A neat poem: The Demise of Pickins

The Demise of Pickins

A skinny fellow, name of Pickins
Made a livin’ raisin’ chickens.
Traded eggs for other stuff;
He was doin’ well enough.

A stranger stopped by for lunch one day,
When it was et, he wouldn’t pay!
Stranger says his name was King,
And Chicken was his favorite thing.

He claimed some revenue was due him;
And Pickins was to give it to him.
Well, Pickins got his musket out
And ran off that ungrateful lout.

Pickins got a surly dog
To guard his chickens and his hog.
He built a fence both tall and stout,
To keep the thieves and vagrants out.

Defense used up his sparse resources,
So Pickins harnessed up his horses.
He plowed more land to grow more oats
To feed his horses and his goats.

He made a little profit, too;
A fresh new colt, a kid or two,
But paper notes he did eschew,
And paperwork and taxes, too.

A tenth he gave to God always,
And thanked Him in his daily praise.
Was in his dealings even handed,
But King a ransom now demanded.

Upon his fields and his flock,
Upon his hat and on his sox.
And even on his largest rocks,
Which gave no graze and grew no crops!

Enormous fees they now assessed
On assets he had never guessed.
And said that he had better pay,
Indeed, upon that very day!

But you’ve not worked to raise the crops,
Your hands are soft; your felly flops.
I’ll pay no revenue to you!
Your claims are void, your logic, too!

They carted Pickins off post-haste,
Confined him in a deep dank place.
Seized his chickens, fields, and pens.
Gave them out to King’s dear friends.

Alas, this is no foolish fable,
Of kingly follies told at table.
Governments, like kings of old,
Coercing peaceful, private souls.

To war against their neighbors,
And tribute pay for doubtful favors.
Codes, and edicts they design.
Proclaiming sovereign right divine.

Pickins future is looking grim,
A ball and chain will keep him trim.
Til king extracts what he deems due,
Til Pickins swears allegiance true.

Creative Commons License
The Demise of Pickins by John M Haugen
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

A few more words on the State

Do I have any right to impose my will on my neighbor, who is doing me no harm? All systems of morality that I know of would answer no to that question, and certainly the non-aggression principle would say no. The main problem of our time is that the state is  the one institution we allow a peculiar exemption from all of the moral assumptions that guide our daily lives and our dealings with one another. But the “State” is nothing more than a group of men and women, and they also don’t have any right to impose their will by force upon others that are doing no harm to anyone.

The reality of our world is that it is very complex with billions of people reacting to each other every minute of the day. It is impossible to predict all of the ramifications of our actions and no committee of state bureaucrats can possibly order people how to live their lives and get it right. It is the problem of knowledge that von Mises pointed out so long ago and this is why moral rules are so very important. If we set out to do things ‘for the greater common good,’ we will invariably end up believing that the ends justify the means. It is this belief that the end justifies all our actions that leads to great evils. The only path that we can take and remain moral is to follow the non-aggression principle. That is, never initiate violence, fraud, or intimidation. This path also leads, happily, to the maximization of peace and prosperity.

We have seen that the state is nothing more than a group of men and women that force everyone else to obey them, fund them, buy services from them, and endure whatever brutality the state’s minions decide to dish out. The state is said to have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within its geographical boundaries, and it uses force constantly to enforce its whims. All politics that exist within this state monopoly on the use of force and intimidation are just variations on the question of who will have wealth stolen from them and how much the state apparatus will keep for itself before giving a portion to others. This is the nature of the state and it will continue to steal and confiscate in order to survive.

It is critical to remember that laws and rights are not the same thing. Laws enacted by the state will either respect the natural rights of the people or these laws will disrespect those rights: but they do not bestow rights. Rights existed before the state and exist in spite of the state. The state cannot bestow that which it did not first possess.

Some say the state is a necessary evil because they protect us from all those “bad guys” who would rape our women and steal our food. Balderdash! What makes anyone think that government officials are even trying to protect us? The state is not a hired security guard seeking to please you as a customer. The state was born in conquest and lives by plunder. The idea that the state or its leaders seek to promote the interests of the people is laughable to anyone who takes an honest look at history; even the history of just the last few years.

As just one example of the “justice” of the law in modern America, consider the actions of the Obama administration as outlined by journalist Glenn Greenwald:

“To recap ‘Obama justice,’ if you create an illegal worldwide torture regime, illegally spy on Americans without warrants, abduct people with no legal authority, or invade and destroy another country based on false claims, then you are fully protected. But if you expose any of the evils secretly perpetrated as part of those lawless actions — by publishing the truth about what was done — then you are an Evil Criminal who deserves the harshest possible prosecution.” ~Glen Greenwald

It has often been observed that In the long run even the most despotic governments with all their brutality and cruelty are no match for ideas. Mankind has long known that the ideology that the majority support will prevail. This means that we need to educate the people that the state is their enemy and that ending the tyranny of the state will not lead to chaos but rather to liberty, prosperity, and peace. Liberty is the mother of peace.  When we have educated enough of the people to this truth, then the oppressed many will rise in rebellion and overthrow their masters.

Mankind needs the decentralization of decision-making. By distributing authority widely rather than narrowly we will see a much greater flexibility which will allow individuals to voluntarily join with others in concentrated communities in which they can choose to associate with others in pursuit of shared interests. When people learn that voluntary cooperation is the path to happiness on earth, then the real future of mankind can begin.


The Libertarian Brand

Once upon a time from the 1600s to the 1800s there were liberals that we now have to call “classical liberals” since the modern liberals are the exact opposite of the old-time liberals. The modern fraudsters claim the label liberal even though they don’t deserve it at all. They should give the label back to real liberals.

A lot of people these days have started calling themselves “libertarian” now that the term “libertarian” is gaining as much respect around the world as the term liberal held in those long ago days. Plus a lot of non-libertarians, most often conservatives, love to hurl the label “libertarian” at others as a pejorative without knowing what the label “libertarian” really means. So what is this oft misunderstood thing called libertarianism?

Jeffery Tucker once wrote:

“I’m interested in only one thing: progressive reductions of the role of all government power in people’s lives all the way to zero if possible. Whatever brings that about, in whatever sector it happens, and whether it happens slowly by steps or all in one fell swoop, I’m for it. I really don’t care who or what makes a contribution to this end or how it comes about, so long as it is ethical and it actually achieves the aim of human liberation, the mother of all progress, order, and higher civilization.”

Jeffery Tucker’s statement leaves a lot of room for people of differing opinions to work together under the banner of libertarianism. I am a radical libertarian myself and would rather see the state tossed into the trash-bin of history all at once and soon, but I know there are those who believe we must extradite ourselves from this state-caused nightmare of evil governments slowly to overcome the damage they have done. We differ on tactics but not on the goal.

Murray Rothbard thought that we could be allies with the small-government conservatives or minarchists. Yes, we can find common cause with them at times, but they are as much the enemy as the evil, government-worshiping progressives. They are statists and their philosophy leads right back to the police state given enough time no matter how small a state they start with. After all, the early U.S. republic was the ultimate minarchist dream but started a drift towards ever more power flowing to the central state almost immediately.

Rothbard warned against any drifting to the right-wing and conservatism by libertarians. He wrote in his classic “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty” an essay that challenged the fallacy that libertarianism was a conservative doctrine and warned against rightward deviations.

Libertarians of the present day are accustomed to think of socialism as the polar opposite of the libertarian creed. But this is a grave mistake, responsible for a severe ideological disorientation of libertarians in the present world. As we have seen, Conservatism was the polar opposite of liberty; and socialism, while to the “left” of conservatism, was essentially a confused, middle-of-the road movement. It was, and still is, middle-of-the road because it tries to achieve Liberal ends by the use of Conservative means. ~Murray Rothbard (1965)

Rothbard’s “conservative means” here refers to the political devices and institutions of government such as taxation, the police, prisons, federal departments, and all the rest. He pointed out that for most of human history government has been a conservative institution and always on the side of economic privilege, theocracy, patriarchy, and militarism. As Rothbard described it:

Socialism, like Liberalism and against Conservatism, accepted the industrial system and the liberal goals of freedom, reason, mobility, progress, higher living standards for the masses, and an end to theocracy and war; but it tried to achieve these ends by the use of incompatible, Conservative means: statism, central planning, communitarianism, etc. Or rather, to be more precise, there were from the beginning two different strands within Socialism: one was the Right-wing, authoritarian strand, from Saint-Simon down, which glorified statism, hierarchy, and collectivism and which was thus a projection of Conservatism trying to accept and dominate the new industrial civilization. The other was the Left-wing, relatively libertarian strand, exemplified in their different ways by Marx and Bakunin, revolutionary and far more interested in achieving the libertarian goals of liberalism and socialism: but especially the smashing of the State apparatus to achieve the “withering away of the State” and the “end of the exploitation of man by man.”

Modern American left-liberals always favor state-socialist means which libertarians see as immoral as well as destructive of society. Even so, they often have goals that line up with libertarians especially when they are defending the common man against powerful forces. But it would be a mistake to think that the modern left is any better than the modern conservatives. Libertarians have to reject both of these ideologies as they are not in favor of liberty for all men. We will reject both conservatism and modern “liberalism” (or progressivism) as not being “libertarian” or even anything close. Among those that we can realistically call libertarian there are various distinctions: we have “left-libertarians”, “right-libertarians”, minarch libertarians, radical libertarians, and on and on. One might say there is a spectrum of beliefs held by those we might be realistically called libertarian.

I believe that the key distinction among varying kinds of libertarians should be seen as one of principle and not one of aesthetics or slogans. There are libertarians who champion freedom of association, decentralizing power, maximum individual liberty, private property rights, voluntary exchange, laissez-faire markets, and peace. They champion the non-aggression principle. These are libertarians and not those so-called “libertarians” who just want to make the government work more efficiently and who compromise on property rights and free association and favor government war.

The real issue is whether a person sees the state as a moral hazard and the enemy, or just another institution to be used to achieve a political goal. The pro-state “libertarians” might have laudable goals in mind such as some nebulous concept of freedom and justice, but if you want to use the state to achieve your goals you are not a libertarian. I think the term libertarian means that one will oppose the initiation of violence, force, or fraud against the innocent by anyone, especially by the minions of the state. This is the non-aggression principle, and it is the unifying and underlining philosophical basis for libertarianism. I don’t see how one can be called a “libertarian” without his agreeing to the non-aggression principle.

Recognizing a real libertarian can be easy. If a person wants to use the government to enforce his vision of how other people should live then he is definitely not a libertarian. If a person would let people do as they please as long as they don’t aggress against any innocent person or their property then that person is libertarian. A person shows their libertarian colors when they defend other people’s right to do as they please as long as they don’t use force, fraud, or intimidation; and all others are pretenders to the name libertarian.


Do you believe in the debunked labor theory of value?

I sent out a tweet the other day that said:

Many hate those with wealth; but when did a poor person ever build a factory or a store and create jobs?

Some deluded leftist on twitter who actually calls himself “Unlearn Economics” (@UnlearningEcon) took exception with that obvious truth and told me in so many words that the poor build everything and create all wealth. I suppose the fool wants us to “unlearn economics” because basic economics teaches us that it takes accumulated wealth to have investment capital to build new production capacity. This is the typical envy of the left rearing its ugly head yet again — no wonder envy is listed as one of the seven deadly sins. The modern American left hates anyone, other than themselves of course, who become wealthy.

The delusion that this poor envious fellow is laboring under is his mistaken belief in the discredited “labor theory of value”. Classical econom­ics from the 1770′s until the margin­alist-subjective schools arose in the 1870′s were confused by the problem of value. Economists believed that there was a relationship between how much human labor went into making a thing and how much that thing was “worth” or how much it was “valued.” Their theories were that the laborers on the job “produced the value” all by themselves or in other words that labor alone was the creator of wealth.  Reality told us that these economists were wrong since the price of a thing does not depend upon how much you spent to produce it or how “hard you worked”. Some things that have taken much human labor to produce can only be sold at a fraction of the cost in labor that it took to produce it, and sometimes it can not be sold at any price at all. Back then there was the observation that an uncut diamond would bring a higher price on the market than an in­tricate mechanism like a clock and that told many observers that the labor value theory was clearly wrong.

Of course, in my tweet I talked about building a factory or store and creating jobs. The deluded left seems to think that all that is necessary is for a crowd of men to walk to an empty field, build a factory equipped with machinery, and start producing computers or cars! The lunacy of the wealth hating left is beyond comprehension. Who paid for the land? Who paid for the tools to work with? Surely you don’t expect men to start with only their bare hands and build a modern factory.

What about a retail store? That would be simpler to build I guess, but who pays for the land to build it on? If you could manufacture building materials by hand you would still be left with the fact you only have an empty store and one in a non-prime location since you had no money to buy prime real estate.

In 1871, Austrian economist Carl Menger’s book appeared, Principles of Economics. The Mises Institute makes it available for free here. Menger took issue with the classical economists, including Karl Marx, who had argued that the value of any asset is derived from the value of the labor that was used to create it. Not so, said Menger. Economic value today derives from forecasters’ expectation of future demand by consumers.

Of course, this expectation may be wrong. Future consumers may decide not to buy the item or service. In this case, the asset’s value will be close to zero. The producer will suffer a big loss. The fact remains that the labor invested in the production of the item is a sunk cost. It’s gone forever. Its value is gone forever. Think “dry hole so far”

In short, economic value is not intrinsic and objective. It is imputed and subjective. This insight launched Austrian economics. ~ Dr. Gary North

I have members of my extended family that came originally from a very poor fishing village in the Philippines. Until a few years ago the village did not even have electricity. The idiots who hate wealth accumulation must think that the only thing stopping these villagers from building a modern car factory is pure laziness since no accumulated wealth is required according to them. I do however notice that no group of left-wing Americans have ever rounded up a crowd of destitute Americans and shown them how to produce a factory and products with only their bare hands so that they could make themselves better off — and why they have not is obvious to all people other than the American Left itself.

American leftists are all some flavor of communist to this day. Since the fall of the USSR and given the sad example of poverty in North Korea or Cuba few modern leftists will claim to be communists anymore. In fact many will even claim to be libertarians! But when push comes to shove they want to loot the rich: they preach theft and violence.

As a side note, it is often the free market, one without any force, intimidation, or fraud (no government intervention in other words) that the leftist really hate. They hate the idea that a free market will produce great wealth as it did in the West during the industrial revolution, but that some will become much more wealthy that others. Modern leftists would rather see an impoverished world where all are equally miserable — well, other than a tiny group of ruling wise ones. By coincidence the ‘ruling wise ones’ that the leftists envision just happen to be themselves!

Murray Rothbard once described the free market thusly:

The Free market is a summary term for an array of exchanges that take place in society. Each exchange is undertaken as a voluntary agreement between two people or between groups of people represented by agents. These two individuals (or agents) exchange two economic goods, either tangible commodities or nontangible services. Thus, when I buy a newspaper from a news dealer for fifty cents, the news dealer and I exchange two commodities: I give up fifty cents, and the news dealer gives up the newspaper. Or if I work for a corporation, I exchange my labor services, in a mutually agreed way, for a monetary salary; here the corporation is represented by a manager (an agent) with the authority to hire.

Both parties undertake the exchange because each expects to gain from it. Also, each will repeat the exchange next time (or refuse to) because his expectation has proved correct (or incorrect) in the recent past. Trade, or exchange, is engaged in precisely because both parties benefit; if they did not expect to gain, they would not agree to the exchange.

Modern liberals (or progressives) just hate the idea of free and voluntary exchange as they believe that the unwashed masses need their protection and of course they intend to “protect you” via government intervention.

As a disclaimer, I would like to note that in the US today we do not have a laissez-faire free market but rather have massive government intervention and a crony-capitalist (economically fascist) system. There are many, many people who became wealthy by using the force, fraud, and intimidation of the state rather than by serving their fellow man in a voluntary free market. These evil bastards don’t deserve their ill-gotten gains, but that does not mean that that a market freed from state intervention is evil like the deluded leftists preach.


The state says you are a criminal


Are you a criminal? The state says that you are. Harvey A. Silverglate’s Three Felonies A Day says in his book that federal prosecutors invent creative interpretations of statutes and by doing so create new felonies out of thin air. So many felonies that the average person in this country commits three felonies a day.

The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have not only exploded in number, but, along with countless regulatory provisions, have also become impossibly broad and vague. In Three Felonies a Day, Harvey A. Silverglate reveals how the federal criminal justice system has become dangerously disconnected from common law traditions of due process and fair notice of the law’s expectations, enabling prosecutors to pin arguable federal crimes on any one of us, for even the most seemingly innocuous behavior.

The dangers spelled out in Three Felonies a Day do not apply solely to”white collar criminals,” state and local politicians, and professionals. No social class or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control by the executive branch, and nothing less than the continued functioning and integrity of our constitutional democracy hang in the balance. ~from the publisher’s description

Silverglate tells us that the poor wording of congressional laws allows these prosecutors to establish felonies never intended by Congress to become the law of the land. He tells us that federal criminal law is today so vast that each of us unknowingly commits at least three felonies each and every day.

Federal judges are most often former federal prosecutors and they are of no use in reining in the abuses of the predators called federal prosecutors. These judges permit the prosecution of Americans for crimes that the defendants did not know were crimes and most often could not have known were crimes. Hell, part of the time these crimes did not even exist until some federal prosecutor dreamed up the charge and then filed it against some hapless citizen.

The invention of crimes by prosecutors violates every known legal principle in Anglo-American law and in spite of that it has become commonplace in our modern police state. Silverglate reports in his book that defense attorneys have lost confidence that it is possible to defend a client from a federal prosecution. In the vast majority of cases the defense has become a mere negotiator of a plea bargains to reduces the charges and prison time of the defendant in spite of the fact that many are innocent.

Very often these novel “new laws” can then be used to entrap innocent Americans and send them to prison. If you read Silverglate’s book you can learn how federal prosecutors manage their frame-ups and send scores of innocent citizens to prison for committing no crime at all. Silverglate reports on many cases to evidence his claims and he was personally involved in many of these examples.

In addition to the prosecutors just making up new crimes, we have the specter of all the wrongful convictions by the prosecutors just looking to “win” and justice be damned. This is the aspect of the modern system of in-justice that most of us are more familiar with.

The problem is that prosecutors rarely care about innocence or justice. They are the products of law schools that preach winning at all costs and they know that their future prospects of getting appointments to the bench or winning a political race depends on a high conviction rate. To hell with justice because being “tough on crime” is a requisite item on their resume. Besides that, prosecutors operate under cover of immunity.

In most professions people who make serious errors that harm other people, like sending an innocent man to prison for decades, results in their being held accountable for the actions that caused the situation. In America prosecutors who bend and break the law are immune from any punishment. How the hell did that come to be? Who thinks that giving a man immunity for all his actions will lead to him never abusing his position?

I recommend reading Silverglate’s book even though it is a few years old now. The system is still broken and he describes it well.