Archive for the ‘Political Philosophy’ Category

Constitutional Ignorance   Leave a comment

Found on Lew Rockwell

by Walter E. Williams

Image result for image of walter e williams on blackmailHillary Clinton blamed the Electoral College for her stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election in her latest memoirs, “What Happened?” Some have claimed that the Electoral College is one of the most dangerous institutions in American politics. Why? They say the Electoral College system, as opposed to a simple majority vote, distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population.

To back up their claim, they point out that the Electoral College gives, for example, Wyoming citizens disproportionate weight in a presidential election. Put another way, Wyoming, a state with a population of about 600,000, has one member in the U.S. House of Representatives and two members in the U.S. Senate, which gives the citizens of Wyoming three electoral votes, or one electoral vote per 200,000 people. California, our most populous state, has more than 39 million people and 55 electoral votes, or approximately one vote per 715,000 people. Comparatively, individuals in Wyoming have nearly four times the power in the Electoral College as Californians.

Many people whine that using the Electoral College instead of the popular vote and majority rule is undemocratic. I’d say that they are absolutely right. Not deciding who will be the president by majority rule is not democracy. But the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that we were a republic and not a democracy. In fact, the word democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or any other of our founding documents.

How about a few quotations expressed by the Founders about democracy? In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison wanted to prevent rule by majority faction, saying, “Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” John Adams warned in a letter, “Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.” Edmund Randolph said, “That in tracing these evils to their origin, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.” Then-Chief Justice John Marshall observed, “Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos.”

The Founders expressed contempt for the tyranny of majority rule, and throughout our Constitution, they placed impediments to that tyranny. Two houses of Congress pose one obstacle to majority rule. That is, 51 senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators. The president can veto the wishes of 535 members of Congress. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override a presidential veto. To change the Constitution requires not a majority but a two-thirds vote of both houses, and if an amendment is approved, it requires ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures. Finally, the Electoral College is yet another measure that thwarts majority rule. It makes sure that the highly populated states — today, mainly 12 on the East and West coasts, cannot run roughshod over the rest of the nation. That forces a presidential candidate to take into consideration the wishes of the other 38 states.

Those Americans obsessed with rule by popular majorities might want to get rid of the U.S. Senate, where states, regardless of population, have two senators. Should we change representation in the House of Representatives to a system of proportional representation and eliminate the guarantee that each state gets at least one representative? Currently, seven states with populations of 1 million or fewer have one representative, thus giving them disproportionate influence in Congress. While we’re at it, should we make all congressional acts be majority rule? When we’re finished with establishing majority rule in Congress, should we then move to change our court system, which requires unanimity in jury decisions, to a simple majority rule?

My question is: Is it ignorance of or contempt for our Constitution that fuels the movement to abolish the Electoral College?

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We Don’t Need Bad Law   Leave a comment

I love Walter Williams for speaking on a variety of issues from a libertarian economist’s position. I don’t wholly agree with him on this topic, but the underlying philosophy is correct.

Found on Lew Rockwell

by Walter E. Williams

Image result for image of walter e williamsPresident Donald Trump said, “We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.” The president was responding to statements made in Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

Our nation does not need stronger laws against libel. To the contrary, libel and slander laws should be repealed. Let’s say exactly what libel and slander are. The legal profession defines libel as a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation. Slander is making a false spoken statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation.

There’s a question about reputation that never crosses even the sharpest legal minds. Does one’s reputation belong to him? In other words, if one’s reputation is what others think about him, whose property are other people’s thoughts? The thoughts I have in my mind about others, and hence their reputations, belong to me.

One major benefit from decriminalizing libel and slander would be that it would reduce the value of gossip. It would reduce the value of false statements made by others. Here’s a Gallup Poll survey question: “In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media — such as newspapers, TV and radio — when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly — a great deal, a fair amount, not very much or none at all?” In 1976, 72 percent of Americans trusted the media, and today the percentage has fallen to 32. The mainstream media are so biased and dishonest that more and more Americans are using alternative news sources, which have become increasingly available electronically.

While we’re talking about bad laws dealing with libel and slander, let’s raise some questions about other laws involving speech — namely, blackmail laws. The legal profession defines blackmail as occurring when someone demands money from a person in return for not revealing compromising or injurious information. I believe that people should not be prosecuted for blackmail. Let’s examine it with the following scenario. It’s 5 o’clock in the morning. You see me leaving a motel with a sweet young thing who’s obviously not Mrs. Williams. You say to me, “Professor Williams, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees me the right to broadcast to the entire world your conduct that I observed.” I believe that most would agree that you have that right. You then proposition me, “If you pay me $10,000, I will not exercise my right to tell the world about your behavior.”

Now the ball is in my court. I have a right to turn down your proposition and let you tell the world about my infidelity and live with the consequences of that decision. Or I can pay you the $10,000 for your silence and live with the consequences of that decision. In other words, blackmail fits into the category of peaceable, noncoercive voluntary exchange, just like most other transactions. If I’m seen voluntarily giving up $10,000, the only conclusion a third party could reach is that I must have viewed myself as being better off as a result. That’s just like an instance when you see me voluntarily give up money for some other good or service — be it food, clothing, housing or transportation. You come to the same conclusion.

What constitutes a crime can be divided into two classes — mala in se and mala prohibita. Homicide and robbery are inherently wrong (mala in se). They involve the initiation of force against another. By contrast, blackmail (mala prohibita) offenses are considered criminal not because they violate the property or person of another but because society seeks to regulate such behavior. By the way, married people would tend to find blackmail in their interest. Extra eyes on their spouse’s behavior, in pursuit of money, would help to ensure greater marital fidelity.

Those who would like to dig deeper into blackmail can go here.

Why Do We Focus on A Person Instead of What Matters?   1 comment

When Bill Clinton was president,  he was taking the country in a direction that many of us were uncomfortable with. This created push-back. The conservative movement had been around for a long time as a group of writers and commentators who mostly talked among themselves, but hadn’t real political power over the 20 years of its existence. In the prior few years since Reagan had set aside the decidedly-unfair Fairness Doctrine, conservative talk radio had given them a larger voice and wakened up a lot of people to the difference between what they valued and what Bill Clinton wanted.

Image result for image of donald trumpThe conservative push-back against Bill Clinton resulted in the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1940. And for a brief exciting time, we saw principles being discussed. As a young mother struggling to raise our daughter while my husband was in school, it was exciting to hear that those on welfare would now be expected to work if they wanted to receive benefits and that there would be limits set on how long they could receive those benefits. I could hope my taxes (what the government was stealing from my paycheck to give to these deadbeats — and yeah, they were deadbeats) might go down eventually.

But something happened. The conversation shifted from principles (reducing government, spending less, taxing less, taking responsibility for your own life) to a person – Bill Clinton. Make no mistake, Bill Clinton isn’t a good guy. He’s a sexual predator. There’s certainly been plenty of evidence looked at and ignored over the years that he and Hillary are crooks. That is not my point. I want to understand why we started talking about what he was doing while president rather than about how his policies were affecting us and why we needed to change those policies?

I think it has something to do with the danger to the State of that line of thinking. The last thing any president wants is to have his power curtailed and that’s where the conservative conversation would have eventually led. As people rediscovered the Founders and read the Constitution, people were beginning to understand that the power of the presidency had grown incredibly over the last 100 years. And understanding that might lead to the people demanding the presidency be scaled back to Founding Era power levels.

The co-opting of the conservative movement was subtle and it certainly had help from Bill Clinton’s sexual immorality, but we’ve not really moved beyond that dynamic. When Bush 2 was president, the liberal-progressives mostly talked about him. They hated him, even though it is hard to see why. He expanded federal control over the local education systems. He expanded Medicare. He gave them a lot of pet projects they’d been dreaming of since the 1994 Contract of America had set them back on their heels. But despite him giving them what they wanted, they hated him.

The other day on Twitter someone posted that “evangelical Christians have gotten over Trump’s sinful ways, but they still haven’t gotten over Obama being black.” I called baloney on that. I never cared about Obama being black. I don’t know any (white) evangelical Christians who are racists and cared about the color of his skin. They objected to his policies and you can be against the policies of a president without it being racial. Obama’s policies STANK for the middle- and working-classes. We were drowning and he was throwing us anchors that shut down the businesses that paid us to work for them rather than lifelines that would keep us afloat until the economy recovered. That had nothing to do with the color of his skin and everything to do with how his policies were affecting us.

So, now Donald Trump is president. I don’t like him personally (which is why I didn’t vote for him). But some of his policies seem to have had a great effect on the economy and that helps many evangelical Christians who are working- and -middle-class. So many of them are willing to ignore who he is as a person and support him because of his policies. Heck, if this economy continues, he might get my vote in 2020.

But probably not simply because there are other policies of his that I object to and I am a policy voter. I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney because his policies didn’t match my values. Did I think he would be better for the economy than Barack Obama? No, not really. He would have gone even further into Obamacare and probably tweaked it so it “succeeded”  until most people began to think they couldn’t live without it. I’m all about people being responsible for themselves, so I didn’t like Mitt Romney, the Republican socialist, so I didn’t vote for him.

I do have a point with this post. The problem with politics is not really with who we have in the White House. It’s taken a long time for me to get to this place, but I’ve come to understand that the presidency itself is the problem with government and has been pretty much from the beginning. It has too much power. It can write its own laws through executive orders. It has so many loopholes where it doesn’t have to work with Congress to get things done. It doesn’t matter if there’s a Republican in the office or a Democrat. Both have too much power and they follow policies that harm people. It’s a problem with the Institution of the Presidency not with the guy or gal who sits in the leather seat behind the nice desk in the uniquely shaped office.

Rise of the Phoenix   1 comment

By Bionic Mosquito

The Great Heresies, by Hilaire Belloc

It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2018/01/bionic-mosquito/rise-of-the-phoenix/

So writes Belloc, as published in 1938.  Before considering the heresy and the history both before and since he wrote these words, perhaps it is worth considering the situation in Muslim lands at the time he was writing.

1938

After the Great War, what was left of Mohammedan power even in hither Asia, let alone Constantinople, was only saved by the violent quarrels between the Allies.

https://socialescepcor.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/height_of_omayyad_caliphate_cropped.png?w=1000

In 1938, almost all Muslims lived in lands controlled and occupied by a European power: virtually all of North Africa; all of the Middle East except Turkey (you might also except Saudi Arabia, but must recognize the British position in their oil); much of Central Asia; finally, the Asian sub-continent.

It was in this environment of the Muslim’s weakest point since its founding that Belloc foresaw the rise once again of a Muslim threat to Europe.

Time to buy old US gold coins

The History

Belloc offers a brief history of the rise and fall of Islam as a political power and empire:

Islam – the teaching of Mohammed – conquered immediately in arms. Mohammed’s Arabian converts charged into Syria and won two great battles…

They quickly overran Egypt and Northern Africa, Asia Minor, finally crossing the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain.  By 732 – less than 100 years after their first victories – Muslim armies reached as far as Northern France.  They were thrown back to the Pyrenees, but continued to hold most of Spain.The Great HeresiesHilaire BellocBest Price: $6.50Buy New $6.45(as of 07:20 EST – Details)

We know of the Crusades called by the Pope.  These were not called in a vacuum; they were called in reaction to the violent conquest of Christian lands in the Middle East.  Brief successes followed by ultimate failure.

If the first Crusaders had had enough men to take Damascus their effort would have been permanently successful.

But they had only enough men to hold the seacoast of Palestine (I expand on this history here and here, also thanks to Belloc).  Perhaps a similar reason as to why Syria is so important today.

Europe finally beat back Muslim advances into Europe on September 11, 1683:

The battle was fought by the Habsburg Monarchy, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire, under the command of King John III Sobieski against the Ottomans and their vassal and tributary states. The battle marked the first time the Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire had cooperated militarily against the Ottomans, and it is often seen as a turning point in history, after which “the Ottoman Turks ceased to be a menace to the Christian world”.

The exclamation point was placed on September 11, 1697:

The Battle of Zenta…on the east side of the Tisa river, was a major engagement in the Great Turkish War (1683–1699) and one of the most decisive defeats in Ottoman history.

This battle ended Ottoman control over large parts of Central Europe.  And from this point, we come to 1938 and the aforementioned European control over the vast majority of lands populated by Muslims, as Muslims gradually lost the race to Europeans in the material things necessary to wage war.

Interesting how September 11 keeps coming up in this relationship.

Islam as Heresy

Belloc offers that Islam is a heresy and not a wholly new religion:

It was not a pagan contrast with the Church; it was not an alien enemy.  It was a perversion of Christian doctrine.

If anyone sets down those points that orthodox Catholicism has in common with Mohammedism, and those points only, one might imagine if one went no further that there should have been no cause of quarrel.

Mohammed taught basically the Catholic doctrine, with a very important exception:

But the central point where this new heresy struck home with a mortal blow against the Catholic tradition was a full denial of the Incarnation.

Jesus was a prophet – the greatest of all prophets – but he was only a man, not God and not the Son of God.  About the most important point, I would say.

The Future (as Belloc saw it)

Belloc saw no reason that would prevent Islam from rising again as a power – a power that would threaten, once again, the Christian west.  He offered: talk to any Egyptian or Syrian student, and you will find him the equal of any European student on the subjects of his study.

Belloc offers the weakness of Europe: Europe replaced Christendom as its binding force:

In the place of the old Christian enthusiasm of Europe there came, for a time, the enthusiasm for nationality, the religion of patriotism.  But self-worship is not enough, and the forces which are making for the destruction of our culture, notably the Jewish Communist propaganda from Moscow, have a likelier future before them than our old-fashioned patriotism.

The Muslim world was under no such delusions of “self-worship” as more important than culture and tradition – in fact, the Muslim world fights actively against this.

Some Unpacking

This last cite from Belloc will take a bit of unpacking.  What have we seen since the time Belloc penned these words?  Moscow has disappeared as the purveyor of communist propaganda; it is no longer the source of destruction.  Yet, the war against the west (and there certainly is a war) is also not being led by Islam.  I return to Belloc’s words with which I began this essay:

It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.

It seems it is even worse than Belloc imagined.  The sons and grandsons are not fighting for their Christian culture – the sons and grandsons are doing what they can, to include creating Muslim enemies, to destroy the last remnants of the Christian culture.  No invasion is necessary; they are welcomed and subsidized as guests.  King John III Sobieski could not be spinning faster in his grave, I believe.

Attribute it to Antonio Gramsci, Cultural Marxists and the Frankfurt School, or postmodernists – whichever you choose – the philosophy of destruction of western Christian culture is being driven by western leaders of western institutions: political, educational, social.

People in the west have allowed themselves to become impotent in this fight: beginning with the Renaissance and Reformation, continuing through the Enlightenment, the philosophy of the west has created the atomized individual.  Yet, as Belloc notes, “self-worship is not enough.”

Conclusion

I grow more and more struck by something my father said many years ago, when I made a stumbling effort to describe libertarianism to him.  He replied, “what, are you a communist?”  As has been true in dozens of examples before and since, his replies were much more profound than was my ability to understand.

“There goes bionic, throwing liberalism and libertarianism under the bus again.”

It seems to me that the west – and those persuaded by the non-aggression principle or something approaching it – has allowed a simple political idea of individual liberty to define all of man’s relationships and the whole of man’s relationship to his fellow man.  Yet this makes man impotent against those who would exploit the weakness in this philosophy.

I don’t mean impotent as in guns and defense (although it is quite true here); I mean impotent as in ideas, as in how to intellectually fight back.  Something more than a negative liberty must bind a community if that community is to remain in reasonable peace.  While “anything peaceful” is allowable under the non-aggression principle, it does not follow that “anything peaceful” is conducive to community – in the most freedom-supporting sense of the term.

Something or someone will organize society if it is to be a functional and thriving society. By creating and defending the atomized individual and ignoring culture and tradition (the “something”), with what intellectual weapon does the defender of individual liberty fight back against the strongman (the “someone”)?

He has none; he stands naked and alone (atomized) in front of his intellectual enemies, thus clearing the path for his mortal enemies.  Unobstructed and unopposed, they need no military to win this battle.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.

Non-Aggression in Politics   Leave a comment

So, it was New Years Day and we were invited to a friend’s house for food and fun. Mostly we paid Risk. There were several people there who we didn’t know and this one woman asked me if I’d signed some Internet petition demanding that President Trump be removed from office.

Image result for image of government aggression

Why, no, I haven’t. So, she assumed I’d voted for Trump and things got a little tense there for a moment. Fortunately, our son was sitting with me at the time and he spoke up before hostilities could resume.

“Nope, she voted for Gary Johnson.”

Thanks, Kiernan. The hostile conversation turned abruptly toward my “utopian” principles. Well, actually, it started with “Who is Gary Johnson?” and sort of went from there.

Image result for image of government aggressionI used to care about politics, but these days, I mostly care about the philosophy behind politics. I came to the conclusion when President Obama and the Democrats took the entire government down the primrose path that voting is the tyranny of a narrow majority against everybody who voted against taking that path. When Obama had a dismal four years as economic leader and foreign policy leader and still won the 2012 election, I realized that our system of elections is apparently rigged. It made no sense to me that state after state had flipped to Republican control at their governor- and legislative levels, but this incompetent was still our president. I had decided at the last moment that I couldn’t support Mitt Romney because until he won the nomination he’d never had more than 40% GOP support and there were some much better-qualified candidates who could have been nominated. So, I voted for whoever was running under the Libertarian ticket at the time. I didn’t expect him to win and there’s no evidence votes for him swayed the Obama-Romney contest at all, but I just couldn’t bring myself to cast a vote between an incompetent and a man who didn’t seem to represent conservatives in the least.

Image result for image of government aggressionSo, in 2016, there were no good choices after the nomination. There were some good choices in the primaries, but that all went away after Super Tuesday. I definitely would have voted for Rand Paul or, had Malcolm O’Malley won the Democratic nomination, I might have voted Democrat against Donald Trump. So, I planned by the weekend after Super Tuesday that I was voting for the Libertarian candidate. I actually think Gary Johnson would have made a good president, though his vice-presidential mate was such a progressive Republican he should have been a Democrat.

This is where I have evolved to over the last few years in the political realm. It was the answer I gave to my host’s sister when she asked me how I could not have taken sides in the election of 2016 and the year following.

I don’t believe that some humans — let’s call them “rulers” — should get moral sanction to use violence against other people – we’ll call them (“the ruled”) — to get what they (“rulers”) want.

If that doesn’t sound controversial to you, you probably agree with me (you’re reading my blog afterall). But it is possible that, like my friend’s sister, you aren’t paying close enough attention to how politics works.

Image result for image of government aggressionAlthough I don’t believe the world is non-violent by nature, I think we should strive to not exert violence on our fellow human beings. Which casts all governments into doubt, because force is the essence of all governments from top to bottom. How did Louis XIV funding the palace of Versailles? Force) When George III raise an army to crush a revolt, he used force to make that happen. Vladimir Lenin redistributed confiscated land by force. Your local police officer enforces any number of laws through the use of threatened force, which amounts to the same thing. In every instance where government operates, you’re talking about people who rely on violence or the threat of violence to achieve compliance for their plans. They ultimately do not ask or require your consent. Their authority ultimately rests on the implied threat that they will beat you up if you don’t do what they say.

Somehow we came to believe that this was a normal state of affairs. It’s not okay to rob people in the park even if it is to pay for mowing the park grass, but it is okay to elect people who rob your bank account for taxes to pay for mowing the park’s grass. I’ve recognized the hypocrisy of that and I reject it. Just because we exert force upon each other through politics rather than guns to the head doesn’t mean we are acting non-violently toward each other. The threat of force makes it violent.

My views are pretty radical because a consistent commitment to non-violence means I don’t think “governments” as we know them should exist. Governments are easily the most organized and pervasive violence-users on the planet. 

Ideals like mine often get confused with utopianism. We’ve all been there. We’ve all heard the refrains – “The world has always been like that,” “Human beings are violent by nature,” and “Human beings always create violent systems/governments, though!” It all boils down to “But that’s utopian!”

With due respect, you’re missing the point entirely.

I believe violence exists and is one of the world’s biggest problems. I even warn you in advance that I believe in the right to self-defense. Since the Fall, humans have been a violent species. Human history is bloody, and we only get better at devising new ways to use violence to kill and manipulate each other. I’m not against violence because I believe that the humans are inherently good or peaceful. We’re not. Treating each other without aggression is not, from my viewpoint, going to make us better at root. We are what we are and we are prone to push each other around. But why shouldn’t we condemn aggression even if we can’t get rid of it?

Why shouldn’t I oppose aggression regardless of our tendency to use it? If humans are indeed corrupt by nature, why wouldn’t I want to limit our access to violence and tools of aggression like government?

Yes, government is a tool of aggression and violence. Consider how a majority of the population was opposed to the ACA prior to its passage, but the ruling class forced us to accept it and now some of us have gotten used to it, regardless of whether others have a different opinion. That was aggression in action – some people (rulers) forcing others (the ruled) do do what the rulers wanted.

Now consider this last year of Trump. What are people rioting in streets for? They fear that the Trump administration will force them to participate in things they don’t want to participate in. And, if they’re right, then government is an instrument of aggression and they are right to resist it.

Think about the problem of police brutality. It existed in the Bush 2 administration, seems to have gotten worse in the Obama administration and has not gone anywhere in the Trump administration. Is the problem who is in charge of the police or is it that the police exist at all? Well, we’ve tried to put different people in charge without a lot of change, so maybe the problem is that the police have the power to conduct violence against everyone else and it is their existence that is the problem.

I don’t think doing away with government will somehow create a society without violence. Human beings will always be able to turn to violence to get what they want. I don’t see a way around it. But that doesn’t mean that reducing government violence would make the situation worse. There’s an awful lot of Americans behind bars for “victimless” crimes that would not be behind bars if police didn’t have a mandate to use violence against them. Those people come out of prison unable to get jobs, which increases their propensity to use violence to get what they need to live. It’s easy to say “if they just didn’t break the law”, but was the law even necessary for a peaceful society and what might happen if we stopped using government to force people to live as we want them to live? You see, my opposition to violence isn’t contingent on a fairy-tale wish fulfillment of a society free of violence. I’m focused on harm-reduction.

There are plenty of things we choose to consistently oppose on ethical grounds: murder, rape, theft, child abuse, etc. These crimes will never go away completely. We don’t make an ethical exception for these acts because they’re inevitable. We condemn them roundly regardless of our inability to completely eliminate them.

So my question is this: why shouldn’t condemn violence even if we can’t get rid of it? So, why shouldn’t we condemn violent governments even if we can’t get rid of them?

 

The accusation of utopianism misunderstands both utopianism and nonviolence.

The actual utopians we’ve seen in history were social planners. They had a vision for a world they would build, usually from the top down. The communists and the Nazis were by-the-book utopians, as have been the social organizers and religious leaders of hundreds of social experiments and colonies. The really earnest utopians loved to use violence (or the threat of violence) to get the magical new world order they wanted. They weren’t nice guys. They made life hell for everyone around them.

 

The non-aggression principle is a counter-cultural ideal, resting entirely on the premise of “non aggression.” It doesn’t rule out self-defense against the violence of others. It’s not a vision for what a society should be. It’s not a plan for how millions of people should make their billions of daily decisions. It’s only a prohibition on one way – the destructive way – to relate to other people. It’s a humble way of living with other humans, and it’s effectively a prohibition on utopianism because it’s grounded in realistic optimism

The history of the world is full of darkness and violence, but there have also been flashes of peace and creativity. I don’t think human nature really changes, but it does vary a lot. The countries with the most authoritarian governments are rarely the most peaceful and creative. Think the USSR or China when it was a full-fledged communist regime. And, truthfully, we’ll probably always have some forms of authoritarian system because some people feel comfortable with governments, gangs, warlords and the like. But just because violence and the systems that organize it won’t go away doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for the ideal.

 

 

When I ask people to join me in condemning politics, I’m asking them to do the same thing. The great joke about libertarianism is that we are plotting to take over the world and leave you alone. I have no desire to plan a society or create a new human being from scratch. I don’t see utopia ahead. I see a long, slow chain of day-to-day ethical decisions where individuals choose not to agress on one another. Even today, individual people choose in every moment of their political lives whether they will use violence, participate in violence,  or cheer on the “popular” violence done by someone in a government promising them safety or wealth or peace or …. well, name that political campaign.

As for me, I won’t sanction it. Maybe you’ll decide that you won’t either. if enough of us start doing things differently, we might just make the world better. Whether we succeed or not (in our lifetimes or a dozen generations from now), we still have to make a choice for ourselves. I choose non-aggression, and I guess that makes me a radical, but I reject the notion that I am utopian because utopians tend to be aggressive in their attempts to establish the new world order they envision.  

An Adult Finally Enters the Room   Leave a comment

By Bionic Mosquito

A Libertarian Theory of Free Immigration, by Jesús Huerta de Soto

…libertarian doctrine traditionally declared itself, with no qualifications or reservations, in favor of the principle of complete freedom of emigration and immigration.

Found on Lew Rockwell

Image result for image of non-aggression principle and open bordersFrom the title of his essay and this sentence in the opening paragraph, I approached this piece with some caution – given my view that one cannot derive “open borders” from the non-aggression principle.  Maybe I am just a bit jumpy, given recent discussions of the topic.

I am glad, however, that I stuck to it and read the entire essay.  De Soto rightly points out the violations of the non-aggression principle inherent in the state’s management of border control.  But he also sees that this coin is not one-sided:

However, the coercive action of the state manifests itself not only in hindering the free movement of people, but, at the same time, in forcing the integration of certain groups of people against the wishes of the natives of a given state or region.

This coin has two sides, and the two sides are almost irreconcilable – and certainly not conducive to simple slogans like “open borders is the only libertarian position!”

Time to buy old US gold coins

In light of their apparently contradictory nature, the foregoing problems show the importance of isolating their real origin, and piecing together a libertarian theory of immigration that clarifies the principles that should govern the processes of immigration and emigration in a free society.

Which de Soto does.  He begins by examining the pure libertarian model, as explained by Rothbard (and which generated so much heat for me when I referred to it); it is a model of full private property rights – a model that, inherently, means borders managedby the property owner:

The conditions, volume, and duration of personal visits will be those accepted or decided by the parties involved.

And that would be that; an easy problem to solve if there were no state borders and if all property was private.

But the problem becomes more complicated when factoring in the reality of the state:

Thus, today, there is often the paradox that those who wish to abide scrupulously by the law find that their movements are not permitted, even if desired by all the parties involved. At the same time, the existence of public goods and the free availability of welfare-state benefits attract, like a magnet, a continuous tide of immigration, mostly illegal, which generates significant conflicts and external costs.

I am not allowed to invite who I choose and I am forced to suffer and pay for who I do not want.  It is not a libertarian solution to take one side of this coin and not the other – it is merely a different scheme of a state-managed border.

I have many other issues from a libertarian perspective with the open borders position in a world of state borders.  I have written extensively about these in the past, so I will merely summarize here:

  • As a property owner has the right to manage his border, he has the right to join with his neighbors to form a common agreement.
  • He and his neighbors also have the right to grant agency to a third party to manage their outside borders.
  • That the state has forced these neighbors to “hire” the state to act as the agent does not remove the right that the property owners hold.

Finally, as state borders cannot be derived by a strict application of the NAP one must look to the minarchist position; as minarchists allow for the state to provide defense…how is defense to be provided unless the state is knowledgeable about who crosses the border and for what purpose?

Returning to de Soto:

The ideal solution to all these problems would come from the total privatization of the resources which are today considered public, and the disappearance of state intervention at all levels in the area of emigration and immigration.

I have had this discussion with Walter Block who has acknowledged the issue.  It is not only the ideal solution; before a fully libertarian solution can be offered, full private property rights must be supported.

Related imageI find this much different than for issues like drug laws, prostitution, etc.  In each of those cases, the state need do only one thing: eliminate the laws that criminalize non-violent behavior.  Nothing more need be done; this action causes no damage to me or my property.  In fact, the damage to me is reduced as the government need not tax me to pay for enforcement and incarceration of these non-criminals.

But for open borders, two actions must occur: eliminating state border control and also supporting full private property rights; without both actions, attacks on my property increase.  The number of ways by which attacks increase are too numerous to list, but should be apparent.

De Soto offers some considerations for something approaching a libertarian solution to this question in a world of state borders:

However, as long as nation-states continue to exist, we must find “procedural” solutions that allow the problems to be solved under present conditions.

We are left with discovering second-best solutions as long as there is a state.  One can debate which of (or which combination of) these second-best solutions might move us closest toward the libertarian ideal, but this is what we have.

In other words, our choice is not either / or: either wide-open borders or we are inherently supporting every state violation regarding international travel.  There are options for libertarians to support other than these:

The first of these principles is that people who immigrate must do so at their own risk. This means that immigration must in no way be subsidized by the welfare state, i.e., by benefits provided by the government and financed through taxes.

This would certainly be required in a libertarian, private-property order.

The second principle that should inspire current policy is that all immigrants must be able to demonstrate that they have independent means of support, and thus will not be a burden on the taxpayers.

This would certainly be required in a libertarian, private-property order.  It strikes me that this should also be guaranteed by a sponsor.

The third essential principle is that under no circumstance should the political vote be granted to immigrants quickly, since this would create the danger of political exploitation by various groups of immigrants.

Well, there would be no such as “political votes” in the same sense in a full private property order.  But is there something libertarian about giving equal political standing to strangers in today’s order?

As long as we have states, we are going to have people who are citizens.  Are non-citizens entitled to all of the same privileges and protections that are afforded to a citizen?  Strangers, unaccustomed to anything of the local culture and tradition and mores, have an equal say in the politics of the country?  On what basis, I wonder.

Finally, the most important principle is that all immigrants must at all times observe the law, particularly the criminal law, of the social group that receives them.

This would certainly be required in a libertarian, private-property order.  And, again, this should also be guaranteed by the sponsor.

Imagine if these steps were in place today.  How much simpler – and more libertarian – would the border crossing be in such a condition?  Of course, a state agent (presumably) would still confirm proper documentation and sponsorship, but beyond this they would have no role.

That strikes me about as libertarian as we are going to get as long as there are state borders.

Conclusion

Finally, an adult enters the room.  What do I mean by this?  Someone who recognizes that this is not a simple black and white issue, not when viewed strictly through the lens of the non-aggression principle.

De Soto has described well the issues and has offered solutions that bring us toward a libertarian view on a topic where we are inherently stuck with second-best choices.  I have in the past written of very similar solutions – solutions that in a private property order would certainly be enforced.

If you want further demands for government action when it comes to immigration, keep pushing for open borders in today’s world and with today’s conditions.  If you truly want less government involvement in immigration and border control, work toward full private property rights; in the meantime, consider how de Soto’s list mimics as well as possible a private property order in a world of state borders – then advocate for these.

It would be the adult thing to do.

I will conclude with the comment I left at the site:

A very thoughtful and considered presentation, demonstrating that in a world of state borders there is no “pure” libertarian answer to the question of immigration. Instead, we are left – as de Soto has done – to discuss and develop methods and procedures that can mimic a libertarian solution within the confines of monopoly state control of borders, as much as such a thing is possible.

Reprinted with permission from Bionic Mosquito.

Looking Forward to 2018   Leave a comment

Image result for image of empty house of representativeFor generations, Gallup Polls has been asking Americans what they see as the nation’s primary problems. Answers vary from year to year, but in recent years, the top winner might surprise some people. Americans have concerns with health care and race relations, of course, and the economy has had us worried for a decade, but 25% (the largest cohort) of Americans say that the government is America’s biggest problem.

For historical context:

  • That is almost exactly what the polls said right before Richard Nixon resigned.
  • It’s also very similar to poll results in 2014-2015 when Barack Obama was president.

 

Clearly, the current public discontent with our government is not related to Donald Trump being our president. A plurality of Americans see government as our biggest national problem regardless of which political party holds the reins.

 

My parents’ generation used to say “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” My generation could easily add “… and the growth of government.” It’s been one of the more reliable facts of the last half-century, as you can see from the chart below. Regardless of which party holds power in Washington, DC, government grows.

Government Growth

Americans face a $20 trillion debt that is projected to explode by mid-century. My 18-year-old hasn’t voted in an election yet, but he already owes $65,000 as his personal share of the government’s debt. Is is possible that this poll is discovering that U.S. citizens are finally having second thoughts about big government?

Um … maybe not yet.

Frederik Hayek pointed out in The Road to Serfdom that it’s hard to unlearn things, and the idea that government is a force for good is deeply embedded in the modern psyche.

We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected….

That democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable, but that to strive for it produces something so utterly different that few of those who now wish it would be prepared to accept the consequences, many will not believe until the connection has been laid bare in all its aspects.” Hayek

Americans may feel a general disturbance in government — a vague, slightly unsettled feeling that something is amiss, that it’s not working quite properly, but for the majority of us, their faith in government as the great equalizer likely remains strong.

“There is a tyranny in the womb of every Utopia.” Bertrand de Jouvenel

Unfortunately, while people may recognize their general distrust of government, they will insist — at least for now — that it’s fixable, because they fear what follows if the status quo isn’t fixable. Chaos is scary. I certainly try to avoid it when possible.

So, though it would be better to admit that government itself is the problem and not one particular political party, and get to work actually reducing government and replacing it with free market and individual- and community-based alternatives, most people will continue doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Why am I writing this if I don’t think it will do any good? Because you can’t unhear what you’ve heard … or read … and the hope is, when the mistake that is government finally skids off the rails, some people will remember what was said and written and seek to put that into place as an alternative.

Waiting for the inevitable crash guarantees that the period following the government’s dissolve will be much worse than it might have been if we’d planned for it, but human nature being what human nature is … yeah.

But don’t worry. Take a look around at your neighborhood. Think of specific neighbors. Do you think any of them are likely to become marauding killers when the government falls apart?

Yeah, I don’t think so either. I think we’ll all get together and help each other out. I suspect the same thing would happen on the next block over and then next and so forth. What would replace government would be the voluntary interactions of people who want to get along. Yeah, there would be parts of my town where the strong would prey upon the weak and neighbors might have to band together to put the strong back in their place (among the reasons I think being armed is essential), but for the most part, I don’t think the majority of the people would go crazy because, while that makes a good post-apocalyptic movie, it just isn’t who I know people to be. At least, not the people around me.

What about you?

I thought this was a fitting post for New Year’s Day because this is the time when we look ahead and want to make changes to our circumstances. The best gift we could give ourselves in 2018 would be to let go of our religious attachment to the government. It’s not here to rescue us. We know that on an instinctive level. The best thing we could do is reduce it or at least reduce its importance in our lives. Start building voluntary relationships that could continue forward if the government becomes nonfunctional. Start thinking of your neighbors as allies rather than potential marauders. Stop being so afraid of what happens when the status quo fails. It will! It keeps showing increasing evidence of its instability. If you mentally embrace the change potential after the failure of the status quo it is much easier to be calm about it and to plan accordingly.

Yup, I think I’m going to go buy another bag of rice today, just in case. And on the way, I’ll wave at some neighbors and not call Animal Control when I see their dog running loose. After all, the day may come when we might need each other and not have the brutal club of government to force each other to comply.

Yeah, my resolution for 2018 is to be more voluntary and less authoritarian and hope for the same improvement of attitude from my neighbors.

 

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