Authentic Liberalism

So what is “liberalism” to the average American? I bet most people would say a “liberal” is a Democratic Party voter who favors gun control, abortion, wealth redistribution, compulsory public education, government control of almost everything in life, gay rights, belief that human economic activity endangers life on the planet, and so on with a large laundry list of “causes”. Most people would also say that an American “liberal” is the opposite of an American “conservative”. “Liberals” in the U.S. also love to call themselves “progressive”.

Outside of the U.S. there is a different view of what it means to be a “liberal”.  Outside America “liberalism” is quite distinct from the modern American definition. Liberalism overseas is in the tradition of Adam Smith, John Locke, and Frédéric Bastiat. Ralph Raico once wrote a wonderful description of the classical liberal tradition which is still close to just “liberalism” is some countries but the very opposite of “liberalism” in the U.S.

Classical Liberalism, or “liberalism” outside the U.S., is the political creed of those who favor liberty over the state, practice peace rather than war, and believe that the laissez-faire market, property rights and voluntary cooperation is the foundation of a just society. They see nothing wrong with wealth accumulation as long as it was accumulated  by the peaceful and productive means of voluntary free exchange and not the political means of plunder and government privilege.

Well informed readers will recognize that Classical Liberalism is the forerunner of the modern libertarian movement. There are a few modern Americans who self-identify as “liberals” who still claim the legacy of Classical Liberalism for themselves in spite of the fact that classical liberalism is the direct opposite of the state-worshiping “liberalism” of modern America. The classical liberals believe in individual liberty, distrust government, and believe in decentralization and the self-organizing effectiveness of society. In short, my friends, the very opposite of today’s Democratic Party Liberals who favor tax and spend with total control of our lives by the central government.

I once wrote “I want the term “liberal” back!” and I still do. After all, modern American Liberalism is totally inconsistent with the traditions of classical liberalism and modern libertarianism. The modern “liberal-left” talks about humanitarianism and putting people above profits but they favor the iron fist of government domination over the voluntary cooperation of free individuals. People just don’t do what the modern liberal totalitarians think they should do!  Now these statists will usually try to obscure the fact fact they favor total government control by claiming that they do not favor state violence and besides that we all are ruled by government with our consent.  (I never gave my “consent”, did you?)

The state is God to the American liberal-progressive mindset while the libertarian (classical liberal) is not looking for a Utopia on earth but just the maximization of freedom, progress, happiness, and material well being through voluntary cooperation.

The American left-liberal joins the American conservative in being soft on the police state and the imperial war machine. Oh, each side will often decry the other’s wars but nothing changes as one side gets power and the other loses. A change in administration in D.C. often does nothing to end foreign wars but rather we often see a renewed fierceness in foreign aggressions with a change in administration. And both the “liberals” and the “conservatives” love the militarized police since the police is to the state as the edge is to the knife.

The classical liberal tradition needs to re-claim the term “liberal” if we can, but more important than terms is the fact we need to recapture the philosophy of the classical liberals. That would be a wonderful first step towards ending the present police state and world empire that is the U.S. After that, perhaps we can move on to overcoming any State rule at all.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will

Note: another guest post by Mickey Ellison

A Tragedy Made More Tragic by the State

Do you ever think, man I must be living in the Twilight Zone? We live in a world today where 2+2=5 and up is really down. Many in the financial world consider themselves “capitalists” and “free market” folks, and they do talk a great game. Someone very wise once taught me to hear what people say, but if you want to know them, watch what they do. Talking is the easy part.

Yesterday in my email box, just like every day, I received my daily email from Investment News. The headline to the story read, “Philip Seymour Hoffman’s will: A cautionary tale.” Normally I wouldn’t read a story about an actor, but this one I did read. The story can be found here if you want to read it as well.

If you don’t know, Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor that recently passed away and was found with a needle in his arm from what appears to have been a drug overdose. Sadly, the same story that seems to play out in the tragic deaths of many of the rich and famous.

The gist of the story is that Mr. Hoffman, “may have left his partner and mother of his three children with a multi-million dollar tax bill.” (See Investment News story above)

Those quoted in the story are in the Twilight Zone because they can’t even see the absurdity of what they are saying. One such person is from Steven J. Oshins who is an estate attorney at Oshins & Associates. His point while true should actually sound absurd to a free thinking person. Mr. Oshins is quoted in the article saying, “He should have left the assets in trust to O’Donnell, Mr. Hoffman’s girlfriend, instead of leaving them to her outright, it’ll get taxed at his death and again at her death. You never want to leave assets outright to someone who is on the same generational level as you.”

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Another quote is from Charles Douglas, a financial planner and editor of the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils’ Journal of Estate & Tax Planning. Here is Mr. Douglas’ quote from the story, “You wouldn’t want to get married just for estate planning purposes, but if they were, he could pass the estate to her free of estate taxes.”

With all due respect to Mr. Oshins and Mr. Douglas, would you listen to what you are saying? A man tragically dies at way too early an age because of an addiction to drugs, and leaves behind a girlfriend that he has lived with for years, had three children together and your response is he could have done a much better job of estate planning. Really?

Here are few questions a moral thinking person would ask. The man worked his whole life, amassed a multi-million dollar fortune and because he didn’t set up his estate the way that the State said he should, his girlfriend and children will not get his entire fortune? Somehow the State is entitled to a portion of it? Do you not see an issue with that Mr. Douglas or Mr. Oshins?

Do you two guys not see the absurdity of this, or because the State is in the business of plunder, you can make thousands of dollars creating trusts and other legal documents that many do not know exist and frankly shouldn’t exist in a free society? To prevent the plunder by the state, you get to plunder them through trusts and estate tax planning that no free person should tolerate! At least you are doing it to them while they are alive.

The estate tax and the income tax for that matter is theft. If I came into your house, stole your money out of your wallet, I should be prosecuted for that crime if I am caught. But, taxation is actually backwards. If I don’t give whomever the “authority” is the tax, theft, I’m subject to incarceration for not giving said money to that authority. Must be nice to “force” someone to give you their money, and have the power to jail them and fine them if they don’t.

Many will accuse me of not wanting any police or firefighters or roads, and that couldn’t be further from the truth, and I am aware those services cost money. Each small community can decide for themselves what services they want, but in no way is it moral for a government body to take in some cases over 50% of a man or woman’s wealth after they are dead because they didn’t have a trust set up the way the “State” says they have to.

The only people entitled to Mr. Hoffman’s possessions at his death are those people that he wanted to receive those possessions. The only person entitled to the money that you earn when trading your efforts for that money is you.

While the death of Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman is tragic, the bigger tragedy is a society of people that can’t see the immorality of taking a dead man’s stuff in taxes after he is dead.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone!

A Word on Climate

I don’t often mention “global warming” here, as I am more interested in liberty, political philosophy, and the Austrian School brand of economics but I do turn to the climate wars once in a while. Today is one of those days and I want to catch up with a few things.

First, I notice that some pundits have made the point that modern day environmentalism is collapsing since far too many of the original conservation organizations have been hijacked by climate activists with agendas at total odds to those of the organization’s founders. We should not be surprised that support for these organizations have declined as they have ditched their original missions. At present the climate alarmists are desperately floundering around looking for a new proof of catastrophic man-made global warming (now re-branded as “climate change”)  as a result of rising carbon dioxide levels. Let us look at a few of their latest “proofs”.

1. Polar bears were claimed to be in great danger due to rising temperatures. And yet, these bears are thriving and not starving to death as predicted. There are twice as many polar bears as there were 40 years ago. Doubling is not dying out. (that last for the arithmetic challenged among us)

2. The ice caps are claimed to be melting which will drown us all. The problem there is that the ice at the Antarctic pole is growing and setting records for extent while the recent decline in Arctic ice has gone into sharp reverse and is growing at an astonishing rate at present.

3. Sea levels are supposed to be rising but the monitoring agencies have to add a fudge factor just to make the sea level rise the same as it has been since it started back in the 1850s. Even with the fudge factor the sea level has recently been slowing according to the government agencies. Certainly there is nothing alarming to see in sea levels.

4. The alarmists point out that glaciers are melting. That some glaciers are melting is true and that has been going on since that process started this time back in the 1850s at the end of the little ice age. (overall, glaciers have been melting since the end of the last glacial era about 12,000 years ago)

5. The alarmists claim that the oceans are acidifying but we have no historical data for comparison since the ocean pH was not measured until recently. We do have wild eyed speculations — but that is not science now is it? Besides, CO2 would not be the cause of the oceans becoming more acidic anyway.

6. The best alarmist claim is that the surface temperatures are rising. The global temperatures have indeed risen since the end of the little ice age in the 1850s and may we thank the gods for that. It is said that the average global temperature has risen by around 0.7 degrees C over the past century and that most of the rise occurred before anthropogenic CO2 could have been the culprit. This situation is not alarming even before we consider that there has been massive data manipulation in the historic temperature records and that a 17 year ‘pause’ in rising temperatures is still going on.

The entire alarmist “the planet is going to fry” movement is a fraud. Mankind has darn little effect on global temperatures. Consider that it is an historical fact that around 1,000 AD the English were growing wine grapes, and producing wines from the grapes, on the England/Scottish border. This wine so produced in that time period rivaled the wines produced in France. Today the English can not grow grapes in that region. Obviously the Medieval Warming Period was much warmer than today. Another fact is that around the same time period the Vikings were settling and living in Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland. The area was warm enough for these colonies to thrive until about 1,400 AD when the start of the little ice age lead to their demise. From about 1,400 AD to about 1,850 AD, the little ice age caused Europe to experience numerous harsh, cold and damaging winters, years and decades. Crop failures, famines and plagues reduced the population of Europe by more than half.

A retired Canadian health inspector once explained that his job had been to ensure that perishable food for sale was stored at the required temperatures. To do this his employer provided a “state of the art” digital thermometer that was regularly certified as accurate as the readings might need to be used in legal proceedings. This instrument was a $1500 thermometer and it was a real precision instrument. The thermometer had a guaranteed accuracy of plus or minus 0.1 degrees C which is ten times less accuracy than the “GLOBAL Temperature Anomalies” which is claimed to be measured in 0.01 C accuracy in government data sets which have at best +- 0.5 C accuracy. The older mercury in glass max/min thermometers aren’t going to be any more accurate and they are still in use today. Additionally, the older historical temperatures in the data set were measured to at best half a degree. Where do these modern “scientists” get their magical accuracy from instruments that are orders of magnitude less accurate? (they failed 8th grade science?)

Besides all the above information, I think that in order to believe that the planet’s global climate is being warmed dangerously by human C02 emissions we must deny the five contradictions at least:

1. Ice cores from glaciers show that throughout history, changes in C02 follows changes in temperature (lags behind), and not the other way around.

2. The warmer surface (land and oceans) heats up the cooler atmosphere, and not the other way around.

3. The earth is warmed to an average temperature of 15C because solar energy is retained in the oceans and released slowly upward against the pressure of the atmosphere, and not because of any heat trapped by gases in the atmosphere.

4. Forty years of satellite data show that outgoing infrared radiation (IR) from the top of the atmosphere has been constant, and not decreased with higher CO2 levels.

5. In the last 17+ years there has been no additional surface warming and with even some small decline at the same time as CO2 has continued to rise dramatically in the atmosphere.

St+James's+Park+And finally, I find it interesting that the whole “greenhouse gases effect” has change dramatically in my lifetime to support the alarmist viewpoint. When I studied science in college back in the 70’s we were taught that the “Greenhouse Effect” was obviously a consequence of atmospheric pressure. Science then taught that the high pressure at the surface of Venus was the cause of the heat at the surface and likewise the earth’s atmosphere was instrumental in our surface temperature due to atmospheric pressure. It was then accepted science that atmospheric pressure was the critical factor in accordance with the established science of the Gas Laws. Then came the idea that a trace gas could warm the surface of the planet to a higher temperature than the sun. Occam’s razor was tossed out the window.

The entire “catastrophic global warming” scare has been produced to wreck the economies of the industrialized nations and to further empower the governments to control the economies. There is no catastrophic man-made global warming to be worried about. Instead, worry about the socialists that are running the governments and seek to enslave you. That, my friends, is worth your worry.

Libertarianism and tolerance

I was reading Robert Wenzel and he referenced a great essay by Murray Rothbard on myths about libertarianism. In that essay we see the following:

 “The fact is that libertarianism is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life. . . . Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism.

It should not be surprising, therefore, that there are libertarians who are indeed hedonists and devotees of alternative lifestyles, and that there are also libertarians who are firm adherents of “bourgeois” conventional or religious morality. There are libertarian libertines and there are libertarians who cleave firmly to the disciplines of natural or religious law. There are other libertarians who have no moral theory at all apart from the imperative of non-violation of rights. That is because libertarianism per se has no general or personal moral theory.”  ~Murray Rothbard

There is a point in that quote that is lost on many libertarians. Those of us who are in the liberty movement or who are libertarians do not agree on all things. We don’t have a unifying moral code. What we do have is the non-aggression principle and a strong belief in private property.

Some people try to broaden libertarianism into much more than adherence to the non-aggression principle and all that the principle implies. They seek to claim that libertarians must accept, and even applaud, all manner of deviant behavior from others. They claim we are not allowed to voice disapproval of various life-style choices that we find repugnant or deviant. But these “cosmopolitan libertarians” are dead wrong. I can despise most beliefs and actions of my fellow humans and still be libertarian as long as I do not aggress against them. Heck, I not only will not aggress against them; I try not to associate with the some of the deviant scum at all. I can despise any or all manner of people’s “life-style choices” and remain perfectly tolerant and peaceful toward them.

Libertarianism is not a lifestyle and libertarianism is not libertinism. I remain perfectly libertarian if I choose to not associate with people who cover their bodies with repulsive tattoos. I remain perfectly libertarian if I refuse to associate with people who drone on and on about race in every conversation. I am still libertarian if I choose not to associate with those that I find to be boorish or ignorant — regardless of my reasons for thinking such.

As an example, I don’t care for people who bring children into this world outside of the bonds of marriage. While there are some examples of that working out for the child, I have four decades of work experience that demonstrates to me how utterly terrible single parenthood is for the children. I also know that many times it is not the woman’s fault at all that this happened, but rather the dad who was a real jerk. Regardless, I often will try to avoid conversations with them in any social gathering —  especially that parasite niece in my own family. But under no circumstances would I initiate any kind of aggression against these people. I favor no laws that would punish them in any way. (of course, I don’t favor laws much anyway as many of you might already know)

Libertarians should be “tolerant” if you mean that we should believe in “live and let live”, but we are not “tolerant” if you mean by that we must accept deviant, boorish, thuggish behavior without comment. Heck, in the modern age the “Politically Correct” crowd has gone so far as to label many of us criminal if we do not cheer and applaud outrageous and repulsive behavior.

The right to free association and the right to speak one’s mind were important to the Classical Liberals who fought the American Revolutionary War. We have reached the point where the crazed PC lefties (and others) in the U.S. think that we should all believe as they believe and love or even cheer the deviance and thuggery we see all around us. Frack that! The PC crowd now goes even further these days with claims that I can’t even politely voice my opinions about the latest mindless social fads of the day. I refuse to pretend that a bunch of tattoos on a woman is anything but off-putting. I also refuse to keep my mouth shut about it simply because some would say such thoughts are “intolerant”. Perhaps the should read a classic Rothbard post on “tolerance”.

Mutual and voluntary cooperation does not mean that we have to accept and applaud immoral or stupid behavior from others. It only means that we voluntarily cooperate without coercion with other people at times and places that we choose to do so. If we don’t choose to cooperate with someone, then that is our choice. We are not slaves to “tolerance”.

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U.S. National Debt and our Future

The U.S. national debt as of February 2014 is said to be 17.25 Trillion dollars. That number, as large as it is, could be paid off over the course of the next few decades if the U.S. ended its welfare programs (both personal and corporate), stopped all wars, ended the empire, brought all troops home from overseas, and stopped the domestic drug war with all its associated costs. The state could do that, but it will not.

There are a lot of reasons why the U.S. will not do the things mentioned above to stop adding to the mounting debt and to pay off the accumulated debt; but one of the biggest reasons is that the overlords of the state know that the 17.25 Trillion number is pure bunk. The real number is more like 150 Trillion once you add in the unfunded liabilities. With 320 million or so Americans alive today (including the illegal ones we don’t count) the share of each man, woman, and child of the debt is about $468,750 and that means the average family of four has a burden of about $1,875,000. The ruling elite knows that we will never pay off that kind of debt — a debt that was squandered on empire and politician’s deluded pet projects and cronies. How exactly would you personally do paying off your half million dollar part of the debt?

Let us suppose that the people of the U.S. suddenly developed some backbone and morality and demanded that all debt be liquidated and all liabilities be adequately funded or ended. How could that be done? How indeed. After all, borrowing money from other countries to pay current expenses has gone about as far as it can go and we see China and others reducing their U.S. debt securities at the present time. Besides, borrowing money to pay off debt has never been an option for anyone.

With just borrowing money to overcome the problem not a solution, the first thing that could be done is to downsize the U.S. government to a tiny fraction of its present size and repeal nearly all federal laws, rules, and regulations. This would cause a large amount of useless paper shufflers to be suddenly unemployed and it might take a few years for the private sector to create enough jobs for everyone that wants to work but it would happen without any interventions from the state. But that would only be a start. Even a laissez-faire economy with all its creativity and productivity can not be expected to pay off generations of mis-spent wealth.

Next, the nation would have to repudiate all debts and liabilities. The state would declare bankruptcy in effect. Some say that funding for the elderly who paid into the evil state all their lives would be the only moral course and they may be right. But it remains to be seen if even just the elderly could be funded and the nation still end the specter of future obligations hanging over the heads of the people. OK, but what if the nation would not consider drastic and draconian measures? I rather suspect that everyone wants to keep their crony-cap deals and entitlements. I think that if the U.S. federal government tried the medicine I outlined above then there would be a revolution and the state would fall. A pleasant thought perhaps, but not one that seems likely to happen in that way. The state is addicted to spending huge sums on its favored supporters.

If stopping all the spending and repudiating the mountain of liabilities is not in the cards, then the nation will be forced to inflate the debt away just as countries around the world have done in the past. This use of inflation is a favored method of U.S. politicians because it takes from everyone, especially the working class, while making it look like that the “evil, greedy” merchants are the culprits. The problem the elite have now is that the U.S. Dollar is the world’s reserve currency and other nations know all about hyper-inflation and that inflation steals from them also since they hold huge amounts of dollars. These other countries will look to dump the dollar and not be party to paying off the madness of the U.S. government. So what happens when the other countries dump the dollar? Then the dollar’s value collapses even faster and there would be no more borrowing at all from other countries and not much buying from them either. Say, do we make anything in the U.S. anymore?

In reality, the U.S. can reduce its spending and find a way to eliminate its unfunded liabilities or it can use massive inflation — there is no other course to take. It is obvious to me that we will take the massive inflation route, after all we have been doing that for a long time now. When will the inflation rate reach the economy killing stage? That is hard to predict but the signs are that we are very close now. What happens then? Why the U.S. as a nation state dies and massive unrest and revolution will unfold just as we have seen across the world when the people are left destitute.

What should anarchists be doing? I think we try to convince our fellow Americans that it is the state that brought us the pain we are going through and that replacing one version of the state with a slightly different version of the state is madness. It is time to try something completely different. It is time to let the people deal with each other through the free market. The market can replace the state and the people can mutually cooperate with one another.

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The U.S. and its useless constitution

Long ago we were taught in government schools that the U.S. was set up to be a Republic. But we were also taught that the U.S. is a democracy. Well which is it? Does it matter? The elite ruling class, i.e. the overlords, want to keep you confused on the issue of “republic” vs. “democracy” as well as ignorant of what the constitution actually says.

ron_paul_poster_flyer_by_the_russianThe difference between a republic and a democracy is critical is seeing how the U.S. became the mess that it is today.

In a republic the people vote for representatives who operate the government according to rules set forth by the whole people in a document called a constitution or some synonymous term. The republican government is supposed to be limited in scope and power to things like defense, keeping the peace, and justice.  It is the primary duty of the elected officials in a republic to oversee the enforcement of the rules stated in the constitution and not to be forever making new laws and rules. New laws and rules may be enacted as needed as situations change over time but they have to conform to the rules, regulations, and powers set forth in the founding document called the constitution. Sometimes the constitution itself would need to be changed by the whole of the people to address changing situations; and that process should be spelled out in the original constitution.

In a democracy the people also vote for representatives to operate the government but in a democracy there is little to no constraint outside public opinion on what rules, laws, and actions the representatives take or enact. In a democracy sometimes the people themselves get to vote on laws and actions to take. There is little or no protection for the marginalized or hated in society — the state is unconstrained in its actions. The ancients knew that a pure democracy was not a thing the common man should ever hope for as it offers no protection from mob rule.

In the U.S. it is said that the constitution is open to interpretation and not fixed in meaning. So if the constitution is open to interpretation then naturally every president’s administration will interpret it to their advantage. Now if every administration interprets the constitution differently then it has no fixed meaning but rather many different, conflicting meanings. If the constitution has many different, conflicting meanings then it has no real meaning at all. Obviously the U.S. has become a democracy without constraint rather than a republic constrained by a written constitution that seeks to restrict the state to a small set of powers and legal actions.

In my last post I wrote:

One of the most disappointing things in political discourse is to hear so many claim that the constitution if followed “as it was written” would “guarantee our rights”. This is almost as bad as those who think that the American constitution grants us our rights in the first place. ~Stoval

The simple fact is that there can be no “meaning” of any written words without “interpretation” of those words. (ask your local English teacher) As long as the state itself does the interpretation then it should be obvious that the state’s minions will seek to interpret the document to mean whatever the minion needs to empower the state in whatever action it seeks to take at that point in time.

A friend, Henry Moore, wrote to tell me that he disagreed with me on my view of the constitution in a post (see here) he had put up at about the same time as my last one. After reading it over, I don’t think we disagree all that much. After all, I posted “The Constitutionalism of Ron Paul” a while back agreeing with Ron Paul that we would be far, far better off if we could get the state to follow its own rules as plainly written in the constitution. And so, I also agree with Henry Moore that it would be great if the government of the U.S. would follow its constitution on matters like the second amendment found in the Bill of Rights.

But my friends, while the tactic of demanding that the state follow its own rules is a worthwhile endeavor, I can not see any state constrained by any piece of paper for very long at all. It is the very anatomy of the state itself to commit aggression against its own citizens. The very nature of the state is that of the few preying on the many; sucking the lifeblood like some mythical vampire.

As I have written before, the main problem with the constitution is that it is in conflict with the non-aggression principle.The constitution supports aggression against the citizens: forcibly taking some people’s rightful positions and property to give to other people and that is just for starters. But if we are to seek to use the constitution itself against the present police state, the best tactic is to use the nearly forgotten and never followed 10th amendment to the constitution seeking to use the state you live in to protect you from the central government in D.C. Of course, you are on your own seeking protection from your local state!

All in all, I think making the government follow the constitution is a good tactic but I tend to think it is far too little and far too late. I wager an honest survey would find that the majority of Americans don’t even know what is in the darn document, much less how it was interpreted back when it was written. Who says government schools are not working?