Thom Hartmann Proves Any Idiot Can Get Their Own TV News Show


Recently, I decided to tune in to Russia Today, testing the hypothesis that a news channel funded and run by a foreign government might be more critical, and therefore present a more interesting view, of the US government. That might be the case with RT (they did have Adam Kokesh as an anchor, after all) but within the first 24 hours of watching RT I was introduced to Thom Hartmann, who is billed as “America’s #1 progressive radio host,” and has a show called “The Big Picture.” Almost immediately after I turned on Hartmann’s show, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Libertarian Party’s emblem displayed, and though I have no particular affinity for the LP, I thought there was a possibility that a political view outside of the mainstream might actually be presented. However, Hartmann proclaimed that “libertarian economics” has screwed millennials. This made no sense to me, but I’m open to hearing criticisms of libertarianism and patiently waited for the relevant segment. Here it is, should you care to watch it:

"The deregulation, the privatization, the Iraq"

“The deregulation, the privatization, the Iraq”

What struck me at first was how many times Hartmann says “libertarian economics” (12 times in less than 5 minutes) and other phrases he thinks are synonymous (“Reaganomics” he says 3 times and “libertarianism” twice). The reason he does this, of course, is that he really has no idea what “libertarian economics” is; otherwise, he would mention specific policies instead of vague ideas. The most specific he gets is with “the massive tax cuts, the deregulation, the privatization” of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (his excessive use of “the” reminds me of Miss South Carolina of 2007). He also mentions “the free trade mantra” which is apparently why millennials don’t have jobs and “deregulation of the stock market” which somehow caused a housing boom and bust. But how has “libertarian economics” screwed millennials the most? Through student loan debt.

That’s right. An industry that was massively subsidized and now effectually monopolized by the federal government is an institution of “libertarian economics.” Upon watching this, the audience feels the urge to check the calendar to make sure it’s not April 1st, to pinch themselves to make sure they aren’t in some Newspeak nightmare, to do anything to gain their own assurance that something so unbelievably stupid could not be said by a serious TV news anchor with the approval of his producers and whomever else helps make this content. And yet Thom Hartmann is completely serious. He puts two and two together: George W. Bush (who bailed out megabanks, created the greatest expansion of the federal government’s role in medical care since the passage of Medicare, and under whose presidency the national debt grew more than all previous presidencies combined) pursued “libertarian economic policies,” and the US has never had student loan debt problems like it does today. Ergo, libertarian economic policies caused the student loan crisis.

Hartmann apparently finds the effort to even do a Google search to check basic historical facts too taxing. Apparently, “the free trade mantra” is part of “libertarian economics,” and yet a cited practitioner, Herbert Hoover, signed what is probably the best known trade barrier (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act) into federal law, which caused FDR to later pledge to reduce the tariff rates as part of his election campaign. Might FDR be a shill for “libertarian economics” as well?

Ultimately, one must come to the conclusion that Thom Hartmann has an inchoate conception of whatever he thinks he’s referring to with “libertarian economics” (and I doubt he even has a coherent conception of what his own progressivism is, either). By leaving his bogeyman of “libertarian economics” undefined, he can blame for everything. Even ISIS. What a world we live in.

Tenth Amendment Center Has Some B.A. New Videos


Out of all political organizations and think tanks, the Tenth Amendment Center is one of my absolute favorites. One of the biggest reasons why is its effectiveness, especially considering its humble origins in Michael Boldin’s apartment. And today, it remains largely an operation run out of Boldin’s apartment, though with a wide network of volunteers all across the country. I know not what the TAC’s annual budget is, but it is far less than those DC organizations that have been with us for decades and haven’t really made much of an impact on Washington’s growth in power. Meanwhile, the TAC has had a direct hand in getting state law and local ordinances passed that counteract federal overreach on a range of issues, like hemp laws, NSA spying, firearms restrictions, medical care, etc. They have done so much with so little and, frankly, it’s exciting.

What I also love about TAC is its uncompromising dedication to principle. It goes beyond their motto, “The Constitution. Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses.” They have declined to register with the IRS as a non-profit, as they refuse to accept the vulnerability such a move would entail (e.g., take a look at Campaign for Liberty’s battle with the IRS for refusing to share their donor list).

They have also done an outstanding job of creating coalitions of individuals and groups with widely varying political ideologies (take a look at their OffNow Coalition, for example). Individuals of all political stripes (except for totalitarians) should be able to find an issue that they agree with TAC upon and use their combined resources to effect change. I think TAC’s being issue-oriented, rather than party- or ideology-oriented, has contributed a lot to its success.

And instead of telling you about all the problems of the federal government and leaving you feeling hopeless and dejected, TAC offers real options to apply one’s efforts to change things. They have a bill tracking that helps one know the state of proposed legislation in their state and what to do if he or she wants to support it. If you want to volunteer, Michael Boldin will find something for you to do. It’s wonderful.

I promise the Tenth Amendment Center is not paying me anything at all to write this. As gushing and seemingly sycophantic today’s post may seem, it’s how I feel. TAC is a great organization and I would encourage all who value individual liberty to check it out.

Is Josh Tolley a Totalitarian?


A person in the Idaho liberty movement encouraged me to check out radio host Josh Tolley, saying that he ought to be promoted as a media personality who supports liberty. I subscribed to his YouTube channel and watched a video every so often (or rather listened to his videos, which are mostly excerpts from his radio show that rotate still images instead of actually being video). However, the one to which I listened today was rather disturbing. It is entitled “Bible Vs Constitution: Only One Supports Freedom (it’s not the one you think).” You can see it below:

Josh Tolley interviews Ted R. Weiland, the pastor of Christian Covenant Fellowship in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and who wrote a book called Bible Law vs. The United States Constitution: A Biblical Perspective. Mr. Weiland argues that the US Constitution is not inspired by Judeo-Christian values or Biblical law, but not for the reasons one might think. Rather, the reason that the US Constitution is anti-Christian is because it fails to establish a nation-state theocracy that enforces the Mosaic Law.

In the above-mentioned book, there is a chapter dedicated to each of the articles in the US Constitution, as well as one for each of the amendments. In this interview, Weiland mentions the arguments he makes against the First Amendment, particularly freedom of religion. If it weren’t for this anti-Christian provision, he says, we wouldn’t see the rise of Islam or polytheism in the United States. “But wouldn’t this mean forced conversions?” a caller asks. Forced conversions are not real conversions, Weiland replies, but we are talking about the government and not individuals and there is a big difference. So here we have the obvious indication that Weiland is a statist totalitarian: he believes something that would be absolutely morally reprehensible for an individual to do is a duty of the state. And yet Tolley does not bother to challenge this point.

Weiland also claims that under what he believes to be a Biblical government, there would be almost no need for prisons. Before you think,” Wow, this guy must really be progressive,” please note that the reason why is the immediate execution of those convicted of capital crimes and the payment of restitution to victims of non-capital crimes (who are summarily executed if they fail to pay restitution). When a caller asks about whether it is just for offenders who fail to pay restitution to be executed, Weiland replies that such a penalty would rarely, if ever, be enforced. Why, whoever would choose not to pay restitution must have a death wish, he claims. But if we are to accept that reasoning, we would have to say that people would rarely, if ever, do anything that incurred the death penalty, which is 1) not true in practice and 2) sounds like a basis for totalitarianism: just have the death penalty for all undesirable behaviors and they will go away!

Weiland also seems very confident in his Biblical interpretation skills, as he says most Christians are wrong in how they believe Jesus freed us from the requirements of the Mosaic Law. Not so, says he, we still need to stone adulterers and homosexuals. If we only followed God’s perfect law (strictly enforced by the state), we wouldn’t have any of the social problems we have today. Weiland shows the tendencies common among totalitarians: he believes in an earthly utopia brought about by state power and he is clearly willing to execute people to reach his objectives.

And even through all this, interviewing someone who is obviously not a libertarian and shows many of the signs of being a totalitarian, Josh Tolley expresses no disagreement with anything Weiland says. In fact, he wants to have him on his show again. What are we to think of Josh Tolley?

Is Police Brutality Systemic or Anecdotal?


I came across an interesting piece on The American Conservative arguing the proposition that police brutality is not just anecdotal, but systemic. If we think of the incentives facing police officers, this shouldn’t be too surprising. If you’re in a job where there is an above-average likelihood where you will be required to engage in the use of force and the certainty of punishment should you use excessive force is rather low, there is a greater chance, all else equal, that you will use excessive force. Add into the mix that police officers are self-selected from people who find the ability to use physical force on the job an attractive proposition. Furthermore, there are institutional incentives for police officers to disregard misconduct by their fellow officers, as they face retaliation in the forms of ostracism among other police officers, a smaller chance of promotion, and even the threat of physical force should they report this misconduct.

Thus, to say police brutality is systemic is not to say that all or even the majority of police officers are bad. It is talking about the system (thus, “systemic). And, again, these are the kinds of things we should expect from monopolies, which police departments are: you cannot fire them and you have no choice but to pay them unless you skip town.

Ultimately, I would encourage everyone to treat the institution of government policing with a bit more scrutiny than it typically receives. It may be the case that you live in a place that has a relatively well-functioning police department, and if that’s the case, be grateful. But realize that not all departments have the same good institutional culture and if it does not, it is incredibly hard to fix, due to its monopoly status.

H/T to

Making Arguments for Liberty


I’ve been thinking a lot lately how best to appeal to people regarding the ideas of liberty. For liberty flourish, I believe it’s best for as many people as possible to embrace its ideals. At the very least, I don’t want my conduct or arguments or behavior to turn people off to these ideas; it would probably be better for a millstone to be tied around my neck and I be thrown into the sea.

I find myself coming to the conclusion that there is no one definitive argument for liberty that will be appealing to all people. This should be expected; people are individuals with their own tastes and desires. Thus, the wonderful book that led the scales to drop from our eyes might not have the same effect for others. This is why it’s so important that we have a conversation when we communicate with others about ideas we might like them to consider. We need to empathize with them and understand what appeals to them.

The video below made me think about this, and I would like to get some feedback on the following thought. Regarding the third absurd reason to ban drugs, Professor Davies says the assumption behind it is that the government owns you and ought to have the ability to make you be productive. Almost instinctively, I reject such ideas. But I wonder how many people also might instinctively reject the idea of the government owning them and being able to tell them what to do.

Do people not usually think of these things? Or is it just the case that when they support government coercion they don’t see it as such because they obviously wouldn’t advocate the government prohibiting something they themselves would otherwise do, but only others who are morally infirm or intolerant or whatever? What keeps them from seeing the coercive nature of government? And if they do see it, do they care enough to change it?

Lynn Parramore Has No Idea How an Economy Works


I have a professor who likes to send me a lot of opinion pieces from outlets such as Huffington Post, Salon, Upworthy, and MoveOn. A recent one was from Bill Moyers’ website, originally published at Alternet, called, “How Piketty’s Bombshell Book Blows Up Libertarian Fantasies.

The author, Lynn Parramore, really doesn’t have much to say about Picketty’s arguments, but seems to have a lot to say about how mistaken Milton Friedman (whom she calls “Uncle Milty”) and libertarians are about inequality. I’ll try to be as civil as possible when describing it, but I hope you can appreciate the difficulty considering how incredibly arrogant Ms. Parramore is, being essentially an economic illiterate and having the gall to belittle someone who won the Nobel Prize in economics. To be clear, I’m not saying that Nobel Prize winning economists are beyond question, but do we really have to treat our intellectual opponents as if we are ten years old?

I’m not sure why “fantasies” is used in the plural, as Parramore focuses exclusively on inequality, which she says libertarians either deny as a problem or pretend that the market will wave an invisible wand and cure it. Milton Friedman, she says, claims that free markets will lead to less inequality. However, all of this has been proven wrong by experience and Picketty’s book.

How did libertarians get it all so backwards? Well, as Piketty points out, people like Milton Friedman were writing at a time when inequality was indeed less pronounced in the US than it had been in previous eras. But they mistook this happy state of affairs as the magic of capitalism. Actually, it wasn’t the magic of capitalism that reduced inequality during a brief, halcyon period after the New Deal and World War II. It was the forces of various economic shocks plus policies our government put in place to respond to them that changed America from a top-heavy society in the Gilded Age to something more egalitarian in the post-war years.

One of the most frustrating things about having conversations regarding “capitalism” and “socialism” is how different people define them differently and then how they will label countries such as Denmark as socialist and the US as capitalist, even though Denmark rates higher on the Index of Economic Freedom. As Roderick Long has pointed out, these terms obfuscate understanding rather than facilitate it. Indeed, when left-libertarians claim that in a “freed market” inequality would be less, they are contrasting it to the present state of affairs where gigantic banks get bailed out, corporations are given legal privileges, saving money is discouraged through inflation, occupational licensure makes entrepreneurship for many illegal, etc.. When Parramore said that libertarians think free markets would lead to less inequality, what did she think they were comparing it to?

As Piketty notes, people like Milton Friedman, an academic economist, were doing rather well in the economy, likely sitting in the top 10 percent income level, and to them, the economy appeared to be doing just fine and rewarding talents and merits very nicely. But the Friedmans weren’t paying enough attention to how the folks on the rungs above them, particularly the 1 percent and even more so the .01 percent, were beginning to climb into the stratosphere. The people doing that climbing were mostly not academic economists or lawyers or doctors. They were managers of large firms who had begun to award themselves very prodigious salaries.

I have my doubts that Parramore has even bothered to read Friedman before criticizing him. Why, obviously, he was in good shape so he thought everyone must have been! And I’ve always been suspicious that most people who support measures such as the minimum wage have absolutely no idea how wages are determined, that they think employers simply have a pile of money from which they decide how much to pay themselves and how much to pay their employees, and thus a minimum wage will increase the proportion that goes to employees. Parramore’s last sentence seems to confirm this suspicion. Does she really think that managers simply award themselves salaries, and, if so, they just all of a sudden got greedy and decided to give themselves more? It’s reminiscent of the people who blame oil companies for being greedy when gas prices rise. Newsflash: oil companies are always greedy and always trying to charge the profit-maximizing price. Price is independent of their greed.

Wealth gathering at the top creates all sorts of problems. Some of these elites will hoard their wealth and fail to do anything productive with it. Others channel it into harmful activities like speculation, which can throw the economy out of whack. Some increase their wealth by preying on the less well-off. As inequality grows, regular people lose their purchasing power. They go into debt. The economy gets destabilized. (Piketty, and many other economists, count the increase in inequality as one of the reasons the economy blew up in 2007-’08.)

Where to begin? Maybe if Parramore had read Friedman, she would realize that he addressed this very problem of the wealthy hording their wealth and failing to do anything productive with it in Capitalism and Freedom. Part of the reason is the tax code, which encourages the wealthy to treat their wealth more conservatively than they otherwise would. As well, it’s a pretty good chance you’re talking to an economic illiterate when they regard speculation as a necessarily harmful activity “which can throw the economy out of whack.” They have no idea of the actual, useful role that speculation can play. For example, a speculator in agricultural futures can purchase wheat futures from a wheat farmer, guaranteeing the wheat farmer a certain price, no matter what the price of wheat is at harvest time. If the farmer finds this arrangement agreeable, he is benefited in that he shoulders less risk. The speculator shoulders this risk in exchange for the possibility that the price of wheat might be greater at harvest time than what he paid the farmer for it, thus giving him a gain. Of course, he might lose money, but the farmer is still benefited from the decreased risk. Parramore probably doesn’t see this as beneficial because she doesn’t understand what speculation is. Again, it’s pretty similar to when gas prices rise and news pundits blame speculators; they have no idea what they’re talking about. As for “throwing the economy out of whack,” speculation alone doesn’t do this unless fueled by artificial expansions of credit. But Parramore would have no idea about that, since she thinks Alan Greenspan unleashed the era of the free market (!).

Parramore also commits what is possibly the most basic fallacy in economics: the zero-sum fallacy. Just because someone becomes more wealthy does not cause someone else to become less wealthy. As a corollary, it is not the case that increasing inequality causes people to lose purchasing power. Furthermore, decreased purchasing power does not cause people to go into debt. It’s not as if all the people who went into large amounts of debt to buy houses prior to the crash did so because they couldn’t afford another dwelling.

Lastly, I would love to hear the theory by which inequality caused the economy to blow up (according to Don Boudreax, Picketty also thinks trade deficits contributed to the crash. My goodness, what didn’t contribute to the crash?). Extreme wealth inequality has existed throughout all of history, but the business cycle is a rather modern phenomenon. Claims like these seem to suggest that “Pickety and many other economists” have really no idea what caused the crash.

The ironic twist is this: The reason a person like the fictional John Galt would be able to rise from humble beginnings in the 1950s is because the Gilded Age rentiers lost large chunks of their wealth through the shocks of the Great Depression and the deliberate government policies that came in its wake, thus loosening their stranglehold on the economy and society. Galt is able to make his fortune precisely because he lives in a society that isn’t dominated by extreme concentrated wealth and dynasties. Yet the logical outcome of an economy in which there is no attempt made to limit the size of fortunes and promote greater equality is a place in which the most likely way John Galt can make a fortune is to marry an heiress. So it was in the Gilded Age. So it may be very soon in America.

Here again, Parramore demonstrates that she hasn’t the foggiest on how an economy works or how wealth is created. She seems to sincerely believe that one person’s gain is another person’s loss, and so there is no way for anyone to become wealthy without others becoming less wealthy.

I’m about finished, but before I let you go, I want to simply address the matter of inequality itself. As pointed out by Rothbard in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, in current public discourse, equality is so highly touted without most people ever feeling a need to justify it in and of itself. I will give Ms. Parramore credit in that she did actually come up with a justification for desiring more wealth equality, even though it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. I would like to challenge readers of AlterNet and Bill Moyers and other progressive websites to think critically about what they are reading and also learn some economics. Don’t be like Ms. Parramore and think, “Oh, some economist wrote a book confirming my views about the world and now I’m qualified to say how dumb Milton Friedman was.”

A Reminder that the State Requires Justification


Though the reasons why aren’t mysterious, most people think the burden of proof is on those of us who believe that the state is illegitimate to demonstrate such a contention, rather than the other way around. When this issue is considered from a conventional perspective (states dominate the world, there aren’t any stateless societies in which one would want to live, I have been taught to love the state since birth, etc.) then it might seem logical that the burden of proof is on the other side. But when we try to get past our preconceived notions and accurately define what we’re talking about, we might find that the burden of proof ought to be on the other side. And really, this fits in with our conventional ideas of justice: the prosecution has to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not the other way around, before they deprive him of life, property, or liberty. My question is, why not take this a step further and apply it generally, not only in criminal prosecutions? The state deprives people of these three things on a regular basis: it kills people in Yemen with no declaration of war or any other form of due process, it forces people to serve in its jury system and register for selective service, and demands its pound of flesh every April 15th. And yet, if you are to be exempt from any one of these things, the burden of proof is placed on you to show why. What we have here, I submit, is a miscarriage of justice.

And let us not get bogged down in any nonsense that we tacitly agreed to this subjugation or that “we are the government.” There are few things so obviously untrue that public figures can say and still be treated seriously. Consider this excerpt from a recent piece by John Whitehead:

…the government insists it can carry out all manner of surveillance on us—listen in on our phone calls, read our emails and text messages, track our movements, photograph our license plates, even enter our biometric information into DNA databases—but those who dare to return the favor, even a little, by filming potential police misconduct, get roughed up by the police, arrested, charged with violating various and sundry crimes.

As George Carlin said, the state is made up of a club, and you ain’t in it.

It should be clear to everyone that what defines the state is its legitimacy in doing things that if done by anyone else would be seen as illegitimate. This presents a prima facie case that justification for such legal privilege is required. And yet, most of us go on as it wasn’t.

So the next time you should feel inclined to correct someone who claims the state holds everyone’s salvation for health care, safety, wealth, etc., gently ask them to justify the state (that is, violence in pursuit of their ends) in the first place. This unspoken premise largely goes unchallenged. Challenge it.

Live Free Without Changing a Single Mind


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 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.

Are Organ Shortages Artificial?


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?


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.