Rand Paul on the Surveillance State

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave a great speech on surveillance last week at FreedomFest. Actually, he gave two good speeches, but the one embedded below is his short 6-minute talk at the Saturday night banquet. He talks about our slide toward state intrusion into our phone calls, our emails, our reading habits and so on. You know how big the surveillance state has gotten? The answer is "a gazillion." Watch the speech—complete with high-falutin' references to Fahrenheit 451 and the martyr Hugh Latimer!

Posted on July 26, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Ayn Rand on Johnny Carson: It Once Was Lost But Now Is Found

In the 1960s Ayn Rand was becoming a major cultural presence. She drew overflow crowds at colleges from Yale to Wisconsin to Lewis and Clark. She wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times. She was interviewed by Alvin Toffler in Playboy. (The interview can be found in The Libertarian Reader.) She accepted an offer to place her papers in the Library of Congress. And in 1967 her celebrity was officially recognized by an invitation to appear on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Those who remember it say that Carson was so fascinated that he scrapped his other guests and kept her on for the whole show. He invited her back twice more. Alas, many of the early Carson shows were lost in a fire at NBC's archive, and Objectivists have lamented the lost tapes ever since. Now a partial tape of that first Tonight Show appearance has turned up, and Libertarianism.org has it: Visit Libertarianism.org for classic and original videos of Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Thomas Szasz, Walter Williams, and many more.

Posted on July 25, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

How Crony Capitalism Works

Tad DeHaven summed up the congressional report on Countrywide Financial's VIP loan for members of Congress and other Beltway players.           But I was struck by this point in a Bloomberg report, about Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo's close relationship with Fannie Mae chief executive Jim Johnson, former top aide to Vice President Walter Mondale and chairman of both the Brookings Institution and the Kennedy Center. Instructing his staff to give a discount mortgage loan to Johnson, Mozilo wrote in an email:
Jim Johnson continues to be a source of many loans for our company and this is just a small token of appreciation for the business that he sends to us.
Note that Jim Johnson didn't favor Countrywide with his personal business. He didn't invest in Countrywide. He didn't sell houses and send the buyers to Countrywide. No, he sent loans backed by taxpayers' money to Countrywide, and was rewarded with personal benefits. That's crony capitalism. This was kind of a stunning detail:
Jim Johnson, chief executive officer of Fannie Mae from 1991 to 1998, earned $100 million during his time at the company. Nonetheless, Countrywide employees expressed concern about giving him a loan because he didn’t pay his bills regularly and had a low credit score, according to e-mails published in Issa’s report.
Given his credit report, Countrywide underwriters didn't want to sign off on a loan to Johnson. But Mozilo, who knew the business Countrywide was really in, told them not only to approve the loan but to give Johnson a discounted rate. And that, kiddies, is how being involved with a highly respected politician can get you a job in Washington that pays $100 million, backed by the full faith and credit of the American taxpayers, as well as extra perks from other companies tied into the crony corporatist state. More on Johnson, Fannie, and Mozilo here.

Posted on July 9, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Blogging around the ‘Net

For those devoted Cato-at-Liberty fans who wouldn't think of visiting any other blogs, here are links to a couple of things I've posted elsewhere this week. In response to a New York Times op-ed deploring excessive freedom on the Fourth of July, I wrote this over at Libertarianism.org:
Where Andersen goes wrong, of course, is in deploring these outcroppings of freedom in American life. When people take seriously the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he calls it “self-gratification” and “every man for himself.” He writes:
But what the left and right respectively love and hate are mostly flip sides of the same libertarian coin minted around 1967. Thanks to the ’60s, we are all shamelessly selfish....
Americans who actually appreciate the Declaration of Independence call it self-reliance, minding your own business, staying out of unnecessary wars, and raising everyone’s standard of living by pursuing your own profit. Andersen is sort of right: “For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors,” freedom is desired. And freedom works.
And at the HuffingtonPost, on the day that another dismal unemployment report came out, I wrote about some accomplishments the president could boast about in his reelection campaign:
Most deportations. Despite his endorsement of the DREAM Act, President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any president in history. He's been deporting about 400,000 people a year, about double the number in the George W. Bush administration. Most leaks prosecutions. The Obama administration has been criticized for leaking classified information in a series of campaigns to portray the president as a tough, engaged commander-in-chief. But meanwhile the administration information has used the 1917 Espionage Act to target suspected leakers in twice as many cases as all previous presidential administrations combined. Most troops in Afghanistan. The United States had about 30,000 troops in Afghanistan during 2008, the last year of President Bush's term. By the end of 2010, President Obama had increased that number to almost 100,000. It's down to about 88,000 now, which still might surprise people who recall candidate Obama's ringing antiwar speeches of 2008.
And more! Read 'em all.

Posted on July 7, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Another Triumph for Bipartisanship

The Washington Post reports:
Lawmakers approved a broad measure Friday that freezes federally subsidized student loan rates for another year, reauthorizes the government flood insurance program and extends federal transportation funding for two more years. The deal resolved months of acrimonious debate on key legislative concerns on the eve of a Fourth of July recess, and offered President Obama an opportunity to claim victory after a high-profile campaign to pressure Congress into action on both the student loan and transportation issues.... The agreement includes the first long-term transportation spending plan agreed to since 2005, replacing a series of short-term extensions. It passed the House 373 to 52 and the Senate by a vote of 74 to 19.
So as George Will and I noted recently, bipartisanship consistently seems to mean the expansion of government and government spending. Democrats and Republicans may fight about abortion and tax cuts, but they can agree on (in Will's words):
No Child Left Behind, a counterproductive federal intrusion in primary and secondary education; the McCain-Feingold speech rationing law (the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act); an unfunded prescription drug entitlement; troublemaking by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; government-directed capitalism from the Export-Import Bank; crony capitalism from energy subsidies; unseemly agriculture and transportation bills; continuous bailouts of an unreformed Postal Service; housing subsidies; subsidies for state and local governments; and many other bipartisan deeds, including most appropriations bills.

Posted on July 2, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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