The ongoing Occupy movement has produced myriad versions of the “we are the 99%” lament, complaining that 99% of us have been taken advantage of and outright wronged by the richest 1% of individuals who control the financial sector and the governments of our society. I’ve found myself surprisingly sympathetic to many of their complaints, underscoring the common ground shared by libertarians and some young liberals of the Democratic/socialist bent, all of whom cite primarily imbalances in power as the source of many socioeconomic ills and the appropriate focus of reform. Undoubtedly, the debilitating student debt that burdens many of these young protesters, the feeling that all of that tuition money isn’t worth what it gets them, the inadequacy of their $100,000 four-year college education at landing them a sustainable career, and their outright inability to find decent jobs in many cases have fueled the angst that drives these 20- and 30-somethings to the streets.
The anti-corporatist, anti-favoritist movement is weakened, however, when its supporters misinterpret statistics, simply invent statistics, draw silly conclusions that are so backwards that they confuse everybody, and misuse slogans like Obama supporters are so adept at doing. Take this college professor (!), who somehow has decided that because college education was considered a “public good” by Americans and treated as such by our governments back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, college was “for the 99%” back then and was therefore more affordable than it is now. In case the link rots, it’s just a picture of a man holding a page he printed off from his computer, on which is typed,
I am a college professor increasingly frustrated by the incredible debt I see my students taking on.
According to the University of Minnesota, in 1968 a student working 6.2 hours a week at minimum wage would have earned enough to pay annual tuition and fees of $385.
That was back when education was considered a public good and not a private investment…
…back when education was for the 99%.
Every single thing this college professor implies and concludes about college education is completely backwards. Additionally, it is widely known throughout American society how backwards his implications and statements are, so he could only have reached his education-socialism conclusions by flagrant dishonesty or willful ignorance.
First of all, as a result of federal government policies designed to increase college enrollment and graduation rates starting in the 1960’s, a higher percentage of students attend college now than ever before. Therefore, whatever “percent” of the population “education was for” in 1968, it’s obviously “for” a larger percentage now, thanks directly to government policies. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (Table 1), in 1968, 38% of 18–19-year-olds were enrolled in college, 30% of 20–21-year-olds were, and 13% of 22–24-year-olds were. In 2010, these same numbers were 51%, 50%, and 28%, respectively (Table 1). Those are huge increases. Therefore, there never was a “back when education was for the 99%”, and it certainly isn’t true that “education was for” a larger percentage of the population at any time in the past than it is now. This college professor obviously knows this, so he is deliberately making misleading statements and committing a puzzlingly stupid misuse of the “99%” slogan.
Second, let’s address the government’s treating education as a public good. As this graphic from The Consumerist explains nicely, the federal government’s guarantee that student loans will be repaid to the loan agency no matter what, beginning with Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Higher Education Act, has caused an explosion of loans extended to the last few generations of college students. The Student Loan Marketing Association, also known as Sallie Mae, is basically a semi-private branch of the federal government that originates most student loans. Sallie Mae or another loan agency incurs very little risk in loaning tens of thousands of dollars to a student because it knows that it will receive payment for the loan on time, either by the student or the federal government or both. In other words, some major barriers to originating loans were removed by the federal government, and Sallie Mae cannot lose money from its bad decisions, so it loans to almost everybody.
Therefore, this tuition money is basically free (in the present), so everybody gets it and there’s little incentive for students to make frugal decisions. This increase in college enrollment at all price levels and the nearly complete lack of incentives for the borrowers to cut costs have contributed directly to the astronomical increase in tuition costs over the last few decades.
In other words, the guarantee the federal government places on student debt has guaranteed the need for student debt.
I suspect that the seemingly guaranteed profitability (or at least guaranteed revenue) that this government–financial sector collusion secures irrespective of the results, in combination with the dilution of the college student pool and the ongoing socialization (read: crapification) of K-12 education, contribute to the decreasing worth of a college education today. Everybody has one, and people don’t seem to be obtaining the requisite intellectual substance or life skills from college, so they paid $50,000 to $100,000 for nothing but the obligation to pay even more back over 20 years. I’d be bitter, too. I wouldn’t blame myself very much, either.
But the difference between me and the typical 99%-er is that I look at the facts and draw principled, objective conclusions instead of parroting juvenile, narcissistic, envy-based, socialist drivel because it sounds like something that could bring America one step closer to my Soviet socialist dream.
Every single thing that any government has ever or will ever touch becomes more expensive, less valuable, and less efficient. It distorts the market by distorting incentives, reducing necessary and inherent risk, and shifting costs away from their rightful bearers, among other insults. The treatment of education as a public good that everyone has a right to or at least should have access to has been the predominating contributor to its increasing price and decreasing worth. The Occupiers should be protesting the Congress and the government agencies responsible for the policies that made college so much more expensive and have removed any incentive for tuition to decrease, and not (just) a subset of the people who happen to benefit from this and hundreds of other distortions of financial markets.
The IRS is investigating how Google shifted some of its profits to offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes on them. Good for Google! I have displayed varying degrees of vocality in my disappointment or disapproval of some of Google's practices in the past, such as the creepiness and Orwellianness of GMail and its apparent caving into and even cooperation with some oppressive governments, such as the U.S., but I cheer its efforts to keep more of its own money (presumably mostly rightfully earned) while sticking it to Uncle Sam.
I don't really know if I believe all of those claims from Warren Buffett and his followers who claim that rich people (all of them? only the most savvy? only the super-rich who make money in a lot of different, atypical ways?) actually pay a lower percentage of their incomes in taxes than poor and middle-class people. I do know that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world, but on the other hand, I also know that "tax rate" does not always equal "taxes paid".
Fortunately for me, I don't care what anyone's nominal tax rate is or how much anyone actually pays in taxes; they are all immoral and they should all be repealed tomorrow. The only moral or humane solution to any tax "unfairness" or "inequality" is to remove the root of the unfairness—the capacity to tax in the first place—and make everyone's taxes equal at 0. Anyone who desires otherwise or criticizes anyone or any business for defending itself against the predations of the State is an enemy of freedom, an enemy of peace, and a champion of violent, envious, destructive social discord.
Sheldon Richman summarizes the State. It's a shame more people don't see how barbaric and completely childish Statism is in so many ways:
Most people would agree that the sign of an individual’s maturity and rationality, not to mention social skills, is her understanding that the cooperation of others must be obtained exclusively through persuasion. If you want something from someone you make an offer or an argument. You don’t demand, bully, or terrorize. And yet we tolerate an institution that demands, bullies, and terrorizes as a matter of course across a large and growing range of matters. It doesn’t demand merely that we not harm others or take their belongings. It bullies us into turning over our money for all kinds of purposes. It demands that we comply with its (ever-changing) rules about what we consume, how we manage our medical care, and in what manner we trade with others — and whom those others may be. And it increasingly terrorizes us in its brutal crusade against self-medication.
I was extremely happy to learn that Amanda Knox had finally been acquitted of murdering her roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy in 2007 when they were exchange students. You could tell that justice prevailed because Nancy Grace thought the opposite.
I thought the case against Amanda Knox was so circumstantial and sensationalized that a conviction would be a terrible injustice, and I think this is even more obvious today. As I wrote in 2009, the Statolatry, the demonization of any suspect that the State brands as guilty, and the blood-lust to convict and execute them led to the overblown media coverage, the caricaturing of Amanda Knox by nearly everyone, the calls for her head, and the eventual conviction.
What does she do about those four years of her life that she lost? What does anyone do about them? Who pays for those mistakes? Would a free market for courts and justice hold people more accountable for their mistakes or reduce the frequency of mistakes? Even the IRS gives you a refund if you overpay your income taxes. What accused murderer gets retribution after being acquitted? Why are judges, juries, lawyers, and the court systems so rarely held responsible for ruining people's lives like this? I've heard of wrongful conviction lawsuits or settlements, but I doubt any is forthcoming here.
Many people scoff (or worse) at anarchists for proposing to dismantle an entire system because it has some flaws. The reason we want to abolish monopolistic criminal justice systems is because the monopoly is the root of all its injustices. No one has any say in the standards or structure of the laws and legal systems they are held to (if you counter that voting is their say, then you have obviously not been paying attention to the laughable level of justice and accountability that politicians and their cronies in financial firms and other huge corporations have been held to in the last decade). The State is so rarely held accountable for its mistakes, including ruining millions of people's lives, like Amanda Knox, that it's a wonder that more people don't see that its lack of accountability to the people is by design, not by accident.
It’s a good thing Slate.com columnist Farhad Manjoo isn’t a historian, or he’d probably argue that the best solution to slavery in America would have been to allow blacks an equal chance to enslave white people, because that would be “fair” in his biased, uninformed, unimaginative mind.
Amazon.com is resisting the state of California’s new law that intends to force online retailers to collect sales tax for California transactions. Amazon, of course, argues this would be bad for business and the economy as a whole, and it is threatening to simply stop doing business in states that impose a sales tax on it. This is Manjoo’s take on it:
There are two powerful arguments in the tax debate between Amazon.com and the state of California. On the one hand, there’s simple fairness. For years, online retailers—which weren’t required to collect sales tax on purchases from Californians—have enjoyed a huge advantage over physical stores, which must collect sales tax. … Tax proponents also argue that the law will let the state’s businesses compete against online stores, thereby creating local jobs.
Are you fucking kidding me? Raising taxes is a good strategy to create local jobs? What is this, 1700? Is this any different from the mercantilism that the field of modern economics was basically created to refute? One group of companies must impose sales taxes on its customers, and another group doesn’t, and this puts the former group at a competitive disadvantage. The only solution you propose to remedy this asymmetry is to impose equal taxes on the latter group. That doesn’t seem a little odd to you? There doesn’t seem to be any proposal missing from this debate? No other solution strikes you as even worth mentioning? No, guess not.
And then there’s the other side of the argument: ARE YOU KIDDING, YOU WANT TO RAISE MY PRICES, WTF???
In other words, this isn’t an argument between two equally reasonable positions. It’s an argument between reason and emotion, between your brain and your gut. Amazon has no intellectually sound arguments against collecting taxes from residents—by all ethical and civic standards, its position is unsound. Instead, Amazon is counting on our emotions prevailing…. [emphasis added]
Are you motherfucking kidding me? Amazon has no reasonable arguments against collecting taxes, and its anti-tax position is unsound by all ethical and civic standards? Since I can pretty well guess the type of intellect that would arrive at this interpretation of the Amazon/California sales tax debate, I am going to guess that Farhad Manjoo deems all arguments against online sales taxes unethical and unsound, not just the particular ones Amazon is making and not just in the state of California.
To make it clear which other arguments against online sales taxes I am referring to (and all taxes that have ever been or ever will be imagined, proposed, debated, or implemented in the history of the universe), let me state the only argument that is needed: All taxation is theft, and all taxes are therefore unjust. All tax collectors, tax bill writers, tax imposers, tax renewers, tax failing-to-opposers, and tax supporters are either thieves or accessories to theft and would be dealt with, in a just society, in proportion to the severity of their crimes. Taxation is nothing more than legalized theft by a professional criminal class, a gang of thieves writ large. It is a metaphysical impossibility for any tax to be the slightest bit just by any consistent, logical, moral, or ethical standard, in any situation or for any purpose whatsoever.
Now that that’s clear, and since Manjoo claims to be all for reason and logic and against emotion and inconsistency, let’s muse at what else he must consider unethical, unreasonable, and unsound for ethics’ and consistency’s sake. I’ve already mentioned that Manjoo’s version of logic would deem American abolitionists’ anti-slavery position unethical and unsound because abolishing slavery would prevent northern whites from enslaving people like their southern counterparts did and prevent blacks from enslaving whites as equally as they were enslaved. Also, the Jews in Nazi Germany were using only emotion and not reason when they opposed the Nuremberg Laws instead of supporting equally oppressive laws for all. (Godwin demerits: -5.) According to Manjoo’s logic, the solution to our seemingly never-ending War on Terror and the terrorism
it inspires that forced us to wage it is for some Middle Eastern countries to invade the Unites States, kill thousands of civilians, take out a few of our war leaders, and overthrow our government, because obviously two (million) wrongs make a right. Instead of eliminating the regulations that restrain some individuals and businesses but provide loopholes for large, powerful, well-connected corporations, Manjoo must favor ever-increasing restraints to trade until no one is allowed to conduct any economic activity (except the government, of course). Instead of simply legalizing prostitution and marijuana, Manjoo must favor outlawing sex after a date in which the man pays for dinner and must long for a return to alcohol prohibition, because under current law, prostitutes and marijuana growers and sellers suffer from “unethical” and “unfair” disadvantages. Manjoo’s twisted version of logic and consistency also dictates that violence against women, gays, and children be combatted by fostering a more violent, aggressive culture on all sides rather than striving to eliminate as much violence as possible in the first place.
I think Farhad Manjoo’s ideal society must be that of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, in which everybody is hindered equally by a wise and all-knowing State.
If people like Farhad Manjoo had any influence in society, we would live in a world in which a parasitic political class tried to take as much wealth from its citizens as it could, demagogues spewed rhetoric of fairness and equality while swindling everybody, the masses blindly followed them and ignorantly parroted their slogans while failing to scrutinize their policies with any intelligence or skepticism, and a fascist police state imprisoned world-record numbers of innocent citizens for victimless crimes while fostering an ever more violent, discordant, divided, intolerant, uncooperative culture.
Manjoo has the gall to continue typing after assaulting his readers with such an affront to logic and decency. He delves into some legalistic arguments about Amazon’s “presence” in the state of California and the California laws that should make its sales taxable, so, you know, of course, if some politicians in the past voted for and judges in the past approved of various tax laws—politicians and judges whom possibly a very small minority of current California voters have actually voted for and tax laws that possibly no one in the state of California or elsewhere was actually allowed to vote on—then those taxes are “fair” for all of eternity or until our wise and gracious overlords take it upon themselves to repeal them for us. He dismisses Amazon’s position as either disingenuous or childish or both, because some politicians and judges have said Amazon’s sales should be taxable. That honestly seems to be the extent of his argument. What an apologist, Statolatrist boob.
Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Paul Misener (aptronym alert!), put out a statement that borrows from the rhetoric of the Tea Party. The ballot initiative is “a referendum on jobs and investment in California,” he said, and “with unemployment at well over 11 percent, Californians deserve a voice and a choice about jobs, investment, and the state’s economic future.” If Amazon spends substantial sums to push such a ballot measure next fall, it’s hard to see how it could lose. The ads write themselves: Don’t let greedy lawmakers tax your Internet purchases!
Though I doubt most voters would care to pick apart such a populist message, such a sound bite falls apart under scrutiny. For example, the idea that Amazon is an “out-of-state” retailer in California is a complete fiction.
You see, opposition to sales taxes is all emotion and demagoguery. There is no economic, rational, or moral argument behind it.
The reasons for Amazon’s tax battle are obvious. It’s not that it can’t institute a sensible tax collection regime, but that it won’t, because it has no incentive to do so. Amazon’s position may be indefensible, but it has a trump card. Raise your hand if you want higher prices. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Gee, an absence of taxes promotes economic activity because prices can remain lower. Companies that don’t have to impose sales taxes have an economic advantage over those that do. Our entire country and especially the state of California seem to be suffering from a deficiency in economic activity (and also personal savings), so I wonder what we could do to spur some more economic activity and help people sustain or augment their bank accounts. Maybe ELIMINATE TAXES INSTEAD OF IMPOSING NEW ONES?
I know it isn’t fair to berate this poor liberal columnist because he suffers from a lack of imagination that would allow him to envision any activity, personal or economic, private or public, that could be conducted between two consenting parties that didn’t require the benevolent hand of the State enabling and supporting it, so he could never imagine supporting any measure that would decrease government revenue or decrease government spending, but I honestly thought that it would have occurred to someone with a job that affords him a personal computer and an internet connection that one solution to the sales tax inconsistency that exists between internet and brick-and-mortar stores is to ELIMINATE EVERYONE’S TAXES! Is that too abominable to even mention? Is that idea so abhorrent that it never even occurred to him? I wouldn’t be surprised. It would never occur to him that government (particularly, California’s state government) is a huge part of our economic problems and that any measure to decrease its revenue should at least be considered.
The bottom line is that Amazon’s transactions with its customers are mutually consensual exchanges that harm no one, and the absence of sales taxes on them also harms no one. If others are harmed by other taxes, then the solution is to eliminate those harmful taxes rather than attempting to harm everyone equally.
Robert Heinlein famously said, “The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” Manjoo wants politicians that you didn’t vote for to control your behavior, control your money, and control every company’s behavior and money as well. He has no good intentions on this issue, and his ignorance or bias is not an excuse. People like him are dangerous and uncivil, and we are surrounded by them.
I liked this NPR report by Shankar Vedantam about friends and communities helping each other after (and even before) natural disasters and the failure of government agencies to help them very much when it really matters. The article on the website is similar to the radio report, but with more information, so I quote from that:
When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, one victim was political scientist Daniel Aldrich. He had just moved to New Orleans. Late one August night, there was a knock on the door.
"It was a neighbor who knew that we had no idea of the realities of the Gulf Coast life," said Aldrich, who is now a political scientist at Purdue University in Indiana. He "knocked on our door very late at night, around midnight on Saturday night, and said, 'Look, you've got small kids — you should really leave.' "
The knock on the door was to prove prophetic. It changed the course of Aldrich's research and, in turn, is changing the way many experts now think about disaster preparedness.
Officials in New Orleans that Saturday night had not yet ordered an evacuation, but Aldrich trusted the neighbor who knocked on his door. He bundled his family into a car and drove to Houston.
"Without that information we never would've left," Aldrich said. I think we would've been trapped."
In fact, by the time people were told to leave, it was too late and thousands of people got stuck.
Social Connections And Survival: Neighbors Matter
Because of his own experience in Katrina, Aldrich started thinking about how neighbors help one another during disasters. He decided to visit disaster sites around the world, looking for data.
Aldrich's findings show that ambulances and firetrucks and government aid are not the principal ways most people survive during — and recover after — a disaster. His data suggest that while official help is useful — in clearing the water and getting the power back on in a place such as New Orleans after Katrina, for example — government interventions cannot bring neighborhoods back, and most emergency responders take far too long to get to the scene of a disaster to save many lives. Rather, it is the personal ties among members of a community that determine survival during a disaster, and recovery in its aftermath.
When Aldrich visited villages in India hit by the giant 2004 tsunami, he found that villagers who fared best after the disaster weren't those with the most money, or the most power. They were people who knew lots of other people — the most socially connected individuals. In other words, if you want to predict who will do well after a disaster, you look for faces that keep showing up at all the weddings and funerals.
"Those individuals who had been more involved in local festivals, funerals and weddings, those were individuals who were tied into the community, they knew who to go to, they knew how to find someone who could help them get aid," Aldrich says.
The Japan Example: 'I Was Just Running Around And Talking To People'
In Japan, Aldrich found that firetrucks and ambulances didn't save the most lives after earthquakes. Neighbors did.
"In Kobe in 1995, if you knew where your neighbors slept, because the earthquake was very early in the morning, you knew where to dig in the rubble to find them early enough in the process for them to survive," he says.
Because of his research, when a powerful earthquake struck Japan this March, Aldrich was certain that good neighbors would play a decisive role.
[In Michinori Watanabe's effort to save his father's life,] why not just call the Japanese equivalent of 911?
"At that time all the electricity was down, and the telephone land lines were down and my mobile was not working, so there was no other way than I myself go out running around, asking people," Watanabe said.
Local Knowledge Is Key
Not only did no professionals come to help Watanabe those first few minutes, there was no sign of them the first day.
Watanabe emptied his house of water and blankets and started helping neighbors who were homeless and shivering. They were still without help days later.
It's this passion for a local community and granular knowledge about who needs what that makes large-scale government interventions ineffective by comparison. It's even true when it comes to long-term recovery.
Beloit College economist Emily Chamlee-Wright has studied why some communities in New Orleans came back more quickly than others.
"One of the communities that in the post-Katrina context was the most successful was the Mary Queen of Vietnam community in New Orleans East," said Chamlee-Wright. "It's important to recognize that one of the reasons why they were so successful is that they ignored government warnings not to come back and start rebuilding too soon."
'The Second Tsunami'
Governments and big nongovernmental organizations — which are keenly aware of the big picture — are often blind to neighborhood dynamics.
In Southeast Asia, Aldrich found that well-intentioned NGOs actually hurt the fishing communities they were trying to help. They saw the damage caused by the tsunami in fishing villages and started giving new boats to all the fishermen.
"Fishing is a very social activity. It is organized, really, not in a hierarchy but in a network," Aldrich said. "So you have someone who drives the boat, the person who steers, you have two people fishing in the water, some person who carries the net and some person who goes — takes the fish to market. Once every person is given their own boat, you've gone from five people working together to each individual working by themselves."
Fishermen who used to work together now became competitors. Trust broke down. Fights broke out.
"Some of the local activists I talked to called this 'the second tsunami,' " Aldrich said.
The problem isn't that experts are dumb. It's that communities are not the sum of their roads, schools and malls. They are the sum of their relationships.
The Japanese government seems to get this. The government there actually funds block parties to bring communities together. [Um, isn't that kind of missing the point? Anyway...]
That might never happen in America, but Aldrich thinks each of us can do something on our own: Instead of practicing earthquake drills and building bunkers, we could reach out and make more friends among our co-workers and neighbors.
"Get more involved in neighborhood events," Aldrich said. "If there is a planning club, a homeowners association — if there are sports clubs nearby, PTAs — those groups have us in contact with people we wouldn't normally meet and help us build up these stocks of trust and reciprocity."
"Really, at the end of the day, the people who will save you, and the people who will help you," he added, "they're usually neighbors."
One thing I will mention about the radio segment is the introduction that the All Things Considered host gives before Vedantam begins narrating his report: She says, "New research shows there's something more important than rescue crews and government aid." Umm, well, obviously Aldrich's and Chamlee-Wright's research is new and is interesting, but research on the cooperation and altruism that people exhibit after natural disasters, the feelings of purpose and liberation that people feel as their communities rise together after disasters, the intro-level economic fact that "price gouging" saves lives and expedites recovery, and the spontaneous order that always exists absent government interference, during good times and bad (especially bad), is far from new.
Hat tip: Peter Boettke
This video seems to be popular with the kids around the internets this week. It's about Galco's Soda Pop Stop in Los Angeles, a small, independent soda pop store that seems to sell mostly drinks that I've never heard of, many of which I'm assuming are also made by small and independent businesses. The video's length surpasses my usual limit of tolerance for a Youtube video, but it's well worth the 13 minutes, especially if you are as opposed to big government and its collusion with big businesses as I am (and its proprietor is). But it's also fascinating because I never fathomed there were so many small, independent soda pop makers, that still used glass bottles, that still used cane sugar, and created so many different flavors of drinks. They're like microbreweries today, though I imagine not nearly as numerous. As a southerner, I've had about all of the phrase "soda pop" that I can stand for the next year or two (though it somehow seems more fitting to call them soda pop makers than soft drink makers...they have that old-timey, family-business feel), so here's the video:
Starting at about the 5:30 mark, the owner made some comments that motivated me to blag about it. Regarding high-fructose corn syrup vs. cane sugar:
Everything prepared in this country has corn syrup in it, and it's totally unnecessary. The largest single crop in the world is cane sugar. It's larger than corn and wheat put together. It takes three times less sugar to sweeten with than it does corn syrup. I mean, take a look around at the diabeetus. You'll never get an allergy from sugar. You're going to get an allergy because there's a spore in corn syrup that cannot be refined out, and people have allergies to corn products. So why would you use corn as a sweetener?
Once a year, Coca-Cola makes a kosher Coke, just before Passover. The kosher one will be cane sugar, it'll have a yellow cap, it'll have a U in the upper left-hand corner with a circle around it, and the label will still say "corn syrup"; it won't be changed. Try the two side by side and then tell me. The one with the cane sugar just goes "Pop!" and it explodes and the flavor just "Wham!", it's delicious. And the one with the corn syrup is like [blows raspberry with tongue].
Regarding big businesses vs. small businesses:
Big business loves big government. They just take the marketplace up, eliminate all the little guys, they run them out of business, and then they jack the prices up and control the market. But you look at the candy section, it's Nestle's [sic] Hershey's, and Mars, or you look at the soda pop market, it's Coke and Pepsi. My thought had always been that what I wanted to do was do business with other businesses my size. To help them become unique businesses. And that's exactly what's happening. And what's really interesting about it is that out of all the things that we sell wholesale, one business a mile away from the other...what they're selling is totally different. One restaurant we sell to, they love the floral sodas, and another place, they can't give them away, but they're doing the Red Ribbons. And I'm going, "Isn't this interesting, that everybody has found their own level and their own niche, and they've done it on their own." The important thing is to set yourself apart and provide your customers with something that nobody else has.
Regarding the California Refund Value (bottle recycling) law:
Who do you think passed the RV laws? ... It wasn't written for the consumer, and it certainly wasn't written to keep this country "green". It was written so Coke and Pepsi wouldn't have to wash a bottle, and they wouldn't have to make recyclable bottles [I think he means "reusable", as in refillable?], and they could transfer the cost to the consumer.
I called the recycling center when I got started, and I said, "Listen, I want to put a recycling center in [my store]. They [the customers] bring them back to me, and I'll give them the money, and I'll sell them some more sodas." "Oh, I'm sorry, you can't do that because you have a recycling center two blocks away." I said, "Yeah, they don't give the full price, and I want to give the full price to the customer to get them back to sell them some more!" And he says, "Well, if you did anything like that, you'd be in restraint of trade. And you could probably get sued by the state."
If we were really caring about the environment, we would have reuse, not recycling.
Wish I could go there. I don't even generally like soft drinks, but I'd love to try some of those unique flavors, and I'd love to give this man business.
Because in a free society, unfettered corporations would prey on poor, defenseless individuals and extort them for illegitimate and non-consensual “protection fees”July 14, 2011 – 3:16 pm by John
Yankees fan Christian Lopez, who caught Derek Jeter's 3000th career hit, which was a home run, could owe an extra $14,000 in income taxes next year due to the value of the seats and other perks the Yankees rewarded him in exchange for giving them the ball back and not selling it to them.
Travesties like this should provide libertarians with insight into why Democrats and Republicans are so angry at the realm of politics and economics in general and why they direct so much vitriol and derision at libertarians: they must know that their beloved system of taxing nearly every single activity by nearly every single person within an arbitrary geographic area, in order to "help", "protect", and "provide for" their captives, is a complete farce that destroys far more wealth than it even pretends to create.
The ridiculous tax bill that could befall an individual for such an innocuous trade, borne of sheer luck, is just an extreme example of the harm that every single tax in the history of the world has done not just to the taxed but also to the untaxed who might have traded with them. The State declares itself sole arbiter of justice and sole protector of a group of people, and in order to fund its maniacal obsession with controlling ever more aspects of its subjects' lives, it says, basically, "Oh, it looks like there's monetary value in that—we'll take some of that money and leave some of it for you. You know, to protect your rights and your property." It is not possible to support such a ridiculous, hypocritical, violent, larcenous racket without crippling ignorance at best or disingenuousness or malice at worst.
The existence of such a racket also makes it obvious why libertarians get so angry at Statist idiots who think income taxes are a good idea.
Reading that CNN article reveals something of the lengths that Statolatrists will go to to justify their beloved income tax system:
However, if it were construed as a gift, it would not be taxable, Columbia University law professor Michael J. Graetz told the Times.
"The legal question of whether it is a gift or prize is whether the transferor is giving the property out of detached and disinterested generosity," Graetz said. "It's hard for me, not being a Yankee fan, to think of the Yankees as being in the business of exercising generosity to others, but there's a reasonable case to be made that these were given out of generosity."
How generous of the wise and glorious IRS to leave the exchange of gifts outside of the realm of its predations. Will Christian Lopez have to hire a tax lawyer to support his non-payment of $14,000 to the IRS for his gifts? More money and labor wasted. It shouldn't matter whether his rewards were a gift or not. It is also immaterial whether Lopez himself or the Yankees pay whatever taxes are necessary (which they will, in all likelihood); the IRS is still wasting resources, violating the rights of its subjects, and destroying wealth by even existing or taxing anything.
For his part, Lopez is being just as magnanimous with the IRS as he was with Jeter.
"Worse comes to worse, I'll have to pay the taxes," he told the Daily News. "... The IRS has a job to do, so I'm not going to hold it against them, but it would be cool if they helped me out a little on this."
Oh, how surprising, he's part of the problem. Fuck him, then.
You might have read or heard about this story from Florida in which a 95-year-old wheelchair-bound woman was required to remove her adult diaper to be inspected by the Transportation Security Administration last month. You might not have heard that the 95-year-old woman was actually calm and acquiescent during the whole ordeal but that it was her daughter who was (rightly) outraged and filed a complaint with the the Department of Homeland Security.
There are probably a minority of people, but still perhaps a sizable number of them, out there who would hear of the woman's agreeable compliance with such undressing and humiliation as being central to a discussion of whether this security examination of her was appropriate. "She obviously was fine with it, so there was nothing wrong with examining her in that way," they might say. That would be missing the point entirely. The reason such invasive security measures are completely wrong is related to the reason that the very existence of the TSA is wrong.
The State has to implement one-size-fits-all plans and rules and regulations and procedures for everyone, which Statists claim as an advantage but libertarians know is a fundamental part of its immorality and destructiveness. The State naturally treats most people in most cases as guilty until proven innocent. (The requirement for the State to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt in court and the instruction to jurors to treat every defendant as innocent until proven guilty are great as far as they go, but they obviously don't extend to the things the State itself does, such as forcing an invasive and inefficient security administration on its subjects or, you know, conscripting jurors for mandatory jury service.) All governments fail to plan for contingencies or inadvertently create them (in the case of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, by inspiring murderous Muslim hatred via its aggressive wars and other military interventions and by outlawing the private provision of security measures by each individual airline as it saw fit). All governments then overreact to the problems they created with more government "solutions" instead of removing the policies that caused the problems in the first place (which in this case was creating the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA). And clearly, no government is actually accountable to its citizens because its monopoly on the use of force protects it from market processes (the only truly democratic processes) and thereby from losing its revenue stream and its "customers" (at least for a while).
The result in the case of the TSA is that instead of racially profiling Middle Eastern–looking men and ignoring old or young white, black, and Asian females, which is probably what all or at least some airlines would do in their own security measures, the stupid government institutes a one-size-fits-all policy of suspecting everyone equally (or, at least, randomly) and violating people's rights and privacy just to prove that it is too fair and open-minded to act with common sense. The government has inspired such hatred and continues inspire it by invading, bombing, killing, and surely terrorizing innocent civilians halfway across the world that it still thinks it needs to violate the privacy and dignity of people who obviously aren't going to kill anyone or blow up anything.
Within the context of only airports and security measures, it doesn't matter if the old cripple in that story had a problem with removing her diaper or not; what matters is that the TSA has ever violated people (young and old) in such a way and that it is both invasive and incompetent enough to think that that would ever be necessary. The fact that an agency such as the TSA has such powers, wants such powers, and claims to need such powers is proof that it should be abolished and never should have been created at all.
Finally, within the broader context of the Imperial Federal Government's foreign and domestic policies and actions, it is also true that the existence of the TSA is (a symptom of) the problem. A supposedly free country with a government that cares about its citizens' freedom and well-being would not be waging non-defensive wars and killing thousands of its own men and women and millions of foreign ones, inspiring retaliation that puts its own civilians in danger and creating the need for extensive, invasive security measures just to fly on a plane. Everything about the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security is illegitimate and immoral, regardless of some lady's sheep-like acquiescence to their demands.
The New York Times reports that American consumers no longer want to splurge on environmentally friendly but more expensive products now that their financial outlook isn't so good.
But America’s eco-consciousness, it turns out, is fickle. As recession gripped the country, the consumer’s love affair with green products, from recycled toilet paper to organic foods to hybrid cars, faded like a bad infatuation. While farmers’ markets and Prius sales are humming along now, household product makers like Clorox just can’t seem to persuade mainstream customers to buy green again.
Sales of [Clorox] Green Works have fallen to about $60 million a year, and those of other similar products from major brands like Arm & Hammer, Windex, Palmolive, Hefty and Scrubbing Bubbles are sputtering. “Every consumer says, ‘I want to help the environment, I’m looking for eco-friendly products,’ ” said David Donnan, a partner in the consumer products practice at the consulting firm A. T. Kearney. “But if it’s one or two pennies higher in price, they’re not going to buy it. There is a discrepancy between what people say and what they do.”
Indeed, outside a Whole Foods Market in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, June Shellene, 60, said she did not buy green products as often as she did a few years ago.
“People are so freaked out by what is happening in the world,” she said, before loading her groceries into a Toyota Prius. Of green products, she said, “That’s something you buy and think about when things are going swimmingly.”
As with the arts and with charity, the strength of a society's conviction to and ability to support environmental conscientiousness depends largely on its economic prosperity. Investment in the arts, in charity, and environmentally friendly products and practices requires prior profitability, just like investment in business projects requires prior profits, and that's not just business profits. It requires that people have substantial leeway in their finances, meaning that after taking care of their necessities, paying their debts, and putting away money for saving (which I guess you could call personal profit), they still have money left over to indulge in "environmental" charity or to "invest" in their and their descendants' environmental well-being.
There are plenty of good arguments to be made over whether the conduct of business in the first place causes undue environmental harm and whether people's priorities are skewed because they put so many things before environmental conscientiousness. But those wouldn't change the facts that people do make certain sacrifices when money is tight or the future looks less bright and that individual profitability is necessary for many people to invest in products or practices that cost them more in the present (monetarily) but (are believed to) provide more benefit in the long run (environmentally).
This reminds me of what Lew Rockwell once wrote: "Crush an economy and you crush civilization."
I have been much more interested in the various and sundry reactions, mainly from Americans, to Osama bin Laden's killing than to the news itself. The whole situation ought to inspire quite a bit of mixed feelings from any libertarian, and even from any sensible, sympathetic human being.
Notwithstanding the reminders from the likes of Noam Chomsky that the FBI (and, I presume, the CIA?) has no proof that Osama bin Laden orchestrated or ordered the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Eric Margolis's matter-of-fact assertion that "Bin Laden long claimed he had no role in 9/11," to me it seems extremely, vanishingly unlikely that bin Laden was not a murderer. Many Muslims whose judgment isn't clouded by all-consuming hatred of the Great Satan recognize that bin Laden killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. In this case, as with presidents and dictators who are accurately called murderers for the deaths they ordered, I call bin Laden a murderer if he never pulled the trigger or pushed the detonator that killed any innocent. Without having analyzed any of the FBI's, CIA's, or anyone else's raw intelligence data or other evidence, from my blagging chair I would put bin Laden's likelihood of guilt as high as O.J.'s. Besides, he has loudly and proudly claimed responsibility for many non-9/11 murders.
If he is a murderer, then isn't death a suitable punishment for his crimes? Doesn't one forfeit his right to life when he maliciously (i.e., not in self-defense) kills innocent people? I think libertarian justice theory is even divided on this issue: some say no one should kill another except in self-defense, some say taking the life of a proven murderer is justified, some say the alleged killer must be convicted in some type of trial according to the legal (or anarchic protection and insurance) system of the victims or their representatives. I'm probably biased by emotion and circumstances, but I tend to think that every relative or friend of anyone killed by bin Laden's terrorist attacks, which includes people of many nationalities and includes more than the 9/11 attacks, would be justified in seeking retribution in the form of retaliative killing, given that his guilt is proven. Some, including myself, say that his guilt is already proven, so the formality of a trial might not be strictly necessary. A trial would be preferable, though, for several reasons, as follows.
You could say that our Imperial Federal Government was acting as the representative of bin Laden's thousands of American and non-American victims and exacting their revenge (justice?) for them, given its superior resources. However, I don't think the State has any more justification to take someone's life than it has to do anything else, no matter how justified that State's subjects would be individually and no matter how heinous the crime. (I vehemently oppose the death penalty because the State should definitely not have permission to kill anyone, less so than any of its other activities.) If Chomsky and Margolis are right, then the Imperial Federal Government would not be justified in punishing or seeking justice against bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks. If most other people are right about 9/11 or at least about the thousands of other people bin Laden has murdered, then those people and their governments would be right in seeking justice or revenge (not the same thing). Therefore, I cannot conclude that it was necessarily right for the State to take bin Laden's life, but killing a mass murderer per se certainly isn't the worst thing the Obama regime could have done.
What should it have done, then? All of bin Laden's victims and their military representatives, if you want to call them that (they don't represent me, that's for damn sure), had four options as I see it: do nothing about him, assassinate him, issue drone bombings and missile launches in the hopes that you kill him (and inevitably kill innocents in the process), or capture and try him for his murders. First, what were the legal and practical options the President had?
Professor Jon Silverman discusses and weighs all the legal avenues Obama (and Bush) could have taken regarding bin Laden. I liked that column both because and in spite of the fact that he doesn't draw any solid conclusions.
This article by Emma Mustich of Salon.com, "Was killing bin Laden legal?", is a thorough but brief must-read, even to those who recognize that legality rarely has anything to do with right and wrong. But if you're going to talk about bringing someone to trial, then the realities of law and legality are unavoidable. Mustich writes:
Der Spiegel spoke Tuesday to University of Cologne professor Claus Kress, who questioned the legality of the terrorist leader's assassination, insisting that justice is "not achieved through summary executions, but through a punishment that is meted out at the end of a trial." According to the Spiegel:
Kress says the normal way of handling a man who is sought globally for commissioning murder would be to arrest him, put him on trial and ultimately convict him. In the context of international law, military force can be used in the arrest of a suspect, and this may entail gun fire or situations of self-defense that, in the end, leave no other possibility than to kill a highly dangerous and highly suspicious person.
Elsewehere in the media, James Downie quoted an explanation offered by one of his New Republic colleagues, who does believe the killing of bin Laden was legally justified:
"There are targeted killing issues where the legal background is complicated,” says Brookings fellow (and New Republic contributor) Benjamin Wittes. But, as it turns out, “[t]his isn’t one of them.” One week after the September 11 attacks, Wittes explains, President George W. Bush signed Public Law 107-40, in which Congress authorized the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” No one fit this description more closely than Osama bin Laden. (By contrast, the NATO missile strike in Tripoli that allegedly killed Muammar Qaddafi’s son Seif Al Arab and three of his young grandchildren this past weekend has elicited greater controversy, because the U.N. resolution authorizing a no-fly zone over Libya, among many other differences from 107-40, did not include an authorization of force against Qaddafi or his family.)
For their parts, co-founders of the University of Virginia's Center for National Security Law John Norton Moore and Robert F. Turner have argued that bin Laden's killing was legal according to the U.N. charter as well as Security Council Resolution 1373, passed within a month of Sept. 11, 2001, which emphasises "the need to combat by all means ... threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts." Turner adds: "The targeting of Osama bin Laden is no more an assassination than was the intentional downing in 1943 of a transport aircraft carrying Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Killing the enemy during armed conflict is not murder."
Finally, professor Scott Silliman, who is executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security at Duke, told the Christian Science Monitor he has no doubt that bin Laden was "a lawful target"; the CSM also spoke to American University's Stephen Vladeck, who expressed satisfaction that the U.S. government had "d[one] everything by the book."
Glenn Greenwald (surprise) exposes the lie that bin Laden was armed or fighting back when he was captured or shot, making the SEALs' shooting of him definitively non-defensive.
Thus do some scholars consider the targeted killing legally justified because, (a) he's a murderer and, (b) it's war, while some reject that conclusion because killing would only be justified in immediate self-defense, even in war.
It is important to remember that, like it or not and agree with it or not, the Imperial Federal Government is at war with Al Qaeda and the jihadists. Many people recognize that as horrible and murderous as the jihadists are, they are waging their war in response to American foreign policy specifically, not wealth or freedom. Even so, it is possible and, I think, useful to consider this war on terrorism and the hunt for bin Laden from the perspective of those fighting the war and those who support it (including the Statist and militarist legalities discussed above). Osama bin Laden did declare war on the "Great Satan" and all that entailed for him (innocents, military, and politicians). Therefore, it is at least possible to understand why military leaders would use any and all means necessary to cripple the threat (short of killing innocents; that is never understandable except as an honest mistake).
Is it a given that in a war, the leaders must not be targeted for death? Churchill and the American leaders did not regret the decision to hold Nazi war criminals on trial (more on that below), but was von Stauffenberg unjustified in attempting to assassinate Hitler? What if some French or British or American or Russian or Polish people helped him do it? (Maybe they did, I don't know; I can't stand Tom Cruise.) Would that go against the doctrines of war? Would some Allied soldiers have been wrong in shooting at or bombing Hitler or Himmler or Goebbels or Göring? Why in the world would that have been a bad thing? Was the aforementioned downing of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's airplane wrong? Why is it acceptable in a time of war to kill other soldiers but not target their leaders for assassination? Should French and Polish civilians and soldiers have tried to arrest every Nazi who marched into their countries instead of killing them? No, okay, then why not try to kill military leaders instead of arresting them (and instead of inflicting civilian casualties)? What if, instead of fire-bombing Dresden, the Allied leaders put together a team of Navy SEALs to assassinate only top Nazi military brass? How could that possibly have been a bad thing? Perhaps only the initiator of the murders, an unprovoked, non-defensive murderer, can rightly be retaliated against with killing? Can't these questions be extended to any war and any war leaders? And make no mistake about it: Osama bin Laden was a war leader, according to himself and just about every government on Earth.
Therefore, attempting to put myself in the shoes of those engaged in this war, I can at least understand the decision to kill instead of arrest. Perhaps, as in any situation, if you are not shooting in immediate self-defense, then shooting is not permissible? Perhaps it is not considered acceptable for leaders to try to assassinate each other, whereas it would be justifiable for individual victims, their families and friends, or conscientious objectors on either side to assassinate a leader believed to be a past and future murderer? If so, then it would be acceptable to assassinate a murderous American president, which it decidedly is not.
I am left to conclude that within the realm of this war and considered from the perspective and interests of those fighting it, targeted assassination is understandable, but from a consistent, objective, self-defensive and not offensive, justice-seeking standpoint, capturing and trying bin Laden would have been preferable. If some stupid American jury or biased international jury found him not guilty, which would be a plainly incorrect decision, only then would I consider it justifiable to go all Dexter on him and bring him to justice where the "law" couldn't. (Keep in mind that any jury could only find bin Laden not guilty for the purpose of sending the message, "Well, American presidents and generals are more guilty, so I won't convict him until they have been," which is irrelevant and immaterial to a murder trial.)
I’m the hypocrite here. I’m stridently against extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, targeted assassination, etc. I’d wager most of you are, too.
But when I heard that Osama had been killed, I’ll be damned if I didn’t think “Thank God that monster is gone.” Sure, in my ideal world he’d be brought back to the US, tried, and then imprisoned for the rest of his life. But you know what? I can not honestly say I give a damned that he took a double tap to the skull. Sorry. And I’d be also willing to bet that is where most of you all are- this may or may not have been legal, but you don’t give a shit, because that scumbag is at the bottom of an ocean somewhere and got what he deserved.
At an initial, emotional level, it's hard to disagree. I do feel hypocritical and inconsistent. I feel glad and relieved that he's dead. I almost wish I didn't. It's hard to see anything morally wrong with the retributive killing of a proven murderer per se. But I'm still forced to conclude that any killing not in self-defense should be avoided. Most especially, the State should not be permitted to get away with extralegal, extrajudicial actions of any kind. In this I do see many things morally and practically wrong with the State even having the powers or capabilities to carry out targeted assassinations, not to mention all the other things that any State with such powers will do (is already doing!). This is why I made the disclaimer above that the Obama regime killing bin Laden per se isn't entirely bad, but many things implied and entailed by that decision and action are very bad.
What does the bin Laden capture-and-kill imply about the Imperial Federal Government's boundaries (legal and moral) and the leeway it takes with handling justice, whether legal or not and whether towards American citizens or not? Could you imagine needing to quote anyone other than Glenn Greenwald on this issue?
My principal objection to it [the "bin Laden exception"] -- aside from the fact that I think those principles shouldn't be violated because they're inherently right (which is what makes them principles) -- is that there's no principled way to confine it to bin Laden. If this makes sense for bin Laden, why not for other top accused Al Qaeda leaders? Why shouldn't the same thing be done to Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen who has been allegedly linked by the Government to far more attacks over the last several years than bin Laden? At Guantanamo sits Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged operational mastermind of 9/11 -- who was, if one believes the allegations, at least as responsible for the attack as bin Laden and about whom there is as little perceived dobut; why shouldn't we just take him out back today and shoot him in the head and dump his corpse into the ocean rather than trying him?
Once you embrace the bin Laden Exception, how does it stay confined to him? Isn't it necessarily the case that you're endorsing the right of the U.S. Government to treat any top-level Terrorists in similar fashion? Again, this isn't an argument that the bin Laden killing was illegal; it very well may have been legal, depending on the facts. But if we just cheer for this without caring about those facts, isn't it clear that we're endorsing a dangerous unfettered power -- one that runs afoul of multiple principles which opponents of the Bush/Cheney template have long defended?
For me, the better principles are those established by the Nuremberg Trials, and numerous other war crimes trials accorded some of history's most gruesome monsters. It should go without saying for all but the most intellectually and morally stunted that none of this has anything to do with sympathy for bin Laden. Just as was true for objections to the torture regime or Guantanamo or CIA black sites, this is about the standards to which we and our Government adhere, who we are as a nation and a people.
The Allied powers could easily have taken every Nazi war criminal they found and summarily executed them without many people caring. But they didn't do that, and the reason they didn't is because how the Nazis were punished would determine not only the character of the punishing nations, but more importantly, would set the standards for how future punishment would be doled out. Here was the very first paragraph uttered by lead Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson when he stood up to deliver his Opening Statement:
The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.
And here was the last thing he said:
Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance. It does not expect that you can make war impossible. It does expect that your juridical action will put the forces of international law, its precepts, its prohibitions and, most of all, its sanctions, on the side of peace, so that men and women of good will, in all countries, may have "leave to live by no man's leave, underneath the law."
[all emphasis Greenwald's]
I actually believe in those precepts. And if those principles were good enough for those responsible for Nazi atrocities, they are good enough for the likes of Osama bin Laden. It's possible they weren't applicable here; if he couldn't be safely captured because of his attempted resistence, then capturing him wasn't a reasonable possibility. But it seems increasingly clear that the objective here was to kill, not capture him, no matter what his conduct was. That, at the very least, raises a whole host of important questions about what we endorse and who we are that deserves serious examination -- much more than has been prompted by this celebrated killing.
It's not a good precedent, and it doesn't speak highly of the moral character of the leaders who issued the order.
Before concluding with what bin Laden's death implies for the future, I wanted to revisit the natural emotional responses of John Cole and myself that I touched on above and those of others around the world.
Perhaps my relatively sheltered, comfortable life and my lack of exposure to non-fictional death and violence bias this feeling of mine, but I can't completely relate to those who say they find nothing (or very little) positive in any human's death. For example, some commenters at Bob Murphy's blag, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, Robert Higgs, and surely thousands of others around the interwebs and millions of others around the world find no joy or happiness in the death of even a mass murderer, and that isn't just people who adored bin Laden and supported his ends and his means. As I said above, I couldn't describe my reaction as joy or happiness when I first saw the news on TV, but I was definitely glad and relieved. Still positive emotions, but I just didn't feel strongly about it. Maybe that's only because our own murderer-in-chief ordered the mission and would receive much praise and credit for it.
One thing I was positively disgusted by and not conflicted at all about was the celebration from Americans that Sunday night. In Washington, D.C., in New York City, at the Mets–Phillies game, which is the main thing I was watching that night. It was pure collectivist, militarist, nationalist jingoism. The first thing that the footage of the impromptu celebrations and chants on Pennsylvania Avenue reminded me of was the audiences at the hangings and beheadings on the TV show The Tudors. They were (depicted as) bloodthirsty, barbaric animals who savored the sight of the king's justice being done, believing like sheep that anyone the king ordered to death must be an awful sinner who deserved to burn in hell for all eternity. That is exactly what those celebrators and chanters are: bloodthirsty cavemen with iPhones and American flags instead of clubs and loincloths. Seeing that spectacle on TV actually gave me a little satisfaction at the moral high ground I (like to think I) have over the liberal Democrats who claim to be so much more understanding, fair, sympathetic, and certainly not militant or jingoistic. But they are just like the neoconservatives they so despise. Liberal Democratic Obama voters (past and future) probably constituted the majority of the celebrators on Pennsylvania Avenue that night, and my opinion of them is even lower because of it. I hadn't known it could go any lower.
However, it should be noted that not only in degree but also in kind, there is a difference between Americans celebrating the death of a mass-murderer and Arabs celebrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At first glance, the libertarian or other-anarchist or general anti-militarist might say, "Americans cheering bin Laden's death are cheering from the same perspective and for the same reasons as Arab America-haters cheering the deaths of Americans, because those Arabs see Americans as responsible for the deaths of many of their compatriots just like Americans see Al Qaeda as responsible for the deaths of many Americans." This viewpoint fails to distinguish between collective responsibility (which in this case does not exist for the American victims) and individual responsibility (which in this case does exist for bin Laden).
Rather, Noam Chomsky's analogy is p-... p-... perrr-... (I can do it)... perfect (wow, that was hard):
We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
Considered from this perspective, it definitely doesn't make bin Laden's murder something we should rejoice about or something we should have aimed for specifically; I don't want George W. Bush or Barack Obama assassinated, especially not by some Iraqi or Afghani paramilitary unit, possibly because I am an American like them and naturally exhibit some nationalistic, tribal solidarity with them, and possibly because that's an awful, hypocritical, counterproductive goal for the freedom movement. Therefore, if I don't want one mass-murderer assassinated, I shouldn't want the other one assassinated. This solidifies my position above that in the absence of a life-threatening situation, the Navy SEALs should have captured bin Laden for trial and execution rather than summarily executing him.
And isn't it odd how Obama and so many Americans cite this as a testament to national greatness? I thought it was so arrogant for Obama to say that this operation proves that "America can do whatever we set our mind to." He wasn't the least bit humble, apologetic for all of that other death and destruction he and Bush have caused in the meantime, or thankful to any other nation except Pakistan (which was probably a token thank-you to mitigate the inevitable cries of "Pakistan obviously isn't our ally!"). Robert Higgs was as disgusted by this claim of "greatness" as I was:
First, I dislike the whole idea of “the greatness of our country.” Countries cannot be great. They are abstractions and, as such, they are incapable of acting for good or for evil. Individual residents of a country may be great, and many Americans are great, because, to borrow Forrest Gump’s construction, “greatness is as greatness does.”
The caretakers who comfort the sick and dying are often great. The priests and friends who revive the will to live in those who have lost hope are great. The entrepreneurs who establish successful businesses that better satisfy consumer demands for faster communication, safer travel, fresher food, and countless other goods and services are great. The scientists and inventors who peer deeper into the nature of the universe and devise technologies to accomplish humane, heretofore impossible feats are great. The artists who elevate the souls of those who hear their music and view their paintings are great.
But mere killing is never great, and those who carry out the killings are not great, either. No matter how much one may believe that people must sometimes commit homicide in defense of themselves and the defenseless, the killing itself is always to be deeply regretted. To take delight in killings, as so many Americans seem to have done in the past day or so, marks a person as a savage at heart.
Finally, as for the ramifications and the bin Laden–less future we have ahead of us, Laurence Vance, Anthony Gregory, Robert Higgs, Eric Margolis, and Justin Raimondo (and hundreds if not thousands of others whom I haven't read) have said the cost of 5,000 American lives, a million Iraqi lives, trillions of dollars, and perhaps unrecoverable (in our lifetimes) civil liberties was not worth it to kill one man, however hated and dangerous. As those and others have also noted, bin Laden's death doesn't portend the end of anything, really. As Anthony Gregory writes elsewhere,
The smarter liberal media are playing this up as a repudiation of the Bush approach to the war on terror. Yet this only makes sense if Obama himself had actually repudiated that approach. He has instead tripled down in Afghanistan, continued the war in Iraq, multiplied the drone attacks many times over, and continued to treat international law as well as the U.S. Constitution as flexible rules in the waging of war and enforcement of national security. Insofar as Obama is implicitly admitting none of this was necessary to catch Osama, he should be criticized for persisting in it, not hailed as a hero of foreign policy restraint.
Indeed, Obama promises more war: Osama’s "death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must – and we will – remain vigilant at home and abroad. . . . The cause of securing our country is not complete."
But beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden's head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we've started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the altar of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?
Those are rhetorical questions. None of those things will happen. If anything, I can much more easily envision the reverse. Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden -- and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders -- can easily rejuvenate that war love. One can already detect the stench of that in how Pakistan is being talked about: did they harbor bin Laden as it seems and, if so, what price should they pay? We're feeling good and strong about ourselves again -- and righteous -- and that's often the fertile ground for more, not less, aggression.
I fear that the combination of this celebration of "greatness" at a military accomplishment and the fact that we will now be living in a permanent national security state without a Public Enemy No. 1 (or much concrete success to show for our ongoing efforts) will only embolden the Imperial Federal Government's efforts at home and abroad, weaken Americans' opposition to the national security state, and encourage more encroachments of our civil liberties, because without bin Laden to serve as a cause célèbre, people will just become accustomed to the national security state as a way of life. Maybe no matter what, with or without a cause célèbre, the national security state was doomed to persist and expand.
Amazon.com's cancellation of its plans to open a South Carolina distribution center and high-tailing it out of town because the state legislature voted against giving the company a tax exemption are interesting from a libertarian perspective for a couple reasons. First, from a principled anti-tax standpoint, this is one of a million examples of why taxes hurt businesses and everyone else and why eliminating all taxes of all kinds is only good for the economy. On the other hand, from a consistency and anti-favoritism standpoint, this tax exemption would have been one of another million examples of large, established businesses receiving favors that help it out-compete smaller businesses.
Speaking of large internet-related companies, Canadian ISPs admitted that their pricing structure (which they call "usage-based billing") is designed to discourage/reduce internet use by its customers. Cory Doctorow writes, "In other words, they've set out to limit the growth of networked based business and new kinds of services, and to prevent Canadians experimentation that enables them to use the Internet to its fullest." Michael Geist, whom he quotes, says that this pricing model, therefore, is more accurately called behavior-based billing. As a rule, private companies in a free market always strive to attract more customers in order to do more business and make more money, in contrast to government-created "companies" and government agencies, which always seem to be seeking to limit the amount of products or services they have to provide to customers (water, electricity, every office you have to go and wait in line). This indicates that Canadian ISPs are not truly private companies in anything resembling a free market.
Another company that is not close to being entirely "private" and operates in a market that isn't close to being free is Time Warner. Time Warner supported a bill in the North Carolina state legislature that would prevent city governments from introducing fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in their cities. Simple pro-business right-wing conflationists reflexively support a bill that would prevent city governments from doing anything (especially providing a product or service that can and/or should be provided by private companies) and reflexively support the interests of private businesses. They are not entirely wrong, because the ultimate solution is not to get city governments into the fiber-optic broadband business or any other utility. However, the solution that would help the residents of cities where broadband is scarce, expensive, or nonexistent is to remove the regulations that are keeping it that way rather than passing new laws that seem to be mainly aimed at propping up telecom giants. No, I don't know what laws North Carolina or any other state might have passed restricting competition and expansion in the broadband industry, but, well, look at this bill. It's a bill that the state legislature will pass that will have profound effects on the telecom industry. It is undoubtedly one bill out of thousands across the country that have set regulations and restrictions on telecommunications, always to the detriment of the average (or, especially, poor) citizen.
Higher education might be the next asset bubble. Well, it's certainly overpriced, a situation that is entirely the result of government interventions (mainly guaranteed loans to everybody) whose purpose is to make college affordable to more people. All government action has unintended consequences.
This is a great TED talk by Indian scientist Sugata Mitra about how children can teach themselves (and motivate themselves) when given the opportunity (and the necessity) to do so.
Speaking of the problems with traditional, regimented, government education, Boston University Psychology professor Peter Gray writes about the seven sins of our forced-education system. He expands upon a previous post in which he called forced education "prison". In this post, he also outlines seven reasons compulsory education is harmful to society and not just the children who are currently forced to go to school. Numbers 3 and 4 are "Interference with the development of cooperation and nurturance" and "Interference with the development of personal responsibility and self-direction." It's a really good, brief read.
Glenn Greenwald writes another masterful post on America's two-tiered justice system: one standard of justice for legislators, high-level bureaucrats, and their big-business cronies, and another standard for everyone else. It is not possible to read Glenn Greenwald consistently and objectively and remain an Obama supporter, or possibly even a Democratic Party supporter.
I was pleased to find out Charles Johnson's essay Liberty, Equality, Solidarity: Toward a Dialectical Anarchism is available online and not just in the very expensive book it was written for, Anarchism/Minarchism: Is a Government Part of a Free Country?
This essay is such a tour de force that quoting passages would only do justice to the essay as a whole if done at great length, so I'm just going to excerpt from its second section, on equality. In that section, he links to Roderick Long's Equality: The Unknown Ideal, which expresses a lot of similar points and is based on the same thesis: our individual liberty comes directly and solely from our equality as people.
Attaching my controversial understanding of liberty to the standard of equality might seem less than prudent, if my interlocutor is a minarchist libertarian. Modern libertarians make demands for individual liberty with passion and urgency; their reaction to demands for social equality is more often tepid if not openly hostile. Criticism of social inequality is much more likely to be heard from the mouths of unreconstructed statists, and “egalitarianism” is hardly a term of praise in most libertarian intellectual circles. But I shall argue that equality, rightly understood, is the best grounds for principled libertarianism. When the conception of individual liberty is uprooted from the demand for social equality, the radicalism of libertarianism withers; it also leaves the libertarian open to a family of conceptual confusions which prop up many of the common minarchist arguments against anarchism.
Roderick Long also sympathizes with the temerity with which many minarchists face the idea of equality:
Yet we who regard ourselves as the inheritors of the principles of '76 do not speak as often, or as warmly, about equality. We talk, instead, about liberty; we call ourselves libertarians, not egalitarians. We don't give our books titles like The Constitution of Equality, or For a New Equality, or How I Found Equality in an Unequal World. By contrast, those who do most often invoke the language of equality in contemporary political discourse tend be the enemies of the principles of '76, as we understand those principles. How could equality be our ideal, if it is also theirs?
The answer, of course, lies in the type of equality. Roderick Long writes more about what types of equality he doesn't mean, explaining why libertarians reject socioeconomic equality, the mere equality of liberty, and the mere equality under the law. Check out his essay for a full account of why. Long and Johnson do give similar answers to what type of equality they do mean, so it's better to quote from Johnson:
My task, then, is to explain what I mean by “equality, rightly understood.” I certainly do not intend to suggest that liberty is conceptually dependent on economic equality (of either opportunity or outcome), or on equality of socio-cultural status. But the equality I have in mind is also much more substantive than the formal “equality before the law” or “equality of rights” suggested by some libertarians and classical liberals, and rightly criticized by Leftists as an awfully thin glove over a very heavy fist. Formal equality within a statist political system, pervaded with pillage and petty tyranny, is hardly worth fighting for; the point is to challenge the system, not to be equally shoved around by it. The conception of equality that I have in mind has a history on the Left older and no less revolutionary than the redistributionist conception of socioeconomic equality. It is the equality that the French revolutionaries had in mind when they demanded egalité, and which the American revolutionaries had in mind when they stated:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Jefferson 1776a ¶ 2)
Jefferson is making revolutionary use of concepts drawn from the English liberal tradition. Equality, for Jefferson, is the basis for independence, and the grounds from which individual rights derive. Locke elucidates the concept when he characterizes a “state of Perfect freedom”—the state to which everyone is naturally entitled—as
A State also of Equality, wherein all the Power and Jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another: there being nothing more evident, than that Creatures of the same species and rank promiscuously born to all the same advantages of Nature, and the use of the same faculties, should be equal one amongst another without Subordination or Subjection …. (1690, II. 4. ¶ 2)
The Lockean conception of equality that underwrites Jefferson’s revolutionary doctrine of individual liberty is, as Roderick Long has argued, equality of political authority. Jefferson and Locke denied, as arbitrary, the Old Regime’s claim of a natural entitlement to lordship over their fellow creatures. Ranks of superior and inferior political authority were not established by natural differences in station or ordained by the will of God Almighty. Political coercion is the material expression of a claim of unequal authority: one person is entitled to dictate terms over another’s person and property, and the other can be forced to obey. Declaring universal equality thus means denying all such claims of lordship, and, thus, asserting that everyone has authority over herself, and over herself alone. Equality is the context within which the principle of self-ownership, and thus the demand for individual freedom, takes root.
This equality of authority can be expressed as not exactly equality under the law but equality with (those who would be) legislators, judges, and police. As mentioned above, I didn't excerpt Roderick Long's explanations of why socioeconomic and legal equality are inconsistent and illegitimate, but his conclusion on these matters is brief enough:
We can now see how socioeconomic equality and legal equality both fall short of the radicalism of Lockean equality. For neither of those forms of equality calls into question the authority of those who administer the legal system; such administrators are merely required to ensure equality, of the relevant sort, among those administered. Thus socioeconomic equality, despite the bold claims of its adherents, does no more to challenge the existing power structure than does legal equality. Both forms of equality call upon that power structure to do certain things; but in so doing, they both assume, and indeed require, an inequality in authority between those who administer the legal framework and everybody else.
The libertarian version of equality is not circumscribed in this way. As Locke sees, equality in authority entails denying to the legal system's administrators—and thus to the legal system itself—any powers beyond those possessed by private citizens:
[T]he execution of the law of nature is in that state put into every man's hands, whereby every one has a right to punish the transgressors of that law to such a degree as may hinder its violation…. For in that state of perfect equality, where naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction of one over another, what any may do in prosecution of that law, every one must needs have a right to do.
Lockean equality involves not merely equality before legislators, judges, and police, but, far more crucially, equality with legislators, judges, and police.
By this standard Murray Rothbard, in his advocacy of anarcho-capitalism, turns out to have been one of the most consistent and thoroughgoing egalitarian theorists of all time. As the author of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, Rothbard might very well turn over in his grave to hear himself so described; but, as we shall see, what Ayn Rand used to say of capitalism applies a fortiori to equality: equality, properly understood, is in many ways an unknown ideal—unknown both to its defenders and to its detractors.
[I]n my view, Locke's arguments for the incompatibility of Lockean equality with a functioning legal order [i.e., Locke's arguments for minarchism in which liberty is not quite total —JP] all commit either the fallacy of composition or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. (For example, from the claim everybody should submit his disputes to a third-party judge, Locke fallaciously infers there should be a third-party judge to whom everyone submits his disputes, which is like moving from everyone likes at least one TV show to there's at least one TV show that everyone likes.)
... Hence libertarians have traditionally directed their ire against the inequalities in authority that exist between...the average person and...the legal system's administrators (as well as their cronies, the private beneficiaries of government privilege). As Antony Flew writes:
[W]hat the various ruling élites determine to be fitting … may or may not turn out to be equality between all those who are so dependent. But as between those who give and those who receive the commands … there can of course be no equality at all.
From a libertarian standpoint, socioeconomic egalitarians turn out, embarrassingly enough, to be apologists for the ruling class.
That libertarian resistance to socioeconomically egalitarian proposals is itself based on an egalitarian ideal is seldom recognized. It is nonetheless true.
The case against socioeconomically egalitarian legislation is, as I said, an egalitarian one; for such legislation invariably involves the coercive subordination or subjection of dissenting individuals to the taxes and regulations imposed by government decision makers, and thus presupposes an inequality in authority between the former and the latter. As Ludwig von Mises writes:
It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. The funds that a government spends for whatever purposes are levied by taxation. And taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.
Nor would an anarchistic version of socialism fare any better; as long as some people are imposing redistributive policies by force or threat of force on unconsenting others, we have inequality in authority between the coercers and the coerced, regardless of whether those doing the coercing are public citizens or private individuals, and regardless of whether they represent a majority or a minority. Nor would a Hobbesian jungle, where anyone is free to impose her will on anyone else, embody equality in authority; for as soon as one person does succeed in subordinating another, an inequality in authority emerges.
The Hobbesian jungle might represent equal opportunity for authority, but in this context the libertarian favors equality of outcome. (That, incidentally, is why the right to liberty is inalienable.) Only defensive uses of force are justified, since these restore equality in authority rather than violating it. By the same token, an idealized democracy in which every citizen had an equal chance to get into a position of political power would also represent only equal opportunity for authority, not equality of outcome, and so would likewise offend against Lockean equality. To a libertarian, the saying "anyone can grow up to become president," if it were true, would have the same cheery ring as "anyone might be the next person to assault you."
Inequality in authority is far more offensive, from a moral point of view, than mere socioeconomic inequality; hence, whenever the demands of socioeconomic equality conflict with the demands of libertarian equality, which they generally do, preference must be given to the latter.
Johnson concludes his discussion on equality:
Equality of authority dulls the mystical glamor of State authority. The law is a human institution, and the legitimate authority of individual rights-claims does not need to be grounded in the dominance of a sovereign, or proclaimed from a standpoint beyond the fragile social relationships among fallible, mortal human beings. A good thing, too, since there is no Olympian standpoint for the State to occupy; governments are made of people with no more special authority than you or I—even when they are speaking ex cathedra in the name of the State. Rights are grounded in the claims that each of us, as ordinary human beings, are entitled to hold each other to, and are implemented not by paper laws but by the concrete social and cultural relationships we participate in. ... The choice is not between a system where disputes are never meaningfully settled and one where they are, but between one in which they are settled through a decentralized network of institutions holding each other in check, or through a centralized hierarchy forcing others to defer to it. And, as Long argues, anarchy actually provides a better hope for disputes to be settled justly than minarchy—especially when an arbitrator is herself a party to the dispute—because under anarchy the watchers are themselves watched, and are less able to force through unjust rulings simply in virtue of their dominant position.
The context of a concept is often conceived as a constraint on the concept, and context-dropping as a matter of applying the concept more widely than it should be applied. But dropping the context of a concept could make you go wrong in either of two ways: improper abstraction might inflate the application of the concept beyond its domain of significance; or it might conceal the concept’s significance in cases where it should be applied. Understood in the context of Equality, the principle of Liberty becomes more radical, not less, challenging all forms of State mysticism with the standard of individual sovereignty.
There's a little bit of redundancy among the passages I quoted from those two essays, and if you really want to appreciate their scope and force, then it would be better to just read them all (especially Long's, which was presented as a speech and is much shorter). But I wanted to quote from them at length because I was very pleased to learn that my expression of my philosophy of equality-begets-liberty completely agreed with theirs, and also to learn how many subtle points and new arguments I have gained from these masterful philosophers.
Bryan Caplan wrote a great post for his 40th birthday: 40 Things I Learned in My First 40 Years. Not only is it full of good philosophy and rules of thumb, it has tons of links, none of which I am going to a href for you.
In no particular order:
1. Supply-and-demand solves countless mysteries of the world - everything from rent control to road congestion.
2. Almost anyone can understand supply-and-demand if they calmly listen. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true.
3. Poverty is terrible, and economic growth, not redistribution, is the cure.
4. The proximate causes of unemployment are labor market regulation and workers' misguided beliefs about fairness. But the fundamental cause of unemployment is excessive wages.
5. Free competition is far superior to "perfect" competition.
6. Governments with fiat money have near-absolute power over nominal GDP, but much less over real GDP or employment.
7. Moral hazard and adverse selection are largely the product of - not a rationale for - regulation of insurance.
8. Immigration restrictions are a fruitless crime - and do more harm than all other government regulations combined.
9. Communism was a disaster because of bad incentives, not lack of incentives.
10. The last two centuries of rising population and prosperity should fill us with awe - and the best is yet to come.
1. The greatest philosophical mistake is to demand proof for the obvious. See Hume.
2. The second greatest philosophical mistake is to try to prove the obvious. See Descartes.
3. If you can't explain your position clearly in simple language, you probably don't understand it yourself.
4. When possible, resolve debates about "what's obvious" by betting, not talking.
5. Ignoring the facts of dualism and radical free will is anti-empirical and unscientific.
6. Talking about morality if there are no moral facts is like talking about unicorns if there aren't any unicorns.
7. There are moral facts.
8. Productive moral arguments begin with clear-cut simple cases, not one-sentence moral theories or trolley problems.
9. Violence and theft are presumptively wrong, and calling yourself "the government" does nothing to rebut these presumptions.
10. The best three pages in philosophy remain Epicurus' "Letter to Menoeceus."
1. Voters are irrational. So is believing otherwise.
2. Government isn't a solution to externalities problems; it's the best example of the problem.
3. The main output of government isn't "public goods," but private goods that people pretend to want much more than they really do. See Social Security and Medicare.
4. People rarely make the the most internally consistent argument for government action: paternalism.
5. The realistic path to freer markets isn't "free-market reform," but austerity.
6. Democrats and Republicans are about as different as Catholics and Protestants - and 80% of the union of their mutual recriminations is true.
7. Before you study public opinion, you wonder why policy isn't far better. After you study public opinion, you wonder why policy isn't far worse.
8. Big reasons why democracy isn't worse: Unequal participation, political slack, and status quo bias.
9. Libertarians are the dhimmis of democracy.
10. Despite everything, life in First World democracies is amazingly good by world and historic standards and will keep getting better. So cheer up.
1. Life is a gift, and the more the better.
2. "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Yep.
3. Be friendly as a matter of policy. Turn the other cheek in the face of ad hominem attacks. It might seem crazy, but it works.
4. Obsessiveness is an powerful solution for physical and social problems. Unfortunately it's also a major cause of emotional problems.
5. Once you're an adult, religious people will leave you alone if you leave them alone.
6. People vary more widely than you think. Tell yourself it's nobody's fault.
7. Selection is the key to social harmony. Surround yourself with true friends who love you just as you are. If you don't see any around, quest for them.
8. Raise your children with kindness and respect. "I'm your parent, not you're friend" is a reason to treat your kids better than their peers do, not worse.
9. Your mind ages at a slower rate than you expect when you're young, your body at a faster rate.
10. Evolutionary psychology is by far the best universal theory of human motivation. Ignore it at your own peril.
I liked Kinsella's blag post Hierarchy, Authority, Authoritarianism, Left-Libertarianism and, especially, the comments therein. Reprinting his responses to a Facebook thread, Kinsella said:
This use of “hierarchy” and “command” to cover both coercive (the state) and voluntary, non-coercive institutions (church, family, corporation) is equivocation. We libertarians do not oppose hierarchy or command or authority in general, but only in the context of aggression. That is why we are libertarians, that is what it means to be a libertarian: to consistently and systematically oppose aggression of all types, both private (crime) and institutionalized (the state), on principled grounds.
...what is wrong with the state is not that it wields authority or even that it is hierarchical (though its hierarchical nature combined with its aggression makes it worse than a private criminal—it makes it systematic and institutionalized, so a bigger criminal threat).
The reason “hierarchy” in private institutions is “justified” is simply that it does not need to be justified. Only the use of interpersonal violence needs to be justified.
”Hierarchy is hierarchy my friend.”
yes, and libertarians are not against hiearchy.
His commenter Neverfox responded:
yes, and libertarians are not against hiearchy.
Maybe libertarians aren’t (if we accept your historically recent definition) but AN-archists are not against HIER-archy? In the immortal words of Violent J and Shaggy 2, how does that work? As William Gillis wrote:
“Anarchy” –in one of the most brilliant, clear and crystalline etymologies available in political ideology/idealism– is defined by its opposition to rulership. All forms of rulership.
The main commenter that made me think this blag post was so worth reading was Ryan Wills, of crossofcrimson.blogspot.com, who wrote,
Instead, what I’d like to suggest, is that any power that we have is tangential to our own property rights – that, if we do indeed grant that property is a valid concept, we simply have control over who may or may not use that property and no other enforcible powers beyond that. Therefore, any expression of power or authority as such exists only to the extent to which we may withdraw our explicit or implicit consent for others using that property.
So, to get back to the analogy: If I tell you to remove your shoes before entering my house, I’m not claiming some authority over you in that I have some right to tell you what you can and can’t do. On the contrary, my request only has power to the extent that it is an implicit condition upon which you may use my property.
If we were to take such conditional interaction and, as other anarchists often do, conflate it with authority, then it would make a good deal of fairly ambiguous daily interaction immoral. Families, churches, and many other voluntary organizations would seem malicious and predatory under such a notion. In fact it would seem hard to justify trade as being anything other than malign under such a notion. For, if one was asked to shovel snow out of a driveway in exchange for money we could then say that person was being temporarily subjugated to the will of another. [NB: Some anarchists, who neither I nor, I dare say, they themselves would call libertarian, do consider all families, churches, and many other voluntary organizations malicious and predatory, and not just the violent, oppressive ones. —John] We may say, “Clearly this is absurd – the person in question is not being forced to do such a thing. He’s doing it of free will and association.” And such a point couldn’t ring any clearer. In fact, it would ring just as clear and for the same reasons in regards to the removing of your shoes before you enter my house, or in regards to labor being exchanged for wages on the floor of an assembly line.
This is why anarcho-capitalists will forever clash with anarchists of other stripes. Few self-described anarchists seem to be willing to differentiate conditional association with what ANCAPs would describe as “authority” (forced hierarchy), even if those anarchists (according to their own view) willingly subject themselves to many conditional associations in their everyday lives without recognizing them as such. It presents an inherent problem to their ideology, and I believe it’s largely (maybe even subconsciously) why many dismiss private property altogether, or subscribe to the labor theory of value – it’s the result of cognitive dissonance.
Ultimately the distinction is clear. Private property as such is not simply a throwback to a feudal system (as other anarchists often claim) where owners of large tracts of land claim ownership over the lives of serfs. Instead we claim that any such command or power, as it may be perceived, can exist only, and unequivocally, as an expression of property rights -and nothing else. We submit then that all voluntary association, trade, or hierarchy is derived from the ownership of ourselves and willful consent therein – and that, as such, by nature their exhibition cannot be coercive. Even more clearly, the idea of restraining men from such voluntary association would be, by definition, explicitly coercive. In this way the anarcho-capitalist position is clear; free men of free association born out of an inherent ownership of self, labor, and the product thereof, reasoned simply and deductively. In this way, I don’t believe the onus is on Rothbardians to further justify self-ownership and free association. The onus is instead on detractors to explain why men should not own themselves or should be restricted in their associations with other free men.
Chris Thomas responded to Kinsella:
“The reason “hierarchy” in private institutions is “justified” is simply that it does not need to be justified. Only the use of interpersonal violence needs to be justified.”
This is true only if justice is the only aspect of morality that you’re concerned with. If you’re a thick libertarian (which is another way of saying you’re a libertarian who links justice with other aspects of morality) then you need to justify many types of action, including non-aggressive action. For example, being mean because you like to see others unhappy is improper behavior. If you can show that many types of hierarchical relationships are sufficiently related to aggression, then you may be able to show that they are condemnable, even if they are not a violation of justice.
And Ryan Wills responded to that:
“This is true only if justice is the only aspect of morality that you’re concerned with.”
I think thin libertarians would argue that justice (as a virtue) is the only purview of government or law in the way that we understand it. There are obviously other virtues which people believe ought to be endorsed (virtues that many libertarians may agree with). However they feel it has no place in the sphere of what constitutes just aggression. That isn’t to say that more thickly bound conceptualizations of libertarianism are wrong. The fundamental disagreement is regarding the scope of political justice.
Finally, neverfox responded,
I think thin libertarians would argue that justice (as a virtue) is the only purview of government or law in the way that we understand it.
But I don’t know any thick libertarian who argues differently. Such a statement, therefore, goes nowhere towards answering the question “thick or thin”? In other words, the difference between thick and thin libertarians is not over the purview of law but over the scope of things that one is committed to (though not necessarily logically committed to) because they are a committed to non-aggression.
That's about enough for now. I think this last comment by neverfox demonstrates how much "left-libertarianism" is simply libertarianism and how much they therefore have in common with those of us who don't use the "left" moniker (not that they don't add on more concerns that they are committed to, as neverfox noted). My position as a Rothbardian thin-libertarian voluntarist is that libertarian theory and other theories of justice should only concern what people must and must not do: what is right and wrong, just and unjust. In this sphere of discourse is formed the theory of the justification of force: force is only justifiable in response to and/or to defend against injustice. Beyond the realm of justice theory lies what Chris Thomas called "improper" and "condemnable" actions and situations. According to my definitions, we can only endorse or oppose things beyond the realm of justice not as libertarians qua libertarians but rather as concerned, sympathetic human beings. If it isn't universal, if it isn't necessary and essential to the theory, then it isn't a principle, and therefore I say it isn't strictly libertarian.
Non-libertarian "anarchists" and libertarians who, in my opinion, exhibit too much thickness in some cases, are led by their non-justice/non-theoretical concerns to support striking government workers instead of opposing both the strikers and the states they work for, or to oppose all hierarchies as a matter of principle instead of just the actually condemnable ones.
For example, since I like using sports analogies, consider two hierarchies that must, according to some leftists' own words and own definitions, be oppressive, predatory, violent, unjust, exploitative, and forbidden in their ideal society: football teams and the Dan Patrick radio show. In a football team, completely aside from the corporate ownership of each team (well, except the Packers) and the relationship of the league/owners with the players and their union, there is a necessary hierarchy of decision making. The head coach is the boss of the offensive and defensive coordinators, and these coordinators design the plays and call the plays during the game. The head coach, the coordinators, the strength and conditioning coaches, and other coaches determine every detail of the players' training and practice. If they don't get in shape or do the drills right, they get fired. If they don't run the plays called by the coordinators during the game, or, in fact, if their intentions are perfectly obedient but they lack the necessary skill level, they get benched or fired. There is inter-player hierarchy between the starters and the others. On the field, only one player can alter the play called by the offensive coordinator, the quarterback, so there is even an inter-player hierarchy within the first string.
According to the confused millions who base their entire philosophy on opposition to hierarchy as a matter of principle, no football team or football league could ever exist. I am not creating a straw man or using hyperbole to make a point. If anti-hierarchists want to base their philosophy on any principles, then those principles must be true at all times and in all situations; that's what makes them principles. If hierarchy is wrong in principle, then it is wrong for coaches to organize practices, design plays, call plays, or judge performance, and it is therefore morally unjust for any semi-organized sports team to exist.
The Dan Patrick radio show features former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick and his four "Danettes", who perform various pre-show, post-show, and technical functions, in addition to chiming in on most topics. There exists a clear hierarchy in this radio show, not the least of which is naming it after a single person. Dan gets to begin and end each telephone interview. Unlike most multi-person radio shows, I think the Danettes have to push some button or click on something on their computer to let Dan know that they want to chime in when he's done with his current point; then Dan calls on them like a teacher in a classroom. Hierarchy abounds in this outfit, and yet the Danettes don't seem to feel too oppressed or exploited.
According to those who oppose hierarchy on principle (what are they called? "anarchist" isn't correct because hierarhcy obviously doesn't imply rulership, and "anti-hierarchists" is way too awkward to type and speak; I think "childish morans" is good), the Danettes have the right to use force to change the way the show is run, because its hierarchical nature is a violation of their rights. Also, they have obviously been brainwashed into thinking such a situation is acceptable or desirable. In the non-hierarchical world, the show couldn't be called the Dan Patrick Show, they would all have equal speaking rights and equal duties both on and off the air, and they would all make the same amount of money. In that case, Dan would no longer want to do the show, the Danettes would be left to do their own show, no one would care about it anymore, and they'd all be out of a job.
I simply cannot understand how an anti-hierarchy philosophy leads to any conclusions other than the seemingly hyperbolic but all too literal conclusions I have drawn, and I cannot see how they don't see how absurd it is. Maybe in the non-hierarchical world, the football players would vote on their plays and come to a majority decision within the 40 seconds allotted between plays. Maybe they would vote for people to be their coaches, in which case they would have voluntarily created a hierarchy similar to the one that exists in our world. Maybe the members of the Dan Patrick Show would vote to call it the Dan Patrick Show and would voluntarily accept the lower pay and more grunt work in place of a crappier job. Oh, wait, that's exactly what happened in real life, minus the voting. Any answer I can think of seems to be, "Well, if they voluntarily accepted the hierarchy and voted on stuff, then it'd be okay, but voluntarily participating in a hierarchy in the world we live in is different." Yeah, it's a little different; it still isn't wrong, unjust, oppressive, exploitative, or in any way inconsistent with any coherent property rights theory.
Any opponent of hierarchy on principle who would object to these as straw-man arguments (which they are not) must admit that these types of hierarchies aren't really the object of his ire and that they are okay precisely because they are voluntary. If you think their hierarchical situation sucks, who cares? How does your opinion of their life choices matter in any way? You aren't the one whose oppression or exploitation is under consideration; theirs is. In most cases, exploitation is in the eye of the exploited and also depends upon the alternatives. If they don't think they're being exploited and they do think this is their best option after considering all the alternative jobs, then it isn't exploitation! Their voluntary participation in these hierarchies defines them as morally just and non-exploitative, revealing once again how voluntarism is the beginning, middle, and end of morality.
Not only do I agree with everything currently on Michael Moore's Twitter page, I actually kind of enjoyed reading it. I think I enjoyed reading the last several days of his posts because he's exhibiting some admirable principle in excoriating Obama and the Democrats for intervening in Libya's civil war and bombing their cities, despite the fact that Moore is a hardcore liberal Democrat. His vocal criticism of Obama and other Democrats when they do things that he doesn't think liberal Democrats should be doing certainly distinguishes him from every single liberal I know.
Here are some highlights from Michael Moore's Twitter feed from March 19 to March 22, 2011:
May I suggest a 50-mile evacuation zone around Obama's Nobel Peace Prize?
So, what's wrong with this picture (Libya)? Here's what:
#1. If the Arab League supports this military action, why haven't they sent in their Arab troops and planes in real amounts? Uh-huh
#2. Our job is 2 prop up Arab dictators (Saudi, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, etc), not overthrow them & everyone in Arab world knows it
#3. So knock off "it's our moral obligation 2 defend ppl of Libya." After Iraq & Afghan & support of dictators, we have no moral standing.
#4. Too little, too late. So NOW we try 2 help the Libyans after Khaddafy has retaken most of country? Really just a big show, isn't it?
#5. We have neither the troops, stomach, or $$ to fight a ground war for months/years to defeat MK. So can we get back to the NCAA?
[re-tweeting from tomtomorrow] Erased history: Bush's wars were initially supported by many prominent liberals who bought into the official talking points.
OK. Let's hear from the "liberals" who say this is a just war because we're protecting innocent Libyans--like that's what we do!
Aren't most revolutions won when the ppl themselves win them? Rare that it works otherwise. U can send them stuff, but it's their fight.
Coalition-licious! MSNBC reports U.S. carrying out "almost all military operations" http://j.mp/gXOY4I
Final tweet 4 now: All I'm saying is, regrdless where u stand on war or wht party u belong 2, ANY mil action by us,
...because of our past actions, DEMANDS that every patriotic American give the utmost scrutiny 2 ANY call 2 war by our leaders.
This appears to be a civil war in Libya. Not a war of genocide. Not a revolution. One thing's clear: None of us want Khadaffy to win.
But who is the opposition? Don't send weapons 2 rebels til u know who they r! Last time we did that we armed bin Laden & the Taliban.
If the rebels want a democracy then support them w/ the arms they need. But u must do same 2 help Bahrain/Yemen or u have no credibility.
But let the Euros do it. Libya is 172mi fr Eurp (closer than Flint is 2 Chicago). The French helped us 230yrs ago & that worked out ok...
...for us. Not so good for Louis XVI. Be careful what u wish for.
We fired over 100 Tomahawk missiles into Libya this weekend @ over $600K-1M a missile. Each missile would pay for 12-20 teachers in US.
CNN reports the usual 70% of my fellow Americans support this air war. Same as Iraq03. Always the same rah-rah % @ the start. Regrets later.
Note to Republicans & Iraq Invasion Supporters: Your attacks on Obama's war are hypocritical, hollow, & obscene. Your wars have wrecked us.
Libertarians knew Obama wouldn't be as anti-war and anti-intervention as he characterized himself during the presidential campaign, so I don't think any of us is surprised at the ease and eagerness with which Obama has intervened violently in a civil war 6,000 miles away, not any more surprised than we were that he has continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and sent 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. We also won't be surprised when it becomes more costly (money, lives) than the Democrats expect and when their intervention backfires and leads to the propping up of some other dictator or terrorist group or stirs more anti-American sentiment.
After 8 years of Republican deficits, inflation, cronyism, and war, the liberal Democrats of this country had a nice opportunity to accomplish something worthwhile, or at least stand for something new and different. Their motto was "hope" and "change", and even if we knew their President and their Congress weren't really so strongly anti-war and didn't really have any radical ideas about economics, all of those voters and pundits could have changed their tune in a few small ways and shifted at least some of the discussion in a sensible, non-communist, non–class envy direction, based on something resembling moral principles.
Instead, it seems like everything I read from liberals about taxes, the economy, or the federal budget is "The rich aren't paying enough taxes!" and "The rich used to pay more, so it follows that they should still pay more!" and "The middle class is being destroyed by low taxes for the rich!" and "The rich don't pay their fair share!" For instance, when I first saw the title of this article, "How the rich soaked the rest of us", I optimistically expected to read about inflation, Wall Street bailouts, crony capitalism, restrictions on job creation, barriers to entry, government waste, and/or the complete failure of Obama's stimulus program. Instead, the entire article is about how the rich used to pay more taxes than they do, and the things they do with their money don't help others in an economic or social sense, so their tax rates should be increased to redistribute wealth to others and help balance the budget. Not a single time does the author mention the exorbitant spending exhibited by every American Congress since the Great Depression, nor does it mention the inflation that impoverishes everyone else more than the rich, which inflation is necessitated by ever higher spending.
Another opinion column says that the middle class is being assaulted by income taxes. Yeah, just like everybody else. It says,
No one class of citizen has an overly high burden of paying income taxes in 2011. But overall, Americans making $1 million or more are shouldering less of a tax burden than before. When the government has been deficit spending at record levels, it's time to increase taxes.
First of all, every class of citizen has an overly high burden of income taxes, because every tax is too high. But most importantly, the fact that millionaires are shouldering less of a tax burden than before does not mean they should go back to paying more; it means, as every fact related to income taxes means, that we should continue decreasing taxes on everyone, from rich to poor. And government deficits should be solved by cutting spending, not increasing taxes. As Helmut Shoeck said in his masterpiece Envy, "The envious man thinks that if his neighbor breaks a leg, he will be able to walk better himself." Some people having more money doesn't make others worse off. Spending their money in ways you think will stimulate the economic recovery for the rest of us is a completely debunked, groundsless, immoral 1930's solution. The only taking of money from the rich that can be justified is taking their money that they gained from inappropriate cooperation with or actions of the government, which surely amounts to billions of dollars, but it would take a libertarian analysis to make that case, which is beyond the comprehension of today's liberal Democrats, who are limited to class envy and Keynesian spending debauchery.
Allowing people to do what they want with their own money, in addition to being the only morally just solution to any fiscal or tax issue, will result in a greater production of wealth because less economic waste will occur because extra-market decisions by the government will be eliminated and replaced with decisions made entirely based on prices specified by the free market. If any liberal actually had an interest in what is just, then he would advocate reducing (and eventually eliminating) everyone's taxes, not just some people's, and if he had any interest in nationwide or worldwide economic growth, for society as a whole, from top to bottom, then he would advocate the economic system that results in the least possible economic waste. This system is the free market, where economic calculation for every single decision and every single transaction is possible and is accurate, based only on the market forces of supply, demand, free exchange, and people's preferences freely demonstrated.
All that liberal Democrats seem to be able to give us is the same, tired, lame drivel about increasing taxes for the rich and spending ever more taxpayer money on things the taxpayers obviously don't want (otherwise they would buy them themselves). It is the same class envy and the same Keynesian "tax and spend" rhetoric that has necessitated our high tax rates in the first place, wasted untold trillions of dollars, limited economic growth to a paltry 2 or 3% per year, prevented labor from finding its optimal usage and created 8 to 10% unemployment, and caused more and more inflation to pay for our government's debts. Why can't we hear something interesting or inspiring from the American left once in a while, like the virtues of individual decision making and a universal opposition to any more tax increases?
Libertarians should be familiar with the position that the mixed-economy socialism much of the Western world lives under is only affordable because previous decades of relative freedom have enabled a level of economic production and a climate of trust, mutual dependability, and competition that produced the wealth that could (relatively comfortably) fund government expansion to begin with. In other words, the government grows bigger, more intrusive, and more socialist because society is already wealthy enough to absorb it and already benefits from the foundations of free enterprise, contrary to the Statist assertion that Western society has grown rich because of all of these government interventions into our economies and our personal lives.
I thought this passage from my economics textbook validated our position (the passage is about the "informal sector" (black market) vs. the "formal sector" in developing countries):
Many economists believe taxes in developing countries are so high because these countries are attempting to pay for government sectors that are as large relative to their economies as the government sector of industrial economies. Government spending in Brazil, for example, is 39 percent of measured GDP, compared to 31 percent in the United States. In the early twentieth century, when the United States was much poorer than it is today, government spending was only about 8 percent of GDP, so the tax burden on U.S. firms was much lower. In countries like Brazil, bringing firms into the formal sector from the informal sector may require reductions in government spending and taxes. In many developing countries, however, voters are reluctant to see government services reduced.
Several insights about political economy can be seen in just that paragraph. First, libertarians claim that the relative freedom from government intervention is what allowed the United States to become wealthy in the first place, while Statists will claim that "correlation" and "causation" have identical meanings and therefore that the lack of a socialistic government was a major cause of the U.S.'s relative poverty 100 years ago. Second, the consumers and businesses that operate in the black market in Brazil obviously do so because they don't think they benefit from their government's interventions, at least not nearly proportionally to the costs (taxes), echoing Robert Heinlein's famous quip, "First, what is it you want us to pay taxes for? Tell me what I get and perhaps I'll buy it." Third, the fact that voters continue to delude themselves into voting for poverty over wealth is as sad and puzzling in the developing world as it is here.
If Brazil had lived for 50 or 100 years under the relative economic freedom that characterized the United States and western Europe after the industrial revolution, then it could afford a large government without such crushing taxes because its businesses would be more productive, its workers would be more individualist, educated, and productive, and its entire economy would most likely benefit from a culture of (relatively) honest business practices, contract enforcement, voluntary worker-rights agreements instead of centrally mandated ones, profit-seeking entrepreneurship, and healthy competition.
(I thought I successfully avoided exhibiting vulgar libertarianism or Right-conflationism by using the word "relative" when appropriate.)
I just typed that title and didn't realize until after typing it that it was quite a good pun. A perfect example of no pun intended!
This post does have a point. I really liked this post from a blag called The Whited Sepulchre. It rants against "locavores" who want to grow all their own food or buy it from their neighbors and, presumably by extension, to buy most everything in their lives locally or make it themselves, and yet still live something resembling a 20th- or 21st-century life.
Adbusters supports something called "Buy Nothing Day"
(It's on November 26th. You're supposed to purchase nothing. Don't support your neighbors, your friends, or anyone but yourself. Don't swap your own stuff for anyone else's. Regardless of their intent, that'll be the result.)
I was kind of enjoying their (ahem) unique point of view until I got to this quote. It's from a guy named Bill Mollison, founder of something called the Permaculture Movement.
"We're only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby." - Bill Mollison
Oh for the love of God. Where to begin, where to begin.
We are more secure than we've ever been because we can't look out our kitchen windows and see our entire food supply. If the view from your kitchen is your only food supply, and something happens to the area in front of the kitchen window, you're in deep, deep shit. Google the word "famine" when time permits.
But if you have cheerfully taken part in the capitalist evils of globalization, you don't have to worry as much. Iowa could waste its entire wheat crop by converting it to enthanol or some other useless boondoggle, and it will hurt me. But there's always Nebraska. And Canada. And Russia. The Ukraine. As long as those places are growing wheat, and as long as someone in our government doesn't shut down the supply of wheat (to protect American jobs), then I'll probably be okay.
As long as some raving locavore doesn't require me to live off what's visible from my kitchen window, I'll be okay.
But wait, Mr. Bill Mollison, founder of the Permaculture Movement, there's more. I've got more for you. Where are you going to get your kitchen, the kitchen you're going to look out from to view your wheat, your bananas, your strawberries, your lowfat decaf triple-skinny mocha, your carrots, lettuce, arugula, your mineral supplements and your chicken, fish, and occasional slice of roast beef? Where will this kitchen be produced? The kitchen itself. The wood, the brick, the sheetrock, the heat and air vents, the electrical wiring, the ducts, the oven, the stove, the sink and the water faucets? The refrigerator? Pots, pans, and George Foreman Grill? Does that have to come from your front yard?
Will you need to grow the trees for wood within view of the damn kitchen, just to feel safe? Are you going to set up a kiln to make bricks out of local mud? Mr. Mollison, have you ever looked at the different locations that Adam Smith's Invisible Hand blindly coordinates in a united effort to put ceramic tile on your countertops and your floors? Are you going to go off into a blind lefty panic if some of that stuff is manufactured by little dark people who don't look like you, you racist son of a bitch?
Sorry about that. I can't stand racism masquerading as compassionate save-the-earth do-goodism. Back to the topic at hand....
Let's get to the window itself, that window Mollison is looking out of to see his garden and his wheat field and chickens and goats and fish tank and brick kiln and lumber forest and all the other things required to make Bill Mollison feel safe from the efforts of other people in strange places with funny names.
Bill, do you have any idea, any idea at all, what goes into making a damn window? Do you want all that going on in your front yard? Or is food the only thing that makes you break out in fantods if it's handled by Mexicans? Is it ok if Mexicans or Canadians, or people from across the county line make your window?
"We're only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window and see our food growing and our friends working nearby." - Bill Mollison
Ok, we're getting to the end of that insane sentence. "We're only truly secure when we can look out our kitchen window....and see our friends working nearby." Hell, is there going to be room for them if Bill Mollison requires all of this industry in his front yard? Or are they all going to be Bill Mollison's employees?
What will the view have to look like from their kitchen windows if they have the same phobias and anxieties that afflict Bill Mollison?
Do you think we might all be better off if we allow everyone else in the world to compete for the honor and privilege of producing our food, kitchens and windows? And we can give them what we produce in return? And maybe, just maybe, they can one day have a kitchen of their own? With windows?
I think the fact that locavore morans like Bill Mollison don't go buy a few acres of woods and live off the land with their moran hippie friends is strong evidence of my assertion that they want to live a 20th- or 21st-century lifestyle while still growing and making just about everything on their own. What is stopping them? Land is cheaper than housing. I bet there are enough of them to form a community of idiots who think that that life would be anything but toil, misery, and disease. Why not go practice what they preach? Because they enjoy the amenities of modern semi-capitalist life and the benefits the worldwide division of labor brings, that's why. Maybe they want to remain active participants in the modern world so they can increase support for the State-backed enforcement of their locavore lunacy on captive victims. Anyone who thinks that a logical extension of locavorism would allow people to be much more than hunter-gatherers or, perhaps, Medieval serfs simply isn't paying attention.
I liked this post by David Friedman, mainly the end:
In my view, the real argument for private firearm ownership is a different one. The less able individuals are to protect themselves from crime, the more dependent they are on protection by government law enforcement. The more dependent they are on protection by government law enforcement, the more willing they will be to accept abuses by government law enforcement. The more willing we are to be pushed around by the police, the harder it will be to prevent a tyrannical government from arising. Indeed, in some contexts, most obviously the War on Drugs, one can argue that one has already arisen. And been tolerated.
The only part of the phrase "government-enforced net neutrality" that is relevant is the "government-enforced" part. There are so many arguments against the position that the Imperial Federal Government should enforce net neutrality that I had a hard time knowing where to begin. They include: Most problems with cable companies and ISPs (especially as concerns their pricing) come from the fact that they are geographic monopolies or oligopolies, which could not exist in the long run in a free market; to the extent that they are private companies that own private property (infrastructure), it is immoral for others to claim a degree of ownership over their property that would let them govern how the ISPs run their businesses; internet access, bandwidth, and the infrastructure are not public goods, so a public-good argument in favor of socialist control is a non-starter; and the pricing system of the free market could solve any problems with internet access better than socialist regulation could.
However, aside from those philosophical or economic arguments, you can take the easy road and can cite the fact that everything the government touches turns to crap and that government involvement always, necessarily, invariably leads to government control and government restriction. Your politics and philosophy aside, governments only exist to regulate and control everything, and their control only spreads and strengthens over time, not recedes when it becomes unpopular or impractical. As Mises wrote, one government intervention always seems to lead to another intervention to fix the problems that the first intervention caused, et cetera ad socialism. The fact that a net neutrality debate is even necessary is solely due to prior government intervention in creating telecom monopolies and regulating them through the Federal Communications Commission, and the net neutrality legislation that we will inevitably suffer will only beget more legislation. Here's a helpful hint for your daily life: when you hear "legislation", think "restrictions of free choices backed by threats of violent punishment for disobedience".
In the case of the government controls that will follow net neutrality legislation, it might not be exactly the problems caused by such legislation that lead Congress and the FCC to instate new measures to fix those problems, but rather the opportunity to control and the lust for power will simply be too great to pass up. As a rare intelligent and informed redditor put it (hat tip Mises Blag),
So let me get this straight….the government, the same government that punishes success through the tax code, prevents innovation through burdensome regulation, can’t spend within its means, bails out billionaires with working people’s money, and has created a ponzi scheme in the form of social security to threatens to bankrupt the nation, and generally screwed up everything it has ever touched, getting involved in regulating the internet, is going to help increase speech, entrepreneurship, and innovation? Pardon me for being a little skeptical.
I’ll tell you what will really happen. The first 6 months will be fine. Then, first you will see federal taxes on internet purchases, then you will see ‘fairness’ controls that will restrict the content of what you can say, then you will see political speech regulated in the name of ‘campaign finance reform’, then you will see federal business licenses required for selling goods on the internet, required encryption backdoors, required technologies, national ‘internet IDs’, mandatory content filtering, a ban on anonymizing technologies, and 1,000 other terrors that I can’t even imagine right now. Regardless of the pure intents of the people wanting to push government enforced net neutrality, this will make the internet subject to politics and big money interests.
Here is what you will really get… Boy MP3′s sure are disruptive technology, not anymore! The president just appointed the head of BMG as the ‘internet czar’ (czar=no senate approval required!), after a $5 million campaign contribution, and he just decided that MP3s only exist to facilitate copyright infringement, and therefore must be filtered by all ISPs. And you just thought it would make your netflix download faster.
Government enforced Net neutrality is a dangerous idea that only serves to open the door to the destruction of the internet at the hands of government regulators. A better way would be an industry consortium that self-regulated net-neutrality and ostracized companies that didn’t play ball. Plus, people need to vote with their dollars. Your ISP is throttling Netflix? Don’t do business with them.
Contrary to that dolt Al Franken saying that net neutrality is the most important free-speech issue of our time, net neutrality and everything else internet- and telecom-related are solely a government-control issue. We are all born with the absolute right to completely free speech, and the State can only infringe upon that right, not protect or augment it.
I liked Kent McManigal's text-to-speech video delineating his Bubble Theory of Property Rights. His theory and the concepts and language he uses to explain it are in complete agreement with my "sphere of liberty" model of self-ownership and non-aggression, which I've summarized here (although, as I thought about when I first wrote that, it's really more of a cylinder of liberty, but "sphere" sounds much better). Kent calls it a "me-shaped bubble" in the video.
I really enjoyed Julian Sanchez's entire post Wikileaks and "Economies of Repression", but the conclusion was the best:
In the heady days of the 1990s, it was widely assumed that the global Internet was, by its nature, an anarchic zone of untrammeled speech inherently immune from the control of governments quite apart from any formal legal constraints on censorship. But as political scientist Henry Farrell, among other scholars, has observed:
[A] small group of privileged private actors can become “points of control”—states can use them to exert control over a much broader group of other private actors. This is because the former private actors control chokepoints in the information infrastructure or in other key networks of resources. They can block or control flows of data or of other valuable resources among a wide variety of other private actors.
The freedom of the global Internet comes with an increased dependence on globalized intermediaries, over whom political actors in large and valuable markets will typically exert enormous leverage. A dissident publication running its own press may have an incentive to resist that political pressure—but a multinational credit card company or hosting provider, for whom the publisher is a relatively insignificant source of revenue—will often find its bottom line better served by compliance. As Farrell notes, we’ve already seen a similar strategy pursued against offshore gambling sites, whose payment processors were threatened with litigation by ambitious prosecutors.
It’s a sobering validation of Friedrich Hayek’s famous dictum that to be controlled in our economic pursuits—perhaps now more than ever—means to be controlled in everything. Whatever you think of Wikileaks, the idea that a controversial speaker can be so effectively attacked quite outside the bounds of any direct legal process, thanks to the enormous leverage our government exerts on global telecommunications and finance firms, ought to provoke immense concern for the future of free expression online.
In any discussion of libertarian anarchism or even basic free-market economics with someone who is not very libertarian, a libertarian is likely to encounter a response to the effect of, "Well, I see your point about individual freedom and government power, but I believe that everything should have its limits and extremism of any kind is harmful, etc." That sounds reasonable, though not very inspired or principled, and it indicates that at least your interlocutor is approaching the discussion with a respectful attitude. However reasonable it sounds on the surface, an examination of what non-libertarians must do to prevent individual liberty from "running rampant" reveals how truly offensive and disrespectful their policies are and, in the process, how a moral system based on the essential principles of self-ownership and non-aggression is the only type of just or fair system.
The above objection to a Stateless libertarian society implies that society as a whole should use means it considers reasonable to enforce rules and restrictions it considers reasonable on each individual member of the society. Note that libertarian philosophies posit exactly the same thing, to a certain extent: our freedom of association, with which we can shun or ostracize unacceptable members of a group, and our economic freedom, with which we can contribute to the profit and loss of individuals and businesses, would result in a population tending to create for itself the world that it wants, with individual regions or groups deviating from the norm in whatever ways are practical and desirable. However, the crucial difference is in the granting of a monopoly on violence to a privileged group: the State. Because the State, by definition, is not subject to the same set of rules that everyone else in society must abide by, it exists outside of society, enforcing rules on society as it sees fit. And because the State, by definition, enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force, it cannot be expected to be constrained by the society it rules over. The extent to which and the ways in which the State is influenced by its subjects are only according to the desires of the majority and other large, politically organized, powerful lobbies, and not according to the desires of individuals or minority groups outside of those politically influential blocs. In contrast to a free society in which everyone would be free to march to his own drummer, weak/minority groups become marginalized and constrained by powerful/larger lobbies in a Statist society. Even the majority of voters in a given region at a given time often don't get what they want (e.g., Obama's foreign-policy and civil-liberties record). Anthony de Jasay's masterpiece The State is purported to contain the best exposition of this power struggle.
Importantly, a government at any level of geographic jurisdiction (local, state, national, etc.) must enact and enforce laws that are one-size-fits-all, and as most people in Western society have seen from the crony-corporatism and the bailouts of the last few years, most exceptions to the universal laws are made in favor of the (large) companies that help out the politicians the most. Very few people anywhere approve of this, but obviously our only recourse, voting, does no good or else it would be outlawed. As Étienne de La Boétie would remind us, a state continues to exist in the form in which it exists because society at large generally approves of it, but the most important unit of any group, the individual, is persecuted and disenfranchised by the Statist system to the extent that he wants to live his life in peaceful abstinence from the State apparatus and in peaceful disregard of its restraints.
Therefore, however close a state comes to enforcing the mores or demands of the entire populace (in effect, the majority), the libertarian is repulsed by it because no one is permitted the freedom to peacefully abstain from any demand made by that state.
What are some of those demands, made by the State (the majority) on individual subjects, for the purpose of serving the greater good? Paying taxes of all kinds to fund government agencies of all kinds; helping out the less fortunate and otherwise indigent; bailing out business that are "too big to fail"; educating children only in ways that are approved of by local, state, and national school boards; paying for every child's schooling to promote an educated citizenry; being conscripted into jury service to protect your fellow citizens from unfair prosecution; abstaining from ingesting substances that the State declares taboo and harmful to society; using only State-approved notes as currency; paying for the military's defense of the citizens and their land; possibly being conscripted into the military; protecting the environment and natural resources; paying for other people's medical care; protecting the intellectual property of innovators so as to promote more innovation; not harming others in their person or property; and not peacefully (or otherwise) seceding from the State's geographic jurisdiction over all legal affairs.
As good and noble as many of those causes are, there is no cause so noble as to justify violating anyone's rights in order to accomplish it. The rights of the one outweigh the needs of the many, and anything else, for that matter. If that is not true, who are you to say which rights of mine shall be ignored and which I shall have the privilege of maintaining? Why must libertarians always defend our person and property against you and not the other way around? Why am I not permitted to demand that you pay for my food, housing, health care, or bank bailout, that you operate your business according to the (lack of) regulations that I want, and that you be subject to the court system that I desire? Because the State says so? The majority voted on it? There's a social contract? No. That is not acceptable or defensible under any system of logic or morality. Might does not make right, the majority should not rule, and there is no such thing as a social contract.
It is a general truism that ends that are achieved by means of violating anyone's individual liberty cannot result in a net good. And it is a socio-psychological certainty that the type of people who desire the power to manage the affairs of others will violate individual rights in proportion to the greatness they aspire to. I do not support the means that the State uses to accomplish any ends, irrespective of the desirability of the ends themselves, and therefore I do not want to be a party to any of its activities. I am under no moral obligation to obey any of its demands or respect any of its methods, goals, or agents; I only do so out of concern for my own safety and well-being and because I think we can all accomplish more outside of prison than inside of it.
No person, or group of people, or society, or government has the right to demand anything of me other than that I not demand anything of them. No one has the right to demand that I pay anyone anything that I have not previously, willingly, implicitly or explicitly agreed to pay in return for a specific good or service. No one has the right to tell me how to educate my children, run my business, use my land, or redistribute "intellectual property", as long as those actions don't affect anyone else's equal liberty to do the same. No one has the right to tell me what can and can't be used as currency, what I can and can't ingest, or what actions I can partake in with other consenting adults. No one has the right to conscript me into jury duty or military service any more than they have the right to force me into slave labor. The only right we have is for nobody to violate our person, liberty, or property—in other words, to remain in equal moral standing with every other human, such that no one is in a position of power to commit any involuntary action upon another person. From this moral egalitarianism are derived our rights to be free of aggression, fraud, and breach of contract.
These rights are not subject to any terms whatsoever—no modification, no specification, no exception, no infringement, no abrogation, no higher considerations, and certainly not a vote. They are absolute and infinite. I do not demand anything of anyone else, and no one may demand anything of me without my permission and a prior agreement of some kind. Why not? Because I say so. Why don't I have any moral obligation to pay taxes, serve in the military, serve on a jury, ingest only authorized substances, donate money to a certain cause or group, or obey any of the other myriad restrictions the State places on my person, property, and liberty? Because I don't want to. They are my body, property, liberty, and rights to manage as I please, within the identical boundaries that simultaneously constrain and protect every other human being; what other reason could I need for claiming my rights?; who are you to say which of my rights is to be violated and to what extent?; who are you to say that what you want for me supersedes what I want for myself?
No one is fit to govern me but myself. What I freely do with my body and property is not subject to debate or vote. What you want for society is irrelevant, and how you want me to behave is irrelevant. The only reasons the mob's vote has any bearing on our practical world are that the State has the guns and the mob currently chooses not to start with first principles and examine what is right before deciding what is desirable. But it won't be so forever. Because might does not make right, and the majority should not rule. The majority should not rule any more than one person should. The entirety of the human race save one is no more justified in violating the rights of the one than the one would be in oppressing all of humanity.
When Statists say they agree with our assertion of individual rights to some extent, or that this or that limitation should be imposed by the State, or that not even individual liberty should be absolute, what they are really saying is that they have the right to use the violent, deadly police power of the State to restrict what we do with our minds, bodies, and property, and that not only do we not have a reciprocal right to treat them the same way, we don't even have the right to make those decisions for our own minds, bodies, and property. It is simply incoherent to assert such dominion over the liberty, property, and even the body of another. The falseness and invalidity of such a claim is self-evident. This is as certain as Descartes' Cogito ergo sum. Our right to completely control our own bodies is virtually axiomatic (though extensive proofs exist), and all other rights against encroachment follow from it. No claim to a higher good has any bearing on them, and no moral system denying these absolute truths can ever be fair or just.
You might have heard about two awful, totalitarian, Orwellian laws that the Senate is close to passing, which would unquestionably make our lives worse and cement this Democratic Congress as one of the worst in our history.
The Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), also known as the domain-seizure law. With this flabbergasting dismissal of basic rights to free speech, perhaps some Democrat supporters will change their tune and begin openly criticizing many in their party for being the freedom-hating fascists that they are.
[UPDATE: Ooh, it looks like Senator Ron Wyden, another Democrat, has put a hold on the bill, preventing it from being passed during this session of Congress and forcing it to be re-introduced in the next session if anyone wants it to be voted on. That is very good news for the internet and the First Amendment.]
The Senate will soon vote on the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2010, which would give the federal government the authority to dictate food prices, growing practices, how food is transported, and which foods can be eaten, grown, sold, and traded. It would most likely give more leeway and power to producers of genetically modified foods, which, validly or not, millions of people distrust and refuse to eat. This law would be to our daily sustenance what the Federal Reserve is to our money and the Drug War is to drug consumption—think raids, imprisonment, black markets, bureaucracy, impoverishment, degradation of standards, and massive shortages. The House version is sponsored by John Dingell, a worthless specimen of sub-human scum who apparently hasn't taken away enough freedoms, ruined enough lives, or killed enough people in his heinous, disgusting waste of a life, and who is also my representative from the 15th district of Michigan.
Even though nobody who reads this page cares about or even knows about the Regular Guys, an Atlanta morning radio show, you might still get a kick out of Tim Andrews’s impersonation of Alex Jones of infowars.com. His impersonations are one of the reasons he’s my favorite Regular Guy. This is peripherally politics-related, but mostly it’s funny. The following mp3 file is two clips that I mashed together from the Regular Guys Squares segment of the Nov. 5, 2010 show, a game whose purpose is basically to showcase their impersonations and give the caller a prize if s/he wins.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
(Btw, the answer he gives to the question, about the vice presidents, was right.)
Because in an anarchic society, gangs of thugs would kidnap newborn babies because of the beliefs or affiliations of the parentsNovember 13, 2010 – 3:11 pm by John
I postponed writing about this travesty because the only page I could find about it was at infowars.com, but the affidavit seems legit and there some videos about the story online, such as this Fox News clip.
Basically, New Hampshire state thugs kidnapped Johnathon Irish's and Stephanie Taylor's newborn baby from the hospital because they believed Irish was a danger to the baby due to his membership in the Oath Keepers, a non-violence advocacy, Constitution advocacy organization consisting of former military and law-enforcement members that opposes the violation of Constitutional and other civil liberties by governments. According to the Fox News report linked to above, there were also allegations, presumably by the same thugs, that Irish had physically abused the baby's mother. I don't know about that, but there are two things to say about that accusation before knowing whether it is true: 1) Crying "Abuse!" is easy for any government agency to do when they want to backpedal or makes excuses for their obvious crime of kidnapping. 2) If a father is a danger to his baby or baby-mama because of a past record of abuse, then the solution is to arrest him and charge him with a crime instead of kidnapping the baby! How freaking hard is that to understand?
It is not specific, isolated incidents like these, per se, that indict child protective services and other bureaucracies, in my mind. It is the fact that they have the power, officially sanctioned and considered legitimate by many, to commit such crimes in the first place. Kidnappings and murders and rapes and all kinds of other crimes can and will be committed in any society, for nearly every imaginable reason, but the fact that voters and politicians and the laws they write not only fail to prevent such child abuse from happening but empower State thugs to commit it is why I oppose the system.
The greatest problem with these systems is that getting rid of a few bad apples and booting out incumbent politicians obviously won't solve anything. This crime of kidnapping a newborn baby from its mother because of alleged danger from the father happened because the New Hampshire state government thought it was intervening for the good of the baby. Maternalistic and paternalistic laws exist for the good of society, but the force of State power cannot produce any good because the State must violate some people's rights in order to protect anyone. Most often it ends up violating the rights of the very people it purports to help. The kidnapping of Cheyenne Irish is another of a million examples of harm done in the name of helping. Cheyenne was temporarily denied the closeness to her mother that helps the mother–baby bond form, and Stephanie Taylor was denied the ability to nurse and care for her baby for the several days that the baby was in State custody. From a libertarian negative-rights perspective, I don't think either of those could be considered a right; rather, a mother, father, and baby have the right for no one to interfere with their care and custody of their baby unless the baby is clearly in danger. Clearly, she wasn't.
While the State committed this crime, any kidnapping could be committed for any reason in a free society. Perhaps people would argue that a State that actively tries to protect its subjects, including (or especially) babies, would have fewer kidnappings (and all kinds of other crimes) than a free society, so we shouldn't tear down the system because of a few inevitable flaws. That's a reasonable argument, but one that I would be on the right side of and wouldn't be swayed to the incorrect side of. That debate would probably just consist of both sides saying, "Yah-huh," and, "Nah-uh," so I don't know how productive or interesting it would be. My main argument would be that in a free society, at least there would be no laws or official sanctioning of kidnapping children in the name of helping them. This would be because there would be no avenue or infrastructure for people with the arrogance and megalomania to deem themselves worthy of protecting society to write or enforce such laws.
As a tangential discussion, it is important to keep in mind that if a child suffers physical or emotional abuse, there is nothing special about the State that grants it and only it the right to remove the child from his home and prevent the abusers from reaching him. An abusive parent has immediately, automatically, and permanently relinquished his right to have any form of contact with the victim, pending the victim's later forgiveness or desire to make some type of amends. However, this does not mean the State is legitimate in taking custody of the child any more than the State is legitimate in doing anything. In any individual case, the State might help a child or even save a child's life by putting him in a foster home instead of letting him suffer abuse for years and years, but the State is no better at protecting a child than neighbors, friends, family, charities, churches, and other religious groups. (The State's destruction and impoverishment of the inner city, where most child abuse probably takes place, is another reason its caring/protecting programs should be eliminated along with the rest of it.)
The actual abuse a child has suffered or the actual danger a child is in, in addition to which person(s) to transfer custody to and the faculty of the child to decide for himself, are subject to debate and legal action in the court system that exists in any society. Therefore, in either a Statist or a free society, neither child abuse nor groundsless "protective" kidnapping is likely to run rampant without being checked by enforceable legal action or concerned community interference. However, I would feel much more comfortable trusting child-care decisions to parents in either a free or Statist society and, after that, to neighbors, family, friends, and charities in a free or Statist society than to any government. I put my trust in regular, decent people, who almost invariably show more goodwill and kindness when left to their own devices than when commanded by an authority, than I do in any governments, which have proven for thousands of years across the world to clamor for ever more power and to abuse the power they are given.
I thought it was a nice coincidence that this quote from Robert Higgs appeared at the top of the page in our random quote generator the first time I opened our blag today:
This is the true lesson of our history: war, preparation for war, and foreign military interventions have served for the most part not to protect us, as we are constantly told, but rather to sap our economic vitality and undermine our civil and economic liberties.
I liked my response to this post by David Z. enough to re-print it here, especially because I thought of it all on the fly. It basically summarizes why anarcho-libertarians shouldn't be so dogmatic and exclusive that we alienate or ostracize advocates of limited government who might not want to make the leap to anarchism and why we shouldn't scare off liberals and conservatives who aren't close to minarchist. I made a few modifications for style and clarity:
In general, I support the “incrementalist” approach, both academically (debating/proselytizing online and in person) and practically (what I’d like to happen to government/economy/social freedom) in the future USA and every other country. When debating with actual libertarian-ish minarchists, I agree that we’re correct in actively promoting the philosophy of anarchism; they should know better by now. But because most of the world isn’t even close to minarchist, academic incrementalism and practical implementation of incrementalism might be useful and warranted.
More specifically, what I mean by academic incrementalism is: I think it is more helpful to sway people towards a philosophy of freedom in small, comfortable, easy-to-handle bits than to tell them their entire worldview (and that of 95% of the human race) is wrong. Justified or not, that leads many people to lump you in with the Alex Jones types who say everything is a lie and a conspiracy. Keep in mind that many people’s objection to libertarian ideas is not based on their opposition to increases in freedom and their support of massive violations of rights—they don’t see libertarianism as “right” or “just” and don’t see State intrusions as intrusions at all. Therefore, it is difficult to get them to see that even cutting taxes, stopping inflation, not enacting more business regulations, etc. are helpful to people’s material well-being, much less that they are more philosophically just than the opposite policies. For this reason, they are likely to be swayed by arguments saying “a little less government would be better here” and to progressively support more and more reductions in government if the initial arguments are successful.
And by practical incrementalism, more specifically, I mean that the collapse of a giant state and the sudden fracturing of society into pockets of anarchic and minarchic (and other) regions would be very jarring to most people, possibly in a way that is harmful both to the freedom movement and to people’s actual safety and well-being. Therefore, allowing people to see the benefits of low taxes and fewer regulations and fewer government handouts will lead them to support the complete elimination of all those things. Or, at least, it will lead to people being free and able to opt out of monopolistic governance more easily and smoothly. At least, it seems like it should. It makes sense to me, as I’m sure you’ve heard before, that it’s a lot easier to go from very small government to no monopolistic government than it is to go from Leviathan State to no monopolistic government. That’s why I generally support the practical implementation of incremental decreases in State power.
I don’t know whether or to what extent this conflicts with the approach that most libertarians call agorism. The way I and most other libertarians seem to use the term, agorism means gradually building “black-market” social and economic structures that don’t depend on, don't support, and aren’t (directly) affected by the State and all its immoral laws. There are probably several reasons agorism is superior to a Libertarian Party–style incrementalism, not the least of which is that legal and “proper” reductions of State power are almost impossible to achieve in this day and age, so doing it illicitly is our only recourse.
However, interestingly, agorism should itself be considered an incrementalist strategy because gradually building economic and social connections that don’t require and don’t support the State, such that the State withers away and becomes irrelevant, is one way to implement the incremental changes that I talked about above. Also interestingly, successfully creating agorist social/economic structures (which, it must be admitted, is also nearly impossible on a large scale because of the police state we live in) doesn’t require that most participants have a firm philosophical commitment to anarcho-libertarianism. It just requires that they see the monetary benefit to operating out from under the heel of the State and act upon some of the illicit agorist opportunities they come across. This again should be considered incrementalist: recognize the benefit of not paying this tax or not following that regulation; recognize the benefits of committing more and more perfectly just and victimless “crimes”; recognize the moral justness of libertarianism.
The Fraud Started at the Very Top: With Government Leaders, from Washington's Blag. See their numerous examples of how rating agencies, the Treasury Department, the SEC, the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and others committed fraud and helped banks commit fraud. This is truly a devastating list of criminality and deception that is nearly exhausting to read and keep straight.
Confessions of a Price Controller by Joseph Antos. He explains how Medicare's price-control system keeps prices up, which is no different from any price controls.
The Resource-Based Relative Value System (RBRVS) is founded on the simple, but incorrect, view that higher payments are justified for services that require greater inputs—ignoring the consumer side of the market.
Prices must respond to both the supply and demand sides of the market to allocate resources to their best use. Medicare ignores the market, setting prices for physician services based on an academic theory with its roots in the Soviet Union and implemented by the American Medical Association. Those prices do not reflect the value patients receive from their care, and they do not reflect shifts in the demand for particular kinds of services (such as primary care) as the population ages or as more people have health insurance.
The problem for a government price controller is that he can never know when the price structure is “right.” He can know when physicians are unhappy with their prices because they will complain, but that does not necessarily mean that those prices should be raised. He cannot know when prices are too high, because physicians benefiting from that mistaken generosity will not complain. The bias is always to raise prices, not lower them.
As good, simple, short as that column is, the last sentence struck me as some platitude that was insisted upon by an editor, which might be a good example of why the glorious world of blagging and self-publishing produces more unfiltered honesty and relevant commentary than writing for some corporate publication. Or maybe it's just because it was published by the American Enterprise Institute. Either way, it was kind of funny and dumb: "Let’s hope a Republican Congress will have the guts to start pulling the needle out of our arms."
Federal Student Aid To For-Profit Schools Has Tripled In Recent Years, The Consumerist. This is because when the State subsidizes something by taking money from people who earned it and giving it to others, there is no incentive for the prices to go down. In fact, there is incentive for the prices to go up, so they have. In other words, the demand for college in general and the demand for expensive colleges in particular have increased because price is much less of an issue now that the Imperial Federal Government will give you loans to pay for everything. Because the demand is artificially inflated, so are the prices. It is simple.
Obama argues his assassination program is a "state secret" by Glenn Greenwald. I don't know why everyone who calls himself a "liberal" doesn't read Glenn Greenwald regularly. I haven't ever seen a Glenn Greenwald blag post shared by my friends on Facebook. I doubt the implementation of a state assassination program was cited in that one article, shared by at least two of my friends on Facebook, listing all the things Obama has accomplished in his first two years in office with a Democratic Congress. I wonder why they aren't too proud of that one. I wonder how many have even heard about it.
The Cost of the TARP: One More Time from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Money quote:
Thanks to their access to below market credit in their time of need, courtesy of the taxpayer bailouts, the Wall Street executives are still pocketing tens of millions a year and the banks are again making record profits. Had the market been allowed to work its magic, this wealth and income would have been available for the rest of society. The financial sector will continue to be a drain on the rest of the economy because the government saved it from the consequences of its own recklessness.
That is the title of an article by Ronald Bailey at Reason about a recently published psychological survey comparing libertarians, conservatives, and liberals. The survey's findings were interesting, if unsurprising:
It will not surprise Reason readers that the study found that libertarians show (1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, (2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and (3) lower interdependence and social relatedness.
“Libertarians share with liberals a distaste for the morality of Ingroup, Authority, and Purity characteristic of social conservatives, particularly those on the religious right,” notes the study. Libertarians scored slightly below conservatives on Harm and slightly above on Fairness. This suggests that libertarians “are therefore likely to be less responsive than liberals to moral appeals from groups who claim to be victimized, oppressed, or treated unfairly.”
...Haidt and his colleagues conclude, “Libertarians may fear that the moral concerns typically endorsed by liberals or conservatives are claims that can be used to trample upon individual rights—libertarians’ sacred value. Clearly, libertarians are not amoral. Rather, standard morality scales do a poor job of measuring their one central and overriding moral commitment.”
...libertarians scored lower than conservatives and liberals on Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Extraversion. According to some researchers, low scores on Agreeableness indicate a lack of compassion and a proud, competitive, and skeptical nature.
Some of the more intriguing results reported in this study involve the Empathizer-Systemizer scale. The scale measures the tendency to empathize, defined as "the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts, and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion," and to systemize, or "the drive to analyze the variables in a system, and to derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of the system." Libertarians are the only group that scored higher on systemizing than on empathizing—and they scored a lot higher.
But how might the emotional lives of libertarians affect their morality? Not surprisingly, on the Individualism-Collectivism scale, libertarians are more individualistic than either liberals or conservatives. When it comes to groups, libertarians are less identified with their communities than are liberals or conservatives, and like liberals they are less identified with their country, but like conservatives they don’t identify with people “all over the world.” On the Different Types of Love scale, it turns out that libertarian independence from others is associated with weaker feelings of love than liberals or conservatives have for friends, family, romantic partners, and generic others. The authors note that libertarians also report slightly less satisfaction with life than do liberals and conservatives. The researchers report that libertarians “score high individualism, low on collectivism, and low on all other traits that involved bonding with, loving, or feeling a sense of common identity with others.”
I found most of Haidt's descriptions of the psychology of libertarians and the psychological/cognitive origin of libertarian viewpoints quite applicable to myself. I'm pretty introverted, left-brained, and unemotional. However, I wouldn't describe myself as being unsatisfied with much about my life. I don't think there are many times in my life I would have. That could be because I am generally an even-tempered person, which relates to that low emotionality, so I don't get too emotionally high or low about very many things. Politics and Mario Kart, mainly.
I wanted to comment on two of those libertarian personality traits that might make libertarians and/or non-libertarians concerned. The first is the connection to the community (whatever "community" means to you). This is an important thing not to overlook, and we should remember that just because a lot of community activism opportunities have been co-opted by the State (for instance, welfare and other benefits shrinking the niche for charities) and a lot of language related to becoming involved in the community is extremely Statist, we shouldn't shrug off such opportunities and ignore the potential need for our action or support. There are probably literally hundreds of ways for each of us be involved in a charity or some other organization that isn't directly related to work or play. Pride in your hometown or state or country seems like jingoism or flag-waving to arrogant douchebags, but such pride actually fosters a sense of community, connectedness, and responsibility that helps people work together to improve each other's lives. Reading and writing this has reminded me that I, too, am guilty of this shortcoming and that I should actively strive to do something that helps others around me instead of always complaining about the State harming people. I don't want to be the type of person who only echoes such niceties on the interwebs and then does nothing to implement them in his real life.
The second comment I had was about the low emotionality/high individuality of libertarians. This is clearly not just a stereotype and not just me projecting my personality traits onto other libertarians. Many non-libertarians might say those personality traits make libertarians less likeable, friendly, helpful, responsible, and other good things, but on the other hand, we don't elect mass-murdering megalomaniacs and pathological liars who oppress billions of people, so, let's not miss the forest for the trees. I'm reminded of a comment on some blag, I think it was Radley Balko's, that went something like: "I guess that's why non-libertarians say the worst thing about living in a libertarian society is that you would be surrounded by libertarians!" Well, making our society more free doesn't require changing all those conservatives and liberals (and others) into libertarian personalities; it just requires that you stop violating people's rights.
I really liked actor-comedian Jim Breuer's perspective on politics and democracy on the Regular Guys Show on Friday, October 22, 2010. He was an in-studio guest, and he stuck around for the last news segment of the morning. When the news guy brought up the local elections and the fact that Election Day was only about 10 days away, Breuer took off:
The Big Election! "Are you for the left or the right? Are you Democrat, Republican? Are you liberal, conservative?" One of the greatest divide-and-conquers in country history. ...Let me tell you something about politics: it's no different from professional wrestling. It's one great show. At the end of the day, they all get together, and they have their steaks, and they laugh at jackasses like you and I that think we're important and think we're actually doing something to change our country. ... I would not be shocked, at the end of the day, Mr. Oz pulls away his curtain and says, "I fooled all you retards. All of you."
Where's your favorite pizza place? You know what your favorite pizza place in the world is? Are you going to vote on it? ...I live in a little town in Jersey. [Leading up to] the town election, you know when you see the dumb little lawn names? ...Now, the guy in the corner of my block is a builder, he had "Bill" on his thing [lawn sign], and the whole town loved "Bill", we knew "Bill" brings his kids to play softball, and blah blah blah. Two weeks later, a lot of names changed, especially guys that were builders. Now they were for "Fred". And I really thought, like, "Wow, maybe they're getting paid to put these things on the lawn. Maybe that's the deal. Let me check, because...maybe my stock's a little higher—'Hey, I was a goat on television, and TV guide...'—might get a little extra cash, a little per diem." So I asked my neighbor, "Why did you have 'Bill' on your sign?" "Oh, my god, I love 'Bill'. I think 'Bill' should be the mayor, hands down." "Why do you have 'Fred' up?" "Because I need permits. And when I went to go get my permit, they told me, 'Well, if you get rid of that sign, we can help you a lot quicker.'"
Now, as much as you think, "Oh, that's small-town stuff," don't think for one second that doesn't happen in the big picture. The genius part of it all is your mind is manipulated.... And what cracks me up is [people say], "We're all about education! And I'd like to think that I have my own conscience!" That's what you'd like to think.
The only way you can get a full grasp on it is, honestly: do not read one newspaper...and do not watch news for two weeks. ...If you stop watching news, you start realizing how ridiculous it is and how much of a scam and a scandal and an agenda it all is, just to manipulate.
[T]his is what they do: "Here's the subject: homosexuality. This side believes blah blah blah. This side—" Why is there "this side" or "that side"? Why isn't it just a conversation? ..."Are you with them, or are you with them?" It's professional wrestling at its genius best."
I don't think it's necessarily correct or all that productive to talk in conspiracy-theory tones like many libertarians do and like Jim Breuer does there, as though everything coming from TV, newspapers, and government employees is part of a consciously designed manipulative plan, but in the end it doesn't particularly matter if the manipulation is consciously designed or not; if the results are the same whether people's thoughts and feelings are shaped deliberately or just the natural result of a Statist societal structure, then the effect is equally distressing. People believe that politics and governmental coercion not only can solve problems but are in fact the best way to solve many problems; people believe that Democrats care more about the common man and restraining corporate power than Republicans and Republicans care more about individual rights and economic freedom than Democrats; people believe that voting is a duty that they owe to society and is a privilege that gives them the power to change society and the right to complain about the problems they caused; people believe they are lucky to be granted this power and this privilege by their relatively caring and enlightened government; people convince themselves that voting for the lesser of two evils is not the least bit evil!
Some of that propaganda probably comes from politicians, advisors, and bureaucrats who know that the two-party system is a sham and that voting won't change anything fundamentally, so that is conscious manipulation. However, I doubt that is the major source of all of those misconceptions. I think it's clear that the political problems we face are more the result of an all-pervading system than a relatively few evil geniuses, and this makes them less easily surmountable because, at least in theory, the evil geniuses could be replaced with good people, whereas the all-pervading system is much more difficult to even dent, much less take down and replace. We have the advantage that the State must inevitably destroy itself with its bloat and inefficiency, at which point the society that remains must be armed with the philosophical and moral principles to form the foundation of a truly free social order, in which coercion is never an acceptable means of change and no person or group is given power that others don't have.
Only this morning did I hear about the South Fulton, TN, fire department responding to a house fire but then declining to put the fire out because the homeowners had not paid the annual $75 protection fee. I thought about using this story to explore some issues of statism and freedom in my amateur blagger's way, but Roderick Long and all his erudite commenters did a much better job than I ever could. It's a highly recommended read.
By the way, if you search for news articles on this story, isn't it depressing how strongly and confidently many (liberal socialist) authors proclaim that this is what will happen if Democrats don't run our lives and this is what would happen in a Tea-Party Republican version of America? Liberals should be ashamed to be even peripherally associated with such monumental ignorance, and especially to contribute to it.
If you follow interesting sports like baseball, football, hockey, and golf, then that will necessarily occasionally expose you to coverage and discussion of worthless sports like basketball. This also means you have to listen to at least a little bit of the insufferable blathering of basketball players and commentators. If they were all like Charles Barkley, that would be fine. In fact, it'd be a treat. I never really cared about LeBron James until his over-publicized free agency experience, which made me start to dislike him, not really because of how arrogant and self-aggrandizing he showed himself to be but simply because the sports TV and radio world deemed him worthy of a significant amount of coverage, which was incredibly annoying. Still is.
What made the summer of LeBron even more annoying and worthy of space on my blag is the claim that the backlash against him was racially motivated. That is, people criticized LeBron James's decision to become part of a superstar trio in Miami rather than staying in his home state of Ohio or going somewhere to build a championship team around himself, and his decision to make a huge deal out of this by announcing it in a 1-hour prime-time special on ESPN, because he is black and they're prejudiced.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert overreacted to LeBron's decision with idiotic remarks like the idiot that he is, so Jesse Jackson naturally responded with idiotic race-baiting like the race-baiting idiot that he is. Now, in an interview with CNN that aired on September 29, LeBron said he thought race was a factor in the criticism of his decision. Like any timid, untalented interviewer, Soledad O'Brien did not follow this up with anything probing for a more detailed answer. What was racially motivated? What specific comment or action was committed by a non-black person at least partially because you are black? Some suits at ESPN probably wanted to extract from LeBron what Soledad O'Brien failed to, so they sent Rachel Nichols there to ask him for specifics, but of course he declined to give any.
To my surprise, a normally pretty sensible commentator like Michael Wilbon completely agreed with Jesse Jackson. So did a lot of people. I was so surprised because no aspect of racism or plantation-owner mentality had even entered my mind. I dare say it never came close to entering anyone's mind who isn't a black person overly concerned with racism, seeing racism everywhere they look. You might argue that we white people don't think about racism in these situations because it's just subconscious, always underlying our thoughts and actions and reactions, and that the fact that we don't consider that certain things might be racially motivated is proof of how pervasive and influential and second-nature the racism really is. That is not correct.
What is correct is that every time a black person cries "racism" when it isn't warranted, it does contribute to making race more prominent in people's minds instead of contributing to making it barely an afterthought. Race should only be brought to our attention when it really did hurt someone. Everyone's goal in the realm of race relations should be to make race a complete non-factor, something people don't notice, don't consider, and don't blame for anything. Instead, what Jesse Jackson and now LeBron have said will make people more likely to think of race in the future. Alerting the country that you thought racism played a role, however small, in a situation, when (in my judgment) it really didn't, does not make people more considerate or less likely to show racism in the future. It makes the issue of race more likely to pop up in their minds the next time, which keeps it relevant. It should only be discussed when it is relevant, and our goal should be to make it less relevant every day. Bringing up racism when it shouldn't be brought up doesn't do anything to foster an attitude of togetherness or harmony, and it certainly doesn't help make the issue go away. Irrelevance rather than awareness should be the goal.
According to Thomas Friedman,
China is doing moon shots. Yes, that’s plural. When I say “moon shots” I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers — from America — giving China the largest number in the world in one institute to launch its own stem cell/genetic engineering industry; and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities. In essence, China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars.
Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan.
This contrast is not good.
No, it isn't. This brings two important points to my mind. First is Thomas Friedman's conclusion: the Imperial Federal Government wastes an almost unimaginable sum of its subjects' wealth. A lot of people, like Republocrats and, especially, Tea Partiers, like to cite America's lower taxes and fewer regulations and generally more free economy as reasons for our superior quality of life (in some ways). Of course, many also wisely rail against the increasing taxes and over-regulation, etc., as stifling economic growth, and this is as important a subject as any in our modern political discourse. However, an underappreciated facet of that discussion is that the Imperial Federal Government does do a lot of things wrong that most governments don't. It certainly wastes more money on the military and bloated programs like NASA than other countries. I have the impression that it also favors large corporate interests and is more "corporatist" than most other (e.g., European) governments. We are not more free, less regulated, or less screwed over than other developed countries in any meaningful way. That's a complete myth. The military is by far the primary reason for this. If most of that money were spent on something useful or productive, our financial quality of life and therefore the strength of our families and communities would grow like we've never seen.
The main reason I bring up that link is what it means for China: they're on the path to the same type of centrally planned bloat that afflicts all societies after they experience some affluence and start becoming complacent and arrogant. I figured it would take a long time for the NIH/NASA/HUD/green-subsidizing type of bloat to replace the corrupt Communist oppression that has characterized that country for so long. Maybe it still will be a while. But from my perspective, they're ahead of the curve in over-spending and over-regulating themselves into poverty. This might sound kind of stupid because that's exactly what their Communist government has done for three generations. Maybe it is. Either way, it isn't a good sign.
According to many people, this 25-year plan looks good for China. In fact, it probably will help the Chinese people in many ways. Many of these things might have been done in a free China. They certainly seem to need some kind of environmentally friendly changes in their cities. But it doesn't matter how good the ideas are, how well they are managed, how many people they employ, or how much better its government is than it was last century. Central planning cannot allocate resources as efficiently as the free decisions of free people using the price system. Governments can only make decisions politically, which cannot enrich a population as well as decisions that are made economically.
In the end, this means China will have tens of thousands of people conducting basic research that will not help people in proportion to the amount of wealth expended in conducting the research. (If it did, how could we ever tell? How could people decide for themselves what was worth their money and what wasn't? How could the ineffective expenses be replaced with more economically efficient ones?) They will have unnecessarily expensive, fancy airports that will inevitably be managed by corrupt bureaucrats who couldn't flip burgers in a free country. (Not that this changes anything.) They will have politically protected, over-funded, deteriorating railways that need subsidies to survive. (At least, that's the way it happened in the United States, another large country with widely spaced population centers.) They will go through a green bubble like the one Barack Obama is creating over here and be left with companies, products, and R&D departments that exist because of political correctness and not necessarily because of scientific correctness or economic worth.
Better central planning is still central planning. If China had a 25-year plan to get rid of dozens of government agencies/offices and fire hundreds of thousands of government employees (as if that would actually hold up through multiple changes of leadership), that would be real change.
(Hat tip: Henry Blodget)
"Profit is vital to human well-being. Profit is the payment to entrepreneurs just as wages are payments to labor, interest to capital and rent to land. In order to earn profits in free markets, entrepreneurs must identify and satisfy human wants and do so in a way that economizes on society's scarce resources."
—Walter E. Williams, Profit vs. Non-Profit
I like most of Walter Williams's short columns on economics and race and labor and society. They usually contain simple but useful lessons on the economic forces that govern our everyday lives, and he also has a knack for expressing lessons in juicy quotable nuggets like that.
I liked this column by Danah Boyd at HuffPo explaining why censoring the "Adult Services" section of Craigslist, effectively forbidding women from prostituting themselves semi-openly, will harm women by protecting pimps, child traffickers, and other abusive scumbags:
On Friday, under tremendous pressure from US attorneys general and public advocacy groups, Craigslist shut down its "Adult Services" section. There is little doubt that this space has been used by people engaged in all sorts of illicit activities, many of which result in harmful abuses. But the debate that has ensued has centered on the wrong axis, pitting protecting the abused against freedom of speech. What's implied in public discourse is that protecting potential victims requires censorship; thus, anti-censorship advocates are up in arms attacking regulators for trying to curtail First Amendment rights. While I am certainly a proponent of free speech online, I find it utterly depressing that these groups fail to see how this is actually an issue of transparency, not free speech. And how this does more to hurt potential victims than help.
If you've ever met someone who is victimized through trafficking or prostitution, you'll hear a pretty harrowing story about what it means to be invisible and powerless, feeling like no one cares and no one's listening. Human trafficking and most forms of abusive prostitution exist in a black market, with corrupt intermediaries making connections and offering "protection" to those who they abuse for profit. ...
The Internet has changed the dynamics of prostitution and trafficking, making it easier for prostitutes and traffickers to connect with clients without too many layers of intermediaries. As a result, the Internet has become an intermediary, often without the knowledge of those internet service providers (ISPs) who are the conduits. This is what makes people believe that they should go after ISPs like Craigslist. Faulty logic suggests that if Craigslist is effectively a digital pimp who's profiting off of online traffic, why shouldn't it be prosecuted as such?
The problem with this logic is that it fails to account for three important differences: 1) most ISPs have a fundamental business—if not moral—interest in helping protect people; 2) the visibility of illicit activities online makes it much easier to get at, and help, those who are being victimized; and 3) a one-stop-shop is more helpful for law enforcement than for criminals. In short, Craigslist is not a pimp, but a public perch from which law enforcement can watch without being seen.
When Internet companies profit off of online traffic, they need their clients to value them and the services they provide. If companies can't be trusted -- especially when money is exchanging hands -- they lose business. This is especially true for companies that support peer-to-peer exchange of money and goods. This is what motivates services like eBay and Amazon to make it very easy for customers to get refunded when ripped off. Craigslist has made its name and business on helping people connect around services, and while there are plenty of people who use its openness to try to abuse others, Craigslist is deeply committed to reducing fraud and abuse. It's not always successful -- no company is. And the more freedom that a company affords, the more room for abuse. But what makes Craigslist especially beloved is that it is run by people who truly want to make the world a better place and who are deeply committed to a healthy civic life.
Working with ISPs to collect data and doing systematic online stings can make an online space more dangerous for criminals than for victims because this process erodes the trust in the intermediary, the online space. Eventually, law enforcement stings will make a space uninhabitable for criminals by making it too risky for them to try to operate there. Censoring a space may hurt the ISP but it does absolutely nothing to hurt the criminals. Making a space uninhabitable by making it risky for criminals to operate there -- and publicizing it -- is far more effective. This, by the way, is the core lesson that Giuliani's crew learned in New York. The problem with this plan is that it requires funding law enforcement.
Censorship online is nothing more than whack-a-mole, pushing the issue elsewhere or more underground.
Censoring Craigslist will do absolutely nothing to help those being victimized, but it will do a lot to help those profiting off of victimization. Censoring Craigslist will also create new jobs for pimps and other corrupt intermediaries, since it'll temporarily make it a whole lot harder for individual scumbags to find clients. This will be particularly devastating for the low-end prostitutes who were using Craigslist to escape violent pimps. Keep in mind that occasionally getting beaten up by a scary john is often a whole lot more desirable for many than the regular physical, psychological, and economic abuse they receive from their pimps. So while it'll make it temporarily harder for clients to get access to abusive services, nothing good will come out of it in the long run.
I was not impressed by this blag post by Timothy Egan, even though several of my friends were (according to Facebook). I mean, all of his points were good and worth making, but the immense hypocrisy of the blag post and liberal Democrats in general makes me skeptical that any of his good points will get through to them and prompt them to question, or even recognize, their blind loyalty to anyone whose name is followed by a (D).
Egan's point is that a large proportion of the Rebublican rank-and-file unquestioningly believe half-truths and blatant lies fed to them by right-wing media. For instance, that Obama is a Muslim, he was born in Kenya, he signed the TARP bailouts into law, and Michelle Obama and 40 friends recently vacationed in Spain on the public's dime. He's right, this is pretty alarming. Plenty of voters of all stripes believe things that are wrong, but I'm sure many of them are topics of debate or are not extremely easily disprovable. But to believe things that are objectively, undeniably, obviously wrong, immediately and easily disprovable, is indicative of willful ignorance that should alarm everyone.
But how about the things that liberal Democratic voters never bother to look into or question? For instance, how Obama voted on the aforementioned TARP legislation. (No, Egan didn't bother mentioning that Obama voted Yea or that he has willfully continued and done nothing to reverse any effects of TARP.) How many Democratic voters know about Obama's vote on a warrantless wiretapping program or how his regime feels about Bush's warrantless wiretap policy? (Admittedly, these made bigger headlines than other crimes, failures, and broken promises of Obama's.) How about the cost of Obama's failed stimulus vs. the cost of almost 6 years of the Iraq War under President Bush? How about the number of Pakistani non-combatants killed by Predator drone attacks under President Obama in only a year and a half? How many Democratic voters would even be in the ballpark if asked to guess about those numbers? How many liberal blaggers care about the willful ignorance of Democratic voters on these issues? On the other hand, how many gladly avoid railing against Obama for things that, if (when) Republicans did them, they would rant about until they were as blue as Tobias Fünke?
I liked this blag post by Philip Greenspun about how his small business suffers, both in absolute terms and relative to the competition, in the face of more government, more regulations, and more lobbyists. One reason I liked it might be because it fits in with our original goal in founding this blag: writing about real-world, everyday experiences that show how more government hurts people and how we'd be better off without it.
Federal and state governments offer a lot of subsidies and incentives for businesses, or so we’re told, but we never have more than one admin person working the front desk at any given time. We don’t have qualified staff ready to go looking for government programs to tap into. We know how to serve private customers, but not how to get money from the government. This puts us at a disadvantage compared to big companies that can afford to spread the cost of a full-time “getting money from the government” employee.
A government that consumes a larger percentage of the GDP is a government that makes lobbying more fruitful. In a lobbying war, however, the small will inevitably lose out to bigger enterprises.
You might think that we’d be doing well because the government has decided to put more money into education. The new funds, however, generally can only be used at degree-granting institutions. Once enrolled in a “bachelor’s of aviation” program, the spigots open up for the student’s tuition, housing, and food. This is great for established large colleges and universities because, even though they may charge 50% higher prices than our school, it works out to be cheaper for the student. Our prices are lower and our instructors are more experienced, which gives us a competitive advantage when dealing with privately-funded students. In a world where most of the new students are government-funded, however, we are inevitably out-competed by the big schools.
One commenter pointed out that you don't have to be a big business with legions of administrators and lobbyists to get the government grant money; you can hire private businesses or independent contractors who know how to get the government money for you, and in this way, it's one private business helping another private business get government money that was going to be spent anyway. That's not a terrible argument for the practical debate about who suffers and benefits under corporate-State socialism, but as it does so often, Ludwig von Mises's calculation argument comes into the forefront: how do we know the free market would have allocated the government grant money to the places it ends up? How do we know that was best? What did we miss out on because it was allocated thusly? When and how would those allocations of resources have been deemed inefficient and been modified or replaced altogether with some opportunity that someone anticipated or took a chance on, and then gained a competitive advantage and transformed the market in some important way? It is impossible to know or even guess.
Even if, as I doubt, small governments are or could become as capable of getting tax dollars as large businesses, and even if the endless government regulations that big businesses lobby for and small businesses have no resources to oppose or support could help some small businesses as much as some large businesses, there is absolutely no way to determine whether the ultimate allocation of tax money (and labor, capital, land) was the way it would have been without State interference. Because the State can't calculate but markets can, it is clear that the free market's allocation of that grant money would be more efficient for the whole society and in the long run than the government's.
LewRockwell.com reprinted the preface to The Underground History of American Public Education by John Taylor Gatto, and it had some quote-worthy passages:
I want to open up concealed aspects of modern schooling such as the deterioration it forces in the morality of parenting. You have no say at all in choosing your teachers. You know nothing about their backgrounds or families. And the state knows little more than you do. This is as radical a piece of social engineering as the human imagination can conceive.
Law courts and legislatures have totally absolved school people from liability. You can sue a doctor for malpractice, not a schoolteacher. Every homebuilder is accountable to customers years after the home is built; not schoolteachers, though. You can’t sue a priest, minister, or rabbi either; that should be a clue.
If you can’t be guaranteed even minimal results by these institutions, not even physical safety; if you can’t be guaranteed anything except that you’ll be arrested if you fail to surrender your kid, just what does the public in public schools mean?
Government schooling is the most radical adventure in history. It kills the family by monopolizing the best times of childhood and by teaching disrespect for home and parents. The whole blueprint of school procedure is Egyptian, not Greek or Roman. It grows from the theological idea that human value is a scarce thing, represented symbolically by the narrow peak of a pyramid.
There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen—that probably guarantees it won’t.
How much more evidence is necessary? Good schools don’t need more money or a longer year; they need real free-market choices, variety that speaks to every need and runs risks. We don’t need a national curriculum or national testing either. Both initiatives arise from ignorance of how people learn or deliberate indifference to it.
Exactly what John Dewey heralded at the onset of the twentieth century has indeed happened. Our once highly individualized nation has evolved into a centrally managed village, an agora made up of huge special interests which regard individual voices as irrelevant. The masquerade is managed by having collective agencies speak through particular human beings. Dewey said this would mark a great advance in human affairs, but the net effect is to reduce men and women to the status of functions in whatever subsystem they are placed. Public opinion is turned on and off in laboratory fashion. All this in the name of social efficiency, one of the two main goals of forced schooling.
What is "proper" social order? What does "right" social growth look like? If you don’t know you’re like me, not like John Dewey who did, or the Rockefellers, his patrons, who did, too.
Somehow out of the industrial confusion which followed the Civil War, powerful men and dreamers became certain what kind of social order America needed, one very like the British system we had escaped a hundred years earlier. This realization didn’t arise as a product of public debate as it should have in a democracy, but as a distillation of private discussion. Their ideas contradicted the original American charter but that didn’t disturb them. They had a stupendous goal in mind. The end of unpredictable history; its transformation into dependable order.
From mid-century onwards certain utopian schemes to retard maturity in the interests of a greater good were put into play, following roughly the blueprint Rousseau laid down in the book Emile. At least rhetorically. The first goal, to be reached in stages, was an orderly, scientifically managed society, one in which the best people would make the decisions, unhampered by democratic tradition. After that, human breeding, the evolutionary destiny of the species, would be in reach. Universal institutionalized formal forced schooling was the prescription, extending the dependency of the young well into what had traditionally been early adult life. Individuals would be prevented from taking up important work until a relatively advanced age. Maturity was to be retarded.
During the post–Civil War period, childhood was extended about four years. Later, a special label was created to describe very old children. It was called adolescence, a phenomenon hitherto unknown to the human race. The infantilization of young people didn’t stop at the beginning of the twentieth century; child labor laws were extended to cover more and more kinds of work, the age of school leaving set higher and higher. The greatest victory for this utopian project was making school the only avenue to certain occupations. The intention was ultimately to draw all work into the school net. By the 1950s it wasn’t unusual to find graduate students well into their thirties, running errands, waiting to start their lives.
If you believe nothing can be done for the dumb except kindness, because it’s biology (the bell-curve model); if you believe capitalist oppressors have ruined the dumb because they are bad people (the neo-Marxist model); if you believe dumbness reflects depraved moral fiber (the Calvinist model); or that it’s nature’s way of disqualifying boobies from the reproduction sweepstakes (the Darwinian model); or nature’s way of providing someone to clean your toilet (the pragmatic elitist model); or that it’s evidence of bad karma (the Buddhist model); if you believe any of the various explanations given for the position of the dumb in the social order we have, then you will be forced to concur that a vast bureaucracy is indeed necessary to address the dumb. Otherwise they would murder us in our beds.
The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the careers devoted to tending to them will seem incredible to you. Yet that is my proposition: Mass dumbness first had to be imagined; it isn’t real.
Once the dumb are wished into existence, they serve valuable functions: as a danger to themselves and others they have to be watched, classified, disciplined, trained, medicated, sterilized, ghettoized, cajoled, coerced, jailed. To idealists they represent a challenge, reprobates to be made socially useful. Either way you want it, hundreds of millions of perpetual children require paid attention from millions of adult custodians. An ignorant horde to be schooled one way or another.
[I]t isn’t difficult to find various conspirators boasting in public about what they pulled off. But if you take that tack you’ll miss the real horror of what I’m trying to describe, that what has happened to our schools was inherent in the original design for a planned economy and a planned society laid down so proudly at the end of the nineteenth century. I think what happened would have happened anyway—without the legions of venal, half-mad men and women who schemed so hard to make it as it is. If I’m correct, we’re in a much worse position than we would be if we were merely victims of an evil genius or two.
If you obsess about conspiracy, what you’ll fail to see is that we are held fast by a form of highly abstract thinking fully concretized in human institutions which has grown beyond the power of the managers of these institutions to control. If there is a way out of the trap we’re in, it won’t be by removing some bad guys and replacing them with good guys.
In the future, I would like to read more of John Taylor Gatto, perhaps by actually buying one of his books. Other than promoting a free market of schooling and more family involvement in children's educations, I don't recall him offering very many concrete solutions, but that's probably because, as he said, there are as many ways to educate a child as there are fingerprints, and families, communities, private companies subject to profit and loss, and even (maybe especially) the children themselves should decide how they each should gain an education. I think the most important point about compelled schooling is that it absolves parents, and therefore children, of most of the responsibility that they would otherwise have in children's education, and it is impossible to really gauge how much human value is lost by the absence of such a vested interest.
Roger Clemens has been indicted for "obstruction of Congress" because he lied to them in 2008 when he told them, "Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or hGH." The Imperial Federal Government has decided it can take people's lives, liberty, and property for putting certain substances into their bodies, and it has also arrogated to itself the power to do the same to people who lie to the government about anything. That abominable, despicable, wretched, pitiful excuse for a man Henry Waxman said, "When a witness, such as Roger Clemens, lies, as I think he did, he should be held accountable." What a worthless piece of trash. I wouldn't give Henry fucking Waxman the time of day if he were dying in a ditch. Hey, Waxman and all you other wastes of carbon and oxygen:
IT IS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS WHAT ROGER CLEMENS INGESTED OR WHETHER HE LIED TO YOU ABOUT IT. YOU HAVE NO MORAL AUTHORITY TO DEMAND ANYTHING FROM HIM, INCLUDING THAT HE TELL YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT ANYTHING.
Any person who thinks any member of any government is in any way remotely justified in demanding the first thing from Roger Clemens or any other athlete regarding performance-enhancing drugs is an enemy of freedom who should be called out as such.
In Atlanta last Wednesday and Thursday, 30,000 people crowded the streets on foot and in their cars to hand in their applications for a voucher for free Section 8 housing to the East Point Housing Authority.
More than a thousand people [as I mentioned, it was actually 30,000 in the end] gathered Wednesday outside a metro-Atlanta shopping mall in hopes of being placed on a waiting list for federal housing assistance.
Fights broke out, children were reportedly trampled, and police had to stop the crowd from storming a nightclub being used by the East Point Housing Authority in East Point, Ga....
[T]the line for Section 8 housing vouchers formed two days ago and grew into the hundreds Tuesday night. People even slept outside the nightclub despite repeated assertions from the housing officials that the line was unnecessary and everyone would receive an application.
By Wednesday morning, the crowd had grown so large that East Point police began patrolling the area in riot gear and first responders were tending to people who were overheating in the sun.
People became frustrated when officials, feeling overwhelmed, did not open the doors at 9 a.m. as they had planned, reports CBS Atlanta. Those waiting in line were told by officials to move from one location to another before riot gear-clad police and housing officials handed out applications.
"I find this amazing," Ed Schultz said on "The Ed Show" Wednesday night. "One can only imagine watching this videotape ... how many other cities have it like this across America. And I think we have to ask ourselves the moral question, aren't we better than this?"
Indeed. But when a welfare-statist government arrogates to itself the function of providing anything to its subjects, especially some basic necessities like housing or food, the subjects will naturally become dependent on the government, expecting it to provide things for them and thinking of those handouts as their right, instead of becoming self-sufficient adults like they ought to.
The Regular Guys show, which broadcasts on an Atlanta rock station and which I frequently listen to online, sent someone out to the scene of this travesty on Thursday, knowing that chaos and pitifulness would ensue again and hoping to get some good audio from some of the handout seekers. One of the Regular Guys interviewed an aspiring rapper/producer/mixer/whatever, who was in line to get rent-free housing mainly so that he could raise his young son with slightly less hardship than if he had to pay for housing. He was less pathetic and clueless than you might expect, and probably less so than the Regular Guys were hoping for. Naturally, the radio guy turned the issue to where the money was coming from to pay his rent and who would be providing this money. The interviewee said something like, "The government, I guess," and might have understood the radio guy's point by the end: all of the tax-paying citizens were going to be paying for this housing, not some magical fund from "the government" or "Obama".
This was predictable and uninteresting, quite depressing, actually, but I suppose that's the best they could do with only audio at 6:30 in the morning.
I think it would have been much more interesting, though admittedly too heavy for a brief segment on morning entertainment radio, to discuss how those people in their cars in the 85° heat braving a chaotic crowd of 30,000 angry, unemployed people and waiting in line for not hours but days, in some cases, were the victims of our welfare state to a much greater degree than white, suburban, tax-paying radio show hosts. They are the victims of Obama and Bush and Clinton and Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt and the Federal Reserve. The Imperial Federal Government with its impoverishing wars and debt and inflation have made it harder to get a job. The insidious social programs of the 20th-century welfare state have destroyed the families of inner-city black people. The Drug War has wasted almost as much money and lives as aggressive foreign wars. The endless regulations on housing, labor, education, farming, et cetera ad nauseam have made all of those things more expensive and less attainable for everyone, most of all the people who were born into poverty or bad families or bad neighborhoods where success in anything other than rap or basketball is now considered selling out or shameful.
Before anyone goes lamenting their own woes and their victimhood under the heel of the modern welfare-warfare state, consider the people who never even got a chance to succeed because the United States government made their families poor and their neighborhoods poor and enforces thousands upon thousands of policies that are sure to keep them psychologically dependent on the government and therefore poor as well. This might not excuse them for much blame for their situation in life, but it certainly goes a long way to explaining why they are there, and this is a travesty we should oppose with as much vigor as we oppose anything our government does to its own citizens.
I really liked this post by Radley Balko. Nothing needs to be added to it:
Over at City Journal, Steven Malanga looks at the recent history of federal dietary guidelines and finds they may well be killing us.
As a recent review of the latest research in Scientific American pointed out, ever since the first set of federal guidelines appeared in 1980, Americans heard that they had to reduce their intake of saturated fat by cutting back on meat and dairy products and replacing them with carbohydrates. Americans dutifully complied. Since then, obesity has increased sharply, and the progress that the country has made against heart disease has largely come from medical breakthroughs like statin drugs, which lower cholesterol, and more effective medications to control blood pressure.
Researchers have started asking hard questions about fat consumption and heart disease, and the answers are startling…
According to Scientific American, growing research into carbohydrate-based diets has demonstrated that the medical establishment may have harmed Americans by steering them toward carbs. Research by Meir Stampfer, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, concludes that diets rich in carbohydrates that are quickly digestible—that is, with a high glycemic index, like potatoes, white rice, and white bread—give people an insulin boost that increases the risk of diabetes and makes them far more likely to contract cardiovascular disease than those who eat moderate amounts of meat and fewer carbs. Though federal guidelines now emphasize eating more fiber-rich carbohydrates, which take longer to digest, the incessant message over the last 30 years to substitute carbs for meat appears to have done significant damage. And it doesn’t appear that the government will change its approach this time around. The preliminary recommendations of a panel advising the FDA on the new guidelines urge people to shift to “plant-based” diets and to consume “only moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry and eggs.”
My colleague Jacob Sullum wrote last week about how the dietary guidelines have been reluctant to embrace overwhelming scientific research showing the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.
I think my favorite example of self-proclaimed nutrition expert oopses was a campaign run by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the late 1980s and early 1990s to get restaurants to switch from animal fats to trans fats. From a 1988 CSPI newsletter:
"All told, the charges against trans fat just don’t stand up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent."
Of course, CSPI now wants to ban the stuff outright.
As the government takes over more of the health care system, expect to see more calls for more government “nudges” to help us eat healthier in order to save the government money. It’s worth remembering that like everything else government does, the government’s dietary recommendations are susceptible to all sorts of pressures and influences, which may or may not have anything to do with nutritional science.
Perhaps you have seen the text of this House bill introduced by Chuck Rangel: the Universal National Service Act. Yes, a draft: military (or some other form of) slavery. Here is the summary sentence of the bill:
To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed services or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, to authorize the induction of persons in the uniformed services during wartime to meet end-strength requirements of the uniformed services, and for other purposes.
I remember Chuck Rangel saying he would support a military draft in 2003 or 2004 to dissuade politicians from starting more wars and expanding our military efforts because, presumably, they would be more hesitant to send unwilling soldiers to die, especially when their sons or relatives were among them. Maybe, but that's not how everyone would take a draft bill. Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel openly favor compulsory national service of some kind, not necessarily military. In that context, the Obama regime seems quite likely to pass a bill like Chuck Rangel's in order to implement their national community-service dream, not necessarily to send thousands of boys to the Middle East as cannon fodder. However, as anyone could predict, "community-service" slavery could easily be transmuted into "military-service" slavery by other politicians or by "national emergencies" caused by those politicians.
To the surprise of absolutely no one who was paying attention, the data recorders in the Toyota vehicles that supposedly accelerated out of control indicate that the drivers were responsible, not the accelerators, brake pedals, or electronics. I remember the Regular Guys radio show in Atlanta predicting, when these faulty Toyota stories were big news, that almost all of these accidents were actually the drivers' fault, not Toyota's. I concurred, and I think we were all right.
Remember the CEO of Toyota standing in front of Congress and, in broken English, apologizing profusely and practically begging for America to give them another chance and believe in Toyota again? And how some congressmen, I don't remember which, berated him and his company and basically tried to start a nationwide smear campaign against them? We won't be hearing any apologies from them, nor can they undo the damage they helped cause to a perfectly responsible company that makes cars that are apparently about as safe any other company's.
I think it's safe to say that, in the minds of many senators, congressmen, and bureaucrats, the desire to bolster American car companies at the expense of the suddenly vulnerable Toyota played no small part in their attacks on Toyota before any solid evidence was available. Do you doubt that such favoritism will become commonplace and even more shameless as the Imperial Federal Government gains more influence, control, and eventually ownership of nominally private businesses? Of course government agents will make decisions based on politics and not necessarily economics, justice, good business sense, or even common sense. This kind of dishonesty, this disregard for the facts, the complete lack of importance placed on efficiency or fairness are characteristic of government-run economies when decision-making is political, so we can expect a lot more of this in the future, not less.
This story about many people and businesses in Michigan exchanging alternative forms of currency instead of U.S. dollars was pretty interesting. It's from a local news station, so it includes a video of the evening news segment, in addition to some excerpts from the news segment:
Right now, you can buy a meal or visit a chiropractor without using actual U.S. legal tender.
They sound like real money and look like real money. But you can't take them to the bank because they're not made at a government mint. They're made at private mints.
[Dave] Gillie also accepts silver, gold, copper and other precious metals to pay for food.
He says, if he wanted to, he could accept marbles.
"Do people have to accept dollars or money? No, they don'," Gillie said. "They can accept anything they want or they can refuse to accept anything."
He's absolutely right.
The U.S. Treasury Department says the Coinage Act of 1965 says "private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash, unless there is a state law which says otherwise."
A chiropractic office in Lapeer County's Deerfield Township allows creativity when it comes to payment.
"This establishment accepts any form of silver, gold, chicken, apple pie, if someone works it out with me," said Jeff Kotchounian of Deerfield Chiropractic. "I've taken many things."
I think this is pretty neat and pretty encouraging. The U.S. dollar as we know it might not last our lifetimes, and if it does, it might have to undergo hyperinflation to stay in existence, but that's just the beginning of the end anyway. I know there are problems of practicality with even two (gold and silver) forms of currency, but free people making free choices can and will develop better solutions to any economic problem, including monetary ones, than any amount of legislation.
I might be a little late posting about this, but it doesn't make it any less infuriating:
Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. "Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour," Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.
In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.
Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn't good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million -- if water isn't at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer -- but only partly. Because the U.S. didn't want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.
A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out. With oil increasingly reaching the Gulf coast, the emergency construction of sand berns to minimize the damage is imperative. Again, the U.S. government priority is on U.S. jobs, with the Dutch asked to train American workers rather than to build the berns. According to Floris Van Hovell, a spokesman for the Dutch embassy in Washington, Dutch dredging ships could complete the berms in Louisiana twice as fast as the U.S. companies awarded the work.
This doesn't prove the impossibility of governments doing something efficiently or effectively, because the Dutch government (and those 12 other governments whose help the idiots in the Obama regime refused) apparently have fairly fast and effective ways to mitigate an oil-spill catastrophe. And while it's true, as Sheldon Richman reminds us, that environmental catastrophes are more accurately attributed to government failure than market failure, all the governmental failures involved in allowing the BP spill to happen and delaying the cleanup efforts do not prove that freedom can permit no catastrophes and no environmental damage. This sorry episode does prove, however, that Obama's hopelessly incompetent and union-cozy minions are no better than any other regime's bureaucrats and will bring us nothing resembling "hope" or "change".
Somehow I came across this article written by Anthony de Jasay for the Library of Economics and Liberty, which I know best as the site that publishes EconLog, the blag of Bryan Caplan, Arnold Kling, and David Henderson. Jasay's article was written in 2006. It details some consequences of socialist economic policies on the labor market, specifically labor unions, rendering workers and worker unions powerless to make many demands because they are so desperate for more jobs and more job security.
An ever more elaborate system of 'workers' rights' was promoted until the labour code grew to several thousand pages—a happy hunting ground for labour lawyers, a minefield for enterprises. Trade union power came to be based, not on workers recognising that union membership may serve their interests, but on legislation, government sponsorship and the patronage afforded by the immense administrative machinery of the various social insurance schemes.
The future historian of these apparent triumphs over economic reality will very likely single out two phenomena that loomed more and more ominously and in fact began to signal that no matter how the battles went, the war was beginning to be lost. One was the growing severity of job protection policies that made firing employees so difficult and expensive that employers were frightened away from hiring them in the first place. New job creation fell to levels last seen in the Great Depression, for offering employment except on short-term contracts has become an act of reckless audacity. (One small but significant breach in job protection came just the other day when the highest French court of appeal ruled that terminating employees may be permitted not only when the enterprise is making losses threatening its survival, but also when terminating employees is necessary to prevent such losses).
The other ominous phenomenon was that the high level of unemployment, which would have seemed abnormal a decade ago, has come to be seen as a fact of life. It has resisted the multitude of attempted therapies governments of both Right and Left tried to apply to it. The diminishing band of diehard defenders of the 'European social model' still mutter that unemployment is high because the model is not 'social' enough, or not European enough, and all will be well when it is made more social and more 'harmoniously' European. Meanwhile, it is starting to be noticed that chronically high unemployment has almost wholly drained away the bargaining power of labour in the private sector. Union militancy is now confined to the public sector—essentially, to public transport workers, teachers and government clerks. Thirty-odd years of socialist economic policies have reduced the mythical, red flag waving 'working class' to passive impotence.
An anecdote bears eloquent witness to how workers 'benefiting' from the 'special model' now stand compared to those who are exposed to the 'caprice of the market'. Two years ago Toyota set up a car assembly plant in the industrially derelict region of Northeast France. More recently, the president of Toyota visited the plant, expressed his satisfaction and explained that the company has chosen to locate in France rather than in England (which was the runner-up candidate location) because 'English workers can afford to talk back, but French workers cannot'.
I wish Anthony de Jasay was a more active, or at least more high-profile, writer or even blagger today because his magnum opus The State is so good that more people need to read about him. He still writes articles for the Library of Economics and Liberty, so I guess I should actually read them regularly and accept that as good enough for an 85-year-old.