Property Rights, What Property Rights?

Written by Frugal Libertarian on November 16, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

Property rights are essential to the ideas of liberty.  Murray Rothbard explains this in The Ethics of Liberty.

“[t]he concept of “rights” only makes sense as property rights. For not only are there no human rights which are not also property rights, but the former rights lose their absoluteness and clarity and become fuzzy and vulnerable when property rights are not used as the standard… for our discussion, human rights, when not put in terms of property rights, turn out to be vague and contradictory, causing liberals to weaken those rights on behalf of “public policy” or the “public good”.

He goes on to explain:

In short, a person does not have a “right to freedom of speech”; what he does have is the right to hire a hall and address the people who enter the premises. He does not have a “right to freedom of the press”; what he does have is the right to write or publish a pamphlet, and to sell that pamphlet to those who are willing to buy it (or to give it away to those who are willing to accept it). Thus, what he has in each of these cases is property rights, including the right of free contract and transfer which form a part of such rights of ownership. There is no extra “right of free speech” or free press beyond the property rights that a person may have in any given case.

So in a country where we say we value human rights, do we have any respect for property rights?

Eminent domain has received a lot of attention over the last couple of years especially since the Supreme Court ruled that eminent domain could be used to take land for private use if it serves public interest. (Kelo v. City of New London).  Fortunately, many of us will never be victims of eminent domain.  Most of us, however, are victims of city codes and city code enforcers.

Ian “Freeman” Bernard,  the host of a syndicated, libertarian radio talk show Free Talk Live was recently given a 3 day jail sentence (plus another 90 days for contempt of court) for having a couch that is used for birdwatching in his yard.  He was refusing to move the couch.  I have received citations for having my trash cans sitting on the side of my house instead of behind my house.  I refused to comply, but luckily no one forced the issue.  My brother recently received a warning from his city for having weeds higher than 18 inches tall in his fenced in garden.  He cut them.  (I would have gone out there every week with a ruler and cut them to 17 inches, but that is just my rebellious nature.)  These are all examples of how local governments ignore our property rights.  Why should I not be free to do whatever I like on my property if I am not harming someone elses property?

You may be asking yourself, “Well how are we to prevent blight or unsafe conditions without codes?”  Or you may thinking ” Aren’t you violating my property rights if what you are doing on your property is lowering my property value?”

First I will address blight.  Often blight is in the eye of the beholder.  A couch sitting in a front yard may look absurd to one person and absolutely charming to another.  If we lived in a more voluntary society, where the heavy hand of a tyrannical government could not be used to enforce rules only based on a few peoples’ taste, how  would that society deal with disputes of this nature.  I think one of two things would occur.  The person that thought the couch was absurd would have to address the issue directly with the owner of the couch or they would simply have to get over it.  Without the government doing their dirty work, I believe most people would just get over it.  Others would address it with the owner and if a dispute could not be settle among themselves they could take it to a private arbitrator. 

Voluntary membership in neighborhood association would also help safeguard you from having to live next to a hot pink house with lime green trim.  Even if joining was voluntary, I think it is likely most would join so that they would have a reasonable avenue to settle disputes and to prevent disputes.

As far as safety goes, there is no real reason for the government to have such codes in the first place.  In a more voluntary society insurance companies and banks would most likely have their own safety guidelines.  It is unlikely that they would voluntarily enter into a contract with a homeowner who’s electrical work was a fire waiting to happen.  If the homeowner owned their home outright and did not think he needed insurance than I guess he would be free to live in a death trap at his own peril.

The property value argument just doesn’t hold any water to me.  The are hundreds of things that others could do around you that could affect your property value.  There could be bad teachers at bad public schools (I know bad public schools is kind of redundant), a neighbor could be selling cheap so get out from under a bad mortgage, a neighbor could get foreclosed on, or a neighbor could just have a nicer house for the same price at the same time you are trying to sell yours.  None of these neighbors would be “violating” your property rights with these actions, so how could you say they were violating your rights by having a couch in their front yard.  Having your property value driven down by conditions beyond your control is just a risk of being a property owner.  None the less, for those that still worry about the value of their property being driven down in the absence of codes, I believe that what I described above would take care of most of this problem.

Arbitrary codes are not the only way that property rights are undermined.  Property taxes are completely antithetical to the idea of private ownership of property.  If a you must pay a tax in order to keep your property are you really the owner or is the local government or state the owner?  If they can seize your property and sell it on the courthouse steps for non-payment are you really an owner or are you just renting it from the government?

For those of us who value liberty, we must acknowledge that the fight for our “rights” really begins and ends with property rights.

Maybe We Should Listen to the Guy Who Predicted this Mess

Written by Frugal Libertarian on November 13, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

Peter Schiff has been sounding the alarm for a couple of years now.  He accurately predicted what we are now experiencing all while being laughed at by other so called “experts”.  You would think that Congress would start to listen to the guy that predicted this mess, but they are ignoring him and have gone ahead with an “economic stimulus” plan that will only stimulate a depression.

Schiff has plenty more to say about the economy, maybe people should start to listen.  Read more about what he has to say here, here, here, here, and here.

Enslavement in the Name of Service

Written by Frugal Libertarian on November 9, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

According to Obama and many liberals like him, we have a right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to be paid a living wage, the right to unionize, and the right to any other future “rights” that they deem essential to pander for votes.  But, apparently, they do not believe that we have a right not to be enslaved.

The right not to be enslaved or forced into servitude is at the core of libertarianism.  It is the core of liberty.  What good is education if you are not free to receive the fruits of your knowledge?  What good is health care if you are not free to choose what level of health you wish to maintain?  What good is a living wage if a portion is forcefully removed from your possession and then used to finance those that would enforce tyrannical rules regarding how you must live?  Aesop said it is “Better to starve free than be a fat slave.”  If you do not own yourself, than nothing else matters.

It is for this reason that I find Obama’s Universal Service plan so offensive and contrary to our most basic ideas of freedom.  The plan would require 50 hours of service for middle and high school students.

Obama’s pick for Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel goes even a step further in his book The Plan:  Big Ideas for America. He wants compulsory service for all Americans between the age of 18 and 25.  It sounds like Obama agrees with Emanuel’s vision.  He said “We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set.  We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded.”  Both ideas are nothing more than enslavement in the name of service.  They say it would be voluntary, but they call it universal.  How can it be both?  What will be the punishment if you do not wish to serve?

Service to your community should be encouraged.  It is my job as a parent to instill the virtues of charity in my child.  The government should not have the authority to arbitrarily choose the number of hours of service that makes you a good little citizen and then use coercion to be sure you perform that service.  The philosopher Martimer Adler said that “Freedom is the emancipation from the arbitrary rule of other men”.  We must resist enslavement, no matter its intentions, and embrace freedom.

Note: When I went to link to Obama’s website for this post, the part about ”requiring” universal service had disappeared.  Just so you don’t think I made the whole thing up, I found a couple of blogs that had the original plan.  View them here and here.  Also, be sure to read the second post’s analysis about the practicality of the plan.  Even if it was not a detestible action against freedom, it would still just be a dumb idea.

Republicans Got What They Deserved

Written by Frugal Libertarian on November 6, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

If you listen to Ronald Reagan in 1964 he sounds an awful lot like many of today’s libertarians.  Somewhere along the road the Republicans abandon the ideas of small government and liberty.  They allowed the neoconservatives to take control of their party and for that they are now paying dearly.  Unfortunately, they did all this all while preaching the virtues of small government, giving the ideas of small government a bad name.  This is why I applaud their implosion.  I hope they never recover.    One party down, one to go.

Unfortunately, neoconservative ideology will not die with the GOP.  Neoconservatives have long been been supporters of the welfare state.  As long as they play along with the Democrats welfare agenda, the Democrats will play along with their warfare agenda.  That is why spending, big government, and our empire have expanded so rapidly over the last eight years.  I don’t expect much departure from this trend over the next eight years.

We can not be too distracted by the fall of the Republicans.  We must remember that liberal ideology is just as big of a danger to liberty, peace, and prosperity as neoconservative ideology.  We can not sit and wait for the inevitable implosion of liberalism under the weight of their unsustainable wish list for society.  We must continue to spread the word of freedom, so that when the inevitable occurs, liberty, not tyranny can take hold.

None of the Above!

Written by Frugal Libertarian on November 2, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do, Who Sucks More:Obama or McCain |

Every four years I am forced to face the fact that voters will once again elect one of two very similar candidates.  The Mainstream Media will present each candidate as if they represent very different political philosophies.  But, how different are they?

We have heard a lot about taxes.  McCain labeled Obama as a big taxer, while labeling himself as a taxpayer advocate, but is there really much difference in their tax policies.  Tom Wood said it nicely,  “On taxes, the Democrat favors a top income tax rate of 39.5 per cent and the Republican favors a top rate of 35 per cent.  Well ain’t democracy grand?  We get to debate a whole four and a half percentage points.  We’d better spread this system around the world!

Obama wants to give more of other peoples’ money to those who did not earn it in the form of tax credits.  Is McCain any different?  When is the last time you heard him call for the repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit?.  These tax credits have been one of the biggest conduits for downward wealth redistribution.  Both candidates also want to spend more on defense.  The military-industrial complex has been one of the biggest  conduits for upward wealth redistribution.   So, the debate is not about who will “spread the wealth”; the wealth is already being redistributed.   The debate is about how much they will steal and to whom they will give it to.

Obama wants to force our will on sovereign nations through sanctions.  McCain wants to force our will with bombs and bullets. Both methods cost lives.  Both methods perpetuate our expensive and expansive empire and both perpetuate contempt for the United States around the world.

Both candidates voted for a “bailout” bill that will not only fail to fix the economy but will continue to prop up a system of crony capitalism that is responsible for the economic crisis we are now experiencing.  Both blame the non-existent “free market” for the government’s depredations.  Neither will address the root cause of many of our economic woes, our monetary system.  Capitalism is already dead to both the democrats and the republicans.  Both Obama and McCain advocate an interventionist economic plan that is quickly approaching a fascist ecomomic system.

Neither candidate seems very interested in restoring the civil liberties that we have lost over the last several decades.  Both Obama and McCain voted to renew the Patriot Act, both support the REAL ID Act and the Homegrown Terrorist Act of 2007.

I will never understand how 90% of the country can believe that we are heading in the wrong direction, but then continue to vote for the same two parties that have been in power for several decades. If people really want change they will vote for none of the above.

Naomi Wolf Is Learning About Libertarianism!

Written by Frugal Libertarian on October 31, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

I first read Naomi Wolf’s book The Beauty Myth seven years ago.  Although I did not agree with all of her conclusions, it completely changed how I viewed all forms of media in our culture.  She opened my eyes to how powerful fear is in convincing the public of anything.  I think she is misguided on several issues but I have always had great respect for her. 

Today that respect grew even more.  Here is a very interesting discussion between her and Lew Rockwell.  I really admire her curiosity.  I like people I can disagree with and still have an intelligent conversation with.

Free Market Equals Anarchy? Is That a Bad Thing?

Written by Frugal Libertarian on October 19, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

The Equanimist wrote a response to my post “Don’t Blame the Free Market”. He argues that “a perfect Free Market is anarchy and, as such, a perfect Free Market must be antithetical to civilized society.” I agree that a perfect Free Market would be anarchy, but is that necessarily a bad thing? As someone who leans towards Anarcho-Capitilism calling free markets anarchy is not really a good argument against free markets. If you know anything about Anarchy as a political philosophy you know that it is not “antithetical to civilized society”. “Lawlessness”, as he puts it, is not a tenant of Anarcho-Capitilism. Anarchy has taken on many definitions, but as a political theory it is “a theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society.” Organized and ordered society is still the goal. The question is whether there should be a coercive monopoly over the laws (government), not whether laws should exist.

As I said, I lean towards Anarcho-Capitilism, but am not completely sold on the idea. I think a coercive monopoly over the laws (government) is most likely inevitable. I think I fall into what Terry L. Anderson and P.J. Hill called the “constitutionalist” or “social contractarian” school of Anarcho-Capitilism. They describe this school of thought as requiring “collective action” to establish a social contract or constitution which would outline “rights” and then “the only role for the state would be in the protection of those rights”. There would also be “a rule of higher law or constituition which specifies the protective and productive roles of the government.”

So, my idea of a free market would still require laws, a framework of sorts to prevent what The Equanimist refers to as being “swindled. That framework would be limited to be within the authority of whatever social contract we have at the time. At this time that contract would be our state and federal Constitutions. What I believe we have today goes beyond the authority of our social contract. We no longer have just a framework for which people can voluntarily interact in a mutually beneficial manner. Instead we have active governing of those interactions in a way that I believe prevents mutually beneficial behavior.

My best analogy for my brand of Anarcho-Capitilism would be the modern institution of marriage. The government has created the framework with the authority given to them by their state constitution. They have laid out the rules for getting into and getting out of a marriage and basic rules for how each must be treated (like you can’t hit your husband over the head with a leg of lamb), but there is no day-to-day governing of how that institution functions.

Marriage is successful when two people act in a mutually beneficial manner. It does not require strict rules imposed from an outside party. The rules are decided by a day-to-day renegotiation of the marriage “contract” by the two parties.

For example, the husband is hoping to get some action when his wife gets home, but he knows that if his wife is in a bad mood he will not get lucky. He also knows that leaving his socks on the floor puts his wife in a bad mood, so he is sure to pick up his socks. His wife gets home and sees that her floor is free of socks, she is in a good mood and her husband gets the action that he was wanting. They go on to live happily ever after.

The married couple that does not act in a mutually beneficial manner sees that there are more fish in the sea (competition). The wife has heard from friends that there are men out there that will pick up their socks and the husband has heard that there are women who don’t care if there are socks on the floor, so they dissolve their partnership. They then go on to find partners that can act in way that is beneficial to both and they live happily ever after. Yeah for Anarcho-Capitilist marriages!

But wait! A report comes out that says divorce has cost 1 trillion dollars in the last decade (yes this is a real report). The government decides they must do something. Since the government is mostly made up of men they decide that the best thing to do would be to make it a law that men do not have to pick up their socks and women must give their husbands some action once a week.

Some husbands are not satisfied with once a week so they go to the government for help. The government decides that wives will put out more if the socks are not on the floor, so they pay for someone to come and pick them up. All is well for a while until the government runs out of money and can no longer pay for someone to pick up the socks. The husband has become so dependent on the sock picker upper that he is no longer capable of picking them up himself. His wife is unhappy; he gets no action, so inevitably they split.

The government has propped up their non-mutually beneficial marriage so long that they have missed out on other options. They are past their prime, bitter and they die alone and miserable. Bummer, regulation sucks. It prevented them from acting in a mutually beneficial manner or finding someone else that would act in a mutually beneficial manner.

The Equanimist says “I do not throw my hands up in frustration or rail against the man or any other counter-productive thing. Instead, I ask you, how can we re-inspire the basic trust?” We must begin by not propping up those that will not pick up their socks. They need to be weeded out, allowed to fail, so that those who want a sock free floor can identify who will be able to provide that for them. We need to stop letting the government govern beyond their authority as outline in our social contract, the Constitution. They almost always choose wrong when attempting to govern away a problem. This is The Law of Unintended Consequences. The government will never be able to identify non-sock picker uppers or prevent someone from becoming a non-sock picker upper as well as the free market will be able to.

Don’t Blame the “Free Market”

Written by Frugal Libertarian on October 10, 2008 in: In the News, What Would a Libertarian Do |

Every time I hear someone blame the “free market” for the mess we are in right now, I want to scream.  Anyone who thinks the problems in our economy are because of, as the Washington Post called it, our ”hands-off brand of capitalism” is delusional.  Hands off!  Is that a joke?  Our government has their dirty little hands all over our economy.   We have not had a free market in this country for some time, if ever.

Those who decry deregulation are oblivious to how much of today’s problems are a direct result of regulation.  Steven Horwitz explains this well in his Open Letter to My Friends on the Left.  He points out that those who already have money and power are the ones that benefit the most from regulation, because they have the money and power to be sure those regulations are in their favor.

For all those that still believe deregulation is the problem, please provide details.  Name the regulation that was abandoned, which companies took advantage of that deregulation, and how it led to that company’s malinvestment.  For any example you can give, I promise two examples of how government regulation and intervention have contributed to today’s woes.

So even though the government got us into this mess, some people think they can get us out.  Jim Rogers thinks this is “absurd“.  I agree.

Start Your own Political Party Dr. Paul

Written by Frugal Libertarian on October 2, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

I understand that Ron Paul thinks he can change the GOP back into the party of fiscal responsibility, humble foriegn policy, and less taxes, but I think this might be one thing he is wrong about.  The GOP has treated him like a leper and now when he has been proven right about the Fed led malinvestment in the finacial industry, they still give him no credit. 

 He has already said he won’t vote for McCain and has instead endorsed third parties’ nominees.  I think it is time he form his own political party.  His followers would for the lack of a better word, follow him to a new party. 

The new party could start small but not too small like the Libertarian Party has done.  It could focus on getting people elected in large cities, state legislatures, the House, and the Senate.  I think there are enough disenchanted old school Rebuplicans that could be converted.

The new party would need a catchy name.  Any ideas?  I personally like The Frugal Libertarians, but I may be biased.

The Nerd That Got Pretty Her Senior Year

Written by Frugal Libertarian on October 1, 2008 in: What Would a Libertarian Do |

It looks like people our getting curious about Austrian Economics.  Notice that the number one city doing Google searches is Washington D.C.  Maybe some Congressmen are trying to figure out what got us into this mess and what will get us out.  I guess Google searches are a start, but I would really like to get them to read my reading list.

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