Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lenin's Recovery Plan?

After the Russian Civil War, the Soviet Union was in economic shambles, with millions starving and industry in a free fall. In his book, "The Russian Revolution," John Bradley showed that against the wishes of many of his comrades, Lenin implemented the New Economic Policy which led to a general recovery. Among the key elements of the plan were:

1. The government budget was cut.
2. More efficient taxation was implemented.
3. Land, labor & food markets were liberalized.
4. School fees & medical care were no longer free for all; they had to be paid for.
5. Pensions and unemployment benefits were available for those who contributed.
6. Outside of large industries and banks, private enterprise was allowed.

In other words, Lenin's recovery plan emphasized fiscal responsibility and a shift towards economic liberalization, whereas the Obama Administration's recover plan is fundamentally based on increasing government spending and government control of the economy. This is the first and last time you will hear me say: why can't we be more like Lenin?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Think Locally!

The debate on health care has focused on questions of national policy; in other words what reforms should be uniformly imposed by the federal government on the economically, politically and culturally diverse states of the union. But, I have yet to hear a sound explanation of why the people of the 50 states should not be allowed to debate and decide the health care policies that best suit their needs, values and desires. In other words, if the people of California desire a single payer plan - let them enjoy its benefits and bear its costs. And if the people of Texas desire market driven reforms - them enjoy its benefits and bear its costs. These principles also apply to education and a host of other issues. Here are but a few of the many benefits of a less centralized approach to governance:

1. It's inherently more democratic and respectful of diversity. At the very least, if you don't like a policy, you can move to a state that better represents your values, but federal mandates traps citizens by to not allowing them to "vote with their feet."

2. It allows for greater domestic tranquility. For example, if the people of each state can only influence their own educational policies, they have little reason to engage in divisive policy and cultural wars on a national level.

3. State and local governments can serve as a "laboratory for democracy." In other words, we can learn from the successes and failures of the initiatives of other states.

4. The connection between a local policy and end result is almost always more apparent than it is between a federal policy and end result. For example, it's very difficult to determine which, if any, national policies are responsible for changes in the rate of crime. However, the connection between the sharp drop in crime that New York City experienced and Rudolph Giuliani's policies is strong and apparent. This allows the public to better assess what works and what does not.

5. It fosters greater individual and community participation and power. For example, parents have greater opportunities to influence the policies of their local schools via PTA and town hall meetings, than they have to influence national educational policy.

6. The larger and more distant a center of power is, the less responsive to the needs and desires of its people it tends to be. As inept or corrupt as a local politician may be, they almost always possess more detailed, up-to-date information about the nature and needs of their community than a federal bureaucrat does.

7. The true cost of policies are almost always more apparent on a local level. For example, the federal government was able to spend over a trillion on the War In Iraq while simultaneously cutting taxes. In contrast, the rising cost of government in Chicago and Cook County have quickly lead to rising property taxes. This helps explain why the people of Chicago vigorously protest costly new initiatives, such as Mayor Daley's push to host the Olympics, yet largely remain silent in the face of out of control federal spending.

8. State and local governments are limited in their power to plunge the public into debt, because of they are unable to print money and limited in their ability to borrow it. So, states and local governments are forced to face fiscal reality much faster than their federal counterpart.

9. Many federal initiatives violate the letter and spirit of the Constitution. The powers of the powers of the federal government are limited to functions specifically enumerated in the constitution, the powers of states and communities are broad and plentiful. To justify the expansion of the size and scope of federal government, politicians and their judicial enablers have resorted to willful misrepresentations of the Commerce Clause and General Welfare Clause.

10. A federal government that focuses on the functions assigned to it by the Constitution, will be more effective in achieving them. For example, the federal government has greatly expanded its areas of responsibility, while failing to secure the border.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Exodus of Minorities From The Arab-Islamic World

The recent massacre of 52 Christians in Iraq is not an isolated incident, it is simply the acceleration of the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian and Sabian populations of the middle east that have occurred over the last century. These populations predate Arabs and Muslims by thousands of years. Even in nations like Lebanon, Egypt and Iran, were outright massacres are rare, general discrimination and harassment have led to a a sharp decline in the number of indigenous Christians. And now in towns like Malmo Sweden, the large influx of Muslim immigrants has created an environment of fear that has led to the exodus of its well established Jewish population. Clearly Islamic culture does not lend itself towards a respect for diversity and democracy. To prejudge or discriminate against individual Muslims is racist and intolerable, however to express reservations about Arab-Islamic culture demonstrates that one is well informed and intellectually honest. If you believe that my sentiments are racist, talk a few minutes to speak with an Assyrian Christian from Iraq and ask them what they think.

At least 52 dead in Iraq church siege

by Aaron J Leichman

Christian Post

November 1, 2010

The coffin of a victim is carried past Our Lady of Deliverance church the morning after its congregation was taken hostage in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday Nov. 1, 2010. AP
The death toll from Sunday’s church hostage crisis in Iraq shot up to 52 on Monday while the number of people wounded rose to 67.

Deputy Interior Minister Lt General Hussein Kamal reported the latest figures, which nearly doubled initial figures, on Monday, saying that the toll only included hostages and police officers, not the militants behind siege of Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.

Initial reports put the number of gunmen at around a dozen – at least five of which were killed along with the others when some of the explosives they were carrying went off.

The explosion occurred as security officers stormed the church around 9pm to bring to an end the roughly four-hour standoff.

The ten or so militants had stormed the church around 5pm. wearing suicide vests after attacking the Baghdad Stock Market in the central part of the Iraqi capital earlier in the day.

In total about 120 churchgoers were taken hostage by the al Qaida-linked terrorists as they were holding service Sunday.

Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obeidi said "the terrorists were planning to murder the highest number of hostages".

"All the marks point out that this incident carries the fingerprints of al Qaeda," he added Sunday on state television.

Since the attack, Islamic State of Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement posted on a radical Islamic website. It also said it would "exterminate Iraqi Christians" if Muslim women are not freed within 48 hours from ministries and churches run by the Christian Coptic church in Egypt.

Across Iraq, security forces were alerted to new threats against Christians.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, meanwhile, said France “firmly” condemned the "terrorist action", which he noted as the latest in a deadly campaign of targeted violence which has already led to more than 40 deaths among the Christians of Iraq this year.

"France repeats its attachment to the respect of fundamental liberties such as religious freedom and supports the Iraqi authorities in their struggle against terrorism," Kouchner added.

In Iraq, ongoing persecution and violence has forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee the country. The UN High Commission for Refugees estimated last year that since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, up to 500,000 Christians had left the country. That translates to about half the Christian population leaving within the short time span of six years.

Sunni Muslim insurgents have frequently targeted members of Iraq's Christian minority, especially in Mosul, which is home to a large Christian community. Some extremist Sunnis consider Christians to be supporters of the Shiite-led government they oppose.

The Constitution: It's not just for Conservatives

Josh Eboch wrote a wonderful essay that should be more titled: "Federalism & States' Rights: Are Also For Progressves." Although the majority of groups and individuals who champion
states' rights and seek to limit the power of the federal government are conservatives, these values and causes should be of equal importance to progressives. The authors emanently reasonable points should resonate with intelligent progressives and conservatives alike, such as:

"America was built on individualism and freedom of choice, and what’s right for one person or one state is not necessarily right for them all."

"There is no way to make everyone happy with every law, but abandoning the futile and divisive quest for a “one size fits all” centralized government, and returning the states to their rightful role as competing laboratories of democracy is a good start."

"Before America can rediscover the promise of her founding, people on both sides of the aisle must come to grips with the fact that the federal government does not exist to impose on the nation either the Right’s or the Left’s vision of freedom, morality, or social justice."

To view the author's concise audio clip, click here:

The Constitution: It’s not just for Conservatives

by Josh Eboch

Anyone who desires a constitutionally limited federal government should remember and celebrate that its limitations would necessarily cut both ways. Because if federal policy actually adhered to the letter of the Constitution, no single ideological camp could wield sufficient power to impose a set of beliefs on the entire country.

Which was exactly the point of our federalist system, and of the 10th Amendment. Beyond specific, enumerated federal powers, an infinite number of issues were intentionally left to the authority of the people through their state governments. And it is to the states that liberals, conservatives, and even libertarians must address all questions extending beyond the constitutional purview of federal authority.

Questions involving but not limited to:

Health Care: If the framers had intended the federal government to establish and manage hospitals and Alms Houses within the states, they would no doubt have given it the explicit authority to do so. To misconstrue the general Welfare Clause in such a way as to conjure that authority out of thin air is to commit a blatant act of intellectual dishonesty.

In fact, regarding those words, “general welfare,” James Madison himself said: “To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

This also includes Medicare and Social Security, both of which are preparing to default on a massive scale thanks to the sort of bureaucratic mismanagement and fiscal shell games at which governments excel.

Of course, nowhere does the Constitution say that states cannot establish and bankrupt their own socialized medicine or retirement schemes. See: Massachusetts and California.

Drugs: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hemp farmers, and drugs themselves have existed in various forms for thousands of years. They were certainly not unknown to the framers of our national government. Yet, excepting the (repealed) 18th Amendment, there is no mention of drugs or prohibition in the Constitution.

It is thanks to an expansive and unlimited interpretation of the Commerce Clause that the federal government now claims the power to ban certain substances. But in 1787, the Commerce Clause was worded to make trade regular between the states by preventing protectionist tariffs, not to give Congress the power to impose national standards of morality on the marketplace.

In recent years, some states have tried to reassert their authority on this issue, but a senselessly violent war continues to be waged by the federal government against the personal purchasing decisions of people in every state.

Marriage: The positive impact of creating social and financial bonds between consenting adults was likely as obvious in the eighteenth century as it is now. But the framers had a much healthier distrust of the federal government than we do today. They gave it no power to define marriage because the framers did not feel compelled to ask or grant the blessing of the federal government in forming private religious unions.

Neither do we need it today to legitimize private unions, religious or otherwise. But as long as both parties seek to engineer social policy through the federal income tax code, the issue of marriage will needlessly divide our country, and state governments will remain unable to fully implement their citizens’ will.

The list goes on and on, but the point remains the same: America was built on individualism and freedom of choice, and what’s right for one person or one state is not necessarily right for them all.

There is no way to make everyone happy with every law, but abandoning the futile and divisive quest for a “one size fits all” centralized government, and returning the states to their rightful role as competing laboratories of democracy is a good start.

Before America can rediscover the promise of her founding, people on both sides of the aisle must come to grips with the fact that the federal government does not exist to impose on the nation either the Right’s or the Left’s vision of freedom, morality, or social justice.

Josh is a freelance writer and journalist originally from the Washington D.C. area. He is a cynically optimistic and unrepentant news junkie. His work has been published locally and in Charleston, SC. Email Josh.