Mises: Government Is No Match for the Coronavirus

Robert Luddy at The Mises Institute writes about why government is failing so badly in pandemic response – Government Is No Match for the Coronavirus

The coronavirus is reminding everyone that you cannot rely on government and that ultimately it is the private sector that will provide the solutions. Many nonmedical government officials and members of the media are predicting massive cases of COVID-19 and death, when in fact no one can predict the outcome. What we do know is that government has created a full-blown national panic, when at this point the normal flu season is far more deadly.

Decentralization is critical to a functioning society but often precluded by federal regulations.

The Washington Post reported the following about the Centers for Disease Control:

The problems started in early February, at a CDC laboratory in Atlanta.

A technical manufacturing problem, along with an initial decision to test only a narrow set of people and delays in expanding testing to other labs, gave the virus a head start to spread undetected—and helped perpetuate a false sense of security that leaves the United States dangerously behind.

Tests begin with the CDC to insure quality, which is exactly the wrong approach. It assumes that the government can outperform the best medical industry in the world. Even at this hour the CDC has failed, shipping test kits that are defective.

The CDC does not have a solution, but it also becomes the classic blocker to progress. Labs cannot act without a lengthy approval process from CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These government controls violate the principle of subsidiarity (that problems should be solved at the lowest level possible). Ultimately care is provided by local hospitals, care facilities, and labs.

South Korea’s rapid testing allowed for early treatment and containment of the virus. These test kits were created in three weeks. Many labs in the US could have solved the test kit problem but were restrained by the FDA and CDC. The South Koreans offered to help us, but was the CDC listening? Evidently not.

At the president’s request on Friday, America’s robust private sector, including Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Roche Laboratories, and LabCorp, came up with a solution for mass testing. Roche has received fast-track FDA approval for its COVID-19 diagnostic test. This testing will be done via drive-thru in parking lots. This minimizes contact and allows for mass testing of thousands across the country. The more Americans are tested, resulting in a lower percentage of deaths, the more the testing will have a calming effect on our citizens.

Americans consider regulators and government to be sacrosanct, but in fact government agencies are slow and often fail us. Think of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which allowed Boeing engineers to bypass basic engineering standards, resulting in the crash of two Boeing 737 MAX airliners and the grounding of nine hundred planes around the world.

We all know that any time we expect service from the government, it will be slow and painful vs. the private sector, which is mostly fast and courteous. In spite of some minor shortages, due to hoarding, the private sector is supplying us with gas, food, prepared meals, medical supplies, and healthcare.

The coronavirus crisis must cause us to rethink government. The Trump administration has restricted new regulation and reduced arcane strictures, which has resulted in a booming economy. It is absolutely true that most private industry can be trusted, because the alternative for poor or unscrupulous providers is failure. Private industry can be sued and suffer financial decline, unlike government, which simply demands more money for poor performance. Business or individuals that commit fraud are subject to civil and criminal penalties…(continues)

Click here to read the entire story at Mises Wire.

Alt-Market: From Quarantine To Tyranny To Rebellion: Where Is The Line In The Sand?

Brandon Smith at Alt-Market talks about whether the government is competently managing the coronavirus or is manipulating the citizenry so as to better control them when the system breaks in From Quarantine To Tyranny To Rebellion: Where Is The Line In The Sand? 

…As I have noted in previous articles, there is a reason why the establishment refused to inform the citizenry of the instabilities inherent in the pandemic scenario; the more unknowns there are for the public the more panic will set it, chaos ensues, and it is chaos that can be exploited to push forward numerous agendas. These agendas include global centralization as well as the erasure of constitutional liberties.

Now that a national collapse event is slowly being accepted by many as a legitimate possibility, there is a debate rising as to what measures the government should take, or should be allowed to take. Those of us in the prepper and liberty movements always knew this day was coming; a day when the public would start considering trading away an array of freedoms in exchange for promises of security.

Even now, government officials are still trying to tell people that this event will be “short lived”.

“Don’t worry”, they say, “It will only last a couple of weeks.” Oh, and “Don’t concern yourselves with food shortages, that’s not going to happen…” You can look at these lies in two different ways:

1) The government is trying to stave off a “panic” by slowly easing people into the reality that the system is breaking.

2) The government is trying to keep people passive to the danger so that when the system breaks completely they will be unprepared, desperate and easier to manipulate.

I believe the second option is the most likely given the evidence at hand, but in either case the government is crippling the public response time to the disaster. They did this for months and they are still trying to do it now. So, my argument is, why should we suddenly take their advice or take orders from them when the manure hits the fan? They have FAILED in their responsibilities to inform and protect the citizenry, and they are about to violate their prime mandate, which is to protect the personal liberties that make our society worth living in. Without these freedoms, there is no point to keeping our system intact anyway.

The establishment and its defenders will claim that we all “have to make sacrifices” today in order to have freedoms tomorrow, but that’s not how the constitution was designed to work. Our rights are MORE important during times of distress and crisis, for it is in these times that we need to know what we are fighting for, and what we are struggling for. Survival is meaningless if we have to accept tyranny to achieve it.

Once governments see a chance to usurp freedoms from the people, they DO NOT tend to give those freedoms back later unless the people become a viable opponent that could bring the establishment down.

There are some who will say that a forced quarantine is necessary to protect the “greater good” of the greater number. It is true that the Covid-19 virus is a danger, and I think the people who claim it’s “no worse than the flu” are fighting a losing battle as the death rate is clearly much higher than the average flu virus. They will look extremely foolish a few months from now as the virus continues to cycle through the population and the dead continue to increase. That said, I think I understand why they cling to this crumbling argument.

They think that by arguing that the pandemic is “all hype” they can morally justify resistance to the inevitable totalitarian response from governments. They think it has to be one or the other:  Either the virus is hyped and resistance is acceptable, or the virus is real and resistance is unacceptable. I ask – Why can’t it be both? The virus is dangerous to many, but a totalitarian response is still unacceptable.

The virus is in fact more destructive than any flu in recent memory – It’s not a plague on the level of the Black Death, but if it continues to kill at a rate of 3% to 5% at it has been then this puts a large number of human beings at risk. It is not something to be taken lightly, and those people that are actively trying to discourage others from preparing for it are truly narcissistic in their ideology. If you don’t think it’s a threat, then don’t prepare, but don’t scream at others for taking precautions just because you desperately want to be right, and don’t come around demanding food and supplies from those same people when the ceiling comes crashing down on your head.

Also, understand that Covid-19 is only part of the problem. The bigger crisis is in the economy itself; a collapse has been baked into this cake for years now, and the virus has little to do with it.  Leftist kids are going around calling this pandemic the “boomer remover”, almost cheering the assumption that mostly older and conservative Americans will die from this.  I have to break it to them that during the economic collapse that is inevitably coming they will have to wipe the snot from their noses and put on their big-boy diapers otherwise they aren’t going to survive either; most of them have no discernible skills and no preparations to speak of.  They are essentially useless.

If Covid-19 is a “boomer remover”, then the economic crisis is a “snowflake bake”, and they are about to get roasted…

Click here to read the entire article at Alt-Market

Eric Peters on Non-consent of the Governed

The Nonconsent of the Governed, written by Eric Peters, uses simple terms to describe the state of the country today.

The urban-rural problem waxes; it is like a bad marriage and the only solution is a divorce. But while the rural “man” would happily leave the marriage on reasonable terms and peaceably, the urban “woman” will never allow the “man” to leave.

It begs the question about consent of the governed – the supposed basis for legitimate government (assuming for the sake of discussion such a thing exists).

The answer to this question pretty much establishes the illegitimacy of the government.

In my home state of Virginia, for example, the rural (and geographic) majority of the state does not consent to being disarmed and criminalized by the government in Richmond – which represents Richmond and Northern Virginia.

90-plus percent of the state’s counties oppose the slew of gun confiscation/criminalization measures proposed and likely to be imposed upon them. The people of these rural counties did not consent to any of this. And they have no say in any of this – because the state government is controlled by the urban population centers, whose concentrated numbers give them a virtual lock on the state’s governing apparatus. The 90-plus percent geographic majority outside the urban hives of Richmond and Northern Virginia can vote but it’s becoming as meaningless a gesture as voting in the old Soviet Union, where there was one candidate on the ballot – and no option to say no.

But Saul Alinsky’s “rules for radicals” can work the other way, too. Use their (stated) principles against them by insisting they abide by them.

We do not consent. Yet you impose. This illegitimizes what you impose. We demand to be represented . . . by people who represent us. We will no longer accept being told what we must accept by you and the people who represent only you.

This applies just as logically – and morally – at the federal as well as the state level.

It is a mockery of the concept of representation to assert that the 15,000 residents of a rural county such as mine are “represented” by two senators elected by the millions who reside in Richmond and Northern Virginia and even more risibly by a president elected by millions of people who reside in other states and thousands of miles away.

Like sausage making, it does not bear examination.

And it all rests on the doublethinkian fiction of consent of the governed.

Have any of you reading this ever been specifically asked whether you consent to anything the government proposes to do to you? That question – if it were ever posed – would have to be based on the possibility of not consenting (without repercussion) else it is a parody of the concept of consent.

Of course, that question is never asked – and our answer is irrelevant. We are told we’ve “consented” – by dint of the fact that other persons claim to represent us – and that we have consented to what is done to us by dint of the having the opportunity to vote for or against these so-called representatives.

But – if words have meaning – representation must be specific, as in proxy power formally and freely given to do a particular agreed-upon thing. To be told you will do the opposite of what you wish to do – or wish not to do – by your “representative” is the oxymoronization of the very concept of representation. The defining essence of the thing is the reverse; the representative does as you command; he does not command you.

At least, not if you have consented to be represented by him.

Which, of course, none of us has consented to. It is implied, assumed – and imposed without our consent.

The fiction of representative government – and of consent – would be more believable if it were more local. If people in rural areas were in fact represented by the people who lived in those areas – and no one else. This goes just the same for those who live in urban areas.

They, too, have every right to be represented by those who represent their interests – freely consented to. If the people of Richmond and Northern Virginia consent to being disarmed, it is their right to disarm themselves.

But they have no right to bully people whom they manifestly do not represent solely by dint of their concentrated numbers. And their effrontery in asserting that the bullied have “consented” to this is a species of lunacy once found only in asylums for the criminally insane.

Who now “govern” us without consent and with contempt for the very idea of representation.

Why do we tolerate it?

That’s another question well worth answering.

FFF: America Is and Has Been a Socialist Country

In Socialism in America, author Jacob Hornberger of The Future of Freedom Foundation discusses the idea that America is a preeminent socialist country and has been for some time, but Americans live in denial of this truth. There are no pure socialist countries, though North Korea comes closest, because they are doomed to failure and always require some private enterprise to be allowed in order to be taxed to fund the rest of the socialist enterprise.

Lost in the ongoing debate in America as to whether the United States should embrace socialism is a discomforting fact: America embraced socialism a long time ago. The problem is that many Americans have simply not wanted to accept that fact and instead have preferred living a life of denial.

A complete socialist system would be one in which the state owns everything in society, including businesses and real estate. In a pure socialist society, the government is the sole employer, and everyone is a government employee. No private grocery stores, computer companies, restaurants, movie theaters, or anything else. The government owns and operates everything, and everyone works for the government.

Moreover, in a pure socialist society, all the homes are owned by the state. There are no private houses or apartments for sale or rent because nothing is privately owned. Everyone lives in public housing because the state owns all the dwellings. How do people determine where they are to live? The state assigns everyone his own particular housing unit.

How does the socialist state fund all this? It owns and operates all the businesses and enterprises in the hope of generating revenues to finance its socialist system. One problem, however, is that state-owned enterprises are notorious for inefficiencies and corruption, which means that they inevitably end up losing money rather than making money. Think of Amtrak and the Postal Service. Or state-owned petroleum companies in Latin America. They produce losses, not gains, for the state.

Thus, to fund its socialist enterprises, the socialist state inevitably permits a small number of citizens to engage in private enterprise. Once those people begin making money, the state taxes them and uses the money to fund its operations. The state does its best to
extract as much money as it can from these private-sector enterprises without pushing them out of business.

There are few purely socialist countries. North Korea comes closest to the socialist ideal.

There are countries, however, that adopt programs and policies that are socialist in nature. The United States is a premier example of such countries, even though many Americans are loathe to acknowledge it. They have convinced themselves that America is a “free enterprise” country and that they themselves are “capitalists.” The last thing they want to confront is that they are living a life that embraces socialism.

Let’s examine socialism in America.

Social Security

Contrary to popular opinion, especially as held by seniors, Social Security is not a retirement program. There is no investment fund into which people place their savings for retirement. There are no lock boxes at Fort Knox labeled with each person’s name and containing his “contributions.”

Social Security is a straight socialist program, one that uses the government to take money from people to whom it belongs and gives it to people to whom it does not belong. This process of coercive redistribution of wealth is based on a principle enunciated by Karl Marx: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The state takes money from those who have produced it and gives it to people who are said to need it more.

For more than a century after the United States was founded, Americans lived without Social Security. The idea for this particular socialist program originated among German socialists in the late 1800s. The so-called Iron Chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, adopted it into law in Germany. The program was later imported into the United States and became a legally established program in the 1930s. Today, the U.S. Social Security Administration displays a portrait of Bismarck on its website.

From its inception, Social Security has been a straight socialist, welfare-state program, one that uses the state to forcibly take money from some and give it to others. It
is no different in principle from food stamps, education grants, farm subsidies, or other socialist programs.

Seniors have a valid point when they say that the state plundered and looted them throughout their work lives, which has left them without savings for their retirement years. They say that they are just getting their money back under this program.

But that is simply not the case. Their money is long gone. It was spent in the same year that it was collected, on Social Security payments to people who are now long dead, to fund other welfare-state programs, or to fund the national-security establishment and its vast and ever-growing array of warfare-state programs. The money that is being given to seniors today is coming out of the pockets of their children and grandchildren and their friends in those generations, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. The problem is only getting worse because seniors are demanding more, which means even more taxes must be imposed on young and middle-aged people who are still working.

Proponents of Social Security say that this socialist program reflects how good, caring, and compassionate Americans are. That’s ridiculous. Social Security is founded on force. Young people are forced to pay Social Security taxes. There is nothing voluntary about paying such taxes. If a young person refuses to pay his Social Security taxes, the authorities will come after him, arrest him, fine him, and send him to jail. If he resists with force, he might well find himself dead at the hands of some trigger-happy cop.

Goodness, care, and compassion can come only through the voluntary choices of people. When a young person chooses to help his parents in their old age with financial assistance or personal care, that’s goodness, care, and compassion. When the IRS takes a young person’s money and gives it to seniors, that’s just political stealing.

There is no way to reconcile Social Security with the principles of a free society. Freedom necessarily entails the right to keep everything you earn and decide for yourself what to do with it…

Click here to continue reading at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

AIER: The Stakes of Politics are Far Too High

This piece by economics professor Alexander Salter at the American Institute for Economic Research dwells on the idea that growth in federal government and expansion of federal power are at odds with maintaining liberty, thus The Stakes of Politics are Far Too High.

Despite the comedy of errors that was the Iowa Democratic Caucus, not to mention the ambiguity of New Hampshire, the national fervor grows. Bernie Sanders’ strong performance makes him the Democratic frontrunner: his odds of winning the nomination stand at 33%, with Michael Bloomberg at a surprising 27%.

Sanders’ campaign is notable because he is explicit about his radical vision for the U.S. economy. An advocate of the Green New Deal, Sanders has promised to reengineer the American economy from the top-down, at a cost of more than $10 trillion over the next decade.

On the Republican side, President Trump never leaves campaign mode. His proposed budget, released on Monday, will not balance for at least 15 years, suggesting he is more than happy to bestow gifts on the electorate without paying for them. Overall, the national debt has grown by $3 trillion since Trump took office. Now it seems trillion-dollar deficits are the new normal.  This suggests Republicans have made their peace with a government empowered to direct more and more of our lives.

In short, Democrats are close to going “all-in” on democratic socialism, or at least a hardcore form of social democracy that entails a large degree of federal dirigisme. And Republican policy (which differs greatly from Republican rhetoric) is heading towards the same.  Using new programs and new spending to secure electoral support is nothing new. But given the dire fiscal situation of the United States, as well as the ominous growth federal power, we have a very good reason to worry that the political clash that will culminate in November will end poorly for everyone, regardless of who wins the White House.

Plenty of op-eds have been written on the economics of deficits and the growth of the national debt. We know our fiscal trajectory is unsustainable. Less well known are the political consequences.  Those consequences can only be understood by first refamiliarizing ourselves with the purpose of our Constitutional system.

Why do we have a Constitution that fragments political power and divides it among many organizations? The typical answer is to prevent tyranny, which is true. But it is incomplete. Our Constitution has so many procedural safeguards in place because the Founders understood the first need of a durable government at the federal level was to lower the stakes of politics. Because it is difficult to enact sweeping changes at the national level, control over the national government is not perceived by any political faction to be an existential threat.

That is how it is supposed to work. In fact, we have deviated significantly from the politics of prudence and restraint envisioned by the Founders. Congress increasingly authorizes greater and greater spending, upon which the well-being of millions has come to depend.

The Executive increasingly governs by fiat, selectively enforcing laws and allocating significant fiscal resources of its own. In this world, the game of politics has necessarily become high-stakes: the benefits of controlling the government are enormous, and as a result, efforts to secure this control have become a matter of life or death. Bloated budgets and perpetual deficits are a sure sign we are moving towards winner-takes-all politics.

The political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, in justifying the state, wrote that rational individuals willingly cede political power to a central arbiter and enforcer so that they may escape the “war of all against all.” Unfortunately, our fiscal scenario has reignited this war.

The first axiom of sound governance is to lessen the dangers caused by differences in principles and worldviews among citizens. But when the state becomes an all-encompassing institution—when everything and anything is political—disagreements become existential threats.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” This quote by a fictional Machiavellian monarch aptly describes our situation. Unless we commit to lowering the stakes of politics, once again embracing moderation and humility, we doom ourselves to a never-ending cycle of reciprocal political domination. This is the death of liberty under law, and of democratic self-governance itself.

Tenth Amendment Center: Oppose a Disease at its Beginning

On restraining government, from the Tenth Amendment center:

If you give politicians an inch, they’ll take a mile.

The Founders warned us about this over and over.

Take John Dickinson, for example. Known as “the Penman of the Revolution,” he was one of the leading writers in the early days of the conflict. He insisted that the colonists needed to “oppose a disease at its beginning,” before the sickness could spread.

Dickinson published a series of essays now known as Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania in a local newspaper. He used his pen to vigorously oppose the Declaratory and Townshend Acts.

The American colonists had effectively nullified the hated Stamp Act by refusing to enforce it and actively resisting its implementation. They defeated the mighty British empire utilizing virtually every strategy and direction available – from resolutions and declarations, to protest, resistance and even non-compliance by government officials. But the British weren’t about to concede their authority over the colonies. When Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, it passed the Declaratory Act declaring its absolute political superiority over the colonies. This Declaratory Act asserted that Parliament could make any laws binding the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”

A year later, Parliament put its words into action with the passage of the Townshend Acts. These laws imposed new taxes on the importation of paper, paint, lead, glass, and tea, and expanded the British government’s power to fight smuggling. The Townshend Acts included the New York Restraining Act. suspending the Assembly of New York’s legislative powers as punishment for failing to fully comply with orders from the crown.

Dickinson warned that failure to confront this assertion of British power then and there would lead to dire consequences and loss of liberty down the road. In the sixth Letter from a Farmer, he argued that letting the government take on even a little bit of new power would eventually lead to bigger and bigger usurpations in the future.

“All artful rulers, who strive to extend their power beyond its just limits, endeavor to give to their attempts as much semblance of legality as possible. Those who succeed them may venture to go a little further; for each new encroachment will be strengthened by a former. ‘That which is now supported by examples, growing old, will become an example itself,’ and thus support fresh usurpations.”

He continued with this theme in the ninth essay, chronicling the ways that the British Parliament, the Crown, and English judges were expanding their authority over the colonies. He concluded the essay with a warning in the form of a Spanish history lesson.

Spain, Dickinson said, was once free. Its governance was similar to that of the colonies. No money could be raised without the people’s’ consent. But an ongoing war against the Moores required funding. The king received a grant of money to fund the fight, but he was concerned it might not be a sufficient amount to pay for the war effort long-term. So, the king asked that “he might be allowed, for that emergency only, to raise more money without assembling the Cortes.” The Cortes was the Spanish representative body — similar to the Parliament.

Dickinson noted that the proposal was “violently opposed by the best and wisest men in the assembly.” But the majority approved the measure. And thus began a slide down a slippery slope. As Dickinson described it “this single concession was a PRECEDENT for other concessions of the like kind, until at last the crown obtained a general power of raising money, in cases of necessity.”

The legislature gave an inch and the king took a mile.

Dickinson wrote:

“From that period the Cortes ceased to be useful—the people ceased to be free.”

He closed the letter with these Latin words of instruction:

Venienti occurrite morbo.

Oppose a disease at its beginning.

John Adams made a similar argument also using a Latin phrase: “Obsta principiis.” which means withstand beginnings, or resist the first approaches or encroachments. Colloquially, we would say, “nip it in the bud,” which is exactly the phraseology Adams used.

“Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people.”

Adams and Dickinson both recognized an important truth. When you allow a government to chip away at the limits on its power, eventually the dam will burst. You will end up with a government exercising virtually unlimited authority – arbitrary power. At that point, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to rein it back in. Adams wrote:

“When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards.”

You can’t tear down a fence and then expect the animals to stay in the field. Once the fence is gone, the animals will wander. The same thing happens when we tear down fences around government power. The government will wander further and further away from its restraints and accumulate more and more power for itself. As Dickinson wrote, “Each new encroachment will be strengthened by a former.”

Politicians love to use emergencies as an excuse to expand their own power. But once the new policy is in place, it never goes away – even after the emergency has long passed. In fact, the new policy almost always becomes a springboard to expand government power even more. The Patriot Act is a perfect example. Nearly two decades after 9/11 the federal government is still using that act to justify spying on all of us all the time.

This is why we must hold the line on the Constitution: Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses.

FFF: Nullify Government Tyranny

Constitutional attorney and author John Whitehead has written an article on the need to practice the historic doctrine of nullification against government tyranny. The nullification doctrine says that states, local governments, and individuals have an inherent right to void laws they deem unconstitutional. Many readers may have heard of the specific case of jury nullification but may not remember from their history the nullification crisis of the early 1800s. In recent years, nullification has been surfacing again in the cases of immigration sanctuaries and second amendment sanctuaries.

…Everything the founders of this country feared has come to dominate in modern America. “We the people” have been saddled with a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

So how do you balance the scales of justice at a time when Americans are being tasered, tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, hit with batons, shot with rubber bullets and real bullets, blasted with sound cannons, detained in cages and kennels, sicced by police dogs, arrested and jailed for challenging the government’s excesses, abuses and power-grabs?

No matter who sits in the White House, politics won’t fix a system that is broken beyond repair.

For that matter, protests and populist movements also haven’t done much to push back against an authoritarian regime that is deaf to our cries, dumb to our troubles, blind to our needs, and accountable to no one.

So how do you not only push back against the police state’s bureaucracy, corruption and cruelty but also launch a counterrevolution aimed at reclaiming control over the government using nonviolent means?

You start by changing the rules and engaging in some (nonviolent) guerilla tactics.

Take part in grassroots activism, which takes a trickle-up approach to governmental reform by implementing change at the local level (in other words, think nationally, but act locally).

And then, nullify everything the government does that flies in the face of the principles on which this nation was founded.

If there is any means left to us for thwarting the government in its relentless march towards outright dictatorship, it may rest with the power of juries and local governments to invalidate governmental laws, tactics and policies that are illegitimate, egregious or blatantly unconstitutional.

In an age in which government officials accused of wrongdoing—police officers, elected officials, etc.—are treated with general leniency, while the average citizen is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, nullification is a powerful reminder that, as the Constitution tells us, “we the people” are the government.

For too long we’ve allowed our so-called “representatives” to call the shots. Now it’s time to restore the citizenry to their rightful place in the republic: as the masters, not the servants.

Nullification is one way of doing so…

Click here to read the entire article at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

James Howard Kunstler: No Consequences for Crimes

James Howard Kunstler has written a good article about how the last twelve years of consequence-less national crimes and the failure of the federal government to prosecute them (or its complicity with the crimes) is eroding/has destroyed the people’s faith in institutions. This is an invitation to civil violence, he says. We can’t call ourselves a “government of laws, and not of men” when people of high enough stature are not subject to the law.

Evidence of Absence

What is most perilous for our country now, would be to journey through a second epic crisis of authority in recent times without anybody facing the consequences of crimes they might have committed. The result will be a people turned utterly cynical, with no faith in their institutions or the rule of law, and no way to imagine a restoration of their lost faith within the bounds of law. It will be a deadly divorce between truth and reality. It will be an invitation to civil violence, a broken social contract, and the end of the framework for American life that was set up in 1788.

The first crisis of the era was the Great Financial Crash of 2008 based on widespread malfeasance in the banking world, an unprecedented suspension of rules, norms, and laws. GFC poster-boy Angelo Mozilo, CEO and chairman of Countrywide Financial, a sub-prime mortgage racketeering outfit, sucked at least half a billion dollars out of his operation before it blew up, and finally was nicked for $67 million in fines by the SEC — partly paid by Countrywide’s indemnity insurer — with criminal charges of securities fraud eventually dropped in the janky “settlement.” In other words, the cost of doing business. Scores of other fraudsters and swindlers in that orgy of banking malfeasance were never marched into a courtroom, never had to answer for their depredations, and remained at their desks in the C-suites collecting extravagant bonuses. The problems they caused were papered over with trillions of dollars that all of us are still on-the-hook for. And, contrary to appearances, the banking system never actually recovered. It is permanently demoralized.

How it was that Barack Obama came on-duty in January of 2009 and got away with doing absolutely nothing about all that for eight years remains one of the abiding mysteries of life on earth. Perhaps getting the first black president into the White House was such an intoxicating triumph of righteousness that nothing else seemed to matter anymore. Perhaps Mr. Obama was just a cat’s paw for banksterdom. (Sure kinda seems like it, when your first two hires are Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.) The failure to assign penalties for massive bad behavior has set up the nation for another financial fiasco, surely of greater magnitude than the blow-up of 2008, considering the current debt landscape. Not a few astute observers say they feel the hot breath of that monster on the back of their necks lately, with all the strange action in the RePo market — $500 billion “liquidity” injections in six weeks.

But now we are a year into Attorney General Bill Barr coming on the scene  — the crime scene of RussiaGate and all its deceitful spin-offs. The Mueller investigation revealed itself as not just a thumping failure, but part of a broader exercise in bad faith and sedition to first prevent Mr. Trump from winning the 2016 election and then to harass, obstruct, disable, and eject him from office. And six months after Mr. Mueller’s face-plant, out comes the Horowitz Report tracing in spectacular detail further and deeper criminal irregularities in the US Justice agencies. What’s more, tremendous amounts of evidence for all this already sits on-the-record in public documents. The timelines are well understood.

And so, an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup — that our polity is so saturated in corruption nothing will be allowed to clean it up. Personally, I don’t subscribe to that hopelessness, and I will say why. But I must also say that if Barr & Durham fail to deliver a bale of indictments, they will be putting a bullet in the head of this republic. There will be no hope of restoring trust in the system and the hopelessness will inspire serious civil violence…

Click here to read the entire article at Kunstler.com

FFF: The Perils and Pitfalls of Political Paternalism

The Perils and Pitfalls of Political Paternalism was written by Professor Richard Ebeling at the Future of Freedom Foundation about the dangers and costs of nanny statism.

Across the spectrum of differing political views, whether “progressive,” “nationalist,” “populist,” or “conservative,” there is a common presumption in all of their policy positions and programs. That common dominator is the premise that government is to be the guiding hand in directing and remaking society in some chosen form, to which and within which all in that society are to be confined and made to conform.

The “progressives” herald a new dawn of democratic egalitarianism based on the identity politics of race, gender, and “social class.” The nationalists hark back to a restoration of national identity in which the state defines and determines a nation’s historic qualities and characteristics, for the protection and preservation of which government regulations and restrictions are to be employed.

“Populists” demand a redistribution of governmental power and favoritism more into the hands of those who they say have been taken advantage of in the existing “establishment” system of things. And American conservatives, who once declared at least a rhetorical allegiance to the country’s founding limited government principles, seem to want nothing more than retaining or regaining political power, and are willing to be as regulatory and redistributive in their practical policy decisions as the progressives they rail against.

Lost in this ideological and political policy warfare among them for the governmental reins of plunder and privilege is the idea and ideal of classical, or limited government, liberalism, with its defense of individual liberty, free market economics, civil liberties under an impartial rule of law, and an ethics of non-interventionism at home and abroad.

In the face of these competing, yet philosophically complementary, demands for retention and expansion of “Big Brother” over even more of our lives in a growing number of directions, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves of the premises behind and the realities of the political paternalism that they jointly represent.

First and foremost, the guiding idea behind political paternalism is that the individual cannot be trusted to be a free and responsible human being. Those who wish to socially engineer our lives consider us too ignorant, too irresponsible, and too narrow in our own personal planning horizons to intelligently and reasonably take care of our own health care, our own retirement, our own family’s education, or our own spending and consumption choices…

All of these factors, and others that could be listed, show the perils of political paternalism and power-lusting. The interventionist-welfare state has been and will continue to lead us down a dangerous new “road to serfdom” in which our lives are more and more controlled, managed, and manipulated by those in political power who claim the right to dictate how we are to live and work.

It encapsulates an evil immorality in which political force continues to claim the authority to deny us our individual rights to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. The interventionist-welfare state has been creating a new feudalism with political and special interest elites who serve as the “lords” who rule over and ruin the rest of us, the modern serfs who are expected to toil for their benefit under strangling regulations, burdensome taxes, and intrusive social controls in the name of political correctness and identity politics now and in the future.

All of us who prefer to be free men in a free society with a free market need to do all in our intellectual power to stop and reverse this reactionary counterrevolution against the ideal of human liberty. Otherwise, our civilization may be heading for a terrible collapse that will leave nothing but tyranny and poverty for too many for generations to come.

Click here to read the entire article at FFF.org.

Mises Institute: The American Empire

A republic if you can keep it

This rather long article is actually a condensation of a longer piece by Garet Garrett called The Rise of Empire, which was published in 1952. The American Empire appears in Mises Wire. It’s a bit of a contrast with AG Barr’s article about how the executive branch is too weak, but there is overlap. Part of the difference between the two lies in the administrative agencies and whether they are truly under the control of the President or under the control or influence of other political interests. Constitutionally, administrative agencies as law-making bodies should not exist at all, but as part of the executive should be entirely under the direction of the office of the President. In practice, they have been unaccountable, extra-Constitutional legislative bodies only marginally under the power of the executive branch. When the occupant of the Presidential office is able to appeal to the appetites and desires of the various administrative agency heads, he will be much more powerful than a President at odds with those same agencies.

We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: “You now are entering Imperium.” Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: “Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.”

That a Republic may vanish is an elementary schoolbook fact.

The Roman Republic passed into the Roman Empire, and yet never could a Roman citizen have said, “That was yesterday.” Nor is the historian, with all the advantages of perspective, able to place that momentous event at an exact point on the dial of time. The Republic had a long, unhappy twilight. It is agreed that the Empire began with Augustus Caesar. What Augustus Caesar did was to demonstrate a proposition found in Aristotle’s Politics, one that he must have known by heart, namely this: “People do not easily change, but love their own ancient customs; and it is by small degrees only that one thing takes the place of another; so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about a revolution in the state.”

Revolution within the Form

There is no comfort in history for those who put their faith in forms; who think there is safeguard in words inscribed on parchment, preserved in a glass case, reproduced in facsimile and hauled to and fro on a Freedom Train.

Let it be current history. How much does the younger half of this generation reflect upon the fact that in its own time a complete revolution has taken place in the relations between government and people?

The extent to which the original precepts and intentions of constitutional, representative, limited government, in the republican form, have been eroded away by argument and dialectic is a separate subject, long and ominous, and belongs to a treatise on political science. The one fact now to be emphasized is that when the process of erosion has gone on until there is no saying what the supreme law of the land is at a given time, then the Constitution begins to be flouted by executive will, with something like impunity. The instances may not be crucial at first and all the more dangerous for that reason. As one is condoned another follows and they become progressive.

To outsmart the Constitution and to circumvent its restraints became a popular exercise of the art of government in the Roosevelt regime. In defense of his attempt to pack the Supreme Court with social-minded judges after several of his New Deal laws had been declared unconstitutional, President Roosevelt wrote: “The reactionary members of the Court had apparently determined to remain on the bench for as long as life continued — for the sole purpose of blocking any program of reform.”

Among the millions who at the time applauded that statement of contempt there were very few, if there was indeed one, who would not have been frightened by a revelation of the logical sequel. They believed, as everyone else did, that there was one thing a President could never do. There was one sentence of the Constitution that could not fall, so long as the Republic lived.

The Constitution says: “The Congress shall have power to declare war.”

That, therefore, was the one thing no President could do. By his own will he could not declare war. Only Congress could declare war, and Congress could be trusted never to do it but by will of the people. And that was the innermost safeguard of the republic. The decision whether or not to go to war was in the hands of the people — or so they believed. No man could make it for them.

It is true that President Roosevelt got the country into World War II. That is not the same thing. For a declaration of war he went to Congress — after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. He wanted it, he had planned it, and yet the Constitution forbade him to declare war and he durst not do it.

Nine years later a much weaker President did…

The first requisite of Empire is:

The executive power of government shall be dominant. It may be dominant originally, as in the days of hereditary kingship, or it may come to be dominant by change, as when the Roman Republic passed under the rule of Caesars.

What Empire needs above all in government is an executive power that can make immediate decisions, such as a decision in the middle of the night by the President to declare war on the aggressor in Korea, or, on the opposite side, a decision in the Politburo in the Kremlin, perhaps also in the middle of the night, to move a piece on the chessboard of cold war.

The Federal income-tax law of 1914 gave the government unlimited access to wealth and, moreover, power for the first time to levy taxes not for revenue only but for social purposes, in case there should arise a popular demand for redistribution of the national wealth. World War I immediately followed. Looking backward we can see that these two events marked the beginning of a great rise in the executive power of government. Then came in rapid succession (1) the Great Depression, (2) the revolutionary Roosevelt regime, and (3) World War II, all within an arc of twenty years…

(2) By reinterpretation of the language of the Constitution. That is done by a sympathetic Supreme Court.

(3) By innovation. That is when, in this changing world, the President does things that are not specifically forbidden by the Constitution because the founders never thought of them.

(4) By the appearance in the sphere of Executive Government of what are called administrative agencies, with power to issue rules and regulations that have the force of law. These agencies have built up a large body of administrative law which people are obliged to obey. And not only do they make their own laws; they enforce their own laws, acting as prosecutor, jury and judge; and appeal from their decisions to the regular courts is difficult because the regular courts are obliged to take their findings of fact as final. Thus the constitutional separation of the three governmental powers, namely, the legislative, the executive and the judicial, is entirely lost.

(5) By usurpation. That is when the President willfully confronts Congress with what in statescraft is called the fait accompli — a thing already done — which Congress cannot repudiate without exposing the American government to the ridicule of nations…

(6) Lastly, the powers of Executive Government are bound to increase as the country becomes more and more involved in foreign affairs. This is true because, both traditionally and by the terms of the Constitution, the province of foreign affairs is one that belongs in a very special sense to the President…

Another brand mark of Empire is: Ascendancy of the military mind, to such a point at last that the civilian mind is intimidated.”

…It was General MacArthur himself who uttered these devastating words:

Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense. … Indeed, it is a part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusory foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders, almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war.

The bald interpretation of General MacArthur’s words is this. War becomes an instrument of domestic policy. Among the control mechanisms on the government’s panel board now is a dial marked War…

No doubt the people know they can have their Republic back if they want it enough to fight for it and to pay the price. The only point is that no leader has yet appeared with the courage to make them choose.

Click here to read the entire article at Mises Wire.

Liberty Blitzkrieg: Three Major Imbalances – Financial, Trust, Geopolitical

Somewhat related to yesterday’s article from Chris Hedges which touched on how no one in America trusts anyone in the D.C. establish at all any longer is this article from Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg. In Three Major Imbalances, Mr. Krieger discusses the teetering financial system, the lack of trust in institutions, and rising tenstions between the U.S.A. and China, Russia, and elsewhere.

But greed is a bottomless pit
And our freedom’s a joke
We’re just taking a piss
And the whole world must watch the sad comic display
If you’re still free start running away
Cause we’re coming for you!

– Conor Oberst, “Land Locked Blues”

It’s hard to believe 2020 is just around the corner. If the last ten years have taught us anything, it’s the extent to which a vicious and corrupt oligarchy will go to further extend and entrench their economic and societal interests. Although the myriad desperate actions undertaken by the ruling class this past decade have managed to sustain the current paradigm a bit longer, it has not come without cost and major long-term consequence. Gigantic imbalances across multiple areas have been created and worsened, and the resolution of these in the years ahead (2020-2025) will shape the future for decades to come. I want to discuss three of them today, the financial system imbalance, the trust imbalance and the geopolitical imbalance.

Recent posts have focused on how what really matters in a crisis is not the event itself, but the response to it. The financial crisis of ten years ago is particularly instructive, as the entire institutional response to a widespread financial industry crime spree was to focus on saving a failed system and then pretending nothing happened. The public was given no time or space to debate whether the system needed saving; or more specifically, which parts needed saving, which parts needed wholesale restructuring and which parts should’ve been thrown into the dustbin. Rather, unelected central bankers stepped in with trillions in order to prop up, empower and reward the very industry and individuals that created the crisis to begin with. There was no real public debate, central bankers just did whatever they wanted. It was a moment so brazen and disturbing it shook many of us, including myself, out of a lifetime of propaganda induced deception.

It’s ten years later and central banks still can’t walk back anything they did over the past decade…

While massive and global, the financial system imbalance is just one of several. Another big one is a trust imbalance, which manifests as a widening disconnect between established institutions and the people living under them. As the ruling class has been forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures over the past decade to keep their gravy train going, they’ve exposed themselves more explicitly. What was once derided as conspiracy theory rapidly becomes conspiracy fact, and an increasingly significant number of humans have begun to simply assume (for good reason) that whatever comes out of the mouths of authority figures like intelligence agencies, politicians, mass media, corporations and think tanks, etc., are lies.

This situation isn’t getting any better either. It seems every day we wake up to new in your face revelations of how craven and dishonest the ruling oligarchy and its institutions really are. For example, this past weekend we learned how a Newsweek journalist quit because his bosses at the paper refused to let him publish about OPCW whistleblowers who dispute the official conclusion that Assad launched a chemical attack in Douma, an event that increasingly looks like a false flag event which led to the U.S. bombing Syria…

The trust imbalance between rulers and the ruled has become so massive it’s all but guaranteed to detonate in a variety of unexpected and consequential ways in the years ahead. The election of Donald Trump was just the first pubic manifestation of this well deserved lack of trust…

The other major imbalance I want to highlight is the geopolitical one. It’s something I’ve been writing about a lot lately as it’s come into clearer focus that the nexus of this tension will center around the U.S. and China. At the root of this imbalance is a U.S. national security state desperate to turn back to clock to the 1990s when the U.S. was the world’s sole superpower and could essentially call the shots on all matters of international significance with little to no pushback. Certain foreign power centers, led by China and Russia, have made it explicit they will not be rewinding the clock and are have focused their foreign policy around ushering in a multi-polar world. Like the other imbalances, the geopolitical imbalance becomes more volatile and less manageable with each passing day…

Everything being done today centers around propping up and extending a decrepit paradigm in order to further enrich and empower a ruling class that has lost the respect of the people. As the actions taken to sustain such a system become more desperate and mendacious (“this is NOT QE”), the more the veneer of credibility disappears. The more the veneer of credibility disappears, the more unstable these major imbalances become. Generational change is on the horizon, keep your eyes wide open.

Click here to read the entire article at Liberty Blitzkrieg.

Related:

Kunstler: Two for One Holiday Special

Hillary Clinton sure got her money’s worth with the Fusion GPS deal: it induced a three-year psychotic break in the body politic, destroyed the legitimacy of federal law enforcement, turned a once-proud, free, and rational press into an infernal engine of bad faith, and is finally leading her Democratic Party to an ignominious suicide. And the damage is far from complete…

Truthdig: The Great American Shakedown

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and liberal/progressive writer. He has been a vocal critic of what he sees as failures of the liberal class (as well as criticizing conservatives). In this article at Truthdig, Mr. Hedges empties both barrels at the Democrat Party (and their impeachment failure) and the Republican parties for their thorough corruption. Hedges’ writing is enjoyable and incisive even if I don’t always agree with the conclusions that he draws. He tends to apply his beliefs consistently, which is considerably better than most on the Left or Right.

The Democratic Party and its liberal supporters are perplexed. They presented hours of evidence of an impeachable offense, although they studiously avoided charging Donald Trump with impeachable offenses also carried out by Democratic presidents, including the continuation or expansion of presidential wars not declared by Congress, exercising line-item veto power, playing prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner to kill individuals, including U.S. citizens, anywhere on the planet, violating due process and misusing executive orders. Because civics is no longer taught in most American schools, they devoted a day to constitutional scholars who provided the Civics 101 case for impeachment. The liberal press, cheerleading the impeachment process, saturated the media landscape with live coverage, interminable analysis, constant character assassination of Trump and giddy speculation. And yet, it has made no difference. Public opinion remains largely unaffected.

Perhaps, supporters of impeachment argue, they failed to adopt the right technique…

The liberal class and the Democratic Party leadership have failed, even after their defeat in the 2016 presidential election, to understand that they, along with the traditional Republican elites, have squandered their credibility. No one believes them. And no one should.

They squandered their credibility by promising that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would, as claimed by President Bill Clinton, create 200,000 new, well-paying jobs per year; instead, several million jobs were lost. They squandered it by allowing corporations to move production overseas and hire foreign workers at daily wages that did not equal what a U.S. unionized worker made in an hour, a situation that obliterated the bargaining power of the American working class. They squandered it by allowing corporations to use the threat of “offshoring” production to destroy unions, suppress wages, extract draconian concessions and push millions of workers into the temp and gig economies, where there are no benefits or job security and pay is 60% or less of what a full-time employee in the regular economy receives. They squandered it by forcing working men and women to take two or three jobs to support a family, jacking up household debt to $13.95 trillion. They squandered it by redirecting wealth upward, so that during the Clinton administration alone 45 percent of all income growth went to the wealthiest 1%…

The problem is not messaging. The problem is the messenger. The mortal wounds inflicted on our democratic institutions are bipartisan. The traditional Republican elites are as hated as the Democratic elites. Trump is vile, imbecilic, corrupt and incompetent. But for a largely white working class cast aside by austerity and neoliberalism, he at least taunts the elites who destroyed their communities and their lives…

There is zero chance Trump will be removed from office in a trial in the Senate. The Democratic Party elites have admitted as much. They carried out, they argue, their civic and constitutional duty. But here again they lie. They picked out what was convenient to impeach Trump and left untouched the rotten system they helped create. The divisions among Americans will only widen. The hatreds will only grow. And tyranny will wrap its deadly tentacles around our throats.

Click here to read the entire article at Truthdig.

Liberty Blitzkrieg: The Illiberal World Order

Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg has some good words to share about our current political state of affairs, including how Trump’s election is a symptom of decades of corrupt D.C. practices rather than the beginning of some new era of debauchery and how the biggest problem is all of the people who do not recognize this.

The Illiberal World Order

From a big picture perspective, the largest rift in American politics is between those willing to admit reality and those clinging to a dishonest perception of a past that never actually existed. Ironically, those who most frequently use “post-truth” to describe our current era tend to be those with the most distorted view of what was really happening during the Clinton/Bush/Obama reign.

Despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary, such people now enthusiastically whitewash the decades preceding Trump to turn it into a paragon of human liberty, justice and economic wonder. You don’t have to look deep to understand that resistance liberals are now actually conservatives, brimming with nostalgia for the days before significant numbers of people became wise to what’s been happening all along.

They want to forget about the bipartisan coverup of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11, all the wars based on lies, and the indisputable imperial crimes disclosed by Wikileaks, Snowden and others. They want to pretend Wall Street crooks weren’t bailed out and made even more powerful by the Bush/Obama tag team, despite ostensible ideological differences between the two. They want to forget Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself.

Lying to yourself about history is one of the most dangerous things you can do. If you can’t accept where we’ve been, and that Trump’s election is a symptom of decades of rot as opposed to year zero of a dangerous new world, you’ll never come to any useful conclusions. As such, the most meaningful fracture in American society today is between those who’ve accepted that we’ve been lied to for a very long time, and those who think everything was perfectly fine before Trump. There’s no real room for a productive discussion between such groups because one of them just wants to get rid of orange man, while the other is focused on what’s to come. One side actually believes a liberal world order existed in the recent past, while the other fundamentally recognizes this was mostly propaganda based on myth.

Irrespective of what you think of Bernie Sanders and his policies, you can at least appreciate the fact his supporters focus on policy and real issues. In contrast, resistance liberals just desperately scramble to put up whoever they think can take us back to a make-believe world of the recent past. This distinction is actually everything. It’s the difference between people who’ve at least rejected the status quo and those who want to rewind history and perform a do-over of the past forty years.

A meaningful understanding that unites populists across the ideological spectrum is the basic acceptance that the status quo is pernicious and unsalvageable, while the status quo-promoting opposition focuses on Trump the man while conveniently ignoring the worst of his policies because they’re essentially just a continuation of Clinton/Bush/Obama. It’s the most shortsighted and destructive response to Trump imaginable. It’s also why the Trump-era alliance of corporate, imperialist Democrats and rightwing Bush-era neoconservatives makes perfect sense, as twisted and deranged as it might seem at first. With some minor distinctions, these people share nostalgia for the same thing.

This sort of political environment is extremely unhealthy because it places an intentional and enormous pressure on everyone to choose between dedicating every fiber of your being to removing Trump at all costs or supporting him. This anti-intellectualism promotes an ends justifies the means attitude on all sides. In other words, it turns more and more people into rhinoceroses…

Click here to read the entire article at Liberty Blitzkrieg.

 

EFF: Ending Government Use of Face Surveillance

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has launched a new campaign called About Face to help communities call for an end to government use of face surveillance. With the recent announcement that facial recognition is coming to Sea-Tac airport, you can see that face surveillance is becoming more and more prevalent in America.

…Many forms of biometric data collection raise a wealth of privacy, security, and ethical concerns. Face surveillance ups the ante. We expose our faces to public view every time we go outside. Paired with the growing ubiquity of surveillance cameras in our public, face surveillance technology allows for the covert and automated collection of information related to when and where we worship or receive medical care, and who we associate with professionally or socially.

Many proponents of the technology argue that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when we spend time in public, and that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. EFF is not alone in finding this argument meritless. In his recent majority opinion in the watershed Carpenter v. United States (2018), Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “A person does not surrender all Fourth Amendment protection by venturing in the public sphere.” In a recent Wired interview, Attorney Gretchen Greene explains: “Even if I trust the government, I do care. I would rather live in a world where I feel like I have some privacy, even in public spaces.” Greene goes on to identify the inherent First-Amendment concerns implicated by government use of face surveillance: “If people know where you are, you might not go there. You might not do those things.”

Like many of us, Greene is particularly concerned about how the technology will impact members of already marginalized communities. “Coming out as gay is less problematic professionally than it was, in the US, but still potentially problematic. So, if an individual wants to make the choice [of] when to publicly disclose that, then they don’t want facial recognition technology identifying that they are walking down the street to the LGBTQ center.” These concerns are not limited to any one community, and the impacts will be felt regardless of intent. “We’re not trying to stop people from going to church, we’re not trying to stop them from going to community centers, but we will if they are afraid of [the consequence] in an environment that is hostile to, for instance, a certain ethnicity or a certain religion…”

Click here to read the entire article at EFF.org.

Forward Observer: Election Legitimacy

The following comes from Sam Culper, principal intelligence analyst at Forward Observer, about the failure of governments and fears over perceived illegitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

I’ve been watching the Netflix series “Narcos” and have just about wrapped up Season 3. Narcos is a show about Pablo Escobar and the Colombian cartels in the cocaine trade of the 1990s.

Sure, there’s some security tradecraft and intelligence collection in the show, which in my opinion makes it worth the watch, but I found something more interesting:

Cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar didn’t just run a cartel. He ran the entire city of Medellin and the province of Antioquia. He was untouchable. As one of the richest men in the world, he was more powerful than the Colombian president. But it wasn’t just his wealth that gave him power — it was his army of gunmen willing to die to carry out his orders and the overwhelming popular support he enjoyed in his home city.

In the show (and in real life), after a years long battle with the DEA and Colombian National Police, Escobar’s cartel is destroyed and he’s ultimately killed.

After Escobar’s death in the show, I thought, “Well, I guess that’s the end of the series.”

BUT…

The smaller cartels were battling for supremacy to fill in the power vacuum left by Escobar’s death. A clear victor emerges.

There’s an interesting dynamic here because it’s not just the competing cartels fighting for power. The Colombian National Police and their counter-narcotics units complete this circular firing squad where everyone is fighting against each other for power.

I look at this as an analogy of what happens when government loses legitimacy. We see it happen all over the world: the people lose faith in their public institutions — due to decades of corruption and ineptitude — and that’s one way you get failed states. That’s how you get competitors duking it out to fill a power vacuum.

Over the weekend, I perused the shelves of Barnes and Noble’s Current Affairs section, which was rife with anti-Trump books and warnings of the country’s impending fall into fascism. There were books on racism, sexism, religious bigotry (e.g., Christian), and every other flavor of imaginable intersectionality and victimhood. There were books about political resistance and civil disobedience, and books by conservative and progressive authors who lay all blame for every wrong in the world at the feet of their political opponents.

There are clearly a lot of grievances in America (real, imagined, and contrived).

Pending any change to the ballots, roughly 50 percent of the country is going to be unhappy about the results of next year’s elections. Roughly 30% is going to be irate. A smaller percentage may be moved to violence.

The legitimacy of elections may even fall into question again.

Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of government legitimacy. Politicians can have all-time lows in approval ratings, we can impeach and remove our leaders, and elected officials can run the country into the ground — but as long as there are free and fair elections, change is always just a few years away. We at least have faith in the process, even if we don’t like the results.

But what happens when that “faith in the process” ends?

What happens if next year’s elections are disrupted?

What happens if there’s terrorism on the morning of Election Day that keeps millions of Americans from voting due to fear of being harmed?

What happens if a winner is declared, but there are valid claims of voter fraud that might overturn the results?

What is the “hanging chad” equivalent of the 2020 elections?

If there’s one thing that “keeps me up at night” — more than EMP, financial collapse, or any other catastrophic threat — it’s what’s going to happen with this election.

It’s a big, Big, BIG reason to think about the local effects of these potential events. We can’t focus solely on the primary event: what are the second- and third-order consequences? (Financial, economic, etc.)

I’m reminded of the power vacuum left by the death of Pablo Escobar. Even in that hectic period, his enemies didn’t miss a beat. Ours won’t either.

 

And here’s a reminder that Forward Observer will bring their Tactical Intelligence class to Tacoma, WA next June and Coeur d’Alene, ID in April.