Worst Off, Shmorst Off

When Rawls writes that

No one is to benefit from [natural accidents and social circumstances] except in ways that redound to the well-being of others. ...

The difference principle represents... an agreement to regard the distribution of natural talents as in some respects a common asset and to share in the greater social and economic benefits made possible by the complementarities of this distribution.

Those who have been favored by nature, whoever they are, may gain from their good fortune only on terms that improve the situation of those who have lost out. The naturally advantaged are not to gain merely because they are more gifted, but only to cover the costs of training and education and for using their endowments in ways that help the less fortunate as well. (86-7)

what is he talking about, exactly? If I am one of the better-off, am I prohibited from making a sandwich, because that does not "help the less fortunate"? Unlikely, so Rawls must be talking about institutions or the "basic structure of society" rather than individual actions. As I'll argue later, the free market operates precisely under this very principle.

A more potent objection is, must not the worse-off help themselves and each other? Must they only help themselves and each other or should they help the better-off, as well?

It is obvious that the worse-off should participate in social cooperation on equal terms with the better-off; that is, they should contribute, too. (After all, the very problem that Rawls deals with is how to distribute the fruits of social cooperation.) But this admission devalues the difference principle. For the worse-off must now worry about the welfare of the better-off exactly as much as the better-off must worry about the welfare of the worse-off.

Rawls is so eager to harness the better-off to serve society that he ignores the symmetrical duty of the worse-off. This symmetry makes it true that there is a harmony of interests of all men in society, regardless of their natural endowments or luck in life.

Types of Justice and Efficiency

Rawls makes a distinction between 3 kinds of distributive justice: perfect, imperfect, and pure procedural.

For the first of these, "First, there is an independent criterion for what is a fair division, a criterion defined separately from and prior to the procedure which is to be followed. And second, it is possible to devise a procedure that is sure to give the desired outcome." An example is dividing a cake among dinner guests equally (outcome): we let "one man divide the cake and get the last piece, the others being allowed their pick before him. He will divide the cake equally, since in this way he assures for himself the largest share possible" (procedure). Here, "there is an independent standard for deciding which outcome is just and a procedure guaranteed to lead to it." (74)

An imperfect procedural justice is also when the outcome is well-defined, but the means sometimes fail to secure it, as is the case with real-life criminal trials. Despite our best efforts, sometimes innocents are convicted, and guilty men go free.

Finally, pure procedural justice has no independently defined outcome to bring about: whatever distribution results by everyone's faithfully following the rules of the game is just.

Let's see if we can apply these distinctions to market 1) efficiency, 2) justice.

First, according to Rawls:

Since it is not reasonable [for a person in the original position] to expect more than an equal share in the division of social primary goods, and since it is not rational for him to agree to less, the sensible thing is to acknowledge as the first step a principle of justice requiring an equal distribution.

Indeed, this principle is so obvious given the symmetry of the parties that it would occur to everyone immediately.

Thus the parties start with a principle requiring equal basic liberties for all, as well as fair equality of opportunity and equal division of income and wealth. (130)

The equally obvious rejoinder to this is, where does the wealth that is to be distributed among the disembodied ghosts behind the veil of ignorance come from? Are we talking about Rome c. 400 A.D. after it had been sacked by the barbarians, Germany after World War I paying reparations to the Allies, present-day America? It may be replied that any hypothetical society will fit the bill. But this will not do at all. Apart from some very small religious communities, it is never the case that goods come into being collectively owned. Not even in the Soviet Russia was this true. Once we take any realistic society as our guide, we must take it as given that all goods initially come to be owned by their producers, and, what is more, there is no process of distribution separate from that of production:

Now in the market economy this alleged dualism of two independent processes, that of production and that of distribution, does not exist. There is only one process going on. Goods are not first produced and then distributed. There is no such thing as an appropriation of portions out of a stock of ownerless goods. The products come into existence as somebody's property. If one wants to distribute them, one must first confiscate them.

Adds Mises:

It is certainly very easy for the governmental apparatus of compulsion and coercion to embark upon confiscation and expropriation. But this does not prove that a durable system of economic affairs can be built upon such confiscation and expropriation. (HA, 804)

Second, the free market is not an evenly rotating economy in which nothing changes. It is rather a process of perpetual improvement in human welfare. Hence, there is no fixed amount of booty to distribute but rather an ever-growing overall prosperity.

Now utilitarianism is concerned with producing the greatest good for the greatest number. But what is the greatest good? Is it some global perfection in which no improvement is conceivable? What is it, exactly? What are the intermediate stages toward this wonder? We don't know. Can we consult God as to whether we are achieving this perfection at the fastest possible speed? How then can we say that the market is utilitarian? Perhaps it is more utilitarian that any alternative: 1) the market gently guides each person toward finding that social position in which he can best serve his fellow men, and 2) society serves each individual better and better with time. Moreover, capitalism is superior either absolutely as a workable system of social cooperation as compared with socialism which is not an economic system at all, or relatively to any interventionist scheme so far attempted or imagined. A government intervention is like a sin: after all is said and done, in the end, and at long last we have to abandon it and embrace virtue. At any rate, no one really favors interventionism; no person would seriously agree to let other people privilege themselves in the eyes of the law by rigging the game in their favor, such as by erecting legal barriers to entry into their industries, and against the interests of the great majority of people particularly in their capacity as consumers.

Using Rawls' own terms, the market is perfectly efficient in this sense, as in better than anything else, and the means to it are known -- a laissez-faire legal regime. But given that regime, any actual momentary distribution of wealth, income, or means of production is just. Production and consumption are carried out by real people in an actual economy. No innovation or improvement was fated to happen; individual human beings made them happen with their own minds and their own hands. So whatever people do and whatever economy they create within the bounds of pro-market law are Ok. The rules of a free economy are arranged to maximize the potential speed at which society becomes more ideal, and whoever get rich or lose everything within those rules do so legitimately, and their fate is bestowed by the market justly upon them. Entrepreneurs become rich because the masses, the "poor," rush to outbid each other on the products offered to them for sale. If they fail to satisfy the consumers' wants, they will forfeit their wealth and their vocation as entrepreneurs and be demoted into the rank of laborers. Personal wealth in a free society is thus a consequence of previous success in serving consumers.

The consumers patronize those shops in which they can buy what they want at the cheapest price.

Their buying and their abstention from buying decide who should own and run the plants and the farms.

They make poor people rich and rich people poor.

They determine precisely what should be produced, in what quality, and in what quantities. (HA, 270)

The market's justice then is pure procedural. Any distribution of "loot" is just, provided the rules (such as governing initial appropriation, production, exchange) are just and generally observed. The smaller the underclass of welfare recipients and crony capitalists who imagine themselves above the law, the more just the result.

Eternity, 2

I wonder if infinite past is precisely a way of conceptualizing God's infinity: God has "been everywhere and seen everything"; He's "lived forever and experienced it all"; while infinite future for God (again, united perfectly with past, present, and timelessness into a kind of single Moment) entails His contentment, peace, and reconciliation with His entire infinite life -- and through it, infinite self -- which He is willing to contemplate forevermore.

As a result, there is no gap in the world: infinite past belongs to God only for a reason.

La la Land

Heaven forfend that someone might think that Rawlsian "equality" will be -- as it must -- totalitarian rather than as he prefers to call it, "democratic."

Whither Efficiency?

Rawls' §12 is hard to evaluate or critique, because it makes no sense.

He evidently confuses an indifference curve (which is concave) with a budget line (a straight line) with something quite new which he draws as a convex curve. This is supposed to represent the situation of "a fixed stock of commodities to be distributed between two persons, x1 and x2." He then claims that each point on the curve is "efficient."

In economics, we'd call the point on the budget line where it is tangent to the highest indifference curve to be the efficient allocation of 2 resources to 1 individual.

Rawls' curve is supposed to allocate 1 resource to 2 individuals. It is true in a sense that every point on that curve is Pareto-efficient, because any motion along the curve can make one person better off only by making the other person worse off. But this is surely completely trivial and does not prove "what we knew all along, that is, that the principle of efficiency cannot serve alone as a conception of justice." To have derived a proposition that momentous from a geometric picture that inconsequential is quite a leap.

In addition, on the Rawls' curve there is also an identifiable apparent single point of efficiency: where the sum of the shares to x1 and x2 is at maximum.

Pathetic, isn't it?

Rawls’ Got a (Tiny) Little List

The most important component of Rawls' system is "equal liberty." Indeed, liberty has for him priority over welfare. "The priority of liberty means that whenever the basic liberties can be effectively established, a lesser or an unequal liberty cannot be exchanged for an improvement in economic well-being." (132) This is a good start, since it affirms that some human rights cannot be voted away no matter what.

Still, under what circumstances in a realistic society might people be tempted to make such an exchange?

One candidate is the exhortation we often receive to trade our liberty for our security, and greater security can be thought of as an economic benefit. However, this exchange is a government-run fraud, because the executive branch of the local government is not a protector but merely an enforcer of judicial verdicts, providing essential deterrence. The way the police department delivers security is not by bodyguarding each citizen but by having the fear of punishment for crimes against person or property imbue society as a whole. On the federal level, the state is an institution of murder, destruction, and exploitation with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. There is no such thing as national security.

Another example is the Food and Drug Administration. This monopoly consumer protection agency is at the same time too conservative in not allowing beneficial drugs and technologies to reach the market quickly enough (thereby being complicit in the deaths of thousands), and very much remiss in its duties to monitor the well-established companies (which it essentially protects against the newcomers) for outrageous claims. Fully privatized consumer protection would do its job vastly better.

What follows is that liberty and prosperity are intimately tied with one another. Thus, the socialist countries in the 20th century traded liberty for prosperity and ended up with neither.

Now what are the protected liberties, exactly? Says Rawls:

Important among these are political liberty (the right to vote and to hold public office) and freedom of speech and assembly; liberty of conscience and freedom of thought; freedom of the person, which includes freedom from psychological oppression and physical assault and dismemberment (integrity of the person); the right to hold personal property and freedom from arbitrary arrest and seizure as defined by the concept of the rule of law. (53)

At the same time,

Of course, liberties not on the list, for example, the right to own certain kinds of property (e.g., means of production) and freedom of contract as understood by the doctrine of laissez-faire are not basic; and so they are not protected by the priority of the first principle. (54)

This is arbitrary. Who cares whether economic liberties are or are not on Rawls' list? What makes his list definitive? One searches in vain for any justification of it. The dismissive "of course," in fact, seems like a nod to the academic socialists of Rawls' time to assure them that Rawls is an egalitarian in good standing. Now it is possible that Rawls thinks that economic freedom is a means to an end, the end being prosperity. If this freedom is not necessary for it (and economics is full of controversies), then it should not be included in the list of liberties to be enjoyed equally by all. But what if it can be proven that economic freedom is absolutely essential not only to human welfare (in which case it might still have a lower priority) but to political liberties, as well?

As soon as the economic freedom which the market economy grants to its members is removed, all political liberties and bills of rights become humbug. Habeas corpus and trial by jury are a sham if, under the pretext of economic expediency, the authority has full power to relegate every citizen it dislikes to the arctic or to a desert and to assign him “hard labor” for life. Freedom of the press is a mere blind if the authority controls all printing offices and paper plants. And so are all the other rights of men. (HA, 287)

Many so-called "political" liberties and "human rights" are in fact economic in nature. As Murray Rothbard trenchantly notes,

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. (EoL, 113)

Even the Rawlsian protections of the "integrity of the person" are best expressed as one's property rights over one's own body.

At the same time a case can be made that with full economic freedom political liberties are almost irrelevant, as there are no longer the trillions of dollars worth of loot that the government confiscates in taxes and inflation to fight over by the populace. The government in a free society administers no regulatory departments, enters into no wars and nor intervenes into the affairs of foreign nations, has no judiciary on its payroll (all judges are private professionals), permits no fractional-reserve banking, and in general keeps a very low profile. Who cares, in that case, what the government does, if under classical liberalism most people will have no contact with it throughout their lives?

Nevertheless, in giving such importance to liberty, Rawls' libertarian tendencies, however stunted, are praiseworthy. His list of favored liberties just needs to be slightly expanded, that's all.

Rawls, “A Theory of Justice”: First Impressions

In Chapter 1 Rawls curiously equivocates with respect to the term "good." In fact, I've counted at least 4 things that according to Rawls deserve this accolade.

1) Regarding the original position: "Among the essential features of this situation is that no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does any one know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance." (Revised Edition, 11)

Here, good is the particular pleasures or happiness or whatever pursued by real people in an actual society. Smith likes to scuba dive; Jones likes to garden; and Robinson is an airplane pilot; those are these people's "conceptions of the good."

2) The general theories of the good; for example, "teleological" theories: "If it is taken as the realization of human excellence in the various forms of culture, we have what may be called perfectionism. ... If the good is defined as pleasure, we have hedonism; if as happiness, eudaimonism, and so on." (22) Rawls' own contractarianism is set against these as a deontological theory that "prioritizes the right over the good."

3) Good as goods produced via social cooperation, i.e., material prosperity, consumer goods and state of capital accumulation, loot, plunder. It is these "goods," wherever they come from, that Rawls is concerned with "distributing."

4. The goodness of the conceptions of justice that flow from Rawls' own theory, such as the lexicographical order of several principles and the "principle of equal liberties" as first among them.

“On Immigration: Reply to Hoppe”

Walter Block makes a wonderful point in this paper: Can "the state determine what and to whom to allow and forbid on public land, based on what the taxpayers would decide as it concerns their own private property? This becomes impossible, for states cannot make such economic calculations." It is "unrealistic" to expect the state to keep out "immigrants in any way that emulates the market decisions and choices of the taxpayers."

But what if, per impossibile, it could?

Let's consider some public properties like parks and libraries. Why are they government-owned and free in the first place? Presumably, libraries are such, because "we" want everyone, regardless of how poor, to be able to enjoy the knowledge contained in the books for free. Similarly, we want healthy recreations to be available to everyone at no charge. If government were to run these enterprises "in the interest of the taxpayers" or "as if they were private," then it would defeat the purpose of having them public in the first place. Why not just privatize them and be done with this charade?

Roads are a special case; I believe they uniquely fulfill the natural right of men to "walk the earth"; they are not private properties but connect private properties with each other.

Let's assume that forced integration / exclusion applies to public properties only. The taxpayers pay for them and hire an entity called "government" to manage them. Presumably, the government should seek, in managing them, the greatest good for the greatest number, or to maximize total utility, or some such lofty end. But if the number of people in the area increases due to an influx of immigrants, then so perhaps is the greater good. Surely, the more people use the public libraries, the smarter the population becomes which is good for the economy in a variety of ways.

Stephan Kinsella argues that if 99% of natives prefer to limit the use by new immigrants of public properties, the government should satisfy their desires as a form of restitution. Walter points out a number of problems with this position, but the clincher, I think, is, can there really be a class of people with the following unique status: they live in a town, possibly even own property there, but are not authorized to use roads, parks, libraries, firefighters, the police, etc.? Even my political incorrectness has its limits.

The only problem is that public properties are designed to serve a limited population. If the population triples over a month, then severe strain would be put on them and hence on the natives. But the reasonableness of prevention of mass migrations does not entail that normal immigration, as would occur under global laissez faire, should be limited.

Eternity

God is eternal, understood as a seamless union of infinite past, present, infinite future, and timelessness.

God is not "outside of time"; He is the perfection of temporal existence, both improving upon and transcending it.

This unity is fractured in all created things including angels.

It does not seem that there are beings other than God whose life extends infinitely into the past. In other words, the amount of life experiences of all non-divine things is actually finite and perhaps potentially infinite, as in holding the certainty of everlasting future life.

But not actually infinite; all creatures had a beginning.

This conclusion bothers me a little, since the universe now appears to have a gap in it, a curious omission. But the idea of a being situated in time who has already lived forever or whose life started an infinitude of days ago seems unintelligible.

“Is There a Right to Immigration?: A Libertarian Perspective”

Walter Block and Gene Callahan beat up on Hoppe in this paper. Now Hoppe may seem an easy target; for example, Gene and Robert Murphy eviscerate his "argumentation ethics" with such savage precision that no stone is left on stone.

For example, Hoppe seems concerned with admitting "below-average civilized and productive people into the country." But surely, under laissez faire, all people, including unskilled workers and workers who temporarily have no access to complementary capital goods, can find jobs. Walter writes that Hoppe "contends that kings would like to keep 'people of inferior productive capabilities' out of their kingdoms. This implies that, if the whole world were privatized, such people would have to leave the planet!" But of course, cooperation is possible between all people, because everyone will enjoy comparative advantage in some line of work. Perhaps Hoppe would simply say that a king is more likely than a democratic ruler to seek to attract capital into his country, be it real or human.

Another argument, however, seems to miss the mark. Recall the "paleo-libertarian" position that any given public property should be privatized; however, if that is at the moment unfeasible, it should be run by the government as efficiently as possible. Walter would have none of that. For him, the government and the people are in a state of perpetual low-level warfare. Thus, a bum in a public library, far from being a nuisance to the patrons, is in fact equivalent to a heroic partisan fighting a Soviet invasion. A truck belonging to the Communists and being used by them in an aggressive war can legitimately be destroyed quite despite the fact that it belongs de jure to the Soviet taxpayers, because it belongs de facto to the hostile army being resisted. "But right now, we are faced with a stark choice between two and only two alternatives: either the bum gets to ruin the library (and the partisan blows up the Soviet truck) or the status quo ante prevails. When put in these terms, it is not too difficult to discern the proper libertarian answer."

Now I fully agree that a private business property like a bakery should be treated exactly like personal property like one's toothbrush rather than some "commercial public accommodation" tied up in bureaucratic red tape, i.e., rules and regulations that supposedly protect the customers and workers from the businessman's rapacity. But private property ultimately is not a fetish. It is a tool of social cooperation that serves the consumers better than any alternative. It causes economic progress to proceed at the fastest possible pace. As a result, it is grotesque to call the bum in the public library who "gets to ruin" it a revolutionary who privatizes government property. Privatization should be such as to put the library in the hands of that entrepreneur who will most efficiently use it to the benefit of the buying public. Apparently, for Walter, the second-best outcome, if a public property is not privatized, is to destroy it. Just like the Soviet truck. Similarly, barring complete privatization of federal lands in the United States, Walter would be committed, it seems, to getting them salted and poisoned, so as to weaken and disarm our enemy the state. But that looks more like astounding nihilism, not libertarianism.

It may be true that it does not matter who will initially get to own the newly privatized library; eventually, the library will, by being sold and re-sold, end up in the hands of a competent entrepreneur. But the bum does not get a formal title to the library and with it, the market responsibility to profit from it or sell it at a bargain rate to someone who thinks he can profit from it. The bum turns a regulated public property not into private property but instead into a common resource, rivalrous and non-excludable. Tragedy of the commons, in the form of massive looting / destruction of books, follows posthaste.

(Perhaps to that Walter will reply that this is indeed his aim; the "looting" is an effective way of liberating property from the grasp of crooks and of its privatization. Well, there are better and worse ways of de-socializing. "Loot the looters" is not one of the former!)

Then there is the idea that children born of native parents seem remarkably like immigration from "the country of Storkovia, from Mars, from heaven, whatever." The children arrive with no capital, no job offers, no decent ideology, and will probably create a popular culture, as they grow up, incompatible with that of their parents. If immigration is to be limited, then why not human reproduction?

Again, we are dealing not with immigration per se but with mass migrations. The births of children are not a mass migration; they simply replace those who die in the long run. If the population grows over years and decades, then it is in harmony with improving economic conditions, as individuals and couples feel that they can "afford" more children, considering them on whole to be a blessing, i.e., an asset rather than general pain in the neck. Now why prefer more children to more immigrants? Why permit free procreation but restrict immigration and not vice versa, if replacement of population can come about in either way? If both immigrants and children impose external costs on society, and restrictions on immigration are justified as an attempt to lower these costs, then why isn't the restriction of family size also thus justified? First, it is true that both policies abridge individual liberties. However, a "live and let live" arrangement in which people allow others to have kids freely in exchange for the same freedom for themselves has been chosen as the solution to this problem. Immigration can work likewise: certainly migrations between the states of the US union or between cities of the same state operate according to live-and-let-live. Second, whether to prefer more babies or more immigrants is in the last analysis a value judgment on the part of the natives. Most communities choose children and limit immigration, but there is no a priori reason why it cannot be otherwise.

Let me now consider the "paleo" argument that second-best solutions should have the state run its enterprises "as if" they were free-market firms by using Walter's own examples of government-run schools and public libraries.

Walter's argument that the second-best solution to public schools is to transition from government ownership of schools to mere government subsidies to them such as via vouchers. But many paleos reject vouchers; what's up with that? As I see it, there are two reasons, one specific and one general, why vouchers are not the way to run schools more efficiently. The specific reason is blacks. When given school vouchers, they'll assuredly pour from every hood and project to infiltrate decent public and private schools run by non-blacks, in the process capably destroying them. The general reason is that subsidizing schools via vouchers entails that schooling as it works today has positive externalities and produces some "social benefits." In fact, if left entirely private and unsubsidized, the education system that would emerge would not resemble anything at all like the present thing. "Teaching at the elementary level necessarily turns into indoctrination," says Mises. Perhaps present-day "schooling" produces negative and not positive externalities! We want less of it, not more than would be privately produced.

As for public libraries, their situation is especially telling: in the present age of mature Internet, physical libraries, public or private, are obsolete. The only thing standing between us and instant access to any book or article ever written is the institution of copyright. The second-best solution with respect to libraries is not to privatize-and-subsidize them but, as it now turns out, to let them disappear and become part of ancient human history of no contemporary relevance by reforming or abolishing the copyright laws.

So then, a public "essential service" should, if justice is to prevail and human welfare is to be advanced, be privatized; if that is technically impractical or politically unfeasible, it should be managed as efficiently as the bureaucrats in charge are at all able. But what is efficient depends on many things, to be considered each on its own merit. It so turns out that efficient border control in the absence of global capitalism is somewhat discriminating (say, toward Europeans) and should not result in mass migrations.

A Note on “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”

So, the Project for the New American Century wrote:

But what should finally drive the size and character of our nuclear forces is not numerical parity with Russian capabilities but maintaining American strategic superiority -- and, with that superiority, a capability to deter possible hostile coalitions of nuclear powers. U.S. nuclear superiority is nothing to be ashamed of; rather, it will be an essential element in preserving American leadership in a more complex and chaotic world.

Right, because nukes make the world less complex and chaotic, based apparently on the principle "When there is a nation, there is a problem. When there is no nation, there is no problem."

As a small consolation, in the case of World War 3, we'll all, mercifully including the now defunct PNAC, in the words of Tom Lehrer, "just drop our agendas and adjourn."

A 9/11 Conspiracy Theory

The same Wikipedia article proposes the following theory:

Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld... released a strategic treatise entitled Rebuilding America's Defences... [in which they stated that] "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor"...

The Defense Planning Guidance of 1992, was drafted by Paul Wolfowitz on behalf of then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. This was described as "a blueprint for permanent American global hegemony" by Andrew Bacevich in his book American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy.

So, imagine the scene: George Bush is in the White House surrounded by his advisors. The President is talking:

"We got a huge military, and no one to fight. Many are calling for retrenchment in the face of the collapse of communism. What have we got left? The Drug War? That's not enough, and people are becoming skeptical of it. We need a new external enemy to focus people's attention on. War is the health of the state. It's the father of all things. Nation-building is boring; besides, it's obvious we can't build nations; we can only destroy them. Soon enough folks will catch on. I want power. I want bombs falling on people. You there," Bush points at the CIA director. "Can you do something about this quandary I'm in?"

"Yes, sir, Mr. President, I sure can," the CIA chief replies.

"I need results soon. And don't tell me anything; I don't want to know what dirty tricks you're going to pull."

"Give us a year, and we'll give you the chance to lead the world in a great conflict."

"Don't disappoint me."

What's so implausible about this?

Genie, 3

Notice also the hilarious theory on which the overtime law is based.

Apparently, your employer is a slave master who exploits you shamelessly. If you are to toil for him for more than 40 hour per week, then he must at least be forced (by the benevolent government) to have the decency to pay you more per hour.

If he restricts your hours because of the regulations, and you aren't given overtime in the first place, then this, too, is still all well and good: exploitation is at least somewhat curtailed. Obama is sticking it to your boss, so that he knows to treat his slaves right.

Genie, 2

Notice yet another way in which feudalism may tend to devolve down to socialism.

For Obama clearly issued a command to all private employers: you shall pay your workers more (or else). Yet if the businessmen respond to this alleged order by issuing less overtime to their workers, or if society responds to it with lower productivity, then clearly, Obama's publicly stated intentions become frustrated.

But why should this eventuality be tolerated? If it is indeed some pre-existing Moral Duty on the part of the employers to pay workers more for overtime, and the law merely punishes vicious derelictions of this duty, then the "unintended consequences" are instances of the entrepreneurs' malicious intent, corruption, and sabotage.

It seems to follow that in order to make them obey, the government has no choice but to nationalize the private enterprises that sneakily and arrogantly evade the intent of the law, as if perversely defying the holy will of the state. Socialism follows thereupon.

Obama the Genie

All he has to do to "boost wages by $12 billion over the next 10 years" is to sign a law that expands and extends government interference with business. We've never had a friend like him.

This has a bearing on the post below on "good intentions."

If I see a group of men repeatedly doing evil to society, day in and day out, why is it unreasonable to doubt that they are motivated by the happiness of the people or anything like that?

Isn't it natural to come to the conclusion that they hate their country instead?

The Transgender “Debate”

It's "sabotage" of "the social order which is based on private ownership" according to Mises, points out Thomas DiLorenzo.

The Delusion of Government Good Intentions

Wikipedia has this quote in its article on "9/11 conspiracy theories":

Glenn Beck, television and radio host, said of the allegations:

"There are limits to debasement of this country, aren't there? I mean, it's one thing to believe that our politicians are capable of being Bernie Madoff.

"It's another to think that they are willing to kill 3,000 Americans. Once you cross that line, you're in a whole new territory."

Beck must imagine that America is some sort of family, over which the federal government parents (the Republicans as the dad and the Democrats as the mom in Jude Wanniski's memorable "analogy") keep vigilant watch and protect from all harms.

If the state kills some Iraqis, that's justified by the "security" of "Americans." But Americans themselves are loved and would never be harmed.

Is he really that naïve? If I were a psychopathic bureaucrat bent on domination, what would it matter to me whether or not those I killed were American citizens? I'd kill those from whose deaths I would benefit, whether they are American or not.

Murder is murder, and if I chose the path of evil to gain and revel in destructive power, like the devil perhaps, Beck in my schemes would be my bitch. I'd leave him to wax incredulous that I could be capable of such atrocities. But of course, the nationality of my victims would scarcely interest me. "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" On the contrary, I'd be eager to hurt Americans so they would fear me and bow to my wrath. I'd lie about it and cover it up only if it were expedient to my aims.

It's a silly misconception that the members of the American deep state are animated by good intentions, even toward Americans. The state in its essence is not an innocent if bumbling producer of roads; it's primarily an engine of destruction, specialized for this one function extremely well. With trillions of dollars under its control, the deep state takes it upon itself to make billions suffer or annihilate them altogether.

American victims feed the beast just as adequately as the murdered people who live elsewhere.

The Real Aim of SJWs

What the "social justice warriors" aim to do is, by their foolishness, to discredit the idea that there is such a thing as justice, especially social (rather than what Aristotle and St. Thomas called "metaphorical").

The danger is that when the people realize, as they must, that the SJWs' attempts to claim the moral high ground are implausible, they will become jaded to all idealistic pursuits.

I can only hope that we can contribute to the conversation of men by showing what is truly just and by refuting the errors of the corrupt and mentally defective SJWs.

Re: Weaponizing the Term “Conspiracy Theory”

Gary G. Kohls argues that the CIA was partly responsible for discrediting all "conspiracy theories."

Now no one would argue that there are no criminal conspiracies. The legal code defines and punishes such as a matter of course. Organized crime is no joke.

What the CIA claims impossible is rather treasonous conspiracies by government bureaucrats. We are supposed to believe that these agents of the state are righteous men who love, love, love "their country," animated by massive benevolence and good intentions, and would never under any circumstances conspire to do harm to us and to lie about it later on.

But that's just stupid. The CIA itself is deeply anti-social yet tries to convince us and its own employees that it is a "force for good." Yes, like the Navy with its death ships and nukes. It's a laugh.

The only problem I find with theories that postulate treason is that they are hard to prove. If the de facto motto of the executive branch of the federal government is, as Gary suggests, "Admit nothing, deny everything and make counter-accusations," then it's a difficult task to get anything investigated properly.

“A Libertarian Case for Free Immigration”

In this excellent paper, Walter Block helps me understand the position of Lew Rockwell on immigration that he terms "paleo-libertarian" or "postponement libertarian."

He goes through the basic moral argument that immigration is not an invasion of private property. His reasoning in this part of the paper is orthodox libertarian and unimpeachable. I think, however, that the disagreement between him and the paleos concerns not the theory of immigration as such but the wisdom of permitting mass migrations from the world's hellholes into any nation that, though less unfortunate, is still sick with statism. A slow and random trickle of immigrants to and fro as between the states of the American union or between nations under global laissez-faire capitalism would not generate any contention between the two libertarian camps.

The evidence that Walter realizes that is that he considers and attempts to refute a number of objections to free immigration, in particular that it will 1) reduce the real wages of the workers already in residence; 2) increase crime; 3) promote welfarism; 4) assault the institutions which make a free society possible in the first place by voting poorly.

There is also 5), that unrestricted immigration is equivalent to allowing the invasion of a foreign army. However, I think that it is reducible to a combination of 2) and 4). For how would a libertarian near-anarchist society distinguish between an invasion of an army and an arrival of numerous immigrants in a short amount of time? Well, the army would probably be "organized" as an enterprise association and have a unifying purpose. It may have ridiculously powerful weaponry. So, let's suppose that a Ruritarian army has landed in New York and its troops are marching on the streets of Manhattan, interfering with traffic. What next? Will the soldiers be quartered in people's houses? Will the general send agents to every business to register it for tax purposes? Will he demand that the NYC leaders accept him as king? As we can see, a foreign invasion produces both direct violations of the natives' property rights and a vicious change in the political regime, say, from capitalism to feudalism. Therefore, there is no need to consider 5) separately.

Walter rejects each of these concerns as forceful enough to impinge on immigration theory. Again, however, submarginal changes in degree, as they accumulate, end up becoming marginal changes in kind. A few immigrants, even if they arrive with no money or capital in tow, will not reduce the real wages noticeably. But tens of millions of immigrants would. A few immigrants would not "make use of public transportation, public roads, public utilities, public schools, and so on" (a quote from the Walter's next paper, to be considered later) so as to put the natives under a heavy burden for which they did not prepare; tens of millions of immigrants certainly would.

As a result, the paleos come to have at their disposal a final argument, namely that 6) "legally unrestricted immigration is indeed the libertarian position, the only possible libertarian position, but it should not be implemented until the every other plank in this program is first put into effect." Walter calls this

a very powerful objection... For suppose unlimited immigration is made the order of the day while minimum wages, unions, welfare, and a law code soft on criminals are still in place in the host country. Then... the host nation would be subjected to increased crime, welfarism, and unemployment. An open-door policy would imply not economic freedom, but forced integration with all the dregs of the world with enough money to reach our shores.

There is also the vicious anti-free association climate of opinion and legal regime in the US presently to be considered.

Walter's main counter-argument is to consider the postponement position akin to Alan's Greenspan's "high philosophical" support for laissez faire. Rothbards reads Greenspan as holding that the conjunction of libertarian policies {A, B, C, D, ...} is very good, but A or B or C in isolation is undesirable. But since the overall libertarian vision cannot be realized without individual reforms which may come step by step rather than all at once, Greenspan ends up a defender of status quo. Thus, we have the following reductio:

Public schooling is a disaster. [Abolish it, say the libertarians] ...

But those who would be true to the paleo-libertarian position on immigration cannot avail themselves of this conclusion. Instead, they would have to ask: what would education be like in the free society? They would then have to endeavor to treat public schools as much like that as possible.

But if there is one thing that is clear, it is that in the free society the educational industry, like all others, would allow competition. How, then, to apply this principle? Simple. Embrace educational vouchers.

Similarly, must the welfare state be made "more efficient" via a negative income tax?

And of course, Lew Rockwell has been a bitter opponent of all such vouchers and welfare schemes. Is there a contradiction?

Well, abolishing public schooling seems to have none of the drawbacks, as in 1) through 5), that burden free immigration. The latter is uniquely suited to objection 6), unlike government education and welfare. Hence, the analogy fails.

I'll discuss "second-best" solutions in more detail in a later post.

A final point. In response to objection 4), Walter brings about numerous immigrants that were a boon to America, particularly the libertarian economists and philosophers like Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, Hoppe himself, Yuri Maltsev, and many others. "A closed-door policy in the past might well have made it impossible for these people to contribute to our society." But of course, those who argue against 100% open borders are not by that very fact arguing in favor of 100% closed borders. It is possible to conceive of borders as filters, letting the good guys through and keeping the bad guys out.