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Reformed Libertarian Blog Posts

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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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.

 

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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?

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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.

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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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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.

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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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Hurricane Matthew is Racist

In case you have been living under a rock, or on the West Coast (if we are being honest, what’s the difference?) you may have heard about this hurricane tearing through the Caribbean and soon to hit the South East coast of the US. As a resident of Charleston, SC, this means the inevitable flooding and evacuation of thousands of people. In fact, our governor has already mandated that people leave their homes.

But we aren’t here to talk about that, kind reader. Oh no, we are here to talk about the fact that Hurricane Matthew is racist.

Yes, I woke up today and checked twitter to see the progress of Matthew barreling toward me, and instead I was met with the hottest of takes,

The death toll in Haiti from Hurricane Matthew is 339. That’s what environmental racism looks like.

This legitimately saddened me. We have poor people in poor countries dying, we have people in the US that very may well die due to the intensity and flooding caused by this storm, and it’s instantly turned into a political cause.

But let’s say this is true, let’s say that nature is racist. How do we go about fixing this? How do we solve this issue? Since the dawn of time people have been trying to figure out how to survive nature and what it has to throw at us. But this doesn’t fit the narrative, right? The narrative that black people are oppressed so much that even a non-living thing has decided to take it’s anger out on black people.
I happen to believe that black people do get the raw end of the stick a lot of times. However, it’s not at the hand of nature, it’s at the hand of the State. Wherever there is oppression, there is a State-backed force. If BLM turned their eyes on the State, instead of nature, change may actually take place to give people liberty.

But instead, we are distracted from actual issues caused by the State, because of a racist hurricane.

Mother nature is not racist. She is an equal opportunity destroyer.

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Why Trump Is Not The Best Candidate For President: A Response To Norman Geisler

Dr. Norman Geisler published a piece in Christianity Today in which he advocates that the morally just thing for any evangelical Christian to do this election cycle is to vote for Donald Trump. The aim of the present piece is to provide a brief series of counterarguments to Dr. Geisler’s arguments in favor of voting for Donald Trump this fall. I will preface the body of this article by saying that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Geisler (I currently attend his school), and I am sure that he will forget more about philosophy, theology, and ethics than I will ever learn in my entire life. He is a brilliant man, a faithful servant of the kingdom, and someone I look up to a great deal even on occasions such as this where I disagree with him.

Dr. Geisler’s article is broken down into a series of small points which he believes make a sound case for why a Christian should vote for Trump come November. His first argument is less of a positive argument and more of a response to a counter-argument used by those opposed to voting for Trump. Geisler argues that while Trump is a flawed candidate that this is not sufficient cause to not vote for him. Dr. Geisler points out (rightly, I may add) that every candidate for president is a fallen and flawed human being and that having flaws should not necessarily eliminate them from being an option for Christians to vote for.

Though it is true that all of the current candidates for president have flaws, the argument that we should simply choose the least flawed one because they are the least flawed is insufficient grounds for a Christian to vote for such a man. If we were given a slate of two candidates, one whose platform includes the slaughter of unborn infants with no legal repercussions, and one whose platform includes the slaughter of unborn infants with no legal repurcussions and the murder of one out of every three people currently residing in the country, our responsibility is not to simply vote to avoid the murder of some people while condoning the murder of others, but rather our duty is to do what we may in order to promote a brand of justice that respects the rights of every human being to life, liberty, and property.

Dr. Geisler’s second argument is not much different than the first, but is framed in the more straightforward “lesser of two evils” form. Dr. Geisler argues that if we are presented with two choices, one being a known devil and the other being a supposed witch, that we ought to choose the supposed witch. This moral argument fails on two fronts. Firstly, we have more than two candidates on the ballot for president on the United States. Second, even if we did only have two candidates to choose from, we are not obligated to vote for either one of them, in fact if we are given a choice where we participate in evil A, participate in evil B (perhaps a greater evil), our obligation as Christians is to participate in neither. True justice demands that we follow the law of God no matter our fears about what evil may come to ourselves or others if we do so.

Dr. Geisler’s third argument is that we are not in fact choosing between the lesser of two evils, but that we are instead choosing one alternative that is the greater good. Dr. Geisler undoes his previous argument by claiming that our choice in a presidential race is never between two evils, but is instead a choice of who is the better candidate. This fails for two reasons: Firstly, it undoes his entire lesser of two evils argument in the previous paragraph. Secondly, the claim that we are never choosing between a lesser of two evils is patently false. It is true, of course, that every election features candidates who are sinful human beings, however to argue that one of them is the “greater good” is to fall prey to an utilitarian ethic that has no place in a well-grounded system of Christian ethics. Imagine for a moment that we are able to peer into the mind of God and we find that there are a certain number of “sin points” for each and every sin. For something on the more minor side such as telling a lie, perhaps 20 “sin points” are awarded to the soul of the person committing that sin.

For something much more egregious such as premeditated murder, perhaps 200 “sin points” are awarded. When faced with a choice where we can either lie or commit premeditated murder, if this system is correct, it would make more sense on the surface to tell a lie and only rack up 20 “sin points” rather than the much greater 200. This is not how the law of God works, however. While it is true that some sins are more egregious than others, it is not the case that this means when faced with the option to commit a certain sin we can commit the lesser sin and just get completely off the hook. Rather, the law of God demands that we always do justice and love mercy, and choosing either the “lesser evil” or “greater good” (it doesn’t matter what you call it, really) is not acting in accordance with God’s law if the supposed “greater good” still involves participating in evil.

Dr. Geisler also argues that not voting is not only unhelpful, but cowardly. I have already written a much lengthier piece answering this objection, but I will also take the time to answer it briefly here. Simply put, not voting is not a surrender to the system of the day, nor is it a cowardly choice. In fact, when the entire culture is screaming “Vote, vote, you must vote!” to sit out an election takes a great deal of bravery. When a Christian finds themselves faced with the option of participating in evil by voting for candidate X, participating in evil by voting for candidate Y, or simply not participating, not participating is what we are called to do.

Dr. Geisler’s final major point is that power corrupts or “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This part of the argument is true, and has been shown through history time and again. Dr. Geisler argues that term limits are an effective form of checks and balances in our system of government, and while this is true, it is largely irrelevant. This argument gives no reason to vote for Donald Trump whatsoever. Yes, there are term limits for the office of president, and yes, they are a moderately effective system of maintaining checks and balances on our government. Neither of these things proves in any way that a Christian should vote for Donald Trump any more than they should vote Rosie O’Donnell.

From this stage in his argument. Dr. Geisler jumps into a number of pragmatic reasons why it would be best for Christians to vote for Donald Trump. Though these points are interesting enough to look over, they do not rest on a sufficient moral, theological, or philosophical foundation to have enough merit to cover for the time being.

Dr. Norman Geisler is an incredibly gifted, intelligent, and godly man. It is in no way my desire to take away from any of these things. However, his moral argument for why Christians ought to vote for Donald Trump for president is incredibly lacking and is not built upon any substantial biblical basis either from a theological, philosophical, or ethical perspective. Discerning Christians should not ignore the significant mental gymnastics required to make the argument that Dr. Geisler makes in this article, and should be careful to search out the scriptures for what their calling is in Christ during this election season.

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No, Self-driving trucks are not threatening one of America’s top blue-collar jobs

Last week, a friend of mine — a Facebook ‘friend’ — who was an avid Bernie Sanders supporter, posted the following article from the LA Times entitled,

Robots could replace 1.7 million American truckers in the next decade

The idea behind this article from the LA Times is to essentially demonize the development of capital and technological advancements — like automation — for fear of unemployment. In actuality such advancements increase the quality of life for people all around while likewise reducing their cost of living and the amount of work exerted. The idea that ingenuity is somehow a threat to mankind’s way of life is rather specious, not to mention counterproductive if widely accepted. Likewise, if I may be so bold to suggest, it is the reason why so many people live in poverty and without the leisure that many of us in first-world countries get to enjoy most often (e.g. Washing Machines).

This premise — an antithesis between labor and capital — is based upon an ignorance of economics and it’s often used to exploit hardworking Americans for political expediency. How much easier is it to garner votes if you can convince your constituency that you’re going to save them by sustaining their well-being (i.e. employment and accompanying benefits)? Such faux paternalism seems to be the key  to career politics.

Is capital a threat to labor? If by threat you mean that it can lead to the dissolution of jobs in one industry only to create more jobs elsewhere, and greater opportunities for each individual whose time was previously consumed by said labor, then sure, it’s a threat. It’s a threat to a harder way of life. The whole point of developing capital is to decrease the amount of work exerted as well as the costs of production. This also leads to the creation of affordable products for consumers while likewise freeing up people to pursue greater ends.

Think about it this way, if companies were still using horses and buggies to transport goods, it would take much more longer for their products to reach the market than it does now. The demand would be a nightmare, not to mention the impact it would have on consumers. However, with the advent of eighteen wheelers and big rigs came an alleviation; it allowed shipments to be timed in accordance to production, instead of the other way around. Did the invention of big rigs mean more jobs? Well, not necessarily. More jobs came as a consequence of market growth and the need for labor to accommodate for product abundance and its distribution. Greater profits means allocating more capital (e.g. big rigs); and more capital means greater profits.

So, does this mean there was an outcry from the horse-and-buggy industry when Freightliner Trucks was founded? Probably. The problem was not with the advent of trucks though, but rather with those who refused to see the market potential in using such capital. If these big rigs were never imagined, never created, and never used, and we still used the aforementioned primitive means of transport, then those 1.7 million jobs for truck drivers would have never existed. Instead, there would be 1.7 million more laborious jobs involving the raising of horses and the construction of buggies. Likewise, I can’t imagine today’s truck drivers jumping at the opportunity to be a reinsman or bull-whacker tasked with transporting goods across the country in light of the fact that it can be done with a 500 hp / 1,600 ft-lb torque truck.

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Inflationary Booms Without Price Inflation

From the Austrian perspective, it can be tempting to make predictions in regards to increases in prices due to the massive amount of credit expansion and inflation in the US. Furthermore, one might wonder how to answer critics of the Austrian theory of the business cycle, who point out inflation is not manifesting itself in aggregates like the CPI. However, Murray Rothbard makes an invaluable point in regards to our economic history looking at two of the greatest booms and busts in US history. Rothbard states the following:

“As “Austrian” business cycle theory points out, any bank credit inflation creates a boom-and-bust cycle; there is no need for prices actually to rise. Prices did not rise because an increased product of goods and services offset the monetary expansion. Similar conditions precipitated the great crash of 1929. Prices need not rise for an inflationary boom, followed by a bust, to be created. All that is needed is for prices to be kept up by the artificial boom, and be higher than they would have been without the monetary expansion. Without the credit expansion, prices would have fallen during the 1820s, as they would have a century later, thereby spreading the benefits of a great boom in investments and production to everyone in the country.” Murray Rothbard, The Mystery of Banking, p. 209

Could it be our economic history is repeating itself 200 years and 100 years after our prior inflationary booms and busts?

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How Currency Debasement Increases Taxation

That moment when you realize not only is taxation theft and debasing the currency is a tax and thus theft, but since accounting practices do not account for currency depreciation, a false accounting exists of higher than otherwise would be income and profit perpetually increasing said theft.

Ludwig von Mises writes in The Theory of Money and Credit, pages 204-205, the following:

This disregard of variations in the value of money in economic calculation falsifies accounts of profit and loss.  If the value of money falls, ordinary book-keeping, which does not take account of monetary depreciation, shows apparent profits, because it balances against the sums of money received for sales a cost of production calculated in money of a higher value, and because it writes off from book values originally estimated in money of a higher value items of money of a smaller value.  What is thus improperly regarded as profit instead of as part of capital is consumed by the entrepreneur or passed on either to the consumer in the form of price-reductions that would not otherwise have been made or to the laborer in the form of higher wages, and the government proceeds to tax it as income or profits.  In any case, consumption of capital results from the fact that monetary depreciation falsifies capital accounting.  Under certain conditions the consequent destruction of capital and increase of consumption may be partly counteracted by the fact that the depreciation also gives rise to genuine profits, those of debtors, for example, which are not consumed but put into reserves.  But this can never more than partly balance the destruction of capital induced by the depreciation.

 

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Mises v. Hayek

An excellent article to check out is this Hans-Hermann Hoppe article in regards to the difference between Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek.

In the article Hoppe briefly discusses the popularity of Hayek over Mises, concluding that the difference is one of political philosophy.  Hayek was a social democrat.  Mises was a laissez-faire radical.  In regards to Mises’ political philosophy, Hoppe states as follows:

In distinct contrast [to FA Hayek – TS], how refreshingly clear — and very different — is Mises! For him, the definition of liberalism can be condensed into a single term: private property. The state, for Mises, is legalized force, and its only function is to defend life and property by beating antisocial elements into submission. As for the rest, the government is “the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisonment. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.”

How refreshing indeed!  So read Mises!  Even Forbes recommends it!  His many works can be found  for free at www.mises.org.

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Is Monarchy better than Democracy?

Democracy: Worse than Monarchy? 

I came across this article today on Facebook and I thought it put a lot of my own incoherent thoughts down pretty well. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. The libertarian goal should be to maximize freedom. I think there is a very good case that a monarchical system could maximize freedom better than a democracy. This may not be anything groundbreaking, but just another thing an anarchist can use to spice up the Thanksgiving Dinner table.

Give the article a read and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear opposing views!

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Clinton’s Hell

Today is the day – fifteen years ago and all that.

What does presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have to say about it?

“I remember one image so indelibly, [a firefighter] dragging his ax, and it was as close to depiction of hell that I’ve ever personally seen.”

Spend in week in one of the hells you have created, Hillary. Try Libya for a week – without Marines or secret service agents; if you are lucky enough to survive seven days, get to a boat to take you across the Mediterranean; if you are really lucky, you might survive even this.

Go to Syria. Live in Aleppo for a while. Try going to the market; go to a Christian church; mingle with the people. See how that goes.

How about Iraq? Afghanistan? Yemen? Ukraine? Try each of them for seven days – no Marines, no private security, no secret service. Just you, Hillary. Live like one of the people.

In other words, Hillary – before you try to fool us with your crocodile tears about the hell you have seen, why don’t you go to hell first – go to the hells you have created on earth. Give us a first-hand report.

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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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