We had a horrific attack on innocent people in Las Vegas on Monday and the politicians are running the usual script again. They want to crack down on our right to bear arms under the false tag name “Gun Control”. This is not the first time they do that, and won’t be the last. Every time we have a shooting or a terrorist attack we always hear the politicians giving us the false choice between Liberty and Security. We have fallen for this so many times over the decades, we accepted reduction in our liberties in exchange for false promises:
- We accepted restrictions on our gun rights in 1934, 1937, 1968, 1986. None of these laws made any improvements in any crime statistics.
- We let our government spy on us and harass us in airports in the name of security but no-one every question the effectiveness of these measures and what they are doing to our character as a supposedly free country.
- We accepted fiat paper money instead of gold backed currency in exchange for promise of a central bank that would prevent panics but since the establishment of the Federal Reserves our recessions became more frequent and inflation became the norm. The federal reserve has created money out of thin air and used it to buy government bonds to finance welfare and warfare spending that doesn’t benefit the country in the long run.
- We accepted government interference in our retirement planning in the form of social security and now we have a broken system that will go bankrupt soon and cannot support retirement life for anyone.
- We accepted government interference in our healthcare system in the form of regulations and mandates culminated in the disaster called Obamacare. In exchange we got high prices, denied coverage, shortages of doctors and bad health outcomes.
There are many examples in many fields of us letting the government take away some of our liberties in exchange for false promises. I am glad that our gun rights activists have successfully stopped the federal government from taking away more of our rights and expanded those rights in most states, but I wish we can do the same for all other areas of our life.
Where does the political power reside in the United States? If you base your answer on the meaning of the Constitution you will guess that Congress should be the center of the political power in the Union. In reality, Congress has for decades passed laws to delegate different responsibilities to other unelected bodies.
When you read the Constitution of the United States you will learn that the ratifying states delegated 18 powers to Congress and that Congress has the power to create the necessary and proper laws to exercise these powers. We could the debates the meanings of these powers and how they should be used but the undisputed fact is that Congress should make the laws. The president, on the other hand, is supposed to head the executive branch that, as the name indicates, executes the laws passed by Congress.
Congress started passing laws that establish federal agencies and task these agencies with making rules to regulate a certain area of the economy. The first such agency was the Interstate Commerce Commission which Congress created in 1887 to regulate the railroads. Congress created so many agencies over the years that we have conflicting estimates of the number of agencies with rule making powers.
Given that Congress has delegated all these powers to the executive branch, what does Congress do? Members of Congress are busy holding show hearings to embarrass against executive branch officials. I call them show hearings not because I think that the target executive branch officials don’t deserve the blame and embarrassment, I believe that most our executive branch officials are self-serving people who are in the government either to enrich themselves or to advocate anti-liberty agendas, but because nobody ever gets fired, disciplined, or jailed as a result of any of these hearings and investigations.
All these hearings are there to make partisan supporters of the different senators and house members think that their politicians are standing up for them. Most of the time, these investigations end in a thick report that nobody reads and a number of politicians of one party blaming the lack of consequences on arcane government rules while the other party’s politicians claiming that the whole thing is just a witch hunt.
After the Congress members finish their daily dose of hearings they usually either go on TV for interviews or give speeches to special interest groups who are lobbying them for certain law in exchange for re-election campaign contributions.
Every election cycle, conservatives, and libertarians support candidates for Congress to shrink the government and they only get in return a bunch of speeches, hearings, TV interviews, and excuses. Take the example of Obamacare, the Republicans voted for a full repeal several times when they knew either that the democratic senate won’t take the bill or, after taking the Senate, that President Obama will veto the repeal. But when they got President Trump in the White House, they failed to produce a repeal bill and instead produced a lite version of Obamacare and couldn’t even pass it.
The Republicans controlled the Congress and Presidency during the early years of both Eisenhower and George W. Bush presidencies. They didn’t repeal a single New Deal or Great Society law. It seems that they won’t do much under Trump either and soon they will lose either the Senate or the house or both and we will start the process from scratch.
This complacency and failure of the Republican party shouldn’t discourage us from doing what we can to achieve the vision of limited government. We should keep the pressure on the Republicans especially in the primary elections. Primary elections are the only way to fire some of the politicians who only gave us excuses and replace them with others who may do better. We should also focus on the local and state level to resist the expansion of powers by the federal government. We should support the movements to nullify unconstitutional federal laws and efforts such as using an article 5 convention to amend the Constitution. Finally, we should be all be advocates for liberty. There are several situations where you can advocate for liberty: in conversations with friends and family, in raising your children and as members of juries. We may not be able to repeal an oppressive law, but we may be able to save a fellow citizen from it if we nullified that law in a jury trial.
Today is July 4th, 2017, we celebrate the day the Continental Congress declared independence from the British Crown. Today, we celebrate more than an eloquent document or the start of a war or even the formation of a country. We celebrate the concept of local government and self-determination. The 13 colonies didn’t secede from Britain because they hated the British culture or customs but because the King and Parliament violated their rights as British people. They decided to declare independence of their 13 states to protect their way of life and their rights. They believed that the role of government is to protect the natural rights of the people against violation and when the government itself violates these rights then that government ought to be abolished.
The 13 colonies were functioning as independent states with independent legislatures for over a century before independence. They relied on the central government in London only for defense of their trade ships and foreign policy. When that government started to tax them and regulate how they conduct their business they revolted against this government and declared their independence.
The union that the states formed was a replacement for this role they expected from the central government. They expected that government to represent them in international relations, protect their trade routes and borders and regulate trade among them to prevent one state from restricting trade with another trade and establish a shared sound currency. The powers delegated to the central government both in the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution are all to facilitate these concerns.
We deviated a lot from the vision of the founders. Many citizens look to the central government in Washington D.C. for solutions, aid, and handouts. The citizens and the states gave up on their rights in this union and let the federal government usurp powers to regulate all areas of commerce, inflate the currency, tax the people, redistribute income, and engage in unnecessary wars.
We do need to remember the reasons our founding fathers sought independence and formed this union and engage in all possible political and educational activities to teach the citizens and the state governments about their rights in this union and the proper role of the federal government as envisioned by the founding fathers and ratified in the Constitution.
A monopoly is the exclusive control of the supply of a product, a service, or a commodity. Consumers do not have a choice if they decide to buy that product, service or commodity, they will have to deal with the monopoly and accept its terms.
How can a firm secure a monopoly? One way to do that is to buy all of its competitors, but this is easier said than done because that assumes the availability of enough credit for that company to buy all of its competitors and the acceptance of these competitors to be purchased. Another way is for the firm to compete hard on price and quality of service so it expands its market share and drives its competitors out of the market. Once the firm achieves market control it cannot arbitrary raise prices and abuse customers as many people may think, the reason is that if other investors see a good opportunity to make gains in that market they will enter the market and compete with that firm. The only way then for a natural monopoly to maintain its market dominance is to run an efficient business with an acceptable profit margin that does not encourage other investors to enter the market.
A Trust or Cartel is a group of producers who band together to control the market for a certain product, commodity, or service. Many people believe that a cartel can raise prices arbitrarily without a check, but in a free market new competitors will enter the market and challenge the cartel’s dominance if they see a good profit margin so the cartel cannot have total dominance on their market.
The free market protects the consumer by default because the producer will have to provide the best service in the most efficient manner to prevent either existing competitors or new competitors from taking that producer’s market share. In other words, the producers do not have a total pricing power over the consumers because competitors can always enter the market and provide a better price.
There is then no economic need for laws or regulations to control monopolies, trusts, or cartels but all countries have some form of Anti-Trust laws that regulate mergers and acquisitions. The main reason for the existence of these laws is to protect inefficient producers who fear being driven out of the market by more efficient producers. They run to the politicians and demand government protection to prevent market consolidation. They usually invoke protecting customers as one of the excuses for the intervention. Customers care about having access to good products with acceptable prices and having efficient producers in the market achieves that. Looking at the case of Standard Oil in the early twentieth century; we see that the price of oil products has dropped consistently every year of standard oil’s alleged monopoly and the consumers access to high-quality products increased. Breaking down Standard Oil only managed to serve the existing inefficient producers not consumers.
The only way a monopoly or a cartel can achieve total dominance is by restricting market entry and this can only be achieved through government power. Government created monopolies of utilities such as electricity and cable delayed the development of these fields and left the consumers without access to high-quality alternatives.
The existence of Anti-Trust laws is an example of how the government manages to create a problem while claiming to solve such problem.
Recently, I read a great book by Thomas Sowell called A Conflict of Visions. Sowell makes the case that one of the main reasons for ideological differences is a conflict between two visions of human nature. The first vision is the constrained vision. In this vision, humans have constraints on their moral and logical abilities and people are motivated by self-interest. The second vision is the unconstrained vision. In this vision, there are no limits on the moral and logical abilities of humans hence some people develop more such abilities and should have more power over the whole society.
Believing in different visions impact the different fields of public life. The constrained vision believers prefer a constitutional form of government with limits on the powers of different individuals and branches while the unconstrained vision believers prefer giving more power to the elites and the experts to plan the society.
After reading this book I realized how close are the neoconservatives and the progressives to each other. Progressives believe that the federal government experts can organize the lives of people in the United States while the neoconservatives believe that the American government can organize the affairs of the entire world. Believing in the power of experts doesn’t limit itself to the domestic or the international domains and hence we see that progressives and neoconservatives behave in the same way.
Neoconservatives believe that they have the superior moral and logical abilities to organize the entire world so when they face a domestic issue they are more likely to support a statist solution. The only reason they don’t agree 100% with the progressives is that they court the conservative voters and they have to appease them with a glimpse of liberty or free market every now and then.
Progressives believe that the government has the expertise and the moral authority to organize the lives of millions of people domestically. When they face an international situation they are as likely to interfere with it as the neoconservatives may do because they have the same blind belief in their superiority.
Historically, the neoconservative thinkers started as left-wing progressives who broke with the democratic party over that party’s abandonment of the Vietnam war in the late sixties and early seventies. They had to make their interventionist ideas acceptable to traditional conservatives, so took advantage of the cold war and branded their ideas as favoring a strong defense. But spreading the United States military all over the world to intervene in civil wars and regional conflicts that don’t threaten the United States has nothing to do with defense.
Strong defense comes from both a strong and well-trained military that can be easily deployed to defend the homeland or important trade routes and a well-functioning economy that can support waging a large scale war if needed. The experience of the United States in both world wars demonstrate that in both cases, the United States didn’t enter either war with a large military. But in both cases, it used its massive economy and human capital to mobilize and deploy huge armies under the leadership of the existing well-trained officer corps.
The absurdity of the interventionist policies was demonstrated by the failure of the experts in shaping the societies of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq after wasting thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars in each of these wars. If we added to that the failed interventions in places like Syria, Libya, and Yemen we can see the limits of the abilities of experts to shape the events.
The true conservative position is to recognize the limits of the abilities of the government and return it to the few areas listed in the constitution. I understand that fixing the errors of more than a century of domestic and international intervention is not easy but any difference we can make is a step in the right direction. We need to speak up against every government program, every intervention, and every unnecessary war. We should not let partisan biases put us in a position to accept something we know is wrong, Republicans are as responsible for the current situation as Democrats.