Where My Country Gone?

It is much to my chagrin, and even more so to my pride, that I must admit, despite my past confidences, that I have been enormously and abjectly wrong. I have been wrong about the collective opinion of conservatives within the American electorate; wrong about the political tendencies of those with whom I assumed I shared a mutual ideology and commitment to principle; and, more than anything else, wrong in my estimation of the character of the American voter.

The so-called “Radical Middle” which has emerged from their foggy, mud-ridden bog in support of a demagogue on par with the Gracchi came as a surprise. I honestly thought more of Americans. I thought more of their defense against the whims of rabid idiocy and petulant ignorance which has so plagued the tragic decline of American conservatism. Since at least the 60s, if not before with the rejection of Robert Taft and the Old Right, there has been a synthesis of constitutional ideological conservatism with what can be no more simply described as political opportunism, preying upon the simple vices of simple men whose perspective is trapped in a nostalgic sitcom on TV Land. And this synthesis has been the seed upon which the weed gracing every form of media has rapidly grown.

I am a conservative libertarian. I agree wholeheartedly with the political logic that the likes of Rothbard, Hayek, Mises, and their ilk have developed throughout the 20th century, but I also agree with the importance of institution and community in developing a culture of freedom. This is not in opposition to these thinkers, but, I think, necessary to the realistic application of their ideals. Humans are social animals. They crave community; they desire the approval of others; they desire a society.

The difference between a libertarian and a conservative, in my view, is one of emphasis. Libertarians emphasize the individual to a fault. The importance of individual liberty is, and should be, the paramount concern for purely political discussion, but people do not often view political discussion as being purely political. People see politics as more than an argument over the role of government, but over the defining culture which they seek to belong.

This is why statism and central governance is so doomed to fail. It seeks to implant upon the infinitely unequal the shackles of equality. Self-governance and emphasis on community is the only way to balance the necessity for little to no state with the necessity for humans to belong to groups. When the resources of a given society, including the resources of defining a society’s image, are dictated, they are worth going to war over.

In my mind, this is where the resentment of Muslims, the “1%”, Hispanics, and any other group at the center of a political bullseye emanates. To some, the disadvantages presented to them in an age of statism is most assuredly due to “the Other.” The crippling of 20th century manufacturing by unionized labor, liberal governance, and poor Federal Reserve policy has not those causes to blame, but “Mexicans” who have simply stolen jobs from the more deserving natives or “the 1%” who are too greedy to allow for similar growth in lower percentile demographics.

It is through this lens which I see the current state of American politics as nothing more than a devolution into the absurd. Both sides of the American political spectrum have so wholehearted rejected any intellectual foundation upon which they may have once been built and replaced it with vacuous ignorance and short-sighted emotive appeals. Where Buckley exclaimed to stand athwart history and yell “STOP!” referring to the progressivism of American liberalism, he would today stand athwart a scared rabble emerging on his own sideline pleading that they simply read a book.

If there ever was an election which embodied the microscopically narrow ideological gap which has existed between the two major parties, then a more demonstrable example than this one can hardly be found. Nor one where people of principle have been so quick to cast those principles aside for the vicarious self-aggrandizement they’ll receive by ushering in the oafish buffoonery of a similarly self-aggrandizing narcissist whose insecurities over his tiny, cocktail-sausage-like hands could break down decades of international relations at a single off-the-cuff comment by some foreign diplomat.

Ultimately, I am left with the bittersweet sensation of watching the destruciton of a party whose arrogant comfort in decades-old ideas built upon the assumption of zombie-like, base obedience crowded out better men from being taken seriously, but only to be replaced with a manifestation of every caricature that snobby, college-liberal fans of Gore Vidal have thought themselves so clever to post in their secret Facebook groups.

This election is everything I wished politics would never be and I don’t see how Republicanism can recover.

America is a joke.

Harrington: Libertarians Should Be Excited by the Rand Candidacy

My opinion on Rand Paul’s presidential announcement is exactly as any follower of WAL would expect: excitement. It’s no secret that I am WAL’s biggest Rand Paul fan.

I’m not just a supporter of his because I believe he supports ideas which I agree with, but also because the rest of America thinks that he is a libertarian.

THAT really excites me.

Rand Paul is more than simply an opportunity to get a liberty-minded individual in the White House; it is an opportunity to spread the ideas of liberty further than we have ever been able to spread them before.

Libertarianism will be scrutinized, it will be studied, it will be attacked, defended, discussed, debated, and turned over again and again. This is EXACTLY what we should want as libertarians: the exposure of our ideas and the opportunity to persuade.

It’s great that Rand Paul is a libertarian who understands how to win elections, but it is even greater that he can do it while exposing libertarianism to new audiences.

I believe in Rand Paul. He hasn’t given me any reason that he doesn’t support libertarian values. Sure, he plays the political game and speaks the political language, but at the end of the day I’m not in the business of winning any “good libertarian” contests. I’m about freedom; I am about getting sh*t done.

Rand Paul is not the only means to that end, but he certainly is *a* means, and a powerful one. If libertarianism is to succeed, then it has to grow through his candidacy. Paul has an opportunity to do that with this campaign and, should his campaign be successful, his presidency.

Because of that, I ‪#‎StandWithRand‬

Also posted at Liberty.me.

Eric Garner, Blue Privilege, and the Gritty Reality of the Nanny-state

In 2004, police in Kenosha, WI shot unarmed 21-year-old Michael Bell in front of 5 eyewitnesses, including his mother and sister, while his hands were cuffed behind his back and 10 years later the policeman involved is still on the force.

Michael Bell was a white male.

On July 5, 2011, three officers in the Fullerton Police Department in California killed Kelly Thomas, a mentally-ill, homeless man and the incident was caught on video for the whole world to see.

While all three officers were charged with involuntary manslaughter and one officer charged with an additional count of second-degree murder, none of them were convicted of any wrongdoing and, indeed, charges were even completely dropped against one of them.

Kelly Thomas was a white male.

On July 17 of this year, Eric Garner was confronted by police for the petty offense of allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes (colloquially called “loosies”) and the force used in the process of his arrest, including a choke hold used by one of the officers, resulted in his death. The coroner ruled his death a homicide and the confrontation was also caught on camera for the whole world to see. In the footage it is clear that Garner was not acting violently towards the police.

On December 3rd, a grand jury declined to indict one of the officers for any wrongdoing.

Eric Garner was a black male and the officers involved were white.

Let me get this out of the way now, racism still exists in America and, in regards to our legal system at the very least, it is systemic. People of color make up 30% of the US population, but make up 60% of its prison population according to the Bureau of Justice. One in three black males can expect to be imprisoned in their lifetimes as compared to 1 in 17 for white males. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests.

Even if, as the New York Daily News has reported, the supervising officer in the Eric Garner confrontation was an African American, this doesn’t change the fact that the system itself, not merely beat cops alone, is administered unfairly and, if evidence is to mean anything, this unfairness often falls upon African Americans.

But, with situations involving white victims, like those referenced above, looking so similar to Eric Garner’s and those of other black victims in the United States (which, again, happen at higher rates), one can legitimately ask whether police brutality is motivated solely by race or whether there might be something at play that transcends the issues of “white vs black.”

Are police above the law?

Michael Bell’s father points to as much in his recent piece at Politico,

Yes, there is good reason to think that many of these unjustifiable homicides by police across the country are racially motivated. But there is a lot more than that going on here. Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity. Because if a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy — that was my son, Michael — can be shot in the head under a street light with his hands cuffed behind his back, in front of five eyewitnesses (including his mother and sister), and his father was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew in three wars for his country — that’s me — and I still couldn’t get anything done about it, then Joe the plumber and Javier the roofer aren’t going to be able to do anything about it either.

I understand that criminals exist and that in our society we have placed the responsibility of dealing with criminals, who are usually violent, in police departments. As a result, we expect them to use force when necessary for their own protection as well as everyone else’s.

For various reasons however, many Americans have taken an almost dogmatic stance to side with the police in every circumstance, whether for racist reasons or otherwise, and, in the process, have covered their eyes and ears to the possibility that police can make mistakes; that they have, in many ways, built for themselves an apparatus of protection from consequences should they overstep the bounds of keeping the peace into breaking it.

Michael Bell’s father describes how the District Attorney for Kenosha “had been endorsed in writing by every police department in the county” which are clear grounds for a conflict of interest when it came to an internal investigation; how the police cleared themselves of any blame for the incident in 48 hours despite the fact that they hadn’t taken any statements from key eyewitnesses or that none of Michael’s DNA or fingerprints were found on the police officer’s weapon even though he had claimed that Michael had reached for it; and how “in 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified.”

The point should be clear, whether intentional or not (and surely we can assume that one county in Wisconsin is not an anomaly), America’s police have insulated themselves from consequences to a degree that non-police, perhaps even unequally among themselves, are not lucky enough to benefit from.

Corruption does not have to be illegal for it to be corruption all the same.

If Eric Garner can be killed in broad daylight, on camera, while putting up no serious (let alone violent) resistance and the police involved don’t even get charged with, let alone convicted for, a crime, then police aren’t simply benefiting from a lack of transparency; they are a protected class, plain and simple.

All of these protections, of course, feed into any police brutality that may exist and not only forgives it, but condones it. Without even touching on the militarization of police departments and the psychological effects of turning police into domestic soldiers in all but name, when police know that they can do almost anything without fear of repercussion, then they will act accordingly. They’re humans and humans respond to incentives – or the lack of them.

The Reality of the Nanny-state.

Furthermore, and we have a very visible example of this in the case of Eric Garner as he was initially approached for the alleged crime of selling untaxed cigarettes (taxes which exist to dissuade smoking), we must face the gritty reality of what a nanny-state looks like when you strip away all of the good intention rhetoric and campaign slogans.

Government is force. Even the trivial laws which are often viewed through the lens of their benevolent intentions have to be enforced by individuals whose ultimate recourse should someone evade a law, even the petty ones, is violence.

Frankly, if you support nanny state policies like the ones that prompted the police’s confrontation with Garner, then you have absolutely zero ground to stand on should you react to his death with disgust. If you see the video of his death, then don’t look away; pay attention and relish in the success of the policies you support. You may not want people to die over petty laws like cigarette taxes, but they do anyway. You’ve made your bed, now sleep in it.

Full fledged liberals in particular should do some serious soul searching in response to this tragedy. It’s very easy to say “racism” and pretend that all of the complexities of reality are consumed into one primal force of ignorance. However, a rational person can recognize that the real world isn’t so simple. Liberals are notorious for disregarding any negative outcomes for their policies with a simple claim of good intentions. The law of unintended consequences is simply lost in their worldview. With Eric Garner, we see a tragic example of an unintended consequence to a liberal policy.

These are the simple facts of the matter. People more likely to evade sin taxes, like the ones on cigarettes, are those with less income. African Americans are statistically more likely to have lower incomes. Therefore, African Americans are more likely to evade these sin taxes making it more likely that police, who will likely be white, will come into their neighborhoods and confront them. And if cops are racist to begin with, as many on the Left consistently claim, then the outcome of these confrontations will likely not be pretty for any African Americans involved.

What is most ironic is that when it comes to the drug war, liberals exhibit an understanding of this logic all of the time; correctly describing the drug war as racist. Yet, a cigarette tax creating an underground market for cigarettes is some how different? Indeed, how is any regulatory statue really any different? Either they are honestly ignorant, or willfully so. Neither are an excuse for shirking their responsibility for the world they have helped to create.

Or, as Jonah Goldberg at National Review, of all people, put it,

This is something that libertarians understand better than everyone else: The state is about violence. You can talk all day about how “government is just another word for those things we do together,” but what makes government work is force, not hugs.

If you sell raw-milk cheese even after the state tells you to stop, eventually people with guns will show up at your home or office and arrest you. If you resist arrest, something very bad might happen. You might even die for selling bootleg cheese.

Everyone agrees: No one should die for selling bootleg cigarettes. But if you pass and enforce a law against such things, you increase the chances things might go wrong. That’s a fact, whether it sounds callous to delicate ears or not.

Or, as Reason columnist Robby Soave put it,

Look, police brutality has many underlying causes. One of them is undoubtedly racism; black people are disproportionately arrested and imprisoned. An encounter between a cop and a civilian is more likely to be unpleasant if the civilian is black. In fact, it’s more likely to occur in the first place if the civilian is black, because many cops racially profile suspects.

Another cause is the police incentive structure. Police have far more legal protections than non-police. They can get away with so much more. Indeed, while the cop who killed Garner evaded indictment, a civilian who recorded the incident on his phone was indicted on a separate weapons charge. It’s difficult—often impossible—to punish police for bad behavior, which gives the bad apples free rein to abuse people.

You know what’s also a cause? Overcriminalization. And that one is on you, supporters of the regulatory super state. When a million things are highly regulated or outright illegal—from cigarettes to sodas of a certain size, unlicensed lemonade stands, raw milk, alcohol (for teens), marijuana, food trucks, taxicab alternatives, and even fishing supplies (in schools)—the unrestrained, often racist police force has a million reasons to pick on people. Punitive cigarette taxes, which disproportionately fall on the backs of the poorest of the poor, contribute to police brutality in the exact same way that the war on drugs does. Liberals readily admit the latter; why is the former any different?

If you want all these things to be illegal, you must want — by the very definition of the word illegal [emphasis in original] — the police to force people not to have them. Government is a gang of thugs who are paid to push us around. It’s their job.

We simply have to stop assuming the answer to all of our problems is government. When a society believes its vices can be stamped out with violence, then confrontations over petty infractions are going to take the form of violence.

What Must be Done?

Of course, the only issue at play was not petty taxes. It is very clear that black Americans feel like the system is against them and for good reason.

But what is there to do?

Obviously, first off, elected officials who are directing policy and are racist or support any thuggish cop simply because he or she is a cop, should be booted out. But what about when the whole system has inherently biased outcomes, let alone racist ones?


Yes, partly. Wisconsin’s independent investigation law is a great first step and other reforms should absolutely be instituted.

However, the underlying problem isn’t simply a managerial problem, but a problem of power. If the American experiment is anything, it is an attempt to address this problem of power so that it doesn’t run amok. If founding a whole new, independent nation still wasn’t able to figure it out, then its solution is much more difficult than simply tinkering around the edges.

I’m not calling for revolution or anything, but we have to understand that the perniciousness of racism, or any negative “ism”, is directly proportional to the power backing it up. If power exists, then it can be abused. We have to take a long hard look at what we want the government to actually do, because the more we expect of it – the more power we give it – the more likely that that power will be administered by someone who doesn’t think highly of black Americans; and who is literally protected through the apprati of the system itself.

In other words, what you can do is make racism docile by taking away its teeth.

If we want a society with no more dead Michael Browns or Eric Garners, or dead Kelly Thomases or Michael Bells, then we need to start by taking the power back.

Harrington: Gary Johnson & The Hill Libertarians Want to Die On

Gary Johnson told Newsmax on Monday that he would be running in 2016 to “provide a libertarian option.”

In reference to Tuesday’s election, Johnson noted,

“The whole election is a big yawn. Who cares who wins, because nothing’s really going to change? It’s like a debate between Coke and Pepsi. They’re debating over which one tastes better,” he said.

“They start talking about tax policy, Coke wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 30 percent, and Pepsi wants to drop it to 28 percent.

“Where’s the libertarian viewpoint, which says do away with it completely? Do away with income tax, corporate tax? Abolish the IRS. If you’re going to replace it with anything, replace it with a national consumption tax. That’s real meat on the bones. I just don’t see any meat anywhere.”

In defense of the obvious fact that Libertarian Party candidates rarely break more than a couple percentage points, and even set records when they break 1% in a presidential cycle, Johnson referenced the increasing popularity of libertarian ideas as reason enough to be on the ballot,

“It hasn’t resulted in anyone winning an election as a libertarian, but if you look at the issues, military nonintervention. Here it was, Congress and the president,” he said.

“They’re ready to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on going into Syria, and low and behold, 80 percent of Americans said no way. Drug reform, drug policy, marijuana legalization; libertarians have been talking about this forever, and now it’s finally here.

“Marriage equality, that’s been a libertarian issue from day one. When you look at these issues and what’s really changing in America in spite of the politicians, I’m going to argue that these have been libertarian issues for a long time.”

Who does Johnson think he is kidding?

Gary Johnson is the epitome of how not to make libertarian ideas a political reality. He’s not talking about alternative means of promoting the ideas of libertarianism. He is not saying that politics can’t advance libertarian ideas effectively or that politics is even hypocritical to libertarian principles.

What he is saying is that he could better advance them through another 3rd party run in 2016.

I would ask Gov. Johnson what office he held during said Governorship? Or perhaps to count the number of libertarian politicians at any level of government in the United States? These are not unfair critiques of using the libertarian party as vessel of putting libertarian ideas into effect; these are political realities.

We have to ask ourselves, if we’re going to try and play politics to advance libertarian ideas, then what is the most effective means of going about it?

Libertarians (small “L”), by themselves, simply don’t have enough numbers to do anything politically without building coalitions with people who don’t call themselves libertarians. In this there is nothing evil; it is not code for sacrificing principles as so many libertarians believe. Even Ron Paul worked with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – literally a self-described socialist – in efforts to audit the Fed.

Furthermore, people who asterisk their libertarian identity have, since 2010 at the very least, been the most effective at promoting those ideas on a national stage. The “libertarians” with the biggest microphone are certainly not members of the Libertarian Party. Indeed, libertarians who are actually putting forth policy – not just talking about it, but are actually putting it forward – likewise are not members of the Libertarian Party.

Let’s face it, if Libertarians are going to move forward politically with their ideas, then it is going to be from within the Republican party and if Gary Johnson agreed, then he could be a US Senator from New Mexico making a name for himself in Congress as a libertarian Republican just like Rand Paul or Mike Lee.

Don’t take my word on it; history provides a great example of the effectiveness of co-opting an existing party’s infrastructure.



The Rise of the Neoconservatives

During the New Deal, the Republican Party became the “anti-big government” party mostly because it became the gathering place of the “anti-New Dealers.” Sen. Robert Taft, being the most well-known politician of what we now call the “Old Right”, was a staunch libertarian in all but name. A non-interventionist to the core, opposed to US membership to the UN, and as strict a constitutionalist Congressman since with the exception fo Rep. Paul – Taft became known as “Mr. Republican” and was even popular enough to get his own monument in Washington, DC.

The successors to this Old Right ideology were arguably the anti-soviets – the most notable politician of which was Sen. Barry Goldwater.

Goldwater was essentially the Ron Paul of his era in the sense that his political identity was cast as a contrast to the “establishment.”

Fate, it seems, is nothing if not poetically tragic, for it was not from without which this semi-libertarian branch of the Republican party was defeated, but from within. In particular, Goldwater and Buckley’s “New Right” came with it a new formalized political ideology: Neoconservatism.

The important thing to note for the argument being made here is that the godfather of the Neoconservative philosophy, Irving Kristol, was a follower of Leon Trotsky, “I regard myself to have been a young Trostkyite and I have not a single bitter memory.”

Think about this for a second. Leon Trotsky: the rival of Stalin for succession of Lenin’s communist revolution. A man who was so strong a candidate for the title that Stalin had him assassinated.

Now, ask yourself which political party the Neoconservatives used to become the dominate ideology of what is considered the American right. The communist party? The socialist party? Those certainly would be the more appropriate political party to represent an ideology informed by Leon Trotsky than a party whose earlier political ideology was developed as opposition to the New Deal, a program that centralized economic control more than any other program in American history, or whose primary figure opposed US membership in the United Nations.

The point is that the Neoconservatives completely flipped the ideological foundation of the Republican party from what it had been since the Great Depression. The conservatism of the anti-New Dealers – an ideology informed by classical liberalism, non-interventionism, and strict constitutionalism – gave way to centralized Wilsonian interventionism and the national security state.



Johnson’s presumptuous description of libertarianism and Rand Paul

As a final point, let’s look at another quote from Johnson’s Newsmax interview. On the elephant in the room (pun slightly intended) that is Rand Paul’s all but confirmed run for office in 2016, Johnson noted,

“On half the issues he’s right, but on the whole social issue thing . . . Look, libertarians are flaming liberals when it comes to social issues, when it comes to civil liberties. A woman’s right to choose, drug reform, immigration, marriage equality. He’s not there.”

I’m sorry, but this is just patently false. Libertarians are anything but monolithic on social issues which is partly to blame for the epidemic of infighting that has plagued the movement for decades. There are plenty of pro-life libertarians, like, well, Ron Paul.

Not to mention, to simply imply that liberals are even any good on social issues like civil liberties or drug reform is a tenuous assumption at best. On issues like civil liberties, Rand Paul is miles ahead of any leading voice in the Democratic party. Simply look at his filibuster on drone policy, suing the federal government of spying on American citizens, efforts to restore voting rights to ex-felons, sentencing reform efforts, raising awareness of the racial disparity of America’s prisons, or his condemnation of the militarization of the police

Not to mention that he has single-handedly changed the narrative of US foreign policy within the Republican party. Even a liberal like Bill Maher has said that he might support Paul in 2016 over Clinton because of his stances on the American empire.

Seriously, is Gary Johnson talking about some other guy named Rand Paul?



What should libertarians do in 2016?

Support Rand Paul of course.

Don’t get me wrong, Rand Paul is not a perfect libertarian, but neither is Gary Johnson. No libertarian matches up to the standard that libertarians have set for those who court their vote. Libertarians have replaced compromising for the “lesser of two evils” for the lesser of three.

Ultimately, Rand Paul will have a better chance of winning the election in 2016 than not only any other political figure under the libertarian umbrella, but arguably a better chance than any other candidate who will run in 2016 period.

Libertarians are either going to have to make peace with the fact that no candidate will ever be perfect, or they will simply have to remove themselves from politics altogether. In that case, they don’t have to worry about the effectiveness of the Libertarian Party.

As Jim Antle put it in his most recent piece for Rare,

“Some libertarians’ inclination to spoil even a Rand Paul Republican candidacy goes beyond politics. It’s a debate between [1980 Libertarian presidential candidate Ed Clark’s] vision of libertarianism as low-tax and the view held by the winning candidate in that presidential election that libertarianism is the “heart and soul” of conservatism.

That’s a philosophical debate for another time. The practical politics, however, are simple.

As a Republican, Johnson was twice elected governor of New Mexico. As a Libertarian, success is defined as getting 1 percent of the vote.

To borrow a phrase from Occupy Wall Street, Rand Paul isn’t the candidate of the 1 percent.”

Libertarians may be coming in from the political wilderness, but if they can’t get over 2008 or 2012, then, politically speaking, 2016 will be the hill they die on.

The American Dream: A Rant by Creighton Harrington


By: Creighton Harrington

Hey everyone! I’m baaaack! Good to see you again! Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. Writing are hard. Anyway, here is a quick rant:

What can be more politicized than this concept of “the American dream?” How many of us have heard it in one form or another? How many of us have been told that it was ours for the taking; that is was America’s greatest truth? Or Her biggest lie?

What does it mean? Ask 100 people and you’ll get 100 different answers. It is the promise of opportunity, some may say, or the promise of wealth. It means two cars in every garage and a white, picket fence. It’s the thought that if you work hard enough, you can do whatever your heart desires. It is the last point to which I most strongly identify.

In the wake of the economic downturn of 2008, we heard talk that the American dream was dead. This is actually a newer attack. Before this, the concept of the American dream was attacked by those who viewed it as a romanticization of wealth and materialism. The ultra-rich became the avatars of the American dream and to it they brought with them the envy which has always followed men of wealth. One need only listen to a literary critic discuss the meaning of novels like The Great Gatsby to hear vocalized the thoughts of many in the American 20th century. Was being rich really the path to happiness? Should we be so attached to the concept of material success? “Money isn’t everything,” they’d say, and “the American dream may not be as attractive as we have been told.”

I heard a different message after the collapse of the housing bubble. The American dream was no longer attacked as a disguise for greed or rejection of the sentimental. Indeed, it is such a description of the American dream to which current critics believe. They don’t attack the American dream because they feel it values wealth above all, but because they believe they cannot have it.

We are now told that if you work hard enough, you won’t accomplish wonders, but will be stuck in the same dead end job, the same debt, and the same relative poverty for the rest of your life. Advancement is no longer based upon merit. The system, they say, is rigged to protect those “too big to fail.” The American dream is dead.

They may be right, but not for the reasons which they believe.

The American dream was never about success, it was about opportunity. To this point I think many will agree. Yet, this idea of opportunity should be nuanced. It was not the opportunity brought forth by a bustling economy or growth in GDP. It was not the opportunity of millions of jobs with not enough people to fill them.

It was the opportunity provided by a free society.

We have forgotten what made America great. It was never that she was an economic powerhouse. This was merely an effect. What made her great was that she was built on the idea of freedom; the freedom to which such economic conditions are a result.

In America, the end was not given to you from birth. Even before the 20th century when millions of immigrants came to America searching for opportunity, this idea of the American dream existed in all but name. You were no longer the servant to a head of state or oligarchy. The Declaration of Independence read, “All men are created equal.” Not equal in material wealth, not equal in societal blessing, but equal in rights. Every man became a king and, thus, no one was. The God-given right of choice was returned to you. You could choose what you wanted to do with your life and, should you not like the options presented to you, then you could go out and make new options a reality.

To be frank, I think that most cries of the American dream being dead are really cries of laziness and entitlement. Nevertheless, if the critics are right, it is not because freedom has failed, but because they have failed. They…we…have allowed America to become the very thing that millions ran from in the early 20th century. We have destroyed the foundation of Her greatness because we have lost sight of what made Her great. We have listened to the snake oil merchants promise us a society of security if only we grant them the privilege of being our guardians from ourselves.

Perhaps they were well-intentioned. Perhaps the early economic planners believed they were doing good. We must have someone to protect the little man from the falsity and deceptiveness of those who only want their money. We must codify economic rules, arbitrarily defined, because unfettered freedom will result in the possibility of a foolish choice. We don’t want to take all of your freedom to choose, to interact with each other voluntarily, but only some of it, and in the end you’ll thank us because we know what is best. Indeed, the experts have told us so.

If any well-intentioned beliefs still exist, then they are purely the beliefs of the naive. Government control isn’t to society’s benefit, it is to one groups’ benefit at the expense of another’s. Regulatory apparati are the political means to an economic end for those cunning enough to recognize that guns are better for the bottom line than quality.

Yes, the American dream may indeed be dead. But it died long, long ago when we forgot who we were. It came in the night wearing the cloak of material promise and security and if we are ever to get it back, then we must understand what it meant in the first place. Then, maybe, we can move forward with getting rid of government altogether.

Now THAT is the dream.

Price Controls Don’t Work…Unless We Call Them “Living Wages”

imageIn 1850, Frederic Bastiat — one of the greatest of the classical economists, wrote what is arguably one of the most powerful essays ever written, which describes the foolishness of government intervention in the free market. In the parable of the broken window he clearly explains that economic decision making can adequately be described as an iceberg where what is seen on the surface is barely even a fraction of the story. It is not only that which is seen that is important, but also that which is unseen — or under the surface — that holds more truth to the nature of economics and the market.

Almost 100 years later, Henry Hazlitt wrote his classic book Economics in One Lesson, the “one lesson” being the fallacy of the broken window. Hazlitt brings the story into the 20th century and shows that the truths in Bastiat’s parable apply to more than the glazier business. Yet, the most important facet of Hazlitt’s book isn’t necessarily found in any one of the chapters, but in the introduction where Hazlitt says,

[This book’s] effort is to show that many of the ideas which now pass for brilliant innovations and advances are in fact mere revivals of ancient errors, and a further proof of the dictum that those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it.

In other words, these fallacies aren’t going away. Whether in the papers of some ambitious economist or from the mouth of some nobly-intentioned politician, the broken window fallacy will rear its ugly head over and over again.

Take price controls  for example. Anyone who has had an Introduction to Economics course knows the familiar concept of supply and demand. Supply means the stock of a good that is up for sale while demand means the hypothetical quantities that the market will demand for that good at any particular price. When prices are free to fluctuate, the ultimate price determined will allow everyone in the market who wants said good at that particular price to get it (i.e: the equilibrium price).

However, if a control on the price is levied on the market and, say, restricts it from moving above a certain level (a price ceiling), then there will be more people in the market who want the good at that price than there are sellers willing to sell the good at that price. In other words, a shortage will occur. Bastiat would say that we can see the lower prices and a shortsighted consumer may be delighted at this situation. However, what we do not see — at least not immediately — is the increased willingness to buy on the part of consumers and decreased willingness to sell on the part of suppliers.

The classic example of this principle at work was the 1973 oil crisis. The OLPEC nations, for political reasons, cut oil exports to the United States. In response, well-intentioned politicians enacted price controls on gasoline which, of course, led to shortages. Rather than having to deal with higher prices and maybe forgoing that weekend scenic drive, drivers too slow to get to the gas station after the pumps were refilled were forced to deal with no gas at all. This, in turn, led to arbitrary rationing of gasoline and popular discontent — all problems that could’ve been avoided with a free price system.

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Harrington: Greenwald Attacks are Not Surprising

It’s to be expected that status quo apologists would waste no time attacking the character of Greenwald because of his role in the NSA leak story. Of course, whether Greenwald was a saint, a demon, or just a typical American would make no difference in regards to the validity of the evidence leaked by Snowden. The NSA has STILL been spying on everyday Americans and it is STILL a travesty of justice and the Bill of Rights. The evidence for that is not in question.

What is most disappointing about this aspect of the overall NSA story is that these “journalists” only go down this road of personal smears because it works. To borrow a term from a friend of mine, it represents the “Kardashianization” our culture; gossip and personal characteristics are more interesting – important even – to the average person to the point that it has the potential to relegate the historically significant truths brought to light by Snowden and Greenwald out of the public forum and replace it with irrelevant, TMZ level dribble. Americans should be upset that the NSA is spying on them, but they should be as equally pissed that they have allowed themselves to be typified as “People Magazine/Us Weekly” cattle who don’t care about the NSA story in the first place.

Harrington: Patriotism and Edward Snowden


Wait! I know, I know — another NSA leak commentary. What could there possibly be left to comment on, right?

Despite the rapid fire of coverage this story has received in the past few weeks and with the media’s emerging character assassination freight train moving ahead at full steam (and, worst of all, a disappointing 48% of Americans approving of the NSA’s program), it still seems necessary that we keep the important aspects of this story in the spotlight.

This post isn’t going to go much into the details of what was leaked, but with terms like “traitor” or “unpatriotic” or [insert empty nationalistic jibe here] being thrown around, I felt that it would be worthwhile to take a look at what exactly we mean when we say “patriot” or “traitor.”

When I say “patriotism” I don’t mean it in the sense that George Bernard Shaw meant when he said, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.” Indeed, this sentiment dies hard and I’m sure plenty see it as the purest definition of the term. It is my argument that this is actually a definition more appropriately attributed to nationalism, not patriotism — but more on this in a moment.

I’ll come right out and say it, I think Snowden is a patriot. His actions have done more in a couple weeks to open America’s eyes to the behemoth that lurks over them in Washington then arguably anything you or I have ever done. In this, he deserves infinite applause.

Yet, while he may have caught people’s attention, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he has convinced them that what the NSA has been doing is wrong — or that Snowden himself is in the right. I’m all for people paying attention, but we can’t just assume that they will up and become libertarians because they know the government is doing something that you or I disagree with.

Read the entire article here.

Harrington: A Reason I Think Many “Leftists” are Just Plain ‘ol Smug

SS394Forgive the rambling nature of this post, it became too long for Facebook.

I assume a number of the readers of WAL have run into critiques of the free-market in their day, but one that I’ve run into a few times is one that just screams that it’s a cop-out; a stubborn refusal to assume that your point is lost.

Often I’d be arguing with someone about how the market is efficient and is the best system at providing consumers what they want, but in response I would not get a rebuttal on how it is inefficient by this standard, but that consumer wants are superficial and “placed” by some other person or entity.

This, I think, speaks to a general resentment on the part of “leftists” (a vague term I know, but used for lack of a better word) to the consumer society in its capacity to  promote values which are built upon the values of others.

This doesn’t mean that they do not emanate from within an individual person, but merely that an individual can place values on things that require another to either reject or appreciate. A person’s “image” is the most blatant of such values. People shop at Abercrombie and Fitch for more than just clothes that have utility in the physical sense (ie: keeping them warm, protecting them from the elements, have a ton of pockets to hold stuff, etc), but also because they would have a “look” that they desire which they undoubtedly built based upon the looks of others. Even the fact that people don’t want their private parts hanging out because it would be inappropriate is based upon social norms which emanate from this “learned value” idea.

There is also the “mid-life crisis” effect, where some dude who is afraid of getting old or is losing self esteem buys a sports car not merely to get from point A to point B, but to project an image of youth or badassedness. Or, there is the “image” of wealth that revolves around, say, a Mercedes which is surely one of the reasons that Mercedes vehicles are purchased.

In other words, people consume things for more reasons than bare sustenance.

What intrigues me is that there is faction of people who see this, that people work towards the end of doing more than eating, drinking, sleeping, and banging, as condemnable.

There is nothing overtly unnatural about this and there is no means of defining the values placed upon food as “more important” than the values placed upon designer shirts. Each emanates from each individual and is subjective in nature. The desire to eat and the desire are both use-values, one satisfies the end of easing hunger, the other satisfies the end of image crafting.

There is the argument of ethics, that it is “wrong” to spend money on “image” when there are those who are starving, but besides the fact that charity crafts an image in and of itself, the only way that one can even get a designer shirt is by producing things for others, getting money, and then buying it (unless you just steal it). Economically, this helps out others by giving them money to spend which they can likely spend on food. The full argument as to how these transactions help even the poor is a little too long for here, so just check out “Economics In One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt for the quickest coverage of the process.

In some cases, the argument takes the form of modern society being less “holistic” than previous times. People are arguably detached from themselves or from their friends and family because of the superficiality of television or popular culture. They lack the capacity to feel, it is said, because we have become mindless drones, being told what to think and feel by “culture pushers” like MTV.

While I agree that MTV is something that deserves condemnation because what it produces is crap upon crap, it strikes me as smug that there are those that see people who enjoy MTV as somehow less in-tune with themselves or as machines who have no ability to feel. The only way this can exist is if the values of the critics are somehow objectively more “correct” than the values of MTV viewers.

What this mindset allows those who hold it to do is get around the fact that the market is better at satisfying consumer wants by rejecting the premise that consumer wants should be satisfied. If consumers are incapable of valuing the “truly important” things in life, arguably because of the big, bad media conglomerates who define “cool,” then it takes an extra market force (most often government) to satisfy, by force, those “truly important” values.

This is such an arrogant argument that when I encounter it I just quit debating and move on. It claims to promote individualism in a society of follow-the-leader drones, but it merely rejects individuality and seeks to make the values of the “critics” be the leader everyone should follow. It is self-contradicting and smug. However much it governs the aims of collectivists, whether they are merely modern political liberals or philosophical socialists, then it is in that capacity a demonstration of an underlying desire to control.

These are just things I’ve been thinking about, but I know Mises touched on this in “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality” and, in the Hayek vs Galbraith debates, Hayek touched on some of this, so for further discussion on this I recommend that you check those out.

With Rand Paul’s Filibuster, Liberty Has Come Into Its Own

Mr Smith Goes To Washington

“Liberty’s too precious a thing to be buried in books, Miss Saunders. Men should hold it up in front of them every single day of their lives and say: I’m free to think and to speak.”

Something special happened on Wednesday. Something that cuts through our transient worries and trivial day-to-day comings and goings; it sneaks behind our cynical guards and goes straight for our hearts. Through the fog of corruption, callowness, and pugnacity which normally stumbles out of Capitol Hill like an arrogant child grasping for vanity, it radiates as a beacon of integrity, dedication, and, above all, principle. Where the brightness of its intensity only serves to lift our spirits and make us remember that feeling of what it meant to be great. A feeling that we had forgotten over years of wear and disappointment.

Its the kind of thing that, when we see it, we get lost in its spectacle and all of our other cares slip away. For one perfect, transitory moment, everything is exactly where it ought to be. Everything we believe, everything we strive to achieve is on full display for every American to witness. In this rare, collective moment, they finally see what we so desperately desire to build; for one brief moment, they feel as we feel.

For me, it was one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever had from the first day I got involved in this movement. It was the moment I had been waiting for; the kind of moment that I imagined the statesmen of old, the paragons of American virtue from our past doing as they built this country and stood for what they believed. It shook me straight to my core. Its intensity was surpassed only by its unequivocal demonstration of the level of conviction and vigilance we all must possess should we desire to succeed in our endeavors to win back our freedoms and save our country.

For me, I finally had a modern day moment, something in the present I could reference to as to why I am proud that I am an American.

Of course, on Wednesday, Rand Paul stood for 12 hours, 57 minutes, and 11 seconds in front of all of America asking one basic question, “Can the President of the United States kill an American citizen on American soil if he is not currently engaged in imminent hostilities against the United States?”

This question, however, goes far deeper than simply a question of policy. It asks whether or not we have lost our way. Whether or not we have become so entangled in fear and anxiety that we have forgotten the true virtues of what so many have fought so hard to provide and given their last full measure of human devotion to ensure.

In short, and in my view at least, he asked simply do we believe in liberty anymore.

I stood with Senator Paul the entire day. I listened to his every word. I listened for every single hour. If he could do me the service of standing there for it, I thought, then I could do him the service of listening. I listened as he said, “You either believe in the Constitution or you don’t” and I felt vindicated. I listened as he said, “I will not sit quietly and let the President shred the Constitution” and I cheered. I listened as he quoted Madison and Spooner, as he pulled the various strands of the philosophy of liberty together on a national stage for everyone in America to hear and my eyes misted when he stood on the floor of the Senate and exclaimed, “America is not a democracy; it is a Republic.”

For 13 hours, he escaped the restrictions of modern day thought builders and opinion shapers; he broke through their machine and reminded us all that America is more than just a place, it is an idea. The idea that every man is free; that no man is subject to the whims of arbitrary power; that our country is more than our status in the world, but is built upon the foundations of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are not merely mottos, but are one and the same with our existence as Americans.

It began with him alone at the floor. He spoke for hours before other Senators, recognizing the importance of the moment, helped him in his task. This day, I thought, I will forget any of my preconceived opinions of them and just stand beside them as they stood beside Rand. Senators Cruz and Lee undoubtedly stood beside him because they shared his convictions and even though some of the other Senators, who will remain nameless, undoubtedly joined for self-aggrandizement, I decided to forget about their ineptitude in the face of Rand’s enormous statement and I just continued to listen.

When Senator Cruz was yielded to for a question and he read the last words of William Travis at the Alamo, relevant because March 6th was the anniversary of its siege, I lost my breath. “Victory or death,” I heard. I could not turn away.

Then came a moment for which I lost it all. Cruz stepped up to the podium and read the words of thousands who were watching at home. Again and again I heard “proud” and “honored” and, of course “stand with Rand.” I literally teared up. It affirmed that the event was more than partisan grandstanding. It was more than vanity or fundraising. I was not alone, the country was watching and they saw what I saw, a man was standing up for the virtues of our Republic and they were just as grateful as I.

Of course, there was nothing more comparable to the moment than the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” I saw in my mind that iconic scene where Jimmy Stewart stood on the floor of the Senate – hoarse and weary, yet still heroically vigilant – and said:

“Just get up off the ground, that’s all I ask. Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see. There’s no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And it’s not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”


I read later that Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who recently suffered a stroke, limped, literally limped, down to Rand’s desk and placed upon it a thermos and an apple just as Jimmy Stewart in the film.

As the 1:00 am hour approached, Rand signaled that he was about to end his filibuster. He reiterated what he had been saying for hours, ending with, “I thank you for your forbearance and I yield the floor.”

I stood and applauded. In my room, with no one around, simply watching on TV and I just had to stand and applaud. The gallery above Rand burst into applause. The ending was perfect. It was nothing short of perfect.

Wednesday will go down in my memory as the day that what I have known to be the level of vigilance I must emulate was demonstrated in full force and it struck me at my core. One man stood in the den of vipers and thieves, he stared down the leviathan and he exclaimed for the entire world that, in America, you are and ought to be free. In America, your rights not only exist independent of the government, but rule it.

Rand showed the utmost integrity and honor in his vigilance in fighting for our liberties. It has been 800 years since the Magna Carta and we still have to debate the protections it espoused. It takes one man with courage, stamina, and honest convictions to breach the hearts of thousands and remind them of what is truly important. Our founders did not give us a country for people like Obama, McCain, and Graham to fear monger and shape policy around messaging themselves, but for men like Rand; statesmen with principles and convictions who believe in something bigger than themselves.

Everything changed on Wednesday. This was the moment, this was the day that the liberty movement came into its own. Its ascended above us; it is more than us now. He moved it into the front lines and now this fight is finally more than just ours, it is America’s.

In the final hour, after he had finished and the applause subsided I sat down and, finally, I could say, with absolute certainty, “Rand Paul has earned my respect.”