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Iranians Turn Oil into Gold

February 29, 2012

The BBC reports that Iran will begin accepting gold as payment for oil. I didn’t see this story in my local newspaper, and if American news outlets do report it it’ll probably be buried somewhere. Also expect the same reason the BBC gave, “The move comes as US and European Union sanctions against Iran have made it difficult for buyers to make dollar payments to Iranian banks.”

The sanctions probably are the immediate cause for Iran’s decision to accept gold. However, I can’t help but think this may work out well for Iran in the long term. Which will likely hold its value better ten years from now, dollars (or any major fiat currency) or gold?

I’ll give a hint: probably the one you can’t create more of out of nothing.

Assuming the trigger-happy American government doesn’t start another pre-emptive war, this could well turn into another example of  the US getting outplayed by a foreign rival.

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One More Last Chance

February 16, 2012

I recently read Justin Raimondo’s article at Chronicles, Ron Paul’s Last Hurrah, which I highly recommend. A few thoughts struck me, though, from his last paragraph:

In my view, a third-party campaign by Paul is the logical outcome of his entire career: After being rejected by a GOP mutated beyond recognition, he and his brigades of fervent followers will not be content until they’ve stormed the gates of the federal Leviathan and made a good-faith attempt at bringing the monster down.  It will be Paul’s last hurrah—and, perhaps, the last hurrah of our Old Republic. (emphasis mine – RC)

From what I can tell, the Old Republic died a long time ago. It’s hard to pick an exact date, but I’d say 1865 would be as good a spot as any. We have had some presidential runs that offered a chance at a turnaround; Barry Goldwater, for example, or, perhaps Pat Buchanan. None that I’m old enough to remember, unfortunately. Though such a “last hurrah” seems to appear occasionally, though, I do wonder if Mr. Raimondo is right in calling this the ‘last’, since the American Empire could well collapse in the next few years.

What, though, if it doesn’t? In the short-term a third party built around Dr. Paul would most likely just ensure an Obama reelection, which I admit would be slightly worse than a Romney (maybe Santorum) election. In the long-term, though, it could serve as a basis for overturning the Republican Party, which would be a good first step to restoring the republic, to borrow a phrase. After all, the Republican Party itself was built from the ruins of the Whigs, who themselves took over from the Federalists. It’s been 160 years and change, now, but it could happen again. That the young make up the bulk of Dr. Paul’s support makes the long-term viability of such a party all the more feasible.

A few problems do present themselves, of course. One would be the problem of principles. The Republicans are dysfunctional and useless in part because they don’t stand for anything, they’re just a coalition of disparate forces with little in common except oppostion to the Democratic coalition. How does a lasting third party garner enough broad support to gain influence in our current winner-take-all electoral system, but retain a coherent purpose?

Right now, libertarians would likely be the dominant force, which would lead to another problem. Though libertarians are certainly an improvement over the neoconservatives and social democrats (or progressives or whatever we’re calling them), libertarianism has problems of its own. Though they’d end the overseas empire, they also tend to favour very loose immigration policies and unrestricted free trade. I am less concerned about the latter than most on the right, especially if it’s paired with other free-market ideas like decreased domestic regulation, some degree of protectionism would likely be very helpful for us. At its root, libertarianism is a direct descendant of classical liberalism, which got us into a mess to begin with.

Mostly, though, such a turnout would buy us time, which is what the right needs most right now. I am unaware of any major illiberal political figures, and if we’re going to take control of the government of this country we first need to win over the culture, which takes years, if not generations, of work, with or without a total collapse.

Notes on the Iowa Caucus

January 5, 2012

The internet’s ablaze with analysis of the Iowa Caucus results, so I thought I’d share a few observations of my own on each candidate.

Starting at the bottom of the list, we have one Buddy Roemer, who I don’t know, and… Herman Cain? Cain got fifty-eight votes? Well, we’re off to a weird start,  but I’ll assume (that is, hope) that these were just fifty-eight guys looking for a laugh.

Moving up, Jon Huntsman received 745 votes. Yeah, he didn’t campaign in Iowa, so we’ll see how he does in New Hampshire. I’ve only seen him speak a couple times, but he was intelligent enough to form complete sentences containing coherent thoughts, even without a teleprompter, which would at least make him an improvement over our last two presidents. A friend of mine, whose opinion I mostly trust, really likes him, so I suppose for now he’d be a (distant) second choice for me among this crop of Republicans.

Next, with 5% of the vote, is Michelle Bachmann, who unsurprisingly has halted her campaign. I say “unspurprisingly,” because several of the Fox News analysts I saw last night mentioned that she lacked the resources, both financial and organisational, to support a large campaign. Doesn’t it seem absurd that financial resources are so critical to national elections? Ideally, anyone should be able to run, but who can afford it? (Hint: Those who sell out to special interests, with a few exceptions).

Rick Perry received 10.3% of the vote, and… honestly, I wish he’d have been the one to drop out so he’d quit embarrassing the rest of us Texans. Let the other Texan, the one who’s read a few books, represent the state. Also, I guess 13.3% chose everyone’s favourite serial adulterer, Newt Gingrich, in case no other candidate was enough of an insider. Yeah, I just slung some mud, but I’ll always prefer a candidate with some moral authority over someone with skeletons in the closet.

That leaves us with the top-tier candidates, starting with Dr. Ron Paul with 21.4% support. He is, by far, the candidate I’m most likely to vote for, as are many other voters under thirty – which is great news for libertarians and, for that matter, conservatives. I fear there may be an upper limit for how much support he can garner; he wants to cut almost every pet project the federal government has, which means he also alienates a lot of voting blocs. However, as his young followers grow older and start replacing the established Republicans, they’ll gradually begin to undermine the Neoconservative stranglehold on the Republican party. The best thing that could happen for both conservatives and libertarians would be for the Republican party to collapse tomorrow so a more honest third party could replace it, but the next best would be to alter the direction of the party. It’ll be years before we see such a thing come to fruition, but I’ve no doubt that future candidates similar to Dr. Paul will fare much better thanks to the groundwork his campaign is laying.

Finally, we have Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in a photo-finish. Santorum is the big surprise, though I hear he, like Bachmann, lacks the resources for a large campaign. After reading about him, I can find a few reasons to dislike his ideas, but expect a lot of the sound and fury from the Left on his supposed social conservatism. For that matter, actual social conservatives may also question the sincerity of  his beliefs. Also, his campaign banner had the slogan “Faith, Family, Freedom,” which he totally stole from this very blog.

Romney still seems, to me, like the inevitable choice, and I guess he’d be my third pick among this lot. Like most everyone else, though, I can’t get enthusiastic one way or another, so, y’know, whatever man. Barack Obama vs. Generic Republican it’ll be. Mostly likely, I’ll just vote for my usual batch of third-party candidates.

I should also mention that Dr. Thomas Fleming has a fuller analysis of Santorum and Romney here, which I highly recommend reading.

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2011

Today is Christmas Eve, and I considered writing a special post about the Christian tradition in the United States or the insperability of religion and liberty or something along those lines. However, part of the essence of ‘America First’, for me, is that a man’s first duty is to his family and community. This  is the root of the virtue of patriotism, the love of and loyalty to a particular people and place. True, our Lord and Saviour did preach universal love, but charity is only meaningful when it is concrete. So, I’m going to spend this weekend with my family, and I’m sure most of you will do the same.

First, though, let me wish you a merry Christmas, and thank you for reading.

‘Conscience of a Conservative’ ch. 5-6

December 16, 2011

Chapter 5, “Freedom for the Farmer,” is mostly self-explanatory, and can be outlined with just two major points. First, “No power over agriculture was given to any branch of the national government.” Of course, this has not prevented Congress and federal agencies from worming around the Constitution, typically with the interstate commerce clause as an excuse. Second, Goldwater points out that government interference, with subsidies for example, has caused more problems than it has solved. For more detail on this, I’ll simply refer the reader to Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, especially chapters VI (“Credit Diverts Production”) and XVI (“‘Stabilizing’ Commodities”).

Chapter 6, “Freedom for Labor,” is among the best in this book, and his criticism of “big labour” is trenchant and still especially relevant. He does support unions generally, “What could be more fundamental than the freedom to associate with other men, or not to associate, as each man’s conscience and reason dictates?” However, he attacks policies of compulsory membership, and also of unions representing entire industries.

Goldwater’s critique is well-founded. As has often been observed, union monopolies have driven up the price of labour so high that overseas competitors have overtaken American industry, while American corporations have offshored many jobs, contributing to unemployment at home.

Now, though Goldwater is correct in his analysis of unions, his solution – creation or revision of legal statutes – seems inconsistent. He noted in the previous chapter that the national government has no authority to regulate agriculture. I do not see that it has the authority over labour, either. Should this not, then, be a state or even local issue? Surely labour is a perfect example of an issue best dealt with at a local level, by those most directly affected – workers and their families and community. In a labour dispute in, say, Texas or Michigan, Washington, D.C. is so distant it may as well be London.

‘Conscience of a Conservative’ – Ch. 3 and 4

December 9, 2011

Chapter 3, “State’s Rights,” is a short but important part of the book, and one I wish Goldwater had spent more space developing. I’m thinking of two points in particulat, first, “The Tenth Amendment is not ‘a general assumption,’ but a prohibitory rule of law.” Though I do not find the Constitution in general very complicated, this Amendment is especially straightforward: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The body of the Constitution spells out what poweres are delegated to the US, so it seems clear that any other powers “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The second point is that “local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly affected.” This should be obvious, as smaller units of organisation are typically more efficient and easier to control than larger entities. The principal objectors to this tend to be proponents of civil rights legislation, which Goldwater addresses in the next chapter, who claim that states sometimes make the wrong decision. This is undoubtedly true, but doesn’t the federal government also make bad decisions? At least under a federalist style of government, if one state makes a mistake the rest may avoid the same problem. Under our increasingly centralised government, we’re all stuck with D.C.’s bad decisions.

Goldwater doesn’t address this in detail, but I appreciate that he distinguishes in this chapter between civil rights and natural rights. Briefly, “natural” or “God-given” rights are those we possess by virtue of being human. God gave them to us, and only God can take them away. “Civil” rights are those given to us by the state, and thus can be taken away by the state. The two can, and in fact ought, to overlap, but should not be confused.

On a final note, this may be a bit tangential but still worth pointing out that some politicians and commentators like to smear libertarians and some conservatives by accusing them of wanting to legalise some vice, say hard drugs or prostitution, when in fact they only support restoring authority to restrict such things to the state and local levels. I recall a couple weeks ago seeing Juan Williams make just such an accusation against (who else?) Dr. Ron Paul. It’s a cheap and easy way to scare social conservatives (or leftists, depending on the exact accusation) away from candidates who may threaten the status quo of absolute federal power over the states.

Stray Thoughts from Fox News

December 7, 2011

One of my family members likes to watch Fox News most nights (don’t ask me why, I can’t fathom it), and so I occasionally get glimpses of what goes on in the mainstream media. Tonight, I saw Bill O’Reilly speak with John Stossel about legalising medical marijuana, or something like that – most O’Reilly interviews consist of him talking over guests and yammering about this and that, so it’s hard to tell exactly what he wanted to talk about. Mr. Stossel, though, is one of the most one of the only intelligent people on cable news, so I figured I’d watch a few minutes, and decided to share a few stray thoughts about the segment.

First of all, the highlight of the interview came when Mr. O’Reilly referred to marijuana as a gateway drug. Mr. Stossel responded by saying “Milk is a gateway drug,” kids drink milk and later take marijuana. It’s a valid point, but unfortunately Mr. O’Reilly isn’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box, so he just laughed and moved on. In case he decides to read this, though, let me help him out.

Correlation does not equal causation. It may be true that many users of, say, cocaine previously took marijuana, but this does not mean one inevitably leads to the other. To use the above example, most marijuana users probably drank milk as a child, but this does not mean the milk made them more apt to try marijuana.

Now, I don’t know enough about this issue to feel comfortable saying definitely whether marijuana should be outlawed or not. However, I am confident that the federal government does not have the authority to regulate drug use, which leads me to my second observation – neither Mr. O’Reilly nor Mr. Stossel brought up the question of Constitutionality. Perhaps they simply didn’t have time, but this seems to me like a major issue. I don’t see where in the Constitution the federal government is granted such authority. They couldn’t regulate alcohol until the Eighteenth Amendment, so shouldn’t it take another amendment for other drugs?

That’s not to say the states can’t regulate drug use, according to the limits of their own constitutions. In fact, I suspect that most states would adopt similar policies to the federal government’s.

Finally, I’m always struck by how short these segments are. This could’ve been an interesting debate, but there’s simply not enough time to fully address it in the few minutes alotted. I can think of a few reasons why these shows favour short segments, like accounting for most Americans’ short attention spans, or preventing a real discussion from occuring.

To give credit where it’s due on this network, this weekend Mike Huckabee hosted a “presidential forum” on his show, where he invited each Republican presidential candidate to a round-table interview (except Jon Huntsman, who apparently declined). Each candidate received the same amount of time, and enough time (about ten minutes) to make their points with some depth. Some did much better than others, of course, and I can see why Mitt Romney is considered the most likely candidate – he was undoubtedly the smoothest talker, and probably the most charismatic overall. So, Republicans are probably stuck with him, which means that, barring a collapse of the political duopoly, Americans will be stuck with either him or Barack Obama in 2012. In any case, a hat tip to Mr. Huckabee for doing something worthwhile on his show.