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Reformed Libertarian Blog Posts

J. Gresham Machen on Jaywalking Laws

J. Gresham Machen on Jaywalking laws:

“These anti-pedestrian laws are intended either for the protection of the pedestrian, or for the convenience of the motorist. In either case . . . they are wrong. If they are intended to protect the pedestrian from himself, they are paternalistic. I am opposed to paternalism.”

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Fan Mail from Walter Block

Writes Walter Block to me last night:

Dear Jay (if I may):

This is one of THE best defenses of libertarianism I have ever read. Really magnificent. And, it is so necessary in this day and age of Cato, Boaz, Charles Murray, Sheldon Richman, Roderick Long, Charles Johnson, John Tomasi, Zwolinski, dozens of Bleeding Heart “Libertarians” and others who wish to hijack our beloved philosophy. Magnificent work on your part:

Engel, C. Jay. 2015. “What Libertarianism is Not: A Case Study.” May 15;
http://reformedlibertarian.com/blog/what-libertarianism-is-not-a-case-study/

I only have a slight reservation about this excellent article of yours; you say:

“Okay, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with libertarianism and so to push themes such as that under a title that reads “Libertarian Perspectives” leads one to the conclusion that either our author misunderstands what libertarianism is, or else is being purposefully deceitful.  My guess is the former..”

My guess would be the latter. But this is only a slight cavil. I suspect you would agree with me, but are just too nice to take the alternative view.

Have you written more along these lines? If so, would you please, Please, PLEASE share these publications of yours with me?

I have written dozens, no, scores of articles along these lines over the years, trying to defend libertarianism against those who would water it down, or misunderstand it or hijack it. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I can’t resist sharing this one with you:

Block, Walter E. 1994. “Libertarianism and Libertinism,” The Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 117-128; http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/11_1/11_1_7.pdf

Are you aware of the really wonderful work the Bionic Mosquito has done along these lines? See:

http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2015/05/bleeding-heart-thick-milquetoast-left.html

Best regards,

Walter

I responded with a thank you, some previous blogposts I had written on these themes (1, 2, 3, 4), and an affirmation that I had of course heard of Bionic Mosquito, who graciously lets me republish his blogposts. It is always encouraging to see such big names in the libertarian movement reading what I write. I enjoy Dr. Block, especially his continual emphasis that libertarianism is solely about aggression, and not all these popular “libertine” trends that seem to have invaded the libertarian doctrine.  Thanks for the fan mail Dr. Block (hope you eventually come around on the abortion issue 😛 )!  I surely appreciate it.

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Jeff Deist on ‘Junk English”

This is a great little video by the new President of the Mises Institute Jeff Deist. He gives a basic overview of what he calls “Junk English” and its dangerous use in conversations pertaining to economics.

It really is an important point. Even beyond economics, we ought to recognize it whenever and wherever we hear it. Definitions are important for the meaning of words propel us forward. Without meaning, we have nothing.

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Robert Wenzel and Ilana Mercer

I’m a big fan of paleolibertarian writer Ilana Mercer.  Robert Wenzel has a nice interview with her on his show. They talk about Rand Paul, immigration, and more.

 

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Tom Woods: The “Pay Equity” Racket (2001)

By Thomas E Woods Jr. (November 2001)

Most of us probably thought the feminist demand for so-called “comparable worth” legislation had died out sometime in the 1980s. The idea was that occupations traditionally held by women should have wage rates raised by government fiat in order to correspond with those of “comparable” male-dominated jobs. Surely no one is advancing this idea any longer. Surely!

But on June 22 of this year, Maine became the first state in the Union to promulgate rules requiring both public-  and private-sector employers to pay a comparable rate to men and women who work at what the government determines to be “comparable” jobs.

This year alone, 67 similar bills have been introduced in 30 different states. In addition, the Fair Pay Act, which is pending in the US Congress, would criminalize differential wage rates in non-identical jobs that the government deems “equivalent.”

The endlessly repeated claim, which has helped give rise to all this legislation, is that women are paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to men. Now it obviously cannot be the case that women are paid 72 percent of what men are for doing the same work, not only because that violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963, but also because in that case any employer in his right mind would simply fire all his male employees and hire women at the lower wage rate.

There is no need to assume anything sinister is at work in the fact that women’s incomes are lower than those of men.

Many women who enter the labor force are aware that at some point they will have to interrupt their careers, probably for a matter of years, to take care of their children. Naturally, then, women are more likely than men to seek jobs with slow obsolescence rates that allow them to take time off without finding that their skill or knowledge has become outdated by the time they resume their careers. Married women tend to seek flexible working hours to accommodate their schedules. Many work only part time. Many would like to work near their homes. And so on.

These requirements place some restraints on what women are likely to earn vis-à-vis men. For one thing, such highly paid occupations as law and medicine are extremely difficult to leave and re-enter after a multi-year absence. Second, since many women seek the job criteria listed above, the result is a great many women competing for the narrow range of jobs that fit these criteria. Somewhat lower wages in these jobs are merely a reflection of supply and demand–the only rational way of allocating labor efficiently.

It turns out, incidentally, that single, never-married women of comparable education and experience and who work full time have the same incomes as their male counterparts. The so-called wage gap completely disappears once we stop comparing apples and oranges. Diana Furchtgott-Roth, President Bush’s chief of staff for his Council of Economic Advisors, makes this point in Women’s Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America. So have many, many other economists who have bothered to study the data (and use common sense).

Even some feminists and labor leaders, apparently, realize this. But Karen Nussbaum of the AFL_CIO’s Working Women Department, when presented with these figures, simply replied: “Great. OK. If you live a pristine life where nothing interferes, then you can have equal pay. We thought it might be better if it had a more broad definition.” A fanatic has sometimes been described as someone who, once his goal has been reached, redoubles his efforts. What Nussbaum is saying, in effect, is that now that unmarried women of comparable background have reached effective pay equality with men, it’s time to expand the concept into cases where it makes no sense.

The basic premise behind “comparable worth,” the centerpiece of the Maine legislation, is that jobs done primarily and historically by women are systematically “undervalued” by the market. Presumably with a straight face, the US Civil Rights Commission once determined that librarians and chemists were of equal “value” to society, since both earned 493 points on the Commission’s rating scale, and thus it was unjust for the former (mostly women) to be paid less than the latter (mostly men).

But the implementation of comparable worth, by raising the salaries of jobs traditionally occupied by women, will make it more difficult for women interested in these occupations to find employment at all. Artificial increases in wage rates (that is, increases not justified by increased productivity) in, say, secretarial work will simply translate into fewer secretaries hired.

Economist Anita U. Hattiangadi, author of A Closer Look at Comparable Worth, found that the unemployment rate for women jumped nearly 5 percent after Minnesota initiated an equal pay system for state government workers–an increase more than four times as great as that for men. There have also been cases in Minnesota’s experiment with comparable worth in which women have actually tried to overturn the state’s mandated wage increases because they feared unemployment.

According to the Maine law, if employees who are being paid less than another group believe they are being discriminated against because their work is of equal “value,” they can file class action lawsuits seeking unlimited damages. Before year’s end, quite literally every Maine businessman will be subject to ruinous legal action based on a completely arbitrary standard. It is hard to overstate how ill-considered, irrational, and potentially destructive this plan is.

And the idea is only gaining momentum. “I think that equal pay is probably the most potent and underrated political issue out there,” Nussbaum said in a recent interview. “It comes out right at the top of every poll that gets taken. We’re beginning to see it at the state level. In New York, there are about 20 bills; every legislator out there wants to get his or her name on this thing.”

Naturally, under such a scenario, since everyone would be well aware of the arbitrary nature of comparable worth rulings, the result would be a mad frenzy of appeals to the state authority as to why this or that profession deserves higher wages. Wage rates would begin to reflect not worker productivity, but rather the skill at political jockeying and maneuvering on the part of lawyers and other representatives of various professions–not a particularly sanguine development for a free society.

There is an obvious irony in all this, one that reveals the sheer irrationality of feminist “economics.” Why do feminists support comparable worth, whose higher wages for traditionally female occupations would encourage women to remain in such occupations, when feminists claim to want to see women break through barriers and compete with men for traditionally male-dominated work?

Of course, the notion of “pay equity,” of state bureaucrats assigning points to various occupations, is the kind of absurdity we would have laughed at had it been done by Soviet commissars. But if the feminists and their allies in the labor movement continue to register these successes, no one will be laughing.

 

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The Horror of Falling Prices

Gary North writes (behind a paywall):

Three days ago, Google announced a spectacular price cut in cloud storage. It cut prices to 2.6 cents per gigabyte. That was bad news for Amazon, and good news for users.

Here was the sequence of events. On March 25, Google cut the price to 2.6 cents per gigabyte. I went to Amazon to check prices. Lo and behold, I discovered that the price was 8.5 cents/GB. In other words, Amazon had already cut prices by a third since September. On March 27, I checked again with Amazon S3, and I found that, as of April 1, the price will be 3 cents/GB.

This means that, in a period of seven months, the price of an indispensable cost of doing business has declined by 76%. This is incredible. Here is a service that large companies use 24×7, and without any prior warning, the cost of purchasing this service declined by 76%.

“Good news for users” indeed.  And yet, mainstream economists, professional Fed watchers, and political shills, speak of the dire consequences of falling prices.  Falling prices are a good thing.  Of course, a bust which follows a boom is painful, but the idea that the central bank should take it upon itself to generally “stabilize prices,” that is, not let them fall, is silly.  Falling prices make happy customers.

Nobody goes to the store hoping to buy less with their money.

 

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John Robbins on the Root of Freedom

John Robbins:

“The attempts of libertarians, classical liberals, and conservatives to preserve freedom and civilization over the past 50 years have failed because they have not been based on any sound understanding of the philosophical and theological pre-conditions for freedom and civilization.

Many conservatives, libertarians, and classical liberals are opposed to the ideas of the Protestant Reformers; they want the fruits of the Reformation – freedom and civilization – but they reject the root of freedom and civilization, Biblical Christianity.”

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Joe Sobran: The Right to Secede

Joe Sobran

How can the federal government be prevented from usurping powers that the Constitution doesn’t grant to it? It’s an alarming fact that few Americans ask this question anymore.

Our ultimate defense against the federal government is the right of secession. Yes, most people assume that the Civil War settled that. But superior force proves nothing. If there was a right of secession before that war, it should be just as valid now. It wasn’t negated because Northern munitions factories were more efficient than Southern ones.

Among the Founding Fathers there was no doubt. The United States had just seceded from the British Empire, exercising the right of the people to “alter or abolish” — by force, if necessary — a despotic government. The Declaration of Independence is the most famous act of secession in our history, though modern rhetoric makes “secession” sound somehow different from, and more sinister than, claiming independence.

The original 13 states formed a “Confederation,” under which each state retained its “sovereignty, freedom, and independence.” The Constitution didn’t change this; each sovereign state was free to reject the Constitution. The new powers of the federal government were “granted” and “delegated” by the states, which implies that the states were prior and superior to the federal government.

CONTINUE READING AT: Sobran.

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J. Gresham Machen on the Individual

Here is Machen on the individual vs. modern collectivism:

“It is true that historic Christianity is in conflict at many points with the collectivism of the present day; it does emphasize, against the claims of society, the worth of the individual soul. It provides for the individual a refuge from all the fluctuating currents of human opinion, a secret place of meditation where a man can come alone into the presence of God. It does give a man courage to stand, if need be, against the world; it resolutely refuses to make of the individual a mere means to an end, a mere element in the composition of society. It rejects altogether any means of salvation which deals with men in a mass; it brings the individual face to face with his God.”

 

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Murray Rothbard on Gold Confiscation… and Ron Paul

Murray Rothbard:

In addition to cancelling the redemption of dollars into gold, Roosevelt in 1933 committed another criminal act: literally confiscating all gold and bullion held by Americans, exchanging them for arbitrarily valued “dollars.” It is curious that, even though the Fed and the government Establishment continually proclaim the obsolescence and worthlessness of gold as a mon- etary metal, the Fed (as well as all other central banks) clings to its gold for dear life. Our confiscated gold is still owned by the Federal Reserve, which keeps it on deposit with the Treasury at Fort Knox and other gold depositaries. Indeed, from 1933 until the 1970s, it continued to be illegal for any Americans to own monetary gold of any kind, whether coin or bullion or even in safe deposit boxes at home or abroad. All these measures, sup- posedly drafted for the Depression emergency, have continued as part of the great heritage of the New Deal ever since. For four decades, any gold flowing into private American hands had to be deposited in the banks, which in turn had to deposit it at the Fed. Gold for “legitimate” non-monetary purposes, such as dental fillings, industrial drills, or jewelry, was carefully rationed for such purposes by the Treasury Department.

Fortunately, due to the heroic efforts of Congressman Ron Paul it is now legal for Americans to own gold, whether coin or bullion. But the ill-gotten gold confiscated and sequestered by the Fed remains in Federal Reserve hands. How to get the gold out from the Fed? How privatize the Fed’s stock of gold? 

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J. Gresham Machen on Jaywalking laws…

J. Gresham Machen on Jaywalking laws:

“These anti-pedestrian laws are intended either for the protection of the pedestrian, or for the convenience of the motorist. In either case . . . they are wrong. If they are intended to protect the pedestrian from himself, they are paternalistic. I am opposed to paternalism.”

 

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