Category Archives: Statism

Why Do I Like Trump?

As an advocate of individual liberty and constitutionalism, I find a lot to dislike, or at least distrust, about Donald Trump’s coming presidency.  Though he and his closest advisors pay lip service to a smaller Federal government, there aren’t many indications that he’ll really do much in that regard.  Obamacare is an atrocity and should be repealed outright, but Trump’s repeated insistence on replacing it at the Federal level doesn’t instill confidence in his understanding of the constitutional limits on the Federal government’s power.  Further, using the bully pulpit to coerce businesses to do that which they don’t deem to be in their best economic interest isn’t the hallmark of one who genuinely believes in economic liberty or the benefits free markets render to society at large.

I hear the oft repeated mantra’s…‘he’ll be far better than Hillary’ and, ‘it’s all about the Supreme Court’.  I get it.  But I’ve long recognized that the U.S. has, since at least the 1930’s, always taken at least two steps toward statism for every opposite step towards a return to constitutionally limited government.  If one were to construct a graph with the horizontal axis representing time from 1936 to the present and the vertical axis representing the relative degree of statism, the graph would reflect a clear trend to greater degrees of statism.  Sure, you would see momentary diversions representing brief respites, but they’d all be followed by a return to the trend line which has consistently led to bigger and more intrusive government and less individual liberty.  Nothing I’ve heard from Donald Trump suggests to me that he’s going to do anything to change that trend line.  In order to change it, the American people must be persuaded to the societal benefits of liberty and dissuaded from the false promises of supposedly well intended coercion founded only on the immoral premise of democracy.  Donald Trump is not the President who will lead that effort; not because he isn’t capable, but because he doesn’t believe in it.  I’m happy that Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected.  And I’m glad at the prospect that Trump’s judicial appointments will likely be better by comparison.  But these will be among the many respites; comforting, but fleeting. Ultimately, a return to the trend line awaits.

So why have I enjoyed the Trump pre-presidency so much?  This question has perplexed me.  The very substantial degree to which I’ve enjoyed Donald Trump’s post-election period as president elect isn’t warranted by my assessment of his ultimate effect on our ever rising trajectory into greater degrees of statism.  So what’s going on?  What is it that I like about Trump?

I’ve come up with two primary factors.  The first is obviously important and a credit to Trump – he is a constant and vocal opponent of global government and we need leadership on that point right as never before.  Though nationalism has understandably earned a bad connotation in many contexts, it has taken on a crucial legitimacy as a response to governmental globalism.  When ‘nationalism’ means respecting the Constitution and American statutory and common law as the only legitimate law of the country and rejecting efforts of globalist to allow treaties or United Nations pronouncements to effectuate even the subtlest of influences on our unalienable rights, nationalism is a very good thing indeed.  Preserving the United States as a nation state, sovereign and unyielding in the face of any global efforts to infiltrate our substantive law is critical.

Though important, Trump’s anti-global government stance isn’t enough to explain the pleasure I’ve had in witnessing his pre-presidency.  It’s the second factor I’ve identified which appeals to my base human impulses and thus better explains my enthusiasm. Better yet, on reflection, it may actually provide some hope for a future different than I would have supposed just a few months ago.

In short, I like how he’s sticking it to the worst elements of the left.  Those watching the media and the public reaction to it over the past decade may reasonably have concluded that too many of the American people have stopped thinking for themselves.  The left leaning national media seemed to have an almost magical ability to define the issues worthy of public attention and then set the narrative as to those issues.  Similarly, leftist academic speech police and self-appointed enforcers of political correctness seemed to have acquired the ability to thwart the free exchange of ideas whenever their personal sensibilities were offended or the legitimacy of their perspectives were threatened.

Trump has demonstrated that the national media doesn’t necessarily control the narrative and that perhaps the ‘thought police’ are all bark and no bite.  Just maybe there aren’t quite so many stupefied citizens who blindly follow the prompts of the national media and leftist elite.  Maybe good people just needed a champion to give them a voice.   I understand the concerns over his sometimes heavy handedness but I have to wonder whether he would be so successful in foiling the leftist machinery without the entertainment factor.  Let’s face it, people like it when bad actors get called out and exposed.  Trump’s brashness may be a necessary ingredient in his recipe for success.

The important question for the future is this: has Trump set a workable example for how others might successfully neuter the national media and leftist elites?  If we ever manage to elect a President who will work to persuade people to the societal benefits of liberty and constitutionalism, can he or she learn from Trump’s example in order to deny the left the power to control messaging and impose sanctions on those with whom they disagree?  If so, that may ultimately be the prevailing legacy of his presidency, and a worthy legacy that would be.  If the Trump experience permanently exposes the fallacy of the leftist elite’s ‘authority’, if he enables the American public and those in positions of power and influence to not only see, but comfortably declare, that the emperor’s new clothes are imaginary and the leftist elites are naked of the power which they have presumed for themselves and in which too many have acquiesced for too long, then he will have provided at least one great and lasting service to his country.

In the meantime, I hope to continue to enjoy watching the leftist elites flounder as they employ their old playbook over and over again to no avail while I wait with fingers crossed to see what Trump’s presidency actually brings.

 

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In Defense Of The 2nd Amendment

In response to the Orlando terrorist attack, David S. Cohen penned this article which was published on Rolling Stone’s webpage.  It’s title, “Why It’s Time to Repeal the Second Amendment” is refreshing for its honesty.  Statists who wish to further empower government at the expense of individual liberty usually do so in small doses, with suggestions of ‘reasonable’ impositions on our liberties in order to give the government ‘just a little’ more authority over us in order to fix some perceived problem.  The goal is usually to induce us to take that first step out onto a slippery slope where we will then be expected to acquiesce to further incremental losses of our liberties.  Cohen’s call for the complete repeal of the 2nd Amendment is refreshing because it is honest.  No slippery slope here – he wants you to agree to an outright repeal of your right to keep and bear arms.

Unfortunately, the honesty is confined entirely to the title.  The body of this short article is filled with unsupported leftist propaganda.  Included are inaccurate criticisms of the Founders (they “enshrined slavery into the Constitution in multiple ways”); straw-man arguments against the perpetual perfection of the Constitution (no one seriously argues that the Constitution is perpetually – or temporarily – perfect); a leftist checklist for how the Constitution might be improved (an equal rights amendment, Senate representation based on population); and misdirecting arguments about gun control which avoid discussing the reason the 2nd Amendment was proposed and ratified (firearms are capable of more damage than the founders could have imagined; the risks of the right to keep and bear arms now outweigh the benefits; though Cohen offers no analysis or comment on what the benefits are).

Though Cohen has posited several assailable propositions in just a few sentences, one who wishes to clearly and demonstrably refute them is forced to do so in substantial detail.  The refutation necessarily takes more time, and words, than does the statement of the simple proposition.  For that reason, I’ll limit my criticism to only one aspect of Cohen’s article…the conflation of ‘liberty’ and the ‘right’ to be safe and secure.

Statism cannot prevail for long where liberty is understood and appreciated.  Statists know this.  For that reason, they’ve gone to great effort over the years to muddle the definition of the word ‘liberty’ in order to introduce confusion. We see this tactic utilized in Cohen’s article.  He wrote:

“Gun-rights advocates like to make this all about liberty, insisting that their freedom to bear arms is of utmost importance and that restricting their freedom would be a violation of basic rights.  But liberty is not a one way street. … It includes the liberty to…go anywhere and feel that you are free to do to so without having to weigh the risk of being gunned down by someone wielding a weapon that can easily kill you and countless others.  The liberty of some to own guns cannot take precedence over the liberty of everyone to live their lives free from the risk of being easily murdered.”

Cohen misunderstands and therefore misrepresents liberty.  ‘Liberty’ connotes the relationship between government and citizens.  It involves the question of what impositions the sovereign can place on the freedom of citizens.  It has no place in any discussion regarding citizens’ actions among each other. The usage of the word ‘right’ in the context of interactions both between and among individuals and between individuals and government has possibly helped to further this confusion.  A good case in point is the 2nd Amendment itself which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Thus, the right to keep and bear arms, like the right not to incriminate oneself, and the right to free speech, is a liberty because the government is restrained from limiting or regulating our autonomy in that regard.  In contrast, the right not to be murdered by a fellow citizen is not a liberty because it does not involve the misplaced force of government.

When Cohen attempts to place the ‘liberty’ to keep and bear arms in the same context as the ‘right’ not to be murdered, he implies a false equivalency between liberties (from government intrusion) and rights (vis-a-vis fellow citizens).  These concepts are not one in the same.  Statists hope that the casual or uncritical reader will accept this false equivalency and perform their own balancing test between a real liberty (the government can’t infringe on gun ownership) and a right mislabeled as a ‘liberty’ (not to be murdered by a fellow citizen).  Faced with that deceptive choice, some would quickly determine that that the ‘liberty’ not to be murdered is more important that the liberty of keeping and bearing arms.  Thus, statists hope that the failure to understand and appreciate the difference between liberty from governmental intrusion and a right not to be murdered by a fellow citizen will lead one to embrace the notion of voluntarily yielding liberty in exchange for a mere promise of better security and safety.  While some would suggest that such a trade-off is advisable, one should come to that conclusion only after coming to a full understanding of what the tradeoff is – real liberty for a mere promise of security – rather than what Cohen portrays it to be – yielding one liberty to enhance or protect another.

Once properly understood, the proposition that the 2nd Amendment should be repealed gives rise to some obvious questions which should be carefully considered before yielding a liberty which has been held inviolate since the founding of the country.

  • How will the government meet its promise of providing better security?
  • What basis does the government have to suggest that we will be safer without the right to keep and bear arms?
  • If we yield our right to keep and bear arms, we’ll be less secure in our own homes.  How will the government replace the personal security we can now provide for ourselves and our families?
  • Once we amend the Constitution to eliminate our right to keep and bear arms, it will be very difficult if not impossible to turn back.  What if it doesn’t work and we end up less secure as a result of the fact that we may be prohibited from owning guns to protect ourselves?

Finally, we must keep in mind the real reason the 2nd Amendment was ratified in the first place – not for hunting, target shooting or even home defense, but to safeguard against tyranny.  Just a few short decades ago authoritarian tyranny was rampant in the world.  Today it still exists, though in smaller, often ignored pockets.  But throughout all of human history, authoritarian tyranny has prevailed.

Over the course of the decades since World War II, democratic governments across the world have acted to restrict the liberty of their citizens to keep and bear arms.  As such, America stands as the last major western democratic nation where the people have retained that liberty.  We once learned and should now remember the horrible consequences that can befall an otherwise free people when their liberty to keep and bear arms is breached.  We should not be so cavalier as to yield our liberties when times are such that they may not seem to be crucial.  The liberty to keep and bear arms is crucial and will always be crucial because times change. History is not static.  We must maintain that particular liberty in order to have any hope of maintaining all our other liberties should the day come when it is necessary to defend them.  If we yield the liberty to keep and bear arms, all others will be placed in a state of perpetual jeopardy and we will have willingly exposed ourselves to all that history should by now have taught us to guard against.

 

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Trump, Cruz & The ‘Establishment’

The Republican Party ‘Establishment’ is beside itself.  Whether conducting a private island meeting off the coast of Georgia attended by the likes of Karl Rove, Bill Kristol, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and several other GOP members of Congress, or the dusting off, winding up and marching out of Mitt Romney to throw down the gauntlet against the Trump candidacy, the Establishment’s recent actions bespeak desperation.

Accustomed to taking turns at the White House with the Democrat Party, it seems the Establishment either did not recognize, or did not take seriously, the risk that its hold on the GOP might be meaningfully challenged.  It attempted to follow the tried and true strategy for success (at the primary stage if not the general election).  Just hand pick one of its own with a career in mainstream republican politics and a record of embracing big government, stuff his pockets with millions in campaign contributions, and wait for the money/marketing machine to grind the political bones of the rest of the field.  This time it was Jeb Bush’s turn; but there were signs almost immediately that the strategy wasn’t working.  With each passing week, the Establishment’s concern must’ve grown more dire.  By the time it became apparent that Jeb Bush would not be able to gain ground, the Establishment found itself without a viable champion and facing the reality of massive voter support for an anti-establishment candidate in Donald Trump.

Enter Marco Rubio.  Whether Marco Rubio is a ‘dyed in the wool’ establishment Republican is subject to serious question.  But it’s clear that the Establishment has now cast it’s lot with Rubio’s campaign.  Though not its first choice, Rubio is the candidate the Establishment has determined gives it the best chance of maintaining control of the Party.  John Kasich likely fits the mold well, but he was running far behind Rubio when the Establishment was forced to shift its support from Bush to another candidate.  Kasich was simply much longer odds than Rubio at the time.

Ted Cruz could never be its candidate, having demonstrated on multiple occasions that he stands on his own principles and won’t play by the Establishment’s rules.  Recall for example his highly criticized filibuster against the ACA and his reference on the Senate floor to Mitch McConnell as a liar for paving the way for the reinstitution of the Export-Import Bank.  The Establishment’s rejection of Cruz as its candidate has been obvious – his name is roundly omitted by Establishment talking heads as an alternative to the front running anti-establishment candidate Donald Trump, and none in the media or in the Party suggests that Cruz is meaningfully supported by any of the Establishment contingent.  And as Trump has eagerly pointed out, until very recently none of Cruz’s fellow senators had endorsed him.

The primary election process has revealed the severity of the Establishment’s problem. Thus far, the popular vote of the four remaining GOP candidates is as follows:  Trump: 4,339,971 votes, Cruz: 3,576,646 votes, Rubio: 2,399,505 votes and Kasich: 1,088,865 votes.  Counting only the votes cast in favor of these four remaining candidates, the anti-Establishment candidates have commanded 69% of the popular vote against 31% for Rubio and Kasich.  Again, whether Rubio is truly an establishment candidate is subject to debate.  Assuming for the sake of argument that he is, the anti-Establishment candidates have a near 7 to 3 margin over the establishment candidates at this point in the race.  Take Rubio out of the equation and the Establishment fares far worse.

In a recent column, Bruce Bartlett, a former treasury official who self identifies as a Republican despite the fact that he voted for Barack Obama, wrote that he voted for Trump in order to destroy the GOP.  “I believe that only when the GOP suffers a massive defeat will it purge itself of the crazies and forces of intolerance that have taken control of it. Then, and only then, can the GOP become a center-right governing party that deserves to occupy the White House.  The death of today’s Republican Party is, therefore, necessary to its survival, in my opinion. And Donald Trump can make it happen, which is why I voted for him.”

The popular vote thus far does not support Bartlett’s thesis.  The results demonstrate a disdain for the Establishment so severe that a loss by populist Donald Trump in the general election in November may be more likely to give rise to a subsequent movement toward Cruz’s constitutional conservatism or Rand Paul’s libertarianism than a resurgence of the Establishment.  Rather than a “center-right”, corporatist, statist Republican in the White House come 2020, Mr. Bartlett might have to be satisfied with a Constitutionalist or Libertarian who believes the Federal government should be a fraction of its present size.  Or perhaps the throngs of GOP voters who are obviously sick and tired of the Establishment will just stay home the next presidential election cycle.

Any of these scenarios foretell doom for the Establishment, at least with respect to the presidency.  Perhaps it’s time for the Establishment to consider the possibility that the grass roots is simply leaving it behind. An ineffective, if not compliant Congress, both houses of which have been controlled by the Establishment led GOP, has rendered the faithful angry and looking for alternatives.  There’s no immediate reason to expect they’ll change their minds and embrace the Establishment so long as it stands for cronyism, corporatism and cooperation with Democrats in continuing the expansion of the Federal government and in ignoring the desires and demands of such a large portion of the Party.

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Clarifying Mussolini

After World War I signaled the end of government by aristocracy in Europe, a lot of debate ensued regarding alternatives to replace them.  As autocratic dynasties were relegated to history, the next generation of leaders and academics argued the question of how nations should be governed in a post-aristocratic era.

In 1932, Benito Mussolini wrote about fascism, seeking to distinguish it favorably from other systems, including democratically structured governments.  In doing so, he conflated democracy and classical liberalism.  He wrote:  “Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises or in its practical application. Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation  Fascism has taken up an attitude of complete opposition to the doctrines of (classical) liberalism born in the political field and the field of economics…”

Mussolini’s initial comments are accurate—pure democracy or ‘majority rule’ cannot effectively “direct human society”.  But he later seemingly equates democracy with classical liberalism by using the terms more or less interchangeably.  In truth, classical liberalism is the antithesis of majority rule.  Classical liberalism is a moral and social philosophy standing for strictly limited government.  Government authority should be limited to the protection of individual rights, ensuring security from outside and internal threats, and administering civil and criminal justice.

America was founded on classical liberal first principles and the governmental system the founders thought best to safeguard these principles was a constitutional republic—a representative government which, though it would operate on democratic principles, would be constrained by the Constitution’s strict limits on government power.  The reason America was not a country where the majority attempted to “direct human society” was because the government was so effectively limited.  Only when the Constitution has been disregarded, has American government slid ever closer toward the conditions Mussolini describes—a democratically instituted government attempting to direct all of society.

Mussolini also made a prediction which proved sadly accurate, but not in the way he anticipated.  “(F)or if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism (liberalism always signifying individualism) it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the state…”  We now know that Mussolini’s particular brand of fascism failed upon defeat in World War II.  But communism and socialism gained an ever larger foothold through much of the 20th century and fascist principles are often employed by governments without regard to the manner in which leaders are selected or otherwise established in office. Further, the American government slowly but consistently metamorphosized from a constitutionally constrained republic founded on the principles of classic liberalism to representative majoritarianism as the Constitution’s constraints on the government’s power were systematically diminished over time.  This didn’t happen because it was inevitable, or because classical liberalism doesn’t work.  It happened because we permitted the Constitution to be too much and too often disregarded, rendering it weaker and less effective as a constraint on government.

Viewed from the turn of the millennium and beyond, the 20th century proved to be “the century of the state” as Mussolini predicted, not through the despotism he expected, but at the hands of democratic governments with powers too broad to allow classical liberal principles to thrive.  Liberty and statism are inversely correlated.  One only expands by displacing the other.  At the turn of the 20th century, America was a stalwart of classical liberalism.  As a result of the diminishment of our Constitution throughout remainder of the century after Mussolini’s comments, America devolved into an ever more statist country.  Though it is now perhaps one of the last fields upon which the battle for strictly limited government and unalienable individual rights is still waged, that battle is now mostly confined to the arena of ideas.  Our political reality is that nearly all of our elected representatives now embrace the use of unconstitutional power and expansive state authority far beyond what our first principles contemplate or our real Constitution authorizes.

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Hillary’s “Ridiculous” Hypocrisy

Hillary Clinton’s effort to avoid blame for her breach of protocols due to the “ridiculousness” of the rules she broke violates her core statist principles which dictate that the state should regulate human activity because it does more good than harm when it does so.  Those principles motivate her policy positions…at least as long as they don’t inconvenience her or get her into trouble.

Last week, Hillary Clinton seized on a Politico article authored by Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department official, in defense of her e-mail account misconduct.  Miller wrote that “the sheer volume of information now considered classified, as well as the extreme, and often absurd, interpretations by intelligence officials about what is and is not classified, make it nearly impossible for officials charged with operating in both the classified and unclassified worlds to do so without ever mixing the two.”  Clinton jumped at the chance to justify her conduct linking to the article and tweeting “‘Our ridiculous classification rules’ are the real problem”.  In doing so, she acted contrary to her core beliefs as a statist in order to provide a defense for her misconduct.

Hillary Clinton is a modern liberal statist and advocates government regulation of human activity.  She thinks the government should regulate citizens in farming, industry, employment, health care, food safety, drug safety, and virtually anything potentially affecting the environment (which of course means just about everything).  She thinks the government can and should undertake such an aggressive and all-encompassing regulatory effort because society benefits if it does so.

She is aware of the monetary costs, inefficiencies and lost opportunities these regulations impose on citizens.  She knows that the rules and regulations which touch upon every aspect of life must prove unfair or unreasonable on a daily basis in their application to specific individuals whose unique circumstances could not have been considered in the adoption of rules to be universally applied.  She obviously does not think that a plea of “ridiculousness” is a defense sufficient to overcome the application of a rule or regulation applicable to society at large.

The three legitimate functions of government are, (1) ensuring individual liberty, (2) securing the nation from foreign aggression and (3) administering civil and criminal justice.  Though modern liberal statists like Clinton go far beyond, advocating the routine violation of the first function by virtue of myriad regulatory and redistributive schemes mandated by force of law for the supposed benefit of society at large, modern liberals still formally acknowledge those three core functions of government.  Obviously, the classification of information for national security purposes falls within one of those core functions, namely, securing the nation from foreign aggression.  Accordingly, virtually everyone agrees that the protocols for classifying that information play a key role in fulfilling one of the government’s core functions.

Without hesitation, Clinton seized upon the argument that the rule proscribing her conduct is unfair, unreasonable, or “ridiculous”.  She made this point despite the fact that the rule she complains of is integral to one of the primary functions of any government.  Implicit in her tweeted statement, is an acknowledgment that the government cannot always get it right, even when performing its most essential functions.  Also implicit in her statement, is an assertion that the statist political class isn’t, or shouldn’t be, subject to the same stringent inflexibility with respect to the rule of law as the great unwashed masses.  Of course, hypocrisy in the application of laws to the political class is nothing new.  Recall Congress’s ObamaCare exemption.

The bottom line is this – top down, invasive, abusive regulations are just fine when imposed on you for any reason the government thinks is a good idea.  If regulations aren’t reasonable and you suffer expense or inconvenience, that’s ok because it’s all for the greater good.  You aren’t sufficiently important and don’t have enough “pull” to achieve an exception for yourself.  But expect the Secretary of State to comply with protocols deemed crucial to national security which she thinks are unreasonable, cumbersome or inefficient?

Don’t be ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

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