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  • Author: Steve Simpson
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The revelation in May of this year that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was systematically targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups for special scrutiny under the laws governing nonprofit organizations shocked the nation and triggered one of the Obama administration's biggest scandals to date. According to a Treasury inspector general's report, in May of 2010, agents in the IRS's Cincinnati office began singling out applications for nonprofit status from groups with terms such as "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their names. The agents conducted lengthy investigations of the groups to determine whether they intended to spend too much of their money on political activities that are prohibited to most nonprofits.1 The IRS required some groups to answer long lists of questions about their intentions, it demanded donor lists from others, and it even examined Facebook and Internet posts.2 Some groups simply gave up and withdrew their applications. Others spent two years waiting for a decision that never came.3 When Congress investigated the scandal, Lois Lerner, the former head of the office that oversees nonprofit organizations, invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify. Later, hearings revealed that Douglas Shulman, the former head of the IRS, was cleared to visit the White House at least 157 times during his tenure and that IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who was one of two Obama appointees at the IRS, helped develop the agency's guidelines for investigating the Tea Party groups.4 As a result, critics of the IRS have good reason to think that the scandal reaches the highest levels of our government. The public's outrage over this scandal is, of course, entirely appropriate. If the government can enforce laws based on nothing more than one's political views, then both freedom of speech and the rule of law are dead. But the outrage over the IRS's focus on conservative groups obscures a far more important question: Why was the IRS investigating the political activities of any group? The answer to that question is more troubling than the possibility of rogue IRS agents, biased law enforcement, or even abuses of power at the highest levels. As bad as all of those things are, the bigger threat to freedom is a legal regime that requires scrutiny of Americans' political activities and a political and intellectual culture that applauds such scrutiny and openly calls for more of it. This is the situation in America today. Our tax and campaign finance laws impose a host of regulations on Americans based on how much time, effort, and money they spend on political speech, and many opinion leaders agitate for even more laws and investigations every day. Against this backdrop, the IRS scandal should not surprise us. Our politicians and intellectuals demanded regulation of some of the loudest voices in our political debates, and the IRS delivered. Unfortunately, far too many critics of the IRS have accepted the premise that our laws should distinguish between groups that spend money on political activities and groups that do not. Expressing this view, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein has argued that the real scandal was that the IRS did not treat all nonprofits as harshly as it treated the Tea Party groups.5 Using the same reasoning, congressional Democrats have attempted to blunt the scandal by claiming that the IRS also investigated some groups on the left.6 It appears that these claims are untrue, but the message is clear: As long as the government is scrutinizing everyone's speech equally, then there is no scandal. But this is the opposite lesson to learn from the IRS scandal. For anyone who cares about freedom of speech, the real scandal is that the government regulates Americans' campaign spending at all. So long as laws remain on the books that do so, scandals such as this one-and far worse-are inevitable. But to understand why that is so requires a deeper understanding of the premises on which the laws are based and how the laws operate in practice. . . .
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: America, Washington
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Americans are rightly concerned about the rising costs of health care and the monstrosity known as ObamaCare. As patients are looking for better ways to manage their health care, doctors are seeking innovative ways to offer their services. One type of medical practice growing in the marketplace is “concierge medicine,” in which patients pay a doctor or group of doctors a set fee (usually paid annually or monthly) in exchange for a defined package of care.
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Alexander V. Marriott (reviewer)
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: “If America should grow into a separate empire,” British Prime Minister Frederick Lord North warned in late 1778, “it must of course cause . . . a revolution in the political system of the world” (p. 15). In his latest book, The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire, Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy examines the lives of the ten British political leaders, generals, and admirals most responsible for attempting to prevent that revolution from succeeding. O'Shaughnessy sympathetically discerns how and why they failed—and why America succeeded. O'Shaughnessy, professor of history at the University of Virginia, also examines the revolution from an outsider's perspective in his masterful An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (2000).1 Whereas his previous work sought to answer the question of why the other British colonies in the Americas—Canada and the sugar islands in the Caribbean—did not join with the American revolutionaries, The Men Who Lost America sets forth to save the British leadership from the historical ignominy of being remembered as “incompetent and mediocre” or “hidebound” (p. 5) and “novices” (p. 8). With a much more intimate biographical knowledge of these principal actors—including George III; generals Cornwallis and Clinton; Lord North; and the secretary of state for America, Lord George Germain—O'Shaughnessy seeks to reconstruct the perspective of the British war effort, which is, he contends, “essential for making the war intelligible” (p. 9). Among the strengths of the book, O'Shaughnessy artfully weaves the entire breadth and sweep of the wars of the American Revolution through nine biographical chapters (with one chapter devoted to the brothers General Sir William Howe and Admiral Lord Richard Howe). O'Shaughnessy also destroys certain deeply entrenched myths about the American Revolution and inculcates greater appreciation for the victory gained by the revolutionaries over a collection of determined, intelligent—and in many cases quite sympathetic—adversaries. The main recurring theme of the book, apparent in the experience of every figure examined, is the fundamental misunderstanding among British policy makers of the nature of the revolution and the depth of support for it among the colonists. “It was indeed an axiom of British policy,” writes O'Shaughnessy, “that the majority of Americans were loyal, and that the revolution was nothing more than a coup achieved by 'the intrigues of a few bold and criminal leaders'” (p. 98). Many modern American admirers of the American Revolution also unwittingly hold on to this view, often encapsulated in the convenient notion that the Americans were divided roughly into thirds: revolutionaries, loyalists, and the indifferent. As the British learned only very slowly, too slowly to alter their strategy, the loyalists were not anything close to a majority or even a consistent minority large enough to count on. . . .
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Michael Dahlen (reviewer)
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: From 2006 to 2007, Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, was one of few people warning that the U.S. economy was fundamentally unsound and that real estate was grossly overpriced. In his first book, Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (2007), he predicted that the economy, the housing market, and the stock market would fall apart. He also voiced these predictions on several cable news shows, yet few people heeded his warnings. Some hosts and other guests even mocked and ridiculed him. But Schiff was right. In his recent book, The Real Crash: America's Coming Bankruptcy-How to Save Yourself and Your Country, Schiff says that the worst is yet to come and that the 2008-2009 economic crisis was merely a "tremor before the earthquake." Schiff argues that the main culprit of our economic instability is America's central bank: the Federal Reserve. Through its control of the money supply and the effect this has on interest rates, the Fed artificially inflates the prices of various asset classes, creating so-called "bubbles," and when those prices inevitably collapse, the Fed then inflates the prices of other asset classes. "Throughout the 1990s," Schiff observes, "we had the stock bubble and the dot-com bubble. The Fed replaced that with the housing bubble and the credit bubble. Now, the Fed and the administration are replacing those bubbles with the government bubble" (p. 20). By "government bubble," Schiff is referring to the U.S. dollar and Treasury bonds. When asset prices collapse and recessions ensue, Schiff notes, the Fed-via bailouts and low interest rates-props up insolvent banks and other companies (while also helping to finance government debt). It has taken these actions allegedly to minimize the short-term pain of recessions, but in doing so, the Fed has prevented the economy from correcting itself, making it increasingly unsound. "If you keep replacing one bubble with another, you eventually run out of suds. The government bubble is the final bubble" (p. 23). If the Fed keeps interest rates artificially low and if the government keeps running massive budget deficits, the day will come, Schiff argues, "when the rest of the world stops trusting America's currency and our credit. Then we'll get the real crash" (p. 1). In his introduction to the book, Schiff explains that he is taking a different approach here than he took in his previous books: "[T]his time I have decided that rather than simply predicting doom, I would lay out a comprehensive set of solutions. That's why I wrote this book" (p. 2). After diagnosing our economic problems, Schiff explains how we can fix them. . . .
  • Topic: Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Robert Garmong
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: When the U.S. economy collapsed in 2008, most economists, policy analysts, and government advisers were caught flat-footed. For more than a decade, the experts had assured Americans that such a catastrophic economic event had become impossible. In 2004, Ben Bernanke (now chairman of the Federal Reserve), declared a “Great Moderation,” beginning in the mid-1980s, during which “improvements in monetary policy” at the Federal Reserve had led to “a substantial decline in macroeconomic volatility” (Fed-speak for a taming of the business cycle).1 Robert Lucas gave a presidential address to the American Economic Association in 2003, declaring that the “central problem . . . of macroeconomics”—maintaining recession-free growth without runaway price inflation—“has been solved, for all practical purposes.”2 Yet the seeds of the so-called Great Recession, David Stockman argues, were already there for anyone to see. The Great Deformation is Stockman's attempt to explain and diagnose the economic crash, connect it to historical trends, and warn against policies that will bring worse economic disasters in the future. Stockman presents a compelling case, based on economic theory and exhaustive research. His warnings for the economic future are chilling but powerfully argued. The “Great Deformation” named in Stockman's title is the distortion of the economy brought about by the Federal Reserve's credit expansion since 1971, when Richard Nixon ended the last vestiges of the gold standard. Stockman reviews several major financial developments of the 20th century. Prior to Nixon's move, he recounts, the developed world was governed by the Bretton Woods Agreement, signed in 1944. Although not a full-fledged gold standard, Bretton Woods kept the world economy tethered to gold. All major currencies were pegged to the U.S. dollar, which in turn was redeemable in gold at $35 per ounce. Bretton Woods limited any country's ability to inflate. For America, it meant that any inflation by the U.S. government—creation of money to cover government debt—led investors to trade value-losing dollars for value-retaining gold. Thus, the effects of creating new money would show up immediately and painfully in the banking system. Chafing under this fiscal restraint, on August 15, 1971, Richard Nixon unilaterally reneged on the agreement, ended the convertibility of U.S. dollars to gold, and laid the groundwork for an unprecedented series of financial crises. Nixon's move had an immediate, dramatic effect, Stockman writes: skyrocketing prices for oil and other commodities in the 1970s. In four years, the price of oil increased from $1.40 to $13 per barrel. A ton of scrap steel went from $40 to $140, and even such a humble commodity as coffee went from 42 cents to $3.20 per pound. Abandonment of the gold standard enabled unfettered deficit spending without immediate consequences in the capital markets, Stockman writes. . . .
  • Topic: Corruption, Debt
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Welcome to the Winter 2013–2014 issue of The Objective Standard. Here's an indication of the contents at hand. The increasing popularity of libertarianism is both a problem and an opportunity. It is a problem because, although nominally for liberty, the ideology rejects the need to undergird liberty with an objective, demonstrably true moral and philosophic foundation—which leaves liberty indefensible against the many philosophies that oppose it (e.g., utilitarianism, altruism, egalitarianism, and religion). The increasing popularity of libertarianism is an opportunity because, although the ideology denies the need for such a foundation, many young people who self-identify as libertarian are active-minded and thus open to the possibility that such a foundation is necessary. Toward reaching these active-minded youth, my essay, “Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism,” examines libertarianism in the spirit of Frédéric Bastiat, taking into account not only what is seen, but also what is not seen in common and seemingly unobjectionable descriptions of the ideology. The article exposes major problems with libertarianism, compares it to radical capitalism, shows why only the latter provides a viable defense of liberty, and emphasizes the need to keep these different ideologies conceptually distinct.
  • Topic: Education, Religion
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Craig Biddle
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Because of its seemingly prophetic nature with respect to current events, Ayn Rand's 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged is receiving more attention today and selling at greater volume today than it did when it was first published fifty-five years ago. That's a good thing, because the ideas set forth in Atlas are crucial to personal happiness, social harmony, and political freedom.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Simpson, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. Among Mr. Simpson's many accomplishments, he authored a friend-of-the-court brief in the landmark case Citizens United v. FEC, served as lead counsel in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, helped overturn aspects of Colorado's campaign finance laws that restricted people's ability to fund political speech, and helped overturn New York's ban on direct shipping of wine. Simpson has contributed articles to Legal Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Times, among other outlets. He is also the author of “Citizens United and the Battle for Free Speech in America,” which was published in the Spring 2010 edition of The Objective Standard. —Ari Armstrong
  • Political Geography: New York, America, Washington, Chicago
  • Author: Andrew Bernstein
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Author's note: Because I want to address several key events of this story, I've written this review in a way that contains spoilers. Readers may prefer to view this outstanding film before reading the review. For anyone who loves America and wants the country defended against Islamic totalitarians and other savage enemies, a film starring active-duty Navy SEALs doing precisely that should be a rare treat. Act of Valor is that film, and it delivers fulsomely on this promise.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Hannah Krening
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: We often hear claims that America is a “Christian nation” and that “the Constitution was designed to perpetuate a Christian order” (James Dobson). Are such claims correct? If not, how does one show it? If America is a secular nation, how can one convince ignorant but active-minded people of this truth?
  • Political Geography: America