Mission Statement

Mission Statement: This blog is dedicated to both political philosophy and application to current issues based on the ideas of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty. Additionally, this blog strives to create an atmosphere where intelligent discussions based on the principles of logic, no matter the viewpoints expressed in their conclusions, are not only welcome, but also thrive.

To learn more, feel free to read the introduction and subsequent posts which explain the aforementioned philosophy and purpose of this blog in more detail.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Issues 5: Egypt

            In my discussion of the situation in Tunisia, I made the point that American interests and assistance will be less effective than otherwise possible due to our reputation for foreign intervention.  In making the same point now but in reference to a new situation, I am simultaneously trying to drive home the point and showcase the validity of a prediction through current events.  In another Economist article covering Egypt, The Battle of Cairo is Over, or is It?, the online journal discusses possible coming change.  The real telling part is below, in the comments.  The mistrust of America and American intentions are evident.  Even if our previous intervention and aid would have been the right thing to do, which I contend it was not, it is certainly coming back in an unexpected and unwanted way.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Issues 4: Why Read the Constitution?

     Members of Congress have proposed that each bill on Capitol Hill include a reference to where the Constitution grants them the authority to create the bill. This is a wonderful idea, especially if one considers the implication that this concedes to the Founding Fathers’ idea that the Constitution is meant to be a document of limitation of government power.
     It seems that the way the Federal Government has gone about business lately (i.e. at least 80 years, probably longer) is to pass any legislation or executive order that is not specifically forbidden by the Constitution. The primary concern touted by politicians is that something is “for the good of the people,” and when this is at odds with the Constitution, it is attempted anyway in hopes that the courts may overlook it. Is the Constitution no longer good enough for the people?
     By citing the authority given to do something in the first place, politicians are ceding that their power lies in what the Constitution expressly tells them to do, and powers that are not articulated are reserved to the states and the people. Federalist No. 84 is a great example of this theory (Alexander Hamilton claims we do not even need a Bill of Rights because ALL rights are reserved to the people, except what the Constitution confers to government: “Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?”). In this instance, a major fear of the Founding Fathers has come true. Perhaps, if this effort is taken seriously and is not just lip service, America may find a better future a little closer to its roots. This would be a welcome change.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Issues 3: State of the Union Address

     Tonight President Obama delivered his second State of the Union Address. There are many things that I like about the President. Although we do not see eye-to-eye on the specifics of all policies, he is a man of charisma and good intentions. He has an infectious positive attitude that is essential to seeing the best in a situation and moving forward. His comment that others countries do not have the problem of endless bickering and how lucky we should feel to have the opportunity for all of this frustration and subsequent monologue make me even more proud to be a part of this great nation.

     To the meat and potatoes, so to speak, we must discuss the issues. I will summarize here with the promise for more in-depth discussion on nearly all of these topics at a later date.
     Every child deserves an opportunity to succeed, the President tells us. Education goes far beyond being able to succeed and into the territory of ensuring an educated electorate and a security that does not exist in other countries. He mentioned specifically the need for parents to turn off the TV, and this emphasis on personal responsibility and taking an active interest in your own future and that of your children cannot be overstated.
     The President mentioned that the winner of the science fair, not just the Super Bowl, needs to hailed as a success. I don’t know how the government can make this happen, but I support the idea. His proposal that success is a function of hard work and discipline is an idea espoused by libertarians the world over—the trick is in crafting policies that reward hard work.
     He mentioned also that bringing students to Universities and then sending them home makes no sense. While I see the point he was trying to make, that practice is a valuable tool in American foreign policy. If foreigners are brought into the country, shown its benefits and treated well before being sent home, they will return to their country with a positive view of America and the American system that will do more to spread our ideology than all of our military campaigns combined. His point, though was immigration, a contentious issue. How can a society be free and libertarian but still close its gates to anxious people who want to participate?
     Promoting American jobs is important to the President and to any politician who wants to receive votes from Americans who either work or do not work. I hope they also realize how important it is to avoid protectionist policies that will hurt in the long run, even if the alternative is short-term political difficulties.
     The fact that government is inefficient should no be a surprise to anyone. To libertarians especially, his discussion of redundant agencies and confused salmon is like a /facepalm. President Obama proposed counteracting this, but that is difficult with a body that has no competition. Perhaps some creative solutions could be find in business practices such as hiring analysts to see how the process can be streamlined and encouraging processes like Lean Sigma that can reduce redundancy and overhead without cutting into efficacy.
     Perhaps the biggest point of the night, however, was deficit spending. I hope to get into this in more detail shortly, but will make brief mentions here. The President highlighted his idea to freeze federal spending for 5 years, reducing the deficit $40 billion per year for ten years. Not only is that spitting in the ocean for a deficit that is already $1.21 trillion per year (reducing it to only $1.17 trillion per year), but when spending has already exploded to this point, we need reduction, not freeze. The simplified tax code has promise, especially if it is simplified out of existence.
     Let me end with this thought from the President’s speech: America’s moral example must shine for all. As I began to show in the Tunisia post and will continue to do so, this is a worthy goal that is best served through a fair application of Liberty.

Issues 2: Shooting Rep. Giffords in Tucson

     A lot of talk has arisen in direct response to the shooting in Arizona. That it is a deplorable act should go without saying, and I will not comment on it further. I am tempted to not discuss it at all in reverence to those affected, but this is balanced by a desire to not see it used to ill effect, bent, or inspire a wrong or incomplete message.

     There are a number of subjects that could be mentioned in conjunction with the massive media coverage, but I will focus on the “state of the Union’s discourse.” That some are blaming politicians, political rhetoric, guns, maps, or a lack of common purpose in America for this shooting is ridiculous. Have our major news agencies become so sensationalized that they must rouse ire even during a time of stress to try to turn a buck? It took days and leaving the beaten media path to find sensible discussions about solutions to problems rather than populist drivel (for a good discussion, try this C-SPAN video).
     The focus of discussion on this debate should not center on Sarah Palin or gun control, but how a crazy person was able to slip through the system. In his mental state, the killer should not have been able to purchase or own a gun (and would have been legally forbidden from doing so under existing laws). However, no formal body designated him as mentally unstable, and he did not “hit” on the background check. One possible takeaway from the issue is communication and interoperability among existing government agencies, a fix which would increase public safety without costing significantly more money or adding extraneous legislation.
     While I am no lover of the blind emotional politics debates, and while this blog is dedicated to rational, logical political discussion, people must not forget how far we have come as a nation. The political discourse in America used to be deplorable by today’s standards, from duels between politicians (remember Alexander Hamilton) to hot debates about everything from slavery to isolationism to not even allowing communist political thought to enter into the realm of free speech.
     Why do we presume that the disagreements now are so great or disastrous? Some of it may stem from the WWII legacy. Many people in the country view pre-WWII American history as a great uniting cause, and think that we have been diverging since then. As there are few citizens currently voting who did so before WWII as well, little is done to debunk this myth. People forget that even during WWII there were issues of contention from non-intervention to Japanese internment. It was not the unanimous decision that it appears in hindsight, despite the great national effort that supported it. Even if the nation, despite the troubles, was more “gung ho” at that point, most of America’s history lies on the other side of that war. In that history there were groups of people treated deplorably, unjust wars, politicians making compromises that did not sit well in order to get SOMETHING done, deep divides in political parties, courageous leaders doing what they thought was best for the country despite the lack of popular support… does this sound at all familiar? And in the middle of it was a bloody Civil War.
     Americans must not be disheartened, but can also not afford to be satisfied with politics as it is. In a democracy, it is not toward the politicians to direct our anger, but toward ourselves. As the citizens using the vote to put into place every political institution we have, Americans must ask ourselves, are we demanding the best or settling for less? We must insist on a dialogue focused on solutions and rational discussion, and not support those who cannot deliver. If your TV show doesn’t deliver, find a different one. If the news you read doesn’t support and build, find one that does. If your politicians are not moving your cause forward, then insist that they do and withhold support when they do not. The onus for elevating the American discourse, indeed in elevating America, lies completely with the American citizenry who alone possess the choice of apathy or contribution.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Issues 1: Tunisia and Foreign Policy

     When I discuss libertarianism in this blog, I am not referring to a political party, but a principled system of beliefs. As such, the libertarian ideal does not stop at the water’s edge, focusing solely on individual liberty in domestic policy. The ideas also apply to international relations and how a country treats its neighbors. A libertarian society is against both the initiation of force and unrequested foreign intervention, recognizing that the military exists as a defense mechanism, not an instrument of willy-nilly international politics. As a supreme executive, I would not in any way use the military or my political clout to impose my will or ideas on sovereign nations, so long as they are respecting my nation’s sovereignty as well. America’s power is neither a mandate nor an excuse to act as a world police force—in a world of sovereign nations, no political body has the authority to impose that on an unwilling nation.
     The happenings in Tunisia recently give a nice case study on why the above philosophy holds sound for international relations. The Tunisian people, tired of the conditions of their current government, worked to overthrow that government. As John Locke proclaims and the Declaration of Independence paraphrases, the people will inevitably “put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the end for which government was at first erected.” If these great thinkers and the current of world events are to be believed, then military intervention is not necessary to spread democracy—it will arise spontaneously when the people deem the reward outweighs the sacrifices of revolution.
     Tunisia is now at an important crossroads. The government that arises from this distress could be a model for the region, or a despot replacing another. However, American influence in the process will be significantly less than what it could be due in large part to our reputation in the world right now. An Economist article discusses opinions on Tunisia in the Arab press. Most do not mention America, but one can tell that there is dissatisfaction with what America has already done in the region (propping up certain governments) which will, in conjunction with the ongoing struggles in Afghanistan and especially Iraq, limit the amount of help and involvement that people are willing to ask from America (read this article about Pakistan for further evidence of our foreign policy hindering our desired foreign outcomes). If America is seen as too pushy, then people will not trust us to deliver only the assistance requested without going the extra step to impose additional views.
     Not only has the past half-century of American interventionist foreign policy violated principles of Sovereignty and worked us to a point where we are unable to render the help when it is most needed, it goes against the principles that most often predict success. Unrequested intervention in a nation to change government is essentially a fight between two powers both claiming to be legitimate for different reasons. Even if this does not directly devolve into an insurgency, it bears many of the same traits and is likely to in the future.
     In a paper called Victory Has a Thousand Fathers, The Small Wars Journal discusses evidence about what makes for successful counterinsurgency (COIN). Dividing many COIN practices into good and bad, it is easy to see that a foreign government coming to impose a regime change in a country immediately falls prey to many of the bad practices. This is not impossible to overcome, but is difficult. This is further complicated (to put it mildly) if America finds itself trying to “help governments that will not help themselves.” One of the surest ways to know that people are willing to help themselves is to only respond to calls for assistance to causes that have already started to make progress rather than trying to build them from the ground.
     It is easy to see and completely understandable how America’s recent history of foreign policy has degraded rather than strengthened our ability to influence the world. While the most important influence should be a sterling example that the rest of the world can follow or not as they desire, we are unable to do this because of the largely correct perception of American pushiness and cultural insensitivity. A non-intervening state that can be a light of freedom in the world would inspire more events like the one happening in Tunisia. With an unblemished record of libertarian respect for national sovereignty and cultural awareness, America would be much more likely to be not only welcome, but an invited participant in designing a better future. This only holds more true as communication becomes faster and more accessible through technology such as the internet.
     This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, since both parties have made largely similar blunders. Americans understand this, but I believe that most do not see an alternative between trading back and forth between Democratic missteps and Republican ones. A theory of liberty would satisfy many involved parties, increase America’s status and influence in the world, and yield more favorable foreign policy results. While it is important to note that the ends do not justify the means in forming actionable policy, the fact that the core principles of the libertarian philosophy can be uncompromisingly applied in this situation and still predict positive results speaks to the depth and truth of the ideals here espoused.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Foundations 4: Not Anarchist

As I discuss politics with people, I sometimes have people say “how can you think that there shouldn’t be a government?  How can you think things like the FDA, protecting us from greedy drug companies, are not good?”  This shows how little some people understand about a libertarian or minimalist government.  I not only support, but think that a strong, ethical, limited government is essential to a nation’s well-being and even existence.  However, government has only certain purposes, which, like a good court decision, should be well-defined and narrowly applied.
In a nutshell, the purpose of government is to prevent one person or group from infringing on the liberty of another person or group.  This mostly happens through force or fraud, which government must be strong to prevent. 
Let me share some examples, starting with the obvious—police.  A police force fulfills this definition of government by preventing or punishing crimes such as robbery, murder, arson, etc.  A military does largely the same thing, but on an international rather than domestic level.  Government policies such as requiring warning labels on cigarettes prevent those companies from hiding the nature of their product and thus hurting people through fraud.  The government however, has no right to tell a person they are not allowed to hurt themselves by smoking the product anyway.  Another example of government fulfilling its purpose in a more subtle way is laws against unethical business practices such as price fixing.  A business cannot conspire with a competitor to set a price for a certain good, but must rather compete in a free market.  On the surface this may seem to some people like stifling an economic liberty, but it is one that hurts a customer’s ability to access a free market through force or fraud.
An issue that has come up in several discussions is the FDA.  Under the view of government I propose, the purpose of this body would be to ensure that food and drug companies properly disclose all information about their products that people may want to know prior to using it.  It should not in any way be used to tell people what they can or cannot eat or use.  As you can hopefully see, contrary to some misperceptions, this view of government does not mean “no government,” does not mean that “big corporations can just screw people over because they have the money and power,” and does not mean that “people will just be able to whatever they want without regards to others.” 
The purpose of this entry was to clarify the principles upon which this model of government is built.  The ideas of the proper roles for government have been debated since antiquity by some of the greatest philosophical minds in history.  I welcome discussion, especially about whether this form of government is practical in our world today, but I do not expect any great revelations.  In the next entry I will start discussing how to apply this philosophy to particular issues and how the libertarian idea is best for America.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Foundations 3: The Dissatisfaction

As I mentioned in my last entry, Americans who value liberty in all areas of life are underrepresented in political discourse, and many do not even accurately identify their belief platforms.  I would like to start this entry by comparing the standing political parties’ stances on the social and economic liberty that I mentioned before.
A quick tour of the website of the Democratic Party can show what they stand for.  It starts off saying “our country and our economy are strongest when they provide opportunity for all Americans.”  This is exactly right.  Provide people with equal opportunities and let them build their lives and their future.  American history and ingenuity, human desire to live and prosper—these things drive people to work hard to make their lives, and consequently the world, a better place. 
“Democrats believe that each of us has an obligation to each other.”  Whoa.  Really?  I agree that we all have an equality of opportunity and that the government is in place to protect that opportunity, but opportunity includes the opportunity to fail.  I believe in charity work to help those less fortunate, I believe in strong family cohesion to help people have a measure of security in the world, but I am absolutely opposed to the idea that I am governmentally “obligated” to any person in the country—morally or religiously through my own beliefs, yes; governmentally, no.  I especially dislike the idea that other people, through threat of governmental force, will tell me exactly how I am obligated, how I “need” to help, and how my opportunity should be sacrificed for that obligation. 
These two sentences taken from the Democrats’ stance begin to show the dual nature of their philosophy, how people are free but not free.  Let us look at where this stance leads.  Under the heading “Civil Rights” the Democratic website says that it stands for fighting employment discrimination and repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  Both of these steps serve to increase Social liberty across the nation, letting people work, serve, or exist without reference to their beliefs, only to their performance.  This is a good news for supporters of social liberty.  It is disappointing that the particular page is so bare, lacking a clear definition of problems and solutions and instead using broad language and categories to make as inoffensive point as possible.
Under the heading of Retirement Security, Democrats begin to talk about their dearth of economic liberty.  They proudly tout the creation of social security, a program which creates a government-run “retirement plan,” basically taxing workers to pay retirees.  The website says that they “believe that all Americans have the right to a secure and healthy retirement.”  I have a lot of issue with this.  Americans certainly have the right to the opportunity of a secure retirement, through intelligent savings, risk-taking through investing, or a strong family structure that supports multi-generational families.  There are many ways for people to work within their opportunities to secure their own retirement.  Using government to force one group of people to support the lifestyle of another group is not economic freedom.
These are but two small examples of the idea of social freedom vs. economic freedom.  Democrats tend toward more social freedom and less economic liberty.  Now let us look at the Republican agenda and compare the two.
Starting with social liberty, the Republican Party tends to replace the word liberty with the word values.  Their website says “Republicans have been at the forefront of protecting traditional marriage laws, both in the states and in Congress.”  We know that this means that Republicans do not support gay or any other kind of marriage outside the traditional man and woman.  And why not?  Are nontraditional marriages hurting you personally in some way, some way that is worth taking a person’s social liberty?  By contrast the Republican party does favor more economic liberty in the form of lower income taxes for all people.  If a person honestly earns money (as opposed obtaining through force or fraud), then why should they not be allowed to keep and enjoy every penny that they earned?  Is that not a blessing of liberty or pursuit of happiness for them?  Or does the Constitution only apply to certain economic strata?
The divides between the ruling parties are evident and wide.  There is little room for compromise when your basic beliefs are at odds, leading to the stalemate of partisan uselessness that we are currently experiencing.  But the very fact that both parties have to qualify their liberties gives me cause for concern.  Why can’t any party support “Liberty”?  Why must political supporters have to decide between social or economic liberty?  Why can we not have both? 
Why can’t I use my opportunities to earn as much money as I can, then use it, keep it, and spend it in a way I see fit, without being governmentally forced to support others?  I would agree and be very happy in return to not have those others be governmentally forced to assist me.  Please do not confuse this with a lack of desire or willingness to help mankind.  I have and will continue to do so through monetary and time donations, but at my discretion, to causes I consider worthy, and with complete control over my actions.  I am also a big fan of the idea of family support.  My family has continued to support each other throughout my lifetime, from the old to the young.  Contrary to the perceptions of many whom I have discussed this with, a lack of government mandated monetary redistribution is not the equivalent of a cruel and unconcerned world.  It is simply a world where people can choose when and how and why to help each other rather than be forced into it.
Additionally, why can’t I profess my love for a man, men, woman, or women, as I choose, in a legal ceremony?  Does it prevent others from living their lives as they see fit?  Does it in any way hinder anyone’s opportunities in this world? 
The major political players in America create the impression that our biggest political decisions are which type of liberty to give up and how much of the other you get in return.  One party favors economic liberty at the cost of social, and the other is the opposite.  Where are the people who want liberty throughout their lives, in all aspects?  Where are the proponents who believe that less government intervention means in all areas, not just Republican ones?  Where are the Democrats who fight for equal opportunities, and also support people keeping the rewards of an opportunity well followed?  Hopefully as this blog progresses I will outline areas where liberty is suffering and what we can do to fix it.  Throughout the discussions that we will have, perhaps more people will realize that they really don’t identify as Republican or Democrat, but as something different. 
I almost decided not to post this idea in favor of a more issue-focused argument.  However, I think that at this point in the birth of Liberty’s Rest, it is important to paint a picture of how the ideas of liberty in all areas flow naturally from the dissatisfaction with the current American political system.  It is important to the philosophy of liberty and to America to include a discussion on personal responsibility, which will come shortly.  With luck, the arguments and discussions will focus on principles and logic while refraining from partisan ignorance.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Foundations 2: The Other People

In America’s political landscape, there is not a lot that separates the two major political parties.  Both generally follow the Constitutional mission of the Federal Government to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  Establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, and providing for the common defense are all established in form and function and, while the specifics vary slightly, the courts, police, and military are all fundamental institutions in most people’s idea of government.  The rub comes on the other three precepts, and what it means to form a more perfect Union, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, and this ambiguity creates the two major issues in American politics.
Most contested issues fall into one of two categories: economic liberty and social liberty.  These two concepts can each be individually supported or stymied, creating four different ways to look at life based on these concepts.  The four ways are to curtail liberty of both in favor of government control, eschew government control of both in favor of liberty, push economic liberty while guarding social behavior tightly, or allowing social liberty while working to control the economy.  The American left generally takes the last view of social freedom and economic control and redistribution while the American right general supports greater economic freedoms while intruding into people’s private lives.
The other two views are both largely trampled in the “compromises” that Democrats and Republicans craft in order to push the most important aspects of their agendas, trading certain liberties for others.  I in no way support the view that all liberties should be abandoned and government control be the norm.  I think most Americans also do not support this, and thus the communist or totalitarian movements that would support it are very weak. 
The view that Americans should be free in all aspects of their lives that do not hinder others, however, is severely underrepresented in American politics.  Through both personal interaction and media I see people every day who are disappointed in the American political system.  They consider themselves Republicans or Democrats, but more moderate than many of their more vocal party-members.  They may be happy with what their party is doing in regards to economic or social liberty, but disappointed in the other aspect.  They may even recognize the inconsistent policy that their party puts forward through a lack of axioms or principles that govern their thinking.  I have talked to several people who now claim to embrace libertarian ideas (ideas, not political party), but could not accurately identify these ideas when they were dissatisfied with the major political parties.  Many moderate Democrats and Republicans really align their true beliefs with neither party, but want the freedom and liberty guaranteed by the American Constitution, but don’t know where to turn.
This blog is dedicated to those people, who want to be left alone to live their lives and not hurt others.  I embrace this idea of liberty through minimal government, and know many others do as well.  What I would like to explore throughout the next entries is how this belief takes the shape of policy and follow it to its logical results.  If you are frustrated with politics in America, are losing or have lost faith in Republicans and Democrats to work for your interests, and have difficulty finding a place to honestly discuss your ideas without tie to party or threat of partisan anger, then work with me here in this forum to raise the standard of American political participation to the level it should be.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Foundations 1: Introduction

            The world sucks.  American Soldiers are getting killed around the world.  Terrorists attack countries from Pakistan to Sweden.  There is large unemployment in America; European countries are struggling to stay economically afloat.  Nations like North Korea threaten regional stability and kill innocent people.  There is even a woman in California who is suing McDonalds because her kids are fat.  Never mind that I doubt they go there very often without her consent. 
You know what else?  America’s youth are still volunteering to go stand in the gap between the homeland and terrorists.  The standard of living in America is still higher than just about anywhere else on earth, and events like the Ironman and New York City Marathon still draw thousands of people.  It is not that the world sucks, but it is incredibly frustrating sometimes.
I may be in the minority these days, but I still believe that America, the country that gave me every opportunity I have, is leading the world in liberty and freedom, things which I hold dear.  I do not agree with every political decision that is made, or with every person who, even though he or she may not see things as clearly as I do, still has an equal say in the affairs of the nation.  America is still great.
However, the country is run by our two main political parties, neither of which accurately represents my beliefs about government.  Unfortunately, it seems like the parts I dislike about each often take the lead.  Judging by the frustration of many Americans and the see-saw nature of the election cycle, I think that most people seem to agree with me.  So why is nothing happening?  Why are there still only two parties that get serious attention?  I think that there should be two more parties that vie for people’s votes, based on the general principles that seem to guide our politics.  Also, there are not consistent, coherent voices that represent what many of us think and believe.
Throughout this blog, I will begin to explore the policy gap between what politicians currently promote and my understanding of a truly free and liberty-loving society.  I will attempt to present new solutions to current problems and describe how they not only adhere to underlying libertarian principles, but also the Constitutional basis of how our government should behave.  I will also attempt to bring light to my biggest grievance against the People and the Government: a lack of personal responsibility.  This symptom is the cause of so many problems and is itself a result of an overbearing and overindulgent government.
Finally, I am incredibly disappointed with the level of argumentative discourse that I see.  As a mathematician, I am prone to breaking arguments down into their founding axioms, then examining the logic that builds each step to an eventual conclusion.  I have also studied a little bit of philosophy, to the point where I can recognize some logical fallacies, and have seen others use this intelligently and to great effect in debates.  I would like this blog to be a place of discussion, where patrons can examine new ideas, or perhaps old ideas in a new way with a new person sitting across from them to challenge their assumptions and conclusions.  My goal is to have a single place that explains what many Americans want and expect in a Constitutional-based political system, that presents new, outside-the-box ideas for solutions to current problems, and a relaxed atmosphere that fosters intelligent, respectful, and insightful discussion.