Archive for October, 2006|Monthly archive page

Does Power Corrupt?

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton

This has become a cliche of our age. But why not set the matter on its head?
Let’s just take politicians. What is more true: that the power they acquired has made them corrupt, or that they have been corrupt enough to seek a career in politics? Doesn’t political power, in fact, reveal the nature of the already inherent corruption, rather than create it?

Something to think about…

The Things You Own Are YOU

“The things you own end up owning you.”
— Tyler Durden, Fight Club

Quite often, this quote is continued with: “you must separate yourself from your property” (in order to be “free”). If you don’t do it voluntarily, I assume the right to do it for you. Do you see the subtle angle here?

This man assumes not only a role of a liberator (falsely), but also that of an owner. An owner of your “things” but also yourself. In order to release you from the “burden of property” he must assign himself ownership over your person. If you plan to defend what you see as yours, you will be stopped, often under threat of death. Your action in that direction is wrong, from his perspective. But his action is right. His use of your property is seen as just. If it weren’t, he’d be left with words and philosophy, but if he planned to live by his words, he would assume the role of an owner.

So let’s try to formulate a better set of principles.

First of all, if we’re going to argue, we already assume a set of rules of behaviour beween ourselves. We agree to exchange arguments and not fists. We recognize our own independence as thinking individuals, as well as our distinct moral autonomy. So arguing implies morality. If we’re going to argue, we’re going to resort to morality. If we’re fighting, we will use force and threats.

Every human action has then a moral content. As long as we’re formulating an argument, we are bound by that necessity. But things don’t stop here. If we recognize that we are individuals, separate, independent, we recognize that we have certain rights. These rights are about property. Property rights. In this formulation, the word “property” is almost redundant, as all rights are property rights.

So we recognize that we are at least owners of our own minds. Where do we go next?

Since every action bears a moral content, and we recognize the necessity of morality, every action can be judged as a statement of property rights. A man breathing becomes the owner of the air that enters his lungs, then the owner of the water he drinks, the food he eats (assuming at first that none of these has been previously owned). If we didn’t have these rights, we would not be justifiable as moral beings. Our actions would be injust, or at the very least – amoral.

But who we are, is at least our own bodies. The property we incorporate into ourselves becomes a part of ourselves. Every atom of our bodies was once unowned. If we’re to justify ourselves as moral beings, we must assume that we have property over our own bodies. So we’re already seeing an equivalence here. We are our property that is our bodies. (I don’t plan to take on religious topics like immaterial souls, but the language should be compatible with most of these concerns).

But we don’t extend only up to our own skin. We require shelter, clothing, in short – the means of our survival. If I replace my arm with a very strong artificial limb, that would become a part of my body. But if instead I’m using that limb from a remote control, which you hold in my hand, isn’t the matter functionally equivalent? Does it really matter if that arm is attached to my body? Let’s say I change all my limbs with these special grappling tools which don’t stand directly on my body. They hover a small distance away from my torso (which is also hovering in the air). What is moving those limbs is me, and these are a part of me. So does it really matter if I’m physically attached to my car, or if I’m just standing in a seat, driving it? Does it matter if my raincoat is stitched into my skin, or if it just hangs freely on my body?

And morally, what applies to me, should also apply to you. Contingencies don’t matter.

What you justly own is a product of what you are, what others have agreed to exchange, and ultimately, who you are.

What would you Kill for?

That’s a real question. Make up a list of criteria and tell me what you think. It doesn’t have to be a first resort, but under what criteria would you deem necessary to have someone killed. If that person refused to behave in the manner you saw fit.

This can sound like a morbid question, but we encounter it every day. We always hear about a new plan for a new social policy, a new tax, new sets of regulation. All of this creates new categories of people who receive a threat of death.

So be careful with your answer.

Reality Bites

Originality has no limits. Meet XKCD

beliefs_thumb.jpg

More HERE

Capitalism is the Best Economic System

No doubt about that, but Captain Capitalism provides a very strong empirical evidence to back this up.

The greater the time frame, the greater the correlation.

Read more about it HERE

So if our only purpose was to have a better economy, Capitalism is the only way to go. In the long run, the economic system which renders the greatest growti will tend to dominate.

Socialists like to believe that free-market economic growth will tend to crystalize a power structure and increase inequality. But as the size of the economy has no clearly defined boundary (it can go on forever), inequality can only go as far as 100%. With 100% meaning that there is only one owner for all capital, 0% meaning that there is a perfectly uniform distribution of wealth (more on this HERE).

Inequality won’t increase indeffinately. At best, it can vary, but it will settle at some value (which won’t be in the vicinity of 0, neither that of 100%). Quite simply, the wealthiest people around are those in the business of mass consumption. You can’t be a very large business unless you cater for the masses. So it’s absurd to say the masses will be “skinned” and left with a decreasing share of wealth, when these people are precisely the ones marketers must target to enter and remain in business. A business must please its customers to be viable.

Most people understand that employees will compete for jobs and customers will compete to get the products they want. But the other side of the equation is frequently ignored: that businesses compete for customers and employees. They understand the idea of a price, but can’t associate this concept with wages. They have an understanting of supply and demand, but frequently fail to apply this knowledge to labour relations and consummer protection. I blame the public school system and the media for most of this, but I also associate responsibility of action even to those ignorant of their effects. That is, not knowing is not an excuse.

Something to take home.

Microsoft and Monopolies – All In One

Is Microsoft a monopoly?

A monopoly in fact cannot ever take advantage of its situation to abuse consumers as long as there is freedom to compete in law. Indeed, as soon as it raises its prices such that its profit rate (that is, the difference between the income and the marginal production cost including investment amortization) are noticeably above the average rate in other industries, then capital will rush into competing firms to leverage such profit opportunities, cancelling any situation of de facto monopoly. Similarly, if the main or unique producer decreases the quality of its services in such a way that there is an unsatisfied market segment that could pay enough to generate above average profit by investing in the field, then new competitors will appear. Hence, as long as there is freedom for new competitors to enter the market, there is no situation in which enough people can legitimately feel harmed or wronged or unserved by the market. Freedom to compete implies that de facto monopolies have “virtual competitors´´, even though they may have few or no actual competitors. In a free market, as characterized by the presence of freedom to compete, no company may ever extract arbitrarily high profits or “undue´´ profits from any so-called “dominant position´´.

What is the libertarian position on the big Redmond giant?

So while it is important to know what should be done about Microsoft, namely to cancel its privileges, the more important question is to determine what should be done about Government, that caused the whole mess to begin with. We will soon reach the conclusion that what should be done is to identify and cancel the Government’s über-privilege, the source of all privileges. The tricky problem will be how such a thing can be achieved; however the solution to this particular problem deserves a study of its own, and is beyond the scope of this long enough essay.

The first thing to do is to understand the nature of Government and of privilege, so that whatever is done to existing governments is not, like splitting Microsoft, the displacement of the very same Evil into different entities with different names, without removing anything from that Evil. To make a long story short [20], the source of the Evil is in Coercion: the resort to force to deprive people of the liberty of using their legitimately acquired property as they see fit, and to evade the responsibility of one’s decisions. Coercion is the tool that characterizes Government when people submit to it and that characterizes Bandits when people resist it. To a libertarian, whether done by people wearing an official blue ribbon or by plain outlaws, both kinds of coercion are just as criminal. In other words, Might does not make Right. Once these basic concepts are understood, things are easily put in their place, and it is possible to determine the “proper limits of government´´: the Government should do nothing, it shouldn’t exist, for in a libertarian society, there is no place for coercion.

What NOT to do about Microsoft?

Libertarians all agree that the current governmental settlement, with Microsoft giving zillions worth of computer software to schools, is not any kind of atonement for the prejudice caused to millions of people who are not any of these schoolchildren — on the contrary, it is but a marketing move to increase the number of victims. And the previously considered penalty, consisting in splitting Microsoft into separate companies with a prohibition for these companies to cooperate, was even worse of a measure to take: it would have repaired absolutely nothing, and benefited absolutely no one, and only have introduced inefficacy in software development; the privileges would have remained as strong as ever, only more expensive to the public. Indeed, splitting a criminal organization into several parts doesn’t make the resulting organizations any less criminal — for crime is characterized by the activity, by the fact that the means used by these organizations are disrespectful of the liberty and property of third parties. Splitting a criminal organization into smaller chunks might make the crime less visible, by being more diffuse, and it can even isolate some legitimate activities from those illegitimate activities that make the organization criminal; but it can’t magically turn these illegitimate activities into legitimate activities.

 

Even if Microsoft is the problem, using government to solve it is like using nuclear bombs to dig trenches. (That’s actually been tried, believe it or not).

In conclusion, it’s wrong to prosecute a company for being successful, and it’s also wrong to give it legal privileges in the form of imaginary property rights. The only solution to this problem (as well as many many others) is to remove government from the picture.

In the case between government and Microsoft, Libertarians don’t have to take sides. Their role is to refuse and denounce the common underlying assumptions behind both government and Microsoft. Their role is to reveal and delegitimize the common principle of injustice behind these two evils and their sameness of nature and origin, hidden as they are under a veil of propaganda and censorship: both are de jure monopolies established in the name of the public interest, but actually in the private interest of monopolists, under the a priori axiom that politics is a universal solution to any problem [B8]. Libertarianism rejects the political view of the world [21] as a struggle in which what matters is what side you identify with. Libertarians defend justice, and the natural principles of Law that underly it. For Libertarianism is a theory of Law, a theory of what is or isn’t legitimate for individuals to do.

The libertarian tradition has always strived to delegitimize the privileges of those who claim to live at the expense of others, through force and fraud. But more than that, libertarians seek to delegitimize the political power that grants those privileges to begin with, and that can do nothing but grant privileges. We show the naked injustice, without its drapings of false justifications, for Truth is the greatest ally of Justice. We libertarians are abolitionists [B17] [B22].

Read the rest HERE.

Hands Across Terrorism

There are no “good guys” or “bad guys” in this world, and as we can see, no shortage of people willing to make that division.

Terrorism, of all stripes, manifested as the murder of innocent civillians is always wrong. Wether it is the fault of Al Quaeda, Hezbollah, or even the Israeli or American government. It may be one thing to talk about who is a greater murderer, but they are all murderous nonetheless. Quite an often mistaken aspect of public discourse: confusing the lesser evil with the best.

This is a view from “the other side,” far from objective, and siding with “the lesser murderers,” but potentially instructive:

Harry’s Place – No Excuses for Terror