Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Military Conscription is Never Justified

There are those who believe that they have an argument that justifies military conscription in certain circumstances. That argument is that conscription is justified when destruction is eminent. (The below does not depend on my portrayal of this argument.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Block's "evictionism" and the NAP

As I've written before, abortion is an unsettled issue among libertarians. There's been a very good debate between Walter Block and Jakub Wisniewski on Block's theory of "evictionism", and whether or not it's compatible with what libertarians call the Non-aggression Principle (NAP). I thought I'd share the links for your reading pleasure:

Block's rejoinder to Wisniewski - http://libertarianpapers.org/articles/2010/lp-2-32.pdf
Wisniewski's rejoinder to Block - http://libertarianpapers.org/articles/2010/lp-2-37.pdf

I think at this point I'm with Wisniewski. I like his throwing "proportionality" in there. If eviction results in death, and with abortion it does, then that isn't proportionate to the baby having trespassed the mother's body. It would be a disproportionate result of righting a wrong (trespass). I still feel Block's theory of evictionism has practical value.

UPDATE August/2011: There has been another round to this debate. Here are the links:

Block's response to Wisniewski, Round 2 - http://libertarianpapers.org/2011/4-block-response-to-wisniewski-on-abortion-round-two/
Wisniewski's response to Block, Round 3 - http://libertarianpapers.org/2011/6-winiewski-response-to-block-on-abortion-round-three/

This has been a very thoughtful debate. On principle, I'm with Wisniewski, but in practice, I'm with Block. I think his theory of evictionism has the best chance of making progress on this critical issue. I believe in time abortion will be unnecessary.

UPDATE September/2012: There has been a round of debate on the libertarian blogosphere ever since Walter Block spoke on evictionism at a Ron Paul rally this month. Here's a synopsis of each position by Jim Davies and he concludes with his own thoughts. I agree with him on "the future". Let's get rid of the state and monopoly law, and then we can work on curing the world of abortion peacefully.

UPDATE June/2013: Another round by Block and Wisniewski:

Block's response to Wisniewski, Round 3 - http://libertarianpapers.org/articles/2011/lp-3-37.pdf
Wisniewski's "Last Word" to Block - http://libertarianpapers.org/articles/2013/lp-5-1-6.pdf

Monday, October 11, 2010

Discussion Notes - Intellectual Property

I led the LDS Liberty Study Group discussion last Thursday on the topic of Intellectual Property. As promised, here is the discussion outline we followed. I recommend reading the free resources at the bottom to understand the arguments against defending intellectual property as a libertarian. What made for a very exciting discussion were our opposing view points. I was glad to be a part of it.

LDS Liberty Study Group - October 7th, 2010 - Intellectual Property

Topic - The purpose of this discussion is to understand the true nature of "Intellectual Property". We will discuss the purpose of property rights, contrast intellectual property with real (physical) property, and how intellectual property "rights" are enforced. We will not be discussing whether or not a society should grant and protect intellectual property rights. Resources are provided that explore the nature and desirability of intellectual property rights. These are comprehensive, and should be studied with the intent of determining whether or not intellectual property rights should be defended by liberty-lovers. I personally believe they should not.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Case Against the Fed

Absolutely a must read book. Murray Rothbard, in very understandable and readable language, explains the evils of counterfeiting and inflation, and how the Federal Reserve is legally allowed to do both. The wonderful book can be found in several downloadable and free formats via Mises.org. Here's its introduction:

By far the most secret and least accountable operation of the federal government is not, as one might expect, the CIA, DIA, or some other super-secret intelligence agency. The CIA and other intelligence operations are under control of the Congress. They are accountable: a Congressional committee supervises these operations, controls their budgets, and is informed of their covert activities. It is true that the committee hearings and activities are closed to the public; but at least the people's representatives in Congress insure some accountability for these secret agencies.

It is little known, however, that there is a federal agency that tops the others in secrecy by a country mile. The Federal Reserve System is accountable to no one; it has no budget; it is subject to no audit; and no Congressional committee knows of, or can truly supervise, its operations. The Federal Reserve, virtually in total control of the nation's vital monetary system, is accountable to nobody—and this strange situation, if acknowledged at all, is invariably trumpeted as a virtue.

McScrooge Laments Inflation

I just came across this beautiful nugget showing McScrooge teaching his nephews about the evils of inflations. I recently posted about the changing attitudes of our children's cartoons on money:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free to Choose an Unlicensed Practitioner

I recently forwarded an article to a conservative colleague that argued for America to lift it's restrictions on trade with and travel to Cuba. The conclusion contained a small argument against the belief that the government is here to allow us to do certain things:
Contrast statism with libertarianism. Libertarians, unlike statists, hold that man has been endowed by nature and God with fundamental, inherent rights that exist independently of government. Since such rights do not come from government, people don’t need to get governmental permission to exercise them.

What are such rights? Not only the right to publish or read whatever you want or to peaceably assemble with others, but also the right to sustain your life through labor, to engage in economic activity, to engage in any occupation or trade, to trade with others, to accumulate the fruits of your earnings, to travel wherever you want, and to do what you want with your own money. And all without governmental permission.
My colleague agreed with most of the article, but had a problem with that last sentence. A discussion ensued.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Do You Care About the Poor and Needy?

Since my initial self-education in economics by the pen of Walter Williams, I've believed that truly caring about the poor and the needy means that you oppose government interference in the market. The poor and needy are always affected the worse by government regulations and licensing laws. You can't support government interference in the market, other than the protection from force or fraud, without supporting those things that hurt the poor and the needy the most.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Scrooge McDuck vs. Mr. Krabs

Times have certainly changed. I remember watching Duck Tales growing up and loved watching Scrooge McDuck swimming around in his silo of gold coins and precious stones:


However, kids these days have no clue what a gold coin is, or what it's worth.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Interstate Commerce and Your Church

The Interstate Commerce clause of the United States Constitution is found under Article I, Section 8, and reads,
The Congress shall have power...to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
This clause has been especially abused by the US Federal government to justify all sorts of regulations. For example, it was used to justify regulations to set quotas on growing wheat on one's own land for one's own consumption, or of the consumption of one's livestock because doing so could effect the stability of national wheat prices. A failed example has it being used to justify the Federal prohibition of firearms within a certain distance of elementary schools.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Islamocapitalism

You've probably heard the term to describe one of neo-conservatism's biggest hobgoblins, "Islamofascism". I'm not sure who coined it (Savage?), but it's spread like wild fire over the last few years. It's a term used to spread fear and hate towards Muslims. A much more accurate term to describe the secular side of the Muslim faith would be "Islamocapitalism". Lew Rockwell's latest podcast explores Islam's capitalistic roots and love for capitalists, a sentiment I'm happy to tolerate. Here's the summary from his site:
Is Islam compatible with free markets? Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol points out that the vast majority of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims are tolerant, peaceable and reasonable people whose lives do not make the news. The blowback of terrorism is the result of Western colonialism and the CIA’s promotion of fundamentalism in its Afghan war on the Soviets.

Islam was founded by a successful merchant, and the religion was largely pro-market until the colonial disease of socialism infected the Muslim world. The Koran calls the merchant the most honorable man, saying that nine of ten of God’s bounties come from trade.
The podcast is a must listen and can be downloaded here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Constitutionality of Immigration Laws

Jeffrey Thayne of ldsphilosopher.com has written a thorough Q&A on the constitutionality of Federal immigration laws that sits beautifully next to Connor Boyack's article that LDSLiberty.org published here. The two together should settle the question of what business the Federal government has in peaceful immigration.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fix Traffic by Removing Traffic Controls

What am I smoking, you ask? Wouldn't you like to know! Actually, all I'm "smoking" is oxygen, but I am serious when I say that inner city traffic problem would be fixed by removing lights and signs. Just watch this 5 minute video if you don't believe me:



Now, on to market and immigration controls!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Love the Rich, Hate the Poor?

My wife and I were talking last night. She asks me insightful questions in order to fall asleep. You see, she asks a great question, and then uses my ramblings as a sedative. Works every time. Her drug last night was what I had to say about "rich people" and "poor people". I explained to her that I don't see two groups of people, rich and poor. I see four groups. Two types of rich, and two types of poor.

The two types of people that make up "the rich" are 1) those who made their wealth by providing goods and services for trade with others voluntarily, and 2) those who used force, ie. theft or the machinations and power of government, either directly (politicians) or indirectly (lobbyists and their principals) to get their wealth. I like rich people that are "voluntarily" rich, I dislike rich people that are "coercively" rich.

The two types of people that make up "the poor" are 1) those who are poor because of a lack of opportunity, usually thanks to government interventions in the market, and really no fault of their own, and 2) those who are poor because of bad personal decisions. I like poor people that are "coercively" poor, and I dislike poor people that are "voluntarily" poor.

You see, it' not as simple as "the rich" and "the poor", for each are made up of very different types of people. Complete opposites, actually. Libertarians are often accused of loving the rich and hating the poor, but this is true insofar as the accuser means the voluntary rich and the voluntary poor. But they never mean that. Libertarians love the voluntary rich and the coercively poor. These are the two groups that are trying to serve their fellow man. The difference is that one manages to get through the roadblocks and the other doesn't. They are the same type of person, both worthy of our praise (rich) and help (poor). Those who use force to "get gain" (rich) or consistently fail to learn from their bad decisions (poor) are the ones that libertarians believe society would do well without.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Utah Nullification Project

Lehi, UT, July 6, 2010 — On the heels of the release of bestselling author Thomas E. Woods' new book, Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century, a local political activist has launched a project to put the book into the hands of every state legislator in Utah. In his latest work, Woods, a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, explains the history, purpose, and effective use of state nullification as a check on federal laws and programs that exceed constitutional authority.

On the announcement of the Utah Nullification project, Woods commented: "Thomas Jefferson warned that if the federal government is allowed to hold a monopoly on determining the extent of its own powers, we have no right to be surprised when it keeps discovering new ones. History clearly shows that it has just done that, and despite their protests, resolutions, and lawsuits, the states have repeatedly ceded their sovereignty to an ever-expanding accumulation of federal power. The subject of nullification is one that every concerned citizen should familiarize himself with, but most especially the legislators of the several states. I look forward to what will unfold in Utah once each of the state legislators is given the opportunity to study this information and consider its application."

Project organizer Connor Boyack explained his idea, noting the role nullification has already played in Utah: "This project's goal is to give every Utah state legislator an opportunity to understand how we as a state can assert our sovereignty and refuse to comply with clearly unconstitutional federal mandates which exceed the limited and specified delegated powers found in the U.S. Constitution." Boyack continued: "Utah has already used this power on several recent occasions, when refusing to comply with the Real ID Act, when declaring that locally produced and sold firearms are not subject to federal regulation, and in opting out of the recent federal health care legislation."

Boyack's project seeks to raise $2,000 to cover the cost of the books, packaging, and shipping to each of Utah's state legislators. Any money left over will be used to send a copy of the book to Utah's federal delegation, as well as other state officials, including the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and Utah Supreme Court justices.

"I'm encouraged by Utah's several bold and important assertions of state sovereignty," Boyack said, "and hope to see it happen even more. Those legislators who accept and read this book will quickly come to understand how badly nullification is needed, and how many opportunities exist for its use."

Those interested in donating to the project, tracking its progress, and learning more about state nullification can do so at www.utahnullification.com.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rights as Things

What are rights? The purpose of this short essay, or collection of thoughts, is to explore that question.

So many commentators on rights treat them as something tangible, such as:

"We have rights." as compared to "We have milk."
"Don't tread on my rights." as compared to "Don't tread on my land."
"Rights are a gift from God." as compared to "Manna is a gift from God."

What is obvious is that they are anything but tangible. So why do we talk and write like this about rights? If I am alone on an island, do I have rights? What rights do I have? It seems I wouldn't have rights because I would have no need for the entire concept. Why not? Because the concept of rights depends on others. To claim you have rights is nothing more than to claim you have exclusive control and authority over your actions and behavior. Because others claim to have rights, they too have exclusive control and authority over their actions and behavior. This claim of exclusive control and authority necessarily indicates that we claim ownership of our ourselves. "Ourselves" includes both the tangible and intangible components.

Everyone claims rights, so everyone claims exclusive control and authority over themselves. It necessarily follows that no one has (justifiably) exclusive or partial control and authority over anyone else. On an island where only one person lives, the concept of rights is meaningless because there is no one else on the island that can claim control and authority over the lone person, so his claim of exclusive control and authority over himself is unnecessary. We can see then, that rights are not something we have, but something that we don't have. What we don't have is a claim of control or authority over anyone else.

The previous phrases must be understood as:

"We have rights." really means "No one else can claim control and authority over us."
"Don't tread on my rights." really means, "Don't claim control and authority over me that you don't have."
"Rights are a gift from God." really means, "God hasn't given anyone else control and authority over me."

There are only two ways a person can claim control and authority over someone else. The first is to be given permission to exercise control and authority over someone by that person. This person already has control and authority over himself, and so he can share that control and authority with someone else. (He of course cannot completely relinquish it, as free will dictates.) The second is to pull the claim of control and authority over others out of thin air. (Even claiming God gave you this control and authority is "out of thin air" relative to another, if they disbelieve this authority came from God.)

The idea of rights, or more accurately, the idea that no one else can make a claim of control and authority over us, is as far as the "social contract" can go. It cannot go any further than this without being a tangible contract (written and signed). By claiming we have rights, we are than forcing ourselves by that claim to respect the rights of others. To disregard the rights of others, then, is to disclaim our own rights. This is why exercising control and authority over others in retaliation to the control and authority they exercised over us is logically and morally justified. By initiating aggression against you (your person or property), they have shown they don't believe in the concept of rights, and so cannot object to their being aggressed against (arrested, incarcerated, executed) by you (or your agents). It must also be understood that retaliatory force cannot exceed the level used by the initiator for this very reason.

This brings me to my final thought. Because a right is the claim that we are the only ones with control and authority over ourselves, all rights must be understood as property rights. The right to believe what I want requires my controlling my mind; the right to say what I want requires my controlling my speech; and the right to defend myself requires my controlling my whole person in removing it from or resisting harm. It is because we own ourselves, our minds, our bodies, and whatever material external to us that we either homestead (first to claim ownership of out of nature through utilization) or trade for, that we can claim any rights at all, relative to others. If anyone else assumes control and authority over us that we have not given them, then such is a claim of full- or partial-ownership, thus reducing us to slaves. To limit what I can believe, what I can say, how I can defend myself, or even what I consume, is to make a claim of ownership over me. For reasons explained above, this would be completely unjustified and illegitimate. Every law passed and every law we submit to, must be weighed against this concept of rights that I have outlined here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Bill of Rights and Political Anarchy

As I argued recently, political anarchy is the absence of unrighteous dominion. The state, characterized by its monopoly on the use of force and/or the coercive nature of its collection of funds, is one form of unrighteous dominion. Before a number of American colonies would ratify the United States Constitution, they demanded that it be amended to include what is called the "Bill of Rights". Even though the Constitution was designed to grant only certain powers to the Federal Government, these colonies understood how nearly futile it is to "chain" down the state from exercising power beyond its granted authority. They understood that political anarchy, relative to the central state, must remain in certain spheres of action. As I will argue, the Bill of Rights was designed to protect the political anarchy of these spheres, and we should be diligent in expanding political anarchy into other spheres of action.

What Are Rights?

There are two ways of looking at the concept of rights: positive and negative. The term positive rights means you are justified in doing something. The term negative rights means you are not justified in doing something. For example, a positive rights approach to life means you are justified in defending your life, a negative rights approach to life means you are not justified in taking the life of someone else. I believe a safer and less abused approach to justifying my actions and the actions of others is through the concept of negative rights. The positive rights approach taken by many supporters of liberty have led to such ideas as "a right to good housing" and "a right medical-care". Of course these "rights" can only be granted by infringing on the rights of others, therefore, they are not rights at all. Through the lens of the concept of negative rights, we can understand that someone only has a right to do something because it would be unjustified for anyone else to prevent them from doing it. I have a right to my life because no one else has a right to end it. And I have a property right in my body because no one else has a property right in my body. Therefore, when justifying an action that involves someone else, it must be shown that you have authority to do it.

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is essentially a list of "thou shalt nots" for the Federal Government. The First Amendment states,

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

In other words, the people, through the First Amendment (and the others) are telling the Federal Government, "Thou shalt not make a law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof," "Thou shalt not abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press," and "Thou shalt not abridge the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Federal Government for a redress of grievances." This all means that the Federal Government is powerless to pass laws that would interfere with the people's ability to do these various things. The Bill of Rights contains many other "thou shalt nots", including the Ninth and Tenth Amendments which state,

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people," and "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Not only does the Bill of Rights list spheres of action the Federal Government has no power over, but it even goes so far as to clarify that the Federal Government also does not have power over the people's actions the Bill of Rights does not enumerate, other than what the Constitution specifically gives the Federal Government power over. So what does this have to do with political anarchy?

A Bill of Political Anarchy

Another way of looking at the Bill of Rights is as a bill of political anarchy. Whenever two or more entities exist without a higher power exercising unrighteous dominion, these entities are in a state of political anarchy relative to each other. Two governments under the absence of a higher government exist in a state of political anarchy relative to each other. Neither are ruled over by a higher power, nor is their a higher power imposing itself to settle their disputes. Further, where there exists unrighteous dominion between two or more entities in only some spheres of action, the other spheres of action between the same parties exist in a state of political anarchy. The reason I consider the Bill of Rights a bill of political anarchy is because it protects the political anarchy of certain spheres of action between two entities: "the people" and the Federal Government.

According to the Bill of Rights, the Federal Government has no power to make laws within certain spheres of action. The First Amendment seeks to preserve the political anarchy between the people and the Federal Government in the spheres of religious worship, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, and grievance redress. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments seek to preserve the political anarchy between the people and the Federal Government in every sphere the Bill of Rights does not enumerate and those that the Constitution has not been given the authority to make laws in. It is because the Bill of Rights seeks to keep the Federal Government from exercising unrighteous dominion within these spheres that it in essence protects the political anarchy of these spheres. The Bill of Rights is in fact a bill of political anarchy.

Expanding Political Anarchy

The Bill of Rights protects the political anarchy between the people and the Federal Government of a great many spheres of action, and I am very grateful for this protection against the Federal Government. The Federal Government has grown beyond the bounds set by the Constitution, and historians and economists have shown the disastrous consequences of this growth in areas such as drug prohibition, retirement savings and disability insurance, and foreign policy, to name just a few. Expanding the Bill of Rights protection of political anarchy to even more spheres of actions is a desirable goal for those who love peace and liberty. There really is not a sphere of action that the Bill of Rights should not be expanded to protect the political anarchy of. It is my belief that it should protect the political anarchy of free enterprise and commerce in every market, including national defense. The Bill of Rights should abolish the unrighteous dominion exercised by the Federal Government in every sphere of action.

Conclusion

As I have explained, the Bill of Rights is really a bill of political anarchy because it prevents the Federal Government from exercising unrighteous dominion in a number of spheres of actions. I have argued that the number of spheres of actions whose political anarchy is protected by the Bill of Rights should be expanded, until every sphere of action boasts the absence of the Federal Government's unrighteous dominion. I believe only then will we have true liberty relative to and protected from encroachment by the Federal Government.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Absence of Unrighteous Dominion

We are taught in holy writ that "when we undertake...to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves". Also, that "it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." That is because to control or dominate over another unrighteously is evil, and where evil is, God is not. It is my belief that political anarchy is the absence of this "unrighteous dominion". I am completely aware of the objections that such a statement of belief as this may create. As I will show, these objections are misdirected, the word anarchy has been misused in contemporary thought, and a state of political anarchy is actually desirable for a righteous people.

Anarchy and Tyranny

From politicians to religious leaders, anarchy has been used synonymously with chaos, confusion and tyranny. John Adams, one of the founding fathers of America used it thus, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." And former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Fielding Smith said, "The Constitution is our assurance against anarchy and despotism." Now, I don't blame the users of this word for their misuse, the misuse of the word anarchy is commonplace. But I also feel that if we are to understand the important contributions made to advancing the cause of liberty by libertarian anarchists such as Lysander Spooner, Murray Rothbard, and Hans Hoppe, we must have a correct understanding of the word anarchy itself, as well as the way in which these theorist employ it.

Political Anarchy Defined

As I will now demonstrate considering the foregoing, anarchy is one of those words that has taken on a meaning wholly absent from its etymological construction. This word is comprised of two parts: an-, meaning "without" and -archy, meaning "a ruler", which comes from the Greek -arkhon, meaning "ruler" and -arkein, meaning "to rule". Anarchy, therefore, means "without a ruler". By comparison, monarchy means "a single ruler", minarchy means "minimal rule", and autarchy means "self-rule". There is nothing inherently objectionable to the word anarchy. What do we understand is "a ruler"? A ruler must be contrasted to a leader. The difference between these two is consent: a ruler rules without the consent of the ruled, or in other words, exercises unrighteous dominion, whereas a leader leads with the consent of his followers. Political anarchy, then, can accurately be defined as "without, or the absence of, unrighteous dominion".

Does Political Anarchy Work?

Many proponents of liberty have an incorrect understanding of political anarchy, as I have shown. Those that have an understanding of political anarchy closer to its real meaning oppose it on the grounds that "it won't work". To believe that political anarchy "won't work" is akin to believing that peace or liberty won't work. It's not a matter of what works or not. It's only a matter of desiring the absence of unrighteous dominion, because it is true that for the peace and liberty-lover, unrighteous dominion does not work.

Unrighteous Dominion

Men such as John Adams and Joseph Fielding Smith use anarchy incorrectly (technically). It is true that a state of political anarchy can pave the way for someone bent on exercising unrighteous dominion, to rule over others. But as soon as that were to happen, the people now being ruled over would no longer be in a state of political anarchy. They would then be under any number of forms of rule. If the ruler ruled tyrannically, they would be under a rule of tyranny, desiring, I am sure, a return to political anarchy. As then the tyranny, or unrighteous dominion, would cease. Put another way, where unrighteous dominion exists,  political anarchy is absent, and the inverse, where political anarchy exists, unrighteous dominion is absent. This is the framework used by liberty-loving political-anarchy-theorists like Spooner and Rothbard. It is also this framework that I believe those who desire peace and liberty, and fight against the use of unrighteous dominion, are in a true sense political anarchists.

Conclusion

The purpose of writing this short essay was to clarify a misunderstanding that I believe separates peace and liberty-lovers from like-minded political-anarchy-theorists. Though there may be some whose desire for political anarchy is merely a step towards establishing their own form of unrighteous dominion, this is not a flaw of political anarchy. This is a flaw of those men. The word anarchy is understood erroneously by the common person, and so labeling oneself an anarchist will not help one's image or message, I have found. To the common person, I am simply a "liberty-lover", or as Walter Block has put it, I desire that you "keep your mitts to yourself," and I will keep mine to myself. I want to live in a free society, free from unrighteous dominion. I believe Heaven is this way, and so exists in a state of political anarchy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Defend the State, Defend Socialism

The state is an institution of government that receives wide-spread support among all sorts of political philosophies. The difference, however, is that different political philosophies support different sizes and scopes of the state. A few examples: your typical "conservative" favors using the state for military and national defense, as well as enforcing morality among the people; your typical "liberal" (in the modern sense) favors using the state to regulate the economy and provide social services; even your typical "libertarian" who is generally opposed to the state in favor of liberty will support using the state in a limited, defense and crime prevention capacity. As I will argue here, so long as the state can collect funds by force to pay for national defense and crime prevention, it can collect funds by force to pay for anything, and so long as the state can legitimately enforce it's monopoly of the defense and justice services, so too can it enforce a monopoly of any service.

Taxes

One of the primary characteristics, though not a required characteristic, of the state is its ability to tax. Taxes are necessarily collected by force, for if force were unneeded for the collection of such funds, they would not be taxes, but voluntary fees. Why must taxes be collected by force? Because not everyone consents to the government taking their money. Again, if they did, the funds would merely be voluntarily-paid fees. The various political philosophies I briefly outlined above all support the state's ability to tax. They just disagree on how those taxes are to be used. The flaw in their arguments, however, is that if the state can tax to pay for national defense, then it can tax to pay for social services, such as food stamps and medical-care. Why?

Funded by Coercion

The typical argument in favor of using taxes for national defense (to pay for an army) is that the people have the inherent right to defend themselves and others. Therefore, they can delegate that authority to others. What is overlooked is that the people also have the inherent right to "feed" and "fix" themselves and others. Using the same logic that justifies using taxes for national defense, the people can legitimately delegate the authority to feed and fix themselves to others. In other words, if funds can be collected by the state by force to provide national defense, then it can also collect funds by force to provide food stamps and medical-care. An argument for using taxes for national defense is also an argument for using taxes for social services. Let us now turn to my second point.

Monopolized Services

Another primary characteristic of the state, this one required to qualify as a state, is its monopoly of the services of defense and justice. Defense and justice are the only legitimate uses of force according to the non-aggression principle. Within the state's territory, it only permits itself to provide defense and administer justice for the people. If enforcing this monopoly of the services of defense and justice is justified, then the state is justified in enforcing a monopoly of any service. These services could include anything that the people can provide themselves (see my first point), such as grocery and medical-care services. In other words, if the state's enforcement of it's monopoly on the services of defense and justice is justified, and if it were to enforce a monopoly of the grocery and medical-care services, then that too would be justified.

Defending Socialism

Let me put this in other, more offensive terms. Socialism is a political philosophy whose goal is the equal distribution of wealth, and its vehicle the state. It seeks to accomplish this by having the state own the means of production. (This usually includes monopolizing the means of production.) Any good or service produced by the state is a "socialized" good or service. Education produced by the state is socialized education. Roads produced by the state are socialized roads. Likewise, defense and justice provided by the state are socialized defense and justice. If the state is justified in socializing education, roads, and defense and justice, then it is justified in socializing the production of any good or service.

Conclusion

Before anyone thinks I'm defending the state, let it be known that I am not. In fact, I am attacking it. I have used the foregoing logical deduction to demonstrate the fallacy in the various arguments in favor of the state, of any size and scope. It is a matter of logical consistency that in defending the supposed justified actions of the state, one is defending all actions of the state under the two characteristics explored: using taxation to do what the people already have the right do (defend, feed, and fix themselves), and/or monopolizing those services. It is my political philosophy that the state is not justified in either collecting funds by force, taxation, nor in monopolizing the services of defense and justice within it's territory. Socialism in any degree is unjust and always fails. To allow any good or service to be socialized is a concession that Socialism is justified. This must be fought against if we are to have genuine liberty.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Constitution's Major Flaw, Notwithstanding

Latter-day Saint Constitutionalists have interpreted scripture pertaining to the Constitution of the United States in varying degrees. Some believe it itself is scripture, on par with the canonized Standard Works. Others have a looser (in my view correct) interpretation that only those parts “supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges” are inspired. It is the purpose of this article to point out the major, foundational flaw in the Constitution that is overlooked by many Latter-day Saint Constitutionalists. It is also the purpose of this article to point out how we can honor the Lord’s justification “in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.”

The Highest Degree

For argument sake, I will concede the highest degree of Latter-day Saint Constitutional interpretation that the Constitution should be regarded as scripture. This quote by the thirteenth President of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson, is an example of this belief, “I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed his stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land.” (“A Heavenly Banner”, 1986) This may or may not be a correct interpretation of President Benson’s words, but many have made the very same interpretation in defending the Constitution. In holding it up as the ideal, divinely sanctioned, standard of public government, they fail, however, in recognizing it’s major, real world, foundational flaw.

The Major Flaw

The United States Constitution is not a constitution to be implemented, enforced, amended, or preserved by angels. As James Madison, fourth President of the United States and one considered to be the “father of the Constitution,” said in the Federalist Papers, No. 51, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” And therein lies the Constitution’s flaw. It must be implemented, enforced, amended, and preserved by mere mortal men. Such a requirement is extremely likely to cause the Constitution to fail in it’s supposed purpose, to limit government to it’s proper role in preserving freedom. Indeed, this has been the case.

Conclusion

This major flaw notwithstanding, as Latter-day Saints and as citizens of the United States of America, we have on obligation to uphold the Constitution. How can we do this while still recognizing it’s real world application? By holding those who swear to defend the Constitution to their oath. The officers of our Federal Government promised to govern according to the rules set forth by the Constitution. For that we must make every effort to teach others what that means, and hold those officers to the promise that they made, thereby “befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.”

Monday, January 11, 2010

Murder, What Else?

Hat-tip LRC:
American drones dropped in Pakistan kill at least 10 times as many civilians as terrorists and/or Taliban (Pakistani and/or Afghan),  according to a July Brookings report. Now the Pakistan government reports that 39 out of 44 drone attacks killed nothing but civilians in 2009.  Obama now owns the Afghanistan War and has stepped up the drone attacks. Note that 10/11 = a 91% deadly error rate, and that 39/44 = an 89% error rate. These confirm one another and the “success” of drone warfare against civilians.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

40 Reasons for Gun Control

LibertarianChristians.com has a great list of the best reasons for gun control. This one is by far my favorite:
8. A woman raped and strangled is morally superior to a woman with a smoking gun and a dead rapist at her feet.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Questions on Intellectual Property

Stephen Kinsella posts a list of questions from a high school student seeking answers regarding the legitimacy of intellectual property "rights", as well as his answers. They provide a good introduction to the anti-IP position. These are the questions asked, click here for his answers:
  1. What would you say is the most powerful argument against copyrights and patents?
  2. What would you respond with to someone who argues that resources do not have to be finite or scarce in order to be allocated as property?
  3. How would you respond to Lysander Spooner’s argument that property is wealth that is owned, and wealth includes ideas since they can be manifested into tangible wealth?
  4. What about the argument that people own their minds, so they own the mental products?
  5. Some anti-IP people believe in a right to first sell. Would you say that the original creators should have a right to sell the creation first? Why or why not?
  6. What would you respond to someone who claims that if there were copies all around, the original inventor wouldn’t get as much profit as he should have?
(LibertySearch.info: intellectual property)