Warfare as a Form of Welfare

Many proponents of state welfare also claim to oppose war. This isn’t surprising since proponents of state welfare try to position themselves as compassionate and caring. What they fail to understand is that warfare is also a form of welfare:

Approximately 1.4 million Americans work as members of the armed forces, and another 1.6 million workers labor in the civilian “defense” industry. These Americans are welfare clients of the “workfare” variety.

As an economic factor, they might just as well be digging holes and filling them back in (in fact, as a US Marine infantryman, I did quite a bit of exactly that!). The vast bulk of the work they do serves no “legitimate” function with respect to actual defense of the United States from attack or invasion, and in fact more likely increases the risks of such.

Some high double-digit percentage — I think 75% is a reasonable and conservative estimate — of “defense” spending is not about “defense” in any meaningful sense of the word. It’s about keeping those 3 million workers on the clock, and keeping their politically connected employers in profit.

Setting aside the apparently arbitrary percentage selected by the author the point of this article is clear, warfare employs some 3 million individuals. Every tank, ship, and missile requires manpower to design, build and, employ. Somebody must drive the tank, entire crews are needed to operate a ship, and missiles don’t fire themselves (yet). On top of building and operating military equipment there is also a massive number of support personell from janitors to secretaries to cooks.

Were the wars ended many of these 3 million people may find themselves without work. Facing a sudden surplus of labor it may take some time before those people are able to find employment again. By maintaining the warfare aspect of the warfare-welfare state some 3 million people find themselves being paid through tax victimization to be unproductive. Furthermore this form of welfare is self-perpetuating:

If that was the end of it, it would be pretty bad — one out of every five dollars earned by American workers siphoned off on an incredibly inefficient welfare program. But that’s not the end of it at all. The existence of the welfare program is a major incentive for going to war early and often.

If there is no war then the warfare-based welfare program must be either downsized or eliminated. Therefore a warfare-based welfare program encourages going to war because it allows those employed by warfare to continue to be employed and because nobody likes to have trillions of dollars of equipment lying around unused. Claiming to be in support of welfare but opposed to warfare, at least in the United States, is oxymoronic. Warfare is welfare.

Apparently We’re Helpless without Big Government

According to the New York Times big storms, like the ones that just hammered the east coast, require big government:

Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.
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Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it.

Unsurprisingly this article is a thinly veiled exploitation piece meant to attack Romney while jacking off Obama. What I want to address is the claim that natural disasters require a big government. Consider the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for a moment. Supposedly this single organization has enough knowledge, foresight, and resources to coordinate and supply disaster relief efforts throughout the country. Without them, if the New York Times is to believed, it would be impossible for areas to recover from major disasters.

Let’s consider resources for a moment. As a federal agency FEMA must supply whatever resources are necessary to help with disaster relief throughout the entire country. Being a large country the number of resources necessary is absolutely mind boggling. Furthermore different regions face different potential disasters and therefore need different resources. Damage caused by tidal waves is different than damage caused by tornadoes and therefore the resources required to recover from a tidal wave are different than the resources necessary to recover from a tornado. Yet disasters such as tidal waves will not affect interior states and tornadoes are far less likely to occur in coastal states.

Resources include everything from drinking water to temporary shelter to specialized knowledge. The last resources, specialized knowledge, is the most important because without it there is no way to effectively determine the other resources needed for disaster relief. Who is more likely to know what is needed when a tornado touches down and destroys a vast section of a Midwestern town: a bureaucrat sitting in Washington DC that has likely never experienced a tornado or residents living in the affected Midwestern town that have dealt with tornadoes before? In all likelihood it will be the latter group.

Stocking FEMA with resources necessary takes resources form somewhere else. Scarcity is a fact of life and the government, no matter how badly it wants to, cannot overcome it. The resources sent to FEMA come from other parts of the country meaning each individual state has less resources available to prepare for local disasters than they would if FEMA didn’t exist. Wyoming would have more free resources to invest in preparing for coal mine collapses while Texas would have more free resources to invest in preparing for oil fires if they weren’t sending resources to FEMA.

There is also no guarantee that resources taken by FEMA will be distributed to areas affected by a disaster. FEMA only enters the equation when the federal government declares a disaster. When floods struck Duluth, Minnesota governor Dayton requested FEMA provide assistance, a request that FEMA denied:

On July 19, Governor Dayton requested individual assistance for home and business owners affected by June’s one-in-a-lifetime Duluth-area flood.

Today, FEMA denied Dayton’s request, and the governor is none too happy about it. “The Governor is very disappointed in FEMA’s decision, and is currently working with state agencies to explore next steps,” says a release from spokesman Bob Hume.

Minnesota, like every other state, has sent resources to FEMA. When storms hit and devastated Duluth FEMA refused to release its resources. Individuals working on disaster relief in Duluth found themselves with fewer resources than would have been available if FEMA wasn’t syphoning them. Not only are resources taken from localities and given to FEMA but there is no guarantee those resources will ever be made available.

Individuals are also able to prepare for natural disasters. By stocking nonperishable foods, generators and fuel, blankets, drinking water, and medical supplies an individual can prepare themselves for surviving the disruptions caused by natural disasters. By taking advantage of division of labor one individual in a community can focus on stocking food while another can focus on ensuring available shelter. Working together directly individuals can prepare necessary supplies because they have access to the sole source of specialized knowledge regarding each person’s personal needs. FEMA, sitting off in Washington DC, has no way of knowing what your or I need when a disaster strikes. It’s impossible to know the needs of another individual, especially when you’ve never met them.

Natural disasters don’t require big government. In fact big government can actually be extremely detrimental to disaster relief.

The New GOP High-Speed Stupid Train

The Republican Party improving their stupid train. Things started out well when the Todd Akins unveiled the prototype coal-powered stupid train when he said women seldom become pregnant from “legitimate” rape. Improving the stupid train immensely Jon Hubbad and Loy Mauch announced the diesel powered version when they went on record saying slavery was a blessing in disguise. Last week Richard Mourdock released the diesel-electric version of the stupid train saying children resulting from rape were gifts from God.

Today, thanks to the diligent work of reader and commenter Matt Tanous, I’m proud to announce that Charles Fuqua introduced a new high-speed version of the stupid train by stating support for enacted the death penalty on unruly children:

The maintenance of civil order in society rests on the foundation of family discipline. Therefore, a child who disrespects his parents must be permanently removed from society in a way that gives an example to all other children of the importance of respect for parents. The death penalty for rebellioius children is not something to be taken lightly. The guidelines for administering the death penalty to rebellious children are given in Deut 21:18-21:

The cited passages were omitted in the linked article to save space, fortunately I looked them up:

18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Fear not citizens, Fuqua’s support for enacting the death penalty on unruly children isn’t as bad as it sounds. He understands how dire such a situation is and believe there should be stringent oversight:

This passage does not give parents blanket authority to kill their children. They must follow the proper procedure in order to have the death penalty executed against their children.

See, it’s OK, very strict procedures must be followed before a child is put to death for being unruly. Fuqua may be harsh but he’s certainly benevolent!

As the election gets closer I expect the Republican Party to release a new flying version of their stupid train. Perhaps it will even be powered by burning the bodies of freshly executed children. It’ll be innovative and powered with renewable resources!

The Importance of Economic Education

Ron Paul still remains one of the few politicians that I respect. He was a great recruiter to the liberty movement and got liberty loving individuals motivated to help change this country. Ultimately he encourages individuals to participate in the political process in an attempt to hijack the Republican Party and turn it into a free market anti-war organization. Needless to say it would seem that the political process is his tool of choice for bringing liberty to the United States but during the 30th anniversary celebration of the Ludwig von Mises Institute he went on record saying that economic education is more important than any political action:

If you’ve read any of Paul’s books you’ve likely noticed that he often references the likes of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. Paul’s knowledge and philosophy stem from reading and comprehending the great minds of libertarianism, which were also the great minds of, what is now referred to as, Austrian economics. Understanding Austrian economics is understanding libertarianism. Reading material by Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and the other big names of Austrian economics will explain why voluntary interactions are more beneficial and coercive force.

Spreading liberty can be done far more effectively through economic education than political action. Economic education teaches why liberty is important and allows individuals to internalize those lessons whereas political action requires participants not already educated in the school of liberty to mindlessly follow orders from figures of authority.

How Can One Hold Political Party Values

How many times have you heard somebody say they hold Republican or Democratic Party values? I hear people claiming their political philosophy is based on party values alarmingly often. Party values make for a poor political philosophy because they are subject to change every four years. Unless your political philosophy is literally obedience to a party there is no way to claim to believe in party values while remaining philosophically consistent.

Consider the 2012 Democratic Party platform, which changed drastically from 2008’s platform. In the time span between 2008 and 2012 somebody claiming they support Democratic Party values would have been claiming to stand in favor of ending indefinite detention, repealing the PATRIOT Act, closing Guantanamo Bay, stopping racial profiling, and ending the use of torture on military prisoners. After the Democratic National Convention in 2012 those same people would no longer be claiming such stances.

The Republican Party fairs no better. Consider the party’s change in stated beliefs regarding global warming climate change global climate disruption climate change and renewable energy. Somebody claiming to support Republican Party values in 2008 would have been stating support for finding a market solution to combat climate change and a commitment to issuing tax credits for the promotion of developing renewable energy. That same person after 2012 would be claiming to oppose the entire concept of climate change and believing in a very vague concept of promoting renewable energy.

Claiming you support Republican or Democratic ideals is as good as saying nothing at all. Party platforms can and do change every four years at national conventions. For four years the Republican Party could stand for repealing all gun control laws only to change four years later to supporting the enforcement of current gun control laws. The Democratic Party could stand for ending all foreign wars American is currently engaged in for four years only to change their stance and support continuing those wars after a national convention. That’s why basing one’s political philosophy on party ideals can only lead to inconsistency and hypocrisy.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Minnesota Voter ID Amendment

Political organizations are spending their money for the final push before the election. Television screens are alive with political advertisements, newspapers are filled with pages of propaganda, and billboards across the country are urging you to vote one way or another. In Minnesota we’re being assaulted with advertisements asking us to vote yes or no on two constitutional amendments. These amendments have consumed a great deal of time for the politically active members living in this state, even though they’re really just scams meant to get the Democratic and Republican voter bases out to the polls.

Of the two amendments I find the one that would require voters to present state issued photo identification when voting to be the most interesting. Unlike the amendment that would make the state’s prohibition against same-sex marriages constitutional, which is nothing more than further legislating religious dogma, the voter identification amendment is a potential solution to a potential problem. Both the problem and the solution are only potentials because no reliable study has been performed to determine if the cost of implementing voter identification outweighs the cost. To this point all arguments for and against this amendment are hypothetical. Those who support the amendment claim that it will fight voter fraud but haven’t demonstrated that voter fraud is a significant problem and those who oppose the amendment claim it will disenfranchise specific voting blocks (which can’t actually be demonstrated until the amendment is passed so I give them a bit of a break). Security, like anything else that requires the use of resources, needs to undergo cost-benefit analysis.

In order to perform a cost-benefit analysis we need to identify the threat. Voter identification legislation is meant to combat the threat of individuals claiming they’re somebody else in order to cast additional votes. How many cases of such fraud have occurred in Minnesota? I’ve seen no conclusive studies indicating such a number, just vague statements claiming it’s a rampant problem. Nationwide the rate of voter impersonation is statistically nonexistent:

Out of the 197 million votes cast for federal candidates between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud, according to a Department of Justice study outlined during a 2006 Congressional hearing. Only 26 of those cases, or about .00000013 percent of the votes cast, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas.

.00000013 percent of votes cast nationwide were demonstrated to be cases of voter impersonation. That number is so statistically insignificant as to be entirely irrelevant. Unless Minnesota greatly bucks the national trend voter impersonation isn’t a notable problem here. Considering the likely insignificant nature of the problem how much would it cost to implement a voter identification system? According to the only study I’ve found on the subject the cost it is estimated that a voter identification program would be $68.5 million in the first year [PDF].

Is it really worth spending $68.5 million in the first year on something that hasn’t even been proven to be a problem? Personally I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend a single dime on something that hasn’t been proven to be a problem.

The Romney Campaign’s Beautiful Political Stunt

I’ve discussed how I think the Romney campaign needs a better propaganda minister. Perhaps somebody at the campaign is reading my blog because their latest political stunt makes for some amazing propaganda:

Romney was originally slated to campaign over the weekend in Virginia, but canceled plans there and joined running mate Paul Ryan in Ohio. Curt Cashour, Romney’s Virginia communications director, tweeted Monday that the campaign bus will instead be used to transport basic supplies to local storm-relief centers.

Romney’s propaganda minister nailed it. While this stunt costs the Romney campaign nothing of importance it make it appear that Romney is willing to put what resources he has available into helping those likely to be hit hard by the oncoming storm. I think a few additional bonus points could have been generated if Romney personally drove that bus for its first supply run but that would have put the campaign’s star candidate into harm’s way, which is risky this close to an election. Overall I think this stunt was a magnificent piece of work and should really help Romney’s supporters show how much Romney cares about the people.

Map of Pakistani Drone Strikes

It appears as though our Nobel Peace Prize winning president has been blowing piles of Pakistanis to pieces. Salon posted a map of American drone strikes in Pakistan noting whether Bush or Obama ordered the strike and the number of reported militants (which is any military age male regardless of whether or not they were actually engaged in hostilities) killed. It’s amazing how a president who campaigned on peace managed to order so many assassinations.

How the State Exploits Organic Societal Developments to Sieze Power

I’m continuing to read The Not So Wild, Wild West by Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill. For those unfamiliar with the title it explores the development of property rights on the American Frontier (Old West). Chapter six discusses the development of property rights in California and Nevada during the gold rush.

During the start of the time period no formal government existed in the gold rich areas of California. The federal government laid claim to the territory but had no means of enforcing any laws it enacted leaving the people living in the area to develop their own system of law. Laws were primarily developed on a mining camp by mining camp basis. Each camp had its own system of laws related to claims, water rights, and law enforcement that were development organically. This system of private law worked exceedingly well as the mining camps had notably few instances of violence. What violence did exist was usually between two individuals with some kind of private grudge, not all out fights as often portrayed in Hollywood movies.

What I found most interesting regarding California was how the state gained control over the legal system. In 1851 California passed the Civil Practices Act. The Civil Practices Act basically established a state recognized judicial system over miners, one that recognized each camp’s system of laws. Justices were required to admit as evidence “the customs, usages, or regulations established or enforced at the bar or diggings embracing such claims, and such customs, usages, and regulations, when not in conflict with the Constitution and laws of this States, shall govern the decision of the action.” Effectively the state of California claimed jurisdiction over the camps but ruled based on each camp’s system of laws so long as they didn’t conflict with California’s laws or constitution.

Afterward the federal government got involved in the legal process. In 1865 the United States Supreme Court, in Sparrow v. Strong, ruled that local rules were sanctioned by the federal government. Then in 1866 the federal government passed legislation recognizing an individuals ability to claim public lands for mining through improvement and occupancy (homesteading).

Legislation is only effective if it has the support of popular opinion and is enforceable. If popular opinion opposes the legislation people will ignore it and if the legislation is unenforceable it’s meaningless by default. Considering the strongly independent nature of frontiersmen why would they have accepted either government meddling in their affairs? Simple, neither government was really meddling in the miners’ affairs. Both governments passeds legislation that basically codified each camp’s system of laws. Nothing really changed for the miners.

This is a common way for states to create precedence to obtain further control at a later time. A state will often begin by codifying a currently established custom or private agreement. Such actions are seldom met with protest by the public because nothing is changing, the state is simply saying, “Hey, we recognize the agreements you guys have come up with.” What’s dangerous is that these recognitions set a precedence, they are a legal beachhead. Once one of these legal beachheads is established it’s easy for a state to enact further restrictions by claiming the previous codification of already accepted customs as precedence. Logically the state says it has the authority to create more laws effecting a group of people because those people never objected to the state’s previous interference. What appeared to be a benign action is really a mechanism of establishing future controls.

When the state passes a law that enacts an already generally accepted custom people generally don’t protest. The few who do protest are met with criticism by those who see no problem with the newly enacted law. Supporters of the state will say, “What the big deal? This is how we’ve been doing things. Nothing is changing.” They’re not lying, nothing changes, initially. What they fails to see is what future implications such laws hold. It is important to fight any power grab the state makes, even if that power grab seems benign. Every action taken by the state sets a precedence that the state can later use to justify future grabs for power. Let what happened to the mining industry be a lesson to us all. What started off as mere codification of currently accepted mining camp customs has turned into complete and total state regulation over the mining industry.

Political Organization Candidate Ratings are Often Meaningless

Most people know that a politician is lying anytime he opens his mouth. Yet people will often accept a political organization’s candidate rating as factual. How many times have you heard somebody say, “He has an NRA A rating so you know he’s good?” Many political organizations base their ratings on surveys that are sent to candidates, meaning the organization’s ratings are based on the words of a politicians. If you can’t trust what a politician says why would you trust what they put on a survey. When you’re looking at a political organization’s candidate rating you should always check their methodology.

Campaign for Liberty recently released their candidate ratings. Kurt Bills received a perfect score, which is being touted around by many people in the liberty movement as proof that Bills is a true liberty activist. His rating was determined by a survey filled out by him or somebody in his office. It’s effectively meaningless because it’s saying that Kurt Bills believes Kurt Bills is a true liberty candidate. I’m glad Kurt Bills says he’s a liberty candidate but I have a hard time believing that a candidate who voted in favor of making the prohibition against same-sex marriages constitutional, endorsed Mitt Romney, and blames voters for voting for their preferred candidate cares about liberty.

Not all political organizations base their ratings on the claims of candidates. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) base their ratings on the both the statements of politicians and their actions [PDF]. For example, they grant Obama a score of one in regards to Guantanamo Bay because he backtracked on his promise to close the prison facility. I put more faith into ratings that are based on a politician’s actions instead of their words.

When looking at candidate ratings from political organizations make sure you check that organization’s methodology. Many organizations base their ratings on the claims of the candidates whereas others will look at the actions. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.