Libertarians shouldn't overlook the biggest benefit of the whole debate over Russia hacking, which is that Donald Trump has now become the greatest threat to the "Intelligence" community in recent history. Obviously this is not due to Trump being a secret libertarian, or his business background making him results-oriented, it's precisely because he can be a vindictive asshole.
Trump's greatest chance for success - from a libertarian perspective - largely stems directly from his vices rather than his virtues.
Trump sees the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. as agencies attempting to undermine the credibility of his election. That makes them enemies in Trump's eyes, which is exactly how they have longed been viewed by libertarians. The fact it's personal with Trump, rather than principled for libertarians, is relatively inconsequential.
Since military leaders have a long history of butting heads with intelligence agencies, the fact Trump has surrounded himself with generals is a further positive in this area - as is the fact his pick for CIA director is a CIA-outsider (his own troubling views on civil liberties not withstanding.) Since, by all accounts, Trump is largely impacted by the last opinion he hears - I'm comforted by the fact that he has surrounded himself with people who probably have more than a few grudges against the CIA.
While it's highly unlikely Trump will leave the American intelligence community in a state that will gain the approval of a Justin Amash or Rand Paul, considering its been one of the most dangerous institutions in modern history - any steps taken to rein it in should be celebrated.
Because all the intelligence agencies (which manufacture false flags for war) are against him, as Tho Bishop of the Mises Institute writes:
Plus he favours auditing the Federal Reserve system!
The United Nations is far removed from the daily grind of domestic politics, where seemingly more pressing ‘bread and butter’ issues are debated.
Its relative immunity from oversight can be attributed to a brilliant strategy of enshrouding itself in a veil of do-gooder spirit. Publicity campaigns routinely proclaim noble objectives such as substantially reducing poverty by 2015, helping achieve world peace, and bringing about inter-cultural dialogue.
Being sceptical about the U.N. is similar to questioning the worth of Mother Teresa – decent, politically correct people just don’t do things like that.
But when it comes to international stability, the cumulative effect of the United Nations is a disastrous one. Far from promoting peace, the U.N. is used by power elites to sow the seeds of conflict. If Australians are serious about keeping their country out of needless wars, they need to pressure their representatives to withdraw from the entangling alliance that is the United Nations.
How does the U.N. ensnare Australia in conflicts that don't affect our interests? Simply put, it's through adherence to the interventionist doctrine of collective security. The doctrine posits that if there is an act of aggression anywhere in the world, all member-states are expected to respond as a united force. Whenever there is an obscure conflict in a far-away land, Australians, who would have otherwise enjoyed a state of peace, and perhaps a reduction in tax-coercion, may be called upon to sacrifice.
Take for instance, Australia's involvement in the Korean War. Why should Australia have spent blood and treasure settling a border dispute that has no direct impact on our national security?
Few, if any, of the U.N.’s missions have been related to questions that affect Australia's interests. The 1991 Gulf War, for example, was geographically removed from our threat zone. Iraq, a third-world nation with a run-down military, posed no substantial threat to Australian security. Yet instead of letting neighbouring Arab states deal with Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, we joined a US-led UN coalition instead.
Collective security has never worked as intended. Under the Charter, collective security was supposed to be a coordinated effort, with a Military Staff Committee composed of generals from Security Council countries meeting to make decisions. In practice, all major collective security actions have been under American command.
Moreover, since the permanent members of the Council possess a veto power, it’s a sure thing that if one of the permanent members or its friends commits an act of aggression, no disciplinary action will be taken. Hence, the Security Council focuses its wrath disproportionately upon less influential "pariah" states and downplays actions taken by politically powerful governments.
The time has come to stop placing our faith in world bureaucracy to forge a durable peace. As Ludwig von Mises wrote:
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What's really damning is that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the United States pretty much the same as World War II, even though they are fighting an enemy nowhere near as powerful.
Most central banks are staffed by unelected bureaucrats and are outside the realm of political control. The Treasurer, no matter how much he may disagree, is bound by convention not to interfere with the monetary policy decisions of the bank.
This state of affairs has insulated central banks from accountability. Parliament does not control the Reserve Bank of Australia’s budget, as it does for the High Court.
Full disclosures of monetary policy dealings domestically and internationally are not accessible. The RBA’s exemption from Freedom of Information laws prevents the public from finding out the extent of its relationships with external actors. Like the Fed, no parliamentary committee truly oversees every aspect of its decision-making, meaning it is probably more secretive than the Australian Security Intelligence Service.
A good way to improve accountability is to audit the RBA. Comprehensive audits can reveal useful information about how a central bank is employing its discretionary powers.
Opponents of an audit argue that opening up the bank's books would impinge on its "independence". Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that central bank independence is a good thing. Even so, it's unlikely that expanding the scope of audits would significantly affect independence. Protections can be put in place to minimise this risk. Not all documents discovered during an audit need to be made public. Some can be viewed privately by the inspector-general in charge of accountability. Appropriate safeguards, such as time lags between a monetary policy decision and an audit of the decision, can also be implemented.
Thus, there is no excuse for not providing citizens a better understanding of the RBA's shenanigans.
An additional barrier to employment in the legal profession is the subjective system of "character tests" regulated by the Victorian Board of Legal Admissions (Letters, 6/12). The funny thing is that the character test doesn't seem to always work. Many lawyers that I've interacted with find it difficult to be honest when it comes to fees – inflating billed hours is a common trick. There's no better proof than the hundreds of disciplinary cases lodged against lawyers across Australia.
I would urge politicians to abolish the character test – not just for law, but for all professions. This would encourage competition and bring down prices for consumers of these services. Bad character can instead be sorted out by consumer protection organisations where customers can rate individual lawyers just as they rate cars or hotels.
(Published in The Age, letters to the editor, 7 December 2016)
Lesson One: Break the Regulatory Shackles
It needs to be said at the outset that no government in the U.S., not even Detroit’s, has ever imposed the kind of crushing regulations that the Indian government imposed during the height of the notorious License Raj in the mid-’50s. Key industries—steel, telecommunications, airlines—were nationalized, but even more harmful was the Kafkaesque web of regulations that the remaining private businesses had to endure in the name of ensuring a “rational allocation of resources.”
Every move of private industry, big or small, was subject to licensing. Forget setting up a new plant or a factory. If an enterprise wanted to buy or import equipment, change its product mix, or even produce more than its allotted quota for a product, it had to first obtain permission from the Directorate General of Technical Development, a process that could take years and a small fortune in bribes, points out Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound and former CEO of Procter & Gamble, India. “Large business houses set up parallel bureaucracies in Delhi to follow up on files, organize bribes, and win licenses,” he recalls.
Confronted with a massive fiscal crisis and the prospect of defaulting on its international debt obligations, the Indian government dismantled much of this ridiculous licensing regime in 1991. In a bid to boost exports to replenish the country’s empty foreign exchange reserves, it also eliminated all import licensing and slashed tariffs on capital goods. Both were relics of India’s import-substitution days, when manufacturers were discouraged from buying equipment from abroad in order to build the domestic industry. This jacked up production costs and made the country’s exports hopelessly uncompetitive.
Lesson Two: Remove Destructive Taxes
Bangalore has benefited not just from the central government’s efforts to reduce onerous bureaucracy and red tape but from its radical reform of the federal tax system, once among the most punitive and complicated in the free world. Now Indian states also have started to simplify their tax schemes, something neither Michigan nor Detroit has found the will to do.
Read full article by Shikha Dalmia at Reason.com
In 1933, a referendum was held in Western Australia. Voters were asked whether WA should secede from the Commonwealth. Amazingly, a sizable majority – 68 per cent – decided that it was time to become an independent nation! Yet despite the sentiment in favour of seceding, WA’s plea was denied by the Australian government and the British Parliament. The powers that be were not about to stand for such intransigence.
For the most part, West Australians appear to have resigned themselves to their fate.
But worsening economic conditions have in recent years re-ignited the debate over secession. WA’s Mines Minister Norman Moore has openly advocated that the state secede and rely on alliances with China and the US for its defence needs. The Labor Opposition has ridiculed such talk, labelling it the work of a “lunatic, right-wing fringe in the Liberal Party”.
Such hyperbole is hardly justified given that WA has legitimate grievances; other states in the federation parasitically live off the revenue generated by WA’s booming economy. First, there is the carbon tax set to be introduced in July 2012. Then there is Julia Gillard’s planned mineral resource rent tax. Both these measures will create uncertainty and impose unnecessary costs upon the West Australian business community.
If WA were to secede, the emergence of a government that is closer to the people it represents would not be such a bad thing from the point of view of greater accountability.
The Legality of Secession
An important question arises however -- does Australia’s constitution permit secession? Professor George Williams of the University of New South Wales does not think so. “The constitution simply does not contemplate any part of the nation breaking away”, he writes, “with no state having the right to unilaterally leave the federation”. In his book Secession: The Ultimate States’ Right, Greg Craven reaches a similar conclusion.
Would secession really be unconstitutional, as Williams and Craven claim? The answer is no.
When Australia’s colonies agreed to come together as a federation under the Constitution, they did so on the assumption that the federal government would remain limited to the powers enumerated in section 51. The states were to retain their reserved powers.
Common-sense dictates that if the federal government oversteps its bounds and encroaches into areas of state responsibility then a state is justified in exiting the constitutional compact. This 'compact' theory of the Constitution derives from American statesman Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson argued that for federalism to mean anything in practice, the states must have the ability to hold the central government to account. Or as Clyde Wilson puts it, “Federalism implies states’ rights, and states’ rights imply a right of secession”.
Craven considers Jefferson’s theory and dismisses it on the grounds that the circumstances of Australia’s legal framework differ substantively from the US. However an edited collection entitled Secession, State and Liberty more than adequately defends the theory.
Secession is not a radical idea. Indeed, many Western nations were borne out of secession. Consider, for instance, the fact that the American revolutionaries fought to secede from the British Empire. And Australia has over the past 100 years effected a peaceful secession from the UK as it has gradually become more independent and republican sentiment has grown.
Secession is an idea whose time has come. Everyone should seriously examine its merits.
I'm one of those fanatical libertarians that Mirko Bagaric denounces. I have the naive audacity to resist any government sanction of "compassionate torture" during a time of fearmongering over the terrorist threat, because I know we have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than being killed by a terrorist. I also know that there has never been a death on Australian soil due to Islamic fundamentalism.
The problem with any arguments for regulated torture is the question of who gets to decide when it's appropriate. Who decides when the stakes are high enough for torture? Who decides when to discard the notion of innocence until proven guilty? In all cases, the government decides.
The government, being made up of fallible men and women, would then be given the power to declare a threat and then abuse its citizens on the basis of that declaration. This situation is completely unacceptable in a free society and would overturn everything that distinguishes Western societies from the terrorists.
(Published in The Australian, Letters to the Editor, 8 January 2008)
The August 2016 decision of the Federal Court to award $3.3 million under the Native Title Act to traditional owners who were dispossessed of their land has once again made indigenous affairs a hot topic.
But land justice is a deeper concept than offering indigenous people piecemeal monetary compensation. We need a permanent solution that immediately improves Aboriginal outcomes across a variety of indicators such as life expectancy, employment, and incarceration rates. Aboriginal people have a life expectancy about 10 years less than non-indigenous Australians, are more likely to be unemployed and are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned.
It is true that British colonisation and the human rights abuses of previous governments have created tremendous harm to indigenous peoples past and present. For this, appropriate reparations must be made.
The current native title system tends to approach the problem by proscribing “traditional owners” who are often senior elders within a group of Aborigines. Moreover, native title can only exist to the extent that there is no superior title to the land (for example, by mining companies or farmers). In practice, its scope is limited.
The effect of the present system has been to hamper the entrepreneurial talent of Aborigines living in remote communities. By now, we could have seen many Aboriginal millionaires who could have helped their communities in a far more effective manner than inefficient government programs ever could.
Instead, remote communities today are bastions of poverty.
In the 1967 referendum, a resounding majority of Australians voted to give the federal government power to make laws with respect to Aboriginal people, wherever they lived in Australia, and to include Aborigines in national censuses. The change aimed to foster a coordinated approach that bypassed the divergent policies of individual states.
Today, however, it seems as if less Commonwealth imposed uniformity would have been better. While the referendum was excellent at achieving symbolic outcomes, it has allowed the federal government — for more than two decades since the second Mabo case —- to avoid taking the hard decisions that would lead to progress. In particular, legislation limiting Aborigines to communal ownership of land must be abolished.
Giving individuals private ownership of land (a capital asset) is one of the proven means of generating wealth. Freehold title would allow aborigines collateral for investments or housing.
If an individual property rights framework were set up, groups of Aborigines could still collectively join together and retain cultural elements. At the same time, those who wished to integrate into the mainstream economy would find it easier to do so.
The Commonwealth government should immediately cede control of the bulk of its powers relating to Aborigines to the states. Decentralised federalism is the surest way to accommodate the diverse range of local circumstances that must be taken into account when formulating indigenous land rights policy.
The states should conduct surveys of 90 percent of Crown land, and after consultation with historical residents and traditional owners, should randomly allocate each Aborigine over 18 years with a voucher that entitles them to an equal plot of this land (for example, one square kilometre).
As some will have received land not suitable to their individual purposes, the states should then manage a barter system to allow Aborigines to trade vouchers until they reach suitable agreement among themselves. The land they now own is freehold, and they should enjoy the same rights as any other Australian.
The Aboriginal participants must agree, however, to not launch any future legal claims trying to claim more land. Also, the constitution should be amended so that all reference to race powers is deleted and all laws specifically dealing with Aborigines should be repealed. Henceforth, they must be treated the same as other Australians and must not be provided any special privileges or race-based quotas.
Handing back government land to the descendants of the first Australians would significantly reduce the scope of government and remove much of the bureaucracy that has benefited from the native title “industry.” The cost savings achieved would mean income taxes could be reduced for everyone. Second, it would finally give legal title that is not inferior to Aborigines, to use as they see fit. The paternalist mentality driving current indigenous policy would be ended, and there is potential for a major macro boost to the economy.
My proposal avoids continuing indefinitely the blame game for poor outcomes and unleashes the productive force of capitalism.
Real land rights are what all non-indigenous peoples enjoy. Why should Aborigines be any different?
Originally published at The Spectator Australia (20 September 2016).