One common baseline cited for libertarians to agree on is that government power should be limited to only the power to defend against force and fraud.
Anarchist libertarians, or anarcho-capitalists, believe in shrinking government as we know it to zero. There would no longer be a single institution claiming jurisdiction over all people within a certain geographic region as its citizens. People would still be permitted to form their own institutions for protection (and these institutions might be called governments), so long as these institutions did nothing immoral, that is, anything that would infringe the right to life, liberty, or property of anyone, such as theft (including taxation as we know it), enslavement (including conscription, compulsory schooling, compulsory citizenship, regulation, licensing), etc. Anarcho-capitalists are generally agreed that there IS a law, and that under a system of true freedom anyone whose rights were violated would be morally authorized to punish the violator, or delegate the right to do so.
In an anarcho-capitalist world, what could be done about fraud? Who is watching businesses to make sure they don't take advantage of people? Who will punish them if they do something wrong?
The answer is that these protections under anarcho-capitalism are stronger than they are under our system of monopoly government. Even if you don't assume that people actually go out and threaten justified force against perpetrators of fraud to reclaim their losses.
Under today's system, the government promises to eliminate fraud through regulation and legal action. Of course, then can never be accomplished perfectly. There will always be fraudsters who get away. The resources the government has to go after them will always be limited, so they will always have to pick and choose who to prosecute. Richer people will be more able to afford to navigate the expensive and unwieldy government system to get their rights protected.
If things don't go perfectly, the government won't admit failure. Instead they will promise that with a few changes (a new election with new officials, getting the "right" people in office who can "make a difference" (by ignoring something else that should be a priority), adding a few regulations, giving government a few more powers), eventually the problem can get better and better and axiomatically approach being fixed. The cry will not be "look at the bad job government does because of centralization"; instead it will be "look how bad things are with all this help we're providing; think how bad it would be without us! The market would never make it without this kind of protection."
All the while, government is promising that most fraud problems will be eliminated, and therefore people conclude that they can trust businesses that the government has allowed to exist, either through licensing, regulation, certification, or simply by virtue of not being shut down. How many times have you heard someone say, "If this business were doing something wrong, the government would shut them down?" When people say this, they are according a business a higher level of trust than they would in a completely free market with no big government promising to protect them.
An environment with these unnaturally elevated levels of trust makes fraud worse.
Without government promising to make all businesses trustworthy, people would realize that they shouldn't trust someone without a good reason. That good reason might be a proven track record. For example, people will trust someone they've had a longstanding positive business relationship with. Or they will check with their contacts, friends, and acquaintances when seeking out a new service provider to find someone trustworthy. Or they will look for an accreditation agency or professional organization with a good reputation (checking out its trustworthiness, first), then find a business certified by that agency.
In our system, we try to make trust start at 100% and fix the problem later if something goes wrong. In the real world, the world that would exist without government pretending it can offer us perfect protection, trust would start at zero and build from there.
A new business trying to get established will have little trust. It will need to compete in some way: by offering services that cannot be provided elsewhere, by offering a lower price, etc., until it is established with a reputation for trustworthiness. If they want to last, they will not be able to afford to commit fraud.
Everyone will think of new businesses with no history and no reputation as having trustworthiness zero. Everyone will know not to contract with such businesses unless they are getting a deal so good it makes it worth the risk of finding out that the new business is untrustworthy. It will simply be common knowledge.
If you think this sounds very similar to ebay's feedback system, then you are right. On ebay, your feedback starts at zero. Check out auctions for a commonly available item on ebay sometime. Watch the prices these auctions close at. Observe that sellers with five-digit feedback scores sell their wares at higher prices than sellers with one-digit feedback scores. Sellers with a proven track record are considered more trustworthy. Sellers without this proven track record need to compete to build one, and one way they compete is by selling at lower prices, at prices so low that some buyers (not all) believe that transacting with them is worth the low amount of money risked. You'll also observe that new sellers have trouble selling, or have to sell at lower prices, if they don't accept credit cards (through paypal, or otherwise).
Ebay's feedback system is just one of many possible free market mechanisms that can arise to allow buyers on the market to swap information about sellers and make the trustworthiness of a seller visible. Entrepreneurs will be able to design thousands more, and can make a lot of money serving people in this fashion. But since the government claims to be the answer to all fraud, this market is stifled. These better mechanisms have no reason to come into being when we all think we don't need them.
In a free market, retailers will be an important line of defense against fraud. If you purchase Dr Pepper at Target, and Target provides an inferior product, you'll quit buying at Target. And some entrepreneur somewhere will be able to make a profit by serving you in your desire for quality Dr Pepper. In a free market, to make money long term you have to consistently serve people well. Untrustworthy or low quality sellers can start over and over again at feedback/trustworthiness zero, but they'll never be able to cater to those who want to spend more money with retailers who have a proven track record for quality and honesty.
Boycotts have been organized over and over again to try to influence the marketplace. Many of these have had wonderful effects, including winning liberty in some cases. But far, far more of these boycotts fizzle and die out, forgotten. It's hard to motivate people to quit purchasing a product or service that serves their needs or desires. BUT, if a seller is providing an inferior product, defrauding its customers, the response will be more powerful than any boycott. That fraudster will see demand for its service or product plummet as people go to someone else who can do the job honestly. He'll either go out of business entirely, or cater only to people who are willing to deal with cheap quality knockoffs or shoddy work in order to save a few bucks.
I mentioned credit cards in conjunction with ebay, above. Credit cards have given another great example of market-based protection against fraud. Most credit cards have an agreement with their cardholders whereby they guarantee purchases. Get ripped off online by someone who accepted your card, and your card company will often give you your money back and get it back from the fraudster themselves. They have an incentive to be honest in these matters: if they allow cardholders to get away with fake claims, there will be a market among merchants for a more honest service. On the other hand, if they allow merchants to get away with fraud, there will be a market for a more honest service to cardholders. This is a spectacular example of how justice (the service our courts claim to provide and our government monopolizes) can be provided on the free market!
It's nice to think that government can provide us a world where we can trust everybody, but it's a pipe dream. In case you haven't noticed, we can't even trust our government. When we swallow the lie involved here, we trust people more than we should. Maybe this means we buy Dr Pepper that isn't as good. Or maybe it means something more serious: maybe we trust that since the childcare provider we are contracting with is licensed by the state, they are trustworthy. If we're trusting them at unnaturally high levels, we're going to find more childcare providers that molest children than we would in the real world, where we know that government can't solve all our problems.
Should we agree when people say that because people are untrustworthy we must have government to protect us? No! The very opposite is true: because people are untrustworthy, we need to eliminate monopoly government and allow the free market to build better mechanisms of establishing trust and fighting fraud.
One common baseline cited for libertarians to agree on is that government power should be limited to only the power to defend against force and fraud.
If every single person laid down their arms and followed the law of Jesus Christ, He would be king, and we would obviously have no need of governments. There would be no evil to punish. There would be no evildoers to defend against. Every single person could submit to the rule of Christ, placing themselves in His kingdom, the Church, under the guiding authority of Godly shepherds (also called bishops, overseers, pastors, or elders) to watch for their souls and warn them if they began to go wrong.
It's obvious that what I say in this blog could work, if only everyone would follow it.
But it's also obvious that not everyone will. This world will always contain evil people, probably always predominantly evil people.
So in the meantime, should Christians lay down their arms and stop using government force? Or do they have an obligation to use government as a tool to try to make this fallen world as livable as possible?
Remember that God is in control. If God has commanded that we not govern non-Christians, then we must submit even if it looks like this does not work, just as Abraham submitted to God when required to kill his son, the only possible ancestor of the great multitudes of descendants God had promised him. Faith means trusting God even when it seems obvious that God's wisdom is flawed, because we know the truth, that God's wisdom may appear foolishness (I Corinthians 2), but God is trustworthy.
As long as sin exists in this world, God can and does use governments as His agent to punish evil (Romans 13). "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes." (Proverbs 21:1) God will still use evil rulers to bring about His perfect will, just as He used evil Nebuchadnezzar of wicked Babylon to punish His rebellious people in the Old Testament. (And tried desperately to save Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel, I might add, before finally executing vengeance on Babylon for their sins.) He certainly does not need our participation in the evil deeds that governments inherently commit!
In fact, the Bible explicitly teaches us to leave all of these things in the hand of the Lord: "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:19) Strangely enough, God goes on to talk about government in the next chapter. So God has specifically told us to trust Him to protect us from evil, and not to attempt to punish evil ourselves. What could be more clear? Stop governing. Leave room for the wrath of God.
My morning Psalms reading encompassed Psalm 53. I'm accustomed to the King James Version translation of this, which in verse one reads, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good." But I read the New American Standard Bible translation, which reads, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God,' They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good."
That word "injustice" surprised me this morning. I knew that Psalm talked about people committing iniquity: lawlessness, breaking the laws of God. But today I'm reading a translation that says this Psalm talks about people committing a particular type of iniquity: injustice.
Injustice is denying people the justice that is due to them.
And let me tell you that there is no bigger source of injustice in this world today than governments.
Governments take what does not belong to them. This is the sin of stealing, but they call it taxation. The Bible commands us to pay taxes when required of us. Romans 13:6 says that our taxes are rightfully collected from us when government defends us from those who do evil, whom verse 10 refers to as those who "do harm to a neighbor." But this verse does not authorize us to force others to pay for our defense! It does not authorize us personally to take the action of taxing others! In the complete absence of government force, human institutions would still exist that punish evildoers. They would just be funded without the sin of stealing. These funds could probably also be called "taxes," but they would not involve the injustice that exists today, where people authorize agents to commit the sin of stealing in their behalf. God has placed a sword into the hands of government, not into the hands of His Son's Church, which is explicitly commanded not to judge anyone outside of its number (I Corinthians 5).
Governments punish people for doing things that are not wrong. Isaiah pronounced "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20) Governments authorize themselves to perform evil actions, such as counterfeiting, restricting the liberty of free speech (this may not seem like a big deal, but did you know that our government revokes a church's tax exempt status if they start preaching specific actions which people must take about politics?), manstealing, and raising other people's children. In so doing, they are calling evil things good. (Only when they do it, though.)
Meanwhile, governments punish people for doing things that are not wrong. You need look only to the early modern homeschoolers who went to jail for trying to take control of the education of their children. Or the civil rights activists of the 1960's. Or anyone who ever practiced civil disobedience. Or anyone who gets fined in my town for holding a sale on his own property without paying the government for authorization, or for holding a fifth sale (I think we're allowed only four). Or the myriads of sinful and unjust licensing and regulatory requirements, such as the electrical code which I was told currently requires an electrical outlet in a strange, unsafe, and nearly unreachable place behind sinks when they are installed a certain way, and authorizes the local government to fine violaters (at its option, which means this can be enforced completely capriciously and arbitrarily, or even used as a tool against people who aren't favored by the local authorities for some reason). Thus, government calls good evil.
Nowhere in Scripture is government authorized to make law. And certainly nowhere are Christians authorized to participate, even though we are commanded to submit. As A.B. Dada says, "Personally, I think the 'live by their rules' [teaching of Romans 13] is far different from 'make the rules, and cheer when they're enforced.'"
God appointed kings and judges in His Old Testament nation, but it was clear that they were not permitted to take any action they wanted with impunity. They were required to render just verdicts in disputes. They were told they would be punished by God Himself if they accepted bribes, let the guilty go free, or sided against the innocent. God knew full well that a multitude might get together and choose to do evil and pervert justice (Exodus 23:2), might give unfair favoritism to poor people over rich people (Exodus 23:3), might sin against property owners because of covetousness, or might favor those who could afford to buy exemptions from the law (Exodus 23:8). Then as now, rulers could bow to the will of the people, or choose to abuse power for their own desires.
People think the "rule of law" was a great modern invention, where nobody is above the law and even governing officials are accountable to it, rather than simply changing the law as they please. But God invented this. It was revealed in Scripture, in both the Old Testament and the New. In fact, God's Law predated everything; I believe it is written into the very fabric of the universe in such a way that if we do not obey it, we will face inescapable natural consequences. We have no need of human institutions that can define law. We have no need of legislatures. What is wrong is wrong, and always has been; what is right is right, and always has been; and these are immutable truths which can be revealed by God and discovered by man, but never altered by human agency! And where is our rule of law now? Are our rulers also accountable to the law? Or are they permitted to make it up and modify it as they choose?
I'm not being outlandish in saying that government is the biggest perpetrator of injustice in this world. That does not mean it is the only source of injustice. But it does mean that it should be treated like any other.
What is my responsibility when I see other people sinning in this manner? Firstly, to warn them (Ezekiel 33). I am to be preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including the moral standards He laid down for all people to follow. But second, my responsibility includes recognizing that any mandate to judge them ends outside of the church: I Corinthians 5 specifically says that God will judge those outside. So I warn those involved in the evil that God is going to judge them, and if they do not listen and seek forgiveness in Jesus Christ, I eventually have a responsibility not to waste any more time with them and to protect myself from retaliation (Matthew 7:6, Matthew 10:14-15). Finally, I have the responsibility to make sure that I myself do not participate in their evil deeds! (Galatians 6:1) It should be obvious from the get-go that even if God allows people to persist in these sins of injustice, even if He works it to His own positive ends, I am not permitted to be a part of it. There is only one person I can control, and that is me. When I stand before the Lord at the end of my life, I will give an account for the actions I took. If I cooperated in perpetrating injustice, I will discover that I was a fool, a man who may not have been an atheist, but who effectively said in my heart "there is no God" by breaking God's law and believing that God would not hold me accountable.
The following is shamelessly copied from The Ultimate Pro-WalMart Article, by Paul Kirklin, at The Ludwig von Mises Institute. Google says I've accessed this article from search results five times since August 14th. :) Today makes the sixth.
We're dealing with insurance problems right now. Our employer-provided insurance doesn't want to pay claims they are obligated by agreement to pay. I'm spending way too much unproductive time researching what they've done and calling them back.
I know that the reason insurance companies can be like this is because of government intervention. YES, insurance companies seek profit, as do all people, including people who complain about "evil, greedy" insurance companies. The difference is that with government help, you can often make profit by exploiting people, but without the mighty sword of government, in a free market, the only way to make sustainable profits is to serve people. If all civil laws related to medical care were repealed, including all laws related to medical insurance, the behavior of insurance companies would improve more than one thousand fold. Of course, a completely different class of more honorable people might be attracted to the industry as the change occurred. :)
Here's the excerpt. Below this paragraph, nothing is my own words:
Wal-Mart improves access to healthcare by raising the real incomes of all the millions of people who are its customers or the customers of its competitors, whose prices are lower because of its powerful competition. This allows people to be able to afford healthcare more easily than they otherwise could.
In spite of this fact, another one of the Wal-Mart critics' favorite complaints is that Wal-Mart "reduces access to healthcare." The Wal-Mart critics believe this because Wal-Mart does not offer substantial healthcare benefits to all its employees. Employees who don't have substantial healthcare benefits are often unable to afford healthcare on their own, and thus they are left with little or no access to healthcare. Wal-Mart is blamed for their plight since the company is allegedly capable of offering more healthcare benefits but chooses not to. In part the critics are right; access to healthcare is becoming more problematic, but this is not caused by Wal-Mart or by "corporate greed." It is the result of an irrational healthcare system that causes us all to suffer, including Wal-Mart.
"Wal-Mart has made the system ingenious so its employees don't have to be."
This is not an article on the problems in our healthcare system. So I can only deal with that subject very briefly here. Many people are under the false impression that employers are responsible for the healthcare costs of their employees. The reason that so many people have this misconception is due to government intervention. For several decades, the government has put pressures — mainly powerful tax incentives — on companies to offer healthcare as a fringe-benefit. It has artificially created a system in which it is cheaper for an employer to purchase healthcare for an employee than for that employee to buy healthcare for himself with take-home wages. This has caused healthcare fringe-benefits to become so widespread for so long that most people have forgotten that they are fringe-benefits (i.e., an alternate way to pay wages.) Instead, many people incorrectly believe that healthcare benefits for employees are a moral duty of employers in addition to wages. But healthcare costs are not the responsibility of employers any more than the costs of food or clothing or anything else are.
The disastrous byproduct of healthcare fringe-benefits being offered on such a widespread basis is that healthcare costs have become collectivized. Employers cannot directly pay unlimited amounts for all the healthcare any employee would ever desire, so instead they routinely contribute amounts into employee health "insurance" policies. Employees spend money for healthcare out of giant pools of these contributions. If employees bought healthcare with take-home wages, they would have no reason to collectivize all their healthcare costs in health insurance policies. Many employees would get health insurance for catastrophic events, but not for routine health expenses.
Unfortunately, collectivization turns economic progress on its head. Healthcare is a product of human labor. Just as we can improve our ability to produce all other products through increases in productivity, we can improve our ability to produce healthcare. The same market mechanisms that caused television sets to become increasingly better and more affordable can cause all healthcare to become increasingly better and more affordable. But instead of becoming more and more inexpensive as time goes by, healthcare in our country is becoming more and more expensive, a typical result of collectivization. Since money for healthcare is spent out of giant pools of contributions, for the most part, people don't feel any direct financial effects from their healthcare expenditures. Therefore, an individual has little reason to show any restraint in his healthcare spending, and few people do when they know "insurance is paying for it." Furthermore, there is no limiting force on prices of healthcare. Healthcare providers want prices going up higher and higher without limit, and healthcare buyers who don't feel the direct financial effects of buying healthcare have no reason to exert pressure on providers to keep prices down. Mainly for these reasons, healthcare costs are sharply rising.
"Many people are under the false impression that employers are responsible for the healthcare costs of their employees."
The fundamental problem with access to healthcare in this country has nothing to do with employers who may or may not choose to offer healthcare fringe-benefits in the face of sharply rising healthcare costs. The fundamental problem is: healthcare costs are sharply rising.
As healthcare costs rise, it will become increasingly difficult for companies and individuals to afford, and paying for it will become more of a drag on the rest of the economic system. The sensible solution is not to pressure companies like Wal-Mart to attempt to clean up the government's mess by dumping more and more money into the bottomless pit of healthcare collectivization as it gets more expensive. The sensible solution is to eliminate healthcare collectivization altogether, the cause of sharply rising healthcare costs. We must get the government out of healthcare, and we must expose as false the idea that employers have a moral duty to provide for their employees' healthcare costs. In the absence of government pressure, healthcare collectivization would end. Healthcare fringe-benefits would be dramatically reduced, take-home wages would increase, health insurance would be used primarily for catastrophic events, and most people would buy healthcare with take-home wages just as they buy almost everything else with take-home wages. Most importantly, the healthcare industry would get back on a path of economic progress, and healthcare would become increasingly better and more affordable for everyone as time went by.
I just updated my blog template, moving around the headline sections on the right. I've carried Lew Rockwell headlines since I started this blog. Recently I learned that LewRockwell.com carries weekly, monthly, and annual top ten article pages. Since I don't have time to read every single LRC daily article (alas), these are pretty useful to me. And since I am a programmer, I knew how to create my own headline newsfeeds off of these pages.
So now my sidebar carries the Lew Rockwell weekly top ten most popular headlines. The daily headlines are down lower.
And I should mention that over time I've created a lot of such newsfeeds that might be of interest to libertarian-minded, liberty-minded, or anarcho-capitalist-minded people. You can read these feeds with feed reading software such as Google Reader, which I highly recommend. Here's a list:
- This blog
- This blog's comments
- My shared items feed from Google Reader, bringing you frequent updates of items I found interesting and relevant to the liberty-minded. And here it is as a webpage.
- A.B. Dada's comments on Slashdot
- John Stossel's syndicated columns
- Lew Rockwell monthly ten most popular articles
- Lew Rockwell weekly ten most popular articles
- Lew Rockwell yearly ten most popular articles (yes, you'll have to wait a long time for this one to update to something new :) )
- Lysander's Ghost, a friend of mine who helped me see that God required me to have a righteous attitude toward "public policy"
- Strike the Root
- The Chalcedon Foundation, a religious institution calling for self-government and voluntary submission to God
- Walter Williams columns: Walter Williams is a brilliant minarchist economist. You may have often heard him substitute for Rush Limbaugh on his radio program. Williams is responsible for teaching me that governments do not get a pass to break God's laws such as Thou Shalt Not Steal.
- Thomas Sowell columns: Sowell is another bright minarchist economist. He's a little more "conservative" and a little less "libertarian" than Williams
The Right to Ignore the State, by Herbert Spencer, is tough reading (Spencer died in 1903). It takes work to get through what it says, assembling the meaning of complex sentences from difficult words, and then following the train of logic from sentence to sentence.
But I found that Spencer said, eloquently and intelligently, exactly what I believe to be true.
Leftist politicians are abandoning the word "liberal" in favor of the word "progressive." Of course, they pretend they are fighting to restore the original definition of "liberal," which meant being in favor of freedom, which they definitely are not. But as we know, it's politically expedient to claim that things which are not freedom and liberty actually are freedom and liberty. Like democracy, for example.
I know a bunch of libertarians who would love to have the word back. That's what it used to mean. Of course, it's truly bizarre to see advocates of religious faith in government like Hillary Clinton pretend to care that liberal doesn't mean liberty anymore.
I'm fine with them labelling themselves progressives. I just hope there will always be an extremely large number of people like me around to point out that the "progress" that they want is totalitarian. What this world does NOT need is just the "right" leaders in charge so that we can finally make "progress." True progress would be liberty.
A couple of years ago my local city politics had a group calling itself "Moving [our city] Forward." I opposed it, of course. What utter dreck! You'll never hear a politician who doesn't say things along the lines of "a vote for me is a vote for moving forward; I just think we need to move forward," etc.
Free human beings don't define "moving forward" like a collective, like a communist nation, like the Borg. The only meaningful definition of "progress" at the government level is the progressive elimination of government itself. Want to make progress today? Call one of your agents in government and tell them to stop doing anything, and especially to stop taking money from your neighbors and telling them what they can and cannot do. And convince your neighbors to do the same. Help build a world where we don't gladly hand out the reigns of tyranny to people who promise to make the most "progress." That would be a world where anyone who stands up and says "put me in charge, I'll help us make progress" doesn't get a single vote.
What would anarcho-capitalism look like, if we had it? How would it work? How would we solve all the problems that government now solves for us? It is easy to see how the need met by such things as government postal delivery might be met. It is not so easy to see how defense would be handled, or how we would be protected against tyranny.
Many people love the original Constitutional United States government system because they believe it to be the best system mankind has discovered for protecting liberty. Often you'll see such good patriots attempting to educate today's public about the fact that the U.S. system is not a democracy; it is instead the superior system of a Republic. Of course, in practice our system has been attempting to devolve from republic to democracy, and from there to socialism (did you ever know a Communist nation that didn't like to refer to itself as "The People's Democratic Socialist Republic of [Region]?"). And personally I think the similarities between republic and democracy are greater than their differences. But I do agree that Republican government was a great protection for liberty, and a great check against tyranny.
History has produced a long list of such checks against tyranny:
- the rule of law
- Constitutional government
- law applying to the ruler as well as the ruled
- republicanism (not the political party, the form of government)
- separation of powers
- bills of rights
- checks and balances
In the end, though, none of these is sufficient to guarantee liberty is never violated. And in fact some of them don't work nearly as well as advertised. And unfortunately many of them get equated with "liberty." Right now we say we want to spread "democracy," and we act as if that means spreading "liberty." The very definition of democracy is actually incompatible with liberty.
Anarcho-capitalism surpasses them all. And what's more, anarcho-capitalism actually is liberty.
I think a Republic was a great advance and a great protection for liberty, but in the end I think it always devolves again into tyranny. I do not believe one government can check itself, even if you have separation of powers. I believe governments can only be checked by the people, or by other governments.
Being checked by the people has always been a part of government's existence, even under tyranny, even since the first raiders rode into a peaceful town and proclaimed themselves kings. The government takes a lot from its people, in the form of liberty and resources. It loudly gives a large portion back in the form of services. They give enough back to keep the people from revolting, and this keeps their power and income sources secure. It's a little more civilized under a Republic, thankfully.
This necessity that government be checked by the people is always the reason for the need for the rights granted by the US second amendment to be secure and absolute. I know a lot of people think the 2nd amendment is about hunting (I used to), or personal defense against local criminals (I used to think that, too), but the reason the founders talked about was the need to protect from the main criminals of history: government.
The second way of checking government is why a Republic is not the greatest hope for human government, and anarcho-capitalism is. Under such a system, every person would have the right to secede from their government, as well as the right to form new governments within the same territory. Noone would have the right to compel anyone to be a citizen of their government; government would be by true contract. If a government became tyrannical to its citizens, they could form a new one (or several) to protect themselves from its depradations. If a government acted tyrannical to those who were not its citizens, they could protect themselves by forming their own government. And this is pretty much exactly what the Declaration of Independence says, that government is an institution with the special purpose of securing rights, and that all people have the right to form such an institution as seems best to them (though I doubt Jefferson envisioned multiple such institutions in the same geographic region).
Noone has the right to do that which is wrong, not even governing officials, and in all history the biggest threat to man's rights has been the government; therefore the most pressing reason to form a government is to protect its citizens from another government. Under our present system government does much which is wrong. As it exists, taxation is simply legalized theft (indeed, the government is simply a group that has a monopoly on breaking laws such as this with impunity), and much of the rest of what governments do is simply legalized slavery. Under a system of anarcho-capitalism this could not be the case. A government's only citizens would be people who had explicitly agreed to its terms, which would include whatever fees the previous citizens or founders had deemed necessary. Governments could actually compete for citizens by trying to offer the best protection for the best price.
People who wanted to keep the existing institution, the United States federal government, could do so. They could support it with their taxes, pledge their allegiance to it and salute its flag, think of it as the greatest country on earth, and everything they want to do now. They just couldn't compel other people to do so, and they'd have to allow their children to make the decision for themselves when they grew up, and they certainly couldn't force everyone who lived in their land after they died to be bound to the same institution for hundreds of years or forever. They'd have to grant everyone else the right to be free.
I'm going to say something you might not have realized anarcho-capitalists believed: we do need government. At least, we need to have our rights protected, and we need to create institutions to do that for the common good. What we don't need is to take away the rights of other people in order to protect that for ourselves. Government as it exists today rests on the premise that you and I cannot protect ourselves unless we force other people to furnish the means and manpower to do it, and to surrender complete allegiance to our system and any decisions it makes as well. This is not true! It might provide some form of protection, but it is inferior to what could be developed in a world of true freedom, it weakens the foundations of society by making us interact together in forced ways rather than those we would naturally choose, and it damages our economy because of the damage to our freedom, resulting in decreased wealth and therefore decreased capacity for the very defense we were trying to achieve, as well as decreased capacity to enjoy the fruit of our labors.
If the state is such a good thing, why don't we just have one of them? For the entire world.
When I was younger, I accepted all the good things people told me states were responsible for. Civilization would be impossible without them. States were the only way people could be protected. States provided needed services that couldn't be obtained in any other way, such as roads, schools, and certification of income tax preparation experts. Through democracy, states permitted completely diverse groups of people to peacefully coexist and cooperate and form civilization, in a way that would be impossible without a government. And through federalism local groups of people could have their own local government but still share the benefits of a common state.
So why in the world did the earth have many nations? Obviously the best thing in the world would be for every existing nation in the world to become a state in the United States. And then we'd all live happily ever after, or so I naively thought.
The reality is that the state is pretty much only a good thing when it is protecting us from the next level up, and/or the rest of the world. Increasing centralization wrecks the structures that man creates through the voluntary association of the free market. And unfortunately our trend is toward increasing centralization of everything. Apparently a lot of people still believe what I believed as a boy. I wonder why those same people still want nations to retain their sovereignty? If their logic is true, they should accept that one government would be good for everybody.
In the early united states, education was the private decision of each household. Near universal literacy prevailed. Then education was assumed by the community, then the state, and now finally the federal government (a federal government legally prohibited from doing so by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). It's only gotten worse, but at each stage flaws in the system have been used as justification for fixing things at the next higher level. Somehow making only one decision instead of fifty is supposed to magically work better. Somehow federal government is a magic realm where people can solve problems they can't solve in states. Somehow state government is a magic realm where people can solve problems they can't solve in cities or counties. Somehow government in general is a magic realm where people can solve problems they can't solve on the free market. Remember the big lie: the risk of leaving this up to people we don't control is too great.
Health care tells the same story as education, and so do a thousand other issues.
Morally, why should people in New York have the right to tell people in Kansas what to do? Why should people in Houston have the right to tell people in Dallas what to do? Why should people on the north side of Boston have the right to tell people on the south side of Boston what to do? Why should a household in Denver, Colorado have the right to tell the household living next door to them what to do? The answer is that they don't, and in fact when they do the economy produces less than it would have if left alone.
Somehow people can see that it wouldn't do to have people in China telling America what to do. Somehow they can even see that it wouldn't do to have people in England telling America what to do. Why then don't they follow that logic through to its obvious conclusion: any such institution which compels people to obey it, rather than protecting those who voluntarily join it, is immoral and damaging? If it's a bad idea for America to give up its sovereignty to a one world government, it's a bad idea Wyoming to give up its sovereignty to Washington, D.C., and it's a bad idea for Muncie, Indiana to give up its sovereignty to Indianapolis, Indiana, and it's a bad idea for the household on the north side of town to give up its sovereignty to city hall.
An institution that protects us from possible violation of our rights by other people, including by other people in institutions called states, is a good thing. In fact, it is so much of a good thing that I think we should have several of them, competing with each other, and you should choose which one you want to belong to (hire), or several if you choose and they are still willing to serve you under such an arrangment.
But compelling other people to be a member of your institution is wrong. Compelling your children to be a member of your institution after they are grown and emancipated (and even after you are dead) is wrong. The Americans of 1789 created an institution to protect their rights. (They had earlier declared their right to do this in 1776. Interestingly enough, at the same time they declared the rights of man to abolish such institutions and replace them with new ones that they thought would better secure their rights.) But creating this government in 1789 didn't obligate people who were born after 1889 to keep the agreement. (Especially since it's now conveniently reinterpreted and ignored.)
Right now the basic message defining our system of government is: "I can't protect myself from violation of my rights unless I violate your rights and compel you to help me." The reality is that individuals can protect their rights, and when they can't they can band together voluntarily in many ways to do so. The household that perceives some benefit to a local rights protecting organization can join it voluntarily, just as the household that perceives some benefit to shopping at the grocery store can shop there voluntarily.
Once upon a time, people had to barter in order to trade. If you raised chickens and needed butter, you had to take a chicken to a dairy farmer and hope he needed chickens, and hope he'd give you enough butter that you wouldn't be shortchanged for your chicken, and hope you could find a use for all the extra butter, because it's hard to make change for a live chicken.
Then the free market discovered money, and if you haven't read the book I just linked to on the words "discovered money," I encourage you to leave my site immediately and go read it before finishing here, because the information there is more important than just about anything I have to say. The free market selected gold and silver as its two forms of money for several natural reasons, and soon anybody could make a better living by exchanging what they produced for money and then exchanging money for what they wanted or needed.
Of course, when you accepted a gold or silver coin as payment for something valuable you produced, you wanted to make sure you didn't get shortchanged, and you therefore wanted to make sure that you really got the amount of gold or silver you were promised. If you'll go bankrupt producing chickens for a half an ounce of gold each, then you want to make sure the one ounce gold coin you've been given really does contain an ounce of gold.
So the minting business arose and created spectacular innovations to protect its customers: gold and silver ("money") was turned into coins for portable convenience. A coin would be a uniform shape and size and contain a uniform amount of precious metal. The precious metal would be alloyed with a uniform amount of base metal in order to make the coin more durable so that the precious metal wouldn't wear away. (I have made the incredibly expensive and stupid mistake of dropping a United States gold bullion coin on my ceramic tile floor. Gold bullion coins are way too pure to be used in general circulation; there is very little base metal in them. The coin in question suffered ugly dents and little flecks of gold were seen flaking off from those dents.) The edges of the coin would be reeded so that if anyone tried to clip precious metal off the edges (do this often enough and you can make a new coin!) it would be obvious that the coin no longer contained its stated quantity of gold or silver ("money"). And the mints stamped the coins with their own seals or other indicator, giving them the chance to build a reputation for reliable coins. In Joachimsthal, now in the Czech Republic, one particular mint did such a good job that the name of its world-renowned silver coin, the Joachimsthaler, became the standard for other coins and eventually became the generic name for coins of the same weight and composition. The Joachimsthaler became the Thaler, which became the Dollar. (And then the United States government appeared and assassinated the dollar, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)
The free market therefore managed to provide the best possible protection against being cheated in money. If you didn't provide just weights and a just balance, people would actually find out, word would get around, and people would be visiting your competitors.
But liberty dies on a lie, and this is the lie: government persuaded everyone that the risk of adulterated or counterfeit money (gold and silver, remember) on the free market was too great. Despite the fact that the very best in money protection had been innovated by the free market, the government told people that this was not enough, that their money was at risk, and that they could magically help. You see after liberty is mortally wounded by the first lie, and that is that government is somehow a magic organization of people that can do what people organized in other ways cannot: protect you from the unacceptable risk of adulterated money.
And so the government had "proved" that it naturally must have a monopoly on the money supply. The government became the sole supplier of coins. Now money was government certified, and finally everybody could trust it. They could trust it so well the government hoped they didn't even find it necessary to check it. And it wasn't long until every time the government got its hands on a coin that the coin was clipped, or melted down and mixed with more base metal than it was supposed to have, in order to give the government more coins and trick people, for a while at least, into accepting less payment for the product of their hard work which government desired. So the government lied about protecting people and then perpetrated the same harm on those people. Sadly, one definition of government is a group of people with a monopoly on breaking the law. Note that in this case, the law already existed before the government even regulated the issue: private sellers have an incentive to keep just weights and a just balance; the government does not, especially when it comes to the money supply.
The big lie isn't just about money. Everywhere government tells the same story in order to kill liberty and expand its own power: there is a danger, and the risk of this danger is unacceptably great, and even though the government is just a bunch of people with fancy hats and titles they are somehow magically able to protect against this danger in a way that people organized in other fashions cannot.
Parents can't select who will teach their children; only somebody certified by the government should be allowed to do that! (And if parents want to teach their children by themselves, heaven forbid, we simply must regulate the situation and insist that the parents are certified.) It's too dangerous for people to simply select their own health care providers; the state must certify certain people as "doctors" and only they should be allowed to practice medicine. Food could contain dangerous additives and the government must look it over. Noone would preserve great natural wonders or historic monuments if the government didn't take care of them, with your money. The roads would be a warzone if we didn't license drivers. If government doesn't step in to regulate cheese, somebody might sell a lesser-quality cheese under the same name, or an identical-quality cheese from a different location which people would buy instead of the real thing, or people might even begin to think that quality is subjective. Chances are, you felt a gut feeling of agreement with some of these sentences.
Of course one of the biggest dangers to the state is the idea that anybody should be allowed to read the law and have their own opinion on it, and so practicing law without a license is of course completely forbidden.
Are there real dangers if the state isn't allowed to regulate and certify things? Yes, there are. As I showed above, in the realm of money the the free market protected against these dangers better than the government, though. Lord willing, I will later blog on two ways in which the free market protects against such dangers in general.
I was going to title this post "Three reasons not to vote." But actually, I do vote, just in a very unorthodox way that I have found to register my disapproval of the system. So here are three reasons not to vote. Much. Or at least, not in a normal way.
It's ineffective: Change is never going to come by this route. I voted Republican in 2000 and 2004 because I believed in smaller government. It didn't work. Even when your candidate wins you don't get what you want. (Even if you wanted bigger government you wouldn't get what you want, because the costs of reality and the impossibility of centralized economic calculation always prevent big government planners from fulfilling all of their promises.) And the candidates always believe in expanding some portions of the government's power. (George W. Bush, for example, believed in socializing healthcare, which distressed me greatly because "we" Republicans had stood against this staunchly when Hilary Clinton wanted to try it. I compromised. May God forgive me for supporting a man who would steal from other people.) And of course all politicians believe in taxation. The history of elections in the United States has been the history of the expanse of federal power and the decline of liberty and the intent of the founders of the country. Even politicians who believe in a limit to government power seem to weaken their principles with only a short time in office; some believe this is because power is simply so intoxicating.
Meanwhile I have two avenues to effective change. As a Christian, I may have confidence that if I practice the things God requires of me, which include prayer and the preaching of the Gospel, change will occur in my life and in the lives of those who come in contact with me. If Christians really believed this we would see a dramatic decrease in the amount of time they spend discussing politics and a dramatic increase in the amount of time they spend discussing the word of God. Secondly, I may spend my time peacefully persuading people that anarcho-capitalism is best for them and best for everybody; throughout history governments of all types, tyrannical and democratic, have survived by throwing out enough "benefits" that the populace never gets mad enough about the violation of their rights and continues to support the government. Eventually as enough people cease to support the government, there is a tipping point where its power will begin to rapidly decay. Some optimists think this tipping point is very small, at somewhere near 10% or 25% of the population. All I know is I'd rather reach that than obtain a temporary majority for some flawed candidate in an election.
It legitimizes the system: When I vote for a politician, I'm saying that I pick him to represent me, to act on my behalf. As the declaration of independence says, the government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. I can delegate my right to self-defense to an agency to defend my rights. I can delegate my right to decide what to do with a portion of my land to a group that is going to pool land and use it for a particular purpose. But since I don't have a right to dictate to other people (other than requiring them to respect my rights), I therefore can't delegate to the government all of the powers it is exercising. Selecting a representative means picking a person to act as my agent. If I get together with someone and ask him to steal for me, he is acting as my agent and we are both guilty. This is government as currently practiced. This is "we the people."
Furthermore, when I've picked someone to hold the king powers for a term, I'm stuck with him, and if he doesn't do what I need or want, or what is right, it's my fault for picking him. As I said above, no person can or will use the king powers in the "right" way (there is no right way, other than using those powers to destroy themselves). But under our system, you have three options, and no matter what it's your fault:
- You can vote for your man and win. If things don't go well, it's your fault for picking the wrong man. And all the men are wrong, and things will never go well for everybody for any length of time.
- You can refrain from voting. In this case when they come to take your money your haughty voting neighbors justify their theft by saying you didn't vote and therefore you granted your consent to everything they wanted to do. I wish it were more obvious that this couldn't be more wrong, but we were all taught this in government school and almost everybody believes it. Funny, that.
- You can vote for your man and lose. In this case you have to suffer all kinds of things being done to you that you did not consent to, but you agreed to participate in this democracy and you are told you have no room to complain and should work for change within the system. What a joke.
Funny how the government keeps taking money that doesn't belong to it, keeps keeping people from using what belongs to them, keeps abusing people ... and then tells people that it is their fault, not its. When this happens between a man and a woman we call it domestic abuse. Interestingly enough in many domestic abuses the abuser tells his wife that all the bad things he does are her fault, and she often believes him. (This without loss of generality; I don't mean to imply that all abusers are men.)
Democracy is a domestic abuse situation. The people are battered. It's time to realize that we need to abandon this partner once and for all. We're not really married to him, anyway. Worst shack-up we ever made. Let's get on with our real lives.
It sacrifices real change: There were a variety of views on slavery in the 1800s. Some believed in immediate, total abolition: free all the slaves immediately, no compromises. Some believed in gradual abolition or various compromises: slowly free the slaves, slowly truncate slavery's territory, have the government buy some of them, send them back to Africa, etc. The fiery insightful abolitionists recognized the truth: if you argue for gradual change, real change may never happen. The change to anarcho-capitalism should happen now because it is right, because the current system is wrong, because it is better, because the current system is far, far worse, and because any gradual transition period would really just be another formation of the current system, which is tyrannical and wrong as well as damaging; an instant transition to doing what is right might be destabilizing, but it would actually be healthier than a tyrannically managed transition, as well as being the moral thing to do. The truth is that if you argue for complete change, what you will really get is gradual change as more and more people accept the truth. If you argue for gradual change, nothing meaningful will ever happen, and thousands of years from now we will still have all-powerful government.
Voting for "the guy who is going to shrink the government the most" or "the guy who is going to grow the government the least" may seem like the libertarian or even Christian thing to do. But the reality is that you give your approval to someone who is not going to shrink the government, someone who is going to do wrong things in your name, and you perpetuate the situation rather than sounding the message that reform must come swiftly.
As a laissez-faire capitalist, I support the privatization of everything the government does. Everything.
Unfortunately, many governments at various levels (state, local, federal) have made trials of something that they have called "privatization" without trying real privatization. Since this pseudo-privatization is really not based on letting the market work, it doesn't work to efficiently meet needs, and often people are dissatisfied and become fearful of privatization. They become more convinced than ever that government is necessary to meet our needs and is somehow magically able to do so in ways that cannot be done by voluntary self-organization. Government becomes like a powerful drug addiction that people will not turn loose of. And unfortunately those of us who aren't addicted and would like to refuse to be a part of it have no choice but to deal with the consequences anyway.
For example: suppose a city decides to "privatize" its garbage pickup. True privatization would be this: the city stops collecting the taxes and fees used to support the garbage pickup service. It sells (possibly by auction) all of the buildings, equipments, dumps, etc. that have been used in providing its service. It discontinues the service entirely. After that, the city does nothing.
Now the people have an unmet need to have their garbage hauled away. Entrepreneurs realize that the people of this town have this need and get to action because there is money to be made. Some of them obtain land and turn it into private dumps. They may contract with citizens to give them a place to take their garbage to. But of course most people don't want to haul their own garbage. So more entrepreneurs, or possibly the same ones who start the dumps, obtain vehicles and start businesses hauling garbage away to the dumps. If they don't run the dumps themselves, they contract with the people who do. Anticipating these needs, some of these entrepreneurs probably arranged to buy some of the city resources at auction. Some of them might even be people who were formerly employed by the city for garbage pickup.
Some garbage services might offer daily pickup. Others offer twice weekly pickup for a lower cost. If the garbage pickup is late (as it often is in my neighborhood under the socialized garbage pickup system we have today), people switch to a competing service. If there is no competing service, then there is money to be made starting one, and some entrepreneur may do this, starting a more reliable service that will be able to charge higher rates, assuming that people care enough to pay for a more reliable service. Some entrepreneur realizes he can save money if he creates automated garbage pickup trucks, and this service is offered. Some entrepreneur realizes his pickup service can be available on call, any day of the week, so this service is offered. Some entrepreneur realizes he can make money offering an additional service where your garbage pickup men also clean up your yard. A dynamic market forms where people are constantly seeking to do a better job of picking up the garbage because doing so makes them money.
Unfortunately, cities don't do true privatization. Instead, here's what happens: the city scraps its own garbage pickup service and puts out a request for bids from private services. The city makes ONE choice of a private service for everybody. The city might pick the cheapest service. Or it might not. You might think it's better to pick a more expensive service that's more reliable. Or you might prefer to do it as cheap as possible. Either way, your individual preferences, and those of your neighbors, are not likely to be respected. The city might not even use price and quality of service to make its decision: the contract might go to the mayor's brother-in-law. Cronyism. (You'll note that such a situation can't occur under the true privatization scenario, where if somebody picks his brother-in-law he has to live with the consequences himself and can't impose them on other people.)
And of course the city signs a two year contract with the service provider. Lock in.
The garbage pickup company now has a lucrative government-granted monopoly. They'll pick up the garbage. But if they are late once in a while, their customers can't fire them. If they were in a free market, their customers would vacate them one by one at their own pace. But a city government cannot possibly react that fast, and may be locked in by a contract any way. The garbage pickup company has no incentive to come up with new services, or make its existing service better to customers. They just have to make sure they do the worst and cheapest job possible without making enough people angry enough to call the city council that the city council actually reacts strongly enough to affect their bottom line.
As more and more cities "privatize," such companies grow fatter, bigger, and less responsive. There's no market for little, agile, companies to spring up and meet needs with a fresher more energetic approach, because nobody has the money to consider switching to an alternative to the city monopoly service.
This, my friends, is what your government calls "privatization." But the truth is that it is socialism. You are meeting your needs as a collective, not individually. The city gets to brand the failures of a system that is collectivism, socialism, communism as if it were the failures of privatization, the free market, capitalism.
Over and over governments use this technique to brainwash you into fearing the free market. They make you and your neighbors fearful of what would happen if you didn't have the government to take care of your needs. You might sometimes notice that the government doesn't do a very good job of meeting some needs, but you'll be too afraid that without the government doing the job (complete with compulsory funding and compulsory participation) things would be worse to consider that there might be an alternative. And they'll try to work hard to meet enough needs that nobody gets too unhappy, as governments have since the first conquerer rode into the first conquered peaceful community and proclaimed himself "king." Like those kings, the governments will use its successes and what few services it does provide as propaganda to show people how benevolent their government is and how it helps them in ways that could never be done by ordinary people working together on their own accord.
By the way, you'll see the same thing with "deregulation." Deregulation means getting rid of the regulations. Governments never do this. But they will eliminate a couple of rules, possibly making others, and they'll take the opportunity to make a lot of noise about how great they are for trying "deregulation," just before the new system fails. Perhaps dramatically, as in the case of the California energy crisis, spawned by "deregulation." Of course, when you look at such failures, you never actually see a market without regulations. You see a situation where companies where regulated to the hilt and then suddenly allowed to set their own prices, or you see a situation where a government granted monopoly was suddenly forced to produce and sell its services at a forced price, possibly below cost, to new competitors. Of course these systems fail, but they don't represent a failure of freedom.
Right now, the Whole Foods Market chain is trying to buy the Wild Oats chain. This is an honorable move: Whole Foods is exchanging money that it has earned through serving society for a business with the consent of the owners of that business. Other than that, it's nobody else's business.
But the federal government is attempting to stop the trade. The federal government does not own Wild Oats, and therefore if they attempt to force their way on the subject, they are effectively stealing Wild Oats and/or Whole Foods. They may permit the true owners of these companies to retain some ownership rights, but as long as these owners have to get permission from some other party to do as they wish with what is their own, they are no longer truly owners, but instead stewards appointed by the true owners: government.
And that government says that it is representing you and me. I don't own a single share of either company. Do you? Could you explain why your agents are harassing these free citizens? If it's not moral for you to tell Wild Oats who they can and cannot sell their company to, then how did you delegate that authority to the government that is acting on your behalf and claims to derive its authority from you?
You can find a lot of writing demonstrating what a bad idea it is to allow government to forbid mergers and acquisitions that arise naturally in a free market. It harms all of us. But assuming you're a Christian reader, shouldn't it be enough to just know that God does not give us dominion over the property of other people, instead commanding us "Thou shalt not steal?"
You can also find Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's blog and read the case he makes, that Whole Foods purchasing Wild Oats will help, not harm, consumers. Of course it will help them! Whole Foods cannot make money without helping consumers. That's how businesses get consumers to give them money. The alternative is to steal the money, which can be accomplished by direct force or by using one's government to enact laws and use force indirectly. Isn't it strange that the government says it's a bad thing when Whole Foods tries to serve people, but says it's a good thing when they (the government) restrict private property rights and the free market and damage the market's ability to help people?
"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil." (Isaiah 5:20)
Problem: "people wrongly believe that the world is dirtier and less healthy today than in the past."
Problem: "they blame capitalism."
Reality: "the free market is the greatest cleanser and disinfectant of the environment — the most successful pollution fighter that the world has ever known."
How many people can America support?
Okay, now that you've answered, how do you know that your answer is correct? What reasoning lies behind it? Is there any other rational reasoning process that could lead to a different result?
America today is far wealthier, healthier, resource-rich, and spacious than it was a century ago. Our ability to absorb immigrants is greater than ever. There's one reasoning process, and it makes perfect sense to me.
Of course, the fact is that the correct answer will be decided by the free market, if it's not injured and deprived of its free and moral character by regulation and socialism. And for that matter, a free market will be able to absorb more people, anyway, because it creates wealth and prosperity. But the thing you should realize is that you really have no idea how to decide how many people can be absorbed into our economy, and therefore you shouldn't seek to impose policy based on your estimate on everyone else.
Admittedly I liked the Transformers as a boy (I think every boy who was my age did). And admittedly I'm excited about the upcoming movie, which will be released tomorrow. And I'm particularly excited that Peter Cullen, the voice of the original Optimus Prime, will be reprising his role.
Optimus Prime was presented as the ultimate hero. He was completely noble, with perfectly pure motives. In multiple versions of the Transformers story (the cartoon and the comic books carried completely different stories, and the movie is starting yet another new version) that purity and nobility led him to give his life to save others. Sometimes multiple times -- it's science fiction, and that kind of thing happens.
Now as an adult I can ask serious questions like "Is it really good for kids to invest so much hero-worship in a fictional character, and an animated one at that?" And "if I'm using the word hero-worship, should I be a little worried, theologically?" And I definitely don't hold up Optimus Prime as the supreme example of morality, as I might've been more inclined to do at age seven or so. Obviously some people took Optimus Prime very seriously as a role model. And I confess I just bought a Softimus Prime for my second boy's first birthday. Probably he'll mostly just chew on it, not view it as a role model. (But it really transforms!)
But Optimus Prime got a lot of great heroic lines, and some of them taught good morality. And one of them forms the basis of my slogan for the work I do through this weblog and my writings and conversations elsewhere: "Secession is the right of all sentient beings."
Prime's original slogan was "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings." What a great 80's American slogan, huh? :) No wonder Optimus Prime is conspicuously colored in red, white and blue. But the American ideology of freedom is a good one. At least when you mean true freedom, the ideology of the founders, not the ideology of today where we pretend that "democracy" means "freedom" instead of "everybody voting on taking turns violating freedom."
In our world we don't have freedom, because we're missing a particular right. Without that right, freedom is meaningless. Ironically, tomorrow, the day the Transformers movie comes out, is the day that we have set aside for the past 231 years to celebrate men exercising that right: the right to secede. But today we have eliminated that right, and we brainwash children to create a public that actually thinks that not having that right is a foundation of freedom. The mind boggles.
The founders recognized that government was not an institution that magically deserved blind obedience from its subjects. The Declaration of Independence specifically states that government is an institution created by men in order to protect rights. It states that people are free and have the right to abolish and reform that government and create their own whenever the government isn't securing their rights. And when people do establish their government, nothing permits them to commit their descendants to give that government perpetual fealty, generation after generation. Nothing permits them to take away their descendants' rights as expressed in the Declaration of July 4, 1776.
How many things can you name that your government does that do not secure rights? Will your government recognize your right to secede? And if you want to stay with your government, will you recognize the right of other people to make a different choice?
Optimus Prime teaches children that all sentient beings, anything that can think, anything which, as the Christian might say, "has a soul" deserves freedom. He teaches it on a child's level. But adults wrote the declaration of independence, and if the message of Independence Day really is true, then Secession really is the right of all sentient beings. I acknowledge your right to secede, and may I suggest that you celebrate Independence Day by acknowledging mine, and that of others?
This morning somebody asked my opinion of an email about illegal immigration, which began as follows:
Our country is worth reading a 8 minute speech. It is our country and to those that disagree go home as our fences keep people out not in.
I disagree starting with this fundamental premise.
It is not "our" country. Any time you start arguing from a "we" I submit that it's a sign that your thinking is off. Perhaps only off a little, but sometimes off a lot.
This is not "our" country. Only limited parts of it are mine. A small chunk in Dallas/Fort Worth, to be exact. The rest of it belongs to someone else. Some of it belongs to you guys, most of it belongs to people who aren't involved here.
God only gave me dominion over my part.
When you quit saying that some of it is mine, some of it is yours, etc., and start saying that all of it is "ours," you're thinking collectively, socialistically, Communistically. We are not a commune.
And you've also usurped property rights. "Thou shalt not steal" says the Lord. But the 'patriot' blurs the lines of ownership, pretends we all own it collectively, and thus justifies himself in exercising ownership over the property of others. I don't think God is fooled by such justification.
Hopefully all of us here would scream bloody murder if a movement started in the country that said "The children belong to all of us. Therefore we will all vote on how they are to be raised. We will vote to outlaw spanking, we will vote to outlaw parents teaching religion to their children, we will vote to remove children from the homes and raise them in government centers where they can be taught to seek the greater good, to serve society as good people should. They are OUR children, and OUR children deserve the best." We would rightfully respond "They are most certainly NOT 'our' children. These two are MINE." And we would fight or flee in order to see that our children do not become the state's children.
Of course there's a gigantic power in this country that exercises dominion over the entire thing. And it even offers to let us have a say in how that dominion will be exercised, and to vote on who is going to take turns having the power. The gigantic power continually repeats the collectivist mantra: that we are all in this together, that it all belongs to all of us, that we all have the right (really those who happened to get the turn at power this term) to tell individuals what they may and may not do with what is theirs, or even to take away all or some of it, to make completely blameless actions into illegal acts.
But since I can't exercise dominion over what is not mine, I can't legitimately delegate such a right to that power. Of course, God commands me to submit to it, and so I do. Even when it is not just. Even when it exercises dominion over the little pieces of property God has given to me. But I won't exercise that dominion over others, and I won't authorize anyone as my agent to do so on my behalf.
So in the end, here's what I think about immigration: the entire thing can be easily resolved with property rights, and that's the only righteous way to resolve it.
Here's some links to articles where I've seen this view expressed, or similar views expressed, or have expressed the same myself.
It's wrong for me to tell someone they can't hire someone based on where they were born or happen to live. It's wrong for me to tell a property owner he can't sell or rent his property to certain people. It's wrong for me to take money and resources that don't belong to me to provide services to other people, whether they are "citizens" of "my" country, or not. It's wrong for me to exercise force against other people when they want to compete with me in whatever market/industry I participate in, rather than being industrious and adapting and finding another way to survive. It's my responsibility to provide for my family, by doing work that other people find valuable and will pay for, not by using force to prevent other men from fulfilling the same responsibility. It also so happens that economics teaches us that it is best for the economy if we do it God's way, rather than exercising such force.
What does the Bible say about immigration? Plenty. Look for "alien" and "stranger" in your Old Testament. You won't find a single statement that is encouraging to the view that God looks favorably on those who want to restrict immigration. That's my position.
I resent this. Cocaine energy drink has been banned in Texas. (Not by passing a law, of course. By a judge.) Why do I resent this? I don't like the idea of drinking something named after a harmful drug. I don't take drugs. I do drink energy drinks, but I wouldn't drink this one. It honestly scares me. :) My kids wouldn't be allowed to drink any energy drinks at all.
So why do I resent it? Because I'm not raising my kids in a commune. Judges are supposed to make decisions about the law, not make decisions about how we should all raise our children. That judge asserted a right over my kids which he does not have, and that's wrong.
Once upon a time those who were in charge of this country made decisions based on liberty. Now the decisions are made based on what's best for "us".
Folks, "we" are not in this together, and I'm not going to allow you to raise my kids. And in turn, I'm not going to even attempt to raise yours.
The Cocaine energy drink people did not do anything wrong. They came up with a product which I find disgusting. They are not ambushing people in alleys and forcing them to buy this product. Instead they are just offering to sell it. If you don't like it, don't buy it. The Cocaine energy drink people are not your slaves. You don't have the right to tell them what to do. They exist for themselves and for God, not for you. They've chosen to serve a market. If you're not a part of that market, it's none of your business. They are not slaves to society. But this judge has enslaved them.
Manstealing is a sin.
The "boycott gas and hurt the evil oil companies" emails are circulating again.
This idea won't work. It's rooted in economic fallacies.
We're being conditioned by a conspiracy to covet what the oil companies own. The conspiracy is not headed up by human beings. Guess who has a vested self-interest in teaching us to use covetousness as a basis for our personal decisions and public policy?
See things clearly: when you're thinking that somebody is unjust because they won't sell what they own to you at the price you want, are you thinking like Jesus? Not according to Matthew 20, where Jesus didn't even bother to prove the principle He asserted in verse 15 because it was supposed to be obvious: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?" What's the Bible word for wanting what you do not have? Covetousness. Envy. See James 4:2. Don't dress it up pretty and pretend it's noble. It's ugly.
Please see also my covetousness category.
I loved this quote:
"Society remains primitive insofar as individuals are regarded as agents [for] the collective. Society progresses only as the depraved romance of the collective gives way to respect for the individual - the individual whose life and property are never regarded as being at the disposal of the state."
I couldn't agree more. The original context was about the possibility of a military draft, but this is the truth for every issue. "We" need to quit talking about what "we" need to do. "We" especially need to stop talking about what "we" need to do for "our" children. My children are not your children, and your children are not mine. For you Christians out there, where does your Bible authorize you to make decisions about the raising of other people's children? Where does your Bible command you to participate in and advocate some big collective of society with one common purse making decisions for the "common good"? The only thing I can find on the subject is Proverbs 1:10-19, and I think that sums up the matter quite well.
Al Sharpton says, "We must have a broad discussion on what is permitted and not permitted in terms of the airwaves.".
Dear Al Sharpton,
Read the First Amendment.
It's a despicable thing to make hurtful comments based on someone's skin color. But it's an even more despicable thing to threaten to use the law to take away somebody's freedom, and to encourage a society that thinks it is right to decide what is and is not permitted for other people. The former hurts feelings. The latter ultimately results in either free people submitting to enslavement, or free people having government force used against them when they refuse to submit. In the end, when you tell people you think there should be a law against certain things they say, you are telling them that you authorize your representatives to act in your behalf and pick up a gun to threaten those people. That's not right, and it's far worse than simply saying something hurtful.
"We" don't need to have any such discussion, Mr. Sharpton. If I own a printing press, I'll decide what gets printed on it. If I own a radio station, I'll decide what gets broadcast on it. If you have a problem with that, get your own press or station and quit trying to take (or control) what doesn't belong to you.
I call for an immediate end to the Federal War on Drugs, because it is unconstitutional.
When alcohol was prohibited in 1920, it took an Amendment to the United States Constitution. Why? Because Congress and the federal government did not have the legal power to prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcohol.
Congress has a specific set of powers. They are enumerated (this means listed) in Article One. According to the Tenth Amendment, all other powers are forbidden to the federal government. They belong to the states and/or the people. This means that without the 18th Amendment, states had the power to prohibit alcohol, but the federal government did not.
The passage of the Tenth Amendment was actually a little bit controversial. Not because some people believed the federal government shouldn't be limited -- it was controversial because some of the authors of the Constitution thought it was obvious that Congress couldn't pass laws exceeding the listed powers in the Constitution, and didn't think the Constitution should have to explicitly say this.
So how come it took an Amendment to the Constitution to give the federal government the power to prohibit alcohol, but today the federal government prohibits other drugs even though no such Amendment was ever passed giving them that power? They certainly don't get that power from the 18th Amendment -- it was repealed in 1933. Can you tell me which article of the Constitution authorizes Congress to pass laws prohibiting drugs? And if so, can you tell me why that article gives that power today, but did not give the power to prohibit alcohol in 1920?
What's changed? The way we perceive our government and the Constitution. And this is a tragedy.
You know what? I hate drugs. Drugs have ruined a lot of lives. But I hate tyranny more. Tyranny has ruined far more lives than drugs.
Today the federal government has all the same powers of a monarchy. I thought we were supposed to be different, somehow. The only difference seems to be that we get to elect a new ruling family every few years. How well is that system working for you?
Quick comment: I just read elsewhere online where I commented yesterday that, "Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats seem anxious to admit that telling people how to live (slavery) doesn't become right even if it is 'legal.'" This is certainly a lesson I'd like to see those political parties learn. But many in the church need to learn this: "Telling people how to live (slavery) doesn't become right even if we're telling them to live the right way."
Of course I don't mean simply communicating persuasively to people about how they are to live. The Gospel is very persuasive, and powerful. But I'm talking about using the force of law. This is prohibited to us in the Bible. Let's call it what it is: slavery.
What do you think about counterfeiting? Is there anything wrong with it? Counterfeiting is illegal, but should it be? Does it hurt anybody?
When a person counterfeits a dollar bill, he can immediately spend it (assuming he did a good enough job), so the faux bill has some value. It is worth roughly a dollar. Where did this value come from?
With a new dollar in circulation, everybody else's dollars are worth slightly less. If there were only one thousand dollars in existence before the counterfeit, then every one of those bills lost value equal to one-tenth of a cent, in order to make up the value that the new bill received.
This effect is trivial for one single one dollar bill. Nobody counterfeits "one spots," anyway. But if an operation cranks out hundreds and hundreds of twenties, suddenly the effect is not so insignificant. If a person or group were allowed to keep manufacturing money in this way, they would eventually steal a large portion of the value of the rest of the money supply. So counterfeiting hurts everybody.
Here's the lesson: your government can do the exact same thing. I'm not just talking about the ability to print money: through the sale of treasury instruments, through banking mechanisms, and through good old fashioned printing, the United States government has the power to manufacture new money. When this happens, it hurts people, just the same as if it were done by somebody else. It doesn't magically become helpful just because the government does it instead of a common criminal. It doesn't magically become safe just because we took a vote on it. And it doesn't magically become a good idea because some economists (paid by the government -- go figure) claim that the money supply needs to "expand." I already showed you above what happens when the money supply is expanded like this, and it is not a good thing.
Creation of money is stealing. It changes the value of everybody else's money. It violates the command of Leviticus 19:36 -- it makes the measure of our dollar unjust and changing. Originally a dollar was equal to about one ounce of silver, or about one-twentieth of an ounce of gold. If people wanted more dollars, they had to work for them, either by selling goods or services that they labored to produce, or by digging them out of the ground.
Should Christians support the government producing more money out of nothing? Because this is one area where both of the major political parties have the same stance. They are squarely in favor of government continuing to have this power.
Pizza Patrón has announced their intention to continue accepting the Mexican Peso at their stores. Good for them! I'm sure they are making a lot of money off of this service. Good for them! Unless somebody was using force to affect the transaction (for example, by pointing a gun at someone, or passing a law requiring authorities to point a gun at someone), such voluntary transactions mean that people were served, and society, on balance, advances. In general, they will prosper in proportion to the value of the service they provide.
Money liberty is a freedom we don't often think about. The authors of the United States Constitution intended American money to be limited to gold and silver. It is impossible for the government to inflate the supply of gold and silver. Inflation is a means of stealing some value from the entire money supply and using it to create new (stolen, counterfeit) money. It is a violation of Leviticus 19:35-36. Inflation does not add value to the total money supply; it merely redistributes the value that already exists. (And unlike other government programs, it usually doesn't make any pretense of redistributing the value to the poor. This value tends to go to bankers and other credit-driven industries like real estate.) After millenia of human existence, the free market had selected gold and silver as money, the medium of human exchange. Governments used force to confiscate gold from their citizens and force their populations to use paper money instead, giving government powers over the money supply, such as inflation. (They call this power "flexibility.")
The sole reason government insists on paper money is in order to have this power over the money supply. If left to the free market, trade would probably resume again in some commodity like gold or silver. Platinum has presented itself as a modern choice that some people think could be a good medium of exchange. In older times, some societies were known to trade in butter, cartwheels, and even cigarettes. But over time, gold and silver have always tended to win out as being the most convenient for trading.
If you own your property, you have the right to do whatever you want with it, including trade it to another property owner for whatever he is willing to trade for it. But we have decided that modern societies need to have limits on freedoms like this. We tell people they may keep their property, but then we limit what they may do with it. This is a violation of God's command that we honor private property: "Thou shalt not steal." If I tell you how to use your property, I've stolen it and left you as a mere custodian. On top of this fundamental abuse of freedom that occurred in order to bring about our present money situation, the whole reason for this system's existence is so that the government can create new dollars at will: in other words, so that the government can steal from every single dollar holder at once, any time it wishes. Is this a power that Christians should vote for?
The Constitution granted Congress the power to make coins out of gold and silver, and to establish their value. In its first act pertaining to money, the Congress declared the United States dollar would be equal to the amount of silver in a one ounce silver coin that was circulating at the time. This coin had a lengthy history: in the middle ages, some of the best silver coins came from the German area of Joachimsthal. The coins came to be known as the Joachimsthaler, or later the Thaler. If it's not obvious, this is where the name "dollar" came from. Eventually there were lots of sources for Thaler-sized coins, and they were all called Thalers or Dollars. It doesn't matter where an ounce of silver comes from as long as its the same weight as every other ounce.
Long before our modern paper money, the most popular coin for trade in America was a Thaler coin called the Spanish Milled Peso, or the Spanish Dollar. America's founders couldn't care less what was stamped on their silver and gold coins, as long as the coins were of the right valuable substance, and of the right weight. Even though America eventually started minting its own coins, Spanish Pesos and American Dollars circulated side by side for over a century. Nobody thought this was strange. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson -- all of them almost certainly traded in Spanish Pesos at some point in their lives, here in America.
Government came up with the idea that it should have a monopoly on coin production within its territory. It started teaching its people the idea that they should use only their own national coins, as a matter of national pride. Almost all governments did this. Eventually governments passed laws to try to require people to use their own national currencies in most day to day transactions. This was just a step on the road to currency the government could inflate. (If everybody can switch to gold or silver coins from another country or a private mint, then they will do so the minute the government starts issuing inflated coins with less gold or silver in them. Competition, the free market, protects people's interests far better than any government.) Search your Constitution -- you'll find the power to mint coins granted to the federal government, you'll find the power to mint coins and the power to issue paper money denied to the States, you'll find an amendment that says the federal government doesn't have any powers that aren't granted to it by the Constitution (this is in an Amendment because the original writers of the Constitution thought it was obvious). If you compare with the previous Articles of Confederation, you'll find that the phrase used to grant Congress the power to mint coins originally contained permission to issue paper money -- this was intentionally taken out when the sentence was moved to the Constitution. What you won't find in the Constitution is the right for the federal government to monopolize money. You won't find any sentence granting them the right to require people to use American coins. In 1920 it took an Amendment to the Constitution to give the federal government the right to outlaw alcohol. Why did it not take an Amendment to give Congress the power to monopolize money, or issue paper bills?
If you'll check this link, you can see how much value has been stolen from American dollars. Originally, a dollar was one ounce of silver, or one twentieth of an ounce of gold. How much silver is a dollar worth now? How much gold?
Given that America's founders used coins like the Spanish silver Peso interchangeably with American Dollars, and intended us to continue doing so, I find the uproar over Pizza Patrón's private business decision to take Mexican paper Pesos to be somewhat out of place. A more appropriate uproar would be one against the criminals in government who violated the Constitution and required us to start using fake paper dollars.