficult time in putting this theory into practice. The global trade engine is at risk of being derailed." Why?

-Global trade is important to world economic growth: "By our estimates global trade in goods and services now amounts to 25% of world GDP, up dramatically from the 19% share just ten years ago and an 11% portion in 1970." More: "In other words, since the late 1980s there has been a virtual doubling of the role that trade has played in driving the global GDP growth dynamic. There can be no greater testament to the power of globalization."

-World trade is slumping: "After surging by a record 13% in 2000, global trade has entered one of its worst slumps in modern experience -- average gains of just 2% over the 2001-03 period. That’s the weakest performance since the early 1980s and only a third of what we estimate to be a 6.5% long-term trend in global trade growth . . . It suggests that there may be new forces coming into play that transcend the normal pressures of the business cycle."

Wondering about the future of the global economy? Current trends may provide a view: "The first is a new and powerful global labor arbitrage that has led to accelerating transfer of high-wage jobs from the developed world to lower-wage workforces in the developing world. Enabled by the Internet and the maturation of vast offshore outsourcing platforms in goods and services alike, labor has become more “fungible” than ever. In a world without pricing leverage, the unrelenting push for cost control gives a sudden urgency to this cross-border arbitrage. The outcome is a new and potentially lasting bias toward jobless recoveries in the high-wage developed world. That brings the second major force into play -- a political backlash against the trade liberalization that allows such cross-border job shifts to occur. It is the politics of this trend that disturb me the most as I peer into the future."

In other word, the trade globalization may be planting the seeds to its own political demise.


Gueda, Kansas, passes a law requiring some households to have firearms and ammunition. Check out this statement from the jackass city councilman: "I think we are losing our rights in this country so fast." What about the right not to own a firearm?

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Devlin's Morning Rant

The Universal Soldier
By M. Devlin Cooper

He's five foot-two, and he's six feet-four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He's all of thirty-one, and he's only seventeen,
Been a soldier for a thousand years.

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain,
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn't kill,
And he knows he always will,
Kill you for me my friend and me for you.

And he's fighting for Canada,
He's fighting for France,
He's fighting for the USA,
And he's fighting for the Russians,
And he's fighting for Japan,
And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way.

And he's fighting for Democracy,
He's fighting for the Reds,
He says it's for the peace of all.
He's the one who must decide,
Who's to live and who's to die,
And he never sees the writing on the wall.

But without him,
How would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau?
Without him, Caesar would have stood alone,
He's the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war,
And without him all this killing can't go on.

He's the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame,
His orders come from far away no more,
They come from here and there and you and me,
And brothers can't you see,
This is not the way we put the end to war.

--Lyrics by Buffy St. Marie; Song popularized by Donovan

I consider myself a pacifist. In a matter of minutes, you probably will not. It is time for my rant. Why? Because the only other thing that I can even think of doing right now is driving to the George Mason Memorial and crying. Hours ago, two US soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mosul, Iraq, after teenagers pummeled them with bricks. I can think of only a few worse ways to die. I am enraged to say the least.

In all fairness, let me disclose my bias. My father was an Army officer and a Green Beret. I grew up around family friends like Allen, a former Green Beret who was a POW in Vietnam, speaks several languages, and would still willingly die in the name of “freedom” (at least as he and I understand it). I grew up around mottos like, “Kill ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out." And while I worked for a libertarian organization this summer in Auburn, I went to Fort Benning with my parents, and I enjoyed it.

America has become entrenched in Iraq. I am not weighing in on whether or not we should have gone originally. Such a question is moot and irrelevant now. We are there; that is all that matters now regardless of what fucking assholes like Howard Dean say. We are there, and American soldiers are dying. Maybe you don’t agree with our foreign policy; maybe you think it evil that Americans are dying in Iraq. But wake up; it’s happening. We are there, and we apparently aren’t leaving for some time. Whether you support the war or not, people my age, people who I grew up around, are fighting and dying in that goddamn dessert. One of two people in this world that I consider as a brother has been there and may go back there, and he may, in the end of all things, God forbid, die there.

I am filled with rage at this point. I don’t know what we are doing in Iraq, but I know one thing. I don’t like reading about Americans being dragged through the streets. A couple of years ago, a black man in Texas was, and the Democrats rose up in opposition; I doubt that we will see the same now. Sure, some Democrats will bitch, but they won’t want to take names and kick ass, which is what they wanted in Texas.

Last fall, I took an economics of legal foundations class with Walter Williams. He spoke of comparative advantages and the benefits of free trade. He also spoke of the potential of war in Iraq. His comment was that Iraq is labor rich while America is labor scarce and technology rich, and as a result, he hoped that if we went to war with Iraq that we’d paint that whole goddamned desert a bright neon green like Las Vegas, but a lot more toxic.

I’d like to say Amen Professor Williams. I’m tired of Americans dying in Iraq. That doesn’t mean we should stop fighting for their freedom, but fuck, it does mean that I’d like to pull our troops out so that I can watch that whole fucking desert glow from radiation.

I’m all about liberty, and I’m not a big proponent of government since I consider myself an anarcho-capitalist. However, I do believe that there’s a difference between those who embrace liberty and those who reject it outright. That’s not to say that America embraces liberty; I don’t believe that at all. But many in this world, especially many in the Middle East, not only reject liberty but truly hate it! Maybe this isn’t a legitimate reason to bomb them off the face of the fucking Earth, but who can’t deal with some more beachfront property!

De Oppresso Liber.

Libertarian Jackass comment: I, too, am deeply saddened by the events in Iraq. Why do Americans mourn the deaths of space shuttle astronauts and then look the other way as American soldiers are dragged through the streets? I am passionately anti-war and an avowed pacifist, but fully in support of defending the lives of American soldiers. Get them out of Iraq!

After viewing the news of the soldiers' deaths on television, my mother expressed sentiments quite similar to Devlin's. She said: "Libertarian Jackass, they are killing our boys because we aren't in their killing enough of them." I'm sure millions of Americans identify with this barbaric viewpoint. But, a turn to violence, death and destruction is one further step toward the destruction of civilization. Answer me this: who sent those boys to die? Why aren't we doing more to stand up to the criminal policies these kids died implementing? Late at night, when I'm all alone in the dark, when life seems so lonely and short, the grief caused by the thought of humans dying for such futile, pointless reasons is overwhelming. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is precisely for this reason that the principled, unwavering, uncompromising pursuit of the free society must continue. . .

Libertarian Cowards

I noticed had a few comments on LJ:

The LibertarianJackass has little problem with the Mises Institute promoting a paleo-libertarian political agenda under the name of economic study. He writes,

"Talk about price theory all you want, but don't touch the fundamental issues facing society today ("national defense," galloping statism, etc.)?"

More "fundamental" is price theory, the capital structure, and how knowledge is used in an economy. These are more fundamental because they need to be understood in order to better address the more political questions Mises Institute scholars talk about. I've been following the Austrian School for over ten years (the Mises Institute sent me monthly Free Market issues when I was in college) so I can safely say the Misesians wear their anarchist advocacy on their sleeves (I just wish they'd publically say it). I compare the essays and weblog entries at to the discussions that take place on the Hayek-L e-mail list. Part of it may just be scholarly politeness, but those postings to the e-mail list aren't knee-jerk libertarian.

My main complaint with the Mises Institute is their straying from economic analysis into defending the South in the Civil War and beating the hell out of Lincoln. DiLorenzo actually compared Lincoln to Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe. As a learning institution, they have done the most of anyone in the world to keep Ludwig von Mises' ideas alive. For economics students and lovers of liberty, that's a great accomplishment for which they deserve tremendous praise.

Libertarian Jackass comment: Anarchists? And all this time I've been bashing these Austro-libertarians for being cowardly "minimal State" liberatians! I'm reminded of a statement by Murray Rothbard in War, Peace and the State: "And the forestalling of massive annihilation is far more important, in truth, than the demunicipalization of garbage disposal, as worthwhile as that may be. Or are libertarians going to wax properly indignant about price control or the income tax, and yet shrug their soldiers at, or even positively advocate, the ultimate crime of mass murder?"

Yes, price theory, the capital structure and the use of knowledge in the economy are fundamental (although it must be stressed that the use of property is far more important than this ridiculous "knowledge" garbage). The Mises Institute scholars excel in such pure economic theorizing. Althought I certainly do not speak on behalf of the Mises Institute, the real question is: why do the other so-called advocates of a free society (libertarians, free market economists, conservatives, etc) shy away from advocating the policy implications of such theories? Where are the intellectual heros of our time? My opinion: the intellectual heroes of the free society are at, or are affiliated with, the Mises Institute.

At this time the Libertarian Jackass--as a "knee-jerk libertarian"--would like to challenge to a fist fight any individual challenging the "Austro-libertarian political agenda." This includes any clown of the opinion that "the State" is a necessary institution in society. Please email at mail at libertarianjackass dot com.

Is Pre-Emptive Self-Defense Justifiable?

Democracts are demanding that Republicans remove a Bush television ad which claims they "are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists." Christine Iverson of the RNC states: "We have no doubt that Sen. Daschle and others in his party who oppose the president's policy of pre-emptive self-defense believe that their national security approach is in the best interests of the country. But we also have no doubt that they are wrong about that, and we will continue to highlight this critical policy difference as well as others." Is a policy of pre-emptive self-defense justifiable?

Let's further simplify the question: if X has knowledge that Y seeks to harm its person or property, is X justified in initiating force against Y? It must be said that it is justified for X to repel the invasion of Y once such an invasion of person or property has been initiated. This is the only justifiable definition of "pre-emptive self-defense" in my view. Smacking Y in the face because X thinks Y is going to steal his Twinkie does not rise to the level of justification of the use of force.

Further, and especially in the case of 9-11 and Osama bin Laden, justified use of force by the United States is limited to acts of aggression committed against the specific individuals responsible. X is not justified in killing Z in pursuit of Y. In fact, this makes X a criminal himself. Roderick Long has a post here that touches on this subject.

The Freerider Problem

A dozen Iraqi teens dragged the soldiers' bodies out of the wreckage and beat them with concrete blocks. Germany's Schroeder wants to forgive Iraqi debt rather than pay for it. France declined to give any new money to the U.S.-led effort in Iraq.

It seems America is paying the price--in blood and cash--while the rest of the world reaps the benefits, a world free of Saddam, Osama and terrorism. That's right, the rest of the world is basking in the "spill-over" effects of America's efforts to maintain security and end terrorist threats.

This problem is not merely an international one. Each nation-state must protects its citizens from events like 9-11 through "national defense." Because Joe may contribute to the "national defense fund" while his lovely neighbor Jill freerides off the services, taxation must be levied by the central government on all citizens. Yet, the Bush Administration is not addressing the exact same problem within the international community. The U.S. fronts the cash and cannon fodder and the rest of the world benefits from the positive externality of terrorism reduction. The solution? The U.S. government must demand the rest of the countries in the world pay a terrorism tax--a tax to fund the War on Terrorism! This fundamental excuse for the nation-state as monopoly provider of security must be generalized to the entire world. And if these derelict nations refuse, force must be used to collect this tax. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the only way to produce security in this modern, post-911 world.

Another NRO Idiot Attempts To Justify Bushite Spending Boom

Who the hell is Andrew Stuttaford? Maybe McCarthy can answer that question. Stuttaford mentions on The Corner that the threat of deflation last year made increased spending or cutting taxes acceptable policy measures. The threat of deflation? What the hell is wrong with falling prices and a greater dollar purchasing power? (And another thing, this clown has about 15 consecutive posts on The Corner today. Geez, bud, give someone else a chance!)

Bling, Bling

BG of Cash Money Millionaires invented the phrase "Bling, Bling" to refer to expensive jewelry. William Safire comments that although "Bling, Bling" came to refer to anything "glitzy," including clothing, it is now out-of-style. Ostentation is out, sexy, cute, pretty, flirty and girly are in. May I add juicy? What is the world coming to?

Freddie Mac-daddy

We hear a lot about the Enron scam, but why don't I hear more bitching and moaning about the Freddie Mac fraud?

Saturday, November 01, 2003

A Consumption Tax Is An Income Tax

An article over at TechCentralStation describes the burden of America's "progressive income tax" and presents the case for a more streamlined, "consumption tax" system. Supposedly, "Tax withholding means that you have less take-home pay. This only serves to weigh down economic growth by discouraging spending. An economy that expands less will only serve to bring in less revenue into government coffers." The article also touts the many benefits of a more friendly, convenient system.

Why do "free market" supporters advocate this garbage? First, as I've mentioned earlier today, I have no interest in selling out like the so-called free-market economist Uncle Milty and helping the government "streamline" its tax system. Who cares about increasing government revenue? Bring on the loopholes! Good try guys, let's promote liberty by making it easier for government to figure out how to take our money! Hooray!

More importantly, in stricly economic terms, I must attack the idea that the consumption tax is better than an income tax. This is a serious error in economic understanding being pushed as a free-market idea.

A "consumption tax" is a general sales tax on final goods and services (consumption goods). Of course, firms cannot merely "pass the tax forward" to the consumer by raising the price of a good. Firms are already maximizing profits by selling at the price which maximizes net revenues. Therefore, the tax can only be shifted "backward," eating away at the profits of the firm in the short run.

Reduced profits by the firm means lower returns to the factors of production (land and capital). Ultimately, this "consumption tax" is shifted back to the owners of the land, capital and, by extension, labor. With the anticipation of lower profits, resources are shifted to uses promising higher returns, reducing the supply of final goods and services, raising prices and therefore reducing the standard of living, in the long run! Wages (the discounted marginal productivity of labor) are also necessarily reduced! Ultimately, this is an income tax!

Now, while a tax on a partcular industry--cigars, for example--will push resources out of the production of cigars, if ALL final goods and services are taxed there is relatively less room for the shifting of resources. The real distortion of production in this new consumption tax society will depend on the use of the tax revenues by the State. For instance, if the market purchases mostly clothing and the government spends mostly on arms, a fall in the price of clothing and a rise in the price of arms will occur, with the nonspecific factors tending to shift from clothing production to arms production. In short, a redistribution of resources away from the demands of consumers. So, some factors of production will lose, some will lose less, and some will even gain by shifting into the arms industry.

As Rothbard concludes: "The general sales tax is therefore an income tax, albeit a rather haphazard one. Many 'right-wing' economists have advocated general sales taxation as opposed to income taxation, on the grounds that the former taxes consumption but not savings-investment; many 'left-wing' economists have opposed sales taxation for the same reason. Both are mistaken; the sales tax is an income tax, though of a more haphazard and uncertain incidence. The major effect of the general sales tax will be that of the income tax--to reduce the consumption and the saving-investment of the taxpayers. In fact, since, as we have seen, the income tax by its nature falls more heavily on savings-investment than on consumption, we reach the paradoxical and important conclusion that a tax on consumption will faill more heavily on savings-investment that on consumption in its ultimate incidence." (Rothbard, Man, Economy and State 812-813)

Down with the evil consumption tax!

What The Hell Are Grover Norquist and Bruce Bartlett Talking About?

As Paul Bremer institutes a flat tax in Iraq, the Washington Post reports: "It's extremely good news," said Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and a Bush administration ally. Bremer's vaguely worded edict leaves open the possibility that Iraqis could face different levels of taxation below 15 percent, but "they told me it's a flat rate and it appears as though it's a flat rate," Norquist said. The tax fighter added: "It might be a hint to the rest of us."

Cheering as an invading power imposes "taxation without representation" on a whole country with the stroke of a pen? I'm horrified. It's no wonder these clowns haven't made any progress reducing taxes in the U.S. Even if the system is less complex and more efficient than previously, who the hell wants a government to be more efficient at expropriation?

"Intelligence Community" Against The State

Sidney Blumenthal's article in the Guardian provides fuel for one of LJ's biggest gripes against other "libertarians" around the world: the idea that "the State" is an organism with a life of its own. I'm still certain that, at best, the libertarian theory of the State is incomplete and, at worst, it is highly flawed. Libertarians often complain about the success of clothing "the State" in a shroud of legitimacy, but at the same time they accept the appearance as real! Sid writes,

In advance of the war, Bush (to be precise, Dick Cheney, the de facto prime minister to the distant monarch) viewed the CIA, the state department and other intelligence agencies not simply as uncooperative, but even disloyal, as their analysts continued to sift through information to determine what exactly might be true. For them, this process is at the essence of their professionalism and mission. Yet the strict insistence on the empirical was a threat to the ideological, facts an imminent danger to the doctrine. So those facts had to be suppressed, and those creating contrary evidence had to be marginalised, intimidated or have their reputations tarnished.

Right here we can see the difficulty in labels like "the State" or "the government." In fact, there are a number of competing yahoos--the CIA, State Department, Pentagon--each with their own resources, overlapping authorities, and individuals running the show. Cheney tried to use his influence to relay a message to the CIA: "either you are with us, or against us!" With these organizations less willing to cooperate, the administration turned to "stovepiping" the desired intelligence data in order to serve certain ends, namely attacking Iraq. Blumenthal continues,

Then, according to former assistant secretary of state James Rubin, when Blix met with Cheney at the White House, the vice-president told him what would happen if his efforts on WMDs did not support Bush policy: "We will not hesitate to discredit you." Blix's brush with Cheney was no different from the administration's treatment of the CIA.

Now, postwar, the intelligence wars, if anything, have got more intense. Blame shifting by the administration is the order of the day. The Republican senate intelligence committee report will point the finger at the CIA, but circumspectly not review how Bush used intelligence. The Democrats, in the senate minority, forced to act like a fringe group, held unofficial hearings this week with prominent former CIA agents: rock-ribbed Republicans who all voted for and even contributed money to Bush, but expressed their amazed anger at the assault being waged on the permanent national security apparatus by the Republican president whose father's name adorns the building where they worked. One of them compressed his disillusionment into the single most resonant word an intelligence agent can muster: "betrayal".

Sounds like one, big political game occurring under the guise of the "U.S. government."

The Russian State vs. Khodorkovsky

I wrote yesterday about "Russia and the Extraction of Natural Resources," and today's Financial Times has an indepth look at Mr. Khodorkovsky, the Russian political system and the state-capitalist economy.

Just as Khodorkovsky had dabbled in dozens of businesses as a Komsomol entrepreneur, his Menatep group's acquisitions ranged from a titanium-magnesium plant near Moscow, to textile mills, from glass factories to food-processing plants. But the real turning-point - the transaction that multiplied his fortune from millions to billions and transformed him from a businessman to a tycoon - was the opaque and controversial privatisation deal known as loans-for-shares.

The 1995 loans-for-shares pact is one of the most shameful moments in post-communist Russia. In exchange for political support, the government granted control of the country's most valuable natural resources to a handful of businessmen, including Khodorkovsky, at a fraction of their market value. The asset transfer was little better than a give-away: in the loans-for-shares deal and an affiliated investment tender, Khodorkovsky's group paid $309m to gain control over a 78 per cent stake in Yukos.

One of Russia's ever-popular questions is: Kto vynovat? Who is to blame? For those Russians who are dissatisfied with the post-communist distribution of resources - and there are many, starting with the 30 million who live below the poverty line - the question of who is to blame begins with loans-for-shares.

To this day, the Russian reformers who orchestrated the deal defend it as the only way to keep the communists out of power and to ensure that Russia became capitalist. As Yegor Gaidar, the mastermind behind Russia's market reforms, put it to me in 1998: "I understood the loans-for-shares programme perfectly well. The loans-for-shares created a political pact.

They helped to ensure that [Communist leader Gennady] Zyuganov did not come to the Kremlin. It was a necessary pact." The complicity of the state in the loans-for-shares deal was hugely important in the making of the oligarchs, who are striving to be seen as the creators of a free market - and, indeed, of freedom itself - within Russia.

But in the Russian popular imagination, and in the eyes of Putin's prosecutors, the oligarchs are Slavic mafia dons, men who have bribed, stolen and even murdered their way into unimaginable riches. They are the capitalist exploiters that 70 years of communism inveighed against. This last accusation is true - the division of property was hugely unjust. But it is also false - the chief perpetrator of that injustice was the state, not the oligarchs.

Saddam Lied About His Big Weapons, Tried Hard To Be Hip and Cool

I wasted a few precious moments of my life reading this article produced by Mr. Goldberg. Now,, where this article appears, is run by a certain right-wing D.C. think tank (produced on the Third Floor, if I remember correctly). What does this have to do with the content of the article? Absolutely nothing. What does the content of the article have to do with reality? Again, absolutely nothing.

My question is simple: what the hell is Goldberg talking about? I think his argument can be briefly summarized and exposed as follows:

A little kid on the playground (Saddam) boasts about owning a slingshot and a few pebbles. As a result, the playground bully (the U.S.) takes some "pre-emptive" action. He punches and knocks down a few of the little kid's friends (The Sunni Triangle, the Ba'ath Party, etc). After, the bully claims he can't find the rest of the friends, the little kid, the slingshot, or even the pebbles (at least the ones not produced by the bully himself)!

Wow, the bully sure does look like a colossal idiot! As the bully stands around in a daze, scratching his head, wondering where to look next, begging others to "help in the rebuilding effort," the other little kids begin sneaking up and kicking him in the shins. The bully responds, "Stop kicking me, he is the one that said he had pebbles for the slingshot! I had to do it!"

You can substitute "cop" for "bully" if you want, the story is the same. But, why is Mr. Goldberg making such an effort to defend Bush from the "Bush lied" theorists? Well, since the U.S. can't find the little kid or his pebbles, we need to blame someone! Should the blame fall on the President, the "intelligence community" or the Democrats? According to Goldberg, the little kid running around somewhere in the Iraqi desert is to blame! He even says the WMD may have been moved at the "last minute"! What did Saddam do, call FedEx and overnight them to Syria?

Regardless of his choice of shipping companies ( I prefer UPS), that naughty little man we know as Saddam must have been hiding something! Dude, it's so totally, frickin' obvious, man. Don't even trip on that, yo. As Jonah explains, "No serious person thinks Saddam behaved like a leader with nothing to hide. By Saddam's refusing to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, sanctions remained intact. Those sanctions cost the lives of Iraqis and - far more painful to Saddam - they cost him perhaps $100 billion in oil revenue. Why do that if you have nothing to hide?" (Don't you love that when advancing a weak argument one must preface it with, "No serious person would argue against the garbage I'm about to write . . ."?)

Gee, did the thought ever cross Goldberg's mind that the sanctions against Iraq may have actually prolonged the Saddam regime? Does he really think an evil tyrant comes to power and then maintains power by creating a free-market, maximizing his oil profits and ensuring the freedom and prosperity of the people? Hmmm . . . provide an external enemy for Saddam to point to and create fear, destroy the standard of living of a society, ensure that only those monopolizing deadly force in Iraq will have access to resources . . . sounds like the recipe for propping up a corrupt regime!

The U.S. propped up the little kid then claimed he had some pebbles to loft our way. After rolling into Baghdad with guns blazing, the bully can't find the pebbles or the little kid. The bully's conclusion: the little kid only wanted to look cool on the playground so he lied about the pebbles! If this sounds childish, consider the source.

Did Saddam claim to have WMDs? No.
Would bluffing help Saddam stay in power? Certainly.
Does Saddam have WMDs? No.
Did the U.S. seek to "liberate" the Iraqi people? No.
Does Saddam just want to be accepted as a cool, dangerous thug by the international community and get his photo on as many magazine and newspaper covers as possible? Hell yes! Why do you think he kept his hair jet black? LLCT: Ladies Love Crazy Tyrants . . .

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