Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Speaking of building the movement...

Packed House for Grand Opening of Schiff Campaign HQ

"The campaign has also earned momentum from the latest Rasmussen Poll, which has Peter Schiff beating Chris Dodd in a head-to-head matchup."

Poll: Rand Paul has Big Lead in Kentucky GOP Senate Primary

"The numbers: Rand Paul 44%, Secretary of State Trey Grayson 25%."

Poll: GOP Favored to Hold Kentucky Senate Seat

"Paul, a conservative activist and son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), leads state Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo by identical margins of 42%-36%."

Anti-War Activist Mounts GOP Campaign for Congress

"He’s a candidate for Congress in New Mexico’s 3rd district, looking like the Republican front-runner just one short year after he crashed the convention."
"Depending on who’s analyzing the race, New Mexico’s third district is either an ideal or a poorly chosen battlefield for a candidate like Kokesh."

I think that Rand has the best chance, followed by Schiff, followed by Kokesh. The problem for Schiff is getting out of a crowded primary field. Rob Simmons is a former Republican Congressman, and Linda McMahon is very rich. At that point, it will be a matter of whether the bailouts are still fresh enough in people's minds, and how the healthcare issue plays out. Kokesh is probably my favorite of these guys, but he's also the most radical. I predict he will have no problem mobilizing a campaign, but might have trouble getting the average New Mexican to the polls.

If libertarian-leaning candidates manage to be successful in the next election cycle, expect things to get exciting moving into Obama's reelection campaign. Obama is on the clock--midterm elections tend to go against the incumbent party, and Obama made a lot of very big promises. Failure to deliver could lead to disappointment for him at the polls.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Philosophy vs. Conspiracy

Philosophy vs. Conspiracy

Caught this article by Jerry Salcido over on Campaign for Liberty's site. In light of the points he raises, I'd like to relate a few anecdotes of my own on the issue.

At the fall semester activities fair this year, some of the local LP guys showed up. This was good, they should be helping us with recruitment. What was not good was that they were also handing out 9/11 conspiracy theory DVDs and pamphlets as well as copies of America: Freedom to Fascism, a movie which holds that the income tax is a massive fraud perpetrated by big financial sector interests on the American people. I'm pretty sure The Obama Deception was in there too.

We were next to a student anti-genocide club. One of the conspiracy theorist pamphleteers gets drawn into a discussion. Upon hearing that they're an anti-genocide group, what do you imagine is the first thing he says? Not, "I think genocide is one of the worst consequences of totalitarianism; we should fight genocide at the source." Not, "I think you'll find a lot of similar-minded people in the libertarian movement, although some of them may have different ideas about how to solve the problem than you might."


The first thing the guy says is:

"Did you know that the AIDS virus was created by the government to wipe out the black population in Africa?"

I paraphrase, of course.

What did this guy think he was accomplishing? Have enough people, upon hearing him say this, all of a sudden said, "Wow, I had never heard that, tell me more!" that he's come to think that leading with that line is the way to go?

Or maybe, as was the case this time, did the person he was talking to usually just start smiling and nodding for the rest of the conversation?

I sort of collect conspiracy theories, the way some people collect the pamphlets that some evangelicals hand out on street corners.

I was reminded of one of my favorites at the End the Fed rally I documented a few blog posts ago. One of the fellows on the megaphone relates how the Federal Reserve literally deals in blood. At the beginning he talks about how by enabling deficit spending, the Fed finances America's unending global war on everything. Fair enough. Then he explains how our debt to China is secured in human lives, and if you want proof, just put your Social Security number into the New York Stock Exchange.

My friend tried this later and did not report success. I suspect it was because he didn't make the correct Bilderberg-Illuminati gang sign when he hit the enter key. He didn't have a webcam running, but they know anyway.

I think that's enough for now. Let's suppose, then, that every single conspiracy theory is true. Ok. What now?

Do we seek to expose the conspiracy to the light of day? Won't this more likely have the effect of, I don't know, getting us unceremoniously killed, than, say, ending mankind's suffering at the hands of tyrants? Let's say that by some miracle, our efforts to throw open the curtains succeed, and every television in America shows irrefutable proof that an international banking cabal controls world politics. What then? The citizens take to the streets, and throw the bastards out? The bastards hiding behind tanks and missiles? Are the world's soldiers going to stop obeying orders because of a TV show?

What happens when the whole thing gets retconned by the corporate media as just a joke made in poor taste, or an accidentally leaked trailer from a new movie?

Libertarians of all stripes are fond of saying that truth is power, that truth will set us free.

Power is power. We will set us free.

Power is power. But libertarians don't want power--a trait that makes them unique among all political factions. They don't want it, but they sure as hell need it. To dismantle the apparatus of oppression, we need to be in the driver's seat. Because that's where the kill switch is.

Whether you're a gradualist or a revolutionary, before anything can happen, the libertarian movement needs power. It needs resources and legitimacy and reach and so on.

So what? For starters:
  • No matter how right you are, you had better be prepared to spend as much on hair care as Mitt Romney and John Edwards. Combined.
  • For most people, radicalism is not a conversation-starter. It is a conversation-ender. Our core message is simple and relatable. Freedom is more ethical than tyranny, freedom is more effective than tyranny. Put that in your own words, and repeat it to people. A lot.
  • We are weird. Most people know very, very little about economics of any kind, and nothing at all about Austrian economics (or whatever freedom-oriented flavor of economics you like). Most people would prefer to maintain this state of affairs. Monday Night Football is on in ten minutes, and they don't want to miss kickoff listening to you explain capital consumption.
  • Again, we are weird. Politics is boring. Political theory is even more boring. Jefferson is an old dead guy. Locke is an older, deader guy. Megan Fox is a young, living woman, and therefore automatically less boring. Also, you can see her on the same screen as giant robots which occasionally turn into giant explosions. There is a reason you spent your weekend at a tea party and your neighbor spent his or her weekend at Transformers 2.
  • Well, I'm not sure I can top that last image. But I have to press on anyway.
  • Talk to people about things they care about. People don't care about monetary policy. They do care about accountability. This is why Dr. Paul's Audit-the-Fed bill has about one billion cosponsors and his End-the-Fed bill...yeah.
  • Anarchism is a nuanced and coherent political philosophy. It is also what the protesters at the G20 in Pittsburgh who broke the window of Pamela's Diner claimed to believe in. Barack Obama likes Pamela's, because the hotcakes have crispy edges. The point is buried in here somewhere.
  • Power doesn't mean force. There is a world of literature on how to get your way without holding a gun to anyone's head. I, and you, should read more of it.
  • The Republican party is ours for the taking. The neocons are on the defensive and the theocrats aren't what they once were. The teapartiers are willing to listen to what we have to say, and many of them are with us already.
  • Education is important. It is not more important than getting people elected.
Before I go too far afield, let's tie some of that together. If you are not a conspiracy theorist, the thing to do is to start disabling the apparatus of power. If you are a conspiracy theorist, the thing to do is to start disabling the apparatus of power. There are lots of ways to go about that, and almost none of them involve shouting on a street corner about how the Federal Reserve deals in human lives, or telling a college student that the AIDS virus was created to rid the world of black people.

In any case, it is my hope that by the time I run for office, libertarianism will be mainstream enough that I won't have to answer any questions about electability or how my supporters are all insane. Because, you know, Obama's supporters are all completely stable, and Minnesota didn't elect a professional wrestler Governor. A professional wrestler who is currently the host of a television show about conspiracy theories.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Howard Dean and Anthony Weiner Tell Us Their Problems With the Healthcare Bill

Dean urges defeat of emerging healthcare bill

That was the headline. OK, you've got me, I have to click--what problem could Howard Dean possibly have with the healthcare bill?

"'You will be forced to buy insurance. If you don't, you'll pay a fine,' said Dean, a physician. 'It's an insurance company bailout.'"

Oh, well that's reasonable. I'm glad someone in the Washington establishment is willing to call a spade a spade. Oh, and it sounds like other Democrats have some problems with the bill too, this is promising.

"When House and Senate negotiators go to conference to work out a compromise bill, Weiner said, 'We should move away from some of the things the Senate has done and move back to where the House is. You need to contain cost. You do that with a public option.'"

No, Captain Numskull, you "contain cost" by not forcing people to buy products and services they neither want nor need. Because, you sanctimonious twit, doing that would not only be immoral, but also spectacularly idiotic.

If this bill passes, expect the same thing to happen to healthcare costs as happened to the cost of college education after the government started "helping" (although granted the tuition issue is a bit more complicated). Prices will skyrocket, the industry will grow fat and happy, and the government will blame the problem on "greed." Newsflash, humans have been greedy for going on 200,000 years now. And yet somehow large corporations magically become greedier a few years after the government reforms their sector of the economy. Yup, that's what it is, every time. I can't believe people still put up with this crap.

You want to drive costs down? Stop giving monopolists the keys to the kingdom.

I need an Advil.

Bailouts Revisited

It's finals week here in Pittsburgh, which can only mean one thing: procrastinate instead of doing important things by doing less important things that I used to be...putting off doing.

Which means it's time for a blog post.

The initial damage reports are in from the bailouts: Taxpayers lost $61B on AIG, auto bailouts but gain on bank bailouts

Breaking it down,
  • the government lost over $30B on AIG,
  • lost over $30B on Chrystler and GM,
  • and is projected (by the Treasury) to end up gaining $19.5B on the bank bailouts.
But don't worry, the $700B program has been extended through October, so there's still time for things to get worse.

Speaking of worse, the bailouts were a bigger blow to American taxpayers than the numbers imply. For one thing, insolvent banks weren't the only one's receiving TARP money. Healthy banks were forced to take it as well (the Fed didn't want TARP funds being more of a scarlet letter than they already were), and pay it back with interest. One wonders how much of that $19.5B was extorted from healthy banks.

And let's not forget the Cash-for-Clunkers program, which amounts to Auto Bailouts II: the Revenge.

But the real cost can't be encapsulated in a simple number. What the government has done is to give us a zombie economy. And if there's anything we Pittsburghers understand, it's zombies. I'm not usually a bit National Review fan, but let me point you for further reading to this article from February 2009: Caution: Zombie Economy Ahead. Imagine a horde of undead congresspersons shambling down Wall St. groaning "caaaaaaaaaaars," and you'll have a pretty good picture of what the country is going go look like for the next decade or so.

The more pessimistic picture is a Misesian crack-up boom, which would be the result of the Chinese and holders of petrodollars trying to cash in for assets, a process which would soon spiral out of control until people started burning Federal Reserve Notes to keep warm.