Saturday, December 30, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
Whenever U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who will soon chair the House Ways and Means Committee, calls for resumption of military conscription, a host of powerful figures, Republican and Democrat, civilian and military, chime in at once to repudiate his proposal. They respond that the U.S. military doesn’t need or want a draft. It’s good to hear them say that, and let’s hope they mean it. The draft has no place in a free society because it is slavery, the kind that can get you killed or put you in a position where you might kill someone else.Read the rest of my latest op-ed, "End Draft Registration," at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
We opponents of the draft, however, would feel more comfortable if the people distancing themselves from Rangel would do something solid to show that they mean what they say. There’s a great way for them to show their bona fides: end draft registration.
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
A few tastes:
Not mentioned in the film is that Mr. [Aaron] Russo has more than $2 million of tax liens filed against him by the Internal Revenue Service, California and New York for unpaid federal and state taxes. Mr. Russo declined to discuss the liens, saying they were not relevant to his film....
Near the film's beginning Mr. Russo says, and others appear on screen asserting, that the Internal Revenue Service has refused every request to show any law making Americans liable for an income tax on their wages.Yet among those thanked in the credits for their help in making the film is Anthony Burke, an I.R.S. spokesman. Mr. Burke said that when Mr. Russo called him asking what law required the payment of income taxes on wages, he sent Mr. Russo a link to documents, including Title 26 of the United States Code, citing the specific sections that require income taxes be paid on wages. Title 26 says on its face that it is law enacted by Congress, but Mr. Russo denied this fact....
One tax protester featured in the film, Irwin Schiff of Las Vegas, is now serving his third prison sentence after being convicted of tax evasion crimes. Mr. Schiff introduced into his criminal case the notes of his psychiatrist, who wrote that Mr. Schiff was a successful tax shelter salesman until a con artist ripped him and his clients off. The psychiatrist concluded that Mr. Schiff became delusional, believing he alone could properly interpret the tax code, as a way to avoid acknowledging reality.
Later, one of Mr. Schiff's confederates, who was also later convicted and sent to prison, sent e-mail messages to supporters saying that the psychiatrist's notes were introduced as part of a ruse to help Mr. Schiff escape prosecution.
In the case of Gerald Ford, a man who spent most of his adult life "reaching across the aisle" to impose laws on other people and taxing and spending their money, isn't it almost uncanny how destiny happened along and picked just the right man exactly when he was needed? And isn't it remarkable that in hindsight his decision to pardon Criminal-in-Chief Nixon (whose offenses, domestic and foreign, were endless) was the wise decision after all? (Why couldn't we see it back then?!)
I feel so secure knowing the locomotive of history is always on the right track, even when it doesn't appear that way. We can count on the government-media complex to be there to remind us just when we need reminding.
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Hat tip: Kent Hastings
- I'm not sure he ever really wanted to be president.
- In 2 1/2 years he vetoed 66 bills.
- He was a pipe smoker.
I pointed out that he never would have thought to say "if there are any Jews left after what we've been through" and that atheists were as deserving of not being insulted as Jews were. I noted that there are atheists who believe in individual rights and private property.
I got a form thank-you letter.
Finally, he was the only sitting president I ever saw in person -- not that that's a big deal or anything. But there it is.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
In this post I linked to three articles of mine titled "Beware Income-Tax Casuistry," which were first published in Freedom Daily (The Future of Freedom Foundation) and now are posted on FFF's website. In these articles I make several points, namely, that:
1) while the income tax is immoral and illegitimate (in the sense of violating individual rights and natural law), it is not unconstitutional or "illegal" (in the narrow sense of being an enactment of government).
2) the courts have consistently held that the U.S. government -- from the founding -- had a "plenary" and "all-embracing" power of taxation; that is, it had the constitutional authority to tax anything and everything, including incomes, subject to two restrictions.
3) the Sixteenth Amendment had one purpose: to remove one of those restrictions. In other words, the Sixteenth Amendment did not give the federal government a power it did not possess previously. It only let the government impose a tax on some kinds of income (from real and personal property) in a way it was prohibited from doing previously. In still other words, the Amendment was not needed to permit the taxation of income from labor. As a corollary and contrary to popular belief, no Supreme Court ever ruled that a tax on wages was unconstitutional.
4) most of the claims of the so-called tax-protester movement (TPM) are bogus, specifically, the claim that the income tax -- as currently enforced -- is unconstitutional.
Also implied, but not discussed, in the article is that by conventional legal and constitutional (though not by libertarian) standards, the government has indeed imposed a tax on incomes "from whatever source derived." This view is contrary to the TMP, which has turned out reams of paper arguing that in fact there is no income tax on the books and that if there is, it is illegal and unconstitutional.
Having read much of the TPM literature and the relevant court cases, I find no merit to their arguments. I wish it were otherwise. I would love to be able to believe that the government never really passed the tax, or passed it in a way that honest courts would find illegitimate. But it's not true.
This has upset some people. Why do I raise the issue? I do so because, first, I don't want to see gullible and wishful-thinking libertarians led astray. They might go to prison if they pursue courses of action endorsed by the TPM.
Second, the movement discredits serious libertarian objections to taxation and government -- so much so that were I conspiracy-minded, I would suspect the TPM was an IRS front set up to subject libertarians to ridicule. That's how ridiculous its grounds for protest are.
As I say in the article, we won't beat the income tax by legal sleight of hand before some judge. We'll only beat it by convincing a critical mass of people that taxation is theft and that government is organized aggression.
Make no mistake about it: I believe the income tax (like all taxation) is theft and in conflict with natural rights and natural law. But something immoral can be constitutional and "legal." Libertarians shouldn't have to be reminded of that.
For more information see this excellent website.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
America's Red Ink
Sunday, December 24, 2006; B06
The largest employer in the world announced on Dec. 15 that it lost about $450 billion in fiscal 2006. Its auditor found that its financial statements were unreliable and that its controls were inadequate for the 10th straight year. On top of that, the entity's total liabilities and unfunded commitments rose to about $50 trillion, up from $20 trillion in just six years.
If this announcement related to a private company, the news would have been on the front page of major newspapers. Unfortunately, such was not the case -- even though the entity is the U.S. government.
To put the figures in perspective, $50 trillion is $440,000 per American household and is more than nine times as much as the median household income.
The only way elected officials will be able to make the tough choices necessary to put our nation on a more prudent and sustainable long-term fiscal path is if opinion leaders state the facts and speak the truth to the American people.
The Government Accountability Office is working with the Concord Coalition, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation and others to help educate the public about the facts in a professional, nonpartisan way. We hope the media and other opinion leaders do their part to save the future for our children and grandchildren.
DAVID M. WALKER
Comptroller General of the United States
Government Accountability Office
The American military command in Iraq is now willing to back a temporary increase in American troops in Baghdad as part of a broader Iraqi and United States effort to stem the slide toward chaos, senior American officials said Saturday. . . .
Until recently, the top ground commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., has argued that sending more American forces into Baghdad and Anbar Province, the two most violent regions of Iraq, would increase the Iraqi dependency on Washington, and in the words of one senior official, “make this feel more like an occupation.”
But General Casey and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has day-to-day command of American forces in Iraq, indicated they were open to a troop increase when Mr. [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates met with them in Baghdad this week.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Fine. If they all really mean it, let them end draft registration. Bush can do this by executive order. The incoming congressional leadership should call on him to do it. If there is no need for a draft -- there can't be; it is slavery, after all -- there is no need for registration.
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.
Friday, December 22, 2006
In other News of the Empire, newly installed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says "we need to make damned sure that the neighbors understand that we're going to be here a long time -- here being the Persian Gulf." How would George II react if, say, the president of Iran sent ships to the Gulf of Mexico and made the same sort of statement?
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The Future of Freedom Foundation has posted at its website my three-part series "Beware Income-Tax Casuistry." In that series I analyze the claim that the income tax is unconstitutional and illegal. The results might be other than you'd expect. Just because the income tax is immoral and illegitimate doesn't mean it is unconstitutional and illegal. See what you think. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.
This series has upset more than a few members of the tax-protestor movement. It's gotten me denounced as an impostor and an ignoramus. If I were conspiracy-minded, I'd suspect that the tax-protest movement was an IRS front set up to discredit serious libertarians.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.When every one is somebodee,
Then no one's anybody!
Monday, December 18, 2006
Undoubtedly, Friedman’s decision to interact with officials of repressive governments creates uncomfortable tensions for his libertarian admirers; I could, and often do, wish he hadn’t done it. But given what it probably meant for economic wealth and liberty in the long term for the people of Chile, that’s a selfish reaction. Pinochet’s economic policies do not ameliorate his crimes, despite what his right-wing admirers say. But Friedman, as an economic advisor to all who’d listen, neither committed his crimes, nor admired the criminal.Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
When John Kerry came back from fighting in Vietnam, he famously inquired, How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake? Regarding the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), a lot of people would like to know, How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bipartisan compromise?The rest of my op-ed "Death by Consensus" is at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Mankind has had less effect on global warming than previously supposed, a United Nations report on climate change will claim next year.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there can be little doubt that humans are responsible for warming the planet, but the organisation has reduced its overall estimate of this effect by 25 per cent.
In a final draft of its fourth assessment report, to be published in February, the panel reports that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has accelerated in the past five years. It also predicts that temperatures will rise by up to 4.5 C during the next 100 years, bringing more frequent heat waves and storms.
The panel, however, has lowered predictions of how much sea levels will rise in comparison with its last report in 2001.Read the rest here.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I'm bothered, however, by other things Lindsey says. For example:
The basic outlines of a viable compromise are clear enough. On the one hand, restrictions on competition and burdens on private initiative would be lifted to encourage vigorous economic growth and development. At the same time, some of the resulting wealth-creation would be used to improve safety-net policies that help those at the bottom and ameliorate the hardships inflicted by economic change. [Emphasis added.]This really misses the bus. Libertarians need to be investing their energies in demonstrating that the hardships inflicted by economic change would be ameliorated by full economic freedom. In other words, libertarians must emphasize that the current corporate state is shot through with anti-competitive privileges (subsidies, trade restrictions, regulations, and taxes) that raise the cost of starting businesses and in turn limit the opportunities -- including self-employment opportunities -- of average workers, who otherwise are stuck with too few options. Republicans and Democrats tend not to care about such privileges. Democrats who say they bleed for the downtrodden are particularly culpable. They whine about the minimum wage being too low, but they won't lift a finger to do what is really necessary to enable the most vulnerable to advance. These include wholesale elimination of licensing and permitting, and all the other devices that by nature favor incumbent firms over start-ups.
Lindsey writes that "progressives remain stubbornly resistant to embracing capitalism, their great natural ally." Assuming he's referring to genuinely good-faith "progressives" and not Democratic pols, there's no mystery to be solved here. Good-faith progressives shun capitalism because historically capitalism has been associated with not laissez faire but state privileges for capitalists. Why shouldn't they resist it? The great nineteenth-century libertarians, such as Benjamin Tucker, called themselves socialists for this very reason. They wanted nothing to do with capitalism.
Until libertarians emphasize their opposition to all corporate welfare kings at least as much as they emphasize their opposition to inner-city welfare queens, they will continue to alienate genuine progressives.
To his credit, Lindsey mentions corporate welfare, specifically farm and energy subsidies. But analysis of the corporate state must go deeper than that. Privilege pervades the economic system. Any regulation or tax is a lighter burden on a large established firm than it is on a small company or not-yet-started company. The system is one big privilege. The government's land holdings and land-use restrictions are part of that system. We have to say it often and say it loud. Laissez faire is anti-privilege in all forms.
I should also mention that so-called government safety nets have historically been used to control the poor. Rather than become a member of a "strengthen the safety net" coalition, libertarians should be talking about mutual aid, both the theory and the rich history. (Here's a good place to start: David Beito's From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State.)
Shift taxes away from things we want more of and onto things we want less of. Specifically, cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption. Go ahead, tax the rich, but don't do it when they're being productive. Tax them instead when they're splurging--by capping the deductibility of home-mortgage interest and tax incentives for purchasing health insurance. And tax everybody's energy consumption.This isn't a compromise with "liberals." It's a wholesale embrace of social engineering. It's not just that taxation is theft; it's that Lindsey accepts the tax system as an engine of behavioral modification. Why the puritan notion of taxing consumption? What's wrong with consumption? That's why we produce, dammit! As an aside, the first President Bush tried taxing luxury goods, but the Democrats repealed the tax when they realized it hurt workers who build yachts and the like.
What gets taxed is less important that the total take, but on this issue, Lindsey throws in the towel.
With millions already dependent on the current programs, and with baby boomers beginning to retire in just a couple of years, libertarians' dreams of dramatically shrinking federal spending are flatly unrealizable for many years to come.If libertarians merely forge an alliance to shape the existing level of spending, that dream will never be realizable. The time to talk about slashing spending and taxation is now.
Finally, I note for the record that anti-imperialism is not part of Lindsey's coalition program. He does list "extremist assertions of executive power under cover of fighting terrorism; and . . . an atrociously bungled war in Iraq"in his indictment of the Republicans, but that falls short of opposition to Empire. Didn't he favor the Iraq war? Yes, he did.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Global warming is a divisive issue. People are either believers or skeptics, with each side viewing the other with apprehension. I've sided firmly with the skeptics, but lately I have had a nagging concern. Like most people, I am not an atmospheric scientist. I have no firsthand way to evaluate a scientific claim for or against the existence of global warming. So what grounds have I for believing what one scientist says against the thesis over what another one says in favor of it?Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the website of the Foundation for Economic Education.
No good grounds at all. . . .
This much I know: these are highly complex empirical questions. They are not a political, ethical, or ideological questions. Thus the answers must be left to the scientific process, preferably untainted by government control.
In the meantime, laymen committed to individual freedom have their own question to attend to: If potentially harmful manmade climate change is occurring, how can it be addressed without violating liberty?
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
About the Iraq Study Group report, I want to know: How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a bipartisan compromise?
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Except for government’s coercive monopoly, there is no reason that entrepreneurship couldn’t provide defense against a nuclear threat. If there’s a way to protect ourselves from rogues with nukes, the free market will find it.Read the rest of my article "In the Freelance Nuclear Age, the State Is a Liability" at the website of the Center for a Stateless Society.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Whether Iraq is embroiled in a civil war is a matter of some controversy. News organizations such as NBC have dramatically announced that, indeed, it is. Pundits solemnly the debate the question on cable news talk shows. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says yes. Present Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says no.The rest of my latest op-ed is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.
Of course, the president of the United States agrees with Rice. He has two good reasons for doing so. If President Bush admits we have a civil war on our hands, the American people will (1) know that the Bush doctrine is a big flop, and (2) wonder why we should stay in Iraq.So what sounds like a debate over semantics is really a matter of politics.
Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Without notifying the public, federal agents for the past four years have assigned millions of international travelers, including Americans, computer-generated scores rating the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals.See Glenn Greenwald's extended comment here. A sample:
The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years.
There is more than ample ground for believing that this administration has engaged in all sorts of wrongdoing and lawbreaking. Even if that were not the case, there are all sorts of questions that ought to be publicly debated, not decided by Dick Cheney in the dark. There is no good or even decent argument -- none -- for believing that those matters ought to be simply left unexplored and undisturbed by Congressional Democrats due to some unseemly eagerness to show how "moderate" they are in order to maximize their prospects in the 2008 elections.
In coming months, we're sure to hear a great deal of talk tarring Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the present-day incarnations of Sen. Reed Smoot and Rep. Willis Hawley, the sponsors of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. But Smoot and Hawley were both Republicans. And so was the president whose signature turned the bad legislation into a disastrous law. The protectionist gene may no longer be dominant among Republicans, but it's still an important part of the GOP's DNA.Read the rest at Slate.com.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
The big news coming out of this meeting of minds [between Jesse Jackson and Michael Richards] is that Jackson, as supreme leader of all things black, has launched Operation N-word Freedom, a campaign to liberate the nation (finally!) from the dreaded N-word. Jesse now challenges all black people everywhere to "give our ancestors a present." No, not the gift of elevation though education and hard work. Jesse wants us to stop using hurtful words.Read the rest of John Ridley's Los Angeles Times op-ed, "No More Edicts, Jesse," here.
Jesse wants this?
Jesse Jackson, the same cat who once referred to Jews as "hymies" and New York as "Hymietown"? This same guy who denied it when the statement was made public, kept up the denial after the journalist who reported his slur had his life threatened, and only under immense pressure finally admitted that, well, perhaps he'd made a slip of the tongue? Twice?
And he wants to lecture us regarding the usage of hurtful words?
I am all for having open and intelligent discourse on the word "nigger." What I am wholly against are hypocrites who sling hate in private, then smile to us while they lie, telling the rest of us that intellectual debate is closed.
Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but the America I support through paying taxes in my over-inflated bracket allows me not to bow down automatically to your linguistic fatwas. Not all of us quake and quiver before mere words.
We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.This is from Diane McWhorter's article "The N-Word: Unmentionable Lessons of the Midterm Aftermath," at Slate.com. Highly recommended.
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial nicely illustrates how Washington works. The Bush administration has been pushing for a measure to "normalize" trade relations with Vietnam. (Normalize is a Washington term that does not mean free trade.) Congress said no just as President Bush was preparing to visit that country last week, a major embarrassment for the administration. But as the Journal pointed out, "[T]his failure is an even bigger fiasco than it appears because of the White House's pandering to the U.S. textile industry. It's a case study in how protectionists never stay bought."Read the rest of this week's TGIF column at the website of the Foundation for Economic Education.
The war in Iraq goes on, but we shouldn’t let it overshadow the war at home — one that frequently takes the lives of people who don’t deserve to die. It’s known as the War on Drugs, but it’s really a war on people who themselves are not making war against anyone. Too often individuals minding their own business are killed by government officers. In the name of decency, this war must end.
By now many people have heard that an 88-year-old Atlanta woman who lived alone was shot dead November 21 by police raiding her home on the basis of a confidential informant’s claim that he had bought crack cocaine from a man at that location. However, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the unidentified informant says the police told him after the shooting to lie about the drug buy.
Read the rest of my latest op-ed at the website of The Future of Freedom Foundation.