Archive for August, 2008

Read David Friedman

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

A good friend of mine recently told me how much he had recently been enjoying David Friedman’s writings. After coming across a link to Friedman’s blog recently I was reminded just how good a writer (and commentator) he is.

My friend told me how Friedman’s book The Machinery of Freedom (originally written in 1971), was shifting his views from minarchist to anarcho-capitalist. (David is after all, even more radical than his famous father.)

Here on his blog, he talks about the Georgia-Russia dust up:

I have no special expertise on the Georgian conflict, nor much sympathy for either side. I am, however, struck by the fact that most of the international condemnation is aimed at the most defensible, not the least defensible, part of what Russia has done.

Russian recognition of two breakaway provinces, both of which seem to have been effectively independent for over a decade, may or may not be a good idea, but I find it hard to see any reason to be outraged over it. The current governments there may be better or worse than the government of Georgia, but they pretty clearly have more support from the local population–and in any case, governments don’t decide what other governments to recognize primarily on the basis of whether they approve of them. Yet it is the Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia that western governments have been expressing outrage over.

What is outrageous, in terms of international law and norms as I understand them, is the fact that the Russian military continues to hold territory well inside Georgia and well outside South Ossetia. That is both a violation of public Russian promises and an invasion of undisputed territory. But nobody–at least, none of the nations that are condemning Russia at the moment–seems to be paying very much attention to it.

The ‘Inept’ Nevada GOP

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Even the RNC says the sham process conducted by the Nevada GOP wasn’t legitimate:

A key Republican committee says it is troubled by the “ineptness” of the Nevada GOP and called the state party’s attempt to choose delegates for next week’s national convention “flawed, inadequate and unacceptable.”
A ruling from the Republican National Committee panel said the state party violated rules when it appointed, rather than elected, its group of 34 delegates and 31 alternates, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.
The RNC Committee on Contests was asked to review the delegates by a group of supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who argued they were shut out of the delegate selection process. The Paul backers elected a separate delegation to the convention in St. Paul, Minn., which also was rejected by the RNC panel.

Of course, it should be noted that their idea of “compromise” consists of 4 Paul delegates and 30 McCain supporters, even though the Ron Paul supporters were poised to elect a majority when the state GOP broke its own rules and abruptly suspended their state convention.

Dems on Torture… What’s That?

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I watched most of the primetime speeches from the Democratic Convention and I was struck by the same thing as Eugene Robinson, who asked why the Democrats won’t talk about the illegal torture that has been going on during the Bush Administration.

In this clip, Pat Buchanan says if you want to hear any talk about that, you’ll have to go to Ron Paul’s convention:

 

Thank goodness for Pat.

Will the US Government Repudiate Its Debt?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Of course we already do that through inflation, however Gerald P. O’Discoll, former adviser to the Fed, writes in the Wall Street Journal that we’re at a tipping point:

As Milton Friedman long ago taught us, government spending is the ultimate tax on the economy: It extracts real resources from productive, private use and puts them to unproductive, public use. And there is the rub.

Not even a President Obama and a Congress controlled by House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid is going to hike taxes enough to pay for all their spending. Indeed, they have shown themselves quite unwilling to engage in honest budgeting. The best example is saddling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with $500 million of new (off-budget) obligations to fund cheap housing at a time when the two companies were already on the ropes. Is it any wonder the stock prices of these two companies are imploding?

The markets have long assessed the debt of Fannie and Freddie at AAA because of the Treasury’s guarantee, now explicit. But no one has ever seriously assessed the Treasury’s creditworthiness with Fannie and Freddie on its books. The public guarantee is entirely open-ended and unbounded. The appetite of the two companies to balloon their balance sheets and take on risk has not been curtailed. Meanwhile, Congress spends apace with new programs for constituents in an election year.

We are at a Smithian moment, in which the temptation for the Fed to spend its last dime of credibility may prove irresistible. Investors are already being taxed by inflation and can rationally expect that tax rate (the inflation rate) to be raised going forward. Wages are not keeping up. Main Street is being taxed to fund Wall Street excess. Anyone who works, saves and invests is exposed to confiscation of his capital and earnings through inflation.

If the Fed maintained its independence of action and said no to the inflationary finance of Congress’s profligacy, we wouldn’t have reached this point. But the Fed has forsaken that independence amid an absence of leadership.

By the way, as recently as February McCain said he wanted more inflation.

Politics Gone Viral

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Some of our readers might take interest in this new website, PoliticsGoneViral.com, started by Ron Paul supporter Dan Endsley.  Billed as a “politics site for people who don’t like politics” — which let’s face it, at its core is pretty much all of us — the site has some great T-shirts and bumper stickers for sale.

Here’s my personal favorite:

Thomas Sowell on Georgia, NATO

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Via Richard Spencer, some clear thinking from Thomas Sowell in the midst of much saber-rattling over at the National Review:

Extending NATO right up to the borders of Russia has been one of those feel-good actions, much like our feel-good moralizing to other countries.

Are we really prepared to go to war with Russia if they send troops into Latvia, a NATO member next door to them and thousands of miles away from us?

Some people seem to think that, if we had already included Georgia in NATO, Russia would not have attacked. But what if they attacked anyway? Would we have done any more than we are doing now?

Would that have protected Georgia or would our inaction have just brought the reliability of our protection of other NATO countries into question?

If anything, we ought to be thinking about pulling out of NATO ourselves. European countries already have the wealth to produce their own military defense. If they do not have the will, that is their problem. What American officials can do is keep their mouths shut if they don’t intend to back up their words.

Georgia, Russia and the US

Monday, August 18th, 2008

In a column for The National Interest, Doug Bandow sums up my thoughts on the conflict, and America’s proper role in it (or rather out of it):

Russia had plausible justification for responding to Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia, though Moscow applied disproportionate force to achieve other ends. Nevertheless, the Caucasus never has been viewed as strategic by America. If anything is at stake in that region, it affects Europe, not America. Washington once concentrated on preventing hostile domination of the Eurasian land mass. Protecting a former Soviet province seeking to suppress secessionist sentiments in an even smaller territory of the former Soviet Union doesn’t come close as a replacement objective.

There is little else at issue for America. Despite careless talk of a new cold war, Russia is not turning back into the USSR. European strategic affairs are returning to pre–World War I great-power competition rather than the global hegemonic competition that characterized the cold war. Washington need not worry about a hostile power dominating Eurasia. In fact, even an assertive Russia has few issues in serious conflict with America. The most important one, Iran, is peripheral to Europe.

In contrast, the status and comfort of Eastern Europe—a region dominated by the Soviet Union during the cold war—matters little to U.S. security. The Caucasus is even less important, and certainly is not worth an American defense guarantee, whether within or without NATO.

Also worth pointing out is that American antagonism of Russia only makes it more difficult to the U.S. to pressure Russia to curtail future support of Iran - something that, according to those same people who are now proposing confrontation with Russia, is of utmost importance. So much for a coherent view of geo-politics.

Freedom in Education

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Over on DiscoverScholars.org blog, we discuss how government interference has undermined market forces and led to a lower quality of teaching than students would otherwise receive.  Here’s a snippet:

Though Gwartney focuses on government subsidies, the same basic principles apply to private donations: when made directly to colleges, they enable administrations to fund projects of little benefit to students. These projects include:

  • bloated bureaucracies that directly benefit the administrators,
  • research projects that directly benefit the faculty, with only questionable benefits to most students, and
  • ever more luxurious student amenities, in what Richard Vedder calls the countryclubization of universities.

These measures increase costs without improving education, and are especially damaging when a college experiences a decline in donations and has to make up budget shortfalls with tuition increases.

Gwartney’s suggested solution for government spending mirrors the concept of DiscoverScholars.org: donors, including the government, should subsidize students directly. By giving students the power to vote for the best teachers with their tuition checks, incentives would again be properly aligned.

Administrators and professors would devote resources to improving education and lowering costs, rather than spending on their pet projects or cozy amenities. (There would still be room for such institutions, of course – some students want a college experience that includes luxuries and networking). Donors wishing to support research would similarly focus on research laboratories and think tanks, instead of conflating research with teaching at universities.

Most importantly, as we discussed in a recent post, students would be able to choose schools based on the education they would receive there – education that would become cheaper as such colleges begin competing over discriminating students armed with donor money.

Read the whole post here.