Author Archives: wheylous

An Empirical Inquiry into Polycentric Power Structures

Interacting centers of power

When anarcho-capitalists argue that protection should be provided in a private manner by companies instead of coercively by governments, opponents maintain that neighboring police agencies will start fighting amongst each other. The argument goes that one company will decide that it will make more money if it physically forces another company out of business, and this sets the stage for endless fighting. Structures that have many police forces in the same general area are thus bound to fail. Robert Murphy has an excellent refutation of this line of argumentation in his article “But Wouldn’t the Warlords Take Over?” [3] Here, I will turn the opponents on themselves and challenge them to explain what makes government work.

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Pro-business or Pro-market?

[This is the second article in the left-leaning LBRT101 section of the Guided Study at Liberty HQ]

Big Business
paul bica / Amazing Photos / CC BY

One of the main concerns curious people have about libertarianism is that it is pro-business and pro-Big Business. If it ain’t multinational, it ain’t capitalism! But is being pro-market inherently the same as being pro-business? Do libertarians really love large corporations? These are questions that are often ignored, but are central to the discussion of economics.

So what do the questions mean? Isn’t being pro-market the same as being pro-business? In fact, the answer is a surprising “no.” To understand why this is the case, we need to understand the concept of corporatism as opposed to that of free markets. Free markets and libertarianism are about property rights and the freedom of choice that arises from those property rights. Corporatism, as we shall see, is the negation of both of these principles.

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Introduction to Libertarianism (For the Left)

[This is the first article in the left-leaning LBRT101 section of the Guided Study at Liberty HQ]

The Past 12 Years

A foreign policy of war

The past twelve years have seen the US enter numerous new military engagements, many of which show no signs of fading. Iraq and Afghanistan are well known to everyone, but are far from the only ones. Despite strong evidence that the US intervention would not improve our national security − and, in fact, would worsen it − we continued to remain, at both a high human cost − all the lives lost (American and foreign) − and a high financial cost (with conservative estimates at $1.5 trillion). Besides throwing the US into these wars, Bush passed into law the Patriot Act, escalating the level of government invasion of the personal lives of the public. Suddenly, everyone became a suspect in the hopeless War on Terror. How does this square with the respect for individual freedom that Bush is supposed to have? Continue reading

Nuclear Weapons in Libertarianism

What does the NAP say about ownership of nukes?

Nuclear weapons like to pop up from time to time and make the headlines. They held the national attention during the Cold War, and now Iran is allegedly close to being able to build a bomb of their own. If the Iran bit sounds like déjà vu to you, that’s because it is – Iran has been “only months away” from making a bomb for quite some time:

– “Iran Poised To Build Bombs” (Sept 2003) [1]

– “Iran Only Months Away From Making Nuclear Bombs” (Jan 2006) [2]

– “Iran could have ability to build nuclear bomb by 2010, study warns” (Jan 2009) [3]

– “Goodspeed: Iran may be two months from bomb, two new studies say” (June 2011) [4]

– “Iran just months from N-bomb” (Sept 2011) [5]

I’m not a physicist, but I’ve heard that time travel is possible, so there could be something to it – they just happen to be a time-traveling nuclear power.

The point of this article is not to make bad jokes about the nuclear weapons in Iraq Iran, however, but to answer a question posed to libertarianism from time to time: “In a libertarian society, are you allowed to own nuclear weapons?” I will first address the ethical aspect and then the practical one.

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Success, Socratic Style

Convert people and never lose an argument

Libertarians often get caught up in internet debates which test both their knowledge and their rhetoric. An unfortunate truth is that the task of proving liberty is volumetrically larger than that of defend the state – you have to show in-depth knowledge on why all the different government interventions have to be stripped away, while the opponent can wave a magic wand and claim that government will solve a problem. The libertarian, then, has to be well-versed in economics, history, and philosophy, while the opposition can say that we just need to “elect the right people into power.” I’d like to let you in on a public secret: The Socratic Method.

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Rights That Aren’t

Or, “why a misformulation of Constitutional rights has restricted, rather than liberated, the natural rights of man”

Rights everywhere

Initially, the Founders formulated the Constitution not to delineate the rights of the individual, but to restrict the powers of government. Soon thereafter, it was decided that the Constitution indeed needed to list some individual rights, so greedy was government for power. Hence, the Bill of Rights promised the American public a certain set of rights. Unfortunately, this was a hodge-podge solution that failed to address the fundamental reasons behind those rights – the right to your body and property [1]. Moreover, the misunderstanding of these rights has led to supposedly pro-liberty people taking on some very strange positions. I address a few of these rights here and hope the reader can apply the logic elsewhere.

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Monopolization of a Water Supply

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

A charge occasionally levied against libertarianism is that a vital natural resource, such as a water supply, could be monopolized by an astute businessman, who could then hold society hostage with the threat of cutting off its ability of replenishing its bodily fluids. This is a most curious attack upon capitalism, because it touches upon a fundamental aspect of the system – property rights. Property rights exist for the very purpose of resolving the problem of scarcity. The “water-monopolizer” attack, then, attempts to suggest that scarcity discredits private property – when scarcity is the very problem property rights exist to resolve! [1]

Let’s unpack the water-monopolizer situation (WM henceforth) and analyze it from two different sides.

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Social Stability, Rule of Law, and the Free Society

Man’s inner evil spirit

Democracy has been hailed as the great system of governance that keeps a nation balanced on the thin line between authoritarianism and lawless anarchy. The voluntaryist’s suggestion that the core responsibilities of the state – provision of courts, police, and national defense – be demonopolized (that is, allowed to work in private hands instead of being financed by coercive government taxation) is met with amusement at best, fury at worst. “The nation would devolve into perpetual struggles of one man against another!” critics cry out. If this is true, it may be a death blow to the idea that man can exist in peaceful, law-abiding voluntary relationships. Indeed, Hobbes would be right that man must be coercively controlled to rear in his savage nature. Is this what we must accept?

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But Wouldn’t Robots Take Over?

Man, Economy, and Robot

Man, Economy, and Robot

Economists agree that the accumulation of labor-saving capital is responsible for the great growth of wealth experienced in recent centuries. It has allowed the productivity of the public to soar, which has in turn improved wages and working conditions.

Yet parallel to the phenomenal betterment of the life of the common man have always been vocal cries against the job-destroying machines. The robots, as it goes, are taking our jobs! [1]

It is curious that the opponents of the accumulation of capital are always drawn from the present generations. Many men and women today wax eloquent about the jobs this or that industry will have to shed because the machines are simply better than the humans. However, they hardly decry the capital accumulation of the past. If the machines that are being employed today destroy so many jobs, why not also speak out against and destroy the machines of the past? Instead of only fighting against the greater use of capital in today’s world, why not try to turn the clock back further? Instead of the steam shovel, reach for the old-school shovel. And before grasping it, pick up Milton Friedman’s spoon [2]. Finally, drop it and use your bare hands to dig in the dirt.

“what if robots become so good that they are better than humans at everything?”

Regardless of this logical conclusion, fashionable futurist philosophers of today ask the question “what if robots become so good that they are better than humans at everything? Wouldn’t we all lose our jobs, and hence our livelihoods, while the rich have their corporations run by robots and retain all their profits?” Continue reading

Hello World!

Welcome to the Voluntaryist Reader! This is a blog about different issues in libertarianism run by 16 members from the Ludwig von Mises Institute forums:

Andris Birkmanis
Anenome
Aristippus
Bert
grant.w.underwood
Groucho
Kakugo
Kelvin Silva
Marko
Maynard
Merlin
Michelangelo
Minarchist
Neodoxy
nirgrahamUK
Wheylous

More to come!

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