Friday, July 24, 2009

Miracles of The Market III

Each of us should be grateful to the free-market for our livelihoods. Even those living on the public dole, be them government employees or welfare recipients, could not receive such without the state first extracting it from the market (inflationary finance excepting). It is because of the voluntary choices of others that each of us are able to fulfill our desires.

This I understand to be the true American dream. Take my job, for example. I work for a software company that has developed a system that helps entrepreneurs manage their motorcycle or RV dealerships. These dealerships exist because motorcycle and RV manufacturers need someone to sell their products. These products were developed because consumers wanted something recreational to ride, or something to make their vacations more comfortable. People engage in recreation and go on vacations because they have earned the means to do so by satisfying the wants of their fellow man.

Let's look at the inverse. People voluntarily satisfied their fellow man. In turn, they had the means to voluntary engage in recreation or go on vacation. Others, seeing an opportunity to satisfy their fellow man, produced motorcycles for recreation-ers and RVs for vacationers. Still others, sensing opportunity, voluntarily worked with these producers to get their products in front of the public. My company thus, voluntarily, designed a dealer management system to help these retailers efficiently run their business. And I voluntarily work for my company, and support it's customers, so that I may feed and house my family.

At which point in this process is government involvement necessary? Every person along the way acted voluntarily and to their own benefit. As such, they each had an interest in ensuring the best possible outcome towards the next step, namely; efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction. For if the customers, who are both consumers and producers, are not satisfied, they can voluntary remove their patronage. Those producers that are unable to satisfy their customers will lose money and disappear. Again, at which point in this process is government involvement necessary? It isn't, so long as everyone keeps "their mitts to themselves" and pursues their desires voluntarily. And because it is in everyone's best interest to do so through peaceful economic cooperation, we have yet another miracle of the market, our jobs.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Intellectual Property in The Digital Age

A very good piece appearing in the Financial Times by the European political Pirate party's Christian Engström highlights what could become of our freedoms if the intellectual property police had their way. The introduction:
If you search for Elvis Presley in Wikipedia, you will find a lot of text and a few pictures that have been cleared for distribution. But you will find no music and no film clips, due to copyright restrictions. What we think of as our common cultural heritage is not “ours” at all.

On MySpace and YouTube, creative people post audio and video remixes for others to enjoy, until they are replaced by take-down notices handed out by big film and record companies. Technology opens up possibilities; copyright law shuts them down.

This was never the intent. Copyright was meant to encourage culture, not restrict it. This is reason enough for reform. But the current regime has even more damaging effects. In order to uphold copyright laws, governments are beginning to restrict our right to communicate with each other in private, without being monitored.

File-sharing occurs whenever one individual sends a file to another. The only way to even try to limit this process is to monitor all communication between ordinary people. Despite the crackdown on Napster, Kazaa and other peer-to-peer services over the past decade, the volume of file-sharing has grown exponentially. Even if the authorities closed down all other possibilities, people could still send copyrighted files as attachments to e-mails or through private networks. If people start doing that, should we give the government the right to monitor all mail and all encrypted networks? Whenever there are ways of communicating in private, they will be used to share copyrighted material. If you want to stop people doing this, you must remove the right to communicate in private. There is no other option. Society has to make a choice.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why I'm a Libertarian

The more I learn about libertarianism, the more I see what a big tent it really is. There's all different flavors like Limited-government or Anarcho-capitalist. I'm not quite sure where I fit in specifically, but what I do know is that I wasn't always a libertarian.

Growing up, my father always talked about and voted for Democrats, as did my mother. I started to hear his views on things the older I got. I soon adopted them for myself. They were your typical liberal positions. After I was re-converted to my faith, got married, and moved out, I began reading a couple of columnists in my local paper, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. They wrote about economics and caught my interest. I bought Sowell's Basic Economics and began studying the subject. I fell in love with it.

As I learned more about good economics and bad, I began taking a conservative position on government fiscal and regulatory policy. I could actually see and understand the cause and effects of bad policy, of which there has been plenty over the last few centuries, and the suffering that it can ultimately cause. At this time, I began to follow the conservative columnists and thinkers via Townhall.com.

Those articles on fiscal policy I could agree with, but with them came the articles on foreign policy. I thought that as a conservative, I needed to align myself with the Republicans and support the war on terrorism, support the war on drugs, and promote laws that prohibit various vices. But as I had understood that economic freedom was good, I was confused on why I would see personal freedom as bad. This was a time of exploration for me.

I soon found the libertarian think-tank The Cato Institute. I started to study libertarianism through them, as well as John Stossel's columns and books. I eventually discovered the Austrian School of economics and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. What I was learning about libertarianism was that it was the only logically consistent position on freedom.

As a liberal, I learned the logic behind supporting personal freedoms. As a conservative, I learned the logic behind supporting economic freedoms. As a liberal, I learned the flawed logic behind quashing economic freedom. And as a conservative, I learned the flawed logic behind quashing personal freedoms. This is somewhat of a generalization of both sides (modern definitions), but what is apparent is that although they both support some freedoms, they also both support some totalitarianism.

Although there are different flavors of libertarianism, I find in all of them the minimization or elimination of government aggression. I find libertarianism to be logical and rational. I find it to be the beacon of freedom in all areas. This is why I'm a libertarian.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Homosexual Celebration

I may incur some wrath from my fellow liberty-lovers, but that would only mean they didn't read the whole article. As a libertarian, I celebrate the right the Mormon church has to control who is and who isn't allowed on their property. All libertarians should. Full disclosure: I am a member of the Mormon church. A recent apparently newsworthy event went out over the Internet stirring up, once again, the anger that so many have towards the Mormon church for their position on homosexuality. Leave it to the MSM to report on a controversial story without having all of the facts. Had they, it probably wouldn't have been a story.

What I wanted to focus this article on was the celebration we should all be having on what's left of our freedom of association. I will state it unequivocally (again), that our commitment to freedom is proven when we allow others to discriminate by whatever variable they choose. Be it who they'll hire or for whom they'll work, who'll they serve or who they'll patronize. This is one of the greatest freedoms we could have. Could you imagine it being illegal to discriminate as a consumer or employee? Try enforcing that! But it's the logical, if impossible, next step in "fighting" discrimination.

As a Mormon, I know the church wouldn't arrest a homosexual couple for just being homosexual while on their property. Or even for sharing a small kiss. No, it would take much more. I'm sure alcohol, groping, profanity, and assault had much more to do with the arrest than just a simple kiss. Couples kiss all over Temple Square all the time. I'm certainly guilty of that. What the couple was arrested and cited for was breaking the rules the church has set for their property. And I'm glad the Salt Lake police department respected their rules and their right to make them, and enforced the law.

We should use this time to celebrate two things: freedom of association and property rights. Because of how the MSM reported the event, I bring up freedom of association. Had the church simply arrested them and had them removed from their property because they were homosexual, though libertarians can bemoan that it happened, they must support the right the church has to do such a thing. Had the facts been fully known and reported, there wouldn't be any question on whether or not the church did the just thing. It would be obvious to all that they did, and as property owners, they exercised their rights in enforcing the rules they've set. This is a time for celebration.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Misguided Soak-the-Rich Tax Policy

One of the primary tools in class warfare are "soak-the-rich" tax policies. In a very clear and factual way, Dan Michell of the Cato Institute and the Center for Freedom & Prosperity explains just how misguided these types of policies are (YouTube, 8m, 46s). Not only do they make the economy worse, as he explains, but politicians actually understand this. In a telling admission, after being explained by ABC's Charlie Gibson that lowering the capital gains tax increased revenue, Barack Obama continued to support capital gains tax increases on the basis of "fairness". The video:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Our Organ Donor System = Death

I've blogged before on the sad state of America's organ donation system. It equals death for many because of shortages. I believe repealing those laws that make compensation illegal would go leaps and bounds toward saving lives. In a great article by Jeff Jacoby via the Boston Globe, he concludes:
No one would dream of suggesting that medical care is too vital or sacred to be treated as a commodity, or to be bought and sold like any other service. If the law prohibited any “valuable consideration’’ for healing the sick, the result would be far fewer doctors and far more sickness and death.

The result of our misguided altruism-only organ donation system is much the same: too few organs and too much death. More than 100,000 Americans are currently on the national organ waiting list. Last year, 28,000 transplants were performed, but 49,000 new patients were added to the queue. As the list grows longer, the wait grows deadlier, and the shortage of available organs grows more acute. Last year, 6,600 people died while awaiting the kidney or liver or heart that could have kept them alive. Another 18 people will die today. And another 18 tomorrow. And another 18 every day, until Congress fixes the law that causes so many valuable organs to be wasted, and so many lives to be needlessly lost.