A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag

If Everything Sucked as Much as Public Schools

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The Foundation for Economic Education posted an excellent article explaining how absurd it would be to run grocery stores like public schools. But the best piece of information in the article is this:

One often hears that education is too important to leave to the whims of the market. Yet food is even more important; it’s a prerequisite before education can be considered. In spite of this, the (relatively) free market in food seems to work quite well.

Consumers get a wide variety at a low cost. Even people that have niche dietary requirements like gluten-free or vegan have products suited to them. And while complaints about the quality of public education are rampant, one rarely hears objections about the quality of the grocery stores. In the latter case, people don’t have to complain; they just take their business to someone who will serve them better.

Education isn’t even possible if one doesn’t have enough food to survive. Yet public education is a sacred cow. If you criticize public education or, worse, advocate for its complete elimination you are going to hear a lot of people accusing you of hating children. However, if you don’t advocate for socializing grocery stores nobody cares. In fact, everybody seems to be fine with grocery stores remaining private.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that grocery stores in the United States are private. If they weren’t they’d operate like the grocery stores in the former Soviet Union or current ones in Venezuela. You’d have to wait in line for hours just to find out that the store doesn’t have anything you need in stock.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 24th, 2017 at 10:00 am

What Do You Own

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When you purchase a computer do you own it? What about your cell phone? Or your automobile? At one time the answer to these questions was an absolute yes. Today, not so much:

Cars, refrigerators, televisions, Barbie dolls. When people buy these everyday objects, they rarely give much thought to whether or not they own them. We pay for them, so we think of them as our property. And historically, with the exception of the occasional lease or rental, we owned our personal possessions. They were ours to use as we saw fit. They were free to be shared, resold, modified, or repaired. That expectation is a deeply held one. When manufacturers tried to leverage the DMCA to control how we used our printers and garage door openers, a big reason courts pushed back was that the effort was so unexpected, so out of step with our understanding of our relationship to the things we buy.

But in the decade or so that followed those first bumbling attempts, we’ve witnessed a subtler and more effective strategy for convincing people to cede control over everyday purchases. It relies less—or at least less obviously—on DRM and the threat of DMCA liability, and more on the appeal of new product features, and in particular those found in the smart devices that make up the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).

I’ve annoyed many electrons criticizing the concept of intellectual property. The idea that somebody has a government granted monopoly on something simply because they were the first to receive a patent is absurd in my opinion. But we live with much more absurd ideas today. Due to the way software copyright and patent laws work, if a company loads software onto a device they can effectively prevent anybody from owning it. At most a buyer can acquire a limited use license for those devices.

Combining software copyright and patent laws with the Internet of Things (IoT) just amplifies this. Now there are a bunch of devices on the market that rely on continuous Internet access to the manufacturers’ servers. If the manufacture decides to drop support for the product it stops working. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) didn’t make it illegal for you to hack the device and load your own software onto it that allowed it to continue working.

Right now we’re dealing with relatively cheap IoT devices. If your $99 Internet connected thermostat stops working it sucks but it’s not something that is so expensive that it can’t be replaced. But what happens when IoT comes to, say, automobiles? What happens when critical functions on an automobile cease to work because the manufacturer decides to drop support for one of the Internet connected components. Suddenly you’re not talking about throwing away a $99 device but a machine that cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Although this scenario might sound absurd to some I guarantee that it will happen at some point if software copyright and patent laws continue to be enforced as they have been.

The Future is Awesome

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People don’t appreciate how awesome the future we live in today really is. Compare the life you live with the life lived by some of history’s wealthiest people:

If you were a 1916 American billionaire you could, of course, afford prime real-estate. You could afford a home on 5th Avenue or one overlooking the Pacific Ocean or one on your own tropical island somewhere (or all three). But when you traveled from your Manhattan digs to your west-coast palace, it would take a few days, and if you made that trip during the summer months, you’d likely not have air-conditioning in your private railroad car.

And while you might have air-conditioning in your New York home, many of the friends’ homes that you visit — as well as restaurants and business offices that you frequent — were not air-conditioned. In the winter, many were also poorly heated by today’s standards.

To travel to Europe took you several days. To get to foreign lands beyond Europe took you even longer.

Might you want to deliver a package or letter overnight from New York City to someone in Los Angeles? Sorry. Impossible.
You could neither listen to radio (the first commercial radio broadcast occurred in 1920) nor watch television. You could, however, afford the state-of-the-art phonograph of the era. (It wasn’t stereo, though. And — I feel certain — even today’s vinylphiles would prefer listening to music played off of a modern compact disc to listening to music played off of a 1916 phonograph record.) Obviously, you could not download music.”

While I spend a lot of time complaining about horrors statism has wrought upon us, we do live better today than anybody did in any point of history thanks to the wonders of the market. And since technology is cumulative the rate of advancement is even more rapid, which means our lives are improving faster than the lives of people in the past. For example, in my fairly short lifetime home Internet access went from nonexistent to dial-up to fiber directly into the home. The computing power available in my phone wasn’t available to the consumer market for any price when I was young. Even simple toys, such as Nerf guns, improve a lot since my childhood. Kids today have electrically powered fully automatic Nerf guns, something young me could only dream of. Although various diseases such as cancer are still a scourge our chances of surviving it have increased significantly.

While there’s a lot of terrible things going on in this world don’t forget that our present is an overall great time to be alive.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Wonders of Socialism

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Socialism ensure that everybody is equal..ly poor:

In a new sign that Venezuela’s financial crisis is morphing dangerously into a humanitarian one, a new nationwide survey shows that in the past year nearly 75 percent of the population lost an average of 19 pounds for lack of food.

The extreme poor said they dropped even more weight than that.

The 2016 Living Conditions Survey (Encovi, for its name in Spanish), conducted among 6,500 families, also found that as many as 32.5 percent eat only once or twice a day — the figure was 11.3 just a year ago.

How can the people of a nation with such plentiful resources end up starving? Through the wonders of socialism!

Venezuela is yet another example in a long, sad list of examples of centrally planned economics failing. As Ludwig von Mises explained so thoroughly, centrally planned economies are always doomed to fail. It’s not possible for a handful of individuals to accurate determine the wants and needs of millions of people. Especially when the wants and needs of every single one of those millions of people are constantly changing.

The only question here is whether or not the Venezuelan government will do the decent thing and disband itself or if the people will have to rise up and overthrow it.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 21st, 2017 at 10:00 am

Getting the Right Idea

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Yesterday I wrote a post about some neoliberals threatening to homeschool their children. Homeschooling isn’t the only anti-state idea neoliberals are getting though. Some are now claiming that they won’t pay their taxes because Trump was elected president:

Andrew Newman always pays his taxes, even if he hates what the government is doing with them. But not this year. For him, Donald Trump is the dealbreaker. He’ll pay his city and state taxes but will refuse to pay federal income tax as a cry of civil disobedience against the president and his new administration.

Newman is not alone. A nascent movement has been detected to revive the popularity of tax resistance – last seen en masse in America during the Vietnam war but which has been, sporadically, a tradition in the US and beyond going back many centuries.

Bombing children in the Middle East, having the highest prison population in the world, widespread unwarranted surveillance, civil forfeiture, and a plethora of other horrible government programs weren’t enough to convince them to not pay their taxes. But Trump getting elected? That warrants such action.

This is me not really giving a shit about their tax protest.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they’re finally understanding why us libertarians are so opposed to government power. But their protests ring a bit hallow when it’s obvious that the only thing they’re upset about is who is in power, not what people in that position of power has been doing. I’m sure these same people would gladly pay their taxes if Hillary was in power regardless of what horrible shit she was doing because the only thing that matters to them is the party, not the actions.

While I do appreciate their sentiment I must also admit that I look forward to seeing their reaction once they realize that taxation, regardless of what they have previous claimed, is backed by the barrel of a gun.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 17th, 2017 at 11:00 am

It’s Happening

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The aftermath of this election is the gift that keeps on giving. After eight years of loving Big Brother and mocking anti-state ideas, neoliberals are suddenly espousing anti-state ideas. The appointment of Betsy DeVos has a lot of neoliberals upset because they think she is going to destroy the public education system (I wish that were true but it’s not). Some of them are so upset that they’re considering a formerly crazy libertarian idea:

In protest of school choice advocate Betsy DeVos becoming the next education secretary, some liberals threatened to homeschool their children. Lost on them, apparently, is the irony of that threat.

As I mentioned, the Education Secretary doesn’t matter if you don’t put your children into a government indoctrination center. Apparently this point has sunk in with a few neoliberals.

Granted, I know these people will have a change of heart when their team is in power again but it’s nice to see that for at least four years some neoliberals will be open to a few libertarian ideas. Perhaps one or two of them will take the ideas to heart and permanently overcome their statist tendencies.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 16th, 2017 at 11:00 am

A Socialist by Any Other Name

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I’ve seen several people celebrating the antics of anti-fascists. And I get it. I also hate national socialists. But in most cases the anti-fascists being celebrated are international socialists.

The reason I’m not celebrating their antics is because I don’t see any meaningful difference between national and international socialists. If you look at their history, both groups have a tendency to fill mass graves. Their criteria on who to kill may differ but in the end they both have lists of enemies that they purge when the opportunity presents itself.

So, no, I’m not going to cheer on a bunch of international socialists just because they’re fighting national socialists. Frankly, I want the two camps to wipe each other out.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Unintended Consequences

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Whenever the State involves itself in an issue there are unintended consequences (okay, the consequences could be intended but I’ll give the politicians the benefit of the doubt in this case). When the State involved itself in the alcohol market by prohibiting its manufacture, sale, and consumption criminal organizations arose to provide the prohibited good. Today we’re seeing the same thing happen again as the State has involved itself in the markets of several other substances. When the State further involved itself in the healthcare market health insurance premiums skyrocketed.

What happens when the State involves itself in immigration? Unintended consequences:

For four months every year he employs almost exclusively Hispanic male workers to pick the harvest. This year he had 64 men out in the fields.

Then HB56 came into effect, the new law that makes it a crime not to carry valid immigration documents and forces the police to check on anyone they suspect may be in the country illegally.

The provisions – the toughest of any state in America – were enforced on 28 September. By the next day Cash’s workforce had dwindled to 11.

Today there is no-one left. The fields around his colonial-style farmhouse on top of a mountain are empty of pickers and the tomato plants are withering on the vine as far as the eye can see. The sweet, slightly acrid smell of rotting tomato flesh hangs in the air.

On Friday, the 11th circuit appeals court in Atlanta blocked the first of those measures, but allowed the state to continue detaining suspected illegal migrants. So it is unlikely that Cash’s workers will dare to reappear.

The blow to Cash can be measured in those $100,000 – money he says he had wanted to put aside as insurance against a poor crop in future years. But it can also be measured in other ways.

A great deal of manual labor in this country is performed by “illegal” immigrants. Why? Because they’re willing to do the work for the pay being offered, unlike most Americans. When those immigrants aren’t available to do the work the work often ends up not being done, which costs producers money and consumers available goods.

Immigration is a hotly debated topic amongst libertarians. One camp believes that the State has the authority to decide who can and cannot cross the arbitrary lines it has created. The other camp, i.e. the correct libertarians, don’t recognize the State has a legitimate entity and believe that the only person who can decide who can and cannot enter a property is the owner. If a farmer wants to allowed laborers from Mexico to enter their property then those Mexicans can enter the property. Property rights cease to exist the second the State is allowed to dictate who can and cannot enter the farmer’s property.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 14th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Taxation is Slavery

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Last year Robert Higgs wrote an excellent article about how taxes are slavery. This sparked my interest in researching the practice of slaver renting. Needless to say, the analogy between slave renting and taxation dead on:

In some instances, masters allowed slaves to hire themselves out; this practice permitted some slaves to save enough money to purchase their freedom. Slave-hiring in Charleston became so complex that many slaves wore a badge around their necks with a number indicating their particular skill or craft. The Charleston city council taxed those badges, masters still received money for renting out their slaves, renters had laborers or skilled slaves for extended periods of time, and some slaves earned money in this elaborate process.

[…]

For masters, hiring or renting out their slaves brought additional income; for slaves with skills, especially those who rented themselves out, the process could lead to freedom. Even when masters took a good portion of their money, good carpenters, brick masons, and blacksmiths could, over a period of time, earn enough to buy their freedom.

Last year Americans were working until April 24th for Uncle Sam. It’s only after that point that they were allowed to make money for themselves.

Every one of us, except people who work purely in the agorist economy, has to buy our temporary freedom from Uncle Sam. If you are an employee then your employer buys your freedom by renting you out. Being rented out by your employer takes the form of automatically withheld taxes from your paycheck. If you are a contractor then you buy your own temporary freedom by paying estimated owed taxes every quarter. Slave renting hasn’t gone away, the criteria have just changed so that everybody is a slave of Uncle Sam.

But what happens if you fail to buy your temporary freedom? If you are an employee Uncle Sam may start by garnishing your wages, which is a fancy phrase for stealing your money. Uncle Sam might also opt to steal your assets, sell them off, and put the profits towards your temporary freedom. If Uncle Sam believes you are truly unruly he might sent his slave patrol to kidnap you and make you work in one of his forced labor camps prisons. In the absolute worst case his slave patrol might just murder you outright.

If you believe that you’re anything other than property in the eyes of the State then you are sorely mistaken. You are a slave. You just have the option of renting yourself out to raise money to temporarily buy your freedom.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 10th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The New Secretary of the Department of Government Indoctrination

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Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the Education Secretary yesterday:

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos on Tuesday as education secretary, approving the embattled nominee only with the help of a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools.

The only thing newsworthy about this is the fact that it was getting so much goddamn media coverage than even I heard about it. Why did the nomination of a secretary to a government department get so much media coverage? I have no idea. But I hope other nominations don’t have the same coverage because there are far more interesting things going on in the world.

Still, I’m entertained by the aftermath. People genuinely cared about this nomination. Those who didn’t support DeVos are genuinely upset over her confirmation.

Here’s the thing, the Education Secretary doesn’t matter if you don’t put your children into a government indoctrination center. A lot of people figured this out some time ago. Instead of letting the government brainwash their children under the guise of providing an education they opted to enroll their children into a private institution, homeschool their children, unschool their children, or chose some other means of providing their children with an actual education.

There’s a valuable lesson in DeVos’ nomination for those who are upset that she’s not running the Department of Education. If you place your children into a government indoctrination center they’re going to be indoctrinated by whoever is currently controlling the government. If your political opposition controls the government then they will be indoctrinating your children.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 8th, 2017 at 10:30 am