Send in the Clowns

GOP 2015 DebateCan the Hillary machine be defeated? It’s the question a rag-tag bunch of GOP wannabe leaders are hoping to bring an answer to.

My predictions on the result of the UK General Election was so far off the mark, that it’d be pretty shameless to predict the next US presidential election. But you know, me and my big mouth…

Hillary Clinton already seems to be walking the walk as the next nominee for the Democrats, and barring any magical moment, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that she’ll be given the official seal of approval without too much fuss.

I’d love to see a female President, though I want one on merit rather that because someone finally got there and people voted for one to “make history”, which is why I’m not exactly on Team Hillary. She sounds like a pretty authoritarian hyper-interventionist to this libertarian, but looking at the rogues gallery of Republicans (again, mostly great white males), there’s not much inspiring stuff going on their either.

Donald Trump – the cartoon candidate – is currently taking all the headlines on the Republican side, with occasional references to Jeb Bush, brother of George, son of George Snr. The GOP don’t stand a chance.

Or do they? Before the Trump machine starting it’s cacophony, Rand Paul was right up there, in the public spotlight.

Rand Paul – though maybe not as “pure” a libertarian as the supporters of his father Ron would like – is the nearest thing to a libertarian running at present. We don’t know if Gary Johnson will take the libertarian party candidacy this time around.

He’s leaning further to the traditional right than I believe his natural instincts and morals would usually take him. But he’s running for the Republican nomination just now, so I ease off any serious criticism, given his fairly commendable behaviour overall in the Senate, including his remarkable filibuster attempts.

As it stands, I think only Rand Paul could stop the Hillary Machine marching into the White House. While a sequel to the Clinton years wouldn’t be so bad (balanced books, etc.) I’m not sure if we’d see that from President Clinton II.

If the Republicans were to stand with Rand, then he wins their nomination, moves to the centre, and campaigns on a broadly socially tolerant but fiscally competent platform, it would make the whole election exciting.

Republicans would (mostly) fall in line behind him. But for Democrats, it would open up a bigger moral conundrum: do they “make history” and vote for the first woman president, or do they take this very real opportunity to vote for a properly socially liberal (in the classical sense) contender in Rand Paul?

Man, I’d love to see that. But given the recent history of Republicans voting for safer, boring, more, well, I guess, ‘conservative’ candidates, I doubt it’s a political match-up we’re going to see. And that’s a shame for all of us.

Mandela’s Greatest Legacy Was What He Didn’t Do

As I argue in my book The American Presidents Without The Boring Bits, George Washington’s greatest achievement was that after two terms, he stood down.

The decision to do so baffled (second president) John Adams. Washington had the power of a king. He could have carried on until his death, so why didn’t he?

Any libertarian knows the moral answer to that question. Mandela wasn’t a libertarian in so many ways. But in some of the ways that truly mattered, he stood on our side.

Under the cloud of nearly three decades of incarceration, it would be understandable (but unacceptable) if Nelson Mandela used his newly-given power for revenge. To act more like Robert Mugabe, and less like George Washington.

But leaving prison a changed, and more mature man, he made many of the right choices.

Madiba chose humility over power. He chose truth and reconciliation over force and witch-hunts. He chose freedom for all.

And, like the first American president, he stepped down. That might still baffle some of his supporters. “He could have been like a king. He could have been in power for the rest of his life. Why didn’t he carry on? Why didn’t he grab more power? I don’t get it.” But those of us who call ourselves libertarian get it.

And we know the world is a tiny bit brighter because of him.

DRM on eBooks

wbookA great post on TechDirt about an ebook publisher that hasn’t seen any significant increase in piracy since they stopped using DRM (Digital Rights Management, or copy-protection) on their titles.

If anything, the number of copies purchased increased. I always thought this would happen if you sell your digital products that are more aligned to what the market wants – i.e. a very good price and with no restrictions on where you can make use of them – you will always be better off.

If you have heavy copyright restrictions on a song, TV show, movie or ebook, the pirated version is actually better than the legit version. And you’ve just created a kind of moral hazard – there is now an almost valid reason or motivation to remove that copy-protection and once you’ve done that, why not just add it to a file sharing site or torrent? Where as if you just have it available cheaply, and copyright-free, people just buy it, use it, and – generally at least – have less motivation to share it. Just buy it yourself dude, and use it however you’d like.

Now let’s be clear, I’m a hypocrite. All of my books are available on the Nook, Kindle iPad, etc. And all of them have DRM. But that’s seldom a decision that’s made by the author. That’s a publisher/distributor issue. And I’d love to have no DRM on my books. In fact, DRM-free pdf versions of most of my books are available and as far as I’m aware, it hasn’t increased piracy on my books one jot.

How’s Ron Paul Looking in SC?

 Ron Paul is building in his momentum for the South Carolina primary. But will it be enough?

The race so far
Though the graph above doesn’t show it, Ron Paul is breaking the 20% mark as we speak.

Andrew Sullivan lays it all down:

The latest ARG poll is even more striking: Paul has surged to 20 percent in South Carolina: a stunning result that overturns a lot of expectations. This military state may actually share the military donors’ views and loathe what neoconservatism has done to wreck American influence abroad and fiscal balance at home. So it’s 29 – 25 – 20, with a week to go. I’d say any one of those three could win.

Gets you wondering, doesn’t it? Is this the moment?

Calm down. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. All the data says Ron won’t got the distance. But it’s a little like your little Sunday-afternoon football team suddenly getting a game against a team of superstars: you can’t help but allow yourself to dream a little…

‘The American Presidents Without the Boring Bits’ and ‘Artaud & Strasberg A Quest For Reality’ Now on Kindle!

Yes, yes, I know it’s taken far too long, but I’m so happy to say that both my current books are available on Kindle – and at fantastically low prices!

Check out Artaud & Starsberg A Quest For Reality here
http://tinyurl.com/artaudandstrasberg

And you can find the Kindle edition of The American Presidents Without The Boring Bits here
http://tinyurl.com/americanprez

Enjoy!

Cash For Influence. Don’t Reduce the Cash. Reduce the Influence.

So the revelations keep coming.

Politicians, (namely Labour politicians, namely Stephen Byers et. al) have been selling their influence for a fee. The Tories shouldn’t be too self-righteous about it, they’ve done things like this, and worse. However, this is really a stunning story, and surely it’d normally be the death-knell for a government. For some reason, that hasn’t happened.

The Times has reported the scandal, (see the link above) but no one seems to be running that heavily on it. I wonder why?

Alas, I fear that it’s because we’re all in a daze after the never ending expenses scandal. I think that pushed the boat out for us. However, the expenses scandal is chickenfeed compared to the idea that Byers can describe himself as “a taxi for hire.” This is corporatism/socialism of its nastiest, most cynical form.

Oh, and this actually brings us to the US health care mess. Yes, they are related.

President Obama has won. The US will now have a massive expansion in the state involvement in health care. The mainstream media in the UK is treating this like it’s a wonderful thing. But it’s another disaster. As I mention in the LBJ chapter of my book about the American Presidents, President Johnson’s plans to create two new massive bureaucracies in the form of Medicare and Medicaid cost a fortune, made health care more expensive, and reduced the amount of quality care available for everyone.

If the government in the US regulated the grocery business as much as it did the health business, then people would literally be starving in the streets. Remember those haunting images of people queuing for hours in communist Russia for a loaf of bread? But because there’s a total free market in the food-shopping biz, competition keeps quality high and prices low. You pay for your food. If you don’t like the price/quality, shop elsewhere. That’s why most grocers don’t poison their customers. They want them to come back. The good businesses thrive, and the bad businesses die out.

As I’ll explain in detail in my forthcoming book (Treason and Other Good Ideas), the health care industry in the US was the best in the world not too many years ago. In terms of quality of care and innovation it still is. But it went from number 1 in the world to number 37 in a very short time. Why? Because politicians took it over. And the special interests swooped. The politicians, in a cynical power grab, stole huge amounts of influence in what would have otherwise been the private buying decisions of millions of individuals.

When American health care was the best in the world, (and people purchased health insurance like they purchase car insurance, or home insurance), America was number one. Now it’s a 50/50 split between government owned/private health insurance (with government over-regulating the private half too), the US has fallen through the league table. That’s a bit fat failure. A modern tragedy.

And, in a nutshell, here’s my problem with President Obama’s plan: if health care was comparatively great when it was 100% private (with both private charity and the doctors Hippocratic Oath helping the poorest people), and then it started to seriously suck once the government got involved from the late sixties until now, (with the relationship between doctor and patient being forever severed, because the health insurance company is now the customer), how can more of what made it suck save it?

I sincerely worry about the quality of care available to the poorest and middle-class Americans in the coming years. And I worry even more about the horrific unfunded liability that this giant mess will leave for future generations. Look at the figures of this ‘cost-neutral’ plan. None of it adds up. The president hasn’t consulted an economist of any intellegence. He’s consulted a witchdoctor.

Now let’s look at why this story relates to Byers and the ‘cash for influence’ scandal. Basically, the socialized health care system that will now infect the American people was the result of exactly the same forms of ‘cash for influence’.

In this health care debate, the one group that was totally on Obama’s side was the private health insurance lobbyists. Notice how very few in the media have mentioned this? Let me say it again, the large private health insurance corporations funded the propaganda that helped get Obama’s health plan passed.

Think about it, why would the health insurance corporations be the main group behind this? Isn’t it obvious? They’ve bought something with their money – billions in extra revenue without having to innovate their services and lower prices, as they would have had to have done if the president merely chose to deregulate the industry. They bought the huge influence and power that Obama now wields. And how the hell did they manage to push this through with the Democrats using “deem & pass”rulings? That’s about as anti-democratic as you can get isn’t it?

So in both of these unfortunate stories, undue influence has been paid for. The anti-capitalists will shriek and wail (though less at the health care tragedy because they love the ‘attack’ that appears to have been inflicted on the free market), but as always, they miss the point. The failure here is nothing to do with capitalism. It has nothing to do with the money that has changed hands to purchase influence. It’s to do with the fact that this influence EXISTS to begin with.

The political class simply have way way WAY too much power over our lives. End of.

If you want to see reason, logic and truth win the battle for ideas, then you MUST severely limited what government is allowed to do. In a ‘cash for influence’ scandal, don’t reduce the cash. You can’t. Just reduce the influence that cash can buy. It’s time to neuter government.

My books on Kindle

Just a quickie – had one or two comments on Andy Jones TV and a few emails to this blog and the Andy Jones Online website (via andy@andyjonesonline.co.uk) asking if/when my books will be available on Kindle.

The answer is very soon. I’ll be doing what I can to push this as quickly as possible, and to make them available in other ebook formats too. I’ve had issues with electronic distribution rights between myself and my publishers and so on, but most of these are solved now.

Actually you can buy a drm-free version of The American Presidents without the Boring Bits and Artaud & Strasberg: A Quest For Reality already just as pdfs. I’ll let you know when they’re available in more Sony/Amazon readable formats soon! Promise!