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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Issues 21: How Intervention is Continuing to Hurt Us

This should come as no surprise, especially given recent events. Maybe it is warranted, maybe it is not. What is clear, though, is that it has been fueled by the interventionist and world-police policies of the United States.

“Patterson said the United States must target a ‘lost generation’ of military officers who missed training programs in the United States after Washington imposed sanctions against Pakistan in the 1990s for its nuclear program.”

So a sovereign country did something that we did not like, even though it did not DIRECTLY threaten the US. We tried to bully them into a certain way of behaving. It did not work and now we are left in a situation where the country still did what we didn’t want them to do, and trusts us even less than they did before.

Beyond highlighting the dangers of non-intervention, this article also showcases the strongest tool at a libertarian nation’s disposal: a positive example. In my understanding of libertarian principles, people are more free to come and go within such a society. This should lead to more travel and intermingling of cultures. This can and should be promoted by government by inviting members of foreign militaries and other organizations to train in the US, and sending our military on temporary visits to do the same (not the permanent basing in Germany or the like).

This allows some of us to see how other countries think and behave, a very useful thing when you later work with them. Additionally, it brings people who are more likely to have some influence in countries that are strategically valuable to a greater understanding of the US is, what a free society looks like, and how it can be done. If we who believe in freedom are correct and a free society is better than an oppressed on, then these people getting to see it working will begin fueling the desire for change—from inside. It is the least insidious method of shaping foreign policy, but it also allows us to change and adapt based on what works elsewhere, too. It is like capitalism for ideas!

Ultimately, there is a better way to ensure a safe world environment for your country, and it starts with libertarian principles of non-intervention but rigorous defense of direct attacks. I have discussed non-intervention and travel here, and have a good article for a discussion of rigorous defense soon.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Thank You to the Fallen

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, 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.”

This is the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting to remember this speech on Memorial Day, as it may be the most eloquent dictation of remembrance and perseverance. I would like to personally thank all Americans who have served their nation, with a special thanks to all of those who have given the last full measure, and their families. You will never be forgotten.

As Lincoln said, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work…” That is part of the reason that I am so passionately dedicated to advancing the cause of Liberty in the best way that I know. Not only do I firmly believe it to be the noblest path, but also an honor to those who have gone before.

The work to which we dedicate ourselves here and to which many have dedicated themselves before will never be finished; the fight for Liberty is never-ending. To those from whom the fight has demanded the most, on all days and especially on this day, thank you.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Issues 20: The Feds are not Doing their Job

My original view for this blog was something akin to the Small Wars Journal where I would post more detailed and philosophical discussions about libertarianism while using the Weekly Roundup to share news articles. In trying build this, I realize that one person with other commitments cannot build a site like the Small Wars Journal. In reading other blogs, I see that many of their posts are about individual news articles. In putting up a Weekly Roundup I realized that I wanted to comment on many of the articles I used. Therefore, I am going to try changing things around a bit, and am spreading this week’s roundup over several days with commentary on each article. Hopefully this will allow me to create posts more often, keep the blog more interesting, and share some good information at the same time.

The next few posts all deal with US military and foreign policy, just like the last Roundup on the sidebar dealt with US domestic fiscal policy. This is installment one.

Libya Effort is Called Violation of War Act

The President continues to use US military force in Libya in direct violation of US law and the Constitution. This is not a partisan issue, but one that offends many politicians from across the political spectrum.

“Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said the administration was treating lawmakers as ‘irrelevant’.” He goes on to say that “’It’s time for Congress to step forward,’ […]. ‘It’s time to stop shredding the U.S. Constitution in a presumed effort to bring democracy and constitutional rule of law to Libya.’”

No matter whether you agree with the use of force or not, everyone should be able to find common ground in the fact that the force is not currently authorized and those using it have not followed the proper channels to do so.

I will continue to push this issue as long as it exists. This type of use of force is the most dangerous of all, a subject on which I will expound in another post this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

YGBSM 3: SCOTUS Tells California it is Incapable of Governing

Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on an issue concerning California prison overcrowding. There are three links toward which I would direct your attention:

Supreme Court Orders California to Release Tens of Thousands of Prison Inmates (LA Times)

Actual Supreme Court Ruling

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

The first is an article about the Supreme Court decision, the second is the actual decision, and the third is about how the prison system should be run in the first place. First things first.

At first reading of the article I was conflicted. As a libertarian, I often fight the misconception that libertarianism is indistinguishable from anarchy. It is, however, imperative that any government be able to enforce the few statutes and limitations it sets forth. In the Opinion of the Court the majority asserts that the decision exists to protect the Constitutional rights of the prisoners. If this was the case, if the ruling were as simple as it seems on its face, it would be a laudable example of the court defending the Constitution, its most sacred duty. One must ask, though, what are the Constitutional rights, how are they violated, and how can they best be fixed? Reading both dissents belies the notion that the Court worked only to protect violations of Constitutional right.

Even with my limited knowledge of Constitutional law, I am familiar with the idea that decisions of the court are supposed to be both narrowly tailored and redress specific grievances. The dissents bring to light that this is not the case; it is a matter of activist judges using their position to influence events beyond the scope of their job. Even if the plaintiffs were found to have their Constitutional rights violated, was the fix the best available given the circumstances? I absolutely think it is not.

The law used as justification for the decision, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) states that decisions must be “narrowly tailored to address proven and ongoing Constitutional violations.” The Court worked in realms beyond its power in making the decision, undoing with broad strokes what thousands of citizens in the form of judges, juries, and law enforcement worked for years to do. I would recommend reading Justice Alito’s dissent for a much more eloquent opinion than I could provide.

As to what could have been done instead, the range is vast. I love what Sheriff Joe has done. Snopes even mentions his allowing them to have cable television because it is mandated by law. Seriously. If it was not mandated that prisoners live in such comfort, perhaps there would be money available to reduce the crowding. If they rotated 8-hour shifts working the chain gang, that would leave only 2/3 of them inside at any given time. Given that capacity is currently near 200% and the court ordered the prisons to maintain a maximum of 137.5% of their capacity, the shift-work solution solves the problem without harmful change (1/3 per shift equates to 133.34% in the prison at a time). And that is a solution that meets intent, creates a positive good, and was formulated in an evening. Although it is simplistic and would require more detail, it is meant only to illustrate that there are much better solutions to the problem. I am sure the combined power of the nine most impressive legal minds in the United States could do even better given the proper motivation.

For me, this issue comes down to a bloated Federal power. The Court must be able to enforce the Constitution, but it has gone far beyond. The opinion was not narrowly tailored to address the issue of the plaintiffs, but made sweeping changes to a state system. The changes made were not even the only possible changes to improve the situation. Judicial activism is a huge problem, not only because it will put 37,000 convicted criminals back on the streets early, but because it erodes a system that is designed to safeguard the rights of Citizens against their government.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Weekly Roundup

          In lieu of a weekly update this weekend, I wanted to post links to a couple specific articles with brief comments on each. The articles are a little older, but raise some interesting issues. I think they are good reads and the starting point for intelligent debate if we so choose.

The Economist - Lessons from California: The Perils of Extreme Democracy

          This is a stellar discussion about the failure or success of direct democracy in California. I think that direct democracy needs to be tempered by a Constitution or it becomes mob rule, but I don’t think that California has necessarily crossed that line. One of the early commenters, QEsPapa, wrote a great summary. Perhaps the best answer is to have all taxes be the result of direct democracy, with all expense originating from the legislature, with a Constitutional mandate to not run a deficit? The taxpayers would keep taxes small and legislators would be forced to spend within their means.

The Economist - Cuba's Communist Congress: The Start of a Long, Slow Goodbye

          This article discusses Cuba and showcases how they cannot sustain their communist government. They are being forced to open more private businesses, due in large part to the most common critique of communism—if everything is given, no one will work. The US policy of restricting citizens and not engaging the country is a separate issue that I hope to discuss later.

The Economist - Don't Bully Boeing, Barack

          In this article, the Economist argues for the NLRB to not have so much power (trying to tell business which states are available for expansion and which are not).  Not only is that a vast abuse of power, but the underlying reason, the Unions, is an important issue in itself.  Rather than the days when a Union helped protect Kentucky coal miners from being sent to their deaths, these days Unions are forcing members to join, exacting dues whether members are "willing" or not, exercising vast power over businesses, and becoming a force from which people need protection instead of a protecting force!  Of course in a libertarian society people should be allowed to Unionize, just as they should be allowed to not Unionize and businesses should be allowed to employ whomever they choose.  Propping up industries or workers has not done many favors for the economy in the long run before, and there is no reason to think government intervention will help this time, either.
          These articles showcase libertarian values playing out in the world, but libertarians are not using them to show people that our system works. Many people still are either ignorant enough to equate libertarianism with anarchism, or scared enough to think that people will not be able to flourish with a small government. Using examples of how libertarianism would be making life a little better should be a cornerstone of those trying to convince people of the philosophy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Issues 19: India, Pakistan, and ... Libertarianism?

          An article by the Economist, entitled “The World’s Most Dangerous Border,” asserts that the border between India and Pakistan is the most dangerous in the world, but is overshadowed by the western border with Afghanistan. Despite claims that the solution to the problem is for India to sacrifice elements of sovereignty to solve the problem, I would rather focus on a separate question. Whether that border is the most dangerous or not, a significant question becomes, why? A follow-up that you may be asking is, what does this have to do with libertarianism?
          One of the many goals of this blog is to provide insights within subjects upon which we may agree, not only debate contentious issues. One commenter to the article, sanman on page 3, made a very astute observation that the core issue is the existence of the Pakistani state itself. To summarize, he says that India is not a “real” enemy, but rather one that the military and politicians use to unite an otherwise very different population. The Pashtuns have more in common with their Afghan neighbors, and talk about dismantling the country into its ethnic subcomponents is ubiquitous on the internet. By having a common enemy (India), and a common belief (Fundamentalist Islam), it is easier to unite the country. Those in power then maintain their status.
          So what does this have to do with libertarianism? The first is that the root of the problems may well lie in arbitrarily drawn borders by a collapsing colonial power half a world away. This is not unique to the Durand Line, Pakistan, and India. Problems exist most obviously in Israel, but also between the Kurds and their Iraqi or Turkish nations, among other examples. Without going into too much detail here, it is a very solid example of how foreign intervention, though perhaps seeming wise at the time, led to many important and unforeseen problems. Trying to control your neighbors is just not healthy in the long run (U.S. policy-makers should take especial note of this).
          The second tie-in to libertarianism is something I believe to be an insight—at least, I have not read it elsewhere before. The idea is that a totalitarian country cannot rule a large area with a disparate population like Pakistan. The more you press on the people, the more alienate some who may not agree. To maintain your power, then, you have to come up with some pretty terrifying enemies or some pretty powerful ideas. America, however, was able to expand and govern such a diverse group of people largely because of the freedom allowed to so many. The more libertarian a nation is, the more inclusive it can be. The population will feel more accepted and, in addition to the many other benefits I attribute to libertarian government, will be able to exist more peaceably. It is like the old maxim that to exert more control, you must first loosen your grip.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Issues 18: Ron Paul Announces 2012 Presidential Candidacy!

          I apologize for my long absense; I have been out of the country and away from internet access for some time, but am back and making an effort to redirect my mental energies toward what I consider to be a good cause.  I will try to give all the new comments on Issues 17 their due as well.  Please bear with me.
          I will start of this return by saying how happy I am to see that Ron Paul has decided to run for President.  He is one of the few people in elected office willing to stand up against something that may be politically popular to say "This isn't what real freedom is."  Being able to do that is critical, and even where I don't agree with him, I recognize him as the clear choice candidate to champion the cause of Liberty, to do the most toward making us a little bit freer, and to do so even if the idea, such as legalizing drugs, isn't the most popular one with his "conservative" base.
          The real test of most people's strategy will come in the primaries.  As the linked article above says, he is only fifth among Republican voters, yet in a hypothetical general election stands the best chance to come out on top over President Obama.  To anyone voting for a Republican candidate in the primaries, this should be an important factor to remember as you vote: your vote for the most conservative candidate rather than Ron Paul may ensure your candidate's eventual demise in the general election.