Category Archives: Libertarian opinion

Private Critic

One of the central tenants of leftist-progressive ideology is that private concentrations of power are to be feared whereas similar public concentrations (the state) is of relatively minor concern. This indifference is the result of the mistaken belief that “we” can control the state because democracy. But, private actors might do something we don’t like, and without a formal (legal) framework to force them to bend to our will there’s no limit to their potential diabolic deeds. The obvious leftist solution to this quandary then is to unleash the power of that entity we believe we control (the state) so that it may exert its monopoly on the use of violence in order to achieve those ends we find desirable. Just because one can train a lion, tiger, or shark to do their bidding does not mean one is in control of the beast; like the state, they will tolerate you as long as you are useful, and when you are not, well, it’s dinnertime.

Those of us adhering to the tenants of individual freedom and free markets, however, believe the opposite. We fear the state exerting control precisely because we recognize its monolithic power. We can control the state as much as we can push back a tidal wave. Private “power” is not a concern, as private entities can’t use violence to force you to buy their services. If they do something people don’t, like then the market will correct the situation – given enough time (and a lack of state imposed barriers preventing such corrections).

So what is the point of this prologue? Well in the past few weeks we’ve seen the narrative flip somewhat. There has been a widespread move to “deplatform” a variety of right leaning (comedian Gavin McGinnes, The Proud Boys, Stefan Molyneux, etc) and other malcontents (Alex Jones/InfoWars) among the social media giants (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc). So what is this? This is private actors using their power to silence voices. This is private actors refusing to serve certain customers. This is private actors discriminating on the basis of thoughts and words.

This is perfectly fine from a rights perspective.

Those (the left) who are normally up in arms over private actors “abusing” their power (e.g. cake bakers) are conspicuously silent. Apparently refusing service to those you disagree with (e.g. Sarah Huckabee Sanders) adheres to the core leftist belief of it should only be legal if I agree with it.

It is now instead the free market libertarians having the loud and vocal conversation about private actors engaging in socially undesirable (censorship) behavior. Yes, these are private companies and they can include or exclude anyone from their platform. No one (libertarians anyway) is calling for some kind of regulation to force them to include everyone. But, just because some one or some group has the right to do something (that is, they should not be thrown in a cage for doing so) doesn’t mean someone who respects that right has to agree with how that right is exercised. One may still rightly criticize how or why some action was taken. Criticizing actions and saying there should be a law against such actions are a universe apart. Criticism is that murmur that can start an avalanche of (non-coerced, voluntary) change.

Say My Name

Say My Name

This past week CNN’s Jim Acosta got into a somewhat heated (for a press conference) exchange with Sarah Sanders (Trump’s press secretary). This brouhaha centered on President Trump’s recent comments on Twitter (where else?) that cast the press (“Fake News Media”) as the “real enemy of the people.”

Apparently this assertion is something poor Jim Acosta could not abide. He all but demanded that Ms. Sanders retract the claim by proxy by passive-aggressively asking her if that too was her stance. Since those who adhere to “goodthink” would never agree to such a sentiment then Ms. Sanders would have no choice but to contravene her boss. But, if she does what the job requires, that is to only promulgate the President’s position, then she is backed into a corner and can’t contradict the claim, even if personally she does not adhere to it. It’s the classic damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

After Mr. Acosta’s extended monologue-cum-question she did eventually answer the question as best she could within the constraints of her position. This was not to Jim’s liking. Again he persisted – he simply would not relent until he heard the words “the press is not the enemy of the people” come out of her mouth. But they never did.

Whether Trump’s remarks are a valid or invalid point of view is not the point of this article however. What I found far more interesting was the left’s reaction (in this case embodied by CNN) to Ms. Sander’s refusal to disavow the enemy-of-the-people notion. Later in the day Mr. Acosta had an “interview” with a CNN anchor concerning the events earlier at the press conference. He was approaching apoplexy as the sympathetic anchor nodded in unison to his bewilderment and then anger about such remarks. You see, she just refused to say “radical Islamic terrorism”, oh whoops, sorry, that is, “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

Yes the left too can rival the right in the exercise of elevating inane phrases as the “good American” litmus test. The “Thinkpol” have been alerted, watch out! And of course both sides only ever have the interests of Americans at heart. Trump insisted Obama was putting this country at risk by refusing to say “radical Islamic terrorism” as it failed to address the terrorism problem where it originated. Today the press insists Trump is putting the country at risk by refusing to disavow, “the press is the enemy of the people” because apparently somehow Joe citizen will interpret that phrase as permission to start The Purge™ on all journalists.

Both are patently absurd positions. Those who yearn to create such “loyalty oaths” that must be uttered in order to prove oneself to be a good upstanding American are engaged in a performative contradiction. The very act of expecting or demanding or requiring such utterances annihilates any connection you may be claiming to the putative ideals of America: freedom and liberty. Those words mean the following: I don’t owe you a thing and you don’t owe me a thing, but if we want to mind our business and stop worrying about what other people are doing or thinking or saying then maybe we can all just get down to the business of living together and treating each other with the same level of respect we desire in return.

 

Words Speak Louder Than Actions?

Why so much hate for the Donald? If we look only at his actual policies they are in fact no different than any of his predecessors. Differences that may exist are in degree, not kind. Or non-existant at all. For example ICE deportations are both up and down under Trump when compared to Obama. They are up from FY2016 (61,094 vs 44,512) but dramatically lower under Trump than under Obama’s first years (averaging over 225,000 from 2008-2012). The point being before you start jumping up and down about what a monster some president is in comparison to “your guy” chances are high that “your guy” at some point did the exact the same thing or far worse. That goes both ways my Democrat and Republican friends. That’s because they are all the same. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump – they’ve all been responsible for murdering innocent civilians in other countries by the truck load. But nobody cares because we wave the flag and chant “US interests” or “national defense” as if somehow that incantation is supposed to bring absolution. We’re all too eager to protest the president over something he said (mere words) but then stand silent with respect to their horrendous actions (murdering innocents). I guess actions don’t speak louder than words when it comes to Presidential concerns, at least where it concerns Trump.

Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump have all escalated the drug war. They have all been responsible for caging millions of people for the “crime” of having in their possession something that some other people think they shouldn’t have in their possession. If we threw people in cages for owning certain books there would be a groundswell of public outcry; yet change that word from “book” to “drug” and somehow it all makes perfect sense. There is no constitutional amendment (like alcohol prohibition had supporting it) mandating a drug war, so any of these presidents with the stroke of a pen could have ended this senseless and costly “war” on drugs. That not one of them has serves as a testament to their cowardice and wickedness.

So it is not Trump’s policies that the left finds so objectionable but rather his delivery. Indeed when he shuts up and bombs people the press fall all over themselves praising how “presidential” he is. For shame. Killing people is presidential? Trump is crude and blunt when he speaks. Not at all how we picture our Hollywood presidents to be. The press and the left would like someone from central casting (like Obama) filling the role – someone who just “seems” presidential. This crudeness is perhaps Trumps only redeeming quality. It puts the lie to the notion that presidents are somehow better, smarter, and wiser, than the rest of us and are worthy of the power we bestow upon them. They are not. With Trump we see the Everyman President. And it scares us. And it should. But it should scare us no matter who occupies that office. Do not be so easily duped by the silver tongue of the professional politician. If you focus on their deeds and not their words then perhaps we might one day reign in their power.

Quora post: Libertarians, why should I lean libertarian?

Here’s my reply:

It comes down to one simple question: do you believe that sometimes it is ok to initiate (that is, you are not responding to violence initiated against you) or threaten to initiate violence against others in order to achieve some end? Or stated differently, do you believe that sometimes the ends justify the means?

if you answer “yes” then you are not a libertarian but in order to not also be a hypocrite you should also happily accept whatever is done to you by the state in order that the state may achieve its putatively meritorious ends. Any objection to any state action in this situation would be hypocritical.

On the other hand if you answer “no” to this question then you are a libertarian and following this one simple rule in life will yield the correct answer whenever it is asked “”should the state do X?”

The Blame Train

The blame train continues its journey. First the democrats blamed racist angry whites for Clinton’s loss. But it turns out white’s preference for the R over the D candidate was statistically no different in this election than in those of recent memory. Indeed Clinton lost ground among blacks and Hispanics against the putatively “racist” Trump. Next came the “fake news” canard which suggested that overtly absurd “news” stories with limited ideological appeal somehow swayed the decision making process of those completely unplugged from the inside baseball of politics. Now the latest attempt at diverting blame for Hillary’s historic loss is the narrative that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the election by “helping” Trump by exposing to the public the sordid underbelly of the DNC and their candidate. The source of this narrative? None other than the CIA. You know, the folks that brought us “trust us, there really are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” The agency with a decades long history of interfering in the internal affairs of other nations (see Iran coup of 1953), whose sole purpose is to manipulate foreign nationals into doing their bidding so as to gain a political outcome favorable to US interests, they are now the ones crying foul that the US was the victim of the exact same shenanigan they routinely engage in. Well sort of. The Washington Post article citing this revelation only refers to anonymous sources indirectly briefed by the agency. Yep, sounds ironclad to me.

What evidence that has been released is laughable at best. It is the real world equivalent of citing as proof of an Indian attack the fact that the attackers wore headdress and threw tomahawks. Because no one ever has ever thought to cast a false appearance in order to shift blame. In other words, if Russia actually did decide to engage in such a hack they would not be stupid enough to actually use tools with a clear Russian fingerprint. That alone basically tells you it was NOT Russia.

Then again it doesn’t really matter if Russia was involved. They aren’t being accused of actually physically hacking vote tallies. They are being accused of playing a role in the release of truthful information. It is indeed a crazy world where the former heart of the Soviet empire is the vanguard of truth while the American government seeks to bury it. Notice none of those on the left deny the information that was released. They can’t, because it’s all true. The best they can hope for is some sort of Cold War era McCarthy-esque ties-to-Russia smear campaign against Trump in order to undermine or delegitimize his presidency. But it won’t work because at the end of the day the people only care about the information, not how it was obtained. To wit, even with all of the recent revelations of Russian “hacking” a Pew Research poll shows 99% of Trump voters and 97% of Clinton voters would cast the exact same vote today as they did on November 8.

Phantom Menace

I voted for Johnson. Trump was not my guy, but… moving past the initial shock of his win, I am both cautiously optimistic and filled with schadenfreude. The schadenfreude is directed at Hillary supporters. Donald Trump is the perfect vessel for wiping that conceited smugness from their soul. As the saying goes, if you live by the sword, don’t act all shocked when someone uses the sword to vanquish you. That sword is democracy and she is indeed a fickle mistress. If you abuse her power she will flee you and indeed that is exactly what happened to the left. For 8 long years they crammed tax increases, Obamacare, pro-Union rules, and a tidal wave of new regulations down our throats. They thought it would improve our lives. I’m sure they meant well. But they were wrong (economic ignorance will do that n.b. Bernie supporters).

People ultimately vote their pocket book, which is why it was not a wave of “white racism” that elected Trump (indeed he carried less of the white vote than Romney and the same as Bush) but rather economic self-interest. Yes, Trump is a boorish loudmouth, but people don’t care as long as they think he’s the most likely to improve their lot. Do you poll your plumber about his relationships with women or do you just want him to fix your toilet? I’m not hiring Donald Trump to teach manners or to babysit my kids. People voted for Trump not because of the things he said, but in spite of them. That takes real courage.

But you wouldn’t know it to witness the outpouring of apocalyptic hyperbole from the left on social media and the airwaves. The hypocrisy is astounding. Not two weeks ago after the third debate the liberal media was all a twitter about Trump’s unprecedented remarks about reserving his acceptance of the results until after the election and what this would mean for our democracy. Gasp! The liberal media predicted possible violence and turmoil from trigger-happy right wing nut-jobs. Well guess what? The left lost and then behaved exactly as they had predicted the right would! Indeed, it is their behavior that is unprecedented. Never before have elections results in the US been openly and violently contested. Then right on cue (see we were right!) the prophecies came true. Stories started coming in of pro-Trump violence against minorities. But this boy has cried wolf one too many times. The left has a track record of such false flags. Thanks to Wikileaks we learned the Clinton campaign paid people to incite violence at Trump rallies. Likewise we soon found that most if not all of these stories were either fabricated from whole cloth or were grossly misrepresented. https://goo.gl/Q269bv

But so far these protests aren’t about anything Trump has done, merely their fear of what he might do. He is today but a phantom menace. I suppose that fear is understandable given the mantle of unchallenged executive authority he is inheriting from Obama. Perhaps if the left had not been so indifferent to the pleas of libertarians and constitutional conservatives about executive abuses of power they would have less to fear now. But, I guess when it’s your guy doing stuff you approve of it’s no big deal. I don’t know what you’re afraid of though, it’s not like Trump is going to round up all the Muslims or Mexicans and put them in internment camps. Only a Democrat (FDR) would do something like that.

Color of Law

If you, like me, have been periodically receiving recorded messages on your voicemail from a heavily accented hypnotized Haldol user purporting to be from the IRS you will be relived to hear those calls were actually fraudulent. Yes, I know it is hard to believe. Indian authorities recently raided and arrested hundreds involved in this scam. If you’re curious to hear first-hand how the scam plays out for those willing to take the bait, have a listen to podcaster Tom Woods as he has a little bit of fun with them. It basically ends with the victim being instructed to purchase Target Green Dot cards (of all things) to stave off an imminent IRS raid. We may laugh at the notion that anyone could be so gullible as to fall for this scam but sadly at least 1 in 100 people did indeed fall for it. After the raid it was reported that these scammers raked in from one-hundred to one-hundred fifty thousand dollars every day.

Although we can agree their actions were contemptible, there is actually little separating what they were doing and what the IRS itself does everyday. Granted the IRS does not threaten people over the phone. No, the IRS is much more polite; they use the mail instead. I know. I’ve received many such letters over the years. And in every single case it was due to an error on the IRS’s part. In other words, guilty until proven innocent. Fortunately my issues were all resolved but not without unwarranted time and expense. But more to the point, the IRS is no different than these scammers even when the amounts owed are correct. Why are such amounts “owed”? Because someone somewhere scribbled ink on a piece of paper and bellowed the incantation “lllllaaaaawwwwwwww” over said paper in order to sanctify its legitimacy. The ostensible use of the idea of “law” in order to extract money from a victim is no more legitimate than the actions of such con-men. The fact that a “law” must be made to extract payment proves the transaction is not voluntary – were it so then no law would be needed. We don’t pass laws that stipulate you must purchase food everyday or else.

The same phenomenon exists with money. Counterfeiters are excoriated as contemptuous thieves who extract goods from society without producing anything of value. Their nefarious duplication of currency parasitically extracts value from all other currency holders. True enough. But if a “law” says the government, excuse me, Federal Reserve, may do the exact same thing, well, that is perfectly fine. This is the economic equivalent of a state granted license to kill and no one bats an eye.

So the next time we are cheering for the apprehension of a villainous criminal lets take a moment to shift focus from the mote in their eye and toward the beam in the eye of the state who is more likely than not engaging in the same practice but under the color of law. Remember, don’t steal, the government hates competition.

Capital Day

Labor Day, according to the US Department of Labor is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers” and as a “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” While true, there is a major missing component in this tribute: capital. Show me a worker laboring without any contributions from capital and I’ll show you naked primitives feeding off berries and dead carcasses. Every advance in the standard of living is built on a foundation of both labor and the deferred consumption (capital creation) that permits the creation of tools to augment laboring efforts. Holidays should be deployed to remind the populace of that which normally escapes public notice. This is exactly why we need a “Capital Day”. Although capital surrounds us, it is too often ignored, like the air we breathe, and like air, our society would be dead without it.

The fact that most of you are now probably scratching your heads and wondering what possible role capital has played is all the more reason to have such a holiday. Yes, workers perform the labor needed to drive the engine of commerce, but they do not do so in a vacuum. Who paid for the building that they work in? The equipment and tools they use? Their wages? No one asks these questions. It is somehow assumed these are exogenous resources simply laying about waiting to be donned by the heroic laborer.

No, they are not manna from heaven. The capitalist provides them by virtue of having deferred consumption and thus saving resources. That savings (capital) allows them to pay others to build the tools needed to enhance the capacity and efficiency of the worker in their role as laborer. The machinist creates multiple cars in a day using tools, the material handler moves tons of goods with a forklift, the office worker performs millions of operations a day with their computer, and so on. And when done performing those tasks the workers are paid long before the revenue generated from their labor returns to the capitalist – paying someone for their service so far in advance of revenue generated from that activity necessitates that money, capital, be saved and available. Without capital every newly hired worker would have to wait weeks or months before receiving their first paycheck.

The market capitalist (as opposed to the cronyist political capitalist who partners with government in order to gain advantage) risks all. For every success, dozens more fail and lose everything. Capitalists are not mere fat cats earning a living off the sweat of the laborer – no, they play an important and vital role just as the laborer does. They provide and coordinate the resources needed by laborer to actually labor. It is a partnership, but one where one partner is honored, while the other is at best perplexingly ignored or at worst, reviled. Let us never forget the importance of both, here’s to Capital Day!

How do libertarians think they can prevent the rich from appointing people which will serve them and not the rest of the country?

Another Quora question I answered.

 

You mean like how the (insert region) government eliminates all competitors for the services it provides by using its connections with armed thugs who are willing to do whatever they ask as long as they get paid?

It always strikes me as amusing that the assumed worst case scenario of a wholly free-market/libertarian society is exactly the scenario we live under today: one monopolistic centralized group controlling nearly everything.

Yes, people with many resources (wealth, friends, connections, etc) can wield that power for underhanded reasons. But people do that in government today (witness the rampant corruption and cronyism that is perenially uncovered by the media). If that is a reason to indict a free system then it must be equally leveled against the system we have today.

The key point is that in a free system no one is the “ruler” over everyone else, so without a lot of the artificial barriers to entry that the government/state create there will be more, not fewer competitors for various goods and services. If you want to start a business no one is going to stop you, you don’t need permission, you don’t need a license, all you need to do is provide a product the customer wants to stay in business.

Ultimately if someone tries to buy all these new competitors out or off or what have you, there is a limit to how far that will go – at some point you run out of money or reach a point where more buy offs don’t make sense. Witness the US government, as wealthy and powerful as it is, it can’t buy off every country in the world to allow them to dictate policy everywhere. Granted, they try, but there is a limit even for an entity that large. So I don’t suppose in a free system where the “rich” companies would have to compete for customers first by providing products they want vs a state that can simply take (tax) the money they need that any company would rise to a size or level anywhere approaching the power of any state or national government, hence the risk of such concentrated power should be accordingly that many orders of magnitude smaller relative to the same concern one would have about a regional government over stepping its bounds of authority in the same way.

How would a libertarian/classic liberal deal with the problem of global warming?

A Quora question I answered:

 

Libertarianism is concerned with only one question: Under what conditions may one legitimately use physical force? Answer: to counteract a violation of one’s legitimate property rights (e.g. if someone comes at me with a knife they are threatening my property right in myself and I may repel such attack, if someone steals from me I may use force to get my property back). In other words if someone initiates violence (i.e. aggression) then one may legitimately counteract it proportionally (i.e. you shouldn’t kill someone for briefly setting foot on your lawn).

So, to answer your question, setting aside all the controversy around climate change we will simply assume it to be entirely true and that all the dire consequences imagined will in fact occur. In such a scenario whose property right is being aggressed against? Do future generations have an inalienable right to experience identical weather patterns as we experience them today? Do they have inalienable right to experience Miami beach exactly as it exists today? No. For a right to be a right it exists for all people for all time under all conditions. That’s why one has a right to life, everyone has a right to exist and remain unmolested by others and that condition can exist anytime anywhere. It is a negative right, it does not require the action of anyone or anything. Incidentally this is why “positive” rights, such as to a job, shelter, or healthcare are not real rights, but rather mere proclamations of things we’d like to have. To obtain such positive rights YOU must act to attain those things, one cannot obligate their fellow man to provide it for them. Negative rights only require that we be allowed to do what is necessary to achieve that thing without in turn violating (with violence) someone else’s ability to do likewise.

So if a “right to climate experience” exists then our rights are being violated today as we are all unable to experience the climate that existed say 1000 years ago. Since this is obviously totally unrealistic and unworkable we can see that no such right exists.

So to “combat” climate change one is free to do whatever they believe will minimize it, they can act on their own, they can associate with others and act together (by educating others to in turn get them to change their behavior, or perhaps starting a non-carbon energy company that perfects such energy forms to the point they are less costly than carbon and then naturally everyone simply switches to it – no coercion needed.

Think about it, if non-carbon energy is truly the future then these people should be willing to put their money on the line to invest it, I mean after all climate change is unequivocally going to happen, right? It’s a sure bet. They could make billions. So it is curious that they don’t want to invest their own money but rather use the state to make everyone else “invest” in such things.

They key to the libertarian answer is because there is no rights violation you can’t use violence (i.e. the voting booth) to make a “law” and then force everyone to follow that law under penalty of death (death being the ultimate result if one resists the state’s dictates to the bitter end). But there is nothing at all wrong with engaging in voluntary activity to persuade others to your viewpoint and to act in concert with you.

In short, do whatever you want to solve it, as long as it doesn’t involve the use of someone with a gun backing you up. Which by the way is exactly what a carbon tax or cap and trade entails. These are pseudo-markets concocted by the state. An actual market involves a buyer and a seller who exchange VOLUNTARILY. A carbon tax or cap and trade is no more a real market than a board game is the actual thing it represents: e.g. Monopoly has the trappings of a market economy, but it certainly isn’t one. Cap and trade and carbon taxes are like forcing two people to play Monopoly at gun point and then saying “see, they are following the principles of capitalism, so it’s all ok”

For those that want a truly wonky expert analysis of why carbon taxes are not at all libertarian (the crux of the original question) and why they would not actually do what most imagine they would (reduce carbon) please see this link. In short a carbon tax or cap and trade is simply a new income tax that shifts money from the wealthy to the poor. The poor see no net change in their income so they keep consuming carbon just as they always have (e.g. if they spent $100 on fuel, now with a carbon tax it is $200, but they get a $100 tax rebate, so their net out of pocket does not change). The wealthy have less money and thus less ability to save and thus less capital accumulation that can be used to invest in new R&D, new technologies, new factories, new jobs, etc. It doesn’t stop those things from happening, but it slows it down such that in 100 years we will be x% less well off than we were would have been absent the carbon tax and meanwhile the carbon tax has made zero impact on use cause we just give the money right back to the people using it the most.