Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

December 29, 2009

Just because people make bad choices…

by Chris Byrne

…Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have any choice at all. The first freedom is the freedom to fail…

And when it comes to choosing our leaders in this country… whoooo boy have we failed big time, for a long time.

So fellow gunblogger Tam, being an Ovarian American, got a bit tweaked at a comment over at Travis Corcorans site (for those who don’t know, Travis is a somewhat radical libertarian… and for that matter so is Tam) t’other day:

“I think that female suffrage has been an unremitted disaster – all of the socialism that we’ve experienced in the US has happened since, and because women have been allowed to vote.”

Excluding snark, Tams comment boiled down to “correlation does not equal causation”; which normally I am one of the first to trumpet… but in this case there is a causative link… Or at least most major studies of voting demographics seem to show one.

The other part of her comment was that she (nor anyone) shouldn’t be denied the right to vote (which is not, in fact, a right; but a privilege as a member of society. It can be granted by society, taken away by society, and does not exist in any context without society, therefore is not a right.) because of the choices some might make.

And in that, I’m entirely with her.

But we really do need to look at why women, in the significant majority, vote for the nanny state; and on the larger scale in general, why people who vote for nannyism do so.

The three major events or major societal changes in 20th century that did more to advance the nanny government than all other events combined were:

1. World War 1
2. Womens suffrage
3. Massive expansion of university education

I note “directly” above, because indirectly the 16th and 17th amendments (income tax, and direct election of senators) may have had an even greater effect; and enabled and encouraged such nannyism… in fact the current nannystate would be impossible without them… but were not direct contributors to voting for nannyism.. In fact income taxes tend to push voting away from nannyism… at least for those who actually pay those taxes.

I’ve talked about point 1 before (along with about a hundred scholarly books, phd. dissertations etc…). By depriving most of Europe of a full generation of its healthiest, most aggressive, and most ambitious men; an environment was created that was dominated by the risk averse, and those who were hurting and suffering… and the entirety of Europe has never really recovered. Basically, the ’14-’18 war took the guts out of the continent, and they haven’t come back, (bar a minor resurgence for the second great war… and it sadly was a minor resurgence. Just look at England).

Everyone and their uncle has looked at point 3.

Point two though… it’s one of those third rail topics. You can’t talk about it publicly or you risk being eviscerated by… well by Tam for example, never mind the lefties.

So first things first. Point two is true, by all available statistics. Historically speaking, women vote for more nannyism at about 2/3 to 1/3.

HOWEVER, just because item two is true (and some rather exhaustive demographic studies have been done showing that it is) doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

American blacks and hispanics are more likely to vote for leftists idiocy too (over 80% to 20% for blacks, hispanics are highly variable), that doesn’t mean they should be barred from voting either.

The first freedom is the freedom to fail. That includes the freedom to make bad choices; even if those bad choices effect other members of society (this is where the anarchists, Spoonerists, and Rothbardites usually jump up and down and start yelling).

The thing is this: It’s not that women, blacks, or hispanics are inherently more socialist than white males; or are less capable of making good political judgments. It’s that they perceive (I think, in general, wrongly) that their interest is better served with leftist policies.

In general, over the long term, and free of interference or distortion; people will vote their perceived interests.

The “more vulnerable” of society (which up until recently included the majority of women, blacks, and hispanics) will almost always vote for more “safety” than more freedom; because as I said above, the first freedom is freedom to fail, and they have historically been more likely to suffer under the negative consequences of failure, and therefore perceive the risk/reward metric differently than white males have historically.

Also, both the most wealthy, and most educated members of society (who believe either that the negatives impacts of leftism wont effect them greatly; or that they can benefit more from the “system” if more government control is in place, at the expense of the slightly less educated risk taking capitalists that would otherwise dominate), and the poorest and least educated members of society (who generally believe that they will not be able to succeed to a greater degree than the government would provide largess), generally, vote for more protectionism, socialism, leftism etc…

This is true even in rural “white” “bible belt” America, where protectionism, unions, government works projects and the like are seen as good business economically; even while voting for socially conservative policies and politicians.

Also, this split is by no means stable. As I said, people will tend to vote their perceived interests. Men will vote left and women will vote right, if the positions floated match their perceived interest. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected by landslide four times. Reagan was elected by landslide twice.

The problem then is not that women, minorities, and the poor vote left, or vote for socialism necessarily.

The problem is that they perceive (generally incorrectly) that their interests, and at least to some extent the interests of society, are better served by leftism.

So the task for us, is making the large majority of the people understand that leftism, even in the soft and limited forms of it like public works projects, job protection policies, tarrifs etc… is not in their interest, or the interest of society as a whole.

That’s a rather difficult task; because for someone who is naturally risk averse, capitalism (and specifically libertarian free market based capitalism) seems very risky… Heck, it IS very risky, that’s the point. You take risks, you fail, and you have the freedom to get back up and take more risks and succeed (or fail again).

Many people out there would happily vote for a “guaranteed” living, even if it was less than half what they could be making without a “guarantee”, and even if you could prove to them the “guarantee” was really false. It’s just the way they’re wired, and no amount of facts or logical arguments are going to convince them.

Many others are willing to accept a bit of risk, but they want a great big “safety net” underneath them for when they fall.

These people, even if they are shown it isn’t really true… they WANT it to be true bad enough, that they are willing to try and force that vision on the rest of us.

Those people (and by conventional estimate they make up about 40% of the population) are ALWAYS going to vote for the “safety and security” lie. They are going to vote for the nanny no matter what.

On the other hand, there are about 40% of the population who are always going to vote for the riskier path, that they can reap more reward from.

Even in Reagans 49 state landslide vs. Mondale, he only got 58.8% of the popular vote.

Nixon crushed Mcgovern 49 to 1 as well, and it was still a 60%/40% split.

Even in Roosevelts “New Deal” landslide against Hoover, he only got 57.4% of the popular vote (in ’36 against Alf Landon, 60.8%, the biggest landslide since the civil war. In ’40 against Wendell Wilkie, 54.7%. In ’44 against Thomas Dewey, 53.4%).

The 40% on either side is a pretty stable number; barring major events in society that temporarily distort it, like wars and disasters…. And even then, in the last 110 years, in every national election, the left has never had less than 35%, and neither has the right… And neither have had more than 60.8% either.

The fact is, some people will believe what they want to believe, or what they’re afraid to believe, over the truth; no matter how clear the truth is made to them.

It’s the remaining 20% that we need to get to, and teach them that it is ALWAYS a lie.

In a society where the government does not artificially force the private economy into failure, the government cannot possibly do better for you than you can do for yourself. Giving the government more power, and more control, is NEVER in your best interest, or in the interest of society.

Saying that “womens suffrage caused socialism” (which isn’t what Travis said exactly, but it’s certainly what a lot of people would hear from what he said) isn’t exactly helpful in that.

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  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Well, I think an equally forceful point would be to remind people that when you auction up inherent rights on the voting block, you shouldn’t be surprised when some demographics vote interests different than yours.

    We see huge groups of people in the US who worship at the altar of Democracy, but many of them never consider that there are certain things too important to be put to a vote.

    Many call democracy “majority rule”, and don’t understand that it’s not the majority that’s the problem — it’s being ruled.

  • CJS

    The reason that women, minorities and the poor tend to vote for socialism is that they believe that capitalism has failed them. Minorities have much higher unemployment rates and women still earn less than men. They feel disenfranchised by the capitalist system, so they turn to big brother to help them out. However even if the demographics change, capitalism by its very nature will always leave a certain portion of the population behind. And that portion will then move towards socialism. Furthermore people that are associated with those (even if only through academic study) may sympathize with them and also consider socialism. As socialism increases, government failure increases, people see the fault in the nanny-state and tend back towards capitalism. The two systems are essentially tied at the hip – each is effectively the cause of the other. It seems to me like a vicious cycle that may continue for the rest of human existence. Unless we can find another way. Is it possible to think of a system that empowers the individual without leaving them and their family in destitution if circumstances go the wrong way. Is it possible to ensure that everyone can be free from the worst horrors of exploitation and poverty without empowering the government? Is it possible to build a system in which rewards are truly given based on merit, and not family connections, celebrity, birthright – or worst of all, the clever ability to corrupt the system? If not then we’ll continue oscillating between two failed systems for the rest of our existence.

  • CJS

    Also, it seems that lately the biggest proponents of socialism have been large corporations – who supposedly are capitalists? Ultimately who pushed for and benefited most from the Medicare prescription drug plan (big pharma), TARP (Wall St) and ObamaCare (insurance companies). It seems that a free market will eventually result in some agencies with more power than others, and those agencies will want to consolidate their power – and what better place to consolidate power than in government? This is a very different type of socialism (call it corporate socialism) but it is socialism all the same.

    The problem is consolidation of power – whether that power is consolidated in the form of government, unions, corporations, the church or whatever. We cannot be free if power is allowed to consolidate.

    What I don’t see though is this: what in your libertarian free market viewpoint prevents consolidation of power in the free market? Consolidation of power will then cause the market to become less and less free. The founders of the US used checks and balances to prevent consolidation of power in the government, but it doesn’t matter if the portions of government are separated if they can each be bought by the same person. Where is the checks and balances in a free market?

  • CJS

    Er… where ARE the checks and balances in a free market?

  • TerryP

    Checks and balances?

    300+ million americans freely choosing for themselves without some artifical constraint such as a gov’t that forces it’s will on to everyone. One that puts in many regulations that favor certain companies or people over others, and making rules and regulations that almost guarantee that there will be a virtual monopoly in many areas.

    If people can freely choose to associate with whomever they want and businesses have the freedom to enter and exit a business without a gov’t putting up artificial restraints then the free choices of 300+ Americans will be a much better checks and balances then the current corrupted checks and balances.

    If there starts to be a consolidation of power and they start wielding that in a negative manner, people will start demanding other choices and with a freedom to enter a market without artificial restraints there will be an opportunity for others to fill the void that is currently missing. This freedom of choice for the consumer and businesses entering a market will keep anyone from consolidating to much power without violating peoples rights.

    A proper gov’ts role is ensure that if someones rights are violated they are wholly compensated and/or the one violating the rights is punished.

  • CJS

    Individuals choosing freely for themselves will never prevent a consolidation of power. In fact one of the main points of this article was that people will often freely choose for themselves a government that is more powerful and more likely to limit their freedoms.

    Furthermore, once the consolidation of power occurs, it is too late. At that point the entities are capable of corrupting the government (as they have done now), and using it for their will.

    The empowerment of government that we have now seems to be largely caused by disenfranchised individuals freely choosing protection over freedom combined with corporate interests corrupting the government for their own ends. The corporate interests arose from what was supposed to be at one point a free market (or did this country never have a free market?) – and the disenfranchised individuals pursued this in what seems to be a democratic fashion. So to summarize, it appears that individual liberties, democratic principles and the free market conspired together to create a fascist state. If we simply reset the clock and go back to a country based on individual liberties, democratic principles and the free market, I see no reason that the process won’t simply repeat itself.

  • TerryP

    CJS

    I will have to agree with most of what you say.
    You are very right that if we were to reset the clock we could end up right in the same place as we did today, but I would certainly like to have that chance or at least live in the time period when we did have a great deal more freedom. And to be quite frank, we as a people have chosen security over freedom and now we have very little of both to take a few words from I believe Ben Franklin. I also would hope that if we could push the reset button we could put in a few more safeguards or checks and balances that were to easy to overcome by people who want power and control over others. It took over 200 yrs to get to where we are today and corrupt the gov’t as much as it has been so to me resetting the clock certainly wouldn’t be such a bad idea and we would have 200 years of history to know where we went wrong before.

    My question to you would be, what do you think is better then a free market republic? A dictatorship, a socialist state, an anarchist state, a facist state. Any gov’t or society can be corrupted. We are humans after all. I would like one that is built on the principles of the free market, private property, and individual responsibility/accountability/sovereignty as I think that has the best chance of surviving the longest before it becomes corrupted.

    What are the checks and balances in a socialist state, a facist state, or any other type of society? I would take individuals choosing for themselves over any of the checks and balances in those type of societies.

  • TerryP

    To be honest the free market based society is the only one that starts out with freedom. The others already have a consolidation of power and thus less freedom. To keep freedom in a free market society we have to work hard and be very diligent about maintaining that freedom. Obviously we did not do that and we are in the mess that we are in today.

  • CJS

    If anything my question comes from a nihilist perspective. History seems to indicate that every system will grow corrupt, so I’m not convinced that any system is preferable to the one we have. I’m simply taking a critical (but open minded) look at free market libertarianism, and wondering what options it can provide to prevent this problem.

    BTW – it dawned on me the other day that there are two major causes of socialism (in the US in particular) that aren’t mentioned here. The first is WWII. WWII led to many increases in the power of government which were likely seen as necessary in the conduct of the war. It seems to me that the construction of a standing army is one of the most dangerous powers given to the federal government – and has resulted in what is often referred to as a “permanent military industrial complex”. Our founders were very concerned even of granting this power to the federal government initially as well. Today maintaining military power has become so ingrained in us that any expansion of the power of the federal government in the name of national security is approved by both parties, and a majority of Americans. In the end, how can we ensure that we have military protection from enemies without providing the government with enough power to use that force against its own citizens.

    The second major cause is the civil rights movement. This is because in the eyes of many on the left the civil rights movement is an example of the benefits of big government. Here is a case where the federal government stepped in and appeared to do something right. To many on the left the concept of states rights is still seen as it was used to support Jim Crow. However I think a libertarian could counter this by stating that this was indeed a case of the government doing the right thing because it was a case of the government using its power to do what it was supposed to do – namely to support the rights of life and liberty.

  • CJS

    Additionally, when you say “free market”, many will think “big corporations”, which, in my opinion is just as dangerous as big government. Who has more control over our lives: Walmart, Google, or the Federal Government? That is why I bring up the generic problem of “consolidation of power” – in whatever form it takes. The government is not the only power that threatens our freedom. Many (and I used to think this way) seem to think that the only way we can stop one is to empower the other. In the end however that will just empower both.

  • TerryP

    Big corporations can be bad, but most of the control they have over us is through their use of gov’t regulations, subsidies, and laws and their influencing of politicians. Without the big, nanny state gov’t they wouldn’t have anywhere near the power they have today to control us.

    Without the gov’t most businesses would not be able to get so large unless they offered a product or service of better quality and/or lower price then the competition. If they become corrupted after they have become larger I would take a free market where barriers to entry are low over the current system where these businesses can use their size, money and influence to buy or corrupt politicans into giving them perks and making laws or regulations that help them at the expense of the competition, opposition, and the taxpayer. The free market certainly isn’t going to be perfect for everyones tastes but it should be far better then the alternatives.

    So I would have to say that the federal gov’t has far more control over our lives then the “big” corporations. The bigger question is how much control do they have over the gov’t that has even more control over us? This is becoming a serious problem. But is it because of the “big” businesses or is it because we have allowed the gov’t to have to much power over us and become to “big”? Are the businesses just using all the tools they have available to them including influencing gov’t. The return on investment on influencing our current gov’t is huge for most “big” businesses. If we could lower that return by making the gov’t smaller and having less influence over our lives the businesses may find their returns would be better trying to please the customer instead.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    CJS,

    Everyone was scared of the “monopoly” that Microsoft had on the market a few years ago. They said it was anti-competitive for Microsoft to bundle Internet Explorer with their OS, destroying the browser market.

    What happened? Firefox and Google Chrome (not to mention Safari) have been eating into their market share for years, and are nearly-universally regarded as better products. Free. Then openoffice.org became a very functional completely free alternative to MSOffice. And web-based applications (from Google and others) are threatening to make much of the office suite obsolete.

    What else happened? Apple took share out of their OS market. Linux continues to be a free (but requiring more tech-savvy users). Google is releasing their own OS to battle Microsoft.

    We had a market where a natural monopoly was forming, but as in most monopolies, the company grew too full of itself and didn’t adapt to the changing market demands. Thus competitors gained footholds and now Microsoft is losing market share in a number of different businesses.

    And consumers are better off.

    I am in complete agreement with TerryP where he mentions that one of the critical problems with monopoly power is when monopolies are enforced by government regulation, and most other private monopolies don’t last.

  • CJS

    I see your point. I work in the technology industry and I’ve seen these events unfold and paid close attention to them.

    It seems that we (myself included at times) are now so ingrained with the idea of using government to “solve” problems that we can’t seem to think outside of that framework. It seems like the common knee-jerk reaction.

    My history has certainly been more liberal, but I think we can distinguish between liberal ideals (which I still think are good) and liberal solutions (which I’m becoming increasingly skeptical of). I still think that we all are are better served if everyone who wants a job, an education, health care, and so on has access to them. However I’m beginning to think that those interests would be better served by starting a business, non-profit or charity (or supporting an existing one) to aid in these areas. Imagine if all the money that is spent by otherwise well intentioned people on financing the campaign of politicians who claim to support a good cause (but never actually deliver) were instead spent on private endeavors to support those causes.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    There are a lot of libertarians with “liberal ideals” (although the definition of that phrase is pretty loose and wide-ranging). Some fall into libertarianism because they find that the coercive State is an ineffective method for actually fixing problems, and some fall to libertarianism because they find the coercive state is an immoral method for fixing problems. It sounds like you may be coming to terms with the former.

    Libertarians are not as heartless as you may have been informed. We just see right through the stated intentions of politicians to the actual consequences of their actions, and don’t want any part of what they’re selling.

  • James G.

    There is absolutely no legitimate reason for a ”free” people to tolerate the suffering brought about by the whims of the market .A nation can not be said to be free when in fact the citezens of that nation are forced to abide by the arbitrary rules of the market place.The market will never make for a free people,but a free people can in fact create markets suitable to a free people.

    In order to live freely the individual must be free to engage in commercialism.However,the individual who is forced to engage in commercialism is by no means free.Sadly,the American people have traded freedom for commercialism.

    It is not unfair to say that the backbone of capitalism is commercialism.Since commercialism consists of buying,earning,selling,trading and the like, it is a lie to say that capitalism and freedom are one and the same.How can one be free if in fact, one must purchase in every case even the natural resources nessacary for mere survival.If in fact I have a right to life,then my right to life is violated if and when I am forced to pay for,or earn the accsess to and or the use of natural resources needed to sustain my life.Just as no man owes another a living,no man should have to pay another for the right to live.

  • TerryP

    James G

    At least we seem to be in agreement that we should end all welfare and wealth transfer payments throught the gov’t. At least that seems to be what you are saying when you say that “no man owes another a living”.

  • James G.

    Terry P,Given that I am not an individual who see’s fit to allow the elderly,disabled or any human being to starve,or otherwise die from a lack of money,if wellfare or so called wealth transfer payments are the only way to to prevent those deaths then no,I am not oppossed to those payments.Human life is far more valuable than all the capital in the world.Do we agree on that point Terry,or are you a person who would rather see millions perish than have a small portion of your earnings applied to even a miniscule social saftey net ?

    You should know that If it were up to me no person would be forced to part with any portion of their income.I do not believe that forced taxation is nessacary for the establishment of a social saftey net.You should also know that if it were up to me there would be not one single able bodied person who would not have ”accsess” to land to farm,build a home or perhaps start a small buisness upon.I am a person who believes that ”property rights”should be a reality.As of now,practicaly no one in this country has true property rights.In America under our capitalist system,the accsess to land is not a right but a privaledge of wealth.If it were up to me this would end,as I am ceartain that this earth as well well as the natural resources of the earth,”and land is a natural resource”belong to all the inhabitants of the earth.I am also ceartain that true freedom will never be possible as long as we nurture a socioeconomic system in which ceartain people in order to live must earn from others accsess to the resources needed to live.I do not believe either that human freedom is advanced by the belief that person A should be deprived of the nessecities of life because he or she failed to work as hard as person b.Conformity and freedom are very different from one another.

    Since in fact I am not in charge,”as no person should be in charge of another”then all I can do in order to encourage change in this world is to share my ideas,opinions and yes,my convictions.I do wish that people such as your self Terry,would consider the whole of my comments as oppossed to merrly focusing on portions of my comments which are not intended to be interperted in isolation from the whole statement.Any way,I hope I have given you the information you were looking for ?

  • TerryP

    James

    I am a person that believes we as individuals should do as much as each of us sees fit to do and can do to help others. In that vain, I chair our mission committee at our church to help just the people you are talking about. I assume you are doing much the same.

    My comment above was just to point out that some of what you say contradicts itself. I did consider your whole post but that part of your comments just seemed a little out of place considering the rest of your post.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    James,

    Much of America was populated on the “homesteading” principle. In short, the government said to Americans — “There’s land out there. Do enough to show that you’ve made it ‘yours’ and we’ll legally call it ‘yours’.”

    This worked well in the days of settlers and pioneers. They literally chopped this nation out of wilderness. They earned ownership of their land in precisely the way I think you’re suggesting should be open to them.

    There’s a problem, though. Land is finite. You want to make access to land to any able-bodied person a right. And based on your comments, I believe that you’re not in favor of forcing them to pay dollars for that land. I’ll stipulate one point of agreement — I support the US Government giving up all the land it currently holds to anyone willing to homestead that land. But then we run into a problem…

    There are 300M people in this country. You want to give anyone who wishes to leave the trappings of commercialism access to as much land as is necessary to be self-sufficient (1-3 acres maybe?). At some point, one thinks that you’ll run out of government-owned land. What do you do then?

    Outside of that question, though, I’m with TerryP in that a lot of your comments seem to contradict themselves. You say nobody owes another man a living but at the same point you believe that we must have a social safety net (welfare) but somehow don’t think that forced taxation is necessary to achieve that social safety net — because you’d replace it with access to land. Quite simply, I am confused as to what you’re trying to argue, as I see internal contradictions throughout your entire two comments.

  • James G.

    Terry P.,nothing in my original post is out of place with the entirity of that post.I am bewildered as to why you have interpreted any portion of that post as being contradictory to any other portion of that post.Actualy whether or not you realize it,you are making two totaly different arguments in regards to my comments.You are saying that my ideas are contradictory while at the same time you are claiming ceartain comments are out of place in regards to my over all message.I submit to you that you are incorrect on both accounts.

    You are to be commended for your service to the weaker members of our scociety.While I am not a christian,I do believe that we humans benifit greatly from the showing of mercey to those less fortunate than ourselves,and the giving of our time and efforts to those who have less to give.That is why I have for the past 15 years co-sponcered a homeless shelter for addicts and others in need in Bay county Florida.While I believe charity will always be needed in this world,I am convinced that it is whithin our abilities to fashion a socioeconomic system in which the vast majority of individuals from the time of birth, are garunteed acsess to the natural resources needed to live,therby making charity for millions of people unnessacary.Of course such a system will be most difficult to bring about given the fact that so many people believe that the entire planet should be managed like one big factory ,instead of being treated as our created and freely given home !Not only are so many people given to the idea that all of existance should be commercialized,many of these same people fail to realize that no individual nor group,ie,corporation, has an inate ”right” to profit from the needs of others.While there is a time and place for profit seeking,seeking to profit from the essential needs of life is immoral.If we look around us it is almost impossible not to notice some very essential facts concerning our existance here on this planet.It is hard not to notice the manner in which our creator saw fit to allow all of us to share in common the same sun,the same atmosphere,the same electromagnetic forces nessacary to sustain life.It is hard to not notice the fact that no person can take credit for giving themselves life,their five senses which make life such a tangible or conscious experience.Indeed to the person who looks upon nature and creation with an open mind and heart it is very evident that life ,and the planet we live upon are gifts that have been given to all.Human freedom and wellbeing will not be greatly advanced for as long as we humans insist that what has been given freely to each of us in common,should in every case be commodified and devided, ”as a result of that commodification”into privately owned property.I am ceartain that God never intended for creation to be the private property of anyone.

    Terry,there is much more I would like to say,but for now I must get some rest as I am very tired.I am compelled however to say in closing that if you truley want to help the poor you should start by opposing the continuation of a system which creates poverty and at the same time depends upon the impoverishment of a ceartain percentage of the population.We live under just such a system ! I look forward to debating this issue with you in the near future,but for now I must close this blog out.

  • Shari W

    Brad, what James is saying amounts to this: our system is set up to profit the few at the expense of the many. The current capitalist system has produced a tiny “elite” who own, rule, exploit and otherwise misuse the general population, putting a price on basic human needs. Natural resources were given to us by the Creator, who didn’t put a price on them. The welfare system is the direct result of this misuse by the elite. Until there is a mass cognitive awakening as to the injustice inherent in the current system, there will always be those who have nothing and are dependent on public aid to survive.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Shari & James,

    FYI if you comment using the same email address and IP address, my first assumption is that Shari is James posting under a new name. I can only hope, however, that you two are different people living under the same roof. One of the few things I ask as the administrator here at The Liberty Papers is that you stick to a single identity, so if there aren’t actually two of you in fact, cut the shit out.

    That being said, I still fail to understand how you will provide basic human needs for those who you feel deserve them without taking them away from others. Arable land is finite. Land capable of producing all of man’s needs (shelter, clothing, food, fuel, etc) is even more finite. It would be nice to ensure that every human has access to these gifts from our “Creator”, but sadly it is a lot more difficult in practice than in theory.

    Instead, the system of free enterprise, division of labor, and yes, capitalism, suits this need perfectly. It need not be crass consumerism/commercialism, and it certainly need not be the state corporatism of the US. While you claim that capitalism profits the few at the expense of the many, I would counter that the living standards of the “many” far, FAR exceed those of the “rich” of just a century or two ago.

    We have many problems in the current system (as a libertarian, I would prefer that we don’t have a “system” per se, just freedom). We have government picking winners and losers, distorting the market, and a government which is captive to the desires of the powerful — yes, at the expense of the many. But this is not laid at the feet of capitalism, this is laid at the feet of corporatism.

    Further, even our horrendously screwed up corporatist system is better at improving the quality of life of everyone across the board than nearly any other system in existence. I propose a system without government and corporatism, where freedom is the rule (and yes, for those who desire, I support their freedom to organize communally, although I would not choose such an organization for myself). Your comments have done little to elucidate what system you would choose to bring about, and how you believe it would both meet your requirements for a just and proper economic system, and how you would acheive it without force. As James says: “Just as no man owes another a living,no man should have to pay another for the right to live.” How do you achieve the latter if you’re not going to be the one contradicting the former?

  • TerryP

    James

    I agree with all that Brad has said.

    Also as Brad has said, the poor in our country would be considered rich not that many years ago and would be considered ultra rich by many in other countries even today. I believe that while the poor in the US have made great strides, the rich have benefited the most from us moving away from freedom and the free market to a more corporatist, big gov’t society. The rich have used the gov’t to squash competition and otherwise make things so complex that many of them can find numerous ways to avoid taxation at the expense of the poor and middle class. In many respects, however, I am glad that they do so. They can do far more for the poor then the gov’t can, such as building a business that provides jobs, or buying products or services that also creates jobs. The gov’t pretty much just gives a handout by first taking money from someone else and keeping a little themselves and even in that it is extraordinarily inefficient. Charities do a far superior job. Charities fit very well in a free-market based system, but don’t have much of a place in a corporatist, socialist society as the gov’t takes over more and more of what they do. We still have charities in our society mainly because the gov’t does such an inept job in helping the poor/needy.

  • TerryP

    Shari,

    If as you say there are a tiny “elite” who basically own, rule, or control the rest of us, then they also control our gov’t.

    If we had freedom instead, they would at least have far less ability to control the rest of us, as most of their control comes through the gov’t and it’s policies.

    I will have to agree with you that our current system is failing. I would like to head towards freedom and a free market. You seem to be going in an entirely different direction.

  • CJS

    I think I see where you are coming from, but I have a hard time translating these ideals into actions. I would like to believe that we can “fashion a socioeconomic system in which the vast majority of individuals from the time of birth, are garunteed (sic) acsess (sic) to the natural resources needed to live”, however I have a hard time envisioning how such a system would work.

    An economic system is simply a system for dividing up resources. However on a planet with 6 billion people any economic system will take on a complex and unpredictable nature. Although there are many variants, we only seem to have discovered two basic ways to manage such a complex system.

    On the one hand you can allow the system to “manage itself”. Individual activities are controlled by some metric (such as the pricing system) and the “system” is then simply the result of these individual activities (i.e. free market). Alternatively, you can have central-planning of some kind. Most systems that we have today appear to be a mix of these two models.

    The problem with the free market system is that it will naturally lead to inequalities, sometimes gross inequalities. Perhaps this could be improved by choosing a different metric (something other than the pricing system), but I’m at a loss for alternatives.

    The problem with the central-planning system is that it all depends on the competence and ethics of the planners. At times we find that the system is governed by competent, well intentioned people, and we will see positive results. However this is typically rare, and even when it does happen they are often replaced by incompetent or corrupt individuals.

    Both of these systems has lead to great injustices. Neither has been able to guarantee that all citizens have access to the resources needed to live and prosper. In some sense, both are failures.

    Ideally I might imagine a system in which all individuals are motivated to do what is best both for themselves and for all others. Such a system might look very much like the free market, but with different metrics, such that each person has a self-serving interest in helping others. However the devil of such a system would be in the details.

    However even if this were possible, any system will need to content with the fact that resources are finite. Whenever that is the case, some people will always be left out. Brad pointed out that the poor today have standards that far exceed those of the rich of a century ago. However I think that has little to do with our socioeconomic system, and much more to do with advances in technology that have made many resources more accessible. Perhaps the real problem (and its solution) are not economic in nature at all.

    I also don’t think that making charities obsolete is necessarily the right way to think about this problem. One of the mindsets behind socialist thought seems to be that if individuals are unwilling to aid others, then we should have something else (typically the government) step in and do it for them. However if as individuals we cannot be motivated towards altruism, then why should we think that our societies and institutions could possibly be motivated in this way?

    Ultimately if there will ever be a solution to problems of injustice and poverty, then it will need to involve individuals FREELY choosing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    CJS,

    I’ll take some of this a piece at a time:

    The problem with the free market system is that it will naturally lead to inequalities, sometimes gross inequalities.

    That’s a problem? I would consider a world to be a success if it gives every individual the opportunity to meet all of their basic needs, and gives most the opportunity to well exceed those needs. Additionally, I much prefer a world that offers assistance to those who cannot make use of such opportunities — although I prefer that assistance to be private, voluntary, not from a coercive government.

    Inequality isn’t a problem — poverty is.

    The problem with the central-planning system is that it all depends on the competence and ethics of the planners. At times we find that the system is governed by competent, well intentioned people, and we will see positive results.

    There is a lot of rather well-developed economic thought springing largely from Friedrich Hayek that would disagree with you. Some systems are simply too complex to be planned. Eventually the amount of information needed to make decisions is too unwieldy for any human or government to make them. It doesn’t matter if those humans are the best and smartest among us, they simply cannot comprehend things on that level.

    However I think that has little to do with our socioeconomic system, and much more to do with advances in technology that have made many resources more accessible.

    Find me a system that can generate new technology faster than capitalism and the free market, and then we can debate whether technology is a result of our socioeconomic system. You mentioned earlier that you work in the technology industry (as I do). Do you really think technology would move as quickly as it does if there were no competition and no incentives (profits) to be made? In Washington DC and in the nation’s universities they can do a lot to talk about technology and R&D. But it’s the desire to sell it for a profit that actually puts products on the streets.

    One of the mindsets behind socialist thought seems to be that if individuals are unwilling to aid others, then we should have something else (typically the government) step in and do it for them. However if as individuals we cannot be motivated towards altruism, then why should we think that our societies and institutions could possibly be motivated in this way?

    Actually most socialists believe that capitalism is immoral and only a “transition” stage in human social development, following Marx who viewed capitalism as much better than feudalism but only a short stop on the road to a proper society.

    The true socialists aren’t trying to redistribute simply to help the poor, they’re trying to fundamentally remake human culture in the image described by Marx.

    Modern American politics, of course, isn’t truly socialist. Most Democrats aren’t true socialists, they’re welfare statists. They like capitalism because it generates the profits that they can seize to give to the poor. They understand, though, that one must be careful not to kill the goose laying the golden eggs. They’re building walls to keep the goose from escaping, but they know that without the goose, they’re cooked.

  • TerryP

    CJS, you said

    “Ultimately if there will ever be a solution to problems of injustice and poverty, then it will need to involve individuals FREELY choosing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others.”

    I will agree with most of this but I don’t know if people have to necessarily make sacrifices to benefit others.

    Let’s take Lasik eye surgery for example. Initially when it began it was very expensive and only a few could afford to do it. But then a strange thing happened, prices dropped significantly and quality improved. Many more people were able to take advantage of this. Why?

    The answer is the free market, of course. Many people saw this as an opportunity to make some money (benefit themselves) but to do so they would have to make it more available to others (ie lower cost) and improve the quality (benefit others). They found ways to do this not necessarily for the benefit of others, but for the benefit to themselves.

    In a free market, most things happen by looking for benefits for yourself by doing things that benefit others. In otherwords, by benefiting others, they in turn pay you or do other things that benefit yourself.

    While in some cases you may still sacrifice to help others, in a free market environment, this is certainly not always the case. In nearly every other environment such as socialism, facism, etc., however, that would almost always be the case if you were to help someone else.

    The free market also gives the benefit of people increasing their standard of living to be able to afford to make sacrifices to help others. In most other societies that is just not the case or it happens in a far lesser degree. Americans are by far the most charitable people in the world, due in no small part to the free market making it possible to be charitable.

  • CJS

    Brad, I agree with most of what you said here. You seem to be in “attack mode” (don’t take that the wrong way) at times and it’s not necessary.

    I agree that poverty is the problem – not inequality. The anti-capitalist mindset seems to be that inequality leads to poverty. I don’t think things are that simple. In any system poverty is a problem, and a difficult one to solve. With some of the rhetoric it would seem that if you are not in favor of bigger government you are in favor of more poverty. I would recommend that you continue to point out the ways that a free market system can address problems such as poverty.

    If the only solution is some form of redistribution, then that can be done just (if not more) effectively voluntarily by private institutions. As I said before, if everyone on the left redirected their efforts aimed at increasing the size of the government towards private charities aimed at solving these problems, we might be much better off.

    I stand corrected in regards to the comment about central-planning. I would think that both factors are involved, but the impossibility of managing such a complex system is likely a greater factor.

    In regards to technology vs the socioeconomic system, I did have an implied question in mind when I wrote the original: which economic system is better at improving technology? You answered the question – as I expected you to. My point was simply that technology has made a dramatic difference in our standard of living – in spite of the fact of our more socialized government. Simply compare life in America before and after the industrial revolution – a dramatic difference even though both involved a somewhat capitalist system. In a society with limited resources ANY socioeconomic system will result in poverty – that is inevitable.

    Perhaps I don’t understand “true socialism” well enough. The word socialism is so overused that it almost becomes meaningless. However my point was simply that if people will not individually be altruistic enough to help out people in need, then why should we believe that it can be accomplished collectively.

    TerryP,

    I see your point that the free market can make such sacrifices unnecessary. However I don’t think that all problems will be solved in this way. Some problems will always involve people taking the moral initiative to do what is right, even if it is not entirely in their self interest. I may be a little idealistic in this, but I’m simply wondering if there’s a way to encourage people to act both in their own self interest and in the interest of others – to weigh their selfish needs against the benefits and harm done to others, and to take the action that balances both their own needs and the needs of others. If this were possible it wouldn’t work if it came in the form of some power forcing individuals to take into account the interests of others. The free market system ultimately promotes that which is profitable, but profitable and moral are not always the same.

    Anyway I have to go for a meeting, I’ll leave you to think about that.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    CJS,

    Please don’t take anything I say as an attack on you personally. When I get into these types of discussions, I am definitely combative, but I’ve played this game long enough that I am arguing for/against ideas, not arguing for/against people.

    That said, I think you’re feeling like I’m attacking your posts because it seems that you’re kind of “talking things out” in your comments, while I’m picking at bits and pieces of what you say. As you point out, the more we talk things out the more we’re finding we agree. If I’m right on this, please consider my picking as a service, not an attack :-)

    Regarding the “true socialism” comment, it goes back to one of my pet peeves. I’m a stickler for arguing against what people actually believe rather than strawmen of what they believe, and most of the mythology built around Marx is improper. Marx would probably be described most accurately as an anarcho-socialist. Marxism is not the communism of Stalin or Chairman Mao, or the national socialism of Hitler. He’s wrong, mind you, but he’s his own breed of wrong. Sadly, most Marxists don’t even know the difference. (I’d be remiss not to point out that most who follow any particular political or religious “faith” don’t really drive things down to their core principals, so Marxists are not alone in this blindness).

  • CJS

    I don’t take them personally at all – and I know you are arguing for/against ideas not people. I actually found it rather amusing. I don’t mind you picking apart what I said – I’m quite open to new ideas, so the combative stance just seemed unnecessary.

    I’ve had a bit of an interesting history. I won’t get into the details but suffice it to say that I’ve worked with people radically on both ends of the political spectrum (and pretty much everywhere in between). I tend to like to listen to what people have to say to see what is behind their thinking. I’ve noticed a few things that they all have in common: First, everyone seems to think that they are right and everyone who disagrees is a moron. Second, even though they radically disagree on the solutions to the problems, beneath all of that there are a set of concerns that are valid, and that’s where we can find a lot of agreement.

    The first is completely non-constructive, and has resulted in the extreme partisanship that we see today. Most of the people that I’ve encountered are very well educated and appear to have given their positions some considerable thought. However we tend to keep to like minded groups to avoid cognitive dissonance (whether in real life or on the internet), and the result is group think. Personally I like cognitive dissonance – anything which challenges my beliefs is healthy and needs to be fully examined. Not everyone sees things this way (in fact most don’t), so that leaves us looking down the second path – appealing to the core values that lead people to take the positions that they do.

    Take health care as an example. It is perfectly valid to believe that everyone should have access to affordable health care. However only a month or two ago there was only one way that I could imagine that this would be possible – by some sort of major government involvement. I think that this mode of thinking has been so ingrained in us that we can’t find our way to come up with independent solutions that don’t involve the government. This is just as true on the right as well.

    Free market libertarianism also faces an image problem when convincing others. Many think of the problems of our current system and associate them with the free market. This could be best summed up by Chomsky’s statement that “crony” is superfluous when describing capitalism. Of course as you’ve pointed out, “crony” capitalism depends on a large state in order to even exist. With many people the free market is going to bring up many negative connotations. It may not deserve them, but it has inherited them nonetheless, and they’ll need to be countered.

    Perhaps the best way to counter these arguments is to come up with free market solutions to the problems that everyone seems to think that only the government can solve – and then implement them.

    So does anyone want to donate to the “health care for all” charity, or invest in my alternative energy company? :P (I’m partially serious. Some day…)

  • TerryP

    CJS, you said,

    “I’m simply wondering if there’s a way to encourage people to act both in their own self interest and in the interest of others – to weigh their selfish needs against the benefits and harm done to others, and to take the action that balances both their own needs and the needs of others.”

    This is exactly what the free market does. You need to broaden your definition of the free market. It doesn’t always have to involve a financial transaction. The free market encourages people to look out for others interests because it ultimately benefits their interests. The free market punishes people who are only looking out for themselves and disregarding the harm done to others. Because in a true free market the person doing the harm in time would no longer have any business or associates. You don’t do business or associate with people that only harm you or don’t benefit you unless you have no other choice or are forced to. In most societies the gov’t is used to force you to associate or do business with people that may harm you or benefit you less then otherwise would be the case. In the free market that is not the case. Still, there may be occasions, even absence forced association, that people do business with people that harm them or give them less benefit then otherwise they would like. The free market is the best system that will likely overcome this, as there are always people looking for opportunities to benefit themselves by helping others.

    In addition, the free market has been shown to increase the standard of living to the point where many people are able to help others with no benefit to themselves. Generally speaking, most people will help others if they have the ability to do so, and the free market gives people the best ability, at least financially, to do so. That is a big reason why Americans are the most charitable in the world. Free market capitalism has afforded them the opportunity to do so with no financial benefit to themselves.

    I give money and time to charities, not for my benefit, but because I have the ability to do so financially and I want to help others that aren’t as fortunate as myself. Without free market capitalism, I would be unlikely, financially, to be able to do so.

  • CJS

    I think this article gives a good description of some of what I was considering when writing some of these posts.

    http://reason.com/archives/2010/01/13/five-reasons-why-libertarians/

  • CJS

    As my tendency is to look for counter arguments even for the counter arguments, I found this article (http://www.amconmag.com/article/2005/mar/14/00017/). I can’t say I agree with all of it, but I found this to be relevant to the original article:

    Empirically, most people don’t actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don’t elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don’t choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Empirically, most people don’t actually want absolute freedom, which is why democracies don’t elect libertarian governments. Irony of ironies, people don’t choose absolute freedom. But this refutes libertarianism by its own premise, as libertarianism defines the good as the freely chosen, yet people do not choose it. Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians.

    You’re missing one critical point here:

    I don’t care whether you want freedom. If you want to live under a hand-to-mouth government system, you’re more than welcome to do so. Libertarians aren’t against the idea of people freely forming communes, or freely forming voluntary associations where you give up certain rights in exchange for certain protections.

    You know what I do care about? Your vote taking MY freedoms away.

    If you democratically elect a government that will meet your needs but leaves me the ability to opt-out, I have no problem with it. The problem is that you’re democratically electing a government that DOESN’T allow me to keep my own freedom. I don’t want to make your choices for you, but most people want to be able to elect a government that makes my choices for me.

  • CJS

    The paradox here isn’t ideological it is pragmatic: how do you actually bring about a libertarian system while living up to libertarian values, given that most people statistically do not chose libertarianism. Democracy, it appears, will never lead to libertarianism. That only seems to leave option the option of forcing people to accept libertarian options through some kind of revolt – which clearly doesn’t seem like a very libertarian way of going about things.

    There are clearly a lot of people that place something else (safety, security, neighborhood aesthetics, whatever) as more important than freedom – theirs or yours. Given that you are stuck living in a society with such people, it seems that the likelihood of finding any type of absolute freedom is close to nil.

    One thing that I have had a bit of a hard time grasping about libertarianism is that the line between private institutions and the government is very gray and only a matter of scale – in most particular when it comes to freedom. Compare an HOA to the government. Both have the potential to restrict individual freedom over your property greatly. Both collect fees/taxes. An HOA may seem initially a matter of choice, but the terms of the HOA can change over time, and you could inherit property under control of an HOA – just as you can be born into a country. The bottom line is that private institutions can restrict freedom against those who have not voluntarily chosen those restrictions, just as government can. Of course you can argue that you can always leave an HOA or a community, but likewise you can leave this country. The fact that there are no countries that live up to your ideals is no different than the fact that there are no HOAs that live up to your ideals.

    I can see an argument here for keeping all institutions (private and public) smaller in size so that they can impose less power and open the opportunity for more choice. However that still brings up the problem that if people are very likely to voluntarily choose limited freedom, then even in a world of small governments you would likely be very hard pressed to find a libertarian one.

  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris Byrne

    CJS, you’ve got it right there.

    Democracy is an inherently bad system, as sir Winston famously said.

    However, he also said “it’s better than the other ones”, and there he was wrong.

    The limited republic of enumerated powers is the best form of government humans have yet derived for a large state.

    It’s also an awful form of government… but it’s less awful than all the rest.

  • Akston

    Suppose I lack the self-restraint to live within a budget, and consequently desire my spouse or parents or friends to hold my money and place me on an allowance. Suppose this works well for me.

    Now suppose several others see my pleasant, infantile, unthinking financial existence and are drawn to its “freedom from” weary responsibility. These observers also voluntarily opt for a life of allowances.

    How many people abdicating their financial independence should it take for me to be able to put you on an allowance whether you want/need one or not? 50% of all the people in our community plus one?

    When does your right to live your life become subordinate to my desire for universal happy dependence?

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