Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Housing in the New America II: The Stage is Set

Abolition of private property and the application of all rent to public purpose.

- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848)[1]

Just after the abominable housing bill of this past July, I wrote an article about the very real prospect of the government getting into the property management business, due to the nationalization of the mortgage industry that effectively occurred when the government seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The scenario was admittedly conjectured, but unfortunately it seems to be playing out even worse than I could have imagined (and I can imagine pretty bad from our government). An article in the New York Times put one more piece of the puzzle in place.

Keep in mind that the real devastation of this economic crisis has not really occurred yet. We still don’t have double digit unemployment (at least using the government’s numbers), but that is inevitably what is coming. Right now, we have unemployment that is setting records for one-month growth, but we do not have tens of millions of Americans out of work. That makes today’s news all the more disturbing.

If you have any experience with rental properties, as either a landlord or a renter, you know that when a rental property goes into foreclosure, the tenants are routinely evicted. It is much easier to sell a foreclosure property without tenants, among other reasons because choosing tenants is one of the skills that separate successful landlords from unsuccessful ones. Good landlords also usually want to do some renovation to the property, which is at least inconvenient and to some extent virtually impossible with the property already occupied. The justification for the eviction is, of course, that the property now lawfully belongs to someone else (the bank), who never consented to the rental agreement and has every right to refuse to honor it.

Or do they? According to the Charles Duhigg of the Times, Fannie Mae announced today that it would “sign new leases with renters living in foreclosed properties owned by the company.” Of course “owned by the company” is an ironic choice of words, because “the company” is none other than the U.S. government. While my previous article envisioned Section 8 as the possible vehicle for converting large percentages of the (former) middle class into government tenants, this new policy today goes one step farther. Section 8 uses public funds to subsidize rent payments to private owners of rental properties. This policy represents renters making rent payments directly to the U.S. government, for the “privilege” of living in government-owned[2] homes. While the numbers for homes owned outright by Fannie Mae are small at the moment, it is no less a watershed moment.

Of course the policies of Fannie Mae are not binding upon the so-called “private sector” (is there still one?), at least not yet. As the Duhigg reports,

““We’re not in the business of managing rental properties, and we’re not in the business of being a landlord,” said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which owns about two million loans. “Clearly the renter is caught in the middle in cases like this. When a property is in foreclosure, we follow the law.”[3]

It is somewhat amusing that a representative of J.P. Morgan Chase would speak so reverently about the law, as if it were some bastion of property rights and justice. Having been the beneficiary of the lion’s share of the largesse during the financial sector bailouts, this bank should know better than anyone that the law and justice no longer have much to do with each other. If property rights get in the way of some new government theft, a law is simply passed to eliminate the obstacle. Having eschewed the concept of republican government in exchange for “democracy,” there are now no rights that cannot be violated, as long as a sufficient number of votes can be raised among elected representatives. Indeed, our government does not really recognize “rights,” which transcend government. It grants privileges and erroneously refers to them as rights.

I doubt that private sector banks will retain the privilege of evicting tenants from the properties they acquire in foreclosure for very long, once the new presidential administration and Congress take office. Already, the cries for “fairness” are beginning to be heard. As the Times article reports,

“Some lawmakers and housing advocates say such policies are unjust.
“If your loan is owned by Fannie Mae, you get to stay in your home. If your loan is owned by someone else, you’re on the street,” said Mr. Taylor of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “These banks need to realize they’re in the property management business now, whether they like it or not.”[4]

Note the use of 21st century coercion-euphemisms. Any statement beginning with “You need to…” is one that could just as well start with “I ORDER you to…” At least the tyrants in centuries past made such statements with swords drawn and pointed at their victims. Today’s authoritarianism with a smile is actually more horrifying.[5]

With all of the travesties of justice taking place during this blackest of years in our history, one might argue that insisting that banks retain the right to put renters out on the street represents confused priorities. Perhaps so. However, one thing is certain. The line was already blurred regarding the right to own property before this, as the government could seize it from you merely for being unable to pay its property taxes. Now that the banks (and soon anyone buying properties in foreclosure) have no say over who lives in the house that they just bought, that line has become a smudge at best. In reality, there really is no such thing as homeownership. Government merely grants the privilege of stewardship over ITS homes. This latest farce merely makes that fact clearer.

So much for the moral considerations on this issue. I seem to have been far less efficient in confronting them than the government, which breezed right on by them. Who says it can’t get things done quickly?

As far as unintended consequences, this latest bit of idiocy is so ripe with them that it is hard to know where to begin. I am not sure who truly manages these properties, now that they are the property of the government but still occupied. Who does the tenant call when the sink starts leaking? If you think you see a program like Medicare or Medicaid coming, you’re not alone. We could always use another network of overpaid providers rendering sub-par service at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars to taxpayers. Worse yet, as more and more average Americans wind up in government-owned or subsidized homes, the program to pay handymen to do repairs could grow into an institution, just like the aforementioned medical programs. Among other negative consequences, this will tend to push the prices for these repairs through the roof for everyone, just as government-provided medical care and student loans push up the cost of healthcare and tuition for everyone. Let’s hope the government doesn’t start providing beer – we can’t afford bubble prices for that in times like these!

Of course, the glaring weakness in this latest move has to do with the central issue – selling the foreclosed properties. The whole reason behind lenders taking possession of a property when the borrower defaults is to sell that property and recover some of the losses on the loan. This new policy of Fannie Mae’s, which will almost certainly become a law sometime during the next Congressional term, will only prolong the time that these properties are on the market. Far less buyers will be willing to acquire properties if they are forced to take their chances on a tenant that they haven’t personally vetted, and on a property where their options are limited in terms of what they can do with it after they acquire it. This fits the FDR pattern of intervening into the markets and preventing a needed correction perfectly. The market is trying to liquidate these properties and allow them to be sold at more reasonable prices to more viable customers. The government policy will arrest that process, causing the crisis to take longer resolve itself, if it is allowed to resolve itself at all.[6]

It also goes without saying that the landlords who will buy the homes are more likely to be poorer landlords, as they are by definition landlords who care less about who they rent to. This tends to manifest itself in the appearance and upkeep of the properties, affecting property values throughout the entire neighborhood. Add to that the poor service and quality of work that comes with the government or banks providing the property management and you have the recipe for some scary neighborhoods. Collateral damage certainly isn’t just a military term, once our federal government gets rolling.

So where does this all lead us? I said at the beginning that one of the most disturbing aspects of this story was that an idea like this has been born before the real crisis gets rolling. We have had a market crash and ensuing credit crunch, but everyone seems to be in denial over what inevitably comes next – massive unemployment. Once that starts really manifesting itself (probably as early as next summer), the “state of emergency” mindset will kick in with our government and things could really deteriorate quickly. Right now, loan defaulters are being evicted from the property that they borrowed against and are finding homes in the abundant rental market. However, when the vast majority of them are unemployed, they will need the government to help them, too. It is certainly not hard to imagine a scenario where unemployed loan defaulters are evicted from their homes in foreclosure, only to be “placed” into rental properties that the government owns (but cannot sell), or even into another property that the same bank that just seized their home acquired in foreclosure on somebody else!

For those properties owned by the government, the renters would pay the government directly (eventually it may even be a standard payroll deduction). For those properties owned by a private bank, the Section 8 program will provide the rent subsidies, which the government is now obligated to pay the bank/landlords because they forced them to get into the property management business in the first place. Alternatively, the government may just start buying the houses from the bank, in order to “stablilize” the housing market and because it now has an incentive to grow its new program. The government will certainly have an incentive to put people into the houses that it already owns and cannot sell. This program could realistically feed itself until tens of millions of Americans are in government housing.

On the brighter side, at least this will further solidify the close relationship between our banking institutions and the federal government. We could always use more tight collusion between government and big business. There is no sense in repeating the worst mistakes of the past century without throwing in a little more fascism.

However, the fascist model is more the Republican brand of socialism, at least in this century. The Democrats seems to favor the Marxist variety, as evidenced by their increasingly Marxist rhetoric and their choice of a presidential candidate. Make no mistake, government-provided housing is right in their proverbial wheel house, and you can expect them to jump on the “opportunity” next year’s emergency will afford them to hit this one out of the stadium. The Carter years might look like an economic golden age before this is over. Let’s hope that it is apparent to most Americans in four years that the medicine is killing the patient. Medicare may not be around to cover the catastrophic care needed by 2016.

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[1] Mark, Karl and Engels, Friedrich Manifesto of the Communist Party (The Communist Manifesto) 1848. (This is Plank One of the famous Ten Planks of the Communist Manifesto)
[2] I suppose I should be grateful that the patronizing assertion that “the taxpayers” own Fannie Mae was not made in this particular article. That characterization has been an especially insulting aspect of our conversion to socialism. Ownership can only occur when you CHOOSE to own something, and when you have some control over its disposal. Moreover, it should be evident that even in the unlikely event that our government somehow makes money on this travesty, not one dollar will be coming back to taxpayers, nor should we accept it if it did.
[3] Duhigg, Charles “Fannie Mae Lets Renters Stay Despite Foreclosures” New York Times December 14, 2008
[4] Ibid
[5] Sadly, this expression has become ubiquitous in the private sector as well. Americans brought up under the yoke of coercion know no other way to deal with one another.
[6] Of course, this policy would not by any means be the only factor in houses not selling. Neither will it be the only action government will be taking to block the overall correction and make the depression worse.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Liberty's Greatest Commandment

Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”

– Thomas Jefferson (1816)[1]

The great spiritual movements of history have imparted spiritual truth to those who “had ears to hear.” Inevitably, religions have commandeered those movements and replaced that spiritual truth with authoritarianism. The great spiritual masters (real and legendary), such as Krishna, Paul, Jesus, Mohammad, and Buddha (just to name a few), have all offered their followers the chance to live a better life, to become more than they were, and to set themselves free from the physical bonds that limit their mortal lives and spiritual growth. Too often, those who have come after the masters have replaced their sublime wisdom with a myriad of rules, rituals, and mysticism that ultimately confuses or even contradicts the original message.

As just one example, Jesus was able to condense all of the laws and commandments of the Hebrew Scripture into two simple principles, recognizable at once to most Christians,

“The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."[2]

This short passage contains all that Jesus thought necessary in instructing his followers on how to live. Indeed, the scribe that asked him which commandment was the greatest is so impressed by what Jesus says, that he replies that following these two precepts “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”[3] Unfortunately, the Catholic Church that evolved from this movement did not adhere to this philosophy, as it became one of the most oppressive in history in the ensuing centuries. While the gospels depict small groups of seekers gathered around an enlightened master, the Catholic Church organized itself into an authoritarian hierarchy, often using the threat of eternal damnation to gather earthly wealth or power. While Jesus instructed his followers to break the rules when the rules stood in the way of virtue,[4] the Christian religions, like so many others, have confused the rules with the intentions behind them, and the dogma for the spiritual truth. In fact, the edifice of ritual built up by the various Christian churches arguably impede their followers from finding God, and one need not look far for examples of those churches violating the second great commandment over and over again. Unfortunately, the Christian churches are in no way unique in this respect.

Liberty, too, has suffered this fate. Like the great religions, Liberty was a movement that once set people free. It was founded by an enlightened group of masters, named Locke, Jefferson, Adams, and Paine. Like the great religions, Liberty also had a central principle – a greatest commandment – that could inform its followers in every aspect of their lives. We have come to know this precept as the Non-Aggression Principle, which is the principle that each individual has the right to do whatever he or she wishes, as long as he or she does not violate the equal rights of others. Today we mistakenly associate this principle exclusively with libertarians or objectivists.[5] However, as the quote from the subtitle of this passage demonstrates, the Non Aggression Principle did not originate with either of these 20th century movements. In fact, not only is the Non Aggression Principle explicit in the writings of Jefferson and Locke, it is actually the definition of Liberty itself.

Like Christianity, Judaism, and the ancient spiritual movements that came before them, Liberty was a great spark of light in its infancy. Never before had men in society proclaimed to the world that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. Never before had people actually put the Non Aggression Principle into practice, and attempted to limit the laws of society to its standard. Never before had people attempted to truly live together as equals, and come so close to true freedom and justice.

Jesus gave two greatest commandments, because he was instructing his followers in living two different lives. His first commandment applies to the inner life – the spiritual life. His second commandment applies to the outer life – life on earth and among men. While Liberty’s great commandment only explicitly speaks to the latter, it is consistent with not only both of Jesus’ two greatest commandments, but with the spiritual and moral teachings of all spiritual movements. In this way, the Non Aggression Principle transcends religion, as it excludes none and supports the moral teachings of all.

Religious freedom is implicit in the Non Aggression Principle. As the thoughts, prayers, and beliefs of one person can of themselves do no harm to anyone else, following the Non Aggression Principle necessarily grants religious freedom to all. As Jefferson put it,

“The legitimate powers of government extend so such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”[6]

Here Jefferson both succinctly restates the Non Aggression Principle and draws its obvious conclusion about religion: no man’s inner life can harm another, and thus is outside the reach of government. Therefore, the Non Aggression Principle allows everyone to follow the spiritual teachings of any religion he wishes, or no religion at all. His inner life belongs to him and to no one else.

Regarding man’s outer life, the Non Aggression Principle is consistent with Jesus’ second commandment, and with the moral teachings of virtually all religions. It is not a very far reach to say that to “love your neighbor as yourself” is substantively the same as “to grant your neighbor the freedom to do what he pleases, as long as he harms no one else.” Nor is this message much different from those of the great masters of the other religions. Despite the outwardly different (and often antagonistic toward each other) institutions that have grown up around the other great spiritual movements, the great masters behind all of them exhorted us to love our neighbors (even our enemies), to do charitable works, and to respect each other’s property.

Unfortunately, Liberty has follwed the same trend as these movements. Those who came after the great masters have forgotten the true meaning of Liberty, and have instead built up a great, authoritarian hierarchy, complete with its own labyrinthine set of rules and dogma that consistently violates Liberty’s central principle. As the Catholic Church of late antiquity and the Dark Ages routinely violated Christianity’s central axioms, the greatest crimes in history are now committed under the sacred name of Liberty. None are more egregious than the current wars of aggression that purport to be “liberating” their victims, just as the Inquisition purported to be “saving” the victims of its sadistic tortures.

At home, the government of the so-called “land of the free” grows more authoritarian each day, routinely violating Liberty’s great commandment by seizing property to protect privileged financiers, to realize its perverse vision of forced economic equality, to punish victimless “crimes” that the members of a small, wealthy oligarchy find distasteful, and to tighten its control over every aspect of our lives.

As has been the case with religions throughout history, the time has come for the true believers in Liberty to reject the false teachings of the established clergy and resurrect the true message of the founding masters. While our own Sadducees and Pharisees (Republicans and Democrats) would have us believe that our problems are terribly complicated, they are not. They can be solved one and all by applying one simple principle: the principle of Liberty. If we were to return our government to the limits set by Jefferson and Locke, every problem we currently consider paramount would disappear. For example:

Legal tender laws force U.S. citizens to accept U.S. dollars as payment, and forbid contracts to be denominated in gold. Using alternative currencies would not represent aggression against anyone, so according to the Non Aggression Principle those laws would have to be repealed. This would immediately break the hold of the Federal Reserve over the economy, and would quickly end the problem of inflation. Prices would begin falling again, as they did throughout the 19th century. 100 years from now, the general price level would be half what it is today, as it was half what it was in 1800 by 1912. Can you imagine a world in which you could tell your grandchildren, “I used to have to pay twice that much for what you just bought?”

The Non Aggression Principle would forbid Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the rest of the welfare programs, because the money is forcibly taken from taxpayers to fund them. This would solve a myriad of problems. First, it would return $1.5 trillion in savings/capital to the economy, taking the United States from a negative savings rate to an over 11% savings rate. In addition, the artificial demand created by government in the healthcare sector would disappear, allowing prices to fall back to their natural levels. Healthcare would be affordable without insurance, as it would be subject to the same market forces that keep the prices of more necessary products like food and shelter affordable (to the extent that they too are not distorted by government).

The Non Aggression Principle would forbid at least 70% of our military expenditures, as we would have no business stationing troops anywhere but at our own borders. Without our military presence antagonizing the dispossessed overseas, the motivation for terrorism would quickly fade. We would add another $400 billion or so in savings/capital to the economy which is currently being devoured by government. Most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people, including over 4,000 of our own brave men and women, would be alive today to celebrate the holidays with us.

The Non Aggression Principle would forbid laws against drug use, freeing about 2/3 of our prison population. Contrary to government propaganda-induced public opinion, this would not set off a crime wave, as the vast majority of these people have never committed a violent crime. In addition, the funding source for most of our criminal gangs would dry up, making it impossible for them to arm themselves the way they currently do. Like the prohibition of the 1920’s, the Drug War has resulted in a huge black market and criminal industry to supply the outlawed contraband. Without the Drug War, drug dealers and criminal gangs would go the way of the bootlegger. Last but not least, add 41 billion more to the savings/capital column.

Similar to not allowing the government to seize property from one person and give it to another, (as it does in the social programs), the Non Aggression Principle would not allow government to use taxpayer money as collateral for loans, as it does with Fannie Mae mortgage loans and student loan programs. This would eliminate two more huge bubbles caused by government-created artificial demand. We have already seen the housing bubble burst. The next big bubble to burst will be student loans.[7] Only because of government distorting the market with artificial demand – and in violation of the Non Aggression Principle – could tuition prices ever have risen so high. Both students and their parents are now going deep into debt in order to finance college tuition, which students at one time could finance with summer and part time jobs. If government was not allowed to guarantee the loans with taxpayer money (by force), the prices would be limited to what the market could bear.

One could write volumes on government’s violations of the Non Aggression Principle, and the wonders that could be achieved simply by adhering to it. However, solving the problems of inflation, healthcare costs, housing, education, war, terrorism, and recessions is a pretty good start. If you take the time to think it through, you will find that this principle – Liberty – can solve every societal problem we face, no matter how insoluble our politicians try to make them seem. Only our refusal to reason through them allows these problems to persist.

So, as we enter another holiday season, let us look past ritual and custom to the true meaning behind the spiritual movements we follow, and may each of us find our own inner path to salvation. Outwardly, let us revive the true meaning of Liberty. Let us cast the money changers out of our American temple, and put our swords back in their sheaths, both in dealing with our neighbors in other countries and here at home. Let us reject the false teachings of our political priesthood and return to the lessons of Liberty’s great masters, who warned us of the evils that presently afflict us but taught us the secret wisdom that can defeat them all. It is within our ability to make this New Year a rebirth of our American spirit, our freedom, and our prosperity. For this transformation to occur, we merely need to keep one New Year’s resolution: to live by Liberty’s Greatest Commandment, and to demand that our leaders do likewise. Free people need nothing more than this.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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[1] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to Francis Walker Gilmer June 7, 1816
[2] Mark 12:29-31
[3] Mark 12:33
[4] Luke 6:9
[5] Followers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism
[6] Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query XVII 1782
[7] With the unemployment that will accompany the coming depression, it is inevitable that a much larger percentage of these loans will begin defaulting, creating a new leg to the crisis. The positive consequence of this would be the necessary adjustment in tuition prices that would take place if the market were left alone by the government. Unfortunately, government has repeatedly shown that it will do everything in its power to fight these necessary price adjustments, which only serves to prolong the crisis.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Government's Old Shell Game

Most Americans have seen the hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live, where the CEO’s of the Big Three automakers return to Congress with the “turnaround plan” demanded of them as a condition of receiving (stolen) bailout money. In the skit, the CEO’s drive cars manufactured by their respective companies from Detroit to Washington in order to make amends for flying corporate jets en route to their first appeal for our money. Of course, all three cars break down on the way, making the CEO’s late for their appointment with the (looting) Congressmen. The punch line of the skit is that the only plan that the automakers have come up with is to return to Congress every six weeks to ask for more money. To top it off, the GM CEO promises that by the time that they are ready to accept the December payment – provided that car sales rebound – they would actually need even more money.

It is sometimes said that life imitates art. As funny as the Saturday Night Live skit was, real life proved even funnier. The CEO’s did manage to marshal the resources of their Fortune 500 companies (referencing the 2006 list) and come up with three Detroit-manufactured vehicles that could make it to D.C. However, as in the comedy, the CEO’s show up at Congress three weeks after asking for $25 billion and actually ask for more! Rather than outrage, Americans should really take the opportunity to find some humor in this. As the last vestiges of our Republic are destroyed, one can either laugh or cry. Let’s recognize this ridiculous exercise for what it is – a farce – and have ourselves a good, hearty laugh. We deserve it. Then, let’s stop laughing and turn our attention to the real villains in this immorality play: the United States Congress.

As tempting as it is to focus our attention on the pompous CEO’s of these horribly run companies, let’s not forget why they became so horribly run. It seems to be routinely forgotten that it was Congress that created the labor union problem, with its National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and subsequent violations of property rights. This is why the American auto companies can’t afford to compete. It is also forgotten that Congress created Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac and the Federal Reserve (the three entities entirely responsible for the housing bubble), Medicare and Medicaid (the programs entirely responsible for the both the bubble-prices of healthcare and the lion’s share of our $50 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities), the Department of Education (the agency entirely responsible for the next bubble – tuition prices), and every other economic problem that the United States faces. It is no less than tragic that Americans still have not figured out that, left to themselves, with a government limited to enforcing contracts and protecting them against violence, they would trade freely with each other indefinitely to their mutual benefit. Instead, Americans still look to this body of criminals to SOLVE problems that said criminals created. How are they continually fooled?

There are a number of answers to that question, but there is one strategy employed by our ruling class that is particularly frustrating. Students of philosophy may call it the Hegelian Dialectic, while political strategists may call it “framing the debate.” For us plain folks, you might just call it the “heads I win tails you lose” strategy. Every time that Congress wishes to commit some new crime, they present it with a ready-made debate, eagerly facilitated by our so-called journalists. In each case, the issue is presented as if there are only two alternatives, both of which advance government’s purpose to our detriment. Any alternatives beneficial to the people are excluded entirely. It’s the oldest manipulation trick in the book, not much more sophisticated than the old shell game where the pea actually isn’t under any of the shells. Unfortunately, we fall for it hook, line, and sinker, every single time.

This latest farce with the auto companies provides a good example, although there are hundreds (maybe thousands) more. When the idea of stealing our money to give to the failing automakers first came up, there was immediately “fierce debate” in the media about whether the automakers “deserved” the money. Some argued that it was the companies’ own fault that they were in the shape that they were in. Others argued that even if given the money, the automakers would still eventually fail. Congress pompously demanded a turnaround plan from the automakers as a condition of their receiving the money. The media provided (and is still providing) the fa├žade of spirited debate about all of these straw man issues. Every angle to come at this problem is argued, except one: Does Congress have the RIGHT to take our money and give it to somebody else?

Once the deafening silence on this issue is acknowledged, the underlying assumption behind all of the rest of the arguments becomes clear. We no longer have any individual rights. In debating whether or not the bailout money would keep the companies from failing, the obvious assumption is that if the bailout would save the companies, then Congress has the right to forcibly steal our money to save them. In debating whether or not the companies themselves had caused their own demise, you must assume that if they did not, then Congress has the right to steal our money to help them. When demanding that the automakers come up with a turnaround plan to ensure that they do not need taxpayer money again in the future, Congress assumes that they have the right to steal our money as long as the automakers present a reasonable plan.

Not one journalist, not one talk show host, not one panelist - no one anywhere – no matter how liberal, conservative, or even libertarian they claim to be, has made the argument that Congress DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT to forcibly take money from one person and give it to another. This argument has been excluded from all debate.

There is a very good reason for this. It is that there is no reasonable argument that can be made on these grounds justifying this theft of our property. The Declaration of Independence tells us that governments are instituted to secure our rights. The Declaration also says that those rights are unalienable, meaning that no government – not even a democratically elected government – can take them away. No majority can vote them away. Foremost among these rights is our unalienable right to the fruits of our labor - our property. THIS was the right that the American Revolution was fought over. Read your history. King George wasn’t denying the colonists free speech, or freedom of the press. The colonists didn’t tar and feather censors. They tarred and feathered TAX COLLECTORS. As I’ve said before, it is your property that tyrants covet, not your right to free speech or freedom of religion. This hasn’t changed in two hundred years, nor will it ever change. Government’s job is to protect our property from theft by other people. There is no circumstance that justifies them committing this crime rather than defending us against it.

Therefore, by stealing our money – for any reason – Congress is contradicting the sole reason for its existence. It doesn’t matter if Congress thinks its actions will save jobs (they won’t), if their actions will save the economy (they won’t), or even if they believe the majority of Americans support their bailout. Even if every American citizen alive save ONE was in favor of giving the auto companies this money, Congress WOULD NOT HAVE A RIGHT to give it. To do so is incompatible with liberty.

Seen in this light, it is obvious why it is imperative that the subject of rights does not come up in any discussion of government bailouts. At all costs, Americans must be distracted away from their rights and lured into arguing about something else. Thus, we argue about CEO bonuses, private jets, energy efficient vehicles (and why Detroit doesn’t make them), and a long list of other unimportant details, while ignoring the one and only issue that matters: that this money is the property of each individual American and that government has no right, under any circumstances, to take it from us. Period.

The automaker bailouts are not unique in this regard. This same parlor trick was played on us with the bailouts of the financial companies. Would the executives keep their golden parachutes? If not, then Congress had the right to steal our money. Would the financial system collapse if Congress did not act? If so, then Congress had the right to steal our money. Would 401K’s and other retirement accounts be decimated without the bailout? If so, then Congress had the right to steal our money (did you notice that they were decimated anyway?).

Over many decades, government has employed this simple subterfuge to bait us into abandoning our impregnable position – our rights – and dupe us into arguing the practical merits (or lack thereof) of their crimes. By taking the bait, we disguise the crimes of our government as ineptitude, and relegate ourselves to complaining about poor results rather than recognizing these usurpations for the crimes that they are.

When the banking bailout was proposed, we objected. For one, brief, shining moment, we were Americans again. We told our representatives that they were NOT to take this money. For one glorious day, our government blinked. Then, they told us that some unimaginable doom awaited us if we did not surrender our property to them. We believed them. They told us that our retirement accounts would be devastated if we did not allow them to violate our rights, so we let them take our money. Our retirement accounts were devastated anyway, and we deserved it. By surrendering our own rights, we violated those of our neighbors. The money we let them take was not theirs OR ours to give.

We have another chance. We can call them again and order them not to give this money to the automakers. Yes, I said ORDER them. Rights are not something that you request of your government. They are something that you DEMAND be respected. Our government is about to once again violate our unalienable right to the fruits of our labor. We must order them not to do so. Do not let them derail you with spurious arguments about what might happen if they don’t steal your money. Stick to your guns and keep bringing the argument back to the only issue that matters: this money belongs to you and they don’t have the right to take it. Make no threats of violence or harassment, but accept no compromise or offer to “agree to disagree” either. Hold their feet to the fire and remind them that this government is YOUR servant. You will be surprised how much power you actually wield.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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