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Posts Tagged ‘Patriotism’

To save readers some time, the honest answer to the question is that I don’t have many profound thoughts about the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden and snooping by the National Security Agency.

But since I’ve been asked by several people to pontificate on the matter, I won’t let trivial obstacles such as lack of knowledge or absence of expertise preclude me from giving a response. Heck, I’ve written about drone attacks, and terrorism policy, and my knowledge in those areas may be even less than the President’s understanding of the economy!

Normally, when I’m in the dark about some matter of public policy, I simply see what some of my Cato colleagues have said about an issue. But as you can see here, here, and here, those experts are split on the topic (brings to mind the joke about the politician who, when asked his position on some legislation, said “some of my friends are for the plan and some of my friends are opposed, and I always stick with my friends).

So I reckon I’ll just wing it with a couple of observations and a concluding thought about patriotism.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I want – at a minimum – there to be judicial oversight whenever the government spies on American citizens, but I also think some cost-benefit analysis is appropriate. Just because a court has the power to approve snooping, that doesn’t mean it’s a sensible use of law enforcement resources.

I confess I don’t know whether NSA snooping is a good use of time and energy, but I’m skeptical. Why? Because we don’t find much common sense in areas where I do know enough to run my mouth, such as money laundering laws and Transportation Security Administration rules. So why is NSA snooping any different?

It probably isn’t. As such, I side with other Americans in not wanting to give up my liberties simply because some politicians say our security is threatened.

That being said, I find myself irked by Mr. Snowden’s behavior. Some people believe he is a genuine patriot (in the proper sense of the word) motivated by libertarian principles, but the fact that he fled to Russia (perhaps en route to Cuba, Venezuela, or Ecuador) doesn’t reflect well on him.

For all its flaws, I rank the United States far above places such as Russia, China, and assorted Latin American thug regimes.

I understand that Snowden presumably wants to go someplace where he can’t be snatched by American officials, but he will cross the line and unambiguously become a traitor in my eyes if he gives sensitive material to unfriendly foreign governments.

And by sensitive, I don’t necessarily mean classified. I’m sure the federal government goes way overboard in labeling material as secret or classified. I’m talking about information that could compromise the security of the United States.

I’m guessing Edward Snowden has such information. If he shares it with hostile governments, he’s a bad person.

P.S. Here’s a humorous look at Obama-approved snooping.

P.P.S. If you think I’m being too hard on Snowden, you’ll probably beat my libertarian score on this comprehensive test.

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I’ve commented before about entrepreneurs, investors, and small business owners migrating from high tax states such as California to low-tax states such as Texas and nobody gets upset.

Indeed, I just appeared on Fox Business Network to talk about a new study showing an exodus from Maryland following the imposition of some class warfare tax hikes (which simply confirms earlier analysis showing the same trend), and at no point was there any discussion about whether the state’s taxpayers had some sort of moral obligation to stay put and get fleeced by Obama-style tax policy.

But when a successful taxpayer decides to move from the United States to Singapore, there’s a different reaction. All of a sudden, that person becomes selfish, greedy, and unpatriotic.

Even though I’ve defended the right of people to protect themselves from greedy governments by moving across national borders, I can sort of understand why people tend to react in a negative fashion.

Simply stated, we self-identify as Americans (if we have any patriotism) and don’t have instinctive loyalty to individual states. So we don’t think there’s anything wrong when an American flees from New Jersey to Florida. But it rubs us the wrong way when American citizens renounce their citizenship. Even when we rationally understand that they are making the best possible choice for their families.

This issue has become hot again now that another big name has decided to escape the IRS, and I discuss the issue on Fox News. In my first soundbite, I warn that expatriation is driven by a combination of punitive tax policy and a growing perception that America will suffer a Greek-style fiscal crisis thanks to poorly designed entitlement programs.

At this point, I can’t resist a detour. Shepard Smith goofed big time when he remarked that taxpayers would “lose” because of Denise Rich’s expatriation. Nonsense. If my neighbor puts locks on his doors and bars on his windows and no longer is being robbed, that doesn’t impose any cost on me. Indeed, I’m probably helped because thieves may get discouraged and decide to live honestly instead. And even if thieves now target me because my neighbor’s house is less vulnerable, that’s not the fault of my neighbor. We should always remember that the blame should fall on the thieves. Or, in this case, the politicians. As if there’s a difference.

Now, back to the main topic, Fox did the same report at a different point in the day, but they used a different soundbite. In my second appearance (only an excerpt, not the entire segment), I explain that it doesn’t make sense to drive the geese with the golden eggs out of the country.

Interestingly (or perhaps I should say disturbingly), even France has a better approach to tax expatriation than the U.S. government. That tells us something about how American policy has veered in the wrong direction.

The big picture, as I’ve noted before, is that we want people to have the freedom to cross borders as a means of disciplining politicians who will over-tax and over-spend if they think taxpayers have no choice but to meekly submit.

Which is why all of us should be very happy that tax havens exist. Imagine how high taxes would be if politicians didn’t have to worry that people had escape options.

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I suppose I could draw some sort of policy message from this video, perhaps by comparing the effectiveness of private sector charity with the blundering incompetence of government.

But this video wasn’t done to make that kind of point. So just enjoy the quiet patriotism of “Ryan’s Story.”

And here’s another video on the same general topic.

I remember being at Reagan Airport when one of the honor flights landed. It was very moving to see everyone in the terminal cheer as the veterans came off the plane. That’s true patriotism.

Unlike clowns such as Joe Biden who think higher taxes are patriotic.

P.S. Watch this Penn and Teller video if you want a good message about patriotism.

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I rarely comment on Vice President Biden because he is not a serious person in the world of policy. The only attention he gets on this blog is jabs from the late-night talk show hosts, and I also posted the Joe Biden caption contest and this Joe Biden joke.

Perhaps I would have given Biden some attention if I had started this blog in 2008 instead of 2009, because the then-Delaware Senator made a very silly statement during that year’s campaign.

Joe Biden said Thursday that paying more in taxes is the patriotic thing to do for wealthier Americans. …Biden said: “It’s time to be patriotic … time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut.”

I’m not sure how America’s Founding Fathers would have reacted to that statement, but I suspect that Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Mason, and Paine would have had a different perspective.

But I’m not surprised that the Socialist candidate for President in France has the same mentality (and I’m referring to the official candidate of the Socialist Party, not the socialist currently running the country). Here’s a blurb from the BBC.

The Socialist favourite in France’s presidential election, Francois Hollande, has said top earners should pay 75% of their income in tax. …Mr Hollande himself renewed his call on Tuesday, saying the 75% rate on people earning more than one million euros a year was “a patriotic act”. …”It is patriotic to agree to pay a supplementary tax to get the country back on its feet.”

Isn’t this wonderful that politicians of different nationalities and from different continents can be united in the idea that it is “patriotic” to give the world’s least competent people more money?

Maybe Biden and Hollande can also take a trip to Greece together so they can learn how to use the additional money to subsidize pedophiles and collect stool samples as a condition of getting a business license to set up an online company.

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At a basic level, my attitude on patriotism is captured by this t-shirt. And hold the snarky comments. My view is not influenced by the woman modeling it.

Or, if you want something with more substance, this Penn & Teller routine is very instructive.

But this polling data, taken from a recent report from the Pew Research Center, captures what is great about American exceptionalism.

When I periodically express my patriotic feelings, I am celebrating my happiness that I live in a nation where a majority of people still favor liberty over dependency.

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According to a story from U.S. News and World Report, there’s new research showing that 4th of July celebrations boost the GOP. I have no idea if the methodology is sound, but the researchers found that attending Independence Day events influences voting behavior. Key findings include: “When done before the age of 18, it increases the likelihood of a youth identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent” and “It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.”

Here’s more from the USNWR story.

Democratic political candidates can skip this weekend’s July 4th parades. A new Harvard University study finds that July 4th parades energize only Republicans, turn kids into Republicans, and help to boost the GOP turnout of adults on Election Day. …”The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century. Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party. …Their findings also suggest that Democrats gain nothing from July 4th parades, likely a shocking result for all the Democratic politicians who march in them. …What’s more, the impact isn’t fleeting. “Surprisingly, the estimates show that the impact on political preferences is permanent, with no evidence of the effects depreciating as individuals become older,”said the Harvard report.

I’m interested in how to get people to believe in freedom, not vote Republican, so I’m not sure what to think about the Harvard study. But my Republican friends can probably make a few snarky observations about whether patriotism is inconsistent with being a Democrat. My thoughts on patriotism, meanwhile, can be found here.

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Here’s something uplifting for Independence Day.

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Here’s an appropriate post for today. Having just watched a Bloggingheads.tv debate between Will Wilkinson and Jonah Goldberg on the topic of patriotism, it got me thinking about whether advocates of limited government can love (or at least have warm and fuzzy thoughts about) their country. I think it is correct to say that libertarians are understandably suspicious of patriotism if it means nationalism (my nation is good, so your nation must be bad). But some libertarians, including Will, think any patriotism is undesirable because it can be harnessed to statism. That’s a danger, to be sure, but I’ve always interpreted patriotism as support for the ideals of a nation rather than its government. That’s why the sentiments in this image match my definition of patriotism.
 

That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that patriotism in not a particularly rational sentiment. One could live in Switzerland, Hong Kong, or the Cayman Islands and be part of a culture that is based on ideals that are at least somewhat similar to what we have in America. So why feel any special warmth for the United States? In large part, it is an accident of birth. Many of us feel affection to America because that’s where we were raised – in the same way we may feel loyalty to sports teams based on our hometowns (Go Yankees!) or where we went to school (Go Dawgs!).
 
Here’s my two-part quiz. One question deals with a trivial topic, and the other one revolves around something more profound. In both cases, though, I’d be interested in feedback on whether affirmative answers put one on a slippery slope to statism.
 
1. Do you want athletes representing the United States to win international contests such as the World Cup, Olympics, Ryder Cup, and Davis Cup – even if you don’t follow the sport?
 
2. Even if you disagree with nation building and want the US out of Iraq and/or Afghanistan, do you want America to prevail in military battles? On a related note, would you rather have 100 (or 1,000) Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters die or one US soldier die?
 
The first question (at least I assume) is easy. Wanting your nation to win a contest presumably does not imply that you want to persecute other countries, invade other countries, or even have negative thoughts about another nation or its people. I also don’t see how it could imply anything bad on the domestic front. Wanting the US to do well in the Olympics, for example, does not have any implications for big government or small government (am I missing something?). Heck, if I understand correctly, the United States (to its credit) does not even finance national teams with tax monies.  
 
The second question is a lot harder. For all intents and purposes, an affirmative response means you value an American life over a foreign life. I’m not an expert on foreign policy, so I don’t pretend to know exactly what the United States should have done in the aftermath of 9-11. But I know I’m not a fan of nation building, so I don’t want endless occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the futile hope of transforming them into democracies. Nonetheless, I instinctively want nothing but good results for the soldiers and others who are stationed there. And if shooting happens, I want all the casualties on the other side. I don’t think these views make me a bad libertarian, but I welcome your thoughts.

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