Category Archives: Featured

No, freedom isn’t “selfish”

First it was “staying home saves lives.” Then, it was masks. Now it’s the Covid vaccines. Over and over, we’re told we need to obey public health bureaucrats without question for the good of other people. Conversely, to disobey their “guidance” and exercise our inalienable right to liberty is “selfish.”

Charles Barkley, who is often refreshingly independent-minded, is the latest to parrot this mantra.

Memories are short these days. In early 2020, the use of tents for hospital overflow was breathlessly reported as if it were unprecedented, when tents had been put up for precisely the same reason just two years before, during a heavy flu season.

In April 2020, no one remembered this. Instead, it was, “OMG, tents!”

It’s much the same story with lockdowns, masks, and the vaccines. Every one of these was first presented to the public as protecting oneself. Then, when significant people resisted, the narrative changed to “you’re doing it for others.” Forget two years, most of the public didn’t remember the previous narrative two days later.

It’s like a nightmare.

At the center of the “freedom is selfish” allegation is a misunderstanding, deliberate or not, of liberty and legitimate power. The right to liberty, like the rights to life, acquiring possessions, and pursuing happiness, all rest upon an understanding of what legitimate powers one person can exercise over another. And those powers are very few.

The right to life isn’t the right not to die under any circumstances. When someone drowns to death or gets struck by lightning, we don’t say his right to life was violated. No, the right to life is specifically the right to not be killed by another person other than in self-defense.

The right to life is rooted in the proposition that no one person has any legitimate power to deliberately deprive another of life. The right to liberty similarly rests upon the proposition no one has any legitimate power to deprive another of liberty.

If no individual has these powers, then they cannot delegate them to a government. I didn’t just make that up; it is a bedrock concept in the essay Thomas Jefferson said represented “the general principles of liberty and the rights of man, in nature and in society” generally approved by the citizens of both his state of Virginia and the United States generally.

“Inalienable” means cannot be taken away, not even by majority vote. That’s the reason for all the so-called “checks and balances” in our system. It’s the reason we have Bills of Rights in our federal and state constitutions. All these protections are there to ensure democratically elected officials don’t violate these inalienable rights, regardless of what majorities think or want.

Politicians, bureaucrats, and the useful midwits who blindly follow them will be quick to point out that “with rights come responsibilities.” That’s true. But the corresponding responsibility to a right is not to immediately surrender the right. That would be absurd. No, the corresponding responsibility to the right to liberty, for example, is to respect the right to liberty of others.

In other words, you can choose to take a vaccine or not to take it, and live with the consequences, as long as you do not infringe upon the rights of others to make the same decision for themselves. This is the very essence of “a free country.”

“But there are limits to liberty,” say the statists. That’s also true, but those limits are very narrow. “No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him,” said Jefferson in an 1816 letter. Similarly, he said the government should “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free” in his first inaugural.

The government and its minions weren’t completely unaware of this concept. That’s what made Covid-19 oh-so convenient. With just a small false equivalency, it seemed to check all the boxes necessary to restrain liberty on a massive scale.

First, we were told the disease was much deadlier than it turned out to be. Even then, the sensible approach would have been for people with symptoms to stay home. That’s why it had to spread asymptomatically, an article of faith among the Covid Cult that the evidence shows is virtually unfounded.

A December 2020 study found that even for people living in the same household, the “secondary attack rate” (rate at which an infected member of the household transmits to another member) was .7% for asymptomatic cases, as opposed to 18% for symptomatic cases.

.7%. In case you’re having trouble reading, that’s less than 1%. And this is for people living in the same household. How much smaller would the risk be for mere passersby on the street or even fellow diners in the same indoor restaurant?

Yet, without significant asymptomatic spread, there was no need for lockdowns or mask mandates. That’s why minions of the regime go on talking about asymptomatic spread as if it were a fact when the most rigorous studies say it’s miniscule, if it occurs at all.

The “studies” offered to refute this usually assume that because a large percentage of people in a defined group tested positive and are asymptomatic, that asymptomatic people must be spreading it, which clearly does not follow for a highly virulent pathogen.

But let’s say that asymptomatic spread is significant, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Does that give anyone the power to forcibly confine others to their homes or force them to wear masks? No.

The limit on the right to liberty is the prohibition on aggression or injury, both of which mean deliberate harm. That you may pose a risk to others does not equate to aggression. Society is impossible without accepting the risks posed by others. There are too many. They are all preventable to some extent with sufficient oppression, but then you no longer have a society at all, much less a free one.

Everyone has the right to stay home themselves to avoid the risk of viruses. But to claim a right to confine everyone else to their homes until that risk disappears is the truly selfish position, not to mention insane.

The same reasoning applies to the vaccines. There is a good amount of gaslighting regarding their effectiveness in preventing transmission of the disease, even after the CDC Director herself said they don’t. But whether they prevent infection and transmission or merely lessen the severity of the symptoms, there is no case for vaccine mandates.

If they prevent infection and transmission, then those who choose to be vaccinated are safe from those who don’t. If they merely lessen the symptoms, but don’t prevent transmission, as the CDC Director said, then declining the vaccine harms no one but oneself.

If they don’t do either, as increasing anecdotal and some clinical evidence suggests, then there isn’t much reason for anyone to take them at all, much less mandate them.

No one honest with himself can possibly believe governments and the media are being honest about Covid-19. But even holding their statements in the most charitable light possible does not justify any of the measures we’ve endured over the past 19 months. And none of it would be possible without support from at least a significant minority of the people.

All those not only tacitly accepting but championing the governments’ closing businesses, locking people in their homes, mandating masks, or forcibly requiring anyone to take a drug, no matter how effective, all for the purpose of marginally reducing risk to themselves from a virus with a 99.5% survival rate, is monstrously selfish. Shame on them.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What the NFL Draft, presidential speeches, and cable news have in common

I was drafted as a Buffalo Bills fan the day I was born, possibly before. My father helped found the Buffalo Bills Booster Club and was later its president in the mid-1960s. He enlisted my mother to make phone calls promoting the team during their first few seasons.

He took me to my first game at War Memorial Stadium (aka “The Rockpile”) in the late sixties. He bought season tickets for the whole family during the first two seasons the Bills played at the “new” stadium in Orchard Park. I watched Bills games with him for 50 years until his death in 2019.

Hopefully, that establishes my football fan credibility.

Nevertheless, I’ve never watched the NFL Draft. I tried a few times early on, but it quickly occurred to me that spending an entire day obtaining information I could glean from the newspaper in 10 minutes the next day was an enormous waste of time. I was vitally interested in the 1983 draft and – believe it or not – my dad and I both hoped the Bills would draft Jim Kelly, despite both Dan Marino and John Elway also being in that graduating class.

But I wasn’t going to sit there for 12 hours splitting my attention between watching the paint dry, the late April snow melt, and the NFL Draft.

I didn’t become interested in politics until the turn of the 21st century, when I discovered I was a libertarian. Previously, I believed I was the only person on the planet who shared my views and wasn’t interested enough in politics to even know there was a Libertarian Party. I was delighted to find there was and support its outstanding 2004 presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik.

However, what really got me actively interested in politics was the presidency of George W. Bush and the god-awful “War on Terror.” Not only were Bush’s policies terrifying (the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, Bush’s illegal spying on American citizens), but the man himself appeared to be the dumbest person elected president in my lifetime.

Whether that was partly an act to come off “folksy” to a large part of his electoral base or not, Bush was almost impossible to watch or listen to. But especially after I discovered Ron Paul in 2007 and began writing regularly about politics, I was forced to listen to “W” to be able to write commentary.

That’s when the internet came to the rescue. I don’t know how long it had been so, but I discovered that transcripts of W’s speeches were available almost immediately after he finished speaking.

What a godsend. Immediately, my NFL Draft reasoning kicked in. Never again would I suffer through another hour of visual and auditory torture to gather information I could obtain in 5-10 minutes reading. To this day I’ve never again watched a presidential speech live. If there are any “memorable” moments that can’t be gleaned from the transcript, my social media friends are certain to provide clips.

I may not be able to escape the government’s larcenous taxation, spying, or regulating, but I can dodge quasi-religious rituals like the State of the Union and other presidential speeches. And that’s a win.

It took me a little longer to apply the NFL Draft lesson to cable news. Certainly, I was aware the news wasn’t honest for a very long time. But once I started paying closer attention, it became increasingly clear the various networks were largely propaganda arms for their affiliate political parties. Most were affiliated with the Democratic Party with the exception of Fox News, for the GOP.

I went through a period of believing I might reap some value by flipping back and forth between a few of the liberal channels (MSNBC, CNN, etc.) and Fox News. Perhaps, I thought, I could determine which facts all agreed upon, which they didn’t, and which one or the other chose not to cover at all.

I had my filter set to 11, of course. Even unanimous agreement didn’t necessarily mean the reporting was true. On the contrary, that is often when one should be most suspicious, especially on a foreign policy topic.

I finally came to my senses in 2020. It took that complete departure from even heavily spun reality to allow my NFL Draft instinct to finally kick in for cable. As with George W.’s grammar-challenged ramblings, I still needed to know what cable news was telling people in order to do my job. But getting this information through the medium of television was certainly no longer (and probably never was) worth my time – or money.

I canceled cable in June 2020. It was particularly satisfying since it allowed me to both no longer subsidize organizations that are actively destroying society and cut my funding to the only cable provider available where I live, thanks to the fascist, New Deal regulatory environment that squelches all potential competition.

Now, a quick sweep of the headlines on CNN, NBC, Fox, ABC, etc. websites gives me a solid grounding in the day’s propaganda. The “news” organizations have made it easy by loading even their headlines with opinion, tipping off the reader to the often fact-free copy that follows. I can spot check now and again to ensure I’m not missing some nuance or substantive reporting. And of course, I can read the entire articles on any issues I plan on writing about myself in far less time than it would take to obtain the same information from television.

Cable news already had a ratings crisis before Donald Trump temporarily revived it during his tumultuous four years in office, when demand suddenly skyrocketed for what may have been the most dishonest “journalism” in U.S. history. Considering the late 18th/early 19th century when openly partisan newspapers weren’t saddled with the pretense of objectivity and frequently just made stuff up about their political opponents and printed it, that’s saying something.

Now, even with ratings plummeting once again, CNN and other misinformation hubs are able to continue leading by the nose the minority who watch them – and who often decide elections – thanks to the revenue streams guaranteed to them via cable subscriptions.

That’s where you can make a difference. Cut them off. I can personally attest there is life after cable and it’s a much better life. There is more accurate reporting widely available from alternative media. Superior non-news content is available through subscription services or the internet. You won’t be giving up a thing.

For example, I was a fan of TCM’s “Noir Alley” with Eddie Muller. I thought for a moment I might have to give that up when canceling cable, but I didn’t. All Muller’s intros and outros are available on You Tube, as well as many of the movies themselves. Those not available on You Tube or another video platform are usually available on Amazon Prime or another subscription service for free or very low prices (Detour is free on Amazon Prime; He Walked by Night rents for $1.99).

You can even watch the NFL Draft without cable; but I recommend you don’t.

If everyone who has a problem with the disservice cable news does to society canceled their cable subscriptions, its reign of terror would quickly end. Even if you believe a political solution is possible and morally justified, the market solution is infinitely more satisfying.

I’m not alone in defunding cable. I’ve heard from many friends who did the same years before me. I hope someday (soon) you’ll join us. Strike a blow for truth and freedom. Cancel cable.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Why Do Americans Believe the Same Government That Failed Colossally in Afghanistan Is Competent at Fighting Covid-19?

The memes say it all. But if you want more “official” confirmation, a recent poll found that only 35% of Americans believe the 20-year war in Afghanistan was worth fighting. It’s hard to believe the number is even that high.

It’s not just that the very same Islamic fundamentalist group Washington went to war with twenty years ago is now running the country. The war also failed to reduce terrorism. Major terrorist attacks in the U.S. were at their highest post-2001 when the war on terror was at its height and dropped to virtually zero during the cease fire with the Taliban negotiated by former President Trump.

Just like Washington’s wars on drugs, the war on terrorism gave us a lot more of what it was at war with. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The government fails at every major initiative it undertakes. This is the organization that managed to interrupt a 200-year trend of falling poverty rates just a few decades after declaring war on poverty in the 1960s.

But Afghanistan was especially jolting. Not many people look at the incriminating data on the war on poverty, but everyone saw the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul. In the ensuing days, reality began to sink in. The U.S. had wasted 20 years, trillions of dollars, thousands of U.S. military lives, and hundreds of thousands of lives overall, for nothing.

All. For. Nothing.

Yet, as shocking as that reality is to most Americans, they still somehow believe this same government, the one that ran that 20-year debacle, suddenly becomes highly competent when fighting an airborne respiratory virus.

Washington’s War on Covid has been no more successful than its war against the Taliban. The proof isn’t hard to find. This article collated 35 studies showing the enormously destructive Covid “lockdowns” had no effect on slowing the spread or reducing hospitalizations or deaths from Covid-19.

The best studies – the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) – suggest that masks aren’t particularly effective, either. But the federal and state governments continue to mandate them.

Then, there are the vaccines. The goalposts for evaluating them have moved significantly over the course of this year. We were originally told the vaccines would provide long-lasting immunity from the SARS-COV-2 virus. Now, we’re told the vaccines will merely lessen the severity of symptoms. The CDC director confirmed this months ago and the latest data seem to indicate that vaccination rates are not affecting the spread of Covid-19.

There is some evidence the vaccines are preventing hospitalization and death from Covid-19, but the latest study from the UK indicates fully vaccinated people made up 64% of all Covid deaths since February 2021. When you count partially vaccinated people, that number rises to 70%.

Even if vaccines are preventing hospitalizations or deaths those who choose to remain unvaccinated do not pose an increased risk to others if the vaccines aren’t preventing spread of the virus. But governments are still mandating the vaccines, just as they continued to mandate indoor smoking bans after the evidence was in that doing so didn’t improve health outcomes.

Unfortunately, there is long precedent for Americans continuing to have faith in disastrous government interventions even well after they are obvious failures. Americans still believed the New Deal was helping even after the stock market crashed a second time and unemployment started to rise again in 1937. They still believed it after FDR’s own Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, told the House Ways and Means Committee in 1939,

“We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work…I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started… And an enormous debt to boot!”

They still believe it to this day no matter how many times it is debunked.

There was enormous hope in 1974 that faith in government was finally broken after President Nixon resigned in disgrace, especially among members of the new Libertarian Party. But Americans went on believing.

Keynesian economics was pronounced dead for a few years after stagflation in the 1970s – considered impossible in the Keynesian framework – but it quickly resurrected to dominate fiscal and monetary policy without a peep from the public.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton declared, “the era of big government is over.” But today it is bigger and more destructive than ever. Yet, no one in his right mind would say the war on drugs has been a success. Nor can it be argued the Department of Education has done anything but massive harm.

We have a whole generation of college graduates living in their parents’ basements, working low-paying and part time jobs, and trying to pay off massive student loans after being incentivized by easy money and government guaranteed loans to pursue college degrees with no ROI. Meanwhile, there is a crisis-level shortage of skilled tradespeople who could be on a path to upper middle-class incomes had they not been conned into college.

The harm done to young people in general pales in comparison to what the government has done to the African American community. What two hundred years of slavery and another one hundred years of institutional discrimination couldn’t do, the government accomplished in just fifty years “trying to help.”

Devastation is the only word appropriate to describe the African American community in 2021. And anyone familiar with the work of Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams knows this is not something intrinsic to their race or culture. The government did that to them and it doesn’t intend to stop.

The Afghanistan War debacle was shocking to most Americans, but it was really just one more in a long line of government failures, not all of which made such compelling TV. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of the American public not only complies with but zealously defends Covid-19 policies that will look no better than Afghanistan in the rearview mirror.

What will it take to break this religious faith in government?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

It’s Not Democracy That’s Dying; It’s Our Anti-Democratic Safeguards

Everyone is worried about “our democracy.” The left believes Donald Trump is trying to destroy it by challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election, aided by state legislatures controlled by his party passing stricter voter identification and ballot verification laws.

The right believes the Democratic Party is trying to destroy democracy by stuffing ballot boxes with illegitimate votes and flooding the country with undocumented immigrants who will either vote illegally themselves or have children who will eventually vote Democrat.

They all agree on one thing. Our democracy is in peril, and it must be saved.

Certainly, if there was enough fraud to change the results of any election, that is a problem. But what is tearing our society apart is not destruction of our democracy, because we don’t live in a democracy. And it isn’t just a republic, either. All “republic” means is that the people elect representatives to perform the various functions of government. North Korea is a republic; China is a republic. Neither are countries in which most Americans would want to live.

No, what made the American system better was not its democratic elections or republican form but it’s anti-democratic safeguards. The Constitution allows for representatives to be elected democratically – although only the House of Representatives was originally by direct vote of the people – but the rest of its provisions are there to protect us from democracy.

The bicameral legislature, presidential veto, separation of powers, and strictly enumerated powers are all intended to protect individuals from what democratically elected representatives might do.

The Bill of Rights is completely anti-democratic. Its articles say the democratically elected Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, shall not infringe the rights of free speech, or to bear arms. They say the democratically elected executive shall not conduct unreasonable searches, punish you without due process, etc.

The key to all the so-called “checks and balances” in the Constitution is they set up adversarial processes that must occur before power is exercised.  

Older readers may remember the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon, “I’m Just a Bill.” It attempts to educate youngsters on all the hoops a bill must jump through to become a law. While clever, the problem with its tone is the strong implication that the bill failing to become a law is regrettable, even tragic.

That the Constitution makes it difficult to pass a law is a feature, not a bug.

The popular sentiment that Congress “isn’t getting anything done” springs from the same misconception. When a bill is proposed and subsequently either dies in committee or fails to pass a general vote, Congress did indeed “get something done.” It vetted the proposition to require or prohibit some human activity by force and (usually wisely) declined to do so. That’s as much “getting something done” as passing the bill – and usually ages better.

Yet, while still professing fidelity to the Constitution, federal legislators have passed many laws allowing the executive branch to bypass this entire process and effectively legislate by fiat. If you’re wondering how President Trump could levy a tariff (a tax) on imports without a law passed by Congress, it’s because Congress passed the Trade Act of 1974, effectively allowing the president to exercise this power exclusively delegated to Congress if, in his sole judgment, “any existing duties or other import restrictions of any foreign country or the United States are unduly burdening and restricting the foreign trade of the United States.”

The National Emergencies Act similarly transfers legislative power to the president by his merely declaring an emergency to exist. Worse yet, the “state of emergency” doesn’t end until the president declares it is over or Congress passes a joint resolution to end it – which can be vetoed by the president!

As I’ve written before, the entire New Deal constitutes an unconstitutional transfer of power from the legislature to the executive by allowing regulatory agencies to not only write their own regulations (legislate) but often usurp the judicial power by deciding disputes in their own administrative courts.

That’s why President Biden can mandate vaccines for businesses with over one hundred employees without new legislation from Congress. He can simply have OSHA require it through “regulation” – a euphemism for the executive branch legislating.

Needless to say, Congress cannot assign powers exclusively delegated to itself to another branch of the government, no matter how many legal or logical acrobatics Supreme Court justices have performed saying they can. There would be no need for Article V of the Constitution if Congress could merely override the separation of powers or other constitutional constraints with legislation. And the Constitution certainly provides for emergencies. There is no emergency more serious than war, for which the Constitution clearly provides.

Yet, no one blinks an eye when a president decides to bomb Syria (name one that hasn’t lately) without a declaration of war and in violation of the War Powers Resolution which specifically limits the president’s power to “introduce the United States Armed Forces into hostilities” to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” [emphasis added]

The list of violations of the Constitution’s limitations on power and separation of those powers it does grant is too long to cover here. But they all have one thing in common: they eliminate adversarial processes capable of overriding the will of majority – of overriding democracy – to preserve liberty.

Everyone recognizes the political climate in the United States is toxic and many legitimately fear it will become violent. This isn’t because democracy is diminished. Rather, it is because the people of these states have tolerated the erosion or elimination of most restraints on democracy built into our Constitution.

My own view of the Constitution is much closer to Lysander Spooner’s than Madison’s or Jefferson’s. But as I said four years ago, the limits it places on federal power, especially in terms of the separation of powers between the federal and state governments, could prove useful in easing the pressure before the boiler explodes. While peaceful, full-scale secession from both the federal and state governments might be the philosophical ideal, it is much less likely than a “soft secession,” accomplished by simply enforcing the Constitution’s limits on federal government power.

That soft secession has already begun, although most of those seceding probably don’t realize they are doing so. Over half the states have nullified federal marijuana laws by passing state legislation legalizing their use for medical purposes, recreation, or both. Many blue state cities have declared themselves “sanctuary cities,” refusing to enforce federal immigration laws. 

Most recently, Texas passed a law prohibiting abortion once a fetal heart rate is detectable, or more accurately clarifying laws prohibiting abortion never taken off the books after Roe v. Wade. 

None of the federal laws or regulations in question are constitutional. They were all merely passed by Congress or enacted by executive edict and then, in some cases, “discovered” to be constitutional by the Supreme Court. Madison himself said regulating immigration was a power “no where delegated” to the federal government. And whether one considers abortion healthcare or homicide, the federal government isn’t given power over either. 

Most people in red states have a visceral hatred for sanctuary cities, just as most in blue states hate the Texas abortion bill. And that’s just the point. These are matters that can only be dealt with locally. No supermajority of states ever has or ever will consent to the federal government imposing one policy in these areas over all the states.

The response to Covid-19 has followed the trend. In 2020, there was an increasingly diverse policy response as the pandemic progressed, with some states imposing severe lockdowns and mask mandates while others imposed less severe restrictions or none at all. South Dakota led the way in refusing from the start to close businesses or issue stay-at-home orders, followed by Florida in September 2020 and Iowa and Texas in early 2021. 

As for President Biden’s vaccine mandate (announced but not yet written), Florida and Texas have already banned the mandates within their states, while South Dakota governor Kristi Noem took the most libertarian approach in neither mandating nor banning vaccine mandates for private businesses. Meanwhile, New York’s governor Kathy Hochul has ordered all healthcare workers in her state to get the vaccine and is prepared to call in National Guard personnel to replace those who don’t comply.

Many fear violent conflict resulting from state nullification of federal laws or regulations. But we haven’t seen that over nullification of marijuana prohibition and we wouldn’t likely see it when state governments take similar action on other issues. 

Rather than a recipe for violence, more widespread soft secession from the present, unconstitutional system would allow the two dominant political tribes to stand down from their current, confrontational posture. And it would allow the rest of us to at least “pick our poison” in terms of which less-than-ideal system we would prefer.

Most important, it would save us all from what we have now: democracy run amok.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Anti-Trust Laws Are Not the Answer

Austrian economist Bob Murphy recently appeared on Timcast IRL. Among the topics discussed, there was a brief discussion of anti-trust laws that was left with a dissatisfying “I-guess-there’s-nothing-we-can-do-about-it” answer.

The argument host Tim Pool made for anti-trust laws rests upon the assumption that in a free market, successful market actors can accumulate so much wealth that they exercise “power” just as oppressive as a tyrannical government’s. Pool cited as an example Blackrock buying up houses and using its vast accumulated resources to effectively outbid any smaller or individual bidders.

Pool said that companies like Blackrock will acquire assets by offering “insane sums of money,” i.e., paying well over the market price. Eventually, the large company or a few of the largest companies “own everything” and the common folk “own nothing.” Pool asks Murphy if he would support anti-trust laws to address such a situation.

Murphy gave all the correct answers but didn’t elaborate upon them. He pointed out we aren’t operating in a free market, specifically mentioning bailouts, and that it never helps to give the government more power. Pool agreed empowering the government doesn’t work but concluded there is nothing anyone can do about undesirable economic outcomes. Anyone watching would assume this is a defect of the free market one must live with or tolerate government intervention.

That’s the opposite of the truth.

First, as Murphy said, the U.S. economy is not remotely a free market. I would add that it hasn’t been since at least the New Deal, when a fundamental, constitutional change took place.

No longer is economic activity regulated solely by laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. Instead, a plethora of executive branch bureaucrats write enforceable regulations which are at most overseen by a Congressional committee, but which largely bypass the adversarial process of passing a law per the Constitution.

These agencies don’t merely protect property rights but instead micromanage the way businesses are run for all sorts of ends, legitimate and otherwise. This adds cost, stifles innovation, and inevitably succumbs to regulatory capture. All of these effects tilt the playing field towards larger firms and away from smaller or new competitors.

Monetary inflation and bailouts also contribute to the problem. Pool says that large firms like Blackrock pay far more than the market price “because they can.” But how can Blackrock afford to give away its wealth?

If Blackrock pays $230,000 for a house worth only $200,000 (Pool’s example), they have transferred $30,000 in wealth from themselves to the seller of the house. The seller has gained $230,000 in cash while Blackrock has gained only $200,000 in real estate.

That the property in question may appreciate enough to overcome such a loss is completely the result of monetary inflation. Houses are depreciable goods. They wear out and are eventually torn down and replaced. In a free market, the price of a house should go down over time (all other things being equal*), just like the price of an automobile.

Conversely, honest money appreciates over time. It is the natural tendency for prices to fall as society produces more output with the same or less inputs. That’s why prices fell over the course of the 19th century under various iterations of the gold standard. It is only monetary inflation that causes prices to rise even as society becomes more productive.

With an honest monetary system, it would not be profitable for any firm, no matter how big, to buy houses at prices well above their market value. Doing so would make the firm poorer over time and those it bought the house from richer – precisely the opposite result of the big firm “owning everything” and the common folk “owning nothing.”

But even with our present monetary system, under which real estate prices are bid up to absurd levels during inflation-infused bubbles, there are inevitable busts. When those occur, any firm that acquired substantial real estate holdings at inflated prices should go bankrupt, its assets turned over to new owners in bankruptcy court. However, for the past several decades, this market result has increasingly been overridden by “too big to fail” bailouts. It didn’t start with the 2008 financial crisis; the 1979 Chrysler bailout and 1998 Long Term Capital Management bailouts are notable previous examples.

Bailouts don’t just encourage reckless behavior; they reverse natural market outcomes. If not for the 2008-9 TARP bailouts, the country’s largest firms, including Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Bank of America, and others would either have gone bankrupt or been significantly downsized. Smaller firms that didn’t engage in irresponsible behavior would have acquired their assets, their market share, or both. That would have been the free market result.

Incidentally, while Blackrock itself was already a big player in financial markets before the 2008 crisis, it only became the behemoth it is today by first encouraging its clients to purchase the toxic mortgage-back securities at the center of the meltdown and then becoming the Federal Reserve’s partner in bailing out those same firms. That cosey relationship has continued right through the current “Covid-19” economic crisis.

In other words, nothing about Pool’s scenario represents a market result and anti-trust laws attempting to counteract it are the epitome of the government “breaking your leg and handing you a crutch.” Just as the welfare crutch brings with it little relief and all sorts of unintended, negative consequences, anti-trust laws typically result in consumers paying more for the same products and society becoming less productive overall.

Even more important, supporting the use of anti-trust laws against dominant corporations is a strategic blunder for anyone who believes in private property and free markets. Yes, they might be used to temporarily hinder large corporations whose behavior we don’t like. But getting the remnant who support freedom on board with this state intervention will forever set the precedent that even the most ardent supporters of laissez faire recognize the need for intervention under some circumstances.

The enemies of freedom think strategically. That’s why they’ve been winning for the past century or more. When the TARP bailouts occurred, there was a loud minority on the pro-market side saying, “let these corporations go bankrupt. Let the market work.” That those statements are a matter of record is a thorn in the side of the interventionists that they’d rather didn’t exist.

This time around, they would like nothing better than to have even the most uncompromising advocates for laissez faire on the record supporting anti-trust laws or other government interventions. That would take laissez faire off the table forever in terms of future debate regarding private property and freedom vs. central planning and state intervention.

Don’t give the central planners that win.

The answer to grotesque economic outcomes is not more government intervention. The answer is to allow for a market-based monetary system (repeal capital gains taxes on competing currencies like precious metals and crypto), prohibit future bailouts, and repeal the New Deal root and branch.

*A property far from convenient shopping, recreation, schools, and other amenities which later development provides nearby may appreciate in value overall even as the house itself depreciates, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Why is freedom always the problem?

Publication1 croppedOne year after Americans were ordered to close down society for “two weeks to flatten the curve,” Bloomberg columnist Andreas Kluth warned, “We Must Start Planning for a Permanent Pandemic.” Because new variants of SARS-COV-2 are impervious to existing vaccines, says Kluth, and pharmaceutical companies will never be able to develop new vaccines fast enough to keep up, we will never be able to get “back to normal.”

“Get back to normal” means recovering the relative liberty we had in our already overregulated, pre-Covid lives. This is just the latest in a long series of crises that always seem to lead our wise rulers to the same conclusion: we just cannot afford freedom anymore.

Covid-19 certainly wasn’t the beginning. Americans were told “the world changed” after 9/11/2001. Basic pillars of the American system, like the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, were too antiquated to deal with the “new threat of terrorism.” Warrantless surveillance of our phone, e-mail, and financial records and physical searches of our persons without probable cause of a crime became the norm. A few principled civil libertarians dissented, but the public largely complied without protest. “Keep us safe,” they told the government, no matter the cost in dollars or liberty.

Perhaps seeing how willingly the public rolled over for the political right during the “war on terror,” authoritarians on the left turbocharged their own war on “climate change.” Previously interested in merely significantly raising taxes and heavily regulating industry, they now wish to ban all sorts of things, including air travel, driving a car, and even eating meat.

Since Covid-19, however, even the freedom to assemble and see each other’s faces may be permanently banned to help the government “keep us safe.”

Assaulting our liberty isn’t the only characteristic these crisis narratives have in common. They share at least two others: dire predictions that turn out to be false and proposed solutions that turn out to be ineffective.

George W. Bush warned Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” capable of hitting New York City within 45 minutes. He created the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA to prevent, among other things, a “mushroom cloud” over a major American city.

Twenty years later, we know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the terrorist threat was grossly exaggerated, and the TSA has still never caught a terrorist, not even the two mental midgets who tried to set off explosives concealed in their shoes and underwear, respectively.

The only effective deterrent of terrorism so far has been the relatively calmer foreign policy during the four years of the Trump administration, during which regime change operations ceased and major terrorist attacks in the United States virtually disappeared.

Predictions of environmental catastrophe have similarly proven false. Younger people may not remember that in the early 1970s, long before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born, environmentalists were predicting worldwide disasters that subsequently failed to materialize. In 1989, the Associated Press reported, “A senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.” The same official predicted the Earth’s temperature would rise 1 to 7 degrees in the next 30 years.

Ocasio-Cortez is famous for predicting in 2019, “The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” But Al Gore had warned in 2006 that “unless drastic measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken within the next 10 years, the world will reach a point of no return.” So, isn’t it too late anyway?

As with the war on terrorism, the war on climate change asks us to give up our freedom for solutions that don’t work. Assuming climate change proponents have diagnosed the problem correctly and haven’t exaggerated the threat – huge assumptions by themselves – implementing their proposed solution won’t solve the problem, even by their own standards.

Its proponents know this. The U.S. has already led the world in reducing carbon emissions without the draconian provisions of the Green New Deal. If you listen to them carefully, the Green New Deal’s proponents propose the U.S. give up what freedom and prosperity remain to them merely as an example to developing nations, whom they assume will forego the benefits of industrialization already enjoyed by developed countries because of the shining example of an America in chains and brought to its economic knees to “save the earth.”

Fat chance, that.

The latest remake of this horror movie is Covid-19. While undeniably a serious pathogen that has likely killed more people than even the worst flu epidemics of the past several decades (although this is hard to confirm since public health officials changed the methodology for determining a virus-caused death), the government and its minions have still managed to grossly exaggerate this threat.

Gone is any sense of proportion when discussing Covid-19. Yes, it is certainly possible to spread the virus after one has been vaccinated or acquired natural immunity. But how likely is it? Is it any more likely than spreading other pathogens after immunity?

If not, then why are we treating people with immunity differently than we have during more dangerous pandemics in the past? Similarly, it is likely possible for asymptomatic people to spread the virus – a key pillar of the lockdown argument – but again, how likely is it?

The theory Covid-19 could be spread by asymptomatic people was originally based on the case of a single woman who supposedly infected four other people while experiencing no symptoms. Anthony Fauci said this case “lays the question to rest.”

The only problem was no one had asked the woman in question if she had symptoms at the time. When it turned out she did, the study on her was retracted. A subsequent study “did not link any COVID-19 cases to asymptomatic carriers,” and yet another after that concluded transmission of the disease by asymptomatic carriers “is not a major driver of spread.” Yet, policies based on this falsehood, like lockdowns and forcing asymptomatic people to wear masks, remain in place.

Most importantly, none of the government-mandated Covid-19 mitigation policies work. No retrospective review conducted with any semblance of the scientific method has found a relationship between lockdowns, mask mandates, or social distancing and the spread of Covid-19. In fact, the most recent study suggests lockdowns may have increased Covid-19 infections, in addition to all the non-Covid excess deaths they caused.

Over and over, authoritarians overhype crises to scare the living daylights out of the public and propose solutions that have two things in common: they demand more of our freedom and they don’t work. It’s always all pain and no gain. One wonders how many repetitions of this crisis drill it will take before the citizens of the so-called “land of the free” finally think to ask:

Why is freedom always the problem?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Every year will be 2020 if Americans don’t resist Covid-19 measures now


cuomo whitmerIf you wonder how state governors and so-called “public health” bureaucrats can continue to impose lockdowns even though the evidence is overwhelming they don’t work, just consider smoking bans.

Governments around the U.S. and the world began imposing them at the beginning of this century, claiming second hand smoke (aka “passive smoking”) caused lung cancer, heart disease, and a number of other serious diseases.

Now, even if that were true, it would still be the right of private property owners to decide whether to allow smoking on their premises or not. But it wasn’t true.

It’s been seven years since a large study showed no correlation between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. Heart disease has not decreased as the banners promised, either. Yet, the bans remain in place.

The TSA will celebrate its 20th birthday next year. It has never caught a terrorist and still consistently fails to detect 95% or more of the dangerous items carried through security on its own tests. It, too, will never go away.

If Americans don’t resist them, business closures, travel bans, contact tracing and the rest of Covid-related government insanity will be here to stay. Any who don’t believe that should ask themselves why Erie County is renovating a historic building into a “Covid-19 response hub.” Not even a government would be so obtuse as to make a long-term capital investment like this to address a problem that will be over in a few months.

All of history shows governments don’t give up power unless they are forced to do so. As a new year dawns, Americans are faced with a clear choice: resist now or spend the rest of their lives reliving 2020 over and over again.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Another day, another Covid “news” article where the reporter questions nothing

poloncarz

Another day, another article in the Buffalo News where the so-called journalist questions nothing, is curious about nothing, and acts literally as a propagandist for the politician.

If “gatherings” are to blame for higher deaths, then why are over half the deaths in nursing homes, which are completely locked down, including not even allowing the residents to congregate with each other? Why are New York State’s hospitalizations and deaths so much worse than Florida’s, which has no restrictions, no capacity limits on restaurants or bars, and no enforced masked mandates?

By the way, what is the total for deaths from all causes in December 2020, December 2019, and December 2018? Are total deaths really higher? By how much? Are deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions all lower by close to exactly the number of Covid deaths, as a study found for the U.S.  between March and September?

And how many deaths does the wise county executive estimate have been caused by Covid lockdowns? Will no one ever ask this question? Because that number is not zero. It was uncontroversial a year ago to say every one percent increase in unemployment nationwide causes 30,000 deaths. So how many Erie County deaths have been caused by the unemployment resulting from lockdowns?

These are questions I thought of in seconds as I read the article, but apparently never occurred to the so-called journalist. It’s almost as if she thinks her job is just to write down what the government tells her and repeat it to the population without question.

If that’s the case, why have journalists?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What will our Ozymandias say to the future?

ozymandias-percy-shelley-with-poem-34054575160_c4cc6a68e0_bI’ve often wondered what historians of the future will think about us and our demise while sifting through the rubble of our civilization. There are many volumes on the reasons for the fall of Rome. We know what happened to the Spanish, French and British Empires. The Mayan collapse is still somewhat mysterious, although there are theories.

But when it comes to us, this mighty civilization that rose out of the Age of Reason and accomplished wonders in 400 years that eclipsed those of the previous 4,000, what will they conclude?

That, ironically, after surviving the bubonic plague, cholera, several world wars, and many natural disasters, we were finally done in by mass hysteria over a virus that, compared to the great epidemics of history, was rather unremarkable.

And round the decay of our colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands will stretch far away.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

No, government isn’t the problem. It’s the Nitwit Mob.

Simpsons-Mob-400x400

Thirty-nine years ago, Ronald Reagan said during his first inaugural address, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” It had Conservative, Inc. atwitter for decades, even long after everyone knew the federal government doubled in size under The Gipper.

Both proponents and opponents still talk about Reagan as if he shrank the government when he did precisely the opposite. That’s understandable coming from political operatives or media (but I repeat myself) who have some stake in people believing it. What is intolerable is the tens of millions of nitwits – there really is no other word for them – who believe it themselves, contrary to easily verifiable data.

Thus, this libertarian is led to what some might consider an extraordinary conclusion. Government is not, in fact, the problem.

Contrary to what we in the so-called “liberty movement” would like to think, there is not a large percentage of the population yearning to break free from an oppressive government.

In reality, all those polls showing single digit approval ratings for Congress result from people being angry the government isn’t doing more. I wish I could tell you what you want to hear. But I can’t.

Hundreds of years ago there was a moment when the American population was somewhat suspicious of government, respectful of property rights (the only real rights) and devoted to personal liberty. That sentiment began eroding almost immediately upon the thirteen colonies gaining their independence. It died completely generations ago, but for a few contrarians.

We now live in as close to a pure democracy as any society this size could possibly achieve. By “pure democracy,” I do not mean the overrated distinction between democracy and republic. I mean a system in which the will of the majority is unchecked by any institutional restraint.

When you consider half the population have, by definition, IQs under 100, then you can see why it isn’t difficult for a small, interested minority to combine with that population segment to impose whatever they want upon the rest of us. All they need do is promise safety from some terrifying threat, real or imagined, and the cowardly, obsequious, statist-to-the-core majority will not only accept the plan but demand it.

We are ruled by the Nitwit Mob. Democracy is its means, comfortable slavery its end. Participation is mandatory.

How does one know the members of this mob, you ask? Identifying non-members would make for a shorter answer, but here is an incomplete list of some tell-tale characteristics:

  • Mindlessly repeating talking points they hear on state propaganda broadcasts like The Today Show as if the talking points are their own, well considered opinions.
  • Changing their profile pics to some symbol in politically correct vogue at the moment. Can one say any more emphatically, “I have no identify of my own?”
  • “Thanking the troops” for their freedom – or for anything else for that matter. Thanking is only appropriate when a benefit is conferred. And no American taxpayer has benefited from the troops invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Viet Nam, Somalia, Korea…
  • Starting any sentence with the words, “You need to….” Yes, this is a personal pet peeve, but think about the thought process behind this ubiquitous expression. It’s a passive-aggressive way of ordering someone to do something, often to fall in line with some politically correct or otherwise state-directed behavior.

The appropriate response is something like, “No, I need to do no such thing. If you would like me to do thus and so, I suggest you ask politely, employing the word, ‘please.’ I make no guarantees.”

Or, if time is short, simply, “Fuck you.”

  • Using the word “we” when advancing a political agenda. “We need, we must, we can,” etc. are all words employed by two groups of people: those who wish to control or plunder you and the Nitwits who enable them.

What is the solution to rule by the Nitwit Mob? I don’t know.  But I can tell you what the solution isn’t: trying to reason with them.

We can write all the essays we want, teach all the economics we want, cite all the great thinkers in the libertarian tradition we want. It’s not going to work because the Nitwit Mob doesn’t want to be reasoned with. They don’t want to consider your point of view. No, they don’t find that information you “shared” interesting.

The Nitwits are impervious to these efforts because they are emotionally invested in statism. They want an all-powerful state to care for them like they are livestock and they demand you take your place in the stable next to them (not to mention pay for the stable). Any suggestion this might be immoral, impractical or even detrimental to their own interests might as well be made to a donkey.

In substance abuse programs, it is often said the first step in solving your problem is admitting you have one.  We must admit we have a Nitwit problem compared to which the state pales in comparison. Let’s stop operating under the assumption that if we could just bring them the information evil forces have kept from them, they’d join our cause. They won’t.

As my kung fu Sifu once said, “Well, what you’re doing obviously isn’t working. So, whatever you decide to do, don’t keep doing that.” Consider this a request for proposals. How do we free ourselves from the Nitwits who are too stupid to persuade and too numerous to fight?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.