Americans who are serious about fixing the country's fiscal mess must begin by fixing their own character.
These resolutions make a good starting point:
•I pledge myself to a lifetime of self-improvement so I can be the model of integrity that friends, family, and acquaintances will want to emulate.
•I resolve to keep my hands in my own pockets, to leave others alone unless they threaten me harm, to take responsibility for my own actions and decisions, and to impose no burdens on others that stem from my own poor judgments.
•I resolve to show the utmost reverence and respect for the lives, property, and rights of my fellow citizens. I will remember that government money is really my neighbors' money, so I will not vote to loot them. I will stand on my own two feet, behave like an adult in a free and civil society, and expect the same of my children.
•If I need help, I will ask my family, friends, faith network, neighbors, local charities, or even strangers first – and government last.
•If I have a "good idea," I resolve to elicit support for it through peaceful persuasion, not the force of government. I will not ask politicians to foist it on others because I think it's good for them.
•I resolve to help others who genuinely need it by involving myself directly or by supporting those who are providing assistance through charitable institutions. I will not complain about a problem and then insist that government tinker with it at twice the cost and half the effectiveness.
•Finally, I resolve that the highest authority in which I place my strongest faith will not be the United States Congress.
Lawrence W. Reed, an economist and historian, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education.
Below is an excerpt from Lawrence W. Reed's essay "The deficit Americans should think about most: personal character". I agree with Mr. Reed that these seven resolutions make for a great starting point.
Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.” Ludwig von Mises
Below are seven musts for the devout statist:
1. Be Afraid. Fear is the essential ingredient for every government program. Understand that if we don’t pass [insert name of any bill] then our society will surely crumble by lunch. It doesn’t much matter if you are more afraid of the rich, the poor, the people that live in different geographic regions, the uncertainty of retirement planning, or the folks that want to grow their own vegetables. The important thing is that you are really afraid of something and look to the government as the solution. Mother America is the only thing keeping you safe and warm.
2. Don’t think for yourself. Blind obedience and strict loyalty to groupthink is essential for any well-ordered society. Free thinking is dangerous. We must have elected officials, bureaucrats in government schools, ivory tower academics, and a handful of elites in the media inform us of the acceptable talking points to use during our narrowly-bounded social discussions. It helps to be especially ignorant of history, economics, and philosophy.
3. Deny the Antecedent (1). You want to make sure to commit this logical fallacy every chance you get. It is a waste of time to try to imagine how something might work in the absence of state intervention (or might have actually worked in the absence of state intervention in the past). Any service that is currently provided by government can only be provided by government. There is no possible way that education services, unemployment insurance, or the provision of money could ever exist if not for the state. Obviously, it would be absurd to believe that the humans who currently construct the roads or deliver the mail would be able to do so if not for the direction of some central planner.
4. Compromise on principle for the sake of expedience. There is no absolute truth. There is no black and white. Since all morals are relative, it does no harm to compromise your values for any perceived short-term gain. We must be practical if we want to make progress. Everyone knows that you must give to get in politics. This is why the two major political parties in the U.S. are such a model example. “You give us our welfare, and we will give you your warfare. You give us our warfare, and we will give you your welfare.” Obstructionists who rigidly cling to principles merely impeded the glorious growth of the state.
5. Make Utopian promises. If only we had more government, we could eliminate [insert any problem], and we could have [insert any benefit]. The state, and only the state, has the unique ability to transcend the economic law of scarcity and deliver an infinite abundance of goods and services at no cost. Every problem in the world is the result of some market failure. If a government program “fails” it is because there were not enough resources dedicated to its success. If any government solution “fails” to fix a problem it is just evidence that the problem was much worse than we thought. Things most certainly would have been all the more disastrous without the government stepping in to save us from the abyss. Our progressive march to utopia on earth is impeded by extremists and ideologues who want to limit the size and scope of the state.
6. Grab it before someone else does. The world is like a giant piñata with a set amount of candy inside. When that papier-mâché donkey spills its contents out to the ravenous public, you better use both hands to get yours. Statists understand that economics is a zero-sum game. For every winner there is always a loser. Since there is only a set amount of goods, if one person has something, it must mean that they took it from another. If one person is wealthy, it must mean they exploited the weak. The state helps to make sure everyone gets their fair share of candy, but while we are waiting for true equality it is ok to use the state to get as much from the system as possible. Politics is an excellent way to internalize benefits to yourself while externalizing costs to someone else.
7. Use violence to get what you want. Ultimately it is violence or the threat of violence that is backing every government program. There are great lessons we can learn from young toddlers who don’t waste their time with rational persuasion. Like an unruly child, you should hit, scream, kick, bite, and take what you want. If you are too weak or too cowardly to use physical violence on your family and neighbors, you can always look to employing the blunt force of government to make people bend to your preferences.
(1) Denying the antecedent is a formal logical fallacy pertaining to the form or structure of an argument. For example, let’s consider the following: “If it rains, then the grass is wet. It is not raining. Therefore, the grass is not wet.” We would say this argument is invalid. The grass could be wet from the sprinklers not rain. Similarly, a statist argument is frequently “If the government delivers the mail, then we get our mail. In a free society, the government doesn't deliver the mail, therefore we don’t get our mail.” Of course we could still get our mail. Just because government employees wouldn't deliver mail doesn't mean that private companies wouldn't deliver mail.
If you do not think you want to dutifully follow the 7 Essential Statist Maxims, maybe you would like some of the resources we have in the Liberty Library.
Here is an excerpt from a recent presentation by Robert Higgs at Mises University:
“States are clumsy and inept in many ways. Thank god. But, they are exceptionally good at reeking death and destruction. Indeed, if they were not, they could not sustain themselves as states. In a functional sense we may define the state as the organization with comparative advantage i_n deliberately, violently killing people and appropriating and destroying wealth. The debate between statists and anti-statists is in my judgment not evenly matched. Defending the continued existence of the state, despite having absolute certainty of a corresponding continuation of its intrinsic engagement in extortion, robbery, willful destruction of wealth, assault, kidnapping, murder, and countless other crimes, requires that one imagine non-state chaos, disorder, and death on a scale that non-state actors seem completely incapable of causing. In general, with regard to large-scale death and destruction, no person, group, or private organization can even begin to compare to the state, which is easily the greatest instrument of destruction known to man. Almost all non-state threats to life, liberty, and property appear to be relatively petty and therefore can be dealt with. In general, only states can pose truly massive threats and sooner or later the horrors with which they menace mankind inevitably come to pass…The state, which holds by far the greatest potential for harm and tends to be captured by the worst of the worst, is much too risky for anyone to justify its continued existence. To tolerate it is not simply to play with fire but to chance the destruction of the entire human race.”
You can watch this compelling presentation in its entirety here:
Economics is the science of human action. Below is a link to a list of introductory articles to help you learn about some of the most fundamental and most important concepts in economics.
Click Here to Explore our Liberty Library
In Freedom Unfiltered's Liberty Library you will find links to some of our favorite educational resources on the topics of sound economics and individual liberty.
Having an understanding of basic economic concepts will help you better understand public policy and make more informed decisions in your own life.
Check out the Economic Concepts page in the Liberty Library for several great introductory articles.
"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a 'dismal science.' But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." - Murray Rothbard
Education is not the same as schooling. Professor Steven Davies explains the origins of the modern school system, and its original purpose in this new LearnLiberty.org video.
"It is time to move away from the idea that schools are the only, or even the best, way to deliver education."
Chances are you do. Government debt (treasuries, bills, bonds, notes) are a major component of most investment strategies. Is owning government debt a good idea? It might reduce risk in your portfolio. Some people like the low-risk return. However, investing in government debt comes at a price. It helps to fund some very bad things; things that you might not feel good about supporting with your money. Also, the only way the government can repay the debt (principle + interest) is to tax your neighbors, friends, and family.
Personally, I think there are better ways to earn a return on the market without forcing others pay for my investment decisions. I choose not to invest in government debt and would encourage others to do the same.
Writing in 1870, Lysander Spooner was less kind about people who choose to profit by investing in government debt:
"Who, then, created these debts, in the name of "the United States"? Why, at most, only a few persons, calling themselves "members of Congress," etc., who pretended to represent "the people of the United States," but who really represented only a secret band of robbers and murderers, who wanted money to carry on the robberies and murders in which they were then engaged; and who intended to extort from the future people of the United States, by robbery and threats of murder (and real murder, if that should prove necessary), the means to pay these debts.....They lend money to be expended in robbing, enslaving, and murdering their fellow men, solely because, on the whole, such loans pay better than any others. .... This business of lending blood-money is one of the most thoroughly sordid, cold-blooded, and criminal that was ever carried on, to any considerable extent, amongst human beings. It is like lending money to slave traders, or to common robbers and pirates, to be repaid out of their plunder. And the men who loan money to governments, so called, for the purpose of enabling the latter to rob, enslave, and murder their people, are among the greatest villains that the world has ever seen. And they as much deserve to be hunted and killed (if they cannot otherwise be got rid of) as any slave traders, robbers, or pirates that ever lived." - Lysander Spooner
What do you think? Are you helping to fund robbery and even murder by investing in government debt?
Learn more about the economics and ethics of government debt and taxation in the Freedom Unfiltered Liberty Library.
Image from facebook.com/SpontaneousOrderSociety
Does taxation really depend on threats of violence? Isn't taxation part of the social contract? "You Can Always Leave" is the new video from the creator of George Ought to Help:
Does libertarianism have airtight definitions and foundations? Are there limitations to the liberty maxim? In an essay titled The Ways of John Gray, Daniel B. Klein writes:
"Libertarianism is a reform agenda cursed also by its own strength. The extent to which sensible libertarians regard the liberty maxim as well defined, widely applicable, and widely desirable is much greater than the extent to which those in other ideological camps regard their leading maxims as well defined, widely applicable, and widely desirable. In a sense, it is a curse to be the most in anything, because it arouses accusations of being entire. The cogency of the liberty maxim in the libertarian's mind often leads others to think that he regards it as an axiom that is always clearly defined, everywhere applicable, and always desirable. Critics such as Gray condemn libertarianism for pretending to possess airtight definitions, absolutes, and foundations, and therefore they attempt to dispose of libertarianism on formalistic grounds rather than engaging the substantive arguments offered for the reform agenda.
I would argue that advocates for liberty need not eschew its limitations. Liberty is not Utopia. Likewise, critics should be careful not to reject libertarianism outright because it falls short of some Utopian ideal. There is no such thing as a perfect solution. What we want is incremental progress in the direction of human flourishing. That is something only the free market of voluntary exchange can offer.
Explore the Liberty Library to learn how the market process might be able to address some of our most difficult challenges.
In The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains that taxes "...invariably reduce production, the consumers standard of living, obstructs wealth formation, and creates relative impoverishment." Let's think about why that is the case.
"Taxation is a coercive, non-contractual transfer of definite physical assets (nowadays mostly, but not exclusively money), and the value embodied in them, from a person or group of persons who first held these assets and who could have derived an income from further holding them, to another, who now possesses them and no derives an income from so doing.” - p 35
Think about the ways in which a person can acquire a valuable good? Hoppe explains there are four and only four ways:
1.Original Appropriation Through Homesteading
2.Production (mix of one's labor and previously appropriated goods)
4.Forcefully Expropriation / Theft
Option 4, of which taxation is a part, decreases the marginal utility of activities 1-3 and increases the marginal utility of consumption and leisure:
“Taxation raises the time preference...in the direction of an existence of living hand to mouth. Just increase taxation enough and you will have mankind reduced to the level of barbaric animal beasts.” p 36
“Contrary to any claim of a systematically “neutral” effect of taxation on production, the consequence of any such shortening of roundabout methods of production is a lower output produced. The price that invariably must be paid for taxation, and for every increase in taxation, is a coercively lowered productivity that in turn reduces the standard of living in terms of valuable assets provided for future consumption. Every act of taxation necessarily exerts a push away from more highly capitalized, more productive processes in the direction of a hand-to-mouth-existence.” p 42