Jul 152015
 

Tell someone on the left that crony capitalism is not the same as the free market and they’ll often respond that capitalism as it really exists is crony capitalism. They will say that there has never been an instance of capitalism in which government-sponsored or government-abetted cronyism didn’t play a substantial role — either through war, taxation, or slavery — in a market economy. As a result, the failings of crony capitalism — corruption, privilege, oppression, business cycles — are simply the failings of capitalism itself.

One correct response is to show that the less intervention there has been, the less corrupt, privileged, oppressive, and unstable the socioeconomic order also has been. Many would simply reiterate that, historically, laissez-faire capitalism has never existed, nor could it exist, without interventionism. They simply will not or cannot distinguish the free market from state capitalism, corporate capitalism, or other forms of the mixed economy.

Which is perhaps why some on the left have adopted the term “neoliberalism,” a perfectly good word that has come to represent an imbroglio of vaguely market-cum-corporativist views. They can’t imagine how markets could work without some form of state intervention holding it all together. And that’s probably because they reject what economist Peter Boettke calls “mainline economics,” or economics in the tradition of Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, and Carl Menger, among others.

Continue reading »

Share Button
Aug 252014
 

#11 – Rich People Have an Obligation to Give Back

For a society that has fed, clothed, housed, cared for, informed, entertained, and otherwise enriched more people at higher levels than any in the history of the planet, there sure is a lot of groundless guilt in America.

Manifestations of that guilt abound. The example that peeves me the most is the one we often hear from well-meaning philanthropists who adorn their charitable giving with this little chestnut: “I want to give something back.” It always sounds as though they’re apologizing for having been successful.

Translated, that statement means something like this: “I’ve accumulated some wealth over the years. Never mind how I did it, I just feel guilty for having done it. There’s something wrong with my having more than somebody else, but don’t ask me to explain how or why because it’s just a fuzzy, uneasy feeling on my part. Because I have something, I feel obligated to have less of it. It makes me feel good to give it away because doing so expunges me of the sin of having it in the first place. Now I’m a good guy, am I not?”

Continue reading »

Share Button
Aug 182014
 

Most longtime readers know that I have often warned that our government has evolved into benevolent totalitarianism.

This is a gentle term for fascism. No, we don’t have the jack boots and the swastika. Our system is far advanced from that. Our fascism today is so advanced over Nazi Germany and fascist Italy of World War II that our system actually appears benevolent.

How could this happen? The answer is: reverse semantics. Every writer and every talking head in America refer to the U.S. as a democracy of free market capitalism and individual privacy and property rights. This is a big laugh to any sober, thinking person.

Well, the system and its paid politicians still repeat those high-sounding terms. They use the terms like “privacy” and “free market” as sedatives to the crowd. The terms “private” and “freedom” no longer mean what they once did. They are cruel deceptions that fool the mind yearning for human freedom.

Continue reading »

Share Button
Aug 132014
 

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

People often ask me, “When did you become an anarchist?” It’s not an easy question to answer. Deep changes in one’s intellectual outlook do not happen overnight. You first entertain the idea. Then you assess its plausibility. You might even embrace the idea fully, but only in the abstract. Real intellectual change comes when you can see how the idea works in the real world—even in your daily life. That’s when confidence in an idea comes.

For this reason, it always mystifies me that anyone could become a socialist. It is the least plausible idea imaginable. Scarce goods cannot be literally owned on a socialist basis. Try socializing your laptop or your shoes or any capital or consumer good. Two people cannot be simultaneous and full owners of the same thing. Socialism always ends in State ownership and control, which leads to disaster every time it’s fully implemented. Real-life socialists either don’t understand the idea or they just decide to live in an illusion.

Continue reading »

Share Button
Jul 232014
 

In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets and economic liberty, and laissez-faire capitalism, rightly understood.

During the dark days of Nazi collectivism in Europe, the German economist, Wilhelm Röpke(1899-1966), used the haven of neutral Switzerland to write and lecture on the moral and economic principles of the free society.

“Collectivism,” he warned, “was the fundamental and moral danger of the West.” The triumph of collectivism meant, “nothing less than political and economic tyranny, regimentation, centralization of every department of life, the destruction of personality, totalitarianism and the rigid mechanization of human society.”

If the Western world were to be saved, Röpke said, it would require a “renaissance of [classical] liberalism” springing “from an elementary longing for freedom and for the resuscitation of human individuality.”

Continue reading »

Share Button
Jul 072014
 

#7 – The Free Market Ignores the Poor

Once an activity has been socialized for a spell, nearly everyone will concede that that’s the way it should be.

Without socialized education, how would the poor get their schooling? Without the socialized post office, how would farmers receive their mail except at great expense? Without Social Security, the aged would end their years in poverty! If power and light were not socialized, consider the plight of the poor families in the Tennessee Valley!

Agreement with the idea of state absolutism follows socialization, appallingly. Why? One does not have to dig very deep for the answer.

Once an activity has been socialized, it is impossible to point out, by concrete example, how men in a free market could better conduct it. How, for instance, can one compare a socialized post office with private postal delivery when the latter has been outlawed? It’s something like trying to explain to a people accustomed only to darkness how things would appear were there light. One can only resort to imaginative construction.

Continue reading »

Share Button
Jun 232014
 

#6 – Capitalism Fosters Greed and Government Policy Must Temper It

On April 19, 2014, the Colonial Bread store in my town of Newnan, Georgia, closed its doors after a decade in business. The parent company explained, “In order to focus more sharply on our core competencies, the decision was made to close some of our retail stores.” A longtime patron responded in the local newspaper this way: “It’s just sad. It’s simply greed and we’re on the receiving end. It’s frustrating to know there isn’t anything you can do about it either.”

Now there’s a rather expansive view of “greed” if there ever was one! Trying to make more efficient the business in which you’ve invested your time and money is somehow a greedy thing to do? And what is it that the disgruntled patron wishes should be done about it? Perhaps pass a law to effectively enslave the business owner and compel him to keep the store open? Who is really the greedy one here?

Continue reading »

Share Button
Jun 092014
 

The production of money in a free society is a matter of free association. Everybody from the miners to the owners of the mines, to the minters, and up to the customers who buy the minted coins — all benefit from the production of money. None of them violates the property rights of anybody else, because everybody is free to enter the mining and minting business, and nobody is obliged to buy the product.

Things are completely different once we turn to money production in interventionist regimes, which have prevailed in the West for the better part of the past 150 years. Here we need to mention in particular two institutional forms of monetary interventionism: (fraudulent) fractional reserve banking and fiat money. The common characteristic of both these institutions is that they violate the principle of free association. They enable the producers of paper money and of money titles to expand their production through the violation of other people’s property rights.

Continue reading »

Share Button
Jun 092014
 

#4 — The More Complex the Society, the More Government Control We Need

Argued a college president at a recent seminar: “Your free market, private property, limited government theories were all right under the simple conditions of a century or more ago, but surely they are unworkable in today’s complex economy. The more complex the society, the greater is the need for governmental control; that seems axiomatic.”

It is important to expose this oft-heard, plausible, and influential fallacy because it leads directly and logically to socialistic planning. This is how a member of the seminar team answered the college president:

“Let us take the simplest possible situation—just you and I. Next, let us assume that I am as wise as any President of the United States who has held office during your lifetime. With these qualifications in mind, do you honestly think I would be competent to coercively control what you shall invent, discover, or create, what the hours of your labor shall be, what wage you shall receive, what and with whom you shall associate and exchange? Is not my incompetence demonstrably apparent in this simplest of all societies?

Continue reading »

Share Button
May 212014
 

#2 — Because We’re Running Out of Resources, Government Must Manage Them

Milton Friedman once said, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand.” The great economist wasn’t just being cute. He was pointing to a very serious problem with government management of resources. And in this chapter, we’ll talk about why it’s a problem. But first we should ask: Why are people so concerned that we will run out of resources? And how can we find a reasonable balance between using resources and conserving them?

When most people think about resources, they think about the possibility they might be used up. And running out of resources means there will be nothing left for future generations. This scares people. So the notion goes something like: If parents let kids get into the groceries on the first night of the camping trip, there won’t be any sandwiches left for the picnic. The parents wisely ration the resources and restrict the kids’ access so that there is something left for later. People who think government should manage resources are thinking that government will behave like wise parents. But does it?

Continue reading »

Share Button