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Ohio Has a Ministry of Truth, and It Isn't Much Better Than George Orwell's

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

Can politics be cleaned of lies, spin, and allegations? Can a government agency—an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth”—police political rhetoric in order to determine what is true, what is false, and what is, as Stephen Colbert would say, “truthy”?

That is just what the Supreme Court is considering in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, which will be argued in April. The case is a challenge to Ohio’s bizarre statute prohibiting knowingly or recklessly making “false” statements about a political candidate or ballot initiative. In other words, the Ohio Election Commission (OEC) essentially runs a ministry of truth to which any citizen can submit a complaint. Amazingly, twenty other states have such laws.

Only a robust and open marketplace of ideas can effectively combat lies consistent with the First Amendment.”

Laws against lying in political speech are not administered by disinterested truth seekers, but by people with their own political convictions. They chill large amounts of truthful speech and deprive the public of hearing a robust debate on the issues. And, as we will see, they are used by political opponents to turn campaigning into litigation.

The case arises out of a strange combination of a defeated former Congressman, some non-existent political billboards, and a bunch of sour grapes. During the 2010 election, Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL), a 501(c)(4) dedicated to ending abortion, plannedto erect billboards saying, “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortions!” The claim was based on Driehaus’s support for the Affordable Care Act. Although never erected, the billboards were reported in the news and SBAL disseminated the claim through other, less blatant, means. Driehaus thus filed a complaint with the OEC against SBAL, arguing that SBAL’s claim about taxpayer-funded abortions was false and therefore illegal. The complaint, combined with Driehaus’s threat of legal action against the advertising company that owned the billboards, successfully suppressed SBAL’s speech. Driehaus lost the election.

Disgruntled Congressmen and other elected representatives can certainly be tattle-tales (“Mommy, he’s lying!”), and if the government provides an avenue for tattling, then they will use it against their enemies. In fact, and unsurprisingly, that is how laws like Ohio’s are nearly always used, for retribution and electoral strategy against political enemies. During litigation against a similar law in Florida, the investigation manager for the Florida Election Commission testified under oath that 98 percent of the complaints received are “politically motivated” and that …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The President’s Foreign Policy: Speak Loudly and Carry a Small Stick

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Randall Holcombe

At the beginning of the twentieth century, President Teddy Roosevelt’s foreign policy was, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” At the beginning of the twenty-first, President Obama’s policy appears to the the opposite: “Speak loudly and carry a small stick.”

President Obama threatened Syria not to step over a “red line” by using chemical weapons or they would face serious repercussions, but they did, without the serious repercussions. He threatened Iran if they continued their nuclear enrichment programs, but they continue as we ease sanctions on them. More recently, he warned Putin “there would be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,” but realistically, what could he do? Everybody can see it’s big talk with no stick to back it up.

Meanwhile, Putin has indicated a retreat in Ukraine, not because of the big talk from Obama, but because Russia’s hand was slapped by the response of markets. Russian stocks fell by 12% after Russian military forces moved into the Ukraine, and the ruble took a serious hit as well. The reaction of the market had a bigger effect on Putin’s aggression than Obama’s small stick.

The discipline of the market in international affairs is not new to Russia. The Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union dissolved, not because of the military might of the Cold War nations, but because of the economic strength of capitalism compared to socialism.

Because our Cold War adversaries are increasingly a part of the global economy, markets generate repercussions to belligerent actions beyond those of any prudent political responses.

I don’t expect the Russians to pull out of the Ukraine. They are still occupying a part of the Republic of Georgia after having invaded there in 2008. What I’m saying is that any moderation of Russian policy there is more directed by the market’s response rather than any international political response.

I am not too concerned about President Obama’s actual policy responses. The small stick is OK with me, and we can see in Iraq and Afghanistan what can go wrong when we try to play the role of the world’s policeman. The problem is the “speaking loudly” part, because it costs our president, and our country, some credibility when people know the president won’t follow through on his big talk.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Audio: Jeff Deist Interview on Economics and Foreign Policy

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Interviewed by host Alan Butler, Jeff Deist explains how economics, foreign policy, and peace are interrelated.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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GDP Forecast based on TMS

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Mark Thornton

Real Gross Domestic Product YOY% vs. True Money Supply YOY%

Here is a forecast of Gross Domestic Product based on the Austrian notion of the money supply and its growth rate. Jeffrey Peshut shows that Real GDP peaks with a variable lag to the growth rate of the True Money Supply. In other words we should expect Real GDP growth to peak from 1 to 3 years after the True Money Supply growth rate peaks. He writes:

On February 28th, the Commerce Department released its revised estimate of real Gross Domestic Product growth for the fourth quarter of 2013, reducing it from January’s original estimate of 3.2% to 2.4%. Both are down from the third quarter’s GDP growth of 4.1%. For the entire year, real GDP grew by only 1.9% after expanding by 2.8% in 2012.

Because this writer lacks the meteorological skills ostensibly possessed by Ms. Yellen and others at the Fed, RealForecasts.com will limit its analysis to data associated with GDP and the money supply.

Although TMS has been increasing over the past two years, it’s been increasing at a decreasing rate, which is what really matters. The Fed’s reduction of bond purchases will likely decelerate the growth of TMS even further, setting the stage for the next credit crisis.

Extrapolating the TMS’s current trajectory into the future, TMS growth should approach zero in early 2015, setting the stage for a credit crisis near the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016. Based upon a one-year lag between the TMS growth rate and the GDP growth rate since 2009, the growth rate of GDP is expected to approach zero in early 2016.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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A Libertarian View of Nationalism, Secession, and Ethnic Enclaves

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Situación_etnolinguística_de_Ucrania

By Murray Rothbard

[Editor’s Note: This is a Selection from “Nations by Consent:Decomposing the Nation-State”]

The “nation,” of course, is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians and classical liberals such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood full well. Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic  group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “country.” He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.

The modern European nation-state, the typical “major power,” began  not as a nation at all, but as an “imperial” conquest of one nationality-  usually at the “center” of the resulting country, and based in the capital  city-over other nationalities at the periphery. Since a “nation” is a complex of subjective feelings of nationality based on objective realities, the  imperial central states have had varying degrees of success in forging among  their subject nationalities at the periphery a sense of national unity incorporating submission to the imperial center. In Great Britain, the English  have never truly eradicated national aspirations among the submerged  Celtic nationalities, the Scots and the Welsh, although Cornish nationalism seems to have been mostly stamped out. In Spain, the conquering  Castilians, based in Madrid, have never managed-as the world saw at  the Barcelona Olympics-to erase nationalism among the Catalans, the  Basques, or even the Galicians or Andalusians. The French, moving out from their base in Paris, have never totally tamed the Bretons, the Basques, or the people of the Languedoc.

It is now well known that the collapse of the centralizing and imperial Russian Soviet Union has lifted the lid on the dozens of previously suppressed nationalisms within the former U.S.S.R., and it is now becoming clear that Russia itself, or rather “the Russian Federated Republic,” is simply a slightly older imperial formation in which the Russians, moving out from their Moscow center, forcibly incorporated many nationalities including the Tartars, the Yakuts, the Chechens, and many others. Much of the U.S.S.R. stemmed from imperial Russian conquest in the nineteenth century, during which the clashing Russians and British managed to carve up much …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Drug War and the ‘Constitutionalists’

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

DEA-Agents

by Laurence Vance

The latest ruse of some conservatives to garner the sympathy, support, and votes of libertarians is to declare that they are “constitutionalists.” Although they are sometimes referred to as “libertarians” in the media, sometimes even portray themselves as “libertarian-leaning,” and get ecstatic when real libertarians describe them as “liberty-minded,” these conservative “constitutionalists” are not only not libertarian, they are not even constitutional.

The United States was set up as a federal system of government where the states, through the Constitution, granted a limited number of powers to a central government. As James Madison succinctly explained in Federalist No. 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

In article I, section 8, of the Constitution, there are eighteen paragraphs that enumerate the limited powers granted to Congress. Everything else is reserved to the states—even without the Tenth Amendment. Four of them concern taxes and money. One concerns commerce. One concerns naturalization and bankruptcies. One concerns post offices and post roads. One concerns copyrights and patents. One concerns federal courts. One concerns maritime crimes. Six concern the military and the militia. Once concerns the governance of the District of Columbia. And the last one gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.”

One can search the Constitution morning, noon, and night with an electron microscope, x-ray vision, and night-vision goggles and never see a reference to the national government having the power to identify drugs, regulate drugs, classify drugs, set up a Drug Enforcement Administration, outlaw drugs, pass a single law related to drugs, or have anything whatsoever to do with any drugs.

Any drugs, whether they are stimulants, hallucinogens, or sedatives. Any drugs, whether they are opiates, cocaine, or cannabis. Any drugs, no matter how unhealthy, harmful, or immoral. Any drugs, no matter how addictive, potent, or dangerous. Any drugs, whether …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Military Cuts a Step in the Right Direction

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Benjamin H. Friedman

Benjamin H. Friedman

Even by Washington standards, the wailing that greeted the Obama administration’s proposed 2015 military budget has been impressively theatrical. By the time the White House released the actual budget Tuesday, critics — prepped by the preview Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel offered — had already been blasting it for a week.

And the changes won’t hurt U.S. security. In fact, they might even improve it.”

Republicans attacked the proposed reduction in the size of active-duty Army to 450,000 next year, saying it “guts our defense.” Congressional leaders in both parties complained about possible reductions in subsidies for military housing, shopping and health care. Naval boosters lamented the reduction in the planned purchase of littoral combat ships. Hawkish pundits warned of “retrenchment.”

Such bipartisan consternation obscures two things. First, the proposed cuts should not come as a surprise. They are a predictable realization of existing law. Second, the changes won’t hurt U.S. security. In fact, they might even improve it.

With this plan, the Pentagon is simply implementing — partially, while kicking and screaming — spending levels that bipartisan majorities in Congress and the president enacted.

The Murray-Ryan budget deal passed in December, which amended the Budget Control Act, the 2011 deficit deal, raised the 2015 military spending cap to $520 billion and lowered caps in the remaining years covered by the law. Across-the-board sequestration occurs only to enforce those caps — if spending is under them, there is no sequester.

No one that has paid attention should be shocked. Military leaders have long urged Congress to slow the growth in military pay and benefits. Since the Budget Control Act’s passage, experts have said it would require cuts like those now offered. Media reports that they were in the offing have appeared for months.

Congress, in other words, is decrying its own handiwork. That takes chutzpah, the Yiddish term for brazen nerve — a quality that brings a man that murdered his parents to plead for mercy in court because he’s been orphaned.

But maybe that’s what cutting spending takes. Everyone likes frugality in theory, where it comes from waste and overlap. But real savings target expensive and thus popular programs. Unable to magically reduce spending, Congress forces its own hand. It requires agencies to reach austerity targets without specifying how, denounces the cuts proposed to reach the targets and then votes for them while blaming someone else. The process is …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Greens vs. Free Trade

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By K. William Watson

K. William Watson

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free-trade agreement including the U.S. and a number of Asian and American countries, is an essential part of the Obama administration’s trade agenda, and its second-term economic policy as a whole. But there’s another, important element of Obama trade plans: its emphasis on ambitious environmental obligations in its “values-driven trade policy.”

The problem: This green agenda, which adopts almost every demand of U.S. environmental activists and goes further than any previous U.S. trade agreement, has met staunch opposition from every other country in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And even so, in pursuing the TPP — which would be the world’s largest free-trade area, the administration has come under withering criticism from American environmental activists. It’s not making headway, in other words, on its economic or its environmental objectives.

For instance, U.S. negotiators have insisted on including new restrictions on logging, shark-finning, and commercial whaling, but these kinds of trade restrictions are anathema to free-trade agreements, which are meant to facilitate trade rather than hinder it.

The most that anti-shark-finning activists should hope for from the TPP is an explicit exception that ensures that domestic bans on this activity won’t violate existing trade rules. A proposal to that effect would encounter little or no resistance from other TPP countries.

Another aspect of the U.S. agenda that has met unanimous resistance is the insistence that all of the TPP’s environmental obligations be enforceable by dispute settlement and trade sanctions. The reason other countries oppose this position is not that they want to pollute the environment with impunity — many TPP members have stronger environmental protection laws than the United States does — it’s that the U.S. approach is an especially confrontational way to pursue common environmental goals.

Again, the purpose of trade agreements is to open markets and bring economies closer together. Making that conditional upon the adoption of specific environmental policies frustrates both the trade and the environmental agendas.

That’s not to say that opening borders and protecting the environment are incompatible goals. Take the current effort at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (of which all TPP countries are members) to establish free trade in environmentally friendly products. Lowering tariffs on solar panels and wind towers, for instance, will enable countries to pursue environmental goals in a cooperative way that fosters economic growth and consumer choice. The TPP will likely further this initiative in some form.

Yet some …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why the Tea Party’s Waning, Not Winning

March 5, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

As the Tea Party celebrates its five-year anniversary, many commentators are asking whether the grassroots anti–Big Government movement is still relevant.

In some ways, this seems a silly question. The Tea Party has been enormously successful in changing the terms of the national debate on issues such as debt and spending. And, while its favored candidates have suffered some high-profile defeats, it has also won important victories. The Republican midterm sweep of 2010 would not have been possible without its energy and enthusiasm.

It strayed from its original focus on economic issues, and became just the far right wing of the GOP.”

Yet it’s also true that the Tea Party’s clout is waning. According to the most recent Gallup poll, just 30 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the movement, the lowest level in its history. This seems particularly unsettling when polls also show that the public still overwhelmingly supports the Tea Party objective of limited government. In fact, a recent Gallup poll shows a record 72 percent of Americans feels that big government is the greatest threat to the future of the country. Voters who feel that way should be flocking to the Tea Party in droves.

They are not.

Some of it might be a question of tactics. Americans tend to dislike confrontation from their political leaders. Certainly, things like the government shutdown tended to turn off some voters, especially when misrepresented by a biased media. The overheated rhetoric of some tea-party leaders may also drive away otherwise sympathetic voters. Calling every dissenting Republican a RINO or inferring that President Obama is some sort of crypto-Muslim Communist is not going to win friends or influence people. Some tea-party activists definitely come across as a bit over-caffeinated.

But there is also a more fundamental issue at play here: Is the Tea Party still the Tea Party?

Sparked by outrage over the Wall Street bailouts, the original Tea Party was motivated by an opposition to Big Government. The motto of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest and most influential groups, was “fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets.” The Tea Party’s core issues were the skyrocketing national debt and opposition to Obamacare.

Social issues were not part of the platform. In fact, Jenny Beth Martin, leader of the Tea Party Patriots told the New York Times, “When people ask about [social issues], we say, ‘Go get involved …read more

Source: OP-EDS