On Approach

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Kris Morgan   2/26/2018

If you’re a libertarian, chances are you have debated someone who seems to think you stuck your head in the sand. If you are lucky enough, you have conversed with people who stumped you by asking how services could be provided outside of politics. However, if you’re like 99.9% of us, you have also spoken to someone who just can’t seem to figure out why you would support liberty in the first place. At first your opponent may just think you are naive, but after chatting with you for a while, they are left with the impression that you are hopelessly dogmatic. The truth is we are neither naive nor dogmatic; we simply believe in a different method of approaching problems.

A perfect example of such thinking can be found in an article titled “The Libertarian Delusion” published by the American Prospect Magazine in 2015. The piece touches on a wide range of topics including pollution, income inequality, and the 2007 housing crash. It then goes on to discuss the great marvels pursued by governments which have lead to private investment, using Apple as an example. The author later suggests the market is a creature of government. While some arguments are well thought out, it is painfully obvious the writer fails to understand libertarianism.

As tempting as it is to write a point by point response, it is much more important to clarify something our critics almost always fail to grasp. Libertarianism is not an ideology revolved around results or personal gain, nor do we wish to bury our heads in the sand and pretend problems don’t exist. Instead, we hope to persuade others to approach our shared challenges within the context of free associations and individual freedom. This is in sharp contrast to other schools of thought, which rely heavily on solving problems through the force of law.

This is made more clear by reviewing the way Mr. Kuttner closed his piece: “So if we are to win the argument with the libertarians, we need to take back effective government. Friedman was wrong to argue that the cure for market failure is more market. However, the cure for weak or corrupted democracy has to be more democracy. The only way to redeem public confidence in government as a necessary check on the market is to repair faith in democracy itself. It is not difficult to prove that the claim of market efficiency is delusional.”

Critics such as Mr. Kuttner could speak about market failures and political efficiency until they are blue in the face; it is not going to make the slightest difference to any serious libertarian. What speaks to us are ideals, such as justice and peace. Prosperity is more of a bonus. The mechanism by which justice and peace are achieved is respect for legitimate property rights; legitimate property defined as that which is gained through proper homestead, received as gift, or earned through trade.

Most treat this opinion as a minor difference in politics, but there are great implications which result from this perspective. Most importantly, we are not interested in using political power nor any other form of coercion to solve problems. Rather than asking how the law should be modified to suit the circumstances we want to change, we ask ‘what can we do within the framework of liberty to make life better?’

There are many benefits to approaching society’s troubles this way. First, it is the only way to sustain a free state. Seeking new laws in order to overcome obstacles has the inevitable consequence of creating a totalitarian regime, since we will always have our imperfections. Secondly, we avoid the pitfall of pretending law can make society more secure. Seeking to increase our own safety at the expense of other people’s liberty (i.e. gun control) is a method that is sure to fail for obvious reasons, as liberty and safety are one and the same. Perhaps most importantly, we are forced to deal with the roots of our problems, whereas the use of law encourages us to focus only on the symptoms.

The next time someone demands you know every detail about how a free society would work, remind them that our message is really one about method. Don’t be scared to leave omniscience to God. Where we don’t already have answers, the logical thing to do is brainstorm. According to gallup, only 27% of Americans can be characterized as libertarian. If so, 73% of our nation’s brain power is open to, likely relying on, the passing of new laws as a panacea when facing challenges. Freedom cannot last if every problem is met with a reduction in liberty, and passing laws will never ‘fix’ humanity. We can do better. The only caveat is we need that other 73% to work with us.

 

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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 High Cost of Freedom

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Jeremy Medley, September 11th, 2017

As we mark another anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, is now the time to rethink American foreign policy? When did America abandon the principles laid out by our founders, best stated by Thomas Jefferson as “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none,” to the current stance of nation building across the globe? A strong case could be made for World War I. But that’s for a different time and post. This path of nation making isn’t what we are about.

We as a nation were not attacked on that bright September day because of our lifestyles, not because we own a home with a two car garage and 2.5 children. We were attacked because we have allowed our elected officials to wage wars and occupy territories in sovereign nations without any thought of the cost paid not just in dollars and cents, but in lives snuffed out so we can “bomb some freedom in to ‘em.”

We’ve added 2 trillion dollars to the national debt in this endeavor alone. Yet, where has it gotten us? President Trump stated in August (2017) he plans to send an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan in the coming months. Why? Have we not learned anything in over the years? As a United States Marine, I learned very quickly that we are fighting new people every day because they don’t want their homeland occupied. Would you?

How much did your home cost? We spend 110 thousand dollars just for 1 hellfire missile to strike a building that wouldn’t even be classified as a shack here in America.

We have more people killed here in U.S. cities in a single year than we have from 9/11 and the troop losses following the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the F.B.I. Should we expect armed troops patrolling our streets soon?

There is no need to even to go into the (un)Patriot Act or the lost liberty from it, but think about these things the next time you hear someone say, “They need a good dose of freedom.”

 
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Betrayal Of The American Media

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Kris Morgan, September 6, 2017

I know everyone loves their right to bear arms, but freedom of the press is first in America’s Bill of Rights.  The right to bear arms exists for the instance that our government becomes unbearable. Freedom of speech is designed to stop tyranny from forming.  The late Former President John F. Kennedy articulated the importance of the press on April 27, 1961 when he addressed the profession directly, stating:

 
“…And that is why our press was protected by the first amendment.  The only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution– not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply give the public what it wants–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion… And so it is to the printing press, to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be, free and independent.”  

 
Media today is certainly not focused on being watchdogs of government overreach.  Instead we have what we all know to be the liberal media and conservative media. Deep down we know we are getting a spin, but hope that the effects are negligible and the facts are solid.   We are in the midst of an anti-intellectual movement that is powered by these left/right biases. Conservatives and liberals tend to stick to their own sides in media consumption. As a result, each thinks the other nothing short of pure evil.  

 
This observation was echoed by Mediaite when they published the following in an article: “Most of those who get their news only from Fox News, Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity & Breitbart.com think Donald Trump is a savior who is certain to win (the 2016 election) and that Hillary Clinton is the anti-Christ [sic].  Almost everyone who only consumes the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, NPR & The Huffington Post are sure the opposite is true.”

 
These attitudes stop intellectual discourse before it even starts.  How can people with differing points of view possibly have a productive conversation if they each go in thinking of the other person as the devil?

According to Business Insider, as of 1983, 90% of everything we read, hear, and see is owned by just six corporations.  Prior, it took 50 companies to make that same market share. This is important because it’s much easier to manipulate a handful of companies than 50.  The lack of diversity in mainstream media is most visible when government wants war.

 
On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Howard Kurtz (CNN) reflected on the beginnings of the war and wrote “Major news organizations aided and abetted the Bush administration’s march to war on what turned out to be faulty promises.  All too often, skepticism was checked at the door, and the shaky claims of top officials and unnamed sources were trumpeted as fact… From August 2002 through the March 19, 2003 launch of the war, I found more than 140 front-page stories that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq.”  

 
While we do appreciate people like Mr. Kurtz writing such pieces years later, the damage is done.  War is the first example used in this essay, but the media’s weakness is not limited there. How economic circumstances are reported is also not entirely factual.

 
Matthew Stein of the Huffington Post opened an article on the 2007 financial collapse with criticism of the free market.  “Unregulated greed will result in the demise of our planet just as surely as it is causing the collapse of our economy.”  Indeed, there is always a tendency to blame free markets for all economic woes and praise government for economic boons. That is to be expected when the two major parties are products of Keynesian economics.  For a market to be free, all levels of government (Federal, State, and Local) have to restrict their actions to   the protection of private property. No economy riddled with regulations, taxation, fiat currency, central banking, wars, uncertainty about those in power, a welfare state, etc. can be said to be free.  It makes absolutely no sense to blame that which doesn’t exist.

 
Before 2007, for about two decades, the central bankers at the Federal Reserve and politicians alike specifically focused on giving cheap credit in the housing sector.  In essence, they inflated a bubble that was certain to burst. Credit and interest rates are reflections of assets on hand and time-preference.  Using politics to control interest rates obscures the information entrepreneurs use to gauge how many resources are available and where to invest.  It’s easier to spend $100 in your wallet if you think you have $1,000 in the bank. What happens when you spend that money, only to realize later that your account is also empty?  Free Market? You might as well blame space aliens, at least then it might be possible.

 
When I was younger I dutifully watched the news.  I believed I was staying informed about the world.  However, I later realized I was exposing myself to story after story of some evil crime taking place; people harming their own babies, shootings, robberies, assaults, etc.  After years of studying economics, philosophy, politics, logic, etc. I came to the conclusion that the media is nothing more than the watchdog of the people. Rather than keeping an eye on government acquiring unjust power, the news seems more interested in running negative stories that originate in the general public, almost as a reminder of why we ‘need’ the state.

When politics is involved, reporters seem to act like starving dogs at a dinner table, waiting for their masters to offer up any extra crumbs, begging our politicians to answer a question or provide a comment, so they can simply repeat it.  This is not the media JFK spoke about in his brilliant speech.  I am not alone in this observation.  The Guardian published an article explaining some of the negative effects of consuming too much news as well as the impotence of the media in explaining how the world actually works.

 
Although much more could be written on this topic, I think it would be more productive to start brainstorming what changes we can make.  The news gives us information about events taking place and provides us with some hard facts. However, when we dive into any analyses that requires serious thought, such as economics or whether or not to support wars, we have to research these topics in detail.  It is irresponsible to use sound-bites from biased media to make long-lasting decisions. Don’t be afraid to study opinions that contradict your own. Most people stick to media and explanations that reflect their own assumptions about the world.  We are all prone to this behavior. Opening ourselves up to the possibility that we are wrong, or have been taught incorrectly by people we love and trust, creates uneasiness.  Rather than put our first instincts to the test as we should, we tend to associate with people who echo our own bias.

 
The world, with its nuclear weapons and tools for economic manipulation, cannot afford to be ruled by people who are not willing to step outside their comfort zones.  Spotting our biases is not hard. Simply ask yourself why you believe X, and if you don’t have evidence and logic in your answer, then your stance is based on assumption.  Ask yourself why others believe the opposite you do. Study their literature. Converse with those of varying viewpoints. Leave the “anyone who disagrees with me is the devil” stuff at home.  While there are exceptions to every rule, for the most part we all want the same things, to be physically and financially secure and have long, happy, and productive lives. It may be more beneficial in debate, especially on social media, to determine if you and the other person share the same values before you begin.  

 
I presented this article for two major reasons.  First, libertarianism takes a great deal of abstract reasoning to fully grasp, which is why we are so often painted as people who want the poor to die off and everyone else to shoot up heroin.  Second as long as we let the news control us, by feeding us constant streams of negativity which make us fearful, we lose domestically and we lose internationally. We cannot expect to make sound decisions when we are driven by anxiety.   When our population digs deep and pushes back against this news lead anti-intellectualism we will get on track towards real virtue.

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The Why of Libertarianism

Kristopher Morgan, May 22, 2017

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

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

Libertarians: Rich White Males of the Republican Party

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

Libertarians: The Great White Hope   

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

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

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

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

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

 

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