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TIME Op-Ed: President Putin, America Is Exceptional

September 13, 2013 in Politics & Elections

A recent op-ed by Russian President Vladimir Putin has prompted me to respond. While his position that the Syrian conflict can and should be settled through a political and diplomatic solution is correct, virtually everything else in his writing should be taken to task. So I shall.
I begin with Mr. Putin’s disagreement regarding the exceptionalism of the United States of America. I could not more strongly disagree with him. While he is correct that God created every human being as an equal in His eyes, clearly the results of each of our efforts on this earth, individually and collectively, are not equal.
America’s exceptionalism is rooted in our founding documents and values. From the rights granted by our creator, but guaranteed by our Constitution. We should not shy away from saying so, especially when our actions are in keeping with this exceptional founding, as they were this week in our debate over going to war in Syria. Our constitutional checks and balances were on full display, largely resulting in the at least temporary halting of a rush to war.
Mr. Putin’s second mistake is to focus on the speck in the eye of the United States, while ignoring the plank in his own. He accuses the United States of alarming interventions in foreign countries. While I certainly have my bone to pick with our foreign policy over the last 15 years, the Russian President is the least qualified person I can think of to make this argument with a straight face.
We went to war in Afghanistan because they were harboring those who attacked us on 9/11. Mr. Putin’s cohorts went to war there three decades earlier for no legitimate reason.
The United States until now has resisted arming one side of the Syrian civil war – all the while the other side has been armed by Russia.
The United States has used diplomatic pressure to attempt to resolve the ongoing situation with Iran – Russia has just announced a large arms sale that will escalate tensions in the region.
Being lectured to on foreign intervention by Mr. Putin would be comical if it weren’t such a serious example of a lack of self-awareness.
Nevertheless here we are. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my friend, or at least my temporary ally. As Mr. Putin correctly pointed out, the United States and Russia banded together to defeat the menace of the Nazis a generation ago. And …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Appears on Fox's Hannity- September 12, 2013

September 13, 2013 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Washington Times Op-Ed: The folly of rushing to war

September 13, 2013 in Politics & Elections

It seems the most common thing for serial interventionists to do these days is to lob the term ‘isolationist’ at anyone who does not agree with their latest folly, and then set up a straw man about those people not wanting to be involved in the world.I reject this characterization for myself and others who oppose the United States getting involved in the Syrian civil war.
War is too serious and too deadly for that to enter into our calculations. This is not about scoring political points. This is about taking an intelligent, critical look at the past 15 years of our foreign policy and asking ourselves if we are going about this the right way.
After Sept. 11, 2001, when we were attacked by terrorists, we launched a war against Afghanistan. I supported that war and still believe we were justified and made the correct decision to go. President Bush sought and received the consent of Congress and clearly had the support of the American people.
More recently, President Obama has sought to insert our armed forces into internal wars, with no clear security interest for the United States, and no clear sense of what victory would look like.
Opposing this is not isolationism. It is not withdrawing from the world. It is simply an attempt at a more intelligent, reasoned foreign policy than we have become accustomed to in recent years.
Being a realist means looking at each situation carefully, thoughtfully and individually. I do not reflexively want to rush to war, nor am I reflexively against using our military when the situation calls for it.
I think this is a sound set of parameters, and I think this is where most Americans fall, even if sometimes their politicians are elsewhere.
In the case of Syria, even if you think we should take some military action – and I don’t think the case has been made for this – the logical questions that follow are:
1. What are the military goals, and what would victory look like?
2. What are the chances of success, rather than simply taking action to send a message?
3. What is the exit strategy, and what happens next?
In Syria, no one has articulated for me a clear military goal. No one has articulated what ‘victory’ looks like. In fact, I’ve noticed that at the end of the day, the military action seems designed to end in stalemate rather than clear victory. This is …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Egypt’s Biggest Problem Is Economic

September 13, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

In Egypt, violent Islam is on the rise. This week, two bomb blasts in Sinai killed six military officers. Last week, the convoy of the interior minister was hit by a bomb attack in Cairo. Besides political violence by fringe Islamist groups, Egyptians are bracing for more repression from the government. Two and half years since the Arab Spring, Egypt’s ‘deep state’ is back in full form, arresting the opposition and cracking down on independent media.

Although many competing accounts exist of why Egypt’s transition has failed — ranging from the country’s religious divisions to its authoritarian legacies — one should not underestimate the power of the simplest one. What if it’s all about the economy?

In their influential book about the drivers of prosperity, Why Nations Fail, economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that, historically, the combination of inclusive political institutions (granting people influence over the conduct of public affairs) and extractive economic institutions (denying access to economic opportunity to most of the population) tends to be unstable and fragile. A representative government that keeps its citizens poor will either cease to be representative or it will have to change the rules of the economic game to allow for mass prosperity.

Looking through this prism, the fragility of new Arab democracies was to be expected. Egypt’s precocious political liberalization occurred at a time when the country’s economy suffered under rampant cronyism, corruption, and byzantine regulations. As a result, in 2010-2011, one quarter of Egyptians were living under the poverty line at an income of $444 a year or less. In the area that was historically known as Upper Egypt, it was more than half of the population.

The upside of Acemoglu and Robinson’s framework is that there is nothing permanent about authoritarianism. Even the most oppressive regimes can relinquish their hold to political power, especially after a period of economic liberalisation and growth. The reason is simple: politically repressing an economically empowered citizenry is difficult.

In Chile, the democratically elected President Allende was overthrown by Augusto Pinochet, whose regime committed human rights abuses against thousands when it took power. After 1975 the military regime also put in place radical economic reforms, including deep budget cuts and a privatization of social security.

These contained in themselves the seeds of the regime’s demise. Between 1975 and 1988, average income in Chile increased from around $2,000 to almost $3,000. In 1987, Pinochet legalized political parties and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Mark Thornton Explains 3 Theories of the Business Cycle

September 13, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

3118

In Mises Daily today. Only one of them explains booms and bubbles:

MT: So the central bank is the ultimate cause of the business cycle. Its actions first cause such things as heightened optimism and technological innovations during the boom that ultimately end up being malinvestments, damaged expectations, and depression in the bust.

MI: So ABC theory helps economists spot a bubble?

MT: Back in 2004, I wrote an article that shows that by using the ABC theory, Austrian economists were able to observe the economy of the early 2000s and detect signs of the existence of a housing bubble where others could not. And Walter Block has showed that numerous Austrian economists and “Austrian” financial analysts published warnings of a housing bubble. The vast majority of mainstream and government economists saw no major problems in the economy at this time. In fact, as we came closer to the bubble collapsing, there were more denials of a housing bubble and more claims of the emergence of a new paradigm.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Bitcoins in Brazil

September 13, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

From “Bitcoins Catching On in Latin America:

It isn’t just a “fashionable” online currency, but something far more revolutionary, Fernando Ulrich of the Instituto Ludwig von Mises in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre told IPS.

Ulrich is a Bitcoin enthusiast, saying that not only does it reduce transaction costs, but it also represents a new way of thinking about the international economy without interference from national states and central banks.

“I was astonished at its revolutionary potential. It is a robust network and an innovation that can change the way people conduct transactions, by liberating people from dependence on the monopoly of money issued by the state,” Ulrich said.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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End Federal Aid Photo-Ops, By Ending Federal Aid

September 13, 2013 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

I was struck by a photo and story in the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun earlier this week. A group of high-powered politicians had assembled at the Port of Baltimore for a ceremony to roll out a federal grant for seaport investment. The group included the vice president of the United States, the two U.S. senators from Maryland, the Secretary of Transportation, and numerous other important political leaders.

It must have been one heck of a big grant, like maybe $1 billion or so? No, it was for just $10 million. It came from a federal program called TIGER, which has dished out grants for 52 infrastructure projects in 37 states averaging $9 million each.

The federal government has hundreds of costly aid that could be funded more efficiently by state and local governments or the private sector.”

Some people may think that the purpose of this grant program is to build America and boost the economy, but that is naive. The actual purpose is to give politicians photo ops and generate positive news stories. The Baltimore event generated substantial media — and it was all favorable because everybody loves Santa Claus.

But shouldn’t Vice President Joe Biden have been huddled in Washington this week with his advisors dealing with the Syria crisis? Again, that’s naïve. The truth is that many politicians are so addicted to spending that they put it ahead of national security issues.

TIGER funding is just a drop in the bucket of total annual U.S. infrastructure spending of $2.5 trillion. It could be easily provided instead by state governments or the private sector. But federal funding has one big advantage: it allows politicians at every level of government to claim credit for the same stream of money. Think about the mountain of media those 52 TIGER photo ops in 37 states have likely created for hundreds of federal, state, and local politicians.

Hopefully, the $10 million paid to the Port of Maryland will be put to good use. But such federal subsidies are not needed. The Maryland Port Administration reports that public and private businesses operating at the port generate a $1.7 billion in annual revenues, so they surely could have funded their own $10 million project.

Here is the big picture: Congress faces ongoing budget deficits and is wondering how to restrain spending to meet the lower sequester levels. Why not cut the $560 billion in annual spending on aid to state and local …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Poverty Just Ain’t What It Used To Be

September 13, 2013 in Economics

By Joseph Salerno

A newly released report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that most Americans  living below the bureaucratically designated “poverty line” enjoy most modern conveniences.  For example more than 80 percent of U.S. households below the poverty line have a: refrigerator (97.8%); stove  (96.6%); television (96.1%); microwave oven (93.1%); air conditioner (83.4%); VCR/DVD player (83.2%); and cell phone (80.9%).  In addition, more than half of  households beneath the poverty level also have a:  clothes washer (68.7%); clothes dryer (65.3%);  computer (58.2%); and landline telephone (54.9).  Now, when we use these figures as a standard of comparison, most middle-class Americans families in, say, 1960, were living well below the poverty line.  But this comparison obscures the important point that capitalism long ago solved the problem of poverty in a meaningful sense and in doing so radically transformed the very concept of poverty.

In order to understand the original idea of  poverty, we need to go back to the era before the  economic and social system of capitalism produced the much maligned  ”Industrial Revolution” that began to  transform Western Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.   Writing in the mid-20 century, Ludwig von Mises vividly described the plight of the true poor in the era prior to the emergence of industrial capitalism.  According to Mises, in the allegedly paradisiacal pre-modern agricultural society with a growing population:

[T]he outcome is the emergence of a huge mass of landless proletarians.  Then a wide gap separates the disinherited paupers from the fortunate farmers.  They are a class of pariahs whose very existence presents society with an insoluble problem.  They search in vain for a livelihood.  Society has no use for them.  They are destitute.

When in the ages preceding the rise of modern capitalism the statesman, the philosophers, and laws referred to the poor and to the problems of poverty, they meant these supernumerary wretches.  Laissez-faire and its offshoot, industrialism, converted the employable poor into wage earners.  In the unhampered market society there are people with higher and people with lower incomes.   There are no longer men who, although able and ready to work, cannot find regular jobs because there is no room left for them in the social system of production.  But [laissez-faire] liberalism and capitalism were even in their heyday limited to comparatively small areas of Western and Central Europe, North America, and Australia.  In the rest of the world hundreds of …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE