Ron Paul - The Last and Only Hope for Liberty?

You might be able to guess from my previous posts that I am a pretty ardent supporter of Ron Paul.  But I have heard some of my fellow supporters recently say that Dr. Paul is our last and only hope for liberty in the States.  I sincerely hope that anyone who says this means it as hyperbole to gin up additional support from those who are on the fence or otherwise inactive.  This is something I can get behind, but actually believing that statement is dangerous in several ways.

First, it rings of defeatism and indicates to our intellectual opponents that this is the final countdown.  It tells them that if Ron doesn't win we will put back our foil hats and slink back to our bunkers.  Trust me my friends, if you think that liberty's corner is a lonely place now, wait until its "last and only hope" has failed.  The headlines will read that the last stand for our "out-dated" ideas has come and gone.  We will be patronized and demoralized.  The message should be not that that Ron Paul is the last hope but the first hope for liberty in the States in a long, long time.

Second, it also indicates to our fellow travelers that this is the final countdown.  It tells them that win or loose, come November they have no recourse but to return to life as normal.  Imagine if he comes in a close second or a distant third.  The Summer Bloggers and the Sunshine Tweeters will in this crisis change their profiles or hang up their keyboards altogether.  What shall we expect of those with no hope?

Finally, these hyperbolic statements imply a movement based upon a man, not upon ideas.  I have heard Ron say that it is impossible to stop an idea whose time has come, and I believe he is right.  But it is always possible for a single man to be stopped.  Those of us who advocate for liberty should support Ron Paul, but we should be careful to understand that Ron Paul is currently our preeminent messenger, not the message itself.  Our support must not stop at this campaign.  We must get involved in local and state government.  It won't be enough to have a president on our side; we need congressmen, governors, mayors, staffers and school board members willing to bind the hands of the state.  When we accomplish this, it will still not be enough.  After all, remember that freedom already won.  It just didn't go on winning because the ambitions of those who wanted power outstripped that of those who didn't.  Our intellectual battle will go on, even in the lulls between campaigns.  

People who join us and people who fight against us need to understand that we are many; that we are principled and that we will stay for the long haul.

Romney and The Brain

Most of you who grew up in the 90's will remember the children's cartoon Pinky and the Brain.  For the rest of you I apologize that I have not taken the time to find a copyright-free illustration of the duo.  The show was based on two lab rats, one of which was an evil genius bent on world domination, the large-headed and aptly-named Brain.  His counterpart, Pinky, had a brain more befitting a rat and was loud, clumsy and obnoxious in addition to being stupid.  The show usually included the following lines in the opening scene:

Pinky:  What are we doing tonight Brain?
Brain:  The same thing we do every night Pinky - try to take over the world.

Newt Gingrich has always reminded me of Brain, more so in looks than in deed.  No doubt this is attributable to his large crown, adorned with puffy, lab-rat white hair and his saggy jowls.   While an argument may be made for his quest to rule the world, few would consider Newt a genius on the level of Brain, the Stewie Griffin of my era.  With the race for republican presidential nominee shaping up the way it is, Mitt Romney stands in as a serviceable Pinky to Newt's Brain with his comparatively slender head and body.  The thought that keeps me up at night is either one or both of these characters "running" our country and committing themselves night after night to "try to take over the world".

Change In Which We Can Believe

First of all, I thought liberals were supposed to be grammatically correct, yet we have let them get away with ending their most highly touted campaign slogan of the past 4 years with a preposition.  I am not one to ride the grammatical high horse - it's not a safe place for me to be - but I am shocked that no one else has pointed this out.  

Turning to more serious matters...
In a previous post I provided a defense for capitalism, but I have not yet come to the issue of money in any direct sense.  Money (insert ominous tone) has been referred to as the root of all evil to the point of cliche.  It has recently come under attack by some 'Occupy' protesters in the various forms of, "The world would be so much better/simpler if we did not have money."  In protests supporting socialized medicine, well meaning people have fingered money as the cause for failure of our healthcare system.  Money, besides being a drag, breaks up families and comes between friends.  Even in my beloved Star Trek, Roddenberry's vision of the future was one in which we had solved the problem of poverty and eliminated the need for money.

First of all, eliminating poverty is like eliminating disappointment or ridding the world of bellyaches and broken hearts.  It is a futile and childish fantasy that, if taken too seriously, will lead to ruin.  But even more ridiculous, and thus more dangerous, is the idea of saving the world from money.  Money is our store of value.  It represents our hard work, our good ideas, our prudence and the services we have provided our fellows.  Money is our medium of exchange.  It gives us a means to share our gifts with the world and to benefit from the gifts of our neighbors.  Money is the root of man's peaceful existence on earth because it allows us to trade without violence and benefit from our neighbors without theft.  Throughout history it has taken many forms: gold, silver, salt, rocks, etc.  But, it has always abided by one law - that no one can easily and cheaply produce it.  Societies may weather fluctuations in the quantity and value of money, but its systemic debasement always amounts to theft and leads to pain.

Enter here our modern era Mandrakes who, by destroying the definition of money in textbooks, have destroyed it in reality.  We live in a time when the dollar, the reserve currency of the entire world, is printed with all the difficulty and expense of a free college newspaper.  It is backed by trust in our government's prudence and its willingness forcibly take our wealth if it is running a bit low.  The printing is limited only by the dreams and aspirations of the most lofty politicians.  Its quantity is deftly managed by our humble central planners who, from their ivory towers, long for the days without let-downs or tummy aches.  This exercise, my friends, is more useless and ill-conceived than tasking a well-armed, drunken group of teenagers with controlling the rhythm of the tides.  They don't need to do it, they can't do it, and they are very likely to be dangerous doing it.     

I don't care what form our money takes.  Let it be gold or let it be silver, so long as it is not trust in our masters to beat us.  Let's make it something in which we can believe!

Keynesian Fallacies Part II - Money on the Sidelines

John Stossel, who I admire greatly for his continued struggle for the advancement of liberty, recently devoted a show to debunking Keynesian economics.  The show was great, but here was a comment from one of the pro-Keynesian guests which was not addressed and that I would like to comment on in greater detail:  

I don't recall the exact quote, but it was something of the variant, "During a recession there is a lot of money sitting on the sidelines that we need to bring back into the economy so it can be productive."

Really?  Sitting on the sidelines?  Ladies and gentlemen, you can tell me if this is not true for you, but all of my money is being used in some way or another all of the time.  I have active investments, which I assume Keynesian theory would consider to be not on the sidelines, that I expect to grow fairly aggressively over time.  I have checking and savings accounts for use for daily business; the extra fat I have in there is serving as a cushion for unforeseen expenses.  Even if I were to' hoard' cash or precious metals, which I plan to do, they would be in use as well, as a hedge against really rainy days.  Furthermore, how we allocate our savings serves to signal everyone else in the market as to our time preference and our perception of risk.   

There is no such thing as money that is not being used.  Only if you ignore one of the fundamental uses of money, a store of value, does this line of argument make sense.  This thinking belies the childish notion that today's spending is all that counts and that saving today to spend tomorrow is an old-fashioned bromide of our grandparent's generation.  

The origin of this line of thinking is the collectivist/socialist foundation of Keynesianism that leads to the conclusion that only the use of money in the aggregate matters.  'Individual rights and preferences be damned, we have a society to manage.'

Keynesian Fallacies Part I

Austrian economics is often derided as dumb and even dangerous.  The Keynesians ask, "How can we be so stupid as to allow people to be driven by their animal spirits and succumb to the paradox of thrift, especially in time of economic downturns when so many will become unemployed?"  They fail to question if those jobs are productive or whether those unemployed skills could be put to better use elsewhere; maybe we need more Ipods and fewer Walkmen.  Maybe Solyndra just wasn't a good business model.  But more fundamental than all of this is the failure of the Keynesians to remember one of the core axioms of economic theory across disciplines: that prices matter.  Prices signal consumer preference and demand in relation to suppliers' willingness to provide.  When governments control prices they distort at least the market involved with that particular controlled good if not several other related markets.  But what happens when the price of money - interest - is controlled?  Is this not an important price?  Do the central banks not have incredible power to distort all markets?

What is the answer that justifies the initiation of force against us all?    

Jamaica is a Harsh Mistress

I spent the last week lying, with my beautiful companion, on a beach in Jamaica.  I was particularly struck by the kindness of most of the customer service employees I encountered.  Granted, they do live in paradise, but they are clearly not very wealthy by our standards here in the States.  Given the fact that they must deal daily with twenty-something trust fund yankee brats and middle-aged, over-pierced euro-punks trying in vain to speak "Jamaican" and asking incessant questions about Ganja, they must truly possess saintly levels of patience.   There are some cultural barriers that must be overcome in order to navigate the island successfully.  First of all, everyone is on "island time", meaning that no one is in a hurry.  That includes the man crossing the street in front of oncoming traffic and, unfortunately, your waitress and bartender, so you have to get used to it.  Second, rule ambiguity abounds to the point that negotiating an all-inclusive resort can even be a challenge.  Schedules are incredibly loose, directions are unclear, rules are unspoken, and most prices are unlisted and negotiable.  Finally, their dialect of English can be quite difficult to understand.  This is amplified by the fact that they tend to speak in very low tones.

With Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress fresh in my mind, I could not help but notice some of the beautiful anarchy that exists on the island.  Since I spent most of my time on the beach I may have an unreasonably rosy picture of the island as a whole, but the "Jamaican Authority" seems to be virtually nonexistent on the beach.  The police presence consists of the slow parade of two officers, clad in very distinctive white uniforms, up and down the beach.  If you are very lucky, you will see them twice per day.  If you watch closely, you will also notice that the Ganja vendors have mysteriously disappeared in anticipation of the daily "crackdown".  You should really have no fear at this point because you can still purchase a wide variety of items without moving from your lounge chair.  In the course of a day you will encounter several ladies wishing to serve you fruit, some enterprising men with sacks full of assorted cigarettes and cigars, some young women hoping you would like to have your hair braided or your neck massaged and a multitude of artists covering Bob Marley hits or selling wood carvings.  We encountered one man who had the vision to diversify: "Seashells?...Parasailing?...Ganja?".  The list goes on, and there is some variety from day to day.  I don't know for sure, but I don't think any of these people had licenses to do their business.  I doubt the fruit ladies had food handlers' cards in spite of the fact that I saw them cut up and serve fruit to patrons beach side.  I doubt the hair-braiders had beauty school diplomas or certifications in massage therapy.  To me the scene exemplified the beauty of self-organized society in the absence of force.  

As one would expect, the Authority has a massive presence at the airport.  This is also where the jolly customer service stops and the threat of force begins.  On top of the typical shoe and laptop removal security theater we have all become accustomed to, I was randomly selected for additional security screening.  I was lucky enough to be locked in a room alone with a surly security agent who, without any kind words or eye contact, ordered me to open my bags and give her the palms of my hands.  I was summarily dismissed without any invitation to have a nice day.  At the gate my bags were searched again, and I was ordered to remove my shoes so they could be searched and I could be patted down.  All of this was done with the manners due a presumed terrorist.

The Authority is also ever present in the citizens' pockets.  I carried a piece of it home with me in the form of a 1000 Jamaican Dollar bill which is worth less that US$ 12 .  According to wikipedia the Jamaican dollar peaked in its early years of issue (1969) at J$ 0.77 to US$ 1.  This means my beloved fruit lady, given her age, has had virtually all of the savings sucked right out of her pocket.  That means years of hard service in the hot sun, with the weight of mango and papaya weighing down on her head, stealthily seized by the state.  I doubt she is even aware.

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