How Agorism Evolves Past The State

How Agorism Evolves Past The State

Agorism, in all its various forms, promotes self-reliance and independent entrepreneurial ventures. It is a process that is evolving past the State and making it obsolete.

We cannot disregard the State completely; we have no illusions about this. But evolving past the State is very much in our power. Today agorism is rapidly growing and evolving in countless manifestations…it is all around us. But what is agorism?

In its most specific form, agorism is an explicitly adopted lifestyle of purely voluntary exchanges. But in a general sense, agorism is essentially the sum of all human interactions that are consensual and voluntary. The common factor is this: since the State is a coercive institution, its role in human affairs is absent, or strictly minimized.

Lifestyle Agorism

An agorist lifestyle could be as simple as the bartering of goods such as home-grown produce, meat, baked goods, and beverages; as well as the bartering of services such as household or car repairs, babysitting and so on. It also involves normal buying and selling with money, but favoring interactions with fellow agorists.

Those who adopt this lifestyle will typically identify as agorists, and seek community with the like-minded. Agorists typically do not participate in politics. In general, and to the extent possible, agorists bypass and disregard the State. They continually strive for the goals of living free of State coercion, and minimizing the resources they make available to the State. Moreover, their lifestyle helps delegitimize the State: they provide clear proof that in the absence of government, there is flourishing of happiness, peace and progress.

Informal Agorism

Human interactions can be agorist, without people formally adopting the lifestyle. As we know, virtually all human activities are voluntary. This means that, insofar as they bypass or minimize involvement with the State, most actions are essentially agorist. When we consider some examples of voluntary, mutually beneficial arrangements, we realize how dynamic and pervasive the principle of agorism is.

Traditional agorist examples

In all these examples, and more, the State derives little or no revenue benefit, and regulation is minimized (if present at all)…

  • Private tutoring and homeschooling
  • Gardening services
  • Farmer’s markets
  • Local community protection services

Additionally, we are all familiar with contemporary examples of services that bring buyers and sellers directly together…


Private housing accommodations are a great example of agorism in action. Temporary living arrangements are certainly nothing new; we are quite familiar with hotels, rental properties and boarding houses. But these traditional examples come with varying degrees of State intervention such as taxes and zoning regulations.

The Airbnb model simplifies temporary housing transactions and makes them readily available to both property owner and renter. Although the State is attempting to find ways to intervene, it is much harder to regulate since transactions are person-to-person.

Uber and Lyft

The impact of these new private, individualized transportation modes is immeasurable. State versions of public transportation are clearly falling behind, with each passing year. But these new services are dynamic, flexible and affordable in ways that are impossible with buses, taxis and mass transit.

Internet for-sale websites

Sites such as Craigslist and eBay generate an enormous volume of trade between private parties. There is no central physical marketplace for the State to identify. Its ability to regulate and tax these marketplaces is virtually non-existent.

Big-picture technological agorism

The awesome power of modern technology has changed agorism itself. Evolving from its traditional roots in simple bartering, the information age brings agorism into the 21st century.

Alternative currencies

Electronic forms of currency have emerged in just the last decade. Still in their infancy, they are quickly evolving methods of true financial privacy. Although the State will impose temporary impediments, it will not be able to keep pace with the speed of innovation.

The State utterly depends on its monopoly over money. It is conceivable that in our lifetimes we will witness an evolution of currencies and financial methods that leave the State helpless. Alternative currencies present the single-most immediate prospect for the success of liberty. There is no need for an attack on the dollar; no need to advocate abolishing government agencies. Private trading methods using cryptocurrencies will simply evolve, and then dominate. The steady progress of technology will help relegate the State to the dustbin of history.

Education and Life Skills

Homeschooling and un-schooling continue to grow, producing well-adjusted, bright, confident and capable young people. More and more are emerging from their formative years without the impediment of State indoctrination. Meantime, public schools continue to excel only at producing prison-like environments and a cult-like worship of the State.

For young and old alike, the Internet is making possible the flow of knowledge in every imaginable field, allowing people to educate themselves and gain productive skills, on any subject of their choosing. The State remains a clueless bystander to this evolution.


The stranglehold that the State has over the medical field is enormous. It is presently more difficult to see or imagine the positive potentials that agorism will bring to health. Yet the glimmers of hope are there. Mobile apps are making health research and monitoring more readily available. Alternatives are emerging to heavily regulated insurance: medical groups offering group-oriented health coverage, concierge medical services, to name a few.

The fields of Alternative Medicine and supplements are less regulated, and thus offer greater choices. And this goes hand-in-hand with the Voluntaryist principle of taking personal responsibility, both as producer and consumer.

And then, there’s politics

Political participants tend to make all the noise and get all the coverage; non-participants are silent. It is true that most non-participants do not identify as Voluntaryists or agorists. But whatever specific reason they have for not voting, it can be generalized to this: it is not worth their time.

We may not appreciate the importance of this compelling fact: a majority of the public does not vote. Which means they do not consider the State important enough to motivate them to participate in politics.

Agorists did not have to make that happen. The State did that all on its own…simply by making itself irrelevant to the people at large. As our life options continue to expand, the trend away from politics is likely to continue.

The wonderful results of agorism

Two amazing results emerge from agorism: one psychological, one strategic.

Those who are explicitly agorist tend to experience the psychological sense of inner freedom and true self-ownership, as the State is absent from their interactions.

But the strategic result brings benefits to everyone: agorism, in all its forms, draws resources away from the State, and reaffirms the irrelevancy of the State.


The State offers nothing of value. It produces only one thing: coercive force, with its resulting ugliness and misery. And like any bully, that is all it has. That is its natural limit.

But free people have everything to offer. Agorism can be a formally adopted lifestyle, or merely the natural inclination to interact voluntarily with others in peace. Either way, we create and build; we cooperate; we sing, dance, and love. We educate and grow. And we get better at it all the time.

We evolve. The State doesn’t. The future is indeed bright.


Reposted from

Why Politicians Do What They Do

Why Politicians Do What They Do

I don’t think politicians relish closing down the economy, nor do I think they’ll be eager to do so in the future. For one thing, it’s contrary to their interests. They do what they do because when all you have is a blunt instrument, every problem looks like something that can only be solved with a blunt instrument.

Why Politicians Do What They Do

Dangerous Times

We live in dangerous times — and not just medically and economically. Government executives all over the world — with a few honorable exceptions — are exercising autocratic power, that is, power without legislative or constitutional authority, in the name of stopping the spread of the coronavirus. With respect to these orders, due process is absent. All around the U.S., governors and local authorities have decreed shutdowns of arbitrarily defined “non-essential” businesses and lock-downs. Curfews have been imposed.

The content of these orders may make sense, depending on the locale and scope, One size probably won’t fit all, but avoiding restaurants and staying at home surely make sense for many people. It’s the process — the exercise of autocratic power without due process — that should concern us. Liberty is not only being curtailed now; precedents are also being set. We could be visited by the ghost of pandemic past in the future.

Fortunately, we have seen some resistance to these orders and talk of legal challenges, but nothing widespread. I have not yet heard of any complaint reaching a judge. This is probably because people have their eyes are on the intent of the orders — containment of the virus — and not the process. The old saying “When you’re up to your eyeballs in alligators, it’s hard to remember you’re there to drain the swamp” seems pertinent, and I understand that. But liberty is too important to put on a shelf without even a squawk.

As the liberal order evolved over many centuries, it placed great weight on protection against arbitrary, autocratic rule over person and property: due process, speedy trial by jury, habeas corpus, and so on. These things aren’t much on most people’s mind these days. That may be understandable, but the rest of us need to keep squawking about them.

Will Coronavirus End the Fed?

Will Coronavirus End the Fed?

September 17, 2019 was a significant day in American economic history. On that day, the New York Federal Reserve began emergency cash infusions into the repurchasing (repo) market. This is the market banks use to make short-term loans to each other. The New York Fed acted after interest rates in the repo market rose to almost 10 percent, well above the Fed’s target rate.

The New York Fed claimed its intervention was a temporary measure, but it has not stopped pumping money into the repo market since September. Also, the Federal Reserve has been expanding its balance sheet since September. Investment advisor Michael Pento called the balance sheet expansion quantitative easing (QE) “on steroids.”

I mention these interventions to show that the Fed was taking extraordinary measures to prop up the economy months before anyone in China showed the first symptoms of coronavirus.

Now the Fed is using the historic stock market downturn and the (hopefully) temporary closure of businesses in the coronavirus panic to dramatically increase its interventions in the economy. Not only has the Fed increased the amount it is pumping into the repo market, it is purchasing unlimited amounts of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities. This was welcome news to Congress and the president, as it came as they were working on setting up trillions of dollars in spending in coronavirus aid/economic stimulus bills.

This month the Fed announced it would start purchasing municipal bonds, thus ensuring the state and local government debt bubble will keep growing for a few more months.

The Fed has also created three new loan facilities to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in credit to businesses. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has stated that the Fed will lend out as much as it takes to revive the economy.

The Fed is also reducing interest rates to zero. We likely already have negative real interest rates because of inflation. Negative real interest rates are a tax on savings and thus lead to a lack of private funds available for investment, giving the Fed another excuse to expand its lending activities.

The Fed’s actions may appear to mitigate some of the damage of the coronavirus panic. However, by flooding the economy with new money, expanding asset purchases, and facilitating Congress and the president’s spending sprees, the Fed is exacerbating America’s long-term economic problems.

The Federal Reserve is unlikely to end these emergency measures after the government declares it is safe to resume normal life. Consumers, businesses, and (especially) the federal government are so addicted to low interest rates, quantitative easing, and other Federal Reserve interventions that any effort by the Fed to allow rates to rise or to stop creating new money will cause a severe recession.

Eventually the Federal Reserve-created consumer, business, and government debt bubbles will explode, leading to a major crisis that will dwarf the current coronavirus shutdown. The silver lining is that this next crisis could finally demolish the Keynesian welfare-warfare state and the fiat money system.

The Federal Reserve’s unprecedented interventions in the marketplace make it more urgent than ever that Congress pass, and President Trump sign, the Audit the Fed bill. This would finally allow the American people to learn the truth about the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy. Audit the Fed is a step toward restoring health to our economic system by ending the fiat money pandemic that facilitates the welfare-warfare state and the unstable, debt-based economy.

Reprinted from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Why Politicians Do What They Do

Flunk the State!

Knowledgeable people (Bill Gates among them) had warned for years that governments were ill-prepared for serious pandemics. The US government was not just ill-prepared; it also maintained regulatory obstacles — in the name of public health — to others who were willing and able to act.

I’d say the case for statelessness looks better all the time.

Liberty and Slavery

Liberty and Slavery

Among the common beliefs of libertarians, opposition to slavery is one of the least controversial. Yet, the moral argument against slavery is one of libertarian philosophy’s most enlightening topics. Considering the “why” of libertarian opposition to slavery is profoundly instructive. Libertarianism approaches the question of individual rights in a unique way. 

In my opinion, the cornerstone of libertarian philosophy lies with its answer to the is-ought dichotomy presented in David Hume’s skepticism. From the far right, idealism is an absolute that tramples upon those who are different. From the far left, anti-idealism destroys morality, community and tradition – leaving behind an unprincipled bureaucracy that tramples in the name of expediency and arbitrary intellectual fashions. The best course lies with a balance, where absolute idealism and subjectivity exist only in context with one another. This context can only be found within the individual mind.  Morality, therefore, is a product of individuals reconciling the rational and emotional within themselves, and then confronting the consequent social reality. Libertarianism proposes a social environment where personal morality is respected and reconciling the individual right to moral self-determination between people with different beliefs and ideas is the core principle of politics.

The reconciliation of is and ought was a project of the Scottish Enlightenment, in the school of Common Sense (Thomas Reid). This school was heavily influential among the French liberals who later influenced both Bastiat and eventually the Austrian school of economics. The Common Sense school also served as the intellectual and religious foundation of New England’s revolutionary liberty movement. 

The American revolution must be seen as an alliance between Virginia old England aristocrats, seeking to maintain ancient yeoman rights, and New English Christian anarchists who possessed a religious ideal of human liberty. The former felt that society’s rights were protected in its Anglo-Saxon traditions and were to be defended existing, enlightened aristocratic social structures. They conceived of the US Constitution’s form without perceiving a need for enumerated rights. The State was the political society – the tobacco lords and their custom of mutual political equality. Jefferson broadened the notion by conceiving of a yeoman farmer class related to a romanticized vision of England’s past and Virginia’s present. 

New England, on the other hand, saw individual rights as derivative of holy truths discerned by the heights of enlightenment and Christian thought. They demanded the Bill of Rights.

The school of Common Sense led to a short-lived tradition within British liberal Christianity which held that science and religion must, according to the nature of each, exist in perfect harmony. If science and religion stood in contradiction, it meant that the interpretation of evidence or scripture must somehow be flawed. Out of this thinking, the Common Sense school developed a sophisticated moral science with an extensive vocabulary describing a person’s moral duties in the context of unalienable rights given by God. As science and religion ultimately diverged in the late 19th century, this philosophy fell out of favor.

Common Sense philosophy and the moral ‘science’ of the so-called Christian Enlightenment should be more widely appreciated within libertarian community. The content of this ‘science’ applies to modern questions, so long as one possesses a key to interpret the religious concepts in secular terms. This isn’t very difficult to accomplish, since the Christian Enlightenment was already quite ameliorable to science.

The question of is-ought is simply a question of mind and soul. Reason and emotion. The answers of the Common Sense school are self-evidently superior, and the reason for its decline in popularity is clear.  The question of soul and mind is one philosophy grappled with, using great energy, for two hundred years before the question was finally swept aside by the great and terrible intellectual winds that accompanied imperialism.  Imperialism, the systemization of pure war, the categorization of all into a utilitarian, all-consuming whole; a system of mortal contest between powers, a race to the bottom, a fiendish quest to consume, destroy, repeat. This gave us the atomic bomb and the Holocaust, among other outcomes.

In contrast to 20th century’s outcomes, the spirit of 1776 was fueled by a philosophy of freedom. The people learned from New England preachers teaching of the unity of mind and soul within the individual, who stands as a moral self-sovereign. The importance of liberty was self-evident to them, as real as the green grass and God above.

The philosophical spirit of 1776 is the same spirit that abolished slavery. This does not refer to the American Civil War. While it’s true that the Civil War was fought in the context of slavery, it was a war over tariffs and power. Its concern with slavery was related to the treadmill of empire building, as a more efficient, modern version of empire overthrew an earlier less efficient system of slavery and exploitation. 

In this political environment, it was the moral philosophy of the anti-slavery movement which made ending slavery an absolute condition of the Empire’s progress. We can disdain empire, but we ought to respect the manner in which it was compelled to extend rights to freed slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation freed few slaves, as those areas under federal control were not subject to emancipation. It was the 13th Amendment which freed the slaves, and it was the moral stubbornness of the anti-slavery movement that mandated the necessity of the 13th Amendment.

Whether in the American anti-slavery movement, or in the efforts of William Wilberforce in the UK, it was the moral and philosophical foundation of the British Christian Enlightenment which made slavery morally and politically anathema. Never before in history had an absolute moral argument against slavery been made. Even the New Testament apostles didn’t condemn the practice utterly. The basic foundations of anti-slavery, democracy and human rights are found in the Christian Enlightenment of British Liberalism. 

Although the world today couldn’t care less about liberty, the so-called ‘liberal world order’, pretentious as it is, derives from the Christian Enlightenment. The moral science derived from Common Sense more or less conquered the world. While Locke might speak of civil and property rights, John Stuart Mill of personal liberty, it is Common Sense that speaks of the moral worth and essential spiritual equality of man. 

William Ellery Channing was a New England preacher from the early 19th century. He was a Unitarian, and was trained in the moral science of the Common Sense school of philosophy – the staple teaching at Harvard University before the arrival of continental (Prussian) influence. He was the key figure of his movement in the age just prior to Unitarianism’s digression into bizarre Transcendentalism. He took the moral science of the Common Sense school and the liberal interpretation of Christianity to their absolute heights. Naturally, he had things to say about slavery.

Channing’s thoughts about slavery, penned somewhat early than any major political tensions emerged surrounding the issue (outside of Massachusetts high society), were recorded in a sermon treatise released in 1833 simply titled, Slavery.

Channing’s argument against the practice of slavery invokes some of the core principles of his moral philosophy. I will review what he wrote and relate it to modern day society. Although the subject is slavery, which is non-controversially bad, the arguments against it serve to defend against modern day political ideas which are sometimes quite popular. By understanding the moral argument against slavery which was used by Common Sense school philosophers, one can have a deeper comprehension of the philosophy of individual rights.

Lofty and Pure Sentiment

As Channing begins his treatise on slavery, he frames the core belief behind his argument: the central importance of human morality, it being derivative of a power greater than any which can be constructed by man.

There is but one unfailing good; and that is, fidelity to the Everlasting Law written on the heart, and rewritten and republished in God’s Word.

Whoever places this faith in the everlasting law of rectitude must of course regard the question of slavery first and chiefly as a moral question.

There are times when the assertion of great principles is the best service a man can render society.

A community can suffer no greater calamity than the loss of its principles. Lofty and pure sentiment is the life and hope of a people.

Such ought to remember that to espouse a good cause is not enough. We must maintain it in a spirit answering to its dignity.

Although the introductory portion of Channing’s argument invokes religion, the philosophical point he hopes to convey is central to his entire critique of slavery. His religious belief equates that which is written on the heart to that which is recorded in religious scripture. In Unitarian moral philosophy, the conscience is the center of all moral decision making. The conscience represents the union of rational thought with sentiment. It combines the oughts of life – our desire for happiness – with the logically deduced principles and rights which support happiness. Devotion to morality, or “the Everlasting Law,” is nothing more or less than a principled commitment to the rational pursuit of that which motivates us as individuals, including that which we have in common between us as human beings.

Channing claims that a community can suffer no greater, “…calamity…,” than the loss of its principles. Later in his sermon, he exalts the moral worth of a society above its material and economic worth. He argues that wealth serves a higher cause, and that it has no inherent value beyond the cause which it serves. While for some the cause of life might pertain to a higher supernatural plane, in Channing’s moral science the principles and aspirational sentiments associated with what we call heaven can be expressed and achieved also on Earth (not meaning to build heaven on Earth, but to strive to be nearer to worthiness of heaven while on Earth). This comports to an easy secular interpretation.

Life’s value is ineffable. We can’t scientific prove why it matters or not. However, most of us place value on living life. We aspire and experience longing. Though the object of our longing differs in form from person to person, the essence of longing is the same. We live life in search of something which is valuable to of us. That thing, that value, and the longing for it in the form of sentiment, represent the lofty and pure heights to which we aspire. Channing’s moral argument is that if a society cannot resolve to devote itself with clear mind and conscience to whatever it is we long for, then our life is a waste.

Only societies which prioritize moral principles as bedrock values will be worthy of obtaining the object of their longing. By stating this, Channing sets out stakes. If slavery cannot be considered moral, it cannot be permitted by a society which hopes to thrive.

Why Humans Can’t Be Property

Channing’s first substantive topic is about property. Here he argues that a human cannot be property. He presents the notion as a fallacy, reviewing many reasons why the concept of ownership of humans is morally and logically incorrect.

His first argument proposes that slavery depends upon a contradictory principle, relying on a notion of inequality which is not present in the Lockean philosophy of property rights.

It is plain, that, if one man may be held as property, then every other man may be so held.

If there be nothing in human nature, in our common nature, which excludes and forbids the conversion of him who possesses it into an article of property; if the right of the free to liberty is founded, not on their essential attributes as rational and moral beings, but on certain adventitious, accidental circumstances, into which they have been thrown; then every human being, by a change of circumstances, may justly be held and treated by another as property.

The consciousness of indestructible rights is a part of our moral being. The consciousness of our humanity involves the persuasion, that we cannot be owned as a tree or a brute. As men we cannot justly be made slaves. Then no man can be rightfully enslaved.”

This argument applies especially to Americans, who had in living memory defended their natural rights against a tyrant (the treatise was written in 1833). The American assertion to liberty invalidates the logic of slavery. If some men can be enslaved, then any man could be; in an environment that permits slavery, American claims to liberty and rights are invalid.

The natural rights associated with American liberty come from the philosophies of British Liberalism, which has all but died out among governments and academics and is dying out among Western professional organizations. However, the formal world order is ironically grounded in these same principles as the foundation of the premise of universal human rights. 

The flaw of modern political trends lies with their overreliance on experts wielding power, which contradicts the premise of universal human rights. Any technocratic order which seeks to deny rights to people via removing their privacy, taxing them without recourse, denying them the right to self-defense and so forth, must nevertheless be led by a class of experts. Human rights, in this environment, must be gifted by the experts. The clear implication is that human rights can be modified if the experts deem it necessary. 

The depravities of communist regimes give plentiful examples of the principle of conditional rights. If American society will go towards a direction where more and more elements of society are managed by technical experts, then it must do so while preserving individual self-determination. If experts aren’t managing at the pleasure of the managed, then human rights can’t exist. Human rights assume a fundamental moral equality between humans, and the concept of expert rule flies in the face of that assumption.

Channing’s next argument references rights. It is a bit archaic. In Southern slavery, slaves were considered nevertheless to be men who held rights. For instance, it was illegal to murder slaves. Channing takes for granted that his audience has already conceded some rights to slaves.

A man cannot be seized and held as property, because he has Rights.

Now, I say a being having rights cannot justly be made property; for this claim over him virtually annuls all his rights. It strips him of all power to assert them. It makes it a crime to assert them. The very essence of slavery is, to put a man defenceless into the hands of another. The right claimed by the master, to task, to force, to imprison, to whip, and to punish the slave, at discretion, and especially to prevent the least resistance to his will, is a virtual denial and subversion of all the rights of the victim of his power.

This argument is more profound than it first appears. Generalized, the argument says that if some rights are possessed by a man, then he must possess all the rights which are natural to all men. Later, Channing discusses rights in greater detail, devoting an entire chapter to them. He includes a deeper discussion of where rights come from. Suffice it to say that rights are purposeful. Rights are not entitlements, being only a stronger version of privileges. In Channing’s moral worldview, rights are instruments or tools which pertain to the purpose of man’s being. Rights exist to provide man a means to carry out that purpose. If one ounce of that purpose is acknowledged, if any means to accomplish that purpose are permitted, then one must permit them all, or else invalidate the both the man’s purpose and existence.

If a man doesn’t exist to fulfill his own happiness within his means, then his life is null. To enslave a man is to murder a man, from the perspective of the moral guilt of the perpetrator. It is to deem the fulfillment of happiness of one person to be irrelevant, while simultaneously pursuing one’s own fulfillment of happiness. It is a moral contradiction that can only persist in an environment of unmoderated lusts and unlimited violence. While slavery in its heyday purported to be within a moral framework, the abundant rape and violence committed by slavers against slaves, without punishment, is proof of the harms stemming from slavery’s contradiction of moral principles.

The principle of moral consistency supports the notion of the equality of man. There is no scientific proof that life matters. Consequently, the value of life exists only as a subjective assertion on the part of any individual human. Logically, morally and legally, the assertion of life’s value from one man to the next is inherently equal. Human inequality cannot be supported morally, and systems that assert moral inequality can only be sustained through perpetual violence.

Channing explains why even outward differences between men, in ability and birth, do not abolish the fundamental moral equality of men.

Another argument against property is to be found in the Essential Equality of men.

All men have the same rational nature, and the same power of conscience, and all are equally made for indefinite improvement of these divine faculties, and for the happiness to be found in their virtuous use. Who, that comprehends these gifts, does not see that the diversities of the race vanish before them? Let it be added, that the natural advantages, which distinguish one man from another, are so bestowed as to counterbalance one another, and bestowed without regard to rank or condition in life. Whoever surpasses in one endowment is inferior in others. Even genius, the greatest gift, is found in union with strange infirmities, and often places its possessors below ordinary men in the conduct of life. Great learning is often put to shame by the mother-wit and keen good sense of uneducated men. Nature, indeed, pays no heed to birth or condition in bestowing her favors. The noblest spirits sometimes grow up in the obscurest spheres. Thus equal are men; and among these equals, who can substantiate his claim to make others his property, his tools, the mere instruments of his private interest and gratification? Let this claim begin, and where will it stop? If one may assert it, why not all?

Who of us has no superior in one or the other of these endowments: Is it sure that the slave or the slave’s child may not surpass his master in intellectual energy or in moral worth? Has nature conferred distinctions which tell us plainly, who shall be owner? and who be owned? Who of us can unblushingly lift his head and say that God has written ‘Master’ there? or who can show the word ‘Slave’ engraven on his brother’s brow?”

The equality of man, taken together with Channing’s point about rights, proves that government must serve at the mercy of the people. Government cannot legitimately defend a vision of society that it synthetically imposes upon that same society. The progressive notion of shaping society in a better direction (coercively) is immoral. It establishes an inequality, where one class of intellectual superiors arbitrarily designates those with whom they disagree as lesser, who only exist to serve the aspirations of their betters. Even when the aspirations of the betters purportedly include the betterment of the lessers, the principle still holds. 

One may not keep a man in slavery simply because one asserts it is for the slave’s own good. Likewise, a coercive progressive state has no right to impose whichever intellectual fashion of the age upon the masses. This notion is morally indefensible, and again the progressive state truly realized will always collapse into violence and tyranny.

The foibles of the ‘uneducated’ must be tolerated by a moral society. They have a moral right to their ignorance. The harm that ignorance causes to society must be addressed in non-coercive ways. The experts also, from the perspective of the future, are themselves perfectly ignorant. There is no moral proof that the latter may rule over the former. We are all striving to do our best, and all of us are failing, though some of us may be ahead of others. Mutual betterment can only occur cooperatively.

Persuasion, rights-respecting boundaries and assertion of rights all serve as tools with which the more enlightened can interact with the less endowed. Both parties have rights, and within the scope of those rights, both are free to act how they choose.

Channing’s next argument relates to the theory of property itself.

That a human being cannot be justly held and used as property is apparent from the very nature of property. Property is an exclusive, single right. It shuts out all claim but that of the possessor, What one man owns cannot belong to another. What, then, is the consequence of holding a human being as property? Plainly this. He can have no right to himself. His limbs are, in truth, not morally his own. He has not a right to his own strength. It belongs to another. His will, intellect, and muscles, all the powers of body and mind which are exercised in labor, he is bound to regard as another’s. Now, if there be property in any thing, it is that of a man in his own person, mind, and strength. All other rights are weak, unmeaning, compared with this, and in denying this all right is denied.

This argument speaks for itself in a straightforward manner. A man and his body already belong to himself, his very birth the act of homesteading. No system which respects property rights can infringe upon this self-ownership and be taken seriously.

Even so, Channing exposits the principle beautiful. In his explanation, there are foreshadowed hints of Ayn Rand’s better angels, among parallels to the ideas of libertarian property theorists. Channing’s argument, though, adds a moral dimension. Property exists to serve man’s moral purpose, which is higher than his economic purpose. His moral purpose is the ultimate aim of his life as he sees it, the purpose for which he lives. By placing economic rights into the greater moral context, Channing shows that the greater right – moral self-determination – trumps any property right.  Property in context only serves moral purpose.

Contextualizing property rights within moral self-determination represents an interesting argument that is not usually discussed in libertarian philosophy. Most property theory derives from the pure logic which results from examining a conflict situation. Property is simply the outcome of applying logic consistently to the nature economic behavior and conflict resolution. We must take an extra step, however, to ask why we care about pure logic. It’s true, the answers come easy: we want a peaceful, orderly society, among other arguments. Still, Channing’s answer is also very compelling.

Channing presents economic activity – what Austrian Economics calls human action – as an outcome of moral purpose. Channing presumes a longing – an ineffable ought – behind human action. The Austrians are somewhat ambivalent here. They admit that there must be some force behind human action, plainly acknowledge it, but they are neutral about what it must be. Channing’s worldview is at least substantively neutral. We are permitted to long for what we choose to long for. Yet, Channing introduces his own sentiments, assuming that there is some common feeling which can be observed as common between people. It is a sense of universal love and aspiration towards personal betterment. Regardless, even he would admit that he himself only wishes for this to be the outcome of society. It was his aspiration to establish a common sense of universal love in the human heart. His pursuit of this aim was through persuasion, not force.

Irrespective of the object of human longing, the presence of a greater, moral impetus behind human action slightly modifies libertarian thought. We can’t just take human purpose for granted and evaluate human action neutrally. Instead, we can observe the consequences of human action, and evaluate whether these consequences are consistent with whatever moral purposes were behind the action. It is a more holistic approach. 

In politics and law, we establish systems to achieve ends. Political thought is rife with discussions of means and ends. However, rarely do we hear about motives. Channing’s worldview focuses first and last on motive, not neglecting means or ends.

Isn’t the slave motivated by the same feelings as the slave master? Do not both aspire to personal happiness as they see fit?

In libertarianism, our belief in freedom of the markets, in combination with the materialistic emphasis of our focus on rational thought, cause most of us to place great weight on the value of material wealth. We shouldn’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that it is material well-being which primarily motivates us as libertarians. 

The values which motivate us as libertarians – or ought to: the commitment to moral self-determination – are why we support free markets and rational thought. The importance of wealth is derivative of economic freedom and reason. 

If wealth must conflict with permitting moral self-determination, we must remain true to our principles. Moral freedom trumps. This is true for an obviously controversial practice such as slavery, but also true for subtler practices. Perhaps there are times when the landlords’ rights might not always trump the squatters’, or at least times when the landlord might discover a heart full of charity.

Libertarianism is odd among economic philosophies in that it values the principle of wealth more than wealth itself. Certainly, this attitude does always not contribute well to the movement’s influence in society.

Slavery in antebellum America existed in a context where the slave trade was considered immoral and abhorrent. There were self-serving reasons why the Southern slavers banned new slave imports (it increased the value of domestic slaves). Even so, the official moral position of the slaver society was that the creation of new slaves was illegal and immoral. Many defenders of slavery insisted that theirs was an inherited, unwanted stewardship over a lesser, unruly people. Even those who saw Africans as essentially equal to Europeans still concluded that the conditions of being raised in slavery would prevent a population from safely integrating into the American system of personal liberty. The slavers argued that they were ultimately guilty of no crime, and the only guilt lay with the original perpetrators who first engaged in the slave trade. Channing addresses this argument.

We have a plain recognition of the principle now laid down, in the universal indignation excited towards a man who makes another his slave. Our laws know no higher crime than that of reducing a man to slavery. To steal or to buy an African on his own shores is piracy. In this act the greatest wrong is inflicted, the most sacred right violated. But if a human being cannot without infinite injustice be seized as property, then he cannot without equal wrong be held and used as such. The wrong in the first seizure lies in the destination of a human being to future bondage, to the criminal use of him as a chattel or brute. Can that very use, which makes the original seizure an enormous wrong, become gradually innocent?

The principle of moral philosophy espoused above deals with chains of guilt. It is an anti-conservative argument. If a situation derives from a crime, some restitution of the original crime, in proportion to that crime, must be undertaken.

In my opinion, calls for federal cash to be doled out as slavery reparations is absurd. However, a more aggressive level of social assistance to impoverished black communities is morally appropriate. From a moral point of view, American society was guilty of coercively immigrating black slaves, then perpetually reaffirming the minority status of their descendants on the basis of skin tone. That deserves a moral redress. It should occur or should have occurred in the form of more engagement. The current strategy for reconciling cultural differences within America takes the form of welfare checks and long-term prison internment, along with various forms of discrimination, nasty and subtle, combined with probably ineffectual academic support.

Much can and should be said about academic affirmative action. The political state of academia is miserable. Affirmative action in education is meant to improve the socio-economic conditions of an underserved community. Instead, young minority students have their resentments intellectually entrenched, while they receive expensive training that is unlikely to improve their future economic condition.

The majority community in America fails both to show mercy and penance adequately, while simultaneously lacking the ability to be tough. Persistent racism clashes with overly agreeable idealistic denial of endogenous problems facing minority communities. Even so, Channing’s appraisal of slavery’s moral status provides us with a moral solution this conundrum.

Morally, most of the problems within black communities have to be solved by black communities. However, it is appropriate to argue that it is impossible to morally disentangle black endogenous guilt from the moral history of the majority community which effectively created the condition of black society within America. It might be easy to say that enough time has passed, that it is now appropriate to leave the black community to solve its own challenges. Yet, the creation of black American society itself is the product of never addressed moral guilt. If immorality was ignored in the past, it cannot also be ignored in the future. Irrespective of the policy questions, the majority culture in America has a special moral obligation to not turn a blind eye to minority struggles.

Generalized, libertarians should not invoke individual rights as a moral absolution of the responsibility to be concerned with the condition of other people. We may not legally owe money or property to redress past social injustices, however, we do owe our concern and effort to help other humans. The spirit of charity should be morally inherent in libertarian philosophy. The reason is simply that justice is imperfect. While we would never go as far as John Rawls does, demanding legal institution of perfect justice, we can acknowledge that history and life are full of messy moral guilt. Therefore, in general, it is good to be charitable to one another. Rawls is partly correct.

The reason why Rawls is wrong lies embedded in Channing’s logic. Past guilt must be redressed in proportion. If modern day practices are just, and we argue that the injustice of past circumstances is the cause for reparations, then we can just as easily argue the reverse. Some portion of past actions may indeed have been perfectly just, and so the existence of some past injustices should not be license for present injustice. Rawls’ logic supports the morality of a general spirit of voluntary charity, as an important personal principle. It doesn’t support coercive reparations.

To reiterate, coercive charity is against libertarian principles, but a spirit of charity as a personal moral impetus ought to be a fundamental aspect of libertarian morality. Again, the reason is that the past is far too messy for anyone to make any absolute claims about justice. There will have been injustices, and will continue to be injustices, and that proposes a moral obligation on all members of society to do what they can to redress what they can.


Another argument against the right of property in man may be drawn from a very obvious principle of moral science. It is a plain truth, universally received, that every right supposes or involves a corresponding Obligation. If, then, a man has a right to another’s person or powers, the latter is under obligation to give himself up as a chattel to the former. This is his Duty.

He is bound to be a slave; … because another has a right of Ownership, has a Moral claim to him, so that he would be guilty of dishonesty, of robbery, in withdrawing himself from this other’s service. … Ought he not, if he can, to place himself and his family under the guardianship of equal laws? Should we blame him for leaving his yoke? Do we not feel, that, in the same condition, a sense of duty would quicken our flying steps? Where, then, is the obligation which would necessarily be imposed, if the right existed which the master claims? The absence of obligation proves the want of the right. The claim is groundless. It is a cruel wrong.”

If a man must be whipped and chained so that he remains a slave, doing what his master commands, then one cannot say that these commands represent the slave’s duty. The way Common Sense philosophy conceives of duty, it is intrinsic and related to rights as a natural foil. If people possess rights themselves, then intrinsically they have an attendant duty to respect the rights of others. 

In libertarian philosophy we focus on that which is coercive. If so-called duty has to be enforced through coercion, then rights can’t exist. In short, no government can claim a moral right to tell anyone what their purpose is, or what they must do to be happy. Progressives claim a moral high ground, believing expert-run government to have a moral impetus to improve society. The unspoken implication is that humans must, by way of moral duty, support and sustain the government’s efforts to create the common good. However, if government doesn’t respect the moral self-determination of its citizens, then citizens have no conceivable obligation to sustain the moral authority of the government. It’s a matter of simply consistency and equality.

Channing, in a later chapter on rights, dismantles the government’s pretense at moral authority. Specifically, he discusses whether claims at improving the common good can supplant rights.

Rights are made to depend on circumstances, so that pretences may easily be made or created for violating them successively, till none shall remain. Human rights have been represented as so modified and circumscribed by men’s entrance into the social state, that only the shadows of them are left. They have been spoken of as absorbed in the public good; so that a man may be innocently enslaved, if the public good shall so require.

Still the question will be asked, ‘Is not the General Good the supreme law of the state? Are not all restraints on the individual just, which this demands? When the rights of the individual clash with this, must they not yield? Do they not, indeed, cease to be rights? Must not every thing give place to the General Good?’ I have started this question in various forms, because I deem it worthy of particular examination. Public and private morality, the freedom and safety of our national institutions, are greatly concerned in settling the claims of the ‘General Good.’ In monarchies, the Divine Right of kings swallowed up all others. In republics the General Good threatens the same evil.

What, then, are the consequences of making the building of the “General Good” the supreme law of the land?

It is a shelter for the abuses and usurpations of government, for the profligacies of statesmen, for the vices of parties, for the wrongs of slavery. In considering this subject, I take the hazard of repeating principles already laid down; but this will be justified by the importance of reaching and determining the truth. Is the General Good, then, the supreme law to which every thing must bow?

Yet, if the common good is not to be the supreme aim of the state, what ought to be?

The supreme law of a state is not its safety, its power, its prosperity, its affluence, the flourishing state of agriculture, commerce, and the arts. These objects, constituting what is commonly called the Public Good, are, indeed, proposed, and ought to be proposed, in the constitution and administration of states. But there is a higher law, even Virtue, Rectitude, the Voice of Conscience, the Will of God. Justice is a greater good than property, not greater in degree, but in kind. Universal benevolence is infinitely superior to prosperity. Religion, the love of God, is worth incomparably more than all his outward gifts. A community, to secure or aggrandize itself, must never forsake the Right, the Holy, the Just.

Moral Good, Rectitude in all its branches, is the Supreme Good; by which I do not intend that it is the surest means to the security and prosperity of the state. Such, indeed, it is, but this is too low a view. It must not be looked upon as a Means, an Instrument. It is the Supreme End, and states are bound to subject to it all their legislation, be the apparent loss of prosperity ever so great.

Channing boldly asserts what might be called the deontological argument over the consequentalist view of libertarianism. Yet, I believe he transcends the debate. By framing morality as an end, not a means, naturally Channing’s view opposed consequentialism. Yet, in Channing’s perspective moral rectitude is almost an economic product. It is not material, and yet, it is the outcome of a life dedicated to laboring for self-improvement. A society must labor, through education, endurance, mutual support and amidst material activity, to uphold moral principles. In this light, his argument is partly consequentialist. Since morals are the desired product and outcome of society, then moral consistency is the means to produce them. Moral rectitude is a consequence of moral self-improvement. 

This argument may appear pedantic, even tautological to committed philosophical skeptics. Even so, the aim of Common Sense philosophy is to harmonize is and ought and consider them together. Morality is not merely perfecting our obedience to an arbitrary set of rules, to Common Sense thinkers, morality is harmonizing natural laws with inborne desires, and self-derived aspirations. Morality is inclusive of material ends, contextualizing them with human motives that inspire, incentivize and produce material ends.

If we exalt morality as the great End of human action, we are merely exalting our motivation for pursuing material ends along with the ends themselves.

My questions for all communists who wish to build heaven on Earth is: and then what, for what purpose, and, how do you know? The same can be said concerning the frailty of the consequentialist position.

Channing continues his discussion of society’s purpose and why the state’s infringement of rights cannot be justified by appeals to the common good. He addresses the idea of the state using its power to support national economic well-being.

“National wealth is not the End. It derives all its worth from national virtue. If accumulated by rapacity, conquest, or any degrading means, or if concentrated in the hands of the few, whom it strengthens to crush the many, it is a curse. National wealth is a blessing, only when it springs from and represents the intelligence and virtue of the community, when it is a fruit and expression of good habits, of respect for the rights of all, of impartial and beneficent legislation, when it gives impulse to the higher faculties, and occasion and incitement to justice and beneficence. No greater calamity can befall a people than to prosper by crime. No success can be a compensation for the wound inflicted on a nation’s mind by renouncing Right as its Supreme Law.”

It is interesting that Channing’s frame of the moral background to national wealth so closely refers to early 21st century economic malaise in America. Wealth which has accumulated contrary to the virtue of the nation, via empire, exploitation and greed, leads to negative outcomes. In other words, exploitative systems are fragile, unsustainable, and only benefit a few. So-called virtuous wealth is gained when a system is anti-fragile. Channing correlates his notion of virtuous wealth to a well-developed level of human capital, balanced institutions, a healthy distribution of wealth, and so forth. Even a consequentialist or a minarchist libertarian would agree that de-centralized economies with strong human capital are more likely to produce a better standard of living.

In Common Sense morality, virtue and consequence are harmonious concepts. That which is good is that which is natural and vice versa. Channing doesn’t propose a list of arbitrary moral precepts which must be followed. His morality requires that moral precepts must be continually adjusted to remain in harmony with natural consequences. Morality is the great End, but it is meant as a product of what is naturally right, and should contribute to what is naturally good.

After discussing the importance of putting morals before money, Channing discusses the dangers of doing the opposite. In doing so, he offers a stunning rebuke of policy wonkery and state economic intervention – over a century before public choice theory, and a half-century before laissez-faire economic theory.

Let a people exalt Prosperity above Rectitude, and a more dangerous end cannot be proposed. Public Prosperity, General Good, regarded by itself, or apart from the moral law, is something vague, unsettled, and uncertain, and will infallibly be so construed by the selfish and grasping as to secure their own aggrandizement. It may be made to wear a thousand forms according to men’s interests and passions. This is illustrated by every day’s history. Not a party springs up, which does not sanctify all its projects for monopolizing power by the plea of General Good. Not a measure, however ruinous, can be proposed, which cannot be shown to favor one or another national interest. The truth is, that, in the uncertainty of human affairs, an uncertainty growing out of the infinite and very subtile causes which are acting on communities, the consequences of no measure can be foretold with certainty. The best concerted schemes of policy often fail; whilst a rash and profligate administration may, by unexpected concurrences of events, seem to advance a nation’s glory. In regard to the means of national prosperity the wisest are weak judges. For example, the present rapid growth of this country, carrying, as it does, vast multitudes beyond the institutions of religion and education, may be working ruin, whilst the people exult in it as a pledge of greatness. We are too short-sighted to find our law in outward interests. To states, as to individuals, Rectitude is the Supreme Law. It was never designed that the Public Good, as disjoined from this, as distinct from justice and reverence for all rights, should be comprehended and made our end. Statesmen work in the dark, until the idea of Right towers above expediency or wealth. Wo to that people which would found its prosperity in wrong! It is time that the low maxims of policy, which have ruled for ages, should fall. It is time that Public Interest should no longer hallow injustice, and fortify government in making the weak their prey.

In summary, Channing says that people are stupid and planners never get it right. To base a government off of planning for the public good is to see plans fail, and in this vacuum, special interest assert itself. For this reason, governments are only really equipped to protect rights, and let the people use them to create the common good on their own. For Channing, morality is that which is common and clear.

What about pragmatism?

Perhaps it will be replied to all which has now been said, that there is an argument from experience, which invalidates the doctrines of this section. It may be said, that human rights, notwithstanding what has been said of their sacredness, do and must yield to the exigencies of real life, that there is often a stern necessity in human affairs to which they bow. [During a crisis] All rights are involved in the safety of the state; and hence, in the cases referred to, the safety of the state becomes the supreme law.”

If rights are conceded to the state, then the state’s self-preservation and self-serving interest are made supreme. If a crisis becomes too big for society to solve, it’s unlikely the state itself – with its coercive power – would be any better at solving it. When civil society faces a crisis, it seeks to save itself. If it fails to do so, it may turn to the state. However, the state would react in the same way – it will act to save itself. The state will not save civil society, if civil society itself gives up.

After his discussion of property, including how rights relate to humans-as-property, Channing devotes an entire chapter to rights themselves. This section is the most instructive of his treatise.

First, Channing defines rights as intrinsic to man’s nature as a moral being. As previously discussed, rights are not meant to be thought of as entitlements, but rather as instruments or abilities. He connects rights and duties as unified, co-dependent concepts. A basic conception of general rights can be used to deduce specific rights.

Man’s rights belong to him as a Moral Being, as capable of perceiving moral distinctions, as a subject of moral obligation. As soon as he becomes conscious of Duty, a kindred consciousness springs up, that he has a Right to do what the sense of duty enjoins, and that no foreign will or power can obstruct his moral action without crime.

The sense of duty is the fountain of human rights. In other words, the same inward principle, which teaches the former, bears witness to the latter. Duties and Rights must stand or fall together. It has been too common to oppose them to one another; but they are indissolubly joined together. That same inward principle, which teaches a man what he is bound to do to others, teaches equally, and at the same instant, what others are bound to do to him. That same voice, which forbids him to injure a single fellow-creature, forbids every fellow-creature to do him harm. His conscience, in revealing the moral law, does not reveal a law for himself only, but speaks as a Universal Legislator. He has an intuitive conviction, that the obligations of this divine code press on others as truly as on himself. … Accordingly there is no deeper principle in human nature than the consciousness of rights. So profound, so ineradicable is this sentiment, that the oppressions of ages have no where wholly stifled it.”

I have always felt that individualism is less selfish than collectivism. Individualism is not egoism. It, instead, perceives humans in general as having an individual existence. The implications of individualism to the self pertain also to all other human beings. An individualist who demands certain rights would also intrinsically accede those same rights to all others. Collectivists on the other hand, are quick to harm and hurt individuals in the name of a common good. The collective good is meant to benefit individuals, and yet, great harm to individuals is a frequent product of efforts to establish the collective good. Anecdotally, collectivist societies tend to be more superficial and face oriented. Charity is a phenomenon that applies when others are looking. Individualist societies tend to express charity even when no one is watching.


What are our rights? Channing offers an answer.

Volumes could not do justice to them; and yet perhaps they may be comprehended in one sentence. They may all be comprised in the Right, which belongs to every rational being, to exercise his powers for the promotion of his own and others’ Happiness and Virtue. As every human being is bound to employ his faculties for his own and others’ good, there is an obligation on each to leave all free for the accomplishment of this end; and whoever respects this obligation, whoever uses his own, without invading others’ powers, or obstructing others’ duties, has a sacred, indefeasible right to be unassailed, unobstructed, unharmed by all with whom he may be connected. Here is the grand, all-comprehending right of human nature. Every man should revere it, should assert it for himself and for all, and should bear solemn testimony against every infraction of it, by whomsoever made or endured.

Rights are related to the non-aggression principle. As stated at the beginning of this article, the value of human life is a product of an individual subjective assertion. Logically, all subjective assertion is equal, and so the value of all human life must also be equal. Our own promotion of our own and others’ happiness is a choice that is equally valid between all humans, thus we have a right to it, and also a duty to honor others’ right to it.

Channing also explains how this principle can lead to the derivation of specific rights, concluding with a condemnation of slavery for violating them.

Having considered the great fundamental right of human nature, particular rights may easily be deduced. Every man has a right to exercise and invigorate his intellect or the power of knowledge, for knowledge is the essential condition of successful effort for every good; and whoever obstructs or quenches the intellectual life in another inflicts a grievous and irreparable wrong. Every man has a right to inquire into his duty, and to conform himself to what he learns of it. Every man has a right to use the means, given by God and sanctioned by virtue, for bettering his condition. He has a right to be respected according to his moral worth; a right to be regarded as a member of the community to which he belongs, and to be protected by impartial laws; and a right to be exempted from coercion, stripes, and punishment, as long as he respects the rights of others. He has a right to an equivalent for his labor. He has a right to sustain domestic relations, to discharge their duties, and to enjoy the happiness which flows from fidelity in these and other domestic relations. Such are a few of human rights; and if so, what a grievous wrong is slavery!

A government or system which does not leave man free to pursue his own happiness has no moral justification. Moreover, not only must man be free, but specifically he must be permitted broad and particular freedoms which relate directly to that pursuit. The implication of freedom to pursue own’s own happiness is a set of uncountable shackles on government.

Channing describes the ideal government.

That government is most perfect, in which Policy is most entirely subjected to Justice, or in which the supreme and constant aim is to secure the rights of every human being. This is the beautiful idea of a free government, and no government is free but in proportion as it realizes this. Liberty must not be confounded with popular institutions. A representative government may be as despotic as an absolute monarchy. In as far as it tramples on the rights, whether of many or one, it is a despotism. The sovereign power, whether wielded by a single hand or several hands, by a king or a congress, which spoils one human being of the immunities and privileges bestowed on him by God, is so far a tyranny.

Democracy is not inherently good, and Channing explains why representative government even matters at all from the perspective of liberty – something American liberty lovers, and liberty lovers around the world ought not forget.

The great argument in favor of representative institutions is, that a people’s rights are safest in their own hands, and should never be surrendered to an irresponsible power. Rights, Rights, lie at the foundation of a popular government; and when this betrays them, the wrong is more aggravated than when they are crushed by despotism.”

If a people lose the ability to withdraw consent from a governmental system, then that system is not consistent with liberty. The degree to which a government relies on voluntary consent rather than coercion, is the degree to which it is consistent with liberty. Wherever one stands on the spectrum of support for state power, this principle is true. A government can always be either more free or less free than it presently is simply by becoming less or more coercive in achieving its ends.


Channing concludes with his most powerful argument against the holding of men as property. He assumes, as always, the equality of men in determining for themselves what is right. However, he also injects his own aspirational hopes for how men should use their moral agency, as part of his subjective interpretation of what men are by nature. In contrast to modern day progressive politics, Channing’s desire for society to improve is based on hopeful aspiration combined with persuasion, through appealing to a common hope in equally morally sovereign fellow human beings. By emphasizing the moral sovereignty of human beings – himself counted among them – he obliterates any possible argument that defends slavery.

I come now to what is to my own mind the great argument against seizing and using a man as property. He cannot be property in the sight of God and justice, because he is a Rational, Moral, Immortal Being; because [he is] created in God’s image, and therefore in the highest sense his child; because created to unfold Godlike faculties, and to govern himself by a Divine Law written on his heart, and republished in God’s Word.

Into every human being God has breathed an immortal spirit more precious than the whole outward creation. No earthly or celestial language can exaggerate the worth of a human being. No matter how obscure his condition. Thought, Reason, Conscience, the capacity of Virtue, the capacity of Christian Love, an Immortal Destiny, an intimate moral connexion with God,—here are attributes of our common humanity which reduce to insignificance all outward distinctions, and make every human being unspeakably dear to his Maker.

The capacity of Improvement allies him to the more instructed of his race, and places within his reach the knowledge and happiness of higher worlds. Every human being has in him the germ of the greatest Idea in the universe, the Idea of God; and to unfold this is the end of his existence. Every human being has in his breast the elements of that Divine, Everlasting Law, which the highest orders of the creation obey. He has the Idea of Duty; and to unfold, revere, obey this is the very purpose for which life was given. Every human being has the Idea of what is meant by that word, Truth; that is, he sees, however dimly, the great object of Divine and created intelligence, and is capable of ever-enlarging perceptions of Truth. Every human being has affections, which may be purified and expanded into a Sublime Love. He has, too, the Idea of Happiness, and a thirst for it which cannot be appeased. Such is our nature. Wherever we see a man, we see the possessor of these great capacities. Did God make such a being to be owned as a tree or a brute? How plainly was he made to exercise, unfold, improve his highest powers, made for a moral, spiritual good! and how is he wronged, and his Creator opposed, when he is forced and broken into a tool to another’s physical enjoyment!

Such a being was plainly made for an End in Himself. He is a Person, not a Thing. He is an End, not a mere Instrument or Means. He was made for his own virtue and happiness. Is this end reconcilable with his being held and used as a chattel? The sacrifice of such a being to another’s will, to another’s present, outward, ill-comprehended good, is the greatest violence which can be offered to any creature of God. It is to degrade him from his rank in the universe, to make him a means, not an end, to cast him out from God’s spiritual family into the brutal herd.”

Channing exalts man’s consciousness of morality and hope, invoking what in my opinion is actually a double-edged sword of moral consciousness. A tree or rock has no happiness, no sense of purpose, no agency and consequently no rights. There is no inherent moral crime in chopping a tree or smashing a rock, nor do either protest. Humans, on the other hand, are quite upset when their lives are threatened, and tend to act aggressively to protect their own existence. Humans perceive a meaning to life, and the possibility of happiness. Nevertheless, the human desire to live and the human sense of happiness only exist within the human mind as a subjective assertion, and only matter because human will self-asserts the importance of human life. Take away the subjective human agent, and human life has no meaning. In other words, human life is meaningless until humans assert life’s meaning.

Philosophically, asserting meaning for life when that meaning is found only from within (and not out in nature), is an act of creation. In this sense, even a secular mind can appreciate the metaphor that man is in God’s image. Human action itself is an assertion of meaning, the creation of meaning – taking internal truth and attempting to externalize it. Human action is therefore sacred. 

If human action is not sacred, then nothing on Earth can be sacred. Therefore, to take a man who is capable of divine action – the conception and pursuit of meaning – and deny him his own path to that meaning is a nullification of meaning itself. To say that a man cannot create meaning, is to admit that you yourself must also not be so able. To say that man creates meaning, but to deny him that right, is ugly sin.

The deeply religious should understand the meaning of man being in God’s image. Nature – creation – was born and will die, it is temporal, dust, and must fade. The goal of the religious is to seek both eternal life and union with God’s presence, and this goal is nothing short of aspiring to higher meaning that transcends that which is temporal or arbitrary. In philosophy, it is simply a quest to justify the idea that life is at least something more that totally meaningless.

Channing’s emphasis on religious, lofty sentiments is appropriate to his task. In arguing against slavery, he saves his best argument for last. Channing connects the lowest aspects of human nature to its highest. He proves that the conditions which might justify moral coercion cannot exist. Though many humans are brutish, ignorant, low and so forth, they possess a spark of awareness that objects and creatures do not. 

Humans perceive meaning to life and seek out the fulfillment of life’s purpose. This connects them automatically to the highest possible aspirations any mere man could conceive. While the ignorant might not consider lofty philosophy in their daily choices, nevertheless, there is nothing that the greatest philosopher or sermonizer could invoke that is outside of the scope of what the lowest man can connect with. The implications to morality are clear. Men are equal.

The simple way of summarizing Channing’s argument is to say that human life is sacred. Life includes the individual perception and pursuit of life’s meaning, since it is individuals who self-endow their lives with a sacred character. The desire to live is all it takes. Likewise, the desire to be free is all that is required for a man or creature to deserve freedom. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for anyone who asserts their own freedom. 

Any slaver or government which denies the human desire for freedom and moral independence, denies the fundamental value of human life. Human life becomes arbitrary. That’s no way to go.

It is interesting that Channing, in arguing against slavery by invoking moral principles, so often digresses through the same reasoning to rebuke what is now called progressive politics. Libertarians should come to understand that the same moral reasoning which argues against slavery also argues against progressivism. By the same logic, progressive morality ultimately could justify slavery. The progressive opposition to slavery lies entirely with an inconsistent and logically detached appeal to empathy, focusing on the subjective pain and distress felt as part of the experience of being a slave. If, then, slavery could facilitate the comfort and pleasure of the slaves, would progressives support it?  The answer must be yes.

Progressivism is slavery exactly, if we imagine a non-existent world where slaves, by having their material needs taken care of, were consequently happy. Yet, there’s a reason why slaves experienced physical pains and emotional distress, which is intimately connected to the moral nature of slavery. As discussed at length in this article, moral self-sovereignty is the right to pursue happiness no more nor less. Abandon that principle, and power inequality will, through violence and accidental outcomes, develop systems of exploitation where happiness is crushed. Whether we observe this in systems of slavery or within communist states, it is the same. Progressivism is merely the first step on the path.

In understanding rights, libertarians perceive an important truth. With is and ought reconciled inside the individual, the common truth of society is clear. Economic action services moral action. Moral action is sacred, inviolable. This is should be the basis of libertarian thought, and the guiding principle of human society.


Why Politicians Do What They Do

No Case for Closed Borders

Anyone who thinks the coronavirus pandemic destroys the case for open borders hasn’t thought the matter through terribly far. Bryan Caplan explains here. Just to give a taste, in the name of excluding viruses from our shores, the government would have to stop immigration even when no pandemic was in progress since pandemics can’t be counted on to announce themselves in advance. Moreover, tourism, commercial visits, and trade would have to be abolished too. And — yikes! — so would American travel abroad unless Americans were willing to leave home and never return.

One last thing: since we have nothing even close to open borders, Caplan writes, “How much protection have 98% closed borders given us against the pandemic?  The answer: Virtually none…. The sad fact is that even very low absolute levels of international contact have been more than sufficient to spread infection almost everywhere on Earth. The marginal cost of higher levels of contact is therefore minimal.”

Liberty is a necessity, not a luxury — even during serious pandemics.

Why Politicians Do What They Do

An Approach to Collective Problems

Libertarian political philosophy, as a practical matter, does not offer a prefabricated set of solutions to collective problems. Rather, it’s a liberty-based approach to ameliorating collective problems that begins by acknowledging (among other things) the dispersion, incompleteness, and tacit dimension of relevant knowledge. Thus, the approach favors decentralization, competition (in ideas and services), and choice about what trade-offs to make and with whom to cooperate. Perhaps ironically, to succeed, individualism requires and produces the collective intelligence that only markets embody.

TGIF: Libertarianism in Emergencies

TGIF: Libertarianism in Emergencies

Libertarians have always acknowledged that emergencies — severe extraordinary conditions of limited duration — can justify actions that would be unacceptable under normal circumstances. This doesn’t mean that all the rights-based rules disappear, only that some measures are deemed permissible that otherwise would be beyond the pale. Danger, however, lurks in this principle, requiring eternal vigilance.

For example, if someone collapses unconscious in the street, you may do things intended to help him without his consent. This does not justify a general policy of paternalism. Another common hypothetical is that of the person caught in a life-threatening blizzard in the wilderness who happens on a cabin (which, let us say for simplicity’s sake, is unoccupied at the time). To save his life, the stranger breaks in, builds a fire, and eats the food. No reasonable person would fault him for not first seeking permission of the owner. What happens after the emergency passes is an interesting topic for discussion — should he offer compensation? should the property owner demand and accept it? — but let’s not get into that now. (Yes, the hypothetical could be made far more complicated than mine, but that’s also for another time.) Yet this cannot justify the abolition of property rights.

We might call those situations micro emergencies. They affect one individual or a few, while other people may experience nothing extraordinary at all. So what about a macro — society-wide or global — emergency — a widespread epidemic, let’s say? I can’t see why the principle of emergencies would not hold. The aim of ethics (politics being a subset) is human flourishing, not blind slavishness to duty.

Unfortunately this might mean that in today’s world — where a dangerous communicable disease threatens to overwhelm the medical system — governments would reasonably have freer rein to do things than they have in normal times. Most people would expect that to be the case and, moreover, would want it that way. I say unfortunately not only for reasons obvious to libertarians but also because the existence of the state has over a long period impeded and even forbidden the gradual spontaneous emergence of alternative, protean, voluntary public-health and mutual-aid institutions that would be better suited to responding to pandemics (and other disasters) than the centralized collection of politicians and bureaucrats we call the state. To see the point, you need only meditate on the leading government public-health agencies’ prolonged botching of the matter of coronavirus testing. (Although it’s been stretched nearly beyond recognition for obvious public-choice reasons, public health is a legitimate concept in light of the existence of serious communicable diseases.)

That we must regretfully do without those alternative institutions in the present emergency (although not entirely) should teach everyone a lesson for the future. But what can we do now? A libertarian who says he would “push the button” and at once abolish the state (or in the case of a limited-government libertarian, merely eliminate the welfare state) has little of value to say today. Does he think that alternative voluntary institutions would spring into existence? Institutions — and the constellation of customs and expectations they embody — need time to grow. I’m not saying that people working together consensually wouldn’t do much good on their own in the meantime — they are doing so now — but the limits in the short term would be significant.

Besides, no such button exists, so why would we even talk about it? A radical scaling back of the state at this time would not find widespread support, so even if it could be pulled off, it would quickly be reversed because, like it or not, most people regard the (welfare) state as legitimate, even if they have objections to various parts of it.

So we’re stuck with the state as it is in this emergency. Where does that leave us? Some restrictions on normal activities will be regarded as reasonable, targeted quarantines, for example. That doesn’t mean we should suspend judgment and accept every restriction the politicians or bureaucrats come up with. (What’s with the curfew? Where’s the necessary connection with banning gatherings?) An emergency is no time to abandon one’s critical faculties. Nevertheless, things that would and should be condemned in normal times will reasonably be deemed acceptable — with regrets — even by libertarians for the duration of the emergency. Exactly what all those things might be I’m in no position to say with any confidence. A reasonable restriction could certainly be pushed too far. How far is too far? It’s not always clear, although we’ll often know it when we see it. We will be in an improvisational mode for some time to come — which is why decentralization, competition, and openness to information from far and wide should be the rule of the day. (See this.)

Of course, libertarians have a critical public role at this time. First, we should never cease to point out that much of what the government has done to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic has been in the nature of suspending restrictions on private conduct essential to responding in this emergency. The loosening of restrictions regarding trade, medical practice (including testing and tele-medicine), vaccine development, occupational licensing, and more demonstrates how routine and commonly accepted government activity has dangerously hampered the private sector’s ability to anticipate and react to the pandemic. (Unfortunately restrictions on the price system, specifically, anti-price-gouging laws, are still in force. Trump has reinforced this.) When this is all over we must not let society forget how government stood in the way. What grounds could possibly exist for reinstating those restrictions that threatened our lives during the pandemic? They and others should be permanently repealed.

Second, we ought to be showing people that markets work in emergencies and that we need them more than ever. When hand sanitizer (which was not in common use a few decades ago) ran short, distilleries started making it. Hanes turned from making underwear to making masks. I’m sure other examples could be found. What if the whiskey and underwear industries had been shut down as nonessential? No bureaucrat can know all of the “nonessential” production required to support “essential” production. F. A. Hayek’s insights about the market solution to the ubiquitous “knowledge problem” are more important than ever.

Our very lives depend on entrepreneurship, which is alertness to overlooked opportunities to improve people’s well-being by transforming scarce resources from a less-valued to a more-valued form. Profit is not the only thing that motivates entrepreneurship, particularly in emergencies, but we must not discount its vital role. Thus “people before profits” is a false dichotomy that has devastating consequences, especially for the most vulnerable. (Profits from rent-seeking, that is, government favoritism, is what we should condemn.) When markets are free, serving others is profitable. Thus Trump should not use the Defense Production Act to command manufacturing. The price system is a faithful guide to action that helps others. Let it work. A corollary: globalization, the kind that is unguided by governments, is good and is saving lives now. The welfare-enhancing division of labor is limited by the extent of the market, Adam Smith wrote.

Besides suppression of the coronavirus we need the production of wealth, but only savings and investment through markets can produce new wealth for everyone (as opposed to special interests only). Government produces only the illusion of wealth by conjuring up apparent purchasing power through money creation — raising the price of what’s already been produced — and moving existing resources around — inevitably creating fertile ground for cronyism, pork-barrelism, and electioneering — while consuming a large share in the process. Everyone will pay a huge price for the government’s promiscuous fiscal and monetary “stimulus” — which could conceivably be far worse than the coronavirus.

To state the obvious, we must find the best balance of mitigation of the spread of the virus and economic activity, which itself is required to conquer the disease. We have no grounds for confidence that politicians and bureaucrats can find this balance. Decentralization, with many information-generating centers, is indispensable. And let’s not forget that “the vulnerable” include not only the medically vulnerable but also the economically vulnerable. (Also see this.)

Unfortunately, American governments have shut down much market activity. (Strangely, “socialist” Sweden has not shuttered businesses and prohibited gatherings.) So what can we do now? I’m persuaded that mass testing would pave the way for the resumption of more or less normal market activities, for it would identify those who have the virus antibodies and thus constitute no danger to others. (See this and this.)

Third, advocates of liberty and respect for people should demand that the U.S. government end all economic sanctions against other countries. In normal times, economic warfare is crueler than cruel since it deprives blameless people — not rulers — of food, medicines, and other necessities. Can you imagine what sanctions are doing now?

Fourth, libertarians should demand that any government emergency spending ought to come first from the so-called national-security budget, which, if you count everything, comes to over a trillion dollars a year. Liquidating the empire should be the order of the day. It’s always been bad for Americans’ and other people’s health.

Fifth, we libertarians must teach our fellow men and women about what Robert Higgs has named the “ratchet effect.” This is the well-documented phenomenon that extraordinary, intrusive government measures adopted during a crisis do not go away entirely once the crisis ends. (For details, see Higgs’s classic, Crisis and Leviathan: Critic Episodes in the Growth of American Government.) We can’t let the extraordinary become ordinary.

Sixth and related, libertarians must help people to understand that measures adopted during a bona fide emergency are unacceptable in other circumstances. Politicians and bureaucrats might enjoy their expanded powers in a crisis and so might try to invoke them under more typical conditions — but we cannot let the bar be lowered.

We must not let our society come to see restrictions on individual liberty as the new normal. This is an emergency, and we must not forget it.


TGIF: Despite Appearances, ‘Price Gouging’ Helps People in Distress

TGIF: Despite Appearances, ‘Price Gouging’ Helps People in Distress

[This article originally appeared on the American Institute for Economic Research website on September 12, 2017.]

Critics of the free economy often complain that the market fails to “behave” as economic theory predicts. Hence the voluminous literature on “market failure” (which sparked a substantial public choice literature on “government failure” and the need for comparative institutional analysis).

But critics also fault the free economy for behaving exactly as the theory predicts. Hence the outcry against “price gouging” during natural and manmade disasters.

The market is damned when it works and damned when it appears not to.

Price gouging is the common pejorative for sharp price increases when, as a disaster looms, the demand for consumer goods — such as gasoline, batteries, and bottled water — rises abruptly. The phenomenon is so widely despised that many states and localities have outlawed or limited such price spikes.

Those spikes are predicted by economic theory. The law of supply and demand anticipates that an increase in demand relative to supply will (other things being equal) cause the price to rise. During Hurricane Harvey, $20 a gallon for gas and $99 a case for water were reported.

What upsets people is that the law kicks in at full force when the demand for gasoline, batteries, and bottled water is especially acute. An impending disaster prompts consumers to stockpile goods for fear that they will not be able to buy them later. Because conditions are abnormal, competition can’t be counted on immediately to limit price increases.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed what many people feel: “Unfortunately, in the wake of the damage from storms and flooding, we … see bad actors taking advantage of victims and their circumstances.” As Hurricane Irma was bearing down on Florida, state Attorney General Pam Bondi declared she had “zero tolerance. If you are a bad business going after our citizens, we’re going to go after you with everything we’ve got.” To owners of offending convenience stores, she promised to “pull your franchise.”

Appearances of exploitation can deceive, however. Let’s begin with the obvious: so-called price gouging arises during impending emergencies in which, by definition, no good alternatives exist. People who condemn gouging imply the choice is between plentiful supplies at low prices and plentiful supplies at high prices. But the first alternative is not available. The real choice is between no goods at a low price and some goods at a high price. Government threats do nothing to increase the supply — but they may well keep the supply from increasing, making a bad situation even worse.

Bondi told CNN that charging $30 for water is wrong because “there’s plenty of water throughout this country.” But water in other states could do Texans and Floridians no good unless someone chose to transport it to the hurricane zones. Policy makers need to ask themselves whether people in other states are more or less likely to do so if they risk prosecution for charging too much. The answer is obvious. Why would anyone take extraordinary risks if they couldn’t charge much more than they could charge at home? We may wish that people would risk their lives for strangers, but how many of those who condemn price gouging undertake that risk themselves?

If the objective is to get badly needed supplies to people in need, it would be better to take human nature as we find it and accept that the profit motive is the most powerful inducement we know for getting goods delivered to those who need it. How comforting is the knowledge that, although people will go without those goods, at least no price gouging occurred?

When critics rail against gouging, they often appeal to the virtue of charity and call on everyone to sacrifice for those who face extraordinary hardship because of emergencies. However, those critics fail to understand that the law of supply and demand encourages the very sacrifice they call for. When prices spike, consumers naturally cut back on their purchases, forgoing what they regard as the most trivial uses of goods. By doing so, they leave more for others — which is what the gouging critics say they want. If prices remained at the old, lower level, consumers at the front of the line would buy more than they would have at higher prices, leaving less for those at the back of the line. We have no reason to think the poor have better access to goods when the government imposes price ceilings.

Note also that if profit-seeking entrepreneurs in other states moved goods to afflicted areas, even consumers in unaffected areas would be encouraged to cut back. Thus the sacrifice would be spread throughout the country.

Limited supplies might go further by restricting purchases through an honor system for consumers or through arbitrary limits on purchases, but neither of those alternatives would bring new supplies to the marketplace.

The question remains: do we want to feel good, or do we want people to have the goods they need?

TGIF — The Goal Is Freedom — appears occasionally on Fridays.

Can the Government Restrict Travel to Protect Public Health?

Can the Government Restrict Travel to Protect Public Health?

The issue of whether government in America can quarantine persons against their will, ostensibly for their own health and that of others with whom they may come in contact, requires a dual analysis — one of the powers of the federal government and the other of the powers of the states. For constitutional analysis purposes, since local and regional governments derive their powers from the states in which they are located, the analysis of state powers pertains to them as well.

We begin our analysis with the observation of the truism that freedom is the default position. The language of the Declaration of Independence, as well as various amendments in the Bill of Rights, unambiguously reflects the views that those who wrote, ratified and amended the Constitution recognized that our rights — to think, speak, publish, worship, defend ourselves, travel, own property, be left alone — are natural to our humanity.

These rights preexisted the government. Their source is our humanity. Government does not grant these rights. Rather, its primary purpose — as stated in the Declaration of Independence, its sole purpose — is to protect these rights.

Though the courts have interpreted the Constitution to possess lamentable exceptions, the framers and ratifiers arguably accepted the non-aggression principle — articulated in the modern era by the late Professor Murray Rothbard — which declares that all aggression against persons and property even by government is immoral.

In the case of the federal government, it is one of limited, delegated powers. Of course, 230 years of legislation and litigation have blown its powers outside the confines of the Constitution and, invariably, in the direction of expanding federal power at the expense of personal liberty and the states.

The states formed the federal government and not the other way around. Yet today, the feds stay in power by bribing the states with cash grants, the rich with bailouts, the middle class with tax breaks and the poor with transfer payments. Notwithstanding all this, the courts continue to recognize the concept of personal liberty in a free society.

All this is background to the issue lurking beneath the headlines this week. Can the government quarantine people without proof of contagion and imminent assault? The short answer is no.

We know that, under the Fifth Amendment, if any government — state or federal — wants to impair the life, liberty or property of any person, it must follow due process. Due process has two components — substantive and procedural. The substantive component asks if the impairment of liberty is proper to the government that seeks the impairment, and the procedural component asks if the impairment has come about fairly.

Now back to what the feds can do and what the states can do in a public health crisis. There are no emergency provisions or triggers in the Constitution; yet, Congress gave itself the power to regulate public health and safety under various pretexts. The pretexts exist because the nanny state urge of members of Congress to regulate is confronted by the reservation in the Tenth Amendment of health and safety to the states. Those pretexts are regulating commerce and all that affects commerce, and paying the states to do Congress’ will.

Stated differently, the Supreme Court has ruled that both the federal government and the states can confine a person who has not committed a crime, or one who has but has served one’s full sentence, in order to protect society from the person’s intentional or uncontrollable harmful tendencies.

It is contrary to the plain meaning of the Constitution for Congress to give itself powers that were not delegated to it by the Constitution, but the courts have permitted this. Yet, even in the case of a lunatic who has committed a crime and served his full sentence but remains dangerous, the courts have recognized constitutional safeguards to protect his natural rights.

Now back to our question of whether the government — state or federal — can confine persons against their will in order to protect public health. The short answer is yes, but the Constitution requires procedural due process. That means a trial for every person confined.

Thus, a government-ordered quarantine of all persons in a city block or a postal ZIP code or a telephone area code would be an egregious violation of due process, both substantive and procedural. Substantively, no government in America has the lawful power to curtail natural rights by decree.

Procedurally, notwithstanding the fear of disease contagion, the states and feds may only quarantine those who are actively contagious and will infect others imminently. And it must present evidence of both at a trial at which it bears the burden of proof.

While the non-aggression principle permits offensive aggression in self-defense when an attack is imminent and certain, that is a high standard for the government to meet, as it should be. Freedom — even the freedom of a madman or a dangerously sick and contagious person — is the default position. Infringing upon it without procedural due process is always constitutionally impermissible.

The Constitution was not written for the government to right every wrong. We know that government itself causes most wrongs — the theft of property by taxation, the impairment of economic liberty by regulation, the slaughter of innocents by war, the infringement of expressive liberties by majority vote. Yet, the Constitution still mandates an exacting due process for all whom the government would restrain.

That means a trial before any quarantine, no matter the public danger, and a fair trial, not one animated by mass hysteria or government-generated fear.

Reprinted from the Tenth Amendment Center.

Greater Idaho Movement Is the Latest Indicator of a Shift toward Decentralization

Greater Idaho Movement Is the Latest Indicator of a Shift toward Decentralization

Recently disgruntled residents of rural counties in southwest Oregon have been organizing a petition to move Idaho’s border westward to form a “Greater Idaho” that could also potentially include parts of Northern California. This petition mirrors a recent proposal in Virginia in which rural countries in the state would separate and join West Virginia in protest of Virginia’s latest push for gun control. In both cases, rural residents would have the option of joining states that align more with their cultural and political values.

Although not secession per se, the Oregon/Idaho border readjustment is a sign of the growing discontentment many Americans have with the political jurisdictions they live under. The impulse toward border realignment is to be expected given how some states have cities or metropolitan areas that completely dominate the political scene while the rest of the state is shunned. We observe this with New York City and Chicago: both cities suck up the majority of the political energy of their respective states. Oregon’s rural constituents share the same enmity toward Portland.

Mike McCarter, president of Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, pulled no punches when airing his grievances with Oregon politics. He noted that “Oregon is controlled by the northwest portion of the state, Portland to Eugene. That’s urban land, and their decisions are not really representing rural Oregon.”

McCarter continued voicing his political frustrations in a news release: “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values. We tried voting those legislators out but rural Oregon is outnumbered and our voices are now ignored. This is our last resort.” The border readjustment activist conceded that the Oregon Legislative Assembly has its own agenda and that they’re moving forward with it regardless of what rural counties have to say about it.

McCarter’s political desires are not some pipe dream conjured up by fringe political activists. Political players such as Idaho governor Brad Little are ready to embrace McCarter and his colleagues with open arms. In an interview onFox & Friends, Little expressed his sympathies with rural Oregonians:

They’d like to have a little more autonomy and a little more control and a little more freedom, and I fully understand that.

Although this Greater Idaho proposal would have to go through the typical approval process both at the state and federal level, this effort is another indicator of a profound realignment that is on the cusp of taking place throughout America. Specific developments, such as the county revolt against gun control, are raw manifestations of the pent-up political anxiety many Americans feel toward their governments at every level. Now, they’re expressing their dissatisfaction in a localist manner.

Oregon was one of the first states where local political bodies attempted to stand against state gun controlSecond Amendment preservation ordinances were established in eight counties during the 2018 election cycle. Under the voter-approved ordinances, local resources cannot be used to enforce unconstitutional gun laws or regulations if they are first determined to be unconstitutional.

Soon other counties in states such as IllinoisNew Mexico, and Virginia followed suit. Even a solidly red state, Texas, has caught a case of the sanctuary resolution fever, as several counties have declared themselves pro-gun sanctuaries. No matter how elites try to spin it, the thirst for local self-governance is strong, and the ruling class may not be able to keep a lid on it.

Regardless of what people think about the Trump presidency, the silver lining of the era has been the shift in the political mindset of many Americans. Doubts about the viability of America’s political union are at an all-time high. Americans of all walks of life are now questioning whether the nation can continue as one cohesive political unit. Milquetoast political commentators will decry American’s growing distrust of politics as a sign of troubled times. The commentariat insists it can somehow channel the national unity of yesteryear to make things right. We’re told it’s the recalcitrant rubes with their parochial ways that are keeping this “unity” from happening.

The believer in radical decentralization has a different view. For them the shifts in political boundaries should be thoroughly embraced. It is the necessary correction that the American polity must undergo to peacefully transition into the twenty-first century after the substantial social engineering of the twentieth century both domestically and abroad. Radical decentralization is one of the key steps in correcting the errors of the previous century.

Although Ludwig von Mises left the physical realm in 1973, his spirit of self-determination lived on in the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, during which numerous republics begin to separate from the latter’s bailiwick and form new nations in accordance with their historical ethnolinguistic groups. Even the Soviet satellite state of Czechoslovakia was able to split peacefully in 1992 in a matter of months.

Unlike his contemporary liberals, Mises uniquely positioned himself as a champion of radical decentralization, which Hans-Hermann Hoppe acknowledged in an interview with the Austrian Economics Newsletter. Although Mises believed in a constitutionally liberal framework, Hoppe pointed out that he had “a unique idea of how government should work.”

In the Misesian context, to check the power of government, “every group and every individual, if possible, must have the right to secede from the territory of the state.” It would be misleading to lump the Misesian prescription with that of failed entities such as the League of Nations, however. Instead, Hoppe made it clear that “villages, districts, and groups of any size” would be leading the charge towards decentralization. This is in line Mises’s bold declaration in Nation, State, and Economy that “The size of a state’s territory therefore does not matter.”

National boundaries and political units have constantly shifted throughout the course of human history. There is no reason for America’s political boundaries to remain static, especially in a generation that has witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the breakup of Yugoslavia, and Great Britain’s recent departure from the European Union.

It’s now America’s turn to carry out the very legacy that Mises left behind.

Reprinted from the Mises Institute.

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice – REBUTTED

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice – REBUTTED

To summarize Rawls-

“So much of life is the result of circumstance that no person can be entitled to what they “earn”, therefore one group of people called government has the monopoly right to initiate violence against peaceful people”

Libertarian: “So congress has no real right to pass laws since they just happened to live in a time and geographical area where some registered voters happened to vote for them instead of another person? Do police have the right to arrest me for victimless crimes since they just happened to get hired by a group that happened to have recognized jurisdiction in a place the government happens to control? Does someone in Haiti have the right to take property by force from a ‘poor’ person in America who is wealthy compared to their standards?”

The Reality of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

The Reality of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

Exponential functions. Understand this, and you’ll grasp the reality of the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus from China. I know math sucks, but if you can get this, you’ll lift the fog on just how bad this is.

With the Novel Coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2), some speculate that the number of people infected by it can double in as little as 6 days.

If one single person starts off with the virus, then after 6 days, 2 people would have it. After 12 days, 4 people would have it. After one month, 32 people would have it. That doesn’t sound so bad does it? It almost seems like the virus problem will remain small for a long time and be easy to contain.

After one month and two weeks, there would be enough infected people to fill a large movie theatre. After two months, over 1000 would have it. Still, in a country of 350 million, what’s 1000 people?

After about four months, enough people would have the virus to fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium (80,000+). That’s a lot of people, but again, it took four whole months to get here. 80,000 is only 0.002% of 350 million. Sure seems like there’s plenty of time to contain this.

After five months, 33 million would have it. That’s 10% of America. At 6 months, everyone in America would have it. That escalated quickly didn’t it? That’s the point.

If a virus can be completely traced and caught early, it can be stopped. SARS, for example, caused major symptoms that were easily noticeable with simple fever checks. You couldn’t infect others unless you also had a very hot forehead. What if you couldn’t find infected people so easily?

All over the world, cases of COVID-19 (what the World Health Organization calls the sickness caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2) have appeared where the source of the infection is completely unknown. That means they caught it from the community, which implies that people are out there, infected, whom nobody knows about. I can’t scientifically prove that this virus spreads when people have no symptoms – currently the CDC says it barely can maybe it can’t at all, though others strongly disagree – but I can point to a hundred cases worldwide and prove that health officials are not able to nail down community infections.

Going back to the math, if you catch 4 out of 6 people with the virus, but 2 get away, the math starts again at 2. The government is only ever going to be able to catch a few people at a time, but for every 2 that get away, the race starts anew. These are called clusters and they’ll just keep growing. Once a cluster has 1000 people, the government will never catch even half of them.

In conclusion, this virus can’t be stopped without major draconian measures. By the end of this article, you can come to your own conclusions about what that means. The one part of this picture which is crystal clear is that this problem is not going to magically turn out to be nothing. Things will seem ominous, but under control, for possibly a few month. Then it will all explode, just like in Wuhan. That’s the math. Unless we’re very lucky and experience a miracle, crisis is inevitable.

Is the virus really going to be a crisis though? Isn’t it just the flu?

The libertarian community needs to get over the denialism many in the alternative and alt-conservative media have been touting. It’s ridiculous and validates that awful “ok boomer” meme about an out-of-touch generation of people who refuse to admit the existence of problems to which they themselves have helped contribute. Interestingly, on Reddit, a committed loony lefty said that Trump’s insistence to not worry, “Is the first thing he’s ever said which I agree with.” That ought to tell you something.

It might seem like the media and the left is hyping the virus. They’re not. They have been battling and censoring the people online who have been concerned about the virus from the very beginning. I have been among this small and resilient community which has been concerned about the virus from day one, and let me tell you: we’ve been right so far.

For instance:

February 5, 2020,

USA – 11 cases

South Korea – 0 cases

Italy – 2 cases

Iran – 0 cases

February 15, 2020,

USA – 15 cases

South Korea – 28 cases

Italy – 3 cases

Iran – 0 cases

March 4, 2020,

USA – 108 cases

South Korea – 5,328 cases

Italy – 2,502 cases

Iran – 2,336 cases


Please cut it out with this, “Oh it’s just the flu,” nonsense. 4 weeks ago we knew this was a problem, 2 weeks ago we knew it was a problem, and we still know it’s a problem – and I’ll explain why. Suffice it to say, both 4 weeks ago, 2 weeks ago, and even now we are told it’s low risk, it’s being contained, it’s just the flu and so forth. 2 weeks from now, 4 weeks from now, 2 months from now: it’s still not going to be contained and it’s going to be – at least – much much worse than it is today.

Conservatives and libertarians: this virus isn’t a Democratic Party or Deep State scam (that is, the threat from the virus itself is real, regardless of anything else). It’s not a government scam either, because the government is doing just about everything it can to make sure this thing is not being contained. From the libertarian perspective, one harmful thing being done is advising people that it’s okay to travel to certain places or participate in large groups when it has not been safe to do so. The US government has prevented the entire medical system, public and private, from testing people for COVID-19 even when doctors wanted to for weeks now. This is not an issue of the government hyping up a fake crisis. Likewise, with the media, they have consistently walked back and downplayed information that has been spreading on social media. The media is doing more to serve the government’s effort to convince people not to be proactive, than it is to create hype and fear where there is none. If you’re a boomer who only watches 24 hour cable news in between cigar breaks with your retired church buddies, maybe you wouldn’t realize that. Please, stop acting like this is some fake crisis.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the virus.

SARS-CoV-2, the official name of the virus which causes “COVID-19”, needs to be understood through three categories of questions.

1) How does the virus spread, and how can it be detected (and contained)?

2) How dangerous will this be, in the end?

3) How are governments and health systems reacting?

Finally, what are the political implications of this disease?

How does the virus spread?

SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that is almost impossible to track. It has long incubation times, produces mild symptoms which are easily missed, and doesn’t produce harmful symptoms until very late in the disease life cycle. It also seems to be highly infectious.

The infectiousness of a disease is represented by a calculation known as R0 (“r naught”). This represents the average number of people who will be infected by every new person who has a disease. The number isn’t based on the virus itself, but rather the virus and also the environment in which it spreads. Cultures with poor hygiene habits could spread the disease more than others and end up with a higher R0 value. R0 of greater than 2 is considered pretty bad because the outbreak is guaranteed to grow unless aggressive containment measures are used to statistically balance against the disease. For example, cutting the amount of people you meet daily in half would lower R0 of 2 to 1.

The R0 of COVID-19 is hard to calculate, because it’s a statistical value and the situation is new. However, mathematical modelers primarily from the Los Alamos laboratory have modeled that COVID-19 has R0 of 4.7-6.6. That’s very bad. Some diseases, such as the Measles, are much worse, but these diseases have vaccines stopping them.

The virus spreads in ways that aren’t scientifically certain yet. There were rumors of Chinese doctors who wore masks getting infected, so it was assumed to be airborne and infecting people through the eye membranes. SARS, a related virus, was known to infect people via sewage fumes coming up through their toilet. SARS-CoV-2 samples have been found to be high in feces and urine of patients, even when it was low in their blood. Even so, there’s debate about whether the virus is “airborne” in the sense of carrying on the wind and infecting through air conditioning systems such as what Anthrax can do.

The recent Diamond Princess cruise ship shows how infectious the disease is, although, it’s unclear if people were infected because of pathetically bad hygiene practices. It seems as if crew were not really changing gloves or washing hands well when preparing food for quarantined guests.

Regardless, the virus is clearly infectious, at least R0 greater than 2. The “worst case” of airborne, aerosol transmission is discussed here.

Another complication of the virus is that it seems almost impossible to trace. Incubation periods seem to be 5 days on average, but one reported case showed 24 days of incubation before symptoms started. Even once you get sick, it takes an average of 10 days before minor symptoms become serious enough to go to the hospital, according to the first few cases out of Wuhan. This means many people would likely “tough it out” and go to work with what seems to be a minor fever and small cough. In Japan, many cases have showed symptoms appearing then two weeks passing before the patient visited a hospital and was ultimately tested. It could be that the case numbers seen in the news today represent those infected 2-3 weeks ago. Governments and most of the public could be basing their assessments of the severity of the situation on how the situation was 2-3 weeks ago, in other words.

Diseases like SARS and MERS produce severe symptoms rather quickly. SARS is one reason why airports do fever checks. Generally, people who are spreading this disease also have fevers. For SARS-CoV-2, this is not the case. While asymptomatic transmission has been reported many times, it is not proven. However, it is known that symptoms remain mild for a long time in most cases. Also, it could be the case that most infected people only ever have mild symptoms.

In my opinion, based on this evidence, it seems impossible to reactively contain or contact trace COVID-19. You’d always be two weeks behind, while 10 times as many invisible cases are occurring underneath your nose, unseen. This is validated by the relatively high number of cases all over the world where the patient was infected from an unknown source – i.e.: the community at large.

The only containment measure is to test hundreds of thousands of people and engage in shutdowns of public society in affected areas. South Korea has actually tested 100,000+ people (as of 5 March, 2020). In contrast, the USA and Japan – for example – have tested significantly fewer. There could be a massive outbreak of 10,000+ infected in the US and we wouldn’t know.

Troublingly, there are many countries where people can’t even get tested even if they want to. Reports of insurance refusing to cover SARS-CoV-2 tests, and folks paying $3,000+ for them, have emerged (even though this seems to be very slowly changing). The reason for this lack of testing, previously, was because health authorities deny the possibility of an outbreak. We can speculate about corruption and conspiracy, but frankly, it’s classic government. They simply cannot see the unseen. I’m disheartened that libertarians lately have fallen for this same trap.

The viral outbreak in Wuhan began some time between mid-October and mid-November. Their hospitals didn’t notice a problem until mid-January. The major panic and crisis only began at the end of January. Conservatively, it takes two months from when the virus begins to spread, before the medical system would notice something amiss – if you aren’t testing massive numbers of people. This is consistent with a modest (actually, terrifying) doubling rate of one week (every week the number of infected doubles), as well as patients taking 7-21 days to show up sick at the hospital.

For the USA, the problem is beginning to become visible. However, it will be 4 weeks (into early April) before the hospital system would be overloaded – by this timetable. Assuming many health care workers could get infected due to lack of equipment, in 8-12 weeks you could actually see a collapse of the American medical system. Good luck with your diabetes then. Assuming supply lines to Chinese drug manufacturers are stable by then.

How bad is the virus?

According to the previously cited Lancet review of Wuhan clinical data from January, comorbidity rates for the virus were 33%, with 17% requiring mechanical ventilation. Imagine if half of America gets infected before anyone hardly notices or does anything to stop the spread. What’s 33% of 175 million people (it’s 55 million)? More than we have emergency room beds (100,000-500,000 critical care beds). If hospitals get overwhelmed with cases, where will you find your mechanical ventilator to stay alive?

In the Lancet data, among those requiring critical hospital care, 11% died. That’s 11% of 20%, or roughly 2%. WHO has presently upgraded this death rate to 3.4%. Others have guessed it’s 6%.

The silver lining is that, if the virus is as infectious as believed, it could be that many more people are catching it than we think. It could be that these 20% and 3.4% figures should be much lower. A lot of people are actually banking on this, including those who argue that only old people are at risk. Yeah, screw just the old people, I guess. Whatever doesn’t affect me isn’t allowed to be called a problem – great attitude.

Even so, consider two counterpoints to the, “It’s only a flu,” narrative.

When Wuhan was reporting a few thousand infected, a Hong Kong researcher estimated the number was over 70,000. During the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, there were videos of body bags in which the number of body bags you could count just in the few leaked videos was greater than the official death count (and two famous citizen journalists producing these videos were thereafter “quarantined” and disappeared). Add to that China’s practice of counting pneumonia deaths, if old people die in their apartment, as regular pneumonia – never even testing for the new virus. Add China’s general lack of transparency. There’s reason to think that the problem may have been much worse.

One interesting piece of evidence was that China’s data was fit to a mathematical model developed by a data analyst who posted his results on Twitter. The data fit the model with 99% fitness. Recently this same person determined that if China’s death rate matched what we are seeing in South Korea, there should be 400,000+ dead (suffice it to say this is just from a mathematical model, and would also imply that the number of infected in China would be much higher than what’s being reported).

The “official” WHO death rate is based largely on Chinese data.

The second point is that the virus takes a long time to marinate, for some reason. It may possibly have troubling features that make it more deadly but make the deaths lag significantly. I will provide an example later, but first consider that it takes weeks to die of slow, irreversible, incurable pneumonia once you’re on a ventilator. We won’t understand the threat this disease poses until at least mid-summer, when many of the cases infected large outside-of-China populations have had a chance to fully mature (6+ weeks in total). There is zero reason to place bets on complacency at the moment.

What does the virus actually do? It causes lung damage, by infecting lung cells. You get a fever, often mild, and a cough. If you have a severe case, you get pneumonia that infects both lobes and slowly inhibits breathing until you can barely breathe and end up dead or with permanent lung damage.

In some cases, particularly the severe cases in which recovery from pneumonia occurs, horrifying alternate symptoms occur. Myocardia and renal injury (heart and kidney failure) for one. Like SARS-CoV (the original SARS), SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has been shown in cases to infect the nervous system and cause encephalitis. The disease has also resulted in run-of-the-mill death by viral sepsis. Not to forget the immune system overreaction called a cytokine storm which killed many during the Spanish Flu and also many AIDS victims.

There are two questions associated with these symptoms. First, how many people get them? It’s unclear at the moment. Many of the outside-of-China’s internet firewall patients are currently in a many-weeks recovery. For all we know, a high percentage of infected do in fact have mild symptoms and temporary recoveries only for a dormant virus to flare up later with much more severe symptoms. This “recovered-but-then-infected-again” phenomenon has occurred in countries all over the world. It’s not clear why this happens and all the answers are troubling. All the answers suggest that severe symptoms aren’t a matter of quantity, but time as the virus spreads uninhibited.

Second, how does the virus cause all these symptoms? SARS-CoV-2 seems to have some relationship to certain special cell receptors in the lungs, which are also in the heart, kidney, and other places. Yet, how does it infect the nervous system, and why does it happen in some patients and not others? The disease known as Chickenpox remains dormant in the nervous system until later when it reawakens as the disease called “Shingles.”

Imagine all the unknowns of a virus which has already shown such a tremendous ability to interfere with so many body systems.

There is more than enough evidence to be very afraid of this virus, even if we prove that it’s not as harmful as it first appeared. We have not proven that yet.

However, isn’t a vaccine being developed? First of all, vaccines take over a year to develop. One reason is that untested vaccines can cause more harm than good, sometimes with deadly side-effects.

Chinese scientists have unsuccessfully pursued a SARS vaccine for over a decade. In one study – at the Wuhan lab of all places – a major side effect to a SARS vaccine was observed. In this trial, mice who were infected with the vaccine were then re-infected with SARS. The result was worse symptoms and rapid death, a consequence of something called Antibody Dependent Enhancement, or ADE. This is a feature of viruses like the one which causes Dengue fever and HIV. With this feature, viruses exploit our own immune system. After a first infection, your body produces antibodies in your blood to help identify the same virus so it can be quickly destroyed, preventing future infections. However, with ADE, viruses identified by these antibodies use them to hitch a ride onto immune cells. In turn, the virus is spread throughout the body by the immune system itself – leading to a rapid, severe viral infection. Other studies have observed this feature of SARS. SARS-CoV-2 is “SARS like” but with additions. It’s unclear if it shares this feature, but I’d be skeptical of any prospect of a vaccine any time soon. It would be a big fat mistake to count on the vaccine to be our savior.

Reliance on a vaccine to magically solve the problem so that it never has to be a real problem seems like the sort of typical attitude common to the American Empire (and “boomers”). Meaningful preventative infrastructure is ignored because of high upfront costs, and the difficulties and lifestyle changes required. An actual viral outbreak is reactively addressed via a massive spending boondoggle of a vaccine that is then a massive industrial pork project and one-size-fits-all non-solution. Unfortunately, not all viruses can be cured with a vaccine.

In any event, if ADE is truly a feature of SARS-CoV-2, we’re screwed. It means that people are getting mild first infections that go unnoticed, and then after a few weeks the “second wave” gets you (which is not the same as a typical second wave as seen in the Spanish flu, which is a mutation that comes much later). ADE is not a joke, and if a massive number of people in a community have been infected once, an ADE assisted second wave would probably have a massive casualty rate. Even so, there’s no proof yet that this feature exists for COVID-19.

Another “nightmare” feature of SARS-CoV-2 is the possibility that, like Shingles virus, it remains dormant in your system. Or, similar to HIV, it can never be completely cured. You’d have to take harsh medicines for the rest of your life to suppress it and prevent the onset of drowning in your own lung fluids the second your immune system is compromised for some other reason. Again, no proof of this, but something is causing long periods between infection and onset, and very long recovery times. Something is causing seemingly negative testing patients, and seemingly recovered patients, to test positive later and/or get sick again.

Why are we playing footsie with this virus again, without understanding it yet, knowing what we do know?

Finally, how did this virus come into being? The status quo opinion is that because the virus has genetic similarities to viruses which live in bats, that it must have come from a bat somehow. This is tied to the story that the virus originated at Wuhan’s wet market (now thought to likely be false). The virus actually preexisted the cases at the wet market and the wet market cluster was a convenient scape goat for a source of “animal origins.” That said, completely new virus can’t just appear out of the blue among humans. The conventional thinking is that a novel virus has to originate in nature somehow, meaning it has to come from animals who have been breeding it in the wild prior to it ever coming into contact with humans. However, now humans can create new viruses using technology like CRISPR by combining RNA in novel and unnatural ways. Unless there’s specific and clear evidence that a new virus has come from nature, it easily could have come from a lab.

There has been controversy lately about something called gain of function research at biolabs. This is where researchers take existing deadly pathogens and add features to them. One application of this, unrelated to weapons development, is to make viruses enter into cells more quickly to speed up research. For example, the Wuhan lab was researching SARS vaccine. They could have modified their test viruses, possibly with minor HIV genes that affect cell entry, to make the virus infect the test animals more quickly. The speed of entry isn’t meant to affect the ultimate effects of the virus, it simply increases how quickly research can be done by allowing the effects of a virus to appear more quickly in animals. However, if such a virus escaped into the world it would spread very very quickly, since the natural environment (human bodies) has no existing relationship with this kind of feature.

In my opinion, SARS-CoV-2 is probably a vaccine research, bio-engineered variant of new SARS-like viruses discovered in Chinese bats. I suspect they were researching with this virus and it escaped because of poor lab protocol. Someone just didn’t wash their hands right, because they were overworked and tired. Convoluted theories of selling test bats to markets are unnecessary and besides the point. Though, the Washington Post has said this lab theory is totally debunked so take that for what you will.

It doesn’t really matter where the virus came from, except in one sense. If the virus was lab engineered, even if not for purposes of weapons development, then it means it could possibly do things that no virus has ever done before. I don’t know why the hell governments don’t get this. They are fighting this war with the last war’s weapons – typical.

How is government reacting?

The reaction of governments to this crisis is a disgrace. Government has long since inserted itself into public health as an authority and can coerce activity related to public health – both among public and private institutions. This creates information stovepipes, centralizes medical opinion and also medical practice. Even with no coercive authority over your life, government has poisoned the well and created conditions where your neighbors will behave in a way that will harm you, that you can’t control.

From the beginning, the main focus of governments seems to have been on political correctness. When Chinese individuals had leaked videos of body bags, overwhelmed hospitals, panicking citizens and brutal lockdowns, the rest of the world was more concerned with not being racist. While Wuhan was being ravaged by this disease, and half of its population (5 million people, many of whom would have been infected) escaped quarantine to other places in China and all over the world, other nations did next to nothing. Again and again the WHO insisted that travel bans were unnecessary. Meager, imperfect fever checks and polite questionnaires were the only response.

For weeks authorities said, “Human-to-human spread outside China hasn’t been confirmed”. To this day the CDC still says that the ability for this virus to spread when a person has mild or no symptoms is very low (are they sure, how do they know?).

The CDC has completely fumbled the test kit situation, letting 6 weeks go by. States have begun producing their own tests, but the CDC insists that cases can only be called presumptively confirmed until the CDC can test them itself. The University of Washington has now produced its own test kits in spite of the CDC.

Just like in the US, for weeks in Japan, for example, they will not test people even when the doctor insists, simply because patients have not traveled to Hubei, China in the last two weeks. Many local health departments took 4 weeks to update their testing criteria from what it was on day one of the crisis. What a monstrous failure. Japan has a notoriously low number of cases (only about 300, ignoring the cruise ship, which is now fewer than Italy, South Korea, Iran, Germany and soon the USA). Japan also has the highest number of Chinese travelers and the largest, densest metropolis on Earth. Tokyo supposedly only has fewer than 50 cases. Yeah right.

Next week Japan will enact emergency powers allowing for forced quarantine, forcing businesses to pay workers who have to stay home and allowing for the confiscation of property towards fighting the disease. Seems like a great recipe for disaster. I am suspicious that the government is willingly delaying their identification of cases until these powers are in effect. Presently, 300 some odd cases are confirmed in Japan. There are over 5,000 in South Korea. It makes no sense, even accounting for hygiene and weird cults. The cases in Japan are all over geographically, everywhere, and many have no known source. There’s obviously an unidentified major outbreak in Japan. Pay attention to how Japan looks after March 15, it has stayed under the radar because of its pathetically unrealistic numbers.

In the US, the CDC guidance on this virus and the repeating chorus you’ll hear all the time that, “The risk to Americans is low,” will get us killed. As I said, now is not the time to go to that regional volleyball tournament with your daughter’s high school team.

There’s a naïve, unscientific belief that just because we haven’t proven that this virus can harm us, that it won’t. Trump thinks he can talk the stock market out of its now inevitable decline with his “hunches.”

This is it.

Supply chains will never recover. In the next few months, multiple national economies will shut down due to quarantine measures. People living paycheck to paycheck won’t make it, so expect WWII style economic policies for better or worse. Medical martial law is likely, since no other solution other than staying away from other people will be possible for a while. Prepare for that, both in terms of keeping yourself fed and safe, but also in terms of preparing for the political fallout.

This is 9/11 all over again. A failure of the imagination because the unimaginative are in charge. The most easily predictable crisis taking authorities completely by surprise. Health officials are saying it can’t spread asymptomatically, that it can be contained by identifying symptoms and contact tracing and that the risk is low. I have personally seen a mountain of solid evidence to contradict all of those sentiments. Taking in the rumors and anecdotes, the picture is much worse. Off hand reports, rumors and text messages from nurses and doctors in Texas, in Washington State, in NYC and Buffalo, NY all indicate the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in all these places since weeks ago. None of it on the CDC’s public radar. The CDC continues to decline to be transparent about the numbers being tested and why the response has been lackluster. The amount of obfuscation is terrifying.

Think about where we are. Imagine if travel from China was banned the minute Wuhan itself locked down? By the whole world, on WHO’s recommendation. Imagine if hundreds of thousands of tests were prepared as soon as possible, and presumptive cases of the virus were treated as possibly airborne deadly threats from the beginning? Imagine if countries all helped each other be able to do this? That seems harsh and extreme, but if it had been done the virus threat in the USA would be completely over by now. Very few people would ever have been infected. Yes, the scenario is unlikely, but in the coming weeks think about this: it could have all been over by now.

If 60% of America gets infected (likely), and 20% need a hospital bed to live (somewhat possible), you’re looking at 40 million dead Americans. This is not inconceivable.

We can complain, as libertarians, about the government throwing its weight around and banning travel and so forth. My response is the same I give to those who worry about panic. It’s going to happen one way or another, so I’d prefer it to happen sooner, with less fallout.

If the hospital system gets overwhelmed and people are dying and not getting care, that will cause a major panic. The only thing to ameliorate it would be if a greater number of people ‘panicked’ earlier and are more prepared later. Shelves will empty, fights will start, many will be on their own and left high and dry.

Likewise, a travel ban on China would have been extreme, but the martial law and forced vaccinations which are coming are infinitely more terrifying.

I personally don’t believe that war is moral, but what if the front lines of a battle crossed your house? What if you had to leave, or get shelled? What if leaving meant you had to shoot and kill to make it past the battle lines, to safety? War is immoral because it’s something civilization has to proactively do – build and train armies, prepare battle plans, mobilize. When civilization breaks down, the rules change. Morality says you have to always try to establish moral conditions, and civilized law, even when you risk personal harm and have to make sacrifices. Even so, there are reasonable limits. If there’s no reasonable prospect of establishing law, and an obstinate, immoral person is taking actions threatening your family, there is reasonable cause to act in ways that are less than civilized.

In the coming crisis, libertarians have to be very careful about how they respond. Libertarian purity is gone, but so is the pragmatic need to abide the rules of the statist system.

Regardless, do I think it will get that bad? Given the math I presented at the beginning of this article, and the seeming ability of this virus to hide easily while spreading, it’s very possible for an extremely large population of people to become infected. New diseases against which humans have no immunity are very threatening. There are reasons why the human population on Earth never exceeded a few hundred million for so many centuries. The Smallpox epidemic that wiped out Native Americans is a good example of what happens when a new pathogen is introduced to a population. That said, there is not evidence yet that this new SARS-CoV-2 is nearly as deadly as smallpox. Nevertheless, the fact that in many cases it produces mild symptoms is what makes it so hard to track. In modern society, a disease as visibly bad as smallpox would get noticed. That’s why COVID-19 is so insidious.

If major containment measures and travel restrictions such as those undertaken by China are not enacted, it’s theoretically possible that over half of humanity could contract this disease. Using similar logic, some experts have stated that in theory 60% of the world could become infected. There is another data point which is far from confirmed and will most likely go down as we know more, which says that perhaps as high as 20% of those infected will need to go to the hospital because of severe pneumonia. The napkin math is simple: this would mean hundred of millions of deaths as medical systems are overwhelmed. That said, containment measures, scientific discoveries and plain good luck could easily make the situation turn out to be far less dire. It’s worth mentioning and acknowledging the napkin math nonetheless. This puts gives the situation’s proportions, even if this horrific outcome never occurs.

The prospect of an apocalyptic number of people dying from this disease is not the main issue. As regional outbreaks grow, they will be combated. It’s doubtful that – beyond this early phase – people will do nothing if a true crisis emerges. Once people really start fighting the virus, the ultimate severity becomes a matter of fate. What really matters, more than predicting how bad the medical problem will be, is preparing for the economic and political fallout.

In an environment where it appears as if many lives are at risk, people will panic, and they won’t be economically productive (as staying home could be one of the few very effective measures). Supply lines and Chinese production will be threatened. Production elsewhere like SE Asia and India are likely similarly at risk. Travel companies are doomed. The economy, being as fragile as it is, will probably collapse. Debt default is unlikely, given the government’s ability to create liquidity, but the storied hyperinflation seems like a strong possibility. You can’t pump up real economic disruptions, that’s the problem.

Today, many people are living paycheck to paycheck. It’s possible that laws will be passed where people don’t have to pay rent or mortgages for a time, but what a real economic nightmare that will be. I am highly skeptical of the government’s (read: military) ability to manage supply lines and keep people fed in a martial law environment. Normal medical problems will go untreated. Even law enforcement might get sick.

The government itself will be affected. Iran’s parliament is infected, and a couple of senior leaders have died. Apparently there have been a couple cases from people who attended AIPAC, which 2/3 of Congress and Mike Pence attended. Canada’s military is planning for absentee rates as high as 25% in the military due to the virus. You think local cops will be immune?

There was major chaos and a breakdown of public order after hurricane Katrina. I would expect that this sort of environment will probably emerge in more than a few places worldwide.

As libertarians, we understand that the government’s power is sort of a façade. There’s a reason why the FBI has to constantly infiltrate and honeypot do-nothing loser groups of weirdos. If the image of government legitimacy or power falters, the costs of maintaining power rise exponentially. This is the truly concerning black swan. The general loss of legitimacy of government, and the consequent social effects.

The next 10 years have the potential to be very bad.

Will the virus be this bad? There is hope. It could turn out to be less bad then we think. Hospitals will be overcrowded to a degree, and hundreds of thousands worldwide will die. The economy will probably enter into a depression. In spite of this inevitability, the virus may turn out to be no worse than that. Maybe people could become immune to it after catching it. Maybe a treatment will be discovered. As much as things could go wrong, they could go right.

Even so, if things do go reasonably wrong, this would be a 500-year event in mankind’s history – bigger than WWII. I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of war between nation states as a consequence of the breakdown of society. As Nietzsche said, man has killed God. Yet, our system is still based on certain pretenses carried over from the last 1500 years. Comfort and safety have been band-aids which have prevented a true reckoning with the new world and new millennium. Industry saved the peasant from the life of the Middle Ages. Industry led to empire and modernism, which never fully lived out its natural lifespan. America, protected by geography and luck, crushed modernist politics with force, imposing a global system based on the pretense of safety experienced by American society. The comfort of the last 20 years, in America, exists because of Chinese slave labor. The effects of that are now blowing back directly. The last 500 years have been the slow move away from blood, soil and church, towards something else. The next 500 years will be about discovering what that something else is, and I believe this event now is the catalyst marking the change.

What is the political fallout, if this gets bad?

First and foremost, all people whether libertarian or not need to remember one thing about this crisis: never ever ever ever, ever, ever ever forget or forgive the government for screwing this up. They screwed up the economy, society, the medical system; never forget. They also wasted two critical months dicking around, denying the problem, preventing those who saw the problem from acting, censoring, contradicting and belittling the voices who saw this.

The WHO has prevented dozens of countries from reacting more seriously to the virus, and only now that China is off the media radar are they beginning to hype up the threat. This is criminal negligence, in the plainest sense. Even so, the spiritual, moral and historical implications of this crisis and its possible magnitude suggest that WHO deserves much more serious scrutiny and scorn than what a mere manslaughter trial could produce. The global institutions, the UN etc., may try to insert themselves into this crisis and gain power from it. They helped cause this. They are politicized, corrupt and often ideological. They should never ever ever have power, or even credibility, ever again.

Globalization and the financialized economy should die. This crisis exists because “quarantine” is no longer possible in modern society. A quarantine is a 40-day isolation, the word derived from the Venetian/Italian word for 40. Our society can hardly afford to allow people to take 2 whole weeks off of work, and can’t afford even a one day stop to cross-border traffic and trade. This system sucks. Debt-fueled finance creates a treadmill that can never stop, and despite its ability to produce, it leaves no time to breathe and reassess the value of what’s actually being produced.

I used to think globalization was great because of comparative advantage. Yes, the economics of free markets and free trade suggest that they produce more efficiency and higher standards of living. Yes, capitalism has brought China out of poverty Milton Friedman. Still, 20+ years later look at the effects. The economy is more efficient, but traditional society is totally displaced and the family is dying. Not only have “economic animals” found that they cannot remain in the home, the local community, the nest – tossed from city to city, concentrating in ugly, overpriced, rundown metropolises chasing jobs – most of the developing world is struggling to afford to have even one child. People are living paycheck to paycheck. China has tasted prosperity, and yet has no desire for freedom. Look at what bringing the civilized technological world into China has given us: COVID-19.

The Mises Institute’s latest tack is the right one, in my opinion. Libertarianism has to focus on strengthening local communities against outside pressures. Whether they are rural, religious towns or urban syndicalist communes. If the power is to be decentralized, the economy and social structures have to be too.

Sadly, total individual freedom seems to require an “empire of liberty.” It requires centralized financial system which can reach its tentacles into all communities so that anyone anywhere can abandon local social systems and experience personal freedom. That empire of liberty has been killing people all over the world to secure its resources and markets, to keep itself afloat and fund the patchwork social programs which paper over the destruction of local social structures. All so we can trot around drinking and smoking with nary a care. That lifestyle isn’t possible without a monolithic system of law and social programs. Constraints come from nature and they have to be realized somehow. More and more I’m convinced that what is called personal freedom is synonymous with left-wing statism.

The libertarian future has to be decentralization. Yes, it’s inefficient at times, and restricts personal freedom at times, but it’s the only system capable of stability and dynamism at the same time. Personal freedom will result from finding the right community to join and building good fences to make good neighbors. All of this will require compromises, but compromise is a necessary part of living in a world with natural constraints.

The virus has strongly solidified my support of localism. No matter how the situation unfolds politically, I believe that the public must finally put its foot down in favor of decentralization by the time it’s through.

The job treadmill will collapse. The debt treadmill will collapse. The welfare and medical system will collapse. For goodness’ sake don’t rebuild it again when it’s all said and done! When you and your neighbors successfully get through this on your own, don’t cede the power back, even if you have to fight.

This virus is both the proof and the chance for the people of Earth to put their foot down and keep their natural rights and powers next time the government comes to collect them.

No matter what happens, that’s the key.

Even if this crisis becomes unimaginably bad, as the economic and political effects follow the medical, humanity has a leg up. Even if the entire system falls flat on its face, mankind has accumulated vastly more useful knowledge today than it had even 100, even 50, or even 20 years ago. Even if we face 10 years of hell, as long as the old constraints are removed and people adjust, we have enough knowledge to very quickly recover.

Keeping in mind that rapid recovery is possible, our goal during any potential crisis is to prepare for the next stage. We need to sharpen up our moral, economic, and political theories. It’s the perfect time to preach Rothbard and Mises. Even so, we’re going to need something better than Rothbard. Libertarians need to innovate, to take the foundations and build higher.

An Unspoken Fear of the Coronavirus

An Unspoken Fear of the Coronavirus

You’d think people would be used to it by now. Every couple of years the world is thrust into hysteria by the latest virus that is threatening to wipe out a significant portion of the population. Whether it’s SARS, Dengue, Ebola, Swine Flu or the Coronavirus, fear becomes the default emotion while States and their confederate agencies appear do everything they can to stoke them. The press appears to almost celebrate such panics because the population flocks to their reports in anticipation they will deliver them the information they need to survive. One wonders why people still trust the media with their history of getting stories wrong. 

It is common among individuals to see the reports of a “super-flu” spreading and default to the most debilitating of emotions — especially when it comes to liberty — that being fear. But most people don’t go further and ask the question; “What exactly are people afraid of?” Is it death? Of course, that Is mankind’s greatest anxiety, especially for those who have children. Is it civil unrest? Could the threat of mass illnesses shutting down industries, thereby making certain items of necessity scarce, cause people to loot not only stores, but their neighbor? Or could it be another fear? 

Most Americans feel the dread in knowing that getting sick and not being able to work for an extended period of time can put them out on the street. There are a couple stats that should be looked at, as well as a factor that some people don’t know about, and one most don’t want to hear. 

The Ratio of Work to ‘Thriving’ 

A formula often overlooked when examing your personal economy is the ratio of “work to thriving.” How many weeks of the year do you need to work to pay for the basics? In a February 27, 2020 CBS article, Aimee Picchi writes, “The typical male worker must now work 53 weeks — or more than a year — to make enough to cover what American Compass Executive Director Oren Cass calls the annual “cost of thriving,” the earnings required to pay of a basket of essentials such as health care and housing. By comparison, in 1985 that same typical employee needed to work 30 weeks to cover those same costs, found a recent analysis from American Compass, a newly formed conservative economic think tank.” 

When it comes to female workers the number is even more alarming, “Women these days need about 66 weeks — or 13 more weeks than men — to afford the same basket of basics, given that they on average earn less than men. But like the typical male worker, they’ve also lost ground since 1985, when the average female employee could cover her basics after 45 weeks of income.” 

Many people are familiar with the term “cost of living,” but the “cost of thriving” would be a better gauge to follow considering American culture. Cass explains,” “The cost of living is the standard measure that gets talked about a lot, but there is a difference between living and thriving… thriving implies a richer conception of what we believe we are achieving, rather than just living.”  

Picchi notes, “The Consumer Price Index — a standard measure of inflation — focuses on the cost of food, clothing, housing and other basics that families require. But that doesn’t necessarily reflect the challenges of paying for things you need to flourish in American society today, such as the ever-rising cost of keeping a roof over your head or going to college.” Picchi explains the criteria for the cost of thriving index, “Instead of using a broad range of basics, the Cost of Thriving Index focuses on four components: the cost of a three-bedroom house, health insurance for a family, one semester at a public college and the expense of operating a car.” 

“Those costs have become “difficult for a household budget to accommodate,” Cass said.” 

One Paycheck Away 

When you take into consideration that most people are one paycheck away from homelessness, it’s easy to understand why many Americans have taken to advocating for an expansive Scandinavian-style welfare State. In January of 2019, Forbes writer Zack Friedman wrote, “according to a 2017 survey, CareerBuilder, a leading job site, found some startling statistics related to debt, budgeting and making ends meet; 

  • Nearly one in 10 workers making $100,000+ live paycheck to paycheck 
  • More than 1 in 4 workers do not set aside any savings each month 
  • Nearly 3 in 4 workers say they are in debt – and more than half think they always will be 
  • More than half of minimum wage workers say they have to work more than one job to make ends meet 
  • 28% of workers making $50,000-$99,999 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, and 70% are in debt 

The survey also found that 32% of the nearly 3,500 full-time workers surveyed use a budget and only 56% save $100 or less a month.

At this point some may assume that this article is only about looking to external factors to find fault with. Yes, they exist, but this is specifically about two factors: one that the individual has control of, and another that no president or politician has been able to solve in the last century even if they wanted to. 

The Dreaded Federal Reserve System 

The negative implications of having a government controlled central bank are too numerous to list in an article, but one of them is that your spending power is diminished. As Henry Hazlitt explained in his 1951 Newsweek column (reprinted at, Inflation for Beginners

“When the supply of money is increased, people have more money to offer for goods. If the supply of goods does not increase—or does not increase as much as the supply of money—then the prices of goods will go up. Each individual dollar becomes less valuable because there are more dollars. Therefore, more of them will be offered against, say, a pair of shoes or a hundred bushels of wheat than before. A “price” is an exchange ratio between a dollar and a unit of goods. When people have more dollars, they value each dollar less. Goods then rise in price, not because goods are scarcer than before, but because dollars are more abundant.” 

Since 1991 the supply of U.S. dollars has grown beyond what most people realize. According to the Federal Reserve bank of St. Louis, in January of 1991 there were approximately 283 billion dollars in circulation. As the 90s progressed and the government instituted the blockade in Iraq, the Kosovo conflicts and various skirmishes, by November 2000, that number climbs to 576 billion, more than doubling.  

Now we come to post 9/11. On September 12, 2001, the money supply was at 613 billion. On March 19th, 2003, dollars in circulation were at 683 billion. Jumping to the start of the Iraqi surge in January 2007, we are now at 801 billion. 

Fast forward to soon after the 2008 financial crisis and the picture gets bleaker. What has come to be known as QE1 was started on 11/26/08. It began with the Federal Reserve (FED) buying 600 billion in mortgage backed securities. By its end in June of 2010, the FED raised the money supply from just under a trillion dollars to 2.1 trillion. QE2 lasted seven months between November 2010 and June 2011. Starting with 2 trillion in circulation, it was raised to 2.6 trillion. Less than QE1, but still a bigger jump than was seen all through the 1990s and most of the way through the 2000s. QE3 was implemented in September of 2012. By the end of 2013 the money supply had been increased to 3.6 trillion dollars. On 9/11/01 the money supply was at 613 billion dollars. Twelve years later, because of preemptive wars and government interference in the market, the money supply was increased by 250%. 

What does this look like in the real-world using home prices as an example? In 2017, CNBC reported, “If you want to buy a house this year, you may well be paying around $199,200, the median price for a home in the U.S., according to Zillow.” Compare that coming forward from the start of World War 2, “In 1940, the median home value in the U.S. was just $2,938. In 1980, it was $47,200, and by 2000, it had risen to $119,600. Even adjusted for inflation, the median home price in 1940 would only have been $30,600 in 2000 dollars, according to data from the U.S. Census.” 

No one would argue that homes have in fact increased in value. Atlanta added 75,000 to their population in 2018 alone. If the supply of housing stays static, or doesn’t keep up with the added numbers, prices will increase. This is common in most major metro areas. But the increase in the money supply has caused prices to skyrocket beyond what the law of “supply and demand” would dictate. 

Take Some Responsibility 

When it comes to this part of the discussion the reader may start to bristle. Setting aside for a moment the facts laid out about the Federal Reserve System, everyone knows someone who is more prepared than most. Many people know the “prepper” who has 6-months’ worth of food stashed. How many people know the person who has 6-months’ worth of income put aside to cover their bills in case of emergency? 

Sure, the Federal Reserve can be blamed for causing the increase in prices in essentials due to their policies, but is that really an excuse? In 2016, the average American was carrying $16,061 in credit card debt alone. Assuming an 18.9% interest rate, paying $640 per month, it would take 15 years and 4 months to pay off that debt. And that’s taking into account no further charges being made. 

The simple fact is that most people, even libertarians who know the system is rigged, live beyond their means. When you add up a mortgage or rental payment, a couple car payments, money shelled out for the 2.4 kids and the aforementioned credit card payments and even smart people are a couple paychecks from disaster. 

Using the scare of the Coronavirus an example, it is easy to see that not only is the fear of death a motivating factor when it comes to the inevitable panic associated with a potential “pandemic,” but even the fear of losing a few weeks at work can have people on edge. As discussed, there are barriers to keep one from being secure in their possessions that are beyond their control, but there are also common-sense ways to combat obstacles even as great as a government-rigged money system. Hopefully people will see fit to prepare for such setbacks in the future as history has shown that this will not be the last impending “catastrophe” to derail us from our lives. 

The NSA’s Encroaching Oversight

The NSA’s Encroaching Oversight

The NSA’s spy program failed miserably, but some spooks want to expand it

The US National Security Agency spent $100 million over three years on illegally collecting millions of American phone records – all for two reports with unique counterterrorism intelligence, according to a declassified report from an NSA oversight body.

So naturally, intelligence officials and lawmakers want the NSA’s records collection program reauthorized, and some even want it expanded to include more modern forms of communications such as encrypted chat apps.

The NSA’s failed spying scheme is detailed in a report released Wednesday by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). Congress faces a March 15 deadline to decide whether to renew the NSA’s program.

According to the PCLOB report, the latest iteration of the NSA’s data collection scheme – which was “reformed” by the Freedom Act in 2015 – was not abused or intentionally misused. Nevertheless, the program resulted in the collection of some 1 billion records on more than 18 million phones.

Much of the metadata was illegally collected due to human error, PCLOB said.

In a particularly illuminating example, the NSA used outdated and misleading intelligence information in a FISA application – due to an FBI agent being on vacation.

According to the report, a “foreign partner” provided additional information to an FBI analyst that would have called into question certain facts included in the FISA application. Because the analyst was on vacation, the additional information was not conveyed to the NSA until the agency already used the FISA order to vacuum records.

And despite collecting more than 1 billion phone records – whether legally or otherwise – the NSA only produced 15 intelligence reports, and only two with information the FBI didn’t already have, according to PCLOB. Moreover, of the two relevant reports, one led to a dead end and the details of the other were redacted by PCLOB.

“The low volume of intelligence reporting produced by the program — 15 reports over several years — is particularly informative, especially when coupled with NSA’s assessment that it would expect a program of this scale and expense to generate hundreds or thousands,” the report said.

But like so many other government programs, US spooks now argue that the NSA’s authority should not only be renewed, but expanded, too. You see: the NSA has been limited to collecting metadata from traditional phone services, and needs to also be able to collect the same from chat applications, social media, emails, and other sources.

Two PCLOB members made this case in Wednesday’s report.

“The [Freedom] Act did not provide … authority for the myriad other ways in which terrorists may communicate, from emails to encrypted messaging. That proved to be a problem,” PCLOB members Aditya Bamzai and Jane Nitze said in the oversight report. “Thus, in the future, for surveillance authorities to be useful in a world of rapidly advancing technology, they should be neutral as to communications methods.”

It’s also noting that despite the instances of improper data collection identified in the report, PCLOB still argued that overall the program is constitutional.

“We first consider whether the collection of telephony metadata under the [records collection] program constituted a ‘search’ or ‘seizure’ under the Amendment’s text as interpreted by relevant Supreme Court cases,” PCLOB said. “We believe it did not, and that the program was constitutional for this reason alone.”

Take PCLOB with a grain of salt, however: The body was created by the Bush administration in 2004, and allowed rampant abuses to go unchecked for years. Somehow, the board found that even the NSA’s original bulk data collection program – exposed by Edward Snowden – was constitutional, too.

To their credit, two board members, Ed Felten and Travis LeBlanc, released their own dissenting statement, calling for the unconstitutional program to be permanently shuttered.

“This large-scale CDR program surely sweeps in the CDRs of protestors, journalists, political activists, whistleblowers, and ordinary people,” Felten and LeBlanc said. “In the end, whether for concerns over constitutional implications or for policy reasons, we concur with NSA’s decision to end the program and believe the program should remain shuttered.”

Data Don’t Speak for Themselves

Data Don’t Speak for Themselves

Check out this graph, data for which were drawn from the USDA and CDC:

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With a correlation coefficient of about -0.94, these data indicate that for the decade 2000-2009 there was a strong inverse relationship between per capita consumption of beef and the number of suicides by handgun. That is, this correlation seems to imply that the decline in total beef consumed per person over the course of the decade was linked to the number of suicides by handgun, which rose at virtually the same rate.

This proves that there’s a relationship between an individual’s meat consumption and his likelihood to commit suicide, right?

Of course not; this correlation is spurious. These data were not the result of a study that tracked the mental health and dietary habits of individuals over a decade. Rather, to demonstrate this idea of spurious correlation, the graph‘s maker, Tyler Vigen, took data from the CDC and USDA and laid them on top of one another. That they correlate for so long–and so closely–is entirely coincidental.

Absent some theoretical framework with which to interpret data–that is, if we let the data “speak for themselves”–data correlations can seem to deny true principles. For instance, roughly 87,000 flights occur daily in the United States, ostensibly defying the laws of gravity. But the laws of gravity aren’t contravened by the flight of giant metal birds with fixed wings. Rather, the interaction between airspeed, air pressure, wing shape, and direction creates the lift that allows aircraft to soar thousands of feet above the earth. The laws of gravity are entirely satisfied, and anyone claiming that these flights are evidence that the laws of gravity have been overturned would be ridiculed mercilessly by his peers.

This principle is just as true in economics as it is in physics. For example, economic theory tells us that demand curves are downward sloping–i.e. as price increases, fewer units of a good are consumed–but some studies purport to find that raising the cost of labor by means of a minimum wage causes no change in employers’ demand for labor. If the relationship between labor and the law of demand isn’t being disproved, what’s going on? 

At first glance, the law of demand would seem to imply that an increase in the cost of labor would induce employers to decrease the number of workers they hire. But if the minimum wage is only binding on certain individuals, and if employers don’t hire any such individuals, then employers won’t be impacted by the change. Likewise, for those making more than a proposed wage floor, a rise in the minimum wage won’t constitute a “raise” because, at best, their incomes will remain unaffected.

For example, according to PayScale the estimated average yearly earnings of someone who throws freight at WinCo Foods in Boise, ID, is $17,000. Assuming full-time status (2,080 working-hours annually), that amounts to a wage of roughly $8.17/hour. Idaho’s minimum wage reflects the national minimum wage of $7.25/hour, so any increase in their wage floor of up to $0.92/hour won’t be binding on any of WinCo’s Boise-based freight throwers, and, all things equal, WinCo’s employment level won’t be impacted.

But such a lack of response in employment isn’t evidence that minimum wage laws have no disemployment effects, or that the law of demand is irrelevant to labor. All it would demonstrate is that we must be more careful in determining the impacts of minimum wage hikes. Indeed, including workers who make more than the amount of a given proposal to raise the minimum wage is distortive of a study’s results, at best. At worst, their inclusion is highly disingenuous. 

Fortunately, the minimum wage is among the most studied policies in economics, so a great deal of work on its disemployment effects has already been done with low wage-earners in mind. A study out of Denmark [pdf], for example, assessed the impact of minimum wage increases on teenagers, for whom, by law, the minimum wage rises nearly 40 percent at age 18. 

The authors found that while those who keep their jobs see a significant increase in take-home pay, labor as a proportion of total input falls by nearly half. Furthermore, the overall employment rate for teens falls by a third as 18-year-old workers find themselves jobless. The upshot of these effects, taken together, is that the level of total wages paid by employers remains virtually unchanged—a result completely in line with the law of demand.

But there are other ways that employment is distorted by the institution of a new wage floor. Quite often, in fact, the law of demand is satisfied in ways that are less immediately visible. 

Recent studies from Seattle, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [pdf], and New York University [pdf] provide good examples. In the Seattle study, workers saw declines in hours that completely offset their gains in hourly pay, leaving them with less take-home pay. The NYU study found that higher productivity workers were substituted for lower productivity workers. In addition to such findings, the UIUC study also found that in low-skilled, labor-intensive industries a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage resulted in an increase of more than 24 percent in spending on capital, in line with concerns that minimum wage hikes lead to faster automation.

Other impacts from minimum wage hikes that aren’t immediately obvious include reductions in non-wage benefits for workers both at and just above the wage floor, higher consumer prices [pdf], substituting increased customer responsibility for unskilled labor [pdf], higher credential requirements for would-be employees [pdf], delayed teen and minority entry into the job market, and slower job growth for as long as eight years after the increase.

In spite of (methodologically questionable) recent challenges, the decades-old consensus remains on solid empirical ground. In a review of more than 100 studies of the minimum wage in countries across the globe, less than 8 percent found that increasing the minimum wage had the kind of positive impact on employment found in studies that challenge the consensus view. About two-thirds of the studies, by contrast, found negative employment effects. 

When the authors narrowed their evaluation to the best-quality evidence, 85 percent of studies found the expected disemployment effects, while “very few–if any–cases [were found in which] a study provide[d] convincing evidence of positive employment effects of minimum wages” on those most susceptible to employment displacement. 

In other words, despite donning a scientific veneer, the claims of those who hold that labor is not subject to the law of demand are nearly as baseless as those who might argue that the flight of airplanes disproves the law of gravity. Given the weight of evidence, we should be immediately skeptical upon hearing of studies that purport to find net-zero (or net-positive) impacts resulting from minimum wage hikes. 

But even if the literature were murkier on the empirical relationship between wage floors and employment, such skepticism would still be warranted. Intuitively, we know that if the price of a good rises, we respond to that change by reducing our consumption of that good. While the response depends on the individual consumer’s capacity and desire to consume at a given price level (that is, their demand elasticity), at some point the next increase in price causes everyone* to consume less. Interpreting data within this theoretical framework allows one to forego the mockery of anyone possessed of passing familiarity with economic principles.

In the end, economist David Henderson’s First Pillar of Economic Wisdom remains a true guiding principle: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. And, indeed, in the immortal words of Wesley, “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

*The exception is in goods for which demand is perfectly inelastic, but, given the ease with which unskilled laborers can be found in the labor market, one would be hard-pressed to argue convincingly that unskilled labor constitutes such a good.

Reprinted from Ignore This.

TGIF: Might You Be a Libertarian?

TGIF: Might You Be a Libertarian?

If you’re like most people, you don’t go around killing or assaulting others. You probably would never think of torturing, raping, kidnapping, or confining your fellow men and women. I doubt if you’d think that stealing or vandalizing their belongings would be a good thing. And I’m sure you’d never dream of stopping people from pursuing their chosen occupations.

Taking this a step further, I’ll also assume you wouldn’t think these actions would be fine as long as you had the endorsement of a bunch of other people, specifically, if more people expressed approval of such an actions than disapproval.

Now if all that is true, guess what: you are on your way to being a libertarian. Don’t retreat from it. No, embrace your inner libertarian. It’s a good thing to be. We often hear about the need to respect, tolerate, and even love humanity. That’s nice but abstract. Humanity consists of individual human beings. So when you begin to make the admonition about loving humanity concrete, you can’t help but start with: 1) don’t murder individuals; 2) don’t hit or otherwise abuse individuals, and 3) don’t touch individuals’ stuff without asking. You may want to go beyond those rules — we have much to gain from peaceful cooperation, importantly including trade of all kinds — but that is the starting point, the bare minimum. Don’t tell me you love humankind if you can’t endorse those rock-bottom don’ts.

Why do most of us live by those prohibitions? Most likely it’s because we have a sense that this is simply the right way to be. We realize that other people are essentially like ourselves, and so we should let live because we want to live. We can take different paths to this conclusion, but most of us get there. It’s not difficult to figure out. Kids do it, even if they occasionally need guidance.

Unfortunately, when the matter of the government arises, suddenly a disconnect occurs — which is strange because the government is just a group of people. It’s not an entity but an institution, a group of people who relate to one another and to a larger population in an ongoing and more-or-less formally defined way.

But if a government is just people, we ought to expect the don’ts set out above to apply, no? Many people, alas, don’t see this. (Government education is largely to blame.) They exempt from those rules anyone thought to be acting in an “official capacity.” But why? And shouldn’t the burden of proof be on those who advocate a double standard of morality, one for the ruled and another for the rulers?

Don’t reply that democracy makes it all right. We’ve already seen that you and I wouldn’t abuse someone else if we could muster the support of a lot of people. Why would the situation differ if people formally voted?

You may be thinking that “officials” can do things to other people that you and I may not do because government exists to protect us. Fair enough. Let’s talk about defense, self and otherwise.

You may properly use proportional force against someone if necessary to protect yourself or other innocents against aggression. Not only that: you may hire others to protect you or band together with others for mutual defense and aid of other kinds. Nothing wrong with that.

But note: those whom you engage for such a purpose are still subject to the rules the rest of us follow. They may not, under the rubric of defense, commit offenses against innocent people. If they do, they ought to be treated as any of the rest of us would and should be.

Obviously, the individuals who comprise the government are not held to this standard. They routinely use force against people without even the pretense of protection of innocents. Take taxation. If you, having threatened or hurt no one, don’t surrender the money the people who comprise the government demand, they will not take no for an answer. If you decline, they will send armed agents to seize your belongings and maybe even lock you up in a cage. Should you resist those armed agents, they may kill you with impunity for “resisting a lawful arrest.”

You and I can’t treat other people that way. Wherefore the double standard? Needless to say, the power to tax is the root of all other government power, which some people then grab to gain wealth that would be impossible to obtain through voluntary exchange.

Once you explicitly grasp the implicit rules you already live by, you are a long way toward being a libertarian. All that’s left is for you to realize that those rules apply to everyone, even those who shroud themselves in the mantle and mystique of the state.

TGIF — The Goal Is Freedom — appears occasionally on Fridays.

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

‘I Was Just Following Orders’

“I was just following orders” is the mantra of everyone who has found themselves on the wrong side of history – who is called into account for their actions as an order taker. How is it possible that everyone from corrupt mayors, to murderous tyrants have been able to get so many people to obey them and march in lockstep? When you take into account there are people who are willing to defend them, it’s easy to understand how these organs of the State are allowed to get away with everything from ticketing people for non-violent crimes, to the worst atrocities one could ever imagine. When you have cheerleaders, as athletes do, you are often looked at as a hero. Why else would other people be championing you and your profession? 

From the day they’re born, the overwhelming majority of people are raised in environments that teach them to obey “authority” and never question it.  

A perfect example is unquestioning nationalism. A quote on nationalism by Albert Einstein which he spoke before the rise of Hitler was, “nationalism is an infantile disease, it is the measles of mankind.” That makes sense especially when you consider that people who are unquestioning nationalists are generally taught it from a young age.  

Nationalism doesn’t have to be a negative. To the contrary, many people who identify as such can articulate the difference between having an affection for the people and the society into which they were born, or chose, and their radical distrust of the government they live under. But those who can’t (or won’t) separate the State from their neighbor, have been shown in history to be the ones who either become the order-follower, or blindly worship and make excuses for them. 

The much rarer trait is to see someone raised as a radical individualist. Homeschooling numbers from 1990- 2019 have grown from 275,000 to 2,300,000. Reasons for wanting to keep your children out of government schools can vary. Some of the earliest started out for religious reasons. Today, many people who call themselves libertarians/anarchist/voluntaryists do it because they don’t want their children to grow up in an environment which fosters and actively promotes obedience to the State apparatus.  

Law Enforcement Worship 

From a young age, many parents teach their kids that law enforcement are the good guys and if they ask you a question, you better answer and be respectful. You can be respectful and still understand the nature of the job of the police in this country. They are evidence gatherers. That is their main task since they rarely show up in time to stop a crime. They have rightfully been referred to as “historians.” If a statute has been broken, it is their job to figure out who did it and they do this by detaining or arresting people and asking them questions. 

Any lawyer worth their salt will tell you to never answer questions unless they, or another attorney is present, even if you know you are not guilty. In the must-read book, “You Have the Right to Remain Innocent,” James Duane details by citing case upon case how innocent people have talked their way into losing decades of their lives even though they didn’t commit the crime of which they were convicted. He explains how police can ask you 100 questions, and while you may have answered 98 of them correctly, even proving your innocence, the 2 that you answer in a wishy-washy way can be used to convict you while the other 98 (ones that prove your innocence) will be thrown away and declared inadmissible in court. 

This continues to be a blight on the criminal “justice” system and police officers are aware that this happens. Yet they continue to do their job as they always have with no regard for whether they are contributing to the jailing of an innocent person. They, and their defenders, will often blame it on the prosecutors. Yes, they will pass the buck so to speak. And what is their excuse? It’s just part of the job and we are “just following orders.” “We’re just doing our jobs!” 

Military Members are Beyond Reproach 

At this point in the “War on Terror” it’s impossible to argue that those fighting it are expected to be held up as heroes by the government and general public, even to the point of excusing the worst atrocities and war crimes imaginable. 

Recently, president Trump granted clemency to war criminal, special operations chief Eddie Gallagher. Gallagher, a Navy Seal and platoon leader, is described as, “a “toxic” character who was “OK with killing anything that moved”, according to fellow Iraq veterans who reported his conduct to military investigators.” “In the interviews, conducted by navy investigators looking into Gallagher’s conduct during a tour of duty in Iraq in 2017, fellow platoon members told of a ruthless leader who stabbed a captive to death for no reason then forced his troops to pose for a photograph with the corpse.”  

At his court martial Gallagher was acquitted of murder but lost rank because of the pictures posing with the dead body. “In a lengthy criminal investigation report, the navy detectives laid out other allegations against Gallagher, including shooting a schoolgirl and elderly man from a sniper’s roost. Members of Alpha Platoon’s Seal Team 7 alarmed by their leader’s conduct said they were initially shut down by military chiefs when they first spoke up, and told their own careers would suffer if they continued to talk about it” 

“The guy is freaking evil,” special operator first class Craig Miller, one of the platoon’s most experienced members, told investigators in sometimes tearful testimony. “I think Eddie was proud of it, and that was, like, part of it for him.” 

This is the man Trump gave clemency from any future charges to. And when he did, Gallagher’s defenders came out of the woodwork to defend him from anyone who dared make the claim that this man not only deserves to be locked up, but that his sanity should be called into question. Trump went so far as to hint that he would take Gallagher out on the campaign trail with him. 

Eddie Gallagher was the platoon leader, the one who gave the orders. But he also took them. Testimony shows that these military chiefs did everything they could to protect Gallagher. Even threatening those under his command if they spoke of this. It’s hard to judge from afar whether those men who posed with the dead body wanted to, or they were just following orders and feared retribution. When you see that Gallagher’s bosses actively sought to protect him, is it unreasonable to ask whether Gallagher was “just following orders” when he committed these atrocities? 

As was stated at the start, “order-followers” have found themselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to decency, not to mention liberty. Their defenders are vocal and can rarely be reasoned with. They see people in these positions as heroes and will make any excuse for actions that could be stood right next to the worst atrocities committed by Pol Pot. As we progress into a future where it is clear that the overwhelming majority of people intend to grow the size and scope of government, those who value individual liberty and justice may have to decide whether they will stick it out and attempt to change this culture, or look for alternate solutions lest they wake up in a State in which their every deed and word is under the purview of the unthinking automaton. 

Short-sighted state governments rack up $1 Trillion in liabilities

Short-sighted state governments rack up $1 Trillion in liabilities

As if the national debt and federal entitlement liabilities weren’t enough. Now we get word that state governments have racked up more than a trillion dollars in unfunded healthcare benefits for state government workers. That’s trillion – with a ‘T’.

In a report released earlier this month, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) revealed the total, adding “That’s an average of $3,107 of unfunded OPEB liabilities for every resident of the United States.” 

The financial liabilities, labeled “Other post-employment benefits,” or OPEB for short, calculate the present value of health insurance coverage benefits promised to state government employees when they retire.

Virtually every state government promises fully- or partially- paid health insurance coverage to their employees in retirement.  

More than 40 percent of the benefit plans, according to the ALEC report, operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning there has been no money set aside. And the states that do set aside some funds to help pay for the benefits typically don’t set aside much. Indeed, the ALEC report notes “The average funding ratio for state OPEB plans is 9.4%.”

States with the highest OPEB liabilities per capita are Alaska at $18,500 followed by New Jersey at $14,500 and Hawaii at $12,200.

The liability totals disclosed in the ALEC report differ from the “official” figures produced by most state governments, however. This is because ALEC uses a more realistic discount rate to calculate the present value of the liabilities. State governments are notorious for using impractical discount rates in order to make liabilities look less daunting.

This latest trillion-dollar revelation of yet more irresponsible government promises turning into taxpayer-crushing liabilities illustrates a key point made by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his 2001 book “Democracy: The God That Failed.”

Because a politician’s top priority is getting re-elected, they have a high time preference. That is, they place a high priority on spending now with little regard for future consequences, because several years down the road they will no longer be in office and the mounting debt and liabilities will become someone else’s problem.

Referring to elected officials in a democracy as “temporary caretakers” of government assets and finances, Hoppe wrote that such caretakers are “not held liable for debts incurred during his tenure of office. Rather, his debts are considered ‘public,’ to be repaid by future (equally nonreliable) governments.”

There is no incentive for elected politicians in a democracy to concern themselves with the long-term value of the government’s financial condition. “A democratic ruler can use the government apparatus to his personal advantage, but he does not own it,” wrote Hoppe. Because there is no ownership, politicians are incentivized to use the resources temporarily at their disposal for their own personal gain, which often results in long-term financial pain.

Which brings us back to the OPEB liabilities faced by state governments. For decades, state politicians have promised generous retirement benefits to state employees to curry favor (and donations) from state employees, and to access the deep pockets of state government unions.

Such retiree health benefits for state government employees are far more generous than the private sector, where owners need to be more conscious of long-term financial implications.

According to this recently-released report by the Manhattan Institute, the growing OPEB liabilities have “also revealed the extent of the gulf between the public and the private sectors. Larger private-sector firms began to offer retiree health-care coverage in the 1940s, but new accounting rules issued in the 1980s drove most firms to halt the practice.”

The report continues, “The portion of large and midsize firms offering retiree health benefits fell from 45% in 1988 to 24% in 2017. Smaller companies were less likely to offer such benefits. Today, only 15% of private-sector workers have access to employer-provided retiree health benefits. In contrast, 70% of state and local workers are eligible for employer-provided retiree health benefits.”

Naturally, politicians who are merely temporary caretakers of money taken from citizens by force will be quite willing to exchange generous benefits for better odds of winning re-election. 

Leftists accuse capitalists of being greedy and self-interested. But the latest revelation of another trillion-dollar government liability underscores the greed and self-interest of the political class. Short-sighted desire to win the next election and maintain power is the driving force behind mounting government debt and liabilities. Not some altruistic desire to take care of others.

A free society based on private property would not only be morally preferable but would enjoy a far better preservation and accumulation of wealth. Private ownership incentivizes the increase of asset values, while democratic government incentivizes elected officials to use up resources in the short-term for personal gain at the expense of impoverishing future generations through crushing debt.  

Bradley Thomas is creator of the website and is a libertarian activist who enjoys researching and writing on the freedom philosophy and Austrian economics.

Follow him on twitter: Bradley Thomas @erasestate

Socialism in Education

Socialism in Education

It would be virtually impossible to find a better example of socialism here in the United States than the public schooling systems that exist in every U.S. state. Ironically, it is this socialist system that is primarily responsible for the widespread belief among non-libertarians that “the United States has never been a socialist country,” as New York Times columnist Timothy Egan stated in a recent NYT op-ed. (See my two recent articles “A Life of the Lie on Socialism” and “Socialism in America, 31 Years Ago.”)

It is worth noting that public schooling is a core feature of the educational systems in Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam, all three of which are widely known as socialist countries. That’s because public schooling is a socialist system.

Perhaps it’s also worth noting that while we call it “public” schooling, a more accurate name for it is government schooling or state schooling. That’s because state and local governments own and operate the educational systems. If state and local governments owned and operated churches, would we call them public churches or state churches?

Under public schooling, the government owns, operates, controls, and dictates the provision of education in society. In a purely socialist system, like North Korea, this means that every child in the nation is required to receive his education in a government facility.

Things are done differently here in the United States. While everyone is required to subject his children to a state-approved education, there are two additional options that the state permits parents to have: private schools and home-schooling.

It’s worth reminding ourselves though that homeschooling is a relatively new option. Up until the 1980s, the only two options were public schools and private schools. Anyone who insisted on homeschooling his children would be hauled into court and jailed and fined until he complied with the law that required parents to submit their children to either public schools or private schools.

In fact, as late as 1979 state officials in Utah killed a man named John Singer for insisting on homeschooling his children. They called it “resisting arrest” but the killing stemmed from Singer’s refusal to comply with state orders to send his children into the state’s education system.

 Even though the state permits these two additional options, most parents choose the public-school option, either because they can’t afford private schools or because home-schooling doesn’t suit them.

Oftentimes, however, private schools end up as mirror images of public schools, either because they are afraid of losing their state-issued license to operate the school or because the teachers and administrators are themselves products of the public-school system.

Moreover, in most states homeschooling parents are required to periodically meet with state officials to demonstrate that the children are being educated to the state’s satisfaction. If parents refuse to do that or if the state doesn’t approve of how the children are being educated, state officials will order the parents to send their children into the public-school system.

Whether in Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, or the United States, the educational system is based on force. Under what are called compulsory attendance laws, parents are required to submit their children to a state-approved education. If they refuse, they are threatened with jail and fines until they comply.

In public schools, everyone, including the teachers, is an employee of the state. The state establishes the curriculum and determines which textbooks are to be used. The entire operation is run in a top-down, command-and-control manner, much like the military.

In fact, public schooling could easily be referred to as “army-lite,” given that the students are there as a result of compulsion and are receiving a government-approved education. Moreover, the core features of public schools are regimentation, deference to authority, and obedience to orders, just like in the military.

The worst part of public schooling is what it does to children’s minds. From birth to six years of age, children are wide-eyed and curious about life and the universe. They absorb everything they see and experience life with a sense of awe and wonder. When they learn to talk, they inevitably bedevil their parents with endless repetitions of that three-letter word, “Why?”

By the time they end their 12-year sentence in public schools, all of that has been smashed out of them. They have learned to memorize and regurgitate but they have lost the natural love of learning that characterized them before they were forced into the state’s educational system. Oftentimes, it takes people many years before they find themselves in life, if they ever do.

This is where the indoctrination takes place. Day after day, American students are ingrained with the notion that they live in a free country, one based on a “free-enterprise” system. Every day, they pledge allegiance to a nation which has “freedom and justice for all.” As an aside, I can’t help but wonder how many graduates of America’s public schools know that the Pledge of Allegiance, which many of them still loyally recite as adults, was written by a self-avowed socialist named Francis Bellamy

By the time students graduate from this socialist educational system, they are totally convinced that America has never been a socialist country and will never become one. Their life of the lie and their denial of reality demonstrate that horrible “success” of public schooling.

That raises one of the distinguishing characteristics of us libertarians: We have succeeded in breaking through the years of state indoctrination. That enables us to recognize socialism when we see it. We favor an educational system based on liberty, free markets, and parental control — that is, one that separates school and state

Reprinted from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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