Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Ayn Rand, mistakenly in my view, rejected praxeology (or least some vital aspects of it) because of the subjective element within it. She also tried to expand objectivism into some areas that aren't really objective, more in the realm of preferance. On the other hand, Ludwig Von Mises's views, since they were rigidly restricted to the narrow confines of praxeology, could be said to over-emphasize subjectivism at the expense of other considerations. Mises was, in my view, too skeptical towards the idea of natural law and objective ethics.
Praxeology need not be in conflict with natural law/natural rights and objectivist ethics. Properly understood, they can be considered complimentary to eachother. They are two component parts of a larger system. The fact that some things are indeed subjective does not necessarily entail a contradiction of objective ethics, and the fact that objective reality exists and can be discovered through reason does not necessarily erode the factors of interpretation and error. Praxeology does not have to lead one towards ethical subjectivism, and objectivism and natural law theories do not have to lead one towards authoritarian moralism.
Precisely what is objective and what is subjective needs to be defined. Reality and existance are objective. Human judgement of reality and existance can be prone to error, but the existance of error does not mean that reality and existance are subjective or that it is impossible to discover truth about them. All attempts to argue against existance reaffirms existance by performative contradiction. Furthermore, the truth objectively exists no matter what people's judgements may be. Someone can be convinced that the sky is purple or that apples fall upwards, but that would not make it true, no matter how much they wish that it were so.
Thus, the radical subjectivist idea that reality is determined by our perceptions, that our minds create the material world around us or that "life is just an illusion", must be rejected. All philosophy and science, which is by definition the quest for knowledge, must implictly accept that truth exists and is capable of being discovered through reason, and it must implictly accept that reality is determined by natural phenomen that may very well be beyond our control. A philosophy that rejects such things can hardly be considered a philosophy at all, since a quest for knowledge or love of wisdom becomes utterly pointless.
On the other hand, the hard determinist position is troublesome. Hardcore determinists seem to think that nature, particularly psysiology, predetermines our actions in the absolute, and thus they conclude that there is no such thing as "free will". But people's deliberate and free choices do determine the course of reality, the future, in various ways. That is, the will does have an effect on reality to the extent that one chooses between means to a desired end. Since there are multiple possible means to any given end, the future is not pre-determined in terms of what means people will persue. Causality does not eliminate free choice. It merely means that choices have consequences.
How is truth discovered? Truth is discovered when a conflict between one's ideas and hard facts are resolved in favor of the hard facts, when one's ideas are modified as such. Noone is born with any specific knowledge of truth because life has not been experienced yet. This is not to say that every human is born as an absolutely blank slate so much as that their capacity to discover truth is considerably hampered in the early stages of life and is restricted mostly to mere biological functions. While people's mental and physical abilities are predetermined biologically, their application of those faculties are not. Truth is discovered through experience and the application of logic.
Since existance is an objective fact, it becomes necessary to define different things that exist. Different things have different properties. For example, a rock exists, and a rock has specific properties. Objective scientific truth is discovered when such properties are properly identified. Life entails specific properties that a rock does not possess (such as biological reproduction and conciousness). A human being is specific form of life, and thus also has specific properties. Each form of life shares some very basic properties, but they all also vary in their properties. In either case, truth about human nature is discoverable by properly identifying the properties that are common to all human beings.
A doctrine that Ludwig Von Mises often wrote in opposition to is scientism. Scientism is not to be confused with science itself. Scientism the notion that the only way to reach truth is through empiricism and statistical testing such as is commonplace in the natural sciences. But this is not so in the social sciences. That is, there is no rational way to predict and plan human behavior with absolute accuracy because there are so many variables and so much diversity. And there are many areas outside of human behavior that are also not exactly predictable. In either case, statistics compiled with respect to human behavior can be very misleading, particularly because it is impossible for the compiler of the data to really know the intentions or preferances of all of the people involved. This is because preferance is subjective.
More specifically, what is subjective is people's demand as consumers. Questions such as what brand of car or clothes to buy, which type of music is better, which industry to invest in, are utterly subjective to the individual. Happiness is subjective because different stimuli or economic ends happen to please some people while displeasing others. This does not mean that truth is subjective. It means that people's mere preferences and asthetics are diverse and subjective. Happiness and truth are two different concepts. It may bring you pleasure to do risky things. It would be preposterous to argue that the thing actually makes the person unhappy. It would be sensible, on the other hand, to argue that the risks are dangerous and may make you unhappy in the long-term, in the future.
Some followers of the philosophy of objectivism have jumped head first into absurdity by trying to argue for an objectivist asthetics and literally swallow Ayn Rand's opinions on everything from art to music as if it were objective fact. But such matters are within the realm of what makes people happy, not truth statements. There is a huge difference between a truth statement and a statement of what makes one happy. "I like capitalism" in itself is not a truth statement, it is a statement of preferance. "Minimum wage laws lead to unemployment for reasons X, Y and Z" would be a truth statement, since it is trying to logically argue that something is true. What brand of cigarettes is better, or wether or not to smoke them, is not based on any objective truth so much as what one's taste buds prefer and what one's budget is like. Since this varies from individual to individual, it is subjective.
This subjective aspect of human choice is an important thing to keep in mind. People should not be forced into making particular asthetic choices, let alone uniformly. When the preferences of the consumer have been replaced by the preferances of the central planner, then one particular asthetic judgement is being forced onto the masses at large at their own expense. It becomes impossible to calculate the preferances of the masses at large even if one wanted to try to emulate them. It is impossible to universalize consumer preference. The individual consumer is the person who can determine best what their preferences are. Attempts to statistically measure and control demand through central planning are in vein.
Ethical subjectivism is a separate thing from asthetic subjectivism. Ethical subjectivism should be rejected and asthetic subjectivism accepted. Objective ethics refers more to questions of the just and unjust use of force (the means), while mere preference has to do with desired ends. One can reject the means that someone chooses on the grounds of objective ethics, while maintaining that the person's desired ends are subjective and/or irrelevant to wether or not the means are justified, or maintaining that one agrees that the ends are good. On the other hand, one can support the means that someone chooses on the grounds of objective ethics, while maintaining that you disagree with their desired ends on asthetic grounds.
The problem with ethical subjectivism is that it inevitably leads in the direction of hedonism and narcissism. In practise, it means that there are no real guidelines for determining proper or improper human conduct. Consequentially, any conduct that most people would recognize as being wrong (such as murder, theft and rape) is implicitly "justified" by ethical subjectivism. An objective ethics of some sort is needed to fix this problem. Logical consistancy is a prerequisite for a political or economic position to even potentially be valid.
This is also true of utilitarianism. Murray Rothbard's criticism of utilitarianism is a very important contribution to the libertarian paradime. Utilitarianism tends to attempt to "justify" things that can easily be seen as unethical as if they were asthetics. But asthetics is a subjective preference for ends, while questions such as wether or not to use force have to do with the means to ends. My desired ends may be to obtain wealth, but that would not necessarily justify stealing to obtain it. Utilitarians often attempt to justify the means by pointing to the ends, particularly short-term ends. The mere fact that someone "preferred" to use force (I.E. found it to be in their utility) can be sufficient enough for a utilitarian to support such an action.
It is impossible to consistantly apply a principle using only utilitarianism as a methodology. Any principle can be overturned so long as a somewhat convincing arguement is made that it produces utility to someone in some way; and in a "conflict of utilities" the "winner" is arbitrarily decided by the utilitarian's own judgement. The "utility" of a murderer is to kill someone else, and the action of murdering is the means to that end. At best, utilitarianism can be somewhat useful in terms of demonstrating the negative or unintended consequences of certain actions (which Ludwig Von Mises's version of utilitarianism could be said to represent), but it is horrible as the basis for an ethical system.
While it is considered antiquated by many, natural law and natural rights theory, as well as the broader implications of evolutionary theory, provides a fairly valid fundamental framework for an ethical system. Guidelines for human conduct can be discovered through reason by properly identifying human nature and its relationship to the physical world. Man can make mistakes in the attempt to do this, but that does not mean that it is subjective or undiscoverable, it means that further adaptation is necessary. Natural law is a "process" of naturalization by which human behavior adapts to a mode that is necessitated by one's environment. "Natural order" emerges when people have adequately adaptated. On the other hand, the further people are from adapting to natural laws the harder survival becomes and the lower the quality of life is. This lack of success could be said to be an incentive to adapt further.
It is through such a process that objective values are discovered and accumulated over time. The human race has learned, through trial and error, that certain modes of conduct are necessary in order for both the individual's well being and "society" to flourish. In short, man has a natural incentive towards social cooperation because the consequences of not engaging in lead to a decrease in well-being, even to the point of poverty and death. An important factor in this adaptation process is empathy. An individual learns to abstain from harming others by knowing what it's like to be harmed, by being able to live mutually with others. The more that humans evolve socially, the more that they are able to overcome their primitive impulses and interact with others in a mutually beneficial manner.
The practical universal outlawry of murder, theft and rape in the vast majority of the world is the sign of an adaptation to what could be called the natural law. They represent, or rather are based on, objective ethics that have been made obvious to people over the course of many years. Most people, in their everyday lives, do not engage in these actions. The human race can be said to be mostly adapted in this particular case. However, these very same actions, on the political level, have not yet been considered unethical by the masses of people. To this extent the human race has not yet adapted and therefore has alot of work cut out for it. Ethics on the political level always lags behind ethics on the personal level. That is, for most people there is always an ethical double standard with respect to standards of conduct for the average person vs. people with political power.
In summary, the following points stand clear:
1. Praxeology and objective ethics can be made compatible and harmonious.
2. Reality is real. Duh.
3. Truth is discovered, not pre-programed into our minds.
4. Statistical empiricism fails as a methedology in the social sciences.
5. Economic value and mere preferance for ends or happiness is subjective, and this does not have to conflict with objective ethics.
6. Ethical subjectivism ignores that our environment at least hints that we must adapt via particular modes of conduct, and it becomes bare hedonism in practise.
7. Utilitarianism ignores ethical considerations in the name of asthetics and subjective definitions of happiness, using "psychic utility" and "psychic harm" as the only standards of conduct.
8. Ethics and social organization are discovered and implemented in an evolutionary process and result from the universalization of principles to each individual.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Immigration restrictionist policies (immigration quotas, illegalizing immigrant jobs, publicly-funded walls, federal control of state's borders, etc.) are government interventions, economically and otherwise, and therefore are outside of the realm of libertarianism. Interventionism X (welfare) does not justify intervention Y (police statism and protectionism). Ron Paul is appealing to the sentiment of right-wing populists like Pat Buchannan on this issue. Aside from those who follow Hans Herman Hoppe's immigration position, and many Ron Paulians, no libertarian in their right mind supports immigration restrictionism.
Like all anti-immigrationists, Ron Paul uses the welfare state (the real problem) as an excuse to persue other government interventions such as publicly funded walls and mass-deportation. His vote for things such as publicly funded walls should be pointed out as unlibertarian by any libertarian with two cents. The fact that people suck off the welfare state is not an excuse to forcibly remove them from their own property or illegalize their jobs. Domestic citezens are "guilty" of just the same, on a much larger scale than immigrants ever will be.
Furthermore, the arguement is nonsensical in that for the most part illegal immigrants do not qualify for those government services; it is the legal citezens who do, and it is the legal citezens who are at least partially responsible for supporting it. There is no moral difference between a legal citezen and an "illegal" sucking off of the welfare state. All of the welfare-related complaints about illegal immigrants apply equally to domestic citezens. Under this logic, therefore, domestic citezens should be deported and have their jobs illegalized as well.
Ron has fallen into the trap of interventionism on this issue. Mises's critique of interventionism applies here. That is, interventions are proposed as a solution to past interventions, rather than a repeal of the previous intervention. The initial intervention is the welfare state. But, while he has tried his best to oppose the welfare state, Ron Paul falls back on supporting new interventions as a "solution": government-funded walls, immigration quotas and deportation. If one seriously thinks that this is going to solve "the problem", then one is fooling oneself. In practise, this will result in a further march towards a police state, more growth in federal funding, and meanwhile immigrants will still get through "illegally", just like before.
That is only on the consequentialist side of the arguement. The other side of the arguement, and the more important one, is that it's a violation of property rights to (1) force someone off of their voluntarily aquired property or force a landlord to evict a tenant (2) to illegalize someone's voluntary employment agreement; this too violates the property rights of both the immigrant and the citezen associating with them (3) to siphon funds from the tax-payer to build walls (4) to initiate force on someone for crossing unowned land and (5) in general, to force people to dissassociate with eachother on their own property. What do all of these things have in common? They are inherent in anti-immigration policies.
Ron Paul's position on immigration is better then Pat Buchannan's, but it is not too far off from it. While he does not openly champion protectionism, he still supports the police enforcement side of the equation in the name of "constitutionalism", and makes a somewhat Buchannite arguement with respect to how the welfare state relates to immigration.
Jittery stock markets, an economy drunk on credit, and politicians calling for varieties of dictatorship: what a sense of déjà vu! Let us recall that the world went bonkers for about ten years way back when. The stock market crashed in 1929, thanks to the Federal Reserve, and with it fell the last remnants of the old liberal ideology that government should leave society and economy alone to flourish. After the federal Great Depression hit, there was a general air in the United States and Europe that freedom hadn't worked. What we needed were strong leaders to manage and plan economies and societies.
And how they were worshipped. On the other side of the world, there were Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini, but in the United States we weren't in very good shape either. Here we had FDR, who imagined himself capable of astonishing feats of price setting and economy boosting. Of course he used old-fashioned tricks: printing money and threatening people with guns. It was nothing but the ancient despotism brought back in pseudo-scientific garb.
Things didn't really return to normal until after the war. These "great men" of history keeled over eventually, but look what they left: welfare states, inflationary banking systems, high taxes, massive debt, mandates on business, and regimes with a penchant for meddling at the slightest sign of trouble. They had their way even if their absurd posturing became unfashionable later.
It's strange to go back and read opinion pieces from those times. It's as if everyone just assumed that we had to have either fascism or socialism, and that the one option to be ruled out was laissez-faire. People like Mises and Hayek had to fight tooth and nail to get a hearing. The Americans had some journalists who seemed to understand, but they were few and far between.
So what was the excuse for such a shabby period in ideological history? Why did the world go crazy? It was the Great Depression, or so says the usual explanation. People were suffering and looking for answers. They turned to a Strongman to bail them out. There was a fashion for scientific planning, and the suffering economy (caused by the government, of course) seemed to bolster the rationale.
All of which brings me to a strange observation: when it comes to politics, we aren't that much better off today. It's true that we don't have people running for office in ridiculous military suits. They don't scream at us or give sappy fireside chats or purport to be the embodiment of the social mind. The tune is slightly changed, but the notes and rhythms are the same.
Have you listened carefully to what the Democrats are proposing in the lead-up to the presidential election? It's just about as disgusting as anything heard in the 1930s: endless government programs to solve all human ills. It's as if they can't think in any other way, as if their whole worldview would collapse if they took notice of the fact that government can't do anything right.
But it also seems like they are living on another planet. The stock market has a long way to fall before it reaches anything we could call low. Mortgage interest rates are creeping along at the lowest possible rates. Unemployment is close to 4%, which is lower than even Keynesians of old could imagine in their wildest dreams.
The private sector is creating a miracle a day, even as the stuff that government attempts is failing left and right. The bureaucracies are as wasteful and useless as they've ever been, spending is already insanely high, debt is skyrocketing, and there's no way that any American believes himself to be under-taxed.
The Democrats, meanwhile, go about their merry business as if the public schools were a model for all of society. Oh, and let us not forget their brilliant idea of shutting down the industrial economy and human prosperity so the government can plan the weather 100 years from now. We can only hope that there are enough serious people left to put a stop to this harebrained idea.
But before we get carried away about the Democrats, let's say a few words about the bloodthirsty Republicans, who think of war not as something to regret, but rather the very moral life of the nation. For them, justice equals Guantánamo Bay, and public policy means a new war every month, and vast subsidies to the military-industrial complex and such other Republican-friendly firms as the big pharmaceuticals. Sure, they pay lip service to free enterprise, but it's just a slogan to them, unleashed whenever they fear that they are losing support among the bourgeois merchant class.
So there we have it. Our times are good, and yet we face a choice between two forms of central planning. They are varieties of socialism and fascism, but not overtly: they disguise their ideological convictions so that we won't recognize that they and their ilk have certain predecessors in the history of political economy.
Into this mix steps Ron Paul, with a message that has stunned millions. He says again and again that government is not the way out. And even though his political life is nothing short of heroic, he doesn't believe that his candidacy is about him and his personal ambitions. He talks of Bastiat, Hazlitt, Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard — in public campaign speeches! And let no one believe that this is just rhetoric. Take a look at his voting record if you doubt it. Even the New York Times is amazed to discover that there is a principled man in politics.
It is impressive how crowds are hard-pressed to disagree with him. How much good is he doing? It is impossible to exaggerate it. He provides hope when we need it most. You see, the American economy may look good on the surface but underneath, the foundation is cracking. The debt is unsustainable. Savings are nearly nonexistent. Money-supply creation is getting scary. The paper-money economy can't last and won't last. One senses that the slightest change could cause unforeseen wreckage.
What would happen should the bottom fall out? Scary thought. We need ever more public spokesmen for our cause. In many ways, the Mises Institute bears a heavy burden as the world's leading institutional voice for peace and economic liberty. And we are working in every way possible to make sure that the flame of freedom is not extinguished, even in the face of legions of charlatans and powermongers. Even though the politics of our times is as dark as ever, there are bright lights on the horizon.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
It is my contention that collectivism is what is truly nihilistic, while seemingly paradoxically, individualism results in society-wide and "collective" ends when consistantly carried through. All collectivist plans for "society" inevitably must be enforced by some kind of oligarchy or dictatorship, and therefore require nihilistic control over the masses by a small few. On the other hand, individualism does not advocate the total social separation of each individual from the other (everyone would simply die) or bare nihilism, it advocates the freedom of each individual in a universal manner.
Individualism is universalist in that it consistantly applies ideas about human conduct and rights to each individual, while collectivism holds the individual in a completely subordinate position with respect to groups and social constructs and assigns groups an unequal distribution of rights. Obviously, since everyone is an individual, individual rights apply to everyone. In individualist philosophy, no majority is supposed to legally be able to overthrow your individual rights of self-ownership (which entails self-defense by defacto), life, free expression, free association, labor and property. You possess those rights by virtue of being a human being, by one's nature as an individual.
True liberty (individualism, properly understood) is where each individual's liberty is limited by the like liberty of everyone else (for example, my individual right to "free" speech prohibits everyone else from initiating force to stop me from freely expressing myself on my own property, so in order to consistantly have "free speech" each individual must be effectively shielded from invasion by everyone else); not the absolute rule of the majority, which is nothing but "might makes right" and violates the rights of the individual and minority.
Majoritarianism is a form of collectivism in which rules for the conduct of people are inconsistantly applied, where a group with superior numbers is allowed to get away with what an individual or group with minority numbers is not allowed to do. Majoritarianism is the narcissistic rule of the many over the few. It need not be confined to absolute majorities, it can be manifested in "numerical majorities", in which there is a multitude of interest groups and one of them with the largest numbers empowers itself at the expense of the rest. In practise, this type of majoritarianism is akin to an oligarchy.
The idea of "collective rights" or "group's rights" is based on an unequal distribution of rights, by defacto. It categorizes rights as belonging to groups, and therefore the distribution of rights becomes group-specific (wether it be categorized by nationality, race, economic class, etc.), where each group is in practise designated as having a special set of rights, different from other groups. And the idea that "society's rights" trump the individual's rights is nonsensical. "Society" is not an individual, but a statistical aggregate of individuals. The cumulative result of each individual's rights constitutes "the whole". "Society" does not have rights, real flesh and blood people do, individuals do.
The individualist answer to the wise question, "When is it just for a group to do that which it is not just for an individual to do?", is "never". The idea that a particular group of people should be allowed to do things that it is immoral for an individual to do is anathema to individualism. A dictator, by their nature, has the power to do to others that which is immoral. The dictator is therefore immoral by individualist standards. When we apply principles of human conduct consistantly to each individual, then in determining ethics it becomes irrelevant what political position, economic status, ethnicity or any other such group-identity a given person belongs to.
An individualist believes that one should act in their self-interest. Self-interest is not the same thing as bare narcissism. When people's pride goes to their heads, they in fact act against their own self-interest. Someone who never interacts with anyone else is acting against their rational self-interest. It is necessitated by the fundamental facts of existance that one must engage in some kind of association with other people or die. An individualist is aware of the fact that it is in one's self-interest to voluntarily trade with others and maitain one's personal relations in a non-violent manner. Thus, the concept of mutual self-interest and social cooperation arises as a result of individualism.
Indeed, there is no such thing as a selfless person. By definition of being a concious being with self-ownership (I.E. self-control), each individual has a self and therefore self-interest. It would be impossible to act without it. Eating food, having clothing and shelter, being protected from violence, are necessary functions of self-interest, and simultaneously they only can efficiently be obtained by cooperation between multiple individuals acting together in their self-interest. Thus, there is a natural incentive towards human cooperation that is part of the functionality of self-interest. Goals for "the community" cannot be met without a manifestation of cooperation in conjunction with self-interest.
The individualist does not oppose individuals giving to and helping eachother, what is opposed is the use of force to make people do so against their will and self-interest. What is opposed is parasitism, where one individual or group is forcefully coerced to sacrfice to the benefit of another individual or group. This is the exact opposite of social cooperation: it is the method of theft and phony philanthropy. The individualist clearly sees that the best way to benefit people is for them to work together voluntarily in their self-interest so that all parties gain. True philanthropy results from cooperation. If the methods to one's well-intended ends are not cooperative, if they are coercive, then this is not true charity, but rather a destructive act that disintegrates the social order.
It is quite apparent that collectivistic schemes hinges not on harmony between people but antagonism between them. As soon as the consistant application of rules to the individual is removed, as soon as one group is exempted from such considerations, as soon as one group is forcefully made to sacrifice to benefit another, a huge hole has been poked in human rights. The result is a struggle between groups, with one group struggling to maintain dominance over another, and with a subject group struggling to cope with such dominance or escape it. Social order cannot result from such antagonistic relationships between people. The Hobbesian "war of all against all" is not the result of too much individual rights, it is the result of a democratic system in which each group competes for power of the other by either fighting over the reigns of power itself or for indirect influence over it and favorism from it.
The introduction of a power-elite, a monopolistic group of individuals, into a society disrupts the harmony between the individuals that make it up. It creates a fundamental "class divide" of a sort in which on one hand there is that group of individuals who possess ruling power, and on the other hand there are those who are subject to that ruling power. The class with ruling power is resitricted to a relative minority. It can be said to be made up of two distinct groups that are tied at the hip: those who directly hold the reigns of narcissistic power, and those special interests who ally with them to indirectly control the reigns of power. So long as such people are considered to be particular collections of particular individuals, rather than individual entities in themselves, this view of modern society is perfectly compatible with individualism. It is just such a society that individualism opposes.
The nature of power in human relations is constantly being blurred by collectivist abstractions. The individualist clearly sees through the rhetoric of the "nation", "state", "the people", "race" and "class" that is so often used in political discourse. The concept of the "nation" is anthropromorphic and polylogistic in that it assigns what objectively can only be defined as a territory of land with traits as if it were a single individual person, and it treats different territories as if each territory has its own uniform character as if it were one individual. Of course, the concept of "nation" is typically used to get people to identify with the "state". That is, one's identification with a particular territory is blurred as to imply definition with "the state". The individualist clearly sees that "the state" is made up of a particular oligarchy of individuals, and thus cannot realistically be alluded to as if were one and the same with the overall territory or "the people" as a whole.
To the consistant individualist, while race can be used to describe some superficial physical differences between individuals, as soon as it goes much beyond this it becomes nothing more than a collectivist construct. A methedological individualist proclaims that the human mind's essential logical structure is the same with each individual (barring those with severe mental disabilities, granted). On the other hand, a methedological individualist realizes that each individual is different in their physical abilities, ideas, actions and so on; I.E. each person is on certain criteria inherently unequal and therefore diverse. Therefore, an individualist opposes all forms of polylogism, where different groups are treated as having different logical structures, while at the same time members of these groups are erroneously treated as being identical to eachother. For example, Marxism is economic polylogism, where one's economic class is supposed to uniformly and absolutely determine one's ideas, the logical structure of one's mind; economic determinism. An individualist rejects such notions.
When an individualist proclaims that the individual is the true unit of value, they are simultaneously saying that the human race, human life and its quality in general, is the truue unit value in that the human race is the cumulative result of every individual. On the other hand, when a collectivist proclaims that the individual must be subordinate to "society" or "the state" or "the nation", they are in practise saying that the masses at large must be subordinate to an allegedly specially endowed group of men. That is true elitism and narcissism. It is the idea that the human race at large must sacrifice its life and quality thereof to appease a particular group of individuals. If the ideologies of collectivism dominate for long enough, the human race will be swallowed up.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I also would be thrilled to have more specialized say in what subjects I take, rather than pre-picked packages. When a student is actually interested in a topic, they are more likely to succeed. That's one of the reasons why public education has failed: it takes almost no consideration for what the student's interests are as an individual, and rigorously goes over the same things in highschool that already was supposed to be learned in middle school or elementary school. Why should we be surprised that the average highschooler is bored out of their mind? It feels like a jail-cell. It frankly borders on child abuse.
Another probem is the "one size fits all" approach. Each individual is different; that's why they are an individual. It is not possible for each individual to benefit from the exact same education model and subject selection. Standardization in many ways is anathema to true education. It works sort of like communism: everything is flattened and those who do well are pushed downwards, while those who aren't so talented are artificially propped up and presented with things that are beyond their means. It just doesn't work. We are not ants. We have individuality. The system supresses that. The extremely bright kids are overlooked and frankly left behind. On the other hand, the kids that need special help do not recieve it either.
The really bright and eccentric kids are almost uniformly drop-outs, and tend to get bad grades in highschool (Albert Einstein or Bill Gates anyone?). That speaks volumes for how unworkable the education system is. I'm no genuis, but I've learned more in my post-highschool years reading essays on the internet then I ever learned in highschool. In highschool, are kids taught economics? No. Are they taught sociology? Not really, although they do have social studies class, but alot of it is frankly biased, nationalist and romantic. Are they taught survival skills? Not at all! Are they vocationally trained? Perhaps a little bit, but it's mostly just a "what would you like to do when you grow up?" day once per year.
Another point that is not often considered is that our Prussian-style education system creates a disincentive towards parental responsibility. That is, the teachers or schoolmasters take over the role of parents, while the actual parents are given an incentive to transfer responsibility away from themselves and towards the bereaucrats. The public schools thus become nothing more than baby-sitters that have no real connection with the children. At best, the teacher is like a lazy baby-sitter. At worst, an abusive one. A teacher may be qualified to teach, but it is not likely that they are qualified to baby-sit a classroom full of children.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
1. Wealth and poverty can be viewed in relative terms: wealthy or poor in comparison to what? A relatively "poor person" in modern-day America enjoys a standard of living that was unthinkable even for kings of ages past. And in terms of nationality, the "poor" in a modern developed economy is much better off than the "poor" in, say, Africa. Afterall, they have television sets, radios, nike shoes, and so on. They do not technically "need" these things; they are luxuries. The average person today enjoys luxuries that simply were not available to people in the past, because the technology did not exist. One point that this brings to surface is the fact that improvements in technology increases the capacity for wealth.
2. Income is not the only measure of wealth. Indeed, it can be very misleading. You can take two people with the same income and one will be rather poor and the other rather luxurious due to their consumption habits as individuals. Someone who consumes wrecklessly is going to impoverish themselves in the long-term. On the other hand, someone with a high time-preferance is going to save more and thus have more long-term economic security. Furthermore, the purchasing power of the monetary unit is perhaps even more vital than income statistics, for it determines what standard of living any given income can afford.
3. One way to determine wealth is in terms of what quantity and/or quality of property one owns. A person who lives in a upper-middle class home in a gated community is certainly wealthy in comparison to a person who lives in a mud-brick hut or teepee. A person who owns a car is certainly wealthy in comparison to a person who uses a horse and buggy or chariot to get around. In terms of quantity, if two people are interested in baseball cards, and one has a huge collection, while the other only has a few booster packs, the former is certainly wealthy in comparison to the latter.
4. If wealth is to be defined more generally in terms of what makes one happy, "psychic wealth", it becomes utterly subjective and asthetic. What one values asthetically is within the realm of subjective value. If someone genuinely finds happiness by living the life of a hermit in the woods, there is nothing we can do to tell that person what would make them more happy. They determine that, not us. What one values in terms of consumer preferances falls within the subjective realm, as only they can determine what makes them happy. In areas such as music, movies and comic books, the wealth of happiness has no objective definition.
5. The existance of scarcity of resources implies that it is not really possible for everyone to live the lives of billionaires because the resources in terms of land, labor and capital that is necessary for such a thing to happen does not exist. Furthermore, the inherently unequal distribution of those resources across the face of the planet combined with the inequality between people's abilities as individuals means that there will never be absolute equality in economic ends. That is, there will always be multiple tiers of wealth in any given society.
6. There can be said to be two kinds of poverty. The first kind of poverty is the unfortunate result of people's own bad decisions, excessive consumption, a lack of personal initiative, and so on. The second type of poverty is created by government interventions in the economy that hamper production or stimulate excessive consumption, or simply by theft, wether governmental or not. The first kind of poverty is worsened by the latter kind. If the 2nd type of poverty were removed, poverty in general would diminish considerably, even for those who are poor as a result of their own bad decisions.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Discrimination (wether it be racial, religious, or based on sexual orientation) generally does not benefit the discriminator, it hurts all parties involved. In economic terms, discrimination is suicidal, because either (1) you're lowering the amount of customers or (2) you're hiring a less qualified worker over a more qualified one, and therefore are accepting lower productivity. Racial discrimination is a suicidal buisiness practise in a modern, multicultural society.
Racists do not benefit from being racists, unless the costs of being a racist are externalized via governmental means (a practise that should be opposed at all costs). As manifested economically, lessening the amount of people you sell to or hiring less qualified workers over more qualified ones, is suicide. In a relatively competitive atmosphere the heavy discriminators go out of buisiness by their own folly, and a boycott can help hasten their fall.
Let the discriminators shoot themselves in the foot. There is no need for affirmative action. The discriminators are imposing losses on themselves. Better yet, form one's own non-discriminatory buisiness in competition with them, and eventually watch as the people flock to your buisiness rather than theirs, since you are providing the service that the discriminators are refusing to yield to so many people. Hire all of the qualified workers that they refused, and watch as your firm's level of productivity outdoes theirs.
On the other hand, not all discrimination is a bad thing per se. What I mean by this is that we inherently must discriminate in terms of who we let into our own homes. If some random guy knocks on my door, and I don't let him into my home, I have "discriminated" against him, but obviously this is an entirely different thing than typical racial discrimination. Owning property inherently implies that you have discriminatory power over who you let use it; there is nothing inherently wrong with this.
Should it be illegal for me to refuse to allow someone into my home? I would hope not. Discrimination in itself is not a crime. Discrimination is an exclusionary judgement, and action taken based on such a judgement. Everyone has a right to discriminate all they like in terms of who they let use their own property. Even racists should be allowed to engage in the suicidal buisiness practises mentioned above. A valuable idea: all of us non-racists should band together and discriminate against them!
While discrimination in terms of one's own property cannot legitimately be illegalized, there is another type of discrimination, what I'll call institutional or external discrimination, that indeed should never be legal. That is, it is absolutely illegitimate for the law to require someone to discriminate in a particular manner, and it is illegitimate for the law to enforce discriminatory judgements over someone else's property. To decide who gets to use someone else's property is to make an illegitimate claim of control over that property.
As can be seen, the issue isn't really discrimination itself so much as property rights. The real question is who the legitimate owner of a given piece of property is. People can discriminate on their own property as they please, and it is not inherently wrong per se. It is important, however, to keep in mind that to discriminate too liberally in terms of economic relations with others will be to deny oneself the benefits of society. What people cannot legitimately do is (1) discriminate over someone else's property or (2) make discrimination mandatory.
In my opinion, immigration restrictions count as both of these follies. That is, laws attempting to limit immigration, crack down on employers hiring them and illegalize selling homes or other products to immigrants, falls under the category of mandatory and external discrimination. Indeed, laws illegalizing the hiring of immigrants and laws requiring landlords to evict immigrants constitute external and mandatory discrimination, and therefore they are violations of property rights (of both immigrants and citezens associating with them).
Furthermore, the economics that shows that racial discrimination is suicidal as a buisiness practise also has some implications in the area of immigration. For one thing, to turn down droves of willing workers from abroad is disadvantageous to local buisiness, who could very well use such employees. And to limit the amount of people in the country is simultaneously to limit the amount of potential internal consumers. Thus, if anything it is in the best interests of enterprenuers to have a steady flow of immigrant labor, and there's nothing inherently wrong with this.
Without resorting to such laws, a community that bars all immigration into it and refuses to sell products to immigrating people is engaging in a massive economic suicide. If there are other, more intregrated communities, and if communities are considered as being in economic competition with eachother, it is clear that the more integrated communities will out-compete the more separatist ones. While it would be legitimate for separatists to discriminate on their own property, if they try to do so on a large scale they will harm themselves in the long-run.
It seems to me that the incentives under liberty inevitably make way for a relatively integrated, not segregrated, society. Therefore, I am convinced that in an atmosphere of freedom separatism would be an uncommon practise, and to the extent that it is practised it would be at a considerable loss in comparison to integrated institutions and communities, and would therefore have an inevitable incentive to allow some degree of integration.
While my views on discrimination can be misconstrued by those on the left as being apologia for racists, I believe that to eliminate all mandatory and external discrimination, while allowing the separatist types to discriminate so long as it's on their own property, is the surest path towards an integrated society and quite a strong blow against racists because of the economics and incentives of the matter. On the margin, the separatists would effectively be forced to stop discriminating, or at least discriminate less.
Ultimately, separatists are trying to accomplish something that is impossible. It is impossible to manage to stop immigration in its tracks, and it is impossible to economically benefit while persueing a large-scale discriminatory buisiness practise. The movement of people of different ethnicities and nationalities across land masses is inevitable, and will only intensify over time. The integration of people, done on a voluntary basis, is a good thing that should be encouraged. On the other hand, discrimination on one's own property is legitimate. However, when it is done by buisinesses it is generally an anti-competitive buisiness practise, and thus there is every incentive in the world to not discriminate in such a manner.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
A state is a territorial monopoly that possesses ultimate decision-making power, a monopoly on the use of force, over the individuals who live within that territory. It is made up of either a single absolute monarch/ruler or an oligarchy (a multitude of rulers) of some sort, a relative minority of the overall population of the given territory. Thus, a state is an institution constituted by a minority of the populution of a given territory (I.E. all states are oligarcies) that exercises a monopoly power over the use of force within that territory. It is the final arbiter of all disputes not only between its subjects, but between itself and its subjects, and therefore it is a judge in it's own case. Since it is a judge in it's own case, the state can be considered lawless, as it is not bound by any arbiter above itself and possesses the capability to exempt itself from its own rules. This is true no matter what type of state is in question.
The defining features of any state are (1) the power of taxation, that is, the organization unilaterally fixes a "price" for living within the territory, and enforces this under the threat that force will be used in some way if payment is not made (2) the placement of barriers to competition from any other institutions in the enterprise of law, security and arbitration within the territory (3) control over who is allowed to enter and exit the territory (4) enforcement of both economic and social regulations of the lives of those who are within the territory and (5) the propogation of mystical or false justifications for its power, which is usually coupled with the formation of a class of intellectual elites and the use of "bread and circuses", economic and social bait, to lure the populace into compliance.
The formation of a state is very much like how a mafia works. Every state's creation is founded on some very basic things such as the invasion and occupation of a territory, the confiscation of land property within a given territory, familial inheritance of stolen property, extortion of a community by a small band of thugs for an extended period of time and the practise of having a syndicate bait people into remaining complacent. When such a practise becomes institutional, a state has formed. States expand their power by expanding the jurisdiction of their territory and trying to control areas outside of its jurisdiction, increasing taxation and finding other methods of accrueing funds such as cartelization or control of banking, increasing the amount of people directly working for it and "buying out" and colluding with special interests within the public.
Monarchy and Tribe
An absolute monarchy is a state in which one individual possesses ultimate decision-making power over everyone within the territory. Tribal and primitive societies are localized forms of absolute monarchy. Both tribal states and European absolute monarchies share a hereditary aspect. In hereditary monarchy, membership of the state is determined by "birthright" from particular familial chains, and incest and hegemonic arranged marriages between multiple states is common due to the incentive to keep the familial ties established. The most primitive form of government stems from the family, when a particular family is given monopoly power over the given territory, and a patriarchal shaman or king is put at the top. Monarchy can be generalized as rule of the many by an extreme few, in its purest form by one person.
Non-absolute monarchy starts to form when the monarchal family begins to collude with or grant power to particular interest groups and oligarchal bodies within the territory. This means that something resembling a parliament forms, but the system continues to be a monarchy so long as the monarch is given ultimate decision-making power to the extent of putting the parlaiment in a suboordinate position. The union of church and state was one mechanism by which the monarch came into collusion with oligarchies such as the clergy. It also functioned as a mechanism to attempt to justify the power of the king, not from familial ties so much as the idea of "the divine right of the king". Economically, the increased bereaucracy of the monarchy was the result of patronage and protectionism between the king and nobles, which formed the fuedal system.
The ancestral aspect of tribal states is also religious. That is, the earliest states literally considered the ruling family to be gods. And over time, if the current ruling family were not considered gods, they were considered the ancestors of gods, and so the bloodline of the monarchs was the main justification given for state rule. As this idea too had worn threadbare in European societies, the divine right of the monarch became the main justification given for state rule. Thus, the essence of popular justification for state power in primitive societies and monarchies stems from the divine and the familial. Even when the familial becomes less relevant, the divine is commonly used to justify it. In either case, ancestor-worshop is the primary derivation of such systems.
A state starts to transform into a democracy when the role of the monarch is phased out, and the role of the oligarchy is expanded. While the state has one ruler in an absolute monarchy, and one ruler in collusion with an oligarchy in parlaimentary monarchy, in a democracy the state is made up of a multitude of rulers. Democracy does not get rid of privileged rulers. It replaces a system in which one person is at the top of the heirarchy with one in which multiple people are at the top of the heirarchy. Indeed, democracy does not get rid of heirarchy. What democracy does is allow more people to become part of the political class, and hence it actually expands special privileges.
The initial premise of democracy is that by expanding access to the governmental apparatus to everyone, wether that be through voting or through eligibility for holding political office, we will get rid of exploitation of men by men. The idea is that this will get rid of the special privileges in society, converting everyone into more or less a state of "equality under the law". This premise of democracy is practically universally accepted, especially in west. It is simply assumed that democracy is the best form of government. But these premises are wrong. In a democracy, the state itself is still constituted by a relative minority in comparison to the overall population; an oligarchy.
The introduction of the institution of voting does not make "the people" unanimously consent to the state. To begin with, many of the people in a democracy choose not to vote, and therefore have not demonstrated consent to the state. As for those who do vote, democracy forces "the people" into a hobbesian state of cultural warfare in which those who take part in the voting process are battling over how to use the state for their advantage at the expense of others. Since majority rule is the standard for voting in a democracy (and it is important to keep in many that it is almost always a numerical majority rather than an actual one) out of those who participate in the voting process, those who "win" are in effect forcing their will on the minority, those who "lose". Thus, those who "lose" cannot be said to have demonstrated consent either. Furthermore, even those voters who "win" are not directly controlling the state, they are voting for what is supposed to be representatives, and those representatives still possess the power to go against the will of even those who voted for them.
A constitutional Republic is a type of state that, while containing certain aspects of representative democracy, relies on the existance of a "rule of law" in the form of a written constitution that is meant to limit both the power of the state and to protect the citezen from the excesses of majority rule. It is therefore more aristocratic than a more pure democracy would be. Ideally, a constitutional Republic is supposed to avoid having a monarch, while at the same time avoid having an absolute participatory democracy. The concept of a "limited state" can be considered largely synonimous with a constitutional republic.
Over time, written constitutions restrain a state less and less because they become interpreted and nullified by the state itself, since it is a judge in its own case as the courts are most likely still within the state apparatus itself. While the constitution in a Republic is supposed to be the supreme law of the territory, the state has the ability to simply not enforce it, or to either change it or interpret it as to reverse its original purpose. Furthermore, even if such a constitution were fully enforced by the state, constitutions typically contain imperfections in themselves, being written by fallible men and having vested interests create loopholes within the document from its inception.
A constitutional Republic has been transformed into a democracy or some other type of system when either the rule of the majority (numerical or not) or the state itself has produced the effect of a nullification of the constitutional document that is supposed to bind the state. Furthermore, constitutional contracts have never been signed by the entire populace as sensible common contract standards would require, but rather signed by aristocracies made up of a small band of individuals constituting or allied with the state apparatus itself. That is, no constitutional contract has ever been an actual voluntary contract with the people because the people at large have never had any choice in choosing the contract, signing it or making it. Those who are born into the system are simply assumed to have tacitly consented to the contract.
A theocracy is a state either constituted by or subject to religious institutions and leaders. A theocracy may be monist in form, where the administrative heirarchy of the government is identical with the administrative hierarchy of the religion, or it may have two "arms", but with the religious hierarchy dominating the state administrative hierarchy. The union of church and state in European monarchy was theocratic. The word theocracy originates from the Greek θεοκρατία (theokratia), meaning "the rule of God". This in turn derives from the Greek words θεος, meaning “god,” and κρατειν (kratein), meaning “to rule.” Thus the meaning of the word in Greek was “rule by gods" or human incarnation(s) of god(s). The most primitive theocracies were therefore primitivist and tribal societies in which the ruler was literally considered to be a god, or descended from one.
Ideologically, communism proposes that the individual must be subordinate to the collective, while as a system it makes the individual, and the masses of individuals constituting the overall populace, subordinate to the state. A communist state is a state that owns most if not the entirety of the means of production within the territory. That is, the state claims and enforces ownership over as much of the property within the territory as possible, in the name of collective ownership of property. Communism is genuinely opposed to private property and market transactions that are free from state control.
The stated purpose of the communist state is to equalize economic ends to flatten everyone out on a certain level, and for this reason the state takes control of the means of production and attempts to centrally plan the economy. In communism, production and consumption of goods and services are attempted to be essentially completely controlled by the state apparatus, leaving pretty much no room for individual choice in such matters. Typically, a communist state is ruled by one party and does not have genuine democratic voting. Ideologically, communism is ideally supposed to be a global system.
Fascism, as a political ideology, considers the individual and other societal interests subordinate to the needs of the state. Fascism as a modern political system formed out of socialism, with the merging of socialist and conservative viewpoints around the time of the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century. Fascism tends to embrace nationalism, more specifically national socialism, which is to mean national territorialism, which is a reinforcement of the state's monopoly of a nation-sized territory. Since nationalism is strong in fascism, fascism is opposed to communism only insofar as communism is globalist, but it also just as opposed to international capitalism.
Economically, the fascist system is more about government regulation and control of property than government ownership of property. More specifically, the main economic difference between communism and fascism is that in fascism, the state colludes with private buisiness and heavily regulates private property, while in the communist system the state attempts to absorb all property into itself and there is hardly any private property to regulate. Fascism is typically very aggressive in its foreign policy. In practise, both fascism and communism don't have too much difference between their results, but do differ somewhat in their economic content.
Imperialism is the forceful extension of a state's authority by territorial expansion or by the establishment of economic or political dominance over territories outside of its jurisdiction. An imperialist state is one that engages in a lot of warfare. Imperialism involves invasion and occupation of territories by states, as well as the practise of nation-building. Imperialism and an expansive and aggressive foreign policy go hand in hand. It can be represented by control of a state by another (a puppet state type of deal) or forced citezenship to the imperial state on the part of people in foreign territories. Colonialism is a peculiar form of imperialism where people from the territory of the imperial nation literally move to the occupied territory to live.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
It is generally assumed without proof that the status quo, the current economic system in America, is capitalism. In the current political climate, the political left accepts this assumption and concludes that capitalism is bad because they see some negative things going on in the current system, some real and some entirely imagined. The political right accepts this assumption and concludes that the current system is good, that it is a free market economy, and they tend to have high confidence in the state of the economy because they see some good things going on in the current system, some real and some entirely imagined.
The trouble is, both of them are wrong. The left is under the illusion that the system they're attacking is capitalism. The right is under the illusion that the system they're supporting is capitalism. But the economic system of America is not free market capitalism, and argueably never was. If capitalism could be said to have ever existed as a system in America, it was roughly between 1750 and 1850, and it was never fully implemented, so we couldn't even say that the free market has ever really been implemented in full. That's because in order to get to the point of a pure free market, the state cannot exist.
This is important to point out. To the extent that there is a state, to the extent that there it has power over the individual, is the extent that the market is not free. To the extent that the government taxes, borrows, inflates, spends, legislates, subsidizes, prohibits, colludes, etc., is the extent to which the market is not free. To the extent that the government confiscates, claims ownership of or regulates property is the extent to which the market is not free. Every service that the government tries to provide, and monopolistically so, is a disruption of the voluntary economy. The enterprise of law and arbitration itself is a scarce resource like all others, and the existance of a government represents a disruption of a free market in this area.
So how can economic and governmental systems be evaluated? Boiling everything down to capitalism vs. communism is a bit oversimplistic. There certainly are systems that are somewhere in between the two. And it's not wise to red-bait people who are not necessarily red. However, it also must be emphasized that there is no such thing as a static equilibrium. Because no system is completely static, it is impossible to genuinely be "perfectly in the middle" of a political or economic spectrum. The advocation of such a position is contradictary and most certainly disingenuous.
One way to classify systems of economic organization would be to use a general spectrum of more vs. less economic control. A sensible interpretation may look as follows, in the order of the least economic control to the most:
The Free Market - No Economic Control. The free market is a system in which there is no government control of the economy. It is an economy based entirely on the voluntary decisions of those taking part in it. The free market is based primarily on private ownership of property, obtained through homesteading and voluntary exchange between property titles. To be carried out in practise, there can be no government in the commonly understood sense of the word.
Laizzes-Faire - Very Little Economic Control. Laizzes-faire is a system in which the government has strictly limited control over the economy. In it's most pure form, the only government services allowed is police, courts and defense. A laizzes-faire system largely has private ownership of the means of production and minimal if not negligable regulation.
Interventionism - Moderate Economic Control. Interventionism is essentially the process that leads towards socialism. It is not a permanent, static system perfectly in the middle, but rather a transatory system.
Socialism - Heavy Economic Control. Socialism is a system in which the government has considerable control over the economy. The government may own a significant portion of the means of production and it tries to centrally plan the economy.
Totalitarianism - Total Economic Control. There is no economic freedom in totalitarianism. The entire "economy" is completely determined, owned and regulated by the government. The state, in essence, replaces the economy entirely. There can be no "economy", in the commonly understood sense, to speak of.
But there are also various types of economic control. Economic control can be split up into government ownership and government regulation. Communism specifically involves government ownership, while Fascism specifically is based more on government regulation and collusion between private interests and the government. There are also various types of economic organization that are more specific than socialism or interventionism, which are forms of socialism or interventionism, or alternate forms of economic organization for stateless societies.
Syndicalism, for example, is a system based heavily or entirely on unions and worker-directed communes. Some anarchists believe that they can set up syndicalist and communist economic systems without a state. Pure free marketers tend to disagree, pointing out that both systems require force and confiscation, wether through a state or not, in order to be brought about. On the other hand, communist or socialist anarchists tend to make the claim that the free market is inherently coercive, and will lead to dictatorship. But in reality the free market is simply whatever the outcome is of people's voluntary labor and exchanges.
It should be clear that, no matter how totalitarian the government is, some degree of voluntary economic activity is going to take place, even if it is illegal. This is particularly obvious when we look at the case of prohibitions. It is illegal to voluntarily buy or sell certain drugs, but people find ways to do it anyways. It is impossible to completely stamp out free economic activity. On the other hand, illegal economic activity cannot be considered a true free market, because it is the consequence of government intervening to prohibit and/or limit the supply of a good or service. It becomes a free market as soon as the government ends the prohibition, and abstains for regulating it or claiming ownership over it.
There are many ways in which a government can erode the free market. To begin with, it's very existance disrupts it, because it's very existance and the continuation of that existance is dependant first and foremost on taxation, which siphons money away from the private sector, away from the original owner of the property. There are all sorts of different taxes. There are income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, land-value taxes, inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, and so on. There are also alternative ways for the government to accrue revenue, all of which disrupt the free market. It can borrow credit from foreign governments or banks, which also siphons money away from its private use. It can monopolize banking and print new money. It can also impose tariffs, which are essentially a tax on imports.
How the government spends this money disrupts the free economy, as it determines how the money will be redistributed away from its original owner and use towards new owners and uses. In short, government's revenue devices and it's spending of that revenue inherently creates a network of redistribution of resources. Government spending represents a reallocation of labor and goods and services other than would have voluntarily been chosen. First and foremost, this money goes to the primary functions of government such as police, courts and the military. Beyond this, it also goes to a whole host of other services such as public education, healthcare and roads. As the power of a government increases, it starts taking control of things that blatantly aren't really "necessities", such as space exploration and the arts.
Government services tends to be monopolized over time. The most obviously monopolized of these services would be the police. The government outlaws the private competition to the services that it provides. Furthermore, even if a degree of competition to a particular service is allowed, it is eroded by the spending of tax money on the public sector, which inherently erodes the capital of the private competition and warps the incentive structure. People often try to justify public services with the claim that there is no profitability in it, but they have it backwards. It is the public services that erode the profitability of the competition. If the public services were privatized, they would quickly become vastly more profitable, as well as vastly cheaper and more available to the masses.
Government spending for goods and services comes in all types. There is foreign aid, which transfers money and weapons from government to government. There is personal welfare, which gaurantees a direct redistribution of wealth between citezens. Modern warfare, of course, requires a whole lot of spending that goes to machinery, and to pay those in the army. It comes in the form of subsidies to agriculture, energy and various industries. It comes in the form of government contracts and bail-outs that go to buisinesses. As a piece of the pie, the money for all of this shows up in the paychecks of government bereaucrats. All of this involves a massive redistribution of resources, contrary how they would have been otherwise used and away from original ownership.
There seems to be no area that the government doesn't want to spend some money on, no matter how frivolous the cause in question is and regaurdless of wether or not it is necessary. It funds science, it funds the arts, it funds broadcasting, it funds sporting events. There is almost no special interest that the government does not collude with and redistribute resources to. Internally, the government expands the amount of people working for it, to run all of the departments and agencies, and mega-becreaucracies such as the department of homeland security. It all adds up.
There are many ways in which the government controls the economy without spending money. It can prohibit goods and services outright, or set a limit on their supply. It can impose wage and price controls. It can set minimum and maximim prices and wages. It can set quotas on imports and exports. It can use licensing to bestow the privilege of being allowed to legally work in certain fields. It can set up all sorts of regulations and requirements for goods and services. It can deliberately organize cartels. It can trust-bust buisinesses for having "predatory pricing", which can be defined subjectively however one desires, wether it's super lower prices or high ones. It can impose penalties and give out special rewards. It can control the rate of interest. It can force employers to hire certain people.
Governments can use conscription to either force people to work for it directly or for some other, private group. They can institutionalize and legalize involuntary servitude. They can control the hours of the workday. They can make union membership compulsory. They can impose compulsory consumption. They can restrict immigration, I.E. the amount of people and willing labor coming into and out of the territory. They can monopolize technology and intellectual property through the selective and privileged use of patent laws. They can use eminent domain on one's land and home property to either transfer ownership to the state or to some private lobbying interest and/or buisiness. They can put up barriers to unused resources and claim ownership of unused land. They can try to direct private investment.
America? A laizzes-faire haven? Give me a break. The American state, to varying degrees, engages in all of the kinds of intervention that's been mentioned. At best, it's an interventionist system quickly headed towards right-wing socialism. Perhaps a more sober examination reveals it already to be a right-wing socialist, fascist type of system. While the government in America does not own the means of production to the extent that a communist country would, it heavily redistributes, regulates and controls the economy in all kinds of ways. It has a long history of government-buisiness collusion and protectionism.
It's as if the left doesn't like right-wing socialism, but they think that right-wing socialism is the free market, so they want left-wing socialism or communism. And it's as if the right doesn't like left-wing socialism and communism, but they think that right-wing socialism is the free market, so they want right-wing socialism or fascism. The cliche idea that Republicans are die-hard free marketers hasn't had any truth to it for decades, since the 1950's at least, and even when the cliche had some truth to it, those weren't really the people who were running the party and in the mainstream of it. And the cliche idea that the Democrats are a bunch of commies doesn't necessarily hold up either, as they've historically been quite sympathetic to fascism and conservative brands of socialism.
It's time for people to understand what a free market actually is, in comparison to the current system, and that the current system is far from it.
Friday, July 13, 2007
As a corollary to the proposition that all institutions must be subordinated to the law of equal freedom, we cannot choose but admit the right of the citizen to adopt a condition of voluntary outlawry. If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the state—to relinquish its protection, and to refuse paying towards its support. It is self-evident that in so behaving he in no way trenches upon the liberty of others; for his position is a passive one; and whilst passive he cannot become an aggressor. It is equally selfevident that he cannot be compelled to continue one of a political corporation, without a breach of the moral law, seeing that citizenship involves payment of taxes; and the taking away of a man’s property against his will, is an infringement of his rights (p. 134). Government being simply an agent employed in common by a number of individuals to secure to them certain advantages, the very nature of the connection implies that it is for each to say whether he will employ such an agent or not. If any one of them determines to ignore this mutual-safety confederation, nothing can be said except that he loses all claim to its good offices, and exposes himself to the danger of maltreatment—a thing he is quite at liberty to do if he likes. He cannot be coerced into political combination without a breach of the law of equal freedom; he can withdraw from it without committing any such breach; and he has therefore a right so to withdraw.
“No human laws are of any validity if contrary to the law of nature; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority mediately or immediately from this original.” Thus writes Blackstone, to whom let all honour be given for having so far outseen the ideas of his time; and, indeed, we may say of our time. A good antidote, this, for those political superstitions which so widely prevail. A good check upon that sentiment of power-worship which still misleads us by magnifying the prerogatives of constitutional governments as it once did those of monarchs. Let men learn that a legislature is not “our God upon earth,” though, by the authority they ascribe to it, and the things they expect from it, they would seem to think it is. Let them learn rather that it is an institution serving a purely temporary purpose, whose power, when not stolen, is at the best borrowed.
Nay, indeed, have we not seen (p. 13) that government is essentially immoral? Is it not the offspring of evil, bearing about it all the marks of its parentage? Does it not exist because crime exists? Is it not strong, or, as we say, despotic, when crime is great? Is there not more liberty, that is, less government, as crime diminishes? And must not government cease when crime ceases, for very lack of objects on which to perform its function? Not only does magisterial power exist because of evil, but it exists by evil. Violence is employed to maintain it; and all violence involves criminality. Soldiers, policemen, and gaolers; swords, batons, and fetters, are instruments for inflicting pain; and all infliction of pain is in the abstract wrong. The state employs evil weapons to subjugate evil, and is alike contaminated by the objects with which it deals, and the means by which it works. Morality cannot recognise it; for morality, being simply a statement of the perfect law, can give no countenance to anything growing out of, and living by, breaches of that law (Chap. I.). Wherefore, legislative authority can never be ethical—must always be conventional merely.
Hence, there is a certain inconsistency in the attempt to determine the right position, structure, and conduct of a government by appeal to the first principles of rectitude. For, as just pointed out, the acts of an institution which is in both nature and origin imperfect, cannot be made to square with the perfect law. All that we can do is to ascertain, firstly, in what attitude a legislature must stand to the community to avoid being by its mere existence an embodied wrong;—secondly, in what manner it must be constituted so as to exhibit the least incongruity with the moral law;—and thirdly, to what sphere its actions must be limited to prevent it from multiplying those breaches of equity it is set up to prevent.
The first condition to be conformed to before a legislature can be established without violating the law of equal freedom, is the acknowledgment of the right now under discussion—the right to ignore the statea .
Upholders of pure despotism may fitly believe state-control to be unlimited and unconditional. They who assert that men are made for governments and not governments for men, may consistently hold that no one can remove himself beyond the pale of political organization. But they who maintain that the people are the only legitimate source of power—that legislative authority is not original, but deputed—cannot deny the right to ignore the state without entangling themselves in an absurdity.
For, if legislative authority is deputed, it follows that those from whom it proceeds are the masters of those on whom it is conferred: it follows further, that as masters they confer the said authority voluntarily: and this implies that they may give or withhold it as they please. To call that deputed which is wrenched from men whether they will or not, is nonsense. But what is here true of all collectively is equally true of each separately. As a government can rightly act for the people, only when empowered by them, so also can it rightly act for the individual, only when empowered by him. If A,B, and C, debate whether they shall employ an agent to perform for them a certain service, and if whilst A and B agree to do so, C dissents, C cannot equitably be made a party to the agreement in spite of himself. And this must be equally true of thirty as of three: and if of thirty, why not of three hundred, or three thousand, or three millions?
Of the political superstitions lately alluded to, none is so universally diffused as the notion that majorities are omnipotent. Under the impression that the preservation of order will ever require power to be wielded by some party, the moral sense of our time feels that such power cannot rightly be conferred on any but the largest moiety of society. It interprets literally the saying that “the voice of the people is the voice of God,” and transferring to the one the sacredness attached to the other, it concludes that from the will of the people, that is, of the majority, there can be no appeal. Yet is this belief entirely erroneous.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that, struck by some Malthusian panic, a legislature duly representing public opinion were to enact that all children born during the next ten years should be drowned. Does any one think such an enactment would be warrantable? If not, there is evidently a limit to the power of a majority. Suppose, again, that of two races living together—Celts and Saxons, for example—the most numerous determined to make the others their slaves. Would the authority of the greatest number be in such case valid? If not there is something to which its authority must be subordinate. Suppose, once more, that all men having incomes under £50 a year were to resolve upon reducing every income above that amount to their own standard, and appropriating the excess for public purposes. Could their resolution be justified? If not it must be a third time confessed that there is a law to which the popular voice must defer. What, then, is that law, if not the law of pure equity—the law of equal freedom? These restraints, which all would put to the will of the majority, are exactly the restraints set up by that law. We deny the right of a majority to murder, to enslave, or to rob, simply because murder, enslaving, and robbery are violations of that law—violations too gross to be overlooked. But if great violations of it are wrong, so also are smaller ones. If the will of the many cannot supersede the first principle of morality in these cases, neither can it in any. So that, however insignificant the minority, and however trifling the proposed trespass against their rights, no such trespass is permissible.
When we have made our constitution purely democratic, thinks to himself the earnest reformer, we shall have brought government into harmony with absolute justice. Such a faith, though perhaps needful for the age, is a very erroneous one. By no process can coercion be made equitable. The freest form of government is only the least objectionable form. The rule of the many by the few we call tyranny: the rule of the few by the many is tyranny also; only of a less intense kind. “You shall do as we will, and not as you will,” is in either case the declaration; and if the hundred make it to the ninety-nine, instead of the ninety-nine to the hundred, it is only a fraction less immoral. Of two such parties, whichever fulfils this declaration necessarily breaks the law of equal freedom: the only difference being that by the one it is broken in the persons of ninety-nine, whilst by the other it is broken in the persons of a hundred. And the merit of the democratic form of government consists solely in this, that it trespasses against the smallest number.
The very existence of majorities and minorities is indicative of an immoral state. The man whose character harmonizes with the moral law, we found to be one who can obtain complete happiness without diminishing the happiness of his fellows (Chap. III.). But the enactment of public arrangements by vote implies a society consisting of men otherwise constituted—implies that the desires of some cannot be satisfied without sacrificing the desires of others—implies that in the pursuit of their happiness the majority inflict a certain amount of unhappiness on the minority—implies, therefore, organic immorality. Thus, from another point of view, we again perceive that even in its most equitable form it is impossible for government to dissociate itself from evil; and further, that unless the right to ignore the state is recognised, its acts must be essentially criminal.
That a man is free to abandon the benefits and throw off the burdens of citizenship, may indeed be inferred from the admissions of existing authorities and of current opinion. Unprepared as they probably are for so extreme a doctrine as the one here maintained, the radicals of our day yet unwittingly profess their belief in a maxim which obviously embodies this doctrine. Do we not continually hear them quote Blackstone’s assertion that “no subject of England can be constrained to pay any aids or taxes even for the defence of the realm or the support of government, but such as are imposed by his own consent, or that of his representative in parliament?” And what does this mean? It means, say they, that every man should have a vote.
True: but it means much more. If there is any sense in words it is a distinct enunciation of the very right now contended for. In affirming that a man may not be taxed unless he has directly or indirectly given his consent, it affirms that he may refuse to be so taxed; and to refuse to be taxed, is to cut all connection with the state. Perhaps it will be said that this consent is not a specific, but a general one, and that the citizen is understood to have assented to everything his representative may do, when he voted for him. But suppose he did not vote for him; and on the contrary did all in his power to get elected some one holding opposite views—what then? The reply will probably be that, by taking part in such an election, he tacitly agreed to abide by the decision of the majority. And how if he did not vote at all? Why then he cannot justly complain of any tax, seeing that he made no protest against its imposition. So, curiously enough, it seems that he gave his consent in whatever way he acted—whether he said yes, whether he said no, or whether he remained neuter! A rather awkward doctrine this. Here stands an unfortunate citizen who is asked if he will pay money for a certain proffered advantage; and whether he employs the only means of expressing his refusal or does not employ it, we are told that he practically agrees; if only the number of others who agree is greater than the number of those who dissent. And thus we are introduced to the novel principle that A’s consent to a thing is not determined by what A says, but by what B may happen to say!
It is for those who quote Blackstone to choose between this absurdity and the doctrine above set forth. Either his maxim implies the right to ignore the state, or it is sheer nonsense.
There is a strange heterogeneity in our political faiths. Systems that have had their day, and are beginning here and there to let the daylight through, are patched with modern notions utterly unlike in quality and colour; and men gravely display these systems, wear them, and walk about in them, quite unconscious of their grotesqueness. This transition state of ours, partaking as it does equally of the past and the future, breeds hybrid theories exhibiting the oddest union of bygone despotism and coming freedom. Here are types of the old organization curiously disguised by germs of the new—peculiarities showing adaptation to a preceding state modified by rudiments that prophecy of something to come—making altogether so chaotic a mixture of relationships that there is no saying to what class these births of the age should be referred.
As ideas must of necessity bear the stamp of the time, it is useless to lament the contentment with which these incongruous beliefs are held. Otherwise it would seem unfortunate that men do not pursue to the end the trains of reasoning which have led to these partial modifications. In the present case, for example, consistency would force them to admit that, on other points besides the one just noticed, they hold opinions and use arguments in which the right to ignore the state is involved.
For what is the meaning of Dissent? The time was when a man’s faith and his mode of worship were as much determinable by law as his secular acts; and, according to provisions extant in our statute-book, are so still. Thanks to the growth of a Protestant spirit, however, we have ignored the state in this matter—wholly in theory, and partly in practice. But how have we done so? By assuming an attitude which, if consistently maintained, implies a right to ignore the state entirely. Observe the positions of the two parties. “This is your creed,” says the legislator; “you must believe and openly profess what is here set down for you.” “I shall not do anything of the kind,” answers the nonconformist; “I will go to prison rather.” “Your religious ordinances,” pursues the legislator, “shall be such as we have prescribed. You shall attend the churches we have endowed, and adopt the ceremonies used in them.” “Nothing shall induce me to do so,” is the reply; “I altogether deny your power to dictate to me in such matters, and mean to resist to the uttermost.” “Lastly,” adds the legislator, “we shall require you to pay such sums of money towards the support of these religious institutions, as we may see fit to ask.” “Not a farthing will you have from me,” exclaims our sturdy Independent: “even did I believe in the doctrines of your church (which I do not), I should still rebel against your interference; and if you take my property, it shall be by force and under protest.”
What now does this proceeding amount to when regarded in the abstract? It amounts to an assertion by the individual of the right to exercise one of his faculties—the religious sentiment—without let or hindrance, and with no limit save that set up by the equal claims of others. And what is meant by ignoring the state? Simply an assertion of the right similarly to exercise all the faculties. The one is just an expansion of the other—rests on the same footing with the other—must stand or fall with the other. Men do indeed speak of civil and religious liberty as different things: but the distinction is quite arbitrary. They are parts of the same whole and cannot philosophically be separated.
“Yes they can,” interposes an objector; “assertion of the one is imperative as being a religious duty. The liberty to worship God in the way that seems to him right, is a liberty without which a man cannot fulfil what he believes to be Divine commands, and therefore conscience requires him to maintain it.” True enough; but how if the same can be asserted of all other liberty? How if maintenance of this also turns out to be a matter of conscience? Have we not seen that human happiness is the Divine will—that only by exercising our faculties is this happiness obtainable—and that it is impossible to exercise them without freedom? (Chap. IV.) And if this freedom for the exercise of faculties is a condition without which the Divine will cannot be fulfilled, the preservation of it is, by our objector’s own showing, a duty. Or, in other words, it appears not only that the maintenance of liberty of action may be a point of conscience, but that it ought to be one. And thus we are clearly shown that the claims to ignore the state in religious and in secular matters are in essence identical.
The other reason commonly assigned for nonconformity, admits of similar treatment. Besides resisting state dictation in the abstract, the dissenter resists it from disapprobation of the doctrines taught. No legislative injunction will make him adopt what he considers an erroneous belief; and, bearing in mind his duty towards his fellow-men, he refuses to help through the medium of his purse in disseminating this erroneous belief. The position is perfectly intelligible. But it is one which either commits its adherents to civil nonconformity also, or leaves them in a dilemma. For why do they refuse to be instrumental in spreading error? Because error is adverse to human happiness. And on what ground is any piece of secular legislation disapproved? For the same reason—because thought adverse to human happiness. How then can it be shown that the state ought to be resisted in the one case and not in the other? Will any one deliberately assert that if a government demands money from us to aid in teaching what we think will produce evil, we ought to refuse it; but that if the money is for the purpose of doing what we think will produce evil, we ought not to refuse it? Yet, such is the hopeful proposition which those have to maintain who recognise the right to ignore the state in religious matters, but deny it in civil matters.
The substance of this chapter once more reminds us of the incongruity between a perfect law and an imperfect state. The practicability of the principle here laid down varies directly as social morality. In a thoroughly vicious community its admission would be productive of anarchy. In a completely virtuous one its admission will be both innoeuous and inevitable. Progress towards a condition of social health—a condition, that is, in which the remedial measures of legislation will no longer be needed, is progress towards a condition in which those remedial measures will be cast aside, and the authority prescribing them disregarded. The two changes are of necessity co-ordinate. That moral sense whose supremacy will make society harmonious and government unnecessary, is the same moral sense which will then make each man assert his freedom even to the extent of ignoring the state—is the same moral sense which, by deterring the majority from coercing the minority, will eventually render government impossible. And as what are merely different manifestations of the same sentiment must bear a constant ratio to each other, the tendency to repudiate governments will increase only at the same rate that governments become needless.
Let not any be alarmed, therefore, at the promulgation of the foregoing doctrine. There are many changes yet to be passed through before it can begin to exercise much influence. Probably a long time will elapse before the right to ignore the state will be generally admitted, even in theory. It will be still longer before it receives legislative recognition. And even then there will be plenty of checks upon the premature exercise of it. A sharp experience will sufficiently instruct those who may too soon abandon legal protection. Whilst, in the majority of men, there is such a love of tried arrangements, and so great a dread of experiments, that they will probably not act upon this right until long after it is safe to do so.