On his latest foreign trip to Asia, President Trump again invoked the idea of “America first.” As someone who is repelled by Trump and his presidency, I am a little reluctant to justify something he nominally upholds. But, actually, his support for it is all the more reason it needs to be clarified and defended — defended not only against those who criticize it, but against those, like Trump, who embrace it for the wrong reasons.
Schwartz succinctly identifies that “America First” means a policy of “taking action to defend the individual rights of Americans” and that to sacrifice those inalienable rights for “the nation” is a contradiction in terms.
A nation’s self-interest consists of the interests of its citizens. And there is one fundamental social value that is in everyone’s interest: individual freedom. The ultimate goal of American foreign policy — the end to which all alliances and confrontations are the means — is the preservation of Americans’ freedom against attacks from abroad. “America first” is a policy of taking action to defend the individual rights of Americans — the rights to their property, to their liberty, to their lives — when they are physically threatened.
Concomitantly, it is a policy of refusing to sacrifice those rights by elevating the needs of other nations above our own.
Schwartz then shows that “Trump’s interpretation of ‘America first’ is shaped by the collectivist notion of economic nationalism”:
A foreign policy based on self-interest, therefore, embraces free trade, with everyone (leaving aside dealings with countries that pose military dangers to us) allowed to seek out the best products at the lowest prices — which is, incidentally, how the entire society prospers. This is radically different from Trump’s outlook. Trump cannot conceive of trade as being mutually beneficial. Instead, he argues that one party’s gain comes only at another’s loss. His ideal is the conniving wheeler-dealer, master of the “art of the deal,” who manages to put one over on his partner. His view of human interaction is that one must be either victimizer or victim, predator or prey. So he calls on the government to intervene and decide who is to be favored and who is to be sacrificed.
The world’s richest 1% of families and individuals hold over half of global wealth, according to a new report from Credit Suisse. The report suggests inequality is still worsening some eight years after the worst global recession in decades.[…]
“The bottom half of adults collectively own less than 1% of total wealth, the richest decile (top 10% of adults) owns 88% of global assets, and the top percentile alone accounts for half of total household wealth,” the Credit Suisse report said.[…]
In most countries, including the US, a large wealth gap translates into those at the top accruing political power, which in turn can lead to policies that reinforce benefits for the wealthy.
The real question is: how many used political power to acquire wealth as opposed to honestly producing it economically? If someone created the wealth — like a Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos — then they rightfully own the assets they created.
Billionaire politicians and dictators (Castro, Putin, etc.) who earned their money through political means — theft and cronyism — do not.
Sadly Business Insider, like much of the anti-capitalist press, does not make that distinction.
…some of the [Alt-Right] groups that marched evince a hostility to neoliberal capitalism, which is equal to that of the most ardent supporters of Bernie Sanders, the leftwing populist who mounted a vigorous challenge to Hillary Clinton during last year’s Democratic primaries – although for the far right it comes inextricably linked to a virulent racism. Many also support the enhancement of the welfare state.
For example, those marching under the red and blue banners of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) have signed up to a manifesto that supports a living wage, sweeping improvements in healthcare, an end to sales taxes on “things of life’s necessity” and “land reform” for “affordable housing”.
An establishing principle in the document written by their leader, Jeff Schoep, is that the state “shall make it its primary duty to provide a livelihood for its citizens”. It calls for “the nationalisation of all businesses which have been formed into corporations”.
The manifesto of Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party calls for “opportunities for workers to have jobs with justice”. And in a manifesto issued on the day of the Charlottesville march, the noted far-right figurehead Richard Spencer wrote that “the interests of businessmen and global merchants should never take precedence over the wellbeing of workers, families, and the natural world”.
Spencer has previously spoken out – including at the American Renaissance conference, a gathering of far-right activists in Nashville in July – in favour of “single payer” universal healthcare.
At the conference, Spencer gave Trump just three out of 10 when invited to rate him – because he was “too focused on the Republican agenda” of tax cuts and dismantling Obamacare.
These critiques of capitalism and mainstream conservatism are key to the socialist element of national socialism. Observers of the far right argue that understanding this is essential to demystifying the far right’s appeal, especially to the alienated millennial men currently swelling its ranks.
Dr. Richard Salsman, visiting assistant professor at Duke University, discusses misperceptions about Alexander Hamilton’s political philosophy. Salsman offered these comments during an interview for Carolina Journal Radio Program No. 723.
Take the rising dominance of solar and wind, which is used to paint supporters of fossil fuels as troglodytes, fools, and shills for Big Oil. The combined share of world energy consumption from renewables is all of two per cent. And it’s an expensive, unreliable, and therefore difficult-to-scale two per cent.
Because solar and wind are “unreliables,” they need to be backed up by reliable sources of power, usually fossil fuels, or sometimes non-carbon sources including nuclear and large-scale hydro power (all of which Gore and other environmentalists refuse to support). This is why every grid that incorporates significant solar and wind has more expensive electricity. Germans, on the hook for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s self-righteous anti-carbon commitments, are already paying three times the rates for electricity that Americans do.
Stories about “100-per-cent renewable” locations like Georgetown, Tex. are not just anecdotal evidence, they are lies.
Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel gives a biased, self-serving, and convenient picture of fossil fuels and climate — convenient for Gore’s legacy, that is, but inconvenient for the billions his energy poverty policies will harm. As citizens, we must start demanding responsible thought leaders who will give us the whole picture that life-and-death energy and climate decisions require.
Syria poses little danger to the United States. But there are demonstrable threats to us elsewhere, such as from North Korea and Iran. A genuine act of self-assertiveness would be to eliminate those threats, which for a long time we have not only tolerated but actively abetted.
When a country’s foreign policy rests on no clear principles—when it’s an unpredictable and indecipherable hash of emotionalism, altruism and ad hoc machinations—when no firm guidelines exist to determine when we will or won’t use force—then “red lines” sprout up everywhere. And if America has an obligation to take action against “any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” then any failure to do so becomes evidence of weakness. If every evil committed by some vicious dictator is an assault against “America’s interests,” then inaction against such dictators shows a lack of will to uphold those “interests.”
If, however, we had a principled foreign policy, our government would understand that politically Americans have only one fundamental interest: their freedom—and that our policymakers’ sole task is to protect that freedom. When facing a situation like the one in Syria, therefore, they would morally condemn Assad’s tyranny while remaining true to the principle that we use force only when the liberty of Americans is threatened. They would refuse to treat Americans as selfless servants to the needs of the world. And they would make sure to employ force decisively against those who actually threaten us.
My brief remarks at CPAC were based on my decade-plus research on the natural rights justification for patents and other IP rights (see here, here, here, here, and here), and on how this theory was applied in the uniquely American approach to securing patents as property rights (see here, here, and here). To take but one example of this American approach, a Supreme Court Justice said in 1845 that “we protect intellectual property, the labors of the mind, . . . as much a man’s own, and as much the fruit of his honest industry, as the wheat he cultivates, or the flocks he rears.”
On the basis of this classic moral justification for all property rights — that people should have the fruits of their productive labors secured to them as their property — early American legislators and judges secured stable and effective property rights to innovators and creators.
This was part-and-parcel of American exceptionalism. The U.S. was the first country to protect true property rights in inventions and creative works. It was also the first country to recognize patents and copyrights in its Constitution, and to provide for their protection.
As the Founding Father James Madison wrote in 1792, the right to property “embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right,” and “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.” As Madison and most early American judges recognized, the natural right to property was never limited—as Mr. Holt claims—to only physical land and other tangible goods. Even John Locke recognized in 1695 that copyright is property (see here).
Wilders has called for banning the Quran. He wants to close mosques and ban the building of new ones, and he has proposed a change to the Dutch Constitution that would outlaw faith-based schools for Muslims but not for Christians and citizens committed to other religions and life philosophies.
As a justification for his position on Islam, Wilders often quotes Abraham Lincoln’s words from a letter written in 1859: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” But one could turn Lincoln’s words against Wilders himself. By calling for a ban on the Quran and for the closing of mosques and faith-based schools for Muslims, he insists on denying freedom of speech and religion to Muslims.
Wilders’s support for the First Amendment was based on the fact that it would protect his own speech, but when he found out that the First Amendment would also provide a robust protection of the freedom of speech and religion for Muslims, he was reluctant to support it.
In doing so, he failed the acid test for the support of free speech in a democracy. It was first formulated by the legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who issued a famous dissenting opinion in 1929: “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.”
Freedom for the speech that we hate. That’s the acid test. This principle embodies the essence of tolerance. You do not ban, intimidate, threaten or use violence against speech that you deeply dislike or hate.
Wilders thinks only speech that he approves of should be uncensored. He is no friend of free speech. For a real defense of free speech check out Fleming Rose’s book, The Tyranny of Silence, along with Steve Simpson’s book, Defending Free Speech.
It’s Presidents Day in America and below I offer a list of the five best and five worst among the 44 men who’ve served in the office since 1789. My standard is this: how closely did the president hew to the U.S. Constitution (as required by oath) and how much did he preserve individual rights, a free economy, and national security.
I believe the five best U.S. presidents were Washington (1789-1797), Lincoln (1861-1865), Grant (1869-1877), Coolidge (1923-1929), and Reagan (1981-1989). Runner-up: Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897).
In contrast, I contend that the five worst presidents were Madison (1809-1817), Wilson (1913-1921), FDR (1933-1945), LBJ (1963-1969), and Nixon (1969-1974). Runner-up: Hoover (1929-1933).
To fight these ideas and the culture they’ve spawned on campus will require more than complaining about college “snowflakes” or political correctness. We need to defend the ideas on which free speech depends, most notably reason and individual rights.
The purpose of the right to free speech is to protect our right to think for ourselves and to communicate with others, which are two of the pillars of a modern, free society. True, people can and often do say absurd and horrible things. But it’s false to equate even hateful speech with use of force.
Force is qualitatively different from speech. No matter how harsh speech is, you are always free to ignore it and walk away. Not so with force. If you doubt this, ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Flemming Rose, or the many other individuals currently on jihadist hit lists whether they would prefer to live under the threat of death or the threat of hateful speech.
That’s not to say that speech can never be used in the commission of a crime. It is entirely proper to criminalize actual threats, incitement to violence, and the like. But that’s because what is being threatened is the use of force. If those who use offensive or hateful speech cross the line into actual threats or incitement, then it is proper to prosecute them. But short of that, they must be free to speak.
Ayn Rand once said that “a gun is not an argument.” The reverse is also true: an argument is not a gun. If we forget the difference, we will end up with guns settling our disputes, rather than arguments.
Simpson’s article is excellent and the entire piece is worth a read as well as the collection of essays he has put together in his book Defending Free Speech.