Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bush the Socialist, Obama the Fascist

Sometime in the early 1980s the colors used to represent the two primary political parties swapped. For many years the Republicans were represented by the color Blue and the Democrats were represented by the color Red. In a way that made sense, as the Republicans were portrayed as the Blue Bloods, the "aristocracy", while the Democrats were portrayed as the ones soft on Communism.

For reasons unknown the parties switched colors, to the point where few remember that they had the other colors as recently as 1980. Now saying a state is a "Red State" is a way to indicate that it is strongly Republican or conservative.

But events since the year 2000 would lead one to conclude that perhaps the switch in colors is accurate to some extent. Bush is clearly more socialist than Obama, and Obama is clearly more fascist than Bush. It should be noted at this point that there are many purists who insist that "Socialism" can only and ever refer to ownership of the means of production, and that wealth redistribution through other means - such as welfare - doesn't count as socialism. For the sake of argument, wealth redistribution will be referred to as "welfare socialism", and from this point on any reference to "socialism" will actually refer to "welfare socialism."

More than once during the Bush presidency efforts were made to avoid economic problems through bailouts. The interesting point is that more than once Bush had checks made out directly to the people. They were not large checks, about $300 per person, but he ordered them issued directly from the treasury to the public. Keynesian advisors warned against this on the grounds that the money might be wasted on foolish expenditures such as paying off credit cards or paying other bills. That did not deter Bush in his effort to strengthen the ailing economy through efforts aimed at the common man.

While both Bush and Obama gave money directly to failing banks, Obama has only given money to the failing banks and automobile companies. A common Republican quip has been "Where's my bailout?" to show that Obama is only giving money to the wealthiest of the public, not to the common person.

On healthcare the same pattern holds. Bush authorized the largest expansion of Medicare ever, with Perscription Drug Coverage for Seniors. Obama appears ready to jettison the "public option" in favor of mandating that everyone purchase health insurance.

Little wonder there is such discontent between the base and the party leadership in the Republican Party today, that a third party candidate may win the 23rd Congressional District in New York. Likewise the anti-war movement has little to be happy about with Obama, and Fascists are well known for their militancy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What can I do?

It is a common question that haunts anyone who wants to increase liberty. When looking at all the ways government is advancing and liberty is diminishing, it is tempting to give in to despair. It is true that there is little that one person can do. Any large scale changes will involve large group efforts, true. So should a person give up and wait for said group efforts?

No, there is no reason to give in to despair. There is no reason to give up. There is still something that can be done. One can be prepared to ride the depression out and come out and prepare to come out on the other side.

The first thing to do is make sure that one is not fooled by the official propaganda. Anyone who has an evidence based view of economics knows that the current depression has utterly disproven Keynesian and Monetarist economics and vindicated Austrian economics. In spite of that, government economists and major media economists continue with the party line about government managed economies.

Keeping the facts in mind reveals that this is the worst time to sell gold for cash and to get further into debt. In spite of pronouncements that the depression is over, it is clear that the money pumped into the economy has done nothing more than re-inflated a few bubbles and paid off the major bankers. Using the knowledge gained by Austrian Economics, it is much easier to avoid the remaining bubbles.

Individually, the only thing a person can do is ensure his own house is in order. That's why many people advise starting a farm and other common sense measures.

Given how the police have gotten more dangerous, the best plan is not to confront them but to stay out of their sight as much as possible. Any talking back, even if in the right, is considered "contempt of cop" and results in an arrest for "disorderly conduct". A lucky person won't be tasered during the arrest for the crime of saying "what am I being arrested for?"

Of course, be armed, be ready to defend yourself. Be as prepared as possible for the various emergencies that may come up if the predictions of Austrian Economists continue to come to pass as they have done to this point. The only way to act to advance liberty is if the activist is able to act in the first place.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Is / Ought Fallacy

"Without Taxes, how will we pay for roads and schools and medical care?"

It is a common enough question whenever someone objects, not just to all taxes as is proper to do, not just to the current level which is excessive to all minarchists and many other thinking people, but even to proposed increases in taxes which will be used to fund new programs.

At first glance it appears to be an application of the Statist Fallacy, there is also another fallacy at play here, the Is / Ought fallacy. It is a Statist Fallacy because the assumption is that if the government doesn't provide these services than nobody will, and that by opposing the government being the provider of these services one also opposes the services being provided at all.

But it is also an is / ought fallacy. The speaker is assuming that the way things are, that the government provides these services, is the way things ought to be, and by expressing the point in that particular way the speaker is hoping to lay a verbal trap for any opponent of expanded government. One can either deny that taxes should pay for those and because of the statist fallacy agree that those should not exist, or one can agree that those services are valuable and because of the is / ought fallacy agree that the government should fund them.

A good answer is "since currently those are paid for by taxes, we currently need taxes to pay for those" and then immediately accuse the speaker of engaging in the is / ought fallacy. The inclusion of the word "currently", twice in one answer, allows the libertarian in the argument to sidestep the trap of either embracing the statist fallacy or the is / ought fallacy, and it becomes very difficult for even a determined statist to pull a quote out of context. Leaving out either instance of that word eases decontextualization and the ability to try to argue that the libertarian is actually agreeing on some level with the statist.

"Since currently those are paid for by taxes, we currently need taxes to pay for those. What a fine example of the is / ought fallacy, where since that is the way it is therefore that is the way it ought to be. Why ought it be that way? Is there no other way to fund those besides taxes?"

Friday, October 09, 2009

Traffic Lights

There is an anti-libertarian argument that, no matter how often refuted, comes up often and proceeds along these lines: Some order is necessary, such as traffic lights and speed limits. Libertarians would want to do away with traffic lights and speed limits because the government put them in place, even thought the government did so to keep us from killing each other while driving. You need some order to function as a society.

There are many errors contained in that one argument.

First of all, it is not the position of any consistent libertarian that the government should not be able to set rules for traffic on any government road. It’s simply a matter of application of property rights. A libertarian could easily defend traffic regulation by saying “whereas the government is the owner of the roads, the government has the authority to set the terms for the use of the roads.” A much more consistent libertarian argument would simply include one more word and say “whereas unfortunately the government is the owner of the roads, the government has the authority to set the terms for the use of the roads.” This argument is valid even for those who do not recognize the legitimacy of government ownership of anything because de facto the government owns them whether the legitimacy of the ownership is recognized or not.

But that does not address the deeper misunderstanding. Libertarianism is not, and never has been, against order. Libertarianism is merely opposed to externally imposed order, order brought to society at the point of a gun. Libertarians have long endorsed spontaneous order, the order that can be found inside chaotic systems such as the free market. The accusation of objection to order at all is a red herring, designed to throw people off of finding out what it is that libertarians are really objecting to.

Libertarians do not object to voluntary cooperation. In fact, for the free market (advocated by all libertarians) to function voluntary cooperation is a necessity. Buyer and seller are cooperating voluntarily, from the level of the smallest hot-dog vendor on the sidewalk and his customer to the largest corporation.

The market isn’t the only way libertarians see spontaneous order. Every day people get married and start families. While some marriages are planned, how many of them are centrally planned? The whole of society is one giant exercise in spontaneous organization.

It is only when that organization is imposed by force, externally, do libertarians object. And usually the imposition is from government. It can be from criminal organizations, but more often than not criminal organizations are pale imitations of the government.

Accusing libertarians of being anti-organization because libertarians are opposed to externally imposed organization, imposed at the point of a gun, also overlooks that the amount of chaos commonly associated with anarchy can only be created by government. As Doug Newman said, “When you let people do whatever they want, you get Woodstock; when you let governments do whatever they want, you get Auschwitz.” In the United States instead of Auschwitz so far all we’ve gotten is the anarchy (caused by government) of the reaction to hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

But are they right?

The internet has made it possible to find articles on any topic detailing both the pro-liberty and anti-liberty side of any position. That has ultimately been a good thing for the pro-liberty side as traditional sources can be bypassed for accurate material.

It often happens in internet debate that libertarians will find a relevant article on LRC or Cato or Reason (or dozens of other libertarian sites) and link to it in a debate. The reaction from those who oppose liberty is invariably "the author is biased" or "the website is biased".

Usually this successfully derails the debate. From that point onward the discussion center around the bias of the article or the bias of the hosting site.

Although it may be irksome, the best way to get the discussion back on track is to simply respond with "yes, but are they right?" Conceed any allegation of bais while simultaneously engaging the content of the article. This isn't just agreeing with the bias. Proving bias usually subsitutes for refuting an article, and "Yes, but are they right?" puts the onus back on the other person to go in and investigate the content in order to answer that question. Instead of declaring victory due to an accusation of bias the other person must either get back to the topic or conceed that the article was right.

This is also useful in reverse, The report on California's regulatory mess was posted on a government website. Libertarians are confronted with "but it's a government website you don't like government." The proper response is "yes, but are they right?" It forms a useful defense against accusations of hypocrisy with regards to using a government website - the important feature isn't if the article is from the government but is the content.