Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ron Paul on Health Care

Diagnosing our Health Care Woes
by Ron Paul

No one disputes the diagnosis: American health care is in lousy shape. As a practicing physician for more than 30 years, I find the pervasiveness of managed care very troubling. The problems with our health care system are not the result of too little government intervention, but rather too much. Contrary to the claims of many advocates of increased government regulation of health care, rising costs and red tape do not represent market failure. Rather, they represent the failure of government policies that have destroyed the health care market.

It’s time to rethink the whole system of HMOs and managed care. This entire unnecessary level of corporatism rakes off profits and worsens the quality of care. But HMOs did not arise in the free market; they are creatures of government interference in health care dating to the 1970s. These non-market institutions have gained control over medical care through collusion between organized medicine, politicians, and drug companies, in an effort to move America toward “free” universal health care.

One big problem arises from the 1974 ERISA law, which grants tax benefits to employers for providing health care, while not allowing similar incentives for individuals. This results in the illogical coupling between employment and health insurance. As such, government removed the market incentive for health insurance companies to cater to the actual health-care consumer. As a greater amount of government and corporate money has been used to pay medical bills, costs have risen artificially out of the range of most individuals.

Only true competition assures that the consumer gets the best deal at the best price possible by putting pressure on the providers. Patients are better served by having options and choices, not new federal bureaucracies and limitations on legal remedies. Such choices and options will arrive only when we unravel the HMO web rooted in old laws, and change the tax code to allow individual Americans to fully deduct all healthcare costs from their taxes, as employers can.

As government bureaucracy continues to give preferences and protections to HMOs and trial lawyers, it will be the patients who lose, despite the glowing rhetoric from the special interests in Washington. Patients will pay ever rising prices and receive declining care while doctors continue to leave the profession in droves.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Utilitarianism (Revised)

Chapter ? - Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism (from the Latin utilis, useful) is a theory that prescribes the quantative maximization of good consequences for a population. It considers virtue to be based on utility, and thus it is a form of consequentialism. Though some utilitarian theories might seek to maximize other consequences, these consequences generally have something to do with the welfare of people (or of people and nonhuman animals). For this reason, utilitarianism is often associated with the term welfarist consequentialism.

There's a huge problem. Utilitarianism is completely revolved around the ends, and ignores means altogether. Thus, utilitarianism is often prone to jump to "the ends justify the means" conclusions. But that means that any ethical standard goes out the window as soon as a presumed "good" consequence appears achievable. However, no matter how "good" a consequence may seem, it does not negate the question of the means to such consequences. We will find that in each case that one applies utilitarianism, it tends to violate common-sense notions of justice. Modern political talking points such as "we have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" and "we have to have a huge social safety net or millions of people would starve to death" is pure utilitarianism. Thus, a utilitarian would argue that the consequences of welfare, or the consequences of warfare, are somehow positive, and that these supposedly positive results justify the means used to achieve them. This type of consequentialism is “positive utilitarianism”.

There are many utilitarian libertarians and free market economists that use consequentialist arguments as their fundamental foundation. This type of utilitarianism is revolved around demonstrating that a given action leads to bad or even unintended consequences, and thus it is “negative utilitarianism”. The negative utilitarian still seeks the maximization of good consequences, but their method is to promote the least amount of negative consequences, or to prevent the greatest amount of negative consequences for the greatest number. There is nothing inherently wrong with showing how the consequences of a given government intervention or human action are bad, and there is not necessarily anything wrong with wanting to achieve the least amount of negative consequences, but when that is one’s fundamental argument it brings one to shaky ground. For if one is solely concentrated on consequences, the underlying ethics of such matters becomes demphasized if not disposed of altogether. While the natural rights libertarian may very well agree with the utilitarian that a particular action or lack of that action will yield good or bad consequences, this is not their primary reason for supporting or opposing a particular measure. Their reasoning fundamentally lies in the ethics of the means.

Before looking into the ends, a principled libertarian and/or economist must first establish a critique of the means. Before demonstrating how any given means will lead to negative ends, one must demonstrate how the means themselves are negative, that the particular means chosen are in violation of freedom. After all, the basic reason why a particular end is negative stems precisely from the negative means that are used to obtain such results. For example, if Jack is walking down the street minding his own buisiness, and Joe jumps out an alley and beats up Jack, the ends of Joe’s actions are negative. However, it is not enough to merely point out that the ends are negative, it is incumbent upon the opponent of violence to demonstrate that the means, the action of non-defensive violence, is not ethical to begin with. We must realize that Joe’s initial action in itself is negative. In short, we cannot avoid ethics. While the utilitarian libertarian may strongly believe in individual liberty, they pose the risk of providing “justification” for its invasion, wether or not they intend to do so.

There is a problem of subjectivity in utilitarianism. A question that inevitably arises is that of how are we to decide precisely what consequences are positive or negative, and who decides that. Surely, different individuals and groups have varying definitions of what makes them happy, different personal morals. The utilitarian has the burden of proving that a particular consequence is good, and one cannot do this without resorting to personal value judgements. Utilitarianism conflates the many diverse desire systems present in a society and imposes a single desire system by which to measure utility. The determination of maximal utility is made from the perspective of a single impartial spectator, or ``perfect legislator,'' who represents all the people in the society. In this way, a single system of desires and a single conception of the good operate to determine the correct allocation of benefits and burdens. Utilitarianism's use of an impartial spectator with these characteristics conflicts with common notions of justice.

Thus, while a negative utilitarian himself, Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises went out of his way to refrain from personal value judgements and adhered to a subjectivist view of human action. He correctly believed that the end of happiness cannot be objectively measured precisely because of the variety of subjective value judgements between individuals, and therefore his definition of happiness was merely the attainment of one’s desired end. He also correctly asserted that one cannot quite accurately predict future consequences, especially in economics. Mises was as restrained as a negative utilitarian could possibly be. If Mises would not have done this, he would have been an “armchair utilitarian”, one that superimposes their personal value judgements of happiness onto others and attempts to predict the future.

However, while it is indeed important to aknowledge the subjectivity of one’s happiness, there nonetheless remains objective ethical grounds by which one can measure not happiness, but right and wrong. While we may be correct in maintaining that value judgements are subjective, utilitarianism does not take into account the nature of the desires being satisfied; utilitarianism makes the mistake of considering right and wrong to be determined by happiness or the lack of it. This leads us into a realm of ethical ambiguity. Afterall, one could easily obtain what appeases their happiness through the use of unethical means. Since utility is the satisfaction of one’s subjective desires, we run into a problem when those desires are contrary to justice, when one’s desires are “evil”. This is the main flaw with the doctrine of subjectivity. For example, the utility of a slave owner is to continue to possess slaves and to have more slaves, and the utility of a torturer is to inflict as much pain on their victim as possible. If it could be demonstrated that slavery or torture were beneficial to the overall population in some way, which was a common argument used by opponents of the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, a bold utilitarian would have to accept these devices on such grounds. But it remains that such things are unethical.

Thus, we see how utilitarian methodology can be used to provide false justification for unethical means, by asserting that it is justified to violate the individual’s interest in the name of the “greater” interest or “public good”; or utility in general. Since utilitarians judge all actions by their ability to maximize good consequences, any harm to one individual can always be “justified” either by a greater gain to other individuals or the resignation to utility itself. If we are overly dogmatic about the subjectivity of individual choice, we run into absurdities such as a robber being justified because theft was the means by which they could achieve maximum results, in this case the possession of property, in the easiest and fastest manner possible. And therefore, while it is most certainly true that everyone’s value judgements are inherently subjective, that it is entirely subjective to the individual what makes them happy or not, it must be realized that happiness is not what determines right and wrong, and thus the subjectivity of happiness is not a valid argument for the notion of the subjectivity of right and wrong. The subjectivity of happiness does not “prove” that right and wrong is subjective.

We must distinguish between judgements of value and judgements of ethics. A judgement of value, such as between various religions, lifestyles, products and services, is subjective. A judgement of ethics, such as between using force or not using force, between compulsion and voluntary cooperation, is not subjective. For example, there is nothing subjective about whether a mass-murderer is right or wrong. Their actions can be considered to be objectively wrong because of the forceful nature of their actions. It would be absurd to suppose that the act of murder is subjective. Subjective judgements of value, such as being a Christian over an atheist, or buying the brand of cigarettes of one’s choice, can be expressed as rights. But surely noone would suppose that the judgement of whether or not to rape or steal from someone is a “right”, that it is a subjective judgement as to whether or not someone is correct in engaging in such actions. Such invasions of person and property can be objectively considered as wrong because they violate the nature of the victim, they go against the victim’s ownership of their body or possessions. Because of the fact that the victim naturally owns their own body and their possessions, it is objectively wrong to invade their person and property. In short, it is wrong precisely because it violates what objectively is; the individual’s control over their property. On a one-dimensional plane, if one’s ownership of their person and property is X, and the invasion of that individual’s person and property is Y, then the introduction of Y into the equation is wrong because it violates the nature of X. X on its own would literally be “correct” by its mere existance; it simply objectively is. X is natural. Violating its existance must be considered as “incorrect” because it violates what naturally is.

The utilitarian runs into a problem in terms of the lack of action, the degree of a given action or the lack of a particular presumed “good” consequence or “greater” consequence. In other words, a utilitarian may consider something to be “wrong” because it does not achieve the most maximally “good” consequence, but rather a consequence that is more marginal or lesser. For example, if someone donated $5,000 for a charity intended to help starving children in Africa when that person could have donated more or could have donated to a more efficient organization, a positive utilitarian would consider this action to be wrong because the donator did not choose what is presumed to yield the most maximum result. Or, take a situation of self-defense or defending others. Suppose that Jane sees Joe attacking Jack on the street – not to the level of murdering him, but assaulting him. In order to maximize good consequences, a utilitarian could suppose that Jane must choose to defend Jack, and therefore if Jane does not choose to do so she would be considered wrong in not taking action.

Or, if we take Jane out of the equation, a pacifist utilitarian that presumes that a total lack of violence is the maximum consequence to be desired, they would conclude that Jack must refrain from defending himself because it would cause additional harm. On the other hand, a utilitarian that thinks that self-defense will yield the best results may take it to the extreme of considering it imperative to extend self-defense beyond the proportion of the crime, and therefore they would conclude that Jack must kill Joe, and even other individuals that relate to Joe in some way, even after the crime of assault has transpired. This would constitute unproportional vengeance. Such notions lead us to ethical absurdities. Any theory that accepts an unjust distribution of benefits and burdens must be flawed. To define right action only by reference to whether it produces a good “state of affairs” (the achievement of the actor’s desired end) necessitates a fundamental clash between an agent’s moral character and that allegedly right action.

Instead of starting on a results-based ethic, how about using a real axoim to determine right and wrong? The non-aggression axoim. Everyone is free to choose, act and think without harming the person or property of others, outside of self-defense from invasions of that freedom. In short, everyone is “free” in their person and property, to not have their body and possessions aggressed against, and they have a right of self-defense when their liberty has been violated. The violation of one’s rights in their person and property is defacto unjust because it violates one’s nature. You would think that such a contention as non-aggression would be common sense - it's in practically every religion and philosophy known to man in one form or another. Every single view on any issue could stem from that. It's that simple. The difference between the natural rights libertarian and many others is that the natural rights libertarian consistantly applies the golden rule to government itself. They don't give government a double standard, they consistantly hold all individuals and groups to the exact same ethical standard. If it's wrong for Joe to murder Jack, it's wrong for people acting on behalf of the government to murder Jack as well. Immediately we come to the grounds for being anti-war - war is mass murder. The ends don't justify the means. If it's wrong for Joe to steal from Jack, it's wrong for people acting on behalf of the government to steal from Jack as well. In theory, immediately we come to the grounds for not exactly being fond of taxation - the act of taxation itself is not really separable from theft. The ends don't justify the means. Even if you tell me that the thief then gives money to the poor, or any good thing, the initial act of theft is still wrong. Even if you tell me that murdering thousands of civilians “saved lives”, which is a very dubious and ambiguous claim to begin with, the actual act of mass-murder is still wrong.

Thus, we see a political atmosphere in which people are convinced that their particular desired ends should be sought out no matter what the means are, wether their desire is to reduce crime, make people moral, stabalize the middle east, help the needy, or make us "secure" and enlightened. In the name of achieving presumably good things we use means that are absolutely "evil" by all common sense ethical standards. To make a doctor analogy, the result is often that you kill the patient in the name of curing their disease. Often, the desired ends don't even become a reality, and it becomes even worse then "the ends justify the means", it becomes "the goals/intentions justify the means". In this respect, the negative utilitarian is correct that such things will yield unintended consequences, but these negative results are still not the fundamental reason why one should oppose “doctor kills the patient” measures.

The reason why such things are wrong is because of the unethical nature of the action itself, not the negative results of the action. In other words, right and wrong pre-exists the consequences. Something is not wrong because it leads to undesirable or negative consequences, it is wrong because of the very nature of the initial action that lead to those consequences. Using force against an innocent individual to take their money in the name of achieving possession of money as easily and maximally as possible is not “right” because the aggressor recieves the positive consequence of obtaining money, it is in fact “wrong” because of the very nature of the aggression against the property of the victim. On the other hand, sucessfully using force in self-defense against such an aggressor is not “wrong” because the aggressor received a negative consequence, it is in fact “right” because the defending individual was aggressed against in the first place. In short, right and wrong is intrinsic to the means, not the ends. It is not the effect itself that is right or wrong, it is the initial cause, the stimuli that created the effect, that can objectively be considered as right or wrong.

It would be innacurate to suppose that the opponent of utilitarianism does not believe in achieving results at all or that they do not wish well upon society. Like anyone in the world, they indeed have desires of their own and believe that they should be achieved, and therefore will advocate the course of action that best achieves the desired ends. What sets them apart from the utilitarian, however, is that they expressly contemplate the means to such results. If someone is using unethical means even in the name of achieving the results that the opponent of utilitarianism supports, they must resist such measures. In short, while believing in achieving results like anyone else does, they confine the means used to achieve such results within well-defined ethical bounds. For example, if one’s desired end were to abolish slavery, they would not support murdering all of the slave owners. The advocate of liberty must be proportional and consistantly adhere to their own ethics while attempting to achieve their ends. The utilitarian, on the other hand, cannot be proportional or heed to any ethical concerns because they’re solely revolved around ends.

Most of the arguements between natural rights libertarians and other groups revolve around the libertarian pointing out that the means are unethical. Then the utilitarian points to the ends to try to justify it, and the libertarian repeatedly asserts that the ends are irrelevant, they do not cancel out the ethics of the means. Utilitarianism all about ends and ignores means. It "justifies" unethical things by making an arguement of results. The results are irrelevant if the initial means violate liberty. The ethics never go out the window. One concerned with ethics doesn't dispose of right and wrong because of results. If the right thing doesn't lead to perfect results, the advocate of liberty still supports it. If the wrong thing leads to presumably good results for a particular group, they still oppose it. There is no double standard. The problem with utilitarianism is that it is prone to opposing ethically correct things because they do not achieve what the utilitarian considers to be the maximum “good” results, or supporting ethically incorrect things because they do achieve what the utilitarian considers to be the maximum “good” results.

Take something like "Click It Or Ticket" laws for example. What the law essentially does is coerce people to put on their safety belts, backed up by the force of a man with a gun, and if they are "caught" they are fined by the state. While that force of the bayonette may not be used, the threat of that force is unethical all the same. The fining of the person for the "crime" of not being safe is unethical all the same. Here we have a classic case of unjust force or compulsion being used against the person and/or property of someone. Some proponents of such laws may point to statistics demonstrating that deaths and injuries from car accidents are down ever since such laws were put into place (which is misleading nonsense in the first place: compulsion does not stop harm in accidents, the seatbelt does). Even if true, it is irrelevant to the ethics of the matter - it does not justify the use of coercion to force people against their will to act in a particular manner, nor does it justify stealing their money for not taking such precautions. The ends do not justify the means - the law is unjust, in violation of personal (the compulsion) and economic (the fine) liberty, no matter what results it leads us to. The proper argument against such measures is not that it fails to achieve the maximization of positive results, not that it fails to make the roads safer, but that it violates liberty.

Often, when debating about economic issues and capitalism, people make utilitarian arguements about the results of wealth and poverty. They aim for the maximization of wealth and property. The real question should be of the means to wealth and poverty. Not the end results themselves. The terms of the means is what needs to be defined. Was the wealth achieved through force? Then it is not legitimate. Was it achieved voluntarily? Then it is legitimate. Was the poverty created by force? Then it is not legitimate and should be corrected. Was the poverty created naturally, voluntarily? Then it is unfortunate, but not legitimate to use force in reaction to it. The true essence of the matter is not rich vs. poor, but force vs. cooperation or just vs. unjust. If the conditions around us were created through cooperative means, without any violations of liberty, then despite one’s desire to improve such conditions we must have the discipline to accept reality. This may seem cold, but it is simply realistic.

The question about income disparity is irrelevant if we do not address the means to that disparity. "Is income disparity good or bad" is not a fair question, because it ignores the question of the means. It all goes back to the economic and political means to wealth. Franz Oppenhiemer argued that the economic means to wealth is voluntary, peaceful exchange and production, and the political means to wealth is involuntary expropriation and violence. If it's the voluntary, economic means to wealth - then, regaurdless of results, it is legitimate. If it is the coercive, forceful political means to wealth - then, reguardless of results, it is not legitimate. This all stems from our initial axoim of non-aggression. It is important to further note that the person whom uses the political means to wealth, the parasite, eventually siphons off the source of their own supply, and therefore after a certain point it becomes a net loss for both the expropriator and the expropriated. Most importantly, however, is that this method of parasitism is contrary to the nature of both the parasite and their hapless victim. Income disparity, inequality between people’s property, naturally exists to begin with. That type of income disparity is not only not a crime (this is what is of vital importance to us), but is necessary for the division of labour. Politically created income disparity is what is not legitimate. But the natural voluntary disparity between people who have better and lesser achievements is something that is going to always exist until the end of time, as an intinsic part of human nature, and it presents no ethical violation. What is truly unethical is to use violence to achieve another’s just property. The maximization of utility is irrelevant to this. One must not allow concern for results to negate ethics.

And thus, we get to why socialism is bad news. It tries to "cure" that natural disparity through the use of the political means. It considers human nature, the natural differences between individuals, to be "evil". It tries to change something that cannot be changed - human nature. It demonizes those that have achieved their status and sucess voluntarily as if it is some kind of crime against humanity (the irony being that it is the very crux of humanity), and thus sets out to cripple the economic means to wealth. Why's communism bad? Because it's based on hatred for the natural division of labour and tries to abolish it through forceful means. It isn’t enough to say that it doesn’t achieve its desired ends, it is necessary to point out that it is simply unethical. The common phrase that communism is “good in theory and bad in practise” is not accurate; it is bad in practise precisely because it is a bad and erroneous theory, precisely because it uses the means of force and compulsion in the name of achieving the ends that it desires.

The same goes for fascism and neoconservatism, for different matters. It seeks to justify the mass-murder of countless people by making arguements about "democracy" and "peace" and "freedom". It seeks to justify making innocent people into criminals through victimless crimes by making arguements about "order" and "tradition". It argues that alleged "security" brought through a surveillance state somehow negates the loss of liberty it requires. It argues that making everyone pay to keep an innocent and non-violent person in jail for something like drugs, and the loss of liberty such prohibitions require, is somehow justified by the end of isolating such people from the rest of society. Again, it is not satisfactory to simply point out that fascistic measures do not lead to good results, it is necessary to consider it to be unethical. Whatever the ideology in question is, it seeks to impose its own value judgements onto others with the presumption that the applications of such judgements onto everyone else will yield the maximum utility for society, and in the quest to achieve the presumed good consequences it violates liberty.

Where communism cannot accept the natural economic divisions, reactionary rightism cannot accept the natural social/personal divisions. Both abandon principle in the name of seeking desired ends that are either impossible to achieve or do not justify the means. People from all over the political spectrum tend to make the mistake of defining their rights as a gaurantee of a particular result, without realizing that the means used in the name of achieving such goals often violate their rights in the first place. Even if they do achieve their desired ends, it was achieved through unethical means. What about "Don't Kill" and "Don't Steal" don't people understand? It does not require any particular religion or philosophy to come to such ethical conclusions.

Utilitarianism is an ideology that abandons values in the name of people's innermost fantasies. Liberty should never be sacrificed in the name of the desire for results. Both personal and economic freedom is not expendable. Right and wrong is not a gaurantee of results, it is a matter of the means to a given result. True liberty depends on adhering to non-agression consistantly. Any deliniation from that will lead to a violation of liberty. It's a sad fact of life that governments tend to violate liberty with a promise of results, and it attempts to justify its unethical actions by pointing to results while ignoring principles. Utilitarianism is the perfect tool for tyranny to attempt to justify itself to its subjects.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Collectivism and Majoritarianism

Chapter ? - Collectivism and Majoritarianism

What exactly is society, and what are the “rights of society”? To begin with, it must be established that the fundamental flaw in social theory is to treat “society” as if it were an actual existing entity in its own right. Society has been often treated either as a superior entity with overriding “rights” of its own, or a demon to be conjured up and blamed on all of the problems of the world. But treating society, the whole, as an individual that chooses, acts and thinks on its own produces an absurdity which functions to blur reality. It must be realized that only individuals exist, make choices, take actions and think thoughts. Society is not a living entity of its own, but rather it is simply a term for a group of interacting individuals. It is merely the sum of its parts, but it is not one sentient entity. Society cannot engage in choices, actions and thoughts of its own as if it were an individual. If twelve people act together to attack five others, then this is most certainly a case of a group of individuals acting in concert to against another group. If the twelve attackers were to refer to themselves as “society” acting on its own volition, this surely would be an absurd claim. But let the amount of people in question increase, especially to the level of an entire nation, and such ideas function as a dangerous obfuscation indeed.

In essence, society is everyone but yourself. It cannot be blamed or given responsibility for the actions of its individual counterparts. If Joe steals from Jack, the sensible view would be that Joe is responsible for his actions. But many may say that “society” is somehow responsible for Joe’s actions. But this notion is quite ridiculous. It would mean that everyone but Joe himself is responsible for the crime. The fictitious use of “society” functions to obscure the reality of such a situation. If society is responsible for crime, and the criminal himself is thus not responsible for it, then everyone else in society, who did not commit the crime, including the victim, would be held as responsible. This notion is absolutely absurd and is a classic case of using society as a demon to be blamed for the actions of individuals. Thus, we see the absurdity that collective thinking leads us to, where the existence and importance of the individual is obscured. This becomes even more ridiculous when we blow it up to the level of nations. As the historian Parker T. Moon pointed out:

“When one uses the simple monosyllable "France" one thinks of France as a unit, an entity. When . . . we say "France sent her troops to conquer Tunis"—we impute not only unit but personality to the country. The very words conceal the facts and make international relations a glamorous drama in which personalized nations are the actors, and all too easily we forget the flesh-and-blood men and women who are the true actors . . . if we had no such word as "France". . . then we should more accurately describe the Tunis expedition in some such way as this: "A few of these thirty-eight million persons sent thirty thousand others to conquer Tunis." This way of putting the fact immediately suggests a question, or rather a series of questions. Who were the "few"? Why did they send the thirty thousand to Tunis? And why did these obey? Empire-building is done not by "nations," but by men. The problem before us is to discover the men, the active, interested minorities in each nation, who are directly interested in imperialism and then to analyze the reasons why the majorities pay the expense and fight the war necessitated by imperialist expansion.”

In order to determine what society should, shouldn’t, does or doesn’t have, we must adequately establish the basis for rights in the first place. The fundamental pillar of all rights is the right to self-ownership, possession and control over one’s own body. It is inherent by mans’ nature that they own their own person; each individual naturally owns their own body by the inherent fact that they control it. To deny this is to deny the basis for all rights; if one doesn’t own their own body, then it would follow that they do not own any possessions that they use their body to obtain. If one doesn’t own their own body, then there is no such thing as “free speech” or free expression of any sort. By logical deduction,.consider the consequences of denying that each individual has a right in their own person: either (1) a particular group of people have the right to own another group or everyone else or (2) everyone has the right to own an equal quoatal share of everyone else. Some may contend that there is an extra option, that noone owns their own person or property. But if this were the case, humanity would quickly perish. People simply would not exist as thinking and acting beings if they did not own themselves.

The first alternative would imply that the ownership group deserves the rights of being human, while the owned group does not. But obviously, since the “owned” group indeed are human beings, the first alternative is contradictary because it denies natural human rights to a particular group of humans. The first alternative is essentially the conditions for slavery, where one group lives parasitically at the expense the other. The second alternative, which is essentially the basis for communism or communalism, holds that everyone owns an equal share of everyone else. That would mean that if there are eight billion people in the world, everyone has the right to own one eight-billionth of everyone else. In essence, the communal option rests on a complete absurdity: that every man is entitled to own a piece of everyone else, but not to own oneself. The practicality of such a world would be absurd, where no individual could take any action without the prior approval of everyone else in the world. In the collectivist utopia, noone would be able to do anything, and humanity would surely perish. The collectivist world cannot be put into practise in the first place because it is physically and logically impossible to keep track of everyone in such a way. It is utterly impossible for a new-born baby in Pakistan to own a piece of land or home in Ohio, and vice versa. The very fact that individuals exist negates the communalist ideal. Communal ownership is simply not possible. Therefore, in practise, the communalist world falls back on our first alternative, where one group would own the person of the masses in the name of communal ownership. In short, any attempt at communal ownership will inevitably degenerate into class rule, and this is clearly demonstrated by all communist governments in history. Because of the fact that utopia of communal ownership is an absurdity, and the individual has no importance in communalism, it inherently yields some kind of oligarchy or dictatorship.

If each individual naturally owns their own body, then it follows that they own that which they use their body to create and use; their property. Ownership of property, such as one’s home, expressly stems from the expression of one’s self-ownership in stewartship and control over that property. One’s income, for example, derives from the expression of one’s self-ownership through the labour that brought about the income, and therefore the fruits of that is one’s ownership of their money. The exact same methodology applies here. The only other options would be for one group to own the property of everyone else, which is the grounds for class rule, or that everyone would own an equal part of the property of everyone else, which is an absurdity that will degenerate into class rule. Thus, we see that the collective, the whole, does not have rights of its own. Rights belong to individuals, not groups or the whole. The notion of collective rights and collective ownership is ridiculous.

It may be asked, what of ownership of land? Doesn’t noone own any land, or does everyone own the land? Some contend that everyone own’s the earth equally, communally. But this is an absurdity. The answer to the question is that, in its natural state, the land is in a condition of non-ownership. However, once an individual makes use of that land, the ownership of that land is theirs. While the owner of the land does not literally create the land, they do mix their self-ownership, their labour, with that land and create something new out of it. This is the basis for their ownship of that land, known as the “first use rule”. Once an individuals transforms a given piece of land for their own purposes, it becomes their legitimate property. The ownership of the land, however, extends only so far as one makes use of it. For example, if Crusoe lands on a baren island, he cannot legitimately claim ownership of the whole island. If he builds a home, he owns only that piece of land by which he makes use of. This becomes even more true when we introduce other individuals into the equation. If Jones has a home on another part of the island, then Jones too owns the land by which he makes use of, and Crusoe therefore cannot lay claim on such land. The collective option is equally absurd in terms of land ownership; it would imply that everyone on the island owns an equal share of the land. But Jones does not own any share of Crusoe’s land, for he has made no use of it. One cannot legitimately own something that they do not use. All of the resources of the earth do not belong to “society”, they belong to the individuals that make use of it. And if they do not homestead it, then it is in a state of non-ownership. Once again, the collective cannot objectively own anything, only individuals can.

Let us return again to our “society”. Does society have rights of it’s own that supercede the rights of the individual? But, as we have established, society is not an individual that chooses, acts and thinks on its own. Society is merely a term used for the cumulative result of the individuals that make it up. It is made up of independant individuals that choose, act and think on their own. Inherently, there is some level of diversity and conflict between the choices, actions and thoughts of varying individuals. Each individual chooses, acts and thinks in a way in which they percieve is their own good. This is inherently based on subjective value judgements. Thus, one cannot realistically attribute a particular value judgement to every single individual in the entire world or everyone in a particular country. As we have seen, it is the individual that has rights, not groups or the whole. By enforcing judgements of value that are subjective to the individual onto society as a whole, the rights of the individual will inevitably be violated. This is not to say that there are no judgements at all that can be justly enforced, but judgements of value (as in how much to pay for a given product, what to say or write and wether or not it is true, what to wear, what to eat, who to marry, which religion to practise, etc. – in short, any matter of personal opinion) cannot justly be enforced on individuals.

By treating society as a whole as an individual in its own right, with a concience, choices and actions of its own, the reality of the individual and their cooperation with others dissapears from sight. This functions to obscure things. A common concept stemming from collectivism that people are supposed to accept is the supremacy of the majority. But this notion must be discarded as illegitimate. If 150,000 people voted to murder and enslave 100,000 other people, or 2 other people - it would not be legitimate. If 80% of the country was Muslim or Atheist, it would not be legitimate to make such things official and mandatory state edicts. If a majority of Americans are scared of fatty foods, it would not be legitimate to illegalize fatty foods. Neither "the whole" nor the majority can legitimately violate the rights of the individual. The number of people involved in a given measure is not the basis by which it can objectively be regaurded as right or wrong. To play such games with numbers unjustly negates ethical considerations. If Jane thinks that Jack should not have the right to vote, or should not be allowed to speak his mind, this would not be a legitimate or enforcable claim. Increase the number of Janes in society to a relative or numerical majority, and it still would not be legitimate. But if we consider the majority’s opinion to be obsolute in determining the law, then we allow such illegitimate things to occur. Claiming that enforcement of the majority’s personal opinions into the law by saying that it’s for the good of “society” provides us with further absurdity, for the Jacks are themselves part of society and they are being given the short end of the stick. In accordance with what has been previously established, we can clearly see how the notion of the collective and majority is being used to obscure the individual and provide justification for questionable and clearly unethical things.

Under what grounds do people seek to justify such notions? “The Public Good” or “The General Welfare”. But what is the public good; how can it really exist if the individuals within the public vary greatly in what they consider to be their good? "The public good" is so broad that it can be interpreted to mean whatever the individual wants it to. It must be realized, therefore, that things done in the name of the public good and majority rule cannot actually benefit the whole public, they inherently will go against the good of various individuals. There can never objectively be a "public good" beyond the consistant application of rights of the individual. As soon as it is conceded that the majority should always rule, the grounds for religiously violating the rights of the individual have been set up. By giving the government the power to practically do as it pleases in the name of “the public good” or “the general welfare”, by allowing the federal courts to have an overtly broad interpretation of the general welfare clause of the constitution, the government has been empowered to break the limits imposed on it by the social contract (the constitution) that is supposed to bind it, and therefore the government, especially the judicial branch, has been given virtually omnipotent power.
It is almost universally accepted that democracy is good, that democracy is freedom itself. But democracy is not freedom. Democracy just means majority rule. Pure majority rule is mob rule. Mob rule does not equal freedom, it equals tyranny. This should be obvious – as we have established, if the majority always rules, then the majority can violate the rights of the minority and the individual. For example, it should be obvious that a majority opinion that slavery is okay would not magically make slavery correct - it would require circumventing majority rule in such a case to protect the minority. Just as a majority vote in congress for an unconstitutional and unethical law, such as one that created a state religion, would not be "freedom" it would be tyranny of the majority. "Democracy" in the middle east would result in nothing but a Muslim theocracy.

America was created, in part, to protect the minority and individual from this. There are fundamental inherent rights that no majority should be able to vote away. This sentiment is clearly reflected in the declaration of independance, which was heavily inspired by the natural law/natural rights principles espoused by enlightenment figures such as John Locke. To be clear, that does not mean that oligarchy is any better, it is tyranny for different reasons. But it is important to not buy into the cliche of "democracy = freedom", which is not the case. It is a pure misconception, as is the notion that America is supposed to be a pure democracy, which is not the case either.

America was not founded as a Democracy, it was founded as a Constitutional Republic with strict protections of the individual's freedom through strict limits on government power. "A Republic, if you can keep it" were Franklin's words when asked after the constitutional convention what kind of government was created. John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect pre-existing rights. Ultimately, Democracy (majority rule) is not compatable with individual rights, as it is a collectivist construct. An endless majoritarian rat-race for control over others. Again, it must be realized that if the majority’s rule were truly supreme, then any unethical action or measure can be provided with false justification by playing a numbers game. Whenever someone suggests that majority rule is freedom they're lining us up for tyranny.

Another common theme in relation to collectivism and majoritarianism is the notion that “we are the government”, and believers in democracy wrongly define it in terms of the people’s oneness with their government. In essence, the distinction between society, which is the sum of the individuals that make it up, and the government, which is a particular group of individuals within that overall society who control the apparatus of force and compulsion over the territory, has been blurred. Further, the distinction between the proper role of society, which is to provide for needs and wants, and the proper role of government, which is to enforce rights, has been blurred. The notion that we are the government is an absurdity. For, if we truly are the government, then any action that the government engages in, anything that a government does to an individual is not only voluntary on the part of the individual, but is “just”. But that is logically and physically absurd, for that would imply that if the government does anyting to an individual, they only “did it to themselves”. As the great libertarian Murray Rothbard noted:

“If the government has incurred a huge public debt which must be paid by taxing one group on behalf of another, this reality of burden is conveniently obscured by blithely saying that "we owe it to ourselves" (but who are the "we" and who the "ourselves"'). If the government drafts a man, or even throws him into jail for dissident opinions, then he is only "doing it to himself" and therefore nothing improper has occurred. Under this reasoning, then, Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered, they must have "committed suicide," since they were the government (which was democratically chosen), and therefore anything the government did to them was only voluntary on their part. But there is no way out of such grotesqueries for those supporters of government who see the State merely as a benevolent and voluntary agent of the public.”

Obviously, the government is not “us”. The government does not in any real sense “represent” the majority of the people by the mere fact that it is made up of separate individuals that represent themselves. But even if it did, even if a large percentage of the populace voted to murder and rob a small percentage, it would still obviously be murder and slavery, not suicide or voluntary work on the part of the targeted minority. It must be seen that the government is a separate institution from “society”. There are two crucial distinctions between the government and all other organizations within society. First, every other person or group receives its income by voluntary payment, through voluntary gift or purchase of a given good or service. A government does not function in this way. Only a government obtains its income by coercion and force, through the threat of imprisonment or confiscation if the payment is not forthcoming. Of course, this payment is known as taxation. In short, only a government forces you to buy its product or service, and it gives you no choice as to what kind of product or service you will receive. This is the vital distinction between a government “service” and the free market.

The second distinction between government and any other institution is that, apart from criminals, only the government can use its revenue to commit violence against its own or any other subjects; only the government can prohibit pornography, compel a religious observance, or put people in jail for selling goods or services at a higher or lower price than the government decrees. Essentially, only the government is empowered to use violence against the rights of its subjects, whether to extract revenue, to impose a particular personal opinion, or to imprison or kill those that are subversive to its opinions. And historically, the overwhelming portion of all despotism, all enslavement, confiscation and murder in the history of the world has come from government. The defining feature that lets governments get away with such things is that lack of any higher check on its power; in short, there is no institution to turn to for protection against the government. You might be able to turn to the government for defense against a “private” aggressor, but when the government itself is the aggressor there is no overriding institution to turn to, and therefore the only option is to turn to one’s own aggressors. Finally, it must be realized that the previous mechanisms of confusion (collective ownership, majority rule, the public good, we are the government, etc.) are perpetuated and encouraged by intellectuals within and allied with governments. Thus, it must be noted that no matter how powerful the majority may be, the government ultimately does not base itself on them, for it is a group of its own with its own motives. It may concede to the majority when the majority happens to coincide with its motives (which is likely to be purposefully cultivated opinion by the state), but it ultimately is a separate institution from society that acts in its own interest.

In conclusion, we find ourselves facing a number of glaring truths. These can be summed up as follows: (1) society (and any collective group within it) does not exist as an individual entity, and therefore it does not have rights, thoughts, choices or actions of its own - only individuals exist, have rights, think thoughts, make choices and engage in actions (2) collectivist ideas, because they are impossible to actually come to realization, inevitably lead to one group controlling another group in the name of the collective (3) majority rule, which is the basis for democracy, inevitably violates the rights of the individual, and therefore the common presumption that democracy is the best or even a good form of government is not founded in reality and (4) governments are separate institutions from society as a whole that are distinguised by the use of compulsion and force in order to establish and continue their existance, and collective ideals are touted by state intellectuals in the name of providing justification for their actions and expanding their power into the realm of the arbitrary and omnipotent.

Feds Lower Boom On Alternative (Real) Money

By Barbara Hagenbaugh, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The government Thursday warned consumers and businesses that it is illegal to use alternative money known as "Liberty Dollar" coins, which organizers promote as a competitor to the almighty dollar.

"We don't want consumers to be fooled," U.S. Mint spokeswoman Becky Bailey says, noting U.S. Attorneys offices across the USA have noticed a marked increase in inquiries about the coins.
The coins' producers vowed to fight the government's decision.

Evansville, Ind.-based National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code, otherwise known as NORFED, has been making the Liberty Dollar coins for eight years and claims $20 million is in circulation. The group says the money, unlike official U.S. cash, has a hedge against inflation because it is made almost entirely of silver and is backed by stocks of silver and gold in a vault in Idaho.

The coins are then spent by the group's 2,500 Liberty Associates in stores run by fellow supporters or are accepted unknowingly by clerks who are unaware they are not receiving real money.

The Justice Department has determined that use of Liberty Dollars, which come in varying denominations, "is a crime," according to the Mint, which issued a rare public warning Thursday.
"The United States Mint is the only entity that can produce coins," Bailey says.

The Mint notes the coins share some resemblances to real money, such as the term "Trust in God" instead of "In God We Trust" and use of a torch in the design. Such similarities may confuse people into thinking the money is real, the Mint says.

But NORFED says it will challenge the government, arguing it has never claimed Liberty Dollars were official money and that it has a right to offer an alternative.

"The designs and verbiage ... are original and are not copies of any U.S. Mint currency," NORFED Executive Director Michael Johnson said in a statement.

It's unclear how many people or businesses are unknowingly holding Liberty Dollars, which cannot be exchanged for real money at banks.

In a case in Buffalo, a man and his son are set to go on trial next month after they knowingly tried to buy beer at a Buffalo Sabres hockey game with Liberty Dollars.

The Mint did not say if government officials will seek to prosecute individuals or NORFED after its warning.

Reed Runk, part-owner of Kendall Funk & Bismark Jewelers in Chambersburg, Pa., says the store has been accepting Liberty Dollars for about a year and has sold a few as well. Runk says the store will continue to accept and sell the coins.

"We just feel that they are something that educates people as to what the monetary systems are like in the world, that they are a fiat system, that if people lose faith in them, they will collapse," he says. Besides, "They are a good-looking coin."

Monday, September 25, 2006

You Might Be a Statist If ...

You Might Be a Statist If ...
by Daylan Darby

Your notion of justice forces victims to provide, in part, the criminal's room, food, and entertainment.
You believe that those in government employ have never lied; or if they did it was for our own good.
You confuse the proper role of society (provide needs) and government (enforce rights).
You assume legislation can successfully and/or permanently change the laws of supply and demand.
You loan your money (at 0%) to the government all year and happily anticipate a tax refund.
You assert guns cause crime, foods cause obesity, schools cause education, or states create wealth.
Your answer to "love thy neighbor" is to force taxpayers to be the good Samaritan.
You want to constrain the right of self-defense, expression, worship, or association.
You believe a tax rate of X is acceptable, but a tax rate of 2X is somehow wrong or immoral.
You feel more secure after standing in line for hours followed by groping and harassment by strangers.
You want a government subsidy for arts, sports, farmers, corporations, foreign governments, etc.
You wouldn't personally, but believe the government should, punish others for growing certain plants.
You believe government has claim to our lives, liberties, and property – for the "common welfare."
You have ever said, "it's for the children," "there ought to be a law," or "I work for the government."
You're aghast by 10 seconds of broadcast indecency, but slight pictures of war-dead children.
You place fascism and communism (rather than anarchy and tyranny) on opposite sides of the scale.
You assume that the common man is a liar, yet believe the common politician tells the truth.
You are scared of the idea of consenting adults engaging in free trade; especially if they are not taxed.
You are willing to punish those who have done no harm to others or pardon those that have.
You label people "wacko," "paranoid," or "conspiratorial" for considering or expressing "cui bono?"
You say "democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on dinner," then vote for bond issues.
You think people should be limited to doing business with state-approved individuals and companies.
You believe that warfare is more effective than free markets in promoting democracy or goodwill.
You advocate private property rights, unless the owner is "open for business."
You believe that as long as we can vote (for the tyrants of our choice), that we are free.
You engage in thousands of ruler-less acts a day, but believe anarchy is bad.
You think "our" team are heroes, and their's are villains, regardless of the situation.
You want government to solve social problems, economic inequalities, or foreign imbalances.
You are not aware that most regulations are in place to protect existing companies from competition.
You vote for the politician who promises to provide (steal from the taxpayers) the most.
You swear fidelity to a made-made idol, or wrap yourself in it to show others your nationalism.
You've been seduced to believe that central planning and central parties are essential.
You firmly believe in "thou shalt not kill or steal," unless performed by a government representative.
You could solve poverty, crime, or ignorance, by taking just a little bit more from the wealthy.
You expect others to compromise their principles, so that we can all just get along.
You defer or submit to the authority of others, simple because of their titles or riches.
You equate those desiring less government with those longing for the past, isolation, or less technology.
You don't comprehend that public schools, public roads, and public welfare are all forms of socialism.
You claim separation of church and state, then vote a tax on others to enforce your beliefs and values.
You affirm that rights come from government or that groups have more rights than individuals.
You are unprepared to defend or provide for yourself; you expect government to solve your problems.
You threaten those who express an opposing opinion; violence is your preemptive solution.
You have never read any articles posted on

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Egalitarianism and Equality

From my book in progress.....
Chapter ? - Egalitarianism and Equality

No concept seems to be ingrained into modern political and economic thought more then that of equality. The egalitarian notion of the goodness and necessity of equality is practically universally accepted within mainstream politics, particularly on the left. Meaningful criticisms of the equalitarian ideal are seldom heard, and when they are expressed they are usually met with hostility and political correctness. It is generally conceded in the realm of politics that the egalitarian, the proponent of equality, has the power of “good” on their side. Why do so many people knee-jerkedly assume that these notions give their proponents the virtue of morality and justice? We must hold up these ideals to the standards of reason and liberty to accurately determine their validity and consequences. If an ethical ideal is in violation of human nature and/or the universe, and thus it does cannot work in practice, then it is a bad and erroneous ideal to begin with, and should therefore be disposed of as an ideal.

What exactly is equality to begin with? What do egalitarians really mean when they talk of equality and inequality? Equality inherently implies sameness or uniformity. If X and Y are equal, then they are completely identical in a given attribute. If a stick is 6 inches long, and it is held next to another stick that is 6 inches long, then they are equal in terms of length. If Joe and Jack are exactly the same as each other in all of their physical attributes, mental abilities, actions, opinions, etc., then they are truly equal. But surely no self-respecting rational human being would suppose that this is possible at all, nor desirable. The notion of the pure equality of man must be dismissed as an absurdity. There is only one way in which men could be truly equal, and that would be if all men were absolutely identical with respect to all of their attributes. If this ideal of equality were reality, then the world would be like a fiction novel, in which there are identical beings, completely devoid of individuality or variety.

The horror most people feel at such a notion is a natural intuition and recognition of the fact that men are not identical, that humans are inherently unique and diverse individuals; in other words, unequal with respect to each other due to their individuality as human beings. When the implications of such an equalitarian ideal are fully realized, it becomes quite apparent that the ideology is anti-human in the sense that it wishes to go against the very nature of mankind. And this implies coercion and force being used to essentially stop humans from being human. In short, it is a revolt against human nature. As Murray Rothbard noted:
“Egalitarian measures do not work because they violate the basic nature of man, of what it means for the individual man to truly be human. The call of ‘equality’ is a siren song that can only mean the destruction of all that we cherish as being human”.
The simple common sense question in regard to equality that never gets answered by egalitarians is, “at what expense to the individual, and would it be worth it at such an expense?”. In other words, who wants to be a sheep from “Animal Farm”? No reasonable person wants to violate their own humanity, their own individuality. The very individual nature of man, the fact that each individual varies in his or her needs, wants, attributes and opinions makes equality both unattainable and undesirable. It is both logically and physically absurd to deny the individualistic variance in humanity, and it is further alarming that one would find the absence of this individual variety, I.E. a state of "equality", to be desirable as an end. It is not enough to point out that the means chosen by egalitarians do not function to attain their desired ends, it is necessary to go further and demonstrate how the ends are not attainable or desirable to begin with.

It is an observable fact that humans are inherently unequal, that there are individual differences and variety among people. To a certain extent, there is a “natural aristocracy among men”, as Thomas Jefferson put it. A rice farmer is not equal to doctor. A buggy driver is not equal to a limousine driver. A skinny man is not equal to a muscle man. A piano virtuoso is not equal to an 8-year-old beginner pianist that takes lessons. This is not to say that our judgments of status or virtue are always accurate, but that by human nature some people are simply better then others at particular things, and thus they achieve success in comparison to others. Individuals vary in their biological, mental, and physical attributes. Individuals are naturally free to make use of those attributes to achieve things that they desire, to do things that they consider to improve themselves. Some people make more money then others, some people save money better then others, and some people work harder and better then others. It is precisely this inherent inequality of man that is necessary for the division of labor that allows civilization to flourish. No political or pseudo-scientific jargon will change man’s nature and its limits. It is inevitable that egalitarianism seeks to accomplish the impossible, the violation of man’s individual nature and what amounts to the fabric of reality itself. Life is not entirely fair, and while it may be noble to want to help your fellow man, enforcement of “equality” in violation of man’s nature is not the proper means to do so.

It is an established economic law that the planet has finite resources, and that man must grapple with these finite resources to survive. Man must transform the resources of the earth through labor into that which makes staying alive possible to begin with, to acquire property. And these resources are finite. Some people will inherently acquire more resources then others. The egalitarian socialist does not understand this or is not willing to acknowledge the existence or importance of scarcity. They believe in post-scarcity, a utopian future in which everyone can “have their needs met” equally. Such a world would require infinite resources, and for everyone in the world to be completely self-sufficient, which is simply absurd. According to Karl Marx and various anarcho-socialists, the egalitarian utopia of the future would be a state in which no government would be necessary, because everyone’s needs would be provided by the “great collective”. Such notions are nothing more or less than the starry-eyed utopias of madmen. The egalitarian wishes to transcend man’s nature. Many socialists have expressed the view that egalitarianism will create a “superman”. Leon Trotsky claimed that under communism, “Man will become incomparably stronger, wiser, finer. His body more harmonious, his movements more rhythmical, his voice more musical. The human average will rise to the level of an Aristotle, a Goethe, a Marx. Above these, new heights will arise”. In essence, the egalitarian sincerely believes that they can “cure” human nature to the extent of creating an entirely new breed of mankind, expressly molded to fit their delusional ideals of perfection.
The delusions of socialists are not the only indicators as to the ridiculousness of egalitarianism. We can demonstrate the absurdity of equalitarianism by simply taking two individuals that vary in attributes, or possess different numbers of something, and seeing what the implications of attempting to equalize them are. Because due to the inherent inequality between people, the consistent application of imposed equality inevitably leads us to absurd and unethical situations, such as “since Jane has two children and Joan has one, we must make Jane get rid of one of her children, or make Joan have another child”. Or, why not simply get rid of all three of both Jane and Joan’s children? In either case, you would have created “equality” in terms of the amount of children each of them possess, but surely no sane human being would consider this to be “good” or ethical in any way. Besides equality in quantity, as in the case of Jane and Joan, there is equality in quality. If we apply the same methodology to a buggy driver and expensive limousine driver, two ways to achieve equality would be to make the limousine driver be a buggy driver, or to make the buggy driver into a limousine driver. Or, if we use a skinny man and muscle man, two ways to achieve equality would be to make the skinny man engage in physical training and eat a particular diet or to make the muscle man stop their physical training and get surgery to reduce their muscle structure. It should be clear that each attempt at equality between varying individuals leads us to absurdities and ideas that are simply unethical.
It also is important to note that while imposed equality may artificially create such conditions, it does not eliminate the individual’s ability by their nature to succeed at whatever it is that they are good at. In other words, while attempts to create equality may alter the results, it can never abolish one’s abilities outside of a literal change to one’s mental and physical composition. You can deny the fruits of one’s individuality, you can violate one’s right to express their individuality, but you never can eliminate the actual individuality, the actual variant nature of the person. For example, if farmer Jack is yielding high levels of production because of the success and efficiency of his decisions and labor, and the mechanism to create artificial equality in agricultural production required the artificial reduction of farmer Jack’s production, while farmer Jack would be denied the fruits of his abilities, he still would possess those abilities. In short, he would still be perfectly capable of yielding a high level of production, it is just that force is being used to deny him his right to express his capabilities and receive their results. This demonstrates that, despite the attempt to create equality, human nature and the variety in capability that it creates exists regardless of the effort to eliminate it.

A common complaint made by egalitarians is that there is inequality in income. This leads them to support the notion of equalization of income, which inevitably requires some form of confiscation and redistribution. But what is wrong with inequality in income, so long as it occurs naturally? Naturally, some people will make more money then others. It is inherent that there will be differences in how much money people make. Employers value the labor of their employees in varying ways; not every worker’s labor and capability is equal. Person A, under the same wages as person B, works for more hours than person B, person A will inherently acquire a higher income than person B. If person A performs a job that is valued higher than person B’s job, then person A will inherently acquire a higher income then person B. Under any reasonable analysis, there is nothing wrong with this at all. A common notion is that people somehow owe other people a piece of their wealth, especially if they are well off while others are not. But in what way can someone owe someone else his or her voluntarily acquired property? What rational reason is there for this deep-seeded contempt for the successful? The egalitarian provides us with no logical or valid ethical argument to answer this. The only ethical justification for someone owing property to others would have to be if they actually stole that property from others. But voluntarily acquired wealth and goods is the private property of those who posses it, both in theory and practice. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, the cooperative attainment of wealth, in any way at all.

What would the equalization income actually mean and do? It would be the destruction of the individual’s economic incentive to better oneself and improve one’s income, in the name of equality. As the great Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises noted:
“Only because inequality of wealth is possible in our social order, only because it stimulates everyone to produce as much as he can at the lowest cost, does mankind today have at its disposal the total annual wealth now available for consumption. Were this incentive to be destroyed, productivity would be so greatly reduced that the portion that an equal distribution would allot to each individual would be far less then what even the poorest receives today”.
In short, it is precisely the inequality of income and success in life that results from the natural division of labor that allows cooperative civilization to exist and living standards to increase. Any move towards equalizing income will reduce the overall standard of living, and this has been clearly demonstrated by the economic collapse of socialist countries, in which the populace is deprived of the cooperative means necessary to improve their own income and general well being. The only acceptable equality in terms of income is equality in the opportunity under the natural law to improve one’s own income. This is not to say that governmentally imposed inequalities through privilege and oppression are legitimate, for they are completely illegitimate. But governmentally imposed equality through privilege and oppression is not legitimate either.

There is one conception of equality that differs greatly from the egalitarian ideal of equality, and that is the notion of equality under the law; equal natural rights. The classical liberals of the enlightenment and American Revolution indeed talked about equality, but they were talking about something very different then the modern egalitarian’s conception of equality. The classical liberals believed in equality in rights, as an abolition of special privilege and oppression. They did not believe in the pure equality of all men, nor did they believe specific positive rights/privileges belonged to select groups. They believed that rights belong equally to individuals, and that all rights were natural, being inherently derived from their nature as human beings. It is by one’s reason by which an individual acts, and it is by one’s free action that an individual expresses rights. The only place for equality in classical liberalism lies in the individual’s rights in their person and property.
The classical liberal does not believe in equality of condition, or equality of results. Imposed equality is not legitimate, for it can only be achieved through the very interventionist system, the very same means of special privilege and group-based oppression that the classical liberal vehemently opposes. In short, equality in results is not achievable or desirable. Only equality in liberty is ethical, achievable and desirable. All conditions that were brought about naturally through freedom of cooperative human action are legitimate and cannot justly be changed and violated through the use of force and compulsion, regardless of rich or poor, black or white, or any such group distinctions. Indeed, the repugnant advent of slavery was a matter of special privilege to the slave owners in violation of the natural rights of the slaves, and therefore it was ethical to abolish the institution of slavery. But note that the inequality of slavery did not derive naturally from voluntary human action, but from force and compulsion in direct violation of such human action. This force and compulsion of slavery was in violation of man’s nature. Slavery was imposed inequality rather then natural inequality. The classical liberal equally opposes both artificial equality and artificial inequality, while accepting naturally occurring inequality and advocating the adherence to equality in the rights of man.

Unlike the classical liberal, the egalitarian wants to achieve equality in results. Equality in rights is not enough to please the egalitarian impulse. They wish to impose their ideas, their subjective standards, onto the masses in the name of achieving equal results for everyone. This leads egalitarianism to become another form of interventionism; an intellectual theory of ends that function to provide false justification for unethical means, such as special privileges to assorted special interest groups and overt unjustified punishments and confiscations for various individuals and groups within society. But the valued ends of the interventionist with “good intentions” are simply unable to be achieved by the very nature of humans and the environment surrounding them. Egalitarianism thus becomes the tyranny of “good intentions”. Inevitably, the proponent of equality chooses from two basic means in the name of achieving their goals: To cripple the successful or “superior” in the name of equalizing to the level of the unsuccessful or “inferior”, or to artificially prop up the unsuccessful or “inferior” in the name of equalizing to the level of the successful or “inferior”. And the mechanism used in attempt to achieve this is through the use of force. In either case, it is an intervention that redistributes between different groups. The egalitarian does not seem to realize that the means they choose violate people’s liberty. Despite the fact that equality is not realistically possible, a lot of damage can be done in the attempt to achieve it. For the choice to use the means of force and compulsion will inherently yield despotism.

For example, let us suppose that Joe is a lower-class farmer, and Jack is a rich businessman. The egalitarian would advocate ideas such as putting a special tax on Jack to pay for welfare redistribution to Joe and others, subsidizing Joe’s farm with the money of all taxpayers, heavily regulating Jack, artificially propping up Joe’s wages, and even giving Joe feudal “ownership” over Jack’s property or “public domain” property. On the extreme communistic scale, they may advocate centrally planning jobs so that Jack must be a farmer, or a plumber. The radical egalitarian will do anything in their power to cripple Jack in the name of equality. In doing so, they inevitably and blatantly violate Jack’s freedom. They contend that it is “unfair” that Jack is successful while Joe is not. Essentially, they believe that the very fact that Jack has more money and success than Joe makes it some kind of crime against humanity. In terms of equality under the law, equality in rights, the proponent of equality is disturbingly unequal. The economic incentive and property of those who work hard, invest and save their money are expressly crippled (and this group does include some people of modest means) by the egalitarian interventions while those that do not work hard, do not use their opportunities and do not save their money are given a free lunch at the expense of others.

A pure application of equality to Joe and Jack would require artificially reducing Jack’s income and property and/or artificially increasing Joe’s income and property. This could be done by simply slashing Jack’s income down to the level of Joe, which would yield us a net loss for Joe and a gain for nobody. This could also be done by simply increasing Joe’s income up to the level of Jack, which would yield us a special privilege net gain for Jack that is at the expense of others within society. So, even in the second option, in terms of the overall economy, there is no net gain. In short, it is a zero-sum game at best. The extra income allotted to Joe inherently came from money taken away by the taxpayer, and the short-term "gain" to all of the Joes in society become expressly negated by the long-term "loss" that the intervention imposes on the overall standard of living of everyone. The third and final method of equalitarianism would be a combination of the previous two methods, still yielding us either a loss or a zero-sum game. If you give Joe “free” property, then it is at the expense of others. If you confiscate Jack’s property, then you are simply creating a loss. The heavier the imposed equality is, the more it reduces the income and property of everyone. The government cannot create wealth and success, it can only cripple and redistribute it. The end result of the egalitarian ideal in practice will always be a reduction of freedom and the fruits that come from it.
The only ethical and legitimate means to help increase Joe’s income would be to leave Joe free in his rights and opportunity to increase his own well-being, in other words, to allow him his natural property rights. But if Joe does not put forth the effort to increase his own standard of living, if Joe does not set forth to squire and retain his property rights, if Joe does not adequately take advantage of his own abilities as an individual, then his condition unfortunately can only be blamed on himself. The result of his actions or lack thereof yields us natural inequality that must be accepted as unavoidable in life. While this basic, seemingly harsh reality may come off to some as cold hearted, as a lack of caring for others, this is a false assumption. One simply has to be realistic about the limits that the world imposes on man and we have to respect the individual’s rights, even the rights of those who are successful and rich. It is true that one could help Joe through the method of voluntarily gift, and there is no ethical objection to such action. What is objectionable is that one is required to give their wealth or property to Jack in the name of equality; that the existence of inequality makes it a moral and enforceable duty on the part of other people to help Joe by spreading their success to him. This notion is absurd.

Egalitarianism has been applied to matters of race. Now, it is not in dispute that every individual should have the same natural rights and that no individual, group or law may violate those rights. There should be no special privileges or aggressions that go to select groups. Furthermore, many racists can be considered racial polylogists, which is the notion that races as collectives have predictable and set modes of thought their own. But a pure application of equality would mean that everything would be required to adhere to strict percentages, such as hiring for employment. Pure racial equality in results for employment would mean that employers would have to be required to hire a particular percentage of black or Hispanic people. Such a system of quotal racial requirement is absurd. Then there is the matter of “hate crimes”. But hate itself does not qualify as a crime; it is simply a human emotion. As much as one may rightly disagree with racists and other such prejudicial modes of thought, their actual thoughts and speech is not a crime. There is no such thing as a hate crime, thoughts are not crimes, but there is such thing as a crime that is driven by hate. We must use a satisfactory definition of crime: the offensive use of force or compulsion against the person or property of others. If such force or compulsion is used, then that action itself is what is the crime. But to consider “hate speech” a crime and to qualify crimes driven by racial hatred in a class of their own does not stand up to reason or ethics. The problem with racial politics, with racial egalitarianism, is that it goes beyond equality of rights and demands equality of results for select racial groups, which becomes a system of privilege and force.

Gender issues are another common terrain of egalitarians, especially since the advent of the women’s liberation movement, which demanded and still demands “total equality” of results between males and females. Once again, the egalitarian is not pleased with equality in rights, and demands special privileges for a special interest group. Something like pure equality in the household would mean that both the husband and wife split hours working and taking care of their children, 50/50. That would mean that each of their work hours would be essentially cut in half. Surely, one should see how this would be inefficient in terms of the individual’s labor and income, as well as a nonsensical kind of arrangement. Some egalitarians think that since women statistically make less annual income for men, their income should be adjusted to equalize it. They advocate prohibiting certain non-violent behaviors that are acted out by males, which makes it to the level of censoring speech and the use of unjustified sexual harassment lawsuits. Feminist egalitarianism is inevitably based on crippling males in the name of “female equality” and special privilege to their particular group. And, once again, in demonstration of the absurdity of equalitarianism, true gender equality would inherently imply and require pure androgyny; in other words, a hermaphroditic state of human beings. Egalitarian feminism is inevitably based on the absurdity of denying or trying to “cure” any biological or sociological differences between the genders.

In all of its forms, we can clearly see that egalitarian intervention is social engineering. It seeks to perfect mankind by the means of violating humanity, through the tools of force and coercion. Underlying the façade of goodness is an innate desire to control others, and an inevitable result is that it reduces people’s liberty. The typical egalitarian, in short, is what could be called an "armchair dictator". Some obvious questions that arise in challenge to the advocate of intervention in the name of equality is a question of what exactly the official standard is, how is it decided and who decides it. For most egalitarians, the answer is inevitably the government, the central planners. The result is that the subjective opinions of the central planners set the uniform standards that everyone is expected and forced to live up to. Equality becomes no more or less then an authoritarian dictation of the individual’s personal and economic choices. The mere whims of mere flawed and mortal men, no greater then any other individual or group within society, becomes the determination of the uniform standards to be enforced on everyone. This in itself is, ironically, artificial inequality in the sense that you are giving what amounts to the ownership class (those within and allied with the government) the privilege and power as a group to dictate standards of equality for everyone.

Hiding behind utopian promises of equality, the politicians and bureaucrats gain the support of various people and use that support to increase their own power. The government then merely becomes a parasitic middleman in the process of attempted equalization, taking a chunk for itself and the special interests that ally with it for the “service” of confiscating and redistributing. Since the central planners and legislators determine what exact standards everyone should be equal to, different interest groups battle over which personal opinion or religion that everyone should be enforced to adhere to. The atmosphere set up by this is one in which people are battling for control over each other, for their particular group’s value judgments to be the uniform and equal standards that are forced onto society. Whichever group(s) wins the power struggle over government will decide the uniform standards in which everyone is to be equalized in accordance to.
There are three basic methods by which the uniform standards of equality are chosen: through majority rule, oligarchy of a minority, or a combination of the two. In either case, one particular group or collection of groups is going to determine the standards that everyone is supposed to live up to, and those standards will be completely molded by that group’s personal opinions. Most importantly, however, those standards can only be imposed through unjust force. In effect, the emotionally manipulative and deceptive rhetoric of egalitarianism functions as a false justification for acts of aggression on the part of the state, and even for the anarchist egalitarian it functions as a false justification for acts of aggression on the part of individuals or groups within society. The anarchist egalitarian would suggest that the unsuccessful directly steal from the successful.
And thus, despite the practically universal acceptance of the egalitarian ideals of equality, it must be recognized and denounced as contrary to human nature and destructive to civilization. For the egalitarian wishes to transcend the limits of civilization and human capability, and the means they choose to attempt such unachievable feats with are inevitably destructive to civilization and human capability. Increases in living standards and civilization in general can only be achieved by adherence to private property. Not only are the means of egalitarianism destructive to this, but also it must be recognized that the utopian ends are not achievable, and most importantly, not desirable. Outside of equality in rights, no matter what human attribute the goal of equality is applied to, whether that be in wealth, property, race, gender, or age – the result leads us to a blatant absurdity, a contradiction of how human beings work.
The path of egalitarianism is just another road to tyranny, buried in meaningless pie in the sky emotional rhetoric. In the end, it is an ideology of envy and hatred for individual human achievement. It reflects a childish desire to unleash vengeance and violence onto those that are simply better or luckier. Egalitarianism may provide hope for those that fall for its illusions, but it will always continue to be just that, an illusion. No matter what they do, man’s nature and the individual will inevitably exist and assert itself, regardless of authoritarian decrees and people’s unrealistic expectations. Egalitarianism, despite popular opinion, does not have ethics on its side. In truth, it is a violation of ethics in a misguided attempt to achieve a utopia of perfection and uniformity. Even if we were to accept the notion that egalitarian measures lead to “good” ends, which has been refuted, what is vitally important is that such measures are in ethical violation of the individual’s natural rights in their person and property. The fundamental thing that makes egalitarianism invalid is that it uses force to violate man’s nature, and as a result it is against individual liberty. The most important question is, “is it ethically correct to do these things?” and the overwhelming answer must be no.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Truth About the "Robber Barons"

The Truth About the "Robber Barons"
By Thomas DiLorenzo
A good article on the distinction between the free market and "state capitalism", between enteprenuers and political parasites.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Penn and Teller: Bullshit! PETA

Penn and Tellers show BULLSHIT! covers the two faced foundation PETA.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NASA: Exemplary of Government Waste

NASA: Exemplary of Government Waste
by Alexander Villacampa

It is quickly becoming the natural state of affairs that citizens are no longer working for themselves but are instead laboring in order to fill the greedy coffers of the State. Most individuals in the United States have about half of their yearly income taken away by the government and this percentage is steadily growing. A majority of the citizenry may believe that these funds are being funneled into important social projects but in fact most of this wealth is simply wasted by opportunist politicians and bureaucrats. There are an endless number of government programs that would increase the wealth and productivity of the citizenry if they were only dismantled. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with a requested 2007 budget of almost $17 billion, is a government program that is nothing short of wasteful.

Individuals claim that a majority of NASA's funding is spent on the exploration of new useful technologies. The citizenry views the government as an entity that can fund and perform research in order to uncover technologies that would be beneficial to the market. There is no reason to believe that corporations, with patent laws in place, would not be more than willing to research more efficient ways of creating products. Yet, even if it were the case that government research in technology was necessary or beneficial, NASA is funding scientific studies that are far from useful to the market. Much of NASA's funding is spent directly on extraterrestrial initiatives that study the solar system, space exploration, and methods of improving shuttle performance.

It is also a myth that NASA created such technologies as Velcro, Tang and those famous memory-cell mattresses. In reality, the maker of Velcro was a private engineer with a bright idea, Tang was created by the General Foods Corporation, and the Tempur-Pedic company developed those memory-cell mattresses for use on NASA flights. These were all private initiatives and not outcomes of NASA’s technological research efforts. To their credit, NASA did develop freeze-dried ice cream but who likes those things anyway? NASA dedicates over two-thirds of its budget to space exploration and extraterrestrial research.

The government agency has spent close to $150 billion dollars simply on the shuttle program, which calculates to about $1.3 billion per launch. This is a decent sum considering that the space shuttle program was sold to the taxpayers as only costing $5.5 million per launch. The question then arises, “should the United States citizens continue to pay for such a costly program?” In the end, it is always the citizenry who pays. Naïve individuals may believe that the Federal government has an endless spring of wealth from which it draws in order to fund its operations, but this is not the case.

NASA has continuously let down the United States citizens and is nothing but a wastebasket into which the government throws our hard-earned wealth. The NASA shuttle tragedies are an outright shame, not only because of the precious lives lost, but also due to the immense cost of these shuttles. The costs of these space ventures are steep and the rewards reaped from these explorations are close to nil. The Mars Observer, that was lost in 1993, cost the taxpayers nearly $1 billion dollars. What the government can not understand is the profit and loss mechanism that is so ingrained into the market.

Private entrepreneurs produce goods in a way that minimizes costs in order to obtain a high profit margin. Government programs, such as NASA, continuously spend without giving any benefit to the public. One may say that the simple existence of shuttle programs are a psychological benefit to society but this does not justify the coercive collection of taxes from citizens who may or may not be willing to donate to such a program. When government collects tax revenue, it does not allocate the funds to where citizens demand but instead the funds are spent where politicians desire. Not to mention the fact that much of this funding is lost in the shuffle between citizen and program and wind up in the golden pockets of pork-barrelers.

NASA, like all government programs, becomes increasingly less efficient as time goes by and its purpose becomes less clear. The space shuttle programs may have once accomplished significant scientific discoveries but this is no longer evident. In addition, the social reward of these programs, regardless of what scientific feats they accomplished, are to be measured by a cost-profit analysis and not arbitrary merit. NASA's space exploration programs have continued to fail and this is only understandable to those aware of the lack of incentives present in the public sector.

Government, unlike the capitalist market, has little incentive to strive for successful output and may often times overlook the many systematic failures present in the execution of these programs. The public sector inherently has less of an economic incentive to keep costs low and profits high. NASA knows that funding will continue, at least for the coming year, and pushes on promises rather than accomplishments in order to receive funding. On the other hand, the private sector functions on accomplishments, the achievement of its goals, and keeping costs at a minimum while maximizing profits. The failure of the NASA program is inevitably tied to the fact that it is not a private company; it has much less of an economic incentive than those companies that are furthest away from the government’s grasp.

In addition, the current President, with a projected 2007 fiscal budget of $2.8 trillion, has shown no sign that the government will decrease spending in the near future. President Bush stated on June 16, 2004 that

we will explore space to improve our lives and lift our national spirit. Space
exploration is also likely to produce scientific discoveries in fields from
biology to physics, and to advance aerospace and a host of other industries.
This will help create more highly skilled jobs, inspire students and teachers in
math and science, and ensure that we continue to benefit from space technology,
which has already brought us important improvements.

The President's hopes are sadly misplaced, there is no evidence proving that NASA funds improve technologies in any marketable industries. Any jobs produced by NASA funding will simply be a misallocation of labor. It should be up to the market, with its profit and loss mechanisms, to decide were labor should be properly allocated including the labor of highly skilled scientists. In addition, $17 billion dollars should not be arbitrarily spent in order to "lift our national spirit" through space exploration but should instead be given back to the taxpayers and allow them to lift their own spirits with the wealth.

The solution the problem of NASA overspending and endless mishaps is, like all government programs, privatization. If the citizenry, through the market process, find it profitable to invest and consume products that are tied to space exploration, so be it. In such a scenario no individual is forced to pay for products that continuously fail to meet their expectations. In addition, private companies that take on the task of space exploration will be doing so at a profit and trying to minimize cost. This is significantly different from the wasteful practices of government and public sector programs. Whenever costs outweigh profits, precious resources have been wasted in the production of that good or service.

In the private sector, entrepreneurs quite literally pay the price for having misused resources and the costs will cut into the entrepreneur’s income. If this occurs, either changes are to be made in order to cut costs or the entrepreneur will need to shut down the business. When public sector industries waste resources, often times no direct harm is done to their ability to continue the misuse of funding. Any punishment comes down from the legislature and usually comes with multi-millions of dollars in addition funding. It is a time-proven fact that when a private sector company fails, they go out of business yet if a public sector industry fails, they get additional funding.

In order to save the taxpayer from having to pay the increasing costs of a hopeless space exploration program, simply disband NASA and allow the market to decide if such practices are needed in society. If the market decides that these services are in fact desired then it will take hold of these projects while trying to reduce the use of valuable resources. This is becoming evident in the success of SpaceShipOne’s flight in 2004. SpaceShipOne showed the world that the market can do marvelously what NASA has, time and time again, continuously failed to accomplish. The success of SpaceShipOne also spurred the creation of another private space exploration program, Virgin Galactic, that intends to send private individuals into space.

Currently, the price of travel into space with Virgin Galactic is $200,000. That is right, $200,000. Not only is Virgin not doing this at a cost (if they were it would quickly fail) but they are allowing private individuals to take part in an experience that was only granted to government scientists. In addition, the risk of these spacecrafts will, in time, diminish as corporations feel an increasing need to secure their customers or else suffer heavy loses. Safety is a hefty concern for individuals who are risking their lives and money in order to partake in an emerging industry. Space shuttles Columbia and Challenger illustrate that even though NASA engineers might only want the best for its passengers, safety has not been such a prime concern as to prevent any of these tragic moments from occurring.

In summation, in order to roll back the growing tide of government spending, the most wasteful programs must be cut first. What is needed from such public sector failures as NASA is not increased funding and wasteful behavior but full privatization. Only when this occurs will resources be used efficiently, will there be increased emphasis on consumer safety on extraterrestrial flights, and an end to the coercive sequestering of funds from taxpayers to prop up a failed program. It is time to put the industry of space exploration to the ultimate test: that of the market economy.

The market, not the government, will be the true decider as to the existence of such an industry. It seems that the market is declaring that space exploration can be not only profitable but safe. If this is so, then so be it; it might be possible one day for all citizens to afford flights into the far reaches of space. What is important is to allow consumers, not bureaucrats, to decide where precious resources should go. It is time to end the government finance of wasteful public space exploration and to forevermore dismantle NASA.