AIER: So You Want to Overthrow the State – Ten Questions for Aspiring Revolutionaries

Art Carden, writing for the American Institute for Economic Research, has some questions for those interested in overthrowing the government. These apply whatever your political bent, not just right or left. So You Want to Overthrow the State: Ten Questions for Aspiring Revolutionaries

A professor at Washington and Lee University is offering a writing seminar called “How to Overthrow the State,” which “place(s) each student at the head of a popular revolutionary movement aiming to overthrow a sitting government and forge a better society.” Students are charged with writing their own revolutionary manifesto in light of readings from revolutionaries like Che Guevara. The right-wing outrage machine, as you can imagine, is feasting on it and offering it as an example of the radical takeover of higher education.

I’m intrigued by the class because I tend toward free-market anarchism myself and think that states are neither necessary nor sufficient for prosperity. There’s a burgeoning academic literature on this with books like Peter T. Leeson’s Anarchy Unbound exploring the theory and history of statelessness and AIER’s own Edward Stringham’s Private Governance looking at how institutions and organizations that protect people and property have emerged without coercion. There’s a lively and ongoing debate in these circles about whether or not one would push a button that would allow us to wake up tomorrow morning without governments. WLU’s course represents an excellent opportunity for students to take the revolutionaries’ arguments seriously, and if they do their due diligence, to think really hard about their shortcomings. I offer, therefore, ten questions for the young leaders of these revolutionary movements.

  1. Do I have the facts straight? Karl Marx said that “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” I doubt very much that you will know which changes you need to make if you don’t have a very good idea about your starting point. In his book Factfulness and in his many excellent online presentations, the late Swedish Professor of International Health Hans Rosling identifies a lot of the ways things have gotten better, especially for the world’s poorest.

    Suppose, for example, that you encounter the name “Milton Friedman,” perhaps in connection with lamented “neoliberalism” and maybe in connection with human rights abuses perpetrated by the brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Friedman has been denounced as the “father of global misery,” and his reputation has taken another beating in the wake of the fiftieth anniversary of his 1970 New York Times Magazine essay “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits,” which I suspect most people haven’t read past its title. But what happened during “The Age of Milton Friedman,” as the economist Andrei Shleifer asked in a 2009 article? Shleifer points out that “Between 1980 and 2005, as the world embraced free market policies, living standards rose sharply, while life expectancy, educational attainment, and democracy improved and absolute poverty declined.” Things have never been so good, and they are getting better, especially for the world’s poor.

    In 2008, there was a bit of controversy over the establishment of the Milton Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago, which operates today as the Becker Friedman Institute (it is also named for Friedman’s fellow Chicago economist Gary Becker). In a blistering reply to a protest letter signed by a group of faculty members at the University of Chicago, the economist John Cochrane wrote, “If you start with the premise that the last 40 or so years, including the fall of communism, and the opening of China and India are ‘negative for much of the world’s population,’ you just don’t have any business being a social scientist. You don’t stand a chance of contributing something serious to the problems that we actually do face.” Nor, might I add, do you stand much of a chance of concocting a revolutionary program that will actually help the people you’re trying to lead.

  1. What makes me so sure I won’t replace the existing regime with something far worse? I might hesitate to push the aforementioned button because while the world we actually inhabit is far from perfect, it’s not at all clear that deleting the state overnight wouldn’t mean civilization’s wholesale and maybe even perpetual collapse. At the very least, I would want to think long and hard about it. The explicit mention of Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara in the course description suggest that students will be approaching revolutionary ideas from the left. They should look at the results of populist revolutions in 20th century Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The blood of many millions starved and slaughtered in efforts to “forge a better society” cries out against socialism and communism, and macroeconomic populism in Latin America has been disastrous. As people have pointed out when told that “democratic socialists” aren’t trying to turn their countries into Venezuela, Venezuelans weren’t trying to turn their country into Venezuela when they embraced Hugo Chavez. I wonder why we should expect WLU’s aspiring revolutionaries to succeed where so many others have failed.
  2. Is my revolutionary program just a bunch of platitudes with which no decent person would disagree? In 2019, Kristian Niemietz of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs published a useful volume titled Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies, which you can download for $0 from IEA. He notes a tendency for socialists and neo-socialists to pitch their programs almost exclusively in terms of their hoped-for results rather than in terms of the operation of concrete social processes they hope to set in motion (on this I paraphrase my intellectual hero Thomas Sowell).

    Apply a test proposed a long time ago by the economist William Easterly: can you imagine anyone seriously objecting to what you’re saying? If not, then you probably aren’t saying anything substantive. Can you imagine someone saying “I hate the idea of the world’s poor having better food, clothing, shelter, and medical care” or “It would be a very bad thing if more people were literate?” If not, then it’s likely that your revolutionary program is a tissue of platitudes and empty promises. That’s not to say it won’t work politically–God knows, nothing sells better on election day than platitudes and empty promises–but you shouldn’t think you’re saying anything profound if all you’re saying is something obvious like “It would be nice if more people had access to clean, drinkable water.”

  1. Is my revolutionary manifesto really any better than the Underpants Gnomes’ business plan from this 1998 episode of South Park?

    In 2011, I wrote that a lot of policy proposals are “‘Underpants Gnomes’ Political Economy” after an episode of South Park in which the Underpants Gnomes’ business plan had three phases. Phase 1 was “collect underpants.” Phase 2 was a question mark. Phase 3 was “profit.” Most revolutionary proposals are like that. Phase 1 is “abolish private property” or “Build That Wall” or something. Phase 2 is a question mark. Phase 3 is “equality and superabundance” (from the left) or “America has been made Great Again” (from the Trumpist right). There are more than a few very important details missing.

  1. In other words, how is this actually going to work? I’m not a socialist not because of antipathy toward poor people or callous selfishness. I’m not a socialist because it doesn’t work in practice and doesn’t even work in theory. Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, among many others, have argued that private property, market prices, and market-determined profits and losses are necessary for rational economic calculation. Marx summarized the program of the communists as “abolition of private property.” Mises countered that socialism, or abolition of private property, would mean “abolition of rational economy.” Marx (in)famously never spelled out exactly how socialism would work; he just knew it would. Vladimir Lenin didn’t appreciate the calculation problem and thought that managing an entire economy as if it was just one big factory didn’t require much more than arithmetic and receipts. He was grievously, tragically wrong. I think Mises and Hayek, ultimately, were the ones vindicated by theory and history.
  2. Does my argument for how it will work rely on people discarding self-interest, becoming a lot less horrible, and/or becoming a lot smarter? In a famous cartoon by Sidney Harris, two scientists are standing at a chalkboard. There are equations on the left and right sides of the board with “THEN A MIRACLE OCCURS” between them. One scientist says to the other, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.” If you’re relying on a change in human nature to make your program work, be prepared for a very long wait. Or be prepared to spill oceans of blood like those who tried to create a “New Socialist Man” in the twentieth century. The socialists and communists wanted to run the economy as if it were one big factory. For the most part, they have also wanted to run the rest of society as if it were one big family. This brings us to a problem that vexed Friedrich Hayek his whole career. The rules, norms, traditions, and other practices that make families or very small communities work well don’t scale. Similarly, if you tried to run your life with family and friends according to a “market logic” in which you try to do everything via literal price-mediated exchanges–charging your kids to rent the TV when they want to watch a movie, for example–it’s probably going to backfire spectacularly. You can’t run your family as if it’s the Chicago Board of Trade. You also can’t run a society of millions of people as if it’s one big happy family.
  3. How has it worked the other times it has been tried? Are you considering “land reform,” whether land expropriation and redistribution, or straight up collectivization? Satellite images of the effects of land reform in Zimbabwe should make you think twice.

    Years before the Russian Revolution, Eugene Richter predicted with eerie prescience what would happen in a socialist society in his short book Pictures of the Socialistic Future (which you can download for $0 here). Bryan Caplan, who wrote the foreword for that edition of Pictures and who put together the online “Museum of Communism,” points out the distressing regularity with which communists go from “bleeding heart” to “mailed fist.” It doesn’t take long for communist regimes to go from establishing a workers’ paradise to shooting people who try to leave. Consider whether or not the brutality and mass murder of communist regimes is a feature of the system rather than a bug. Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara both expressed bleeding hearts with their words but used a mailed fist in practice (I’ve written before that “irony” is denouncing Milton Friedman for the crimes of Augusto Pinochet while wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. Pinochet was a murderous thug. Guevara was, too). Caplan points to pages 105 and 106 of Four Men: Living the Revolution: An Oral History of Contemporary Cuba. On page 105, Lazaro Benedi Rodriguez’s heart is bleeding for the illiterate. On page 106, he’s “advis(ing) Fidel to have an incinerator dug about 40 or 50 meters deep, and every time one of these obstinate cases came up, to drop the culprit in the incinerator, douse him with gasoline, and set him on fire.”

  1. Are people moving toward or away from the kind of society I want to establish? We get a lot of information from how people “vote with their feet” for different policies. If you’re advocating some version of socialism, you have to deal with the fact that so many people are trying desperately to leave socialist countries. The East German government did not build the Berlin Wall to keep westerners out, and pretty much all of the traffic between Cuba and the United States moves in one direction. It isn’t toward the Castros’ workers’ paradise.
  2. What will I do with people who aren’t willing to go along with my revolution? Walter Williams once said that he doesn’t mind if communists want to be communists. He minds that they want him to be a communist, too. Would you allow people to try capitalist experiments in your socialist paradise? Or socialist experiments in your capitalist paradise (Families, incidentally, are socialist enterprises that run by the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”)? Am I willing to allow dissenters to advocate my overthrow, or do I need to crush dissent and control the minds of the masses in order for my revolution to work? Am I willing to allow people to leave, or will I need to build a wall to keep people in?
  3. Am I letting myself off the hook for questions 1-9 and giving myself too much credit for passion and sincerity? The philosopher David Schmidtz has said that if your best argument is that your heart is in the right place, then your heart is most definitely not in the right place. Consider this quote from Edmund Burke and ask whether or not it leads you to revise your revolutionary plans:

    “A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood. He would feel some apprehension at being called to a tremendous account for engaging in so deep a play, without any sort of knowledge of the game. It is no excuse for presumptuous ignorance, that it is directed by insolent passion. The poorest being that crawls on earth, contending to save itself from injustice and oppression is an object respectable in the eyes of God and man. But I cannot conceive any existence under heaven (which, in the depths of its wisdom, tolerates all sorts of things) that is more truly odious and disgusting, than an impotent helpless creature, without civil wisdom or military skill, without a consciousness of any other qualification for power but his servility to it, bloated with pride and arrogance, calling for battles which he is not to fight, contending for a violent dominion which he can never exercise, and satisfied to be himself mean and miserable, in order to render others contemptible and wretched.” (Emphasis added).

A lot of colleges and universities have first-year writing seminars that try to teach students to write by exploring a particular set of issues, and as long as the course actually teaches students how to become better writers, we should welcome new experiments. A course that asks students to put themselves in the positions of aspiring revolutionaries and to prepare their own revolutionary manifestoes is extremely creative. I think it’s the kind of course from which students can benefit mightily–if, of course, they ask the right questions.

Of Two Minds: Isn’t It Obvious We Need a New System?

From Charles Hugh Smith at Of Two Minds, Isn’t It Obvious We Need a New System?

Why do we tolerate such a corrupt, undemocratic, exploitive, elite-dominated system? Because we have no other choice? No, we do have a choice.

Isn’t it obvious that we need an alternative economic system that isn’t controlled by corporations, the government and the central bank for the exclusive benefit of insiders and elites? Isn’t it obvious that the current system has failed the majority of participants, and hence the ubiquitous sensations of:

1) being ignored by the insiders / elites who run the current system to their own benefit

2) being trapped in an economy that’s been stripped of social / upward mobility

3) being stripmined / exploited by domestic and globalized elites

4) disgust / frustration with the self-enriching political class that serves corporate/elite/insider interests above all else.

My 50 years of work have given me a ringside seat in how the economy has changed from inclusive to extractive. My jobs have ranged from agricultural field worker to running my own yard service to hospitality to construction to print media (free-lancer) to financial services (quant shop) to non-profit education to political rabble-rousing (unpaid) and my current profession as marginalized, misfit author-blogger (my specialty appears to be getting shadow-banned by Big Tech monopolist extractors).

My colleague Mark Jeftovic explains how systems can be inclusive or extractive. Systems that automatically bail out the greediest, wealthiest socially-useless speculators via the Federal Reserve are not just extractive, they’re exploitive and predatory. The Reversion Will be Mean.

Extractive systems are also intrinsically fragile in crises as the trapped / exploited behind the oars tend to abandon ship at the first chance, and the real-world sinews of the economy have been weakened by the bailouts and financial engineering. In effect, the fragile, brittle shell doesn’t need much of a shock to implode. (If you want to see this process in real time, look around you.)

Yes, finance was extractive in 1970, but it was a much smaller part of the economy. Back then, finance was less than 5% of the economy. Now, by some measures, it’s a third of the economy.

Yes, corporations bought political influence and exploited everything within reach but their reach wasn’t as global and their rapacity not quite as refined. Sociopathic exploitation such as stock buybacks and Big Pharma advertising directly to consumers were illegal.

The economy was not dependent on endless asset bubbles and bailouts of the most venal speculators. The Federal Reserve whines that it has to bail out the greediest scum of the nation again and again and inflate one asset bubble after another because otherwise this sucker’s going down.

Over the past 50 years, the ladders of upward mobility have splintered. Now making all the sacrifices to follow the conventional script (get a college diploma, etc.) don’t lead to secure employment. The fundamental backdrop of the economy is that labor’s share of the economy is in permanent decline: the value of labor has been in a freefall, a freefall masked by bogus “low inflation” and other trickery. (See chart below)

In 1970, costs for essentials were low and regulatory burdens on small business were modest. You could rent an apartment for a week’s pay or less. (Even in expensive Honolulu I could rent a studio apartment for half a week’s pay.)

Even in the mid-1980s, I could get a building permit for an entire house in one day; now the process takes weeks or even months.

Now costs and regulatory burdens have soared to crushing levels. This plays perfectly to government bureaucracies, which have monopolies on the power to raise junk fees, penalties, etc. at will, and Corporate America, whose core drive is eliminate any and all competition so profits can soar on the basis of monopoly, not on superior products or services.

People feel ignored because they are ignored. People feel trapped because they are trapped. People feel stripmined because they are being stripmined. People feel angry at the political Establishment because they no longer live in a democracy.

Can we be honest for a change and admit that ours is an extractive system in which anything goes for the wealthy and powerful and winners take most?

The few pockets of the economy not under the thumb of corporations, government or the central bank– for example, the cash / informal economy–are still dependent on corporations, government and the Fed for their currency, government subsidies and products/services.

Isn’t it obvious that we need an alternative system that isn’t run for the benefit of elites and insiders? What would such a system look like?

One, it would be voluntary / opt-in. Nobody would be forced to participate. All anyone would need to bring is a willingness to be useful and belong to something doing good work on behalf of the community rather than a bunch of parasitic, predatory billionaires.

Two, it would be self-organizing, meaning there is no ruling body that can be corrupted. Bitcoin is a real-world example of a self-organizing system. There is no cabal at the top who can be corrupted; bitcoin is distributed and decentralized. It is self-organizing, as is Nature.

Three, the operations of the system would be automated so human bias would have few opportunities to carve out unearned privileges. Note that most of the systems you interact with are fully automated. (Try reaching a human being in customer service.) The only difference is these systems are secret “black boxes” designed to maximize the profits of cartel-monopoly corporations, not serve the nation or its communities. They only serve the owners, 2/3rds of whom just so happen to be the top 0.1%.

Open-source software runs a great many enterprises and systems and does so without secret “black box” algorithms known only to the exploiters.

Four, it would have its own money, a cryptocurrency that comes into being in only one way: as payment for useful, purposeful labor that benefits the community in some way. All the technology for such a labor-backed cryptocurrency is already in hand.

My 50 years of work in a variety of sectors and jobs has made such a system “obvious” to me, and so I’ve written a book ( A Hacker’s Teleology) to explain how such a system would work and why it’s “obvious.” You can read excerpts of the book in this free PDF and read the story behind the book and the Introduction.

Why do we tolerate such a corrupt, undemocratic, exploitive, elite-dominated system? Because we have no other choice? No, we do have a choice. The first step to outline the values, processes and goals of an alternative system that actually works for everyone and our planet.

I’ve taken a stab at outlining such a system, so why not check it out? If you can come up with a better one, then get it out there for the rest of us to study.

We do have a choice. But we have to take it. If we’re unwilling to make any systemic changes, then we truly are trapped–not by them (whomever they might be) but by our own unwillingness to accept that systemic change is now necessary if we’re to have a future that’s beneficial to all.

 

Of Two Minds: Intolerance and Authoritarianism Accelerate Disunity and Collapse

From Charles Hugh Smith at the Of Two Minds blog, Intolerance and Authoritarianism Accelerate Disunity and Collapse

Scapegoating dissenters only hastens the disunity and disarray that accelerates the final collapse.
Authoritarianism is imposed on us, but its sibling intolerance is our own doing. Intolerance and authoritarianism are two sides of the same coin: as intolerance becomes the norm, the intolerant start demanding that the state enforce their intolerance by suppressing their enemies via increasingly heavy-handed authoritarian measures.
Intolerance and authoritarianism increase as instability takes hold and living standards decline. In good times, dissent and differences of opinion are not only tolerated but celebrated, as this freedom to hold a variety of beliefs serves to unify society.
In bad times, dissent and differences are viewed as mortal threats to the social order. Perhaps there is a human instinct when times become troubled to insist “we must all row together,” i.e. to seek a unity enforced by a rising intolerance that demands more authoritarian action by the state.
For example, in wartime, pacifist views that were previously tolerated become criminal offenses.
The irony here is this forced conformity doesn’t generate unity–it fractures society into bitterly warring camps as the middle ground vanishes into either/or extremism that sees authoritarianism (in support of our side, of course) as not just justified but essential.
Intolerance and authoritarianism undermine and ultimately destroy the unity that was generated by tolerance and a wide variety of beliefs and dissenting views. As our own insecurities increase, we fall all too willingly to the temptation to see others’ recalcitrant refusal to join our camp without reservations as the source of our insecurity.
In this mindset of insecurity, the “solution” is to force compliance by any means available so everyone is in our camp. And since some might be hiding the insincerity of their devotion to our righteous cause, the need for an Inquisition becomes pressing, so the insincere or closet traitors can be unmasked and punished.
But the Inquisitors themselves inevitably come under suspicion, and an Inquisition of the Inquisitors soon lays waste to those who hubristically held themselves as the arbiters of conformity. There is no way to escape this drive to dissipate insecurity by forcing conformity except the complete collapse of the social, political and economic orders.
This is the path to madness and complete social breakdown. But such is the power of insecurity and uncertainty that history records our self-destructive urgency to abandon the middle ground and a diversity of viewpoints and beliefs for the totalitarian uniformity of forced conformity.
But once rooted, intolerance knows no bounds and the snake of intolerant authoritarianism ends up eating its own tail. In an era of intolerance, ideological purity is a constantly shifting landscape of quicksand. Those at the top passing judgment on others’ ideological purity soon find their own purity is under attack.
Increasingly intolerant, repressive authoritarianism marked the final days of the Roman decline and fall. Rather than face the profound and novel crises directly and unify around the sacrifices needed to resolve the crises favorably, it is so much easier to blame everyone who doesn’t agree with our position as the source of the crises.
This is delusional, of course: crises have real-world sources, and scapegoating dissenters only hastens the disunity and disarray that accelerate the final collapse.

Rutherford Institute: Since 9/11, the Government’s Answer to Every Problem Has Been More Government

From Constitutional law attorney John Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute, Since 9/11, the Government’s Answer to Every Problem Has Been More Government

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”—Anonymous

Have you noticed that the government’s answer to every problem is more government—at taxpayer expense—and less individual liberty?

The Great Depression. The World Wars. The 9/11 terror attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic.

Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn.

Indeed, the history of the United States is a testament to the old adage that liberty decreases as government (and government bureaucracy) grows. To put it another way, as government expands, liberty contracts.

To the police state, this COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge boon, like winning the biggest jackpot in the lottery. Certainly, it will prove to be a windfall for those who profit from government expenditures and expansions.

Given the rate at which the government has been devising new ways to spend our money and establish itself as the “solution” to all of our worldly problems, this current crisis will most likely end up ushering in the largest expansion of government power since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

This is how the emergency state operates, after all.

From 9/11 to COVID-19, “we the people” have acted the part of the helpless, gullible victims desperately in need of the government to save us from whatever danger threatens. In turn, the government has been all too accommodating and eager while also expanding its power and authority in the so-called name of national security.

As chief correspondent Dan Balz asks for The Washington Post, “Government is everywhere now. Where does it go next?

When it comes to the power players that call the shots, there is no end to their voracious appetite for more: more money, more power, more control.

This expansion of government power is also increasing our federal debt in unprecedented leaps and bounds. Yet the government isn’t just borrowing outrageous amounts of money to keep the country afloat. It’s also borrowing indecent sums to pay for programs it can’t afford.

The government’s primary response to this COVID-19 pandemic—flooding the market with borrowed money in the amount of trillions of dollars for stimulus payments, unemployment insurance expansions, and loans to prop up small businesses and to keep big companies afloat—has pushed the country even deeper in debt.

By “the country,” I really mean the taxpayers. And by “the taxpayers,” it’s really future generations who will be shackled to debt loads they may never be able to pay back.

This is how you impoverish the future.

Democrats and Republicans alike have done this.

Without fail, every president within the last 50 years has expanded the nation’s debt. When President Trump took office on January 20, 2017, the national debt—the amount the federal government has borrowed over the years and must pay back—was a whopping $19.9 trillion. Despite Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp and eliminate the debt, the federal debt is now approaching $27 trillion and is on track to surpass $78 trillion by 2028.

For many years now, economists have warned that economic collapse would be inevitable if the national debt ever surpassed the size of the U.S. economy. The government passed that point in June 2020 and has yet to put the brakes on its spending.

In fact, the Federal Reserve just keeps printing more money in order to prop up the economy and float the debt.

At some point, something’s got to give.

As it now stands, the U.S. is among the most indebted countries in the world.

Almost a third of the $27 trillion national debt is owed to foreign entities such as Japan and China.

Most of the debt, however, is owed to the public.

How is this even possible? Essentially, it’s a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

First, the government requires taxpayers to pay a portion of their salaries to the Social Security Trust Fund. The government then turns around and borrows from Social Security to cover its spending needs. Then the government raises taxes or prints more money in order to pay out whatever is needed to the retirees.

It’s a form of convoluted economics that only makes sense to government bureaucrats looking to make a profit off the backs of the taxpayers.

According to the U.S. Debt Clock, each taxpayer’s share of the national debt is $214,000 and growing.

That’s almost five times more than the median income for what Americans earn in a year. That’s also almost five times more than the average American has in savings, across savings accounts, checking accounts, money market accounts, call deposit accounts, and prepaid cards. Almost 60% of Americans are so financially strapped that they don’t have even $500 in savings and nothing whatsoever put away for retirement.

Just the interest that must be paid on the national debt every year is $338 billion and growing. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the fastest growing item in the budget over the next decade will be interest on the debt.

As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reported in 2019, before COVID spending pushed the country over the fiscal cliff, “Interest payments will rise from $325 billion last year to $928 billion by 2029, a nearly threefold increase. If tax cuts and spending increases are extended, interest will exceed $1 trillion and set a new record as a share of the economy. The federal government will spend more on interest than on Medicaid or children by 2020. By 2024, interest will match defense spending.

Bottom line: The U.S. government—and that includes the current administration—is spending money it doesn’t have on programs it can’t afford, and “we the taxpayers” are the ones who will have to pay for it.

As financial analyst Kristin Tate explains, “When the government has its debt bill come due, all of us will be on the hook.”

Despite the tax burden “we the people” are made to bear, we have no real say in how the government runs, or how our taxpayer funds are used, but we’re being forced to pay through the nose, anyhow.

We have no real say, but that doesn’t prevent the government from fleecing us at every turn and forcing us to pay for endless wars that do more to fund the military industrial complex than protect us, pork barrel projects that produce little to nothing, and a police state that serves only to imprison us within its walls.

All the while the government continues to do whatever it wants—levy taxes, rack up debt, spend outrageously and irresponsibly—with little thought for the plight of its citizens.

This brings me to a curious point: what the future will look like ten years from now, when the federal debt is expected to surpass $78 trillion, an unsustainable level of debt that will result in unprecedented economic hardship for anyone that does not belong to the wealthy elite.

Interestingly enough, that timeline coincides with the government’s vision of the future as depicted in a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command.

According to the video, the government is anticipating trouble (read: civil unrest), which is code for anything that challenges the government’s authority, wealth and power, and is grooming its armed forces (including its heavily armed federal agents) accordingly to solve future domestic political and social problems.

The training video, titled “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” is only five minutes long, but it provides a chilling glimpse of what the government expects the world to look like in 2030, a world bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.

And then comes the kicker.

Three-and-a-half minutes into the Pentagon’s dystopian vision of “a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers,” the ominous voice of the narrator speaks of a need to “drain the swamps.”

Drain the swamps.

Surely, we’ve heard that phrase before?

Ah yes.

Emblazoned on t-shirts and signs, shouted at rallies, and used as a rallying cry among Trump supporters, “drain the swamp” became one of Donald Trump’s most-used campaign slogans.

Far from draining the politically corrupt swamps of Washington DC of lobbyists and special interest groups, however, the Trump Administration has further mired us in a sweltering bog of corruption and self-serving tactics.

Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Now the government has adopted its own plans for swamp-draining, only it wants to use the military to drain the swamps of futuristic urban American cities of “noncombatants and engage the remaining adversaries in high intensity conflict within.”

And who are these noncombatants, a military term that refers to civilians who are not engaged in fighting during a war?

They are, according to the Pentagon, “adversaries.”

They are “threats.”

They are the “enemy.”

They are people who don’t support the government, people who live in fast-growing urban communities, people who may be less well-off economically than the government and corporate elite, people who engage in protests, people who are unemployed, people who engage in crime (in keeping with the government’s fast-growing, overly broad definition of what constitutes a crime).

In other words, in the eyes of the U.S. military, noncombatants are American citizens a.k.a. domestic extremists a.k.a. enemy combatants who must be identified, targeted, detained, contained and, if necessary, eliminated…(continues)

Dr. Samuel Langdon Preaches “Government Corrupted by Vice”

This is an excerpt from a sermon from Dr. Samuel Langdon in 1775 after being named president of Harvard College and given before the Congress of the colony of Massachusetts Bay.

And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy Counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called the City of Righteousness, the faithful City. – Isaiah 1:26

We have lived to see the time when British Liberty is just ready to expire;—when that constitution of government which has so long been the glory and strength of the English nation, is deeply undermined and ready to tumble into ruins;—when America is threatened with cruel oppression, and the arm of power is stretched out against New-England, and especially against this Colony, to compel us to submit to the arbitrary acts of legislators who are not our representatives, and who will not themselves bear the least part of the burdens which, without mercy, they are laying upon us. The most formal and solemn grants of Kings to our ancestors are deemed by our oppressors as of little value; and they have mutilated the Charter of this Colony in the most essential parts, upon false representations▪ and new invented maxims of policy, without the least regard to any legal process. We are no longer permitted to fix our eyes on the faithful of the land, and trust in the wisdom of their counsels, and the equity of their judgment; but men in whom we can have no confidence,—whose principles are subversive of our liberties,—whose aim is to exercise lordship over us, and share among themselves the public wealth:—men who are ready to serve any master, and execute the most unrighteous decrees for high wages,—whose faces we never saw before, and whose interests and connexions may be far divided from us by the wide atlantick,—are to be set over us as counsellors and judges, at the pleasure of those who have the riches and power of the nation in their hands, and whose noblest plan is to subjugate the Colonies first, and then the whole nation to their will.

That we might not have it in our power to refuse the most absolute submission to their unlimited claims of authority, they have not only endeavored to terrify us with fleets and armies sent to our Capital, and distressed and put an end to our trade, particularly that important branch of it, the fishery; but at length attempted, by a sudden march of a body of troops in the night, to seize and destroy one of our magazines, formed by the people merely for their own security; if, after such formidable military preparations on the other side, matters should be pushed to an extremity. By this, as might well be expected, a skirmish was brought on; and it is most evident, from a variety of concurring circumstances, as well as numerous depositions both of the prisoners taken by us at that time, and our own men then on the spot only as spectators, that the fire began first on the side of the King’s troops. At least five or six of our inhabitants were murderously kill’d by the Regulars at Lexington, before any man attempted to return the fire, and when they were actually complying with the command to disperse: and two more of our brethren were likewise kill’d at Concord-Bridge by a fire from the King’s soldiers, before the engagement began on our side. But whatever credit falsehoods transmited to Great-Britain, from the other side, may gain, the matter may be rested entirely on this,— that he that arms himself to commit a robbery, and demands the traveller’s purse, by the terror of Instant death, is the first aggressor, though the other should take the advantage of discharging his pistol first and killing the robber.

The alarm was sudden; but in a very short time spread far and wide: the nearest neighbours in haste ran together, to assist their brethren, and save their country. Not more than three or four hundred met in season and bravely attacked and repulsed the enemies of liberty, who retreated with great precipitation. But by the help of a strong reinforcement, notwithstanding a close pur|suit, and continual loss on their side, they acted the part of Robbers and Savages, by burning, plundering, and damaging almost every house in their way, to the utmost of their power, murdering the unarmed and helpless, and not regarding the weaknesses of the tender sex▪ until they had secured themselves beyond the reach of our terrifying arms…

We have used our utmost endeavors, by repeated humble petitions and remonstrances,— by a series of unanswerable reasonings published from the Press, in which the dispute has been fairly stated, and the justice of our opposition clearly demonstrated,—and by the mediation of some of the noblest and most faithful friends of the British constitution, who have powerfully plead our cause in Parliament,—to prevent such measures as may soon reduce the body politic to a miserable, dismembred, dying trunk, though lately the terror of all Europe. But our King, as if impelled by some strange fatality, is resolved to reason with us only by the roar of his Cannon, and the pointed arguments of musquets and bayonets. Because we refuse submission to the despotic power of a ministerial Parliament, our own Sovereign, to whom we have been always ready to swear true allegiance,—whose authority we never meant to cast off,—who might have continued happy in the cheerful obedience of as faithful subjects as any in his dominions,—has given us up to the rage of his Ministers, to be seized at sea by the rapacious commanders of every little sloop of war and piratical cutter, and to be plundered and massacred by land by mercenary troops, who know no distinction betwixt an enemy and a brother, between right and wrong; but only, like brutal pursuers, to hunt and seize the prey pointed out by their masters.

We must keep our eyes fixed on the supreme government of the ETERNAL KING, as directing all events, setting up or pulling down the Kings of the earth at his pleasure, suffering the best forms of human government to degenerate and go to ruin by corruption; or restoring the decayed constitutions of kingdoms and states, by reviving public virtue and religion, and granting the favorable interpositions of his providence. To this our text leads us; and though I hope to be excused on this occasion from a formal dis|course on the words in a doctrinal way, yet I must not wholly pass over the religious instruction contained in them.

Let us consider—That for the sins of a people God may suffer the best government to be corrupted, or entirely dissolved; and that nothing but a general reformation can give good ground to hope that the public happiness will be restored, by the recovery of the strength and perfection of the state, and that divine providence will interpose to fill every department with wise and good men.

Isaiah prophesied about the time of the captivity of the ten tribes of Israel, and about a century before the captivity of Judah. The kingdom of Israel was brought to destruction, because its iniquities were full; its counsellors and judges were wholly taken away, because there remained no hope of reformation. But the sceptre did not entirely depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till the Messiah came: yet greater and greater changes took place in their political affairs; their government degenerated in proportion as their vices increased, till few faithful men were left in any public offices; and at length, when they were delivered up for seventy years into the hands of the king of Babylon, scarce any remains of their original excellent civil polity appeared among them.

The Jewish government, according to the original constitution which was divinely established, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect Republic. The heads of their tribes, and elders of their cities, were their counsellors and judges. They called the people together in more general or particular assemblies, took their opinions, gave advice, and managed the public affairs according to the general voice. Counsellors and judges comprehend all the powers of that government; for there was no such thing as legislative authority belonging to it, their complete code of laws being given immediately from God by the hand of Moses. And let them who cry up the divine right of Kings consider, that the only form of government which had a proper claim to a divine establishment was so far from including the idea of a King, that it was a high crime for Israel to ask to be in this respect like other nations; and when they were gratified, it was rather as a just punishment of their folly, that they might feel the burdens of court pageantry, of which they were warned by a very striking description, than as a divine recommendation of kingly authority.

Every nation, when able and agreed, has a right to set up over themselves any form of government which to them may appear most conducive to their common welfare. The civil Polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model, allowing for some peculiarities; at least some principal laws and orders of it may be copied, to great advantage, in more modern establishments.

When a government is in it’s prime, the public good engages the attention of the whole; the strictest regard is paid to the qualifications of those who hold the offices of the state; virtue prevails; every thing is managed with justice, prudence, and frugality; the laws are founded on principles of equity rather than mere policy; and all the people are happy. But vice will increase with the riches and glory of an empire; and this gradually tends to corrupt the constitution, and in time bring on it’s dissolution. This may be considered not only as the natural effect of vice, but a righteous judgment of heaven, especially upon a nation which has been favor’d with the blessings of religion and liberty, and is guilty of undervaluing them, and eagerly going into the gratification of every lust.

In this chapter the prophet describes the very corrupt state of Judah in his day, both as to religion and common morality; and looks forward to that increase of wickedness which would bring on their desolation and captivity. They were a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that were corrupters, who had forsaken the Lord, and provoked the holy One of Israel to anger. The whole body of the nation, from head to foot, was full of moral and political disorders without any remaining soundness. Their religion was all mere ceremony and hypocrisy, and even the laws of common justice and humanity were disregarded in their public courts. They had Counsellors and Judges, but very different from those at the beginning of the common wealth. Their Princes were rebellious against God, and the constitution of their country, and companions of thieves, giving countenance to every artifice for seizing the property of the subjects into their own hands, and robbing the public treasury. Every one loved gifts and followed after rewards; they regarded the perquisites more than the duties of their office; the general aim was at profitable places and pensions; they were influenced in every thing by bribery; and their avarice and luxury were never satisfied, but hurried them on to all kinds of oppression and violence, so that they even justified and encouraged the murder of innocent persons to support their lawless power, and increase their wealth. And God in righteous judgment left them to run into all this excess of vice to their own destruction, because they had forsaken him, and were guilty of wilful inattention to the most essential parts of that religion which had been given them by a well attested Revelation from heaven.

The Jewish nation could not but see and feel the unhappy consequences of so great corruption of the state. Doubtless they complained much of men in power, and very heartily and liberally reproached them for their notorious misconduct. The public greatly suffered and the people groan|ed, and wished for better rulers and better management. But in vain they hoped for a change of men and measures and better times, when the spirit of religion was gone, and the infection of vice was become universal. The whole body being so corrupted, there could be no rational prospect of any great reformation in the state, but rather of its ruin; which accordingly came on in Jeremiah’s time. Yet if a general reformation of religion and morals had taken place, and they had turned to God from all their sins; if they had again re|covered the true spirit of their religion; God, by the gracious interpositions of his providence, would soon have found out methods to restore the former virtue of the state, and again have given them men of wisdom and integrity, according to their utmost wish, to be Counsellors and Judges. This was verified in fact, after the nation had been purged by a long captivity, and returned to their own land humbled, and filled with zeal for God and his law.

By all this we may be led to consider the true cause of the present remarkable troubles which are come upon Great-Britain and these Colonies; and the only effectual remedy.

We have rebelled against God. We have lost the true spirit of christianity, tho’ we retain the outward profession and form of it. We have neglected and let light by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy commands and institutions. The worship of many is but meer compliment to the Deity, while their hearts are far from him. By many the gospel is corrupted into a superficial system of moral philosophy, little better than ancient Platonism. And after all the pretended refinements of Moderns in the theory of christianity, very little of the pure practice of it is to be found among those who once stood fore|most in the profession of the Gospel. In a gene|ral view of the present moral state of Great Britain it may be said—There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and commiting adultery, their wickedness breaks out; and one murder after another is committed, under the connivance and encouragement even of that authority by which such crimes ought to be punished, that the purposes of oppression and despotism may be answered. As they have increased, so have they sinned; therefore God is changing their glory into shame. The general prevalence of vice has changed the whole face of things in the British government.

The excellency of the constitution has been the boast of Great-Britain, and the envy of neighbouring nations. In former times the great departments of the state, and the various places of trust and authority, were filled with men of wisdom, honestly, and religion, who employed all their powers, and were ready to risque their for|tunes, and their lives for the public good. They were faithful counsellors to Kings; directed their authority and majesty to the happiness of the nation; and opposed every step by which despotism endeavoured to advance. They were Fathers of the people, and sought the welfare and prosperity of the whole body. They did not exhaust the national wealth by luxury and bribery, or convert it to their own private benefit, or the maintenance of idle useless officers and dependents; but im|proved it faithfully for the proper purposes, for the necessary support of government, and defence of the kingdom. Their laws was dictated by wisdom and equity; and justice was administred with impartiality. Religion discover’d it’s general influence among all ranks, and kept out great corruptions from places of power.

But in what does the British nation now glory?—In a meer shadow of it’s ancient political system?—In titles of dignity without virtue?—In vast public treasures continually lavished in corruption, till every fund is exhausted, notwithstanding the mighty streams perpetually flowing in?—In the many artifices to stretch the prerogatives of the crown beyond all constitutional bounds, and make the king an absolute monarch, while the people are deluded with a meer phantom of liberty? What idea must we entertain of that government, if such an one can be found, which pretends to have made an exact counterbalance of power between the sovereign, the nobles and the commons, so that the three branches shall be an effectual check upon each other, and the united wisdom of the whole shall conspire to promote the national felicity; but which, in reality, is reduced to such a situation that it may be managed at the sole will of one court favorite? What difference is there betwixt one man’s choosing, at his own pleasure, by his single vote, the majority of those who are to represent the people; and his purchasing in such a majority, according to his own nomination, with money out of the public treasury, or other effectual methods of influencing elections?—And what shall we say, if in the same manner, by places, pensions, and other bribes, a minister of state can at any time gain over a nobler majority likewise, to be intirely subservient to his purposes; and moreover persuade his royal master to resign himself up wholly to the direction of his counsels? If this should be the case of any nation from one seven years end to another, the bargain and sale being made sure for such a period, would they still have reason to boast of their excellent constitution?— Ought they not rather to think it high time to restore the corrupted dying state to its original perfection?—I will apply this to the Roman senate under Julius Caesar, which retained all its ancient formalities, but voted always only as Caesar dictated. If the decrees of such a senate were urged on the Romans as fraught with all the blessings of Roman liberty, we must suppose them strangely deluded, if they were persuaded to believe it…

Into what fatal policy has the nation been impelled by its public vices! To wage a cruel war with its own children in these colonies, only to gratify the lust of power, and the demands of extravagance! May God, in his great mercy recover Great Britain from this fatal infatuation; shew them their errors; and give them a spirit of re|formation, before it is too late to avert impending destruction. May the eyes of the King be opened to see the ruinous tendency of the measures into which he has been led, and his heart inclined to treat his American Subjects with justice and clemency, instead of forcing them still farther to the last extremities! God grant some method may be found out to effect a happy reconciliation, so that the colonies may again enjoy the protection of their Sovereign, with perfect security of all their natural rights, and civil and religious liberties.

But, alas! have not the sins of America, and of New-England in particular, had a hand in bringing down upon us the righteous judgments of heaven? Wherefore is all this evil come upon us? Is it not because we have forsaken the Lord?…

Mises Institute: Mises and Rothbard on Democracy and Revolution

In this piece from the Mises Institute, David Gordon examines von Mises’ statement that the only convincing argument for democracy is that it allows for a peaceful change of power. Then he discusses Murray Rothbard’s critique which says that if that is true, then the democratic government that results must exactly resemble the government that would have resulted from a violent revolution and why that doesn’t happen. Another argument comes in when a government like the US is full of un-elected bureaucrats with great power who are protected from change from an election. In that case also, you end up with a government which does not reflect what might have been obtained by violent revolution.

Ludwig von Mises rejects the standard arguments for democracy. Not for him are the alleged virtues of public deliberation. For him, there is only one argument for democracy that is convincing. He says that only democracy allows for a peaceful change of power. Every government, he thinks, rests on popular consent. If a sufficient number of people find the government no longer tolerable, it won’t be able to maintain itself in power. In a democracy, people in this situation can peacefully replace the government with an opposition party more to its liking. Without democracy, there is liable to be a violent revolution, because those in power and their supporters are likely to cling to power, even if their position is in the long run unsustainable.

Mises puts the argument in this way in Liberalism:

Government by a handful of people—and the rulers are always as much in the minority as against those ruled as the producers of shoes are as against the consumers of shoes—depends on the consent of the governed, i.e., on their acceptance of the existing administration. They may see it only as the lesser evil, or as an unavoidable evil, yet they must be of the opinion that a change in the existing, situation would have no purpose. But once the majority of the governed becomes convinced that it is necessary and possible to change the form of government and to replace the old regime and the old personnel with a new regime and new personnel, the days of the former are numbered. The majority will have the power to carry out its wishes by force even against the will of the old regime. In the long run no government can maintain itself in power if it does not have public opinion behind it, i.e., if those governed are not convinced that the government is good. The force to which the government resorts in order to make refractory spirits compliant can be successfully applied only as long as the majority does not stand solidly in opposition.

There is, therefore, in every form of polity a means for making the government at least ultimately dependent on the will of the governed, viz, civil war, revolution, insurrection. But it is just this expedient that liberalism wants to avoid. There can be no lasting economic improvement if the peaceful course of affairs is continually interrupted by internal struggles….

Here is where the social function performed by democracy finds its point of application. Democracy is that form of political constitution which makes possible the adaptation of the government to the wishes of the governed without violent struggles. If in a democratic state the government is no longer being conducted as the majority of the population would have it, no civil war is necessary to put into office those who are willing to work to suit the majority. By means of elections and parliamentary arrangements, the change of government is executed smoothly and without friction, violence, or bloodshed.

There are various points at which you can challenge this argument. For example, what if the majority of people oppose the government, but there isn’t a consensus backing a particular opposition group? (I don’t mean that the party in power won’t let popular opposition groups run. Mises when he talks about democracy assumes that elections are fair.) But even if the argument can be challenged, it seems to have much in its favor.

Murray Rothbard raises a remarkable objection to this argument that hasn’t received the attention it deserves. His book Power and Market contains a profusion of arguments, one right after the other, and this one has escaped much notice.

His argument, in brief, is that if democracy is supposed to be a substitute for violent revolution, then the democratic government must exactly resemble the government that would have won out in a violent revolution. It is most unlikely that this will happen. If so, Mises’s argument fails.

Rothbard explains what he has in mind in this passage:

There is, moreover, another flaw in the “peaceful-change” argument for democracy, this one being a grave self-contradiction that has been universally overlooked. Those who have adopted this argument have simply used it to give a seal of approval to all democracies and have then moved on quickly to other matters. They have not realized that the “peaceful-change” argument establishes a criterion for government before which any given democracy must pass muster. For the argument that ballots are to substitute for bullets must be taken in a precise way: that a democratic election will yield the same result as would have occurred if the majority had had to battle the minority in violent combat. In short, the argument implies that the election results are simply and precisely a substitute for a test of physical combat. Here we have a criterion for democracy: Does it really yield the results that would have been obtained through civil combat? If we find that democracy, or a certain form of democracy, leads systematically to results that are very wide of this “bullet-substitute” mark, then we must either reject democracy or give up the argument.

How, then, does democracy, either generally or in specific countries, fare when we test it against its own criterion? One of the essential attributes of democracy, as we have seen, is that each man has one vote. But the “peaceful-change” argument implies that each man would have counted equally in any combat test. But is this true? In the first place, it is clear that physical power is not equally distributed. In any test of combat, women, old people, sick people, and 4F’s would fare very badly. On the basis of the “peaceful-change” argument, therefore, there is no justification whatever for giving these physically feeble groups the vote. So, barred from voting would be all citizens who could not pass a test, not for literacy (which is largely irrelevant to combat prowess), but for physical fitness. Furthermore, it clearly would be necessary to give plural votes to all men who have been militarily trained (such as soldiers and policemen), for it is obvious that a group of highly trained fighters could easily defeat a far more numerous group of equally robust amateurs.

Could Mises respond to this argument? He might have said that even if Rothbard is right that democracy isn’t a perfect substitute for the results of a violent revolution, it’s close enough to merit our support, given the costs of violence. But I’m sure Rothbard would have had a counter for that as well. Murray had an amazing ability to counter any argument against him, and I’ve never met his match in this.

Medium: Why Trump Is Likely to Win Again

Freelance writer Thomas Greene has written a piece at Medium.com titled Why Trump Is Likely to Win Again. While I believe he gets some things wrong (like a lot of people do believe H. Clinton is a criminal), I agree that voter anger over elected representatives and un-elected bureaucrats who have been captured (and corrupted) by the system is the primary fuel keeping the Trump engine running.

The Bronx of my childhood was a paradise. My street ran parallel to a section of the old Croton Aqueduct, by then long disused, which we kids called the Ackey. Along its banks grew trees and bushes and wild flowers forming a ribbon of thicket in which we played, and through which we “hiked.”

We were always in the street. We learned our games and rhymes by word of mouth, from older to younger. We chose our adventures and settled disputes among ourselves. We played stick ball and ringolevio and skully, red rover and stoop ball, and a deliciously sadistic variety of Johnny on a pony. We raced about on noisy cheap skates with metal wheels.

In this urban sanctuary I grew up safe, loved, happy, and unmistakably working class, yet somehow I slipped away. I was reared to become an ironworker or electrician, but I managed to pass through a posh New England liberal arts college and end up a tech journalist and author. I’ve worked unsupervised, chiefly from home, since the 1990s.

Most of my relatives and old neighborhood friends hate people like me. And I don’t blame them. Most are lifelong Democrats, yet they voted for Donald Trump, and will again, and I can’t blame them for that, either. Let me explain.

My career is the product of an economic revival engineered by the center-right New Democrats of the Clinton era and subsequent administrations. I’ve observed the tech industry for two decades; it’s a job, but it’s hardly work: I’m a nerd; I like science, technology, and medicine. Right now, I couldn’t be more comfortable in lockdown. Amazon supplies my dry goods while a friendly driver brings my groceries. My family and I are safe. No one comes near us without a mask. I control my environment; I choose the people in whose presence I’ll work, if any. I can smoke and drink on the job if I please. So long as I honor my deadlines and file clean copy, no one has anything to say about it. Tech’s been good to me.

But the guy I was expected to become walks beside me like an imaginary friend I never outgrew. I think about him often — daily, if I’m honest. He commutes by bus, encountering irresponsible louts who refuse to mask up. He worries about it, too. His wife, who had earned a second income, is at home supervising their kids. He lives by the lunch buzzer and the punch clock. If there’s music where he works, it’s amplified by cheap, overdriven speakers and the genre will suit him only by chance. The temperature and ambient noise and lighting were calibrated by industrial psychologists. He can’t evade disagreeable co-workers. He’s paid far less than a family wage, but he’s got no health coverage or pension. He endures daily uncertainty about his family’s needs. Why should he not hate me? I would hate me if I were him.

He and millions of others failed to thrive in the tech economy, but that was a feature, not a bug. Blue-collar Americans were never going to adapt, despite the assurances of New Economy cheerleaders, many of whom were in government. Factories closed and data centers opened. Dotcom outfits traded on nothing more than an online presence, which somehow made sense to us. The New Democrats exalted capital both tangible and intellectual, and devalued labor, as if they’d been old-school Establishment Republicans. They fawned over Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison, Michael Dell and Andy Grove the way one imagines Calvin Coolidge gushing about Rockefellers and Morgans, Vanderbilts and Astors.

A high-tech meritocracy would lead America in a better direction, and the need was urgent. The Old Economy was failing, undeniably. It was time to re-formulate it with a progressive veneer: no more dirty factories or pollution; NAFTA would ship that mess abroad. America would subsist on green energy, outsourcing, financial services, the sacrament of e-commerce, and high-tech gadgets: a middle-class Valhalla governed by upper-middle-class trustees from the best schools. There would be no need for troublesome relics like labor unions; the virtuous nature of technological progress would itself ensure quality jobs and dignity for workers. Plentiful consumer credit would replace the family wage and health-care benefits. Blue-collar America would suffer collateral damage, but too much was at stake; it would be a necessary sacrifice. And of course we’d be gentle; we were Democrats and nerds, after all.

Big Tech was hardly the sole disruptor, but the New Democrats fell for, and amplified, Silicon Valley’s specific flavor of empty promises wrapped in technobabble. “Delivering the ____ of the future,” they said. We got e-this and i-that and smart everything else. It had a wholesome ring and implied that Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan were finally in charge. The progressive, sciency veneer gave cover to other mega-rackets with less compelling legends, enabling them to fleece their workers and consumers too. Soon everyone was delivering the ____ of the future.

The Democratic Party divorced its industrial, unionized base and married its Silicon Valley mistress. It had once believed in collective bargaining. It had once believed that workers were an essential part of a healthy economy and worthy of respect. There was a time when a US president, like Harry Truman, might entertain a labor activist, like Walter Reuther, amiably in the Oval Office. But the Party had fallen hard for its tech darlings and began to dream of a meritocracy based on steadily-increasing knowledge, intelligence, and creativity that would lift us all toward self-realization as we bathed in the restorative glow of our screens. In other words, Democrats put their faith in social vaporware. Old-Economy workers would be “rehabilitated,” language implying that they might be more intellectually challenged than unlucky. “Euthanized” would be a more honest word. The former lower-middle and working classes would listen to two decades of meritocratic cant while their standards of living would fall steadily with no ground floor in sight. They were never a priority.


The candidate Barack Obama spoke to blue-collar America. He campaigned on change that would rejuvenate careers and restore dignity. Working Americans in the swing states doubted that Hillary Clinton even knew they existed. They saw Obama as a last hope and supported him enthusiastically in the 2008 primaries and later in the general election, but he soon proved to be a disappointment. He, too, fell in love with Silicon Valley and Wall Street and neglected the people who needed him most. And they punished him: he won fewer states in 2012 than he had in 2008. People like the alternate me felt cheated by a guy who rocked a Brooks Brothers suit and talked a great game, then gave the Tech and Finance sectors everything they wanted and more. Educated people from the best schools trusted Big Tech outfits because educated people from the best schools ran them. Elites imagine each other to be virtuous because they imagine themselves that way.

Technology giants were understood not as hardy sprouts but would be treated instead with princess-and-the-pea levels of delicacy, thanks to a superstitious fear that it might all be brought to grief by, say, forcing companies with hundreds of billions in share value to tolerate an employees’ union, offer a minimum wage adequate for a decent life, or pay tax proportional to their reliance on public goods.

No one bears greater responsibility for the lack of empathy toward Old-Economy workers that led to Donald Trump’s victory than big-name Tech darlings and the New Democrats who coddled them, then openly ridiculed their own voter base: the people Hillary foolishly nicknamed “Deplorables;” that is, the millions of disappointed Obama voters who would happily have voted blue if they’d had confidence that the party would respect them, welcome them, and acknowledge their needs. But the New Economy is a gated community, shut firmly to them, whose most strenuous boosters have been the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations. Old-school, working-class Democrats are unwelcome in the party they built. No one wants them tracking mud through the salon.

Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the swing states the same way Barack Obama had: by characterizing her as disdainful toward blue-collar Americans. It was a potent message among those who once had seen decent wages in return for honest work, lately reduced to Walmart greeters and Uber drivers. Humiliated by a labor market in which they had nothing to trade, the former working class understood that they also had nothing to lose. Liberal democracy and its supporting institutions shed their veneer of sanctity when dead-end employees can aspire only to dead-end management gigs. Call them “associates” and “technicians” all you want; they know who they’ve become and what others think of them. They are why Trump won in the swing states; he was propelled to victory by disillusioned Obama voters. They gleefully chanted “lock her up” not because they thought Hillary was an actual criminal, but because they knew what her election would bring them: four or eight more years of economic and social stagnation to top off the twenty they’d already been through.


They elected Donald once and they will try to again. He is scornful and vicious. He despises openly. He snarls and barks. He will make a pig’s breakfast of everything he touches, but here’s the thing everyone misses: educated elites will feel the hardship he causes more acutely than the millions of workers who have already adapted to pittance wages, dead-end careers, and chronic disrespect. They’ve endured two decades of it; they can cope. They’re betting that liberal snowflakes like me can’t.

Trump will not be defeated by educating voters, by exposing his many foibles and inadequacies. Highlighting what’s wrong with him is futile; his supporters didn’t elect him because they mistook him for a competent administrator or a decent man. They’re angry, not stupid. Trump is an agent of disruption — indeed, of revenge. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has positioned him as a tragic force-multiplier on a scale that few could have predicted, and the result is verging on catastrophic.

Still, that might not be enough to prevent his re-election. Workers now sense that economic justice — a condition in which labor and capital recognize and value each other — is permanently out of reach; the class war is over and it was an absolute rout: insatiable parasites control everything now, and even drain us gratuitously, as if exacting reparations for the money and effort they spent taming us. The economy itself, and the institutions protecting it, must be attacked, and actually crippled, to get the attention of the smug patricians in charge. Two decades of appealing to justice, proportion, and common decency have yielded nothing. I’d rather not see four more years of Donald, but I understand the impulse to use him as a cat’s paw.

Joe Biden is only moderately attractive to swing voters. He’s got longstanding ties to the financial and consumer-credit rackets, and many of his senior campaign people are former lobbyists, industry flacks, and banking alums. He’s a New Democrat at heart: too much like Hillary and too little like the Barack Obama we thought we were voting for in 2008. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders appeal to the Obama 2008 → Trump 2016 electorate, not Biden, and not the domesticated Obama of 2020 who will be campaigning for him.

I doubt that Obama can draw enough of his old swing voters back to the Democratic Party. They were his constituency once, but he let them go and now his transformation into a New Economy aristocrat is complete. He could even be a liability to Biden, who seems more down to earth than today’s Obama.

The New Democratic Party and the flashy economic colossus controlling it are a seductive pair. We saw this as Obama spoke on 30 July 2020, eulogizing the late US Representative John Lewis. The former president and Columbia University and Harvard Law School graduate promised us that one day, “when we do finish that long journey toward freedom; when we do form a more perfect union — whether it’s years from now, or decades, or even if it takes another two centuries — John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.” Thus did our first black president signal that he might condone two more centuries of racial and social injustice so long as the meritocracy continues to treat him and his family right.

He and other high-minded elites are thinking fine thoughts and beaming positive energy to ordinary Americans from the metaphorical gated community swaddling the rich, progressive class. No uniformed weasel will dare kneel on any of their necks, we can be certain. There will be no eviction notices, no local food pantries, no paltry unemployment checks for them. These people have no clue what’s going on in the workaday neighborhoods of American cities and in our towns and rural communities, and they’ll be pleased to keep it that way.

Why should the victims of the New Economy not despise the system, and the people tending it, so intensely that they would vote Republican again? Why would they not hope that Donald will cause so much damage that America will be forced to make a fresh start? For them, stability equals stagnation while chaos might bring opportunities.

Elections are decided in the swing states. We know how Massachusetts and Mississippi will vote. The battle will take place in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virgina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Colorado, and it will be decided by Obama-Trump voters. They haven’t forgotten that, during two decades’ time, Democrats exported their jobs and rewarded them with gigs. The question is, will their resentment overcome their reluctance? They might fear Donald’s destructive potential, but they’ll be inclined to vote for someone who has been wrecking the political and economic system that cut them down from working class to working poor with no hope of escape. Donald has a solid chance of winning.

For Democrats, the only path forward is behind: the Party must welcome, and actually represent, employees whose lives and labor and services are valued as essential contributions to society. The former working class won’t be satisfied until they see Bill and Hillary, Barack and Joe enact an auto-da-fé through the streets of Washington accompanied by a dreary huddle of bankers, VCs, bond traders, and Tech CEOs in quest of a genuine catharsis in which the pain of their guilt and self loathing swells and burns and finally grows so unbearable that they literally curse themselves and beg to be forgiven.

If candidates Biden and Harris, and the wider Democratic Party, fail to recognize and renounce the worst elements of the high-tech, financialized New Economy they’re in bondage to, and neglect to reach out to Obama-Trump swing voters with genuine understanding, compassion, and respect — not to mention actual, regulatory solutions — Donald might well be elected again, exactly as he was in 2016: by swing-state Democrats who have had enough.

 

 

Tenth Amendment Center: The Constitution Wasn’t Written to Protect Your Liberty

From the Tenth Amendment Center comes a short piece on the limited purpose of the US Constitition, The Constitution Wasn’t Written to Protect Your Liberty

One of the most biggest misconceptions I hear about the Constitution is that it was written to “protect our liberty.”

It wasn’t. At least not in a direct sense.

The confusion likely arises from the words of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

It’s true that the Constitution was written during a time when protecting unalienable rights was widely viewed as the primary role of government. But the Constitution is not a philosophical document. It is a legal document that formed a political union and created a central government.

That’s all it does. Asking it to “protect your rights” is really asking too much. That wasn’t why it was written or ratified.

Now the Constitution does reflect the philosophy espoused in the Declaration in that it established a general government of limited, enumerated powers. The decentralized nature of the political system it created was intended to encourage liberty.

By strictly limiting the authority of the general government, the founding generation hoped it would never possess enough the power to intrude on our rights.

But there isn’t any provision in the Constitution that actually empowers the federal government to protect our liberty. In fact, the founding generation would have almost certainly considered that too much power for a general government to wield.

In practice, this means the federal government really doesn’t have any responsibility to “protect your rights” beyond staying within its constitutionally delegated powers. Its obligation isn’t to act in order to protect liberty, it is to not act outside of its legitimate authority.

In the same way, the Bill of Rights was never intended to empower the federal government to protect your rights. As the preamble to the Bill of Rights makes clear, it was intended to add “further declaratory and restrictive clauses” to the Constitution “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.” I have often said it would be better named “The Bill of Restrictions.”

A lot of people want the Constitution to deliver something it never promised. They want the government to serve as a liberty enforcement squad. This is a dangerous proposition. In order to protect your liberty, the government must define your liberty. The best thing the government can do is stay out of the way. The Constitution created a limited federal government for that purpose.

But it’s ultimately up to us to hold it within its limits. Unfortunately, by insisting that the government “protect their rights” they are doing the exact opposite.

Rutherford Institute: The Building Blocks of Tyranny from A to Z

Consitutional law attorney and author John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute writes about much that is wrong in the USA in P Is for Predator State: The Building Blocks of Tyranny from A to Z

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility.” — Professor Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Show Business

While America continues to fixate on the drama-filled reality show scripted by the powers-that-be, directed from the nation’s capital, and played out in high definition across the country, the American Police State has moved steadily forward.

Nothing has changed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a convenient, traumatic, devastating distraction.

The American people, the permanent underclass in America, have allowed themselves to be so distracted and divided that they have failed to notice the building blocks of tyranny being laid down right under their noses by the architects of the Deep State.

Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton: they have all been complicit in carrying out the Deep State’s agenda. Unless something changes to restore the balance of power, the next president—the new boss—will be the same as the old boss.

Frankly, it really doesn’t matter what you call the old/new boss—the Deep State, the Controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the corporate elite, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that no matter who occupies the White House, it is a profit-driven, an unelected bureaucracy that is actually calling the shots.

If our losses are mounting with every passing day—and they are—it is a calculated siege intended to ensure our defeat at the hands of a totalitarian regime.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, media, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more are casualties in the government’s war on the American people.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized federal police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms are being steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

As a result, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

None of these dangers have dissipated in any way.

They have merely disappeared from our televised news streams.

It’s time to get educated on what’s really going on. Thus, in the interest of liberty and truth, here’s an A-to-Z primer that spells out the grim realities of life in the American Police State that no one seems to be talking about anymore.

A is for the AMERICAN POLICE STATE. A police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

B is for our battered BILL OF RIGHTS. In the militarized police culture that is America today, where you can be kicked, punched, tasered, shot, intimidated, harassed, stripped, searched, brutalized, terrorized, wrongfully arrested, and even killed by a police officer, and that officer is rarely held accountable for violating your rights, the Bill of Rights doesn’t amount to much.

C is for CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. This governmental scheme to deprive Americans of their liberties—namely, the right to property—is being carried out under the guise of civil asset forfeiture, a government practice wherein government agents (usually the police and now TSA agents) seize private property they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity. Then, whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, the government keeps the citizen’s property and it’s virtually impossible to get it back.

D is for DRONES. It was estimated that at least 30,000 drones would be airborne in American airspace by 2020, part of an $80 billion industry. Although some drones will be used for benevolent purposes, many will also be equipped with lasers, tasers and scanning devices, among other weapons—all aimed at “we the people.”

E is for EMERGENCY STATE. From 9/11 to COVID-19, we have been the subjected to an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security. The government’s ongoing attempts to declare so-called national emergencies in order to circumvent the Constitution’s system of checks and balances constitutes yet another expansion of presidential power that exposes the nation to further constitutional peril.

F is for FASCISM. A study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups. In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere economic units or databits.

G is for GRENADE LAUNCHERS and GLOBAL POLICE. The federal government has distributed more than $18 billion worth of battlefield-appropriate military weapons, vehicles and equipment such as drones, tanks, and grenade launchers to domestic police departments across the country. As a result, most small-town police forces now have enough firepower to render any citizen resistance futile. Now take those small-town police forces, train them to look and act like the military, and then enlist them to be part of the United Nations’ Strong Cities Network program, and you not only have a standing army that operates beyond the reach of the Constitution but one that is part of a global police force.

H is for HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS. The government’s efforts to militarize and weaponize its agencies and employees is reaching epic proportions, with federal agencies as varied as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration stockpiling millions of lethal hollow-point bullets, which violate international law. Ironically, while the government continues to push for stricter gun laws for the general populace, the U.S. military’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy.

I is for the INTERNET OF THINGS, in which internet-connected “things” monitor your home, your health and your habits in order to keep your pantry stocked, your utilities regulated and your life under control and relatively worry-free. The key word here, however, is control. This “connected” industry propels us closer to a future where police agencies apprehend virtually anyone if the government “thinks” they may commit a crime, driverless cars populate the highways, and a person’s biometrics are constantly scanned and used to track their movements, target them for advertising, and keep them under perpetual surveillance…(continues)

Click here to continue reading at the Rutherford Institute.

Alt-Market: Martial Law Is Unacceptable Regardless Of The Circumstances

This article is a reminder from Brandon Smith at Alt-Market that Martial Law Is Unacceptable Regardless Of The Circumstances

Back in 2014, hundreds if not thousands of conservatives and liberty movement activists converged on a farm in rural Clark County, Nevada. The purpose was to protest the incursion of federal government agents onto the property of the Bundy family, who had defied pressure from the Bureau of Land Management to stop allowing their cattle to feed on “federal land” in a form of free ranging. It was a practice that had been going on for decades and one that was required for the Bundy farm to survive, ended abruptly by environmental laws protecting a tortoise.

The Bundy family had been improving on the area with water sources and other measures for generations without interference. The claim by the BLM and other agencies was that the farmers were destroying wildlife habitat with their cattle, yet the Bundy’s land improvements had actually allowed wildlife to THRIVE in areas where animals would find life difficult or impossible otherwise.

The federal government became fixated on the Bundy’s, and decided to make an example out of them. Their defiance of the crackdown on their use of the land was met with extreme measures, including their cattle impounded, their farm being surrounded and sniper teams placed in the hills nearby. The liberty movement saw this as the last straw, and so reacted at a grassroots level. The concern was that Bundy Ranch could become another Waco. They locked and loaded and went to defend the Bundy’s.

I completely agreed at the time with the efforts surrounding Bundy Ranch and I still agree with them today. The federal government had overstepped its bounds on multiple occasions when it came to rural farmers in sagebrush country and everyone had finally had enough. The feds were faced with a group of armed liberty movement members and eventually ran away. They even gave the Bundy’s back the cattle the feds had initially tried to confiscate. This event showcased the power of the people to repel tyranny when necessary.

The claim that the public is impotent against government force was summarily trounced.  The action was not perfect, and there were many internal disputes and a plethora of mistakes, but overall it had achieved its goal.  It sent a message to the establishment that if you try to assert unconstitutional force against the citizenry there is a chance a Bundy Ranch scenario might happen again, and next time it might not simply be a defensive measure.

I mention Bundy Ranch because I want to remind conservatives of their roots. We are a constitutional movement. We are a small government movement. We believe in individual rights, states rights and the 10th Amendment, as well as strict limitations placed on the federal government and state governments when they try to violate the Bill of Rights.  If you don’t believe in these things, you are not a conservative or a constitutionalist.

No government, whether state or federal, supersedes the boundaries placed upon them by the constitution. Once they violate those boundaries, they must be put in check by the citizenry, for the constitution is merely an object that represents an ideal. It can’t defend itself. If a government undermines constitutional protections, it is not a failure of the constitution, it is a failure by the public to act.

Sadly, there are “conservatives” out there who supported the efforts at Bundy Ranch in 2014, but are now calling for federal overreach and martial law today. The very same people who argued vehemently against unconstitutional actions back then are arguing for bending or breaking the rules of the constitution now. This is something I have been warning about for years…

The greatest threat to freedom is not the government, extreme leftists or the globalist cabal; the greatest threat is when freedom fighters foresake their own principles and start rationalizing tyranny because it happens to benefit them in the moment. If freedom fighters stop fighting for freedom, who remains pick up the mantle? No one. And thus, the globalists and collectivists win the long game.

Right now there are two sides calling for martial law-like restrictions on the public, and both sides think they are doing what is best for society at large. They both believe they are morally justified and that totalitarian actions are necessary for “the greater good”. Both sides are wrong.

The Pandemic Puritans

On one side, we have a group made up primarily of political leftists but also some conservatives who say that the coronavius pandemic creates a scenario in which medical tyranny must be established to protect the public from itself. Leftists enjoy control in general and the pandemic simply offers an opportunity for them to act out their totalitarian fantasies in real life.

These are the people who wag their fingers at others on the street or in the park or at the beach for not “social distancing” properly. These are the people that inform on their neighbors, or inform on local businesses for not following strict guidelines. These are the people that get a thrill from forcing other people to conform.

This is not to say that precautions are not warranted, they certainly are. However, these precautions MUST be up to individuals, not enforced by bureaucracy. The moment you hand government ultimate power to dictate people’s health decisions, personal daily activities, freedom of assembly and their ability to participate in the economy, you have given the government ultimate power to destroy our very culture. No government should be allowed to have that kind of influence.

The issue here is one of the greater EVIL, not the greater good. What is the greater evil? To avoid unconstitutional measures, avoid violating individual rights and allow the virus to spread faster than it normally would? Or, to completely throw out the Bill of Rights, individual liberty and economic security in the name of a brand of “safety” that is ambiguous and undefined?

As I write this, the state of New Jersey among others is implementing a draconian response against businesses that defy lockdown orders. NJ just arrested the owners of a gymnasium in Bellmawr who refused to close down. Even though they used social distancing measures and applied their own guidelines, the state has decided that citizens are children that must be controlled rather than adults that can make their own choices. This sets a dangerous precedence for the whole country.

Understand that small businesses that are not deemed “essential” by arbitrary decree from the state are on the verge of bankruptcy and collapse. Millions of people are having their livelihoods threatened by the lockdowns. Millions of jobs are at risk. Is the coronavirus really worth destroying our own economic system? Because that is EXACTLY what is happening right now. The US economy was already suffering from destabilization, and now the pandemic response is putting the final nail in the coffin.

If the economy tanks far more people will die from the resulting crisis of poverty, crime and civil unrest than will EVER die from the coronavirus pandemic. When you look at the big picture, how can anyone justify medical tyranny and martial law measures? There is simply no logical explanation for violating the economic and personal freedom of Americans in response to a disease. If some people die from the virus, so be it. Its a small price to pay to keep our freedoms intact.  Furthermore, I would stand by that argument even if I get sick from the virus.

Sock Puppet Conservatives

There are people out there that like constitutional rights and civil liberties “in theory”, but in practice they view these rights as inconvenient to their goals.  For these so-called “conservatives”, the Bill of Rights is only for peacetime. When war or domestic conflict rolls around, our rights are suddenly forfeit.

I use this particular metaphor often but I really can’t find a better one:

Government power is like the “one ring” in Lord Of The Rings. Everyone desperately wants control of it. The side of evil thirsts for it. The side of good thinks that if only they had it they could use it for honorable ends; they think they can use it to defeat evil. They are wrong.

The “one ring” (government power) corrupts ALL. It cannot be controlled. It cannot be used for good. Eventually, it warps the minds of those who hold it, twisting them into something grotesque. Good people who exploit the ring end up becoming the very monsters they were trying to defeat, and evil wins.

Right now through the Trump Administration conservatives are being tempted with the “one ring”. We are being tempted with ultimate government power. The leftist hordes and their actions are egregious. They act irrationally and foolishly. Their communist ideology and mindless zealotry is destructive and they openly seek the collapse of western civilization. But in the end this doesn’t matter.  They are nothing more than useful idiots for a greater agenda.

It’s interesting that the only solution I see being presented in conservative circles lately is the use of federal power to crush the protests and riots. Again, this might seem like a reasonable action in the face of so much lawlessness, but if taken too far the implications are horrifying.

Some conservative groups are cheering the deployment of federal agencies to cities like Portland in the name of stopping civil unrest, but there is a fine line between law enforcement and martial law. And by martial law, I mean ANY government force that is designed to suppress or break civil protections. This does not only include a military presence, it can also include federal agencies overstepping their bounds, just as they did at Bundy Ranch.

In Portland and other cities like New York, federal agents and police have been snatching protesters off the street in unmarked vans without identifying themselves.  Essentially, they are black-bagging people. This is the kind of behavior which real conservatives traditionally despise.

Yes, some of these protesters did in fact loot or participate in property damage; and some of them did absolutely nothing.  This is being done under 40 US Code 1315 which was signed into law by Neo-con president George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks as part of the tidal wave of unconstitutional Patriot Act measures that were railroaded through during mass fear and panic.

Conservatives have been warning for years about the potential for misuse of these laws to violate people’s rights. Will we now support them because they are being enforced against people we don’t like? I will say this: If an unmarked van with unidentified armed people tried to grab me off the street, I would do everything in my power to put a bullet in each and every one of them.  And, I would not hold it against any person who did the same, even if they were my ideological opponent.

Some conservatives are calling for much more, including the deployment of the National Guard or a standing military presence. The use of such tactics opens the door to serious consequences, and I believe if we allow the federal government to bend the rules now, we set the stage for expansive martial law in the near future. By extension, labeling looters or rioters as “terrorists” also has dangerous implications.  Those of us that were activists during the Obama years know how freely that label is thrown around by government and the media.

We might feel righteous in violating the civil liberties of social justice Marxists because of their insane behavior and the threat they pose to the stability of the country, but, what happens when the roles are reversed? During Bundy Ranch, conservatives were also being labeled “terrorists”, and who is to say we won’t find ourselves in that position again?   Would defying the pandemic lockdowns also be considered an existential threat to the country?

Uncomfortable Questions

There are some questions in all of this that are either not being asked or are being deliberately avoided.  For example:

1) Why is it that the Trump Administration has not bothered to go after the elites and globalists FUNDING Antifa and BLM groups behind the unrest?  Why does George Soros and his Open Society Foundation get to operate in the US with impunity?  And what about the Ford Foundation?  Members of that institution openly admit that they have been funding and organizing the social justice cult for decades.  Shouldn’t the men behind the curtain paying for the entire thing be targeted first, instead of going after the useful idiots?  Perhaps the fact that Trump is surrounded by those very same elites in his cabinet has something to do with it…

2) If we support martial law measures, WHO are we giving that power to?  Is it Trump, or the deep state ghouls that advise him daily?  People like Wilber Ross, a New York Rothschild banking agent, Mike Pompeo, a long time Neo-con warmonger and promoter of mass surveillance, Robert Lightheizer, a member of the globalist Council On Foreign Relations, Steve Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs banker, Larry Kudlow, former Federal Reserve, etc.  Even if you think Trump has the best of intentions, can anyone honestly say the same for his cabinet?

3) When the left is “defeated” and the riots stop, will martial law simply fade away, or, is it a Pandora’s Box that can never be closed again?  And if it doesn’t end, will supporters justify fighting against not just leftists, but also conservatives who will not tolerate it?  I for one will be among the people that will not tolerate it.

Real Solutions

There are other much better solutions than martial law when confronting the leftist riots or the pandemic.

For the pandemic, stop trying to dictate public behavior.  If individuals feel they are at risk from the virus, then they can take their own precautions.  The only other option is to continue on the path of shutdowns and an informant society that will destroy this nation in a matter of months.

Foe the leftists, communities that stage an armed presence in the face of protests have ALL escaped riots and property damage. Sometimes Antifa and BLM decide to not even show up. We DON’T NEED a federal presence or a military presence to get the job done. We can do it ourselves. We already have proof that this strategy works.

And, if the lefties want to burn down their own neighborhoods and cities and local governments don’t want to stop them, then I say let it happen. It’s sad for the people in these places that had no dog in the fight, but maybe this will teach the locals to speak out against BLM or Antifa instead of remaining silent or virtue signaling their support in the hopes that their businesses won’t be attacked.  Maybe they should look for better government officials as well.

Finally, it’s far past time to go after the elites that fund and engineer such groups.  Remove their influence and I suspect many people will be shocked at how fast all this unrest and chaos suddenly disappears.  Isn’t this what people wanted Trump to do from the very beginning?  And yet, nothing happens to the vampires at the top.

Only cowards demand everyone else give up their freedoms just so they can feel safe.  The establishment is trying to pit the American people against each other as a means to pave a path to tyranny. I believe what the elites want more than anything else is to trick conservatives into forsaking their own principles. If we do, we become hypocrites that can no longer sustain a movement for freedom. By becoming the monster to fight the monster we hand our enemies victory. This is unacceptable.

Tenth Amendment Center: Gov’t Worried that Mask Use Thwarts Gov’t Facial Recognition

From the Tenth Amendment Center, DHS Worried Widespread Mask Use Will Thwart Government Facial Recognition.

There has been a lot of controversy over masks, but no matter what you think about the efficacy of face coverings in preventing the spread of COVID-19, there is one advantage to masking up. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed concern that widespread use of masks will thwart facial recognition.

A DHS “intelligence note” dated May 22 came to light in the BlueLeaks trove of law enforcement documents. The DHS Intelligence Enterprise Counterterrorism Mission Center in conjunction with a variety of other agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement drafted the note. It “examines the potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems — such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms — to monitor public spaces during the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency and in the months after the pandemic subsides.”

According to The Intercept, the Minnesota Fusion Center distributed the notice on May 26, as protests over the killing of George Floyd were ramping up. “Email logs included in the BlueLeaks archive show that the note was also sent to city and state government officials and private security officers in Colorado and, inexplicably, to a hospital and a community college.”

The note warned, “We assess violent extremists and other criminals who have historically maintained an interest in avoiding face recognition are likely to opportunistically seize upon public safety measures recommending the wearing of face masks to hinder the effectiveness of face recognition systems in public spaces by security partners.”

The note also expresses more general concern about mask-wearing. One header reads, “Face Recognition Systems Likely to be Less Effective as Widespread Wear of Face Coverings for Public Safety Purposes Continue,”

“We assess face recognition systems used to support security operations in public spaces will be less effective while widespread public use of facemasks, including partial and full face covering, is practiced by the public to limit the spread of Covid-19.”

The debate on masking aside, thwarting facial recognition is a good thing because the federal government is aggressively pushing the expansion of its vast and increasingly intrusive facial recognition network.

THE GROWING FEDERAL PROGRAM

recent report revealed that the federal government has turned state drivers’ license photos into a giant facial recognition database, putting virtually every driver in America in a perpetual electronic police lineup. The revelations generated widespread outrage, but this story isn’t new. The federal government has been developing a massive, nationwide facial recognition system for years.

The FBI rolled out a nationwide facial-recognition program in the fall of 2014, with the goal of building a giant biometric database with pictures provided by the states and corporate friends.

In 2016, the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law released “The Perpetual Lineup,” a massive report on law enforcement use of facial recognition technology in the U.S. You can read the complete report at perpetuallineup.org. The organization conducted a year-long investigation and collected more than 15,000 pages of documents through more than 100 public records requests. The report paints a disturbing picture of intense cooperation between the federal government, and state and local law enforcement to develop a massive facial recognition database.

“Face recognition is a powerful technology that requires strict oversight. But those controls, by and large, don’t exist today,” report co-author Clare Garvie said. “With only a few exceptions, there are no laws governing police use of the technology, no standards ensuring its accuracy, and no systems checking for bias. It’s a wild west.”

There are many technical and legal problems with facial recognition, including significant concerns about the accuracy of the technology, particularly when reading the facial features of minority populations. During a test run by the ACLU of Northern California, facial recognition misidentified 26 members of the California legislature as people in a database of arrest photos.

With facial recognition technology, police and other government officials have the capability to track individuals in real-time. These systems allow law enforcement agents to use video cameras and continually scan everybody who walks by. According to the report, several major police departments have expressed an interest in this type of real-time tracking. Documents revealed agencies in at least five major cities, including Los Angeles, either claimed to run real-time face recognition off of street cameras, bought technology with the capability, or expressed written interest in buying it.

In all likelihood, the federal government heavily involves itself in helping state and local agencies obtain this technology. The feds provide grant money to local law enforcement agencies for a vast array of surveillance gear, including ALPRs, stingray devices and drones. The federal government essentially encourages and funds a giant nationwide surveillance net and then taps into the information via fusion centers and the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).

Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”

Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.

Reports that the Berkeley Police Department in cooperation with a federal fusion center deployed cameras equipped to surveil a “free speech” rally and Antifa counterprotests provided the first solid link between the federal government and local authorities in facial recognition surveillance.

See also EFF’s San Francisco Police Accessed Business District Camera Network to Spy on Protestors

 

AIER: Government, Govern Thyself

Michael Munger is a Professor of Political Science, Economics, and Public Policy at Duke University and Senior Fellow of the American Institute for Economic Research. In the article Government, Govern Thyself, he argues that the state is always either too weak to do what we want, or so strong it can do whatever it wants.

leviathan

In January 2014 then-President Barack Obama made a speech in Washington, D.C. In that informal speech, just before a cabinet meeting, he explained he found it necessary to ignore the U.S. Constitution and unilaterally impose his vision of the good society on the nation:

We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone…

And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.

Many people on the right complained (I thought correctly) that this was Presidential overreach. To be fair, even the New York Times called the overzealous suppression of information and prosecution of whistleblowers “a stain on Obama’s legacy.”

Now, of course, all my friends on the left are appalled by the actions of the overreach of the Republican administration. Many who were fine with Obama ordering states around on the environment have recently taken a strong interest in the 10th Amendment, worrying about immigration enforcement and sending federal police to Portland and other cities. Understand: this is no partisan disagreement, but an irredeemable flaw in the nature of the state. The modern state is either too weak to do what we want, or so strong it can do whatever it wants.

The problem is often stated recursively. In Luke 4:23, Jesus mocked his skeptical listeners, “Physician, heal thyself.” The audience doubted Jesus’ claim that he was the messiah, because “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Just some local kid putting on airs and getting above his raisin’. Jesus’ taunting response was, in effect, “Nobody wants a sick physician, or a skinny cook, right?”

There are other observations in this vein; perhaps the most famous is that of the Roman satirist Juvenal. Around 100 C.E. he wrote about a problem of making sure someone does the right thing, even if the boss isn’t watching. His example (it was a satire) focused on ensuring the sexual fidelity of wives:

I know well the advice and warnings of my old friends: “Put on a lock and keep your wife indoors.” Yes, and who will ward the warders? They get paid in kind for holding their tongues as to their young lady’s escapades; participation seals their lips. The wily wife arranges accordingly, and begins with them…. (Satire #6)

Juvenal’s question, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (I’ve seen it translated “Who will ward the warders/guard the guardians?”), and Jesus’ parable, both illustrate the problem with the dual nature of the state. The usual social contract myth endows the state with the duty to enforce all agreements. But who then is to enforce the agreement between citizens and the state? Can the state be both enforcer and a party in the dispute? Physician, heal thyself.

There is of course a long history of just this kind of critique among libertarians, particularly those of us with some anarchist sympathies. One of the most interesting, important, but (to my mind) underrated of these was the late Anthony de Jasay. The origins of government are supposed by our inability to enforce contracts. So we create an entity that specializes in violence, to force everyone to obey their contracts. In Hobbes’ terms, “Covenants, without the sword, are but words.” Of course, once “we” “consent” to this universal contract enforcer, we have some problems. Who is this “we?” It all happened a long time ago. And very few people actually “consented;” all that happened is that we didn’t leave the country. And who will enforce our contract with the violent contract enforcer? Somehow, the government has to govern itself.

According to Jasay, there are two fatal flaws with the “social contract” idea. The first is the “enforceable contracts” justification, and the second is the “limiting Leviathan” problem of self-governance.

If contracts are unenforceable, then who governs the government? If we can’t enforce contracts with equals, how can we trust Leviathan? Jasay compares this magical thinking to “jumping over your own shadow.” As he puts it, “[I]t takes courage to affirm that rational people could unanimously wish to have a sovereign contract enforcer [itself] bound by no contract.” And by “courage” he intends no encomium. Either (1) those who make this claim are contradicting themselves: since we can’t have contracts, we’ll use a contract to solve the problem; or (2) the argument is simply circular: cooperation requires enforceable contracts, but these require a norm of cooperation that makes the state obey the contract. Of course, if there is a norm of cooperation then other contracts are enforceable without the state.

We are on the horns of a dilemma: either the former claim—contracts cannot be enforced—is true, and we cannot conjure enforceable contracts out of a shadow; or the latter claim—people naturally cooperate on their own—is true, and then no state was necessary in the first place. Robert Nozick (1974) put it well: “Tacit consent isn’t worth the paper it’s not written on.”

The second problem highlighted by Jasay is “limiting Leviathan.” Let’s assume the best: state officials genuinely intend to do good. We might make the standard Public Choice claim that officials use power to benefit themselves, but let us put that aside; instead, suppose officials genuinely want to improve the lives of their citizens.

That still means a minarchist state is not sustainable.

Officials, thinking of the society as a collective rather than as individuals with inviolable rights, will immediately discover opportunities to raise taxes, create new programs and new powers that benefit those who, in the minds of the officials, need help. In fact, it is precisely the failure of the Public Choice assumptions of narrow self-interest that ensure this outcome. It might be possible in principle to design a principal-agent system of bureaucratic contract that constrains selfish officials. But if state power attracts those who are willing to sacrifice welfare, even their own welfare, for the “greater good” then the constitutional dams of minarchy are quickly overtopped, and Leviathan floods the land.

I should hasten to add that it need not be true, for Jasay’s claim to go through, that the concept of “greater good” has any empirical content. It is enough that (some) people believe. The true believers will brandish “the greater good” like a truncheon, smashing rules and laws designed to restrain the expansion of state power. No one who wants to do good will pass up a chance to do good, even if it means changing the rules. This process is much like that described by Hayek in “Why the Worst Get on Top,” or Bertrand de Jouvenal’s On Power.

So, the argument has the same structure, creating a logical dilemma or contradiction. Either

  1. Minarchy is not possible, because it is overwhelmed by the desire to “do good,” which cannot be controlled by the state because it would require officials to limit themselves for moral, not legal reasons, or
  2. No state, minarchist or otherwise, is necessary because people can limit their actions on their own, without the state’s use of coercion.

Jasay is especially scornful of those who would invoke constitutions and “parchment barriers” to protect a minarchist arrangement. A formal state and a constitution are either unnecessary (if people are self-governing) or ineffective (if they are not). Leviathan either cannot survive because everyone opposes it, or else it is illimitable because no one can resist it.

Most people seem to think that the problem with government power is that the wrong people are in office. That’s not right; the problem is that we want to rely on a physician who suffers an illness that cannot be cured.

Forward Observer: Election 2020 – Catastrophic Failure? The Evidence Is Stacking Up

This video comes from intelligence analyst Sam Culper at Forward Observer.

Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations (1996) describes a world in disarray following the collapse of the American Empire.

In the latest Forward Observer TV video, I describe what that looks like for the United States, focusing on uncertainty surrounding November elections.

Rutherford Institute: The Federal Coup to Overthrow the States Is Underway

Constitutional law attorney and government watch dog John Whitehead writes The Federal Coup to Overthrow the States and Nix the 10th Amendment Is Underway

I don’t need invitations by the state, state mayors, or state governors, to do our job. We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not.”—Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf’s defense of the Trump Administration’s deployment of militarized federal police to address civil unrest in the states

This is a wake-up call.

What is unfolding before our very eyes—with police agencies defying local governments in order to tap into the power of federal militarized troops in order to put down domestic unrest—could very quickly snowball into an act of aggression against the states, a coup by armed, militarized agents of the federal government.

At a minimum, this is an attack on the Tenth Amendment, which affirms the sovereignty of the states and the citizenry, and the right of the states to stand as a bulwark against overreach and power grabs by the federal government.

If you’re still deluding yourself into believing that this thinly-veiled exercise in martial law is anything other than an attempt to bulldoze what remains of the Constitution and reinforce the iron-fisted rule of the police state, you need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

This is no longer about partisan politics or civil unrest or even authoritarian impulses.

This is a turning point.

Unless we take back the reins—and soon—looking back on this time years from now, historians may well point to the events of 2020 as the death blow to America’s short-lived experiment in self-government.

The government’s recent actions in Portland, Oregon—when unidentified federal agents (believed to be border police, ICE and DHS agents), wearing military fatigues with patches that just say “Police” and sporting all kinds of weapons, descended uninvited on the city in unmarked vehicles, snatching protesters off the streets and detaining them without formally arresting them or offering any explanation of why they’re being held—is just a foretaste of what’s to come.

One of those detainees was a 53-year-old disabled Navy veteran who was in downtown Portland during the protests but not a participant. Concerned about the tactics being used by government agents who had taken an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, Christopher David tried to speak the “secret” police. Almost immediately, he was assaulted by federal agents, beaten with batons and pepper sprayed

Another peaceful protester was reportedly shot in the head with an impact weapon by this federal goon squad.

The Trump Administration has already announced its plans to deploy these border patrol agents to other cities across the country (Chicago is supposedly next) in an apparent bid to put down civil unrest. Yet the overriding concerns by state and local government officials to Trump’s plans suggest that weaponizing the DHS as an occupying army will only provoke more violence and unrest.

We’ve been set up.

Under the guise of protecting federal properties against civil unrest, the Trump Administration has formed a task force of secret agents who look, dress and act like military stormtroopers on a raid and have been empowered to roam cities in unmarked vehicles, snatching citizens off the streets, whether or not they’ve been engaged in illegal activities.

As the Guardian reports, “The incidents being described sound eerily reminiscent of the CIA’s post-9/11 rendition program under George W Bush, where intelligence agents would roll up in unmarked vans in foreign countries, blindfold terrorism suspects (many of whom turned to be innocent) and kidnap them without explanation. Only instead of occurring on the streets of Italy or the Middle East, it’s happening in downtown Portland.”

The so-called racial justice activists who have made looting, violence, vandalism and intimidation tactics the hallmarks of their protests have played right into the government’s hands

They have delivered all of us into the police state’s hands.

There’s a reason Trump has tapped the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for this dirty business: these agencies are notorious for their lawlessness, routinely sidestepping the Constitution and trampling on the rights of anyone who gets in their way, including legal citizens.

Indeed, it was only a matter of time before these roving bands of border patrol agents began flexing their muscles far beyond the nation’s borders and exercising their right to disregard the Constitution at every turn.

Except these border patrol cops aren’t just disregarding the Constitution.

They’re trampling all over the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from carrying out egregious warrantless searches and seizures without probable cause.

As part of the government’s so-called crackdown on illegal immigration, drugs and trafficking, its border patrol cops have been expanding their reach, roaming further afield and subjecting greater numbers of Americans to warrantless searches, ID checkpoints, transportation checks, and even surveillance on private property far beyond the boundaries of the borderlands.

That so-called border, once a thin borderline, has become an ever-thickening band spreading deeper and deeper inside the country.

Now, with this latest salvo by the Trump administration in its so-called crackdown on rioting and civil unrest, America itself is about to become a Constitution-free zone where freedom is off-limits and government agents have all the power and “we the people” have none.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with its more than 60,000 employees, supplemented by the National Guard and the U.S. military, is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, a national police force imbued with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies.

As journalist Todd Miller explains:

In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra-constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within twenty-five miles of the international boundary, CBP agents can enter a person’s private property without a warrant.

Just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to local police agencies in the form of grants to transform them into extensions of the military.

As Miller points out, the government has turned the nation’s expanding border regions into “a ripe place to experiment with tearing apart the Constitution, a place where not just undocumented border-crossers, but millions of borderland residents have become the targets of continual surveillance.”

In much the same way that police across the country have been schooled in the art of sidestepping the Constitution, border cops have also been drilled in the art of “anything goes” in the name of national security.

In fact, according to FOIA documents shared with The Intercept, border cops even have a checklist of “possible behaviors” that warrant overriding the Constitution and subjecting individuals—including American citizens—to stops, searches, seizures, interrogations and even arrests.

For instance, if you’re driving a vehicle that to a border cop looks unusual in some way, you can be stopped. If your passengers look dirty or unusual, you can be stopped. If you or your passengers avoid looking at a cop, you can be stopped. If you or your passengers look too long at a cop, you can be stopped.

If you’re anywhere near a border (near being within 100 miles of a border, or in a city, or on a bus, or at an airport), you can be stopped and asked to prove you’re legally allowed to be in the country. If you’re traveling on a public road that smugglers and other criminals may have traveled, you can be stopped.

If you’re not driving in the same direction as other cars, you can be stopped. If you appear to be avoiding a police checkpoint, you can be stopped. If your car appears to be weighed down, you can be stopped. If your vehicle is from out of town, wherever that might be, you can be stopped. If you’re driving a make of car that criminal-types have also driven, you can be stopped.

If your car appears to have been altered or modified, you can be stopped. If the cargo area in your vehicle is covered, you can be stopped.

If you’re driving during a time of day or night that border cops find suspicious, you can be stopped. If you’re driving when border cops are changing shifts, you can be stopped. If you’re driving in a motorcade or with another vehicle, you can be stopped. If your car appears dusty, you can be stopped.

If people with you are trying to avoid being seen, or exhibiting “unusual” behavior, you can be stopped. If you slow down after seeing a cop, you can be stopped.

In Portland, which is 400 miles from the border, protesters didn’t even have to be near federal buildings to be targeted. Some claimed to be targeted for simply wearing black clothing in the area of the demonstration.

Are you starting to get the picture yet?

This was never about illegal aliens and border crossings at all. It’s been a test to see how far “we the people” will allow the government to push the limits of the Constitution.

We’ve been failing this particular test for a long time now.

It was 1798 when Americans, their fears stoked by rumblings of a Quasi-War with France, failed to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts, which criminalized anti-government speech, empowered the government to deport “dangerous” non-citizens and made it harder for immigrants to vote.

During the Civil War, Americans went along when Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus (the right to a speedy trial) and authorized government officials to spy on Americans’ mail.

During World War I, Americans took it in stride when  President Woodrow Wilson and Congress adopted the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with the war effort and criminalized any speech critical of war.

By World War II, Americans were marching in lockstep with the government’s expanding war powers to imprison Japanese-American citizens in detainment camps, censor mail, and lay the groundwork for the future surveillance state.

Fast-forward to the Cold War’s Red Scares, the McCarthy era’s hearings on un-American activities, and the government’s surveillance of Civil Rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr.—all done in the name of national security.

By the time 9/11 rolled around, all George W. Bush had to do was claim the country was being invaded by terrorists, and the government was given greater powers to spy, search, detain and arrest American citizens in order to keep America safe.

The terrorist invasion never really happened, but the government kept its newly acquired police powers made possible by the nefarious USA Patriot Act.

Barack Obama continued Bush’s trend of undermining the Constitution, going so far as to give the military the power to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, label them extremists, and detain them indefinitely without trial, all in the name of keeping America safe.

Despite the fact that the breadth of the military’s power to detain American citizens violates not only U.S. law and the Constitution but also international laws, the government has refused to relinquish its detention powers made possible by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Then Donald Trump took office, claiming the country was being invaded by dangerous immigrants and insisting that the only way to keep America safe was to build an expensive border wall, expand the reach of border patrol, and empower the military to “assist” with border control.

That so-called immigration crisis has now morphed into multiple crises (domestic extremism, the COVID-19 pandemic, race wars, civil unrest, etc.) that the government is eager to use in order to expand its powers.

Yet as we’ve learned the hard way, once the government acquires—and uses—additional powers (to spy on its citizens, to carry out surveillance, to transform its police forces into extensions of the police, to seize taxpayer funds, to wage endless wars, to censor and silence dissidents, to identify potential troublemakers, to detain citizens without due process), it does not voluntarily relinquish them

This is the slippery slope on which we’ve been traveling for far too long.

As Yale historian Timothy Snyder explains, “This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it’s Franco’s Spain or whether it’s the Russian Empire. The people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.

Sure, it’s the Trump Administration calling the shots right now, but it’s government agents armed with totalitarian powers and beholden to the bureaucratic Deep State who are carrying out these orders in defiance of the U.S. Constitution and all it represents.

Whether it’s Trump or Biden or someone else altogether, this year or a dozen years from now, the damage has been done: as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have allowed the president to acquire dictatorial powers that can be unleashed at any moment.

There’s a reason the Trump Administration is consulting with John Yoo, the Bush-era attorney notorious for justifying waterboarding torture tactics against detainees. They’re not looking to understand how to follow the law and abide by the Constitution. Rather, they’re desperately seeking ways to thwart the Constitution.

As Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe recognizes, “The dictatorial hunger for power is insatiable.

This is how it begins.

This is how it always begins.

Don’t be fooled into thinking any of this will change when the next election rolls around.

WPC: State law requires Governor to issue across the board budget cuts if cash deficit projected

From the Washington Policy Center, State law requires Governor to issue across the board budget cuts if cash deficit projected, addressing tax shortfalls from COVID lockdowns in Washington State.

There are two legal options to respond to a state budget deficit: 1) The Governor orders across the board budget cuts, or 2) A special session of the legislature occurs liquidating the deficit. The first is a blunt instrument allowing no thoughtful response. The second provides the people’s legislative branch of government the opportunity to deliberate a more surgical response. The Governor, however, has made it clear he doesn’t plan to call a special session to allow lawmakers to meet to balance the budget. No special session leaves the obligation for the Governor required under RCW 43.88.110(7):

“If at any time during the fiscal period the governor projects a cash deficit in a particular fund or account as defined by RCW 43.88.050, the governor shall make across-the-board reductions in allotments for that particular fund or account so as to prevent a cash deficit, unless the legislature has directed the liquidation of the cash deficit over one or more fiscal periods.”

According to RCW 43.88.270:

“Penalty for violations. Any officer or employee violating, or wilfully refusing or failing to comply with, any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Unless the Governor is now saying a cash deficit isn’t currently projected in the general fund, it is unclear why he believes this budget law doesn’t apply to him. Here is what Governor Gregoire did in 2010 when complying with this same legal requirement:

“ . . . WHEREAS, the anticipated revenues combined with the beginning cash balance of the general fund are insufficient to meet anticipated expenditures from this fund for the remainder of the current fiscal period; and . . .

WHEREAS, state law authorizes and directs the Governor to implement across-the-board reductions of allotments of appropriations to avoid a projected cash deficit . . .

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Christine O. Gregoire, Governor of the state of Washington, pursuant to chapter 43.88 RCW do hereby order: The allotment of each appropriation from the State General Fund will be reduced effective October 1, 2010, by an amount necessary to avoid a cash deficit in the State General Fund.”

The requirements of RCW 43.88.110(7) are based on the cash projection in a single account. This means when evaluating if a cash deficit is projected, you can’t assume balances in other accounts or the state’s emergency reserves. Accessing fund balances in other accounts, including the emergency reserves, requires an appropriation from the legislature.

If the Governor is not going to call a special session to allow the legislature to act, there is one simple question he needs to answer: Is a cash deficit currently projected for the general fund?