Meghan McCain and Who is Talking

Meghan McCain

Meghan McCain recently gave an interview lamenting the fact that because she and fellow hosts on The View are women, their conversations and arguments are treated differently than if the same heated discussions were debated by men. McCain is absolutely right but the problem goes far beyond her assertion. Let me explain.

There is no doubt when McCain and Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg or other hosts get into a heated argument it is described as a cat-fight or they are being shrill with one another. There is an inherent sexism in the way she and her co-hosts are viewed. This is an enormous problem in the country and in the world. I don’t want to minimize her point but it’s the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Viewers of the show also dismiss one woman or the other because of their perceived political affiliation.

Many people dismiss gay men who speak in a high-pitched voice. Many people dismiss those who speak with a southern accent. Right here in my beloved home state of Missouri we dismiss people because of they way they pronounce it: Missouree or Missourah. If you say it one way, you’re just some city slicker who doesn’t understand rural issues and if the other then you’re a country bumpkin.

You can repeat a quote and attribute it to one president and get cheers but then explain it was actually a president from a different party and be showered with boos.

I don’t want to single you out but it is abundantly clear actions you consider egregious from a politician affiliated with your party would be excused if that person belonged to the other party. You can pretend the Emperor isn’t naked but the reality is completely the opposite. You know for a fact the horrors you accuse one person of committing, you would absolutely ignore if they were from the other party. Don’t even bother trying to lie to me, go ahead and lie to yourself if it makes you feel better.

There is a huge problem when the most attention is paid to who is saying something and not what is being said. McCain is a woman; this is true but irrelevant. When she gets into a debate with Goldberg or one of her co-hosts; listen to what they are both saying. Evaluate the words and concepts, not the person or the political ideology.

I’m reminded of a quote from a despicable fellow by the name of Martin Shkreli: “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government,” he said after being grilled by Congress about a massive increase in drug prices. When a fellow is right, he’s right, no matter what I think of him personally.

Tom Liberman

Why did Katie Hill Resign?

Katie Hill

There’s been a fascinating story in the news about United States Representative Katie Hill who resigned from her position after having sexual relations with a campaign aide, having lurid photos of her published in various news outlets, and being accused of having relations with a member of her staff. Why did she resign? Why is this even a story? Who actually cares? These are the things I hope to examine today.

Of all the things that Hill did, or has been accused of doing, the only one that presents a legal problem is engaging in consensual sexual relations with a staffer. In 2018 Congress enacted rules against doing so, this largely in response to the #MeToo movement in which generally women were coerced into sexual relations with their, often male, elected officials or faced retribution for refusing to do so.

The second issue involved the fact that the male aide she had sex with was twenty-two years old. Some people have a problem with that. The final problem is the lurid pictures of Hill that appeared in various outlets, generally from those of an opposing political philosophy. Some think Hill showed bad judgement in taking the pictures.

As a Libertarian I don’t have a problem with anything Hill did and I have a problem with anyone who does, although that is certainly their right. If Hill wants to have sexual relations with a staffer then she should do so, as should anyone who works with anyone else. I understand that someone in a supervisory position can coerce an underling with various threats and I understand why members of Congress passed such rules. That being said, I think consenting adults should have as much sex in as many positions as possible. It’s no one else’s business.

If someone behaves in an illegal way; firing the underling for cutting off the relationship, blackmailing someone into having sex, that should be pursued with due diligence. The problem isn’t people having consensual sex, it’s that the legal establishment has long ignored those who were coerced or lost their jobs because they refused such advances. The rules preventing such behavior are clearly being selectively applied, every member of Congress, male and female, is aware of other members having consensual relationships with staffers and does nothing because everyone is happy as rabbits, as well they should be.

As for Hill having sex with a man ten years her junior. Good for both of them! I wrote an article about a woman having sex with an eighteen-year-old friend of her daughter some years back and my opinion has not changed. We have decided, for whatever reason, eighteen is the age of consent. Perhaps we find a fifty-year-old man dating an eighteen-year-old woman distasteful but that’s their business, not mine, and not yours.

Finally, as to the naked photos, I have a very strong opinion on that. If Hill or anyone else wants to take lurid pictures of themselves that is their business. The despicable people in this are those who chose to publish the pictures without Hill’s consent. Their behavior is both criminal and immoral from where I’m sitting. Posting lurid pictures of another person without getting permission first? Sick, disgusting. Doing so for political gain? I’d honestly like to put a bullet in the head of whoever made that decision but I’ll restrain myself because I know doing so is illegal.

Hill should not have resigned, she did, as far as I’m concerned, nothing wrong.

Tom Liberman

Brexit Vote is the Origin of the Problem

Brexit Vote

The Brexit Vote is the main culprit in the convulsive process that has largely paralyzed the United Kingdom for the last three years. There are a lot of things that can be said about the issue but from this Libertarian’s perspective the entire problem comes down to a single cause. They let people vote.

It’s important to understand that we live in a Representative Democracy and not a Direct Democracy. We elect politicians who decide policy. After a period of time new elections take place and we can replace anyone whose decisions we don’t like. In a Direct Democracy the people vote for policy decisions much in the way they did with the Brexit Vote.

We only need to see the results of that Brexit Vote to understand why having the people make political decisions is a bad idea. Not that leaving the European Union was a bad idea or a good idea, but the politicians weren’t committed one way or the other. The vote lead to exactly where we are today.

Would you have the people vote for any decision in your life? Would you have the people vote for important moments in your life? The answer is obviously no. If we take a poll of people across your region, what restaurant would be deemed the best? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Cracker Barrel, it’s just not really all that good. If I’m taking a sexy, dark-haired girl with a wicked sense of humor, impressive intellect, disdainful attitude, and a barrel full of crazy to a nice dinner, well, Cracker Barrel isn’t going to be my choice. No offense.

This problem is not only associated with the Brexit Vote but with referendums across the United States and a general lack of will in politicians. It’s the impetus to the War Powers Act which I wrote about not long ago. It’s related to the Emergency Powers Act. Our politicians lack the will to make difficult decisions and therefore they pass the decision on either to the people or to the Executive. Both choices are bad. One gives the important decision-making power to the average person and the other invests one person with far too much power.

We elect people to make decisions; from local School Boards to the United States Congress and all the places in between. Those elected officials need to make decisions and then face the voters later based on their choices.

Anything else leads to a mess. The evidence of the Brexit Vote is clear.

Tom Liberman

Forced Evacuations and Government Responsibility

Forced Evacuations Hurricane

With the tropical storm season underway and our first Forced Evacuations occurring in Florida, I thought it a good time to chime in on the subject. What responsibility does government; local, state, and federal, have in protecting us from dangerous natural disasters? Should they be able to take us from our homes in forced evacuations?

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue. The unpredictability of natural disasters like hurricanes and volcanic eruptions often mean that many people were forced to leave their homes when the calamity never arrived. This is essentially government protecting people who do not want or presumably need such shielding.

On the other hand, it is often the case that citizens refuse to evacuate a location and end up in a situation where government agents spend time and effort rescuing such people. This costs money and, of course, there are those who cannot be rescued and die. These people would all have been better off if they complied with the evacuation order. Thus, government officials feel justified in a forced evacuation. If you won’t leave on your own, you’ll leave at the barrel of a gun wielded by your friendly law enforcement officers. If you’re too stupid to save yourself, we’ll do it for you.

It’s obviously not just forced evacuations but all sorts of mandatory actions the government puts on its citizens in the face of potential emergency. Stores are closed, businesses lose revenue, people lose salary, and various other economic consequences occur when the government makes such decisions for us. Yet, the amount of money lost is miniscule compared to the dollars spent if the businesses remained open and occupied and the potential disaster came to fruition.

The answer for this Libertarian is not so simple and certainly painful. In today’s world there is no excuse not to know a dangerous situation is impending. The government has every right to warn citizens and make suggestions about their behavior. If people refuse, they should not expect the government to make any attempt to rescue them. It’s easy to say something like that but what if thousands of people are about to drown? Would I send in a rescue team? Of course, I would. Therein lies the problem.

Were I in charge in such a situation I would simply make that reality plain to all. There is the potential for a disaster. I recommend you leave. If you choose to stay you might not be rescued but I will do my best to rescue you in any case. It will cost money and that will be paid for out of taxes from all the people who did heed the warning, and everyone else in the region.

The other option is to force evacuations when most of the time they are unwarranted. This also costs money. Neither option is perfect, neither is life, or tracking the path of a hurricane.

Tom Liberman

The Resignation of Sir Kim Darroch does No One Any Good

Sir Kim Darroch

Recently some messages from the former British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch, were leaked to the public and the resulting chain of events are an interesting study in diplomacy, secrecy, and foreign relations.

There are a number of problems with the events as they came to pass that may or may not have long term repercussions on the way the world’s powers deal with one another. As an ambassador it is important to report back honest assessments to your superiors. Then they can make informed decisions about the future. If an ambassador reports a rosy picture or a bleak picture that doesn’t match up with their understanding of the situation, bad decisions are the likely result.

Imagine for a moment you are about to make a major purchase. Someone you trust gives you all sorts of information but it turns out much of that is inaccurate. Maybe it was what they thought you wanted to hear, perhaps it was done at the behest of the manufacturer of the item in question, maybe the person so reporting just can’t be counted on to give an accurate assessment. The result is the same in all cases. You make a major purchase lacking truthful knowledge. Maybe it turns out to be a fine purchase but the chances it turns out to be a mistake are much higher.

That’s the problem with what just happened with Darroch. The information he sent back was his honest opinion of the situation but because it was leaked to the public, his position with the mercurial President Trump became untenable. He could no longer do his job satisfactorily.

This leads us to the results of what happened. Will the next ambassador be less likely to paint a negative picture if there is a chance her or his job is on the line? She or he might lose their salary which pays for the food on the table? This is not just about England and the United States but all ambassadors. What if an ambassador for the United States was removed from her or his position in a volatile region and replaced with someone who, out of fear of losing her or his job, reported nothing but good news? I think you can see how this adversely affects our nation.

We live in an age where information like that revealed in the Darroch situation is more and more likely to be released. Such situations are increasingly common which, it seems to me, have a chilling impact on the ability of nations to accurately understand each other and make proper political and strategic decisions.

What’s to be done about it? No easy answers to that one, at least not from me. Once something like that is released, it cannot be easily ignored. Even if Darroch stayed in his position it is likely those who dealt with him on a regular basis would change their behavior to account for his assessments. Certainly, President Trump is a childish and vindictive man but so too are other world leaders.

The idea the world would be a better place if we were all completely open and honest with one another is utter nonsense. Some things need to be left unsaid to the person’s face in order to get along. It is in all our best interest if nations get along well with one another. The world is a better place when men like Darroch are allowed to do their difficult jobs and make their reports in secret.

My final conclusion? It’s a bad situation and I’m sorry it happened.

Tom Liberman

Why it is not a Good Idea to Prosecute Political Foes

Prosecute Political Foes

There is a mood among Democrats to prosecute President Trump after he leaves office for activities which they deem illegal. I want to be clear, it is a terrible idea to prosecute political foes. This very activity brought about the end of the Roman Republic and it’s quite easy to understand why.

Julius Caesar was governor of Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), Illyricum (southeastern Europe), and Transalpine Gaul (southern France) for a term of five years. During this time, he engaged in enormous conquest and, almost certainly, illegal behavior. After his term of five years ended, he was ordered to return to Rome, ostensibly to face charges for his crimes while governor.

Without political power, Caesar was largely left with two choices. He could submit to the new government and almost certainly be imprisoned if not executed and have his money taken from him. His other option was to take dictatorial power for himself to avoid these consequences. He chose the latter. It’s difficult to blame him for doing so.

It is almost certain President Trump has committed any number of crimes while in office, he seems to think any law that thwarts his fickle mood of the moment is something to be ignored. Many of his political allies and appointments are equally cavalier with the rule of law. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if documents of his activities were obtained, they would show a penchant for illegal activity. A conviction is all but assured. Many of his allies would also end up in prison and lose their riches.

Naturally, they don’t want this to happen and would resort to whatever means required to prevent it from happening, as did Caesar. Their loyal supporters would likely behave with the same goals in mind.

How do we prevent this? Simply don’t prosecute political foes for their oft-illegal activities after they leave office. Let them go on about their way as much as you hate to see them “getting away” with criminal activity.

It seems to me to be unnecessary to remind supporters of Trump their own culpability in the current Democratic led prosecute political foes fervor but I suspect I must. The entire “Lock Her Up” movement and attempts to criminally prosecute Obama and Clinton allies is part and parcel of the reason Democrats are so riled up. In other words, look in the mirror, bitches.

We have a system in the United States which allows us to rid ourselves of politicians we don’t like. It’s called an election. Let’s focus on that.

Tom Liberman

The President Cannot Legally Implement Tariffs

Tariffs

It is important to understand that the President of the United States absolutely, without question, does not have the power to implement tariffs without approval from Congress. This power is designated specifically to Congress by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in the Constitution is the president given any power to do so alone.

I find it amazing that congress has allowed President Trump, the first president to ever unilaterally implement tariffs, to do so. They have largely done so because they either like giving the president such power or they have completely given up on the responsibilities the Constitution grants them.

In either case, President Trump is now implementing new tariffs that business leaders across the United States, like the Chamber of Commerce, and most of Congress itself oppose. They are threatening, finally, to bring the matter to the courts where it seems impossible to me that such actions will be not be struck down as illegal. Why have they waited so long? Why do they still hesitate?

This action by the president, the past actions by the president in regards to tariffs, are clearly illegal. If the president wants to implement tariffs then said president must go to Congress and get them to pass the law through the normal process or get them to grant him the ability to do so.

The precedent set by these illegal tariffs is enormously damaging. One does not have to strain the mind at all to imagine a time when a Democratic President simply bypasses a Republican Congress by acting illegally. I’m certain Republicans would be crying foul at that point but perhaps, just maybe, yesterday is when they should have been squawking.

This willingness to support illegal policies because they come from a party for whom you vote or even because you support the political ideology of the action is baffling to this Libertarian. Cannot you see what is good for the goose is good for the gander? By allowing such illegal acts you set yourself up for future retribution?

If the Constitution of the United States is to be ignored so blatantly in one part, what is to stop a president from ignoring all of it?

Tom Liberman

Deputy Marco Lopez Fired for Running for Office Against his Boss

Marco Lopez Fired

In Osceola County, Florida, a deputy named Marco Lopez decided to run for the position of sheriff against his boss, Sheriff Russ Gibson. He was summarily fired. When I read the headline, I was rather disturbed but then I read the entire story and my agitation reached new levels. You see, what was done is mandated by law.

You read that correctly, it is illegal in Florida to run for sheriff against your current boss while maintaining position as a deputy. The reason being that it is a sign of disloyalty. What Gibson did was not only legal, but actually required by the law, although perhaps he did it several months before he was required to do so. The idea that you cannot run for political office against a superior without being fired because you are disloyal is an affront to my sensibilities.

Of course, you can run against your immediate superior for such a position. Such is done every single day in every other profession across this country of ours and the world in general. Can you imagine telling a young athlete they are not allowed to try for a starting position on the team against the established veteran? Can you imagine being told the state mandates you’re not allowed to apply for the position your boss currently holds without first being fired?

It’s ludicrous. It’s madness. Of course, you can seek a higher position while remaining fully loyal and hardworking at your current job. It goes without saying that you can do your current job with skill and dedication while seeking a better one. We should all do our best at all times, regardless of what future position we might seek.

It is only natural we seek a better job, a promotion. If we did not there would be something wrong. If I were sheriff, I’d be upset if those under me didn’t want to eventually have my job. It would show a lack of initiative and ambition if they did not.

If Lopez defeats Gibson for the job of sheriff it is because he will have run a better campaign and the people think he is better suited for the position. Competition is the backbone of capitalism, even within the government. How many times are elected officials replaced by those who were once or remain their underlings?

Now, to be clear, Florida has every right to pass whatever law they desire. If Lopez was actually disloyal or performing his job badly, then Gibson should fire Lopez. Otherwise, let the voters decide.

Tom Liberman

Loot Boxes to be Outlawed by the Federal Government

Loot Boxes

Once again, an overreaching, big government loving politician is trying to intrude into the lives of citizens, this time by banning so-called loot boxes. The Senator in question happens to be Republican Josh Hawley from my beloved home state of Missouri. I have one thing to say but I can’t say it or the FCC will fine me. Poop on you, Senator Hawley and I’ll be happy to tell you why.

Loot Boxes are in game transactions where game players can purchase various things. Games like Fortnite, Candy Crush, and many others rely on these purchases for revenue. The games are otherwise free to download and play. People make the purchases for a variety of things like cosmetic skins to make their character look cool, extra items to help progress the game, and things of that nature.

Senator Hawley uses the fact that children are part of the market for such games as an excuse to foist his morality upon us. We must save the children he says; ignoring the fact that the majority of people who play the games and spend money on them are over 18. Ignoring the fact that children can’t make such purchases without a credit card on which their parents can easily place limits. No, good old big government Senator Hawley thinks he knows best how we should lead our lives and isn’t at all shy about forcing us to do it by his rules.

If Senator Hawley is successful then games like Fortnite, which have generated an enormous amount of revenue for not only the makers of the game but many ancillary companies and millions of hours of fun for willing gamers, will no longer be free to play. Double poop and a Libertarian pox upon thee!

If someone wants to pump money into a video game then it’s their right to do so. If a kid does so then it’s up to that child’s parents to control their spending. It is absolutely, positively, not the government’s job to protect us from spending money on video games.

You, Senator Hawley and all the rest like you, are not our guardians. You do not get to dictate how we lead our lives or how we spend our money. It’s this paternalistic gobbledygook that created the entire overreaching, nanny state in which we currently reside. There is a law against everything and every citizen is a criminal. The state simply gets to decide who to arrest and when.

If I don’t want to pay a microtransaction on loot boxes then I won’t do so. If I don’t want my non-existent child to do so then I’ll restrict her or his credit card. Get out of my personal life, Senator Hawley.

Tom Liberman

Women with Small Breasts Face Discrimination in Australian Pornography

Small Breasts

There’s an interesting story making the rounds in social media about Australian women with small breasts being banned from appearing in pornographic material which illustrates an important point about how poorly written laws attack freedom. Basically, in an attempt to eliminate child pornography, the government of Australia ruled that women who appear to be under 18 are not allowed to appear in such material. This law has largely affected women with small breasts.

The idea being that if a small breasted woman wants to appear in pornographic material there is a chance a pedophile might fantasize the woman is a young girl. There are any number of problems with this law including the idea that a woman’s breast size is somehow a predictor of her age.

Another question that arises is who makes the decision on what makes a woman appear to be under eighteen? It is clearly an arbitrary choice based not only on breast size but facial appearance and body size as a whole. It would also seem to suggest men in general that women with larger breasts are womanlier. As a fellow who loves sporty ladies, I find this rather offensive but that is beside the point.

The net result is that women with small breasts are being systematically removed from pornographic material in Australia. This is obviously unfair to women with small breasts. They are clearly being discriminated against and their professional lives taken from them by an overbearing government bent on saving us from pedophiles.

This situation is an extremely nice microcosm of the many ridiculous laws foisted off on us by a government claiming they are only doing it to protect us. I’m not opposed to all laws but ludicrous laws, selectively enforced, are a danger to all of our freedoms. Ask a minority driver in the United States who owns an older car how many times she or he has been pulled over for making a wide turn or not signaling within 100 feet of a turn. Then ask a non-minority driver in a new car the same question.

I’ve written any number of articles associated with the miscarriage of not only justice but complete lack of human decency engendered by stupid laws. There is no doubt in my mind this new ruling in Australia will do absolutely nothing to curtail the use of children in pornographic material and will do actual harm to citizens of that country who have nothing to do with such an industry.

Congratulations do-gooders of Australia, you’ve made the situation worse with a stupid law. That’s what bad laws do. Let’s try to avoid them.

Tom Liberman

Why is Human Composting Illegal in the First Place?

Human Composting

The State of Washington is poised to make Human Composting legal. Human Composting is a method of disposing of a corpse by simply covering it with compostable materials where it is broken down over the course of a month or two. The process is currently illegal in most states and this Libertarian asks the obvious question, why?

I’m of the opinion that the ban on any procedure other than burial or cremation speaks to the heart of the idea of limited government and reasonable regulation. I think it’s perfectly rational to have restrictions on how to properly dispose of a human corpse. Dumping a body along a main thoroughfare is clearly something against the general interests of the people. Government officials have a responsibility to carry out the will of the people and while someone might find it convenient to throw grandma’s body onto the highway, most of us will be severely inconvenienced by such an action.

The problem is the regulation that prevents any other method except those approved by the state. Instead the limitations should be much vaguer and allow people the freedom to dispose of their loved ones in a variety of ways. The regulation could simply read that corpses should be disposed of in designated regions in a manner that doesn’t inconvenience others. That way people would be free to conduct the process as they saw fit with the minor limitations as stated. Judges could make common sense rulings in regards to those who failed to obey the law.

A regulation so worded would allow Human Composting without any sort of government intervention. We wouldn’t need someone to sponsor a bill, to lobby politicians, or to fight against the existing purveyors of cremation and burial who have a vested interest in preventing the legalization of Human Composting as an economic threat.

This is what Libertarians mean when we speak of limited government. We don’t advocate anarchy and the dumping of human corpses wherever might be convenient. The problem is that regulations are so specific they make doing business impossible unless you bribe politicians into passing rules that benefit your company. This is Crony Capitalism and it is rampant in our nation from Federal to State to Local government.

Ask yourself, why is Human Composting illegal? It’s a perfectly reasonable method of disposing of a corpse and, frankly, the choice I think many people would make if given the option. I know I do.

Tom Liberman

EB-5 Program and Buying United States Citizenship

EB-5 Hudson Yards

Until I read a fascinating story, I had not heard of something called the EB-5 Visa Program for foreign investors. The idea is simple enough. If a foreign investor pumps $500,000 to a $1,000,000 into a project targeting a rural or poor urban area, their children are given legal rights to live in the United States. What could go wrong? Exactly what you would expect.

Basically, the meaning of jobs being created and poor regions as defined by the EB-5 was stretched so that most of the money went to fund luxury projects in wealthy cities. Districts were drawn to include poor regions but the vast majority of the construction took place in wealthy areas. That along with the fact that some of the developers simply absconded with large sums of money.

Most of the investors appear to come from China and individuals of enormous wealth found a way to invest their money not only with a financial return but also a pathway to United States citizenship for their children.

Personally, I’m not convinced the EB-5 program was created with the best of intentions at all. The politicians back in 1990, when it was implemented, most likely well-understand where the money would go and created a system by which it could flow to wealthy regions while following the loose guidelines of the program.

I’m not even upset the money went to fund luxury projects like Hudson Yards. I’m also not opposed to foreign nationals purchasing U.S. citizenship, which is exactly what is going on despite any arguments to the contrary. What makes me angry is pretending to be doing a good and wonderful thing by helping out the poor in rural regions and urban cities when there was never any such intention.

Some of the money did, in fact, go to projects of the nature for which they were intended but I strongly suspect that would have been the case even if the base purpose of the program was to simply attract foreign investments. When money comes into the United States for various projects it is a good thing. It would be nice if more money was spent to help poor rural areas and poverty ridden urban regions but reality is a tough mistress.

People largely don’t want luxury apartments in rural regions or the poor areas of the inner city. However, when a region undergoes development the area around it often improves as well. This reality is the best we can hope to accomplish.

Creating a program like EB-5 with unrealistic expectations of development in rural and poor regions is an exercise in deceit. I’m here to help, said the politician while stuffing their stomach at the trough. My Libertarian sensibilities say, go ahead and stuff your face, but be honest about it.

If the EB-5 program was created honestly, I’m certain organizations like Asian Americans for Equality would have found a way to use that money to help the poor in both rural and urban regions. I’m sure many investors believed they were doing a good thing because the project was under the mantle of the EB-5.

Tell investors the truth. This project is in a wealthy region and this other one is in a disadvantaged region. You decide which one in which to invest. I’d guess you’d have had more money going to the sorts of projects the entire program was designed to fund in the first place.

Tom Liberman

Why the Government should not Ground 737 MAX Planes

737 MAX
Boeing 737-MAX8-200 K66201

The Federal Aviation Administration, at the behest of President Trump, has grounded Boeing 737 MAX airplanes because of two accidents over the last five months involving such planes. There is not yet evidence to suggest the crashes are related to one another or a problem with the plane but the public perception is that there is such a correlation. My question today is if the government should mandate airlines stop flying the planes?

Most of Europe, China, Canada, Panama and some other countries had already mandated various airlines stop flying the planes while other nations largely left the decision up to the companies. The first question you might ask yourself is how the United States federal government has the power to dictate to a private company which planes to fly. I discussed much of their reasoning in a blog back in May of 2017. I won’t go into details but if you want to learn more please peruse that article.

Certainly, people are afraid. Southwest Airline is the largest user of the 737 MAX planes with 34 of them and they are offering customers a chance to change flights to a different plane free of charge. This is an example of capitalism, without government interference, in action. If enough people refuse to fly on the 737 MAX planes it is fairly obvious that Southwest and other airlines would stop using them until some sort of safety check was in place.

It is clear the 737 MAX planes have flown many times without incident since they began service in May of 2017. However, two accidents within half a year does bring into question the plane’s general safety. This brings us to the topic at hand. It is better for the government to mandate the stoppage or to let each airline make the decision independently of oversight?

No one was calling for the plane to be grounded before the second accident so neither of those tragedies would have been prevented by a grounding. After the second accident the airlines were largely offering people a chance to fly on different planes so the net result of the grounding is relatively small and I suspect if enough people changed flights the airlines would have grounded the planes on their own. The practical difference is fairly small although I’m sure that would come as no comfort to the families of victims if there is a third crash.

I absolutely prefer letting each airline make their own decision about the 737 MAX. The reason is there is potential for government malfeasance. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that politicians, all the way up to and including the president, might have a grudge against one company or another and use this power to influence profits. This is Crony Capitalism at its worst.

I recognize this is a special circumstance to some degree but I’m largely against the government interfering in business decisions and that goes for this situation as well. I don’t think this grounding makes anyone safer and it further cements the idea that government has and should use this sort of power. That is a danger in itself.

Tom Liberman

Philadelphia Bans Cashless Stores and Why It is Silly

Cashless Stores

The idea of Cashless stores has been around for a while now but with Amazon set to open a series of Amazon Go outlets around the country it’s getting more news. The city of Philadelphia has now passed a law making in mandatory for most retail stores to accept cash. Cashless stores are also banned in the state of Massachusetts with similar bans being considered in New York and New Jersey. Why is all this happening and will the legislative efforts solve the issues or make them worse?

The reason retail outlets want to go cashless is because they can streamline their operations. They don’t need cashiers to make change, count cash, or risk being robbed while delivering bags of money to the bank. A quick swipe and you’re out of the store.

The reason politicians want to ban it is because such cashless stores inordinately affect the poor. People from lower income classes don’t always have credit cards or debit cards or smart phones. This means that if every grocery store in a particular region had become a cashless store, those people would not be able to purchase groceries.

It’s important to understand that both of these arguments are absolutely true. If retail outlets streamline their processes that translates to savings for consumers. If poor people are unable to purchase basic necessities that means suffering for them. We like lower prices but we don’t like suffering. The deciding factor then becomes if the proposed legislation is going to alleviate the problem it purports to solve.

Retail outlets want your money. They want rich people’s money and they want poor people’s money. There are a good number of poor people in this country and if grocery outlets shut them out then the company itself will certainly suffer. This is something the business fully understands, better than any politician I’d guess. They know the numbers. Because of this knowledge, retailers like Amazon now offer lower cost membership to low-income families enabling them to make purchase. I’d guess any grocery store in a low-income area would immediately make provisions to the do the same, they don’t want to lose out on all that business.

If a business is able to offer lower prices through modern business models, and we need look no further than Amazon and Walmart to see this, then people save money, everyone who purchases anything saves money. This includes poor people who will, if they want to purchase something at a cashless store, have to pay some amount for a debit card or a membership.

It’s my opinion in the end the poor person is going to save money by entering into the new business model, but I don’t see it as worse than a break-even proposition. That being the case, the legislation is putting an undue burden on the business, it is politicians sticking their noses in and creating laws that don’t help anyone.

The point of a law is help enforce a just system. When it the law does not do so, it shouldn’t be there at all.

Tom Liberman

Heather Nauert Demonstrates Lunacy of Politics

Heather Nauert

Heather Nauert was the planned nominee to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations but President Trump never formally submitted her name to the Senate. The reasons for this became clear when it was revealed that Nauert employed a foreign nanny who was not authorized to work in the United States. The fact that Nauert has now withdrawn from consideration fully demonstrates the political insanity that is the norm in our country.

Let me be clear, Nauert is almost entirely unqualified for the position for which she was being considered. She earned a degree in Communications and a masters in Journalism then went on to a broadcast career at Fox News and ABC News working on a variety of assignments. She has no experience in international relations and was given a job as spokesperson for the State Department in the Trump White House simply because she catered to his enormous ego and is an attractive woman. It’s really that simple.

That being said, Trump has every right to appoint whomever he wants to the position despite a of lack experience and qualifications. Nauert might have been an excellent Ambassador to the United Nations. It’s impossible for me to say one way or the other how she would have performed on the job. Now she cannot because the Trump Administration has made illegal immigration a key issue and Nauert employed someone who was not authorized to work but was legally in the country. The optics of such an appointment don’t look good.

The optics of appointing someone completely unqualified is apparently far less important than the optics of someone who has committed a minor infraction that benefited everyone involved. The nanny had a job making money, the Nauert family presumably had a hard-working and valued employee whom they trusted with their children. This is the reality of immigration, illegal or legal, but not the point I’m making today.

Where are we headed as a country if we can’t allow people to do their job because they’ve violated, or are even accused of violating, some relatively minor law?

Before you leap on me for favoring one party over the other, let me state unequivocally this is an issue that plagues both parties. If a person has done something deemed wrong in their past, they are generally immediately disqualified by people of the opposite party while completely defended by those of the same party. However, if the transgression involves some core value of the first political party then they are destroyed by infighting within their own ranks.

Anyone who has lived a full life is going to be vilified by one side or the other leaving us with no one left to actually do the job.

This particular incident boils my Libertarian blood in two ways. Nauert never should have been considered for the job based on her skill set and she never should have withdrawn because she employed a willing worker to do a needed job.

Congratulations America, watch as the rest of the world catches up and eventually surpasses us.

Tom Liberman

North Macedonia and the Libertarian Fight Against Nationalism

Macedonia

An absolutely fascinating situation regarding Nationalism played out recently in that the Republic of Macedonia hoped to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They were blocked in these efforts by Greece. Why? Largely because of tribal Nationalism. Let me explain.

The reason for the refusal was the people in Greece think of Macedonia with pride in regards to Alexander the Great and a province in Greece is named Macedonia. The Greeks regard this as part of their heritage and are extremely proud of it. Many of the people of the Republic of Macedonia feel the same way. In order to get into the EU and NATO the legislature of the Republic of Macedonia agreed to change the name of their nation to the Republic of North Macedonia. This change was a matter of great controversy and many people are extremely upset.

The point of Libertarians is largely that it doesn’t matter what you call something. The individual is greater than the state. As a writer I’m aware of the power of words. I’m not here to say it doesn’t make any difference to the pride of the people of both Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. I’m just saying the name we choose to call something makes no difference. I’m proud that I’m from Missouri. From a municipality called University City. That I went to the University of Idaho. That being said, the names of those places have nothing to do with my pride.

I’m proud to have played Water Polo, Swimming, Soccer, and Tennis at University City with a bunch of the best guys in the world. I wasn’t the most social fellow in the world and it wasn’t all good times, almost exclusively my own fault, but those guys, those times, that’s what gives me pride. The idea of a name change is relatable to me. When I played sports at University City, we were the Indians. The awards I earned, to be found somewhere around here, bear that logo.

Long after I graduated, the school board changed the mascot from Indians to Lions. There was the usual attempt to prevent the change but the name alteration went through and now we are the Lions. Does that change any of my memories? Does that change the good times I had with all those great friends? Does that change the victories or the defeats? The simple answer is no, it doesn’t.

Alexander the Great and Macedonia remain as they were regardless of what a nation calls itself today. People are who they are, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or their current living conditions.

I’m not telling you to stop being proud of who you are or to forget your heritage. I am saying the name you choose to call something is irrelevant. It changes nothing. What is past is irrevocable. The Greeks were wrong to deny the Republic of Macedonia entrance into the EU and NATO because of a name. The people of the Republic of Macedonia were wrong to care so much about changing the name.

It just doesn’t matter. The state is merely a name, a circumstance of birth, a way to communicate information. It means nothing and hopefully, someday, all nations will dissolve.

The individual is paramount. You are not a name, a place of birth, a high school, or a college.

Tom Liberman

Russia and the Battle for Soft Power

Soft Power

I just read an interesting article about how Russia is advancing their political cause by opening up educational opportunities to foreign students, this is an element of something called Soft Power. In the last twenty years Russia and China, perhaps realizing the United States military is largely unassailable, have been ramping up their use of this method of acquiring power in the world and we need be aware of this strategy.

I’ve written about how the United States is losing their edge in the education world more than once and you might want to peruse those articles here and here. Meanwhile, I’ll continue with this one.

The idea of Soft Power essentially means getting other nations to want to be like you. For the entire history of the United States we have enjoyed an enormous advantage in Soft Power simply because our Constitution guaranteed us freedom and with this freedom came upward mobility on a scale never before seen in the history of the world. Our colleges attracted foreign students in enormous numbers, and still do. These students went back to their home countries with stories about the plentiful opportunities the United States has to offer.

The effectiveness of this Soft Power was demonstrated particularly after World War II when it defeated the Soviet Union who, at the time, was much more interested in Hard Power. The United States offered hope and opportunity, a lady with open arms and a welcoming smile in the Upper New York Bay. When the United States came into existence there were very few nations in the world where the people were free, that has changed, largely because of our use of Soft Power rather than military exercises. Freedom has spread.

Success engenders imitation and the leaders of China and Russia, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, are spending a great deal of time, effort, and money in that flattery. They see it works and are now implementing various strategies across the globe designed to demonstrate the value of China and Russia to the people of other nations.

Meanwhile the United States is going in the opposite direction. We have fewer foreign students than we had ten years ago. We are actively attempting to reduce the number further. We are sanctioning more and more countries making it difficult or impossible for our greatest Soft Power asset, capitalistic ideology, to do business with foreign states.

The United States is still a leader in propagating Soft Power throughout the world but we are heading in the wrong direction while our chief rivals are moving to supplant us. An America first plan ensures that we will become America third before too long. Relying on Hard Power didn’t work for the Soviet Union and it’s not going to work for us.

Tom Liberman

Paul Whelan a Speculative Analysis

Paul Whelan

Paul Whelan was recently arrested and charged with espionage by the Russian government and this is making many headlines. There is a great deal of speculation as to whether or not Whelan was acting as a spy and I have my own thoughts about it which I’ll express here. I do want to be clear; my thoughts are largely speculative based on a limited amount of evidence. I could easily be wrong.

First a few facts about him. Whelan joined the marines as a young man but was given a bad conduct discharge for check fraud involving the use of someone else’s social security number. He visited Russia during this tenure and reportedly enjoyed his time there. He has tri-citizenship in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Irish Republic. He has made any number of trips to Russia over the years. He was reportedly in Russia at this time to help a friend plan a wedding party.

Now comes the speculative part of my article. Whelan strikes me as someone who has an inflated sense of intellect and importance. He also strikes me as someone with delusions of grandeur. This is the sort of person Russian Intelligence, Federal Security Service, loves to exploit, see Paul Manafort. What I imagine happened is that intelligence agents became aware of Whelan and his ego. They sent someone, likely an attractive woman, to get a sense if he could be manipulated. They quickly discovered he was susceptible to such tactics.

From there it was relatively straight-forward. Have someone approach Whelan claiming to be disenchanted with the Russian government. Have that person claim to know important intelligence information. Whelan then plays the fool. He goes somewhere the FSS has wired for video and sound. He solicits this agent for secret information. The agent turns over a thumb drive with said information to Whelan. Whelan leaves thinking he has pulled off a major spying victory for the United States. He will be a hero! The CIA will welcome him with open arms, maybe he will get to visit President Trump. Boom, down come the clamps.

I repeat, I’m speculating based on the limited information I have. It’s entirely possible Whelan is completely innocent and was picked up by the FSS and a fake thumb drive is being used as evidence. That he is going to be used by Vladimir Putin to trade for Maria Butina or Russians held here in the United States.

It’s also possibly Whelan was actually working for the CIA. That he was on some covert operation and the Russian’s caught him.

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Still, I think my explanation has the ring of truth to it. It’s quite likely we’ll never know the full truth. What do you think?

Tom Liberman

Welfarm and the Demise of the Family Farmer

Family Farmer

I just read an article written by a family farmer, Jim Goodman, who recently sold his herd of forty-five cows because economic conditions made continuing untenable. The article laments the steady demise of the family farmer in the United States and the growth of both factory farms and what the writer calls Land Barons. These are wealthy individuals who purchase smaller farms but don’t actually work on them, they own them simply as investments. While I feel sorry for Goodman, I won’t shed a tear for a group of people who vote for the bed they sleep in with unwavering devotion.

Let me explain. Welfarm caused this entire mess and Goodman acknowledges all the factors that caused the problem without once accepting the slightest bit of responsibility for it. Goodman contradicts himself in almost every paragraph. He blames ineffective government subsidies, apparently wanting more, when it is this very Welfarm that caused the oversupply he so passionately understands is the root of the issue.

The United States has a system of government that includes the Senate. The Senate doesn’t care about population. There are two senators per state and this gives rural states disproportionate power in Congress. This power has been used since the 1970s to expand a policy of get big or get out. Those who own small farms eagerly and continuously voted for politicians who perpetuated this policy as they handed out enormous sums of money to the family farmer. I need say no more than Ethanol and cheese although there are many, many more examples of this strategy.

Basically, the taxpayers of the United States have been pouring money into the pockets of farmers encouraging them to grow more and more. These policies have encouraged the family farmer to produce more milk. These policies have aided the enormous growth of factory farms.What needs to be done? Stop Welfarm. Yes, it will hurt farmers initially, I do not deny this fact. However, what will happen is output will shrink to match actual demand and only then will farmers get what Goodman says is the only thing they want, fair prices. Sadly, that’s not the only thing they want. They want tax dollars by the bushel and this dependence on government has destroyed them. They got exactly that for which they voted.

If a Libertarian Revolution is to sweep this country, and I hold out high hopes that it someday will, it will begin in rural areas only when people like Goodman recognize the policies of their picked politicians led to the destruction of the family farmer. Goodman recognizes the problem but his vote perpetuates it.

Tom Liberman

Why Does the Federal Reserve Raise Interest Rates?

Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve and the President of the United States seem to be at odds over the idea of raising interest rates. I’m of the opinion that most people, including many of my fellow Libertarians, don’t really understand the base purpose of the Federal Reserve and the point of increasing interest rates. I’m not an economist by trade but the issue is relatively straight-forward and I thought I’d take a few moments to go over it.

As I said, it’s relatively simple. Pretty much since the beginning of human history there has been something called the business cycle, or in common parlance, the boom-bust cycle. Basically, when times are good and people have plenty of money, they tend to spend it on speculative interests in the hope of gaining much more money. In contrast, when times are not good and money is in short supply, people have a tendency to hoard what they have. These two things exacerbate the business cycle.

Essentially, because people are spending more money on potentially enriching schemes during boom times the bubble goes to extremely high levels before it bursts and creates devastating economic destruction. Once the bust takes hold it is difficult to stop the downward spiral because people are reluctant to borrow money.

The solution created by Alexander Hamilton and the founders was the First Bank of the United States. Its primary idea was to raise interest rates during boom times thus curtailing people’s willingness to borrow money and fuel the boom and to lower interest rates during times of bust to encourage people to take out loans and pull the economy from its collapse.

It did not stop the business cycle altogether and thus its opponents, who felt there was artificial manipulation of the economy at the expense of growth abolished it. The booms and bust then grew much worse and so the Second Bank of the United States was formed with essentially the same goals as the first. Once again, the business cycle continued although with tempered effects because of the policies of the bank. As can be expected, people grew unhappy with the bank because they felt it was impacting the booming economy negatively and so it was abolished.

Immediately thereafter there again began a more virulent series of business cycles until Congress established the Federal Reserve which still exists to this day. As expected, the business cycles continue to be a problem as we have seen recently. One of the things that has happened since President Reagan is that the Federal Reserve has acted more to promote economic growth but not to slow it. This means, naturally that the boom cycle is not properly tempered.

That is the point of the Federal Reserve in their recent raising of interest rates. They desire to slow economic growth to temper the boom section of the business cycle. These actions anger the President of the United States in the midst of that cycle. Politicians desire to brag about the good they have done and lay blame for the bad, but the business cycle is beyond their control. The Federal Reserve cannot stop the cycle, the people who make policy can only hope to temper the catastrophic effects of the inevitable bust.

That is why it is generally considered a bad idea for politicians to dictate policy to the Federal Reserve. Their actions are often, and for good reason, opposite of those wished by the politicians.

Tom Liberman