The Roads

March 28, 2012 1 comment

I, Roads

But, who would take care of the roads! Or the airports! Or the [insert state-monopolized capital asset here]! And that’s where someone asks you a question that is impossible to answer. The Statist Roads Argument (SRA) rears its silly head.

If someone asks you how a pencil is made, I’ve come to realize you should simply say, “I see what you’re trying to do here. You’re not going to trick me.” Why? Because no one knows how a pencil is made. The point of Leonard Read’s classic “I, Pencil” is that no one person alone has the knowledge required to describe how something as simple as a pencil is made from start to finish.

The more nuanced point is this: even though no one person can tell you how a pencil is made, pencils are made. Thus, we can conclude that the existence of pencils doesn’t depend on any one person knowing how to produce pencils. Instead, it depends on a complex network of economic activity that results in a pencil.

The same is obviously true of any provision of roads without state monopolization. The how and who would take care of the roads is the same as the how and who would take care of pencils: a complex network of economic activity that results in roads.

Burden of Proof

At this point I think it’s obvious that the burden of proof is on the naysayer to show how something as ubiquitous as automobile transportation would fail despite giving people the freedom to create the complex network of economic activity that results in roads. I can give a few reasons to suspect it would not fail.

In the first place, there’s a high demand for roads. People want them. A lot. However, not every road is equal. So the upkeep for a road without government supervision would depend on how likely the road is to be used, and therefore incur maintenance costs. That is to say, if a road is valuable enough to the people that use it, they will pay for it.

This begs the question, “Can all the users coordinate in order to maintain the road?”

The typical Statist answer to this question is, “Only through government.”

Which brings me to my second point: entrepreneurs exist.

The answer on a free market is, “Yes, and that responsibility falls to the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur coordinates goods such that a specific good or service is provided by coordinating users’ demand in the form of revenue, and perpetuating the provision of said good or service using profit margin analysis. If the entrepreneur fails, he loses money. If he succeeds, he benefits by profiting, and the provision of the good continues.”

Let My People Drive!

A third reason for thinking roads would thrive is that roads are capital assets with predictable fixed costs. The marginal cost of letting another driver on the road is minimal. So the obvious solution to maximizing profit is to have as many drivers on the road as possible. It is in the interest of a road entrepreneur to allow as many people as possible on any particular toll road, excepting dangerous drivers. Variable costs are definitely the products of accidents on the fixed capital assets known as roads. Your GPS will send you to an alternate route. And there goes the day’s take.

A fourth reason is that roads are essentially nothing more than long pieces of rock. I mean, really? Roads!? The market makes fake body parts for crying out loud. Complex molecules are created by private firms in order to coordinate biological activity inside a human being and you’re worried about long pieces of rocks and metal? Shame on you.

Less Talky, More Experimenty

The real farce about the SRA is that the Statist position is merely a hypothesis, but Statists refuse to make any experiment to test it, and accept it as an already established fact.

The real test of the matter isn’t how well a Libertarian can answer an unanswerable question. It would rather be to let Libertarians have their day and let the test be made. It’s unscientific to hypothesize, “The private ownership experiment concerning roads will fail,” and then not undertake the experiment to confirm or deny this hypothesis. It’s rhetoric, plain and simple. That’s all it is.

What Statists are doing when they posit the SRA is confirming a hypothesis out of hand. So I think no matter what I write here today, it’s all beside the point if Statists are going to write off private ownership of roads by entrepreneurs based on unscientific analysis.

Until the experiment is made that confirms or denies roads can be handled by private parties, the suggestion that the same is a fact is nothing more than rhetoric.

And even without the experiment, we know at least one thing for sure: taking from one person to pay for another’s road is just as bad as taking from one person to pay for another’s car. What others posit as “public” goods are really goods enjoyed by private parties, but whose costs have been socialized by force by a bureaucracy that has exhibited an agency problem involving lack of cost control, roads being in a state of disrepair (I live in New Jersey, it’s like a virus), and the creation of artificial barriers to entry for alternative means of transportation.

The answer.

You can’t really assume that any specific ownership type or maintenance process for roads would prevail in the market due to its dynamic nature. It might be the case that some roads would be owned and cared for directly by the people who have property on the road. In other cases, people on the same street all get together and hire a road maintenance company that receives regular fees and fixes potholes when they come about. In yet another possibility, a toll collection company would take care of roads.

In order to see how roads would be provided without the government, one simply has to let people take care of the roads themselves.

So who would take care of the roads absent a state monopoly? The same people who make pencils. That’s who.


How Liberals and Conservatives Are Losing the Battle of Ideas

March 26, 2012 2 comments

The Young Activitists

New ideas, by their very nature, find root in the fertile soil of young minds. Liberals are no longer the bearers of new ideas. Conservatives are still ridiculous. Both groups are hoping enough interested people are out there who prefer their brand of statism and phony philosophies, both of which have been tainted (perhaps from their very inception) by an obvious desire to control individuals and individuality itself.

The young activists in the Republican and Libertarian Parties are truly the most progressive movement out there, 21st Century Libertarians: Homosexuals and Straights, Queers and Squares, Blacks and Whites, Capitalists and Voluntary Socialists, Anarchists and Government Employees, Soldiers and Peaceniks, Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. (Queue liberal heads exploding everywhere.)

The young activists are showing up and doing their best to drag the Bush Republicans out with the trash. And who would serve in their place? Who do you think? Do you think?

The new dynamic in American politics is Statism vs. Libertarianism. Remember when people use to make jokes about how the government made no sense and was terrible? Now they’re saying, “Wait, why are we joking about this?” Remember when people said, “Live and let live?” People are beginning to say, “Yeah, that’s something we should actually do.”

It is rather beside the point to mention Republicans by and large only pay lip service to Libertarianism. People are waking up to this fact and are saying enough is enough. Statism should be a thing of the past. The Bush Republicans are in trouble; they took first place in the contest to see who Libertarians would try to displace in the Swamp.

When Anti-War, Non-Violence, and Freedom are Truly Considered

However, the Left Statists are also in trouble. While Libertarians have taken up an electoral assault at all levels to the Republican Party, they have also meted out punishment to Liberals in the political conscience of the entire world.

Liberals have tried to keep clear of Libertarian political philosophy by claiming it all boils down to Bush Republicanism or worse by throwing out names like “racist” or “sexist” or “exploiter” instead of taking up fundamental issues like the freedom of association head on.

But it’s not that easy. Libertarian philosophers, economists, and politicians have gained access to media outlets, and more importantly, social networks and the internet. That’s right. More importantly.

Libertarians have become a force to be reckoned with in the minds of the American public, and we see support around the world increasing as well. Conservatives are trying to paint Libertarians as Liberals. Liberals, who used to be known for supporting personal freedom, are doing their best to paint the Libertarian message as Conservative, i.e., all things racist and sexist, with a broad brush of hate.

Behold the Name Calling Olympics

Libertarians are quite comfortable sitting back and watching while Conservatives call Liberals “sluts” and Liberals call Conservatives “racist” and “sexist.” It’s actually quite amazing when either group actually complains about what the other side is doing. It’s like when a child calls his sister stupid and then complains when she calls him stupid back. But when it’s adults on air with access to millions of people, the farce and entertainment factor grows a thousand fold.

The knee jerk reaction of either side these days is to simply call the other some sort of pejorative as if this settles the whole affair. Liberals are the most buffoonish when they do this, since they try to pass it off as actual intellectual commentary. You see Left Statists on the air talking about how the only reason someone would be against Obama is because they are racist. Deluded people are usually the only ones who don’t see the absurdity of their delusions. Many Americans see this sort of talking going on and think to themselves, “That’s really not an answer for all these valid critiques of Obama. Neither is pointing out that some people didn’t have those critiques of Bush. Some people did.”

Libertarians are simply answering all critics with consistent arguments. When these critics reply by impugning the personal beliefs and motives of Libertarians, it’s actually a win for freedom. Remember: a boxer isn’t great because he’s the best in the gym, he’s great because he wins. If Liberals and Conservatives weren’t so obviously bad at answering fundamental questions about freedom, whether economic, sexual, personal, professional, whatever, Libertarians wouldn’t be so obviously gaining ground in the realm of public opinion. Yeah, it’s all fine and good when a Libertarian writes a great book. It’s even better when he or she schools a Liberal or Conservative in public.

Obama, Obama

Left Statists really don’t have much to hang onto when it comes to the current President. Their philosophy has been reduced to, “Vote for the guy who will make sure we can do what we like on the weekends, the hell with anti-war and civil liberties. We’ll care about that when a Republican is President.”

One need only become a regular reader of Glenn Greenwald’s blog to understand the extent to which Obama has further dragged the United States into a fascist, menacing police state that claims life and death over all people and their freedom, ownership over all resources, and the ability to wage war without the consent of anyone but the President and associated counselors.

Liberals constantly like to paint Libertarians as hypocrites. Why don’t you avoid using roads if you think government shouldn’t have a monopoly on the roads you can’t avoid using!? (Hysteria ensues.) That’s really the topic of another blog post, but the point is that if Liberals are asking, “Oh, well, look, you actually do use some government services. How do you explain that?” why can’t Libertarians ask, “Oh, well, look, your preferred road builder is actually killing and imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people every year. How do you explain that?”

Neither Conservatives nor Liberals are Anti-Corporatism

Many people who identify as Christian Conservatives, Romney Republicans, Left Statists and Occupy Wall Street Punching Bags don’t want to see an end to the current power structure in the United States. The television news and print media discuss fundamental issues about power as if it is the personalities wielding these powers that are insufficient and lacking.

Only Libertarians are advancing popular political thinking by questioning whether a political system now well over 200 years old needs some revisiting and self-reflection rather than cheerleading, ever greater legalized plunder, and nonstop attacks on human freedom.

But not your typical Statist! Why, if only we had the best and brightest, I’m sure our perfect political system would work! If only the subsidies were handed out correctly! If only the power to compel a certain morality were given to this President or that President! If only the central bank were more/less politicized! If only taxes were higher/(a little) lower! If only spending were (much) higher/higher!

Republicans aren’t looking for real cuts in spending, and Democrats are looking for more spending. Neither side is doing anything to stop bailouts in any meaningful way, and the feast of rent-seeking at the teat located on Capitol Hill goes on unabated.

Libertarians are the only ones discussing truly anti-corporatist measures like ending all subsidies, ending all bailouts, ending all government-issued monopoly advantages, ending all public school monopolies, and ending all incarceration for victimless crimes. These are radical policies. These are the ideas invigorating young folk, not half measures and unkept promises. People don’t want to see something a little different. They want a lot different, and they want it now.

Even if you throw some of the corrupt players on Wall Street in jail, doesn’t the game go on? Even if you increase (or even decrease) taxes on the rich, aren’t you leaving in place a system that allows rent-seeking to go on, letting people get rich based on government fiat and the enforcement of monopoly advantages with courts and police forces? Even if you elect a Democratic Nobel Peace Prize winner, won’t you still have an increase in the number of wars, war spending, and abuses of civil liberties?

A healthy conscience demands answers to these questions. Conservatives and Liberals offer none.

All Your Intertubes are Belong to Us

As the 24-hour news cycle settles comfortably into its third decade, people are beginning to see the entire forest, not just the trees. Politicians and talking heads are no longer heroes; they’re actors in a script that most people see is just a script.

The real discussion about political events and philosophies happens on the internet. When you load up CNN or Fox News or any other mainstream outlet, the comments are about as interesting as a dry water fountain. However, when you see friends and friends of friends and amateur bloggers duking it out on social networks and blogs, crowd-sourced criticism becomes very valuable. The internet is a crucible into which lies and stupidity go to be smashed apart and die.

Libertarians are using this medium to highlight all the critical thinking that was going on when all the glowy boxes in houses were one way streets. Back in the day, when something stupid and obviously ridiculous was said on TV about the government, you had a smaller group of people at your disposal with which to reflect upon that stupidity. The thought of it is chilling. How terrible it must have been to get an inkling that something stupid was said and you didn’t quite know how to put it.

But nowadays, there is much criticism of the government’s public statements as well as the statements coming out of the traditional news media. Hackers and whistle-blowers are cracking the edifice of government secrecy that journalists have failed to breach in a very long time. If journalists are the watchmen of government, your average internet user has become the watchmen of journalists.

As a rule of thumb, most established news outlets are largely uncritical of government no matter what era or government you’re talking about, including ours. Perhaps especially ours. Previous to the advent of the internet, both official and news media propaganda was harder to criticize. In addition, the duopoly Democratic and Republican parties control was harder to avoid since the obvious answer to something you didn’t agree with was the most widely available criticism of that thing.

No longer is this the case. Now when people turn on the cable news, it’s with the understanding that within a day or two, they will have come across no less than 500 opinions about what was said. Now a typically Statist debate can be shown for what it is: thinking within a very dimly lit and confused box. Libertarians are now able to ask why anyone should have to settle for picking one sort of government harassment over another.

The Future Looks Great

No longer does the sun set so gently on Bush’s successors–Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich–nor their Left Statist critics. Let’s be clear here. Much to the GOP’s chagrin, (they’re resigning over it), and the Democrat’s chagrin (anti-war when convenient), a large number of people from all walks of life are rejecting the idea that government is their best friend just because they’re homosexual, or minorities, or Christians, or women, or men, or veterans, or soldiers, or anything else. The Libertarians are here to stay.

The problem with establishing a legal duopoly in the electoral process, or trying to perpetuate a duopoly in the realm of ideas that has already broken down, is that if you ever lose control of either, you’re on the outside trying to get in. Now you’re the one being smashed in the crucible.

Libertarians need only keep doing what they are doing to grow their numbers, to show old ideas for what they are, and to keep lighting the fires of new ideas wherever the fuel of human curiosity is available. Peace is no longer a concept that applies only to nations, but also to the state of affairs among all men and womenTrue freedom is not licensed or granted by a group, but recognized as necessary for the blossoming of the individual. And the more critics of freedom try to reduce it to hate and selfishness, the more firmly will it take hold in the minds of thinking people who are not so easily dissuaded from rational discourse.

Obama’s Con Game: Budget Priorities Part 1

March 22, 2012 2 comments

This one doesn’t come directly from President Obama (though many others have).  It comes from White House Senior Advisor, David Plouffe as reported this morning in Politico Playbook.  However, it’s consistent with the pattern of intellectual dishonesty exhibited by the President and his administration.  It’s what I call “Low Information Explanation” –  L.I.E for short.

It doesn’t take much critical thinking to see through this one. Here is the entire quote from Politico this morning.

DAVID PLOUFFE, White House senior adviser, will be out with a blast email this a.m.: “[W]hen Congressman Paul Ryan put out a new budget for the House Republicans this week, we spent some time with it. We took a careful look and did the math. Here’s what we learned. Republicans in Washington want to give millionaires and billionaires an average tax break of at least $150,000. … To show you what we mean, we’ve put together an infographic that breaks out the kinds of priorities we’d have to give up for the $150,000 tax break that Republicans want to give to the nation’s millionaires and billionaires. Check it out below and forward this message to your friends. The more people who share it, the more folks will understand what’s at stake and how we can do better for the middle class.” See the graphic.

Now I’m no big fan of Paul Ryan or the Republican budget or the Republicans for that matter.  But the argument above is a con job pure and simple.  Did you catch it?

To show you what we mean, we’ve put together an infographic that breaks out the kinds of priorities we’d have to give up for the $150,000 tax break that Republicans want to give to the nation’s millionaires and billionaires.

The first few items on the chart are senior medicare prescription costs, a high school computer lab,  a year of medical care for a veteran and medical research grants.  So Plouffe implies that the trade off is the incremental dollar of taxes denied to the government against an incremental dollar of senior citizen’s medicine.  That’s exactly what his statement and chart say.  Are those really the Obama administration’s priorities for budget cuts?

Apparently Plouffe is a very poor decision maker because a good decision maker would trade his incremental dollar of cost ( tax cuts) against the LEAST valuable benefit to be given up. If you are $50 short on your monthly budget do you sacrifice grandma’s medicine or the movie tickets?   Plouffe trades extremely high value benefits. Plouffe sacrifices grandma! Is that really the way these guys make decisions?

Really?  Grandma?  There is nothing else we can cut first?

Should we cut senior medical benefits or should cut the wars first?

Should we cut school computer labs or should we eliminate the IRS and TSA first?

Should we cut veteran’s benefits or should we eliminate corporate welfare first?

Should we cut medical research or should we eliminate the war on drugs first and the associated prison and police costs?

No wonder the country is in such bad shape with people like that making decisions.  Either Plouffe and the Obama administration are intellectually weak or perhaps they just think you are.

The Future of Tomorrow Today

March 5, 2012 1 comment

The Free Agent likes keeping her finger on the pulse of youth, so she almost perspired at the opportunity to speak to a group of political science students at Manhattan’s alternative City-as-High-School.  Their instructor cleared the path by passing on a list of the students’ concerns, along with the caveat that they were just beginning to learn about politics and knew nothing about economics, so please to keep everything basic.

“You’ll hear Libertarians refer to the Constitution frequently,” The FA began, “because the people who started our party were grappling with the same problems as the Founders.  They both decided there was the business of government and the business of society and when they get confused, bad things happen.”  From then, as the neophytes say, it was on.

The first question was from a self-described “Ron Paul Republican”, “How would the Libertarian Party address unemployment?”  Grateful for such a softball, The Free Agent replied, “Repeal all employment laws.”  She then discussed the most catastrophic law affecting high school students, minimum wage.  The FA could write a book on how 1937’s Fair Labor Standards Act is the depression that keeps on giving, but she had realized that apart from foreign policy, all the students’ concerns had to do with black markets of various sorts, so she made that her leitmotif.  “If you want to do work for five dollars an hour, who am I to stop you?  You own your own bodies, you’re not slaves, you have the right to work or not work however you choose.  You’re concerned about immigration, one reason we have illegal immigrants is minimum wage creates a black market for lower-paid labor.   That kills two birds with one stone, no minimum wage.”

The Free Agent has never had the misfortune to live in a violent neighborhood like the students she met.  Unlike theorists, their experience and common sense applauded when The FA said Libertarians would end the drug war and defend gun rights.  Being something of a humorist, The FA is used to her speeches being punctuated with laughter, but she wasn’t going for the belly laugh she got when she drew parallels between the drug war and other flavors of prohibition.  “We’ve tried everything, every idea everyone can think of, for thousands of years, and we haven’t figured out a way to get people to not want sex.  For a hundred years, we’ve tried everything we can think of to persuade people not to get high.  Remember the area where government belongs and the area where it creates more problems than it solves?  This is the biggest reason your neighborhoods are unsafe.”  Unschooled they may have been, but no one in that room was so impoverished of common sense as to suggest that perhaps just one more moonlight basketball league would turn the tide.

One could rightly observe that The Free Agent wasn’t asked to confront the bread and butter issues of these students’ lives, such as how they will be required to pay off the federal debt and could not look forward to seeing a dime of the earnings which will be withheld for their retirement.  (Although when asked what the government’s role in healthier diets should be, she asked how the school lunches at City-as-High-School were.  “They suck,” came the economical reply.  “That’s what the government feeds you when it has complete control,” she pointed out.)  For now, they do not see that cloud on their horizon.  Just in case there was a patch of fertile ground, however, The Free Agent could not resist planting a seed.  “You wouldn’t pay off your crazy crack cousin’s credit card until she got off the crack, would you?” she said.

And thus for two hours, staring down the barrel of the future, was The Free Agent educated.


December 21, 2011 1 comment

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December 19, 2011 9 comments

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