Rand Paul and the Libertarian Position on Taxes

Image: Associated Press

Rand Paul writes for the Wall Street Journal:

“[O]n Thursday I am announcing an over $2 trillion tax cut that would repeal the entire IRS tax code—more than 70,000 pages—and replace it with a low, broad-based tax of 14.5% on individuals and businesses. I would eliminate nearly every special-interest loophole. The plan also eliminates the payroll tax on workers and several federal taxes outright, including gift and estate taxes, telephone taxes, and all duties and tariffs. I call this ‘The Fair and Flat Tax.’

President Obama talks about “middle-class economics,” but his redistribution policies have led to rising income inequality and negative income gains for families. Here’s what I propose for the middle class: The Fair and Flat Tax eliminates payroll taxes, which are seized by the IRS from a worker’s paychecks before a family ever sees the money. This will boost the incentive for employers to hire more workers, and raise after-tax income by at least 15% over 10 years.”

Read the rest.

Lower rates are a step in the right direction, but what would be the ideal position? Taxes, no matter how low, are still predicated on coercion, and amount to nothing other than systemic theft of a population.

As a reminder, here is a piece by the great Laurence Vance on LewRockwell.com mentioning some key points about the libertarian position on taxes:

Can There Be a Half-Way Decent Tax Policy?
by Laurence Vance

“The best tax is always the lightest.” ~ Jean-Baptiste Say

“There cannot be a good tax nor a just one; every tax rests its case on compulsion.” ~ Frank Chodorov

“There can be no such thing as ‘fairness in taxation.’ Taxation is nothing but organized theft, and the concept of a ‘fair tax’ is therefore every bit as absurd as that of ‘fair theft.’” ~ Murray Rothbard

“Since the very fact of taxation is an interference with the free market, it is particularly incongruous and incorrect for advocates of a free market to advocate uniformity of taxation.” ~ Murray Rothbard

“The real issue is total spending by government, not tax reform.” ~ Ron Paul

When it comes to the subject of taxes, many conservatives and some libertarians just don’t get it.

The Tax Foundation, a “non-partisan research think tank, based in Washington, DC,” has six “principles of sound tax policy” that guides all of its research and “which should serve as touchstones for good tax policy everywhere”: simplicity, transparency, neutrality, stability, no retroactivity, broad bases and low rates. Good tax policy “promotes economic growth by focusing on raising revenue in the least distortive manner possible.”

The Tax Foundation recently charged education tax credits with violating “the principles of sound tax policy by greatly increasing the complexity and distortions in the tax code.” They should be eliminated “within a comprehensive reform package” for a number of reasons, among which is that “trading the elimination of education tax credits for lower marginal tax rates is good for economic growth.” The Tax Foundation does a good job of answering the question of whether “the tax code is the proper tool to increase access to higher education and make college more affordable” (it isn’t), but the organization’s proposal that the government should eliminate all education tax credits and use “the revenues to cut marginal tax rates across the board” is naïve. The government simply can’t be trusted to not turn around and raise marginal tax rates the next it “reforms” the tax code. And the fact that “trading education credits for lower tax rates” would “benefit the Treasury as well” means that the government would collect more money—which is always a bad thing. How about proposing keeping the education credits and cutting marginal tax rates?

The Tax Foundation also recently weighed in on the subject of sales tax holidays. It is against them. Sales tax holidays “are periods of time when selected goods are exempted from state (and sometimes local) sales taxes.” Although “at first glance, sales tax holidays seem like great policy,” they “are based on poor tax policy and distract policymakers and taxpayers from real, permanent, and economically beneficial tax reform,” “introduce unjustifiable government distortions into the economy without providing any significant boost to the economy,” “represent a real cost for businesses without providing substantial benefits,” are also an inefficient means of helping low-income consumers and an ineffective means of providing savings to consumers,” and “impose serious costs on consumers and businesses without providing offsetting benefits.” Although sales tax holidays may eliminate taxes for some period of time, they “are not real tax cuts.” But even if, from an economic and political perspective, everything the Tax Foundation says about sales tax holidays is true, there is one thing they have dead wrong: Sales tax holidays are not just real tax cuts, because they eliminate sales taxes completely, they are the ultimate and ideal tax cut.

And then there is Dan Mitchell, formerly of the Heritage Foundation, now of the Cato Institute, who blogs at International Liberty. He is “a long-time proponent of the flat tax.” One reason is because “other than a family-based allowance, it gets rid of all loopholes, deductions, credits, exemptions, exclusions, and preferences, meaning economic activity is taxed equally.” But because “a national sales tax (such as the Fair Tax) is like a flat tax but with a different collection point,” and “the two plans are different sides of the same coin” with no “loopholes,” even though he is “mostly known for being an advocate of the flat tax,” Mitchell has “no objection to speaking in favor of a national sales tax, testifying in favor of a national sales tax, or debating in favor of a national sales tax.” But as I have lectured about, the flat tax is not flat and the Fair Tax is not fair.

Surprisingly, although Mitchell despises Obamacare, he believes “that there’s one small part of Obamacare that will have a positive impact”: the so-called Cadillac tax on expensive employer-provided health plans. The Cadillac tax:

  • will slightly reduce the distortion in the tax code that encourages over-insurance and exacerbates the healthcare system’s pervasive third-party payer problem.
  • is merely making workers more aware of costs that already exist.
  • discourages overinsurance, and this is already leading to some positive changes in the marketplace.

Although I admire and recommend the work of the Tax Foundation and Dan Mitchell, and regularly visit their websites, for a more libertarian view of sound tax policy I suggest that we turn to Frank Chodorov (1887-1966) and Murray Rothbard (1926-1995).

From his essay “Taxation Is Robbery,” here is Chodorov on the morality of taxation:

THE Encyclopaedia Britannica defines taxation as “that part of the revenues of a state which is obtained by the compulsory dues and charges upon its subjects.” That is about as concise and accurate as a definition can be; it leaves no room for argument as to what taxation is. In that statement of fact the word “compulsory” looms large, simply because of its ethical content. The quick reaction is to question the “right” of the State to this use of power. What sanction, in morals, does the State adduce for the taking of property? Is its exercise of sovereignty sufficient unto itself?

On this question of morality there are two positions, and never the twain will meet. Those who hold that political institutions stem from “the nature of man,” thus enjoying vicarious divinity, or those who pronounce the State the key­stone of social integrations, can find no quarrel with taxation per se; the State’s taking of property is justified by its being or its beneficial office. On the other hand, those who hold to the primacy of the individual, whose very existence is his claim to inalienable rights, lean to the position that in the compulsory collection of dues and charges the State is merely exercising power, without regard to morals.

Taxation for social services hints at an equitable trade. It suggests a quid pro quo, a relationship of justice. But, the essential condition of trade, that it be carried on willingly, is absent from taxation; its very use of compulsion removes taxation from the field of commerce and puts it squarely into the field of politics. Taxes cannot be compared to dues paid to a voluntary organization for such services as one expects from membership, because the choice of withdrawal does not exist. In refusing to trade one may deny oneself a profit, but the only alternative to paying taxes is jail. The suggestion of equity in taxation is spurious. If we get any­thing for the taxes we pay it is not because we want it; it is forced on us.

And as Chodorov explains in his book The Income Tax: Root of All Evil (1954), the income tax means that the state says to its citizens:

Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.

The amount of your earnings that you may retain for yourself is determined by the needs of government, and you have nothing to say about it.

From chapter 22, “The Nature of the State,” in his The Ethics of Liberty, here is Rothbard on the nature of taxation:

All other persons and groups in society (except for acknowledged and sporadic criminals such as thieves and bank robbers) obtain their income voluntarily: either by selling goods and services to the consuming public, or by voluntary gift (e.g., membership in a club or association, bequest, or inheritance). Only the State obtains its revenue by coercion, by threatening dire penalties should the income not be forthcoming. That coercion is known as “taxation,” although in less regularized epochs it was often known as “tribute.” Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects.

It would be an instructive exercise for the skeptical reader to try to frame a definition of taxation which does not also include theft. Like the robber, the State demands money at the equivalent of gunpoint; if the taxpayer refuses to pay his assets are seized by force, and if he should resist such depredation, he will be arrested or shot if he should continue to resist.

The libertarian approach to tax deductions and credits differs strikingly from those on the left and the right who want to simplify the tax code by eliminating these things to ensure that every individual and corporation pays some uniform and arbitrary fair share. Since the federal government is unlikely to ever eliminate the income tax, proponents of a free society should work toward expanding tax deductions, tax credits, tax breaks, tax exemptions, tax exclusions, tax incentives, tax loopholes, tax preferences, tax avoidance schemes, and tax shelters and applying them to as many Americans as possible. These things are not subsidies that have to be “paid for.” They should only be eliminated because the income tax itself has been eliminated.

From chapter 2, “Ten Great Economic Myths,” in his Making Economic Sense, here is Rothbard on tax deductions and exemptions:

A deduction or exemption is only a “loophole” if you assume that the government owns 100% of everyone’s income and that allowing some of that income to remain untaxed constitutes an irritating “loophole.” Allowing someone to keep some of his own income is neither a loophole nor a subsidy. Lowering the overall tax by abolishing deductions for medical care, for interest payments, or for uninsured losses, is simply lowering the taxes of one set of people (those that have little interest to pay, or medical expenses, or uninsured losses) at the expense of raising them for those who have incurred such expenses.

There is furthermore neither any guarantee nor even likelihood that, once the exemptions and deductions are safely out of the way, the government would keep its tax rate at the lower level. Looking at the record of governments, past and present, there is every reason to assume that more of our money would be taken by the government as it raised the tax rate back up (at least) to the old level, with a consequently greater overall drain from the producers to the bureaucracy.

And from chapter 4, “Binary Intervention: Taxation,” in his Power and Market, here is Rothbard on tax exemptions and loopholes:

Many writers denounce tax exemptions and levy their fire at the tax-exempt, particularly those instrumental in obtaining the exemptions for themselves. These writers include those advocates of the free market who treat a tax exemption as a special privilege and attack it as equivalent to a subsidy and therefore inconsistent with the free market. Yet an exemption from taxation or any other burden is not equivalent to a subsidy. There is a key difference. In the latter case a man is receiving a special grant of privilege wrested from his fellowmen; in the former he is escaping a burden imposed on other men. Whereas the one is done at the expense of his fellowmen, the other is not. For in the former case, the grantee is participating in the acquisition of loot; in the latter, he escapes payment of tribute to the looters. To blame him for escaping is equivalent to blaming the slave for fleeing his master. It is clear that if a certain burden is unjust, blame should be levied, not on the man who escapes the burden, but on the man or men who impose it in the first place. If a tax is in fact unjust, and some are exempt from it, the hue and cry should not be to extend the tax to everyone, but on the contrary to extend the exemption to everyone. The exemption itself cannot be considered unjust unless the tax or other burden is first established as just.

In the literature on taxation there is much angry discussion about “loopholes,” the inference being that any income or area exempt from taxation must be brought quickly under its sway. Any failure to “plug loopholes” is treated as immoral.

From a libertarian perspective, the goal should be no taxes whatsoever. To that end, any decrease in taxes or tax rates is a good thing and any increase is a bad thing and any increase in tax deductions or credits is a good thing and any decrease is a bad thing. No matter whom it benefits, no matter why the government does it, no matter who lobbied for it, no matter who supports or doesn’t support it, no matter how temporary it might be, and no matter how much complexity it adds to the tax code.


Originally posted on LewRockwell.com

Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from central Florida. He is the author of King James, His Bible, and Its Translators, The War on Drugs Is a War on Freedom, War, Christianity, and the State: Essays on the Follies of Christian Militarism and War, Empire, and the Military: Essays on the Follies of War and U.S. Foreign Policy. His newest book is The Making of the King James Bible—New Testament. Visit his website.

Ross Ulbricht is a Hero in the Fight for a More Peaceful and Prosperous World

As a result of what was an extreme and overzealous approach to convict someone of a non-violent crime, Ross Ulbricht, founder of the online marketplace and darkwebsite known as the Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday by judge Katherine B. Forrest in Federal District Court in Manhattan. Prosecutors described Ross as a “kingpin of a worldwide digital drug-trafficking enterprise.”

Ross was not even charged with personally buying or selling illegal drugs to anyone, and prosecutors even willfully implied (but never charged) that he had planned out assassinations on people he supposedly believed posed a threat to him. Brian Doherty noted:

None of the charges were related to either personally selling an illegal substance to anyone—Ulbricht merely ran a website that facilitated it—and none were related to causing direct harm to anyone’s life or property.

Given the amazing water-muddying the prosecution achieved by talking about, but never trying Ulbricht for or proving in court beyond a reasonable doubt, allegedly planned, but never executed, murders for hire, one wonders whether the judge allowed any thoughts of those rumors, even subconsciously, to shape her sentencing decision.

Erik Voorhess illustrated the severity of the sentence:

A life sentence was given to a man who just about single-handedly created a much safer and more convenient environment for the exchanging of goods that people want and are willing to pay for.

[Side note: For some, this is now obvious. But there are others who still believe it’s justifiable to throw people in cages for voluntarily buying, selling or consuming a substance the government has deemed dangerous and hence illegal. The merits or dangers of drug use are not the issue here. I myself have never used drugs in my entire life, and strongly advise against the use of some particularly dangerous substances. The point is that no one has any right to forcibly prevent people from putting what they want into their own bodies, nor forcibly prevent them from exchanging for what they may need or simply want to consume. What Ross did was simply give people vastly superior choices with regards to how they would achieve their ends. Anyone who suffered serious health effects after ingesting dangerous substances did so as a result of his/her own personal decision making. Just as someone who gets alcohol poisoning after a night of binge-drinking is responsible for his/her own decisions, so is he/she who voluntarily consumes a substance that would have other dangerous consequences or health effects.]

Doherty:

As I’ve written before, Silk Road was undoubtedly a net positive for the health, safety, and liberty of most of its customers and sellers. Of course, its benefits went to people who choose to buy or sell things the government has decided we ought not buy or sell, and thus their health, safety, and liberty is something the government is an active enemy of.

Despite a manifest inability on the state’s part to actually wipe out the supposed scourge of drug use and sale, it will continue to spend shocking amounts of our tax money in a futile attempt to at least punish and ruin a few people involved. Today Ross Ulbricht is the butterfly they have broken on their cruel, grinding wheel.

Now, consider the fact that the U.S. government made deals with Mexican drug cartels that allowed traffickers to import billions of dollars of drugs into the U.S., while also running operations in which thousands of weapons were sold into the hands of those very same cartels amidst Mexico’s extremely violent drug war that has resulted in thousands of people killed. And banks that have laundered billions of dollars in drug money have not faced the same criminal prosecutions that Ross has. All of this begs the question: does the United States government have a vested interest and hence an ulterior motive when it comes to its selective enforcement of the drug laws it imposes on its subjects?

Ross provided an enormous service to society by facilitating a peaceful and efficient alternative in a world dominated by ever-expanding, power-hungry governments.

Doherty wrote in the December 2014 issue of Reason Magazine:

Once upon a time, you could buy illegal drugs anonymously online from a site called Silk Road. The postman would show up at your door with your gas bill, maybe a birthday card from mom, and some carefully packaged pot or heroin. Even though you had never met the person you bought the drugs from, the delivery came just as you ordered it.

That’s because the secretive “darknet” site that made this possible-before being shut down by the feds in late 2013-operated a lot like any other online commerce site. Silk Road’s pages, like those at Amazon or Yelp, were dense with seller ratings and reviews, guiding buyers to vendors with good records and high-quality products. Boisterous online forums were a click away, jammed with customer-generated information about drugs, dealers, safety, and whatever else the anonymous technorati wanted to chat about.

From January 2011 to the beginning of October 2013, the FBI estimates, Silk Road facilitated 1.2 million drug deals, moving thousands of kilos of illegal substances and collecting nearly $80 million in commissions. Clients were “typically professionals in the 30- to 40-year-old range” who “want to be treated with respect,” one Silk Road dealer named “Nod” told The Daily Dot in January. The site provided a safe haven not just from the state-sponsored violence of being arrested but from the street hassle of transacting with physical-world drug dealers.

Silk Road’s 950,000 registered users were largely satisfied with their consumer experience. A May 2014 paper in the journal Addiction found that 89 percent of customers surveyed said they chose the site for its wide range of choices, 77 percent valued the higher quality of drugs available, and 69 percent preferred the convenience. A 2012 study by Nicolas Christin for Carnegie Mellon found that 96 percent of Silk Road sellers boasted a consumer rating of 5 out of 5.

Jeffrey Tucker shared a comment he read in a forum about the Silk Road, an example of how Ross and his work helped save lives:

Forrest said Ross’s actions were “terribly destructive to our social fabric.” She, like every other drug warrior in favor of keeping these voluntary exchanges illegal, prefers the transacting of drugs to stay on the black market, where the most violent criminals and gangs in society get their way and SWAT teams routinely take part in raids on homes which sometimes have nothing to do with the buying, selling or using of drugs in the first place.

Ross provided a much safer means of doing business among people making voluntary interactions, but, as a fellow libertarian and anarcho-capitalist, he also advocated it as a solution to the institutionalization of the use of force, which the state’s very existence depends on. As he wrote on his LinkdIn profile:

I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.

Ross pleaded with the judge, asking, “Please leave a small light at the end of the tunnel, an excuse to stay healthy, an excuse to dream of better days ahead, and a chance to redeem myself in the free world before I meet my maker.” But Forrest showed no mercy.

Not only is this a travesty in terms of justice, but it’s also a threat to all of us who dare even think about providing a peaceful solution to the problems created by the monolithic state ruling over almost every facet of our lives. The prosecutors themselves stated that they wanted the judge to “send a clear message to anyone tempted to follow his example that the operation of these illegal enterprises comes with severe consequences.” Andy Greenberg, writing for Wired Magazine noted that, in a way, radical Libertarianism itself was also on trial.

Ross, assuming he really was Dread Pirate Roberts, told Greenberg in an interview:

Sector by sector the state is being cut out of the equation and power is being returned to the individual. I don’t think anyone can comprehend the magnitude of the revolution we are in. I think it will be looked back on as an epoch in the evolution of mankind.

This tragedy is a momentous turn of events, whichever way we look at it. Ross Ulbricht is indeed a martyr, and for a while he moved the world further along the road towards a more peaceful and prosperous future. For that, we should be eternally grateful.

The Root Causes of Police Brutality

News stories abound on the national press about cases of police officers killing unarmed citizens, with media focus on white officers killing black men, leading to marches and protests in cities across the country with the purpose of fighting a system whose injustices stem from “institutionalized racism.” But is racism the cause of these killings, if they are unjustified in the first place? Is it inequality? Or is there a more fundamental reason? Are inefficiencies a result of “soft on crime” policies? Or is that missing the point entirely? As we’ll see below, the problem is much more elementary and structural than what’s diagnosed in media discussions. The real cause has little, if anything to do with the problems mentioned above, and has everything to do with an unaccountable, state-granted monopoly on the provision of protection services that is above the law.

In a Mises Daily article titled “Law Enforcement Socialism,” Anthony Gregory writes about the fundamental problems that lead to police inefficiencies, lack of accountability, and cases of brutality. He notes that the reasons government law enforcement agencies fail to achieve their stated goals are the same reasons many people reject any notion of government control of the means of production in most industries today. Whenever a government monopolizes the provision of a good or service, we see the same characteristics typical of any monopoly: namely, inefficient use of resources, unaccountability, high prices, poor-quality service, and a virtually unlimited source of income such as tax revenue. This is the inevitable result of an agency providing a good or service without having to worry about competition and hence losing their customers, especially when their funds are coercively obtained, as is the case with government. The state has no incentive to give to its “customers” a superior service because no competitors are allowed, and the “customers” must pay for the service regardless, to avoid being thrown in jail or even killed, were they to defend themselves from such aggression. In effect, what we’re left with is an agency that is above the law without regard for any consequences if it breaks any of the same laws it enforces on its subjects. That’s a situation that surely leads to all types of other problems, including harassment, theft, even murder.

Gregory goes on to explain why the free market system is superior in providing services such as police protection, and why the same incentives that allow privately run industries to prosper are the same incentives that exist to foster an environment for higher-quality, lower-cost protection services:

Law Enforcement Socialism

by Anthony Gregory

Every year, more prisons are built, more money is funneled to police departments, more criminal law is written and yet domestic crime remains a major problem.

Explanations abound as to why this is. The Left blames the economic system for fostering inequality, which supposedly causes crime. The Right says the police have their hands tied by political correctness. Libertarians typically argue that the government wastes precious time and resources on victimless crime and has insufficient tools remaining to deal with the genuine predators.

There is a more fundamental explanation, however, which makes logic out of the entire mess but is almost never voiced: Socialism. Law enforcement agencies, courts, prisons, legislative bodies — all of the key institutions that are supposed to produce justice are owned and maintained by the state.

Outside of some small academic and activist circles, most Americans reject the radical ideology of socialism as it pertains to the economy as a whole. Hardly anyone believes that the state should maintain the means of production and that private enterprise should be abolished. Most people understand the folly of divorcing all industry from private property ownership and running an economic sector completely through central management.

It is interesting, then, that most people still believe in total socialism when in comes to providing services of security and justice.

There is a considerable literature exploring how the market might handle law, but rarely are people exposed to it. Murray Rothbard, Bruce Benson, David Friedman, Robert Murphy, Samuel Konkin and others have made insightful contributions to such theory. However, we do not need to know how exactly the market would deal with this to know that socialism has institutional limitations that prevent it from achieving its advertised goals; and there is no reason not to apply this understanding to the question of law enforcement.

Just as when the means of production of any good or service are monopolized by the state, the result is havoc, we see similar problems when the state owns the means of production of the service of protecting the innocent and going after the guilty.

Mises identified the inability to engage in economic calculation as the key practical limitation of socialism that rendered it unworkable. This incapacity to divert resources to their most urgent use is one of the most conspicuous results of a socialist criminal justice system. Thus do we see police expending hundreds of thousands of dollars arresting, prosecuting, and punishing an individual for a victimless crime, when it is hard to imagine a private institution finding such a witch hunt economically viable.

The state, unlike a participant in the free market, gains its market share and resources through violence. The more it spends, the more it expands and the more it is able to spend. It sees spending money not as a cost to be balanced against income it brings in. Rather, the state’s resources are not its own and its very success as an institution is determined largely by how much it spends. It is eager to spend money, to expand its operations and to reward its privileged class of individuals with jobs and other benefits.

Whatever it has spent, it has already effectively extracted from the productive sector, for it has already redirected resources in the economy. The state is not leery of debt, since it’s not responsible for its own solubility; instead, one way or another, it burdens the taxpayer with its spending habits.

The state has every incentive to expand its activity into nearly any area that the people will tolerate, regardless of whether such activity makes economic or moral sense. Since it monopolizes conflict resolution — and acting in this capacity is another opportunity to expand its size and reach — the state actually has an interest in fomenting conflict, thereby maximizing its role in society. The more crime and punishment, no matter their effect on the innocent, and the more laws, no matter how outrageous or contradictory, the more business for the state, which, in a supreme conflict of interest, gets to determine what the laws are.

The state consequently attacks a thousand kinds of behavior that a market law enforcer would likely never dream of going after, since doing so would be unprofitable on the free market. Market institutions, unlike the state, could and would weigh costs and benefits and profits and loss and make careful decisions about using scarce resources. When customers actually have to pay on an individual basis for their security, they are far less likely to want their rights protector to go around waging expensive, unwinnable wars on vice and impropriety.

Under a free market, property rights would be liberated from their greatest nemesis — the constant encroachment of the state — and so people would have the means to better protect their own values within the context of private property and free association. But they likely wouldn’t want to spend thousands of dollars a year to have their hired rights protector hunt down and lock peaceful people in jail for drugs or prostitution.

Moreover, without the state monopoly, it would be nearly impossible to get all judicial and law enforcement bodies to agree that such peaceful people should no longer be seen as potential customers, but rather as targets of their violence. Violence, after all, is expensive.

Under law-enforcement socialism, on the other hand, market disincentives against such waste and counterproductive endeavors are discarded. Public choice theorists should especially expect state involvement in law enforcement to foster incentives for logrolling — in this case, for ever more laws and law-enforcement spending that most people would probably not elect to pay for on an individual basis, but that certain powerful economic and ideological interests willingly lobby hard to secure at other people’s expense.

The socialization of the cost of law enforcement, just as with any other industry, has led to shortages and shoddy products. In this case, it is justice that is shoddy and in short supply. We get a war on drugs that has imprisoned millions and squandered billions and encouraged homicide and corruption. We get a policy of disarming the civilian population of private weapons, which deter crime far more effectively than government police do. We get a prison system in which innocent and guilty are locked together to be beaten, raped, tortured, shot, and ruled by sadistic prison guards and the worst of the  inmates.

We get a standing army of crime-prevention agents with militarized weaponry, sovereign immunity to shoot to kill, and the arbitrary power to stop practically anyone at any time and destroy his life. None of this actually reduces crime overall, and none of it makes the victims of crime whole. It only victimizes them further by forcing them to foot the bill and endure the police state’s tyranny along with everyone else.

This shouldn’t surprise those who understand the failings of socialism. Socialism in any sector will misallocate resources. When we’re talking not just about redistributing money, but the enterprise of administering legal coercion and violence, the miscalculations inherent in socialist central planning translate into grand violations of millions of people’s rights.

Just as those who advocate socialism for public schools, or for health care, or for the economy generally, tend to argue that under a free market, there will be at least two classes of people — the exploited who can’t afford to meet their human needs and the predatory exploiters who get fat off the system — defenders of law-enforcement socialism argue that there would be chaos and class conflict without state provision of law and order. Without a monopoly provider, some people won’t be able to afford services of rights protection and some will disregard the rights of others and will unleash their criminality on society, whether as individuals in a chaotic and violent anarchy, or as gangs. Under a free market in law enforcement, the justice agencies themselves, we are told, will also likely become criminal.

But this is what we have now, under state law enforcement — the results of the state itself enjoying a class distinction of the most fundamental type. There are those who have to follow the law — created, enforced, and judicially presided over by the state — and those who use and depend on aggression as a matter of their job description: agents of the state. The state, by its nature, can categorically do things to people that the people cannot legally do to each other. It can seize wealth, instigate detentions and invasive interrogations and searches of the innocent, and issue systematic coercion with itself as its only institutional oversight.

Those who wish to improve the state’s handling of law and order by petitioning it to repeal some of its laws and redirect its focus should be commended to the degree that they challenge grave injustices by the state, but most reformers ignore the crucial problem — socialism in the area of law and rights protection. A reform that leaves the state intact as a monopoly on criminal justice will be as limited as any reform of education that allows the state to continue its near-complete ownership of the schools.

In practice, law-enforcement socialism is even worse than socialism in most other areas, since it involves a state monopoly on legal violence, and thus is expected to act coercively. Whenever an innocent person is brutalized — which will happen about as often as we could expect any kind of mistake from government work — it is seen as a small price to pay to protect the innocent.

As terrible as it is to allow central planners to decide how and where to produce shoes, cars, or widgets and where to divert them, it is a bigger problem when central planners are given free rein to decide how force is to be used in all of society. Indeed, by capitulating to its monopoly on violence, we accept its very power to monopolize and socialize. Freedom is never secure so long as a ruling class of people is permitted to monopolize the very means of monopolization, from which further abuses of the market and liberty can only follow.

Yet far from seeing the inevitability of the failure of law-enforcement socialism to deliver the goods nearly as efficiently or humanely as the market would, most libertarians, conservatives, and left-liberals continue to assume that law-enforcement socialism is the most essential kind for human progress.

Now, those who desire socialism in any other area must logically support it in the realm of coercive conflict resolution, since the state’s power to monopolize any sector depends on its monopoly on legitimized violence. But what of “free-market” conservatives who  believe not in markets, but rather socialism, in the field of criminal justice? Perversely, “free-market” types are frequently among the greatest defenders of law-enforcement socialism, quick to suggest that it would function fine if only it had more resources, or if the right people were in charge, or if the bureaus had more power, or if only the left-liberals would stop obstructing it with quaint constitutional and statutory limits on its power. Paradoxically, it is often those who most loudly cheer on capitalism who  are most enthusiastic about the state’s maintenance of law and order. When it comes to battling evildoers — which conservatives claim to want more strongly than the liberal Left — there is nearly total faith in the theoretical and practical capacity of socialism to work.

The most notable contradiction is seen in libertarians who adopt law-enforcement socialism. The error made by many libertarians is in thinking that since rights should always be respected, the state should be in charge of ensuring this social goal. When the progressives claim to want decent healthcare for everyone, some libertarians will point out that if this were really the case, the leftists would embrace a free market in medicine. Yet many libertarians, who claim to want justice for everyone, do not embrace the market when it comes to providing justice.

In some ways, the pro-state libertarian is more inconsistent than the left-liberal who concedes his willingness to use the state to achieve his social designs. Favoring centralized aggression to achieve the libertarian goal of a world without aggression is more of a contradiction. It is inconsistent to tell someone, “You have no right to use the state to tax me to create social programs,” if you yourself would use the state to tax others to affirm an absolutist libertarian sense of justice.

Protecting rights is crucial, which is why a monopoly on aggression is the last institution to trust with such an important task. The state claims to protect us with its military and police, but this is at least as much a sham as the state’s protection of us from poisoned pharmaceuticals, tainted spinach, disease, illiteracy, or ignorance. Sure, sometimes a police officer does the right thing — and sometimes, even often, a public school teacher successfully instructs pupils on the multiplication tables or how to diagram a sentence.

But these individual accomplishments would be multiplied and much more encouraged if the market prevailed. Overall, the state is detrimental to both law and education. The Department of Justice brings as few victims justice as the Department of Education teaches students.

Furthermore, while official schooling and official law are both monopolized by the state, education and justice are actually served predominantly by civil society, by family, community, private property, voluntary initiative, commerce and the natural law tradition. Just as in the Soviet Union a disproportionate amount of the food was grown on small lots of privately owned land outside of the socialist farms, so in America most of law and order result from private property and its protection by private individuals and civil culture, outside of the socialist law enforcement establishment. It is no wonder then that the more expansive the state is in law enforcement, the more money it spends, and the more  people in jails, the less safe are our streets.

When a welfare state worker gets it wrong, it is a waste of resources and can create waves of disastrous social repercussions. When a law enforcer gets it wrong — or searches and seizes the innocent in pursuit of the guilty — justice itself has been defiled and liberty attacked.

The spontaneous order of voluntarily acting individuals has given us everything in society that we take for granted. Whenever such free order is suppressed, disorder follows. That’s why we should not be surprised that the criminal justice system is one of the saddest features of our society. In the relatively capitalistic United States, the justice system is pure socialism. Only by getting the government out of the way and letting individuals act voluntarily and cooperatively can we expect the administration of justice to be  as effective and moral as the other sectors where the market, and not the state, dominates.

“Law Enforcement Socialism” originally appeared at the Mises Institute.

American Deaths by Knives Outnumber Those by Rifles and Shotguns Combined

Robert Wenzel at the Economic Policy Journal points us to some informative statistics done by the FBI about how people are murdered in the United States.

He writes:

“Despite news media impressions to the contrary, there are not many murders in the United States that are committed with rifles or shotguns. Combined, it is under 1,000 per year—more people are murdered with knives.”

If we were to swallow everything the national news said every time they reported on a shooting, we’d be under the impression that assault rifles and shotguns are the biggest threat to the livelihood of Americans today, and, seeing the government as our benevolent protector, we’d probably clamor for our overlords to strip the citizenry of such weapons. But another look at the numbers shows us that the situation is not what we might have expected it to be.

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Source: FBI (Click to view enlarged image.)

Another Day, Another Dishonest Slander on Ron Paul

10959773_10153704233551686_3239079440454426323_nThe progressive news site Addicting Info is once again predictably attacking Ron Paul, this time for a recent interview he did with Lew Rockwell in which he stated that the Congressional Black Caucus opposes wars because they would rather have the money spent domestically on food stamps.

His point was that the CBC is not principled in consistently opposing sanctions or wars. The sad thing about leftist propaganda outlets like this one is that a statement that has zero to do with claiming one race is inferior to another is now considered “racist.” The CBC historically has strongly favored high welfare spending. Is anyone denying that? Ron has proposed reducing both military and welfare spending, regardless of the fact that most recipients are white or black. How does that make him racist?

Just look at how far Addicting Info is reaching to try to smear this man, showing a “newsletter under his name” without providing any proof whatsoever that he actually wrote it. A newsletter which he has disavowed time and time again after being hounded by the mainstream media. Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who illegally bombed the living daylights out of Libya in 2011, is let off the hook whenever his policies have deadly effects on everyone including black people. Let’s see, what’s worse? A man who supposedly wrote a racist newsletter (though we have zero proof he was the one who wrote it) about 30 years ago? Or a man who militarily invaded a nation and, hence, murdered tens of thousands of Africans in the process, not to mention the ongoing disaster resulting from that progressive “humanitarian” intervention? Never mind that Ron Paul has always opposed the War on Drugs, while Obama continues to support a policy that has put countless people in cages for victimless “crimes.” “But who cares what what Ron Paul actually proposed? He said something about food stamps? Ignorant racist crank!”

The writers at Addicting Info really could not care less about black people, shouting “racism!” only when it furthers their manipulative, opportunistic political agenda.

Ron Paul doesn’t have a shred of racism in his body, and we can tell simply by looking at the lengths to which the mainstream media and its progressive, “alternative” outlet lap-dogs try to slander him, while failing to substantively prove their deceptive declarations.

Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks’ Advocacy of Violence

(Photo Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

The initiation of violence is the fulcrum for just about everything Cenk and TYT promote

Whenever we come face-to-face with ideas that contradict our longest-held notions, our first instinct usually is to put them off and discard them as incorrect or flat-out wrong, especially if they are ideas so radical so as to be rejected by almost every single major establishment institution in the world. One of those ideas, and in my opinion the most radical and humane of all, is libertarianism, particularly known as Anarcho-Capitalism.

As a young and naive progressive during my first two years in college, I advocated government’s use of force to solve most of our problems, be they related to income inequality, discrimination, or any other perceived social ill relevant to most of us. Basically, I supported the state’s use of violence and coercion to impose its will on the people. That is ultimately what progressives such as The Young Turks promote whenever they advocate for more taxation, regulations, etc., plain and simple.

Adam Kokesh was generous enough to let me do a brief video for his show talking about my progressive past and eventual realization of libertarian ideas. To clarify, the transition from progressive to libertarian was by no means sudden or instant. It took some time (the span of about a year-and-a-half) for me to actually understand what the concepts were about. It all began with a sort of peripheral awareness that took the form of skeptical open-mindedness and later morphed into more of an active inquisitiveness where I began reading much of the classic works the major thinkers of libertarianism have written over time. As mentioned in the video, the spark was Murray Rothbard’s For a New LibertySo, it’s only logical not to expect to have a paradigm shift overnight where you wake up one morning and are suddenly a dead set and determined anarcho-capitalist. The process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or even years. The goal is to expose yourself to something new that offers real change. A great start, as suggested, would be Adam’s new book – FREEDOM! – which you can read online. See if you dare to disagree with what’s in there.

Progressives seem to understand that government is the root of the problem when it comes to things like restricting marriage equality, mass surveillance/wiretapping, the militarization of police and police brutality, the “war on terror,” the “war on drugs,” and so on.

But when talking about economic issues, they fall hook, line and sinker for just about every typical caricature of free-market capitalism ever uttered. Classic misconceptions and ignorant beliefs abound whenever discussing issues ranging anywhere from monopolies to child labor to pollution. And how else, we’re asked, are roads and protection services ever to be provided without pointing guns at people’s heads?! Little, if any, attention has been paid to those great minds that have thoroughly addressed matters such as the private production of roads and protection and defense services. Moreover, why do so many turn a blind eye to the Federal Reserve, that government institution that causes not only the bubbles that lead to disastrous economic crises, but the very income inequality progressives claim to fight so hard against?

And no, Cenk, “campaign finance reform” and “getting money out of politics” won’t fix what’s wrong, for that ignores the fundamental realities of the problem. We are subject to an agency that monopolizes and institutionalizes on a mass scale the initiation of force in a given territory or region, in our case that which is currently called the United States. As Adam writes in FREEDOM!:

“If it is wrong for one person to do something, why is it acceptable when 51% of a voting population agrees to hire someone to do it for them? Democracy is not freedom. When fully living up to its ideal, democracy is at best a majority coming up with an excuse to impose its will on a minority. [Page 8]

“Fighting for ‘equal participation’ in the forced control of others prevents us from achieving the greater goal of a society that respects self-ownership. Democracy is a way to pretend that we are all equal slave-owners. The reality is always going to be far less than the champions of democracy promise, because it is based on a fundamentally immoral ideal. No one has the right to force a leader on anyone else and no mandate from the majority gives any leader the right to use force against anyone.” [Pages 13-14]

As Rothbard writes in For a New Liberty:

“The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the ‘nonaggression axiom.’ ‘Aggression’ is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.” [Page 27]

It’s really that simple. How can anyone be against the initiation of violence, right?

Cenk, have Adam (who happens to be a gazillion times more eloquent than I am) on your show for a friendly debate. Put your ideas up to the test. For the sake of sincerity in the search for truth, be fair to your viewers. What do you have to lose if your position is as righteous as you claim?

P.S. The Young Turks have yet to back up their half-baked assertions: