Friday, May 28, 2010

Libertarians and History

If free market forces are as powerful and beneficent as libertarians seem to think they are, how come they have not produced more societies that approach the libertarian ideal?  I'm no fan of Karl Marx, but at least he seemed to have some theory of history that explained why the world was the way it was and how his Utopian ideal would come to pass.  If libertarians were correct, wouldn't libertarian societies be at such a competitive advantage that market forces would have produced more of them?

When asked by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show whether any country had ever approximated his ideal of liberty, Ron Paul said he thought that America did pretty well at its founding, “They recognized property rights, sound money, and contracts, and you didn’t have a right to destroy your neighbor’s property." How could this relatively pure form of libertarian society become so corrupted if free markets and property rights are as powerful as the libertarians believe them to be? Why didn't other societies when throwing off their monarchies or colonial masters grant the same primacy to property rights that the United States had and thereby gain the same blessings of economic liberty? When the Russian people overthrew the Tsar in 1917, why wasn't laissez-faire capitalism even in the mix of ideologies competing for the hearts and minds of the people?

I think it is a fairly obvious why the Russian Revolution wasn't led by libertarians. The protection of private property isn't the kind of thing that is going to inspire propertyless peasants to overthrow a propertied aristocracy. The French Revolution drew much inspiration from the American Revolution but it was also a revolt against the propertied clergy and nobility so it had to offer something more than protection of property rights to inspire the storming of the Bastille. It seems to me that the American Revolution is unique in that the rebellion was largely carried out by property owners and is unique in the role that the protection of property rights played in its theoretical underpinnings.

I think the reason that the American Revolution was unique in its emphasis on property rights is that America was unique in its ability to offer the possibility of property ownership to all citizens without coercing it from the rulers who were being overthrown. In France and Russia, the only way the peasants could hope to be property owners was by taking property away from the nobility and clergy who controlled it. In America at the time of the Revolution, however, there was a virtually limitless supply of land and natural resources there for the taking from savages whose interests could be summarily ignored. The Founding Fathers did not have to concern themselves with equality of opportunity because the seemingly boundless frontier provided it.

Unfortunately, the supply of natural resources in the United States was not inexhaustible. Eventually, the frontier closed and the supply of free land ran out. Moreover, the marginal quality of the last land to be snatched up was eventually exposed by the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. People could no longer simply pull up stakes and move west because there was no more unclaimed land to be occupied.  Like every other place in the world where resources are constrained, the only way to provide equality of opportunity is for those who have is to concede something to those who have not.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Even the Wall Street Journal Thinks Rand Paul is a Little Wacky

What does it say when even the Wall Street Journal objects to Rand Paul take on libertarianism?
Even if Mr. Paul was speaking out of a principled belief in the rights of voluntary association, he was wrong on the Constitutional and historic merits. The Civil Rights Act of 1964—and its companion laws, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965—were designed to address abuses of state and local government power. The Jim Crow laws that sprang up in the South after Reconstruction and prevailed for nearly a century were not merely the result of voluntary association. Discrimination—public and private—was enforced by police power and often by violence.

In parts of the mid-20th-century South, black men were lynched, fire hoses and vicious dogs were turned on children, and churches were bombed with worshippers inside. By some accounts, two-thirds of the Birmingham, Alabama, police force in the early 1960s belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. State and local government officials simply refused to acknowledge the civil rights of blacks and had no intention of doing so unless outside power was brought to bear.

The federal laws of that era were necessary and legal interventions to remedy the unconstitutional infringement on individual rights by state and local governments. On Thursday Mr. Paul finally acknowledged this point when he told CNN, "I think there was an overriding problem in the South so big that it did require federal intervention."
To throw a little more historical perspective on the issue, during the two decades prior to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the United States was trying to convince nations all around the world to cast their lot with the Western democracies rather than the Soviet Union and Communist China.  The plight of Black Americans was a huge propaganda gift to communists everywhere.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What KInd of Liberty?

As I understand it, for libertarians like John Stossel and Rand Paul, the American ideal of liberty is better realized by protecting the freedom of a grocery store owner to refuse service to a black man rather than protecting a black man's freedom to walk into a store to buy food for his family. 

Stossel's Blind Faith in the Free Markets

STOSSEL: But those -- Jim Crow -- those were government rules. Government was saying we have white and black drinking fountains. That's very different from saying private people can't discriminate.

KELLY: How do you know? How do you know that these private business owners, who owned restaurants and so on, would have said, "You know what? Yes. We will take blacks. STOSSEL: Some wouldn't.

KELLY: We'll take gays. We'll take lesbians," if they hadn't been forced to do it.

STOSSEL: Because eventually they would have lost business. The free market competition would have cleaned the clocks of the people who didn't serve most customers.

KELLY: How do you know that, John?

STOSSEL: I don't. You can't know for sure.

BINGO!!!! John Stossel doesn’t know whether free market forces would have been sufficient to integrate southern businesses in the absence of Jim Crow laws. Moreover, does he really think that it was government action in the form of segregation laws that caused white people to discriminate rather than the white people’s desire to maintain a particular social order that caused the state governments to pass the Jim Crow laws? It seems to me that libertarian belief in the "magic of the market" is grounded just as much in blind faith as any religion's belief in its magic book.

Friday, May 21, 2010

John Stossel is a Douchebag who Agrees with Rand Paul

Totally. I'm in total agreement with Rand Paul. You can call it public accommodation, and it is, but it's a private business. And if a private business wants to say, "We don't want any blond anchorwomen or mustached guys," it ought to be their right.

Wow!  That really makes sense except for one little thing:  NOBODY EVER FUCKING REFUSED TO DO BUSINESS WITH BLOND ANCHORWOMEN OR MUSTACHED GUYS!  John Stossel never had to walk two miles to take a shit just because that was the closest toilet open to mustached guys.  Moreover, if such discrimination ever became common, Stossel could just SHAVE HIS FUCKING MUSTACHE!

What an asshole.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Drill Baby Drill?

I think the "invisible hand" is giving us the finger.