This is not a political site. This is an anti-political site. We agree with the goals of individual liberty, free markets, and peace, no matter who gets the credit.


Plain Language about Gun Control

Penn and Teller, nobody makes their case in more plain language than them. Well, at least Penn. Teller never speaks in public.

(Rude language alert. Some of the words that Penn Gillette uses in this video are likely to be offensive to some people. Okay... most of the words.)


Fighting for Our Right to Due Process

By Grant Davies

If we allow the people who really make the laws in this country, the Senate/House conferees, to make a  law in secret that removes our most fundamental right - that of habeas corpus - we will deserve whatever befalls us subsequently.

As a country, we went to sleep and allowed these people to shove Obamacare down the throats of the 3/4 of the American people who responded to the many polls at the time. Now we are stuck with it. At least until it implodes (as it was designed to do) and the debate over changing it to the single payer socialist wet dream begins. But I digress.

So if we sleep through this one, the removal of our right to due process, we might as well turn the clock back to the darkest single day in the history of liberty in America. The day in 1942 when our own government rounded up well over a hundred thousand of our fellow citizens and herded them into concentration camps because they were of Japanese descent. Almost all of their property was taken and never returned. The inadequate apology and the small check the government cut for the few left alive many decades later can never atone for that shame.

Anyone who thinks it can never happen again is foolish. Particularly since these secret conferees and their puppeteers (like the idiot John McCain) have just pulled an "end around" on the 2/3 of the Senators who passed an amendment specifically against such an unconstitutional trampling of our rights just a few weeks ago.

There is one Senator who is fighting with all his might against these forces. (Apologies if there are others who have gotten no attention in the media.) It is Rand Paul of Kentucky. If you value your freedom, I suggest you watch this video. And I suggest you support Senator Paul in his efforts. In this fight Rand Paul is our champion.

From my perspective, this is the single most important issue of the time. Without the right to due process, we have nothing. It has defined who we are as Americans. Compared to the loss of this fundamental right, all other issues before us now shrink to insignificance.

That's my opinion, yours is welcome too.


Treasure, Protect and Mourn Them All -- Reflections on the Newtown Tragedy

The author of the following essay is a mother of three from the Chicago area. It was originally published on a private blog that chronicles the daily lives of her family. I have been given permission to publish it on the sites where I am a contributing writer. Since writing such as this, without expectation, can possibly go viral on the internet, it has been decided to publish it anonymously to protect the privacy of the family. The names of the children have been omitted. Otherwise, it is submitted as written. The perspective of this mother is one that is different from what I have read since the horrific events of last Friday. But I feel it is a reflection of the prevailing perspective of most of the people who have been suffering along with the devastated families of the victims.
Grant Davies

Treasure, Protect and Mourn Them All -- Reflections on the Newtown Tragedy

One thing that will give a person perspective is someone else's misery. Although we have been careful to monitor media in our house and not speak about the recent events in Connecticut, obviously my husband and I have been disturbed and heartbroken about the elementary school children who were gunned down in Newtown. And although it would be painful to learn about this no matter who you are and what your station in life is, this feels particularly painful to us as parents of children who are right around the age of these precious little victims.

When I look at my first grader and her big blue eyes and imagine those eyes being closed forever....when I see my pre-schooler skipping around like her little fairy-elf self, barely touching the ground and imagine never hearing her laugh just destroys me. If I couldn't hold my toddler close to me, as he clutches his blanket and sucks his thumb...I don't know that I could live another day myself. And yet there are parents today who are burying their children one week before Christmas. It hurts to think about it.

What I've found equally frustrating during this time, and it is just an observation really, is that amidst all the reaction, I don't hear people mourning the loss of children everywhere, everyday. Make no mistake, I believe with all my heart that what happened in Newtown was a shocking tragedy and I am mourning the loss of those beautiful children. But I find myself grieving for the children of the south side of Chicago too.

How many of them have been gunned down this school year? Where is the national mourning for these children? Of course there isn't any. Even within our city, we consume these news reports without blinking an eye. We can speculate on the reasons why this is the case. But I won't bother to here, because this isn't a political blog or a blog on social/cultural commentary. However, I have been thinking of the heartbreak that goes on daily for the parents of those children, caught in gang crossfire, and I grieve for them. And how about children all across the globe who live in fear of this sort of thing *every day*? No one expects children in Connecticut to be scared to go to school, thank God. But what about kids in Syria? Or how about child soldiers in Africa? The reality is that the world does a crappy job protecting our children. And every single one of them should be just as treasured and protected and mourned as the ones in Newtown.

I admit, the story has gotten under my skin enough that I've tried harder to stay patient with the kids when they've tested me over the past few days. And when my pre-schooler got ill on Saturday night and my husband stayed with her on the couch, I pulled my first-born into my room and had her sleep with me. All because I could not bear the feeling of being alone and having thoughts of those school children carry me into sleep. Although she was totally asleep when I went in her room, and she is heavy as a sack of concrete mix these days, I carried her into my room and curled my body around hers, reassuring myself that my daughter was alive and healthy and safe, and for at least tonight, we would be together as mother and child.

The risk of living is dying. I know we cannot live in fear and I thank God that we don't. I know I will lose my temper with the kids again. I know I will take them for granted again. We all do this. It's human. Actually, I am not sure how we could survive without this sort of behavior...after all, who could walk around and stay sane if they knew they had to protect a precious jewel every single day - a jewel that has its own thoughts, feelings, actions and plans? It would be impossible.

So we just do the best we can, we apologize when we screw up, we use opportunities like this tragedy to remind ourselves to treasure each moment we're given, and above all, try to love the best we can. It's a disgusting, broken world. I'm taking comfort that for those of us who believe, good always wins and God saves.


Info about Various Charities

As you might imagine, I spend quite a bit more time reading blogs than writing on my own. One of them is called Republic-MainStreet. Quite often I find interesting information and opinions there.

The following information qualifies as useful as well as interesting. Assuming it is correct (I haven't done the fact checking myself), it could be an eye opener as you consider whether you have enough money left over after Bushanomics/Obamanomics to give to any of the listed charities.

It's really just a reminder to do your due diligence each time you give so you will know if you are being a good steward with the funds available to you. So my advice is: if any of these are your favorites, check 'em out before you write the check to see if this info is correct.

Editors note..Shortly after publishing this post a friend sent me this URL. It's another tool to use when checking things out.    Charity Navigator.


Deck the Halls with Macro Follies

With all the recent stories of people stealing Christmas gifts;

I thought I would join in the fun and steal another video from Dan Mitchell and give it to all of you for Christmas. That clears up my list!

So here is the great vid full of wonderful songs for the holidays that I carted away from his site. They are about my favorite subject. You guessed it... Keynesian economics!

Merry Christmas!


Quid Pro Quo as Detroit Swirls the Bowl

As the "leaders" of the most pathetic example of modern day liberalism meet to discuss the method for  blaming someone else for their stupidity, this moron distinguishes herself by her proposed solution.

She claims that "leadership" demands begging for bacon (as she puts it) from Obama because she and the overwhelming majority of other non-thinkers voted for him. It's payback time.

She claims it worked before. Who can argue with logic like that? How long before this comes to Illinois?


Question of the Week: Why Do You Hate Republicans?”

If I was a regular reader of this blog (and I guess I am since I have to re-read this drivel multiple times while writing it), I would wonder, "why the hell am I stopping here since this guy so regularly republishes and otherwise swipes all of the stuff Dan Mitchell posts on his blog?" "Why don't I just go to Mitchell's blog myself?"

It's an excellent question. The answer is, you could probably save a couple of clicks and go right there. After all, that's what I do. And no, I don't have a man-crush on Dan. It's just that he writes better than I do and is a PHD economist. (Oh yeah, it's also that he is one of the very few who allows me to republish his work.)

Having said that, you are here now, so here comes a post of his that really hit home. I have felt that some of my friends wanted to ask me the same question as his readers are asking him all the time. Lots of them still think this site is about politics.

Actually, politics is only a byproduct of the message I feel compelled to try to spread. In my case that compulsion is more of a mental disorder than a realistic calling. But I digress.

Question of the Week: “Dan, Why Do You Hate Republicans?”

By Dan Mitchell

I get several emails per week asking my view on various topics and many of the questions raise very interesting issues.

So I’ve decided to start a new feature. Every weekend, I will endeavor to answer one question.
My first chore is to explain why I hate Republicans, and as you can see here and here, there’s certainly ample reason to think I hold GOPers in low esteem.

The actual question, though, is:
You seem to be more critical of Republicans than Democrats and you went out of your way to attack Romney. Doesn’t that play into the hands of Obama?
The answer is yes and no. I don’t mean to sound like a politician, but I view my job as providing nonpartisan analysis on public policy issues. That means I criticize the statist schemes of the folks in Washington, regardless of whether the politicians have a “D” or an “R” at the end of their names. To be fair, I’m probably a bit harder on Republicans, but only because they’re the ones who often pretend that they are on my side.

And sometimes they are on my side. My two favorite presidents are Reagan and Coolidge, and I have great admiration for those few politicians – such as Ron Paul – who almost always do the right thing.

But I also have discovered that bad Republicans usually do more damage than Democrats. Nixon was one of the most statist presidents of my lifetime, and Bush 41 and Bush 43 were almost as bad.

And even the politicians I’m willing to praise, including Ron Paul, sometimes do the wrong thing. And as much as I praise Reagan, he had some huge mistakes, such as the catastrophic health insurance program.

My simple rule of thumb is I will support a politicians who, in my estimation, will be a net plus for liberty. So notwithstanding my reputation for being a libertarian ideologue, I have a very practical approach to politics.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s rather disappointing that so few Republicans satisfy that simple test.

But now let’s return to the question. Doesn’t that view play into the hands of Obama?

 As I said, yes and no. I want to maximize liberty (or minimize statism) in the long run. So if I have a choice between a big-government Republican and big-government Democrat, I sometimes think we’re better off if the Democrat prevails.

Jimmy Carter, for instance, probably wasn’t that much worse than Gerald Ford. And he paved the way for Reagan. And Bill Clinton, in retrospect, was a much better choice than Bush 41. And he paved the way for the GOP landslide in 1994.

So the question before us today is whether Barack Obama is paving the way for a good Republican…or whether he’s a Lyndon Johnson paving the way for a Richard Nixon.

Editors note..Dan blogs at International Liberty. You should visit there often.



Ron Paul's Farewell Address

I don't think that anyone who visits this site will watch this entire speech. But I thought I'd post it here anyway. If you only watch five minutes of it you will be five minutes better off than if you don't.

The day is approaching when a lot of people will wish they had paid more attention to what he said.


The American Electorate - Cause and Effect

Many in the American electorate are rational people, but not the majority. Look out below!

Hat Tip to International Liberty

An electorate so stupid that they keep voting for people like Obama is an electorate that is too stupid to make the connection between the effects and the causes.


The Whigs are Grasping for a Lifeline

The Whig Party is foundering in the water helplessly. They are reaching for anything that looks like a lifeline.

Sorry GOP, it's too late.


It's Not the End of the World
By Grant Davies

The election results are far past troubling, but it's not the end of the world. Really, it's not.

I would argue, in fact I already have, that America has changed fundamentally. And not in a good way. I haven't changed my mind about that since I wrote about it a few days ago. I think we live in a "Post America" now. An America whose people perceive their country and its government entirely different than people my age used to.

The storm clouds that used to be on the horizon are quickly turning into the storm itself. It has arrived and it was our choice. No foreign despot like Hitler, Stalin, Tojo, or Bin Laden imposed the new system on us. We either embraced, or surrendered to (according to your perspective), our new dependence on government.

Having said that, even though we are no longer exceptional, we will survive in the new world. Just not as well. Humans are resilient.

So what is this post all about? It's about an essay I read this morning on the blog "Cafe Hayek" written by Dr. Russ Roberts.

Russ is a professor of economics at the George Mason University Mercatus Center. He is an author of a number of books and his resume is so strong it's irritating to those of us with no resume at all. Suffice it to say you should read absolutely everything he writes. Of course you won't, and neither will I, so forget that and just read the following article. It explains why, in a rational and non-hysterical manner, the end has not come just because the country has chosen big government over individual initiative.

It's the best article you can read if you want to look at our situation without losing your ability to see the real picture thoughtfully and maturely because of your emotional distress.

Oh, by the way, you should read the Cafe Hayek blog every chance you get. You'll be smarter even if you disagree with the folks over there. Here is the beginning of his essay. I hope you will choose to read the rest, it gets even better as it goes along.

Really? The Road to Serfdom?

              by RUSS ROBERTS
               NOVEMBER 8, 2012

In this recent post I gave some post-election thoughts. I was trying to cheer up those of us who are alarmed at the road we appear to be heading down. One commenter, Jamie Newman wrote in response:

"You guys have been forecasting the arrival of universal serfdom for about as long as the left has been predicting the collapse of capitalism. Is the Road to Serfdom gridlocked? Did someone forget to gas the car? Has our dashboard GPS unit failed? Or our we just moving really slowly, the better to take in the scenery?

I mean, come on. I’m guessing that that you, the readers of this blog are among the freest people in human history. You are free to go pretty much anywhere in the world you wish to go, free to buy pretty much anything that’s available for sale anywhere, free to think anything you want, say anything you want, read anything you want, watch anything you want on TV. And even after you’ve paid for all those dinners in nice restaurants, vacations in nice places, and homes in nice subdivisions, you still have enough left over to own shares of Apple or Google. You’re paying less in taxes than you have in decades. If you get really sick, or suffer a serious injury, you will receive top quality medical care than will not leave you penniless even though you might never be able to pay the full cost of your care yourself– thanks largely to the pre-eminently socialist institution known as “insurance.” And even if you’ve not made or saved lot of money in your lifetime, you will not be destitute in your old age, and you will not be allowed to die like a dog in the street. And so on.

Maybe I’ve missed something. But an itemized list liberties of which you have been deprived, or that you are at risk of losing, might help me get up to speed."

Now I was actually pretty calm about the road to serfdom in the post. I didn't say we were well down the road or anything like that. Nor did I claim that the current trend inevitably means we’re going to lose our freedom. I claimed the opposite in fact: if we work hard to educate and inspire we can put the country on a different path. ......Read the rest here.

Editors note.. Dr Roberts didn't "go there" as far as the list of lost liberties the commenter asked for, but others have, and we will do so too in a future post. Leave a comment below if you would like to see such a list soon.


Good News For Business Due to the Election

My friend "TJ" was kind enough to send me an email pointing out some good news in the stock market yesterday. As the prices melted down over three hundred points on the day after the election results were announced, he noticed that the price of one stock was moving higher. The shares which were going up were those of....drum roll....Smith and Wesson!

We shared an on-line laugh over the story. We both have a "different" sense of humor I guess. But when our friend Dan Mitchell of The Cato Institute, wrote the following piece on his blog, International Liberty today, I knew I had to share it.

Like much of what Dan writes, it's funny as hell as well as informative. So I reprint it here today so you can enjoy it too, and maybe pass it along to your friends. And as an extra treat I have included a video taken from his site as well. It's freakin' hilarious. At least to me, since I have this "different" sense of humor. Be sure to watch it. If you laugh, you might be "different" too.

An IQ Test for Criminals and Liberals

November 8, 2012 by Dan Mitchell

A lot of people say Obama is anti-business, but there’s one part of the American economy that is delighted that he got reelected.

No, I’m not talking about bankruptcy lawyers or corrupt lobbyists, though those would be good guesses.

The real winners from Obama’s re-election are America’s gun manufacturers and gun sellers.

Not that I’ve looked at any data. I’m just basing this on the comments I’ve heard over the past few years and the up-tick in such comments in the past 36 hours.

But I’m quite confident that the overall firearms industry has profited from Obama’s tenure.

Anyway, the great economist Frederic Bastiat teaches us to look at both direct and indirect effects (or, as he put it, the “seen” and “unseen”), so I want to highlight a disadvantaged group that will suffer as a result of the Obama-induced increase in gun sales.

Yes, I’m talking about criminals.

To understand the point I’m trying to make, we’re going to do a thought experiment.

Start by closing your eyes and thinking about someone you know who has worked hard, saved some money, bought a nice house, and filled that house with nice things for the family to enjoy.

Now tell yourself, “I want those things as well.”

But you also think, “Damned if I’m going to wake up early every day like that chump and bust my rear end to earn a good life.”

Instead, you decide it’s okay to take things that don’t belong to you, even if it involves some coercion.

So what’s your next step?

No, this isn’t a thought experiment about voting for Obama. Besides, the election is over.

Close your eyes again and think about how you would obtain things that don’t belong to you and without using the government as the middleman.

What would you do? Well, you might beg the person to give you things.

But that might be a bit awkward or demeaning, and the person might say no.

That leaves burglary as your only option. Sort of a private sector version of income redistribution.

Now we get to the key point in our thought experiment.

You sneak up to the house with the nice things and you suddenly see a sign.

Here’s a quiz. What do you do after seeing this sign?

a. break into the house because you once heard a politician or journalist assert that gun ownership doesn’t deter crime?

b. decide after a bit of reflection about potential costs and benefits that it might be more prudent to find another house to rob?

If you need some help with the answer, think about the meaning of this cartoon.
And if you still don’t comprehend, then congratulations. You deserve a starring role in this video.



Post Mortem - Get a Helmet

By Grant Davies

Yesterday this blog had a lot more visitors than normal.

Why? I didn't write anything. Nothing new here. No emails went out to announce a new blog post. No last minute advice on the election. No predictions.

What were those visitors looking for? I don't know. But whatever they hoped to find, they didn't find it. This blog had long ago made the case for freedom and against dependency on government. There was nothing left to be said before the American people went to the polls to decide if they wanted to be Europeans or stick with the American dream of individual liberty and personal responsibility.

Yesterday they chose the Nanny State. That's what the election was about. It doesn't matter what you thought it was about, or what your neighbor thought it was about. It doesn't matter if your team was blue or red.

And sorry to say, that decision is irreversible. Normally after one party loses they lick their wounds and start working on the next election. But not this time.

Oh, they will go through the motions. And many will buy into the notion that in the next election people will right the wrongs. Surely the people will come to their senses. Sorry folks, not this time.

There are now more people beholden to government for their sustenance than those who are not. And in four years there will be many, many more. More government employees. More people getting money from government programs. More people who have children and other family members who will lose their jobs or benefits if the government ever shrinks.

They will never vote for that to happen. Whatever or whomever people may vote for, they never vote against themselves. The American experiment has failed. It was just as had been predicted by so many over the last two hundred years who understood human nature.

The election was not about Romney. He had no plan or ability to save us from ourselves. The best he could have done would have been to buy some time. He was after all, a moderate Democrat. He thinks government has the answers. He is wrong.

And the election wasn't about how bad Obama is. He is merely a reflection of the attitudes of most of the people. He can get back to the golf course now. I don't blame him. That's what I'm going to do.

So now we will learn for the first time what it feels like to be in a country which is in decline. The Europeans have known that feeling for a long time. We'll get used to it too.

My only advice to anyone who still wants it is this; If you don't have a helmet you better go and get one. And if you have one, you better put it on. Because there is some heavy shrapnel heading our way. Not tomorrow, but sooner than anyone thinks.

And your team, no matter what color it was, won't help you now. 


According to an Online Survey, Gary Johnson Is the Presidential Candidate Closest to My Views

 By Dan Mitchell

About one year ago, I took an online quiz put together by the folks at Reason and discovered that Ron Paul was closest to my views.

Not that I was terribly surprised, though I confess that I don’t remember if Gary Johnson was part of the quiz. And, if so, whether there were any differences between him and Ron Paul.

Speaking of Gary Johnson, I just took a quiz at the ISideWith website and it tells me that Gary Johnson shares 97 percent of my views.

That’s not a big shock, but I was surprised that the poll says I’m more Republican than Libertarian.

Methinks the people who put together the poll must be high on crystal meth. Yes, I’m probably a bit more conservative than the average libertarian on issues like terrorism and immigration, but I’m a far, far stronger advocate of limited government than the average GOPer.

But I gather the poll probably matches your views with the rhetoric of various candidates and parties, not their actual records.

And the gap between Republican rhetoric and Republican performance probably explains why just about every prominent libertarian is ignoring the GOP and voting for Gary Johnson, according to this survey by Reason. Unless, of course, they think voting is a waste of time.

P.S. In the for-what-it’s-worth department, the ISideWith people report that Gary Johnson’s views attract majority or plurality support from voters in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and Nevada.

P.P.S. Mitt Romney’s views don’t have majority support in any state.

P.P.P.S. Since the United States is supposed to be a constitutional republic rather than a majoritarian democracy, I don’t like any group of voters having the power to muck up my life.

Dan Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He blogs at International Liberty. His posts are republished here from time to time with his express permission. He gives this site a touch of class.


A Short Response to Last Night's Non-Debate

By Gary Johnson

America’s challenges and the crises we face demand a real debate — not dueling Phil Donahue acts carping at one another over who is worse.

I defy anyone who watched the debate to identify a plan from either the Republican or Democrat that will achieve a balanced budget. Behind the fuzzy math and the quibbling, there was nothing more than a commitment to continue the status quo — with at most a few minor adjustments. We don’t need adjustments. We need a fundamental reduction in the role and cost of government, and both Romney and Obama are fundamentally big-government guys.

We watched a blame game over immigration, while the problem festers with no solution in sight.

We heard quibbling over whose government plan would have saved GM better, but nothing about why the government should be bailing out any company at all.

And we heard cheap shots about government-run health care from two candidates who both support it. Where is the reasonable argument that government shouldn’t be running health care in the first place?

On the attacks in Libya, the debate we must have is not over what we call it or when; we need a debate over why we were there at all.

There are clear choices in this election, but they weren’t on the stage tonight.


The Dems Can't Lose This Election

Image = TheFW.Com/
By Grant Davies

Here at WhatWeThinkandWhy we don't spend too much time on politics. At least not politics of the electoral variety. I'm sure that comes as a surprise to many who stop by here on a casual basis. It sure looks like this is a political site at first glace.

We bash Obama and other statists here on a regular basis. Not because it will change anyone's mind about them, but mostly because it's really fun to pimp the knee-jerk Dems who think they are morally superior to everyone who isn't a liberal.

We also pimp the GOP here regularly, which causes us to lose the respect (and possibly the readership) of those who were initially attracted to this site because they perceived us to be anti-Obama, rather than pro-freedom. Which of course is what we are. Many conservatives think they are morally superior to everyone else too. (Just to piss off a few more conservatives.)

So if we regularly piss off the liberals and the conservatives, that only leaves the libertarians in the "Not so pissed off" column. Just for the record, I'm not nearly pure enough of a libertarian to keep all those in that movement happy either. It's a wonder that anyone reads these essays anymore. And yet, readership continues it's steady expansion.

While we have done almost nothing to encourage liberals, we have thrown some bones to the conservatives over time. (Dammit, life is just so unfair.) For instance, I have endorsed voting for Romney in certain circumstances even though it pains me intensely to do so.

Just in case you missed the posts, the circumstances are as follows: 
  • If you live in a "battleground" state, you can be forgiven, or even encouraged, to vote to dismiss Obama. His administration has been a flop. Dare I say a catastrophe? So he must be given a Presidential pink slip. Don't feel too sorry for the mope, under his leadership millions of people have been given undeserved pink slips. He certainly deserves his.
  • It's all about the electoral college. So if you live in a state that is even within 10 percentage points of being contested, you owe it to yourself and your offspring to throw the bums out. And that includes Obama crony Ben Bernanke who is debasing our currency as never before. If that doesn't stop (and even if it does), your life savings might be reduced to Wiemar Republic status, maybe even before the 2016 election.
But my further advice is:

If you live in any state that is "safe" for either candidate, and you value your future freedom and money, you would be a fool to vote for anyone other than Gary Johnson. If every freedom loving Republican, Independent, and rational moderate Democrat in California and Illinois, for example, voted for what they really want, Johnson would garner millions and millions of votes without risking the re-election of Barack Carter. 

If you don't think that would give you better choices in the next election from both major parties, well, you're wrong. It would move the parties in the freedom direction more than anytime in history. So I'm calling for all my friends in Illinoistan to make a real difference. Because you literally cannot have an electoral impact on our society by voting for Romney here. None.

So what the heck is the title of this post all about? It's about the fact that Mitt Romney is a moderate Democrat. Some of you just wrote me off as a kook. Oh well, the facts of history support my opinion. Look back at all his positions and history over time. Also consider the following:

He is a really nice man who is competent in almost everything he does. He is a moderate on almost everything political. He is a big believer in government solutions to societal problems. He is the author of Obamacare whether Republicans want to admit it or not. Democrats know it in their heart of hearts. He supported the government bailouts. He supports government intervention in almost any problem although he thinks Republicans have the best intervention schemes.

I dare say, if Romney was the Democratic nominee he would win this election in a landslide over almost anyone the Republicans could put up. BTW, regular Republicans would demonize Romney as a liberal, flip flopper and  run as hard as they could against him if he was the Dem candidate. Same positions, wrong party affiliation. Independents, who actually decide who the President will be, would vote for him in droves. They probably will anyway. 

Moderate mainstream Democrats are going to vote for him in large numbers in the end anyway. But if he were their nominee they could feel good about themselves again. And nothing is more dangerous to Republicans than moderate Democrats who feel good about themselves again instead of just hating Republicans and rich people. They really don't want to hate those folks. And they really only supported Obama because they had nowhere else to go. It didn't hurt that they could feel good about being part of electing the first black President. (Well, he's not really black, but close enough.)

Roman Catholic Democrats may very well vote for a Mormon (of all things) to support their church against the onslaught of left wing crazies in their own party. And they can rightfully feel good about it. 

So there you have it on the title of this post. Now that the people have finally wised up and figured out that Romney is a Democrat, they are switching over pretty quickly.  The polls, even though they are rigged by the left leaning pollsters, are showing the movement very clearly. And barring some unbelievably stupid misstep in the remaining debates or over last few weeks of the campaign, Romney will win. 

It's hard for the Dems to lose when both candidates are donkeys. (I call them asses usually, just to piss off more liberals.) It's just a matter of hard left or moderate left. So even if Obama is somehow re-elected so he can put the finishing touches on his statist masterpiece of American destruction, the Dems win. (While actually losing in the end when the nightmare of Obamacare finally manifests itself and Dems get screwed equally with Republicans.)

But if the rational libertarian former GOP Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, doesn't get sufficient support in the election, the country itself will lose again, because next time out you will get the same crummy choices the two parties always give you. And time has just about run out on this experiment.


Cash by the Cartload

Today's post is about a subject that I have been harping on for a few decades, mostly to friends who were looking at me sideways while only pretending to listen to my warnings, for the umpteenth time. You see, I am convinced that the government will not default on it's obligations, ever. At least not in the usual sense.

Anyone who has an inkling of the size of the obligations that are coming due can tell you that in the real world these debts cannot be paid. Except of course if they "make good" on them with money that is worth a fraction of what it's value was when the obligations were assumed. Economists call it monetizing the debt. I call it stealing. So I'm convinced that is how they will pay in the end. It's the only way out if you have spineless politicians who refuse to enact any real reforms.

Today's post is republished here, and on our history website Cheeky History, (it is history after all) with the permission of the author and UBS Corp. who holds the copyright on his work. It is an excerpt from "Cashin's Comments", a highly sought after daily market letter. Mr. Cashin is eminently qualified to teach us something about the future by referring us to the past. I hope you find it educational.

By Art Cashin

Originally, on this day in 1922, the German Central Bank and the German Treasury took an inevitable step in a process which had begun with their previous effort to "jump start" a stagnant economy.

Many months earlier they had decided that what was needed was easier money.  Their initial efforts brought little response.  So, using the governmental "more is better" theory they simply created more and more money.  But economic stagnation continued and so did the money growth.  They kept making money more available.  No reaction.  Then, suddenly prices began to explode unbelievably (but, perversely, not business activity). So, on this day government officials decided to bring figures in line with market realities.  They devalued the mark.  The new value would be 2 billion marks to a dollar.

At the start of World War I the exchange rate had been a mere 4.2 marks to the dollar.  In simple terms you needed 4.2 marks in order to get one dollar.  Now it was 2 billion marks to get one dollar.  And thirteen months from this date (late November 1923) you would need 4.2 trillion marks to get one dollar.  In ten years the amount of money had increased a trillion fold.

Numbers like billions and trillions tend to numb the mind.  They are too large to grasp in any “real” sense.  Thirty years ago an older member of the NYSE (there were some then) gave me a graphic and memorable (at least for me) example.  “Young man,” he said, “would you like a million dollars?”  “I sure would, sir!”, I replied anxiously.  “Then just put aside $500 every week for the next 40 years.”  I have never forgotten that a million dollars is enough to pay you $500 per week for 40 years (and that’s without benefit of interest). To get a billion dollars you would have to set aside $500,000 dollars per week for 40 years.  And a…..trillion that would require $500 million every week for 40 years.  Even with these examples, the enormity is difficult to grasp.

Let’s take a different tack.  To understand the incomprehensible scope of the German inflation maybe it’s best to start with something basic….like a loaf of bread. (To keep things simple we’ll substitute dollars and cents in place of marks and pfennigs.  You’ll get the picture.)  In the middle of 1914, just before the war, a one pound loaf of bread cost 13 cents.  Two years later it was 19 cents.  Two years more and it sold for
22 cents.  By 1919 it was 26 cents.  Now the fun begins.

In 1920, a loaf of bread soared to $1.20, and then in 1921 it hit $1.35.  By the middle of 1922 it was $3.50.  At the start of 1923 it rocketed to $700 a loaf.  Five months later a loaf went for $1200.  By September it was $2 million.  A month later it was $670 million (wide spread rioting broke out).  The next month it hit $3 billion.  By mid month it was $100 billion.  Then it all collapsed.

Let’s go back to “marks”.  In 1913, the total currency of Germany was a grand total of 6 billion marks.  In November of 1923 that loaf of bread we just talked about cost 428 billion marks.  A kilo of fresh butter cost 6000 billion marks (as you will note that kilo of butter cost 1000 times more than the entire money supply of the nation just 10 years earlier).

How Could This All Happen? – In 1913 Germany had a solid, prosperous, advanced culture and population.  Like much of Europe it was a monarchy (under the Kaiser).  Then, following the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, the world moved toward war.  Each side was convinced the other would not dare go to war.  So, in a global game of chicken they stumbled into the Great War.

The German General Staff thought the war would be short and sweet and that they could finance the costs with the post war reparations that they, as victors, would exact.  The war was long.  The flower of their manhood was killed or injured.  They lost and, thus, it was they who had to pay reparations rather than receive them.

Things did not go badly instantly.  Yes, the deficit soared but much of it was borne by foreign and domestic bond buyers.  As had been noted by scholars…..“The foreign and domestic public willingly purchased new debt issues when it believed that the government could run future surpluses to offset contemporaneous deficits.”   In layman’s English that means foreign bond buyers said – “Hey this is a great nation and this is probably just a speed bump in the economy.”  (Can you imagine such a thing happening again?)

When things began to disintegrate, no one dared to take away the punch-bowl.  They feared shutting off the monetary heroin would lead to riots, civil war, and, worst of all communism.  So, realizing that what they were doing was destructive, they kept doing it out of fear that stopping would be even more destructive.

Currencies, Culture And Chaos – If it is difficult to grasp the enormity of the numbers in this tale of hyper-inflation, it is far more difficult to grasp how it destroyed a culture, a nation and, almost, the world.

People’s savings were suddenly worthless.  Pensions were meaningless.  If you had a 400 mark monthly pension, you went from comfortable to penniless in a matter of months.  People demanded to be paid daily so they would not have their wages devalued by a few days passing.  Ultimately, they demanded their pay twice daily just to cover changes in trolley fare.  People heated their homes by burning money instead of coal.  (It was more plentiful and cheaper to get.) The middle class was destroyed.  It was an age of renters, not of home ownership, so thousands became homeless. But the cultural collapse may have had other more pernicious effects.

Some sociologists note that it was still an era of arranged marriages.  Families scrimped and saved for years to build a dowry so that their daughter might marry well.  Suddenly, the dowry was worthless – wiped out.  And with it was gone all hope of marriage.  Girls who had stayed prim and proper awaiting some future Prince Charming now had no hope at all.  Social morality began to collapse.

The roar of the roaring twenties began to rumble. All hope and belief in systems, governmental or otherwise, collapsed.  With its culture and its economy disintegrating, Germany saw a guy named Hitler begin a ten year effort to come to power by trading on the chaos and street rioting.  And then came World War II.

We think it’s best to close this review with a statement from a man whom many consider (probably incorrectly) the father of modern inflation with his endorsement of deficit spending.   Here’s what John Maynard Keynes said on the topic:  By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.  By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some…..Those to whom the system brings windfalls….become profiteers. To convert the business man into a profiteer is to strike a blow at capitalism, because it destroys the psychological equilibrium which permits the perpetuance of unequal rewards.

Lenin was certainly right.  There is no subtler, no surer means of over-turning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose….By combining a popular hatred of the class of entrepreneurs with the blow already given to social security by the violent and arbitrary disturbance of  contract….governments are fast rendering impossible a continuance of the social and economic order of the nineteenth century.

To celebrate have a Jagermeister or two at the Pre Fuhrer Lounge and try to explain that for over half a century America's trauma has been depression-era unemployment while Germany's trauma has been runaway inflation.  But drink fast, prices change radically after happy hour.

And, tell Fed. Chairman Bernanke that it was the “German Experience” that caused many folks to raise an eyebrow when he alluded to the power of the “printing press” a few years ago.  It is why so many, including some of the FOMC, express concern about unintended consequences of each new wave of quantitative easing.  (And, if you think no government would ever sponsor wild inflation to liquidate its debt, take a look at Zimbabwe.)

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on our sites. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply visit Cheeky History and click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.


Focus on Clarity

By Grant Davies

With the dominant media currently having great success in redirecting the attention of the American sheeple away from matters of great importance and towards matters of absolutely no importance, I thought it was time to get back to writing more opinion pieces than I have recently.

The truth is, I have been very lax in writing for this blog lately due to events (of the happy variety) in my personal life. The other sites which carry my articles probably are wondering whether I'm still on the topside of the grass. And I have been carving up my allocation of available writing time very much in favor of our other blog, Cheeky History.  

Writing tongue in cheek historical narratives for that site is a labor of love for me. As a bonus, Cheeky History is steadily gaining readership, which translates into happiness for an old storyteller like me. I hope you'll visit the site. If you enjoy it, please tell a friend or two who might like a lighthearted and irreverent account of the events and people that have shaped us into who we are as human beings. I think of it as a kind of "mind floss" against the backdrop of the more serious topics we usually cover at WhatWeThinkandWhy. But enough of the shameless plugs for my own hobbies.

An election day of historical importance is almost upon us and the media has been able to turn the distractions into the issues. At least for many people, the outrage over what happened to us since our government turned a poor situation into a calamity has morphed into a general feeling of helplessness and resignation.

The bailouts of the rich and connected (not to mention the financially incompetent and morally ill-equipped "victims" of their greed) seem to be a distant memory. The voter anger over them apparently left with the departure of the last guest at the tea party. Where are those well behaved, but furious, middle Americans who showed up at mass demonstrations now-a-days anyway?

The worst piece of legislation in the history of the country, Obamacare, has been relegated to the back burner while the electorate fusses over the campaign blunders burning on the front. Getting rid of that despicable tool for stealing our freedoms used to be job one. No more, it seems.

While we are kept focused on what polls are most accurate, what candidate said the politically dumbest thing this week, or how many rounds of golf are being played by the President, the country continues to slide into an ocean of new debt and freshly printed fiat money. Rampant inflation awaits only an uptick in the economy and the velocity of money movement it brings.

Presidents can now legally order the execution of people all over the world without bothering with an arrest, an indictment, or a trial. And unlike Obamacare, that law was passed with an overwhelming majority of support from both parties. It is only the suspicions the President might have about someones potential involvement in terrorism that qualifies them for this special treatment. American citizens are not exempt from that death list either. (It's true and it has already happened. You can look it up.)

Democrats who were outraged that GWB led a government that "water-boarded" captured Al-Qaeda operatives after 9-11 seem to have no problem whatsoever with summary death sentences carried out by computer operated drones. I guess if you think you are morally superior to Republicans, killing a guy is more humane than making him think he's drowning. They might ask Khalid Sheikh Mohammed which one he prefers.

Only a few years ago one might have entertained the notion that the US Constitution, having been rendered  irrelevant recently, would be a major campaign issue this time out. As Josie Wales might have said, "I reckon not."

Normally, the very soon to be bankrupt Social Security and Medicare systems might have been foremost on the minds of Americans. But it seems that it's more important lately whether a candidate uses a teleprompter too often or the other guy makes too much money to fit the sensibilities of class warriors.

Perhaps the fact that several large states and tons of municipalities are either bankrupt, or nearly so, isn't as important as whether one Vice Presidential candidate poorly articulated the timeline for a plant closing or the other one said yet another embarrassingly stupid thing during a photo-op.

Maybe there's more important things than the largest tax increase in history becoming effective on January 1st in the middle of an economic cataclysm. (And it will happen without a single Congressmen or Senator voting to pass it. Thanks, GWB.) But to watch the news one might conclude that perhaps it's Mitt's tax returns or Barack's birth certificate.

So here's the thing folks, it's time to ignore the polls and the med-idiots. It's time to focus on real things. The bridge on the road ahead is out and we have to figure out quickly which of these guys should be driving the bus.

In terms of our future, one of these guys is a bad dream. And the other is a nightmare. I've made it no secret that I find Romney to be the former and Obama to be the latter. So you decide. But try to remember what's important. And for future reference, try to remember that whichever "team" you are on, our wonderful two party system stuck us with these crummy choices, again. (If you actually think either one is a good choice, you should stop reading and Google up a shrink.)

I'm not blaming the media. They are bad actors to be sure, but it's our fault. We keep watching them and reading their newspapers. When others are making things purposely blurry, it's time to take personal responsibility for improving the clarity.

We need to focus on the future, it's the only thing we can change.


What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Here is a doctor, Dr. Barbara Bellar, (who is running for state senate in Illinois) summing up the Obamacare nightmare in one sentence.

Putting aside the fact that she is on the stump for herself and a guy (Romney) who probably will want to "tweak" the legislation instead of eliminate it in its entirety, it's a pretty good summary of the low-lights of the Obamanation legislation, which is actually a tax even though it's not, and really isn't a mandate even though it is, and is constitutional even though it isn't, it's actually way worse than she is able to fit into even an impossibly long sentence, such as this one.

(Note to self:  Keep your sentences shorter, even if written in jest.)


Obama Supporter Interviews Herself

Okay, here's a really funny anti-Obama video. I know our liberal Democrat readers will hate it (and me) for running it. Both of them.

But since I think we really need a sense of humor to get through these bad times and into the next bad times, I run the ones I think are funny. Regular readers know I'm no fan of Mitt Romney's vision for more big government "solutions" to societal problems so I'm looking for funny anti-Mitt videos too in order to be an equal opportunity basher. If come across any (or you send me some) and I laugh out loud at them, I'll run them too.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of an aging Clint Eastwood interviewing an empty chair (representing an empty suit in the White House) at the recent GOP self congratulation and coronation convention, here is a pretend Obama supporter interviewing herself in a YouTube video.

It's pretty funny until you realize that it's pretty close to the truth about how a lot of people feel concerning their vote for BHO four years ago. It's even more entertaining when you realize that it absolutely drives the hard core liberals insane while they watch it. I can visualize their veins bulging out, and that's a neat visual.

Hat tip to Fitz for sending the link.

PS.. There is an anti-Mitt video on the sidebar for your entertainment, just to be fair 'ya know. Because it's all about fairness.


A Heavyweight Country Shouldn't Have a Lightweight Leader

A hard working member of our crack research team has unearthed this excellent video while combing the internet in search of the educational material our readers have come to expect. It's important to find out what news media in other countries (this time Denmark) are covering while our own news media is covering up.

So we have a presentation for you which makes the point that some jobs go unfilled even while the country languishes in the depths of (real) unemployment in the 15% range. The job of course is: speech-writer for an amateurish White House who can't even be bothered to scribble a few different words to say about different countries when they come here for state visits.

These countries may be "punching above their weight classes" in world affairs but it probably feels like a punch in the gut when they realize how truly unimportant they are to the US after going to the trouble of visiting one of their "closest allies."

A heavyweight country shouldn't have a lightweight leader. There is a fifty/fifty chance that the American electorate will punch his "return home" ticket in November while they search for a replacement in a higher weight class.

Hat tip to Capt. McCann


Obama and the Malfunctioning Home Teleprompter

I don't care what political team you are rooting for or what your tribal affiliation is, Red teamers and Blue teamers who don't think this video from The Onion is humorous might need a check-up on their funny bone.
(Check first to see if the visit is covered under Obamacare.)


Teaming Up With Heartland

By Grant Davies

Yesterday I received a request from Jim Lakely, who is the Director of Communications for the Heartland Institute. Many of you know about Heartland because they have been featured here on numerous occasions. Many more of you knew about them long before this blog even appeared on the net.

It's a terrific organization, right here in Chicago, that has advanced the cause of rational analysis of important issues and a common sense approach to regaining our liberties. They have been doing so for decades. It takes guts and cunning to battle big government nonsense and corruption right in the backyard of the city that made those two things synonymous with its name.

The career bureaucrats at this initially well-meaning government agency (EPA) are truly out of control and it's our responsibility as citizens to make our concerns known to the US Congress.

Having made that intro, I decided to post the email right here as it arrived in my mailbox. Whatever I might say won't convince you to sign the petition more convincingly than Jim's sincere entreaty for our help.

I want to share with you (see below) a new push by The Heartland Institute to get Congress to do its duty and cut the out-of-control, economy-crushing EPA down to size. I hope you can help us spread the word about this petition on your site, as well as through social media, and to more than 10,000 signatures – after which we’ll take the petitions to Washington and put the pressure on Congress. We’re half way there already.

Here’s the petition page, which lays out why we’re doing this – and why the public needs to put the EPA back in its place. Let me know if you have any questions, and how Heartland can help promote what you’re working on from its own blog and social sites.

Jim Lakely
Director of Communications
The Heartland Institute

One South Wacker Drive #2740
Chicago, IL 60606
office:             312.377.4000      
Twitter: @jlakely

Thousands Sign Heartland Institute Petition
to Rein in the EPA

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition crafted by The Heartland Institute demanding that Congress “rein in the Environmental Protection Agency” through deep cuts in the size, power, and cost of the agency.
According to the Citizen’s Petition to Rein in the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA has “lost its war to scare America into giving [it] legislation that would allow [it] to seize control of virtually all energy production and use, [and is] perverting the Clean Air law to give [itself] unprecedented powers to regulate American society.”
Heartland says it will publicly present the petitions to Congress once the drive hits 10,000 signatures.
Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, says that in the name of fighting global warming, EPA has become a “rogue agency,” spending $9 billion in 2012 alone to shackle individuals and businesses with expensive and wasteful compliance orders and mandates without the consent of Congress. According to Bast:
“The toll EPA is now taking on our country is staggering, putting hundreds of thousands of Americans out of work at a time when millions of people are out of work and our reliance on foreign sources of energy threatens to compromise the nation’s security. The solution is to rein in EPA through deep cuts in the size, power, and cost of the agency. This can be done by Congress, through its control over the government’s purse, or by a president willing to put sound science and a strong economy ahead of the demands of environmental extremists.”

Read the petition and background essay by The Heartland Institute here.
 For more comments or to book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Tammy Nash at and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at and  312/731-9364.

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call  312/377-4000.


Who Buys the Keynesian Snake Oil?

By Grant Davies

The Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation is a smart organization. They know that if you use pretty girls to get your message out more people will see the message. Even other women are more attentive when pleasant looking females are talking. It doesn't hurt if the girls themselves happen to be smart as well.

Many of you know about my love for the art and science of economics. So it won't be surprising for you to read that I think Obamanomics is as nonsensical as the Keynesian notion (upon which it is based) that you can raise the level of a swimming pool by taking the water from the deep end and pouring it in the shallow end.

This video won't change a lot of minds because a large part of supporting Obama and his ilk is the practice of closing one's mind to logical discourse in favor of hero worship, tribal affiliation, and a general feeling of moral superiority over others who support anyone else.

Having said that, this video is worth watching for rational thinkers so they can keep the outrage over the scandals alive until November when the country will decide for the second time whether it wants freedom or slavery.

The real scandal is how many people buy the Keynesian snake oil even though it has never worked anywhere it's been tried. It's a scandal of mis-education purchased at a high price.

Enjoy, and be sure to circulate the video widely so you can remind those of your friends who think logically while driving your liberal friends crazy. It's great sport.

Hat tip to International Liberty.


Does The Ryan Choice Impact the Election?

By Dan Mitchell

The honest answer is that it probably means nothing. I don’t think there’s been an election in my lifetime that was impacted by the second person on a presidential ticket.

And a quick look at shows that Ryan’s selection hasn’t (at least yet) moved the needle. Obama is still in the high 50s.

Moreover, the person who becomes Vice President usually plays only a minor role in Administration policy.

With those caveats out of the way, the Ryan pick is mostly good news.

Here are the reasons why I’m happy.

  • I think Ryan genuinely believes in small government, low tax rates, and free markets. Heck, he’s even read Ayn Rand, and is willing to admit that he likes her writings.
  • Ryan put together a good budget and got the Republican Party to rally around the plan – a remarkable achievement considering that the same GOPers had just spent 8 years supporting the irresponsible fiscal policies of the Bush Administration.
  • He understands that not all entitlement reform is created equal. Instead of supporting means-testing (which produces implicit higher marginal tax rates) and unsustainable price controls, Ryan got his colleagues to support Medicaid block grants and premium support (or vouchers) for Medicare.
  • Ryan is a proponent of the flat tax and can competently discuss not only the importance of low tax rates, but also why double taxation is misguided and why it’s wrong to use the tax code to pick winners and losers.

Here are two reasons why I’m worried.

  • Both Romney and Ryan are somewhat sympathetic to a value-added tax. My worst-case scenario is they win the election, but then can’t get a good budget approved because of some squishy Republican senators who put self interest above national interest. Romney and Ryan then decide that this European-style national sales tax is the only way – on paper – of making the budget balance. In reality, of course, we’ll suffer the same fate as Europe since the VAT revenues will be used to finance ever-larger government.
  • Ryan has some very bad votes in his past, including support for TARP, the auto bailout, the no-bureaucrat-left-behind education legislation, and the reckless Medicare prescription drug entitlement. Everyone says to ignore those votes because Ryan knew he was voting the wrong way, but if he’s already made some deliberately bad decisions for political reasons, what’s to stop him from making more deliberately bad decisions for political reasons?

But as I said above, don’t read too much into Ryan’s selection. if Republicans win, Romney will be the one calling the shots.

Though this does give Ryan a big advantage the next time there’s an open contest for the GOP nomination – either 2016 or 2020.

P.S. I suspect putting Ryan on the ticket will shift Wisconsin into the GOP column. Based on my last prediction, that would be enough to defeat Obama. But I’ll have to contemplate whether the pick hurts Romney’s chances in another state. You’ll have to wait until September 6 for my updated election prediction.

P.P.S. For those who care about politics, some are saying that selecting Ryan was risky because it gives Obama and his allies an opportunity to demagogue the GOP ticket about entitlement reform. I disagree. Even if Romney picked Nancy Pelosi, that demagoguery was going to happen. Heck, they’ve already accused Romney of causing a woman’s death, so I hardly think they’ll be bashful about throwing around other accusations.

Dan Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He blogs at International Liberty and this post is republished here with his express permission.


So What's the Problem?

By Grant Davies

It's obvious from the media coverage of the Presidential election this year that the most important things to be considered by the voters are: whether President Obama thinks business owners created their own success, and whether Mitt Romney worked for a company that owned some companies who outsourced some work. (Presumably the media thinks that's a bad thing.)

As much as I hate to sound like some kind of conspiracy nut, I think that it's a continuing strategy to distract voters from the actual issues. Worse yet, I think it's working, again.

I know it will shock some of you, but most of the media is left-leaning. (Okay, since they have readily admitted it in the past I know it's not a shock, but I can't resist being a smart ass.) And since they lean left, I'm quite uncertain why they care which one of these guys gets the nod.  After all, they get what they want no matter which of these big government advocates is in office. But distracting the voters from Obama's unbelievably poor performance seems to be job one. Here we go again.  

So I feel obliged to bring up a few points that some of you may want to mention at the next backyard cookout you attend this summer when "beered" up neighbors or relatives start talking about which guy is the bigger liar, or "outsourcer," or non-citizen, or Mormon, or friend of a distasteful clergyman. Or maybe they want to chat about who likes/dislikes gay people more, or whether "rich" people should pay more taxes because they don't pay their fair share. Or whether Tea Partiers are racists. Or whether it's getting too hot or cold because people are alive.

In that case here are some of the points I think you might mention: 
  • The country is still in a recession/depression.
  • The country (FED) is still printing money like crazy.
  • Prices are rising precipitously as the value of the money falls. And you ain't seen nothin' yet.
  • The government is spending money it doesn't have like there is no tomorrow. (They might be right on that point.)
  • Social Security is on the verge of collapse.
  • Medicare is on the verge of collapse.
  • Cities are declaring bankruptcy.
  • States are on the verge of the same.
  • Greece may be bailed out by somebody, but there is no one who can bail out America.
  • The President has seized the power to assassinate anyone, even US citizens, who he thinks might be a terrorist. No arrest, no arraignment, no witnesses, no trial. Congress has gone along with it and he has already done it.
  • Here at home, the right of Habeus Corpus has been abolished by executive order. Also with the approval of congress.
  • The Supreme Court just decided that the Constitution presents no barrier to government intrusion on our lives as long as the law in question is determined to be a tax.
  • One half of the adults in the country pay no federal tax.
  • Almost one half of the citizens are receiving some form of government funds. They will never vote for anyone who says those payments are to be cut back, much less eliminated.
  • New regulations are being made by the thousands, mostly by unelected people. There is no end in sight.
  • Wars are still being fought, also with no end in sight. And no one can figure out what would constitute victory or defeat.
So, if you think everything is just dandy and the above list has either been concocted by me out of thin air, or the list is correct, but the items on it are not a problem, then by all means chat about why Republicans or Democrats are the bad/dumb guys and have another beer. Argue about what the media wants you to focus on.

But just in case I'm right about any of the list being an actual issue, you might want to get a helmet. You know.. just in case.


Motives vs. Results

Image courtesy of Cafe Hayek

A fan of liberty writes me of her struggle of being surrounded by people with a different world-view–people who make her feel that in defending liberty, she is greedy, selfish, and uncaring. I wrote a novel  on this issue–here’s a shorter answer…

Are you greedy, selfish, and uncaring? A little. We all are. Even people who oppose liberty. But I don’t think self-interest explains your view of the proper role of government intervention.

But it’s not surprising that you worry about your motives. In our daily interactions, motives are nearly everything. I want friends and family that care about me and whose motives count me in, alongside their own concerns.

So we pay a lot of attention to motives because they’re important. But the motives of strangers are much less important. For starters, by definition, it is hard to know strangers as well as my friends and family. So their motives will be much harder to read. But there is a much worse problem which is that by definition, strangers don’t have much information or knowledge of my needs, desires, and dreams. They can’t. They’re strangers. It’s hard enough for my friends and family to know me well. But strangers can’t know me well. So even with the best of motives, they may not be able to help me. In fact, they may end up hurting me despite their motives. We know that we sometimes hurt our friends and family even with the best of motives because of our imperfect knowledge of who they are.

This suggests a humility for intervening in the lives of strangers. Those on the other side of the spectrum of government intervention often lack this humility. They claim to know what is best for others–what they should eat, how they should behave in the bedroom, whether they purchase health insurance, and what is the best use of other people’s money. When these plans go awry, when they cause harm to those they would help, they fall back on their motives–after all, they meant well.

But when dealing with strangers, with people outside our circle of friends and family, results trump motives. Or at least they do for me. For you see, I too, have good motives. I just believe, perhaps naively, that sometimes, it is better to leave things alone than to intervene. Not always. Sometimes. We know that is true in public policy just as it is true in parenting where the motives are very powerful. Sometimes good parenting means letting children make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Sometimes it means letting children come to grips with responsibility.

So we teach our children to drive and let them take the car. We know it’s dangerous but we accept the risk. We do so not because we do not care about our children. It’s just the opposite. We accept the risk because we care about them. We respect them. We want them to leave the nest and learn to fly on their own.

So my opposition to a minimum wage or government schools or agricultural price supports or bank bailouts or mandatory health insurance or mandatory retirement contributions or mandatory eating habits doesn’t come from my selfishness or greed. Rather it comes from respect for my fellow human beings and a belief (not a faith) that leaving people free to choose what is best for themselves usually works out better than strangers making decisions for them.

The other day a friend of mine was defending a regulation related to smoking. I hate smoking. I’ve never smoked in my life. But I think people should be free to smoke if they want and I believe that private establishments–restaurants and apartment buildings and businesses–should be free to allow people to smoke on their premises. My friend doesn’t. He’s a great guy and knows as I do, that smoking has some very damaging health consequences. He feels very self-righteous about his quest to regulate smoking even more throughly than we currently do. Part of that self-righteousness comes from his motives. He knows they are pure and they are. He is a fine person. I respect him. He also happens to be overweight. I wonder how he would feel if I explained to him that I have been doing a lot of reading lately on diet and health and that I thought he should eat fewer carbohydrates and spend more time at the gym? I do wish he were thinner. I think it would be good for him. But I would never want to force him to change his habits and even more than that, my respect for him would keep me from even making the suggestion. I think he knows he’s overweight.

He’s not a close friend. He’s a casual friend. With a very close friend or a sibling, I might say something about the virtues of diet and exercise. But a stranger? I can’t imagine going up to a stranger on the street and lecturing him about his weight. Forcing a stranger to do something about his weight is even harder to imagine. But I don’t think my motives are the issue. It’s a question of respect and imperfect knowledge.

One of the points I make in The Invisible Heart  is that those of us who want smaller government because we think it will make the world a better place are the allies, whether we like it or not, of purely selfish people who want smaller government in order to avoid taxes and who have no intention of giving to charity. That should give us pause. At the same time, those who care so much about others that they would run their lives for them are allied with those who would run the lives of others because of less attractive motives–for power and profit.

So don’t lose any sleep over your motives. And don’t let others who are no better than you are, convince you that there is something wrong with you because you don’t want to use the power of the state to try to improve the lives of others. Their strategy has a very mixed track record. They are always saying this time will be different. But it is unlikely to be different because of the knowledge problem and because the other side centralizes power. And centralized power doesn’t attract nice people. Just the opposite.

Both sides want to make the world a better place. We just disagree on how to get there.

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The above article is re-published here in it's entirety with Professor Roberts express permission. Please visit the excellent site Cafe Hayek to enjoy and enlighten yourself with the fine articles concerning liberty to be found there.

Russell Roberts is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and the J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Distinguished Scholar at the Mercatus Center, and a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

His latest book is The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2008). Told in the form of a novel, it's the story of how prosperity is created and sustained, and the unseen order and harmony that shape our daily lives.


Amnesty For the Rest of Us

Dr. Walter E Williams

Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to
              All Persons of European Descent
Whereas, Europeans kept my forebears in bondage some three centuries toiling without pay,
Whereas, Europeans ignored the human rights pledges of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution,
Whereas, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments meant little more than empty words, 
Therefore, Americans of European ancestry are guilty of great crimes against my ancestors and their progeny.
But, in the recognition Europeans themselves have been victims of various and sundry human rights violations to wit: the Norman Conquest, the Irish Potato Famine, Decline of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleonic and Czarist adventurism, and gratuitous insults and speculations about the intelligence of Europeans of Polish descent,
I, Walter E. Williams, do declare full and general amnesty and pardon to all persons of European ancestry, for both their own grievances, and those of their forebears, against my people.
Therefore, from this day forward Americans of European ancestry can stand straight and proud knowing they are without guilt and thus obliged not to act like damn fools in their relationships with Americans of African ancestry.
Walter E. Williams, 
 Gracious and Generous Grantor