Monday, September 12, 2005

This is Your America

via Radley Balko:

We're from the government and we're here to help.

Am I the only one who reacts to this with uncontrollable visceral anger? Am I the only one who thinks I should be able to determine what risks I do and do not take? Am I the only one who believes the home should be an inviolable sanctuary? WHY THE HELL AREN'T MORE PEOPLE PISSED ABOUT THIS?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Santorum and the Conservative Split

Virginia Postrel (the smartest woman in America) points us to this article by Jonathan Rauch which fortifies my earlier dismay at the anti-individual attitudes of our state senator, Rick Santorum. What Rauch gleans from Santorum's book, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, is a shift away from individual freedom that I would define as nothing short of frightening:

Freedom, for Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and others, was an end, not just a means. A government that allows individuals to pursue happiness in their own fashions, they believed, is most likely to produce a strong society and a virtuous citizenry; but the greatest benefit of freedom is freedom itself. Civic virtue ultimately serves individual freedom, rather than the other way around.

It was in this tradition that Goldwater wrote, "Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development." Note that first "and": Individual and social welfare go together -- they're not in conflict. All the government needs to do, Goldwater said, is get out of the way. "The conservative's first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?" Reagan spoke in the same tradition when he declared that government was the problem, not the solution to our problems.

Goldwater and Reagan, and Madison and Jefferson, were saying that if you restrain government, you will strengthen society and foster virtue. Santorum is saying something more like the reverse: If you shore up the family, you will strengthen the social fabric and ultimately reduce dependence on government.

Where Goldwater denounced collectivism as the enemy of the individual, Santorum denounces individualism as the enemy of family. On page 426, Santorum says this: "In the conservative vision, people are first connected to and part of families: The family, not the individual, is the fundamental unit of society." Those words are not merely uncomfortable with the individual-rights tradition of modern conservatism. They are incompatible with it.

Santorum seems to sense as much. In an interview with
National Public Radio last month, he acknowledged his quarrel with "what I refer to as more of a libertarianish Right" and "this whole idea of personal autonomy." In his book he comments, seemingly with a shrug, "Some will reject what I have to say as a kind of 'Big Government' conservatism."
They sure will. A list of the government interventions that Santorum endorses includes national service, promotion of prison ministries, "individual development accounts," publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, strengthened obscenity enforcement, covenant marriage, assorted tax breaks, economic literacy programs in "every school in America" (his italics), and more. Lots more.

Though he is a populist critic of Big Government, Santorum shows no interest in defining principled limits on political power. His first priority is to make government pro-family, not to make it small. He has no use for a constitutional (or, as far as one can tell, moral) right to privacy, which he regards as a "constitutional wrecking ball" that has become inimical to the very principle of the common good. Ditto for the notions of government neutrality and free expression. He does not support a ban on contraception, but he thinks the government has every right to impose one.

Wow. No, really.... WOW!

Not that I was prone to thinking Santorum was true to "limited government" principles, but this is indeed a VERY frightening summary of his true agenda. It is said that at the far right and far left ideologies begin to converge. This is what we are seeing from Santorum. Given the keys to the kingdom, he would define every aspect of our lives in a manner no less than a Ted Kennedy or a Hilary Clinton would.

If Rauch is right, Santorum could prove to be more of a threat to Goldwater conservatism, libertarianism, or classical liberalism than anyone on the other side of the aisle. A reelection of Santorum which is perceived as an endorsement of his anti-individual agenda could complete a shift of the focus of the Republican Party from a party at least nominally supporting limited government to one whose intention of expanding and excercising government power is open and avowed - thus squashing any small voice that small "l" libertarians have in two party politics completely.

As of reading this column, I share with my collectivist friends a common goal - the defeat of Rick Santorum.

The Ministry of Truth

is up and running:

The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.

The Ultimate Nanny State

After days of pleading with residents to leave this partly destroyed city, local officials said today that they would begin forced evacuations of all residents, including people living in dry and undamaged homes.

From the New York Times

so, when does the revolution begin?

Central Planners Stymie More than Just the Red Cross

Warren Meyer's been on top of it.

While turning down offers to help, when everyone agrees not enough is being done, may seem unthinkable, these are actually predictable outcomes from a bureaucracy of technocrats. Technocrats value process over results, order and predictability over achievement. More important than having problems fixed is having an ordered process, having everything and everyone under control. In this context, you can imagine their revulsion at the thought of having private citizens running around on their own in the disaster area trying to help people. We don't know where they are! We don't know what they are doing! They are not part of our process! Its too chaotic! Its not under control!

Nearly everyone who is in government has a technocratic impulse - after all, if they believed that bottom up efforts by private citizens working on their own was the way to get things done, they would not be in government trying to override those efforts. But most emergency organizations are off the scale in this regard. 99% of their time, they don't actually have an emergency to deal with - they are planning. They are creating elaborate logistics plans and procedures and deployment plans. Planners, rather than people of action, gravitate to these organizations. So, once a disaster really hits, the planners run around in circles, hit by the dual problem of 1) their beautiful plans are now obsolete, since any good general can tell you that no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy and 2) they are by nature still planners, trying to get order and process underway and create a new updated plan, rather than just getting every possible resource out there fixing the dang problem.

So is it gonna get better?

Unfortunately, I fear that the lessons from this hurricane and its aftermath will be that we need more top-down rules and authority rather than less. It is the technocrats on the sidelines who are most appalled by the screw-ups, and will demand more of whatever next time.

He's right, of course - and that's depressing.

The Best Newspaper in America

is the New Hampshire Union Leader. Period.

Poor decision-making and indecisiveness at the state and local levels, combined with a federal bureaucracy that froze aid efforts in their tracks, stranded tens of thousands of helpless people who made the mistake of depending on the government. Some of them died for that decision. Next time, Americans will be less apt to make the same mistake.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

JRB for Chief Justice

Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog reports that Captain's Quarters has suggested the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown for the Supreme Court. Well, I am sure as hell on board.

Supply, Demand, and Gas Taxes

Tyler Cowen has the lowdown:

Ask the man on the street what will happen to the price of gas if the gas tax is lifted and he will reply that the price will fall by the amount of the tax. It's no wonder then that politicians are talking about (temporary) gas-tax relief. The man on the street's answer, however, is wrong. What determines prices is demand and supply. If demand and supply don't change then neither does the price.

Does the lifting of the tax change the demand for gasoline? No. Does it change the physical supply? No. At least not by much in the short run and especially not by much when the tax relief is known to be temporary. Since neither supply nor demand change neither does the price. What does change is that with the tax the government collects the revenues, with the "tax relief" the suppliers of gasoline collect the (former) revenues. Either way, no gain to the consumer.

But, as we've seen so dramatically illustrated throughout this debacle, real solutions are not what government is about. Appeasing the ignorant public so as to remain in power is the true goal.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Cogent Analysis of Katrina

The most cogent analysis of the government reaction to Katrina is coming out of Don Boudreax at Cafe Hayek.

I understand that the devastation spread by Katrina makes even the most ordinary daily tasks difficult or even impossible to do. There may be good, if regrettable, reasons for why FEMA is taking so long to get water and food to the refugees, and for why there’s too little police presence in the Convention Center. Maybe. But damn it, isn’t it time people reject as a cruel hoax the notion that government possesses superhuman powers and is motivated by angelic intentions? That it can do things that non-political institutions cannot do?
Who can still believe that, when the chips are down and there’s no one left to count on, people can count on their government for basic help?
Katrina, in addition to stripping my hometown of life, unmasked the pretenses of government as savior.

Sept 1 : Cafe Hayek

on Sept. 3, he alerts us to the fact that the government is LOCKING OUT the Red Cross and Salvation Army, because according to the Red Cross:

Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

Boudreaux, as usual, cuts to the heart of the matter.

Judging from the Red Cross's explanation (above), government apparently feared that the Red Cross would deliver relief with too much success. Why else would people choose not to leave a destroyed city, and even want to return to it?

So, government decided that letting people die was a better course than risking any success that the Red Cross would likely have at providing disaster relief.

It appears that politician's desire to keep the people helpless and dependent on government transcends basic domestic issues like healthcare and welfare, and extends to discouraging competition from private organizations in times like these. Warms the heart, no?

Well, given the evidence of the government's ineptitude and indeed its acting as an obstacle to progress here's my advice.

Get your own gun, your own food stash, and keep a couple bottles of water, cause if you gots to rely on a pack of baby kissers for your continued existence you're screwed. Period.

Politics and Katrina

The Comissar has a roundup.

I, like he, will leave you to reach your own conclusions.