Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Illegal Immigration Issue: A Problem of Empire

Immigration, as it has several times before in American history, once again moved to the front burner among political issues. Yet the two political parties struggle to find a conceptual framework in which to view the problem and sell a position to their constituents. There is as much disagreement between members of each party as there is between the incoherent positions of each party. The politicians cannot come up with a coherent solution because none is possible if one supports the concept of the polyglot but highly centralized American empire. Mexicans are entering the U.S. in ever increasing numbers because the Mexican economy is so dysfunctional. It is a bureaucratic nightmare borne of a marriage of socialism and crony capitalism that supports entrenched elites and fails to produce an adequate number of decent paying jobs. Without immigration to the U.S., Mexico would erupt in civil strife. The effects of the large number of immigrants are confusing and contradictory. American citizens who would normally take lower paying, dirty or dangerous jobs have been conditioned by the welfare state to shun these jobs. The Mexicans help local economies by taking jobs that would otherwise go begging. In a real sense, immigration and the employment of illegal aliens is a market at work: willing, competent employees being hired by employers who want them. The result is an increase in goods and services supplied at a reasonable price to all Americans. So what is the problem? The large influx of immigrants clearly stresses the fabric of many of the communities who must absorb them. If states and local communities were free to decide on how to accomodate and absorb the influx of immigrants according to the needs and demands of that community, one could have more rational and flexible immigration policies . Communities who needed immigrant labor would be more accomodating than those that do not. Tax supported public services, which should be collected and distributed on the local level, could be used or withheld as decided by that community. Instead immigration policy is set on the federal level. The 14th amendment defines any child born in America as a US citizen and citizen of the state in which he is a resident, and the courts then mandate the full range of tax supported social services supplied by federal, state, and local governments be spent on the new "citizen" and his family; the so-called anchor baby effect. States along the border, such as Arizona and New Mexico, struggle under a literal invasion while in a supreme irony, their national guard troops are dispatched by the federal powers to fight the unconstitutional war in Iraq. If the states still had control of "a well regulated militia" as guaranteed by the 2nd amendment and were free to set their own policies for immigration and citizenship, they could defend their borders and regulate immigration in line with the needs of their local communities. If they were overwhelmed, they could ask their fellow states or the federal government for assistance. This was the intent of the design of our republic. The liberties of Americans in their diverse communities cannot be preserved by a federal government imposing a national policy from Washington. With Washington controlling spending and security for the purposes of the federal government, states and local communities are left to struggle. The immigration issue is indeed a problem of empire which could be better handled by returning constitutionally legitimate power and resources to the states and local communities.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Concept of "Public Policy": An Insidious Threat to Liberty

At all levels of government, government action and court judgments are often executed such that they fit a vague set of concepts known by various terms, such as"Public Policy." In a recent work, "An Introduction to the Policy Process", Thomas Birkland stated there is a lack of consensus on the definition of public policy. This lack of consensus is remarkable for a concept invoked so extensively at all levels of government. In a nearly circular definition, Wikipedia defines public policy as: "A term used to describe the laws, decisions, regulations, etc, of a government body...A government's public policy is the set of policies it that chooses...Since governments claim authority and responsibility over a large group of individuals, they see fit to establish plans and methods of action that will govern that society." In a country supposedly governed by a constitution that limits goverment power, how did such a sweeping mandate for government power become a vague, poorly defined shadow constitution? According to some, public policy is a twentieth century creation, some dating to the American political scientist Charles Merriam who attempted to connect the practice of politics to the actual actions of governments. Note that governments at all levels gradually adopted this "science" to guide the interpretation of laws and executive decisions by government. These policies can be used to negate or invalidate private contracts and other personal or private decision making which is not congruent with the judge's or official's own interpretation of the vague precepts of "public policy". The term "public policy" needs to be classified with other terms, such as "public good" or "will of the people" as highly suspect concepts used by governments to destroy liberty.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Alito and Roberts Confirmations: Obscuring the Real Issues

The press coverage of the recent nominations and confirmation proceedings of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court are sadly, but typically, deficient in dealing with the fundamental issues surrounding the federal courts and their role in American society. Narrowly targeted interest groups on the right and left have promoted their own important issue, usually abortion, but at times broader issues such as the power of the federal courts to promote legal doctrines forcing states or private institutions to accomodate "diversity" or "equity" policies have been mentioned. The left has done a better job of advertising these government intrusions as promoting "rights" than the right has at countering them. Usually the right talks about "making laws from the bench". This is a very valid point, but is less effective with a constitutionally illiterate public that the emotional appeal the left has about the court "protecting rights". It is important to remember that once the courts go beyond protecting citizens from unconstitutional government intrusions, the courts cannot "protect" rights, they can only redistribute them, by giving rights to some for services, "equal" treatment, etc, and compelling others to provide them. So what are the major underlying issues with regard to the federal courts?
- the Separation of Powers. Alito's views on Presidential powers, particularly in relation to wartime surveillance and detention powers, have gotten much recent publicity. When the constitution was framed, the federal government had much less power than it does today. It could not "reach into" the states and exercise significant power over individuals. Certainly Lincoln used the War for Southern Independence as an excuse to assume extra-constitutional powers. Subsequent Presidents have intermittently followed suite. On one hand, the importance of the balance between the federal government branches has never been more important as the federal government gains more and more power. But the more fundamental issue is left unstated. That is, that the federal government is itself too powerful. All three branches have worked in recent decades to intrude on the liberties of citizens. The truly vital separation of powers is the one which is left unstated: and that is the disturbed balance between the people and states on one hand, and the federal government on the other. Had that balance been preserved, there would be much less worry about the degree to which a President exercised executive power within the limited domain of the federal government. And with that balance disturbed, there may be no effective way to prevent the executive, legislative, or judicial branches from assuming despotic powers over the American people.
-The Senate Confirmation Process. One of the reasons the Senate confirmation process is flawed is that since the 17th amendment, Senators are elected directly, rather than being selected by the state governments. In our original federal system, the Senate was the voice of the state governments within the federal government. It is signficant that the framers gave the Senate the "advise and consent" function on federal judicial and executive appointments, and not the House of Representatives. It was evidently considered vital that the representatives of the state governments had a veto over appointments to the federal judiciary. Since the state governments have been "disenfranchised", the Senate is primarily interested in its own perogatives. Who is there to question potential justices on the 9th and 10th amendments, guaranteeing the rights of the states and people? Former Georgia Senator and Governor Zell Miller has called for the repeal of the 17th amendment primarily for another reason; and that is the tendency of Washington to force unfunded federal mandates on the states. Without the states having a direct say in the federal system, the protections of the 9th and 10th amendments have atrophied.
-Judicial Review and Stare Decisis - Chief Justice John Marshall's exercise of judicial review cemented the federal judiciary as the final arbiter of the constitutionality of the laws of Congress. The fourteenth amendment and its expansion expanded the scope and range of federal authority directly onto the citizens and laws of the states. The principle of Stare Decisis means that rulings by the courts, even if wildly extra-constitutional, are assigned the weight of precedent, making them much more difficult to overturn, and generally giving only the Supreme Court the right to overturn significant precedent. This combination of factors has increased the frequency with which rulings incompatible with the principles of limited government enshrined by the constitution are decreed by the courts to be the law of the land, and then additional decisions building on these precendents drive federal policy ever farther from the design of limited government. The long series of rulings related to separation of church and state and forced school integration in the 20th century are notable examples of this phenomenon. It is most notable that the application of Stare Decisis is highly selective; the 9th and 10th amendments are never given the respect of this principle. Stare Decisis properly applied would provide an anchor to the original constitution, not to extreme extra-constitutional rulings. Many thinkers in the early republic, including Jefferson, warned about giving the courts sole authority to interpret the constitution. The fact that in modern America no respect is given to the amendments which supposedly guarantee the reserved rights of the states and people vindicates this admonition. Modern Americans are indoctrinated with the Orwellian thesis that the federal government is the guarantor of their rights. In fact, our rights and liberties will only be secured if the people, acting through the states, repudiate the federal government's unconstitutional monopoly of power.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Constitution or Union? Why the Idea of the Confederacy is Crucial to American Liberty

No symbol in so-called "polite, mainstream" America is more publicly reviled than that of the confederate battle cross. No public figure in any walk of American life could display confederate symbols without being savaged in the press and suffering significant career damage. In some circles, confederate symbolism probably ranks slightly above bestiality in terms of acceptability, although I am sure than in San Francisco, this order would be reversed. In the 2004 presidential campaign. Al Sharpton called the confederate flag "The American Swastika". This statement is remarkable. Remarkable because the Confederacy; a decentralized constitutional republic fighting a strictly defensive struggle against invasion, was the polar opposite of Nazi Germany, a completely centralized absolute dictatorship bent on military conquest. But even more remarkable is that not a single account in the mainstream press highlighted this inaccuracy. And even more remarkable, it is almost certain, had a major public figure or publication done so, they would have been severly attacked for it. Campaigns all across America have resulted in removing the battle flag from the state capitol in Columbia, a city burned to the ground by Sherman, removing the battle cross emblem from the Georgia state flag, and countless less publicized suppressions of confederate symbolism, such as the removal of the confederate flag from confederate soldiers' graves in Charlotte's Elmwood cemetery. The Confederacy, has in fact, been the victim of one of history's most succesful smear campaigns. Certainly, part is due to the old truism "the victors write the history" and much is due to heightened racial sensitivities in our current era, in which the Confederacy, which lasted 4 years, is seen as the principal villain in North American slavery, an institution which lasted more than 200 years in both north and south. But I believe there are more profound reasons for the extreme contempt heaped on the Confederacy. And these reasons strike at the very core of the reality behind the present day regime in the United States.
Large corporations sometimes clean up their balance sheets by spinning off a subsidiary to which they assign unwanted operations or debts. In a real sense., the dominant interpreters of American history have used the Confederacy as their undesireable historical subsidiary, to which they have assigned antiquated concepts such as slavery, disunion, and states rights. By "spinning off" the Confederacy, they are able to purify and transform the United States into a modern and progressive social democracy. It is very useful in this interpretation to package the evil of slavery with the other concepts. This helps to taint these ideas and prevent close examination of their worth. But their efforts are only succesful if one accepts the superficial view of history taught in public school "social studies" classes or presented by the all pervasive supporters of the current American regime. In these presentations, much of the great intellectual foundation of the early republic, such as the Federalist papers and their anti-federalist counterparts, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, and the writings of John C. Calhoun, such as his Disquisition on Government, Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, and the Fort Hill address, are ignored in a flagrant sin of omission. Of course. most people do accept this superficial treatment, and so the campaign is very effective.
So why does it matter? Why spend intellectual capital on arguing the rectitude of the Confederate cause 140 years after Appomatox? Many would argue with justification that if you are arguing for liberty, you encounter much opposition by supporting the confederate cause, and it would be more expedient to ignore it. But I can make a stronger case that the constitutional issues surrounding the secession of the southern states, Lincoln's destructive and brutal supression of secession, and reconstruction policies and constitutional amendments, are so fundamental to understanding the erosion of liberty and expansion of federal power, that they cannot be ignored. The other facet of this argument is the Lincoln myth. The metamorphosis of a shrewd partisan operative into a national demigod sanctified violation of the constitution as an acceptable expedient. The Union is more important than the Constitution. If the great and good Abe Lincoln did it, it must be right. For example, I saw former New York governor Mario Cuomo defending a present day action of questionable constitutionality by referring to Lincoln's expedient violations of the same. If Lincoln's "saving the union" and "freeing the slaves" can justify the violations of the constitution, that gives a pass to later Presidents, congresses, and federal courts to do the same. If Lincoln and the Union cause in the War for Southern Independence are axiomatically right, then all arguments for limited federal government and strict adherence to the constitution will eventually fail. Those of us who believe that the constitutional compact of limited government is the essential characteristic of American liberty realize that freedom is not guaranteed by a taxing, regulating, and warring government. It is guaranteed by the ability to "just say no" to such a government though nullification or secession. And a vigorous defense of the Confederate cause as among the purest expressions of true American liberty and patriotism is essential. This will not be easy and will engender ferocious opposition. We live in an America where even so-called conservatives promote the Pledge of Allegiance, a loyalty oath written by a 19th century socialist, swearing an oath to "one nation, indivisible" as the guarantor of "liberty and justice for all". This "my country, right or wrong" mentality would have been alien to the founding fathers who saw the constitution as a contract beween the states, not a sacred blood oath binding one to obedience to a national regime. Modern day liberals and conservatives both promote the use of federal force and confiscation to achieve their goals, they merely disagree on the details. In the final analysis, it is a question of the primacy of Constitution or Union. Do constitutional limits on government trump a desire to preserve "Union" at all costs? Or does the need to preserve the "Union", i.e., the central government, trump constitutional guarantees of liberty? There is little question as to where the first American patriots would stand.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Iraq: A case study in ongoing federal usurpation

The Iraq conflict within a few months will enter its fourth year, and the discussion on both sides is so lacking in clarity that Macbeth could aptly describe it: "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". If the constitution, however seriously flawed, is the only check on federal encroachments on our liberty, then all federal policy and action must be held to a rigorous constitutional test. And by constitution, I mean the pre-14th amendment constitution, since that amendment so unbalanced the powers between the state and federal governments that it has been a major factor in our current problems. But there is a further test. The policy adopted should be wise. Wise in the sense that it enhances, or at least does not diminish, the rights to liberty, life, and property, of Americans. For example, it would be constitutional for Congress to declare war on Canada, but this would be unwise and contrary to enhancing the well-being of Americans, much less Canadians. So how does the Iraq conflict measure up to this test? We must understand the current Iraq conflict as a continuation of the confict of 1990 -1991. Saddam was a brutal dictator and he invaded and occupied Kuwait. Bush the first soon announced "This will not stand". But the crucial question was not asked, and that is: Under what authority would Bush the first be able to enforce his position and go to war against Iraq to expel it from Kuwait? In order to do so, Congress should have declared war, but in the extra-constitutional practice of the last 55 years, Congress authorized Bush, like a Caesar, to take to the field at his own discretion, in the absence of a declaration of war. This abdication by Congress is part of a general trend in government of declining accountability with increasing power. Thus, Persian Gulf War I was an unconstitutional invasion of a country that was not threatening the United States, under an abstract principle of stopping foreign dictators at Presidential discretion. There is also no constitutional provision for removing foreign dictators, no matter how egregious they may be, in the absence of a declaration of war. The outcome of this intervention was to convert Iraq from a neutral seller of oil to an enemy we had to monitor at great expense for the next 12 years, before going to war again. Governments count on their subjects having short memories. We supported Saddam in the Iran - Iraq war, but in Orwellian fashion, the friends of former decades become the current enemies. After 9/11, Saddam's supposed store of weapons of mass destruction became the reason for a second war. This war clearly was initiated on a flawed premise, but we will never be able to know whether, based on the classified information at hand, Saddam was clearly a threat. Nevertheless, Gulf War II is unconstitutional for the same reason Gulf War I was, a lack of a declaration of war. However, for point of argument, let us ask even if the war met its stated justification and was declared, what should be the limit of Presidential authority? Does authority extend to reconstructing a foreign country in our image once the enemy has been defeated? This is a nebulous area...but if it is not truly vital to removing the threat, I would argue it is an unconstitutional use of federal resources in a kind of foreign social engineering. Defending freedom at home should mean a judicious use of deterrence and force to quell actual threats. Interfering in the domestic institutions of another land will produce enmity which will have to be dealt with in future years, with further expense and reductions in liberty for Americans. The neo-conservative vision of remaking Arab dictatorships fails both tests. It is neither constitutionally authorized, nor is it wise in terms of promoting the liberty and prosperity of Americans. The federal government has no other legitimate responsibilities.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Christmas Day thought: The constitution and freedom of religion

My kids are now playing with their new Chinese made electronic toys paid for with temporarily overvalued fiat dollars, whose transient worth is almost entirely buttressed by legal tender laws and an imperial foreign policy. (Are the Chinese smart or dumb to accumulate these greenbacks - but that is another topic!). This holiday season has seen the most heated media discussion I have ever witnessed on the use of the term "Christmas" in public and corporate displays, and by logical extension, the right to express religious sentiment of any kind in American public life. This constitutional issue is one of many possible poster children for the constitutional heresies and misconceptions that permeate American life. First, what does the constitution say? The issue is dealt with in the first amendment which simply states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise therof" That is it. Nothing about federal courts saying you can't pray at football games. Nothing about federal courts prohibiting religous groups meeting in public school buildings after hours. Nothing about federal courts prohibiting a state supreme court justice posting the ten commandments at a state building. Most people today forget the constitution only addressed explicit powers granted to the federal government, the ninth and tenth amendments reserved all others to the states and the people. The states were free to say nothing about religion or to establish a state religion if the constitution of the particular state permitted and the people wanted it! For example, Massachusetts could have adopted Zoroastrianism or the Aztec religion with human sacrfice as its state religion. Though perhaps exotic, these ideas are less harmful than many that have emanated from that commonwealth. So how did we get where we are today? Our friend the fourteenth amendment, that illegitimately adopted reconstruction-era abomination! What Justice Souter has called "the most important structural provision since the original framing" was subsequently interpreted to extend the provisions of the bill of rights, and federal judicial oversight thereof, into the states, thus depriving the rights of the citizens of each state the right to frame their own destiny and freely express their own beliefs, religious or otherwise. We now have gotten in a situation in which even some "private" corporations make sure they are politically correct and avoid the mention of christmas. If this truly represented the view of the owners and managers of those companies, that would be no problem. It is impossible to avoid the fact, however, that much of this is the work of company diversity commisars, put in place to make sure the company has an appropriate "diversity" policy, in the hopes that such policies will help protect it from lawsuits or regulatory infractions from federal overseers. How far we have fallen from the liberties the bill of rights was meant to protect!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Federal Judges as Philosopher Kings: the Pennsylvania intelligent design ruling

Federal district Judge John Jones ruling on the teaching of intelligent design in Dover county, PA public schools is a case study on federal interventionism in local affairs. First, full disclosure. I agree with Judge Jones that intelligent design is not science. In fact, unlike many "paleoconservatives", I find the evidence supporting evolution to be overwhelming. Nevertheless, it should be a cardinal principle in a society that prizes liberty that people be able to decide for themselves, based on their values and understanding, what to believe and what to teach their children. An issue such as evolution, which strikes a the core of many peoples' beliefs, is bound to be controversial. I can make a strong argument that this highlights one of the real problems with tax supported public education in general, where tax money is used to indoctrinate children in values they or their parents may not agree with. But if tax supported public education exists, it should be in full control of the local tax payers and their representatives, representing the prevailing views of the local community. The founding fathers wisely removed the federal government from local issues such as this. This is another example of where federal power was greatly augmented by the 14th amendment to interfere in purely local affairs. It is notable that the people of Dover county on their own voted out the "intelligent design" school board members. Federal intervention was redundant, except for those who wish to make a statement about the power of federal courts to impose their mandates on local school systems. We do not need philosopher kings, even if they are right, for today's philosopher king has the power to become tomorrow's tyrant.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wall Street analysts miss gold's significance

I've watched with amusement over the past few months television pundits trying to explain why the gold price has increased so dramatically despite "low" inflation. Wall Street types are the ones best in a position to profit from the post-Bretton Woods fiat currency system. Unlike most citizens around the world, they can directly profit by arbitraging pricing inefficiencies in fiat currencies. Everyone else must protect their savings from the ravages of governments' currency debasements. The US goverment does not calculate asset prices in the CPI. Inflation is underreported because it is calculated from a basket of consumer goods and services which are manufactured in a highly competitive environment, often overseas, and subject to being discounted by "hedonic" adjustments. Inflation is not an increase in prices, but an increase in the supply of money. The increase in prices is the result of inflation. If there is an increase in the money supply and prices are stable, the money supply increase is masking a decrease in the real prices of manufactured goods. Prices of many goods gradually decreased when countries were on the gold standard in the last century. As proof that inflation is underreported, the broad money supply (M3) of dollars has increased at an annual rate of 5.9% over the past 20 years and 10% recently. In the Euro zone, M3 has increased by over 6% recently. By contrast, the annual rate of increase in gold supplies has been about 2% annually over the last century. Gold cannot be "printed" by governments