Capitalism

5 Ways Old Energy Fuels Big Government

In his column on December 30, George Will seemed positively giddy that 2011 ushered in a new era of fossil fuel abundance. You see, according to Will, this newfound energy abundance is good news for conservatives (and, presumably, libertarians) because the absence of energy scarcity is bad news for progressives. They need scarcity, Will writes, to justify “rationing … that produces ever-more-minute government supervision of Americans’ behavior.” And with this newfound energy abundance, progressives will have less justification for many of their big government endeavors.

There may be valid reasons for conservatives and libertarians to take a skeptical approach to anthropogenic climate change. There are certainly good reasons for those who care about limited government to oppose the means that have been proposed to deal with it, which include such big government gems as carbon taxation and its initially conservative alternative, cap and trade. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find a conservative or libertarian who doesn’t oppose the scandal (Solyndra), overregulation (good golly), or nannyism (We <3 Incandescent Light Bulbs) that have passed for energy and environmental policy in Washington.

But there are no good reasons for either conservatives or libertarians to be excited about fossil fuels. George Will argues that our newfound energy abundance will liberate us from many big government endeavors. I argue that our dependence on Old Energy empowers progressives — and, in some cases, conservatives — in at least five ways to insist upon the necessity of big government.

Ronald Paul Assails GOP Establishment

It’s not often that the media give Ronald Paul (R-Texas) a chance to speak.

There were reasons, why I didn’t watch the second GOP debate on Sunday.

Ronald Paul cleared the field on Saturday, he was the last man standing! After some initial tampering with his microphone, and pitch, he opened his arguments by restating his offensive tactic on “big-government Republican”, Rick Santorum. The only two real Tea Party contenders: Ronald Paul and Rick Perry, were left to languish on stage for the better part of 15 minutes, until allowed to join the discussion.

Mitt Romney was busy arguing how many jobs were, lost and gained under his CEO leisure. Newt Gingrich quoted the New York Times. Paul smoothly stepped back, blocked Santorum’s smugness by raining down: “he voted to raise the debt [ceiling] five times.”

Rick Santorum let loose liberal counter-attacks, naming sources “leftist”, and calling Mitt Romney class-consciously dangerous. In so doing, Santorum looked less Republican, more like a blue-state lawyer from the Northeast. Neither Paul nor Romney delved deep into his attacks, mostly picking up on their own strengths. Santorum was a negative force, not a positivist in this debate, Saturday night January 7th.

When Ronald Paul raised his hand for a response, the slick Stephonopilis retorted back to Paul (his senior by quite a few years): “we’ll stay with the subject, don’t you worry.” Brilliance in public debate rarely comes to the fore, especially on television. Paul showed it by counterstriking first Santorum, then defecting the attack from Rick Perry, onto Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

Jon Huntsman decided not to attack. Mitt Romney largely left the debate unscathed. Only because Ronald Paul made no concerted effort to attack the former Massachusetts blue-state Governor. It was easy for Paul to slice-down the cryptic schizophrenity of Gingrich, whose attempted slur of Ronald Paul on “style”, many see as hearnestness.

14 Fixes For Our Messed Up Country

Everyone seems to be proposing fixes for our country lately, whether it’s amendments to repeal the First Amendment or ban gays or whatever. I have a few ideas of my own that I think will go a long ways towards restoring some sanity in government and fixing what’s wrong with our society. Some of these will require constitutional amendments, and I don’t expect the entire list to actually get enacted unless magic somehow returns to the world and we resurrect Barry Goldwater, F.A. Hayek, and George Washington all at once.

I originally drafted a list of some 23 ideas, but I figured that it would be way too long for a blog post, so I shortened it to 14, a baker’s dozen. None of these are simple or light fixes, they are not tweaking around the edges to ensure a marginally better outcome. Judging from the situation our government and economy is in, from the horrific hard place our civil liberties are wedged behind, and the unmanageable mess that is Washington, I don’t think that “moderate” or “conservative” changes will do anything. We cannot pussyfoot around the issue; we need radical alterations to how our government works if we’re going to get us out of this morass. Again, most of these may never pass, but that’s to be expected.

Certainly, if you wish to hear my entire list, let me know and I’ll write it up, but for now, here are my 14 ideas for fixing our country:

1. Establish Approval Voting

I’ve already talked about this idea at length here, so I will not bore you again. In this post, all I will say is that I believe if we are to get anything done—and I do mean anything—we need to systematically reform how people actually get into office. That’s the foundation upon which any democracy stands, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in tar, the only way to get that fixed is to drain the swamp and start at the beginning.

Crony Capitalism Is Phony Capitalism

That little gem is from a new page on Facebook, called “Crony Capitalism is Phony Capitalism.” Now, you may be wondering why I posted this. I mean yes, it’s kinda cute (c’mon, this is the postmodern 21st century, zombies and Cthulhu are automatically cute), short, pithy, and expresses a libertarian message, even if it generalizes it. A lot. But a 30-second video from a Facebook page? Really?

The reason I did so is because I feel this is the Number #1 message we need to be getting out there (well, that and how feeling up women at airports is just wrong.) Back in college, when I argued about government intervention in the marketplace, “corporatism” and “crony capitalism” were just not mentioned. It was an important discovery for me when I found these terms, because previously I had been just trying to defend capitalism, no adjectives. It was difficult, because everyone associated large businesses ripping them off with the capitalist system, and they just could not understand how government so heavily involved itself in the market, but that system was not what we libertarians were espousing. Oh, how useful these new terms were! How sharp were their blades in cutting away the web of lies! How deep were their inkwells in writing the new papers blogs on liberty and the free market!

A candid moment from a member of the FOMC

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke just announced Operation Twist, a new combat operation that will supposedly fix our market woes. Supposedly. (Hey, pass the vodka, will you? I need a drink before I listen to this guy.)

I am not a financial markets expert, and I have not heard that much on the actual details of Operation Twist, but, courtesy of CNN, here’s a brief explanation:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The Federal Reserve announced “Operation Twist” Wednesday, a widely expected stimulus move reviving a policy from the 1960s.

The policy involves selling $400 billion in short-term Treasuries in exchange for the same amount of longer-term bonds, starting in October and ending in June 2012.

 

While the move does not mean the Fed will pump additional money into the economy, it is designed to lower yields on long-term bonds, while keeping short-term rates little changed.

The intent is to thereby push down interest rates on everything from mortgages to business loans, giving consumers and companies an additional incentive to borrow and spend money.

So basically, they’re selling bonds and buying bonds. Nothing exactly Earth shattering here. And definitely not anything that will get us out of this rut.

Interestingly, some members of the FOMC agree with my assessment, and one of them had a speech about it. Mr. Richard W. Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, had this to say about recent monetary policy, using a Nordic weather station as a metaphor:

Leftists Shouldn’t Complain about Corporate Rent-seeking when Leftists Encourage Corporate Rent-seeking

A notice in this morning’s Federal Register gives us insight about how regulatory capture begins.

The Department of Energy is looking to create a a regulatory subcommittee of vetted stakeholders to develop energy efficiency standards for electricity distribution transformers:

SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or the Department) is giving notice that it intends to establish a negotiated rulemaking subcommittee under ERAC in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and the Negotiated Rulemaking Act (NRA) to negotiate proposed Federal standards for the energy efficiency of low- voltage dry-type distribution transformers. The purpose of the subcommittee will be to discuss and, if possible, reach consensus on a proposed rule for the energy efficiency of distribution transformers, as authorized by the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975, as amended. The subcommittee will consist of representatives of parties having a defined stake in the outcome of the proposed standards, and will consult as appropriate with a range of experts on technical issues. DATES: Written comments and requests to be appointed as members of the subcommittee are welcome and should be submitted by August 29, 2011.

So the government is looking for parties with “a defined stake” — meaning entities operating in distribution transformer space, from electricity companies and device manufacturers to green groups and (probably) well-heeled and connected Democratic donors — to appoint (not elect) to a committee responsible for promulgating efficiency criteria that will eventually have the force of law.

August 2nd: A Day That Won’t Live In Infamy

If a deal hasn’t been reached by the time this is posted (the agreement reached by congressional leaders and the White House over the weekend is pending caucus approval), then tomorrow will be a day of infamy. According to public consensus, our credit rating will be downgraded, our borrowing rates will skyrocket, Social Security checks won’t go out, we’ll have to lay off millions of government workers (oh hyperbole), China will get mad, and our cost of living will sharply increase while the quality of living decreases dramatically. The sky will fall, the world economy will collapse, unemployment will make what we have now look like a cakewalk. It will be Disaster;.

Except it will be none of these things.

August 2nd, if a deal is not reached, will not spell the end of the world. Even if S&P and Moody’s try and downgrade the United States. Why? Three reasons: One, if the markets thought we were going to be screwed, they would have done it before. Second, the credit rating agencies are utterly superfluous and worthless when it come to US debt. Third, even if we hit the debt ceiling, Turbo Tax Geithner will be permitted to prioritize interest payments on the debt and send out Social Security checks, meaning we won’t have a default (and Grandma can still buy the ingredients for her damned fruitcake.)

Taken together, these three things illustrate a picture where August 2nd isn’t the end of the world, and that we should really slow down, take a deep breath, and then have a shot of whiskey. Preferably rye, but that’s just me.

Article the First: The market was supposed to explode under the debt ceiling, showing how urgent and necessary it is to raise it, according to John Carney:

George Pataki Launches New Website “No American Debt”

Congressman Tom McClintock stated many times recently that America is headed towards a “sovereign debt crisis” that our only hope is to make serious budget cuts or the “Titanic will hit the iceberg”. Congressman Ron Paul says that the collapse of the dollar is “imminent” if Washington doesn’t drastically change. A group called No American Debt was officially launched last night by their Chairman George Pataki. They say that they will address these serious issues and brings them to the foreground of discussion.

According to their website, No American Debt is a group dedicated to holding elected officials accountable for our debt crisis. Their purpose is to educate the public about the debt and they will focus their efforts to persuade President Obama and Republican candidates for President to propose real solutions to the number one issue facing our country today.

Former Governor of New York George Pataki is the Chairman of No American Debt. Speculation has arisen that Pataki would be running for President, although he has recently stated that he will not be running for President in 2012. He did say, however, “but I’ve been around politics long enough to know you never say never”.

George Pataki announced No American Debt on April 20th on the Sean Hannity Show (See Below). Since then the Wall Street Journal has also featured them in an Article.

Visit their website at www.NoAmericanDebt.com and their FaceBook page for more information on their campaign.

A Defense of the Free Market

One of the most common refrains from the political left and the media is that, regarding the economy, conservatives advocate for unchecked freedom for big business to do whatever it wants to do, and for no government interference with business at all. These assertions stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of conservatism.

For the conservative, the issue comes down to the proper role of government. To have no government at all is anarchy, and certainly no conservative would argue that. So the question is not whether or not there should be government involvement (there should), but what level of government involvement is appropriate.

When we look at the biggest financial scandals of the last decade (Enron, WorldCom, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, etc.), they all have one thing in common. At some point, whether through active complicity or negligence, government played a huge role in allowing the scandals to occur. And with every scandal, it becomes an excuse, or rather an imperative, to increase the level of government involvement to keep it from occurring again.

Some of the major scandals have occurred because the regulatory oversight assigned to one government agency or another was either inadequately enforced, or government employees were co-opted into the fraudulent scheme. Others occur because our statutory and regulatory law has become so complex that it is inevitable that a crafty thief will be able to find technical loopholes that fulfill the letter of the law while being contradictory to the clear intent of the law. Either way, we continue to add layer after layer of government bureaucracy, regulation and complexity, and yet the scandals keep getting more and more expensive. That is because the more complex the law, the easier it is to find a technical Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card.

Capitalism versus Corporatism: A Love/Hate Story

Capitalism gets a bad rap these days, as evidenced by Michael Moore’s documentary Capitalism: A Love Story. Like so many people though, Moore – and most of Hollywood – get it wrong. What they decry, greedy individuals exploiting others and using government regulations and rules as a shield isn’t capitalism in the least. That’s called corporatism, as evidenced in the video that Jason posted recently from Reason.tv.

Corporatism is defined as:

Today, corporatism or neo-corporatism is used in reference to tendencies in politics for legislators and administrations to be influenced or dominated by the interests of business enterprises (limited liability corporations).

Basically, corporatism is a system where corporations make the calls on laws. Some would argue that for capitalists, this is a good thing. Unfortunately for those folks, they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

We currently see in our government’s actions through things like bailouts for banks and the auto industry (though in all fairness, the auto bailout probably had more to do with politicians being beholden to the United Auto Workers than to GM and Chrysler). That wasn’t capitalism, contrary to what some people argue. Capitalism would have let the banking industry eat their own. Let AIG break up and be bought up by others who are more solvent. Let General Motors break up and be purchased by whoever wanted to own a car company. If no one did, then it’s time for the company to die. It sucks, but it’s the nature of the beast.

 


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