Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Health-Care Reform and Wealth Re-distribution

One of the biggest contributors to personal bankruptcy in America is health-care debt. This can be created in a number of ways: an accident, such as breaking your arm; as people get older their bodies begin to shutdown; people can be born with conditions requiring constant medical care; and in many cases people choose to use medical services such as in the case of an intentional pregnancy. My wife and I recently had our second child. Considering the expenses involved in child-birth, we would be on the hook for the equivalent of a new mid-sized sedan had we not had health insurance.

The reasons medical services have gotten so expensive have been analyzed by various economists. According to Milton Friedman, "The high cost and inequitable character of our medical care system are the direct result of our steady movement toward reliance on third-party payment." These third-party payers include insurance companies and governments. So involved is government in health-care, that Friedman characterizes the American health-care industry as half-way to "completely socialized medicine." And as anyone who understands Socialism knows, it's a political system founded on the principle of the equal distribution of wealth. It is obvious to me, because I understand this, as well as the concept of "insurance," that the goal of health-care reform is the re-distribution of wealth.

What Is Insurance?

As mortal beings unable to see the future, our lives are filled with uncertainty. Risk is defined as "exposure to the chance of injury or loss." Since no one spends their lives in a sealed bubble, completely safe from injury or loss, we all encounter risk. We don't know what injuries or losses we may suffer, so we purchase insurance. An insurance policy is a contract with others that guarantees a covered injury or loss will be indemnified. It requires everyone to contribute a certain amount of money each, called a "premium," to an insurance pool. When a policy owner suffers an injury or loss, funds necessary for indemnification are withdrawn from the pool. This is how risk is transferred to others. The insurance market has created several types of coverage. There is insurance for risks associated with owning and driving an automobile, owning a home, and dying, among others.

The root of the concept of insurance is uncertainty about the future, when there is risk. When someone experiences an unforeseen injury or loss, their insurance protects them from the resulting burden. Most health insurance policies sold today include payments for things that cannot be characterized as risk, the exposure to the chance of injury or loss. Health insurance coverage includes foreseen things like annual checkups and, as I recently experienced, planned pregnancy. This can hardly be defined as insurance. It is more closely related to some type of discount card or club membership benefit. And, as Friedman explained in his article, health-insurance coverage is the equivalent of payments to cut your lawn or change the oil in your car. He also explains why the health-insurance market has evolved this way, that "the states and the federal government have increasingly specified the coverage of insurance for medical care to a detail not common in other areas." I recommend his article for a full explanation of that.

What Is The Aim of Health-Care Reform?

This brings us to the current attempt in the United States to reform the health-care industry. The goal of reform was explained by President Obama, "It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government." The various ways promoted by President Obama to accomplish this include: requiring, by law, that everyone purchase health insurance or pay a fine (the homeless too?), provide taxpayer-funded insurance called the "public option," and by making it illegal for health insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. This is the general scope of health-care reform.

Why Is It About The Re-distribution of Wealth?

Whatever the principledeconomic or Constitutional arguments against the version of health-care reform sponsored by President Obama are, it must be understood that it has nothing to do with expanding health insurance coverage, and everything to do with the re-distribution of wealth. Why is that? Understanding the purpose of insurance, to protect ourselves against risk, expanding what the health insurance industry has become has nothing to do with risk. By forcing everyone to purchase insurance, the government is re-distributing wealth to insurance companies. By providing "insurance" through a public option, the government is re-distributing wealth from taxpayers to health-care consumers. And by making it illegal for health insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, the government is re-distributing wealth from the healthy to the unhealthy. The Socialist (impossible) goal of the equal distribution of wealth is what is being sought. And because it has nothing to do with real insurance, the version of health-care reform sponsored by President Obama can only be a mechanism to re-distribute the wealth owned by everyone in America. Such is the (claimed) goal of Socialism, and such is the goal of socialists.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The First Christmas - A Libertarian Event, Too

Christmastime is arguably the best time of the year. We all know the reasons why, though many forget. My intention with this short essay is not to examine those, the most important parts. Rather, what I thought I'd share here are the details that make the Christmas story a libertarian event, too.

The mere birth of Jesus Christ upset the local government authority, King Herod. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, we read, "Now when Jesus was aborn in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." Herod immediately schemed to slay the babe because he believed he was a threat to his throne. As we can plainly see, Christ's first enemy was the state.

Thankfully, this scheme was revealed, "The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him." One of the first events in the new child's life is nothing less than a protest against the aggressive hand of government. Just how aggressive is this hand? You decide, "Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men." The state is often on the giving end of such atrocities, and Christ survived it.

As James Redford described the situation, "If it were not for Joseph and Mary's intentional act of defying that which they knew to be king Herod the Great's will and escaping with baby Jesus from out of Herod's mid as fugitives to the land of Egypt, then Jesus would have been mercilessly killed and needless to say His ministry and the fulfillment of Scripture would have never come about. Thus in the most fundamental of regards, there is a great antagonism from the very start between Jesus and government (to say the least): Jesus was born into the world as a criminal and would later be killed as a criminal--a criminal as so regarded by the government, that is."

As wonderful and important as the first Christmas was, it would have been for naught had the family not defied and escaped the grasp of Herod. Let us not only remember the true meaning of Christmas, but also this very important lesson from the birth of the Savior of the world.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Defense of Ebenezer Scrooge

I couldn't believe it when I saw it. A defense of that universally-loathed villain Ebenezer Scrooge. I recently came across this exceptionally written piece and absolutely must share it. I should warn you, however, that reading this may well destroy for you what is regarded as a well-beloved Christmas story. It did for me. No more do I have the same opinions of Scrooge or even Bob Cratchit. Actually, although it's caused me to remove this story from favorites list, I'm glad I've read this piece as it has connected my study of economics with my childhood. Written by Butler Shaffer, an excerpt:
It is instructive that Dickens tells us virtually nothing about the nature of Ebeneezer's business. We know that he is something of a banker or financier, but we are told nothing about the nature of his investments. Even if he has not been a creative entrepreneur himself, he has, presumably, been responsible for financing many successful enterprises, which have not only benefited the rest of the community in terms of goods and services they provide, but afford employment to countless individuals, including Bob Cratchit. For all that we know — and it would seem to be beneath Dickens's sensibilities to ask such a question or care about the answer — Scrooge may have provided capital for researchers seeking a cure for the very ailment from which Tiny Tim suffers. (Read the entire thing here.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preamble to The Bill of Rights

In celebration of today, Bill of Rights Day, I share the preamble of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution (emphasis added):

The Bill of Rights
The First 10 Amendments to the
Constitution as Ratified by the States
December 15, 1791
Preamble

Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New York,
on Wednesday the Fourth of March,
one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.:

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Monday, December 14, 2009

10 Tenets of Freedom

Fantastic list created by Jacob Hornberger of the Future of Freedom Foundation, detailing 10 tenets of freedom. Excerpts from each tenet, read the entire 2-part article here:

Income Taxation
How can a person be considered truly free if the state has the power to take whatever percentage of income it wants from him? Whether the state sets the percentage at 5 percent or 100 percent, the principle remains the same: By wielding the power to set the percentage, the state effectively becomes the master of the people, who in turn become the servants.
Free Trade
From the standpoint of individual freedom, why shouldn’t people be free to trade their money and other property with others, anywhere in the world? It’s their privately owned property, right? It doesn’t belong to society, or to the majority, or to the state. They earned it. It belongs to them. By freely entering into trades with others from around the world, they are not only exercising an important right, they are also improving their economic lot in life.
Welfare
Repeal it all. No reforms. No modifications. No ridding the programs of waste, fraud, and abuse. Abolish every single program in which people receive largess from the government. That includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, food stamps, small-business loans, bailouts, and every other welfare-state program.

The welfare state has been a disaster for the American people. For more than a century, Americans were characterized by such values as self-reliance, independence, and voluntary charity. That was the era in which there were no paternalistic or socialistic programs.
Economic Regulations
Ditch them. Get rid of them all, including minimum-wage laws, price controls, rent controls, antitrust legislation, licensing laws, insider-trading laws, banking regulations, product-safety regulations, and stock regulations. In fact, the best thing would be to enact a constitutional amendment stating, “No law shall be passed respecting the regulation of commerce or abridging the free exercise thereof.”
Open Immigration
Why didn’t most 19th-century Americans consider open immigration to be unusual? Because they understood that the free movements of people across borders were simply another aspect of economic liberty and free markets, a philosophy that they were applying to other parts of American life.
Gun Control
It would have been more appropriate to have made the Second Amendment the first amendment to the Constitution. Without the right of the citizenry to keep and bear arms, the fundamental rights enumerated in the First Amendment are worthless. When the citizenry are well-armed, government officials tend to exercise caution in infringing such fundamental rights.
Civil Liberties
As our Americans ancestors understood so well, civil liberties protect the citizenry from arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, and punishment at the hands of government officials who are doing their best to quell dissent and criticism of wrongful government conduct.
The Drug War
After more than three decades of drug warfare and the ruination of countless people with drug problems, what do drug-war proponents have to show for their efforts? Nothing, except death, destruction, corruption, violence, and the ruination of countless lives... There is one — and only one — solution to this craziness: the legalization of drugs. The restoration of liberty in America necessitates an immediate end to drug-war prohibition.
The Monetary System
What would a free-market monetary system entail? The repeal of all legal-tender laws, the dismantling of the Federal Reserve System, and, best of all, a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a permanent separation of money and the state.
Militarism and Empire
The solution is simple: abandon all the foreign military bases, bring all the troops home, discharge them, close the bases here at home, discharge those troops, and rely on well-trained, well-armed citizen soldiers in the highly unlikely event that the United States is ever invaded by some foolish foreign regime.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Debate Continues

I've been involved in a small debate over at LDSFreemen.com. The introduction to my latest contribution:
Caleb Smitherson, Chris Brown and I have been involved in a debate of sorts regarding what the Book of Mormon says regarding tax and limited government. Caleb’s position is that God has authorized some coercive taxation and limited government. Chris Brown’s position is that Caleb Smitherson has misinterpreted his quoted Book of Mormon passages. This debate continues with Caleb Smitherson’s latest, found here.

My own views on using scripture to justify public (secular) government are laid out here. As well, a look at the libertarian principle of self-ownership by Caleb Smitherson is here, which kicked off this discussion (with my response). Whatever the merits of Caleb Smitherson’s And Chris Brown’s arguments, I leave those to them to refute. The purpose of this short article is to make a few corrections to Caleb Smitherson’s explanation of libertarianism and his interpretation of scripture regarding it. (Read the rest here.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

O = W

Just made this graphic. Pass it on.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Imagining Liberty

No one says it quite like Mencken:
The fact is that liberty, in any true sense, is a concept that lies quite beyond the reach of the inferior man’s mind. He can imagine and even esteem, in his way, certain false forms of liberty–for example, the right to choose between two political mountebanks, and to yell for the more obviously dishonest–but the reality is incomprehensible to him. And no wonder, for genuine liberty demands of its votaries a quality he lacks completely, and that is courage. The man who loves it must be willing to fight for it; blood, said Jefferson, is its natural manure. More, he must be able to endure it–an even more arduous business. Liberty means self-reliance, it means resolution, it means enterprise, it means the capacity for doing without. The free man is one who has won a small and precarious territory from the great mob of his inferiors, and is prepared and ready to defend it and make it support him. All around him are enemies, and where he stands there is no friend. He can hope for little help from other men of his own kind, for they have battles of their own to fight. He has made of himself a sort of god in his little world, and he must face the responsibilities of a god, and the dreadful loneliness. Has Homo boobiens any talent for this magnificent self-reliance? He has the same talent for it that he has for writing symphonies in the manner of Ludwig van Beethoven, no less and no more. That is to say, he has no talent whatsoever, nor even any understanding that such a talent exists. Liberty is unfathomable to him. He can no more comprehend it than he can comprehend honour. What he mistakes for it, nine times out of ten, is simply the banal right to empty hallelujahs upon his oppressors. He is an ox whose last proud, defiant gesture is to lick the butcher behind the ear.
(LibertySearch.info: Mencken)

Monday, November 30, 2009

God and Secular Government

Introducing scripture into any argument centered on using the coercive hand of secular government is dangerous. What is characterized as scripture is not the same for everyone in a multi-cultural society such as America. Whether or not what one set of scriptures says is okay for secular government to do is just in the eyes of the true God, promoting those actions diminishes your objections of the promotion of like actions by those who believe in the divinity of a different set of scriptures. Let's think about it.

Assuming its accuracy, this 2-part article written by Gabriel Fink uses the Book of Mormon to show that God has authorized a limited form of secular government, as well as some coercive taxation. Now, I accept the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, and assuming these scriptures have been interpreted correctly, I accept as well that God has authorized limited government and coercive taxation. But this does not move me to promote limited government and some coercive taxation. Why?

Just because God has authorized limited government and some coercive taxation, that does not mean that we must have limited government and some coercive taxation. All it means is that those who seek to have limited government and some coercive taxation are held accountable to God to not overstep the limits that he has authorized. Think of the Sabbath. We have been commanded to observe it and keep it holy. We have been authorized by God to hold at least one day as the Sabbath. This is the minimum. Could we reserve more than one day for Sabbath observance, so long as it did not interfere with everything else we are commanded to do for ourselves and family? I think the answer is obvious. The standard is one day and we are accountable to God to observe at least one day. Likewise with government.

According to Fink's interpretation of the Book of Mormon, we have been authorized to setup limited government and some coercive taxation (I have no concerns about his interpretation at this time). But this is merely a standard that cannot be surpassed. His authorization does not mean that we must have limited government with some coercive taxation, or even that it is what is best for everyone.

I said above that promoting secular government based on scripture diminishes one's objections to the promotion by others who follow another set of scriptures (or even interpret differently the same set of scriptures). This is true because promoting secular government based on scriptures "opens the flood gates," so to speak, for all to do the same. Not everyone's collection of scripture (now or in the future) authorizes the same type of secular government and coercive taxation. Some could even authorize unlimited government and taxation. Either way, what's involved is force. That should be remembered as we battle to setup the type of secular government our respective Gods have authorized. Secular government is necessarily established and maintained by the sword. Is this really a worthy cause?

Or should we instead focus our scarce energies on "striking the root", ie. the institution known as the state?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Self-Ownership and God

In a recent essay on LDSFreemen.com, the author begins, "Contrary to libertarian philosophy, man does not have the right to full ownership of his body." He then goes on to explain in his thesis that the "the right to full ownership of the human body belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ." While I don't disagree with this belief (of course it may not be presented here correctly, theologically speaking), I do object to it being used to critique the libertarian principle of self-ownership. And here's why.

Whether or not you believe that God exists, or that he owns our bodies, it must be understood that libertarian philosophy only concerns the relationships between mortal men. It does not concern the relationship between men and animals, or men and the earth (insofar as it unrelates to other men). And it absolutely doesn't concern the relationship between men and God.

Don't misunderstand me. What a man does with himself in relation to anything may or may not be God's concern (I believe it is), but the libertarian principle of self-ownership is used to distinguish what men can legitimately do to each other. Not what God can do to man.

This quote by James A. Sadowsky is instructive,
"When we say that one has the right to do certain things we mean this and only this, that it would be immoral for another, alone or in combination, to stop him from doing this by the use of physical force or the threat thereof. We do not mean that any use a man makes of his property within the limits set forth is necessarily a moral use."
It really says it all. The purpose of arguing for self-ownership is to understand if the actions of other men are justified. Though God may own our bodies, this fact would not alter the relationship between men. For example, I own a laptop computer. I acquired this through trade. What I traded was legitimately earned, therefore this laptop computer is legitimately my property. It is an extension of myself. If a man named John took my laptop computer without my permission, that would rightly be considered theft and a violation of my property rights to my laptop computer. God only enters the equation if John claims God told him to take the computer from me because it was his will that John have the computer instead of me. Unless God corroborates this claim to me personally, I can rightly consider it theft and a violation of my property rights.

This is how the libertarian principle of self-ownership is applied in the real world. Because I own myself, I own my labor. Because I own my labor, I own whatever it produces, or trades for. The only other alternatives to self-ownership as it concerns the relationships between mortal men, is what Murray Rothbard examined. And they are, "(1) the 'communist' one of Universal and Equal Other-ownership, or (2) Partial Ownership of One Group by Another – a system of rule by one class over another." It is completely irrelevant to this discussion the belief that God owns the bodies of men. What God does with his property are not the actions we're trying to justify. It's what men do with the property (including bodies) of other men that we are concerned with.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The State and Proper Role of Government

Among those who promote liberty, it is a fundamental principle that the proper role of government is to "secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens." Further, government can only perform those functions delegated to it by "the people". Since the people have the inherent authority to defend themselves and retaliate against wrong-doers, they are able to delegate that authority to others. The people do not have the authority to take the honestly acquired property of one person or group of people, without their consent, and give it to others. Thus, the people's government cannot possess such authority. This is the great fallacious foundation of socialism and communism, and every other form of statism and collectivism. Under this principle, it must be asked if the institution known as "the state" operates under the proper role of government. I seek to answer that question in this brief essay.

The State

We must first consider what exactly the state is. Murray Rothbard, in his definitive essay on the anatomy of the state, first explains, using Franz Oppenheimer, the two different ways that Man acquires property. These are the "economic means" and the "political means." The economic means involve production and exchange, whereas the political means involve using force and violence to seize the property of others. Understanding this, Oppenheimer defines the state as the "organization of the political means." Rothbard adds, "it is the systematization of the predatory process over a given territory."

There are two types of force Man can use against others, "initiatory" and "retaliatory". Initiatory force is Man initiating an aggressive act against another. Since Man has no inherent or legitimately delegated authority to do such, initiatory force is unjust. Retaliatory force is Man retaliating with an aggressive act against the initiatory, aggressive act of another. This is a just use of force since the one retaliating has been the receiver of unjust aggression. This type of force can be delegated to others, ie. a sheriff and his deputies.

Therefore, we can define the state as that institution "in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion." Even if a government did collect revenue voluntarily, holding a "monopoly of the use of force" would make it a state. Explains Ayn Rand, "The difference between private action and governmental action—a difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today—lies in the fact that the government holds a monopoly on the legal use of force."

The Proper Role of Government

As has been explained, the only proper roles the government can act under are those delegated to it by the people. The people have the authority to retaliate against initial aggressors (assault, theft, vandalism, etc.), so are able to delegate that authority to others. The state claims a monopoly on the use of force in a given territorial area. This means the state only allows itself to retaliate against initial aggressors in the form of arrests, convictions, and punishments. How can the state prevent others from doing this?

The only way the state can prevent others from engaging in retaliation against initial aggressors is to initiate aggression against all would be competitors. The state is then in stark contradiction with itself. Any government that acts in this regard is acting illegitimately. It is initiating aggression by enforcing its monopoly on the use of retaliatory force. This act is unjust, and contrary to the proper role of government.

Allowing Competition

If the state were to allow competition with itself, that is allow some other entity to arrest, try, convict, and punish wrong-doers, it would not only be operating under the proper role of government, but it would no longer be a state. It would be one among possibly many "defense agencies" in a given territory. It would be simply a non-coercive institution in the anarcho-capitalist tradition. Only then would such an organization be legitimate, moral, and just. And only then can it be honestly supported by those who believe in limiting government to its proper role.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shouting Fire and Property Rights

A year ago I quoted Murray Rothbard on what he had to say about shouting fire. Sheldon Richman recently argued the same thing, rather conclusively in my opinion:
The "fire in the crowded theater" matter is not an exception to free speech but a recognition of property rights, of which free speech is but a derivative. There's no right to "free speech" on someone else's property. If you buy a theater ticket and then endanger the audience by falsely yelling "fire," you have (among other things) violated the terms of your being in the theater. There's no need to claim an exception to the free-speech doctrine. Properly conceived, free speech is ultimately a property right.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Omnipotent State

Via Karl Hess's essay "The Lawless State", ask yourself these questions to determine how you view government:
  • Do you feel that the state is more important than you are?
  • Do you feel that the state should enjoy freedoms that you do not?
  • Do you feel that the state should be able to rise above the law?
  • Do you feel that you could not live unless the state protected you?
  • Do you feel that you could not thrive unless the state nourished or subsidized you?
  • Do you feel that service to the state is more desirable or more noble than service to your self, your family, your neighbors, or your own ideals?
  • Do you feel that it actually is a privilege to pay taxes?
  • Do you feel that since the government, the state, is more important than any one man, that every single man should be prepared to give his all, even his life, to or for his government?
  • Do you feel that the state is something with a life and identity of its own, beyond the men who might hold office in it?
  • Do you feel that "the government" and "the country" are the same?
  • Do you feel that, when all is said and done, your life belongs to your government?
  • Do you feel that your "rights" are given to you by government?
  • Do you feel that, when all is said and done, if big problems are to be solved in this world that government will have to do it?
I can say with confidence that my answer to each is a capitalized "NO". Can you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Vices Are Not Crimes

Liberty is often categorized into types: economic freedom, political freedom, freedom of conscience, etc. One who seeks to promote freedom and liberty must consistently promote all types of liberty, so long as those freedoms do not infringe on the liberties of others. I consider moral freedom one of those liberties that must be protected.

For that we come to what is called vice. "Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property," says nineteenth century libertarian Lysander Spooner in his essay "Vices Are Not Crimes". Statists, conservatives and liberals, who use the state to promote their ends, will often support laws against vice. What vices have been prohibited have changed over time and change from one political arena to another. For example, drinking alcohol, considered a vice by many, including myself, was once prohibited in the United States in the early twentieth century, but not any longer. Smoking and chewing tobacco are not currently illegal, but smoking marijuana is. In some places in the U.S., smoking marijuana prescribed by a physician is legal. And in a few places in the U.S., prostitution is legal. The federalist nature of the United States has created this inconsistency. As his title states, it is Spooner's argument that vices are not crimes.

Since vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property, crimes, then, must be defined as "those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another." The biggest difference between crime and vice is "that there can be no crime without a criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another." He goes on, "no one ever practices a vice with any such criminal intent. He practices his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice towards others." And unless this clear distinction of vices and crimes be "made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property."

How so? After explaining that judging the difference between virtue and vice, that is those actions that lead men to either happiness or unhappiness, and their degrees is "the profoundest and most complex study to which the greatest human mind ever has been, or ever can be, directed," Spooner examines how each of us escapes the state of ignorance that we are born into by acquiring for ourselves knowledge. "To learn it, he must be at liberty to try all experiments that commend themselves to his judgment." Some succeed, and because so, are called virtues, and others fail, called vices. "He gathers wisdom as much from his failures as from his successes; from his so-called vices, as from his so-called virtues. Both are necessary to his acquisition of that knowledge - of his own nature, and of the world around him, and of their adaptations or non-adaptations to each other - which shall show him how happiness is acquired, and pain avoided. And, unless he can be permitted to try these experiments to his own satisfaction, he is retrained from the acquisition of knowledge, and, consequently, from pursuing the great purpose and duty of his life."

It is written in the Declaration of Independence that men are endowed with the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Though others can claim they know how to achieve happiness, only the right "to inquire, investigate, reason, try experiments, judge, and ascertain for himself, what is, to him, virtue, and what is, to him, vice" can guarantee to someone their right in pursuing happiness. "If this great right is not to be left free and open to all, then each man's whole right, as a reasoning human being... is denied him."

Spooner's essay goes on to examine what right men have to force their own determinations of happiness on others, the utter impossibility of enforcing laws against vice impartially without quickly throwing everyone into prison, the legitimate and proper roles of government including only those delegated to it by individuals who do not have the right to punish vice themselves, the "attempts of parents to make their children virtuous" and the resulting ignorance, weakness, and viciousness that such attempts, in practice, produce, and also that of vice in relation to poverty and the commission of crime. It is obvious that liberty cannot be attained while their remains public laws prohibiting the indulgence of vice.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Public Option is a Trojan Horse

This quick video shows all the big Democrat players talking about the public option paving the way to an eventual single-payer system. President Obama told reporters that those claiming the public option was a Trojan horse for such were lying. Who's lying? You decide (YouTube, 4m, 8s):

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Add LibertySearch.info to Your Browser

I've enabled adding LibertySearch.info to your browser's search bar if you use either Firefox or Internet Explorer. It's very simple.

For Firefox, go to http://www.libertysearch.info. Once loaded, click the drop-down on the search bar (as seen below in the picture) and click "Add 'LibertySearch.info". Done.



For Internet Explorer (IE), go to http://www.libertysearch.info. Once loaded, click the drop-down on the search bar (as seen below in the first picture) and click "Add Search Providers" and then "LibertySearch.info". It will then ask you if you want to add it as a search provider (as seen below in the second picture). Click "Add Provider". Setting as your default is optional. Done.




You're now set to use LibertySearch.info directly from your browser!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Introducing "LibertySearch.info"

I'm happy to announce the creation of my latest website, LibertySearch.info. I'm constantly going to Google and searching for things on specific sites that I've come to trust as valuable resources on liberty. I decided to create a one-stop search that is limited to just those resources. Check out LibertySearch.info and if you'd like, there's code on the right to put the search bar on your own site. Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

End The Fed Now

There's one reason why the dollar has lost 95% of it's value since 1913, the economy experiences booms and bubbles, and then busts, government has grown, liberty has been lost, and massive, on-going wars have been financed all over the world. That reason is central banking. In the United States, central banking is known as the Federal Reserve System. Ron Paul's latest book calls for the end of the Federal Reserve System. Here are a few excerpts from his chapters in "End the Fed" explaining why we must abolish the Federal Reserve:

Why You Should Care
"Everybody thinks about money and almost everybody wants more. We use money without thinking much about its nature and function. Few of us ask where it comes from, who controls it, why it has value, and why it loses value from time to time.

In the same way, most people accept the Federal Reserve, the manager of the nation's money stock, as an indispensable institution that the United States cannot function without, and so they don't question it. But I assure you, especially in this post-meltdown world, that it is irresponsible, ineffective, and ultimately useless to have a serious economic debate without considering fundamental issues about money and its quality, as well as the Fed's massive role in manipulating money to our economic ruin."
Central Banks and War
"Following the creation of the Fed, the government would discover other uses for an elastic money supply aside from keeping the banking system from defaulting on its obligations. It would prove useful in funding war. It is no coincidence that the century of total war coincided with the century of central banking. When governments had to fund their own wars without a paper money machine to rely upon, they economized on resources. They found diplomatic solutions to prevent war, and after they started a war they ended it as soon as possible."
The Gold Commission
"Whenever I talk of a gold standard, there are always people ready to accuse me of having some obsession or fixation. Fetish is a word thrown around. In fact, I'm only observing reality: the idea of sound money in most of human history has been bound up with gold money. Can there be sound money without a gold standard? In principle, yes. And I'd be very happy for a system that would permit markets to once again choose the most suitable money, whatever that turns out to be. I'm not for government imposing any particular standard: no central bank, no legal tender, no privilege for any commodity chosen as a backing for the currency."
The Current Mess
"Although the Fed was primarily responsible for the financial bubbles, the malinvestments, and the excessive debts, other policies significantly contributed to the distortions that had to be corrected. Artificially low rates of interest orchestrated by the Fed induced investors, savors, borrowers, and consumers to misjudge what was going on. Multiple mistakes were made. The apparent prosperity based on the illusion of such wealth and savings led to misdirected and excessive use of capital. The false information generated by the Federal Reserve policy led to a false confidence that all would be well."
Why End the Fed?
"The Federal Reserve should be abolished because it is immoral, unconstitutional, impractical, promotes bad economics, and undermines liberty. Its destructive nature makes it a tool of tyrannical government.

Nothing good can come from the Federal Reserve. It is the biggest taxer of them all. Diluting the value of the dollar by increasing its supply is a vicious, sinister tax on the poor and middle class.

The Federal Reserve's monetary policy has brought us to where we are today, in a tragic economic mess."
The Philosophical Case
"The process of monetary debasement, by inflating the money supply, redistributes wealth unfairly and dangerously from the middle class to the wealthy. It's based on the principles of fraud and is equivalent to counterfeiting. Its goals are achieved through stealth and are difficult for the masses to recognize. Instead, the people are conditioned to believe that easy credit, monetizing debt, and affirmative action loans are reflective of good economic policy and are morally motivated.

The tragedy is only recognized when the fraud of an immoral, unsustainable monetary inflation comes to an end. That is what we're suffering from today."
The Constitutional Case
"The Constitution is clear about no paper money. Only gold and silver were to be legal tender. Since the states caused themselves harm when they issues their own paper money, the states were prohibited as well from issuing paper currency under the Constitution. Article I, Section 10: 'No state shall... make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.' So there you have it, plain and simple: paper money is unconstitutional, period."
The Economic Case
"By manipulating the supply of money and setting interest rates, the Fed has practiced backdoor economic planning. The Fed essentially keeps interest rates lower than they otherwise would be. In a free market, low rates would indicate adequate savings and signal the businessperson that it's an opportune time to invest in capital projects. But the system the Fed operates discourages savings, and the credit created out of thin air serves as the signal for investors to spend, invest, and borrow excessively, compared to a system where interest rates are set by the market...

...The Federal Reserve is responsible for the boom-bust cycles. It's responsible for price inflation, recession, depression, and excessive debt. Although the central bank can get away with mismanagement of the economy for long periods of time, its policies are always destructive. Unchecked, the policies of a central bank lead to financial chaos, an example of which we are now experiencing."
The Way Out
"While a gold standard would be a wonderful change, we shouldn't wait for one before we end the Fed. The dollar has a preeminent role in the world economy. It benefits from its long history as a hard money. This will not change in a post-Fed world. The dollar could continue on as it is today, and its value would start to rise once markets were convinced that the money supply would be fixed."
This is a must read, as well as the suggested reading he lists in the back of the book. Get it here at Amazon.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Current State of IP is a Joke

Whatever your feelings towards intellectual property (IP), I think it's obvious that IP law around the world, and especially the United States is in dire need of serious reform (unlikely, says Stephan Kinsella). Patent and copyright limits need to be reduced substantially, as well as what is and isn't patentable. From the the Against Monopoly blog comes this list of outrageous patents (click through for outrageous judgements too):
Likewise, the PatentLawPractice website/wiki has several resources to show outrageous patents, found here. It's high-time we cut the head off this monopoly monster known as intellectual property.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Small Self-Introduction

I recently wrote a self-introduction for the LDS Liberty discussion group I thought I'd share here (hyperlinks added):
My interest in liberty and economics started through reading the weekly columns of economists Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell in my local paper (Deseret News). From there, I explored the world of economics and have fallen in love with the Austrian School.

Understanding economics helped me see the consequences of bad public policy, usually passed under the best of intentions. I recommend everyone get a basic understanding of economics. As Ludwig von Mises, pioneer of the Austrian School, said, "A citizen who casts his ballot without having to the best of his abilities studied as much economics as he can fails in his civic duties." As well, Murray Rothbard, also a pioneer of the Austrian School, said "It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." Economics has become a passion of mine.

The free-market, where it has been allowed to flourish, has brought millions upon millions out of poverty. I know this to be true. There is proof all around us. Likewise, any bit of government intervention inevidably leads to more intervention, trying to fix the mistakes that the previous intervention caused (all while denying that the problems arose through government intervention). There is ample proof of this in the current economic crises in the U.S. and the world.

I also believe limited government, so long as men aren't angels, is extremely difficult to preserve. There is strong evidence for this. As a libertarian, I oppose unjust aggression (initiatory). So long as limited government evolves into unlimited government, all government must be opposed. We cannot concede any ground. The Constitution, I believe, is a standard that holds men accountable to how they behave as officers of government. For that, I believe it is inspired of God, but since men are mortal, the Constitutional government hasn't lasted. Until men repent of their sins in imposing their will by force on others through the power of the state, and covenant with God to keep his commandments, the Constitution may as well not exist. In the words of 19th century libertarian-anarchist Lysander Spooner, "But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist." More accurately, men are unfit for the Constitution, I believe.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In an Ideal America

Every person should be free
  • to pursue his ambition to the full extent of his abilities, regardless of race or creed or family background.
  • to associate with whom he pleases for any reason he pleases, even if someone else thinks it's a stupid reason.
  • to worship God in his own way, even if it isn't "orthodox."
  • to choose his own trade and to apply for any job he wants — and to quit his job if he doesn't like it or if he gets a better offer.
  • to go into business for himself, be his own boss, and set his own hours of work — even if it's only three hours a week.
  • to use his honestly acquired property or savings in his own way — spend it foolishly, invest it wisely, or even give it away.
  • to offer his services or products for sale on his own terms, even if he loses money on the deal.
  • to buy or not to buy any service or product offered for sale, even if the refusal displeases the seller.
  • to disagree with any other person, even when the majority is on the side of the other person.
  • to study and learn whatever strikes his fancy, as long as it seems to him worth the cost and effort of studying and learning it.
  • to do as he pleases in general, as long as he doesn't infringe the equal right and opportunity of every other person to do as he pleases.
The above, in a nutshell, is the way of life that the libertarian philosophy commends. It is the way of individual liberty, of the free market, of private property, of government limited to securing these rights equally for all.

Leonard E. Read
Publisher, The Freeman
November 1954

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inventions as Scientific Discoveries and IP

In an LDS Liberty group topic about intellectual property, I had these thoughts about inventions being scientific discoveries and the consequences of that. My particular example is the cure for cancer, but the same point applies to any drug that saves lives, or invention that makes life easier:

I thought I'd turn this on it's head a little. Considering patents for drugs. I see inventions as nothing more than scientific discoveries. A discovery that if I combine this widget with that widget, I have an invention I can do this with. Likewise, if I combine this chemical with that chemical, I have a new drug that fights this disease.

Now, regardless of how many resources I've expended leading to the new discovered drug, once discovered, what right does the discoverer have to monopolize it? Let's pretend someone finds the cure for cancer. He immediately patents it and takes it to market. As one producer with a monopoly on the cure for cancer, he's able to charge a higher price and the time it takes for the drug to become affordable to everyone, and reach everywhere on Earth is obviously much longer than if there were several producers competing with each other to sell the cure for cancer.

As important a discovery as the cure for cancer is, why should the one who discovered it be allowed to hold it back from getting to those who need it as cheaply and quickly as possible? I have no doubt that such a granted monopoly would indirectly cause the death and suffering of millions of individuals. By what right is the discoverer able to monopolize such a life-saving drug (formula)?

It could be argued that without a patent system, such a life-saving drug may never be discovered, or would take longer to be discovered. I don't think this is true as even without a patent system, the discover would be the only one with the formula and would be first to market and would reap ample profits for his effort.

(I would also argue, ethically and morally speaking, anyone discovering the cure for cancer should, as a matter of personal principle, be more concerned with distributing as fast and far and wide as possible than monopolizing it and holding it back. Patent systems enable what I would consider the evil of such holding back of something as important as the cure for cancer.)

---

Let me clarify one more thing regarding IP and real property. Since IP violates real property because it restricts the owners use of it, if someone had the formula and ingredients to the cure for cancer, it would be a great evil to prevent him from using it to his or others' benefit, ie curing cancer. Would it not? This is what IP does (at the point of a gun). How can that be defended?

---

On the cure for cancer:

The same could go for any invention that would make my life easier. If I have the materials and know, say, how a shovel is engineered, what right does the original inventor have in preventing me from organizing my material into a shovel, in order to make my labor easier? Once the shovel is fastened, like anything owned, I have a right to trade it for something more valuable to me, say money so I can buy much-needed prescription drugs, or even food. Another example used by some in the group was a log cabin. The first person to invent a log cabin patents the idea and suddenly everyone else is prevented from copying the idea without paying him royalties. Just because you are the first to discover some new invention (I say discover because that's what it really is, a discovery, scientifically speaking), what gives you the right from keeping other people from making it and keeping it or making it and trading it for something more valuable? Some inventions have even been discovered separately by people in different places at the same time. Who gets the patent? The first to the patent office?

I would even go further to say that because inventions are merely scientific discoveries, the idea really belongs to the world, like any other scientific discovery.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Personal Views on Government

In one of the many discussions I've been involved with at the LDS Liberty discussion group, a friend asks, "How long can self government by self sustaining?" I'd like to share here my latest reply to his inquiring on how I (and the others in the group) see things. This is not all-encompassing when it comes to my personal views on government:
Gabriel,

A few points and then I can answer some of your questions:

(This is from my own understanding. I consider myself a student, and probably always will.)

First, Minarchism is the political philosophy that holds limited-government as the ideal. Many libertarians and Constitutionalists are minarchists, at least on the Federal level. I've heard from Constitutionalists that held rather statists views when it comes to State and local governments. I've also heard from libertarians that advocated centralized, Constitutionalism (14th amendment promoters). Wikpedia's entry on minarchism is found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchism

Second, Anarchism is the political philosophy that holds self-government as the ideal. Many libertarians are anarchists. There are several different implementations and views on anarchism. Wikipedia's entry on anarchism is found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism

Third, political philosophy is quite expansive and covers everything from anarchism to totalitarianism. The forms of government Wikipedia entry is found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forms_of_government

Fourth, though I think everyone in this group desires and wants to promote liberty, we are diverse in that we see how to do so differently. This is okay since if we all believed the exact same way, we really wouldn't have a discussion group. This is a great place to come and see other points of view, discuss, debate, and to do so respectfully.

It is my belief, that all of the above forms of government are are incomplete as they are man-made and hold man as the final authority. Minarchists fail to see the anarchy that prevails among officers of government (http://truth.skylerjcollins.com/2009/09/do-we-ever-get-out-of-anarchy.html), and the myth that is the "rule of law". For a great essay on the myth of the rule of law, I recommend this by John Hasnas: http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/MythWeb.htm

As I've explained before, I am not an Atheist. But I am an atheist when it comes to every other conception of God than the Mormon conception of God. Likewise, and I've only recently began feeling strongly about this, I am not an Anarchist. But I am an anarchist when it comes to any other form of government than the form of government that will be instituted during the millennium, when Christ will reign as King.

I view the Constitution as a standard for public government, albeit an impossible standard. It is said in the scriptures that God rose up wise men to bring forth the Constitution (D&C 101:80). This makes for interesting imagery but fails to explain the motivations of the actors. There were sometimes bitter disagreements between the anti-Federalists and Federalists. (The Federalists wanted a centralized national government, the anti-Federalists wanted an extremely limited, de-centralized federal government.) The difference between the political philosophies of Jefferson and Hamilton is hardly reconcilable, and although it appeared Jefferson's views prevailed at first (anti-Federalist), it is Hamilton's views that prevail today (Federalist, Nationalist). A great short essay on what I mean can be found here at the Future of Freedom Foundation: http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0906f.asp

I have also pondered on which direction the inspiration came. Perhaps it came from both. One direction is that of creating the federal government. The other is that of limiting the federal government. Again, because I see the Constitution as a standard for public government, is it out of the question that many actors during the founding era wanted to create a broad federal government (Hamilton), and could have gotten their way had other actors not stepped in to provide the necessary opposition to create what we now know as the Constitution? I don't think so.

There are many anarchist-libertarians that view the secession (revolution) from Great Britain as a good thing (moving towards their ideal), but the formation of the federal government and Constitution as a bad thing (moving away from their ideal). Others see the Constitution as a culmination of the founders efforts to break away from Great Britain and establish their own federal government.

Perhaps also, most of the inspiration came with the passage of the Bill of Rights. The Constitution as it was prior to the Bill of Rights was clear that the federal government could only do what the Constitution said it could do. Why was the Bill of Rights even necessary since the federal government was already prohibited from doing what the Bill of Rights prohibits it from doing? I see the Bill of Rights as wise considering how the federal government has evolved. It would probably be worse today without the Bill of Rights, yet it seems the Bill of Rights only bought time, enough time to establish true religious freedom in America. If only we had a First Amendment for commerce: http://truth.skylerjcollins.com/2009/09/first-amendment-for-commerce.html

This is about where I'm at right now and like I said, I consider myself a student and I am constantly reading and learning new things. I run a blog (a few of them) to share what I've encountered: http://www.skylerjcollins.com. I do this so that I can educate others and to foster discussion, and sometimes debate. Everyone learns and grows that way. Why? Personally, I feel it is our duty to seek out truth and share it when we find it. I also feel accountable to God for the beliefs I hold and hope that they conform to the truth as He sees it. I never served a mission and hope to do so one day with my companion. I read the scriptures every day and have begun raising a family. I want to make sure I hold true beliefs as they will be passed on to my children and hopefully they will pass them on to my grandchildren. I'm sure everyone here feels the same way.

Skyler.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Income Tax and State Sovereignty

J. Bracken Lee was the Governor of the State of Utah from 1949-1957. He wrote the forward for a book titled The Income Tax: Root of All Evil by Frank Chodorov. This book is on my to-buy list. What Lee wrote is well worth a read:
This was, to be sure, "the home of the free and the land of the brave." Americans were free simply because the government was too weak to intervene in the private affairs of the people — it did not have the money to do so — and they were brave because a free people is always venturesome. The obligation of freedom is a willingness to stand on your own feet.

The early American wanted it that way. He was wary of government, especially one that was out of his reach. He had just rid himself of a faraway and self-sufficient political establishment and he was not going to tolerate anything like it in his newly founded country. He recognized the need of some sort of government, to keep order, to protect him in the exercise of his rights, and to look after his interests in foreign lands. But he wanted it understood that the powers of that government would be clearly defined and be limited; it could not go beyond specified limits. It was in recognition of this fear of centralized power that the Founding Fathers put into the Constitution — it never would have been ratified without them — very specific restraints on the federal government.

In other matters, the early American was willing to put his faith in home government, in a government of neighbors, in a government that one could keep one's eyes on and, if necessary, lay one's hands on. For that reason, the United States was founded as a Union of separate and autonomous commonwealths. The states could go in for any political experiments the folks might want to try out — even socialism, for that matter — but the federal government had no such leeway. After all, there were other states nearby, and if a citizen did not like the way one state government was managing its affairs, he could move across the border; that threat of competition would keep each state from going too far in making changes or in intervening in the lives of the citizens.

The Constitution, then, kept the federal government off balance and weak. And a weak government is the corollary of a strong people. The Sixteenth Amendment changed all that.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do We Ever Get Out of Anarchy?

I've encountered a very interesting essay that asks whether or not we ever get completely out of anarchy, by Alfred G. Cuzan. Anarchy, as defined by libertarian-anarchists, in this case our author, is "a social order without Government, subject only to the economic laws of the market." And Government is "an agent external to society, a 'third-party' with the power to coerce all other parties to relations in society into accepting its conceptions of those relations." Contrast big-g Government, or the State, fitting this definition, to little-g government, or governance. In the words of John Hasnas, anarchy "is a society without [G]overnment, not a society without governance."

It must also be mentioned that anarchy and chaos or disorder are often used synonymously. This is an error. Although chaos and disorder may arise in an anarchic society, they are not synonymous with anarchy. Disorder and chaos may also arise in the total State society, as has been obvious over the last century. To say that anarchy and chaos or disorder are synonymous is like saying that working and happiness or contentment are synonymous. I doubt slaves experience happiness while working.

This essay, however, looks at the establishment of the State, or Government, and whether or not it abolishes anarchy. The author argues that although Government becomes a third-party to each relation in society (taxation and regulation), within Government there still exists anarchy. He says, after explaining in detail, in short "society is always in anarchy. A [G]overnment only abolishes anarchy among what are called 'subjects' or 'citizens,' but among those who rule, anarchy prevails."

Looking at the founding of the United States of America, we see that at the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War, the 13 colonies, although internally governed, existed in a state of near-anarchy amongst one another. The Articles of Confederation had created a relatively weak Federal Government and so was replaced with the U.S. Constitution. The Federal Government the Constitution established was one prided in it's system of checks and balances. And that the officers within the several branches had certain powers over the others to keep them all in line through the "jealousy" that each branch was supposed to feel towards the others. As every libertarian and Constitutionalist knows, this jealousy didn't last very long and soon enough each branch began working with the others until, over two hundred years later, the Constitution may as well not exist, let alone act as any sort of chain, binding down the Federal Government. Our author calls the type of anarchy that exists among the officers of government "political anarchy".

After establishing the first part of his thesis, he then explores different structures of government, "measured along a centralization dimension." He goes on, "The more authoritative powers are dispersed among numerous political units, the more pluralistic the government. The more centralized the structure, i.e., the more authoritative powers are concentrated, the more hierarchical the government. Note that the more hierarchical the government, the more government is run on the assumption of an ultimate arbiter. In other words, the more centralized the structure, the greater the effort to create a single 'third party' inside the government itself in the form of a God-like figure such as a Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Castro. Such a 'third party,' however, remains in complete anarchy from the rest of his countrymen and the rest of the world." Viewing the amount of power and control the U.S. Executive Branch has exercised over the last century, without regard to Congress or the Judiciary, it's easy to see his point that those working in Government are largely "lawless".

This essay is well worth a read and can be found here. The author concludes that "anarchy, like matter, never disappears - it only changes form. Anarchy is either market anarchy or political anarchy. Pluralist, decentralized political anarchy is less violent than hierarchical political anarchy. Hence, we have reason to hypothesize that market anarchy could be less violent than political anarchy. Since market anarchy can be shown to outperform political anarchy in efficiency and equity in all other respects, why should we expect anything different now? Wouldn't we be justified to expect that market anarchy produces less violence in the enforcement of property rights than political anarchy? After all, the market is the best economizer of all - wouldn't it also economize on violence better than government does, too?"

Friday, September 18, 2009

TIME Interviews Ron Paul

This is a fantastic interview by TIME with Ron Paul. He is currently the most principled politician in Washington, and we would all be better off listening to his arguments, (YouTube, 6m, 21s):

Free-market Regulation

This week, I took my bed-ridden wife (temperamental pregnancy) for a walk in a wheel-chair. We decided to go to a new El Salvadorean restaurant a few blocks away and try it out. The restaurant is located within a small residential-area strip mall. This particular residential area is mostly middle to low income class. The restaurant was small and had about 5 tables. It didn't have much by way of decorations, but was painted yellow and brown on the inside. The owner, who took our order, is an El Salvadorean immigrant and was extremely friendly. He's trying to start a business, after all.

We ordered and he shortly brought us our food. As we sat their eating, I began to reflect on what types of inspections and certifications he must have gone through in order to get permission to serve us. As I looked around at the place, at the floor, and into the kitchen, it occurred to me that the only person's opinion that counts on whether or not this restaurant is a fit place to eat, is my own. Had I seen a dirty floor, I could have turned around and left. Had the owner not been friendly, I could have turned around and left. Had my food not been clean and edible, I could have turned around and left. I realized that I, as the consumer, was the only regulator of this restaurant that truly mattered. What a waste of time and resources appeasing to any other type of regulator must have been. As the consumer, I am who matters and I am who decides those businesses that succeed or fail. Not the city, not the state, not the President. The consumer is the greatest and most efficient regulator a business must adhere to. As someone that was just trying to grow his new business by making customers happy, I felt I could trust him to serve me food safe enough to eat in an environment safe enough to eat it. Nothing else mattered.

I give you a challenge, the next time you shop somewhere, or eat somewhere, or get entertained somewhere, look around and decide for yourself if that's where you want to be, and if that's the kind of place you want to patronize. You are the consumer, and for that you are the regulator.

Free-market Health-care Solution

It's not too difficult to understand:


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spectacular Failures

David Z at the no third solution blog had this to say about U.S. government failures:
For the record:
  1. Social Security was established in 1935 – they’ve had 74 years to get it right; it is broke.
  2. Fannie Mae was established in 1938 – they’ve had 71 years to get it right; it is broke. Freddie Mac was established in 1970 – they’ve had 39 years to get it right; it is broke. Together Fannie and Freddie have now led the entire world into the worst economic collapse in 80 years.
  3. The War on Poverty was started in 1964 – they’ve had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our hard earned money is confiscated each year and transferred to “the poor”; it hasn’t worked.
  4. Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965 – they’ve had 44 years to get it right; they are both broke; and now our government dares to mention them as models for all US health care.
  5. AMTRAK was established in 1970 – they’ve had 39 years to get it right; last year they bailed it out as it continues to run at a loss!
  6. This year, a trillion dollars was committed in the massive political payoff called the Stimulus Bill of 2009; it shows NO sign of working; it’s been used to increase the size of governments across America, and raise government salaries while the rest of us suffer from economic hardships. It has yet to create a single new private sector job. Our national debt projections (approaching $10 trillion) have increased 400% in the last six months.
  7. “Cash for Clunkers” was established in 2009 and went broke in 2009 – after 80% of the cars purchased turned out to be produced by foreign companies, and dealers nationwide are buried under bureaucratic paperwork demanded by a government that is not yet paying them what was promised.
So with a perfect 100% failure rate and a record that proves that each and every “service” shoved down our throats by an over-reaching government turns into disaster, how could any informed American trust our government to run or even set policies for America’s health care system – - 17% of our economy?

Maybe each of us has a personal responsibility to let others in on this brilliant record…
And thus I've posted it here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Boom-Bust Cycle in Few Words

In a review for Ron Paul's latest book End the Fed, David Gordon gives a short and precise description of the boom-bust cycle (or business cycle, or trade cycle):
Far from being a means to maintain monetary stability, as its supporters falsely insist, the Fed through expansion of bank credit bears primary responsibility for the business cycle. The expansion temporarily lowers the money rate of interest below the true market rate, largely determined by people’s time preference, i.e., their preference for present over future goods. Businesses, with money available, expand; but the new projects cannot be sustained. When the monetary expansion ceases (if it doesn’t, we will have hyperinflation, with disastrous consequences), these new investments must be liquidated. The process of doing so is the depression.
Explaining this has been one of the greatest advancements in economic theory over the last century, yet too few understand it. Much more in depth analyses can be found here and here at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Man Who Saved a Planet III

I just couldn't pass this by without sharing it here. Donald Boudreaux, in his usual eloquent sting comments on Borlaug's contribution, from a 2004 Cafe Hayek post:
Relatively few people recognize Mr. Borlaug’s name. Makes me think of the world as a place in which melodramatic loud-mouths thunder to and fro in the foreground while actually doing very little of any value but stealing all of the credit for civilization and its benefits. Meanwhile, in the background, millions upon millions of decent, creative people work diligently at their specialties – welding, waiting tables, writing computer code, performing orthopedic surgery, designing shopping malls, running think-tanks – each contributing to the prosperity of the rest. Some contributions are larger than others – as Dr. Borlaug’s certainly is – but even a contribution as colossal as his is quickly taken for granted, any potential notice of it submerged beneath the swagger and bellicosity of the political classes who pretend to be prosperity’s source. How wrong. How arrogant.

The Man Who Saved a Planet II

The father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, passed away today at the ripe-old age of 95. Many don't know who he is. I recommend reading up on him through the links offered on my first Borlaug post, found here. Economist Steven Horwitz on the passing:
The man who saved countless millions, if not billions, of lives as the father of the Green Revolution has died at 95. If you've never heard of Borlaug, you should have. And the fact that you haven't, and that the media pay orders of magnitude more attention to dead politicians of all parties who achieved their fame by killing and impoverishing about as many of our fellow humans, is one of the tragedies of our day.

Hopefully the advances that Borlaug's work made possible will not be lost in a rising tide of radical environmentalist criticisms. The Green Revolution wasn't perfect, but no other 20th century event did more for the betterment of humanity on balance. Think of it this way: Borlaug's legacy is the counter-balance to the state-led violence of the century. Add up the millions killed by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Pol Pot. Add to that the millions killed in WW I and WW II and all the rest of the wars of the last century. Borlaug's work saved at least as many lives as all of those "leaders" and politicians slaughtered. If the term "social justice" has any meaning, Borlaug and the Green Revolution did more for it than any political activists by balancing the century's scales of life-and-death. If his more radical critics have their way, they will condemn millions to the poverty and starvation that his legacy saved them from.

In a just world, people like Borlaug would be the subject of hours of media commentary and coverage and special commemorative issues of Time or Newsweek while politicians got a cursory obit notice on the back page of the local rag.

That is not our world, sad to say, but as you sit down to your next meal, take a moment to pause and reflect on the life of a man who made it possible for a large hunk of humanity to go to bed tonight not worrying about where their next meal would come from. Contributions to humanity do not get any more praiseworthy than that.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Minarchism & Anarchism

I consider myself a student when it comes to libertarian thought. There's still much to learn and explore. One of the biggest debates among libertarians is between minarchy, minimal or limited public government, such as that established by the U.S. Constitution, and anarchy, the absence of public government or the absence of the state.

Among my so far limited amount of study between the two, I have yet to encounter a truly appealing and constructive view into what is called market-anarchy. (This is also called anarcho-capitalism.) That is until I read this article by the libertarian philosopher Roderick T. Long. I am not yet prepared to come down on either side, but this essay is deserving of my sharing it here. He explores the possible fulfillment of constitutionalism in market anarchy. His introduction:
A legal system is any institution or set of institutions in a given society that provides dispute resolution in a systematic and reasonably predictable way. It does so through the exercise of three functions: the judicial, the legislative, and the executive. The judicial function, the adjudication of disputes, is the core of any legal system; the other two are ancillary to this. The legislative function is to determine the rules that will govern the process of adjudication (this function may be merged with the judicial function, as when case law arises through precedents, or it may be exercised separately), while the executive function is to secure submission (through a variety of means, which may or may not include violence) to the adjudicative process and compliance with its verdicts. A government or state (for present purposes I shall use these terms interchangeably) is any organisation that claims, and in large part achieves, a forcibly maintained monopoly, within a given geographical territory, of these legal functions, and in particular of the use of force in the executive function.

Now the market anarchist objection to government is simply a logical extension of the standard libertarian objection to coercive monopolies in general. First, from a moral point of view, among people regarded as equals it cannot be legitimate for some to claim a certain line of work as their own privileged preserve from which others are to be forcibly excluded; we no longer believe in the divine right of kings, and on no other basis could such inequality of rights be justified. Second, from an economic point of view, because monopolies are insulated from market competition and hold their customers by force, they lack both the information and the incentive to provide consumers with fair, efficient, and inexpensive service. The anarchist accepts these arguments, and merely asks why they should apply with any less force to the provision of legal services.
The entire thing can be downloaded here (.pdf).