Monthly Archives: January 2012
Jeffrey Sachs wrote an article in the Huffington Post two weeks ago titled “Libertarian Illusions”. I’m not going to go line by line but rather criticize a few of his points that portray libertarianism incorrectly, so if you want to read the entire article you can find it here.
Like many extreme ideologies, libertarianism gives a single answer to a complicated world. It seems to cut through the fog and get to the heart of solutions; illusions, alas, but powerful ones nonetheless.
This is probably one of the largest misunderstandings of libertarianism and yet a common point made against it. Libertarianism is a guideline for morality, not some sort of solution for every problem. In fact, rather than creating a specific solution, it limits the possible solutions to those deemed moral by the non-aggression principle, in which individuals may do as they wish as long as they are not aggressing against another individual’s liberty.
This is not a “single answer to a complicated world.” Contrary to Sach’s opinion, statism gives a single answer to a complicated world: violence. If we want something done, we shall impose it on you. If we have a problem, we shall use aggressive force as our solution. Meanwhile, libertarianism says “Perhaps there is another solution without violence. Perhaps liberty can be respected and a solution still be found.”
Yet the error of libertarianism lies not in championing liberty, but in championing liberty to the exclusion of all other values. Libertarians hold that individual liberty should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of other values or causes. Compassion, justice, civic responsibility, honesty, decency, humility, respect, and even survival of the poor, weak, and vulnerable — all are to take a back seat.
This is correct yet feeds the stereotype that libertarians won’t pursue other values. Libertarians simply believe that all those values can be sought after even as liberty is maintained.
Later he states:
By taking an extreme view — that liberty alone is to be defended among all of society’s values — libertarians reach extreme conclusions. Suppose a rich man has a surfeit of food and a poor man living next door is starving to death. The libertarian says that the government has no moral right or political claim to tax the rich person in order to save the poor person. Perhaps the rich person should be generous and give charity to the neighbor, the libertarian might say (or might not), but there is nothing that the government should do. The moral value of saving the poor person’s life simply does not register when compared with the liberty of the rich person.
Here, Sachs creates a false dichotomy. Is the only solution that the rich man must give the poor man for the poor man to survive? And what is Sach’s definition of government? Is it a group of individuals with a monopoly on aggressive force? If so, why can’t these individuals simply help the poor man out themselves? Why is violence the only answer? Statism creates a giant mental block. Those who choose to use violence cannot stop using it or even begin to think that there could be another possibility. We must steal from the rich man to save the starving man’s life! After stating libertarianism has a single answer for every problem, Sachs goes on to demonstrate that he himself only has a single answer to his own problem: force. The irony.
To finish off, here’s a response from Dr. Bob Murphy with a crystal clear example:
Yep. Just like if Sachs or any of his readers took their kids to the playground, it would never in a million years occur to them to say, “Johnny, today we’re going to feed some homeless people, so go take the lunch from that chunky kid over there, even if he doesn’t want to share.” No, that would be stealing, and no parent would ever tell his kid it’s OK to steal, even though by so doing it might allow us to achieve other worthy goals.
(QE is shorthand for quantitative easing. It’s basically just printing money and the two videos in the post below this talk about it.)
This video will put the actual numbers regarding the bailouts in the past few years into perspective.
And those were just the bailouts. The Federal Reserve inflates through the fractional reserve banking system constantly as well. So when you hear certain individuals harp on about inflation, they have an extremely good reason to do so.
Some even like to talk about hyperinflation, what occurred in countries such as Germany and Zimbabwe, where the currency completely loses its value and people have to haul around carts of money to buy a loaf of bread. While this is certainly possible in the United States, I don’t think it’s very probable. Even though Bernanke (the current Fed chairman) believes in a completely flawed economic theory (Keynesian economics), I don’t think he’s stupid enough to let hyperinflation occur before he contracts the money supply. Very high inflation in this year is far more likely.
I have a new layout as well because the title wouldn’t fit on the old layout. Not particularly fond of this so might change to something else in the future if I find it more appealing.
Nevermind, kind of liking this new layout now.
Before I go any further, I should note one thing so that my position is not misunderstood. I am not opposed to the entirety of the Civil Rights Act but only the interference with private property. Pre-1964, there were laws enforcing segregation. The advocates for the Civil Rights Act were right in getting rid of these laws, but they were wrong in mandating what another person should do with their property.
This is where most simply have a mental block and are incapable of even thinking for a second the way libertarians think about property. “What!? You’re saying you think people should have a right to stop blacks from coming into their restaurant? That’s despicable!” I guess it is somewhat heartening that people are so anti-racist, but my optimism is lost when I find out people are so anti-racist they’re willing to use violence to force their views on someone else. If you are one of those individuals, try to be open-minded about this particular topic.
When it comes to the freedom of speech, it’s not popular speech that needs protection. It’s controversial speech. Popular speech has no one opposed to it, no one who even cares to violate it. It’s the unpopular speech where there is a majority of individuals, so opposed to the content of the speech that they might even be willing to use violence to stop it from occurring. This same concept could be applied to all freedoms. It’s not popular things that people do with their liberty that need to be protected; it’s unpopular things.
All rights are property rights. You own your own body so you can’t be a slave to someone else. You own your own mind, so you are free to do with it as you wish, as long as you are not threatening or directly harming someone else. You own your own voice, so you are free to do with it as you wish, as long as you are not threatening or directly harming someone else. You own your own property, so you are free to do with it as you wish, as long as you are not threatening or directly harming someone else.
If I own an apple, should I be forced to sell it to someone I don’t want to sell it to? Do I really own the apple if I can’t choose who I’m going to sell it to? Maybe I don’t want to sell it to a communist. Maybe I don’t want to sell it to a low bidder. Maybe I don’t want to sell it to a black person. But if it’s my property, don’t I have the right to choose?
Not saying I advocate racism when it comes to people selling services/products from their own property, but I do advocate their right of association. After all, it is the same right of association that allows a person to choose who they will be friends with, who they spend time with, and who they will let into their bedroom. And obviously we wouldn’t infringe on these rights, would we? We only infringe for some reason when it comes to property: and that reason is the history of segregation and slavery in America.
Others will argue that it’s insane to compare property for public accommodation with property that is purely for private interests; that it’s a gigantic stretch to compare a person’s restaurant with a person’s bedroom; that we can draw a clear line between these two things; and that the slippery slope argument doesn’t really apply.
[You can start at 1:43, but special attention from 2:52 – 3:07]
I’m pretty sure the government is already in our bedroom with the Patriot Act. Looks like we didn’t stop soon enough?? The sad truth is that the slippery slope already exists.
If we want to encourage freedom, we should do it without being hostile to freedom. We should do it without imposing violence to force our beliefs on others. We shouldn’t force a property owner to let certain individuals into his restaurant when he doesn’t want to. We should instead peacefully persuade in order to rid the world of racism and segregation. Racism is an issue of morality. How can you destroy an issue of morality while immorally using violence?
There is already a peaceful economic incentive in the free market to get rid of segregation. Racist business owners limit their customers on their own; non-racist business owners in the same field have a large advantage because they are open to all customers. Not to mention racists would lose other customers opposed to such bigotry. If I saw a restaurant with the sign “No Blacks Allowed” on the door, they would certainly lose me as well.
If you’re still not convinced, think about this instead. Should a black person that owns a restaurant be allowed to stop a KKK member from entering and being served? Should a KKK member be allowed to force a black restaurant owner to let him into his restaurant and serve him or should the black owner be able to refuse him service because the restaurant is his private property and he can use his private property as he wishes? No one would dispute this specific act because it is popular. Only what’s unpopular is disputed. But don’t be surprised when the government starts taking away even a few of the popular things. They already have and they will keep doing so without hesitation.
A week from now, I’m going to change the title of this blog from Intellectual Liberation to The Interventionist Paradox. The URL will be changed as well, to i20x.wordpress.com; that’s why I’m waiting a week to change it. Don’t think it’s much of an issue, because I don’t have very many viewers anyway, but just in case 🙂
If you’re wondering “why the name change?,” it’s basically because I thought the previous title was somewhat pretentious-sounding and I’d much rather have a name that doesn’t have that sort of portrayal. Plus, I don’t think the URL without wordpress is available for that title, whereas if in the future I want to take that off, I can do so with the new title.
For those that don’t know what the interventionist paradox is, it’s a phrase I’ve coined to describe how the use of violence and intervention with private ownership and individual rights necessarily backfires and how unintended consequences always co-exist with the use of aggressive force.
A good example of this would be a father beating his child in order to make him behave better. Not only will the child fail to behave better, the beatings will become a necessity and a habit of the father. The father will find he will resort to beating his child and will not be able to quit once he becomes accustomed to beating the child every time the child behaves badly. The unintended consequences will be the eventual worsening of behavior of the child and the harmful effects on his psychology in later life. If you want to look more into this particular issue, I suggest you listen to Stefan Molyneux.
Oh, and a funny picture I found at another wordpress blog.