Archives for July 2012
I am a bad, bad man. Last week I started a mini-firestorm of controversy about fusionism, then ran away into the woods of upstate New York for a two week vacation where the Internet is an endangered species. And now that the firestorm has since—partially, at least—died down, I’m here to stir it back up again. Because I totally captured an Internet in a Have-A-Heart trap and can actually use it for my nefarious blogging.
Jason Pye made some very thoughtful points in his rebuttal, which could be summed up by his last paragraph, that we shouldn’t “cut off our nose to spite our face.” Fair enough. I myself am a “gradualist,” and don’t see radical libertarianism as the way forward. Jason and I agree on that. But there are a few things I take issue with.
For starters, I never ruled out working with conservatives on issues. In fact, I explicitly endorsed ad hoc alliances with both the right and the left in order to advance individual liberty. This was the view put forward by our colleague Tom Knighton, and I think its a reasonable and sensible one to use.
The problem I have with fusionism is not that we’re working with people we disagree with on issues. That’s not just politics, that’s just life, and we’re going to have to deal with it. The problem with fusionism is that it seeks to subsume libertarianism as a wing of the conservative jumbo jet that’s flying off into some distant horizon. That libertarianism is really just a bunch of conservatives who like drugs, are okay with gay people, and not as much with war. But, as it goes, libertarians are fundamentally conservative at their core.
On September 11, 2001, our world changed. The vivid recollections are still far too fresh in many people’s minds for them to realize that it was over a decade ago that we witnessed the horrors of that day. Also, many Americans have learned things about Islam. Some of them true, others not.
Unforunately, they’ve taken those tidbits of knowledge, both factual and fantastic, and developed opinions. Opinions that are a special kind of ridiculous.
Gov. Bill Haslam hired an amazingly talented business attorney to serve as the international director to handle the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s new focus on expanding the state’s overseas exports.
The new hire, Samar Ali, is a Tennessee native, Vanderbilt law graduate, a recent White House Fellow, a former associate attorney at Hogan Lovells and has one of the most impressive resumes of international humanitarian service I’ve ever seen.
She’s also Muslim.
As a result, several county Republican groups and a Tea Party group went berserk and began churning out petitions and resolutions calling for Ali to step down and for Haslam to receive “appropriate action.”
A couple of resolutions also condemn Haslam for allowing “open homosexuals to make policy decisions in the Department of Children’s Services.”
Apparently this small, but loud, group of local loons believe that anyone who isn’t Christian and straight shouldn’t have the opportunity to work for state government in Tennessee.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before congressional committees over the last couple of days. This is always as interesting event since it gives some insight into the state of the economy, but also because you can always look forward to exchanges between Bernanke and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a very vocal critic of the Federal Reserve.
These exchanges are, unfortunately, something I’ll miss since Rep. Paul has decided not to seek re-election. In what was likely his last chance to speak to Bernanke before he retires, Rep. Paul explained the problems with the Federal Reserve during yesterday’s hearing:
But while testifying before the House Financial Services Committee yesterday, Bernanke urged caution in passing Rep. Paul’s Audit the Fed legislation, which is supposed to come up for a vote before the summer recess:
California became famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, a few weeks ago when it became the first state to ban the traditional method of producing foie gras, the fatty substance dervice from duck and goose liver that is considering something of a gourmet delicacy.
The reason for the ban had nothing to do with the health arguments that have been made in recent years about foie gras, but because animal rights advocates contended that the method of production, which involves feeding the animals large amounts of food in a short period of time, was cruel. There are other methods of producing foie gras, but it’s generally accepted that these alternative methods produce a vastly inferior product. As a result, some California restaurants have resorted to creative legal arguments to allow them to keep making the product available, while other Californians are engaging in a practice that is reminiscent of the era when alcohol was banned in the United States:
On Sunday, my wife and I went to see Refused, a Swedish hardcore band that just recently got back together after 14 years. I’m not going to be a hipster about it, so I’ll admit that I didn’t get into them until around 2000, a couple of years after the split up, after seeing the video for “New Noise.” After listening to their last record, The Shape of Punk to Come (1998, Burning Heart Records), I realized that they were very anti-capitalist, going so far as to call it a “crime.”
So while I was at the show, I wasn’t surprised to hear Dennis Lyxzén, the band’s frontman, mention their views, even though it was incredibly brief. We paid around $70 for our two tickets, another $50 for two t-shirts, and walked into the show with a full awareness of what to expect. In fact, these viewpoints are common in the style of music to which I listen. Bands like Propaghandi, NOFX, and a slew of others all express an anti-capitalist point of view, whether it’s in their lyrics or activism. As a believer in free markets, I just happen to strongly disagree.
The same could be said of Chick-Fil-A. The Atlanta-based restaurant chain has once again come under fire over its stance on a hotly debated social issue. In an interview for the Baptist Press, Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, expressed his company’s opposition to same-sex marriage:
In a departure from previous comments, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told a Baptist website that the Atlanta-based company is “guilty as charged” in its support of traditional marriage.
In my recently published op-ed at the Daily Caller, I ask why we can’t just leave each other alone, and why we shouldn’t turn to the government to fix our problems:
…we are seeing the breakdown of our economy and our government. Millions of jobless Americans are not counted as unemployed because they’ve given up looking for work entirely. Congress, although always a bit of a joke, is no longer functioning at all. And last year (and the year before) thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest.
Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, whatever — they protest because they know what is going on is against human nature. It’s something we learn as children on the elementary school playground, the first time the big bully takes our lunch money and makes us prostrate before him for mercy. It’s something we naturally recoil at as teenagers when our parents tell us to be home by nine or we’ll get the belt (again). Deep down, we all recognize that it is human nature to want to be free.
Please share this as widely as possible. Everyone needs to hear this message: conservatives, liberals, socialists, even libertarians. (Make sure you read my line about the Yankees and the Red Sox, too. And the Raiders. Especially the Raiders.)
If you’ve been following the presidential race, then you’ve no doubt heard what President Barack Obama said over the weekend during a campaign stop in Roanoke, Virginia. In promoting his plan to raise taxes on higher-income earners, Obama said, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
As you can imagine, those comments been met with outrage, and rightfully so. They’re incredibly disrespectful to hardworking business owners, many of whom have sacrificed everything to live the American Dream. The Wall Street Journal slammed President Obama’s “burst of ideological candor”:
The Internet is awash with images of the President telling the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and other innovators they didn’t build that. Kevin Costner’s famous line in “Field of Dreams,” as adapted for Mr. Obama: “If you build it, we’ll still say you didn’t really build it.”
Beneath the satire is the serious point that Mr. Obama’s homily is the soul of his campaign message. The President who says he wants to be transformational may be succeeding—and subordinating to government the individual enterprise and risk-taking that underlies prosperity. The question is whether this is the America that most Americans want to build.
There is little question that Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has had a rough past couple of weeks. But with a little under four month until the election, voters have a lot to think about, and a new poll from The New York Times gives us some insight into how they view President Barack Obama’s economic policies:
Nearly two out of three registered voters believes that President Obama’s policies contributed to some degree to the economic downturn, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.
Thirty-four percent say Mr. Obama’s policies contributed significantly to the downturn, and another 30 percent say they contributed to some degree. Thirty-five percent say the president’s policies contributed little or not at all to the downturn.
When it comes to their personal financial situation, more voters believe the president’s policies will make their economic situation worse (39 percent) than improve it (26 percent). Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney fares better: While 25 percent say his policies will make their economic situation worse, a higher percentage - 32 percent - say his policies will improve their economic standing.
That’s an ominous sign if you’re on Team Obama.
With job creation slowing down and the economy running at a snail’s pace, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appeared before the Senate Banking Committee yesterday and urged Congress to take action to avoid the “fiscal cliff”:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday implored Congress to act quickly to pull the country back from the “fiscal cliff” set to go into effect at the end of the year, warning that a failure to do so will further dampen the sluggish economic recovery.
“The most effective way that the Congress could help to support the economy right now would be to work to address the nation’s fiscal challenges in a way that takes into account both the need for long-run sustainability and the fragility of the recovery,” Bernanke said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. “Doing so earlier rather than later would help reduce uncertainty and boost household and business confidence.”
Bernanke was careful to stay out of the partisan debate over what specific tax and spending policies Congress should pursue, limiting his advice to telling lawmakers they simply need do something to improve the deficit outlook.
“I’m not in charge here, Congress is,” Bernanke said.
Meanwhile, the central bank chairman did little to tip his hand on what, if any, action the central bank will take to stimulate the economy.
With the budget deficit for FY 2012 quickly approaching the $1 trillion mark — the fourth year in a row of such a depressing feat — and the national debt closing in on $16 trillion, Ted Cruz, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, and others have signed on to the Coalition to Reduce Spending, a new organization that seeks to manage the country’s fiscal issues by urging Congress to make cuts, not raise taxes.
Richard Lorenc and Jonathan Bydlak introduced the group and explained their goals yesterday at The Daily Caller:
Using the growing national debt as cover, the real impetus for this renewed call to raise taxes on households making $250,000 or more annually is to create tax policy that appears fair. Even raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to 100 percent will do little to address the national debt.
Such political shenanigans are, unfortunately for everyone, par for the course. Frighteningly few politicians care to discuss how lower tax revenues combined with historically high levels of government spending are a surefire recipe for increasing the national debt.
Seriously addressing our current problem requires clear thinking on the precise cause of debt. Debt itself is not so much the problem as the behavior that creates it. Duquesne University economics professor Antony Davies argues this point succinctly, saying, “People say that the government has a debt problem. But debt is an effect. The cause is deficits.”