Monthly Archives: March 2014

Live Free Without Changing a Single Mind

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One of the most frustrating things about understanding how important freedom is lies in actually obtaining it; we go through the process of unlearning what we were taught to believe about how the government makes us better off and then ask, “Ok, so how do we go about changing things?” The problem is, unlike in a free market where we are able to improve our situation and succeed by our own efforts, political change requires that enough other people desire change as well. Even worse, there are so many institutional barriers that stand in the way of change happening. So many people benefit (if only in the short run) or perceive themselves to benefit from the status quo. These include Social Security and Medicare recipients, farmers who receive subsidies, defense contractors, state and federal employees, non-profits who receive government grants, people who receive more in income tax returns than they pay, as well as many other groups that I’m sure you can list ad nauseam.

The fact that so many people perceive themselves as benefiting from the government’s shuffling around of resources from one person to another is bad for freedom. Many people suggest that the changing of the prevalent collectivist mentalities will require multiple generations, and collapse is likely to happen before then. At least in the short run, collapses are also bad for freedom. Those of us who understand the eventual outcomes of the massive expansion of credit by central banks and the undertaking of unprecedented levels of debt by nation-states and have prepared accordingly will be targeted by those who didn’t and tax collectors ready to meet their demands. When people take a hit in their living standards, they will have little sympathy for those who do not.

Fortunately, though, there is a way to avoid the assaults on your liberty and wealth (or your quest to build it) that doesn’t require running political campaigns, voting the bums out, filing lawsuits in federal court, writing letters to your congressional “representative,” or any of the other activities people believe might change the political landscape. And you don’t need to change a single mind (except perhaps your own and anyone else you might want to take with you). It’s called internationalization.

Internationalization entails the concept of “planting multiple flags,” where one diversifies his or her sovereign risk by spreading out their activities over multiple jurisdictions. This can include living in one country, being a citizen of another, owning a business in another, and banking in yet another country. This is to make sure all of your eggs aren’t in one basket. But even more than that, it recognizes the fact that there is no one country that is the best for all of these things. The best places to live (based on your preferences) may not be the best place to own a business or bank.

A resource I have found invaluable in helping me research these topics is NomadCapitalist.com. It is run by Andrew Henderson, a man who is the real deal when it comes to being an expert in internationalization. He is a perpetual traveler who is constantly looking for the best places to live, do business, and invest. What I especially like about Andrew is how dedicated he is to helping others benefit from the knowledge that he gains during his worldly travels. He has recently started a new club called The Nomad Society, which provides information from a variety of experts on how to internationalize your life. I would highly recommend checking this club out for anyone who has any interest in internationalization.

Finally, I want to close by saying how glad I am that the option of expatriation exists. As long as it does, we have the opportunity to go where we’re treated best and say goodbye to any government that claims to own us. I admire all of you who take this route to better your lives. I hope to join you soon.

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Are Organ Shortages Artificial?

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Though perhaps it shouldn’t have, my mind was partially blown a few years ago when I read the book written by Cato Institute health policy experts Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner, Healthy Competition. In it, there is a section describing the economics of organ donations and how organ shortages are entirely created by the government. How?

Well, it’s not the case that the government is keeping us all so safe that there aren’t any available organ donors. Rather, it is because there is a price ceiling for organs: $0. That is,  there is no legal way to accept something of monetary value in exchange for organs. Cannon and Tanner’s argument is that, but for such price controls, there would be no shortages.

This recent video from Reason provides support for such a contention:

If it’s the case that the most needed organ transplant is kidneys, an organ most people can give up and still survive, then it’s not the case that most organ donors have to be waiting around, reluctantly hoping that someone has a fatal accident that leaves their precious organs intact. Thus, it’s more plausible to believe that organ shortages are, indeed, artificial.

Cannon and Tanner also address the rationale behind the prohibition of monetary exchanges for organs. It is supposedly the case that allowing such wealth transfers would deny the dignity of individual life. Furthermore, it would be another way to exploit the poor if organs could be exchanged for money (and that only the rich would have access to organs).

In regards to the first contention, one ought to ask, which alternative shows more respect for the dignity of life? The one that allows life to be extended through the transfer of money or the one that forces people to die in the name of making sure money isn’t being exchanged for life-sustaining organs? The answer seems obvious to me.

Secondly, are the poor more exploited by receiving money for organs that they voluntarily give or when they are forced to receive nothing in return for such tremendous value? And I’m not sure it’s much of a consolation to know that the rich bastard behind you on the organ waiting list is going to die too. Here we have yet another case where human well being is sacrificed upon the altar of egalitarianism. But I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that under such a free market health care system that the poor would be worse off (really, how could they be?). Health insurance provided on the free market would likely be specifically for such catastrophic medical emergencies, rather than routine procedures, and would therefore be much more affordable than under the current regime. Furthermore, plans would more likely be purchased by individuals rather than by employers, making it so that one’s insurance is not dependent upon one’s job.

Lastly, I don’t think allowing markets in organ transfers would increase black market organ activity but do just the opposite. Wouldn’t it be nice to say goodbye to waking up in bathtubs full of ice?

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Go Team Venture!

Do Libertarians Necessarily Hate Tradition?

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On the Center for a Stateless Society blog, Natasha Petrova attempted to explain some differences between conservatives and libertarians, arguing that libertarianism and tradition are incompatible:

As for defenses of tradition being compatible with libertarianism; I disagree with this. The essence of libertarianism is individualism and individual rights. This conflicts with obedience to inherited collectivist traditional social norms. Independent judgment and reason tend to undermine traditionalism.

The conservative’s tendency to favor the preservation of established institutions will also come into conflict with the libertarian. All institutions are subject to rational examination and change in a free society. This can’t be reconciled with a conservative defense of tradition or inherited institutions. Tradition also tends to require coercion or ostracism to maintain. Both of which are tools for controlling people. This is not to say that coercion and ostracism are always unjustified, but they are preferably used for something other than the continuation of existing social norms.

It would have been quite nice if Ms. Petrova provided some examples to illustrate her contention. Surely we can think of some “collectivist social norms” that are worth tossing by the wayside, but Ms. Petrova seems to be making a blanket statement regarding any tradition whatsoever. The fact that “all institutions are subject to rational examination and change in a free society” does not imply that ALL inherited institutions ought to abandoned. Indeed, she contradicts herself: disregarding something simply because it is an established tradition demonstrates a lack of rational examination.

She also requires us to take her word that “tradition also tends to require coercion or ostracism to maintain.” I don’t believe this is an obvious or self-evident statement, but rather just an unbacked assertion. Similarly, her preference that coercion be used for some other purpose “than the continuation of existing social norms,” seems unimaginative. One can easily think of some much more nefarious uses for coercion than preserving existing social norms. What were left with by Ms. Petrova in her blog post is not so much an argument for why tradition is bad, but simply her repeated assertions that it is bad.

Another way in which tradition and libertarianism are at odds is historical. History is replete with examples of tyranny and unfree societies. There is a dearth of relative freedom throughout history, so it’s strange to look to what has come before for inspiration.

To me, this statement is downright silly, but consistent with what she has said above. If we are to assume that what was in the past is always bad (or at least worse than what currently exists) then it would follow that all current institutions are preferable to what came before. But just because no libertarian utopia existed in the past does not mean we cannot look to the past for inspiration. We can look at the Anglo-Saxon tithes and hundreds for examples of justice systems that operated without the state. We can look at the history of turnpikes in the UK and US for proof that roads can be provided through private initiative. We can look to history to show that Americans could be relatively prosperous without a central bank, an income tax, a fascist health care system, and many other state enterprises. It’s not to say that all of these institutions (or lack thereof) were ideal, but that they present a picture of an alternative to the state. In terms of liberty, some things have gotten better, some worse. It’s ignorant to dismiss all of the past as some type of perennial Dark Age.