Is a National Government Necessary for National Defense?

Is a National Government Necessary for National Defense?

Gordon Tullock used to taunt anarchists by asserting that if the USA abolished its government, people would not have to worry about the Russians taking over the country because “the Mexicans would get here first.”

This little story actually incorporates a common objection to anarchy—namely, the idea that because, if a country abolished its government, other countries would not necessarily follow suit, the governments of those other countries would be free to, and would, simply take over the country that, lacking a government, also lacked an effective means of defending itself against takeover by a foreign power.

This thinking presumes at least two critical ideas: first, that defense of a population requires a government that rules that population; and, second, that if a government has the power to take over another country, it will do so.

Read the rest at the Beacon here.

Negative Balance of Trade? So What?

Negative Balance of Trade? So What?

The tendency of the USA to have a negative balance of trade (more accurately known as a negative balance on current account) played a prominent role in the recent U.S. presidential campaign. Donald Trump criticized this tendency repeatedly and promised that if elected he would take various actions to reduce or eliminate it. Like most members of the public, Trump views this negative balance as a highly undesirable, economically damaging condition. Despite the prominence of discussions of the negative balance of trade in recent times, however, it is likely that few people really understand much if anything about the system of international payments accounts from which it derives.

Fortunately, interested parties can learn what they need to know about the international payments accounts by studying the documents that accompany the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s presentation of the data or by reading almost daily commentary on this topic by first-rate economists. My own go-to source of sound economic interpretation of this subject is the commentary by Donald J. Boudreaux at the blog Cafe Hayek.

I place the balance of international payments data in the class of statistics for which the world would have been a happier place had the data never been devised, popularized (in a rough way), and used by policy makers. This last aspect is the crux of the matter because the balance-of-trade data in particular can scarcely help but serve as a rationale for pernicious policies, such as export subsidies and tariffs, quotas, and other official restrictions on imports. In short, the data help the government establish and maintain policies that enrich the privileged few at the expense of the unconnected many, including consumers in general and producers who rely on imported raw materials and components, as many do these days.

Although the topic may appear daunting, the essence of the matter is utterly simple. As a fair approximation, each international transaction, whether it be buying, selling, borrowing, or lending across a national border involves a willing party on each side—importers want to purchase goods from sellers abroad, lenders want to lend to borrowers abroad, and so forth. Each party to the transactions expects to benefit by entering into it. In a sane and just world, that would be the end of the matter. People would simply be left alone to make the transactions they wish to make in anticipation of benefiting thereby. If each transactor benefits, how can the nation as a whole suffer?

Read the rest at the Independent Institute.

 

Negative Balance of Trade? So What?

The USA—Best Not to Go There Unless You Have an Urgent Reason to Do So

I am a consistent defender of allowing free passage of peaceful people across national borders. I understand full well why someone from an impoverished Mexican village or a violent hellhole such as Tegucigalpa might wish to migrate to the USA, where wage rates are 5-10 times greater for unskilled labor and, for Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and many people from the Middle East, physical security is better.

However, if you are not in such desperate straits, I would strongly suggest that you avoid attempting to enter the USA, however legally you might try to do so. Those entering the country through government checkpoints, either at the border or at an airport, run a high risk of being treated with great contempt by the border thugs and are at considerable risk of worse, including not only being detained and interrogated at great length (and completely without a plausible basis) and being compelled to surrender computer, phone, and social media passwords along with the devices, but also being denied permission to enter and forced to return to their place of departure.

The USA is simply not a welcoming place. It is a police state, and a hostile one at that. It makes virtually no attempt to distinguish potentially threatening people from ordinary people who, to anyone with a trace of a brain, obviously pose no threat to national security or the personal well-being of current U.S. residents. So, be smart, amigos: don’t go there unless you have a very important reason to do so.

I am now kicking myself for having agreed to attend a conference in Maui in April. I should have listened to my wiser angel. I doubt very much, however, that afterward I shall ever make the same mistake.

Republished from the Independent Institute.

Negative Balance of Trade? So What?

Tariffs, Pickpockets, and the Nationalist Snake in the Moral Grass

Like nearly all economists, I am inclined to explain to people who favor tariffs that such taxes entail inefficiencies. They make the consummations of otherwise desirable trades more costly and hence discourage people’s actions that, absent the tariffs, would result in the creation of new wealth. After all, people who voluntarily purchase goods and services from sellers who reside outside the national borders expect to gain by making those purchases (and, of course, the sellers also expect to gain from the sale), and a gain from trade is the principal form of wealth creation in the world today. It is child’s play for an economist to explain the theory of comparative advantage, however inclined most lay people are to reject the argument despite its iron-clad logic.

Protectionism, as it is misleadingly known, has always been an insider’s game, a political gambit aimed at enriching those to whom the government is especially beholden or seeks to seduce at the expense of other people. Incumbent producers who produce products on which tariffs are imposed succeed in repelling competition by force of the government’s customs officers, which is to say that they succeed in increasing their profits by force, not by offering consumers a better deal.

Peaceful people who avoid the tariff by importing goods surreptitously are not only stigmatized as smugglers, but subjected to criminal sanctions as if they had committed real crimes such as rape or assault and battery. In this way the government not only discourages free trade, but misleads citizens in general into thinking of free trade as a criminal enterprise. What could better serve the interest of an organization—the state itself—that cannot exist except by extortion and robbery? (Of course, the government pretties up its extortion by calling it taxation and misrepresents its robbery by calling it fines, fees, and civil asset forfeitures, but renaming these coercive takings does nothing to alter their criminal essence.)

I am often tempted to point out the foregoing realities to readers or listeners while defending completely free trade, which is merely one form taken by people’s exercise of the general human right to act peacefully in one’s own best interest. I sometimes characterize protectionism as simply a type of pickpocketing disguised as not only a legitimate government policy, but also as one that serves the general public interest by promoting greater employment and overall prosperity. We have been subjected to a great deal of such economic looniness by Donald Trump and his supporters during the past year, as they have ceaselessly reiterated the worst mercantilist fallacies of the past four hundred years.

Read the rest at the Independent Institute.

Political and Governmental Corruption Is a Feature, Not a Bug

Political and Governmental Corruption Is a Feature, Not a Bug

People do not oppose corruption in politics and government. They oppose only the corruption that does not steer loot and social domination to them. After all, the entire process of so-called democratic government is nothing but corruption writ large and backed by the threat of violent force.

Political partisans in particular are utterly unprincipled in regard to the corruption of the political process. If the Republicans are exposed as receiving unlawful campaign contributions or perpetrating political dirty tricks, the Democrats howl to high heaven, and vice versa. Of course, neither major party has a lock on corruption. In Washington, the state capitals, and the county and city councils, corruption is an equal-opportunity practice.

Indeed, it’s why the massive federal, state, and local governments exist in the first place. If governments confined themselves to protecting people’s natural rights, à la John Locke, they could operate with a tiny fraction of the money and personnel they now command.

Read the rest at The Beacon here.

Book Foolssm

Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

by Scott Horton

Book Paulsm

The Great Ron Paul

by Scott Horton

Book Griggsm

No Quarter: The Ravings of William Norman Grigg

by Will Grigg

Book Animalssm

What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

by Sheldon Richman

Book Palestinesm

Coming to Palestine

by Sheldon Richman

Pin It on Pinterest