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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The Thanos Problem

Thanos

Kris Morgan 5/3/2018

In my opinion, Avengers: Infinity War is the best movie to come out so far this year. It has action, adventure, plot twists on top of depth, offering insights into family dynamics, war, philosophy, psychology, and lives up to the hype surrounding it. That being said, if you haven’t seen the movie, please stop reading now and go see it, as there are a few spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

While the movie reflected many aspects of our culture, and made use of interesting symbols such as the twin-tower formation found at the location of the soul stone, nothing topped the persona of the main villain, Thanos. Not only did he see his monstrous actions as benevolent, in several scenes he showed a very humane side towards his adoptive daughter, Gamora.

The plot of the movie was very simple. Thanos perceived overpopulation as being the cause of suffering throughout the universe. Resources were too scarce to sustain a comfortable life for all, so the answer was simple: collect all six infinity stones and, at the snap of a finger, eliminate half the population.

His thought process sheds light on a very serious topic. Even the best of people cannot be trusted with power. Thanos’ belief that much suffering would be alleviated if he accomplished his objective gave him all the justification he needed to commit genocide on an unimaginable scale. This seems irrelevant with respect to real life, since there are no known sources of power so great, other than in the movies. However, virtually all government provided services mirror this attitude: that it is just to use aggressive force against a population as long as the goal is humanitarian.

The war on drugs is a prime example. Most people agree that addiction is destructive and leads to crime. Users often steal to fuel their habits and the market is by definition ran by criminals. There is no shortage of information available on how to help addicts, what to do if they steal from family or friends, etc. In a sense, it is only natural for some to conclude that since drugs lead to addiction, which leads to crime, drugs should be prohibited.

Though the outcome does not lead to genocide, it does lead to plenty peaceful people being arrested. In Thanos fashion, many ignore this, in light of the chain of logic presented above. In fact, in a document titled Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization, the DEA noted in ‘fact’ 7: “Drug use, crime, and violence go hand in hand. In 2004, 17 percent of state prisoners and 18 percent of federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs.”

The problem with making all drugs and use thereof illegal is it puts government in the position of being the aggressor. Using force against people because they may one day use it themselves defeats the purpose and harms those who otherwise would have not reached that point.

This ability to ignore the amount of harm one causes simply because they have good intentions reeks of narcissism. In Thanos’ case, due to the damage caused, it is obvious. He has an extreme sense of self-importance, fueled with arrogance, and was exploitative with Gamora as he sacrificed her life for the soul stone; all traits PsychologyToday defines as narcissistic. Might it also be just a little self-serving to support drug laws, in order to ‘help others’, while ignoring the damage they cause?

Since the intellectual case against Thanos’ plan was never made on screen, I do feel compelled to make it here. Like all Hollywood stories, the plot of Avengers is based loosely on reality. Specifically, the work of an economist named Thomas Malthus. In the Malthusian world, the amount of wealth society has depends on whether the population grows or shrinks. If finite resources are divided amongst fewer people, everyone can have more. Conversely, if they are divided by more, everyone gets less. Seems logical enough, right?

Of course not. Malthus completely ignored the role of the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs find more efficient ways to use things. While supplies may be limited, there is no reason to assume they are being used in the most efficient way possible. Making production more efficient alone has helped the west to grow in population as well as wealth. Let’s also not forget technology is almost at a point where we can begin mining asteroids in space.

In addition to the role of the entrepreneur, we have that of price. Even if the world’s assets were being used at their fullest capacity, there would be no natural need for a leader to exterminate half the population. Prices rise and fall as goods become more abundant or more scarce. During times of scarcity, prices rise and consumption falls. This discourages more people from having children. On the other hand, if prices fall due to improved productivity, the population has the opportunity to expand.

This is part of the reason price controls are such a dangerous tool. If resources are low and prices are also held low by power, then a society may wake up one day and find they have abruptly consumed all there is. If prices are artificially high, the people would be outraged to find out they could have had much better and easier lives if not for their ‘benevolent leaders.’ While not always perfect, prices are much more reliable than ignorant politicians who truly believe they know what size the population ought to be. Beware anyone who thinks it is truly their choice to make.

If Thanos was benevolent, he would have simply advocated for free markets. Even if his perception on resource consumption was correct, his solution was clearly wrong. The same holds true for our drug warriors. Truly benevolent leaders accept that people must be free to direct their own destinies. The job of governments, and anyone wanting to help, is to do so without causing harm to peaceful people. Any other means is a contradiction and doomed to fail.

 

 

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Life’s Great Balancing Act: Why True Privatization Is The Only Realistic Solution To Society’s Complexity

balancing

Kris Morgan 4/7/2018

Libertarian icon and author of The Privatization of Roads and Highways Walter Block has said “If it moves: privatize it. If it doesn’t move: privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move: privatize everything.” Many, though not all, libertarians echo this sentiment. The concept of privatizing everything from road construction to police and military service might sound far-fetched or even outlandish to many, however, before analyzing the benefits, it is prudent to present the libertarian meaning of privatization.

When liberals and conservatives use the term privatize, they are usually referring to a situation in which government outsources a service to private contractors. Funding still comes from taxation. Since the rules are different for private parties, the management style can be altered.

For example, according to the Heritage Foundation (a conservative source), states have saved money by ‘privatizing’ prisons. “By putting prisoners to work and paying them competitive wages, many private companies are reducing prison costs for the government by withholding earnings for taxes, room and board, family support, and victim’s compensation.” Beneficial as this may sound, this is not how libertarians define privatization.

For a service to be privatized there can be no government contracts, special favors, subsidies, or even stringent regulations. Monetary resources cannot be provided through taxes. Anything other than a strict enforcement of property rights places politicians in the position of either managing an entire economic sector, deciding who succeeds and who fails, or both. Under such conditions businesses appeal to the powerful rather than the people. This form of organization makes privatization a technicality rather than a truly competitive market directed at consumer preferences.

Privatizing services in the libertarian sense would mean entrepreneurs make their own capital investments and aim at satisfying consumer demand. They would not only produce the product, but they’d also have to persuade the public to purchase it freely. Failure to economize efficiently would result in bankruptcy and the reallocation of resources into the hands of more competent competitors. Since economic growth is rooted in pleasing consumers, the marketplace is not only the best strategy, it is the only realistic one. Anyone can make a profit when the public has no choice but to hand over their money.

On the other hand, politics encourages black and white thinking. Pondering economic questions in simple terms of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is overly simplistic. Consider all the economic questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis. Even going to work often involves internal debate. “Do I feel like going to work? Can I spare taking today off? What repairs need done to my house? My car? Is there overtime available?” 

Likewise, consider the basic questions we ask when we shop: “Do I really want that? What do I miss out on if I get it? Is there another way to satisfy this need without making this purchase?”

Notice the subjective nature of most questions. No politician can answer such a query for people they have never had contact with, and even if they could, solidifying decisions into law eliminates the ability of people to change their minds. This is the basis of what F.A. Hayek called the pretense of knowledge.

To believe that a handful of bureaucrats can direct economic activity on behalf of everyone efficiently is to assume knowledge no group of people can possibly have, no matter the size or intelligence. Knowing needs and wants in terms of yes or no is not good enough. One must not only know the cost everyone is willing to pay to achieve their ends, but also foresee all future events which could cause them to rethink their choices. There is simply no way to account for all of life’s variables.  

In addition to being economically impractical, the framing of debate in such simple terms is divisive. This is most apparent when it comes to the topic of abortion. The pro-life side of the debate believes their opponents are complicit in murder. The pro-choice side portrays their antagonists as tyrants who want to force their own moral standards on everyone, since it disregards a woman’s right to her own body. What if both sides are merely being hyperbolic, and the issue is more complex than we are willing to admit?

Life is a constant balancing act. Our mortality and physical limitations make everything we do an economic decision, as everything has opportunity costs. Even leisure time is purchased with forgone productive activity. Privatizing everything empowers us all with the opportunity to balance the costs and benefits of every good or service in existence. It also has the advantage of creating an atmosphere of competition, putting pressure on producers to be efficient in their endeavors.

When people are forced to buy a product (security for example) they are robbed of their right to choose. We all want security, but what are the chances that we all want the same amount of security, from the same people, and at the same price? Everyone has their own set of genes and their own life experiences and values to reflect on, not to mention their own circumstances. Do we honestly think it’s wise to keep our most important services one-size-fits-all?

 

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Who Are The Cronies Part III: Prisons

prison

Kris Morgan 2/14/2018

In parts one and two of this series we dealt with the military-industrial complex and the banking industry. The issue regarding prisons is a little less well-known, but is even more unjust than the others. Nothing is less libertarian than taking freedom from a person who has not violated another’s rights. Sadly, the United States holds 25% of the world’s prisoners despite carrying only 5% of the total world population. Perhaps by examining the beneficiaries of these conditions we can shed some light on how the ‘land of the free’ has come to this.

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is the fifth largest corrections organization in the country, behind the Federal Government and three states. According to their site they “specialize in the design, construction, expansion and management of prisons, jails and detention facilities, along with residential reentry services, as well as inmate transportation services through its subsidiary company TransCor America.”
Damon T. Hininger, CCA CEO and President

hininger

Hininger joined the company in 1992. He has had Vice President and Business Analysis positions as well as working in Federal and Local customer relations. According to salary.com his base pay is over $861,000 and over $2mil in stock value, and over $3mil total compensation.

 

GEO Group (previously Wackenhut) is another large prison company. Shamelessly, they very enthusiastically advertise their relation with the government on their page. “GEO’s U.S. Corrections and Detention division oversees the operation and management of approximately 75,500 beds in 71 correctional and detention facilities. GEO’s U.S. Corrections & Detention division provides services on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as 9 state correctional clients and various county and city jurisdictions.”

George C. Zoley, CEO, Chairman of the Board, and Founder

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Bloomberg ran a summary of Zoley. “Mr. Zoley founded GEO Care Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of The GEO Group, Inc. in 1984 and serves as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He serves as Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chairman of Wackenhut Corrections of The Wackenhut Corporation. He served as the President Geo of Group Inc. since 1988.” According to the article he made $5,176,221 last year.

While managing and operating prisons has made plenty people rich, Attn.com points out money is also made providing inmate services. Ashley Nicole Black displayed her understanding of the economics involved when she wrote of the phone call service. “Few companies hold a virtual monopoly on the service and even pay the state a profit based commission. Remember, it’s the state that hires these companies. When the state is making money off these phone calls, do you think they are really interested in negotiating a fair, cost-effective phone plan for their prisoners?”

The following are examples of companies which make profit from offering services to inmates at what essentially amounts to monopoly prices.

 

Steve Rector, Corizon CEO

rector

According to their website, “as the correctional healthcare pioneer and leader for 40 years, Corizon Health provides client partners with high quality healthcare and reentry services that will improve health and safety of our patients…” In January 2018, the Kansas City Star reported Corizon had $2bn in contracts with Missouri and Kansas alone. Mr. Rector’s compensation information was unavailable.

 

Finally, we come to Global Tel-Link. According to their own site, GTL “serves approximately 2,300 facilities and 1.8 million inmates in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Our products and services are deployed in 32 state DOC contracts (including 8 of the largest 10) and over 650 counties, including many of the largest city/county run jail facilities. We also provide service to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

Brian D. Oliver, Global Tel-Link CEO

Oliver

Per Bloomberg, “Mr. Oliver was responsible for leading Global Tel*Link Corporation’s due diligence review with respect to new potential investments in the telecommunications and related sectors and overseeing portfolio companies once investments have been completed in those sectors. Mr. Oliver joined GTL from Gores Technology Group, LLC…” Compensation information was not available.

One can argue that these services are necessary, and the market is merely providing services, even to those in jail. However, it is clear the income generated by providing these services is stimulated by government created demand for them. Attn reminds us “the War on Drugs has also created ballooning prison populations by increasing arrests for petty offenses (such as marijuana possession). America has the longest first time drug offense sentences (5-10 years) of developed nations. …65 percent of private prison contracts require an occupancy guarantee. That means states must have a certain amount of prisoners — typically between 80 and 90 percent of occupancy — or pay companies for empty beds. Talk about bad incentives — a state throws money away if it does not have enough prisoners.” There are a lot of people with a lot of money riding on maintaining or increasing prison populations in the US and abroad.

To drive the point home, the Washington Post reported in 2015 that “several reports have documented instances when private-prison companies have indirectly supported policies that put more Americans and immigrants behind bars – such as California’s three-strikes rule and Arizona’s highly controversial anti-illegal immigration law – by donating to politicians who support them.”

Marco Rubio can be viewed as a case-study of how the relationship between prisons and politicians works. “While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company.”  

The economic incentives surrounding the prison sector have clear and harsh consequences for the rest of us. The people we are supposed to trust with our security have taken that trust and twisted it into building a system which profits from our imprisonment. No private persons would ever be capable of such crimes against humanity without politics to support it. Our goal should be to reverse these trends in their tracks.

 

Part I                                                             Part II                                                         Part IV

 

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Who Are The Cronies Part II: Bankers

cronys-in-line1

Kris Morgan 2/8/2018

When President Bush and his administration bailed out banks in light of the 2007 housing collapse, the crony nature of banking was at the forefront of all our minds. The New York Times even ran a headline in 2009: “Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts.” According to the article, nine of the biggest recipients of bailouts paid about 5,000 people $1mil each in bonuses. So not only does bailing out losers undermine the market’s goal of weeding out those who fail to meet economic demand efficiently, the moral hazard involved is shocking.

CNN posted a special report listing all the banks bailed out as a result of the aforementioned 2007 crash. The list is endless, but the top three were Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and Citigroup. Each received  $25bn to hold them over. Without further adieu, here is a profile of the top three banks’ CEO during the time.

 

John Stumpf – Wells Fargo CEO in 2008

stumpf

In 2008, as Wells Fargo received a $25bn bailout, Stumpf was paid $13.8mil in his first year as CEO. The bank posted a $2.66bn dollar profit in the same year. While Stumpf has had an extensive banking career, Janet Yellen’s final act as Chairman of the Fed in 2016 was to slam Wells Fargo with $185mil fine in light of the fake accounts scandal. Stumpf retired as a result. From Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 to present, Wells Fargo has received $530,481,584 in subsidies (government granted money without demand for repayment).

 

Jamie Dimon – JP Morgan Chase & Co. in 2008

jamiedimon

JP Morgan Chase & Co. received $25bn to remain afloat in 2008. Jamie Dimon was paid $19.7mil that same year (to his credit, in 2007 he made $34mil). What is troubling is the bank received a bailout, but according to Dimon’s bio, in 2008 “he steered the business clear of most of the wreckage and maintained its profitability, while also scooping up ailing Bear Stearns for $2 per share…” However, in 2013 it became apparent JP Morgan misrepresented mortgage securities it was selling prior to 2008 and was forced to pay $13bn in a settlement with regulators. JP Morgan has received $1,577,130,318 in subsidies since FY 2000.
Vikram Pandit – Citigroup in 2008

vikrampandit

Like JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo, Citigroup received a $25bn bailout in 2008. Pandit reported a measly $1mil salary to Congress for 2008, however, the Huffington Post reported he made almost $11mil and simply neglected to “mention his sign-on and retention awards, as well as stock and option awards.” Per the story, he originally made closer to $40mil but lost big when the stock price tumbled to under $1 per share. From FY 2000 to present, Citigroup has received $564,762,028 in subsidies.

 

No proper work on cronyism in the financial sector can even be started without mentioning the two people most in charge: Former Chairman of the Fed Ben Bernanke and Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.

 

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2008

bernanke

Ben Bernanke began his career in academia. After graduating Summa-Cum-Laude in Economics from Harvard in 1975, he earned a PHD from MIT in 1979. Following that, he taught at Stanford, NYU, MIT, and Princeton. He was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 2002 and Chairman in 2005. Bernanke worked closely with President Bush and Hank Paulson to draft the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, more commonly known as the 2008 bailout.

 

Hank Paulson – Treasury Secretary in 2008

hankpaulson

Henry Paulson earned a Bachelor’s in English from Dartmouth and an MBA from Harvard before going to work at the Pentagon as staff assistant to the assistant secretary of defense under President Nixon. Just after serving as Domestic Council assistant to President Nixon, he made his way to Goldman Sachs. In 1982 he made partner, in 1988 he made managing partner, and from 1990 – 1994 he operated as President and COO. In 1999 he replaced Jon Corzine as Chairman and CEO, as Corzine worked his way into politics, becoming Governor of New Jersey. In 2006 he was named Treasury Secretary by President Bush.

 

The 2007 housing crash and subsequent 2008 bank bailouts were a trying time for everyone. Perhaps every person on this list acted admirably, and in spite of that, the media found a way of viewing their actions with a touch of fraud. Even if we believe that unlikely story, do we still want the federal government determining who stays afloat and who drowns every time we enter the bust phase of the cycle? Do we want banks, with a revolving door between the private sector and high levels of government, operating under the impression they will just get bailed out? What is to stop them from approving high-risk high-reward loans to people in desperation?

 

Part I                                                              Part III                                                               Part IV

 

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Doctor Libertarians

doctorcollage

Travis Hallman 2/1/2018

Many of our most vocal activists within the Libertarian Party are current and former doctors. Doctors have an inside perspective of the healthcare industry as well as how decisions that negatively affect one’s life, i.e. drugs, also affect the body. On healthcare and self-ownership, the official Libertarian Platform states:

Libertarian Platform 2.10: Health Care

“We favor a free-market health care system. We recognize the freedom of individuals to determine the level of health insurance they want (if any), the level of health care they want, the care providers they want, the medicines and treatments they will use and all other aspects of their medical care, including end-of-life decisions. People should be free to purchase health insurance across state lines.”

Please click this link if you’re interested in understanding why Libertarians support a free-market health care system.

Libertarian Platform 1.1: Self-Ownership

“Individuals own their bodies and have rights over them that other individuals, groups, and governments may not violate. Individuals have the freedom and responsibility to decide what they knowingly and voluntarily consume, and what risks they accept to their own health, finances, safety, or life.”

Please click this link if you’re interested in understanding why libertarians support self-ownership.

When the Affordable Care Act was being hotly debated, it was apparent the AMA supported the bill. Even today one is left with the impression that, generally speaking, doctors support Obamacare. The following is a list of of doctors who not only oppose the ACA, but who are also outright libertarians.

 

Dr. Ron Paul

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“In his last year of college, Ron Paul married Carol. After he graduated in 1957, the couple moved to Durham, North Carolina, where Ron attended the Duke University School of Medicine. Finishing his degree in 1961, he and his young family then moved to Detroit, Michigan. There Paul did his internship and residency at Henry Ford Hospital. Serving his country, he was as a doctor in the United States Air Force from 1963 to 1965 and then with the United States Air National Guard from 1965 to 1968.”

“Specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, Paul opened his own practice in Texas. During the course of his career, he is said to have delivered more than 4,000 babies.”

https://www.biography.com/ron-paul

“Ron Paul is America’s leading voice for liberty, prosperity and peace. As a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and three-time presidential candidate, Ron Paul tirelessly works for limited, constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies. Ron Paul never voted for legislation unless the proposed measure was expressly authorized by the Constitution.”

https://www.ronpaul.com/who-is-ron-paul/

 

Dr. Rand Paul

rand

“Paul attended Baylor University and then the Duke University Medical School, his father’s alma mater. After receiving a medical degree in 1988, Paul pursued a general surgery internship at the Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia. While there, he met Kentucky native Kelley Ashby. The couple dated for a couple of years and married in 1991, and when Paul finished his ophthalmology residency at Duke two years later, they moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky to start a family and Paul’s medical practice. They soon had three sons, William, Duncan and Robert.

A longtime member of the service organization Lions Club International, Paul founded the Southern Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic, a nonprofit offering free eye care to patients in need, in 1995. He also performed free eye surgeries for impoverished children in developing countries through the Children of the Americas program.”

“A lifelong Republican with Libertarian leanings, Paul became involved in political causes in 1994, when he founded Kentucky Taxpayers United, a watchdog group tracking taxation and spending issues in the Kentucky state legislature, until it disbanded in 2000. Rand was inspired to become involved in politics, in part due to his father, Ron Paul, who was the first member of the Paul family to run for and win political office.”

https://www.biography.com/.amp/people/rand-paul-588472

 

Dr. Marc Allan Feldman

Feldman

“Dr. Feldman was born in October of 1959. He was a 1980 graduate of Northwestern University with a major in Philosophy, Phi Beta Kappa. He received his Doctorate of Medicine from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1984. He practiced anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins for 11 years. He is survived by his wife Anne and his sons Aaron, Abram and Andrew. His son Alec passed away from cancer at age 16. He worked at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.”

“Dr. Feldman was a candidate for the Libertarian presidential nomination this year. His campaign was one of the most inspirational in the field as a result of his sincerity, warmth, messaging, and his closing statement during the Libertarian National Convention’s final presidential debate.”

http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/dr-marc-allan-feldman-was-thatkindoflibertarian/

 

Dr. Mary J. Ruwart

Ruwart

“Dr. Mary J. Ruwart is a research scientist, ethicist, and a libertarian author/activist. She received her B.S. in biochemistry in 1970 and her Ph.D. in Biophysics in 1974 (both from Michigan State University).  She subsequently joined the Department of Surgery at St. Louis University and left her Assistant Professorship there to accept a position with The Upjohn Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1976.  As a senior research scientist, Dr. Ruwart was involved in developing new therapies for a variety of diseases, including liver cirrhosis and AIDS.

Dr. Ruwart left Upjohn in 1995 to devote her time to consulting and writing. Her communications course for scientists (www.speakingforscientists.com), covering written, oral, and poster presentations has received high praise from attendees. She also provides consulting services for nutraceutical companies, clinical research organizations, and universities.

Between 2003 and 2006, Dr. Ruwart was an adjunct Associate Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.  During that time, she served with the Center for Applied and Professional Ethics, designing a medical research ethics course for the University.  Her radical application of ethics to medical regulation, especially regulations regarding pharmaceuticals, has life-and-death-implications.”

“Mary J. Ruwart, Ph.D. Dr. Mary J. Ruwart is a research scientist, ethicist, and a libertarian author/activist. She has worked extensively with the disadvantaged in low-income housing and was a contender for the 2008 Libertarian Party Vice-Presidential nomination. Her scientific, political, and community activities have been profiled in several prestigious biographical works, including American Men and Women of Sciences, World’s Who’s Who of Women, International Leaders in Achievement, and Community Leaders of America.”

Healing Our World: The Compassion of Libertarianism

 

Dr. Keith Smith

Dr. Keith Smith

“Dr. Keith Smith, co-founder and managing partner of the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, took an initiative that would only be considered radical in the healthcare industry: He posted online a list of prices for 112 common surgical procedures. The 51-year-old Smith, a self-described libertarian, and his business partner, Dr. Steve Lantier, founded the Surgery Center 15 years ago, after they became disillusioned with the way patients were treated at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City, where the two men worked as anesthesiologists. In 1997, Smith and Lantier bought the shell of a former surgical center with the aim of creating a for-profit facility that could deliver first-rate care at a fraction of what traditional hospitals charge.”

Oklahoma Doctors vs. Obamacare

 

Dr. Kyle Varner

varner

“Dr. Kyle Varner practices hospital medicine in Washington State and Maine. He earned his BA from St. John’s College, his MD from American University of Antigua College of Medicine, and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

He has been a member of the Libertarian Party since 1999 and currently serves as the treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii. He has spoken at events around the United States promoting health care freedom.”

Libertarian Solutions for the Health Care Crisis

 

Joshua James, Founder, CEO,
& Industry Consultant of James Healthcare

james

“Joshua owes his life to chemotherapy and innovations in modern medicine. Joshua founded a healthcare marketing LLC and co-founded telemedicine provider networks in Texas and Nevada. His network and LLC are focused on veteran transitions of care and the growing population of those in need of social, mental, and medical intervention/supervision. He is building a virtual privatized healthcare system for veterans and civilians alike. He apprenticed beside his father, a pharmacist and former Bexar County Pharmacy Association president. He has a background as a pharmacist intern at the Cancer Research & therapy Center in San Antonio, TX. Joshua has extensive experience as compounding pharmacist intern at a regional independent pharmacy system. Joshua has a compassion for veterans and their success in transitions of care.”

“JJHC is devoted to innovative healthcare, development of original brands, marketing solutions, and networking opportunities, while focusing on veterans affairs, telemedicine, and transitions of care. JJHC is facilitates a Voluntary Provider Network (VPN). Clients and providers communicate through a mutually convenient, HIPAA credentialed interface. Our network of providers work in an outcomes focused, collaborative, free market, voluntary, and affordable environment. JJHC offers contemporary marketing, through a variety of resources. If you would like to grow your practice and network with providers from various areas of practice; JJHC has a solution for you.”

http://www.jameshealthcare.com/

 

Republicans historically have been known to support free-market health care, but surely as we see their representatives compromising their principles, we also see their member registrations decreasingHowever, Libertarian Party member registrations are increasing and Libertarian representatives have championed a free-market health care system consistently.

Democrats have been known to support legalizing decisions which have negative consequences, but again, as we see their member registrations decreasing we simultaneously see their representatives compromising their principles. On the other hand, Libertarian representatives have championed legalizing personal decision-making across the board. The LP has remained true to its principles in both self-ownership and healthcare freedom.

 

In liberty,

-Travis

 

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Why Marx Was (Almost) Right

marxwrong

Kris Morgan 1/25/18

Karl Marx is one of history’s most controversial figures. Those of us who are politically engaged will inevitably have to resolve his ideas with our own beliefs, whether we reject or accept them. Not only was he a staunch nemesis of capitalism, he and Friedrich Engels developed a competing economic system that does not rely on private property, capital investments, or entrepreneurship. Since we do live in a capitalist society, it is beneficial to revisit his critiques of capitalism, which were rolled out in the late 19th century in Das Kapital.  

In 2014 Sean McElwee of Rolling Stone wrote an article based on Marx’s analysis of capitalism titled “Why Marx Was Right: Five Surprising Ways Marx Predicted 2014”. These included the chaotic nature of capitalism, imaginary appetites, globalization, monopoly, and the impoverishment of the middle class. On the surface, there is plenty of evidence that suggests Marx was correct. The middle class is diminishing, we are still recovering from the real estate collapse, and it’s safe to say we all have things we don’t need. Additionally, WalMart dominates and presently operates stores in 44 countries. However, in spite of proving correct in his long-term economic predictions, Marx was wrong on every point.

On the chaos of capitalism, McElwee’s argument in favor of Marx went as follows: “Broadly speaking, it’s what made the housing market crash in 2008. Decades of deepening inequality reduced incomes, which led more and more Americans to take on debt. When there were no subprime borrows (sic) left to scheme, the whole façade fell apart, just as Marx knew it would.” This is true, but what is also apparent is the domination of the financial system by the Federal Reserve, through Act of Congress, since 1913. With the ability to offer loans at lower-than-market rates, combined with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (chartered by Congress in 1938 and 1970 respectively) and the Community Reinvestment Act, we can safely say we have not had a free market for quite some time. The chaos we experience is the result of central planning, not free markets.

Of imaginary appetites, Marx stated capitalism would lead to “a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural and imaginary appetites.” McElwee then surmises that though cell phones change very little with each progression, we purchase the latest anyways. But this is more a statement about human demands than the capitalist system of private property. The capitalist economy is nothing more than the notion that if left alone, people will store a supply of goods to satisfy perceived demand. Should our preferences change, production and marketing strategies will change as well. That is the strength of markets. The fact that so many have the means and time to focus on the latest and greatest advances, rather than whether we will eat, is a sign that we have surpassed basic subsistence.

In 1848 Marx predicted globalization, arguing “It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” It is undeniable that capitalists want to trade with as many people as possible, however, is this not true of every economic organization? Communism itself is an international force the same way capitalism is. Neither ideology can be said to be a complete reality so long as the global community is mixed. Each will strive for what they perceive as the liberation of others as well as the advancement of its own agenda.

Monopoly is also a part of his critique of the market economy. According to the article, “Marx, however, argued that market power would actually be centralized in large monopoly firms as businesses increasingly preyed upon each other.” Wal Mart’s success is then used as an example. While we can agree Wal Mart has controlled the market, we cannot agree it is entirely due to market forces. Since the Progressive Era industry has turned to government for cartelization and other benefits. According to Forbes, Walmart cost taxpayers $6.2bn in public assistance. It is officially safe to stop pretending Walmart is an example of out-of-control free trade.

As Murray Rothbard pointed out, “The government interventions of the Progressive Era were systemic devices to restrict competition and cartelize industry… Just as other industries turned to the government to impose cartelization that could not be maintained on the market, so the banks turned to government to enable them to expand money and credit without being held back by the demands for redemption by competing banks.” Do we honestly believe the rich fund political campaigns and lobby politicians to make sure things are always fair?

Finally, we address the diminishing middle class. With the aforementioned interventions, dispelling this myth should be a piece of cake. The central bank disrupting the economy and causing malinvestments and subsequent bailouts, devaluation of currency, and cartelization of industry, we have an obvious recipe for corporate oligarchy.

Marx would have been right on all points had he simply used the phrase ‘state capitalism’ or ‘crony capitalism’. The only way one can conclude Marx was correct in his analysis of the market economy is by completely ignoring all state interventions. Free market economists, such as viewed by the Austrian School, do not consider central bans, whimsical regulations, nor any other infringements on property as part of capitalism. There is simply no basis to attribute flaws in society under the broad umbrella of free market deficiencies.

These predictions under the conditions of our current political system are obvious. Of course big business pays for favors from big government. Even Obamacare worked to enrich the health insurance industry as well as big pharma, while our premiums skyrocket. The alliance between industry and politics is unholy, damaging, and has nothing at all to do with free trade. Indeed, Free Market economists not only made the same predictions, but in his latest work The Progressive Era, Murray Rothbard offers a historical record of it! When the extreme rich use their money to influence politicians, politics itself becomes nothing more than one massive marketing campaign.

 

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Helping The Poor: Markets vs. Charity and Welfare

markets

Kris Morgan 1/15/18

There is much debate on the best means to help the poor. The left trusts welfare programs with the task, while their adversaries offer charities as a viable alternative. Too few point out that the market economy is empirically and logically the best overall choice. Crony capitalism and a general lack in understanding of economics have created an environment where the very idea is met with disgust. Despite that attitude, the market economy is the greatest arena to improve conditions for the poor.

Welfare programs operate to redistribute income from one person to another. While it’s true this makes it possible for the recipients to consume more, in the long run we are only working to subsidize inactivity. It doesn’t matter whether a welfare recipient works or not. Money given for nothing is always money that could have been traded for something. Taxing production to subsidize idleness diverts resources which could otherwise be used to make investments and create jobs, withholding opportunities from the very people we are trying to help. In essence, we create a welfare trap and permanent underclass.

Charity is a cousin of welfare. Although it’s perfectly within the confines of private property rights, it too is not the best way to help the poor. Resources are given to the needy at the behest of their proper owners. Some do help people by offering or finding them work, but such actions represent market activity. Charity, absent investment to meet economic demands, is no more stabilizing than welfare. No wealth is created, nor is anything done to make the receiver more marketable for future or better employment.

The only way to provide the poor with greater stability and wealth in the long run is through capital investment and entrepreneurship. For low wage earners, investment in capital goods makes labor more productive. Increased productivity leads to increased earnings by the business and opens the door for higher wages. When a society boosts production, prices fall. Even if employers refuse to offer raises, material well-being increases for everyone.

Entrepreneurship is the force for creating jobs. Though new businesses usually offer lower pay, entry level jobs help us gain experience and make connections. Building a positive reputation is a building block towards advancement and/or finding a better employer. If one is lucky enough to apply at a new establishment early, they may also attain a leadership role. It’s safe to say most of us look back on our first jobs as providing a template for proper workplace etiquette; knowledge that is expected of all adults in any organization.

Whatever one may think about the market as a mechanism for helping the poor, it’s telling that both charity and welfare attempt to hold people over until they are able to find a stable source of income. A welfare/charity case is not considered turned around until they find good paying employment; which the market provides. Additionally, resources offered by charities and programs alike are first generated by the productive market.

Steve Patterson made this point clear when he wrote: “Without this initial creation of wealth, charities would have nothing to distribute. In the developed world, it’s easy to forget that poverty is the default state of human existence. Wealth is not found in nature; it must be created, which is precisely the role of businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Whatever you think about living standards during the Industrial Revolution, can we imagine where we would be had it not taken place? One of the hottest topics of debate is what to do about America’s decline in factory jobs (though our output is actually up). Without the revolution there would be no factory job issue today, nor would we be in the middle of a technological revolution that gives us access to almost anything we want to learn.

When it comes to welfare, charity, and markets, there is no question as to which is the best method for helping the poor. Creating new jobs and investing in capital equipment is how economic growth occurs. Not only are more jobs available, but each unit of labor is more productive. Real wages rise, and the well-being of all sees a net gain as a result.

Next time you consider giving to a charity, or perhaps a person in need whom you happen to see in your city, consider paying them to do something. Anything. No matter how small. By offering a trade rather than a handout, you give them something to build on (including their self-esteem), much better than a few bucks that will tide them over until the next meal.

 

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47 Years of a Paper Dollar

47yrs

Kris Morgan  12/28/17

On August 15, 1971 Former President Richard Nixon formally closed the Gold Window to foreign governments and banks, ending the dollar’s tie to the metal completely. The Federal Reserve, with its creative financing and ability to add media to the economy, is trusted with the responsibility of carefully controlling the money supply. Those 47 years have given us plenty of data to analyze and determine if that has been the case.

We begin by looking at signs of price stability. What better measure than the price of gold itself? Prior to ’71, gold was $35 an ounce and presently sits at $1,289 (almost a 3700% price increase). In 1971 the median income was $9,030, which equated to 258 oz of gold per year. By the end of 2016, the median income rose to $59,039; only 46 oz of gold annually. While nominal wages have risen, real wages have clearly dropped.

In 1971 minimum wage was just $1.60 per hour, making one ounce of gold affordable after just under 22 hours of labor. Today, with the price of gold at $1,289 and minimum wage at $7.25, it would take an employee almost 178 hours of work to earn a single ounce. While critics may assert that federal minimum wage hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation, we must remember that using paper currency is what makes inflation possible. This loss in purchasing power is not limited to gold. It also affects us where we live.

The median cost of a home in 1971 was $24,000, less than three years median wages, as noted above. In November 2017 the median cost of a home was over $318,000, the price of nearly six years median wage. Again, the numbers show a decrease in dollar value. The cause is the inflation of the money supply. It has gone from $800bn to almost $14tn since 1971. Having made the case that purchasing power has been negatively impacted by paper currency, we can turn our attention to overall economic stability.

All things being equal, interest rates are complex prices which reflect several key economic circumstances, including the amount of capital available and the demand for funds. Austrian Economists use the phrase “Time Preference.” Fiat currency gives those empowered with the distribution of money, namely the Federal Reserve, the ability to disrupt this balance.

When money can be printed or created electronically, loans can be issued even when the available resources don’t support it. Investment towards capital projects that wouldn’t be feasible under real conditions seem sound under altered circumstances. The result is an economic boom in production, which is inevitably followed by a bust, as the true availability of resources becomes exposed and capital goods must be reallocated. This was clearly demonstrated during the real estate collapse of 2007, as major projects went unfinished.

The current boom/bust cycle should be fresh in all our minds. The 1990s saw a great economic boom. According to study.com, “The economic boom of the 1990s began in the second quarter of 1991 when the total value of all goods and services produced in the economy, or gross domestic product (GDP) increased from -1.8% to 3.14%. From that point forward, for the next ten years, GDP growth was positive, with the highest quarter being the second quarter of 2000 when GDP was 7.7%! From 1990 – 1991, GDP grew from $5.5 trillion to $9.8 trillion.”

The boom in the 1990s was at least aided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who according to Forbes, profited by issuing subprime loans. The 2008 article spelled it out: “The government has promoted bad loans not just through the stick of the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) but through the carrot of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which purchase, securitize and guarantee loans made by lenders and whose debt is itself implicitly guaranteed by the federal government. This setup created an easy, artificial profit opportunity for lenders to wrap up bundles of subprime loans and sell them to a government-backed buyer whose primary mandate was to promote homeownership, not to apply sound lending standards.”

In 2001 we had the dot-com slowdown, and in 2007 the infamous housing bubble popped. Mark Thornton wrote about the real estate collapse years before it occured, in an article called “Housing: Too Good to Be True”. He remarked: “Higher price inflation should not have been a surprise given that the Fed has increased the money supply by 25% during the period 2001–2003. In addition, the price of basic commodities has been rising for many months and these higher commodity prices eventually turn up in the price of goods and services. One leading indicator of higher commodity prices is the Dow Jones Commodity Index (stock prices of major commodity producers). It has been rising since the fourth quarter of 2001 and has doubled in value since that time. This stock index is now higher than it has ever been, outside of the blip that occurred in mid-2002.”

There is no reason society has to use paper currency nor be riddled with boom and bust cycles and currency debasement. Repealing legal tender laws could create an environment by which the market decides the currency. This would happen organically over time, after countless transactions. The outcome would be a sound currency by which to gauge economic activity, participate in economic calculation, and secure rising real wages for ourselves and future generations. With a more fixed money supply, prices would fall as the amount of goods and services available grow and limiting the power of the central bank’s ability to distort the economy.

 
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Unlocking Your Inner Sociopath

sociopath

Kris Morgan 12/8/17

Most people find the thought of committing acts of violence repugnant. According to the FBI, in 2015 the violent crime rate was just 372 per 100,000 citizens, a 50% drop since 1993. It seems we are on the right track in our private lives, as far as the numbers are concerned. However, the gains we are making in our personal lives are being lost by our political pursuits. About two-thirds of Americans support free college, over half support universal-basic-income (UBI), and most want universal healthcare. Some even believe the democratic nomination was stolen from self-defined socialist Bernie Sanders.

For libertarians, this trend is alarming. Society’s plan, as far as politics is concerned, is to point policemen, jail cells, and courts at productive people and demand they pay for these programs under penalty of law. How is it we are becoming more peaceful in private life yet exceedingly vicious in political? There are a number of angles to analyze this, but they all lead to the same inevitable conclusion. Politics encourages ordinary citizens to unlock their inner sociopath.

The DSM-5 defines antisocial personality disorder (the phrase for sociopathy) as “[a] pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 years…” Several personality traits are then listed. Consistently displaying three out of seven is the criteria for sociopathic behavior. Of the seven, politics brings out at least five:

  1. Impulsivity
  2. Irritability and aggressiveness
  3. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others
  4. Consistent irresponsibility and
  5. Lack of remorse.

Most of us generally don’t express these patterns in our daily lives, but when it comes to politics, not only do we embrace them, we often eschew those who don’t.

Numbers three and five go together. Whenever we support laws which are designed to control others, rather than protect us from predation, we invite a confrontation involving an armed person in uniform and a peaceful person. When our actions create such a dangerous environment, we can safely define it as reckless disregard for safety. When we blame the perpetrator of the victimless crime with phrases like “they shouldn’t have broken the law,” we prove we have no remorse for them.

Impulsivity and irresponsibility are almost the same thing. When we are impulsive, we don’t think through our decisions. We react to a gut feeling without any conscious screening. Our nation’s finances are a prime example, as we have never failed to raise the debt ceiling, and owe over $20 trillion. In spite of the numbers we show absolutely no sign of slowing down.

The final aspects to analyze are irritability and aggressiveness. Facebook debates aside, this attitude towards others may be the most important to counteract. It fuels our hatred for anyone living outside our borders, who disagrees with us, or who breaks any law. A moment’s reflection is all it takes to realize those outside American borders are just as human as any of us. Deep down, we know not all laws are just. Finally, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. What causes our anxiety to flare is the knowledge that a group of politicians are going to have power and they will be able to force the country to abide by their opinions on these and all other matters.

When we support the use of politics to provide UBI, universal healthcare, and education (among other things), we essentially support the jailing of people who would rather not hand over their money for these programs. Libertarians often speak of charities as a means to provide for the less fortunate, but the sad truth is it’s just not guaranteed. If people are free to choose what to do with their own money, they might say no, so the coercive nature of politics gets ignored, or much worse, it gets accepted as necessary. Nevertheless, there is no right to a political establishment that forces people to do what we please.

Being free to make choices with our own money can be uncomfortable to those wanting certain services. We have debates about how economies grow, how wealth is created, and how society can find alternatives to government power, seemingly with the goal of appeasing those who want law to govern everything. It’s well past the time we take a stand, point out the inherent sociopathy that comes with the use of power over others, and just say no. We don’t have to explain how all of society can work through consensual relationships in order to stand firmly against the use of power. We don’t accept that excuse from private criminals, there’s no reason to pretend it’s valid when dealing with the state.

 
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