Power & Market

Little Cracks Here and There

07/25/2022Robert Aro

Imagine living under one of the 19 nations in Europe who share the same currency and have little to no autonomy over their own monetary policies. Then, making matters worse, the latest inflation reading comes in at 8.6%, forcing the European Central Bank (ECB) to invoke a rate increase!

In the words of one expert on CNBC:

For the first time since 2011, the Bank has hiked interest rates and did so with a bang.

It was announced on Thursday that the ECB:

…surprised markets by pushing its benchmark rate up by 50 basis points, bringing its deposit rate to zero.

That’s not a typo, they increased rates to 0%. As explained:

The ECB had previously signaled it would be increasing rates in July and September as consumer prices keep surging, but it was unclear whether it would go as far as bringing rates back to zero. The bank’s deposit rate is now 0%.

This is the world we are living in, where rates can be increased to zero to “fight inflation” at 8.6%.

North of the border, Canada recently increased rates by 100 basis points (1%), bringing rates to 2.5% to fight its latest inflation reading of over 8%. According to the Bank of Canada, these high inflation readings are still everyone else’s fault, explaining:

Global inflation is higher, reflecting the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ongoing supply constraints, and strong demand.

Very rarely does “strong demand” get the attention it deserves. When it’s mentioned, it’s in name only, but hardly explored in-depth, which is a shame since money creation and increase in demand go hand-in-hand.

And this Wednesday, Chair Powell of America’s central bank will raise rates; there is no question about that. The real question is, “by how much?" The CME Group has a Countdown to the FOMC tool, showing the current Fed’s target rate at 1.50 to 1.75 percent, and currently assigns a probability of 76% that rates will be raised to 2.25 to 2.50 percent.

Even if rates are 2.5% a few days from now, it’s still historically low. (Price) inflation will still be historically high. To reiterate my position once again: when the stock market falls below some indeterminate threshold, or housing prices across the country collapse, the rate hike to “fight inflation” talk will be abandoned to support a new narrative.

Meanwhile, in China, it appears that tanks are positioned outside of a few banks… in order to “protect banks.” This has been largely absent from the mainstream media, but can be seen on social media and lesser known news sources. According to one outlet:

The Chinese government has deployed tanks on the streets to protect the banks after the Henan branch of the Bank of China declared that the people’s savings in their branch are now ‘investment products’ and can’t be withdrawn.

If the wealthiest nations in the world can barely get their houses in order, it gives little hope that the rest of the world will ever be able to do the same. We’re seeing zero percent rates to fight inflation in Europe. We’re seeing 2% rates to fight inflation in Canada. And in America, no one wanted to raise rates last week, or the week prior, but this week will do. All the while, the other world’s superpower, China, is freezing customer deposits because they asked for their money back.

Maybe all these little cracks here and there are manageable at the moment, but eventually it will all come to the forefront; the world is not there yet, but that time is coming soon. When the next crisis hits, we’ll enter a Brave New World of monetary policies, and more civil unrest, since all global monetary policies are destined to fail.

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Libertarian, Conservative, and Postliberal: Is There a Common Ground for the Right?

It’s been already two weeks since I began my own fellowship at the very Mises Institute. During this time a lot of things have already happened, both in the local American scene as well as in the rest of the world--my own country, Ecuador, included.

Given my own affinities with ideas from various sources in the political right, from the classical liberalism of Mises and Hayek and the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard and Hoppe to the traditional conservatism of Burke and Scruton and the novel post-liberalism of Deneen, Vermeule and Ahmari, I was amazed and intrigued to read a fairly recent article by Mises Institute President, Jeff Deist, discussing the rise in the popularity of this last group and of its ideas.

For a person like me, who tries to navigate the muddy waters between libertarianism and conservatism, ideological tags have become meaningless. In Ecuador, where media and academia are dominated by the progressive left and its liquid culture, politics has become synonymous with nepotism, corruption, and inefficiency.

There have been instances where I have tried to combine my libertarian and my conservative leanings into a single philosophy, as some kind of liberal illiberalism; an economic skepticism of the organization of the modern State;  a practical and moral defense, from a socialist and nationalist perspective, of the existence of private property; and even a conservative interpretation of the tenet of the Austrian School of Economics. But none of these attempts seem to get to the point where a viable mix of libertarianism and conservatism is developed.

In a spontaneous coincidence more than a deliberate attempt, Jeff and I have been thinking about the same issues. This is not the first time he has theorized on ways to introduce free market and sound money ideas into the school of conservative thought that seems to be fashionable in the moment.

But Austro-libertarianism paradoxically seems to follow the Burkean way, in which our intellectual development as a doctrine expands with moderation and prudence. Conservatism, or at least, American conservatism, has adopted the old leftist vice of infighting, reducing itself into warring factions against each other, where the least difference in theory (or the popularity of a certain leading figure) is reason enough for the movement to break its fragile peace or for a new faction to arise.

For conservatives and libertarians in the ground, working 8 to 5 jobs while trying to get involved in local and grassroot politics-- and most importantly, struggling to survive with freedom and dignity in a world where the most ridiculous whims of our ruling classes get imposed with legislation and enforced with the state’s monopoly on taxation and violence--petty conflicts within the conservative intellectual and managerial class seem truly unimportant. They not only demonstrate the instability of a movement that lacks power, but also steal our most precious and irreplaceable resource, which is time.

Nonetheless, there seems to be something different about the rise of post-liberalism, even with its internal differences and with career politicians trying to capitalize on its apparent success.

It may be because its leading figures, having learnt from the Donald Trump experience and from his successes and mistakes in the American presidency, have become wiser in the handling the conservative movement.

For instance, the political Catholicism of the likes of Vermeule, Deneen and Ahmari don’t seem to be at odds with the Aristotelian nationalism of the Claremont Institute, and in many senses both end up embraced by institutions like Hillsdale College or the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. They don't shiver to invite people like Jordan Peterson, Michael Rectenwald, or SCOTUS Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (all of them cancel culture victims) speak at its events.

With the notable exception of the neocons, well represented by opportunistic career Republicans like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney (both of whom seem despised and rejected by all factions of this new American Right), the conservative movement looks to be building bridges, both internally and externally. It is creating platforms like NatCon conferences to allow their ideas to spread indiscriminately, and promoting them in countries with likeminded governments (like Orbán’s Hungary) to get connected to their fellow figures (like Nigel Farage or Marion Maréchal) in Europe.

But the Austro-libertarian movement is missing on the opportunity to participate in the development of this new New Right, even if this could be the right opportunity for a true paleo revival, without the mistakes in economic doctrine that made the first attempt fail. Rothbard pushed for his free-market vision, while Pat Buchanan twisted his view on economic protectionism into an outright state-planned economy.

In two occasions, while hosting my podcast for the Spanish newspaper España - Navarra Confidencial, I had the chance to discuss the possibility of a new libertarian-conservative fusion, the first one with our aforementioned Jeff Deist and Hillsdale professor Brad Birzer. The common ground between the two views were that the state was indeed a danger for freedom and community, and that a neo-fusionist movement could indeed work to recover culture, family values and decentralization.

In here, the term neo-fusionist that both Jeff used and I am now using is a clear reference to the doctrine of Frank Meyer, considered by President Ronald Reagan as his most intellectual influence,  a political philosopher who tried to unite elements of libertarianism and traditionalism into a single philosophical synthesis of the two. This received much criticism from both libertarian and conservative figures like Harry V. Jaffa (the intellectual father-figure of modern Claremonters) Paul Gottfried (a paleoconservative thinker and now the editor of the Chronicles magazine), along with our own Murray Rothbard (who saw in Meyer a rather lost and confused libertarian).

The second time was in another podcast discussion, with our own Mises Wire assistant editor Tho Bishop and his peer at Chronicles, Pedro Gonzalez where the main focus was the political strategy for a paleo revival considering the cultural and demographic changes in the US since the 90s. Both of them agreed with me on most issues, from local political action and the main problems to tackle, to the immediate use of state power to solve those problems, given there was no private alternative, and that, moreover, the private sector was caught itself into the woke madness.

In the US, there is a genuine opportunity to allow for right-libertarians a space into the post-liberal Right. Outside the US,  the libertarian name is getting tarnished by the inoperancy, alienation and cluelessness of beltway libertarian-influenced politicians such as my own country’s president, Guillermo Lasso, and his advisors, whose public policy ideas are as unrelated to the local situation, with its many security and poverty problems, as DC staffers are unrelated to the issues of Common Joe in Middle America.

Quoting from the end words of Jeff’s essay, "Have we lost "liberal" forever? Maybe. If liberalism is dead, then liberals killed it. I'm doubtful we can ever reclaim it. Perhaps we need a new word for organizing society through property, peace, trade, and sound money”, but I also add, have we lost “libertarian” too?

While I am not as pessimist with that, and I still believe there is chance for right-libertarianism to be a force for political action, I wouldn’t call myself as such, not only because there is a concern for me to be put into the same bag as my unlikely-to-get-reelected local government, but because it is only half of what I believe.

I do think, though, that we should remember and apply what Jeff proposed in his “For A New Libertarian” speech, that is, to fight for what matters for the common man, understanding that these fights, pretty much unrelated to libertarianism, are what form the basis of the abstract freedom libertarians strive for.

We cannot forget both Rothbard and Hoppe began with the most absolute individualistic rationalism in their thinking to end up admiring the freedom of traditional medieval order in Europe in his first volume of his Austrian. Perspective on the History of Economic Thought and developing a rather reactionary and aristocratic communitarianism in his magnum opus, Democracy: The God That Failed, respectively.

Neither should we forget that the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, came from a fairly liberal and Whig background, both as an intellectual and as a statesman, without that getting into conflict with his Anglo-Irish and Christian (both Anglican and Catholic) roots.

At last, more as an anecdote than as an example, both great English traditionalist of the late 19th century, G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc were involved with classical liberalism while maintaining their own religious and traditionalist beliefs. Chesterton stated in his book Orthodoxy  that "I was brought up a Liberal, and have always believed in democracy, in the elementary liberal doctrine of a self-governing humanity”, while Belloc was elected as a Member of the British Parliament supported by the British Liberal Party.

I would like to finish by bringing up John Adams famous words about the US Constitution, “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. […] The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.”

John Adams understood that self-government, decentralization, and individual freedoms needed a moral framework to thrive, to develop to its full potential, for their respect was not enforced by an all-powerful government, but by a shared common tradition that guided the lives of all under their same provisions.

It was the moderation and tolerance of the Christian tradition in the Anglosphere the created the right conditions for classical liberalism to be applied and be the framework for the establishment of the American Republic, and the Catholic virtue of the Habsburgs in their rule over the Spanish and Danubian Empires that led to the development of the Salamanca and Austrian Schools.

On the other hand, it was the excesses of the Continental Liberals, as christened by F.A. Hayek, with their hyper-rationalist constructivism that led from Revolution, Jacobinism, expansive nationalism, and Marxist Socialism up to the horrors of Bolshevik Leninism, Soviet Stalinism, and German Nazism.

Continental Liberalism, as extreme as today’s Progressive Liberalism, also lead to the radical ideas of ultramontanism and dictatorship promoted by Maistre and Donoso Cortés and later taken up by Carl Schmitt.

It is better for us libertarians and conservatives to be together and follow Burke and Meyer into a neo-fusionist path, before our bona fide conservative intellectuals, pushed to the extreme by our corporatocratic elites and their loyal woke hordes, decide to follow the Counter Enlightenment path.

So even if libertarians and conservatives seem opposed at times, we both belong together as different sides of the same golden coin, counterbalancing each other excesses, and recognizing each other’s value.

Only through virtue, we can get order and freedom, understood as self-government, and only through free self-government we can get prosperity. There is no other way.

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Language and Political Symbolism As a Libertarian Strategy

05/19/2022Andreas Granath

The use of symbols and language to spread ideologies have been practiced for thousands of years. The first symbols to represent ideas were religious ones and were used to spread the teachings of deities. During the 19th century political symbols started to emerge and today almost every political party and ideology has its own. Symbols share the same advantage as pictures - namely, they are worth a thousand words. It is through repeated viewing that symbols serve their purpose.

It does not matter whether the viewers know what the symbols represent or not. Should they know the meaning of a symbol and agree with what it represents it would most likely fortify their beliefs. For those who do not agree with what the symbol represents it could change their minds or at least make them getting used to it. If the viewers are not familiar with a particular symbol, then in some cases it can awaken a certain curiosity which ultimately could change their minds. So, symbols are very much like company logos; they are used for marketing.

The development of language is derived from human action and has been influenced by various cultures. Each culture has developed their own type of language as a reflection of that culture. The relationship between culture and language goes both ways: culture affects the use of language and vice versa. Language and the use of words have a powerful impact on our lives and perception of the natural and social world around us.

Historical and Present Day Usage

Some of the most familiar political symbols is the swastika. It originates from Asia and is used as a symbol for luck or for the sun. In the West we know the 45° rotated version of it as a symbol for National Socialism (Nazism). What many people don't know, is that the Nazis also took control over the German language using euphemisms and slogans. A mass-murder operation, for instance, was called aktion meaning 'action'. 

Though the political agenda has swung and mass murder of certain people is no longer on the agenda, we see the same things happening today on a whole new level. In Sweden, where I live, left wing egalitarians started to take control over the use of Swedish during the early 2010s. The rainbow flag and female gender symbol were heavily adopted during this period and are increasing in popularity.

Regarding the use of language, there are lots of words in the Swedish language which have been almost banned to fit the egalitarian view. The Swedish spelling dictionary Svenska Akademiens Ordlista (SAOL) is gaining new egalitarian words to its glossary each year and losing older "less including" and "negative" words. The most discussed new word in Swedish is the gender-neutral personal pronoun hen. Up until recently, we would use han, meaning 'he', and hon, meaning 'she'. Even though Swedes still use the words for 'he' and 'she' the gender-neutral hen is being used more frequently. Especially in mainstream media and woke circles.

What Libertarians Can Learn

Symbols and words are proven to be powerful tools and I strongly advocate that libertarians use these as well. Unfortunately, libertarianism does not have a specific symbol. Although, not originally a libertarian symbol, the Gadsden flag has been adopted by many libertarians and is perhaps the most used and recognized symbol for libertarianism.

Like any other political ideology, libertarianism has its different types. Thus, the anarcho-capitalist flag and the agorist a3 symbol may also be used. The question is, does libertarianism need its own symbol or should we stick to the good old Gadsden flag? Since the Gadsden flag is already associated with libertarianism, it has an advantage over a potential new symbol. However, the Gadsden flag is a rather complex symbol to either draw by hand or make jewelry, such as pendants out of. A new symbol, therefore, could come in handy.

As of language and semantics, I think libertarians should brush up their vocabulary and call things for what they are. I will present a few suggestions for what libertarians can do to improve their rhetoric and everyday speech.

First of all, there is no private sector existing other than in the black markets. The private sector as most people know it, is merely pseudo-private since it is heavily regulated and taxed.

Second, a proper use of the term ownership is needed to make non-libertarians understand the meaning of true ownership. Libertarians share a sound understanding of what ownership is. Thus, we recognize that there is no such thing as common ownership. Again, call it by its name; common utilization. Our public enemy number one, the state, deserves a more suitable name like the mob or the monopoly on violence/force.

Lastly, I want to challenge libertarians and Austrians to avoid using the term capitalism. Over the years, the term has gotten so misinterpretated and negatively used that there is no gain in using it. We must also recognize that we live in a mixed economy, and that there is no true capitalism in any country at this day. I propose using the terms free market, laissez-faire or voluntary exchange (market) when talking about true capitalism.

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Let's End Tax Withholding

03/14/2022Bill Bergman

Florida Senator Rick Scott recently kicked over a beehive when he included an income tax increase for most Americans in his 11-point plan to ‘Rescue America.’ The fifth point of that plan, titled ‘Economy/Growth,’ included ‘All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.’

How does this happen? Many low-to-moderate income households have standard deductions and child tax credits that effectively eliminate their federal income tax liability.

Why should they have ‘skin in the game?’ One could argue that many taxpayers – and voters – would be significantly less likely to vote for politicians supporting expensive government programs if they had to pay a price for them.

However, if a federal income tax has to exist (it doesn’t have to, of course), there is a better way to sensitize Americans to the cost of government. 

In World War II, the federal government laid the modern framework for income tax collection in the “Current Tax Payment Act of 1943.” The federal government forced employers to set aside a portion of the paychecks for their employees and send it to the government, adding income tax collection services to employers’ legal responsibilities.

The practice didn’t expire with the end of World War II, given its attractiveness to government and special interest groups benefitting from government spending and other policies.

Income tax withholding dramatically improved the government’s ability to raise revenue, but it also desensitized taxpayers to the cost of taxes.

Consider an alternative – a law forbidding the federal government from skimming paychecks like this. Instead, individual income taxpayers would calculate their income tax liability like they do now, but they would have to pay any tax liability after it was calculated.

This isn’t just about ‘skin in the game.’ Ending income tax withholding would improve the transparency and integrity of the tax system, period.

But income tax withholding has been an attractive, powerful tool in the government’s toolbox. It remains firmly entrenched. Republicans and Democrats alike don’t want to touch it. It didn’t find its way into Gov. Scott’s 11-point plan, even as he expressed a desire for all Americans to have some ‘skin in the game.’

One possible downside to ending income tax withholding could be that government would borrow more money if extracting taxes proved more politically problematic. But that would be a challenge for another day.

Speaking of challenges for another day, consider whether Social Security and Medicare withholding should be part of this.

But ending income tax withholding, today, could be a great step forward. Who in Congress will step forward?

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Leonard Read, Thanksgiving, and the Essence of Americanism

11/24/2021Gary Galles

Thanksgiving plays an important role in Americans’ views of ourselves and our heritage. The mere fact that it is time off from work and school cannot by itself explain how many travel to be with those they care about to celebrate. But our understanding does not extend very deep, because the Pilgrims started from a communal or communist system, and only moved to a private property-rights based system that many, even in this woke time, now celebrate, because they were starving.

That change gave us now far more to celebrate now than the pilgrims did then, because private-property based systems prohibit violations of one anothers’ rights, and enable the greatest area for competitive advancements.

In excellent way to review the essential contributors to the bounty Americans’ now celebrate (even in hard times for many) is to consider an excerpt from Leonard Read’s traditional opening address at Foundation for Economic Education seminars, first given 60 years ago.

The American people are becoming more and more afraid of, and are running away from, their own revolution.

Our Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth Rock…began the practice of…from each according to ability, to each according to need--and by force! [But] these communalistic or communistic practices were discontinued…because the members of the Pilgrim colony were starving and dying.

During the third winter Governor Bradford got together with the remaining members of the colony and said to them, in effect…“We are going to try the idea of ‘to each according to merit,’”…the private property principle…nothing more nor less than each individual having a right to the fruits of his own labor…Governor Bradford records that “Any generall wante or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

This private property principle…[led] to what I refer to as the real American revolution…The real American revolution was a novel concept or idea which broke with the whole political history of the world.

Up until 1776 men had been contesting with each other, killing each other by the millions, over the age-old question of which of the numerous forms of authoritarianism--that is, man-made authority--should preside as sovereign over man. And then, in 1776…the new idea…“that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”…This is the essence of Americanism. This is the rock upon which the whole “American miracle” was founded.

It…[denied] that the state is the endower of man’s rights, thus declaring that the state is not sovereign.

It is one thing to state such a revolutionary concept as this; it’s quite another thing to implement it--to put it into practice. To accomplish this, our Founding Fathers added two political instruments--the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These two instruments were essentially a set of prohibitions; prohibitions not against the people but against the thing the people…had learned to fear, namely, over-extended government.

[America] more severely limited government than government had ever before been limited in the history of the world. And there were benefits that flowed from this severe limitation of the state.

There wasn’t a single person who turned to the government for security, welfare, or prosperity because government was so limited that it had nothing on hand to dispense, nor did it then have the power to take from some that it might give to others. To what or to whom do people turn if they cannot turn to government for security, welfare, or prosperity?...to themselves.

All over the world the American people gained the reputation of being self-reliant.

When government is limited to the inhibition of the destructive actions of men--that is, when it is limited to inhibiting fraud and depredation, violence and misrepresentation, when it is limited to invoking a common justice--then there is no organized force standing against the productive or creative actions of citizens. As a consequence of this limitation on government, there occurred a freeing, a releasing, of creative human energy, on an unprecedented scale.

This was the combination mainly responsible for the “American miracle,” founded on the belief that the Creator, not the state, is the endower of man’s rights.

This manifested itself…as individual freedom of choice. People had freedom of choice as to how they employed themselves. They had freedom of choice as to what they did with the fruits of their own labor.

But something happened to this remarkable idea of ours, this revolutionary concept…the people we placed in government office as our agents…discovered that the force which inheres in government, which the people had delegated to them in order to inhibit the destructive actions of man, this monopoly of force could be used to invade the productive and creative areas in society.

The extent to which government in America has departed from the original design of inhibiting the destructive actions of man and invoking a common justice; the extent to which government has invaded the productive and creative areas; the extent to which the government in this country has assumed the responsibility for the security, welfare, and prosperity of our people is a measure of the extent to which socialism and communism have developed here in this land of ours.

There was a time, about…[1840], when the average citizen had somewhere between 95 and 98 percent freedom of choice with each of his income dollars. That was because the tax take of the government--federal, state, and local--was between 2 and 5 percent of the earned income of the people. But, as the emphasis shifted from this earlier design, as government began to move in to invade the productive and creative areas and to assume the responsibility for the security, welfare, and prosperity of the people, the percentage of the take of the people’s earned income increased. The percentage of the take kept going up and up and up.

Has there ever been an instance, historically, when a country has been on this toboggan and succeeded in reversing itself?...The only significant one took place in England after the Napoleonic Wars.

England’s debt, in relation to her resources, was larger than ours [in 1961]; her taxation was confiscatory; restrictions on the exchanges of goods and services were numerous, and there were strong controls on production and prices. Had it not been for the smugglers, many people would have starved!

There were in England such men as John Bright and Richard Cobden, men who understood the principle of freedom of exchange. Over in France, there was a politician by the name of Chevalier, and an economist named Frederic Bastiat.

Bastiat was feeding his brilliant ideas to Cobden and Bright, and these men were preaching the merits of freedom of exchange. Members of Parliament listened and, as a consequence, there began the greatest reform movement in British history.

Parliament repealed the Corn Laws, which here would be like repealing subsidies to farmers. They repealed the Poor Laws, which here would be like repealing Social Security. And fortunately for them they had a monarch…who relaxed the authority that the English people themselves believed to be implicit in her office. She gave them…a permissive kind of freedom…Englishmen, as a result, roamed all over the world achieving unparalleled prosperity and building an enlightened empire.

This development continued until just before World War I. Then the same old political disease set in again…It has many popular names…such as socialism, communism, state interventionism, and welfare statism. It has other names such as fascism and Nazism. It has some local names like New Deal, Fair Deal, New Republicanism, New Frontier, and the like.

If you will take a careful look at these so-called “progressive ideologies,” you will discover that each of them has a characteristic common to all the rest. This common characteristic is…a rapidly growing belief in the use of organized force--government--not to carry out its original function of inhibiting the destructive actions of men and invoking a common justice, but to control the productive and creative activity of citizens in society.

As this belief in the use of force as a means of creative accomplishment increases, the belief in free men--that is, men acting freely, competitively, cooperatively, voluntarily--correspondingly diminishes. Increase compulsion and freedom declines. Therefore, the solution to this problem, if there be one, must take a positive form, namely, the restoration of a faith in what free men can accomplish…either you accept the idea of the Creator as the endower of man’s rights, or you submit to the idea that the state is the endower of man’s rights…We have forgotten the real source of our rights…the free market, private property, limited government philosophy with its moral and spiritual antecedents.

The real problem is developing a leadership for this philosophy.

[It] requires that an individual achieve that degree of understanding which makes it utterly impossible for him to have any hand in supporting or giving any encouragement to any socialistic activities…however disguised. People reject socialism in name, but once any socialistic activity has been Americanized, nearly everybody thinks it’s all right.

Read the ten points of the Communist Manifesto and see how close we have come to achieving them right here in America.

The philosophy of freedom is at the very pinnacle of the hierarchy of values; and if you wish to further the cause of freedom, you must use methods that are consonant with your objective. This means relying on the power of attraction.

Freedom is an ore that lies much deeper than most of us realize…A great effort is required to dig up this ore that will save America.

We will find these miners of the freedom ore among those who love this country.

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Lockdowns: Psychology and Self-Interest

03/09/2021Lipton Matthews

Exploring the political economy of embracing lockdowns is an interesting topic for economists to research. Philip Baggus recently published a piece on the political economy of Covid-19 hysteria and it would be fascinating to read his findings if he were to study the proposed topic. Evidence indicates the futility of lockdowns, yet they are still widely embraced. That support for lockdowns remains pervasive suggests that something greater than a desire to conform is at work.

Humans are rational actors interested in minimizing costs and believing that lockdowns work is a reassuring and inexpensive alternative to taking responsibility for one’s health. Lockdowns shift the burden of responsibility to politicians by relieving citizens of their duty to act on their own accord. Hence, accepting the ineffectiveness of lockdowns may force them to adjust their lifestyles to the reality of Covid-19. But the truth is that most people lack the discipline to change their diet to suit the reality of Covid-19 and neither are they willing to be guided by research in the process. For example, some studies argue that the consumption of Vitamin D can reduce the impact of Covid-19. However, the average person will not engage in serious research to protect himself from Covid-19, this is simply time-consuming

So, affirming the value of lockdowns makes it easier for people to use their time efficiently without concern for Covid-19. Hence, one can increase leisure by outsourcing responsibility to government bureaucrats who promote lockdowns. The average person is rarely fond of research and doing it to preserve his health is not a major motivator. For matters of health, people rely on medical opinion, only few opt to conduct independent research. Lockdowns are therefore popular, due to self-interest. Rejecting this option forces people to be responsible for their well-being and this may prove to be costly for those of us who are uninterested in allotting time to understand the complexities of a novel disease.

Moreover, unlike ordinary people, experts advocate lockdowns, since they confer psychic benefits in the form of improved social status. Prior to Covid-19, many of these experts were unknown, but today they are prominent characters. Because of Covid-19, they are now able to write articles telling politicians how they can make lockdowns more effective. Yet medical practitioners are not the only people benefiting from the hysteria of Covid-19. There has been a great demand for psychologists to explain why people might oppose anti-Covid -19 measures. Covid-19 creates several opportunities for experts to boost their popularity, so they are encouraged to amplify the dangers of the disease.

Another factor responsible for the sacralization of lockdowns is the fear that skepticism will engender a moral hazard. Covid-19 is portrayed as a pandemic and experts believe that tolerating skepticism could result in the justification of inane theories that are in opposition to preventing the spread of the disease. Therefore, experts aim to manage chaos by maligning skeptical voices. In short, cooperation is vital for the success of society and becomes extremely important, during a pandemic. Entertaining skeptical positions can deter cooperation, so managing dissent could be a rational option for experts in a perceived pandemic. If people are critical of lockdowns, they can also be skeptical of policies able to reduce transmissions.

I have presented a theory, now I expect a brave economist to test the hypothesis. And I think that Philip Baggus is up to the task. I hope he accepts the offer.

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Lockdowns Destroyed the Democracy of the Marketplace

"We're closed."

These are terrible words to see in front of your favorite small shops and services when you are in the mood to purchase something you desire, or ready to pay for something you wish to avail of. This feeling is made even worse emotionally when you know the closures are forced and permanent, and that you sadly and ultimately could not do anything about it.

It may not be the case that these businesses were bad and died a natural death, and may in fact be quite the contrary. You are probably a dedicated customer, and one among many that happily voted to keep those enterprises running by paying for what they offered, because you and others genuinely liked them. These businesses could have thrived under normal circumstances.

However, when a business was one of the casualties of regulations that limited its ability to operate, and when you were forced to stay at home and became unable to spend on it as often as before, you were essentially denied the ability to vote for its continued existence.

A diverse and plentiful number of micro, small and medium enterprises makes up the bulk of any healthy economy. It is normal to see that such entities comprise the vast majority of business activities in countries around the world. The economy has to thrive at different levels to cater to the tastes and needs of people from all walks of life. This natural phenomenon has been demonstrated consistently over the course of human history.

These days, the depressing news that hits consumers around the world is that of the mass closure of smaller businesses. These would be last seen offering final services that could not even be given fully due to limitations imposed upon them. These are the stores that found themselves severely hampered by the policies governing the economy created in the wake of the pandemic, through no fault of their own. While some undoubtedly survived by adapting to circumstances, as competent entrepreneurial entities should, many did not.

If a business is limited, for example, to only be able to serve an arbitrarily small number of customers at any given time, how can it hope to get by as it normally would? Yet such limitations exist around the world, decreed in the name of stopping the spread of COVID-19. For example, shops that used to be able to tend to twenty customers at once could have had their maximum number of potential clients reduced to just five at a time.

What this does in practice for countries with large populations is that customers would sometimes have to line up outside shops or gather in large crowds for a long time anyway due to space limitations. In that case, was the objective of the policy, presumably to create social distancing, successfully met? That said, these cases are supposed to be the lucky ones. Some businesses could not even reopen at all due to other such restrictions that worked unfavorably against them.

Disasters and market fluctuations happen, sure, and these sometimes trigger the closure and death of certain businesses. Risk and uncertainty are always integral parts of lived experiences, and we make decisions and judgements based on our perception of them. But the very problem posed here is that closures enabled through harsh restrictions could have been avoided entirely. Some business deaths were preventable, and it would be a disservice to simply blame everything on the pandemic.

In these times, where consumers are stuck at home and unable to spend on the goods and services they would otherwise like to avail of, people are essentially barred from the democracy of markets. On the consumer side, it has become difficult to patronize favorite businesses as in pre-pandemic times. On the producer side, it has also become difficult to provide goods and services in a way that allows for continued and efficient operations in a “pandemic market”.

With many small businesses tragically and irreversibly gone —and more to follow suit as countries continue to scramble to get their acts together— we need to create a healthy and competitive global economy. We should start by remembering the importance of enabling market democracy.

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Libertarian Terrorists?

02/02/2021Ron Paul

The Department of Homeland Security issued on Wednesday a nationwide terror alert lasting until April 30. The alert warns of potential terrorist attacks from Americans who are “ideologically motivated” and have “objections to the exercise of government authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.”

The language used in this alert suggests that millions of Americans are potential terrorists. Second Amendment–supporting, antiwar, antitax, antipolitics, antimilitarization, pro-life, and anti–Federal Reserve activists certainly have “objections to the exercise of government authority.” They are certainly viewed by the political class and its handmaidens in Big Tech and the mainstream media as ideological extremists. Anyone who gets his news from sources other than mainstream media or Big Tech, or who uses certain “unapproved” social media platforms, is considered to have had his grievances “fueled by false narratives.” For something to be considered a false narrative, it need only contradict the “official” narrative.

The "domestic terrorist” alert is the latest sign that the activities on January 6 on Capitol Hill, like the attacks of September 11, 2001, are being used to advance a long-standing antiliberty agenda. Legislation expanding the federal government’s authority to use its surveillance and other unconstitutional powers against “domestic terrorists” is likely to soon be considered by Congress. Just as the PATRIOT Act was written years before 2001, this legislation was written long before January 6. The bill’s proponents are simply taking advantage of the hysteria following the so-called insurrection to push the bill onto the congressional agenda.

Former CIA director John Brennan recently singled out libertarians as among the people the government should go after. This is not the first time libertarians have been smeared. In 2009, a federally funded fusion center identified people who supported my presidential campaign, my Campaign for Liberty, or certain Libertarian and Constitution Parties’ candidates as potentially violent extremists.

The idea that libertarianism creates terrorists is absurd. Libertarians support the nonaggression principle, so they reject using force to advance their political goals. They rely instead on peaceful persuasion.

Libertarianism is being attacked because it does not support just reforming a few government policies. Instead, it presents a formidable intellectual challenge to the entire welfare-warfare state.

The ultimate goal of those pushing for a crackdown on “domestic terrorism” is to make people unwilling to even consider “radical” ideas—to make people so afraid of certain ideas that they refuse to even give those ideas a fair hearing.

Progressives who are tempted to support what is being promoted as a crackdown on right-wing violence should consider the history of government harassment of progressive movements and leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. What do they think a future right-wing authoritarian would do if given power to go after “ideological extremists”?

All Americans who cherish the Bill of Rights should come together to stop this latest crackdown on liberty. My Campaign for Liberty will be mobilizing Americans to stop passage of any domestic terrorism legislation, while my Institute for Peace and Prosperity and my Liberty Report will provide Americans with the most up-to-date information about the continuing attempts to smear those who speak the truth about government lies.

(You can watch the Ron Paul Liberty Report live on YouTube Monday-Friday at noon, eastern time.)

Reprinted with permission.

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Lockdowns in Europe Are Back. Turns Out Early Lockdowns Didn't "Beat the Virus" after All.

10/20/2020Ryan McMaken

Back in August, European politicians were threatening lockdowns and calling for "vigilance." But given the economic devastation wrought by full, nationwide lockdowns, politicians have become fearful of going down that road again. For example, in the Czech Republic, where the seven-day average for reported covid deaths has surged from 7 to 66,  the central government has stated it won't make a decision about lockdowns for two more weeks. Meanwhile, Czech citizens are protesting against what restrictions are in place. 

But elsewhere in Europe, restrictions are quickly escalating.

Belgium: all bars, cafes, restaurants must close.

Ireland: people are required to limit movement, stay out of each other's homes.

France: new nighttime curfews.

Spain: people can't leave or enter Madrid for nonessential reasons.

Netherlands: a maximum of three people in your home per day.

It should be noted that Spain, Ireland, and Belgium have had some of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. Belgium never really ended strict measures and has always had very draconian measures on gatherings, even during the summer, as other countries were raising restrictions. Belgium now has the worst national covid death rate in Europe.

In Spain, of course, the lockdowns were notoriously strict during spring 2020, with families not even permitted to leave their apartments to gather with family outside.

It was claimed this would all "beat the virus." Of course, lockdowns do no such thing.

As Dr. Gilbert Berdine has noted here at mises.org:

The data suggest that lockdowns have not prevented any deaths from covid-19. At best, lockdowns have deferred death for a short time, but they cannot possibly be continued for the long term. It seems likely that one will not have to even compare economic deprivation with loss of life, as the final death toll following authoritarian lockdowns will most likely exceed the deaths from letting people choose how to manage their own risk.

In Sweden, there is still no sign of any resurgence of covid deaths. There is no lockdown, and no general mask mandate. Death rates in Spain, Belgium, Italy, and eastern Europe continue to get worse while Sweden's rate remains stable.

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Lew Rockwell and I Discuss Commie Cowboys

09/11/2020Ryan McMaken

A reader recently reminded me of this great old podcast from 2013. Lew Rockwell and I talk for half an hour about my little book Commie Cowboys, the politics of the Western genre, and why the anti-Westerns were better than those old John Wayne ones.

We cover lots of stuff about the frontier, war, pop culture, and more. Lew cracks some great jokes in here.

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