Friday, September 27, 2013


How do we determine what the right course is? Some people will appeal to Utilitarian concerns, what benefits the most people even if some people get hurt. Some people will appeal to justice, where justice simply means that the outcomes match the outcomes they desire.

While in theory, Utilitarian concerns make sense. However, a person's well being is subjective and cannot be compared to others. Because of this, Utilitarian arguments revolve around financial gains and losses. But since our well being is more than just money, such measures are useless.

Justice is a good place to appeal. Without a coherent theory of justice, we may actually be promoting injustice. Justice is just proper action. Policy recommendations based on claims of injustice, such as minimum wage laws or progressive taxation, are based on the claims that income distribution is unjust. This is a incoherent claim. Without an understanding of the purposes of prices or money, claims about injustice in income distribution make no sense.

Before we can determine what is just, we must have a coherent set of principles, a starting place from where we can examine policies. These principles must be based on promoting mutual cooperation and reducing conflict. The must promote civility and not barbarity.

This makes the first principle easy, the non-aggression or non-initiation of force principle. You cannot initiate force against your fellow human being. This principle is generally agreed upon by most people yet hardly anyone actually exercises it. This principle alone will not get us very far unless we have other principles that determine what is an initiation of force.

The next important principle is property. Every system of political thought has a principle of property. Some adhere to a principle that property is collective while others adhere to a theory of private property. Since our goal is to minimize conflict, a system of collective ownership of property cannot work. Collective ownership means there is always conflict for every piece of property that more than one person wants to use at any given point. If we consider a spectrum of ownership from a pure collective to a pure private system of property ownership, there will always be conflict until we reach a system of pure private ownership. The US operates under a mixed system where the government claims ownership over every piece of property and allows private individuals the right to use the property at its please. The US government reserves the right to make decisions about how all property can be used up to and including taking complete ownership of the property. Because of this, there is always conflict between private owners and government over most property.

These two principles alone cannot determine justice. Since a person must have a right to defend himself from threats of force, we need social norms that tell us when an implied threat is sufficient to justify defensive force. For example, if someone raises a fist at you, when can you strike first as a defensive measure? If someone is two feet from you, a defensive first strike is likely justified. If someone is thirty feet from you, it may not be. However, if you are walking down a dark alley and someone is coming up to you in a threatening manner, defensive action may be justified at thirty feet.

Claims of injustice, however, are more clear. The claim that workers are unfairly unpaid and that a minimum wage is justified is baseless. The worker owns his body and has a right to you it to produce labor in exchange for money. The employer presumably acquired his money justly and has a right to give it to the worker. Forcing the employer to give more money to the worker violates property rights. It tells both parties under what terms they may make the exchange. Since the minimum wage is backed by threats of force, this policy violates both the principle of non-aggression and property rights.

The justification for taxes is that people use government services and that these services need to be paid for. As long as the payment for the service is voluntary, there is no problem. As soon as the government forces people to pay for a service, with threats of violence or confiscation of property, then these payments become unjust. That people use the services government provides is not relevant. If government does not require payment for the use of a service, that does not justify theft to pay for the service. Taxes are unjust.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Naturalistic materialism

There is a question about what reason is there to have a naturalistic materialist world view. What can be better explained by such a world view than by other world views.

Before I get into that, let me explain that I do not believe that the material world is all that there is. However, we do not have evidence that there is anything not explainable within the natural world. Souls are not required to explain our self awareness. Love has been shown to exist as a chemical reaction in the brain. If there is anything beyond the natural world, we do not know what it is.

So why naturalistic materialism? Most world views accept that science and reason are the best tools we have for understanding the natural world. This means that everything accountable under  naturalistic materialism can also be accounted for under these other world views. However, these other world views claim to have special knowledge that goes beyond the naturalistic world view.

None of these other world views can claim there is something they explain better than other world view without the other world views making exactly the same claim. None of them can prove that their better explanation is true.

With naturalistic materialism, if we are not sure, we can admit we do not know. Claims of miracles and other magical tails that other world views rely on but can never demonstrate don't bother the naturalistic materialist. Since miracles cannot be historically demonstrated as the most probable event because by definition they are the least probable event, we can never know if a miracle took place on history.

Without good reason to accept other world views, we are left with the world view that reflects the best we can based on the evidence, that is naturalistic materialism.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Government vs the market: win/lose or win/win?

One of the great benefits of the market is that it creates win/win opportunities. When 2 people make a voluntary exchange, both expect to be better off afterwards.

Governments, on the other hand, create win/lose opportunities. Through coercion, they force involuntary exchange. At best, if they exchange would have happened regardless of government action, government has wasted resources trying to force a transaction that would have taken place. The loser in this best case scenario is the taxpayer. The worst case scenario is one in which no party is better off from the transaction.

The most common situation, however, are the win/lose scenarios. These are the ones we hear about the government triumph. The government succeeds in helping one person and the injured party is ignored.

Obamacare is an example of this. Some people are made better off and the government proudly point to this accomplishment. For example, adult children under 26 can remain on their parents' insurance policy. But this is not free. Someone else has to make up the extra cost. So everyone else must pay more and society as a whole must suffer. This cost is not trumpeted. The inefficient redirection of resources is ignored.

Welfare is another example. Recipients of welfare can be pointed to. They are the winners of this policy. Taxpayers as a whole are made worse off. Since welfare programs reduce the cost of failing to keep a steady job, recipients are free to continually fall back into this so-called safety net while the rest of society subsidizes them.

Bail-outs of large firms are a more clear example. Since so many are opposed to bailouts, people clearly see that these companies and their employees are the winners while the rest if society loses. Even worse, since these inefficient firms continue to consume resources, these resources are not reallocated to higher valued used, making society even worse off. 

What about the provision of services? Aren't police and fire services examples of win/win? Since the government is incapable of knowing the correct amount of resources to allocate to these services, resource allocation will be determined either arbitrarily or based in political will. Such services are monopolized by the government and do not face the competition the market would provide that would improve service and reduce costs. These are the loses society faces do to government control of these services.

In ever way, government cannot create win/win scenarios. At best they can only force transactions that would have happened and at worse create lose/lose.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What if the government is wrong?

What if the government is wrong? Governments try to control many aspects of our lives from regulating the goods and services we buy to setting price controls. But what if the government is wrong.

In setting a minimum wage, supporter claim that employers are under paying their workers and should be forced to pay a higher wage. So the government set a minimum wage. But what if that wage is too high? An employer who over pays get a profit and loss signal if they over pay incentivizing them to lower the wage. What incentive does the government have to ensure the minimum wage is not set too high?

In regulating drugs, the FDA has to set an acceptable level of risk. What if they set this level too low? Life saving drugs may be denied to people who need them. In a free market, people set their own level of risk. Third party safety groups can review and assess the risk but they cannot prohibit someone from taking the drug because of a low risk threshold.

What about other regulations? What if government tells businesses to behave in ways that are not in the people's interest? If businesses try to act in a way counter to the interests of their customers they lose business. In this way the profit and loss mechanism insures businesses behave appropriately. But if government tells all businesses to perform certain tasks that do not maximize the customer's value, government has no incentive to change its demands. Since resources have to be reallocated to pleasing the government, these resources are no longer available for increasing consumer value.

Markets provide incentives for businesses to meet the customer needs. However, government gets no signals when trying to redirect resources away from the consumer's ends to its ends. In this way, government controls will always tend to reduce consumer welfare.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Government vs markets: propaganda

One may be tempted to claim that a difference between governments and the market is that in markets businesses use advertising to lie to customers and propagandize. This assumes that people are mindless zombies, easily misled by a well done ad. 

This is not true. Even a well done ad cannot make up for a lousy product or poor service. In the short run, businesses could make money by tricking people, but to make any real money companies have to offer a product or service that meets the needs of their consumers.

How do we deal with one time purchases? While most companies produce multiple products and will want your business in the future for new products, how do we deal with those one off situations? The market has a solution. Companies exist that review products and/or give recommendations. These companies want you to continue to use their services so they want to be accurate.

In these ways the effects of propaganda by market participants is short lived. But what about government propaganda? Governments claim a monopoly on the school system. What incentives do they have not to propagandize? They control the media through the FCC. What incentive do they have not to abuse this power? The only incentives seems to be that if the people hear about it, they may complain. But they are garnering support for campaign finance controls, so that only the government can decide who can and cannot speak out during elections.

I think the evidence is pretty clear. If we should be concerned about propaganda it is from the government not the market.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Government vs the market: resources

How does the government know how to allocate scarce resources? In the market, Prices and profits signals indicate where scarce resources need to be allocated. With government, however, there are nonon-arbitrary  signals for where resources should be allocated.

In the market resources are allocated in a way so as to maximize social welfare. Goods that are most highly valued have their prices bid up which then gives direction to reduce consumption of that particular good while also inducing additional resources to be allocated to that good. As prices are bid up, profits in the creation of that good increase. These profits signals induce companies to allocate resources to that highest valued good. The end result is that resources are allocated to their highest valued end. This is economic efficiency. In this manner the free-market maximizes social welfare.

The government does not have these same signals as to where they should allocate resources. Take for instance law-enforcement. How much resources should be allocated to law enforcement? The only signal they have is how successful law enforcement is. But what they can't determine is how highly valued that end is.

This is essentially the socialist calculation debate. When ever the government acts in the economy, that is socialism. As Mises and Hayek showed, socialism cannot work better than capitalism because it cannot allocate resources efficiently.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Busting the mythicists

Some people claim that Jesus of Nazareth is just a myth. They claim he was created as a god man. worshiped by the early believers. This claim is not supportable.

The earliest sources we have for Jesus are the epistles of Paul and the Gospel of Mark. Neither Paul nor Mark indicate that Jesus is the same as God. In fact, neither believes Jesus was born as the son of God. For Paul, Jesus became the messiah, the king of the Jews and the son of God (another title for the earthly king) at his resurrection. For Mark, Jesus was named son of God at his baptism.

Mark clearly does not think Jesus was God. Jesus was baptized, meaning he went to have his sins cleansed.

There are many reasons to think the mythicists are wrong. While my evidence here does not prove that Jesus exists, it does show that the claim for why this supposed myth was created is obviously wrong.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The gold compromise

The monetary standard we have, one ruled controlled by politicians and manipulated by banks, is the worse standard to have, none. The optimal option would be a free market in currency.

However, I have been accused of being unable to compromise, since I advocate for what is best instead of slightly better than the worst. I will support any effort to increase freedom and justice even if it is not the best option. Any tax reduction, even a small one I support, any reduction in government control of people's live, I support and any move towards a better currency.

There seems to be 4 options for our currency. We have the worst option, where money is not determined by the desires of people but the desires of government.

A better option is a gold standard, a standard that many libertarian leaning individuals support. This is not ideal since it forces gold alone to be split between its uses  in consumption and production. But it takes control of the money supply away from government and politicians making it more optimal than the current fiat standard.

Milton Friedman was originally a supporter of a gold standard but eventually advocated for a bimetallic standard, i.e. gold and silver. This is the standard the US had through much of its history. A multi-metallic standard, where 2 or 3 or more metals are used as currency, is better. If the additional metals have uses that are valued less than the value of gold as a currency, these metals can be substituted as currency increasing total welfare.

Lastly, the optimal standard would be a free market standard. A free market standard and is floating which allows any item whose value in exchange is greater than its value in use to be used as currency. Only this standard, that chosen by voluntary and peaceful interactions, will maximize social welfare.

In theory, a paper standard could be optimal. How ever, if the standard can be manipulated to benefit one group at the expense of others, such a standard cannot be shown to be optimal. As such, I would support efforts to change our money to a gold based standard even though such an option is not optimal.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We do not need more healthcare

One of the claims made is that we need more healthcare or health insurance. However, if we allocate resources to healthcare, we much allocate resources from other ends. What ends should we remove resources from? The people are choosing to allocate resources away from healthcare and towards different ends. This means if you care about people's welfare, more resources should not be allocated to healthcare. If you do not care about people's welfare, why would you want to allocate resources to healthcare?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Putting all our eggs in one basket

A friend of mine, let call him John Doe, accused me of wanting to put all my eggs in one basket because I do not support governments ruling our lives. He claimed that supporting just the free market is putting my eggs in one basket. For him, having both the market and the government is not having his eggs in one basket.

Unfortunately, John does not understand that free market is not a thing but is the millions and billions of voluntary interactions that happen on a daily basis. No one person or organization has control over the free market. When government enters the picture, however, they take control and become the final arbiter in all decisions.

Let us look at a few ways in which John supports putting all our eggs in the one basket called government.

At one point, John pointed to roads that were run by private organizations, showing how badly the were run and claiming that this form of public-private partnership shows how a free market in private roads would work. In a free market, there is competition that forces producers to keep costs low and provide high quality customer support. Government granting one private group a private monopoly is completely different from the free market in that if a monopoly existed in a free market that tried to charge high prices for low quality, competitors can rise up and provide new options. However, in the public-private venture, only government decides who can provide road service. Our roads egg is still in the government basket.

What about healthcare. While John claims to not like the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, he claims it is better that what we had previously. Previously we had government taking more and more control over healthcare decisions and forcing prices up in the name of saving lives. Since the saving lives never materialized, any rational person would support ending government involvement in healthcare and letting market participants control their healthcare decisions. Unfortunately, politicians are insane and will continue to do the same thing over and over and keep expecting different results. Obamacare places more of our healthcare eggs into the government basket.

What about emergency services? Police and fire protection? Who controls these services? Government. And since the government is not required to provide these services to anyone, when they fail to provide their service, we can make no claim. In the free market, protection services would be required to provide service to those they contracted with. And if they failed to provide service, they could be held responsible. Again, more eggs in the government basket.

What about arbitration disputes? In the free market, arbitration would be handled through independent private arbitrators. Private arbitration still exists but government has made claim to being the final arbitrator. If you have a claim against the government, you have to go to the government and have them arbitrate the dispute. More eggs in the government basket.

What about the rest of the economy? Surely government does not provide every service and the haven't given grants of private monopoly in every market. John however supports government regulation in all businesses. Government should decide how businesses are run and any private decisions made are only made at the pleasure of the government. Private labor agreements should be over ruled to ensure that people have a livable wage and profits should not be too large, economics and reality be damned. Every last egg from the bounty of the market should be placed in the government basket. No part of our lives should be free from government control.

So how do we get all of our eggs out of the one basket? We need private firms providing the services that we thought that government should provide. We should have competition so that we are not putting all our eggs in one basket. Only the free market can insure true competition.