Author Archives: tarran

Obama: You’re doing a heck’uva job, Bernie

Continuing his George Costanzaesque presidency, Obama has decided to reappoint Ben “Helicopter” Bernanke to another term on the Fed.

Here’s what Obama had to say:

Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and outside-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall

I thought it might be useful to take a look at some highlights of this Solon, this central – planner whom George Bush put in charge of the money supply:

Of course, as usual, Obama is dead wrong: the Federal Reserve’s actions have actually prolonged the downturn, made it worse, and have laid the foundations for an even bigger crash down the road.

Monetary Base of U.S. Dollar

In the days before the election, I told many of my fellow Massachusetts residents that Obama was not so much a break from George Bush as a continuation of his worst policies. I am sorry to say that he has been proving me right since. And this is yet another nail in the coffin of an administration that is showing itself to be even more incompetent than the Bush presidency.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

The Battle Between the Right to Medical Care vs. Government ‘Medicine’

For decades the cost of medical care has risen relative to prices in general and relative to people’s incomes. Today [1994] a semi-private hospital room typically costs $1,000 to $1,500 per day, exclusive of all medical procedures, such as X-rays, surgery, or even a visit by one’s physician. Basic room charges of $500 per day or more are routinely tripled just by the inclusion of normal hospital pharmacy and supplies charges (the cost of a Tylenol tablet can be as much as $20). And typically the cost of the various medical procedures is commensurate. In such conditions, people who are not exceptionally wealthy, who lack extensive medical insurance, or who fear losing the insurance they do have if they become unemployed, must dread the financial consequences of any serious illness almost as much as the illness itself. At the same time, no end to the rise in medical costs is in sight. Thus it is no wonder that a great clamor has arisen in favor of reform – radical reform – that will put an end to a situation that bears the earmarks of financial lunacy.

Thus begins an essay that noted Objectivist economist George Reissman penned during Clinton’s efforts to ‘reform’ health care.

Given the current debate, it’s a good essay to reread, and the folks at the Mises Institute have obliged by posting it on their fine website.

Reisman argues against many of propositions that are assumed to be true by proponents of govenrment medicine, economic ideas that are based on primitive emotions and have no basis in actual economics: » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Papers Please

Over at the Agitator, Radley Balko asks why people are amused by Bob Dylan’s latest run-in with the law.

I find it pretty depressing. There was a time when we condescendingly used the term “your papers, please” to distinguish ourselves from Eastern Block countries and other authoritarian states. Post-Hiibel, America has become a place where a harmless, 68-year-old man out on a stroll can be stopped, interrogated, detained, and forced to produce proof of identification to state authorities, despite having committed no crime.

Maybe what makes it comical rather than a tragedy is that it happened to a famous guy rather than some ordinary person.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

I’ll Support Your Boycott If You Support Mine

Yet another great letter by Don Boudreaux:

Dear Olivia Jane:

You and many readers of Daily Kos are furious that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey expressed – in the pages of the Wall Street Journal – his opposition to greater government involvement in health care.

Exercising your rights and abilities as consumers, you are therefore boycotting Whole Foods.  You’re using your freedom to avoid paying for products offered by someone whose attitude toward government you disapprove of.
Isn’t freedom wonderful?!

But I must ask: do you endorse my freedom to boycott paying for products offered by those whose attitude toward government I disapprove of?  Like you, I have very strong opinions about the proper role of government, and also as in your case, a famous chief executive is now endorsing government policies that I find reprehensible.

Will you champion my freedom to stop supporting, with my money, President Barack Obama’s services?  Will you come to my defense if I stop paying taxes to support those policies of Mr. Obama with which I disagree – policies such as the economic ’stimulus,’ more vigorous antitrust regulation, and cap and trade?  Indeed, will you defend me if I boycott – if I choose not to pay taxes to support – Obamacare?

If you will support me in my boycott, then I applaud your principle and, although I disagree with you about Mr. Mackey’s political views, fully support your freedom to boycott Whole Foods.  But if you will not support me in my boycott, then can you tell me on what principle you would stand to defend your right to boycott supermarkets if someone (say, Mr. Mackey) managed to secure legislation that obliges you to shop at Whole Foods?

I await your reply.

Donald J. Boudreaux

I couldn’t put it better myself. One quibble, even if Olivia Jane was not willing to extend us the same courtesy and support our desire to boycott Obamacare, we should applaud her principle. Just because she has reprehensible political views does not mean we should ignore the opportunity to teach her the value of a right to exit/disassociate.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Our Exalted Fearless Leader Almost Gets It

Obama is not a dumb man. He understands that government provisioning generally produces a worse service than private organizations which are dependent on people choosing to patronize them.

Here he is pointing out that while Fedex is required by law to charge higher prices than the Post Office for equivalent services, it is the Post Office which struggles and requires constant taxpayer bailout.

Like Amtrak, USPS, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, any publicly funded insurance company will struggle to contain costs as it encourages overconsumption.

I’ve long argued that the real reason that medical care is so expensive is that the government limits supply and subsidizes demand.

The Obama administration, in choosing to ignore the limits on supply placed by government, is embarking on a program that is doomed to fail to meet any of the publicly stated goals.

It’s too bad that Mr Obama is unwilling to follow the evidence to its inevitable, logical conclusion.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Why Do We Need Expensive College Degrees to Get A Simple Job?

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97

Until 1960 or so, the percentage of people getting college degrees was relatively low. There was plenty of work for people who had ‘merely’ graduated from high school, and a high school graduate could support a family.

Then came the Vietnam War, where the United States government would happily enslave high-school graduates, but not students in college. The number of students entering college zoomed upward, and the number of colleges proliferated.

But the war ended in the early 1970’s, and the U.S. government stopped enslaving young men, although it does reserve the capability to start doing so at any time.

Yet, despite this pressure, the number of people entering college continued to increase. Why? Quite simply because it started to become difficult for a high school graduate to find a job. An increasing number of companies started demanding a college degree for jobs that clearly don’t require anything more than the education that could be acquired at a half-way decent high school.

Why would employers do this? What could prompt such a strange change? As usual, dig down into the matter, and the answer becomes clear.  In a paper posted at the John William Pope Canter for Higher Education, Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder argue that the reduced employment opportunities for high-school graduates and the resulting rise of the higher education bubble is an unintended consequence of the 1964 Civil Right Act, namely this part of Section VII:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –

(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

At the time this law was passed employers routinely classified prospective employees via pre-employment testing.  This testing was used to determine things like knowledge, technical aptitude, personality compatibility and, yes, the race of applicants.  At the time the law was being debated, its opponents raised the objection that this law could outlaw non-racist testing alongside racist testing.  To which the proponents of the bill replied:

There is no requirement in Title VII that employers abandon bona fide qualification tests where, because of differences in background and educations, members of some groups are able to perform better on these tests than members of other groups.  An employer may set his qualification as high as he likes, he may test to determine which applicants have these qualifications, and he may hire, assign, and promote on the basis of test performance.

Of course, like Madison’s claims that the Federal Government would obviously be limited to the powers described in Section 8 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, these legislators claims did not survive actual contact with the courts.  In the case Griggs v. Duke Power, the U.S. Supreme Court described what criteria can be used for pre-employment testing:

  • A test where members of one race performed more poorly than members of another race – demonstrating a “disparate” performance – was assumed to be discriminatory with respect to race, even if that was not the intention of the test.
  • Tests with disparate results are illegal unless the test has a direct business necessity.

Since, most businesses weren’t interested in wasting money on tests that were not necessary to screening out unfit employees or identifying the most fit employees, they were stunned.  The Supreme Court had a very complicated definition of what constituted “Direct Business Necessity”, one that was difficult to meet and gave considerable deference to the employee of the Equal Opportunity Commission who was deciding whether or not to accuse a company of illegal discrimination.  Only the simplest tests, such as requiring a prospective driver to pass a driving test could reasonably pass muster.  Other tests, which businessmen clearly felt were useful to reducing the risk of hiring the wrong person for the job,  now could get them sued.

Companies began casting about for a way to screen out the-incompetent or unfit in a way that would not result in them being sued.  The simplest solution is to demand a college degree.  Any racial discrimination demonstrated in the pool of degreed people would be the colleges’ liability, and the business could get on with the business of hiring new employees without being worried about lawsuits.

It has taken thirty years for this unfortunate unintended consequence to play out;

  • People entering the workforce have been kept idle for four years unnecessarily.
  • People entering the workforce are saddled with debts that are difficult to pay off.
  • Colleges have gotten away with lowering educational standards because their graduates are in such high demand.

When summed across the millions of people who have entered the workforce in the last two decades, the economic costs imposed by this well-intended but horrendously misguided effort are staggering.  They include

  • Almost 100 million man-years’ lost productivity.
  • An additional 10 million man-years spent paying off college loans
  • Increased pressure on children to engage in organized activities designed to win the child a scholarship at the expense of their personal development.

Had the proponents of the Civil Rights Act limited their aim at racial discrimination by the government, they would have been crafting a very socially beneficial law.  But by seeking to use the law to force people not to racially discriminate, they wreaked massive damage on the economy.  Ironically, this damage disproportionately affects minorities who are far more likely to be at the mercy of awful government schools than other ethnic/racial groups.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Harold Fish is Free!

On the Liberty Papers, much of what we write is negative; decrying the steady movement towards tyranny and totalitarianism that is the trajectory of the U.S.. Occasionally, we get to report some good news.Harold Fish has been released from jail.

His case is an important one; the state of Arizona charged him with murder for defending himself with too powerful a weapon; while hiking in the backwoods, Mr Fish was charged by a group of aggressive dogs (who were, quite reasonably, unleashed) . Fish had a 10mm Kimber Pistol with hollow point ammunition. He fired a warning shot into the ground to scare them off as they closed to within a few feet of him. At this point, he was attacked by the dog owner who screamed that he was going to kill Mr Fish and charged swinging his fists. Mr Fish fired three rounds at the last moment before the man got within punching distance and mortally wounded his attacker. he then spent agonizing minutes trying to get medical help for the man.

The police investigating the case thought it a clear case of self defense. The lawyers working for the state of Arizona disagreed, claiming that the size and type of rounds he was carrying indicated that Mr Fisher had set out on his hike with murder on his mind.

Through this argument, and by convincing the judge to keep exculpatory evidence out of the trial, the attorneys were able to successfully convict Mr Fish of murder, although within 24 hours at least one horrified juror contacted the defense attorney claiming that the excluded evidence would have resulted in a different verdict.

This case is important in that people have a right to defend themselves. Certainly, the courts have long held that police have not obligation to defend us. The act of walking outside the patrol area of the police does not mean that we have agreed to allow people to murder or assault us.

Luckily, the appelate court agreed that Mr Fish had been convicted unfairly, and thanks to recent changes in Arizona law clarifying the rules governing self defense, there is little chance that his retrial will result in a conviction.

Harold Fish lost three years of his life to prison. He is nearly $500,000 in debt at a time of his life where he has little prospect of paying it off (Donate here to his defense fund). All because a stranger attacked him, he defended himself, and a prosecutor didn’t like the size of his gun.

In a just world, the prosecutor would have to make Mr Fish whoole for all the money and time he lost on this frivolous prosecution. Unfortunately, we do not live in a just world.

At least Mr. Fish gets to have dinner with his wife again…

Hat Tip: Massad Ayoub of Backwoods Home Magazine.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Control Without Responsibility

At Cafe Hayek, a letter to the editor by Andy Morriss to the Wall Street Journal is posted:

Holman Jenkins asks “Does Obama Want to Own the Airlines?” (Business World, July 8). I am sure he does not. Rather than own them, the president and his congressional allies want to control the airlines — a crucial difference as ownership implies taking responsibility.

As Mr. Jenkins notes, the Justice Department’s belated intervention against Continental’s efforts to join the Star Alliance appears aimed at extorting concessions for the Democrats’ union allies. That is not the action of an owner of airline assets but of someone determined to redistribute wealth from airline passengers and shareholders to favored special interests.

One of the many benefits of free markets is that the people who own something are the ones who experience the benefits or losses accruing from their use of it. When considering how some property is going to be used, an owner and non-owner may have very strong opinions. The non-owner, who has less to lose, will be less careful and prudent in their decisionmaking. Moreover, often the non-owner will gain more from the misuse of the item than from its prudent use.

One does not have to look to hard to see this phenomenon in action. The attempt by GM to close dealerships, and thus reduce its losses was overridden by Congressmen interested in using GM’s wealth to buy votes by keeping the dealerships open. And that is one example of literally millions of instances that take place every year from all levels of government.

Obama, leading democrats and some very influential economists have repeatedly expressed the idea that increased government control of the medical industry would reduce costs without sacrificing quality. In their vision selfless government officials will ensure that people receive high quality treatment regardless of the cost, while the market power of government as a customer will ensure that costs will stay low. Against this charming vision stands a great body of evidence from public choice theory; government officials – or their private counterparts in the private-public partnerships in vogue today – will be able to exert control without any consequences. Just as medicare and medicaid administrators proved willing to authorize higher and higher treatment prices – to the point where it threatens the budget of the federal and nearly every state government – the administrators of any new government program will behave in similar uneconomic ways.

Control without responsibility is a very bad idea.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Government Is Not Society

One of the most pernicious beliefs held by Americans is the conflation of the state with society. This belief is causing them acquiesce to government actions that threaten the destruction of American civilization if not stopped.

The word society comes to us from the Latin societas, which meant a group of people bound by friendship or a common interest.  The societies we participate in are the manifold groups that people join in order to accomplish various goals, for protection, for commerce, for companionship.  When compared to a life of autarky, of isolated independence, the benefits of societies become clear.  The defining characteristic of society is that membership in a society is voluntary. Whenever a person feels that a society no longer meets their needs, they can exit it – choosing another one to replace it or even going without.

Of course, one of the primary functions of the societies we join are to fulfill those needs we have that we cannot fulfill ourselves.  We depend on our families, friends, fraternal organizations, etc to care for us when we are sick, to provide for us when we cannot provide for ourselves.  These acts of charity, when provided to us by people who do it voluntarily using the means that they have acquired through peaceful means, are a necessary component of civilization.  Remove charitable interactions from society and we cease to live in a state of civilization and return to a state of barbarism.

The state, on the other hand, is an organization that is distinguished by violent action.  It acquires resources not through peaceful economic interaction but through threats of violence.  When it threatens wrong-doers – such as thieves, rapists or murderers – it can be useful; scaring other would be thieves, rapists and murderers from committing similar crimes. But all too often, such as when it orders the destruction of livestock in order to raise the market price of meat, it is a social bad that leaves everyone worse off.

The state is powerful.  It can commandeer vast resources.  It does not have to make anything; it does not need to trade for anything;  it merely takes what it wants.  However, the state is not all powerful; tomorrow the people could rise up and hang all the officers of the state from the lamp-posts.  Its officers must ensure that their plunder or violence does not rise to such a level as to incite too much active resistance.   These men and women therefore promote the fiction that the state is not a predator but engaged in trade with the people, exchanging protection and other services for “contributions” as they term the taxes they extort from the populace.

Over the last 100 years, the state has systematically weakened or coopted the institutions of society.  It has, via the welfare system, taken over much of the provisioning of charity.  It controls commerce via regulation.  It dicates what insurance companies can and cannot do.  It tightly controls medical care.  Most dangerously, it has taken over the education of the young. And everything it has taken over has taken on the characteristics that typically accompany violence and extortion; shoddy service, excessive prices or compelled payments, and draconian punishments.

And far too many people, never having experienced society where these institutions or social needs were provisioned voluntarily rather than by the state, are left ignorant of any idea that that is even possible.  And so, when they are warned that Medicare and Social Security threaten economic ruin, they think that the speaker is contemplating casting the old and sick out on the street to die.  When they hear a call for the abolition of govenrment schooling, they imagine the speaker must want the broad mass of children to be left uneducated.  When they hear the call for the end of medical licensing or pharmaceutical regulations, they imagine that people will be subjected to all sorts of quackery. When they hear a call for an end of standing armies and the purchase of expensive weapons systems, they imagine that the speaker must naively want to invite a tyrant to waltz in and take over.

Too many people, no doubt from their experiences in schools where the classrooms are presided over mostly benevolent dictators called teachers, assume that society must be arranged in a similar vein, with leaders who make and enforce the rules, where there is no right of refusal or exit.

In the end, though, while it can commandeer impressive resources, and thus accomplish mighty things, the state invariably consumes more and produces less than organizations that it replaces.  It replaces the civilization of people voluntarily bonding together with the barbarism of compelled relationships, compelled production and compelled trade.

Today, the various governments that rule over Americans, taken together, commandeer or consume some 40% of production.  The more production the government seizes, the worse off we will be.  The greater the control government exercises over society, the worse off we all are.

One way to put things in perspective is, when considering how some need is to be supplied, to ask if you would be comfortable with the Mafia providing it.  After all, the mafia is really a proto-government, using extortion and violence to commandeer resources. Both are protection rackets, although the Mafia takes far less than the government.  While most people wouldn’t be too upset with the idea of the mafia punishing a rapist, most would laugh derisively at the idea of the mafia running a school, or operating a hospital.  This recognition arises from the fact that no-one conflates the Mafia with society.  If only they were so wise about the state!

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Make-Work Projects Don’t Create Prosperity

The purpose of society is to help people satisfy their needs. A major means used to satisfy needs are economic activities such as production, trade, and the performance of services.

In a complex economy, it is easy to lose sight of this, and people begin to believe the fallacy that the purpose of an economy is to provide employment to people. And we get absurdities like the make-work projects of Roosevelt’s NRA.   French lawmaker and economist Frederic Bastiat eloquently explained the futility of this practice in the 19th century:

But Mr. Lamartine has advanced one argument which I cannot pass by in silence, for it is closely connected with this economic study. “The economical question, as regards theatres, is comprised in one word—labor. It matters little what is the nature of this labor; it is as fertile, as productive a labor as any other kind of labor in the nation. The theatres in France, you know, feed and salary no less than 80,000 workmen of different kinds; painters, masons, decorators, costumers, architects, etc., which constitute the very life and movement of several parts of this capital, and on this account they ought to have your sympathies.” Your sympathies! Say rather your money.

And further on he says: “The pleasures of Paris are the labor and the consumption of the provinces, and the luxuries of the rich are the wages and bread of 200,000 workmen of every description, who live by the manifold industry of the theatres on the surfeit of the republic, and who receive from these noble pleasures, which render France illustrious, the sustenance of their lives and the necessities of their families and children. It is to them that you will give 60,000 francs.”

Yes, it is to the workmen of the theatres that a part, at least, of these 60,000 francs will go; a few bribes, perhaps, may be abstracted on the way. Perhaps, if we were to look a little more closely into the matter, we might find that the cake had gone another way, and that those workmen were fortunate who had come in for a few crumbs. But I will allow, for the sake of argument, that the entire sum does go to the painters, decorators, etc.

This is that which is seen. But whence does it come? This is the other side of the question, and quite as important as the former. Where do these 60,000 francs spring from? and where would they go, if a vote of the legislature did not direct them first toward the Rue Rivoli and thence toward the Rue Grenelle? This is what is not seen. Certainly, nobody will think of maintaining that the legislative vote has caused this sum to be hatched in a ballot urn; that it is a pure addition made to the national wealth; that but for this miraculous vote these 60,000 francs would have been forever invisible and impalpable. It must be admitted that all that the majority can do is to decide that they shall be taken from one place to be sent to another; and if they take one direction, it is only because they have been diverted from another.

This being the case, it is clear that the taxpayer, who has contributed one franc, will no longer have this franc at his own disposal. It is clear that he will be deprived of some gratification to the amount of one franc; and that the workman, whoever he may be, who would have received it from him, will be deprived of a benefit to that amount. Let us not, therefore, be led by a childish illusion into believing that the vote of the 60,000 francs may add anything whatever to the well-being of the country, and to national labor. It displaces enjoyments, it transposes wages—that is all.

This fallacy is again being advanced by proponents of continued construction of the F-22 fighter, an aircraft that is so expensive and unreliable that it has never been risked in a combat sortie, and aircraft that was designed to combat a Soviet air force that disintegrated long before the aircraft got off the drawing board. Barack Obama wants to stop purhcasing these aricraft in order to redirect the revenues in a different direction.   Numerous lawmakers in whose districts components of the aircraft are built are trying to preserve cosntruction arguing that large numbers of people are employed making the aircraft.

Of course, the proponents are missing a major point: the people building the aircraft are wasting their time making something for which there is little consumer demand.  As a result,  the materials, the man hours, the factories all are diverted from making something for which there is greater consumer demand.  These people could be making better DVD players, or cheaper TV’s, or flying cars or better MRI’s.  Instead they produce an aircraft which is ineffective at its primary purpose, blowing things up.

If the proponents of continuing F-22 manufacture really want to improve the lot of the workers who make the aircraft, they should be allowing this uneconomical weapons system to be abandoned and allow the workers to look for work making things that people actually want.  Via the price system and the evolution of the free market, all of the resources idled by such a move would be rapidly repurposed to more profitable forms of production, and the workers would find sustainable jobs rather than depending on good will from lawmakers to keep their jobs going.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

If You Kill Your Cattle, You Will Starve

Over at the Master Resource Blog,  law professor Gail Heriot points out the similarities between global warming, fear-monger Al Gore and Xhosa Prophetess Nongqawuse:

Nongqawuse was a teenager and a member of the Xhosa tribe in South Africa.  One day in April or May of 1856, she went down to the river to fetch water.  When she returned, she said that she had encountered the spirits of three of her ancestors who told her that her people must destroy their crops and kill their cattle.  In return, the sun would rise red on February 18, 1857, and the Xhosa ancestors would sweep the British settlers from the land and bring them fresh, healthier cattle.  (Some of the Xhosa cattle had been suffering from a lung ailment, which may or may not have been brought by the British settlers’ cattle.)

Astonishingly, the Xhosa chieftain, Sarhili, agreed to do exactly as this young girl urged.  Over the next year, a frenzy occurred in which it is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 cattle were killed and crops destroyed.  Historians sometimes call it the “Great Cattle Killing.”

But on February 18, 1857, the sun rose as usual.  It was not red.  And the Xhosa ancestors did not show.  But the Xhosa people had destroyed their livelihood.  In the resulting famine, the population of the area dropped from 105,000 to less than 27,000.  Cannibalism was reported.  Following Nongqawuse’s advice was a calamity of staggering proportions for the Xhosa people.

Like Nongqawuse, Gore tells us that the sun will soon rise red over the land.  Well, maybe.  But already the models that he relies on have been proven wrong.  The intense period of warming that these models predicted over the past ten years never came to pass.  Yet we are repeatedly told that it’s still coming and that it’s just a little late.  Apparently, we should pay no attention to the fact that the polar ice is expanding again.  Instead, we must put the brakes on our use of energy–the very thing that makes the modern world possible–to avoid antagonizing the spirits of our ancestors, I mean to avoid climate disaster.

The most infuriating aspect of the fear-mongers’ movement is that their solution to climate change is for humanity to adopt an economic system that has brought misery and death nearly every time it has been tried.  From the tropics to the poles,  free markets have brought prosperity, comfort and longevity to the masses.  No matter how well intentioned they are, the fear-mongers threaten to wreck the engine that allows the Earth to support a human population in the billions.

The Earth’s climate is in a state of flux. The notion that humanity should doom itself to privation and famines in a futile attempt to maintain climactic parameters within a set of narrow bands is the height of folly.  If we kill our cattle, we too will starve.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

30,000th Comment

This evening, we had our 30,000th comment here on the Liberty Papers.

On behalf of all of us who post here, I’d like to thank you, our audience, for your feedback, arguments, discussions, and explanations.

You, our readers, are why we write.

Thanks for reading.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

This is Government

According to the Iranian government, the person dying below was a terrorist. No doubt all the people walking around her in apparent unconcern for there were fellow terrorists, and the people she was terrorizing were outside camera range.

She is being called Neda. The person who uploaded the video to Youtube claims that he was nearly half a mile away from the demonstrations when a sharpshooter shot a teenage girl standing nearby with her father. Within a few seconds, she was dead, her eyes turn to the camera before being obscured by the pools blood that pour out of her mouth and nose.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

Many people are arguing that this is the sort of thing that democracy is supposed to prevent. Of course, democracies also shoot people opposed to the government’s policies.

Why? because government, at its heart, is an organization that uses force to get its way. It is incapable of limiting its violence to socially beneficial causes like apprehending murderers. At some point, it points a gun at a group of people and demands they submit, and anyone who refuses gets a bullet.

This is government. Over there or over here, it is the same; the few exploit the many, and they are ready to use beatings, kidnappings and murder to get their way.

So who are the real terrorists?

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Symbolic Victories Are Often Real Losses

Judging from his statements and the note he left in his car, James von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Museum believing that he was about to strike a blow against Jewish world hegemony and Federal gun-control.  Even by his twisted standards, his actions were counterproductive. His plan was to massacre people visiting and working at the holocaust museum, and to symbolically harm Jews, whom he believed were looting non-Jewish people through their control of the government and the financial industry among others.

Let us examine, though, the effects of von Brunn’s attack.  He murdered a security guard, Stephen T. Johns (who, it should be noted, had courteously opened the door let in the man who would murder him).  Within hours, the security guards who shot von Brunn down were rightly being lionized, and by extension, the entire apparatus of security-guards-cum-metal-detectors that have come to characterize the modern U.S.   People started agitating for further limitations on weapons ownership, freedom of speech and against organizations that agitate for freeing people from government oversight.  There was a massive outpouring of sympathy for Jews.  Two days after von Brunn’s attack, about the time doctors were concluding that he would survive his wounds, the Holocaust museum was open for business. No doubt within a week they will have hired Stephen Johns’ replacement.

In other words, from von Brunn’s perspective he lost: he suffered life threatening wounds, incited in people a hatred of his movement, shot an easily replaced, ‘expendable’ guard and shut a museum down for one day while giving it lots of free publicity.

Much as we libertarians abhor murderous savages like von Brunn, we should take note of the effects of his attack.  His attack is one of many that all demonstrate an important rule of resistance against the state.  Like John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry,  the assassination of McKinley, and countless other acts of symbolic violence, von Brunn’s attack discredited his movement and increased sympathy for his opponents.

Hardly a month goes by without some fellow libertarian radical posting a comment to the effect that the second amendment is what protects the other rights supposedly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, or writing cliched statements containing the phrase “ballot box, soap box, ammo box”.  In the 2008 primary season, Ron Paul supporters reveled in their symbolic victory after they chased Rudy Giuliani off the weather-deck of a ferry.

While such chest-thumping is very satisfying, and satisfies a psychological need to feel powerful, it  is usually a losing strategy;  any action that swings sympathy towards our opponents will make us weaker.  The psychology of crowds is fairly well understood.  Crowds hate the weak.  Paradoxically, crowds also envy the powerful. They want security and to live free of fear and uncertainty.  They don’t care about philosophy, and their conception of justice and morality is a crude, instinctual one that is the product of human evolution.

Turning the mob in a pro-freedom direction requires a combination of the following:

  • Inciting in people a hatred and contempt of the political classes and the bureaucrat and police who do their bidding.
  • Making people aware of how badly the political classes are ripping them off.
  • Developing institutions that perform social functions that do not use coercion to acquire resources.
  • Encouraging people to rely on themselves and those institutions.

Most violent/semi-violent protests incite in people a fear of the protestors.  The people then turn to the government to protect them from the scary protestors.  When the protests or political actions or symbolic acts of vandalism don’t accomplish any meaningful change, the net result is a stronger, more powerful government that has been given permission to suppress the movement that the symbolic act was meant to promote.

Successful protest movements like the black civil rights movement succeeded precisely because the symbolic acts encouraged people to identify with the protesters.  When the police set german shepherds on black people walking in orderly columns, the people seeing the images and video saw the police as the dangerous mob and the protesters as being the civilized, non-threatening party to the conflict.

It is very important that we who advocate for freedom keep this in mind; disorderly or scary behavior turns people against us.  Freedom is civilized. Commerce is peaceful. Free markets are bountiful.  Let us  allow the government an uncontested claim on the mantle of civilization-threatening barbarity it has worked so hard to earn.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

The Bankrupcy of the Republican Party

The Democrats are steamrolling over all opposition, putting bad idea after bad idea into practice. The Republican Party is in no position to stop them, and their impotence has everything to do with their ideological bankruptcy during the Bush years.

At its heart, the  Republican Party was dominated by mercantilists, people who believe in big business supported by big government.  This philosophy was at its heart, Henry Clay’s American System, which had the following elements:

  • High, protectionist, tarrifs to support American industry.
  • Infrastructure to support big business such as canals, railroads, and later an interstate highway system.
  • A central bank to bail out insolvent banks.
  • Federal bailouts of indebted states.
  • A strong army and navy to force open foreign markets via gun-boat diplomacy.
  • Federal control of state militias.

This philosophy has consistently been advocated for by the Republican Party.  » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

The Signs of Inflation

Since Barack Obama has decided to continue down the path George Bush started down,  the path of Robert Mugabe and Friedrich Ebert, the United States economy will soon be facing all the problems associated with inflation.

Unfortunately, the effects of inflation are poorly popularized, meaning that most people have a very limited understanding of inflation.  As a result when confronted with symptoms of inflation people all to often pin the blame on other “causes” such as Jews or greedy white landowners.  These false accusations are heavily promoted by the ruling classes;  after all it’s better that the mob chase some Jews or hedge fund managers with pitch-forks than coming after the rulers who inflated the currency.

What Inflation Isn’t

The primary misconception of inflation is that it merely is the rise in prices.  The news media encourages people to believe this, reporting the inflation rate in the same way it reports on changes in the weather, as if it is some natural phenomenon over which people have no control.

Price increases are a result of inflation, yes.  However, inflation has the same relationship with price increases that war has with the number of burials per month at Arlington Cemetery.

The Mechanics of Inflation

Inflation is the phenomenon where additional money is created.  In the case of the Unites States, the Federal Reserve purchases some asset, such as a United States Treasury Bond, paying by check.  The seller deposits the check in a bank, which then records the additional money as part of its demand deposits.  This is the moment where the inflation occurs.  The bank then loans out 80% of those deposits to borrowers. Those borrowers spend the loaned money. This spent money is deposited back into the banking system. The banks loan out another 80% of this latest round of deposits. This cycle of loaning out money which then spent and then deposited back into the banking systems continues until eventually an equilibrium is established where banks list $4.00 in outstanding loans for every dollar created when the Federal Reserve Bank wrote that first check.

The Math:

A mathematical calculation of the growth of the money supply when central banks create money out of thin air.

A mathematical analysis of the growth of the money supply when central banks create money out of thin air.

The people spending this newly created money bid up prices;  people selling stuff tend to sell stuff to the highest bidder, and the people holding the newly printed money are competing with other buyers to purchase the stuff they want.

The result is that this new money slowly disperses out through the economy, leaving higher prices in its wake.  The people who spend it first get the benefit of being able to buy stuff at pre-inflation prices, the people who spend it last do not.  The people who have access to the newly printed money are left better off, the people who don’t are left poorer.  Inflation invisibly and without much fuss transfers purchasing power from those who are not closely connected economically with the central bank to those who are.

Follow the Money

The price increases generally show themselves in the sectors of the economy where the new money is spent.  For example,  let’s say that President Obama directs the Secretary of the Treasury to sell a bond to generate the money needed to build yet another bridge over some stream in West Virginia named after Robert Byrd. The bond is purchased by the Federal Reserve Bank with newly printed money.  The money is spent by the Federal Government on tools and materials needed to build the bridge.  The price for cranes, hourly employment of road-crews, concrete and steel increases.

The Rise of the Ersatz Product

The other users of these raw materials find themselves struggling to buy the  supplies they need.  For example, a manufacturer of prefabricated steel sheds might find that he has to pay more to get the metal he needs.  He is caught in a squeeze; the price his customers are willing to pay has remained unchanged while his production costs have increased. The manufacturer can’t raise his prices, so naturally he decides to cut costs by attempting to reduce the amount of steel he uses by substitution or adulteration.  The end result, the steel shed might cost the same, but the quality of the steel, the strength of the steel, or its toughness will be inferior, resulting in a shoddier product.  Candy bars are packaged to look like their sizes are constant, while the volume of candy is reduced.  Houses are built less sturdily.  Automobiles are manufactured with lower quality steel, with engines that wear out more rapidly, etc.

The Rise in Prices

As the money percolates out through the economy, the people coming into possession of it bid up prices.  In fits and starts, at different rates in different sectors of the economy, the price levels go up.  People on a fixed income find themselves becoming poorer and poorer.  The unpredictability of  the price levels causes  accounting to become more uncertain.  Investments and projects that otherwise would be attempted are foregone.  A majority of the population is left poorer as a result of the inflation.

Increased Political Repression

These people naturally lobby for relief.  However the political classes that benefit from the inflation don’t want to stop,  and the people are too ignorant of economics to recognize the fact that it was the printing presses which caused their problems.  Instead the people attack profiteers or greedy manufacturers or the greedy bankers.  They call for price and wage controls, which if instituted, further wreck the economy.

People also try to abandon the unreliable monetary system for alternatives.  They try to do business in foreign currencies or even use commodities such as cigarettes or gold chains as money.  Governments typically react savagely, criminalizing attempts to do business using alternatives to the rapidly devaluing currency.

Stop Me Before I Inflate Again!

Typically, when a government or central bank engages in inflation, they find it hard to stop – the political incentives are too great to resist. They cannot fund their operations if they stop the printing presses. The more the economy falters, the more the tax-base is disrupted, the lower the productivity of the industrial base, the more dependent the elites are on the printing press to fund their lifestyles and the operations of the state.  In private, the central-bankers will admit that the currency debasement is wrecking the economy.  But the central-bankers’ fear of the negative personal consequences if they should stop inflating the currency overrides any impulse to do the right thing.

America’s Peculiar Institution

Some economists argue that since the Federal Reserve is not part of the U.S. government such a doomsday scenario cannot play out here.  They claim that the Federal Reserve, being independent, is immune to political pressure.  Yet throughout its existence it has acted to support the U.S. government; periodically, the Congress threatens to update or revise the Federal Reserve Act to mandate greater congressional oversight of the Fed’s operations and the ‘independent’ organization suddenly becomes quite accommodating.

Historically, the Federal Reserve has purchased only a small fraction of the bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury;  it didn’t have to – there were always sufficient buyers willing to buy Treasury Bonds to keep the U.S. government operating.  That is changing.  The U.S. government will have to borrow more than a trillion dollars a year to fund its operations.  At the same time the U.S. Government is borrowing at such unprecedented levels, the willingness of voluntary investors to purchase the bonds is collapsing.  If the Federal Reserve were passive, within a year or so we would see U.S. Treasury Bonds routinely going unsold at auctions. The Federal Reserve, inevitably, will begin purchasing those bonds to keep the U.S. government solvent.

Protecting Yourself

In an inflationary economic regime, the formal economy is generally a suckers game.  To avoid being taken to the cleaners, consider doing the following:

  • Start or purchase a business making something in relatively widespread demand that is not likely to have price controls slapped on it.
  • Go into a profession where your skills will be in wide demand.
  • Learn how to fix broken things.
  • Cultivate circle of associates with whom you can engage in gray-market or black-market business deals.
  • Befriend a policeman or a judge! They can get you out of hot water should you get tagged for committing an economic ‘crime’.
  • Get to know local gold-dealers, particularly ones who buy and sell gold chains.
  • Learn how to defend yourself; police take time to respond, and are prone to prosecuting economic crimes when confronted by evidence of contraband.
  • Buy an old “Whip Inflation Now” button. It will be about as helpful as it was in the 1970’s

You don’t have to be helpless as the Democratic and Republican Party Apparatchiks loot the economy.  Prudent steps taken now can pay off in the coming dark years.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

One Proper Way To Confront a Government Official

On this website, we have a category called “Dumbasses & Authoritarians” that is a grab bag of stories about really dumb or vicious government officials. Typically, the posts that are assigned to that category detail some government official who is making everything worse via his actions. No, not every post gets assigned to that category, just the actually egregious stuff.

When you read one of those posts, what emotion do you feel? Typically, people feel anger or outrage. Odds are that you have fantasized about slapping one of those jerks about, screaming at him, or squeezing his neck until your pain stops. This desire to punish these people is understandable but counterproductive, because there is little chance of convincing a government official of the error of his ways by calling him things like ‘traitor’, ‘moron’, ‘toady’ etc.

Rather, the way to change a government official’s heart is to convince him that it is in his best interest to do the right thing. To that end, I want to republish a letter written by someone named jeff that was posted on freekeene.com

The Honorable Edward J. Burke,
Judge of the Keene District Court
P.O. Box 364
Keene, NH 03431-0364
Dear Judge Burke:

I would like to bring to your attention information related to the case of Sam Dodson.

As you are probably aware, Mr. Dodson has been held as “John Doe” in Cheshire County Department of Corrections for the past 4 weeks. Per your order, he will remain there indefinitely unless he consents to give his name and address. During this time Mr. Dodson has been on a hunger strike in order to gain sympathy and publicity for his cause. He has lost 20 lbs.

It is my understanding that the Department of Corrections knows his legal name and address.

It is difficult to predict the time it takes to die from starvation, but a reasonable estimate based on Mr. Dodson’s situation shows a 50% chance that he will die within the next week, rising to near certainty about 4 weeks from now.

What you probably do not know is that in the intervening weeks there has been a growing tide of sympathy for Mr. Dodson’s situation. Initially blog posts and opinion articles with an immature tone, these have matured into a full-fledged campaign of sympathy for the plight of what I believe to be an innocent man. To take one example, Mr. Dodson’s supporters recently sent a well-worded press release to over 500 (!) news organizations around the country. Blog posts and articles are now numerous on the web.

If Mr. Dodson should die in jail, every aspect of the case will be brought out for public inspection, including his original charges, your court orders, and the jail house conditions that led to his death.

I understand that people should show proper judicial respect, but Mr. Dodson’s case appears to be a point of pride with vanishingly small value.

I urge you to consider whether it would be better to concede the point, and in so doing let the matter slowly dissipate.

Note the calm appeal to the judge’s humanity, the appeals to his self interest, and the acknowledgment of why the judge has thrown Sam into jail indefinitely. Nor does it sacrifice principle. It is an attempt to open a negotiation that is to the benefit of the judge, Sam Dodson and Jeff.

The letter was not successful; Sam still rots in a prison cell in New Hampshire, a modern day Giles Corey. However, that letter is a thousand times more likely to succeed than a diatribe, or a threatening letter, or a campaign of harassment and intimidation.

While Jeff could have dashed off an angry, emotionally satisfying letter that took only a minute or two to write, he took the time to pen a thoughtful letter that was written with the judge’s thoughts, beliefs and goals in mind. It is that intelligent and disciplined activism that has the greatest chance of carrying the day.

When advocating for liberty, please keep this in mind.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Why Do We Keep Believing Them?

Men (and women) who physically abuse their spouses often express remorse afterwards. “Come Back Baby, I won’t hit you anymore” they say. And puzzlingly, their battered spouses often say yes, even though this latest offer is probably just as unlikely to be true as the previous 600 offers. To those of us observing such a relationship from the outside it is often a bewildering experience; we can’t understand why a person would trust a serial liar and leave themselves vulnerable to yet another attack. Many of us even look down on the victim; after all, we would never allow someone to take advantage of us in this way!

If you think about it, though, this bravado is probably wrong. The victims of this abuse are human beings just like me or you, dear reader. Why wouldn’t you react in ways similar to these chronic victims? You are not so different! You behave this way towards an organization that is incredibly abusive, that bullies you at every turn, that is far more controlling than most abusive spouses, whose officers not only lie often, but know that they are making promises that they have no intention of keeping. I am speaking of the state, a barbaric organized crime gang that take advantage of you at every turn, and then demands that you thank them for it.

A typical promise made by the state and the lying lyers who people it is that a) they need expanded powers to provide some service effectively, and that b) they will never abuse them, never, ever, ever, cross their hearts and hope to die. Typically the ink hasn’t had time to dry before the promise is broken. I will ignore the many examples of this phenomenon with regards to how Native Americans were betrayed by the U.S. government in favor of looking at seatbelt laws.

Those of us who are older than 30 remember a time when it was legally permissible to drive a car while unbelted to the seat. State by state, proponents of seatbelt laws held campaigns to require people by law to wear a seat-belt. Almost universally the campaigners promised that the law would be such that police wouldn’t peer into our cars and pull us over if we weren’t wearing them. It would be a secondary offense, we were assured, an additional ticket given to those pulled over for genuine moving violations. Today, that assurance lies in tatters. In most states the police can pull you over if they think you aren’t wearing a seat-belt. “Click it or ticket” is the new mantra.

Let’s move past a little thing like seat-belt laws. Instead, let’s look at something more substantial. Remember the promises of that vile traitor, George Bush, when he ran for office in 2000? Remember “a humble foreign policy” and “restoring the rule of law”? How about his promises to execute a spendthrift fiscal policy? What did he do once he got in office? Tried to foment a war with China, fomented a war with Iraq, expanded medicare, attempted to nationalize the stock market, failed, then did it again successfully using a crisis as an excuse. How many of you who voted for George Bush in 2000 would have voted for him had he run on a platform promising to do what he actually did? It’s safe to say that President Al Gore would have had an easy run to victory had candidate George Bush run an honest campaign. Had Barack Obama vowed to continue the war in Iraq and expand the war in Afghanistan while shoveling corporate welfare at the investment banks that his treasury secretary had worked at, President McCain would be enjoying his run as a 21st century reincarnation of Teddy Roosevelt.

From Pearl Harbor to 9/11, from the Great Depression to the Collapse of the Housing Bubble, government officials, and the elites whom they serve have been hyping or generating crises which they then use as an excuse to impoverish us. And we, like a battered wife who fears what will happen to her should her man leave her, let them.

George Bush abused us. Barack Obama is abusing us right now. In two years, some people will announce that they want to be president and will do right by us. If elected, they will turn out to be abusers too. It does not matter whether they wave posters of Donkeys, Elephants, Rainbows or whatever the mascot the Libertarian Party likes to wave around; in the end they will hurt you.

Our only hope for ending the abuse is to kick the bums out! And by that I mean it is time to dissolve our governments. I call upon all of you to support constitutional amendments to dissolve not only the U.S. government, but your state governments as well. De-incorporate your towns. Teach your children to hate the flag, not salute it.

Make these predators earn an honest living for a change. Sitting around hoping that they will turn over a new leaf is about as futile as hoping a leopard will change its spots. It’s not going to happen. Politicians and civil “servants” (so-called) only stop their abuse only when they are deprived of their offices.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

No Secession, No Legitimacy!

Many Republicans, having discovered that Bush’s policies are tyrannical, are making noises about wanting out of the fascist state that they were cheering on a few months ago. While we may wonder why it took the trivial matter of having people who have the letter D appended to their names on news reports executing Bush’s policies to open their eyes, we must welcome the fact that they are dimly becoming aware of how thoroughly their leaders had betrayed their country and are looking for ways to undo the damage these leaders wrought.

Some Republicans have even endorsed secession! This is keeping with American tradition that started the first time the idealogical ancestors of the Republican party – the Federalists – lost an election for the Presidency. In that case the merchants of New England threatened secession since Tomas Jefferson’s policies of trade embargoes with foreign markets were crippling them. Since then threats of seccession have been a regular part of the political landscape.

Often the threats of secession are not taken seriously… usually the benefits of leaving the union are not sufficiently great to attract many supporters, and thus the powers-that-be can ignore the movements completely.

Today, though, the Democrats and political leadership are reacting in horror at the reemergence of threat American phenomenon – their dreams of social engineering will go up in smoke if the masses have the option to escape! And many people who should know better are agreeing with them.

People make three arguments against secession:
1)That it is illegal
2)That it is immoral
3)That it is unwise

Let us examine these arguments. » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
1 2 3 4 7