Individualism vs. Collectivism: A False Dichotomy

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Kristopher Morgan, July 19, 2017

In political philosophy, individualism and collectivism are treated as two opposing forces that duke it out in an attempt to find justice.  For collectivists, to quote Mr. Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” In politics, this idea leads to governments who willingly encroach on rights for the benefit of society.  Individualists see this as the barbaric tyranny of the majority.  The people have no power to violate the rights of others so neither should the state.  While these ideas seem different, in practice they are actually two sides of the same coin.

Collectivism

In a brief article on collectivism, Armstrong Economics describes collectivism as a “term used to denote a political or economic system in which the means of production and the distribution of goods and services are controlled by the people as a group.” This usually occurs through the state.  In socialism it means the state takes control through direct ownership.  In interventionism, ownership may remain in private hands, but the state exercises control through heavy regulations and taxation.  

Individualism

Boundless explained individualism as incompatible with collectivism.  “Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses the moral worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one’s goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing external interference upon one’s own interests by society or institutions such as the government.” The economic corollary of individualism is capitalism, where ownership of property and control of it rests with the individual, and taxation and regulations are relatively low.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Collectivists support state power to carry out the will of society when it conflicts with individual motives.  Individualists think it completely immoral for governments to disrespect rights.  How can these two possibly be one-in-the-same?

Collectivism In Practice

The stated goal of collectivism is to put decision-making power into the hands of the many over the few, or the one, through government power.  Using the state as a means to accomplish this goal is entirely counter-productive.  Governments are always a minority of the population.  In the United States, the Federal Government is made up of 535 members of Congress, nine Supreme Court Justices, and one President.  Even when local governments are taken into account, the legislators and executives are vastly outnumbered by the general population.  This means when laws are passed and enforced, a minority is forcing their will upon the majority.  While the idea of a minority representing the will of the majority of voters seems reasonable, there is simply no possible way they can know nor understand the values of so many people.  Claiming to represent the general public is one thing, actually doing it is quite another.  Not only do politicians lack the knowledge they need, but by codifying decisions in formal law, it becomes difficult for us to change our minds.  For example, those voters who first supported the war in Iraq in 2003 are not in a position to stop funding it now.  Is it not a little bizarre that we look at countries that are run by dictators, a single will forced upon an entire population, and call it a collective?  

Individualism In Practice

Individualism, where decision making lies with private property owners, appears as though a minority of people are in charge.  There are fewer rich people who own businesses than there are laborers, but the profit motive keeps this control in check.  To gain profits, capitalists and entrepreneurs have to sell goods to consumers.  Consumers reward those who satisfy their preferences by frequenting their establishments.  The little acknowledged truth in these relationships is that everyone is a consumer.  Everyone at minimum needs food and water to survive.  Entrepreneurs who fail to satisfy consumers are put out of business by those who do.  Since consumers drive production, and everyone is a consumer, the collective finds its power within the individualist framework.  When we are free to make choices and live our lives as we see fit, with nobody using law to suppress our will, the outcome is a society that embraces diversity by respecting individual rights.  Diversity is far stronger than pure conformity, as there are multiple approaches to solving complex problems.

Effects on Political Discourse

When a minority of politicians make laws that affect the majority of people, we can safely say the collective loses its influence.  This is most visible in corporate welfare.  Are there really citizens who would consider giving their hard earned money to enormous, multinational, corporations for nothing in return?  If consumers preferred to give their money to said corporations, they would not need the welfare in the first place. Everywhere law is used, collective choice is diluted.  This is a bold hypothesis, but luckily there is a way to test it.

The test for determining if a law truly reflects collective will is to repeal the law in question.  A perfect example is the marketplace plans created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  At Obamacareplans.com, one is free to shop various plans created by the ACA.  Being created by a matter of law, if this marketplace does not reflect true consumer preferences, it is a fine example of power weakening our collective choices.  By repealing at least the marketplace portion of the bill, we can put it to the test.  If it satisfies demand, it will stand on its own without the power of law supporting it.  Entrepreneurs will declare it an efficient use of resources and maintain the business model.  Consumers will frequent the marketplace and make their purchases.  If it collapses, it will disappear and its resources can be put to better use.  

Conclusion

I am a libertarian, but I also believe in the collective.  At first I considered collectivist societies similar to The Borg in Star Trek.  The borg are a cybernetic race linked to a single consciousness, all members sharing a single will.  Though their actions are all directed towards the same goals, their personalities are completely replaced.  An entire species is subjected to the will of a single member, in their case, The Borg Queen.  How can it be called a collectivist society if the entire species is directed by the mind of one?  They don’t celebrate differences in preference or diversity in thinking. All signs of autonomy are eradicated from the collective.  To be truly collectivist, all members of a species must be able to make their own decisions and express themselves free from subjugation and coercion.  By taking the allocation of resources away from consumer control, politicians create an environment where power trumps collective will.  To be strong, we have to band together against centralized control.  Those who use the word collective in conjunction with the idea of a society dominated through law actually want the wills of those around them replaced, similar to The Borg. Such a person may be described as despotic or tyrannical, but hardly collectivist.  Power is the rejection of those around you. It is the need to dominate others instead of allowing society to absorb their individuality.  

Individualism and collectivism are not opposing forces.  The collective only has power if its members have control of their own lives.  A government that has the power to encroach on any individual’s rights has actually seized power over the entire collective, as we are all subject to law.  It’s no wonder the so-called collectivist societies in the 20th century butchered so many of their own people.  How can society thrive if our individual wills are undermined?  It is a contradiction.  Perhaps the best illustration of this point was made by Martin Niemoller when he said:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

 

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The Guise of Neutrality

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Andrew Patts- Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Sacramento- July 13, 2017

A popular stance to take in the “Battle of the Internet” is to side with the FCC in support of what is known as Net Neutrality. It is such a widely popular stance that objectors are nearly demonized; who could possibly be against the fair and free exchange of ideas known as the internet (this is due to its moniker, more on that later)? For a long time I sided with the FCC; I signed petitions with John Oliver, spread awareness on Facebook, I helped my mom write a college essay in support of Net Neutrality. My loyalty to the cause was unquestionable.

My opinion of the matter began to change after reading and receiving yet another bombardment of the atrocities that would be committed by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) without the FCC’s regulation. It came to the point that I found myself becoming suspicious of the one-sided, dark and hyperbolic language that was common in defense of the FCC Regulation.

The argument in favor of FCC Regulation (I refuse to call it by its purposely innocuous title) is that without it, ISPs would destroy the freedom that the internet provides by manipulating and censoring what content is visible to consumers. The ISPs would force fledgling companies to pay a fee in order to have its content delivered to homes. Netflix would be forced to pay exorbitant fees to Comcast for the privilege of having premium bandwidth; fees that would be passed down to the consumer. Netflix would be able to outbid its competition for rights to the bandwidth. I argue that these are healthy indicators of a free market. Not only does the FCC’s Regulation strip the free market of these indicators, but it merely shifts oversight of these indicators from the people who find it to be in their best interest to watch these markers to people who have no vested interest in advancing technology, but rather a maintenance of the status quo.

Without the government, who would prevent Comcast from blocking Fox News or CNN from their customers? Who would prevent Comcast from charging ridiculous fees to one news organization but not the other? The free market. Comcast owns their service, it’s their property and they can do as they wish with it – if they want to restrict the internet to everyone but those who were willing to pay $1000 a month, let them! They’ll find a 99% reduction in subscription and their competition will love Comcast for their horrible decision to restrict the internet. In a free market and society, news of Comcast’s blatant censorship and restriction of the internet would be far-reaching; even consumers who don’t ascribe to the political views of the organization in question would be hesitant to continue their business with Comcast. How long could a company survive the economic pressure to remove roadblocks from their service and provide the best possible internet to the most amount of people (to make the most amount of money, those greedy capitalists!)?

The FCC, on the other hand, would have the authority to do everything Comcast did in the previous hypothetical situation. Fox News? Hate Speech. CNN? Fake news. The FCC, depending on whose administration oversees the agency (currently, President Trump and his administration), would have the power to force organizations to pay registration fees in order to buy the privilege to be on the internet in the first place. The constitutionality of such an action would be called into question. Months or years may pass while waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court, and, depending on whose administration, the Supreme Court may rule that the FCC’s actions are unconstitutional or they may fabricate an obscure but justifiable reason that the FCC is allowed to charge one organization but not another. In the former situation, you could switch providers. Good luck switching governments in the latter situation.

It is Comcast’s right to run their service as they please. Imagine the possibility of Comcast charging exorbitant fees to new companies who are trying to gain market entry. Suppose Comcast and Myspace have an agreement that Myspace would give Comcast x amount of money to prevent startup social media companies from posing a threat. In order to keep Myspace pleased and to make more money, they charge Facebook an enormous fee that will prevent them from solidifying any real market share. I say, good for them!

While Comcast is busy suppressing innovation, their competition is welcoming it with open arms by eliminating fees altogether. Facebook goes to ATT and flourishes. Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, and countless other companies see that there is money to be made in rebuking Comcast and their fees so they switch to ATT as well. Comcast and Myspace would stagnate and die.

It is in Comcast’s best interest (financially) to provide the most open internet possible in order to attract innovators to their service. The notion that Comcast would willingly hamstring themselves by stifling startups, I came to realize, is nothing but a scare tactic – and that’s where I saw the narrative in favor of FCC Regulation beginning to lose its veneered facade.

With FCC Regulation, on the other hand, large corporations would have a method of buying votes in the government to preserve their status as primary market holders. This isn’t a new concept. We see lobbyists of every facet of society bidding for the votes of politicians – the FCC would be no exception. Myspace would be able to spend millions of dollars that startups don’t have in order to buy a few votes in the FCC to preserve their status as the dominant social media. In order to mask their corruption, they would obfuscate their intent by creating hoops and ladders that startups would be forced to overcome in order to have a (virtual) seat at the table. This would cost startups not only in programming, but in lawyers to make sure they comply with the purportedly “Free” internet of FCC Regulation. Instead of investing in their infrastructure to provide groundbreaking new features, startups would be forced to pay for their compliance with the law and adopt features that consumers are sick of, don’t want, or don’t need.

One fear tactic that proponents of FCC Regulation use is the idea that Comcast would begin charging people and companies alike for premium access to their bandwidth, or else Comcast would throttle internet speeds. This is a practice that every company does. Pay X amount for 10 mbps, or pay Y amount for 100 mbps. Proponents of FCC Regulation believe that this is extortionate. Do people have a right to demand paying less for more? Yes they do. But, it is also the right of Comcast to assess the viability of allowing an additional amount of stress to pummel their servers. It’s also the right of the consumer to switch to a service that charges less for more. FCC Regulation to treat every user as equal would have detrimental effect on everyone’s experience if it were enforced to its fullest sense of equality.

I argue, let Comcast practice extortion. Companies would leave Comcast’s service and flock to other services, and consumers would follow – leaving Comcast to suffer a slow but inevitable bankruptcy. Preventing this from happening and forcing ISPs to adopt certain regulations only allows inefficient but established ISPs to maintain their market share while hindering startups who would be expected to comply with inefficient standards that result in the consumer paying more for less. FCC Regulation would empower established corporations, diminishing consumer choice and stifling innovation.

Let us imagine that Comcast, in a lust for greed, decided to allow companies like Netflix and Hulu to wage an economic bandwidth war against each other in an effort to buy the most bandwidth and force the other to suffer limited speeds in order to foster a better rapport among their own customers. I don’t see this as a bad thing. This sort of cutthroat economic warfare culls the herd of devious ISPs. Netflix and Hulu would duke it out, buying bandwidth and reveling in the company’s inability to service their customers. But truly, who is hurt the most? The ISP. When Hulu loses to Netflix and ultimately discontinues service with Comcast, others who love Hulu’s service would leave Comcast as well. This scenario would play out similarly to the one outlined earlier; Comcast’s decision to play favorites with certain companies would utterly backfire when the established order becomes old, outdated, and unfashionable. Comcast would suffer as a result of their greed. This is how the free market punishes the greedy.

FCC Regulation, on the other hand, would expose the internet to the world of politics and allow favorites to be played by the politicians. Netflix could hire lobbyists to ensure that regulations are written to ensure their dominance and force their competition to overcome jungles of red tape for the simple act of gaining market entry. If Comcast were to do this and Hulu discontinued service, Comcast would be held accountable and be punished by the free market. In the case of FCC Regulation, Comcast would be absolved from their involvement and the internet would be beholden to the interest of the 1%, lobbyists, and large corporations like Comcast.

The solution to this problem (if a problem existed in the first place) is to allow the free market to reward the greed that fosters innovation, entrepreneurship, and the uninhibited freedom of ideas. The free market does not reward those whose greed results in the stifling of advancement. FCC Regulation rewards the inverse of the free market. Rather than rewarding innovation, the government rewards the established corporations. Rather than rewarding entrepreneurship, the government creates barriers of entry to protect their own greedy interests. Rather than unleashing freedom, the government would have us apply for permits to practice our free speech over the internet.

Some may call me paranoid when I mention the possibility of government tyranny; they may tell me to put on my tin foil hat when I say that the FCC would have Apple surrender their encryption to the FBI. I know there has never been a single documented case in the entire history of the internet, anywhere in the world, of a government seizing control of the internet and confining its use to state-sanctioned activities, but I embrace my paranoia, nonetheless.

P.S. I find the name choice nefarious in and of itself. “Net Neutrality,” who could possibly want a restricted internet? The name shuts down meaningful conversation and obfuscates the true objective of the law – government control. I liken it to naming a gun ban the “Safe Children Act.” Who wants children in danger? It’s a disgusting manipulation of emotion that should be addressed. “The PATRIOT Act” is a moniker that also appeals to emotion rather than logic; a similar bill named “The Orwellian Expansion of Governmental Powers of Surveillance” would have a snowflake’s chance in hell to be passed.

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How Free Markets Empower Green Markets

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“It constantly amazes me that defenders of the free market are expected to offer certainty and perfection while government has only to make promises and express good intentions.”
Lawrence W. Reed

How does a free market create a more environmentally friendly business economy?

Reasonably, many voters hesitate to vote for free market political candidates due to concerns that unrestricted and unregulated businesses will naturally choose the least caring routes for profits. Another concern is that a free market will require individuals to shop more wisely (whereas individuals will regularly shop for the least expensive and most efficient product/ service). This simply is not true and here is why:

The free market would create more competition for corporations such as Wal Mart. These corporations would then be forced to offer the best products (green) at the cheapest prices (or fail). Therefore, the responsibility of the consumer to shop wisely would not be required due to the business practices of the corporations who must keep the best products (green) at the lowest prices because that’s what customers want.

A free market consists of economic freedom such that anybody could open a business without having to pay the government for permission (permits, licenses, etc). A free market would have no taxes,eliminating reasons for corporations to partner with politicians for tax breaks. A free market would not allow bailouts, allowing businesses to have setbacks, and avoiding the creation of artificial monopolies. These economic freedoms would enable new competition to compete more efficiently.

Would a free market allow businesses to operate using brown energy?

Yes, A free market would allow businesses to utilize brown energy, but would not offer them bailout money while allowing anybody to open a green company right next door. However, not forcing new competition to pay taxes or purchase licenses would enable new competition to invest that money into the business to more efficiently compete. Then new competition could offer a more efficient (green) product or service at an equal or lesser price to drive the corrupt corporations out of the market. Corporations (like Wal-Mart) will always choose the more efficient product or service if the price is the same or less.

The free market is a solution to climate change that does not require any form of force, coercion, extortion, or incarceration. It is the pragmatic and ethical solution.

Respectfully, are there any other solutions which do not incorporate force, coercion, extortion, or incarceration? Just to clarify, if anybody doesn’t pay taxes then that person will go to jail. Because of this, using any tax dollars is a form of theft called extortion.

Does supporting a free market simultaneously support anarchism?

“Although I wish the anarchists luck, since that’s the way we ought to be moving now. But I believe we need government to enforce the rules of the game. By prosecuting antitrust violations, for instance. We need a government to maintain a system of courts that will uphold contracts and rule on compensation for damages. We need a government to ensure the safety of its citizens–to provide police protection. But government is failing at a lot of these things that it ought to be doing because it’s involved in so many things it shouldn’t be doing.”
A 1973 Interview with Milton Friedman – Playboy Magazine

In other words, if a business is polluting the property you own (whether by damaging your air via dangerous inhalants, damaging your ground via fracking, etc) then you would rightfully be able to sue that business. After enough lawsuits and not receiving bailout money then that business will have to either change its methods of operation, increase the prices (driving them out of the market), or run out of funds to continue operating.

“The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.” -Milton Friedman

What if a corrupt corporation that uses brown energy buys out new technology that utilizes green energy?

The free market would not allow patents to exist. Therefore, the corporation may offer new competition money in exchange for the new competition to cease production. However, thousands of other entrepreneurs across the globe would be able to create this new technology and possibly accept the same offer from the corrupt corporation. But this would not be a wise decision for the corrupt corporation because eventually it will lose all funds from the purchases. All of which still would not prevent the  next new company from utilizing the new technology, driving the corrupt corporation out of the market.

In opposition, would disallowing patents be detrimental to new businesses because big corporations could simply mass produce more of the product without requiring the purchase of a patent?

“Up to 25 million of our customers are going to use this [new technology]; it’s very motivating. And not just 25 million of our customers but other companies tend to follow us. You know it takes a few years but other companies tend to copy us if it works.” –Steve Jobs

In other words, it takes time for new technology to prove itself to be beneficial. In addition, it takes time for any competition to replicate, and they may never precisely emulate the new technology.  This amount of time would allow new competition to attain profits and create more efficient (green) technology of their own in abundance.

To further illustrate:

For 125 years, Coke’s secret recipe has remained one of the most heavily guarded trade secrets in the world.

“The [Coca-Cola] company has always said, and as far as I know it’s true, that at any given time only two people know how to mix the 7X flavoring ingredient,” Mark Pendergrast, historian and author of For God, Country and Coke told This American Life. “Those two people never travel on the same plane in case it crashes; it’s this carefully passed-on secret ritual and the formula is kept in a bank vault.”

The libertarian party is the largest political party that consistently supports free markets. Voting for libertarians at local, state, and federal levels expresses one cares for the environment because corrupt corporations will always circumvent regulations and restrictions whereas new competing business cannot. Only a free market, which removes big corporate protections, will allow room for smaller, greener companies to arise and compete.

*Disclaimer:

This article is written under the assumption climate change is 100% man-made. However, climates have always had changes and scientists have not reached a consensus on how much is man-made vs naturally occurring. Please consider accounting for natural occurrence when debating the practicality of climate change.

In liberty,

-Travis Hallman

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Roads: The Little Stump Who Couldn’t

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Kristopher Morgan (Special Thanks to Jared Miller for Collaboration), June 15, 2017

For libertarians, roads are a fun mental exercise in examining market relationships and using them as a model to explain how a free society could provide a service that is provided by governments. But for those opposed to libertarianism, roads represent the Ace of Spades. Modern society is entirely dependent upon roads, and if we don’t build and maintain them, the entire economy would collapse. Since governments possess the sole authority to use taxation as a means to fund them, it seems self evident they are best left in government hands. But is that really true? In this article, I wish to open the reader’s mind to alternative possibilities to government funding as well as to put an end to the ‘toll road nightmare’ scenario associated with markets.

There are four basic types of roads: Residential, business, rural, and highway. I will give a brief summary on how each type of road can be provided in a market setting.

Residential roads are probably the most important in our daily lives since without them we cannot get to and from our own homes. In my opinion, the most common way residential roads would be provided is through Business to Business relationships. Land developers would simply make installing a road part of the overall investment when constructing a residential area. The cost of the roads could be included in the price of the houses. This gets us around using a different toll for each street as well as the possibility that a homeowner who has no money for the toll being unable to afford access to their own property. The quality of the road itself would play a role in the overall value of the houses located on them in the same way crime rates and other conditions do, making it part of the overall investment for the buyer as well. Of course there is always the risk a road will fail/collapse and damage utility lines, which is why insuring the road would be in the best interest of the developers. Insurance companies would demand the best possible construction specs before agreeing to accept the risk. The close relationship between utilities and roads also creates an incentive for utility companies themselves to maintain residential roads and include the costs in monthly statements. Since the price of the road would be included in the sale of the house, anyone not paying their share of the road would literally be in default of their mortgage and would be dealt with accordingly.

Business roads are perhaps the most intriguing to debate. I love the assumption that without (government provided) roads, we simply wouldn’t be able to visit the local grocery store. Because we all know that is precisely what entrepreneurs want to do; they want to start a business, spend all their savings on the building, inventory, hiring employees, and then make sure it is completely inaccessible! It’s interesting how hopelessly greedy we assume businessmen are, until we are left to conclude that their greed leads to a net positive. Business roads differ in many ways from residential roads, due to their purpose. The road would have to be higher quality due to the amount of traffic that would be on it. People would come not just from one neighborhood to visit the location, but many. To keep costs down, business chains, especially those which are not in direct competition with each other, would divide the costs of having a road that provides motorists access to each of their businesses. The easiest way to do this would be for all businesses involved to invest an equal amount into a road company to take care of the issue. The cost of the road would be included in the price of some of the products which are sold, and that makes sense from a social justice point of view, as those using the roads most would be the ones paying for them. Toll roads may be tried at first, but if American society has taught us anything, it’s that people like convenience. If toll roads were even tried in business districts, the first cluster of entrepreneurs to network and eliminate them would leave their competition far behind. The fact that the statist attempts to bring up the endless-toll-road scenario says that they understand this as well.

Rural roads are a bit more tricky since we are dealing with fewer people in low traffic areas. But if the traffic is light, the road may not have to be as high quality. For homes built by developers, we can assume there is already a road in place for access as we’ve already seen. But let’s suppose you and five other people decide you’re going to build your houses in a rural area, and you all decide to share the cost of a road by entering into a formal contract. On the surface this poses a serious problem, as any of you could simply choose not to pay, but as we dig a little deeper we see this problem can easily be handled through contract. Part of the agreement could include a penalty for a person refusing to pay their share of the road, for instance a boot on the tire until the payment is made. Enforcing contractual agreements is perfectly within the confines of a political theory based on individual freedom. Sure, someone could claim payments were missed by someone else and penalize them by accident, but we do have receipts and bank statements that can easily solve that problem. By that same token, legal action need not necessarily be taken just because someone fell on hard times and missed a few payments. A clause in the contract could account for such a scenario, but we must also not forget that we can be flexible and compassionate. The contract itself would give those who signed it the ability to take action against someone for not paying; however, that does not mean they have to. Indeed, it is often the case that showing an inability to adapt to special circumstances hurts one’s reputation. Nobody would enter into a contract with a person who was unable to understand a bout of depression after losing a loved one or bad economic conditions causing one to lose their job, etc.

Highways may be the one form of toll road that could survive in a market setting. This is not the same as the endless-toll-road scenario, as the motorist continues on the same road for a matter of hours before paying a toll. The advantage to privatizing highways is if there is a way to get rid of toll roads through other superior business models, people would be free to take on the project. It sounds far fetched to think about having a road that goes across the entire country not funded by tolls or taxation, but what about after we consider all the people who have an incentive for such a product? The tourist industry has an incentive for highways that are toll-free, as tourist sites are spread all over The United States. The US in particular has ocean-front property to the South, West, and East, all of which can be utilized to meet demands for vacation and retirement spots. It is also conceivable that roads connecting tourist locations with other roads across the country could be paid for with revenue made from cottage rentals and other goods provided by the industry. Anyone importing goods from sea that need transported to locations across the country would like to see it done without the use of tolls and could also include the maintenance costs of similar roads in the prices of the goods they sell, or even network with those in the tourist industry and share roads.

The Statist may point out that no matter what, we are all going to pay for the roads, so why bother changing it from government’s use of taxation to market relationships? Well, for starters, it also involves the possibility of democide; “the murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder.” If you refuse to pay your taxes, eventually you will deal with a policeman, and if you disobey and resist a policeman as you would anyone else knocking on your door and shaking you down for money, the escalation of force could get you killed. Unfortunately, most people in society will blame you with phrases like “well, they should have obeyed the law,” or “everyone has to pay taxes,” and that will be the end of it. I can’t imagine that is how we really want to fund anything, or what we honestly think when we demand government pay for some other good.

Secondly, in power relationships, you simply don’t get win/win outcomes. Everywhere the government throws money, whether it’s healthcare, education, or banks (bailouts), we see bubble after bubble and prices inflated and services that are not meeting demand. Corporations benefit very well from receiving taxpayer dollars, at the expense of those who pay. The only situations in which win/win relationships are actually achieved occur when all parties involved are free to choose the conditions in which they will enter the agreement. Statists who, to their credit, are informed about roads and all of the other maintenance costs and variables that affect them, are more than willing to point out the costs involved. While such a person understands roads as they exist today, they don’t understand prices and how they reflect economic relationships. We should not act shocked at the conclusion that an entire industry can inflate the prices of its goods when its business model includes receiving tax dollars. When entrepreneurs have to convince us to buy their products rather than resort to receiving tax dollars, and there is a market based on private property and competition, prices tend to fall. We cannot pretend that the prices we see now are the exact same we would see with a free market. The first rule of making a sale is the consumer has to be able to afford your product.

Third, innovation in roads and daily transportation are massively hindered by the current system. Who’s to say we wouldn’t have developed something better by now if we hadn’t been forced to build our lives and our society around government-mandated infrastructure? In an age where new technology and production methods have revolutionized almost everything, why has road construction and maintenance stayed in the figurative “dark ages?” One of the externalities of suppressing markets in a sector of the economy is the loss of any creative energy that would have naturally flowed into it had it not been for government intervention.

Sorry statists, but we can clearly see that the issue of roads is not the Ace of Spades you thought it was. Everyone in society working together towards a common end through consensual agreements is, and always will be, far superior than a few groups of bureaucrats using law to deliver goods. Understanding this is what makes libertarians more collectivist than any other group in society. The intelligence and foresight of a handful of bureaucrats cannot possibly out-perform the collective intelligence of everyone in society. That is why stumping a libertarian on the issue of roads will never stump our overall position. The basis of our economic theory is founded on the fact that one person, or a small group, cannot possibly possess the knowledge it takes to run an entire economy. To illustrate the point, I will leave the reader with a list of everyone who has an incentive to make sure roads are built and maintained.

Homeowners

Car companies

Food deliverers

Schools

Churches

Gas Stations

Convenience Stores

Video sellers

Hardware Stores

Furniture stores

Fast Food restaurants

Factories

Golf Courses

Pawn shops

Banks

Booksellers

Electronics stores

Sports Teams

News Stations

Hollywood

Charities

Advertising agencies

Anyone who might ever need to go to a hospital

Night clubs

Arcades

Pool halls

Community pools

Anyone who doesn’t want to walk or ride a bike to work

Utility businesses

What really could we as a society accomplish if our creative energies were released to explore new solutions to problems which affect us all? It’s time to think outside of the box!

 

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The McDonald’s Standard: A Guide for Determining The Legitimate Role of Government

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Kristopher Morgan, May 23, 2017

We all have things we would like to see humanity do, whether we want to feed the poor, move towards clean energy, protect endangered species, scientific research, or setting floors on wages.  We all like to believe that passing a law is akin to waving some magic wand that simply makes things better. We get ourselves into trouble when we consider the reality of the situation;  there is no wand.  When we realize passing and enforcing new laws means making criminals out of more and more people, we have to choose responsibly.

Coming to a balanced belief system as to what the proper place of government in society takes an immense amount of study into the social sciences, history, political economy, ethics, philosophy, etc.  This can be extremely time-consuming… fortunately there are shortcuts to answering most questions pertaining to the proper role of government.  I call one of them the ‘McDonald’s Standard.’  The method is very simple: Clarify what action the government is taking and ask yourself “how would I feel if McDonald’s were doing this?”  Here are a few examples to demonstrate how it works.

  1. Taxation.  On one hand, we are threatened with fines and jail time if we do not pay taxes.  On the other hand, those taxes pay for services such as roads.  Let’s imagine that McDonald’s decided to use the same business model.  McDonald’s decides to provide every resident within a 1mi radius with a Big Mac.  McDonald’s then decides that they will collect money from all residents, and those who decline simply get locked in a room on McDonald’s property.  Is food not a vital service?
  2. Welfare programs.  On one hand, they are paid for through taxation, on the other hand poor people benefit from them.  So, let’s imagine McDonald’s decides that they’re going to send their employees in a neighborhood, armed with tasers, guns, and clubs, and they collect money from some residents to give to others (while keeping about 80% for themselves!).  What would we think about McDonald’s?
  3. War.  On one hand, evil do-ers really should be taken out of power.  On the other hand, innocent people die in government wars.  So, let’s imagine a McDonald’s employee tracks a criminal into a Burger King bathroom, right after taking from the BK cashier’s drawer.  The McDonald’s employee then proceeds to blow up the entire Burger King restaurant to get this criminal.  Does this person get to claim all the other people inside the Burger King were simply collateral damage?

Now I know someone out there is going to say something along the lines of: “of course we don’t expect McDonald’s to take on the same role as the government ya dope!  McDonald’s doesn’t have a Constitution, and we don’t elect politicians to operate McDonald’s like we do the government.  We don’t expect these things from them because they’re not the government!”

This line of reason is exactly why I am writing this article.  What we are actually talking about is government legitimacy, so let’s examine the reasons people believe government has it.

1. The government represents the people through voting.  Their job is to carry out the will of the people they represent.

  • False.  All governments operate via law and enforcement thereof.  So what that means is the first thing politicians assume is that they do not have your consent.  If they had your consent, there would be no need to use law enforcement measures.  Also, the idea that some bureaucrat you have never met before can accurately take your conscience and values into account when making decisions… come on…

2. The government is an entity on its own charged with the task of running society.

  • False.  The government is a collection of human beings.  Society is not a machine that needs an operator, but rather a collection of people.  If no human being has the moral right to use force against another, then the government can’t possibly have it.  Morality for McDonald’s doesn’t change if they change their name to McGovernment!

3. The government derived its power to use force from the consent of the people.

  • False.  If nobody has the power to use force against others to begin with, nobody could have possibly given that power to the government.  Giving one’s consent to others to use force against themself is a contradiction in terms.

This list could grow exponentially, but I hope the point is clear.  Governments are nothing more than groups of people, same as any other, whether it’s a business, a family, a charity, a community watch group, etc.  It doesn’t have to be McDonald’s necessarily, but before you support anything any government does, ask yourself “what if someone else in society were doing the same thing? How would that make me feel?”  Because let’s face it:  most of us spent our formative years pledging allegiance to the flag and learning politically correct/tainted history.  By projecting government actions onto parties we feel neutral about, we can overcome these biases.

 

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The Why of Libertarianism

Kristopher Morgan, May 22, 2017

My journey to libertarianism didn’t start until I graduated high school, spent 4 years in the Army, and was on the final year of my BS in Criminal Justice.  When the economy crashed in 2007, I found myself in awe and searching for answers.  It started me on a journey of self-education that focused heavily in areas of political science, philosophy, and economics.  It is a journey that has helped to define who I am and what my values in life really are.  I would not trade any of it for the world; however, what I find most interesting about libertarians is we are very much the same in these respects.

What makes this article necessary is how libertarians are portrayed by the media.  Here are a few article titles to demonstrate:

Libertarians: Rich White Males of the Republican Party

Libertarianism is for white men: the ugly truth about the right’s favorite movement.

Libertarians: The Great White Hope   

Rather than go through every article I can find and refute every false claim about libertarianism, I have decided simply to lay out the basics of what we think.  

Libertarians, in my experience, take two approaches to politics.  The first approach is the economic approach.  This is why so many libertarians offer entrepreneurship as a replacement for government provided services when questioned.  Austrian economics provides the key to understanding basic economics and how economic growth occurs.  An entrepreneur recognizes demand for a product and obtains capital either through savings or investors and implements a business plan to provide the said service.  All very simple, and an accurate way of understanding economics.  When governments interfere with this process, they distort real demand, make certain products no-longer feasible due to taxation and regulations, making less desirable substitutes available in lieu; a fancy way of saying they make society as a whole poorer.  Since governments operate through the power of law, classes of winners and losers are always created, whereas free exchanges benefit all parties involved.

The second approach to politics is a firm belief in justice.  Libertarians recognize that all human beings possess the same basic characteristics: self-ownership, consciousness, and the need for property to survive.  This need to own property in order to survive gives all of us the right to self-defense.  Without property we can’t meet our basic needs for food, water, or shelter; a species without the ability to defend their property is an endangered species, as others throughout the animal kingdom will swoop in and deprive them of their food.  Hence it follows that the individual has the right to repel any encroachments, from the animal kingdom or from other people, on the rights to their property.  The libertarian, knowing they have the right to self-defense, also recognizes that if they themself attempt to encroach on another’s property, that person also has the right to defend from their attack.  This creates a principle that libertarians live by: The Non-Aggression principle.  This approach to politics is not much concerned with what will provide the strongest economic or social outcome; it is simply a matter of whether or not someone’s property rights were violated.

What both classes have in common; what separates libertarianism from all other ideologies, is the refutation of delusion and respect for truth.  Libertarians do not pretend, for example, that our material problems will be solved if we simply pass a new law.  Passing a law does nothing to add to the amount of goods and services available to us all; only production can do that, and only production of things people demand (not government directed production such as ‘digging holes and filling them back up’).  The justice-oriented libertarian does not pretend that passing a law and sending policemen to enforce said law with guns and other weapons and endless backup is what defines justice.  Justice; natural rights, whatever you want to call it, is everyone’s birthright.

It is my sincere hope that the reader considers what has NOT been said here at least as much as what has been said.  Libertarianism does not mean we cannot have a commune… It does not mean we cannot have charities… It does not mean we believe in state capitalism (that really does benefit the rich)…  There is room for anything and everything in a libertarian society.  What concerns libertarians is the means, not the ends.  As long as coercive means are not being used, libertarians will not oppose it, even if they don’t necessarily agree.  We don’t ask “Who is going to benefit from this?” or “How will this benefit rich white people?”  We ask: Is one party using force against another?

 

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Your Questions Answered: Why Can’t Intervention Fix Capitalism’s Flaws?

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Jared Miller May 22, 2017

One of the worst side effects of this conversation is that most often interventionist policies create exactly the conditions which they claim to prevent. One of the other worst is that people begin to assume, at least to some degree, that legal and moral are interchangeable terms. I’ve been studying on my own for several years now, and so far I haven’t seen many examples of capitalism causing more problems than interventionism/crony corporatism.

Of course, interventionism and cronyism do often go by more appealing names, but they are still the same thing. There is a trend in recent years to refer to anything “good” a government does as Socialism. But socialism is not simply the act of paying for services with tax money, nor is it bringing about some broad moral reformation through government intervention. It is something much more specific. Socialism is when the government owns all means of production. There are plenty of examples of government activity that are not socialist in nature. Military and rule of law aren’t socialist. Taxes for national defense and public safety aren’t socialist. Prevention of fraud and exploitation, and even certain kinds of environmental protection, aren’t socialist.

 

What we really have is not socialism, or even capitalism. What we currently have is crony corporatism; a system whereby businesses are able to lobby government for special treatment. This leads to a lack of competition since it keeps new businesses from entering the market. Competition keeps profit margins thinner, often boosts wages (contrary to popular belief), and diminishes the wealth gap while also increasing income mobility (the ability to increase your income over time). Any policy that prevents or hinders competition damages the lower and middle classes. These policies make the very thing they supposedly claim to be trying to prevent into an absolute certainty.

“But depressions!!”
Our depression was caused by a glut of cheap credit, which made it a common practice to borrow money in order to invest it. That cheap credit was caused by intervention; specifically the federal reserve manipulating interest rates. After the recession began, the fed also started shrinking the money supply, further exacerbating the already delicate situation. Even if they had done everything right, just the existence of the Fed caused some damaging distortions. Before the fed, large banks would intervene on behalf of the smaller banks in order to limit the effects of financial panics and protect their own bottom line. After the fed, the large banks no longer saw this as their responsibility. As a result, more small banks failed, causing a snowball effect that eventually harmed the large banks too. Similar causes can be found for our more recent recessions as well. The dot com bubble and the housing market bubble were both at the very least amplified to disastrous proportions by bad monetary policy and interventionist legislation. Without them, that particular market may have hit hard times, but they would not have become national, systemic failures.

 

“But child labor!”
Child labor was already by and large a thing of the past when the legislation outlawing it was passed. Don’t get me wrong, if regulation actually had the power to end that kind of thing, then that’s exactly what it should be doing. But in places where child labor happens, it’s because the entire economy is underdeveloped. It’s not a choice between work and school, it’s a choice between work and prostitution, or worse. Kids don’t work because corporations are greedy. Kids work because avoiding homelessness and starvation is more important than education. No law will change that. It just eliminates their only legal means of helping their families survive. And it’s the same with the rest of the labor market. But don’t take my word for it:

 

Video: “THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH ABOUT SWEAT SHOPS.”

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=O2sW2wt3nLU
(Note: this video isn’t supposed to give the full argument, it’s just an introduction to the topic by someone who has spent most of his career studying this specific subject)

“But Monopolies!”

There are very few, if any, examples of big businesses having that kind of power without getting it from the government. The natural business cycle is such that virtually never does a business accumulate monopolistic power without appealing to organized force to eliminate the competition. Instead, legislators are either manipulated or outright bribed into passing legislation that favors one business over another. Often it is with the best of intentions. Even safety and environmental regulations are often pushed by the industries they are being levied against. Usually, there is some moral or humanitarian motive attached to these new restrictions as a means of gaining support, feeding off of the idea of government as a moral force in order to manipulate the masses into voting against themselves in favor of corporate interest. But here’s the trick: the big guys usually already follow those guidelines, and the startup business has no hope of implementing that kind of infrastructure before they even start production. The manufacturing world is overrun with precisely this style of protectionism. Incidentally this is also one invisible factor that leads to more production overseas, and less domestically. Of course, not all regulation comes from corporate interest or emotional manipulation, but the result is the same nonetheless. We may argue about what level of market distortion we are comfortable with in order to promote the wellbeing of the worker, but we cannot ignore its existence. That is how monopolies happen, and it’s how they stay monopolies.

 

Video: “IDENTIFYING A MONOPOLY: IT’S MORE THAN JUST MARKET SHARE.”

https://www.policyed.org/intellections/identifying-monopoly-its-more-just-market-share/video
(Once again, just a brief introduction to the topic.)

When we say markets are self regulating, we don’t mean that abuse cannot happen. What we mean is that in a free market those who do abuse people are not protected from the consequences of that abuse. As long as there is a law or regulation, there will be someone with deep pockets and great lawyers looking for ways to exploit it or modify it to their advantage. There will always be a politician to bribe who can find ways to prevent a corporation’s competition from ever existing. Without organized force to hide behind, having piles of cash can’t make people buy your product, or use your service. It can’t prevent someone else from starting their own business to do it better.

By putting the economy in the hands of government, we are not preventing people from being exploited. We are ensuring it. That is why communist and socialist countries always develop a wealthy ruling class, and the rest of their citizens suffer. We don’t have to debate that fact. It is what has historically happened every single time.

The interventionists are half right though… free markets don’t make people more moral, and they don’t keep rich people from being assholes. But neither does government. It just gives them hired guns (law is force imposed at the point of a gun), and the power and authority to use them. Only with the backing of the law also comes the assumption that their actions are somehow right or just simply because they are executed through the mechanism of the law.

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Wasted Paper

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“End the lies! Give responsibility back to the people. The government was not founded to regulate life… only to represent the minorities across this nation on an international scale and to secure freedom for all with limitations to none.”

Donnie Davis, Feb 10, 2017

The American dollar is worth nothing, more or less, when compared to the silver certificates of yesteryear. Our currency is inflated, to this we can all agree, yes?

Ok, so our currency is inflated exponentially over time, during which, we have seen more and more government control of our markets. Since the birth of “controlled monopolization” as I like to call it, or government assured markets, our jobs have been shipped overseas, “minimum wage” has fallen way below where it needs to be (matter of opinion), the price of goods skyrocketed, stock markets crashed, too big to exist corporations falter and fail then are bailed out by our government who now owns them more or less, corrupt bankers give loans, and crashed marketplaces for profit, etc etc etc….. all while under the strict eye of big brother government.

We have seen that more regulations bring about cronyism, the controlled monopolies I was speaking about earlier. This is where lobbyist and politicians band together to not give business licenses to new businesses because it will threaten the profit margins of the already established monopoly that is secured through “law”. Not ending there, we have lobbyist. People that are paid to “persuade” politicians to vote in corporate interest by any means possible, the literal definition of corruption. Yet it’s legalized and nobody’s doing anything about it. We [libertarians] are one of the only parties who have this as a main issue of concern. Moving on, we have the mis-informed public, who have never seen what a free market actually is, that has to suffer the checks and balances of social justice. Meaning that if a corporation is immoral in its business practices that it will suffer profit loss. The common idea that monopolies will be rampant and take over the nation are a fallacy. Child labor is a fallacy. People need to stand up and take responsibility for their society. Personal responsibility goes a long way in libertarian ideas. If someone is willing to shorthand themselves, good for them. Hopefully they will learn that through pride in oneself that they can demand their employer to raise their wage to an acceptable level or find a new occupation. It is literally that easy.

If you wouldn’t send your kids to go work in sweatshops, take a wage that is not worth the job, or support monopolization…. why do you think anyone else will? Probably because they have been lied to their entire lives to believe that this is the best that it can ever be.

 

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Money vs Wealth

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Eliyahu Neiman-Jan 23, 2017

Do the wealthy accumulate their riches at the expense of the poor? Some believe that wealth inequality means that the poor must be losing out – because, after all, there is only so much money to go around. However, this is not exactly true. To see why, it is important to understand the difference between money and wealth.

Consider a case focusing on only two people: a tool manufacturer and a contractor. Say that the manufacturer pays the contractor $100,000 to build a production facility. Over the course of a year, the contractor buys $100,000 in tools from the manufacturer. Having paid off his initial investment, the manufacturer now pays $100,000 to the contractor to expand his facility.

How much money has changed hands? Apparently, only $100,000 – three times. But how much wealth has been created? The tool manufacturer has produced $100,000 worth of tools for the contractor. The contractor has built $200,000 worth of construction for the manufacturer. Our two-person economy now contains $400,000 in wealth. It is richer by $300,000. In fact, that would be its GDP if it were a country.

How is it possible that only $100,000 of money has created $300,000 of wealth? The secret is that money is not actually worth anything – other than as a means of exchange. Money represents a collective IOU that can be collected from anyone at all. This allows anyone to use their skill set to create wealth on behalf of anyone else,  requiring nothing in return but an anonymous IOU. Those who find ways to create wealth for consumers accumulate money, which they can exchange for other forms of wealth. This is the reward that the free market delivers for serving consumers. If Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have more money than anyone else, it is because they have created real wealth for consumers, and used their initial profits to create more wealth for consumers to purchase.

Two government activities are particularly harmful to this process:

1. High taxes. By confiscating the IOUs, government becomes the new recipient of the wealth owed in exchange for creative activity. This reduces the reward for wealth creation. (Equivalently, it diminishes the purchasing power of consumers). If government then spends this money on activities which don’t create wealth (i.e. goods or services that don’t improve people’s lives), then it has wasted resources, making them unavailable for real wealth creation.

2. Overregulation. If a small business owner cannot afford to spend the time and energy, or to purchase the additional equipment, required by government regulations, they may not have enough remaining resources to create wealth at a price that consumers are willing to pay. Overregulation can shut down the means of wealth production entirely.

In short, money is just an IOU, or stand-in for real wealth. Anyone, rich or poor, who can sell their services to a consumer has not only earned a share of their own wealth – they have contributed more wealth to the whole economy. Taxing the creation of wealth harms everyone; this is because everyone benefits from being able to purchase the goods and services that wealth creators produce. Policies that benefit poor people most are those that encourage and enable them to create valuable goods and services. When more people are able to create and contribute to the economy, we all become richer.

 

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UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

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Melissa Davis – Contributing Editor – 11/17/16

The discussion on Universal Basic Income (UBI) is becoming more prevalent across the globe. Countries including Canada, the Netherlands, as well as the Dutch city of Utrecht are developing pilot programs to test its effectiveness. FinlandIndia, and France are considering UBI as an option to streamline government welfare programs. Though there are still many unknown variables, an incremental approach may prove to be a viable solution to resolving the disastrous mess that is our welfare system here in the United States.

According to an article posted by FiveThirtyEight: What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?  The “U.S. government spends nearly $1 trillion across dozens of separate programs at the state and federal level…This all requires enormous administrative oversight on the part of the government, and it requires the ability to navigate multiple agencies on the part of recipients.” “In the U.S., we’re left with a patchwork benefits system, an indecipherable alphabet soup of programs: SNAP, TANF, CHIP, Section 8, EITC, WIC, SSDI.” “The problems with this system go beyond its complicated structure. Because eligibility for most social assistance is based on income (or is “means-tested”), recipients lose their benefits as they earn more income — this is often labeled the “welfare trap” or “poverty trap.”

We are all aware of the “poverty trap” where recipients on such programs cannot earn income in addition to the assistance they receive from the government, discouraging work even if one is capable in slight capacity. This leads to either hiding extra income through “under the table” cash payments or non-efforts by the recipient to seek extra income elsewhere. With UBI, these limitations would not be relevant. Therefore, if one chose to seek extra income, to better their life through education, and so on, they would not be penalized by losing the safety net their families rely on for basic living expenses.

Switzerland rejected the idea of UBI earlier this year citing fears that “disconnecting the link between work done and money earned would have been bad for society.” However, so far, studies have shown the opposite to be the case. One Study led by Johannes Haushofer (Princeton) and Jeremy Shapiro (Princeton) “documented large, positive, and sustainable impacts across a wide range of outcomes including assets, earnings (from sources other than our transfers), food security, mental health, and domestic violence, after on average four months. The study found no evidence of impacts on alcohol or tobacco use, crime, or inflation.”  Another U.K. based program, the Universal Credit Pathfinder Evaluation, cited by Cato Institute claims that “recipients of the cash payment were more likely to look for work and believed that the program offered a “better reward for small amounts of work“.

In an interview with CNBC Elon Musk of Tesla Motors says “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. He based his assessment on the prospect of increased automation in society. Given that his companies use robots and automation extensively in their products and that he has started a non-profit to explore judicious uses for artificial intelligence, Musk should know a thing or two about such matters.”

Silicon Valley agrees, “If technology eliminates jobs or jobs continue to become less secure, an increasing number of people will be unable to make ends meet with earnings from employment. UBI becomes a consolation prize for those whose lives are disrupted. Benefits still accrue to the designers and owners of the technologies, but now with less guilt and pushback about the collateral damage.”

While factors still need to be considered, including the counter argument from a libertarian perspective that it would be a form of socialism, perpetuating the “slave to the system” mentality, a slippery slope to communism; the overall concept of providing a universal basic income implementation gets complicated. How would it be distributed fairly across states with varying costs of living?

While It would eliminate the current complex government welfare system which has proven to be a dramatic failure, it would provide opportunity to those who wish to better themselves sans penalty for their efforts.

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