The Theory and Practice of Freedom

Today would have been Milton Friedman’s 102d birthday. He was perhaps the least dismal practitioner of the dismal science. Why? because he believed in freedom, not slavery or dependence on anything but yourself.

Watching him over the years, in his erudite and good-humored presentations has shaped much of my economic world view. And so to celebrate a great man’s birthday, let’s share some of that.

I suspect you will be surprised how germane to today it seems. Enjoy!

On the rights of workers

On Energy

On Money and Inflation

And finally, and maybe most importantly

What is America?

 

 

“America Is The Land For Big Dreams.” – Chicks on the Right

University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daisy over at Chicks on the Right posted a letter from one of her readers the other day. It says some important things about how we built this country, and how we’ll keep it going as well. Susie and her family are what I know as real Americans. Not rich, not prestigious, and above all not afraid to get their hands dirty and work their butts off to get it done. What she may or may not know, is that a lot of us came up that exact way. And you know what, if you apply yourself there are no limits to what you can achieve, all you have to do is believe in your self, and work hard, and honestly. Here’s a start.

Yesterday, I posted about a “study” at the University of Notre Dame where some dude tried to demonize the Tea Party.  Again.  This time, the sociologist and a bunch of his buddies found out that Tea Party folks are educated, so they must be raaaaaaacists because theyre educated – which blows that whole “toothless hilljack backwards redneck” thing out of the water but, hey – whatever keeps yall occupied during work hours, sociology dudes at Notre Dame.

Alrighty then.

Anywho, we got a letter yesterday afternoon in response to that post, and Ill call the sender “Susie.”

Susie wrote:

I would like to just share a little personal response to this quote, “When you’ve had little exposure to people who haven’t had the same opportunities as you, you’re more likely to adopt a view that ‘really anybody who wanted to could have succeeded if they only did what I did,’” said McVeigh. “I really think the key here is education is widely understood to be a primary determinant of where you end up in life. … But as we know, not everybody has the same access to a high-quality education.”

First of all, I just have to say that the only reason they did this study has GOT to be because they were alarmed that so many well educated people are supportive of the Tea Party, and they had to find some excuse for this that would make them look better!

I am not a member of our local tea party, but my husband and I both support the cause! We are 24 & 26. We have two beautiful children, a dog and live in a beautiful century old house in the city. According to our society, we are living an alternative lifestyle since we have chosen to be responsible contributing members of society instead of partying away our 20s.[...]

via “America Is The Land For Big Dreams.” – Chicks on the Right.

Speaking for myself, I’m damned proud to share a country with Susie and her family.

I Am Become America; the Destroyer of Dreams

Or not, what will we choose?

In 1903 this happened

First_flight2

Those bicycle mechanics from Ohio flew about half the wingspan of a 747, and changed the world, forever.

66 years later, yesterday we, America, did this.

moonlanding

Later on, we left a car, like this:

That’s a good summary of my America

But 24 years to the day before that flag went up, a man, in Alamogordo, NM said this:

I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

He had just watched this

But, you know, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was wrong, at least so-far. The nuclear weapons program has not destroyed any worlds, in fact its very first result was to save at least two million casualties, half of them Japanese, it then went on to help prevent war between the US and USSR.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

And thus America’s course through the stormy 20th century.

But you know, yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the day we landed on the moon. Other than the internet, what have we accomplished since?

Maybe this is why.

Think about it.

This is more like America

“World War I on the Home Front,” By Ralph Raico

1934_cartoonThis is considerably heavier (and longer) than what I usually do on Saturday. That’s not an apology, it’s also important. Most of it comes from Nomocracy in Politics, which is a wonderful source for us. Many of you have seen my utter disgust for Woodrow Wilson, and my belief that he ushered in many of the policies that slowed down or maybe stopped the miracle that was America. And I’ll bet you haven’t heard any of this in school, because even back when I was in school, the official line was that Wilson was a great president. He wasn’t. In fact, he may have been the worst of American presidents, even including Obama, if for no other reason than Obama is inconceivable without Wilson.

The break point to me is in three parts:

  1. The income tax, that penalizes Americans for success.
  2. The Federal Reserve, that allows the government to spend money that it didn’t have, without specifically borrowing it, and
  3. World War I. This was the worst of all because the government did all sorts of things that were (and are) illegal and or unconstitutional.

In this essay, Ralph Raico, summarizes very well the pernicious changes instituted by Wilson during the war. You’ll note that most of them continue in force. As you are reading this (and do follow the link) I want you to think about how much freer our society was before these things

The changes wrought in America during the First World War were so profound that one scholar has referred to “the Wilsonian Revolution in government.”[1] Like other revolutions, it was preceded by an intellectual transformation, as the philosophy of progressivism came to dominate political discourse.[2] Progressive notions — of the obsolescence of laissez-faire and of constitutionally limited government, the urgent need to “organize” society “scientifically,” and the superiority of the collective over the individual — were propagated by the most influential sector of the intelligentsia and began to make inroads in the nation’s political life.

As the war furnished Lenin with otherwise unavailable opportunities for realizing his program, so too, on a more modest level, it opened up prospects for American progressives that could never have existed in peacetime. The coterie of intellectuals around the New Republicdiscovered a heaven-sent chance to advance their agenda. John Dewey praised the “immense impetus to reorganization afforded by this war,” while Walter Lippmann wrote: “We can dare to hope for things which we never dared to hope for in the past.” The magazine itself rejoiced in the war’s possibilities for broadening “social control … subordinating the individual to the group and the group to society,” and advocated that the war be used “as a pretext to foist innovations upon the country.”[3]

Woodrow Wilson’s readiness to cast off traditional restraints on government power greatly facilitated the “foisting” of such “innovations.” The result was a shrinking of American freedoms unrivaled since at least the War Between the States.

It is customary to distinguish “economic liberties” from “civil liberties.” But since all rights are rooted in the right to property, starting with the basic right to self-ownership, this distinction is in the last analysis an artificial one.[4] It is maintained here, however, for purposes of exposition.

As regards the economy, Robert Higgs, in his seminal work,Crisis and Leviathan, demonstrated the unprecedented changes in this period, amounting to an American version of Imperial Germany’s Kriegssozialismus. Even before we entered the war, Congress passed the National Defense Act. It gave the president the authority, in time of war “or when war is imminent,” to place orders with private firms which would “take precedence over all other orders and contracts.” If the manufacturer refused to fill the order at a “reasonable price as determined by the Secretary of War,” the government was “authorized to take immediate possession of any such plant [and] … to manufacture therein … such product or material as may be required”; the private owner, meanwhile, would be “deemed guilty of a felony.”[5]

Once war was declared, state power grew at a dizzying pace. The Lever Act alone put Washington in charge of the production and distribution of all food and fuel in the United States.

By the time of the armistice, the government had taken over the ocean-shipping, railroad, telephone, and telegraph industries; commandeered hundreds of manufacturing plants; entered into massive enterprises on its own account in such varied departments as shipbuilding, wheat trading, and building construction; undertaken to lend huge sums to business directly or indirectly and to regulate the private issuance of securities; established official priorities for the use of transportation facilities, food, fuel, and many raw materials; fixed the prices of dozens of important commodities; intervened in hundreds of labor disputes; and conscripted millions of men for service in the armed forces.

via “World War I on the Home Front,” By Ralph Raico | Nomocracy In Politics.

There were, of course, precursors going back at least to Lincoln and becoming noticeable in Theodore Roosevelt’s, and Taft’s administrations but, they were just that: precursors. This is when Progressivism got its real hold on our country–much to our detriment.

Can we go back? I doubt it, at least not all at once, unless the whole thing falls apart, like the Soviet Union in 1989, and that’s a hard way to fix things.

Should we? Yes we should. We were the wonder of the world, some things were harder but on balance we did more for ourselves–and for the world–than we have since. This is where we came from and how we did it.

Maybe not all the way, all at once. It did take us a hundred years to get this screwed up, but we need to change the direction, or we will go off that cliff at some point. If that happens, everything we have stood for, individual liberty, free market success, free innovation and all the rest will be lost, including the free world, maybe for a long time, maybe forever.

But remember, on this journey, you are responsible for you and yours, no one else is.

Redskins and the Rule of law

Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present

Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s talk about this Washington Redskins thing a bit shall we. in many ways, it’s a shiny squirrel but, there is some meaning buried in there as well, that we should think about. The thing is that the Redskins name, and the associated image is a trademark (abbreviated this way ™). in essence that means that if you want to sell a coffee mug with the logo or the name, you have to pay some amount of money to the team, and if they find your use inappropriate they can refuse to let you. In the same way the name nebraskaenergyobserver is mine as is my Gravatar. So is in a way the design and layout of the blog and so forth. The same is true for you, and that is why we all are careful about fair use.

They provide a reasonable assurance when you see them that you are seeing my work, not Harvey Lunchbucket from Podunk’s. Trademarks exist and are enforceable with or without the blessing of the US Patent and Trademark Office. In other words, the Redskins still own their name and their rights are enforceable in court. Volokh put it this way yesterday:

My tentative view is that the general exclusion of marks that disparage persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols should be seen as unconstitutional. Trademark registration, I think, is a government benefit program open to a wide array of speakers with little quality judgment. Like other such programs (such as broadly available funding programs, tax exemptions, or access to government property), it should be seen as a form of “limited public forum,” in which the government may impose content-based limits but not viewpoint-based ones. An exclusion of marks that disparage groups while allowing marks that praise those groups strikes me as viewpoint discrimination.

And that is the problem here, really. It’s only slightly more difficult for the Redskins to prove their case. And that’s the nub of the matter. it is their property. to decide the name, to decide, who can use it (or not) and how much they should pay for the privilege. It belongs to them, not to me and not to you, and not to anyone else, it’s theirs to use as they wish.

And so in many ways this is a meaningless act of disrespect, for the Redskins, yes, but also for all property. Our blog designs, our homes, our stock holdings, our retirement, all of it. And that goes to the very basis of our society.

Free society is built on property rights. Infringement of their property rights was one of the cause that led to the signing 799 years ago this week of Magna Charta, as well as the Declaration of Independence that hangs next to it in the National Archives. Without that right to private property there is no private sector, which has always been the driving force of our economy. It makes money (as do the Redskins), unlike the government which redistributes wealth (which is not the same as money) which it has taken from one citizen for the benefit of another. See the difference there? Government creates nothing.

In other words, property rights is one of the basics of The Rule of Law, and that is what has set the (mainly) English speaking world off from everybody else, through revolution and civil war, flood, famine, and plenty, our property has always been our property, subject to certain objective rules. And while this case is trivial, it is also a symbol, as have been other cases of our government’s disrespect for the rule of law. That has made many of us comment that we now have a lawless regime (the common term is a banana republic) because in some measure we have become in John Adams words, reversed:

A government of men, not of law

Its Time to Stop Controlling Kids

th1Leslie Loftus wrote an article over Father’s Day weekend that struck me strongly, and as right. The thing we’re not teaching our kids is judgement, I see it nearly everyday with young guys at work, they always have to have someone’s approval before doing the simplest thing, to the point that they are a supervisor’s nightmare–they literally can’t see work in front of their face. Leslie has some idea why, so read her article.

Gen Xers often joke—on Facebook, naturally—about how much trouble we would have wreaked if our youthful stupid mistakes had gone viral. But what could have mortified us 20 years ago we handled by destroying photos and negatives. Photo burning was a staple of late 90’s bachelorette parties.

Contrast that with the Dropbox porn story coming out of Virginia, in which two boys put a bunch of nude or semi-nude photos of female fellow students on Dropbox and passed around the password. A little flash nudity has been a staple of Truth or Dare games for generations. What’s new is the capture and distribution capability—and the children unprepared for its consequences. Today we have no simple fix to save these girls from crisis or, perhaps, the boys from incarnation.

After one of these events, a chorus begins to ask, “Where were the parents?” But I often wonder about the teens. How could they possibly think these acts were a good idea? Or put another way, for how long do we think parental supervision is the answer?

I don’t ask to assign blame, but to focus on the problem at hand. Controlling the Internet isn’t an option—not legally, not logistically. Sufficient supervision isn’t possible. I have tried every Internet filter variation, including prohibition. They all have exploitable flaws. We will have to teach children to use judgment.

But modern parents don’t like judgment. We like control. Some parents brave culture for their children, clearing all obstacles. Other parents set all the rules and boundaries for their children. In both cases, parents substitute their judgment for their children’s and leave each of them vulnerable to life.

Modern parents don’t like judgment. We like control.Stories of how well children of helicopter parents fare in the adult world are reaching legend. Some homeschoolers get heartache when their carefully pruned broods rebel. Similarly, many Christian denominations are puzzled by the trend of the young leaving the church, with only a fraction returning later and usually to more traditional Catholic or Anglican traditions.

via Its Time to Stop Controlling Kids and Teach Them Judgment.

She’s right but I don’t think she has it thought all the way through. Judgement comes from initiative taken–and consequences paid. You’ll hear many of us of my generation relate how we were told after breakfast (in the summer) “Go out and play, I don’t want to see you till lunch”. Those stories are true. Our parents trusted us not to, not get into trouble, they knew we would, but to figure out how to get back out. They trusted us to show responsibility for ourselves first in small things, like entertaining ourselves. They also knew that we, and they, would pay a price, usually in cuts and scrapes, occasionally in more serious things. About those cuts and scrapes, I can still hear Dad saying, “I didn’t feel a thing.” He wasn’t callous, if I hurt myself, he was all for fixing the hurt but he gave me room, to get a minor scrape or 20. And most importantly, to learn the lesson.

He never did anything that sapped my initiative, either. When I was about four, I managed to jack up an old car that was out behind the house, and take off a tire. He certainly didn’t praise me for it (I do suspect he was a bit proud, but thought it shouldn’t be encouraged), what he did was, at the earliest opportunity, remove the car, before I hurt killed myself. Similarly, since he was mowing 5 acres of yard, being a boy, I wanted to mow, about that same time he came up with a little riding mower, removed the blade, and designed an electric start system for it. Well I still couldn’t mow, but I could pretend, with real tools, and I did. I’ll bet I put 5,000 miles on that ‘tractor’.  And by the time I was ten, I fulfilled my quest, mowing the yard was primarily my responsibility, and you know something it was fun too. I still enjoy mowing, it reminds me of my childhood.

And one final example, like most people living in the country, dad had a shotgun, for all the uses we talk about, except that he wasn’t a hunter, he knew enough to, he just didn’t care for it. Growing up watching westerns, you know how much I wanted to play with that old .410! It was one of very few things forbidden, with serious consequences for violations, another was playing in the road. They were all things that could kill you. But about the time I was seven, on Christmas, there was that Daisy “Red Ryder” in all it’s glory. It came with a very serious lecture on firearms safety, and the promise that there were no second chances for violations. Even at seven, I knew those lectures were reserved for things that had real, life and death, consequences, and acted accordingly. When I was ten, it was followed by a .22, with a more advanced lecture involving the explosion of a watermelon. Lesson learned, to this day, a half century later, I have never had a firearms accident (except for breaking a stock when I fell down an ice hill).

What am I saying here, is simply this: You cannot teach judgement, you can only learn it. I always put it this way

Good judgement comes from experience

Experience come from bad judgement,

preferably others.

Here’s another part of that, I’ve said how I grew up around dad’s work and crews, especially as an early teen. One of the things I saw was this. The company got a report on every fatal accident in a rural electric in the United States, we all read them, and some formed the basis of safety meetings Thusly we learned not what to do but, what not to do, and we were all safer people for it.

And that is how you teach the two things that are lacking in most young people (and it is not their fault, in my opinion). Good judgement and initiative. Leslie’s right but she doesn’t go far enough. All kids have initiative, our challenge as parents and adults is to channel it and not destroy it.

A child needs room to learn, even by failure, even by losing, that’s how one learns to win and to pay the price for either. It’s the parent’s job to control the environment just enough to keep the costs of failure within bounds.

And do understand this, if you are a parent, you are your child’s hero.

Nobody ever died of a skinned knee.

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