Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Ludwig von Mises!

He would have been 126 years old on this day. Wow...that's a lot of spankings!!

Celebrate by doing something "free market" today. Visit The Mises Institute website , learn about him , or perhaps read one of his books (if you can. He's pretty wordy, and challenging.... but worth it!!)

Here is the first page of his magnum opus, Human Action
Chapter 1.
Acting Man.
1. Purposeful Action and Animal Reaction

Human action is purposeful behavior. Or we may say: Action is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at ends and goals, is the ego's meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person's conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life. Such paraphrases may clarify the definition given and prevent possible misinterpretations. But the definition itself is adequate and does not need complement of commentary.

Conscious or purposeful behavior is in sharp contrast to unconscious behavior, i.e., the reflexes and the involuntary responses of the body's cells and nerves to stimuli. People are sometimes prepared to believe that the boundaries between conscious behavior and the involuntary reaction of the forces operating within man's body are more or less indefinite. This is correct only as far as it is sometimes not easy to establish whether concrete behavior is to be considered voluntary or involuntary. But the distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness is nonetheless sharp and can be clearly determined.

The unconscious behavior of the bodily organs and cells is for the acting ego no less a datum than any other fact of the external world. Acting man must take into account all that goes on within his own body as well as other data, e.g., the weather or the attitudes of his neighbors. There is, of course, a 1margin within which purposeful behavior has the power to neutralize the working of bodily factors. It is feasible within certain limits to get the body under control. Man can sometimes succeed through the power of his will in overcoming sickness, in compensating for the innate or acquired insufficiency of his physical constitution, or in suppressing reflexes. As far as this is possible, the field of purposeful action is extended. If a man abstains from controlling the involuntary reaction of cells and nerve centers, although he would be in a position to do so, his behavior is from our point of view purposeful.

The field of our science is human action, not the psychological [p. 12] events which result in an action. It is precisely this which distinguishes the general theory of human action, praxeology, from psychology. The theme of psychology is the internal events that result or can result in a definite action. The theme of praxeology is action as such. This also settles the relation of praxeology to the psychoanalytical concept of the subconscious. Psychoanalysis too is psychology and does not investigate action but the forces and factors that impel a man toward a definite action. The psychoanalytical subconscious is a psychological and not a praxeological category. Whether an action stems from clear deliberation, or from forgotten memories and suppressed desires which from submerged regions, as it were, direct the will, does not influence the nature of the action. The murderer whom a subconscious urge (the Id) drives toward his crime and the neurotic whose aberrant behavior seems to be simply meaningless to an untrained observer both act; they like anybody else are aiming at certain ends. It is the merit of psychoanalysis that it has demonstrated that even the behavior of neurotics and psychopaths is meaningful, that they too act and aim at ends, although we who consider ourselves normal and sane call the reasoning determining their choice of ends nonsensical and the means they choose for the attainment of these ends contrary to purpose.

The term "unconscious" as used by praxeology and the terms "subconscious" and "unconscious" as applied by psychoanalysis belong to two different systems of thought and research. Praxeology no less than other branches of knowledge owes much to psychoanalysis. The more necessary is it then to become aware of the line which separates praxeology from psychoanalysis.

Action is not simply giving preference. Man also shows preference in situations in which things and events are unavoidable or are believed to be so. Thus a man may prefer sunshine to rain and may wish that the sun would dispel the clouds. He who only wishes and hopes does not interfere actively with the course of events and with the shaping of his own destiny. But acting man chooses, determines, and tries to reach an end. Of two things both of which he cannot have together he selects one and gives up the other. Action therefore always involves both taking and renunciation.

To express wishes and hopes and to announce planned action may be forms of action in so far as they aim in themselves at the realization of a certain purpose. But they must not be confused with the actions to which they refer. They are not identical with the actions they announce, recommend, or reject. Action is a real thing. [p. 13] What counts is a man's total behavior, and not his talk about planned but not realized acts. On the other hand action must be clearly distinguished from the application of labor. Action means the employment of means for the attainment of ends. As a rule one of the means employed is the acting man's labor. But this is not always the case. Under special conditions a word is all that is needed. He who gives orders or interdictions may act without any expenditure of labor. To talk or not to talk, to smile or to remain serious, may be action. To consume and to enjoy are no less action than to abstain from accessible consumption and enjoyment.

Praxeology consequently does not distinguish between "active" or energetic and "passive" or indolent man. The vigorous man industriously striving for the improvement of his condition acts neither more nor less than the lethargic man who sluggishly takes things as they come. For to do nothing and to be idle are also action, they too determine the course of events. Wherever the conditions for human interference are present, man acts no matter whether he interferes or refrains from interfering. He who endures what he could change acts no less than he who interferes in order to attain another result. A man who abstains from influencing the operation of physiological and instinctive factors which he could influence also acts. Action is not only doing but no less omitting to do what possibly could be done.

We may say that action is the manifestation of a man's will. But this would not add anything to our knowledge. For the term will means nothing else than man's faculty to choose between different states of affairs, to prefer one, to set aside the other, and to behave according to the decision made in aiming at the chosen state and forsaking the other.

The Difference Between Government and the Free Market

Earlier this week, I had a couple of experiences that demonstrate just how radically different the culture of government bureacracy is compared to the productive sector, specifically as it relates to the subject of serving the public.

First stop: The Bureau of Motor Vehicles. I walked into a branch to take care of some business, took my number, and quietly stood off to the side to wait my turn to get served. It was going to be a while because the line was rather long. A few other people came in behind me and did the same thing. A lot of the seats were filled up, but if you wanted to sit down, you probably be coming into intimate physical contact with your neighbor since the seats were ridiculously undersized. Needless to say, many people preferred to stand against the wall and enjoy their "personal space" in quiet.

However, this would just not do with the bureaucrats behind the desk. At one point this one lady - i'll call her Mugzilla, since she was not very pleasant in her physical appearance, nor her demeanor - behind the desk, in between taking customers, pointed to a sign that said "Have a seat", and proceeded to scold everyone standing that they must sit down while waiting. She was very stern, and refused to take the next person in line until the approximately 7 or 8 people standing along the wall sat down. When one person said, "that's ok, I'm fine standing here", she got even more adamant with the person. Apparently, the availability of the seats was not for the luxury and comfort of the patrons, but rather a means to extract submission and obedience - order! - from the unwashed masses who are forced to deal with this bureaucracy.

When it was my turn to be "served", who did I get called up by? You guessed it - Mugzilla! I politely walked up and said, "I have two items of business to transact today," to which she replied that I was only able to do one. At first I thought this was a joke, but two minutes later, when I went on to item #2, she very sternly told me that I had to go to a different location to accomplish what I was after. Apparently, she wasn't joking.

I left the BMV, thankful to have ended that interaction. The long wait, the rude treatment, and then getting the run-around with what I needed to get done, did not make me feel like I, as a taxpayer, was being well-served by these public "servants". So, off I went to my next stop: The Post Office.

I needed to mail a letter. I usually only go to the post office once a month, when its time to mail my bills. (Yes, yes, I know... I am still old school that way - writing out checks and mailing them, sue me!) But this time, I had a special need to mail something - one letter. and I needed one stamp. Just a single, 1st class stamp to put on the envelope, and drop in the slot. I walk in to the branch in the middle of the afternoon and walk over to the stamp machine.

Out of order.

Everytime I have walked into this post office - and many of the times I have walked into other post offices - the stamp machine is busted. This means I now have to stand in line - STAND IN LINE! - to buy ONE stamp. There are like 7 people ahead of me, and like two people behind the desk waiting on people. And yes, I understand that I should probably buy 600 stamps and keep them in my desk drawer so I can avoid these situations - and one of these days, I may finally learn that lesson. But the point here is that making the experience of dealing with the USPS a pleasant and efficient one is not a priority of this government agency.

Five minutes later when it was my turn to step up to the counter, I asked the woman..."Does that stamp machine EVER work?" She told me that it was scheduled to be replaced by a newer - and presumably functional - one. That got me thinking about the companies that manufacture those machines, and what kind of quality they are committed to delivering. But mostly, its amazing to me how there is so little incentive for the post office to monitor and actually do something when its machines break down. If you went into McDonald's and the soda machine was broken, how long do you think it would take for the management to get it fixed? A couple days? Who knows.

So I left Government Run Public Service Agency #2 feeling frustrated by the excessive amount of time I seem to be wasting this particular day. So I'm ready for my third stop: the bank.

I walk into the bank to deposit a check, transfer some funds, and take some cash away with me. I walk up to the table off to the side, immediately grab a slip of paper to fill out. I then walk up to the line where one person was in front of me, although he was called up almost immediately. So I was the only one in line for all of about 30 seconds, when the teller finished with a customer, and cheerfully called to me, "Hi! May I help you?"

I gave her my slips and check, and she began punching her keyboard and stamping papers following whatever procedures she needed to follow to process my requests, all the while pleasantly making small talk about the weather and the upcoming weekend. Less than a minute later, she handed me my receipt, smiled at me, asked if there was anything else she could help me with that day, and then bid me a good day. I was in an out of the bank in no more than three minutes.

So, what's the difference here? Easy - government. The BMV and USPS are government agencies. Fifth-Third bank is a private sector entity. I am not forced to bank there. I am forced to deal with the red tape of the BMV and USPS when in need of their "services".

So often, critics of the free-market make the case that somethings must be done by the State because while private sector companies are only interested in raking in profits, and fattening their bottom line - ie. they are greedy and selfish - the State, run in the name of the "people", has no profit motive and can atruistically serve the "common good". But is that really the case?

What market critics fail to realize - or perhaps stubbornly refuse to admit - is that in a free market, in order to get rich and earn profits, one can only do so by serving the needs of one's customers. Successful businesses - in a truly free market, devoid of State intervention, that is - are the ones that are serving society the way society has deemed best. Profits are society's way of giving back to those producers who spend their energies in socially useful, productive, and efficient ways to meet the needs and wants of humanity. If these desire happen to be "better customer service", "low prices", "safer products", "products produced by union labor", "products produced by non-union labor", "animal testing free", or a whole slew of possible consumer values, it is the market which enables these values to be expressed and satisfied.

State-enforced monopolies, like the USPS, have no incentive to innovate, reduce waste, improve efficiency, or satisfy consumer preferences because they are not exposed to competition, where their customers can go elsewhere if they are unsatisfied with some aspect of the way the USPS runs its business. Take any introductory economics class and one learns that while all businesses operate with their own cost/profit optimization in mind, a monopoly exerts power over the entire market. State-enforced monopolies go the added step by then forcing consumers to put up with poor service, and unmet needs. The cruel irony here is that when Statists say that the government "needs" to provide some service - schools, healthcare, mail delivery - because only the State selflessly "cares", when it is completely opposite from plain, empirical reality.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bush v. America

In an interesting twist, the Federal Department of Fatherland Security is suing a political sub-unit because they wish to exert their independence from Imperial Fiat on a certain matter.

U.S. Sues Illinois For Defying Immigration Law

There are a couple of interesting issues this raises. The first is that this calls to mind the Jeffersonian principle of “States Rights”, and the power for individual States to nullify federal laws that they deem to be unconstitutional. First expressed in The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 , these principles played out in American politics on a variety of issues from central banking and the enforcement of fugitive slave laws throughout the early years of the American Republic. Of course, in 1865, the idea that the power of individual States was to serve as an additional “check and balance” on the power of the Federal government was finally squashed by force of arms. But before then, when our government was still a Republic, these principles were central to the concept of Federalism, upon which the entire structure of U.S. government was built.

Prior to this smashing of State autonomy, however, many States sought to stave off the Federal Leviathan by asserting their independence in such a manner. Ohio, for example, helped to cripple early incarnations of a central bank by levying massive taxes on the bank’s branches, even sending troops to collect the tax right from the vault. (Talk about armed robbery!!) Wisconsin (as well as other northern states with more abolitionist leanings) refused to enforce the federal Fugitive Slave Act which demanded that the States help return runaway slaves back to the their southern masters. A strong case can be made that the principle of nullification helped speed up the downfall of slavery – an economically untenable system which required massive State intervention, federal intervention no less, to help prop it up. And its more than ironic that many people still insist that a war was needed to end slavery, lest the seceding states be enabled to practice slavery forever and ever.

But I digress.

So Illinois wishes to flip the bird to Federal dictates about what sort of people businesses can be “allowed” to hire. (Since when is freedom of association dependent upon getting permission from government to exercise?) The Feds don’t like it, and they wish to bitch-slap these punks into line, and so they sue. On what grounds do they claim this authority?

Keep in mind, the U.S. Constitution says absolutley nothing about Federal authority to regulate where people can live, work, play, study, think, learn, etc. – ie. immigration. The Constitution does grant the Feds the authority to set the terms and conditions for acquiring citizenship, but that is a completely different thing than immigration. Someone can move here to live and work, and not seek the benefits of citizenship (such as the ability to vote). So where does the Fed get this authority to tell businesses who then must and must not hire? Per the 10th Amendment, powers not expressly delegated to the Feds by the Constitution are denied to it.

The Anti-Immigrant crowd, no doubt, is cheering on Big Government in this case, which is not surprising. They may claim, “Oh! So we should protect the ‘rights’ of half a million law-breakers??”, without first asking whether the “law” being broken is itself a violation of natural, moral law. Is it moral to tell Person A that he must not be allowed to associate with Person B, simply because Persons C, D, and E wish to prevent that from happening? Does morality give way to legislation? Can Congress rewrite the laws of universal justice simply by voting on it?

But in a structural sense, their argument in this case, flies in the face of the Constitution, and the concept of Federalism, upon which this government was founded. The Anti-Immigrant crowd, by claiming to love America and wishes nothing more than to “protect it”, is actually serving to undermine not only the written law of the land, but the spirit and intention under which it was established. The Anti-Immigrant crowd, in short, wishes nothing less than to overturn America.

So in this case, Big Government Loving, Unified Nationalist State types will be joined by the Anti-Immigrant crowd…a natural alliance if ever there were one. We liberty lovers, as much as we despise the State, can only root for the political sub-unit called Illinois in this battle, and hope that the power of the Imperial Federal Government is beaten back an inch or two.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Regarding Ron Paul

Is it me, or is anyone else getting tired of all the Ron Paul articles on Lew

It seems as if everyday, when I pop over to LRC, every other article is about Ron Paul – his candidacy, his presidency, why he can win, why he should win, what a wonderful world it would be if he did win, and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m interested in Ron Paul’s candidacy as much as the next guy, and I know that he’s had a long-standing relationship with Lew Rockwell, contributing his own writings (which I always enjoy) to that site from time to time. But c’mon! I’m beginning to wonder if LRC should rename itself Ron

Which brings me to a larger issue. Many people ask me if I like Ron Paul as a candidate, if I’d vote for him, if I’ll be working to promote him or volunteer for his campaign. Many people ask me – since apparently I am “the libertarian” that they know – how many libertarians feel about his candidacy for President. I’ve thought about it for quite some time, and here’s my take.

First, I think Ron Paul seeking the Republican nomination for President spells complete irrelevancy for the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate – and perhaps the LP in general – for the 2008 election cycle. To look at this strictly from a political point of view, Ron Paul is a Republican. Sure, he is very libertarian oriented in his views, he’s spoken at LP conventions, and he was the LP’s candidate for President back in 1988. Suffice it to say, no one can argue his credentials as an advocate for Constitutionally limited government, free-markets, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.

But the fact is, whoever ends up with the LP’s nomination for 2008 isn’t going to have one-tenth the credibility of Ron Paul. In 2008, the best libertarian candidate for president won’t even be a member of the Libertarian Party. Paul is a Republican – a libertarian Republican, sure, but a Republican, nonetheless. His candidacy and impact on the political dialogue will reinforce a couple of anti-LP, anti-third party arguments that many libertarian party activists have fought hard to refute.

The first is that, since we have a de facto two-party system, libertarians should give up the hope of creating a third-party that can compete with the Big Two, and instead join one of the big two and work to change the party from within. The fact is, Ron Paul, as a Republican, already has had more attention, and caused more of a stir, than any libertarian has ever accomplished, with the only possible exception of Harry Browne. In 2008, when the LP endorses and starts to market some “also-ran”, no-name candidate, to try to convince people to vote for liberty, it’s only going to reinforce the image that the LP is something to consider only after the “real” options have been exhausted.

Which brings me to the second point, which has been debated internally in LP circles for some time, is whether the LP should run a Presidential candidate at all. I happen to agree with the late, great, Harry Browne who made the point that a presidential race affords an opportunity for a libertarian to gain a platform that is unavailable to anyone else in the liberty movement. The presidential candidate can create attention for libertarian ideas, and attract people to the party to help grow it, and advance the political agenda of the movement as a whole. Ron Paul, running as a Republican, while certainly calling attention to the ideas of liberty, and helping to advance that cause, is not helping the LP. In fact, he is doing the opposite, as I see many libertarians scrambling to get registered as Republican voters in order to vote for him.

I have always said that if the LP wants to be thought of as a real party, it needs to start acting like one. That means sticking with and focusing on building up the team. When do Democrats abandon their party to go headlong into supporting a Republican? They don’t. Granted, I don’t begrudge anyone – libertarians included – for supporting Ron Paul. My point here is that those “Big-L” libertarians who are waving their Ron Paul flags are leaving the reservation here. As long as we are clear on that point, and what it means for the LP as an organization, then I have no complaint, objection nor criticism to offer. We Libertarians, after all, desire liberty-directed change, and how that exactly comes about is irrelevant.

But make no mistake, about it: Party-Libertarians have a huge challenge to face, namely, how to use Ron Paul’s non-LP candidacy to convince his Republican supporters to join with the LP, and not re-dedicate themselves to “reforming” the Republican party. Many small government advocates have long held that the Republican party, despite its flaws, was the best way to get what they want from politics. They believe this despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. An even semi-successful Ron Paul campaign may reinforce their naïve idea that liberty lovers can “take back” the Republican party, (“See! Someone like Ron Paul can harness and invigorate a coalition of people dedicated to limited-government, the Constitution, and liberty! We need to get behind him and his party!”) Party-Libertarians run the risk of sacrificing their own Party’s marketability, while helping to sustain the illusion that the Republican Party is still the party of smaller government.

Having said all that, am I anti-Ron Paul? No, I am not. I certainly can cheer the guy on and wish him well. More than anything, what I want is to live in a free society. To that end, it really doesn’t matter if that happens by way of a successful libertarian party winning elections and dismantling the State, or by some other means. The Libertarian Party, we must remember, is simply a means to an end – not an end in and of itself. To say we shouldn’t cheer on a Republican like Paul, or a Democrat like, say, a hypothetical Joe Schmoe, who are clear opponents of the Imperial Warmongering State, would just be foolish and non-productive.

But I can’t help but think that, in light of the last Presidential campaign, which was severely under-organized, and much less-funded than the previous two, combined with some murky ideological stances that have been pushed through the LP in recent years, that the LP is in a state of decline, and that the Ron Paul candidacy will simply show that liberty’s political agenda can, and will, advance, regardless of whether there is a Libertarian Party

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bandow Asks, "Are Republicans Crazy?"

Yes, Doug. They are.

He's written an excellent essay about warmongering Republicans, playing their game of Who-Wants-To-Kill-More-Dark-Skinned-Non-Christians-For-Money, versus the infinitely more reasonable, rational - and, yes, sane - Ron Paul.
As Huckabee, Romney, and Giuliani certainly know, Paul does not blame the U.S. for 9/11, and Iraq has nothing to do with 9/11. However, the truth does not matter to them. Having lost the intellectual case for going to war, and now losing the intellectual case for continuing the occupation, they prefer demagoguery to analysis. Anyone criticizing the Iraq disaster is attacking the troops. Anyone criticizing the occupation is forgetting 9/11. Anyone advocating withdrawal is giving in to al-Qaeda.

Thankfully, the politics of fear no longer appears to work on the American people. A recent poll found that the majority of Americans believe the war was a mistake, the U.S. should bring home its troops, and the Bush administration cannot be trusted to tell the truth about events in Iraq. People now recognize as nonsensical shrieking what passes as thinking for so many war supporters.

One can only hope.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Somalian Anarchy

Radical State-Worshippers often like to launch the barb at advocates of the free market, "well, if you don't like the government, you should move to Somalia!" Their intention is that by invoking images of crazed, barbaric, dark-skinned savages who travel around in packs enforcing the will of "warlords", they hope to cower liberty advocates into embracing the State as their savior. Alas, if it weren't for far-seeing, benevolent, altruistic politicians pointing guns at us and demanding half (or more) of our wealth, we would all take our turn being dragged through the streets to the sheer, sadistic joy of our attackers.

Well, all isn't what it seems in the fantasies of Statists.

In a recent article called, The Rule of Law Without the State , Social Anthropologist Spencer Heath MacCallum points out that in the past 10 years, since the failed attempt by the Imperial Clinton Presidency to impoze a central government upon the natives of Somalia, that country hasn't sunk into bloody, brutal, barbarism - as was predicted - but rather, have shown many trends of positive social and economic development. Granted, Somalia isn't exactly a paradise to which I'm ready to pack my bags, buy a plane ticket, and go stake my claim. What makes Somalia a beautiful example that liberty-advocates can applaud is that progress is happening, even though Somalia exists in what is probably the closest - if not outright - example of anarchy. We don't need a State to rescue people from crushing poverty.

And what's more, is that MacCallum shows that the more brutal and violent aspects of Somali culture are direct results of attempts to establish and/or maintain a State apparatus. Of course, we libertarians are well aware that power corrupts the human soul, and that political solutions ALWAYS breed conflict and strife. State-Worshippers, however, believe in this power - that coercion and violence can do great things, yet, in Somali, that power is the cause of the very ills they want to create a State to solve.

Read the article. It's a good one!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rub the Lamp, Get the Genie

They say truth is the first casualty of war. That's because propaganda, secretiveness, distortions, and outright lies are what it takes to keep the Body Bags filling up, so military commanders often devote a lot of energy to controlling the flow of information.

Enter the age of the Internet.

Troop blogs show increasing criticism of war

That one almost speaks for itself! Hard to keep the war machine going when your biggest critics are the very cogs you are using to do the killing.