Tag Archives: big government

Obama’s Energy Solution: More Government

President Obama took his weekly radio address to speak towards the growing gas prices across the country and offered a variety of solutions. The common denominator of most of his solutions however, was the direction of, funding from, and oversight by the federal government.

At the onset, President Obama announced the creation of a task force to search and destroy “manipulations in the market that might affect gas prices” with particular focus on speculators. Speculators have been the go-to escape goat on oil prices by both the left and right. Unfortunately, the President’s efforts are misguided. Speculators are those trained individuals who — with advanced knowledge of supply, demand, and the effects on each by current events — buy and sell oil at risk to themselves. If they speculate that in light of a new fervent uprising in Iraq or Nigeria will shake the production of oil, they will buy oil, increasing its price. If an oil company strikes a new bountiful oil well, they will sell, and prices will decrease. We rely on speculators’ insight and knowledge of the oil market to give us oil at its market price.

President Obama seems to view things differently. Such high gas prices shouldn’t be so, facts or market signals be damned. Instead, he seeks to root out, regulate, or annihilate the very components of the oil market that make it tick. Just as a contractor has the experience and know-how to complete a project on time and on budget, so too do speculators have the skill to buy and sell oil based on the facts of production. To assume the federal government could “resolve” anything related to speculation is an insulting irony.

Secondly, Obama seeks to expand domestic oil production, a step forward, but caveats such production with more regulation and misguided incentives, two steps backwards. The President wants to unleash new permits to oil companies for drilling off the coast of Alaska, but says in order to make the process streamlined, a new government organization is required. Such logic seems counterintuitive; how is it that more government bureaucrats and red tape will quicken leasing and not in fact slow it down? Moreover, the President wants to incentivize companies to drill in unused leases — leases that do not have production-worthy quantities of oil or gas. So while the president pushes for the end of oil subsidies, he’s more than willing to subsidize unproductive oil wells. Seems a little two-faced. The only thing different between “incentives” and “subsidies” is the name. The money still comes from you and me.

The President has taken a statist approach to solving the “problem” of high gas prices. Yes, gas prices are high, but oil is a limited resource subject to an infinite array of market conditions, current events, weather, and simple luck of the draw in drilling. To demand a set price based on nothing but wishes is anti-capitalist speak. Dictating prices didn’t work for Stalin, Lenin, or Brezhnev; it wont work for Obama.

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A Separation of Economy & State

When Ayn Rand wrote “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” in 1967, she had no illusion that even then (and most certainly today) the American economy was not worthy of the term capitalism. That had not always been the case however. In the early years of America’s founding, interactions among free men were unfettered by government regulation to the scale it is today. But the failure of the United States to maintain its once pure and honest economic system is not the fault of capitalism itself. It is oft claimed by those on the left that capitalism’s inherent characteristics of competition and greed are paradoxically the ingredients for its destruction. This has been exemplified best by none other than Karl Marx himself, but also by lesser intellectuals like Michael Moore in his documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

It was with the recent economic recession that rocked Wall Street and financial institutions abroad which brought capitalism’s doubters to rear their ugly head. Attacks on high-payed CEOs and cloaked bankers of unmeasurable prestige were leveled, their pay criticized, their business practices judged immoral. What lacked fervor, however, was the conversation on just how the American government had twisted and droved its way into almost ever crevice that had begun to fall apart. What seemed to be ignored was the nature of the relationship between politicians and banks – a cronyism of colossal magnitude that fell like the house of cards it was.

We do not live in a capitalist system. We live in its mongrel, starved, and unshaven cousin. We do not enjoy the receptivity of free markets. We suffer from a foggy swamp of state direction.

To exhibit such dismay would be the work of a voluminous text. But take for example the sobering news reported by the Wall Street Journal that 1 in 4 Americans needs permission by the government to work, or that the ethanol industry is pushing for more federal subsidies with sured promises of campaign assistance, or even the deplorable admission that the Federal Reserve hid from the public the fact that it lent millions of taxpayer dollars to foreign banks during the peak of the financial crisis.

The United States government has interjected itself into sector after sector in the name of the “common good.” Subjective regulation, birthed in the closed doors of Washington D.C., is hailed as a necessary axiom to our complex economic system. Because if this, we live in a state of crony capitalism, a mixed economy of heavily regulated markets and unaccountable controls of our money. It would behoove us all to reconsider the term capitalism and its moral implications.

Capitalism rests the responsibility and consequences of trade on the private sector. It is a system where free men may exchange goods for valued currency or other goods at their own discretion. It is the only system that recognizes  the sovereignty of the individual and the rights he has been endowed with by his very nature. The moment government instills the use of force upon the individual in his array of choices presented to him by the market, it has transgressed on his right to pursue happiness. The moment government bans the production of a product in the name of “public safety” it has transgressed on the right to liberty. The moment the individual is no longer seen as sovereign in the eyes of the state, it has transgressed on his right to his own life.

What is the solution to these pressing problems? It is not to just deregulate, but to withdraw the state to its only moral purpose, to stop injustice so justice itself remains. We must reevaluate the meaning of government as the protector of our rights, not the purveyor of them. We must remember that government is powered by the engine of popular sovereignty, and that if it grows beyond the confines laid out for it, we have the right to change it.

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A Tea Party Profile

As some on the left continue to demonize the Tea Party movement as nothing more than a racial backlash to Obama’s presidency, and with the right’s frantic quest to control its direction, it can be difficult to describe the movement.

I have always contended that the Tea Party is not (and has never been) a homogeneous group of individuals. But that rather it was a group of politically-minded people who reviewed the shocking course the government took in response to the Great Recession and synthesized the need to cut back and reform. However, such a laudable position comes under fire from the left – which refuses to move past the contention that the movement itself is falsified rage perpetuated by GOP shadow financiers. Allow us to take a look at the Tea Party.

Firstly, those associating themselves with the Tea Party are not made primarily of a single racial group, but are in fact fairly mainstream in terms of demographics. Secondly, and probably most importantly, their top concerns are with the size, role, and cost of government, not the race of the president. Contrastingly, more Americans view the Tea Party’s concerns and positions on other top issues as more  in line with their thinking than the President’s, and believe it has a better understanding of the issues than Congress. All of which isn’t so surprising considering most Americans see themselves as overtaxed and in need of smaller, less expansionist government.

The movement has already begun to change the political landscape. It may or may not have boosted calls for a third party but has certainly shaken things up within the GOP. Most GOP voters now disapprove of the Republican Party but heavily favor the Tea Party, a good sign for the country, but possibly a bad sign for Republicans if they do not adopt the movement’s attitude. As alluded to above, the left seems to be caught up on race, accusing the movement of being outright racist. Other than far-fetched signage and other rare exchanges of nasty words caught on camera, I’m really not sure where they come up with such a charge other than from the bottom of the barrel of desperation.

At the very least, the movement has gotten more people involved in the political process: a boon all sides could agree with. While what it represents can at times be hazy, what remains clear is the mood of the public against statist solutions to our decade’s woes. It’s high time the political elite of both old and tired parties realize it.

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Time to Rethink Government

With the passing midterm election, the news media and talk radio have harped strongly on the nature of government and speculated dangerously into the upcoming course of the country. Much of the conversation is focused on the political whims of our time like Health Care reform, reinvigorating the economy, and our wars with other nations abroad.

What seems to be missing from the conversation is the same type of dialogue that crafted this great nation. We as Americans have taken for granted the efforts of our forefathers in establishing what Reagan called “this, the last best hope for mankind.” But the longer we ignore the nature of government, the farther down this road we travel.

What is the road I speak of? It’s paved with surmounting debt and unfunded liabilities; with a federal government with a growing bag of tricks to influence ever more sectors of our lives; with a punitive tax and regulation system that suffocates business; and with a Constitution left to mock in the face of zealous legislators. The road leads to a nanny state that sacrifices our individual rights for the preference of the “greater good.”

It is time we rethink the nature of government: its purpose and its role. It’s time we realize that we, as human beings, have natural rights to life, liberty, and property, and that we have the right to organize together to form a government to protect those natural rights. If we are to live freely, then said government should act only in a negative fashion to stop injustice so justice itself remains.

And if we wish to enjoy this republic, we should then recognize that by its very definition, a government made up of representatives could not possibly represent the will of the entire nation. Because of this, we cannot trust the government to their own devices. We have a duty – as those men who organized to protect their rights – to ensure the very same individuals we trusted to protect us do not become our masters.

We must remember that government, by its very nature is the preventer of injustice, not the purveyor of equality. It constrains man’s imperfect impulses; it does not try to perfect him. It serves us, we do not serve it.

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The Road to Serfdom

Just finished reading Friedrich von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, an incredible book that I would recommend to all those who seek to preserve liberty. When I finished, I turned to a section of another book that talked about Hayek’s ideas proposed in The Road to Serfdom. First Principles by Thomas N. Tripp is a monster of a book that talks about a collection of significant works, including Hayek’s. In it, I read this passage the I felt resonated with today’s political system. I share it with you today.

The modern liberal goal, social welfarism, is evidenced in overarching legislation and regulation designed to control a politically correct society and to redress its inequalities by means of “entitlements.” This is a sophisticated but morally corrupt device. Social welfarists pursue this agenda to the detriment of a rational vision of personal responsibility in a framework of opportunity. And, when welfarist legislators and administrators employ their utopian methods, merely imagined evils (of forced conformity and confiscation of labor’s products) are dwarfed by the harm wrought on the other side of this equation, the side founded on core human values: freedom, responsibility, discipline. Hayek points out that the pursuit of this illusory collectivist goal of equality is simply incompatible with individualism or any sense of intellectual integrity.

Along with a number of political/social philosophers before him Hayek contends that political freedom is inextricably intertwined with economic freedom and that each must exist for the other to survive. This insight, which seemingly needs to be rediscovered every two or three generations is basic to Hayek as it was to Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Lord Acton, and Alexis de Tocqueville. As the economies of the world, and the governments, become bigger and more complex, our understanding of how a free system operates becomes lost in the details. Our awareness of what is needed to keep the system working also becomes muted. In any society mistakes inevitably occur. Social programs and government intrusion into the marketplace to fix the aberrations always begin small – but the problems are often politically exaggerated so the solutions can be more grand; government size and intrusiveness grow in equal measure to the political claims on behalf of the allegedly abused and neglected.

First Principles can be purchased at Amazon.

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Journal of Gov’t Failure: The Great Oil Spill of 2010

The progressives have been using the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a launching point to claim that the idea of self-regulating business as a model has failed. Dig a little deeper, and we find that the causes of this spill may be in part due to faulty Government regulation.

Ronald Bailey at Reason Magazine wrote:

In 1990, both houses of Congress passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support and President George H.W. Bush signed the Oil Pollution Act in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The 1990 act […] set a $75 million cap on liability on damages to natural resources and economic losses suffered by private parties resulting from offshore drilling spills. However, drillers are responsible for all cleanup and containment costs. The cap does not apply if a company is found to have violated federal regulations or engaged in gross negligence (an issue that will certainly be litigated in this case).

Now the federally approved liability cap doesn’t look like such a good idea. On June 9, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Michael Greenstone, testifying before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, argued “the cap creates incentives for spills.” Why? Because if drillers believe that their liability is limited, they will engage in riskier activities than if they feared that they would be responsible for all the costs if things go wrong. While acknowledging that we cannot know whether this incident would have occurred without the cap, Greenstone asserts, “The cap effectively subsidizes drilling and substandard safety investments in the very locations where the damages from spills would be the greatest.”

Now… a company can make any decision it wants to so long as it doesn’t break any law. It’s a free market economy and when it screws up, the onus is – and should be – on them. But when the government comes into the equation, and in an attempt to do something positive, it produces something negative (which is far too often the case) we have to shift at least some of the blame off to the federal government. We also need to be much more careful with what we allow the federal government to regulate.

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Federal Behavioral Modification?

On June 10th, 2010, President Barrack Obama – by executive order – established an ambiguous Council on National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health. It’s functions? To promote and coordinate a variety of health-related tasks between government agencies including “lifestyle behavior modification (including smoking cessation, proper nutrition, appropriate exercise, mental health, behavioral health, substance-use disorder, and domestic violence screenings).”

The federal government is now coordinating behavioral modification of Americans? Aside from the atrocious infringement on individual responsibility, this new executive order adds to the chronicles of big government. The nanny state has grown to include federally funded behavioral modification. Does this not sit well with anyone else?

Let’s also not ignore the unaccountability of this new council which will be comprised of an unelected “diverse group of licensed health professional” who are “appointed by the President.” Shall we recall the outrageous hiring of Czar after Czar in the genesis of the Obama Administration? Shall we also recall the ridiculous picks of such “professionals” which included Van Jones, a Berkley socialist with ties to the Communist Party in Cuba and South Africa.

It is unfortunate that such presidential decrees are allowed to stand. In my opinion, the executive order is a flagrant violation of the constitutionally-drafted balance of power between the three branches of government, in this case in particular, the executive and the legislature. How is that a president is able to, by the stroke of pen, establish councils, czars, and advisory groups that then spend all of their power influencing our already morally bankrupt elected officials?

Physics offers a good lesson for political junkies. Energy – or power – cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred from one position to another. Political power is no different. It is not created in Washington but rather taken from us, and the more power Washington gives it self the less we have to live our lives freely as we see fit.

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