Archive for the ‘Libertarianism’ Category

Democrats: vote for Ron Paul in the GOP Primary

September 14, 2011 Leave a comment

If you know me personally, you will know I have had kind of a love/hate relationship with Ron Paul over the past several years. Part of the reason is my own shifting attitudes. Another part is some of the things I’ve heard him say this campaign cycle that sound like pandering to the Tea Party.

He’s really impressed me in the last two debates. I am glad he is getting the national television exposure, and I am even more excited that some of my liberal friends are starting to change their own attitudes about him.

There are still a couple of stumbling blocks a lot of liberals have with him. I think a lot of the “omg he can’t really want to do that?” vibe that people have is because they haven’t really gotten familiar with libertarianism outside of the caricatures of the Tea Party and Ayn Rand crowd. As someone who was raised in a libertarian household, and who has held libertarian beliefs long before I gave up reading Atlas Shrugged because of its cliched prose and one dimensional characters, I am hoping that I might be able to dispel some of the fears that sensible people might have about Dr. Paul.

Abortion: the government shouldn’t legislate abortion. Ron Paul thinks it should be up to every state, not the Federal government, to say whether it is illegal or not. This is inherently more democratic than categorically making it legal or illegal at the Federal level. So people who want abortions can get them in California. People who live in Kansas… another reason to gtfo of Kansas.

Civil Rights Amendment/Affirmative Action: Ron Paul’s objection to it isn’t based on racism, its based on his belief that the government should not have the power to step in and tell private business owners what they can or can’t do. I am sure he abhors racism, as any sensible person does. Legislating against racism doesn’t make it disappear. I belong to pretty much the most privileged demographic imaginable: heterosexual white American male. I think there is a tendency for people who are not directly effected by racism to want to “do something” to make it better, to clear their conscious of a perceived advantage that they have done nothing to invite upon themselves. The problem is that legislating corrective privileges for minorities makes us feel like we are doing something, that racism has been “solved” or “fixed”, and we go on with our lives. Racism hasn’t been fixed, and our failure to address it on a personal and cultural level is probably one of the greatest domestic issues facing our country (and the whole world). When the debate shifts towards “is Affirmative Action fair?” and away from “how do we treat people and why are these minority groups struggling socially and economically?”, we are doing a great disservice to society.

Department of Education: it sounds really bad to want to “eliminate the Department of Education”, but do you even know what the DoED does? Not a heck of a lot. t doesn’t establish schools. Most school funding comes from state and local governments. Curriculum standards are in the jurisdiction of the states. The DoED does “coordinate and administer” certain funds that go to schools; it has a 70 billion dollar budget, most of which goes towards administering and enforcing the No Child Left Behind act, which hasn’t done anything but frustrate teachers and students, and it pays government salaries for 5,000 federal employees. If the department were eliminated, the savings would pass along to tax payers or could go straight to the states.

Environmental Protection Agency/ Food and Drug Administration: the libertarian argument is that these agencies are unneeded and ineffective. The main problem is regulatory capture. The people who end up running these agencies are former chemical and drug company CEOs. They get watered down regulations passed, so it looks like they are doing something productive, when in actuality they justify the terrible practices of polluters and misleading food labels by giving them the government seal of approval. Certainly, libertarians argue for more person responsibility, but the real mechanism for fighting evil corporations is the tort system. Companies that mess up should be sued. The current problem is that when they are sued, they are not held liable because they were following the regulations. Ron Paul doesn’t want corporations to run amok in America, putting poison into the land and our food supply: he wants them to be held accountable, and he doesn’t want the Federal government to be a covert conspirator in their malfeasance.

Keep in mind that (despite what you may think at this point), I am not a Ron Paul maniac. I may be speaking more from the standard libertarian position than from what Ron Paul himself has said… so if you have an article or video contradicting anything I have to say, I would welcome adding it to the discussion. The real point I want to make, to liberals especially, is that he is not a maniac or hack like the other people running for president. If some of his ideas “sound crazy” at first, it’s just because the society and paradigms we have grown accustomed to are crazy, and his ideas stand in bold opposition to them.

If you are a democrat, you should register as a republican and vote for Ron Paul in the GOP primary. At the very least, he will divide and disrupt the party you hate, and if he wins, he will force Obama to debate the issues that really matter: the wars, the economy (Mitt Romney and Obama are 95% the same on economic issues… the media will play up that 5% difference, but don’t let them fool you into thinking it’s a real choice between two distinct solutions), and personal liberty (which he is all for despite his personal views against abortion and for Jesus… he is the only candidate who believes in personal freedom over his own personal ideology, or maybe a better way of saying it is that freedom is his primary ideology, Christianity is his secondary ideology. None of the establishment GOP candidates can say that, and Obama won’t even let you know where he really stands).

Ron Paul: You Make Me Want to Cry

July 14, 2011 1 comment

My homie Ron Paul might be going a little too far off the reservation for me. I know it’s just a campaign ad, so it’s “meaning” is abstract to say the least, but is he really insinuating that we default on the national debt? It’s still early in the morning for me (anytime before noon is early for me), so maybe I am just not awake enough to understand the benefits of destroying the entire world’s economic order, however fraudulent fractional reserve banking may be.

Starting to think that maybe Godley and Creme wrote this song about Dr. Paul:

Pragmatic Libertarianism

The following post was inspired by these two articles.

Joseph Stiglitz: The Evils of Unregulated Capitalism

Anthony Gregory: Why the Left Fears Libertarianism 

The above two pieces are not necessarily diametrically opposed to one another, but reading them on the same day made me reflect on the sorry state of discourse between contemporary liberals and classical liberals. If you boil it down to a single defining characteristic, it is the socialist welfare state that divides the two, and nothing more. I look at the development of the modern social welfare state as a centuries-long process of negotiation and compromise between the classes of society. The current socialist democratic makeup of the developed world is the result of this (often violent) negotiation process, and it represents a sociopolitical equilibrium that will continue to shift as time marches forward. I say all of this without making any normative statements as to whether or not such a equilibrium is preferable to any other hypothetical states of equilibrium. Libertarianism makes the case that an equilibrium can exist at a point with much less government power and less consolidation of authority, and that such an equilibrium would be a “better” place to be as a society. Essentially, Libertarians are making the argument that Pareto-efficient social outcomes exist at some point where there is dramatically less government intervention in society. I am not going to comment on that statement for now, and instead go back to the articles that inspired this post, but keep this sociopolitical equilibrium model in mind.

Gregory makes some interesting points about how much the popular left has maligned libertarianism since the onset of the Obama presidency and subsequent rise of the tea party. He also does a great job of pointing out the Obama’s failures: not ending the wars, selling out to the big corporations in both health care and financial system reform, and just generally being more of the same (what else should we expect from a major party candidate?).

Joseph Stiglitz, fighting from the other corner, has a remarkably simple and coherent plan for fixing the economy: end the wars, rein in military and drug costs, and raise taxes on the rich. I can get behind that 100%. Maybe that doesn’t really make me a “real Libertarian” like I purport myself to be, but the fact of the matter is that such policy would be much more libertarian than our current policy of corporate welfare and endless intervention in the affairs of other countries.

Yeah, the rich should pay some more taxes… they have been sucking off the public’s teat forever, maybe its time for them to give a little back. I am not ideologically Libertarian because Libertarian is the best political ideology and all other ideologies are inferior; I am Libertarian because I believe that people should be free to live their lives unencumbered by the constraints imposed upon them by political, religious, and cultural institutions. I believe that, as long as we are not depriving other people of their own right to be weird, we should be as weird as we want to be. My personal philosophy is actually inherently progressive. Maybe I am really a Marxist; if you know your history, it is kind of hard not to be. I think there is a mountain of evidence that the monied classes have been systematically abusing our democratic system for their own personal benefit… for at least 30 years, perhaps closer to 300, or 3000… its hard to know exactly how far to go back, but if Libertarians were to look at the tenets of Liberalism that inspired their own philosophy of freedom, they would see that Liberalism and the Enlightenment were about giving power and choice to the people. The Liberal revolutions that brought us the American Revolution, French Revolution, and countless other political and social movements were an inherently democratizing and enfranchising process. It is a process that has been taking place all over the world, and has yet to reach its culmination.

Today’s libertarians need to consider their end game: is a libertarian utopia, even if hypothetically achievable, even sustainable? Can the equilibrium that they believe in even exist? I unabashedly believe we need more libertarian-minded reforms in this country, but I also am skeptical that a pure libertarian equilibrium exists. If we are only concerned with Pareto-efficient outcomes, I think there are a number of things that can be accomplished within the democratic socialist framework of our countries institutions. This is where I have an ideological split with “fundmentalist libertarians”, who would never use the corrupted means of government power to establish an end that is marginally more libertarian. Would it be worth it to spend $1 trillion dollars on a national project that delivered clean and cheap fusion energy to every household in North America? If it guaranteed that we wouldn’t need a foreign policy centered around the invasion of energy-rich countries, I say such a project is a net-gain for Libertarianism (as well as practically every single person on Earth).

The reality is that there is no such thing as a free market, and consequentially there are a huge number of goods and services that are misprovisioned. If you accept the hypothesis that “pure libertarianism” is unfeasible, or at the very least unworkable (and I actually think most people who identify as Libertarian recognize the futility of their ideological affiliation, but are like me and stick to their guns because they believe marginal steps towards libertarian principles are what this country and the world need), it is only a logical extension that such an aforementioned “Manhattan Project” for energy is a good idea.

Ideology is always a mistake. It blinds us to the facts. It doesn’t really matter from which angle you are coming from; if you believe in an idea in and of itself as an end in and of itself, you are abandoning any pretext of objectiveness. You are using bi-variable equations to explain phenomena that take place in four dimensions, and your model will ultimately fail.

Looking Beyond a Society Based on Consumption or Why I Am Not A Randian or Objectivist

This post is inspired by, amongst many other things, this particular “piece of writing” that I saw on Google News Spotlight. It’s not very good but I am linking to anyway in hope of maybe getting some cross traffic or baiting some Randians to come argue with me.

I haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, so please don’t mistake this as some type of review or critique.

Imagine a world where, instead of the capital owning class going on strike, the lower and middle classes went on strike. They stopped buying durable goods, stopped eating out, stopped going on vacations, stopped investing in their 401Ks. What would happen to the economy and industry then? Granted, the working classes are generally unable to go on strike for prolonged periods. They are called the working class because they have to work. They don’t have nest eggs and investments from which they can draw an income. So they work. They aspire, they consume, and they keep the economy moving along because they have to: they have to feed and clothe and house themselves and their families.

But they don’t have to buy new TV’s and automobiles or overleveraged homes. These are cultural values, specifically consumer culture values. Partially they are the legacy of the “American Dream” that is itself rooted in the scientific revolutions of the Enlightenment and subsequently mankind’s gradual ascent from a Hobbesian existence towards the current level of comfort and physical security afforded to us today. Human beings are an aspirational animal. We are hardwired to accumulate material wealth because material wealth brings security. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense. The only problem is that sometime thousands of years ago, mankind started to cultivate the land and form societies. These societies began to offer to human beings a way to escape the Darwinian struggle for survival, to a certain degree. Over time, it has brought us to a point today where natural selection is still in effect, although social processes have created an evolutionary environment in which it is not always the most adapted that survive and flourish. We have created a world of equal genetic opportunity, which is almost assuredly a great thing, but we still have these evolutionary impulses to conquer and acquire, to hoard what is scarce, and to have anxiety over our relative social position.

All of these impulses are putting us on a collision course towards collapse. I am not an expert on environmental science or population economics, but I believe it is fair to say that the scientific community, by and large, has seen the writing on the wall. The level of economic growth, as it is defined contemporarily by GDP growth, is unsustainable. The stock of natural resources on our planet is being diminished and the world’s population is continuing to grow, both at ever increasing rates. From the time of the Industrial Revolution to the end of the Second World War, the world’s population has grown from 1 billion to 3 billion people. Only a fraction of those people were lifted out of what we would consider poverty and into the ranks of the working consumer class. Today, the world’s population is near 7 billion and more than half of those people are currently playing “catch up” with the Western world in terms of industrialization and standards of living. Even though today’s industrial standards are more technologically sophisticated and efficient than what was used during the 19th and 20th centuries, the cost to the earth of giving 3 billion more people plasma screen displays and three bedroom houses will be tremendous.

The consumerist cultural values that are intrinsic to the operation of the current global capitalist system are unsustainable, and from an existential viewpoint, completely unnecessary in today’s world of abundant food and relative interregional security. Many recent studies have been done that conclude people do not gain any marginal happiness with income levels over a certain amount. I am not sure what that amount is, but the mere fact that it exists should tell us something about the end result of an aspirational consumerist society: it won’t end until the earth is dead or we change our values.

The middle classes can stop wanting to become the upper classes, and the lower classes can be assured of their own rights to be enfranchised as global citizens who are able to receive benefits from the technological and scientific progress that has been made over the last several centuries, we just have to want it and demand it, first as individuals, then as a society. We have to change our values.

Back to Atlas Shrugged: Atlas would be screwed without society at large. If the upper class really are the innovators, idea people, and heroes of society (which is a claim I am dubious of, but for the sake of argument I will let it stand), they still need a stock of workers to bring those ideas to life, and a marketplace full of consumers who are willing to purchase these ideas. Philosophically, the nobility of the capital owning classes lasts only as long as you give credence to consumption as an end in and of itself.

Stephan Metcalf on Robert Nozick

I never read the entirety of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, but I think that Nozick’s opus was more a book for its time rather than a timeless book (I do regard as timeless the philosophers’ from which he synthesizes his argument).

This article hits the nail on the head about what is right/wrong about contemporary libertarianism. Most of the people who call themselves libertarians today are really just self-interested assholes. They are benefiting from the historical and social coincidence of the world in which we live, where a set of ideas has been collected and defined as “Libertarianism”. By affiliating themselves with a philosophy such as Libertarianism, they are able to conceal their own moral bankruptcy with a veil of intellectual vanguardism. It is one thing to write and defend a well-reasoned piece of moral philosophy (as Nozick has done). It is entirely another to ignore one’s privilege and hide behind the haughty ramparts of someone else’s ideas while following a solipsist strategy of personal material enrichment.

The Free State Project

from the article:

Freeman does not pay federal taxes and hasn’t for years. He pays local property taxes, and water bills, as does the co-host of his radio show, Mark Edge.

“Those revenues,” says Edge, “are a lot less likely to be used to buy weapons to kill brown people.”



Dream Platform

Wars: End them, redirect 50% of military budget to a Manhattan project for sustainable energy infrastructure (solar, wind, tidal). End most foreign aid.

Abortions, Drugs, Prostitutes, Gay Marriage: All cool, Legalize It Peter Tosh. There is just no good reason not to. Every technocrat in the world agrees with me.

Medicare: replace with a single payer system modeled after Canada or the UK. Better end of life care: instead of paying $30,000 to prolong a 79 year old’s life by 6-12 months, give them a grant to go travel the world or start an NPO or whatever and let them die happier instead of live on more miserably.

Social Security: end it. Refund all SS contributions back to the people who paid them. It is nice to take care of old and sick people, but a government run SS system is the wrong way to do it. SS is modeled after a Ponzi scheme, and is inherently unsustainable. A better name for it would be “Social Stability”. It is a handout from the ruling class to keep the proletariat complacent. It is also, as currently structured, socially regressive.

Immigration: cutting down the size of the welfare state will let us bring in more immigrants. Immigrants are good especially entrepreneurial ones. Accordingly…

Business: too much of the tax burden falls on small businesses. The facts are that small businesses pay much higher marginal rates than large cap multinationals. Change the tax code to exempt the first $X of profits from taxation. Tax foreign earnings the same as domestic ones for multinationals.

Farm Subsidies: End them immediately.

Prison: use more remote monitoring for nonviolent offenders. Stop warehousing nonviolent criminals. Abolish the death penalty.

Law: allow people to take the bar exam without going to law school. Most of the founding fathers became lawyers by being an apprentice to another lawyer. Sadly, this process has disappeared and the legal industry is controlled in an oligarchic fashion by less than 200 law schools. This lack of competition drives up the costs of law school, and subsequently legal services and litigation. More lawyers = cheaper litigation and a more robust tort law system, which in turn allows for less Federal regulation and oversight, as many property right issues could be resolved by tort law.

Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability should be at the center of my dream platform. The biggest crisis we face as a species is the carrying capacity of the Earth.