Tag Archives: Liberty

Why Dennis Prager is wrong

Dennis Prager recently wrote a column and placed it on his website that I find to be part of the endemic societal response to everything: fear and outrage. It would seem that everything that happens in America, and in the world, is the worst thing ever and clearly marks the point of no return for the human race. While sensational and profitable, it just ain’t true. So, in a totally different approach, I took Mr. Prager’s column and responded to each and every point, not to prove him wrong, instead to provide some perspective to what he is saying. The complete text of his column is initalics and offset with asterisks while my comments are in standard font.

*I cannot imagine any thinking person who does not believe the world is getting worse.

Well, I guess I might surprise him…

*The number of slaughtered and the number of refugees from slaughter is immense and growing.

Remember that hundreds of millions were slaughtered during the 20th century, not to mention other eras in history where populations were relatively much smaller and tens of millions were slaughtered.

*Islamic State now controls territories from Afghanistan to West Africa. Libya is in the process of being added to that list. And other sadistic Islamist movements hold additional territory.

Remember when the Soviets controlled a significant portion of the planet, either directly or indirectly, and had nuclear missiles a hop skip and a jump from Florida…

*According to Pew Research, approximately 10 percent of world Muslims have a favorable opinion of the Islamic State and terror against civilians. That’s more than 100 million people.

A country of more than one billion people used to be overtly hostile to the U.S. and is now a trading partner that depends on trading with us (China).

*The Iranian regime has just increased the reward it will give to anyone who murders Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, is increasing its repression at home, now has more than a hundred billion additional dollars to spend on terror and regularly calls for the annihilation of Israel.

Iran has been a rogue regime for many years and it is important to keep in mind that the existence of the current regime was in no small part due to our own intervention in wanting to depose the Shah.

*Iran just received from Russia the most powerful anti-aircraft weapons that exist outside the United States, making a successful air attack on Iran almost impossible.

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the Soviets basically create the craziest regime on the planet (N. Korea) during the last century. And the idea that Iran is impregnable now is foolish and dramatic.

*Europe is allowing in another million migrants from the Middle East, few of whom share Europe’s primary moral values. One consequence is that European women are being sexually attacked in increasing numbers. Another is that European countries are making criticism of Muslims or Islam — no matter how rational the critique — a crime punishable by jail time and/or fines.

At one point in history, didn’t Catholics in Europe kill people for religious heresy and we refer to it as the Inquisition? The world recovered from that institutionalized religious attempt at eliminating competition by slaughter, and to think that this most recent attempt at the same ends will mark the end of civilization when a significant technological divide separates the aggressors from their would-be victims is sensational and hardly likely.

*The only thing stopping regular mass murder of Europeans and Americans is increased European and American police work. And no one believes that this will suffice to prevent future attacks.

I think Prager gives too much credit to both terrorists and the police; let us remember the TSA has never—to my knowledge—ever prevented an attack. If he wishes to present evidence that somehow crime rates are higher, I would be happy to see it, but most of the evidence points to diminishing crime rates in general; particularly when you control for non-violent drug offenses. This would be like making Coca Cola illegal and then stating that the rise in crime rates due to Coke related arrests is indicative of a society in collapse; it is sophomoric, illogical, and merely designed to scare people. The growth of the police state should concern Prager more. Remember those hundreds of millions killed in the twentieth century I mentioned earlier? They were all killed by governments that established police states.

*Russia is led by a KGB man who seeks to replace American influence with Russian influence wherever possible. And he is allowed to do so by the American president and the Democratic Party.

Russia—as the Soviet Union—was run by the people who invented the KGB and they also wanted to replace American influence wherever possible…and, remember Lenin and Stalin? I am quite certain that, while I do agree Putin is a security threat, his threat is hardly greater than that of his 19th and 20th century predecessors; do bad actors like Hitler and Mussolini ring a bell.

*While Russia continues to attempt, in Charles Krauthammer’s words, “to fracture and subordinate” Ukraine, the United States under Obama refuses to send Ukraine weapons.

We—at one point in history—not only stood idly by while essentially the same nation expanded by force, but we helped them (remember: FDR called Stalin Uncle Joe).

*The United States is led by a president whose primary foe seems to be the prime minister of Israel, even though the prime minister’s country happens to be the freest, most moral and most pro-American country in the Middle East.

And he is opposed by people who seem largely obsessed with the same man…just for different reasons. Perhaps if Bush would not have preached restraint to the Israelis while we carpet bombed our attackers, much of this would be a non-issue at this point. Incidentally, everyone does realize the Israel is a socialist state, right?

*The commander of the U.S. Pacific Command recently told Congress “that China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” in order to gain “hegemony in East Asia.”

Hmmmm…I am partial to the good ole USA, but it smacks of a bit of hypocrisy for us to spend more on defense than—I believe—the next 16 countries combined and complain when one of those 16 builds theirs too. We scoff at the notion from other nations that we are attempting to control the globe through military might, but use the same argument against China? That is politics, I guess.

*Cuba now has American recognition, and as a direct result has felt free to increase its subjugation of the Cuban people. In January, the Cuban regime arrested 1,414 political dissidents, the second-most ever recorded. It will be rewarded by a visit from President Obama.

There are five communist countries left on the planet and we have long traded with three of them (Cuba and North Korea being the exceptions); by the way, exporting capitalism was one of Reagan’s plans to topple the Soviet’s. If not trading with them is the way to break the Cuban regime, shouldn’t they be long gone by now?

*In the United States, most universities are being taken over by a fascistic expression of leftism. Student thugs take over administration offices with impunity, shout down speakers with whom they differ, and many faculty members support them. In the name of “diversity” and “tolerance,” American universities, once a jewel of free thought and intellectual inquiry, have become places Americans who cherish liberty and cherish America increasingly fear to send their children.

Universities have been leftist for a while now. Furthermore, I have a BS in political science and a Master’s in Economics (the equivalent of 6 years of higher education via several colleges/universities) and I have never encountered the iron-fisted liberalism which is often discussed on talk radio. In fact, my most liberal professor conceded multiple points to me (because I used evidence and not hyperbole). Additionally, that same professor offered to write me a recommendation for graduate school. I might suggest that the effect of liberal professors has become a convenient way for students with conservative parents to explain their mediocre grades…

*Contempt for America and its founding ideals are indoctrinated into America’s youth from high school on. If shown any of the iconic paintings of the Founders — such as signing the Declaration of Independence or deliberating at the Constitutional Convention — rather than seeing great people creating a great nation, most young Americans now only see racist, sexist, rich, slave-owning white males.

Fallacies about the founders—and much of history—are not isolated to progressives; conservatives also spread a lot of mis-information and this is not a new problem. [Example being that all settlers from Europe supposedly came fleeing from religious persecution and seeking religious freedom; the fact is that Puritans fled England because religion was too free and easy. They set up a colony with designs on imposing religion and even killed dissenters in some cases.] Furthermore, I would suggest that instead of people exhibiting the response Mr. Prager suggests most students would not know who the people they were looking at are.

*As its universities make clear, the West is committing suicide. At UCLA one doesn’t have to read a single play by Shakespeare in order to receive a degree in English. But one is fully indoctrinated regarding “White Privilege,” “systemic racism,” “income inequality,” “homophobia,” “hate speech,” “climate change” and whatever radicals care about.

First of all, while reading Shakespeare does have some entertaining value and historical context, it is effectively worthless for much of society; particularly an English major (because nobody talks like that). Secondly, those things are discussed rather sparingly, and are dependent on the field chosen. If you go into sociology you are likely to encounter a lot of leftist ideas, if you go into finance or economics, the discussions will be about markets and those things which increase economic activity like reduced taxes and the fallacy of the wage floor as a means to increase the well-being of society.

*A Republican presidential debate opens with a comment by the leading Republican candidate about the size of his penis. And the audience cheers.

I really could care less about this. Guys have been talking like that since the beginning of time and will continue to until the end. The fact that it leaked out on TV is of no measureable consequence to me (I am not a Trump fan, incidentally).

*The American president, a black man elected in the hope that he would unify the races, has overseen the greatest rift between the races since the 1960s. His repeated references to “Ferguson,” reinforcing the lie that a white policeman killed an innocent black teenager for no reason other than the young man’s race, is only one such example. One result is a rhetorical (and increasingly lethal) war on police that has led many officers to minimize proactively policing largely black areas.

This does not mean the world is doomed, just that when people make assumptions, the old adage comes true. And, FYI, he was not elected “in the hope he would unify the races.”

*The Democratic presidential race is between a socialist who has contempt for capitalism, the only economic system that has ever lifted large swaths of humanity out of poverty, and a woman who is so corrupt that she should be serving time in prison, not campaigning for president.

FDR was a socialist, Woodrow Wilson was a socialist, Johnson and Nixon (a felon, too) were authoritarians (as was GW Bush), and one of our Presidential candidates (and a founder) once killed a former Secretary of the Treasury (and founder), then fled to the west and plotted the overthrow of the government (Burr). So, to say this circumstance is unique or the worst ever is a bit of an overstatement.

*Meanwhile, the Republican race is led by a man who has mocks a POW as a loser; who repeats the libel that George W. Bush knew there were no WMD in Iraq; who calls for the killing of terrorists’ families; and, who, as noted, proudly talks to America about the size of his sexual organ.

Let us be honest, John McCain is a loser who has cost this country far more than any debt owed. As far as WMDs, if that was a reasonable cause for going to war, at least 40 other countries would likely need invaded tomorrow including China, Russia, North Korea, Great Britain, Israel, France,etc. So, guess what, invading Iraq and deposing Hussein was a bad move; I supported it at the time and am big enough to get over the fact I was wrong, maybe it is time for Prager to as well. As for the sexual organ thing again, I would suggest that Mr. Prager stop behaving like a 13 year old boy in health class when the reproductive system chart is pulled down; get over it.

*Many generations have believed that the world was getting worse. But since 1776, there was a great nation that one could still rely on to stem the decay. Now that great nation, under the influence of its own elites, men and women of the left, is itself in decay.

Prager is right, every generation swears the next is the last and he is playing into this. Over more than 200 years some ideas have taken hold I find deplorable (like Keynesian economics), but others such as slavery, Jim Crow, and the state as an institution of moral control have disappeared or lessened. I have come to find out that conservatives do not really have a problem with indoctrination at schools, only that their particular brand of indoctrination is no longer employed. The reason why we do not teach kids to think for themselves is that both sides feel threatened by such a concept; people who think hardly need others to think for them. Anytime an idea requires the point of a gun or a threat of a pain-filled eternity I am cautious; particularly if the intention is that those ideas be imposed on children. Any time an idea relies on force of any kind, we should be wary. Just to be clear, I am not anti-Prager, in fact I love his discussions on male-female interactions and relationships. I am, however, discouraged by this rhetoric that is over-inflated and largely without fact in light of other periods in human history. He intends to scare; which appears to be one of the common threads between the ideological right and left which seek to use fear to paralyze the population into inaction. For if we ever were to see that the fear is largely manufactured to control us, we would reject their fallacies and frauds and this scares them most. Political leaders have long known that fear is the greatest motivator and this is not lost on the Democrats and Republicans here.

*So, who can save the world now?

As for this last question, those who embrace liberty will.   Jefferson, Bastiat, Madison, Smith, Friedman, Williams, Sowell—some of the greatest minds in history—have one common message: that liberty is that mechanism through which all humans can advance. There is no other way. Liberty and the free market have been fighting authoritarianism on the left and right in America for several hundred years now; it has not lost yet. Instead, it has been the engine of the world and we must not let ourselves be dragged down to the level of fearmongering and the abandonment of logic.



Eat Once, Don’t Die?

      People so regularly like to spout off about the evils of capitalism and the depravity of the profit motive. Perhaps we should take a moment to gain some perspective on the matter. Human history has been dominated with periods of anti-capitalistic activities and economic structures. From the feudalist periods to the monarchies to just plain subversion to an eminent leader supposedly “ordained by God” (all three exhibit stunning similarities) and finally to an aristocracy (today we call this socialism or communism) there has been a constant throughout history when the rights of property were not identified and the profit motive was denied to the average individual.

     This constant in a world without property rights and capitalism was the motivating factor of human daily activities—eat once, don’t die. This could have been the daily motto for much of humankind throughout history—eat once, don’t die.

      Imagine this world without capitalism as people seem to fantasize about so regularly. Just imagine losing your car, your microwave, your smart phone, your internet, your air conditioning, your refrigerator, your television, your house, your job, running water, your toilet, the medicine you take to feel better (or, worse yet, the one you take to stay alive)…imagine losing your clothing and shoes in favor of animal hides to stay warm and more animal hides for your feet…imagine losing loved ones in their late twenties or early thirties, if you or them are lucky enough to live that long…imagine every day when you wake up your goal is not to merely be a pretentious ass that wishes a lack of luxury for others to make yourself feel equal, but instead you must struggle just to scrounge enough food for one meal for your family…imagine portioning that food out to your family not on the basis of fulfilling hunger, but on the basis of which family members would be more beneficial to survival if they have energy…imagine laying your head down at night being glad if nobody in your family died or not being surprised if one had.

      Imagine your daily motto was eat once, don’t die. This is the reality of the world before capitalism (and exists today outside of capitalisms reach); the human condition was that of strife, struggle, and immense physical and emotional pain. Is capitalism perfect? If by perfect you mean we all get to have what everyone else has regardless of effort, talent, or sacrifice…then no, it certainly is not. However, it is unambiguously clear throughout history that no economic system has ever brought more (or, I would argue any) people out of true poverty and complete squalor than capitalism.

P.S. By the way, capitalism and cronyism are in no way similar and the terms should not be used together, it makes people sound absurd to those of us who know better.


Unreasonable expectations: why government constantly fails us.

    The extent of government’s ability to act effectively is rather limited. It is not that government as a concept is inherently flawed or unable to function at any level. Instead, it is the expectations of its constituents that are the drivers of its inevitable failure in many of the tasks it endeavors upon.

     For example, government can effectively reduce the opportunity cost of a choice for its citizens, but it cannot cure social problems stemming from the choices people make. An opportunity cost is a concept from economics which basically states that for every task a person engages in there is something else they cannot be doing with their time. For example, if you mow grass for an hour, the opportunity cost of that choice might be an hour writing the great American novel (assuming you are capable of such a accomplishment). Let us estimate that your novel would take 100 hours to produce, then for each hour you mow grass you effectively “pay” 1/100th of the value of your novel. If said novel would net you $500,000 in profits, then your cost to mow grass (outside of fuel and equipment) would be $5,000. So, you would be much better off paying the little kid down the street $25 to mow your grass.

      Now, let’s apply this concept to regulatory government action. I will concede that, from a theoretical standpoint, it is much less costly to society if we “hire” an agency of people to check, for example, the solvency of financial companies. This agency could compile and publish information as to their effectiveness. They can be specialists that understand the industry and have an aptitude in their selected field. This agency would relieve us of the opportunity cost of having to learn the “ins and outs” of finance and researching every company when making any financial choice. Overall productivity rises because people can more easily determine which companies and products are relatively “better” and thus spend more time maximizing their own output based on their individual aptitudes.

     The problem with this is that humans hardly apply things within the constraints of theoretical effectiveness. Where government fails is that people want government to solve societal “problems,” instead of merely making information more accessible. They want government to keep companies from compensating certain employees too much or selling products that they (voters) think are too risky. Of course, they like the return while the products are on the upside; they just deplore the downside risk that affects them on the backend of the transaction.

     Additionally, there is a selection problem where people who wish to be politicians or government officials can often fancy themselves equalizers. Exacting what they deem to be justice from one entity for the “benefit” of the consumers or voters. Whether it is the voters or the employees of agencies driving these irrational expectations of government makes no real difference. Government is simply not up to the task without eliminating the human component of every decision. They cannot control the supply side of these transactions they deem dangerous or too risky, they must also impact the demand side of the equation. In essence, they must attempt to stop people from “hurting themselves.” Human desires and the balancing of risk and safety vary greatly from one person to the next and it is this which causes government to be ineffective. And, be certain, it is America’s risk tolerance mixed with liberty which has enabled us to be as prosperous as we are.

      Government cannot protect people from themselves or eliminate every risk inherent in life. Government can be a conduit of information, but can never (nor should it) eliminate the desire of people to make choices or engage in risk. We benefit much more from the risk tolerance of humans than we suffer from it. If risk aversion was the default human position, humans would have starved long ago in caves; paralyzed from the fear of predators.

       Over time, government becomes a haven for the risk adverse; both in employment and in voting. Those people on both sides of the proverbial aisle are driven by risk aversion and politicians motivate their voters by highlighting risk and danger. If you are on the right, the risk that someone may do something you do not think is “right” engenders the fear that society will suffer because your moral code was deviated from. On the left, if people are not nannied continuously throughout life, they will be unable to find happiness or will inevitably become victims. Incidentally, both situations are premised on adherence to some subjective moral code.

       Essentially, many people vote on the premise that government will not merely be an efficiency enhancer; instead, government will be an enactor of some “justice” where the only thing they can be sure of is they will be the beneficiary and society will somehow be improved because people are constrained in the fashion they know is best. People have often restated the phrase that government is a “necessary evil,” but lack perspective of why this was originally said. Government is a necessary evil because of the principle of the opportunity cost. Anytime we assume government can solve our individual or societal problems, we set it up for failure and us up for disappointment. Not to mention we yield to it the essential liberty that has enabled us to improve the overall human condition through technological and economic progress.


The nature of black markets: why making commodities illegal is ineffective.

I think it is important to characterize the commodity in very a generalized manner—at least for now—therefore we will refer to our commodity in question as a widget. Now, it is of no consequence what a widget is because, when analyzing the effects of a black market, the only relevant factor is that widgets were made illegal by lawmakers. It is important to begin with a basic definition of a black market:

“A black market or underground economy is the market in which goods or services are traded illegally. The key distinction of a black market trade is that the transaction itself is illegal. The goods or services may or may not themselves be illegal to own, or to trade through other, legal channels.”

It is important to note that the definition also identifies that the goods (in our example widgets) need not be illegal to own. This refers to situations where taxation or regulations are used to limit, control, or inhibit the trade of a good or service (i.e. high cigarette taxes). However valid this discussion is, it will not be the focus of this conversation as we are assuming our commodity has been made illegal for the sake of simplicity.

Black markets develop because making a product illegal does not cause people to stop using it; instead, it merely marginalizes consumption, the production, and the distribution to those who are willing to accept and operate under greater degrees of risk. I know this may sound a little confusing which is why I created a graphic that illustrates the levels of acceptable risk for different groups of society:

Risk flow chart

In this graphic we can observe that the lower two segments (5 & 6) are those people who enjoy or are comfortable with greater risk levels; next (segments 3&4) we can observe the greatest amount of people as the average level of risk takers which would be generally averse to great risk, but partaking in some low/moderate risk; finally, in our upper two segments (1 & 2) we can see a portion of the population who range from mostly risk averse to almost exclusively averse to risk. This understanding of risk tolerance is important in the realization that making commodities illegal only serves to focus use and production on the risk loving segments which are most likely to partake in other risky behaviors (e.g. crime, violence, etc.) regardless of their use of a certain commodity. This reality is why the argument of illegality for the purpose of public safety is largely invalid.

Let us return to our concept of widgets again. If widgets are made illegal then we have some serious problems: 1) people are still demanding this product (although demand is now almost exclusively coming from groups 5&6 and a small part of group 4) so new producers will enter the market to meet this demand and receive the greater profits now offered by an illegal trade operating at monopoly pricing. 2) By compressing consumption to the risk loving segments we create a self-fulfilling prophesy – that the people using the widget will also be breaking other laws [don’t believe me?…look at why prohibition did not work for alcohol].

We can see a new and growing market segment dominated by those who are more predisposed to risky (read: criminal) behavior. Also, we have reduced competition in the production of widgets which would generally (particularly in a highly criminalized black market) lead to the production of “crappier” products at higher prices. Therefore, the risk factors of our widgets become even greater due to the lower quality. Additionally, in this market with limited competition, lower quality requirements, and huge profit margins we will observe more criminal (mob-like) activities in the production and distribution of our widget. In essence, criminal producers compete with force instead of with price or quality (or both) to gain customers; this has many negative effects on the communities in which these suppliers operate.

We are also presented with a consumption level distortion. The new consumer group—which is also isolated to higher risk tolerances—engages in the same activities they would have likely done anyway; however, now our widgets are given the credit (blame) for these activities. This creates somewhat of a paradox in that the results of prohibition become the best argument for prohibition because the correlation between widget use and other risky/criminal behavior increases due to us arbitrarily slicing segments 1, 2, 3, and most of 4 off of the consumer base. We have not eliminated any undesirable by-products of consuming widgets; we have merely magnified the (rudimentary) perception of the widgets’ effect on producing these negative by-products.

Why is this important? First, there are little to no positive effects of making products illegal beyond people making themselves feel better that they may have coerced others into not engaging in an activity this other person condemns [think Michael Bloomberg and soft drink sizes]. Second, by isolating supply to risk loving individuals we fuel illegitimate activities and isolate supply into the hands of people willing to exercise the most risk. Not only have we criminalized users, we have laid the foundation to launch a whole new and highly profitable enterprise that relies on criminal activity and violence as the primary means to restricting market entry. This incorporation excludes traditional competitive means (product differentiation and price) in favor of force, violence, intimidation, and a new criminal recruitment system resulting in social problems in these communities as well as losses in property values, tax revenues, and legitimate employment opportunities.

Gun rights advocates make this argument quite accurately and succinctly when they state that: “making guns illegal would only keep them out of the hands of the law abiding population who do not commit crimes anyhow.” This is a very astute observation. Unfortunately, this same group often fails to realize that the same is true for our widget example, or drugs, or prostitution, and was found empirically to be true with alcohol. Making any of those things illegal did not eliminate the use of them; it merely marginalized use and created a criminal enterprise where one did not previously exist. Does prohibition result in decreased use?…only a little because, if the product is inherently risky, a vast majority of the population will avoid it anyway. Does prohibition make society safer? No, in fact the evidence would indicate the opposite.

So, why does our society struggle with this idea? Because liberty is scary to so many people! Of course, liberty—like so many other things—is really only a good idea for ourselves, not for others. The false premise that one group of people has the responsibility or authority to try and save others is preposterous and, I would argue, excludes the people who hold that idea from having any real profound understanding of the concept of Natural Rights or the ideas that our founders held so dear in creating this greatest of countries. The land of the free has become the land of the busybodies, intent on utilizing their votes to gain access to the force that government wields to make individuals “mind” them. I do not wish to have a nanny state economically nor do I wish to have one for individual choices. Incidentally, one thing everyone should keep in mind, you do not get one of those without the other.

Regulation Is Not Our Salvation

        There is much talk of regulation and the need for it in every aspect of our “dangerous capitalistic” society; however, there is seldom talk of what regulation is and of what precisely it accomplishes. Ironically, the very people who exhibit the greatest disdain for “big business” are often the most ardent supporters of regulation (besides the big businesses themselves, of course). Democrats, and statists of all parties, are particularly interested in imposing regulations for the stated purpose of controlling the “animal instincts” of the free market. These are the same people who often deride big business publicly for taking advantage of consumers and keeping the “little man” down. And this is where it becomes interesting.

          What if I were to tell you that regulation is largely designed to do that very thing and that the politicians who both advocate and introduce regulation understand very clearly that it will remove competition by restricting new market participants? I know, I know–many people out there will be shaking their heads in outright refusal of this assertion. I can just hear it now: “we need government to protect us from big corporations”; or “that’s not what the news said”; or “Obama said we deregulated too much.” Food for thought, though: big opponents of airline deregulation were the (big) airlines and the big opponents of trucking deregulation?…you guessed it, the (big) trucking companies. That, by the way, is not an isolated situation.

          Now, before people start into the irrational argument that I hate all regulation or that I am an anarchist; try to refrain from acting arbitrarily dramatic, ‘cause it just ain’t true! Here is an example of the real world scenario and why most regulation is not only supported by “big business,” but also why they (and their lobbyists) write a significant amount of the legislation.

          Let us assume that I am a builder of houses in a small economy with a relatively static population (a miniature US, for example). I am the only builder of houses as I have been an innovator in early house building technology. Let us also assume I hired you to work for me as my helper and you worked your way up to foreman over some amount of time. At this point you realize that you know everything you would need to provide the same service that I do, but feel you can do it more cheaply (because I am operating as a monopolist and thus my pricing is artificially high). So, you strike out on your own and begin competing with me. This does not please me for obvious reasons.

          So, I go see the executive (president/governor) of this “state” we live and work in and I convince him that we should, for the safety of all consumers, get control of the house building market and pass some regulations so that amateur and dangerous new builders do not hurt anyone financially or physically. The executive, not wanting his constituents hurt or angry sees great value in regulation that will control the evil capitalists (besides me, of course as I will be grandfathered in…) and will make one of his major campaign contributors happy. He goes to the legislative branch and convinces them to draft a law; however, how can these lawmakers draft regulations about housing that will safeguard their citizens when they themselves have never built houses? Hmmmm…Wait, they have an idea—they should approach the local expert for help in constructing these regulations. My phone rings and I gladly accept my civic duty of drawing up regulations for housing standards so that I am guaranteed customers…I mean, so that the citizens are safe!

          Now, back to you, my only competitor; if am lucky I can build in professional fees and licensing, insurance, or even capital requirements that create a great enough obstacle to you not being able to continue in the market. If not, I have almost guaranteed that neither of our employees will likely ever be able to afford to compete with us.   Here is the best part, though. Having seen how well the appeal to citizens to safeguard them from “greedy profit-driven” capitalists worked out for his polling numbers; the executive decides to move on to another market segment. Once again, this executive finds great public support (who doesn’t want to be safer) and also finds he has more campaign contributions rolling in from companies which no longer have to fear any significant competition in their field.

     Here is the reality and the bad side of this equation. First, capitalism in this example no longer exists (incidentally, there has not been true capitalism in the U.S. for many decades except perhaps in some isolated market segments). The little man has been effectively “held down” and kept out of the marketplace. Skill, pricing, or a combination of the two is no longer that which is primarily supplied by market participants; instead, the ability to navigate the political waters and afford to pay for these regulatory burdens is what determines market participation.

          Second, the government has created a moral hazard in which the citizenry no longer feels responsible for ensuring quality in the products and services they purchase; additionally, government takes on no liability that the work they attest to (through regulatory obstacles) is of high or even good quality. For example, if you have a house built, it will have to be approved by government inspectors on many occasions for different purposes. However, if that house burns down later from faulty wiring that was inspected; the government that essentially told you it was safe carries no liability. This begs a tangential question: what is the point, exactly?

          Third, in fields that are “regulated” it has been made essentially illegal for people to work. To license something is defined as: the ability to grant a license to (someone or something) to permit the use of something or to allow an activity to take place. If something requires a license, it is otherwise illegal—ergo, it is illegal to work and earn a living if the government does not permit you to do so. Yet another disincentive towards working, just what we need!

          The rise in corporations over the last century is not due to not enough government. Inversely, it is due to too much government. I understand there is a long held belief in most people that government is there to help us, but we must get beyond misconceptions and use logic to approach questions. Whether a politician is well-intentioned or not, regulation still results in the same thing. Also, do not believe the hype that the Bush administration marked the biggest rollback of regulations in modern history—that could not be further from the truth. In fact, if you are a fan of regulation, you should have a picture of “W” over your mantle right next to your picture of Obama.

          If people actually understand what the true effects of regulation are, it is likely that we will tolerate less of it. However, I understand there is a draw in believing in wholesale regulation; the comfort of feeling like someone evil and rich is being halted on their wicked quest for world domination is probably great. But, perception a reality does not make. Regulation is the pet of “big business” that does not wish to compete and colorful plumage which politicians display to prove how “caring” and “egalitarian” they are; both, instead, use it largely as a tool to monopolize market segments and line their own pockets; perverting capitalism into cronyism.

          When you consider the effectiveness of government in solving all our problems you should truly ponder why all of governments “wars” of morality such as the one on drugs and the one on poverty have only resulted in more of both. Certainly, in the thousands of years of human history it is unlikely that humans have only recently gone bad; perhaps, we should realize that government has the anti-Midas effect of turning everything it touches into crap instead of gold.


The Fallacy of Greed

       Greed…what a fun word! It is that invisible cause of all of society’s problems, right? Have an older car or smaller house than your neighbor? Don’t beat yourself up, they are obviously greedy. Textile manufacturing is now (predominantly) overseas? Duh…just a greedy capitalist. Walmart not forking over that mythical thing called a “living wage?” They are blatantly exhibiting their own greed. She has too much; he has too little…all byproducts of American greed, right?

     Effort is good, the old college try they used to say; but don’t you dare actually succeed because clearly you have morphed into just a common greedy piece of trash. Here is an interesting question then: If, in fact, a person who develops a product for which millions wish to pay for is greedy; what do we call a person who is willing to live for nothing off the labors of others? Ah, I remember now, we call them victims of American greed. Instead might I suggest we call them greedy victimizers of Americans; merely a semantic difference, I am sure.

     The convenience of greed lay in its ability to be arbitrarily blamed for anything. Those on the left have made careers playing on peoples’ petty jealousy through use of the word greed. People have justified the taking of others’ property because of greed; however, greed cannot be proven and, perhaps more importantly, cannot be disproven. How does one combat an accusation of greed? They cannot, which is why it is such a powerful tool of the politician to ensure support from those who Bastiat noted “wish to live at the expense of others.”

     Legalized theft and redistribution gains its mandate from this notion of greed, but how do we define greed exactly? If greed is to be defined as the desire and effort to take something from people which is not theirs, then who is greedy? Can we rightfully call Steve Jobs greedy because he created things which many were willing to trade money for? Or would that title be more properly attributed to the 23 year old which, instead of practicing responsibility, decides to live off the welfare system? I would say the latter; our president would likely say the former. A person who makes a living at the point of a gun is, in my estimation, greedy. There is little difference between someone who is able-bodied and living (almost) exclusively off the taxpayer than there is a common gangster. Both prey off of those unable to defend themselves from their oppressors, the only difference is the mobster at least has the courage to do their own dirty work.

Liberty is the Root of Our Prosperity

     Without liberty, we lose that which makes America unique among the nations of the world, in both the past and the present.  It can hardly be said to be a coincidence that the most free people in the history of humanity have also become the most wealthy and powerful; but there are those who would wish to convince people that it was not our liberties which opened the door to prosperity…no, they would offer that prosperity was attained despite these freedoms.  What a lucky break it has been, then, that the nation where its people are free to imagine something greater and free to expect a return for their labors are the people who have exercised tremendous ingenuity and an incredible work ethic…go figure.  Imagine how many Steve Jobs, Henry Fords, or Nikola Teslas may have been lost to history in communal nations where it was the government’s job to determine people’s aptitudes or their worth to society and thus assign them their tasks?

    A common argument (read: excuse) of the collectivists is that we are a product of our resources; and yes, we do have those in abundance relative to some nations.  However, I would argue that our resources did not define us as a people; instead, we defined our resources.  Upon the ratification of the Constitution, the framers did not find a map to resources with a multi-lingual set of instructions for how to develop machines and methods to utilize them.  It was the liberty to develop, to invent, to discover, and ultimately to earn a reward for our labors that drove generations of Americans to develop those resources which would eventually increase the living standards of much of the entire planet.  That is not inconsequential, nor is it coincidental; that is a staggering feat for the ultimate benefit of all of humanity.

      I often ponder as to why our economic progress and achievements, due greatly to our level of freedom, is something to be ashamed of; particularly when we wonder why kids do not try to excel at school.  Is there not a link between denigrating success and a dwindling amount of it?  Perhaps instead of hiding from our prosperity, we should embrace the fact that we are the engine of advancement for the entire globe; then, just maybe the children of this generation and the next may return to aspiring for more and settling for nothing less than whatever it is their individual dreams may conjure.  The true “arrogance” of America is to enjoy the fruits of labor and the results of our capitalist, free-market society (at least it used to be) while simultaneously acting as if those were not significant accomplishments.

Why warnings of tyranny must not be “rejected.”

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.

                                                -Barack H. Obama, 2013 Ohio St. Commencement

        Actually, what they suggest is that any government is predisposed to usurp the liberties of its people. What they would suggest is that trust in a government official merely at their own behest is unwise at best and disastrous at worst. But, to be completely honest, it is not the government official for whom we must fear attempted subjugation; instead, it is “from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents” (James Madison, 1788). It is the tyranny of some oppressive majority. Generally, though, a single figure stands ready to exact the pound of flesh which this majority so dearly desires.

     “Reject these voices” Obama tells young people…or, perhaps in other words: “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Indeed, the manifestation of a threat to liberty has and will always be a single figure. Is Obama that figure to be feared? Who knows, only time can bear that out; however, I suspect he is only one of the puppets opening the show. The proverbial hand up his back, as with other leaders before him, has been our neighbors and family members and perhaps even ourselves. Eagerly our populace has stood ready to pull the handle for whomever promises to subdue ideological enemies and punish others for our own self-victimization. The choice has largely been either those people willing to seize the property of one man for the benefit of another; or, on the other hand, seize one’s liberty to appease the conscience of another. Both are mere perversions of liberty and, I would assert, share the same outcome: slavery.

    There is, however, shelter from the looming storm of statism. Unfortunately, the concept of liberty appears far too risky for those who never lived without it—sloth likely is our greatest sin. Liberty is merely a punch-line for people like Obama and Bush. For two “truths” resonate loudly for both: 1) the people cannot be trusted with liberty, and 2) most of us are more than happy to trade it for payments in-kind. Our weakness invites the shackles that will bind us, be they real or figurative. Ronald Reagan once said:

Socialists…can provide you shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you’re ill, all the things guaranteed to a prisoner or slave.

This may be the best characterization of socialisms’ ill-fated pursuit. Despite popular opinion, however, the socialists ride on donkeys and elephants; and we should be wary of both.

      What then are those of us who yearn for liberty to do—where is our shelter? Not coincidentally, the “they” who Obama speaks of are very much the same as the “they” who founded our great nation. And those great minds and greater men gave us a weapon to defend ourselves from tyranny. They armed us with words whose sole purpose was to warn us of tyranny and provide the tools to defend ourselves from it: the Bill of Rights.

        What is the Bill of Rights? In school it is an inconvenience we have to remember for one test. In our adult life it is only the 1st Amendment (part of it, anyway) for Democrats and simply the 2nd and 10th for Republicans. But, in a broader sense its purpose was the explicit outline of what tyranny may look like. In fact, if tyranny was not even a possibility, the Bill of Rights would be unnecessary. Furthermore, for those who claim the mere age of the Constitution is proof of its own irrelevance and short-sightedness; they would be wise to appreciate that it is the very blanket of liberty which keeps us warm at night.

            For example, in the last couple of years alone, the news has been filled with government acts which challenge the:

  • 1st Amendment (“Obamacare” and the Catholic Church; Rosen from Fox News, etc.)
  • 2nd Amendment (gun control efforts)
  •  4th Amendment (NSA data collection, phone tapping, etc.)
  • 5th Amendment (illegal government takings during TARP)
  • 6th Amendment (NDAA)
  • 8th Amendment (NDAA, again)
  • 9th Amendment (the one the statists of neither party like)
  • 10th Amendment (Obamacare and unfunded mandates on states)

        Maybe the guys in the powdered wigs were on to something, huh? Simply put, our Constitution and the first ten amendments were designed to protect us from our government; and ensure we have the tools with which to protect ourselves from it. This is true even when an over-zealous majority threatens to exercise the government’s monopoly on violence to make us behave in a way which pleases them. It would be fair to say that distrust of government is the founding principle upon which our great republic (not democracy) was built. We would be wise to heed these warnings, not reject them; the cheap parlor trick of the politician is an illusory idea that we are safe because we are Americans. Instead, to retain the freedoms encapsulated in what Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to as the “promissory note to which every American was to fall heir” we must remain ever-vigilant. I leave you with these words:

Although all men are born free, and all nations might be so, yet too true it is, that slavery has been the general lot of the human race.  Ignorant—they have been cheated; asleep—they have been surprised; divided—the yoke has been forced upon them.  But what is the lesson?  That because the people may betray themselves, they ought to give themselves up, blindfold, to those who have an interest in betraying them?  Rather conclude that the people ought to be enlightened, to be awakened, to be united, that after establishing a government they should watch over it, as well as obey it.

                                                                               -James Madison, 1792


Government is Force: The Uncomfortable Truth People Wish to Avoid.

It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.

—Ayn Rand

     Our society speaks of things like social justice as if it were a victimless activity. As though giving to someone deemed “less fortunate” entails only the act giving without the taking. Where then does this magical manna come from if not from another citizen? Clearly it comes from someone who is rich or simply has what some deem to be “too much,” right? Let’s assume it does, is the moral righteousness of theft based on the size of the victim’s bank account? If that is in fact the case, should not most white collar crimes be considered righteous?  Or, for example, if you carjack a Maserati are you not merely taking what is not deserved by the owner of that car?

       The rich are hardly the only ones who are victims of our entitled society; anyone who falls into some sort of minority can find themselves targets of our burgeoning tyranny of democracy. If the limits on individual rights to property are up for a vote, then where do the limits of the state lay? In a society which justifies activity by a majority (more aptly, plurality) opinion, no limits exist; instead, the law is a shifting tide dictated by mob behavior and “popular” ideas. I can take your money, your property, and (more poignantly accurate) your very life as long as I can convince enough of my fellow citizens to direct the government to forcibly remove those things from you at the point of a gun.

          You say that no one is taking another’s life, but only their money; excess money at that? How is it exactly that we earn money? Time! Time of our life spent producing, thinking, building, growing, and teaching; and by endorsing the government confiscation and redistribution of people’s money we are very much endorsing the taking of people’s lives; one hour at a time. You cannot ask another for $10 without considering that the money you ask for represents a portion of their life spent earning (assuming they have earned that money). Likewise, you cannot empower government to separate them from that same $10 by force without considering that government has taken the time that money represents from them.

      The cold reality that people wish to ignore is that if that person gets paid $10/hr. then your government has exercised your desire to steal that hour from them; forcibly take those minutes, those breaths, and those heartbeats from them as if they rightfully belong to you or someone else. That activity relegates that producer to the role of slave and you take on the role of slave owner. What gives us the right to prey on our fellow citizens? Nothing! Still, we try to justify it with absurd notions of social justice and fairness. Those who are comfortable voting the confiscation of other’s money are no different than the pimp on the street corner preying on their hookers or the mobster running a protection scheme on businesses. Try as we may to justify our actions as assistance or some altruistic heroism; we are merely common thieves who ply our trade at the ballot box because we lack the courage to steal from others in person.


What Exactly is Liberty?

         However intuitive an idea that freedom may seem, it appears that it is a rather difficult one to completely conceptualize. In fact, most people claim to want to be free, but are vehemently resistant to that which comprises liberty. So, what does it mean to be free or, more appropriately, what does it mean to live in a free society? This is, I believe, the ultimate question of societal development; and one that has been quite elusive for most generations of humans.

      James Madison noted in 1792 that “Although all men are born free, and all nations might be so, yet too true it is, that slavery has been the general lot of the human race.” Madison’s words were quite spot on in this observation. Regardless of the commonly held belief that slavery was, perhaps, a uniquely American and specifically white tradition, the truth is that humans have always sought to place their fellow man in servitude. However, servitude comes in many forms, albeit the economic form is the most focused upon, it is not the only type of servitude. The servitude I wish to focus on in this brief writing is that of the social form.

          Both sides of the ideological “aisle” believe that they have the key to engineering a more perfect society…that if they could only make people behave the way they believe is right, then society could finally be righteous and operate in perfect harmony. Whether these social engineers operate from an elected position, a bureaucratic one, a pulpit, or an educational institution is irrelevant. What is relevant is their fundamental belief that if other individuals are not free to act or behave of their own free will, society will be better off and subsequently so will said individual. This is not freedom, nor is it liberty. Instead it is servitude. It is the idea that one person should have a claim on another’s life.

     Imagine for a moment the liberal progressive who stands in staunch support of a woman’s right to make choices for her own body while simultaneously holding that people should not be able to determine how it is best to employ the fruits of their own body’s labors (which is their earnings). Now take the traditional conservative who believes that guns do not kill people; however, they can seem quite certain that casinos make people gamble, liquor stores make people into drunks, and prostitutes make people have sex. Is this likeness in the subversion of one’s fellow citizens unique to liberals or conservatives…or perhaps it is a Republican and Democratic phenomenon? No, it is not unique. It is, however, a common human behavior.

        To truly discover and enjoy freedom, we must all be able to accept one fundamental truth: freedom is uncomfortable at times. If there does not exist a point in time in our society in which each of us are made uncomfortable by the actions of our fellow citizens then freedom has eluded us. For example, there is no need for a First Amendment to protect popular speech—by definition popular speech needs no protection. We must accept that people have the right to say stupid things, believe absurd things, and act in ways which we might not condone or endorse. Additionally, as free people we always reserve the right to call their words, ideas, and actions stupid.   We do not, under any definition of a free society, have the right to legislate their words, thoughts, or actions out of existence; lest we hold it acceptable for them to do the same to us once the political winds shift.