“In each age it is necessary to adapt to the popular mythology. At one time kings were anointed by Deity, so the problem was to see to it that Deity anointed the right candidate. In this age the myth is ‘the will of the people’ … but the problem changes only superficially.”—Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
The fundamental problem with health care costs in America is that the doctor-patient relationship has been profoundly altered by third party interference. Third parties, either government agencies themselves or nominally private insurance companies virtually forced upon us by government policies, have not only destroyed doctor-patient confidentiality, [t]hey also inescapably drive up costs because basic market disciplines — supply and demand, price sensitivity, and profit signals — are destroyed.
Obamacare, via its insurance mandate, is more of the same misdiagnosis.
Gabriel Vidal, chief operating officer of a U.S. hospital system, sees this problem squarely in his daily work. As he explains, Obamacare will only make matters worse because it fails to recognize that “costs are out of control because they do not reflect prices created by the voluntary exchange between patients and providers… like every well-functioning industry.”
Instead, “health costs reflect the distortions that government regulators have introduced through reimbursement mechanisms created by command-and-control bureaucracies at federal and state levels,” he continues. “But it is theoretically and practically impossible for a bureaucrat — no matter how accurate the cost data, how well-intentioned and how sophisticated his computer program — to come up with the correct and just price. The (doctor-patient) relationship… has been corrupted by the intrusion of government and its intermediaries (HMOs, for example) to such an extent that we can no longer speak of a relationship that can produce meaningful pricing information.”
Absent such pricing information, our system increasingly resembles socialist systems with centralized price setting, shortages, rationing, apathy, and declining quality of care. As the situation deteriorates, fewer bright young people want to practice medicine and fewer foreign doctors seek to immigrate. …
In a free market, most Americans would pay cash for basic services and maintain inexpensive high-deductible insurance for catastrophic injury or illnesses only. Health insurance would be decoupled from employment, which would unleash entrepreneurs who now fear quitting their jobs and losing their health insurance. Costs would plummet due to real competition among doctors, price sensitivity among patients, and elimination of enormous paperwork costs. Doctors would be happier, spending their time treating patients rather than managing their practices.
1 step closer to the inevitable economic collapse of the United States.
#1 According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal government has the power to force you to buy private goods and services. Now that this door has been opened, what else will we be forced to buy in the future?
#2 Obamacare is another step away from individual liberty and another step toward a “nanny state” where the government dominates our lives from the cradle to the grave.
#3 The IRS is now going to be given the task of hunting down and penalizing millions of Americans that do not have any health insurance. In fact, the Obama administration has given the IRS 500 million extra dollars “outside the normal appropriations process” to help them enforce the provisions of Obamacare that they are in charge of overseeing.
#4 Obamacare imposes more than 20 new taxes on the American people. You can find a comprehensive list of Obamacare taxes right here. If you love paying higher taxes, then you are going to absolutely love Obamacare once it is fully implemented.
#5 In an attempt to “control costs” and “promote efficiency”, Obamacare limits the treatment options that doctors and patients can consider. This is likely to result in a decrease in life expectancy in the United States.
#6 Obamacare is going to impose nightmarish paperwork burdens on doctors, hospitals and the rest of the healthcare system. This is going to significantly increase our healthcare costs as a nation.
#8 Many small businesses are going to be absolutely crushed by the provisions in Obamacare that require them to provide expensive health insurance coverage for their employees. This is going to make them even less competitive with companies in other countries where businesses are not required to provide healthcare for their workers. This is also going to make it even less attractive for businesses to hire new employees.
#10 Obamacare has already forced the cancellation of dozens of doctor-owned hospitals.
#11 Obamacare is going to result in a much bigger federal government. In order to fully implement all of the provisions of Obamacare, hordes of new government bureaucrats will be required.
#12 Thanks to Obamacare, you are going to have to wait much longer to see a doctor. Just look at what happened once Romneycare was implemented in Massachusetts….
In fact, we have already seen the start of this process in Massachusetts, where Mitt Romney’s health care reforms were nearly identical to President Obama’s. Romney’s reforms increased the demand for health care but did nothing to expand the supply of physicians. In fact, by cracking down on insurance premiums, Massachusetts pushed insurers to reduce their payments to providers, making it less worthwhile for doctors to expand their practices. As a result, the average wait to get an appointment with a doctor grew from 33 days to over 55 days.
#13 Obamacare contains all kinds of insidious little provisions that most people don’t even know about. The following is one example from the Alliance Defense Fund….
“Did you know that with ObamaCare you will have to pay for life-saving drugs, but life-ending drugs are free. One hundred percent free. If this plan were really about health care wouldn’t it be the other way around?”
#14 As if the U.S. government was not facing enough of a crisis with entitlement spending, it is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls. You and I will be paying for all of this.
#15 The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare will add more than a trillion dollars to government spending over the next decade. Considering the fact that the U.S. government is already drowning in debt, how in the world can we afford this?
What if the state picks an apple from an unowned apple tree and claims that the apple belongs to it? If you are allowed to do so, why can’t the state?
Why are you allowed to own property, but if the state does it, it’s coercive?
Oh, that wouldn’t be a problem at all.
The main problems with the state owning property are that it is often taken from the just owners against their will through eminent domain and paid for with funds seized from taxpayers. If you could overcome those hurdles (perhaps a group of concerned citizens bought a nature reserve and donated it to the state), then there would be no problem.
The other problem with the state and property comes in when it claims control over the property as if its claim supersedes that of the just owner, which is pretty much the definition of the state.
Actually, I disagree: that would be a problem.
This hypothetical treats the state as an individual. While a government may, in theory, not only have consent of all its “governed” not only to exist, but to use the wealth of said individuals in order to make unilateral purchases of property - such a scenario is unlikely (see my post, On The Illegitimacy of Democracy). And, in fact, a state (as opposed to simply a government with absolute consent) is by definition the coercive entity that presumes a monopoly on force in a set region and over a set populace.
So with the question as to whether “the state” may pick an apple on “unowned land” and claim it as its property, there is no answer - because how can a “state" pick an apple or any otheraction? Only an individual or groups of individuals may act. So for such an acquisition of property to be legitimate, the state - or rather the individual agents of the state performing the action - must have the full and proper consent of the individuals it purportedly represents to not only exist but to perform that action on their behalf and distribute ownership accordingly.
The only problem an-caps should have is with the legitimacy of the claim the USA has on the land. Outside of this, there should be no complaints about the actions the US government takes on its own land.
I’ve addressed the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of the state’s so-called “ownership” above. To add to that, note that not only must there be universal consent, but ownership is distributed among all parties. Even in a legitimate, fully consented “government,” every individual owns an actual, tangible portion of the government’s “property.” And, as such, not only may no individual be involuntarily divested of such ownership, but any individual should be able to sell or transfer ownership in a voluntary and mutually beneficial trade. It is the individuals who own things, not the state.
But to the second assertion: ownership over land does not bestow carte blanche authority for tyranny over the individuals who may be “guests,” “customers,” or “renters” on the land. Unless the “guests,” “customers,” and “renters” explicitly agree to whatever action the owner takes, either by contractual reciprocity or agreed-upon penalty for non-compliance, then such an action is illegitimate. If I invite guests over to my house for a dinner party, I do not gain the authority to harm them once they are on my property. The revocation of their self-ownership was not part of the agreement. I cannot unilaterally change the expectations of their visit and charge them an exit fee or take their clothing or hit them with bats or anything of the sort. Unless they have initiated aggression against me or someone else, they cannot be harmed.
“A managed democracy is a wonderful thing, Manuel, for the managers… and its greatest strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is defined as ‘responsible’ and the managers define what is ‘irresponsible’.”—Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Scarcity cannot be eliminated - and the reality of human action overturned - simply through the passage of legislation. No matter how well-intentioned, the negative unintended consequences of laws that disregard the way the world works tend to outweigh its intended benefits, often catastrophically so.
Until people accept this truth, the state will persist as the magical provider of all things despite being the greatest cause of poverty, injustice, corruption, suffering, and death the world has known.
“Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won’t be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them “for their own good” — not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.”—Manuel Garcia O’Kelly-Davis, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
There is no reason to believe that what anyone owns was “earned”.
There is no reason? I can agree that not all wealth was earned. Certainly countless plutocrats, bureaucrats, and corporations use the state’s monopoly on force to coerce wealth from people against their will (just as it would be incorrect to view the “profits” of an average criminal as earned). But absent such force, any exchange in which all parties involved consent to is eo ipso mutually beneficial - they each value what they receive more than what they offer, otherwise they would not consent. Property merely represents the exchange of one’s past. At some point, person A gave up X amount of time for Y purpose in exchange for Z property. So Z is merely what A exchanged for X. To deny a person’s claim to Z (property) is to deny a person’s claim to use one’s time as one sees fit. And, more consequentially, such a denial - by interfering with the free and mutually beneficial nature of legitimate exchanges - keeps people from cooperating and thus benefiting one another.
Mr. Callus and I are on the same page for once. Things can get a bit tricky when a toddler learns the word “mine.” Parents get to explain that while their acquisitive nature doubtlessly promises conventional success in a capitalist world, you can’t make something yours just by grabbing off the shelf in the store and saying, “Mine.” While you do in fact possess it, that does not give you a legal or a moral claim to ownership.
"I earned this" works in about the same way.
Indeed. You are unwittingly touching upon a key caveat that invalidates your conclusions. That toddler does not own something “just by grabbing [it] off the shelf in the store and saying, “Mine.”” There must be a consensual agreement in which willing participants engage in mutually beneficial exchange. That store wants money more than the item on its shelf, and the customer would want the item more than what she gives up otherwise the exchange would not take place. The store “earned” the money by interchanging with a willing partner, and the customer “earned” the shelf-item by doing the same.
Insisting that you “earned” all the money you possess, however fleetingly, does not give you a legal or a moral claim to it. If the money is taxable, you don’t have a legal claim to it.
My possessions are not “earned” simply because I insist that I earned them. I “earned” them because at no point did I commit violence, or threaten to commit violence, to acquire them - every exchange with every trading partner was voluntary. Only governments - and criminals - make the argument that insisting something belongs to them simply makes it theirs (sometimes giving themselves permission in writing, under the illegitimate claims of democratic will). But yet, your argument is that the government can and does have a higher claim to my wealth than I do despite using the fallacious argument you denounce. In fact, the state has no moral claim to the properties of peaceful traders, and its legal claims to anyone’s property - as an intervener (that is, “one who intervenes violently in free social or market relations”) - are dubious.
And if you’re making ten times more than a guy putitng (sic) the same kind of time and energy into his job, the moral case is pretty tough too.
A person’s well-being - life, liberty, property - is not damaged because someone else has more - even someone who makes “ten times more.” Valuations are subjective. Two laborers may both invest the same amount of “time and energy” into their work, but ultimately a consumer decides whose work is more productive, beneficial, artistic, delicious, etc. I can spend my life chipping away at marble, pouring my heart and soul into the work, but I’ll never be able to create anything remotely as beautiful as Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss.
We can and do question the idea of entitlement to wealth with redistributive policy. I am uncovinced (sic) that the dubious belief that someone earned their wealth is worth the real suffering caused by vast disparities in wealth.
“Before the development of economic science, people thought of exchange and the market as always benefiting one party at the expense of the other. This was the root of the mercantilist view of the market. Economics has shown that this is a fallacy, for on the [free] market both parties to any exchange benefit. On the market, therefore, there can be no such thing as exploitation. But the thesis of a conflict of interest is true whenever the State or any other agency intervenes on the market. For then the intervener gains only at the expense of subjects who lose in utility. On the market all is harmony. But as soon as intervention appears and is established, conflict is created, for each may participate in a scramble to be a net gainer rather than a net loser—to be part of the invading team, instead of one of the victims.”—Murray Rothbard, Power & Market
“In the political language of today, people who want to keep what they have earned are said to be “greedy,” while those who wish to take their earnings from them and give it to others (who will vote for them in return) show “compassion.”—Thomas Sowell - A Political Glossary
“Fractional reserve banking underpins the entire banking system, yet its effects on society are completely ignored. Our financial system consists of vast amounts of credit pyramided on top of very small amounts of real savings—all backstopped by explicit and implicit government guarantees. This poses significant risks to the stability of the economy and monetary system, which ought to give pause to any serious observer of financial markets. Hopefully this hearing will create a greater understanding among the American people about the nature of the banking system, and begin the movement towards serious systematic reform. The American people deserve a financial system that is stable and efficient; one that operates without taxpayer subsidies and bailouts.”—Ron Paul - Will Hold Congressional Hearing on Fractional-Reserve Banking on June 28
The Austrians emphasize that production takes time: The more indirect it is, the more “time” it takes. Production today is much more “roundabout” (Böhm-Bawerk’s term) than older, more rudimentary production processes. Rather than picking fruit in our backyard and eating it, most of us today get it from fruit farms that use complex picking, sorting, and packing machinery to process carefully engineered fruits. Consider the amount of “time” (for example in “people-hours”) involved in setting up and assembling all the pieces of this complex production process from scratch—from before the manufacture of the machines and so on. This gives us some idea of what is meant by production methods that are “roundabout.” …
Through countless self-interested individual production decisions, we have adopted more roundabout methods of production because they are more productive—they add more value—than less roundabout methods. Were this not the case, they would not be deemed worth the sacrifice and effort of the “time” involved—and would be abandoned in favor of more direct production methods. What are at work here are the benefits of specialization—the division of labor to which Adam Smith referred. Modern economies comprise complex, specialized processes in which the many steps necessary to produce any product are connected in a sequentially specific network—some things have to be done before others. There is a time structure to the capital structure.
This intricate time structure is partially organized, partially spontaneous (organic). Every production process is the result of some multiperiod plan. Entrepreneurs envision the possibility of providing (new, improved, cheaper) products to consumers whose expenditure on them will be more than sufficient to cover the cost of producing them. In pursuit of this vision the entrepreneur plans to assemble the necessary capital items in a synergistic combination. These capital combinations are structurally composed modules that are the ingredients of the industry-wide or economy-wide capital structure. The latter is the result then of the dynamic interaction of multiple entrepreneurial plans in the marketplace; it is what constitutes the market process. Some plans will prove more successful than others, some will have to be modified to some degree, some will fail. What emerges is a structure that is not planned by anyone in its totality but is the result of many individual actions in the pursuit of profit. It is an unplanned structure that has a logic, a coherence, to it. It was not designed, and could not have been designed, by any human mind or committee of minds. Thinking that it is possible to design such a structure or even to micromanage it with macroeconomic policy is a fatal conceit.
The division of labor reflected by the capital structure is based on a division of knowledge. Within and across firms specialized tasks are accomplished by those who know best how to accomplish them. Such localized, often unconscious, knowledge could not be communicated to or collected by centralized decision-makers. The market process is responsible not only for discovering who should do what and how, but also how to organize it so that those best able to make decisions are motivated to do so. In other words, incentives and knowledge considerations tend to get balanced spontaneously in a way that could not be planned on a grand scale. The boundaries of firms expand and contract, and new forms of organization evolve. This too is part of the capital structure broadly understood.
In addition, the heterogeneous capital goods that make up the cellular capital combinations also reflect the division of knowledge. Capital goods (like specialized machines) are employed because they “know” how to do certain important things; they embody the knowledge of their designers about how to perform the tasks for which they were designed. The entire production structure is thus based on an incredibly intricate extended division of knowledge, such knowledge being spread across its multiple physical and human capital components. Modern production management is more than ever knowledge management, whether involving human beings or machines—the key difference being that the latter can be owned and require no incentives to motivate their production, while the former depend on “relationships” but possess initiative and judgment in a way that machines do not. …
For Austrians the whole macroeconomic approach is problematic, involving, as it does, the use of gross aggregrates as targets for policy manipulation—aggregates like the economy’s “capital stock.” For Austrians there is no “capital stock.” Any attempt to aggregate the multitude of diverse capital items involved in production into a single number is bound to result in a meaningless outcome: a number devoid of significance. Similarly the total of investment spending does not reflect in any accurate way the addition to value that can be produced by this “capital stock.” The values of capital goods and of capital combinations, or of the businesses in which they are employed, are determined only as the market process unfolds over time. They are based on the expectations of the entrepreneurs who hire them, and these expectations are diverse and often inconsistent. Not all of them will prove correct—indeed most will be, at least to some degree, proven false. Basing macroeconomic policy on an aggregate of values for assembled capital items as recorded or estimated at one point in time would seem to be a fool’s errand. What do the policymakers know that the entrepreneurs involved in the micro aspects of production do not?
My east coast vacation continues. And with the downpour outside, it was a perfect opportunity to catch up on internet reading and share some worthy links - there’s something here for everybody.
With the bicentennial of the War of 1812 upon us, and “commemorations” already under way (I have to admit, there’s some pretty cool “Tall Ships” lined up at Penn’s Landing right now), it’s important to understand the truth about that wholly unnecessary war of imperialism (that led to the White House being torched).
Cops receive special treatment, even when they commit murder: Stanley Gibson, a disabled Gulf War veteran, was murdered in a Las Vegas parking lot last December 12. He was shot seven times in the back of the head, without provocation, by a stranger wielding an AR-15 rifle. The killer, 34-year-old Jesus Arevalo, remains at large and is easy to find: He’s an officer with the Las Vegas Metro Police. Gibson was unarmed. He was not a criminal suspect and posed no threat to anybody. His killing was a clear and unmistakable case of criminal homicide. Yet Arevalo has not been charged with a crime. He is on an extended vacation called “administrative leave,” during which he continues to collect his taxpayer-funded salary and benefits.
Cop stops motorcyclist without Cause, later arrests him for “obstructed license plate” (which, undoubtedly, is a lie). Helmet cam reveals abundance of assholiness on display, and moreover, the cop actually gives the real reason for the stop: “The reason you’re being pulled over is because I’m gonna take your camera and we’re gonna use it as evidence of the crimes that have been committed by other bikers.” So arrest biker in order to confiscate his video camera, then comb through footage of possible violations of others. Sweet.
Reason actually has a short piece on leftist delusions about Obama, with 4 Positions Obama Supporters Attribute to the President That He Doesn’t Actually Hold. (The four being 1. Barack Obama will end the war on drugs, eventually, 2. Obama’s support for gay marriage is groundbreaking, 3. Barack Obama’s immigration policies are compassionate and humane, and 4. Barack Obama’s foreign policy is not as destructive as George W. Bush’s was (or Mitt Romney’s would be).)
An interesting poll reveals that pretty much everyone in the Eurozone thinks Germany “works hardest” (except, naturally, the Greeks, who have demonstrated how far up their own asses they like to store their heads) and the “least corrupt.”
“Revolution is an art that I pursue rather than a goal I expect to achieve. Nor is this a source of dismay; a lost cause can be as spiritually satisfying as a victory.”—Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”—Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame … as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world … aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.”—Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
“Manuel, the life of a conspirator is not an easy one and I learned before you were born not to mix provender and politics. Disturbs the gastric enzymes and leads to ulcers, the occupational disease of the underground.”—Professor Bernardo de la Paz, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
“On the free market, it is a happy fact that the maximization of the wealth of one person or group redounds to the benefit of all; but in the political realm, the realm of the State, a maximization of income and wealth can only accrue parasitically to the State and its rulers at the expense of the rest of society.”—Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
War disrupts and distorts the free market, steals resources and workers from construction, and diverts them to destruction. War does not produce anything except death. It only destroys. Jobs supposedly created by war industries, including drafting men into the military, are not full employment; they are slavery.
The businesses that profit from war are not free-market entities but “merchants of death” who would not exist if there were no war. “They are economic parasites, who take society’s resources but do not produce anything for civilian use in return,” wroteJacob H. Huebert, author of Libertarianism Today. Again we see that war is waste.
War spending is a monstrous manifestation of the broken window fallacy. In the war politicians’ perverted view of economics, any war, no matter how many people are killed or how widespread the destruction, is an opportunity for them to increase their power and control by “jump-starting” the economy with projects to rebuild what they’ve destroyed. They deliberately ignore and discount the illogic and immorality of their actions. They have no concept that the money and resources squandered to kill people and to break things and then rebuild them could have been better used building new things and saving lives.
War breeds war. War does nothing but devour valuable resources and destroy precious lives for the sole purpose of perpetuating itself. On the other hand, peace breeds prosperity. In peace, valuable natural resources can be preserved and used at home where we need them most. When there’s peace, people prosper. There have been economic booms, scientific advancements, and cultural progress after every conflict America has fought.
War is waste. Peace is production. War means we all lose. Peace means we all profit and prosper. What does America need more of right now?
The case for markets is not about people making perfectly rational choices. Rather the question is comparative: Under what set of institutions will people learn from and have incentives to correct the mistakes they will inevitably make? The standard is not perfection; it’s learning. …
Humans will always be imperfect and less than totally rational, which is precisely why we cannot trust any of them to run the lives of others.
The story is, in a few brief mottos to stand for a rich intellectual tradition since the 1880s: Modern life is complicated, and so we need government to regulate. Government can do so well, and will not be regularly corrupted. Since markets fail very frequently the government should step in to fix them. Without a big government ee cannot do certain noble things (Hoover Dam, the Interstates, NASA). Antitrust works. Businesses will exploit workers if government regulation and union contracts do not intervene. Unions got us the 40-hour week. Poor people are better off chiefly because of big government and unions. The USA was never laissez faire. Internal improvements were a good idea, and governmental from the start. Profit is not a good guide. Consumers are usually misled. Advertising is bad. …
No. The master narrative of High Liberalism is mistaken factually. Externalities do not imply that a government can do better. Publicity does better than inspectors in restraining the alleged desire of businesspeople to poison their customers. Efficiency is not the chief merit of a market economy: innovation is. Rules arose in merchant courts and Quaker fixed prices long before governments started enforcing them.
I know such replies will be met with indignation. But think it possible you may be mistaken, and that merely because an historical or economic premise is embedded in front page stories in the New York Times does not make them sound as social science. It seems to me that a political philosophy based on fairy tales about what happened in history or what humans are like is going to be less than useless. It is going to be mischievous.
How do I know that my narrative is better than yours? The experiments of the 20th century told me so. It would have been hard to know the wisdom of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman or Matt Ridley or Deirdre McCloskey in August of 1914, before the experiments in large government were well begun. But anyone who after the 20th century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adventurism in foreign policy, faith in entangling religion and politics, or most of the other thoroughgoing 19th-century proposals for governmental action are still neat, harmless ideas for improving our lives is not paying attention.
In the 19th and 20th centuries ordinary Europeans were hurt, not helped, by their colonial empires. Economic growth in Russia was slowed, not accelerated, by Soviet central planning. American Progressive regulation and its European anticipations protected monopolies of transportation like railways and protected monopolies of retailing like High-Street shops and protected monopolies of professional services like medicine, not the consumers. “Protective” legislation in the United States and “family-wage” legislation in Europe subordinated women. State-armed psychiatrists in America jailed homosexuals, and in Russia jailed democrats. Some of the New Deal prevented rather than aided America’s recovery from the Great Depression.
Unions raised wages for plumbers and auto workers but reduced wages for the non-unionized. Minimum wages protected union jobs but made the poor unemployable. Building codes sometimes kept buildings from falling or burning down but always gave steady work to well-connected carpenters and electricians and made housing more expensive for the poor. Zoning and planning permission has protected rich landlords rather than helping the poor. Rent control makes the poor and the mentally ill unhousable, because no one will build inexpensive housing when it is forced by law to be expensive. The sane and the already-rich get the rent-controlled apartments and the fancy townhouses in once-poor neighborhoods.
Regulation of electricity hurt householders by raising electricity costs, as did the ban on nuclear power. The Securities Exchange Commission did not help small investors. Federal deposit insurance made banks careless with depositors’ money. The conservation movement in the Western U. S. enriched ranchers who used federal lands for grazing and enriched lumber companies who used federal lands for clear cutting. American and other attempts at prohibiting trade in recreational drugs resulted in higher drug consumption and the destruction of inner cities and the incarcerations of millions of young men. Governments have outlawed needle exchanges and condom advertising, and denied the existence of AIDS.
Germany’s economic Lebensraum was obtained in the end by the private arts of peace, not by the public arts of war. The lasting East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere was built by Japanese men in business suits, not in dive bombers. Europe recovered after its two 20th-century civil wars mainly through its own efforts of labor and investment, not mainly through government-to-government charity such as Herbert Hoover’s Commission or George Marshall’s Plan. Government-to-government foreign aid to the Third World has enriched tyrants, not helped the poor.
The importation of socialism into the Third World, even in the relatively non-violent form of Congress-Party Fabian-Gandhism, unintentionally stifled growth, enriched large industrialists, and kept the people poor. Malthusian theories hatched in the West were put into practice by India and especially China, resulting in millions of missing girls. The capitalist-sponsored Green Revolution of dwarf hybrids was opposed by green politicians the world around, but has made places like India self-sufficient in grains. State power in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa has been used to tax the majority of farmers in aid of the president’s cousins and a minority of urban bureaucrats. State power in many parts of Latin America has prevented land reform and sponsored disappearances. State ownership of oil in Nigeria and Mexico and Iraq was used to support the party in power, benefiting the people not at all. Arab men have been kept poor, not bettered, by using state power to deny education and driver’s licenses to Arab women. The seizure of governments by the clergy has corrupted religions and ruined economies. The seizure of governments by the military has corrupted armies and ruined economies.
Industrial policy, from Japan to France, has propped up failing industries such as agriculture and small-scale retailing, instead of choosing winners. Regulation of dismissal has led to high unemployment in Germany and Denmark, and especially in Spain and South Africa. In the 1960s the public-housing high-rises in the West inspired by Le Courbusier condemned the poor in Rome and Paris and Chicago to holding pens. In the 1970s, the full-scale socialism of the East ruined the environment. In the 2000s, the “millennial collectivists,” Red, Green, or Communitarian, oppose a globalization that helps the poor but threatens trade union officials, crony capitalists, and the careers of people in Western non-governmental organizations.
Yes, I know, you want to reject all these factual findings because they are “right-wing” or “libertarian.” All I ask you to do is, once in a while, consider. …
President orders somebody killed, based on God knows what.
By their mystic arts, people operating drones decide they have found the person the President wants dead. (Or [they] kill “suspected militants”, even when their full identities are not known. Previously, the CIA was restricted in most cases to killing only individuals whose names were on an approved list. Since 2008, however, it has been US policy to target nameless individuals if it looks to the CIA like they might be up to something terroristical, based on God knows what.)
Drone blows up that person and whoever else happens to be around, like this kid:
If somebody asks, “What about that kid?” court prophets say, “War is hell. Better the innocent should perish than the guilty escape.”
If somebody asks, “How do we even know if the target was guilty of anything? How do we even know the target was the guy on the President’s kill list?”, Administration retorts, “Everywhere is the Battlefield in the War on Terror!” and ponders adding subversive questioner’s name to secret kill list. Return to step 1.
Feel safe, or you you may be [an] Enemy of the State.
“We must ask, not whether an anarcho-capitalist society would be safe from a power grab by the men with the guns (safety is not an available option), but whether it would be safer than our society is from a comparable seizure of power by the men with the guns. I think the answer is yes. In our society, the men who must engineer such a coup are politicians, military officers, and policemen, men selected precisely for the characteristic of desiring power and being good at using it. They are men who already believe that they have a right to push other men around - that is their job.”—David Friedman
Politics—the quest for power because you’re sure that you, more than others, know what’s best for everyone else—has always been a profession worth ridiculing, going back to the satirists who found plenty to ridicule in the earliest democratic institutions in Rome and Greece. But here in America we have a political process—another institution subject to 236 years of fine-tuning—that’s particularly cartoonish. The set of skills it takes to get elected and achieve success in politics are not only the sorts of traits you’d never want in the people who govern you, they’re actually character flaws. They’re the sorts of traits decent people try to teach out of their children. To be successful at politics, you need to be deceitful, manipulative, conniving, and mostly devoid of principle. (Principled politicians are rarely remembered as “great legislators.” And historians bestow greatness on the presidents most willing to wage war, accumulate power, and exceed their constitutional authority.) The most successful politicians sell voters on their strong convictions and principles, and then, once elected, they do as they’re told, in order to accumulate power and status within the party.
So those of us who question authority do so not because we’re vain or think we’re better than everyone else. On the contrary. We question authority because we recognize that human beings, ourselves included, are flawed. And we’ll always be flawed. Which means that we will build flawed institutions and produce flawed leaders. We question authority because we recognize that not only is authority (another word for power) inherently corrupting, but also because we recognize the perverse values, priorities, and notions of merit upon which authority is generally granted.
People like David Brooks think people rise to positions of power and status because they’re better, wiser, or otherwise more meritorious than the rest of us—they’re “Great Men” touched by the hand of God. (But only if we get out of their way!) He thinks people achieve political power because they exemplify the best in us. We “bad followers” recognize that they usually embody the worst. We don’t buy the idea that people who have the power to tell other people what to do are inherently worth obeying simply because they’ve managed to get themselves into a position where they get to tell other people what to do. In fact, we think there’s good reason to believe the institutions that confer telling-people-what-to-do authority grant that authority to all the wrong people, and for all the wrong reasons.
Individualism is of course worth embracing and championing for its own sake. But celebrating and promoting individualism is as much about recognizing, fearing, and guarding against the corruption of power as it is about preserving the right to do your own thing. When a flawed individual (and that would be all of us) makes mistakes, he affects only himself and the people who associate with him. When a flawed political leader (and that would be all of them) makes mistakes, we’re all affected, whether we chose to associate with that leader or not. And the more we conform, follow, and entrust our political leaders with power, the more susceptible and vulnerable we are to their flaws and mistakes.
Ronald Page, a retired GM worker living in the Detroit area, took advantage of one hell of a computer glitch, after happening upon an ATM that allowed him to make unlimited cash withdrawals.
How did he choose to handle the situation? He loaded up his pockets and went on a multi-casino gambling bender. Unfortunately for him, Mr. Page’s luck ran out at the ATM; he lost all $1.5 million to the house.
Convicted of theft of bank funds totaling $1.5 million, Mr. Page now awaits sentencing scheduled for June 27. Local 10 reports that prosecutors have recommended a 15-month prison sentence because they believe “Page had a lapse of judgment and [Bank of America] the bank was at fault for allowing this to happen.”
This seems rather lenient. The bank may have been at fault for its glitchy system, but Mr. Page made the choice to withdraw such a large sum of money. This may be a generalization, but I’m going to wager a person knows whether they have $1.5 million in the bank, or whether they’re withdrawing funds that do not actually exist.
He had an opportunity to commit a crime (theft of bank funds) and he took it. Why oh why is the prosecution laying blame on the bank’s glitch?
I agree that it does seem as though this guy is getting off rather easy. Still - one month for every $100,000 falsely conjured out of thin air? That would put Bernanke at, what, at least 833,000 years, no?
Imagine you are the mother and/or father of two daughters, 14 and 11. You live in a trailer. You are not rich, but you do the best you can for your kids. You keep a roof over their heads, and try to keep them from going hungry, and keep them out of trouble.
On the morning of January 20, 2007, Plaintiffs Thomas and Rosalie Avina and their daughters were asleep in their mobile home. At approximately 7:00 a.m., DEA Agents approached the front door of the home. The agents banged loudly on the front door and yelled “police.” They waited briefly and then used a battering ram to break through the front door. The agents then entered the Avinas’ home with their guns drawn. Upon entering the Avina home, the agents first encountered Thomas and Rosalie Avina. Thomas was standing in an area between the living room and his bedroom, and Rosalie was lying on a couch in the living room. One of the agents approached Thomas and told Thomas to “get down on the [fuck]ing ground.” Thomas told the agent that he was “making a mistake.” After hearing Thomas’s response, another agent “forcefully pushed” Thomas to the ground, pointed his gun at Thomas’s face, and told Thomas, “Don’t you [fuck]ing move.” Both Thomas and Rosalie were placed in handcuffs. When Rosalie noticed agents approach the rooms of her daughters, Rosalie screamed at the agents, “Don’t hurt my babies. Don’t hurt my babies.”
You then watch these men with guns charge into your 14-year old daughter’s bedroom, scream at her to “get down on the fucking ground” and they handcuff her. They then proceed to do the same to your 11-year old, who at first disobeys the cops because she’s fucking terrified:
At the time of the search, eleven-year-old B.S.A. was asleep in her room. Agents entered B.S.A.’s room with their guns drawn. The agents yelled at B.S.A. to “[g]et down on the f[uck]ing ground.” B.S.A. initially refused to get down on the ground because she was “frozen in fear.” The agents then pulled eleven-year-old B.S.A. to the ground and handcuffed her. After the agents handcuffed B.S.A., the agents pointed their guns at eleven-year-old B.S.A.’s head “like they were going to shoot [her].” The agents then picked up B.S.A. and moved her to B.F.A.’s room.
And now the big finish:
Sometime later, agents moved B.S.A. and B.F.A. into the living room, with their hands still cuffed behind their backs. At this point, eleven-year-old B.S.A. began to cry because she could not find her father. At some point, B.S.A. noticed her father lying on the floor. According to B.S.A., the agents unhandcuffed her about thirty minutes after they first entered her bedroom.
The agents searched the Avina home for approximately two hours. At approximately 9:00 a.m., agents left the Avina home.
But wait! There’s a punchline to the whole ordeal. It’s hilarious, really:
On January 19, 2007, DEA Agents obtained a search warrant for the mobile home located at 1601 Drew Road, space #14, in Seeley, California. At the time the warrant was issued, DEA Agents believed that a vehicle belonging to suspected drug trafficker Luis Alvarez was registered at the Avina residence. After executing the search warrant on January 20, 2007, the agents discovered they had inadvertently written down a license number of a vehicle belonging to Thomas Avina instead of a vehicle belonging to Luis Alvarez.
If someone hits you with their vehicle while you’re crossing the street, they are liable, whether directly or through their insurance company, for paying your medical bills. If during your stay in the hospital afterwards, a doctor makes a mistake and writes the wrong number on a prescription for pain medication, and you get hurt as a result of their mistake, they are liable to you for medical malpractice. If during settlement negotiations, your lawyer screws up and writes the wrong number in a settlement agreement, they are liable to you for legal malpractice.
But if a DEA agent storms into the wrong house, pushes you on the ground, points guns at your children, and traumatizes your family by invading the sanctity of your home in the most violent way possible, you have all your work ahead of your to hold them accountable. Even if they admit they screwed up. Even if they admit they had the wrong house. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the police made a horrible mistake. It doesn’t matter that you are undeniably a victim. It doesn’t matter that you got roughed up, or that your children were forced to grow up early after having assault rifles pointed at their face, and being man-handled at a young age by heavily armed and armored Drug Enforcement Agents.
No. All that matters is we get these drugs off the streets.
Because we need to protect our children. From the drugs.
This case, in its own way, was a small victory. The Ninth Circuit reversed the federal district court’s order granting the DEA’s motion for summary judgment, in which the district court judge found that the force used against the children in this case was constitutionally “reasonable.” But the Ninth Circuit did not rule in favor of the Avinas. They simply said that they have a right to have their day in court.
That’s what it takes to get justice when law enforcement officials make a mistake. Only after paying what likely amounted to thousands of dollars in legal fees required to investigate, research, search for expert witnesses, curate evidence, and develop a trial strategy that will convince a panel of jurors that innocent people deserve to be compensated when law enforcement officials raid the wrong house, rough up innocent people, and point guns at your 14 and 11-year old daughters’s heads. And then, only after having your case dismissed on summary judgment, and appealing to the intermediate court, do you maybe get a shot at accountability. You’ve got to fight your ass off for every inch of ground you get in court. And even if you manage to get through the courthouse doors, you’ve still got all your work ahead of you at trial.
Considering these girls are about the same age difference as my two daughters, I have an initial response rife with monosyllabic wording that is wholly unfit for the typical decorum of this blog.
Suffice to say that merely hoping that the specific individuals in power improve, or are replaced with better ones, is not enough. The masses must come to the realization that this sort of injustice will persist so long as they continue to lend legitimacy to the entire malfeasant system by allowing it to claim sovereignty over any peaceful individual.
“Looking back, the supposed crimes of Watergate seem quaint, and even charming, by today’s standards. Nixon lied about a political break-in and this was said to have disgraced the office. Obama admits the truth about his drones and kill lists and he is up for a second term.”—Jeffrey Tucker, The Political Theater of President Ford
“I suppose there were a few in World War II who were fighting for freedom or democracy, but in my three years in the Navy I never met one of them. … [W]e were fighting to stay alive. And that is the true horror of war.”—Arthur Hoppe (h/t David Henderson)
I’m endorsing Romney not because he’s my favorite pick; obviously Ron Paul was. I’m endorsing Romney because he’s just good enough to buy us time to really make the moves we need to.
Alex, it seems as though we will continue to disagree and, hopefully, you’ll reconsider your endorsement.
As I said previously, I grant that Romney might be marginally better than Obama on some issues. He seems to be a bit better on limiting the sizes and scopes of the Departments of Education and Agriculture, on unions, possibly on taxes, and he seems to be slightly more willing to let the market (i.e. - individuals acting on their own preferences) do its thing. He also would be slightly more susceptible to agitations from those who, at least in rhetoric, claim to be champions of free markets and limited government. Also, there’s something to be said of the fact that a second term for Obama would remove any hesitations he’d place on his statist impulses (shocking to consider that he’s had any hesitations) and push his agenda at a greater clip without any re-election to concern himself about and with the affirmation of his policies his re-election would falsely represent.
But make no mistake: these differences ultimately add up to very little. Romney remains a war-mongering, budget-expanding, Federal Reserve-supporting, corporatist Keynesian statist. Instead of driving the station wagon toward the cliff at 120 MPH, he’d maybe slow it down to 119.
And this is good enough for endorsement?
To endorse means to pledge public support, to champion someone you approve. And to endorse someone means to endorse him in toto. Endorsing Romney, then, means you support, or are at least willing to accept, his great many shortcomings because of some trifling potential improvement over the other guy.
You allege there is strategy here. You compare Rand’s endorsement of Romney to Rothbard’s tepid, begrudging endorsement of Bush Sr., claiming that Romney would “buy the liberty movement time.”
But we have something Rothbard did not: context and hindsight. We know how modern politics are waged. We know of Bush II’s unfulfilled promise of a non-interventionist foreign policy. We know of Obama’s unfulfilled promise of supprt for civil liberties. We know that the left calls net increases in government “austerity.” We know that the left claimed Bush was a deregulator. We know that the left cobbles all the deficiencies of corporatism and lays them at the feet of the free market. And we know that because of the great government-expanding failure known as George W. Bush, Obama’s path to the presidency was that much easier. I understand the opposition to Obama, but it must be clearly understood that it was Bush who led to Obama. How much of the minuscule and short-lived gains to liberty that might be gained by a Romney presidency be offset by all the effects of his other liberty-crushing policies being blamed on the ideals of “small government”? That would not be buying the liberty movement time, it would be setting it back.
No one who believes in individual liberty should support or endorse Romney. In fact, no one who believes in individual liberty should support or endorse the state. If someone can’t even get the big things right - war, monetary policy, civil liberties, spending - then what hope can liberty truly have? Ron Paul is the extremely rare politician who is worth supporting in that he genuinely represents the dismantling of the oppressive apparatus from within. Paul is the exception to the understanding that political democracy is illegitimate; voting for him is essentially an act of self-defense. Spooner, de la Boetie, Nock, et al. had it right: ending tyranny often simply requires not supporting tyranny.
If you endorse or vote for “lesser evils,” don’t be surprised when evil claims your consent.
I absolutely believe that another 9/11 is possible. And the reason I believe it’s so possible is that people like Andrew Sullivan — and George Packer — have spent the last decade publicly cheering for American violence brought to the Muslim world, and they continue to do so (now more than ever under Obama). Far from believing that another 9/11 can’t happen, I’m amazed that it hasn’t already, and am quite confident that at some point it will. How could any rational person expect their government to spend a full decade (and counting) invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting huge numbers of innocent children, women and men in multiple countries and not have its victims and their compatriots be increasingly eager to return the violence?
Just consider what one single, isolated attack on American soil more than a decade ago did to Sullivan, Packer and company: the desire for violence which that one attack 11 years ago unleashed is seemingly boundless by time or intensity. Given the ongoing American quest for violence from that one-day attack, just imagine the impact which continuous attacks over the course of a full decade must have on those whom [the U.S. government has] been invading, droning, cluster-bombing, occupying, detaining without charges, and indiscriminately shooting.
One of the many reasons I oppose Obama’s ongoing aggression is precisely that I believe the policies Sullivan and Packer cheer will cause another 9/11 (the other reasons include the lawlessness of it, the imperial mindset driving it, the large-scale civilian deaths it causes, the extreme and unaccountable secrecy with which it’s done, the erosion of civil liberties that inevitably accompanies it, the patently criminal applications of these weapons, the precedent it sets, etc.). I realize that screaming “9/11″ has been the trite tactic of choice for those seeking to justify the U.S. Government’s militarism over the last decade, but invoking that event strongly militates against the policies it’s invoked to justify, precisely because those policies are the principal cause of such attacks, for obvious reasons.
In fact, one need not “imagine” anything. One can simply look at the explanations given by virtually every captured individual accused of attempting serious Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. …
There’s a reason they decided to attack the U.S. as opposed to, say, Peru, or South Africa, or Finland, or Brazil, or Japan, or Portugal, or China. It isn’t because The Terrorists put the names of all the countries into a hat and — bad luck for us — randomly picked out the piece of paper that said “The United States.” …
In other words, the very policies that Sullivan and Packer adore are exactly the ones that make another 9/11 so likely. Running around screaming “9/11″ at Obama critics to justify his ongoing American violence in the Muslim world is like running around screaming “lung cancer” to justify heavy cigarette smoking. It isn’t those of us who oppose American aggression in the Muslim world who need manipulative, exploitative reminders about 9/11; it’s those who cheer for these policies who are making a follow-up attack ever more likely.