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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Monday, March 30, 2009

Appearance on Arkansas Public TV

I appeared on AETN's Unconventional Wisdom, hosted by David Sanders, on March 27, 2009. The topic of discussion was the banking crisis.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Which Politician Came Up with the Idea that Dying for Your Country Is a Good Thing?

Watched Clint Eastwood's two excellent Iwo Jima movies, "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," this weekend. Moral: the world would be a better place if no one thought his country was something to fight or die for. That's also the moral of "The Americanization of Emily." I highly recommend all three movies.

Cross-posted at Liberty & Power.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What the Drug Warriors Have Given Us

Violence among Mexico’s drug cartels and government has spilled over the U.S. border and beyond. Does anyone still think the “war on drugs” is a good idea?
The rest of this week's TGIF, "What the Drug Warriors Have Given Us," is at the Foundation for Economic Foundation website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

China: Don't Buy Government Bonds!

An urgent message to the people of China: Don’t lend the U.S. government another dime.

The rest of this week's op-ed, "China: Don't Buy Government Bonds!," is at the The Future of Freedom Foundation website.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

They Don't Read the Bills

Rep. Maxine Waters of California admits that members of Congress don't read the bills they vote on. (Of course, we already knew this.) She made the confession during an interview Friday with Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC. The subject of the interview was the provision in "stimulus" bill that prohibited interference with contractual bonuses at bailed-out companies. O'Donnell pressed Waters to say if she realized that prohibition was in the bill she voted for, and Waters admitted she did not. O'Donnell vented frustration that members of Congress are ignorant about contents of legislation. Waters explained that she and other members read the "important" parts and are mainly concerned with the amount being spent and the beneficiaries. She said they rely on staff to feed them information. When O'Donnell questioned that procedure, Waters misdirected the interview by asking O'Donnell if she reads every word of the newspaper. (As though that were relevant.) Then she asked O'Donnell if she read every word of her mortgage. Unfortunately, O'Donnell let the interview wind down instead of going in for the kill. She could have pointed out that when a person fails to read her own mortgage, she may harm herself, but congressmen vote on things that affect everyone, using money extracted forcibly by taxation, and that no one is permitted to opt out. Congressmen are largely unaccountable because any single voter's "clout" is negligible.

As Mario Rizzo has wondered, if our alleged representatives don't know what is in the laws they pass, in what sense can we be said to have consented to be governed by them?

Watch the interview for yourself:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Crocodile Tears over AIG

If politicians spill any more crocodile tears over AIG, the EPA might have to declare Washington, D.C., a protected wetland. Sweep aside the phony expressions of “outrage” over AIG’s government-financed $165 million in bonuses (the information was in black and white) and ask yourself this: Who supplied the money?

The rest of this week's TGIF, "Crocodile Tears over AIG," is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

No More Something for Nothing

Barack Obama says we shouldn't expect something for nothing. Fine -- many of us don't want the "something" anyway. Now when can we put an end to nothing for something?

Cross-posted at Anything Peaceful.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Stimulus is Working!

Stimulus has cities securing lobbyists
Race is on to get bit of $787 billion

Headline in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (subscription site)

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Therapeutic State

From the Associated Press:

EASTON, Pa. - A man accused of driving drunk said Pennsylvania courts have no jurisdiction over him because he’s his own country. After seeing the paperwork that 44-year-old Scott Allan Witmer filed with the court claiming sovereignty, a Northampton County judge said Tuesday he cannot be released from jail until he gets a mental exam. [Emphasis added.]

Reminds me of how psychiatry was used in the old Soviet Union.

Cross-posted at Anything Peaceful.

Crisis and Opportunity

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” –Rahm Emanuel

Has President Obama’s chief of staff read Robert Higgs’s Crisis and Leviathan?

The rest of this week’s TGIF, “Crisis and Opportunity,” is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

That's Politics for You

I found this interesting tidbit in Wikipedia's entry on the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act:

Democrats agreed to support the bill after Republicans agreed to strengthen provisions of the anti-redlining Community Reinvestment Act...

G-L-B, the last significant bank deregulation that occurred in the U.S., repealed the part of the New Deal's Glass-Steagall Act that forbade a single institution from engaging in both commercial and investment banking. G-L-B was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in 1999 and signed by Democratic President Clinton. His treasury secretary at the time was Larry Summers, now President Obama's top economic adviser. It's important to remember this when people say that banking deregulation during the Bush years created the economic mess. The Bush administration didn't deregulate anything of importance. G-L-B in no way contributed to the financial turmoil.

What's important about the quote is that it shows that the Republicans acquiesced in the strengthening of the Community Reinvestment Act, which is partially at fault for the mortgage meltdown. This is the law that compelled banks to increase their mortgage lending to people with low incomes and poor credit histories.

As we've long noted, both parties are guilty of creating the house of cards that has fallen.

Cross-posted at Anything Peaceful.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Free to Consume, Or Not

As someone who is rather less eager to consume than previously, I feel harassed by the government, mainstream economists, and news media. You may feel the same way. Apparently, we aren’t consuming enough to suit them. At least that’s what they want us to think. More than that, they want us to feel guilty and do something about it–such as going into debt. Hence the Fed and Treasury’s program to make it easier for us to borrow.
The rest of the latest TGIF, "Free to Consume, Or Not," is at the Foundation for Economic Education website.

New-Boss Watch


Barack Obama had an opportunity to break with the usurpations of the Bush regime by agreeing to have the Supreme Court hear Ali al-Marri's challenge to the U.S. government's alleged authority to hold legal U.S. residents without charge as "enemy combatants."

Obama blew it. His Justice Department asked for a dismissal, and that's what it got.

Al-Marri had been held without charge in a military brig since 2003 after the administration's initial abortive attempt to proceed in the civilian courts. (The married Illinois graduate student was suspected of being an al-Qaeda sleeper agent. Details here.) In 2007 a panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said this violated al-Marri's rights. But the full court reversed that ruling and sided with the Bush administration. The case was headed for the Supreme Court, but then the Obama administration decided to transfer al-Marri to the civilian courts. That is a good thing because he will have the usual protections accorded criminal suspects. But there's one hitch: Al-Marri's lawyers wanted the Supreme Court to hear the case anyway, claiming the administration "does not repudiate the possibility that al-Marri will be returned to military custody and detained without charge." Obama's Justice Department does not rule this out. Indeed, as things now stand, al-Marri could be acquitted but again be held as an enemy combatant.

One bright note: in dismissing the case the Supreme Court vacated the Fourth Circuit's pro-Bush ruling. It's as if it had never been issued.

This was a big test for Obama on the civil liberties front. He could have asked the Supreme Court to rule once and for all -- which would have blocked future presidents from such monstrous conduct. He didn't do it.

He can make up for it to some extent by clearly repudiating the Bush "enemy combatant" doctrine. But so far, we have no reason to expect this.

Glenn Greenwald has more detail here. Bruce Fein has an excellent analysis here, including the critical point that terrorism is crime not warfare.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Obama's Uninformed Optimism

President Obama is optimistic that “We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.” That and $5 will get you coffee at Starbucks — until inflation kicks in.

In his appearance before Congress, Obama demonstrated he can give a speech. Big deal. We already knew that. Theatrics aside, why does it matter that the president is optimistic? He shows no sign of understanding economics. He’s the one, after all, who proposes to borrow $800 billion in the credit market so he can “inject” it into the economy where he found it. That doesn’t show much understanding. So on what does he base his optimism?

The rest of my latest op-ed, "Obama's Uninformed Optimism," is at The Future of Freedom Foundation website.