by Danny de Gracia, II
A weekly liberty briefing and news guide to keep you informed and prepared on what’s UP to more freedom or DOWN to bigger, more intrusive government.
Quote of the Week:
“Government spending cannot create additional jobs. If the government provides the funds required by taxing the citizens or by borrowing from the public, it abolishes on the one hand as many jobs at it creates on the other. If government spending is financed by borrowing from the commercial banks, it means credit expansion and inflation. In the course of such an inflation the rise in commodity prices exceeds the rise in nominal wage rates, unemployment will drop. But what makes unemployment shrink is precisely the fact that real wage rates are falling.”
–Ludwig von Mises, Planned Chaos
Today Hawaii remembers with solemn occasion the attack by Imperial Japanese forces on December 7, 1941, the day that brought the United States into the Second World War. If you have the time and opportunity, definitely make it a point to visit some of Hawaii’s historical sites to connect with the past and contemplate the future of our state and nation. In my national column, I explain that studying history and interacting with artifacts from the past is a great way to understand the journey we have progressed as a people.
ANALYSIS: We are extremely fortunate to live in a country blessed with so many courageous people who have, in times of peril, stood firm for the future of the United States of America. Whenever I think about men like Dorie Miller who manned a deck gun and bravely fired at attacking IJN planes or officers like Ensign Francis Flaherty who died holding a flashlight so his men could escape from the sinking USS Oklahoma, it always spurs me to remember America must remain a country worth defending.
Alexis de Tocqueville wisely observed that “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Our Bill of Rights and Constitution made America a great country: people have freedom to find and accomplish their destiny without government standing in the way of their future. By contrast, America defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan because their vision of the future was one in which barbed wire and sharp bayonets oppressed people and enslaved whole populations for the visions of an elite few. We later outlasted the Soviet Union during the Cold War that followed because liberty and a free market always triumphs over state control and oppression. We should be extremely careful here in America that we do not follow in any of the mistakes or arrogant practices of the nations we resisted in the name of freedom.
America’s value comes from America’s freedom. We owe it to our forebears to honor their sacrifices not just with lip service but with ongoing deeds and actions that uphold the Bill of Rights and Constitution. This great experiment in liberty called the United States of America can only endure through the vigilance of its citizens. The Declaration of Independence as a key document that establishes the purpose and vision for our nation. It addresses only two possible directions for government action; UP or DOWN. It decisively rejected DOWN and adopted UP. It also identified that the people are to be in charge, not bureaucrats and politicians. If you want UP to more liberty and freedom, America must stand by its founding principles of independence. America survived the Day of Infamy and won the Second World War to become the leader of the free world. Let us remain leaders of the free world by preserving the lamp of liberty here at home.
Who Will Lead If Inouye and Abercrombie Leave Office? (Civil Beat, 12/4)
Civil Beat reports “Democratic Party of Hawaii insiders are quietly beginning to talk seriously about the possibility that the state’s top two elected officials may not seek re-election. By most indications, Gov. Neil Abercrombie will run for re-election in 2014 and U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye will run for re-election in 2016. In fact, both leaders tell Civil Beat that their intention is to do exactly that … But Democratic Party members aren’t so sure.”
ANALYSIS: Have you ever worried what the impact on your life would be if the president of WalMart or the chief financial officer of Sony Corporation were to step down? I for one don’t – because despite the size and reach of both WalMart and Sony Corporation, no matter what their leaders do, it has absolutely no effect on my personal life because they have no power or authority over me. On the other hand, people worry about political offices because those who occupy government positions have the authority to disrupt our lives with their policies. America was designed to be a country where we didn’t worry about who was in power because – supposedly – the Bill of Rights and Constitution checked the powers of government so that no matter who was in power, the average person had stability in their lives to plan as they please.
Today we have no stability in our lives. We don’t know whether or not the fiscal cliff will be resolved, whether or not troops will stay or leave Afghanistan, whether Obamacare will stand or be repealed, whether the dollar will be worth next year what it is right now and on and on. Thanks to the growth of government and the increasing power of our elected officials, we live in fear of who rules (or fails to rule).
When Hawaii has reached the point that its citizens must worry who is in charge, we know that we live under tyranny. This is a serious DOWN for liberty and it is evidence of the decline of our society. In America, if we want real “progress” both for individuals and for our nation as a whole, we need to bring back stability and peace to everyday life by reducing the scope of government and the influence it has on our future. As the economist F.A. Hayek once warned, the more government plans, the harder it becomes for individuals to plan.
Roads and Bridges to Nowhere (Mises Blog, 12/3)
With the year nearly at a close and a newly elected Legislature now seated in office, the real work of Santa Claus will begin not on Christmas Day 2012 but rather in January 2013 when the Hawaii State Legislature commences its upcoming session. You can almost be certain that you will be told that we need to build more things and buy more things with tax dollars in order to keep Hawaii economically prosperous. One might even be lucky enough to see charts, hear studies from “respectable” universities and see projections from government analysts that spending tax dollars will help Hawaii. But how much truth is there to these claims? Economist Joseph Salerno writes in the Mises blogs that one cannot trust studies which purport that state expenditures add to the economy. Salerno warns, “Each state is a small open economy with completely open borders with respect to the movements of goods and factors (capital and labor) to and from other states. It is therefore virtually impossible to accurately calculate the value of a state’s exports and imports or to ascertain the income earned by its resident workers and investors in other states.”
ANALYSIS: Whenever someone in government talks about “the economy” remember this crucial fact: the purpose of a market is to provide consumers with precisely what they want, when they want it. Irrespective of how much a legislator asserts that their actions will “help the economy” remember that unless it actually benefits you as an individual, their planning is completely useless.
Legislators love to imagine that they have the authority to steer the course of an entire marketplace and stimulate (or curtail) the desires of consumers. They love to talk about “investment” and “shovel ready projects” but remember, at the end of the day it’s your money that they are spending. In a free market, the only time you spend money is when you are pursuing goods or services.
No matter how important spending may be to a legislator, no matter what future benefits they promise, remember that your money is your money! If we fall into the trap of believing that government has a right to keep taking more and more from us in order to sustain some future reward (which may not even come) we will keep losing more and more of our income and civil liberties. The only person who can bring you happiness is you. The Founding Fathers recognized this when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. If we want UP to more liberty, we have to say NO to more government spending – in spite of whatever excuse for it may be.
Jennifer Kay with the Associated Press via Washington Times reports that “Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some Key West residents worry, though, that not enough research has been done to determine the risks that releasing genetically modified mosquitoes might pose to the Keys’ fragile ecosystem.”
ANALYSIS: I don’t know about you but if government intervention in the economy is scary, intervention in genetics is truly terrifying! The theory behind transgenic mosquitoes (see Harvard study here) is that the insect’s pestilent propensity makes it an outstanding “carrier” for transmitting man-made vaccines. The only problem however with modifying nature is that there are always unseen impacts both to the modified organism and the environment that are difficult to predict. I for one would be extremely skeptical about allowing a swarm of “government certified” genetically modified mosquitoes on the loose.
While we will wait and see what the results of this mosquito project will be in Florida, one thing is clear: it is a serious DOWN for liberty when government begins interfering with genetics. Our planet and all life on it is a very complicated, interconnected system. Altering one part of it can have large implications than one could possibly imagine. We will keep our readers appraised of any significant developments or changes in policy regarding genetically modified organisms in future Perspectives.
Obama’s World of Social Justice (Mises.org, 12/6)
Anne Wortham at the Ludwig von Mises Institute writes:
“Obama’s vision is a response to the failure of the American economy to realize John Rawls’s difference principle. In Rawls’s theory, society is a well-ordered “cooperative venture” organized like a team for the mutual benefit of its members and regulated by “a public conception of justice” as “a set of principles for assigning rights and duties and determining the appropriate distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation.” Although members are all equal as human beings, some on the team have been favored by nature with talent, intellect, ability, incentive, and performance that gives them an advantage over others. They naturally want to protect their advantage. Yet because their advantage is the result of nature’s “luck of the draw,” they agree to a standard of justice as fairness (the difference principle) which allows them to gain from their good fortune but only to the extent that their advantage improves the lot of those who were least advantaged by nature’s lottery. Writes Rawls, “The higher expectations of those better off are just if and only if they work as part of a scheme which improves the expectations of the least advantaged members of society.”
Since justice in the Rawlsian world proceeds from the legislative authority derived from the united will of the people (evidenced by their high level of conformity to the redistribution norm), the state can legitimately force redistribution, and the perception is that no injustice is done to anyone. This interpretation of the legitimacy of the state’s forced redistribution is evident in the attitude of citizens like billionaire Warren Buffett who has the tax policy called the Buffett Rule named for him. As the White House describes the rule, “No household making more than $1 million each year should pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than a middle class family pays.” It is presented as “a simple principle of tax fairness that asks everyone to pay their fair share.” The president was probably thinking of Buffett and others when he said, “There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.” Although he acknowledges individual initiative, which the facts of his own biography impose on him, he defends the social-justice framework by justifying its redistribution policy as a “give-back” imperative of the “we’re-all-in-this-together” society.”
ANALYSIS: We hear a lot about “social justice” and “equality” these days from politicians, but one must always remember that “equality” is a mathematical concept. Humans on the other hand are not simple calculus formulas, they are complex creatures who are born into different situations, environments and cultural conditions. When government attempts to redistribute wealth or tweak regulations and laws to produce “social justice” or “equality” the only thing it does is use force to pressure individuals and populations into conforming to someone else’s subjective vision. Equality at gunpoint is not “equality” at all but tyranny.
The purpose of our government – ideally – is to protect life, liberty and private property. When government starts getting ideas about “leveling the playing field” or “closing the income gap” or any of these other euphemisms for increased taxation and increased government power, we as informed citizens need to recognize the threat and just say no.
Government at its core is a monopoly of violence. It is not something that is to be taken lightly or used whimsically. It is a serious DOWN towards tyranny when government is allowed to confiscate private property in the name of “equality” and “social justice.” People prosper under liberty – the ability to choose their own future for themselves – not under government pressure.
Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia gave a special speech on YouTube in which she announced that no matter what would cause the end of the world this month, she would continue to fight for her constituents. (The video, of course, was done as a joke on the rumors of a Mayan apocalypse to raise people’s spirits.)
ANALYSIS: While the world will most likely not end this month, one thing is clear: there is a synergy which exists between big government and (perceived) crisis, and that’s no joke. Whenever government wants more power to tax, spend and confiscate, government will always come to the people with a crisis to legitimize their actions. It could be war, disease, natural disasters, even the threat of a global apocalypse from human-induced climate change, but government loves crisis because it gives them power.
As Rahm Emanuel once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” Government thrives on crisis and when necessary will create crisis in order to perpetuate its plans.
The fourth president of the United States, James Madison, said “A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” If we want to keep our freedom, we must not allow government to terrify us into giving up our rights and our income to their plans. Don’t give in to fear! If you want UP to more liberty, you need to remember that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Danny de Gracia is the Economic Policy Adviser for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Views expressed in this column are intended to promote creative thought, educate, and, we hope, prompt comment. Accordingly, thoughts expressed do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii or the author.
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