A few days back, I wrote a post about the Occupy Nigeria movement. As with many of my posts, my main goal was to research the issue and get a better understanding of what was going on and what I thought about it. The post has generated a good deal of feedback, some of it quite confrontational, some skeptical, some helpful in helping me understand the situation better. I’m particularly grateful for the last two types of feedback, as I feel like I understand the situation better than when I wrote the first post.
In my first post, I argued that removing the fuel subsidy is ultimately the right thing for Nigeria to do, as it is riddled with corruption, offers massive benefits to a few companies fortunate enough to have been awarded import contracts, and dominates the government budget at the expense of critical infrastructure projects. What I hadn’t understood fully is that the protests aren’t against removal of the subsidy per se, but about a lack of trust in government. As Nicholas Ibekwe, one of the organizers of the Occupy Nigeria protests in London explains, “Most organizers of the protest believe that removal of subsidy is not a bad thing. And I share that sentiment as well. However, the removal of subsidy in Nigeria is not about economics, it is mostly about trust, corruption and timing. The Nigerian government has not given the ordinary Nigerian reason to trust it.”
Put more simply by Chude Jideonwo on YNaija, “This is good policy badly executed, not because of timing necessarily as because of trust.” In the long run, Nigeria needs to eliminate a fuel subsidy that buys imported fuel – it makes very little economic sense for a nation to produce raw petroleum, export it to countries that refine it and subsidize its reimportation. It would make much more sense for the Nigerian government to help rebuild the nation’s refineries so the oil could be processed locally.
The problem is that, as Ibekwe and Jideonwo both explain, people don’t trust the Jonathan government to repurpose the subsidy to build infrastructure. Many of the arguments against subsidy removal focus on overspending in the Nigerian government, particularly on salaries and benefits to elected officials. The assumption – not without some justification – is that any savings from the subsidy will line the pockets of politicians at the expense of ordinary Nigerians.
Based on the feedback I’ve gotten from Nigerian friends, there’s no doubt that the subsidy removal was implemented poorly. Removing the subsidy in one fell swoop may have been designed to minimize opportunities for dissent (as each step of a gradual increase might invite protest), but it maximizes harm to the ordinary Nigerians who are struggling to cope with cost increases. The removal of the subsidy during the Christmas season had the additional complication of stranding some Nigerians in their home villages without sufficient funds to pay for transport home. And, as the commentators I quote above have pointed out, the Jonathan government simply doesn’t enjoy enough popular support and trust to have implemented these changes so unilaterally.
Alex Thurston at Sahel Blog argues against two arguments he sees me making in the piece. The first argument he sees me making is that removal of the subsidy is a good thing. I don’t think that’s what my argument was, precisely – I think removing the subsidy, ultimately, is something Nigeria needs to do. But as I’ve conceded here, I agree the move was made badly, without sufficient consideration of the harms to ordinary Nigerians, and I hope it will be rolled back and implemented in a more careful, considered way.
The second argument Thurston disagrees with is my contention that a protest against the subsidy is reactionary. Here I think he and I genuinely disagree. Thurston suggests that removal of the subsidy favors the 1% over the 99%, and suggests that because the World Bank and IMF would like to see the subsidy removed, the interests of the powerful favor subsidy removal. I don’t think it’s especially fair to equate the oft-maligned IMF and World Bank with the globally rich and powerful. There are lots of smart economists – including Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Managing Director of the World Bank – who are looking for solutions to Nigeria’s long-term economic woes, and who see removing the subsidy as a step towards economic reform.
There’s no doubt that removal of the subsidy is hurting the 99% in the short term. But poor and middle-class Nigerians were experiencing a great deal of economic misery before removal of the subsidy. In the long term, one way or another, Nigeria needs a functioning infrastructure, a working power grid, better roads and rail, better health care and education. In the long term, some of these services need to come from the government… and the government will gain legitimacy by providing services that people want and need, beyond cheap fuel.
Thurston and the Occupy protesters seem to be arguing that the government can’t and won’t provide those services, and therefore we should focus on the short term: maintaining a large subsidy on the import of foreign petroleum products. That mistrust of government’s ability to provide any services sounds more like the Tea Party than the Occupy movement to me. I’m not saying that the protesters are wrong in their mistrust of Jonathan’s government. I am saying that a government taking steps towards modifying a budget to provide essential goods and services appears more progressive than supporting a massive subsidy.
In US terms, this argument sounds like a very typical right-wing argument: we can’t trust the bloated, lazy government to produce public goods, so we should have very low taxes and rely on the private sector for any goods and services. In practical terms, removal of a fuel subsidy is a tax increase. It’s a badly implemented tax increase and it affects people who are ill able to afford it. But the goal is a progressive one, so long as you accept the notion that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Jonathan are genuinely trying to build infrastructure and help the economy recover. If you don’t trust their motives, obviously, you won’t see this move as anything other than an opportunity for more corruption.
Do I think the subsidy removal was a good idea? I think it’s an admirable goal in the long run, but was badly implemented and should be rolled back and implemented gradually in closer consultation with a variety of non-government groups. Do I support the Occupy Nigeria movement? Yes, inasmuch as I think it’s great to see organized, peaceful, popular opposition to corruption in Nigeria. But I am deeply worried that the movement is focused on rolling back a change that, in the long run, is intended to correct some of the major problems of the Nigerian economy. Do I still think the movement is reactionary? Yes, in the literal sense that protesters are trying to roll back a change made by government, and more figuratively, because the movement questions the ability of the government to create positive change for the people. I hope the movement will become a broader anti-corruption movement, which I would see as less reactionary, more progressive and more in line with global Occupy movements.
Do I expect that this post will reduce the amount of angry email I’ve recently received? Probably not. As several correspondents have pointed out, passions are understandably running very high around these issues. It’s hard to both critique and support a movement, but I think the issues here are complicated enough that it’s worth trying to do both simultaneously.
On January 1st, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonthan put into place a reform that he and keyministers have been discussing for years: he ended a 20-year old subsidy that kept Nigeria’s petrol prices the lowest on the continent. When Nigerians went back to work on Monday, the 2nd, they discovered that not only had petrol increased from $0.40 to $0.91 a litre, but the cost of private taxis, minibuses and other forms of transit had increased in price as well.
By Tuesday, the 3rd, protesters in Lagos were blocking access to petrol stations and shutting down stretches of motorways by building and burning barricades. On the 4th, protesters in Kano shut down petrol stations and threatened to burn down a newspaper they believed was supporting the removal of the subsidy. They occupied Silver Jubilee Square in the center of the city and attempted to maintain an encampment overnight, though police responded by firing tear gas and, allegedly, working with armed gangs to clear the square through violence and intimidation. The protests are led, in part, by two powerful trade unions, National Labour Congress and Trades Union Congress, who have promised to “occupy” Nigeria until the subsidies are restored. They plan a nationwide strike, beginning January 9th.
Michael Bociurkiw, writing in the Huffington Post, notes that it wasn’t obvious that petrol price increases would trigger such widespread protests. After all, there’s lots to protest in the country. Despite being sub-Saharan Africa’s largest producer of oil, most Nigerians are quite poor, the nation’s infrastructure is shambolic, and political corruption is widespread and well-documented. A rigged election in 2007 (and controversy over a mostly-clean election in 2011) led to some heated rhetoric, but little visible protest.
But petrol prices affect every aspect of life in Nigeria. The country has no (functioning) mass transit systems, which means urban dwellers are reliant on a complex system of minibuses, taxis and motorbikes, operated as private businesses. Those businesses will be sharply affected by the petrol price increase and pass the costs on to their customers. And because Nigeria’s electrical grid and power producing stations are notoriously unreliable, most businesses use generators to power their operations. Those generators have just become at least twice as expensive to operate, which is likely to increase prices at a wide variety of businesses. Complicating matters, Nigeria is least stable in the north, where tensions between Muslim and Christian groups have erupted into violence, and where the terrorist acts of Boko Haram, an extremist organization which wants all non-Islamic education and culture banned from Nigeria, have pushed President Goodluck Jonathan to declare a state of emergency in the North. Because the north is distant from the ports where Nigeria lands imports, goods are likely to increase sharply in price in the already troubled region.
Jonathan is not the first Nigerian leader to try to remove the fuel subsidy. Two of Nigeria’s military leaders – General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha both tried to end the expensive program, and both were forced to back down due to popular opposition.
On the one hand, it’s exciting to see a Nigerian population that’s often overwhelmed into inaction taking to the streets. Stories about Muslim and Christian protesters finding agreement over shared prayer space – and images of Nigerian Christians encircling and protecting Muslim protesters at prayer in Kano – are genuinely encouraging. And there’s no doubt that making a living was a tough prospect for ordinary Nigerians with the subsidy in place and that a tough situation will get worse without it.
That said, ultimately, I think Nigeria needs to get rid of the subsidy. It’s incredibly expensive – depending on how you account for it, it cost between $8 billion and $16 billion in 2011. Nigeria’s tax authority collected just under $18 billion in 2010, and budgets for key sectors of the Nigerian economy are substantially smaller than the cost of the subsidy: defense spending is proposed at $6 billion, education at $2.5 billion, health at $1.8 billion. And while the subsidies make life easier for ordinary Nigerians, they’re a massive boon to the few companies the government allows to import refined petroleum… and contracts to import those petroleum products are a likely source of patronage revenues for corrupt government figures.
The IMF has pressured Nigeria to remove fuel subsidies for years, and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo–Iweala, an internationally celebrated economist and anti-corruption reformer has been a powerful champion of reforms, offering long briefings to the President and other leaders on the importance of the reform effort. (Rumors have circulated that she threatened to resign if the subsidy wasn’t eliminated. She refuted those rumors in classic Nigerian fashion… on Twitter.)
Ideally, the Nigerian government would use the monies freed by eliminating the subsidy to address some of the country’s chronic problems: weak road and rail infrastructure, unreliable power, run-down refining facilities. It’s possible to imagine a Nigeria where imported petroleum products were less necessary, if the country had functioning rail systems, a reliable power grid minimizing the need for generators, and refineries that could produce diesel and gasoline locally. Given the history of corruption in the Nigerian government, it’s not hard to understand why many Nigerians are skeptical that the monies released from the subsidy will go anywhere other than in politicians’ pockets. As the BBC observes, many Nigerians feel like the fuel subsidy is the only government service they actually see.
If you want to understand opposition to removal of the subsidy, an oddly partisan view can be found on the Occupy Nigeria wikipedia page, which is quite far from NPOV, but a very interesting read nevertheless. Statements from Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Lamido Sanusi make the case for subsidy removal in a piece on Bloomberg News. His basic argument: Nigeria needs to borrow a lot of money to build infrastructure, and responsible lenders won’t give the country money as long as it keeps doing boneheaded stuff like subsidizing oil consumption instead of building infrastructure.
Even though I think Nigeria needs to end the subsidy, I would be surprised if Jonathan can sustain these changes in the face of a sustained strike. There’s tension already over the idea that this isn’t Jonathan’s “turn” at the presidency – there’s a popular notion that Nigeria’s presidency should rotate between northern Muslims and southern Christians. The previous president, the Muslim northerner Yar’Adua died in office, and Jonathan finished his term. Some believe that, by this rule of thumb, the 2011 president should have been a northerner… Some northern activists and some labor activists have made threats that they will make Nigeria “ungovernable” during a Jonathan administration. It’s not hard to see how protests over fuel could make Nigeria vastly harder to govern.
I’m interested to see Nigerian take on some of the rhetoric and tactics of the Occupy movement, including the occupation of a public square in Kano. I’ll be intrigued to see whether any of the global energy over Occupy goes to support the Nigerian protesters. The irony, I fear, is that while the global occupy movement seeks to equalize income disparities and fight government corruption, the Nigerian movement is currently pursuing radical and important reforms, and the Occupy Nigeria protesters are fighting against that change. Read one way, Occupy Nigeria is a conservative movement fighting to keep a dysfunctional status quo in place, which seems at odds with other branches of the movement.
Will you allow this question to “occupy” your minds for a moment? Seriously, what would happen to our country if we all chose to do nothing but take up space on “public” property (or even on other people’s private property as some of you have done), consume resources at other people’s expense, and spend several days in a row not producing things? Have you even thought of what might happen, if the rest of us followed your “example?”
Well, I suppose it would first depend on who all quit their jobs.If every politician, bureaucrat, and bankster quit their jobs, I would be willing to bet that everyone would considerably better off.Toss in superfluous workers that are only necessary because of government interference, like tax lawyers, compliance officers, safety managers, CPAs, etc., and suddenly this country wouldn’t be shackled in economic regression.As for everyone else, point taken.
However, it should probably be pointed out that many OWSers are able to OWS because they don’t have jobs.See, the funny thing about recessions, even those caused by massive government intervention leading to housing bubbles which are then exploited for massive profit by Wall Street banks who are defrauding home owners as well as Americans by using the Fed as an ATM machine, is that jobs tend to be more scarce.And when that recession turns into a depression, those scarce jobs don’t come back for a while.So, for the most part, Occupy Wall Street is not a matter of people quitting their jobs as much as it is a matter of people not having jobs in the first place because the government, acting as a pawn of the banks, decided to wreck the economy.
Participants in the nationwide “occupy” movement would probably be shocked to know this. But the fact is, their oh-so-important demonstrations are able to occur as they do because the majority of us in America do not think and act the way they do. In fact, to be even more precise, their choices are enabled in no small part by – gasp!- American-styled Capitalism! Yet just as those who burn the U.S. flag fail to understand that the object they desecrate is emblematic of the freedom they exercise, the occupiers fail to see that the “C-word” which they loathe is precisely what makes their occupying possible. [Emphasis added.]
Actually, it is the distinctly American form of crony capitalism, as typified by TARP and other recent bailouts, that led to the current set of choices OWSers face. The banks have looted the American economy, quite illegally, it should be noted (and note that the linked article only concerns itself with judicial rulings, not investigative allegations, which means that the assertion of fraud was either proved in a court of law or admitted to by the perpetrators!) Jobs are scarce because politicians had to tax small business and mid-sized businesses to death in order to fellate pay off the major banks that have bought them contributed to their campaigns in the past election cycles. And the cost of those taxes have been jobs that would have otherwise be filled by those currently OWSing.Quite simply, the free market is dead in America, and has been for decades. The result is exceedingly high unemployment—the U6 index indicates it’s been in the high double digits for some time—which is the direct result of massive government intervention in the economy, for the benefit of enriching the banks. This is in no way free-market capitalism. In fact, a certain someone has noted quite acutely that America doesn’t actually have a free market, in practice. Yet, said someone wants to act as if suddenly the market is perfectly free and all the decades of government intervention no longer have consequences and therefore all those who are currently OWSing are simply socialists who want to redistribute the wealth.
But yes, American-styled capitalism has not only made OWSing possible, in that it has eliminated productive jobs, but it has also made it necessary because the system is corrupt and redistributionist.
Also, in regards to the burning of American flags, could Mr. Hill please provide proof of this occurrence? I searched on Google for photographic evidence of OWSers burning the American flag, but all I could find was the occasional desecration, and a few instances of burning the Israeli flag, presumably in honor of Ben Bernanke. I would very much like proof that OWSers are actually the anti-American protestors that the conservative media make them out to be.
I have looked at this a lot, but never had a reason for posting about it. So now I note Bram passed on the image that highlights the conundrum going on Downtown and elsewhere as folks struggle to figure out where to focus their anger. It reminded me of what may be the ultimate financial infographic of all time. See below.
Not new, this has been floating around for quite some time at this point. I believe this is the original source, but it is hard to tell given how much the image has been passed around. This is the reverse engineering one couple did of what happened to a single mortgage as it went from the signing of their promissory note and down into the rabbit hole known as the financial markets. I keep trying, and failing, to find George Bailey in there somewhere. As much as the name and cartoons are far more accessible to the general public, this is a far more accurate representation of what is otherwise known as Toxie in other circumstances (I have no reason to think Dan and Teri are themselves anything other than good credit risks).
So let’s say you were angry over the foreclosure crisis.. where in this diagram is the center of gravity that you would vent your anger at?
What caused the 1992 L.A. riot?While this question has no definitive answer, the evidence presented in this paper does suggest that South Central L.A. had some characteristics that made it more likely than other cities to explode into a large scale riot.Our empirical results suggest that the ethnic diversity of South Central L.A., the high unemployment rates of young black men in that area, and the sheer size of Los Angeles all help explain the 1992 riot.[Emphasis added.HT: Chuck.]
One of the effects of free trade has been to increase unemployment in manufacturing industries. Jobs in these industries are generally low-skill, and the proper domain of younger males, at least given the labor market value of young males (hint: it’s really low since young males tend to lack intellectual capital, i.e. skills). So, since there are fewer jobs available to young men as a result of free trade, and since young men without jobs are more prone to rioting, it would appear that free trade has a probable role in setting the stage for future riots.
Of course, it is entirely possible to avoid this possibility. The government can either impose wage parity tariffs on all imports, which would have the effect of ensuring that any imported product would have the cost of minimum wage labor factored in, or the government can stop making illegal for young males to compete with foreign labor and production on price, which means eliminating minimum wage laws. It is absolutely ludicrous for the government to have policies that hamstring domestic labor and favor foreign labor. Something has to give eventually, and let’s hope it doesn’t take a large number of unemployed males rioting in the streets to convince the government to set a pro-domestic labor policy.*
* While I’m on the subject, I’d just like to note just how completely horrible it is that the government’s current economic policy is in the worst possible interest of the citizens it claims to represent. Free trade only benefits domestic consumers because it enables them to buy goods at lower prices than they normally would. Of course, the general price of goods wouldn’t otherwise be high in the first place if the stupid government hadn’t set policies that drove up the price of goods in the first place. Between inflation, minimum wage, asinine “corporate” taxation, and incredibly cumbersome regulation, the government has managed to concoct a perfect storm of skyrocketing prices.
The only thing that obfuscates this fact is the presence of foreign trade, which the government welcomes because it helps keep consumers from knowing the true cost of government interference. Of course, this charade can’t be kept up forever because foreign labor will eventually become more productive, leading to increased demand, leading further to increased prices (wages). As this happens, the buying power of foreign labor will increase, relatively speaking, and drive up the price of goods on a broad, international level, meaning that Americans will eventually pay more for goods anyway. By the time this happens, though, the American economy will have been so hamstrung as to become permanently crippled.
And that’s why I hate the American government and the politicians and bureaucrats that run it. They are fools, every last one of them. They, and I mean this literally, deserve to rot in the bowels of hell for all eternity for the fraud, deceit, and destruction that they have practiced against the American people.
Trace: When I was in law school, we never talked about the 10th amendment. When I was studying for the bar, they said if there was an answer that mentioned the 10th amendment, it was wrong. Can you give us a little bit of an overview on what nullification is and how the States can apply this?
Tom: Yes. Well, it is linked to the idea of the 10th amendment and it’s so funny how the legal establishment hates and tries to downplay, or smear, the 10th amendment when in fact the principle of the 10th amendment, that the states retain all powers not delegated to the federal government, was told to people as having been implicit in the Constitution as drafted. In other words, before there even was a 10th amendment in the Constitution, supporters of the Constitution told people that, in effect, it was already implied in the Constitution. This is the very principle that law schools try to pretend doesn’t exist or is just stupid. Supporters of the document itself said this principle is already implicitly contained in it, so nullification just follows from this.
It comes from Thomas Jefferson, and then in turn through others since then. Jefferson said that if the federal government tries to exercise a power that is not one of the delegated powers, tries to exercise a power that would be unconstitutional, then the states should not enforce it within their borders. That is to say they should nullify it. And Jefferson himself is deriving this idea from the Virginia ratifying convention of 1788. 1788 Virginians were very skeptical of the constitution, a lot of them were. Virginia was probably the most important state at that time, and so many of our great states men came from Virginia. I mean obviously James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason, the list goes on and on, so it’s very important to get Virginia in. And then there were skeptics, Patrick Henry among them, who said this constitution is going to yield you a government that will be impossible to control. It will grow beyond our ability to imagine, it’s got a phrase in there that can become loopholes for ambitious politicians. And Patrick Henry was told “don’t worry”, and this was the supporters of the Constitution talking, “don’t worry, the federal government will have only the powers expressly delegated to it, and if the federal government should attempt to exercise any additional powers, don’t worry. Virginia will be exonerated from those additional powers.” So in effect there is the germ of nullification right there, in the state ratifying convention.
Now this is not talked about, the stuff I’ve just said… I mean you, if you picked up in American history textbook you’d be more likely to read that I, Tom Woods, am the King of England then you would to read any of that history.
Trace: That goes right along with our principal of judicial review, which is outside the scope of this interview, is that there are certain things that the establishment out of Washington definitely doesn’t want to talk about, and nullification is one of those.
How can nullification, and this principle, help a state become an attractive place for capital, both human and economic? A place where people want to go and do business there, because you know we’ve got these huge unfunded liabilities that are hanging out there like a Damocles sword on the economy, we’ve paralyzed the entrepreneur, and they are withdrawing from engaging in the economy, providing value, because we’ve got all these regulations, just pages and pages that come out in the Federal Register. How can the states use nullification to create an attractive business climate for people?
Tom: That’s a good question. Let me start by saying that when you’re in an economic crisis, such as the one we continue to be in, I think people become willing to entertain ideas that they would otherwise reject, that people are willing to put a lot of possibilities on the table, they become skeptical of experts, they become more willing to listen to heterodoxy. So certainly we saw that in the sudden meteoric rise in the interest in the Austrian school, mostly due to Ron Paul, but also simply because in an economic crisis the experts don’t seem to know what on God’s green earth caused it, and yet these Austrians seem to have been calling it for quite some time, and they have an explanatory basis for accounting for it. Suddenly people became interested in that. Well, likewise of nullification. I think people five years ago would say “well, that’s some crazy idea”. Well, first of all it’s not a crazy idea. I think my hope in my book Nullification is to show how non-crazy it is, how based it is in American history, and the Constitution, common sense, morality, everything you can name, demands that you have the power of nullification.
But I think now… could you imagine, let’s say even right now but let’s say how about in four or five years from now, let’s say that economy is still stagnating, no sign of recovery. Or maybe it’s worse, it has dipped down substantially, and I mean that is certainly quite possible. Let’s suppose that you had a few charismatic governors from influential states who said “All right look the federal government obviously is not interested in economic recovery, and they have proven that in their policies, and so okay maybe they want to bring the country down and destroy it and ruin the economy, but I’m the governor, I’m responsible for the people in this particular states. And in this state we are going to try to carve out some type of livable existence here. We are going to try to carve out the most attractive business climate that we possibly can. So, beginning tomorrow, I am hereby appointing the following commission to go through state budget line by line, I want you to identify every single line in which we are spending money on some unconstitutional federal mandate that we know and they know perfectly well are unconstitutional, and from now on we are just not doing it anymore. The money does not exist, there is no more government fairy who’s going to produce money out of thin air, the game is over. And we are just not doing it.” Now there would be tremendous popular support particularly in certain states…
Trace:… like Texas.
Tom:… where the Governor would have the guts to do that. Yeah, like in Texas. Unfortunately the problem with Texas is that anybody who manages to get elected as governor of Texas, always has ambitions to become president, and that usually clouds his judgment. He always feels like “I’d better be restrained, I better not do anything that’s not in the John McCain/Mitch McConnell play book. You know I must stay Mr. Moderate”. So unfortunately, maybe they wouldn’t do that. On the other hand, maybe there would be some governors who would realize that there’s popular support for this. Chris Christie is getting a lot of support in New Jersey for just saying we’re slashing and burning, because this is absolutely necessary. Well add the slashing and burning, combine that with… oh and by the way we are sticking our middle finger in the face of the Feds who are imposing unlawful requirements on us, and they are contributing to our rotten economy.
I’d love to sit back and watch the fireworks.
Trace: …and especially if you get a state that’s got enough critical mass, I mean Texas or Florida or who knows maybe even California, because it’s such a mess out there budgetarily…
Tom: Yeah exactly, look obviously we have to do this, we do not have the money. Or I wonder if even conversely it might be the case that if we had a couple small uninfluential states do it the federal government might figure it’s not even worth bothering them. Who cares if North Dakota isn’t forcing’ No Child Left Behind’, we’ll live with it. But it would be a precedent for the future .
Trace: …and we have seen what they have done with their state banks. North Dakota, or another small state, like a New Hampshire could…
Tom: …and I should point out with regard to the economy we are hearing about cap and trade back on the table again. There are already several states drafting cap and trade nullification, let’s say I would assume North Dakota would have to be on board there. I mean theirs is a completely energy-dominated economy, I mean that’s what they do. They would be ruined, they would be completely ruined by that stuff. So if they can get away with that, or just the prospect of annoying the federal government and reminding people that it is possible to say no to these guys, well you know I can’t guarantee that this is going to work, I can guarantee you that staying on the path we are on, just voting for some stooge every four years, that that certainly is not going to work.
Trace: Sometimes it’s just in a mere flexing of your rights that you are able to exert a lot of political pain. I know whenever ideal as law enforcement officers in it’s “no officer I don’t consent to any searches,” or “officer, am I free to leave?” Just to exert the constitutional rights instead of rolling over like some dead possum and letting him pilfer through all my belongings when I know that they’re not going to find anything, so I don’t want to be wasting taxpayer money in that way, so likewise I think they’re going to see a little bit more, especially as the money continues getting tight, between states competing for the capital, getting people to move there, because you know the young people they’re coming out of school now with 19.6% unemployment, and what happens when immigration starts happening in the opposite way, when people are like, oh man there are plenty of jobs over in Hong Kong. And so the best and the brightest start leaving America as opposed to coming into it. We see Texas already catering to the young people, trying to bring the job climate in favor and create jobs for the young people, do you think we might see some of the states working in this manner to attract that capital?
Tom: Yes absolutely. Certainly just taking everything it in their own power, you know their own state sales, property taxes and things like that, certainly they can do all that. And then you can couple that with attempts to stand up to the Feds. Even the best-known case of nullification in American history is when South Carolina nullified the tariffs in the 1830s and what wound up happening is that the federal government reached a compromise with them and said “All right, about if we lower the tariffs over the next 10 years?” Well all of our historians are big nationalists, and they hate nullification. All of our historians say “well that just goes to show that nullification is a failure and it doesn’t work”. Are you kidding me!? That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. Where both sides say look I’m not going to do what you want in you’re not going to do what I want so now let’s make some type of agreement. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.
Trace: And that’s to show that, you know we’ve got the political framework at least somewhat there that we can work our way out, you know we could come to grips with the problem we’ve got and we could solve it, and still have our institutions and be able to provide a climate where we can still have a nice standard of living, we don’t have to go back into the stone age, or become an Argentina.
Tom: Yes, exactly right. And yet that is exactly where we are heading, if we don’t begin thinking in a different way.
Trace: This has been a fascinating interview, Mr. Woods. Thank you and we are out of time so everybody you have been listening to the RunToGold.com podcast thanks. That was wonderful interview with Tom Woods, very powerful. And I recommend you look at www.TomWoods.com, that way you can learn more about his work and get a copy of Nullification.
I dropped in on the St. Louis Tea Party event Saturday at Kiener Plaza in St. Louis. Typical sub-par cell phone photo with special glare augmentation A crowd photo by Julie Stone:
My guesstimate — and I’m not great at these things, so I could be way off — is 1,000-1,500 people attending the event. Far fewer than the Tax Day Tea Party in April, but still a helluva turnout for a political event, especially on a holiday weekend.
I was joined by Libertarian congressional candidates (both announced for 1st District, so we’ll be having a contested primary!) Robb Cunningham and Julie Stone. We passed out a stack of Missouri Libertarian Party newspapers. Here’s a photo of Julie handing one of the papers to a guy:
Several of the speakers regurgitated the same talking point (quoted from memory): “It’s not about Republican or Democrat, it’s about conservative or liberal.” Of course, by “conservative” they meant “Republicans and a few pet Democrats who can be counted on to vote for the most expensive and damaging big-government program, foreign military adventurism.”
All of the introduced/touted candidates were Republicans, all of the targeted public officials were Democrats. The issues talking points were 100% conservative/Republican red meat (ObamaCare, Cap-and-Trade, the evil unions). Obviously those issues get some overlap with the sentiments of libertarians, constitutionalists and other pro-freedom folks, but absent was anything that didn’t pass the Rush Limbaugh “dittohead” orgasm test.
Even though the St. Louis County Libertarians contributed $100 for the event (to help with the rental of “port-a-potties” — and we took the liberty of posting a sponsorship flier on one), we received zero mention from the stage during the two hours that I was there. Nor did any other third party or independent candidate.
In format and agenda, it was 100% a Republican Party event.
The “leadership” and the “membership” are two different things, of course. We got a reasonably warm greeting for our literature, and several people made it a point to photograph, or come up to discuss (always positively), my sign: “Voting Republican for smaller government is like f–king for virginity.”
I suspect that the Tea Party movement is done as a force for liberty. That’s certainly the case to the extent that its “leaders” succeed in duping supporters of smaller government into voting Republican next year. My impression, though, is that most of the Tea Partiers fall into one of two groups: Those who were already Republicans and who just might have caught on a bit through their exposure to the LP, Campaign For Liberty, etc., and those who were already third party and don’t plan to allow themselves to be co-opted.
So, a lot of sadly blown potential, but probably not too much damage done, and perhaps even a little bit of good accomplished. Requiescat in pace for something that might have been an amazing breakthrough if the damn Republicans hadn’t tied it down, slit its throat and sucked the blood out of it.
Sure, most of the folks that came out that day might be registered as Republicans, but the line as to what determines a Republican and a Democrat to me at this point no longer exists. Practically all politicians in these parties are the same, differing only by degree of pathetic-ness (not a word according to Google, but it should be).
Thus, I have been thinking about how to describe the split between the two sides of the debate in America right now. The words that I think best summarize the political divergence are individualism versus statism or collectivism. Jonathan Hoenig lays it out pretty well here:
If you find yourself identifying with the values of the former word or phrase below, then you fall into the camp of the individualist, while if you find yourself identifying with the ladder, then you probably identify as a statist. The dichotomies that I see are as follows:
To be sure, in this society, labeling anyone is touchy. At this point I don’t know if I would consider myself a Lockean, a Constitutionalist, a Goldwater conservative, a fiscal and social libertarian but strong on defense dude, or just a lover of my nation. Nevertheless, the split that I see that encompasses the most fundamental of beliefs is individualism versus collectivism. You be the judge as to which ideology is superior.
So I went. I had business at my brokers, right across from the Morristown Green . . . but let’s face it, I would have gone anyway.
Here are some pictures. There’s the crowd in front of the dais (I arrived late for most of the speechifying):
There were some young guys carrying rather erudite signs noting a website called campaignforliberty.com — I should check it out. One of them has a great hat.
The hat close up says GOLD IS MONEY. John Galt!
There was a Morristown Minuteman. I hear Morristown had a prominent role in the earlier American Revolution of 1776.
What I wore to the Tea Party to hand out anti-Corzine stickers was actually my own silkscreen design. Or rather, a take-off of Shepard Fairey who is known for his, um, sampling. Sarah Palin is the man . . . the best of the four top ticket candidates in 2008.