Posts Tagged ‘Quick Questions’

A Couple Quick Questions, Ed. 18

Posted on October 3, 2012 at 1.25 pm

Q. Hey, B. Do you think the idea of a third party—or even more than three political parties in this country is realistically possible? Comments/Questions? – Chuck, from the internet.

A. First, I kind of love the title “B” because of its Beyoncé associations, even if that’s not what you meant. Second, yes, I do, but not without some serious structural change—just saying “if we all vote our conscience we’ll get there eventually” is not a realistic approach. See my answers to similar past questions here and here for more details.

 

Q. Given, as you admit freely in your FAQ, a free market has never truly existed, what makes you think it could? Given that in 100% of the cases where capitalism has existed, it has existed alongside state institutions of a wide variety of sizes and capacities, on what evidence can a libertarian (or free-market conservative, etc.) claim that 1. a free market can exist with any size state?; or 2. capitalism can exists without a state? – Dan, from the internet.

A. Well, here’s the thing:  I’m not an anarchist. I’ve been called an “ultra minarchist,” which is pretty accurate (meaning I want a very small state to provide defense and a justice system), but I don’t want to get rid of all state government. I would take libertarian anarchy over what we have now, and I have a lot in common with/love hearing from my anarchist friends, but I don’t share their goal of a stateless society.

That said, I think that arguing that because a state has always existed in our strongest forays into a free market we must have a state for a free market doesn’t work. It’s a bit of a post hoc fallacy at best. It’s not possible, of course, to say with certainty what would or wouldn’t work in such hypotheticals, but suffice it to say that I don’t think this bit of history is a good argument against anarcho-capitalism. We’ve also never had the internet come into existence without government, but that doesn’t mean you had to have a state to get the internet.

 

Q. I know you’ve said you’re not a huge fan of political parties, but given the recent RNC debacle do you believe that US citizens will ever have a better say in their representation? Or do you think money and influence will always win out? – Chris, from the internet.

A. It’s hard to say. Jefferson wrote in a letter that “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground,” and many days I can’t see any other perspective. That said, I’m not sure he’s correct. We have seen some (admittedly very imperfect) advances of liberty in the past—the Magna Carta, the American Revolution, the end of slavery, the trend away from imperialism and toward self-determination of the 20th Century. Moreover, even my job gives me some hope when I stop to think about it; my organization (Young Americans for Liberty) literally did not exist less than four years ago, and now we have a network of more than 100,000 young people, with more beating down the door every day. So yeah, it’s hard to say.

A Couple Quick Questions, Ed. 16

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 12.26 pm

Q. So, um…I accidentally found your page.  Do you believe in love at first “site”? — Paul, from the internet.

A. Haha, I do!  But alas, I’m married XD

 

Q. Have you heard about the 21 year old that is suing the DEA for keeping him in jail for 5 days, sans any food or water? The poor guy almost died and had to drink his own pee. He was never charged with a crime nor arrested officially. What do you think this means for the greater discussion of drug policy as well as the ever increasing abuse of force by all types of law enforcement? — nowahklrk, from tumblr.

A. Yes, I did hear about this!  The student’s name was Daniel Chong, and he attends UCSD.  The short version is that he “was picked up by federal agents during a raid on a party in the San Diego area where there were illegal drugs, and after questioning he was left locked up in a holding cell with no water, food or access to a toilet for nearly five days.”  Needless to say, his health quickly deteriorated, to the point of suffering near-complete kidney failure.

This story got a lot of attention, thankfully — and I was pretty proud when the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at UCSD (I work at YAL) introduced a resolution to their student government denouncing the DEA and organized a DEA protest on campus to make sure everyone knew what had happened to their fellow student.  (Watch the chapter president, Angad Walia, introduce the resolution here.)

Whether the fallout from Chong’s abuse will result in concrete changes to drug policy or the way we deal with police abuse is doubtful, but every time something like this gets through to the population at large, we discredit the drug war just a little bit more.  Obviously I’d prefer that happened without things like this occurring first, but it is at least a little bit of good which emerges from such an outrageous situation.

 

Q. What are some issues that you think libertarians and liberals can work together on? — amphigoryglory, from tumblr.

A. I know I’ve answered this before, but I can’t seem to find it.  My FAQ page is woefully out of date.  Sigh.

Anyway, I did find this one post, where I discussed an agreement made by Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, and Chuck Baldwin — libertarians and green progressives, basically — in 2008 on four major principles:  opposition to aggressive war, protection of civil liberties, eliminating the national debt, and bringing transparency to the Federal Reserve (and especially its dealings with Wall Street).

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A Couple Quick Questions, Ed. 15

Posted on January 14, 2012 at 5.34 pm

Q. Under the Austrian School of Economics, and indeed by the predictions of its proponents, the huge, expansionary policies of the Federal Reserve should be causing run-away Inflation. Indeed, the cry for years has been to warn of dire hyperinflation should any of the no in place expansionary policies by tried. Yet this flies in the face of what we have seen, namely price stability (save for rising Oil Imports) resulting in an entirely normal inflation rate of 3%. How do you square this with your avowed Austrian view? — Whimsical Eloquence, from tumblr.

A. Most of my answer can be summed up in this graphic:

As you can see, the value of the dollar has steadily declined over the course of the last hundred years.  It was also on the decline before then.  If you’d like to play with the numbers on a year-by-year basis, try this inflation calculator.  As the results of my calculation put it, “What cost $1 in 1900 would cost $25.85 in 2010.  Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2010 and 1900, they would cost you $1 and $0.04 respectively.”

That’s a lot of inflation, especially considering the lowering of prices which has been produced by technological advances, economies of scale, etc.  Moreover, as you mentioned, I subscribe to Austrian economics, which sees inflation not primarily as a rise in prices — the rising prices are merely a symptom of the underlying problem of the (fiat) growth of the money supply, which has grown precipitously.  Learn more here.

Q. I like Ron Paul, for the most part, however why do Ron Paul fanatics never mention his millions of dollars in earmarks he asks for (and mostly receives) every year? — The Modern Patriot, from tumblr.

A. I’m not sure that it’s accurate to say that this issue is “never” mentioned.  On the contrary, it’s brought up quite regularly as a supposed “gotcha” ostensibly showing Dr. Paul is not as consistent as he’s cracked up to be.  This is far from the case, especially as even his harshest detractors on the subject admit thatPaul’s campaign-finance record  shows little indication of a politician who is tied to special interests. Individuals have provided the vast majority of his campaign cash, supplying 91 percent of the money since his first bid for office.”

Here’s a speech (including transcript — and on a pro-Ron Paul website, by the way) of the congressman explain his reasoning behind his stance on earmarks.  The shortest version of his argument is that, constitutionally, he’d rather see money appropriated by Congress than the executive branch, so he puts in the earmarks his district requests and then votes against them because he doesn’t want the money spent at all.

Q. How can you legitimately believe that you are supporting the preservation of liberty when you are against taxes on the rich and for deregulating our economy. There is the freedom to do something and then there is the freedom from something. In the case of corporations, the question is whether they should have the freedom to exploit their workers and consumers without consequences, or whether the workers and consumers should have freedom from this exploitation. For whatever reason you side with the corporate opinion. Your attempt at forming a philosophy based around anti-authoritarianism has completely ignored the authority that capital accumulation gives the rich. There is nothing “libertarian” or “hip” about supporting neoliberal economics. — David, from the internet.

A. Woah, woah, woah.  So many unfounded assumptions here.  Let’s start at the end:  The title of my tumblr is very much tongue in cheek based on some amusing Google Analytics results I got one time.

But moving back to the beginning, let’s go through these accusations one by one.

1. How can you legitimately believe that you are supporting the preservation of liberty when you are against taxes on the rich and for deregulating our economy.  Well, I’m actually against taxes for everybody, not the rich in particular.  As for deregulation, the rest of your question indicates that you have rather different ideas about the nature and consequences of this idea than I do.  As it happens, the economic mess we’re in now is not due to a lack of regulation.

2. There is the freedom to do something and then there is the freedom from something. In the case of corporations, the question is whether they should have the freedom to exploit their workers and consumers without consequences, or whether the workers and consumers should have freedom from this exploitation. For whatever reason you side with the corporate opinion.  Do we really have to go through this again?  I am not advocating special benefits for corporations.  I am not transferring trillions from the poor and middle class taxpayer to Wall Street.  I am not permitting the wealthy to get away with fraudulent activity without prosecution.  The government — the entity you want to give more control over our economy — is.  My goodness, what do they teach in schools these days?

3. Your attempt at forming a philosophy based around anti-authoritarianism has completely ignored the authority that capital accumulation gives the rich.  I’ve argued above that it hasn’t, but I’d contend that yours has.  You object to the government using its powers to give special favors to its rich friends, but you want to give the government more of those same powers.  Do you really think the rich friends won’t come knocking again?  Really?  I find that I am the more suspicious of the wealthy of the two of us.