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Category: C.Jay Engel

Dynamic Cultures– Nice Try Steve Horwitz

I should blog more, I said on Facebook. So I decided to make my comeback by taking a swipe at Steve Horwitz. Left-libertarian and AINO (Austrian in Name Only), Horwitz is one of those guys in the nominal libertarian movement that gets under my skin. Especially with little things like this (from here):

If libertarianism means anything, it’s that we understand that markets and cultures are dynamic, emergent orders that lead to human progress for all, and globally.

Um, no. First of all, markets being dynamic is an economic proposition, not a libertarian one. Libertarianism is a theory of the legal status of private property and the nature of criminal activity. Whether cultures are dynamic has nothing to do with libertarianism. These leftists who misconstrue libertarianism to make it something that is self-embracing of all kinds of leftist cultural desires are quite a drag on the liberty movement and were in part a reason for the rise of “Gary Johnson libertarianism.” I’ve talked more about these status quo libertarians here.

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A Note on Capitalism and Laissez-Faire

At The Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College, David Kotter questions whether the Bible endorses “American Capitalism” or “Communist Central Planning.”  He begins as follows:

The Bible does not endorse American-style Capitalism, nor did the early church practice Communist central planning in the early chapters of Acts.

I suppose this can be agreeable, although Kotter does not define “American-style Capitalism” or explain how the American economic system, which is more fascistic than communistic, can possibly be dubbed “capitalism.”  It can be agreeable if by this phrase he is referring to Fascism, which is the proper name for an economic system in which private corporations operate under partnership with the State.  But if that was his meaning, we might urge him to use a different phrase as the use of “capitalism” is quite misleading.  Sometimes, fascism is described as “crony capitalism” or “corporatism.”  I am not fond of the former phrase.  At any rate, “American-style capitalism” should be opposed because its not capitalism.

He also writes, “Republican Party economics is not a required part of Christianity.”  This is certainly true, since the GOP is largely socialistic, or at least “interventionist,” which is the predecessor of socialism.  Of course, it is also true in the sense that one’s commitment to free markets does not weigh into whether or not he is saved.

Now, not to mislead those who haven’t read the article, there is no doubt that Kotter is a proponent of the market system.  He spends the majority of his time largely expressing his agreement with a variety of components of the capitalist system.  He spends paragraphs 2-4 listing examples of private property, subjective value, the division of labor, entrepreneurship, and other such economic topics.

And then in the next paragraph, he writes:

On the other hand, the Bible does not endorse a completely laissez-faire perspective. Commerce was to be conducted with just weights and measures (Leviticus 19:35-36).

The problem with this, and the need for the present blogpost, is that he is apparently using laissez-faire in a way that is unfair to its use historically.  Thus, if any reader who is unaware of these topics accepts Kotter’s whole post, they will subsequently see laissez-faire through the wrong lens and may in the future consider a proponent of laissez-faire as holding to views which he actually does not.

It might be falsely assumed from the quoted paragraph that a laissez-faire proponent opposes just weights and measures.  Which more generally might give way to the false assumption that a laissez-faire proponent opposes a system of justice and enforcement of fraud and contract.  But laissez-faire has never meant “lack of rules.”  Ludwig von Mises, who is perhaps the greatest economist in the 20th century, was the chief laissez-faire thinker in his generation; he even went so far as to call Milton Friedman a socialist!  And yet, he was also the most vocal opponent of fiat money and government-granted authority to devalue currencies, which is what “just weights and measures” is intended to prevent, among other things.

Laissez-faire, in its historical use, was the theme of the French Physiocrats (see page 367 of this book), who were the most important opposition economists to the mercantilist doctrine of State control over imports and exports.  Whereas the mercantilists sought protective tariffs and government subsidies to help domestic businesses, the physiocrats declared that only free-trade, not managed trade, could lead a country to a prosperous future. It was Adam Smith that later carried forth these arguments and smashed the Mercantilists of his day with his book “The Wealth of Nations.”  Laissez-faire simply means “let it be” and should be interpreted as related to economic theory as “let the trade take place.”  The government should not intervene with two willing parties who are making a transaction. It does not mean: “lawlessness.”

If there is proof of fraud of any sort, then the criminal will be prosecuted.  All of this is entirely consistent with laissez-faire. For the point of laissez-faire is not to express desire for a system without laws, but rather to express desire for a system in which two consenting parties can engage in a voluntary trade without the government preventing it.  Laissez-faire has a historical context (otherwise, why keep the French phrase?). It is best that we keep it in mind.

After this paragraph, Kotter ends on an agreeable note, pointing out that an objection to capitalism on the basis of its inherent greed is nonsensical. For how does any other system remove the greedy mentality from the human being? For more on greed and capitalism, please see my article here.

Three cheers for laissez-faire capitalism.

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Freedom is Not “Public Policy”: Some Excerpts

I did some leisurely reading last night, which I haven’t done in some time. I read some essays from Lew Rockwell’s “The Left, The Right, & The State.”  I’ve read it before, but it’s always good to go back to the basics. Here are some excerpts from the essay “Freedom is Not ‘Public Policy.'”

Among the greatest failures of the free-market intellectual movement has been allowing its ideas to be categorized as a “public policy” option. The formulation implies a concession that it is up to the state—its managers and kept intellectuals—to decide how, when, and where freedom is to be permitted. It further implies that the purpose of freedom, private ownership, and market incentives is the superior management of society, that is, to allow the current regime to operate more efficiently.

Nice collection of essays, worth the time to read here and there.
Nice collection of essays, worth the time to read here and there.

This kind of thinking has been around a while. Murray Rothbard had noted back in the 1950s that economists, even those favoring markets, had become “efficiency experts for the state.” There is a small step from that unfortunate stance to providing a free-market rhetorical cover for the state to do what it wants to do anyway, which is surely the ultimate compromise.

Such was at the heart of the Reagan Revolution, when tax cuts were first proposed as a tool to bring in more revenue. Who said that the purpose of freedom was to ensure more lavish funding for the state? And what if the funding didn’t materialize? Does that mean that the tax cuts failed? Twenty years later, of course, we see that the strategy was a disaster because it turned out that there is a far surer way to collect more revenue: to collect more revenue.

There are many examples of this awful concession operating today. In policy circles, people use the word privatization to mean not the bowing out of government from a particular aspect of social and economic life, but merely the contracting out of statist priorities to politically connected private enterprise.

School vouchers and Social Security “privatization” are the most notorious examples at the national level. At the state and local levels, any government contract awarded to a grafting business interest is deemed “privatization.” A Washington think tank recently proposed that the CIA could become more efficient by contracting out to Washington think tanks.

What’s at stake is the very conception of the role of freedom in political, economic, and social life. Do we regard freedom as a useful device within the existing structure, or as an alternative to the current political system? This is not a matter of bickering libertarian sects. The very future of the idea of free markets is at stake.

[…]

We hear that if we “privatize” the schools with vouchers and other gimmicks, they will be cheaper to run and test scores will go up. We are told that if we “privatize” Social Security, it will produce higher returns for seniors. Here, the establishment libertarian policy people are saying: socialism is possible after all, so long as it is run by private enterprise!

In truth, if the education sector were ever completely in private hands, nothing like the current system would continue to exist. Most administrators would be without jobs in the school system. The schools themselves might become retail centers. Education would be radically decentralized and mixed with private enterprise. Schools would come and go. Teacher salaries would probably plummet. No one would have a right to an education guaranteed by the state. The state could ask for and expect no content or results from education at any level.

[…]

A hundred years ago, a person who proposed such a system would have been considered a socialist. Today, he is a “libertarian public policy expert.” If what you desire is true free-market reform, don’t call it privatization. We need to stop the present racket. Under real market reforms, no one would be looted and no one would be guaranteed anything. The slogan should be: stop the theft.

Note: I personally don’t mind the word “privatization.” It just needs to be defined correctly to represent the private ownership –which includes the decision making authority– of goods and services. In these sense then, the “privatization” of public services, is not really privatized in the most meaningful sense, but is only privatized nominally and strategically to enforce, not to challenge, the statist status quo.

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On It’s Way: Reformed Libertarian Store (coffee mugs ready for order)

Although it’s been quiet around here, I have by no means been lazily sitting on the couch. Mostly, I’ve been busy with my financial advisory practice and starting some other business projects as well (announcements to come). Happily, most of the grunt work related to those is out of the way and I can now dedicate some more time to The Reformed Libertarian (maybe even the podcast?).

Right now, I have about 5 TRL branded products I want to offer and, eventually, books and some libertarian/economics guides as well. So I set up a store. It is not live yet. But it will be very shortly. The link will be store.reformedlibertarian.com.

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Only $13 smackers! (–Tom Woods)

But I already have one product ready to go and since I already have them ordered, I am ready for people to start claiming them. Until the store goes live though, we have to do without it. Thus, you can order the TRL coffee mugs via my donation PayPal link.

Just go to this link, enter exactly $16.50 ($13 mug + $3.50 shipping), check the box that you are paying for a product, and enter your shipping address. IMPORTANT: In the optional note section, write “TRL mug” so I know this isn’t a random donation.

Make sure you order soon because I only ordered 50 of them to test the waters and I don’t want you to be stranded without a mug!

One more thing: since the entire order has been placed, but not yet received here at my house, I think it may take 2-3 weeks before you receive them. Just a heads up so you don’t break into a cold sweat.

This will only be the process for this first item. Once the store is up we can do everything more seamlessly at that point. I just want to start getting these things out there.

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Quick Notes on Romans 13

I’ve touched on Romans 13 often over the years; after all, it is probably the most important passage of the Bible relating to matters of politics and state. And while I’ve attempted to write an in-depth consideration of the chapter elsewhere, it needs to be updated to reflect further reflection I’ve had since then. The other problem is that it is way too long. Nobody reads things that long. So I am in need of a more succinct article of the problems and solutions of Romans 13.

This post is not that article. What it is, though, is a simple set of thoughts that I can link to in the future when the same old objections to our political theory come up. Often, people will cite Romans 13 as if I’ve never read it. Trust me. I have. So let me just add a thought or two per verse so that it can serve only as a reference point for others. It is not a defense of my position. Only a summary statement of my position.

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 

God has ordained everything. From evil things to good, nothing exists, even the state or the devil, outside of God’s ordaining plan. Not all things ordained are morally good (God’s will of command), but all are according to God’s will of decree. Paul is describing to the readers that God ordained Roman tyrants. We should “be arranged” (hypotassō) under the authorities because we are generally to turn the other cheek and not live rebellious lives.

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 

This is the logical implication of verse 1. If God appointed the authorities, then to resist the authorities is to resist what he appointed. It is to remind us to think about God’s sovereign plan before we act out against evil rulers. Sometimes acting out is fine, and acting out will incur the state’s judgement. Nothing could be so obvious.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 

Rulers are a terror to those who do what the ruler considers bad. This can be anything from stealing to operating a free market business to preaching the Bible, depending on the regime. If you want to be free from the ruler’s wrath, you’d have to do what he considers good, not what he considers bad. However, sometimes, we ought to fear God more and do what God commands, even if the ruler considers it bad (preach the gospel).

for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 

Rulers are servants in the sense that everyone is God’s servant because everyone is a tool that God uses to accomplish his ultimate end. Even the evil ruler Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant (Jer. 43:10). God uses them sometimes to mold us, to turn our attention to him, to make us invest in eternal things. Sometimes they are for our benefit because they make just decisions, other times they are for our benefit because, in making an unjust decision, they focus our attention on the true Just King. God has given the ruler ordaining permission (not necessarily moral permission) to exercise wrath. Hitler was given God’s permission in time and space to carry out wrath on Jewish people, for instance. This does not mean what Hitler did was morally sound (obviously).

Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 

Therefore, generally be arranged under the ruler for the sake of peace. Don’t live too obviously in rebellion or otherwise you will be threatened by the state. Live under the radar and don’t attract the state’s attention.

For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Whether taxes are actually morally legitimate, this is besides the point. Just pay them. You don’t want to go to jail or have your family threatened. Yes, taxation is theft and these resources aren’t owned to the Congress or President just because they want them. Pay them anyway. Don’t cause a commotion and put yourself in danger.

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I’m Still Alive

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been very quiet throughout the blog here and also the Facebook group, where I’m usually pretty active. The good news is that I’m still alive. The better news is that my time away from the internet has been quite fulfilling. I needed a break. I needed to focus on some new projects.

I’m building another business with my brother and a few others. So that’s taken most of the time. Then I had some hospital stuff with one of my kids. Which also took time. Work and family. That’s about it. I haven’t even read a book in a month. It’s weird. Once my business is really up and running I’ll have more time. But between my new business and my financial advisory practice, my ability to write throughout the day has been completely destroyed.

Just wanted to give everyone an update on things. I hope to be around more soon enough. Almost done. I created my own personal site too as a hub for all my various projects.

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There’s No Difference Between a Kind Capitalism and a Greedy Capitalism

I’m responding specifically to sentiments I’ve seen expressed in the conservative Christian world as of recent. I’ve noticed there’s been a large injection lately of attempts to piously criticize a sort of “greedy” or “profit-oriented” capitalism. All of this is nonsense on stilts, built on the foundation of what Mises called the “Anti-capitalist mentality.” It is cautious toward pure and unfettered capitalism either because it does not understand capitalism, or it does not understand total depravity.

Capitalism is a social arrangement in which the means of production are privately owned; where the employment of said means is done according to the will of the consumers, as communicated via the price mechanism. Whether this employment of scarce capital is due to the capitalist being “kind” (and therefore doing as the consumer wants) or “greedy” (and therefore, in order greedily acquire a profit, doing as the consumer wants), it makes no difference. Perhaps we would want a man to be kind, and not greedy, but this has nothing to do with the existence of capitalism.

Man has an incalculable number of motivations for acting as he does, and no man, by praxeological definition, acts contrary to his own interests. In this sense, as Christians such as John Piper and Gordon Clark have observed, man is entirely self-interested. Indeed, we were created to be this way. But self-interest expresses itself in a capitalist system by enabling man to gain what he desires only if he first contributes to the gain of his fellow man. This is what economists have referred to as a “coincidence of wants.” A kind man does not automatically provide for his fellow man better than the greedy man.

Whether this is “greed” or not is too difficult to judge. In any case, the benefits of Capitalism don’t care whether a man is greedy or kind. Or whether a man is lustful or compassionate. Capitalism is the arrangement wherein each man acts according to his own mental state and results in a growth in prosperity and a betterment of the masses. As Mises writes:

Capitalism is essentially a system of mass production for the satisfaction of the needs of the masses. It pours a horn of plenty upon the common man. It has raised the average standard of living to a height never dreamed of in earlier ages. It has made accessible to millions of people enjoyments which a few gen- erations ago were only within the reach of a small élite.

Economic interventionism against greed, regulation which aims to “protect” consumers,  regresses this glorious trend and not only puts back on the path to serfdom, but it also hampers the opportunity that the masses and the impoverished would have had to participate in the rising standards of living. It is a roadblock, a detriment, to the common man.

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Jim Grant Smashes an Apologist for Negative Interest Rates

What a zinger. Jim Grant obliterates Ken Rogoff’s lousy case for negative interest rates. Grant writes of Rogeff:

As for the campaign for zero cash in the service of negative interest rates, Mr. Rogoff’s brief is best seen not as detached scientific analysis but as a kind of left-wing crotchet. Strip away the technical pretense and what you have is politics. The author wants the government to control your money. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s another great quote:

A positive integer would almost seem inherent in the idea of interest. When most of us want something, we want it now. And if we don’t have the money to buy it now, we borrow. “Present goods are, as a rule, worth more than future goods of like kind and number,” posited the eminent 19th-century Austrian theorist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk. He called this behavioral truism the core of his theory of interest.

Interest rates are prices. They impart information. They tell a business person whether or not to undertake a certain capital investment. They measure financial risk. They translate the value of future cash flows into present-day dollars. Manipulate those prices—as central banks the world over compulsively do—and you distort information, therefore perception and judgment.

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Reading Recommendations Galore!

I updated two reading recommendations pages on the Reformed Libertarian site.

The first is a “30 day reading plan” (if you are really ambitious) which serves as an introductory list of some basics people should understand if they are trying to learn about Austro-libertarian ideas. Here is the link.

The second is a holistic and complete book recommendation list categorized by subject matter and difficulty level. Here is the link.

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Murray Rothbard on Why the Paleo Movement was Founded

I am in the midst of the unenviable task of going through the pending FAQ page on the main site and answering each and every question. I came to this one, which I think would be good to answer: “Why do you call yourself a Paleo-Libertarian?” So in preparing my short answer, I reread Murray Rothbard’s essay on “Why Paleo?” (May, 1990).

Here is an interesting excerpt:

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 9.04.32 PMBut that is not the point, although I agree that liberty will tend to flourish most in a bourgeois, Christian culture. I am willing to concede that you can indeed be a good, hard-core libertarian and still be a hippie, an aggressive anti-bourgeois and anti-Christian, a drug addict, a moocher, a rude and intolerable fellow, and even an outright thief. But the point is that we paleos are no longer willing to be movement colleagues with these sorts of people. For two separate and powerful reasons, each of which would be good enough reason to form a separate and distinct paleo movement. One is strategic: that these sorts of people tend, for obvious reasons, to turn off, indeed to repel, most “real people,’ people who either work for a living or meet a payroll, middle class or working class people who, in the grand old phrase, enjoy “visible means of support.”

In the Libertarian Party, the prevalence of these sorts of people has kept the membership and the votes low and even declining. But also in the broader movement, these luffmensch types have almost succeeded in making the glorious word “libertarian” a stench in everyone’s nostrils, synonymous with nut or libertine. At this stage, the only way to save the glorious word and the concept of “libertarian” is to affix the word “paleo” to it, and thereby make the distinction and separation crystal clear.

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Alex Epstein Obliterates George Clooney

Alex Epstein, who wrote this book (which I need to read– as this post reminded me), issued a response to the following George Clooney statement on climate change:

Well it’s just a stupid argument. If you have 99 percent of doctors who tell you ‘you are sick’ and 1 percent that says ‘you’re fine,’ you probably want to hang out with, check it up with the 99. You know what I mean? The idea that we ignore that we are in some way involved in climate change is ridiculous. What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?

The-Moral-Case-for-Fossil-Fuels
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Written by Alex Epstein

Epstein writes:

I am something close to terrified about Clooney’s comment: “What’s the worst thing that happens? We clean up the earth a little bit?”

Clooney is talking about the idea that we should “do something about climate change.” For Clooney’s environmentalist allies, that typically translates into: globally outlaw 80-95 percent of future fossil fuel use and force us to try to subsist on expensive, unreliable solar and wind energy.

And again:

For someone who understands that affordable energy is a life and death issue, this does not translate into “clean up the earth a little bit,” it translates into “making life on earth hellish for billions.” It would mean that the 1.4 billion people around the world who lack electricity—and thus have a life expectancy of 48—would not be lifted out of poverty, but would be joined by billions more.

It would mean a far dirtier environment—only high-energy, highly-developed countries have clean environments. And it would mean a far more dangerous climate. While Clooney makes time to publicly declare his solidarity with the victims, he should take some time to think about what would have actually protected them: industrial development powered by affordable, reliable energy.

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Benjamin Keach Against Redemptive Egalitarianism

God is not an egalitarian.  He does not treat all sinners in the same way. But he does treat all sinners justly.  The modern battle cry of egalitarianism extends itself throughout the whole of Western society.  From religious concerns to political matters, there is a running, and false, assumption that inequality is a great and terrible thing.  In fact, this inequality is actually considered unjust. But this is not accurate.  God did not create all of man to be the same and in fact, created each to be different.  The free economy therefore will reflect both inequality and differences of outcome; but it certainly will not produce an egalitarian utopia.  Which is why the State, considering itself Almighty, deems itself chief provider of equality of outcome.

The modern push for egalitarianism has corrupted society and destroyed the true meaning of justice.

Indeed, even in salvation God is no egalitarian.  And contrary to modern definitions of justice, God cannot not be considered unjust for only electing a few sinners for salvation.  For all deserve His eternal wrath. In passing over many, he does not withhold from them something they deserved.  And in saving the few, he gives to them what Christ has won on their behalf.

Here is Benjamin Keach on the matter of God’s election.

200px-Benjamin_KeachGod’s special Love and Election is not from any Man’s willing, or running; it riseth not from Natural Powers improved, not from his Desires, Good Deeds, or Good Inclinations, or from the fore-sight of his Faith and Obedience; but from and of God’s mere Mercy, Sovereign Grace and Favor: The Truth is, to deny God to have the power of his own Free Act in dispensing his own Sovereign Bounty, is to Eclipse his Glory, and to render him to have less Sovereign Power than that which he hath given, and allowed to Mankind: May not a Man show his Favor and Goodness in redeeming a few Captives, out of a Multitude, who willfully brought themselves into Bondage, but he must redeem them all, or be unjust? Or cannot a Man give a bountiful Gift to One or Two poor Men in a Parish, but he must bestow like Bounty to all the Poor in the said Parish? Or, can’t a King contrive and enter into a Covenant of Peace for a few Rebels that have (with a Multitude of others) taken up Arms against him, but he must be charged with Injustice, because he did not extend like Favor in the said Covenant to them all; sure, no Man, in his right Senses, will deny him this Liberty: And now, Shall not GOD have like power to dispense his Sovereign Grace to whom he pleases, who is said to do all things according to the pleasure of his own Will, and eternal purpose in Jesus Christ?

-Taken from “The Display of Glorious Grace.” [Bold added]

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H.L. Mencken on the Government’s Money and Services

HL Mencken from his article More of the Same, original published in the American Mercury in 1925:

When a private citizen is robbed a worthy man is deprived of the fruits of his industry and thrift; when the government is robbed the worst that happens is that certain rogues and loafers have less money to play with than they had before. The notion that they have earned that money is never entertained; to most sensible men it would seem ludicrous. They are simply rascals who, by accidents of law, have a somewhat dubious right to a share in the earnings of their fellow men. When that share is diminished by private enterprise the business is, on the whole, far more laudable than not.

The intelligent man, when he pays taxes, certainly does not believe that he is making a prudent and productive investment of his money; on the contrary, he feels that he is being mulcted in an excessive amount for services that, in the main, are useless to him, and that, in substantial part, are downright inimical to him. He may be convinced that a police force, say, is necessary for the protection of his life and property, and that an army and navy safeguard him from being reduced to slavery by some vague foreign kaiser, but even so he views these things as extravagantly expensive – he sees in even the most essential of them an agency for making it easier for the exploiters constituting the government to rob him. In those exploiters themselves he has no confidence whatever. He sees them as purely predatory and useless; he believes that he gets no more net benefit from their vast and costly operations than he gets from the money he lends to his wife’s brother. They constitute a power that stands over him constantly, ever alert for new chances to squeeze him. If they could do so safely they would strip him to his hide. If they leave him anything at all, it is simply prudetially, as a farmer leaves a hen some of her eggs.

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Dan Sanchez on the Apple Tax Debacle

1*dmZlVLiyxE8q8_EFcwZEWwDan Sanchez has some great thoughts, as always, on Apple and Ireland here. Snippet:

[The] European Commission slapped Apple with a $14.5 billion bill for back taxes, ruling that Ireland had violated European Union rules by taxing the technology company at such a low rate. But the Irish government doesn’t want the money! It had promised the low rates back decades ago to entice Apple to set up and keep shop in Ireland, bringing the struggling country desperately needed jobs and economic growth. The government is worried that if it reneges on that deal, it will risk driving off the geese that lay the golden eggs: Apple, and other businesses as well.

But no, insists the European super-state: sustainably prudential parasitism is not an option. The Irish government must join the rest of the Union in recklessly bleeding its private sector hosts dry until the whole system collapses under its own dead weight.

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Charles Finney and the Welfare State

Murray Rothbard, in his essay on “Origins of the Welfare State in America,” writes:

“Perhaps the most fateful of the events giving rise to and shaping the welfare state was the transformation of American Protestantism that took place in a remarkably brief period during the late 1820s. Riding in on a wave from Europe, fueled by an intense emotionalism often generated by revival meetings, this Second Great Awakening conquered and remolded the Protestant churches, leaving such older forms as Calvinism far behind. The new finneyProtestantism was spearheaded by the emotionalism of revival meetings held throughout the country by the Rev. Charles Grandison Finney. This new Protestantism was pietist, scorning liturgy as papist or formalistic, and equally scornful of the formalisms of Calvinist creed or church organization. Hence, denominationalism, God’s Law, and church organization were no longer important. What counted was each person’s achieving salvation by his own free will, by being “born again,” or being “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” An emotional, vaguely defined pietist, non-creedal, and ecumenical Protestantism was to replace strict creedal or liturgical categories.

[…]

“While a nominal Presbyterian, in 1821 at the age of 29, Finney converted to the new pietism, experiencing his second baptism, his “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” his conversion being greatly aided by the fact that he was self-educated in religion, and lacked any religious training. Tossing aside the Calvinist tradition of scholarship in the Bible, Finney was able to carve out his new religion, and to ordain himself in his new version of the faith. Launching his remarkably successful revival movement in 1826 when he was an attorney in northeastern Ohio, his new pietism swept the Yankee areas in the East and midwest. Finney wound up at Oberlin College, in the Western Reserve area of Ohio, where he became president, and transformed Oberlin into the preeminent national center for the education and dissemination of postmillennial pietism.”

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On the Alt-Right Scare: Who Cares

Here’s the deal. Hillary dismissed Trump and his base as a bunch of Alt-Righters. This was smart. She’s a good politician. She was playing a classic strategy of taking a teeny tiny group that pretty much nobody likes or actually belongs to and dismissing all her opponents as belonging to that group. This is, as I said, classic. Once the booboisie hears that non-Hillary supporters are alt-right folks, Hillary’s achieved victory.

It’s the whole dismissing someone as racist or sexist thing simply for dissenting. It works. And politics is about pragmatism. Mencken observes:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

But seriously who cares. Either Trump is good on liberty or he is not. He isn’t. There’s no need for libertarians to get caught up in the virtue signaling of fashionably ensuring that everyone knows how non-racist, non-sexist, anti-alt-right we are.

Congratulations, its 2016 and you’re against racism. I’m proud of you. So is everyone else. I love what Tom Woods wrote on the “taking a stand” on opinions with which 95% of people agree:

In light of recent libertarian showboating I have composed this couplet:

Hey, reporter, look at me
I’m against slavery!

It took a lot of courage to oppose slavery in, say, 1855. It takes zero courage to oppose it today. This is one reason I am convinced that those who are most ostentatious in their aversion to slavery in 2013 are the least likely to have opposed it at the time. Their excessive eagerness to disassociate themselves from perceived “extremism” would not have served them well in the 1850s, when abolitionism, which had zero electoral success, was the most notorious extremism of the day.

[…]

Unlike Kuznicki, I say things that go against the grain even though I know they will yield me nothing but grief. I hope this means I would have opposed injustice when it counted and when it might have done some good, and not just 150 years later, when I safely say what everyone thinks, to the applause of the world.

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Welcome to the New Site!

Hurrah! The new site is up! Click here.

What do you think? Please know: it’s still a work in progress and I’m still adding features and making tweaks. So I know some of you are going to really have some major critiques. Please be nice. But I welcome feedback and suggestions.

Please click on at least one of the newest 4 articles when you get to the site to get a feel for how it looks.

A couple notes on the new structure of things:

The very biggest change is the main site where all the major articles and pages are hosted is now distinct from the blog. As you will find on the main site in the menu area (far right), “The Blog” takes you to the subdomain where the blog exists. Here’s the cool thing: each and every blog post feeds into the various pages on the main site in the sidebar section so if you visit the main site, you can still see all the blogposts; clicking it will just take you to the blog site. The blog site is blog.reformedlibertarian.com .

What is the difference between an article and a blog? An article is original content, developed arguments, and longer/more thought out material. The blog, on the other hand, will be shorter and mostly unelaborated. You will find links, memes, jokes, quotes, quick thoughts, and references to outside pieces.

The transition between the main site and the blog site is pretty seamless. You will hardly notice.

I’m still working on the photo sizes on the front page. So some of them may seem a little off. Just bear with me. I have lots of tweaks to do. The mobile site is very cool. The side menu option (the three lines on the upper right hand side) is available on both desktop and mobile. The primary menu is only seen on desktop, and it is just the major categories, plus a link to the blog site.

I am going to be putting all the major pages (i.e. The Reading List) in the side menu (three line thing) and leave the primary menu for the site’s categories (topics).

The biggest annoyance for me right now is the block quotes on the main site’s articles. The default formate is all capital letters. I am working to get this changed to cursive. So again, bear with me.

Any other suggestions or feedback is appreciated. Some of you may think the blog/site distinction is a little odd. But four things: 1) You’ll get used to it. 2) How cool is it that you can scroll straight down the blog page and it reads like a legit blog! 3). I had to do it this way with the way the main theme is in order to make a single tiny blogpost not look really weird on the site.

And #4: I have a couple really cool plans in store for the blog site that I am still working on. Stay tuned for that announcement!

I will be adding new features and cool designs all week. So keep checking back in. It’s not complete yet. But for the most part it’s ready to launch. So check it out.

And finally, thank you to all who contributed to this next step with a small donation. It is always helpful and shows me the kind of interest that exists for these types of resources. I’m always appreciative. Here is what I said yesterday on Facebook on this topic:

Hey everybody, time to do this again. Once a year, I do one round of extremely low pressure fundraising for some site expenses. Let me say the same thing I say every single time: there is nothing on the site that will be prevented if no one donates. I have the same hosting/domain/theme expenses I always do and I personally have the funds to pay everything. So it’s not like you would be keeping the site up. It’ll be up regardless.

However, the reason I do this is because I know many of you have benefitted from the site and may want to express yourself in this way. A few people per year do ask me if I need any help financially and I always tell them I don’t need help per se, but there are expenses and I am indeed honored to receive contributions.

My one big change that I am doing this month is –finally– getting a modern and beautiful theme all installed. A much better one than just the tinkering with the current one I’ve been doing off and on. You guys deserve it. It’s going to be legit. So anyways, besides the regular expenses, that’s what I’ll be spending money on this time around.

If you want to contribute, I’d be thrilled. Here is the link:

https://paypal.me/reformedlibertarian

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Trumped! New Stockman Book

David Stockman has announced a new book that is coming soon:

I am in the throes of finishing a book on the upheaval represented by the Trump candidacy and movement. It is an exploration of how 30 years of Bubble Finance policies at the Fed, feckless interventions abroad and mushrooming Big government and debt at home have brought America to its current ruinous condition.

It also delves into the good and bad of the Trump campaign and platform and outlines a more consistent way forward based on free markets, fiscal rectitude, sound money, constitutional liberty, non-intervention abroad, minimalist government at home and decentralized political rule.

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The Cycle of Decivilization

The state artificially creates a variety of laws from fiat.

People inevitably break these laws.

The state uses its coercive power to enforce the law.

People get annoyed, some react with physical violence (unwise).

The state clamps down and gets more fierce.

This causes more blowback.

[fast forward decades]

Behold, the cycle continues. Hoppe’s theory of the decivilization effects of Democracy and public law is being proven correct.

More laws, more crime. More crime, more tension between state and people.

Some blame institutionalized racism. This is wrong. Racial disparity in the enforcement of artificial law does not itself logically imply racism (the theory that certain races are morally or biologically superior to others).

Others see zero guilt in the law enforcement and only consider them categorically as heroic. This is wrong. See above for the state’s role.

The state grows more powerful and more tyrannical as it becomes more desperate to maintain its beloved grasp on society. But this is a continuation of the spiral and feeds the careless and unthinking mob-like reaction. Back and forth it all goes.

Society collapses upon itself.

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Jim Hale’s Change of Heart

Yesterday I was so impressed by Jim Hale’s exclusive article over at the Ron Paul Institute wonderfully titled “Confessions of a War Propagandist,” that I also posted here on TRL. A major reason for my being impressed, of course, was because of who Jim Hale is. As the article states, Hale was the media relations director at the Committee of the Liberation of Iraq, a key influencer on behalf of the War Party’s efforts for regime change in Iraq. Hale worked closely with neocon head honcho Bill Kristol and their favorite advocate in the Federal Government: John McCain.

At any rate, today Tom Woods published Hale’s first interview since “confessing” his role in the deceitful and destructive efforts toward a completely unnecessary, unjustifiable, and unconstitutional war in Iraq. It was pretty fascinating. Apparently, Hale was one who knew Ron Paul was right in his understanding of the facts and the theory of the entire war effort, both in terms of the actual cause of the events and also in terms of the propaganda that was being promoted to drive the country toward war. But both in 2008 and 2012, Hale admits rejecting Paul’s arguments by rationalizing the very false narrative to himself until just this year when first Rubio and then Cruz quit the GOP race. At that point, Hale knew it was over and he “woke up one morning” and decided he was done.

He even cites his faith as a key motivator to his change of heart.

He literally stumbled onto Tom Woods’ site by accident, starting listening to the podcasts, bought a whole stack of the site’s recommended books to educate himself on the liberty philosophy (and no doubt on all the war-related podcasts Tom Woods has done). He even decided to give Ron Paul’s book The Revolution a chance. This was all a couple months ago, apparently. He messaged Tom Woods and recorded his first public reflection on the matter.

Completely remarkable. I mean this guy was at the very top of the propaganda efforts and here he is today, the weight of his lies finally off his chest, ready and willing to dig into the liberty movement’s resources and  open up about his change of heart. We always like the dream of the day when an “insider” will finally come clean about the corruption and lies that go on, to expose himself and his colleagues and to tell the truth about what they are doing. It’s been done before, but this truly is a great moment.

Here is the interview, give it a listen!

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