Michael O. Powell
Recent Posts From Michael O. Powell
In this bizarre clip, MSNBC host Chris Matthews illustrates well how inefficient government is. In the capital of the most powerful country in the world, snow can’t be plowed and citizens (including myself) are finding themselves ripping through mounds of snow on their own to get where we need to be.
I can tell you from experience that Washington D.C. is a living testament to how inefficient government is. Do not let the glamorous photos of the president in front of the White House fool you - Washington is a depressing town, filled with depressingly unkept federal buildings that look like they haven’t been cleaned in decades and a bureaucracy that is comically inefficient. Getting books from the Library of Congress made dealing with public school administrators look like a trip to the grocery store.
Unfortunately, the logical conclusion doesn’t follow for Chris Matthews. He says instead that he “believes in government” and says the D.C. government should catch the sort of heat that Bush got for his timid response to Hurricane Katrina. Oh well.
Recently I was prompted by an anthropology student at the University of Washington to answer several questions about libertarianism. The exchange was great, and provided a means to clarify several things that have been otherwise muddled.
1. How do you define a libertarian?
To me a libertarian is someone who believes in a limited government, which provides basic needs that most people believe to be necessary but does not try to stuff ideology down the citizens’ throats, the freedom of the individual to become whatever it is they want to be and a free market that allows great deals of mobility and ingenuity.
2. What influenced you to become and/or remain libertarian?
I love this country (for the ideals it was founded on, not because of nationalism, regionalism or nativism), and when I entered college, it became very clear that other students and professors didn’t. A bit of a blanket statement, I know, but it’s relatively true. I found myself defending slanderous left-wing statements about this country’s history, and in that process I realized I was libertarian. Liberty is the foundation of American society and government, and even if they don’t call themselves such, I think most Americans who love their country and find it exceptional are libertarians to a certain extent.
We live in weird times, and in these weird times, the truth cannot be relied on from predictable sources. Take for instance New York’s Democratic Governor David Paterson, who said:
But the candidates are couching their support in economic terms. Gov. Paterson, who is facing an uphill battle against likely rival Andrew M. Cuomo, told a group of bankers recently: “In New York, Wall Street is Main Street. … You don’t hear anybody in New England complaining about clam chowder. If you say anything about oil in Texas, they’ll string you up near the nearest tree. We need to stand behind the engine of our economy in New York, and that engine of economy is Wall Street.”
Paterson’s comments bring to my mind my experience growing up in Seattle, in which the public school system was effectively modernized with computers by Bill Gates and new stadiums and buildings, which brought in a host of new jobs and replaced the dangerous eyesore that was the Kingdome, were put into place by Gates’ fellow tech pioneer Paul Allen. Allen also turned radio station KCMU into the powerhouse that is today KEXP, a move that brought alot of early criticism, alleging that KEXP would be just another bland, commercial radio station.
Despite modernizing Seattle during the 1990s and 2000s, to the benefit of everyone living and working in the area, envy can be heard by many (but not all, of course) Seattleites simply because Gates and Allen have done well for themselves.
With the exception of the fantastic work done at United Liberty, Campaign for Liberty and other libertarian leaning websites, right leaning websites tend to look horrible.
Take for instance Townhall.com. Townhall, as much as the writing there can often excel in quality, looks terribly corporate and seems more like a giant advertisement than an actual news website (which, to be frank, it probably is). The font of their title has that action movie look that also plagues sites like Powerline.
Then there is the horrible layout to The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s website. Seeing as Carlson is very famous and influential, one would think that he could manage to get a layout that isn’t abhorrent. Instead, it looks more like a PDF version of a cheap tabloid paper like the National Enquirer or the New York Post.
The contrarian would say that, while these websites may not look that great, their content is superior. However, in the world of media, presentation is paramount. Slate, a moderate to left magazine, has some of the best layout of any internet publication. Is it any wonder their readership is in the millions?
At the White House website, the biography of Bill Clinton illustrates the successes of his administration, most notably:
During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history.
It’s true. The Clinton years were some of the most prosperous years that the United States has ever seen. Was that the result of massive government spending and initiatives? Of course not. Clinton’s first major initiative - health care reform - failed, resulting in a Republican takeover of Congress and Clinton shifting to rhetoric such as ”the era of big government is over.”
The actual successes of the Clinton years were very right wing ones - welfare reform, free trade agreements and a robust innovative economy fueled by the ingenuity of software entrepreneurs. Spending was down, and Bill Clinton left office with a huge surplus. This was certainly the result of a lack of spending from the federal government, a foreseeable result of having two diametrically opposed political parties in power at once. The fact that the low-spending Clinton years (years in which the government actually shut down for nearly two months) resulted in economic prosperity, while high deficit eras like the pre-war terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Bush-Obama years resulted in depression and recession, makes one of the strongest cases for libertarianism.
President Obama’s recruitment of Presidents Clinton and Bush to help in the process of raising funds for relief in Haiti brought to mind memories of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Back then, President Bush recruited his father and President Clinton to take up a similar task.
At the time, the US response was certainly adequate, at least. Criticism was present, as President Bush couldn’t do much of anything without inciting outrage from someone, but the US response was robust and focussed just as the response to Haiti’s earthquake is.
However, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the US government seemed as if it didn’t care. For some reason, the undeniably horrible, delayed response by the Bush administration to Katrina has been compared to Obama’s Haiti. A more appropriate comparison would be comparing Katrina to the recent Ft. Hood and attempted Detroit attacks, in which the government which is there primarily to protect us seemed as bumbling and disconnected as it did under President Bush after Katrina.
That comparison leads to an important point, which is that the United States government and military seems better able to respond to disasters overseas than it is in its own country. This is undeniably a result of countless foreign wars and of being the world’s foremost superpower. We have military personnel at the ready to respond in Port au Prince, Kabul, Baghdad and Okinawa, but not on our very own shores.
As I watch the tragic news footage emanating from Haiti, certain pieces of news are significantly striking. Among them is reports from news of calm in the country. While the calm may be due to despair over what has happened to them, I can’t help but be reminded of books like Hiroshima by John Hersey, in which a degree of acceptance and calm befell the Japanese after the complete devastation of their country from world war.
Like the Japanese, the Haitians may have a chance for real renewal. With everything destroyed and everyone left in the same boat, the division that leads to civil war is not there. Like Japan as well, Haiti will need the support of the world to create the infrastructure for a lasting and functional society. Nothing is impossible.
To aid those affected by disaster, please go to the website of the American Red Cross.
Oliver Stone’s moral relativism reaches new lows with a TV show aimed at looking at Adolf Hitler’s point of view. Here he rambles about the point of views of Stalin and Hitler:
“Stalin has a complete other story,” Stone said. “Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any single person. We can’t judge people as only ‘bad’ or ‘good.’ Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and its been used cheaply. He’s the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect … People in America don’t know the connection between WWI and WWII … I’ve been able to walk in Stalin’s shoes and Hitler’s shoes to understand their point of view. We’re going to educate our minds and liberalize them and broaden them. We want to move beyond opinions … Go into the funding of the Nazi party. How many American corporations were involved, from GM through IBM. Hitler is just a man who could have easily been assassinated.”…
There’s so much wrong with this paragraph that it is impossible to know where to start. Oliver Stone seems to be convinced that American popular perspective must be completely false and so Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin must have had understandable points of view. What the point of this exercise is I don’t know.
I generally would agree with the sentiment that Adolf Hitler has been portrayed cartoonishly for the most part. Efforts like the German Der Untergang (The Downfall) do alot to accurately portray Hitler, but they do not play him up as a sympathetic figure, because he’s not one.
I read a passage from Jennifer Burns’ recent biography of Ayn Rand that really got my brain going. In the passage, Burns elaborates on the friendship between Rand and her conservative mentor Isabel Paterson:
Like the other libertarians Rand met during this time, Paterson drew from an older tradition to make her case for limited government and individualism. Spencer was one of her favorites, and her column brimmed with references to his ideas. She was also taken by the concept of the status society versus the contract society, an idea first set forth by the British jurist and historian Sir Henry Maine but given legs by Spencer and later Sumner. According to this theory, Western society had evolved from a feudal system, in which relationships between individuals were determined by their status, to societies in which relationships were determined by contract.
Perhaps this has been a concept in widespread use for a long time and I have simply caught up with it long after the fact, but I found it to be nevertheless very profound. The Soviet Union and other hard-line socialist states (such as Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela) have identified people by status. They are perpetually identified by their class, and thus the poor are serfs of the state, not by choice but because that is seemingly their fate.
In the West, however, people are not born with a fixed status. Society is governed by a contractual expectation that if you do x, you will receive y. This explains why those who are always seeking more in life achieve much, while those who resign themselves to status achieve very little.
On September 10, 2009, President Obama made a fiscal promise to the American people:
Here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.
In reality, Obamacare as a whole is now slated to cost a whopping $2.5 trillion. Hopefully those who believed Obama’s utopian promises of expansive social programs and shrinking budget deficits will begin to embrace reality.