Category Archives: Political

Libertarian-leaning political articles

Bill Gates, the Government, and Neo-Luddism

Last Thursday, Business Insider published an article about Bill Gates’s statement of the coming revolutionary economic and social changes we will face in the next 20 years: ‘Bots are taking away jobs!’ Mechanic laborers, Gates posits, will be the cause of drastic adjustments in many different industry in regards to labor demand that will put many out of work. This philosophy is known as Neo-Luddism– the opposition to modern technology. Among the various reasons for this technophobic outlook are the industrial effects machines can have on employment. The influence of these workers and their unions’ fear of advancement in production can be seen in the many labor laws and make-work practices made into law.  I never would’ve thought, however, that I would hear such aversion to technological improvement from the former CEO of Microsoft. But I would like to argue that all these are positive developments. I concede there will be some pains involved for certain workers in certain industries, which I will address later, and that jobs will initially be lost by some, but it will be worth it in the end. After all, where else have we heard the ‘stealing our jobs’ argument before: illegal immigrants. As I pointed out in this post,  however, accepting more workers into our nation will help expand and improve our economy. In a very non-racist way, the robots are just like the Mexicans in this case because they free up workers who can then be allocated to industries in which they are more efficient, the machines are more productive, and it will ultimately benefit both the producer and consumer.

The belief that machinery causes net unemployment and economic problems has been proven wrong time and time again. It all started back in one of my favorite eras of history: the Industrial Revolution, when the newly created labor-saving machinery of the time threatened the jobs of the textile workers, or so it seemed at the time. Sir Richard Arkwright had just created the spinning frame, which dramatically reduced the work needed to produce threads for yarn. The conventional spinning wheel needed one skilled operator to spin one thread. Arkwright’s new spinning frame, known as the water frame because it was water-powered, was so ingeniously invented in such a way that it took one unskilled operator to produce 128 threads at a time. Being right at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, this had never happened before on such a large scale, and was bound to have a great effect on the economy. This efficiency,  the workers believed, would cause massive unemployment. 128 people out of work for every one person kept– that’s more than 99% unemployment. To protest this horrifying turn of events, stocking frames and other new equipment were smashed (see the picture above), factories destroyed, and Arkwright received many a death threat. Fortunately for the working class, however, technology and its effect on unemployment did not and does not work the way they thought, for instead of the expected result, employment actually increased 4,400% from 7,900 to 320,000 people! And the standard of living increased, too. Why is this?

In his introduction to economics and most famous book Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt explains, in a chapter titled, “The Curse of Machinery”. Because of the scarcity of goods, people try to economize their resources to produce more efficiently and cost-effectively. They try to answer the question “How can I produce more for the same amount of labor?” To illustrate the effect of how a capitalist addresses this question, I shall artisan like the ones in the cotton-spinning industry mentioned above. A capitalist has, let’s say, 128 workers. Through his friend and business partner Sir Arkwright, he purchases a water frame, and drops all but one worker in his work force. Because of the new invention, both the 127 workers’ jobs and the capitalist’s investment in the old method of production and therefore the jobs of those workers are lost. This definitely look like unemployment in the short run, and it makes sense that the workers were scared of these new developments. Many of them had a hard time recovering financially. But to look at just the unemployment as permanent and a net loss is to be mistaken. Firstly, the very creation of the technology creates employment, or as George W. Bush so poetically put it, “When somebody makes a machine, it means there’s jobs at the machine-making place.”  And often, labor-saving machinery requires a person to operate it. Since exchanges are only made if one values what they’re purchasing more than what they’re giving up, it would mean that the water frame’s work was worth more than the work of the people laid off. Once the profit from the thread produced by the  water frame makes up its cost, that translates into profits. With the invention being more efficient than the workers’ labor, the capitalist gains more profits than he would before. Profits, with which he can do any or all of three things: use it to buy more machines to make more thread, invest, or consume, all of which increases employment in more industries. And the extra production and competition caused lead to lower prices, which passes the benefit unto the consumer. Because the consumers now have extra money they left over that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, they do the same three things the capitalist did, they invest in production, or they consume and invest in other aspects of the economy. This cycle continues, maximizing the production and profits of all involved and vitalizing the economy. Such innovation either increases production which increases wages, or lowers prices, increasing what one can buy with one’s wages. With all the government regulations and restrictions concerning labor and unions today, however, this becomes more difficult. Many relics of Franklin Roosevelt that damaged the economy and  infringed on the right of employers and employees to make voluntary contracts are still present today. Despite this, technological innovation will raise the standards of living for all of society.

So Mr. Gates, there’s no need to fear robotic labor. For when you follow that view to its conclusion, any piece of technology invented reduced employment, and caused economic stagnation. But this is not the case. When agriculture was pioneered and perfected, it freed up our ancestors from all needing to hunt and gather. It lead to and outburst in art, science, productivity, recreation, and higher quality of life. It lead to civilization. Imagine what the world will be like when labor is automated! Karl Marx’s vision where one can “do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, and rear cattle in the evening” can be realized, not through communism, but through the most capitalist process there is: production for a profit.

 

UPDATE: I’d like to refer you to this article about protectionist policies at work. It concerns the legislation passed to limit the sales of Tesla Cars. It really makes it evident that it’s special interests, not just economic ignorance, that is the cause. Hopefully, it will end on a happier note, however. Over 70 economists and law professors have signed a letter opposing the anti-Tesla direct automobile distribution ban.

Leave a comment

Filed under Political

The Fall of Mt. Gox and Why to Buy Bitcoin

 It may seem odd, but at a time when every major news source was reporting the end of Bitcoin, I bought my first Bitcoin today using the Coinbase exchange. While I am new to Bitcoin itself, I have been following its community, primarily via /r/Bitcoin, and from the looks of it, this “crash” pales in comparison to previous ones. How I see it is that Mt. Gox needed to die, and now that’s it’s behind us the Bitcoin community can grow even bigger and better. I’ve never trusted that exchange very much, what with all the trading incidents and stories of being unable to withdraw one’s own money. Despite the recent events that stirred commotion in the world of cryptocurrency, I think that this is one of the best times to get started.

First off, assuming the BTC economy will strengthen, one can buy low right now. At the time this post was written, 1 BTC goes for $540.55 to $560 depending one which exchange. As we’ve witnessed in the past, Bitcoin is fully capable of surpassing $1,000. Secondly, and I’m I disappointed with the media for causing confusion about this, the problem lay in the Mt. Gox exchange specifically, and not the currency itself. Just as one may get scammed when using U.S. Dollars or the Euro or any currency, but you cannot get scammed by the currency itself, this was the case with Bitcoin. And with the paranoia of a “Bitcoin Scam,” came attention from the government, one of the very institutions whose lack of presence in this currency as made it so popular.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has actually called for a complete ban on Bitcoin, just like China and Thailand (because of course that’s where we should get our policy from), writing that it is “disruptive to our economy. If one wants to read his complete letter, Business Insider did an article on it. I’d like to use this post to respond.

Here starts out with:

I write today to express my concerns about Bitcoin. This virtual currency is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly unstable and disruptive to our economy.

Allowed user’s to participate in illicit activity? What does he think people usually buy illegal drugs with and is still used in such transactions today? The dollar! Why don’t we ban that too‽ Any currency can be used to buy anything so long as that vendor is willing to accept it in payment. A currency is a commodity just like any other. And as far as it being “disruptive”, it’s pretty clear just by looking at the Coin’s value that there’s pretty high demand for it, and that any government intervention would be many times more disruptive.

Bitcoin is a crypto-currency that has gained notoriety in recent months due to its rising exchange value and relation to illegal transactions . . . [which has made] Bitcoin attractive to some also attract criminals who are able to disguise their actions from law enforcement. Due to Bitcoin’s anonymity, the virtual market has been extremely susceptible to hackers and scam artists stealing millions from Bitcoins users.”

Once again, this brings us back to the argument for banning the dollar. And it’s plain to see that if people continue to trade BTC despite the “dangers” that it does not pose a sufficient threat enough to discourage its use.

It has been banned in two different countries—Thailand and China [and the European Union has] issued warnings to Bitcoin users as their respective governments consider options for regulating or banning its use entirely. I am most concerned that as Bitcoin is inevitably banned in other countries, Americans will be left holding the bag on a valueless currency.

Why can’t Manchin understand that that is the market’s issue to deal with? And Bitcoin’s ban is nowhere near inevitable. The Swiss Government has proposed treating it like any other foreign currency.

As of December 2013, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) shows 1.3% inflation, while a recent media report indicated Bitcoin CPI has 98% deflation. In other words, spending Bitcoin now will cost you many orders of wealth in the future. This flaw makes Bitcoin’s value to the U.S. economy suspect, if not outright detrimental.

Senator Manchin is correct in asserting that deflation discourages consuming in the present. But what it does do is encourage investment. The alternative to using Bitcoin is using the inflationary dollar. Just as deflation discourages present, consumer spending, inflation encourages it. But when that inflation is caused by a government or bank creating money or credit out of thin air and loaning it, it causes investment in places where there naturally would be no demand, and when the investment percolates down to the consumer, in the form of higher wages and incomes, the malinvestment is exposed and must be liquidated, these liquidations being known as depressions, which need only be fleeting as long as government does not try to keep wages, incomes, prices, and spending at pre-depression levels which, unfortunately, is usually the government’s way of “tackling” depressions. Inflations and deflations in the value of money are sustainable given the right demand, if it is in a free market setting, but this is not the case with the dollar

He  goes on to say that is dangerous and we should stop it before it “hurts hard-working Americans.” I don’t know about that; it didn’t seem to hurt people such as Jered Kenna, Charlie Shrem, or Roger Ver. The letter was addressed to various government officials and financial regulators, one of them being the Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Mrs. Janet Yellen. I have to admit that so far I have not been a very big fan of Yellen so far, due to her view on inflation. Nonetheless, I was glad to here yesterday that she responded to Senator Manchin that the Federal Reserve does not have the authority to regulate Bitcoin: “Bitcoin is a payment innovation that’s taking place outside the banking industry. To the best of my knowledge there’s no intersection at all, in any way, between Bitcoin and banks that the Federal Reserve has the ability to supervise and regulate. So the fed doesn’t have authority to supervise or regulate Bitcoin in anyway. One concern with Bitcoin is the potential for money laundering. [FinCen] has indicated their money laundering statutes are adequate to meet enforcement needs. The Fed doesn’t have authority with respect to Bitcoin, but certainly it would be appropriate for Congress to ask questions about what the right legal structure would be for digital currencies. My understanding is Bitcoin doesn’t touch [American] banks.” She finishes that even if they were to try, it would be difficult to regulate, saying, “It’s not so easy to regulate Bitcoin because there’s no central issuer or network operator. This is a decentralized, global [entity].”

So despite what they tell you, this is the best time to start using bitcoins. You can buy low, transaction fees are extremely low, it’s anonymous, allowing you to buy black market goods (and I’d like to point out here that the black market is not inherently evil. There’s the white market, which is the mainstream economy, the black market, which is the underground economy, and the red market, which is the violence-and-theft economy. There are overlaps between them in some cases, but anything black or white, and not red, is completely morally justified in my opinion. Sorry, this was a long parenthetical phrase; and I don’t think your supposed to have multiple sentences inside these), it’s peer-to-peer, so there’s no middleman, and it’s completely decentralized, so there is no central banks controlling it, so no government can control the currency. No more artificial booms followed by very real busts; booms and busts will still exist, only the market will solve its own problems. Let’s get Bitcoin back on track so it can go to the moon!

1 Comment

Filed under Political

The Road to Serfdom

After having read The Hobbit, I decided to pick up a text from a completely different genre: The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek. This book was published in 1944 just as the catastrophe of World War II was winding down, and the threat of totalitarianism seemed to be defeated. “Something like that,” people would think when Germany or Italy were called to mind, “would never happen here.” Much to Europe’s chagrin, this was not the case; with Hayek calling attention to the concern that we too, in the England, the United States, and the rest of the free world, are in danger of becoming exactly the horror we just fought. Being written immediately after we defeated the Axis Powers with the help of the Soviets, The Road to Serfdom was published at a time when many turned to communist and socialist ideas. As Hayek demonstrates in his book, however, totalitarianism was not a reaction to the socialism and economic planning of our Soviet friends, but rather, it was a result of following these ideologies to their conclusions.

Photo Credits to Wikimedia

After beginning with observation on the then-current socialism-ization of political philosophy in society, Hayek goes onto to prove the liberal case for government amidst an ever-growing base of supporters of economic planning. The book describes how socialism, although seen as nothing more than a philosophy of equality and the common good, in order to achieve the common good, requires a systematic method applied by a government. In socialism, in order to reach this goal, all property in society must be unified, and the people must become a collective that will work towards this objective. In liberalism, on the other hand, there is no such common goal, as people are more individualist. Since different needs rank above or below others to different people in each’s definition of the common good, the problem with socialism is that since no universal ethical code exists, one must be forced on the people, and their needs will be ranked by the ethical code of  the government, even if said code is immoral. In liberal societies, where there is Rule of Law, i.e. restrictions on government, government is confined to only certain types of regulation, and within the laws that government can pass, the people may do as the please. The difference in planned societies is that, as their is no such Rule of Law (and can’t be one if full planning is to be allowed), the government may enforce arbitrary laws, and become a moral institution in the way I mentioned above. Because of this, planned societies are inherently dictatorial, and a man’s money is controlled by the government. And “where the sole employer is the state,”  objects Trotsky to Stalinist measures, “the old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.”

After giving an exhaustive argument for the dangers of a planned societies, Hayek traces the fascist Nazi movement to it’s socialist roots, explains why the worst become the leaders, and lays out his view for what must be done. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in political philosophy, libertarianism, or socialism. Because if there’s one thing I think most of us can agree with Hayek: “A policy of freedom for the individual,” he finishes, “is the only truly progressive policy.”

__________

My reading list

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Political

A Case For Open Borders

Photo Credits to Wikimedia

I was reading a Forbes article last year, and one line really struck me: “More people have died trying to cross over from Mexico in the past decade than were killed on Sept. 11.” As someone who has known both a victim of 9/11 and a few illegal immigrants, this really made me rethink my view on immigration. I realized that my view on how to handle the border with Mexico was inconsistent with my belief in the free market and the non-aggression principle. I viewed the flow of illegals (which is what I called them at that time; now I believe that  ‘undocumented’ is a better word) into this country as something to be stopped or prevented. I would now like to make a libertarian case for open borders. The United States, or any other country for that matter, should not restrict immigration because opening borders would be beneficial to the economy, and be consistent with the American ideals of liberty and freedom.

Immigrants should be let in because it would be a profitable, free-market solution for both us and the immigrants. Some conservatives would be among the first to object to protectionism in trade. Blocking goods from other nations or imposing tariffs, they will say, interferes with the free market in two negative ways. First, a tariff of $500 on a foreign good just taxes the consumer that $500, as Henry Hazlitt explains splendidly in Economics in One Lesson (skip to Chapter 11 or watch this video). It shifts the cost from the producer, who through government has put in place laws protecting their special interests, to the consumer. Second, it interferes with price signals. One major benefit of capitalism that even socialists will admit is that competition drives down cost and up quality. To outcompete one’s competitors, the obvious solution is to make better quality goods, or to lower the price. Protectionism makes both options, especially the second option, the one to lower the prices, more difficult, and this both makes it costlier for the consumer, and does not give incentive for the American companies to innovate. Protectionism is nothing other than a limiting to whom you can trade with, and the whole point of capitalism is that you trade with whoever has the lowest prices and best products. I wrote more about the detriments of protectionism in this earlier post. So if the free flow of goods and services across borders is viewed by conservatives as favorable, why then do they disagree with the logically following conclusion that the free flow of providers of services across borders is also beneficial?

The fact is that immigration and open borders are economically desirable. The common conservative response is that “they’re stealing the jobs of hard-working Americans.” But the one who should decide who gets the job is the employer, so that job was not stolen by the immigrant, rather,  the foreigner offered better prices or better quality work than the American would. As economist Bryan Caplan notes, “immigration restrictions are akin to forcibly preventing a potential competitor from appearing at a job interview in order to increase one’s chances of getting a job.” To this, our conservative may say something along the lines of, “Well, they are working for lower wages than Americans would work for.” What this overlooks is that a) this will incentivize Americans to work more productively, to innovate more and raise capital accumulation, as to raise their wages, and b) that even if the employer does hire the immigrant for lower wages, the money that the employer saves is reinvested in different sections of the economy. One only needs to apply the broken window fallacy’s premise from Frédéric Bastiat’s famous essay, “What is Seen, and What is Unseen” to this situation to see how breaking the window that is immigrant labor negatively affects the American economy. I’m sure most of you reading this are libertarian, and are familiar with this logical fallacy, but for those who are not I will provide the parable here, paraphrased, of course:

A baker is in his bakery when a rock comes flying through is window. Everyone gathers around. At first they feel bad for him, but then they think, “Well, if this never happened, what would become of the glazier. Destruction is a blessing. The baker will pay $250 to the glazier, who will then buy from the the tailor, for example, and then the tailor from the shoemaker, and so on, and it will help the whole economy.” They, however, fail to see that if you follow this premise to its logical conclusion, it would be profitable to destroy everything one could get one’s hands on. They fail to see that had the window not been destroyed, the baker would have used that $250 dollars for something else. He would have bought from the tailor, who then would have bought from the shoemaker, and so on, helping the whole economy. What they fail to see is that with the window broken, the economy is now one window’s worth worse off. Hence the title, “What is Seen, and What is Unseen.” The people believe destruction is a blessing because they can see the benefits of that, but cannot see the disadvantages, nor can they see the even greater benefits of the absence of the destruction.

If one applies this to the effect of  the restriction of immigrants on the economy, one will come to the same result:

Smith hires Julio, who produces $50 an hour. But along comes Senator ‘Murica McFreedom!!1!11!! who passes a law which deports Julio, since he did not wait the 131 years that some Mexicans must wait for citizenship before crossing the border for a job. Smith must now hire John, who only produces $30 an hour (if John had been more productive than Julio, he would have been hired before the law went into effect). An American might say that this is good. An American has a job and will produce $30 an hour, which will be used to buy from the American tailor, who will buy from the American shoemaker. What these Americans, just like the ones who gathered around the bakery, fail to understand is that the same effect would have manifested, but to a greater extent, with Julio being employed. They fail to see that America is now $20 an hour worse off. And this is not just me making some guess as to what might happen with open borders; this has already happened. The recent arrival of many new “foreign workers between 1990 and 2004 has raised native-born Americans’ wages by 2%” according to research by Gianmarco Ottaviano of Bologna University and  Giovanni Peri of University of California, Davis. And Texas, whose economy during this recession is doing better perhaps than any other state, also enjoys the second highest undocumented immigrant population of any state. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that freeing up the economy by opening borders would be a fantastic choice. It would double, that’s right, double, the world GDP. And for those that still don’t want immigrants, then open borders advocates have some (counterintuitively) good news. It betters both the receiving and the sending countries. Remember that the Mexican Government, too, wants tax money. In a kind of international, somewhat-capitalistic way, the loss of workers would incentivize the Mexican government to better their country, as to keep people at home and draw back the Mexican-Americans. I think I’ve illustrated pretty well how open immigration would be favorable. But that’s just gravy. The real reason to free us from the rule of these arbitrary lines on a map is the moral reason.

The American Dream: the long-held traditional ethos that through hard work, no matter the color of skin, nationality, sex, creed, etc., one can become prosperous and live a happy, peaceful life. Why then, do we deny this dream to our friends to the south? They may be born in Mexico, but to risk one’s life to earn an honest day’s work in a foreign land, in my opinion, makes one an honorary ‘Murican. People should be free to immigrate/emigrate between not just the U.S. and Mexico, but every nation, because no one, whether a politician or just your average criminal, has any right to restrict or infringe upon one’s life, liberty, property, or pursuit of happiness.

To prove this I must first digress to the subject of property (in a moral sense, not a legal one). In principle, there are only two ways to acquire property. The first is purchasing previously owned property in voluntary exchange. The second is to homestead, improve, or develop upon unowned property. Although the papers all say that the Federal Government of the U.S. owns thousands upon thousands of acres of forests and fields, it does not, in a moral or philosophical sense, own anything at all. “The government spends millions on improving the nation and providing helpful services,” one might retort. But those millions (or billions or trillions) of dollars are property too. Did the government acquire them through voluntary exchange? I don’t think so.

So getting back to the original topic, the government has no right to restrict movement between countries because a government does not own the land it occupies, and must initiate force in order to keep one in or outside of its borders. All a border is, anarcho-capitalist philosopher Stefan Molyneux declares, is “where one violent, homicidal, psychopathic warlord ran up against another violent, homicidal, psychopathic warlord.” While this is taken to an extreme in a way (not that that’s a bad thing) it shows that the lines on a map are completely arbitrary. The fundamental cornerstone of philosophy of liberty is the non-aggression principle: the axiom that it is immoral to initiate an act of force or fraud against someone else. Nothing about crossing an imaginary line to work for a more prosperous life pursuing your dream violates this at all. To put this kind of thing in the same category as theft, rape, and murder is appalling. On the contrary, the act of shooting those who cross these lines is in direct conflict with the NAP. The fact that people support these kinds of measures show how detached people are from the results of government actions. Your average American would never kill someone based on the knowledge that this person is not authorized to be here, and yet somehow it makes it okay that we elect government officials to do these heinous crimes for us. Before I sign off I want to offer one (admittedly cliché hypothetical). Imagine you live in the southern part of Texas. Due to some serious governmental screw-ups in the State Department, Mexico now hates us and begins an invasion. You were born and raised in America, and yet now the lines shifted somewhat north and suddenly your cut off. To not be able to go to the newly-defined America and trade and work in their economy, you would object, would be unfair. How then, is this any different if the borders are pre-defined?

In conclusion, of all the things government should not have power over, immigration is one of them. The reason the basic human right of movement between different different places must not be restricted is that it would interfere with both the economic perks and with liberty, among other basic American values. And if I have not convinced all of you conservatives and small-government types (I’m looking at you, Friedmanites and Tea Partiers!) and you want more evidence that it’s beneficial: Paul Krugman is against it! No one should be able to tell you where you can and cannot go. And if you really believe illegal immigration is wrong, then go back to Europe, because we weren’t always here.

5 Comments

Filed under Political

Non-Interventionism ≠ Isolationism

This article was originally published on The Libertarian. If I may direct you back to my first post, where I explained why I started this blog in the first place, I wrote this:
Some months ago, while I was browsing reddit (which I do too much of– I must stop) I wrote a libertarian-leaning comment on a political thread. Another user, a writer for a libertarian blog, asked if I wanted to contribute weekly articles. I accepted and I got to work. Unfortunately however, I only lasted two articles until I got too busy, and starting procrastinating even while I was busy, and it was a hectic time as there was much testing going in school, so I stopped writing. While home from school over the weekend, I got bored and figured I wanted to do that writing thing again, so here it is.
This article was one of those two. 
 

Image Credits to fineartamerica.com

Many critics of the libertarian movement criticize our foreign policy as being “isolationist.” They say we believe in cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, they suggest we need hyper-interventionist policies, for we need to embrace our role as the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, as if the only way to demonstrate this is to invade foreign countries. But the myth that libertarianism is isolationist is as far as can be from the truth. A better word to describe our beliefs on how to deal with the rest of the globe would be “non-interventionist.” America should adopt a policy of non-interventionism, because it would eliminate negative reactions to our intervention from various nations without costing us a dime.

True isolationism violates the core beliefs of libertarianism because, among other things, it bars free trade. Isolationist doctrine consists of two policies. On one hand, it includes non-interventionism, the belief that governments should avoid alliances with other nations, as well as avoiding all wars, except in self-defense. This healthy policy, introduced into American politics by Thomas Paine, in his essay Common Sense,, prevents us from getting caught up with the complicated affairs of other countries. On the other hand, however, isolationism includes protectionism, the belief that there should be legal barriers controlling trade and cultural exchange. Protectionists support tariffs, embargoes, sanctions, and many other kinds of government meddling in the exchange of goods and wealth between countries.

Protectionism violates the principles of economic and social freedom. It should be a basic right of any American citizen to freely trade, travel, and peacefully interact with any country in any way he or she pleases.

At a more practical level, the problem with protectionism is that it just doesn’t protect. Take, for example, tariffs on imported goods. Say the government imposes a tariff on foreign automobiles, shielding American carmakers from foreign competition. If an American car is $30,000, and an otherwise comparable foreign car is $25,000, a tariff of $5,000 might be placed on foreign cars to even out prices. It could be argued that the government is protecting the American automobile industry by giving consumers an incentive to buy American.

However, America is not actually being benefited, nor is our economy being protected. The only thing this does is tax every U.S. citizen who wants to buy a foreign car an extra $5,000. The hypothetical foreign car is produced more efficiently; it is of equal quality yet produced more cheaply. Producers should, and otherwise would, be rewarded by the market for such achievements. Consumers would be able to recognize such an accomplishment simply by noticing the lower cost for essentially the same product. The more efficient producer would then attract more customers.

Such “price signals,” as they are known, create a vital incentive to improve efficiency, but the tariff would remove the appropriate price signal to consumers. By interfering with competition in this way, the government insures that American consumers will pay higher prices than necessary. Foreign companies will also receive less benefit from improving the efficiency of their production, and thus have less incentive to invest in such improvements. Domestic producers, then, will not need to compete with foreign producers on an equal footing. Without this competitive pressure, they too will be less likely to improve efficiency. The end result of any nation sheltering its industries from the competition of any other nation is less efficient industry and higher prices for the consumer.

Libertarian foreign policy is that of the Founding Fathers. In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson called for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” These early Americans’ support for such a method of interaction with other countries is often dismissed as irrelevant with the excuse, “They lived in much simpler times.” It is easy to denigrate the wisdom of the past in this way, but it is not as easy to actually justify the policies that we operate under today.

As a Christian Libertarian, I like to point out the opinion that the medieval theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, arguably one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the Christian faith, had on foreign military intervention. As Ron Paul writes in The Revolution: A Manifesto, there were certain conditions that Aquinas believed were necessary for a just war. His theological predecessors during the Roman Empire, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, agreed with these views. The war in Iraq, Paul writes, did not fulfill those criteria. First, there was no act of aggression on the part of Iraq. “We are 6,000 miles away from Iraq,” Paul writes, so they hardly posed a credible threat. The stories we were told about unmanned drones were, to say the least, not especially plausible. Secondly, diplomatic solutions had not been exhausted. “They had hardly been tried,” Paul goes on to write.

It should come as no surprise to Americans that negative consequences could arise as a result of disregarding these restrictions. Various other US interventions have produced terrible “blowback,” the CIA term for unintended negative consequences for the US caused by their covert interference in other countries. U.S. lawmakers should reconsider their actions and the reactions that result if they seriously wish to protect our nation.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Political

The Bible & Liberty

Before I get into the actual bulk of the post, I would like to retroactively wish you all a Merry Christmas. I hope you all had a good holiday and will have a Happy New Year. I know I had a good Christmas. I got what was perhaps the greatest gift in my life– a sitar! If I may direct you to this post, a sitar was number two on my list. I also got a few Pink Floyd and Muse records and various books. I still have no idea how to even begin playing the sitar, nor do I know anyone in my area who actually teaches it. Although I guess everything’s on the internet. But enough of this, I digress.

This is the sitar I got for Christmas!

This is the sitar I got for Christmas!

Now let’s get back to the post. One of my uncle’s much-appreciated gifts to me was an anthology of various liberty-oriented writings “from Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman”, called The Libertarian Reader. It contains somewhere around 70 short books, articles, essays, etc. I figured every week I would read one and respond to it or delve more into its topic.

Some of you well-versed libertarians might be guessing from the title of this post that the first entry is 1 Samuel 8 from the Holy Bible. Regardless of whether or not you’re Christian, atheist, or voodoo, it is a very relevant piece even today. To those of you who don’t have the Book lying around, it reads,

Israel Requests a King

1 As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. 2 Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 Finally all the elders in Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 5 “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.

6 Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9 Do what they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

Samuel Warns against a Kingdom

10 So Samuel passed the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take away a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your young men and women and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When this day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

21 So Samuel had repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.

The Bible, which until historically recently was used somewhere in most debates on government, political philosophy, and morality, explicitly told people, that unlike the Egyptian belief that the pharaoh is descended from the sun god Ra, there is nothing divine about the state. Undoubtedly, many European rulers conveniently forgot about this little passage, but this one chapter has been very important in the Judaeo-Christian tradition of the distrust of centralized power.

Although religion has in many cases been twisted by the ruling class, whether that be the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire or certain Republicans, Christianity is at its core more libertarian than any other major religion. To prove that I, being Christian, am not biased, I shall list my reasons below, with evidence from the text of the Bible. But before I start, I would just like to state that I do not believe that religion should not be involved in politics whatsoever, because much of the time the most Christian politicians are not very Christ-like at all.

I’d like to start with the Christian view on war and peace. Jesus was perhaps one of the most hard-core pacifists in history. In the famous Sermon on the Mount, he declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” [Matthew 5:9]. More anti-war passages are to be found in the gospel of Matthew: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword” [Mt 26:52] and “In everything do to others as you would have them do unto you” [Mt 7:12]; the latter know as the Golden Rule. The former is especially relevant today to the wars in the Middle East. Even 2013 years ago (or 2019, depending on what year Jesus was actually born– but this is irrelevant), Jesus and his disciples recognized the possibility of blowback in war. Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center, says that our problems in the Middle East are a direct result of our involvement there. I do not mean to criticize anyone’s views too harshly, but it is beyond stupid to believe that people will not want to exact revenge on a government that bombs there innocent people and props up dictators. Let us imagine, for a moment, that the U.S. is a small, impoverished country and Pakistan is a world power. We have someone here that Pakistan wants to kill, for whatever reason (this reason doesn’t matter in this case). Some Pakistani man in a bunker controls a PIA (Pakistani Intelligence Agency) drone and kills a number of Americans, many of them innocent. Now imagine you learn that one of those who died is your father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, son, spouse, or friend. Would not you want to take action against this evil government? This brings us to the Golden Rule. Just as Jesus says that we must do unto others as we would have them to unto us, the United States should not attack a foreign power if we would not have them do so unto us. Let he who is without sin cast the first drone!

Now what about the Christian view on big government? As evident from the 1 Samuel 8 passage above, Christians are to be distrustful of big government. Paul says in his letter to the Church in Ephesus, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.” [Ephesus 2:3] Notice how it starts with ‘All’? This shows that government is not immune from evil just by being government; that it is just made up of humans and any human may be sinful. If the whole Original Sin part of Christian theology is true, then that means that the government too is made up of sinners, and they will inevitably misuse their power. More on corrupt power can be found in the Parable of the Trees in the Book of Judges. This creative little story reads,

The Parable of the Trees

8 Once upon a time the trees decided to choose a king. First they said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king!’ 9 But the olive tree refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the olive oil that blesses both God and people, just to wave back and forth over the trees?’

10 Then they said to the fig tree, ‘You be our king!’ 11 But the fig tree also refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing my sweet fruit, just to wave back and forth over the trees?’

12 Then they said to the grapevine, ‘You be our king!’ 13 But the grapevine also refused, saying, ‘Should I quit producing the wine that cheers both God and people, just to wave back and forth over trees?’

14 Then all the trees finally turned to the thornbush and said, ‘Come, you be our king!’ 15 And the thorn bush replied, ‘If you truly want to make me your king, come and take shelter in my shade. If not, let fires come out from me and devour the cedars of Lebanon!’ [Judges 9:8-15]

I am sure that regardless of political orientation, people will agree that power can and will attract corrupt rulers.

But what about all the scripture that talks about sharing wealth? How do those fit into a libertarianism? Many socialists use the fact that in the Acts of the Apostles, it said that those in the Christian community shared what they had. These Christian socialist forget that A) the sharing was voluntary, and that B) In the Ten Commandments, it explicitly says, “Thou shalt not steal.” In fact, Acts is very libertarian. Peter and John were speaking to a large crowd of about 5,000 people, and because of this were arrested by the authorities and put in jail until morning. When told that they shall not speak of Jesus, they voiced their disobedience, saying, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather then him?” Civil disobedience is about as libertarian as you can get!

Finally, what about those socially conservative passages? While certain parts of scripture are against certain acts, Christians are forbidden to correct sinners by force. John Chrysostom, a Church father during the early days of Catholicism, said pretty clearly, “Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force. It is necessary not to make a man better by force but by persuasion.”

Christianity has obviously not had a perfect record in the liberty department, but what sets it apart from other faiths is that it more than any other respected the individual, and valued freedom.

1 Comment

Filed under Political

Why a libertarian society would be better than the current one (by issue):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

America has come far in securing liberties for every citizen. From fighting off the tyrannical British, to the abolition of slavery, to the civil rights movement, and more recently LGBT rights, the United States has always been a beacon of freedom in the world. Over time, however, the government grew and liberties eroded. Americans forgot what unfreedom meant, and in doing so, began to trust in the government. Only now they trust in it too much. Founding Father George Washington once said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” The keyword there is forceEver before Anarcho-Capitalists and other Voluntaryists, he and America’s other founders understood very well the value of non-aggression. The problem with America today is that we have not be careful with the fire that is government.

But as government grew, so did reaction to such big government grow. Throughout the 1900s, the libertarian movement gained popularity and flourished. Austrian economists such as Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek furthered the cause through their works, giving a case for a restrained government, and civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. fought the system on social issues. The movement really exploded in 1971, when the ones who would be the founders of the Libertarian Party realized, upon examining Nixon: the Republican Party is not the small-government party anymore; we need to fight for freedom in social, political, and economic issues.

Here I will give a case for why a libertarian society would be better than our current system, where we have strayed from the liberty that gave us the quality of life we have today. I will go issue by issue, starting with…

Property- Libertarians believe that one may use their property for their enjoyment in any way they wish, unless that infringes upon the rights of others to do the same thing.  And we’re not just talking about material property; we believe every person is their own property and is sovereign over themselves. And property includes money; we believe in a free market of voluntary exchange where one may use their money in any way they wish and use any commodity as money. This is in contrast to American society today, where property is riddled with restriction and regulation such as controls on wages, prices, profits, production, etc. and legal tender laws. On an everyday basis, Americans’ rights to private property and freedom of trade are being violated. If we were to restrain these violations, people would be able to live their lives as they want, not as some central ruler wants.

Self-defense- Since we believe everyone is their own property, we believe in whatever measures they take to protect themselves and their property so as long as they respect the rights of others. The non-aggression principle is opposed to the initiation of force, but if one person is initiating force by violating another’s life or liberty, we believe that the victim (or anyone working on behalf of the victim, say, a private police force) has the right to violate the boundaries of the aggressor only as much as it takes to have the aggressor stop violating the rights of the victim (any force used greater than that in retaliation is itself an initiation of force). This is opposed to America today, where there is a constant push from the left to regulate and restrict the ownership, manufacture, transfer, and sale of firearms. In all honesty, most of the left’s pressure to take action against guns is done with good intention. They feel that the danger of having a firearm outweighs the use of them as a tool of self-defense. This is however, a mistake; every day somewhere around 30 people are murdered by someone using a gun. When this is multiplied to a year, you get about 10,950 people dead a year. This is a tragedy, but it overlooks the fact that annually, anywhere from 65,000 to 2.5 million people use guns in self defense each year–  under Bill Clinton the Department of Justice put that number at 1.5 million. While the possible range of use varies greatly, even the lowest estimate is still almost six times higher than the murder rate, and 98% of the time the victim merely has to brandish the weapon. And we weren’t given the Second Amendment for personal self-defense only; it was also meant for us to fend off tyranny, whether that come from a foreign power of from our own government. If people were given the right to unhindered self-defense, the nation would be a much safer place.

National Defense- Libertarians believe that we should have strong military- powerful enough to defend the country if a foreign power were to initiate an act of aggression against the United States. That said, we believe that the U.S. should stay out of entanglements with alliances and we should stop policing the world. Before the U.S. went into Iraq, Al-Qaeda was not much of a presence there. Since we have invaded however, recruitment has exploded. In fact, one thing that rallied so many Middle Easterners to Al-Qaeda’s cause was the fatwa titled Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. This document attacked America for its constant military involvement in the region. These terrorist sects got so big over there in reaction to U.S. foreign policy. I am most certainly not blaming America for jihad. The guilty party is obviously the one that carried out such horrible attacks. No terrorist is justified doing what they do, although the U.S. can minimize blowback by scaling down involvement. A libertarian society would be a peaceful society.

Marriage- Libertarians believe that no one has the right to tell you who you can marry and to restrict one’s liberty based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation and preference. We believe that the government should not even take this account at all in their actions. We believe that homosexual and bisexual people should be treated no differently from heterosexual people than blue-eyed and brown-eyed people are. As long as both parties are consenting, they should be able to choose how to run their relationship. Most libertarians, in fact, believe that that the government should not be involved in marriage at all, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Nevertheless, we believe that as long as government is in the marriage business, no one should be treated differently based on these factors. In American society today, there are countless restrictions on personal relationships imposed by conservatives mostly (that said, the Democrats didn’t start supporting gay rights until somewhere around the year 2000. Let liberals not forget that it was Bill Clinton who signed into effect the DOMA). In a libertarian society, people would have the right to choose their partners themselves.

Healthcare- I’ll keep this one short, because I think the answer’s pretty obvious. Believing in the free-market, libertarians also believe in a free-market healthcare system. We believe that people should be able to decide how much health insurance they want and what kind of healthcare they want, if they even want any healthcare. In just 9 days, the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) will take full effect. I don’t think I even have to explain all the problems that will create. While Obamacare is supposed to increase the availability of health insurance to more than 10 million people, the American Enterprise Institute estimates 100 million people will lose their insurance whether they “liked their health insurance” or not. In a free society, people would have the ability to make their own healthcare decisions.

Privacy- Libertarians believe in the Fourth Amendment. We are against NSA-type massive surveillance. Anywhere that had or has this type of spying in place didn’t end up very free (see: Soviet Russia -or- STASI). While the National Security Agency was purported to have been created to prevent terrorist attacks, a White House panel member says has “stopped no terrorist attacks.” The same panel went on to say that the NSA is “not essential to preventing terrorist attacks.” So why does the Obama Administration maintain these programs? Edward Snowden, the ex-NSA contractor who leaked the information that started the controversy, says, “These programs were never about terrorism; they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.” No major advance in liberty could ever have been made unless they started in secrecy. In a libertarian society, people would have the right to do as they please without there leaders spying on them.

Crime- Libertarians believe crimes should be considered only to be actions that use force or fraud or actions that put others at significant risk. We believe that a “victimless crime” is not a crime at all, and that people should be able to decide their own actions and accept responsibility for said actions. We believe that the use of voluntary actions that only affect oneself, such as the use of drugs, should be up to the discretion of the individuals partaking in said actions. Unlike post-Nixon America, where police can raid your house, just like raiding that of a murderer, for you smoking some plant while you sit at home watching some TV and eating (a lot). If people were allowed to do anything as long as their actions didn’t violate the liberty of others, it would be a much freer society.

There’s a bunch more things that I didn’t cover nor do I feel like covering (I’m not a political writer– why do you think the article’s written so crappily!). I just wanted to lay down what I believe for anyone who has enough time on their hands to read some random person’s unknown blog. But basically this is why, contrary to what you may have learned from school, the media, etc. growing up, more freedom is better.

5 Comments

Filed under Political

Minimum Wage Increases: Too Good To Be True?

Image

Image Credits to Henry Payne

Recently, there has been much debate on whether or not to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to a new, higher $10 or $11 minimum wage, some workers even calling for $15. These meager salaries, they say, are just not enough to get along. Liberals and many conservatives alike have called for a “living wage”. President Obama and Senate Democrats began pushing for such hikes in workers’ salaries since February this year when they proposed $9, but revised their plan, boosting the wage up to $10.10. This they say, would bring “58 percent of the nation’s 10 million-plus working poor out of poverty.” This assumption, however, is flawed. It assumes that companies would employ at the same rate as they do now and not lay anyone off. Basically, it rest on the assumption that a government decree can suspend supply-and-demand and other basic economic phenomenon. The minimum wage does not work as intended because artificially overvaluing a commodity, whether it be milk or bread, or a worker’s labor, causes people to buy less of it.

Let’s say, for a moment, that I am not talking about a salary, but the price of a commodity. Let us say that I am a baker. I may sell my bread at $3 a loaf, because that’s how much it is worth. Now, let us say, a politician comes along, with completely good intentions, believing that bakers deserve more money for every loaf they sell. He raises the minimum price of a loaf of bread to $4 per loaf. While this may appear to both politician and public as a blessing from the government, what it does in reality is hurt both the consumer (in this case, the customers of the bakery) and the producer (me, the baker). Tim used to come around every Thursday to the bakery with $15 with which to buy bread. Before the new law, he could purchase 5 loaves, and I would be paid $15 dollars. Now he can only purchase 3 loaves, and only pay me $12.

You may be wondering, what the hell does this baker analogy have anything to do with the minimum wage? My answer to that is that it has everything to do with minimum wage, for wage is, in fact, a price. An employee’s wage is that price that he charges the employer for his work. Since wages are prices, the same principles affect both. Let us say now, that my bakery has been very successful and I’m going to hire $100 an hour’s worth of new employees. If I pay each $7.25 an hour, hire 13 new employees. Now the minimum wage is raised to $10, and I’ll only hire 10 new workers, or $15, and I’ll only hire 6.

What a minimum wage does is replace low wages with unemployment. Just like my loaves of bread, the job market cannot evade the law of supply-and-demand. The great thing about the free market is that even if someone is unskilled and is only able to produce a small amount of money, the market lets him do that. But you cannot make the worth of a man’s work greater by making it illegal for anyone to pay him less. What you are doing is making it illegal for that man to work. There are other ways to go about raising wages. One’s salaries are determined by how much wealth they create. Therefore, in order to raise the value of one’s work, they should increase how much wealth the create– increasing productivity. By innovating, inventing, and working more efficiently, one can increase how much they generate.

If someone is actually being paid less than how much their work is worth, they can simply not work for that employer. If the employer is paying to little, people will decide not to work for him, they will move into other industries or unionize against said employer. Having a central leader decree how much whoever anyone gets paid is the worst way of raising wages.

Photo Credits: Frontiers of Freedom

Leave a comment

Filed under Political