Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year's warning.

It is customary at this time of the year to speak of the future and our hopes and dreams.

I’m too much of a realist to do much of that. I know what I’d like to see but I also know that the political process will never give it to us. There is no White Knight who will rescue us. Nor do I think the needed changes will come voluntarily. I suspect that only a crisis will bring about the political changes required.

Politics is inherently beset by perverse incentives. The political process itself rewards the worst policies while penalizing the best. It has been said that politics is like a septic tank -- the big pieces float to the top. Looking at the crop of presidential wannabes only confirms that theory.

There is one thing, however, that gives me some small measure of happiness. It is knowing that 2008 is the last full year of the presidency of George Bush. This moronic, incompetent, fanatic will not be around to plague us much longer. That is almost enough to make this atheist fall on his knees in appreciation. What shreds of joy this beckons from my soul, however, are quickly extinguished when I look at the replacements waiting in the wings.

For the first time in many, many years I am rather pessimistic about the future of our nation. I hope I am wrong but I worry that the economic state of the country is much worse off than believed. I tend to shy away from doomsday scenarios simply because I remember so many of them that turned out wrong. But I am concerned. And certainly I would urge my readers to take care. I would urge them to tighten their purse strings substantially, reduce their debts if possible, and save like madmen. I would also suggest spreading your investments around -- meaning look for savings accounts that are not denominated in U.S. dollars.

Government debt is too high to make me comfortable. The ill-conceived and badly-managed war only makes it worse. Bush has saddled the country with new taxes -- the only difference is that he postponed them until after he leaves office. He is leaving a massive debt and he knows those bills will come due. I fear the housing market is in for more of a battering. Values have been dropping. And debt levels for individuals are rising. Many Americans have financed their spending through debt and assumed that rising equity in their homes will cover it. But with equity falling they are in for a rude awakening.

And the spending programs that the Democrats want to impose can not be sustained. I fear that crunch time may be upon us.

America’s foreign policy, like American spending, is not sustainable. The U.S. cannot afford an interventionist foreign policy. Here I agree with Ron Paul -- no matter how badly he explains it. And when I say afford I mean in every sense of the word, not just financial costs. An interventionist foreign policy is corrupting in many ways. It fuels the imperial presidency. George Bush was certainly a creature of his own demented thinking, and that of Dick Cheney’s, but he was also the inevitable result of years of bipartisan foreign policy. America as the world’s policeman requires the ability to intervene without public debate. Interventionism needs the imperial president.

This means the Democrats are just as responsible for the evils imposed on the country by Mr. Bush as are the Republicans. The one virtue the Democrats have, and I can not underestimate how important this is, is that they are not warped by the fantasies of Southern fundamentalism and all the delusions associated with it. Sure Democrats tend to be economically illiterate and fiscally irresponsible. But Bush/Huckabee Republicans are even worse. I have a hard time believing a Democrat, any Democrat, will be worse for the country than has been King George and that Dick who works with him. Of course none of this should be construed to mean the Democrats will be a breath of fresh air.

At this stage we are facing a choice between the lesser of about a dozen evils. Of the candidates who are likely to sit in the White House I suspect the least worse will be Hillary Clinton -- not because she has any good ideas mind you -- but just because she is utterly power driven and wants to stay in office. She will stab the special interest groups that are lining up with the Democrats wanting goodies from D.C., if that is what is necessary to avert a major meltdown. I am not sure the other Democrats will do likewise.

On the Republican side the absolute worst candidate is Huckabee followed by Giuliani. But the problem with any Republican is that they need to cater to the Know Nothing fundamentalists sects that have grabbed the GOP by the short hairs. The good news is that Bush has also discredited the God that he continually invoked for his stupid blunders. Fundamentalism tied itself to Bush and Bush tied himself to it. The stains on the Bush presidency also stain that antiquated and evil belief system. One net result is that this has helped spur a revival of reason in America. More and more people are shunning the very faith that Bush was promoting because Bush has so discredited it. That is good.

I don’t want a Republican in the White House because Bush has already done enough harm to the Supreme Court. The best option is divided government -- since abolishing the whole lot is not a likely option. I would prefer a Democratic president and Senate and a Republican controlled House with enough ability to override vetoes by the president. However, Bush destroyed the Republican control of the House in the last election so that option is unlikely at this time.

Who will I vote for? No one. I don’t think the situation is going to be saved nor am I deluded into believing that my vote will make a difference. I know a lot of people are worried and thus pouring money into the election of White Knights. I think there were better ways to spend those funds and I think that preparing yourself for a depression would be more prudent. Your investment of $2300 in gold would have done you far more good than the same maximum donation to any candidate for president. And I could name a dozen places where the same money would do more to promote liberty long term than flushing it down the political campaign drain. But these are impatient times with ten minute attention spans; people want quick fixes not long term solutions. That’s part of the problem.

The United States is likely to remain united and an empire which is policing the world for some years to come. That is nothing but trouble. So what do I recommend in the meantime. I suggest the three country rule. Here is how it works:

Be the the citizen of one country. Live in a different country if at all possible. And keep your wealth in neither of those countries.

My other advise is simple. Don’t accrue further debts if you can help it. Pay off as many debts as possible. Invest in hard assets like gold and silver but also invest in foreign currencies. As a precaution I would suggest being armed and trained in safe self-defense. If you aren’t prepared to learn how to use a weapon responsibly don’t get one. If you can live outside the United States do so, provided it is not a country where you are likely to see campaigns against American citizens. New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama are possible candidates. Forget England and Europe unless you have massive assets already in savings as you won’t be able to afford those places.

If you want to be politically involved then give up the idea of short term fixes and White Knights. Political campaigns are not going to save the country. However, they may exhaust you and empty your wallet. Concentrate on educational efforts. I would recommend supporting any of the following: the International Society for Individual Liberty, the Cato Institute, the Heartland Institute, the Institute for Humane Studies and the Foundation for Economic Education are some primary examples.

Lobbying may not hurt and citizen pressure groups pushing for wise reforms can be beneficial. If I were the treasurer for the libertarian movement I’d channel more money into private schools around the country. If you want to make a difference then think long term not short term. I don’t see any candidate or any political party as being worth the cost at this time.

Now that I’ve offended everyone there is nothing left to say but Happy New Year.