About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Really, My Leftist Friends, You Can't Be That Stupid!

As an advocate of the free market and laissez faire, I am often lectured by leftists who rant that unregulated capitalism is a danger to good and honest people. "We need government," they tell me, "to force industrialists to be fair and to prevent big business and corporations from becoming monopolists and robber barons who exploit the common man and nefariously enrich themselves and their crony friends."

Well, leftists should be pleased. We live in a country which is now overrun by federal regulators and government bureaucrats who inspect, manage, audit and control virtually every aspect of our lives. Are we better off as a result? Quite the contrary. It is our government politicians and bureaucrats who have become the robber barons. For evidence, all we have to do is examine the news.

Take the case of Tony and Heather Podesta, a high-powered pair of rich, Washington lobbyists who are currently in divorce court. The Washington Free Beacon explains their lifestyles and their political connections in an article titled, Divorce Beltway Style.

The Podestas -- consummate Washington insiders -- reap a fortune suckling at the teat of the Washington cash cow. If their last name sounds familiar, it's because Tony Podesta's brother John has been a powerful, Washington insider since 1997, when he served as President Bill Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff. John Podesta went on to found the Center For American Progress, an influential, progressive think tank which -- you guessed it -- specializes in government policy creation. According to Wikipedia John Podesta is the current chair of that organization and also serves as Counselor to President Obama.

Because of their political and family connections Tony and Heather Podesta are able to profit by playing both ends against the middle. According to the Beacon article, here's how they do it:

As government expands, extending its reach to every aspect of business, every sector of the economy, private citizens and corporations require sherpas to lead them through the mountains of regulations and tax provisions, to discover exemptions and special favors and other forms of relief or favoritism to improve the bottom line. And who better to act as sherpas than the relatives of the Democrats who impose the regulations and tax provisions in the first place, who better than the lively proprietors of a family business operating in the luxurious and morally uncomplicated world of the caste of limousine liberals who dominate politics, culture, news, and finance.

And the profits the Podesta's glean from the federal cesspool are substantial indeed:

In 2009, with the inauguration of Obama and the dawn of unified Democratic control of Washington, business boomed. Revenues at Tony’s firm close to doubled, and revenues at Heather’s firm increased by 50 percent. The money has continued to roll in. The Podesta Group had some $13 million in lobbying income in 2013, sporting clients such as Lockheed Martin, Wells Fargo, U.S. Airways, Walmart, and the National Biodiesel Board. Heather Podesta + Partners made some $4 million, lobbying on behalf of health companies, the American Beverage Association, Brookfield Power, DeVry University, and others. A portion of that money was recycled, contributing to Democratic campaigns, opening up avenues of influence: Tony gave some $45,500 in 2013, all to Democrats; Heather some $95,798 to Democrats, Democratic committees, and liberal groups.
Nice work if you're connected enough to get it. Reportedly, the Podesta's own a multi-million dollar mansion in Washington, DC and have an apartment in Venice, Italy which they visit "up to a dozen times a year." They both run with the most powerful crowd in DC. The problem is you and I pick up the tab for their extravagances by paying higher prices for the products made by their crony capitalist clients and higher taxes for the huge bureaucratic establishment the Podesta's lobby and patronize.

Tony and Heather Podesta are merely a single example of the millions of lobbyists and federal bureaucrats and politicians who every day feed off of each other and the American consumer and taxpayer. Here's another example. The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) describes itself as "a small agency with a big mission: To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations."

Why then is the BLM currently attempting to force a Nevada rancher to stop grazing his cattle on federal land? According to the MailOnline, the rancher, Cliven Bundy, claims his family has been using the range land to graze cattle since the 1870's. The BLM claims it is trying to evict the rancher in order to protect the habitat of an endangered species of desert tortoise.

But knowledgeable locals tell a different story:

“It is not about turtles it is about water. There are developers working for military contractors that want that land and water for mining weapons grade minerals for industry… they want to sell the land by the highway for real estate development because it’s close to I-15 and the Bundy’s have been refusing to sell what they actually own directly for over 20 years. Many buyers sent me out there with crazy offers for that land for many years. It is prime real estate not worthless desert. There is a natural gas pipeline going through there and lots of water under ground too. Somebody connected to a military corporation is using political power and the BLM to muscle those people out.”
Imagine that! Federal politicians and regulators using their monopoly on the use of force and coercion to manipulate the real estate market in favor of crony friends, family and political campaign donors! Apparently, such practices are business as usual for the federal government, especially in Nevada.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Nevada Senator Harry Reid has a long history of helping his pals in the real estate business at the expense of the American taxpayer and those on the other side of the political fence:

It was the kind of legislation that slips under the radar here.

The name alone made the eyes glaze over: "The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002." In a welter of technical jargon, it dealt with boundary shifts, land trades and other arcane matters -- all in Nevada.

As he introduced it, Nevada's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Harry Reid, assured colleagues that his bill was a bipartisan measure to protect the environment and help the economy in America's fastest-growing state.

What Reid did not explain was that the bill promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons' and son-in-law's firms, federal lobbyist reports show.
Maybe it's merely a coincidence that Cliven Bundy lives in Clark County, Nevada, the place where Harry Reid cut his political teeth as a freshman in Congress many years ago. Maybe it's merely a coincidence that Reid was accused on more than one occasion of abusing his legislative power to benefit his family and friends. In fact, maybe it's merely a coincidence that, according to the Los Angeles Times, Reid and his family have their fingers in just about everything that goes on in Nevada:

So pervasive are the ties among Reid, members of his family and Nevada's leading industries and institutions that it's difficult to find a significant field in which such a relationship does not exist.

Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times reports, Reid's power over land interests in Nevada is extraordinary:

As a senator, Reid exerts a degree of power over local affairs that is unknown in most states.

That is because the federal government owns 87% of Nevada's land; to a large extent, Washington decides whether cities and businesses can expand and where economic growth may occur. Even local zoning may become a federal matter.

Over the years, Reid has used legislation to move federal land into private hands and private land into the public realm. He says he has done so to preserve scenic and environmentally sensitive areas while freeing up more land for urban growth.

Such was the case with the Clark County legislation.
Does Reid have anything to do with the BLM trying to evict Cliven Bundy's cattle from grazing land in Clark County, Nevada? I don't know if he does or doesn't, but I do know that the current head of the Bureau of Land Management is Neil Kornze, a Nevada native who, MailOnline reports "served previously as a senior adviser to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid."

No, I wouldn't be surprised if Reid is involved. After all, it wouldn't be Reid's first rodeo. According to Wikipedia:

A series of investigative reports in the Los Angeles Times[43][44][45][46] suggested that Reid had introduced legislation and imposed pressure on regulatory agencies to advance the business interests of his close friend Harvey Whittemore, a Nevada attorney-lobbyist who contributed heavily to Reid's campaigns and leadership fund and who employed Reid's son Leif as his personal attorney. With Reid's help, Whittemore was able to proceed with construction of a $30 billion planned golf course development, Coyote Springs, a project heavily criticized by environmental groups for reasons including its projected effects on several endangered species.
Just imagine how exploited we'd all be if Senator Harry Reid and the BLM weren't around to protect us from potential robber barons like Cliven Bundy.

Oh, by the way, according to the Gateway Pundit various private militia groups from around the nation are assembling in Nevada in support of the rebellious rancher.

Which reminds me of another story in the news this week. Reportedly, Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed the fact that his Department of Justice is looking into ways to make guns "safer." His department has requested "$382.1 million in increased spending for its fiscal year 2014 budget for 'gun safety.'”

Meanwhile, "President Barack Obama’s budget proposal also calls for $1.1 billion to “protect Americans from gun violence—including $182 million to support the president’s ‘Now is the Time’ gun safety initiative.”

Holder said he wants to force gun owners to wear a "gun control bracelet" on their shooting wrist so that he can make sure that only "lawful" gun owners are able to make their guns shoot. Holder expects both sides of the gun control debate to support his gun control bracelet idea.

I am amazed that Holder is so out of touch with both the American public and the US Constitution that he would go public with such a boneheaded idea. Surely he knows that any gun control bracelet smart enough to make a gun shoot is also smart enough to prevent that gun from shooting.

Law enforcement is already able to shut down your automobile in an emergency by remote control. A bill has already been introduced in the US Congress giving the federal government the authority to shut down the internet in a time of national emergency. Is it beyond the pale to imagine that the federal government might use a gun control bracelet to effectively disarm dissidents in a national crisis, perhaps a crisis like the one developing in Clark County, Nevada? (I am assuming of course that the government would require private citizens to wear the gun control bracelet and not members of the government's myriad swat teams.) 

Surely my leftist friends are smart enough to see through Holder's tomfoolery.

On the other hand, if leftists are foolish enough to believe that Harry Reid and his bureaucratic pals are protecting Americans from robber barons rather than acting like robber barons themselves, maybe they are stupid enough to believe just about anything.