Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cruz-Fiorina...Freedom has Champions!

My dream is coming true -- my presidential dream ticket, Cruz and Fiorina, is reality!  These two are intelligent, articulate, consistent, and most importantly, principled proponents of individual liberty and strictly limited government.  They are the only candidates left in the race -- perhaps save for a Libertarian also-ran such as Austin Petersen -- for whom this is true.  I am quite excited about this; this is the first time in a very long time that candidates who believe in limited government are still in the race as serious contenders so late in the race.  I stand by my prediction that Ted Cruz will be the next president of the United States.  And if this happens, expect 8 years of President Cruz followed by 8 years of President Fiorina.  And expect a rebirth of liberty, not because they create it, but because they will stop the onslaught of the left and create space to succeed for those of us who are fighting to build a genuinely liberal system.

The Marxist, Sanders, looks to be collapsing.  The fascist strongman, Trump, has mindless followers but a campaign in disarray, and Lewandowski and Manafort battle each other for turf instead of winning delegates.  Trump won't win 1,237 delegates, and Cruz will win the nomination on the second or third ballot. Alinskyite Clinton will have no chance, once she is either indicted or confronted with Ted Cruz in a debate.  If she's indicted, her replacemnt will find a party in chaos, and they'll collapse.  Or so I predict.

Theses are, unquestionably, very dangerous times.  GOP leaders such as the despicable bonehead Boehner and Karl Rove and Fox News are pulling out all all stops to block Cruz.  Trump conceivably could win the Republican nomination, leaving us with a choice between tyrants.  Or a brokered convention could give us a dunce such as Romney or Ryan.  If Obama's DoJ does hand Clinton an indictment and leave us with a Trump vs. Warren or Biden race, nothing is predictable.  Regardless, the only pro-liberty candidates with a chance of winning are Cruz-Fiorina, and for them to be in the race at this stage is very happy news.  It is the first election since at least 1984 for which by this point, late April, a small-government candidate still is in the running.

Cruz-Fiorina -- Unforeseen Contingencies dream ticket!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The last 300 years: the anti-liberal enterprise

How to characterize the last 300 years of thought... at least, so far as political philosophy is concerned?

The entire staff of Unforeseen Contingencies agrees it is time to take a break from discussing the 2016 election, and return to matters more philosophical.  Today a friend of mine sent me an interesting historical essay on the rise of American fascism.  I don't know anything about the credentials of R.G. Price (the author), but you can read the piece here. (It is pretty good, and certainly interesting.)

I mostly won't comment on it, except for two points: first, the author's overall interpretation of the last 300 years of intellectual history, and second, the author's claim that the Holodomor (the famine suffered by Ukraine in 1932-33) is a fabrication of Nazi propagandists and William Randolph Hearst.

Regarding the Holodomor, the 1932-1933 famine in Ukraine was not a fiction concocted by Hearst or the Nazis.  As I pointed out to my friend, I lived in Ukraine, and the famine is remembered there – obviously none of my students experienced it, but they knew the family stories and spoke of it.  And it was discussed in public, in the media for example.  The facts weren't in question. Also, The Black Book of Communism, (Courtois et al.) Chapter 8, uses Soviet archival materials to document the famine. Robert Conquest's Harvest of Sorrow documents the famine with other materials.  And there are many other sources that document the 1932 famine.

But that's secondary.  What's all this about 300 years of intellectual history?  In a nutshell, Price argues that the Enlightenment gave rise to (classical) liberalism and capitalism.  This dominated the Western world until crises of capitalism gave rise to socialism (including communism), a reaction against capitalism.  In turn, Price sees fascism (including the American variant espoused by Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt) as a reaction against socialism.

Close, but no cigar.  If the goal is to make sense of things, there's a much simpler and clearer interpretation of the last 300 years of thought.  Here it is.  All political movements after liberalism (libertarianism) are attempts to get rid of unalienable individual rights and return to rule by elites, to re-instate the equivalent of the divine right of kings.

Prior to the Enlightenment, the world was largely dominated by the idea that the king, or emperor, or czar, or chief, or tribal leader, reigned supreme.  Perhaps that's not exactly so; some hunter-gatherers might have had checks on the powers of the chiefs, but you wouldn't want to try explaining these checks to a European king, Russian Czar, Mughal, Chinese, or Japanese emperor, Turkish sultan, or Arab caliph.  The generally acknowledged proper order of things was that the ruler ruled, and everyone else obeyed.

The Enlightenment ruined this "natural order."  The Enlightenment project of applying reason to everything upset it.  Careful thought showed that the claims to authority made by those in power were merely hot air.  To the contrary, individuals have self-ownership; we aren't the property of leaders.  In particular, think of the work of John Locke in his Two Treatises on Government, and the implementation of his ideas by the American founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  Similarly, the Enlightenment showed that a society based on recognizing and respecting individual rights to self ownership can function well, and in fact much better than one based on centralized power.  In particular, think of the work of Adam Smith, and his Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations.  All of this was the birth of liberalism, a.k.a. libertarianism.  It is, as some political scientists have pointed out, the only genuinely revolutionary idea developed in political philosophy in the last 2,000 years.

This idea is extremely important, it is liberating and -- for those who liked the old system, either because they want to rule or want to be ruled -- problematic and threatening.  Decentralized authority, personal autonomy, freedom of action for the individual, private property rights, free markets -- these are problems for those who would "govern," i.e. substitute their own judgment for that of others in matters pertaining to how those others should live.  Socialism, progressivism, fascism, islamism, some kinds of conservatism, and all the other illiberalisms, are simply reactions against (real) liberalism, attempts to get the genie back into the bottle and restore hierarchy instead of equality of rights, equality before the law.  In other words, socialism (including Marxism), fascism, Nazism, islamism, progressivism, and some forms of conservatism are all attempts to cancel individual rights and restore hierarchical power.  Some are democratic and allow "the people" to vote for the authoritarian leaders (as if voting gives one any real power) and some not -- but all are reactions against individual liberty, i.e. against private property rights applied to all and against free trading on the market as the central organizing principle of society.

This is the big picture of the last 300 years of intellectual history in matters political -- the battle of reason and liberalism against statism in all its forms.  I think it correctly and clearly identifies the fundamental issues.  I can't claim to have invented this analysis -- one can find these ideas in Mises, for example, and Bastiat even , although he predates many of the subsequent illiberalisms.  I've believed something along these lines for a very long time,  but fairly recently I saw this argument -- that   all political philosophies after liberalism (libertarianism) are attempts to get rid of unalienable individual rights and return to rule by elites -- explicitly stated by philosopher John Pepple, and he was citing science fiction writer Sarah Hoyt (I cannot currently find either piece, unfortunately).  I recently had the opportunity to ask noted economist and economic historian Deirdre McCloskey about this thesis, and she agreed that it really does describe political intellectual history since the Enlightenment.  In addition, it dovetails with her argument that the ethics of freedom and markets and personal responsibility -- the bourgeois virtues -- are what led to modern civilization, peace, and prosperity.

With respect to the analysis of R.G. Price mentioned at the outset, socialism was indeed a reaction against the free market individualism of classical liberalism, but so is fascism.  Fascism is very closely related to socialism, including Marxism.  Both are products of reaction against capitalism and against Lockeian individual rights, and both are products of Hegelianism.  It isn't surprising that Mussolini began as a Marxist, or that Hitler and other Nazi leaders observed that they found it easiest to recruit followers from Marxist ranks.  Similarly, note that American progressives have their intellectual roots in the German Historical School, which in turn has its roots in Hegelianism and in nationalist economics, both of which are reactions against reason, the Enlightenment, and the laissez-faire economics that emerged from these.  It's worth noting that prior to the free market doctrines developed by the Physiocrats, Smith, and the Classical economists, the dominant economic system was Mercantilism (in German, Kameralism), the system of rent-seeking and government favoritism that now goes by the misnomer "crony capitalism."  Also contra Price, the "crises of laissez-faire capitalism" (e.g. Great Depression) to which he attributes the rise of socialism were clearly crises of mercantilism, resulting from government interference in the free market.

Mercantilism, socialism, Marxism, fascism, progressivism, crony capitalism ... while they differ in exactly how society should be ruled, all agree that the elites ought to be doing it, and to hell with individual liberty, unalienable rights, strict respect for private property rights, and personal responsibility.  All would replace what Mises calls contractual organization with hierarchical organization, replace voluntary exchange as the fundamental rule in social organization with compulsion.

I think there are reasons why this anti-liberal enterprise will fail.  But that will have to wait for my post on the next 300 years.

Picture: John Locke

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bad week for Trump

This is "greatness," I guess.

1) Today Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was arrested for battery, in an attack on reporter Michelle Fields.  Somehow the Lewandowski spotted a dangerous threat that was missed by both the Secret Service agent between him and Fields as well as Trump's private bodyguards.  Either that, or Lewandowski is a thug who was afraid Trump would say something stupid in response to Fields' question about Affirmative Action.

2) Better yet, only a few days earlier, Trump reneged on his pledge to impose tariffs on China, claiming it's a bluff for negotiating purposes (he's a great negotiator, really understands the "art of the deal:" always publicly state that your threats are just bluffs before negotiations begin, that's Trump Rule #1).  This was during an interview with conservative Charlie Sykes of WMTJ radio, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Trump, who promises us that as president he'll surround himself with only "the best people," apparently can't find assistants sufficiently competent to research the interviewer they've set him up with.  (Sykes is a signatory to #Never Trump.)  (So am I.)

Most of the publicity on this failed interview for Trump has focused on other issues, but this one is really poison for Trump.  One of his "signature" positions has been his vow to "beat" China in trade deals.  Anyone who understands the basic economics of international trade knows that Trump's perspective of "winner-loser" in international trade is an old fallacy that was expose in the 18th Century, but now he's admitted -- to both the American people and to the Chinese -- that his threatened trade war is all bluster anyway.  So much for the "Trump" signature.  (Isn't the "Trump" brand the bulk of his assets?)

3) And even better, Stephanie Cegielski, communications director for the pro-Trump Make America Great Again SuperPAC, has denounced Trump as a clueless and dangerous demagogue.  Here's how she characterizes his run for office: "What was once Trump's desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to this country if we do not stop this campaign in its tracks."

And here's how she characterizes Trump, whom she knows: "The hard truth is: Trump only cares about Trump."

4) And best of all, it's becoming clear that Trump will not win the majority 1,237 delegates needed to become the Republican nominee on the first ballot at the convention, and that on a second ballot most of his delegates will defect.  If Rule 40b of the Republican National Committee's rules for the convention is not repealed, only candidates who win majorities in at least eight states can be nominated.  That means Cruz and Trump.  Cruz, and to a lesser extent Kasich, are managing to get supportive delegates onto rul-making committees, while Trump, with very poor connections in the GOP, is not.  If rules are changed, it won't be in Trump's favor.

All of this is bad news for Trump, and for that segment of his supporters who would support him even if he murdered someone on Fifth Avenue.  Of course, these are the people who, Trump warns us, will riot should he not receive the nomination (even if he doesn't win the required 1,237).  Trump supporters will riot when Trump loses?!  Like everything else he says, these are meaningless talking points, just bluster.  When Trump loses, assuming Trump supporters actually wanted to riot, what will they riot against?  Will they burn their own neighborhoods? (They can't, the "Black Lives" movement has already patented this).  Ransack McDonalds and Walmarts, perhaps?  That's almost (but not quite) as likely as Kasich supporters burning down Trump Tower when Kasich loses.  Hah!  Yes, bring on the "Trump riots!"

Trump: loser.

Friday, March 25, 2016

More thoughts on war against Iran

I am sure most people would think my call for a declaration of war on Iran is way over the top; certainly I'd expect most "libertarians" to think so.  (Most people aren't readers, of course, and most "libertarians" aren't really libertarians, but never mind all that.)  But my position seems to me quite measured and reasonable, and positions to the contrary make no sense that I can see.

Currently the United States government plans criminal prosecutions against the Iranians responsible for the cyberattacks. Suppose instead they had flown Iranian Air force bombers in an attack on the United States.  Would the appropriate response be criminal prosecutions of the pilots, while ignoring the fact that they are agents of the Iranian government?  I'll answer my own question: no.

Even if one doesn't think the attack sufficiently serious to go to war, from the perspective of the Iranian government, they've engaged in an attack on the United States, an act of war, and have learned that they are able to do so with impunity.  The consequences and implications of this are horrendous.  A hostile theocratic dictatorship, and a major exporter of terror and guerrilla operations (a fair amount of the latter is mislabeled "terror") understands it can attack the United States without serious consequences.  Not only Iran learns from this, everyone does -- including Russia, China, North Korea, Daesh, et al.

To avoid this, at the very least the president should have ordered a retaliatory attack, e.g. a few cruise missiles on Tehran, or perhaps destruction of the Iranian naval base on Farsi Island.  I strongly oppose unilateral actions by the executive branch for the obvious reason that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to declare war, not the president; every war since WWII has been unConstitutional.  The United States have not been at war, even while waging war.  Given that a foreign power attacked targets in the United States, a declaration of war is certainly appropriate.  One might disagree reasonably with my suggested war aims, but I can't imagine any reasonable disagreement with my -- what, call for war? -- no, my insistence that since Iran is already making war on the United States, we respond by defending ourselves.  The war is already underway, whether we want it or not.

Disagree?  Then how bad does an Iranian attack have to be, how much destruction must it cause, before it's worthy of a response?  Iran is certainly developing intercontinental ballistic missiles -- should we wait until it has them, armed with nuclear warheads, before we respond?  Should we wait until Washington D.C. is a smoldering radioactive wasteland before responding?  (OK, I know, that's tempting in a way; but only in fantasy is that a solution to out-of-control government.)  I cannot see any reasonable argument against retaliation.  I can't see any reasonable argument against a declaration of war.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The United States should declare war on Iran

As news goes, it's not getting nearly as much attention as the Brussells attacks or Trump's latest hooliganism, but a grand jury has indicted Iranians working for the Iranian Republic for cyberattacks that include an attack on controlling systems for floodgates on Bowman Dam in New York.

This is not a criminal matter.  If instead Iran had sent bombers or missiles to strike the dam, it would be an obvious act of war.  This cyberattack is no less an act of war.

I know, nothing much will come of this.  Commissar Obama has been too busy in Cuba talking about how Castro's Marxist revolution and the American Revolution are really all about the same thing, and how the Cold War was a mistake on our part, and how much we have to learn from communism.  Most everyone else is focused on Brussells with progressives worrying about incipient Islamophobia and non-progressives wondering why progressives have a death wish.  But here's what ought to happen.

The President of the United States ought immediately to ask Congress for a declaration of war against Iran.  Congress should pass it immediately.  The President should announce the following war aims: Iran surrenders, and in doing so agrees to complete dismantling of its nuclear programs and ballistic missile programs, with instant access to American inspectors on demand, with no waiting or appeal, or else the United States will conquer Iran and eliminate the current government.  This announcement should be accompanied by heavy strikes on Tehran and elsewhere, just so the Iranians understand this is real.

I suspect that either eventuality would lead to the overthrow of the Iranian regime, and Iranians in general would welcome this liberation.  But if it didn't, the United States should see it through regardless.  If that means destroying Iran, so be it.  The idea that rogue regimes should be free to attack the civilized world is a formula for the destruction of civilization.

I know some (many) "libertarians" would be aghast at the idea of going to war with Iran.  But this isn't an intervention abroad -- the United States were attacked by an enemy country.  If one genuinely believes in liberty, one will fight back and put a stop to the attacks.  Iran ought to be crushed, now.

Update: Trump's hooliganism -- his latest smears of Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi show how immoral and unfit for any kind of power he is; he increasingly strikes me as mentally ill.  That possibility ought to come to mind to anyone who reads his bizarre ramblings in his Washington Post interview.  If not insane, he's certainly stupid and ignorant.

Update: Obama's marxism -- his behavior and words in Cuba and Argentina are Marxist; yes he's a communist.  At this late date, why would this be surprising?  I've met many academics (only in the United States!) who are self-described Marxists.  Their political views are essentially identical to his.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Small update

I've made a minor change or two to the Unforeseen Contingencies blog links.  I've deleted three and added one.  Jettisoned: 1) Simon Johnson's Baseline Scenario.  This was very good when Johnson wrote it; Johnson is a topnotch economist and very thoughtful and fair, able to consider quite fairly ideas of people with whom he disagreed.  But the blog was largely taken over by his co-author James Kwak, who has none of these abilities and characteristics.  Kwak is fairly described as a progressive Democrat hack.  To the cybertrash with it.  2) Mario Rizzo et al. Think Markets.  This blog from the Austrians at NYU started out as an excellent and thoughtful blog.  Rizzo seemed to post less and less, and some lesser figures began posting, and the quality declined.  Posts are now infrequent and of no interest. To the cybertrash with it. 3) Cafe Hayek from Don Boudreaux at George Mason U. Boudreaux is a good economist, but like so many libertarians he is utterly oblivious to political events.  Save for his acceptance of the lunatic idea that entirely unrestricted immigration is a good idea, his blog is fine for people who are studying Econ 101.  But this is Unforeseen Contingencies, we're well advanced beyond that, so to the cybertrash with it.

Added: Pam Geller's blog.  In truth, the primary purpose of my blog roll is to make it easier to get to things I want to read.  Pam Geller's site is the best I've found for following things Islamist.  I also greatly appreciate her sponsorship of the "Draw Mohammed" contest, which was a very important step in defense of free speech and expression, and a bold slap in the faces of Islamists.

I may add a few more sites soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Civil War in America: Inevitable?

No.  Not yet.

Today I was fortunate to have the chance to hear Col. Allen West speak at Hillsdale College in Michigan.  It was a good talk, but far more interesting was the lengthy Q & A period that followed.  In the course of discussing things such as politically correct rules of engagement for the military, the promotion of racial discord by politicians and groups like "Black Lives Matter," West observed that collectivists are trying to completely destroy the idea of individual rights, individual liberty and limits on government, and replace it with hierarchical authoritarian rule.  To do this, they divide people into hostile groups.  They disrupt the system and create turmoil ("Saul Alinsky should be required reading," he said.  "Know your enemy.")

West then suggested that we are in for a "horrific" year.  He also noted it's a crux year.  We will enter 2017 with a new president-elect (I hope!) and the events of 2016 may well determine the course of the next 50 years.

Last night I was aghast to hear that a Trump rally in Chicago had to be cancelled because of threats of violence.  I cannot stand Trump and think he's dangerous.  But he should have freedom of speech, and his supporters ought not be threatened and have their rallies disrupted.  The mob totalitarianism that reigns on college campuses has now spread from the campus to the rest of the country and inserted itself into the presidential election.  As a commenter on another site puts it, "how did we get a generation that doesn't believe in free speech and often treats the idea as a joke. Silencing the opposition has become a valid tactic that doesn't even shame the people that use it, let alone have repercussions."  Mike Vanderboegh wonders if there isn't something deeper at work, the spread of collectivist thinking at the expense of belief in individual rights, and that perhaps it is already too late.

A political rally has been shut down by protesters from the left.  How long before this becomes standard for all non-left candidates?  If it becomes common, there'll be retaliation in kind.

I don't have sympathy for protesters who disrupt campaign events.  It is a form of violence.  But it is also obvious that an accelerating cycle of violence will truly make 2016 horrific.  We need to cut it short.  We also need a president who, starting in 2017, will make an effort to reach out to all Americans, including the ones with crazy ideas, and begin the hard process of un-dividing people.

What's particularly interesting to me, and hopeful, is the approach that Ted Cruz has taken with those who try to disrupt his events.  He is civil.  If possible, he engages with them, treats the decently, and makes his point.  I've seen several videos of him dealing with Ellen Page in Iowa, and dealing with kooks who climbed up on the stage during a Second Amendment rally.  Here are two more, just posted on (where I took the quote above from commenter Joliphant).

The first video shows Cruz confronted by an angry farmer in Iowa.  By the end of the exchange, everything is different.  Who knows whether the farmer really is converted into a Cruz supporter, but there's no doubt at the end he respects Cruz, and likewise feels respected.  It's kind of moving.

This second video is long, but highly instructive.  When "Code Pink" demonstrators try to disrupt a Cruz speech, he engages them, allows them to have a say, and debates them civilly.  He defuses what might have become a nasty confrontation.  He makes his points (perhaps more effectively than if Pink hadn't shown up). He demonstrates genuine leadership.

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