Archives for category: Institutional Reality

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell was in the news this week. “There is nothing about this economy,” he insisted, testifying before a congressional committee, “that is out of kilter or imbalanced.”

I do not believe this.

I readily admit, I did not glean my opinion from a deep study of current trends. It became obvious to me as the egregious Stephen Moore listed what he believes is so great with “the Trump economy” a month or so back. That statement, which I cited on my Facebook* page, lays out the basic features of a malinvestment bubble. It is elementary. Not all that obscure.

I assume that if the Democrats choose Bernie Sanders to do battle against Trump, the Federal Reserve will work mightily to postpone the bust — an explicit socialist is just going ‘too far.’

But if Democrats choose one of their billionaires or Buttigieg, I suspect the Fed wizards will ease up on all their easing, so to speak, and let the bust come before November. Buttigieg, especially, is the kind of person that insiders want: CIA-nurtured, Deep State-approved, and sporting a commie father (for that frisson of unhinged radicalism and necessary roughness, and as a sign of a willingness to betray the last shred of the Constitution) — quite controllable!

So, if you want to postpone the bust that is just waiting** to happen, push Bernie. If you are ready for the Big One*** — the shock to the system that will make 2008 seem like a mouse’s squeak — then urge the Democrats not to go too far off reservation.

twv

* On Facebook, December 8, I wrote the following:

On the Rubin Report, Stephen Moore enthused about the current economy. And it really is a boom time. But I was amused by (and stopped listening after) Moore’s summary: record low unemployment, with millions of job position unfilled; record low interest rates; low inflation rates, by which he meant a fairly level CPI (consumer prices being the braindead definition of inflation).
He seemed oddly ebullient. He seemed unaware that according to ABCT the situation is a bubble filled to near-popping point.
It is gonna be a doozy!
How could it not?

** Tom Ozimek, writing for The Epoch Times on the 11th, reported on Fed Chair Powell’s inflation-targeting problems:

*** My general view appears to be not too far off Peter Schiff’s.

“The common lot of humanity is so stupid and foolish that the burden of responsibility must be lifted from the blighters, to save them.”

So runs the common rationale.

But, in lifting the burden of responsibility, this common lot become less responsible, having endured decreased incentives to acquire wisdom. This leads to more stupid, foolish people, whose obvious existence feeds the initial rationale, encouraging further unburdenings, and thus more foolish people.

The feedback loop is quite clear, and the direction of policy self-reinforcing. It is a positive feedback loop with extremely negative consequences.

Amusingly, the rationale of unburdening was initially advanced by stupid, foolish people, but as the process goes on, more evidence accumulates to pull in congenitally wiser folks. So while the initial rationale was mere prejudice, later instances are of a kind of wisdom.

It is a trap!

The process was identified by Herbert Spencer: ‘The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly,’ he wrote in mid-19th century Britain, ‘is to fill the world with fools.’

twv

Whenever government assumes to deliver us from the trouble of thinking for ourselves, the only consequences it produces are those of torpor and imbecility.

William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)

I agree with this characterization of the current impeachment mania by Scott Adams,especially his characterization of Trump’s enemies’ cases as “crazy shit.”
You have been “hypnotized” by the Deep State, you who demand Trump’s ouster based on Russiagate or the Ukraine Phone Chat or the president’s reactions to investigation.
More controversial is his thesis that “The public does not form opinions. Their opinions are assigned to them.”
I try to form my own opinions, occasionally even by looking at the facts, such as they can be determined. For this reason, my opinions seem very strange to most people.
Adamss idea that Matt Taibbi and Glen Greenwald are the only people whose opinions have not been assigned to them by the media is preposterous, of course, but I take it merely as hyperbole.
However, caution: people do choose who to listen to. If usually for irrational, tribal reasons. Which is why it has been vitally important for the CIA to envelop the media world in vast networks of influence, starting with Operation Mockingbird and continuing with placement of former interns (like Anderson Cooper) and even progeny of agents (that Morning Joe lady) in positions with star power and the imprimatur of Cultural Acceptability. The influence at this level is enormous.
The hiccough? The growth of new media. Which got out of the grasp of our Master Psy-op-eratoves. Hence the ideological crackdowns and game-rigging by what Michael Rectenwald calls “The Google Archipelago.”

I am reading this now. A review, perhaps, to come.
I have always known that governments lie, that politicians are congenital liars, and that, furthermore, secrecy is something the State requires, in addition to all those fantasies necessary to obtain compliance from the masses. But recently I have greatly expanded my estimation of the scope of state prevarication.
Some of this is the result of the brazen ways in which the shallow end of the Deep State has attempted to oust a president it did not approve of. But it goes far beyond this, and much of it is related to keeping the military-industrial complex going through incessant warfare. The insanity of these wars, their sheer idiocy and lack of coherence and even hints of efficacy to the attainment of stated goals, suggests to me something far beyond my packet of previous explanations:
1. greed and corruption via Pentagon contracts
2. powerlust by media folk, ideologues, politicians, military men, and bureaucrats
3. greed
I now think that an additional secret realm of operations has been at play, and has been kept running by an elaborate if stumbled-into plan of psy-ops. Most Americans have pictures of their government utterly at variance with reality — perhaps even their view of bedrock, non-political reality is greatly shaped by a startlingly coherent state agenda.
Funny thing is, my fellow individualists have such a low opinion of state competence that they buy into most of said government psy-op, are indeed routinely controlled by Deep State psy-ops. Their error is in underestimating the State.
For this truth is long established, and libertarians should know it best: the State is not an efficient instrument of the general interest, but, instead, a hyper-efficient conduit through which private interests can gain at the exploitative expense of other private interests, and to the general detriment of the general interest. And the key to this is the ultimate in psy-ops, the confidence game of political ideologies that promote the State as a necessary entity for the promotion of that phantom, the public interest.


Do Libertarians encourage poor people to not tax rich people and wait for heaven in the afterlife?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Poor people don’t tax anybody. States do, and these are usually run by fairly well-off people, and are enthusiastically supported by the bulk of middle-income and high-income folks. High levels of taxation, coupled with transfer programs, were created and are maintained by well-off people — indeed by many people who are themselves beneficiaries of taxed wealth.

The idea, implied in the question, that state aid programs are heaven on earth, is laughable.

Libertarians I know are deeply skeptical of aid programs, first for relying upon forced expropriation and second for turning the poor into dependents who will, after enrollment into “welfare,” subsequently never better themselves.

This outlook of seeing only misery in the lives of poor people were it not for transfer programs is deeply perverse, in no small part because it serves as the political version of post-sale selling technique: “like your pittances, peons, you are pathetic and hopeless and cannot do better — so appreciate the crumbs we fling your way . . . and always demand more and vote for us.”

twv, May 4, 2019

Do some gun owners really believe in the conspiracy that the government is planning to take away all the guns?

…as answered by twv on Quora….

Yes. Sure. But most believe it is not a conspiracy, exactly, but instead an open movement that wishes to accomplish civilian disarmament by incremental regulations and prohibitions.

And since that is precisely what many gun control advocates and former advocates have publicly stated as their goal and their method, these gun owners are not witless, are they? Of course they are reasonably skeptical of any further regulation.

I know that when I flirted with gun control ideas, a mass confiscation immediately popped into my head, and I discussed it with other gun control advocates.

Also, political promises of “we only wish to do this so much (and no more)” and objections on the order of “how dare you think we will go all the way!” of any new proposal are to be believed only by chumps. The income tax was promoted as something only a few of the very rich would pay, and even then not all that much. Within five years the rates on the top bracket went from 7 percent to 77 percent and people at the bottom went from paying nothing to paying 1 percent. Government “wants” to grow. So any small increase in regulation is rightly seen as merely a “first step.”

It is also a known thing that many people in government — as legislators and as functionaries — want a general civilian disarmament. It sure would make their jobs easier! They think.

But gun owners look upon all this with a growing sense of incredulity. Government functionaries cannot successfully do their jobs now, as was shown in the recent Parkland, Florida, shooting incident. And the War on Drugs failed to eradicate psychoactive drugs even from prisons, the most heavily guarded buildings in the country.

So that means that a gun confiscation — or any increased legal encumbrance upon citizen ownership — would surely do only one thing: decrease the ability of peaceful and lawfully disposed citizens to own guns, but not the violent and the criminal. It would basically leave people less safe.

Besides, Spencer’s Law applies, as increasing numbers of gun owners understand. Gun crimes have been going down in America as gun ownership has risen. And this applies to school shootings, too. If someone, conservative or progressive, is much exercised about “a rise in violence” in America, they are, for the most part, being driven by coverage and hysteria, not facts, figures, and sound risk assessment. The rise in demand for “doing something” is occurring as the need for “doing something” is diminishing.

Given this, gun owners wonder what could gun control advocates be thinking? Are they that credulous?The kids are, surely — yes. But some gun control advocates, they know, are indeed malign proponents of authoritarian government. Many gun control politicians and activists love tyrannical government as such. Just look at their methods and policies. Freedom has nothing to do with their agendas. They like robust government, vast redistributions of wealth, and massive regulation of every conceivable element of life, down to the drinking of sodas. They are illiberal. Every society has such people. Not a few of my friends and acquaintances would welcome a “benevolent” tyranny if it would get them the policies they desire.

To the extent that they advance their political program in public, gun control organizing is not conspiratorial. It is, instead, an open political assault on a free society. But some of these people are in government, and no doubt do have contingency plans in place to confiscate vast hoards of guns. So I guess even I believe in such a conspiracy.

But mainly I am politically opposed to the entreaties and counsel of fools.

twv

I, of course, am harmless.

On Quora, the question was asked: “How can a gun enthusiast still claim their [sic] right to bear arms is more important than public safety?” Paul Harding, a deputy sheriff, begins an interesting answer this way: “All of your Constitutional Rights come at the cost of safety.”

But he doesn’t stop with this admission. He essays a sophisticated perspective:

Give up your rights under the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments, and I’ll make the world safer for you. No question about it.

The only problem is that if you give up all those rights, which are really just restrictions on the things I’m allowed to do to you, what’s going to keep you safe from me?

He ends with this: “Freedom is scary, but lack of freedom is scarier.

The argument, here, is that “public safety” is not just a two-factor variable where (1) gun ownership ranges from “no effect on public safety” (guns in good citizens’ hands) to “negative public safety” (guns in criminals’ hands) and (2) policing ranges from “no public safety” with zero policing and court intervention to “complete public safety” with maximum possible scope for regulation, gun prohibition, and police power.

Both of these factors have wider ranges of effects, subject to side effects and diminishing returns.

Does this graph I just threw together help conceive of the difference between imaginary effects of gun confiscation, or maximum controls, and actual effects?

Of course, the “expected” line is only as expected from statists. People who believe that government is magic. It is possible that my expectation trajectory might dip lower faster.

twv

My interest in liberty has long focused chiefly on the condition as a moderating principle in society, as a constraint on human excesses, of individuals, sure, but especially of groups. As such, I consider it a stabilizing discipline. But, from my earliest acquaintance with its strongest advocates, I have noticed a strain within their ranks who treat liberty as a principle to be advanced even when it leads to social instability.

The idea among these freedom partisans seems to be this: any motion towards liberty is a good move.

My perspective is different. I think a move towards liberty that encourages a revolt against liberty down the road, or leads to social instability and chaos, is not a move to liberty at all. It is an illusion. A misstep. Sometimes a fiasco.

This issue plunges us deep into a question of strategy, with various forms of radicalism and incrementalism — “gradualism” — vying for dominance. I argue that some forms of radical, bold moves to greater freedom are good, because they encourage further moves to even greater freedom; other forms are bad, because they encourage backlashes, or lead to situations so destabilizing that they discourage further progress.

The classic case is in banking regulation, when deregulation is coupled with increased subsidy.  The Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980s shows the dangers of that approach.

A similar case is free immigration. It is a great idea in a general context of freedom and the division of responsibility. But when coupled with subsidies from the welfare state, it can be a grave threat.

Yet some libertarians advocate increasing the scope for freedom in movement even under a regime of guaranteed subsidy. So that, practically, the policy they promote is subsidized immigration.

Jacob Hornberger is one of those libertarians . . . as can be seen by his polemic of July 31, 2019, “Open Borders Are Compatible With the Welfare State.” 

I will consider each of his points:

For some time now, there has been a conservative faction within the libertarian movement that has advocated that libertarians abandon their position in favor of open borders and instead join up with conservatives and progressives in support of government-controlled borders.

So, it is a “conservative faction,” sez Hornberger, even though controlled migration has traditionally been a progressive position … so why aren’t the libertarian open border skeptics a “progressive faction”? This is a small matter, but I have noticed that those who lean left in the libertarian movement sure do love to identify their opponents as “conservative oriented” or “rightwing.” Ugh.

In doing so, these conservative-oriented libertarians always fail to address one of the principal costs of abandoning libertarian principle on this particular issue — an immigration police state, one consisting of highway checkpoints for travelers who have never left the United States, roving Border Patrol checkpoints, warrantless searches of farms and ranches within 100 miles of the border, body-cavity searches of Americans returning from overseas vacation, warrantless searches of cell phones and mandatory disclosure of passwords, violent raids on private businesses, forcible separation of children from parents, squalid conditions in immigrant concentration camps, and boarding of private buses to examine people’s papers.

Always? I know I have disliked this regime, and have mentioned its horrors. Indeed, one reason to put up a “wall,” or border fence — or other barrier, such as a moat! — is to avoid the domestic ramp-up of totalitarian methods.

Similarly, folks who do not want to get into altercations on their own property with trespassers often put up fences, or locked gates and the like, to prevent unpleasantness on their own property.

All I am saying here is that the “immigration police state” — which I do indeed find alarming, and have argued against — is not required by the policy of controlled immigration if the control is physical at the border.

Ideal? No. Do I especially like this solution? No. But it is an option, and it is one reason why a lot of people voted for Trump and his Wall.

One of the principal arguments that such libertarians cite is that open borders are not compatible with a welfare state. If America didn’t have a welfare state, these libertarians say that they would favor open borders. Pending the dismantling of the welfare state, which might be never, such libertarians have resigned themselves to joining up with the statists on the immigration issue.

All advances of liberty “might be never.” But if it can be shown that an advance A would necessarily preclude future advances B, C, and D, then Hornberger’s desperation, here, is less than convincing.

In taking this position, such libertarians, of course, are implicitly acknowledging that open borders is, in fact, the libertarian position. That, of course, makes sense given the core principle of libertarianism — the non-aggression principle. It holds that people have the right to engage in any action whatsoever, so long as their conduct does not involve force or fraud against another person. When people cross political borders, whether such borders are state, local, or international, they are not violating anyone’s rights, given that they are simply exercising their natural, God-given rights of freedom of travel, economic liberty, freedom of contract, and freedom of association.

Sure. But it is worth remembering that private property owners can also exclude transit, and that border protections between states could be done voluntarily (at risk of free riders) — and at the U.S. southern border there have been erected borders on private property, with some success, and . . . have you ever wondered if one reason for borders has been to subsidize private property owners? Or, to help private property owners avoid free rider problems in excluding unwanted migrants and . . . and trespassers? Of course you have. But if libertarians are going to be arguing over this stuff on a fundamental level, maybe drilling down to fundamental issues would be a good idea, and not just engage in purist hand-waving.

The fact is, however, that the libertarian position favoring open borders is entirely consistent with a welfare state. And the fact that America is a welfare state should not cause libertarians to abandon their principles and join up with the statists on this particular issue.

Well, here is the thesis. Finally. Somehow a libertarian policy maven asserts that a libertarian institution — freedom of movement — is “entirely consistent” with an anti-libertarian institution. This should get interesting.

Breaking it down, what is the real argument that these libertarians are using in support of their argument? They are saying that if we have open borders and a welfare state, foreigners will come to the United State and get on welfare, which will mean that Americans will have to pay higher taxes. 

That is part of it. Another part is the expectation that they and their progeny will be more likely to vote for transfer payments to folks like themselves . . . from established native taxpayers. Yet another is that their progeny will soak up police and court resources.

And those of us concerned about social stability also note that immigrants’ children will be run through the great tax sinkholes that are America’s public schools, and that demands on those resources are often much greater than for natives’ children.

That’s the core of their argument—that libertarians should abandon their principles because open borders adn a welfare state will mean that people will have to pay higher taxes.

Well, no. It is also that the institutions will be placed under great stressors that will increase social discord and even violence and class resentment, and that these results can be even worse than mere tax increases.

Of course, that’s not necessarily true for three reasons:

First, most immigrants come to the United States to get rich. 

This is inaccurate. Immigrants come here to improve their lives, sure — and sometimes through accessing commons resources as well as through trade. But few become “rich.” And indeed, the ones who get rich are generally the ones who come here legally. Depending on country of origin, many, many illegal immigrants are poorer than the general run of natives. Open up the borders while still giving out transfer payments and tax-funded services, and the marginal immigrant will tend to be and remain poorer yet.

Very few people get rich on welfare. 

Most people do not get rich, so this is an irrelevant observation. They don’t even try to get rich — they just aim to get richer. And the very formulation of wealth acquisition as the goal implies that folks use only one manner of human interaction to advance themselves. Ignoring marrying into wealth, there are four basic methods for immigrant advance:

  1. trade;
  2. begging;
  3. mooching off the State;
  4. stealing outright.

A family that arrives here with few work skills and no capital is likely to try all four methods. Only the first is desirable.

Moreover, the economic prosperity (and taxes paid) generated by working immigrants might well offset the additional taxes that would be needed to fund welfare for the dole-receiving immigrants.

They might. Do they? That is an empirical question. 

More importantly, though: what is the situation with the marginal immigrant population (illegals) we are actually talking about? What is their marginal cost to taxpayers? 

Second, there is nothing inherent in the welfare state way of life that requires Congress to provide welfare for foreigners. Congress could easily enact legislation limiting the dole to American citizens.

Barack “You Lie!” Obama promised that his Obamacare would not give healthcare to immigrants, and it was widely considered bad form to even suggest it might; now, of course, almost all the Democrats running to take up the Obaman mantle insist that illegal aliens get precisely such services. Fat chance getting the nixing of welfare benefits to illegals through now. The only way to prevent illegal immigrants (or new additional immigrants) from getting key and expensive welfare state handouts would be to dismantle the welfare state. And this is what libertarians should argue. But, you know . . . I cannot think of one libertarian to have made this case — other than me, actually — namely, “You want open borders and diversity? Well, the only way to secure them is to chuck the welfare state!” Why have I not heard libertarians make this case?

Why isn’t Hornberger saying “Aha! We have the solution to your problem!”

Instead of taking a libertarian critique of the destructive nature of the welfare state and applying it to migration, he argues, lamely, that free migration is compatible with the welfare state. 

Third, given the difficulty, both psychological and financial, in leaving one’s homeland, his culture, his language, and his friends and relatives, it is difficult to imagine that large numbers of people would leave their homelands simply to get on welfare in a foreign country, especially one in which they are going to be insulted and abused. After all, how many people in Alabama move to California, where welfare benefits are much higher?

OK, this is just witless. Of course some people move to collect better handouts. I can point to specific people in the county in which I live who have done precisely this.

And, once again, this is an empirical question that could be actually researched. But, barring that apparently onerous task, note that California is even now being flooded with homeless people from all over the country. Does this not indicate to Hornberger that he has asked a question with a ready answer not to his liking?

But let’s assume the worst. Let’s assume that America restores its founding system of open immigration, 

This is not quite accurate, by the way. Even Jefferson contemplated the several states controlling immigration.

…continues its welfare state, and opens it up to immigrants. Should that be reason for libertarians to abandon their principles and join up with conservative and liberal statists by supporting America’s system of immigration controls and America’s immigration police state?

I say: No. I say that libertarians should continue adhering to principle regardless and continue focusing on ending the wrongdoing — i.e., the welfare state. If we abandon principle because it pinches, then how are we different from Republicans and Democrats, who do that as a matter of course?

So, here we see Hornberger bury the lede. He is making a pitch regarding principles, and seems uninterested in emphasizing what libertarians could add to the discussion: ending the welfare state.

It is worse, though. Libertarians at their best understand social processes over time. They are not bound to narrow time slices. We have extended time horizons. So what we can add to this debate is explaining where both the far-left and the alt-right err.

But Hornberger does not seem interested in increasing knowledge. He seems just interested in “sticking to principle.” Or sticking libertarians with principles they may not quite agree with. But when you do that relentlessly, without careful attention conduct, policy and consequences, you come off as a dogmatic and moralistic prig.

No wonder libertarians go nowhere.

Of course, an obvious question arises, one that those conservative-oriented libertarians never ask: How much in estimated additional taxes would have to be paid if the United States had both open borders and a welfare state? After all, isn’t that reason that these libertarians claim that open borders are incompatible with a welfare state: that it will result in the payment of higher taxes?

How much in additional taxes? Oddly enough, such libertarians never ask that question.

As I have stated above, this is not the main point. The thing most necessary is opposing a policy — de facto subsidized immigration — that trains immigrants to become plunderers, to become socialists . . . and in the process increases social discord.

Oh, and I have heard libertarians ask the question. I know I have wondered.

Suppose, for example, that each American citizen would be required to pay an additional $10 a year in income taxes? Should that be enough to cause libertarians to abandon principle and join up with the statists? $100 a year? $1,000 a year?

I say: Libertarians should not abandon their principles for any amount of money, no matter how high taxes might get

What? So, we should let in immigrants even though the heavens fall? Even if the country goes socialist?

This is sheer craziness.

After all, throughout history there have been people who have paid a much higher price than additional taxes for the sake of their principles. The Alamo comes to mind. So does the story of the White Rose.

Getting your head chopped off in a time of desperation is one thing — doing it so that people from foreign countries who have scant interest in liberty can mooch off the taxpayer, and, over time be trained by Democrats into voting socialist is not heroic.

It is stupid.

If drugs are legalized, poor drug addicts could go on Medicaid to treat their addiction, which would cause taxes to go up for the rest of us. Should we join the statists in support of the drug war until Medicaid is abolished? Perish the thought! 

Once again, Hornberger neglects to put the actual libertarian position on the table. He instead lubes up the libertarian anus to be reemed by statists — in the name of “principle.”

But he misses something, too. A big difference. A drug addict going on the dole is something we have now. And by putting drug addicts on state assistance we are not increasing the number of voters who will vote to give more money to drug addicts. With allowing open immigration we are not only subsidizing them, we are helping them produce a class of people (their children, and even their very selves) with an interest in plundering existing citizens of their wealth, who are likely to vote for such plunder.

Libertarians should continue adhering to principle by continuing to support an end to this deadly, destructive, and immoral government program, even while continuing to advocate a dismantling of Medicaid. We should continue doing the same with respect with respect to America’s deadly, destructive, and immoral system of immigration controls.

Hornberger emphasizes the berating of libertarians for their lack of purity and underemphasizes the attack upon the welfare state. He only mentions this latter solution in an offhand way. He does not address the underlying logic, but merely characterizes the policies as deadly, destructive and immoral. And that logic is important, deserving of more coherent advance: you can have a large, intrusive state and a monoculture, or diversity and limited government. Our pitch to leftists is that their current mania for diversity is incompatible with the welfare state. Our pitch to rightists is that their love of monocultures encourages the maximum state. Left and Right have it wrong.

Do libertarians have it wrong?

Only if they keep attacking each other and siding with the left or the right.

One would think that the best method for achieving liberty would be to approach the two sides with where they are right, and then try to convince each where they are wrong . . . leveraging the good in their allegiances.

Hornberger appears to be uninterested in this method.

twv

These are the dog days. In which I respond to inane arguments.
Inaccurate title, but…
This is not the motto, today, of very many people who call themselves “democrats.”

…as answered on Quora…

The question should be formed in the past tense: when was democracy overthrown?

OK, that’s a bit snarky. And not at all accurate, since the United States was neither designed to be nor ever became a democracy.

Unless, as I have written elsewhere on Quora, one starts fiddling with the meaning of the term “democracy.” Which is fair game, I guess, and is part of a long tradition. Alexis de Tocqueville meant something different by the word in the Jacksonian era than did the founding fathers of these benighted states.

It is pointless for me to repeat all I have written on this in the past. So, for the remainder of my answer, I will accept arguendo that democracy is a good thing, that we once had it, and that it either no longer exists or is in peril.

So who is responsible for the anti-democratic influences? People in power.

I find it weird that Democrats think Republicans are democracy’s threat, and Republicans deem Democrats the threat. Both are threats. Obviously.

Take the big marker: initiative and referendum rights. Those are democratic, after all. No controversy about that. So, all around the country, in state after state, Democratic Party political machines work to squelch the ability of voters to check legislatures — which are, after all, concentrations of political power, especially when incumbency accrues advantages on sitting politicians by seniority and sheer persistence — using the ballot box on an issue-by-issue creation and repeal of constitutional amendments and statutes.

Except in Florida. In Florida it is the Republicans who work to squelch initiative activity, through the usual sneaky political means, by regulating the petition process for ballot access.

Usually, it depends upon who is in and out of power. Truth is, politicians out of power tend to favor democracy, for their best hope into power is to ride a groundswell of citizen unrest. Where, once in power, they tend to lust to squelch the competition.

Democracy is a means to manage competition for political power. That’s one definition anyway. And any group in power tends to be against democracy.

It is one of the basic rules of politics.

But let us look more broadly at the institutions of citizen control of the government. Are we really sure we have it? Are we sure we do not live in a mixed system with heavy elements of plutocracy, oligarchy, and mobocracy as well as star-chamber Deep State machinations?

After all, way back in the late 1930s, Garet Garrett understood that revolutions need not be overt:

There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.

There are those who have never ceased to say very earnestly, “Something is going to happen to the American form of government if we don’t watch out.”

These were the innocent disarmers. Their trust was in words. They had forgotten their Aristotle. More than 2,000 years ago he wrote of what can happen within the form, when “one thing takes the place of another, so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about revolution in the state.”

The key thing about citizen control of government is that government must be small enough, limited enough, for citizens to practically control. At the time of the founding, the ratio of Representatives to citizens was comparatively balanced — a normal person was apt to know his Rep. Today, to keep up anything like that ratio, our House of Representatives would have to number not 435 but in the many thousands. This means that the federal union that is supposedly the United States may be less democratic today than it was two centuries ago . . . when it was explicitly not democratic!

But Americans, when they hear this, usually just shrug.

I think it is pretty obvious that people do not want democracy. Government is something we get activated about when we fret about a particular issue. But most people have the sense to shove most questions of governance off their proverbial front burners and onto that of experts. Who have their own special interests.

The consequences of this, of course, is not democracy but rule by the most vociferous and greedy factions. The revolution of the 20th century — away from constitutional constraints and a decent balance between “the people” and “the government” and to the establishment of a vast administrative state with its bureaucracy and vast transfer programs and regulations placing unequal burdens upon society, for the benefit of some and not others — is the result of the activism of some and the “inactivism” of the many.

Is that democracy? Hardly. But the metamorphosis did not require much bloodshed, as Garrett explained:

Revolution in the modern case is no longer an uncouth business. The ancient demagogic art, like every other art, has, as we say, advanced. It has become in fact a science — the science of political dynamics. And your scientific revolutionary in spectacles regards force in a cold, impartial manner. It may or may not be necessary. If not, so much the better; to employ it wantonly, or for the love of it, when it is not necessary, is vulgar, unintelligent and wasteful. Destruction is not the aim. The more you destroy the less there is to take over. Always the single end in view is a transfer of power.

I find it funny that there are people who think they are “for democracy” but really just demand more power for their faction.

My laughter is not exactly mirthful, I admit.

twv

There is a sort of progress to be identified in civilization, an incline that can be seen in the graded, increasing limits on the demands the state may be allowed to place upon us. It goes something like this:

  • Death
  • Slavery
  • Corvée labor
  • Property confiscation
  • Taxation

Generally, civilized societies emphasize taxation as preferable to confiscation — but naked confiscation exists in America: just look at the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

America’s founding fathers placed an important limit upon confiscatory practices: the Takings Clause of the Bill of Rights. Their idea was that there be allowed no confiscation of property without a valid public use, and not without “just compensation,” either. Unfortunately, state functionaries are not the only ones with designs on others property, and both limits have been repeatedly undermined over the years, indeed flouted. The Keto case being only the most famous. And we now must endure a president who has used the “public takings” procedures of “eminent domain” for his own quite private ends. Who knows where this limit upon state power will go because of Donald Trump?

It is a mark of civilization that intermittant required labor (corvée) is preferable to outright slavery . . . but note that military conscription is a form of corvée labor that looks an awful lot like slavery, and one that often leads to death.

The State often brings back that initial demand upon subjects: the cessation of their very lives.

It is also the case that taxation is yet another form of slavery, just removed from personal control to more alienable commandeering of property. And remember the tale of Genghis Khan, who wanted to raze Manchuria (in the process slaughtering all of the conquered Manchurians) to . . . raise horses. An advisor, the story goes, mentioned to him the principle of the Laffer Curve — though not of course by name — saying that a living population could provide wealth to the Khanate via taxation, while as The Dead they could provide nothing. So, the Great Khan allowed the Manchurians to live, taxing them, thereby enabling his Golden Horde to further spread death and slavery throughout the world, into Persia and the Arab world, through Russia and even as far as Vienna.

Who says government doesn’t work!

Yet I prefer to push back on all forms of conscript service — all the way back to taxation. And then cut taxes. The love of taxation, often expressed these days, is sometimes said to express “caring” for the less well off. I just think of Manchuria. And its people, seen by their Mongol rulers as a mere one small step up from the equine beast.

twv