Ron Paul on CNBC's Squawk Box
On McConnell's Supreme Court approach:
On Apple's noble defense of our privacy:
Yesterday's announcement of a ceasefire agreement in Syria raised hope that the five year war may finally be coming to a close. But with Syrian government forces poised to retake areas long-controlled by ISIS and al-Qaeda, does either side have much incentive to abandon the fight?
By Jonathan Newman
The perennial promises of free stuff from political candidates are front and center again now that we are ensnared in another US election cycle. The knee-jerk response from some economists and libertarians is “TANSTAAFL!” And of course it’s true that There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, because somebody must bear the costs of the supposedly “free” stuff. Nothing is free because every action has an opportunity cost.
Especially when the government is involved in doling out the gifts, all it means is that it was bought with money taken from others. Or, sometimes, the money is taken from the person receiving the gift, who thinks he’s gotten something for nothing. (This is a sleight-of-hand political trick that has fooled many for centuries.)
But what if we interpret “free” in a more colloquial sense? Is it still preferable for the government to give away free stuff? Do unhampered markets provide for free stuff?
Two Definitions of “Free”
Today’s promises include free college, free healthcare, free paid time off of work, and all sorts of goodies. Although the above conclusion (no such thing as “free”) applies to all of these, I want to consider a different, more liberal definition of “free”: gifted.
For example, if Bernie gives Jonathan an apple that Bernie either grew in his orchard or bought at the store and Bernie expects nothing in return, the apple is a free gift from Bernie to Jonathan. The production, purchase, and loss of the apple is costly, but Jonathan bears none of these costs. Jonathan would technically have to expend some time and effort to hold and consume the apple, and he would lose an apple’s worth of carrying capacity on his person, but ignoring these and other technicalities, we can casually say that the apple is a free gift from Jonathan’s perspective.
So now consider this definition for the above examples: freely gifted college, freely gifted healthcare, freely gifted time off, etc. We realize that these already exist, and would exist absent government provision.
There are innumerable scholarships offered by individuals, organizations, and colleges who want certain students to attend college. Organizations like St. Jude’s, Doctors Without Borders, and Operation Smile offer freely given medical services to patients. And many businesses already allow their employees vacation days, medical leave, and family leave without them skipping paychecks, although there is an important caveat here that this would be priced into their regular salary or wage unless the employing entrepreneurs want to give from their own means.
This is all not to mention the freebies, BOGO coupons, “freemium” apps, and other marketing strategies retail stores employ.
Why Do People Give Gifts?
First, we must have more than we want to keep for ourselves.
Widespread abundance like this is only possible with relatively unhampered markets and roundabout production in place, where entrepreneurs are correctly guessing consumer demands and a large capital structure made possible by saving yields plenty of consumer goods. We have to create wealth before we can exchange it, consume it, or give it away.
But once we have such an abundance of means, the reasons for giving are countless and outside the scope of economics. An altruist might give out of generosity, but even a greedy businessman could give because of increased storage costs for all of their inventory, or as a plan to attract customers.
It should be noted that self-interest motivates both the altruist and the greedy businessman. The altruist’s actions are self-interested because she is satisfying one of her own ends by relinquishing ownership of the donated means to somebody else.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Giving
When the giver gives voluntarily and the receiver accepts the gift, we can say it represents a mutually beneficial arrangement. The same cannot be said for forced redistribution.
When Bernie gives Jonathan the apple, Bernie is satisfying the highest ranked end he has for that apple. If, however, Bernie stole the apple from somebody else before giving it to Jonathan, then we can say with certainty that the exchange of the apple is not mutually beneficial.
The same goes for college scholarships and medical care. If the government takes the means to give somebody free college, then it does not represent a mutually beneficial arrangement, or else the individual would have voluntarily donated the money for the student to go to school.
Unlike private charities and scholarship funds, the government has no reason to dispense the gifts prudently or to minimize their own cut to maintain a donor base that is confident their donations are used efficiently and for the intended cause.
Forced redistribution also tends to spur bitterness and conflict, as opposed to gratitude and goodwill.
Proponents of Free Stuff Should Look to Capitalism, not Redistributionism
The conclusion we can draw here is that we get just the right amount of “free” stuff through the voluntary interactions of individuals in unhampered markets. And, not only that, but as capitalistic economies inevitably grow and the people become increasingly wealthy, charitable giving can increase as well. As the supply of goods that satisfy our ends gets larger, those marginal goods are more likely to be valued in terms of giving them away rather than keeping them ourselves.
Therefore, those that desire more free stuff should try to encourage more voluntary giving (maybe even leading by example), not forced redistribution. They should also be the loudest proponents of unhampered markets as any voluntary giving must come from wealth that has already been created and in such abundance as to allow for greater giving.
This article was originally published at The Mises Institute.
By Eric Margolis
“The evil that men do lives after them,” wrote Shakespeare. A prime example, former US President George W. Bush who appeared last week campaigning in South Carolina for his amiable younger brother, Jeb.
George W. continues to haunt the Republican Party and damage its electoral chances. At home, Bush has been staying out of public gaze; abroad, he is widely hated and limits overseas travel due to fear of war crimes arrest for his 2003 invasions of Iraq.
Republican spin doctors and the rightwing US media has been trying to soft soap Bush and his mentor, Dick Cheney, for years and slowly expunge their disastrous Iraq and Afghanistan Wars that opened a Pandora’s Box of horrors across the Muslim world. Democrats who cheered the war have equally sought to dodge responsibility. However, Hillary Clinton can’t seem to escape her tawdry war record.
The US, claim the Bush/Cheney amen chorus, was “misled” into invading Iraq by “faulty intelligence,” misled by the hope to promote democracy among the benighted Muslims; on a noble quest to remove a frightful dictator Saddam; and, of course, the famous missing “weapons of mass destruction.”
As candidate Donald Trump said last week, these were all bare-faced lies. These spurious allegations had one purpose: to mislead Americans into believing that Bush’s aggression in Iraq was a crusade for justice rather than a crude attempt to turn Iraq, with the world’s second biggest oil reserves, into an American vassal petrostate.
Unfortunately, mainstream America has not yet understood the enormity of the crimes that were committed in Afghanistan and Iraq. These include some one million civilians, cities destroyed, death squads, drone wars, kidnapping, torture and turning the US into a Stasi-like police state. And destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants by US air attacks, spreading disease and pestilence across the nation.
Washington claimed these crimes against humanity were justified by the 9/11 attacks, though the real culprits came from Saudi Arabia, not remote Afghanistan or Iraq. Osama bin Laden was rubbed out so he could never voice the truth in a fair court.
Almost as bad was the continuing evil from Bush/Cheney’s so-called “war on terror.” Concocted and run by neocons, the faux war served to expand US control of the Muslim world (which I term ‘the American Raj’ in my book), and destroy enemies of Israel. This ‘war’ continues today, 13 years later, with military budgets doubled in size, a 100% increase in spending on all sorts of spies, mercenaries and private armies, militarized police forces, and endless funds to fuel America’s Mideast, African and Asian imperial wars.
There should be special taxes to pay for these conflicts, but all are dumped onto the national debt, driving America ever deeper into hock. CIA, founded to provide analysis, assassinates alleged enemies across the world. The US government now shamelessly spies on all of us, exceeding even the intrusions of the old KGB and Stasi. Thank you, George W. Bush for supposedly defending America.
Bush ruined America’s name across the globe, making us look no better, maybe even worse, than the Soviet Union. Today’s witch hunt in the US against Muslims began during the Bush years. The Bush administration made many Americans feel that Uncle Sam was their enemy, not their friend. Of course, to many of American hard right and neocons – Bush was a saint. He remains so today in the Bible Belt and West. South Carolina, with its evangelicals and retired military communities, venerates Bush. A survey taken just before the invasion of Iraq showed that over 70% of evangelical Christians ardently backed the impending war.
Bush/Cheney aggressions led directly to the spread of the al-Qaida movement whose goal was to drive western influence from the Muslim world. The more lethal ISIS was born in US prison camps in Iraq. Somalia’s Shebab arose after the US and Ethiopia overthrew Somalia’s legitimate government. Now, the US in fast blundering into a major new Mideast War in Iraq and Syria that could provoke a nuclear confrontation between Washington and Moscow.
Unfortunately, too few Americans understand these legacies of Bush, Cheney, Hillary Clinton and the neocons. Who even remembers former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright actually saying that the deaths of over 500,000 Iraq children (UN figures) caused by US sanctions were “worth the price.”
George Bush is no cowboy saint. He, Cheney and their henchmen should all face justice for the invasions of Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq.
This article was originally published at EricMargolis.com
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2016
By Chris Rossini
It's usually a smart political move to run for president as being against the military adventures of the current executive. After all, George W. Bush did it, the Nobel Peace Prize winning Barack Obama did it, and now Donald Trump is doing the same.
Trump has been making a lot of the right enemies. Neocons (at least publicly) despise him. Here's what neocon Max Boot wrote this morning:
Donald Trump, the undoubted Republican front-runner after winning the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, is — there is no way to sugarcoat this — a liar, an ignoramus, and a moral abomination. I have never previously described any presidential candidates in such harsh terms — not even close — but there is no other way to accurately describe him. There simply isn’t.
Such is the daily commentary that we read from the neocons. From a libertarian standpoint, this is great, however, can it be trusted? Is Trump just playing smart politics by being against the (now traditional) failure of U.S. militarism around the world? After all, once Trump is in office, campaign promises mean literally nothing.
Are Americans being played yet again by a presidential candidate when it comes to foreign policy? Perhaps only Trump knows the answer to that question.
There is a chink in Trump's armor though, a red flag if there ever was one.
The Washington Post tells us:
Fresh off back-to-back victories in the Republican presidential race, Donald Trump is moving to expand his tight-knit campaign by building a political kitchen cabinet that includes former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Yes that Rudy Giuliani. The one that doesn't believe in Congress' obligation to declare war. The same Giuliani that when he ran for president had a foreign policy team that was bursting with neocons!
Trump confirmed his "inner circle" relationship with Giuliani. The Washington Post continues:
In an email Sunday night, Trump confirmed that Giuliani has become part of his inner circle as he navigates the 2016 terrain and hotly contested primaries.
What an interesting choice of words. It was not very long ago when Rudy Giuliani was not "very knowledgable" about the concept of "blowback". Ron Paul had explain it to him in what became a monumental moment:
It would be a very sad thing for Americans to be duped for a third consecutive time on the issue of war.
Can Trump be trusted on foreign policy?
History is not on our side.
(h/t - Robert Wenzel)
What if Congress investigated the Executive Branch's unlawful activities but the Executive Branch had the power to make sure no one could see it? That is exactly what is happening with the Senate's report on the CIA's torture program. The CIA is demanding that the report itself be destroyed. Checks and balances?
By Ron Paul
The use of the US military overseas seems to have become so commonplace that the Obama Administration can bomb a country with no Congressional input and very little media interest at all. Such was the case on Friday, when the US military killed some 49 people in a bombing run near Tripoli, Libya.
We had to bomb Libya, we are told, because Libya has become a hotbed of ISIS activity. The group has been moving training facilities into the country, taking advantage of the chaos. Ironically, it was five years ago this week that the “Arab Spring” uprising began in Libya -- an uprising that was supported by US military force and led to the overthrow of the Libyan government and the murder of its leader, Gaddafi.
We were told that the US had to intervene to overthrow Gaddafi so that democracy and human rights could flourish, yet five years after the US-led intervention no one would argue that the country is better off. Instead of bringing Libya democracy, US intervention brought Libya ISIS. So now the US has to go back and bomb Libya some more to take care of ISIS.
Will this work? No. Logic tells us you cannot do more of what caused a problem and expect it to fix the problem.
As Middle East analyst Hillary Mann Leverett observed after Friday’s US attack on Libya, "the problem is, for each one of these targeted killings, what we have seen in the data that at least two more people sign up to join.”
The United States has made a habit of lecturing other countries about the need to follow the rule of law, yet this seems to be a matter of “do as we say, not as we do.” How else can we explain a US attack overseas with no Congressional input? Certainly there was no Congressional authorization for Friday’s bombing. The Administration claimed that its authority came from the 2001 authorization to use military force against al-Qaeda in retaliation for the attacks of 9/11. But ISIS did not even exist on 9/11. How can the 2001 authorization be twisted to include bombing Libya in 2016?
Libya has been in chaos since its 2011 “liberation,” but the country’s interim government strongly objected to Friday’s US bombing, claiming they were not consulted before the US attack. They called US air strikes a violation of Libya’s sovereignty and of international law.
They have a point. But the most important point we must learn from the destruction of Libya – and of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on – is that US interventionism has been a complete failure. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the last 15 years, societies have been broken apart, economies have been destroyed, and property has been flattened. There are no success stories. The neocon plan to remake the Middle East has only succeeded in destroying the Middle East. As a consequence, we are far less safe than before the “war on terror” was launched. ISIS and other terrorist groups have expanded their territory and have even been able to attack in Europe and the US. Our currency has been debased to pay for the trillions of dollars spent in this no-win war. The connected elites have gotten rich while the middle class has gotten poorer.
Intervention has failed. It is time to stand up to the neocons and their liberal interventionist collaborators and say “no more!”
Ron Paul takes on today's biggest myths in another segment of Myth-Busters! Despite popular opinion, the Supreme Court does not have primacy over the other branches of government. Also Bernie Sanders' idea of tackling Wall Street without addressing gold and sound money is no solution at all. The War on Cash and The Reagan Myth are also addressed. Tune in!
By Ron Paul
During a time when the ideas of American exceptionalism have their moments in the sun, it is a continuing challenge to break through the deluge of excuses and denials used to support government's invasion of our liberties. The current dilemma that Apple finds itself in against the FBI is just the latest high profile example of government intimidation and harassment . I have a heated discussion about this on Fox Business. Check it out here.