Can anyone tell me when we reached such a state of abundance that we can provide things for "free"? Health care, high-speed Internet, food, housing, etc.?
I'm just curious, because when we look at history we see a large span when lots went without, when not everyone could be cared for. So I'm just wondering when it was we achieved so much abundance we can just give it away? Like, how are we able to have "universal" health care today and not 100-150 years ago?
According to commercials that advocate you participate in the upcoming census, if we don't accurately count how many people live where then we can't adequately request funds to pay for our teachers. Apparently all we need to do to allocate teacher and school resources is to count everyone! I wonder how any other (private) business manages to allocate resources? Perhaps all IBM does is count its number of employees and then send a transcript to someone with a lot of money requesting funds to develop a "smarter planet."
Could it be the Internet? There is no central planning authority dictating traffic routing, yet users get to where they want; information is readily available, accessible; goods are proficient and easily accessed; commerce is booming and, arguably, the future is online ordering; and much more.
A common complaint, certainly when a crises occurs, is that there was not enough regulation. What is meant by regulation, however, is never really clarified. We just need it. For those who think this, or for those who encounter such people, does the thought ever arise to ask, "Can regulation ever be harmful?" because, at least to me, the assumption seems to be that individuals, without proper (but what is proper?) regulation, will mess things up. But could it ever be that the regulation messes things up? For those who decry deregulation as the source of our current economic problems, it would seem the answer is a resounding no.
How interesting something so fundamental is never questioned. Oh, but if it were regulation of speech or religion, well now...
(On a side note, I appreciate how Ron Paul responds when asked about regulation he will sometimes make the distinction between government regulation and market regulation. It seems the ol' regulation v. deregulation argument, then, is a straw man, and defenders of individual freedom and voluntary associations should clarify this distinction. No one, after all, is advocating the wily nily running around doing anything whatsoever.)
Write up the bill and title it the 'No Patient Left Behind Act'. The right should have no problem falling in line, much as it did with education, with the further nationalization of an entire industry.
I'm reading through Thomas DiLorenzo's contribution to the recently published Hoppe Festschrifft and a thought suddenly occurs to me. It occurred as I read through the section on secession and how public choice theorists ignore secession and focus on comparative local governments to analyze how people "vote with their feet" and move if they don't like the high taxes, etc., of their current locale. So this brought to my mind the old saying, "If you don't like it, leave," which I'm sure many libertarians have heard in response to their arguments about government intervention. The idea of "if you don't like it, leave," I wager, is similar to the analysis of public choicers and voting with your feet. However, as DiLorenzo mentions, this analysis ignores the possibility of secession, which, quite literally, is leaving what you don't like.
However, as Hans Herman Hoppe notes in Democracy: The God That Failed, the viability of secession was thoroughly smashed in 1865 as a result of the War Between the States. Thus, one option is left for those who don't like what a government is doing: to leave that town, state, or country altogether. There is no option of secession, of breaking away and renouncing any control the government claims to have over you. In short, the denial of secession is the denial of defense. It seems to me perfectly sensible to think if you don't like something then, yes, you do leave. But does this necessarily mean moving elsewhere? Can't one simply renounce allegiance and, say, keep one's income without it being diminished by a tax? In one sense, yes, you can leave, physically (and even this is a stretch as, I understand, Americans who renounce their residency can still be taxed on foreign land under American law). Even so if you moved, what does this entail? Still government intervention. Of course, some will say, "start your own country then!" In another sense, politically (do I mean morally?), you cannot, as secession is prohibited. What the suggestion of the critics boils down to, then, is an impossibility. You cannot leave.
But then again, perhaps the best (yet maybe childish) response to the statement, "If you don't like it, leave," would have to be, "Well if you don't like my complaint, YOU leave!"
I think DiLorenzo hammers the point home succinctly with his post office analogy. The "If You Don't Like It" crowd believes you are "free to leave" a government if you don't like it. You can go to other countries (or establish your own!). Now, yes, this is true in a sense. But this "choice," DiLorenzo notes, is like the choice US citizens have among different post offices. There are many post offices, but, in the end, they're all part of the same monopoly. Above all, what I'm getting at is, why is physically leaving a government considered a voluntary act but politically seceding from one is not an option? After all, in both cases you are refusing to submit to a certain government. What does it matter if it's without or within the politically established borders of the country? And you can't argue if you stay then you are a free rider. There are a few problems with that: (1) Can't the government stop providing its services (e.g., defense) to you? (2) Why aren't citizens of other countries considered free riders (especially those in the countries, e.g., that have other governments come in and impose their defense for the sake of the country)? But again, above all, how do these critics establish physical removal as being voluntary but not political removal?
If I were to have one rule for government action it would be this: Do not act unless you can make everyone happy.
And because government action is, by definition, acting for one on behalf of another, this should render all government action impossible.
I create this rule thinking about the messy discussion over health care and how it is "broken". Despite centuries, decades, and years of medical progression thanks to the market (i.e., the voluntary actions of individuals)—the greater access to medical care, services, and information; the greater access to nutritional care, services, and information; the greater access to fitness care, services, and information; the reduced cost of all of these; etc.—some people are still unhappy and want the government to step in and force what they believe will benefit some on behalf of those who are reluctant.
I asked myself today, "How is our health care 'broken'?" Fifty years ago you couldn't obtain a sliver of what you can obtain today, and certainly not at the cost. The market is an ever-changing network of consumer satisfaction. Entrepreneurs are constantly assessing and reassessing what it takes to satisfy consumers' endless wants. There is a ceaseless drive to improve the general standard of living. And who would say we are worse off today than in 1999? 1989? '79? '69? and so on and so forth.
Yet this is not enough. Allegedly 47 million Americans are uninsured (compared to the nearly 100% in 1930, health insurance wasn't even an issue!). The United States allegedly ranks 37th in the world in health care. Health care is too expensive. You can't get insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. Hospitals won't admit you without insurance. Etc. The bottom line is: The market doesn't provide for everyone. Not everyone receives what they want. Somewhere, all the time, someone is unhappy. And so the government must act. The government acts in other countries we are told. These countries have cheaper health care. They rank higher in health care. Etc.
Except people still die in those countries. People are still denied treatment. Etc. Not everybody is happy. Some would gladly pay more to receive better health care. They can't. They're unhappy.
If we examine every industry, someone is unhappy. Someone doesn't have as much as they want. Why then, when government is force and benefits one person only by exploiting another, and government does not make everyone happy (and doesn't necessarily increase happiness in general)... why must government act?
According to my rule, it shouldn't.
I often think how unimaginative statists are. When confronted with an argument against government services, or government itself, statists will at some point respond with a fallacy of a false choice.
"Well if the government won't provide X, what then? Do you just want X to not exist?"
Of course, X is anything from national defense to police protection to roads to health care to welfare. (An aside, a point does go to statists for imagining an innumerable amount of Xes for the government to act upon.)
It seems impossible for these people that they could imagine a legitimate alternative to a lack of government in X. I here defer to the wisdom of Henry Hazlitt and Faustino Ballve.
In his "Economics in One Lesson," Hazlitt goes into great depth of not the immediate effects of economic policy but the long-term effects. He further explains the effects of economic policy for not only one group but for all groups. Hazlitt here displays a wide and far-reaching imagination. This is because he has, as he says, developed the practice of using his "third eye."
I came across tonight of a wonderful passage in Faustino Ballve's "Essentials of Economics":
"Economics is not about anything that could be expressed in mathematical terms; its domain is rather that of imagination and invention, of adventure into the unknown, of a hazardous enterprise that is not for the cowardly."
Anyone familiar with Austrian writers, certainly Mises and Rothbard, are well familiar with using imagination to conceive of the greatest theoretical bulldozers to statist economics and intervention between free individuals. Is it any wonder that statists' economic ideas and political ideas are so dull, unimaginative, and harmful? Because they lack a keen "third eye" they are incapable of stating any sound economic position. & further, because they are myopic, they cannot envision a world where the government man does not take from the free man.
Today my state's biggest newspaper, which isn't saying much, published my letter, linked below. It is my first exposition, of which I hope there are more, of the modern war propagandists who clamor for massive public spending similar to World War II to "save us."
Read: Killing the Unemployed Would Solve the Problem.
Like many newspapers, the Register is a bastion of economic ignorance. Thankfully today was a good day because it featured another letter exposing the 1920 depression and its swift recovery, something Tom Woods has been very good at pointing out in speaking recently.
Read: As in 1920, let people run their own lives.
I am currently revising a satirical column to submit to my alma mater's paper. As Swift did, I am advocating the killing of innocents to solve an economic problem. Unlike others, though, we don't take these ridiculous notions seriously.
Shortly after the erection of Fannie Mae, and nearly 30 years before that of Freddie Mac and the legislation of the Community Reinvestment Act, Henry Hazlitt was there. The voice of the Austrian school could see it with his refined eye, as only he could. 'It,' of course, is the unseen consequences of government action.
From the Fiftieth Anniversary edition of Economics in One Lesson, p. 33-4:
"The case against government-guaranteed loans and mortgages to private businesses and persons is almost as strong as, though less obvious than, the case against direct government loans and mortgages. The advocates of government-guaranteed mortgages also forget that what is being lent is ultimately real capital, which is limited in supply, and that they are helping identified B at the expense of some unidentified A. Government-guaranteed home mortgages, especially when a negligible down payment or no down payment whatever is required, inevitably mean more bad loans than otherwise. They force the general taxpayer to subsidize the bad risks and to defray the losses. They encourage people to "buy" houses that they cannot really afford. They tend eventually to bring about an oversupply of houses as compared with other things. They temporarily overstimulate building, raise the cost of building for everybody (including the buyers of the homes with the guaranteed mortgages), and may mislead the building industry into an eventually costly overexpansion. In brief, in the long run they do not increase overall national production but encourage malinvestment."
I concede. I don't vote because of apathy. That is, a real lack of pathos for the racket that is the state. I hold no general pathetic feeling, only that it is pathetic in the pejorative sense.
Many feathers are ruffled over the squawk of not voting. It's an important 'right'; some hold it the most sacred. So why do these people not correlate the 'right to vote' with other 'rights'? That is, the right to speak freely includes the right to not speak at all. How powerful were silent protests!, some people think. So should not the right to vote include the right to not vote? "I will give this matter no attention by speaking no more!" and I will give the state no attention by voting no more.
But why are those so adamant about voting not so adamant about other rights? "It doesn't matter whom you vote for, just vote!" Do they say this for speech? It does not matter what you say, just say it!...until you say something not P.C. Would these people be so pushy if you said you intended to vote for someone who is racist?
Isn't it so apropos that election time comes near the celebration of ghouls, fiends, evil spirits, and general horror? How fitting!
Isn't it telling that Obama and McCain costumes are selling like hot cakes for a celebration where people dress as menaces, frights, and terror? How telling!
Isn't it impending how soon and widespread this presidential campaign began and has become? That the media-annointed president-to-be Obama has bought 30 minutes of TV time and spends millions and millions for pervasive advertisements on TV, radio, and video games? How difficult his mug is to escape! We can only imagine how invasive this man will be over the next four years. I hope the thousands who have generously donated many dollars to his campaign continue their happy donations and pay more in their taxes for those of us who don't.
This is my primary question about Barack Obama's proposed tax policy, which involves tax credits for businesses that create jobs. How do they do that? Do they just hire more people and receive a check?
Language in the course of politics today is like a toothpick—it is forever being used to clean the people of ugly little blemishes that would otherwise keep them from smiling. For example, take the recent buyout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. What would have been before called nationalization was instead titled a conservatorship. For another example, look at the proposed $700bn 'solution' to the current 'financial crisis'. What was first, aptly, titled a bailout is now being termed a rescue plan. And we can go back further to when Ron Paul's foreign policy was denounced as isolationist when the popular energy policies of John McCain and Barack Obama is called independence.
The reason for these changes, as I said, is to keep the public a little more in the dark about certain matters. If the clean labels of conservatorship, rescue plan, and independence were replaced with their 'dirty cousins' then the public would be a little wiser, a little more hesitant about proposed policy. Despite no official language existing in the United States, it is clear one language—the government's—is far and away the number one language.
I remember a discussion in one of my linguistics classes about how language is shaped and changes. Where do new words come from? This is certainly a relevant question for a country that has no official language or Bureau of Language. The answer in the discussion was that words are introduced and spread through dictionaries, teachers, and, as Hayek would term them, intellectuals. Perhaps politics was one but I cannot remember. Yet it is clear today that the government and a lapdog media are the purveyors of the correct speech. As with anything and the government, language should be separate from government.
This is nothing new, though. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Garet Garrett wrote about the assumption of isolationism as a pejorative when he wrote 'The Revolution Was'. And as someone said in a reply, maybe I should look into how words that were previously used, such as 'The People', are no longer used and instead replaced by supposedly better words and ideas, such as 'The Nation'. I've been thinking more and more about this, especially after just reading Ronald Hamowy's essay on Mises.org, 'Some Comments on the Rhetoric of the Environmental Movement'. The topic of language in relation to its political use is something that has always interested me about the Austrian school. Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell are just a couple of authors among many Austrians who are always good at noting political changes in words. Because I studied rhetoric in college, I'm also always curious how rhetoric itself is now a pejorative for 'empty political talk'.
So whether there's an interest in this subject, I'm going to look further into the relationship between language and government. I can already envision a book that details linguistic changes by the government for its power and benefit: a libertarian examination of the damaging effects when governmental mouths speak. I just think of H.L. Mencken's investigation of language, 'The American Language', and I think of how the chasm between British and American English somewhat developed as an American antithesis to British rule. I shall delve deeper.
I would love to read and hear any comments any of you have on this matter and if it is at all widely interesting.
\mī-ˈō-pē-ə\ — a lack of foresight or discernment; a narrow view of something
The movie 'Blindness' is in theaters this weekend and I've always found it an interesting story, since it was first a novel. I'm not writing this post to debate the socialistic tendencies of the story's narrative or how epidemics would be better handled in a libertarian society. I only wish to address, at this point, the inability of many people to see far into the future. I thought of this as I heard someone talk about a takeover of WaMu, to which they lamented, "no end seems to be in sight," that another company had, essentially, failed.
Only in this time of "crisis" can the adequately educated on the Austrian theory of the business cycle see the end. The rest simply bleat with myopia, a herd of sheep bumping into each other waiting for the sheepherder, the government, to do something that they can see narrowly before their face. The words of the Austrian school of economics must be spread, and people must know that the end is in sight but will only be visible when the government stops blocking the view with bailouts.
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