HOW WE GET THE GOVERNMENT TO DO OUR DIRTY WORK

"The protectors of our industries". Cartoon showing Cyrus Field, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Russell Sage, seated on bags of "millions", on large heavy raft being carried by workers. (from here)
“The protectors of our industries”. Cartoon showing Cyrus Field, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Russell Sage, seated on bags of “millions”, on large heavy raft being carried by workers. (from here)

Were the gentlemen pictured above robber barons? I am not in a position to say. I just think that if we changed the names and faces that cartoon would be even more relevant today.

Frédéric Bastiat was a first-rate satirist of Crony Capitalism. Here is an example from Essays on Political Economy.

M. Prohibant (it was not I who gave him this name, but M. Charles Dupin) devoted his time and capital to converting the ore found on his land into iron. As nature had been more lavish towards the Belgians, they furnished the French with iron cheaper than M. Prohibant; which means, that all the French, or France, could obtain a given quantity of iron with less labour by buying it of the honest Flemings. Therefore, guided by their own interest, they did not fail to do so; and every day there might be seen a multitude of nail-smiths, blacksmiths, cartwrights, machinists, farriers, and labourers, going themselves, or sending intermediates, to supply themselves in Belgium. This displeased M. Prohibant exceedingly.

At first, it occurred to him to put an end to this abuse by his own efforts: it was the least he could do, for he was the only sufferer. “I will take my carbine,” said he; “I will put four pistols into my belt; I will fill my cartridge box; I will gird on my sword, and go thus equipped to the frontier. There, the first blacksmith, nail-smith, farrier, machinist, or locksmith, who presents himself to do his own business and not mine, I will kill, to teach him how to live.” At the moment of starting, M. Prohibant made a few reflections which calmed down his warlike ardour a little. He said to himself, “In the first place, it is not absolutely impossible that the purchasers of iron, my countrymen and enemies, should take the thing ill, and, instead of letting me kill them, should kill me instead; and then, even were I to call out all my servants, we should not be able to defend the passages. In short, this proceeding would cost me very dear, much more so than the result would be worth.”

M. Prohibant was on the point of resigning himself to his sad fate, that of being only as free as the rest of the world, when a ray of light darted across his brain. He recollected that at Paris there is a great manufactory of laws. “What is a law?” said he to himself. “It is a measure to which, when once it is decreed, be it good or bad, everybody is bound to conform. For the execution of the same a public force is organised, and to constitute the said public force, men and money are drawn from the whole nation. If, then, I could only get the great Parisian manufactory to pass a little law, ‘Belgian iron is prohibited,’ I should obtain the following results:–The Government would replace the few valets that I was going to send to the frontier by 20,000 of the sons of those refractory blacksmiths, farriers, artizans, machinists, locksmiths, nail-smiths, and labourers. Then to keep these 20,000 custom-house officers in health and good humour, it would distribute among them 25,000,000 of francs taken from these blacksmiths, nail-smiths, artizans, and labourers. They would guard the frontier much better; would cost me nothing; I should not be exposed to the brutality of the brokers; should sell the iron at my own price, and have the sweet satisfaction of seeing our great people shamefully mystified. That would teach them to proclaim themselves perpetually the harbingers and promoters of progress in Europe. Oh! it would be a capital joke, and deserves to be tried.”

So M. Prohibant went to the law manufactory. Another time, perhaps, I shall relate the story of his underhand dealings, but now I shall merely mention his visible proceedings. He brought the following consideration before the view of the legislating gentlemen.

“Belgian iron is sold in France at ten francs, which obliges me to sell mine at the same price. I should like to sell at fifteen, but cannot do so on account of this Belgian iron, which I wish was at the bottom of the Red Sea. I beg you will make a law that no more Belgian iron shall enter France. Immediately I raise my price five francs, and these are the consequences:–

“For every hundred-weight of iron that I shall deliver to the public, I shall receive fifteen francs instead of ten; I shall grow rich more rapidly, extend my traffic, and employ more workmen. My workmen and I shall spend much more freely, to the great advantage of our tradesmen for miles around. These latter, having more custom, will furnish more employment to trade, and activity on both sides will increase in the country. This fortunate piece of money, which you will drop into my strong-box, will, like a stone thrown into a lake, give birth to an infinite number of concentric circles.”

Charmed with his discourse, delighted to learn that it is so easy to promote, by legislating, the prosperity of a people, the law-makers voted the restriction. “Talk of labour and economy,” they said, “what is the use of these painful means of increasing the national wealth, when all that is wanted for this object is a decree?” (from here)

Was the law that M. Prohibant had passed to protect the profitability of his mines a bad law? Bastiat goes on to explain that it was. So if M. Prohibant’s idea strikes you as fine and excellent, please click on the link and read about the consequences of M. Prohibant’s law.

What is the lesson here? We like to blame others, but we have a republic. By themselves robber barons cannot gain the passage of restrictive trade legislation. By themselves they don’t have enough votes.

Consider.  Was M. Prohibant the only gainer from the law he proposed? Like M. Prohibant we each tend to think the laws we benefit from are good. It is the law that other people use to restrict us that we dislike. It is that self-interest that our leaders use to pit us against each other. It is that self interest that allows robber barons to buy our leaders. Instead of electing honorable men and women who refuse to be bought, we elect people who give us what we want.

What we need to do is consider the laws we want from the point of view of others. If what we want is intended only to help “me”, then we are not being neighborly. We are just being selfish.

Jesus gave us a challenging assignment.

John 15:12-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

How do we love one another as Jesus loved? We can debate that, but is it not safe to say we should not use the law to gain privileges from each other that we do not deserve?

THE GROWING POWER OF GOVERNMENT AND THE THREAT TO LIBERTY: ELECTION 2016

declaration of independence

OF A POST TO COME promised to compare the governing approaches of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with respect to two issues.

  • The growth of the power of government.
  • The protection of our rights.

The Growth Of The Power Of Government

Why is it a problem when government is powerful? Government exists to protect our rights. Yet the power we give our government makes government itself a threat to our rights. Therefore, we must choose between giving the government just enough power and giving it too much.

  • To give our government the resources it needs to defend our rights, we must give our leaders the authority to tax us and spend our money. Nevertheless, the more we allow our government to tax and spend, the more we work for government instead of ourselves. At some point, we risk slavery.
  • Some decisions which effect a people must be made jointly. Thus, government must sometimes make decisions we would otherwise make for ourselves. So it is that in a nation of free men and women, we have laws that restrict us from harming each other (traffic laws, for example). In a nation of slaves, however, the laws just list a few trivial decisions that the leaders permit the people to make for themselves.

Here is a table that summarizes where the candidates stand.  Not certain the information is correct? Then check their web sites. I have only provided links where their positions are not available on their own websites.

ISSUE Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
Taxing and Spending Favors tax simplification and reduction Favors increased taxation and spending (inferred from lengthy list of proposals)
Healthcare Private market solution Doubling down on Obamacare
School Choice For School Choice. Will end Common Core Against School Choice. Favors Common Core.
Immigration Favors extreme vetting Open borders/put new immigrants on the dole
Government Regulations Committed to reducing regulations Defends the current regulatory regime
Free Trade Opponent of the big trade bills Helped to craft TPP

To be continued: The Protection Of Our Rights

THE VALUE OF SPEAKING UP

desperate-enough-yetMost of the time we should be quiet and listen. Because we don’t know very much, very few of us have much say. Yet there are times when we should say something. What is funny is how often we have to tell indiscreet elected officials to leave well enough alone.

THE MARSHALL MESSAGESee No Evil Republicans

Dear Friends:

Your calls and emails are having an impact on the Obama Trans-Pacific Partnership trade legislation contained in HR 1314, but we can’t stop now!

The two-part Obama Trade bill will be reconsidered Tuesday, June 16 in the House of Representatives to overcome a temporary setback for Obama.

The first vote was on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA provision), which provided job retraining and other assistance to American workers who will lose jobs from the Obama Trade bill (HR 1314). If Obama’s Trade proposal is such a good deal, why will Americans lose jobs?

The TAA vote lost 126 Yeas to 306 Nays. Representatives Beyer, Comstock, Connolly, Hurt, Rigell vote YES. Representatives Brat, Forbes, Goodlatte, Griffith, Scott, Wittman voted NO.

The House then voted on the Trade Promotion Authority provision (TPA). That passed 219 Yeas, to 211 Nays. Representatives Beyer, Comstock, Connelly, Forbes, Goodlatte, Hurt, Rigell voted YES. Representatives Brat, Griffith, Scott, and Wittman voted NO. (Please thank these four Congressmen for their opposition.)

POLITICO notes that the TPA’s provisions are treated as national security secrets with tight restrictions on who can read the bill and under what conditions:

“If you want to hear the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to pass, you’ve got to be a member of Congress, and you’ve got to go to classified briefings and leave your staff and cellphone at the door.

If you’re a member who wants to read the text, you’ve got to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving.

And no matter what, you can’t discuss the details of what you’ve read.”

Congressman Dave Brat, commenting on the TPA bill, said: “fatal conceit is to think that I’m smart enough to walk in a room and read 400 pages of legalese and believe it and know everything that’s in a trade bill that’s 400 pages long and digest it with everything that can go wrong … Ask your congressmen to explain to you what they know about it. And if they don’t tell you anything, say, I don’t trust the current regime. And I want a no vote out of you.”

Senator Sessions (R-AL) responded to the mixed vote on the Obama Trade bills:
“A vote for TAA next week is a vote to send fast-track to the President’s desk and to grant him these broad new executive authorities. … it will empower the President to form a Pacific Union encompassing 40 percent of the world’s economy and 12 nations—each with one equal vote. “Once the union is formed, foreign bureaucrats will be required to meet regularly to write the Commission’s rules, regulations, and directives—impacting Americans’ jobs, wages, and sovereignty. The union is chartered with a ‘Living Agreement,’ and there is no doubt it will seek to expand its membership and reach over time.

Fast-track … can expedite an unlimited number of yet-unseen international compacts for six years. … which includes labor mobility among more than 50 nations, further eroding the ability of the American people to control their own affairs. …The same people projecting the benefits of leaping into a colossal new economic union could not even accurately predict the impact of a standalone agreement with South Korea … which promised to boost our exports to them $10 billion, instead only budged them less than $1 billion, while South Korea’s imports to us increased more than $12 billion, nearly doubling our trading deficit. … opening our markets to foreign imports while allowing our trading partners to continue their non-tariff barriers that close their markets to ours.

If we want a new trade deal with Japan, or with Vietnam, then they should be negotiated bilaterally and sent to Congress under regular order. Under no circumstances should the House authorize, through fast-track, the formation of a new international commission that will regulate not only trade, but immigration, labor, environmental, and all manner of commercial policy.”

The vote on TAA will be on Tuesday, June 16th. Please let your Congressman know that you want to know how they voted, and that you will share how they vote with family and friends. Contact your representative by visiting the House of Representatives website and fill in your zip code in the top right corner to be connected to your Congressman’s website or contact the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask for your Congressman by name and you will be connected. If you call ask to speak to either the Chief of Staff or the Legislative Assistant who handles Trade issues.

Thank you so much for your help!

Sincerely,

Delegate Bob Marshall

P.S. If you would like to donate you can do so below or if you’d like to volunteer to help my campaign you can do so at my website at www.DelegateBob.com

Because Marshall is a Conservative, he is rarely indiscreet. He has taken the time to understand why things are as the are. He also displays an understanding that his job is about serving the people of Virginia, not his own ambitions.

We have an election coming up in November, as is usual here in Virginia. In Prince William County, we will be electing our delegate and senator to the General Assembly. In addition, we will be filling all the elected offices in our county. So as Marshall suggests, if we want to make a difference in the outcome, there is no time like the present.

WHY WOULD A MAN HANG HIMSELF? — PART 3B

The image above is from the Cult of Reason

Examples Of The Failure Of “Reason” Part B

The post continues from WHY WOULD A MAN HANG HIMSELF? — PART 3A.  In Part 3A we considered how some, when their reasoning fails them, elevate the enjoyment of sex over God. Here we will consider examples of the failure of reason with respect to stuff and state (For an explanation of the gods of sex, stuff, state and self, see AN ABUSE OF THE IMAGINATION.).

Examples Of The Failure Of “Reason”:  STUFF

Pride, greed, and fear can combine to make us grasping, thieving fools. Instead of considering the greater good, we may crave more and more stuff. Instead of thoughtfully trying to contribute to our society, we may just look out for #1.  What will be the result? When a free people begin to think only of #1, their society slowly disintegrates.
Consider the economic system that produces our stuff. Originally, we based our economic system upon CapitalismCapitalism works off the moral principle embodied in the 8th commandment.

Exodus 20:15 The New Revised Standard Version

You shall not steal.

The rights to own, buy, and sell our labor and property exist implicitly in the 8th commandment.

Unfortunately, we have a government that no longer respects the right to property. More and more often we find our government interfering in the market place, even to the point of taking from some people and giving to others. Our leaders would like us to believe their interference is for the greater good, but what is resulting from their shenanigans is Crony Capitalism.

DEFINITION OF ‘CRONY CAPITALISM’
A description of capitalist society as being based on the close relationships between businessmen and the state. Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government in the form of tax breaks, government grants and other incentives.

What kind of businesses receive favored treatment? Large corporations and those run by the wealthy.

Ideally, our government would charter relatively few corporations, and those corporations would be carefully managed by their stockholders, but that’s not necessarily the case. If a company is not being managed well, only stockholders with a large stake in a company will be inclined to vote their stock and choose a new management. Because it is easier, those with a relatively small amount of stock in a company (that’s most of us) will just sell their stock in a troubled company.

Instead of investing for the long-term, we now look for short-term profits. In fact, buyers of exchange-traded funds and index funds have no interest in managing the assets they purchase.

Meanwhile, the poor complain the rich are growing richer (see here and here). Incited by the news media and political activists they demand government do something, and the well-connected make certain it is they who receive the greatest benefits from the changes the poor demand. Thus, it is the assets of the lesser “rich” that the poor actually receive.

Consider what three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich say they have discovered (here).

Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power.

They discovered that global corporate control has a distinct bow-tie shape, with a dominant core of 147 firms radiating out from the middle. Each of these 147 own interlocking stakes of one another and together they control 40% of the wealth in the network. A total of 737 control 80% of it all. (continued here).

Are the theorists correct? It seems so. In Retort: The 147 Companies That Run The World? They’re You, the author observes: “most of the companies on the top 50 list are simply investment companies – they aren’t operating companies.” Hence he sees no conspiracy and nothing to be concerned about.  Just the same, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and those folks we call the middle class seem to be slowly fading away.

Is it possible we have forgotten that when we own an investment we must make certain that investment is properly managed? How do you manage your investments?

Examples Of The Failure Of “Reason”:  STATE

Those who worship at the altar of stuff use their own reason to acquire stuff. Those who worship the state seek to earn their rewards from “the system” and the dear leaders they empower to run “the system.” Such desire their leaders to reason for them and seek some form of Utopia as their reward for their loyalty to “the system.”

How long has some notion of Utopia existed?  Who knows? Plato provided us his own version of Utopia in The Republic, but before anyone wrote about perfect government, men worshiped their leaders as gods.

The difference between a Utopian government and a government that recognizes that men owe their first allegiance to God did not stand out starkly, however, until the French Reign of Terror.

The French Revolution began in 1789, about five or six years after the end of the American Revolutionary War. That revolution began hopefully, but what had begun hopefully degenerated when the revolutionaries tried to scrap the traditional values the French people and replace those values with a Cult of Reason (for other views, see here, here, and here too). The leaders of the French Reign of Terror intended to use this cult to dechristianize their nation.

The Cult of Reason was explicitly anthropocentric. Its goal was the perfection of mankind through the attainment of Truth and Liberty, and its guiding principle to this goal was the exercise of the human faculty of Reason. In the manner of conventional religion, it encouraged acts of congregational worship and devotional displays to the ideal of Reason. A careful distinction was always drawn between the rational respect of Reason and the veneration of an idol: “There is one thing that one must not tire telling people,” Momoro explained, “Liberty, reason, truth are only abstract beings. They are not gods, for properly speaking, they are part of ourselves.” (from here)

Since that tragic example in France, the world has seen many other revolutions that featured a government based upon “reason” as their central goal. These included Communist revolutions in Russia, China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Cambodia.

Was Nazism an ideology based upon “reason”? Probably. The Nazis argued that their racism and their eugenics programs were based upon science.

Other Posts In This Series

To Be Continued. In this post, we have consider our inability to correctly apply human reason to the subjects of stuff and state. On Tuesday evening, I hope to post Part 3C,  Examples Of The Failure Of “Reason” — Part C. That post will consider our inability to correctly apply human reason to the subject of our self.