Personal reflections on the evolution of my religious progress; what does being Jewish mean to me, anyway?

nooooote to self and world: this post is a rough draft written roughly a year ago; I don’t remember writing it, and guess what, I don’t know why I’m posting it either. Needs some serious editing, my friend(s). My tight circle of readers has disappeared here in the last 2-3 years since I’ve been posting, anyway. What’s the point, you might well ask? Alas, I might well lash out at you with my pen, or scoff in your general direction. Writing blog posts is fun and fun things need no justification.

Anyway, it’s time to rebuild and be reborn, me thinks. I shall return to you at some point, O Jerusalem. And, as David the Psalmist once famously noted- if I forget thee, let my right hand wither away. The intensity! Hey, does it count if I’m a leftie? More importantly, did you know that out of the last 7 presidents of this fine fine union, 5 of them were left handed? But that is neither here nor there because this post is not about politics. Politics is my true passion, yes, but this post is about God above. Now, I used to get a few comments here every once in a while — maybe I can pimp this place out and return to that point in time. Except these days I’m older and better looking and I could write better if I put my mind to it and on rainy days like these I’m modest as a sinner in the hands of an angry god.


Sometime within the last week I was having a friendly, candid discussion with someone I’d met just a few hours earlier, while strolling leisurely through one of the more beautiful lawns on campus. Those are the best kinds of conversations; interesting how the most lively ones always seem to take place while walking. Maybe it’s just me, though, given my tendency to pace feverishly up and down my room whenever I’m lost in thought (which is often… you should feel sorry for my dad, whose room is located directly below mine).

Anywayyyy, this particular walking conversation was devoted mostly to the subject of modern Judaism, namely, which form of Judaism is “purest” and most “legitimate.” My new-found friend was and is an orthodox Jew. Both of us were raised in relatively orthodox households, attended relatively orthodox schools, and up until the last few years associated almost exclusively with what’s known as the “modern orthodox” community. He has retained both his ostensibly religious lifestyle, and the belief in God/the divine revelation of religious texts that almost always comes with it. For better or worse, his religious views and lifestyle, and I guess his general outlook on life, haven’t changed much since he was a kid. (I’m not being disparaging when I say this- he admitted as much to me right off the bat.) Mine, however, most certainly have, and in the last 5 or so years have shifted rapidly back and forth quicker and more dramatically than anyone’s religious outlook possibly can. That might be somewhat of an exaggeration, but the point is that I went from what I then considered to be one end of the spectrum, to somewhere in between, to the opposite end of the spectrum, and finally to a sort of weird but unique middle ground arguably off the spectrum in its entirety. It’s a ground that I’m finally comfortable with. Yes, my friends, it’s been a wild ride, a rollercoaster of faith and doubt and everything in between.

After we were done playing Jewish geography and marveling at how we’d never really known each other despite the vast amount of mutual friends which we share, the conversation soon reached a slightly more contentious tone. Basically, I summed up briefly the history of my religious evolution: from your standard modern orthodox (conservadox, maybe? I don’t know) Jewish kid, to a 13 year old obsessed with everything related to Jewish spirituality and intent on, and I quote from something I wrote at the time, “spending my life with God,” to a hardcore atheist and angry anti-theist at the age of 15-16, to a sort of mellowed out agnostic still more or less unaffiliated with the faith (except in social circles) and set on the belief that religion’s effects in the world are primarily dangerous and adverse. And finally, we reach the ground upon which I stand today. I won’t quite give my views away right now — I’ll keep you guessing so as to retain interest and viewership (aren’t I devious?) — but I will tell you the following: my views on religion and its place in the world are far more balanced, nuanced, and level headed than they’ve ever been before.

Granted… I still believe that religion has and continues to cause/threaten some of the most severe crises which humanity faces today. I maintain that one the greatest threats to mankind is the potential for religious fanatics to get hold of, and use, nuclear weapons. And I resent the push for subservience to a totalitarian ideology ruled ultimately by some invisible deity in the sky who watches your every move… think the NSA spying controversy except all powerful, eternal, and the ability – nay, the desire to punish you with some kind of eternal retribution if you disobey His infallible list of demands. (Oh, but he is also your heavenly Father and he loves you very, very much. Harumph. Talk about daddy issues.)

I like to think that after teenage years defined in large part by the turmoil of my religious identity or lack thereof, I’ve finally found my place in the Jewish culture. Notice how I used the word culture and not religion. This was a deliberate move and will go on to form the focal point of what I’m trying to impart upon the world, and by that I mean the handful of facebook friends that are actually still reading this. Thanks, guys, you make me feel oh so loved and special and generally worthwhile. Glad to know I’m not just writing for myself. More in the future on where I stand in the grand scheme of cultural Jewishness. Wherever I am, something tells me I’ll always be shifting – that my identity isn’t quite fluid; that the grounds on which I stand, if not quite shakily founded, are at the very least not set in stone. Who knows – maybe I’ll flip out and go all out Rabbinic on the world. I wouldn’t be the first in my family and I damn well wouldn’t be the last. But ideologically I’m just too far gone right now. Yes, I may have forged a heretical pact with the secular devil, but all that really means is that I admire Freud, Marx, and Einstein instead of a set of ancient Rabbis. Freud, Marx, Einstein – all atheists, you know. And incidentally, all 3 of them are Jewish. Perhaps I’ve got a path to emulate after all.

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Wealth Redistribution Isn’t Noble Or Caring; It’s Theft, And There Are Non-Violent Alternatives

A few minutes ago I stumbled upon an interesting facebook status that said the following: Statists like to tout their confiscation and redistribution schemes as noble and caring, but we should ask if theft is ever noble or caring.

This got me thinking about the true nature of taxation and wealth redistribution versus public perception of those things. Those who support wealth redistribution are generally portrayed by government, the media, and the general population as noble and caring; conversely, those who oppose it are heartless, selfish misers who want society to crumble.

But shouldn’t we define what is noble and caring by what one is willing to do voluntarily with their own time and effort – not by the extent to which one is comfortable using a third party to take someone else’s property (the product of that person’s time and effort) and use it for a cause they identify with? To illustrate why I believe this is so, see the following two immensely thought provoking quotes by economist Walter E. Williams:

“Here’s an important question: Would rape become morally acceptable if Congress passed a law legalizing it? You say: “What’s wrong with you, Williams? Rape is immoral plain and simple, no matter what Congress says or does!” If you take that position, isn’t it just as immoral when Congress legalizes the taking of one person’s earnings to give to another? Surely if a private person took money from one person and gave it to another, we’d deem it theft and, as such, immoral. Does the same act become moral when Congress takes people’s money to give to farmers, airline companies or an impoverished family? No, it’s still theft, but with an important difference: It’s legal, and participants aren’t jailed.”

“Three-fifths to two-thirds of the federal budget consists of taking property from one American and giving it to another. Were a private person to do the same thing, we’d call it theft. When government does it, we euphemistically call it income redistribution, but that’s exactly what thieves do — redistribute income.”

And it is important to note that were a private citizen to take someone else’s property without their permission for whatever reason, the moral status of his action wouldn’t change even if he decided to immediately hand all the property over to a poor, homeless person living on the streets. (Isn’t this essentially what welfare is?) Nor would his punishment change because of what he planned to do with the property after he stole it. Such an action might be noble and caring if the giver reached into his own pockets to assist a fellow man in need – this is what we call charity. But, as Williams notes, “reaching into someone else’s pocket to assist one’s fellow man hardly qualifies as charity. When done privately, we deem it theft, and the individual risks jail time.”

Murray Rothbard (For A New Liberty, 1973, p. 55) once asked: Is there a way to define taxation (and by extension, wealth redistribution) so as to morally differentiate it from robbery? I, for one, have never received a satisfactory answer to this question. Most defenders of the status quo, when presented with this moral dilemma, try to make the case that our large-scale robbery system is necessary for society to function smoothly. But this is a different argument entirely, and does not address the fact that taking someone’s property without their permission, whether done by a private citizen or a citizen employed by the government, is indeed theft. To simply say “but it’s necessary” utterly ignores the question at hand.

And besides, is it really true that we need organized theft and coercion in order to successfully maintain society? If government services and wealth redistribution are as necessary as their proponents claim, could we not find a moral way to collect taxes (without force or violence)? Perhaps we could try rational argument and persuasion. After all, if government is really as necessary as most people think, then it ought to be quite simple to convince others to support it (or at least support as much of it as they believe is necessary). Instead of threatening people, educate them. Convince them. Demonstrate why they ought to contribute to government. Threatening them with force is not a way to answer their arguments against paying. Might does not make right.

If those who refuse to pay taxes at all, or who selectively refuse to pay part of their taxes, cannot be convinced, then they ought to be left alone. They ought not to be placed in jail or stolen from as happens regularly in our current system. Simply deny them whatever government services they are not willing to pay for! And in the very worst case, is it not possible that those who do see the importance of funding governments dig deeper into their own pockets to make up the difference, instead of digging into the pockets of those who don’t? As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently stated, “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.” It seems the author of America’s position on the subject at hand is quite clear.

To me, the reliance of government and its supporters on force, violence, and coercion in order to attain these supposedly necessary revenues seems to be an admission that if they abandoned this method and simply tried to convince and persuade people instead, they wouldn’t attain the revenues to finance the services they deem so vital for society’s well being – which would seem to indicate that those services aren’t really so necessary at all.

If they were as vital as the government claims, the individuals who comprise society would surely figure this out. It’s not as if working for the government gives you some secret knowledge that evades the general populace; members of government are members of society as well, after all, so wouldn’t they be susceptible to the same ignorance, if it were really true that the general population didn’t know what was good for them? If we are all so unable to run our lives that it is decided others must run them for us, who then amongst us is qualified to do so? Government officials may be good at selling themselves and getting elected, but they are members of society as well. So if we are truly incapable of deciding what is good for us, then there’s no reason to think that people who are simply good at getting elected to public office would somehow have the solutions that evade everyone else.

So we have established that a) even if government services were as necessary as its proponents claim, there are more moral ways of attaining them then a system that depends on violence and coercion, b) if using rational argument to try to convince and persuade members of society to pay taxes and “redistribute wealth” failed, this is proof that they are not as necessary as government claims – because c) what do government members know about what’s good for society’s well being that the private citizens who comprise society would be incapable of realizing themselves?

Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal with the same natural rights. Most supporters of wealth redistribution would seem to believe that while all men are created equal, some men – those employed by the government and the IRS in particular – are created more equal than others. This is a profoundly inconsistent position that just doesn’t hold up once seriously thought through. Taxation and wealth redistribution are still theft, regardless of the seemingly generous intentions one might hope to use the stolen property for (recall the example of stealing someone’s property and then giving it to a homeless person). One might argue that this system of legal plunder is necessary regardless of its moral nature, but this begs the question of why government and all its supporters wouldn’t simply make the case for its own necessity instead of using the kind of brute force that would score any private citizen years behind bars, deny its services to those who don’t find them worthwhile, and ask those who do to dig a little deeper into their own pockets instead of digging into those of the people that want either no part or a reduced part of the system.

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The Arrogance Of Theism Vs. That Of Atheism: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Head

I hear frequently about the arrogance and presumptuousness of atheism/atheists from friends, rabbis, and teachers alike. After all, it is suggested, the vast majority of human beings throughout history have believed in some kind of God. Who are atheists to assert that they know better than the vast majority of mankind? This is, in all honesty, a childishly silly argument that irks me to no end, and not just because it is so blatantly wrong, but because the truth is precisely the other way around.

In the first place, proponents of the arrogance of atheism for the reason that most of mankind has believed in at least one God make a fatal flaw in their logic – they don’t factor in the arrogance that they possess by their own argument. By this I mean to say that we are all atheists in regards to Zeus and Jupiter and Osiris and Ba’al. Think about that for a moment. The famous journalist H.L. Mencken once drew up a list of very nearly 10,000 Gods that used to be worshiped and aren’t today. Writes Mencken in his short funeral oration to the gods of men past, entitled Memorial Service:

“You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not… They were gods of the highest standing and dignity – gods of civilized peoples – worshiped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.”

Why is it only atheists who are perceived as arrogant for rejecting god(s), when theists are also atheists when it comes to the thousands and thousands of gods that have been worshiped throughout history? And why is it that they reject those gods in the first place? Perhaps when theists understand why they don’t worship any of those thousands of now extinct but once revered gods, they’ll understand why atheists say to just be more consistent and reject one more. Say theists reject 10,000 gods. All atheists do is reject 10,001. I can’t stress this enough: we are all atheists in respect to the gods worshiped throughout most of mans history that only full fledged atheists are seen as arrogant for rejecting.

And now, to the crux of my argument. Is it not far more arrogant for a theist to believe something along the lines of “there is an omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe. I personally know this creator’s most important thoughts and feelings. He cares about me like a son, listens to all my prayers, and watches me throughout every second of my life. Further, he loves my people 1000x more than he loves any other peoples – because I belong to his chosen ones.”

On the other hand, I find that it’s the atheists who are humble enough to admit that there are certain things we just don’t know yet as a species. Religion, however, claims to have literally all the answers. Literally, without exception. And the answer to everything is ultimately this – God did it. My God, who loves me and cares about my problems and hears my prayers. If this is not arrogance, I don’t quite know what is. Certainly it is significantly less arrogant for atheists to suggest that the universe is basically indifferent to our needs, and that we are really just another species of animals, more intelligent than the others though we may be.

According to the faithful, the most crucial developments in the history of mankind were developed thousands of years ago when their holy books were revealed; the theory of evolution as proposed by Darwin (which many theists ignorantly reject and the other ones pathetically try to squeeze into an ancient, primitive creation narrative that no religion had a problem taking literally for hundreds and hundreds of years), Einstein’s theory of relativity, Freud’s advancements in psychology, Franklin’s groundbreaking research into electricity… This all pales in comparison to their ancient and primitive texts which contradict science, history, morality, and common sense left and right. Even a cure for cancer wouldn’t come close.

Why? Because the Bible is God’s word, and that’s all there is to it. Quite simply, religious people already have all the answers. All the important ones, anyway. Is this not the height of arrogance, as opposed to the atheist who is perfectly content saying “maybe we just don’t know yet”? Is it not sheer chutzpah to suggest that you know the innermost thoughts and feelings of the omnipotent, omniscient creator of all that exists – and who knows yours too, because he cares so darn much about every single one of them? Does it not reek of self-importance to believe with every essence of your being that this deity – supposedly the father of all mankind – loves you and those who have been born into your faith considerably more than he cares about anyone else…. If he cares about them at all?

Not incidentally, up until very, very recently, almost all theists believed as a rule that God simply doesn’t care about those people not fortunate enough to be born into the “right” faith; this ever just and merciful God sends them to burn in hell as eternal punishment. Or at the very least, according to the kinder theists, they will never reap the rewards that the lucky chosen ones will after death, when all the real fun begins.

Belief systems such as these are not just the epitome of arrogance. They are evil, they are pernicious, and what’s more, there’s not a shred of solid evidence to lend them credence. And it is my belief, based on everything I have put forth here and much, much more, that we should be overwhelmingly glad about this lack of evidence. We should thank goodness that the arrogance of theism reflects at most a deep psychological yearning for an all powerful father and a way to evade death – not the actual conditions of our universe as a whole, which are far more beautiful and complex and mysterious than anything a holy book could ever offer.

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Why Ending Foreign Aid To Israel Is The Only Zionist, Pro-Israel Option

In 2011, the United States will supply Israel with approximately 3 billion dollars in military aid. The practice of giving foreign aid to Israel is nothing new for America; it gives Israel more or less the same amount of money each year. In 2005, Israel topped the list of 16 countries who receive American foreign aid, with 2.58 billion dollars. Since the inception of Israel’s close diplomatic relationship with the U.S. , Israel has received over $100 billion in American aid. Of course, it’s natural to assume that Israel benefits from these billions of relatively free dollars year after year. After all, doesn’t it make sense that having more money is superior to having less of it? That sounds logical enough, but the reality is not so simple.

American foreign aid actually harms Israel in just about every way possible, and it is imperative that anyone who cares about Israel’s sovereignty and well-being soon begins to recognize this.

One important detail that Zionist supporters of foreign aid to Israel tend to ignore is the increased role in any given Israeli policy that the United States can play, if they so please, as long as they keep doling out the cash. Simply put, the more money a country gives to Israel, the more influence that country may seize in whatever Israel wants to do. Our current foreign aid system only serves to weaken Israel’s sovereignty – it severely handicaps the Israelis in anything that may be in their best interest… if America deems it to be otherwise.

This isn’t just some theoretical situation where the U.S. could potentially prevent Israel from a course of action which Israel feels is in its best interest. It has happened before and it continues to happen today. Perhaps the most prominent example in recent history is when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice forced the Israelis to postpone the bombing of a possible nuclear facility in Syria. Israel clearly saw quick action as being imperative to their national security. However, Rice feared that the bombing would destabilize the region, and she “persuaded” the Israelis to delay their operation. Say what you will about this event, it can’t be denied that it constituted a serious drawback to Israel’s safety, or at least how Israel views its safety. Foreign aid traps Israel into a situation where it must seek American approval before undertaking any serious action.

Several prominent thinkers and economists within Israel itself have echoed the view that American foreign aid does far more harm than good to Israel’s sovereignty. Individuals including Israeli economists Ran Dagoni, Yoel Bainerman, Alvin Rabushka, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as groups including the Jewish Task Force, the Zionist Freedom Alliance, and the Manhigut Yehudit faction of the Likud Party have long advocated for an end to U.S. foreign aid to Israel. These groups insist that Israel must develop its own economic strength and move towards more free-market economic reforms as a means of boosting national prosperity and strength. Manhigut Yehudit member Shmuel Ben-Gad, also librarian at George Washington University, in 2007 wrote an editorial in Israel National News,

“The US puts pressure on Israel to surrender parts of the homeland. Even worse, this relationship seems to foster a mentality of dependence amongst many Israelis who, it seems, cannot imagine Israel defying the United States in any major way… Cutting the apron strings to the US would, I think, make Israel become more maturely self-confident, because it would be more self-reliant.”

Similarly, the late and infamous Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the right-wing Kach Party in Israel until his death, once stated that foreign aid “turns Israel into a junkie looking for her fix.” And even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has stated that foreign aid may do more harm than good, and proposed efforts to wean Israel off of American military aid payments. In 1996, Bibi addressed Congress and received a standing ovation for his promise to reduce Israel’s reliance on American aid. Said Netanyahu, “I believe that we can now say that Israel has reached childhood’s end, that it has matured enough to begin approaching a state of self-reliance… We are going to achieve economic independence.”

It is thus clear that in addition to the detrimental effects on Israel’s sovereignty that comes under the guise of seemingly generous foreign aid, some of the most influential Israeli thinkers and economists – and even its current Prime Minister – see the current foreign aid package for what it truly is.

Since even from the most strictly pro-Israel point of view it is clear that Israel would benefit from kissing American foreign aid goodbye, how much more so should this benefit those who support both America and Israel? The costs that foreign aid packages pose to the American economy certainly have to be considered. Granted, in total they account for about 1% of the entire budget (around 30 billion dollars per year), but that’s a whole lot of money that could be used at home in America. Since foreign aid is funded by the American taxpayer, those tax dollars must rightfully be spent to help America first and its allies second – not vice versa.

From any point of view, be it pro-American, pro-Israel, or both, the only rational position on American foreign aid to Israel is that it has to end. In short, it creates an environment where Israel becomes dependent on American cash and thus allows America to undermine its sovereignty in order to keep the checks flowing. And from the American’s point of view, the money should be best spent helping revitalize the economy at home. Surely, those who consider themselves both pro-American and pro-Israel should be the biggest advocates of the complete end of this silly and failed practice.

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Herbert Hoover, Forgotten Progressive: the 31st President Was a Big Government Liberal

Myth: President Herbert Hoover sent America into the agonizing economic downturn known as the Great Depression by reducing government intervention in the economy, and adhering to laissez-faire capitalism … Or as Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer summed up, “just sitting back and doing nothing.”

Fact: The exact opposite is true. Hoover’s policies did anything but lack in government action. Ironically though, Hoover has been forever portrayed by supporters of his successor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt – such as the aforementioned Senator Schumer – as a “do nothing” President; in reality, Roosevelt based most of his New Deal on policies that Hoover had already envisioned and tenacted. In effect, it can be said that FDR’s New Deal was created by Hoover; Hoover set the stage for FDR’s big government policies and unprecedented amount of economic intervention. As Rexford Guy Tugwell, a member of FDR’s Brain Trust and chief architect of the New Deal once said: “We didn’t admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.”

The awful lie of Herbert Hoover’s adherence to small government, laissez-faire economics is so widespread that it’s nearly accepted as common knowledge. It goes entirely uncontested in most interviews, political speeches, and worst of all, school textbooks. In recent months, there’s been a great deal of critique of the ongoing pressure from Republicans to reduce federal spending and cut the size of government. With that critique has come the inevitable comparison of fiscally conservative Republicans to Herbert Hoover. Among those who make this comparison in addition to Senator Schumer include New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, and Vermont politician Peter Welch. (I provide the links to their claims at the end of this article.)

All this deserves nothing but a flatout laugh-out-freaking-loud. Tea Party Republicans favor lowering taxes, cutting spending, and small government economics overall. Herbert Hoover, lowering government spending? And more laughable still: Herbert Hoover, a Tea Party conservative? Far more accurate would be: Herbert Hoover, market interventionist, government-spender galore, and forgotten Progressive. Here are 5 proofs of this far more accurate depiction:

1) FDR focused much of his 1932 campaign on blasting Hoover for the unprecedented amount of government intervention he had enacted. He blasted Hoover for “reckless and extravagant” government spending, excessive taxing, driving up the national debt, stifling free trade, and for “presiding over the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history”. John Nance Garner, FDR’s running mate, charged that Hoover was “leading the country down the path of socialism.” Though FDR would later champion the policies he so fervently critiqued in 1932, both he and Garner were completely right: Herbert Hoover had proven himself to be a big government market interventionist, and thus an enemy of the laissez-faire capitalism that he is so falsely criticized for defending.

2) Following the crash, the Hoover administration went into spending overdrive. Excessive government spending is, of course, a staple of liberal economics and has been since FDR’s reign from 1933 to 1945. But FDR wouldn’t have had the opportunity to implement the New Deal had Hoover not planted its foundations for him. Federal expenditures climbed by 4.7 percent between 1928 and 1929, and over the next three years they rose 8 percent, 17.2 percent, and 15 percent, respectively. Excluding military expenditures, spending under Hoover exploded by an enormous 259 percent. By the end of his term in 1933, federal expenditures had climbed more than 50 percent in dollar terms – the biggest increase in federal spending ever recorded during peacetime. In percentage terms, federal expenditures grew more during Hoover’s one term than they did during the first seven years of FDR’s presidency. Take note, progressives: it didn’t work then, and it isn’t going to work now.

3) Public works projects are also a key component in any liberal or “progressive” plan to get the country working again. Lo and behold, public works projects undertaken by Hoover include the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Hoover Dam. In late 1929, Hoover contacted all forty-eight state governors to make a similar appeal for expanded public works. He went to Congress with a $160 million tax cut, but it was coupled with a doubling of resources for public buildings and dams, highways, and harbors. Even after this massive increase in public works, Hoover proposed in 1932 to set up a Public Works Administration to coordinate and expand even more Federal public works. (Once again, progressives would do well to recognize the similarity of Hoover’s plan to that of the current administration, and the similarly abysmal results they produced.)

4) Within a month of the 1929 stock market crash, Hoover refused to accept the natural economic cycle in which a market crash is followed by cuts in business investment, production and wages. He convened conferences with the nation’s business leaders in order to urge them to keep wages artificially high, even though profits and prices were both falling. These businessmen were told by Hoover that they had to act “voluntarily” to keep up wage rates even if profits should collapse (warning that he would get Congress to force compliance if they failed to comply “voluntarily”). Hoover said at the time, “No president before has ever believed that there was a government responsibility in such cases… We had to pioneer a new field.”

5) In June 1930, President Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley tariff into law. It was the most protectionist legislation in American history, and as a result the average tariff rate soared to 59.1 percent. As Professor Barry Poulson describes:

“The act raised the rates on the entire range of dutiable commodities; for example, the average rate increased from 20 percent to 34 percent on agricultural products; from 36 percent to 47 percent on wines, spirits, and beverages; from 50 to 60 percent on wool and woolen manufactures. In all, 887 tariffs were sharply increased and the act broadened the list of dutiable commodities to 3,218 items.”

Hoover signed it into law despite the protest of over 1000 economists, and even with international trade in collapse, he defended the legislation against FDR’s critiques, saying in 1932 that Roosevelt would have Americans compete with “peasant and sweated labor abroad.”

In the spring of 1930, the New York Times accurately concluded that “no one in his place could have done more.” Indeed, no one could have, and Hoover proudly touted this fact during his campaign for re-election and throughout the rest of his life. During his campaign in the fall of 1932, Hoover himself summed up his progressive efforts to cure the depression:

“We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic… No government in Washington has hitherto considered that it held so broad a responsibility for leadership in such times.”

Hoover was clearly a champion of big government, anti-laissez faire market intervention. He was nothing short of the last President of the “Progressive Era” from which modern liberalism gains so much of its ideology. But in attempting to counteract the depression, Hoover’s rejection of conservative economics – characterized by his propping up of artificial wages, public works projects, and massively increased government spending – didn’t stop the Depression and only made it worse. As the current President continues with a plan remarkably influenced by FDR’s (and thus by Hoover’s as well), Republicans and Democrats alike would do well to recognize that.

Sources – The Common View Of Herbert Hoover:

[1] Chuck Schumer – (Schumer’s comments on Hoover begin at around 4:50; note how the Republican senator doesn’t argue with him on the subject)
[2] Nicholas Kristof –
[3] Paul Krugman –
[4] Peter Welch –

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Why Drug Prohibition Of Any Sort Is Inherently Immoral, Totalitarian, and Profoundly Un-American

Drug prohibition of any sort infringes on personal freedom. That should serve as good enough proof that the American government should end the War On Drugs and repeal federal drug prohibitions of all kinds. (To most people it’s not quite that simple, hence the necessity of this argument in the first place.) Personal freedoms are, according to an online definition I stumbled upon: “rights and freedoms that protect an individual from the state. Civil liberties (synonymous with personal freedoms) set limits on the government so that its agents cannot… interfere unduly with the lives of private citizens”.

One of the most fundamental ideas upon which America was founded is that each citizen should have the right to do what they want with their body and property, as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. One infringes on another’s rights by harming them or stealing what that person rightfully owns. Quite simply, if you’re not infringing on anyone else’s rights, on what basis does anyone have a right to stop you? Because doing certain drugs will inevitably lead to the usage of heavier ones? Because it’s “bad for you”? Well, 1) who gets to decide what’s good and what’s bad for every citizen, 2) who says they know better than you about what should go in your body, and 3) how do they have the right to dictate your own personal health choices?

Smoking is pretty darn bad for you but nobody would stand for it if it was against the law to buy, sell, or use cigarettes. And rightfully so. Because as individuals, we have the right to our life, and thus we have the right to make crappy choices – even dangerous ones! It’s not the government’s job to legislate morality or what a bunch of respected officials decide is a good kind of lifestyle. For one thing, not everybody agrees on what is a good choice of lifestyle… Even if smoking pot were unequivocally the most disgusting, unhealthy practice on the planet, I’m sure there would still be plenty of people who’d choose to smoke it even with a guaranteed shortened lifespan. The government might say that being a total pothead will shorten your life, but so might being an alcoholic, smoking cigarettes, eating too much food, and being anorexic. Why does the government not outlaw those things, if like pot they are harmful in excess? If somebody feels like the obesity that comes with food addiction is a worthy price to pay for the enjoyment they feel when they “binge eat”, that is rightfully their choice; it may be a ridiculously stupid one, but on what moral grounds can anyone or anything force you to stop eating as much food as you’d like?

The same argument applies to outlandish regulations set forth by the Food and Drug Administration that forbid Americans from consuming certain foods, drinks, and medicines that it has deemed unhealthy. One current regulation: the interstate sale of raw milk. I’m actually not kidding. Yes, the government will seriously arrest you for selling milk that the FDA rules is not up to its standards. As strange as it may sound, the common sense argument that people should be able to drink whatever milk they want is the very same one I’m making in favor of drug legalization. The concept and the logic are no different: we all own our bodies, so if our bodies are our property, how can a government justly deny us full usage of that property? And when government is afforded the ability to do just that, and can fully dictate our health choices and our diets, are we not all just property of the government? That’s a scary thought, but it’s an even scarier reality. Scarier still is not just that the current government really upholds laws that view citizens as government property, but that a majority of Americans seem to be so complacent with that.

Life is full of choices – sometimes we make good ones and sometimes we mess up. But it’s our right to mess up, and not the government’s job to parent and “baby” us the way it sees fit. Unless of course we live in a country where each citizen is the government’s property, and I don’t think many Americans believe that’s how individuals should exist in a just society. (Oh wait, I forgot about the liberals.) But again, how is living under drug prohibition anything but living as the government’s property? Think about it. Individuals have the right to make dangerous choices (though it should be noted that drugs like marijuana are substantially less dangerous and far more beneficial than legal drugs like alcohol). This is one of the most basic principles of American freedom. America’s Founding Fathers, though hardly in agreement on every major issue, would at least all readily agree on this.

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My Actual In Depth Rebuttal To A Critique Of Ron Paul’s Stance On The Killing Of Anwar Al-Awlaki

I know I’ve been posting a whole lot about this event, Ron Paul’s response to it, and the inevitable neocon response to that response, but I just want to share an actual response I gave to someone who criticized Paul’s stance on the matter. The link to the article on which I commented (and my comment) can be found here –

These are, I believe, the best arguments for any Ron Paul supporter to use to tackle the neocon ignorance that Dr. Paul and his supporters are facing right now, and will have to face for a while. After all, you know the usual response – Ron Paul loves terrorism, he’s friends with Al Qaeda, he denies American exceptionalism, etc. All because of his radical idea that we can’t go killing people around the world and not expect some sort of backlash, and that the President should have to follow the Constitution. Yeah, crazy train of thought right there.

As a general rule, when neocons like Rick Santorum criticize Ron Paul's foreign policy, it's because they're insane.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s my comment. I outlined the 3 strongest arguments in defense of Dr. Paul’s position on the murder of al-Awlaki, an Al Qaeda affiliate and U.S. citizen, which was done without a trial. (The trial-less aspect is the part that had Paul upset). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, skip to the very end where I do a recap.

Sigh…. Some people just don’t get it.

1) This was the first time a U.S. citizen was officially put on a government hit list where the government has carte blanche to take them out. Now Obama has set a precedent where he officially has the authority to deem an American citizen a terrorist, put him on a hitlist, and have him murdered without a trial. That’s part of what Ron Paul is upset about – this is a sad precedent indeed. If you thought Bush’s Patriot Act was bad, where the government could magically override the 4th amendment and commit searches without warrants, and wiretap those suspected of being dangerous to national security, then I’ve got news for you – when the President can kill those suspected of being dangerous to national security without a trial in a court of law, that’s much worse.

Only someone blind to American history would deny that when precedents like this are set, and one or a few people are killed or imprisoned for the sake of national security, the label is always expanded to include those who disagree with the government. Try looking up John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts, Woodrow Wilson’s Espionage and Sedition Acts, and Bush’s Patriot Act. What do they all have in common? They were all signed in a time of military conflict. Each time, the government used fear mongering and propaganda to convince its citizens that if only they give up some civil liberties and let the government break the law, they’ll be more “safe.” Each time, without fail, the Acts were used to spy on American citizens who just disagreed with the government. And the government had carte blanche to spy on or imprison anyone suspected of being a “threat to national security” – a label so vague that practically anyone can fit under it, if the government wishes to make it so. Ron Paul is aware of this history… Are you?

2) Read the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. It says explicitly that if you are an American citizen, you’re entitled to a trial before you’re convicted (and, presumably, before the government murders you). It doesn’t say “unless you’re a bad guy” or even “unless you’re a threat to national security.” Also, your claim that “Dr. Paul’s statement would resonate more plausibly if Awlaki had remained here since birth, had not engaged in a de facto renunciation of his American citizenship and, most importantly, was present on American soil at the time of his death” is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, the guy went to college here and didn’t leave the second after he was born. He was brought up here until he was 7 I believe, left to Yemen, came back for college and lived here for a while. BUT THAT DOESN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE. The Constitution, AKA the LAW doesn’t say that you can renounce your American citizenship by doing really, really bad things. It doesn’t say that if you don’t need a trial in order to be killed on non-American soil. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Apparently making sure the government follows the law isn’t one of your priorities.

Ron Paul says the government should follow the Constitution. Gasp!

So, if you’d rather the President not be obligated to follow the Constitution that he swore to uphold and protect, Ron Paul really isn’t your guy because he believes the President should have to follow the law… Just like any citizen has to. The President or any government official shouldn’t become exceptions simply because they’re the government. That train of thought has paved the way for many a’ dictator over the course of human history.

3) Think of the blowback this will cause. Blowback is, ironically, the term coined by the CIA itself for when our national security is worsened because of our presence on foreign lands, which leads to incredible resentment from the people who live there and thus, an increased terrorist threat. Look up the reasons for 9/11, not only according to the perpetrators of the attacks but according to CIA officials such as Michael Scheur, the man who has written most extensively about blowback and who was in charge of the unit dedicated to finding Bin Laden for several years.

This wasn’t the first time the government attempted to have al-Awlaki killed. They’ve missed before, and doubtlessly caused some civilian casualties. Think of all their friends and families – that’s more than a handful of more people that now hate America probably with a passion. A handful of more potential terrorists who want revenge. Ron Paul understands this, which is why he’s actually the best man for our national security. But by all means, if you think we can do whatever we want overseas and not expect the logical consequences, continue supporting whoever you support. I’m sure they know better.

In short, Ron Paul is right, as usual. To recap, 1) Allowing the President to murder an American citizen without a trial simply because he deems a terrorist is a very dangerous precedent to set. The question is: what’s next, or who’s next? Only someone who’s incredibly naive and blind to history would deny the danger of such a precedent. 2) The President and the government should be obligated to follow the Constitution. According to the Constitution, what they did was against the law. Simple as that. 3) The blowback caused by these numerous killing attempts harms our national security in the long run. There are most likely a fresh batch of foreign people that have a good reason to hate America. That’s the biggest cause of terrorism against our country and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Have a nice day.

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