The Open Internet is History if Congress Gets Its Way

Great ideas flourish in freedom. Such is the case with the history of the Internet, which went from a limited defense-oriented model adopted and adapted by the Pentagon to secure information through diffusion to the commercial engine of the Information Age.

But with great success comes an overwhelming temptation for the state, an institution founded on coercion and theft, to exploit whatever is making a buck and to shut down or otherwise control whatever it deems to be a threat. Open communication and open commerce are the antithesis of the authoritarian state, and the Internet’s shining success is a rebuff to the statists who propagate the lie that anything they don’t control is doomed to failure. Continue reading “The Open Internet is History if Congress Gets Its Way”

Republican Whip Eric Cantor Slows Down STOCK Act

Earlier we mentioned the groundbreaking work of Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, whose reporting helped in part to drive support for the STOCK Act, which would prohibit Congressmen from engaging in insider trading.

Although the bill was initially able to gain at least 127 sponsors, the Act hit a roadblock when Cantor’s committee maneuvers forced a delay in the bill’s mark-up. CNBC’s Squawk Box reports.

H/T Breitbart TV

Revisiting Lowi’s From United States to United State

A gem in terms of political science literature is a late 1970s work entitled Nationalizing Government spearheaded by Cornell Professor Theodore J. Lowi, who is widely respected in the field of American government. Lowi is well-known for the seemingly pedestrian observation that government acts in its own distinct interest, and does not necessarily reflect the will of the people. But among other political science scholars in the radical era of the early 1970s, this resurrected bit of wisdom proved a real theoretical breakthrough.

We will borrow heavily from Professor Lowi’s overlooked essay “Europeanization of America? From United States to United State” in order to amply set up the current trends regarding federal and state government relations. As it is not easily available elsewhere online, this contribution to understanding contemporary politics is warranted.

Between 1789 and the 1930s, the national government was not such a significant force in the economic or social life of the citizens of the United States. The most important principle in the Constitution of 1787 was Federalism, and for well over a century, despite the Civil War and abolition, Federalism was one of the dominating realities. Given their intimate knowledge of European political theory and experience, the Founders certainly must have selected the term ‘state’ as the name for our lower units of government in order to indicate where most sovereignty was expected to reside. Comparison of national and state legislative activities in any year after 1800 show that the states did almost all the governing in the United States. The domestic policies of the federal government were almost entirely concerned with subsidies, bounties, and claims. Land grants were piled upon land sales at low prices, and these were piled upon still additional land grants until the frontier ran out. Subsidies in the form of money and privilege were granted to the coastal trade, the railroads, and other common carriers. Tariffs were handed out to virtually any manufacturer or producer who could gain effective representation in Congress. The federal government was spending about 99 percent of its domestic efforts husbanding commerce. In the meantime, the states were held responsible for the entire use of the ‘police power,’ which referred to the authority and obligation of governments to provide for the health, safety, and morals of the community.” (16)

Professor Lowi thus puts into some empirical context the relations of the state to the federal government. The states were responsible for most of the duties and obligations of civil government, while the federal government’s role was limited to national defense and the preservation of commerce.

Lowi then goes on to make an abstract theoretical point worth noting, because it disabuses a prevalent false notion among today’s intellectual class.

It is no paradox at all, as some would like us to believe, that the national political system of the United States was so stable despite the instability and dynamism of society and the economy during all the formative years of the Republic. The fact of the matter is that all the fundamental social choices involving the coercive powers of government were being made at levels of government far below the national. The Constitution, quite deliberately, had delegated the fundamental social choices to the lower level and therefore had delegated or suppressed or diffused political conflict. We had not, for lack of a feudal system to overthrow, merely lucked up on political peace, class harmony, and intergroup consensus. We had really designed a means by which the opposites of peace, harmony, and consensus could be institutionally dispersed. Federalist 10, understood in the context of constitutional federalism and the actual comparative functions of government, was the most successful planning document in the history of the world.” (16)

The professor then moves on in his narration to point out that the Roosevelt administration of the 1930s was a turning point in American history for national and state government relations; but while numerous government regulations and policies were initiated under his long regime, they were justified by emergency powers and did not actually take longer root until the late 1960s. The essay then emphasizes another, associated phenomenon: the increasing subservience of the Congress to the executive branch.

In a generation we have moved from a Congress-centered national government to an executive-centered national government, and the most recent decade or so, we have moved from an executive-centered to a White House-centered national government.” (25)

And in a clarion call that fell on deaf ears, Lowi concludes his essay:

Review of the many programs in this volume suggests that it is high time we start evaluating long-run costs along with short-run benefits and cost. The long-run costs may be directly empirical in their nature, but they also may require a certain philosophic posture. Nevertheless, we must somehow approach them, because the welfare of the entire society may be at stake. We have become Europeanized at least to the extent that the United States has become a united state, and we are going to have to prepare ourselves for the consequences. […] [W]e can still lose [the] liberal tradition if the large and unified national state we have now created is allowed to fail either through falling too short of its promises or through allowing itself to be captured by any combination of elite and corporate interests. Such a state will so confirm the most antagonistic theories of the liberal society that it may produce not an anti-state movement but an anti-liberal movement that will simply attempt to free that state from one set of interests and enslave the state with another set. We as citizens would then have traded one set of masters for another.” (27-8)

Professor Lowi’s observation rings disturbingly true in light of the numerous Alinskyite protests taking place around the country calling for the overthrow of “Wall Street,” the face of capitalism in the American imagination, which would presumably remove the moneyed interests from Washington while granting the federal government unprecedented power over the economy. There seems to be no recognition in the protesters’ minds that the central government is its own interest, as Lowi pointed out, and it has been scrubbed of all responsibility for giving numerous firms and banks trillions of dollars in taxpayer money.

We can also comment on Lowi’s observations by showing how far short the federal government is falling of fulfilling its promises. We are officially $15 trillion in debt, and some estimates of future debt obligations show a high water mark of $100 trillion. We are drowning in debt.

The structure of our debts indicates that most of it is public welfare expenditure. Though much of the debt is federally incurred, some of it, like Medicaid, is mandated to be carried at the state level. Federal obligations and regulations are costing the states a fortune, and undoubtedly, some states are not helping themselves by legislating costly pension funds. California, for example, is the most indebted state in the country, which itself has a total debt exceeding $4 trillion.

In addition to the debt trap states are falling into – and assuredly, states will eventually be asking the United States Treasury, and specifically, The Federal Reserve through its corrosive debt monetization policies, to bail them out – we have federal grants to states. Ironically, those states whose citizens most ideologically favor economic freedom, those who live in so-called “red states” (named for their traditional Republican support) are very high recipients of federal spending relative to blue states. This suggests to me, even accounting for the relative urbanized wealth of blue states, that the federal government is systematically attempting to undermine the hostile ideological disposition of red state citizens towards the federal government by trying to buy them off.  Given that Washington D.C. itself takes in over $5.55 for each dollar in taxes it pays, that kind of premeditated corruption is not far-fetched.

The attempt by a cadre of less than one percent of the population to dominate a nation of over three hundred million Americans, many of them freedom-loving and armed, is a singular act of hubris in world history. Adding to the volatile mix is an economy that simply cannot meet the demands being placed upon it, thanks to years of Democrat promises to “constichencies” in exchange for votes. It is difficult to foresee how Washington will be able to maintain its hegemony over the states in perpetuity. Something’s got to give.

Anti-Democratic Governor Proposes “Suspending” Congressional Elections

Okay, here we go. We knew liberals were fundamentally illiberal, and Democrats were fundamentally undemocratic, but little did we know that in an ocean full of leftist lies we could find a thimble full of truth.

So when an obscure Democrat governor from a southern state starts rambling about “suspending elections” until the economic crisis is over, my commie radar starts pinging like crazy.

Here’s what Perdue said:

“You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It’s a little bit more contentious now but it’s not impossible to try to do what’s right in this state. You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

Sorry, the Democrats are the ones who should be worrying about the next election. Trust me, the American people are looking forward to it. If Perdue wants to play chicken with the American people, we’re more than game.

If some think Perdue’s words were a “joke” or a “fluke,” recall this? Democrat Socialists of America member Jose Serrano (D – NY) proposed removing Constitutional restrictions on presidential term limits immediately after Obama was elected:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein),

That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:

`The twenty-second article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.’.

This is one of those “crazy amendments” Americans would have to watch out should the states ever hold a Constitutional convention, even under the auspices of repealing Obamacare.

But if these examples seem too far out of the Democrat mainstream, one could look to NY Times mandarin Thomas Friedman and his admonition that U.S. should be “China for a day” and “authorize the right solutions” to America’s problems. Hmm, sounds eerily familiar. Could that day be November 6th, 2012?

More recently, Peter Orszag directly calls for “less democracy” in a New Republic piece (of sh*t), ostensibly so government can “solve” our economic problems. Hey, dillweeds. Government caused the problems to begin with! Why do you think the nationwide economic meltdown was nationwide? Housing market collapses don’t happen that way unless there is a common denominator, such as federal government intervention in the market.

Between the distinctly unfunny Bev Perdue episode, Elizabeth Warren’s comments about no one getting rich on his own, Obama’s “class warrior” posturing, and other examples of insane rhetoric on the left, one can presume that the Democrats’ desperate strategy will be to continue unveiling their true socialist colors. Now that they’ve already begun that painful process, they are truly going to wish to repeal elections. Being a slimeball leftist is hard; getting overly rejected by the American people makes it that much harder.

But alas, it is too late. Obama is going down and taking his socialist Democrat friends with him, along with America. There is no way the Democrats are getting off unscathed, as easily as waving a magic wand and suspending Congressional elections. In your dreams, Democrats.

Public Debt and the Peril of Obamacare

The political opposition to nationalized healthcare within Congress is conspicuous by its absence. Despite the presence of widespread and deep public opposition to “Obamacare,” many politicians are pretending like the upcoming election is not a referendum in some aspects on big government power-grabs like nationalized healthcare.

A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted on July 4th, 2011 found that “53% of Likely Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law, while 39% at least somewhat oppose it. This includes 40% who Strongly Favor repeal and 29% who are Strongly Opposed.”

Despite this level of public opposition, politicians are tending not to run on the repeal of Obamacare. Part of the explanation for this disturbing state of affairs lay in Congress’ exemption of itself from inclusion in the healthcare system that it would legislatively impose on the citizenry at large. President Obama’s waivers for mandated healthcare coverage continues the trend of the political class issuing arbitrary exemptions from this law.

Arbitrary fiat of this kind accrues personal political power to individual politicians under the guise of “democracy” by allowing them to misuse government power to patronize specific interest groups. These interest groups tend to operate on a quid pro quo basis with politicians, as they often contribute campaign funds and issue other political favors in exchange for taxpayer subsidies, grants, or loans, or relief from burdensome or oppressive laws.

The misuse of government power by both Democrats and Republicans to reward political allies and punish adversaries is a major continuing trend that is destabilizing our Constitutional system of government. In combination with such anti-republican actions as the ratification of the seventeenth amendment, establishing direct elections for U.S. Senators instead of elections by the state legislature, the practice of political patronage has fostered the steady rise in America of an oligarchic class on the foundation of “democracy.”

It was never the intention of the father of the Constitution James Madison that Constitutional clauses such as the “necessary and proper clause,” the “Commerce Clause,” or the “general welfare clause” be taken out of context and be so construed as to allow politicians to extract resources from the general population to be used as patronage for political cronies.  As James Madison wrote of the general welfare clause in particular:

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their Own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.” (On the Cod Fishery Bill, granting Bounties. House of Representatives, February 3, 1792)

Therefore there are checks instituted in The Constitution not only to prevent the accumulation of political power, but to present barriers to the capricious institution of sweeping national measures on the basis of bare popular sentiment, or by the determined will of a power-hungry minority.  The amendment process was embedded in The Constitution to allow a means for a policy or program to become established in accordance with a broad and deep consensus of the people and the states; amendments by design require high thresholds to ratify.  That the amendment process is largely ignored by the government as the legitimate method of instituting broad and sweeping federal authority over the citizenry is a major sign that our Constitutional republican system is becoming undone.  The common justification for ignoring the Constitution among our intellectuals and politicians is that we have a “need” for greater democracy.

One measure of “democracy” in the world can be found by proxy in the level of public debt.  Though an imperfect proxy, because military spending contributes greatly to national debt, there appears through comparison of global charts, graphs, and statistics to be a connection between high levels of public debt per capita and eventually popular, though ultimately unsustainable, social welfare programs such as universalized medicine.

Universal medicine is, politically speaking, the sina qua non of humans’ dependence on government for their very lives.  When government has such intensive control over the lives of the citizenry, control of all other spheres of life follows by necessity.  Americans’ recognition of this dangerous interrelationship between the citizen and the government is the reason for such strong opposition; the power and surety of control universal medicine grants to politicians is the reason for its tacit and overt support in the government, especially as the elites have exempted themselves from what certainly will be a degrading system in terms of quality and human dignity.

Nationalized healthcare falls generally into three categories: single payer, two-tier, and universal mandate. While many have deluded themselves into believing universal healthcare will be “free,” what they don’t realize is that under an eventual single-payer system, as Obama has repeatedly stated is his intention, the monetary costs are replaced by personal costs. Such costs possibly including one’s life, as due to rationing one may be denied or forced to wait too long for what the government considers to be an excessively costly procedure. But those in denial as to the constraints of economic reality are mentally unable to make such connections, and instead substitute altruism as an all-powerful force able to overcome such costs.  “Love conquers all,” as they say; this should be amended by adding, “except reality.”

The best indicator of a nation’s living outside the constraints of economic reality is public debt.  Even further, public debt is largely driven by welfare spending.  But what distinguishes nations with moderate and sustainable levels of debt and those with unsustainable levels of debt is universal healthcare.  Two graphs will illustrate this point.

Below I will post a chart from “The Economist” on public debt per person around the world (linked here is the interactive chart).  Nations with higher levels of debt are in red, and include the United States.  The chart has the U.S. at 59.2% public debt-to GDP, while per capita debt is at 95% debt-to-per capita GDP, and total federal debt is 95% debt-to-GDP.

Below I will embed a chart illustrating national forms of healthcare (interactive chart here).  Notice the correlation between universal healthcare and extremely high levels of national debt.

Countries with universal healthcare fall into two camps:

1. Totalitarian regimes like Cuba and North Korea, and authoritarian Third World countries in the Middle East and Africa.

2. Western nations that free-ride off of American military spending and its provision of international security, but nonetheless run unsustainable budgets with immense debts trying to pay for their social welfare states.

Since America, the banker of last resort, will be unable to shoulder the burden of sustaining its own debt, at least in the foreseeable future, and the states able to bail these Western nations out will likely be unwilling to, these countries will likely economically collapse like Greece, probably to be followed by Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, even Britain; this is due not only to welfare programs like universal healthcare, but because of demographic time bombs, government waste, and exorbitant union wages and pensions beyond what workers actually contribute to the economy.

There appears to be no general rule of thumb when a nation’s debt becomes so great it leads to economic collapse.  I agree with Ben Bernanke when he remarkably commented: “Neither experience nor economic theory clearly indicates the threshold at which government debt begins to endanger prosperity and economic stability. But given the significant costs and risks associated with a rapidly rising federal debt, our nation should soon put in place a credible plan for reducing deficits to sustainable levels over time.”

Such a statement from a Federal Reserve Board Chairmen, of all people, makes clear that Obamacare is unsustainable as a program.  Consider that according to the chart above, and the levels of debt-to-gdp statistics cited, America is already in the category of high debt-to-gdp.  Now also consider that although it is among the most indebted countries in the world, what distinguishes it from the rest is that it does not currently have universal medicine!

There is a deal of ruin in a nation, as Adam Smith wrote, and these politicians are apparently content to find out what that deal is.  An economic collapse is not a pretty thing, and although it appears to the rest of us to be undesirable, it may actually accrue power to politicians to reinvent a nation as they see fit, which invariably entails tyranny of one form or another.  Never in history has the collapse of a country into chaos and tumult led to happiness and prosperity – even once. On the contrary, those countries that collapse economically become easy prey for aspiring dictators, who are granted legitimacy and arbitrary authority to come in and put a bloody end to the inevitable rioting and infighting, and after the insurrection is put down, to reinforce the oppressive regime as a “normalized” aspect of national life.

It may be one of those ironies that the desire for “free” healthcare can lead to the loss of our relatively free country.  We need to inform our admirably well-intentioned, but less-than-bright fellow citizens, of the urgent need not to trust the seemingly good intentions of power-bent politicians, who will use compassion against them to undermine the rule of law and all barriers to political power.

House Republicans reject Libyan war, still fund it. AP: vote "largely symbolic."

The AP is reporting that the Republicans, with backs so flexible by now they can reach backwards and touch their toes, have voted for a resolution rejecting the war in Libya, but have essentially caved to Alcibiades Obama, and will continue funding the strategically pointless expedition to Syracuse Libya.

Here is how the Associated Proles reported it:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The House has turned back a Republican-led effort to cut off money for military hostilities in the Libyan war.

The vote was 238-180. It came after the House had overwhelmingly rejected a largely symbolic measure to give President Barack Obama the authority to continue U.S. involvement in the military operation against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Come again?

It seems to me that the AP just reported that Congress’ rejection of Obama taking the country to war was a “largely symbolic measure.”  That can’t be right.

Because my reading of The Constitution, Article I: Section 8 grants CONGRESS the power to declare war.  Not the president.

And if the AP wants to make the argument that Congressional authorization to go to war is “largely symbolic,” where were they when George Bush initiated the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Because the Congress, in broad bi-partisan fashion, authorized the military operations, and trust me, the left did not consider such authorization to be “largely symbolic.” (Though they did act like those votes never happened, and like the Democrats on the days of the votes were nowhere to be found.)

Speaking of “nowhere to be found,” anyone seen the anti-war left lately? Because if this keeps up, we’ll just have to redesignate the mindless drones the “anti-Republican” left.

Rethinking Government

We need to rethink government. We should start with what the Founders read and thought, and work our way from there.

There may be prudent means of modernizing how citizens express their preferences in government; the business as usual of electing representatives who go on a reign of error for two or six years at a time isn’t working. But we shouldn’t be seduced into unrestrained populism; we need to aim for greater accountability in government, not for instituting the whims of the masses.

Considering then that we need representative government, but with greater accountability, the policy of term limits is necessary. Term limits would free politicians to do the right thing, rather than the popular thing.  Additionally, it would free politicians from focusing so heavily on re-election.  It is thus essentially a policy designed to change Washington culture. Once elected, a politician’s terms in office should be limited to twelve years total; and Senators’ terms should be limited to four years, instead of six. The U.S. Congress should be a place for extraordinary sessions, not routine business. Televoting and virtual conferencing should become the norm.

In conjunction with the policy of term limits, those who serve in government should be forbidden from lobbying after they retire;  this would help prevent a conflict of interest between representing one’s state and/or district and representing narrow moneyed interests. Campaign contributions should be capped at an upper threshold in order to prevent politicians from “buying” elections.

Continuing with the theme of ensuring greater accountability, there may be a way to institute more frequent voting on referenda, particularly concerning spending. The danger is that if we make voting too easy, the dumber, relatively apathetic people will have more of a say. We still need representative and not democratic government; no one wants to live under capricious mob rule.

Such a routinization of voicing public opinion on spending matters only makes sense within the state government context; and as such, federalism is strictly necessary. When political communities can utilize the central government as a means to appropriate funds from those will not see the benefit of the program or policy, then those who are taxed are not being justly compensated for their property or labor. In addition, the political community receiving the funds is relieved of its representative obligations to use the money prudently. When people do not feel the immediate “pain” of making choices, then rationality, defined as making preferences while acknowledging the constraints of reality, is unhinged from its moorings.

With the goal of re-establishing rationality in a representative-democratic government in mind, there is something to be said for making sure everyone has a stake; thus, not just for fiduciary reasons, but for civic responsibility reasons, a flat tax makes sense. A Balanced Budget Amendment capping the government’s spending at a certain level of GDP is a good complement to the flat tax; but such an amendment should not be an authorization to spend the entire fixed portion of GDP.

In the economic sphere, our theme should be to ensure we live within realistic constraints, and following as such, fiat currency must be abolished. Sound money is not merely a constraint tethering an economy to the reality of scarcity, it is also a means of ensuring transparent pricing; but most importantly, it is a political constraint blocking the representatives’ means of financing debt-spending.

In conclusion, the United States needs a stable government in order for a vibrant civil society and a free market economy to flourish. We need to re-gird those institutions conducive to stabilizing and restraining government: private property, sound currency, and individual rights.  But we would also need to supplement our efforts to prevent the corruption of those institutions in the future; thus, mechanisms of greater accountability and responsibility, such as term limits, checks on campaign financing, tele-referenda on spending, a balanced budget amendment, and a flat tax would buttress those institutions and do much to safeguard them from depradation.  But ultimately, the only sure guardian of any free political system is an active, informed, and intellectually engaged citizenry.

The Time to Defend Freedom is Now

Action is required by all patriotic citizens given the urgency of the political and economic situation in this country.

The most pressing issues facing ourselves and our posterity are rampant corruption, profligate spending, unsustainable debt, oppressive taxes and regulations, and an increasingly brazen patron-client government.

An avalanche of public pressure is needed to send the message to Congress and the President that we are citizens of the United States of America.

We are not servants of government to be tax-farmed out for the gain of political benefactors who magnanimously bestow our rights, our security, and our livelihoods.

We are not the means to the ends of scheming politicians or instruments enlisted to subsidize quixotic, wasteful, ever-expanding, and increasing government programs.

The entitlements or contrived, non-natural “rights” of one class of citizens necessarily requires the coercion of others. A free people cannot live in bondage to the incessant demands of oligarchs or even of a tyrannical majority cobbled together under the patronage of politicians dispensing the public treasury.

The United States Constitution was written to preserve the status of the citizenry as freeholders of a liberty-preserving republic. The document that brought the country into existence was intended to provide the government with the legal-rational authority required to preserve the people’s freedom.

Political office is therefore a trust executed on behalf of the people of the United States. If a politician obviates from the strictures of his office he is to be removed and his unconstitutional actions rendered null and void.

It is our responsibility and our duty as citizens to actively reassert limited government as specified in the Constitution, lest the tyranny of oligarchy or democracy ensues and the republic be dissolved.

The message needed to be sent to the usurpers of Constitutional authority in the current government is that we are autonomous individuals, co-equals by virtue of our births as free men and women as stressed throughout the history of natural law.

We are the granters of political power and authority. The American people giveth, and the American people can taketh away.