Monday, July 28, 2008

Star Trek and Collectivism: The Case of the Borg, By Steven Yates

The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty - April 1997
Vol. 47 No. 4
Star Trek and Collectivism: The Case of the Borg
By Steven Yates

Does the American flag belong in church?

Does the American flag belong in church?
Our allegiance belongs to God, not state power.
By Becky Akers

America vs Canada

War Plan Red: America's 1920's Plan to Attack Canada, and Canada's 1921 Plan for a Pre-emptive Attack Against America.

ANWR Drilling Would Provide Quick Relief, by Robert P. Murphy

Daily Article by | Posted on 7/28/2008

In a previous article, I showed that the proposals to curb "excessive" speculation in oil futures markets were based on ignorance of how the market coordinates production and consumption over time. In the present article, I will explore the issue of opening up the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. We'll see once again that even friends of the market often don't fully understand its power to fix problems.

The Standard Argument Over ANWR

With record oil prices, many on the Right (as defined with today's labels) have understandably called for the federal government to remove its restrictions on oil exploration and drilling in ANWR (located in Alaska) as well as other federal lands and offshore water areas.[1] They point out that these federal restrictions, in conjunction with local environmental activism, have resulted in the absurd situation where 94 percent of federal land, and 97 percent of federal offshore waters, are not being leased by energy companies. The US government itself estimates that its own prohibitions currently render 18 billion barrels in the outer continental shelf (OCS) and 19 billion barrels located under federal lands off limits. Note that these are very conservative estimates, because nobody has gone out and extensively explored the areas where it is illegal to extract oil!

Of course, calls to open up domestic areas for drilling horrify environmentalists and others on the Left, who liken the move to giving a junkie one more fix rather than dealing with his addiction. One of their strongest arguments is that ANWR drilling isn't a real solution for today's crisis, since

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that it will require 8 to 10 years after opening ANWR before oil is produced from any new leases. Furthermore, it would be 20 years after opening ANWR before oil production reached its peak of only 780,000 barrels per day.

Faced with this response, the people on the Right have typically come back with a few zingers. First, they point out that the critics of drilling have provided alternative proposals (development of renewable energy, conservation measures such as raising CAFE standards, etc.) that would also take years to kick in. They also frequently mention that this ten-year lag would have been over by now, if President Clinton hadn't vetoed the attempt to open up ANWR back in 1995.

More Oil in the Future Means More Oil Now

Yet there is an even stronger argument for opening up ANWR: because of its impact on oil prices in the future, relaxing federal prohibitions would cause current oil producers to change their pumping decisions right now. Even though the additional barrels from ANWR wouldn't physically hit the market for years, current knowledge of this fact will alter current behavior, leading to rapid relief at the pump.

Though compelling, this argument is subtle and has only recently gained attention. I myself didn't bat an eye when experts in the industry told me (last year at a briefing) that opening ANWR wasn't a near-term solution. It wasn't until a colleague passed along an unpublished paper by Coats and Pecquet that I considered the impact of future supply increases on current production decisions.

Once I heard the argument, it was obvious and I couldn't believe I had missed it. I began using it wherever I could, and was very glad to see that the respected Martin Feldstein made the case in the Wall Street Journal. Hopefully, proponents of ANWR drilling will now feel confident to repeat the claim. In the remaining space, I'll spell out the argument as simply as possible, because, admittedly, at first it sounds too good to be true.

Prices Guide Production

Imagine that you are sitting on a huge oil deposit, which has (let us suppose) one billion barrels that can be brought to the surface for $20 each, so long as you don't pump more than one million barrels per day. (If you want to pump at a higher rate, you have to spend more money per barrel, and you might reduce the total number of barrels you can extract from the deposit.) So the question is, how fast should you pump?

You might at first think that you should pump at the maximum extraction rate, without raising your marginal costs — i.e., that you should pump at one million bbls/day. But this clearly is wrong, if you expect oil prices to keep rising. Why sell 365 million barrels in 2008 at an average of $150 each, when you could postpone production for a year and then sell those same million barrels for, say, $200 each?

In light of this consideration, maybe you think you should just hold your barrels off the market forever. By letting them sit in the ground, the market value of your asset rises over time, as the market price of oil rises.

But that isn't necessarily the right thing to do, either. What if oil prices rise an average of only 10 percent per year over the next two decades? Do you really want to put all your eggs (oil) in one basket, by leaving them sitting underground? Especially if your deposit is located in the Middle East, you might feel more comfortable selling off some of the oil now, and then using the revenue to buy stocks and bonds, not to mention a few surface-to-air missile silos. (And of course, you could be wrong in your forecasts; maybe oil prices will tank in two years.)

My point here isn't to come up with the "optimal" extraction plan for an oil producer; since I'm not in the business, there are undoubtedly considerations I would overlook. But what I will say is that the expected price of oil in the future plays a very important role in these decisions. As always, a liquid futures market allows oil producers (and consumers) to make much more confident plans, because they can lock in prices for future transactions. For example, the oil producer doesn't have to simply guess that he can postpone production today, in order to sell next year at $150 per barrel; he can sell futures contracts to make sure of it (assuming he can find a buyer at that price).

Now what happens if we are at an initial equilibrium, and then all of a sudden the US government relaxes the prohibitions on ANWR drilling? If oil traders really believe the policy shift is permanent, and that up to a million extra barrels will be hitting the market in a decade, then this will obviously reduce the expected world price of oil starting at that time. Consequently, any oil producers who had previously settled on a production rate with "excess capacity" — i.e., where they could have produced and sold more barrels today, but decided not to for reasons of profit — will re-evaluate their decision.

Without specifics we have no idea how much the new information will change their output plans, but surely they will pump more in the present than they had previously decided.

If we step back and survey the big picture, what would happen is that the market in a sense would be transferring some of those future ANWR barrels to the present. It's true, the market doesn't have recourse to time machines. But physical barrels of oil that would have otherwise sat underground in 2008, 2009, and so on, will now be brought to the surface and sold, because they have been displaced by the barrels currently buried in Alaska that will be brought to the surface and sold in 2018, 2019, and so on.

If this seems too theoretical and farfetched, consider this: In May, the Saudis officially rebuffed President Bush's request for them to increase their output. Yet one month later, they reversed their position. What changed in the interim?
Obviously I don't know for sure what motivates oil barons, but the political mood in the United States shifted in between those two announcements. All of a sudden, opening up ANWR and offshore areas for drilling was "on the table." The mere possibility of an extra million or more competing barrels per day may have been enough to reverse the Saudis' stance.


Market prices help coordinate actions over space and time. To the extent that it is physically possible, the market will exploit the availability of new future supplies in order to provide immediate relief. The time lag involved should be no deterrent to opening up ANWR (and other prohibited areas) for oil development.

Beyond that, the ideal solution would be to completely privatize federal lands, so that the decision of whether or not to drill would no longer be a political one.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Speculators Are in Obama's Sights

The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty - August 1999
Vol. 49 No. 8


Conservation and Speculation
By Dwight R. Lee

Dwight Lee is Ramsey Professor at the Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, and an adjunct fellow at the Center for Study of American Business at Washington University.

I often ask my students, “How many of you are in favor of conservation?” Except for those who are asleep, every hand goes up. I then ask, “How many of you are in favor of speculators?” and almost no one raises his hand. The students see conservation as a noble activity that prevents people from squandering resources now to insure that adequate quantities will be available in the future. On the other hand, they see speculation as the greedy hoarding of valuable resources now in order to gouge those who will need those resources later. I attempt to explain that if they are serious about conservation, they should also applaud speculation. The speculation that results from private property and the desire for profits is the most powerful force for beneficial conservation.

The Right Amount of Conservation

Without private property rights there could be no speculation for personal profit and no meaningful conservation. As discussed last month, animal species that are not privately owned are the ones at risk of extinction. Without private property no one has an incentive to conserve a resource, since no one can benefit from doing so. But if I own a resource and believe its value is going to be greater in the future (after considering the cost of holding it—including the opportunity cost of forgoing interest), I will conserve it for future use or sale. Similarly, even if I don’t own a resource, but I believe its value is going to increase, I will buy it at today’s price in order to conserve (hoard) it and then sell it at the expected higher price later.

But why should we depend on private property and greed to conserve valuable resources? Why not have the government determine how much of a resource should be conserved and then limit its current use accordingly? Relying on government to enforce conservation would be foolish even if the right amount of conservation were known. If government has enough power to allocate a resource over time, it has enough power to allocate its use to competing alternatives at each point in time. This much power guarantees waste, as special-interest influence replaces the cooperation of market exchange in determining how and where resources are used.

But even if the public interest, rather than special interests, motivated government decisions (dream on), the authorities could never determine the right amount of conservation as accurately as speculators subject to the discipline of the marketplace. There can be too much as well as too little conservation. Just as we don’t want to use resources today that will be worth a lot more in the future, neither do we want to sacrifice consumption today to conserve resources that will be worth less in the future.

Speculators Do It Better

Even if government authorities were not subject to special-interest influence, they would have less motivation to conserve wisely than speculators do. If bureaucrats make wasteful decisions, their salaries aren’t reduced. Indeed, their failures often result in larger budgets, supposedly so they can do a better job. In sharp contrast, speculators make money only if they conserve wisely—purchasing resources (holding them off the market) when they are less valuable and selling them (making them available) when they are more valuable. If speculators don’t conserve enough they pass up profitable opportunities to buy low and sell high, and if they conserve too much they lose money by buying high and selling low. As opposed to bureaucrats, who can survive despite their mistakes, the speculator who consistently makes mistakes is soon relieved of the money necessary to continue speculating.

Speculators can also act much more quickly than any government agency. For example, at the first indication that next year’s Brazilian coffee crop will be devastated by a frost, speculators will immediately purchase raw coffee beans to store them until next year. Consumers will still see plenty of ground coffee in the stores, but suddenly the prices will be higher. What consumers don’t see is that coffee prices will be lower next year than they otherwise would have been because they are higher today, and that their reduced consumption today will be more than compensated by their greater consumption later. The complaint will be that greedy speculators have unnecessarily driven up prices. Interestingly, the universal complaint against speculators that they cause current prices to be too high is really a complaint that they conserve too much.

Don’t Complain Out Loud

I find it fascinating that people who believe that speculators are responsible for prices being too high complain about it out loud. The last thing you should do if you are convinced that speculators are harming the public by driving up the prices of important resources is to let others know. If you are correct, you can make yourself a fortune by keeping quiet, while providing a valuable public service at the same time. If the public is being harmed by speculative buying, it is because coffee is being taken off the market now when it is worth more than it will be later. If this is so, you would be right to criticize speculators for harmful price increases.

But this is a problem you can help correct. Simply call your broker and sell coffee short. Selling short means borrowing a quantity of coffee (from a speculator) and selling it at the currently high price. When the price falls later, you can buy the quantity borrowed, repay the speculator, and pocket the difference between the two prices. (You will have sold high and bought low.) If you were correct about market conditions, you will have made the coffee available to consumers now and made a profit. Why you should keep your criticism of speculators secret is obvious. If others believe you, they will sell coffee short themselves, which will drive down the current price and increase the future price, thereby reducing your profit opportunities.

Too Important to Leave to the “Experts”

Why don’t we hear fewer people complaining about speculators and see more people selling short? The answer has to be that most people find complaining easier than understanding what they are complaining about. But the objective here is not to criticize. The important point is that anyone who believes he has better information on the future value of resources or commodities than is reflected in market prices can both profit personally and benefit society by acting on that information—if he is right. So when conservation is left to speculators, far more relevant information from far more people with far more at stake is acted on than if conservation is left to government.

Conservation is important, much too important to leave to government “experts.” There is no better way of achieving sensible conservation than through the concern for the future that is motivated by private property, market exchange, and speculators putting their own money on the line.


©2007 Foundation for Economic Education. All Rights Reserved.

Foundation for Economic Education
30 South Broadway
New York, 10533
1-800-960-4FEE • 1-914-591-7230

Monday, July 14, 2008

They Didn’t Attack Switzerland, by Bill Walker

They Didn’t Attack Switzerland

by Bill Walker

Switzerland has not been in a foreign war of any kind since 1815. This would be astounding, even miraculous, for any nation. But Switzerland borders Germany. And France. And Italy. And Austria. And Liechtenstein. Now Liechtenstein has rarely lashed out in Blitzkrieg in a desperate bid to reign ├╝ber alles, but ALL of Switzerland's other neighbors have spent their entire histories invading other countries.

In addition to the encircling foreign marauders, Switzerland itself is composed of four different ethnic groups (German, French, Italian, Romansh) that get along as well as, e.g., Germans and French. They don’t even speak the same language.

Yet the Swiss peace prevails through the centuries. The Kaiser didn’t attack the Swiss. Hitler didn’t attack the Swiss (though he thought about it a lot). Stalin started to pursue some refugees into Liechtenstein at the end of WWII, but retreated rather than face the Swiss-Liechtenstein alliance. Terrorists don’t attack the Swiss.

Nobody attacks the Swiss. Not even the Swiss attack the Swiss; their crime rate is minuscule.

The features of the Swiss system for keeping the peace are simple. They have a president with no power to declare war (of course ours can’t either, but no one has told HIM). They have a very small professional army, even small per capita. And they have very strict gun control. By which they mean that every Swiss male must have a gun, except for those who also have to carry a missile launcher or a mortar. Swiss women are not subject to compulsory military service, but many of them frequent the rifle ranges anyway. In the event of any attack on Switzerland, the whole Swiss population becomes the army.

As an additional deterrent against megalomania, the Swiss have rigged the tunnel vaults of their banks for demolition. Any dictator attacking Switzerland will find the gold in his numbered bank account buried in rubble hundreds of meters under mountains swarming with snipers and missile launchers. It is known that Hitler had a numbered account... maybe that was in the back of his mind when he chickened out.

Switzerland has also provided for defense of the lives of its civilian population against nuclear terrorism. Realizing during the Cold War that nuclear weapons in the hands of power-mad politicians posed a potential public health threat, the Swiss started a nationwide shelter-building program in 1960. By 1991, there were enough shelter spaces in Switzerland to protect everyone in their home or apartment, and also at their workplaces and schools. A Swiss citizen is never more than a few minutes from a fallout shelter with an air filter.

The entire Swiss shelter program was accomplished for somewhere on the order of 35 dollars (1990 dollars) per year per capita. The US spends vastly more every year to support a military capable only of intervening in Third World nations that do not have WMDs.

The huge US war machine could not even intercept civilian airliners on 9-11, let alone credibly stop nuclear-tipped cruise and ballistic missiles from a major power. Nor are there bunkers with filtered air supplies under our glass cities or particle-board suburbs. The only civil defense in the US is for the President and the backup supply of bureaucrats under Iron Mountain. Everyone else is nuclear fodder, except for those provident few (such as the Mormons) who build their own shelters to protect their families.

Switzerland does not send troops to intervene in other nations. Switzerland does not spend tens of billions of dollars yearly to fund dictators around the world, nor did Switzerland donate hundreds of billions of dollars to the Warsaw Pact through bank "loans." Switzerland does not send billions of dollars worth of weaponry every year to the warring tribes in the Middle East. Switzerland has no enemies. Yet the Swiss are armed to the teeth and dug into every hill and under every building.

The US intervenes everywhere, spies on everyone, supports every faction in every fight. We have as many enemies as there are hate-filled people in the world. We have a vastly expensive conventional army (though the best units are marching back and forth in Middle Eastern deserts, Afghanistan, Korea, and other "strategic" places). We have vast numbers of offensive nuclear weapons for murdering the civilian populations of cities (but against whom will we retaliate in the event of an anonymous nuclear terrorist attack?).

But we have no civil defenses for our children, no shelters, no thought-out plan for recovery from attack. In fact, when we suffered a few thousand dead on 9-11, we panicked and did ten times more economic damage to ourselves than the terrorists had. We also let ourselves be suckered into joining a Middle Eastern tribal war without end, on transparently fraudulent grounds.

Worse, our fears have destroyed much of our own Constitutional freedom. Would we be braver now, if a few anonymous smuggled nuclear bombs killed millions? Or would we just descend tamely into dictatorship without a struggle?

Our Founding Fathers studied the Swiss when they designed our system of government. Maybe it would pay us to study the long Swiss peace again... before it's too late.

July 14, 2008

Bill Walker [send him mail] is a research technologist. He lives with his wife and four dogs in Grafton NH, where they are active in the Free State Project.

Copyright © 2008

Bill Walker: Archives

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Who's Responsible for Vehicular Homicide?

In a 7/2/2008 Boston Herald article, entitled, "Grieving Mom Guns For Bars," a distraught Dorchester mother whose son was killed by a drunken driver allegedly last served at a Braintree pub, wants that bar to be punished for her son's death.

Click here to read the article.

The mother is outraged that the bar, which was identified when the driver was questioned by the judge after his conviction, was never reported to state regulators and was never punished, "even though it was identified as having served last blasts to two other drunken drivers that year."

The question is, is the last bar that served the driver responsible for the actions of that driver? Should any other bar he drank at that night also be punished? What about the very first? What about the convenience store owner who may have sold him a six pack, which the driver could have drank before heading out to the bars later on in the evening? How far do we go in asigning blame to everyone else? Why not punish the car dealership that sold this car to the man who could have inebriated himself and crashed it into the victim? Why not punish the car company as well? Better yet, why not just punish the man who decided to drive under the influence?

And what could state regulation possibly accomplish, except to waste taxpayer money? After all, the government's brilliant idea of Prohibition--intended to save the morality of the People from the immorality of imbibing alcohol--resulted in the decrease of soft alcohol consumption, like beer, and the increase of hard alcohol consumption, like spirits. The many watering holes that legally served beer and ale were shut down, forcing creative but shady entrepreneurs to open a handful of underground speakeasies that served whiskey, and dangerous "moonshine" at high prices--a textbook case of the Iron Law of Prohibition taking effect. Prohibition actually fed the monster it intended to slay and helped it to grow. The result of Prohibition was a rise in alcoholism, organized crime, and the rise in the incarceration rate for non-violent crimes (drinking). As always, societal problems are exacerbated by government interference. Like the old sitcom character, "The Greatest American Hero," even if government does ever solve a problem, it ends up making a mess of everything else in the process.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Real Meaning of the Fourth of July, by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Real Meaning of the Fourth of July

by Jacob G. Hornberger

Save a link to this article and return to it at www.savethis.comSave a link to this article and return to it at Email a link to this articleEmail a link to this article Printer-friendly version of this articlePrinter-friendly version of this article View a list of the most popular articles on our siteView a list of the most popular articles on our site

Contrary to popular myth, the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were not great Americans. Instead, they were great Englishmen. In fact, they were as much English citizens as Americans today are American citizens. It’s easy to forget that the revolutionaries in 1776 were people who took up arms against their own government.

So how is it that these men are considered patriots? Well, the truth is that their government didn’t consider them patriots at all. Their government considered them to be bad guys – traitors, all of whom deserved to be hanged for treason.

Most of us consider the signers of the Declaration of Independence to be patriots because of their courage in taking a stand against the wrongdoing and tyranny of their own government, even risking their lives in the process.

Yet not even the patriotism and courage of these English citizens constitutes the foremost significance of the Fourth of July, any more than the military victory over their government’s forces at Yorktown does.

Instead, the real significance of the Fourth of July lies in the expression of what is undoubtedly the most revolutionary political declaration in history: that man’s rights are inherent, God-given, and natural and, thus, do not come from government.

Throughout history, people have believed that their rights come from government. Such being the case, people haven’t objected whenever government officials infringed upon their rights. Since rights were considered to be government-bestowed privileges, the thinking went, why shouldn’t government officials have the power to regulate or suspend such privileges at will?

The Declaration of Independence upended that age-old notion of rights. All men – not just Americans – have been endowed by God and nature, not government, with fundamental and unalienable rights. Governments are called into existence by the people – and exist at their pleasure – for one purpose: to protect the exercise of these inherent rights.

What happens if a government that people have established becomes a destroyer, rather than a protector, of their rights? The Declaration provides the answer: It is the right of the people to alter or even abolish their government and establish new government whose purpose is the protection, not the destruction, of people’s rights and freedoms.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights must be construed in light of that revolutionary statement of rights in the Declaration of Independence. The American people used the Constitution to bring the federal government into existence but also, simultaneously, they used that document to limit the government’s powers to those expressly enumerated in the Constitution. With the Constitution, people limited the powers of their own government in a formal, structured way, with the aim of protecting their rights and freedoms from being infringed upon by that same government.

Why did Americans deem it desirable and necessary to limit the powers of the federal government? Because they feared the possibility that their new government would become like their former government against which they had had to take up arms. While they recognized the necessity for government – as a means to protect their rights – they also recognized that the federal government was the greatest threat to their rights. By severely limiting the powers of the federal government to those enumerated within the Constitution, the Framers intended to encase the federal government within a straitjacket.

Even that was not sufficient for the American people, however. As a condition for approving the Constitution, they demanded passage of the Bill of Rights, which emphasized two deeply held beliefs: (1) that the federal government, not some foreign entity, constitutes the greatest threat to the rights and liberties of the American people; and (2) that the enumeration of specific rights and liberties, both substantive and procedural, would better ensure their protection from federal infringement.

On the Fourth of July we celebrate the patriotism and courage of those English revolutionaries who were willing to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in defense of the most revolutionary declaration of rights in history – that man’s rights come from God and nature, not from government.

July 7, 2008

Jacob Hornberger [send him mail] is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Copyright © 2008 Future of Freedom Foundation

Jacob Hornberger Archives

Gasoline Isn't More Expensive. The government's money is cheaper, says Doug French.


by Doug French

With prices at the pump in the $4-per-gallon range, people are starting to think twice about taking those unnecessary trips. And it’s likely to get worse. “As the lack of supply growth and price-insulated non-OECD demand suggest a future rebound in U.S. gross domestic product growth or a major oil supply disruption could lead to $150–$200 a barrel oil prices,” the analysts at Goldman Sachs recently said.

Not that these considerations are new.

As a young boy, I used to spend some time with my grandma French-Lucille. And although I suppose this would be frowned upon today, Lucille took me along to enjoy her favorite pastime one Saturday afternoon: Bingo at the Eagles Lodge.

According to the FOE (Fraternal Order of Eagles) official website, the organization’s mission is to “uphold and nourish the values of home, family and community that are so necessary and it seems so often get ignored and trampled in today’s society.” Maybe that high-sounding cause was their reason for being back in 1963, but as near as I remember, the Eagles Lodge in Abilene existed for one reason – bingo. Of course, the Eagles met at a small building located “south of the tracks” back in those days, probably on the very site of one of the storied cow town’s hundred or so saloons that had thrived at the climax of the Chisholm Trail between 1867 and 1887.

But by the early 1960s, the Longhorns, the cowboys and the bars were long gone – replaced by pious farmers growing wheat and fattening Herefords. But a spirited game of bingo could still be found at the Eagles Lodge, which happened to be located just a few short blocks from where Lucille and my grandpa Glen lived.

I was not only the only male in the room, but certainly the only 6-year-old there. And Lucille didn’t see why I shouldn’t go ahead and play a card. The cards were a nickel apiece, so while she played a couple of cards I proudly played one of my own. The wonderful thing about bingo, in addition to the social aspects of the game, is as the numbers are drawn, the suspense builds; most everyone playing thinks they have a chance of winning.

Well, sure enough, I covered that last number, and looked expectantly at Lucille. She said, “Shout bingo.” I was so excited and nervous, as they counted back the numbers to verify that I had won. It would have been very embarrassing to have made a mistake. But I hadn’t. The jackpot was mine: all 50 cents of it.

I made my way to the front and collected the prize. When I returned to my seat, I showed Lucille the two quarters. She quickly snatched one from my hand. “Why are you taking one of my quarters?” I plead. “To pay for the gas to get over here,” Lucille replied, putting the quarter in her pocketbook.

That quarter came close to paying for a gallon of gas that year – the average price per gallon was 30 cents. And the 1963 (or earlier) quarter was, shall we say, sturdier than today’s version: 90 percent silver, 10 percent copper. Today’s quarters, according to the U.S. Mint, “are ‘clad,’ which means layered. The inner core is pure copper and the outer covering is copper mixed with nickel.”

A quarter weighs about a fifth of an ounce. At today’s silver price of around $18 per ounce, the 1963 quarter had the equivalent of today’s $3.24 of silver in it. Thus, silver essentially buys the same amount of gasoline today that it did 45 years ago.

Gas isn’t getting more expensive; the government’s money just continues to be degraded. If the Fraternal Order of Eagles is looking to “uphold and nourish” good values, they should champion the cause of sound money.

July 7, 2008

Doug French [send him mail] is associate editor for Liberty Watch Magazine. He received the Murray N. Rothbard Award from the Center for Libertarian Studies.

Copyright © 2008 Doug French

Doug French Archives

Find this article at:

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The 'Higher Powers': Martial Law vs. Christian Responsibility, by Robert F. Hawes Jr.

The 'Higher Powers': Martial Law vs. Christian Responsibility

by Robert F. Hawes Jr.
by Robert F. Hawes Jr.


It is one thing to know something intellectually, and quite another to see it suddenly happen before your eyes. I experienced such a moment in 2005, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when I watched (via the Internet) as police officers went door-to-door in New Orleans neighborhoods, forced law-abiding citizens into the streets, cuffed them, and then searched their homes for firearms before leaving them bewildered and helpless. There were no warrants involved. No probable cause was mentioned. No charges of wrong-doing were filed. Intimidation and brute force were the order of the day. And as much as I wish I could believe otherwise, I’m afraid that what we saw in New Orleans is merely a preview of coming attractions.

Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has been busily advancing preparations for the day when it might impose martial law throughout the United States, thus presenting us with the specter of the sort of thuggery we witnessed in New Orleans being carried out all across this "land of the free." A quasi-legal apparatus has already been put into place for this, via such legislation as the PATRIOT Act, the John Warner Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, and theNational Security and Homeland Security Directive. But legislation, although important in creating the illusion of legitimacy, is only one of the two boots with which the authoritarian state tramples freedom; the other is propaganda, and it is even more essential than force because it allows the state to conquer by stealth, and thus with a minimum of effort.

The state that employs only force to achieve its aims will rule only as long as it can subdue the people; but if it can successfully use propaganda, it can rule indefinitely because the people will subdue themselves. Propaganda deludes the slave into seeing his servitude as sacrifice, even as an honor. It transforms political prisoners into the enemies of the people, turns massacres into purgings, makes partisanism look like saintly perseverance, sells torture as retribution, portrays dissent as sabotage, and masks aggression in the guise of crusading. As Adolf Hitler observed in Mein Kampf, "By an able and persistent use of propaganda heaven itself can be presented to the people as if it were hell and, vice versa, the most miserable kind of life can be presented as if it were paradise."

And of all the varied forms of propaganda, religious propaganda is by far the most effective; for, it provides fallible men with the sanction of heaven, which must not be resisted nor even questioned. Our government is well aware of this and, from all indications, is ready to use religious propaganda in order to help pacify the American population in the event that martial law is declared.

For years, rumors circulated to the effect that the U.S. government would use members of the clergy in efforts to pacify Americans should martial law ever be declared. Many scoffed at the idea, calling it so much conspiracy theory nonsense. Then, in 2007, KSLA Channel 12 in Shreveport, Louisiana, reported that, following Hurricane Katrina, "clergy response teams" were utilized to assist the government with public relations (click here to watch the video). According to the story, such teams will likely be used in future emergency situations, with an emphasis on their potential role in a martial law scenario. Here’s a quote from the story:

Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other. "In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they’re helping to diffuse that situation," assured Sandy Davis. He serves as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

A member of one such clergy response team, Dr. Durell Tuberville, was interviewed by KSLA, and stated that Christians have a responsibility to obey the government, no matter what. "The government’s established by the Lord," said Tuberville. "That’s what we believe in the Christian faith. That’s what’s stated in the scripture."

As a Christian myself, I understand where people like Dr. Tuberville are coming from. I remember my ninth-grade Government teacher telling our class (Christian school, mind you) that Soviet citizens had no right to defy their government because, no matter how oppressive the Soviet State was, it was "ordained by God" (when asked about whether the American patriots were right to rebel against England, however, he equivocated). This reasoning is based on several passages of scripture, but particularly on the following remarks made by the Apostle Paul in Romans, chapter 13 (as the KSLA news story pointed out):

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

With these things in mind, I’d like to take some time to examine the issue of how Christians should react to the prospect of martial law in America.

Government officials are not the highest "authorities" in America

The first thing I would like to point out to people like Dr. Tuberville, who think Christians should obey government officials no matter what because they are "the higher powers," is that there is another, yet higher power to which even such officials are beholden: the Constitution of the United States.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land. Article VI, Section 1.

It is from the Constitution that our elected officials, both federal and state, derive their office and legitimate powers. Their powers are delegated, not inherent; concrete, not elastic, and, as clearly set forth by the 9th and 10th Amendments, they are limited to the specific areas of authority that the Constitution either grants to the Union or denies to the states. Further, our elected officials are "bound by oath or affirmation" to support the Constitution and its provisions, including the limitations placed upon their own powers:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution… (Article VI, Section 3).

Thus, in taking up the powers and responsibilities of political office, our elected officials are also agreeing to place themselves under the law. This is one of the foundational ideas of the American political system: the concept that everyone is under law and equal in its eyes. For this reason, if government officials violate the Constitution, their actions are illegal and void of authority, and they are no better than common criminals. It is absolutely critical that Christians understand this when they contemplate their relationship to the government. Our elected officials are not the source of their own power; rather, they are representatives who have been entrusted with the authority of the American people as defined in the United States Constitution. If they violate that trust, they are as much criminals as the guy who robs your local 7-11 store; they just dress better, make other people use the guns, and almost never go to jail.

Martial Law is Unconstitutional and, therefore, Illegal

The Constitution does not directly address martial law; however, it does contain a provision that clearly makes martial law impossible. Consider Article IV, Section IV:

The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.

Republican government is civil, representative government; martial law is military rule. Since the former is specifically guaranteed here, the latter is necessarily precluded. This provision, which our government officials are sworn to support as being part of the supreme law of the land, makes martial law unconstitutional and thus illegal. The moment that martial law is declared, the federal government will have stepped outside of its sphere of lawful powers. In fact, in a very real way it will have conducted a revolution, as it will have overthrown the legitimate government of the Constitution by force of arms.

The President is Commander in Chief, not Dictator in Chief

The "war powers" of the President are a woefully misunderstood aspect of constitutional law, thanks primarily to the success of Abraham Lincoln’s war and further developments under those who inherited his theory of government. Said theory boils down to the idea that, technically, anything the government does in order to "safe-guard" the country (really its own power) is constitutional.

The Constitution itself differs with that idea. It describes the "war powers" of the President in Article II, Section II, where we read:

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.

That’s it. That is the sum total of all the Constitution has to say about the war powers of the President. Everything else that has developed since the adoption of the Constitution where such powers are concerned, from "peace-keeping" missions to covert operations, is extra-constitutional (and largely a perversion of the war powers the Constitution grants to Congress in Article I). Indeed, the military powers that presidents exercise today would have seemed kingly to our country’s founders. Under the American system, presidents were to be limited chief executives, not self-empowering monarchs who could overthrow the rights of the people or commit the country’s military to action for any reason whatsoever. The history of centuries of blood-letting under the crowned heads of Europe had taught Americans better than to trust such powers in the hands of one individual. They forgot that lesson rather quickly once they were free to determine their own affairs, but that initial understanding is enshrined in the Constitution’s language to this day, and the reasoning behind it is still just as sound.

The Commander in Chief clause, read as it is plainly written, gives the President authority to act as a sort of commanding general of all U.S. armed forces in their constitutional role of providing for the common defense. It makes him a unifying military leader, capable of coordinating the country’s defenses in order to repel an aggressor; it does not make him a dictator, nor does it authorize him to use the military offensively or for law enforcement purposes. Note that the authority granted in Article II, Section II is military, not civilian, and that it does not release the President from his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, nor does it revoke the right of the states to a republican form of government.

In response, some will undoubtedly argue that we now face dangers that our country’s founders could not have envisioned, and, for that reason, certain things must change. But the founders provided us with a means of changing the Constitution in the face of new circumstances or new wishes on the part of the people. We call this provision the "Amendment Process" (see Article V). So why is it that our leaders are not using this legitimate, constitutional tool, if indeed they believe that they require additional powers in order to meet modern challenges, and if indeed their motives are pure? Defenders of the Bush administration and its congressional allies (particularly Christians seeking to invoke Romans 13) should give serious thought to this question.

Consider that nearly seven years have elapsed since the September 11, 2001 attacks, and yet, in all that time, in spite of all the powers that Bush and Congress have usurped, they have not once prepared or even suggested a constitutional amendment to legitimize any of it. And the reason for this? Quite simply, they don’t believe they need to legitimize their actions. They do not recognize any authority above themselves, neither the Constitution of the United States nor the people who elected them.

Beware Government Agents quoting Scripture

The common perception of propaganda is that it is the art of telling lies, but in fact lies are only part of the picture. No, the true master of propaganda is skilled not only in telling outright lies, but also in employing distortion and half-truth.

For an example of this, consider Romans 13 again. The standard snake oil sold by the Dr. Tuberville’s of the world (unwittingly or not), where this passage is concerned, is that government is the "higher power" and must be obeyed in all things. This is what you’re likely to hear when a clergy response team member shows up on your doorstep, flanked by national guardsmen and demanding that you hand over your firearms, supplies, and/or valuables, or that you accompany them to Hotel Halliburton. Yet, as we have already seen, the Constitution, not the government, is the highest "power" in the United States of America, and those who act outside of it are criminals.

Note also that the Apostle Paul was arguing that Christians should support the "higher powers" because government is ordained by God to be "an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." "Rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior," Paul tells us, "but for evil," after which he admonishes us to be "in subjection not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake." So what then of a government which, instead of punishing evil, actually practices evil itself? Can Paul have been suggesting that Christians should view the evil actions of a lawless power as somehow bearing the approval of God? Can a Christian either condone or submit to evil doings "for conscience’ sake"? Is it possible to do good by sanctioning, submitting to, or participating in evil? As Paul himself was fond of saying, "God forbid!"

When in Rome?

At this point, some might argue that the Roman Empire was evil in many ways, and that if Paul informed Christians that they needed to be in subjection to such a regime, surely today’s Christians have no excuse for resisting the will of the U.S. government, constitutional questions aside. And while I would agree that Rome was certainly a ruthless and brutal government, there are three important things that should be kept in view here:

1) Rome did not rule under a supreme Constitution such as we have.

2) While Paul instructed Christians to recognize Roman rule, he never once suggested that they should sanction or participate in Roman brutality. Indeed, the Bible contains a number of passages that instruct us to aid the oppressed (not to aid in their oppression):

Proverbs 24:10-12: "If you are slack [weak, feeble] in the day of distress, your strength is limited. Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold {them} back. If you say, "See, we did not know this," Does He not consider {it} who weighs the hearts? And does He not know {it} who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"

Isaiah 1:16-17: "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow."

Jeremiah 21:12: "O house of David, thus says the LORD: ‘Administer justice every morning; And deliver the {person} who has been robbed from the power of {his} oppressor, that My wrath may not go forth like fire and burn with none to extinguish {it,} because of the evil of their deeds.’"

Jeremiah 22:2-3: "Thus says the LORD, ‘Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of {his} oppressor. Also do not mistreat {or} do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.’"

The above passages make it clear that no one who claims to fear God should have anything to do with oppressing the innocent; but, rather, they should actively "reprove" those who do such things and "deliver" those who are being victimized. Genesis 14 tells the story of how Abraham attacked and overcame a group of kings who had taken his nephew, Lot, captive; and, in Job 29, we’re told that, among the good deeds Job was known for, he "delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper," and "broke the jaws of the wicked and snatched the prey from his teeth." The Bible refers to both Abraham and Job as "righteous" and "upright." Further, in I Timothy 5:8, the Apostle Paul, who wrote Romans 13, remarks: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Surely "providing" for one’s own involves protecting them from those who would do them harm.

3) Two recorded instances from the Apostle Paul’s own life demonstrate that a Christian need not submit to injustice simply because it is perpetrated by agents of the state. Both examples come to us from the book of Acts.

The first is recorded in Acts 22, where Roman authorities questioned Paul in relation to his part in a riot that had just taken place in Jerusalem. Not satisfied with his answers, the Roman "chief captain" ordered that Paul be subjected to a bit of enhanced interrogation, 1st Century style (they were going to scourge him while questioning him further). Now, Paul was a Roman citizen, and under Roman law it was illegal to scourge a citizen. Paul pointed this out to his captors in Acts 22:23, and was spared the torture in favor of a trial.

The second example comes from Acts 25. Paul, who was then under trial before Porcius Festus, the Roman governor of Judea, saw that the governor was probably not going to give him a fair trial, and so he invoked the supreme right of a Roman citizen: he appealed to Caesar himself in hope of justice. He did this respectfully, but resolutely.

Clearly, the Apostle Paul had no problem with questioning authorities or appealing to the law in his defense, and I see no biblical reason why modern Christians are under obligation to act any differently. The Constitution is our supreme law, our supreme authority; we have every right to appeal to its provisions and to demand that those provisions be respected and not overthrown.


In summary, be aware of the fact that our government has already begun using religious propaganda to get its way, and that it fully intends to do so again. Beware those who would preach to you concerning how you should obey them as authorities over you, if they refuse to obey the authority over them. Beware those who talk about the law if they themselves are law-breakers. Beware those who would speak to you of "duty," if they themselves have broken their oaths and violated the trusts of their offices. Contrary to the propaganda you’re likely to hear in the event of a martial law situation, neither Romans 13, nor any other passage of scripture, can be twisted to the effect of forcing Christians to buckle under to, participate in, or otherwise sanction, illegal actions or outright atrocities committed by the state.

You who are members of the clergy: could you go door-to-door telling people that God wants them to turn in their guns (or fuel, or food, or gold) and to leave themselves bereft and helpless because the state says so? You who are members of the military or law enforcement agencies: could you force yourselves on, or actually fire on, otherwise law-abiding American citizens who might only be trying to defend themselves, their property and their families against those who have decided to toss the law out like yesterday’s garbage? Could you justly take part in unjust actions? How many of history’s wars and other atrocities could have taken place had those ordered to carry them out simply said "No."? Could Rome have enslaved and tortured millions of people without the consent of its soldiers? Could any of the tyrants of the past have plundered their citizens had they been forced to wield the sword by themselves? Could a single Southern farm have been burned had Northerners not consented to Lincoln’s rampage? Could Stalin or Mao have murdered tens of millions of their own countrymen without the assistance of their "Peoples’" armies? Make no mistake, if the United States government ever decides to oppress its own people, for whatever reason, it will not be the President or members of Congress, or the Joint Chiefs who go around intimidating people, kicking in doors, muzzling protest, dividing families, jailing and/or torturing dissenters or carrying off property. It will be you. They will expect you to do these things for them. The question is: can you live with it? And even more importantly: can you answer to God for it?

II Corinthians 5:10 – "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (Note – I see no exceptions granted here for those "acting under orders").

Finally, don’t wait for the crisis to come before you act. The day martial law is declared is not the time to begin doing something about it. That time is now, today, before it happens. Start by familiarizing yourself with passages of scripture such as those I’ve listed above; and always consider what the Bible says for itself, not how others would interpret it to their own advantage. Familiarize yourself with the Constitution, with relevant legislation and presidential executive orders, and with the history of martial law situations and military occupations both here in the U.S. and in other countries. Share what you learn with your friends and family. Consider joining up with groups like Ron Paul’s new Campaign for Liberty, where you can work for change alongside other concerned Americans. Never forget that an intimate knowledge of truth is the best defense against the lies, distortions and half-truths of the propagandists.

All scripture references used in this article are from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

July 5, 2008

Robert Hawes [send him mail] is the author of One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution. This article, along with his past writings, can be found on his blog. He lives in South Carolina with his family, and is working on a career as a freelance writer.

Copyright © 2008

Find this article at:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Is it obvious yet?

In a New York Post article of 6/30/2008, entitled, "Pols 'backed covert plan'", we are informed that "Congressional leaders agreed late last year to President Bush's funding of a major escalation of covert operations against Iran aimed at destabilizing its leadership," according to a published report. $400 million was approved at Bush's request for the covert operation aimed at "undermining Iran's nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change." This is to be done by "working with opposition groups and passing money."

And we are constantly told by our leaders that they hate us because of our freedoms. Here's a thought experiment: Which is more likely and more plausible?

1. They hate us because in our own country we enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and because our women show their ankles, wrists and head hair; and in their own countries they choose not to.

2. They hate us because of past and present covert operations against sovereign nations which include the undermining of their governments, destabilization of their economies and regime change.

Which makes more sense?