Tea Partier Joe Miller: “Communist East Germany a Model for Border Security”

This is the end game of the putrid, statist bullshit of “Secure the Borders.”

Joe Miller: If East Germany could, we could.

Lol…The Republican Tea Party critique against Obama is that he wants to turn America into a Western European Socialist State. Apparently, the Tea Party doesn’t actually disdain “European models;” they simply object to the “Western” model. Their preferred model is the old “Eastern Europe Communist Block.”

Smell the Liberty, indeed…

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Psst, Selwyn Duke, Libertarianism is not Dependent on Legislating Morality

Self-proclaimed former “libertarian” Selwyn Duke is at again with this new article, Yes, Folks, We All Would Legislate Morality (Psst, Even You Libertarians). Apparently, this article was response to the criticism(including my own) his previous articles, here and here, elicited in the blogosphere. In my piece, I did call him a socialist, which he found humorous. However, I would encourage Mr. Duke to read Bastiat’s “The Law,” which is where I drawing my criticism from. It’s a short tract. Anyone who claims or has claimed the mettle of “libertarian” should be familiar with it.

Let’s at Duke’s latest effort to discredit the libertarian position. Here’s the lead intro of his argument:

… a law states that there is something you must or must not do, ostensibly because the action is a moral imperative, is morally wrong, or is a corollary thereof [emphasis added]. If this is not the case, with what credibility do you legislate in the given area? After all, why prohibit something if it doesn’t prevent some wrong? Why force citizens to do something if it doesn’t effect some good?

He then argues that laws protecting life and property rights follow the exact same moral principle:

But unless one objects to governmental use of force to apprehend a murderer or citizens’ exercise of self-defense, moral distinctions must be made. Moreover, we couldn’t credibly prohibit force, protect property rights, or prevent harm in the first place unless unjustly using the first, violating the second, or causing the third wasn’t “wrong.” Ergo, morality.

He then claims because some libertarians emphasized the negative justice aspect of law(as I did) and yet others spoke of the non-aggression principle as being a moral principle that libertarianism is guilty of moral relativism:

Yet while I realize many different conceptions of libertarianism exist, absent an authoritative “Church of Libertarianism” to establish official dogma, I have no choice but to draw my conclusions from libertarians’ consensus pronouncements. After all, there are textbook/dictionary definitions of liberalism that sound pretty good, too, yet they describe no liberals I’ve ever met. I live in the real world; if you seek a denizen of textbook dream-world, I suggest you visit your local college campus.

And if you look at these pronouncements, something becomes clear: The problem here isn’t just one of libertarians, but of moderns themselves. It is a deep problem that concerns not just the nature of man’s law. It concerns the nature of morality itself.

Duke then proceeds to argue for the necessity of “Absolute Truth.”


[There are only two possibilities:] [e]ither man does or something outside man does. The idea that man determines right and wrong is known as “moral relativism”; this means that morals are relative to the time, place and people. The idea that right and wrong are determined by something outside of man is known as “Absolute Truth.”

And, of course, the latter implies God. After all, if we’re saying that “Truth” is something existing apart from man, that it is inerrant, and that we must abide by it — which means it’s above man — what are we actually describing? But, now, what are the implications of relativism? I continued:

… [Moral relativism] states that morality is determined by man; what is rarely recognized, though, is that if this is so then there is no right and wrong, objectively speaking. Think about it: If 90 percent of humanity said it preferred chocolate ice cream over vanilla, it wouldn’t mean that chocolate was “right” and vanilla “wrong.” Nor would it mean that chocolate was better in any objective sense — it would simply mean that people happened to like chocolate better. It’s illogical to say otherwise. But would it be any more logical to say that murder was wrong for no other reason than the fact that 90 percent of all people preferred that others not kill in a way that we call unjust? Of course not. But if the idea that murder is wrong is simply a function of man’s collective preference, it then falls into the exact same realm as the collective preference for a type of ice cream: the realm of taste.

Duke finishes with an appeal to the “Founders,” who he claims were largely “men of faith” and heroes to many of today’s libertarians, to boot. Throwing up a quote by Madison, “Religion is the basis and Foundation of government,” Duke concludes that he will stick with the “Founders” and reject the moral relativism of libertarianism.

Now, allow me to dispose of Duke’s argument from a libertarian perspective. Once again, let us appeal to Bastiat:

(1) Law is Force
(2) The only legitimate application of this force is the correction of injustice

That is the crux of his argument. Most of “The Law” is actually dedicated to the various Socialist objections or arguments of exception to this simple principle. For example this passage:

Socialists Fear All Liberties
Well, what liberty should the legislators permit people to have? Liberty of conscience? (But if this were permitted, we would see the people taking this opportunity to become atheists.)

Then liberty of education? (But parents would pay professors to teach their children immorality and falsehoods; besides, according to Mr. Thiers, if education were left to national liberty, it would cease to be national, and we would be teaching our children the ideas of the Turks or Hindus; whereas, thanks to this legal despotism over education, our children now have the good fortune to be taught the noble ideas of the Romans.)

Then liberty of labor? (But that would mean competition which, in turn, leaves production unconsumed, ruins businessmen, and exterminates the people.)

Perhaps liberty of trade? (But everyone knows — and the advocates of protective tariffs have proved over and over again — that freedom of trade ruins every person who engages in it, and that it is necessary to suppress freedom of trade in order to prosper.)

Possibly then, liberty of association? (But, according to socialist doctrine, true liberty and voluntary association are in contradiction to each other, and the purpose of the socialists is to suppress liberty of association precisely in order to force people to associate together in true liberty.)

Clearly then, the conscience of the social democrats cannot permit persons to have any liberty because they believe that the nature of mankind tends always toward every kind of degradation and disaster. Thus, of course, the legislators must make plans for the people in order to save them from themselves.

This line of reasoning brings us to a challenging question: If people are as incapable, as immoral, and as ignorant as the politicians indicate, then why is the right of these same people to vote defended with such passionate insistence?

Bastiat was addressing the “Socialists” of his day but this passage certainly applies today to Mr. Duke. Duke, in his earlier criticisms(“live and let live”), was just repeating old arguments.

Now, let me address the “morality” of Libertarian Justice. The foundation of Libertarian Justice is actually Self-ownership. NAP is a derivative from this. Now Self-ownership can certainly be thought of as a moral principle but it can’t be legislated. That is, understanding law to be force whose only legitimately function is to correct injustice, there can be no legitimate application of force to correct an injustice of an individual against himself/herself. Now, an atheist libertarian may have a moral judgement about those religious types who declare themselves, say, “slaves to Christ.” Christian libertarians, say, may have moral judgments about those who are “slaves to drugs or alcohol.” But to legislate self-ownership, that is, to preserve it by force, by, say, outlawing religion or alcohol, based on moral judgments about what is necessary to preserve an individual actually owning oneself, is a violation of self-ownership and derivative principles such as NAP. In the case of libertarian justice, the the issues of correcting unjust violations of life and property do not flow from any legislating of moral judgments.

Frankly, this whole business about “morality and law” can be substantially clarified if we use the term “moral judgments” instead of “morality” and think of law of in the negative sense, that is, as a correction of injustice, and not in the positive sense, that is, as a promoter of justice. Things then become much more clearer. Certainly, without doubt, libertarians have relativistic moral judgments about a wide number of things. However, in casting the purpose of law as a correction of injustice, libertarianism suffers no “relativistic problems” in terms of social/political theory primarily concerned with the absence of plunder.

Conversely, the likes of Duke, with their insistence on legislating moral judgments in the context of positive law, spin moral rationales for plunder. His case for “God as the moral source for absolute truth” isn’t compelling. Without debating the conceptual problems with that statement, there is a bit of an inconvenient empirical problem of there being no rational proof of any such god and that there is no consensus, from those compelled by faith or speculation, on the nature of such god, nor of the moral imperative supposedly implied by the faith-based existence of such a god. We are not talking about absolute morality here; rather, we are talking about moral judgments. Notice how Duke substitutes “murder” for “kill” when referencing the 1st 6th commandment of the ten commandments in the old testament. Is that a new translation? A bit of a convenient translation for those interested in rationalizing US perpetual war. He then mentions the “The Principle of Double Effect” justification for killing. I would say Christianity suffers from a bit of moral relativism when it comes to killing; i.e., war. Are we going to go with the Augustine rationale or the Aquinas one? And those are just two of the competing rationales among countless others. Are we talking about morality based on absolute truth or simply moral judgments based on texts written by men and interpreted by men?

Lastly, I think Duke’s appeal to the “Founders” is a bit of a mixed bag in trying to conjure a Coup de grâce to libertarianism. Sure, there is a Madison quote,”Religion is the basis and Foundation of government.” But rather than dredge up a plethora of counter quotes that paint a much less sympathetic picture regarding religion, I will just mention the inconvenient historical fact that Madison’s writings and legislative work on religious liberty served as the intellectual basis for the 1st Amendment. He obviously had a problem with “The Religious pretext of moral judgments being the foundation of government.” Frankly, other than Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson in Paris, there is nothing particularly libertarian about the “founding fathers.” Libertarianism is much more radical than the political philosophy held by most of them. The constitution, itself, is not a libertarian document. The only thing remotely libertarian was the bill of rights. The 1st Amendment is a radical amendment. It violates the very fibre of Duke and his Socialist comrades’ positive law gobbledygook. In the cultural haze that celebrates the constitutional exceptionalism of “American Liberty,” it is the 1st Amendment that is actually being celebrated. Nothing else…

Doing the Devil’s Work

I read this post, What Economists are paid to do that was linked to in the commentary of Yglesias’ post, Neo-Ricardian Notions. Now as a Georgist, I have written previously about the Neo-classical mistake of treating land like capital in terms of factors of production. From a political economy analysis standpoint, incorporating land into capital muddled the concept of economic rent. The Neo-classical treatment took the political out of “Political Economy,” leaving us with a faulty discipline of a science of “mere economics.” The problem of economic rent wasn’t restored until a number of generations later with the advent of “Public Choice.” But still, many economists remain fairly ignorant of public choice and economic rent. Just as I would say the work of of practicing physicist who had no knowledge of Newton’s laws of motion probably wouldn’t have much merit, the work/opinions of an economist who has little or no knowledge, or faulty knowledge, of economic rent is likewise devoid of much value(of course, there are disciplines in physics where Newton’s laws do not apply, particularly in the subatomic realm, but such specialization cannot occur without knowledge first of general principles. And while, say, a high-energy particle physicist might forget about Newton while studying the creation of exotic particles in high-energy collisions of subatomic particles, he is quickly reminded, nonetheless, if he stubs his toe on the floor).

The political discussions of equality and justice are best useless and at worst evil without consideration of economic rent. Now, the author of the first post in Yglesias’ comment section notes that Smith and Ricardo leads to Henry George and not Hayek. Well, I would say he is both correct and incorrect in such a conclusion. In the author’s linked post, he spends a few paragraphs propounding that the job of economists(what they are paid to do) is to explain away the role of economic rent in political economy. His conclusion in his post, however, is a type of Non sequitur, in that he pleads that Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong and Christie Romer are examples of economists who are not “bought off” and who are sufficiently concerned with the “public interest(they are doing the Lord’s work).” However, positive law redistribution via taxation on labor, capital, and support of such things likes tariffs does not follow from Ricardo’s Law of Rent. And, frankly, those economists positive law progressive views on re-distributive justice have nothing to do with analysis of economic rent. It would be absurd to advocate for deadweight losses from taxes on labor and capital, to promote dead weightlosses from tariffs, in order to correct the deadweigt losses of Ricardian rent. In political economy, taxes on capital and labor, and things like tariffs should be understood as economic rents.

The flaw of “progressivism” is the belief that “positive justice” corrects injustice. The author, who in Yglesias’ comment section stated that Ricardo/Smith leads to George but then in his post seemed to conclude that Ricardo/Smith leads to corporate liberalism, lacks coherence. George, perhaps, could be called a “progressive,” but in it’s original meaning of “reform,” not in today’s meaning. Georgist ground rents are restitution for Ricardian rent. Ricardian rent is economic rent but Georgist rent is not. If you fail to see that distinction, then you end up babbling about “taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” The actual translation of that statement should be, “economic rents are the price we pay for government.” But that statement doesn’t make much sense. What it really means is the “function of government is to extract economic rents.” Of course, this requires moral rationalization.

Bastiat wrote:

When plunder has become a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

I leave as an exercise to the reader to conclude whether the rationalization of such moral codes is the Lord’s work or the Devil’s work….

Memo to Bill Maher: Real Time Suckz

Back in the 90s, I was a bit too young and having a little bit too much fun to spend evenings at home watching Maher’s Politically Incorrect on ABC late night. But, when the show was reincarnated on HBO the past decade, I’ve been fairly regular viewer. However, since the election of Obama, the show has steadily become unwatchable. The mixture of comedy and politics, as entertainment, requires some measure of partisan independence to remain effective. Maher’s show, however, has lost that. His guest list is stale, and he is operating under some delusion that regurgitation of DNC talking points passes for entertainment these days.

Maher’s recent movie, Religulous, was a foray into the culture war mocking American religious fundamentalism. But you, know, one can just as easily make a “mockumentary” that travels around the country filming the political fundamentalists who exhibit brains interfaced electronically with Joe Biden’s Outbox. We could call that movie, Politiculous. And Maher would have a featured role. Some, I suppose, would find it entertaining to watch the likes of Maher drone on about the special revelation of “reality-based politics” tied to the written word of Joe Biden’s Outbox. All ye of little faith. We know that TARP, the Stimulus, and the Bailouts prevented Armageddon. If it wasn’t for the GOP, we would be riding the crest of Roosevelt, 1930 utopia. This we know because Joe Biden’s Outbox tells us so.

TARP saved us! This I know,
For Joe Biden’s Outbox tells me so.
Little ones to the State belong;
They are weak, but the State is strong.

Chorus:

Yes, the State loves me!
Yes, the State loves me!
Yes, the State loves me!
Joe Biden’s Outbox tells me so.

Libertarian Talking Points

After watching Ron Paul butcher his interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, I propose some simple talking points on some particular issues that apparently evade an articulable libertarian defense.

1) 1964 Civil Rights Act
The correct libertarian position would have been the repeal of the State enforced Jim Crow laws and restitution/reparations for those who were harmed(so, instead, say, a 1964 Civil Reparations Act). Although libertarians believe that voluntary nondiscrimination is a desirable, socially optimal outcome, we don’t support the positive law of an expansive interpretation of the commerce clause to enforce this outcome because this invites the same legal treatment of humans as property a la the very Jim Crow laws that supposedly were being remedied. You are correcting an injustice by promoting another injustice. So yes, the 1964 Civil Rights Act(or at least some parts of it) is an example of “activist, liberal government,” Mr. O’Donnell, but the “New Jim Crow,” the drug War, is legally sanctioned by the same principle that sanctioned parts of the 1964 Civil rights Act. So your “activist, positive law, liberal government” that you defend is now and has been imprisoning minorities at a rate that exceeded apartheid South Africa. So unless you think that minorities are simply much more disposed to be criminals by nature, you must conclude that your precious “activist, positive law, federal government” sanctions a racist legal regime. You sir, are stuck in the symbolism of 1964. We libertarians are primarily concerned with the present.

Do you sir call on the immediate repeal of these racist drug laws and restitution/reparations for those who were harmed by these laws? Or is your devotion to a principle that now further legally sanctions the use of the IRS to force us to buy insurance from the likes of Aetna just too important to forsake? Yes, i’m sure you will weep for those presently in cages and that will you will hint from time to time that sometime in the long, hazy future, this may need to be politically addressed. But in the meantime you are much more concerned with assuaging your own self-righteousness with appeals to symbolism. But your symbolism frees no one. The comfort of your self-righteousness is neither a strategy nor a tactic to the restore the liberty of those unjustly imprisoned. Get the fuck off your smug high horse.

2) Term Limits
I have no idea how “term limits” became a so-called libertarian position. The libertarian position is too limit/abolish the ability of crooks to conspire to steal other people’s money or manufacture artificial economic rents. The libertarian position is too limit the legislative sessions where the conspiracies take place. The preferred length of these sessions is zero. That is getting to the root of the problem and will take care of the ancillary issue of “term limits.”

3) Medicare
Medicare is a paternalistic government program that taxes your own labor to supposedly provide for your future medical care after retirement. However, this same government is in the business of creating artificial rents, enforcing monopoly privileges in the supply of health care that substantially raises the cost/price of the provision of this service now and in the future. Medicare might have been a good deal for the initial generation(s) of recipients, but it is not a particularly good deal for successive generations. The solution to the huge medicare unfunded liability will be to tax more of your labor and and extend the age of eligibility. So, despite technological progress, which should afford some degree of leisure at least in your later years, most of us will nonetheless have to work to the day we die to keep the artificial rents flowing to privileged health care monopolies. Now that’s progress…

4) Rand Paul
There’s no defense of Rand Paul. Most, if not all libertarians, would care less about any pre-agreement not to talk about Rand Paul for fear to be made to look like idiots and hypocrites in defending the indefensible. The same would apply to his equally repulsive opponent, Jack Conway.

Contra the New American Thinker, there is no Libertarian Misunderstanding of Law

Selwyn Duke of the New American Thinker claims libertarians misunderstand the nature of law. Here’s Duke’s argument in summary:

Without morality, there can be no law. Therefore part of the function of law must be to enforce morality to make the general rule of law possible.

Of course, this argument is nothing new. It’s the same argument that all Statists, in the end, make: law is a positive concept, that is, the purpose of law “is to cause justice to reign.” Whether Duke realizes it or not, the Fabian Socialist and the Christian moralist are making the same argument.

Frédéric Bastiat’s “The Law” addressed these Statist claims way back in the day. Law is not a “positive” concept, it is a “negative” concept. The purpose of law is not allow justice to reign but to prevent injustice from reigning. The purpose of law is not to promote justice but rather to correct injustice. Bastiat’s famous tract serves as foundation to the radical libertarian conception of law. And it’s a very simple one. There is no other abstract requirement of law outside the absence of plunder. Simple, but remarkably clarifying.

So, to Selwyn Duke I ask a simple question. Are Christians incapable of plunder? If they are, then there is no need of law in a Christian moral society. If they are not, then there is no value in promoting a positive law to enforce such a morality. Duke’s appeals to Christianity as the historical source for laws against such things as murder, theft, etc is laughable, revisionist history. The educated person, even a modestly educated person, knows better. The educated person knows full well, from a examination of history, that Morality + State is often the source of the most putrid, systematic plunder.

Bastiat, himself, was hardly an atheist. But he addressed “Law and Morality” thusly:

You say: “Here are persons who are lacking in morality or religion,” and you turn to the law. But law is force. And need I point out what a violent and futile effort it is to use force in the matters of morality and religion?

It would seem that socialists, however self-complacent, could not avoid seeing this monstrous legal plunder that results from such systems and such efforts. But what do the socialists do? They cleverly disguise this legal plunder from others — and even from themselves — under the seductive names of fraternity, unity, organization, and association. Because we ask so little from the law — only justice — the socialists thereby assume that we reject fraternity, unity, organization, and association. The socialists brand us with the name individualist.

But we assure the socialists that we repudiate only forced organization, not natural organization. We repudiate the forms of association that are forced upon us, not free association. We repudiate forced fraternity, not true fraternity. We repudiate the artificial unity that does nothing more than deprive persons of individual responsibility. We do not repudiate the natural unity of mankind under Providence.

The language here is clear. And I would advise Mr. Duke to read it carefully because he suffers from his own misunderstanding, a non-realization of the fact that his advocacy of Christianity under the threat of the gun makes him a collectivist. In short, Mr. Duke, you sir, are a Socialist…