As has been widely reported, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) credit rating agency is under criminal investigation for the “crime” of rating various financial instruments as low risk (“triple A”) when, in fact, these financial instruments were based on worthless mortgages (worthless as the original home loans were paid to people who had very little chance of ever paying them back).
No doubt S&P did not do their job of rating risk very well. After all S&P is part of a de facto government established cartel of ratings agencies (the vast level of regulation makes very difficult for new companies to compete in the credit rating business) and the government wanted its “affordable housing” policy to continue and part of that was for the original lenders (the banks and other such who had made loans to people who could not pay them back – partly to avoid legal action under the Community Reinvestment Act and partly because the Federal Reserve system was making lots and lots of cheap credit money available and it had to go somewhere) to be able to pass on the loans as securities and other financial products.
Also, of course, S&P (like the other ratings agencies) is paid by the people it is rating (not the people who want to check credit worthiness) so it has a perverted incentive to not look too closely at the financial products it rates – and the mortgage backed financial products (i.e. the pass-the-parcel-before-it-blows-up products) paid very well – especially as financial people (as financial people are apt to do) were using the mortgage based financial products as the basis for pyramid schemes – building vast constructions of debt upon them.
However, every single word of the above could be applied to the larger “Moody’s” Credit Ratings agency. For example, it was the credit rating enterprise that rated the (utterly demented) government backed (and government created) “Fannie Mae” and “Freddie Mac” (the organizations that own most American home loans) as perfectly safe.
Yet Moody’s is not under criminal investigation – why not?
By an odd coincidence S&P downgraded American government debt about a month ago – and (after observing the hostile reaction of the American government) Moody’s chose not to. Could this (as some have claimed) be the latest example of the “Chicago Way” where commercial “friends” get rewarded politically – and “enemies” get punished?
The existing regulations already gave the government (via such agencies as the SEC) vast (and, to a great extent, arbitrary) power. But the passing of “Dodd/Frank” (an Act of Congress named after, arguably, the most corrupt members of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the time) completed the process of turning the American financial system and markets it a political toy – totally under the control of the government. And presently it is a very corrupt government – dominated by Chicago Machine people (from the President down).
However, it is hard to have much sympathy for the financial companies and traders – they are, after all, addicted to government subsidies and have long stopped being anything to do with “free enterprise”.
For example, whenever a vast new government subsidy orgy is announced (such as a new round of funny money creation by the Federal Reserve – or a promise of a vast bailout for European banks) the markets go up not down. The long term is of no interest to most players on the market – they care only about the new money that government creates (from nothing) and their personal chances of getting some of it.
They (most of the financial elite) and the governments (for the other governments are much the same as the American one) are made for each other – it is just a shame that the rest of humanity has to live on the same planet as these people.
August the 4th 1789…
The day when the serfs (the few serfs there actually were in France) were freed and the day that all the old taxes and feudal restrictions were abolished.
Yes I know that what went before this day was evil and what came after this day was evil – but the day itself was good.
The one good day of the French Revolution.
Although (before the pedants start to bash me) I know the repeals did not fit into exactly this 24 hour period.
But the 4th of August has become known for the pro liberty moves.
I am not a consistent non-interventionist – as some people are fond of reminding me.
For example, I am no friend of the Slave Empire (sorry the “Slave Holding States of America” popularly known as the “Confederacy”), and I consider the struggle against the Axis Powers (National Socialist Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Empire of Japan) and the struggle against international Marxism, as two great achievements of the United States and Britain (and their allies) in the 20th century – not as shameful statism which should be condemned.
I even supported going into Afghanistan. It seemed the correct response to 9/11 and the other attacks by Bin Laden organization, to hunt him down and to hunt down his ally Mullah Omar, the creator of the Taliban – contrary to popular propaganda the Taliban was not created by the CIA to fight the Soviets.
However, it soon became clear that the Bush Administration was not making the hunting down of Bin Laden and Mullah Omar their top priority – which is most likely why the two men remain un-captured almost a decade after 9/11. Instead the Bush Administration fell in love with the Woodrow Wilson style “nation building” agenda of the “neo-cons”.
My attitude to the neo-cons is more nuanced than the attitude of most libertarians – in that I do not despise all of them. For example, I regard Frank Gaffney as a professional, I do not share some of his political opinions, but he is not a fool. Unlike most of the leading neo-cons who lined up to list the mistakes of the Bush Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan (mistakes often directly connected to their own wildly optimistic assumptions – a “detail” they tended to leave out) for Vanity Faire magazine in 2004 – in return for a promise that the article would not be published till after the election. That they were genuinely surprised when the magazine promptly broke this promise indicates a level of stupidity bordering on mental retardation. → Continue reading: Is the Afghan War lost?
Debate about George Soros has got bogged down.
Did he willingly help the Nazis deport Jews to their deaths, and plunder their property? Did he, even decades later, describe this as the most happy year of his life, fleeing only when he feared that the Nazis would discover that he himself was a Jew? Or did he have no choice, acting in the way he did simply out of a desire to save his own life?
How much did the parents of George Soros despise religious Jews? Did his father really support world government, and pass on this belief system to his son? Or was he just a man who enjoyed made up languages? Did his mother, in spite of being a Jew herself, really hate Jews? Or was it just a mild distaste? Does George Soros today fund groups, including groups in the Middle East, that want to wipe Israel from the map, out of hatred for Jews? Or, perhaps, out of hatred for any nation or individual that wishes to be fundamentally different – not part of a standardized world order? Or is Mr Soros simply ignorant of the true nature of the groups he funds?
Does George Soros fund – directly and via the Tides Foundation – groups in the United States that employ Marxists because he shares their desire to impose totalitarianism upon the world (making a mockery of his supposed anti totalitarian stand in Eastern Europe in past years)? Or because (again) he simply does not know the true nature of the groups he funds?
My own opinion is that the above is simply unknowable.
One can not get into the mind of George Soros to know whether he really knows that he funds anti-Israel groups, and far left groups. And one can not prove one way or the other whether he knows that many of the Marxists he funds, via the Soros money that goes to the groups they work for, are in “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” alliance with Islamist groups.
Mr Soros may simply be an old man totally unaware of, for example, the irony of his “Open Society Foundation” in the United States being controlled by a far left ex high officer of the SDS – someone who would be no friend of Karl Popper. For Soros to fund enemies of the Open Society in the name of the Open Society may simply be the result of a man whose brain is decaying with age – and who is getting a lot of bad counsel from evil advisers.
However, the written and spoken opinions of George Soros can be known.
Mr Soros may not be a good writer (I am not good writer either), but at least his works are fairly clear on his central claim. Pick one book at random, and the central political point is the same in each of the works that deal with policy. And his works have been stating the same central point – the same central lie – since at least the 1990s, so it cannot be a case of senility. If you wish me to pick out a single work, I suggest you look at the Open Society: The Crises of Global Capitalism. Remember that the first edition was published in the 1990s – long before any supposed senility can possibly have been a factor.
So what is the central lie told by George Soros?
It is his claim that “Market Fundamentalism” dominated the Western world in the 1990s, and in the 2000s. A fanatical laissez faire gripped the West, with government reduced to unimportance.
This is simply not true. → Continue reading: George Soros’ Big Lie – “Market Fundamentalism”
Freedom/liberty is defined in different ways. Some people talk of “free will” of agency, of the ability (sometimes and to some extent) to choose. Of how human beings are just that (beings) not flesh robots whose actions are either determined by a process of causes and effects going back to the start of the universe or are a matter of random chance (neither determinism or random chance being agency – being human choice).
This is not the place to debate the existence of the “I” (the reasoning, self aware, self) and to argue that agency is not an “illusion” (although if it is a illusion who is having the illusion – humans being simply being flesh robots), but I will say that if humans are not “beings” (not agents) then freedom is of no moral importance. No more than it is of moral importance whether water is allowed to “run free” or constrained behind a dam. But then, of course, if there is no agency (no freedom of choice) then there is no morality anyway. A clockwork mouse does not have moral responsibility – and neither would something that looked like a human being but was, in fact, not a “being” (an agent – a choosing “I”) at all.
As for the position that it is “compatible” that a human might have no capacity what-so-ever to choose any of their actions (including lines of thought) and yet still be morally responsible for them – well it is not compatible, basic logic does not allow us to have our cake and eat it as well.
Others talk of freedom in terms of stuff – goods and services.
Such people may or may not accept that humans have the capacity (sometimes to some extent) to make real choices – but they hold that even if humans do have the ability to make choices this does not mean they should be allowed to.
People will make the wrong choices – they will do things make the world a worse place, even for themselves.
To some extent the political libertarian actually agrees with that – after all we do not believe that people should be allowed to make the choice to rob, rape or murder other people.
Or, rather, they should be allowed to make the choice – but not to act on it (aggression should be opposed), and they should be punished if they do act upon it.
Some people have suggested that we be called “propertarians” (rather than libertarians) because of our opposition to chosen actions that aggress against the bodies and goods of people – to which my response is “if you want to call me a propertarian do so – I do not take it as a insult”.
However, the political libertarian (such as myself) tends to deny that non-aggressive choices – choices that respect the bodies and goods of other people, tend to be “wrong” in general.
We hold that most people, most of the time are more likely to get things right than the “great and the good”.
Not just “were you ten times and wise you would not have the right to impose your plans upon myself and others”, but also “even if you were ten times as wise you would still muck it all up”. Indeed it would be claimed that the clever elite are not “wise” at all – for if they were “wise” (rather than just clever) they would understand that trying to “plan society” always ends badly.
In part at this point we move from philosophy to political economy – economics… → Continue reading: The rise and decline of freedom in Britain – the decline and rise of the State
Tim Congdon has thrown his hat in the ring to become the next leader of UKIP and that means UKIP could possibly end up with a leader whom I dislike even more than David Cameron (hard to believe, eh?).
I have disliked Tim Congdon long before I knew who David Cameron was. I remember him at a conference long ago – his reply to my suggestion that lending should be from real savings, and that governments should not subsidize or bailout banks (via such methods as the Bank of England lending them money) was to suggest that I supported a ban on overseas trade that (he stated) the Ming dynasty in China had imposed.
“Paul only you could hold a grudge over something like this” – not if the man had changed his opinions, but he has not (it is still corporate welfare all the way with him). Nor has he changed his manner – he does not debate, he just claims that foes do not understand banking.
If he means do not understand how to get paid lots of money for being an apologist for subsidies to the banks then he is right – although “understand” is not the correct word.
Errrr… I have news for you, Cato Institute… Barack Obama was lying.
He never had the slightest intention of going about eliminating Federal government schemes or aspects of such schemes, in the hopes of reducing the overall burden of government.
On the contrary his entire political life has been spent trying to increase the size and scope of government – and to do so in the most corrupt ways possible. Only someone who knew nothing about Barack Obama’s time in politics would be surprised by the hundreds of pages of detailed corrupt wasteful schemes in the “Stimulus” Act, and in the Obama Care Act – and in every other Act he has had passed (the details of which written by such old comrades of his as Jeff Jones – a man who repents of his Communist terrorism as much as Bill Ayers does, i.e. not at all).
Let us say I am wrong – and that Barack Obama is not trying to destroy America and the West in general on purpose (as part of the Cloward and Piven doctrines of spend America to the destruction of “capitalism” that he was taught at all those Marxist conferences he went to whilst a post grad at Columbia)…
…Even if the question of motivation is put on one side, the facts of his record both in the Chicago Machine, and at State level, and then in the United States Senate, where he managed to be even more corrupt and wild spending than Christopher Dodd (one of the two main supporters of the ultra vile “Financial Reform Act” that Obama has just had passed – the other being a creature called Barney Frank), something that might be thought to be pretty much impossible… well, it seems pretty damn obvious what to expect from President Obama.
“But they always knew that Paul”.
No, “with all due respect” the Cato Institute (like Reason magazine) contains some people, not all – but some, who really believed Barack Obama in 2008 – people who never bothered to do the slightest research into the record of Barack Obama – and were abusive (very abusive) to anyone who tried to point out their errors. → Continue reading: I see no reason to give a free pass to the Cato Institute
Paul Krugman is often described as a winner of the Noble Prize for economics – Mr Noble set up no such prize, but let that slide (after all good people have sometimes been awarded this prize over the years). However, he is in fact not an economist at all – he is just someone who is called an “economist” because he has the position of “Professor of Economics” at a university (as if a job title describes knowledge).
Paul Krugman has for decades sneered at the idea that economics is about reason and logic – that it is (as the “Austrian School” claims) an a priori subject. On the contrary, Paul Krugman claims that economics is an empirical subject – all about understanding empirical evidence and making predictions.
The links given in this Cafe Hayek featured article show that Paul Krugman does not understand empirical evidence and makes predictions that are wildly wrong – i.e., by his own definition, he is not an economist.
Of course there is an alternative view:
This would be that Paul Krugman does have some grasp of economics – but chooses to support an ever more interventionist government for reasons of political ideology, in spite of the economic harm he knows such a line of policy will cause.
For example, Paul Krugman does not predict that the Obama “Stimulus” spending orgy will succeed (on top, please remember, of all the wild “Stimulus” spending by President Bush) – on the contrary Paul Krugman admits the “Stimulus” absurdity will fail – however he claims that this is because it is not big enough.
Almost a trillion Dollars is “not enough” – and however many trillions of Dollars were spent it would still be “not enough”. Any failure of statism is explained away as the result of there not being enough statism.
Would anyone still like to claim that Paul Krugman is an economist?
The Daily Telegraph is the main conservative newspaper in Britain – at least that is how it presents itself and some of its content really is conservative, but often it follows the line of the left (the doctrines that Telegraph journalists will have been taught in school, including most private schools, and at university).
Yesterday’s print edition (which I read on a long journey from Northern Ireland) gives an interesting example (the online edition is arranged differently). Most people will see the assumptions in the article by Telegraph employee Mary Riddell – “Osbourn’s brutal cuts play right into the hands of the unions” (actually the British government spending review is not even published to October 20th – and I would not be astonished if, behind all the smoke and mirrors, government spending next year was even higher than it is this year) with language such as “slash and burn” and “destroys the very charities and community groups” (in Mary’s world, which is sadly very close to the state of modern Britain, a charity or community group is part of the government to be funded by the taxpayers) inflicting “maximum pain” and threatening a “concordant with the unions” … etc, etc. Propaganda of this sort is not really dangerous – everyone can see it for what it is and make their own judgements. However, it is not what interests me – I am interested in what people will not tend to spot, what flows into their minds without their even knowing it.
On the obituary page people will notice the obituary for John Gouriet (one of the founders of what became the Freedom Association in Britain), and some people will get angry at the scare quote marks around the word “oppression” in relation to the Soviet Union (as if Mr Gouriet was silly to think that the totalitarian Soviet Union actually was oppressive), but most people will just read without really thinking the little extract from “Great Obituaries From This Week In The Past” next to it – an extract from the obituary of the famous supporter of racial segregation Governor George Wallace (who died in 1998). → Continue reading: Distortions from the Daily Telegraph
Some people may remember Natalie Solent writing a post on Samizdata about statist developments in Kenya (a post inspired by a BBC report – of all things).
Predictably a from-central-casting leftist commenter turned up – accusing Natalie Solent (and even nice, gentle, fluffy me) of lies, ignorance…
Well Glenn Beck has actually read the new Kenyan Constitution, passed last week (even I could think of better things to do than read the small print of the new Kenyan Constitution – for example pluck out some of my nose hairs, so if Glenn wants to use his failing eyes to read the thing for the rest us…) and he read out sections of it on Monday, live on his show.
There is a list of “positive” rights (i.e. nice things the government must do for you) – wild promises of health, education, and so on. The idea that these can be afforded even in a developed economy (in the long term) is problematic – as for in an economy like Kenya, the idea is absurd.
Also (as even the Economist magazine admitted – although, of course, it supported the new Constitution) large areas of what are presently privately owned land can now be taken by the government.
Lastly – we have an interesting definition of “freedom of speech” (the very thing that Natalie was pointing to) . “Hate speech” is excluded from “free speech” protection – and hate speech is defined as an attack on a group, or an individual (which just about covers everything one might use a right to free speech to do). I am sure that Frank Lloyd (President Barack Obama’s “Diversity” Commissar at the Federal Communications Commission) would love to introduce such a Constitution in the United States (no naughty Fox News, or talk radio or internet to upset him any more), Kenya may even replace the Venezuela of President Chevez as his favourite country.
Although there are no explicit use of words like “Marxism”, the style in which the Kenyan Constitution is written (and a lot of the content – see above) is very much like the old Soviet Constitution – not a nasty, negative, set of limitations on government power like the United States Constitution.
Almost needless to say Comrade Barack Obama spent a lot of money making sure the new Kenyan Constitution was passed – although Glenn Beck did not mention that point. Although Glenn did mention that this sort of Constitution was the “Dream” of Barack Obama’s Marxist pro Soviet father (not to be confused with his Marxist mother or socialist maternal grandparents, or his Marxist childhood mentor Frank Marshall Davis, or his fellow Marxists in New York whilst a post grad, or the Marxists he worked with for his whole adult life in Chicago, or his Marxist Liberation Theology Minister for twenty years Rev. J. Wright or…), as made clear (if one reads carefully) in Barack Obama’s own first book “Dreams…”
A friend of mine has looked into the Kenyan constitution – I hope I do not have to read it (i.e. I am forced to when some moron, or paid hack, comes along and say it is a wonderful example of truly limited government), from the sound of even this bit it seems like the Constitutional document equivalent of a snuff film.
His initial comments were:
I’ll stick to other countries’ coffee now, the rights enumerated are amazing, even goods and services. Why didn’t Marx think of simply enumerating legal rights to plenty? Were the massacres encouraged as a reason for the new Constitution? Clause 10 is bad enough; 34 (4); 43; 66, 73 etc.
How do I enforce my rights (were I Kenyan) under 43 (1) (c): By not paying in a restaurant? Everyone is obliged to uphold the Constitution 3 (1). OK, start saving up for the Famine relief now…
No wonder the Economist magazine supported it (no I am not saying they are Marxists – they are just whores who always try and get into bed with the powerful) and Comrade Barack spent American tax money to make sure it passed.
Yet again “JournoList” (the international organization by which leftist journalists cooperate to serve the cause of collectivism) has been exposed. Tucker Carlson over at the “Daily Caller” has exposed more of their propaganda and disinformation campaigns. Specifically the effort to distract attention from, and smear as a “racist” anyone who tried to report Barack Obama’s two decade membership of an extreme “Black Liberation Theology” (an ideology that mixes Marxism with black racism and then puts a “Christian” cover on both) church and his close connection with the vile bigot the Rev. Jeremiah “Audacity of Hope” Wright.
Outwardly such magazines as Time and the Economist pretend to compete and to offer different world views (the Economist pretending to be a free market supporting journal – in spite of its support for endless bailouts and other corporate welfare, and support government “stimulus” spending). Yet Mr Carlson shows (by publishing their discussions) that high ranking people at these (and most other) “mainstream media” outlets actively cooperate, and coordinate their disinformation and propaganda campaigns for the collectivist cause.
As I have attacked the “mainstream” media, especially the Economist – whose lying claim to support liberty has long offended me, for years, I might be expected to be saying “I told you so” at this point…
…But actually I am astonished…
This is because like Bernie Goldberg (of “Bias”, “A Slobbering Love Affair”) I have long believed the source of the pro-big government bias in the media to be a “mindset” produced by education at both school and university, and the environment that MSM (“mainstream media”) people operate within. To find out that their really is a sort of electronic “Star Chamber” where people (supposedly from competing media outlets) deliberately set out to cover up the truth and to coordinate their lies and disinformation (knowing they are lies and disinformation), well that is rather a shock. → Continue reading: “JournoList”… why Paul Marks is NOT rubbing his hands and saying “I told you so”
Archbishop Rowen Williams has never heard of me and he never will. However, I now believe I have done him an injustice in various thoughts and comments. I am fully aware that most people on Samizdata are atheists – but you do not claim to be Christians, and I am saying that I have been unjust by assuming a man who said he was a Christian was lying (i.e. was a fraud).
Archbishop Williams is a social gospel man and I have assumed that, like most such folk, he is a disguised atheist – someone who when they use the word “God” really means “society” or “the people” (or whatever code word for the state). However, this was an assumption on my part – I never bothered to do any background research (exactly the sort of failure I attack in others – when they make statements about the “moderate” Barack Obama, or whatever, without spending five minutes doing any research).
Recently I came upon an exchange between Bishop Spong and Archbishop Williams which leads me to the opinion that I have been unjust to Rowen Williams. Although the source is Wikipedia I have spent enough time reading this thing to have a good sense of when articles are false and when they are true. → Continue reading: I have done Archbishop Rowen Williams an injustice