Archive for the ‘government’ Tag

Another Good Reason to Distrust Government   Leave a comment

Posted March 14, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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Why Does Separation of Church & State Grow Churches?   2 comments

Image result for image of a anglican churchHave you ever noticed that Europe is largely a non-Christian society while in the United States, we value freedom of religion and have relatively higher levels of faith?

It’s sort of interesting how that works because in Europe, most countries have a state religion that is subsidized by the government while in the United States people have to dole out their hard-earned money if they want to support a church.

Seventy percent of young people in Europe identify with no religion. But almost every country in Europe has a state religion. In the UK, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, which is the government-sponsored religion of the United Kingdom. In Germany, where the state church is Lutheran, about 45% of young people never attend church. I’m told by a friend who is from Germany and attends our church here in the States that there is a growing independent evangelical movement in Germany.

“And we want nothing to do with the state. We’d rather meet in someone’s home than take a dime from the government because it appears the government is a killer of faith.”

His view echoes a friend from England who says the same thing — that non-subsidized evangelical churches are growing while the government-supported Anglican churches are mostly empty.

I read an article a few days ago about how the Church in the Czech Republic is almost non-existent. Meanwhile, small evangelical and charismatic denominations are thriving. These are the churches that never used the State to compel them to come in and now the faithful are willingly coming into their sanctuaries.

Of course, church attendance was declining in the United States for a long time even without government interference and I’m not convinced it has stabilized. But I just find it interesting that churches without government support do better than churches with government support.

Modern State is Irrational   Leave a comment

From “The State” by Randolph Bourne

Image result for image of randolph bourneThe distinction between Government and State, however, has not been so carefully observed. In time of war it is natural that Government as the seat of authority should be confused with the State or the mystic source of authority. You cannot very well injure a mystical idea which is the State, but you can very well interfere with the processes of Government. So that the two become identified in the public mind, and any contempt for or opposition to the workings of the machinery of Government is considered equivalent to contempt for the sacred State. The State, it is felt, is being injured in its faithful surrogate, and public emotion rallies passionately to defend it. It even makes any criticism of the form of Government a crime.

The inextricable union of militarism and the State is beautifully shown by those laws which emphasize interference with the Army and Navy as the most culpable of seditious crimes. Pragmatically, a case of capitalistic sabotage, or a strike in war industry would seem to be far more dangerous to the successful prosecution of the war than the isolated and ineffectual efforts of an individual to prevent recruiting. But in the tradition of the State ideal, such industrial interference with national policy is not identified as a crime against the State. It may be grumbled against; it may be seen quite rationally as an impediment of the utmost gravity. But it is not felt in those obscure seats of the herd mind which dictate the identity of crime and fix their proportional punishments. Army and Navy, however, are the very arms of the State; in them flows its most precious lifeblood. To paralyze them is to touch the very State itself. And the majesty of the State is so sacred that even to attempt such a paralysis is a crime equal to a successful strike. The will is deemed sufficient. Even though the individual in his effort to impede recruiting should utterly and lamentably fail, he shall be in no wise spared. Let the wrath of the State descend upon him for his impiety! Even if he does not try any overt action, but merely utters sentiments that may incidentally in the most indirect way cause someone to refrain from enlisting, he is guilty. The guardians of the State do not ask whether any pragmatic effect flowed out of this evil will or desire. It is enough that the will is present. Fifteen or twenty years in prison is not deemed too much for such sacrilege.

Such attitudes and such laws, which affront every principle of human reason, are no accident, nor are they the result of hysteria caused by the war. They are considered just, proper, beautiful by all the classes which have the State ideal, and they express only an extreme of health and vigor in the reaction of the State to its non-friends.

Such attitudes are inevitable as arising from the devotees of the State. For the State is a personal as well as a mystical symbol, and it can only be understood by tracing its historical origin. The modern State is not the rational and intelligent product of modern men desiring to live harmoniously together with security of life, property, and opinion. It is not an organization which has been devised as pragmatic means to a desired social end. All the idealism with which we have been instructed to endow the State is the fruit of our retrospective imaginations. What it does for us in the way of security and benefit of life, it does incidentally as a by-product and development of its original functions, and not because at any time men or classes in the full possession of their insight and intelligence have desired that it be so. It is very important that we should occasionally lift the incorrigible veil of that ex post facto idealism by which we throw a glamour of rationalization over what is, and pretend in the ecstasies of social conceit that we have personally invented and set up for the glory of God and man the hoary institutions which we see around us. Things are what they are, and come down to us with all their thick encrustations of error and malevolence. Political philosophy can delight us with fantasy and convince us who need illusion to live that the actual is a fair and approximate copy—full of failings, of course, but approximately sound and sincere—of that ideal society which we can imagine ourselves as creating. From this it is a step to the tacit assumption that we have somehow had a hand in its creation and are responsible for its maintenance and sanctity.


Bourne is gradually introducing the idea that the State is a religion that, especially in times of war, people adhere to as if it were a god. The United States is an approximate, if flawed copy of the ideal society … even when we know it isn’t.  Lela

What is the State?   Leave a comment

From “The State” by Randolph Bourne

 

Image result for image of randolph bourneWhat is the State essentially? The more closely we examine it, the more mystical and personal it becomes. On the Nation we can put our hand as a definite social group, with attitudes and qualities exact enough to mean something. On the Government we can put our hand as a certain organization of ruling functions, the machinery of lawmaking and law-enforcing. The Administration is a recognizable group of political functionaries, temporarily in charge of the government. But the State stands as an idea behind them all, eternal, sanctified, and from it Government and Administration conceive themselves to have the breath of life. Even the nation, especially in times of war—or at least, its significant classes—considers that it derives its authority and its purpose from the idea of the State. Nation and State are scarcely differentiated, and the concrete, practical, apparent facts are sunk in the symbol. We reverence not our country but the flag. We may criticize ever so severely our country, but we are disrespectful to the flag at our peril. It is the flag and the uniform that make men’s heart beat high and fill them with noble emotions, not the thought of and pious hopes for America as a free and enlightened nation.

It cannot be said that the object of emotion is the same, because the flag is the symbol of the nation, so that in reverencing the American flag we are reverencing the nation. For the flag is not a symbol of the country as a cultural group, following certain ideals of life, but solely a symbol of the political State, inseparable from its prestige and expansion. The flag is most intimately connected with military achievement, military memory. It represents the country not in its intensive life, but in its far-flung challenge to the world. The flag is primarily the banner of war; it is allied with patriotic anthem and holiday. It recalls old martial memories. A nation’s patriotic history is solely the history of its wars, that is, of the State in its health and glorious functioning. So in responding to the appeal of the flag, we are responding to the appeal of the State, to the symbol of the herd organized as an offensive and defensive body, conscious of its prowess and its mystical herd strength.

Even those authorities in the present Administration, to whom has been granted autocratic control over opinion, feel, though they are scarcely able to philosophize over, this distinction. It has been authoritatively declared that the horrid penalties against seditious opinion must not be construed as inhibiting legitimate, that is, partisan criticism of the Administration. A distinction is made between the Administration and the Government. It is quite accurately suggested by this attitude that the Administration is a temporary band of partisan politicians in charge of the machinery of Government, carrying out the mystical policies of State. The manner in which they operate this machinery may be freely discussed and objected to by their political opponents. The Governmental machinery may also be legitimately altered, in case of necessity. What may not be discussed or criticized is the mystical policy itself or the motives of the State in inaugurating such a policy. The President, it is true, has made certain partisan distinctions between candidates for office on the ground of support or nonsupport of the Administration, but what he means was really support or nonsupport of the State policy as faithfully carried out by the Administration. Certain of the Administration measures were devised directly to increase the health of the State, such as the Conscription and the Espionage laws. Others were concerned merely with the machinery. To oppose the first was to oppose the State and was therefore not tolerable. To oppose the second was to oppose fallible human judgment, and was therefore, though to be depreciated, not to be wholly interpreted as political suicide.


Bourne may not have been the first to point out the distinction between the State (that governmental study that remains from one president to another and the Administration that changes with the occupant in the White House, but that distinction is moot today. Because the permanent administration remains from president to president, it is not temporary, but permanent. I think Bourne would have strong words against it were he alive to see the mess we’ve made.         Lela

History of a Country As a State   Leave a comment

From The Law by Randolph Bourne

Randolph  BourneNow this feeling for country is essentially noncompetitive; we think of our own people merely as living on the earth’s surface along with other groups, pleasant or objectionable as they may be, but fundamentally as sharing the earth with them. In our simple conception of country there is no more feeling of rivalry with other peoples than there is in our feeling for our family. Our interest turns within rather than without, is intensive and not belligerent. We grow up and our imaginations gradually stake out the world we live in, they need no greater conscious satisfaction for their gregarious impulses than this sense of a great mass of people to whom we are more or less attuned, and in whose institutions we are functioning. The feeling for country would be an uninflatable maximum were it not for the ideas of State and Government which are associated with it. Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition: it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion.

The State is the country acting as a political unit, it is the group acting as a repository of force, determiner of law, arbiter of justice. International politics is a power politics because it is a relation of States and that is what States infallibly and calamitously are, huge aggregations of human and industrial force that may be hurled against each other in war. When a country acts as a whole in relation to another country, or in imposing laws on its own inhabitants, or in coercing or punishing individuals or minorities, it is acting as a State. The history of America as a country is quite different from that of America as a State. In one case it is the drama of the pioneering conquest of the land, of the growth of wealth and the ways in which it was used, of the enterprise of education, and the carrying out of spiritual ideals, of the struggle of economic classes. But as a State, its history is that of playing a part in the world, making war, obstructing international trade, preventing itself from being split to pieces, punishing those citizens whom society agrees are offensive, and collecting money to pay for all.

Government on the other hand is synonymous with neither State nor Nation. It is the machinery by which the nation, organized as a State, carries out its State functions. Government is a framework of the administration of laws, and the carrying out of the public force. Government is the idea of the State put into practical operation in the hands of definite, concrete, fallible men. It is the visible sign of the invisible grace. It is the word made flesh. And it has necessarily the limitations inherent in all practicality. Government is the only form in which we can envisage the State, but it is by no means identical with it. That the State is a mystical conception is something that must never be forgotten. Its glamor and its significance linger behind the framework of Government and direct its activities.

Wartime brings the ideal of the State out into very clear relief, and reveals attitudes and tendencies that were hidden. In times of peace the sense of the State flags in a republic that is not militarized. For war is essentially the health of the State. The ideal of the State is that within its territory its power and influence should be universal. As the Church is the medium for the spiritual salvation of man, so the State is thought of as the medium for his political salvation. Its idealism is a rich blood flowing to all the members of the body politic. And it is precisely in war that the urgency for union seems greatest, and the necessity for universality seems most unquestioned. The State is the organization of the herd to act offensively or defensively against another herd similarly organized. The more terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing down to the lowest levels of the herd, and to its remote branches. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offensive or military defense, and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly struggled to become—the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men’s businesses and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, towards the great end, towards that peacefulness of being at war, of which L. P. Jacks has spoken so unforgettably.


Nations form countries as they spread out across geographical regions, but countries are about getting along with those like us. Country is cooperation. The State,  however, is force. States compete with the states around them. They struggle to get the people (the nation) on board with this competition until war is declared. Lela

A Republic Works Until War is Declared   1 comment

Ongoing series on “The Law” by Randolph Bourne (1918)

Randolph  BourneIn a republic the Government is obeyed grumblingly, because it has no bedazzlements or sanctities to gild it. If you are a good old-fashioned democrat, you rejoice at this fact, you glory in the plainness of a system where every citizen has become a king. If you are more sophisticated you bemoan the passing of dignity and honor from affairs of State. But in practice, the democrat does not in the least treat his elected citizen with the respect due to a king, nor does the sophisticated citizen pay tribute to the dignity even when he finds it. The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle. Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, the difference is not striking. In the freest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.

The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government. In our quieter moments, the Nation or Country forms the basic idea of society. We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes toward life. We are Americans because we live in a certain bounded territory because our ancestors have carried on a great enterprise of pioneering and colonization, because we live in certain kinds of communities which have a certain look and express their aspirations in certain ways. We can see that our civilization is different from contiguous civilizations like the Indian and Mexican. The institutions of our country form a certain network which affects us vitally and intrigues our thoughts in a way that these other civilizations do not. We are a part of Country, for better or for worse. We have arrived in it through the operation of physiological laws, and not in any way through our own choice. By the time we have reached what are called years of discretion, its influences have molded our habits, our values, our ways of thinking, so that however aware we may become, we never really lose the stamp of our civilization, or could be mistaken for the child of any other country. Our feeling for our fellow countrymen is one of similarity or of mere acquaintance. We may be intensely proud of and congenial to our particular network of civilization, or we may detest most of its qualities and rage at its defects. This does not alter the fact that we are inextricably bound up in it. The Country, as an inescapable group into which we are born, and which makes us its particular kind of a citizen of the world, seems to be a fundamental fact of our consciousness, an irreducible minimum of social feeling.

In a republic the Government is obeyed grumblingly, because it has no bedazzlements or sanctities to gild it. If you are a good old-fashioned democrat, you rejoice at this fact, you glory in the plainness of a system where every citizen has become a king. If you are more sophisticated you bemoan the passing of dignity and honor from affairs of State. But in practice, the democrat does not in the least treat his elected citizen with the respect due to a king, nor does the sophisticated citizen pay tribute to the dignity even when he finds it. The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle. Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, the difference is not striking. In the freest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.

The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government. In our quieter moments, the Nation or Country forms the basic idea of society. We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes toward life. We are Americans because we live in a certain bounded territory because our ancestors have carried on a great enterprise of pioneering and colonization, because we live in certain kinds of communities which have a certain look and express their aspirations in certain ways. We can see that our civilization is different from contiguous civilizations like the Indian and Mexican. The institutions of our country form a certain network which affects us vitally and intrigues our thoughts in a way that these other civilizations do not. We are a part of Country, for better or for worse. We have arrived in it through the operation of physiological laws, and not in any way through our own choice. By the time we have reached what are called years of discretion, its influences have molded our habits, our values, our ways of thinking, so that however aware we may become, we never really lose the stamp of our civilization, or could be mistaken for the child of any other country. Our feeling for our fellow countrymen is one of similarity or of mere acquaintance. We may be intensely proud of and congenial to our particular network of civilization, or we may detest most of its qualities and rage at its defects. This does not alter the fact that we are inextricably bound up in it. The Country, as an inescapable group into which we are born, and which makes us its particular kind of a citizen of the world, seems to be a fundamental fact of our consciousness, an irreducible minimum of social feeling.


Do  you understand the difference between a nation, a country and a state? By state, I mean not a state of the union (like Delaware or Alaska), but as Bourne used it, a system of administrative control, what we most often mean when we say “government”. We so often say “We raided this Muslim stronghold in this country” when, in reality, we were busy living our lives while the American military raided the stronghold. “We” didn’t decide to invade Iraq or Vietnam or anywhere else. Those decisions were made, at best, by our elective representatives as as the State. A nation is a group of people with similar culture – language, social practices. A country is geographical region often administered by a State. But many countries are made up of multiple nations. Think of Iraq, which has three main culture (national) groups bound together in unhappiness. Although Americans (nation) are not so unhappy as Iraq (country), if we look a little closer we don’t see much agreement between the cultural nations inhabiting the cities and the cultural nations inhabiting the rural areas. We speak the same language, but we don’t hold the same values and that is, long-term, a problem that will only get worse with time. Lela

Culture of Denial   Leave a comment

To address a problem requires the admission of a problem. That’s an AA maxim that has broad application in the world. Rick, my cousin who is a doctor, says you can’t really treat an illness until you’ve diagnosed it.

A second AA maxim is that if you keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, you’re making yourself crazy.

Image result for image of the regulatory stateStarting about 100 years ago – a little longer in Europe – western democracies bought into the idea that the private sector was bad. Left to its own devices, it would pillage the population – creating a privileged few who could set prices and wages for everyone else. The liberal order – whereby elected officials ran the government with the assistance of workers who left office when they did – made this all the more probable. What was needed, they insisted, was a professional bureaucracy of experts in various fields who were sheltered from political upheaval and would remain in place from one administration to the next. These enlightened nonpartisans could assure the health, safety, economic prosperity and general order of society and leave the private individual free to do whatever they could conceive … so long as what they conceived didn’t interfere with the functioning of the government bureaucracy, of course.

And, for a while, that worked. It took 50 years or so for budgets and work forces to grow to the place where they began to eat the private sector and leave us all frustrated with the size, scope and generally ineffectualness of the government.

Now, populists on both side of the political divide have grown frustrated with the political, economic and cultural status quo, frustrated with the policy choices that have made their lives less prosperous and less secure. The establishment keeps insisting that these people are wrong … just look at all the great government benefits you can apply for. Don’t worry that there are no jobs. You don’t need to even get out of bed in the morning.

And, the establishment wonders why people don’t want to listen to them? Really?

While that might sound like a great life style to a few people raised in a life of leisure, for most people that sounds like torture. There is nothing quite so undignified as an adult whose bills are being paid by someone else and we instinctively know that, which is why the most self-sufficient of us — rural dwellers — rail so loudly against welfare even when they qualify for it … because they don’t want to have their dignity stripped from them. They’d rather work hard for less money than sit on their butts waiting for their government check.

Plus, it turns out that being hard working actually improves our life expectancy.

The populists on both sides of the political divide are demanding change, but after a century of being educated to believe the private sector is bad and the public sector can fix that, they suffer from cognitive dissonance. They want to upend the elitist structure that doesn’t listen to them (noble goal), but then they demand programs that assure that government will continue growing and failing as it grows.

Under the progressive elite, the democratic countries asked too much of government while crowding out civil society and constraining market forces. Now we find ourselves in the inevitable doldrums inherent in a centrally planned society and we demand government “fix” that which it caused.

Unfortunately, while the populists have the right diagnosis, they believe the public school rhetoric that the private sector is bad and must be controlled by the public sector. So, upon finding they have been poisoned, they ask for more poison to counteract its effects.

The solution?

There are no easy answers for uprooting a Siberian pea hedge and, make no mistake, the US government is well-entrenched. To some degree, this can be addressed by us all engaging in rigorous comparative institutional analysis with a willingness to make substantive changes. The world won’t end if we go from 15 bureaucracies to oversee the “environment” that are all Congressionally-created non-Executive branch agencies that receive almost zero oversight to a single agency answerable to the President and cabinet. Yeah, some people will lose their jobs and budgets might be reduced … why is that a problem? I fail to see a downside for ordinary Americans.

Maybe we can look at the labyrinthine mess that is medical-care regulation and see if reducing some of the burden on providers might result in lower prices in the marketplace. No, people probably won’t die if they can buy insurance from Connecticut that is useable in Alaska … kind of like we do with car insurance now. I have better coverage now than I did 30 years ago for slightly less than my premium was in 1981 when Alaska had only two authorized car insurance dealers.

If someone with more time than I have was willing to go through the regulatory state and demand that each and every agency justify its existence and the efficacy of every one of its regulations, we might find that we could shrink government considerably with absolutely no loss of life quality.

So what are we afraid of? Oh, yeah — ourselves and the idea that we are the solutions we’ve been seeking.

 

Party of Big Government   Leave a comment

In October, the Republican-majority Congress passed the first $4 trillion federal budget in U.S. history. At $4.1 trillion, the budget represents an approximately 5% increase in spending over the last fiscal year of the Obama administration and sets the stage for President Trump to do what every GOP president has done since WWII — increase spending far more than did his Democratic predecessor.

Remember, I’m a non-partisan fiscal conservative, not a Republican.

Image result for image of donald trump and mitch mcconnellMath was never my favorite subject in school, but it doesn’t take much more than elementary math to figure out that, if spending increases, either taxes or deficits must also increase. Historically, the GOP has been happy to allow deficits to explode, but that’s going to be a hard hand to play after eight-years of attacking Obama’s deficits, which increased the federal government’s debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion.

So, what are Republicans likely to do? Raise taxes, of course. Their move in the tax reform bill shows this. By eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes (which doesn’t affect me at all being as I live in Alaska), the Republicans had taxes to traditionally “blue” areas at the benefit to traditionally “red” areas. It is likely that those people who hate paying taxes the most will leave those states with higher taxes to move to states with lower taxes. So you’re going to see quite a few Republicans moving to Republican strongholds.

The GOP will then use this as evidence that people want smaller, low tax government with more freedom and prosperity.

Which we probably do, but the reality is that when Republicans occupy the White House, government grows exponentially, because  Republicans think tariffs aren’t taxes and “infrastructure,” the military, and other boondoggles conservatives like don’t constitute government spending. The two-term presidencies of George W. Bush, Reagan, and Ford/Nixon all approximately doubled federal spending, while Clinton’s and Obama’s raised them a mere 25% and 28%, respectively.

Yes, some of those Republican presidents had Democratic Congresses, but Reagan never  asked for a 25% cut which Congress overrode with increases. Reagan consistently proposed huge increases in spending and Congress largely gave him what he asked for, merely shifting a little spending around at the margins. And, yes, I am a fan of Ronald Reagan. I’m also a realist. George W. Bush did the same thing – paid lip service to fiscal conservancy while consistently proposing spending increases which Congress willingly gave to him.

Spending is not the only issue. The federal government suffers from serious mission creep and most of it can be traced back to Republican presidents creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (today HHS and the Department of Education), the EPA, and the spectacularly destructive (and ultimately failed) War on Drugs.

Yes, the wealthiest people in America live in the coastal elite “blue” zones, which tend to impose egregious taxes on their residents. They will be taxed the most because they would no longer be able to write off those taxes. And, yes, that might possibly result in some blue states being forced to lower taxes in order to avoid the penalty. But, be honest, when your income is in the tens of millions, income tax increases are small potatoes. It’s those earners with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 who will be hurt the most by extra taxes. In that income bracket, those extra taxes represent saving for your children’s college tuition, which now means borrowing for it. It could mean the difference between hiring one extra employee for a small business, further protecting the very richest from competition by the upwardly mobile class.

I honestly believe there are a few Republicans who sincerely want to cut the size and scope of the federal government. Senator Rand Paul tried to convince his party to cut a measly $43 billion (a mere 4%) from Washington’s gargantuan military budget. Senator Paul believes he is trying to hold the Republican Party to its core principles, but I think he needs to look at history here. The party was born in the mid-19th century on a platform of raising taxes, increasing the size and scope of the federal government and, for the first few years, abolishing slavery. It has never really changed, though it adopted the rap of small-government, low-taxes and freedom and prosperity after Goldwater introduced it to them.

It’s time those Republican voters attracted by the GOP’s rhetoric of free markets, smaller government, and more personal liberty face the reality that Harding, Coolidge, Taft, and Rand Paul are the “RINOs.” The Republican Party has always been about big government, authoritarianism, and empire. Those looking to truly “drain the swamp” should consider placing their support elsewhere — and, no, I don’t mean the Democratic Party because they are just as much for big government, just in support of different pet projects.

Posted December 14, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Government

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Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story | Daniel J. Mitchell   Leave a comment

Every so often, I run across a chart, cartoon, or story that captures the essence of an issue. And when that happens, I make it part of my “everything you need to know” series.

 

 

Source: Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story | Daniel J. Mitchell

I don’t actually think those columns tell us everything we need to know, of course, but they do show something very important. At least I hope.

And now, from our (normally) semi-rational northern neighbor, I have a new example.

This story from Toronto truly is a powerful example of the difference between government action and private action.

A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. 
Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job. …Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. …Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year.

There are actually two profound lessons to learn from this story.

Since I’m a fiscal wonk, the part that grabbed my attention was the $550 cost of private action compared to $65,000 for government. Or maybe $150,000. Heck, probably more considering government cost overruns.

Though we’re not actually talking about government action. God only knows how long it would have taken the bureaucracy to complete this task. So this is a story of inexpensive private action vs. costly government inaction.

But there’s another part of this story that also caught my eye. The bureaucracy is responding with spite.

The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards…City bylaw officers have taped off the stairs while officials make a decision on what to do with it. …Mayor John Tory…says that still doesn’t justify allowing private citizens to bypass city bylaws to build public structures themselves. …“We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”

But there is a silver lining. With infinite mercy, the government isn’t going to throw Mr. Astl in jail or make him pay a fine. At least not yet.

Astl has not been charged with any sort of violation.

Gee, how nice and thoughtful.

One woman has drawn the appropriate conclusion from this episode.

Area resident Dana Beamon told CTV Toronto she’s happy to have the stairs there, whether or not they are up to city standards. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.”

Which is the lesson I think everybody should take away. Private initiative works much faster and much cheaper than government.

P.S. Let’s also call this an example of super-federalism, or super-decentralization. Imagine how expensive it would have been for the national government in Ottawa to build the stairs? Or how long it would have taken? Probably millions of dollars and a couple of years.

Now imagine how costly and time-consuming it would have been if the Ontario provincial government was in charge? Perhaps not as bad, but still very expensive and time-consuming.

And we already know the cost (and inaction) of the city government. Reminds me of the $1 million bus stop in Arlington, VA.

But when actual users of the park take responsibility (both in terms of action and money), the stairs were built quickly and efficiently.

In other words, let’s have decentralization. But the most radical federalism is when private action replaces government.

 Reprinted from International Liberty

Editors Note: Since this article was originally published, the local government tore down Astl’s $500 stairs, citing “safety standards,” and plans to replace it with a $10,000 set.

Third Time’s the Charm?   Leave a comment

Image result for image of Alaska legislatureAlaska legislators have called themselves back into a third special session to address the state capital budget. Governor Bill Walker called the previous two special sessions after the Legislature utterly failed to get anything done during the 90-day regular session. He expressed reluctance to call legislators back into session (which is extremely expensive) until they were in substantial agreement on the capital budget, but a tentative deal has been struck on the measure that appropriates funds mainly for state construction.

The House-Senate conference committee on the capital budget is set for 1 p.m with only one item listed on the agenda, though others items could be added. Both the House and Senate passed different versions of SB 23 but reconciliation between
the two must be agreed on, enacted and signed by the governor. The bill should have been in effect July 1, which is the start of Alaska’s fiscal year, and some road and facilities projects have affected by delays of state money to match federal funds. The Legislature must act quickly to minimize those losses.

However, disagreement on key areas in SB 23 are focused on issues not related to construction. One is over funds appropriated for payments on past oil tax credit liability, which totals over $700 million. The Senate approved $288 million for this and the House $57 million.

Another disagreement is over money for the state gas corporation, Alaska Gasline Development Corp., which is now leading the big Alaska LNG Project. In its version of the capital budget the Senate cut $50 million from AGDC’s available funds, which now total about $80 million. In its version of the capital budget the House left AGDC’s funding intact. AGDC, a critical and long-term project for the state, will like be dinged in the final compromise although a $50 million cut seems unlikely. If too much money is taken out the corporation’s ability to continue the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license application process will be in jeopardy. There has been a huge investment
in this project to date and keeping the regulatory process on track is necessary to retain that value. The LNG pipeline project is a big priority for the governor and the lower cost fuel is critical for Interior communities, but the Senate is very skeptical of the near-term viability of any large LNG export project, though aware that a smaller in-state-only line will not lower heating and electrical generation costs for Interior residents.

The final potential area of uncertainty is the language in the House version of SB 23
that would fund an extra $750 million for Permanent Fund dividends. Lawmakers have already approved $750 million in the operating budget, which has been signed by the governor and is now in effect. This is sufficient for a $1,100 PFD check this year. The House proposes adding $750 million to that through the capital budget, to bring the PFD up to about $2,000. The House added the extra money late in its own capital budget version and it was connected to political maneuvering, so the lower figure is likely to prevail. There is broad consensus and unpopular consensus in both the House and Senate that the PFD does need to be capped. This not being an election year, Legislators appear to be gambling that Alaskans won’t punish them in the polls next year.
Image result for image of alaska oil wellHB 111 basically finished what HB 247 attempted to do last year in winding
down the state’s costly oil exploration and development tax credit program. HB 247 set up a three-year phase-out, but did not deal with how Net Operating Losses, or NOLs,
were treated for tax purposes. HB 111 put curbs on the NOLs, totally ending the cash payments and restricting NOLs to deductions against future production income with 10 percent annual reductions beginning in seven years for losses on producing properties and 10 years for losses on non-producing properties. It would take several years before the allowable deductions are reduced to zero.

Significantly, the bill prevents NOLs from being taken so as to allow the required minimum tax to be taken below 3 percent of gross value. This would represent an immediate tax increase for companies with NOLs that are also producers (mainly Caelus Energy and possibly Eni) but the extent depends on the company’s tax situation, which is confidential. ExxonMobil and BP may have a tax exposure because these companies might have large past-year NOLs because of their massive Point
Thomson investments. Major producers are not otherwise affected.

Which is my whole reason for posting this article. The major producers are large multinational corporations and yet this bill does nothing to reduce the tax welfare that Alaska pays to these companies. Iraq pays $2 a barrel to BP in production credits. Alaska will still be paying 10 times that much. But, the Legislature spent the entire regular session fighting about whether to impose an income tax on Alaska residents while giving money to huge corporations for producing our oil. At one point last year, the State was paying more in production credits than it was receiving in revenue. Thank goodness for savings.

So the outcome of HB 111 is that the tax burden on the more competitive smaller companies will increase, but the major producers will be held harmless. This is why I hate government, because it will always side with whomever can line its pockets best regardless of whether that company is producing (like Caelus Energy) or sitting on leases (like BP). When will we get around to rewarding actual production? That’s right … never because that’s not what the Legislature is all about. It’s about maintaining a relationship with multinationals who have no intentions of producing those leases until the State is completely desperate and willing to give away the moon to get a trickle of income.

Remember this next year, folks! Remember and vote them all out. Don’t replace them with someone of the same party because that just keeps the established relationships inheritable. No, instead, vote third party and send a message that we are no longer playing the same stupid games that we’ve played for 40 years. The libertarians don’t owe any oil companies because, not having been in power, the oil companies haven’t gotten around to bribing them yet, and being by and large business people, they might actually have some understanding of economics so that they will think to reward the producers and put the non-producers (those sitting on leases) on notice that they’d better get busy or get lost.

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