Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Legends Supporting the American Religion

Religion and Legend

Religion (noun)

1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

In this article, I intend to explore the legends underlying the American religion.  By American religion, I mean to suggest the belief by a large segment of the population in the structures and institutions of government, and the belief that these structures and institutions are used for purposes beneficial to the people.  In other words, the religion is belief in the benevolence of the state and the goodness of the political leaders.

Legend (noun)

1. A non-historical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.

2. The body of stories of this kind, especially as they relate to a particular people, group, or clan….

There are several American legends that either support this religious belief directly, or otherwise contribute to the deification of the state and those who act through it.  Such legends, taught in the public schools and perpetuated through various mainstream media outlets – movies, books, and magazines, as well as mainstream web-sites – create a common foundation as the basis for the desired religious belief: belief in the state.

Legends are material to be moulded, and not facts to be recorded.

Many have done valuable to work toward the shattering of one or more of the key legends, thereby contributing to the loss of faith in the religion.  These efforts can only be beneficial to freedom.  The work of shattering these legends is the work of revisionist historians, although not all revisionists support the idea of shattering the religion of state.  Such historians have toiled tirelessly from the inception of each legend, yet many worked in relative obscurity.  Certainly the internet has made their work easily available to any who care to look.

Legends die hard. They survive as truth rarely does.

There are many such legends in American history.  I will explore three of these, and suggest that these three may be the most foundational due to the magnitude of awareness in and acceptance by the population at large – most importantly, due to the importance of these legends to the foundation of the American religion.  Proximity in time, I suggest, is not the key criteria – one event occurred 150 years ago, while the most recent is only ten years old.  But what these three cases hold in common is the level to which the legends have been internalized by large portions of the population.

Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts.

A major impediment to shattering the legends is that such action runs full-force into a brick wall of “we the people.”  Too many accept the idea that “they” are the government; that the people are in charge; that the government and the country are the same; that I vote, so I have control.  As opposed to control through dictators and kings (where the self-interest of the rulers at the expense of the people was never in question), representative democracy has done a wonderful job of convincing the people that they are the rulers, choosing politicians to work on their behalf for their good.

Because they have been taught to believe that they and the government are one-and-the-same, they cannot accept that the legends are not only false but shed light on the murderous actions of government.  They cannot damn themselves.  Additionally, they cannot accept that the legends are false, because to do so will suggest that they have been dupes.

When the legends die, the dreams end; there is no more greatness.

I do not intend to refute each legend in detail in this post – I am not qualified to do so, even if I chose to.  My purpose is to suggest the three that I view as the more important legends to burst, specifically because they are so deeply ingrained and hold significant sway as basis for the religion.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Is Joe Weisenthal Really This Nuts?

Joe Weisenthal ran a copy of a “Buy Gold” ad from 1973.  It was an advertisement for “The Dines Letter.”  Weisenthal’s comments:

JC Parets of AllStarCharts posted an awesome shot from a Barron's ad from 1973. It's an ad for gold, and what's great is that it shows that nothing ever changes.

It's always about to go higher. There's always dollar devaluation people are worried about. There's always CRISIS!!! There's always risk of an imminent market collapse.

The average gold price in 1973 was $97.  This was at the early stages of a bull run that lasted through 1980, when the average price for the year was over $600.  Since 1973, gold is up more than fifteen-fold.

And Weisenthal has a problem with this how, exactly?

Updated “About” Page

For those interested, I draw attention to my “About” page, significantly updated today.

FEE: Closer to the Beltway?

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) recently moved its headquarters to the suburbs of Atlanta.  However, is it possible that they are also moving their message closer to the beltway?

In a post today, “Climate Consensus: Do Little for Now,” author Daniel Sutter takes on the politics of climate change from a utilitarian, cost-benefit viewpoint.  Who is Daniel Sutter?

Daniel Sutter is the Charles Koch Professor of Economics at the Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University.

From the article:

Although debate over the IPCC’s projections continues, less attention has been focused on the ultimately more important result: cost-benefit analysis implies we should do very little to prevent climate change. Instead, we should create wealth. Expanding the productive capacity of the economy will compensate future generations better than reductions in GHG will. A richer world in 2100, after all, will be able to afford to do things like relocating people affected by rising sea levels and constructing new port facilities and seawalls. 

Where to begin?  Sutter states that the debate over climate change continues, but it only continues in the minds of the politicians and bureaucrats who desire ever expanding control over society – climate change was on the fast-track to propel the world to centralized taxation, currency, and government.  The science was always questionable, and the discovery of the emails proved the purposeful deception.

Next, who is this “we” that should or shouldn’t do something to prevent climate change?  Does Mr. Sutter own a company?  Is he seeking investors into a venture?  Or is he recommending governmental policy action?  (mmm, yes.)  And what about the “we” that should be creating wealth?  Isn’t that up to each individual, to the best of his capabilities in satisfying market demands?

He then turns to the use of cost-benefit analysis as an aid to determining policy direction:

Businesses operate under the discipline of profit and loss based on market prices. Profit signals that an action generates benefits for the economy. Government does not face the discipline of profit and loss, but cost-benefit analysis, performed honestly, offers guidance about whether government actions benefit society.

Honest cost benefit analysis when it comes to governmental policy recommendations?  Setting aside the impossibility of anything honest coming from the fruits of taxation, forced by gun, of productive citizens – hasn’t Mr. Sutter been witness to complete politicization of governmental cost-benefit analysis?  And very specifically, the politicization of the climate change discussion?  Al Gore will lead a team for an honest cost-benefit analysis?

He then goes on to explain the discounting of cash flows, and the time-value of money – all quite valid concepts when someone is putting their own assets on the line.  The desire for honest analysis is rather high when one risks his own capital.  But for governmental action?  There isn’t one person in the food-chain of government largesse that benefits from an honest analysis of any proposal.

Sutter properly realizes the value of private property and the pricing mechanism…

Property rights and prices lead basically self-interested people to worry about the future. For example, property rights and markets for existing homes provide owners with incentives to keep their houses livable long after they plan to own them.

…yet he doesn’t apply this to the (so-called) problem of climate change, instead calling for an “honest” government led cost-benefit analysis.

Now let’s project ahead and consider planning for climate change.

“Planning for climate change….”  Who is to do this planning?  It is clear Sutter (and FEE?) is working in the acceptable field of governmental policy recommendations.

A number of fundamental innovations could substantially reduce if not eliminate the threat from climate change, such as effective, low-cost carbon sequestration or effective weather modification to smooth out precipitation patterns.

“Effective weather modification”?!?!?!?  is Sutter (and FEE) calling for what would be the biggest governmental boondoggle (well, besides central banking and war and public education) of all time? 

His conclusions only add to the delusion:

The economic future becomes more predictable when government controls economic activity, but then stagnation results.

Today is December 27.  No one in the United States even knows what their tax rate and withholding structure will be beginning FIVE DAYS FROM NOW!  In California, voters passed a 3% income tax increase last month, RETROACTIVE to January 1, 2012.  This is “predictable”?

Economic freedom and the institutions of the market economy, not central planning of energy use, is the prudent policy approach to a changing climate.

The contradiction in even this one statement is overwhelming – there is no “policy approach” compatible with “economic freedom and the institutions of the market economy.”

Is FEE working to be the Southern regional headquarters for Cato?  If so, this article is a good step in that direction.  And from  Koch funded professor, to boot.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Surprisingly Good “Reflections on Newtown”

From the most mainstream of the mainstream – USA Today!  It is an opinion piece written by Glenn Harlan Reynolds.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is professor of law at the University of Tennessee. He blogs at

Before I get to the opinion piece, who is Professor Reynolds?  From Wikipedia:

Reynolds is often described as conservative, but he holds "liberal" views on social issues such as abortion, the War on Drugs and gay marriage.  He describes himself as a libertarian and more specifically a libertarian transhumanist.  He customarily illustrates his combination of views by stating: "I'd be delighted to live in a country where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons."

Reynolds criticized government subsidies to the middle class such as college loans and mortgage subsidies on the basis that they undermine the middle class. According to Reynolds, college education and homeownership are merely markers of an achieved middle class status, rather than ingredients needed for people to enter the middle class. He explained:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle class people.  But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay in, the middle class.  Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.  One might as well try to promote basketball skills by distributing expensive sneakers.

—Glenn Reynolds in the D.C. Examiner.

Reynolds is a former member of the Libertarian Party.

This highlighted portion offers a profound insight (emphasis added).

Back to his editorial on Newtown.  Right off the bat, he caught my attention with a comment rarely admitted in the mainstream:

According to the CNN timeline for the Sandy Hook tragedy, "Police and other first responders arrived on scene about 20 minutes after the first calls." Twenty minutes. Five minutes is forever when violence is underway, but 20 minutes -- a third of an hour -- means that the "first responders" aren't likely to do much more than clean up the mess.

The so-called “first responders” cannot respond before those who are actually on the scene can respond.  Why aren’t those on the scene in a position to effectively respond?  Reynolds suggests:

This has led to calls -- in Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, St. Louis -- for armed officers or staff at schools. Some object. But we have people with guns protecting airports, hospitals and politicians. And leading anti-gun crusaders like New York's billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg and press lord Rupert Murdoch are protected by armed security teams that could probably topple some third-world governments. Why are our children less worthy of protection?

Ron Paul rightly suggests that any top-down “solution” will certainly be a bad one.  Meanwhile, the hypocrites demand that regular citizens remain at the mercy of those who cannot respond in time, while they remain in a position to have true first-responders on standby, within touching distance, twenty-four hours a day. 

Rothbard comments on the idea of gun control in his book “For a New Liberty.”  In his comments, he quotes Don B. Kates, Jr., also reflecting on relatively wealthy, white liberals and their views of private security:

Gun prohibition is the brainchild of white middle-class liberals who are oblivious to the situation of poor and minority people living in areas where the police have given up on crime control…. Secure in well-policed suburbs or high security apartments guarded by Pinkertons (whom no one proposes to disarm), the oblivious liberal derides gun ownership as “an anachronism from the Old West.”

Rothbard continues:

…the 1975 national survey of handgun owners by the Decision Making Information organization found that the leading subgroups who own a gun only for self-defense include blacks, the lowest income groups, and senior citizens.  “These are the people, “Kates eloquently warns, “it is proposed we jail [via further gun control laws] because they insist on keeping the only protection available for their families in areas in which the police have given up.”

Professor Reynolds goes on to ask if “hate” is a liberal value:

A 20-year-old lunatic stole some guns and killed people. Who's to blame? According to a lot of our supposedly rational and tolerant opinion leaders, it's . . . the NRA, a civil-rights organization whose only crime was to oppose laws banning guns.

The hatred was intense. One Rhode Island professor issued a call -- later deleted -- for NRA head Wayne LaPierre's "head on a stick." People like author Joyce Carol Oates and actress Marg Helgenberger wished for NRA members to be shot. So did Texas Democratic Party official John Cobarruvias, who also called the NRA a "terrorist organization," and Texas Republican congressman Louis Gohmert a "terror baby."

Calling people murderers and wishing them to be shot sits oddly with claims to be against violence.

He notes that while gun ownership is up, crime is down:

In general, crime in the United States has been declining for two decades. That's good news and shouldn't be lost in all the hype.

He ends with another (previously) mainstream untouchable, the war on drugs:

The drug war, according to many experts such as Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, is a major driver of violence in America.  When you leave out suicides (which make up more than half of gun deaths) most actual murders in this country are criminals killing other criminals….As The Atlantic noted this week, the single best anti-gun-death policy would be ending the drug war. It would save money, too, at a time when the government is broke.

Ah, yes, the government is broke. And nobody seems to have a plan to deal with it. No wonder they'd rather have us talking about gun control.

Yes, a diversion.

Rightly or wrongly, many people have been on edge about a second term for Obama (as if this was to be more feared than a first term for Romney).  One of the concerns often raised was that he would take the guns from the people. 

Too many are concerned about this, and too many are aware of the points raised in this column by Reynolds; because of this, I don’t anticipate much of substance will come from Biden’s task team (and, sadly, none of the appropriate steps as outlined by Reynolds in this editorial or by me here). 

The uproar from mainstream Americans if significant government restrictions are proposed will be overwhelming, and will overwhelm the so-called opinion leaders.

In the meantime, I am happy to have met Professor Reynolds.