Mainstream Media Blackout of Ron Paul – Just as We Predicted

In his usual witty form, Jon Stewart exposes the media blackout of Ron Paul. 

You can see it here:  Ron Paul Media Blackout.

Earlier this year, we warned that this would happen.  So forget the media.  Don’t listen to them.  Ron Paul is our best shot at a libertarian president and has an excellent shot at winning it all.  Just imagine a debate between Ron Paul and President Obama.  It would be the ultimate battle between principles on one side and empty rhetoric on the other.  Let’s make it happen.

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Remind You of Anything Happening Today?

“We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever
spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am
wrong…somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous.
I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We
have never made good on our promises…I say after eight years of this
administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started… And an enormous debt to boot!”

-  Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury, 1939, in a statement to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Case for Private Charity

Leroy Fick does not need to live on food stamps anymore.  His luck changed when he won $2 million in the Michigan state lottery recently.  To see someone’s life take such a turn for the better warms the heart.  The troubling part of the story, though, is that eleven months after becoming a millionaire, Mr. Fick continues collecting food stamps from the government.  And he is doing this legally, because his assets don’t count towards his eligibility.  In other words, millionaires are entitled to food stamps.  Who knew.

Our system of government charity now comprises roughly thirty percent of government spending, depending on what one counts as charity.  That’s $727 billion for welfare, $887 billion for education and $356 billion for healthcare.  The grand total: $2 trillion, annually.  This is not necessarily an unreasonable amount of charity in a society as rich as ours.  That’s not the issue.  The issue is whether government is right for the job.

Consider a few things.  First, when government takes money from one person to give it to another, it burns about forty cents of every dollar taken in the process.  The losses are a combination government bureaucracy and economic drag.  This means we could collectively save around $800 billion dollars per year by not using government to middleman our charitable donations, and the recipients of charity would see not a penny less.

Second, when government gives money, it does so almost indiscriminately so long as the recipient falls below certain income thresholds.  Just take a look at Mr. Fick.  Government does little to merit-test its charity.  Those who really need the money get too little; those who don’t get too much.  The collective power of millions of individuals each merit-testing their charitable donations far exceeds the capabilities of any government bureaucracy.

Third, when government takes and gives money, it foments class warfare by destroying the mutual benefits of charitable exchanges.  Rather than feeling sympathy for the poor, the rich come to see the poor as looters who use the strong arm of the government to reach into others’ pockets.  While the poor, rather than feeling gratitude for the rich, see them as cold hearted, selfish snobs that have to be forced to care about the plights of others.  In other words, the government makes thieves of the poor and despots of the rich.

Fourth, government charity is ineffective at achieving its primary goal of reducing poverty.  It is sad comparing the poverty rate in 1969, shortly after the Great Society’s initiative to eliminate poverty, with the poverty rate in 2009.  In 1969, we had a poverty rate of 12%.  By 2009, after nearly half a century of waging the war against poverty, the poverty rate has risen.  Based on the figures from the United States Census Bureau, it rose to 14%.  In other words, our trillions and trillions of dollars bought us a 2% increase in poverty.  A private charity that failed to lift its beneficiaries from poverty would quickly see its funding dry.  Donors would not continue to flush money down the toilet for nearly half a century, as government has forced us to do with welfare.

Which brings me to the fifth point.  Taking someone’s money under the threat of force is what we know as theft.  It does not matter if I am holding the gun, or if you are.  It does not matter if another gang happens to be bigger than ours.  It does not matter if the gang is large enough to vote someone into government to point the gun at us on their cowardly behalves.  Just because government’s gun has a silencer emblazoned with the word “charity” does not make it so.  Theft is theft.  Not only has the government’s threat of force kept a failure of a welfare system alive for nearly half a century, it has trampled upon our rights as individuals.  It needs to stop.

So here’s an idea.  The government should give us back the $2 trillion dollars of charity money that it takes from us on a yearly basis and let us decide how to allocate it.  While it is likely that not everyone will spend this money on charity, that’s fine.  When you couple the increased efficiencies of private charities with the merit-based testing of millions of individuals, we don’t need anywhere close to $2 trillion dollars to achieve much better results than what government has given us thus far.  This will renew the pleasure in giving, the respect and dignity in receiving, the morality of our society, and will ensure that the money reaches the hands of those who need it most.

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Universal Healthcare – Longer Lines, Higher Costs, Lower Quality

Here’s what happens to simple blood tests under the universal healthcare system in Canada.  You can wait two to three years–seriously–to get the blood test.  Or you can pay $900 (on top of the taxes you already paid for universal healthcare) to get the blood test at a private clinic today.  Ouch!  Meanwhile, it costs about $10 to take your dog to the vet to get the same blood test without a long wait time.  So yes, dogs are treated better than humans under the Canadian system.  That’s because dogs, unlike people, get the benefits of competition and private markets.  Anyone still excited about Obamacare?

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Do We Need the Government to Own Our Homes?

An alarming number of empty nesters, coming to an end of their earning years and facing an unreasonable-never-ending-property-tax burden, are being forced to sell their homes. Property taxes are like mortgage payments, except instead of ending in thirty years, they go on and on and on until death. And how’s this for the ultimate foreclosure—the government can sell our homes if we fail to pay our property taxes on time.

I think conventional wisdom of this generation and past generations was that owning your own home was a failsafe investment. I’m a baby boomer, and I thought if I bought a house and dutifully paid off the mortgage, someday I could own my home. Recently though, a slow realization manifested itself. Here it is: The government owns my home.

As taxes have crept up over the years, I now pay $51,000 a year in property/school taxes. Over the next thirty years (I could reasonably live that long), that would add up to $1,530,000. Apparently, I don’t own my home. Forget that I’ve already been paying school taxes for twenty-five years, I still owe the government $1,530,000. By the time I die, I will actually have paid the government more in property taxes than the value of my home. That’s assuming I could even stay in my home with such a tax burden.

It seems to be a given that we should pay property taxes to support entitlement programs like public education. The premise isn’t horrible—we all pitch in to educate the children whose parents can’t afford to pay for school—part of the American dream—an education for all children. We certainly all benefit from educating our children, because education leads to opportunities. Adults with opportunities are less likely to commit crime, suffer health problems, and are more likely to be productive citizens. (Whether the education system should shift from the government to the private sector is an idea worth our consideration, and putting this into the hands of the private sector could provide a solution to our current problem of unreasonable taxation. At least the private sector would run it without the need to tax us all to/until death to pay for it. If the private sector could provide a higher-quality education, then the idea gets even more interesting.)

But in our current situation, the government administers and controls the education system, and irrespective of the quality of education being provided the government has the absolute power to force us to pay taxes for this our entire lives. Is this reasonable? Is it reasonable that even people who no longer have children in public school and people who never-have-had and never-will-have children in public school are forced to pay this tax? I would never advocate we stop educating our children. I’m just saying it’s time for a long-overdue return to reasonable taxation. Shouldn’t there be a tax okay-that’s-enough point?

The never-ending-property-tax burden in America has become too great. The American Dream of growing old in the home you’ve worked hard to own is just that—only a dream, a fantasy. Are we okay with this?

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Honor in Healthcare

The Skilled Veterans Corps in Japan is a group of retirees, 60 and older, who have volunteered to take the place of young workers at the site of the catastrophic nuclear meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.  Masaaki Takahashi, a member of the group, is humble about his sacrifice, understanding that the young have more to lose than the old from radiation exposure.  “We’re doing nothing special,” he says.  “I simply think I have to do something and I can’t allow just young people to do this.”

Takahashi’s character harkens back to the twelfth century—a time when the samurai dominated feudal Japan with a sense of honor as keen as their blades were sharp.  Honor-bound to protect the defenseless, a samurai would never dither in drawing his Shinogi-Zukuri katana in defense of a child, even against an army of marauders that meant certain death.  To a samurai, the way in which one died was equal in importance to the way in which one lived.  He would never sacrifice the lives of his sons and daughters to save his own.  To see the Skilled Veterans Corps keeping this tradition of honor alive is refreshing, in our modern world where honor has become so rare.

We would all do well to realize such honor, in the small things and in the big things: the ding on the car door without a note, subway seats filled with able-bodied men whist a pregnant woman is stuck standing, a neighbor leaving their dog’s business on another’s yard.  Nowhere, though, are we more lacking in honor than in our healthcare system.  With Medicare’s 75-year unfunded liability reaching a staggering $30.8 trillion dollars, we are doing the opposite of what is honorable: we are sacrificing our sons and daughters for the misguided hope of receiving more care for ourselves today.  Government’s handiwork has killed consumer choice and the pricing mechanism, resulting in skyrocketing prices and flat-lining quality.  ObamaCare is sure to make matters even worse, with its 2000 pages of legislation and just as many exemptions being bandied about as political favors these days.  The sad thing is, it needn’t be this way.  We can all have access to plenty of high-quality healthcare and cutting-edge technology, but to achieve this we must start acting with honor and we must not flinch from the difficult questions.

What is the value of a human life?  Who lives?  Who dies?  Where?  How?  Which treatments?  Which innovations?  At what prices?  These are just a few examples of the hard questions that must be answered.  They cannot be escaped.  Someone must answer them: either you and me, or the men and women on Capitol Hill, the likes of Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi.  I opt for you and me.  For too many years we have been content to abdicate our responsibility to government.  It just didn’t seem right for us, through free markets, to determine matters of life and death, but what we got for giving control to government was higher costs, lower quality, more death and less life.

Consider the power of our free markets in consumer goods (free relatively speaking that is), and then try to justify not using this power in the ever more important realm of healthcare.  Cellphones, televisions and cars are just a few examples.  We have over 300 million mobile phones currently in use.  That’s about one phone per person.  We have about 250 million televisions in the United States.  That’s more than two per household.  We have 250 million registered vehicles in the United States.  That’s more than two per household.

Not only do we all have mobile phones, televisions and cars, the ones we have today are better than yesterday’s.  Our fifty-inch plasma screens make the twelve-inch cathode-ray tubes of ten years ago look silly.  Our iPhones make us reconsider the use of the word “mobile” in describing the clunkers of the past.  And our GPS-enabled cars let us forget about the all too familiar paper maps and fights with our passengers.  Now we have our pick of copilots—and their accents—and some cars even drive themselves, such as the ones used by Google to build Google Maps.

The free markets have delivered high-quality goods at low prices, and innovation races at such breakneck-speeds that we even have commercials making fun of it: a man purchases the next generation technology only to see an advertisement for the next next generation tech before even getting from the store to his vehicle.

There’s no reason for healthcare to be any different.  Instead, we have a perverse system where a single retiree can demand hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical treatment to prolong his old age by another few months, all funded by our children.  A samurai would have performed seppuku before living at the expense of involuntary victims.  They knew how to die with dignity.  The government has walked us down this trail of dishonor, and we have followed, hand-in-hand.  Sadly, by hoping so hard to make healthcare a right, we have succeeded only in making it less of one.

As the samurai say, “Go into battle expecting to die, and you will surely live.  Go into battle hoping to live, and surely you shall not.”  It is time we captured some of this honor.  It is time we took responsibility for our own healthcare choices and confronted the hard decisions boldly.  By doing so, we will live longer, we will live better.

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Do We Need Government to Redistribute Our Paychecks?

Congress is considering raising income taxes—again—making the top tax rate reach an astonishing 62%. Almost all Democrats in Washington are on board—add to tax increases enacted last year, repeal the Bush tax cuts, phase out certain deductions, add in payroll taxes for Medicare (part of the Clinton tax hike) plus the Medicare surtax for ObamaCare, eliminate the income ceiling on Social Security taxes, add in state income taxes, increase the capital gains tax, and voilà—62%.

I’m trying to do the math here. To make $300,000 a year, would I have to make close to $800,000 before taxes? Maybe not quite that much given the progressive structure of the marginal tax rate. But even so, who in their right mind would think this is reasonable?

Apparently many Congressmen do. Or, since a 62% tax rate is clearly not reasonable, I’m led to believe that being reasonable is not their modus operandi.

I suppose they justify such lunacy by acting not according to what is best for America, but rather by what works best to immediately redistribute the wealth into the hands of their constituents. After all, they represent the people who elected them and whose votes they will need to be re-elected, and the people who didn’t/won’t vote for them can pay for it. The government has welfare-stated/entitlement-programmed us to the point that finally the people who receive most of the benefits now outnumber the people who contribute most of the tax dollars—unreasonable and not a sustainable trend.

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Do We Need Government to Provide Lifeguards?

Some California lifeguards reportedly earned $200,000 in total yearly compensation courtesy of taxpayers.  Click here for the story.  Meanwhile, physicians in general practice with twenty years’ experience, who paid half a million dollars or more for their required education and training, earn an average of around $170,000 on a yearly basis.  At least with communism everyone would earn the same thing.  Instead, we have a complete inversion of the natural wage distribution.  The highly skilled and highly sought physicians are making less than the relatively less skilled and less demanded lifeguards. 

Lifeguards provide a valuable service–no one contests this–but there is little reason to repose our trust in government to efficiently manage lifeguards and their compensation.  There are no legitimate market failures that would evenly arguably require government intervention here.  The free market can handle this one just fine.

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Planet Mars – Libertarian Utopia?

There’s a reason why images of Mars and their fictional inhabitants are embedded in our entertainment, pop culture, and our candy bars, as emblems of something unknown and exciting.  It is our new, New World.  The mere idea of seeing Mars in person is nothing short of wondrous.  Imagine standing on the edge of Valles Marineris, our solar system’s deepest valley, gazing out over the vast chasm of red iron oxide, two hundred kilometers wide and seven kilometers deep into the alien planet.  Or atop Olympus Mons, our solar system’s tallest mountain, peering into the black heavens of our universe feeding a childlike sense of hope and promise.

Ever since July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong stamped mankind’s first footprint into the lunar regolith, we have reposed such dreams with NASA.  “One small step for man,” Mr. Armstrong famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”  With the Apollo 11 mission, the U.S. government achieved a milestone like none other.  Yet, forty years after our giant leap, here we stand, in the same ankle deep puddle of space, with more worlds beckoning from the vastness of the universe than there are grains of sand on our beaches.  So why the delay?

Despite government’s early success with space exploration, NASA has unfortunately become like so many other government institutions that we know: inefficient and stagnant.  For the last half century, NASA has enjoyed a government enabled monopoly on space exploration, and, like any monopoly, it diverted too many resources to inefficient uses.  President Obama’s decision to gut NASA’s Constellation program was the right thing to do.  Private companies were scheduled to place manned shuttles in orbit ahead of NASA, even before the defunding.  The Constellation program was obsolete.

Private companies now have a chance to claim this turf, and they are doing so quickly.  Take SpaceX, for example, one of the private companies in this field.  It has developed a rocket, the Falcon-9 Heavy, that can deliver more than double the payload of current rockets.  This, according to Robert Zubrin, president of Pioneer Astronautics, is enough power to land 11 metric tons of payload on Martian ground.  Coupled with SpaceX’s lightweight Dragon passenger and cargo capsule, which weighs in at a mere eight tons, a direct flight to Mars is feasible by 2016, says Mr. Zubrin.  The voyage would require three separate Dragon capsule launches—the first shuttle to land on Mars unmanned to deposit the second shuttle, which is the ride home, and the third shuttle to launch the crew to Mars.  And the cost of all this?  A mere $100 million per Falcon-9 Heavy rocket and less for each Dragon capsule.  Compared to NASA’s current budget of $18.7 billion for 2012 alone, a SpaceX trip to Mars and back is pennies to the dollar.  And for people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who have a combined net worth of nearly $100 billion, funding a trip to Mars would be the equivalent of an upper-middle class family buying a BMW.  It is time to do this, and we don’t need government to help.

The implications of a successful and privately funded mission to Mars would be profound.  It was an historic moment when Christopher Columbus, funded by the Spanish crown, discovered the New World.  A private voyage to Mars would be even more so.  A new planet is categorically better than a new continent, and a privately funded settlement is categorically better than a government funded one.  Unlike every other major discovery of land in human history, this one would have no strings attached to government and all of its many rules, interest groups and bureaucrats.  To see the flag of a private settlement flying on Martian soil could mark the hopeful beginnings of a new type of society, one founded on the principles of self-ownership, freedom of contract, and whatever other private laws we voluntarily accept.  It is, in some ways, sadly poetic that we must travel into the distant frontiers of space to discover that with which we were born to begin: the child within us, freedom.

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Lew Rockwell Publishes DWNG Article

Lew Rockwell, one of the preeminent libertarian scholars, published our POM-pay article on his website today.  You can read it here.  Mr. Rockwell  is the founder and chair of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.  It is a great honor to have one our articles selected by him for publication.

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Ron Paul Says Legalize Heroin

Ron Paul, challenged on his position to legalize heroin, offered the perfect retort.  “If we legalize heroin tomorrow, is everyone going to use heroin?” he asked.  “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal?”  The South Carolina crowd cheered the question.  They understood it was not the laws that kept people from using heroin; it was their own personal moral character.  Drug laws do not lift people of poor moral character; rather they push drug users into the shadows of mainstream society and exacerbate their criminal tendencies.  Legalizing drugs would result in fewer drug abusers and billions in savings from drug enforcement and prison costs.  Ron Paul is right on this issue.

No doubt, it is horrible to see someone ruin his or her life with a drug like heroin.  We must do everything we can to educate people about the economic, social and personal harms of these drugs and to protect children from drug-abusing parents.  However, as with most well-intentioned policies, the drug laws satisfy our emotional impulse to act, but do little to actually curb drug use and help people lead productive lives.  Worse, in satisfying our impulse to act, the drug laws dampen our resolve to fight the real drug war—the war over people’s minds and morals that we are losing every time we fail to condemn the celebrities, movies, videogames and television programs that glorify drugs.  The time has come to stop abdicating our moral responsibilities to the government.

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Joe Rogan Agrees: We Have Too Many Laws

Joe Rogan might be a bit crude at times, but he speaks plainly and makes the right points.  Too many laws, he says.  That’s our problem.  He leads with a story about a fourth-time drug offender that was put away for life.  That’s right.  For life.  Meanwhile we have child sex offenders walking free with lesser sentences.  He also discusses the countless wasted lives that government dependency engenders.   More and more people are finding truth in this type of message.  We control the government, which means we can fix the problem.  Enjoy the video.  It is entertaining if nothing else. They are a reality in our society, and some people are interested in learning about legal careers (even if Joe Rogan may not be).

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Your Retirement Money in Peril: Social Security, the Debt Ceiling and Charles Ponzi

How would you react if Sam, your financial advisor, came to you with a strained smile stretched across his chubby cheeks and said, “Remember that money you asked me to invest?”—you had invested $100,000 with him to build your retirement—“Well, umm…I don’t have it anymore.  I gave it to someone else to make good on a promise.”

You almost lunge for him but for his placating hand gestures.  “But it’s all under control,” he insists.  “All I need from you is a couple hundred thousand more to make good on another promise.  I am a man of my word, after all.  That’s why you can trust me.  I promise that I’ll pay you back, with interest of course.”

No doubt you refuse his demands, file a lawsuit for fraud and report him to the authorities, probably landing him behind bars to share the fate of Bernard Madoff and Charles Ponzi who gave name to his scheme.  Your anger is justified.  Even with the lawsuit, you never actually recover all of your money.  Sam was running a pyramid scheme—taking money from one person to fund the “investment” of the first, and then taking money from another to fund the investment of the second, and so on—which meant there were many others duped by Sam, leaving not enough money to go around.

But relax.  What has actually happened to you is far, far worse.  Your retirement financial advisor is not your buddy Sam; he is your Uncle Sam, and the program is called Social Security.  Our collective investment in Social Security isn’t just a few hundred thousand dollars; it’s trillions.  Your money is not being used to fund your own retirement; it is being used to fund someone else’s.  Worst of all, there is no refusing Uncle Sam’s benefaction.  It’s a Ponzi scheme with a gun to your head.

Recent events do not inspire confidence that the pyramid will survive long enough for us to collect.  Uncle Sam is now asking us to give him more money.  He wants to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling to avoid a default and keep this charade going.  Just last year Congress raised the debt ceiling from the already high $12.4 trillion to a whopping $14.3 trillion.  Now we are bumping against the ceiling again, with debt approaching nearly 100% of 2010 GDP.

Congress is in the midst of debating another increase to the debt ceiling and will need to reach a decision soon.  If the debt ceiling is raised, the pyramid scheme becomes another generation’s problem.  If the debt ceiling is not raised, then the pyramid scheme collapses and forces us to make hard decisions.  These hard decisions have been foregone for too long.  Leaving the debt ceiling in place is the right thing to do, so that Social Security, the financial pink elephant in the room, can finally be addressed.  For better or worse, we have inherited this Ponzi scheme.  The question now is whether we are going to continue to perpetuate it.  Ours can be the principled generation that finally says no.

Rather than forcing everyone to keep and lose a large portion of their retirement money in a Ponzi scheme, we would all be much better off planning for our own retirements through private investment and insurance plans that follow transparent and legal accounting rules.  When Texas allowed for such an opt out in 1980, the private plans generated benefits of nearly $7,000 per month compared to Social Security benefits of $1,300 per month for employees earning $50,000 per year.  In fact, when Social Security benefits are compared against contributions, a male earning $95,000 per year and retiring in 2045 is estimated to lose over $200,000 by participating in the Social Security system, according to Joseph Fried in “Democrats and Republicans – Rhetoric and Reality.”  There can be little question that private markets outperform Social Security.

The private markets also provide honest accounting and transparency that is lacking from Social Security.  The Social Security Trust Fund is said to have a $2.5 trillion surplus.  Except there is no surplus.  “Surplus,” when used by the government, refers to money you give to Social Security that actually stays there to fund your retirement, as opposed to funding someone else’s.  In ordinary parlance this isn’t called a surplus; it’s just called a regular funded account.  But even the funds for your retirement are not really there.  The federal government has borrowed your retirement funds to pay for its other expenditures and given you IOUs in exchange.  Charles Ponzi would be proud to see the United States government utilizing multiple layers of his namesake.

The government has enough debt.  The debt ceiling debate is our reality check.  Rather than raising the debt ceiling, we should begin the long needed phase out of Social Security.  The solution is not that complicated, but it does require sacrifice.  By phasing out benefits and contributions based on number of years to retirement, we can ensure that seniors who have relied on social security still get most of the planned benefits and that younger people have more capital to plan for their own retirement with private options.  Benefits and contributions would be higher for those near retirement and lower for those far away.  Since the young would be paying less into the system than the seniors are collecting, it would require the government to cut spending elsewhere (which is probably a good thing in itself) to fund the wind down of Social Security.  It will cost money.  It will be unpopular.  But it is the principled thing to do.

Cartoon reprinted with permission from

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Osama Bin Laden Still Alive and at Large Under ACLU Policy

More than a year ago, April 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to President Obama urging him against the very practices that finally introduced Osama bin Ladin to the justice he deserved.  The letter, signed by the ACLU Executive Director, Anthony D. Romero, decried the practice of killing terrorists in non-combat zones as a violation of international law and the United States Constitution.  According to the ACLU, “Even in an armed conflict zone, individuals may be targeted only if they take a direct part in hostilities, for such time as they do so, or if they have taken up a continuous combat function…Propagandists, financiers, and other non-combat ‘supporters’ of hostile groups cannot lawfully be targeted with lethal force.”

The recent killing of bin Laden in a non-combat zone and while he was reportedly unarmed directly contravened the ACLU’s interpretation of United States military authority.  Good thing President Obama did not heed the ACLU; otherwise, bin Laden would still be alive today.  Perhaps the ACLU will consider retracting its position in light of recent events?

We have the best military in the world, no doubt, but to ask them to fight with one hand tied behind their back, as the ACLU would have essentially required, is a little much.  The ACLU exalts form over substance and would cripple our government in one of the few areas where it has a legitimate role—in protecting its people against mass murderers and securing justice.

The war against terrorism is not a conventional one.  There are no “Braveheart” battle sequences where one  standing army fights another on a well delineated battlefield.  We are fighting countless terrorist cells, and the battlefield is worldwide.  Our war strategy is more analogous to a corporeal war against a relentless, infectious virus.  Every member, leader or financier of terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, with a stated goal of ridding the world of non-Muslim influences through violence and mass murder, is a legitimate military target.  A virus.  Al-Qaeda might not be a sovereign state, but their shared murderous intent and collective action to execute mass murders make each member equally culpable.

Bin Laden deserved nothing more than the assassination that was bestowed him.  He founded al-Qaeda.  He orchestrated numerous terrorist attacks around the globe and on American soil: the 1992 bombing in Aden, Yemen; the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; the 1996 assassination attempt on former President Clinton; the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa; the 2000 suicide attack on the U.S.S. Cole; and the 9/11 attacks that brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  The innocent blood of thousands dripped from his fingers.  He trampled on the non-aggression principle with impunity.

In addition to the loss of lives, bin Laden’s economic toll was staggering.  Insurance losses from the 9/11 attacks exceeded $40 billion.  New York lost 430,000 jobs following the attacks—a total of around $2.8 billion in lost wages.  Businesses were displaced.  Families broken.  Bin Laden’s terrorism changed our very way of life.  Robert Poole, director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation, estimates that the annual cost of the extra wait time alone, generated by post 9/11 airport security measures, is around $8 billion per year (or $80 billion in total).  And this is only the tip of the iceberg.  The effects of bin Laden’s terrorist attacks rippled throughout our entire economic system, making the total losses almost impossible to calculate.

If ever there was a villain who deserved an assassination, bin Laden was the one.  The fact that bin Laden was killed unarmed only sweetens the justice.  It’s fitting, really, given his penchant for killing the defenseless.  Might we have benefited from keeping him alive?  Maybe.  Perhaps he could have offered some beneficial intelligence.  But the message the assassination sends to other leaders of terrorist organizations is invaluable:  if you murder innocent Americans, you had better sleep with one eye open.  I, for one, will sleep better knowing that the terrorists out there are not.

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Hope and Change, for Real this Time

Ron Paul, the libertarians’ politician, announced Tuesday that he will form an exploratory committee to launch his presidential campaign.  Here’s hoping that he wins.  We should not delude ourselves, though; the odds are stacked well against him.  The votes he has garnered in the past leave much to be desired.  When he ran for president in 1988 he received less than 0.5% of the votes.  In 2008, running as a Republican, he finished fourth in the primaries with only 5.6% of the votes.  Well, today is not 1988 or 2008.  Deficit reduction, government spending control, tax cuts and simplification are the buzz words of the day.  More and more, people are opening up to Ron Paul’s type of libertarian thinking.  But can Ron Paul win?  It probably all depends on the mainstream media, but only if we let it.

In 2008, when we elected President Obama, amidst staggering increases in the unemployment rate and a dilapidated economy, we wanted hope and we needed change, quickly.  The mainstream media told us that President Obama was the candidate to deliver on this vision.  We got hope in spades, but instead of change, we got more of the same, except worse.

“What I won’t do,” promised President Obama in reference to the economic policies of George W. Bush, “is return to the failed theories of the last eight years.”  Yet not only has President Obama continued spending like Mr. Bush, he has triple-downed on this strategy.  Whereas Mr. Bush increased the debt by about $4 trillion during his eight years in office, President Obama has added another $5 trillion to the debt in only a fraction of the time.  On average, Mr. Bush increased government debt by about $500 billion dollars per year, whereas President Obama has, on average, increased it by about $1.6 trillion per year.  That’s a debt-rate increase three times greater than Mr. Bush’s.

Borrowing is up, and so is spending, and the current budget gives no comfort that government will control itself.  Government spending as a percentage of GDP was 18% in 2000, 20% when Mr. Bush left office.  Under President Obama, government spending has risen to 25% of GDP.  That’s a quarter of our entire economy.  Even worse, President Obama’s budget continues on this elevated path through 2021.  Never mind that the spending binge was originally justified as emergency stimulus money.  Now it’s just good old government spending, part of the regular budget for the next decade and beyond.

Which brings me back to the media.  If we all believed in hope and change, how is it that we were sold a product that was more of the same?  One word:  airtime.  And here’s the evidence.

Thanks to Google Trends, we can now quantitatively analyze the number of Google searches.  In mid-December, 2007, in the days leading up to the primaries, Google searches for “Ron Paul” outnumbered “Barack Obama” six to one.  This is a rough proxy for people’s interest in the candidates at the time.  People were interested in Ron Paul and his ideas, at least more than they were in Barack Obama.

Then the mainstream media got involved.  They chose who our President would be.  They told us.  Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting counted the number of times a candidate appeared or was mentioned on World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News from December 26, 2007 to February 5, 2008.  The tally for Barack Obama was 1,204; for Hillary Clinton it was 992; for John McCain it was 931.  For Ron Paul, it was only 10.  Airtime.

Chris Rock jokes that Oprah got President Obama his job, but there is truth to his jest.  How could we ignore the constant barrage of positive Obama rays the television continually streamed into our eyes and ears?—eventually to imprint on our brains.  We were ready to believe.  We wanted hope, so we accepted the message.  Unfortunately, the magic beans did not sprout into economic prosperity.  We got more of the same.

This election, let’s not let the media choose our President.   They did not give us the “Hope and Change” we wanted last time.  There’s no reason to think they will deliver now.  I hope this time all of us will vote for real change.

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Ron Paul to Run for President

Ron Paul has announced that he is forming an exploratory committee to launch his presidential campaign.  Here is a good interview that he gave recently to Sean Hannity.  It would be very hard for Ron Paul to win, but he has great insights on many of the issues that we face today.

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POM-pay: FTC Lawsuit Against POM Juice to Censor Health Benefits of Pomegranates

The hearing in the case of the Federal Trade Commission against the Resnicks, manufacturers of the pomegranate juice, POM juice, is only a month away.  The FTC has alleged that the Resnicks made unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of POM juice and seeks to prevent the Resnicks from touting the health benefits of POM juice unless they receive FDA approval.

News flash, people.  Fruit is good for you.  Pomegranates are good for you.  Any doctor will tell you that a healthy diet heavy in fruits and vegetables improves your health.  The health benefits claimed by POM juice are in no way novel: improved heart health, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, decreased arterial plaque, reduced risk of certain cancers.  The website for POM juice links to numerous studies supporting these claimed health benefits and disclaims that the conclusions are preliminary.  Consumers can then decide how much weight to give to these studies.

The stakes in the case could not be higher.  A ruling in the FTC’s favor would be a major expansion of the FDA’s regulatory authority.  What’s next—broccoli?  As to any food, the FDA would arguably have the power to dictate how it was marketed.  The compliance costs would be staggering.  Want to use the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”?  Sorry, you’ll need to prove its accuracy to the FDA, first.  Rather than incur this extra cost, most companies will probably just forgo health messages entirely and opt for other marketing strategies.  For example, POM, while the FTC case is pending, has adopted a new marketing strategy involving the sex appeal of half-dressed models rather than the scientific information that was being previously provided.  Thanks to the FTC, consumers now get bawdy images in place of scientific information.

We don’t need the FDA and the FTC monitoring and censoring the information that we receive about food products.  You don’t have to be a genius to realize that fruits and vegetables improve health; and you don’t have to be a genius to realize that they don’t cure cancer.  Hopefully, we will be spared yet another tangle of government regulations, which would offer little if any benefit and impose heavy compliance costs.

This article was also published on

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Life from Death Denied – Why We Should Legalize Organ Selling

Christian Longo, 37, a death row inmate in Oregon who wants to donate his organs asked, “Why go out and waste your organs when you have the potential to go out and save six to twelve lives?”  Good question.  He even offered to waive his appeals in exchange for the right to donate his organs.  This was a win-win-win deal.  The State saves money.  Longo gets moral satisfaction.  And the lives of numerous patients are saved.  The State rejected the offer.

The government’s unexplainable antagonism towards changes in organ policy is perplexing, particularly because the two groups most affected by the prohibition are sympathetic constituents: the sick and the poor.  As of September 2010, there were 108,725 people on the waitlist for organs in the United States.  The waitlist for organs continues to grow by about 300 people each month.  The number of people waiting for organs is growing faster than the number of available donors.  On average, 19 people die each day waiting for organ transplants.  That totals to roughly 7000 deaths each year as a result of organ shortages—a yearly death toll that more than triples the deaths from Hurricane Katrina.

The sick need organs.  The poor need money.  A simple organ clearinghouse would solve the problem.  The poor would receive upfront money from the clearinghouse while still alive in exchange for their commitment to bequeath their organs to the clearinghouse when they die.  Sick patients would purchase organs from the clearinghouse.  No one loses in this exchange.

The poor lose nothing while alive, but get a substantial sum of money now that could be used to help pull them out of poverty.  In China, where the organs of death row prisoners are sold, livers go for $25,000, kidneys for $20,000, corneas for $5,000, and pancreases for $5,000.  In the Philippines, where organ trading is legal, kidneys have reportedly sold to Western patients for $85,000 each.  Someone agreeing to bequeath every organ in their body to a clearinghouse could easily get $50,000 or more for this promise, without giving up anything in the present.  For people struggling to live from paycheck to paycheck, this amount of money could literally change the course of their lives.

So long as the government enforces the non-aggression principle, there simply is no good reason for prohibiting this type of organ exchange.  The government’s prohibition on organ trading robs the poor of one of their most valuable assets and prevents countless patients from receiving the life-saving transplants that they need.

Government, please get out of the way.

This article was also published in the Chicago Tribune.

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Attention to Deficit Disorder

According to Standard & Poor’s, France has a better chance of remaining solvent than the U.S.  Their rationale?

“Because the U.S. has, relative to its ‘AAA’ peers, what we consider to be very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness and the path to addressing these is not clear to us, we have revised our outlook on the long-term rating to negative from stable.”

When you think of the U.S.’s rampant – loathsome, rather – government spending over this last business cycle, coupled with promise after promise of even more spending in the future, is it really such a shocker?  History is rife with examples of the government enacting deleterious, if not disastrous, policies following economic crises (Hoover, Roosevelt, we’re looking at you).  The “Great Recession,” as the last few years have been coined, is no exception. Information about online accounting classes is available for people who enjoy learning about financial matters and want to further explore budgeting and finance as a career, as well as learn more about finance in general. The more we can educate ourselves about budget and financial matters, the better equipped we will be to tackle our national budget issues.

Numerous op-ed pieces have been published lambasting the credit agency’s credibility after their misdiagnosis of certain companies that played a prominent role in the credit meltdown of late.  But the sheer fact that Standard & Poor’s would put it out there that the U.S. is in danger, especially following what is reported to be pretty direct pressure from the big man himself, speaks volumes.  It indicates to me that not only is government too big, but it’s likely to be precariously off kilter from what is even sustainable, much less ideal.

In any event, let’s hope the silver lining out of all this is that Congress and the Administration begin to really feel the pressure to rein in the spending.  Maybe small government, or small-ER government, is on the horizon.

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A Role for Government: the Non-Aggression Principle

The name of this blog could be misconstrued.  I am not an anarchist.  Government is too big.  But this does not mean that we should do away with government entirely.  So let us begin with what is surely our common ground:  the Non-Aggression Principle.  The Non-Aggression Principle says that we cannot and should not initiate physical force against persons or property, threaten such force or commit fraud.  Enforcement of this principle is one area where the government most certainly has a role.

I hope most of us can agree here.  Murder is wrong.  Rape is wrong.  Assault is wrong.  Theft is wrong.  But even more fundamentally, if you believe that you are the owner of your own body, then this necessarily entails the right not to have the ownership of your body disturbed.  You enjoy this right so long as you do not disturb another person’s self-ownership first.  Our respective self-ownership is self-evident and simple.  You own yourself, I own myself, neither of us has a right to initiate aggression against the other.  You don’t assault me.  I don’t assault you.  It is a cornerstone to any civilized society.  Without it, we are left with “might makes right” or “jungle rule,” be it packaged with the pretty bow of government, or wrapped only in the skull and crossbones banner of the pirate.

So, building from the ground up, our government starts with the Non-Aggression Principle.  This frees us from anarchy and chaos.  From here we turn to analyze each and every proposed addition to government to see whether they are truly necessary.  By rebuilding something from scratch, we may discover an entirely new way of thinking about government and its role in our lives.

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