Many years back I was a candidate for a Congressional Fellowship that was administered by a group of prominent academic philosophers. I had made it into the final list of three and flew East to be interviewed, which would decide the matter of who gets the position.
When I sat down in front of the group of philosophers the chair, the now deceased Edmund L. Pincoffs from the University of Texas at Austin, asked me, "What would a libertarian, who wants to restrict the scope of government to basic protection of individual rights, have to advise anyone in Congress? Isn't that quite incongruous?" My answer was along the following lines: "Well, I am one of a not entirely negligible number of Americans with that viewpoint, which itself has a solid tradition in our country, so any member of Congress may benefit from learning of this position, maybe even become convinced it is right."
I was reminded of this experience by a letter to the editor written to The New Republic. The magazine had published an essay, by Peter Beinhart, about Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin. The writer recalled that Tauzin had been featured on ABC-TV giving a lecture to a group about how to evade US taxes by taking advantage of overseas tax havens. Given this dastardly act, the author of the letter joined hands with Mr. Beinhart who called for the resignation of Tauzin, only this time on the grounds that he was "teaching the wealthy how to evade taxes."
Ben Bernanke under pressure to spell out QE timeline ... Ben Bernanke under pressure to spell out QE timeline. US stocks jumped and the dollar climbed against the yen on Monday, amid expectations that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will spell out how it will decide when to put the brakes on America's quantitative easing programme, at its two-day meeting this week. Ben Bernanke cautioned strongly that halting America's fiscal stimulus measures too suddenly could jeopardise the country's recovery. – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: One man stands between civilization and chaos.
Free-Market Analysis: Another quietly adulatory article.
One would not think, given the continued coverage of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and other powerful central bankers, that the prestige of the entire institution has come under considerable attack in the past decade and the past five years in particular.
U.S. says Taliban agrees to Afghanistan peace talks ... Senior Obama administration officials said Tuesday that the Taliban has agreed to participate in peace talks based in Qatar, a key step forward in the effort to jump-start a political resolution of the war in Afghanistan ahead of U.S. plans to withdraw troops. Officials said direct talks between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives could begin this week in Doha and would be followed soon after by a meeting between the Taliban and the High Peace Council, which will represent the Afghan government in the talks. – LA Times
Dominant Social Theme: Finally, the breakthrough everyone has been waiting for! What a peacemaker this fellow Barack Obama is ...
Free-Market Analysis: The final act of this phony war has commenced, and it is no more sincere than any other part of it. The Taliban "terrorists" have not been defeated and presumably there is no need for them to negotiate in good faith.
Taliban leaders – both Afghan and Pakistan – are contemptuous of Hamid Karzai as a corrupt Western puppet. The chances are that once NATO and the US pull out, Karzai is more likely to find a bullet in the head or a permanent exile in Switzerland with his embezzled billions than a continued position as the leader of the Afghan nation.
EU and US 'in biggest trade deal' ... UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans for what could be "the biggest bilateral trade deal in history" between the EU and the US. He announced the start of formal negotiations on a trade deal worth hundreds of billions of pounds, aimed at boosting exports and driving growth. Mr Cameron said a successful agreement would have a greater impact than all other world trade deals put together. The talks were announced ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland. US President Barack Obama said the first round of negotiations would take place in Washington in July. They aim to conclude by the end of 2014. – BBC
Dominant Social Theme: The wise man of Downing Street has a deal for YOU.
Free-Market Analysis: British Prime Minister David Cameron is under attack on all fronts. The British economy is sprawled on the world stage like road-kill, British unemployment remains agonizingly high and the furor over Britain's continued presence in the European Union is causing Cameron serial headaches.
So what to do? How about a trade agreement? That's what we learn from the BBC in this excerpt above. And not just any trade agreement but the biggest, most expensive and "best" yet.
Tilting at windmills in Germany ... The wheels are falling off of Germany's green energy revolution ... The quiet backwater in the Ruhr, close to Düsseldorf, is the proposed site for the biggest converter station in Europe. This vast installation will transform high-voltage direct current to alternating current. It will be an important link in Germany's new "power highway", a network of transmission lines that will send electricity generated by wind farms in the north of the country, and offshore in the North and Baltic Seas, to the manufacturing belt in the south. Osterath's residents reckon it will be a monstrous eyesore, and intend to stop it. This kind of nimbyism is only one of many problems facing Germany's Energiewende. The literal translation is energy change or turn ... – The Economist
Dominant Social Theme: Green energy can be difficult to implement but is worthwhile, nonetheless!
Free-Market Analysis: This Economist blog article starts out in a promising way by analyzing the reality surrounding Germany's power industry: State policies are contradictory and not working.
In fact, the Energiewende was destined not to work because Germany's energy policy, like Europe's, is basically a political construct. The muddle is complicated by the entire "green" debate. Green alternative power is simply not as reliable or cheap as coal and oil ... or even nuclear.
In the 21st century the two hundred year-old propaganda that the American people control their government has been completely shattered. Both the Bush and Obama regimes have made it unmistakenly clear that the American people don't even influence, much less control, the government. As far as Washington is concerned, the people are nothing but chaff in the wind.
Polls demonstrate that 65% of the US population opposes US intervention in Syria. Despite this clear indication of the people's will, the Obama regime is ramping up a propaganda case for more arming of Washington's mercenaries sent to overthrow the secular Syrian government and for a "no-fly zone" over Syria, which, if Libya is the example, means US or NATO aircraft attacking the Syrian army on the ground, thus serving as the air force of Washington's imported mercenaries, euphemistically called "the Syrian rebels."
Washington declared some time ago that the "red line" that would bring Syria under Washington's military attack was the Assad government's use of chemical weapons of mass destruction against Washington's mercenaries. Once this announcement was made, everyone with a brain immediately knew that Washington would fabricate false intelligence that Assad had used chemical weapons, just as Washington presented to the United Nations the intentional lie via Secretary of State Colin Powell that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had dangerous weapons of mass destruction. Remember National Security Advisor Condi Rice's image of a "mushroom cloud over American cities"? Propagandistic lies were Washington's orders of the day.
"We are going to do it our way, this is our decision," Sveinsson, 45, said in an interview in Brussels today. "This government is not going to keep on pushing forward this application. At some time, there will be a referendum, but I cannot tell you when and by whom." EU leaders had celebrated the prospect of welcoming Iceland -- a developed nation where the economy grew 1.6 percent in 2012 -- as a sign the bloc's appeal isn't limited to poorer nations in the south. Iceland's snub changes that. "It was not easy for me as a person" to learn of the new mood in Reykjavik, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said after meeting Sveinsson last night. He urged the government in Reykjavik not to take "unlimited time" on its EU options... – News of Iceland
Dominant Social Theme: A little bump in the road.
Free-Market Analysis: The mainstream press was in full cry over Edward Snowden late last week, but there was big news regarding Iceland and the EU.
Iceland's new government is no more apt to speed an entry into the EU than previous administrations. Representatives reaffirmed a decision to halt efforts to join the European Union. Reasons included worries over control of Iceland's resources and the continued euro crisis.
IMF warns US economic recovery has been slowed by 'ill-designed' cuts but warns Congress against spending less on infrastructure and education ... IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said: 'The IMF's advice is to slow down but hurry up.' ... The International Monetary Fund said on Friday that an "excessively rapid and ill-designed" deficit reduction plan had hampered the "tepid" recovery in the US economy. – UK Guardian
Dominant Social Theme: Listen to the IMF. They've been getting it right for decades.
Free-Market Analysis: Actually, the IMF has been getting it resolutely wrong for decades. But we are supposed to accept its wisdom because it is large and the governments of countries around the world contribute to it.
For us, that mostly shows the power of the Anglo-American alliance and the ability of the top men of that alliance to convince (intimidate) others into going along with the program.
Syria: The slippery slope to an international crisis ... The proposed talks in Geneva, under joint American and Russian auspices, remain the only realistic opportunity for producing a solution to the civil war in Syria ... With the United Nations this week reporting 93,000 fatalities in Syria since the civil war began, it is arguably somewhat late in the day to be considering intervention on humanitarian grounds. Indeed, President Barack Obama has spent the past two years trying to avoid making the very decision he is now edging towards: how and when to get involved on the side of the anti-Assad forces. The ostensible justification for this dramatic change of policy is apparently compelling evidence that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict, though this has been rumoured for some time. – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: This war with Syria was unprovoked and unexpected. Too bad.
Free-Market Analysis: We expect the US to go to war fairly directly with Syria any time now. The only real suspense is how US, British and NATO leaders will justify it.
All this palaver and breast-beating is just for show. The West, under its critical mass of generals, politicians and bankers, has been at war with great regularity, especially since the Great Recession began around 2008.
Fitch says China credit bubble unprecedented in modern world history ... China's shadow banking system is out of control and under mounting stress as borrowers struggle to roll over short-term debts, Fitch Ratings has warned. Fitch warned that wealth products worth $2 trillion of lending are in reality a "hidden second balance sheet" for banks, allowing them to circumvent loan curbs and dodge efforts by regulators to halt the excesses. – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: China is the coming monster on the international stage. A real capitalist success story.
Free-Market Analysis: At the end of this article, we'll reveal where the "malpractice" mentioned in this headline lies. But first, at the risk of repeating ourselves, let us remind readers, "We told you so."
For years we've been writing that the Chinese Miracle is nothing more than the Japanese Miracle writ large and that it would have a similarly messy end. This seemed obvious to us, and increasingly to others.
China's Great Uprooting - Moving 250 Million Into Cities ... Moving 250 Million Into Cities ... China's government-driven effort to push the population to towns and cities is reshaping a nation that for millenniums has been defined by its rural life ... China is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to move 250 million rural residents into newly constructed towns and cities over the next dozen years — a transformative event that could set off a new wave of growth or saddle the country with problems for generations to come. The government, often by fiat, is replacing small rural homes with high-rises, paving over vast swaths of farmland and drastically altering the lives of rural dwellers. – New York Times
Dominant Social Theme: Time to give those peasants a real life.
Free-Market Analysis: In the previous article, we pointed out that Fitch just discovered what Daily Bell readers have known for years, that the Chinese Miracle isn't exactly what it seems to be.
What created the "miracle" and continues to support it is an almost-impossible-to-comprehend credit bubble that has left a swath of mold-ridden, empty cities and vacant skyscrapers throughout China.
NEW TIME POLL: Americans Believe Country Heading In Wrong Direction ... A majority of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, according to a new TIME poll, with President Barack Obama's approval and disapproval ratings essentially tied. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said the United States is on the wrong track, with only 33 percent saying it is heading in the right direction. Obama's approval rating stands at 48 percent—a statistical tie with the 44 percent who disapprove of his handling of his job as president. – TIME
Dominant Social Theme: We've had worse times and better ones. We'll get by ...
Free-Market Analysis: Those who run TIME magazine are virtual card-carrying members of a globalist elite that constantly seeks a more internationalist business and economic environment.
This "poll" can surely be seen as just another "limited hangout" designed to protect the agenda of those who own and run TIME. No, things in the US and the West generally are not good today.
President Obama announced late last week that the US intelligence community had just determined that the Syrian government had used poison gas on a small scale, killing some 100 people in a civil conflict that has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. Because of this use of gas, the president claimed, Syria had crossed his "red line" and the US must begin to arm the rebels fighting to overthrow the Syrian government.
Setting aside the question of why 100 killed by gas is somehow more important than 99,900 killed by other means, the fact is his above explanation is full of holes. The Washington Post reported this week that the decision to overtly arm the Syrian rebels was made "weeks ago" – in other words, it was made at a time when the intelligence community did not believe "with high confidence" that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.
Further, this plan to transfer weapons to the Syrian rebels had become policy much earlier than that, as the Washington Post reported that the CIA had expanded over the past year its secret bases in Jordan to prepare for the transfer of weapons to the rebels in Syria.
The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Richard Ebeling.
Introduction: Dr. Richard Ebeling is a senior fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and professor of economics at Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. He has been a visiting professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut (2008-2009), served as the president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) from 2003 to 2008 and was the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College, in Michigan (1988-2003). Dr. Ebeling is the author of Political Economy, Public Policy, and Monetary Economics: Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian Tradition (Routledge, 2010), Austrian Economics and the Political Economy of Freedom (Elgar, 2003) and is also the editor of the Selected Writings of Ludwig von Mises (Liberty Fund), based on the "lost papers" of Ludwig von Mises, which he recovered from a formerly secret KGB archive in Moscow, Russia. The last of this three-volume set was published in April 2012. Dr. Ebeling is also the co-author and co-editor of the multi-volume work, In Defense of Capitalism (Northwood University, 2010-2013). In the early 1990s, Ebeling consulted on market reform and privatization with the emerging new democratic government in Lithuania when it was still part of the Soviet Union and witnessed the violent, attempted Soviet crackdown on the Lithuanian freedom movement in January 1991. He also was with Russian defenders of freedom in Moscow during the failed hardline coup in August 1991. Dr. Ebeling earned his PhD in economics from Middlesex University in London, England.
Here's a snippet.
Daily Bell: ... You wrote an article recently implying the US was slipping into fascism. Is that a present danger, in your view?
Richard Ebeling: The "larger dysfunction," as you express it, arises out of a number of factors. The primary one, in my view, is a philosophical and psychological schizophrenia among the American people. While many on "the left" ridicule the idea, there is a strong case for the idea of "American exceptionalism," meaning that the United States stands out as something unique, different and special among the nations of the world.
That uniqueness arose out of the fact that the American Founding Fathers constructed a political system in the United States based on a concept on which no other country was consciously founded: the idea of individual rights. ...
The individual was presumed to own himself. He was "sovereign." Self-government in this American tradition did not only or primarily mean the right of people to freely elect those who held political office for the enforcement of rights-protecting laws and legislation – though this was understood to be an essential aspect to a free society.
Over at The Atlantic, Zachary Karabell has discovered a double standard regarding corporate versus private "big data surveillance."
We're approaching the issue all wrong, he writes. We should not accept that the issue is American freedom versus potential Big Brother government tyranny.
What is really evident is that "we're willing to give private corporations data, but we refuse to offer government agencies the same courtesy. That contradiction highlights a muddled, overwrought and inconsistent attitude towards privacy and freedom."
Karabell believes that somehow there is a double standard preventing the culture at large from coming to appropriate conclusions about privacy issues within the context of government versus corporate spying. He believes that until this "schizophrenia" is resolved, there will be no closure regarding these issues and paranoia will reign. The implication is that too much of a fuss is being made over government spying.
None of this is new, by the way ... or so we are informed. Privacy, we learn, has rarely existed in human history because humans lived in small communities in cramped living spaces. Today, he writes, times and mores have changed and people in the West expect more not less privacy in their lives. But this attitude does not necessarily extend to corporate America ...