Category Archives: freedom

"New Justice Department Documents Show Huge Increase in Warrantless Electronic Surveillance."


The ACLU reports on “documents, handed over by the government only after months of litigation.”

“New Justice Department Documents Show Huge Increase in Warrantless Electronic Surveillance.” (Ann Althouse)
Fri, 28 Sep 2012 00:50:00 GMT



Cafe Hayek

via Coddled.

Entering the economics department today I saw the following notice on the front door of the building:

When I first saw it, I noticed that it was referencing a test of the fire alarm system. I presumed that meant there would be some alarms going off and not to worry–it’s just a test. But then I looked more closely. The sign was saying that there would be tests of the fire alarm system and during the three day period of the testing process, there would be no alarms available. So in case there was a fire, be sure to get the heck out of the building. EVACUATE THE AREA! Good idea. In other words, don’t wait for an alarm, there isn’t going to be one.

At first glance, this seems like a remarkably paternalistic and condescending instruction. In the event of fire, flee! Did the designers of the sign think that I would smell smoke or see flames and think, well, I don’t hear an alarm, so there must not be a fire? How stupid do they think I am? But maybe it wasn’t so insulting. Maybe after your sensitivity is deadened by constant coddling, you need signs like this.

I remember being in Chile and having a miserable cold or flu, I went into a drugstore in search of something to make me feel better. As I struggled with trying to read the labels, I realized that Chile’s FDA, if there was one, was probably not like the American FDA. In America, the problem with the stuff you can buy in the drugstore without a prescription is so benign, the problem is whether it will have any impact on you. Anything other than Tums or aspirin requires a prescription. In another country, however, there could be some pretty powerful drugs available over the counter. Having been coddled by the FDA, I was unprepared for the exciting but scary world of potentially real drugs that I could choose freely.

Similarly, I hear people say that were we to privatize social security or better, eliminate it, most people (meaning people other than the person speaking) would not have the financial sophistication to invest their own money. Could be true. For someone with very little discretionary income (a problem partly caused by a payroll tax of over 15% to fund other people’s social security and medicare) why should they develop any financial sophistication. Give them the opportunity to invest their own money and they will have an incentive to get educated.

We have a natural incentive to take care of ourselves. But if someone takes care of us, our impulse toward self-preservation lapses and gets rusty. Pay for my losses and I’ll be less prudent. Cleanse the drugstore of anything remotely likely to have a side effect and I’ll be less prudent. Get rid of the alarm system and maybe I’ll hesitate to run from fire. Well, not really on that last one. But maybe I’ll smell smoke and assume that if the alarm hasn’t gone off, it must be someone misusing the microwave. So maybe it’s not a bad idea to let people know the alarm system is on vacation.

Land of the free? NOT!

I find it fascinating that the heritage foundation (no bastion of socialists), finds the Canada freer than the US.  This even though Canada has a single payer healthcare system.  Per Rush limbaught as soon as government has healthcare, bye bye freedom. 

To clarify, I think that some kind of coherent health care system with better access and lower cost is what we need.  I’m not sure what that will ultimately look like, but my hope is that in passing a comprehensive reform we’ll get there.  States taking different paths might really help with that.  Finally, I’m not necessarily an advocate of Canadian style single payer.  It just I can’t deal with the over the top nonesense that the talk radio right claims and so so many uncritically accept.

Do Events Like the Arizona Shooting Justify Restrictions on Free Speech?

Jeffrey Miron

via Do Events Like the Arizona Shooting Justify Restrictions on Free Speech?.

The American War on Drugs is Not Only an American Disaster-Becker

The Becker-Posner Blog

via The American War on Drugs is Not Only an American Disaster-Becker.

Economics and the Draft

I like economics. I find it always intellectually stimulating. I’d like to think it helps understand a little how some human affairs do work. I’d hope it sometimes gives insights on how human affairs should be managed. One area where it had an influence was the draft.

Not a lot of people know that economics and the arguments of economists played a part in end of the draft. Milton Friedman was a vocal opponent of the draft and had this exchange with the late General Westmoreland:

In his testimony before the commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, “General, would you rather command an army of slaves?” Mr. Westmoreland replied, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Mr. Friedman then retorted, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.”

There’s more on the subject here.

I have opposed conscription both for it burden in taking talented people from valuable pursuits and because its an imposition on liberty. Now though I do wonder about the volunteer army making us less concerned about needless military adventures, and may have caused to go to war too lightly.

While Friedman’s volunteer army has fought the war in Iraq, Professor Friedman strongly opposed the Iraq war.

Jeffrey Miron: How the Republicans Can Waste Their Electoral Victories

Liberal groups in Wisconsin are bracing for a fight over contraception coverage under Medicaid. Battle lines are being drawn over sex education in North Carolina. And conservatives in several states intend to try to limit the ability of private insurers to cover abortions.

Social issues barely rated in this year’s economy-centric midterm elections. More than six in 10 voters who cast ballots on Election Day cited the economic downturn as their top concern, according to exit polls. And this year was the first in more than a decade in which same-sex marriage did not appear on a statewide ballot.

But major GOP gains in state legislatures across the country – where policy on social issues is often set – left cultural conservatives newly empowered. Opponents of same-sex marriage, for instance, now see an opportunity to block or even reverse recent gains by gay rights advocates in Minnesota and New Hampshire.

The Tea Party was successful precisely because it ignored everything but economic issues; that allowed it to unite conservatives, libertarians, and independents. The behavior outlined by the story is suicide for Republicans.



Jeffrey Miron

via How the Republicans Can Waste Their Electoral Victories.

Randianism can beat a strawman – Is that a surprise?

Does everyone who doesn’t identify themselves as a “conservative” favor confiscatory taxes, and an enforced flat distribution of income and wealth. Are the only viable alternatives the the US minus its social safety net or the Soviet Union? I don’t think so.

I read an interesting post by a new convert to Conservatism, of I think the Ann Rand variety. She makes a number of interesting point, but felt it boils down to this:

…conservatism is founded on the reality that every individual has an unlimited inner reservoir of creativity and intelligence that is the source of their ability to succeed. However, this inner ability does require external conditions for its full expression and these are individual liberty and the right to keep the majority of the fruits of one’s labors because that right harnesses the power of human ambition and rewards it.

This means that fiscal conservatism has morality on its side because it creates the system for the largest number of individuals to flourish, while not abandoning the truly needy to their deaths and assisting the temporarily unlucky back to productivity and self-reliance.

I see two main issues. First, I don’t think this present anything other than a grotesque caricature of Progressives or those in the center (non-conservatives for short). It seems to presume only conservatives want a “…right to keep the majority of the fruits of one’s labors” for individuals. While some on the broadly speaking “left” may favor confiscatory taxation that this assumes, I don’t think it is a widespread belief among progressives or moderates. Favoring raising tax rates back to where they were under Bill Clinton is hardly favoring confiscatory taxes. In other words, in this post, the left are straw-men defending some crazy polar case that almost no non-conservative would defend or advocate.

The second issue is that most non-conservatives also favor: “not abandoning the truly needy to their deaths and assisting the temporarily unlucky back to productivity and self-reliance”. That many on the right favor this same thing is more debatable.

I may be presenting a straw-man in suggesting some on right are devoid of simple altruism, but the “left” in the post is also a straw-man. And is this just straw-man? Later in the comment this appears from a true Randian:

The real problem is that conservatives by and large agree with the left’s moral premise, which is altruism. Altruism is the morality that denies our right to exist for our own sake and demands self-sacrifice for the sake of others. According to altruism, working strictly or primarily for one’s own benefit is selfish and therefore evil.

I challenge you to find a conservative willing to denounce altruism and uphold it’s opposite — the individualist morality of egoism, which holds that all men are ends in themselves with the right to exist for their own sake, by means of their own honest effort, without being required to sacrifice for anyone one else.

With the clear implication that the “truly needy” at least may be on their own – and good luck to them!

Altruism is the normal human impulse I think. Altruism originating in compassion not guilt is healthy, and the case against Altruism generally has always left me unmoved, and in my opinion is totally impossible to reconcile with with Christian Gospel that I also believe in.

It seems to me that most of the left and the center, where I’d put myself favor a safety net to protect those in society who are the most vulnerable, the poor, sick and disadvantaged, consistent with allowing the productive to keep the bulk of the fruits of their labors. This post is nicely written but mostly stomps the guts out of a straw-man, not the views of most non-conservatives in the US in 2010.

Protecting the rights of the productive, and those in need through no fault of their own is not owned by the right, the widely made claims to the contrary not withstanding. I think the debate is just about what legitimately belong in the social safety net, and what share of goods produced (well below the majority) should go to that safety net. Is health care a part of such a social safety net for example?

John B. Taylor: Flying Back to Treasury on 9/11

I was in a hotel room in Tokyo when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Recently sworn in as Under Secretary at Treasury, I was part of a delegation to Japan that included Paul O’Neill and many reporters, including Michael Phillips of the Wall Street Journal. We all watched the tragedy on television. I got very close—it seemed like inches—to the TV screen. When the first tower started collapsing I looked up from the screen to see faces of horror, disbelief, for some reason noticing, and now remembering, Michael Phillips’ look of utter shock. No one knew it then but Michael would later do five tours in Iraq imbedded with the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines and would write a moving book in 2005, The Gift of Valor, about a young Marine corporal, who sacrificed his life to save his fellow marines, a great American hero in what would come to be the global war on terror. The Marine, Jason Dunham, was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2006.

We immediately cancelled our meetings in Japan and by the next morning—still 9/11 in the United States—we were on a C-17 military jet flying back to America. The plane ride back from Japan was eerie. A C-17 is about as long as a DC-10, but when you’re inside it seems much bigger and more cavernous—an “echoing belly” is how General Tommy Franks described it—designed to hold tanks and other large military equipment. The only passenger seats are straight-backed canvas jump seats bolted along the metal wall of the fuselage. Unable to lie down or even slouch in those seats, some of us simply spread out on the cold bare metal deck when we wanted to sleep.

To get back faster we had an aerial refueling over Alaska. It took place at night, though at that latitude and elevation it seemed like perpetual twilight. The Air Force pilot invited me to watch the refueling from the cockpit, and it was amazing—the most impressive combination of advanced technology, hand-eye coordination, precision teamwork, and raw nerve that I had ever observed.

The rendezvous with the tanker jet had been arranged when the flight plan was put together in Japan. When we got close to the designated time and place, the pilots started looking for the tanker, which was to fly up from a base in Alaska. They first located the tanker plane on radar. Soon after that, they got visual contact. The co-pilot said to me, “See it, sir? It’s right out there.” But I couldn’t see a thing except stars and the twilight at the horizon.

Our plane was to approach the tanker from underneath, and as we got closer to the tanker the small speck the pilots could see grew until suddenly there was this huge jet plane only a few feet above us. Our pilot was using a specially-designed joy stick with a monitoring device consisting of rows of lights that turned red or green depending on whether our plane was coming up at the right position relative to the tanker. It reminded me a lot of a computer game, but this was for real. These two huge jets were zooming through the dark at something like 500 miles per hour, so it was amazing to me, though seemingly routine to those pilots, that the planes were close enough to each other that I could see the faces of the guys in the tanker as they lowered the fuel hose and somehow got it to go into the opening in our fuel tank. After a while the tank registered full and the hose was pulled back in, the tanker disappeared into the night, and we headed home across Canada. As we flew into the lower 48 there were no commercial flights to be seen. The plane’s radar screen was nearly blank.

That remarkable night time aerial refueling would mark a watershed for me and my responsibilities at Treasury. It was the beginning of a much closer cooperation and coordination with the Defense Department and with the U.S. military. It was also the start of many completely new experiences that I could never have expected when I signed up for a job in Treasury. I suppose I could have gotten a little spooked being in that cockpit but I felt very calm, kind of resigned to a new purpose where I would be forging new teams to handle new tasks, and I would be relying on the expertise and experience of others—people like these pilots—and they would be relying on mine. I slept well that night on the steel deck. Months later when I would fly on other military planes—C-130 transports in Afghanistan, Blackhawk helicopters in Iraq—I would always feel just as calm, even at the times when it looked like I was in harm’s way.

When I got back to Washington, the city was on alert. DC was a logical place for another attack, and the secret service was particularly concerned about security around the White House and the adjacent buildings which included the Treasury. We planned for the worst case scenarios. We made lists of essential jobs that would have to be done if the Treasury was wiped out—running the $30 billion Exchange Stabilization Fund in case we had to intervene in the currency markets was an example. We visited the remote locations that we would live in if the Treasury Building was destroyed, developed plans for continuity of operations and continuity of government, and reviewed the order of succession. We cancelled the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, which had been scheduled to be held in Washington on September 29th and 30th. Our intelligence experts expected large groups of protestors and a meeting with thousands of foreign financial officials, bankers, and press would have severely stretched the already overextended Washington security forces. And we had many other things to do.

Condensed from Global Financial Warriors

Economics One

via Flying Back to Treasury on 9/11.

Is totalitarianism just big government?

You hear President Obama equated with Hitler or Stalin a lot these days. This seemingly implies that spending or a government role in health care is dictatorship. Is that true?

You see the question asked here:

Unfortunately, all I got out of the story is the nagging thought of how insane is Dan Mitchell? Why? Well, because Mitchell boils all of communism’s problems down to excessive government:

This chart, comparing inflation-adjusted per-capita GDP in Chile and Cuba, is a good illustration of the human cost of excessive government.

He goes on to show a chart of per-capita GDP growth between Chile and Cuba. As if Chile has been the model of restraint over the past few decades. Sure, Chile liberated it’s markets, but Pinochet was a disaster to every individual’s rights — something I’m assuming CATO still stands up for.

I also think the answer is no big government like Europe or Obama’s US are not dictatorships.

More here: