Archive for economics
LCC reader Andrew recently asked me,
“Norman, in your opinion, how would child abuse like the recent incident where a baby was found nearly starved by his lazy parents be prevented in a libertarian society? How would children such as this be protected?”
Andrew, there will always be evil people in the world. Government will not solve that, neither will a world without government. Children are not “protected” now in the sense that 100% of all potential abuses are thwarted, as is evident from this stupidity. Additionally, nobody can promise that a libertarian society is a utopia full of puppies and rainbows.
However, I am quite confident that child abuse or neglect such as this terrible incident would be reduced in a free society, relative to the current state of affairs. Right now, the government basically incentivizes irresponsibility in child-rearing through welfarism and the public school system. How so? When the State provides “free of charge” certain services that make it possible to have sustained unemployment and to remove a parent from a central component of a child’s life – his/her education – then it is no surprise that certain parents will be inclined to laziness, and even to abuse.
With those things out of the way, I think that habitually irresponsible people will actually be less likely to have children precisely because they will have to be 100% responsible for their family – they cannot just assume the government will pick up the slack. Yes, there will still be problems, but I would expect the problems to be far fewer in number than what we experience now.
Also, a free society would probably have much more active adoption opportunities. The government has essentially monopolized adoption, and as a result the costs are high and the efficiency low. In a free society, the incentives would be aligned so that irresponsible parents would be much more likely to put their baby up for adoption once it becomes clear that it is more in their interest to divest themselves of the responsibility rather than keep it.
As it is, governments have thoroughly messed up the world with respect to children. The United States has made it difficult to adopt without the state getting its cut, of course, but adopting a child from another country in the United States is even more difficult because of the multiple states involved in the process. People assume that the state puts the interests of children first, yet not only do they do no such thing but they also exacerbate pre-existing problems with excessive regulation and stifling of the marketplace.
A lot of people dislike the idea of a “paternal” or “nanny” state, but the state playing the “parent” game with real children is truly tragic.
Tags: children, children's rights, economics, ethics, FAQ, parenting
Air travelers were outraged when the FAA announced that there would be flight delays because air-traffic controllers had to take furloughs as a result of sequester budget cuts. But there is another federal agency whose budget cuts Americans should be cheering — the Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to the Office of Management and Budget’s report to Congress on the effects of sequestration, the DEA will lose $166 million from its $2.02 billion budget. Other agencies that are part of the expansive federal drug war apparatus are getting their drug-fighting budgets cut as well.
These cuts, no matter how small they may actually end up being, are certainly a good thing since over 1.5 million Americans are arrested on drug charges every year, with almost half of those arrests just for marijuana possession.
Although 18 states have legalized medical marijuana, seven states have decriminalized the possession of certain amounts of marijuana, and Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use. In the majority of the 50 states, possession of even a small amount of marijuana can still result in jail time, probation terms, or fines. The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, with a high potential for abuse and with no acceptable medical use.
Since the federal government has not followed its own Constitution, which nowhere authorizes the federal government to ban drugs or other any substance, it is no surprise that it has not followed the judgment of Ludwig von Mises when it comes to the drug war.
The war on drugs is a failure. It has failed to prevent drug abuse. It has failed to keep drugs out of the hands of addicts. It has failed to keep drugs away from teenagers. It has failed to reduce the demand for drugs. It has failed to stop the violence associated with drug trafficking. It has failed to help drug addicts get treatment. It has failed to have an impact on the use or availability of most drugs in the United States.
None of this means that there is necessarily anything good about illicit drugs, but as Mises explains “It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices.” But, as Mises contends, the fact that something is a vice is no reason for suppression by way of commercial prohibitions, “nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of a government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.”
The other mischievous dangers of the drug war that have been let loose are legion. The war on drugs has clogged the judicial system, unnecessarily swelled prison populations, fostered violence, corrupted law enforcement, eroded civil liberties, destroyed financial privacy, encouraged illegal searches and seizures, ruined countless lives, wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, hindered legitimate pain treatment, turned law-abiding people into criminals, and unreasonably inconvenienced retail shopping. The costs of drug prohibition far outweigh any possible benefits.
But that’s not all, for once the government assumes control over what one can and can’t put into his mouth, nose, or veins or regulates the circumstances under which one can lawfully introduce something into his body, there is no limit to its power and no stopping its reach. Again, as Mises makes clear “[o]pium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. But once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.”
“As soon as we surrender the principle that the state should not interfere in any questions touching on the individual’s mode of life,” Mises goes on, “we end by regulating and restricting the latter down to the smallest detail.”
Mises tells us exactly what the slippery slope of drug prohibition leads to. He asks why what is valid for morphine and cocaine should not be valid for nicotine and caffeine. Indeed: “Why should not the state generally prescribe which foods may be indulged in and which must be avoided because they are injurious?” But it gets worse, for “if one abolishes man’s freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away.”
“Why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only?” Mises asks. “Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?”
When it comes to bad habits, vices, and immoral behavior of others, in contrast to the state, which does everything by “compulsion and the application of force,” Mises considered tolerance and persuasion to be the rules.
“A free man must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper,” Mises explains. “He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.”
For Mises, there is one path to social reform, and “[h]e who wants to reform his countrymen must take recourse to persuasion. This alone is the democratic way of bringing about changes. If a man fails in his endeavors to convince other people of the soundness of his ideas,” Mises concludes, “he should blame his own disabilities. He should not ask for a law, that is, for compulsion and coercion by the police.”
In a free society, it couldn’t be any other way.
Tags: drug war, drugs, economics, government, Laurence Vance, libertarianism, Ludwig von Mises, war on drugs
Review of Daniel M. Bell Jr., The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World (Baker Academic, 2012), 224 pgs., paperback.
This is the sixth volume in the series The Church and Postmodern Culture, edited by James K. A. Smith. The series “features high-profile theorists in continental philosophy and contemporary theology writing for a broad, nonspecialist audience interested in the impact of postmodern theory on the faith and practice of the church.”
Although I am not the least bit interested in postmodern theory, I am very interested in the intersection of Christianity and economics or politics. Thus, the phrase “Christianity and Capitalism” in this book’s subtitle caught my eye. Nevertheless, I have never been more disappointed, or bored.
The author describes his work as “a contribution to the conversation about the relationship of Christianity to capitalism with a postmodern twist.” That twist is nothing short of pure Christian anti-capitalism, although of a very unique kind. You see, Daniel Bell, professor of theological ethics at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and the author of several books, is not a socialist. He maintains that his book “changes the focus from capitalism versus socialism to capitalism versus the divine economy made present by Christ and witnessed to by the church.”
Fortunately, I didn’t have to read through the whole book to discover what the author meant by capitalism. He equates capitalism with the “free-market economy” because the name “highlights the centrality of the market.” This is well and good, and certainly makes it easier to understand where the author is coming from. Unfortunately, this is not the case for understanding Bell’s concept of the divine economy. Read More→
Tags: capitalism, Christianity, church, economics, free market, free society, Kingdom of God, laissez faire, society, theology
I am not a fan of Barack Obama. But since there are a lot of things that could be said about the president—all of them bad—it was perplexing to me why some far-right conservative Christians would lie about him when expressing their displeasure. It was perplexing until I realized that their real agenda was honoring their true god—the U.S. military.
I think the only good thing that could be said for Obama is that he apparently loves his family. I have written on several occasions about his radical associations, his life spent in the service of racial preference, his aberrant Christianity, his warmongering, his welfare statism, his abominable heath care act, his economic ignorance, his disregard of the Constitution, his drug warring, his dangerous views on gun control, his destructive foreign policy, and his overall extreme left-wing views. I believe Obama to be one of the worst presidents in American history. He is almost as bad as George W. Bush.
I have seen it written by conservative Christians that Obama is gutting the military. Well, since the Bible says to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), I think we need to take a look at some facts and figures to see if this is the case or if these conservative Christians are just polluting the air with lies about a man that an abundance of negative things could already be said about.
Obama was elected in 2008 and took office in January of 2009. He was reelected in 2012. During the first two years of his first term, the Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Democrats have controlled the Senate ever since; however, Republicans regained control of the House in the 2010 election, and have controlled it ever since. This means that every bill signed into law by Obama during the 112th Congress (2011-2013), and every bill that will be signed into law by Obama during the 113th Congress (2013-2015), was first passed, or will be passed, by the Republican-controlled House.
There are two major pieces of legislation passed by Congress every year that relate to the military: the National Defense Authorization Act and the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Let’s look at the last three times that the Republican-controlled House passed these bills. It should be noted that the federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 on ends on September 30 of the following year. This means that fiscal year 2014 begins on October 1, 2013.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 (H.R.1960) was passed on June 14, 2013, by a vote of 315-108. The Republican vote was 212-18. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2014 (H.R.2397) was passed on July 24, 2013, by a vote of 315-109. The Republican vote was 220-8. This latter bill authorizes $512.5 billion for
(1) military personnel; (2) operation and maintenance (O&M), including for the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, environmental restoration, overseas humanitarian, disaster, and civic aid, former Soviet Union cooperative threat reduction, and the DOD Acquisition Workforce Development Fund; (3) procurement, including for aircraft, missile, weapons, tracked combat vehicles, ammunition, shipbuilding and conversion, and purchases under the Defense Production Act of 1950; (4) research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E); (5) Defense Working Capital Funds and the National Defense Sealift Fund; (6) the Defense Health Program; (7) chemical agents and munitions destruction; (8) drug interdiction and counter-drug activities; (9) the Office of the Inspector General; (10) the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System Fund; (11) the Intelligence Community Management Account; and (12) overseas deployments and related activities, including military, reserve, and National Guard personnel, O&M, the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, procurement, RDT&E, and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund.
But according to the United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request Overview Book, President Obama requested $526.6 billion for these purposes. This means that House Republicans approved less spending on defense than Obama requested. Looks like it is House Republicans who are gutting the military.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 (H.R.4310) was passed on December 20, 2012, by a vote of 315-107. The Republican vote was 205-30. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2013 (H.R.5856) was passed on July 19, 2012, by a vote of 326-90. The Republican vote was 225-11.
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 (H.R.1540) was passed on December 14, 2011, by a vote of 283-136. The Republican vote was 190-43. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012 (H.R.2219) was passed on July 19, 2012, by a vote of 336-87. The Republican vote was 224-12.
Whatever the amount of Obama’s two previous defense budgets, the fact is simply this: They could not have been set without the full support of the Republican-controlled House.
But, of course, neither Obama nor the Republicans are gutting the military at all. From the Overview Book, here are the figures for U.S. defense spending beginning with fiscal year 2001:
FY01, $287.4 billion
FY02, $328.2 billion
FY03, $364.9 billion
FY04, $376.5 billion
FY05, $400.1 billion
FY06, $410.6 billion
FY07, $431.5 billion
FY08, $479.0 billion
FY09, $513.2 billion
FY10, $527.9 billion
FY11, $528.2 billion
FY12, $529.9 billion
FY13, $527.5 billion
Obama’s first defense budget was fiscal year 2010. Rather than gutting the military, it sure looks like he is expanding the military. According to Treasury Department data: “Over the past ten fiscal years, inflation-adjusted Defense Department spending has increased by approximately 54 percent.”
What is even worse about Obama’s non-existent cuts to the military is that real defense spending, according to economist Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute, is “well in excess of $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes.” And according to defense analyst Winslow Wheeler, “The Pentagon’s budget has increased, over time, much more than the Defense Department tells Congress, and the public.”
But even if military spending were actually what it appears on paper to be, it is still too high. This is because the majority of U.S. military spending is for offense, not defense. The military should be gutted, as I have maintained in scores of articles on the military.
Military spending is basically a jobs program, as retired U.S. Army colonel Andrew Bacevich explains in his book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (Metropolitan Books, 2010):
Each year the Pentagon expends hundreds of billions of dollars to raise and support U.S. military forces. This money lubricates American politics, filling campaign coffers and providing a source of largesse – jobs and contracts – for distribution to constituents. It provides lucrative “second careers” for retired U.S. military officers hired by weapons manufacturers or by consulting firms appropriately known as “Beltway Bandits.”
So, why would conservative Christians—who consider lying to be a sin—lie about Obama gutting the military when, as I have maintained, hundreds of negative things could already be said about him?
The conclusion is inescapable: the god of some conservative Christians is the U.S. military. It is their “golden calf.” They are Christian warmongers. They are imperial Christians. They are guilty of military idolatry. Their childish devotion to the military has clouded their judgment. Lying about Obama is fine as long as it leads people to pity their gutted god.
Is Obama gutting the military? If only it were so.
Originally posted on LewRockwell.com on September 9, 2013.
Tags: economics, militarism, military, statism, war, war on terror