The Burning Platform: Money, Politics, and Corruption

In a post titled The Last Link, ZMan writes at The Burning Platform about the difficulty of sustaining sound money among a corrupt political class.

Way back in the early days of the conservative movement, it was assumed that Federal spending was both unsustainable and damaging to the country. Cutting the size and scope of government was their thing. The tool they eventually settled on to reduce Federal spending was taxes. If they made high taxes so unpopular with the public, the Left could not keep raising taxes. If they could not raise taxes to cover their spending, they would eventually have to yield to the mathematics.

Obviously, that never happened. The big tax reforms of the 1980’s did simplify taxes and lower rates on rich people, but revenues remained stable. At the same time, spending kept growing. One of the unspoken truths of fiscal policy is the percent of GDP that is consumed by Federal taxes does not change much of time. The range is between 15% to 18%, depending on when tax policy was changed. This is the logic of the flat tax. One rate, no deductions and no more IRS.

Spending, of course, keeps going up, no matter who is in office. Despite their rhetoric, the Republicans are the big spenders. In the 1980’s they had to spend on the military to win the Cold War. In the Bush years it was the crusades against Islam. It is only when a Democrat is in the White House that the Republicans get tight-fisted, and even that is mostly ceremonial, as we have seen with the last Covid bill. It turns out that there is no relationship between taxes and spending.

Another shibboleth of conservatives is that eventually the bond markets will force a haircut on the government. The so-called bond vigilantes will drive up interest rates, which will make borrowing more expensive. The theory here is that there is a hard limit on debt. Once that limit is reached, spending must go down or taxes must go up in order to reconcile the books. Like the belief that taxes will curtail spending, faith in the mythological bond vigilantes has been misplaced.

Of course, you can go back further and find arguments from the hard money crowd about the limits of fiat currency. There was an argument in the old days that said fiat currency not only unleashes spending and inflation, but it eventually makes the money worthless, thus bankrupting the state. We have been off the gold standard for a very long time now and none of the predictions came true. The spending continues, the borrowing continues, and the money creation continues.

The gold bugs have now moved to crypto currency as the savior. Once everyone is using digital money that is outside the control of the state, then we end up with a de facto gold standard. That will force fiscal discipline on the state, which means radically reducing spending. The fact that this will never happen has so far not dimmed the enthusiasm, but like all of the other schemes to cut spending, this one will prove no match for the animal cunning of the ruling class.

There is another theory related to money. The monetarists have always argued that sound monetary policy would impose discipline on the state. Since central banks are independent of the state, they can maintain a stable money supply. While not the same as a gold standard, sound monetary policy has similar effects. That has turned out to be a myth as well. The Fed is now captive to the spending frenzy of Washington, finding new ways to underwrite trillions in new outlays.

Now, there are those who will keep lighting candles for their favorite theory. The gold bugs, for example, are sure hyperinflation is around the next corner. The bond vigilantes are similarly sure the next crisis will confirm their theory. The truth is though, none of these theories turned out to be true. The official debt is $28T, but that excludes things like Social Security. The real debt obligations of the Federal government are incalculable. No one knows and no one seems to care.

The lesson of the last half century is one the monetarists learned from the battles over the gold standard. If the ruler is so corrupt you need hard money to control him, your ruler is corrupt enough to find a way around the limits of hard money. It turns out our rulers are more than capable of conniving around every limit put before them. They have reached levels of corruption that were though impossible half a century ago. The display being put on now suggest they are just getting warmed up.

This rather shabby track record should raise a question. That is, is the field of economics just pseudoscientific nonsense? It has lots of complexity and lots of very clever solutions to the complex problems it unearths, but outside of the most basic of concepts like supply and demand, economics is not very useful. In all of the important things, it turns out to be wrong. Astrologers have a better record than economists, because they know they are grifters, not scientists.

Putting that aside, the lesson here is that contra the libertarians, economics is downstream from politics. No amount of fiddling with the tax code can fix the defects of the political class. Even further, the right people in a corrupt system cannot correct the defects of the corrupt system. This is why the people come and go in Washington, but the corruption rolls on unimpeded. In the great chain of causality, economics is the last link in that chain. It is the final effect of a chain of many causes.

Glenn Greenwald: Congress Demands More Internet Censorship

Journalist Glenn Greenwald writes Congress, in a Five-Hour Hearing, Demands Tech CEOs Censor the Internet Even More Aggressively

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Mar. 25, 2021

Over the course of five-plus hours on Thursday, a House Committee along with two subcommittees badgered three tech CEOs, repeatedly demanding that they censor more political content from their platforms and vowing legislative retaliation if they fail to comply. The hearing — convened by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and the two Chairs of its Subcommittees, Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) — was one of the most stunning displays of the growing authoritarian effort in Congress to commandeer the control which these companies wield over political discourse for their own political interests and purposes.

As I noted when I reported last month on the scheduling of this hearing, this was “the third time in less than five months that the U.S. Congress has summoned the CEOs of social media companies to appear before them with the explicit intent to pressure and coerce them to censor more content from their platforms.” The bulk of Thursday’s lengthy hearing consisted of one Democratic member after the next complaining that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have failed in their duties to censor political voices and ideological content that these elected officials regard as adversarial or harmful, accompanied by threats that legislative punishment (including possible revocation of Section 230 immunity) is imminent in order to force compliance (Section 230 is the provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields internet companies from liability for content posted by their users).

Republican members largely confined their grievances to the opposite concern: that these social media giants were excessively silencing conservative voices in order to promote a liberal political agenda (that complaint is only partially true: a good amount of online censorship, like growing law enforcement domestic monitoring generally, focuses on all anti-establishment ideologies, not just the right-wing variant). This editorial censoring, many Republicans insisted, rendered the tech companies’ Section 230 immunity obsolete, since they are now acting as publishers rather than mere neutral transmitters of information. Some Republicans did join with Democrats in demanding greater censorship, though typically in the name of protecting children from mental health disorders and predators rather than ideological conformity.

As they have done in prior hearings, both Zuckerberg and Pichai spoke like the super-scripted, programmed automatons that they are, eager to please their Congressional overseers (though they did periodically issue what should have been unnecessary warnings that excessive “content moderation” can cripple free political discourse). Dorsey, by contrast, seemed at the end of his line of patience and tolerance for vapid, moronic censorship demands, and — sitting in a kitchen in front of a pile of plates and glasses — he, refreshingly, barely bothered to hide that indifference. At one point, he flatly stated in response to demands that Twitter do more to remove “disinformation”: “I don’t think we should be the arbiters of truth and I don’t think the government should be either.”

Zuckerberg in particular has minimal capacity to communicate the way human beings naturally do. The Facebook CEO was obviously instructed by a team of public speaking consultants that it is customary to address members of the Committee as “Congressman” or “Congresswoman.” He thus began literally every answer he gave — even in rapid back and forth questions — with that word. He just refused to move his mouth without doing that — for five hours (though, in fairness, the questioning of Zuckerberg was often absurd and unreasonable). His brain permits no discretion to deviate from his script no matter how appropriate. For every question directed to him, he paused for several seconds, had his internal algorithms search for the relevant place in the metaphorical cassette inserted in a hidden box in his back, uttered the word “Congressman” or “Congresswoman,” stopped for several more seconds to search for the next applicable spot in the spine-cassette, and then proceeded unblinkingly to recite the words slowly transmitted into his neurons. One could practically see the gears in his head painfully churning as the cassette rewound or fast-forwarded. This tortuous ritual likely consumed roughly thirty percent of the hearing time. I’ve never seen members of Congress from across the ideological spectrum so united as they were by visceral contempt for Zuckerberg’s non-human comportment:https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/vsA4u7i20_0?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0

But it is vital not to lose sight of how truly despotic hearings like this are. It is easy to overlook because we have become so accustomed to political leaders successfully demanding that social media companies censor the internet in accordance with their whims. Recall that Parler, at the time it was the most-downloaded app in the country, was removed in January from the Apple and Google Play Stores and then denied internet service by Amazon, only after two very prominent Democratic House members publicly demanded this. At the last pro-censorship hearing convened by Congress, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) explicitly declared that the Democrats’ grievance is not that these companies are censoring too much but rather not enough. One Democrat after the next at Thursday’s hearing described all the content on the internet they want gone: or else. Many of them said this explicitly.

At one point toward the end of the hearing, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), in the context of the January 6 riot, actually suggested that the government should create a list of groups they unilaterally deem to be “domestic terror organizations” and then provide it to tech companies as guidance for what discussions they should “track and remove”: in other words, treat these groups the same was as ISIS and Al Qaeda. https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/owN9C1PZgG8?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0

Words cannot convey how chilling and authoritarian this all is: watching government officials, hour after hour, demand censorship of political speech and threaten punishment for failures to obey. As I detailed last month, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the state violates the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee when they coerce private actors to censor for them — exactly the tyrannical goal to which these hearings are singularly devoted.

There are genuine problems posed by Silicon Valley monopoly power. Monopolies are a threat to both political freedom and competition, which is why economists of most ideological persuasions have long urged the need to prevent them. There is some encouraging legislation pending in Congress with bipartisan support (including in the House Antitrust Subcommittee before which I testified several weeks ago) that would make meaningful and productive strides toward diluting the unaccountable and undemocratic power these monopolies wield over our political and cultural lives. If these hearings were about substantively considering those antitrust measures, they would be meritorious.

But that is hard and difficult work and that is not what these hearings are about. They want the worst of all worlds: to maintain Silicon Valley monopoly power but transfer the immense, menacing power to police our discourse from those companies into the hands of the Democratic-controlled Congress and Executive Branch.

And as I have repeatedly documented, it is not just Democratic politicians agitating for greater political censorship but also their liberal journalistic allies, who cannot tolerate that there may be any places on the internet that they cannot control. That is the petty wannabe-despot mentality that has driven them to police the “unfettered” discussions on the relatively new conversation app Clubhouse, and escalate their attempts to have writers they dislike removed from Substack. Just today, The New York Times warns, on its front page, that there are “unfiltered” discussions taking place on Google-enabled podcasts:

New York Times front page, Mar. 26, 2021

We are taught from childhood that a defining hallmark of repressive regimes is that political officials wield power to silence ideas and people they dislike, and that, conversely, what makes the U.S. a “free” society is the guarantee that American leaders are barred from doing so. It is impossible to reconcile that claim with what happened in that House hearing room over the course of five hours on Thursday.

Gatestone Institute: Denmark Cracks Down on “Parallel Societies”

This article from the Gatestone Institue describes Denmark’s attempt to “preserve social cohesion in the country by encouraging integration and discouraging ethnic and social self-segregation” — Denmark Cracks Down on “Parallel Societies”. The Danish Prime Minister said, “We must not accept that democracy is replaced with hatred in parallel societies. Radicalization must not be protected. It must be revealed.”

The Danish government has announced a package of new proposals aimed at fighting “religious and cultural parallel societies” in Denmark. A cornerstone of the plan includes capping the percentage of “non-Western” immigrants and their descendants dwelling in any given residential neighborhood. The aim is to preserve social cohesion in the country by encouraging integration and discouraging ethnic and social self-segregation.

The announcement comes just days after Denmark approved a new law banning the foreign funding of mosques in the country. The government has also recently declared its intention significantly to limit the number of people seeking asylum in Denmark.

Denmark, which already has some of the most restrictive immigration policies in Europe, is now at the vanguard of European efforts to preserve local traditions and values in the face of mass migration, runaway multiculturalism and the encroachment of political Islam.

The new proposals, announced by Interior and Housing Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek on March 17, are contained in a 15-page report, “Mixed Residential Areas: The Next Step in the Fight Against Parallel Societies.”

A main element of the plan calls for relocating residents of non-Western origin to ensure that, within the next ten years, they do not comprise more than 30% of the total population of any neighborhood or housing area in Denmark.

The plan also calls for phasing out the term “ghetto areas,” which has been criticized as being derogatory, and replacing it with the more politically correct “prevention areas” (forebyggelsesområder) and “transformation areas” (omdannelsesområder).

The term “ghetto,” which refers to areas with high concentrations of immigrants, unemployment and crime, first came into official use in Denmark in 2010 with the release of a government report, “Reinserting Ghettos into Society: A Showdown with Parallel Societies in Denmark.”

A “ghetto area” currently refers to a residential area with at least 1,000 inhabitants, where the proportion of non-Western immigrants and their descendants is higher than 50%, and where at least two of the following four criteria are met:

  • The proportion of residents aged 18-64 who are not in work or in education exceeds 40%.
  • The proportion of residents who have been convicted of violating the Penal Code, the Firearms Act or the Narcotic Drugs Act is at least three times the national average.
  • The proportion of residents aged 30-59 who have only a primary school education exceeds 60% of all residents in the same age group.
  • The average gross income for taxpayers aged 15-64 in the area (excluding education seekers) is less than 55% of the average gross income for all residents in the area.

In 2018, the Danish Parliament, with support from all of the country’s main political parties, adopted the “parallel society package” (Parallelsamfundspakken), also known as the “ghetto plan” (Ghettoplan). The 22-point plan states that there will be no “ghetto areas” in Denmark by 2030. Details are included in a government report, “One Denmark Without Parallel Societies.”

At the time, the government, explained the need for a comprehensive strategy to combat parallel societies:

“The government wants a cohesive Denmark. A Denmark that is based on democratic values ​​such as freedom and the rule of law, equality and freedom. Tolerance and equality. A Denmark where everyone participates actively. Over the past 40 years, Denmark’s ethnic composition has changed markedly.

“In 1980, we were 5.1 million people in Denmark. Today we are close to 5.8 million. The growth of the population comes from outside. Both immigrants and descendants of immigrants. The majority of the new Danes have a non-Western background.

“In 1980, there were about 50,000 people with non-Western backgrounds in Denmark. Today there are almost half a million. This corresponds to an increase from approximately one percent of the population to approximately 8.5 percent….

“What has gone wrong? At least three things.

“First, the individual immigrant has the responsibility to learn Danish, to get a job and become part of the local community and to be integrated into his new homeland. Far too few have seized the opportunities that Denmark offers, despite the fact that Denmark is a society with security, freedom, free education and good job opportunities.

“Second, as a society, for too many years we have not made the necessary demands of newcomers. We have had far too low expectations for the refugees and immigrants who came to Denmark. We have not made sufficiently tangible demands on jobs and self-sufficiency. Therefore, too many immigrants have ended up in prolonged inactivity.

“Third, for decades too many refugees and family-reunified people have not been integrated into Danish society. They have been allowed to clump together in ghetto areas without contact with the surrounding community, even after many years in Denmark, because we have not made clear demands on them to become part of the Danish community….

“It’s about to be the last call. In parts of Western Europe, massive challenges have arisen with ghettos and very ingrained parallel societies. Denmark is not there yet. And that is why we must make a massive effort now, so that we can stop the development before the problems become impossible to solve.

“There is only one way. The ghettos must be completely eradicated. Parallel societies must be broken down. And we must make sure that new ones do not arise. Once and for all, the very big task of integration must be tackled whenever immigrants and their descendants have not embraced Danish values ​​and isolate themselves in parallel societies.”

The 2018 agreement stipulates that if a residential area ends up on the so-called ghetto list, local councils must choose between four measures: 1) demolish public housing; 2) build new housing for private rental; 3) convert public housing to elderly or youth housing; or 4) sell public housing to private buyers or investors for private rental.

The plan seeks to reduce the share of public housing to no more than 40% in the most vulnerable areas by 2030. The overall goal is to transform the ghetto areas into normal residential areas.

Interior and Housing Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek says that the plan is working. The number of residential areas on the government’s most recent “ghetto list,” published in December 2020, has declined by half in three years, from 29 in 2018 to 15 in 2020. The number of “hardened ghettos,” which refers to any area that has been included on the ghetto list for four years in a row, has declined from 15 in 2018 to 13 in 2020.

Bek attributed the decline mainly to more people finding employment or pursuing an education:

“It is fantastically positive that it is progressing in so many areas, and we are already seeing the effect of the parallel society package. There is a historically large decrease in the number of vulnerable areas on all lists, especially because far more residents have come to find work or pursue education.

“The large drop in the number of vulnerable areas is especially a pat on the back to the housing organizations and municipalities that in recent years have worked hard to ensure mixed housing areas, so that all children have the same opportunities, no matter where they grow up.”

Bek’s newly named “prevention areas” are to be designated on the basis of the same criteria as the existing “ghetto areas,” but with lower limits. A “prevention area” refers to a residential area with at least 1,000 inhabitants, where the proportion of non-Western immigrants and their descendants is higher than 30%, and where at least two of the following four criteria are met:

  • The proportion of residents aged 18-64 who are not in work or in education exceeds 30%.
  • The proportion of residents who have been convicted of violating the Penal Code, the Firearms Act or the Narcotic Drugs Act is at least two times the national average.
  • The proportion of residents aged 30-59 who have only a primary school education exceeds 60% of all residents in the same age group.
  • The average gross income for taxpayers aged 15-64 in the area (excluding education seekers) is less than 65% of the average gross income for all residents in the area.

A total of 58 residential areas in Denmark will be categorized as “prevention areas” in the government’s new proposal, which will affect approximately 100,000 people of non-Western origin. Bek explained:

“For far too many years, we have closed our eyes to the development that was underway, and only acted when the integration problems became too great. Now we want to make sure that we do not once again stick our heads in the sand while new parallel societies emerge. We will do this by preventing more vulnerable housing areas and by creating more mixed housing areas throughout Denmark.

“Today, municipalities and housing organizations do not always intervene in time if large public housing areas enter into a negative spiral. Therefore, we will now provide access to most of the tools that apply to vulnerable residential areas. For us, it is about helping the residents and creating equal opportunities for all children, regardless of where they grow up in Denmark.

“The ‘ghetto’ term is misleading. I do not use it myself, and I think it overshadows the important work that needs to be done in the residential areas. This whole effort is about fighting parallel societies and creating a positive development in the residential areas, so that they are made attractive to a broad section of the population.”

Denmark’s governing center-left Social Democratic Party has pursued strong anti-immigration policies, partly in an effort to blunt the appeal of populist parties on the right.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who has been in office since June 2019, recently announced that her government intends significantly to limit the number of people seeking asylum in Denmark. The aim, she said, is to preserve “social cohesion” in the country.

Denmark, which has a population of 5.8 million, received approximately 40,000 asylum applications during the past five years, according to data compiled by Statista. Most of the applications received by Denmark, a predominately Christian country, were from migrants from Muslim countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In recent years, Denmark has also permitted significant non-asylum immigration, especially from non-Western countries. Denmark is now home to sizeable immigrant communities from Syria (35,536); Turkey (33,111); Iraq (21,840); Iran (17,195); Pakistan (14,471); Afghanistan (13,864); Lebanon (12,990) and Somalia (11,282), according to Statista.

Muslims currently comprise approximately 5.5% of the Danish population, according to the Pew Research Center, which forecasts that this figure will double or possibly triple by 2050, depending on the migration scenario.

On January 22, during a parliamentary hearing on Danish immigration policy, Frederiksen said that she was determined to reduce the number of asylum approvals:

“Our goal is zero asylum seekers. We cannot promise zero asylum seekers, but we can establish the vision for a new asylum system, and then do what we can to implement it. We must be careful that not too many people come to our country, otherwise our social cohesion cannot exist. It is already being challenged.”

In her 2021 New Year’s address, Frederiksen said that in the year ahead, her government would continue to insist that immigrants integrate into Danish society:

“As a society, we must step more into character and stick to our Danish values. We must not accept that democracy is replaced with hatred in parallel societies. Radicalization must not be protected. It must be revealed.

“The government will rethink its integration efforts so that it is based to a greater extent on clear requirements and clear expectations with a focus on law and duty.

“Basically, it must be the case that once you have been granted residence in Denmark, you must of course support yourself. If this is not possible for a period of time, the government will propose that you — in return for your social welfare benefit — be obliged to contribute the equivalent of a normal working week of 37 hours. These are some of the tasks ahead of us in the new year.”

AIER: Tell Me Again How Governments Are Essential

Joakim Book at the American Institute for Economic Research rants about the uselessness of governments in Tell Me Again How Governments Are Essential.

I don’t like governments. I don’t like how they are set up, how they’re ruled, how their existence furthers a one-size-fits-all approach to complicated social problems, or how they distort markets and behavior when they grab a share of every productive economic activity that they can spot. I don’t like how they’re the antithesis of liberty, and I particularly don’t like how their services – almost always and everywhere – are subpar.

It would be one thing if governments took 50%, 60%, or 75% of the value you created but gave you such excellent services in return that you felt like you got your money’s worth.

Instead, we get a hodgepodge of regulatory failures, bank bailouts, dead kids in the Middle East, and a runaway national debt, while politicians live grand lives at the expense of the subjects they pretend to represent. Emergency by fake emergency, they grow in size, inching the battle lines of respectable power wielding a little further each time.

Everyone I know has stories about government malpractice, about navigating impossible bureaucratic jungles, about unfair tax practices or creatively interpreted conditions that render the service for which they’re supposedly eligible less than useful.

God knows there are plenty of such stories in the private sector too (dig deep enough and you often find an unsuited government programme or regulation at the bottom of that) but at least private enterprises are financially punished for providing lousy services. And usually there are plenty of options if you want a replacement.

Proponents of governments or social democracy more broadly are often untroubled by stories of obvious government incompetence or inefficiency: that it’s always 45 minutes on the phone before one gets answers to simple questions about arbitrary tax rules; that it’s 10 weeks delay for a simple piece of paper; that every five years or so I must renew official documents that they demand I have, at my own expense. They happily shrug them off as one-offs: bugs and accidents in an otherwise well-functioning system.

It doesn’t take many steps down Alice’s more conspiratorial rabbit hole before you start thinking that the unending stories of government incompetence are connected. That it’s not by chance that government services are so bad. To put it bluntly: this is what governments do and what governments are. They are obstacles in the way: bureaucratic hurdles for the rest of us to move around. They don’t build or create anything; they live off the creation of others.

My latest story is an outstanding transaction I have with the Danish tax authority since 2017. A few years before I had the audacity to put some of my meagre leftover savings (after governments had pilfered their share) in a handful of shares in a Danish company. That was my first mistake: in a world of spendthrift governments, thou shalt not save or invest but merely spend (under certain circumstances, you may buy government bonds to keep down the interest rate on the government debt).

Through a quirk of international capital taxation that I most certainly don’t understand – and if I had to venture a guess: almost nobody does – many countries centered on taxing dividend payments from listed companies at 15%. We can argue over the ethics or efficacy of taxing money that has already been taxed several times (in consuming the company’s products and services, or through corporate income tax), but that’s not the point. Many tax systems adjust to deal with this, automatically deducting in your tax returns the dividend taxes that foreign governments have withheld against your domestic tax bill. Standard government bureaucrats shuffling money around without actually making much of an impact on anything, but since that’s what governments do nobody was much surprised.

A few countries then discovered a sneaky flaw in the system. If they upped their rate above 15% to, say 27% in the case of Denmark or 35% for Finland, they could pocket the difference if foreign shareholders were too lazy to file the papers that would claim back the excess tax. With a stroke of a legislating pen, there’d be more tax funds in the Treasury, involving only the processing of some supporting documents and a few more hires at the relevant tax authorities: a victory for everyone but taxpayers, naturally.

I was not too lazy (even though my time would have been better spent doing precisely anything else). In the winter of 2016-2017 I gathered the documents I needed, I navigated the Danish tax authority’s forms and websites, and submitted everything. A few months later, I received a confirmation that my issue had been received and was being processed. Great: I was on track to get back the lordly sum of DKK 76.68 – or about $11 at the time. More for me, and less for them – precisely in line with my ideological priors.

Then began a long stretch of silence. I made a note in my calendar to periodically remind me, but I mostly forgot about the issue. Some time in 2018, I think, I received a letter from the Danish authority saying that they’ve run into some obscure problem and that the process had been delayed: they guided, as is the way of enlightened government bureaucrats, 12-18 months.

Of course, while I waited, my 76.68 Danish Crowns were not earning interest and if anything were slowly depreciating in their purchasing power. Again, as is the government’s way.

Last week, almost four years to the date after the issue had first been recorded with the Danish authority (and about 12 months longer than the maximum they had estimated), I received the attached letter in the post saying that they had been subject of some unspecific fraud and were further investigating all claims – and estimated another 18 months before payout.

Intriguingly, they mention something about paying interest for the delay. When I peruse the legalese of relevant Danish tax law, it seems to say that it will run at the official central bank rate (0.05%) plus 8%. With compounding, this would be something like 118 DKK (about $19 on today’s exchange rate) by the summer of next year.

To be seen is how they crawl themselves out of that one.

This is just one story, and all things considered a microscopically small story. But, as an old saying goes – that has unfortunately fallen out of favor in the English language but whose Scandinavian equivalent is still widely used – “Many a little makes a mickle.” And stories like these are everywhere.

In public finance, we might tip our hats to what Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen may or may not have observed against excessive government spending: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” Of course, that was before the Great Inflation, and these days the same sentiment must be expressed with “trillions.”

I’m still routinely shocked that people think governments are essential to the operating of civilized life and crucial for our well-being. The more interactions like these that I have, the more confused I am that not everyone jumps ship and embraces a smarter world.

So: tell me again, why do we need governments?

The American Mind: America Must Replace Its Failed Elites

From The American Mind comes America Must Replace Its Failed Elites.

Conservatism, Inc. will say anything to avoid revitalizing our movement. We’re here to do it anyway.

Ed Note: The young founders of American Moment are committed to making vital changes in the conservative movement and injecting new energy into our coalition. We at The American Mind agree this must be done—and fast. Unfortunately, National Review, once a crucible for the best conservative thought, has become so  defensive of its own position that it attacks any organization (including ours) which threatens to overturn the failed Republican leadership class. We are glad to host American Moment’s response to National Review’s ill-informed hit piece against them.

The old order that has dominated the Right for at least the last three decades is desperate to force its agenda on the country: endless foreign wars, cultural weakness, porous borders, corporate solicitude, and general apathy in the face of civilizational crises.

Fortunately, many are pushing back. Like many of our fellow citizens, we are determined not to go back to the failed consensus. That’s why we launched American Moment. Its mission is to forge a cadre of aligned and dedicated young people to serve in government and public-policy organizations to support strong families, a sovereign nation, and prosperity for all.

We are seeking to complete the long-overdue realignment of the conservative movement that President Trump jumpstarted. Unlike the multinational corporations that have captured the Right, we are striving to champion the legitimate interests of the American people.

An editor at National Review is not impressed with—and is apparently confused by—our effort. He writes: “the founders [of American Moment] do not disdain the idea of a Swampy elite, nor do they reject the predicates of the administrative state on which such an elite depends. Their main resentment seems to be that they are not the ones on top.”

In any presidential administration, there are thousands of appointed positions across the federal bureaucracy. Often collectively referred to as “the Swamp,” these officials wield enormous power over public policy of national import, including immigration, economics, trade, and foreign affairs. The constellation of advisors that surround a president and cabinet officials set the policy agenda of any new administration.

Even if the Administrative State were decimated tomorrow, restoring the constitutional order of the founders’ design, the majority of presidentially-appointed positions would remain intact. The question then remains: who will fill these thousands of positions? Ideally, young people who understand the great challenges of our time and are prepared to meet them. Making sure this happens is our primary goal at American Moment.

That is why we are launching initiatives like our Fellowship Program, which empowers young people without “connections” or rich parents—as well as those who do not have a college degree—to serve their communities and their country. An influential class of leaders, policymakers, and staffers is an inevitable reality of modern politics. We must fill these roles with engaged, committed people whose allegiance is with the majority of the American people and the preservation of the republic.

If we don’t act, the hawks who took us to ruinous war in Iraq, the free-trade absolutists who gutted our manufacturing base, and the utopians who continue to push for open borders will all waltz into the next Republican White House by boasting the “credentials” and “expertise” to lead. It is a shame that National Review seems so averse to new energy, so dedicated to disparaging and delegitimizing any initiative to revitalize the conservative movement.

The same National Review editor, in another piece, attacks New York Post Opinion Editor Sohrab Ahmari:

Whatever legitimate grievances of which Ahmari speaks, actually doing something about them cannot merely be a matter of wish-casting and fan service. It must be a patient, persistent matter of mind-changing, coalition-building, and policy-enacting—in other words, politics, in which the prospect of winning “decisively” is elusive at best.

We reject this characterization of Ahmari’s project, but we agree that patience and persistence are necessary in order to create the conditions for substantive change. Our incumbent ruling class has substantially destroyed American society. Now we must build anew.

We won’t achieve our goals overnight. Identifying, educating, and credentialing young leaders will take time. But we are persistent. With the hundreds of prospects that we’ve already identified, we can start to create a new cohort constantly fed by new talent—that is eager to serve our nation and serve it well. If that means throwing an occasional social event for them, so be it. The biggest problem with Georgetown cocktail parties has never been the cocktail parties themselves. It’s the indifference and unwillingness of most attendees to take responsibility for how they have failed the American nation.

Who will replace them? President Trump was a prominent outsider. That was key to his success. Now we need an entire cadre of young Americans motivated by the same values he represented to rise to the occasion and lead. Our mission is to build and equip this movement, and we will remain focused on it regardless of the old order’s circular firing squad.

Libertarian Institute: A Perfect Totalitarian Storm

Author Laurie Calhoun at the Libertarian Institute writes A Perfect Totalitarian Storm about a US populace habituated to submit to authority and the resulting dangers.

People often express consternation over how something as awful as the Holocaust could ever have transpired. It seems utterly incomprehensible, until one reflects upon the acquiescence to government authorities of individuals, most of whom served as unwitting cogs in a murderous machine. The vast majority of people in 1930s and 1940s Germany went about their business, agreeing to do what officials and bureaucrats told them to do and brushing aside any questions which may have popped up in their minds about policies preventing Jewish people from holding positions in society and stripping them of their property. For ready identification, Jews were preposterously made to stitch yellow stars onto their clothing. Later, in the concentration camps, they were tattooed with identification numbers. The rest is the most grisly episode in human history.

It is easy to say today, looking back, that we would never have supported the Third Reich and its outrageous laws, but citizens everywhere develop habits of submission to authority from an early age. Many “rule-governed” persons never pause to ask whether the current laws of the land are in fact moral, despite the long history of legislation modified or overturned in the eventual recognition that it was deeply flawed. It is understandable that people should obey the law—they are threatened with punishments, often severe, for failure to comply. But the little things do eventually add up, and one thing leads to another, with the result that the bureaucratic banality of evil diagnosed by Hannah Arendt in her coverage of the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1960 applies every bit as much to our present times as it did to the people going along to get along with the Third Reich. Of course no one is currently sending trainloads of “undesirables” to concentration camps for liquidation, but when one considers the death and degradation of millions of people in the Middle East over the course of the twenty-first century, carnage and misery funded by U.S. taxpayers, one begins to comprehend how the very mentality which permitted the Holocaust to transpire is indeed at work today. The vast majority of Western citizens freely agree to pay their governments to terrorize and attack, even torture, people inhabiting lands far away. The perpetrators call all that they do “national defense,” but from the perspective of the victims, the effects are one and the same.

The banality of evil at work today involves a profound complacency among the general populace toward foreign policy. President Biden bombed Syria about a month after becoming the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, without even seeking congressional authority, and people barely blinked. The elimination of the persons responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was achieved long ago. Yet military intervention continues on inexorably, having come to be regarded as the rule rather than the exception. The “collateral damage” victims are essentially fictionalized in the minds of the citizens who pay for all of the harm done to them. Habits of deference to the Pentagon and its associated pundits on matters of foreign policy have as their inevitable consequence that confirmed war criminals are permitted to perpetrate their homicidal programs unabated, provided only that they claim to be defending the country, no matter how disastrous their initiatives proved to be in the past. Indeed, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the more mistakes a government official makes, the more likely it becomes that he or she will be invited back to serve again, and the more frequently his or her opinion will be sought out by mainstream media outlets.

It requires a type of arrogance to reject the proclamations of the anointed “experts,” and in the age of social media, there are always thousands of shills—both paid and unpaid—standing by to defend the programs of the powerful. Antiwar activists are very familiar with how all of this works. They are denounced as anti-patriotic, ignorant, naïve, and even evil for refusing to promote the company line. During the Cold War, the reigning false dichotomies of “Capitalist or Communist?” and “Patriot or Traitor” held sway and, sad to say, such false dichotomies abound today. The fact that the pundits and policymakers calling for and applauding military intervention themselves often stand to profit from the campaigns they promote is brushed aside as somehow irrelevant. In contrast, antiwar voices are muted, suppressed, and censored despite the fact that reasons for opposing more war cannot be said to be tainted by mercenary motives because peace, unlike war, does not pay. It costs nothing to not bomb a country, so anyone who speaks out against the idea is not doing so in order to profit. Yet such persons are denounced and marginalized in the harshest of terms as cranks, crackpots, extremists, Russia sympathizers and more. President Obama’s drone killing czar John Brennan famously organized terror Tuesday meetings at the White House where “suspicious” persons were selected for execution by unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV), aka lethal drones, on the basis of flash-card presentations crafted from bribed intelligence, drone video footage and cellphone SIM card data—all of which is circumstantial evidence of the potential for future possible crimes. Brennan recently included libertarians among what he warned is an “unholy alliance” of “domestic extremists” in the wake of the January 6, 2021, protest at the U.S. Capitol. What happens next?

One certainly hopes that educated people are aware that Brennan’s inclusion of libertarians among his list of potentially dangerous domestic enemies betrays his utter ignorance of the very meaning of the word ‘libertarian.’ The non-aggression principle (NAP) embraced by libertarians precludes not only wars of aggression but also individual acts of terrorism. Sadly, it has become abundantly clear that the people still watching television news continue to accept and freely parrot what the mass media networks pump out despite their clearly propagandistic bias in recent years. Accustomed to heeding the prescriptions of “the experts,” people blithely listen to Brennan (and those of his ilk) despite his manifest record of duplicity regarding the drone killing campaigns, and his histrionic, even hysterical, comportment during the three-year Russiagate hunt for a Putin-Trump connection.

Neoliberal and neoconservative powerbrokers naturally wish to quash alternative viewpoints, so perhaps no one should be surprised that Brennan has attempted to discredit libertarians. After all, they pose disturbing questions such as whether all of the mass homicide carried out in the name of the nation actually helps anyone, including those paying for the carnage, or rather harms everyone, with the notable exception of those who stand to profit financially or politically from the wars. What Brennan revealed by lumping libertarians together with “domestic terrorists” is that he is not so much concerned with violent threats to the nation but with dissent from the political and warmaking authorities, a tendency which is becoming more and more marked as the Democratic-controlled Congress attempts to force Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter to “do more” to prevent the dissemination of so-called disinformation. By denouncing some of the most articulate, consistent and persistent opponents to the war machine as “dangerous,” Brennan made it more difficult than it already was for those voices to be heard much less heeded.

The current complacency of people toward U.S. foreign policy is nothing new. Contemporaneously, people any- and everywhere tend to go along to get along, whether or not they are convinced that the policies imposed upon them and their fellow citizens make any sense. In 1930s Germany, anti-semitism was real, but part of the reason for the efficacy of the nationalist fervor drummed up by Adolf Hitler and used to support his quest for total global domination was the dire economic situation following the loss of World War I. Germany was weak and its people hungry. These conditions made it easier than usual to persuade people to comply, in the hope that their lives would be improved by banding together against what was denounced at the time as the evil enemy.

This perennial Manichean trope of political propaganda has most recently emerged in the abject, overt, hatred by about half of the people of the United States of anyone having anything whatsoever to do with Donald Trump. “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” or TDS, is a genuine phenomenon, at least judging by the comportment of people online and sometimes in person as well. As bizarre as this may seem, people actually hate people who do not hate Donald Trump, having failed to understand that contradictions and contraries are not one and the same. It is entirely possible to not hate Trump while also not loving him, but attempting to elucidate this false dichotomy to anyone who spent the last four years of his life wishing fervently for the former president’s demise will be met with an even more strident repetition of the very dichotomy being debunked. Again, if you happen to believe that the post-presidential impeachment trial was a waste of time and taxpayer money, then you must, according to the anti-Trump mob, love the former president. Even more remarkably, somehow over the course of the past four years a large swath of people have come to believe that seething hatred is a moral virtue, so long as it is directed at appropriate objects of loathing. But the capacity to hate one’s fellow human beings reveals absolutely nothing about the hater beyond his or her ability to hate. It certainly does not mean that they are good by contrast, and it is no mean feat of self-deception to come to believe that because one hates Donald Trump, this alone suffices to establish one’s moral superiority over all of the people who do not.

Once people become convinced of their own moral righteousness in the battle against whoever has been designated the evil and benighted (deplorable!) enemy, then it’s only a few short steps from “The end justifies the means” to “Everything is permitted.”  A glaring example has been the more and more prevalent suppression and erasure of so-called disinformation, which of course lies in the eyes of the censors. The necessity of defeating “the enemy” became the basis for such curious developments as the refusal of any of the mass media networks to investigate the pay-for-play connections suggested by the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop made public during the 2020 presidential election cycle. Immediately following election day, when some people pointed out anomalies such as the appearance of vertical lines in the graphs of vote tallies in the middle of the night in multiple states—indicating the sudden addition of troves of votes none of which were for Trump—the mass media immediately, in concert, issued headlines everywhere proclaiming that any and all charges of electoral fraud were “baseless”. The point here is not that the charges were not baseless, which perhaps they were in some cases—those explained away by local election authorities as clerical errors. But no one could know that allegations of electoral fraud were baseless before the matters were investigated.

The slippery slope of censorship is difficult to resist, having taken the first step onto that totalitarian-veering path, and the removal from social media of thousands of conservative and right-wing accounts regarded as sympathetic with Trump and his gallery of rogues is simply not enough, according to Democratic Party elites. Despite having already propagandized much of the mainstream media (as was evident in the election and post-election coverage), the Democrats, giddy with their majority Blue-Blue-Blue capture of Washington now wish to exert total control over what people may say, write and read. This is of course a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, but by achieving their goal through the indirect manipulation of private companies, which are subject to federal regulation and therefore receptive to “innuendos” on the part of legislators, they are hoping that no one will notice what has transpired—at least not before it is too late to do anything about it.

After Trump’s acquittal in the second Senate impeachment trial, the news coverage claiming that he had incited “insurrection” at the Capitol continued on, as though the facts had already been established and the outcome of the trial was entirely irrelevant. These Associated Press (AP) excerpts are typical:

“The only president to be impeached twice has once again evaded consequences…” (February 13, 2021)

“After [Trump] incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month…” (February 14, 2021)

One might with reason wonder whether the wrongness of questioning the outcome of an election does not imply the wrongness of questioning the outcome of a trial. Of course both are perfectly permissible in a society which champions freedom of speech. What this political control of the news reveals is a republic in crisis, for if even supposedly objective news outlets such as the Associated Press reject the outcome of processes intended to ascertain the truth, then the people have no way of being able to determine what actually transpired. Similar examples of journalistic léger-de-main abound in every area of importance to neoliberals, above all, in matters of war, and the mainstream media’s refusal even to discuss the plight of Julian Assange is a case in point. Assange made public evidence of war crimes committed by the U.S. government but is now being persecuted as though he were a murderer. So pathological has the mainstream press become that the only times they were able to bring themselves to praise Trump was when he ordered military strikes on the people of the Middle East.

The tech outlets have now also decided to censor alleged disinformation about the experimental mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, conflating the criticisms of persons opposed to all vaccines (the antivaxxers) with those of persons who have read the spec sheets, are aware of the data on disease prognosis, and find that the risk of possible, as-of-yet unknown, longterm side effects are not outweighed by the alleged benefits of the novel technology (which, it is worth pointing out, never made it past the animal trials when it was tested in the past). Those who express concern about the Procrustean lockdowns have also been subjected to suppression of their speech. The Facebook page for the Great Barrington Declaration was taken down by censors, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense organization has also been deplatformed. But the criticisms offered by these groups are grounded in scientific literature. Indeed, the authors of the Barrington Decree are in fact epidemiologists and public health scientists, yet they are summarily dismissed as quacks because they disagree with the Fauci-Gates program.

What the vast majority of people want is for the current abnormal situation to be stabilized. If that means embracing what the powers that be are calling “the new normal,” then so be it. Anyone who stands in the way of the needed changes—those who refuse to volunteer as unpaid subjects in the largest experimental trial of a novel medical device in history—are summarily denounced in the usual terms: selfish, deplorable, ignorant, inbred, racist, nutjobs, etc. It does not matter in the least whether any of the epithets are true. They are deployed indiscriminately against anyone who disagrees by the self-styled morally superior types who shill for the reigning political and corporate elites—often also for free.

The present circumstances offer the necessary prerequisites to totalitarianism. We would do well to heed the historical record and look closely at how Nazism and Stalinism became dominant outlooks for entire populations, despite the fact that large numbers of people were destroyed by them. The total control of the mainstream media, with a specific agenda being promoted, all alternatives suppressed and the extreme polarization of citizens under Manichean false dichotomies are everywhere on display. What’s more, in these COVIDystopic times, we are witnessing people struggling under the same economic hardships as were the people of 1930s Germany. What is worse, after a full year of nonstop television coverage of death tolls, with nearly no effort by any mainstream pundits to place the tallies into proper context and consider how many people were dying everyday before COVID-19 arrived on the scene, many citizens are understandably afraid.

Fear always brings out the worst in groups of people, who may team up against what they all decry as the evil enemy. But fear, hatred and self-deception conjoined produce a toxic soup, and we need not search the annals of the first half of the twentieth century to find evidence of this. Post-9/11, violent crimes against Muslim people (and other brown-skinned persons sometimes mistaken for “Arabs”) were on the rise. We are currently on a trajectory leading to a place where those who read the spec sheets for the “free” vaccines and then, based on that information, decline to roll up their sleeves, will be denigrated as criminals. The divisions being concretized between those healthy, robust people who agree to COVID-19 vaccination and those who demur are being strengthened by virtue-signaling campaigns making everyone who gets the vaccine believe, again, amazingly enough, that they are morally superior to those who do not. Even Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has come out publicly to denounce those who decline to participate in the experimental vaccine trials as “selfish.”

Technocrats the world over have been warning since at least April 2020 that the only way out of our current predicament will be to issue “vaccine passports” through which the healthy can be distinguished from the unhealthy. However, even if the first and second round of vaccines together work to prevent transmission and infection—which has yet to be established—those who have received them will not be protected from the new variants, and will need to submit to a third round of so-called booster shots, which in another six months will likely “require” a fourth booster, and so on. All of this would seem to imply that the “vaccine passports” being floated by government and corporate leaders will in no way ensure that the persons carrying them are not going to contract or transmit the latest variants of the virus. So what do they really mean?

The idea that those who have accepted COVID-19 vaccines are “fit to fly,” and to work and to socialize, or even to go outside, rests on a truly Orwellian redefinition of “healthy” as “vaccinated,” even as scientists continue to warn that the virus has already transformed enough to check the already questionable efficacy of the current crop of vaccines. Those who support the implementation of vaccine passports are fond of pointing out that people traveling to Africa are required first to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever. But COVID-19 is nothing like Yellow Fever, which kills half of the people it infects. The vast majority of persons do not need to introduce foreign substances into their body in order to survive COVID-19. Because the vaccines appear to mitigate serious symptoms and increase the odds of survival among vulnerable persons, they should of course be offered the option of vaccination, but it must remain their choice, since they alone will bear the brunt of any untoward side effects, which invariably arise in a small portion of the population with every vaccine.

In the Nuremburg trials, nonconsensual human experimentation was decried and judged to be a crime against humanity. But extortion, too, is a form of coercion and we should not be fooled by the latest Newspeak press releases in which “authorities” attempt both to cajole and to threaten us for defying their will. Former UK Prime Minister (and confirmed war criminal) Tony Blair has determined that vaccine passports will be our ticket to freedom. This is a shocking pronouncement because our freedom is not his or anyone else’s to withhold from us, least of all when our own person and body are at stake. It’s as though we are currently inhabiting an episode of Black Mirror (Netflix), where the dark heart of pharma-technocratic rule is working to bend us to its will, using compliant citoyens as its unwitting tools. Peer pressure, shaming, bribes and threats are nothing new, but in this case the consequences could not be more personal.

History clearly demonstrates that one repressive measure leads to another, and totalitarianism creeps in step by step, unnoticed until it is too late. From the suppression of speech to the lockdown and quarantine of healthy people to coercing or extorting them to participate in experimental trials—none of this bodes well for the future of freedom. The fight to retain what are our rights—to speech, liberty, privacy, and the pursuit of happiness—and above all to not be treated as the possessions of government-funded corporations, must be defended while this is still possible. When a system is sufficiently infiltrated at every stratum by fanatics convinced of their own moral superiority and monopoly on the truth, then totalitarianism is near. It happened in Nazi Germany and it happened in Stalin’s Soviet Union. We are moving perilously close to that nightmarish reality right here and now as people redefine basic terms such as ‘sickness’ and ‘health’ and insist on exerting total control over information flow.

Unherd: Former UK Supreme Court Justice Says Lockdown Civil Disobedience Has Begun

Unherd has an interview with former justice of the Supreme Court of the UK Lord Sumption in which Lord Sumption criticizes the Covid lockdowns and discusses civil disobedience, the ethics of law breaking, and dangers to liberties. Lord Sumption warns that society tends to revert to absolute state control in times of crisis and that the effect of such is “sinister.”

Jonathan Sumption was once the epitome of the Establishment — a brilliant barrister who represented the Government in the Hutton enquiry, Supreme Court Justice, supporter of the Remain campaign and esteemed historian of the Hundred Years’ War. But then Covid happened.

Over the past year, his unabashed criticism of lockdown policies has turned him into something of a renegade. It is a development that mystifies him; as he sees it, his views have always been mainstream liberal, and it is the world around that has changed.

In the course of our conversation, the retired judge doesn’t hold back. He asserts that it is becoming morally acceptable to ignore Covid regulations, and even warns that a campaign of “civil disobedience” has already begun.

You can read what he really thinks below. And watch our interaction on Lockdown TV — it was a fascinating conversation.

 

Podcast version:
On civil disobedience:

“Sometimes the most public spirited thing that you can do with despotic laws like these is to ignore them. I think that if the government persists long enough with locking people down, depending on the severity of the lockdown, civil disobedience is likely to be the result. It will be discrete civil disobedience in the classic English way — I don’t think that we are likely to go onto the streets waving banners. I think we will just calmly decide that we are not going to pay any attention to this. There are some things you have to pay attention to: you can’t go to a shop if it’s closed. On the other hand, you can invite friends round for a drink, whatever Mr Hancock says. People are doing that to some extent already.

“Everyone will have their own different threshold. But I think that in the eyes of many people who disapprove of the lockdown, and some people who approve of it, we’ve reached that point quite a long time ago.”

On the ethics of law-breaking:

“I feel sad that we have the kind of laws which public-spirited people may need to break. I have always taken a line on this, which is probably different from that of most of my former colleagues. I do not believe that there is a moral obligation to obey the law… You have to have a high degree of respect, both for the object that the law is trying to achieve, and for the way that it’s been achieved. Some laws invite breach. I think this is one of them.”

On sacrificing civil liberties:

“[Thomas] Hobbes believed in the absolute state — it didn’t have to be a monarchy, but it had to be absolute. He said that there was nothing short of the state actually killing people that the state should not be entitled to do. He was not, let us say, a believer in liberty. This is because of his experience of the anarchy which flowed from the civil war in England. Hobbes believed that we resign our freedoms unconditionally and permanently into the hands of the state, in return for security. Now, this is a model which ever since the rise of a recognisable form of modern Liberalism in the middle of the 19th century, has been almost universally rejected. But we have tended to revert to it during the current crisis. And I think that that is a very striking and very sinister development.

On the dangers of public fear:

“John Stuart Mill regarded public sentiment and public fear as the principal threat to a liberal democracy. The tendency would be for it to influence policies in a way that whittles away the island within which we are entitled to control our lives to next to nothing. That’s what he regarded as the big danger. It didn’t happen in his own lifetime; it has happened in many countries in the 20th century, and it’s happening in Britain now.”

On the fragility of democracy:

“Democracy is inherently fragile. We have an idea that it’s a very robust system. But democracies have existed for about 150 years. In this country, I think you could say that they existed from the second half of the of the 19th century — they are not the norm. Democracies were regarded in ancient times as inherently self-destructive ways of government. Because, said Aristotle, democracies naturally turn themselves into tyranny. Because the populace will always be a sucker for a demagogue who will turn himself into an absolute ruler…

“Now, it is quite remarkable that Aristotle’s gloomy predictions about the fate of democracies have been falsified by the experience of the West ever since the beginning of democracy. And I think one needs to ask why that is. In my view, the reason is this: Aristotle was basically right about the tendencies, but we have managed to avoid it by a shared political culture of restraint. And this culture of restraint, which because it depends on the collective mentality of our societies, is extremely fragile, quite easy to destroy and extremely difficult to recreate.”

On being a liberal:

“I regard myself as a liberal with a small L. Until the Covid outbreak, that was a very middle of the road position to be in. Since the outbreak, it’s become controversial, even in some people’s minds extreme. This is, I think, some indication of how far our national conversation has moved.”

On what the Government should learn:

My first proposal is that governments should not treat information as a tool for manipulating public behaviour. They should be calmer than the majority of their citizens; they should be completely objective. My second lesson would be that governments dealing with scientific issues should not allow themselves to be influenced by a single caucus of scientists. They should always test what they are being told in a way that, for instance, judges test expert opinion by producing a counter expert, and working out which set of views stacks up best.”

On his critics:

“I would very much have preferred the kind of points that I have been consistently making for the last year to have been made by just about anybody else. Those colleagues or former colleagues who disapprove of what I’ve been doing have got a perfectly good point. But there are some issues which are so central to the dilemmas of our time, which are so important, where I think that you have to be prepared to stand up and be counted.

The American Mind: What Is “Our” Democracy?

Seth Barron at The American Mind writes about a phrase that is being used increasingly frequently as of late in What Is “Our” Democracy?

When the Left claims something is theirs, they mean it.

A curious turn of phrase has slipped into discourse over the last few years. References to “our democracy” turn up all the time lately, and even though a computer search shows that the phrase has popped up now and then since at least the 1920s, its usage has increased a lot recently.

It’s something that many people probably haven’t noticed, and it’s certainly innocuous enough. “Our democracy” hardly seems fraught with controversy. After all, we all have a stake in the political system, and it sounds like a nice way to describe the republic—the “common thing”—we share.

On the other hand, it’s striking to notice who uses the phrase. It is said, almost exclusively, by Democrats. Reflecting on the January 6 riot in The Atlantic, Rep. Ilhan Omar wrote, “As I sat in my Capitol Hill office two weeks ago, watching a violent mob storm the symbol and seat of our democracy, I was reminded of my distant past.”

Omar, of course, was born and grew up in Somalia, and she is comparing the raucous events in Washington that afternoon to a full-scale civil war that killed half a million people, and displaced a million more, over the course of a decade. This hyperbole may just be rhetorical license, but it’s notable that she repeats “our democracy” six times in one short essay. She concludes, “Violent clashes and threats to our democracy are bound to repeat if we do not address the structural inequities underlying them.”

The phrase gained contemporary traction around the time of the 2016 presidential election, when the Hillary Clinton campaign laid the groundwork for contesting Trump’s victory by insisting that Russian meddling with the electoral system had compromised the integrity of the vote. President Obama, in his January 11 “farewell speech,” cautioned his anxious followers, “It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy.”

The idea that “our democracy” had been hijacked by foreign elements on behalf of their stooge and puppet Donald Trump animated the so-called “Resistance,” which set about undermining Trump’s presidency even before the election. Appeals to protect and defend “our democracy” from the threat of authoritarian, autocratic rule led to years of protest and fury, dominated media coverage, and resulted in legislative paralysis as the government submitted to a lengthy investigation into Trump’s alleged collusion with a plot that turned out never to have existed.

So after all that grousing, it’s hard to hear the words “our democracy” without noticing the stress on the possessive. Democrats seem not to be so worried about American democracy in general so much as their version of it, which is centered around an agenda of “equity”—meaning careful allocation of all society’s plums to favored demographic categories—open borders, the erasure of sex differences, and a globalized economy that subsidizes subsistence-level handouts for the dispossessed.

Consider a recent article in Time magazine that explains how a “shadow campaign saved the 2020 election.” According to the major piece, which was written with the cooperation of the organizers of the shadow campaign, “a loosely organized coalition of operatives scrambled to shore up America’s institutions as they came under simultaneous attack from a remorseless pandemic and an autocratically inclined President.” These plotters, according to reporter Molly Ball, included corporate executives, “non-partisan” civil society groups like Protect Democracy, and Norm Eisen, the former Obama administration official who umpired the first Trump impeachment.

Ball writes,

That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream–a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information. They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying it. And they believe the public needs to understand the system’s fragility in order to ensure that democracy in America endures.

“Democracy,” in this sense, where a handful of extremely wealthy and powerful insiders “change rules and laws,” and “control the flow of information,” may not resemble the democracy that you learned about in civics class but is a term of art reflecting uniparty control from above. “Democracy” is a system owned by the people who run the country’s major institutions—it’s not a playground for outsiders.

When we hear “our democracy,” then, we should hear it as a description of possession. They aren’t saying that it belongs to all of us. It is theirs, and they will do anything they can to defend it.

Imprimis: Who Is in Control? The Need to Rein in Big Tech

The following is adapted from a speech delivered by Allum Bokhari, senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News, at Hillsdale College on November 8, 2020, during a Center for Constructive Alternatives conference on Big Tech. Who Is in Control? The Need to Rein in Big Tech

In January, when every major Silicon Valley tech company permanently banned the President of the United States from its platform, there was a backlash around the world. One after another, government and party leaders—many of them ideologically opposed to the policies of President Trump—raised their voices against the power and arrogance of the American tech giants. These included the President of Mexico, the Chancellor of Germany, the government of Poland, ministers in the French and Australian governments, the neoliberal center-right bloc in the European Parliament, the national populist bloc in the European Parliament, the leader of the Russian opposition (who recently survived an assassination attempt), and the Russian government (which may well have been behind that attempt).

Common threats create strange bedfellows. Socialists, conservatives, nationalists, neoliberals, autocrats, and anti-autocrats may not agree on much, but they all recognize that the tech giants have accumulated far too much power. None like the idea that a pack of American hipsters in Silicon Valley can, at any moment, cut off their digital lines of communication.

I published a book on this topic prior to the November election, and many who called me alarmist then are not so sure of that now. I built the book on interviews with Silicon Valley insiders and five years of reporting as a Breitbart News tech correspondent. Breitbart created a dedicated tech reporting team in 2015—a time when few recognized the danger that the rising tide of left-wing hostility to free speech would pose to the vision of the World Wide Web as a free and open platform for all viewpoints.

This inversion of that early libertarian ideal—the movement from the freedom of information to the control of information on the Web—has been the story of the past five years.

***

When the Web was created in the 1990s, the goal was that everyone who wanted a voice could have one. All a person had to do to access the global marketplace of ideas was to go online and set up a website. Once created, the website belonged to that person. Especially if the person owned his own server, no one could deplatform him. That was by design, because the Web, when it was invented, was competing with other types of online services that were not so free and open.

It is important to remember that the Web, as we know it today—a network of websites accessed through browsers—was not the first online service ever created. In the 1990s, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee invented the technology that underpins websites and web browsers, creating the Web as we know it today. But there were other online services, some of which predated Berners-Lee’s invention. Corporations like CompuServe and Prodigy ran their own online networks in the 1990s—networks that were separate from the Web and had access points that were different from web browsers. These privately-owned networks were open to the public, but CompuServe and Prodigy owned every bit of information on them and could kick people off their networks for any reason.

In these ways the Web was different. No one owned it, owned the information on it, or could kick anyone off. That was the idea, at least, before the Web was captured by a handful of corporations.

We all know their names: Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon. Like Prodigy and CompuServe back in the ’90s, they own everything on their platforms, and they have the police power over what can be said and who can participate. But it matters a lot more today than it did in the ’90s. Back then, very few people used online services. Today everyone uses them—it is practically impossible not to use them. Businesses depend on them. News publishers depend on them. Politicians and political activists depend on them. And crucially, citizens depend on them for information.

Today, Big Tech doesn’t just mean control over online information. It means control over news. It means control over commerce. It means control over politics. And how are the corporate tech giants using their control? Judging by the three biggest moves they have made since I wrote my book—the censoring of the New York Post in October when it published its blockbuster stories on Biden family corruption, the censorship and eventual banning from the Web of President Trump, and the coordinated takedown of the upstart social media site Parler—it is obvious that Big Tech’s priority today is to support the political Left and the Washington establishment.

Big Tech has become the most powerful election-influencing machine in American history. It is not an exaggeration to say that if the technologies of Silicon Valley are allowed to develop to their fullest extent, without any oversight or checks and balances, then we will never have another free and fair election. But the power of Big Tech goes beyond the manipulation of political behavior. As one of my Facebook sources told me in an interview for my book: “We have thousands of people on the platform who have gone from far right to center in the past year, so we can build a model from those people and try to make everyone else on the right follow the same path.” Let that sink in. They don’t just want to control information or even voting behavior—they want to manipulate people’s worldview.

Is it too much to say that Big Tech has prioritized this kind of manipulation? Consider that Twitter is currently facing a lawsuit from a victim of child sexual abuse who says that the company repeatedly failed to take down a video depicting his assault, and that it eventually agreed to do so only after the intervention of an agent from the Department of Homeland Security. So Twitter will take it upon itself to ban the President of the United States, but is alleged to have taken down child pornography only after being prodded by federal law enforcement.

***

How does Big Tech go about manipulating our thoughts and behavior? It begins with the fact that these tech companies strive to know everything about us—our likes and dislikes, the issues we’re interested in, the websites we visit, the videos we watch, who we voted for, and our party affiliation. If you search for a Hannukah recipe, they’ll know you’re likely Jewish. If you’re running down the Yankees, they’ll figure out if you’re a Red Sox fan. Even if your smart phone is turned off, they’ll track your location. They know who you work for, who your friends are, when you’re walking your dog, whether you go to church, when you’re standing in line to vote, and on and on.

As I already mentioned, Big Tech also monitors how our beliefs and behaviors change over time. They identify the types of content that can change our beliefs and behavior, and they put that knowledge to use. They’ve done this openly for a long time to manipulate consumer behavior—to get us to click on certain ads or buy certain products. Anyone who has used these platforms for an extended period of time has no doubt encountered the creepy phenomenon where you’re searching for information about a product or a service—say, a microwave—and then minutes later advertisements for microwaves start appearing on your screen. These same techniques can be used to manipulate political opinions.

I mentioned that Big Tech has recently demonstrated ideological bias. But it is equally true that these companies have huge economic interests at stake in politics. The party that holds power will determine whether they are going to get government contracts, whether they’re going to get tax breaks, and whether and how their industry will be regulated. Clearly, they have a commercial interest in political control—and currently no one is preventing them from exerting it.

To understand how effective Big Tech’s manipulation could become, consider the feedback loop.

As Big Tech constantly collects data about us, they run tests to see what information has an impact on us. Let’s say they put a negative news story about someone or something in front of us, and we don’t click on it or read it. They keep at it until they find content that has the desired effect. The feedback loop constantly improves, and it does so in a way that’s undetectable.

What determines what appears at the top of a person’s Facebook feed, Twitter feed, or Google search results? Does it appear there because it’s popular or because it’s gone viral? Is it there because it’s what you’re interested in? Or is there another reason Big Tech wants it to be there? Is it there because Big Tech has gathered data that suggests it’s likely to nudge your thinking or your behavior in a certain direction? How can we know?

What we do know is that Big Tech openly manipulates the content people see. We know, for example, that Google reduced the visibility of Breitbart News links in search results by 99 percent in 2020 compared to the same period in 2016. We know that after Google introduced an update last summer, clicks on Breitbart News stories from Google searches for “Joe Biden” went to zero and stayed at zero through the election. This didn’t happen gradually, but in one fell swoop—as if Google flipped a switch. And this was discoverable through the use of Google’s own traffic analysis tools, so it isn’t as if Google cared that we knew about it.

Speaking of flipping switches, I have noted that President Trump was collectively banned by Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and every other social media platform you can think of. But even before that, there was manipulation going on. Twitter, for instance, reduced engagement on the President’s tweets by over eighty percent. Facebook deleted posts by the President for spreading so-called disinformation.

But even more troubling, I think, are the invisible things these companies do. Consider “quality ratings.” Every Big Tech platform has some version of this, though some of them use different names. The quality rating is what determines what appears at the top of your search results, or your Twitter or Facebook feed, etc. It’s a numerical value based on what Big Tech’s algorithms determine in terms of “quality.” In the past, this score was determined by criteria that were somewhat objective: if a website or post contained viruses, malware, spam, or copyrighted material, that would negatively impact its quality score. If a video or post was gaining in popularity, the quality score would increase. Fair enough.

Over the past several years, however—and one can trace the beginning of the change to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016—Big Tech has introduced all sorts of new criteria into the mix that determines quality scores. Today, the algorithms on Google and Facebook have been trained to detect “hate speech,” “misinformation,” and “authoritative” (as opposed to “non-authoritative”) sources. Algorithms analyze a user’s network, so that whatever users follow on social media—e.g., “non-authoritative” news outlets—affects the user’s quality score. Algorithms also detect the use of language frowned on by Big Tech—e.g., “illegal immigrant” (bad) in place of “undocumented immigrant” (good)—and adjust quality scores accordingly. And so on.

This is not to say that you are informed of this or that you can look up your quality score. All of this happens invisibly. It is Silicon Valley’s version of the social credit system overseen by the Chinese Communist Party. As in China, if you defy the values of the ruling elite or challenge narratives that the elite labels “authoritative,” your score will be reduced and your voice suppressed. And it will happen silently, without your knowledge.

This technology is even scarier when combined with Big Tech’s ability to detect and monitor entire networks of people. A field of computer science called “network analysis” is dedicated to identifying groups of people with shared interests, who read similar websites, who talk about similar things, who have similar habits, who follow similar people on social media, and who share similar political viewpoints. Big Tech companies are able to detect when particular information is flowing through a particular network—if there’s a news story or a post or a video, for instance, that’s going viral among conservatives or among voters as a whole. This gives them the ability to shut down a story they don’t like before it gets out of hand. And these systems are growing more sophisticated all the time.

***

If Big Tech’s capabilities are allowed to develop unchecked and unregulated, these companies will eventually have the power not only to suppress existing political movements, but to anticipate and prevent the emergence of new ones. This would mean the end of democracy as we know it, because it would place us forever under the thumb of an unaccountable oligarchy.

The good news is, there is a way to rein in the tyrannical tech giants. And the way is simple: take away their power to filter information and filter data on our behalf.

All of Big Tech’s power comes from their content filters—the filters on “hate speech,” the filters on “misinformation,” the filters that distinguish “authoritative” from “non-authoritative” sources, etc. Right now these filters are switched on by default. We as individuals can’t turn them off. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The most important demand we can make of lawmakers and regulators is that Big Tech be forbidden from activating these filters without our knowledge and consent. They should be prohibited from doing this—and even from nudging us to turn on a filter—under penalty of losing their Section 230 immunity as publishers of third party content. This policy should be strictly enforced, and it should extend even to seemingly non-political filters like relevance and popularity. Anything less opens the door to manipulation.

Our ultimate goal should be a marketplace in which third party companies would be free to design filters that could be plugged into services like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube. In other words, we would have two separate categories of companies: those that host content and those that create filters to sort through that content. In a marketplace like that, users would have the maximum level of choice in determining their online experiences. At the same time, Big Tech would lose its power to manipulate our thoughts and behavior and to ban legal content—which is just a more extreme form of filtering—from the Web.

This should be the standard we demand, and it should be industry-wide. The alternative is a kind of digital serfdom. We don’t allow old-fashioned serfdom anymore—individuals and businesses have due process and can’t be evicted because their landlord doesn’t like their politics. Why shouldn’t we also have these rights if our business or livelihood depends on a Facebook page or a Twitter or YouTube account?

This is an issue that goes beyond partisanship. What the tech giants are doing is so transparently unjust that all Americans should start caring about it—because under the current arrangement, we are all at their mercy. The World Wide Web was meant to liberate us. It is now doing the opposite. Big Tech is increasingly in control. The most pressing question today is: how are we going to take control back? 

RealClear Politics: The Gaslighting of the American Mind

From J. Peder Zane at RealClear Politics, The Gaslighting of the American Mind

Democrats are the party of make believe.

Through their domination of the media, academia, Hollywood, and growing swaths of corporate America, they successfully peddle propaganda as reality. They insisted President Trump was a dictator and a treasonous ally of Vladimir Putin who refused to denounce white supremacy. They dismissed questions about the business dealings of President Biden’s family as “Russian disinformation” that had been “totally discredited.”

When investigations and fact checks revealed those claims to be false, they just kept on repeating them. Tell a lie long and loud enough and many accept it as truth.

Having secured the White House and control of the Senate in the last election, Democrats and their allies are adding a strong dose of intimidation to their campaign of deceit. They are using social media to silence dissent from their views while creating blacklists to make it difficult for their opponents to find gainful employment. In a sign of how far gone they are, many journalists at influential outfits are now questioning the wisdom of the First Amendment and calling for government regulation of speech.

As cancel culture spreads, they gaslight the public by denying that it is happening. At the same time they argue that Republicans must be silenced and even “deprogrammed” because they are delusional liars. To conservative ears, the national discourse often boils down to this: Are you going to believe us or your lying eyes?

The caricature of conservatives certainly describes some people on the right. Sen. Mitch McConnell has spoken out against his party’s lunatic fringe. But there is little evidence they enjoy meaningful support. The Jan. 6 criminal assault on the Capitol was a disgrace, but it was also widely condemned by Republicans – a stark contrast to Democrats who have largely ignored or even celebrated the repeated violence perpetrated by antifa. Casting that action as an attempted coup – pretending the mob could have gained control of the government – is deceitful propaganda aimed at smearing 74 million Trump voters.

U.S. history is full of examples of movements that many Americans considered dangerous. Usually these were progressives who fought for unions, and marched for civil rights, and demanded an end to foreign wars. Most people see those causes as worthy, even though communists were interspersed among the activists’ ranks. We also now see that the suppression they provoked was shameful. As future Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis noted in 1913, sunlight is “the best of disinfectants”; the way to defeat dangerous ideas and behaviors is to expose them to reason.

This is a foundation of our pluralistic democracy.

History reveals two main reasons why factions seek to limit speech: first, because it is an effective means to quash dissent and second because they won’t or can’t defend their own ideas. Today’s Democrats and their allies are driven by both rationales. Their control of most communication channels has empowered them to spread narratives that delegitimize their opponents by caricaturing them as racist conspiracy theorists.

It may be impossible to change the minds of those who embrace the accuracy of that portrayal, but it is worth asking: If your view is true, why advance so many mistruths to support it? For Democrats this propaganda coup is a twofer: As it marginalizes Republicans, it keeps the focus off the ramifications of their own ideas and politics. Their argument boils down to this: Let us do what we want because otherwise those Neanderthals will be in charge. This strategy is increasingly essential for Democrats as they advance leftist ideas that are hard to support through fact-based metrics – i.e. reality instead of ideology.

Democrats are the party of activist government. Their core progressive idea – the plinth course of their Great Society programs – is that the combination of vast federal resources and elite expertise can solve most of society’s problems. There have been some successes – credit progressives and libertarians for helping advance the rights of marginalized groups. But the last half-century has also seen the breakdown of the nuclear family, continuing hopelessness and blight in many cities, and the failure of public schools to raise educational achievement despite massive increases in per pupil spending.

While many African Americans have entered the middle class since the 1960s, blacks still lag behind other Americans in a wide variety of measures of health and wealth despite massive government interventions. The reasons for these failures are myriad and complex. The rise of a competitive global economy, for example, has gutted manufacturing jobs and depressed low-skill wages.

But the bottom line is that many progressive programs have not delivered on their promise of prosperity and opportunity for many of the groups they specifically aimed to help.

This is a particular problem for Democrats because African Americans remain their core voting base. The demonstrable shortcomings of their efforts help explain why they have embraced the concept of systemic racism and sound their incessant alarms about white supremacy despite America’s significant progress toward social justice. The message: Our programs would have worked but for rampant racism.

Unable to change the facts, they work to alter the definition of reality. President Biden codified this make-believe style of government on his first day in office when he signed the Modernizing Regulatory Review memorandum. As the government seeks justifications for new controls on society, it directed agencies to “fully account … for regulatory benefits that are difficult or impossible to quantify.”

Difficult or impossible to quantify? Translation: make ’em up. This is just the latest, frightening evidence that the party that claims to embrace science, facts and truth is driven by ideology. When you’re running a make-believe society, it’s no wonder you have to silence dissent.

Rutherford Institute: The Deep State’s Stealthy, Subversive, Silent Coup to Ensure Nothing Changes

Constitutional law attorney John Whitehead writes about DC corruption in The Deep State’s Stealthy, Subversive, Silent Coup to Ensure Nothing Changes

“You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country…why in the name of God don’t you have any faith in the system of government you’re so hell-bent to protect? You want to defend the United States of America, then defend it with the tools it supplies you with—its Constitution. You ask for a mandate, General, from a ballot box. You don’t steal it after midnight, when the country has its back turned.”—Seven Days in May (1964)

No doubt about it: the coup d’etat was successful.

That January 6 attempt by so-called insurrectionists to overturn the election results was not the real coup, however. Those who answered President Trump’s call to march on the Capitol were merely the fall guys, manipulated into creating the perfect crisis for the Deep State—a.k.a. the Police State a.k.a. the Military Industrial Complex a.k.a. the Techno-Corporate State a.k.a. the Surveillance State—to swoop in and take control.

It took no time at all for the switch to be thrown and the nation’s capital to be placed under a military lockdown, online speech forums restricted, and individuals with subversive or controversial viewpoints ferreted out, investigated, shamed and/or shunned.

This new order didn’t emerge into being this week, or this month, or even this year, however.

Indeed, the real coup happened when our government “of the people, by the people, for the people” was overthrown by a profit-driven, militaristic, techno-corporate state that is in cahoots with a government “of the rich, by the elite, for the corporations.”

We’ve been mired in this swamp for decades now.

Every successive president starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt has been bought lock, stock and barrel and made to dance to the Deep State’s tune.

Enter Donald Trump, the candidate who swore to drain the swamp in Washington DC. Instead of putting an end to the corruption, however, Trump paved the way for lobbyists, corporations, the military industrial complex, and the Deep State to feast on the carcass of the dying American republic.

Joe Biden will be no different: his job is to keep the Deep State in power.

Step away from the cult of personality politics and you’ll find that beneath the power suits, they’re all alike.

Follow the money.  It always points the way.

As Bertram Gross noted in Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America, “evil now wears a friendlier face than ever before in American history.”

Writing in 1980, Gross predicted a future in which he saw:

…a new despotism creeping slowly across America. Faceless oligarchs sit at command posts of a corporate-government complex that has been slowly evolving over many decades. In efforts to enlarge their own powers and privileges, they are willing to have others suffer the intended or unintended consequences of their institutional or personal greed. For Americans, these consequences include chronic inflation, recurring recession, open and hidden unemployment, the poisoning of air, water, soil and bodies, and, more important, the subversion of our constitution. More broadly, consequences include widespread intervention in international politics through economic manipulation, covert action, or military invasion

This stealthy, creeping, silent coup that Gross prophesied is the same danger that writer Rod Serling envisioned in the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May, a clear warning to beware of martial law packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security.

Incredibly enough, almost 60 years later, we find ourselves hostages to a government run more by military doctrine and corporate greed than by the rule of law established in the Constitution. Indeed, proving once again that fact and fiction are not dissimilar, today’s current events could well have been lifted straight out of Seven Days in May, which takes viewers into eerily familiar terrain.

The premise is straightforward.

With the Cold War at its height, an unpopular U.S. President signs a momentous nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Believing that the treaty constitutes an unacceptable threat to the security of the United States and certain that he knows what is best for the nation, General James Mattoon Scott (played by Burt Lancaster), the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presidential hopeful, plans a military takeover of the national government.  When Gen. Scott’s aide, Col. Casey (Kirk Douglas), discovers the planned military coup, he goes to the President with the information. The race for command of the U.S. government begins, with the clock ticking off the hours until the military plotters plan to overthrow the President.

Needless to say, while on the big screen, the military coup is foiled and the republic is saved in a matter of hours, in the real world, the plot thickens and spreads out over the past half century.

We’ve been losing our freedoms so incrementally for so long—sold to us in the name of national security and global peace, maintained by way of martial law disguised as law and order, and enforced by a standing army of militarized police and a political elite determined to maintain their powers at all costs—that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it all started going downhill, but we’ve been on that fast-moving, downward trajectory for some time now.

The question is no longer whether the U.S. government will be preyed upon and taken over by the military industrial complex. That’s a done deal, but martial law disguised as national security is only one small part of the greater deception we’ve been fooled into believing is for our own good.

How do you get a nation to docilely accept a police state? How do you persuade a populace to accept metal detectors and pat downs in their schools, bag searches in their train stations, tanks and military weaponry used by their small town police forces, surveillance cameras in their traffic lights, police strip searches on their public roads, unwarranted blood draws at drunk driving checkpoints, whole body scanners in their airports, and government agents monitoring their communications?

Try to ram such a state of affairs down the throats of the populace, and you might find yourself with a rebellion on your hands. Instead, you bombard them with constant color-coded alerts, terrorize them with shootings and bomb threats in malls, schools, and sports arenas, desensitize them with a steady diet of police violence, and sell the whole package to them as being for their best interests.

This present military occupation of the nation’s capital by 25,000 troops as part of the so-called “peaceful” transfer of power from one administration to the next is telling.

This is not the language of a free people. This is the language of force.

Still, you can’t say we weren’t warned.

Back in 2008, an Army War College report revealed that “widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” The 44-page report went on to warn that potential causes for such civil unrest could include another terrorist attack, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

In 2009, reports by the Department of Homeland Security surfaced that labelled right-wing and left-wing activists and military veterans as extremists (a.k.a. terrorists) and called on the government to subject such targeted individuals to full-fledged pre-crime surveillance. Almost a decade later, after spending billions to fight terrorism, the DHS concluded that the greater threat is not ISIS but domestic right-wing extremism.

Meanwhile, the police have been transformed into extensions of the military while the nation itself has been transformed into a battlefield. This is what a state of undeclared martial law looks like, when you can be arrested, tasered, shot, brutalized and in some cases killed merely for not complying with a government agent’s order or not complying fast enough. This hasn’t just been happening in crime-ridden inner cities. It’s been happening all across the country.

And then you’ve got the government, which has been steadily amassing an arsenal of military weapons for use domestically and equipping and training their “troops” for war. Even government agencies with largely administrative functions such as the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Smithsonian have been acquiring body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. In fact, there are now at least 120,000 armed federal agents carrying such weapons who possess the power to arrest.

Rounding out this profit-driven campaign to turn American citizens into enemy combatants (and America into a battlefield) is a technology sector that has been colluding with the government to create a Big Brother that is all-knowing, all-seeing and inescapable. It’s not just the drones, fusion centers, license plate readers, stingray devices and the NSA that you have to worry about. You’re also being tracked by the black boxes in your cars, your cell phone, smart devices in your home, grocery loyalty cards, social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and e-book reader accounts.

So you see, January 6 and its aftermath provided the government and its corporate technocrats the perfect excuse to show off all of the powers they’ve been amassing so assiduously over the years.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats.

I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

I’m referring to the corporatized, militarized, entrenched bureaucracy that is fully operational and staffed by unelected officials who are, in essence, running the country and calling the shots in Washington DC, no matter who sits in the White House.

This is the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedom of its citizenry.

Brace yourself.

There is something being concocted in the dens of power, far beyond the public eye, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of this country.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware.

Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware.

And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are at our most vulnerable right now.

All of those dastardly seeds we have allowed the government to sow under the guise of national security are bearing demon fruit.

The gravest threat facing us as a nation is not extremism but despotism, exercised by a ruling class whose only allegiance is to power and money.

The Federalist: Democrats Are Using The Recent Capitol Riot To Consolidate Power

From The Federalist, Democrats Are Using The Recent Capitol Riot To Consolidate Power

The Capitol Hill riot was an inexcusable, pathetic, and disgraceful display. Its consequences will extend well beyond the bloodshed and property damage inflicted by those who shamefully acceded to the left’s view that force is legitimate means of persuasion — exhibited repeatedly via the left’s normalization of political incitement and violence throughout President Trump’s term in office.

The riot not only overshadowed the corruption that marked the 2020 election and undermined the MAGA movement’s people and principles, but set up Americans of all political stripes for an onslaught on their rights and cherished freedoms. The riot was an accelerant for what was already likely planned under Democrat rule in Washington: crushing dissenters from its leftist orthodoxy as part of an effort to achieve total power by disenfranchising the opposition.

President Trump has personified this dissent, but the effort to delegitimize, de-platform, and ultimately destroy him and anyone around him is merely the opening scene of the “Godfather”-like settling of scores with all who threaten the ruling class’s power and privilege. This effort will directly harm not just the thousands of peaceful patriots who had descended on Washington D.C., and their tens of millions of like-minded neighbors across the country, but all Americans.

The coming crackdown on dissenters in the political realm was pre-ordained in the wee hours of Jan. 6, when both Georgia Senate seats flipped to the Democrats. Now, should Senate Democrats successfully blow up the filibuster, they will work to pass an agenda in which any one item, let alone all, could put Democrats in a virtually unshakeable control of the federal government for years to come.

They have made no secret of their agenda, which includes such items as mass amnesty for illegal aliens, statehood for Washington, D.C., statehood for Puerto Rico, and federal enshrinement of mail-in voting through a re-upped H.R. 1. Needless to say, total leftist political control will erode liberty and justice, and be used to target dissenters in cruel and unusual ways.

In the near-term, the Capitol Hill riot has served as a pretext for other corrosive political acts: calls for the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president, a second impeachment vote; consultations between the speaker of the House and the Pentagon about preventing the president from accessing the nuclear codes and discharging his other duties; and calls by our national security and legal apparatus against conservatives and their speech — all under the pretense of combatting domestic terrorism and punishing “incitement.”

This is not purely an issue of politics, for it will encompass all of civil society. The coming assault on dissenters will play out in arenas that far transcend our increasingly unrepresentative government.

Its adjuncts in big tech, woke capital, corporate media, and beyond have already started participating in the purge, of their own volition, in a continuation of the anti-cultural revolution of summer 2020. It is nothing less than the weaponization of civil society institutions against political dissenters, in conjunction with and often indirectly supported by the state. Americans are now primed to punish their fellow Americans for Wrongthink to a greater extent than we have seen before.

It will go far beyond banning the president of the United States from major social media platforms, purging countless like-minded voices, and stymieing their alternative means of communication. It will go far beyond pulling a U.S. senator’s publishing deal. It will go far beyond even firing people purportedly acting peacefully at political rallies. Ultimately, it will extend across every aspect of the digital world, and affect real life as well.

Yes, we are headed towards something like China’s “Great Firewall,” where, albeit without the power of a government gun, big tech will silence speech that challenges the ruling class’s official narratives, disappear the digital profiles of those who run afoul of its ever-changing terms of service, and take down websites where alternative ideas might proliferate.

More chilling is this thought: What is to stop the crackdown from going beyond communications to where and how you can work, bank, travel, eat, shop, obtain health insurance, and send your kids to school?

Think, for a second, about everything you do in daily life. Consider how reliant you are on goods and services controlled by entities in whole or in part run by executives who either hate your political views or think they can survive by currying favor with those who are contemptuous.

The left has already said it is making lists to prevent Trump administration personnel from getting jobs in the private sector. What’s to stop them or their allies in the media and corporate America from doing the same to any of us?

Is there any apparent limiting principle that will keep us from developing a CCP-style “social credit system with Western characteristics” — as my Federalist colleague Sumantra Maitra has put it — whereby private enterprises grade us on ideology and determine what we can and cannot do based on how closely we hew to its ideology?

In a world where politics has become all-pervasive, virtue-signaling demands not only disavowing but punishing the 74 million enablers of what the left has been asserting for years is Nazism. As in so many other matters, they have been projecting onto the right what the left itself endorses.

If you accede to the view that anything that challenges the prevailing progressive orthodoxy constitutes violence, then you will take any means necessary to snuff it out. There are an awful lot of true believers, useful idiots, cynics, and cowed people across American life seemingly willing to adhere to such a principle. It will likely push us to ideological segregation, which will only further fuel hostilities, strife, and chaos.

America’s Cold Civil War will only heat up as those with all the power take precisely the wrong lessons from the Capitol Hill riot and, rather than seeking to represent millions of Americans and address their concerns, simply chooses to punish or silence them.

AIER: Congressional Hypocrisy and the Crackdown

James Bovard at AIER talks about Congressional Hypocrisy and the Crackdown

The political frenzy unleashed by last week’s clash at the Capitol between police and Trump protestors poses a growing danger to Americans’ constitutional rights. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer compared the ruckus to Pearl Harbor – a “day of infamy.” Schumer complained that the “temple to democracy was desecrated… our offices vandalized.” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) compared an incursion that broke some windows and furniture with the 1814 British invasion that torched the Capitol.

The pro-Trump mob should not have charged into the Capitol. President Donald Trump should not have fired them up with absurd claims that he won the election “by a landslide.” Even conservative firebrand Ann Coulter declared that “it was assholic [for Trump] to tell a crowd of thousands to march to the capitol.” Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani should never have called for a “trial by combat” when addressing Trump supporters. Once the protestors charged into the Capitol, Trump should have speedily called for an end to the confrontation.

Trump deserves much of the blame for the Capitol chaos. But the debacle would have been far less without blundering by congressional leadership and their small army of protectors. A Washington Post analysis of the “disastrous failure” by Capitol Police noted, “Security at the Capitol building is controlled by Congress itself.”

The Capitol Police have an annual budget of almost half a billion dollars and two thousand officers – equal to the entire police forces of Cleveland or Atlanta. At some points video showed police standing back as people thronged inside the Capitol. The Post noted, “One image posted on social media showed an officer taking a selfie with one of the intruders, and a video seemed to show officers opening the security fence to let Trump supporters closer.”

One policeman was killed when he was dragged into a mob and beaten, and a 34-year-old female Trump supporter was reportedly trampled to death in the clash between police and protestors. Another Trump supporter died of a heart attack and another protestor died of a stroke.

President-elect Biden said that the protestors’ action was “an assault on the citadel of liberty: the Capitol itself…. An assault on the rule of law like few times we’ve ever seen it.” But rather than a “citadel of liberty,” the Capitol is the locale where politicians have negligently authorized endless assaults on the liberties of average Americans and the lives of uncounted victims around the world.

Violence of all types should be condemned, including that which comes from the government itself. SWAT teams carrying out no-knock raids happen thousands of times a year in American neighborhoods across the land. These attacks have been aided by a profusion of military-style equipment provided by Congress and federal agencies, as well as by the Justice Department constantly championing the legal prerogatives of law enforcement to use deadly force in almost any situation. An ACLU report characterized SWAT raids as “violent events: numerous (often 20 or more) officers armed with assault rifles and grenades approach a home, break down doors and windows (often causing property damage), and scream for the people inside to get on the floor (often pointing their guns at them).”

Failure to instantly submit to SWAT raiders can be a capital offense. A New York Times investigation found that “at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in raids from 2010 through 2016. Scores of others were maimed or wounded.” The vast majority of members of Congress have ignored the perennial police carnage they helped bankroll around the nation.

Dozens of protestors have already been charged with unlawful entry. The same standard should also apply to government officials in other contexts In 1984, the Supreme Court entitled government agents to intrude onto private land without a search warrant as long as they did not venture into areas where individuals were involved in “intimate activities” (i.e., nudist camps). “No Trespassing” signs no longer applied to G-men. The same court decision unleashed government helicopters to buzz low over any private land they chose to investigate – no warrant needed. (Private helicopter operators who perform the same trick over federal buildings are entitled to front-page obituaries.)

President-elect Joe Biden condemned the protestors “rummaging through desks. But where was the umbrage on Capitol Hill when the National Security Agency vacuumed up millions of Americans’ emails? Where was the outrage when Edward Snowden exposed NSA documents showing that the agency turns its surveillance dynamos on anyone “searching the web for suspicious stuff“? Thanks to lavish congressional appropriations, the NSA continues devouring Americans’ privacy.

We should also condemn the violence that Congress has authorized by U.S. military forces, which are now engaged in combat in 14 nations. Most members of Congress could probably not even name half of the nations where U.S. troops are fighting. After four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger in 2017, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Schumer admitted they did not know that a thousand U.S. troops were deployed to that African nation. Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, admitted, “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.”

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in 2017 proudly cited an estimate from a “knowledgeable official” that “CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years.” Syria has taken no hostile action against the U.S. but few members of Congress have taken any responsibility for the carnage inflicted by the Biden-Trump intervention in the Syrian Civil War. No evidence has surfaced thus far linking Syrians to any broken windows in the Capitol.

We should also condemn the blockades that the US government has imposed on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, and other nations. US Navy ships are ready to intercede even medical supplies to those nations whose governments have raised the ire of Washington policymakers.

In the wake of the clashes at the Capitol, Democrats are calling for a sweeping new “domestic terrorism” law that could profoundly restrict Americans’ freedom of speech and association. Many politicians have called for charging the Trump protestors with sedition, There are already more than enough criminal laws and the feds should concentrate on discovering and vigorously prosecuting the individuals who attacked police.

Shortly before the protestors forced their way into the Capitol, Mitch McConnell declared that American democracy could go into a “death spiral of democracy” if the 2020 election result was not accepted. McConnell warned that challenging the 2020 election would mean “every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost.” He also said that “self-government requires a shared commitment to the truth.” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) condemned Wednesday’s protestors: “If you just feed this beast in an effort to appease it, it just gets stronger and bolder until it comes after the very people who are trying to appease it.”

It is possible to condemn both the protestors and the career politicians whose perennial abuses have been lessening Americans’ trust in the federal government.

The Burning Platform: A Time for New Beginnings and Ending That Which Must End

The Burning Platform has A Time for New Beginnings and Ending That Which Must End which discusses their take on the ending of our republic, the battle for our liberties, and who the enemy is.

Janus is an ancient Roman, a composite god who is associated with doorways, beginnings, and transitions. A usually two-faced god, he looks to both the future and the past at the same time, embodying a binary.

Source

 

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

– Thomas Pynchon, “Gravity’s Rainbow” (1973)

 

Two years ago, also during the month of Janus, I wrote a speculative article on Trump as two faces on the same coin and, specifically, considered the president as the “most interesting man in the world”: an enigmatic “ringleader”, of sorts, who always keeps us guessing between transitional episodes:

In so many ways, Trump is the perfect foil to usher in a new epoch… a forerunner of sorts before another ringleader takes center stage.

To be sure, President Trump is like a flip-sided Obama the way he’s branded upon America’s psyche. And, like Obama, he’s a walking, talking, Rorschach test.

For good? Or bad?

Either way:  We all have our suspicions and are becoming more certain with each passing day.

And here we are today, two years later, still wondering.

 

In the wake of Russiagate, the Mueller Show, the 2018 Midterms, the Ukraine impeachment debacle, Covid, and, now, a stolen presidential election, it calls to mind the following questions:

What if the innermost circle of The Borg, or, at least, the mid-level components like the Deep State, Orwellian Media, Dems, Rinos, and punditry, were actually caught off guard by Trump’s 2016 win – simply as a result of underestimating the awareness and will of the American voters who overwhelmed The Borg’s systemic election fraud four years ago? What if Trump were real and Spygate, Mueller, Ukrainegate, and Covid, were the means to gaslight the dupes and tie-up the president as much as possible over the previous four years?

In consideration of Occam’s Razor: What if everything we have seen during Trump’s presidency was merely a natural progression of events?

Then, what if the same voter fraud occurred in the 2020 Election except, this time, The Borg was caught red-handed?

Certainly, the Orwellian Media’s anointing of Dementia Joe was, in part, a plan conceived and launched by the “bipartisan” Transition Integrity Project (T.I.P.) under the cover of Covid and using technologies and methodologies defecated straight from the bowels of Langley.

Everything about November 3, 2020, and the ensuing post-election narrative propagated by the Orwellian Media smacks of desperation by those attempting to pull off the coup. Does it not?

Or it could be another show: A really, super-big, gigantic, end-of-America-type media event.

During the holiday break, I listened to attorney Sidney Powell and Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) interviewed by a guest host on the Rush Limbaugh radio program. To hear Powell and Gohmert outline the overt suppression of evidence of fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election was staggering, to say the least. But, that very evening, the nightly news, instead, showed Kamala Harris receiving her Covid vaccine. The “Vice President-Elect”, then, through her mask, and with her trademark nasal whine, implored Americans to follow her lead and get their shots in the arm too.

What is occurring in America now may seem surreal but it is, indeed, actually happening.

In early December, President Trump, by his own admission, gave what may have been the most important speech of his lifetime, and it was not given one iota of coverage on my local nightly news. Instead, we were informed on “President-Elect” Joe Biden’s virtual round-table of small business owners who were impacted by the Covid pandemic as well as the number of new Covid cases in the country that day.

Furthermore, if you go to YouTube and query “Trump’s most important speech december 2, 2020” this is what appears: “Fact-check” videos on Trump’s “baseless voter fraud claims” and “speech riddled with falsehoods”.

Now try this: Search for the word “Plandemic” on the Duck Duck Go search engine, and you will see the website for PlandemicVideo.com appearing at the top of the results.  But if you search the same term on Google, the Plandemic video website does NOT show.  Instead, you will see a Wikipedia link labeling Plandemic as “misinformation” and a science magazine’s website “fact-checking” “unsubstantiated claims and accusations”.

Consider for a moment the kind of power we are witnessing:  The mainstream media, the FBI, the Justice Department, the CIA, Big Tech, The Drudge Report, most of Fox News, and, now, even the American electoral system and Supreme Court… ALL assimilated by The Borg.

How could this all-inclusive collusion exist?

What follows will provide some of the answers to that question.

Catherine Austin Fitts is a former banker turned whistleblower and served as the Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the late nineteen-eighties under Bush the Elder. A few days before Christmas 2020, an interview of Fitts was posted whereby she described five pillars of a Transhumanist Technocracy currently being constructed in plain sight by The Borg.  The five pillars are as follows:

 

1.)  Tech engineers building “The Cloud” and Intel communications

2.) The military installing satellites in space in conjunction with Operation Warp Speed here on earth

3.) Big Pharma designing vaccines and injection mechanisms

4.) The Mainstream Media’s ever-spinning propaganda machine

5.) The Central bankers creating crypto systems designed to enslave the masses

 

Fitts claimed these “pillars” are painstakingly being kept separate by the Borg until they can be integrated into our bodies, and our minds, by means of our own blood and DNA – like a trap being sprung at just the right time; and the reason we are not completely caught in the trap yet, is because The Borg has not quite finalized construction of the five pillars.

In her interview, Fitts described our current circumstances as a war between those who consider mankind as “individuals” with rights divinely ordained and against a High Tech Oligarchy (i.e. The Borg) who views the citizens of the world as cattle and chattel…(continues)

FEE: Gym Owners Who Racked Up $1.2 Million in Fines for Defying Lockdowns Go Viral

From the Foundation for Economic Education, Gym Owners Who Racked Up $1.2 Million in Fines for Defying Lockdowns Go Viral

Nearly 100,000 US businesses on Yelp failed to survive the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing government lockdowns. Ian Smith, the co-owner of Atilis Gym, was determined not to be one of them.

The New Jersey entrepreneur has defied Gov. Phil Murphy’s lockdown orders for months now. On a typical day hundreds of people go to the gym to exercise, and Smith estimates 84,000 people have worked out at the facility since the state resumed its lockdown in May.

For gym patrons, Smith’s lockdown defiance has brought benefits. They get to keep body, mind, and soul fit in what has been a stressful and strange year, and Smith claims not a single COVID-19 case has been traced to his facility.

For Smith and co-owner Frank Trumbetti, however, the decision has had consequences.

“Governor Murphy has thrown everything he possibly could to shut us down. He has arrested my partner and I, given us over 60 citations, some of them criminal. He fines us $15,497.76 per day for every day we’re in operation,” Smith recently told Fox News. “Our fines are totaling over $1.2 million, but every single day, Frank and I open our gym.”

The prospect of facing more than a million dollars in fines and criminal charges is enough to cow most business owners into compliance. Not Smith.

Following his interview with Fox, he posted a short video clip to Twitter showing people working out in his facility and had a simple message for Governor Murphy: “No Science. No Shutdown.”

The clip has already been viewed more than 7.7 million times on Twitter alone as of Monday morning.

Smith is hardly the only business owner to defy lockdown orders. As I wrote before Thanksgiving, Americans of all stripes—business owners, religious observers, and even political officials—are embracing the tradition of civil disobedience and peaceful resistance to lockdowns that have been shown to be largely ineffective at slowing transmission of the virus.

From city officials in Beverly Hills, to restaurants in Kentucky, to gym owners in Buffalo, New York, Americans have begun to stand up to lockdown orders that have ravaged small businesses and caused the first rise in extreme global poverty in decades.

The pandemic has been one of the most trying and terrible chapters in American history. More than 300,000 Americans have died of or with the virus, according to official statistics, and attempts to mitigate the spread of the virus have resulted in widespread economic destruction and mental health deterioration.

But a silver lining is that Ameircans are witnessing a renaissance of civil disobedience against government overreach. From seatbelt laws, to compulsory schooling, to smoking bans on a private property and beyond, in recent decades Americans have obediently acquiesced to laws that have violated individual freedom in the pursuit of an alleged collective good.

The lockdowns, however, have reminded Americans of the true nature of government.

“The essence of government is force, and most often that force is used to accomplish evil ends,” the late economist Walter Williams once observed.

By complying with laws that seem reasonable in the pursuit of a common good, Americans had largely forgotten that government is an evil—a necessary one, perhaps, but one that should be limited and shackled at every turn to prevent it from devolving into tyranny.

This is precisely why the American founders created a fractured system of government that decentralized power and was fortified with numerous checks and balances.

“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia.

As strange as it may sound to many today, the raison d’être of government isn’t to create “a better world,” but the protection of liberty. Because it’s only through the protection of liberty that a better world will be created.

To be sure, the coronavirus is a serious and deadly threat. But it’s one individuals must manage, not central planners.

“Substituting democratic decision making for what should be private decision-making is nothing less than tyranny dressed up,” Williams once said.

Depriving healthy individuals of the ability to work or do commerce is tyranny—even if it’s wearing a dress.

Ian Smith sees that, and his defiance against Murphy—whose clumsy attempts to slow the virus have only resulted in New Jersey having the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in America—is an act of heroism.

Hopefully his act of civil disobedience will inspire others to remember man’s true nature and natural rights.

“I was not born to be forced,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, the American poet, abolitionist, and essayist. “I will breathe after my own fashion.”