The Principled Libertarian’s Guide to Using Food Stamps

Taxation is theft. Living off of tax money is leeching from productive workers. So, naturally, I’m going to teach you how to use food stamps and still keep all your libertarian cred.

No, this isn’t some convoluted rationalization for people looking to be parasites while pretending they’re not. This is how taking government assistance can actually help preserve, and expand, liberty. Think about it: if taxation is theft, and tax money is stolen from the people, taking it from the government is okay as long as it’s returned to its rightful owners. Just using it for your own benefit doesn’t cut it, though. There’s a process to make sure you use funds reclaimed from the state in a moral and responsible way.

So if you’re going to go on food stamps, but don’t want to lose your libertarian soul, here’s what to do: [Read more…]

Central Planning Fails in America

soviet nail

America’s victory over the Soviet Union represented the great triumph of the free market over central planning. Now, the state-run economy is making a hilarious comeback. Unfortunately, the joke’s on us.

I’m talking, of course, about the ongoing unraveling of the so-called Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare (or a myriad of other significantly less charitable permutations). After endless controversy, debate, speculation, and all-around conflict split mostly along partisan lines, the ACA’s website is finally up and doing its own talking. And boy oh boy, is it ever shaping up to be a disastrous, broken, Soviet-era retro failure.

Beginning with the first word in the ACA acronym: affordable. The purpose of this whole legislative monstrosity was to make healthcare affordable to everyday Americans. Never mind that putting the government (which is immune to the market forces of competition) in charge of making something affordable is as effective as assigning a toddler to protect the cookie supply. Sure enough, the less astute of us have been shocked to see their insurance premiums spike.

And how’s that $300 million monster of a website working out so far? Laughably. Badly enough to merit a congressional hearing. And the problems are only beginning. In fact, it would seem that the only thing Healthcare.gov is really good at is soliciting comparisons with decades-old outdated technology.

All this is eerily reminiscent of Soviet-era production mishaps. These were immortalized by the giant nail joke, which posited that factories, charged with meeting the government’s arbitrary production quotas, would uselessly fulfill requirements to produce a certain weight of nails by creating one giant nail. The same principles which led to the collapse of the Soviet economy still hold true. In a free market economy, goods and services are produced to meet the exact, ever-changing needs of millions of consumers, highly sensitive to keeping costs low and production efficient. A state-run economy, on the other hand, is largely shielded from these market signals. Asking the government to provide affordable, effective, universal healthcare is just plain ridiculous. Unless, of course, your real goal was to nostalgically relive the glorious failures of the U.S.S.R.

I’m all out of “In Soviet Russia” jokes. Don’t worry, though: Congress and the Obama administration have provided one of titanic proportions. And just like said Titanic, it looks like the Obamacare ship has a date with the proverbial bottom of the ocean.

Society is Slavery

crowd

People are willing to rationalize any aggression, any harm, any injustice visited on a fellow human being. All in the name of society.

This sad realization hit me with an inescapable ferocity today when I read of France’s first gay wedding. Not that it took place. Not that it took so long. Not even that so many people objected morally to their union. No, the tragic part was that hundreds of police officers were mobilized in order to ensure the safety of the event, for fear that people whose lives had absolutely not been affected by these two would seek to do them harm.

All in the name of society.

What our neighbor does, so long as it doesn’t affect us directly, is none of our concern. At some level, nearly all humans alive recognize and agree with this basic point. But then something magic happens. Enough individuals congregate in a specific place, and they cease to be individuals. They become part of the environment. They become society. Now, a resident of a neighborhood, of a province, of a country, becomes territorial, and in doing so claims at least partial ownership of the environment. Of the society of said land, which is composed of other residents. Of people. In this way, trying to control society is essentially the same thing as slavery.

Now that I’ve made that point I feel I should back up and clarify. Seeking to influence society isn’t the same thing as slavery. In fact, I would encourage any moral person to attempt to influence society for the betterment of all. Influence, notice. Not control. When we talk about society we’re talking about hundreds, thousands, millions of individuals, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to convince them to voluntarily alter their behavior for their, or even our, benefit. Seeking to control them, however, is what’s sinister. Using force to make decisions for other people is a direct denial of their rights as individuals. If they lose their rights as individuals, and must live their lives according to the will of someone else, they have become, essentially, slaves.

It’s dangerous to give anyone the right to control society by force. Even something seemingly innocuous such as establishing the official language of a country, regulating intoxicating substances, or defining marriage crosses a deadly line. By establishing that the needs of the many outweigh the rights of the few, we establish that the rights of individuals are subject to the needs of the collective. We are all individuals. We all lose our rights. We all become slaves. Not to one another, mind you. To whoever can successfully define what a society needs. Upon securing control over the definition of what society needs, that person or group has successfully enslaved the people.

All in the name of society.

Photo credit: Cornell University

Visit Beautiful Pyongyang

pyongyang

I would love to go visit North Korea. Who wants to come with me? I hear the weather is lovely this time of year.

No, I’m not joking. I’m not crazy either. I’m not even using the above statement to make a long, convoluted point. I genuinely want to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, see the country, and meet and trade with its people. I’m sure our cultures could benefit immensely from a relationship.

But the DPRK is at the brink of war with the United States, their neighbors to the south, and possibly the whole Western world. Why? No good reason. Some disagreements between heads of state ever since that war a half-century ago. Various games and posturing. Utter trivial nonsense. Because of that, people who have never met each other, never wronged each other, never done anything except try their best to survive and thrive, these people are now mortal enemies.

It’s time to finally get angry. Not at the denizens of some faraway country. At the dictatorial leaders of said faraway country. Even better, at our own leaders. At those few who decided for hundreds of millions of us that we should hate another people, refuse peaceful trade with them, antagonize them with threats of total destruction, and ultimately prepare to carry out the aforementioned carnage. We should be quivering with rage at those who have fabricated destruction and human suffering from nothing, without our consent, using our own resources against our will to kill millions of innocents.

The hour is late. Before long, missiles will fly. Bombs will fall. Countless lives will expire. An entire beautiful country will be shaken to its very core. However, after the dust clears, after the cities are rebuilt, after the vicious specter of death passes from the land, I should very much like to visit Pyongyang in the springtime.

Photo credit: David Stanley

Nice Dictator

kim il sung

Poor dictators. They always get so much hate. If only we took the time to get to know them, if only we looked beneath all the theft, oppression, and killing of their own people, then we might see them for the gentle souls that they really are deep down.

At least that’s what Dennis Rodman would have us believe. Returning from a visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, Rodman has come to the enlightening conclusion that Kim is a peaceful, humble, and all around good guy. Who would have known? All this time he was putting hundreds of thousands of his own people in death camps and starving the rest, when he really just wanted people to see his softer side.

And who could forget the recently-expired president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez? After a courageous (or cowardly, who can tell?) battle with cancer, the poor old dictator passed on, leaving countless supporters grief-stricken. Apparently, a massive expansion of state power and destruction of the most basic liberties is a surefire ticket to popularity.

But beyond all the sarcastic comments, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from this. First off, there’s nothing about being a brutal dictator that precludes one from being charming and personable. In fact, such personality traits can actually help a ruler gain, and secure, power. Second, maybe totalitarian rulers aren’t violent psychopaths by nature, and would actually be decent folk were they living a normal life. Maybe it’s not the person that’s evil. Maybe it’s the power. Maybe giving a human being godlike control over the fate and fortunes of millions can make a man into a monster, and turn even the most mild-mannered Jekyll into a beast like Hyde. Maybe a truly saintlike and benevolent person, upon inheriting power, would have to choose between becoming a monster and completely dismantling the dictatorial apparatus of his or her country, truly setting the people free.

Don’t hate the player. Hate the game of playing with human beings’ lives like a cat toying with a rodent’s limp and helpless body.

Protect Happiness With Guns

tank barrel

Government is force, and everything relegated to its domain is enforced through the very real threat of violence. Why don’t socialists in the Western world get this very basic fact?

Just ask the North Koreans. They should know.

In this DPRK propaganda video, a young woman rips an “uncaring” United States for not providing for its poor, and extolls her socialist government’s mythical ability to care for its subjects’ every need. The video ends with the eerie statement that “socialism is superior and the great army protects our happiness with guns.” (emphasis added)

That’s the blunt reality of the matter: In a socialist society, the supposed happiness of the people is enforced under penalty of death. Use that much death and force to keep the people from living free and productive lives, and what do you get? Not the North Korea portrayed in that propaganda film. The REAL North Korea. That’s hardly anyone’s definition of happiness.