Firm; Yet Flexible (Anarcho-Capitalism is)

I have a running joke with a friend.  We often cite the mantra “firm; yet flexible”.

It occurs to me that this could be the mantra of an anarcho-capitalist.  How so?  I might argue an anarcho-capitalist is the very definition of the “firm; yet flexible” mantra.

An anarcho-capitalist is undeniably firm.  He strictly adheres to the two pillars of the philosophy of liberty – the non-aggression axiom and private property rights rooted in self ownership.  These rules apply to all people in all places at all times.  There are simply no exceptions.  It does not matter if you are associated with others, wear nice uniforms or even gain popular support.  The anarcho-capitalist stands firm against the initiation of violence (fraud, theft, rape, murder etc. – violations of property).

An anarcho-capitalist is the epitome of flexible.  Adherence to the two pillars of the philosophy does not make one inflexible.  The anarcho-capitalist holds that peaceful acts are not crimes – no matter how distasteful, outrageous, or destructive they may appear as there is no violation in property rights.  Anarcho-capitalism holds that one has the right to engage in activities including drug dealing or use, prostitution (or facilitation), blackmail, speculation or other vilified or disfavored activities.  That does not intend that the anarcho-capitalist supports engaging in such behaviors.  And there is no contradiction in supporting a right while simultaneously advocating against exercising the right.  (One is a legal matter – the other a moral matter.)

The only tool at the disposal of the state is force.  The introduction of violence does not remedy the situation, but in fact makes it worse.  Force does nothing to address the underlying demand for these goods and services.  The state can only offer punishment for engaging in them.  There is no doubt some deterrent effect from punishment.

On balance, criminalization of these behaviors has a multitude of negative effects.  It provides the incentives for the creation of  black markets.  Black markets have limited competitors – only those willing to assume the risk of violence and police action – or the cost of police protection (bribes, payoffs or offering of information) will enter the market.  This scenario has a variety of deleterious effects including reduced safety (communicable disease in the case of prostitution), higher costs, and reduction in the quality of products and services.

Criminalizing increases the impetus for violence – gangs (in lieu of using peaceful means for dispute resolution – impartial third party arbitrators) and violent resistence.  Violence begets violence.  Criminalization also creates a parasite industry of jailing non-violent “criminals”.

There are many societal ill effects as well.  Futures are destroyed by convictions and imprisonment removing individuals from the possibility of learning and engaging in productive work.  Jailing severely limits the possibility of the experience of satisfaction from a job well done.  And the emotional damage and scars left on the families of the convicted weigh heavily on the innocent.  These families are victims of illegitimate laws and as a consequence lose respect for legitimate laws.

As these acts are non-crimes, they therefore are not preventable or punishable by violence.  To change one’s beliefs, behavior, ideas or position, he must be properly persuaded through education or example.  The use of violence does not improve society.  It simply makes it violent.  The state reduces cooperation by introducing itself into peaceful, voluntary transactions.

Many anarcho-capitalists deplore these distasteful or unsavory activities.  They insist, however, that the initiation of violence is improper on the grounds that it is a violation of the non-aggression axiom and that it does not provide the desired outcome while in fact making the state of affairs worse.  The anarcho-capitalist is in fact “firm: yet flexible”.

Market Forces Continue to Work to Your Benefit

Subway announced on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 that it has unilaterally decided to remove an ingredient (azodicarbonamide) approved by the US FDA for use as an “aging and bleaching agent” used in flour in a concentration not to exceed 2.05 grams per 100 pounds.  Presumably the azodicarbonamide makes bread products whiter and “bouncier” and is used by a number of fast-food chains, restaurants and groceries across the nation.  The ingredient is banned for similar use in Great Britain, the European Union and Australia.

Subway’s action was prompted by Vani Hari, an activist food blogger, who has gone after other restaurants and food companies for their use of controversial ingredients.

As of February 9th, Senator NY Chuck Schumer (D) chose not to miss the opportunity to capitalize politically on the announcement by Subway.  He has called for the FDA to outright ban the ingredient for such use.

In my view this presents another example of the free market imposing discipline upon itself to improve the products and services provided.  This has occurred despite a fully funded FDA.  I mention this as the incentive to monitor the market independently is reduced as people rely on the various agencies to perform the tasks assigned to them.  So where was the state leading the charge for your safety?  How is it that an activist blogger is the entity responsible for this improvement?  Is this not an example of how market discipline is imposed by activists, competitors and consumers.

Subway is using this to position itself better against its competitors as an even healthier alternative.

Another example of how a free market would work (as it has worked in a hampered market).

Would You “Push the Button”?

There is a reason that we do not live in a free society.  This society is simply not supportive of one.  Unfortunately, this is painfully obvious to most libertarians.

I recently had a conversation with another who hesitated at the notion of “pushing the button”.  That is, if there were a button that you could push to create a free society, would you?

The reality is that with the current society, even if someone were to push the button, a free society would likely exist, but for a very short time.  Not for the reasons that statists would put forth, but because this society is simply not ready for self determination.  As inexplicable as this is to me, this appears to be the reality.  But how is this so if all I have been saying and writing for the last number of years is true about the nature of man – about his yearning to be free.  My only explanation is indoctrination and complacency.

But what would be the alternative to “the button test”?  This comes to strategy.  And what strategy is coherent with the goal of liberty?  Should the libertarian become patient and realistic?  Rothbard has spoken on this matter with well reasoned arguments.

“If liberty is to be the highest political end, then this implies that liberty is to be pursued by the most efficacious means, i.e., those means which will most speedily and thoroughly arrive at the goal. This means that the libertarian must be an “ abolitionist,” i.e., he must wish to achieve the goal of liberty as rapidly as possible. If he balks at abolitionism, then he is no longer holding liberty as the highest political end. The libertarian, then, should be an abolitionist who would, if he could, abolish instantaneously all invasions of liberty. Following the classical liberal Leonard Read, who advocated immediate and total abolition of price-and-wage controls after World War II, we might refer to this as the “button-pushing” criterion. Thus, Read declared that “If there were a button on this rostrum, the pressing of which would release all wage-and-price controls instantaneously I would put my finger on it and push!” The libertarian, then, should be a person who would push a button, if it existed, for the instantaneous abolition of all invasions of liberty—not something, by the way, that any utilitarian would ever be likely to do.”

Rothbard continues with why the immediate abolition of invasions of liberty are in fact realistic.  The mechanism to make this so is solely dependent on man’s will.  And his will is determined by his ability to reason.

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The libertarian goals—including immediate abolition of invasions of liberty—are “realistic” in the sense that they could be achieved if enough people agreed on them, and that, if achieved, the resulting libertarian system would be viable. The goal of immediate liberty is not unrealistic or “Utopian” because—in contrast to such goals as the “elimination of poverty”—its achievement is entirely dependent on man’s will. If, for example, everyone suddenly and immediately agreed on the overriding desirability of liberty, then total liberty would be immediately achieved. The strategic estimate of how the path toward liberty is likely to be achieved is, of course, an entirely separate question.

I would push that button.  And I would keep pushing that button; not because I believe it would necessarily have the desired effect, but because it is the strategy consistent with libertarianism.

Until such a mechanism is available, I will attempt to educate all that are drawn to the lesson of liberty.  I will support justice – voluntary associations and voluntary exchanges – property rights rooted in self-ownership and the non-aggression axiom.  A goal will be to continue to develop my intellectual base and my ability to persuade others within an open learning style.I will support the political philosophy of liberty in the most consistent manner.  As part of that strategy, I will continue to develop my character.  I will continue to advocate for justice.  I will support voluntary associations, free trade, property rights and the non-aggression axiom.  These are the tools at my disposal.  Knowledge and learning are the tools of free people.  It is aggression and force that are the tools of the state.

Monopoly: Defined

One of the many difficulties in debating the statist is clear communication.  Many economic terms have never been well defined and therefore the definition of such terms has been assumed.  To add to the confusion, in some cases, multiple definitions exist.  Additionally, definitions of words have evolved or have been outright co-opted with the intent of blurring their meaning.  So which definition holds?  To be prudent, one must point to the definition in use and must continually ask others to clarify the meaning of their words.

The use of the word monopoly is but one example.  In fact, in attempting his discussion of monopoly price in Man, Economy and State, Rothbard writes “Before investigating the theory of monopoly price, we must begin by defining monopoly.  Despite the fact that monopoly problems occupy an enormous quantity of economic writings, little or no clarity of definition exists.  There is, in fact, enormous vagueness and confusion on the subject.  Very few economists have formulated a coherent, meaningful definition.”[1]  In the very next paragraph he adds “A common example of a confused definition is: ‘Monopoly exists when a firm has control over its price.’  This definition is a mixture of confusion and absurdity.”[2]

For clarity, when I use the word monopoly, I use it in concert with the definition put forth by Murray Rothbard in Man, Economy and State.  His definition is “…monopoly is a grant of special privilege by the State, reserving a certain area of production to one particular individual or group.”[3]  Libertarians object to this grant as it is incompatible with market freedom.

I note the above for two purposes.  To document the use of the term monopoly in discussion and to respond in part to a comment posed by a listener to the Annoying Peasant Radio Show.  The comment stated in part “Monopoly is defined as having the means to control a market, but it is not illegal to compete with them.”  I would first point out that this is not a definition of monopoly to which I ascribe, and further, I recognize Rothbard as the authority on the subject.

Any writing of Murray Rothbard is worthwhile to read to discover the coherency of the libertarian philosophy (as well as to uncover the contradictions of the State).  For the beginner, Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is highly recommended.  To find a plethora of recommendations I refer the reader to Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom (http://www.libertyclassroom.com/learn-austrian-economics/).


[1] Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, page 661

[2] Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, page 662

[3] Murray Rothbard, Man, Economy and State, page 669

Nelson Mandela the Incoherent Ender of Apartheid

Nelson Mandela passed today, December 5th 2013 at the age of 95.  As a youth he opposed the use of force against himself and his supporters on seemingly principled grounds.  He opposed the oppression of the citizenry by the state.  As president, however, he supported the use of force against innocents to organize society according to his vision.  Like all statists, he did not recognize or choose to recognize, the incoherence of his position.

Most people remember that he had been incarcerated for 27 years.  Most are likely unaware, however, that according to Wikipedia and other news reports, Mandela was jailed resulting from a conviction on sabotage and conspiracy charges stemming from a bombing campaign targeting the government.  Mandela was accused of leading that campaign.  He denied the charges.  He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment and was released in 1990 after an international campaign lobbied on his behalf.

Born into a royal family, Mandela attended the Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. While living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the African National Congress (ANC) and becoming a founding member of its Youth League.  He studied the writings of Karl Marx aligning and associating himself with communists.

Upon his release from prison he worked to end apartheid which occurred in 1994.  His visits after his release included Cuba and Fidel Castro whom he long emulated.  His “ascent” to the presidency was as a democratic socialist.  He then, as a matter of policy, systematically used the force of government to reshape the South African society.  In 1994 he implemented “Obamacare”, “free” healthcare for pregnant women and children under six years of age and a slew of other social programs.  Mandela’s administration instituted collective bargaining and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 which created enforcement mechanisms while extending a “floor” of rights to all workers, while the Employment Equity Act of 1998 was passed to put an end to discrimination and ensure the implementation of affirmative action in the workplace.

Mandela received criticism for failing to sufficiently combat crime, South Africa having one of the world’s highest crime rates.  750,000 whites who emigrated in the late 1990s cited the crime rate as the reason for leaving.  Much of that crime was black on black.  Mandela’s administration was mired in corruption scandals.

Upon Mandela’s death, most are unaware of the contradictions of his life.  They will fail to evaluate his life in full context.  They will hail him as a good man.  One who endured severe hardship and  ended apartheid.  I can support only his actions which were in concert with justice.

The only principled legacy is that of peace.  And peace is a result of the respect for the non-aggression axiom and property rights stemming from self ownership.  Nelson Mandela respected neither with consistency.

The Claim “Obamacare Will Get Fixed”

Many of the supporters of Obamacare claim that it will get “fixed”.  The website issues will be addressed.  (The cost of which will not be seriously considered).  Enrollment in the plan will expand.

The plan that caused many existing health insurance policies to be cancelled will be modified to become politically more palatable.  The insurance companies will continue to be vilified for canceling existing customer’s policies regardless of the reasons for doing so.  The disrespect of economic realities (hard to cover the costs of insurance when a provider cannot deny those with preexisting conditions) will not be discussed in any meaningful way.  Unfortunately, it is likely that the government propaganda machine will, over time, win out over the people and with the people’s support or at least because of the peoples’ complacency.

Undoubtedly the website will become operable.  Complaints will become less frequent.  Supporters of Obamacare will claim the naysayers were wrong.  The statists will be vindicated (sarcasm warning).

Make no mistake.  Obamacare will not be “fixed”.  It may run temporarily (due to additional funding taken from other sources).  It may leave the headlines for a time.  The fervor will temper as the next battle comes to the fore.  But Obamacare will not be “fixed” only because it cannot be fixed.  The underlying reason for this is that the use of aggressive force and disrespect for property rights is not sustainable.  And this is what Obamacare is at its core.  It is the redistribution of wealth by threat of force.  It is theft.  It is the destruction of wealth.

It will be necessarily “fixed” again and again and again.  It will be an ongoing battle.  I have seen this before.  See campaign finance reform.  See social security.  See Medicare.  It is an inescapable truth that these programs, like the state itself are doomed to fail.  The battle of rhetoric may subside as politicians find it no longer politically expedient to continue the argument against Obamacare.  But the fate of all of these programs and the state are undeniable.

The Incoherence of “Revolutionaries”

Recently we discussed a Russell Brand interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight on the Annoying Peasant Radio Show.

Mr. Brand makes an impassioned plea for change; a paradigm shift, in his words.  He does so recognizing there is something wrong, that the system does not serve the many, that working within the confines of an apathetic, flawed system cannot improve our condition in a meaningful way; at least not to the extent that is radical enough to make a significant improvement.

To do as Mr. Brand suggests, we must fully understand the current circumstance, identify its contradictions, and propose an alternative that eliminates these errors and ensures that we do not add new inconsistencies.

So what is it about this paradigm that causes Mr. Brand to advocate change?  He claims that the current system underserves the disadvantaged; the poor.  I assume that Mr. Brand speaks of the permanent underclass, perpetual poverty, the disenfranchised.  (There is much more to our current circumstance, but I will limit the scope of the objection to the state to this argument.)

From the broader perspective we must understand, the current system, the state, has but one tool at its disposal.  Ludwig von Mises describes this tool and therefore the state itself as force.  Everything that the state contemplates or does must either be backed by the threat of force or is in fact the use of force.  And to be subjected to force is in direct contrast with man’s nature to be free.  It is this contrast that is the root cause of the problem of social order.  The use of aggressive force – the systematic disrespect for property rights (based on self ownership) creates the conflict in which society finds itself.  It creates a permanent underclass.  No meaningful improvement in man’s condition is possible until this reality is recognized and addressed.

As a result, the only paradigm shift is represented in support for property rights (in concert with self ownership).  All other proposals are the use of aggressive force wrapped in a different package – slavery in a different form.  They represent a reorganization of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic and do not address the impending doom of the ship.

Mr. Brand makes an effort to deflect the consistent questioning of the precise description of his proposed paradigm shift.  In the end he relents and exposes his ignorance of economic law.  He expresses his support for the use of aggressive force to create a new order.  He advocates the use of aggressive force to offer relief to those that have been especially victimized by the use of aggressive force.  He makes the classic error.

The only relief available to all (including those in perpetual poverty) is first to recognize the error of the present paradigm, to make the adjustment to eliminate the systematic imposition of aggressive force and to support the property right of self ownership.  The tool at the disposal of the citizenry to affect this change is the most powerful, knowledge.

With education, the citizenry are destined to enjoy the tranquility of peace and to unlock the full potential of the human creative spirit.