Mission Statement

Mission Statement: This blog is dedicated to both political philosophy and application to current issues based on the ideas of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty. Additionally, this blog strives to create an atmosphere where intelligent discussions based on the principles of logic, no matter the viewpoints expressed in their conclusions, are not only welcome, but also thrive.

To learn more, feel free to read the introduction and subsequent posts which explain the aforementioned philosophy and purpose of this blog in more detail.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Issues 24: Dance with the One that Brought You -OR- Fight your own Wars!

I have spoken before about the dangers of an interventionist foreign policy. In “Issues 19: India, Pakistan, and... Libertarianism?” I discussed the damage that is being cause by one nation defining the borders of another without regard to preference, as well as the violence that has been unleashed against multiple targets so that those in power can maintain tight-fisted control of the situation. These in turn are exacerbated, according to some, by yet another problem caused by intervention—third party war-fighting.


The above article explains how the US supported Pakistan through the Cold War while supporting the strategic containment of communism. We were in essence trying to fight a war without actually fighting one, but enabling others to do so for us. Since then, those others have decided their goals do not match with ours. In return they have continued to support us enough to keep receiving aid, but have used previous help and continue to use recurring help to foster their own agenda, which is harmful to ours.

For this, how can we blame them? They are looking after their own good. The abhorrence of the acts come from the duplicity therein, not from the fact that another country is acting self-interestedly. But the issue is allowed to continue while the US uses third parties to help fight our own wars.

I am of the firm belief that anything worth doing is worth doing well, in the open, and with pride. For this reason alone I would ask the United States to fight her own wars. However, if that is not enough for some, then look at the consequences of what happens when we ask and enable others to do so for us. It never seems to turn out well in the end. We look back with disdain on our actions, such as the containment of a system that collapsed anyway, but never seem to learn. Each threat is new and somehow different from those that came before, making the action different enough this time to not be considered a mistake.

An alternative—non-intervention with a weak military—is equally disdained because we see what happens when a country must rely on the US for military support. The alternative to both of these, then, libertarian non-intervention policies with a strong military capable and willing to defend the country, seems the best option. Experience tells us this over and over again, yet we are loathe to loosen our own control over situations we do not like.

This is a difficult thing to do, though. Human nature would tempt any President to use a strong military to shape the world into one that he liked. That is why I only feel I can trust a President who believes in non-intervention, but why it is even more crucial for Congress to be strong and check the President. This happens so little in our current party-based politics that the remaining answer to solve all of these problems remains a strong military guided by a non-interventionist libertarian.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Foundations 7: Authority and Responsibility

As I sat pondering the nature of various forms of leadership and their relation to the organizations that they run, a thought stunned me. It had to do with the issues of responsibility and authority, subjects on which I have thought before, but never in the context that opened my mind so much this time. Authority and responsibility are opposite sides of the same coin. If you give someone authority over something, you can then hold them responsible for it. Conversely, if you want to hold someone responsible for something, you must first give them authority over it.

As I said, I had thought this before, and have long been familiar with the concept. The turning point came as I reflected on how it applied to various political arguments and the terminology that is hinted at but rarely used. The concept can be used to examine the true motives for many issues, but let me start with healthcare as I think it is the easiest to illustrate.

Many people today claim that healthcare is a universal right of mankind, that everyone should have health coverage, or that healthcare should not be a privilege of the rich. In a word, the country as a whole has a responsibility to provide healthcare to every citizen (or so the argument goes).

My thought then is this: if I have a responsibility to finance a person’s healthcare through Federal taxes, why am I not also granted authority over that person’s healthcare to ensure a favorable outcome? If I am responsible for another person’s health, then I must also be able to tell them that they must run five miles every day and do pushups and yoga. I should be able to dictate their diet, ensuring they eat only oatmeal for breakfast and chicken salads for dinner, and restrict the total number of calories they ingest. I should be able to limit or forbid things like coffee, cigarettes, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and bacon.

All of these efforts would produce better “health care” for a person than merely paying for their angioplasty or lung cancer treatments later in life. Why can we as a nation not legislate these things, if we are so concerned about providing good health to all Americans? As I said, this principle applies to any issue where money from some is redistributed to others. Paying welfare should be paired with telling a person how and when and what job they should work. Paying Social Security should be paired with telling those who receive it where they can live. Not until people as a whole recognize that responsibility goes hand in hand with authority, not until they accept this form of legislated healthcare, will I believe in their good intentions and be disabused of the idea that our government is just forcing some to fund the lifestyles of others.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Issues 23: President Obama's Love of Covert Power

I know it has been a long time since I have written here (over 2 weeks, according to these dates).  While I take the weekend to refamiliarize myself with current events and the outside world, please accept this discussion on covert power and the subsequent philosophical debate on the nature of authority and responsibility.

(covert picture not posted for security reasons)

The President, according to this article, is a big fan of covert hard power. This is one thing that I agree with him about. If your hands are tied by the lack of a declaration of war, the necessity to respect national sovereignty, the constant release of those you capture, and the constant threat to your country by a group of people sworn to bring about your destruction; then kill them covertly.

This covert campaign is essential to the War on Terror, which is in itself essential to protecting America. While it may or may not be an existential sort of threat, it is a very real one that has been killing innocent Americans for decades. Mr. President, I applaud your approach.

That said, there is also a cautionary note deserved. A democracy is not supposed to be covert. A government of the people and by the people cannot be covert. Libertarian principles can be ripped apart quickly by one greedy man with covert power. Is the President entirely good-minded in this use of power? It is necessary to prosecute the type of war we are fighting, but it is also very handy for one who wants to violently affect the world while seeming peaceful at home and in the media.

This is why we have checks and balances and why it is imperative that they operate flawlessly. A President using covert powers under the watchful eye of Congressional committees in prosecution of a declared war is a very powerful tool. A President doing the same without oversight, with a weak Congress that will not declare the wars they fight and will not even hold OVERT military actions within Constitutional and legal bounds is truly frightening. If you have wondered why I am so insistent on declaring war to use military force and “checks and balances” being used properly, especially in relation to the application of violence, then this gives you a window into that rationale.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Issues 22: A War on Terror?

I would like to preface this post by saying that ideas contained herein are still very much in developmental stages, indeed in their infancy. I have not discussed them at length with anyone and welcome discussion to hone or change them.

The friend of my enemy is my enemy… Although I support non-intervention for non-direct threats to the US, once an attack has been made and the decision to wage war has been approved, I support only complete warfare with the goal of unconditional surrender of the offending nation (or similar ends for non-state actors). Terrorism itself has changed how we can prosecute a war. Being attacked by Japan, declaring war on the nation, and waging that war until unconditional surrender has been achieved—that is relatively easy. Being attacked by a group that is not associated with a state is more difficult. What do you declare war against? Who do you attack? What sovereignty do you respect and whose do you trample? These are very difficult questions which have been answered, to the best of my knowledge, by authorizing the use of military force against certain stated objectives. This is similar to but legally different from declaring war.

My elementary analysis of the proper method of executing existing policies tries to mirror the current laws of war. First, declare war against an organization (i.e. al-Qaeda). Second, just as the law of war permits you to kill any member of an opposing military whether they are fighting you at the moment or not, armed or not, in uniform or not; chase and kill or capture any avowed member of that group. Third, treat “detainees” as POWs (do not release them early, do not try them, just hold them away from conflict until the war is over). Finally, assess the individual circumstances surrounding nations interacting with the non-state group. For instance, if firm evidence proves that a state is providing active support to the group with which you are at war, they lose their claim of neutrality.

As I said before, this is similar to what we are currently doing, but different enough to raise issues. Two of the most obvious are detainees and nations supporting terrorism. In my plan detainees would be legitimate prisoners of war, with all the legal implications. Nations sponsoring terrorism would lose their claim of neutrality in the situation and be legitimate targets for attack. That does not mean that every one should be attacked, and I am not using this to say that we attack Pakistan now, as the article and this comment may lead some to believe. We are applying diplomatic pressure at the moment, which may be the best option given the intelligence desired endstates. However, the option should not be far off the table.

This is a complex issue and raises many more questions. What if the member of the group is a citizen of the US? Can you try POWs for war crimes rather than releasing them at the end of the war? How do you determine the level of support from a nation required before declaring them part of the enemy? These are all difficult, but the disheartening problem is that we are not even at the point to deal with them yet. Congress has allowed the President to use force without declaring war against either a state or an organization. Consequently, we cannot treat captured combatants as POWs. They then are released and kill more Americans. We cannot (or have not) used the full power of our national security institutions against even those who help our enemies. There are very ambiguous questions involved in fighting non-state organizations, but to be able to address them properly, we first need to fix the basic functioning of our own governmental institutions.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Issues 21: How Intervention is Continuing to Hurt Us

This should come as no surprise, especially given recent events. Maybe it is warranted, maybe it is not. What is clear, though, is that it has been fueled by the interventionist and world-police policies of the United States.

“Patterson said the United States must target a ‘lost generation’ of military officers who missed training programs in the United States after Washington imposed sanctions against Pakistan in the 1990s for its nuclear program.”

So a sovereign country did something that we did not like, even though it did not DIRECTLY threaten the US. We tried to bully them into a certain way of behaving. It did not work and now we are left in a situation where the country still did what we didn’t want them to do, and trusts us even less than they did before.

Beyond highlighting the dangers of non-intervention, this article also showcases the strongest tool at a libertarian nation’s disposal: a positive example. In my understanding of libertarian principles, people are more free to come and go within such a society. This should lead to more travel and intermingling of cultures. This can and should be promoted by government by inviting members of foreign militaries and other organizations to train in the US, and sending our military on temporary visits to do the same (not the permanent basing in Germany or the like).

This allows some of us to see how other countries think and behave, a very useful thing when you later work with them. Additionally, it brings people who are more likely to have some influence in countries that are strategically valuable to a greater understanding of the US is, what a free society looks like, and how it can be done. If we who believe in freedom are correct and a free society is better than an oppressed on, then these people getting to see it working will begin fueling the desire for change—from inside. It is the least insidious method of shaping foreign policy, but it also allows us to change and adapt based on what works elsewhere, too. It is like capitalism for ideas!

Ultimately, there is a better way to ensure a safe world environment for your country, and it starts with libertarian principles of non-intervention but rigorous defense of direct attacks. I have discussed non-intervention and travel here, and have a good article for a discussion of rigorous defense soon.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Thank You to the Fallen

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This is the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting to remember this speech on Memorial Day, as it may be the most eloquent dictation of remembrance and perseverance. I would like to personally thank all Americans who have served their nation, with a special thanks to all of those who have given the last full measure, and their families. You will never be forgotten.

As Lincoln said, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work…” That is part of the reason that I am so passionately dedicated to advancing the cause of Liberty in the best way that I know. Not only do I firmly believe it to be the noblest path, but also an honor to those who have gone before.

The work to which we dedicate ourselves here and to which many have dedicated themselves before will never be finished; the fight for Liberty is never-ending. To those from whom the fight has demanded the most, on all days and especially on this day, thank you.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Issues 20: The Feds are not Doing their Job

My original view for this blog was something akin to the Small Wars Journal where I would post more detailed and philosophical discussions about libertarianism while using the Weekly Roundup to share news articles. In trying build this, I realize that one person with other commitments cannot build a site like the Small Wars Journal. In reading other blogs, I see that many of their posts are about individual news articles. In putting up a Weekly Roundup I realized that I wanted to comment on many of the articles I used. Therefore, I am going to try changing things around a bit, and am spreading this week’s roundup over several days with commentary on each article. Hopefully this will allow me to create posts more often, keep the blog more interesting, and share some good information at the same time.

The next few posts all deal with US military and foreign policy, just like the last Roundup on the sidebar dealt with US domestic fiscal policy. This is installment one.

Libya Effort is Called Violation of War Act

The President continues to use US military force in Libya in direct violation of US law and the Constitution. This is not a partisan issue, but one that offends many politicians from across the political spectrum.

“Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said the administration was treating lawmakers as ‘irrelevant’.” He goes on to say that “’It’s time for Congress to step forward,’ […]. ‘It’s time to stop shredding the U.S. Constitution in a presumed effort to bring democracy and constitutional rule of law to Libya.’”

No matter whether you agree with the use of force or not, everyone should be able to find common ground in the fact that the force is not currently authorized and those using it have not followed the proper channels to do so.

I will continue to push this issue as long as it exists. This type of use of force is the most dangerous of all, a subject on which I will expound in another post this week.

Monday, May 23, 2011

YGBSM 3: SCOTUS Tells California it is Incapable of Governing

Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on an issue concerning California prison overcrowding. There are three links toward which I would direct your attention:

Supreme Court Orders California to Release Tens of Thousands of Prison Inmates (LA Times)

Actual Supreme Court Ruling

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

The first is an article about the Supreme Court decision, the second is the actual decision, and the third is about how the prison system should be run in the first place. First things first.

At first reading of the article I was conflicted. As a libertarian, I often fight the misconception that libertarianism is indistinguishable from anarchy. It is, however, imperative that any government be able to enforce the few statutes and limitations it sets forth. In the Opinion of the Court the majority asserts that the decision exists to protect the Constitutional rights of the prisoners. If this was the case, if the ruling were as simple as it seems on its face, it would be a laudable example of the court defending the Constitution, its most sacred duty. One must ask, though, what are the Constitutional rights, how are they violated, and how can they best be fixed? Reading both dissents belies the notion that the Court worked only to protect violations of Constitutional right.

Even with my limited knowledge of Constitutional law, I am familiar with the idea that decisions of the court are supposed to be both narrowly tailored and redress specific grievances. The dissents bring to light that this is not the case; it is a matter of activist judges using their position to influence events beyond the scope of their job. Even if the plaintiffs were found to have their Constitutional rights violated, was the fix the best available given the circumstances? I absolutely think it is not.

The law used as justification for the decision, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) states that decisions must be “narrowly tailored to address proven and ongoing Constitutional violations.” The Court worked in realms beyond its power in making the decision, undoing with broad strokes what thousands of citizens in the form of judges, juries, and law enforcement worked for years to do. I would recommend reading Justice Alito’s dissent for a much more eloquent opinion than I could provide.

As to what could have been done instead, the range is vast. I love what Sheriff Joe has done. Snopes even mentions his allowing them to have cable television because it is mandated by law. Seriously. If it was not mandated that prisoners live in such comfort, perhaps there would be money available to reduce the crowding. If they rotated 8-hour shifts working the chain gang, that would leave only 2/3 of them inside at any given time. Given that capacity is currently near 200% and the court ordered the prisons to maintain a maximum of 137.5% of their capacity, the shift-work solution solves the problem without harmful change (1/3 per shift equates to 133.34% in the prison at a time). And that is a solution that meets intent, creates a positive good, and was formulated in an evening. Although it is simplistic and would require more detail, it is meant only to illustrate that there are much better solutions to the problem. I am sure the combined power of the nine most impressive legal minds in the United States could do even better given the proper motivation.

For me, this issue comes down to a bloated Federal power. The Court must be able to enforce the Constitution, but it has gone far beyond. The opinion was not narrowly tailored to address the issue of the plaintiffs, but made sweeping changes to a state system. The changes made were not even the only possible changes to improve the situation. Judicial activism is a huge problem, not only because it will put 37,000 convicted criminals back on the streets early, but because it erodes a system that is designed to safeguard the rights of Citizens against their government.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Weekly Roundup

          In lieu of a weekly update this weekend, I wanted to post links to a couple specific articles with brief comments on each. The articles are a little older, but raise some interesting issues. I think they are good reads and the starting point for intelligent debate if we so choose.

The Economist - Lessons from California: The Perils of Extreme Democracy

          This is a stellar discussion about the failure or success of direct democracy in California. I think that direct democracy needs to be tempered by a Constitution or it becomes mob rule, but I don’t think that California has necessarily crossed that line. One of the early commenters, QEsPapa, wrote a great summary. Perhaps the best answer is to have all taxes be the result of direct democracy, with all expense originating from the legislature, with a Constitutional mandate to not run a deficit? The taxpayers would keep taxes small and legislators would be forced to spend within their means.

The Economist - Cuba's Communist Congress: The Start of a Long, Slow Goodbye

          This article discusses Cuba and showcases how they cannot sustain their communist government. They are being forced to open more private businesses, due in large part to the most common critique of communism—if everything is given, no one will work. The US policy of restricting citizens and not engaging the country is a separate issue that I hope to discuss later.

The Economist - Don't Bully Boeing, Barack

          In this article, the Economist argues for the NLRB to not have so much power (trying to tell business which states are available for expansion and which are not).  Not only is that a vast abuse of power, but the underlying reason, the Unions, is an important issue in itself.  Rather than the days when a Union helped protect Kentucky coal miners from being sent to their deaths, these days Unions are forcing members to join, exacting dues whether members are "willing" or not, exercising vast power over businesses, and becoming a force from which people need protection instead of a protecting force!  Of course in a libertarian society people should be allowed to Unionize, just as they should be allowed to not Unionize and businesses should be allowed to employ whomever they choose.  Propping up industries or workers has not done many favors for the economy in the long run before, and there is no reason to think government intervention will help this time, either.
          These articles showcase libertarian values playing out in the world, but libertarians are not using them to show people that our system works. Many people still are either ignorant enough to equate libertarianism with anarchism, or scared enough to think that people will not be able to flourish with a small government. Using examples of how libertarianism would be making life a little better should be a cornerstone of those trying to convince people of the philosophy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Issues 19: India, Pakistan, and ... Libertarianism?

          An article by the Economist, entitled “The World’s Most Dangerous Border,” asserts that the border between India and Pakistan is the most dangerous in the world, but is overshadowed by the western border with Afghanistan. Despite claims that the solution to the problem is for India to sacrifice elements of sovereignty to solve the problem, I would rather focus on a separate question. Whether that border is the most dangerous or not, a significant question becomes, why? A follow-up that you may be asking is, what does this have to do with libertarianism?
          One of the many goals of this blog is to provide insights within subjects upon which we may agree, not only debate contentious issues. One commenter to the article, sanman on page 3, made a very astute observation that the core issue is the existence of the Pakistani state itself. To summarize, he says that India is not a “real” enemy, but rather one that the military and politicians use to unite an otherwise very different population. The Pashtuns have more in common with their Afghan neighbors, and talk about dismantling the country into its ethnic subcomponents is ubiquitous on the internet. By having a common enemy (India), and a common belief (Fundamentalist Islam), it is easier to unite the country. Those in power then maintain their status.
          So what does this have to do with libertarianism? The first is that the root of the problems may well lie in arbitrarily drawn borders by a collapsing colonial power half a world away. This is not unique to the Durand Line, Pakistan, and India. Problems exist most obviously in Israel, but also between the Kurds and their Iraqi or Turkish nations, among other examples. Without going into too much detail here, it is a very solid example of how foreign intervention, though perhaps seeming wise at the time, led to many important and unforeseen problems. Trying to control your neighbors is just not healthy in the long run (U.S. policy-makers should take especial note of this).
          The second tie-in to libertarianism is something I believe to be an insight—at least, I have not read it elsewhere before. The idea is that a totalitarian country cannot rule a large area with a disparate population like Pakistan. The more you press on the people, the more alienate some who may not agree. To maintain your power, then, you have to come up with some pretty terrifying enemies or some pretty powerful ideas. America, however, was able to expand and govern such a diverse group of people largely because of the freedom allowed to so many. The more libertarian a nation is, the more inclusive it can be. The population will feel more accepted and, in addition to the many other benefits I attribute to libertarian government, will be able to exist more peaceably. It is like the old maxim that to exert more control, you must first loosen your grip.