Archive for the ‘Libertarianism’ Category

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Hayek, on Democracy

May 18, 2010

“Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom.”

— Frederick Hayek

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Goodnight, sweet prince.

August 18, 2009

“If communism goes…we still have the House of Representatives.”

— Robert Novak, 1931-2009

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“Profit” is a six-letter word, not four

August 11, 2009

Claire McCaskill (D-MO) hates the concept of profits. “Insurance companies make an excess of $12 billion in profits every year. That’s where the reform needs to happen,” she says.

Instead of criticizing the problem of access to insurance, or the limitations private insurance puts on healthcare access (which we are being told is the problem), McCaskill makes no attempt to conceal what the debate over healthcare is about. It’s a government takeover of a profitable industry in the interest of redistributing wealth and exterminating the private sector.

The failure of Left-wing economics is the tendency to disavow any role for profit in creating progress. All economic progress we have made in this country has been made because greedy capitalists sought profits. The light bulb, the automobile, the television…these were all invented by greedy, profit-seeking bastards. So were penicillin, the stethoscope, the smallpox vaccine, the heart monitor and other inventions that have made it exponentially easier to keep people alive and healthy than it was hundreds of years ago. And the sterilization tools, floor mops, latex gloves and millions of miles of rubber tubing that every hospital and doctor’s office uses are created by companies motivated not by some utopian altruism, but by an interest in making a product that people demand and selling it for profit.

Profit-seeking is a natural and inextinguishable human motive. If it were not natural, evolution would not have allowed living organisms to develop instincts of self-preservation. The beauty of a truly free market is that this natural and human instinct of profit-seeking can be harnessed to place limits on profit seekers themselves. Apple cannot charge $1 million for an iPod; it must make its iPods affordable enough that they can be purchased en masse by consumers who demand it because it has intrinsic value and it is in their self-interest to do so. The profit-seeking motive of the consumer, manifest in his interest in saving as much money as possible, limits the profit-seeking motive of the producer.

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Supreme Court Decisions Every American Should Know About #1: Wickard v. Filburn

August 5, 2009

Today will be the first installment of a new series of posts I intend to write: Supreme Court Decisions Every American Should Know About.

Each post will feature a particular Supreme Court decision that, in my opinion, greatly redefined how a particular provision of the Constitution is interpreted or had a long-lasting impact on some area of public policy in the United States, for better or for worse.

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Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) was described by Justice  William Rehnquist in 1995 as “perhaps the most far reaching example of Commerce Clause authority over intrastate commerce.” This decision set a precedent which for the next 53 years would enable Congress to use the commerce clause to regulate all sorts of commercial activities that were once safe within the confines of the states’ police powers.

Growing too much of this would get you a hefty fine during the New Deal, even though starving people everywhere in America would have loved you for it.

Growing too much of this would get you a hefty fine during the New Deal, even though starving people everywhere in America would have loved you for it.

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Democracy and dissent: you can’t have one without the other

August 4, 2009

It’s a common scenario these days: Obama stands up at the podium during his press conference, pitches some kind of “reform” that commands a massive government-led assault on the private sector, and he warns Republicans to “stop playing partisan politics and get on board with real reform.” These days, anyone who questions Obama-brand Change™ gets labeled as a partisan fearmonger who should stop questioning The Messiah and jump on the bandwagon. To do otherwise would be to harm the American People.

I am reminded of a quote by Jonah Goldberg when I saw him speak on his book Liberal Fascism a few years ago. Someone asked him what he thought of people who questioned the Bush administration’s anti-terror policies. I’ll have to paraphrase what he said because I don’t remember it verbatim. His answer:

“Dissent is the cornerstone of democracy. You can’t have an effective democracy without a free marketplace of ideas and without someone questioning the status quo once in awhile. When you try to stifle or suppress dissenting views, you end up with a sort of soft fascism–sure, everyone’s happy because they all outwardly agree with each other, but everyone is a little less free because of it.”

It stuck with me because at the time, I was in with the “only America-haters question Bush” crowd. Now although I still agree with many of his anti-terror policies, I know better than to think that elected leaders always know best.

Obama is the quintessential liberal fascist. He believes in massive government takeover of the private sector and refuses to permit anyone to question that policy goal. Accusations of “partisan politics” are just another way of saying “free speech has no place here, because we can’t allow popular opinion to interfere with the ambitious goals of the State.”

The passionate and public displays of dissent against Obama’s attempt to socialize healthcare make me proud to be an American. When I watch videos like this one, I know that the Democrats are not going to be able to ram this one down our throats as easily as they once thought (the best part starts at 1:18):

I’m always afraid that America is becoming more like Europe–more content to live off the government dole and not question the sad realities of the social democratic state. But then I see these videos (like this one and this one which were also featured on DrudgeReport yesterday, as was the one above) and I realize that America’s individualist tradition isn’t about to die quietly. Like I’ve said before, the administration’s policies might be the wakeup call everyone needs before they realize that central planning, government intervention and socialism are the antithesis of prosperity and freedom.

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You Cannot

August 3, 2009

You cannot bring prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

— J. H. Boetcker, 1916

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Creating artificial demand

July 30, 2009

I spoke with a friend of mine last night on the issue of infrastructure-building in cities as a means of creating economic stimulus and reducing environmental impact. Our debate turned to proposals to build both light rail and heavy rail systems in Ohio’s cities, especially in Cincinnati.

The support for these proposals is based on these principles:

  1. People want and need mass transit, because it will be cheaper than driving cars.
  2. Cities want and need mass transit to alleviate congestion problems and to create jobs.
  3. These mass transit systems, once created, will be sustainable, profitable and successful.

I will not get into the specifics of #1 and #2, since a number of other studies have already addressed these misconceptions. One in particular dispels the myths of the environmental and economic benefits of these systems, and even points to the role that government-subsidized rail systems played in causing the economic collapse in Japan (the so-called “Lost Decade,” from which Japan has yet to fully recover).

But all the research I have ever read suggests that #3, the sustainability and profitability of mass transit, is unlikely. Most mass transit programs in major cities have to be subsidized by the government because the general public does not use them enough to be profitable.

Why would the government use tax dollars to build something that the average person doesn’t want and wouldn’t use anyways? Why, to “stimulate the economy” and “create jobs,” of course. This is the principle of creating artificial demand.
Keep reading…

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10 Conservative Principles

July 29, 2009

I was recently introduced to Russell Kirk’s “10 Conservative Principles.” These, he says, are the closest thing to ideology and dogma present in the persuasion of conservatism, as conservatism is neither.

I have largely departed from a purely “conservative” worldview as of late, mostly because I feel that libertarianism is the true heir of the American Revolution. Conservatism promotes the mixture of state politics with religious doctrine; libertarianism holds that religion exists outside the sphere of state politics and can only be freely practiced without state involvement. Conservatism promotes the mixture of corporate interests with those of the state; libertarianism seeks a complete separation of the state from the economy just as from religion. The list goes on. Libertarianism is the best way to promote that central ideal of the American Revolution: the right to be left alone.

But the beautiful thing about libertarianism is that it does not prescribe doctrine, belief or morals. It is a theory of the state, not a moral code. A libertarian may pass moral judgment in any way he wants on anything whatsoever; what separates him from the “liberal” or “conservative” is that he does not see the state as a legitimate apparatus for promoting that particular view and imposing it on others. A libertarian may be pro-choice but still vehemently oppose abortion; he may support the legalization of marijuana but oppose its general use; he may be an avid philanthropist but categorically reject the welfare state. Libertarianism does not preclude an individual from passing moral judgment; it merely seeks to prohibit the state from doing so.

Over the next few days I will take a look at Kirk’s 10 Conservative Principles and discuss them in relation to libertarianism.

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Race politics and police powers

July 27, 2009

The Gates arrest in Cambridge, Mass. last week re-introduced America to the ongoing problem of race and identity politics. Henry Louis Gates, a prominent black professor at Harvard, was arrested for disorderly conduct outside his home when a Cambridge police officer was dispatched to the house to investigate a possible break-in. Officer James Crowley determined that the home indeed belonged to Gates, but arrested Gates after he became loud and violent and refused to cooperate with a request to produce his identification.The incident report has been published on The Smoking Gun. Read it and draw your own conclusions.

President Obama’s reaction was to say that the Cambridge Police “acted stupidly” and used the arrest as an excuse to launch into a tirade about racism in America. There was no discussion of whether the officer acted within his Constitutional and legal boundaries, which is the question that everyone should be asking. Rather, Obama harped on how black and Latino men are only arrested because of the color of their skin.

Libertarians should be asking themselves what it means to have a president who claims to be “post-partisan” and “post-racial” but then argues every chance he gets that minorities should not be subject to the same rules that apply to everyone else. While this case plays into legitimate questions of the role police play in protecting Americans’ rights to life, liberty and property, bringing race into the debate mucks everything up and serves as a distraction from the real questions about police powers.

The fundamental issue here is the overwhelming politicization of the police functions of the state. When governments control police, politicians like Obama get to dictate how those police conduct their daily business, rather than the people whose rights the police are hired to protect in the first place.  How are race politics interfering with your rights to protection?

Obama and Gates should stop playing the race card, and should instead ask  how public (i.e. “government”) ownership and administration of protective services directly interferes with the ability of individuals to hold police accountable. Situations like this could be avoided in the future. That will require an introduction of free-market, non-state  solutions to Gates’ problem.

Murray Rothbard produced a chapter on free-market solutions to the problems of police powers and protective services in For a New Liberty. Check it out.

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Obamacare has no choice but to fail.

July 23, 2009

I have faith in the American system as I see this healthcare debate continue. Not only is the public realizing how much money and liberty Obama’s plan will cost them, but the Blue Dog Democrats alike are starting to wake up, and may actually be the ones to protect us from this government invasion of our already barely-free healthcare market.

One news story I read characterized Obama’s plan as something about to “awaken a sleeping giant.” We can only hope that this could be the one event that makes the public realize what this president is doing to exterminate this country’s belief in individual sovereignty. As the American people become less and less thrilled with the accumulation of federal debt and the nationalization of major sectors of our economy, I think that they will turn back towards the light.

I am reminded of a quote from Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You:

“We may dispute upon the question whether the nestlings are ready to do without the mother-hen and to come out of the eggs, or whether they are not yet advanced enough. But the young birds will decide the question without any regard for our arguments when they find themselves cramped for space in the
eggs. Then they will begin to try them with their beaks and come out of them of their own accord.”

As Obama, the self-proclaimed mother-hen of sorts, ramps up his war upon the American Dream, the people will fight back. This is against our Constitution, our free markets, our culture of classical liberalism and pluralism and our way of life.  In the end, it will work out the way it was supposed to. Americans will have to pull the plug on Obamacare or lose their freedom, and when faced with tough decisions, Americans will choose their freedom over involuntary servitude, whether the paternalists in government want to accept that or not.