Libertarian Ramblings

Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

Posted by gravisman on November 11, 2012

One of the ideas I find myself most often thinking about and evangelizing is the general philosophy of non-aggression ethics in creation of laws. That is, the idea that any law that aggresses against citizens, or takes liberties from the same, is unethical. By far the most typical form of aggression is that which steals from the citizens – i.e. through income taxes.

I find that virtually every argument in favor of the modern governmental system which steals 1/3 or more of citizens’ income is, rather obviously, centered around bragging about the wonderful services rendered with the plundered coin. Moreover, proponents of large government like to make a counter-factual argument by supposing that if we did not have a large government, surely we would not have anything that is good like health care, electric service, roads, or any other necessities of life. That might be true or it might not be – none of us can know because do not live in that world. That is precisely why the counter-factual argument is a fallacy, but that’s the beside the point for the moment.

The more important idea, philosophically, is that even if it is true that without government, society would lose a lot of great things, the government is still unethical. We would not have a good highway system, health care, or (god forbid) even the internet itself. Even if all of that is true, a government funded via income taxes is still not justified. The issue is that income taxes are simply stealing, even if the masses tacitly consent. If all the voters but me believe taxes are good, but I would rather keep my earned income, the masses use their strength via the “legal” system to steal of my income without my consent. Therefore any income tax which lacks 100% agreement from the citizenry is certainly stealing from some.

Returning to thoughts of the wonderful services provided to us by the government, of which there are arguably many (with trillions of dollars in operating budgets, there ought to be). Problem is, no matter how great the services provided, they are all stained with the red hands of the thief, and therefore none of them can be considered ethical. They are all fruit of the poisoned tree, so to speak.

What I say to those who justify taxing people like me against our will is that your argument boils down to this: “Look at all the cool stuff we can build by stealing from people.” I have no doubt you can do great things by stealing great amounts of wealth. Stealing is still wrong.

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Daniel Hannan

Posted by gravisman on March 26, 2009

What a refreshing politician! 

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The circularity of bailout money

Posted by gravisman on January 29, 2009

I want to take a slight detour from purely libertarian thought to talk about the (il)logic of government bailout dollars from a more objective economic perspective.

Let’s start with the general thought process that leads to thinking of government spending huge amounts of money to attempt to boost the economy despite already nearly drowning itself in debt. “People are suffering, and seem likely to continue to suffer, probably even more so than they are now. Therefore we must take drastic action in the form of dramatic dollar spending totals to help the people.” Reasonable, right? Well, there’s a problem there.

The reason that thought process makes sense on the surface is that it’s easy to think of the government and the people as separate entities. We can easily imagine an analogy like two neighbors where one neighbor experiences one hard time and the other does not, and the good neighbor reaches out to help the other. Okay, fine, but the analogy is inaccurate.

Government does not have a cent of its own money. Every dollar spent by the government comes out of the collective pocket of the people, one way or another. Taxes are one way, but as we’ve seen before, taxes aren’t the only way. When we start to think about this, the circularity of bailout logic quickly emerges. The people are in danger, so the government wants to spend money to help them, but the government gets its money……from the people.

Broken down, bailout theory claims that moving money from point A to point B, and back around to point A somehow makes things better. This is the economic and financial equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. Supposedly, each time around the cycle, value is not only maintained, but somehow increased – we’re making value (money) out of thin air simply by moving it back and forth between two points.

Unfortunately, perpetual motion doesn’t work. The only thing that can happen in this scenario is that some value is bled off as we go around the circle. Some is lost through waste, some is lost as benefits to people outside the country, and certainly other means I’m not thinking of. We’re not going to create wealth simply by moving money around the circle.

There is only one way we can claim to derive benefit from this circle route. That is to claim that the real effect of the maneuver is redistribution of wealth, since we’re taking money from everyone and giving it to whom we see fit. I can attack that easily on two fronts. Firstly, as we can all easily see, money is going to huge banks and corporations, so if there is a redistribution of wealth, the benefactors are clearly not the little people – they are those who already had money to lose when this crisis occurred. Secondly, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to tell me that redistribution of wealth is ethically okay.

“Yeah, we’ve decided that some people deserve to have money taken from them, and others deserve to have it given to them without having earned it. Really, we’re just socialists, but we don’t like to talk about that.”

Okay, so I turned a little libertarian at the end there, but the main point is clear. There is a blatant circularity to bailout theory, and it cannot be a net positive on the people in the long run.

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Resisting arrest

Posted by gravisman on December 19, 2008

For a few years now I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of resisting arrest as a crime. On a regular basis I find myself coming across stories of individuals who are wrongly attacked by police officers, and despite being cleared of any wrong doing prior to the attack, are still charged with resisting arrest. Since this is a felony, people can do jail time and have their lives severely thrown off track by something clearly caused by police error.

While many stories of this nature have come across my desk, the one that gets me thinking today this one. It’s beyond me that anyone could find it logical to call resisting a kidnapping at the hands of men who do not identify themselves a crime. That’s exactly what Galveston police are doing, though, charging a girl with resisting arrest for fighting back against unmarked police officers who jumped out of a van at her.

I would actually consider this a mild case, and one where the girl will probably get off. There are many more horrific stories. Another that comes to mind is this one where people are arrested seemingly because they resisted arrest (don’t ask me to explain that) and because they attempted to run away from a situation.

I see two problems in logic here. First, every person has the right to defend his or her self against unwarranted aggression. Second, we all have the right to flee a threatening situation.

Consider the following situation: you walk down the sidewalk and men jump out of a car and tackle a man walking near you. Scared for what might happen, you start running. Upon seeing you run, the men start chasing you. You throw things back at them as you run, and flail at them when they finally catch you and tackle you. You soon discover they are police officers. It doesn’t take long before everyone figures out that you were not at all involved with the man the police wanted – you are innocent. Good to go, right? Wrong. You will still be charged with resisting arrest. The only reason you were ever arrested in the first place is because you were scared and ran.

I propose two legislative changes to rebalance the power of the people and restore basic liberty. The first is to mandate that simply running or attempting to flee an area should not be considered probable cause for an arrest. The second is that resisting arrest should not punishable unless a suspect is convicted of another crime. That is, if you were falsely arrested in the first place, you cannot be charged with resisting arrest. We can still have our go at the real criminals who are rightly arrested – we just don’t need to be ruining the lives of people who are proven innocent.

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Ending drub prohibition

Posted by gravisman on December 8, 2008

Let’s end drug prohibition

Bravo WSJ.

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An abortion dilemma?

Posted by gravisman on December 7, 2008

Jane has become pregnant and wants an abortion, which is perfectly legal. She goes to her doctor and he says he will not treat her because he is ethically opposed to abortion.

Jill is becoming sexually active and wants to use birth control pills. Her doctor prescribes them for her, but when she goes to the pharmacy, the pharmacist refuses to fill her prescription because he is also ethically opposed.

If you’re reading LR, there’s a decent chance you’re pro-choice as I am, and the actions of the doctor and pharmacist above are probably appalling. The question is, what do we do about it?

If you’ve read LR more than once before, you should already know the answer. Say it with me…..

Nothing!

That’s absolutely right. Without consistent ideology, we don’t really have anything. Being a libertarian – or simply being an ethical human being – is all about abstaining from the use of force to get others to live how you want them to live. If we force the doctor to give girls abortions, then we have enslaved that doctor. If we force the pharmacist to fill all prescriptions, we have enslaved that pharmacist.

Choice is the golden egg that life has wrought humanity. We must protect it at all costs.

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Consistent ideology

Posted by gravisman on November 27, 2008

One of my greatest complaints against contemporary American politicians is that they lack consistent and coherent ideology. Political campaigns, to me, are largely irrelevant because they focus on people and issues – they never focus on ideology.

Observers frequently complain about rampant mudslinging and cry out that campaigns should focus on “the issues.” A point that is never heard, and that I would like point to make, is that “the issues” are hardly the issue at all. US senators are elected to six year terms, and presidents to four years. Despite this, their campaigns typically focus on issues that will only affect their first year in office. The reason we’re stuck in this situation is because many of our politicians and most of our political campaigns fail to even speak of ideology.

Ideology is about abstract ideas. Ideology is about ways of thinking. Sure, it’s much easier for voters to grab onto concrete issues and form opinions about them, but in doing so, they sell themselves short. I, as a voter, don’t care just about whether I agree with my representatives on issues that are in the lime light today. I care also about whether we agree on unforeseen issues that have yet to even arise.

I believe that force should only be used in self-defense and that force in any form is not an acceptable means to political ends. This very simple belief affects my opinion on a myriad of issues from foreign policy to domestic health care. It is many times more useful to me to know whether a representative shares this belief than to know how they feel about the Iraq war. I don’t want to only know that my leaders are opposed to the misguided war we fight today; I want to know that they will stand against the stirrings of another superfluous fight that may come two or three years from now.

I was inspired to write this post to commend Congressman Ron Paul for his legendary ideological consistency. What refreshes me the most is that even though I agree with Dr. Paul on nearly every issue, on the one major issue where we disagree, he remains stunningly true to his philosophies and resists the temptation to be politically over-aggressive.

The issue to which I refer is abortion. When I first learned of Ron Paul’s staunch Pro-Life beliefs about a year and a half ago, I was crushed because I thought it was a deal-breaker since I may be the most hard-core Pro-Choice supporter in the country.

I was reminded of what makes Dr. Paul great recently as I read his book, The Revolution: A Manifesto and he expresses that despite his deep opposition to abortions, he believes the government in Washington should have nothing to do with the issue, because he is a Constitutionalist. That’s amazing. The ability to stick strongly to an ideological belief, such as the Constitution, even in the face of an issue that holds strong emotional significance is exactly what we need from our leaders. What makes this great is that we know exactly what to expect from Ron Paul. We know that no matter what happens, he will stand on the side of the Constitution, and so all we need to do is read it to predict how he will vote.

With so many of our other so-called leaders, guessing how they will react to an issue that hasn’t yet reached public consciousness is a crap shoot. Those things are generally determined by combinations of political expediency, party politics, and the winds of public opinion at the time. Look at G. W. Bush, if you need an example, a man who campaigned on humble foreign policy and has lead huge military efforts into the Middle East. Long story short – we have no idea what most of the people in power will do until they actually do it. That’s a very dangerous way to live.

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Taxes aren’t the issue

Posted by gravisman on November 24, 2008

NBC on Obama-nomics

In the above link, NBC talks about Obama’s plans to revive the economy, and most of the article focuses on taxes. What taxes may or may not be increased or decreased and when. The reality that the American people need to realize is that traditional taxes are essentially a red herring when it comes to government economic management.

So, here’s the big secret, if you haven’t heard it yet: the government doesn’t need to collect taxes to finance its expenses! The reality is that the government can fund every expense it wants through inflation. That is, it prints money via the Fed. If the government needs money to pay for something, it has the power to create that money. This is already widely practiced today.

The problem is that every time the government creates new money, it makes every other dollar in existence worth a little less. It’s exactly as though someone started printing Mickey Mantle rookie cards. There worth a lot now, but as soon as everyone has them, they’re not worth much. 

Because of this we can essentially classify inflation as a tax. What makes it really bad is that inflation affects every single person without mercy, because it devalues all our money, rich and poor alike. Even Fed Chairman Bernanke agrees that inflation is a tax.

So, the bottom line is that traditional taxes are really not the issue, and they distract people from what is the real issue: spending. No matter what the government does with taxes, they will find a way to finance their expenses. Lowering taxes just makes people feel better. We keep them at a high enough rate that people believe the distraction that they really are what’s important. Unless the government wishes to sink further into debt and inflate the dollar even more, there’s only one response: cut spending.

UPDATE: So, I just came across page 142 of Ron Paul’s book, The Revolution, where he explains inflation by comparing it to Mickey Mantle baseball cards. I can assure you that I wrote this post before reading Ron Paul’s words, so hopefully nobody accuses me of plagiarism. In any case, all respect for Dr. Paul.

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Why Obama doesn’t get it

Posted by gravisman on November 6, 2008

Change.gov – Civil Rights

The above page details the Obama administration’s attitudes toward, and plans for, dealing with civil rights. There are two fundamental problems in thinking that pop out at me when I read it. First, when talking about “the problem” they don’t really address civil rights. Second, when talking about “the plan” they quickly show that they think civil rights can be achieved by force, which is exactly the opposite of the right idea.

The page points out four current problems relating to civil rights.

1. Average pay inequity relating white men to women and racial minorities.

2. Hate crimes

3. Vote suppression against minorities

4. Criminal justice inequities

The first three are simply not civil rights. You don’t have the right to get paid any certain amount, and you certainly don’t have the right to get paid an amount simply because someone else does. Every person’s pay is determined on the employment market by factors of supply and demand as well as their personal ability to market themselves and negotiate. Anyone who accepts a job for a given wage has done so under his or her own free will. If he or she believes his or her self to be undervalued, the option is always there to seek alternate employment, or stake out an independent means of survival.

As for hate crimes, this is a fine line. Crime is a problem. From the perspective of pure civil rights, the motive of crime is irrelevant. To single out hate crimes as a civil rights issue is to miss the point of non-aggression. 

Vote suppression is sad and unfortunate, but it’s also a part of the political game. Yes, physical threats of intimidation are bad, but efforts to mislead or discourage voting (as long as they come from non-government entities) are not a violation of civil liberties. Just as much as you have the right to vote, I have the right to try to convince you not to vote. This is almost exactly the same scenario as is played out between a criminal suspect and police. Just as much as the suspect has the right to remain silent, the police have every right to attempt to convince him or her to talk. Giving up his or her rights is the responsibility of the individual.

The final problem noted is the only one that counts as a real civil rights issue, and the reason is because it deals with a direct relation between citizens and the government. What Obama seems to fail to realize is that the entire premise of civil rights is to protect people from government. Civil rights are not about protecting people from people. Yes, the government exists to protect people from being violent toward each other and stealing each other’s property, but it’s not meant to be an arbiter of every human transaction. Since judicial inequities and racial profiling is about government treating different people differently, this is something that must be stopped and people’s civil rights are on the line. The right in question is equal protection under the law, which every citizen should expect.

One out of four is not impressive. I call that luck.

Perhaps even more alarming than Obama’s obvious failure to recognize the very nature of civil rights is his completely wrong attitude toward protecting them. If we read down the page to see the plan for improving things, the theme quickly becomes clear: let’s pass more laws. Laws do not expand rights. Laws contract rights. That is their nature (there are, of course exceptions, but this is a fairly reliable generalization). The way to expand civil liberties to repeal laws and policies that restrict them. It is insanity to go around setting more rules and expect that people will be more free with all the rules you’ve placed on them.

Some people just don’t get it….

Let us not forget what real change is.

UPDATE: The link supplied above is now broken, and the page that has replaced it has been largely overhauled. You can read the new page here.

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Revolt avoided this time around

Posted by gravisman on November 5, 2008

A time for revolt

That is an article I wrote over a year outlining the need for a revolt against our government in the unlikely event elections were not held on this day. I’m glad to see that things never got that bad and some degree of order and sanity is still intact. Obviously, that’s not enough in and of itself. From here we must continue the pursuit of liberty.

Campaign for Liberty

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