Where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation

Many Democrats wonder what happened to their party since the days of President Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was the leader of the pro-business Bourbon Democrats who opposed high tariffs, Free Silver, inflation, imperialism, and subsidies to business, farmers, or veterans. His crusade for political reform and fiscal conservatism made him an icon for American conservatives of the era. Cleveland won praise for his honesty, self-reliance, integrity, and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism. He relentlessly fought political corruption, patronage and bossism. Indeed, as a reformer his prestige was so strong that the like-minded wing of the Republican Party, called “Mugwumps“, joined with him.

Many have written about the growing number of Americans who are dependent on the government for their livelihood.

The growth of government programs since Cleveland including FDR’s “New Deal”, President Johnson’s “Great Society” and President Obama’s Affordable Care Act are in the news of late. The Great Society’s programs expanded under the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush and Obama have added to the size and scope of government.

Perhaps it is appropriate to revisit how government expansion, taken to its ultimate end, impacts an entire society.

Leon_trotsky

Leon Trotsky

In November, 2009  wrote a column titled “The Evil of Leon Trotsky Revisited“. Ilya’s column has relevance today. Here it is for your edification:

Two of Leon Trotsky’s best-known quotes are his statement that “Where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation” (made famous, especially among libertarians, in part because it was quoted by Hayek in The Road to Serfdom), and the very next sentence in the same paragraph: “The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.” My GMU colleague Bryan Caplan helpfully provides the context of these quotes, from Trotsky’s 1936 book, The Revolution Betrayed:

During these years [since Stalin took power in the USSR] hundreds of Oppositionists, both Russian and foreign, have been shot, or have died of hunger strikes, or have resorted to suicide. Within the last twelve years, the authorities have scores of times announced to the world the final rooting out of the opposition. But during the “purgations” in the last month of 1935 and the first half of 1936, hundreds of thousands of members of the [Communist] party were again expelled, among them several tens of thousands of “Trotskyists.” The most active were immediately arrested and thrown into prisons and concentration camps. As to the rest, Stalin, through Pravda, openly advised the local organs not to give them work. In a country where the sole employer is the state, this means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.

Bryan points out that this context doesn’t reflect well on a man who is still admired by many leftists and even a few ex-leftist conservatives:

Worth noticing: While Trotsky meant what libertarians think he meant, the man’s sheer evil still shines through. He doesn’t mind if the socialist state starves human beings. He was delighted to wield this power when ran the Red Army. No, Trotsky is outraged because the Soviet Union is turning its totalitarian might upon fellow Communists. Was there ever a better time to snark that “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword”?

As I explained in this series of posts, Trotsky was a brutal mass murderer who objected to political repression only when it targeted his fellow communists. He also opposed Stalin in part because he thought Stalin wasn’t repressive enough. Any residual admiration for Trotsky is sorely misplaced.

Nonetheless, the translation of The Revolution Betrayed quoted by Bryan seems to be less damning than the wording quoted by Hayek. In Hayek’s version, Trotsky is quoted as writing that “Where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation” (emphasis added). Since Trotsky of course favored an economic system where the state is the sole employer, this version of the quote implies that he also favored the inevitable “slow starvation” of oppositionists. By contrast, the translation linked by Bryan states that “Where the sole employer is the State, this [referring to Stalin’s policy of denying employment to oppositionists] means death by slow starvation.” The translation quoted by Bryan doesn’t seem to say that opposition means death by starvation in any society where the state is the sole employer, but only if that state is governed by Stalin’s policy of denying work to “oppositionists.” And, as we can see later in the same chapter, Trotsky did not propose to abolish the government’s monopoly over employment, but merely to replace the Stalinist “bureaucratic” class with a different set of economic central planners. The latter might potentially have a more liberal policy on employing oppositionists. Which version is correct? The only way to tell is to check the original Russian text of The Revolution Betrayed. If anyone can find it online, please let me know and I would be happy to do the checking myself.

Even the more charitable version of this passage still doesn’t paint Trotsky in a flattering light. After all, as Bryan notes, the only “oppositionists” whose right to dissent Trotsky wanted to protect were communists who disagreed with Stalin’s party line. Towards the end of the same chapter of The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky calls for “a revival of freedom of Soviet parties, beginning with the party of Bolsheviks.” Non-Soviet (i.e. – non-communist) parties need not apply. He had no objection to the “slow starvation” (or even outright execution) of non-communist oppositionists, including even non-communist socialists. Indeed, when he was still in power, Trotsky often ordered such starvation and execution of political opponents himself.

UPDATE: I have found the Russian text of The Revolution Betrayed online here. In my judgment as a native speaker of the language, the Russian version is closer to the translation cited by Bryan than the one used by Hayek. Here is the original Russian text of the relevant sentence:

В стране, где единственным работодателем является государство, эта мера означает медленную голодную
смерть. Старый принцип: кто не работает, тот не ест, заменен новым: кто не повинуется, тот не ест.

Here’s my own translation:

In a country where the state is the sole employer, this policy [referring to Stalin’s policy] means a slow death by starvation [for oppositionists]. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.

The key Russian phrase “эта мера” literally means “this measure.”

UPDATE #2: Some commenters on this and previous posts about Trotsky ask whether anyone really admires Trotsky anymore. In reality, quite a few modern leftists still do. Christopher Hitchens (see here and here) is one example. As Clive James points out, Trotsky “lived on for decades as the unassailable hero of aesthetically minded progressives who wished to persuade themselves that there could be a vegetarian version of communism.”

IRS currently employing convicted associate of jihad terrorist

This is insane, but it is also completely consistent with the way that the Obama Administration has operated from the beginning. It purged counter-terror trainers who spoke honestly about jihad terror (including me) from counter-terror training programs, while turning a blind eye to the unsavory connections of people like Mohammed Elibiary and Arif Alikhan.

“(EXCLUSIVE) IRS Currently Employing Convicted Terrorist Associate,” by Patrick Poole for PJ Media, March 6 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):

While IRS officials were targeting Tea Party groups for special scrutiny of their 501(c)3 tax exempt applications, the IRS also hired a policeman who had been prosecuted by the Justice Department — and convicted in federal court — of using his access to the FBI’s NCIC system to tip off a terror suspectabout the bureau’s surveillance. The leak wrecked a major terror investigation.

He is still at the IRS.

Weiss Russell (he has changed his name from “Weiss Rasool,” the name under which he was convicted), is currently employed as a financial management analyst in the IRS Deputy Chief Financial Officer’s Office.

In 2008, Russell/Rasool was prosecuted for his role in tipping off Abdullah Alnoshan, a close associate of al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and a friend of Russell’s from their mosque. According to the Justice Department’s Statement of Facts filed at the time of Russell’s indictment, Alnoshan provided license plate numbers to Russell for cars he believed were conducting surveillance on him. Russell then checked those plate numbers in the FBI’s NCIC database, which came back to a leasing company which federal prosecutors claimed would have tipped off Russell to the bureau’s surveillance.

He left a phone message for Alnoshan that the FBI intercepted.

Prosecutors also claimed that on more than a dozen instances, Russell checked his name, the names of relatives, and other friends to see if they were listed on the Violent Crime and Terrorist Offender File on NCIC without an authorized reason for doing so.

According to the Washington Post, Russell’s tip-off to Alnoshan actively obstructed their investigation:

The target was arrested in November 2005, then convicted and deported, according to court filings in Rasool’s case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanine Linehan said that the target and his family were already dressed and destroying evidence at 6 a.m. when agents arrived to make the arrest, indicating that they had been tipped off.

Alnoshan was deported to Saudi Arabia in December 2005. Russell was indicted in January 2008, and pleaded guilty in April 2008.

While prosecutors had requested jail time for Russell after he failed a polygraph just a week before sentencing, the judge sentenced him to two years of probation. He continued on the Fairfax County police force while an internal affairs investigation was conducted. Reportedly, he was eventually given the choice to resign or be fired. He resigned in August 2008.

Chris Farrell, director of investigations at Judicial Watch, told PJ Media:

Somebody like Russell who betrayed his oath as a police officer and was convicted in court essentially for aiding and abetting the subject of an open terror investigation has absolutely no business with any position of trust and responsibility with the government.

If as reported he holds a top financial analyst position within the IRS, it’s not just a disgrace to a discredited agency but an insult to the American public. Russell has already betrayed his country and shown that he can do enormous damage and abuse his authority and powers, which he is now free to do within the IRS….

Read it all.

Is Facebook censoring conservative content?

Recently I sat down with our website editor, Michele Hickford, to discuss social media analytics and recurring trends in order for us to better address the issues that matter most to our readers.

She looked at best performing stories, posts, and numbers of comments. We noticed there has been a precipitous decline in views and shares of individual stories in the first week of March on Facebook. The issue is that Facebook manipulates what stories show up in users’ news feeds. So if no one sees our stories, they don’t get read.

Of course in one year we went from about 197,000 to over 925,000 page “likes” overall. But you just have to wonder if someone at the Zuckerberg empire is regulating our traffic – is Facebook censoring conservative content? What’s curious about this is many of our fellow members of the Liberty Alliance are having the same issue.

So during my morning run, some thoughts and perspectives ran through my mind.

There is no debate that I am a strong conservative in my political ideology and governing principles. I believe wholeheartedly in the free marketplace of ideas where ingenuity and innovation thrive.

However, it seems the success of our Facebook page is being seen as a lucrative revenue source that Facebook wants a piece of. What I find so perplexing is that Facebook bubba Zuckerberg is a pretty cozy fella with President Obama — the most anti-free market president we have ever seen, a true progressive socialist.

So why is it that Zuckerberg — and let’s be honest, any business person, — jumps in bed with liberal progressives? If Zuckerberg is looking to make a profit off the endeavors of my conservative Facebook page, doesn’t that go contrary to the political crowd in which he circulates? I always found it ironic that someone like Michael Moore would say capitalism sucks, yet he charges money for people to see his movies — hypocritical?

So let’s see here, Mark Zuckerberg now wants to make more money off a conservative Facebook page so he can make more money to donate to more liberal progressive causes and candidates. So they can espouse their anti-free market ideology and expand the welfare nanny-state and cause my taxes to increase in order to pay for more “free stuff.”

Why shouldn’t we be able to utilize the Facebook traffic for free? After all, isn’t that the center of the progressive socialist mentality — shared prosperity and economic equality and all that?

The only other explanation for what we’re seeing with our Facebook page would be a blatant attempt to censor our message and limit its promulgation — and that wouldn’t be nice, Mark.

The hypocrisy of liberals seems to have no end. They like to make money, but apparently they want to limit who else gets to earn a prosperous living. It’s like the old Soviet politburo establishment where the ruling elite lived under the mantra of “do as we say, not as we do.”

Liberal progressives accept certain elites in their sphere, such as entertainment and sports figures, but not us saps out here just working hard to make a living. I applaud what Facebook has done and the platform it has created. And I certainly wouldn’t want to limit innovators seeking to better their business model and make a profit.

But I do wonder if Facebook throttles back traffic to the Obama social media machine, or is that all gratis since they share the same failed socialist beliefs? And if it is given preferential treatment, does that run afoul of campaign finance laws?

The liberal Left controls the message of the mainstream media, no question about it. Thank goodness conservative voices have alternative ways to disseminate our message through radio, cable and satellite networks, social media, podcasts and on our websites.

But there is also no question the liberal Left will do whatever it takes to strangle our free speech when it conflicts with the progressive agenda.

Mr. Zuckerberg, you believe in the First Amendment, don’t you? They may come after us first, but they’ll be after you too. Think about that next time you’re at one of those swanky liberal cocktail parties, little bro.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.

CPAC: Straw Votes and Real Votes

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is over after three days of speakers and seminars. It drew a huge crowd of mostly younger voters, many drawn from the Young Republicans for Freedom who, in 1973, teamed with the American Conservative Union for the first conference. Over the years roughly half of those attending have been of college age.

The crowd this year was so large, estimated to be between 10,000 and 11,000, that no hotel in Washington, D.C. was able host the event. It was held at the National Harbor convention center just outside of the capitol.

What was most impressive was the fact that every major player in the Republican Party and representing a leadership role in conservative affairs, was there.

The winner of its straw vote this year was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who won 31%, far ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at 11%, Dr. Ben Carson at 9% and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who received 8%. Mitt Romney won in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Then Ron Paul won in 2010 and 2011. Romney won again in 2012. Rand won in 2013 and now again this year.

Does the straw vote represent anything significant? I doubt it. The Paul’s, Libertarians, reflect the younger voter’s idealism, but neither represents a presidential prospect. Most likely one of the governors will emerge as the Republican Party nominee to run for President.

The two who have the best shot are Chris Christie and Texas’s Rick Perry. Perry did not do well in the 2012 GOP primaries, but we later learned he had had back surgery and was in a fair degree of pain during the debates.

Christie is already moving passed the “Bridgegate” problem though you wouldn’t know that if you tuned into MSNBC at any hour. They have devoted themselves to making it into a big issue in order to defeat any chance he might have, but have succeeded only in making themselves look more stupid than usual. Christie has lost some of the momentum he had after he won a second term for Governor in a blue State.

Along with Perry, Christie was very well received at the CPAC convention. The fact is that the GOP has a deep bench of governors that include Nikki Haley, Rick Scott, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal which tells you how well Republicans have done as governors nationwide. There are 29 of them at last count.

Ted Cruz (R-TX) who burst on the national scene with his filibuster about Obamacare is a powerful orator. He has managed to generate opposition from the Republican establishment in D.C., but so has the Tea Party.  We can count on him and others to be heard from in the years ahead.

No doubt the high level of enthusiasm and confidence at the CPAC convention reflects the utter disaster that the Democratic Party inflicted upon itself by passing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. When you add in the way Obama has looked weak, first with Syria and now with the Russian invasion of the Crimea, Obama is fast losing his once great messianic appeal. His own party is disinclined to give him mindless support these days.

Obama is already being compared with former President Jimmy Carter and history will likely judge him as the worst President this nation has ever had to endure. Few, if any, Democrats running in the forthcoming November midterm elections will even want to be seen on the same platform with him. All he does these days is fund raise, play golf, and take vacations.

So, if the CPAC straw vote provides little indication of who will be the GOP candidate in the 2016 election, the response to both Christie and Perry provides a signal of what direction the party may take. Another good indication will be the way the mainstream media goes after whoever it thinks might be the GOP selection. It is little more than an arm of the Democratic Party.

Much has already been written of the “divisions” within the GOP as a strong conservative debate ensues among the candidates who, in truth, all know that Obamacare will be a deciding factor in the midterms and thereafter. I anticipate a Democratic Party bloodbath and so do they.

Americans want Obamacare repealed and, if the GOP gains control of the Senate and increases its hold on the House this year, you can count on a vote to do that. Obama will veto it but he could be over-ridden. That would be historic.

It is, however, way too soon to be making any predictions. All manner of events could intervene and alter the political scene. For now, though, I am inclined to think that Gov. Perry has a good chance of emerging as the presidential nominee in 2016. It would not surprise me if Hillary Clinton decided she’s too old and too tired to put herself through a long campaign. After all, a virtual unknown named Barack Obama defeated her in 2008 when she did that the last time.

For now, I am greatly encouraged by the turnout at the CPAC convention. The future belongs to the generation that attended. They and their parents, and just about everyone else have been screwed by Obamacare and know it.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Attribution: Gage Skidmore.

A Libertarian Frank Underwood by Elijah O’Kelly

If you’re involved or even interested in politics and haven’t heard about House of Cards, then it’s likely that neither you nor your friends own a TV, a tablet, or a smart phone.

The series, one of Netflix’s new in-house production, portrays the ruthless, power hungry politician Frank Underwood. In addition to its critical acclaim, it has become a staple in the conversations of political activists everywhere. Watching as a libertarian, his nearly every action is reprehensible. Underwood acts solely to increase his own power, never shying away from doing immoral things, and he consistently pushes legislation that increases the scope of government. He is a libertarian nightmare. And yet we can’t help but be entranced by him.

But what if Frank Underwood was a libertarian? At first thought, the idea is a complete paradox. His blatant acts of aggression and his vision of power as an end rather than a means are contradictory to the underlying principles of libertarianism. Yet if Underwood viewed power as a means to accomplish libertarian policies rather than an end to satisfy personal desires, it wouldn’t be so easy to despise him. A plethora of valid critiques can be launched at him, but it is indisputable that he has a talent for getting things done.

Imagine if instead of education and entitlement reform, Underwood had pulled strings, twisted arms, and manipulated politicians in order to pass something like a repeal of the Federal Reserve Act or a decriminalization of drugs. It might be hard for libertarians to be smug. The bottom line is that Underwood’s talent for increasing his own power could be very effective if modified and applied by a real life counterpart trying to create libertarian change.

A mental exercise like this doesn’t typically mean much in reality, but the truth is that it offers insight into the current direction of the liberty movement. There are two main methodologies that people subscribe to for creating libertarian change. One seeks to rely mainly on educational efforts, sometimes even abstaining from voting or any political activity, to create gradual change towards a freer society. The other emphasizes political activism to sway elections and build alliances with different groups in order to pass libertarian legislation. Both are vital for a movement and some libertarians effectively use a combination of both approaches. But if we picture the effect a libertarian Frank Underwood could have on the direction of the country, the superior approach becomes obvious.

As unfortunate as it is, government bureaucrats and their cronies won’t change their behavior because they get handed copies of Human Action. Politicians won’t begin following the Constitution because they got mailed a pocket-sized version of it. The government will continue to pass legislation violating everything libertarians stand for until someone has enough power to stop it. Gaining and keeping this power may very likely entail manipulative schemes to thwart more statist peers. It may be contrary to what every libertarian, myself included, wishes the situation could be, but a failure to “play the game” means a failure to make change.

Envisioning a figure like a libertarian Frank Underwood makes it clear what the impact of a master politician who pursues libertarian legislation could be. This isn’t to suggest that all libertarians must attempt to emulate Underwood or that those in politics should try to mold themselves into replicas of him. But questions about purity—doctrinal or otherwise—rarely touch on how the sausage gets made. At some point, some libertarians are going to have to get their hands dirty.

There are, of course, limits to this. Underwood the character commits acts of inhumanity that no amount of legislative achievement could justify and that no honest libertarian would participate in. There are also worries about the corruptive nature of power and if a libertarian could actually avoid succumbing to its temptations. After all, how much of one’s soul must be sold off to achieve such heights of power? In a reality that television writers don’t have to face, a libertarian Underwood might be impossible. Yet, for those who dare to fight the beasts in their own lair, taking a cue from Underwood and outfoxing politicians could lead to enormous gains for libertarian causes. And so the question becomes: What ends justify what means? Or, where on the continuum has the libertarian politician gone too far?

The extent to which a libertarian Frank Underwood deserves our support has no simple answer, but it’s a question we have to ask ourselves as we begin to aspire to political offices. In any case, we cannot dispute that a willingness to “play the game” is absolutely vital if the Liberty Movement has any hope of moving out of the Internet’s basement and into the statute books.

ABOUT ELIJAH O’KELLEY

Elijah O’Kelley is currently interning with Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) where he works to spread the ideas of liberty on college campuses.

After CPAC: What conservatives are still missing

One of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s statements at CPAC 2014 has my complete agreement: “you have to convey the message of what you are for, not just what you are against.”

One of the lessons I learned early on in my military career that I have carried since is “anyone can tell what the issue is or state what the problem is, but a leader tells you what the solutions are.”

For conservatives it is time we turn principles into policies – not get all tied up in details that confuse, but focus on simple points that reflect the concerns of the American people.

A great example is the issue of education. Right now the progressive socialists of the Democrat party are lining up on the side of the teachers’ unions. We recently reported on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attack against the Success Academy Charter School in Harlem. Why aren’t we hearing more conservatives talk about school choice, vouchers, charter schools – in other words, better educational opportunities for America’s children, especially minority children?

No conservative should be lining up behind the insidious common core education initiative, basically an expansion of big government into the realm of education, which should be a local issue. Where are the conservative voices talking about a 21st century education policy vision that is consistent with our principles?

How do we present a roadmap that makes education relevant and develops productive members of our society, rather than test-taking drones? How do we examine the means by which we promote critical thinking skills and skill development by educational partnering with the private sector?

When I think of how conservatives can connect across every community and demographic in America on this subject… here is a clear example of policy inclusiveness, not outreach. We just need to take the message out there. I can’t imagine any mother who would reject a plan to better educate her children and prepare them to achieve greatness and success through maximizing their opportunities.

What I saw missing from CPAC was an understanding that Americans hunger for a particular image. Americans thought Obama possessed it — an image of concerned and caring leadership. It is an image that exemplifies the best of America and reflects the triumph of the indomitable American individual spirit.

It does not spring from numbers and detailed calculations. It is conveyed by someone Americans believe they can invite into their homes who cares for them and their future. The image should not be of someone who offers handouts, but if there is no compelling alternative, voters willingly lower their standards and fall for the giver of gifts.

My mom taught me that “self-esteem comes from doing estimable things.” and sitting home in Section 8 housing waiting for a “gubmint” check ain’t promoting self-esteem. Conservatives need someone who honestly relfects what America is and what she can be as we restore this Republic. Someone who can explain in simple terms a vision of growth, opportunity, and prosperity — not shared — but policies and conditions that create the pursuit of happiness — not the false promise of guaranteed happiness.

The other key aspect of leadership, woefully ignored at CPAC, is the importance of the Commander-in-Chief, a warrior-statesman who not only makes sure the American people know he or she cares — but convincingly demonstrates they will be protected.

Such a leader must be strong enough to sit down at a table with autocrats, theocrats, despots, dictators and garner their respect, if not fear. Consider when Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and told Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

That simple statement inspired a drive for liberty and freedom behind the wall which eventually resulted in its collapse. Today we are faced with a threat from Vladimir Putin who seeks to rebuild that wall.

America is looking for a leader who won’t call Putin for a 60- or 90-minute dissertation, but places a five-minute call to state the case and the consequences, and then hangs up — because the actions will speak for themselves.

We need leadership that looks square in the eyes of the mad mullahs and ayatollahs and lets them know Islamic totalitarianism and terrorism is a non-starter — and will be crushed. America is looking for a leader who lets the Chinese know our allies in Japan and the Philippines will not see their sovereign territories subsumed by aggressive actions.

We need a leader who tells Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah and Hamas that Israel is our ally and no solutions are viable as long as terrorists abide under their umbrella of protection.

The world knows President Obama is a liar and his progressive socialist agenda is failing. America needs to know what conservatives – constitutionalists — will do to restore the exceptionalism of America, and the dream that says regardless of where you were born or where you come from, your greatness can be achieved here in this place: the land of the free, because we are the home of the brave.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.

Democrat Climate Caucus Reveals Its Stupidity

The nation seems to be passing through a period in which too many U.S. Senators have been elected without so much as a high school level understanding of what drives the Earth’s climate and it isn’t the 0.038% of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

On Monday, March 10, some twenty of them will stay up overnight on the Senate floor, according to The Hill, “to bring attention to the impacts of climate change.”  You don’t get more idiotic than that. Climate, measured in decades and centuries, is always in a state of change. Meanwhile, the weather anywhere in the nation, determined by the changing seasons and responsive only to short-range forecasts, has turned colder thanks to a cooling cycle that is now into its 17th year.

Giving speeches all night in the Senate will not change that, but Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has partnered with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to announce a new “climate change caucus” when you can ask any of the million unemployed Americans what the Senate’s real priority should be.

Sen. Whitehouse seems to think that a winter storm that causes “little summer cottages (be) washed into the sea” makes the non-existent issue of climate change “a bit personal.”  Does this moron take rain or snow storms personally? When the sun rises in the morning, does he think it does so just for him?

Democrats are so afraid of the political fallout from the devastation of Obamacare and the lies told to support it that they are desperate to divert voter’s attention to anything else and climate change rates higher than having to discuss why we are still in a major recession after one full term by President Obama and the first year of his second. So, between now and the midterm elections in November, they will engage in all manner of theatrics to stay in office.

Thank goodness we have men like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) in office. For a long time now he has been on record calling climate change—formerly called global warming—“a hoax.”  When he takes a head count, he finds “fewer and fewer members of the United States Senate that are sympathetic to this whole cause.”

Behind the climate change “cause” falsehoods is the intention to impose fees on all aspects of American business and industry that emit carbon dioxide. Sen. Whitehouse wants to force up the cost of energy by making the larger emitters pay for doing what volcanoes do—emit CO2. In addition, all of the Earth’s living creatures do that as well. Congress has defeated 692 similar bills.

Sen. Whitehouse and his climate caucus are depending heavily on the 30% or so voters who still think that global warming is real. To some extent you can’t blame them. They were taught that in school and college. They read and hear that it is real in the news media every day. As of today, however, not one high school graduate has lived in a period of global warming.

And what is the rest of the world supposed to think when both British Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences have just released a report, “Climate Change: Evidence & Causes” that is a rejection and abandonment of the most fundamental values of science.  The report asserts that “Continued emissions of these gases (CO2) and other greenhouse gases will cause further climate change, including substantial increases in global average surface temperatures and important changes in regional climate.”

Tom Harris, the executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, responded saying the report “does a serious disservice to science and society.” And that is an understatement. “This is not the language of science…it is appalling that two of the world’s foremost science bodies should engage in such unconditional rhetoric.” Not to mention that it is an outright lie.

So, while the twenty or so desperate Democrats gather all night, keep in mind that (1) there has been no global warming since 1997, (2) more than 31,000 scientists have signed a petition saying humans are not causing global warming, (3) Arctic ice is up 50% since 2012, and (4) every one of the climate computer models predicting warmth has been wrong over and over again.

Find out if one of those Senators is from your State and is up for reelection in November. Then vote him or her out of office and replace them with a candidate who wants smaller government, less spending, and demonstrates a devotion to both the truth and the U.S. Constitution.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image by MichałRadecki is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

List of Florida’s anti-gun mayors released

The grassroots Florida TEA Party (FTP) has released a list of Florida mayors who are anti-Second Amendment.

In an email FTP states, “It’s getting pretty crazy out there. With so many states attempting to pass legislation to limit and/or eradicate the gun rights granted by the United States Constitution to its citizens, the Second Amendment Coalition of Florida thinks you should know who some of the offenders in Florida are.”

Here are your Florida Mayors Against Gun Rights:

Susan Gottlieb
Aventura
Jean Rosenfield
Bal Harbour
David Coviello
Biscayne Park
Barbara Sharief
Broward County
Greg Ross
Cooper City
James Cason
Coral Gables
Judy Paul
Davie
Cary Glickstein
Delray Beach
Walter B. Duke
Dania Beach
Bruce Mount
Eatonville
Daisy Black
El Portal
John P. “Jack” Seiler
Ft. Lauderdale
Glenn Singer
Golden Beach
Charles Sanders
Greenwood
Samuel Henderson
Gulfport
Joy Cooper
Hallandale Beach
Peter Bober
Hollywood
Ken Schultz
Hypoluxo
Patricia Gerard
Largo
Barrington Russell
Lauderdale Lakes
Richard J. Kaplan
Lauderhill
Howard Schieferdecker
Maitland
Tomás Regalado
Miami
Carlos Gimenez
Miami Dade County
Oliver G. Gilbert
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Rep. Keith Ellison addresses chapter of Hamas-linked CAIR

This is not the first time: Hamas-linked CAIR raised large amounts of for Ellison’s first campaign, and he has spoken at numerous CAIR events.

CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case — so named by the Justice Department. CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups. Several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror. CAIR’s co-founder and longtime Board chairman (Omar Ahmad), as well as its chief spokesman (Ibrahim Hooper), have made Islamic supremacist statements. Its California chapter distributed the poster above telling Muslims not to talk to the FBI. CAIR has opposed every anti-terror measure that has ever been proposed or implemented.

But all that is apparently fine with Ellison; in fact, to bring it up would be “Islamophobic.” And no one will care about this. But imagine if Ellison were not a Muslim, but a Christian, and had addressed a conference of, say, the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Do you think there would be a furor in the mainstream media, with calls for Ellison’s resignation? So do I. And yet AFDI has no connection to any terror groups. CAIR has plenty. And the world is upside down indeed.

Dr. Ben Carson Finishes Strong in 2014 CPAC Presidential Straw Poll

MERRIFIELD, Va., March 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, a political action committee formed to draft Dr. Ben Carson into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is proud to announce that Dr. Carson made a strong showing in the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) presidential straw poll, coming in third place in a crowded field of 26 contenders.

“Dr. Ben Carson has said he will run for the Republican nomination if the American people are clamoring for him, and the results of this straw poll are unmistakable,” said Vernon Robinson, the Committee’s campaign director. “Dr. Carson is the best hope for America, and his strong showing in the straw poll clearly shows that the grassroots are clamoring for him to bring principled, constitutional leadership back to the White House in 2016.”

This year’s CPAC straw poll included 26 potential candidates for the Republican nomination, more than any in recent years. The poll included well-known contenders such as Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.) and former Gov. Sarah Palin (Alaska). Other names in the poll included Donald Trump, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and John Thune (S.D.), and former Gov. Bob McDonnell (Va.).

The annual CPAC straw poll is an early predictor of grassroots support, and it gives a clear idea of what conservatives will be looking for in the next election cycle. In the poll’s 41-year history, winners have includedRonald Reagan (1976 and 1980), Mitt Romney (2008) and Ron Paul (2012). Dr. Carson took 4 percent of the vote in the 2013 poll. His jump to 9 percent of the vote this year shows that efforts to bring his qualifications to public attention are working, and the American people are clamoring for his principled leadership.

Dr. Carson’s strong showing in the straw poll clearly shows that the American people are clamoring for him to run. In its first six months in operation, the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee raised $2,837,401– more than double the funds raised in the first six months of the Draft Hillary effort.

Nearly 47,000 individuals contributed to the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee in its first six months in operation between August 21, 2013 and February 22, 2014. The average contribution amount is $45, with many donors contributing more than once. In January, Dr. Carson overwhelmingly won the Linn County, Iowa, midterm caucus straw poll with 87 percent of the votes. And 77 percent of respondents to a poll of Tea Party activists said they support Dr. Carson.

“Dr. Carson’s straw poll showing is highly encouraging, and a clear sign that the American people are clamoring for him to run for the Republican nomination,” said John Philip Sousa IV, national chairman of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee. “We must redouble our efforts going forward to enlist grassroots America to stand with Dr. Carson and bring principled leadership back to Washington.”

About the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee

The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee is a political action committee formed to draft Dr. Ben Carson into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. It was founded in August 2013 by John Philip Sousa IV and Vernon Robinson, and works to raise awareness of Dr. Carson’s qualifications and to engage grassroots conservative activists in clamoring for Dr. Carson to run for president. For more information visit www.runbenrun.org. Follow the effort on Twitter @DraftRunBenRun and Facebook.

SOURCE National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee

Some Very Good News About Americans

We are all besieged daily by bad news. It is easy to become depressed about the present state of the nation, but there is some very good news as well.

This is not to say there aren’t legitimate problems and concerns. The last two elections put a President in office that lies all the time. The nation’s economy has been so awful that 100 million Americans are either out of work or have ceased looking for work. Democrat political leaders are actually telling Americans that being unemployed is a good thing because it leaves them free to pursue their hobbies.

The President has been pursuing a campaign to make Americans believe that there is massive income inequality when, in fact, there is relatively little. There has always been a very wealthy class and a very poor one. What there is, however, is a loss of wealth primarily in the Middle Class. As for poverty, America has long provided income mobility to those who wish to study and work hard to improve their status.

What is rarely addressed is the seething power of American entrepreneurship which, at present, is trapped by a largely socialist federal government imposing a mountain of regulations that thwart growth and take money from the private sector that would otherwise be invested in the creation or expansion of business and industry nationwide.

Americans have repeatedly suffered, survived, and overcome financial crises to come back to build the greatest economy in the world. Part of the reason for this are the long established values that Americans of every description embrace.

That is why Wayne Baker’s new book, “United America: The Surprising truth about American values, American identity and the 10 beliefs that a large majority of Americans hold dear” is a welcome review that the author’s extensive research confirms.

The beliefs are:

  • Respect for others
  • Symbolic patriotism
  • Freedom
  • Security
  • Self-Reliance & Individualism
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Getting ahead
  • Pursuit of happiness
  • Justice & Fairness
  • Critical patriotism

Cover - United AmericaA journalist, David Crumm provides an introduction to Baker’s book. “Dr. Baker defines a Core American Value (as one) that is strongly held by a large majority of Americans, stable over time, and shared across diverse demographic, religious and political lines…Here a core value represents an area of deep and broad consensus among American people, not disagreement and division. A core value is not a prescription of what Americans ought to believe, but what Americans actually do believe.”

The research supporting Dr. Baker’s book was conducted over two years by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute. The data was analyzed with a battery of statistical techniques to ensure the validity and reliability of the results.

Touching on a few of the values addressed in the book, Dr. Baker starts with respect for others which he describes as “so important that it actually characterizes what it means to be an American…More than 90 percent of Americans in the national surveys I conducted said that respect for people of different racial and ethnic groups is important to them.”

“Respect is given to people who do what they say, who live according to what they believe, who are persons of integrity. A position or title doesn’t necessarily garner respect, but integrity does” says Dr. Baker and that is bad news for those identified as “leaders” or “experts” who do not display integrity. Telling lies undermines everything they say and do.

“We have what appears to be a contradictory situation,” says Dr. Baker. “Politicians, political elites, and party activists are increasingly polarized, moving further apart from one another. Yet public opinion polls clearly show that Americans loathe the divisiveness. And the values of Americans are not polarized.”

“There is widespread agreement among Americans when it comes to core values. Which means our polarizing politicians are becoming less and less representative or our actual views.”

A review of those core values show that Americans love their symbolic patriotism such as our flag and our national anthem. “Love of country is especially strong in America” says Dr. Baker.

“Americans hold tenaciously to the principles of liberty and freedom,” says Dr. Baker. “A 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center shows that 53 percent of Americans see the federal government as a threat to personal rights and freedoms. This is the first time since Pew started asking about this issue in 1995 that a majority felt this way.”

Little wonder when one recalls the assault on the Second Amendment that was launched by the Obama administration and one that failed significantly. Recent news of the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to “monitor” radio and television news judgments evoked a comparable response.

Freedom to participate in politics and elections evoked a response in which 98 percent of Americans agree with this definition of freedom and it stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s corruption of the Internal Revenue Service to deny Tea Party and patriot groups non-profit status routinely granted to other groups.

As one reads Dr. Baker’s book, one comes away with a renewed confidence in the judgment of Americans, confirming that their core values are those that have made America a beacon of freedom in the world.

And that’s the very good news!

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of an American Bald Eagle taken at the Hoogle Zoo in UT taken by Therightclicks.

Saudi-led Gulf Squabble Spells Trouble for Obama?

The Obama White House and the world media are pre-occupied with Russian President Putin’s grab of the Ukrainian autonomous province of Crimea. There are undertones of “Back to the Future”- meaning a possible return to Cold War era geopolitics with Russia.

Despite that overriding ruckus there was a less well publicized series of events in the Persian Gulf region among members of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC). Does this spell trouble ahead for President Obama’s Middle East policies?

At the GCC meeting on March 5th in Riyadh, Qatar was effectively isolated by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states. The Emir of Qatar, a member of the GCC, has been prominent in supporting financial aid and assistance to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) affiliates in Egypt under Morsi, Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian Opposition Council, one of whose leaders is a dual American Syrian citizenLouay Safi.

Virtually on the heels of the squabble at the GCC gathering, Saudi King Abdullah announced decrees on Friday, March 7th. They listed the MB as a terrorist organization along with several AQ affiliates in Syria and Iraq, as well as Shia terrorist groups in North Yemen and in the oil rich Eastern Province. The latter are backed by both Iran’s Qod Force and Hezbollah. This should present problems and potential conflicts of interest for President Obama’s senior National Security advisor Robert Malley and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Both of these men espouse outreach to the MB, Iran and proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

This train wreck about to happen has been in development since the July 3, 2013 ouster by Egyptian Gen. al-Sisi of President Morsi in Egypt. Morsi was a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood endeavoring to create a Sharia compliant constitution with him as Emir. Egypt’s interim government in December 2013 outlawed the MB. This week an Egyptian court went after Hamas, the Gaza affiliate of the MB banning activities in Egypt. Following, the ouster of Morsi, Saudi Arabia and several of members of the GCC provided upwards of $12 billion in financial assistance to the interim Egyptian interim government. The stage now appears set for Gen. Abdel Fateh al-Sisi to run as the country’s President, a harkening back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the possible return of military autocracy in Egypt.

The flashpoint for the GCC isolation of Qatar was the notorious aged Egyptian MB preacher Yousuf al Qaradawi who had been in exile in Qatar before temporarily returning to Egypt in February 2011. He issued Fatwas for the reconquest of Al Quds (Jerusalem) and preached anti-Semitic hatred to crowds in Tahrir Square. In a January 2009 broadcast from Qatar, al Qaradawisaid about Jews: “kill them, down to the very last one.” While in Doha, Qatar he steadfastly refused to participate in annual International Interfaith Conferences.

A news report by Radaw noted the isolation of Qatar by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states because of the mischief of al Qaradawi and sanctuary provided by the Emir:

The Arab states of the lower Gulf are engaged in the latest and potentially most serious of their periodic family squabbles, which this week provoked three of them to withdraw their ambassadors from tiny Qatar.

The Qatar government expressed regret and surprise at Wednesday’s decision by the “sisterly countries” of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but said it did not plan to retaliate by pulling out its own envoys.

All four states, together with Kuwait and Oman, are members of the GCC.

The official reason for the diplomatic spat is Qatar’s alleged failure to live up to a recent commitment not to interfere in the internal affairs of fellow GCC states.

The three conservative states are particularly distressed that Qatar continued to provide a platform for Yousuf Al Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Egyptian cleric, to use his fiery sermons to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite Riyadh’s threat to freeze relations unless he was silenced.

The scope of King Abdullah’s terrorist designations was reported by Al-Jazeera:

Saudi Arabia has listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization along with two al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria.

The decree against the Brotherhood, whose Egyptian branch supported the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, was reported on Saudi state television on Friday.

Egypt in December listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, prompting the arrest of members and associates and forcing the Islamist group further underground.

Saudi Arabia also listed Jabhat al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Sham) (ISIS), which has been disowned al-Qaeda, as “terrorist organizations”.

It also listed Shia Huthi rebels fighting in northern Yemen and the little-known internal Shia group, Hezbollah in the Hijaz.

Early in February, 2014, Ayman al Zawahiri at Al Qaeda Central announced that the global Islamic terrorist group had no association with ISIS, instead providing support for the Al Nusrah front fighting against the Assad regime in Syria.  ISIS however has rampaged across the Anbar province in neighboring Iraq overtaking the Sunni town of Fallujah.

About the same time as the AQ ISIS declaration, King Abdullah had announced new counterterrorism policies that were directed against so-called reform movements in the Saudi Kingdom. The Washington Post  reported the new law “states that any act that ‘undermines’  the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism.” This Saudi law appears  to be in violation of human rights taken for granted in the West, but clearly viewed as seditious in the autocratic and Sharia compliant Wahhabist Kingdom.

These latest Saudi initiatives could have significant implications for the Obama Administration and Secretary Kerry. Kerry is endeavoring to fashion an Israel- Palestinian final status agreement and resolution of the 37 month civil war in Syria.  We noted earlier the presence of Louay Safi as spokesperson for the Syrian Opposition Council at the recent Geneva II plenum talks. Safi was Research Director at the northern Virginia- based MB supported International Islamic Institute of Thought. Moreover, he was also Leadership Development Director at the MB front, the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008  Federal Dallas  trial and convictions of leaders of the Holy Land Foundation. The Muslim charity group had been accused of funneling upwards of $35 million to MB affiliate Hamas. Safi was also invited by the US Army Chief of Staff to lecture troops on Islam at Fort Hood in early December 2009 following the massacre perpetrated by Maj. Nidal Hassan a month earlier. Clearly, Safi’s rise to prominence in the Syrian Opposition Council is indicative of the MB controlling presence.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and senior National Security Aides were present at the May 2012 meetings of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. They were engaged in outreach to MB officials from Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states and facilitated assistance to ousted President Morsi. Obama Appointments of MB members, especially Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy, Arif Alikhan and Senior Advisory board member Mohamed Elibiary have been problematic. National Security Advisor Malley was a former Middle East foreign policy aide to President Clinton during the failed 2000 Camp David Israel-Palestinian negotiations between former Israeli PM Ehud Barak and the late Yassir Arafat. Malley had accused Israel of nixing the agreement, when it was evident that Arafat had purposely sabotaged it. Malley went on to become head of the Middle East and North African program of the International Crisis group and later advised then Senator Obama and was part of the President’s transition team. He holds views that may further complicate Administration Middle East policies.  Malley propounded speaking with terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the MB. Malley, was recently appointed to the National Security Council. He has the portfolio for Israel -Palestinian peace talks and the Iran nuclear P5+1 diplomatic initiative.

Now that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have designated the MB as a terrorist group, would the Obama Administration dare follow their lead? How Messrs. McDonough, Malley and Secretary of State Kerry will contend with a plethora of problems arising from efforts by the Egyptian government and now the Saudi led GCC targeting the MB is a ‘puzzlement’.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Third World Objectivism: A Young Indian Reflects on the Meaning of Rand on the anniversary of her death by Shanu Athiparambath

Ayn Rand died on this day [March 6th], 32 years ago. Today, young Indians are snapping up her books at a surprising rate.

It’s an apparent contradiction. Howard Roark, The Fountainhead’s main character, is a man with strong principles. But he’s also arrogant. Here in India, humility is considered the fundamental moral virtue. He might have been put away for a very long time had he lived here. In any event, he could not have reached many people through rational arguments, due to what Rand described as “the mystic muck of India.”

But, for many young Indian men and women, Howard Roark epitomizes individualism and strength of character. And much to the chagrin of their boyfriends, many women want their men to be more like Howard Roark. A college mate once told me, “Women do not know that it is not possible for a man to be Howard Roark. He can only pretend to be Howard Roark. Hell, he can’t even pretend to be Howard Roark.”

It’s strange. For nearly four decades after Indian independence, every aspect of the Indian economy was “planned” and “regulated” by the socialistic state. The economy has liberalized somewhat in the past two decades, but still remains one of the most controlled in the world.

Virtually every literate Indian has heard of Karl Marx. And so, the typical Indian’s beliefs are much closer to that of Karl Marx’s.

Outside the market niche she has found, Ayn Rand is virtually unheard of. But that appears to be changing. Ayn Rand outsells Karl Marx sixteenfold in India today, which suggests rapid growth. This is in all likelihood an underestimation: I first noticed her works in a rickety street stall in a small town. The copies were pirated.

No one seems to know why Ayn Rand is becoming so popular in India. India has a huge population, but even today, English-language fiction is read by a minority elite. It is true that Ayn Rand wrote popular fiction. Karl Marx’s prose is dense. But that still does not explain why Rand outsells even many well-known Indian writers and best-selling western writers in Indian markets. Even in the United States, where various strands of thought have found their own niche, Rand’s views are considered way outside the mainstream. It is a minor miracle that she could build a whole movement in a western capitalistic democracy. But why is she becoming increasingly popular in societies that bear no resemblance whatsoever to whatever ideal society she had in her mind?

I can only hypothesize. But part of the reason must be that the intelligent young men and women in traditional, conservative societies know that the dystopian world her fiction depicts is not too unlike the world in which they live. Indians have experienced the extremities of government tyranny firsthand. Libertarians often cite the government as the source of evil, but not all evils flow from the State to the masses. The inept, corrupt governments of the third world can be a reflection of the popular soul. In India, at least, the State can institutionalize the little people’s vices.

In The Fountainhead, Peter Keating’s mother dictates his life with the sweetest of smiles on her face, “Petey, I never think anything. It’s up to you. It’s always been up to you.” The villain in The Fountainhead is Ellsworth Toohey, a manipulative intellectual, and not a government bureaucrat or a politician. One character says Gail Wynand represents everything that’s wrong with the world, but Wynand is a newspaper publisher. People subscribed to The New York Banner because they preferred vulgarity over truth and beauty, and not because the politicians or bureaucrats forced them to.

Ayn Rand was one of those writers who saw politics for what it is—inside and out, macro to micro, down to the level of the individual.

It is probably futile to curse mediocrity, but in the third world, ineptitude and politicking reach epic proportions—and is present in nearly every aspect of our lives. As in Ayn Rand’s fiction, this is not always official, congressional politics. It is true that many rebellious Indian teens find Ayn Rand’s individualistic worldview appealing. But, I believe they also feel that the world around them reminds them of the poolroom that Gail Wynand once worked in. That is, the young men and women in India see nothing but dishonesty and corruption around them.

Even in the best hospitals in the largest Indian cities, the doctors diagnose patients without really speaking to them. When you lie on a hospital bed, you know you have written a blank check to doctors who have life-and-death power over you. On November 9, 1965, the lights of the New York City and the entire eastern seaboard went out, an admirer wrote to Ayn Rand, “There is a John Galt.” But in India today, even in the largest cities, the lights can go out at any moment.

So, appearances aside, it is hardly surprising then that Ayn Rand appeals to young men and women in collectivist societies. She told them the truth about the world in which they live.

ABOUT SHANU ATHIPARAMBATH

Shanu Athiparambath is a writer and editor living in New Delhi.

Um, Scarcity? by Sandy Ikeda

The new mayor of New York wants to make city streets safer. According to The New York Times:

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping set of proposals aimed at improving street safety in New York City, pledging considerable police resources and even precious political capital in Albany to a most ambitious goal: eliminating traffic deaths.

Not just lowering traffic deaths, mind you. Eliminating them.

I posed the following question to my students: If His Honor did manage to eliminate all traffic deaths in the city, how might that policy actually raise the total number of deaths? The answer lies in understanding a very basic lesson in economics: Scarcity matters.

What Is Scarcity?

Scarcity is what gives something economic value. Scarcity results when our wants exceed available, want-satisfying resources. The air we breathe outside is ordinarily not scarce, while the air we need to breathe underwater usually is. Consequently, to those who want air to breathe, the value of outside air is low while the value of underwater air is high.

Although we are often tempted to ignore scarcity, it’s impossible to escape its consequences. For example, there are not enough hours in a day to consume as much leisure as I want and also to earn as much income as I want. But the more I work the less time is left for leisure, and vice versa. Scarcity entails trading off some ends for other ends.

Now, if I’m spending my own private resources to pursue ends of my choosing—to buy a shirt for myself or a gift for someone else—scarcity is hard to ignore. But it’s much easier to overlook if I’m spending someone else’s valuable resources—when someone else is footing the bill. And because modern governments sustain themselves precisely by spending other people’s resources (acquired through taxation or inflation), public officials are far more likely to ignore scarcity and its consequences than a private person is. They may not be aware of the costs of a choice, but those costs always fall on someone, somewhere.

I argued recently that you can almost define economics as “the science that explains why passing a law won’t get it done” because the unintended consequences of a government intervention tend to frustrate what its advocates want to achieve. In that essay I emphasized how an intervention generates unintended consequences because society is so complex. But often the problem is simply that public officials ignore the existence of scarcity. If they spend more of the government budget on traffic control, that means spending less on preventing violent crime, and they may not like the results.

Political Rhetoric or Social Science Fiction?

So when I read about de Blasio’s plan, it caught my eye. The article goes on to say:

The 42-page plan is rooted in a Swedish street safety approach known as Vision Zero, which treats all traffic deaths as inherently preventable. Perhaps the most significant changes involve the New York Police Department, whose officers will increase precinct-level enforcement of speeding.

I’ve developed a soft spot for Sweden lately because it has taken major steps at the macroeconomic level toward a freer economy.

We here in the United States should learn from these steps. So I visited the website of Vision Zero and found much to like in their approach, which tries to take into account the imperfection of human behavior. They claim that safety in Sweden has improved, presumably as a result of Vision Zero.

The trouble begins when you look closely at the underlying philosophy.

The first is the idea that “no loss of life is acceptable” if it’s caused by traffic. But why stop there? Why should traffic deaths be less acceptable than deaths by poisoning or by drowning or from the flu or from a myriad of other causes? The same arguments they make for eliminating traffic deaths could be made for those. But Vision Zero doesn’t make them, perhaps because if they did it might direct scarce resources away from their pet project, or because at some level they realize that it’s too costly to eliminate all accidental deaths.

Second, Vision Zero places the bulk of the responsibility for safety not on the imperfect driver or pedestrian but on the less imperfect “professionals” in charge. Aside from the uncomfortable paternalistic overtones of that attitude, as I explained in the column I reference earlier, making driver “safer” can cause more accidents. In order to minimize accidents, the driver and pedestrian must bear the costs of their actions, otherwise they have an incentive to act recklessly.

At any rate, in each of these cases the VZ folks can’t possibly mean what they are saying because it utterly ignores scarcity. The spokesperson says that people should be able to demand (and presumably get) freedom, mobility, and safety all at once. Since what Vision Zero is purportedly aiming for is perfect safety—which is what is supposed to make the approach novel—then he must also mean perfect freedom and perfect mobility as well. In world of scarcity, that’s fantasy, or to be more precise, it’s social science fiction.

Surely, it’s only political rhetoric. At least I hope so. But there’s another problem with Vision Zero.

Ought Implies Can

If drivers and pedestrians who put their lives at risk still make mistakes, why should we assume that traffic professionals who don’t have as much to lose won’t also make mistakes? They can’t possibly anticipate every contingency, nor would we want them to if the cost is going to be sky high. Everyone makes choices that might contribute to an accident.  But why can’t an accident, even a terrible one, simply be an accident? Why does it have to be somebody’s fault, every time? I think this is wrong-headed.

I’m not saying that lowering traffic deaths isn’t a good thing. But making it a moral problem, by placing the main responsibility for saving lives on experts, is confused. Morality is related to economy, of course, but probably not in the way its proponents think.

As my colleague Steve Horwitz put it, “Ought implies can.” Economic concepts such as scarcity help us get a handle on what’s possible, the set of feasible choices, from among which we can choose. The “eliminate deaths” approach ignores the feasible and goes right to what we would like to see. Sure, bringing the number of traffic deaths to zero would be great, if it could be done at a reasonable cost. But I can say with assurance that the cost would not be reasonable.

That’s because “pledging considerable police resources” to eliminate traffic deaths necessarily means drawing police and other resources (for narrowing streets or installing devices that will penalize taxis for speeding) away from other areas, such as monitoring thefts or preventing violent crime and so on. In that way, Vision Zero could wind up taking away more life than it saves. The total effect would be an empirical question.

The mayor points out that last year there were 176 pedestrian deaths in the city. That works out to about 2.2 deaths per 100,000 persons, which is significantly higher than the national average of 1.58 deaths. Now, New York City has an above-average number of pedestrians per 100,000 persons, which might explain much of the difference, but it might be a good thing anyway to try to lower that number to somewhere closer to the national average. And that’s where people get uncomfortable with economists because we’ll often talk about the “optimal” number of deaths in such a case.

But when we say something is optimal, we’re not trying to morally justify those deaths. We’re only trying to make it clearer what the realm of the possible is—what we can do. Can we do better with existing resources? Almost certainly; our knowledge is never perfect and there’s always room for improvement. Can we increase government resources by increasing taxation and through inflation? Yes, we can!

That won’t solve the fundamental problem though. Even with a bigger budget, scarcity and the hard choices it entails won’t go away. The sooner real-world governments and their supporters realize it the better.

ABOUT SANDY IKEDA

Sandy Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism. He will be speaking at the FEE summer seminars “People Aren’t Pawns” and “Are Markets Just?

Putin’s Folly

Photos of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, often show him shirtless, riding a horse, shooting, catching large fish, and close to wild animals. It is the kind of public relations intended to emphasize his manliness and strength.

Putin has made it clear over the years that he wants to restore the size and influence of the former Soviet Union, but the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, in part from the four decades of isolation of the Cold War and in part because Communism doesn’t work no matter how large or small a nation may be.

Just ask the Venezuelans who want to overthrow their government or the Ukrainians who forced out their president, Viktor Yanukovych, after he tried to thwart a greater engagement with the European Union.

Putting Russian troops into the Republic of Crimea while claiming that they are there to protect the human rights of Ukrainians in the eastern sector will prove to be a major blunder. Call it Putin’s folly.

History is often shaped by the errors made by various leaders. The former head of the Soviet Union’s NKVD is long accustomed to using coercion and Communism depends on it to maintain its power. The move into Ukraine reflects the preference to threaten this and other former satellite nations, but we are now in different times. Putin is about to learn that.

President Obama’s lack of a coherent foreign policy and his desire to have better relations with Russia has been widely criticized, but so far as the Ukraine is concerned, he has acted wisely.

At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday, the U.S. ambassador, Samantha Power, spelled out Putin’s errors of judgment for everyone to hear, accusing Russia of an act of aggression.

“Russia has every right to wish events had turned out differently,” she said of the events in Ukraine, but “It doesn’t have the right to express that using military force.” President Obama backed that up, warning of potential diplomatic and economic “isolation.”

In blunt terms, Powers said “So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality.”

Powers enumerated the events, noting that Russian military forces had taken over Ukrainian border posts, taken over the ferry terminal in Kerch, and that its ships were moving in and around Sevastapol. In addition, Russia was blocking telephone services in some areas. “It is a fact that Russia has surrounded or taken over practically all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea” in addition to having had its jets enter Ukrainian airspace.”

Powers, speaking for the U.S., said that “There is a way out. And that is through direct and immediate dialogue by Russia with the government of Ukraine, the immediate pull-back of Russia’s military forces, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and the urgent deployment of observers and human rights monitors, not through more threats and more distortions.”

Putin’s show of strength will backfire because neither the U.S., nor the European Union, or any other nation wants to see a revived Soviet Union in the form of an over-aggressive Russian Federation.

President Obama announced an aid package to bolster the Ukrainian government, including $1 billion in loan guarantees to offset any loss of energy subsidies from Russia. The U.S. is also planning to provide technical support for Ukraine’s financial institutions, training for election observers and assistance in anti-corruption efforts. One of the reasons Ukrainians drove out Yanukovych was the corruption he represented and his preference for Russian influence in the Ukraine.

Coming off the global attention generated by the Winter Olympics, Putin may have calculated that he had to back Yanukovych and, after he fled Kiev and the Ukraine, concluded that only a show of military power would restore respect for the Russian Federation. He was wrong. Nations get respect for not invading their neighbors and for participating in the global economy.

In many ways, in today’s world there are options to pressure Russia with regard to its need to sell its natural gas and oil assets, and conduct trade with other nations. Putin has underestimated these options.

At some point he will withdraw his military—whose uniforms do not show any identification of origin—and will declare that Russia will respect the outcome of the Ukrainian elections in May. He has no choice. The Cold War is over, but it never really ended as far as Putin is concerned.

While President Obama has received a torrent of criticism for his foreign affairs policies, much of it well earned, his restraint is the best way to address the Russian invasion and the U.S.  mobilization of resistance to it is the wisest course of action.

Nobody wants World War III and that includes Vladimir Putin.

© Alan Caruba, 2014