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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Why Marx Was (Almost) Right

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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

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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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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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Taxation is Theft

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Kris Morgan 10/23/17

“Taxation is Theft” captures the essence of libertarian political philosophy more accurately than any other phrase.  Libertarians believe that basic moral rules should apply to our rulers to the same degree they do private citizens.  In the case of taxation, we maintain that since the threat of force is a key feature, it is a form of theft.  Skeptics of this conclusion have several arguments that seem plausible on the surface, but we quickly see that on the fundamental level libertarians are correct.

The easiest argument to dispose of is the belief that since governments provide services, taxation is just.  One example is charity.  Most of us have room in our hearts to help those in need.  Nevertheless, that does not justify forcing us to fund the welfare state through progressive taxation.  Wanting to be charitable is not the same was wanting the government to take our money through the threat of imprisonment and distribute it as they see fit.  The same logic holds true for all government services. Demand for a good is not a license for a third party to coerce you into giving them money to provide it.  There are other objections that require more attention.

Philip Goff, writing for taxjustice.net, believes there is no moral nor legal right to our income.  The legality of taxation is a matter of fact and law, nothing more.  The moral question is what interests us.  He wrote “there is no justice in the fact that the pre-tax income of a city banker is many hundreds of times the pre-tax income of scientists working on a cure for cancer.”  This is a statement about human preferences and the organization of our financial system, but it is not a comment on the use of force to extract money from people.  Mr. Goff is little more than a tax apologist, using human imperfection to justify coercion.

Robert Nielson at whistlinginthewind.org took the approach of comparing taxation to rent.  “The state owns the land and if you want to live on the land you must pay rent. The state is like a shopping centre (or shopping mall for my American readers). If you want to enter it you must agree to abide by its rules.”  The issue with this position is the operant assumption that the state owns the land through honorable means.  Just ownership of property comes about through homesteading, trade, or gift.  This is not how governments acquire property.  They form hierarchies, draw borders, and assume ownership by fiat.  In contrast, shopping malls do not declare ownership of pre-owned property by force, then threaten to lock up people who refuse to pay tribute.  Mr. Nielson’s proposal serves only to remind us that land has been stolen as well.

Scott Tibbs at Conservatibbs.com declared “Government does need to do certain things. The most obvious Biblical reason is to bear the sword against criminals, which requires a criminal justice system complete with lawyers, police and judges and the support staff for all of them. We also need to defend our nation against foreign aggression…”  If protection from those who wish to do us harm is the goal, threatening people with jail time and economic hardship is a contradiction to the stated objective.  We fail before we even begin.  Like the others above, Mr. Tibbs does not address the act of threatening imprisonment for tax evasion;  he is simply another apologist.  The question is how do we fill the vacuum if we end taxation, not whether taxation is theft.

There are those who believe our consent may be assumed until we decide to leave the country.  This is not true.  Not only is it more patriotic to fight for what’s right, it is inconsistent with justice to demand victims of power leave if they don’t like it. Indeed, if refusing to leave the country is the same as accepting everything our rulers do, there are far fewer tyrants around than it would seem.  Only when dealing with government power do people tell the victims to leave the area if they don’t like the injustices they are suffering.

The fact that taxation is theft is precisely what makes politics so hostile.  The left is usually not interested in funding conservative projects.  The right would prefer not to fund left-wing programs like the welfare state, and the left does not favor our interventionist foreign policy.  Libertarians do not wish to be party to anything outside the confines of security and national-defense.  Both our support for government spending on the things we like and our resistance to it for the things we despise indicate the criminal nature of taxation.  This is why Hans Hermann Hoppe called democracy a soft variant of communism.

Human morality is a universal concept that does not disappear because your organization names itself “The Government.”  Since they are nothing more than groups of people, they should be bound by the same rules as any other group or individual. When governments enforce laws against tax evasion, possessing drug paraphernalia, or any other victimless crime, they are allocating themselves authority which is denied any other group.  This is wrong.

What is most telling when it comes to those who proclaim taxation to be just is their statements only apply to governments.  Defense attorneys would never dream of asserting that a client’s actions were justified because they used the money they stole in a socially beneficial way.  It would be very entertaining to see a criminal in court use social contract theory as a means of defense.  It would be laughable if a suspect seriously suggested they’ve committed no crime because the victim could move to a new neighborhood if they don’t accept being robbed.  

Those wishing to promote the validity of taxation without addressing the well founded threats of imprisonment can be immediately dismissed.  Pointing out services provided, and ignoring the coercion and removal of choice in the matter, is a tactic designed to deflect from the central issues and prey on our shared anxieties about the future.  There are those, such as Mr. Nielson, who intelligently highlight the issue of property ownership.  However, when we look at the full picture, we see such claims are not as well founded as they seem.  If we are honest enough to admit the foul nature of taxation, and follow it up with “you can leave the country”, we consciously choose the side of evil.

There is no doubt taxation is theft.  Not even consent makes it legit, as the compliant individual has no freedom to change their mind and withdraw their money.  If we are to have any chance at real justice, liberty, peace, and a truly civil society, admitting taxation is theft and either limiting it to what’s needed to sustain a secure state and/or eventually eliminating it entirely would be a fantastic step.  We would all be much more open to each other’s thoughts and feelings if the constant threat of government power was removed from the equation.

 
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The Quest For Moral Superiority

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Kris Morgan  September 17, 2017

Liberals believe in big government at home, whereas conservatives support an interventionist foreign policy.  The two combined have given us a welfare/warfare state that cannot last.  The United States has accumulated over 20 trillion dollars in debt, over 127 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities, killed innocent people abroad, and jailed millions of peaceful people.  In spite of this, the Federal Government shows no signs of slowing down.  How is it that the “freest nation in the world” manages to imprison more of its citizens than North Korea, a communist dictatorship?  Ironically, these evils exist because our debates revolve around attempts at gaining the moral upper-hand rather than an unhindered search for truth.

Since politics is always a question of when it becomes morally acceptable to use force, our views reflect our sense of justice.  We assume ourselves good and just upon entering political debates.  As a result, we define opposing ideas as unjust.  Any admission on our part that our beliefs are flawed inherently implies the other person is more just and morally superior.  These biases cause our conversations to get out of hand.

For example, many believe that the United States did not provoke Osama Bin Laden to carry out the 9/11 attacks.  Some lash out when presented with a review of US interventions in the Middle East, including sanctions in the 1990s that lead to half-a-million children dying, and our Secretary of State affirming their deaths were acceptable.  They often label the messenger as part of the “blame-America-first” crowd and ignore the facts.

Conservatives who push for interventionism abroad are frequently combative to those who highlight US aggression.  They dismiss the opposition with cliches about how the world is an unfriendly place, or claim the dissenter hates America. Admitting the US is a hostile nation contradicts their view that America is the greatest country on the planet.  To backtrack on that base belief would make them appear weak and discredit their moral authority, so they often react with a critique of their own without acknowledging yours.  This method is not restricted to conservatives.

Liberals voice support for civil liberties, yet favor central economic controls.  When an opponent points out that economic controls are violations of our freedom, they claim their foe is uncaring to those in need.  Their inconsistency goes unrecognized as they focus on attacking their opponents.  It is easier to blindly accuse adversaries of being sexists, racists, or wanting the needy to starve than face their contradiction.

Democrats and Republicans alike listen to their own bases.  If their supporters are not willing to admit discrepancies in their platforms, then politicians will continue to roam free.  The welfare/warfare state will endure until there is no wealth left to tax and the currency hyper-inflates.  Making excuses, creating strawmen, deflecting legitimate critiques, and ignoring new information has allowed our government to grow completely out of control. It is an unsustainable model for political discourse.

One can argue that libertarians are not exempt from taking part in this manner of conversation, and there may be some valid critiques.  However, libertarians have a ‘north star’ with which to follow.  While Republicans and Democrats have only their own sense of moral superiority to guide them, libertarians have the Non-Aggression Principle. This keeps our personal virtues away from our politics.  For instance, a libertarian may wish for society to build a sound safety net.  Nevertheless, progressive taxation is the initiation of force and is accordingly rejected by libertarians.  Libertarians do not use morality to justify coercion.

We are being taken advantage of by a system that knows people have a desire to appear morally strong, so much so that they will defend politicians in order to protect themselves.  The best way to smash this system is to set aside our own egos, admit when we are wrong, develop consistent ideologies, and hold our rulers accountable. We have to make this change if we are ever going to claim our rightful place as the dominant party in our relationship with our power structure.

 

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UBI Part III: Alternatives

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Kris Morgan   September 21, 2017

Universal Basic Income (UBI) comes with high costs.  Economically, it will inhibit growth by placing a tax burden on production, making it more difficult to start new businesses and for small ones to compete.  Taxation also detracts from funds which could be used for reinvestment.  Monetizing more debt would put heavier pressure on our already weak dollar, as well as cause malinvestments.  Our government is not only 20 trillion dollars in debt, but it presently holds over 127 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities, in addition to wartime spending.  If we do not reject the UBI on our own terms, basic economics will force the issue.  That does not mean we must embark on the future without a plan.

Fortunately, plenty of economic reforms have been presented which are worthy of support.  Regulations that do not directly protect the property rights of others can be discarded.  Overtime rules, wage floors, truth in advertising, licensing requirements, and others restrict market forces from allocating resources to meet demand efficiently.  For example, the operant assumption in truth in advertising is that a particular business has engaged in false advertising, until proven otherwise.  By pushing back harmful regulations, we give ourselves a fighting chance to build.  It is unwise to face an uncertain future with our hands tied.  

Support for UBI indicates people have empathy for those who are unable to adequately adapt.  UBI is a means of expressing this feeling.  The alternative to government power is the conduit of civil society.  Entrepreneurs could market goods and services as products which support jobs.  Consumers can use purchasing power to reinforce such ventures, and philanthropists could fill in the remaining vacuum.  

UBI has brought attention to significant defects in our education system.  Its original intent may have been to create a labor force suitable for factory work, rather than enlightened critical thinkers.  In 1903, when John D. Rockefeller founded the General Education Board, his advisor Frederick Gates informed “…We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning of science. We are not to raise among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters.  We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians…”  

This design was confirmed in 1990 by New York Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto, who said the following during his acceptance speech: “…Schools are intended to produce through the application of formulae, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.  To a very great extent, schools succeed in doing this. But our society is disintegrating, and in such a society, the only successful people are self-reliant, confident, and individualistic…”  

Education to induce conformity may have worked in the past, but it will not suffice any longer.  According to careerfaqs.com, the skills needed in the future include cognitive flexibility, creativity, critical thinking, and complex problem solving, among a few others. We should be pressuring our local school boards to focus on building skill sets, such as these, which are projected for future success.

As parents, we should not leave the task entirely to school.  Computer competence can be taught in our homes.  By teaching our kids a programming language, we could give them a head start in facing the future with a marketable skill.  If need be, we could find someone to act as a tutor.  

It is clear that the areas which need the most reform are our economy and our education system.  Our children must be able to exercise their creative muscles, and it is fundamental they be economically free to adapt.  Anyone supporting the idea of UBI without considering our weak financial position should consider what is addressed in this article.  It is not a question of whether we will have to take responsibility for ourselves, it is whether a severe economic crash will be the cause.

 

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Are You A Voluntary Socialist?

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Travis Hallman, September 6, 2017

Libertarians and Socialists may have more in common than the two realize. There are many denominations of libertarianism within the liberty movement such as; classical liberalism, minarchism, libertarian transhumanism, anarchism, progressive libertarianism, anarcho-communism, etc. Overall, Libertarians agree our current state should be drastically reduced in size and power. Libertarians and Socialists are no exception. Voluntary Socialists support competing voluntary organizations operating within a free market to create a safety net.

2.11 Retirement and Income Security

“Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system. The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals [as witnessed with the recent string of hurricanes].  We believe members of society will become even more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.”

A very good example of this happening in America occurred when President Trump cut the spending for Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels was receiving approximately $1,000 per day but they immediately received $50,000 in donations when the president cut their (government-funded) allowance.

For example, if 999 of 1,000 people living in a free market choose to contribute to an organization which provides a safety net but does not require the one person to join,  would that be moral? Yes. Would it be immoral to not allow the 999 to (voluntarily) establish their said safety net if they so desire? Yes.

Libertarians would not prevent an organization from creating a voluntary safety net after we establish a free market for our nation. It’s neither pragmatic nor moral to do so.

One good explanation of Libertarian Socialism can be found in the following excerpt by David Boaz, “The Coming Libertarian Age” Cato Policy Report , “One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society can’t tolerate groups of people practicing freedom, but a libertarian society can comfortably allow people to choose voluntary socialism. If a group of people—even a very large group—wanted to purchase land and own it in common, they would be free to do so. The libertarian legal order would require only that no one be coerced into joining or giving up his property.”

Voluntary socialism should not be confused with progressive libertarianism. Progressive libertarians support a government operated safety net but are socially tolerant regarding civil liberties, immigration, and foreign policy. Progressive libertarians should not be confused with liberals either. Liberals support a government operated safety net but are socially liberal regarding civil liberties, immigration, and foreign policy. Socially liberal and socially tolerant individuals both support the legalization of choices regarding bodily-autonomy but socially liberal individuals would require government permissions (permits) to engage in such acts; whereas socially tolerant individuals would support your freedom of choice without requiring (the purchase of) government permission. Voluntary Socialists do not support politicians creating the safety net. Instead, these are maintained by communal efforts of the volunteers.

In liberty,

-Travis Hallman

 

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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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