Archive for August, 2006|Monthly archive page

Free Speech Is Not a Right

Often hailed as a fundamental concept for the modern interpretation of Democracy, and a rallying cry for liberals of all sorts, free speech has become a kind of mantra – repeated so often, that the original meaning is lost. In a statist context, freedom of speech does not in fact exist.

So what does “Free Speech” even mean? Simply stated, it’s “the right to express yourself, up to certain limitations, within a public forum.” A better definition would be: “the privilege of expressing yourself in limited ways in a medium or property the government claims to own”.

“Wait one moment, that’s incorrect!”, you might say. Let’s take it one at a time:

“the privilege of expressing yourself”- what does that mean, and why replace “right” with “privilege”?

A ‘privilege’ is different from a ‘right’ in the sense that you have to ask permission to benefit from it. A right is simply something you have and can use without permission. As long as the government can regulate free speech (even if it choses not to), freedom of speech does not exist. For instance, if a slave is given certain freedoms by his master, but the master can rescind those at any moment, that person cannot be said to be free.

Secondly, as it is generally understood, free speech is bounded. “Hate speech,” “intolerance,” or usually anything that disagrees with political correctness is not seen as part of free speech. Factually, free speech comes close to: “expression that does not hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Finally, freedom of speech applies only within media the government claims to own. The government has claims of ownership on several kinds of public spaces: roads, public squares, newspapers or the radio spectrum. Freedom of speech does not apply in private spaces – you can speak freely within the confines of your house, and you are certainly right to censor people from expressing themselves in such a place.

Without a government to own public territory, all expression is confined to private spaces (these might be public in the same sense that a Mall has access ways and corridors, but it is privately owned). Similarly, the Internet, while generally understood as public space, is in fact private (almost all the equipment used to power it is held in private hands).

Thus, from a purely libertarian perspective, free speech is irrelevant. Private property rights can cover all possible forms of public expression, without the need for government interference.

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A Corporation Is NOT a Legal Fiction

A “corporation” is an artificial creation of the “legal system”, its a non-existent entity, it’s a fiction. It can’t “do” stuff — it can’t control, nor help anybody. It’s the men and women who “do” stuff, in the “name” of the corporation.

An argument similar to anarchist arguments against the state.

So what’s the problem with the corporation argument? At first glance, we might incline to agree: only individuals act, a corporation is not an individual, therefore corporations don’t act – they don’t do anything. Corporations are made up of people, and only those can be said to act, not the corporations themselves.

But…

Consider this case:

We have individuals A, B, C. These decide voluntarilly to pool some capital (money, goods, ideas) in order to be of benefit to them. This pool can also be called “corporation” or “company.”

Also, A, B and C elect another person: D, who will decide the day-to-day matters of the company (we will call him the CEO). So far, we see no problem, all matters are decided voluntarily.

Now, A, B and C might decide to put some of their control of the company into shares, which they could sell to someone else. Thus, they can get back some money early in the game, and also have additional capital for investments. So we have an entire range of people: S1, S2, …, whom we will call “shareholders.” It can also happen that A, B and C have sold off all their shares and the company resides entirely in public hands. This still does not change the voluntary nature of the company.

By investing their capital in the company, A, B, C, as well as the Ses are making voluntary decisions. We cannot say that an artificial creation has emerged that acts on its own self. All “actions” of corporations can be traced down to invidiual actions and choices.

Equally, an individual has the choice of wether or not to engage in relationships with the corporation (either as an employee, shareholder or customer).

So we can conclude that corporations are indeed not legal fictions. They are groups of individuals acting together towards common goals.

Convenient History

 

Winners write history, and make sure to portray themselves as favourable . The evolution of civilisation looks almost like a linear progression from evil to good; only with momentary subnotes of regression and genocide. Winners must justify their power. He who controlls the past…
This article by Eric Margolis touches on exactly that topic. It was convenient to forget the crimes of Stalin, while advertising those of Hitler. “The war for Democracy against the terrible empire” – yeah, right!

I was shocked to receive a flood of mail from young Americans and Canadians of Ukrainian descent telling me that until they read my article, they knew nothing of the 1932–33 genocide in which Stalin’s regime murdered 7 million Ukrainians and sent 2 million to concentration camps.

So has the extermination of the Don Cossacks by the Soviets in the 1920’s, and Volga Germans, in 1941; and mass executions and deportations to concentration camps of Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Poles. At the end of World War II, Stalin’s gulag held 5.5 million prisoners, 23% Ukrainians and 6% Baltic peoples.

Almost unknown is the genocide of 2 million of the USSR’s Muslim peoples: Chechen, Ingush, Crimean Tatars, Tajiks, Bashkir, Kazaks. The Chechen independence fighters today branded “terrorists” by the US and Russia are the grandchildren of survivors of Soviet concentration camps.

Though Stalin murdered 3 times more people than Hitler, to the doting Roosevelt he remained “Uncle Joe.” At Yalta, Stalin even boasted to Churchill he had killed over 10 million peasants. The British-US alliance with Stalin made them his partners in crime. Roosevelt and Churchill helped preserve history’s most murderous regime, to which they handed over half of Europe.

More on the Ukrainian famine.

A Great Cinematic Moment

Found on Freedom Channel. Be sure to take a look over this very interesting piece as well.

End the Drug War

Cops have a conscience too. Stepping forward does not exonerate them, but it’s still an act of integrity.

Found here, also posted here.

Links of importance: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Common Sense for Drug Policy

The Conceit of Big-L Libertarians

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It is often in writing and otherwise that American Libertarians bring forth for their arguments one certain piece of paper called “The Constitution.” Written by a group of wise men some 2 centuries ago, it is supposed to be the one and ultimate standard by which to judge governance. So self-sufficient are these statements that they do not need further proof.

The document of the US constitution (“as the Founding Fathers meant it”) has morphed into an interesting rendition of an equally famous document written nearly 2 millenia ago. Yes, the Constitution bears the same significance, and equally the same mystical air as the Holy Bible. The Founders are thus holy patron saints, their words to be taken as true Gospel and their ideas to be followed without question.

Does the World perhaps limit itself to the borders of the United States? What sort of significance can this paper have for non-Americans? Are we to deduce the USA is an equivalent to the Biblical “chosen people”? Why the conceit, dear Libertarians? Can freedom only stand on one shore of the Atlantic?

In the words of the famous monkey in chief, “the Constitution is just a piece of paper,” it has no other importance but historical. The simple fact that it was signed by certain people, at a certain time, is not in any way binding on anyone else. It’s not a contract. So why do Libertarians hold their certain religious fervor towards it? Could it be that in the absence of their determination, they themselves would doubt it? Can no better argument for freedom be made than – “it’s in the Constitution, therefore it’s true”?

I’m not saying the principles are false, but it is necessary to take the statements for what they are worth, not give them value by the simple virtue of belonging to the Constitution.

Lysander Spooner exposes this error specifically:

If the instrument meant to say that any of “the people of the United States” would be bound by it, who did not consent, it was a usurpation and a lie. […]

Such an agreement clearly could have no validity, except as between those who actually consented to it. If a portion only of “the people of the town of A—–,” should assent to this contract, and should then proceed to compel contributions of money or service from those who had not consented, they would be mere robbers; and would deserve to be treated as such.

Finally, words from one Sheldon Richman:

[…]a free society depends ultimately on people having a proper sense of just conduct. This means more than the words they recite or put on paper. Most crucial is how they act and expect others to act. For this reason it is futile to put undue emphasis on written constitutions as the key to liberty. The real constitution is within — each of us. If the freedom philosophy is not inscribed in the actions of people, no constitution will help.

And to check that I do not give value to the above, by virtue of being said by these people, I invite you to challenge them.

Have a nice time.

We Never Meant to Have Socialism

I did a little bit of research on the origin of the oft-repeated phrase: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”

A slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program. The phrase incorporates the ideal that, under a communist system of government, every person shall produce to the best of their ability in accordance with their talent, and each person shall receive the fruits of this production in accordance with their need, irrespective of what they have produced. (source: Wikipedia)

But it gets better, this is the paragraph containing the famous words:

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly — only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

Now let’s check:

  1. after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, [and also] the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished
  2. after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want
  3. after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual
  4. and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly

only then [can] society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

So, after we’ve done away with the division of labour, after we seek labour not just as a means to an end, but and end in itself, after wealth overflows in abundance (think rivers of milk and honey), ONLY THEN can we follow that tenet. Only then can we have Socialism.

It’s nice to know Communists didn’t mean implement their ideas too soon. Someone should have took this matter to the attention of the Soviets. 100 million people later, maybe someone will have the good sense to listen to Marx.

To end this on a good note, you can have a look at one of Franc’s latest article. In which he delves deeper into some of the incentives associated with Socialist systems.

Have a nice day.

There Are No Logos

Playing around with GIMP, I made some logos for No Government. Feel free to use them on your blog or site, if you wish:

 

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How to Argue With a Libertarian – The Ultimate Guide

This is a very interesting piece from a great blog.

2. Arguments are like taxicabs. Take them as far as you actually plan to go and pay no mind to wherever else they might lead.

Example: “When you drive on government roads, you enter into a social contract with the government and that contract obligates you to pay any tax that the government demands.” Don’t worry about the implications of this argument when an IRS agent drives on a privately paved road or pulls up in a privately paved driveway.

4. Criticize capitalism by its worst cases. But do not (ever!) compare these to the worst cases of statism.

Example: “The Enron scandal was the product of unfettered profit seeking under capitalism.” If a libertarian replies that Stalin’s brutality was the product of a statist program, change the subject or claim that your brand of statism precludes such abuses. Better still, try to argue that Stalinism was actually a kind of capitalism.

11. The complexity of the world is always and everywhere an argument in favor of government intervention.

Example: A libertarian might argue that price ceilings will lead to shortages. Do not waste time discusing the interplay of supply and demand. Istead, try an argument like “Society is too complex for simplistic supply and demand arguments to be taken seriously. So the government should implement price ceilings.” Characterizing libertarian arguments as simplistic is helpful too, as it makes statists seem to be the more sophisticated group.

14. Disregard the possibility that libertarians make tradeoffs in their own lives.

Example: “You claim to oppose taxation but you live in a place with taxes.” The libertarian in question will argue that he opposes taxation but remains in his present place of residence to avoid other things that are worse than taxes, such as even higher taxes or the costs of leaving the country. Disregard any such protest. Call the libertarian a hypocrite.

15. Use logic, but do so with discretion.

Example: If a libertarian points out that there is an inconsistency in some statist argument, argue that, “Libertarians are too axiomatic. That’s fine for mathematics but not for real world issues that don’t fit precisely into neat logical categories.” Needless to say, the same kind of thinking need not apply if a libertarian even appears to be guilty of some inconsistency.

Found it here.

The Crime of Just Standing There

Yes, I am talking about legitimacy. Does a benefactor of any sort have an intrinsic right to extract benefits (by force if need be) from all his potential passive beneficiaries?

A beautiful woman spends time and money to maintain her good looks. With no doubt, she gets various benefits from that fact. But does she have a right to pull a gun and extract payment from all men who look at her? Because technically, these people have benefited. A beautiful picture is generally a benefit even for cursory onlookers.

An educated man benefits himself, but also other people indirectly. Does that simple fact warrant him to exert political power to extract his “just” reward from his potential beneficiaries?

You build a very nice house in an otherwise casual neighbourhood. That fact raises the value of surrounding land (it becomes more desireable). Do you deserve the right to receive forcefully extracted money from your neighbours?

We all receive indirect benefits from our particular environments, and we all indirectly benefit those around us. Indirectly as well, we might be harmed, or we might harm others. A small child can be a nuisance in a bus, a shop owner might harm other shop owners by taking some of their customers. But that’s just the natural process of human interaction. We cannot (most of us at least) live our lives free of interference, nor completely act without affecting others.

So if we’re stuck together, what means should we use to reduce conflict? Should we pull out the gun at the first sign of disagreement? Interestingly enough, or maybe not, that is the statist solution.

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Before I leave, feel free to check this latest Mises piece. It’s an excerpt from the book – “The Anti-Capitalist Mentality” by Ludwig von Mises (Wikipedia entry). It goes over a few arguments (moral, aesthetic, etc) against Capitalism. Quite worth a read, even if it’s an extended piece. To that I’d like to add that while Mises has a dim view of Asian culture and civilisation, it’s worth to note that great cultures are built with some level of free markets available. Governments, by their very nature – destroy capital and wealth. But you can’t destroy something that is not already present. So the next time you look at pictures of the great pyramids, the Roman Colliseum or the temples of Angkor – know that this is just the tip of a very complex conditions that made it possible. Massive urban civilisations are built on the backs of merchants and antrepreneurs, not politicians and priests.

Enjoy!