Libertarian Principles Before I express my opinions, let me first articulate libertarian principles for those who may read this and not be fully aware. Many people start with the non-aggression principle, or More »
The Erie County Libertarian Party is the first of six new county chapters, since it’s founding on July 18th, 2015, and has taken off running. In that brief amount of time, the Libertarian More »
Early this past January, I was hanging with a few fellow high school alums at this cafeteria place in the West Village, not far away from where we all had just had a reunion for a club we had each been in back in the day. This club, known as Junior Statesman of America (or for short, JSA) was a model Congress of sorts where we’d have weekly meetings in the biology room and debate a plethora of mock bills, and for which we’d go to three out-of-state conventions each year (and, moreover, whose events at our school were facilitated by one of our history teacher, who, as a matter of fact, was the first libertarian I ever knew). Anyways, while I’m hanging out with these folks, one of the guys tells us how at one point how he was starting to have a more “libertarian” outlook of the world, but at a point later on, apparently had to chicken out of that. This, he further told us, happened because he realized that people out there in the world did not seem as trustworthy as he formerly saw them to be, and somehow having a (relatively more) libertarian viewpoint, by default, was at complete odds with this new mentality of his.
Now if there is any implication to draw out of this short, unelaborate anecdote of this, it’s that, at least supposedly, that ascribing to the libertarian doctrine automatically entails embracing a lackadaisically blithe trust in every individual in society. But little to this guy’s knowledge, this is, in brief, far from the case. In fact, one can be the staunchest libertarian and be practically the most absurdly paranoid person conceivable—not that it’s necessarily the greatest idea to be such.
The simple reason for this is that being warier of others doesn’t entail initiating coercion or aggression on those you happen to be have suspicions of (or for that matter, having a third-party institution to do such on your behalf). One alternative to such is personally upholding caveat emptor or a similar principle in one’s interactions with those in the general public or marketplace. Moreover, people who hold less trust in others can also live in a free society (or adhere to the ideals of such) and naturally avoid such risks by just simply cloistering themselves in the safety of their homes, away from all those dangerous potential situation that they dread have happen to them–again, not that that’s the best or only solution.
On the other hand though, there is of course the widespread stereotype of libertarians as off-the-grid foil-hatters with no trust for any other human being (or at least for those within the ranks of government). But just like the misconception that this piece is primarily focused on, this faulty notion is based heavily in certain manifestations of the composition-division fallacy. That is to say, those who maintain either prejudice essentially follow the glib line of reasoning that “because such-and such a person I know is a libertarian, and since that said person seems to have a generally giddy and trustful demeanor towards others / a wary attitude towards state authority, it thus must be so that every libertarian has those qualities to the most exaggerated degree conceivable (and therefore, we’ve gotta go on a rashly overzealous crusade of sorts to stop the bastards!)”. Thus it’s pretty clear to anyone capable of thinking in terms of workable syllogisms (on a frequent enough basis, at least) that drawing such a conclusion in this manner is patently unsound.
However, if one wishes to maintain as much of their security as possible without walking on eggshells in those respects or being a total recluse from society (all while, as Walter Block would put it, in his jovial, humorous Brooklyn vernacular, “keep[ing] your mitts to yourself”), there is yet the further option of voluntarily banding up with individuals of similar interests or concerns to create or support an organization or agency in the marketplace that could serve such people’s needs and wants in that regard. Such an organization can do such by surveying the companies, entrepreneurs, or what have you, with those parties’ proper, uncoerced consent. Furthermore, a voluntary agency like this can quite easily get funded without the seizure of other people’s assets, since high amounts of public demand for the existence of such an organization or its services would in all likeliness be enough to drive many of those who desire it in one way or another to sponsor such services. Harry Browne, as a matter of fact, brilliantly articulated once how such ends can be accomplished without the apparent necessity of state coercion, stating how:
“[T]here are people [that the marketplace readily enables the presence of] who can [judge, test, and rate things such as safety or quality for a given good or service for those amongst the general public]. They work for large leasing companies that need to know the long-term effects of buying one model [of car] over another. They work for magazines like Consumer Reports or Motor Trends that want you to rely on them for guidance. And millions more of them–the amateurs–work for free, and will gladly tell you about their experience with the products of a given manufacturer [or at least something of the like]. All these experts are willing to help you. And if there were no experts, the makers [or providers of a given product or service] would devise ways to prove their products are safe. Otherwise you’d be afraid to buy [that product or use that service]–and they’d go out of business.” (1995, 80)
Furthermore, Jonathan Newman, in his recent article for the Mises Institute, titled “The App Store Renders Governement”, where he touches upon how the app Mr. Number has outperformed the public sector FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, has also weighed in on the market’s ability to deliver in assuring people’s security, concluding:
“[P]rivate efforts, especially mobile apps, have made use of decentralized knowledge to enforce rules in a far more effective way than brute enforcement ever could. Creative app designers have found innovative ways to solve problems, and have rendered a range of government services either irrelevant or obsolete. Apps like Yelp! probably have done more to ensure restaurant food quality than all government food safety inspectors combined.”
Moreover though, even if there are people who desire such services, but don’t have the luxury of being able to donate to or pick up the tab for such an organization themselves, the said public demand would very likely be a great enough impetus for at least many of these people (given of course, that they’re able to think outside the box) to take the initiative of taking some of their time and energy to go out and encourage those who can spare it to contribute to the coffer for their cause. And even if such an endeavor is not quite as fruitful as anticipated, there still will, in all likeliness, be at least some well-to-do individuals with a good and sensible insight of what will serve the welfare of their community and the common persons it consists of. Human society, after all, has a solid tendency not to be all as grim in reality as the capricious advocates of allegedly humanitarian, but nonetheless coercion-based, state intervention often depict it as being. Harry Browne also addressed this issue, articulating how:
“[W]hatever functions you wish the government would keep won’t be abandoned just because the federal government lets go of them. If there’s any appreciable demand for them, someone else will take them on–state or local governments or, better yet, non-profit groups or companies that can profit only by handling them efficiently.
In the marketplace, you don’t have to muster a majority vote to get something done. You need only a few people who want something–and someone will satisfy that desire in order to earn a profit.” (1995, 220)
With all those factors that such coercion-happy individuals might bring up put to the side, however, one must furthermore take note of a certain glaring irony in the very fact that they often consider those of the classical liberal or voluntarist mindset as being overly and unthinkingly trustful of others, in and of itself. That is to say, given that zealous interventionists think this way of their opponents on the grounds that they don’t supporting greater intrusion, “intervention”, and the wielding of brute coercion by state bureaucracy, it is so palpably self-contradictory (at least when viewing matters without the blindspots that these people have) that they think such. This is so, in turn, for the simple reason that these people themselves are likewise guilty of having a certain lack of vigilance in their judgments regarding the institutions they favor and advocate for–that is, government (at least in the spheres and aspects of society they wish it to be in). Such a self-contradiction on their part can be very clearly seen by taking into consideration that such compulsorists almost invariably hold practically no sense of conscientious reservation regarding expansive government programs, or more specifically, concerning the practically inevitable phenomenon of such state-run services being abused in ways quite contrary to their framers’ intentions.
Abuses of this sort come into place on both the giving and receiving ends of the purveyance of state-provided services. In the case of the former end, these abuses arise in the form of the plethora of corrupt practices of crowd-pleasing politicians seeking their spot in the pantheon of the “secular” creed of state hegemonism, doing so even if their policies all too frequently vitiate the incentives in the marketplaces that their political implementations will impact. Moreover, on the latter end, there are those individuals and organizations (be they welfare recipients, failed corporate entities, or corrupt, economically stagnant third world nation-states getting foreign aid, etc.) who use their alleged “rights” to such handouts to excuse themselves from going about their business in a more productive or mutually beneficial manner, and in many cases, attain and use their benefits in a manner not so compliant with their benevolent purposes, if not downright fraudulently. With such inconsistencies of these venomous objectors of non-interventionism taken into serious consideration, it should be quite clear to many that these vituperators of greater political freedom are not in much of a position to be calumniating libertarians as the delusional, happy-go-lucky type they picture them to be.
Hence, based on the way a free society based in the concepts of non-aggression, private property, and voluntary exchange (and naturally, the individuals therein) is capable of functioning, along with how fallacious and selective the reasoning of the unduly cynical Hobbesian mindset prevalent on both the left and right of today is, it is plainly erroneous to jump to the conclusion that advocating for less state intrusion somehow means having no reservations about the devious or negligent characters of our society.
Hopefully, in any case, there will come a day that every individual in society, regardless of ideological doctrine, will assume their natural duty of being personally responsible for their own decisions in life, and thus have a well-reasoned trust of sorts in their own capabilities, as well as those of their fellow proverbial neighbors, to make good and righteous choices. This way, we may all go about in the world in our Jeffersonian pursuits of happiness with a greatly lessened chance of falling victim to the misdeeds of others, and without any need to keep ourselves shut up in reclusion to avoid such jeopardy. This, indeed, is a goal desirable to any person wishing for the state of humanity to continuously improve over time, regardless of what the intricacies of their world views may be.
There is a notion among the left that the wealthy are to blame for poverty in America. They live in extravagant mansions, drive expensive luxury cars, fly first class to exotic locales (if not in a private jet), and drink $1,500 bottles of scotch–all while their hard-working employees are living off of scraps.
This invokes leftists to call for legislation to make salaries more even. An increase on the federal minimum wage is one of the first things we hear them ask for; despite the fact that minimum wage laws hurt the poor more than they help. Some have even called for a maximum wage. Many also call for a more progressive income tax, even though America has the most progressive tax system in the world.
At the end of the day it seems that the left ultimately would like to see the wealthy CEO’s of companies make less money, and their employees make more. While I think that this progressive mentality stems from compassion, it lacks a true understanding of how little CEO pay affects employee pay.
Poverty is an issue, and there are those in power who offer seemingly easy fixes to that issue. Some people have too much money. Some people don’t have enough. Let’s just “nudge” those who have too much into coughing up some scratch, and we can eradicate poverty in America forever, right?
So, how much should CEOs be forced to fork over to their employees? 30 percent of their annual salaries? 50 percent? What if I told you that CEO’s could give 100 percent of their salaries to the people who work hard to make them rich, and it would make virtually no difference to the people that work for them?
I’ve picked two corporations that are largely considered to be exploitative of their employees; McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. Let’s do a little math, and see how much employee’s of each company would benefit, should it’s respective CEO decide to generously give up their entire salary in order to pay their employees more.
Steve Easterbrook, CEO of McDonald’s, makes a whopping $7.91 million per year. That figure seems excessive, when you consider the fact that the federal minimum wage is a mere $7.25 an hour. Surely he could afford to take a pay cut in order to benefit the 420,000 employees that work for McDonald’s Inc. Simple math dictates otherwise. Divide Easterbrook’s annual salary of $7,910,000 by the number of people that work under him and receive an annual salary, and you see a pay raise of around $18.84 a year, or 34 cents per week . Do the math yourself. 7,910,000/420,000
Wal-Mart is touted as being an evil employer. Forcing their employees to start at a dollar or two above minimum wage, while the highest paid executives live lavishly as a direct result of their employee’s sweat and tears. Wal-Mart paid CEO Doug McMillon 25.6 million dollars in 2014. Significantly more than McDonald’s pays their top CEO, but to be fair, Wal-Mart also pays their employees somewhat higher wages than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
What if McMillon were to share his entire salary with Wal-Mart’s employees? The 2.1 million people who work for Wal-Mart would see an annual raise of $12.19 a year, or 24 cents per week. Again, I encourage you to do the math for yourself. 2,560,000/2,100,000
We can do this with any big corporation you like. The results won’t differ much, however, if you look at the statistics for all businesses across the board (and not just the biggest ones with the most negative press) you’ll find that the wage gap is significantly smaller than many would have you believe.
When looking at these numbers, it should become obvious that wealth distribution will make little to no impact. If we want to help those who live in poverty, we must look to free markets to create better jobs, and to drive the value of the dollar up.
Before I express my opinions, let me first articulate libertarian principles for those who may read this and not be fully aware. Many people start with the non-aggression principle, or NAP. This is the idea that it is unjust to INITIATE FORCE on another individual and their property. (Not harm, we are talking a direct application of force on another, not some soft idea of disutility or harm)
Underlying the NAP is an even more fundamental idea, the idea of self-ownership. The idea that your life is yours, and fruits of your labor are your property. Your most essential property, without which the ownership of all else cannot be, is your life. Beyond the economic benefits of property rights and contract rights, the underlying protection in libertarian principle is that of your life.
Purpose of Principle
A lot of the debate and controversy among libertarians isn’t related to what our principles are, but what the purpose of those principles may be. Principles help us identify injustice in society and help us make choices to organize in a way that is less unjust. (If you lived by yourself on an island, you would not, necessarily, need principles as there would be no other party to settle conflicts with.)
The perfectly just world we can imagine through these principles, is its purpose to be an end where anything less is unjust? Or is it a model of perfection to help make more ideal choices in a constantly imperfect world? In short, are principles a guideline for achieving more justice or a mandate for accepting no injustice? (Maybe both, or something in between)
Is there a right answer? No, it’s a question of personal values and there is a spectrum of how these principles are applied. My hope is for people to understand that diverse applications of principle not identical to ones own are not necessarily unprincipled. (We can all hold Libertarian Principles close to our heart but differ on their application to our own worldviews)
Why I am Voting Gary Johnson
I am a libertarian. I am passionate about principle out of a desire for more justice in a world that has more injustice than I can bear. The greatest injustice is the destruction of that most important piece of property, your life. The areas of policy where the most lives are lost on a daily basis are foreign intervention and the drug war. These policies, implemented and sustained by both of the old parties in near equal measure, destroy lives at every turn.
Clinton’s and Trump’s stances on these issues only promote more destruction of life. Regardless of any perceived imperfection of Johnson and Weld’s articulation of principle and its application, their views on these two important issues present to me the least injustice over the next 4 years.
To me, a vote for Gary Johnson is the vote that best promotes the idea self-ownership and saves lives. In an effort to protect lives that will otherwise be lost if either of his opponents win, I will enthusiastically vote for Gary Johnson, because I care about protecting peoples lives.
I consider myself Libertarian Bold (Believe in a Strong Application of Principle), and I’m voting for the Libertarian Party and Gary Johnson in 2016. If I am elected US Senator in 2016, trust me, I’ll be there to be the libertarian conscience of the legislature, and pushing for a Libertarian Bold agenda of peace, tolerance, markets and individualism holding whoever is president accountable to principle.