Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This website has moved

The new site is Fundamentals of Liberty

The new site includes updated material from this site and new material

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Understanding the Threat to Liberty


You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream--the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
Ronald Reagan - "The Speech" - Oct. 27, 1964

Current political jargon makes it difficult to accurately discuss and analyze the true threat to liberty in our times.  This jargon leads us to view politics as a struggle between “Left” and “Right”.  A chart would look something like this:

            Far Left                                  Center                                   Far Right
     (Communists) -------------- (Democracy) --------------- (Fascists/Nazis)

If this construct were correct, we would obviously try to aim for the Center (Democracy) and to avoid the extreme Right (Fascism) and extreme Left (Communism).  The problem with this model is that the true political contest is not “Left” vs. “Right”, but instead, Individual Liberty vs. an All-Powerful State.

A more accurate political chart for our times might look something like this:
                                              Ordered Liberty (U.S. Constitution)
                                                            X (we are somewhere in this vicinity)
“LEFT”-Communists----- Totalitarian Gov't. ------“RIGHT”-Fascists/Nazis
   (Soviet Socialists)                                                           (National Socialists)

In this model, I believe our current struggle lies on the vertical axis between Ordered Liberty and Totalitarian Government.  The debate between Left and Right is mainly a distraction; a foolish argument about which type of Totalitarianism is preferable.  Both types of Totalitarianism have much in common with each other and very little in common with the Ordered Liberty of the U.S. Constitution.  Both Communists and Nazis consider themselves to be Socialists.  (U.S.S.R. was an abbreviation for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, while Nazi was a German acronym for National Socialist.)  Under both Communism and Fascism, the State is supreme and the people are its subjects.  Under our system, “We the People” delegate certain powers to the State in order to secure our rights and to achieve the “ordered” part of Ordered Liberty.

There is little to choose between Totalitarians of the Left and Totalitarians of the Right.  Both insist on government’s total domination of the society.  This dominance is achieved through such methods as controlling the economy, massive propaganda and extensive secret police operations by organizations such as the Gestapo and the KGB.  Both types of Totalitarians have engaged in horrific crimes against humanity, including mass murder on a scale that is hardly imaginable.  Because of the manner in which WWII played out, we tend to be more aware of Nazi crimes than Communist crimes.  However, Stalin was a bigger mass murderer than Hitler; and Mao may have topped them both to earn the title of worst mass murderer in history.

Conclusion:  We would be well advised to fiercely oppose any movement towards an All-Powerful Government.  We should not be confused or distracted by the false choice between “Left” and “Right”.  Instead, we should be very protective of the Ordered Liberty of the U.S. Constitution.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

1st Installment - Government's Monopoly


Q:  What is the distinguishing feature of government?

A:  Government has a legal monopoly on the use of coercive violence.

When analyzing that Q&A, the first thing to keep in mind is that I have attempted to use precise words. Thus, it is “the distinguishing feature of government”, not “a distinguishing feature”. Similarly, it’s “coercive violence”, not all forms of violence.

Government’s monopoly on the use of coercive violence is a truly awesome power.

Q:  How is this power implemented in the real world?

A:  It is applied by

these guys

and these guys

and these guys

All of these government agents perform an absolutely crucial function. They protect us from


and this

and this

and this

Our Founders understood this central role of government and they stated it quite clearly and eloquently in the Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

That point bears repeating:

The purpose of government is to secure our rights.

(BTW – they are OUR, rights, our UNALIENABLE rights. Government doesn’t give them to us, but it is the primary duty of government to protect these rights.)

We now understand the awesome power that We the People have assigned to our government and the purpose for which this power has been granted.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2nd Installment - Entities Other Than Government


In the 1st Installment we introduced the principle that “We the People” have assigned to government a monopoly on the use of coercive violence.  This power is granted to government for the purpose of guarding our unalienable rights.

(Note – for the purposes of this discussion, we are dealing with the types of violence which are allowed by society, not the violence of a criminal or an insane person.)

Now let’s take a look at how other societal entities differ from government where violence is concerned.

Individuals may use violence in self defense and defense of property.  Similarly, private institutions (corporations, universities, churches, etc.) may use violence to defend their people and property (think private security guards).  But neither individuals nor private institutions may use coercive violenceThey may NOT force a person to behave in a certain manner.  Private individuals and institutions may try to persuade or purchase a desired behavior, but only government may use violence to compel a desired behavior.

It’s very fashionable these days to be against the “evil” oil companies and health insurance companies.  But Exxon doesn’t force me to buy their gasoline.  They offer it for sale at a certain price and I can buy as much or as little as suits my desires and circumstances.  Humana doesn’t force me to purchase their health insurance.  They offer a range of benefits at various prices and it’s up to me whether or not to accept one of those arrangements.

This doesn’t mean that I must like the way Exxon and Humana do business or that I must like their products and prices, but no one puts a gun to my head and forces me to buy Exxon gasoline or Humana health insurance.  The same cannot be said about our dealings with government.

Coming next – how we interact with government. (hint:  the terms “involuntary” and “compulsion” come into play.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

3rd Installment - Our Interactions With Government


In the 1st and 2nd installments, we looked at the government’s monopoly on the use of coercive violence and how non-governmental relationships within the society are voluntary.

Now let’s take a look at how our interactions with government typically involve compulsion.  (In fact, although someone out there might be able to come up with an example to the contrary, I am hard pressed to think of ANY government action that is not based on compulsion.)

Perhaps the most common example of our dealings with government is taxation.

Paying taxes is NOT optional.  If you refuse to pay your taxes, men with guns WILL come for you

There are examples of government activities which are partly voluntary.  You may be eligible for food stamps, but you are not required to sign up.  You may be qualified to join the Army, but since we don't currently have a draft, you are not forced to join.  However, both food stamps and the Army are funded by taxation, which is mandatory.  And the great majority (all?) of regulations are also mandatory.  If you wish to drive a car, a driver’s license is required; it is not voluntary.  In my town, if I wish to burn brush, a burn permit is required, not optional.

None of the above is meant to imply that taxes, laws and regulations are necessarily bad things.  That would depend on the specific law, regulation or tax.  But you should always keep in mind that laws and regulations are compulsory, not voluntary.  Standing behind each law and regulation are the armed agents of the government (see 1st Installment).  Also, when contemplating all those very desirable government activities (roads, schools, airports, etc.), we should never forget that they begin with taxation (i.e. the mandatory confiscation of property from the individual).

Monday, April 26, 2010

4th Installment - The Essence of Liberty


Previously, we discussed the government’s monopoly on the use of coercive violence and the difference between our interactions with government and our interactions with other people and institutions in the society.

Now let’s take a look at the essence of liberty.

(Don’t tell my wife, but is this lady hot or what?)

The essence of liberty is to maximize voluntary interactions within the society and minimize those interactions which involve compulsion (i.e., government).

To achieve this, we should begin by asking a few simple questions before calling on government to undertake any task.

  1. Exactly how desirable is this particular government action?  Is it truly necessary or just something that would be “nice”?
  2. If government involvement is appropriate;
    1. How can it be accomplished with the minimum intrusion on our liberties?
    2. Is it necessary to involve the Federal Government or can an acceptable result be achieved via state and local governments?

That last item is very important.  Government action at the local or state level has two significant advantages over actions taken by the Federal Government:

  1. The individual has greater input with these smaller units of government than he has in Washington.
  2. The individual can move to a different locale if he strongly disagrees with a particular policy.  It is a much greater affront to liberty if the individual must leave the country in order to escape a distasteful policy.