Just Florin today, pointing out a fun little libertarian experiment gone awry. In the sixties, Werner Stiefel wanted to make a country free from the “evil” laws of America, so launched a ferro-cement boat headed for the Bahamas. Oh so surprisingly, the micronation failed because “due to poor design [it] began to disintegrate and eventually sank in a hurricane.” Yeah, that’s right. Launching a borderline-legal project on an old boat that you modified without considering schematics after it already got stuck in the Hudson river sounded like a great idea. The entire story of its conception and development sounds a little wacky and not entirely believable, but Operation Atlantis had a long history before that boat was ever launched. Pretty interesting reading – has bits and pieces about draft dodging, a book called How to Start Your Own Country, and some warnings against idealistic libertarianism. The fundamental reasons behind founding Atlantis are hazy, but it seems like Stiefel just didn’t like how things were being done and wanted his own country, with separate currency, laws, and all. An indication of libertarian thought in general? No, but it does show how his radical group of libertarians didn’t really have a ton of foresight. I guess his failure will be useful if I ever start a country: don’t put it on a sinking boat.
A couple of changes:
After the monster budget freeze post and its equally fat babies, the Guilder’s Guide to Greatness Part 1 and 2, we’re going to try to keep posts shorter for your viewing pleasure. And to protect our wearied, battle-worn fingers.
Also, looks like we may have made a boo-boo. Turns out there was once a Celebrity Deathmatch show on MTV—a sort of claymation, “insensitive” type of show (Wikipedia’s words, not ours). Hence, we present our name change to Celebrity Barfight, a much… classier… feature of this blog, of course. Really, we’re just trying to be happy citizens that don’t steal names. While the next Barfight is coming up, check out a clip of Celebrity Deathmatch first for your viewing… pleasure.
Continued from Part 1
Neither coercively-enforced Medicare nor Medicaid would be necessary if we removed many of the stifling administrative regulations from the health industry that separate the doctor from the patient and drive up costs. Florin assumes that if the omnipotent government got out of the health business, that pestilence would immediately sweep the land. However, if we removed many of the bureaucratic roadblocks that hamper the creation of low-cost, private health clinics and charitable organizations such as religious hospitals, we could fill the vacuum of Medicare and Medicaid without the fiscal time bomb that is strapped to our budget now. Many criticize the inefficient bureaucracy of HMOs, or Health Maintenance Organizations, for the distance they create between doctor and patient. I completely agree with these critics. However, most don’t realize that it is our friend Uncle Sam that subsidized these inefficient behemoths to give them market dominance through the 1973 HMO Act. I wish more people could see that the proposed “solutions”—increased Medicare, Medicaid, and the proposed Obamacare overhaul—have the same root causes of the healthcare mess we are in now. Try looking at it another way: out of our entire health system, plastic surgery is the sector with the cheapest costs. Why? Because plastic surgery is the least regulated area of the health industry. Conversely, plastic surgeons are one of the few groups of doctors who haven’t seen the large salary reductions of the rest of the industry in the past decade.
In addition to these solutions, the health insurance industry, another widely criticized area of our health care system and justification of Medicare and Medicaid, could be easily and quickly improved in the following freedom-boosting ways:
Check out Part 1 for an introduction and Guilder’s argument.
FLORIN: Guilder argues that those big programs shouldn’t exist anyway, but since they do, it would be impossible to reform the system to compensate if they disappeared. Despite inefficiency, they do provide incredibly important services that can’t be cut. Imagine the furor that would arise if Medicare was ended. Obama’s plan will affect too many essential programs on a scale sure to affect the economy. If you look at what he’s cutting, it’s pretty terrifying: education for the disadvantaged down 32%, lots of welfare programs out anyway from 10% to a massive 50%, and the public health and social emergencies fund is down 81%. Defense, however, is another story. Even though it is technically considered discretionary spending, it isn’t being touched by the freeze. Yes, there’s a war going on, but there are definitely aspects of the defense budget that could be cut without affecting strategy. What’s happening is that the budget freeze is affecting the wrong things.
John Maynard Keynes was a massively influential economist who basically suggested the theory that it’s good to stimulate the economy through quick and major government action. Yeah, it’s OK, I don’t really understand Keynes either. However, Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman definitely does: as a dear disciple of Keynes, he writes that the freeze is going to hurt the economy, not help it. Not only are jobs going to go out the window, the freeze is “bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.”
The government holds a social contract with the people: in exchange for essential services like healthcare, Social Security, and protection, citizens pay taxes and obey just laws. Obviously, Guilder disagrees with the need for these programs and dearly desires a cut in them, but consider a world without such protection. Life expectancy? That’s out the window. This fundamental disagreement isn’t what our debate is about, however—we’re focusing on the differences between our opinions of the budget freeze. In general, it’s not really pleased anyone. Guilder talks about a mounting deficit and how it will harm the government, but how does cutting jobs and preventing any end to unemployment help? How is taking away necessary programs, especially for the disadvantaged, going to be beneficial? Look at it from the point of the average citizen, not a theorist up in an ivory tower, and you’ll see how the budget freeze is coming at exactly the wrong time.
CONCLUSION: It’s clear that we disagree a lot, but that’s not really a new concept. We do (finally!) agree on the fact that the budget freeze appears to be completely the wrong idea, but aside from slashing defense spending, there’s a clear ideological difference. See Guilder’s follow up post for his solutions to the budget freeze. Make up your own minds, and agree with, confront, laud, comfort, yell at, and give gold stars to us in the comments!
JUST THE FACTS:
GUILDER: Barack Obama has just unveiled a $3.83 TRILLION (that’s 8 zeros folks) federal budget for 2010 with a 1.56 trillion dollar deficit (That’s over 40% of the budget financed by debt and inflation) For all the political kudos Barack Obama has been getting for making a “politically risky” choice in his proposed cutbacks on discretionary spending, his budget will do about as much freezing to our deficit as a blast furnace would to an ice cube. In all honesty, when I first heard Obama mention his budget freeze in last month’s State of the Union Address, I was convinced that he was making real reforms: as he mentioned behemoth programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and National Defense Spending, I thought he was going take some genuine steps toward fiscal responsibility. That was, of course, until he told the nation that those programs were NOT to be included in his budget freeze. I’ll gladly launch into a debate on the principles behind why increased government spending is less efficient than comparable private sector spending, and why borrowing from other countries and having inflation is bad for the economy, but I’ll save that for comments to keep this short. In the meantime, check out these statistics compiled by DownsizeDC.org.
Essentially, Obama’s proposed budget freeze solution ignores the biggest sources of our deficit, not including the stimulus measures. Though many of these programs are labeled as “mandatory” or “non-discretionary” spending, all of these budgets could be easily reduced. Of the thirty-one listed spending areas for Barack Obama’s 2010 budget, seven programs, Social Security, National Defense, Unemployment & Welfare spending, Medicare, Medicaid, and “Off-budget Discretionary Spending” (i.e. the CIA budget) make up 78.45% of the budget, according to my calculator. It’s laughable to think that all Defense spending is mandatory when we have at least 700 hundred military bases in 130 countries, while fighting a two wars. Social Security is essentially a giant Ponzi Scheme that never should have been created in the first place. In short, I oppose Obama’s budget because it continues to fully support, rather than begin scaling down, programs that constitute our largest fiscal drains while continuing an imperialistic national defense policy.
Check out Part 2, with Florin’s response and a conclusion.
Hello, soon-to-be-loyal readers! (we hope!)
In this time of two-party politics, it’s always interesting to explore the differences between the status quo and emerging movements, between centralization or decentralization, and other conflicting ideologies.
While we’re far from experts on most of the events and ideas we discuss, hopefully we can provide a balanced and thought-provoking dialogue. We are two people passionate about their beliefs, but willing to respect new ones. We’ll write as Guilder and Florin, but we’re actually two juniors at an independent school in the Bay Area. As friends, we’ve realized that while we disagree on almost any given issue, we are united in our interest in open discussion. While we enjoy the rare times that we agree on an issue, we can typically be found discussing *cough-arguing-cough* over lunch.
Guilder is a fervent libertarian who carries a Ron Paul-signed Constitution on his person at all times. He is an advocate for limited government intervention in nearly every aspect of life. In the limited spare time he has, Guilder enjoys making himself feel better by pretending to solve international issues through Model United Nations tournaments. He is currently wading through the swamp of Ayn Rand’s book/doorstop, Atlas Shrugged. (Good luck, Guilder!)
Contrastingly, Florin has been “lovingly” accused by Guilder of being a “Republocrat” with the pipe dream of being a benevolent dictator. Of course, Florin is really just a proponent of centralized government that doesn’t interfere with the social aspect of people’s lives. Involved in the local community and efforts on climate change, Florin also regularly attempts to sing: the results are usually unfortunate.
Our goal with this blog is to stimulate discussions with readers about interesting topics. We don’t usually have the opportunity to learn a lot about these current events and beliefs. Who knows? Maybe our opinions will change as we learn more. Please feel free to respond with flowers, death threats, or your much-appreciated comments.
Guilder & Florin
This feature was inspired by our beloved AP US History teacher, who often contemplates historical and not-so-historical throwdowns between some very interesting individuals. Thus, we present our first installment: Alexander Hamilton vs. Thomas Jefferson (or, as we like to call them, dear old Hammie and Jeff-o). As writers, we’re going to try to convince you why one might be better than the other. Sorry about the length this time – we’ll cut it down in the future. As dear readers, you get to vote for which one gets a big, gaudy belt to tote around. Here goes!
FLORIN: Let’s start out with the fact that Hamilton never drove the US into an economic depression, unlike a certain someone who passed a certain Embargo Act of 1807 that basically said American merchant ships couldn’t go trade in foreign ports without presidential authorization. Then later, he “intelligently” said that no exports to foreign nations or trade in foreign ports was allowed. Brilliant idea right there, Jeff-o. Contrastingly, Hamilton pretty much built the US economy. The U.S. Mint, the first national bank, and more efficient manufacturing standards were all his babies. Also, Jefferson is on the two-dollar bill. Not only is Hamilton worth five times more, no one even uses two-dollar bills. Leaving the money side of things alone, Hammie basically secured the ratification of the Constitution with his work on the Federalist Papers. Finally, he was a total gentleman, willing to put aside little differences with Jefferson to take on Aaron Burr (which, coincidentally, he did in an epic duel of epic proportions that sadly ended in Hammie’s untimely demise). It so happens that Jefferson was never really man enough to go and duel – clearly he would lose in a deathmatch. As the ultimate example of federalism, Hamilton built this country and built it well. Guilder is going to try to convince you that he was a tyrant, but our first Secretary of the Treasury was a Founding Father who knew the direction that the US should take. Instead of a splintered nation of violently objecting states, a federal coalition was Hamilton’s greatest dream and achievement. We are unified because of him. What more can I say, except that Alexander Hamilton is the Sexiest Man on US Currency and Thomas Jefferson isn’t?
GUILDER: First off Florin, let’s cut the crap. Don’t try to use the fact that Hamilton set a historical precedent of epic failing in death matches to show that he would win a death match with someone who was 10x more of a BAMF than Aaron Burr. Jefferson was the intellectual force behind the American Revolution. A true freedom fighter, Jefferson advocated violent rebellion every twenty years or so (“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”) Alexander Hamilton was a megalomaniac power-monger who would have crowned George Washington king if he had his way. And despite his authoring of the Federalist Papers, he was so extremely authoritarian that even James Madison, his former ally, turned against him, siding with Thomas Jefferson in George Washington’s presidency. It is only because of the work of Jefferson and his Anti-Federalist followers that we have today’s Bil protecting l of Rights, US citizens from an overreaching government that is nowhere near held back by the checks and balances of the Constitution to the extent preached by Hamilton. Not that he’d have a problem with the Patriot Act, or anything. Don’t even get me started on his enslavement of the states to burgeoning federal power, setting a precedent for the one-size-fits-all external style of government that dominates us today, rather than advocating individual states’ choices on touchier issues. And while TJ may have been caught up with War Fever and advocated the Embargo Act, doing so did set the precedent of using trade sanctions as a diplomatic means of achieving goals. And as far as the economy goes, don’t drink Florin’s Koolaid about the National Bank. By creating the money monopoly monstrosity that was the first Bank of the United States, Hamilton set our Republic on the path to enslavement through governmentally-empowered-banker-induced boom and bust cycles. So all Hammie has to show for is his advocating for extreme government power, whether infringing upon your social or economic liberties. Maybe that’s good for Florin, but I’ll take empowerment over enslavement.
What do you guys think? Vote in the poll below.