Archives for posts with tag: Libertarianism

If you live on the Moon, or if enough time had passed since I’ve written this, click on the picture to read Jonathan Spyer’s excellent rendition of the facts which have driven me to post this.

Or you may proceed.

For me, there is a striking resemblance between what’s going on in Iran and what would happen in a hardcore libertarian society.

The mullahs are concerned only with spreading/enforcing their faith and consider everything else will take care of itself.

The extreme libertarians are concerned exclusively with upholding their understanding of liberty and consider that everything else would take care of itself. By itself.

And I’m convinced that everything will indeed take of itself!
After all, life has continued after communism had failed.
The communist leaders had been professedly concerned exclusively with enforcing their understanding of equality. And convinced that everything else would had taken care of itself. If only that equality could have been instated…

Yet I don’t think communism will be missed.
By those who had experienced it hard enough to understand it…

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Americans voting in the last elections had four options.

Two authoritarians, one libertarian and a “greenhorn”.

I really like Dr. Stein but her lack of ‘high level’ political or business experience made her an unlikely choice.

The authoritarians have generated much hype but so little real enthusiasm that many voters have chosen to stay home.

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In this situation, with so many voters – who had shown up in 2004 and 2008 – dissatisfied with the mainstream parties, how come the libertarian candidate – who had both a solid experience, as a two term Governor, and a reasonable electoral platform did not manage a better score?
He did ‘rake in’ a little over 4 million votes – more than trebling his 2012 result – but he is still shy of the 5 % needed to qualify the Libertarian Party for federal funding in the next campaign.

Could it be that the libertarians need to ‘clean up their act’?

Judging by the antics performed by the current winner some ‘pundits’ might counsel them to ‘increase the pressure’ but I don’t think that that would be a wise thing to do.
Yes, today’s 2016 President-elect did display a rather unusual behavior for a presidential candidate, and ‘won’, but I’m afraid this was due to a certain set of ‘co-incidents’ rather than the American political scene undergoing a massive upheaval.
Trump is, we must admit that, a great ‘comedian’.
He does have a huge fortune – and presently enough  Americans are sufficiently obsessed with ‘financial success’ to forgive his rather unorthodox ways of amassing that fortune.
And we must not forget that there is a sizable number of Republicans so eager to regain power that they did tolerate his antics – precisely because they have perceived him as a ‘winner’ AND because he has successfully led them to believe that he will uphold their values.
Therefore I’m afraid that Trump’s performance would not be that easy to reproduce nor do I think that America should really go down this path.

Coming back to the Libertarians, they present to the general public such a wide spectrum of ideas that the ordinary American voter is actually bewildered.
For instance, everybody hates paying taxes but give them up altogether?

The business tycoons – those who successfully avoid paying taxes, as private individuals  or through their corporations – won’t give up this system simply because being able to avoid paying taxes constitutes a huge competitive advantage. Actually it would be rational for them to try to increase the ‘fiscal burden’ that weighs down everybody else but them.
The ‘man in the street’, the one who pays little to none income tax but who contributes hugely to the GDP formation simply because he buys the stuff sold by the business tycoons, won’t give them up because he knows that taxes pay for the roads he uses to go to work, for whatever emergency health care he gets, for his children’s schooling, for his meager pension, etc., etc….
It so happens that only the middle class would have any direct, even if highly debatable, benefit if the state would give up collecting taxes. They have private medical insurance, they send their children to private schools, they don’t rely on public pensions in order to have a decent retirement, and they think they have enough money to pay the tolls whenever they’d need to use the roads.

I’m not going to discuss here the practicality of the arrangements proposed by the ‘anarchists’ – private fire-fighters and private police, among others.

What grabbed my attention was the concept of ‘voluntary taxes’.

I work with the Catholic Church (on a consulting basis) and all payments are voluntary. If people don’t like what the church is doing, they either stop participating or stop donating. Similar idea for the government. If it performs a useful function at a friendly cost, people would support it.

This makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

OK, I won’t bother reminding you what would have happened up to two or three centuries ago to the brave enough guy who decided to stop paying the tithe.

But I will mention the fact that there still are countries in Europe who continue to collect taxes in the name of the church.

And, because of that – where possible, many people leave their churches.

Which reminds us that in modern days belonging to a church is optional.
People who actively engage in church life constitute a subset of the entire population, a subset of people who have selected themselves into this (mental)state.

Living (somewhere) is (not yet) fully optional.
Really?!?
No matter how hard someone tries it is possible that they will never get to live where they wish. Sometimes the natives don’t accept them or they die trying to get there.
On the other hand there are ‘places’ that don’t allow their inhabitants to leave – North Korea and Eritrea are the first two examples that cross my mind. Romania also used to be such a place.
In this sense taxes somewhat resemble Schrodinger’s cat. They are optional – for those who choose to join a certain group, to remain in a certain country or to join one – and are forcefully levied from those who cannot, no matter how hard they try, to leave the place where they have to live.
To compound the situation usually the countries who allow their citizens to leave also determine in a rather democratic manner the amount of taxes that have to be paid by those who choose to remain while in those who act as a prison for their inhabitants it is the local ruler who imposes the fiscal burden unto his subjects.
Now, isn’t it rather strange that this idea, “taxation is theft”, is making furors in the freest country on Earth?
One can leave America at will and most Americans have enough money to live like ‘princes’ almost anywhere on Earth. Not as safely nor enjoying the same degree of civilization… no wonder that very few of them actually leave while so many ‘aliens’ try to get in there…
But why don’t they reform the tax system AND the (wasteful?) way the taxes are being spent, instead of dreaming of a tax-less world?
And how come they don’t realize that in a ‘voluntary’ situation the ‘rational’ think to do would be to save your money, leave the other to pay whatever they want to and benefit from whatever spoils are there to be enjoyed ‘for free’?
After all this is already happening with vaccines.
Many diseases have all but disappeared from the ‘civilized’ world. So much so that ‘rational’ people have begun to stop vaccinating their children.
‘What’s the use to submit my children to a risk, however small, if all the other children are being vaccinated?’
For how long do you think this ‘rationale’ is going to work?
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You will tell me that people have grown doubtful about vaccines only after a scientific study was published in a peer reviewed magazine…
Well, people believe what they want to believe.
Even the defenders of Dr. Wakefield do not pretend that he is against vaccination as a principle but only that he still is, to this day, preoccupied with the safety of the ‘triple vaccine’ (MMR) involved in the initial paper.
He did not advise his patients to stop vaccinating, but instead to vaccinate for these three diseases with single vaccines, rather than the combo.
See what I mean?
Far from being rational – people are seldom rational beyond their field of expertise and sometimes fail to be so even in that realm – we are nevertheless convinced that we consistently behave in a reasonable manner.
And this conviction of ours makes us easy prey for the spin doctors who constantly stalk us.
We need to admit that our rationality is bounded before the reasonable libertarians, like Gary Johnson, will have a real chance of stepping into the lime light.
Until then the authoritarians will divide the spoils amongst them.
Not before staging a heated, but fake, fight for our benefit.

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For some time now I’ve been wondering how come so many people who define themselves as being Christians – “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.“, Matt 19:24 – are so passionately defending the very concept of (private)”property”.

Could it be that Marx was right after all: “Private property is the result of alienated labor.” ?!? And so many of us have been wrong for so long?

“The right to private property is the social-political principle that adult human beings may not be prohibited or prevented by anyone from acquiring, holding and trading (with willing parties) valued items not already owned by others. Such a right is, thus, unalienable and, if in fact justified, is supposed to enjoy respect and legal protection in a just human community.”

Trying to understand the source of this dichotomy I adopted a two pronged strategy. First I looked up the word itself and then I tried to deepen my understanding of the entire concept.

It’s absolutely obvious that ‘property’ comes from ‘proper’.
‘Proper’, in its turn, has two basic meanings: ‘fit for use‘ and ‘pertaining to one individual‘. The first one has evolved into ‘propriety’, “the state or quality of being correct and proper” while the second has become ‘property’, “thing owned“.

So, do all these etymological arguments make it any easier for us to accept that respecting each others’ right to private property is what introduced a certain degree of functionality in the human society?

‘But aren’t you contradicting yourself?
At the beginning of your post you suggested that ‘property’ might not be as good as advertised and now you say that the ‘right to private property’ is ‘good for you’?
Will you make up your mind, for Christ’s sake?’

Now, that I’ve reached the conceptual stage of my analyses, I must bring to your attention the fact that a right is nothing but an opportunity while each (piece of) property is a thing – even those  which are not of a ‘substantial’ nature. ‘Intellectual property’, for instance, is a ‘measurable thing’ even if you cannot put your finger on it while the ‘right to intellectual (or any other kind of) property’ is (an infinite) something which patiently waits for (a rightful) somebody to make (proper) use of it.

Maybe this is what Christ tried to tell us in the first place. That it’s not property itself that stands between us and our salvation but our (improper) attitude towards it. That it’s not the object of our property that is the problem but how we make use of our right to private property.
After all Christ told the “young rich man” “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matt 19:21). ‘Go sell, give and THEN follow me’, not ‘come help me ABOLISH the very right to private property’, as Marx used to preach to his followers.

To understand the difference between what Christ and Marx said about this subject let’s see how these two relate to the notion of ‘Man’.

In Christ’s book God took a lump of dirt and ‘made Man in His own image’ while in Marx’s narrow materialistic vision “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

Basically both of them start with the same ‘materiel’ – the mundane ‘star dust’ that Mendeleev distributed throughout his table – but what a difference at the end of the ‘assembly line’!

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Being made ‘in His Own image’ not only means that all Men (and Women) are created equal but also that each of them shares in His Divine Nature. Hence the origin of our free will, of our ability (‘right’, opportunity) to be saved. Compare this to how Marx described the human society:

“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.

The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.

They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes. The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.”

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As somebody who has lived for 30 years under communist rule let me translate this from ‘Newspeak‘ into plain English:
‘History suggests that those who figure out the inner workings of this world  have, from time to time, the opportunity to take over the show. Now is one of those moments. The ‘fat cats’ have been so greedy lately that the regular people are growling under the very heavy yoke that has been placed on their shoulders.  That’s why we have the opportunity to unsettle the ‘old’ from their positions and to plant our fat asses in their comfortable chairs.
And the first thing we must do in order to achieve that goal is to abolish the right to private property. People are so fed up with what was going on lately that they’ll go along. They have grown to hate so much the ‘greedy plutocrats’ that most of them won’t notice that in the (revolutionary) process they’ll lose the very last shrouds of personal autonomy they still have. Without the right to dispose of the results of their own labor they’ll be at our mercy’.

Who was right between the two?

Well… Both, unfortunately.

The communists did run the show, at least for a while. And we all know to which results.
On the other hand it seems that in the longer run miss-using the right to private property is indeed a powerful drawback. The already too long sequence of economic crises caused, ultimately, by nothing else but our own greed has indeed given birth to a generalized state of psychological malaise.

I don’t know about what’s gonna happen in the next world – or if it exists at all – but I’m sure that if we don’t learn, fast, how to use, properly, the right to private property things will become too hot for our own good in this one.

The only one we are sure about.

Further reading.
During my research for this post I found this very interesting take on the same subject:

“Zwolinksi argues that libertarians are right to support private property, but also that private property is more complicated than we sometimes think.”

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