The Libertarian Standard » The Left http://libertarianstandard.com Property - Prosperity - Peace Sat, 16 May 2015 17:42:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com thelibertarianstandard@gmail.com (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace The Libertarian Standard » The Left http://libertarianstandard.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://libertarianstandard.com/category/leftwing/ TV-G Green Shoots Among the EcoReds http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/11/09/green-shoots-among-the-ecoreds/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/11/09/green-shoots-among-the-ecoreds/#comments Sun, 09 Nov 2014 16:24:16 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13575 A Brief Background

 

I recently began leasing a Nissan LEAF. The $7500 Nissan takes off the top of the price, along with the $5000 tax credit issued by the state of Georgia, which is available even to lessees, made the car economically attractive for my daily commute. For those who are unaware, the LEAF is a fully electric vehicle which, when fully charged can provide 60-80 miles of range in typical driving. With practice, and with the right mix of traffic flow (electric vehicles typically benefit from stop and go traffic due to the regenerative braking they employ to recover power back into the battery), it is possible to go over 100 miles on a charge. But, range anxiety is a factor, and few people are willing to push the battery so much as to go so far between charges.

The Charging Issue

 

The Time Factor

Charging electric vehicles is the blessing and the curse of employing one as your daily driver. On the positive side, you can fuel your vehicle more cheaply, and from the comfort of your own home. On the negative side, charging takes much more time than filling a car’s tank, and the charging rate is much more important than the flow rate on a gas pump, as a 20% increase in time matters little when the difference is 10 seconds on gas, but becomes a big deal when the difference is 10 minutes to half an hour. Still, with planning, that issue is not as huge a deal as it seems. I’m comfortable with 90+% of the driving I do being in the LEAF. As I’ve looked to avoid having car notes, I keep one more car than is absolutely needed, so that one can be undergoing maintenance while I drive another. This lifestyle choice works well when owning a LEAF.

The Tragedy of the Commons

Many businesses offer free EV charging. That was the norm, outside of the home, a few years ago. Free charging, of course, caused paid options to be adopted more slowly. As the vehicles have become more popular, however, the crowds at the free charging stations have become larger, and the waits to use them have become longer. Waiting for an hour so that you can charge for another hour and go home is not a terribly appealing scenario. This fact has not been lost on LEAF aficionados, and many are now praising the availability of pay-to-charge sites. Many are lamenting the overuse, with people using the free chargers for too long, simply because they are free. Additionally, while Nissan’s own navigation system, included in some LEAFs, will direct drivers to a nearby Nissan dealer when the battery level becomes dangerously low, there are some dealers who apparently restrict the use of the EVSEs to their own customers only. And this phenomenon has generated some interesting discussions on forums such as My Nissan LEAF Forum. While there is outrage, there is also the understanding that businesses have the right to dispose of their own property as they see fit.

Welcoming the Free Market

The immaturity of the EV market has led to something of a crash course in economics for many on the left. Rather than decrying “money grubbing corporations,” many are celebrating the end of the scourge of “free” charging. There is finally recognition that resources are finite, and must be allocated through some means, and that trade is a vastly superior method for that allocation than “first come, first served.” Around Atlanta, there are pay stations popping up in various places, including in places where they used to be offered for free, such as at businesses. When businesses offer free charging, we see the same kind of resource hogging and lines that we see under socialism. When there is a fee, even if that fee is very modest, we see much more efficient allocation of resources. The difference in attitude between free and $3.00/hr is much greater, effectively, than the difference between $3.00/hr and $10.00/hr would be. When I took my family out last weekend to Ikea, we used one of the pay stations in the parking lot. There were two. They were both unused and available. A short walk away, at a free group of chargers, there was a significant line which would have required a wait (I only found out about the free charging after the fact, but it does fit in with my wife noticing a bunch of LEAFs grouped at one location as we were driving to Ikea). Charging the LEAF is typically not pricey. It costs less than $3.00/hr for “level 2” charging, which will typically add 20+miles/hr to the range. This works well for charging while you shop. There is also an option for very high speed DC charging, which can accomplish that same level of charging as L2 in a quarter of the time. Most of these stations are pay stations. The ones which are not are typically at Nissan dealers. There is also a free one at Agnes Scott. The usage on these chargers is lower because the ability to utilize them requires a paid-for option on the LEAF, and many owners do not have this option. One thing which I have noticed about the free DC chargers is that they tend to be broken much more frequently than paid ones. The equipment itself may require more maintenance, and it is certainly the case that an owner who generates income from the equipment is much more likely to provide that maintenance than one who does not.

Economics in One Lesson

 

The development of electric vehicles has been good. While not superior to their petroleum-fueled brethren, there is a role for the EV in cities and for people with very regular, predictable, and short-range driving schedules. The experience of owning or leasing one is also something of a crash course in economics for many who do not normally ruminate on such matters. This awareness may well mitigate some of the most socialist impulses among the environmentally conscious moving forward. Certainly, learning the lesson through such an experience is better than never learning it at all. The actual experience with poor resource allocation does more to increase the understanding of the importance of market forces than any textbook.

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Salon’s Seven Misconceptions About Libertarianism http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/09/05/salons-seven-misconceptions-about-libertarianism/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/09/05/salons-seven-misconceptions-about-libertarianism/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 21:34:37 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13544 Lately it has become fashionable for political partisans to bash libertarianism. These “critiques” are vacuous and do nothing but demonstrate that the authors haven’t bothered to do basic research about what libertarians believe and why.

A recent example of this is Salon’s list of 7 strange libertarian ideas. Every single one misses the mark and requires only a limited response. More in depth information on these issues can easily be found with Google.

  1. “Parents should be allowed to let their children starve to death.”
  2. First off, most libertarians don’t actually think this. The issue is a strawman. Second off, even the people who believe that parents have no obligations to their children also believe that other people should be allowed to take custody of the neglected kids and care for them.

  3. “We must deregulate companies like Uber, even when they cheat.”
  4. Libertarians don’t think taxis should be regulated either. So the idea that it’s unfair that Uber isn’t regulated while taxis are cuts the other way for us. Nor does libertarian opposition to regulation imply approval of Uber interfering with Lyft’s business operations. Rather, libertarians think that violations of terms of service should be private and not state matters.

  5. “We should eliminate Social Security and Medicare.”
  6. These are massive transfers of wealth from the young and poor to the old and rich. We oppose them b/c we oppose intervention and wealth transfers (and the state in general). Of course the practical way of getting rid of them does it in a way that phases them out without leaving the poor who do depend on them hanging.

  7. “Society doesn’t have the right to enforce basic justice in public places of business.”
  8. We believe that people have the right to do what they want as long as it doesn’t involve using aggression against others. That doesn’t mean that we think racism is okay, it just means that we don’t think that a civilized response to racism is threatening to shoot the racist or to lock him in a cage against his will unless he does what we want.

    Furthermore the argument Salon gives is wrong and circular. Wrong b/c the constitution doesn’t apply to private citizens and so private acts of discrimination can’t be “unconstitutional” (and for most of the country’s history, the constitution was read as preventing this kind of legislation). Circular b/c you can’t say it’s “against federal law” when the argument is about whether such a federal law should exist in the first place.

  9. “Selflessness is vile.”
  10. Objectivists go out of their way to make it clear that they aren’t libertarians. This is one of the areas where they disagree with most of us. Furthermore, Objectivists oppose altruism as a philosophical principle, but that doesn’t mean that they oppose helping others. So in principle, they can support aid workers and organizations like Doctors Without Boarders; they just don’t think that you should support them out of a sense of obligation to others.

  11. “Democracy is unacceptable, especially since we began feeding poor people and allowing women to vote.”
  12. This isn’t really a libertarian issue. Salon brings it up because Peter Thiel wrote about it in a blog post on Cato’s website. And while Thiel may support libertarianism financially, that doesn’t make him libertarian. I’ve never seen Thiel admit to being an anarcho-capitalist. Instead I’ve seen him support a bunch of other approaches, many of which are discussed in the article Salon references.

    As for the claim itself, the idea that our kind of representative democracy is fundamentally flawed goes back to ancient Greece. (The Athenians wouldn’t even call what we have a democracy). Plenty of modern mainstream political scientists and public choice economists have written extensively about the structural problems with our democracy. It’s ludicrous to pretend that well known and documented problems don’t exist. It is similarly absurd to make it sound like someone is a racist or a misogynist for pointing out that all of these structural problems are exacerbated as the number of voters increases.

    Finally, in wrapping up its criticism of Thiel, Salon raises the strawman that the state created the internet. This is a popular myth. The internet was created by mergers between a bunch of large private networks. The government portion of the resulting network was relatively small. (IBM alone had more computers than the entire government network.) But even if the state did create the internet, that doesn’t obligate future generations to support the state. The British monarchy gave us the Magna Carta, but that doesn’t mean that we are obligated to stick with the government of medieval England for the rest of eternity.

  13. “We can replace death with libertarianism.”
  14. This has nothing whatsoever to do with libertarianism. Some people think that if economic growth goes far enough, we’ll have the technology to make immortality an affordable medical possibility. They happen to support libertarianism because they think that it will lead to the kind of economic growth this development needs.

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privcheck http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/03/24/privcheck/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/03/24/privcheck/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 11:17:22 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13399 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.]

freemancheckyourhistory

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Yes, We Have No Bananas http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/24/yes-we-have-no-bananas/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2014/02/24/yes-we-have-no-bananas/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:28:29 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=13372 YesWeHaveNoBananasIn a recent post on my personal blog (“Is mediocrity intelligent?”), I talked about the importance of a diversity of strategies — even apparently “wrong” ones — to the long-term survival of a species. The corollary of course is that overinvestment in any single strategy can be catastrophic.

We see this issue at play in modern agribusiness.

As Popular Science informs us,

The 1923 musical hit “Yes! We Have No Bananas” is said to have been written after songwriters Frank Silver and Irving Cohn were denied in an attempt to purchase their favorite fruit by a syntactically colorful, out-of-stock neighborhood grocer.

It seems that an early infestation of Panama disease was already causing shortages in 1923. But the out-of-stock bananas in question were not the Cavendish variety we all eat today; they were Gros Michel (“Big Mike”) bananas, and they were all that American banana lovers ate until the 1950s, when the disease finally finished them off.

I would love to know what a Gros Michel banana tastes like. I’m a big fan of bananas and eat them every day. (Actually, I drink them, blended into smoothies.) But the reason I only know the taste of Cavendish — and the reason you do too, unless you’re old enough to have had some Gros Michel mixed into your pablum — is that Cavendish bananas are resistant to the strain of disease that wiped out our original bananas. We have to assume that the Plan B bananas we now enjoy are only second best as far as flavor goes. They may not even be first best at survival, because the banana industry is searching for a Plan C banana to take the place of the Cavendish once the inevitable crop disease sends it the way of the Gros Michel — something that they predict will happen in the next decade or two. (See Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel.)

Why are bananas so vulnerable to these blights? Why aren’t agricultural scientists worried about our other favorite fruits — apples, for example?

Because there are many different types of apples. I’m dizzied by the variety at our local produce warehouse.

But not only is there just the one type of banana at the green grocers and in supermarkets; each banana you’ve probably every eaten is a clone of every other banana you’ve eaten. One genetic pattern manifested billions of times over, across millions of households in the past half century. And each Gros Michel was a clone of every other one, too. That’s because bananas reproduce asexually (as do potatoes, another food that’s especially vulnerable to disease — remember the Irish potato famine?).

Cavendish DNA is different enough from Gros Michel DNA that the disease that targeted the one species was no threat to the other. But any infection that can kill one Cavendish plant can wipe out the worldwide supply.

There are many reasons food activists attack Big Agribusiness — some good, some bad, and some wacky. One criticism that seems eminently reasonable to me is a concern that Big Agra puts all its billions of eggs in one giant basket.

Once upon a time, genetic diversity in farm products was built into how farming took place. Farmers farmed local land with local genetic strains of plants and animals. Chickens may have come from Asia, and Europe never saw a tomato until the Spanish brought some back from the New World, but even as trade began to go global several centuries ago, the limits of transportation and technology meant that gene pools could be local and diverse in a way that is much harder in our era of global overnight shipping and transnational corporate bureaucracies.

If an infestation wipes out the Golden Delicious, I can eat Fugi apples instead. But if the Cavendish disappears tomorrow, there isn’t yet a different banana to take its place.

CalvinPlanB

In “Is mediocrity intelligent?” I wrote about the time my professor presented to the “artificial life” department at Bell Labs. In the context of a communications-research lab, artificial life was about using the lessons of biology, ecology, and evolution to make telephone networks more robust.

You may think that agriculture is more “natural” than phone switches and fiberoptics, but farming often short-circuits nature’s mechanisms to suit our short-term goals. One of the main such strategies of nature is diversity. And as I tried to illustrate, in that post, with the concept of the genetic deme (an isolated and seemingly inferior gene pool within a species), diversity means that what looks like an inferior strategy today could turn out to be the salvation of the species tomorrow.

As Larry Reed wrote recently in the Freeman,

Statists those who prefer force-based political action over spontaneous, peaceful, and voluntary initiatives — excel at distilling their views into slogans. (“A Slogan Worth Your Bumper?”)

But what I find revealing is the contradictions at play in the juxtaposition of different bumper stickers on the same car. (And when you see a whole bunch of bumper stickers on the same car, odds are you’re driving behind a left-wing statist.)

CelebrateDiversity

Last weekend, at a red light, I was behind a minivan that brandished three bumper stickers:

One said, “Women for Obama.”

If that wasn’t enough to declare the driver’s politics, the next bumper sticker made the claim that strong public schools create strong communities.

The last bumper stick advised us in rainbow colors to “Celebrate Diversity!”

(Pop quiz: Are bumper stickers #2 and #3 in accord or at odds?)

Now, it’s a standard complaint against leftists that they talk diversity while pushing ideological conformity. Political correctness, and all that.

But to me the greater irony is that the Left consistently pushes centralization. Eat local, buy local, but decide everything in Washington DC.

I know that there are left-wing decentralists, and perhaps they genuinely do see the important parallels between genetic diversity and political federalism, between local communities and local authority. But I keep thinking of a story Tom Woods tells of his attending a decentralist conference back in the 1990s, where he happily discovered like-minded activists from both Left and Right. But to the apparent delight of the left-wing so-called decentralists, the highlight of the event was the keynote speaker: Vice President Al Gore.

BananaBookNo, in my experience, the vast majority of people with Buy Local bumper stickers, as with the Celebrate Diversity crowd, are also often, e.g., Women for Obama — that is to say, champions of ever-more-centralized authority. I’m confident that the driver in front of me at the intersection saw no irony in celebrating diversity while advocating strong public schools — and an even stronger central government.

But in the biosphere, where diversity rules, order is spontaneous. That spontaneous order is both the cause of and the result from overwhelming diversity. There are no central strategies in evolution, only in the human world, and only in recent human history. Evolution gave the natural world hundreds of varieties of banana. The United Fruit Company (hardly a free-market firm, by the way) gave us only one.

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Stamping Out Dissent http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/07/22/stamping-out-dissent/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/07/22/stamping-out-dissent/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 22:46:57 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12590 NewMarianneStampMy fixation on female national personifications continues:

Socialist president François Hollande has successfully courted controversy in his Bastille Day announcement of a new national postage stamp.

Since 1944, each new French president has chosen a new illustration for France’s postage stamps — always an image of Marianne, the Phrygian-hat-wearing feminine symbol of the French Republic (the way the UK has Britannia and the US used to have Columbia before Uncle Sam elbowed her aside).

"I decided following my election," said Hollande, "that the Republic’s new stamp would have the face of youth, that it would be created by youth, and that it would be chosen by youth."

Chosen by youth? Check. The design was chosen from a list of 15 finalists "preselected by a jury that included schoolchildren." (The French, by the way, are very candid about the importance of the French school system for indoctrinating children. They are much more comfortable with the idea than most Americans seem to be. French schools must instill "republican values." This is what always comes up in discussions of homeschooling and laws against Muslim girls wearing veils.)

Created by youth? Maybe. The stamp was designed by 34-year-old French artist and gay-rights activist Oliver Ciappa, who says the new stamp "blends elements of Renaissance art, French comics, Japanese manga, and US animation from the 1950s."

Face of youth? Previous models for Marianne have included Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Hollande and Ciappa decided to go a different direction. And this is what is causing the controversy. The new Marianne is inspired by 23-year-old Inna Shevchenko, a leader in the Ukrainian feminist protest group called FEMEN.

Shevchenko has just been granted political asylum in France.

According to the Atlantic,

The flamboyant activist ran afoul of Ukrainian authorities after cutting down a cross with a chainsaw in central Kyiv, wearing only skimpy shorts, in support of jailed members of the Russian punk feminist collective Pussy Riot.

"It’s great to enter history in this manner," said Shevchenko. "But the nicest part of it is that now every time a homophobe, a fascist, or an extremist in France wants to send a letter by mail, he will have to lick Femen’s [backside]." (The BBC reports that she used a much ruder word than "backside." My francophone wife guesses that Shevchenko really said cul.)

The US Postal Service has had its share of stamp controversies. Thin Elvis versus fat Elvis comes to mind. But it seems like the French president is deliberately seeking to provoke a large segment of the French population — the ones who didn’t vote for him.

Thomas Jefferson, a supporter of the French Revolution and a fan of the French Republic at a time when American republicans were divided on the question of France, famously wrote,

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.

I guess we should not be surprised that a Socialist president would beg to differ. So would almost all American politicians.

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Enoch was right (wing) http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/24/enoch-was-right-wing/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/24/enoch-was-right-wing/#comments Wed, 24 Apr 2013 14:43:14 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12448 Enoch PowellI have a fondness for Enoch Powell that I never could manage for Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps that’s because I was indoctrinated to hate Thatcher and had never heard of Powell before last Saturday, when Wikipedia noted the 45th anniversary of the so-called Rivers of Blood speech for which he is infamous.

Both Thatcher and Powell were British politicians. Both were Conservatives. (Powell eventually left the Conservative party, claiming that while he was a life-long Tory, there were good Tories in the Labour Party. I guess I don’t really understand Toryism.) Both Thatcher and Powell are targets of left-wing hatred and smeared as proto-fascists. (See Lawrence Reed on the recent anti-Thatcher hatefest in the UK.) And I suspect the British Left would have a hard time distinguishing either of them politically from libertarians. We’re all ultra right wing, radically free market, and anti progress, aren’t we?

Powell rose to political stardom at the same time he fell from political power. On April 20, 1968, he gave a speech criticizing the British government’s existing immigration laws and its proposed anti-discrimination legislation. Everywhere I’ve looked for information on this speech and the speechmaker, these two issues have been conflated, and yet to a libertarian they could not be more different.

Two issues:

  1. Immigration
  2. Discrimination

On one of these, Powell seems to be in accord with us. On the other, not so much.

Immigration

Calls for the state to control or limit immigration are antithetical to the libertarian goal of limiting or eliminating the state itself.

(Unplanned plug: at Invisible Order we just completed our second ebook for Reason magazine, and it happens to be apropos: Pro-Growth and Humane: A Reason Guide to Immigration Reform.)

Discrimination

On the other hand, any law that prohibits individuals from discriminating on any basis they choose is a violation of the fundamental rights of free association and free thought. This line from Powell’s speech, which one detractor called an “explosion of bigotry,” could not be more in accord with libertarian thinking:

The third element of the Conservative Party’s policy is that all who are in this country as citizens should be equal before the law and that there shall be no discrimination or difference made between them by public authority. As Mr. Heath has put it, we will have no “first-class citizens” and “second-class citizens”. This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendants should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow citizen and another or that he should be subjected to inquisition as to his reasons and motives for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

What is not at all in accord with liberty is Powell’s suggestion that the British taxpayer provide “generous grants and assistance” to help immigrants leave the UK. (Paul McCartney apparently considered some Enoch-specific lyrics in the Beatles song “Get Back (to Where You Once Belonged)” but they didn’t make it into the final release.)

If Margaret Thatcher was the British Ronald Reagan (or vice versa), perhaps Enoch Powell was the British Pat Buchanan (or vice versa). Like Buchanan, Powell was an ultra-nationalist. Like Buchanan, he consistently took positions in opposition to the main party line of his country’s conservatives. Powell supported gay rights and opposed nuclear weapons, at least within Britain. He advocated the dismantling of the British Empire.

Unlike Buchanan, Powell often advocated for free-market positions, although he seems, like Buchanan, to have had a soft spot for economic nationalism (which consistently takes the form of protecting the nation’s producers at the expense of the nation’s consumers).

While writing this post, I thought I should double-check to see if Murray Rothbard had had anything to say about Enoch Powell back in the day. Here’s the Libertarian Forum on the British elections of 1974:

Decades of horrific British policies have created a rigid, stratified, and cartellized economy, a set of frozen power blocs integrated with Big Government: namely, Big Business and Big Labor. Even the most cautious and gradualist of English libertarians now admit that only a radical political change can save England. Enoch Powell is the only man on the horizon who could be the sparkplug for such a change. It is true, of course, that for libertarians Enoch Powell has many deficiencies. For one thing he is an admitted High Tory who believes in the divine right of kings; for another, his immigration policy is the reverse of libertarian. But on the critical issues in these parlous times: on checking the inflationary rise in the money supply, and on scuttling the disastrous price and wage controls, Powell is by far the soundest politician in Britain. A sweep of Enoch Powell into power would hardly be ideal, but it offers the best existing hope for British freedom and survival. (Libertarian Forum, March 1974Download PDF)

And 8 months later:

Amidst this turmoil, the most heartening sign is the rapid growth of libertarians and anarcho-capitalists in a country that only a few years ago had virtually no one even as "extreme" as Milton Friedman. The major libertarian group is centered around Pauline Russell, and includes businessmen, journalists, economists, and others ranging from anarcho-capitalists to neo-Randians to the Selsdon Group, the free-market ginger group within the Conservative Party. Most of this group is friendly with the notable Enoch Powell, who of all the politicians in England is the only one with both the knowledge and the will to stop the monetary inflation and to put through a free market program and an end to wage and price controls. Powell, himself, despite his Tory devotion to the monarchy (which is seconded even by many of the English anarcho-capitalists), has grown increasingly libertarian. The Powell forces were working on a gusty strategy for the then forthcoming October elections: voting Labour in order to smash the statist leadership of Edward Heath. (Libertarian Forum, November 1974Download PDF)

(Cross-posted at bkmarcus.com.)

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On the Boston Lockdown http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/20/on-the-boston-lockdown/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/04/20/on-the-boston-lockdown/#comments Sat, 20 Apr 2013 20:39:09 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12440 One doesn’t have to be any sort of radical to be appalled that thousands of police, working with federal troops and agents, would “lockdown” an entire city—shutting down public transit, closing virtually all businesses, intimidating anyone from leaving their home, and going door to door with SWAT teams in pursuit of one suspect. The power of the police to “lockdown” a city is an authoritarian, borderline totalitarian power. A “lockdown” is prison terminology for forcing all prisoners into their cells. They did not do this to pursue the DC sniper, or to go after the Kennedy assassin, and I fear the precedent. It is eerie that this happened in an American city, and it should be eerie to you, no matter where you fall on the spectrum. You can tell me that most people in Boston were happy to go along with it, but that’s not really the point, either. If two criminals can bring an entire city to its knees like this with the help of the state, then terrorism truly is a winning strategy. (And we should also keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of the massive police response did not aid in capturing the suspect—it ultimately turned on that old fashioned breakthrough—a normal denizen calling the authorities with information.)

If America suffered a bombing like the Boston Marathon atrocity every week, America would feel like a very different place, although the homicide rate would only be about one percent higher. I acknowledge the maiming was on a mass scale, but this kind of attack has to be taken in perspective in terms of how much of a risk it poses to the average American, because we have to consider what response the people would tolerate in the event of more frequent or far worse attacks.

If the people of the United States will cheer seeing a whole city shut down, even for just a day, in the event of a horrific attack that nevertheless had 1/1000th the fatalities and about two percent of the casualties of 9/11, what would Americans support in light of another 9/11? What about a dirty bomb going off in a major city? The question has nothing to do with what government wants to do, or whether police statism is a goal or simply a consequence. What will the *people* want and expect the government to do if tens of thousands were chaotically killed and injured in a terrible terror attack, or if many small attacks hit the country? I fear they would welcome the abolition of liberty altogether, given their reaction to last night. That, of course, is altogether the wrong response. If we cannot look at the police reaction last night very critically, there is really no hope for even moderate protection of our civil liberties today.

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Bureaucracy Kills: Catholic Shelter Housing ‘Too Many’ Homeless People http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/12/21/bureaucracy-kills-catholic-shelter-housing-too-many-homeless-people/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/12/21/bureaucracy-kills-catholic-shelter-housing-too-many-homeless-people/#comments Fri, 21 Dec 2012 14:19:28 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12123 HOMELESS-WINTER-2There is libertarianism — with its debatable scope and definitions and borders — and then there is parody libertarianism, that is, the one where every business person is dubbed heroic, no matter how cronyistic they may be, and of course, where the Little Guy is squashed daily beneath the mighty, faceless feet of Making Money because no one cares; and so Government is Necessary.

Apropos of that inaccurate impression, those on the moderate left — the guiltiest when it comes to repeating it as gospel —  should consider the following story.

The Mayor’s office of Green Bay, Wisconsin recently sent Catholic homeless shelter St. John the Evangelist a letter that says by allowing “too many people to stay at its overnight shelter” St. John is violating the terms of their building permit (they debate this).

The reason for the shelter’s sudden upswing in homeless people might just be that it’s December and December is cold. In fact, the shelter is only open in cold weather and is intended to be an emergency location for people who don’t have anywhere else to go. Nevertheless, as reported in this local Fox affiliate, the charity’s building is permitted to house 64 people, and 64 people it shall house and no more.

Last week, the city sent St. John’s officials a letter saying they had five days to comply with its conditional use permit capacity of 64 overnight residents. According to the city, the shelter has been over its capacity every night in December, reaching as high as 86 people one night last week.

“When we grant a conditional use permit to someone, we expect them to hold up their end of the deal and they clearly aren’t,” said Jim Schmitt, Green Bay’s mayor.

“As far as we’re concerned the operational plan allows us to go to 84,” said Reilly.

Green Bay’s assistant attorney says that doesn’t matter because the shelter’s operational plan isn’t the same as the 64 beds on its city permit.

“They cannot put an operating plan together that violates the CUP,” said Jim Mueller, an assistant city attorney for Green Bay.

“We need to take care of the people who are going to be coming to the shelter tomorrow night in the middle of the snowstorm,” said Reilly.

That could cost the shelter $681. The city plans to start issuing a fine of that amount each night the shelter goes over capacity.

Neither the news reports nor the actual letter from the mayor’s office detail any witnessed overcrowding or unsafe circumstances, only that the numbers are not matching up in the way that they must (and that some local residents have complained about “drinking and loitering”).

It is not an exaggeration to say that this shelter could be saving the lives of homeless people this winter and by extension  the mayor could be killing people by preventing them from being helped by a willing charity.

Furthermore, the idea that the mayor of the city can and should make sure these fines occur is based on three assumptions:

1) That the people who are at the shelter every day and can actually gauge how much space is available do not know as well as the mayor does, or as well as the previously written mandates says.

2) That even if the shelter is uncomfortable, even bordering on dangerously overcrowded, that the alternative of potentially freezing to death is better and that the homeless individuals cannot decide for themselves whether or not to stay at the voluntarily-offered shelter, and or whether they would prefer to brave a night in the cold.

And 3) Since the city council and the city planning commission could permit the shelter to house more people if they decide, they also have the legitimacy to decide such matters. Even though, according to the Fox story, they won’t meet until next year, thereby making the shelter choose now between losing money to fines or turning away people seeking shelter.

All of these assumptions are authoritarian,condescending, bureaucratic,  and downright dangerous. They have nothing to do with helping the poor and downtrodden. Perhaps the fourth, worst assumption of all is simply that “rules are rules” no matter anyone’s good intentions.

Quite simply, advocates for the state can have it both ways. Private charity can never feed all the hungry or mend the sick, they say, so we simply must have government. What’s that? You don’t have the proper papers for giving out that food? Sorry.

The New Deal arguably began the demise of mutual aid societies and other voluntary charities and social securities and the Great Society mostly finished the job. The current common attitude about charity  is beautifully summed up by the late, great Harry Browne who said, “Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk.”

And the Green Bay story is not unique. How about New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s restriction on food donations to the homeless (at government-run shelters) because calorie and salt counts could not be ascertained? How about the anarchist group Food, Not Bombs blocked from feeding the homeless in Orlando, with their members even jailed? How about Philadelphia’s ban on feeding the homeless in public? How about the loophole for the Green Bay Mayor’s legitimized pushiness, the very existence of zoning laws?

Hell, how about every time a small business owner, or a food truck driver, or a taxi driver cannot start a business due to the artificially high cost of entry into that market? What have we lost if those individuals become dependent on the state instead of becoming entrepreneurs?

In spite of all this, individuals do keep on, demonstrated beautifully by this quote from the Green Bay shelter’s deacon, Tim Reilly: “The obstacles [the mayor] may put in front of us are secondary to taking care of those who need shelter. This is what it means to be Christian.”

Still, even when wearing a minarchist or moderate hat, or even pro-government hat, these kinds of robotic restrictions on kindness are infuriating. Again, people who believe in a some kindly welfare state shouldn’t even support red tape like this; what they do instead is ignore it and excuse it and incidents like the above mentioned.  And by not even letting the private sector compete fairly with government, to see who might win, the latter aptly demonstrates that it’s not just a coercive institution, but a damned cheat as well.

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Unipartisanship is the new bipartisanship http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/30/unipartisanship-is-the-new-bipartisanship/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/11/30/unipartisanship-is-the-new-bipartisanship/#comments Fri, 30 Nov 2012 22:05:58 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=12079 Romney bans certain kinds of guns; Obama supports war and Bush-era doctrines; Romney enacts (even more) socialist-fascist health care; Obama has a near opaque administration in spite of the desire to be transparent.

The so-called “left” promotes a policy (say, universal healthcare or the individual mandate or the health care exchanges). The “right” opposes it. The opposition is usually superficial and us used as talking points to obtain votes. The object of power is power, after all. Assuming the policy becomes law, and assuming (as is often the case) it receives widespread support, the right becomes less vociferous about repealing the law. At best they want to reform; usually either nothing happens or the mildest of cosmetic changes are made, if only to appease the fringe party supporters. Today’s progressive, becomes tomorrow’s conservative. Already, for example, the financially devastating Obamacare that was such a hot topic a year ago is starting to go away in the eyes of most–that is, if you don’t have a business facing ever-higher health care costs. Soon the right will stop talking about repealing it or replacing it with something else. Florida governor Rick Scott, who initially opposed setting up the FL healthcare exchange, has changed his tune–how unexpected!

On the other “side” of the political spectrum, the totalitarian and warmongering right wing, whose most recent icon and trend setter is GWB, pushes for war and empire and crackdowns on civil liberties. The left claims to oppose it. When Bush II was in power the progressives, ever irate, regaled us with their smugness (and, as we now know, insincere) opposition to the Bush administration’s policies and tactics. Enter a democratic president. Oh my–what happened!? Suddenly Obama adopts and relishes in continuing core Bush doctrines as well as expanding into new territories of despotism: droning and NDAA come to mind. Today’s warmongering conservative is tomorrow warmongering progressive.

I for one welcome our new unipartisanship overlords.

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When Will the Voters Learn? http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/10/19/when-will-the-voters-learn/ http://libertarianstandard.com/2012/10/19/when-will-the-voters-learn/#comments Fri, 19 Oct 2012 22:05:07 +0000 http://libertarianstandard.com/?p=11826 Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” ~ Clay Shirky

You know the slavery Kool-Aid is working well when those who are oppressed petition their oppressors for more of that which helps keep them oppressed.

For instance, public education is a tool that was designed–specifically and directly–as a means of controlling the hoi polloi.  The educational system of compulsory public education championed by Horace Mann, chock-full of multiple-choice testing perfected by Frederick J. Kelly, feeding into statistical models based upon the work of (eugenicist) Sir Francis Galton, was (and is) designed to fulfill the need for employees who are primed and ready to inhabit factories where efficiency can be measured in ways developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor. (The fact that so few of such factories currently exist in America should also be telling, but that’s a different discussion.) Mann believed “universal public education was the best way to turn the nation’s unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens.” The whole thing was designed to produce a seething throng of people ready to take orders, stand in line, ask few questions, and install bumpers all day–accepting the interminable boredom of such a life–while their over-lords made a ton of money.  Free and compulsory public education was never intended to create inquisitive, risk-taking, leaders. Or entrepreneurs and/or business owners.  Or frankly, owners of anything! Yet, people clamor that “education is a right” and “we need more funding for our schools” despite the inescapable fact that these same crap holes are doing their best at producing children incapable of independent thought and unable to read a book (or a blueprint), solve a simple mathematics problem, or devise a new strategy.  It’s damned sad, really.

A similar conclusion can be drawn regarding government job creation. Throughout the current election season, you’ll hear people clamoring that Obama will do all he can to create jobs while Romney won’t, or some such simplistic foolishness. Any president who claims to create jobs, uses tax dollars and government debt to pay people wages that are too high, for work that otherwise likely would not be done. In other words, the money is wasted on boondoggles. This action has at least two negative side-effects.  One, it takes money from those who produce it and gives it to someone else. (That’s the taxation piece.) That might sound good to the recipient unless he realizes that he is only getting the proverbial fish that feeds him for a day, if that long. Secondly, this stolen–they call it stimulus nowadays–money results in those at the top having more real income than the supposed beneficiaries of those government-created jobs. (That’s the inflation piece.) The people who think they benefit from the government-created-jobs are worse off in the long term, despite all appearances to the contrary in the short term. Ludwig von Mises spoke of this phenomenon in, “On Current Monetary Problems” with:

The advocates of annual increases in the quantity of money never mention the fact that for all those who do not get a share of the newly created additional quantity of money, the government’s action means a drop in their purchasing power which forces them to restrict their consumption. It is ignorance of this fundamental fact that induces various authors of economic books and articles to suggest a yearly increase of money without realizing that such a measure necessarily brings about an undesirable impoverishment of a great part, even the majority, of the population.

An injection of money into the economy by the government generally results in a transfer of wealth towards the top—real income transferred from those who can least afford it to those who already have plenty. (I already noted some time ago that this phenomenon seemed to get rolling in 1980.  The chart below is instructive.) One might even suppose this state-facilitated income transfer is the reason why statists in power so strongly support government control of the money supply, but that’s another discussion. Bottom Line:  Those who clamor for a president who cares about them get the same treatment and results as they would from some random bastard who openly scorned them. (No offense to the random bastard you support!)

And yet, here we are at election time, and the clarion calls continue to go up, from both sides of the ostensible aisle.

Cross-Posted at LRCBlog.

Five-Year Average Increase in Real Wages

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