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Posts Tagged ‘statist’

Solving the “Problem” of Free Riding | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on January 18, 2022

This kind of analysis has led many economists to conclude that the ancillary benefit from the bees is a “public good” and that, therefore, the neighbors should be forced to contribute to the cost of this good. This is supposed to be justified on the basis that the neighbor will enjoy a benefit that will, according to the economist, outweigh the cost.

With the almost constant statist apologetics we hear from many government and academic economists1 it is hard to believe that the discipline of economics was once a thorn in the side of the state and its political elite. So commonplace are fallacious economic arguments advocating state control that it sometimes seems that refutation of all of these arguments has become a case of cutting the heads off the Hydra—a tiring and fruitless endeavor.

But if economics is to become an instrument of freedom and prosperity instead of an instrument of statism,2 then there are certain fundamental fallacies that must be continually challenged and discredited. Chief among these is the persistent non sequitur from externality to coercion—that is, the bogus conclusion that coercion is a proper means to solve problems involving economic externalities.

One of the most blatant examples of this non sequitur occurs in discussions of the “free rider problem” and the alleged solution of government provision of so-called “public goods.”3 This is a particularly insidious economic theory that bears a great deal of the responsibility of derailing economics into the ditch of statism.

The “Problem” of Free Riding

The “free rider problem” occurs in situations in which a person derives a “positive externality” from the actions of another—that is, a benefit that he did not pay for. This occurs in situations where the beneficial effect of an action is “nonexcludable,” meaning that the benefits cannot be withheld from people who had nothing to do with the action.

For example, a beekeeper may keep bees solely as a means of producing honey. However, an ancillary effect of this activity—an externality—is that the bees will pollinate flowers in surrounding properties, benefiting the owners of those properties at no cost to them.4 Nor is there any practical means by which the beekeeper can produce his honey without conferring this benefit on his neighbors. Thus, the “good” provided to surrounding property owners is nonexcludable.

Observe that this situation involves no detriment to anyone, let alone any violation of rights. The beekeeper chooses to buy the bees because he expects to be better off by virtue of this action. Moreover, as an unintended consequence of his purchase, surrounding property owners also find themselves enjoying a benefit from the bees, at no cost to them. This may seem like a fortuitous event—even something to be celebrated.

And yet, there is a “problem”—or, to be more precise, a free rider “problem.” The problem is not that anyone has aggressed against anyone else. It is not that anyone’s rights have been violated. It is not even that anyone has suffered any detriment at all. Rather, it is a “problem” only when compared to what might have been done instead—a problem of allegedly inefficient underproduction of the good in question. In other words, the problem is that, if not for the nonexcludability of the good, things could potentially have been even better.

To illustrate how things might have been better, consider again our beekeeper and his neighbors. If the beekeeper possessed some means to prevent surrounding property owners from benefiting from his bees, without detracting from his own enjoyment, then he would be able to negotiate with them to pay him for the benefit. Since he would then derive an additional benefit from his bees—the payment—he would have an incentive to keep even more bees, benefiting both himself and his neighbors to an even greater extent. Nor is this merely a zero-sum game. Rather, under certain assumptions,5 it turns out that there is some level of payment at which the surrounding property owners would be indifferent between the excludable and the nonexcludable situation, whereas the beekeeper would be demonstrably better off—i.e., there would be a Pareto-efficient gain.6

This kind of analysis has led many economists to conclude that the ancillary benefit from the bees is a “public good” and that, therefore, the neighbors should be forced to contribute to the cost of this good. This is supposed to be justified on the basis that the neighbor will enjoy a benefit that will, according to the economist, outweigh the cost. And yet, regardless of the benefits that they enjoy, it cannot be said that the neighbors have in any way solicited this good or the forced arrangement advocated by the economist. Thus, the essence of this proposal is that the neighbors be forced to pay for an unsolicited good.7 Moreover, this is not merely a special case. Rather, the theory of “public goods” is a doctrine that advocates forced payment for unsolicited goods as a general economic ideal, applicable whenever a person obtains any benefit that is nonexcludable and which does not detract from the enjoyment of the good by others.

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Contact Ben O’Neill

Dr. Ben O’Neill is a statistician and economist.

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Why There’s a Left-Right Divide among Libertarians | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on September 6, 2020

So while thin libertarians are primarily concerned with limiting state power and protecting private property, it is thick libertarians who often seek to infuse their political philosophy with leftist social justice exhortations and calls to fight injustice and racism everywhere, even if the state must eventually be invoked as an intervening power (e.g., Gary Johnson’s “bake the cake” fiasco, or Jo Jorgensen’s recent Tweet). As Rockwell has noted, this has happened before, with what he sees as the degradation of classical liberalism into today’s American “liberalism.”

Amid the sociocultural convulsions and boutique displays of urban anarcho-tyranny that have taken place in America in recent months, there has been renewed discussion within certain circles of the liberty movement about how appropriate it is for libertarians and their intellectual brethren to self-identify as “right-wing” or “left-wing.” While libertarianism itself, which merely requires adherence to the nonaggression principle (NAP) and a desire to minimize or abolish state power, need not be considered a “right-wing” or “left-wing” political philosophy, I contend (from a decidedly right-wing perspective) that individual libertarians are almost certainly on the right or on the left.

All too often, libertarian infighting and internecine squabbles come across as mere navel gazing, with many mainstream libertarians—especially Libertarian Inc.—insisting that they have heroically transcended the old left-right spectrum. (Strangely enough, some libertarians seem to believe that this spectrum primarily pertains to red/blue politics.) Nevertheless, in recent months there have been some important conversations touching upon rights, human nature, the left-right spectrum, and what being a libertarian actually means. These conversations have taken place on podcasts such as Dave Smith’s Part of the Problem, Free Man Beyond the Wall, and The Tom Woods Show, among others.

I believe that these conversations are quite useful, as they might help convince some libertarians to abandon the hackneyed idiocy of defining and summing up the movement as “economically conservative but socially liberal.” It is a cheap cop-out, and individual libertarians should not shy away from accepting a “right-wing” or “left-wing” label; in fact, attempting to do so is an exercise in futility.

Stripped down to its very core, being right-wing entails a defense of natural hierarchies and a recognition that human beings are not all the same. This is consonant with thinkers from Aristotle all the way through the “revolutionary” leaders of the American War for Independence. Thomas Jefferson—admittedly not typically cited as a right-winger—voiced this sentiment in a letter to John Adams:

I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents….The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society.

Many on the right augment their worldview by noting that there is an objective moral order in the universe—and that it is knowable to us. Imperfect human beings are capable of great evil but also incredible acts of love, mercy, courage, and creativity. The embrace of an objective moral order (i.e., natural law) can be traced back to Catholic scholastics such as Thomas Aquinas and, later on, the Jesuit thinkers of the School of Salamanca (whom Murray Rothbard considered to be proto-Austrians in their approach to economics).

The very understanding that we are born with inherent natural rights is a sine qua non for civil society that is embraced by most anarcho-capitalists, propertarians, “paleolibertarian” minarchists, Ron Paul supporters, and true conservatives on the right. They recognize that the sacrosanct rights to private property and free association do not come from any government or collective entity.

Critics of the Right toss around (what they believe to be) slurs such as “reactionary” and “counterrevolutionary.” Yet, as Jeff Deist and others have argued, when considering the twentieth century’s long and disastrous litany of egalitarian and statist experiments here in the United States (e.g., the institution of the federal income tax, the Federal Reserve, the popular/democratic election of US senators, the New Deal, the Great Society), it is almost impossible for a libertarian NOT to take up a reactionary stance against these statist usurpations. After all, right-wingers contend that not all changes to civil society are desirable and that not all novelty serves the good. There might even be a modicum of wisdom from past generations that should be retained and imparted to future generations.

The Left, on the other hand, is defined by a devotion to egalitarianism, fighting for what they define as “oppressed” groups, and working for what they see as social and economic justice. They typically promote radical social change and keeping the ancien regime in a state of upheaval, believing that “inclusion” and tolerance are more appropriate for a progressive polity than reactionary morality and societal mores.

It is a leftist view that human beings are not born with intrinsic natural or God-given rights; rather, they are granted and assured those rights by the state or the collective. Any differences that might exist between human beings—whether disparities in wealth, innate abilities, health, intelligence, or even biological sex—could be unjustly exploited, so it follows that there might be a much bigger role for the state.

There are a variety of different economic views among left libertarians. Some adhere to anarcho-socialism and mutualism as described by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Others on the left practice countereconomics and agorism as promulgated by Samuel Konkin. All left libertarians are against economic and military imperialism; many of them recognize the labor theory of value, along with the rejection of private ownership of natural resources and the means of production, as fundamental economic principles.

In many instances, the line between left libertarians and right libertarians roughly approximates the delineation between “thick” and “thin” libertarianism. Thin libertarians merely believe in the NAP, the inviolability of private property, and the illegitimacy of state violence. Under subsidiarity principles, any government that is allowed to exist has its relatively small, distinct sphere of influence, and it must not intrude upon local communities—and especially not the family. Thick libertarians usually go much further, though. As Lew Rockwell has argued:

Proponents of a “thick” libertarianism suggest that libertarians are bound to defend something more than the nonaggression principle, and that libertarianism involves commitments beyond just this. One such proponent recently said, “I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force.”

So while thin libertarians are primarily concerned with limiting state power and protecting private property, it is thick libertarians who often seek to infuse their political philosophy with leftist social justice exhortations and calls to fight injustice and racism everywhere, even if the state must eventually be invoked as an intervening power (e.g., Gary Johnson’s “bake the cake” fiasco, or Jo Jorgensen’s recent Tweet). As Rockwell has noted, this has happened before, with what he sees as the degradation of classical liberalism into today’s American “liberalism.”

Certainly, it is possible for left libertarians and those with “thick” tendencies to avoid the siren song of authoritarian power and live according to the NAP, but it could very well represent a constant internal ideological struggle. After all, who would enforce the far left’s desired ban on privately held land and factories? Who would step in and prevent workers from being exploited? What entity will outlaw discrimination, curtail racism, and punish rogue bakers?

The differences in economics, ethics, and worldview among libertarians are plainly evident. When libertarians approach political and societal questions—and when they define the scope of their own libertarianism—they clearly do so from the left or from the right.


Gregory Gordon

Gregory Gordon (Twitter: @gregorysgordon) earned his Ph.D. from the Colorado School of Mines. He currently works as a geoscientist in the energy industry, and he is a lecturer in the California State University system. He resides in California with his wife and four children.

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Doug Casey on Trump… and an Impending Civil War? – Casey Research

Posted by M. C. on November 4, 2019

A fairly accurate assessment of Trump and our military, in my opinion.


Chris’ note: Chris Reilly here, managing editor for Casey Daily Dispatch.

A couple of weeks ago, I flew out to Aspen, Colorado to catch up with legendary speculator and bestselling author Doug Casey.

It was a fantastic trip. I asked Doug about everything from technology… to the economy… and the resurgence of gold.

Doug also shared his thoughts on President Trump… and more importantly, what could be in store for America.

Like usual, Doug didn’t hold anything back. Today, I want to share our discussion with you…

Read on for this week’s special Conversations With Casey…

Chris: Doug, you predicted that Trump would win the election long before most people even thought he had a chance. Now, almost three years in, how would you rate his presidency?

Doug: Well, on the one hand Trump is a good thing simply because he’s not one of the lunatic fringe Democrats. He’s a cultural traditionalist at heart; he wants to see the US return to the “Leave It to Beaver” days of the 1950s. That’s essentially why he was elected, and why he’s still so popular. Despite the fact he’s culturally conservative, he has no core values. He runs strictly on gut feeling. He has no central philosophy or intellectual beliefs. It’s just whatever seems like a good idea at the time. He knows a lot about real estate speculation on high leverage. But he knows absolutely nothing about economics.

Let’s look at the good and the bad things about Trump.

Cultural conservative. That’s good in a time when the US is in a state of cultural turmoil, where the old order is being overthrown – which it is. Not so long ago, the country that was composed of white Christian people of European origin; it was quite homogeneous. And if you’re going to have a country, it’s good to be homogeneous.

Since the late ‘60s, however, the US has been inundated with migrants from all over the world; it’s no longer homogeneous. It no longer has real cultural traditions, and the remaining ones are being abolished, like Columbus Day recently. Columbus is no longer the discoverer of America so much as the oppressor of native peoples.

One major change is that Americans no longer share a common religious tradition. Say what you want about Christianity – and I’m not a religious person – but it was something Americans could share, that they had in common. But it’s no longer a major element; the US is becoming like Europe that way. That’s important because Christianity provided a broad moral framework. Now there’s a vacuum. It may be filled by Mohammedanism, especially since so many migrants take that creed seriously. Churches will be replaced by mosques in many places.

There’s no longer any kind of trust in the culture in general. And certainly not in the government. The only thing that Americans still trust – the only institution they still have any respect for – is the military. And that’s extremely dangerous because as Edward Gibbon said, regarding the Roman Empire and their military, “any order of men accustomed to slavery and violence make for very poor guardians of a civil constitution.” Nonetheless, I don’t doubt one or both parties will put up a general as the Greater Depression reaches a climax.

Of course Trump loves the military, which is natural for a statist. But the good news about Trump is that he also apparently sees all the pointless foreign wars are just making lots of enemies while they bankrupt the country. He’s trying to get the troops out of the Middle East quagmire; better late than never, although he’s been very, very slow about this. If he finishes that, maybe he’ll get them out of the new quagmires that are building up in Africa, and then start closing the 800 bases around the world, which serve no useful purpose besides feeding the Deep State. I don’t believe he’ll succeed, however. Warmongers are in total control in Washington.

So let’s put it this way. Trump has some real pluses, but no philosophical center. Politically he’s a statist. Economically, he doesn’t have a clue. In fact, he’s looking for more money creation, and lower or negative interest rates. Which is going to add flames to an absolutely catastrophic depression.

I appreciate his trying to stem mass migration, so what’s left of America can retain its cultural core. But his efforts are like building a sand castle on the sea shore. The waves are going to wash it away for all kinds of reasons. A pity, really. Minneapolis will resemble Mogadishu, Miami might resemble Port au Prince more than even Havana, El Paso will be like Juarez, and Cleveland like Karachi. But things change. The colors of the map on the wall are running more than has been the case since the barbarian invasions of the 5th century.

Chris: What do you have to say about the political landscape right now as we head into the 2020 election season?

Doug: Trump’s acting as a catalyst for something resembling an actual civil war in this country. And I’ll draw your attention to the fact that the unpleasantness of 1861 to 1865 was not, in fact, a civil war. It was a war of secession, which is very different from a civil war. In a war of secession, one group simply wants to part company from another – not rule them. In a civil war, on the other hand, you’ve got two or more groups that are fighting for control of one government. That wasn’t the case in the War Between the States…

The US could easily break up.

People say, “Well, what about our military, our defense?” The point I’d make is that the military is the second biggest thing, after welfare, that’s bankrupting the country. That’s number one.

Number two, they’re not defending the country. They’re actually drawing in outside attacks by going out and making enemies all over the world. The natives don’t like our soldiers in their countries any more than we’d like their soldiers in the US.

Number three, all our expensive high-tech weapons – F35s, B2s, aircraft carriers, and the rest of it… are basically junk. They’re going to be almost worthless in what resembles World War III, whatever that might look like. New technologies are going to totally obviate this crap, much more seriously than cavalry in World War I, which turned out to be worthless, or battleships in World War II.

When the military fails, it’s going to be a big disuniting influence for the US. Only a teeny-weeny portion of the American population knows anything about the military anymore. They’re isolated from it, even though they’ve been programmed to love and respect it. The military have, at the same time, become like a separate culture within the culture. Military guys hang out just with each other, not with civilians. Just like cops hang out just with each other, not with the people that they police. Most cops today, incidentally, are also ex-military. Another bad trend.

There’s a great deal more to be said about all this, but the purpose of this interview was just to touch on a few high points.

Bottom line? Trump has his hands full.

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Donald Trump’s Authoritarian Opponents – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on March 16, 2018

Unfortunately, many of Trump’s opponents are even more statist than the president. Marking the anniversary of Donald Trump’s election, the Washington Post Magazine presented “38 ideas for repairing our badly broken civic life.” Post Magazine editor Richard Just explained that “all of us … should be able to agree that some future-pondering about the state of our democracy is in order.” Many — if not most — of the Post’s recommendations from experts, artists, and writers were insipid or authoritarian. Some of the proposals provided chilling examples of liberal/leftist power-lust in the Trump era. Read the rest of this entry »

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