Friday, February 25, 2011

Are these the Hank Reardons of our time?

John Hinderaker of the Powerline blog discusses the Koch brothers (pictured, Charles left, David right).

When I read it I was reminded of the heroic businessman described in Atlas Shrugged, Hank Reardon, the inventor and producer of Reardon Metal.

A lot of people, collectivist people, irrationally hate the Koch brothers, who own the second largest privately-held company in the US (the first being Cargill). Some of these lefty haters are probably dumb enough to believe that the left-wing blogger's stunt of posing as David Koch in a call to the Wisconsin governor was real. It will probably live in lefty lore as such.

The money quote from Hinderaker's post:

"It is remarkable that at this late date, when Communism and socialism have been wholly discredited around the world, businessmen who run one of the world's most respected companies, have created many thousands of jobs and vast amounts of wealth, and have paid taxes in amounts that are incomprehensible to the rest of us, are demonized for pointing out the obvious benefits of free enterprise."

We know less about Governor Walker. While obviously better for individual liberty in Wisconsin than the other politicians he beat to get the job, we don't know how tightly he embraces the absolutes of liberty that animated the Declaration of Independence.

Interesting too, how the Wisconsin battle is being set up as the Unions' last stand but the Union referred to is actually the labor union movement, especially government employee unions. In the private sector, the union pits employees against management. Government employee unions pit government employees against the people. Sick.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Episode 57. New America is Coming

Well, if a small shrink-back of a secondary entitlement to state workers in Wisconsin on the heels of the "November mandate" is going to create so much angst, what will happen when a few brave leaders try to unburden the creaking oxcart of our national dependency culture before it collapses under its own weight?

And what happens if such leaders fail to emerge in the first place?

Either way, what will happen is a violent chaos, of course, the timing and severity of which cannot be predicted.

No one knows which of us, or how many, will survive the collapse. But we have been considering for some time now what kind of America will emerge on the other side. One of the alternatives is a restoration of the original American idea. Here on the Shrugging Out podcast, we call it "New America".

In this show I speculate on how the survivors of the crash can shape the America that the colonists wanted when they wrested control of their sovereignty from England. Individual liberty, self-reliance, free markets, and a government that protected the individual's right to life, liberty, and property. An old idea, but new to us: New America.

What should we do to restore the vital needs of a recovering citizenry, the millions (but not hundreds of millions) who will likely survive the collapse? Food, energy, housing, commerce, education, security, health care, and the rest?

Good questions, I think, and I hope my speculations provide you with a starting point for your own thoughts about what your role will be in the New America.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Atlas Shrugged (the novel), John Galt's speech

This is the fifth and final in my series of podcasts in which we review the struggle between individualism and collectivism with the help of the richness and clarity that Ayn Rand set forth in her magnum opus.

This show covers the famous (or infamous) John Galt speech, which takes place midway through Part 3 of the novel. It is supposedly three hours in length, but don't worry, I only read and comment on the best passages (in my opinion), so this show is only an hour long. (Only! you're saying....)

The John Galt speech is Rand's exposition of her philosophy of Objectivism. Not named as such in the novel or the speech, it is the celebration, and the declaration of the absolute supremacy, of reason over feelings, and over faith.

Rand spends a bit of time in the speech bashing religion--I skip those parts, as I think the peaceful coexistence of faith and reason under many practical circumstances has been adequately established. Nobody's perfect, not even Ayn Rand.

But the most delicious passages, where Galt thunderously delivers his contempt of Collectivism, shredding every corrupt nook and cranny of its bankrupt code, and exalts and explains the virtues of rationality, and the virtue of those who produce and trade freely--those passages are read aloud, for the pleasure they bring all of us who believe in Individualism, and more importantly, who understand rationally, with the help of Galt's speech, that individual liberty and responsibility for one's self is objectively the moral course for mankind.

- - - - -

Monday, February 7, 2011

Episode 55. 2011--So Far So Scary!

It's early February, and 2011 is shaping up to be a humdinger of a year already!

In the news: Egypt’s insurrection, protests and riots across the Middle East, massive winter storms, the attempts to repeal Obamacare, the "looming crisis" of the federal debt ceiling, states headed toward bankruptcy, food and oil prices up, unemployment in the US—has it gone down or up?

Which of these news items is just background noise, and which items are "signal", the important stuff you need to pay attention to?

What is the one key metric that you should watch with respect to jobs in the U.S.? (hint, it is NOT the unemployment rate).

What is the real issue with federal spending, the characteristic that makes the situation so formidable? (It is NOT the annual deficit, or even the cumulative debt.)

Why is the Tea Party going to be sorely disappointed six months or so from now?

With the normal interest rate lever rendered ineffective, what is the Fed doing to try to stimulate economic activity, and what side effect is it having (which will have a disastrous impact eventually)?

What caused this collectivist mess in the first place?

What is likely to happen when the collapse arrives? How will it unfold?

What should you be doing to prepare based on what's happening now?

This is basically a recap show of the trajectory of the U.S. economy and the impending collapse, and what you should be doing about it now to protect yourself and your family. Timely, I think, given the apparent calm we're experiencing now. It could be the eye of the storm.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What is the "Right to Bear Arms" All About, Anyway?

Here is the text of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as ratified by the States:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Some people believe that the Second Amendment is about the right to defend oneself from physical attack, and in a related sense, about protecting one's family and property from criminal attack or theft. But that is only partly what the Amendment is about. You certainly do have the right to defend yourself, your loved ones, and to protect your property, but if the Second Amendment were only about that, it would be lacking an essential ingredient of liberty.

The Second Amendment is actually about something more important than personal defense. A hint of what it is comes from this passage in the Declaration of Independence:

"[W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."

Had the original Colonists been disarmed by the British government, there could have been no Revolution, and there would have been no independent United States of America. The Second Amendment is primarily about preserving the possibility that if the national government becomes tyrannical, and if, after exhausting all peaceful means available to them, the people are unable to abate the tyranny, the people have the right, and by the 2nd amendment cannot be denied the practical means, of forcibly replacing an otherwise unchangeable tyrannical national government.

Many people doubt this aspect of the Second Amendment, but there is ample evidence that it is about preserving the concept that the government may only govern with the consent of the governed:

Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
-- James Madison, The Federalist Papers

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
-- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

"One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offense to keep arms."
-- Constitutional scholar and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, 1840

"The bearing of arms is the essential medium through which the individual asserts both his social power and his participation in politics as a responsible moral being..."
-- J.G.A. Pocock, describing the beliefs of the founders of the U.S.

Men trained in arms from their infancy, and animated by the love of liberty, will afford neither a cheap or easy conquest.
-- From the Declaration of the Continental Congress, July 1775.

The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."

-- Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story of the John Marshall Court

Militias, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves and include all men capable of bearing arms. [...] To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.

-- Senator Richard Henry Lee, 1788, on "militia" in the 2nd Amendment

That the said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United states who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms...

-- Samuel Adams, in "Phila. Independent Gazetteer", August 20, 1789

Incidentally, you have the right to bear arms whether or not the U.S. Constitution (or your national government's laws) explicitly say so. This is a right with which every human being is born. Your government may, of course, without moral validity, forbid you to be armed, which is another matter entirely.
- - - - -