Monday, May 21, 2018

This Just Confirms It

I never thought much about Harvard, but this just confirms it: Harvard To Give Hillary Medal For "Transformative Impact On Society".  What a joke, and, a disgusting one at that. 

Econ 101: Who Sets Prices?

Alasdair MacLeod helps us answer the question, Who Sets Prices? I've haven't always answered the way I do now, but when I do, I say "no one person sets prices - we all set prices without even knowing it".  Of course, Mr. MacLeod is much more intelligent and nuanced than I am.  Learn. Learn and Learn some more.

It Wasn't the Russians After All? Surely You're Not Serious!

FBI Informant Stefan Halper Paid Over $1 Million By Obama Admin; Spied On Trump Aide After Election. Yawn. As if anything will happen to anyone involved. All politicians are coated in teflon.  Washington D.C. is a cesspool, not a swamp. Using the FBI and the CIA and every other intelligence agency for domestic spying is old news.  Amazing how so few know that our very own FBI encouraged Martin Luther King to commit suicide, cause you know, it would be best for him. This will get filed under my label "And Nothing Will Happen".  Unless the likes of John Brennan, James Clapper, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, James Comey and a host of others are wearing orange jumpers in prison (and I don't mean a glorified Ritz Carlton version either) I have no faith in the USG, at all.  As George Carlin said, and I paraphrase, "America's one big club, and you and me ain't in it!"

Econ 101: The Law of Comparative Advantage

Maybe Alasdair MacLeod's explanation of the Law of Comparative Advantage will finally hit home in D.C., but likely not.  Anyway, let's give it a go: [emphasis in original]
The debates about Brexit and President Trump’s trade machinations have demonstrated the blindness of otherwise intelligent people to the Law of Comparative Advantage. Let me attempt a contemporary definition:

“The Law of Comparative Advantage states that an entity maximises its resources by producing that which gives the best return, while delegating production of all other products and services to other entities more cost-effective in their production”

This is the justification behind the principle of the division of labour. But it is amazing how people ignore it when it comes to cross-border trade, particularly the Remainers in the Brexit debate, and Donald Trump with his trade policies.

The law has a long history and was usually associated with David Ricardo, who applied the principle to explain trade between two countries. It might have been better to have explained it in more basic terms, but we must remember that in 1817, when Ricardo published his Principles of Political Economy, in which he devoted a few paragraphs to it, that trade was a political issue.

International trade became overtly political when in 1806 Napoleon ordered a blockade of all trade with Britain from Europe, resulting predictably in anti-trade pamphlets, on the lines that British agriculture was what mattered, and commerce was less important.[i] James Mill, in his Commerce Defended in 1808 attacked these trade fallacies, eleven years before Ricardo’s Principles was published.

Today, we have the benefit of a better understanding of free trade, so we can explain the Law of Comparative Advantage in more relevant terms. There are two issues to address, economic and political. The economic issue is simply explained.

We can do this in two stages, first absolute and then comparative. Humans specialise and in all cooperative economies are not skilled in the production of most of the goods and services they require. Therefore, it makes sense to maximise productive output by doing the few things we are individually good at and acquire the supplementary things we require from others, who are better than us at producing them. It would be unproductive for a farmer to make his own cooker or washing machine. Likewise, it would also be nonsensical, and impractical for factory workers to go farming. Thus, the farmer has an absolute advantage in his specialisation over the factory workers, and they have an absolute advantage over the farmer in their production.

But it goes even further. Let us assume the farmer grows wheat. Let us further assume other farmers grow wheat of the same or better quality at a lower cost. In that case, the first farmer will consider growing something else, where his profits are likely to be greater. The other farmers have a comparative advantage over the first farmer, and if the first farmer finds a more profitable niche than producing wheat, he will gain a comparative advantage over other farmers already specialising in his new production.

In other words, an absolute advantage is the simple deployment of skills through the division of labour. The comparative advantage is the deployment of skills to maximise production. Comparative advantage is hugely important, because by recognising it, we deploy capital more efficiently, capital being money, equipment, labour and our own skills. In the process we maximise value and economic progress for all.

An aprioristic law that is true in economics, such as that of comparative advantage, knows no national boundaries. If Chinese businesses can produce steel more cheaply than businesses in the US, US steel businesses can benefit from the comparative advantage of buying in cheap Chinese steel. And if Chinese producers have so much steel stockpiled that they decide to offer it below cost, US manufacturers of products buying that steel get to benefit.

Obviously, a US steel producer will dislike Chinese steel being cheaper than the cost of production in the US. But by not admitting to the comparative advantage, the US steel company is merely deploying productive capital less efficiently than it otherwise might. The management, like our wheat farmer above, should consider changing its business focus, perhaps to producing speciality steels, buying in Chinese steel as a feedstock for more profitable lines.

This does happen. But because the cheapest steel comes from abroad, lobbyists for the steel industry see an advantage in playing on nationalism, pointing out that China could dump steel to bankrupt US steel producers before raising prices again. But if a US producer cuts prices to dispose of surplus stock, no one bats an eyelid. A foreign entity doing so is regarded as a different matter.

This is why politics almost always takes precedence over the realities of comparative advantage when it comes to international trade, and why politicians are blind to the economic case and opt for tariffs instead. Tariffs do what they are designed to do, and that is they excuse domestic producers from having to deploy their capital to the maximum advantage in a global context. And over time, we see the consequences. Domestic corporations become progressively less efficient and less competitive in international trade.

Fortunately, the high tariffs of yesteryear are limited to countries and economic blocs not trading under WTO rules, such as the members of the EU. The EU imposes many higher tariffs to protect a range of businesses, forcing consumers to pay higher prices than they otherwise would. Where they do trade under WTO rules, their products improve to become competitive.

But despite this protectionism which Remainers argue is an advantage to British business, British trade is declining with the EU relative to the rest of the world. This shows that taken as a whole, British industry is exercising its comparative advantages in global trade, notwithstanding the supposed benefit of free trade within the single market. Therefore, any relief in this direction through free trade agreements, or preferably no tariffs at all, can be expected to see a far healthier British economy. And crucially, the economies of Britain’s trading partners would also benefit from the more efficient deployment of capital in their domestic economies.

This is the direction of travel for much of British business anyway, with industry becoming resigned to Brexit, and just getting on with maximising capital resources. Last Tuesday, City AM reported that 98% of London’s largest law firms thought Brexit will have no significant impact on their employment levels, and 95% thought it would have no impact on profitability.[ii] This is important, because law firms are central to London’s financial business, and if they see no net loss of business to other European centres from Brexit, then neither will the rest of the City.
The role of politics

Therefore, the denial of the importance of comparative advantage in international trade is entirely down to politics, which was the nub of Ricardo’s and Mills’s argument. Today as usual, politics looks only at one side of an argument, such as the immediate interests of a manufacturer seeking protection from foreign competition. It ignores all else, particularly the loss of benefit to consumers and the long-run consequences of less efficient deployment of capital by domestic corporations.

Both these can be described as being the unseen benefits of free trade. Instead, it is easier to fall for the proposition that this or that industry needs protection. For this reason, the UK Treasury, the Bank of England, and big business as well, all expected an immediate disruption to their economic and business prospects from the disorder of Brexit, and to this day are still emotionally against it.

For those who understand the law of comparative advantage, the Remainers argument is simply protectionist. By not understanding it, irrelevant and spurious arguments such as the gravity model of trade are touted. The gravity model, which was first put forward in the 1950s, basically states that trade opportunities between two countries are inversely proportional to the distance between them. Therefore, the EU should be the preferred trading partner for Britain.

The gravity model even flies in the face of contemporary experience, with UK’s trade with the EU declining as a proportion of the total, and trade with jurisdictions further afield increasing, despite the additional hurdle of WTO tariffs. Furthermore, China is speeding up the transportation of goods across Asia into Europe, halving the time taken. But this doesn’t stop mainstream economists and others against Brexit placing their outdated gravity models above comparative advantage.

If there is a failure in the Brexit camp, it has been to not educate people in the Law of Comparative Advantage. Perhaps ministers and senior civil servants themselves don’t fully understand the dynamics of trade, a fault seen on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is ironic that Donald Trump, a non-politician who promised to bring business sense to government turns out to be the most political animal of all with respect to foreign trade. Presumably, as a businessman, he understands there is no point in investing resources in the production of something others do better. Yet as a politician, this knowledge is driven out of him by patriotism, jingoism, perhaps even xenophobia.

The result, in both America and possibly Britain post-Brexit (if the politicians end up getting Brexit horribly wrong), is likely to be the incentive for the private sector to maximise the use of productive capital will be undermined. Nearly all production of goods and services is initially targeted at domestic markets, and protection from foreign competition allows manufacturers to resist the changes that ultimately keep them internationally competitive.

These were the trade conditions in Britain in the 1970s, that led to Britain being described as the sick man of Europe and diagnosed as suffering from the British disease. A return to those conditions can be easily avoided, if the reasons for them are properly explained to the ordinary person. And as this short article hopefully demonstrates, the Law of Comparative Advantage is relatively easy to explain.

We should renew our efforts to communicate it to our leaders as well, who repeatedly show less understanding of economic reality than many of those they represent.

[i] William Spence, Britain Independent of Commerce, 1807

[ii] See

Econ 101: The Nonesense of "Balance of Trade"

Robert Higgs at his best, dispelling the notions that pass for economic literacy in this country.  Here's his latest, The Balance of International Payments Is Economic Nonsense
Let us define the set of all human beings whose height is greater than 170 cm and less than 180 cm. Call this set A. Now let us collect data on all the dealings between members of set A and members of set B, which consists of all human beings whose height is less than or greater than those in set A. What economic significance can we ascribe to the aggregate of monetary flows between members of set A and members of set B? Correct answer: none. This aggregation of persons who trade with persons in the complementary set has no economic meaning; the sets are arbitrary so far as economic understanding is concerned. People—individuals, firms and other organizations, and governments—trade in order to improve their economic condition. Whether they trade with shorter or taller people or with people within a certain height range or outside this range has nothing to do with economics or human well-being. To draw up a balance of inter-set payments for set A and set B, or any given subset of B would serve no purpose. It would be a nonsensical exercise.

Now let us define the set of all human beings who reside within the boundaries of a certain nation-state, say, the United States of America. Call these people the elements of set P. Now collect data on all the dealings between members of set P and members of set Q, which consists of all human beings who reside outside the USA. What economic significance can we ascribe to the aggregate of monetary flows between members of set P and members of set Q? Correct answer: none. This aggregation of persons who trade with persons in the complementary set has no economic meaning; the sets are arbitrary so far as economic understanding is concerned. People—individuals, firms and other organizations, and governments—trade in order to improve their economic condition. Whether they trade with people inside or outside the USA has nothing to do with economics or human well-being. To draw up a balance of inter-set payments for set P and set Q, or any given subset of Q (e.g., residents of China or Mexico) would serve no intellectual purpose. It would be a nonsensical exercise.

Yet exactly such a nation-based “balance of international payments” accounting system has been constructed and “analyzed” for a very long time. In centuries past, when kings needed to accumulate gold and silver to pay mercenaries to fight their wars, they had a reason to accumulate such data and to promote policies (such as customs duties on imported goods) that would discourage imports, thereby keeping gold and silver from flowing out of the country in payment for the imports. This sort of “political arithmetic” eventually grew into the modern system of international balance of payments accounts (indeed, the entire system of national income and product accounts, as well). The old monarchical logic for the collection of such data has long since evaporated, however. Modern governments have other ways to organize and finance their wars.

Meanwhile, other interested parties discovered that they might use certain conditions, such as a so-called deficit in the balance of trade (the value of national imports of goods and services exceeds the value of national exports of goods and services) as rhetorical fodder to feed their politicking for the government to place greater tariffs (import taxes) on goods and services imported into the home country that compete for domestic sales with the goods offered for sale by domestic sellers. This gambit is nothing but a means of suppressing competition, an activity in which sellers unfortunately commonly engage, employing the government’s force in their quest if they can enlist it. This so-called protectionism obviously hurts domestic consumers by depriving them of access to better terms of trade otherwise available from foreign sellers.

Recall, however, what was already said: every trade, whether with members of one’s own set or members of another, complementary set, is undertaken in the expectation of gain. The idea that even though every transaction was voluntarily entered into for mutual gain there is something wrong if the aggregate value of exports from one’s set falls short of the imports is, to speak frankly, preposterous. One cannot add up a number of gainful exchanges, whether they be purchases or sales, and conclude that in the aggregate a baleful situation has been created. To give this impression is nothing but a trick, a diabolical scheme, by which some sellers in effect hope to pick the pockets of domestic consumers.

The root of this evil is the aggregation that is employed in such balance of payments accounting systems. Nations as such don’t gain or lose from trade; only individual traders do. If the trades into which these people voluntarily enter entice them by the prospect of mutual gain, it simply cannot be the case that the sum total of their transactions amounts to a bad deal.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Success Sequence

A worthy exchange on the "success sequence", which in my opinion, is the single best poverty-fighting strategy known today.  Read them in order and you'll acquire a foundation upon which you can form your own opinion.

The opening paragraphs of Michael Tanner's The Success Sequence - and What It Leaves Out
Any successful strategy for fighting poverty in the United States needs to start with an understanding of the reasons why people are in poverty. Yet few areas of social science are as hotly debated as this one.

Progressives tend to focus on structural causes of poverty, such as racism, gender-based discrimination, and economic dislocation. On the other hand, most conservative critiques of welfare suggest that poverty is a result of the behavior of individual poor people and the culture that influences the choices they make. Specifically, conservatives point out that if someone finishes high school, gets a job, gets married, and only then has a child, they are unlikely to live in poverty. This is frequently referred to as the “success sequence.”

There is a strong circumstantial case to support the truth of the success sequence.

Why Does the Success Sequence Work? by Isabel V. Sawhill

Straight Talk About the Success Sequence, Marriage, and Poverty by W. Bradford Wilcox

The Failure of the Success Sequence by Philip N. Cohen

The Success Sequence: Normative or Descriptive? by Michael Tanner

It Certainly Won't (And Neither Will I Miss Paying For It!)

The World Will Not Mourn the Decline of US Hegemony by Paul Street

Of Course It Is

Ecuador’s Ex-President Rafael Correa Denounces Treatment of Julian Assange as “Torture”

Blockchain News

Sierra Leone Holds World's First "Free And Fair" Blockchain-Backed Election.  This is way cool.

New: HSBC Completes First Trade-Finance Deal Using Blockchain, Opening $9 Trillion Market For Mass Adoption

Well Past Time I'd Say

Given the recent shooting of unarmed Palestinian protestors at the hands of Israeli soldiers, leaving 58 people killed and 2,700 injured, isn’t it time for the American people to be asking the following question about the role of the federal government in the lives of the American people: Why should any American be forced to subsidize the salaries of the Israeli soldiers who did the shooting and the rifles and bullets they used in the massacre?

I am referring, of course, to “foreign aid,” the federal program by which American citizens are forced to fund foreign regimes that many would choose not to fund if they had a choice.

Even those who support the deadly mayhem in Gaza nonetheless would be hard-pressed to explain why anyone should be forced to fund something that violates his own conscience.

In a genuinely free society (as compared to an unfree society that only purports to be free), people keep their own money and decide what they wish to do with it. Some donate to this cause, others donate to that cause, and some don’t make any donations at all.

That was one of the basic principles of freedom on which the United States was founded. Our American ancestors decided that this would be a society in which there would be no income taxation or IRS. Thus, for more than 100 years, the American people were free to keep everything they earned.

By the same token, no one was forced to share his income with others. In other words, no mandatory charity. That’s because our American ancestors believed that no one should be forced to be good and caring. If donations were to occur, they would have to come voluntarily and willingly from the income that people were free to keep.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the society that America’s founders brought into existence was the most unusual in history, especially given such other features as no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, welfare, public schooling, drug laws, immigration controls, Federal Reserve, paper money, minimum-wage laws, price controls, massive standing army, military-industrial complex, CIA, NSA, FBI, entangling alliances, foreign wars, foreign interventions, and other welfare-warfare departments, agencies, and programs that characterize the type of system that Americans (and everyone else in the world) live under today.

Moreover, no foreign aid!

Let’s break down foreign aid to its essentials in order to clearly comprehend why it is so reprehensible.

Unlike the first century of Americans, Americans have lived under a federal income tax since 1913, just as most people around the world do. The law requires them to send a certain portion of their income to the U.S. Treasury. If they refuse to do so, they are met with the full totalitarian-like powers of the Internal Revenue Service, including liens, garnishments, attachments, audits, harassment, arrest, indictment, prosecution, conviction, incarceration, and fine.

Thus, the myth that some U.S. officials have promoted over the years that the income tax is voluntary is just that — a myth, actually a lie. It’s not voluntary because if any individual decides against paying the tax, the feds, especially the IRS, do very bad things to him. That’s not voluntarism. That’s coercion in its purest form.

The U.S. government then uses a portion of those seized monies to send money or armaments to the Israeli government. We call it “foreign aid” but in actuality it is nothing more than government-to-government welfare. The Israeli government then uses the “foreign aid” to underwrite its programs and operations against the Palestinians.

U.S. officials and Israeli officials maintain that U.S. foreign aid to Israel is justified because the Israelis, they say, are in the right in their long-standing dispute with the Palestinians.

But why shouldn’t each American be free to make that call for himself? Why should a person who disagrees with that assessment be forced to fund something that violates his conscience? Why shouldn’t Americans be free to decide whether to send money to Israel, just as they are free to say “no” to grocery-store clerk who asks if they wish to contribute a dollar to “support the troops”? Don’t forget: voluntary charity was one of the basic principles of freedom on which our nation was founded.

Indeed, today there are many Americans who send donations to the Israeli state and to private groups within Israel. There are regular fundraising drives in synagogues and by other private groups across America that raise money for both the Israeli government and private Israeli groups. No one forces anyone to donate. It’s all voluntary. That’s the way it should be.

By forcing everyone to fund the Israeli government, including its actions against the Palestinians, foreign aid clearly violates that fundamental principle of freedom. Everyone, including people who would ordinarily say “no,” is being forced to fund something whether he wants to or not.

Of course, it’s not just Israel. Consider Egypt, which is governed by one of the most brutal, unelected military dictatorships in history, one that long considered itself to be an enemy of the Israeli state. The U.S. government sends foreign aid to Egypt in the form of money and armaments, which Egyptian officials use to maintain their brutal tyranny against the Egyptian people.

Why should any American be forced to fund the Egyptian tyrants, especially Americans who oppose tyranny? Why shouldn’t Americans be free to decide for themselves who to donate to and who not to donate to?

Foreign aid is really nothing more than a crooked, corrupt racket that the U.S. government operates as a way to control foreign regimes. The idea is to place foreign regimes on the U.S. government’s welfare dole as a way of making them dependent on the dole. It has never had anything to do with any concern for the welfare of foreigners. It has always been about control. Once a foreign regime goes on the foreign-policy dole, it will be much more likely be compliant, submissive, and agreeable to the dole-giver owing to fear of losing its dole.

This realpolitik was made clear just last March by John Bolton, who now serves as President Trump’s national security advisor. In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Bolton is quoted as saying, “I’ve been of the view that votes in the United Nations should cost people, cost countries that vote against us.” To confirm his point, Bolton pointed out that back in 1990, Yemeni officials voted in the UN against U.S. intervention against Saddam Hussein, who had previously been a partner and ally of the U.S. government. Bolton recalled, approvingly, that U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told the Yemenis that it would prove to be the most expensive vote they ever cast. Bolton pointed out, “And we did cut their foreign aid. And there needs to be more of that.”

Moreover, in a time when the U.S. government’s debt, which hangs over the American people like the sword of Damocles, now exceeds $21 trillion and when the government continues adding almost a trillion dollars a year to that debt, shouldn’t Americans be demanding a reduction in federal spending before U.S. officials drive us all into bankruptcy?

What better place to start than by ending all U.S. foreign aid, not only to Israel, but also to every other regime in the world?


California (Hopefully) Learns a Lesson about Marijuana Taxes and the Laffer Curve.  It won't.  It fact, it will likely double down.

Enough said. You know, criminals will certainly have no further access to weapons.  Nope.  'Cause you know, government said so.  California Cities Are Free to Regulate Gun Stores Out of Existence 

The Dark Side Indeed

The Dark Side of Israeli Independence.  I've re-posted many pieces about Israel's historical roots. I have since learned that so very few people have even a passable knowledge of how Israel became a country. Somewhere on this blog I have a post with a video of an Israeli historian providing the true historical facts about the nation's creation.  It's around here somewhere.  Dig a bit.

A Primer On the Opioid Epidemic

Jacob Sullum's America's War on Pain Pills Is Killing Addicts and Leaving Patients in Agony is your single source explanation for the tragedy that has been created by ... the government.

CDC: US Opioid Crisis Getting Worse - "We Have An Emergency On Our Hands" 

The opening to As Opioid Prescriptions Fall, Opioid Deaths Rise:
The decline in opioid prescriptions that began in 2011 accelerated last year, according to the latest data. Meanwhile, opioid-related deaths continue to rise. The opposing trends show the folly of tackling the "opioid crisis" by restricting access to pain medication. 
The War on Opioids Probably Helped Kill Prince

 The New York Times Suggests Opioids Should Be Reserved for Terminal Patients 

New: Nevada Records Show 'Opioid-Related' Deaths Usually Involve Illicit Drugs or Mixtures 

Technology Reads

Accessing Cell Phone Location Information by Bruce Schneier

Finally, a start! Fourth Circuit Rules That Suspicionless Forensic Searches of Electronic Devices at the Border Are Unconstitutional

EFF to New York Appellate Court: No Warrantless Searches of Devices at the Border

The Senate Voted to Stand Up for Net Neutrality, Now Tell the House to Do the Same 

Still trying to get my head around the PGP vulnerability

The Major Speaks: Please Listen

A Veteran’s Gaza Stream-of-Consciousness: Just What’ve I Been Fighting For? by Major Danny Sjursen:  [emphasis/changes in text marked in red are mine]
"After the first death, there is no other."
~ Dylan Thomas

I’m ashamed.

It’s 5:55 AM and I wake up for one more of my last few days in the army – the end of middling soldier’s career – here at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The BBC (I refuse to watch mainstream American news in 2018) is ablaze with the latest reports from the Gaza Strip – some 60 more unarmed Palestinians massacred along the border. Ever so typically, not a single Israeli soldier or citizen was killed.

Then Israel sends its apologist ministers to speak to the world, to America really. "They deserved it," "they were all terrorists," "Hamas was behind the protests," "Israel must protect its border," on and on the sardonic ablutions flow. If the unarmed protesters were, as is regularly claimed, "All Hamas," then they were the most incompetent terrorists in world history. The battle is so one sided that it borders on the absurd.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) make a mockery of the broadly accepted jus in Bello strictures for justice in warfare: proportionality and discrimination. One must, to cohere with basic morals and international law, strive to kill only combatants and use only so much force as is necessary to remove a threat. One look at the video speaks for itself: Israeli troops think they’re above the law, any law. Guess who else has acted with such disdain for the principles of proportionality and discrimination: Hamas. The irony is lost on many Israelis…and Americans.

All the while, a U.S. president is silent, an American populace is implicated.

There’ll be little time and less energy for mourning on American television today. Hawks will defend Israel, "liberals" will apologize for it. Trump will tweet, Kanye will talk, and the Gaza story will pass. Palestinians, who are twice tainted – Muslims and Arabs – will never garner the sympathy of White America. Their lives are worth less than the potential anxiety of a single Israeli.

Washington, and the entire US machine will fall in line and back Israel. It always does.

Why not? We did this, we were accessories, and we were complicit.

I’ve been party to America’s war for the Greater Middle East for decades now. While we lowly soldiers toiled – and bled – around the margins, propping up incompetent faltering governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the real work got done behind the scenes. We were but a cover, a symptom even, of the real war in the Levant.

In this struggle the US blatantly took sides. We – the taxpayers – fed the Saudi and Israeli beasts. There has been funding and excuses aplenty for these two "partners."

In the Saudis, we back an intolerant theocracy, one of the last absolute monarchies on earth. They’re murderous thugs, but they’re our murderous thugs. Yemeni civilians and Shia dissidents be damned!

Ironically, the US also empowers the far-right, ostensibly democratic, government of Israel. In its last dubious and deceitful move, our "beacon of freedom" recognized Jerusalem as the capitol of the Jews, and only the Jews. The move was one sided, probably illegal (UN resolutions call for a division and "final settlement" of Jerusalem’s status) and helped fuel the latest wave of hopeless Palestinian disenchantment.

From a purely strategic standpoint – which seems almost obscene in this blood-soaked moment – the unbridled US commitment to Israel makes us less safe. America’s unqualified backing of Israel was one of Bin Laden’s three published gripes. New Yorkers who knew little about this conflict reaped its consequences in those two towers.

As I entered and searched thousands of houses and apartments in Baghdad and Kandahar, I was often amazed by the ubiquitous presence of posters and paintings depicting Al Quds – Jerusalem. I listened intently to the grievances of hundreds of peaceful Muslims who sought only to explain why so many of their fellow citizens tried to kill me and mine.

And so it is: when the IDF shoots innocents they place US troops and civilians in the crosshairs. Our innocence is suspect.

Today, at least, I’m in no mood for the attacks that will be heading my way: that I am anti-Semitic for even daring to criticize the barbarous tactics of the IDF; that I’m a "terrorist" apologist, and on and on. It’s all bullshit, of course, an absolute logical absurdity used to stifle dissent.

The IDF’s choices and the cynical governing strategies of Prime Minister Netanyahu do not encapsulate the whole of Israeli society. There are "liberals" and empathetic people within that nation, even if their power has waned and their voices are regularly shouted down by the jingoists in charge. Furthermore, to abhor the lopsided slaughter of Palestinians – many of them women and children – is not akin to denying Israel’s inherent right to exist.

This author, at least, is a humanist – a believer that Jewish and Arab lives matter – and an idealist in the sense that I cling to the hope that Israel can be both secure and humane. Maybe, after the events of this past day, that’s a forlorn fantasy. Perhaps we should have recognized this dark fact long ago.

What I do know is this: the United States of America – whether ruled by "liberal" Barack Obama or vaguely "conservative" Donald Trump – can no longer even pretend to be a fair arbiter for peace in the Holy Land. We, all of us, are complicit in the totality of America’s ill-fated, increasingly immoral crusade in the Mideast. We are the air wing of the Saudis’ unfolding genocide in Yemen; advisors and logisticians to an illegitimate, venal, corrupt government in Afghanistan; creators of a veritable monster who will now rule Iraq; and, of course, arms dealer and big brother shielding the sins of an apartheid regime in Israel.

Once upon a time I was a believer; perhaps I needed to believe. I was a soldier, but also a self-styled humanitarian, bent on riding the region of evil and building a liberal civil society (in America’s own, flawed image, of course). I was distraught when George W. Bush couldn’t make it to my West Point graduation – and I wasn’t even a Republican, just another "patriot" I’d assumed.

17 long years have passed and my wars are finally in the rearview. What, besides ushering in a new set of decadent authoritarians and warlords, can I claim to have accomplished? Qui bono – for whose benefit did I serve and grieve and lose so much? Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the American military-industrial complex, that’s who. It’s a racket.

I’m a victim of a marked moral injury. And I’m not alone.

I fought on the duplicitous team that decries the death of each and every Western, Caucasian victim of "terrorism," but utters not a sound in response to the gruesome massacre of brown Palestinians in Gaza. Maybe I fought on the wrong side; maybe there is no "right" side.

Of this much I’m certain: I killed those unarmed men, women, and children at the Gaza border. My arms and my efforts enabled the massacre.

The blood is on my, and America’s, hands. So is the shame.

Danny Sjursen is a US Army officer and regular contributor to He served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

[Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

Copyright 2018 Danny Sjursen

So You Are!

I Am Julian Assange

Yemen 101

No other way to say it than this: America's involvement in Yemen is a disgrace. Period.

Primer: A Beginners Guide To The Conflict In Yemen

Should, but won't: America Should See Saudi Arabia’s War on Yemen for the Horror It Really Is.

I didn't know it was telling us anything! What Else Is Washington Not Telling Us About US Participation in Yemen?

Quote of the Day

Source: Two Sentences that Capture the Essential Difference Between Libertarians and Statists by Daniel Mitchell

And Nothing Will Happen

'cause you know, power and politics ...

New: Brennan Was Feeding Obama Unverified Info From Steele Dossier, Contradicting 2017 TestimonyJohn Brennan - another scumbag.

New:  IG Horowitz Finds FBI, DOJ Broke Law In Clinton Probe, Refers To Prosecutor For Criminal Charge

John Kerry’s Spokesperson Just Admitted He Is Actively Violating The Logan Act

Leaked Texts Suggest Coordination Between Obama White House, CIA, FBI And Dems To Launch Trump-Russia Probe

McCain Associate Pleads The Fifth Over His Involvement In Delivering Trump Dossier

Peter Strzok Ignored Evidence Of Clinton Server Breach

Declassified: Comey Had Secret Russia Meeting With Obama Amid "Unmaskings"

FBI Scandal Unraveling: Susan Rice Email From Inauguration Day Is ‘Disturbing’

DOJ Official Bruce Ohr Hid Wife's Fusion GPS Payments From Ethics Officials

FBI Informant Testifies: Moscow Routed Millions To Clinton Foundation In "Russian Uranium Dominance Strategy" 

FBI Accused Of Blocking Key Details On "Trump Dossier" Author

Clinton Foundation Uses Unseen Transactions for Influence Peddling

FBI Agents Discussed "Secret Society" Within DOJ And FBI Working To Undermine Trump.  (Note: Even just an inference of such a group is grounds to tear it all down.)

FBI "Loses" Five Months Of Text Messages Between Anti-Trump Agents

"Brazen Plot To Exonerate Hillary Clinton" And Frame Trump Unraveling, Says Former Fed Prosecutor

Destroying, suppressing evidence is FBI standard procedure

House Conservatives Want Bombshell Memo Released As Part Of Shutdown Talks

Republicans Have Four Easy Ways to #ReleaseTheMemo — and the Evidence for It. Not Doing So Will Prove Them to Be Shameless Frauds. (Note: They ARE Shameless Frauds - and they're scumbags to boot)

The FISA Memo is All the Ammunition Trump Needs to Take on the CIA.  (Note: But he will not do so.)

Prosecute Former Spymaster James Clapper for Lying to Congress Now. Time is Running Out.

FBI Investigating Millions Of "Mishandled" Dollars Funneled From Australian Govt To Clinton Foundation

WikiLeaks: John Podesta Was Briefed On "Gross Negligence" Before FBI Removed Phrase From Clinton Exoneration

Upcoming OIG Report Likely To Trigger Second Special Counsel; Comey, Lynch And Clinton In Crosshairs

Hillary In The Crosshairs As DOJ Prosecutors Begin Asking FBI Agents About Uranium One

Comey's Original Clinton Memo Revealed, Shows Deletions Of Felony Evidence

FBI Chief FOIA Officer: "Every Single Memo Comey Leaked Was Classified"

Huma Abedin Forwarded Top Secret Passwords To Yahoo Account Hacked By Russian With Odd Clinton Connection

Probe Uncovers "Laws Broken, False Statements" In FBI Handling of Clinton Emails

Leftist 101

Let's start with this:

Communism and all its variants: Does. Not. Work. Period.  Regardless of the next class of intellectuals who convince themselves they'll do it differently (read: better) than those before them, it simply does not work.

In Honor of “May Day,” another Edition of Anti-Communism Humor by Daniel Mitchell

Socialism: A Dreary Failure, Malignantly Evil, or Both? by Daniel Mitchell

Marx and American Leftists Are Wrong About Inequality by Jacob Hornberger

The Useful Idiots Spreading Socialist Propaganda by John Stoss

“Celebrating” 200 Years of Communism by Doug Bandow

"Real Socialism" Has Indeed Been Tried — And It's Been a Disaster by Ryan McMaken

The Calculation Flaw in Marx’s Socialism by Jacob Hornberger

Karl Marx and Marxism at Two Hundred by Richard Ebeling

The Absolute Best Piece to Read: The Worst Man in Modern History by Alasdair MacLeod

Marx's Fallacious Exploitation Theory - Jacob Hornberger

New: Another Dupe and Apologist for Totalitarian Communism by Daniel Mitchell

What, You're Surprised To Learn That ...

In late April, Mitchell Langbert, an associate professor at Brooklyn College, published a study on ideological homogeneity at liberal arts colleges in the journal Academic Questions. His findings confirm what many right-wingers have been whispering—and shouting—about for a while now: nearly 39 percent of the colleges sampled are Republican-free, in terms of faculty ideological makeup.

Langbert sampled 8,688 tenure track Ph.D.-holding professors from the top 51 liberal arts schools, according to the 2017 U.S. News and World Report list. He used only full-time, tenure track faculty (full, associate, or assistant professors) and excluded all part-time professors (adjunct, visiting, and emeritus). Langbert then matched these names with voter registration records, using only colleges in states where voter registration information is public.

He also excluded 101 professors—a little more than one percent of the total sample—from the analysis, because they were registered as members of minor parties (cue big-L libertarian weeping).

He found "a D:R ratio of 10.4:1 across all liberal arts departments if the military colleges are included and 12.7:1 if the military colleges are excluded." Unsurprisingly, the hard sciences—engineering, chemistry, physics, and mathematics—had more even ratios of Democrats to Republicans than fields like sociology, english, religion, and anthropology. Communications ranked highest in terms of ideological homogeneity skewed toward the left.

Langbert could not find a single Republican with an "exclusive appointment" to gender studies, Africana studies, or peace studies. In total, he found more than 800 departments that did not employ a single Republican, and only 225 that did—so around 78 percent of departments did not contain a single full-time professor who identifies as Republican.

Of course, some schools are outliers: Thomas Aquinas, a Roman Catholic college with under 400 students, has an impressive 33 full-time faculty who identify as Republican. West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy, two military schools, also have high percentages of Republican-leaning faculty; and Claremont McKenna College and Kenyon College are also outliers in terms of their relatively high amount of ideological diversity.

This issue isn't something that's popped up recently; the trend has looked this way over time, and studies done in the U.K. show similar trends. Langbert writes, "More than a decade ago, Stanley Rothman and colleagues provided evidence that while 39 percent of the professoriate on average described itself as Left in 1984, 72 percent did so in 1999."

All of this is not to say that professors should convert to Republicanism, or that the world would be made better with political homogeneity in the other direction (quite the contrary). But liberal bias seeping more deeply into the institutions that control credible scholarship, and into the institutions tasked with churning out the next generation of thinkers, is cause for concern.

"Political homogeneity is problematic because it biases research and teaching and reduces academic credibility," writes Langbert. "Even though more Americans are conservative than liberal, academic psychologists' biases [for example] cause them to believe that conservatism is deviant."

This should be cause for concern for anyone who cares about fostering intellectually rigorous environments where young people can test out their most wild, contrarian, and (sometimes) abrasive beliefs, all while being fiercely challenged by their intellectual opponents and course material. It's difficult to create that ecosystem when faculty seemingly agree on everything.

Simply, Yes. And Good For That Matter

I have explained Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Christian practice of turning the other cheek to Western provocations as a strategy to convey to Europe that Russia is reasonable but Washington is not and that Russia is not a threat to European interests and sovereignty but Washington is. By accommodating Israel and withdrawing from the multi-nation Iran nuclear-nonproliferation agreement, US President Donald Trump might have brought success to Putin’s strategy.

Washington’s three main European vassal states, Britain, France, and Germany have objected to Trump’s unilateral action. Trump is of the opinion that the multi-nation agreement depends only on Washington. If Washington renounces the agreement, that is the end of the agreement. It doesn’t matter what the other parties to the agreement want. Consequently, Trump intends to reimpose the previous sanctions against doing business with Iran and to impose additional new sanctions. If Britain, France, and Germany continue with the business contracts that have been made with Iran, Washington will sanction its vassal states as well and prohibit activities of British, French, and German companies in the US. Clearly, Washington thinks that Europe’s profits in the US exceed what can be made in Iran and will fall in line with Washington’s decision, as the vassal states have done in the past.

And they might. But this time there is a backlash. Whether it will go beyond strong words to a break with Washington remains to be seen. Trump’s neoconservative pro-Israel National Security Advisor John Bolton has ordered European companies to cancel their business deals in Iran. Trump’s ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has ordered German companies to immediately wind down their business operations in Iran. The bullying of Europe and blatant US disregard of European interests and sovereignty has made Europe’s long vassalage suddenly all too apparent and uncomfortable.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, previously a loyal Washington puppet, said that Europe can no longer trust Washington and must “take its destiny into its own hands.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Washington’s leadership had failed and it was time for the EU to take over the leadership role and to “replace the United States.” Various French, German, and British government ministers have echoed these sentiments.

The cover story of the German news magazine Der Spiegel, “Goodbye Europe,” has Trump giving Europe the middle finger. The magazine declares that it is “Time for Europe to Join the Resistance.”

Although European politicians have been well paid for their vassalage, they might now be finding it an unworthy and uncomfortable burden.

Whereas I respect the virtue of Putin’s refusal to reply to provocation with provocation, I have expressed concern that Putin’s easy acceptance of provocations will encourage more provocations that will increase in intensity until war or Russian surrender become the only options, whereas if the Russian government took a more aggressive position against the provocations, it would bring the danger and cost of the provocations home to the Europeans whose compliance with Washington enables the provocations. Now it seems that perhaps Trump himself has taught that lesson to the Europeans.

Russia has spent several years helping the Syrian Army clear Syria of the terrorists that Washington sent to overthrow the Syrian government. However, despite the Russian/Syrian alliance, Israel continues illegal military attacks on Syria. These attacks could be stopped if Russia would provide Syria with the S-300 air defense system.

Israel and the US do not want Russia to sell the S-300 air defense system to Syria, because Israel wants to continue to attack Syria and the US wants Syria to continue to be attacked. Otherwise, Washington would call Israel off.

Several years ago before Washington sent its Islamist proxy troops to attack Syria, Russia agreed to sell Syria an advanced air defense system, but gave in to Washington and Israel and did not deliver the system. Now again in the wake of Netanyahu’s visit to Russia we hear from Putin’s aide Vladimir Kozhim that Russia is continuing to withhold modern air defenses from Syria.

Perhaps Putin believes he has to do this in order not to give Washington an issue that could be used to pull Europe back in line with Washington’s policy of aggression. Nevertheless, for those who do not see it this way, it makes Russia again look weak and unwilling to defend an ally.

If Putin believes that he will have any influence on Netanyahu in terms of selling peace agreements with Syria and Iran, the Russian government has no understanding of Israel’s intent or Washington’s 17 years of war in the Middle East.

I hope Putin’s strategy works. If it doesn’t, he will have to change his stance toward provocations or they will lead to war.

Assorted Reads

Would AG Sessions Have Sent Ayaan Hirsi Ali Back to Somalia to be Killed?  For the record, I greatly admire Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Oh, and also for the record, AG Jeff Sessions is a scumbag of the highest order.

I love Democrats.  Really I do ... ok, well I don't really like any political party, but the Dems did a good one here: Vermont Voted to Buy Its Prescription Drugs from Canada, and the Pharmaceutical Industry Is Not Pleased.  I love when people get Big Pharma pissed.

Of course he does! Deputy Who Failed to Engage Parkland Shooter Gets $104,000 Annual Pension for Life.

Intellectuals excel at one thing only: creating victims.  How Intellectuals Train the Underclass to Feel Helpless

I've posted many pieces about myths of all kinds, with two of my favorites being the Great Depression and FDR, so here's another: 5 Myths about the Great Depression and New Deal.

Nothing's as permanent as a temporary government program.  To wit: Meet the Deadpool of Federal Programs

So true: A city government that would drag everyone down to its level.  So D.C. is tired of Uber and Lyft being better than its Metro system. So, what's it do?  Tax it of course.

In contention for the understatement of the year! America is plagued by experts without expertise.

James Clapper.  Should Be In Prison.  Period.  Well, that won't happen now, given the statute of limitations on his perjury has passed.  This guy is scumbag.  Period.  And go figure, he was hired by CNN!  THIS IS CNN: Hiring of Suspected Leaker Clapper Raises Ethical Questions.

They'll never learn. Well then again, they will, when they're on their knees.  Millennial Candidates Embrace Socialism, while Venezuela Chokes on it.

Truth Comes in All Colors

Walter Williams' Kanye and Democrats: [emphasis in original]

In the aftermath of the Kanye West dust-up, my heart goes out to the white people who control the Democratic Party. My pity stems from the hip-hop megastar's November announcement to his packed concert audience that he did not vote in the presidential election but if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. Then, on April 21, West took to his Twitter account, which has 28 million followers, to announce, "I love the way Candace Owens thinks." Owens is Turning Point USA's director of urban engagement and has said that former President Barack Obama caused "damage" to race relations in the United States during his two terms in office.

West's support for Trump, along with his criticism of the "plantation" mentality of the Democratic Party, has been met with vicious backlash from the left. In one song, West raps, "See, that's the problem with this damn nation. All blacks gotta be Democrats. Man, we ain't made it off the plantation." Rep. Maxine Waters said West "talks out of turn" and advised, "He should think twice about politics — and maybe not have so much to say." The bottom-line sin that West has committed is questioning the hegemony of the Democratic Party among black Americans. The backlash has been so bad that West had to hire personal security to protect him against threats made against his life. Fortunately, the police are investigating those threats.

Kanye West is not saying anything different from what Dr. Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, Jason Riley, I and other black libertarians/conservatives have been saying for decades. In fact, West has tweeted quotations from Sowell, such as "Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it" and "The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best." Tweeting those Sowell quotations represents the highest order of blasphemy in the eyes of leftists.

The big difference between black libertarians/conservatives and West is that he has 28 million Twitter followers and a huge audience of listeners whereas few blacks have even heard of libertarian/conservative blacks outside of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (I might add in passing that Dr. Thomas Sowell is one of the nation's most distinguished and accomplished scholars alive today.)

The Kanye problem for the Democratic Party is that if the party doesn't keep blacks in line and it loses even 20 to 25 percent of the black vote, it can kiss any hope of winning any presidential and many congressional elections goodbye. Democrats may have already seen that threat. That's why they support illegal immigration and voting rights for noncitizens. Immigrants from south of the border who are here illegally may be seen as either a replacement for or a guarantee against the disaster of losing the black vote.

Keeping blacks blind to the folly of unquestioned support for the Democratic Party by keeping blacks fearful, angry and resentful and painting the Republican Party as racist is vital. Democrats never want blacks to seriously ask questions about what the party has done for them. Here are some facts. The nation's most troublesome and dangerous cities — Indianapolis, Stockton, Oakland, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Kansas City, Baltimore, Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit — have been run by Democrats, often black Democrats, for nearly a half-century. These and other Democratic-run cities are where blacks suffer the highest murder rates and their youngsters attend the poorest-performing and most unsafe schools.

Democrats could never afford for a large number of black people to observe, "We've been putting you in charge of our cities for decades. We even put a black Democrat in the White House. And what has it meant for us? Plus, the president you told us to hate has our unemployment rate near a record low." It turns out that it's black votes that count more to black and white politicians than black well-being, black academic excellence and black lives. As for black politicians and civil rights leaders, if they're going to sell their people down the river to keep Democrats in power, they ought to demand a higher price.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On Karl Marx

Alasdair MacLeod has penned the single best post on Karl Marx.  Though I have included the piece in my Leftist 101 repository, it deserves to stand out on its own and become a single source reference piece on the man in whose name, millions have been murdered.

The Worst Man In Modern History: [well deserved emphasis is from the author]
It seems extraordinary that in defiance of all factual history and philosophical knowledge anyone should celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Karl Marx. More than anyone, through wrong-headed ideas, he bears responsibility, indirectly admittedly, for the deaths of an estimated one hundred million people in the last century, and the severe suppression though economic and social servitude of fully one third of the world’s population. And if you also include those who have suffered under the yoke of Marxist-inspired modern socialism, the philosophy that says the state is more important than the individual, you could argue nearly the whole world is influenced by Marxian philosophy today.

That might seem an extreme statement, but you only have to ask almost anyone anywhere, which do they consider is more important, the individual or the state, to see if this supposition is correct. The only explanation for the continued adoration of the man is that with such universal influence, there are bound to be legions of supporters remaining, ignorant of and blind to the reality. However, during his lifetime – he died in 1883 – he was hardly known. It wasn’t until the Russian revolution thirty-four years later that Marx began to be taken seriously.

How did Marx achieve this powerful posthumous position? It was not through his economics, though they are often quoted and form the core principles of his Communist Manifesto, but through his philosophy, old ideas from forgotten men such as Hegel (1770-1831), which he rehashed into a socialist philosophy that is still accepted by many today, despite the accumulated evidence against it. The difference with Hegel is Hegel strove to establish that historical evolution would lead to increasing individual freedom, while Marx strove to prove the individual played no role in historical evolution.

Hegel argued that all reality is capable of being expressed in rational categories and can be reduced to a synthetic unity by dialectic reasoning within a system of absolute idealism.[i] In plain English, he concluded we all take our cue from our social and cultural surroundings and circumstances, and that they in turn are set by historical events. This became the basis for Marx’s extreme philosophy of class structure, which, in common with Hegel, denied any role to the independence of human thought.

His philosophical stance was comprehensively set out in his book, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859. The fundamental principle behind Marxism is stated early in the preface, where he defines his deduction from the Hegelian dialectic: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” In other words, social organisation takes precedence over the individual, and it therefore follows that the individual is subordinate to the social organisation.

It follows from this logic, Marx argued, that the classes that formed on the back of material interests forces members of those classes to think and act in their narrow class interests and not independently in their personal interest, there being no such thing. For Marx, ideologies evolved on class lines, where the interests of the minority, the bourgeoisie, dominated. And as the bourgeoisie profits from the labour of the proletariat, it is in their interest to keep the proletariat suppressed. The accumulation of wealth in the hands of the bourgeoisie was entirely due to the exploitation of the proletariat.

Marx’s world was a black and white one of haves and have-nots, the exploiters and the exploited. As Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804) had said, “If one man has more than necessary, another man has less”[ii]. The only way this apparent wrong could be righted would be through the collapse of the capitalist system, which led to these imbalances in the first place. The final solution was a classless society of the proletariat, handing them the means of production administered on their behalf by a revolutionary government.

If proof was needed, it came for Marx in the increasingly disruptive economic slumps over the course of his lifetime. Slumps hit the proletariat hardest, leading to unemployment and starvation. Initially, Marx was convinced that with the slumps getting progressively worse, a communist revolution would eventually be triggered, and the socialists (i.e. Marx himself) would take command from capitalist governments on behalf of the proletariat. Unfortunately for Marx, this never happened, and he increasingly turned in favour of a violent revolution to hasten the ultimate solution, reflecting his growing impatience and desperation.

Above all, Marx despised, even hated other socialists with an irrationality that can only have been fuelled by fear of competition. This hatred remains with us today, with communists loathing all forms of national socialism. Marx’s line of reasoning also freed him from criticism, because dissenters were always labelled bourgeoise, and were therefore dismissed as arguing on class lines. They were unmasked as bourgeoise, whatever their dissenting view, and therefore not qualified to comment on matters that affected the wider proletariat. The only answer was for the bourgeoisie to join the proletariat or to be made to do so, then their interests would be forcibly aligned.

We cannot gloss over the inconsistencies here, where on the one hand the bourgeoisie can only pursue a rigid class interest, yet its members are capable of the independent interest required to migrate to another class. And we must also mention that Marx himself, along with his supporter Engels, was a member of his so-called bourgeoisie, so according to his own strict doctrine, was unable or unqualified to align himself to the proletarian interest.

Marxian dogma was riddled with such inconsistences. Partly, this was due to the state of human knowledge at that time, and which formed the basis of any dialectical debate. Darwin contemporaneously proposed his evolutionary theory, pronouncing that humans evolved from the apes, and therefore were merely a higher form of animal, not a species apart favoured by God. This played neatly into Marxian philosophy.

It was also before the development of psychology by Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer. It was believed that all human brains were the same, just as we have other internal organs with specific functions within the corpus. The concept, that humans differed in their intelligence, their acuity, was unknown. Even mental illness was believed to be a disorder emanating from the body. To Marx the philosopher, drawing on Hegel’s dialectical approach, it could have seemed logical that we are all the same, and that the obvious social differences are down to our upbringing in one or the other class.

He never defined class, which is too slippery a concept to pin down. Instead, he separated humanity into the exploited majority, the proletariat, and the minority that controls the proletariat, the bourgeoisie. He expected the proletariat to eventually rebel, forcing the bourgeoisie into the lower class, to be ruled over by a socialist administration. He believed that this would happen, because under capitalism, the impoverishment of the workers was inevitable, leading to a workers’ revolution. Yet, at the same time, he believed in the iron law of wages, most associated with David Ricardo. According to this law, wages were set by the availability of labour and the payments required to subsist. Higher wages than this basic level would lead to an increase in the availability of labour over time, while lower wages would reduce the labour pool. In this way, the cost of labour was expected to rebalance at a subsistence level. Labour was regarded as a simple commodity, whose supply was regulated by its demand. However, Marx’s belief in the iron law of wages is at odds with his supposition that the proletariat would be gradually impoverished. You cannot subscribe to both.

Subsequent improvements in economic knowledge have disproved both theories anyway. Marx’s approach was to arrogantly assume workers are unthinking work-slaves, which they are not. They are individuals with individual aspirations, and as Freud and Breuer showed later, they have brains separate from the corpus, with individual mental abilities that govern the corpus. Marx even despised the trade unions of the day, arguing that striking for higher wages was colluding with members of the bourgeoisie by negotiating with them, when instead they should be seeking their destruction. His thinking had evolved from the proposition that the destruction of the bourgeoise class would occur naturally in time, to encouraging a violent class revolution to bring it about. Workers going on strike compromised both alternatives.

Marx also cooked up a theory of dialectical materialism, a concept based on Hegelian dialectics and the materialist philosophy of Ludwig von Feuerbach (1804-72), whereby the material productive forces were meant to propel society through the class struggle towards socialism. Materialism, in this sense, is the doctrine that all changes are brought about by material entities, processes and events, and that all human ideas, choices and value-judgements can be reduced to material causes, which one day will be explained by the natural sciences.

Marx, the man, and Engels, his financial backer, came from the bourgeoisie, and had nothing in common with the proletariat. Their motivation was fundamentally dishonest. After expecting the destruction of the bourgeoisie through an evolution out of capitalism, they actively sought a violent revolution, and there can be little doubt that they impatiently expected to emerge as the leaders of the new order. They despised other socialists, who were seen as rivals. Far more famous in Marx’s time was Ferdinand Lassalle (1824-64), who shared the basic Hegelian philosophy, but helped Bismarck defeat the liberals in Prussia. To Marx, this cooperation with a government was anathema, just as national socialism was to Marxists in the next century.

To Marx, world communism could only have one leader and other socialists must be denounced. As von Mises wryly put it, the worst thing for a socialist is to be ruled by a socialist who is not your friend.

Marx and Engels despised both nationalism and national socialism, because they sought a global revolution so there was no place for national characteristics or cooperation with governments. It was, in effect, their bid for world domination, cooked up in the reading room of the British Library. A decade after the Communist manifesto was published, Marx stopped advocating peaceful revolution, in favour of civil war in all countries to destroy the bourgeoise class. Marx and Engels sought to provoke and benefit from it. The plotting with Engels increasingly took that direction and Engels studied military science in preparation for his role as commander-in-chief.[iii]

Despite Marx’s theories and subsequent plotting with Engels, Marxism was exposed by events, even from the outset, as a failure. In the years following the publication of the Communist Manifesto until his death in 1883, despite the boom and bust cycles following the middle of that century, the lot of the proletariat improved immeasurably. Something was going horribly wrong with Marxist predictions, and the chief architect had passed away into obscurity. He had, however, set the template for Lenin, who took up the Marxist banner with the Russian revolution thirty-four years later.

We now know what happened, though much of it was kept from us until the Berlin Wall was dismantled. Just as Marx strove for a global communist revolution, destroying nation states as well as the bourgeoisie, Lenin had the same Marxian objective. It persisted into the post-war era, with the annexation of Eastern Europe, and persistent attempts to undermine Western Europe. Soviet spies were everywhere. Not only did we have the Cambridge five, and left-wing economics professors promoting socialism in the top universities, but even Harry Dexter-White, a very senior US Treasury official who founded the IMF and the World Bank, was a Soviet spy.[iv]

Marx was a dead-beat plotter, who should have simply sunk into obscurity. But like Keynes in the following century, he made his half-truths sound eminently plausible. His training as a philosopher imparted a respectability to his theories. Even at his graveside, Engels eulogised him thus:

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc….”

How can you not respect, even adulate a man expressed in these terms? You cannot say that a philosopher, who discovered the law of development of human history, who recognised that man needs food, water, shelter and clothing is wrong, or bad. This is in strict contrast with the title of this short essay, that Marx was the worst man in modern history. If it hadn’t been for developments long after his death, this epitaph would not be worth challenging. There have been far worse perpetrators of human misery in their lifetimes, with a roll call that goes back to the beginning of recorded history.

No, the reason Marx was a thoroughly bad man, even evil, was he plotted not just the domination of one country, but the whole world by advocating the destructive forces of civil violence. He was a poor parody of a Bond villain. And as is the case with all socialists, he wanted total domination. You could take the view that he was a latter-day Don Quixote, delusional and mad, and that Engels was a sort of financial Sancho Panza without the wit. This would be incorrect. Marx was a failure as a philosopher, and instead of rethinking and recanting, he moved from a position of preparing himself for a leading role in what he saw as inevitable, to advocating violent social destruction.

It was Marx’s wrong-headed philosophy that led to the deaths of a hundred million souls, perpetrated by those he inspired, as well as the enslavement of most of the population of the Eurasian land-mass. And if we are to identify his catastrophic error in the simplest terms, it was the brief sentence in the preface to his A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, referred to above. If instead he had correctly concluded that,

“It is the consciousness of men that determines their existence, and not their social existence”

the world would be a far better place today, with ordinary people free to have delivered economic progress to their fellow men and women without bearing the burden of Marx’s failed philosophies.

He is my nomination for the worst man in the modern history of humanity, and we should remember this and only this on the bicentenary of his birth.

[i] Hegel, as did Marx, reasoned from a thesis, then a negation of the thesis, and then a negation of the negation. This was meant to be irrefutable proof of a surviving conclusion. But if the historical and ordinary facts and any assumptions are wrong at the outset, the whole thesis obviously fails.

[ii] Kant’s aphorism was disproved by a number of economists who point out that exchanges are voluntary, and both parties benefit, otherwise exchange would not take place. It is also true of the relationship between employer and employee, though it can be more sticky.

[iii] Engels enjoyed fox-hunting, proclaiming it a good preparation for military command. He was irreconcilably bourgeoise, even snobbish, refusing to marry his long-time love, because she was socially inferior.

[iv] Dexter-White was just one of the highly-placed Soviet spies in the US Government. The whole network was revealed by a Soviet KGB defector, Oleg Gordievsky, in his account KGB, the Inside Story, Hodder & Stoughton 1990.

Must Be A California Idea

Sacramento Wants to Boost Rail Ridership By Banning Drive-Throughs and Gas Stations Near Transit.  Really?

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Pensions Crisis

Eventually, politicians will reach the point where they can no longer kick the can down the road: because the road will end!  Many cities and some states are reaching the end of the line. Remember, everything's fine until it isn't ... it isn't! Also, they will eventually run out of other people's money (to quote Margaret Thatcher.

The Looming Fiscal Nightmare of Extravagant Unfunded Pensions for State and Local Bureaucrats by Daniel Mitchell

A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash 

Los Angeles Schools Facing $15 Billion Debt for Retiree Health Care

Looks like the first pension domino to fall is ... Harvey, Illinois. According to the article, 400 more may follow!

Another super infographic from the Visual Capitalist! The Pension Time Bomb: $400 Trillion by 2050

The War between Public Pensioners and Tax Donkeys Is Heating Up 

Meet America’s next pension casualty: the inventor of chocolate sprinkles 

Pensions for Bureaucrats Crowding Out Essential Services

Why Government Employee Pensions Will Be Taxpayers’ Main Squeeze

New:  Broke Illinois Pension System Leaves Every Resident With $11,000 Of Debt