October 07, 2011

Lew Rockwell: Thinking Things Through

It is easy to get so caught up in the trials and tribulations of our daily lives that we have little energy at the end of the working day to do more than have a meal, slumping into the comfort of a recliner to be entertained by the flat screen, before retiring for the night to start the whole ritual the next day. This leaves little time - or none at all - to reflect on why things are as they are in today's world and why continued insanity (same thing done over and over) is guaranteed to produce the same results. Not thinking things through opens us up to accepting the glib suggestions bombarding us through the 'one-eyed monster' as we become brainwashed without even realizing it. These three articles from Lew Rockwell's site - while not sound-bite shorts, will surely force you to exercise your 'grey matter'.

The Fascist Threat

Recently by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.: The Police State Abolishes the Trial

This talk was delivered at the Doug Casey conference, "When Money Dies," in Phoenix on October 1, 2011.
Everyone knows that the term fascist is a pejorative, often used to describe any political position a speaker doesn’t like. There isn’t anyone around who is willing to stand up and say: "I’m a fascist; I think fascism is a great social and economic system."
But I submit that if they were honest, the vast majority of politicians, intellectuals, and political activists would have to say just that.
Fascism is the system of government that cartelizes the private sector, centrally plans the economy to subsidize producers, exalts the police State as the source of order, denies fundamental rights and liberties to individuals, and makes the executive State the unlimited master of society.
This describes mainstream politics in America today. And not just in America. It’s true in Europe, too. It is so much part of the mainstream that it is hardly noticed any more.
It is true that fascism has no overarching theoretical apparatus. There is no grand theorist like Marx. That makes it no less real and distinct as a social, economic, and political system. Fascism also thrives as a distinct style of social and economic management. And it is as much or more of a threat to civilization than full-blown socialism.
This is because its traits are so much a part of life – and have been for so long – that they are nearly invisible to us.
If fascism is invisible to us, it is truly the silent killer. It fastens a huge, violent, lumbering State on the free market that drains its capital and productivity like a deadly parasite on a host. This is why the fascist State has been called The Vampire Economy. It sucks the economic life out of a nation and brings about a slow death of a once thriving economy.
Let me just provide a recent example.
The Decline
The papers last week were filled with the first sets of data from the 2010 US Census. The headline story concerned the huge increase in the poverty rate. It is the largest increase in 20 years, and now up to 15%.
But most people hear this and dismiss it, probably for good reason. The poor in this country are not poor by any historical standard. They have cell phones, cable TV, cars, lots of food, and plenty of disposable income. What’s more, there is no such thing as a fixed class called the poor. People come and go, depending on age and life circumstances. Plus, in American politics, when you hear kvetching about the poor, everyone knows what you’re supposed to do: hand the government your wallet.

Buried in the report is another fact that has much more profound significance. It concerns median household income in real terms.
What the data have revealed is devastating. Since 1999, median household income has fallen 7.1 percent. Since 1989, median family income is largely flat. And since 1973 and the end of the gold standard, it has hardly risen at all. The great wealth generating machine that was once America is failing.
No longer can one generation expect to live a better life than the previous one. The fascist economic model has killed what was once called the American dream. And the truth is, of course, even worse than the statistic reveals. You have to consider how many incomes exist within a single household to make up the total income. After World War II, the single-income family became the norm. Then the money was destroyed and American savings were wiped out and the capital base of the economy was devastated.
It was at this point that households began to struggle to stay above water. The year 1985 was the turning point. This was the year that it became more common than not for a household to have two incomes rather than one. Mothers entered the workforce to keep family income floating.
The intellectuals cheered this trend, as if it represented liberation, shouting hosannas that all women everywhere are now added to the tax rolls as valuable contributors to the State’s coffers. The real cause is the rise of fiat money that depreciated the currency, robbed savings, and shoved people into the workforce as taxpayers.
This story is not told in the data alone. You have to look at the demographics to discover it.
This huge demographic shift essentially bought the American household another 20 years of seeming prosperity, though it is hard to call it that since there was no longer any choice about the matter. If you wanted to keep living the dream, the household could no longer get by on a single income.
But this huge shift was merely an escape hatch. It bought 20 years of slight increases before the income trend flattened again. Over the last decade we are back to falling. Today median family income is only slightly above where it was when Nixon wrecked the dollar, put on price and wage controls, created the EPA, and the whole apparatus of the parasitic welfare-warfare State came to be entrenched and made universal.
Yes, this is fascism, and we are paying the price. The dream is being destroyed.
The talk in Washington about reform, whether from Democrats or Republicans, is like a bad joke. They talk of small changes, small cuts, commissions they will establish, curbs they will make in ten years. It is all white noise. None of this will fix the problem. Not even close.
The problem is more fundamental. It is the quality of the money. It is the very existence of 10,000 regulatory agencies. It is the whole assumption that you have to pay the State for the privilege to work. It is the presumption that the government must manage every aspect of the capitalist economic order. In short, it is the total State that is the problem, and the suffering and decline will continue so long as the total State exists.

Obama’s Very Real Death Panel

Recently by Anthony Gregory: A Bloody Decade of Fear and Vaunting

It’s official. The American dystopia is here. Obama administration officials admit that the CIA assassination program that snuffed out Anwar al-Awlaki last Friday is guided by a secret panel that decides who lives and dies. According to Reuters:
American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.
There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.
Let that sink in. The U.S. presidency, supposed leader of the free world, has a clandestine committee that chooses American citizens to assassinate. This from the administration that promised unprecedented transparency and a ratcheting back of Bush-era civil liberties abuses. This from the president who vowed to restore habeas corpus and subject executive war powers to judicial scrutiny. This from the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

What’s more striking, however, is the deafening silence. Sure, the ACLU opposes all this, as do a smattering of public voices. Yet it seems for everyone expressing proportional concern about this, there are a thousand leftist protesters whining about the top one percent, and a thousand conservatives whining about the leftist protesters.
How fitting that the presidency that Tea Partiers accused of planning to convene death panels to handle health care rationing has openly admitted to having created such a panel whose declared purpose is not simply to withhold socialized medical resources, but to direct the cold-blooded murder of citizens who are sufficiently bothersome enemies of the regime. Yet in a majestic irony, many of the conservatives who feared Obama’s life-and-death bureaucracies are cheering on his most explicit and frightening seizure of dictatorial power in all his presidency, and perhaps one of the greatest of all presidential power grabs in the sweep of U.S. history.

Meanwhile, Obama’s millions of supporters still think the idea that this man is a fascist, a tyrant, a threat to liberty, is hysterical hate speech and itself a danger to American democracy. Yet Barack Obama appears dedicated to out-Bushing Bush when it comes to shredding the Bill of Rights and sticking his middle finger at the very idea that he ought to be accountable to anything but his own power.
Make no mistake. We are witnessing a defining moment in America’s transformation into a totalitarian nation. Not because the murder of al-Alwaki, or even the death panel that sealed his fate, is some sort of anomaly in terms of morality or even presidential power. The U.S. presidency has already sentenced millions to death with its wars, its sanctions, its bombings, its terrorism, its covert ops, its torture chambers. The nukings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to take a couple of famous examples, long ago revealed the awesome and murderous power of the Oval Office, whether or not these bombings were as "illegal" as the offing of al-Alwaki. And the families of thousands of innocent Afghans and Pakistanis killed in drone strikes had no doubts about Obama’s imperial touch, even before this latest atrocity.

But the circumstances surrounding this particular hit job, and the death panel behind it, deserve more than a footnote. There is the brazenness of it all – the audacity, as a younger Obama might say – of the administration just coming clean about its mysterious council that serves as judge and jury behind closed doors. There is the frank admission of its existence with all else being kept secret. There is also the precision – the fact that this program is one focused on offing political enemies, rather than just bombing neighborhoods in an ad hoc attempt to weaken another government in a war. There is also the open-ended nature of this conflict, a war on terrorism that can last even longer than the clash with the USSR, a war whose immortality seems even more possible now that Barack the law professor is in charge, rather than George the rancher.
Taken together, this is just the kind of creepy atmosphere befitting of a total state, a Communist or fascist government or a nightmarish bureaucracy contrived in the mind of a Cold War-era novelist imagining what America would look like in the 21st century after taking one too many wrong turns. It is almost as if the administration is trying to preempt the conspiracy-minded by giving them something that would be unbelievable only fifteen years ago, but is today easily taken for granted because of course the president has a secret death panel that deliberates on the secret, unchecked executions of American citizens, to be conducted by robots flying in the sky.

Needless to say, anyone who defends this, especially if given the opportunity to think through the implications, is surely no friend of liberty, whether they be fair-weather "civil libertarian" liberals who would rather cheer for their president than wake up and smell the fascism, or conservatives who claim to distrust government except when it exercises the most lethal powers in the most lawless way imaginable. We must recognize that the movement for freedom and against true oppression is clearly no majority, regardless of what Tea Party Republicans and Wall Street occupiers might say.
There is a more fundamental lesson to be learned, however, and one to remember for the ages: This is the nature of the state. It is, by its institutional nature, always and everywhere seeking to expand power in any way it can. To claim and practice the power to kill on its own unreviewable prerogative is simply the fulfillment of its very design. At times of crisis, especially concerning national security, states almost always tend toward aggrandizement toward their realization as totalitarian entities.

For all who find Obama’s death panel frightening – and all of us should – let us remember that this is simply what governments do when they can get away with it. We are only now seeing the American state achieving its maturity. At the founding of the Federal Government, the Framers unleashed a monster that could never easily be restrained, even creating a presidency with all too much power over military affairs. Then came Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, LBJ, Nixon, Bush and Obama, each one building on the horrible precedents of past American despots, each reaching further toward the ideal of a completely unencumbered presidential hand, one that could snap its fingers and order death to anyone anywhere on the globe.
There is a silver lining, however, albeit one circumscribing a large and dark cloud indeed. A government can develop and come of age, but it is a mortal institution. As it grows it puts strain on the public ideology it requires to live, wrecks the economy it feeds on, and alienates the allies that allow it to be a global empire. To be a total state is the dream of all regimes, but it is an unsustainable reality, and certainly so at the size the U.S. government has become. The more the U.S. presidency and American nation-state morph into an Orwellian version of themselves, the closer they will come to finally expose themselves as being no different from the tyrannies that have enslaved mankind for millennia. For generations much of the world has been under the spell of the lie of American democracy, the propaganda that the brutality of power politics can be tempered through elections and an eloquent piece of parchment. We can hope that the day this great lie is universally seen as a tragic joke, the true significance of Obama’s CIA death panel will be remembered.
October 7, 2011

by Andrew P. Napolitano
Recently by Andrew P. Napolitano: The Myth of American Freedom

Introduction to It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong The Case for Personal Freedom, © 2011 by Andrew P. Napolitano, Published by Thomas Nelson
Where Do Our Rights Come From?
After a trip to the American Midwest in 1959, Nikita Khrushchev, then the ruler of the Soviet Union, became convinced that corn could solve many of the USSR’s economic woes. Russia had long struggled with miserably inadequate food supplies, the result of years of inept Communist agricultural policies. Having witnessed the wild success of corn production in America, Khrushchev reasoned that the grain could be equally successful in Russia, and thus support increased meat and dairy production necessary to feed the population. He therefore commanded that vast swaths of land, including the frigid tundra of Siberia, be converted to corn crops. As it turned out, corn was entirely unsuitable to the Russian climate, and the plan was a complete disaster.
The reason, of course, that the policy failed was Khrushchev’s ignorance of the immutable fact – the self-evident truth – that corn can only be grown under certain conditions, and Russia’s climate did not provide them. The cost of this misjudgment was wasted resources and prolonged hunger. It is obvious that politicians must enact laws which are in accord with such "truths." If they do not, then the inevitable consequence is human suffering. There are some things which humans and their constructed governments simply cannot change; that is to say, those things transcend our human capacities and cannot be the object of our will. Individuals and governments are thus always secondary and subject to these truths.
What are these truths, but "natural laws"? What other laws are there, with which human commands must accord? As we shall see, there are natural rights every human possesses by virtue of being human which protect our essential "yearnings" from government interference. And as we shall also see, manmade laws are only valid to the extent that they comport with and are subject to these natural rights. This is all known as the Natural Law.
This scheme is in contrast to the legal philosophy of Positivism, which says that laws need not pass any kind of moral muster to be considered valid. In other words, laws are purely "posited" by human beings, and governments are not constrained by principles such as human rights, fairness, and justice when making those laws. Not only is this philosophy that "law is whatever the government says it is" untrue, but it has facilitated mankind’s biggest catastrophes and legitimized the most malevolent regimes in human history. Why were Hitler and his policies "evil"? After all, they were enacted by a popularly elected government that followed its own procedures to acquire power and enact lawful laws. Positivists have no answer to this question, because they cannot tell us why killing millions of innocent civilians is wrong: For Positivists, the Final Solution was just as valid as a law prohibiting jaywalking. Thus, under the Positivist scheme, our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are only as safe as our government would care to have them.

Why do we even care whether a law must comport with the Natural Law to be considered valid? After all, if the consequence of not obeying a law is imprisonment, then we will obey that law regardless of whether it is valid or not. The answer is because, like Khrushchev’s corn plan, every time the government’s commands flout the Natural Law, evil occurs, and we lose sight of the dream which our Founders enshrined for us in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. We must hold the government accountable for its violations of our natural rights if we are ever to have liberty. As Jefferson once said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." And as St. Augustine said and St. Thomas Aquinas taught, "An unjust law is no law at all."
This Congress Hereby Declares Gravity to Be Illegal: It Is Too Much of a Downer
Before we can discuss what precisely the Natural Law encompasses, we must examine its basis in the Eternal Law. The Eternal Law can essentially be thought of as those laws which govern the functioning of the universe, such as the laws of physics, anatomy, chemistry, mathematics, and biology. These laws are imprinted into the very order and nature of things. As an example, molecules of water can only ever be comprised of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Change that composition, and you no longer have water. Moreover, the laws of chemistry also dictate that when water is cooled to below thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit, its molecular structure shifts, and it turns into ice. Whether one thinks of these laws as scientific rules, or the product of the divine and infallible will of God, it cannot change the following: These "truths" are immutable, and the universe is and always will be subject to them.
Furthermore, these rules are self-evident, which is to say that although we may attempt to understand their workings, their truthfulness requires no explanation or proof. When humans study science, they are essentially trying to recognize and explain those rules to which we are subject, and thus be able to predict the future outcome of an interaction between two or more "things." The field of medicine, for example, tries to understand how a bacterial infection will respond to a particular antibiotic. If we do so, then we can know when and under what circumstances a particular antibody should be prescribed to restore the body to its normal, healthy state. We are therefore operating within the Eternal Law; and as any scientist will tell you, scientific rules don’t change. Only man-made theories for what those rules are and how they operate may change.
However, without an explanation or understanding, those rules remain just as "true": Penicillin will combat certain infections, and gravity will always pull things toward the center of the earth, regardless of whether or not we understand how. In other words, explanation and human understanding cannot make those truths more "true": They rely on nothing human for their existence. If they did, then they would change along with all of the vagaries in taste and flaws in reasoning of the human mind. Thus, these laws transcend the temporal human mind and all of its imperfections. Although this may seem abstract now, it will make more sense when we explore other kinds of laws which do require an explanation for their truth, and a basis for their existence.
Consider what would happen if, based upon legislative findings that gravity was causing too many injuries to falling senior citizens, Congress declared that henceforth all things shall fall at a slower speed. Clearly, this would not change the way that matter interacts with gravity, and thus the manner in which the universe functions. Rather, it would just distort other (man-made) calculations of the force of gravity: Although gravitational force would no doubt be calculated at lower numbers due to Congress’s laws, falling would hurt just as much. Consequently, we would sadly have just as many injured senior citizens as we did before, but we would have the illusion that Congress was doing something positive to protect seniors.

It would be equally ridiculous if Congress tried to declare that 2 + 2 = 22, or by printing money, there was more "value" in an economy with which to purchase goods and services. As St. Thomas More’s character states in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons, "Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; . . . . But if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And if it is round, will the King’s command flatten it? No." Clearly, the Eternal Law is an absolute limit on the will and power of the government. Thus, it is another self-evident truth that humans can never alter, and are always trumped by, the eternal and natural laws, or if you prefer, God’s laws and nature’s laws, or as Jefferson said, "The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God."
The Yearnings of Mankind
St. Thomas Aquinas stated that the Natural Law was the role in which human beings play in the Eternal Law. The primary distinction between human beings and other objects of the Eternal Law is that we are in possession of reason and free will. As stated above, human beings are able to recognize self-evident truths about the world in which we live through observation and the application of reason to those observations. Thus if we go to bed at night and the ground is dry, and we observe the next morning that the dirt has turned into mud, we are able to reason that it rained during the night. Moreover, we exercise reason and free will in order to realize all of our fundamental human yearnings, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This inclination to reach a proper end (our yearnings) through the application of reason is the Natural Law; it is our human nature. Although this may all sound abstract, we experience this process on a daily basis: Since we have a human yearning to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, we have learned through the exercise of reason that we can best accomplish that "proper end" by going to work nearly every day. Thus, it is a fundamental human inclination to exert energy to meet one’s natural needs. If we don’t, we die.
This, of course, begs the question of what are those "proper ends" that God has dictated we as humans naturally strive for, or – for our secular readers – what nature has dictated that we instinctually strive for. Indeed, it is the perceived subjectivity of the answer to that question which has made Natural Law an unappealing philosophy to many. As was mentioned above, one of the traditional answers was "all of those things which we yearn for." To begin with, all living things strive for self-preservation. Thus, it is a natural inclination to consume food and water, and to defend oneself from attacks. However, as humans possess certain traits which are peculiar to themselves, there are additional "ends" which we do not share with other animals. For example, it is a natural yearning to love, to acquire knowledge, and to express oneself creatively. Those yearnings, however, do not lend themselves to being "listed." In fact, to do so is to tread into dangerous territory because if we only recognize those listed yearnings, then we are in danger of disparaging others that we leave out. As we shall discuss below, the Founders recognized this problem and provided a solution to it with the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Since I first read the Declaration of Independence as a high school student, I have been fascinated with the concept of self-evident truths. If we agree with the generally accepted definition of self-evident truths – those which do not require hard evidence in order to evince acceptance – we run into two problems. The first is that at some time there surely must have been some evidence that caused universal acceptance of these truths; as in, it is self-evident that the Sun rises in the east every morning because the ancients and we have seen it there; as in, every human being has material needs to stay alive because the ancients and we have gotten hungry and cold and awkward at nakedness; as in, all things are subject to the laws of cause and effect, except for the uncaused cause, whom believers call God and our secular colleagues call Nature. These observations of the Sun and realizations of our own self-needs are, in fact, evidence for their universal acceptance. But the universality of these "truisms" (another way of saying self-evident truths) allows us to dispense with the need to provide scientific evidence in support of them whenever we articulate them. Stated differently, no rational person can seriously challenge truisms when we use them as building blocks for our arguments.
The second problem we need to confront when commencing an argument with truisms is the realization that many people are willfully blind even to the obvious. Thus, while the truism that "all Men are created equal" may have been self-evident to the Founders, it surely was not self-evident to King George III or to the millions on the planet then and now to whom the divine right of kings provided and still provides a moral basis for tyranny. Moreover, it was not selfevident to the Founders themselves that "all Men are created equal" applied to all human beings, not solely to property-owning adult white males.
From the above we can conclude that not every person in every age is sufficiently exposed to the truth so as to recognize it. Because we are all fallen – that is, our human nature has inherited the imperfections of original sin – we do not always recognize a truism. This is so because the truth is often inconvenient, painful, and upsetting; and it requires rational thought, acceptance of revelation, and personal courage to pursue.

Jefferson’s remarkable, radical insistence that "all Men are created equal" and are "endowed by their Creator" with certain "unalienable Rights" and that among those rights are "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," and all these principles are "self-evident . . . Truths," was surely inconvenient, painful, and upsetting to many and hardly self-evident to the elites of his time. What about women, what about people of color, what about children, what about those without property: Why wasn’t the self-evident truth of their equality and their natural rights recognized? And if the king didn’t morally have all the power he claimed to have, how did the colonists come to occupy the land that he gave them via their predecessors? Even the most enlightened of men were blind to some truisms.
What does it take to peel away errors of willful blindness? It takes intellect and free will. That we all possess the free will to pursue the truth, the intellect to recognize and accept it, and that its pursuit is the ultimate goal of human activity, is the ultimate truism. There are many self-evident truths that all rational persons recognize. Some come from human reason (the Sun rising, our needs for food, shelter, and clothing, as examples), and some come from revelation (we have the rights to life, liberty, property, and happiness; it is wrong to lie, cheat, steal, and murder, as examples). Some come from reason and revelation (government is essentially the negation of liberty; humans have free immortal souls while governments are finite and based on coercion and force). But the concept of self-evident truths – or truisms – is absolutely essential to freedom. Truisms reject moral relativism, and American exceptionalism. They compel an understanding of the laws of nature that animate and regulate all human beings at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances. And truisms equal freedom.
Once we recognize those human yearnings, we can begin to understand the evil of government commands which infringe upon those yearnings. The Third Reich provides a case study in how governments devise policies and institutions which trespass on just about every human yearning there is, and the human suffering which inevitably follows from those trespasses. It is wrong to detain, torture, and murder humans because they possess an inherent inclination to roam the world freely, to avoid pain, and to preserve their lives. Compulsory sterilization is wrong because humans possess a yearning to reproduce. Proscription of free speech is wrong because it violates the natural human urge to express oneself and communicate ideas to others. Confiscation of property is wrong because humans endeavor to produce things which enrich their lives or can be traded for other things which do so. Requiring accountability or imposing surveillance is wrong because humans desire privacy; i.e., to be left alone. When government interferes with the natural order of things, whether as innocently as planting corn in Siberia, or as atrociously as exterminating persons, there are always disastrous consequences. And even if flouting the natural law benefits a majority (as is typically the claim), there will always be someone who pays the price of having his human nature transgressed upon. Proponents of Positivism and the welfare state have not been able to demonstrate even one credible example to the contrary.

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