Friday, February 24, 2017

Clinton Cooperates With Russia

It seems cooperating with Russia is only allowable when someone named Clinton does the cooperating:

“By the spring of his first year in office,” [Strobe] Talbott later recalled, “Clinton had become the U.S. government’s principal Russia hand, and so he remained for the duration of his presidency.”

“…the spring of his first year…” would be within a couple of months of taking office.

During the seven years both were in office, “Bill and Boris” met eighteen times, nearly as often as their predecessors had met throughout the entire Cold War. For his first trip abroad, Clinton met Yeltsin in Vancouver in April 1993.

Eighteen meetings?  This is how rumors start.

Well, one thing I am sure of: this was a one-way conversation; Clinton doing the demanding and Yeltsin doing the obeying.  There was no dialogue; they didn’t try to work out issues:

Where the two Governments differ, [Clinton] said, there could be dialogue without threat.

No there can’t!  You call this diplomacy?  Threats are what make the world go ‘round.  The US has to threaten Russia; Russia is the biggest security threat to US and international security.  Don’t you get it?

"We have proved that this is a good relationship, that it is worth the investment, and that we are approaching it in a proper way," [Clinton] said. "The people of the United States, the people of Russia and the people of the world are safer today than they were two years ago and than they were before this last meeting between us occurred."

Hillary, can you talk some sense into that husband of yours?

We need to find the adult in the room.  Let’s ask Yeltsin what he thinks:

I would say that emotions sometimes get the upper hand in assessing Russian-American partnership. This is not the approach that Bill and I have.

Bill, can you talk some sense into that wife of yours?


May 1997 - NATO-Russia Founding Act: Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin met at the Elysee Palace in Paris to sign the NATO-Russia Founding Act. In the Founding Act's preamble, NATO and Russia stated that they no longer considered each other as adversaries.

I guess this is true for only as long as Russia acquiesces to whatever NATO demands.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Logical Inconsistency of Open Borders...

…for libertarians…

Jacob Hornberger has written a new post on open borders.  Several months ago I went on a back-and-forth exchange with him on this topic.  I found it a most frustrating experience, as he would either ignore or misrepresent my positions (for those interested, I offer the running dialogue, in order: here, here, here, here, and here).  Therefore, I will not comment directly on his current post – instead, I will touch on one logical inconsistency inherent in his view.

Anarcho-Libertarian Borders

I have argued before that in an anarcho-libertarian world, there would be no such thing as (state) “borders” because there would be no such thing as states.  I welcome anyone to prove this wrong.

In such a world, every “border” would be a private border demarcating private property and that these borders most certainly would be “managed” by the property owner.  I welcome anyone to argue otherwise.

In such a world, everyone has a right to emigrate (assuming the individual has not voluntarily bound himself to stay); no one has a right to immigrate.  Immigration onto a private border without invitation is a trespass.  Again, I welcome contrary opinions.

In conclusion, in an anarcho-libertarian world, there would be no such thing as open borders.

Limited Government Libertarian Borders

I have suggested that in a world of state borders, there is no libertarian answer to the issue of crossing those borders.  There are, of course, libertarians such as Hornberger who disagree.  The closest libertarian-consistent answer I can derive is one where the potential immigrant has an invitation from a citizen, along with guarantees of employment and housing.

There are many libertarians who advocate for limited government; Hornberger is one of these.  What is typically meant by “limited government”?  I offer a definition from Hornberger:

Thus, as limited-government proponents have long pointed out, there are three primary and legitimate functions of government: (1) to punish murderers, rapists, robbers, and the like; (2) to provide a court system in which people can peacefully resolve their disputes; and (3) to defend the nation from foreign invasion.

The Logical Inconsistency

Hornberger advocates for limited government; Hornberger advocates for open borders.  These two positions are logically inconsistent.

The limited government has responsibility “to defend the nation from foreign invasion.”

Does this not require controlling the border?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

To Wish Impossible Things

it was the sweetness of your skin
it was the hope of all we might have been
that fills me with the hope to wish
impossible things

-        The Cure

Fix the Fed.  This is the wish of John Mauldin, advocating the advice to be found in the book authored by Danielle DiMartino Booth, Fed Up: An Insider’s Take on Why the Federal Reserve Is Bad for America.

Booth worked for several years for Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher; she left the Fed when he resigned.  With this experience she offers her advice for reform.  And Mauldin offers that her advice should be heeded.  According to Booth, the Fed should be reorganized; according to Mauldin:

This is a powerful to-do list that I hope every Congressman and Senator will read.

Mauldin offers the final chapter of the book – in this chapter will be found the key takeaways and advice about reorganization.  Let’s take a peek:

First things first. Congress should release the Fed from the bondage of its dual mandate.

Per Booth, the Fed should focus only on price stability (whatever that means).  Resolving unemployment should be the business of congress. 

The benefit of this?

The added bonus: shedding the dual mandate will discourage future forays into unconventional monetary policy.

Wait a minute.  Let’s ignore the unemployment picture of the last ten years and focus on the situation of “price stability.”  “Price stability” (aka price inflation as measured by the CPI) has been unacceptably low to those at the Fed since 2009.  It is only now moving into something approaching acceptable territory.

So…again…ignoring the whole unemployment part of the mandate and let’s just say the Fed was only focused on price stability for the last ten years…explain to me when and how the Fed would have stopped implementing its “forays into unconventional monetary policy” given that they have only now reached something approaching (their definition of) price stability?

Ok, what’s next?

The floor on overnight rates must be permanently raised to at least 2 percent and Fed officials should pledge to never again breach that floor.

Pledge?  To whom?

Perhaps those congressmen and senators who read this book could pass a law to this effect.  I am quite certain that they will not rescind it when the next Paulson and Bernanke come whining to them about how the world is coming to an end.

Anyway, who says 2 percent is a floor that should never be breached?  Why not 1 percent or 4 percent?  Is there a law of economics on this matter of which I am not aware, or is this just Booth’s version of central planning?

Moving on:

Limit the number of academic PhDs at the Fed, not just among the leadership but on the staffs of the Board and District Banks.

I can agree with this, as long as the limit is zero.  Otherwise, you tell me: will the thinking of 100 academic PhDs result in better central planning than the thinking of 1000?

Bring in more actual practitioners – businesspeople who have been on the receiving end of Fed policy, CEOs and CFOs, people who have been on the hot seat…

Oh, please no.  Is this advice offered because the CEO and CFO of General Motors, JPMorgan Bank, General Electric, and Boeing have no vested interest in artificially abundant and inexpensive credit?  To ask the question is to answer it.

Then we have term limits for the governors; all district presidents with a permanent vote on the FOMC; redraw the districts to reflect today’s economy; better focus on regulation.  You know, deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic kind of stuff.

And then this whopper:

Send most of the PhD economists back to academia where they belong.

…who will then be lavished with grants from the Fed to produce research that supports evermore intervention.

Booth ends with a statement that makes me wonder why she believes reorganizing the Fed is even an objective worth considering (emphasis added):

Finally, let nature take its course. Reengage creative destruction. Markets by their nature are supposed to be volatile. Zero interest rates prevent the natural failures of weak companies, weighing down the economy with overcapacity for generations.

Recessions might have been more frequent, the financial losses greater for some, but if the Fed had let the economy heal on its own, America would have been stronger in the end and the bedrock of our nation, capitalism, would not have been corrupted.

“…let nature take its course.”

If this is the mandate for the Fed, why have a Fed?  Why have a lender of last resort? 

Letting “nature taking its course” in the economy means that price discovery happens without influence by anyone other than market actors trading in their own property; letting “nature take its course” in the economy means profit and loss – and with enough loss for an individual firm, bankruptcy.

I agree: let nature take its course.  And there is only one way to do this in an economy if you do not want to corrupt “the bedrock of our nation,” capitalism:

End the Fed.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Apparently Some Confusion?

A question was asked of Walter Block; the bulk of the question regards something written by me!

He [that would be me!] makes the following claim: A common culture – and a culture beyond merely the NAP – is necessary if we are ever to move closer to a libertarian society. Asks the rhetorical: What is aggression? What is proper punishment? How is it determined when the age of minority ends and majority begins? What is property? Then answers by saying there would actually be many different answers to these questions that could be compatible with the NAP.

This seems contradictory to his original statement about a common culture…

Now, I don’t know why I am not asked directly to clarify this seeming contradiction; I will do so here.

My point is simple: for example, what is “aggression”?  We debate libertarian theory to the nth degree with the hope of precisely defining what is meant by “aggression.” Is it only physical acts?  Is it the threat of a physical act?  Does it include libel?

Theoreticians pretend that they will be able to definitively answer these questions using libertarian theory – and come to one definitive answer. 

I will suggest: In a given society, as long as all individuals generally accept the same definition – say…physical acts only – there is a better chance to maintain peace and therefore avoid calls for “someone to do something about it” (aka “government”).

Now, individuals in another society – somewhere way over there – might generally accept that threats are “aggression.” 

Who is the purist to say this is not acceptable?  As long as those in the society generally accept such a definition, they will live in something approaching their version of a libertarian world.

My point about “common culture” isn’t one definition for all, everywhere – as the questioner implies.  My point is different societies will come up with different answers to these questions – and each can be compatible with a libertarian society populated with imperfect humans.

Let’s take this one step further: a common culture, generally libertarian, which does not morally accept the libertine libertarian.  Perhaps a society that generally accepts what is known as a traditional lifestyle – a male husband, a female wife, 2.5 children and a white picket fence.  Acts of procreation happen in the bedroom.

Then one day, a new neighbor comes in; he decides his front yard can pass for the set of a XXX movie.  Plenty of oil and whipped cream are involved.  Now – it is his property – he is not violating the NAP as far as I can tell.  Where he came from, this was…normal.

Look, we can say “look at the contract” all we want.  The nudist will say “I see no restrictions on the CC&Rs.”  Is this a situation where peace can easily be maintained?

So…even if the nudist is correct within the thinnest of thin libertarian theory, he is creating a situation where the traditional libertarian community will transform into one that demands “someone do something about it” (aka “government”).

And there goes the previously generally libertarian community.

A generally accepted culture “around here” (based on more than property rights) is necessary to develop and maintain a libertarian community.

BTW, Walter answered the question perfectly – and I agree with his answer:

As far as I’m concerned, some cultures might well be more compatible with libertarianism than others. I’m not enough of a sociologist or historian to say which is which though, although I have my guesses. The point I would leave you with it that this is an entirely different issue than what does libertarianism consist of? As far as this latter issue goes, I’m a thinnist: that is, this issue is entirely outside the realm of what is libertarianism.

My one slight difference – I have my guesses about which type of culture is more compatible with libertarianism, and have written about this often.