Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Tag

What the Founders Thought About Gov’t   Leave a comment

Image result for image of thomas Jefferson“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure.”  Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787, letter to William S. Smith

Liberty and Its Shadow – Capitalism   1 comment

I came to Christ as an individual. Mom and Dad weren’t rooting for me. My best friend couldn’t drag me. I stood before Christ alone, having no antecedents and am now acutely aware that God has no grandchildren. I can share my faith with my children, but I can’t make them believe; even though both say they do, they have to decide for themselves what THEIR faith is going to look like.

Image result for image liberty with capitalism as a shadowLiberty and its shadow, capitalism, did not emerge in a vacuum. They developed from the religious revolution of the 16th century which led eventually to the separation of church and state, and freedom of worship. That singular concept that salvation is individual and that individuals can decide their religious affiliation for themselves led to the recognition of other liberties. Free speech and freedom of the press were examples of this liberat­ing movement. Seeing these successes, men like Adam Smith and Edmund Burke began to suggest that economic activity could also be free, guided by the individuals who engaged in it rather than strangled by political regulations and controls as mercantilism had done.

Consumers make a million of daily decisions in the market place, choosing to buy this or not buy something else and this projects a pattern that signals to entrepreneurs how they should direct production within their businesses. In the free economy the consumers is sovereign. An inventor can really be proud of his product, but if consumers aren’t interested, he won’t be able to sell it to us. Businesses have no power over consumer except the ability to persuade and the quality of their products. That’s how the free market economy works and, like it or not, it is an integral part of a free society.

Most Americans believe they embrace freedom. We’ll tell you we want the State and churches to be separate. The press should not be censored. We object when we’re told what we can and cannot say, on the street, in our homes, or on social media. We’re in favor of freedom … except …

Except, business people are evil, so we want the government to control and regulate business, to protect the consumer from the wolves in trade and industry. Sometimes that ire is directed at big corporations and sometimes it is more generally spread to include anyone who thinks making a profit is a good idea.

To quote President Barack Obama, “Sometimes you’ve made enough profit.”

 

There’s a truth hidden here. Human beings are flawed. The sins we accuse business people of are the same sins you find in every walk of life. There are wicked businesspeople, but there are also wicked ministers, professors, publishers, and entertainers. Sometimes that television commentator is lying to you for his or her own benefit, to promote her preferred agenda. Yet, we still object to the censoring of the press, government interference in the churches, things like the Hayes Commission to control the movie industry. Why do we single out business people for special sanction to “protect the consumer”? You might ask – Why not? Because as we saddle them with ever more bureaucratic regulations and controls, this creates adverse economic consequences, adding to the cost of doing business, which makes all of us poorer. Worse, when economic activity is not free, every other freedom is jeopardized.

 

Human liberty is more fragile than we suppose. Economics won’t win or even sustain liberty, but when you control the economic life of a people, you control every other aspect of their lives as well.

Thirty years ago, we knew this because we could peek behind the Iron Curtain and see the condition of people who had no economic freedom, but we’ve lost that cautionary example and so it’s easy for groups like Occupy Wallstreet or both major-party candidates for President to demand income redistribution. The economy isn’t the only sector under stress in our society. Really, all of western civilization has been under attack for several generations. Just because the Iron Curtain fell doesn’t mean the attack against business is over. There’s a reason the American middle-class, the epitome of the bourgeoisie, has been shrinking for 30 years and we can look no further than the economic regulations that strangle our economy.

 

For those who failed to take European history … brief lesson here. The bourgeoisie were and are the middle class—townspeople engaged in indus­try and trade. They arose from the peasant class, but were not the nobility, whose values were quite different. While we don’t often live next door to the “nobility” these days, especially in American, it’s important to understand their values because they still exist today. Those nobody hereabouts holds title these days, the values of the nobility have been glowingly enshrined in romance and myth.

The nobleman has cour­age, spends without counting, de­spises petty detail. There is a great air of freedom and unselfishness about the nobleman. He will throw his life away for a cause, not calcu­late the returns. That is the noble idea. In reality, he lives by the serf­dom of others, and he broadens his acres by killing, and taking other people’s land-’the good old rule, the simple plan. That they should take who have the power, and they should keep who can.    … The bourgeoisie opposed such noble free-handedness and supported a king who would replace ‘the good old rule’ by one less damaging to trade and manufacture—and to the peas­ants’ crops. But the regrettable truth is that there is no glamour about trade. Trade requires regular­ity, security, efficiency, an exact quid pro quo, and an exasperating attention to detail … There is nothing spontaneous, generous or large-minded about it. Man’s native love of drama rebels against a scheme of life so plodding and re­sents the rewards of qualities so niggling. …

What a convenient word is bourgeois! How expressive and well-shaped for the mouth to utter scorn. And how flexi­ble in its application—it is another wonderful French invention!        Jacques Barzun

 

The free enterprise system (capitalism) works for the middle class (bourgeois). The nobility has no use for industry and trade. It’s too much hard work and it tends to dirty the hands without providing any glamour. Most of the world’s work today is done by those who have risen from the ranks, largely by their own efforts, in societies which have no rigid caste barriers to prevent upward mobility.

 

We’re told that freedom is something we should all care about, but when we see any particular freedom threatened, everyone does not take an interest. Christians defend freedom of worship. Journalists band together when the freedom of the press is threatened. Watch what teachers do when academic freedom is challenged. When government controls threaten freedom of economic enterprise, busi­ness people and business organizations mobilize to resist the attack.

Uh, not really.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the picture is the extent to which the bourgeoisie, besides educating its own enemies, allows itself in turn to be educated by them. It absorbs the slogans of current radicalism and seems quite willing to undergo a process of conversion to a creed hos­tile to its very existence … This is verified by the very characteristic manner in which particular capital­ist interests and the bourgeoisie as a whole behave when facing direct at­tack. They talk and plead—or hire people to do it for them; they snatch at every chance of compromise; they are ever ready to give in; they never put up a fight under the flag of their own ideals and interests—in this country there was no real resistance anywhere against the imposition of crushing financial burdens during the last decade or against labor legislation incompatible with the ef­fective management of industry.  Joseph Schumpeter

In a perfect world, we’d all defend liberty even when our own isn’t treatened, but in real life, that’s not how things are done.  It’s partly the fault of myriad business people of the past that freedom of the economy is gravely threatened today. When threatened with government regulation, many larger companies compromised with the regulators to create regulations that would favor them rather than their smaller, more efficient competitors. You can’t really blame them. They worried about the short-term consequences of falling sales and how to meet the next payroll and failed to see the long-term consequences of what they were entangling not just themselves, but everyone else in.

The American econ­omy has never been wholly free, instead operating under various political restraints pretty much since Alexander Hamilton got his greedy, manipulative hands on it. Compared to the politically planned economies of other nations ours was relatively free economy until the 1930s and has maintained quite a lot of freedom until relatively recently.

The prosperity US citizens have gained through producing and exchanging in a largely free country has been the envy of the world. Remember, we started out poor. There was little per capita wealth 240 years ago; but our forebears had an abundant faith in the nation’s future under God, a strong belief in themselves, and they practiced the Puritan work ethic. The United States became the land of opportu­nity. Millions of the poor and oppressed of other nations migrated here to make their own way in this “land of the free.” Mostly, they succeeded. Never have so many ad­vanced so far out of poverty in so short a time, as in the last 240 years in the United States.

The relatively free economy we have enjoyed in America has given us unparalleled prosperity, but an affluent society is not neces­sarily a just society, which brings us to the second test of evaluating a free enterprise system: Does it allocate the rewards fairly and equitably?

In a free society every one of us is rewarded according to the value willing buyers attach to the goods and services he offers in exchange. This market place assessment is made by consumers … uh, people, and people are self-centered, biased and ignorant. So, allowing consumers to set the value of people’s contribution to society might not seem like a good idea.

What’s your alternative? Well, before there was capitalism and the free market economy, there was the nobility who acted as the wise and good, judging and awarding on their estimation of personal merit. They assured us that the wealthy deserved their wealth and that the paupers deserved their starvation. They insisted we should all be contented and happy and pay our taxes to them so they could go on judging and rewarding by their own value system. We rejected that system for a better one.

Is it fair that some people make 25,000, while others make only 15,000 and then you have folks who make millions? Don’t we have a lopsided society in which a handful of people have accumulated the bulk of wealth? Shouldn’t be people be able to vote on politicians, who can appoint bureaucrats, who can redistribute the wealth equitably? What makes you think that someone who used to be your neighbor just became Solomon when elected to public office? You would prefer to elect imperfect people to decide how much you earn rather than let imperfect people earn that position by being successful in business?

We do live in an affluent society, and the fact is that the prosperity generated by our relatively free in­stitutions has been widely shared by the American people. Yes, there are rich people and there are middle class people and there are some who remain poor … although even the poor in our country live far more affluent lives than anything my great-grandfather Elmer (a rich man in 1900) could have imagined. The allocation of rewards represents the choices people make … the education they sought, jobs they took, the money they spent, and the investments they made. It’s said that 1% of the population owns 80% of the wealthy, that 10% owns 90%, etc. We could argue about that statistics. But take a look at reality.

Sixty percent of Americans own their own home and 95 percent own a car. I know a few dozen people who don’t have running water, but I live in Alaska and that’s actually a lifestyle CHOICE. Even people out in the Alaska village have electric refrigerators. Eighty-four percent of American homes have a washer and dryer. Eight-four percent of American homes have a computer, and 73 percent have broadband connection.

Capitalism (the free economy) has produced material abundance, and the benefits of our prosperity are enjoyed by almost every American and we’ve exported a great deal of it to millions of people around the globe.

There is no concentration of ownership of everyday things like houses, automobiles and food. It’s when we look at all the money the “rich” have that we allow ourselves to believe that the industry of this country is owned by a handful of stockholders.

Pick any one of the giant corpora­tions and examine its annual report. You’ll find thousands or even millions of people own stock shares, usually exponentially more than the employees of that corporation. Note the large number of stock­holders who are not individuals but institutions. Those fund churches, banks, pension funds. Nearly every American owns a chunk of the corporate wealth of America!

Yes, there are some phenomenally wealth people in this country. Some of them are foolish with their money, but so are a lot of poor people. Others invest their wealth, which helps to produce the incredible variety of goods America enjoys. Others, and sometimes the same individuals, give generously to charity. Americans lead the world in their charitable giving. No other soci­ety has ever allocated its rewards as generously or as equitably.

Our present economic system of free enterprise has made us an affluent society produc­ing over and above our own needs, which we have gener­ously shared with the world. Every person who has participated in the production of goods and ser­vices shares equitably in the fruits of his production. Even those who do not participate live pretty decent lives … far better than what people a century ago lived.

Ultimately, liberty is based on an aspiration deeply rooted in human nature. We all want the freedom to choose. We want to be free to worship in the church of our choice, to choose our own schools, to read freely and speak our minds. We want to be free to be ourselves, even if others don’t agree, so long as we are not harming others. We want to be free to choose our profession or place of employment. We want solitude when we choose to be alone, and we want the freedom to choose our associates—which includes the right to dissociate. These are some of the demands of human nature itself. God made us this way or it’s in our DNA.

“The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.” Thomas Jefferson

 

The free society is our natural habitat. It aligns with human nature. Freedom also works in our economic sector, which is why the market economy (capitalism) works so well. The economy is free when the productive activities of people re­spond to the needs of consumers, discovered through people’s buying habits. Yes, when people are free to spend their money as they please, they may spend it foolishly. They’ll make mistakes. Most of us learn from those errors and succeed in not repeating them.

The biggest mistake of all is to persuade ourselves that we can avoid the little mistakes people make in a free society by adopting a planned economy. A centrally planned nation is necessarily a command society. Individual per­sons are no longer free to make their own decisions. Our private plans must be cancelled whenever they conflict with the overall political plan.We become nothing more than serfs, doing as the landlord dictates.

Economic freedom does not assure you’ll get the income you think you deserve, or the job you believe you’re entitled to. Economic freedom does not dispense with the necessity for work. It only promises that you may choose from among many employment oppor­tunities, or go into business for yourself. And that it outperforms all other economic systems is a bonus point in its favor.

 

 

I Own Myself … sort of   8 comments

Image result for image individuals own themselvesThis is the rock solid foundation of liberty. Each individual owns themselves. This is why rape and murder are wrong because they violate the private property of the victim. I am my private property and you are yours.

That is how liberty works. I have the right to act in my own best interests. I may voluntarily help others from my surplus, but I cannot force my neighbor to contribute to the cause and they cannot force me to contribute to theirs.

This is the basis of liberty, which is so rarely practiced today. I don’t actually own myself anymore because my neighbor can obligate me to provide for her care by the confiscation of my income. In liberty, I own myself. In US democracy, I am a slave to my neighbor.

I’m looking for readers who would like to argue this point. Go!

 

Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate | Jeffrey A. Tucker   3 comments

Gaining the right to be married is a win for liberty because it removes a barrier to free association. But how easily a movement for more freedom turns to the cause of taking away other freedoms!

Related imageFollowing the Supreme Court decision mandating legal same-sex marriage nationwide, the New York Times tells us that, “gay rights leaders have turned their sights to what they see as the next big battle: obtaining federal, state and local legal protections in employment, housing, commerce and other arenas.”

In other words, the state will erect new barriers to freedom of choice in place of the old ones that just came down!

To make the case against such laws, it ought to be enough to refer to the freedom to associate and the freedom to use your property as you see fit. These are fundamental principles of liberalism. A free society permits anything peaceful, and that includes the right to disassociate. Alas, such arguments seem dead on arrival today.

So let us dig a bit deeper to understand why anti-discrimination laws are not in the best interests of gay men and women, or anyone else. Preserving the ability to discriminate permits the market system to provide crucial information feedback to a community seeking to use its buying power to reward its friends and noncoercively, nonviolently punish those who do not share its values.

Ever more, consumers are making choices based on core values. Does this institution protect the environment, treat its workers fairly, support the right political causes? In order to make those choices — which is to say, in order to discriminate — consumers need information.

In the case of gay rights, consumers need to know who supports inclusion and who supports exclusion. Shutting down that information flow through anti-discrimination law robs people of crucial data to make intelligent buying decisions. Moreover, such laws remove the competitive pressure of businesses to prove (and improve) their commitment to community values, because all businesses are ostensibly bound by them.

A market that permits discrimination, even of the invidious sort, allows money and therefore success and profits to be directed toward those who think broadly, while denying money and profitability to those who do not. In this way, a free market nudges society toward ever more tolerant and inclusive attitudes. Money speaks far more persuasively than laws.

Notice that these proposed laws only pertain to the producer and not the consumer. But discrimination is a two-edged sword. The right can be exercised by those who do not like some groups, and it can be exercised by those groups against those who do not like them.

Both are necessary and serve an important social function. They represent peaceful ways of providing social and economic rewards to those who put aside biases in favor of inclusive decision making.

If I’m Catholic and want to support pro-Catholic businesses, I also need to know what businesses don’t like Catholics. If I’m Muslim and only want my dollars supporting my faith, I need to know who won’t serve Muslims (or who will put my dollars to bad use). If a law that prohibits business from refusing to serve or hire people based on religion, how am I supposed to know which businesses deserve my support?

It’s the same with many gay people. They don’t want to trade with companies that discriminate. To act out those values requires some knowledge of business behavior and, in turn, the freedom to discriminate. There is no gain for anyone by passing a universal law mandating only one way of doing business. Mandates drain the virtue out of good behavior and permit bad motivations to hide under the cover of law.

Here is an example from a recent experience. I was using AirBnB to find a place to stay for a friend. He needed a place for a full week, so $1,000 was at stake. The first potential provider I contacted hesitated and began to ask a series of questions that revolved around my friend’s country of origin, ethnicity, and religion. The rental owner was perfectly in his rights to do this. It is his home, and he faces no obligation to open it to all comers.

On the other hand, I found the questions annoying, even offensive. I decided that I didn’t want to do business with this person. I made a few more clicks, cancelled that query, and found another place within a few minutes. The new renter was overjoyed to take in my friend.

I was delighted for two reasons. First, my friend was going to stay at a home that truly wanted him there, and that’s important. Force is never a good basis for commercial relationships. Second, I was able to deny $1K to a man who was, at best, a risk averse and narrow thinker or, at worst, an outright bigot.

Declining to do business with him was my little protest, and it felt good. I wouldn’t want my friend staying with someone who didn’t really want him there, and I was happy not to see resources going toward someone whose values I distrusted.

In this transaction, I was able to provide a reward to the inclusive and broad-minded home owner. It really worked out too: the winning rental property turned out to be perfect for my friend.

This was only possible because the right to discriminate is protected in such transactions (for now). I like to think that the man who asked too many questions felt a bit of remorse after the fact (he lost a lot of money), and even perhaps is right now undergoing a reconsideration of his exclusionary attitudes. Through my own buyer decisions I was actually able to make a contribution toward improving cultural values.

What if anti-discrimination laws had pertained? The man would not have been allowed to ask about national origin, religion, and ethnicity. Presuming he kept his room on the open market, he would have been required under law to accept my bid, regardless of his own values.

As a result, my money would have gone to someone who didn’t have a high regard for my friend, my friend would have been denied crucial information about what he was getting into, and I would not be able to reward people for values I hold dear.

This is precisely why gay rights leaders should be for, not against, the right to discriminate. If you are seeking to create a more tolerant society, you need information that only a free society can provide.

You need to know who is ready to serve and hire gay men and women, so they can be rewarded for their liberality. You also need to know who is unwilling to hire and serve so that the loss part of profit-and-loss can be directed against ill-liberality. Potential employees and customers need to know how they are likely to be treated by a business. Potential new producers need to know about business opportunities in under-served niche markets.

If everyone is forced to serve and hire gays, society is denied important knowledge about who does and does not support enlightened thinking on this topic.

Consider the prototypical case of the baker who doesn’t want to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. He is within his rights. His loss of a potential customer base is his own loss. It is also the right of the couple to refuse to give this baker business. The money he would have otherwise made can be redirected towards a baker who is willing to do this. It is equally true that some people would rather trade with a baker who is against gay marriage, and they are within their rights as well.

Every act of discrimination, provided it is open and legal, provides a business opportunity to someone else.

How does all this work itself out in the long run? Commerce tends toward rewarding inclusion, broadness, and liberality. Tribal loyalties, ethnic and religious bigotries, and irrational prejudices are bad for business. The merchant class has been conventionally distrusted by tribalist leaders — from the ancient to the modern world — precisely because merchantcraft tends to break down barriers between groups.

We can see this in American history following the end of slavery. Blacks and whites were ever more integrated through commercial exchange, especially with the advance of transportation technology and rising incomes. This is why the racists turned increasingly toward the state to forbid it. Zoning laws, minimum wage regulation, mandatory segregation, and occupational licensing were all strategies used to keep the races separate even as the market was working toward integration.

The overwhelming tendency of markets is to bring people together, break down prejudices, and persuade people of the benefits of cooperation regardless of class, race, religion, sex/gender, or other arbitrary distinctions. The same is obviously and especially true of sexual orientation. It is the market that rewards people who put aside their biases and seek gains through trade.

This is why states devoted to racialist and hateful policies always resort to violence in control of the marketplace. Ludwig von Mises, himself Jewish and very much the victim of discrimination his entire life, explained that this was the basis for Nazi economic policy. The market was the target of the Nazis because market forces know no race, religion, or nationality.

“Many decades of intensive anti-Semitic propaganda,” Mises  wrote in 1944, “did not succeed in preventing German ‘Aryans’ from buying in shops owned by Jews, from consulting Jewish doctors and lawyers, and from reading books by Jewish authors.” So the racists turned to the totalitarian state — closing and confiscating Jewish business, turning out Jewish academics, and burning Jewish books — in order to severe the social and economic ties between races in Germany.

The biggest enemy of marginal and discriminated-against populations is and has always been the state. The best hope for promoting universal rights and a culture of tolerance is the market economy. The market is the greatest weapon ever devised against bigotry — but, in order to work properly, the market needs to signaling systems rooted in individuals’ freedom of choice to act on their values.

And, to be sure, the market can also provide an outlet for people who desire to push back for a different set of values, perhaps rooted in traditional religious concerns. Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A, In-and-Out Burger, among many others, openly push their religious mission alongside their business, and their customer base is drawn to them for this reason. This is also a good thing. It is far better for these struggles to take place in the market (where choice rules) rather than through politics (where force does).

Trying to game that market by taking away consumer and producer choice harms everyone. Anti-discrimination laws will provide more choices at the expense of more informed choices. Such laws force bigotry underground, shut down opportunities to provide special rewards for tolerance, and disable the social learning process that leads to an ever more inclusive society.

New laws do not fast-track fairness and justice; they take away opportunities to make the world a better place one step at a time.

Source: Gays Need the Freedom to Discriminate | Jeffrey A. Tucker

Breaking Up   Leave a comment

President Trump has been in the Oval Office since January 20 and, have you heard, he hasn’t done anything substantive yet. This new Congress has been in Washington for even less time and … oh, my god, they haven’t passed a repeal-and-replacement bill for Obamacare yet, so clearly they don’t have a plan. (They do, but the one they’re going with right now is Obamacare-lite).

Image result for image of political breakup

President Trump has been compared to Hitler, Pot Pot, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the 911 terrorist attacks. The New Republic is theorizing that Trump is mentally unstable because of neurosyphilis.

Establishment furor over the two-month-old Trump administration is growing. Forget that 100-day honeymoon most presidents, even President Obama, get.  Talk of removing the Trumpster through impeachment, or opposing everything he does (the progressive “Resistance”), is commonplace. Some op-ed writers and European pundits have openly hoped for his death.

The American media hate Trump with a passion, the entrenched administrative state (called “deep state” by some), the Democratic Party, progressive activities and a fair slice of the Republican Party are all freaking out about his presidency.

Trump is undisciplined and brash, a New York businessman if ever there was one. He’s not the polished (some might say “fake”) Obama and he clearly doesn’t meet the standards of the high-society ruling elite, who have dismissed him as a rude idiot who should never have been elected … and wouldn’t have been if rural rubes weren’t allowed to influence elections, by gum.

They preferred Hillary Clinton, apparently unconcerned that her election would have resulted in a Bush or a Clinton being president for 24 years of the a 32-year span. Dynasty much! Why do we think that’s a good idea on any planet, ever?

This is reminiscent of another presidential campaign. In 1828, the wild and unruly Andrew Jackson was elected president because the rapidly expanding country had tired of the pretenses of the tidewater and New York elites. The tiny coastal establishment of the 1820s perpetuated the ancestry and background of the great but waning Founding Fathers such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. The difficulty with this was that the Founders’ lesser successors had not earned the status they had assumed. They were the grandchildren of the Founders or grandchildren of the Founders’ friends. Jackson won by exposing their pretenses.

What got the Donald elected was a similar popular outrage that the self-described best and brightest of our time are enjoying influence and power over the rest of us without real merit or visible achievement. Trump has at least built a business empire, even if it is based on debt and serial bankruptcy. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and most of the members of Congress have never held real jobs (no, being a law intern and community planner does not count as a real job), let alone created an actual job for someone else in their highly-publicized lives.

But who are all these angry elitists? Conservatives refer to them a lot and someone on Facebook or Twitter recently said they didn’t actually exist, that they were bugaboos used to stir up the masses. And, these folks wonder why some of us refuse to listen to their wisdom. Clearly, you are living in a bubble if you haven’t entered elitist trolls, at least of the liberal variety, but even of the Republic flavor.

In California, state planners and legislators spent three decades focused on outlawing plastic grocery bags and not killing rodents by curtailing cutting down flammable brush while California’s roads and dams slowly fell apart. The result is crumbling infrastructure that now threatens the very safety of the public. Powerful Californians with impressive degrees also came up with the idea of nullifying federal immigration law through sanctuary cities. I’m okay with the nullification part, but not with the illegal immigrants who kill or rob American citizens within those sanctuary cities.

In the last eight years, sophisticated Washington, D.C., economists produced budgets that increased U.S. debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, as economic growth reached its lowest level since the Hoover administration. And, they declared that to be victory for Barack Obama.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice lied repeatedly on national television about the Benghazi debacle, apparently unaware that the Internet had the video that would show she was lying. And the media backed her up, despite the Internet having the video that proved she was lying. Is it any wonder that Americans are now deeply skeptical of the media?
Over the last year, pollsters and “expert” media pundits assured the public that Hillary Clinton would be the next president … right up until she was overwhelmed by the Electoral College landslide. Were the polls just wrong or were they lying about the polls in an attempt to sway the election?
Elitism sometimes seems predicated on being branded with the proper degrees. Universities now embrace politically correct indoctrination as a measure for these degrees, so how can anyone with a modicum of sense believe that a costly university degree guarantees knowledge or inductive reasoning? Especially, when we’ve seen these degree-holders look like idiots on public television after we’ve told them that their ideas won’t work in the real world. And, by the way, I hold an advanced degree. I just didn’t stop learning after I collected it.

Elites like to believe that their ideology is defined by brilliant and proven theories and they certainly act as if that were true. Meanwhile, we’ve watched university-sired identity politics tear our country apart over the last eight years. Free speech or diversity of thought are not welcome on campuses. Progressive governments have mired most inner cities in deeper poverty.

The Western world is having a breakdown and perhaps a breakup. We’re all over the map on what the solution to our ills is. Is it socialism ala Bernie Sanders? Populism enjoys some fans as evidenced by Trump’s election, the Brexit vote and the spread of anti-European Union parties across Europe. Is the answer to be found in the total state of socialism or the total state of populism?

No! They’re remedies for symptoms, but don’t address the cause of the disease itself which stems from our false notion of elitism.

The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be based on titles, brands and hype. They want to see demonstrable knowledge and proven character. The elites in the Beltway, Hollywood and Silicon Valley look down on the value of hard work, feeling that the 21st century culture should belong to the “experts” who live in the right zip codes and circulate in the proper social circles while garnering appropriate media admiration rather than from a demonstrable record of moral or intellectual excellence. Meanwhile, the public sees the brilliance that can be manifested in trade skills or retail sales, courage expressed by dealing with the hardship of factory work, or character found on an Indiana farm.

Donald Trump may not be one of those hard-working middle Americans, but he has tapped into the understanding that they don’t see themselves as idiots and they love him for that. It remains to be seen if he will keep his promises to them, but let’s be clear about one thing — Hillary Clinton promised to ignore them entirely … like the elitist paragon that she was. and remains.

I’m still holding out for an understanding that the elite need to be removed and not replaced. Let individuals decide for themselves what is good for us and reclaim the 19th century dynamism that truly made America prosperous. Doing that would require reclaiming the liberty that made that possible.

Can we do it? Yes, we can … if we will.

The Prehistory of the Alt-right | Jeffrey A. Tucker   Leave a comment

Reading “How I Left the Left” is a solid reminder that there’s not much intellectual heft remaining on that side of the fence. If an ideology sets out to isolate the locus of evil in people’s very identity, it is pretty well spent. This, in addition to the failure of the socialist model everywhere it has tried, explains why the Left has suffered so much at the polls and now faces a serious backlash in campus and public life.

Image result for image of alt rightHere we have a lineage of non-Marxist, non-leftist brand of rightist but still totalitarian thinking.

With the failure of action comes reaction, and now the Western world is dealing with something far less familiar to most people: the rise of the alt-right as the alternative. It is attractive to some young people due to its taboo-breaking, rebel ethos that so easily inflames teachers and protectors of civic conventions.The movement is more than that, however. It has a real philosophical and political history, one that stands in violent opposition to the idea of individual liberty. It has been largely suppressed since World War II and, because of that, most people assumed fascism (and its offshoots) was gone from the earth.

As a result, this generation has not been philosophically prepared to recognize the tradition, the signs, the implications, and the political application of the ideology so many are stumbling to embrace.

Here is a prehistory of what we call the alt-right today, which is probably better described as a 21st-century incarnation of what in the 19th century would have been called right-Hegelianism. I’m skipping over many political movements (in Spain, France, and Italy), and clownish leaders like George Lincoln Rockwell, Oswald Mosley, and Fr. Coughlin, to get right to the core ideas that form something like a school of thought which developed over a century.

Here we have a lineage of non-Marxist, non-leftist brand of rightist but still totalitarian thinking, developed in fanatical opposition to bourgeois freedom.

1820: Georg Friedrich Hegel published Elements of the Philosophy of Right, which spelled out the political implications of his “dialectical idealism,” an outlook that departed dramatically from the liberal tradition by completely abstracting from human experience to posit warring life forces operating beyond anyone’s control to shape history. It turns out that the politics of this view amounted to “the state is the march of God through the world.” He looked forward to some age in the future that would realize the apotheosis of State control. The Hegelian view, according to a 1952 lecture by Ludwig von Mises, broke into Left and Right branches, depending on the attitude toward nationalism and religion (the right supported the Prussian state and church, whereas the left did not), and thereby “destroyed German thinking and German philosophy for more than a century, at least.”

A champion of slavery and opponent of liberalism, Carlyle took aim at the rise of commercial society.

Image result for image of hegel1841: Thomas Carlyle published On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, which popularized the “great man” theory of history. History is not about marginal improvements in living standards by using better tools, but rather about huge episodic shifts brought about through power. A champion of slavery and opponent of liberalism, Carlyle took aim at the rise of commercial society, praising Cromwell, Napoleon, and Rousseau, and rhapsodizing about the glories of power. “The Commander over Men; he to whose will our wills are to be subordinated, and loyally surrender themselves, and find their welfare in doing so, may be reckoned the most important of Great Men.” Carlyle’s target was Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment generally. Hitler’s biographers agree that the words of Carlyle were the last he requested to be read to him before he died.1841: On the continent, meanwhile, Friedrich List published The National System of Political Economy, celebrating protectionism, infrastructure spending, and government control and support of industry. Again, it was a direct attack on laissez faire and a celebration of the national unit as the only truly productive force in economic life. Steven Davies comments: “The most serious result of List’s ideas was a change in people’s thinking and perception. Instead of seeing trade as a cooperative process of mutual benefit, politicians and businessmen came to regard it as a struggle with winners and losers.” Today’s economic nationalists have nothing new to add to the edifice already constructive by List.

1871: Charles Darwin left the realm of science briefly to enter sociological analysis with his book The Descent of Man. It is a fascinating work but tended to treat human society as a zoological rather than sociological and economic enterprise. It included an explosive paragraph (qualified and widely misread) that regretted how “we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment… Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.” At the very least, he suggested, we should stop the weak from marrying. This is the “one check” we have to keep society from being taken over by inferiors. Tragically, this passing comment fired up the eugenicists who immediately began to plot demographic planning schemes to avoid a terrifying biological slide to universal human degeneracy.

1896: The American Economic Association published Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro by Frederick Hoffman. This monograph, one of many of the type, described blacks as intractable criminals who are both lazy and promiscuous, the influence of whom in national biology can only lead to a decline of the race. Their mere presence was considered an existential threat to “uncompromising virtues of the Aryan race.” Such views were embraced by Richard T. Ely, the founder of the American Economic Association, and came to dominate the academic journals of this period, providing academic cover for Jim Crow laws, state segregation, business regulation, and far worse.

1904: The founder of the American eugenics society, Charles Davenport, established the Station for Experimental Evolution and worked to propagate eugenics from his perch as Professor of Zoology at Harvard University. He was hugely influential on an entire generation of scientists, political figures, economists, and public bureaucrats, and it was due largely to this influence that eugenics became such a central concern of American policies from this period until World War II, influencing the passage of wage legislation, immigration, marriage law, working hours legislation, and, of course, mandatory sterilizations.

At this point in history, all five pillars of fascist theory were in place. 

At this point in history, all five pillars of fascist theory (historicist, nationalist, racist, protectionist, statist) were in place. It had a theory of history. It had a picture of hell, which is liberalism and uncontrolled commercial society. It had a picture of heaven, which was national societies run by great men inhabiting all-powerful States focused on heavy industry. It had a scientific rationale.Above all, it had an agenda: to control society from the top down with the aim of managing every aspect of the demographic path of human society, which meant controlling human beings from cradle to grave to produce the most superior product, as well as industrial planning to replace the wiles of the market process. The idea of freedom itself, to this emergent school of thought, was a disaster for everyone everywhere.

All that was really necessary was popularization of its most incendiary ideas.

Hitler loved the book and sent Grant a note praising the book as his personal bible.

1916: Madison Grant, scholar of enormous prestige and elite connections, published The Passing of the Great Race. It was never a bestseller but it exercised enormous influence among the ruling elites, and made a famous appearance in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Grant, an early environmentalist, recommended mass sterilization of people as a “practical, merciful, and inevitable solution of the whole problem” that should be “applied to an ever-widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane, and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives, and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.” Hitler loved the book and sent Grant a note praising the book as his personal bible.1919: Following World War I, German historian Oswald Spengler published The Decline of the West, which met with huge popular acclaim for capturing the sense of the moment: the cash economy and liberalism were dead and could only be replaced by the rise of monolithic cultural forms that rally around blood and race as the source of meaning. Blood beats money all over the world, he argued. The interminable and foggy text broods with right-Hegelian speculations about the status of man and predicts the complete downfall of all lovely things unless the civilization of the West dispenses with its attachment to commercial norms and individualism and instead rallies to the cause of group identity. The book kicked off a decade of similar works and movements that declared freedom and democracy to be dead ideas: the only relevant battle was between the communist and fascist forms of state planning.

Mises called him “the Nazi Jurist” for a reason.

1932: Carl Schmitt published The Concept of the Political, a brutal attack on liberalism as the negation of the political. For Schmitt, the political was the essence of life, and the friend/enemy distinction is its most salient feature. Friends and enemies were to be defined by the State, and enemy-ness can only be fully instantiated in bloodshed, which should be real and present. Mises called him “the Nazi Jurist” for a reason: he was a party member and his ideas contributed mightily to the perception that mass death was not only moral, but essential to the preservation of the meaning of life itself.1944: Allied troops discovered thousands of death camps strewn throughout Nazi-captured territories in Europe, created beginning in 1933 and continuing through the duration of the war, responsible for the imprisonment and death of upwards of 15 million people. The discovery shocked an entire generation at the most fundamental level, and the scramble was on to discover all sources of evil–political and ideological–that had led to such a gruesome reality. With the Nazi forces defeated and the Nuremberg trials underscoring the point, the advance of fascist dogma in all of its brooding, racist, statist, and historicist timbres, came to a screeching halt. Suppression of the ideas therein began in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States, creating the impression that right-Hegelianism was a mere flash in the pan that had been permanently doused by state power.

The same year as the death-camp discovery began, F.A. Hayek published The Road to Serfdom, which emphasized that it was not enough to reject the labels, songs, slogans, and regimes of Nazism and fascism. Also necessary, said Hayek, was the rejection of the ideas of planning themselves, which even in a democracy necessarily led to the end of freedom and the rise of dictatorship. His book was met with critical acclaim among a small group of remaining classical liberals (many of whom were involved in the founding of FEE two years later) but was otherwise denounced and derided as paranoid and reactionary by many others.

For the duration of the ensuing Cold War, it was the fear of communism and not fascism/Nazism that would captivate the public mind. After all, the latter had been defeated on the battlefield, right? The genesis and development of rightest totalitarianism, despite the earnest pleadings of Hannah Arendt, fell away from public consciousness.

Liberalism Not Yet

Look at your progenitors, Alt-right: do you like what you see?

The Cold War ended 25 years ago and the rise of digital technology has given liberal forms of political economy a gigantic presence in the world. Trade has never been more integrated. Human rights are on the march. Commercial life, and its underlying ideology of harmony and peace, is the prevailing aspiration of billions of people around the world. The failures of government planning are ever more obvious. And yet these trends alone do not seal the deal for the cause of liberty.With left-Hegelianism now in disgrace, political movements around the world are rooting around in the pre-war history of totalitarian ideas to find alternatives. The suppression of these ideas did not work; in fact, they had the opposite effect of making them more popular to the point where they boiled up from below. The result is what we call the Alt-right in the US and goes by many other names in Europe and the UK. (The transition from the 1990s to the present will be the subject of another essay.)

Let us not be deceived. Whatever the flavor – whichever branch of Hegel we choose to follow – the cost of government control is human liberty, prosperity, and dignity. We choose mega-states, strongmen, national planning, or religious and racial homogeneity at our deep peril.

For the most part, the meme-posting trolls who favor stormfront-style profile pics on their social accounts, and the mass movements calling for strongmen to take control and cast the other from their midst, are clueless about the history and path they are following.

If you are feeling tempted toward the Alt-right, look at your progenitors: do you like what you see?

What is the alternative to right and left Hegelianism? It is found in the liberal tradition, summed up by Frederic Bastiat’s phrase “the harmony of interests.” Peace, prosperity, liberty, and community are possible. It is this tradition, and not one that posits intractable war between groups, that protects and expands human rights and human dignity, and creates the conditions that allow for the universal ennoblement of the human person. (For more on the history of despotic ideas in the 20th century, I suggest Mises’s epic 1947 book Planned Chaos, now available in epub.)

The last word on the correct (freedom-loving) path forward was framed by the great English historian Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1830, a statement that would be loathed by every fascist in history:

“It is not by the intermeddling of an omniscient and omnipotent State, but by the prudence and energy of the people, that England has hitherto been carried forward in civilization; and it is to the same prudence and the same energy that we now look with comfort and good hope. Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price, industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by defending property, by diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every department of the state. Let the Government do this: the People will assuredly do the rest.”

Source: The Prehistory of the Alt-right | Jeffrey A. Tucker

Posted March 18, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

Tagged with , ,

What Is Liberty   Leave a comment

Frédéric Bastiat was a contemporary with Alexis de Toqueville and they both came from France. Both were admirers of the United States who noted risks to that wonderful experiment in constitutional republicanism with democratic features. While Toqueville focused on the United States in the most familiar of his writing, Bastiat focused on France while touching on the United States system.  I find Bastiat’s writing to be prescient. He spoke to his own time and society, but he could have been addressing his comments to American circa 2017.

To read the entire series, here is the Table of Contents.

Image result for image of liberty cryingThe socialists were in ascendancy in France in Bastiat’s day, which was the primary purpose he wrote this essay The Law. Bastiat hoped to convince his fellow citizens that socialism was a bad, bad mistake. He actually managed that for a while, until people stopped reading his essay and started listening to socialists again. Lela

 

On the other hand, society is the human race. The human race, then, is to receive its impulse from Mr. Louis Blanc. It is at liberty to do so or not, it will be said. Of course
the human race is at liberty to take advice from anybody, whoever it may be. But this is not the way in which Mr. Louis Blanc understands the thing. He means that his project should be converted into law, and consequently forcibly imposed by power.

In our project, the State has only to give a legislation to labor, by means of which the industrial movement may and ought to be accomplished in all liberty. It (the State) merely places society on an incline (that is all) that it may descend, when once it is placed there, by the mere force of things, and by the natural course of the established mechanism.
But what is this incline? One indicated by Mr. Louis Blanc. Does it not lead to an abyss? No, it leads to happiness.

Why, then, does not society go there of itself? Because it does not know what it wants, and it requires an impulse. What is to give it this impulse? Power. And who is to give the impulse to power? The inventor of the machine, Mr. Louis Blanc.

We shall never get out of this circle—mankind passive, and a great man moving it by the intervention of the law. Once on this incline, will society enjoy something like liberty?
Without a doubt.

And what is liberty? Once for all: liberty consists not only in the right granted, but in the power given to man to exercise, to develop his faculties under the empire of justice, and under the protection of the law. And this is no vain distinction; there is a deep meaning
in it, and its consequences are imponderable. For when once it is admitted that man, to be truly free, must have the power to exercise and develop his faculties, it follows that every member of society has a claim upon it for such education as shall enable his faculties to display themselves, and for the tools of labor, without which human activity can find no scope. Now, by whose intervention is society to give to each of its members the requisite
education and the necessary tools of labor, unless by that of the State?

Thus, liberty is power. In what does this power consist? In possessing education and tools of labor. Who is to give education and tools of labor? Society, who owes them. By whose intervention is society to give tools of labor to those who do not possess them? By the intervention of the State. From whom is the State to obtain them?

It is for the reader to answer this question, and to notice whither all this tends.
One of the strangest phenomena of our time, and one that will probably be a matter of astonishment to our descendants, is the doctrine which is founded upon this triple hypothesis: the radical passiveness of mankind,— the omnipotence of the law,—the infallibility of the legislator:

this is the sacred symbol of the party that proclaims itself exclusively democratic. It is true that it professes also to be social. So far as it is democratic, it has an unlimited faith in
mankind. So far as it is social, it places mankind beneath the mud.

Are political rights under discussion? Is a legislator to be chosen? Oh, then the people possess science by instinct: they are gifted with an admirable discernment; their will is
always right; the general will cannot err. Suffrage cannot be too universal. Nobody is under any responsibility to society. The will and the capacity to choose well are taken
for granted. Can the people be mistaken? Are we not living in an age of enlightenment? What! Are the people to be forever led about by the nose? Have they not acquired their rights at the cost of effort and sacrifice? Have they not given sufficient proof of intelligence and wisdom? Are they not arrived at maturity? Are they not in a state to
judge for themselves? Do they not know their own interest?

Is there a man or a class who would dare to claim the right of putting himself in the place of the people, of deciding and of acting for them? No, no; the people would be free, and they shall be so. They wish to conduct their own affairs, and they shall do so. But when once the legislator is duly elected, then indeed the style of his speech alters. The nation is sent back into passiveness, inertness, nothingness, and the legislator takes possession of omnipotence. It is for him to invent, for him to direct, for him to impel, for him to organize. Mankind has nothing to do but to submit; the hour of despotism has struck. And we must observe that this is decisive; for the people, just before so enlightened, so moral, so perfect, have no inclinations at all, or, if they have any, these all lead them downwards towards degradation.

And yet they ought to have a little liberty! But are we not assured by Mr. Considerant that liberty leads fatally to monopoly? Are we not told that liberty is competition? and that competition, according to Mr. Louis Blanc, is a system of extermination for the people, and of ruination for trade? For that reason people are exterminated and ruined in proportion as they are free—take, for example, Switzerland, Holland, England, and the United States?

Does not Mr. Louis Blanc tell us again that competition leads to monopoly, and that, for the same reason, cheapness leads to exorbitant prices? That competition tends to drain the sources of consumption, and diverts production to a destructive activity? That competition forces production to increase, and consumption to decrease—whence it
follows that free people produce for the sake of not consuming; that there is nothing but oppression and madness among them; and that it is absolutely necessary for Mr.
Louis Blanc to see to it?

What sort of liberty should be allowed to men? Liberty of conscience?—But we should see them all profiting by the permission to become atheists. Liberty of education?—
But parents would be paying professors to teach their sons immorality and error; besides, if we are to believe Mr. Thiers, education, if left to the national liberty, would cease to be national, and we should be educating our children in the ideas of the Turks or Hindus,
instead of which, thanks to the legal despotism of the universities, they have the good fortune to be educated in the noble ideas of the Romans. Liberty of labor? But this is
only competition, whose effect is to leave all products unconsumed, to exterminate the people, and to ruin the tradesmen. The liberty of exchange? But it is well known that the protectionists have shown, over and over again, that a man will inevitably be ruined when he exchanges freely, and that to become rich it is necessary to exchange without liberty. Liberty of association? But according to the socialist doctrine, liberty and association exclude each other, for the liberty of men is attacked just to force them to associate.
You must see, then, that the socialist democrats cannot in conscience allow men any liberty, because, by their own nature, they tend in every instance to all kinds of regradation and demoralization.

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