Articles – The Libertarian Standard Property - Prosperity - Peace Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. Articles – The Libertarian Standard clean Articles – The Libertarian Standard (Articles – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Articles – The Libertarian Standard TV-G privcheck Mon, 24 Mar 2014 11:17:22 +0000 Check Your Privilege

In a recent Freeman article, “Check Your Context,” columnist Sarah Skwire brought my attention to a popular meme on the political left, both online and off: “Check your privilege.”

At its gentlest, this is advice to raise our awareness of those aspects of our personal histories that may lead to complacent assumptions about how the world works, assumptions that may limit the scope of our moral imaginations.

When it is less gentle (which is often), it is a dismissal of the opinions of anyone who is insufficiently poor, or, more likely, insufficiently left-wing. [Read the rest of the article.]


The Unintended – But Expected – Consequences of Obamacare Fri, 27 Sep 2013 09:54:50 +0000 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare – was expected by economists to cause economic changes.  (Here is the act in a handy 906-page .pdf file.)  Some predicted lower employment, either from employers’ reducing employees’ hours to keep them from being deemed full-time, or simply by firing employees whose marginal productivity isn’t more than the $300+ additional cost, per month, of complying with some of the employer mandates.

Put simply, mandating increased per-employee costs will cause employers to react, and the employees most at risk of losing hours or jobs will be the ones with the lowest productivity:  the minimum-wagers the government says it’s trying to protect.  Any time the government takes control of (more of) an industry, the result inevitably will be unintended consequences. People seek to do what produces the best outcomes for themselves; we are not the static, obedient walking statistics government pretends we are.  We actively seek ways to avoid burdens, because we need to feed our families.

Obamacare provides that employers cannot reduce employee wages to avoid the additional costs imposed on the employers, and every employer with 50 or more employees must participate in providing health care or face punitive fines. Individuals who are not covered by a welfare program (Medicare, Medicaid) or by their employer must purchase their own insurance on the new “health care exchanges” to be set up by the states, or pay a fine along with their income taxes every April 15.  Who are the people who don’t want medical insurance?  Healthy young males, who are expected to pay as much as $5,800 per year, essentially to subsidize health care for the poor and sick.  Their penalties will be far lower than that, at least at first, that we know of.  What do you think they will choose?

Enough about the act.  You can read about it from the links above.  Here are the consequences:

Those of you who told Trader Joe’s you won’t shop there any longer because they’re not covering health care for their part-timers should first read Trader Joe’s explanation (Trader Joe’s will give the employees cash and let them shop for themselves; that way, the employees get a tax break, and at any rate Trader Joe’s can’t offer the giveaway deal the government is forcing on everyone); and second, should be prepared not to shop in very many places any more:  Forbes writes of Walgreen and 17 other large retailers doing the same thing. Worse, 301 employers (that we know of so far) are cutting employee hours and firing people.  The most perverse part of that:  62 of the employers are private-sector, and 239 are government employers, including school districts.  In one survey of small businesses, 41% have delayed hiring, 20% have reduced hours, and 20% have reduced payroll, all because Obamacare would be too burdensome otherwise.

Another unintended consequence of creating government tax-and-spend “giveaways” that (as we saw above) threaten to harm the poor more than the rich:  Fraud.  Obamacare-related scams were and are being predicted—by federal officials, no less.  Thieves are expected to prey on the poor, the old, and the ignorant.  The fear is strong enough that the White House and the Justice Department have felt the need to reassure the public, with DOJ having to build a special initiative around the issue.  Here’s a list of the scams that have already been reported to law enforcement.

Some unintended consequences were not predicted by many, if at all.  Labor unions, the darling of the political left, are stung because they somehow could not foresee that employers would cut hours; and the Obama administration remarkably has refused to add special subsidies for them.

A headline from the notoriously left-leaning Pew research center:  Most uninsured Americans live in states that refuse to offer their own health insurance exchanges.  The people the government claimed it most wanted to help are going to have to use the federal exchanges.  (The real problem here, if you consider it a problem, is those people are the ones least likely to know they can use the federal system.)

Here’s a wild one:  Since Obamacare was enacted in 2010, 21 states have enacted new laws—and the federal government is powerless to stop this—banning private-insurance coverage of abortions.  THAT was certainly unexpected.

Obamacare subsidizes the health care of people who stay below certain income maxima.  The obvious and foreseeable unintended consequence of that, of course, is that some people at the margins will face incentives to earn less.  A dollar of additional income, for some, will mean losing a $5,000 subsidy.  It would be foolish for anyone facing that choice to work an additional hour and lose almost $5,000.

Finally (for now), employers who have just over 50 employees will fire workers to stay below that magic number and avoid the extra burdens, as several of the links above demonstrate.  If a CEO and board of directors will sell their bank, aggressively take the risk of buying other banks, or sell assets to avoid certain burdens that come with size under the Dodd Frank Act, a small business owner whose business feeds his family will certainly fire workers to avoid Obamacare.

There will be more unintended consequences, both expected and unexpected. I’ll stop here.  (Just one more:  To be able to continue to make a profit—i.e., stay in business—insurers are going to limit the insureds’ choices of service providers.)  I’m not even the first person to write about this; many of the links above are to articles with “Obamacare” and “unintended consequences” in their titles.  I’m just the most recent to write about it, so I have the newest data.  Google “unintended consequences of Obamacare” regularly for updates.  The insurance exchanges open October 1, so the coming months will be a busy time for discovering new problems with government medicine (or rediscovering known ones).  We appear doomed to repeat the inescapable history of government intervention proved sour, so we might as well be informed about it.

Hedy Lamarr Bet on the Wrong Horse Thu, 01 Aug 2013 13:06:13 +0000 NakedHedwig

“Hedy stands naked in a field. She looks off-camera in dismay as her horse gallops away with the clothes she had draped over its back to take a dip in a woodland pond.”

That’s the opening line of my article “Putting Hedy Lamarr on Hold,” featured today in the Freeman.

I shared a draft with a writer friend of mine over the weekend. She is far more educated and literary than I am. She saw a parallel between the opening scene and the larger story that I confess I was not conscious of. I thought I’d just been going for sex appeal.

Here’s more of the opening:

She is not called Lamarr yet. That name will come later, in Hollywood. For now she is still Hedwig Kiesler, a Viennese teenager in Prague, playing her first starring role in a feature film, Ekstase (“Ecstasy,” 1933). The controversial Czechoslovakian film will become famous for Hedy’s nude scenes (which are not sexual) and its sex scenes (which show only her face, in close-up, in the throes of passion).

The film will give Hedy her first taste of fame. She will be known as the Ecstasy girl. An Austrian director will tell the press, “Hedy Kiesler is the most beautiful girl in the world.” Later, MGM movie mogul Louis B. Mayer will repeat the claim, using the name he insisted she change to: Hedy Lamarr.

But while the world of her time will remember her for her photogenic beauty, history will remember her as the inventor of frequency hopping, the foundational technology of today’s mobile phones and wireless Internet. [FULL ARTICLE]

FreemanHedyThe piece goes on to explain how Hedy invented frequency-hopping spread spectrum during World War II and why it took so long for that invention to usher in the wireless Internet age. Short answer: the government kept the technology secret for decades. Not only did Hedy Lamarr not see a cent from her invention; she didn’t even get credit for it until the end of the century.

So here’s what my writer friend said:

The more I think about it, the movie image you start with — Hedy looking at her runaway horse and thinking, ok now what? is exactly what you describe in your title: Hedy Lamarr on hold. She’s on hold in the movie (for a moment, I guess — given the movie title, I imagine that she’s not alone for long) and then her invention is on hold for a much longer time. … A Hollywood starlet and inventive genius who made millions in the market surrendered her most innovative idea to Leviathan, who stifled it. And she did so, ironically, because of a lack of imagination on her part — a naive faith that the state would protect and serve its citizens.

(By the way, I’m especially pleased that FEE decided not only to feature my article but also to use the image I put together for it!)

Article: Intellectual Freedom and Learning Versus Patent and Copyright Thu, 20 Jan 2011 06:01:27 +0000 In my various publications and speeches about intellectual property (IP), I’ve approached it from a variety of angles. In this article, I consider the role of information and learning, and the role of property rights, in human action. I use a praxeological analysis to show that human action employs scarce resources or means, but that action is guided by non-scarce ideas and knowledge. Property rights are recognized in means because they are scarce; but ideas are not scarce things: they are infinitely reproducible.  The growing body of knowledge is a boon to mankind. Property rights are needed for scarce means so that they can be peacefully and productively used in action; property rights in ideas restrict, impair, and imped learning and the use of information to guide one’s actions. Copying information and ideas is not stealing.  Learning is not stealing.  Using information is not trespass. In this article, I urge young libertarians to stay on the vanguard of intellectual freedom, and to fight the shackles of patent and copyright.

Mises Academy: Stephan Kinsella teaches Libertarian Legal TheoryThis article is based on my speech of Nov. 6, 2010, at the 2010 Students for Liberty Texas Regional Conference, University of Texas, Austin (audio and video versions may be found here). A previous version was published today under the same title in Economic Notes No. 113 (Libertarian Alliance, 2011).

(Incidentally, my 6-week Mises Academy course “Libertarian Legal Theory: Property, Conflict, and Society” starts at the end of this month (Jan. 31-Mar. 11, 2011). I describe it in my article “Introduction to Libertarian Legal Theory,” Mises Daily (Jan. 3, 2011).)

Read the Full Article by Stephan Kinsella

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At What Point Does a Scholarship Athlete Own Anything? Wed, 29 Dec 2010 01:23:39 +0000 “Pryor and four teammates were suspended Thursday by the NCAA for the first five games of next season for selling championship rings, jerseys and awards. They also received improper benefits — from up to two years ago — from the tattoo parlor and its owner.”

~ Article at

The situations of Ohio State University Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, leading rusher Dan Herron, No. 2 wide receiver DeVier Posey, All-Big Ten offensive tackle Mike Adams and backup defensive end Solomon Thomas should be pretty well known to the sports fans in our studio audience.  The sports airwaves have been chock-full with commentary on it for the last few days.  From a sports reporting standpoint, the coverage has often been quite good and pretty far ranging.  ESPN generally, and Pat Forde and Adam Rittenberg specifically, have covered the issue and the rather obvious duplicity of the NCAA in some detail.  For the overarching view of the issues, I recommend those columns.  To get an impression of my view of the duplicity of the NCAA, I highly recommend this video from Michael Smith.  Smith and I agree completely, the NCAA was duplicitous in its application of sanctions against these players and against The Ohio State University.  But there is more to it than that, and it is upon those differences that I will focus in this brief rant.

To make a long story short, and save the reader from wading through the MSM reporting, here is the synopsis.  These players sold and/or bartered with items and notoriety they had been given or “earned” in their capacity as football players at The Ohio State University.  Those benefits included both cash and services, in the fashion of tattoos from a local tattoo parlor in Columbus.  (No, I’m not making this up.)  They have been found guilty of “receiving improper benefits.”  Their punishment is:  being suspended for five games next football season.  They will all compete in the Sugar Bowl this season.  (No, you didn’t misread anything.  That is exactly what is happening.)

There are really only two issues of interest from my libertarian perspective.  First is the issue of ownership and its privileges. One would hope that rules imposed by the NCAA would somehow reflect an understanding of private property ownership.  Let us call that Standard One.  Secondly, there is the issue of rules and regulations.  If there is a rule in place that circumvents my ownership, e.g., an agreement, either implicit or definitive, that I will not receive “benefits” from ownership until such time as said agreement is no longer in place, what punishment fits the “crime” of breaking that contract?  One would hope that penalties levied by the NCAA would reflect some understanding of punishment that fits the crime in the most obvious sense.  Let us call that Standard Two.

These are the only questions that exist in the Ohio State Affair, or Tattoo Gate, as I will hereafter refer to it.  As anyone who has witnessed the amazingly transparent actions of the NCAA over the last few months can attest, what can be generally said about the imposition of NCAA sanctions is this:  The NCAA generally opts for a punishment that fails to meet either standard.  This case is no different.  In fact, Tattoo Gate is an object lesson in how to be damned certain that one’s actions meet no discernible standard at all.

If a person owns an item, the disposition of that item should be the business of that owner only.  In short, he can do whatever he wishes with it, including, but not limited to, sell it, give it away, bury it in the back yard, or burn it for warmth.  The obvious (read:  statist) exception of intellectual property aside, this seems pretty straightforward.  Clearly then, something else must cover the case of NCAA athletes.  This is where Standard Two comes in.  The NCAA apparently believes, and I’ll even agree with them for arguments sake, that the “contract of scholarship athleticism” precludes actions that might otherwise be appropriate for an owner of real property such as a championship ring or other soon-to-be-useless whatnottery.  Tattoo Gate is not about ownership.  Tattoo Gate it is about rules.

So then, a scholarship athlete cannot sell NCAA-sanctioned trinkets while participating in NCAA activities and/or while maintaining eligibility.  To do so constitutes the receiving of improper benefits and is justification for punishment.  Clearly, the players in question broke the rules.  Just as clearly, imposing a sanction of five games—approximately one-third of a college football season—is a hefty penalty.  Why then would the NCAA impose the penalty next season, effectively allowing the players and the team to benefit from their presence in a (high-profit-generating) bowl game?  That’s a very good question, and a question that no one seems able to answer.

If the infractions were egregious enough to warrant a large penalty—like five games—it would seem to warrant immediate imposition of said sanctions.  If it the infraction is minor enough to allow for imposing a sanction that won’t take place until next season (when at least two or three of those players could be gone to the NFL) it would also seem to not be worth mentioning.

What the NCAA has done, effectively, is harshly punish while simultaneously not punishing.  That’s an elegant implementation of justice and a fine example of what those of us who watch the actions of the NCAA have known for quite some time:  The NCAA is, in the vernacular, FOS.  (That means, loosely translated:  Full of Feces.)  Of course, many of us knew that before Tattoo Gate.  Didn’t you?

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Article: Voluntary Governance Mon, 15 Nov 2010 05:50:56 +0000 The standard nomenclature of libertarianism and anarchy suffer the double disadvantage of counter-productive cultural baggage and the factual stigma of being at best unclear and at worst inaccurate. Adopting, instead, the language of ‘voluntary governance’ has a triple advantage. It is a convivial language which doesn’t scare people and turn them off of our arguments before we’ve even made them. It is simply a more accurate description of our desired objective. And, given the actual state of affairs, it not only describes our ends, but also points toward the most promising means of getting to the desired outcome. In other words, ‘voluntary governance’ is not only rhetorically more convivial and substantively accurate, but also transitionally facilitating.

Michael McConkey lives in the socialist hotbed of Vancouver, Canada, where the mountains continually remind him of how puny are the grand designs of the state’s social engineers. He has a Ph.D. in communication from McGill University in Montreal and free lances in teaching organizational theory. He’s just finishing a book that aspires to reinvent communications theory through the application of Austrian and libertarian ideas to a discipline that has been painfully positivist and anti-market.

Read the Full Article by Michael McConkey

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Article: What Is To Be Done? — A Comment on Angelo Codevilla’s “Ruling Class” Mon, 08 Nov 2010 05:48:07 +0000 In his paper “America’s Ruling Class – and the Perils of Revolution” Professor Angelo Codevilla offers an excellent analysis of the causes and forms of government encroachment into the basic traditional liberties of Americans, and a very good sketch of the reasons why big government ideology succeeded in imposing its tenets upon the country, despite overwhelming opposition by Americans. The problem America faces, according to him, is nothing less than a complete usurpation of power by an alienated elite: the ideologues of big government and the politicians that work in concert to subvert the structure of the American constitution, and to rule over the great majority of Americans against their will. Professor Codevilla paints a very grim (and very true) picture of the complete breakdown of the constitutional form of government in America, under the assault of the modern statist ideology, delivered in a bipartisan manner, and garnered with political corruption. But he fails to provide prescriptions radical enough to deal with the problem, perhaps because he too is a member of that big-government-worshiping elite.

Ivan Jankovic is a graduate student of Political Science at the University of Windsor, Canada. Originally from Serbia, he has published in the fields of Austrian economics, public choice, and classical liberal philosophy.

Read the Full Article by Ivan Jankovic

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Article: Healthcare Is Not a Human Right Tue, 19 Oct 2010 03:49:36 +0000 Of all the arguments favoring the coordination and control of the healthcare industry by the central planning agency of the state, the healthcare-is-a-human-right argument seems to be the most convincing one, even to those who may favor a free market approach to the problem of coordination of scarce health resources. How can we as a society possibly deny healthcare to someone in need? Shouldn’t the state assume that task?

Gabriel E. Vidal is the chief operating officer of a hospital system in the United States. He has a BA in politics, philosophy, and economics and an MBA in finance.

Read the Full Article by Gabriel E. Vidal

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Article: The Kidnapping of Cheyenne Irish Sun, 10 Oct 2010 02:56:39 +0000 The government’s abduction of Cheyenne Irish just hours after her birth is hardly the first time law enforcement officials and social workers have cited “political extremism” to justify severe and extra-constitutional sanctions against people who have not been convicted of an actual crime.

Read the Full Article by William N. Grigg

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Article: Is Inequality and Asymmetry Really Problematic? Wed, 22 Sep 2010 01:10:35 +0000 InequalityIn “How Inequality Shapes Our Lives,” Roderick Long argues that asymmetric relationships between services providers and customers or employers and employees are problematic. Some examples he cites include creditor-debtor relationships (e.g., credit cards), service provider-customer relationships (e.g., your ISP), landlord-tenant relationships, and employer-employee relationships. Professor Long’s fundamental objection to these asymmetric relationships is the alleged asymmetry in consequences for failure to meet obligations.

Read the Full Article by David J. Heinrich

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