Libertarianism is not All or Nothing

This was written almost 6 years ago by a friend of mine, who has allowed me to repost it here. He’s a gentile who knows more about the ideal Torah system of government (anarchy with privately chosen judges) than the average Gadol HaDor. Sometimes it just takes reading the book itself to remember what it actually says.

I agree with the main point of the article. I only disagree with some nomenclature. I would say that libertarianism is not really a political theory at all. It is an antipolitical theory. Every political theory suggests different degrees of force to organize society. Libertarianism eschews all of it.

I would also add that, from a Jewish “chosen people” perspective, my view is that the role of the Jewish people is first to free themselves and the rest of the world will follow. Without the Jews global freedom will never happen. I don’t know how we will free ourselves here exactly, but I trust God will enable it somehow. Just hoping to be a part of it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It’s Not All or Nothing

There was a long piece in the Daily Kos this week that ‘exposed’ libertarians and their goofy-subversive-dangerous ideas. Outside of the general snarky patina of the article, it was actually a pretty good survey of libertarian positions on most issues. There were some key, and common, characterizations that were, I felt, wide of the mark. I have chosen to highlight one that I feel is fundamental to the overall misunderstanding of the libertarian philosophy.

I am often accused of being an idealist. Unable to deal with the ‘real world,’ they say, I adhere to an ideology that has no practical application. There is no constituency to abolish the FDA, SSA, CIA, IRS, or DEA. Also, a libertarian society would provide no safety net and people could starve, or be homeless, or die without all these government programs. Imposing the libertarian system on a modern society would require everyone to accept it, and that ain’t going to happen. Idealism never works, they say, which is why all ‘isms’ fail. Libertarianism is no different from Communism. Pie in the sky, impractical, doomed to failure.

Perhaps the critique of Communism is correct. It does seem to require a violent revolution to wipe away the old bourgeois regime and replace it with a worker’s paradise in one fell swoop. If the program is not adopted in its’ entirety, it fails. Let one bourgeois remain in power and he will ruin the Communist stew. Root them out! Kill them all! Purge society of the wreckers so Communism can flourish and create a worker’s paradise. So when critics of Communism say it doesn’t work, and Communists reply that it hasn’t been tried, the Communists have a point. (Forget for a moment that successful small scale communist experiments have been carried out in the U.S. since the early 1800’s, in towns such as New Harmony and New Economy.) Both the critics of Communism and the supporters of Communism agree: what has been tried in various nations around the world has lacked the requisite purity, and they have all failed miserably. Maybe it would work if pure, but we know it won’t work if it is impure.

While Libertarianism tries to be a comprehensive political philosophy, like the Marxist and Communist theories, it does not run afoul of the same purity problem as other ‘isms.’ Impure libertarian societies have existed on a national scale, and they have been highly successful. I’m thinking of the U.S. prior to World War I. The Roman Republic before Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Hong Kong. Even the ancient Hebrews lived in a kind of libertarian world with no kings or rulers (the Jews were warned not to get a king because he would tax their wealth and send their children off to war…oh how prophetic!) In each case, the relative freedom enjoyed by individuals in those societies resulted in stable and wealthy communities. As their freedoms were curtailed, each of those societies experienced a decline in wealth, stability, and vitality (Hong Kong has not yet seen a decline, as it remains one of the freest places on earth despite belonging to a ‘communist’ country). Libertarian theory endorses the idea that more freedom means more wealth, stability, and security, while less freedom means more poverty, discontent, and conflict.

Taken to its’ logical extreme, Libertarianism calls for an entirely voluntary society. A century and a half ago, that might have been imaginable. Today, from the perspective of people who are taxed, licensed, mandated, regulated, and subsidized by a 360 degree government that alternates between kind paternalism and nasty scold, this is a ridiculous thought. Surely the Libertarian ideal is so disconnected with the world as it exists that it is not worthy of serious consideration. Problems today must be fixed with practical solutions, not pie-in-the-sky theories.

Actually, this is where Libertarianism excels. Since Libertarianism does not require perfect execution to generate positive results, it can be taken in small pieces. Example: When the airlines were “deregulated” in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was loud complaining that air travel would become more expensive and unsafe. Libertarian theory said it would become more affordable, flexible, and safer (if that was important to consumers). Indeed, that is exactly what happened. Air travel boomed. Over the next ten years fares dropped by some 50% and the number of carriers and routes doubled, making air travel affordable and practical for millions of Americans who otherwise would not have considered flying. The entire economy did not have to be deregulated, just a portion of a portion. More freedom was better, however limited.

The same thing happened with the trucking business at about the same time. The result was lower freight rates for industry and lower merchandise prices for consumers.

Alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s resulted in a wave of violent crime as gangs battled over the black market while doing little to decrease drinking. Making alcohol legal again was another step in the direction of freedom, and the unintended consequences of prohibition disappeared overnight. A similar approach is needed with marijuana, and for the same reasons: it is practical and it is the right thing to do in a free society. Theory says that society would benefit from legalizing all drugs, but it will benefit from just the first small step with marijuana.

Libertarianism is not all or nothing. In general, freedom is good, more freedom is better. It is not necessary to have a pure Libertarian system to experience the benefits of freedom. Libertarian theory can be taken to the extreme…if you want…but it can also be taken in small pieces if that is all your society can handle. No need for a violent revolution. Just the steady drip, drip, drip of ideals and practical compromise. Then, one day, we may all be free. Perfectly free.

And it will seem perfectly reasonable.

Posted by It’s Always Something

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On the Essential Difference between Utopia and an Anarcho-Capitalist Society

Is anarcho capitalism a utopian vision? Anarcho capitalism is simply the natural state of human interaction. In most normal interactions between people, the state is not involved. Someone says good morning to you. He was not mandated to do so by law, and you are not mandated to respond. But you usually do. Not out of fear of government reprisal, but because that is the decent thing to do. If you don’t, you don’t. You lose your chance for a possibly valuable social connection, most likely to your own detriment.

Almost all exchanges are voluntarily honored with no need of government courts. Almost all salaries are paid as contracted. Almost all exchanges made without involvement of state authorities. The only question is, for those that are not honored, is it best to be resolved through private insurance companies or through government entities?

The answer is private companies.

What is a utopian vision? It is the vision of one man who thinks he knows how all of humanity should interact. He then mandates it by law, because has this idea in his head that will work, but that neglects the very idea of diversity within humanity.  His vision of how humanity should interact is what becomes law. Diversity is outlawed. Anyone who chooses to interact differently is killed or imprisoned. It is Utopia or death.

The only mechanism equipped to properly handle the diversity within human existence is the free market.

Forced communism is a utopian vision. One human believes it will be best for all humans to act this way. He forces it, and most die. A utopian vision gone awry.

Same with forced anything.

The only thing that must be enforced is lack of force, and that must be enforced by competing insurance companies. A true utopian will call on force on a whim, whenever society is not acting exactly as he personally envisions it. An anarcho capitalist society resorts to force only when force is applied in the first place, in order to neutralize it.

In my attempt to get Moshe Feiglin to agree to the principle of anarcho-libertarianism, he has accused me of being utopian. I am not utopian.

I simply believe in the right of every human being not be stolen from or forced to do what he does not want to do.

Whatever results from that, results from that. But the key point is that anarcho capitalism is not seeking an end goal. Only social engineers do that. Anarcho capitalists seek justice in a pure sense. Whatever happens happens, whether it be utopia or not. We have reason to believe it would be the best of all forms of human existence. But we are not anarcho capitalists in order to achieve a certain outcome. We are what we are because we believe it is the most just way to live.

We do not seek utopia. We only seek what is right, given the facts of human existence. And given those facts, government is wrong.

Are Communism and Libertarianism Compatible? Yes. They are.

Just to clear up a common misconception, as much as I find what we commonly call “communism” detestable, it is still possible to be a communist and a libertarian. It isn’t communism per se that libertarianism rejects, but rather the forced collectivization of goods and and services into communes.

If a group of people decided that they wanted to voluntarily live in commune where the rule “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” held sway, I’d have no problem with that. Only confused libertarians would have a problem with it. The only problem with communism is that it requires force to implement. A central authority must come in and confiscate all property to collectivize it. That means the natural state of things is private individual property and communes come in with a central authority to take all property and redistribute it by force.

That usually leads to mass starvation and death, as in Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Stalin’s rape of Ukraine etc. These examples were all communism enacted by force. There have been no greater examples of mass death than these. But if communism is enacted voluntarily by people who don’t want private property but would rather work for the commune, then it can indeed work.

The classic example is the Israeli Kibbutz. People who want to live there agree to work on a communistic basis, and that’s fine, as long as they don’t force people who want to work for themselves to live there. Kibbutzim are not particularly successful enterprises in terms of amassing wealth, but if the people who live there like them and want to continue doing as they do, then libertarianism has no objection.

The same is true even for murder societies who all agree that if you live within a certain previously homesteaded area, anyone can murder you without warning. That’s fine too, as long as everyone who lives there agrees to the rules. The key is it has to be previously homesteaded. Otherwise property is appropriated by private means and the rules of that property become subject to their owner.

A voluntary communist society wouldn’t lead to much wealth creation, but it sounds attractive to sado-masochists at least, and some people like it.  You can’t argue with what makes people happy because it is subjective.

The same is true for collectivism or socialism or whatever. Libertarians are not against team sports, because everyone on the team agrees to work as a collective. Socialism per se is not a problem as long as everyone who has to fund it fully agrees to it. As long as everyone agrees, no problem.

The only thing libertarians object to is the use of force against innocents. There is literally nothing else to it. It is one of the simplest antipolitical philosophies in the world, which is what makes it so prone to error.

Deep Libertarian Thoughts on Free Market Exchange

Instead of seeing exchange as one event of give and take, see it as two distinct events: A gives B something. B gives A something. Two people are separately giving to each other. The reason for it is all in your head. Forget the reason. Just look at what’s happening. Two people are freely giving to each other, connecting, and benefiting.

We look at the event too much as a give and take, and that is what trips us up into thinking one is taking advantage of the other, or there is a more powerful and less powerful party to the transaction. But if we just observe what’s happening, we can get rid of all that. One person gives. The other person gives. The result is peace.

The only difference between charitable giving and a market exchange is that in an exchange, there are two givers, and they each have a reason for giving. In a charitable donation, there is only one giver, and only he has a reason for giving. The other party is passive.

The reason for a market exchange is a shared interest between the two. It’s what connects them. This puts market exchanges above simple charitable giving on a moral sphere, because the market connects humanity, while giving does not necessarily do so. It can, but giving does not have to connect giver and receiver. An exchange necessarily does. The market necessarily does. It requires reciprocation. Charitable giving does not.

Then why is charitable giving a mitzva? The only reason I can think of is a גזירת הכתוב. Which means there is no rational reason, which makes sense considering there is a Rabbinic limit to charitable giving at 20%. Any more and giving is considered a sin.

Rav Sa’adaya Gaon, at the beginning of אמונות ודעות, the Book of Beliefs and Opinions, pretty much the first complete work dedicated to Jewish philosophy ever written circa 800 CE – Sa’adya observes that if everyone stole from everyone else, there would be no productivity and all of humanity would starve.

That extends to charitable giving. The more people that give without reciprocity, the less production you have. The market requires production from both sides of the exchange in every exchange. Otherwise the exchange is not made. The more charity you have in the world, the less wealth, because charity does not require both parties to produce. It is unilateral. At a certain saturation point then, charitable giving harms humanity. Rabbinically, that point is 20%.

Visually too, indirect exchange through a monetary medium necessarily connects humanity, not just via the two making the exchange itself, but due to the nature of the monetary medium it forces the receiver of money to exchange with yet another person in the future.

If you see the specific good in the exchange as the point of a cone, and then the money as the funnel, the funnel of the cone sits over the seller of the good, who is the receiver of money. The point of the cone sits over the buyer. The buyer gives money to the seller. The cone opens up to a third person, because the money received must then be exchanged with another person. Otherwise the money is worthless. The buyer is in effect pointing the seller in the direction of someone else – anyone else really, urging him to further exchange and add wealth to humanity using the money he has just given the seller.

A quote from Chef, starring Jon Favreau, demonstrates this. The chef is talking to his son, who tried to lazily give a burnt sandwich to a customer:

“I may not be the best husband in the world and I’m sorry if I wasn’t the best father. But I’m good at this, and I want to share this with you. I want to teach you what I learned. I get to touch people’s lives with what I do. And it keeps me going and I love it. And I think if you give it a shot you might love it too. Now, should we have served that sandwich?”

How to Defend Army Privatization

Today some guy who heads the Israel Defense Forces, I forgot his name and I don’t care to look it up, had the great idea (really great idea, no sarcasm) of getting rid of Army Radio.  It’s causing a stir here because people here think it’s normal for an army to control the media. Literally. The army has its own radio station. On it, idiots blather about all the dumb nonsense that all the politicians say all the time.

Now, that an army should not manage a radio station is shooting fish in a barrel. It’s mainly there to stick unwilling draftees who don’t want to do anything so they sit at Galatz and doodle pictures of fish or something.

The harder thing is to argue for a private army. Some guy commented on a post I wrote a long time ago on why the IDF should be privatized. He said the following:

I thought you were cool.  A private army would make a lot more money just confiscating people’s houses than on the people’s generous donations.  That’s why there is an elected civilian making these decisions.

This is how I responded.

It’s hard to confiscate houses when there are competing companies that are equally armed, protecting their clients’ houses. It would start a war, and that would deplete capital, wouldn’t work. What could work though if they wanted to confiscate houses is they could all work together and form a single army and then there would be no competition. They could just take the houses then, but it would be more efficient if they just took a cut of everyone’s salary in a giant protection racket, letting them keep their houses so as to live off the production.

They could even rename the protection racket a “social contract” and call the theft “taxes” and everyone would cheer them and thank them too.

Gosh that sounds familiar.

Let’s all realize that we already are conquered by our own governments. The only way competing private armies could possibly take over your property is if they teamed up together as a monopoly. And the only way private armies would team up in a cartel is if a government forced it. They can and often do take your property, especially in Israel. Consider 2005 Gush Katif and the northern Shomron where the army destroyed an entire city and left 10,000 people homeless.

They can do it. They can do it with impunity. Because it is a cartel. They can do it because there is no competition. Just wholesale destruction and suicide.

If Gaza’s Jews had their own private army to protect them against the government’s IDF, the IDF would have backed down. They would not have risked a civil war with Gaza’s Jewish community. The vast majority of Jews would not have stood for it, and the invading IDF would have laid down its own weapons rather than slaughter Gaza’s Jews. In the end, nothing would have happened. It would have been a standoff, and then it would have been over, and Gush Katif and the North Shomron would still be standing.

Except in the current scenario, where the government has a monopoly on the army supply, the entire community has been destroyed.

So if you want the army to be able to just take your property and destroy it, make sure it is a monopoly army controlled by an elected official. Otherwise, go private.

 

How a Libertarian Israel would Deal with Stabbers

I get this question a lot. If there is no government how do you deal with stabbers and murderers, and attempted murderers? Wouldn’t an anarcho-capitalist society just fall apart in chaos?

Well, what they do now is destroy the home of the guy that did the stabbing, and that is the best we can hope for. This is a total waste of capital. In a private property society, the owner of the property on which the crime was committed, whether it is a sidewalk, a street, a park, whatever, would have his private insurance company apprehend the criminal, but what would likely happen is armed citizens would apprehend him, or kill him. If he survived, he would be tried in a private court very quickly. If convicted, his assets would go to the victim according to Perek HaChovel. If he did not survive, any assets go to the victim. Instead of destroying the guy’s house, it would be sold to the victim who could do with it whatever he wanted.

If Arabs had their houses handed over to a Jew after a stabbing, they wouldn’t stab. What the hell is the logic of destroying a house when it can be easily given over to the victim?

If the criminal had no assets, he would be his victim’s slave until the debt is repaid. A slave does not mean he is in the the victim’s house, because who would want his would-be murderer hanging out with him? His slave meaning whatever he earns, those wages are garnished and given to the victim until everything is repaid. If he was killed and had no assets, then nothing can be done. He’s dead, that’s enough, especially considering what happens now. Which is he is rescued, sent to a government hospital for taxpayer funded medical care, sent to a government prison for taxpayer funded housing and food, and then released when the next government soldier is kidnapped and exchanged for a bunch of murderers.

 

 

Judaism’s main anarchic source, Midrash Rabbah Shoftim

People have been asking me for this. Here it is. I will translate it in a follow up post.

זה שאמר הכתוב (איוב לד): ממלוך אדם חנף ממוקשי עם.

רבי יוחנן וריש לקיש, רבי יוחנן אמר: אם ראית חנף ורשע מנהיג את הדור, נוח לו לדור לפרוח באוויר ולא להשתמש בו, ואין הלשון הזה ממוקשי עם אלא לפרוח, כעניין שנאמר (עמוס ג): התפול צפור על פח הארץ ומוקש אין לה?!

ממלוך אדם חנף וגו’.

רבנין אמרי: כיון שעמדו מלכים על ישראל והתחילו משעבדין בהן, אמר הקב”ה: לא אתם עזבתם אותי ובקשתם לכם מלכים?!
הוי, אשימה עלי מלך.
זה שאמר הכתוב (תהלים קמו): אל תבטחו בנדיבים וגו’.

אמר רבי סימון, בשם רבי יהושע בן לוי: כל מי שבוטח בהקב”ה זוכה להיות כיוצא בו.
מנין?

שנא’ (ירמיה יז): ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בה’ והיה ה’ מבטחו.
אבל כל מי שיבטח בעבודת כוכבים, נתחייב להיות כיוצא בה.
מנין?

שנאמר (תהלים קטו): כמוהם יהיו עושיהם.

רבנן אמרי: כל מי שנשען בבשר ודם עובר אף פרוסטיא שלו עוברת, שנאמר (שם קמו): בבן אדם שאין לו תשועה.
מה כתיב אחריו?

תצא רוחו ישוב לאדמתו.

אמר הקב”ה: ויודעין שאין בשר ודם כלום ומניחין כבודי ואומרין: שימה לנו מלך?!
מה אתם מבקשין מלך?

חייכם! שסופכם להרגיש מה עתיד להגיע לכם מתחת מלככם.
מנין?

שנאמר (הושע ז) כל מלכיהם נפלו אין קורא בהם אלי:

י [גודל החטא והעונש על לשון הרע]

דבר אחר:
ואמרת אשימה עלי מלך

אמר רבי יהודה ברבי אלעאי: על ג’ דברים נצטוו ישראל בכניסתן לארץ, ואלו הן:
למחות זכרו של עמלק,
ולמנות להם מלך,
ולבנות להם בהמ”ק.

ומינו להם מלך ומיחו זכרו של עמלק,
ולמה לא בנו להן בהמ”ק?

שהיו ביניהם דילטורין.
תדע לך, דאמר רבי שמואל בר נחמן: דורו של אחאב עובדי עבודת כוכבים היו, והיו יוצאין למלחמה ונוצחין.
ולמה כן?

שלא היה ביניהן דילטורין. לפיכך היו יוצאין למלחמה ונוצחין.
תדע לך כשבקשה איזבל להרוג כל נביאי ה’, מה עשה עובדיה?
הטמין אותן במערות, שנאמר (מלכים א יח): ואחביא מנביאי ה’ חמשים איש במערה, ולא היה אדם שאמר לאחאב כך וכך עשה עובדיה.
אבל דורו של שאול כולן היו דילטורין. תדע לך, כשהיה שאול רודף אחר דוד, היו הכל אומרים עליו לשון הרע לשאול, שנא’ (תהלים נב): בבוא דואג האדומי וגו’.
( שם נד) בבוא הזיפים ויאמרו לשאול. לפיכך, היו נופלים במלחמה.

דבר אחר:

אמר רב מינא: כל שאומר לשון הרע מסלק השכינה מלמטה למעלה.
תדע לך, מה דוד אומר?
(שם נז) נפשי בתוך לבאים אשכבה לוהטים בני אדם שיניהם חנית וחצים ולשונם חרב חדה.
מה כתיב אחריו?

(שם) רומה על השמים אלהים וגו’.
אמר דוד: רבש”ע! מה השכינה עושה למטה?!
סלק את השכינה לרקיע!

דבר אחר:

אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמן:
למה נקרא שמו של לשון הרע, לשון שלישי?

שהוא הורג שלשה:
שאמרו,
והמקבלו,
ושנאמר עליו.

מנין?

דואג שאמרו,
ושאול שקיבלו,
ונוב עיר הכהנים, שנאמר עליהן.

דבר אחר:

אמר רבי שמואל בר נחמן: שאלו לנחש ואמרו ליה:
למה אתה מצוי בין הגדרות?

אמר להן: שפרצתי גדרו של עולם!
אמרו לו: ולמה אתה מהלך בארץ ולשונך שותת בארץ?
אמר להן: שהוא גרם לי שאמרתי לשון הרע על בוראי.
ומה היה הלשון הרע?

אמר רבי יהושע דסיכנין, בשם רבי לוי: הנחש הראשון היה מסיח כבני אדם. כיון שלא היו אדם וחוה מבקשין לאכול מאותו אילן, התחיל לומר לשון הרע על בוראו.
אמר להן: מן האילן הזה אכל הבורא וברא את עולמו וציווה אתכם שלא תאכלו ממנו ותבראו עולם אחר.
ומה עשה לו הקב”ה?

קצץ את רגליו וכרת את לשונו, שלא יהא מסיח.

דבר אחר:

שאלו לנחש, אמרו לו:
מה אתה נהנה, שאתה נושך?

אמר להם: עד שאתם שואלין אותי למה, אין אתם שואלין לבעלי לשון הרע?!
שנאמר (קהלת י): אם ישך הנחש בלא לחש ואין יתרון לבעל הלשון.
מה נהנה?

שאומר לשון הרע.

דבר אחר:

אמרו לנחש: למה אתה נושך באבר אחד וארסך מהלך בכל האיברים?
אמר להן: עד שאתם שואלין אותי למה אין אתם שואלין לבעלי הלשון, שעומד ברומי והורג בסוריה, עומד בסוריה והורג ברומי!
ראה כמה קשה כוחו של לשון הרע, שנצטוו לבנות בהמ”ק ובשביל שהיה הדור בעלי לשון הרע, לא נבנה בימיהם:

יא [ישראל מבקשים את מלכות ה’ עליהם]

דבר אחר:
אשימה עלי מלך

רבנן אמרי: אמר הקב”ה: בעוה”ז בקשתם מלכים ועמדו המלכים מישראל והפילו אתכם בחרב.
שאול הפילם בהר הגלבוע.
מנין?

( ש”א ד) נס ישראל מפני פלשתים וגו’.
דוד, נתן מגפה, שנא’ ( ש”ב כד): ויתן ה’ דבר בישראל.
אחאב, עצר עליהן את הגשמים, שנא’ (מלכים א יז): אם יהיה השנים האלה טל ומטר וגו’. צדקיהו, החריב את בהמ”ק, כיון שראו ישראל מה הגיע מתחת ידי מלכיהם התחילו צווחין הכל: אין אנו מבקשין מלך ישראל, למלכנו הראשון אנו מבקשין (ישעיה לג): כי ה’ שופטנו ה’ מחוקקנו ה’ מלכנו הוא יושיענו.
אמר להם הקב”ה: חייכם! כך אני עושה.
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שנאמר ( זכריה יד): והיה ה’ למלך על כל הארץ וגו’: