Monday, August 26, 2019

Does The Media Know Why The Yuan Triggered A Euro Drop?

The major news story of this last Monday in August, 2019, was the seeming collapse of the Chinese yuan against the dollar, and the resulting newfound willingness of China to resume trade negotiations with the United States. Depending on the particular bias of the news channel, this was either an a) uncontrolled drop in the yuan by currency investors fearful of Trumpian economic Armageddon, b) China playing hardball by deliberately dropping the yuan, or c) a sign of the "inevitable" Trump victory in the US trade "war" with China.

For the record, I think all three views are basically fertilizer, put designed to gratify the biases of a particular audience, with little regard to reality.

One problem with these simplistic monochromatic views of currency events is that they ignore other events that happen concurrent to the main narrative--events that indicate a different, larger, and more complex narrative applies. A news story that has been almost a footnote to the yuan collapse bears far more scrutiny than it has received: at the same time the yuan dived against the dollar, the euro dropped as well, and continued to trend down the rest of the day.

First, consider the yuan vs the dollar during the day's trading (26 August 2019):

The yuan dropped as much as 0.7% in overnight trading, before stabilizing--according to the financial chattering class, this was a collapse. However, the Euro began dropping as well a few hours after the yuan, and then continued to trend down the rest of the day.

The drop in the yuan itself is not hard to fathom: as the exporter in US-China trade talks, its currency is far more sensitive to tariff and other pressures, and the recent ratcheting up of trade rhetoric by Presidents Xi and Trump only serve to magnify those pressures. But how does a ramping up of trade tensions between the US and China weaken the Euro against the dollar? One would expect the flight-to-safety response to flow the other direction, from the dollar towards the Euro, as that is the direction presumably away from the trade conflict.

However, there is another data point that is perhaps relevant to this discussion: Germany's recent slide into recession is being blamed in part on weakening demand from China. The currency movements of the past day do seem to confirm that hypothesis--that any sort of economic downturn in China reverberates around the world to Europe. To be sure, there have been a number of warning signals coming from China of late, not the least of which is a slow-motion banking crisis, with China having bailed/nationalized three banks in as many months, with 19 banks that are either insolvent or about to be.

A full exploration of the interlocking relationships between the economies of Europe and that of China is beyond the scope of a single blog essay, and it is not my intention to explore that here. However, the little regarded drop in the Euro, coming as it does on the heels of a steep drop in th yuan, does confirm the influence the Chinese economy has over Europe. As goes China, it seems, so goes Europe.

That Europe is headed into recession is by now no longer news, but established fact. Yet if China is a leading indicator for Europe, and Europe is in a recession, does that not indicate significant economic weakness in China? While the legacy financial media is largely silent on this point, other than to note the linkage between Europe and China in passing, that linkage coupled with Europe's growing economic woes suggests that China's economic situation is rather more dire than the Chinese media will admit. With a raft of secondary indicators indicating significant economic weakness in China already, perhaps Europe provides a curious if counterintuitive confirmation of the depth of China's woes.

While the legacy media does acknowledge the levels of integration in the global economy, when discussing headline events such as the latest developments in the trade war between the United States and China, the reporting invariably reduces the story arc to simple linear causal relationship. Trump ratcheting up trade rhetoric along with President Xi is deemed the trigger for the drop in the yuan, and the decline in the euro is blandly written off as a flight-to-safety reaction. This despite the fact that a flight to safety would be in the opposite direction than what was observed. 

The one thing that seems certain about the legacy media's prognostications about the state of the world is that they have the narrative all wrong. With respect to China and Europe, they have it provably wrong, which only begs the question what else do the chattering class "experts" have completely wrong?



Note: the currency graphs are courtesy of xe.com and were obtained using the following search parameters at the time of writing:
  • Yuan to US Dollar: https://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=CNY&to=USD&view=1D
  • Euro to US Dollar: https://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=EUR&to=USD&view=1D

Evil Taking Root In Europe....Again.

Writer and philosopher George Santayana once pithily warned that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

With a week of chaotic, contradictory, and occasionally apocalyptic news having gone by, the question arises if the world is approaching a repetition of its recent past--namely, the 2008 "Great Recession." I, for one, do remember that past, having opined on portions of its aftermath, in particular the 2010 Greek debt crisis and subsequent bailout of Greek finances by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. In particular, I was struck by the hyperfocus that prevailed among "experts" on defending the credibility of the Euro. The single currency was of paramount importance--a conventional wisdom that was questionable at the time, and that was questioned at the time. My own assessment at the time was an exploration of the Biblical admonition that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil...."

That I am writing about this topic again is no victory lap, and there is no "I told you so" here. In large measure I misread how Europe would respond to the crisis at the time, believing the stresses being placed upon Greece would eventually rip the European Union asunder. Clearly, that did not happen.

However, I do intend to return to my conclusion at the time:
When at last the money runs out, Europe may find itself so deep in a financial hole that not a single one of the institutions it has built up since WWII will survive intact.  Such is the destruction that comes when the evil that is a love of money and currency takes root on a national scale.
What occasions a return to this failed bit of prognostication is Germany's recent effort to auction some 2 billion euros worth of negative-yield debt. Even before the bond auction there were doubts about the viability of the issue, and it was readily apparent in the aftermath that the auction was a failure, with the Bundesbank being forced to retain some two thirds of the total issue.

As the economy of the EU has steadily weakened over the past year, more and more the European Central Bank, as well as the central banks of the member nations, have increasingly embraced the untested and seemingly counterintuitive notion of "negative interest rates"--where a bank or bond investor literally pays for the privilege of loaning out money. Recently, Danish banks began offering mortgages with a negative interest rate, a move many banks were more or less forced into in order to counter the profit-draining effects of negative yields on other bank assets.

Nor have the European banks been alone in their misfortunes: China has been nationalizing banks of late--three in the past three months, with another 19 banks potentially at or close to the point of insolvency. Even the Federal Reserve is showing signs of vulnerability, openly discussing a new crisis management mechanism whereby they could order banks to increase their reserve cushion should loan losses be anticipated to climb rapidly over the short term.

These banking concerns come amidst a growing list of other warning signals that the global economy is headed into a contractionary phase:
  • US mortgage debt recently reached a level higher than just before the 2008 financial crisis, indicating American consumers may be once again overleveraged.
  • The Germany economy officially contracted during the second quarter of this year. Two successive quarters of contraction is the technical definition for a recession.
  • The Chinese manufacturing sector has been contracting of late, indicating the second largest economy in the world is on the verge of its first recession in decades.
  • The yield curves between US 2-year and 10-year debt "inverted", with the 2 year debt having higher yields than the 10-year debt. Intriguingly, the inversion, which has been associated with pending recessions in the past, occurred at the same time jobs data and other economic indicators were positive, suggesting the financial economy of Wall Street is becoming decoupled from the overall economy of Main Street, at least in the United States.
  • The illiquid state of sovereign debt markets was laid bare by turmoil in Argentina, where unexpected election returns presage a premature end to austerity and economic recovery measure, imperiling their sovereign debt. Argentine debt is not the only one with a marked imbalance between the number of buyers and the number of sellers, indicating a small and rather anemic secondary market for sovereign debt.
  • So parlous is the state of sovereign debt markets that PIMCO, a leading global investor in bonds, began exiting sovereign debt markets, effectively being the first large investor to "run for the exits"--which if it becomes a trend, would spark a fire sale and collapse sovereign debt markets worldwide.
Nor is this the full listing of economic red flags and warning signals. However, even this partial list makes one thing abundantly clear: debt markets are heading into rough territory, and the European markets are on the leading edge. Economic weakness and contraction is sparking concerns over several nations' debts.

Which brings me back to my thoughts of nine years ago on Greece. Then, as now, there was a focus on currency, on how to stimulate the global economy though interest rate cutting--i.e., driving interest rates even further into the negative range--monetary stimulus, and "quantitative easing", where central banks attempt to inject arbitrary inflation into the economy by the electronic equivalent of burning money. Money is occupying the center of the economic stage. Money and currency are where people's concerns appear to chiefly reside.

And the focus on money is not working very well. In fact, the focus on money is not working at all. The "love of money"--for what else should we call this global obsession with the intricacies of money and currency?--is truly the root of a number of evils.

Perhaps the most pernicious evil this love of money has spawned has been an illusion (or delusion) of economic growth and recovery after 2008.  In a very real and substantive way, the world's economies never truly recovered after the 2008 "Great Recession." An inordinate focus on monetary policies and less on the fundamentals of economic activity--the buying and selling of physical goods and services--is a large part of the reason for the lack of substantive recovery. In the wake of the credit crisis that precipitated the Great Recession, the world's leading central banks engaged in wholesale quantitative easing and monetary stimulus in an effort to reflate a rapidly deflating world economy.  These were ostensibly emergency measures, undertaken with the implicit understanding that the banks' respective governments would step in with fiscal stimulus spending programs to shoulder the long term burden of restarting the world's economic engines. That fiscal stimulus never happened, and the central banks have been trapped having to cover the dangerously reckless bets quantitative easing represented. The belief that money could save the world from economic ruin in 2008 has led the world perhaps to the precipice of an even more devastating economic ruin in 2019, or perhaps in 2020.

To add insult to injury, most of the central bankers have always known the risk. They have always been aware they sacrificed their traditional mechanism of monetary stimulus, the manipulation of interest rates, by dropping interest rate to zero and holding them there, instead of following the traditional path of incrementally increasing them over the expansionist phase of the economic cycle, in order to have the buffer for interest rate cuts during the next contractionary phase. The central bankers have always known there would be a next contractionary phase. We know they have known because economist Larry Summers admitted as much this past week in advance of the Federal Reserve's annual symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

According to Larry Summers, not only have the central bankers failed to "rearm" after the Great Recession, but their dropping of interest rates to zero and quantitative easing programs quite possibly made the underlying economic situation worse rather than better. Not only did too much focus on money catalyze the financial crisis that became the Great Recession, too much faith in money has only made matters worse since then.

If Summers is correct in his analysis, then not only are central bankers powerless to head off the next recession, but they may very well have set the stage for a financial and possibly economic collapse larger than what was experienced during the Great Recession.

What could central bankers have done differently? What should they do differently now? If we take as a point of departure the Biblical admonition against the love of money, where does that leave monetary and fiscal policies when economies contract, or when a financial shock such as the 2008 crisis hits?

One answer would be to focus efforts on encouraging and fostering real economic activity. Economies grow when there is a demand for physical goods and services, and when there are physical goods and services to meet that demand. Indeed, as we are seeing currently, this real economic activity at least in the United States appear to be in more or less rude health, creating jobs and increasing wages. The real economy continues to grow despite the recessionary warning signals being generated in financial markets. The real economy of Main Street is more or less functional, while the financial economy of Wall Street is increasingly dysfunctional, and will remain so until its focus is oriented back towards what the real economy of Main Street.

If we follow that hypothesis, then the productive policy for central banks would have been to maintain a more or less stable supply of money. If there is a useful purpose to the central bank it would be to ensure there money supply remains stable, and thus overall pricing levels remain stable. Indeed, this is the stated role of the Federal Reserve, as I pointed out last December when the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes precipitated a steep decline in the US stock markets, and the interest rate manipulations of the Federal Reserve are arguably a violation of their own directive, their own raison d'etre. 

Far from worrying about raising interest rates, lowering rates, or providing monetary stimulus or quantitative easing, the European Central Bank and its counterpart in the Bank of England should be committed to maintaining a constant interest rate and a stable money supply, and allow the price discovery mechanism of a functioning free market to direct flows of capital to such industries as were best positioned to use it to expand and increase the production of physical goods and services in order to service demand. Perversely, instead of endless technical convolutions regarding interest rates and their impact on money and prices, the basic "Economics 101" approach is how a central bank might best discharge its duty as chief steward of the money supply. Instead of attempting to fix what they have arguably broken, the central banks of the world should stand back and allow the economies of the world to heal on their own.

This might be what should be done, but it is not what will be done. For all the talk in some corners of the independence of central banks, the unalterable truth is they are as susceptible to political pressures as any other governmental agency. For all their supposed wisdom, central bankers persistently fail to apply the simple wisdom of 1 Timothy; the pressures to act are too great.

Thus I am left to restate my broad conclusion from nine years ago. When at last the money runs out, Europe may find itself so deep in a financial hole that not a single one of the institutions it has built up since WWII will survive intact.  Such is the destruction that comes when the evil that is a love of money and currency takes root on a national scale. 

Whether this is the time for the money to run out at last or not is a tale still to be told. It is possible that Europe will yet muddle through this coming recession and emerge in much the same state that it is now. It is possible that negative interest rates and quantitative easing of the euro will resuscitate the European economies just enough to stave off the recession that now looms large on the continent.

Yet it is also possible that, this time, these efforts will fail. It is possible that the negative interest rates now being pushed across Europe will overwhelm the capacities of European banks to absorb the stress. It is possible that, far from resuscitating the European economies, attempts at monetary stimulus will bring the banking system crashing down in Europe, and trigger not just a recession but a deflationary depression that will last for an untold number of years. It is possible that we shall discover, to our collective horror, that the coming recession is but a continuation of 2008, that much of the presumed "recovery" from then until now has been illusory. 

If that proves to be the case, then the money will run out at last, and what must follow will pierce Europe with many long lasting economic and political sorrows. Such is the outcome when the love of money overrides better natures and better judgments.





Saturday, August 10, 2019

On Gun Control, We Keep Asking The Wrong Question

Among the more predictable political rhythms in this country is the Second Amendment Two-Step: First there is a mass shooting or other horrific gun crime, followed by a proliferation of pontification promoting various bits of gun control legislation, all of which decry gun violence and promise to end such violence if only Americans would see the light and allow "common sense" gun control.

In the wake of two mass shootings within a single day, one in El Paso, Texas, and one Dayton, Ohio, America is dancing the Second Amendment Two-Step with the music cranked up to eleven. Self-styled "conservative" commentators such as Mona Charen have come out advocating banning certain types of guns purely for cosmetic reasons. At the same time, Democrats such as Senator Chuck Schumer have reliably excoriated Republicans for proposing solutions that are not nearly adequate to the moment or the presumptive "need".

Even alt-media personalities such as cerebral conservative Ben Shapiro expressed support for "Red Flag" laws which temporarily revoke a person's right to keep and bear arms:
Not to be outdone, enthusiastic pro-Trump supporter and host of the YourVoice America Internet talk show Bill Mitchell defended the judicial process ensconced in such laws:
One one level, the reflex is understandable: in the wake of tragedy, it is only natural to seek solutions, and it is the reflexive position of every politician to propose a political solution to every problem. Senators and Congressmen will forever respond to crisis by proposing legislation for one very simple reason: that is what we elect them to do.

However, no amount of good intention is sufficient to guarantee the reflex will produce good law. It is far more likely such reflex will produce bad law (case in point: the abysmally un-Constitutional Patriot Act, passed hurriedly in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks). In the aftermath of tragedy, therefore, it behooves us all to take a moment to seriously consider what would constitute "good" law.

In the aftermath of tragedy is when we especially should look to the Constitution, look to the Bill of Rights contained therein as its first ten amendments, and consider seriously what government is and is not empowered to do. If we desire good law, we must begin with the Constitution. If we wish to enact good laws, we must take care not to enact laws which contradict the Constitution and violate even one of its strictures. If we hope to design good law, we must ask ourselves the right questions about the law, and the Constitution.

When discussing the law, there can be no doubt that the Constitution is the supreme Law of the United States, for that is explicitly proclaimed in Article 6. The direct consequence of this is, as Chief Justice John Marshall observed so saliently in Marbury v Madison (5 US 137 (1803)), "...an act of the Legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void." The Congress is not merely prohibited from passing a law which contradicts the Constitution, it is legally impossible for it to do so--any such contradiction immediately nullifies such a law and renders it void.

Thus, good law necessarily is law which is in keeping with the powers and duties assigned to government, and which does not reach beyond those powers and duties. Marshall's insight in Marbury is, in this regard, merely a restatement of the language of the Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

If the Constitution does not empower the United States government to do a thing, the government may not arrogate to itself the power to do that thing.

Thus, when we ask "What constitutes 'common-sense' legislation on guns?" we are asking the wrong question. That is merely a philosophical debating point, and has little actual relevance to the debate at hand, which is effecting legislation on guns.

The question we need to ask is "What legislation is Congress authorized to pass on guns?" This is directly relevant, directly applicable. There is little point to waxing rhetorical about "common-sense" legislation if Congress lacks the authority to enact such legislation. There is no good purpose served by dwelling on measures the Constitution does not permit Congress to pass.

Are "Red Flag" laws Constitutional? Certainly Democrats think so, and so do a great many Republicans. Senator Marco Rubio expressed support for such laws, echoing support offered up by President Trump for the measures:

Does bipartisan support amount to Constitutionality? Hardly. The number of laws invalidated by the Supreme Court since the Marbury decision attest to that.

Are "Red Flag" laws Constitutional? Consider the basic structure of these laws. As described by the legacy news media, the prototypical Red Flag law, also called an "Extreme Risk Protection Order" (ERPO) works as follows:
"Red flag" laws allow courts to issue orders to temporarily confiscate the firearms of individuals deemed to be a risk to others or themselves. 
Depending on the state, ERPO laws allow family members and law enforcement to ask a state court judge to issue an order that confiscates the guns of an individual who they believe poses a threat to their safety. ERPO petitioners must present evidence to the court on why the individual poses a threat to others, as well as to himself or herself.
What is the Constitutional foundation for the ERPO? Do they comport with the stricture of the Second Amendment, which quite explicitly states that the right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed"? 

I do not see how they can.

One of the more comprehensive legal explorations of the Second Amendment is the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller (554 U.S. 570 (2008)). Restating the entirety of Justice Scalia's reasoning in that opinion would be too lengthy here, and I encourage everyone to read the decision for themselves, but among the crucial conclusions reached in that decision was that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to own firearms, which right was not tied to direct participation in a militia. Additionally, Justice Scalia demonstrated that the right expressed in the Second Amendment was indeed a fundamental right--that is, not a right granted by the Second Amendment, but rather a right protected by the amendment from government intrusion.

The supreme law of the United States is that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed--that is the plain text of the Second Amendment and that is the plain conclusion of Justice Scalia in Heller.

Can the right to keep and bear arms be temporarily revoked or restricted without infringing upon it? Whether deliberately or incidentally, the position of supporters of Red Flag laws is that such a revocation is not an infringement. Arguably, Heller agrees with this logic, as Justice Scalia conceded that rights protected by the Constitution were not unlimited.

But is Heller correct? With respect to Justice Scalia, I believe he erred on this point. The flaw is found within the text of his opinion--in substantiating his assertion that the Second Amendment right is not unlimited, he references the British legal scholar Blackstone, as well as other notable legal commentators; he references also numerous court cases from the 19th and 20th centuries. What he does not reference is the Constitution itself. He does not point to the language of the Second Amendment, nor to any other portion of the Constitution.

This is, in my view, a fatal flaw in Scalia's logic. Even if one were to concede, in the abstract, that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is not an unlimited right, that under various circumstances a person does not enjoy that right, for a government restriction to stand the government must have the authority to make that restriction. Even if one concedes that, in the abstract, the right to keep and bear arms may be limited, where in the Constitution is the government granted the authority to impose that limitation? Scalia does not answer that question in Heller, nor was that question addressed in any case referenced by Heller.

Consider the definition of the verb "infringe":
to encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another
Applying this definition, the Second Amendment debars the government from regulating or legislating in any way that violates the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Where in the Constitution is there an exception granted? Certainly not an explicit exception. One could argue, presumably, that certain powers of Congress amount to such an exception, but the more logical leaps one must make the less persuasive such an argument becomes.

The Constitution provides no explicit mechanism for restricting or revoking fundamental rights. Thus, even if we are to accept the premise that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms may be limited, there is no basis in the Constitution for presuming Congress has the authority to impose such limitation.

We should pause here to remember the full scope of Marshall's Marbury ruling. The crux of that case was whether or not a writ of mandamus should be issued forcing the federal government to deliver a particular commission to William Marbury. Marshall concluded that William Marbury did suffer a violation of his rights and that the laws of the United States did afford him a remedy, but the laws of the United States did not empower the Supreme Court to provide the remedy Marbury sought. Even though Marbury's claim of injury was "reasonable" and his prayer for relief was "just", the nature of Constitutional authority was such that it did not empower the government--and in particular the Supreme Court--to provide the relief sought.  It was in articulating this limitation of governmental and judicial authority that Marshall penned his immortal insight about a law repugnant to the Constitution being void.

If there is not clear Constitutional authority for Red Flag laws to temporarily revoke a person's Second Amendment rights, it is not relevant how well-intentioned, how reasonable, nor even how effective such a laws may be. If there is no authority to enact such laws, such laws may not be enacted.

If there is Constitutional authority for Red Flag laws, if there is a clause in the Constitution which empowers the government to temporarily revoke fundamental rights, it is anything but clear. A plain reading of the Constitution provides no such authority.

When tragedy strikes, it is only natural to ask what can be done to prevent such calamity in the future. When people commit horrific acts of violence, it is only natural to inquire what laws might empower either the people or the police to prevent such acts. In the wake of the twin mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, it is eminently reasonable to consider what laws might better equip communities to head off such atrocities.

But it is neither reasonable, nor effective, nor Constitutional to seek laws which exceed the limits laid out in the Constitution. No government of the United States is chartered to go beyond the limits of authority laid out in the Constitution, no matter how well meaning the excess. Good law does not arise merely from good intentions. Good law can only arise from good legal reasoning, and good legal reasoning begins with understanding what the Constitution allows, and what it does not allow. Good legal reasoning, and thus good law, entails asking the right questions.

The debate about Red Flag laws proceeds from the wrong questions. The debate about Red Flag laws centers on the reasonableness of the laws, and the efficacy of the laws, with merely a nod to their Constitutionality, and with no thought at all to the capacity of the Congress to enact Red Flag laws.

Red Flag laws are thus bad law. They require government to exceed its Constitutional authority. Such laws are automatically repugnant to the Constitution and must be immediately considered void.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Speech Or Silence: War Has Been Declared.

If there was any doubt that free speech is under assault in this country, those doubts are fully and permanently laid to rest. Free speech--the underpinning of all free societies--has been declared the root of all evil in the eyes of some.

We have Texas Representative Joaquin Castro warning supporters of President Trump to "think twice" about donating to the President's re-election campaign.

We have CNN contributor Reza Aslan tweeting out for the literal genocide of all Trump supporters. This is not an exaggeration:

Reza Aslan got this much right -- there is no room for nuance. Free speech is a moral imperative. Far more than mere words in the First Amendment to the Constitution, the right of free speech, the principle of free speech, is at the very essence of what it means to have a free society. We cannot be free in our thoughts, we cannot be free in our daily lives, if we are not free first of all to speak our minds, to express our own opinions, to champion those causes we deem good and noble and just. Without the freedom of speech, we are not free, period.

Equally imperative is the freedom to be heard. As we cherish our ideas, we naturally seek to share and promote these ideas. I write this blog and comment on social media under the name of this blog precisely because I want to articulate and advocate for those ideas that I hold and which I cherish. We cannot share our ideas if we are blocked from so doing. We cannot promote causes we deem to be good and noble and just if we are silenced. For us to enjoy the freedom of speech, there must be a concurrent freedom to be heard--ultimately, they are two sides of the same coin.

When Reza Aslan calls for President Trump's supporters to be "eradicated", when he indulges in the language of genocide, he is seeking to silence all 63 million-plus people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and who will vote for him again in 2020. By seeking their permanent silence--arguably their literal deaths--Reza Aslan is engaged in a most immoral bit of speech.

When Joaquin Castro warns President Trump's supporters to "think twice" about supporting Trump, he is similarly seeking to silence those people, and is similarly engaged in a most immoral bit of speech.

There is no room for nuance in this: Reza Aslan's tweet was evil. Joaquin's doxing of Trump supporters was evil. Apologetics and rationalizations issued in defense of these statements and actions are evil. They are nothing but evil. There is no defense to be made, no justification to be offered, that makes these statements anything but evil.

Reza Aslan and Joaquin Castro have declared war on free speech. Not only have they not been called to account by the legacy media, they have been justified by the legacy media; "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski defended Castro's doxing of Trump supporters by claiming the information was already being circulated. Twitter, the Big Tech social media giant always at the epicenter of these controversies, refused to do anything about either Aslan or Castro, claiming their execrable tweets did not violate Twitter's terms of service. 

The legacy media, Big Tech social media, and the Democratic Party as a whole, have aligned themselves with these attacks on free speech. By their silence and by their words, they approve of and support this war to silence dissenting voices. By their silence and by their words, they are in favor of this war to silence you, to silence me, to silence all of us.

There is no room for nuance in this: There is no more room for either debate or disagreement on this topic. There is no middle ground where the nexus of our disagreements can coalesce into either social practice or government policy. That middle ground--the holy ground for all rationally-minded individuals--has been taken away. You are given one of two choices--you may meekly accept the diktats of liberals such as Reza Aslan, and Democrats such as Joaquin Castro, or you may be eradicated. 

This is the binary choice Aslan and Castro present to you. This is the binary choice the legacy media, Big Tech social media, and the Democrats present to you. They will hear no reasons, they will engage in no debates, they will brook no dissent and most assuredly no opposition. They will, if they can, destroy you. They will, if they can, "eradicate" you.

There will be no compromise. There will be no toleration. There will be no accommodation. You will agree or you will be eradicated. You will submit or you will be eradicated. You will obey or you will be eradicated.

There is no room for nuance in this. There will be no compromise in this. Nor, I fear, will there be any peace because of this. Liberals such as Reza Aslan and Democrats such as Joaquin Castro have declared themselves an existential threat to all who think differently from them. They are the mortal enemies of all who deviate from their orthodoxies by so much as a syllable. Being committed to the destruction of their opponents, they leave those opponents little choice but to destroy them. The dangerous flaw in all rhetoric of "us" vs "them" is that there is no assurance the "us" will prevail over the "them"; Messrs Aslan and Castro may speak with impunity today, but as their adversaries number in the tens of millions, once battle has been joined they may not find the fighting as facile as the tweeting.

Indeed, they ultimately cannot prevail, for the moral imperative is free speech, not oppression. Human beings are called to liberty, not condemned to slavery. We are meant to live in free societies, not relegated to tyranny and servitude. The moral imperative is free speech, and, as history shows, it is an imperative that will not be denied. From the Scots' Declaration of Arbroath to the Declaration of Independence, to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the impetus of human civilization has always been towards freedom. However fitfully we may move, invariably we move towards liberty. 

Democrats demand your silence or demand your death. Rather than engage in speech with others, they compel this immoral choice.

The moral choice is quite clear. When Democrats demand your silence or demand your death, the only moral choice--the only sane choice--is to be neither silent nor dead. 

Speak out. Speak loudly. Speak proudly. Do not be silent. Ever.