The Libertarian Standard » Mercantilism Property - Prosperity - Peace Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:04:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » Mercantilism TV-G When Will the Voters Learn? Fri, 19 Oct 2012 22:05:07 +0000 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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Cory Doctorow: The coming war on general computation Wed, 11 Jan 2012 20:31:20 +0000 Cory Doctorow has a great speech up, The coming war on general computation, delivered at the the 28C3, the recent Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin. (He’s also written an article based on the transcript.) Doctorow explains that how the copyright interests want general purpose computers to be regulated, or hobbled, so that people cannot evade copyright restrictions and copyright circumvention prohibitions. (Why Doctorow is not yet a complete copyright abolitionists is a mystery to me.) He has an interesting point at around 45:00 about how the Internet and technology only provides an incremental benefit to the state, since they are already organized enough to be in charge, but can provide a more qualitative change–a “phase shift”–for the subjects of the state, in helping them to better organize and fight the state.

His summary of the talk:

The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.

The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. There are no airplanes, only computers that fly. There are no cars, only computers we sit in. There are no hearing aids, only computers we put in our ears. There are no 3D printers, only computers that drive peripherals. There are no radios, only computers with fast ADCs and DACs and phased-array antennas. Consequently anything you do to “secure” anything with a computer in it ends up undermining the capabilities and security of every other corner of modern human society.


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LSU Football, Trademark, and “Honey Badger” Thu, 08 Dec 2011 19:30:16 +0000 Honey BadgerI received three very useful and taxpayer-subsidized degrees from LSU. But I’ve never given them a dime, and never will (I do donate to my private high school, Baton Rouge’s Catholic High School). Up till now, there were two reasons for this. First, it’s a state university. I think they should be abolished. Second, like most modern universities, it is infected with, and propagandizes its students with, a bunch of horrible socialist, leftist, and statist ideas (luckily my two engineering degrees were largely immune from this, since you don’t have time for normative nonsense when trying to figure out electromagnetic fields, digital logic, and semiconductor physics; and even my law studies were mostly practical).

But now I have a third reason. I’m a big LSU football fan, and of course and am enjoying the current season, with LSU at 13-0 and slated to play Alabama (second only to Michigan on the annoying fans index) for the national championship next month. One of LSU’s most impressive players this year is sophomore cornerback Tyrann Matthieu, truly an amazing athlete, who has garnered the nickname “Honey Badger” “for his tenacious ability to play extremely tough football against much larger opponents, as well as his knack for making big plays”. As the Wikipedia entry for Honey Badger notes, “The nickname became popular during the 2011 college football season, when it was often referenced in the national media. ‘He takes what he wants’ said CBS sportscaster Verne Lundquist of Mathieu.” Other expressions used for him are “Honey Badger don’t care”.

Well, according to the “LSU Compliance,” Honey Badger Does Care–if you use “honey badger” without LSU’s permission and paying them an appropriate fee! This claim is surely false, as any permission is granted by, and any fees paid go to, LSU, not Mathieu. Whose nickname is it, anyway?

As the entry specifies:

The LSU Compliance Office has issued several Cease & Desist notifications for products including the name, likeness and/or image of LSU football student-athlete Tyrann Mathieu.

Please be advised that the sale of any products and/or advertisements including the name, likeness or image of this individual or any other LSU student-athlete is in violation of NCAA Bylaw and could have a negative impact on the involved student-athlete’s eligibility.

Apparel or paraphernalia including the phrase “Honey Badger” accompanied by the number 7 or the individual’s name or any other variation thereof (e.g., TM7, TM, HB7, etc.) is prohibited. Because it is a recognizable nickname, “Honey Badger” is considered a likeness of Tyrann Mathieu under NCAA regulations.

?Examples of Impermissible Products/Advertisements ?
The word “Honey Bader” or an image of a Honey Badger accompanied by?: The number 7?
? TM7 (or any other likeness)
? Name of individual
? Image of individual?
? ?LSU

LSU then “helpfully” provides examples of “impermissible items” for which they have issued “Cease & Desist notifications”–just to let you know they mean business.

Truly disgusting, but par for the course for our mercantilist, protectionist, IP-centric form of corporatism in which the powerful state helps big corporations (and socialist state universities) bully individuals and small competitors with pseudo-”property rights” like patent, trademark, and copyright.

I’m sure Alabama pulls the same stunts. Otherwise I might have to hold my nose and pull for them on Jan. 9.

(h/t Skip Oliva)


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It’s always sunny in Washington Fri, 09 Sep 2011 05:30:01 +0000 The future's so brightSolyndra, the solar panel manufacturer who abruptly shut its doors last week and filed for bankruptcy, received a $500 million loan guarantee in 2009 from the Department of Energy, who was so eager to prop up President Obama’s “green jobs” initiative that it short-circuited its own review process to approve the loan, which probably had nothing to do with the sizable contributions Solyndra’s backers made to the Obama campaign.  This is no doubt an embarrassment for the president, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with Federal agents swooping down on Solyndra’s offices on the day of his big jobs-plan speech.  Happiness is never having to say you’re sorry, especially when you can throw some other guy in prison to cover for your own incompetence.

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Don’t Bet on China: Redux Fri, 05 Nov 2010 03:48:30 +0000 A Chinese libertarian, Nicolas Dong, who recently did a Mandarin translation of one of my IP articles, recently told me this in an email regarding my earlier post, Don’t Bet on China:

I agree most part of your point of view about China. I believe that after the bust of the current housing bubble and high inflation, there will be much more unrest. The costs to maintain a “stable” social order have exceeded the cost of maintaining the army. Great changes may occur after the Xi Jinpin administration. But democratization will probably make China more socialist, for reasons explained in Hoppe’s Democracy: The God that Failed. There are just too many mobs here. And many social democrats are controlling the media, preaching democracy and equality instead of liberty. Fortunately, some influential media have libertarian-leaning editors or columnists. We also have libertarian and classical liberal university professors. We are trying our best to have a greater influence.

Also, regarding the libertarian perspective on intellectual property and my anti-IP article that he translated, he said:

They [the Chinese libertarians] debated for a while, and now, most libertarians in China are anti-IP.

However its influence is limited since we are just circulating it in our circle, and posting it on websites. Most people in China don’t know what libertarianism is, and they may not capable of catching the idea in the article.

… You know, something nice is that those who control the internet here don’t know what libertarianism and the Austrian School are; thus, most of those sites are not prohibited. The Austrian School does have some influence in academia here, albeit mainly Hayekian.

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Hamilton vs. Kant on War and Peace Sun, 19 Sep 2010 04:31:07 +0000 As an Aristotelian libertarian, I’m not a big fan of Immanuel Kant, his philosophy in general, or his take on world peace.  But to say that I’m not a fan of Alexander Hamilton — that statist, bank centralizer, mercantilist, and crypto-monarchist — would be a vast understatement. (For more on what’s wrong with Hamilton, see Thomas DiLorenzo’s “What Hamilton Has Wrought” and Hamilton’s Curse.)

I discussed the democratic peace thesis and problems I see with the Kantian Triangle — resting on republican government, international trade, and international law and organizations — in my previous post, Triangulating Peace? Or, Three Foundations for Oppression? While trade is a peaceful activity and economic interdependence can promote peace among states, it can be perverted and used for corporatist and mercantilist ends by states and international governmental organizations (IGOs), which is why, though it pains me to say it, I must side with Hamilton’s take on the matter, excerpted from Federalist #6 below:

Has it not, on the contrary, invariably been found, that momentary passions and immediate interests have a more active and imperious control over human conduct than general or remote considerations of policy, utility, and justice? Have republics in practice been less addicted to war than monarchies? Are not the former administered by men as well as the latter? Are there not aversions, predilections, rivalships, and desires of unjust acquisitions that affect nations as well as kings? Are not popular assemblies frequently subject to the impulses of rage, resentment, jealously, avarice, and of other irregular and violent propensities? Is it not well-known that their determinations are often governed by a few individuals, in whom they place confidence, and are of course liable to be tinctured by the passions and views of those individuals? Has commerce hitherto done anything more than change the objects of war? Is not the love of wealth as domineering and enterprising a passion as that of power or glory? Have there not been as many wars founded upon commercial motives, since that has become the prevailing system of nations, as were before occasioned by the cupidity of territory or domination? Has not the spirit of commerce in many instances administered new incentives to the appetite of both for the one and for the other? Let experience the least fallible guide of human opinions be appealed to for an answer to these inquiries.

Even if democracies rarely go to war with one another and even if they are less war prone, ceteris paribus, than other forms of government, the Kantian Peace is doomed by its very acceptance of the state, which is inherently given to making war — on its own subjects (e.g., Shays’s Rebellion, mentioned by Hamilton prior to the quoted passage, was used as an excuse for the coup d’état that culminated in the ratification of the US Constitution; the Whiskey Rebellion is another example) and with internal and external competitors.

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Imperial Doublespeak About Iraq Thu, 19 Aug 2010 13:59:41 +0000 In a series of Orwellian twists, the United States is pulling out (prematurely some say) “all” “combat” troops from Iraq but doubling down (for starters) on mercenaries.

The Obama Administration gets away with “fulfilling” Obama’s promise to end US combat operations in Iraq by removing the last (officially-labeled) combat brigade from the country, yet 50,000 troops will remain until (supposedly) 2011. These 50,000 troops make up 7 “Advise and Assist” Brigades, which are brigade combat teams like the one that just left but with special training, and 2 combat aviation brigades. “The troops are officially there to assist and advise the Iraqi government, but will carry weapons to defend themselves and will join Iraqi troops on missions if requested.”

After 2011, the “military” presence in Iraq is supposed to be “limited to several dozen to several hundred officers in an embassy office who would help the Iraqis purchase and field new American military equipment,” but military officers are saying that “5,000 to 10,000 troops might [still] be needed.”

Meanwhile, “the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000.” Can we really still call security personnel ‘civilians’ or ‘private security’ anymore when they’re working for the state in foreign lands, particularly in a combat zone? They’re mercenaries, troops that are conveniently not part of the official US military. The NYT reporter couldn’t help calling them “a small army of contractors.”

The US is building military bases, fortified compounds, outposts, and the largest “embassy” in the world in Iraq. Iraqi politicians still haven’t been able to come to an agreement and form a government after the last elections, making Iraq vulnerable to a coup if the Iraqi military leadership get too frustrated by the ineffectual, in-fighting politicians. The US empire will not be completely out of there anytime soon.

But hey, “we” won…right?


Update: Less than a week after the official end of combat operations in Iraq, US troops were involved in a combat operation in Iraq. Go figure. 12 people died and dozens were wounded in an assault by heavily-armed militants against an Iraqi military headquarters, in the center of Baghdad no less.


Cross-posted at Is-Ought GAP.

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Separate Oil and State, says Greenpeace Tue, 03 Aug 2010 21:37:19 +0000 From the Edmonton Journal comes news that some Greenpeace members rappelled off the top of Calgary Tower to hang a banner that read “Separate Oil and State.”

Scott Blasken got this shot from his office window Tuesday morning after Greenpeace unfurled a banner from the Calgary Tower.

Hey, I’m all in favor of separating oil and state. But that means no strategic oil reserves; no taxes, including carbon taxes; no cap-and-trade; no regulations; no moratoriums or bans on offshore or other drilling; no special protections of any kind, including caps on liability for actual damages to private property caused by oil companies;1 no eminent domain (ab)use; and no mercantilistic and imperialistic wars to make the world safe for domestic consumption of foreign oil. But somehow I don’t expect all of this is what the Greenpeace activists confusedly mean by “separate oil and state.” Alas and alack.

Cross-posted at Is-Ought GAP.

  1. I’m not talking about limited liability for shareholders here. I’m referring to caps like the $75 million liability cap that has received so much attention in the wake of the BP oil spill, enacted in 1990 as part of the Oil Pollution Act following the Exxon Valdez spill. 

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Purchasing power gains or losses respective to the U.S. of several countries Fri, 09 Jul 2010 22:24:44 +0000 Market-oriented reforms such as privatization, deregulation and tariff decreases being the clear and unequivocal factors.

In PPP terms, asigning a quotient of 1 to the U.S.

Country         1980     1994     2008

United States      1.000       1.000       1.000
Australia                 .841           .770          .837
Canada                     .905          .818           .843
Britain                      .688          .705           .765
France                      .780          .730           .713
Germany                 .803          .812           .763
Italy                          .756          .754           .675
Sweden                    .868          .777           .794
Switzerland          1.146          .987           .915


Hong Kong            .547          .845           .948
Japan                       .732           .815           .736
Singapore              .577           .899         1.064

Latin America

Argentina              .395           .300          .309
Chile                        .210            .251           .311

Source: World Bank.

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Two questions on anti-IP Thu, 08 Jul 2010 19:05:28 +0000 As a lecturer of ECN101 at USFQ, Ecuador, I regularly take my students through all the basic tenets of Economic Science. Of course, I have a primordially Austrian approach, but I make sure to give them an overview of the current debates among schools of thought and even within them (did someone say Bizantine arguments ad infinitum?)

Using Googlegroups, I use the email list format to discuss any and all subjects, and last night it was IP’s turn (i.e. so-called “intellectual property”).

After watching this one minute video, the immediate reaction was rejection, followed by two questions I find of interest to TLS readers.

1.- Does copying mean I can plagiarize or make fakes of arts and crafts?

2.- How about the effort the creator puts into his/her work? Doesn’t a copy make the original loose value?

To which I answer through some thoughts on IP in an attempt to answer both questions and discuss some additional angles of the “IP problem”.


The commonly used example of “wrong” copying is movies. But the very same person will have replicas of Rembrandt at home without even noticing the irony of the situation. As a matter of fact people can clearly distinguish between original/legit watches and fakes, and the same goes for anything else. The reason we prefer originals brands is because it ensures quality meaning a sense of authenticity and/or flawlessness that comes from a direct relationship to the brand. And we all know how to buy originals: find a vendor you trust. Preferably, one authorized (perhaps exclusively for a geographical zone) by the producer itself.

When we imitate other people’s behavior (what pyschologists call “modelling”) we know it’s not real (from within) yet it may be a necessary step in personal growth. We grow up imitating. Then, we can modify and create.

So to begin with, we’re all cultural imitators. The amount of work that goes into creating a dance step, recipe or social rite has never in the past precluded people from imitating it faster. Learning implies by necessity a time-saving process where the student uses less time and trial&error (what we call the “learning curve”) to achieve the same. But the teacher does not charge for the content. He charges for his performance. The libraries have always been there for centuries gathering dust, yet we prefer to learn from someone in a structured, stimulating way.

So, to set an arbitrary line and say “now” or “from this point on” what are cultural patterns (copyright over dance steps), painting techniques or styles (aprentices of Manet or Kingman were paid to copy the style to perfection so he sold them under his name), writing styles (ghost writers, fan fiction, fan movies) is a further step down the path of foolishness.

But ok, what about commercial products. They are produced, after all, with the intention of profiting from their sale. But see, we have three components here: production, intention and sales. Some ideas never go into production or are underproduced to benefit producers with high(er) prices at the “expense” of consumers. Some goods are produced without an intention to sell them or with characteristics that render them commercially worthless. And finally, sales are not a certain result of attempts to sell. But in the market as much as in sports, it is neither conception, intention or trying that which wins over the public and serves it better. A long run of score-less matches will scare away most sports fans, in the same way that attempts to sell us things waste our time and patience if they don’t turn into real sales.

So, as we see, it’s not effort but results that which counts in generating welfare for our chosen public. In other words, it’s not effort but sales that which generates income in the division-of-labor. Sales. So it’s quite evident to me that if an inventor doesn’t find a way to hit the market first (remember, the market is a metaphor incarnated in a network of property title exchanges) it’s not only fair but good for mankind that others do serve the public with attractive products derived from his invention, design or recipe.

This of course has nothing to do with fraud and plagiarism. Claiming a Picasso is original when it isn’t or claiming you wrote “A Hundred Years of Solitude” is clearly deceiving. It has to be punished by the legal system but even if it isn’t, the market itself has exclusion, bad reputation and boycott mechanisms used all the time. And they would be even more intensively used if the State didn’t provide us with a fake sensation of security in that (and dozens of others) field. But a replica, a cd copy, an mp3 handed over to you is a very different thing. It takes nothing from the producer, and the only one who gets less value (if that is the case at all) than when buying original is yourself.

Last but not least: the fakes do not decrease the sales of the original good. They don’t in the absolute sense whenever both were available to be chosen instead of the other, but they don’t in the relative sense either: a bad pricing policy for lower income segments or regions of the world should always be blamed on the seller, not the unwilling customer. If Microsoft sold Windows 7 in low monthly installments in Latin America, the trend would start to change towards having the company’s support and other original product advantages. The same goes for $18 usd music albums from Virgin when besides a pretty box, there’s no profit (like memorabilia or a poster or anything of the sort) in not having just the mp3 version.

To those companies I say: Give us enough value for the price you ask, and we will prefer you over pirates. Meanwhile, piracy is your best ally or you would never know how badly you’re handling it all.

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