Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My … Enemy?

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw
There is an old proverb that is based upon a claim made by 4th century B.C. Sanskrit writer Kautilya: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Such pragmatic thinking has not been good in terms of American foreign policy. During the Cold War this kind of thinking led to the United States embracing the likes of Ngo Dinh Diem, Saddam Hussein, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Mujahideen, Colonel Husni Zaim, etc. While a noninterventionist policy like that of the Founders would be most sane, the current American policy is completely insane. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy.

After the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the hostage crisis, Iran became an enemy of the United States. The Reagan administration embraced Iran’s enemy Iraq for a short time. At least long enough to aid Saddam Hussein in committing war crimes by using chemical weapons provided by the United States against Iran. Eventually, the United States also became the enemy of its enemy Iran’s enemy Iraq by waging not one but two unnecessary wars against the nation—the second one a preemptive war of aggression. Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement regarding the Iranian nuclear program, Iran remains an American enemy. Iran’s enemy the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) is now also an enemy of the United States. At least when the Jihadist organization is fighting against the corrupt Iraqi regime. When the Islamic State is fighting against the Syrian regime, then it is a different matter. Which makes the policy even more incoherent.

Again, the United States is the enemy of Iran. However, the United States is also the enemy of Iran’s enemy Al Qaeda for obvious reasons. Of course, the United States was formerly friends with elements of Al Qaeda and the Taliban when they were fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the late 1970s and early 1980s. But now the United States appears to be enemies of both Russia and the former Mujahideen. Even Big Brother in Oceania was sane enough to be allied with Eurasia and/or Eastasia while warring against the other.

The United States was the enemy of Libya when that North African nation was ruled by the dictator Qaddafi. President Reagan seemed to fire missiles at Libya willy-nilly any time that he got up on the wrong side of the bed. While the United States and NATO bombed Libya and aided the rebels in winning the civil war, the United States is enemies with the Jihadist elements of the winning side in the Libyan Civil War.

What is to be gained by this new brand of American foreign policy? It simply doubles the chances for blowback. Instead of creating enemies on both sides of conflicts, the United States should simply stay out of these wars. Instead of creating new enemies with foolish and aggressive policies, the United States should be attempting to use diplomacy to turn enemies into friendly acquaintances and trading partners. The neo-progressives want war for humanitarian reasons, and the neoconservatives want war to preserve American hegemony. Both want war. Creating so many enemies on both sides of deadly conflicts pretty much ensures that the American people will get plenty of wars which will cost them blood and treasure.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Elizabeth Warren and the Future of Neo-Progressivism

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

Washington pundits and talking heads all seem to agree that former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a shoo in as the Democrat presidential candidate in 2016. Of course, the political junkyard is littered with the careers of politicians that the experts claimed were inevitable Democratic presidential nominees—Gary Hart, Mario Cuomo, Howard Dean, and the 2008 version of Hillary Clinton. Either way, Hillary Clinton is much like her husband. The Clintons are noted for their cynical and Machiavellian use of “triangulation” in order to avoid appearing too extreme. Thus, Hillary Clinton is unlikely to ever truly say what she believes while campaigning. Democratic Massachusetts Senator and possible future presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is the anti-Clinton in terms of her willingness to clearly state her neo-progressive beliefs. Therefore, even if Hillary Clinton does become the 2016 nominee of the Democrats, it is still more useful to examine what Senator Warren states if one wants to have his or her finger on the pulse of the Democrat Party.

Speaking recently at Netroots Nation, Senator Warren outlined the “11 Commandments of Progressivism.” In many ways, these are far more likely to explain what a Hillary Clinton presidency might be like than anything Hillary Clinton will ever say on the campaign trail.

1. “We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we're willing to fight for it.”

This kind of populist tough talk has always been a trademark of progressives such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. While the 2007–2008 financial meltdown caused extreme damage to the global economy, scapegoating Wall Street is disingenuous. The proximate cause of the meltdown was the bubble caused by the Federal Reserve. However, progressives have been in bed with the rogue private central bank from the beginning, so it is unlikely that Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, or any other Neo-Progressive Democrat will rein in the Federal Reserve. Furthermore, any regulations on Wall Street will likely be lobbied for and perhaps even written by large Wall Street firms. The dirty corporatist secret of progressives—which is so blatant it should hardly be considered a secret—is that they collaborate with large corporations. The cost of regulations can easily be absorbed by large corporations, but they can be detrimental to smaller businesses. Therefore, this regulation will only serve to limit competition on Wall Street. It is also unlikely to prevent further economic meltdowns. Why should one expect a regulator to notice a potential problem when his or her money is not at stake if actual financial professionals with their own money at stake could not? Finally, even if the heads of a few token greedy Wall Street miscreants are chopped off, these scapegoats will likely be middle-management flunkies. The top Wall Street movers and shakers are politically protected by both political parties due to the campaign funds that they can provide. After the any scapegoats get carted off to federal prison after the next meltdown caused by the machinations of the Federal Reserve, the big firms that get wiped out will likely have their losses socialized with another bailout. Even if one subscribes to Keynesian insanity, there is nothing involving stimulus deficit spending that entails bailing out private entities that have gone belly up. Stimulus funds could have been provided to Wall Street firms and corporations that had been fiscally prudent or simply pumped into the economy by the government. It was the Democrats who had no problem with the bailout.

2. “We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth.”

In other words, Al Gore, Goldman Sachs, and other crony capitalists will make billions of dollars in carbon tax money. Despite the claims of neo-progressives, the science on climate change is anything but settled. What is happening with the climate and what—if anything can or should be done about it by the government—is no more settled now than it was in the 1970s when environmentalists warned about “global cooling” and suggested putting soot over the Arctic in order to melt the polar ice. However, most importantly, there is nothing in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution or in Article II of the Constitution which grants Congress or the President any authority to “protect the Earth.” Other than promoting science and useful arts through the protection of patents and copyrights, there is nothing about science in the Constitution. Perhaps politicians should leave science to the scientists and not to the crony capitalists.

3. “We believe that the Internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality.”

Net neutrality. This is yet another populist progressivist charade. Net neutrality means giving the federal government the power to regulate the Internet. Government control is antithetical to freedom. Robert Wenzel expresses the truth about net neutrality:

Government should keep its hands off ISPs and allow them to operate any way they want. The ISPs, using their own equipment, are providing a service and should be allowed to use their equipment and provide their service in any fashion they choose without interference from the government.

If ISPs block content that users want, then the free market is likely to punish those ISPs in the long run. If ISPs do not provide the speed that users desire, then the free market is also likely to punish those ISPs. The best regulator is always free market competition. With the current corporatist system in place in the United States, government regulation of the Internet is simply regulation by the large corporations wealthy enough to buy the government.

4. “We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage.”

The “raise the minimum wage” and “living wage” arguments. Why will the fallacy that raising the minimum wage will benefit the economy and help the poor not go away? Raising the minimum wage will benefit a small group of workers at the expense of a large group of workers. Yes, some will see their purchasing power increase. But many businesses will simply not hire new workers. Others will lay off workers. Young unskilled workers will have no chance of being hired. Poor minorities will be greatly affected. What is the best way to raise the minimum wage? Create jobs. Supply and demand. When the number of jobs increases relative to the number of workers, wages will increase. How can the government create jobs? It cannot. But what it can do is allow the private sector to create jobs by cutting taxes and regulations. The neo-progressive idea of raising the minimum wage will simply lead to more individuals becoming dependent on government assistance. Perhaps that is their true motive.

5. “We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them.”

Is it any surprise that unions have long been major supporters of progressive political candidates? While Americans have a First Amendment right to unionize, the federal government has long since stopped being an impartial referee when it comes to unionized labor. The federal government has been an advocate for unions since the New Deal. Ultimately, the federal government should remain neutral regarding unions. There is nothing in the Constitution which grants Congress or the President the power to force business management to accept unionization. Unionization also typically benefits a small group of union members at the expense of all other workers. In the case of the fast food industry, unionization will increase the costs. This will be passed onto the working class families who often depend on inexpensive fast food. In essence, fat cat union bosses and their allies in organized crime will benefit while the majority of workers and fast food consumers will suffer.

6. “We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt.”

Then perhaps the federal government should get out of the student loan business. Guaranteeing student loans simply makes the cost of a college education more expensive. Perhaps Congress should amend bankruptcy laws so that student debt would be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Despite all the government meddling in higher education, the United States has one of the finest post-secondary educational systems in the world. More progressive meddling with universities and colleges is likely to have the same affect on higher education as “Obamacare” is having on health care.

7. “We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions.”

What does retirement with dignity have to do with protecting government Ponzi schemes? The Social Security System is unsustainable and despite the insane holding in Helvering v. Davis (1937)—which was likely the result of extortion on the part of FDR—it is unconstitutional. Social Security needs to be privatized in a manner similar to the Chilean system. The current system is unfair to the poor because it prevents them from building wealth over generations. It is also racist due to the fact black workers tend to begin working at an earlier age than white workers and tend to die at an earlier age. Social Security and Medicare do nothing but keep Americans dependent on the government. The last thing any neo-progressive wants is any citizen freed from the shackles of the federal government.

8. “We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work.”

Progressives and neo-progressives have long fomented gender war by making dubious claims about the “gender gap” in pay. Rachel Greszler and James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation succinctly summarize the truth about gender-based wage differences:

This gender gap is not the result of rampant discrimination. Rather, it exists because men and women often work in different jobs, work different hours, and have different qualifications. When work experience, education, occupation, and hours of work are taken into account, the average woman makes 98 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

Is there sexism in the world of business? Certainly. There is always likely to be some. However, the free market will punish those businesses that do not treat female workers fairly and pay them what they are worth. Businesses which seek to hire the best employees will always thrive. What is keeping the wages of all workers—women included—down is corporatism. Government regulation, high taxes, and the Federal Reserve’s “inflation tax” is the greatest enemy in the War on Women (and also on Men).

9. “We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America.”

Gay rights. The funny thing about gay rights is that neo-progressives only champion them fully when it is politically expedient to do so. When public opinion was against gays openly serving in the military, the neo-progressives championed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Later, when the American public became more tolerant, neo-progressives finally championed lifting the prohibition against openly gay men and women serving in the military. When public opinion was still against gay marriage, neo-progressives championed “civil unions” for gay couples. As a majority of Americans is now beginning to favor gay marriage, the neo-progressives are finally openly supporting gay marriage. Neo-progressives have always been nothing but cynical pragmatists. They never have and never will care about the natural rights of gays or anyone else.

10. “We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform.”

‘Immigration Reform’ has become a meaningless phrase. Ultimately, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to change the law. And usually neither party wants to enforce immigration law. Each party may complain about it when they are not in power, but when they are in power, they never do anything about immigration. Blah blah blah.

11. “And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!”

The Hobby Lobby case should have never arisen because “Obamacare” is and always has been unconstitutional despite what Justice Roberts said in his incoherent majority opinion. Whether corporations are persons is an important question. However, the Constitution does not give Congress the power to force Americans to buy a product from a private company. If neo-progressives wish to protect Americans from unscrupulous businesses, then why are they collaborating with insurance companies with “Obamacare?” That is more like fascism than freedom. If neo-progressives want women to be able to afford contraceptives, why not allow them to be available over the counter? Do they believe that women are not intelligent enough to make their own decisions regarding their health without a paternalistic doctor?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Politics of Project Mayhem: Fight Club on Its Fifteenth Anniversary

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

October 15, 2014 will mark the 15th anniversary of Fox 2000 Pictures’ release of the motion picture Fight Club. The film, directed by David Fincher, based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, and starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter, debuted at number one at the box office, but fell off quickly, becoming a flop. The film had a $63 million budget but earned only $37 million domestically. However, a funny thing happened on the way to becoming the next Howard the Duck, Heaven’s Gate, or Cutthroat Island. In the decade and a half since its release, Fight Club became a cult classic on home video. Eventually, the cult grew. The film is currently ranked #10 all time by users on the Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 list.

Fight Club is a hilarious dark comedy, an unconventional rom com, a riveting thriller, and a disturbing psychological drama. It features groundbreaking direction by David Fincher, mind-blowing cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth, a pitch perfect pulsating score by the Dust Brothers, a script by Jim Uhls which surpasses the excellence of the source material, and tour de force performances by Norton, Pitt, and Carter. Unlike most films, which peak in popularity early on and gradually settle or decline, Fight Club continues to become more popular and more critically acclaimed over time.

Volumes of interesting material has been written about the countless compelling thematic elements of Fight Club—masculine alienation, the fragmented self and the possibility of self-actualization, father figures and God, the nihilism of modern culture, etc. The following will analyze some of the key economic and political themes present in the film.

The Narrator suffers from intense insomnia. He is so numb that he cannot feel anything and cannot sleep unless he attends support groups for maladies he does not have—lymphoma, tuberculosis, testicular cancer, blood parasites, brain parasites, etc. The reason that the Narrator is so deeply alienated from himself and from humanity is expressed in an anything but subtle manner by the omnipresent Starbucks coffee cups. His alienation is caused by consumerism:
Like everyone else, I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct. … If I saw something like clever coffee tables in the shape of a yin and yang, I had to have it. … I would flip through catalogs and wonder, “What kind of dining set defines me as a person?” We used to read pornography. Now it was the Horchow Collection. … I had it all.  Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections, proof they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of wherever.
Marxism is not the cure for this malady of the soul. If the Narrator’s clever coffee table were made by the government, it would not change a thing. If his coffee was brewed by Government Java instead of Starbucks, it would not change a thing. His unfulfilling job of de-prioritizing reports, working on primary action items, and deciding whether the major car company that he works for as a recall coordinator ought to recall defective automobiles would be just as unfulfilling if he were performing it for Government Motors. His annoying cornflower-blue loving boss would likely be even more incompetent and more annoying if he were middle management in some government bureaucratic agency. The alienation that results from empty consumerism is a consequence of corporatism and not capitalism:
When deep space exploration ramps up, it will be corporations that name everything.  The IBM Stellar Sphere. The Philip Morris Galaxy. Planet Starbucks.
The Narrator’s unnamed “major” car company employer, IBM, Philip Morris, Starbucks, IKEA, etc. are all large corporations. Under the corporatist system—a.k.a. “crony capitalism”—that has been in place and growing exponentially since the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, these large corporate entities have the ability to crush smaller rivals by lobbying the government not only for special benefits but also for costly regulations which will greatly harm these smaller businesses. By not truly having to compete on a level playing field in a free market and by forming fascistic partnerships with the government, large corporations are able to collectivize their employees into drones and collectivize the masses into slavish consumerists:
Advertisements have them chasing cars and clothes, working jobs they hate so they can buy shit they don't need.
The only small business entrepreneur in the film is the Narrator’s messianic anarchist alter ego Tyler Durden, who produces soap by rendering human fat “liberated” from the dumpsters of liposuction clinics. Durden strikes a blow against corporatism by performing small-scale acts of sabotage against them—urinating in soup, splicing frames of pornography into family films, etc.

Ultimately, the big target of Project Mayhem—the terrorist cell that Durden forms using the most zealous acolytes from the various fight clubs—is the monetary system. Project Mayhem seeks to blow up the headquarters of the major credit card companies to reset the debt record. In the era of central banks and fiat currency, money is not real. It is not backed with gold or any precious commodity. It is nothing but debt. As a result, the central banks are able to steal the value of money, and its partner the government is able to finance the warfare/welfare state. The people become mere collectivized slaves. In a sense, the credit card debt records are bogus and become a symbol of how morally bankrupt the corporatist system really is.

However, Tyler Durden does not turn out to be a libertarian savior. In many ways, he represents the hidden danger of anarchism. After dissolving the bonds between the members of Project Mayhem and society, he does not set them loose as free individuals. Instead, he collectivizes them into his own private army of “space monkeys.” He becomes the lost father/God figure to the men and instills in them his own unique collectivist worldview:
You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We are all part of the same compost heap.
In Project Mayhem, nobody has a name. And nobody asks questions. All is selfless obedience.

Ultimately, Tyler Durden represents the fascistic collectivist danger that will inevitably threaten anarchy. Project Mayhem is nothing but a radical form of collectivism which initially masqueraded as a radical form of individualism. If a charismatic leader like Tyler Durden were successful in destroying the old corporatist order, he would simply replace it with a more primitive fascistic collectivism of his own. Despite Tyler’s insistence to the Narrator that they are not special and are not the leaders, this is disingenuous. Project Mayhem requires leadership. Perhaps some form of leadership is always necessary. Perhaps it is an inherent human trait. It seems as if most human beings ultimately desire or even need leadership. It may be that any form of anarchism would create a power vacuum that some Nietzschean wannabe would attempt to fill. If this is so, then one should strive for a minarchist state as the least of all possible evils.

What makes Tyler Durden into both the greatest and most terrifying of leaders is that he is not a hypocrite. Unlike the typical collectivist despot, he does not subscribe to the view that “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” The rules of Project Mayhem apply to Tyler Durden (in his physical embodiment as the Narrator) just as they do to any other “space monkey.” When Tyler/the Narrator violates the rules of Project Mayhem by trying to interfere with it, he faces castration like any other “space monkey” would.

In destroying Tyler Durden through a violent act of fearless and nearly suicidal self-mutilation, the Narrator overthrows the new collectivist despot who has apparently overthrown the old corporatist order. But to what end? Will the Narrator be able to steer an individualist course between the collectivist Scylla and Charybdis of corporatism and primitive fascism? Even if the Narrator is willing to view the “space monkeys” as individuals—as he did the late Robert Paulson—will this last? Will his successor feel the same way? It was this very worry that led Thomas Jefferson to warn: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Jefferson knew: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” Leaders—whether the American President, Tyler Durden, the Narrator, or anyone else—will naturally seek to increase their power. Even Thomas Jefferson could not always resist that temptation when he was Commander-in-Chief. As a result, we cannot worship power, political parties, or even the most charismatic and beloved leaders. We must be ready, willing, and able to stand up to any collectivist tyranny in the name of freedom and individualism and throw off the chains of any despotic government. Among everything else that it is, Fight Club is also a cautionary tale about revolutions. History has shown that revolutions often overthrow one form of collectivist tyranny to just install another. The paradigm case of this is the French Revolution which tore down the tyrannical monarchy just to replace it with the bloody Robespierre. And eventually tore down the Reign of Terror just to replace it with Napoleon. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Worm Has Turned: GMO Corn, Pesticide Resistance, and the EPA

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

The corn rootworm is a voracious monster. Corn rootworm larvae can be devastating to corn crops, causing billions of dollars of damage before the development of genetically modified Bt corn by Monsanto, Bayer, and others. Bt corn is a genetically modified organism (GMO) which contains the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene. Bt corn currently accounts for three-quarters of the United States corn crop. Praised as a godsend when it was introduced in 1996, Bt corn quickly led to larger yields for farmers and allowed them to use less conventional pesticides, which are typically more ecologically damaging. Unfortunately, rootworms have been developing a natural resistance to the toxins in the Bt corn. This will lead to the increased use of conventional pesticides by farmers, reducing much of the economic and ecological benefits that Bt produces.

Scientists who foresaw this turn of events as early as 2002 suggested that the EPA mandate a 50% refuge—a 50% area of non-Bt corn. Rootworms that feed on the non-Bt corn do not develop a resistance to it, and then breed with the surviving rootworms that fed on the Bt corn and developed immunity. The resulting offspring will not have resistance to the Bt corn toxins. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the requirement at a 20% refuge area for single gene Bt corn in corn growing areas, and reduced it to only 5% with Bt seeds with multiple genes. These refuge requirements were voluntary, and many farmers did not follow them. Should the EPA have been more forceful? Should it have mandated larger refuge areas and enforced it? Did GMO seed companies oppose larger refuge areas in the name of maximizing short-term profits?

The first issue involves the EPA. Should it set enforceable requirements for farmers who are using Bt corn? Should it continue to simply publish voluntary levels of refuge area? Or is something even more extreme required? Article I of the Constitution gives only the Congress the power to legislate: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” However, the Supreme Court ruled in J.W. Hampton, Jr. and Co. v. United States (1928) that Congress may delegate is legislative power to the executive branch of the federal government provided that Congress gives an “intelligible principle” to guide the executive branch. While this holding has been followed for nearly a century and has given rise to the leviathan executive branch regulatory state, it is clearly mistaken. The Constitution clearly states that all legislative powers in the federal government belong to Congress. It is a long standing principle that legislative powers are not delegatable, stretching all the way back to the philosophy of John Locke, who contended famously in 1689: “The legislative neither must nor can transfer the power of making laws to any body else, or place it any where, but where the people have.”

Even if Congress were not delegating power to the EPA but were instead legislating enforceable requirements for mandatory refuge areas in fields planted with Bt corn, this would still be unconstitutional. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution does not give Congress the enumerated power to regulate what farmers plant in their fields. An apologist for federal power will doubtless point to the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) to justify such regulation. The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” However, despite the broad and draconian powers that the Supreme Court has allowed Congress to grab by appealing to the Commerce Clause, the truth is that it does not give the legislative branch the power to dictate what farmers plant. It is ridiculous to claim that regulating commerce includes regulating production. Congress cannot regulate the production of food or any other goods in foreign nations and could not do so in Indian territories when the Constitution was penned. Therefore, claiming that the Commerce Clause has anything to do with production is wrongheaded. Commerce is simply the activity of buying and selling. Growing corn is not part of that.

It appears that American corn growers have the right to plant as much or as little refuge as they desire. It is no job of the federal government to protect individuals from themselves. However, objections must be considered. First, one may argue that GMO-producing corporations such as Monsanto and Bayer may be committing fraud by not telling the farmers who buy their Bt corn seeds that larger refuge areas would be prudent because it would help prevent widespread toxin resistance in rootworms. In a way, the existence of the EPA exacerbates this possibility. When government agencies such as the EPA or FDA provide guidelines, many people view these as definitive. Therefore, under the current corporatist system, powerful private entities such as Monsanto and Bayer can lobby the government for relaxed recommendations. When the government states that a 5–20% refuge area is adequate, many farmers are likely to ignore claims of scientists that 50% refuge areas are necessary. The existence of the EPA in cases like this only endangers farmers and consumers.

Assume there the EPA did not exist. What then? The farmers would be responsible for researching the matter on their own and determining for themselves how much of a refuge area to grow. This is where it becomes a bit tricky. Corporations which sell Bt corn seeds and other GMOs will no doubt produce and provide research of their own. Can they be trusted or are they likely to release bogus studies as the tobacco companies often did years ago? The federal government may have some role here in protecting the public from potential fraud. But perhaps it is preferable that the government wait until a civil court determines the matter. One can imagine farmers or other litigants suing GMO corporations that they believe have defrauded them by using misleading or blatantly false research. Perhaps it would be better for federal prosecutors to wait until the science is more settled instead of allowing the federal government to have an expensive and unconstitutional agency involved with researching agricultural science. Or perhaps it would be better to leave these matters to the states, which have far more power in this realm under the Tenth Amendment.

A second objection is that the government must regulate GMO refuge area because such a matter does not simply affect the farmers in question but affects others. John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian libertarian Harm Principle states: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Government simply has no right to interfere with people who are exercising their natural rights to life, liberty, and property unless others are being harmed and, thus, are having their natural rights to life, liberty, and property violated. Assume that farmers X and Y decide not to plant any refuge area, and that this eventually leads to rootworms which are very resistant to Bt corn’s toxins. Farmer Z’s Bt corn may be endangered by this through no action on Z’s part. This may be parallel to the case of antibiotics and antivirals. Under John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle, the government has no right to regulate the use of most drugs. If the use of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, etc. will only affect the user directly, then the government may not ban such drug use among autonomous adults. If X and Y shoot up heroin, this does not affect Z. Perhaps X or Y may get behind the wheel and run Z down, but this involves reckless driving and not drug use. It is the reckless driving that the government may prohibit, regardless of the cause. However, if X and Y misuse antibiotics and antivirals enough—taking them when they do not have bacterial or viral infections—then this promotes the evolution of bacteria and viruses that are resistant to the drugs. Therefore, it is not a violation of the natural rights of the people for the government to regulate these drugs anymore than it would not be a violation of X and Y’s natural rights for the government to prevent X and Y from placing in their bodies large doses of plutonium that may make bystanders sick. The existence of external pesticides which can still kill rootworms further complicates the matter. Are the conventional pesticides here more analogous to the antibiotics and antivirals? Is Bt corn more akin to a transhuman who has been genetically engineered to produce his or her own natural antibiotics or antivirals?

What is clear is that the EPA has no right to deal with this in any way, shape, or form regardless of what the Court erroneously held in J.W. Hampton. Does Congress have the power to regulate the Bt corn under the premise that not planting a refuge area can harm other farmers? Even if one employs the Necessary and Proper Clause, the only possible power involved would be the Congressional power to declare war. But does a war against rootworms make sense? What about the President? Does the President have the power to regulate Bt corn in such a case? As Commander-in-Chief the President has the power to act to repel an attack against the United States. However, while this rationale may give the President the authority to quarantine individuals who are infected with a deadly and infectious disease, corn that is more susceptible to pests hardly seems comparable.

In the end, the federal government has no authority to regulate Bt corn or any other GMOs. If GMO corporations lie about their seeds, then this may constitute fraud, and civil and perhaps criminal courts should be invoked. States may also have greater authority to regulate in this area under the police powers that they are granted by way of the Tenth Amendment.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Brady Bill Was Unnecessary

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

Ronald Reagan’s former Press Secretary James Brady has died. Brady was, of course, most famous for taking up the cause of handgun control after he was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. during the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. The attack, in which President Reagan and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also shot, left Brady partially paralyzed. The efforts of James Brady and his wife Sarah ultimately led to Congress passing the Brady Handgun Prevention Act in 1994. The law prevented convicted felons, fugitives from justice, unlawful drug users or addicts, those judged mentally defective or committed to a mental institution, illegal aliens, those with dishonorable discharges from the United States military, those who have renounced United States citizenship, those under restraining order, and those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing a firearm.

The attempted assassination of President Reagan led to the right blaming the First Amendment and the left blaming the Second Amendment. John Hinckley, Jr. was obsessed with actress Jodie Foster and the movie Taxi Driver. Taxi Driver, a 1976 Martin Scorsese movie, starred Robert De Niro as a depressed New York City cab driver who plans to assassinate a presidential candidate but winds up saving a teenaged prostitute played by Jodie Foster. Hinckley sought to assassinate the President so that he could impress Foster. Events such as this always invariably lead to discussions that movies need to be censored and guns need to be banned. However, the truth of the matter is that neither proposition is true. The attempted assassination of President Reagan should never have occurred. James Brady should never have been so grievously wounded. Furthermore, had the Brady Act been in place in 1980, it would not have prevented the attack.

John Hinckley, Jr. was not a convicted felon, a fugitive, a drug addict, an illegal alien, or a dishonorably discharged former service member. He had not renounced his American citizenship, been under a restraining order, or ever been convicted of domestic abuse. While Hinckley had been treated for depression and was taking medication, he had never been institutionalized. The Röhm RG-14 revolver which Hinckley used had been purchased at a pawn shop, but he could have legally bought it then or now.

What would have prevented the attempted assassination of President Reagan was common sense. On October 9, 1980, Hinckley was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee on weapons charges when he attempted to sneak three guns in his suitcase at Nashville International Airport in order to board a flight to New York City with them. Hinckley was released after paying a fine of $62.50.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have never shown much respect for the Fourth Amendment. The NSA actions that have been revealed by Edward Snowden over the last year are more than enough proof of that. Things were not much different in the early 1980s. The NSA had not long before established Minaret, an illegal watchlist of American telegraphs and telephone calls made between 1967 and 1973. Nixon had used this information to help formulate his “enemies list” only a few years prior to the attempt on President Reagan’s life. Similarly, the FBI had engaged in COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program) from at least 1956 to 1971. The methods of COINTELPRO went beyond the legal procedures ordinarily employed by the FBI in fighting crime and transformed into the brutal and extralegal methods common among criminal regimes. COINTELPRO infiltrated organizations in order to disrupt and discredit them. It spread disinformation about groups through bogus publications attributed to activist groups, anonymous letters, anonymous phone calls, and set up counterfeit activist organizations run by government agents in order to spread further disinformation. Even more egregiously, COINTELPRO made activists appear to be criminals through illegal surveillance, fabricated evidence, perjured testimony, and the discriminatory and capricious use of the law against its targets. Most alarming was a pattern of break-ins, vandalism, and assaults carried out by the police and FBI in order to terrify and disrupt activist groups. The strange thing is that while federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies had no qualms about violating the Constitution to attack the American people, they were not so inclined to use their powers under the Constitution to defend the people.

Having arrested John Hinckley, Jr. attempting to sneak concealed weapons through an airport onto a flight bound for New York City, local law enforcement informed the FBI, which showed little interest and told Nashville police to handle it locally. The fact that Hinckley was arrested with illegal concealed weapons that he was attempting to take across state lines provided ample probable cause to search his home and dig deeper. Had law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Hinckley’s home, they would have likely learned of his obsession with Jodie Foster. They may have also learned that the purpose of his visit to Nashville was that he was stalking President Jimmy Carter, whom he was planning to assassinate. President Carter had been in Nashville that day, but he left town before Hinckley could get a shot at him.

So often, the government fails in its job of protecting the life, liberty, and property of its citizens. And when it fails, it often reacts by instituting laws and policies which violate the natural rights of individuals. When the FBI failed to protect President Reagan, the Congress violated the Second Amendment natural right to bear arms of citizens by passing the Brady Bill. When multiple federal agencies failed to thwart the 9/11 attacks, Congress passed the Constitution-shredding PATRIOT Act. Future government failures are likely to lead to more laws which violate the Constitution without making the country any safer. Unfortunately, there is little indication that the government or the people have learned any lessons from such unnecessary tragedies.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Are Libertarians the New Communists?

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw
Orange is the new black. Tropes are the new memes. And libertarianism is the new communism. What? Statists Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu have recently published a Bloomberg piece entitled “Libertarians Are the New Communists.” Hanauer is a venture capitalist and Liu is a former speechwriter in the Clinton White House. Given that both these individuals depend upon big government and corporatism to make their bones, it is no surprise that they would decry freedom.
Hanauer and Liu rightly claim that wherever communism was adopted, it has led to “misery, poverty and tyranny.” They then argue that if “extremist libertarians” ever came to power, the results would be the same. They refer to these “extremist libertarians” as “nihilist anti-state libertarians” who are allegedly aiming to shut down the state. They identify the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist, Ted Cruz, Ron Paul, and Rand Paul as such libertarian nihilists.
Creating a straw man by relying upon a tortured interpretation of Ayn Rand’s objectivism and applying it to all libertarians, they claim that radical libertarianism “assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish.” They also argue that radical libertarianism “assumes that societies are efficient mechanisms requiring no rules or enforcers, when, in fact, they are fragile ecosystems prone to collapse and easily overwhelmed by free-riders.”
They further contend that not only would radical libertarianism be a disaster if it ever became the philosophy of the leaders of the federal government, but that radical libertarianism would in fact be impossible to apply to a functioning society. In their fevered imaginations, they see: “A President Paul [who] would rule by tantrum, shutting down the government in order to repeal laws already passed by Congress.” Of course, these unoriginal thinkers could not possibly write a hit piece on libertarianism without playing the Somalia card: “It is in failed states such as Somalia that libertarianism finds its fullest actual expression.”
Hanauer and Liu’s solution is uninspiring and unoriginally communitarian:
The alternative to this extremism is an evolving blend of freedom and cooperation. The relationship between social happiness and economic success can be plotted on a bell curve, and the sweet spot is away from the extremes of either pure liberty or pure communitarianism. That is where true citizenship and healthy capitalism are found.
True citizenship enables a society to thrive for precisely the reasons that communism and radical libertarianism cannot. It is based on a realistic conception of human nature that recognizes we must cooperate to be able compete at higher levels. True citizenship means changing policy to adapt to changes in circumstance. Sometimes government isn’t the answer. Other times it is.
Hanauer and Liu do say something correct about libertarianism. It is “the ideology that holds that individual liberty trumps all other values.” This is undeniably true because all other values are dependent on freedom. Unless one is an autonomous and has the ability to exercise natural rights to life, liberty, and property, then no other values can take root, let alone be enjoyed. Natural rights are possessed by human beings in virtue of their humanity. The government does not grant natural rights and may not take them away. To deny the existence and paramount nature of natural rights is to deny humanity itself.
Is it impossible for “extreme libertarianism” to be the governing philosophy of the nation? It certainly was not impossible for the first century of the existence of the Republic when by and large the federal government was a minarchist state—particularly when compared with the bloated warfare/welfare “communitarian” state so loved by corporatist statists like Hanauer and Liu. With minimal federal regulations, no welfare state, and no income tax, the United States grew from a weak agrarian former British colony into the world’s greatest economic power. How had libertarians such as Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe managed not to turn the United States into a failed state? There was hardly “misery, poverty, and tyranny.”
The radical libertarianism of the individuals named by the authors is a form of Constitutional minarchism. Those such as Ron Paul seek to shut down only the parts of government that are unconstitutional. This is akin to an oncologist treating a patient with cancer. Such a physician is anti-cancer cells, not anti-healthy cells. Not all libertarians are objectivists and most do not hold that psychological egoism is true. Statists such as Hanauer and Liu believe that the only kind of cooperation that is possible is collectivist “cooperation” at the barrel of a gun. Coerced cooperation is not cooperation at all. Coerced altruism is not altruism at all. The idea that libertarians do not believe in cooperation is the most disingenuous variety of straw man argument. Libertarians believe in the freedom to cooperate with those whom one chooses to associate. This is the very backbone of civil society. Libertarians accomplish things by forming businesses, PACs, nonprofit organizations, and all manner of informal cooperative and voluntary associations. Libertarians are anything but solitary dog-eat-dog Hobbesians or Social Darwinists. The kind of cooperation that Hanauer and Liu have in mind is no doubt phony forced cooperation—draconian taxation and regulation, corporatist wealth redistribution, Nanny State “nudging,” etc.
The notion of President Paul (whether Ron or Rand) ruling by tantrum is ridiculous. Unless, of course, “ruling by tantrum” is what the cool kids are calling ruling by the Constitution these days. President Paul would likely veto many unconstitutional or wasteful bills. It is also likely that President Paul would refuse to enforce some legislation passed by Congress. However, the President takes an oath to defend the Constitution. This oath is violated if he or she enforces unconstitutional legislation. Would Hanauer and Liu wish the President to enforce laws that brought back slavery or segregation? Laws that made homosexuality into a capital federal offense? Hopefully not, but perhaps if these racist and homophobic laws were for “the greater good.”
The old Somalia canard hardly deserves addressing. However, here goes. Somalia is anything but a libertarian state. The organization Freedom House ranks the Somali government as among the most repressive in the world. While perhaps it is a weak despotic government, it is despotic nevertheless. A minarchist libertarian government would be a limited government that safeguarded the natural rights to life, liberty, and property. It would be far closer to the early American government minus the racist scourge of statist slavery than it would to the government of Somalia.
What Hanauer and Liu fail to understand is that the communitarian “sweet spot” of which they fantasize is a pipe dream. If government is given an inch, it takes a million miles. The government they worship is the one which supported slavery, herded Japanese-Americans into concentration camps, experimented on African American men without their consent, and spies on each and every American citizen as if they are traitors and criminals. Ultimately, freedom wanes unless centralized government is chained down by the people using the Constitution. But the truth is that such statists do not fear the government. What they fear are the people. This is indicated by their disdain for the concept that “societies are efficient mechanisms requiring no rules or enforcers, when, in fact, they are fragile ecosystems prone to collapse and easily overwhelmed by free-riders.” They clearly must believe that human beings are evil and require a police state to rule them when in fact all evidence is to the contrary. They view others as “free riders” when it is the progressive corporatists and courtiers who are the true “free riders.” What they are suggesting is an Americanized version of fascism. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hobby Lobby and the Perpetuation of Obamacare

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that the contraceptive mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) violates the First Amendment religious rights of closely held for-profit corporations by violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The RFRA states: “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” By a 5–4 margin along traditional ideological lines, the Court struck down the contraceptive mandate of the PPACA in the case of closely held for-profit corporations which have religious objections. The owners of Hobby Lobby claimed that being required to cover certain forms of contraceptives such as Plan B and IUDs violated their religious rights because they consider these particular contraceptives to be akin to abortion.
Justice Alito stressed that the ruling was very narrow and only applied to closely held for-profit corporations objecting to a law on religious grounds. He claimed that few situations would arise which would be relevant under the holding. While the First Amendment religious freedom aspect is the one which most commentators have focused upon, there is a far more important aspect that has been overlooked. It does bear noting, however, that granting a corporation—even a closely held one—religious rights is dubious. A corporation is not identical with its shareholders. If business owners wish to have their company as their alter ego, then they are perfectly free to establish their business as a sole proprietorship or a partnership. By forming a corporation and gaining the benefit of limited liability, shareholders in a closely held corporation give up the right to use their business as their alter ego. A corporation is a fictional person which has a fiduciary duty to produce profits for its shareholders. It is simply not the kind of entity which has religious values. While the personhood that is granted to corporations is a legal fiction aimed at defending the Constitutional rights of shareholders, granting freedom of religion to a corporation seems to be taking things at least one step too far.
The more important feature about the case is what it demonstrates about the future of Obamacare. Hobby Lobby is not going to derail Obamacare. Employees of corporations such as Hobby Lobby will either do without one benefit of the PPACA or the Obama administration will find some other way to accomplish the same end as the contraceptive mandate—most likely allowing such corporations to pass the buck and force taxpayers as a whole to somehow foot the bill. Justice Alito—a supposedly conservative Justice—suggested as much in his opinion. The manner in which socially conservative Republicans have celebrated this holding foreshadows an ugly truth. Obamacare is here to stay. Any talk among Republicans about getting rid of the PPACA appears to be nothing but lip service. Given that neoconservatives do not care about deficits or about domestic policy in general and given that RINOs were in favor of corporatist health care back when it was viewed as a more free market alternative to a socialistic single payer system, this should come as no surprise. Republicans have a nasty habit of eventually acquiescing to new progressive Nanny State programs. While the GOP once opposed the programs of the New Deal and the Great Society, it has long since resigned itself to making minor tweaks to these socialistic programs. These so-called conservatives are content to save taxpayers pennies on the dollar by making welfare, unemployment insurance, Medicare, etc. a little more efficient. Even Ronald Reagan for all his huffing and puffing about eliminating the Department of Education ultimately did nothing about it. It is alive and well. Bigger and better than ever. Well, bigger at any rate.
Obamacare is patently unconstitutional. However, it appears to be here to stay. The GOP is likely to use it as a scapegoat when it needs to toss red meat to its base, but like the New Deal, the Great Society, and the Department of Education, the PPACA is going nowhere. In addition to using it as a symbol of the progressive bogeyman, the GOP will now apparently use Obamacare to fascistically pick winners and losers in a crony capitalist fashion. This First Amendment loophole created in Hobby Lobby is likely the first of many. Exemptions to particular mandates in Obamacare will be used by both Democrats and Republicans as a way of granting favors to partisan supporters.
Justice Roberts should take no solace in the fact that he defended the Constitution in the Hobby Lobby case. Two years prior he ignored the Constitution so egregiously that he destroyed his reputation beyond redemption.