The Gift of Liberty

Every Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ. That’s the point, isn’t it? It’s not to celebrate Santa Claus, or to worry about getting our child the latest Xbox 360 war game, or to rush to be the first in the mail with our Season’s Greetings card.

That doesn’t mean that Christmas is only for Christians.

We celebrate the birthday of our friends even if it’s not our own birthday. As Pope John Paul II said in his 1994 Christmas message Christmas is the time to recognize that Christ was born into a family – and that Christ’s message is that we are all of one family. No matter what religion you belong to – or if you are religious at all – that message is worth celebrating.

Many of the world’s problems would be resolved if everyone recognized the family of mankind. Christmas is a time to assist those less fortunate than ourselves. It’s a time to recognize our good fortune in living in a system based on market capitalism and limited government. As Ludwig von Mises pointed out nine decades ago: this is the only system that can produce wealth for all.

Not long ago I watched a news program about a woman living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was in her 30s and carried 100 pound sacks of grain on a two-mile uphill climb from a port to a mill. She made barely enough to feed her children casaba root porridge for dinner. I was struck by the dramatic difference in her lifestyle and mine.

She surely worked harder than I did (as my wife says about my position as a professor: “People retire to your job”). For all I know, she is as smart as I am. The fundamental reason that I am economically comfortable (as are most readers of this this column) is that I was fortunate enough to be born into an economic system that allows me to be very productive. By contrast, that woman was born into Congo’s system of central planning – a system of arbitrary government power where few can be productive.

The per capita income of the bottom 10 percent of income distribution in the countries that rank in the top quarter of the Fraser Institute’s Index of Economic Freedom is $8735. The per capita income of the bottom 10 percent of the income distribution of countries in the bottom quarter is $1061. In the most market-oriented countries, even the poor are more than eight times as wealthy as the poorest in centrally-planned economies.

Pick any country to be born in – but with the caveat that you will be the poorest person there. You would surely pick Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or the United States over North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe or the Congo.

Historical evidence tells the tale. I ask my students who would you rather be: King of England in 1263 or yourself? Not one student answers King of England. Why? Because the feudalistic economic system of the 13th century could not create wealth for the upper hierarchy – much less for the masses. In 1000 years of monarchy, mankind’s average income rose 50 percent.

Since market capitalism was adopted by the West (in the early 19th century), average income has risen by 1000 percent.

Christmas is a time to be grateful and to make every effort to help the family of mankind. This means private charity, giving of our own time, treasure, and talent to others. It does not mean asking our government to engage in what Frederic Bastiat called “legalized plunder” – that is, taking from some people to give to others.

But in the long run, we can best help our global family by winning the battle of ideas.

The massive poverty in Somalia, the Sudan, and elsewhere will not end until their citizens obtain limited government and an economic system based upon private ownership of the means of production. This requires a political system based upon individual liberty and responsibility. This Christmas we should not only engage in charitable donations, but also in the battle of ideas that will free the world from poverty and oppressive governance.

(Dr. Gary L. Wolfram is the William E. Simon Professor in Economics and Public Policy at Hillsdale College. This article was originally posted on The Michigan View.)

Ron Paul’s newletters come into focus after last night’s debate; “dangerous” views will surely sink Republican campaign

Ron Paul’s newsletters and his “dangerous” foreign policy views came into focus at last night’s debate as Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann characterized them as “dangerous” and supportive of Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon to threaten Israel, and Shawn Hannity, after the debate, gingerly raised the Paul newsletters as highly unreported in the campaign and as a tremendous liability to Paul just as his campaign is surging in Iowa.  Hannity and conservative radio personality Mark Levin have both been criticized by Paul supporters for even bringing up negative information about him.

Paul’s views include that the operation that took out Osama bin Laden, who killed 3,000 innocent Americans, was “unconstitutional” because the Navy SEALS did not have a warrant.  Paul also has stated it is alright for Iran, which has formally professed its policy to destroy the State of Israel, to have a nuclear weapon because they will not attack anyone if we are nice to them.

The media and the opposing candidates for president have gone lightly on Ron Paul so far, and that is because when someone does criticize Paul, they are subjected to a plethora of personal email attacks from what former California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore described to me as the “Paul-bots.”  Their emails and comments can be threatening and scary.  But the  fact that Paul discounts the threat to freedom posed by rogue states like Iran is really nothing new.  Last August I wrote a piece here in California Political Review on Paul, entitled “Ron Paul’s Berlin Wall Problem,” that extended his theoretical foreign policy views to a real world problem – the East German Communists construction of a wall to forceably keep their people inside it – to show that Paul would have no objection to that and would have been at odds with Ronald Reagan’s famous shout-out, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  The article drew 30 comments, most of them from Paul-bots, and none of them expressing concern with the aspirations for freedom of those Germans who were enslaved by a communist system that professed the eventual destruction of the West.  Instead, the comments took me on for even communicating a message about Paul that was critical, and attempted to “kill the messenger’s” credibility.

What do the Paul newsletters say, anyway?  Well, according to an article in the fine conservative publication American Spectator, based on research by the fine libertarian publication Reason, here is some of what they say:

-In 1992 Paul wrote that “95% of black men” in Washington, D.C. are “semi-criminal or criminal.”

-in 1996 Paul wrote “we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational.  Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings,and burglaries out of proportion to their numbers.”

-Also in 1996 Paul said “Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions.”

-He has called Abraham Lincoln “a tyrant” (as did John Wilkes Booth, in Latin, when he murdered the President).

According to the American Spectator, the newsletters are loaded with additional appalling quotes.

I believe in the next few weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, that both “elephants in the room”: Paul’s crank views and the intimidation tactics of his most ardent followers, will not stop the media and even conservative commentators from exposing the truth about Paul.  A failure to do so could only serve to re-elect Barack Obama, or more dangerous and unthinkable – elect Paul himself.

Jean Quan “agrees” with Occupy Oakland but opposes port blockade efforts; former advisor joins protesters

This morning as Occupy Oakland implemented their plan to “blockade” the Port and disrupted big rig access to the Port of Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan told the San Francisco Chronicle that she agrees with the goals of Occupy Oakland but hopes they will “respect the rights of the 99% trying to work today,” meaning members of the Teamsters and Longshoreman’s unions who represent her political support in Oakland.  In the meantime, Dan Seigel, Mayor Quan’s former attorney advisor who recently resigned, was sighted among protesters attempting to disrupt business at the Port.  Seigel was quoted as saying that the mood is “festive” today among protesters whose aim is to close down the terminal for the Port facility and stop all business.

Occupy Oakland takes over part of Port of Oakland rail yard, photo courtesy Brian Sims, flickr

 

 

Gingrich clobbers Romney in Iowa debate Saturday night, leads in most all key primary states

“I’m a Reaganite.  I’m proud to be a Reaganite.  I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid.”  And with those words Newt Gingrich clubbed a grand slam, pummeling Mitt Romney by implication as a weak leader.  Even Romney had seemed to agree earlier, saying “I’m not a bomb-thrower, rhetorically or literally.”  The particular dust-up involved Gingrich’s public statement to a Jewish television reporter that Palestinian’s (some of whose leaders seek the annihilation of Israel as a state)  are an “invented people.”  Romney tried to paint Gingrich as reckless in making the statement,  but Gingrich responded, “I think sometimes that it’s helpful to have a President of the United States who has the courage to tell the truth,” pointing out that Ronald Reagan went around his national security adviser to call the former Soviet Union an “evil empire” and “overruled” the State Department when at the Berlin Wall he called for Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Read the surprisingly accurate coverage of the debate in the Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/11/newt-gingrich-mitt-romney-iowa-debate_n_1141568.html.

NBC news is reporting that according to their own recently released polls, Gingrich has opened up “commanding” leads in the important primary states of South Carolina and Florida.  The lead in South Carolina is said to by almost 20 points, with Gingrich besting Romney 43 to 23 percent.  That election will be held on January 21.  In Florida, where the primary will be held on January 31, Gingrich is at 44 percent and Romney 29 percent.  All the other candidates, including Ron Paul and Rick Perry, can’t manage to get their campaigns into double digits in these key states and reality is beginning to set that the Republican race for the presidency is a two person matter between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, with Gingrich on the ascent and Romney’s support in moderate decline, according to the poll.  According to an ABC poll that is five days old, Gingrich is also ahead in Iowa among likely caucus goers 33 percent to 18 percent over Romney.  Iowa will have its caucuses on January 3.

In New Hampshire, Romney lead Gingrich by 39% to 24% in a poll taken over a week ago; Gingrich will likely be in the lead in New Hampshire in the next poll to be released this week.  That primary will be held on January 10.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan Recall Petition approved, can be downloaded here

The City Clerk of Oakland has approved for form the recall petition for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and it is now in circulation for the statutory period to obtain the needed signatures to qualify the recall.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan sounds opening of footrace, photo courtesy Ella Baker Center, Flicker

A copy of the recall petition can be downloaded here: Recall_Petition_Jean_Quan

Mary Hayashi Theft Trial Delayed by S.F. “Political” Judge Gerardo Sandoval – Again

Gerardo Sandoval, the San Francisco Superior Court Judge handling the Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi felony grand theft shoplifting case, has delayed for a second time the setting of the preliminary hearing in the case, and has given a second excusal to Assemblywoman Hayashi for appearing in court.  Clearly the Constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial is not taken too seriously in San Francisco.  At a hearing in court yesterday, Judge Sandoval granted Hayashi’s defense lawyer’s request for a further delay on a hearing simply to set the date of a preliminary hearing.  Hayashi’s lawyer claimed they “needed more evidence” from Neiman-Marcus in order to agree to a preliminary hearing date.  The position Hayashi is taking is apparently to delay a trial as much as possible to allow her to continue to serve in the Assembly.  (If Hayashi is convicted of felony shoplifting, she will be required to resign her office.)  Any evidence collection from Neiman’s should be a pretty simple matter, and not affect the setting of a hearing to set a preliminary hearing date.  Which is why a second delay in a hearing to set a hearing is suspicious.

SF Judge Gerardo Sandoval and Governor Jerry Brown

A new court date of January 6 has been set for Hayashi’s lawyer to come forward and agree to a preliminary hearing date, which we imagine would be sometime in March given the delays the Judge is allowing.  Hayashi would have to appear at that preliminary hearing according to state law.

Sandoval is a “political” judge, having served as a San Francisco County Supervisor.  He is surely qualified to be a Judge as he has also been a former Public Defender.  But as a candidate for supervisor in 2004, he got into a legal tussle when he was accused of anti-semitism in a campaign mailing against him and decided to sue the sponsors of the mailer, partly funded by Gap founder and San Francisco business leader Don Fischer.  Sandoval not only lost the lawsuit, he was ordered to pay the people he sued $82,500 in their attorneys’ fees as a penalty for filing what is known as a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” commonly referred to as a SLAP suit.

As a “political” judge, eyes of the media should increasingly focus on Sandoval’s handling of the Hayashi case, and whether he is cutting her slack against the public interest.  If Hayashi is guilty of a felony, delays allowed by Sandoval only ultimately serve the purpose of allowing a felon to continue to make our laws in California.

Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 70 years ago today

President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Congress, it was a “day that will live in infamy.”  After sending two sorties of carrier-based fighter-bombers to wreck havoc on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor naval base, sinking or severely damaging 18 U.S. ships, destroying 170 aircraft and inflicting 3,700 casualties, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.”

Pearl Harbor unfortunately ranks with the September 11 terrorist attacks as among the few actual modern era attacks on U.S. territory by a foreign belligerent.  The Japanese attack nearly crippled, for a short time, the ability of the United States to defend itself, let alone project power, into the Pacific.  But four years later American resolve completely reversed the situation.  We received Japan’s “unconditional surrender,” and today Japan is one of our nation’s largest trading partners and allies.

Jean Quan violated the Geneva Convention?

When Oakland Mayor Jean Quan showed up after an outdoor news conference in Frank Ogawa Plaza December 6, to buy some Indian food from a street vendor, she was verbally harassed by a man who said he was upset that Oakland police officers tear-gassed him when they broke up the Occupy Oakland encampment.

The man reportedly yelled obscenities at Quan and alleged that she had allowed police officers to use tactics that have been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

When an onlooker objected to the obscenities he was shouting at Quan, the man said, “Anywhere she goes, I’ll be there.”

Approval for form of a recall petition against Quan is pending in the Oakland City Clerk’s office.

Jean Quan Watch: Supporter’s vow to fight any recall attempt of Oakland Mayor

Supporters of Jean Quan representing East Oakland’s African-American religious community, Chinese-American business owners in Oakland, teacher’s union members and the Longshoremen’s Union are vowing to oppose “recall happy” efforts to throw Oakland’s controversial Mayor out of office.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan sounds opening of footrace, photo courtesy Ella Baker Center, Flicker

 

Spokesmen J. Alfred Smith, Jr., pastor of the Allen Temple Baptist Church and Carl Chan of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, expressed support for Quan recently at a meeting to discuss their “vision for Oakland.”

Smith, at left, is a well-respected community leader and senior pastor in Oakland who holds both a Doctor of Ministry Degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in African Studies, San Francisco State University.  He is a lecturer at San Francisco State University in African Studies as well.

Members of “Occupy Oakland” are upset with Quan and are threatening to organize a recall campaign against her.  Opponents of Quan have not yet filed any formal papers to initiate petition gathering to qualify any recall for the ballot.  News reports characterized the anti-recall meeting of Quan’s supporters as “remarkable” since no papers have been filed yet.

It is clear that the lines are being drawn in Oakland regarding Jean Quan.  It will be interesting to see if the broader business community and other interest and demographic groups see Oakland best-served by the opportunity to team up with Quan, or rather Occupy Oakland, on any recall campaign.

 

Hey “Think Long” – here is the only new idea California needs: open our shores to oil drilling

An important group of business leaders and politicians have formed a banner to work under called the “Think Long” committee.  Some of their ideas however are just recasts of liberal Democrat proposals to raise taxes and undercut the People’s power of initiative.  So, here is a new idea I would like to give them to advance which would close California’s deficit and create immediate new high paying jobs in California, and at the same time help our national security by reducing dependence on imported oil: open California’s off shore oil reserves to drilling now.

California has tremendous oil and gas reserves in the seabed that is controlled by the California State Lands Commission.  But the Commission has not allowed leasing of those lands (a money maker for the state) in over 40 years.  In 1994 the Legislature codified the ban.  In nearby Federal waters off California, the state has even sued the Federal government to prevent leasing of those oil and gas rich fields.  Estimates are that over  one billion barrels of gas and a huge catche of gas could be recovered from these fields, creating new revenues for the state of California, new jobs, and growth in tax revenues without a tax increase.  A perfect policy for the middle of a recession, and one that does not contaminate the environment because of big advances in “green” drilling over the years, which have seen no major spills in the 27 existing oil platforms in California that pre-date all the bans and lawsuits.  Further, platforms can be required to be placed beyond the horizon so that “view” objecters could be satisfied.

Think Long is about bold new ideas.  How about this one?