Saturday, January 30, 2010

Money & Politics

Last week's Supreme Court ruling striking down the ban on corporate and union spending at election time is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, removing a legal barrier to free speech is always a good thing in itself. Government shouldn't dictate who can speak or from where people may get their information. This is more than a matter of abstract freedom; it's also a practical matter. More contentiousness in politics is better than less. Free-wheeling debate is more likely to produce good outcomes than a controlled flow of information.

But there is a downside to the ruling that we should freely acknowledge. If history and recent times are any indication, big corporations and unions will use their new freedom of political speech to promote bad ideas. By "bad ideas" I mean proposals for more government interference with our lives and liberty. (Not that the spending ban kept them from doing that in other ways.)

It's a great myth that businesses, especially big prominent corporations, want less government intervention in the economy. On the contrary, they love government power because it provides things they can't achieve in a freely competitive marketplace where force and fraud are barred. Corporations support and lobby for interventions that benefit themselves by hampering their competitors, both foreign and domestic. You often find companies asking for tariffs and other restrictions on imports that compete too effectively with their products. Agribusinesses welcome government (taxpayer) help in selling their products abroad; they also love subsidies, price supports, and acreage allotments.

Businesses, despite public impression, routinely support regulations imposing product standards and other requirements. Why? Burdens from government rules don't fall uniformly on all firms. Major corporations with big legal and accounting departments can handle regulations far more easily than small firms can -- or one that is still only a gleam in the eye of an aspiring entrepreneur. Moreover, when government dictates product standards, say in the name of safety, it removes that factor from the competitive arena, giving companies less incentive to outdo their competitors along that dimension. This means fewer threats to the market share of incumbent firms and less chance for new challengers to make headway. It also means inferior and more expensive goods for consumers.

In American history big companies were behind virtually ever advancement of the regulatory state. Things are no different today -- even under Barack Obama. It's easy to be fooled by appearances. Banks may balk at a new regulation, but only because they prefer their government privileges with as few restrictions as possible. Major corporations lobby for new controls on and subsidies to energy production not out of concern for the environment, but because they stand to gain profits. The government is literally seen as a tool for enhancing their investments. Instead of decisions being made by entrepreneurs trying to anticipate what consumers will want, they are made on the basis of cronyism and other political considerations.

Often big companies and unions are on the same side of regulatory issues, as when the heads of Walmart and the Service Employees International Union stood shoulder to shoulder to support Obamacare. But even when they disagree, it is usually over how government should manipulate the economic system. The debate is never between regulation and hands-off.

Admittedly this is not the way the story is usually told. Business is thought to favor deregulation, while progressive forces favor enlightened government guidance. But in fact, big business (and a lot of small business too) would panic at the thought of thorough laissez faire -- the end to all guarantees. The books of conservative writer Timothy Carney fully document this. Others have an interest in portraying business as pro—free markets because without the charade the public might catch on to the scam.

So here's the dilemma: limits on free political speech for corporations and unions offend our sense of justice, but they will use free speech to pursue unjust ends. What shall we do?

There is only one answer. We must strip government of the power to dispense privileges to anyone. If we can pull that off, the problem of money in politics will evaporate.

Minnie The Moocher:


Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of The Union Commentary

Wednesday night, I suffered through Mr. Obama’s speech. I noticed the overarching theme was: in 2010, the administration will finally getting around to all it promised for 2009, as well as a whole other year worth of miracles.

He begins by taking credit for saving the economy from a second Great Depression. “[W]e acted, immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.” Except for the massive unemployment, which he notes in his next breath. Wasn’t the worst of the storm the pain of the American people? Or was it the so-called credit freeze that Mr. Obama seems to imply is still happening: “[W]hen you talk to small-business owners in places like Allentown, Pennsylvania, or Elyria, Ohio, you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they’re mostly lending to bigger companies. Financing remains difficult for small-business owners across the country, even though they’re making a profit.”

Here’s another thing that doesn’t add up for me. Mr. Obama says, with some validity: “By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program.”

This is a decent point. Mr. Bush racked up the deficit with two off-budget wars, a bloated expansion of Medicare and tax cuts that did not correspond to any cuts in spending. And so what’s Mr. Obama propose to halt the deficit from spiraling yet more out of control?

We are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected, but all other discretionary government programs will.

Let me get this straight. Medicare and war profligacy brought on the crisis, and so we will “freeze” spending, expect for Medicare and war—and also except for Social Security and Medicaid? Huh?

Yes, there is also the point that Mr. Bush cut taxes without cutting spending. But this is another thing Mr. Obama is prepared to do:

“[We] passed 25 different tax cuts.”

“[W]e’ll extend our middle-class tax cuts.”

“[L]et’s also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small-business investment and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.”

One can argue over whether Mr. Bush’s tax cuts or Mr. Obama’s tax cuts are more fair, more sensible, more substantive, or whatever. But the fact remains, from a fiscal responsibility perspective, both Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Obama’s tax cuts could be criticized for being political gimmicks amid a cascade of deficit spending.

On banking regulation, the president says he will not seek to “punish” the banks but will stand up to them. Not much mention here on the revolving door between Wall Street and the big banks and Washington, which Mr. Obama has only sought to widen.

Mr. Obama touts his escalation of war in Afghanistan, a war the U.S. should have never waged and should have in any event ended some time in 2001 or 2002, once it was clear Osama bin Laden had escaped. This war, of course, is being vastly expanded beyond what Mr. Bush indicated he would do with it, and it’s just as much a fiscal nightmare as Mr. Bush’s warmaking. As for Iraq, Mr. Obama is sticking by his promise to adhere to the time table set by the Status of Forces Agreement acceded to by Bush in late 2008. No sign of change there. And by avoiding the issues of contractors, the permanent military bases, what exactly non-combat soldiers are supposed to be doing there, he is taking credit for the status quo that he inherited.

Mr. Nobel Peace Prize champions his plan to combat nuclear proliferation. I’m all for governments disarming their nuclear stockpiles, and if the U.S. reduces its arsenal, that is good. But the way he has always played this issue is identical to the way others have: The U.S. will reduce its arsenal by a token amount, and forbid nations unapproved by the U.S. and other major powers from having such weapons at all, using sanctions and war as a means to stop other countries from getting the weapons they seek primarily to defend them against the U.S. empire. The promise of nuclear non-proliferation has already become an excuse to tighten sanctions on Iran, which the evidence indicates has no nuclear weapons program, and whose nuclear energy program is being heavily monitored by the IAEA. Consider the Bushian implications of this statement:

That’s why the international community is more united and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They, too, will face growing consequences. That is a promise.

This is a formula for war conducted by the U.S., a government whose policy is that “nothing is off the table”—i.e., we reserve the right to use nukes—to stop countries like Iran from getting nukes, even though there is no credible evidence they are even pursuing nukes. In the name of stopping nukes, the U.S. is essentially threatening, as a supposed last resort, nuclear war.

When Mr. Obama condemns “those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of nuclear weapons,” we can also assume he does not mean to include Israel, which is not a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty, and which everyone with a pulse knows has nukes.

He doesn’t seem to want to talk much at all about one of his broken promises—the closing of Guantánamo and restoring of habeas corpus rights to America’s detainees. His indefinite detention policy is a monstrosity, one of the most important features of his presidency in terms of the policies actually implemented that have long-term consequences for the American system. After claiming deference to the “separation of powers”—although I can’t find this in the prepared transcripts—Obama attacked the Supreme Court for having “reversed a century of law” with its decision against campaign finance restrictions. But he doesn’t mention his own, and much more unambiguously disastrous, attacks on precedent and the rule of law—his invocation of “state secrets” and “sovereign immunity” to protect government wiretapping, his efforts to subvert the Freedom of Information Act to keep government torture under wraps. Instead of focusing on these concrete accomplishments of his, he simply promises another year-worth of government solutions.

Indeed, Mr. Obama promises everything else he’s always promised, almost all of it bad—a tough climate change treaty, more banking regulation, Obamacare at last, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, subsidies for community colleges, more Veterans benefits, more national standards for education, more “public works” projects and government subsidies for green jobs. He offers “a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college,” which will only drive up the cost of tuition, and ominously proposes a way to get people even more oriented toward working for the state:

Let’s tell another 1 million students that, when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years, and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service.

This will only increase the cost of education and lure people into working for the ever-growing government sector, which is bloated enough, while neglecting the American private sector that the president himself says is and always will be “the true engine of job creation in this country.”

None of it adds up. More promises. More spending. More war. More politically motivated tinkering of the tax code. It is true he has brought change to Washington. He is not Mr. Bush. He is Mr. Bush on steroids.

Puppet On A String:

Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian):

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Time for an American Health Care solution: Empower Patients — Not Government and Insurance Companies.

The dust is settling on the rejection of President Obama's government and corporate takeover of American Medical care. But lovers of liberty must remain vigilant for attempts to compromise that will actually create the same problems for Americans. Obamacare was always about one thing only: control of medical care and medical spending by parties outside of the patient-physician relationship. Sadly, there are many in the Republican party who support the same thing: control by third parties. They will be now be tempted to pursue these "cost control" measures -- to satisfy their own special interests and to appear to offer "solutions" for political reasons. They will be making a mistake and the American people must reject compromises of principle for political expediency.

Obamacare's core elements fell into two broad categories: 1) covering the "uninsured" and 2) controlling medical costs. "Universal coverage" has been a holy grail of Statists for decades and this version was an adoption of the failing Massachusetts model: a mandate to purchase insurance for every American. That was coupled with increased enrollment in Medicaid and wealth transfer to 60% of Americans to subsidize purchase of insurance. While private corporations would hold the money, the state would set the terms of health care financing and what would be "covered". Thus there is practically no difference between a single payer system and the corporatist model of health care financing.

The second key element is alive and well: cost control. Massachusetts policy-making elitists lament that they expanded coverage in 2006 without controlling costs. They now face budget shortfalls and upheaval as hospitals sue the state to recover losses in the new system, patients wait longer to see doctors and the state begins to create and implement rationing. It is the rationing model that is likely to remain and be supported by many Republicans. In fact, it was under the Bush administration that talk of this became prominent, with terms like "quality and efficiency", "pay for performance" and "value-based purchasing" and "transparency". These strategies must be just as soundly rejected by the American people now as they have always been part of the Obamacare proposals and have no redeeming value. In fact the data is clear that not only do they not improve quality, they usually harm patients and control costs only through committee controlled rationing -- also hurting patients.

Under these "value-based purchasing" models, doctors will be put on a budget. They will have to be paid by so called "accountable care organizations" which can be described only as HMO's on steroids. All service payments (for medical tests, hospital care, nursing home care and physician fees) will be "bundled" together and doctors will have to fight for their "fair share". The doctor will be "rewarded" for spending less of the budget by receiving financial bonuses (incentives). In other words, they will be paid more, get more patient referrals and have a better public profile if they spend less money on the patient (essentially serving as rationing agents). That means ordering fewer tests, procedures, medication, hospital stays and all the other things people expect to receive from their health insurance premium. This "pay for performance" model can better be described as a "penalties for physicians". When doctors are punished for spending "too much" corporate and government money on the patient, the patient will not be able to trust the doctor. This will end the concept of the patient-physician relationship: the hallmark of American medicine for decades that has lead to the best medical care ever seen in the history of man.

So how can we control costs and increase access to care? It is true that health insurance premiums are too high. Medical services seem to cost more than is reasonable (e.g. $80 Tylenol in the hospital). Medicaid patients must drive hours to find a specialist -- if they are lucky. Medicaid patients (even though they are "covered") are still twice as likely to go to the ER than those with private insurance since they can't find doctors who can afford to pay to take care of them. Worse still, many people go without medical care. All of these problems can be solved if we reject the very structure that has gotten us to this point so far: control of every health care dollar by third parties, especially for routine annual medical care. When insurance companies and government hold the money, patients come to feel entitled to receive every dime's worth of care they can possibly get to make sure they get their "fair share". They don't ask about cost or even necessity. They don't ask if they really need an MRI or a 5th medication or a spinal surgery with titanium implants. However, when consumers hold the money for routine, annual medical care (coupled with a 100% coverage catastrophic medical insurance plan) they begin to ask questions and shop for best price. They demand (and deserve) more time with their doctors. Since 2003, this model of health savings accounts and high deductible health insurance has been shown to drive down costs as patients make sure they are getting the most for their health care dollar. Patients with this means of paying for their health care are more likely to get preventative medical care, engage in healthy behaviors, ask questions about medical necessity and basically hold their doctors and hospitals accountable.

In other words, it is by application of free market principles that we can drive down health costs, increase access and increase quality. Just as market forces keep down costs and allow innovation and growth of new features for computers, cars, dental care, plastic surgery, and laser eye surgery (the later medical services are not covered by insurance). But many will ask: what about the poor? The poor are always better served when the market drives down costs for all as they can then find more affordable services. In addition, it is easier for government assistance and the charity dollar to go further when prices have been held down by the market. Of course, there will always be a role for the government -- but it must be targeted only at the poor. But more importantly, when there is a vibrant and prosperous health care sector operating in a free market, it will be easier to provide the best form of assistance to the poor: charity. Charitable organizations once had a prominent place in American health care and many great hospitals started in this way. It is time to rebuild charity as a means to provide medical care for the poor while helping them achieve financial independence in a greater free market economy based in liberty.

Likewise, it is time to begin a 10 year transition of Medicare from a government run system to a system where people own their own health savings that will be used in their later years. It is clear that Medicare can't last and has failed as much as other Great Society experiments like welfare, public housing, and food stamps. The proof of Medicare's failure is in its $35 trillion unfunded debt, the coming rationing and the assault on independent doctors that will occur no matter what happens this year. Doctors will leave the system as Medicare will be no better than Medicaid. It is also essential to restore the right of Americans to keep their Medicare benefits if they choose to see a doctor who has left the Medicare system. They should also keep their Medicare benefits if they want to enter into a private agreement with a doctor to pay a rate in addition to the Medicare benefits agreed to by both parties. Congress removed the right to privately contract from Medicare recipients in the late ‘80's and has created a government Medicare rationing cage that neither doctor nor patient can escape. Creating an ownership right to the Medicare dollars that were essentially stolen from decades of workers' paychecks would be the best way to serve current Medicare patients while transforming the program for future generations.

It is essential for Americans and lovers of liberty to reject any fake Republican compromises that will impose more government and insurance cost control strategies. Pay for performance, value-based purchasing, accountable care organizations, bundling and "efficiency" are the exact same central economic planning tools that those in power would love to wield. Central economic planning failed the Soviet Union, is failing Europe and only succeeds in China due to their willingness to deny liberty and property rights to their citizens. Central economic planning enriches the arrogant power-holding elite, denies liberty, demands higher taxes and relies on a fiat currency that ruins economies as it loses value. We need an American solution for health system reform, and that means a free market solution of patient economic empowerment, a resurgence of charitable care and a small but strong government safety net.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Martial Law vs. Christian Responsibility

It is one thing to know something intellectually, and quite another to see it suddenly happen before your eyes. I experienced such a moment in 2005, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when I watched (via the Internet) as police officers went door-to-door in New Orleans neighborhoods, forced law-abiding citizens into the streets, cuffed them, and then searched their homes for firearms before leaving them bewildered and helpless. There were no warrants involved. No probable cause was mentioned. No charges of wrong-doing were filed. Intimidation and brute force were the order of the day. And as much as I wish I could believe otherwise, I'm afraid that what we saw in New Orleans is merely a preview of coming attractions.

Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has been busily advancing preparations for the day when it might impose martial law throughout the United States, thus presenting us with the specter of the sort of thugery we witnessed in New Orleans being carried out all across this "land of the free." A quasi-legal apparatus has already been put into place for this, via such legislation as the PATRIOT Act, the John Warner Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the National Security and Homeland Security Directive. But legislation, although important in creating the illusion of legitimacy, is only one of the two boots with which the authoritarian state tramples freedom; the other is propaganda, and it is even more essential than force because it allows the state to conquer by stealth, and thus with a minimum of effort.

The state that employs only force to achieve its aims will rule only as long as it can subdue the people; but if it can successfully use propaganda, it can rule indefinitely because the people will subdue themselves. Propaganda deludes the slave into seeing his servitude as sacrifice, even as an honor. It transforms political prisoners into the enemies of the people, turns massacres into purgings, makes partisanism look like saintly perseverance, sells torture as retribution, portrays dissent as sabotage, and masks aggression in the guise of crusading. As Adolf Hitler observed in Mein Kampf, "By an able and persistent use of propaganda heaven itself can be presented to the people as if it were hell and, vice versa, the most miserable kind of life can be presented as if it were paradise."

And of all the varied forms of propaganda, religious propaganda is by far the most effective; for, it provides fallible men with the sanction of heaven, which must not be resisted nor even questioned. Our government is well aware of this and, from all indications, is ready to use religious propaganda in order to help pacify the American population in the event that martial law is declared.

For years, rumors circulated to the effect that the U.S. government would use members of the clergy in efforts to pacify Americans should martial law ever be declared. Many scoffed at the idea, calling it so much conspiracy theory nonsense. Then, in 2007, KSLA Channel 12 in Shreveport, Louisiana, reported that, following Hurricane Katrina, "clergy response teams" were utilized to assist the government with public relations (click here to watch the video). According to the story, such teams will likely be used in future emergency situations, with an emphasis on their potential role in a martial law scenario. Here's a quote from the story:

Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other. "In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they're helping to diffuse that situation," assured Sandy Davis. He serves as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

A member of one such clergy response team, Dr. Durell Tuberville, was interviewed by KSLA, and stated that Christians have a responsibility to obey the government, no matter what. "The government's established by the Lord," said Tuberville. "That's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture.

As a Christian myself, I understand where people like Dr. Tuberville are coming from. I remember my ninth grade Government teacher telling our class (Christian school, mind you) that Soviet citizens had no right to defy their government because, no matter how oppressive the Soviet State was, it was "ordained by God" (when asked about whether the American patriots were right to rebel against England, however, he equivocated). This reasoning is based on several passages of scripture, but particularly on the following remarks made by the Apostle Paul in Romans, chapter 13 (as the KSLA news story pointed out):

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.

With these things in mind, I'd like to take some time to examine the issue of how Christians should react to the prospect of martial law in America.

Government officials are not the highest "authorities" in America

The first thing I would like to point out to people like Dr. Tuberville, who think Christians should obey government officials no matter what because they are "the higher powers," is that there is another, yet higher power to which even such officials are beholden: the Constitution of the United States.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land. Article VI, Section 1.

It is from the Constitution that our elected officials, both federal and state, derive their office and legitimate powers. Their powers are delegated, not inherent; concrete, not elastic, and, as clearly set forth by the 9th and 10th Amendments, they are limited to the specific areas of authority that the Constitution either grants to the Union or denies to the states. Further, our elected officials are "bound by oath or affirmation" to support the Constitution and its provisions, including the limitations placed upon their own powers:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution... (Article VI, Section 3).

Thus, in taking up the powers and responsibilities of political office, our elected officials are also agreeing to place themselves under the law. This is one of the foundational ideas of the American political system: the concept that everyone is under law and equal in its eyes. For this reason, if government officials violate the Constitution, their actions are illegal and void of authority, and they are no better than common criminals. It is absolutely critical that Christians understand this when they contemplate their relationship to the government. Our elected officials are not the source of their own power; rather, they are representatives who have been entrusted with the authority of the American people as defined in the United States Constitution. If they violate that trust, they are as much criminals as the guy who robs your local 7-11 store; they just dress better, make other people use the guns, and almost never go to jail.

Martial Law is Unconstitutional and, therefore, Illegal

The Constitution does not directly address martial law; however, it does contain a provision that clearly makes martial law impossible. Consider Article IV, Section IV:

The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

Republican government is civil, representative government; martial law is military rule. Since the former is specifically guaranteed here, the latter is necessarily precluded. This provision, which our government officials are sworn to support as being part of the supreme law of the land, makes martial law unconstitutional and thus illegal. The moment that martial law is declared, the federal government will have stepped outside of its sphere of lawful powers. In fact, in a very real way it will have conducted a revolution, as it will have overthrown the legitimate government of the Constitution by force of arms.

The President is Commander in Chief, not Dictator in Chief

The "war powers" of the President are a woefully misunderstood aspect of constitutional law, thanks primarily to the success of Abraham Lincoln's war and further developments under those who inherited his theory of government. Said theory boils down to the idea that, technically, anything the government does in order to "safe-guard" the country (really its own power) is constitutional.

The Constitution itself differs with that idea. It describes the "war powers" of the President in Article II, Section II, where we read:

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.

That's it. That is the sum total of all the Constitution has to say about the war powers of the President. Everything else that has developed since the adoption of the Constitution where such powers are concerned, from ‘peace-keeping' missions to covert operations, is extra-constitutional (and largely a perversion of the war powers the Constitution grants to Congress in Article I). Indeed, the military powers that presidents exercise today would have seemed kingly to our country's founders. Under the American system, presidents were to be limited chief executives, not self-empowering monarchs who could overthrow the rights of the people or commit the country's military to action for any reason whatsoever. The history of centuries of blood-letting under the crowned heads of Europe had taught Americans better than to trust such powers in the hands of one individual. They forgot that lesson rather quickly once they were free to determine their own affairs, but that initial understanding is enshrined in the Constitution's language to this day, and the reasoning behind it is still just as sound.

The Commander in Chief clause, read as it is plainly written, gives the President authority to act as a sort of commanding general of all U.S. armed forces in their constitutional role of providing for the common defense. It makes him a unifying military leader, capable of coordinating the country's defenses in order to repel an aggressor; it does not make him a dictator, nor does it authorize him to use the military offensively or for law enforcement purposes. Note that the authority granted in Article II, Section II is military, not civilian, and that it does not release the President from his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, nor does it revoke the right of the states to a republican form of government.

In response, some will undoubtedly argue that we now face dangers that our country's founders could not have envisioned, and, for that reason, certain things must change. But the founders provided us with a means of changing the Constitution in the face of new circumstances or new wishes on the part of the people. We call this provision the "Amendment Process" (see Article V). So why is it that our leaders are not using this legitimate, constitutional tool, if indeed they believe that they require additional powers in order to meet modern challenges, and if indeed their motives are pure? Defenders of the Bush administration and its congressional allies (particularly Christians seeking to invoke Romans 13) should give serious thought to this question.

Consider that nearly seven years have elapsed since the September 11, 2001 attacks, and yet, in all that time, in spite of all the powers that Bush and Congress have usurped, they have not once prepared or even suggested a constitutional amendment to legitimize any of it. And the reason for this? Quite simply, they don't believe they need to legitimize their actions. They do not recognize any authority above themselves, neither the Constitution of the United States nor the people who elected them.

Beware Government Agents quoting Scripture

The common perception of propaganda is that it is the art of telling lies, but in fact lies are only part of the picture. No, the true master of propaganda is skilled not only in telling outright lies, but also in employing distortion and half-truth.

For an example of this, consider Romans 13 again. The standard snake oil sold by the Dr. Tuberville's of the world (unwittingly or not), where this passage is concerned, is that government is the "higher power" and must be obeyed in all things. This is what you're likely to hear when a clergy response team member shows up on your doorstep, flanked by national guardsmen and demanding that you hand over your firearms, supplies, and/or valuables, or that you accompany them to Hotel Halliburton. Yet, as we have already seen, the Constitution, not the government, is the highest "power" in the United States of America, and those who act outside of it are criminals.

Note also that the Apostle Paul was arguing that Christians should support the "higher powers" because government is ordained by God to be "an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." "Rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior," Paul tells us, "but for evil," after which he admonishes us to be "in subjection not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake." So what then of a government which, instead of punishing evil, actually practices evil itself? Can Paul have been suggesting that Christians should view the evil actions of a lawless power as somehow bearing the approval of God? Can a Christian either condone or submit to evil doings "for conscience' sake"? Is it possible to do good by sanctioning, submitting to, or participating in evil? As Paul himself was fond of saying, "God forbid!"

When in Rome?

At this point, some might argue that the Roman Empire was evil in many ways, and that if Paul informed Christians that they needed to be in subjection to such a regime, surely today's Christians have no excuse for resisting the will of the U.S. government, constitutional questions aside. And while I would agree that Rome was certainly a ruthless and brutal government, there are three important things that should be kept in view here:

1) Rome did not rule under a supreme Constitution such as we have.

2) While Paul instructed Christians to recognize Roman rule, he never once suggested that they should sanction or participate in Roman brutality. Indeed, the Bible contains a number of passages that instruct us to aid the oppressed (not to aid in their oppression):

Proverbs 24:10-12: "If you are slack [weak, feeble] in the day of distress, your strength is limited. Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold {them} back. If you say, "See, we did not know this," Does He not consider {it} who weighs the hearts? And does He not know {it} who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"

Isaiah 1:16-17: "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow."

Jeremiah 21:12: "O house of David, thus says the LORD: ‘Administer justice every morning; And deliver the {person} who has been robbed from the power of {his} oppressor, that My wrath may not go forth like fire and burn with none to extinguish {it,} because of the evil of their deeds.'"

Jeremiah 22:2-3: "Thus says the LORD, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of {his} oppressor. Also do not mistreat {or} do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.'"

The above passages make it clear that no one who claims to fear God should have anything to do with oppressing the innocent; but, rather, they should actively "reprove" those who do such things and "deliver" those who are being victimized. Genesis 14 tells the story of how Abraham attacked and overcame a group of kings who had taken his nephew, Lot, captive; and, in Job 29, we're told that, among the good deeds Job was known for, he "delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper," and "broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the prey from his teeth." The Bible refers to both Abraham and Job as "righteous" and "upright." Further, in I Timothy 5:8, the Apostle Paul, who wrote Romans 13, remarks: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Surely "providing" for one's own involves protecting them from those who would do them harm.

3) Two recorded instances from the Apostle Paul's own life demonstrate that a Christian need not submit to injustice simply because it is perpetrated by agents of the state. Both examples come to us from the book of Acts.

The first is recorded in Acts 22, where Roman authorities questioned Paul in relation to his part in a riot that had just taken place in Jerusalem. Not satisfied with his answers, the Roman "chief captain" ordered that Paul be subjected to a bit of enhanced interrogation, 1st Century style (they were going to scourge him while questioning him further). Now, Paul was a Roman citizen, and under Roman law it was illegal to scourge a citizen. Paul pointed this out to his captors in Acts 22:23, and was spared the torture in favor of a trial.

The second example comes from Acts 25. Paul, who was then on trial before Porcius Festus, the Roman governor of Judea, saw that the governor was probably not going to give him a fair trial, and so he invoked the supreme right of a Roman citizen: he appealed to Caesar himself in hope of justice. He did this respectfully, but resolutely.

Clearly, the Apostle Paul had no problem with questioning authorities or appealing to the law in his defense, and I see no biblical reason why modern Christians are under obligation to act any differently. The Constitution is our supreme law, our supreme authority; we have every right to appeal to its provisions and to demand that those provisions be respected and not overthrown.


In summary, be aware of the fact that our government has already begun using religious propaganda to get its way, and that it fully intends to do so again. Beware those who would preach to you concerning how you should obey them as authorities over you, if they refuse to obey the authority over them. Beware those who talk about the law if they themselves are law-breakers. Beware those who would speak to you of "duty," if they themselves have broken their oaths and violated the trusts of their offices. Contrary to the propaganda you're likely to hear in the event of a martial law situation, neither Romans 13, nor any other passage of scripture, can be twisted to the effect of forcing Christians to buckle under to, participate in, or otherwise sanction, illegal actions or outright atrocities committed by the state.

You who are members of the clergy: could you go door-to-door telling people that God wants them to turn in their guns (or fuel, or food, or gold) and to leave themselves bereft and helpless because the state says so? You who are members of the military or law enforcement agencies: could you force yourselves on, or actually fire on, otherwise law-abiding American citizens who might only be trying to defend themselves, their property and their families against those who have decided to toss the law out like yesterday's garbage? Could you justly take part in unjust actions? How many of history's wars and other atrocities could have taken place had those ordered to carry them out simply said "No."? Could Rome have enslaved and tortured millions of people without the consent of its soldiers? Could any of the tyrants of the past have plundered their citizens had they been forced to wield the sword by themselves? Could a single Southern farm have been burned had Northerners not consented to Lincoln's rampage? Could Stalin or Mao have murdered tens of millions of their own countrymen without the assistance of their "Peoples'" armies? Make no mistake, if the United States government ever decides to oppress its own people, for whatever reason, it will not be the President or members of Congress, or the Joint Chiefs who go around intimidating people, kicking in doors, muzzling protest, dividing families, jailing and/or torturing dissenters or carrying off property. It will be you. They will expect you to do these things for them. The question is: can you live with it? And even more importantly: can you answer to God for it?

II Corinthians 5:10 — "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (Note — I see no exceptions granted here for those "acting under orders").

Finally, don't wait for the crisis to come before you act. The day martial law is declared is not the time to begin doing something about it. That time is now, today, before it happens. Start by familiarizing yourself with passages of scripture such as those I've listed above; and always consider what the Bible says for itself, not how others would interpret it to their own advantage. Familiarize yourself with the Constitution, with relevant legislation and presidential executive orders, and with the history of martial law situations and military occupations both here in the U.S. and in other countries. Share what you learn with your friends and family. Consider joining up with groups like Ron Paul's new Campaign for Liberty, where you can work for change alongside other concerned Americans. Never forget that an intimate knowledge of truth is the best defense against the lies, distortions and half-truths of the propagandists.

There Is Power In The Blood:

Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian):

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gold and Guns

In his extraordinary book Democracy: The God that Failed, Hans Hermann Hoppe points out that the process of civilization is stopped when government continually violates property rights.

The natural process of civilization comes through delaying consumption, saving, and building capital. Undoing it leads to higher societal time preference.

When natural disasters strike or a gunman robs you in an alley, "the effect of these on time preference is temporary and unsystematic," Hoppe explains.

Victims are entitled to defend themselves against the individual aggressor and prepare themselves for the calamities of the occasional act of God. Resources will be reallocated to defend one against potential robbers, and provisions will be made for potential natural disasters.

However, when government aggresses, it is considered legitimate and "a victim may not legitimately defend himself against such violations." Democracy legitimizes this government aggression because the violence is sanctioned by a majority of voters.

This decivilization process that Hoppe describes continues in fits and starts. The uneducated continue to live in never-never land, believing that each new ruler means change and that their lives and happiness can safely be put in the hands of a kind and caring government. But government's current ham-handedness -- with its bailouts, money printing, and rights violations -- has alerted more than a few individuals to do what comes naturally: defend themselves and prepare for the worst.

The government's legal-tender money -- the dollar -- is now under questioning. While the commercial-banking fractional-reserve monetary engine is stalled with loan write-downs and bank failures, the Federal Reserve has expanded its balance sheet like never before. Man of the Year Ben Bernanke is deathly afraid of deflation, and John Maynard Keynes is a hero again. The inflation cake is in the oven, albeit not quite fully baked.

And the current administration does not seem friendly to the property right of allowing us to protect ourselves. The president believes that only law-enforcement officers should have weapons.

So while high-time-preference folks like Shannan DeCesare shout "Merry Christmas to me" after unloading some gold jewelry for $610 at a gold party, low-time-preference types are lining up in pawnshops and gun shows to buy gold, silver, lead, and guns.

DeCesare attended a gold party that the Wall Street Journal describes as an example of the new Tupperware party. These parties appeal to the cash-for-gold crowd trying to maintain a boom-time lifestyle by unloading their valuables. The cash poor end up taking between 65 and 75 percent of what their gold would be worth to a refiner according to the WSJ.

These parties offer a comfortable atmosphere for selling the yellow metal. "It can be really difficult for a lot of people to walk into a jewelry store or pawnshop holding a little bag of gold," Lisa Rosenthal, owner of Party of Gold, told the WSJ. Ms. Rosenthal's company has specialists working more than 1,000 parties a month. And why would anyone sell their gold for 65 to 75 cents on the dollar? In his book More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places, author Michael J. Mauboussin has a chapter titled, "All I Need to Know I Learned at a Tupperware Party." People buy Tupperware because they feel like they must reciprocate the host for hosting the party and providing the free party favors. Plus, as Mauboussin explains, "the single most important fact of the Tupperware formula is the tendency to say yes to people you like."

In the case of gold parties, attendees don't want to just show up, drink the wine and eat the appetizers but leave turning their noses up at the low prices offered for their, or their departed mother's, old jewelry, especially when it's their friend down the block hosting the event. They happily trade a metal that has proven to have value for thousands of years for the government's depreciating paper.

But while gold sellers are shy to see the nearby pawn dealer, gold buyers go where they must to see who has inventory for sale. The demand for guns is so good that the gun show in Las Vegas recently charged $14 a head just to walk in and look around -- after parking cost of $3. The lot was full and business was brisk.

The demand for space at gun ranges in Salt Lake City was strong enough the day after Christmas that it was a 15- to 20-minute wait to rent an "alley" at the second range we inquired with. The first range contacted was reservation only and completely booked for the day.

Panic buying of ammunition, silver, and gold has created shortages and led to price increases for all three in 2009. "Currently no .380 ammunition -- I haven't seen any for about four months... .38 special, it's been at least a couple of months," Denver gun-store manager Richard Taylor told CNN earlier this year. "It's just that there's been a huge demand and it's far outweighed supply right now."

And in November, Bloomberg reported that the US Mint had suspended sales of most American Eagle coins made from precious metals, including gold and silver. With coin sales surging 88 percent in the first 10 months of this year, the mint is out of metal and sales will resume "once sufficient inventories of gold-bullion blanks can be acquired to meet market demand," the mint said in a statement posted on its website.

So, some Americans are unloading their family treasures and cheering for bailouts, money printing, and gun control, while others are stocking up on precious metals, guns, and ammo to protect themselves and their wealth.

There is no question which group is the civilized one.

It Was A Very Good Year:

Walking To New Orleans: