Monday, October 27, 2008

The Failure of "The Line:" An Example

After Wes's last post I thought of something I read and I figured I'd share. The shallowness of the political "line" in which so many people think and speak is exposed everytime anyone tries to put a label on someone who falls outside of the line. The other day I came across a perfect example of this phenomenon. In this review of Ben Shive's new record, the Square Peg Alliance, a group of which Ben is the newest member, is referred to as "a left of center." This is a very odd label to apply to this particular group of people, and I'm frankly not really clear on what it's supposed to be saying about them.

The fact is that the Pegs fall Squarely (sorry I couldn't resist the pun) outside the line. Sometimes this comes out not so much in their music, but elsewhere. For example, Andy Osenga, perhaps my personal favorite of the Pegs, recently encouraged his blog readers to do their homework about third party candidates. Occasionally, however, the fact that the Pegs fall outside the paradigm of the political line comes out plainly in their music, especially in the case of Derek Webb. In the song in the video below Webb criticizes precisely the mainstream, two-party poltical thinking that has produced the line paradigm:



But it gets even better than that! In another song, "Name" Derek explicitly warns against exactly the practice of unfairly labeling people:


oh my darlin’, you must be a moving target just like me
they’ll call you right, they’ll call you left
they’ll call you names of all your friends

you never know
what you’ll have to do
baby don’t let ‘em
don’t let ‘em put a name on you

there’s no categories just long stories waiting to be heard
don’t be satisfied when someone sums you up with just one word


There's something key that Derek notices in this song that I want to leave you with: the alternative to summing up people with one word is "long stories waiting to be heard." Labels and soundbites and all things short and sweet are among the greatest enemy of a healthy and meaningful cultural dialogue.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Time For A Third Party? Problems With America's Two-Party System

Photo from RepublicDomain.com

The common wisdom about America's current election season has been making its rounds, and it says with a perfectly straight face: "I think that the Republicans have just been in power for too long. Every few years it's good to mix things up and vote for the other party's candidate to keep either party from having too much control- that's when things always start to go bad." This seems to be a common theme of political conversations, as well as a visceral feeling and response to American electoral politics. Every four or eight (or sometimes twelve) years, we just can't stomach the current party anymore and have forgotten how bad the other party was, so we elect them. There's a glaring truth behind this premise that most people seem to overlook.

That truth is that both parties suck. It's that simple. If neither party ought to have control of our government for longer than eight years, because any longer than that will be enough time for them to do some serious damage, then it is clear that both parties are awful and shouldn't have control of our government for any length of time. We have two broken parties that propose and enact the wrong answers and the wrong solutions, and we're stuck playing them against each other so that neither one will be in office long enough to completely wreck everything. But in the meantime, we are suffering attrition- the slow wearing-down of our freedoms. Picture death by a thousand slow cuts. This is not a strategy to win over the long term. It's a strategy to suck less in the short term. It's not a plan that will solve America's problems. It's a plan to fail.

Witness the popularity of that bumper sticker that says "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." It's cleverly vague, and I'd bet that most Americans would nod their agreement with it. I think few Americans would disagree that things are slowly getting worse in our country. They'll only disagree over whose fault it is. Some (like the sort of person I've described above) will partially grasp that it's the fault of both parties, but not enough to oppose them outright and take their vote somewhere else. Then there are the partisans. Some of these will blame the Republicans. Others will blame the Democrats. Both will be correct. A few astute people will see and fully understand that it's both parties. Even fewer of those astute ones will see that it's both parties and their shared premise about the nature and role of government in our lives. If you want to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem, you must break outside of the current two-party system and its false and destructive premises.

The truth is that neither party holds any promise of change. Neither party respects freedom- both agree that if only their side had control of government and could decide which rights were violated, at whose cost, and for whose gain, that things would be better. Personally, if I am slapped in the face, I don't care whether I'm slapped with the left or right hand. Yet election after election, we actually go to the voting booth deciding which hand we'll get slapped with for the next election cycle, as if it makes any difference. A sane electorate would vote not to get slapped anymore. The Republicans and Democrats offer no hope of change for the better in America. The fight is not between the GOP and the Democratic Party, but between lovers of real and uncompromising freedom (the precious few of us that exist) and lovers (or at least enablers) of the status quo: one giant, corrupt party that violates our freedoms and maintains its ideologically oppressive grip on America by masquerading as two different parties and convincing Americans that the only alternative is between them.

Part of this big lie is the concept of "the line." The Republicrats present the left/right dichotomy as a line with conservatives on the right and liberals on the left. To begin with, these terms have been so utterly mangled in modern American politics as to immediately render the line incoherent, and from here the problems with it only get worse. The moderates are in the middle of this line, and if you go to the right of the conservatives you'll find fascism, and left of the liberals is socialism, with communism even further left of that. This model is absurd as a political construct. What does it even mean to be left or right? Could someone please define "leftness" and "rightness" for me so that I can see what real, meaningful characteristic diminishes or increases as you move in either direction on the line, and furthermore, could someone explain to me why this one overarching characteristic gets to become the defining issue for how we categorize political thought? The line is an example of (deliberately) sloppy thinking at its worst. It has many different but not consistent implications that cause our view of politics to suffer and stumble under the weight of such absurdity. One is reminded of the saying by Ludwig von Mises in 1940:

"The usual terminology of political language is stupid. What is 'left' and what is 'right'? Why should Hitler be 'right' and Stalin, his temporary friend, be 'left'? Who is 'reactionary' and who is 'progressive'? Reaction against an unwise policy is not to be condemned. And progress towards chaos is not to be commended. Nothing should find acceptance just because it is new, radical, and fashionable. 'Orthodoxy' is not an evil if the doctrine on which the 'orthodox' stand is sound. Who is anti-labor, those who want to lower labor to the Russian level, or those who want for labor the capitalistic standard of the United States? Who is 'nationalist,' those who want to bring their nation under the heel of the Nazis, or those who want to preserve its independence?"

What strikes me as particularly odd, is that we are told our entire lives to think outside the box on every other issue, then when it comes to politics, most of us try to cram something as dynamic and complicated as the issue of how to properly and effectively govern a civil society into a line! This speaks volumes about the intellectual state of 21st century America and many of its "leading thinkers." Freedom lovers in America should make it their goal to convince everyone to "think outside the line" and consider alternatives to the two major parties and their ideas about the nature and role of government. Campaigning relentlessly not for a person or party, but for the message that I have outlined here (and for a broader, freedom-based and love-based approach to government), would do America a great deal of good, and possibly set the stage for a real change that embraces real solutions.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cooler Ways To Waste $700 Billion

So to have some fun (and because I'm still irked about the bail out), I asked around and got people to help me brainstorm totally epic ways that you could just blow $700 billion. Here are the best five responses (followed by a list of the other ones):

With 700 billion dollars you could pay the world's ransom and save it from Dr. Evil seven times over!

Or you could buy 700,000 nights with Demi Moore. Seriously! 700,000 nights at a million bucks a night! You could literally buy the world a coke. A coke for every man, woman, and child with tons of money left over. With $700 billion dollars you could probably build your own chocolate factory with a chocolate waterfall to mix the chocolate, genetically engineered oompa-loompas that are trained to dance and sing, and dishes that you can even eat! You could buy one (freaking) million of these: ...and have enough money left over to fill them each up with hundreds of iPhones, set them on fire, and then have the biggest, awesomest, most obscenely wasteful monster-truck rally in the history of the world. The other ones (feel free to add your ideas in the comments thread!): Buy all of America a round of drinks. Buy the entire world a round of drinks. Import soil and snow to build a ski resort in the middle of the desert in Arizona. Build a house on the moon. Start some more wars. Buy Disneyland. Buy a country. Buy an ocean. Genetically engineer polar bears. Paint all of the roads pink. Distribute pamphlets to everyone about how to speak Ebonics. Saran wrap every family and household's cars and toilet seats. Turn the Autobahn in German into a giant treadmill. Buy everybody in America a tuba. Buy everybody in America weed. Buy the whole world weed. Buy everyone in America some Adderal. Rebuild the WTC even bigger. Stage a practice rapture. Create real Pokemon and make them fight. Build a time machine and warn everybody about the credit crunch (or Bush). Buy $700 billion worth of fast food. Oh yeah... and you could buy the world a ton of these:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Big Is $700 Billion?

Three ways to visualize how much money American taxpayers had to fork over for toxic assets:

1. Time is Money

Photo from Republic Domain

What if we convert US dollars into units of time? If a dollar was a minute- 700 billion minutes ago the year was 1,329,811 BC. A minute's not even that big, but you put 700 billion of them together and you've got enough time to go from cavemen to Mozart/supercomputers/manned space travel/(etc.). Just one billion minutes is enough to take us from Christ's time to the present. That's a lot of freaking money, and remember I'm assuming that a minute equals a dollar. Tell that to someone who makes minimum wage or someone working in the third world. If we monetized the value of their time and went backwards 700 billion dollars worth of it, God only knows how far back we'd end up (actually, I can figure it out really quick on my calculator, but we're moving on...).

2. Dollars as iPhones.

(source)

At 4.5 inches (h) x 2.4 inches (w), an iPhone covers 10.8 square inches of surface. With 700 billion iPhones, you could literally cover every inch of the entire state of Rhode Island and still have enough iPhones left over to give every man, woman, and child on this entire planet no less than 19 iPhones apiece. And that's assuming that every dollar were an iPhone. What if we bought $700 billion worth of them at $200 apiece (there are taxes to pay, but you'd get one hell of a bulk discount, so we'll keep the math easy and say $200)? You'd be able to buy 3,500,000,000 iPhones. That's still enough to buy over half the world's population a brand new iPhone. If dollars were songs, one iPhone for every single man, woman, and child in the USA would not quite be enough to hold 700 billion of them.

3. Dollars as Themselves

This is how a stack of nine million one dollar bills looks compared to a man of average height.

(source -check it out to see more examples)

This is how 630 billion (70 billion shy of what America got screwed for earlier this month) one dollar bills look (and yes, those tiny dots are the man and his car for comparison):

(source)

You can also see how it would look in pennies. That's a freaking lot of money. And it belonged to American taxpayers. And now it belongs to the monstrous government-financial complex that caused this mess in the first place.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Towards a New Kind of Libertarianism: The Future of the Libertarian Movement

Photo from Republic Domain

A spectre is haunting America- the spectre of Libertarianism. All the Powers of old America have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Bush, Pelosi, Obama, McCain, the NeoCons, the ACLU, the mainstream media.

No, wait. That's not right. What a lame way to start off an important manifesto. Better try again:

I won't tread on you. That's where libertarians need to start in the 21st century if they plan for their message and proposed form of government to take root and last longer than that of the libertarians of the 18th who started by saying "Don't tread on me." It worked for a while at least, but did not affect a lasting change in mindset and policy because it started and ended with the wrong premise, the premise of "my rights," the "me" premise. If libertarians in this century plan to make any headway in the global and respective national dialogues about politics and the proper role of government, they must turn this premise on its head. They must start thinking the other way around. And I'm not simply proposing a change in how libertarians present their views, as a mere marketing tool, but a fundamental change in our very views themselves so that they reflect more accurately the true nature of humanity. The result will not only be a more successful fight for our beliefs- we'll end up by fighting for something even better than what we were previously fighting for, a better way of thinking and a better way of living.

Libertarian thought often starts with "me" and says to others "you shouldn't violate my rights," which is certainly true, but somewhat off-putting because it's egocentric. Aside from being off-putting, it's the moral low-ground. It's moral and true, but it pushes the moral imperatives of libertarian thought off on someone else. The moral high-ground is to accept and practice the moral imperative for yourself. Libertarians would always do better to say, "I shouldn't violate your rights- I won't violate your rights." In practice this makes a world of difference. On the issue of welfare and property redistribution, for example, the first approach would sound like this: "Who are you to take my hard-earned money and give it away to the poor? Even if I should give it to them, you have no right to confiscate my property from me." The second approach is a sharp contrast to the first in both tone and content: "Who am I to take your hard-earned money and give it away to the poor when I'm likely not even giving enough myself? Even if you should give it to them, I have no right to force you to, especially when I'm not giving enough myself. How hypocritical of me would that be?" See how much more humble that is and sounds?

The first example is a challange. Its tone is antagonistic and its premise is egocentric. The second example is an invitation and a catalyst for conversation. Its tone is humble and its premise is philanthropic- motivated by love and concern for other human beings and their rights. The distinction here can ultimately boil down to these alternatives, egocentric libertarianism on the one hand, and philanthropic libertarianism on the other. It is encouraging to know that in some quarters of libertarian thought, I might be "preaching to the choir." For people who already implicitly share the premise I am advocating and who instinctively feel that it is correct, I hope that the value I offer here is to put this premise in its clearest and most explicit terms, to bring into focus and reveal to the world a new kind of libertarianism, a better kind.

Libertarians of the world, be nice!



Want to promote this kind of libertarianism? Place a badge on your blog or website by copying and pasting the code below, then e-mail me so I can include a link back to you on the list below. The badge will look like this:

Proud to be a humble libertarian.




Humble Libertarian Bloggers and Webmasters:
The Humble Libertarian
Colin Burch
My Thoughts On Freedom
My Own Pie
The Keeper of Odd Knowledge

(...be the next on the list!)

Libertarian Solutions

Intro | Pt 1: Ideas | Pt 2: History | -Pt 3: Solutions- | Conclusion

The Trouble With Libertarians

Libertarians have garnered a reputation (which they have sometimes deserved) as interested only in their own liberty to smoke pot and be generally unpleasant to others, provided they don't aggress. They are also viewed by many as impractical, too idealistic, or too focused on obscure issues like privatizing roads or legalizing prostitution.

A common analogy used by political analysts is that contemporary American conservatives are focused on "Daddy" issues like keeping us safe and making sure we are financially secure, while contemporary American progressives are focused on "Mommy" issues like making sure everyone shares and no one gets left out. The perception then, of libertarians, is that they are focused on "Troubled Adolescent Teenager" issues like having fun, doing whatever you want, and flouting authority.

The Hypocrisy of "The Mainstream"

But many conservatives and progressives are already absorbed by their own pet interests, obscure issues, and impractical policies. What mainstream Republican or Democrat sitting in Congress right now isn't already totally disconnected from reality? Consider how many people, pundits, and politicians are either swept up in naive idealism themselves (e.g. more Federally-funded health insurance would actually shrink the Federal deficit) or beholden to some obscure, private agenda (e.g. using anti-trust laws to Federally regulate college football to require a March Madness-style tournament).

Indeed, when government force is levied against peaceful citizens to regulate their lives, every obscure special interest group there is wants a piece of the coercion. When a society accepts that it's okay to point guns at someone to get them to do what you think they should, all kinds of special interest lobbyists and naive idealists out to change the world start lining up for their turn to hold the gun. Perhaps the "mainstream" commentators should pause to remove the beam from their own eye first?

Solving the World's Problems With Liberty

It's ironic that libertarians have a reputation as idealists or self-serving misfits, because the one and only way to rid government of its rampant reckless idealism and even more rampant special interest legislation is to get it out of the business of coercing individuals, to relegate it once again to its proper role as a policeman- as a guard against coercion. In other words, the only way to rid government of these problems- which persist without libertarian influence- is to make it more libertarian.

With an eye to this end, the following is a list of issues that libertarians should concern themselves with- if they haven't already- and for which libertarians have practical solutions that work. The beauty is that liberty is not an antiquated, defunct, or impossible ideal. It is realistic, attainable, and even easy. That's right: good government is easy. The simple solutions to our problems and natural steps to get there are surprisingly obvious.

A libertarian platform

Anyone with an earnest interest in liberty should (and many already do) concern themselves with fighting its most egregious violations. The following are just a few problems that libertarian ideas could solve:

Fighting poverty: Global poverty is not a problem of scarcity any longer. It is the direct result of political oppression, corruption, regulation, and warfare. It is also a result of "economic apartheid" -legal systems that are deliberately fashioned to favor entrenched upper class interests at the expense of the poor, many of whom are hard workers, innovators, and even entrepreneurs, but cannot advance with the deck stacked against them by an unjust system.

In the USA, the "War on Poverty" since the 1960s actually subsidized and perpetuated poverty, while destroying the productive capital that could have been used to hire more workers and raise standards of living. Its meddling into the housing and financial markets over the past few decades created a severe misallocation of resources, putting a lot of Americans out of work while simultaneously wiping out their savings when the government-created bubble collapsed.

Governments around the world should free their people to produce and trade without forcible interference. Price fixing, government-protected cartels, endless regulations, confiscatory taxation, irresponsible insane spending, corruption, corporate special interests, carbon restrictions, welfare statism and endless war all have to go if we want to live in a world of plenty. These are all barriers to prosperity, production, and development.

Ending corporate fascism: While there are ideological disagreements between "left" and "right" over the legitimate role of welfare programs as a social safety net for the disenfranchised, very few would disagree that government should never, ever take money from poor and middle class workers to give to corporations. That just rewards lobbying and corruption, not productivity and innovation. A bill to repeal and prohibit all Federal subsidies and bailouts for corporations (i.e. corporate welfare) would have widespread public support and save the American worker hundreds of billions- nay trillions- of dollars.

Meanwhile, we need legislation to permanently disentangle the government from corporate special interests. Many or even most of America's problems stem from the corruption that inevitably occurs at the intersection of big government and big business. We need a bill which mandates that any business (and its top level management and stakeholders) that wants a government contract should not be allowed to lobby or make any political contributions of any kind for the duration of the contract and some specified amount of time thereafter.

The U.S. should also abolish many of its government sponsored enterprises or GSEs. These take the worst excesses of corporate greed and unleash them on the American public with the irresistible power of government-backed force. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were GSEs that forced banks to make bad investments and promised that the taxpayer would be on the hook for any adverse consequences. The Federal Reserve Bank is a GSE that radically devalues our currency, hurting poor and middle class workers by forcing up the price of essentials like groceries, gas, and medicine. The GSEs have got to go!

Smashing imperialism: In George Orwell's prophetic dystopian novel, 1984, the government was always at war in order to justify the endless sacrifice of its citizens and their freedoms. Though it was always at war, its war department was named The Ministry of Peace. It is not unfair to draw a parallel to the U.S. Department of Defense and its never-ending series of offensive wars and deployments. Imagine a military policy by which our Department of Defense lived up to its name and its proper role rather than bear that name to obscure its real purpose and the true nature of its activities.

America should formally declare neutrality in all armed conflicts and proclaim a new era of American peace, harmony, and "liberal intercourse with all nations" as George Washington recommended in his farewell address, taking heed of his admonition "to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world." Then the U.S. could save untold billions by closing unnecessary bases overseas and withdrawing troops from regions like Iraq and Afghanistan where they have already crippled America's terrorist enemies and are now just being (ab)used as pawns in ethnic civil wars having little to do with America's safety.

For their national defense, Americans should focus the DOD's competencies to center on counter-terrorism and human intelligence, while maintaining and expanding its unmatched aerospace dominance. Meanwhile, America's greatest deterrent to a foreign invasion is the knowledge that a foreign army would face a heavily-armed American populace. Our right to keep and bear arms should be enforced as a matter of national security as well as basic civil rights.

Firing the Nanny State: It is presumptuous at best to use the force of government to regulate the personal well-being and morality of its citizens. So long as they do not interfere forcibly in the lives of other people, human beings have a right to live and pursue their separate interests, even when they disagree with each other about the right way to live or the correct interests to pursue. In other words, there should be no laws prohibiting voluntary acts by consenting adults.

Religious freedom for one, is of utmost importance. Germany should repeal its ban on Scientology. America should end its taxpayer subsidies for faith-based organizations. China should stop harassing Christians. France should allow Muslims to wear whatever traditional or religious clothing they want. And while the traditionally religious are entitled to their own views and personal decisions about their sexual lives, the sexual morality of others is their own business and beyond the purview of government regulation. Marriage should be privatized. Prostitution between consenting adults should be legal. Homosexuals should live free from violence or intimidation.

Meanwhile the government's regulation of our personal well-being must end. Government provision and regulation of health care and insurance, along with its myriad health regulations and prohibitions should be abolished. We should not use coercion to regulate the personal choices of individuals about what to eat, how to use drugs, or how to pay for medical services. Governments should also abolish policies that control how their citizens save for their retirement, educate their children, or make decisions about what consumer goods to buy for themselves.

Conclusion

While the policy prescriptions above are a brief and hardly exhaustive overview, they paint a picture in broad strokes, of a more free, open, tolerant, and prosperous society. A more in-depth defense of these policy preferences and a more thorough explanation of their effects is one of the main subjects and purposes of this blog, The Humble Libertarian. Browse its pages and subscribe to its updates for an ongoing exploration of libertarian solutions.

Intro | Pt 1: Ideas | Pt 2: History | -Pt 3: Solutions- | Conclusion

Conclusion

Intro | Pt 1: Ideas | Pt 2: History | Pt 3: Solutions | -Conclusion-

In this short libertarian e-book, we have explored three theses:

1) That libertarian thought is predicated on peaceful, voluntary interaction; 2) That libertarianism is not exclusively Western, nor modern, but that it did blossom- along with unparalleled statism- in the modern West; and 3) That liberty is the solution.

If you agree with the ideas and solutions expressed in this e-book and would like to help promote the message and political program of libertarianism, please pick just two of the following three options and do them right now. It will only take five minutes of your time. If you want to get really crazy, you could even take seven minutes and do all three:

1. Subscribe to The Humble Libertarian. Just put your e-mail address in the form below and click subscribe to get one daily e-mail with updates from our excellent blog. We provide libertarian news, commentary, talking points, important opportunities for activism, and educational resources to help you stay informed, engaged, vigilant, and active in the cause of liberty. You can also stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Enter your email address:





2. Share this e-book.
Write a quick e-mail right now and send a link to this e-book to three or four people you know who would benefit from reading it. If you like social media, you can also share it on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and/or Digg.


3. Donate. This e-book is totally free, but if it created value for you and you would like to contribute in order to fund more work like this, as well as The Humble Libertarian's continuing mission to promote a more free, prosperous, and peaceful world, then please make a donation in whatever amount you think is commensurate with what you got out of reading this book. Click below:

Intro | Pt 1: Ideas | Pt 2: History | Pt 3: Solutions | -Conclusion-

Libertarian History

Intro | Pt 1: Ideas | -Pt 2: History- | Pt 3: Solutions | Conclusion

Human history is libertarian history. It is the story of the human spirit struggling and triumphing against affliction, wrath, danger, and want. Whenever mighty souls stood against injustice, intolerance, and oppression- there was liberty. Wherever enterprising minds were allowed to discover and benefit from inventive new ways to conquer scarcity and meet human needs through greater efficiency and productivity- there was liberty. Whenever people lived their lives in peace and humility, with good will and benevolence for their neighbors- there was liberty.

The history of libertarianism- like all history- is not Euro-centric. It didn't start in Greece or Jerusalem. It wasn't an American innovation or a French idea. Liberty is the naturally proper condition and social framework for human interaction. Humans, by nature, require a free society in order to flourish. Enlightened visionaries at all times and places caught glimpses of the libertarian ideal. True patriots and people of good will in all corners of the world have fought and died for liberty. Men of letters in all eras, stretching back into antiquity have articulated, defended, and contributed to libertarian thought.

Liberty in Antiquity

Depicted above is the ancient Sumerian word, "Ama-gi," written in cuneiform. It is believed to be the oldest surviving expression of the concept of liberty. It denotes liberty as it pertains to freedom from slavery. This serves to underscore that liberty is not a new idea. It is in fact, a very ancient one.

The ancient Chinese also made great contributions to libertarian thought. The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu may be humanity's first recorded libertarian. Surprised? Many readers would be interested to know that the Tao te Ching says the following:

Why are people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.

Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.

Lao Tzu also captured the essence of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" thousands of years before the publication of Wealth of Nations:

The Tao abides in non-action,
Yet nothing is left undone.
If kings and lords observed this,
The ten thousand things would develop naturally.

There are also some strikingly libertarian ideas in the writings of ancient Israel. Its ethnic narrative of deliverance from slavery encouraged and comforted the victims of slavery in America and their advocates, inspiring heroes like Harriet Tubman who escaped from slavery and helped rescue dozens more slaves with the help of safe houses along the "Underground Railroad."

One of the most libertarian of the ancient Israelite texts is a passage from Chapter 8 of the first book of Samuel. After the people of Israel demanded a strong, national king to replace their system of common law and local, autonomous (albeit theocratic) government, the prophet Samuel said to them:

"This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots...

And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants."

Before concluding this section, it should be noted that ultimately, the ancient world religions generally espouse a humility, meekness, and benevolence that if strictly adhered to, would produce a society wherein no one would forcibly act to limit or violate the lives, liberties, and property of other human beings.

Liberty in Modernity

In modernity, the horrors of absolute monarchy, colossal standing armies, endless warfare, ethnic genocide, failed central planning, the slave trade, and systematic ideological indoctrination have all occurred on a scale that would have been incomprehensible to the ancients. Indeed, more blood was shed (mostly by governments) in the 20th century than all nineteen preceding centuries combined.

Yet paradoxically, liberty has also abounded in modern times. The wholesale liberation of most modern human beings from want of enough food to eat has in itself been a spectacular achievement. Notice that the few remaining areas of the world where starvation and extreme poverty still exist, are the same places that suffer the ravages of endless war, systemic government corruption, poorly-defined (or unacknowledged) rights, and the most strangling government regulations.

It is a testament to liberty that the rest of the modern world is so much more affluent than the ancient world. As Ayn Rand put it in 1966: "If you look at the world of today and if you look back at history, you will see the answer: the degree of a country's freedom is the degree of its prosperity. Another current catch-phrase is the complaint that the nations of the world are divided into 'haves' and the 'have-nots.' Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not."

In addition to the economic prosperity of a modern world that respects private property rights in an unprecedented way, basic civil rights are understood and acknowledged in modernity like at no other time in history. Documents like the Magna Carta and United States Bill of Rights spelled out in no uncertain terms that there should be limits on power, that certain freedoms and choices are inalienable- that they cannot be taken away. The radical idea that the state is a servant of the people and the civil order- not the other way around- spread like wildfire.

From the coffee houses of France to the local assemblies of America, from the monasteries of Germany to the universities of England, people began to argue the right of the individual to his (and later her) own conscience and free choice. This idea continues to spread to every corner and culture of the world to this very day, transforming whole civilizations into flourishing, liberal (in the classical sense of that word), secular societies; and inspiring revolutions the world over, from the many countless Wars for Independence, to the French Revolution, to Gandhi's active non-violent resistance in India, to Mousavi's "Green Revolution" in Iran.

Conclusion

While it would be impossible in such a short space to chronicle the entire history of liberty in modern or ancient times, the important thing to remember is that liberty is not a new idea, but that over the last few centuries, both liberty and statist tyranny have advanced their ideas and agendas in unprecedented ways. At the present time, they are locked in a fierce, global confrontation. Only time will tell if the 21st century will overshadow even the darkest aspects of the 20th, or if freedom will shine forth from it like never before.

In the next section, we will examine multiple political problems faced by the modern world, and explore libertarian solutions to them all.

Intro | Pt 1: Ideas | -Pt 2: History- | Pt 3: Solutions | Conclusion

Libertarian Ideas

Intro | -Pt 1: Ideas- | Pt 2: History | Pt 3: Solutions | Conclusion

Libertarian ideas are incredibly diverse, originating in a number of historical times, cultures, and writings, rooted in myriad differing philosophical premises, and aiming to accomplish different and sometimes contradictory social agendas. So to speak of libertarianism as a strictly monolithic unity would be careless.

There is also however, a formidable unity to libertarian thought. To borrow a theme from the English poet, C. S. Lewis, my purpose in this section will be to present a sort of "mere libertarianism," the philosophy of liberty reduced to some of its barest essentials, with which most self-described libertarians would agree.

Libertarianism: A Definition

According to the Cato Institute, libertarianism (or market liberalism as they often prefer to call it) "combines an appreciation for entrepreneurship, the market process, and lower taxes with strict respect for civil liberties and skepticism about the benefits of both the welfare state and foreign military adventurism."

This is essentially an expression of the frequently used, simplified explanation that libertarians are "economically conservative, and socially liberal," that they agree with "conservatives" about less government intervention into markets, and that they agree with "progressives" about less government intervention into private social issues and foreign affairs. But why do they hold these policy preferences? What principle is at root here?

According to the Mises Institute, libertarianism "can encompass a wide range of thought from Jeffersonian classical liberalism to the modern anarcho-capitalism of Murray N. Rothbard... The core conviction is what matters: peaceful exchange makes everyone better off; private property is the first principle of liberty; intervention destroys wealth; society and economy need no central management to achieve orderliness."

This strikes closer to the fundamental libertarian idea: that peaceful, voluntary interaction is the only proper relationship between human beings. The use of coercion is never an appropriate means of dealing with each other. The use of force should never be initiated against a human being, and its only legitimate use is as a response to defend oneself or others from someone who has initiated its use.

Non-Aggression: The Moral Principle of Libertarianism

To enjoy freedom or liberty presupposes a prepositional object. To be free from what? To enjoy liberty from what?

Thomas Hobbes understood liberty to mean "license" -license to do whatever one pleases. Hobbes found liberty- as he understood it- to endanger human happiness and prosperity. Without a strong, central government to forcibly limit our destructive whims at whatever price (including the destruction wrought by the government's own whims!), life would be a "war of all against all," rendering the average human life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

Indeed the liberty to follow any whim or wish at anyone's expense, running roughshod over the lives of other human beings, would be a very dangerous kind of liberty. Who could have any liberty at all if anyone else who pleased could come along to rob, enslave, or even murder them? But there is another way to understand liberty: to be free- not from whatever principle, convention, or constraint impedes one's every terrible whim as Hobbes defines it- but to be free from aggression. It is in this sense that libertarians understand freedom.

Libertarians believe that all human beings should be free to live their own lives, make their own choices, and pursue their own separate interests without forcible interference by others. The only moral society, is a civil or peaceful society, a society in which no human being can threaten any other by aggressing against them to destroy, diminish, or expropriate their lives, or their liberty or property- which are necessary preconditions of and corollaries to a human being's right to his or her own life.

The Proper Role of Government

The purpose of government (for those libertarians who believe government has a proper role at all in a civil society) is to act as a policeman and final arbiter between peaceful people and their aggressors. When government forcibly takes from some to give to others, it does the very thing it exists to safeguard against happening. When it takes such an action, it becomes an aggressor itself. It ceases to be an impartial arbiter between free and equal citizens to ensure their liberty, and it becomes a biased, partisan advocate for special interests, using the legal power and force of its laws to favor them at the expense of the lives, liberty, and property of others without their consent and voluntary cooperation, which is morally outrageous.

So all political questions- which is to say, all those questions pertaining to government policies- must necessarily reduce to this: "Is policy x a proper use of force?" If policy x only involves the use of force against aggressors to protect the peaceful, then it is a proper use of force and a legitimate function of government. Examples of such policies would include laws against aggressive acts like theft and murder, a well-equipped police force to stop and apprehend domestic aggressors, and a court system to try and sentence them. Such policies would also include a military to defend against foreign aggressors, and a legislative and executive body to carry out necessary administrative functions.

On the other hand, if policy x involves the initiation of force against peaceful non-aggressors, then it is an improper use of force and an illegitimate function of government. Examples of such policies abound. They include, among other things: price and quantity controls, which forcibly interfere in the voluntary exchange of goods by mutually consenting parties; the criminalization or penalization of certain social behaviors by peaceful, consenting adults, such as religious observance, recreational drug use, homosexuality, or interracial marriage; and property redistribution from some groups to other special interest groups, such as corporate bailouts or entitlement programs.

Conclusion

It is thusly that all political questions and controversies reduce to only one simple question for the libertarian, and that is the proper role of government, a role which is predicated on the libertarian moral principle of non-aggression. Libertarianism is not a philosophy of unqualified license, libertine hedonism, or selfish exploitation of others. It is the (one and only) way of peace, the champion of the exploited, the enemy of social injustice, the exemplar of true humility, and the fullest expression- in political terms- of a deep and abiding love for and good will toward all humankind.

Libertarianism is a robust philosophy with many, many other ideas and corollaries. What I have described above is its foundation and essence. The libertarian understanding of the social and economic sciences also offers many richly-detailed insights into human nature, history, and society, too numerous for proper treatment in the space of this short treatise. These insights include, among others: the nature and origin of private property rights, the unmatched elegance of the price system as a rationing mechanism, the cause of "boom-and-bust" cycles, and the solutions for global poverty reduction.

In the next section, we will briefly explore the history and effects of the libertarian mindset on the world.

Intro | -Pt 1: Ideas- | Pt 2: History | Pt 3: Solutions | Conclusion

Learn About Liberty



-Intro- | Pt 1: Ideas | Pt 2: History | Pt 3: Solutions | Conclusion

Libertarianism
is more inspiring, compelling, and interesting now than at any other time in human history. Our world truly faces a deepening and urgent moral crisis and its people are searching for an answer to the problems we face. Many of us wonder about the "obscure" philosophy of liberty and its adherents, the libertarians.

Who are libertarians and what do they believe? How do they propose to solve our world's problems? Where did libertarian ideas come from and when did they ever succeed? Why does it matter? Are libertarians a bunch of pie-in-the-sky idealists? Or are they reactionary cynics? Do they give humanity too much credit? Or are they all selfish, anti-social miscreants?

One question many people ask is, "Am I a libertarian?"

To learn more about the philosophy, history, and practice of libertarianism, read on. This short libertarian e-book is available at no cost to you and without even the hassle of downloading a PDF file or Word Document. You can read it right here on this website by clicking on the links to the sections below.

-Intro- | Pt 1: Ideas | Pt 2: History | Pt 3: Solutions | Conclusion

Welcome From KentuckyFight.com!

"Rand Paul and I" © 2009 W. E. Messamore

Hey there! If you've landed here, you're probably visiting from KentuckyFight.com, the September 23rd grassroots money bomb for U.S. Senate contender Rand Paul of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

As the owner, editor, and chief contributor of the Humble Libertarian, one of the fastest-growing new libertarian blogs on the Internet, my readers and I have been fighting hard for Rand Paul since before he was even a candidate.

As soon as I heard that Rand Paul was even considering a run back in February, we worked hard here at THL to rally the grassroots and generate buzz for Dr. Paul. I also volunteered for PEAC PAC, the brand new political action committee that launched a "Draft Rand" website at Rand2010.com to persuade Dr. Paul to run.

Then in May, just days after Rand Paul announced his exploratory committee, I conceived, launched, planned, promoted, executed (successfully!), and publicized the very first Rand Paul money bomb ever- right here at the Humble Libertarian.

Afterward, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Center Right Coalition in Lexington, KY to speak briefly in support of Dr. Paul to grassroots conservatives from all over Kentucky. That day I conducted a live Twitter interview with Dr. Paul (asking him questions that people tweeted from all over), which you can read here.

Without all the help and support of my awesome readers, none of this would have been possible! With your help and support, we can make even more amazing things happen in the Fight for Freedom!

Please join this rapidly growing community of men and women who love life and fight for liberty. Subscribe to the Humble Libertarian's updates by placing your e-mail in the box below:

Enter your email address:

Or subscribe via: RSS Reader

Issues Page

The Role of Government - Any political movement is doomed to failure so long as it is merely fighting for a particular, isolated policy preference or even a set of such preferences, absent of any context and underived from or related to a unified framework for viewing reality, humankind's role in reality, and government's role in human society.

Remember that the proper role of a government is to maintain a civil society, meaning a society free from aggression, a society in which no human being can threaten any other by aggressing against them to destroy, diminish, or expropriate their lives, or their liberty or property- which are necessary preconditions of and corollaries to a human being's right to his or her own life.

When government forcibly takes from some to give to others, it does the very thing it exists to safeguard against happening. When it takes such an action, it becomes an aggressor. It ceases to be an impartial arbiter between free and equal citizens to ensure their liberty, and it becomes a biased, partisan advocate for some people, using the legal power and force of its laws to favor them at the expense of the lives, liberty, and property of others without their consent and voluntary cooperation, which is morally outrageous.

If we as champions of liberty can fully comprehend, logically extrapolate from, and effectively articulate this one principle, and if we carry this message to the people of the world in a spirit of humility, love, and benevolence, we will move in leaps and bounds towards creating a truly civil and free society.



Bailouts - We should call bailouts exactly what they are- corporate welfare. While conservatives and welfare statists may disagree over the legitimacy of welfare programs to help the poor, there should be no disagreement that taking from hardworking people to give to corporations is wrong. It rewards lobbying and encourages corruption, rather than rewarding hard work and innovation.

Entitlements - Entitlement programs inevitably bankrupt their nation's treasury, corrupt its political process, and destroy capital that could otherwise be at work to create productive jobs and value. "Welfare" programs do not and cannot create wealth, but they do destroy it, along with potentially higher standards of living and greater productive capacity. There is nothing compassionate or humanitarian about them.

National Defense - Defending its borders and citizens from foreign aggression is the most important thing a government does. Sadly, present US defense policies make its citizens less- not more- safe! To correct this, the US should streamline and focus its defenses and intelligence networks on counter-terrorism and counter-piracy, rather than continue the outdated, pre-9-11 strategy of maintaining a large, standing army designed to wage conventional warfare against nation states.

Monetary Policy - Private central banks that control the money supply (like the US Federal Reserve) are the cause of the boom-and-bust cycles that people falsely consider characteristic of a free-market, capitalist economy. By artificially inflating money reserves and holding down interest rates, they fuel overspending and overconsumption, while disincentivizing saving and investment. The US Fed should be audited and abolished!

Taxes and Spending - The US government spent more in 2008 alone than it did during the entire 19th century! Even worse, if the US Federal government cut its 2009 budget by the amount of spending it did during the entire 19th century- it would barely even make a dent (source). Surely no can disagree that current spending levels are simply outrageous. There can be no wonder that the US economy has struggled under the weight of so much debt and withered from the starvation of so much confiscated capital. Congress needs to cut taxes, but in order to do so, it must drastically reduce spending!

Civil Liberties - The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights have been trampled and ignored to the peril of the American people. If you are an American, your freedom of thought, speech, religion, press, armament, and due process are being ignored. Such measures are not necessary to keep you safe from terrorists- especially not when the government considers you a possible terrorist for supporting the Constitution too loudly or even being a Veteran!

National Sovereignty - The American government and political mindset are entirely unique among all the nations of the world. Our government is constituted to maintain a civil society by protecting your life and liberty. As noted above this is rapidly changing, and one of the major elements of erosion is the surrender of more and more sovereign U.S. power to international organizations like NATO, NAFTA, and the UN. If Americans are interested in preserving their liberties, they must support American disentanglement from these international organizations.

Education - The Constitution does not provide for or allow the the U.S. Federal government to meddle in education. It is a private and state issue, and should remain so. The U.S. Dept of Education should be abolished along with all Federal expenditures for education- the money should be returned to taxpayers where it belongs. States should adopt innovative and market-based solutions to the problems facing education- like the voucher system which produced better results at a fraction of the cost when it was tried in Washington D.C. (before being quietly abolished for political reasons).

Immigration - ...is the sincerest form of flattery. Millions of people have chosen to leave their homes and come to the United States because of its freedoms and opportunities. America should absolutely secure and monitor its borders for national defense, and it should end all entitlement programs for non-U.S. citizens, but it should also repeal restrictive immigration quotas and allow in as many immigrants as are willing to legally emigrate here. This would allow the free market interaction of supply and demand to determine the number of immigrants America admits, not a bureaucrat in Washington who has no means of determining the "right amount" of immigration.

Gun Rights - Government exists to create a civil society- a society free of aggression because it is accountable to and safeguarded by a higher civil authority. But at the moment a man is attacked in his home or in an alley, away from the immediate help of law enforcement, he is not in a state of civil society because he has no higher authority to appeal to for his defense at the moment of his need. He is in a state of nature with his attacker and has the right to respond to his aggressor in kind for his self defense. This is the philosophical basis and foundation for the right to bear arms. For an empirical validation- note the fact that states with less restrictive gun laws have lower incidences of violent crime. Period.

The Environment - Global warming is a racket and a front for the agenda of social democrats, Marxists, and eugenicists. There is neither a scientific consensus, nor a compelling empirical argument for the claims of the global warming racketeers. Surely no one would disagree that there is no sense in fouling up the air we breathe and the water we drink, or frivolously driving species to extinction, but the best way to avoid these indiscretions is to protect human liberty and private property rights. The worst violators and polluters are and have always been governments. Giving them more power will not "save" the environment, but worsen it.

Energy Policy - The most efficient allocation of any kind of resource occurs in the context and framework of a truly free market of uncoerced, mutually voluntary, mutually beneficial exchanges between consenting human beings. It is no different for energy. Special energy taxes, heavy restrictions, over-regulation, and legally-created monopolies all have a share in pushing up the price of energy and discouraging the invention and use of cleaner and more renewable sources.

Health Care - There can be no doubt that America's health care system needs serious reform, but there can be no argument that its present defects are the result of the operation of a free market. The market for health care is anything but free. It is a tangled mess of confusing policies, restrictions, regulations, and cartels- an exemplar of the waste and absurdity that occur at the intersection of big government, big business, and big labor. Again, the free market will create the most efficient allocation of health care- the best quality, at the best prices, for the most people.


Sex and Marriage - Sex and marriage are both profoundly important and deeply sacred aspects of the human experience- it is because this is true that they should remain private institutions without any kind of government sanction or restriction. There should be a "separation of marriage and state" in the same way and for the same reason that there is a separation of church and state. Rather than legalize "gay marriage" our respective state governments should de-legalize straight marriage. Why should any couple, straight or gay, have to seek the state's permission and license to marry?

Abortion - The crux of the abortion debate is the ontological status of the unborn. If a fetus is in fact, a living human being, then like all human beings, it is entitled to legal rights and protections. If it is simply tissue belonging to the mother's body, then the state should have no qualms with what she does to it, as it has no qualms with what she does to her tonsils or appendix. It is the opinion of the editor and contributors at The Humble Libertarian, that scientifically and philosophically speaking- the act of conception creates a unique human being entitled to legal protection. All arguments to the contrary usually evade this issue altogether or when confronting it, invoke categorical errors in their defense.

Drug Policy - Government exists to create a civil society- a society free from aggression. It does not exist to define or create a virtuous society. Any individual's action that does not threaten the life, liberty, or property of another human being should remain outside the purview of government interference. In this regard, cannibis should be legal to produce and use for the same reason and in the same way (minus much of the regulation, that is) that alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine are legal to produce and use.

Religion - When those who hold political power (i.e. have all the biggest and best guns) are also vested with the aura of intrinsic moral righteousness, history has shown us that bad things inevitably happen. That said- it should also be noted that the world's great religions have had an overwhelmingly positive and civilizing impact on their true adherents, and that at the heart of most of the great religions, is the injunction to humility, meekness, benevolence, and love, and that when they are taken seriously as such, their faithful adherents would not want or try to forcibly rule or control the lives of other human beings. Yes I am saying it- the world's classical religions, when practiced faithfully, necessarily recommend themselves to a libertarian civil order.

The Economy - It is essential that we understand this axiom: a thing cannot be consumed before it is produced. Its corollary is that production- not consumption- drives and undergirds humanity's material prosperity. It should be clear why the global economy struggles when the very opposite of this principle is nearly taken as axiomatic today- that consumerism drives an economy and that spending makes one prosper. To be succinct let me add only one more thing: Capitalism is not only the most moral and enlightened way for human beings to deal with each other, it is not only unmatched in its ability to raise standards of living and material prosperity for everyone... it is just really, really cool!

Barack Obama - President Obama ran a campaign on the theme of hope, using the slogan "Yes we can!" At a time when Americans desperately needed words of hope and optimism, Obama convinced America that he was the candidate of hope. We were duped. Listen again to the words of his campaign and administration- it was a cynical campaign, utterly bankrupt of genuine hope. Obama's message to America is "No you can't! No you can't provide for yourselves. No you can't create new jobs and wealth on your own. No you can't thrive and prosper without handouts from the government. You are helpless and inept. You need a powerful, charismatic leader who is smarter than you are and knows what's good for you and how to spend your money better than you do."

Electoral Politics - America is worse than a two-party system. It shares a common characteristic with many communist countries- that it is in fact a one-party nation. Confused? That's the point. America's one party system stays in control by masquerading as a two-party system and convincing Americans that their choice is between the guys with the elephants pinned on their lapels or the guys with the donkeys pinned on their lapels- but history has shown us that both kinds of politicians will inevitably expand government's power, spending, and control over your life, liberty, and property. That said, there is a real movement afoot to reform the Republican party and bring its policy in line with its rhetoric. That movement's success and the Republican party's integrity may be the best chance the U.S. presently has of returning to the ideals that made it great.

Tea Parties - It remains to be seen whether the Tea Party movement will be remembered as a success. In order to be so remembered, it must roll its activity and momentum forward into electoral victories for candidates that are unambiguously committed to restrain government, diminish its inflated powers, and return America to the steady, guiding light of its Constitution.

Promote

Music



Coming soon: widgets featuring music from NoiseTrade.com

Books

New to Libertarianism? Read my free libertarian ebook: