Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Is The Typical U.S. Soldier That Stupid?

Please, readers. Before you condemn me and attack me for that question, bear with me; this is not a trick question; this is a real question. And this not only applies to the average U.S. soldier, but also to the average conservative and to the average evangelical and fundamentalist Christian.

Laurence Vance just answered that question in today's article of his.

Says Vance:

A U.S. soldier takes issue with a “false and cowardly article spreading foolish nonsense” that I wrote a few years ago.
I call him a soldier because he describes himself in these terms: “I have been on 3 deployments, am a Reservist, been on Active duty before.”
The unnamed article of mine he describes as: “Your 2009 article on Christian Man Why they should NOT join the military.”
His comments are in a word, dumb; and in two words, really dumb.
Yet, the soldier’s comments surprised me. Most of the time that I receive dumb, rambling, grammatically challenged comments like his it is not from someone in the military. In spite of all the negative things I write about the military, most of the e-mails I receive from veterans and active-duty military personnel are favorable to my anti-war, anti-empire viewpoint. And especially from those men who were drafted and/or duped into going to Vietnam. It is usually armchair warriors, red-state fascists, warvangelicals, reich-wing nationalists, bloodthirsty conservatives, war-crazed Republicans, and God and country Christian bumpkins who have never been in the military themselves that write me the dumb, rambling, grammatically challenged e-mails, many of which are rambling, a number of which are filthy, many of which are incoherent, some of which are vile, and a few of which threaten to do me bodily harm. This soldier who just wrote to me is an embarrassment to everyone in the military. If these are the kind of people that are supposedly defending our freedoms, then we are in trouble.
Read the rest here. And don't forget to check out more work from Laurence Vance, which can be found either at his website or at his archive.

Why Wall Street Is Not the Heart of American Capitalism

When someone wants to blame capitalism on some economic crisis, they often point to the example of Wall Street, which many consider to be "the heart of American capitalism." What if that was a lie?

Doug French, writer for bookseller Laissez-Faire Books, has this article which exposes the truth about Wall Street, the 2008 meltdown and why anti-capitalists get it wrong.

Says French:

The other night, I tuned into The Flaw, a 2011 documentary about the 2008 financial crash.
While telling the crash story, the movie flashes in and out of a street tour offered by an ex-mortgage bond trader. The young man has the required effervescence to keep a dozen tourists entertained while they look at nothing more interesting than office buildings. He cleverly lets members of his tour touch a toxic asset. Well, a page of the legal document of a collateralized debt obligation (CDO), anyway.
The camera pans to tourists taking pictures next to Charging Bull, the 7,100-pound bronze sculpture closely associated with Wall Street. The guide starts his tour saying what has become a worn out cliché. “Welcome to Wall Street; this is the heart of American capitalism.”
But is Wall Street really the heart of capitalism?
If we understand capitalism as a social system of individual rights, a political system of laissez faire, and a legal system of objective laws, all applied to the economy with the result being a free market, is Wall Street really capitalist?
Read the rest here.

Two Political Terms To Understand

Dear friends and readers of Letter of Liberty:

There are some political terms I use throughout my blog posts that a reader may or may not understand. These terms include but are not limited to "liberal," "libertarian," "paleoconservative," "neoconservative," "social democrat," "socialist," "communist," and other terms.

While some of the terms are generally understood by many, these terms are generally used, abused, and misunderstood, and this post is intended to correct that. So we decided to look at two terms instead: "liberal" and "conservative."

Let's take a look at our first term:

1. "Liberal": What does "liberal" mean? In our modern American context, liberalism means supporting the welfare state, gun control, price controls, regulation of business, regulated markets, humanitarianism and sometimes humanitarian interventionism and much more. However, as I showed in one of my writings, when the term was originally used, it meant something radically different. Ralph Raico, libertarian historian and specialist in the history of liberty (and especially European classical liberalism), says that liberalism is "is the term used to designate the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade. Up until around 1900, this ideology was generally known simply as liberalism. The qualifying "classical" is now usually necessary, in English-speaking countries at least (but not, for instance, in France), because liberalism has come to be associated with wide-ranging interferences with private property and the market on behalf of egalitarian goals." Amy H. Sturgis at the LockeSmith Institute at Belmont University shows that "classical liberalism includes the following:
  • an ethical emphasis on the individual as a rights-bearer prior to the existence of any state, community, or society,
  • the support of the right of property carried to its economic conclusion, a free-market system,
  • the desire for a limited constitutional government to protect individuals' rights from others and from its own expansion, and
  • the universal (global and ahistorical) applicability of these above convictions.

These four tenets are essential to classical liberalism (though I would also add a noninterventionist foreign policy to the mix. Thinkers in this tradition included John Locke, the Levellers, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and the Jeffersonians, many of the Founding Fathers of America, Adam Smith, Baron de Montesquieu, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frederic Bastiat, Richard Cobden, the Anti-Corn Law League, Gustave de Molinari, Lysander Spooner, Benjamin Tucker, Alexis de Tocqueville, Lord Acton, Benjamin Constant, Henry David Thoreau and the individualist anarchists and in the late nineteenth to early and mid-20th centuries Ludwig von Mises, Carl Menger, Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk, F. A. Hayek, Albert Jay Nock, Frank Chodorov, Leonard E. Read, E. L. Godkin, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand and the anarchist thinker Murray N. Rothbard. 

The liberals of the 18th and 19th centuries believed in an economic system known as laissez-faire, which held that governments should abstain from interfering with the natural market. The Hayekians developed the idea into that of a "spontaneous order," the idea that holds that order and beauty can exist even without top-down management, particularly as is found in the government. They supported freedom of religion and conscience, the separation of church and state, hard money, low taxes, and government restrictions on the market eliminated, as well as the democratic-republican form of government, which allowed for the people to govern through duly elected representatives,

However, due to some inconsistencies with the liberals and an adoption of utilitarianism and rejection of natural and/or higher law theories, the term "liberal" was taken by social democrats who rejected most of the tenets of the classical liberals and held only some of them. These were known today as our modern-day "liberals." Such people in this tradition would include Woodrow Wilson, Noam Chomsky, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jeremy Bentham, Leonard Hobhouse, John Stuart Mill (who is generally held to be a classical liberal), John Maynard Keynes (who is not a true liberal as some assert), John Dewey, John Rawls, Lester Frank Ward, Bruce Ackerman, Paul Krugman, William Jefferson Clinton, and most recently our current president Barack Obama.

Thus, while the remaining classical liberals term themselves "libertarians," the new "liberals" refer to themselves as "liberals." Thus, when I use the term liberal without any quotes, I am referring to either the classical-liberal tradition or the theological liberals who reject the basic tenets of orthodox, biblical Christianity. And when I use the term "liberal" with quotes, I am talking about the modern-day usage of the term "liberal," as a statist term.

2. "Conservative": What does "conservative" mean? Wikipedia defines conservatism as "a political and social philosophy that promotes retaining traditional social institutions. A person who follows the philosophies of conservatism is referred to as a traditionalist or conservative." The original ideology was generally in reaction to the classical-liberal revolution of the late eighteenth century, particularly the French Revolution. The reaction was spearheaded by thinkers such as Edmund Burke, who is recognized as the father of modern conservatism, along with the thinkers Richard Hooker and David Hume. Originally conservatism was at its strongest in Great Britain, with the Tories spearheading the ideology. It believed in the established Anglican church and in land-owning classes. As to Edmund Burke's views, let's see what Wikipedia has to say about this: "Burke's views were a mixture of liberal and conservative, with the crucial caveat that the meaning of these terms in this time period was markedly different from popular conceptions of the present day. He supported the American Revolution but abhorred the violence of the French Revolution. He accepted the liberal ideals of private property and the economics of Adam Smith, but thought that economics should be kept subordinate to the conservative social ethic, that capitalism should be subordinate to the medieval social tradition and that the business class should be subordinate to aristocracy." While he supported the established church, he was not totally supportive of state-enforced religion; he allowed for a degree of religious tolerance. In the 19th century, the classical-liberal revolution was engulfing the Western world, with the aristocracy calling for a return to the Old Order (or ancién regime), while the working and business classes called for laissez-faire capitalism. 

Murray Rothbard, in the first chapter to For A New Liberty, says this: "But while there was very little institutional resistance in America to the onrush of liberalism, there did appear, from the very beginning, powerful elite forces, especially among the large merchants and planters, who wished to retain the restrictive British 'mercantilist' system of high taxes, controls, and monopoly privileges conferred by the government. These groups wished for a strong central and even imperial government; in short, they wanted the British system without Great Britain. These conservative and reactionary forces first appeared during the Revolution, and later formed the Federalist party and the Federalist administration in the 1790s." So from my knowledge conservatism in America, while it is a little more diverse than in Europe, wasn't that much different from European conservatism. The conservatives amongst the Founders included George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, who in my view can be considered a proto-"fusionist" (fusionism is an attempt to combine conservatism and libertarianism; I discussed it a bit here) while the liberals were represented by Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson and the bulk of the Anti-Federalists. The first two presidencies were dominated for the most part by the conservative tradition, with George Washington and John Adams in power. Due to excesses in the government, the Jeffersonian revolution of 1800 came about. According to Murray Rothbard, this movement, along with the Jacksonian movement, the Democratic-Republican and Democratic parties "explicitly strived for the virtual elimination of government from American life. It was to be a government without a standing army or navy; a government without debt and with no direct federal or excise taxes and virtually no import tariffs – that is, with negligible levels of taxation and expenditure; a government that does not engage in public works or internal improvements; a government that does not control or regulate; a government that leaves money and banking free, hard, and uninflated; in short, in the words of H. L. Mencken's ideal, 'a government that barely escapes being no government at all.'" However, while Jefferson's first term was good by libertarian standards (despite some flaws), his second term was a reversion back to conservatism.

The conservative tradition later on continued throughout the Civil War, with conservatives on both sides, the Northern side with Lincoln and the Southern side defending the Confederacy. But the South lost when the North launched its war against the South and thus the South lost the right to secession that existed before hence; Tom DiLorenzo, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, and Charles Adams have shown a revisionist viewpoint on the issue of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and secession, and they have shown that slavery wasn't the only issue; there were other economic issues (such as the Tariff of Abominations before) neglected by the official account.

Later on, the conservatives decided to change their gear, and many laissez-faire liberals were now categorized as "conservatives" while the new, burgeoning statists were called "liberals" and "progressives." This allowed for the new statists to condemn the classical liberals as reactionaries and Neanderthals. 

Soon, the genuine conservatives and liberals joined alliances against the FDR administration, with the Old Right sect representing the liberals and Herbert Hoover and others representing the conservatives. However, many conservatives weren't really interested in promoting laissez-faire, but rather were interested in using it in order to sound different from FDR and the New Deal Democrats.

Anyways, my view of the term "conservatism" is that it is ultimately meaningless

There are many varieties of conservatism: neo-, paleo-, libertarian, and more. 

The neoconservatives represent preventive warfare, interventionism, "spreading democracy and freedom," support for the State of Israel, and the usage of Western military power and might to spread Western values. Some neoconservatives include Irving Kristol, William Kristol, Michael Gerson, William F. Buckley, Jr., George W. Bush, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Lindsey Graham, Francis Fukuyuma, Victor Davis Hanson, Jennifer Rubin, and Charles Krauthammer. Their groups include The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and their publications are National Review and Weekly Standard.

The paleoconservatives take a non-interventionist view of foreign policy; they support localism, protectionism, nationalism, and traditionalism. They disagree with the neoconservatives on foreign policy and immigration (the neocons, while opposing illegal immigration, tend to support large amounts of legal immigration). Also many oppose free trade and multiculturalism. This group includes thinkers such as Pat Buchanan, Paul Gottfried, Walter B. Jones, Jr., Justin Amash, Mel Bradford, Clyde Wilson, Russell Kirk, the late Robert A. Taft, Paul Craig Roberts, John Derbyshire, Peter Brimelow, Claes Ryn, Samuel T. Francis, Thomas Fleming, and Mark Epstein. Their publications include The American Conservative, Taki's Magazine, and Chronicles (a publication of the Rockford Institute). This group often criticizes the neocons as "Jacobins" and "faux conservatives."

The cultural conservatives can be either neoconservatives or paleoconservatives. These merely just love traditional values; as to whether they support using the state to promote and enforce morality, there is legitimate room for disagreement with this group. Some can be moderate to hardcore libertarians and anarchists, while others can be neoconservatives and/or paleoconservatives.

Murray Rothbard, in a letter to Frank Meyer, shows how much the term "conservative" can vary:

(a) Someone who wants to preserve the political status quo. I say "political" because no one wants to preserve all of the status quo on all matters. Well, in that case, Stalin after he captured power was a "conservative" as far as Russia was concerned; Hitler was a "radical" in 1929, a "conservative" in 1939, etc. There is no point to this, since it applies only to form, and not to content. In what conceivable way are you a conservative in this sense? Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and the Alsops are the conservatives now.

(b) Someone who identifies himself with the historical Conservative parties of the 19th Century in Europe. In that case, it means to identify oneself with authoritarianism and hatred of individual liberty and laissez-faire capitalism. The Prussian Conservative Party was formed to block emancipation of the serfs, and to maintain protective tariffs; the Conservative Party in England imposed Corn Laws and Factory Acts, and crushed Ireland. Russell Kirk may want Church (Anglican, Lutheran), landed gentry, and servile peasantry, but you certainly don't.
So there we are. In neither of these two senses are you and I at all conservatives. But to give you every possible benefit of the doubt, let us press on.
(c) A conservative is someone who wants to preserve the good things in the existing political situation. But who doesn't want to preserve the good things. Isn't it a matter of what each person thinks is good? So everyone could be called a "conservative" on this ground, which makes it a nonsensical definition.
(d) Perhaps you are a "conservative" because you wish to conserve the "western heritage." But the Western heritage contains quantitatively more bad than good from our point of view – more murder than laissez-faire. So what you really want to promote is not the heritage en bloc but part of it – which parts to be picked out by reason. So where can conservatism come in?
(e) And finally, maybe you are a conservative because you prefer gradual to radical change. But do you really? Suppose the unlikely event that the Statists were willing to surrender, after an overnight conversion to liberalism. Suppose they all came to you and. said: all right, if you wish, we'll establish liberty tomorrow. Would you refuse?"
As for me, I am a cultural conservative and a limited-government (not anarchist) libertarian; I am neither a paleoconservative or a neoconservative; I reject the economic nationalism of the former and the foreign policy interventionism of the latter. And as a libertarian, I am not a political conservative, as that type of conservatism is incompatible with libertarianism. However, I hold that (cultural) conservatives can indeed be libertarians.