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Tag Archives: rule of law

The long, slow death of the rule of law in America

The rule of law (and not man or woman) is vital to a free society. If might makes right there is little room to do business, to invest, to build wealth, to be secure in one’s person, to be an actualized human being. If contracts can be dismissed and government officials and their cronies (in government and the nominal “private sector”) can do as they please because of their connections, we have a problem. And that is what we have now, and it’s getting worse.

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AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale

(From The New York Times)

The National Security Agency’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T.

While it has been long known that American telecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive. One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.”

Crony capitalism comes in many forms. Bailouts for big banks. Subsidies for sugar, corn, and Hollywood. Overly inflated defense contracts. Bridges to nowhere which benefit certain bidders. There are thousands and thousands of examples. But perhaps one of the most insidious forms is when telecommunication companies help the government to spy on Americans without a specific warrant.

The 4th Amendment means something. It is the law. Just because we have people seeking to do us harm does not mean that the 4th Amendment isn’t the law. We have always had bad guys looking to do us harm. We had 45 years of Cold War without flushing the Constitution down the toilet. Indeed we understood that the Constitution fundamentally was the reason we were fighting the Cold War. We should keep this in mind.

At the same time, the government has been fighting in court to keep the identities of its telecom partners hidden. In a recent case, a group of AT&T customers claimed that the N.S.A.’s tapping of the Internet violated the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. This year, a federal judge dismissed key portions of the lawsuit after the Obama administration argued that public discussion of its telecom surveillance efforts would reveal state secrets, damaging national security.

So the judge said that the lawsuit could not go forward, even though the issue at hand concerns the potential serious violation of the Constitution, because of  “national security”?

National security may be an issue, but does it trump the exploration of whether an action is lawful? I suppose that in this case it does. But that should not be.

We must be clear here. We are not saying that spying is unnecessary nor that it shouldn’t be done at all. There are real threats to American security and surveillance within the parameters of the Constitution are reasonable and likely necessary. But extra-constitutional surveillance, even if it makes things easier for the NSA, and/or speeds their efforts is not OK. Such a state of affairs is extremely dangerous for everyday people who are doing absolutely nothing wrong. The government is not God. The everyday American should be able to know that as a citizen they are protected by the rule of law, not subject to the whim of a bureaucrat somewhere.

Click here for the article.

Honduran gangs choke small businesses with ‘war tax’

It is often said that the state is not that much different from a mafia. This is true and it’s not true. But to the extent it is true can be seen in the horrible business climate in Tegucigalpa Honduras.

Want to do business? Pay a crippling tax. Don’t pay the tax? Meet Mr. Bullet.

In the USA thankfully entrepreneurs are rarely shot by the government. But they are shaken down for taxes. And they can go to jail for not paying taxes.

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Protest: The property rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil

I have made the case that one of the reasons the Amazon, African, and Indonesian rain forests are relentlessly plowed under is due to the absence of the rule of law and the general lack of respect for property rights in these countries. The rain forest is in many respects a “commons” which people exploit  as all “commons” are exploited. No one owns the forest, so it’s a free-for-all.

We have argued also that the property rights of indigenous peoples should be respected and that the state is the greatest violator of the sovereignty of many of these groups. Someone in many cases does actually own the rain forest and has for hundreds if not thousands of years.

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Walter Williams: Free Markets Are Key To Global Prosperity

This op-ed from Walter Williams comes the same week that the World Bank has proclaimed publicly that it “will end extreme poverty by 2030.” If the institution wants to end such human desperation it would be wise to encourage the rule of law and free markets (and free prices).

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The Border Patrol Continues to Act as if a Federal Judge Hadn’t Just Blocked Obama’s Amnesty

The issue here is not really one of immigration for us. As we’ve stated before we are open to immigration generally. People have a right to move. But if America becomes a place where the rule of law is not respected, if America becomes a place where the president and the executive branch just do what they want in spite of the judiciary, then we have a problem.

In this instance it appears that the administration is really pushing the legal envelope. But this is not new.

Pen and a phone baby!

And if we continue down this road, one where the rule of law, one of the fundamental tenets of American identity is tossed aside, how long until this country no longer becomes a destination for people seeking a better life?

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Obama asked if a future president could just issue an executive order absolving citizens of tax burdens: “Absolutely not!” (Video)

I have no love for George Stephanopoulos but his stock went up about tenfold in my book with the below question.

George makes a great point. If the president doesn’t have to faithfully execute the law on immigration (He does, the Constitution expressly says that he does.) why should a future president have to execute the law faithfully in all sorts of other areas including taxes? Boy, Obamacare would fall apart pretty much overnight.

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The Capitalist Cure for Terrorism

Hernando de Soto is one of my favorite economists. (Though as with almost anyone I disagree with him on some important points.) A champion of capitalism and everyday people he is my kind of guy.

His argument basically goes like this:

Poor people are shut out of economies. Cronyism and red tape make building businesses almost impossible. In many countries the poor remain permanently on the margins of society. The poor typically have no property rights (even if they’ve been on a piece of land for generations for instance) and enforceable contracts do not often exist. As a result this situation limits access to capital – no one will provide a loan on a piece of property for which there is no deed – which then keeps the poor poor.

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USA Today: Democrat hopes immigration crisis isn’t ‘Obama’s Katrina moment’

I don’t begrudge someone who gambles it all for a chance at a better life. I understand it and have respect for it on a deep level. If I was Guatemalan and 20 years old there is a good chance I’d be showing up at the US border. I am also no particular fan of the state. I am however a fan of Latin America generally and I speak Spanish. But given that we do believe in the rule of law. Given that we do believe that a reasonable role for our government is protecting the borders. We have to ask, “What in holy you know what is going on along our southern tier?”

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Gallup Poll: Americans feel less free, feel the government is more corrupt than 7 years ago

This is a trend which began in earnest under Mr. Bush and which then began to snowball under Mr. Obama. And most people don’t even know anything about the NDAA (which Obama signed which allows him to jail US citizens without trial, attorney, or even notification of abduction). They just feel it. They know that the NSA lurks online, somewhere and everywhere. They stand with hands up in the radiation machines at the airport. They witness the increased police checkpoints. They see the president disregard the rule of law to pursue naked political ends. They feel the loss of dignity. People feel the loss of freedom and of their liberty.

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