Archive | From the Editor

On the Court Holding Up the Chrysler Sale to Fiat

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-08 14:37:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Could it be that finally a ray of hope has peeked through the dark clouds of insanity that was the initial decision about re-ordering creditor priorities in the Chrysler settlement? And of all places, from the left-leaning court?

It would indeed be a breath of fresh air to see someone at least paging through our Constitution to understand what our laws state in these matters. Let’s hope this is not just a momentary relapse but a first step toward righting the original decision to comply with our long-standing and time-proven bankruptcy laws.

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On the Precipice

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-09-27 21:11:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Ronald Reagan's signature

September 27, 2009

I was fortunate recently to receive a gift from a close friend of a marvelous work of biographical documentary by Lou Cannon, an authority on the life and work of Ronald Reagan. The illustrated portfolio of Reagan’s contributions to America is truly an inspiring piece of literature, as well as a powerful historical reference of his accomplishments. The accompanying audio CD containing excerpts of his speeches, including the famous “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Berlin speech of June 12, 1987, is a stimulating flashback to the times when American strength and influence was able to change the world in dramatic ways.

Moving page by page through this exceptional work one finds it difficult to not return in one’s mind to the culminating years of the 20th century and remind oneself of the edge of the precipice on which the world stood in those days. The escalating arms race between the USSR and the United States was truly the one event in world history which, had it not been ultimately conquered, might have lead to our annihilation; the end of our civilization and as a human race.

Our options were limited but remarkably clear. Succumbing to the influence of Soviet domination would have changed, and indeed destroyed our way of life as a free society. This was not an acceptable option. Movements to appease the Soviet aggressor were growing, emanating both from within the US and many countries with liberal-leaning democracies. Cries of “better dead than read,” the rallying cry of anti-communist forces within the US were being elsewhere reversed, and “better red than dead” was increasingly heard around the world. It seemed as if the US was the last and only obstacle to the Soviet’s imposition of their social and economic order on the world. Yet still many around the world naively believed that, if only left alone and not challenged, the Soviet Union would necessarily do the same and retreat to its ancient borders and withhold further communist encroachment into their countries.

Reagan, however, saw this as it truly was – a war of ideas where in the end there had to be a victor and there had to be a defeated. He stated it very clearly – “Peace is so easy to achieve. I can give it to you in one second. All you have to do is surrender.”

The war had to be won. The consequences of anything other than victory were unthinkable. Astute in recognizing the perfectly aligned circumstances of the support of Pope John Paul II, the Solidarity uprising in Poland, and an opening presented by a slightly more realistic than his predecessors General Secretary Gorbachev, Reagan fearlessly confronted the Soviet regime and at the perfect moment dealt the final blow. His words of defiance against the Soviet empire, like a match, lit the fire of counter revolution throughout Eastern Europe, and the Soviet regime soon collapsed of its own weight and inability to defend its flawed ideals.

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, most of the countries previously under its communist vice have since become prosperous market societies, and the American principles of freedom and liberty spread widely across these newly emerging free market democracies. Reagan left behind a legacy of a world much safer and economically viable. Bells of liberty and freedom had been made to ring louder and clearer than ever before. With his legacy we were also reminded of the power of liberty over tyranny and conviction over appeasement.

And here we are, no more than 20 years later faced with circumstances ominously similar to those during Reagan’s presidency. Though there may no longer be a Soviet Union, yet today’s Russia is increasingly becoming emboldened to act with the same dictatorial patterns as the Bolsheviks of half a century years ago. Socialism (or in reality a contorted and deformed version thereof) has been adopted by a number of dictatorial regimes like Venezuela’s Chavez and is spreading to other countries not far from our doorstep (Honduras). Islamic terrorism continues to be an unresolved threat and in fact may be strengthening its roots across the world.

But this time the United States lacks the leadership and conviction it did during the Reagan presidency. Indeed, our ideological infrastructure has been so severely infected with socialist principles and ideology that we cannot even be certain whether we are opposed to the progressive encroachment of hard core collectivism and government control into our way of life. Voices of mainstream political figures uttering words such as “we must accept the increased role of government in our lives” and “it takes a village to raise a child” all point to our increasing acceptance of government as a paternal figure in our lives. This is in complete conflict with our founding principles. It repaints our country with an ideology that is foreign to the core of our beliefs and in many ways invalidates the experiment that had created our country in the first place.

It is important to understand the chain of events that the world socialist envisions. It begins at an individual and national level, where the abandonment of personal liberties leads to the socialization of the society within the respective nation. Once enough individual societies have succumbed to the socialist ideology, this in turn becomes the seed toward globalized socialism, where individual nations forgo their national individuality and interests for the benefit of the global order.

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While troubling within the context of our nation, the ramifications on the future of our world are extremely profound.  If America is absorbed into the “community” defined by the world-wide socialist agenda, its leadership role will cease, leaving the world to be led by a dysfunctional conglomerate of nations. As evidenced by the total ineffectiveness of the United Nations, the resulting inaction at a global level can be nothing less than terrifying.

Imagine a world without leadership, with the United States playing an equal partner role with all other countries of the world. A true “to each according to their needs, from each according to their abilities.” Equal sharing of all resources. No conflict. No wars. No boundaries.

Utopia, you say? I say absolutely. Then I add. No food. No progress. No innovation. No invention. No individual – only the collective.

To create a world society which completely uproots and ignores the basics of the human behavioral DNA is excellent material for science fiction, but in the real world it is folly. By natural law man strives to become more than what he is. He does so because he anticipates this will improves his life. When he does, by so doing, he contributes to the progress of society.

Man is flawed (thank our Creator for that) and desires more than what he needs. And greed is as much a part of his character as is his need to breathe. Man is also benevolent, and once his needs are generally met, he gladly shares of his goods, first with family, then with others of his choosing.

You can no more remove these traits from man than you can make him refuse food or water. To remove them is to devoid him of the desire to create and improve.

The United States is at the crossroads of determining the shape of its future. While the socialist agenda has been active here for the better part of the 20th century (Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal), at no time has the pace of radical change been so rapid as during the first 9 months of Barack Obama’s presidency. As if realizing that inconvenient truths must sooner or later catch up with his agenda, the breakneck speed of socialist reforms undertaken by him are intended to reach as far as possible before the electorate realizes the consequences of his  actions.

With each such reform the relevance of the individual fades further and the objective of the statist is closer to being realized.

While no credible single leader has emerged in opposition to this agenda, the electorate is clearly catching on and beginning to establish beachheads in pushing back on many of the reforms. But the voice of a leader in the tradition of Ronald Reagan is yet to be heard.  When he/she emerges, the battle will extend to winning back the statist’s gains and aiming our attention on the world stage, where America’s leadership desperately needs to be reestablished.

The United States has earned the right to be the dominant nation. It has done so by succeeding where others have failed, by creating a society and system of government which recognizes and aligns with man’s desire for freedom and liberty. By so doing it has created great prosperity and a standard of living for its citizens unmatched throughout the world. It has earned the right to lead because of its benevolence toward less prosperous nations, having provided more positive influence and material support for them than any other country and, in fact, more than all other nations under the United Nations banner.

Now our future is far from clear, our destiny far from being secure. The strength and effect of the mounting opposition to Barack Obama’s agenda will determine how far our nation swings in the direction of collectivism and how reversible (if at all) these effects will be. What is at stake is nothing less than the heart of our national identity, the principles of our 200+ year old democracy and the success of the experiment that is the United States of America.

Will history show the era of Ronald Reagan to be just a temporary relapse in the statist’s march toward the eventual imposition of socialist order upon the world? Or will it serve as a lasting testament of the power of conviction and the strength of our ideals that we once again now need to exhibit in defense of our liberty, freedom and national identity?

The answer may very well determine the course of our next 200 years as either Americans or as citizens of the world.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Let’s Not Confuse Equality and Fairness

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-13 19:56:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

With this opening statement in our nation’s Declaration of Independence, its 56 signers, represented by such great minds as Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and John Adams, established a core founding principle for what was to become a new nation; a nation different in its beliefs, values and government structure than any other at the time.

As is the case with many words in the English language, the word “equality” lacks certain precision and has historically been interpreted through different lenses. For example, mathematical equality assures sameness in quantity, but does not ascribe value to the equal results. An equal amount of rain having fallen over a rain forest and over a desert, although mathematically equivalent in volume, does not produce an equal effect. Nor is the magnificence of Niagara Falls’ cascade of water the same as that of a lazy river flowing through the plains, though again the volumes of water may be equal.

Equality as a doctrine in the 18th century was indeed a revolutionary concept. Not since the ancient Greek and Minoan cultures has equality been written into a societal code of beliefs. So therefore, the opportunity to build a new nation on such beliefs was in and of itself a revolutionary step forward.

In order to understand the intentions of our founding fathers, we have to understand the psychology of the times in which this concept of equality was being presented. Indeed, we need to use the prism of an 18th century intellectual to affix the proper meaning to the word. In particular we know that such prism would filter out any notions of equality in the context of modern day social systems such as welfare or affirmative action.

A reasonable and arguably most credible interpretation of the founding fathers intended meaning of equality is one where the goal of equality is defined as one of opportunity and not necessarily of results (or outcome). This is fundamental, in that it underscores the principle of giving each individual an equal opportunity to improve his own state but does not mandate that the results of such efforts be held to the same standard of equality as for others. In fact, an argument can be made that enforcing equality of results is fundamentally unfair in that it unjustly rewards low performance and is eerily akin to Marx’s “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” formulation, which would not be written until 100 years later (1875, Critique of the Gotha Program). The distinction between opportunity and results equality was recently taken up and extensively discussed by British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson at the 2009 Fabian Conference at the Imperial College in London.

In our modern society we can observe countless examples of divergence from the principle of equality of results.

  1. Affirmative action, previously mentioned, is perhaps the most glaring example of the up-side-down interpretation of equality, where results trump all other objectives – a starkly Marxist construct indeed
  2. Progressive taxation, though widely accepted as fair and equitable, in fact is not ubiquitously fair as it creates disincentives to higher productivity and redistributes the output of the individual’s labor to those who have not contributed to its creation
  3. Compensation pay grade systems such as within the government and many older companies, where rewards are defined within pay scale boundaries, regardless of the value of an individual’s contribution

A society which does not respect equality of its citizens is frail and cannot sustain itself indefinitely without the degeneration of its social fabric, inevitably leading to massive resentment of government and eventually social unrest. By misinterpreting our founders’ meaning of equality, we are at risk of steering our social policies toward the statist objectives of government welfare and control over our means and our lives. Our Constitution is a finely tuned and time proven instrument of democratic government with ideals interwoven such that in concert they support and amplify each other’s meaning and value. A misinterpretation or misapplication of one of these fundamental ideals not only diminishes its individual value, but also jeopardizes the document’s role as a compilation of our guiding values.

Next time you’re engaged in a discussion with someone who is justifying their position with arguments of equality, make sure to ask them: “What do you mean?”

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We welcome your comments and suggestions, either directly inline, or via email to editor@nakedliberty.com. If you would like to have your article published in Naked Liberty, please contact the editor at the above email address.

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Know Your America – The 16th Amendment

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-08-09 22:28:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

norbertatwork2by Norbert Sluzewski
Editor
NakedLiberty.com
August 9, 2009

In the late 18th century a truly unprecedented series of events were occurring on the American continent. A juxtaposition of historical events never aligned as then, presented a unique opportunity for the young American colonies to embark on a new social experiment never heretofore tried on the scale of a nation. The circumstances were unique and the time was right to seed the experiment. And never was the chance of its success greater than at that time.

The young American colonies were determined to create a nation out of the principles which brought their citizens to this continent in the first place. These principles included fundamental rights in which the colonists believed so strongly that they left their ancestral homes, families and countries to support and ultimately defend. Foremost among these rights was the right that citizens should determine the makeup of their government and that no government should place its needs ahead of those of the citizens’.

Most of the colonists were adamantly opposed to a central form of government. Their experiences, after all, vividly recollected the injustice and excesses of the governments which they fled. So afraid were they of recreating another monarchy or oligarchy, that most would choose anarchy over any form of central government. As a result the colonist’s first attempt to create a form of governance was a weak alliance of states codified in the Articles of Confederation, the final draft of which became the de-facto constitution in 1777 (finally ratified in 1781). The Articles placed all governing power in the hands of the individual states, with only specific and very limited provisions delegated to the Confederation. These included, among others, the right to wage wars, negotiate treaties and resolve territorial disputes.

 

The shortcomings of the Articles (lack of central taxing authority, inequalities between the influence of large and small states, etc.) were soon exposed and an effort to create a federated type of central government was undertaken.

A remarkable group of statesmen (the Federalists) emerged to lay the foundation of this new government structure, one which would preserve the authority of the states, while giving enough power to the central core so that it could effectively act as a national government. These principles were assembled into a document which on June 21, 1788 was signed to become the US Constitution.

But what was most remarkable about the Constitution’s structure was that it created no single source of power. With the distribution of authority among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, this distributed structure of checks and balances recognized an inherent human flaw that:

If given the opportunity to avail himself of excesses,
man inevitably will.

Even the most benevolent monarchy or dictatorship eventually succumbs to this flaw. The Founders uniquely understood this and sought to establish a Republic in which no single man, group, state or other entity could dominate or unduly influence the direction of the nation.

The Constitution survived and remained largely unchanged into the first decade of the 20th century. During this time the American experiment had grown to become hugely successful and the United States of America became the most prosperous nation in the world, envied for the liberty and freedom that its citizens enjoyed. The Federation survived every test of its Founding Principles. Amendments to the Constitution throughout this period were carefully crafted to not upset these Principles. That is, until the 16th Amendment in 1913, which established the central government’s right to tax the income of citizens (previously this right was reserved to the states).

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

While until then various taxes were levied in support of specific government initiatives (e.g. the Revenue Act of 1861 levied a 3% tax on high-wealth citizens to fund the Civil War), these would be repealed upon completion of the initiative. The 16th Amendment for the first time institutionalized the government’s right to collect income taxes. The rate was innocently set at 1% of incomes above $3,000 and 6% surcharge for incomes above $500K.

The federal income tax quickly became eye candy for politicians looking for funding to support their favorite programs. And the government as a whole saw it as a cash machine from which funding for social programs, wars, and other initiates could be secured. To no surprise, by 1918, five years after the 16th Amendment was ratified, the top income tax rate skyrocketed to 77%. During his presidency Franklin D. Roosevelt even tried (but failed) to impose a 100% rate on incomes above $25,000 to fund the war effort. Through the 1960’s the marginal tax bracket stayed at 90% and it wasn’t until the administration of Ronald Reagan which reduced the top rates to 28%.

To no surprise to any free market capitalist, history shows that the performance of the stock markets, the rate of employment, size of the GDP and other measures of national prosperity all positively and directly correlate to the rate of taxation. The wealth of America, its prestige around the world, our ability to extend the experiment in liberty which our Founders blessed us with, all has been affected, and in fact jeopardized by the enactment of the 16th Amendment. I will write about other reforms (e.g. immigration), which have also had significant detrimental impact, in an upcoming new article.

The enactment of the 16th Amendment significantly changed the character of the American experiment. It took a big bite out of the forbidden fruit that is influence over wealth distribution. One of our founding freedoms — that the fruits of our labor should be ours to enjoy and dispense with according to our own conscience and convictions — has been trampled on without recourse and consideration. This is perhaps one of the most fundamental liberties we as Americans have enjoyed and expect it to have been protected by the very Constitution which the 16th Amendment has trampled.

Some argue that the Constitution is an “ancient” document written by men of times long passed; that progress necessitates changes, and that we should no more look to our Constitution for answers as we would to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs for ways to build our skyscrapers. To those I say, give me something better to replace it with. Give me a different anchor to which we can moor our society. And let not that anchor float with the current, but let it stand firm and withstand the storms of progress and uncertainty that is by definition the future. While you ponder this, ponder also where do you get the audacity to think that you have the wisdom and motivation to frame this new society you think you want. While your motivation is political survival, each of our Founding Fathers risked his life and limb to give to us their wisdom and experience.

Until you show me this new anchor, I’ll stick to my Constitution – thank you very much.

And remember also that only a fool accepts change for its novelty.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Norbert Sluzewski is a columnist and editor of NakedLiberty.com
He lives in Connecticut

Article may be reprinted with attribution.


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On the Health Care System We Aspire To

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-24 12:22:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Today I got a call from my Mom. She and my Dad both live in the city I was born in – Warsaw, Poland. They are both elderly and live off of a government pension akin to the US social security system. The reason she called was to let me know of an excruciating pain she has recently been suffering from, resulting from a progressively degenerative neurological condition in her wrist. As all Poles are, she is entitled to free medical care in government health care facilities under the country’s universal health care insurance program. Trying to get help for her condition, she has visited with several general practitioners covered under her free plan, all of whom admit she needs to see a specialist. The last one finally crafted a referral for her and she is now scheduled to see a neurologist … in three months. Ouch !

Her options now include continuing to suffer the intolerable pain for the next 3 months or pay out of pocket to see a private specialist. The fee for a consultation with a neurologist in private practice exceeds two months of her pension income, but under the circumstances she will have to do just that. The costs of any resulting treatments, if not covered under the government health care plan, may have a devastating financial effect on her and my dad’s retirement lifestyle.

My parents could have opted to purchase private health care insurance coverage which provides access to services in private hospitals and clinics with the most skilled specialists but, because the government program is so dominant and pervasive, the cost of the private alternative is beyond the reach of most middle-class Poles. As a result, it is accessible to only the most affluent (or motivated by dire circumstances and lacking other options) individuals.

Interestingly enough, in many European countries the Polish medical system as a whole is actually touted as one of the better and when compared with the British system in particular, it receives accolades for efficiency and quality of care. What is underscored is the diminishing role of the public plan option and the progressively increasing percentage of services being offered under private insurance. The availability and increasing popularity of the private health care option is viewed with envy. A good summary of these changes in the Polish medical system can be found in this article from CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). With this shift, as more competition is introduced in the private sector and the dominance of the government program is lessened (or eliminated), my mom might yet one day be able to afford a private insurance plan and access to the highly skilled medical professionals in Poland, heretofore not accessible to her under her existing plan and her present means.

But in the US exactly the opposite direction is being proposed. There can be very little doubt, and certainly countless examples of dysfunctional government programs across Europe and other countries serve as an example, that a private health care system necessarily offers superior services at a competitive price. As I have written in a prior Naked Liberty article on the Dangers of Comparative Effectiveness, instead of experimenting with proven failed systems, the US should adopt targeted approaches to improving those parts of our current system which offer opportunities for improvement, such as for example the implementation of a national electronic medical records system and tax incentives to support wellness and health awareness.

What’s being proposed is like trading in your comfortable and dependable SUV for a Yugo just because you happened to have gotten a flat tire. Let’s fix the tire and get on with our lives without any more government intervening in it.

* * * * *

Quotation of the Day:

“We should manage our fortunes as we do our health – enjoy it when good, be patient when it is bad, and never apply violent remedies except in an extreme necessity.“

Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680)

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We welcome your comments and suggestions, either directly inline, or via email to editor@nakedliberty.com. If you would like to have your article published in Naked Liberty, please contact the editor at the above email address.

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