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Is Obama Abusing the Constitution to Combat ISIS?

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Barack Obama takes the Constitution very seriously, he’ll have you know. “I’ve studied the Constitution as a student, I’ve taught it as a teacher,” he proclaimed shortly after his inauguration, in a speech full of passive-aggressive potshots at President Bush’s “deciderist” approach to executive power. “I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” Obama said, “we must never, ever, turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake.”

One of those enduring principles is reflected in the Constitution’s allocation of war powers: “in no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department,” Madison wrote in 1793. Were it otherwise, “the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.”

If Obama ever respected that principle, he grew out of it as he “grew in office.” Even before the current debacle in Iraq, the president’s record on war powers was one of legal sophistry in the service of raw power—an object lesson in why you should never let constitutional-law professors near the Oval Office. But now, he appears poised to plumb new depths.

Is the increased threat of ISIS a justifiable reason to increase executive power? Or is the president going too far?”

In his nationally televised address Wednesday night, the president announced that “we will degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS with “a systematic campaign of airstrikes,” that will likely include targets in Syria, will definitely require new boots on the ground, but will certainly not drag us “into another ground war in Iraq,” don’t worry. Our “kinetic military action” in Libya was supposed to last “days, not weeks,” but the administration is making no such promises this time—the fight against ISIS may take years

Still, “I have the authority to address the threat,” Obama maintained, with or without new authorization from Congress. Where does the president suppose that authority lies?

It can’t be found in Article II. That article’s commander-in-chief clause, as Hamilton explained in Federalist 69, just makes the president “first General and admiral” of America’s armed forces—and generals and admirals don’t get to decide whether and with whom we go to war. And, contra John Yoo, the legal architect of Bush’s Terror Presidency, unilateral warmaking authority can’t be conjured out of the penumbras and emanations …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Dr. David Howden: Let Banks Fail! (Central and Otherwise)

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

Jeff Deist and David Howden discuss the history of banking in America before 1913, the supposed justifications for the Federal Reserve Act, and why American economists all seem to be thrall to—and on the payroll of—the Fed. David also lays out the realities behind transitioning to a future without the Fed. Next, they discuss his book about the Icelandic banking crisis, and how that country’s deposit insurance scheme created enormous moral hazards. David explains how Iceland, however, mostly had the good sense to allow its bad banks to fail and its foreign creditors to take a well-deserved haircut. The lessons to be learned, he tells us, are both cautionary and optimistic, at least for a homogeneous nation of 325,000 people.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Basic Economics of Bank Robberies

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Joseph Salerno

FBI statistics reveal that over the eight years concluding with 2011, the number of bank robberies in the U.S.  fell dramatically, declining from 7,500 in 2004 to 5,000 in 2011. During the same period the total cash haul from bank robberies dropped even more precipitously from $78 million to $37 million. The sharply downward trend appears to be continuing. In 2012, 3,870 banks were robbed, down from 9,400 in 1991. One causal factor in the decline is the increase in the costs of robbing a bank including better bank security, bullet proof barriers at teller stations, exterior cameras, and more severe criminal penalties. Meanwhile, the benefits of bank robbery have  decreased–thanks in some measure to inflation. According to the FBI a bank robbery averaged a take of $4,000 in 2009, which may not have been sufficient to yield the thieves a positive return on their enterprise. You see, at today’s prices, the robbers would need to expend $4,442 for the guns, bullets, and masks used in a typical bank robbery.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Endangered Species Act and the Double Coincidence of Wants

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

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This year’s silly Copenhagen Zoo controversy reminded us that, when it comes to animal care, people have difficulty thinking clearly. NPR’s Planet Money ran an interesting piece this morning about animal barter among zoos. The US Endangered Species Act and  global treaties such as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora make it a crime to buy and sell zoo animals like other commodities. This makes it difficult for zoos not only to obtain new animals, but also to get rid of existing, unwanted ones. (Hence the fate of poor Marius the giraffe.)

To get around these rules, zoos have adopted a complex and cumbersome barter system. Zoos are, under the law, allowed to make animal-for-animal swaps. But, as economists such as Carl Menger explained more than a century ago, barter is hampered by the double coincidence of wants: to trade with you, it’s not enough that I want what you have; you also have to want what I have. Money eliminates the double coincidence of wants by introducing a third commodity that serves as a generally accepted medium of exchange. Unfortunately for the zoos, money is off the table. And hence: 

The New England Aquarium in Boston was recently in the market for some lookdown fish, and they knew of an aquarium in North Carolina that was willing to trade some.

The folks in North Carolina wanted jellyfish and snipe fish. The New England aquarium had plenty of jellyfish — but no snipe fish.

Steve Bailey, the curator of fish at the New England Aquarium, wound up making a deal to get snipe fish from an aquarium in Japan, in exchange for lumpfish. Then he sent the snipe fish and some jellyfish to North Carolina. In exchange, he finally got his lookdown fish.

Allowing zoos to buy and sell animals using money, rather than complex and inefficient barter arrangements — why, that’s inhumane!

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Is Scotland Big Enough To Go it Alone?

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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Mises Daily Friday by Peter St. Onge:

Some opponents of Scottish secession (and most other secession movements) claim that places like Scotland and Quebec are “too small” to be independent countries. A look at small countries vs. large countries, however, suggests that small countries often perform better economically.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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How to Make Goods More Expensive: Target Truckers

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

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Mises Daily Friday by Salmann A. Khan::

Government management of the trucking industry has brought raising prices for both consumers and producers who depend on trucking.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Should Scotland Declare Its Independence?

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

I’m not Scottish. But my eighth-generation ancestor, Thomas Boaz, was born in Scotland in 1721. Seeking religious freedom, he migrated first to Ireland and then shortly to the colony of Virginia. So I have a romantic attachment to my distant Scottish heritage.

In 1997 I climbed the Wallace Monument, all 246 steps, on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, at which Andrew Murray and William Wallace defeated the English forces, as seen in the movie Braveheart.

Now, in the 700th anniversary year of the Battle of Bannockburn when an army commanded by England’s King Edward II was defeated by a smaller force led by Robert the Bruce, Scotland is holding a referendum on independence. Advocates want to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom and assume their place in the world as an independent nation.

There are good arguments on both sides of the issue. Scotland has prospered in union with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Some scholars argue that the Act of Union in 1707 made the Scots part of a larger and more advanced nation and opened the way to the Scottish Enlightenment of David Hume and Adam Smith. And perhaps those modern ideas and the connection with England made possible the achievements of the inventor James Watt, the architect Robert Adam, the road builder John McAdam, the bridge builder Thomas Telford and later Scots such as Alexander Graham Bell and Andrew Carnegie.

There’s plenty of reason to believe the small nation would be a success.”

But whatever the benefits of union might have been in 1707, surely they have been realized by now. And independence for any country ought to appeal to Americans. So herewith a few arguments for independence.

1) Scotland is a nation. That’s simple enough. The Oxford dictionary defines a nation as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory.” That would be Scotland.

As it happens, England is a nation, too. Even today the English people often forget to call themselves “British.” The popular anthem “Jerusalem,” sung at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in Westminster Abbey, concludes:

Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

England and Scotland are both nations with history and culture. They need not …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Trenchant Yet Flawed Analysis of American Foreign Policy

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Angelo Codevilla’s analysis of the many problems associated with U.S. foreign policy provides an abundance of important insights. He is devastatingly on the mark when he contends that since the beginning of the 20thcentury, U.S. officials have transformed the Founders’ emphasis on shielding the American people against external dangers into an arrogant, unattainable objective of leading (and improving) all mankind. That is the essence of the approach first embraced by Woodrow Wilson and subsequently practiced by several generations of disciples.

Codevilla’s litany of the negative consequences from such hubris, while depressing, is supported by ample evidence. The situation has become especially unpleasant in recent decades and continues to get worse. Since the end of World War II, the United States has been entangled in some nine significant armed conflicts: Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That total does not even include numerous “minor” interventions, such as those in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Libya.

A nation that burdens itself with nearly 43 percent of all global military spending, that is experiencing a chronic fiscal bleed of more than half a trillion dollars a year, and that finds itself mired in numerous murky quarrels around the world, badly needs to reassess its foreign policy.”

Moreover, the pace of Washington’s global meddling is accelerating, especially under the umbrella of the so-called war on terror following the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Codevilla is correct that the U.S. government’s attempts to cope with terrorism have further endangered the republic while changing it for the worse. Wasting nearly two trillion dollars (and counting) in the futile nation-building crusades in Iraq and Afghanistan has intensified America’s fiscal and economic woes, but even worse are the changes to the country’s social and political character. The NSA’s appalling conduct, especially the spying on ordinary Americans; the militarization of America’s local police forces; and the further empowerment of an already dangerous imperial presidency are just a few of the worrisome consequences flowing from a promiscuous, global interventionist foreign policy.

Whether Codevilla is correct that destructive U.S. actions overseas have occurred despite good intentions on the part of policymakers is debatable. Some officials appear to have been true believers in the Wilsonian dream, but much of Washington’s conduct has reflected less savory motives. The willingness of U.S. leaders to back an assortment of sleazy rulers, such as Anastasio Somoza, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Ghosts of Imperialist Wars Past: China's Tourist Hot Spots Today

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Beijing—Modern China continues to rise. But ancient China remains. And bears witness to a history the West would prefer to forget.

The Summer Palace is one of Beijing’s most enchanting tourist destinations, ranked third by visitors. Covering 860 acres, the grounds include lakes, islands, dikes, gardens, gates, pavilions, walks, bridges, hills, temples, fountains, causeways, and lots of water lotuses. Some of the old buildings are in ruins—courtesy of the Western powers.

Imperial China long was a cultured and advanced civilization. The dominant power in Asia, it eventually turned inward and fell into decay. By the 1800s the Western powers had begun to carve out concessions and colonies. Even then the seeming illimitable markets of China awakened dreams of trade and profit.

History helps explain Beijing’s policies and politics today.”

The desires of the Chinese people did not enter into the consideration of Western democracies, which at home claimed to represent their populations. Of course, that was no different from how the Chinese people’s own rulers treated them.

The emperor was served by an army of attendants living in the famed Forbidden City. The Summer Palace was meant to ease the life of the royal family in a world before air conditioning. Nothing was too good for those at the top.

The gardens and palace first were created in the 12th century. Starting in 1750 Emperor Qianlong deployed designers to capture various styles around China and tens of thousands of workers to bring the latter’s plans to life, establishing what he called the Garden of Clear Ripples, also eventually called the Old Summer Palace. In 1886 the Empress Dowager Cixi (Tzu-his in Chinese) used funds planned for a navy to rebuild the royal playground. At least she constructed a large and impressive marble boat.

She called the site the Garden of Peace and Harmony, an appropriate name, except for the garden’s unwanted guests. In 1860 during the Second Opium War French and British troops destroyed most of what is now called the Old Summer Palace. The British High Commissioner to China ordered the action after two British envoys were tortured and several of their escorts were murdered. The allies erected a sign stating: “This is the reward for perfidy and cruelty.”

In 1900 came the Boxer Rebellion, named for the violent xenophobic, spiritual movement named the “Righteous and Harmonious Fists.” The Boxers targeted foreigners, especially missionaries, and Chinese Christians. The revolt, supported by the Empress …read more

Source: OP-EDS