Power & Market

"Socialist" Scandinavian Countries Skyrocket Up Lassiez-Faire Index

My favorite publication every year is Economic Freedom of the World.

It’s filled with data on fiscal policy, regulatory policy, trade policy, monetary policy, and quality of governance for 162 jurisdictions, and it provides an unbiased way of gauging the degree to which they allow economic liberty.

It also allows readers to slice and dice data, which is very helpful for doing analysis.

For instance, as illustrated by this 2×2 matrix, I claimed in 2016 that nations with small fiscal burdens aren’t necessarily pro-free market (meaning they would belong in the top-right quadrant) and countries with large fiscal burdens aren’t necessarily in favor of intervention and planning (so they would belong in the lower-left quadrant).

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But that matrix was speculative.

Which is why I downloaded the EFW dataset. I then removed the fiscal policy variable and created new rankings so I could see which nations relied most on unfettered markets.

As you can see, Singapore barely edges out Hong Kong for first place in this “Laissez-Faire Index,” with New Zealand in third place. In other words, the top three nations in the overall EFW rankings stay the same, though Hong Kong and Singapore trade places (in the far-right column, I compare each nation’s rank to its EFW score for overall economic liberty).

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The most dramatic results are for some of the welfare states in Northern and Western Europe. Denmark jumps 12 spots to #4 and the Netherlands soars 18 spots to #5. Other nations with big increases include Finland (up 14 spots to #8), Luxembourg (the world’s freest economy as recently as 1985, moves up 14 spots to #11), Sweden (up 30 spots to #13), Norway (up 11 spots to #14), and Belgium (up 32 spots to #20).

Looking at this list, it’s easy to understand why the combination of big government and free markets is sometimes called the “Nordic Model” (defined by Wikipedia as “a comprehensive welfare state…on the economic foundations of free market capitalism”).

And Japan could be considered an honorary member since it jumps 22 spots in the Laissez-Faire Index, up to #19.

I’ve argued that such nations compensate for the damage of high taxes and big welfare states by being very market-oriented in other ways. And the EFW data supports that assertion.

Though it’s worth noting that their large fiscal burdens do have a negative impact.

P.S. Looking at other nations in the Laissez-Faire Index, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada all remain in the top 10, though the United States falls six spots to #12. Georgia, Mauritius, Taiwan, and Lithuania all drop by double-digit amounts.

P.P.S. I did a version of the Laissez-Faire Index in 2015.

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The Saudis Keep Changing Their Story on the Murder of Khashoggi. What Should We Do?

10/22/2018Ron Paul

The Saudi version of the disappearance and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi seems to change every day or so. The latest is the Saudi government claim that the opposition journalist was killed in a “botched interrogation” at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Or was it a fist-fight? What is laughable is that the Saudi king has placed Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a prime suspect, in charge of the investigation of Khashoggi’s murder!

Though the official story keeps changing, what is unlikely to change is Washington’s continued relationship with Saudi Arabia. It is a partnership that is in no way beneficial to Americans or the US national interest.

President Trump has promised “severe punishment” if the Saudi government is found to have been involved in Khashoggi’s murder, but he also took off the table any reduction in arms sales to prop up the murderous Saudi war on Yemen. It’s all about jobs, said President Trump. So the Saudi killing of thousands in Yemen can go on. Some murders are more important than others, obviously.

The killing of Khashoggi puts the Trump Administration is in a difficult situation. President Trump views Iran as designated enemy number one. Next month the US Administration intends to impose a new round of sanctions designed to make it impossible for Iran to sell its oil on the international market. To keep US fuel prices from spiking over this move Trump is relying on other countries, especially Saudi Arabia, to pump more and make up the difference. But the Saudis have threatened $400 a barrel oil if President Trump follows through with his promise of “severe punishment” over the killing of Khashoggi.

The Saudis have also threatened to look for friendship in Moscow or even Tehran if Washington insists on “punishing” the regime in Riyadh. For a super-power, the US doesn’t seem to have many options.

What whole mess reveals is just how wise our Founding Fathers were to warn us against entangling alliances. For too many decades the US has been in an unhealthy relationship with the Saudi kingdom, providing the Saudis with a US security guarantee in exchange for “cheap” oil and the laundering of oil profits through the US military-industrial complex by the purchase of billions of dollars in weapons.

This entangling relationship with Saudi Arabia should end. It is unfortunate that the tens of thousands of civilians dead from Yemen to Syria due to Saudi aggression don’t matter as much as the murder of one establishment journalist like Khashoggi, but as one Clinton flack once said, we should not let this current crisis go to waste.

This is not about demanding that the Saudis change their ways, reform their society on the lines of a liberal democracy, or allow more women to drive. The problem with our relationship with Saudi Arabia is not about Saudi Arabia. It is about us. The United States should not be in the business of selling security guarantees overseas to the highest bidder. We are constantly told that the US military guarantees our own safety and so it should be.

No, this is about returning to a foreign policy that seeks friendship and trade with all nations who seek the same, but that heeds the warning of George Washington in his Farewell Address that “a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils.” If we care about the United States we must heed this warning. No more passionate attachments overseas. Friendship and trade over all.

Reprinted with permission.

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3 Reasons Why the Federal Government Should Handle Only Foreign Affairs

10/20/2018Ryan McMaken

In an 1800 letter to Gideon Granger, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "The true theory of our constitution is surely the wisest and best, that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations. Let the general government be reduced to foreign concerns only..."

In other words, the only job of the federal government ought to be foreign affairs.

In expressing these sentiments, however, Jefferson was summing up a line of argument based on practical observations about the easy corruptibility of government power, the need for decentralization, and the benefits of government at the most local level.

One still hears calls for reducing the federal government to a foreign-affairs agency — more or less — but these calls are usually based on little more than a rank appeal to authority in the form of the "Founding Fathers" and their alleged original intent.

Appeals to the Founding Fathers, however, are usually unconvincing and unsatisfying. After all, not all the Founding Father even agreed as to the full extent of federal powers. Moreover, the constitution itself grants powers to the federal government beyond matters of foreign affairs, including, but not limited to, authorization for monstrous laws such as the fugitive slave acts.

And, the ink was barely dry on the constitution before George Washington decided he was perfectly fine with instituting a central bank, and with the use of federal troops to put down tax resisters. John Adams later signed off on the Alien and Sedition acts a gross abuse of the natural rights of peaceful Americans.

Needless to say, there were a great many early American founders and politicians who were quite at peace with expanding the domestic role of the federal government significantly.

Jefferson's position on the federal government as an external-relations agency only, however, is interesting today for reasons that have nothing to do with what is considered constitutional. Without resorting to any debates over what James Madison said about something 230 years ago, we can identify at least three good reasons why the US government — indeed any national government — ought to be reduced to an organization with authority only in matters of foreign affairs.

One: Foreign Relations Are the Only Area of Government in Which Physical Size Matters

When it comes to geopolitics, it's hard to deny that the ability of a nation-state to defend itself is often enhanced by physical size, and by the size of frontiers between itself and other competing nation-states. This does not trump everything else, of course. Wealthy nation-states have an advantage over poor states, even in cases where the poor nation-states are larger. Moreover, the advent of nuclear weapons has further diminished the importance of size in military defense, since a small nuclear-armed nation-state can wield truly threatening defensive power against even much physically larger nation-states.

Economic ties are also an important factor, as nearly every laissez-faire liberal in the past two centuries has understood. From Jefferson to Ludwig von Mises, liberals have noted that peaceful bonds between nation-states can be facilitated through free trade and exchange. Not only does this lead to greater peace among the nation-states involved, but a policy of free and open trade ensures a larger number of allies in case an outside aggressor state begins to make threats. The nation-states with strong trading ties will tend to stick together, thus further providing each other with greater access to resources for defense.

Size isn't as important as it used to be, but it continues to be a factor.  Thus it is easy to see why even Jefferson and other anti-Federalists recognized the advantages of forming the US into a confederation for purposes of military defense.

Two: Non-Military Function Are Best Kept Local

Other functions of government, however, have nothing to do with bigness, and are best limited to the most local level possible.

The welfare state — which is by far the largest single federal spending category outside military spending — is one such example. As I note in my article "Decentralize the Welfare State," every American state already enjoys a per capita GDP that's more than large enough to support its own European-style welfare state.

Some people may argue that welfare states are a bad thing, but the fact remains that the existence of well-heeled and functional welfare state hardly requires the presence of an federal government like that of the United States. After all, if Belgium, with a population of a mere 11.3 million people, can have a vast welfare state, it hardly stands to reason that the United States, with a population of 320 million requires one enormous national state to pull off the same thing. Moreover, the issue of whether or not a welfare state is a good thing is a separate question from whether or not it requires a vast national government to execute it.

And while Jefferson likely never envisioned anything approaching the size and scope of a modern welfare state, the basics of the idea were not unknown in his own time, when liberals like himself were known to support a variety of different domestic welfare-type programs from public schooling to poor laws. Jefferson, after all, had supported poverty relief programs at the county level.

As noted in his comments to Granger, however, handing over poverty relief functions to a far-off federal agency of distant bureaucrats would have seemed to him a ludicrous and thoroughly dangerous proposal.

Domestic law enforcement is another function of government that has never been shown to require a unified national government. After all, as I show in my articles on the need to abolish the FBI (see here and here), the states of Europe have been able to address law enforcement needs without any Europe-wide police force, and the American states could just as easily adopt an INTERPOL-type model without submitting to any national police force.

And then there is the issue of banking which has been continually federalized, centralized, and insulated from local and market control. Supporters of a huge federal financial and banking apparatus would have us believe that such centralization is necessary for economic prosperity. This, however, has never been demonstrated by the historical record. Some of the greatest strides in the American standard of living have taken place during periods of extreme decentralization in the American financial system — as during the nineteenth century's periods of huge gains in real income. And, of course, the experience of small wealthy European states such as Switzerland demonstrates that small states perform at least as well as large states when it comes to economic performance.

Three: Federal Domestic and Foreign Programs Work Together to Increase Federal Spending Overall

And finally, the mixing of domestic and foreign-policy duties at the federal level allows federal lawmakers to continually hoodwink the taxpayers into tolerating higher and higher levels of federal revenue and spending.

We see how this occurs every budget cycle: one political coalition (the right wing) favors growth in military spending, while another coalition (the left wing) favors growth in social spending. Neither, of course, strongly opposes the other. But in each case, both sides can count on increased federal spending overall so long as some of that spending goes to their pet projects. The end result is a relentlessly increasing federal budget, year after year. Sure, in some years, there is more growth in military spending. And in some other years, there is more growth in social spending. But there is always growth.

Meanwhile, if Americans ever get it into their minds that federal spending ought to be reigned in, federal policymakers trot out the same scare tactics. To the right ting they say "give us more money, or the US will be defenseless from the Chinese/Russians/Iraqis/Syrians, etc. To the left wing they say "give us more money, or people will starve in the streets!" Having convinced two major ideological groups that they must give more to the federal government to get what they want, a majority of voters thus caves and hands over the money. Once the federal government has the money, then it's a simple matter of having lobbyists and legislators divide it up in a way that benefits them politically. Without the inconvenience of any voter involvement.

By limiting federal prerogatives to foreign affairs only, any referendum on increased federal spending would necessarily be a referendum on military spending only. And this would be clear to everybody. This would then have the added benefit of depriving the federal government of one of its most reliable constituencies: leftists who want more social spending.

In practice, when it comes to increased spending, the federal government's only natural constituency should be those in favor of greater military spending — and it would then become more difficult to convince the majority to tolerate more federal spending.

The drive for more social spending would then be shifted to the state level. This by itself would not guarantee a lower tax burden for taxpayers overall. It's entirely possible that state governments would indulge in massive bloated welfare programs.  On the other hand, experience suggests that only some states would do this while others would not. In other words, there would be variety among the states, and residents could vote with their feet as to where they would live and pay taxes. The realities of tax competition — as we can witness in small states of Europe — would act to restrain the local governments in their tax-and-spending practices.

In any case, it would be preferable to be able to choose among states at various levels of profligacy than be stuck with one huge federal state indulging in ever higher levels of out-of-control spending.

A Few Caveats

None of what I've said here should be construed as an argument that the federal government, even if reduced to a foreign-affairs agency, would necessarily be justified in whatever it does. Even in such a reduced form, a government of that type would still be prone to abuse, bloat, and incompetence. But if we're going to be stuck with a US government, it's best to reduce it to a single function so as to politically isolate and restrain groups that favor increases in federal spending.

Nor do I wish to imply that the federal government ought to have a monopoly on military power within the United States itself. As both the legislative and social history of the US has shown, both an organized and unorganized militia — at both the state and local levels —  have long been important in acting as a counterweight to federal military power.

But, at the core of all of this is my long-standing assertion that the United States ought never have been anything more than a military-defense confederation and a customs union, and member states of the confederation should always have been free to leave. Jefferson, for one, would have agreed.

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Audio: Capitalism Makes Us More Humane

10/19/2018Ryan McMaken

Why is it that starving Venezuelans are eating dogs while Americans are rescuing dogs from hurricanes?

This is an audio version of the article "Capitalism Makes Us More Humane".

Find more Radio Rothbard on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Google Play, and via RSS.

Capitalism Makes Us More Humane

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Human Action Now in Romanian

The Ludwig von Mises Institute Romania and the Private Academy have recently celebrated the publication of the Romanian translation of Mises’s Human Action.

Dan Cristian Comănescu—founder of the Mises Institute Romania and translator of the volume—offers Romanian readers an exquisite and faithful translation of Mises’s greatest work. In both content and appearance, the published volume displays the great care and love with which this tremendous task was undertaken. In his preface to the volume, Vlad Topan, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and founder of the Private Academy, described Mises’s magnum opus as

more than a simple treatise on economics, methodological prolegomena included. It is also a cultural and rhetorical product which speaks of a different scientific world—or a different world altogether… Human Action reveals to readers not only the cultural and intellectual stature of its author, but also a model for how a reader should be. Reading Mises you can rediscover what thoughtful, genuine reading and writing means, as well as how, if these activities were legitimately undertaken, that world and culture would look like.

Congratulations to the Mises Institute Romania for this accomplishment, which I know was not an easy one or without financial difficulties. For Romanian speakers, the full recording of the book launch can be viewed here.

 

Photos courtesy of the Mises Institute Romania. Vlad Topan (left) and Dan Cristian Comănescu (right). 

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A New Book on Mises for the Layman — In German

10/18/2018Ryan McMaken

Thosten Polleit, a frequent author at mises.org, and an active part of Ludwig von Mises Institut Deutschland, has completed a new introductory text on Mises and his work: Ludwig von Mises für jedermann: Der kompromisslose Liberale (Ökonomen für Jedermann). It is available both at Amazon.de and Amazon.com. And best of all, it's priced at an affordable price, and is not one of those 90-dollar books that academic publishers often turn out.

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Elizabeth Warren's Other Cherokee Scandal: Her Fight Against Tribal Sovereignty

10/18/2018Tho Bishop

Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential aspirations may have ended before they began this week thanks to her team’s bizarre decision to proudly broadcast the results of a DNA test that shows she may have had a relative 10 generations removed that was of indigenous American heritage. As Senator Warren was once promoted as “Harvard Law School's...first woman of color,” the results seem to only confirm that she misrepresented her ancestry in her past career as a law professor.

Not only has the decision been met with a blistering condemnation from the Cherokee Nation, but it has once again made her the butt of President Trump’s jokes.

Lost in the laughing at Warren’s expense however, is a larger issue exists over how American politicians continue to treat tribal sovereignty.

After all, if Warren had used her position as senator to serve as an advocate for the Cherokee Nation’s right to self-determination, her history of misrepresenting her genetic connection to the tribe would perhaps be more excusable. Say what you will about Rachel Dolezal, she at least cared enough to be an advocate for the African American community. Instead, Warren’s political record is one that has regularly promoted the continued imperial rule of Washington on land that is tribal in name only.

Though never officially serving as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren has been widely credited as being the guiding force behind the creation of the agency. The CFPB was created as part of the Obama Administration’s response to the financial crisis, a powerful financial regulator that lacks the traditional checks of other executive agencies. Under the lead of former director Richard Cordray, the CFPB went to work becoming a heavy handed regulator in its fight against "unfair, deceptive and abusive” practices.

Soon, various tribal financial services businesses found themselves in the cross hairs of the enthusiastic CFPB. The result is that the agency has been described by Dr. Gavin Clarkson, a tribal finance expert, as “the most hostile federal agency towards Indian tribes since Indian Affairs was in the War Department.”

One example is a variety of short-term lending operations that various tribes started up to try to capitalize on the growth of e-commerce. In theory, tribal sovereignty should have given these ventures a competitive advantage over other US lenders who had to deal with the Washington red tape. Unfortunately Obama’s Justice Department decided these operations represented a “national security risk” and worked with the CFPB to shut them down as part of Operation Choke Point – in spite of pleas from tribal advocates that doing so would be economically devastating.

While it would be unfair to blame Elizabeth Warren for any and all actions taken by the CFPB and DOJ, she served as a primary defender of Operation Choke Point when legislative pressure mounted to end it.

Similarly, she has been the chief voice in the Senate attacking the pay day lending industry, which became a point of particular emphasis under the Cordray CFPB. This has put the Warren-Cordray camp into ongoing legal conflict with various tribes over whether federal financial regulation should apply to tribal land, leading the CFPB to sue various tribal lenders.

While the Supreme Court refused to take up the case, which could have provided a legal precedent in favor of tribal sovereignty, the suit was eventually dropped earlier this year after Mick Mulvaney took over as the CFPB’s acting head. Warren wrote a letter to Mulvaney criticizing the decision.

Warren’s indifference to the cause of tribal sovereignty appeared again this year with a vote on the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.  

The issue here was whether tribal-owned businesses should be forced to follow federal labor laws on collective bargaining. The issue has been a major one for a number of American tribes, upset that tribal governments are subjected to labor laws that state and federal governments are exempt from.

As Jefferson Keel, the President of the National Congress of American Indians, wrote in The Hill:

Sovereignty means tribes should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own workforce policies. The truth is that many tribal nations openly welcome labor unions into the businesses that they own; others choose not to. And a growing number have designed and enforce their own labor regulations. But the NLRB ignores all of this and, instead, forces tribal governments to adhere to the NLRA. Just us. No one else. This is a plain violation of our inherent rights as sovereign nations and governments.

Unfortunately Senator Warren’s loyalty lay with labor unions over tribal sovereignty, and she joined with 41 other Senators to successfully kill a vote on the bill.

While Warren has made it easy to laugh at about “fauxocahontas” and 1/1024th memes, her political contempt for tribal self-sovereignty is what should make her false claims to Cherokee heritage truly insulting.

Elizabeth Warren and her fellow progressives believe Native Americans are better off following her rules, rather than granting tribes the political self-determination to make such decisions for themselves. It’s a form of ideological imperialism, driven by their own belief in their moral superiority and the belief on “the right side of history.” The progressive person's burden is to use to the power of the state to impose social justice, regulate “fairness” in the market, and impose egalitarian social norms

This is precisely why it’s important for those who recognize the dangers of federal overreach and political centralization should take the issue of tribal sovereignty so seriously. The goal for a more civil and free society should not be the aim of some grand universal political order, but a respect for political self-determination. To that end, a respect for tribal rights is just as important as any other fight in favor of political decentralization.

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In the Aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Civil Society and Voluntary Action Saved Lives

10/16/2018Tho Bishop

Last week my hometown of Panama City was devastated by Hurricane Michael, the most powerful storm to make landfall in over 50 years. The aftermath on the ground is impossible to comprehend without seeing first hand: buildings destroyed, trees scattered, basic infrastructure like water and power remain down for most of the county. To the east, the city of Mexico Beach has few structures that remain standing after receiving the brunt of wind and storm surge. Residents of rural areas such as Chipley and Marianna are forced to navigate around roads still impassable due to the considerable debris that remains.

I was able to visit Bay County this past weekend to bring supplies to friends and family. For all the horror the storm brought, it’s also demonstrated the best of what society has to offer. In the face of incomprehensible hardship is a community that has rallied around each other for strength, comfort, and survival.

While Federal, state, and local governments have been quick to respond to the storm's aftermath, much of this work has been the spontaneous action of residents both in and outside of the impacted areas. The aftermath of Hurricane Michael is the perfect illustration of the importance of civil society and voluntary action given the inherent limits of state action.

As soon as Michael made landfall, the first priority for anyone with loved ones in the path of the storm was trying to find a way to check on their wellbeing. Immediately the limitations of traditional emergency services to offer assistance help became clear. With 9-1-1 simply unable to handle the volume of requests coming in, social media became an invaluable tool for organizing rescue efforts. In many cases complete strangers stepped up to report on the wellbeing of residents thorough out the area, an immeasurable relief to friends and family who had no other option.

Of course social media requires internet access, and here too competition in cellular infrastructure has proved invaluable for recovery efforts. Damage done to Verizon’s network not only took away cell service for tens of thousands of customers, but took away the main service provider for Bay County emergency personnel. Access to AT&T’s network or other hot spots managed to provide semi-reliable means of communication, which became the backbone of continuing volunteer efforts.

Another vital means of communication has been commercial radio stations, particularly the network of stations under the umbrella of iHeartRadio. Not only did these stations provide a constant stream of information throughout the affected areas, but provided an outlet for requests far beyond anyone’s individual social network. Lives have literally been saved as callers have had requests for oxygen, medicine, water, and other necessities met within minutes after being shared on air. It’s also helped direct a legion of volunteers armed with chainsaws – now dubbed the Chainsaw Army – to help clear out parts of the city that are too isolated to be priorities for government-led rescue efforts.

Businesses, churches, and other organizations have also stepped up to feed, assist, and shelter thousands of those in severe need as well. Restaurants, bars, and even “illegal” Facebook food groups quickly emerged as pop-up soup kitchens, clearing out freezers to give hot meals to those that have lost anything.  Food trucks and other groups from around the country have stepped up as well, truckloads of food, water, tarps, and other vital supplies making their way into the area for distribution.

Another way we’ve seen voluntary cooperation emerge is the reaction to the darker side of human nature that comes out in a time of crisis. Reports of looting began just hours after the hurricane hit, and quickly spread well beyond those “salvaging” resources from stores devastated by Michael. With law enforcement faced with higher priorities than property protection, it’s been up to citizens to protect themselves – with many banding together to help look after their neighborhoods.

It’s also worth re-emphasizing that this praise of voluntary coordination in the aftermath of crisis is not at the expense of what government officials have been able to accomplish in the area. All parties involved, from first responders to state organized shelters to power companies have done incredible work over the past week. What we see, however, is the basic limitations of what a government can do for the public in a time for crisis – even when motivated with the best of intentions – and the importance of community beyond the state. The fact the community has been, for the most part, freed of heavy handed government management is precisely what has allowed for such a quick and vibrant response to the storm.

This becomes all the more clear when contrasted to a very different sort of catastrophe that hit the gulf coast: the Deep Horizon Oil Spill. In that case, efforts made by outside entities to assist with clean up were frequently turned down by the Federal government which claimed total control over the situation. Labor to help deal with the fall out on land was tightly regulated by OSHA requirements. Road block after road block emerged to stall the very sort of spontaneous order that a civil society offers. If such a centralized and bureaucratic response to a disaster was replicated this past week, many more lives would have been lost and far more even worse off than they are today.

Hurricane Michael brought destruction that the Florida panhandle has never seen before, but it failed to break the community it impacted. It will take years before the area is able to return to a sense of normalcy, and thousands will never be able to recover all they have lost. Still, it is a blessing that thanks to the incredible and voluntary actions of countless number of residents, lives have been saved and the steps to recovery have already begun. 

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US Taxpayers Are Paying to Train Mercenaries Who Then Work for Mideast Dictators

10/16/2018Ryan McMaken

Aram Roston reports on how Mideast dictatorships now hire former US military personnel to form what are essentially death squads designed to eliminate the regimes' enemies:

The revelations that a Middle East monarchy [UAE] hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE. (The Saudi Embassy in the US did not respond to a request for comment. Riyadh has denied it killed Khashoggi, though news reports suggest it is considering blaming his death on a botched interrogation.)

Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones.

Where do these kill teams come from and where do they get their training and experience? They get it from the US military and the US taxpayer.

Last month, I wrote on how the US military is becoming increasingly reliant on mercenaries to staff military operations. This makes it easier for the Pentagon to ratchet up military conflicts while still claiming that it is reducing boots on the ground. It can do this because the Pentagon doesn't report details on how many mercenaries it's using or where they are. Essentially, mercenary forces are a sort of human slush fund which allows the Defense Department more leeway in doing whatever it wants, while sharing precious little information about it with Congress or the taxpayers.

Thus, the US treasury subsidizes the creation of these mercenary forces that then become adjuncts of foreign governments. Roston concludes:

The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.

He's right about that, but then makes a rookie mistake: he refers to the movement toward mercenaries as a "privatization" of war, saying, "War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures."

I see this mistake made over and over, and everyone needs to stop calling this sort of thing "privatization." When the government hires a construction firm to build a government highway, is that "privatization" of the highway system? No one thinks that, and for good reason. Similarly, it is not privatization when a state — whether its the US government or the UAE — hires a private firm to execute some aspects of the government's wars. These wars are state-on-state wars. There may be some truly private organization at play, but they're on the receiving end of the mercenaries' violence.

Historically, we call private military forces "irregulars" or "guerrilla" forces. There's gray area there, but, broadly speaking, truly private military forces don't have a legally enforceable contract with an officially-recognized regime. They're often not loyal to any extant state, and they often don't even get paid by any organization recognized as a state.  Clearly, this doesn't describe these American mercenaries who likely have a signed contract with the UAE dictators, and money is paid in return for certain killings.

This is government money, spend on a private firm to carry out a government agenda. This is not privatization.

As the number of experienced American mercenaries continues to grow — thanks to 18 years of non-stop American wars, it will be interesting to see how many Americans military contractors have their hands in various assassinations, bombings, and other killings carried out on enemies of far off regimes.

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The Great Social Media Purge of 2018

10/16/2018Alan Mosley

Back in the ancient news cycle of August 6, 2018, Alex Jones, host of The Alex Jones Show and curator of Infowars.com, was deplatformed in a coordinated effort by multiple social media and content streaming services. The list of companies, whose simultaneity was surely a coincidence, is quite impressive: Facebook, Apple, YouTube, Spotify, Vimeo, Pinterest, MailChimp, and LinkedIn. The debate on free speech versus hate speech raged on for the customary week or two as the news cycle dictated, with many libertarians and conservatives willing to leave Jones to the proverbial wolves. Perhaps Alex Jones wasn’t an attractive enough martyr for the cause. But to those who stood on principle against these social media giants, this was a sign of things to come. Editors for the Free Thought Project spoke out against such censorship on the grounds that it may only be Alex Jones today, but FTP would be next.

How right they were.

At thefreethoughtproject.com, Matt Agorist wrote, “What makes this recent purge from Facebook and Twitter so egregious is that the pages like the Free Thought Project, the Anti-Media, Press for Truth, and dozens of others, did not fit the hate speech narrative these same companies used to wipe out Alex Jones. Instead, these pages were dedicated to spreading peace, bridging the divide, bringing humanity together and holding government accountable.”

It’s true that Jones has made more than his share of controversial statements, including claiming that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was a hoax, but this kind of controversy does not follow sites such as the Free Thought Project; Facebook even admitted they were not targeted for promoting violence or spreading “fake news.”

So what were the determining factors that led to this round of deplatformings? According to a statement co-authored by Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher, the 559 pages and 251 accounts purged had, “consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The statement continues, “This inauthentic behavior consists of sensational political content, regardless of its political slant, to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites…posting in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites.”

As Caitlin Johnstone wrote at Medium.com, Nathaniel Gleicher is also the former White House National Security Council Director of Cybersecurity Policy.

What a small world!

Is there any truth to Facebook’s claims about “inauthentic activity”? It’s easy to become instantly enraged by the censorship, considering that it appears to be punishing alternative media groups for “driving traffic to their websites.”

This hardly seems like an egregious sin. And if consistently applied, would this standard not also include major news outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News?

Additionally, the deplatformings seem conspicuously coordinated, as a number of affected organizations found their accounts suspended all at once, one the same day, on multiple social media sites.

There is some logic to Gleicher’s explanation, but Facebook’s application of its rules has been wildly inconsistent. People rushed to share tales of the purge, showing account holder screenshots with multiple banned pages and profiles. Unfortunately, it’s the operation of so many pages and accounts by the same individuals that possibly got them caught in this little sting operation. When users were identified as sharing their clickbait in “dozens of groups, hundreds of times over a short period,” they were attempting to game the system by boosting likes and shares in an attempt to drive themselves higher in news feeds. An issue with consistency notwithstanding, this sort of activity is considered spam and inauthentic behavior by Facebook. They are hardly the first to adhere to such a policy. Reddit.com bans users who are found to operate multiple accounts in order to up-vote the submissions by their primary account.

To be clear, I am not criticizing indie media for doing everything they can to spread their message. Those of us in the liberty community will remember Congressman Ron Paul and his foreign policy warnings against “blowback,” — the CIA-coined term for the unintended retaliation for U.S. foreign interventions. But blowback is not limited to the world of foreign policy; it’s also a social phenomenon. When Facebook made drastic changes to its algorithm crippling the reach of alternative media and independent content creators, it prompted these same creators to find ways to circumvent the algorithms. This kind of “throttling” is nothing new. The Gold Standard with Alan Mosley once enjoyed a reach of over 70,000 for its updates and episodes, even without any budget for Facebook Ads. These numbers were common as recently as May, but even with the purchase of Facebook Ads, results have been catastrophically lower since June. Now The Gold Standard is fortunate to receive a quarter of the reach, even though it sports all-time highs in likes and follows.

So what will the community-at-large do in response to this latest social media purge?

Sure, there were some that rushed to defend Alex Jones, but many more decided to put their momentary e-safety far above the principle of defending free speech. But those of us who believe in the free market should put our money where our mouths are. There is more than just circumstantial evidence to suggest that many of the major media outlets are coordinated, both with each other and Big Brother, to silence dissenting voices. When you read an article, listen to a podcast, or watch a video, make sure to like/share/subscribe to the original feed in order to keep them in the public view despite the reproach of the elite. Better yet, follow these content creators to their new destinations, and prepare to unplug from outlets that don’t respect your freedom to choose what information to consume.

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