Social Media Censorship; Mainstream Media Lies

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By Franc Turner  August 26, 2018

I’d like to preface these next thoughts by saying that I disagree with practically everything that Alex Jones has said in recent years. That said, I’ve heard that the alternative media radio host has been banned from Facebook, YouTube, and Apple all on the same day, within the span of 12 hours. All of his content, thousands upon thousands of videos, podcasts, live streams, etc; all deemed to be “unfit for human consumption” i.e. removed because it might offend a listening ear. In other words, they’re worried about losing ad revenue for their social media outlets.

Again, I’d like to point out that I don’t think Mr. Jones has had anything even remotely enlightening or relevant to say lately. However, the fact that WHAT he says has been “banned” throughout the social media world has set a rather concerning precedent for anyone who doesn’t fit into the cookie-cutter paradigm of “general consensus” concepts, ideas, or expressions. This may have been the purpose of having someone like Jones on the airwaves in the first place. Here’s someone who was completely anti-authoritarian, questioning the motives behind all of those in power, and gradually made to appear crazier and crazier. He ultimately became a caricature of himself, of “conspiracy theorists,” and of alternative media outlets in general; thereby, giving the greenlight to remove any voices who may use these various platforms to go against the grain.

It seems the only outlets allowed to have opinions (political or otherwise) in the 24-hour news-cycle world are Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. Anything else is “fake news” and subject to censorship. If I remember correctly, all three of these organizations were cheerleaders, initially, for the Bush Jr. administration when the War in Iraq was in its infancy. They all willfully parroted the blatant lies of WMD’s that brainwashed the country into believing Iraq was a threat to the United States, and also believing that perpetuating the never-ending War on Terror was a just cause.

During those years, before it became cool to criticise Bush Jr.’s Presidency, Alex Jones was an anti-war/peace activist who called out the Neoconservatives/Republicans with every action they took. This was a time when no one else (at least in the mainstream media) had the balls to do so (with the exception of maybe Jon Stewart). The fact that Jones is now basically a talking-piece for every Neoconservative policy and agenda should, at the very least, make a person wonder why that is.

I personally think that this is all an attempt to take anyone who questions official news and equate them with the likes of Alex Jones or whoever else they choose to censor. It seems as though the goal is to make the idea of questioning the “official” anything, in and of itself, seem “crazy,” “off-hinged,” and “dangerous.”

The reality is the opposite. It’s the “officials” who have done nothing to shed light on all of the government-sanctioned bloodshed and brutality inflicted upon specific geopolitical regions for the past seventeen years, against people and nations who had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. Instead, the “real” news is too concerned with what Stormy Daniels is saying, what Roseanne is saying, what gender Bruce Jenner is, where alt-right vs. antifa fights are breaking out, and what our puppet presidents are tweeting.

While some people may argue that these are private corporations, and they have the “right” to censor whatever they want on their platforms, these same people are also arguing whether or not football players have the right to kneel during the national anthem. And the reason given is, you guessed it, FREE SPEECH; despite the fact that NFL teams are also private organizations. The whole “violating the terms of service” isn’t the issue here. Individuals who are just now being deplatformed are, for the most part, saying the exact same things that they’ve always been saying since the beginning of social media. Yet, they are only now being taken down by popular demand i.e. media hype and taking words out of context to make it all fit a certain narrative. While at the same time, other major organizations are saying/doing very similar things on these platforms and not given the ax. Social Media is cherry-picking who they decide to ban on these forums of apparent “free expression” and the voting population is cherry-picking what constitutes free speech/expression.

The bottom line is: as a society, we either believe in freedom of speech or we don’t. And if you believe that it is ok to censor thoughts and beliefs that you personally don’t agree with, then you are also saying that it is ok for those in power to censor what YOU have to say, simply because they don’t agree with YOU.

Questioning and voicing your opinion, no matter how unpopular your particular views are… is a good thing. Never be afraid to say what you believe, for that fear is the essence of authoritarianism.

 

 

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The Confidence Conundrum

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Kris Morgan 7/11/2018

Libertarians have made much progress advancing the intellectual case for liberty. In economics, Ludwig Von Mises wrote about the economic calculation problems of socialism in 1922, 69 years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He then went on to write a treatise called Human Action, which provided a step-by-step analysis of how economies grow based on the axiom of action (individuals engage in conscious actions toward chosen goals). In the area of philosophy, Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard contributed with a system of objectivism and the validity of unabated private property, respectively. It seems that reason and evidence are on our side, so what are we missing?

One fact that few discuss is that human decision-making is not entirely based on logical consistency and empiricism, but is heavily rooted in emotion. Jim Camp at Big Think noted the research of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio: “He studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. He found that they seemed normal, except that they were not able to feel emotions. But they all had something peculiar in common: they couldn’t make decisions. They could describe what they should be doing in logical terms, yet they found it very difficult to make even simple decisions, such as what to eat.”

It is common knowledge that our emotional styles are installed during childhood. Is it possible that we are not peaceful in adulthood because our childhoods are full of conflict? Dr. Nadine Burke Harris makes the argument in her book, The Deepest Well: Healing The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity, as well as a compelling TED-Talk, about how toxic stress in childhood impacts our lives forever. The information she brings to the table, which is based on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, suggests what one might expect —that how we are raised shapes who we become. Our hormones, genetic expression, physiology, brain development, and more are dependent on our upbringing and the amount of stress in it. The question is: how does this information explain how society is shaped?

On a recent radio broadcast, the host made a very brief comment about confident people that might point us in the right direction. Self-assured people do not allow others to push them around. In fact, bullies target people who give off subconscious indicators of low self-esteem. After considering our current state of affairs with safe spaces, poor mental health, over-sensitivity, and increases in suicide, I felt it prudent to attempt to pinpoint where we went off course. It seems self-confidence is lacking in our population and PsychologyToday had an interesting piece on the subject.

Jim Taylor, Ph.D. wrote: “Sometime back in the ’70s when the “self-esteem movement” started, a bunch of parenting experts said that raising well-adjusted children is all about self-esteem. And I couldn’t agree more. This is also when America’s self-esteem problem began because parents and other influences on self-esteem (e.g., teachers and coaches) got the wrong messages about self-esteem from those experts. Instead of creating children with true self-esteem, our country has created a generation of children who, for all the appearances of high self-esteem, actually have little regard for themselves (because they have little on which to base their self-esteem). These same experts told parents that they could build their children’s self-esteem by telling them how smart and talented and beautiful and incredible they were (“You’re the best, Johnny!”). In other words, parents were led to believe that they could convince their children how wonderful they were. Unfortunately, life has a way of providing a reality check and children learned the hard way that they weren’t as fabulous as their parents told them they were. Parents were also told to praise and reinforce and reward their children no matter what they did. The result: lower self-esteem and children who were self-centered and spoiled.”

Rather than building up the core of our kids, we have been building hollow shells. Kids are often more intelligent than we give them credit for. In due time, they realize on their own that their parents have been filling them with hot air. Might some believe mom and dad were just being nice and the truth is they’re not capable of anything? While we do see articles such as this one, claiming our kids are “brimming with self-esteem,” we have to keep in mind that overconfidence/arrogance is a symptom of low self-worth.

Fast-forward to 2001, an unstable economy and the attack on 9/11. Our population accepted losses in personal freedom with the Patriot Act, and more economic controls in light of the dot-com bust and the subsequent housing fiasco. A society with a significant amount of people who don’t believe in their own abilities is going to turn to power. It’s clockwork. We all have worries about the future, and in times of emergency we will fall back on our training. Our training has taught us to rely on authority. What was once mom and dad becomes the government in adulthood.

Unfortunately, there are those among us who partially understand this issue with child-rearing but only offer a negative solution. Then President Barack Obama, while addressing the NAACP, asserted “we need to go back to time, back to the day when parents saw somebody, saw some kid foolin’ around and, it wasn’t your child, but they’ll whoop ya anyway.” While Mr. Obama did offer reasonable advice prior to this statement, this invoked a roar in the audience. It is no secret most believe parents are simply too soft on their kids.

The facts disprove this myth. Studies consistently find spanking has negative consequences. Globalnews reported in 2017 that “A recent study out of the University of Manitoba found that spanking had similar outcomes to those experienced through adverse childhood experiences (ACE), including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and physical and emotional neglect. They found that children who were spanked were more likely to suffer from depressive effects in adulthood, including moderate to heavy drinking and street drug abuse, and especially increased odds of suicide attempts.” We also have to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of Americans still favor and apply the practice.

This is not to say that all libertarians are confident, nor is it to say all confident people are libertarians. However, it is reasonable to conclude that confidence plays a big role when contemplating ideas. Self-reliance requires faith in one’s abilities. If we cannot trust in ourselves, we may find it difficult to rely on free interactions to solve our most challenging problems.

It’s important to note that from this point of view statism is not the solution to social dysfunction, it is part of it. By being authentic with our kids, and building them up at the core rather than giving them a house of cards to fall back on, we can overcome this gap. The good news is all parents want what is best for their children.

 

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Who’s Naive?

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Kris Morgan 7/7/2018

Like supporters of nearly any other cause, after a while libertarians hear repeat objections to our ideas. Some of these are well founded and need to be addressed, while others simply exist because of ignorance and misunderstanding. Responding to the former is beneficial because it helps us to refine our thinking, and sorting through the latter gives us the opportunity to reach out to those who are willing to dive below the surface. Here, I hope to resolve the shallow claim that libertarianism is a naive philosophy that can never work.

Shant Eghian wrote: “…I ultimately find libertarianism as a political philosophy too simplistic to be put into practice. Take the taxation views of candidate Darryl Perry, for instance, the self-described ‘most libertarian’ of the five candidates. Perry (like the other four candidates) considers all taxation theft, and stated that government had no legitimate role in society. Instead of taxation, he proposed a system of completely voluntary donations; citizens would only give money to the programs that they use or wanted to give money to. Economic issues certainly aren’t my strong suit, so forgive me for wandering into territory that I know very little about, but Perry’s idea seems incredibly problematic, taking a naive view of human nature that only the most rosy-eyed socialist would consider. While voluntary taxation may work in some areas (advocates for school choice and a voucher program certainly have my attention), I think having this strategy used for everything is unrealistic.”

The error in this view is two-fold. First, libertarians do not hold the view that human beings are angels and will band together singing kumbaya if we end taxation. On the contrary, we are just cynical enough to understand that once taxation is accepted as legit, there is very little we can do to keep powerful sociopaths in check. Vote ‘em out they say… and vote who in exactly?  That is our question. John McCain? Hillary Clinton?

Secondly, we often see those who support taxation as being engaged in delusions of their own. The state proves to be abusive, wasteful, and inefficient on a daily basis. Yet there remain so many who believe it is going to and do all the right things; stop invading vulnerable countries with natural resources, and stop destroying economic growth.

Eghian also took issue with the Non-Aggression Principle when he stated: “Instead of an inordinate faith in the power of big government, libertarians have an inordinate faith in things just working out for themselves, without any regulation or outside force to intervene when things go wrong. I could go on with my problems with the libertarian debate. From the idea that no one who has committed non-violent crimes should go to jail .”

In the quote above, he is comparing his differences with socialism to those of libertarianism. Where is he wrong? Libertarians do not believe that things are going to simply work out in lieu any sort of checks and balances. What we do believe is the rich will-and do-bribe politicians, as well as seize political power to attain favorable regulations. The Federal Reserve itself, charged with the task of stabilizing the financial system, often works to the benefit of specific banks. In fact, it originated through a team of politicians and private bankers. The term crony capitalism has been popularized to describe the unholy alliance between public officials and private business.

We favor regulation from private parties, most notably in the form of market certifications. The greatest example of this is Underwriters Laboratories (UL).  The UL logo on virtually all electronics we purchase means the item has been deemed safe by a private institution. In addition, you may be aware that food safety and quality are more rigorous in the market than by government. Safe Quality Foods is one example. Before retailers will consider selling a product on their shelves, they require manufacturers meet the standards of private inspections.

Additionally, if the purpose is to defend American citizens and their property, why should anyone favor jailing non-violent offenders? When people are arrested who have not committed acts of force, fraud, or theft, the government contradicts its own purpose. Rather than taking the role of defender, it becomes aggressor. There is no doubting the validity of the non-aggression principle in our personal lives, therefore we should not surrender it in politics.

This is not to say libertarians believe nothing bad could ever happen in private settings. However, keeping things private maximizes our power to call the wrongdoers out, put them out of business, minimize the potential for damage, and at least attain market justice. We also reserve the power to make decisions for ourselves, such as what risks we are willing to take. With organizations like the FDA, drugs that may help others in times of crisis are often withheld, special interests can bribe their way to favorable regulations, and we are essentially powerless against it. A feasible market solution would be Labdoor; an entity that routinely tests supplements sold by retailers. The absence of the FDA would create a vacuum for the useful checks it provides, which Labdoor and others could fill in the same way UL and SQF operate.

In the spirit of the title of this article, I have to ask who is truly naive? Is it the libertarian, who sees government’s use of power as inherently evil and wants to curb it? Or is it those who believe, in spite of everything that happens almost daily, power will be used correctly and justice will be done? When we measure crime in terms of coercive acts, there is no question governments are worse than any private group that has existed anywhere at any time. For example, when the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima took place, “the explosion wiped out 90 percent of the city and immediately killed 80,000 people; tens of thousands more would later die of radiation exposure.” Three days later, an additional 40,000 died in the bombing of Nagasaki.

Some believe this was justified because the conflict was called a ‘war.’ But it raises the question: what would happen if you were in a bar fight and exploded the bar with C-4? No one would believe that’s morally acceptable for an individual, so why do some think it’s justified on an infinitely larger scale? Civilian populations are not a threat, military targets are. Yet the destruction of these cities and the resulting death tolls are often viewed by those in power as examples of success.

If our goals are justice and security, is it not naive to believe we will achieve them by allowing the rule of an aggressive force? The constant fighting over who should have power, and what they should force us to do, will go on indefinitely. The solution is to overcome the adversity of securing ourselves and our families without inviting aggression into our lives. If we are not willing to do so, then we will never know true liberty, peace, or prosperity.  

 

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Borders, Public and Private

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Kris Morgan 6/5/18

Borders perform a very important function in society. They define the parameters of all land owned. In political form, they establish government territory. In the private realm, property lines make it possible for us to live in communities together while maintaining our autonomy. This topic is essential, as libertarians seek to perfect a system of thought grounded in property rights and the non-aggression principle. Exploring the differences between public and private borders can help to guide us on what a proper policy should be.

Private borders are older than public borders. In pre-civilization times, this would have included every fruit or vegetable picked, every animal hunted, every shelter erected, etc. Because of this, private borders are as old as mankind. Since ownership of resources is always changing, so are our boundaries.

Because private borders are necessary to distribute scarce resources needed for survival, protection thereof is completely justified. We utilize resources to advance the cause of our own lives; attempts to use other people’s property, with no regard for the preferences of the rightful owners, is never justified. Possession of resources is only justly gained through homestead, trade, or gift.

Political borders are different. They are put in place by populations that have already applied their own allocations of property. The goal of political borders is to help create an authority to oversee conflict resolution, facilitate peaceful trade, and to represent the area in which the government operates. This creates an overlap of ownership claims between public and private entities. By seizing the power to tax, regulate, and employ eminent domain measures, states take on aspects of ownership of everything in their borders. Those who reside within accept the relationship as a trade-off for the benefits of protection. This is the root of Social Contract Theory.

Thus, in order to have political borders, private property rights must be infringed upon. First, taxes have to be collected to fund their defense. Second, since the land in question is not owned under the just methods of homestead, trade, or gift, any force used against those violating public borders is aggressive rather than defensive. When private parties use threats and coercion to keep others out of land they do not own themselves, we typically think of it as gangs or mobsters establishing dominance in a territory.

In addition, there are other differences which should be highlighted. Unlike private borders, political lines must be rigid for long-lasting stability. Navigating life is challenging enough without constantly changing laws and regulations. When our political boundaries remain the same, the population is able to adapt to the rules and work in a cooperative fashion. Everyone knows what to expect and property transfers are easily done. When borders and ruling parties are in flux, that stability is lost. Nobody can keep up with present standards and economic activity is stifled. Many believe the most effective strategy to have a long-lasting border is through immigration control.

The Pew Research Center reported in 2015 there were about 11mil unauthorized immigrants in the US. Since we have been officially at war in the Middle East since 2001, it is easy to understand why this is problematic. The War on Terror makes security a serious concern for both Republicans and Democrats. Where they disagree is how to address those who already reside within our borders illegally.

On one hand, Republicans think the best course of action is zero tolerance and 100% prosecution of individuals entering the country illegally. Deterrence is the rationale behind the move. While it’s difficult to deny the logic, some believe such measures hurt others more than they protect us. Critics of the current administration are focusing on how border policy is separating families.

On the other hand, Democrats support a path to citizenship. According to ontheissues, “Undocumented immigrants within our borders who clear a background check, work hard and pay taxes should have a path to earn full participation in America. We will hasten family reunification for parents and children, husbands and wives, and offer more English-language and civic education classes so immigrants can assume all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

The current libertarian solution to the border question is what one might expect. Our nation’s economic policies should not provide any extra incentives for people to come, nor should we allow immigrants to enter without a background check, given our current state of war. Those here illegally should be given the opportunity to stay, provided they clear a check (being here illegally does not warrant criminal prosecution).

If libertarians are to make a rational border policy a priority, the first step is to resolve our ridiculous foreign policy of endless warfare. With terrorism as the chosen tactic of our enemies, the population will never support open borders until peace is achieved. This position is understandable. Terrorists operate in sleeper cells, often with members maintaining low profiles until activated — Not exactly ideal circumstances for unimpeded movement of people and property.

Secondly, the practice of giving undocumented immigrants government benefits has to stop. In an article critical of the view that illegal aliens are draining the treasury, econofact noted “Programs that serve undocumented immigrants include school meal programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Head Start, and various in-kind emergency services. Undocumented immigrants are also eligible for Emergency Medicaid.” This may be a far cry from many right-wing claims that illegal immigrants are breaking the bank, but it is still unfair to local taxpayers.

I hope by this point that the issue of border security is straightforward. The border issue is really a symptom of poor foreign and economic policy. The duopoly has managed our government’s power so poorly that implementing reasonable border standards is not something the public is going to support. Until we get our welfare/warfare state in check, our country will continue down the path of becoming a closed society, which is what Trump’s wall proposal symbolizes.

If we don’t want to lose our souls in the process of defending our country, we should focus our efforts on fixing what is wrong. Adding additional evils to manage the ones we already have can only prove futile in the long-run. First came the wall proposal, then the travel ban, and now tariffs are putting Americans out of work. A great deal of economic activity in the US relies on foreign trade. The more steps we take towards closing ourselves off, the more negative unintended consequences we will face.

 

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How To Finally End The Culture War

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Jacob Chesky, 07/06/2018

Social politics are spiteful.

Almost anyone will admit this about American political discourse, but what’s the solution?

Some use Facebook posts to lament a lack of civility in political discussions. Others might tweet a call to action, encouraging their followers to have genuine conversations with people of opposing beliefs and to learn from them instead of having bitter arguments.

But will these actually solve the problem? Do we just need to try harder and be better in order to discuss social issues in a kinder and more productive manner?

No.

No amount of determination to have a civil attitude will help, because nearly everyone is still approaching the issue from a grossly inappropriate perspective: trying to force others to live according to their own values.

Here are the common positions that are being debated today in American politics:

In general, the left wants to

  • Restrict freedom of speech by censoring “hate speech,” silencing those they believe to have evil views, enforcing particular speech (such as using certain gender pronouns), etc.
  • Restrict “cultural appropriation”
  • Enforce environmental laws of questionable effectiveness on private people and businesses
  • Heavily restrict or eliminate private gun ownership and carry
  • Restrict freedom of association if they feel a “marginalized group” is being discriminated against by private business owners or others
  • Enforce “affirmative action” instead of allowing individual employers to make their hiring decisions freely

In general, the right wants to

  • Enforce particular forms of patriotism
  • Heavily restrict immigration, sometimes to the point of trivializing human rights of non-US citizens
  • Enforce traditional family structure and gender roles
  • Outlaw various forms of sex work
  • Restrict the use of drugs and other substances (although most make exceptions for substances that aren’t as culturally frightening to them, such as alcohol or tobacco)

Both sides usually hold these polar opposite views in good faith, believing that they can fix society if only they could have their way. Unfortunately, if we approach social issues with the idea we can solve them through legislation, we will never be able to have civil discourse with those who disagree.

Why?

Because as soon as anyone senses someone is willing to use the heavy hand of the law to trample their personal freedom and enforce their idea of what’s right, they feel threatened and indignant.

You might expect those who’ve experienced this to learn to respect the liberty of others, yet if the conversation turns to a topic they have strong feelings about, those same people often also reveal a willingness to be the aggressor in this culture war.

Some ask, “If we don’t outlaw or restrict gun ownership, how will we stop gun-related deaths?” Others wonder, “If we allow homosexuals to marry, won’t that threaten traditional family structures and values?” Or, more fundamentally, “If I truly believe in my religion or worldview, shouldn’t I support legislation that will make the law reflect my beliefs?”

These are legitimate questions, but most people respond to these thoughts by calling on the state to enforce their solutions to every social issue. They don’t accept that the world and the people in it are fundamentally flawed and cannot be fixed. The government can’t fix society. Education can’t fix it. As long as humans as we know them continue to exist, so will evil and social disagreements.

So how can we truly solve social issues? Right and wrong do exist. There are correct solutions and incorrect ones. Yet a sin or a social evil is not a crime if it doesn’t specifically harm anyone else’s person or property. Attempting to outlaw every vice will only continue to make the discussion around culture vitriolic and futile.

Perhaps the only solution is to forget about legislating every opinion and belief we hold. We could begin minding our own business and focusing on leading principled lives instead. We could change the conversation around social issues by promoting our most precious and deeply-held values in our own lives and in the conversations we have with our family, friends, and acquaintances.

We could stop slinging insults and threats of legislation toward those we disagree with, then getting angry when they retaliate in kind.

Perhaps one day, we will finally ditch this fruitless culture war in favor of a worthwhile ongoing discussion.

 

 

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Reflections on Libertarianism and the Judeo-Christian Tradition

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Travis Hallman,  5/10/2018

Much has already been written about the Founders of this nation being Deists rather than orthodox Christians. That is, they had a worldview that a Supreme Being created the world and set things in motion, but then backed off from intervening in nature and human affairs. Nevertheless, part of that understanding was that the Creator had given human beings inalienable rights, and that when such rights were jeopardized by a tyrannical government, it is justified to rebel against it. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Even though active participation in organized Christianity has declined in America, it is worthwhile to explore the compatibility between the ideals of Libertarianism and the Judeo-Christian tradition that has shaped our history. One of the principles of Libertarianism is that, as Jefferson stated above, governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” A large majority of the governed have accepted the judeo-christian tradition as the basis for our national culture, even if they don’t participate in organized religion.

Judeo-Christian tradition first came to America along with the European colonizers who started settling in North America at the end of the 16th century and beginning of the 17th century. They saw themselves as the Chosen People of God—children of Abraham by faith if not by lineage. Therefore, they felt they had a God-given right to take land that was already occupied by a large, well-developed civilization. This follows how the ancient Israelites had taken land they believed was promised to them by God, even though it was already inhabited by the Canaanites.

Therefore, it is important to understand how both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament shaped the mindset of the European colonizers. The history of the Hebrews involves a people who had been enslaved in Egypt. In a dramatic and seemingly miraculous rescue, they escaped their bondage, and after a period of wandering in the wilderness, were successful in wrestling the land of Canaan away from its original inhabitants. Importantly, however, they were commanded to continually ritually remember their origins.

In the beginning of their occupation, the Hebrews were organized in a loose confederation of twelve tribes, each independent of the others, with respected elders giving guidance. Whenever an external threat arose from surrounding peoples, a charismatic leader (called a “judge”) would emerge to galvanize the tribes to band together to respond to the threat. When the threat was defeated, the judge would return to obscurity. This seemed to work well and runs parallel to the Libertarian value of local government, where leaders are known and actions are taken by consensus of the community.

However, the Israelites began looking at other nations around them and became anxious about their growth in political power and influence. Around 1000 BCE, the Israelites began to clamor that they needed a king to protect them from the surrounding nations. The prophet Samuel warned them that this was not necessary because God was their king and was watching over them. If they adopted a human king, the result would lead to taxation, conscription of young persons to serve in the military, and in forced labor. Nevertheless, the people persisted, and Samuel anointed a man named Saul as the first King of Israel, claiming him to be the one God had chosen. This story is recounted in 1 Samuel 8-9.

Samuel’s prediction came true and a century later, during the time of King Solomon, the taxation and conscription had become so onerous that it led to civil war and the dividing of the land into two kingdoms—Israel in the north and Judah in the south. It seems the natural tendency of government is to become bloated and bureaucratic.

One of the basic tenets of Libertarianism is non-aggression toward one’s neighbors and their property. This value can be compared to the Golden Rule espoused by most religions. Jesus stated it as part of his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12): “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the Law and the prophets.” According to the Jewish Talmud, Rabbi Hillel, who was a contemporary of Jesus, taught something very similar based on his understanding of the Jewish Law (Torah). It is unfortunate that the European settlers did not apply this Golden Rule to the native inhabitants already living in North America, nor to the African slaves brought to the continent.

The summary of the Ten Commandments, according to Jesus, was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40) Later, the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther would write in his Small Catechism that the commandments are not just prohibitive, but are also prescriptive—that is, calling for benevolent proactive actions on behalf of one’s neighbors. For example, in explaining the commandment, “You shall not steal,” Luther said that it is not enough merely to refrain from stealing from a neighbor oneself, but also to “help them improve and protect their property and income.” Similarly, the commandment against murder admonishes us to likewise “help and support them in all of life’s needs.” Certainly Libertarians encourage voluntary support and encouragement of one’s neighbors.

At issue for Libertarians is using government coercion through taxation to redistribute wealth and resources to those in need, rather than relying on voluntary altruism. There is evidence to suggest that non-profit social service agencies—both faith-based and secular—have a better and more efficient track record of meeting human needs than government agencies. They also tend to be marked with genuine compassion and they enable volunteers to support with their time, energy, and skills, as well as financially.

The prophet Ezekiel pointed this out in Chapter 34 of the book that bears his name in the Hebrew Scriptures. “Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?” he cries out in verse two. In this context, “shepherds” refers to politicians. There was a sense in Judaism that the King and his administration should provide for the minimum needs of the populous. But as with Samuel’s earlier warning that only God could be the rightful king, so, too, Ezekiel says that only God is the Good Shepherd.

Jesus also called himself the Good Shepherd, in one of his statements meant to associate himself as the Messiah, the Chosen agent of God—or, as Christians believe, God himself. There is a curious story about Jesus concerning the payment of taxes (found in Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; and Luke 20:20-26). The Jewish authorities try to trap him by asking whether or not one should pay taxes. If he said yes, then he would alienate his fellow Jews, who hated the Roman taxes imposed on them. If he said no, he risked arrest from the Roman authorities. Wisely, he asked them to produce a coin, and then asked whose likeness was on the coin. The answer, of course, was the Emperor, Caesar. Then Jesus responded, “Therefore, give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” On the surface, that may sound like Jesus is supportive of paying taxes. But his skillful and enigmatic answer leaves the question open, “Are taxes actually legitimate? Do they actually belong to the government?” Yes, the government mints money to regulate and expedite commerce, one could argue, therefore it legitimately deserves a tax to pay for that industry. But is it proper and ethical for any government to mint money at all? If so, should bartering also be taxed? These are issues of great concern to Libertarians.

There is actually a subversive undertone to Jesus’ answer about taxes in this passage. For both Jews and Christians believe that everything ultimately belongs to God. So essentially, Jesus is saying, pay taxes if you want, but remember that God created everything, and so it ALL belongs to God.

There are two more passages in the New Testament that need some consideration in terms of what the Bible says about government. The first is Romans 13:1-7 and the second is 1 Peter 2:13-17. Both have been traditionally used by Christians in support of government. It is important to note that many Biblical scholars think those verses in Romans are a later addition and not necessarily a part of Paul’s original letter. Similarly, most scholars agree that the letters bearing Peter’s name were NOT written by the leader of the twelve apostles, Simon Peter.

It is also important to note the context of the time in which these words were written. Christianity was a very small sect within the Roman Empire, and somewhat in competition with Judaism. Therefore, it was beneficial for Jewish leaders to foster enmity against the Christians on the part of the Roman Empire. Christians were said to be impious and seditious because they would not worship the Emperor as a god. These passages were specifically written in order to convey reassurance that Christians were not organized to oppose the rule of Rome.

Centuries later, European Christians living under Nazi power would wrestle with obedience to a government that embraced persecution of the Jews as legal. Some Christians concluded that when laws are unjust, there is a higher divine law that takes precedence. In our own times, the modern Sanctuary movement, in which Christian churches provide safety to undocumented immigrants, hiding them from immigration authorities, is similarly practiced because immigration laws and punitive enforcement of them are deemed unjust.

Finally, we should note that the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John, has a very dystopic view of government. Written at the height of Roman persecution of Christianity, it noted that persons could not even conduct commerce—neither buy nor sell—without the stamped approval of the Empire. Libertarians question the multitude of professional and business licenses that are necessary, all of them supported by fees to the State. This book seems to be the antithesis of the passages from Romans and 1 Peter quoted earlier.

This is a very brief overview of some of the ways Judeo-Christian heritage intersects with Libertarian thinking. Judeo-Christian heritage and Libertarian thinking intersections are largely important because consistency improves legitimacy for a philosophy. Questioning, studying, then adopting the values upheld by Judeo-Christians and the values upheld by Libertarians is an option that empowers the individual to have a structured philosophy for decision-making that consistently remains non-contradictory. Neither Judaism nor Christianity are monolithic. There is a wide diversity of opinions within each religious tradition. This article can help Christians to be reminded that no government is perfect, and there is enough overlap between Libertarian principles and Christian principles not to outright reject Libertarianism.

 

In liberty,

-Travis Hallman

 

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Mises vs. Hobbes: Fortnite Edition

miseshobbes

Kris Morgan 5/17/2018

For those of you who don’t play video games, Fortnite is is the hottest game around. In fact, Forbes reported in October 2017 that it “may have hit the 10 million player mark faster than any other game in history, thanks to its inclusion of Battle Royale.” Battle Royale is a player-vs-player mode in which 100 gamers battle each other. Once connected to a server, players parachute onto a map and search for guns, shields, building materials, and other items and attempt to eliminate each other. If you would like a visual, click here to see gameplay. Aside from being an incredibly successful and fun activity, it is also an excellent portrayal of Thomas Hobbes’s perception of humanity without governments.

Hobbes believed if left alone, human beings would be in a never-ending state of war with each other. Life would be short — full of conflict and chaos. This belief lead him to support the absolute monarchy form of government. Stanford.edu informs us that “his main concern was to argue that effective government—whatever its form—must have absolute authority. Its powers must be neither divided nor limited.”

Fortnite involves constant competition for resources, always looking over one’s shoulder for enemies, and rarely sitting in one place longer than a few seconds. There is no time to mourn the loss of dead teammates if you are playing on team mode. Others will not hesitate to kill you and loot your inventory if you drop your guard. But Fortnite and Hobbes both make the same common mistake so many others fall prey to. They have chosen a single characteristic of humanity and used it to define the entire species. People are extremely dynamic and infinitely complex; labeling our species with a single trait is extremely narrow and leads to mistakes. Ludwig Von Mises articulated this point in his world-renowned work Human Action.

In his Treatise on Austrian Economics, Mises created a systematic approach to economic analyses based on the axiom of action. Stated simply, any time a person acts, they do so because they are trying to remove some uneasiness. He wrote, “His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things.”

Unlike Hobbes, Mises never claimed to know the exact outcome of unmitigated actions. In the era of specialization, it’s easy to conclude him a simpleton and Hobbes brilliant as a result. However, as we shall see, leaving the possibilities open was much wiser than the notion humanity can be accurately portrayed in a narrow lite.

What Thomas Hobbes refused to recognize is that cooperation is another tool for gaining resources, which left no room in his framework for a marketplace. We can forgive the programmers of Fortnite for that omission since its purpose is merely to entertain. As for Thomas Hobbes, being born in 1588 relieves fault for not witnessing the Industrial Revolution work to build wealth, shred infant mortality rates, and build a middle class with a quality of life he could not have dreamed. Those alive today who subscribe to the Hobbesian view have no excuse for overlooking the positive effects of a liberalized economy.

The consequences of allowing personalities like Mr. Hobbes’s influence us are in motion today. The idea of liberty can be very frightening to someone who believes humanity without rulers would be violent and chaotic. However, we can’t forget that for a government to be formed in the first place, the population must want peace more than conflict. If those two things are true, freedom is not something to be afraid of.

In fact, a Misesian would argue that since the people form the government, and they do so because they value peace and eschew friction, it is the idea of conflict that makes people tense. Forming a state is just one approach to resolving that issue. Without one, or under one with limited powers, the population would find alternate means to live in harmony.

For too long, on too many issues, our population, out of fear, has been making decisions on that diminish our basic freedoms indefinitely. The media makes money off showing us all how dangerous it is out there, how there are criminals lurking at every corner, but when we look at our day-to-day life, the peace vastly outweighs the conflict. We have more wealth in the modern era than any other time in history, and it takes cooperation to build it. We need more Misesians and less Hobbesians.

 

 

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Not A Good Plan, Even On Paper

plan

Kris Morgan 5/10/2018

Most of us have either heard or used the saying ‘It’s a good plan on paper, but it just doesn’t work out in real life,‘ when discussing Marxism. With libertarians being the underdogs in politics, it seems we should just be glad the person we are conversing with is open to that concession. However, when we appease our opponents by pretending it’s not a bad plan, we keep the door open to the ideas. If we want to permanently crush his ideas, we have to go for the jugular. It is my hope that by using what follows effectively we will be able to do that.

When discussing such a complex topic, it is wise to adequately describe our terms. Marxism here is defined as the dictatorship of the proletariat through the political means. The labor class in society seizes control of the political power structure, in our case the Federal Government, and uses its power to create a classless society. For this to happen, everyone must get an equal share of resources despite providing different services. There are no capitalists as the market abolished, and all production is directed by the state.

Nobody should shy away from saying these ideas are terrible on paper, have never worked out anywhere to date, nor will they in the future. The notion that organizing a population in such a way would succeed in peace, harmony, and prosperity is hinged on believing many things contrary to our daily experiences. For example, we accept that a single private company having a monopoly over just one product would lead to low quality and high costs. Marxism demands we believe a small group of politicians controlling everything would yield a much better outcome.

Additionally, receiving the same amount of resources regardless of function mocks something all workers experience at some point in our lives. Attaining skills and/or college instruction is an investment we make in ourselves. We expand on our abilities in hopes of using them to make a higher income. Still, there are those who make no such investments and stick to roles which require only a willingness to work. If there is no reward of higher income, the number of people investing in themselves will be vastly reduced. While we all would prefer a doctor who loves helping others enough to do so for free or very little, we are willing to accept one who does it for profit to having no doctor at all.

Does it really sound good on paper for those with no skills to make the same as the ones who made themselves more valuable? Does the janitor really deserve the same pay as the doctor? Are we prepared to say the act of cleaning floors matches that of saving lives? Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that the doctor’s life is worth more than the janitor’s, only that the task being performed is in higher demand. The skill set of a doctor is also far more scarce than that of a janitor.

Marxism’s own contradictions are the final case against it as a plausible plan. First, the dictatorship of the proletariat is a goal inconsistent to that of a classless society. There is no better way to create divisions than for one group to control the entire economy. Attempts at weeding out all the capitalists will always run futile since individuals are perfectly capable of fluctuating between laborer and entrepreneur, and often hold both roles simultaneously. In fact, major parts of the Soviet Union operated only due to black market operations. The classes would not disappear. They’d simply be redefined and entrepreneurship swept underneath the rug. Rather than having separations based on income or whether their role involves investment or labor, they’d be rooted in power politics.

According to Marxist logic, the bourgeoisie have more than the lower classes due to systematic exploitation of surplus labor value. The lower classes rising up and installing a dictatorship is a response to this injustice. But the abuses committed by the capitalists are based on economics, not politics. Assuming this reasoning holds, are we to believe complete economic and political power in the hands of a few would not result in similar or worse exploitation? If economic power split up by many capitalists is bad, how can total power embodied by a single group be good? Would the proletariat not also become entrepreneurs in this system, as the state directs production?

There is no reason whatsoever to beat around the bush. Marxism is a terrible plan on paper and in practice has been a disaster. In a century of communist experiments, over 100 million people have died, according to the Wall Street Journal. The contradictions are obvious and the issue of trusting people with unlimited power really should put the matter to rest. The plan is rooted in hatred for capitalists with economic influence, and relies on trust for laborers-turned-entrepreneurs with no limits on power. Let’s not be afraid to be bold, but still respectful, and refuse to entertain the idea that Marxism is a good plan that just didn’t pan out.

 

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Wealth Isn’t (Just) Money, Pt 2

wealth2

By Jared Miller

We have already explored the idea that wealth is all of the things that money does, and isn’t necessarily money itself. That’s a pretty good foundation. But we still need to expand it further. Maybe a better definition is, “Wealth is all of the things that money does, AND the economic growth that the accumulation of money represents.”

I mentioned in part one that our exaggerated revulsion towards inequality depends on the ideas that the amount of wealth is fixed, and that wealth equals money. Since we’ve already covered the latter, I want to address the idea of fixed wealth by first examining “The paradox of thrift.” The idea is that the more people save, the less money there is in the economy. Less money in the economy means less economic activity, which means people lose jobs and businesses close. In times of economic distress, someone might be able to make the case that this is a genuine concern. But as a truism for all economic activity, it’s complete nonsense.

Maybe that’s a little unfair. Maybe it’s more accurate to say it is the result of another misunderstanding brought about by the use of currency. Once again, it’s much easier to understand the true nature of things without using money. Without proper understanding of wealth, talking about money just muddies the waters.

Let’s say a farmer can produce about a bushel a month: enough to buy about a month’s worth of beef. In this scenario, the economy is in complete equilibrium. It is neither growing nor shrinking, and there is no profit to be had as both parties are simply meeting their basic needs.

If the farmer comes up with a new technique whereby he is able to increase his yield to 2 bushels of grain, he is now building capital (profit) to the tune of 1 bushel per month. In our economy, he would sell this grain for a certain amount of money, but this makes no difference. He now has a surplus of capital to be used for a variety of means.

He could trade for some fruit or some new clothes, or use it to further improve his farm with a plow, or some land, or by paying a farm hand. Or he could save it at absolutely no expense to the rest of the economy. And that’s the most important part.

He has more because he produced more, not because he took it from someone else. If he were to trade the extra production, everyone would benefit from that additional wealth. But if he does not trade it, nobody is worse off. In the modern world, we are one step removed from the appearance of this, but we are not removed from its reality.

To understand, it needs to be completely clear that the word “profit” is not the vomit-inducing, greed-ridden, class warfare cliche that it’s made out to be. As long as it is not earned through fraud or exploitation, profit is good. It is growth. It is the numerical representation of exactly how far societal wealth has expanded — Not shifted, expanded. Profit means that everyone is wealthier, not just the person who earns it. (One might still try to argue that workers must be exploited for profit to exist at all, but that is a topic for another time. If I were to get into that here, this would be so long that nobody would read it.)

The same is true for personal wages, even though it doesn’t feel that way. Income (revenue) minus expenses still equals profit or loss. Profit in this case refers to the amount of value you have added through your labor that is above what you need to live. Like the farmer’s grain, this excess is not a drag on the economy. And increasing it by eliminating expenditures (reducing your consumption of limited resources) is also good for the economy.

Yes, it looks like the economy is shrinking because you aren’t consuming as much stuff. Activity slows down, but consumption of resources is by definition the destruction of wealth. It is absolutely true that businesses and systems that depend on constant consumption will suffer from an increase in thrift. But shifting our habits away from consumption is the best way to ensure both economic stability AND more general distribution of wealth. After all, who suffers most from lack of thrift? Is it the wealthy, or the rest of us? Who benefits most from a throwaway, consumptive mentality?

Increasing production and reducing waste, or more plainly, creating more than you consume: that is the definition of economic growth — not how much money is flying around. The only arguments against this fact result from an unfortunate preoccupation with money, or the immediate effects of personal decision making. When the extended consequences are considered, everyone eventually benefits.

There’s one more characteristic of profit we need to address in order to understand how this relates to inequality. Probably the most important function of profit is as a bat signal to entrepreneurs. High profits are the most clear way to say, “This model works! People want this! You can make money here!” The higher the profits, the brighter the bat signal. As new people copy the success of the first guy, competition forces profit margins to decrease as each competitor fights for a bigger piece of the pie. More new methods develop, efficiency increases, and labor and price are both reduced dramatically over time.

This happens because people see opportunity, and are allowed to pursue it to the best of their ability. But when something happens to limit the ability for new businesses to try their luck, success remains concentrated. The wealth gap grows. Usually, but not always, this happens when often well-meaning restrictions make it too costly for new players to face off with existing ones.

Therefore, if there is an arena where wealth concentration must be fought first, it is the addition of obstacles to entrepreneurial activity, and the reduction of competition by artificial means. That includes an element of personal responsibility for poor financial choices. People like you and me could become entrepreneurs ourselves, or at least stop squandering our own capital for the benefit of the elite. This may be the most important way to battle inequality, because it’s the only arena within which you personally have control.

Shift your definition of wealth. Learn to manage your finances wisely. If you’ve got the stomach for it, act entrepreneurially. Learn patience and stop borrowing money. Then maybe one day your success could contribute to reducing inequality.

 

 

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Wealth Isn’t (Just) Money, Pt 1

wealth 1.png

By Jared Miller

Inequality is a much bigger deal than most libertarians like to admit. Ignoring the gravity of the problem isn’t doing us any favors either. It undermines our credibility, but not because we are completely wrong. It weakens us because it makes us far too willing to dismiss the validity of the opposing view. Instead, we need to be able to admit that it is an issue, and then address the incorrect assumptions that lead people to incorrect answers.

The misunderstanding starts with conventional wisdom that says putting so much wealth in the hands of so few makes everyone else poorer. It does make a certain sense; there is only so much money in circulation, and the more you have, the less I can have. It is certainly the case that extreme inequality has the potential to cause obvious economic harm to those without.

People often try to fight this idea by saying that there will always be a high level of natural inequality no matter what system we have. This is true, but incomplete. We cite things like regulatory capture (which includes general cronyism, punitive tariffs, overzealous occupational licensing, targeted taxation, and other forms of economic protectionism) that make the problem worse by limiting both opportunities for personal growth, and the kind of competition that benefits workers more than employers.

We’ve covered those topics so thoroughly that halfway through that list you probably got bored and skipped to this paragraph. Don’t worry. I won’t judge. Anyway, it’s much more important to challenge our perception of inequality in general. The assumption that all inequality is harmful relies on two of the most prevalent misunderstandings in our culture: the idea that the amount of wealth is fixed, and that wealth equals money.

But wealth isn’t money. I mean, of course it is, but it isn’t only money. This isn’t just philosophical nonsense either. It’s a cold, hard, economic fact. So what is wealth? Wealth is all the things that money does. Though it seems minor, this little nitpick is all the difference in the world.

Money is a shortcut. It is a tool – like a shovel, or a ruler. We use it to measure value, and also exchange the value of labor or investment for the things we want or need. (Since investment is using the fruit of your labor to make someone else’s labor possible, labor and investment are nearly identical for the purpose of this discussion.) If you can satisfy those without money, or with less money, your wealth has increased even if your financial situation is unchanged.

if you meet your personal needs and desires with less money than you make, you are as wealthy as you ever need to be — regardless what the rest of the world tells you. So long as it is the life he wants, a man living in the mountains selling just enough moonshine to keep the lights on and the fridge full is as wealthy as any Wall Street broker. Obviously most of us aren’t content with a shack in the woods, so our desires tend to be a little more extensive.

The good news is that in the modern world, most of them can be met as easily at the low end of the economic spectrum as the top. Housing, transportation, food, electronics, leisure activities, etc… all are within the grasp of the majority of the population. With very little money, we are able to do many of the same things as those with much, much more.

So why doesn’t it feel any better for those of us who have struggled, or are struggling? What about those of us who, no matter how hard we try, can’t seem to get any further? Sure, people with less income have access to the same things, but they may be less desirable or of lower quality: like owning a used Ford Tempo vs a brand new Cadillac. Both satisfy the need for transportation, but one is notably more desirable than the other.

This is a big problem when thinking about our own lives. Typically, as our situation improves, so does the quality of our possessions. This process of slowly “trading up” can leave us feeling as if we haven’t gained a thing. “Yeah, I have a nicer phone, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck.”  

That’s because, in a way, we haven’t improved at all. Since we are fulfilling the same desires as before with no additional savings or satisfaction of wants, we have not made real progress. We have only “upgraded.”

That’s the funny thing about wealth — it doesn’t always pay the bills. It is an indisputable fact that even the lower class in this country is considerably wealthier than previous generations. For God’s sake, most of us have one of the most powerful pieces of technology in human history in our living room and we use it to kill zombies or play fake football on a television screen the size of a Buick… But when it comes to paying the mortgage or buying groceries, we find ourselves struggling, and barely getting by.

Because of this, we tend to forget the work our money does as soon as it’s complete. This is often why the magnitude of our prosperity escapes us, and is another important opportunity to separate money from our idea of wealth.

It’s also the reason the virtue of contentment holds the key to accumulating the kind of capital associated with traditional wealth. If you can stop upgrading and focus on developing your financial future, you can start saving money immediately. You can divert resources towards retirement, buying your own home, or starting your dream business.

And yes, everything on that list takes money. But that doesn’t change the truth that the product of your labor is going further than it could have. Instead of only having a new car, you could be driving a dependable, used Toyota and saving the other 20 grand for a down payment on a house. One develops your own wealth, the other gives it away to the landlord and the car dealership.

You can even stop taking out loans and paying other people interest for the privilege of using your own property. There is no more obvious example of self inflicted wealth destruction than consumer debt. It is such a direct transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top that you can see it happening every time you get your bill.

You may say the availability of low cost alternatives is just the result of technological innovation. You’re absolutely right! But in saying that, you are already implicitly accepting the premise. If you accept that technology makes things cheaper and more accessible, you automatically accept that labor is accomplishing more while expending fewer resources. Money is doing more — in other words, wealth has increased — even though there is no more money in circulation than before.

Of course, it will be much harder (sometimes impossible) for low income households to make these changes. But the only purpose here is to encourage you to think about wealth in real terms, instead of dollars and cents.

Income and wealth inequality are only truly a problem when they cause others to do without, or when they prevent people from improving their personal situation. Someone may be able to make the claim that this is already happening. But if it is, increased inequality is a symptom, not the cause. It may be an important indicator for the state of the economy, but attacking it directly is missing the point.

In fact, as we will see in Part Two, their profit may be increasing your wealth, too.

 

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