Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On "I, Pencil"

Leonard Read's classic essay "I, Pencil" is deceptively simple. It exposes something that benefits us daily but that we rarely perceive: the power of the market to produce goods and services, not by demanding that they be produced, but by allowing people to act freely along every step of the way. Of course the example of a pencil is merely incidental. This could have been the story of a million other products that are readily available to us, thanks to the power of the free market to effectively allocate resources. The point is that the process is decentralized and spontaneous. Every worker in the making of a pencil is working for themselves, not for the goal of making a pencil. To them, the pay they receive is worth the labor they put in. Each party benefits, and nobody is coerced. Not only is voluntary action the most morally acceptable, but it provides the best incentives for people to produce the most at the lowest cost. If we zoom out from any one of these single transactions, we would see a growing web of interaction which, as a whole, creates our entire economy. The beauty of this system, and what makes it so easily taken for granted, is the fact that it arises naturally when people are simply allowed to trade with each other on their own terms and not according to any particular scheme or design.
This is not easily grasped by most casual observers of economics. In his essay, "Why I Am No Longer A 'Brain-Dead Liberal'," the playwright David Mamet explains that, like most government apologists, he once saw the state as the solution to society's problems. If only it could have a little more control of our affairs, it could set them in the right order for us. It took him 60 years of experience before he came to realize this simple truth: that people are self-interested and that "...the world in which I actually functioned day to day was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other." Along with this realization, Mamet came to see the idealistic goals of most government schemes as naive and misguided since they only disrupt the spontaneous and voluntary system of free enterprise and result in unforeseen harm. From the increasingly statist flavor of modern politics, more and more government plans promise to correct the imperfections of our world (healthcare for all, affordable housing, protection of domestic markets). The truth is that the world in which we live is not perfect, but it is generally best served by getting out of the way and letting people handle their problems themselves.

by Brian Bisek

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Destroy an Economy

If I were a congressman, this is the speech I would've given a little more than a year ago, as the economy collapse was just happening. I would've been dead-serious as I strode up to the podium:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are no doubt living in perilous times. The economy has recently tanked, and the stock market is down greatly. But before we all panic and act hastily, let me read you something. It is entitled 'How to Destroy an Economy.'

If one were set on destroying an economy how would they do it? Here are a few of the ways I could see it happening:

1. Create a state of panic. Threaten martial law. Say how if we don't act now the sky will fall down. Do everything to over-exaggerate the severity of the crisis.

2. Double the money supply in a few short months. Do this by print trillions of dollars backed by nothing but their own paper.

3. Bail out and rescue those whose bad decisions led to this collapse. Create a false impression that some companies are just too big to fail. Create a giant moral hazard for corporations to engage in more future risky adventures and then try to keep a straight face when you say you won't bail them out again. Don't tell the people that the corporations you bail out finance your reelection campaigns.

4. Print a trillion dollars to pass an economic stimulus package based on the dubious premise of what we need is more borrowing and spending. Don't tell people we got into this mess by too much borrowing and spending. Pass the stimulus by saying we don't have a day to spare, but then wait a few days to sign it.

5. Create a scapegoat for the collapse by demonizing capitalism. Tell the masses we got into this mess by having too much freedom. Create the impression that we need more government and more regulation and less freedom.

6. Say that the debate is over on economic policies. Phrase all sentences by saying "all economists agree" followed by your plan.

7. Run a projected $10 trillion deficit over the next ten years. Create excuses for it by childishly saying "but the other party did it when they were in office!"

8. Use the crisis for other opportunities. "Never let a crisis go to waste" some in the highest positions may say. Pass healthcare reform with money you don't have.

9. Give the government institutions who created this mess more power. Let the quasi-government institution that has been the source of all bubbles be the regulator of future bubbles.

10. Reappoint the Fed Chairmen whose nickname is "HELICOPTER Ben!"

Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Time That the Congress Did its Job...its Real Job

There has been a lot of talk recently about the war in Afghanistan, and whether or not Barack Obama will send more troops (again) to continue it. I was watching an interview on Fox News last week with two Congresspersons, one Democrat and one Republican, weighing in on the war. By the end, I wasn’t stunned by the responses, just disappointed. Disappointed in the utter disregard for the legislature’s duty to provide a check and balance on the executive branch as ordered by the Constitution.

The Republican talked at great length about “supporting the troops”. This is a phrase that we’ve seen many times to justify the perpetuation of war. We often hear rhetoric about “supporting the troops,” and how cutting the funding for the war will put our troops in danger. Cutting the funding to the war is almost unthinkable by many in the congress, even those who don’t support the war. This “support our troops” rhetoric, as it is used by many on the right, deems such action as un-American. It is almost as if putting troops in harms way (un-Constitutionally, might I add) by the executive is less of a threat to their well being, than the Congress ending the funding of the war. This rhetoric has effectively neutralized the Congress’s “power of the purse,” which is an essential check on executive power.

The Democrat went on for a long time about supporting whatever decision the President comes to. Here, again, we see the disregard for the Constitutional powers granted to the Congress. It seems that no one remembers the idea that the Executive is supposed to enforce the laws (and wars) deemed necessary by the Congress—not the other way around. Our system of politics has strayed far from the framing of government provided in the constitution. It is a system of the party, by the party, and for the party; a system where the people, philosophy, and common sense play an insignificant role in the shaping of policy.

It is time that Congress starts doing its job—its real job. Stop blindly following your president and take a concrete stand on issues. The label “Democrat” or “Republican” should not take precedence over your philosophical ideals. If you oppose the war, oppose it. Don’t wait to see what your commander in chief thinks about it. Start providing a check on the authoritarian office that the Presidency has become. Stop undermining your own authority with your rhetoric! Most importantly, follow the Constitution and play your much-needed part in this government. It is your duty not only to this country, but to the people you represent.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Barack Obama: Nobel Prize Winner

The cult of personality that is Barack Obama has reached a still higher level of power and influence today. He was unanimously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Nobel Prize Committee for his vision and the work he has done around the world.

What work, I ask? What specifically has he done to make the world a more peaceful place? Iran is still making weekly threats against Israel, North Korean relations have crumbled further, and he has expanded the war in Afghanistan, encompassing parts of Pakistan and is considering expanding it further with another troop deployment.

This selection is like the last presidential election in miniature. The judges were clearly so won over by his flowery speech and promises of a better world that they paid no attention to his track record, which is essentially blank.

I honestly would rather have seen Bono get the Prize. I'm serious.

Brb, off to buy a commemorative T-Shirt!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Controversial topic

For my political science class I must write a 3-4 page paper on a controversial topic concerning a constitutional amendment. When I finish the paper, I will condense it into a blog post or an article for our news paper. I will probably be posting things I find from my research too, so look out for it in the next couple weeks.

Before I can do any of this I must pick a topic, so does anyone have any ideas for a topic? Right now I'm thinking of Plaxico Burress and the Second Amendment or California and the Tenth Amendment (Marijuana). Any suggestions will be much appreciated.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Two-Party System: Tyranny of Two Majorities?

I was in a class discussion section earlier today for my History of American Political thought class, and my TA proposed to us a question: "Madison, in the Federalist Papers, warned against the dangers of faction, and argued that if a wide array of viewpoints and interests was not represented in the Congress, a 'tyranny of the majority' would be formed and force their agenda on the populace. Considering the current look of our U.S. Congress, how well have we followed his advice? To what degree are the populace's views accurately represented?"

I raised my hand and replied: "I believe the current system could be called a tyranny of two alternating majorities, where only two specific sets of political ideals get a fair shake and a real say in the legislative process. There are a huge amount of political parties in this country that you never hear about, or maybe you've never even heard of. The fact that the Democrats and Republicans are the only two political parties most people are aware of is proof that we have not followed Madison's advice."

A girl replied to this by saying that I was incorrect, that the Republicans and Democrats offer two very different viewpoints, and within the party there are many different individuals with diffuse interests who accurately represent the people of the nation.

She gave examples of areas where Democrat (she referred to Dems as 'We' and Repubs as 'they') and Republican policies supposedly differ: "Afghanistan, taxes, size of government, Iraq, health care, and education, to name a few" she said.

I challenged her on that. I asked "Just how does the current administration's Afghanistan policy differ from the previous administration? You know Obama has INCREASED the war budget, right? You realize government GREW drastically during the Bush administration? These two parties operate in a very narrow framework and are much more alike than you think."

Then the bell rang, and class was dismissed. I'm glad I was able to get some kids in class to think about the goals of the framers vs. the system we know today. This is why groups like YAL are important. We have to continue to increase our influence on the political system, despite the choke hold of the two dominant factions, and insert viewpoints into the national political dialogue that people aren't used to hearing. That's how to avoid the tyranny of the majority, and make America more free.

Sukawatis vs. The Man

I'm in Anthro 104 - Cultural Antrophology - this semester. Most of the class so far has consisted of depressing statistics about how women are always oppressed and probably always will be. I'm no women's studies major, so I didn't find this terribly enlightening - but there was one horror story that I did pick up on. In Bali, there is an indigenous tribe of agricultural peoples called the Sukawati. They had a beautiful and ancient culture that revolved around ideas similar to Aristotle and eastern philosophies. Unfortunately, they were brutally disrupted when the USSR deemed that they were not productive enough, and were not doing their part to serve the rest of the members of the country - selfishly producing only what they needed to survive, so they decided to force the Sukawatis to grow higher yielding type of engineered rice. Now, one thing we take for granted as US citizens is the ability of our farmers to farm year after year on the same plot of land. This is a relatively new ability of humans, and requries a huge amount of capital and technology. To cope with the problem of overfarming, some less technologically-heavy societies, such as the Sukawatis, use a process of crop rotation to let the land heal. This is no easy process, and they even had extensive cultural practices - rituals, holidays and temples - dedicated to regulating and smoothing out the complex process of crop rotation in a society of thousands. When the new rice was implemented, its shorter growing period threw off all of the tables, rituals and customs these people had known for centuries, and their food production industry crumbled.

What I noticed when I heard this story was something I head noticed from almost every instance of government interaction - their inability to deal with spontaneous orders. Notice that the problem of the Sukawatis didn't arise because of a failure of communication, since even the Suwatis didn't know the purpose of their cultures, or the underlying structure or meaning to their water schedules, since they were both produced by the same invisible hand method, over hundreds of years, without the direct intention, planning or well-meaning of any individual that could be asked. The problem with most government interactions isn't that they haven't been done by the right people, it's that they can't be done efficiently by any human, since their underlying structure and purpose is beyond the scope of any one humans comprehension.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Social Security running annual deficits now

It was reported over the weekend that SS is now paying out more than it will take in because the recession has taken a heavy toll on revenues and more and more old people have been calling it quits because there are no jobs left in the country and have opted into the program earlier than they would have otherwise.

I found the article biased in my opinion. In the second paragraph the AP appeared to praise the federal government for running a cumulative $2.5 trillion SS surplus over the years. The only problem with that is...all that money was spent. It's not there anymore, just a bunch of IOU's sitting in a vault somewhere. So there is no money. SS is the epitome of failed government programs. The situation is so bad I seriously I doubt our parents who have been paying in the system of 30, 40 years will get more of a fraction of what they paid in back.

The other part I found unrealistic was that it claimed after the next two years of annual deficits, SS will run annual surpluses again until 2016 (down from 2040 as of 2 yrs ago I think). This is looking through a rose-colored lens as government always does, just like the CBO budget deficits that get revised a few trillion up every few months. That 2016 date assumes we get out of recession this year and have a substantial recovery. Of course though, through all of the policies being pursued now by the Obama administration we will be guaranteed to be in an economic black hole for years to come. So I'll predict right now on the record that SS will never run an annual surplus again...EVER.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mothers waking up to Ron Paul

Glenn Beck recently hosted a town hall with mothers, who he feels really get the long-term picture of what's happening in the country more than fathers do. In one part a woman says Ron Paul is the only one in Washington representing the people and then for a second or two pauses to reflect on Dr. Paul before proclaiming in wonderment "What he has done for our country is just amazing." In this next part Angel Robinson from Campaign for Liberty takes it to the Fed for about a minute and half starting at 2:20.

Go Moms!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Student Organization Fair

A few weeks ago, put right across from the International Socialist Organization table, we were at the campus student org fair. Despite being surrounded by arch-enemies, it was tremendously successful. At least a dozen people had recognized our name from the chalking we had been doing for about a week, and we got over 60 new signatures, nearly all of which said that they completely agreed with us. Just goes to show you that there are more liberty streaks than you think, as long as you're willing to unearth them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We're Getting Noticed!

Working towards the ideals of liberty at the UW Madison campus can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming when you're faced against a student body that can most correctly be characterized as dominated by socialist-liberals, some who have even come to the conclusion that health care is a natural "right". We'll save the health care debate for another day, however I think its important to talk about the challenge of this uphill battle. I often find my own enthusiasm for our message of "freedom from government" a bit bogged down by the apparent lack of support for the subject at our campus, but it's days like today that keep the fire in my belly churning. I opened the opinion section of the Badger Herald today and found a most inspiring article titled: "Realignment coming with Young Americans for Liberty"! I almost didn't believe it, but the author of the article cited our group as, "the right-wing student organization likeliest to effect genuine realignment within the Republican Party". A mention of our passionate tabling efforts on State Street mall for Constitution Day was mentioned as bringing a smile to his face. Well let me say that this article brought a smile to mine. I hold this article with great pride and as a showcase for the momentum of our group, showing us all that we're getting noticed, and more importantly, hopefully inspiring us so that we can achieve even more in the near future! I recommend reading the article for yourself, just try not to smile too much.

Constitution Day Project

On Friday September 18th, (the day after Constitution Day) our chapter set up a table at the end of State Street mall in order to hand out free constitutions, spread the message of liberty, and spread awareness of our organization on campus. We successfully handed out over 100 pocket constitutions, (we could have done a lot more if we had the resources) and also gave away other important information including Audit the Fed flyers. I recommend checking out the video posted in the link below to get the full picture of what we were about on Constitution Day of this year at UW Madison!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Drinking age of 21 doesn't work

There was a great opinion piece about the absurdities of the drinking age on CNN today by John M. Cardell. Over the summer, I met a Danish fellow who said that dangerous college binge drinking is entirely unheard of in Denmark - they're secret? the drinking age is 15. There, the phenomenon of rebellious drinking dies at age 14-16, while they are still in care of their parents. By the time they're living on their own, drinking is seen as a lubricant for social settings at most. This friend of mine even went so far as to cite the popularity of drugs in America as a side effect of our rediculous drinking laws, which make illegal drugs just as easily obtainable as alcohol for most people under 21. It really makes me wonder if "adults" will ever look at us hopeless, rauckus youths and realize that freedom and responsibility flow in both directions.