Skip to content →

Reformed Libertarian Blog Posts

Is Reformed Libertarianism Different than Regular Libertarianism?

Taken from the Reformed Libertarian FAQs

The definition of libertarianism is the legal theory (which has political ramifications) which holds that no man may initiate aggression, or threat to initiate aggression, against the property of another human being, lest he engage in criminal behavior. That is to say, under the libertarian legal theory, a criminal is defined as one who breaches the above described “Non-Aggression Principle.” The logically deduced implications of this principle includes actions such as theft, murder, rape, fraud, breach of contract, trespassing, battery, kidnapping, and so on. For the libertarian, that which is illegal is determined in terms of private property ownership and therefore not all things that may be categorized as immoral, unethical, sinful, and so on are necessarily criminal.

The Reformed libertarian agrees with all of this and thus in this way, we don’t differentiate “our type” of libertarianism from a “regular one” when it comes to the meaning of libertarianism. We are purist, Rothbardian-Hoppean libertarians.

What we are trying to communicate, however, with our phrase, is that when we look at the foundation or justification of the above meaning of libertarianism, we source it within the context of a Christian worldview, the epistemology and moral theory of which is distinct from other potential foundations for libertarianism.

For instance, there are utilitarian libertarians (Mises), Natural Law libertarians (Rothbard), Kantian libertarians (Hoppe). There are others as well.  But what libertarians have in common is not their worldview, not their justification of knowledge, and not their personal lifestyle preferences.  Rather, they have in common their agreement with the first paragraph above. Libertarianism is a set of propositions. Anyone who assents to those propositions is a libertarian. Libertarianism is “thin,” which means that it is a set of statements about the use of force in society, but the doctrine itself is distinct from the defense of that doctrine. Rothbard and Hoppe are not two types of libertarians, and neither are we a distinct type. The “Reformed” in Reformed Libertarian is not a qualification of the libertarian part. What we propose is that libertarianism, since it is a political theory based on ethical positions, can be best defended from a Christian philosophical system, since Christianity best justifies ethics.

More generally, what we are communicating with the label “Reformed Libertarian,” is A) that each editing contributor to this site is Reformed; B) we are interested in investigating relationships in theory and history between the libertarian world and the Reformed world; and C) that, yes, Reformed Christians can and should be libertarian! It is a resource for those Reformed Christians who want to convince their Reformed friends that libertarianism is a wonderful system of political thought!

Leave a Comment

The Court Economists: Justification for Power


The great economists were harbingers of new ideas. The economic policies they recommended were at variance with the policies practiced by contemporary governments and political parties. As a rule many years, even decades, passed before public opinion accepted the new ideas as propagated by the economists, and before the required corresponding changes in policies were effected.

It was different with the “new economics” of Lord Keynes. The policies he advocated were precisely those which almost all governments, including the British, had already adopted many years before his “General Theory” was published. Keynes was not an innovator and champion of new methods of managing economic affairs. His contribution consisted rather in providing an apparent justification for the policies which were popular with those in power in spite of the fact that all economists viewed them as disastrous. His achievement was a rationalization of the policies already practiced. He was not a “revolutionary,” as some of his adepts called him. The “Keynesian revolution” took place long before Keynes approved of it and fabricated a pseudo-scientific justification for it. What he really did was to write an apology for the prevailing policies of governments.

This explains the quick success of his book. It was greeted enthusiastically by the governments and the ruling political parties. Especially enraptured were a new type of intellectual, the “government economists.” They had had a bad conscience. They were aware of the fact that they were carrying out policies which all economists condemned as contrary to purpose and disastrous. Now they felt relieved. The “new economics” reestablished their moral equilibrium. Today they are no longer ashamed of being the handymen of bad policies. They glorify themselves. They are the prophets of the new creed.

Leave a Comment

How Reagan Set the Liberty Movement Back a Decade

Many libertarians miss the fact that one of the most damaging aspects of Ronald Reagan wasn’t just his growth of the US Federal Government; it was also because he triggered a strictly political movement which damaged the appearance of a need for a true libertarian movement. When things are particularly bad, when the state’s presence is obviously unbearable, people begin to look at liberty and away from government as the solution to their woes. Reagan, though, brought back faith in Washington– and in doing so, he set the entire liberty movement back until Ron Paul was able to make mainstream again in 2007. 

Rothbard, as usual, is particularly observant:


Setting the Stage: The Anti-Government Rebellion of the 1970s

I am convinced that the historic function of Ronald Reagan was to co-opt, eviscerate and ultimately destroy the substantial wave of anti-governmental, and quasi-libertarian, sentiment that erupted in the U.S. during the 1970s. Did he perform this task consciously?Surely too difficult a feat for a man barely compos. No, Reagan was wheeled into performing this task by his Establishment handlers.

The task of co-optation needed to be done because the 1970s, particularly 1973–75, were marked by an unusual and striking conjunction of crisis – crises that fed on each other to lead to a sudden and cumulative disillusionment with the federal government. It was this symbiosis of anti-government reaction that led me to develop my “case for libertarian optimism” during the mid-1970’s, in the expectation of a rapid escalation of libertarianinfluence in America.

1973–74 saw the abject failure of the Nixon wage-price control program, and the development of something Keynesians assumed could never happen: the combination of double-digit inflation and a severe recession. High unemployment and high inflation happened again, even more intensely, during the greater recession of 1979–82. Since Keynesianism rests on the idea that government should pump in spending during recessions and take out spending during inflationary booms, what happens when both occur at the same time? As Rand would say: Blankout! There is no answer. And so, there was disillusionment in the government’s handling of the macro-economy, deepening during the accelerating inflation of the 1970s and the beginnings of recession in 1979.

At the same time, people began to be fed up, increasingly and vocally, with high taxes: income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, you name it. Especially in the West, an organized tax rebel movement developed, with its own periodicals and organizations However misguided strategically, the spread of the tax rebellion signaled a growing disillusion with big government. I was privileged to be living in California during the election year of 1978, whenProposition 13 was passed. It was a genuinely inspiring sight. In the face of hysterical opposition and smears from the entire California Establishment Democratic and Republican, Big Business and labor, academia, economists, and all of the press the groundswell for Prop 13 burgeoned. Everyone was against it but the people. If the eventual triumph of Ronald Reagan is the best case against “libertarian populism,” Prop. 13 was the best case in its favor.

Also exhilarating was the smashing defeat of US imperialism in Vietnamin 1975 – exhilarating because this first loss of a war by the United States, many of us believed, was bound to get Americans to rethink the disastrous warmongering bipartisan foreign policy that had plagued us since the unlamented days of Woodrow Wilson.

On the civil liberties front, the de facto legalization of marijuana was a sign that the nonsense of drug prohibition would soon be swept away. (Ye gods! Was that only a decade ago?) Inflationary recession; high taxes; prohibition laws; defeat in foreign war; across the board, the conditions seemed admirable for a growing and triumphant libertarianism.

And to top it off, the Watergate crisis (my particular favorite) destroyed the trust of the American masses in the Presidency. For the first time in over a hundred years, the concept of impeachment of the President became, first thinkable, and then a living and glorious process. For a while, I feared that Jimmy Carter, with his lovable cardigan sweater, would restore Americans’ faith in their president, but soon that fear proved groundless.

Surely, it is no accident that it was precisely in this glorious and sudden anti-government surge that libertarian ideas and libertarian scholarship began to spread rapidly in the United States. And it was in 1971 that the tiny Libertarian Party emerged, in 1972 that its first,embryonic presidential candidacy was launched, and 1973 when its first important race was run, for mayor of New York City. The Libertarian Party continued to grow rapidly, almost exponentially, during the 1970s, reaching a climax with the Clark campaign for governor of California during the Prop 13 year of 1978, and with the Clark campaign for the Presidency in 1980. The morning my first article on libertarianism appeared in the New York Times in 1971, a very bright editor at Macmillan, Tom Mandel, called me and asked me to write a book on the subject (it was to become For a New Liberty). Not a libertarian himself, Mandel told me that he believed that libertarianism would become a very important ideology in a few years – and he turned out to be right.

So libertarianism was on a roll in the 1970s. And then Something Happened.

What happened was Ronald Wilson Blithering Reagan.

The Reagan candidacy of 1980 was brilliantly designed to weld a coalition providing the public’s instinctive anti-government mood with sweeping, but wholly nonspecific, libertarian rhetoric, as a convenient cover for the diametrically opposite policies designed to satisfy the savvy and politically effective members of that coalition: the neocons, the Buckleyite cons, the Moral Majority, the Rockefellers, the military-industrial complex, and the various Establishment special interests always clustering at the political trough.

But we must not under weigh the importance of the traitorous roleperformed by quasi-libertarian intellectuals and free-market economistsduring the Reagan years. While their institutions were small and relatively weak, the power and consistency of libertarian thought had managed to bring them considerable prestige and political influence by 1980 – especially since they offered an attractive and consistent alternative to a statist system that was breaking down on all fronts.

But talk about your Knaves! In the history of ideological movements, there have always been people willing to sell their souls and their principles. But never in history have so many sold out for so pitifully little. Hordes of libertarian and free-market intellectuals and activists rushed to Washington to whore after lousy little jobs, crummy little grants, and sporadic little conferences. It is bad enough to sell out; it is far worse to be a two-bit whore. And worst of all in this sickening spectacle were those who went into the tank without so much as a clear offer: betraying the values and principles of a lifetime in order to position themselves in hopes of being propositioned. And so they wriggled around the seats of power in Washington. The intellectual corruption spread rapidly, in proportion to the height and length of jobs in the Reagan Administration. Lifelong opponents of budget deficits remarkably began to weave sophisticated and absurd apologias, now that the great Reagan was piling them up, claiming, very much like the hated left-wing Keynesians of yore, that “deficits don’t matter.”

Shorn of intellectual support, the half-formed libertarian instincts of the American masses remained content with Reaganite rhetoric, and the actual diametrically opposite policies got lost in the shuffle.


Rothbard continues to fault Reagan for accomplishing the growth of the Federal Government– on economic policy, foreign policy, and other issues relating to private property– while at the same time appearing to give credence to limited government rhetoric. In this way, it was simply assumed throughout the 90s that the Reagan revolution was one of capitalism, constitutionalism, and freedom. 

Unfortunately, the Reagan Revolution never was. As I discuss here, it was the Reagan administration who let in, for the first time, the neocons into positions of real power.

Leave a Comment

So-called “Wage Slavery” is Better than Unemployment

In the midst of all this hoopla over Trump’s Carrier deal, I was reminded of the economic ignorance exhibited by his supporters and critics alike. I don’t want to harp too much on this topic, so suffice it to say, while the Carrier deal was a victory for freedom, it has likewise fueled protectionist rhetoric, but not in the typical sense.

There are some who argue that it is better for American companies to stay in America, not so much out of nationalistic pride, but for the sake of protecting Chinese workers (or other similar labor forces) who presumably work at slave labor rates and under harsh conditions. Whether the working conditions and wages in Chinese factories fail to meet the standards and working conditions of those in America, it is a moot point. If sheer emotion and compassion for our fellow man — the Chinese — were the basis upon which we should build our arguments, then what would matter most is the overall increase in the quality of life for Chinese workers who are given employment by American companies who seek cheaper labor than what can be found in America.

Someone smarter than I once said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. This much is certain when one takes into account the reduction of living quality for Chinese workers once their employment is terminated. What is thought to be good for them, is actually bad; and whether or not supporters of protectionism realize this, it will either reveal their harmful ignorance or  their false humility. The same argument being made for protecting the jobs of Americans could be used for the Chinese. Under China’s command economy, it is no wonder why the quality of life of its workers is already so low. Imagine if China actually allowed capitalism to flourish within its own borders. I imagine Chinese work ethic and Chinese ingenuity would far exceed that of many Americans, and businesses would still move their. Conjecture aside, the important matter is consistent free market practices which are ethically superior because it allows choice in the market whereas the government-controlled economies of America and China alike, do not.

The Carrier deal was good in only one respect — the net decrease in taxation. And though it was only granted for one company at this moment, we should celebrate any and all instances where it is revealed that taxation stifles business and true progress. Moreover, the only people who should really be celebrating this deal relative to their own convictions, is us libertarians. Why? Because we deplore taxation. The failure to retain the majority of jobs provided by Carrier should be reason enough to draw criticism from Trump’s supporters. Over 1,300 — that’s two-thirds — of Carrier’s jobs are still moving to Mexico; a place where the same arguments can be made for their workers who would no doubt benefit from American employment. Alas, Trump’s supporters, not unlike Clinton’s, still refuse to face the reality of their own indifference to real economic problems.

Image result for chinese factory

Leave a Comment

Mises: Actions are performed by individuals


First we must realize that all actions are performed by individuals. A collective operates always through the intermediary of one or several individuals whose actions are related to the collective as the secondary source. It is the meaning which the acting individuals and all those who are touched by their action attribute to an action, that determines its character. It is the meaning that marks one action as the action of an individual and another action as the action of the state or of the municipality. The hangman, not the state, executes a criminal. It is the meaning of those concerned that discerns in the hangman’s action an action of the state. A group of armed men occupies a place. It is the meaning of those concerned which imputes this occupation not to the officers and soldiers on the spot, but to their nation. If we scrutinize the meaning of the various actions performed by individuals we must necessarily learn everything about the actions of collective wholes. For a social collective has no existence and reality outside of the individual members’ actions. The life of a collective is lived in the actions of the individuals constituting its body. There is no social collective conceivable which is not operative in the actions of some individuals. The reality of a social integer consists in its directing and releasing definite actions on the part of individuals. Thus the way to a cognition of collective wholes is through an analysis of the individuals’ actions.

We often gloss over the personal responsibility present in certain historical events by pretending that it was a certain group or nation or social institution at fault. Referring to these collectives or groups can sometimes be convenient, and there is no problem in using them as a reference point. But it must be remembered that it is indeed merely a reference point.

In saying that “the state has committed a moral grievance” or that “the US bombed another geographical location whose residents did us no wrong,” we must remember that there are individuals consciously and willfully acting in these ways; and they will of course be held morally responsible. Whether the individual is giving a certain order or command or the individual is receiving the command and performing the action, the fact remains that moral and economic responsibility rests on human actors.

Leave a Comment

The Division of Labor and the Beginnings of Western Civilization

I’ve recently taken it upon myself to go through Carroll Quigley’s epic “history of the world in our time,” Tragedy and Hope. tragedy_and_hope_by_carroll_quigleyFor those new to the libertarian scene, this book stands in a unique place as far as history books go. It tracks in very specific detail the rise of the Fabian socialists in Europe and how the inner circles of these groups integrated into positions of power in the Western world and had been (largely until Britain was destroyed in WWII) behind major power players in the early effort toward Anglo-American empire. This includes those close to the American banking cartel (the Fed), the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and so on.

More blogging on that to come.

In any event, I found and interesting tidbit much farther back in time: at the dawn of what can properly be called “Western Civilization” (700-970 ad). Essentially Western Civilization was born on what was left behind in the fall of Roman Empire. When the Roman Empire began its remarkable downfall, smaller geographical locations began to split apart and handle things separately. This sparked an era of capital accumulation (capital of course being the bedrock of a prosperous and modern economy) and investment of capital into higher means of production (to use a Bohm-Bawerkian idea).

But what caught my eye was something else that came along with the new idea of capital investment:

“…a change from… the centralized, state-centered political orientation of the Roman world to the decentralized, private-power feudal network of the medieval world. In the new system a small number of men, equipped and trained to fight, received dues and services from the overwhelming majority of men who were expected to till the soil.

For those who have studied theorists like Hans-Hermann Hoppe, this should sound familiar. In Hoppe’s recounting of the transition from the feudal order to monarchy in medieval Europe, there were those who might be considered “natural elites;” those who were especially judicious in their thinking and far more capable of acting as “free market” judges and law-interpreters. Eventually they began to ignore the rich tradition of naturally arising “judges” and instead began to force the people to pay for their services and thus taxes again were brought back to society.

But what is interesting is Quigley’s mentioning of the “dues and services” that were given to the fighters/protectors and sourced in the tillers of the soil (the workers). The lesson that I want to draw from this is simple: what made Western Civilization unique was the emphasis on the division of labor! It wasn’t equal, no, because equality qua equality is not what builds a productive society. The division of labor and the rise of specialization is really fundamental to the success of the west (see also de Soto’s book). In fact, Quigley highlights the inequality:

From this inequitable but effective defensive system emerged an inequitable distribution of political power and, in turn, an inequitable distribution of the social economic income. This, in time, resulted in an accumulation of capital, which, by giving rise to demand for luxury goods of remote origin, began to shift the whole economic emphasis of the society from its earlier organization in self-sufficient agrarian units (manors) to commercial interchange, economic specialization, and, by the thirteenth century, to an entirely new pattern of society with towns, a bourgeois class, spreading literacy, growing freedom of alternative social choices, and new, often disturbing, thoughts.”

Indeed! The inequality, far from being a systemic stain on the New Era, was in actuality part of the explanation of its stability. It was the “inequitable distribution of income” that allowed those who brought more value to the market to save and invest. Without this key component of savings and capital accumulation (much to the disapproval of the consumption-oriented Keynesians), there would be no Western Civilization. Thus, the emphasis in our time needs to be on private property and the glories of the division of labor and we must explicitly oppose any attempts to drive civilization toward egalitarian ends.

In complete rejection of Marxist and cultural egalitarian goals, it was the rise of the bourgeois, the high income earners, the beneficiaries of the proper entrepreneurial decisions, that were the foundation of Western Civilization. And this started not just in the industrial factory, but right at the very heart of society: the production of law and order. The division of labor allowed those who were good at something to be paid for doing that thing en masse and for many other consumers on the market rather than the agrarian-specific system wherein everyone produces only for their immediate needs. And just as interestingly, it took the collapse of the central (Roman) state to awaken the conditions necessary for a radically decentralized phenomenon to begin working.

Leave a Comment

Ignorance Begets Ignorance in Journalism

“I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not a reader. I don’t like to read long books. I like to read news. So I couldn’t tell you that there was a book that I read that changed my life. More so, I love to read news and I love to read commentary and I love to watch TV. I love to watch news. I’m a watcher and I’m a writer. A reader in the sense that I like to read news but I have a very short attention span, so sitting down with a book is very difficult for me.” — Tomi Lahren.[1]

The one thing… the only thing I like about Tomi Lahren is that, unlike the vast majority of people who hold to such boisterous opinions on politics and economics, at least she openly admits to her own ignorance and lack of study. She brazenly stated that she doesn’t like to read and that she doesn’t make it a point to do so.

I find this to be a problem with most people; and sadly most people are able to cast votes for decisions that personally affect myself and others. And typically such decisions are built more so on emotion than on reason. Tomi is no less of a sensationalistic harlequin than Trevor Noah from The Daily Show, but at least she’s honest about her own lack of knowledge. However, both do their jobs because a large audience takes their nonsense seriously.

This is ignorance begetting ignorance… Tomi Lahren’s lack of sufficient knowledge is characteristic of the skill that is required for today’s journalism. No person, especially journalists, should read the news to become intellectually informed. You read news to be apprised of current events and to be exposed to another original opinion that is hopefully built on some sort of meaningful rationale. Tomi admits to having no original thoughts; no legitimate rationale for her commentary. She’s the poster child of modern journalism; the regurgitation of clamoring willful ignorance.


Leave a Comment

Libertarians Hate Tax Breaks

I never thought I’d see the day where libertarians would complain about tax breaks for a company, yet here we are. All of a sudden, tax breaks are subsidies and are a clear indication that cronyism took place, and thus should be rejected.

Bob Murphy sums it up perfectly in this tweet:


And he’s right for calling out the absurdity of the libertarian outrage. Libertarians should be overjoyed at the thought of someone getting a tax break. I keep thinking back to the Ron Paul quip when asked what he thinks about half of the US population not paying taxes. His response? “Good. We’re halfway there.” Corporations shouldn’t be any different.

Is it lame that only one company is getting a tax break? Sure. But the response shouldn’t be to get angry at this corporation and at tax breaks, it should be fighting to get EVERY corporation this tax break. 1 down, many many more to go.

Tax breaks and loopholes are awesome! We need more! As Mises said: “Capitalism breathes through loopholes.” Here is Rothbard’s column “Long Live the Loophole.”

Thankfully, the Mises Institute exists to be the one voice of reason in this world where “libertarians” hate tax breaks.

Leave a Comment

The Flag-Burning Debacle

Donald J. Trump, that bastion of intellectually stimulating discourse, set Twitter aflame when he tweeted out that “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag- if they do, there must be consequences- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail.”

The left suddenly pretended to care about the Constitution and appealed en masse to Supreme Court decisions protecting flag burning as free speech. Though hilariously, Hillary Clinton sponsored a 2005 bill to outlaw flag burning.

Here’s the thing though: Federal bans on American flag burning should not take place– not because it is free speech– but because flags are property owned by private property owners and the Federal Government has no authority over the use of private property. Rather than being a “free speech” issue, the more fundamental principle here is that it is a private property issue.

The purpose of the Bill of Rights, of which the 1st Amendment is a part, is not to declare 10 specific exceptions where the Federal Government cannot take action. No, the Constitution was written in such a way so as to prevent all actions except those that had been expressly delegated by the States and to the Federal Government. In this way, the Bill of Right was actually unnecessary because the Federal Government was never delegated power in those areas anyways. It was only added as a precaution against the Federalist tendencies to nationalize everything.

From a strict Constitutionalist perspective, the answer is simple: the Federal Government does not have delegated authority to make decisions regarding the proper use and treatment of flags. So-called Constitutionalists never make this argument, however, because doing so would reveal the unconstitutional nature of so much of the GOP’s actions since, well, its inception.

Now, the libertarian answer is obvious: the government acts contrary to its intention (prosecuting those who breach the property rights of others) when it is the one breaching the property rights of the owners of the flag. Easy peasy.

However, I do want to point out that there is no reason to jump to the other extreme and call those who burn flags heroic. It seems to me that such a juvenile and disruptive activity is intended merely to get attention and offend others. Look: people get offended at that kind of stuff. Why not challenge other people’s worldviews with reason and intellect? There is no need, in my opinion, to feel like we as libertarians are accomplishing something when we rejoice when a flag is burned.

We ought to live in a respectable and civilized manner. That’s how we win the future.

The deeper into libertarian theory, economic theory, and US history without all the State-sponsored propaganda one gets, the more disillusioned one become about all the symbols of American patriotism. If America itself is to be conflated with the Federal Government and its vast PR efforts, there is little reason to let one’s emotion get wrapped up in the flag.

There are some who say that the flag is nothing without the Federal Government and therefore is necessarily statist; there are others who view the flag as symbolic of a liberty-oriented ideal and therefore see the Federal Government as an enemy of that symbol.

There’s no libertarian position on that matter. Whatever your opinion I always recommend two courses of action: 1) don’t go out of your way to offend those who view things differently (though if offense is a byproduct of honesty and intellectual battle, so be it); and 2) don’t get so easily offended! Toughen up and defend your position.

As for me, I tend to prejudge that most flag-burners as silly leftist types and therefore roll my eyes; I also roll my eyes when someone gets offended at flag burning, as if it somehow harms them; and I also wish we didn’t have to get caught up in such ridiculous arguments.

As for Trump, of course his statement is absurd and anti-liberty. I also think nothing will come of it.

Leave a Comment

Liberty Classroom’s epic 50% off sale will soon go the way of the buffalo

I have some good news and bad news. The bad news is that there is only 8 hours left of you guys seeing me post about the goodness of Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom. You are really going to miss my sales-type posts, aren’t you? Email me for tissues.screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-1-59-53-pm
Well here’s the good news: there’s still a chance for you to get 50% off one of the best intellectual resources in the liberty movement. You get access to all the courses on history, economics, political theory and more. You can also access the live sessions with Tom and other professors. And, if you get the Master membership, you get all Tom’s courses from the Ron Paul Homeschool Curriculum.
We are talking an entire course on Austrian economics, the history of political and economic thought, a thorough rebuttal of that devilish economic system called Keynesianism, history of the US, history of Western Civ, and more. Much more.
Your fears of not having the ammunition throughout 2017 with which you can take on your statist friends, is now over.
“No way!” Yes way. Would I lie about this?
You have to sign up through my affiliate link! All the cool kids are doing it. Here it is: 
Leave a Comment

Go Sign Up for Liberty Classroom. Now. I Mean It.

I’ve done a lot of self-education since leaving college. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on in regards to history, economic theory, political theory, and so forth. The number 1 site for me was

But the second greatest resource was hands down Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom. If you are a fan of this site and pay attention to me enough you understand the extent to which I hold Tom Woods in the highest regard. His Liberty Classroom has so much to offer. The very best professors and teachers in the liberty movement, Liberty Classroom has taken me to the next level. I mean it. From Austrian Economic Theory to History to Political Theory, you can do no wrong in joining the site!

You can watch the lectures, listen to them, download them for later, stream them in the car. They come with power points, recommended reading, resources, forums, live sessions with Tom and others. Seriously. Amazing.

People often ask how I’ve learned so much in the short period of time of being in the liberty movement. Liberty Classroom is one of the biggest parts of the answer. They are having a Black Friday sale. Which means it ends VERY SOON. Please, if you are interested, visit the site THROUGH MY AFFILIATE LINK!screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-2-54-19-pm

And you can always, always join Liberty Classroom through this link, even when the Black Friday sale is over.

Always remember:

Leave a Comment

Six Reasons Libertarians Should Reject the Non-Aggression Principle: A Response has an article from Matt Zwolinski entitled ‘6 Reasons Libertarians Should Reject The Non-Agression Principle’. The intent of this brief essay is to answer each of these six points in turn, and to demonstrate that if one is to consistently hold to a libertarian view of politics, that they must subscribe to the NAP. This essay will examine and respond to each enumerated point one at a time.

    1. It prohibits all pollution: This argument is fairly easy to answer. If one holds to the NAP as their foundation for a libertarian political ethic, it necessarily follows that polluting the property of others (even unintentionally) is wrong. Of course corporate pollution would be prohibited by the NAP, but what of individual pollution such as smoke entering the airspace of another’s property in the case of a family bonfire? There are two potential solutions that solve this problem while adhering to the NAP. First, we have Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s concept of covenant communities. Part of the covenant between the local landowners could be to allow (or disallow) minor personal pollution such as the smoke of a bonfire burning off in a given direction outside of the bonfire holder’s property. Second, we have the other solution that tightens up on the principle of homesteading a great deal. That is, one could easily argue from the Lockeian principle of homesteading (that is, mixing one’s labor with an unclaimed resource and thus making it one’s own) that the air above the land owned by a given person has not been sufficiently homesteaded to qualify as property, and thus having smoke enter into that space would not qualify as an act of inadvertent aggression. Finally, even if one holds to the NAP as understood by the author who rejects the NAP as a basis of libertarianism, the offense of pollution (in most cases) is sufficiently minor that it can be worked out between neighbors without need of a judicial ruling as to what damages one neighbor owes another.
    2. The NAP prohibits small harms for large benefits: Ind ethicists and we will not tolerate any deviation that tries to paint our position as n this case, the author argues from a pragmatic basis of ethics, which shows his complete misunderstanding of the NAP. The NAP is a duty-based ethic, and is not at all interested in a cost-benefit analysis of the so-called greater good. Of course the NAP prohibits small harms for large benefits! We (that is strict adherents of the NAP) argue that if one must commit an act of aggression to against one man to save the whole world that the only morally acceptable choice would be to not commit an act of aggression. We (libertarians) are not utilitarians, we are duty-bound ethicists. We certainly believe that our position also works out for the so-called “greater good” in the end, but that is not the reason why we hold to this principle.
    3. All or nothing attitude towards risk: According to the author, running any risk of aggression against another human being is wrong according to the NAP. Well, in this case he is right, at least to a degree. It is a violation of the NAP to knowingly act in such a way that puts the life, liberty, or property of another human being at direct risk. However, even the most hardline NAP holders among us will recognize that there are degrees of aggression, and degrees of appropriate response to aggression. It is true that if you put a revolver to my head with one bullet in the chamber and the other five empty and pull the trigger, that you have placed my life at significant risk, but it does not necessarily follow from this that you are attempting to murder me. Perhaps you knew exactly which chamber contained the bullet and were just playing some sort of sadistic prank. However, that does not mean that I automatically have the right to make you play Russian Roulette with a fully loaded revolver as a balanced means of retaliation. The NAP includes as its corollary that all reactions to aggression must be equal in degree, that is if you punch me on the shoulder, I am not free to pull out my shotgun and blow your head off. So, this supposed all or nothing attitude towards risk adds up to nothing in light of a libertarian theory of justice and punishment.
    4. No prohibition of fraud: This claim is (perhaps) the most ridiculous of all claims in the article. The NAP does not, in any way, allow for fraud. Fraud properly defined is taking the property or person of another under false pretenses. The NAP of course covers this, since it requires that no man may commit any act which takes away from another their right to life, liberty, or property.
    5. Parasitic on a theory of property:

Suppose A is walking across an empty field, when B jumps out of the bushes and clubs A on the head. It certainly looks like B is aggressing against A in this case. But on the libertarian view, whether this is so depends entirely on the relevant property rights – specifically, who owns the field. If it’s B’s field, and A was crossing it without B’s consent, then A was the one who was actually aggressing against B. Thus, “aggression,” on the libertarian view, doesn’t really mean physical violence at all. It means “violation of property rights.

This argument offered in the fifth point asserts that whether or not one has committed an act of aggression is entirely dependent on who is the owner of the given property. This is patently false, and a gross misrepresentation of a libertarian theory of property rights. Libertarian theory based in the NAP holds to a principle of proportionality, that is, if you walk across my field without permission, it is true that you have committed an act of aggression, but this act is so minor that it does not merit a clubbing over the head as presented in the above example. The NAP requires that any and all responses to aggression be in equal proportion or less to the aggression, that is, if you punch me in the face, I do not have a moral right to drop a nuclear bomb on your city. Likewise, if you walk across my field, I do not therefore have a right to whomp you over the head with a club, because the injury caused by being whomped over the head with a heavy club is significantly greater than the injury caused to my property by you walking across it without permission.

6. What about the children? This point is tough, because I agree with it at least in part, but certain distinctions must be made. The great libertarian philosopher Murray Rothbard made errors, and this area is one of them. Rothbard argues that parents have a moral right (based on the NAP) to starve their children to death, and to prohibit others from entering their property to feed their starving children. This thinking is, of course, morally abhorrent, and it also is not in consistent agreement with a proper understanding of the NAP. For all of Dr. Rothbard’s incredible contributions to the liberty movement, this is one area in which he was in grievous error, and in disagreement with a proper understanding of the Non-Aggression Principle. I have linked a full essay here explaining the faults in Rothbard’s thinking on this issue, but to summarize, the parents of any given child have a moral obligation to provide for its physical needs (that is those needs necessary to maintaining a right to life) until that child is able to provide those means on its own. The child did not consent to its own birth, but rather the parents of the child consented to participate in an activity that could potentially lead to a child, leaving them on the hook (morally speaking) to provide for that child at least until the point when it is able to viably provide for itself. 

So, here are six objections to the non-aggression principle as the basis of a libertarian political ethic, and here also are six counterpoints that effectively smash those objections to bits. These objections clearly fail in their attempt to replace the NAP as the driving ethical system of libertarian polity, and so they should be viewed as nothing of consequence to the libertarian who holds to the NAP as the foundation and summation of his libertarian political theory.

Leave a Comment

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.

Leave a Comment

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.

One Comment

How Progressive Rhetoric Provides a Platform for Hypocrisy

The fact that Progressives criticize the so-called “Alt-Right” for believing in “scientific race differences,” “the preservation of one’s own tribe and culture,” and for believing “that some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved” is immensely hypocritical. Why? Because Progressives believe in exactly the same things.

This, coming from those whose entire ideology is premised upon Darwinism — that which likewise spawned the birth of eugenics and the idea that humans are only as viable as their utility. This is how they can arbitrarily decide who’s fully human and who’s not (see: Dred Scott v. Sandford & Roe v. Wade), and who’s worthy of State-sanctioned privileges at the expense of another’s freedom, and who’s not.

Progressives believe in so-called “safe-spaces” — havens for Progressivist sensibilities against the possibility of offense. Such pusillanimity is the rampart from which they hurl their double standards. They condemn so-called “cultural appropriation,” and also believe that all people groups (save those of European descent) should preserve their cultures through the preclusion of integration with white people.

If anything be certain, it’s that the Alt-Right are not much different from Progressives. Through their own respective means of virtue signalling, both groups of ideologues hate freedom, peddle collectivism and racism, and remain foes on the basis Statist superiority. They remain enemies of liberty, and objects of ridicule and should be scorned by all Reformed Libertarians.


Leave a Comment

Clinton Supporters Are Not Afraid to Debate. They’re just…

This election season has been rather fascinating thus far, especially if you’ve taken comfort in God’s sovereignty — which I highly advise. I’ve especially appreciated the willingness of Trump supporters to engage in dialog, no matter how intense or malicious it might have been. Even if there was little progress, at least there was a willingness to pursue deliberation.

Clinton supporters on the other hand have turned callous and apathetic to the political process and to the wealth of criminal evidence against their favored candidate. Hillary Clinton could herself perform an openly egregious act far worse than Trump, and they’d be sure to spin it in whatever way possible to rationalize their obsequious devotion to a blatant enemy of liberty.

They won’t debate the finer points of their ideology or worldview because they know authoritarianism has already been established. They just have to endure the inconvenience of the election process — the only mechanism standing in the way of fully realized despotism. So, they’re not idiots or cowards for refusing to debate. They’re patient and confident in the system that now works in their favor.

There’s no legitimate oversight from the press, save WikiLeaks. There’s no effective oversight from the other branches of government either; they’re essentially obsolete. There’s certainly no oversight from the federal agencies which exist to serve only the interests of the federal government.

No, Clinton supporters are sadistic. They’re enjoying the dissolution of freedom and have no qualms with refusing to debate. What’s the point when they’ve already won?

Leave a Comment

Against Voting In Self-Defense

Dealing with the ethics of voting is a difficult thing. The fact of the matter is that all political arguments are ethical arguments, that is, anyone who argues in favor of one policy or another must inherently do so on moral grounds (including those who argue from a utilitarian ethic). So, dealing with this issue is not at all an easy one, as in every election there are a huge number of moral factors involved.. I have previously written a longer essay on the topic more broadly, which I strongly encourage you to read here. However, this shorter essay is written to deal with a specific argument about the ethics of voting, namely the issue of voting in self-defense. There is a great deal of disagreement on this issue in the libertarian camp, but many (headed up by Walter Block, and invoking Murray Rothbard in defense of position) argue that one may use their vote as a form of self-defense to protect their life, liberty, and property. Block formulates his argument in the following way:

Suppose we were all slaves, and the master said we could have a democratic election; we could vote for overseer Baddie, who would whip us unmercifully once per day, or overseer Goodie, who would do exactly the same thing, but only once per month. We all voted for the latter. Is this incompatible with libertarianism? Would this make us worse libertarians?

Block’s argument seems intriguing on its face, but when we dig further down we will find that it presents a false analogy as it relates to voting. The principle of self-defense is completely and entirely consistent with a libertarian ethic of politics. Since you have a right to your life, liberty, and property, you have a right to defend those things using force (up to and including lethal, should the aggressor persist) from any aggressor who may attempt to take them away. With this in mind, and looking at Dr. Block’s argument, it would seem that one has a right to use the electoral ballot to defend themselves from “overseer Baddie.” However, this is not the case. Since Dr. Block has used a thought experiment, allow me to do the same. Imagine overseer Baddie breaks into your home and tries to kill you and take your stuff (he is named overseer Baddie for a reason, afterall).

Now, any libertarian worth their salt will affirm your right to repel his invasion with use of proportional force. However, imagine overseer Baddie makes a break for it, and as he runs away you shoot at him with your automatic rifle. Unfortunately you don’t aim as well as you should have, and you injure three innocent bystanders while trying to repel overseer Baddie’s aggression against you. Are you justified in harming those bystanders in your attempt to stop overseer Baddie from hurting you and taking your stuff? Anyone who accepts the Non-Aggression Principle must say no. The bystanders who were not participants in overseer Baddie’s violence against you also have a right to their life, liberty, and property, and by hurting them (even unintentionally while trying to defend yourself) is wrong. The question of how wrong it is exactly could have a variety of answers, depending upon how much knowledge you had of the location of the bystanders, your level of intent to shoot in their direction in order to take down overseer Baddie, etc. But the conclusion in that circumstance is that you are at fault for doing damage to those persons and their property illegitimately.

This is where Dr. Block’s argument breaks down. By going into the voting booth and casting your support in favor of someone who will violate others rights to life, liberty, and property, you are an accomplice to any crimes against those rights committed by the elected in office. So, when Dr. Block argues that voting for Donald Trump (who he views as overseer Goodie in this instance, still a bad person, but a lesser evil than overseer Baddie) is legitimate because it could help us to avoid at least some of the damage that overseer Baddie (in this current election Hillary Clinton) would cause if placed in office. The problem is that this reduces the Non-Aggression Principle into a utilitarian ethic, rather than what it must necessarily be in order to be a functional ethic, that is a duty-based or duty-bound ethic. In order to retain any level of consistency, any libertarian must affirm that every man always has a right to his life, his liberty, and his property, unless and until he commits a crime against another person. So, to vote for the so-called “overseer Goodie” in this election, or any other where one is presented with something resembling Block’s Goodie/Baddie analogy is in fact an act of aggression (albeit indirectly, since not everyone who votes for overseer Goodie directly takes up arms to violently enforce overseer Goodie’s NAP violating commands).

Dr. Walter Block’s argument for voting as a form of self-defense is, on its face, attractive. However, when it is examined further it proves that it allows for the harm of innocent bystanders and as such fails the test of libertarian ethics. Whether the election is the upcoming Trump vs. Clinton, or Kang vs. Kodos in the year 2104, voting for the so-called “lesser evil” is a participation in the evil of that lesser evil, and should be rejected by both libertarians and Christians everywhere.


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.

Leave a Comment

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

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.

One Comment

Should the FBI Hack Botnet Victims to Save the Internet?

Some of you may have noticed the massive cyber attack last Friday. It was the largest ever DDOS attack. They work by flooding a server with more traffic than it can handle, causing it to shut down. Hackers typically use botnets to do it. Botnets are a web of personal computers that hackers secretly infect and then wait to exploit. At the right time, they will send the signal and all the infected machines will start sending traffic to the target server, without the person knowing their computer is being used in the attack.

What makes this attack unique is that the botnet was not primarily made up of computers, but of Internet of Things devices.

Mirai is a botnet code that takes control of devices used on what is called the Internet of Things—large numbers of electronic devices not directly connected to computers but all networked through the internet. The devices include webcams, security cameras, DVRs, smart TVs, routers, and similar devices. 1

Using these devices significantly increased the number of bots available, and therefore significantly increased the amount of data/traffic being sent. They reached a rate of over 1 Tbps – that’s Tera-bits per second – the largest ever.

The challenge is that securing these devices is not easy. Most people won’t have a clue how to update their devices and many of them can’t be updated. The solution? The government, of course.

There are a handful of ways that these hordes of hacked devices might be tackled: perhaps governments could regulate the security of devices, or internet service providers could cut off access for certain machines. However, there is another more controversial, but increasingly relevant, way: law enforcement, or specifically the FBI, could hack the devices making up Mirai botnets—many of which are cameras—in order to ultimately disable the malicious network writ large. 2

After all, “this episode illustrates a very serious market failure” says Susan Hennessey, a fellow in national security at the Brookings Institution think tank and former National Security Agency attorney (Note: “think tanks” are extensions of the state, specifically in the propaganda department. You are much more open to Hennessey’s opinion when she is an expert (“fellow”) at the Brookings Institution than when she is a lawyer for the NSA. See TRL Podcast#11). 451 Research elaborates

In a factory-oriented industry, for example, when a factory produces a product, the price of that product should cover the costs of its production and at least enough profit to make its production worthwhile. This price includes labor, components, equipment and all the associated inputs that go in. But what about the pollution the factory makes? This pollution has an economic impact – global warming, crop production and respiratory disease can be the result of such pollution, which affects other businesses and individuals, too. But the factory doesn’t really need to care about these – the factory could produce billions of tons of pollution, and it wouldn’t need to factor the impact of this pollution into its price.

In other words, the pollution is external to its profit and revenue – economically, pollution is called a negative externality. Externalities occur where the actions of one economic agent make another economic agent worse or better off, yet the first agent neither bears the costs nor receives the benefits of doing so. It is a form of market failure…

Here lies the economic challenge: Let’s say a typical consumer has purchased an internet-enabled toaster for $20. The producer could charge an extra $2 to make the toaster more secure, but that could lead to fewer purchases and impact profit. This is the crux: Would the producer get any benefit from making it more secure? No. The producer would almost certainly reduce its bottom line, as a result of price-sensitive users viewing the product as less attractive.

Would end users see value in paying $2 more for a secure toaster over an insecure one? What benefit does the end user gain by having a secure toaster? None… IoT botnets are an externality.

Of course, the reality is that these kind of market failures are not failures at all, but failures of the state that blocks the market from dealing with these issues on a property rights basis. See Walter Block on Pollution on Youtube as well as What Are You Calling a Failure?

Coincidentally, the timing of Mirai’s rise runs parallel with a looming change to how the FBI can legally hack computers across the US and in other countries.

In December, changes to Rule 41 of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which regulates when judges can authorize warrants for searches and seizures, will come into effect, unless blocked by Congress. 2

Golly, that sure is good timing. Good thing officials have made it clear this attack was by unknown, but definitely non-state actors.

And if that’s not enough, Hennessey warns that if you continue to buy cheap devices that can be exploited by hackers, then you yourself will be considered part of the criminal network.

If society begins to perceive people as failing in that responsibility in a way that harms others—or outsourcing the cost by buying cheap and insecure products—then we may cease to think about botnet ‘victims’ as victims at all. And that will have a significant impact on what we perceive as appropriate law enforcement activity. 2

So if you buy a cheap product (like the TV sitting in your living room watching and listening to you), the FBI may have legal grounds to hack it and take control of it. No more shopping at Walmart, you criminal mastermind.

Leave a Comment