Monthly Archives: July 2008

Mosquitos and Taxation

While on a walk recently, I couldn’t help but notice the mosquitoes buzzing about, wanting a piece of me.  That is, a piece of my blood.

That brought to recollection something I heard on the radio the other day.  It turns out that only female mosquitoes bite for blood.  Why do they bite for blood?  They are rearing young, and they need the extra energy.  Now this isn’t an aggressive or inherently destructive motive.  They (probably out of instinct) get blood (and really need blood) to rear their young.

Now, I have nothing against mosquitoes getting blood to rear their young per se.  It’s when they start taking my blood (or someone else’s blood without their consent) that I have an issue: it’s my blood, after all.  I think I have a right to it.  I may choose to donate my blood to mosquitoes if I so choose (or so could anyone else), but it is not theirs for the taking, no matter how appropriate their reasons may be for doing so.  It’s my blood.

Consider the analog to our current welfare-warfare state, with its myriad taxes, regulations, statutes, and infringements on liberty.  The motives are often not directly destructive and aggressive: few statists would really have as their motive the control of an individual’s life, or the taking of his liberty.  They have the high idea to help poor people, or keep the environment clean, or educate children, or stabilize the economy.  The motives are fine.  I have no problem with any of those things.

What I have a problem with is when the state approaches me, mosquito-like, and appropriates my wealth, my liberty, and my freedom without my consent.  Just as I have no inherent objections to mosquitoes consuming blood, I have no inherent objections to money paying for an improved education, infrastructure, environment, or economy.  But let us pay voluntarily.

What I object to is the mosquito-like way the state comes to me and you and sucks away our resources, without so much as a permission-slip.  One wonders what the upper limit is on what the state can exact.  How much is too much for the mosquitoes?  Is there such a thing?  For as long as there is someone with some money to spend, there is someone with some money to be “donated” (redistributed) to someone less well-off.

Is it a crime to help those less fortunate?  Absolutely not.  But let us do so voluntarily, rather than having our earnings exacted from us willy-nilly.

The statist will say that voluntary, liberty-based economic systems lead to problems that can only be corrected by government intervention and spending.  A close and careful examination of economic history shows while free societies are not without their problems, it is the government interventions that make these problems far worse than they otherwise would be.

From the business cycle (and its myriad incarnations and implications) to welfare problems to education problems to monetary problems to terrorism problems, it is an arrogant attitude of state intervention that not only infringes on liberty, but complicates problems beyond what they would otherwise be in the absence of such state intervention.

It’s high time we see the state apparatus as more of a mosquito than as a redeeming power.

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Filed under Libertarian, Personal, politics, role of government

On Pessimism and Doom and Gloom

Small-government advocates (libertarians and conservatives) that I agree with ideologically I disagree with in terms of perspective. Most are very pessimistic as to where we are and where we are headed.

I choose to be optimistic.

It’s true we live in perilous times. But when, in the history of mankind, or the history of the United States, or the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have times not been perilous?

Consider the history of the Church: surely there was turbulence in the founding days, one reason a move to Kirtland, Ohio occurred in 1831. Apostasy problems led to a general fleeing to Missouri just a few years later. The extermination order resulted in flight to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the Prophet and his brother were martyred. Then the flight west to Utah, which journey was marked by hunger, abandonment, starvation, and apostasy. Then the Utah War not ten years after the move to Utah. Then the persecution of Church leaders involved in polygamy. And of course the tumultuous times associated with polygamy and also the manifesto.  Then, at the turn of the century, trials in Washington, D.C. just to have Utah represented in Congress, significant problems with drought and tithing, and a huge San Francisco disaster. Then followed World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.  We can think of many recent complications and difficulties.

When have times not been tough?

Rather than preach doom and gloom, I tend to see the resiliency of man, and especially Saints, in this pattern of turmoil.

Are we in a tough economic time? Absolutely. Is our individual liberty ever-threatened? Absolutely. Does the Church face seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Absolutely. Are there secret combinations running about and causing havoc? Absolutely.

But I choose to see the past as reason for optimism: if we have weathered all of that, and still maintain our right to worship and transact; if personal liberty is still held dear by millions in this country; if we still have at least some freedom to live where we want, work where we want, and spend our money how we want; if we (even the poorest of us) still have personal wealth the most powerful kings in antiquity had never dreamed of; what does this say about what we can endure?

We can weather the times; we can weather economic turbulence, political corruption, an inept, irresponsible, corrupt, and ever-growing federal government; political threats; natural disasters; immoral encroachments; we can endure all of these and more with an eye of faith to the future.

So despite the ideological agreement with many in the Austrian School, for instance, I choose to disagree with respect to viewpoint.

Courage, brethren and sisters, and on to the victory! The victory of freedom and liberty! The victory of
the Church in these latter-days! The victory of Christ Himself, who shall triumph over all of his foes!

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Filed under Libertarian, Mormonism, Personal, politics, Social Commentary

Thinking and Pondering: Political and Theological

I was watching a years-old forum on BYUTV recently about pondering, reflecting, cogitating: pick your favorite term to describe it. It is the act of thinking.

He talked of the popular belittling of thinking, especially in solitude; he talked of the benefits of thinking; and to conclude his remarks, he had a few humble suggestions of how to think in solitude. His suggestions were:

  1. At least occasionally, think in words: write a discourse or talk to yourself.
  2. At least occasionally, think of words, there meaning and implication.
  3. Occasionally reflect on the world around us, what we have seen, touched, and heard, for instance.

Cogitation on a few key principles opened me up to economic libertarian thought and understanding. And so I suggest a few possible questions to ponder with respect to politics, economics, and liberty. I’m sure you can come up with a better list, but here is a start:

  1. What is the state good at?
  2. What motivates those who work for the state?
  3. What rights should individuals maintain?
  4. What rights should be compromised?
  5. How should they be compromised?
  6. How much of one’s wealth is the state entitled to?
  7. How much of someone else’s wealth am I entitled to?
  8. What is a transaction?
  9. What is wealth?
  10. Where doers money come from?
  11. Is inflation and deficit spending really a necessary evil?

I could go on forever. For me, the key to a revolution back to freedom and liberty and a rejection of the statist status quo is to instill these ideas in the heart and soul: to mentally chew on them a hundred times, if necessary, until the answers are clear, not muddy.

Similarly, there are a near infinite array of questions that are even more important, and pertain to salvation. Questions like:

  1. Is man fundamentally good?
  2. How can man improve his nature?
  3. What is the ultimate purpose of life?
  4. Is God real?
  5. Why is salvation important?
  6. Is an Atonement really necessary?

Again, I could go on much longer, but the law of marginal utility comes to bear. Suffice it to say that in revelation is the ultimate answer to all of these questions.

In closing, find time to think, to ponder, preferrably alone and in the quiet, and you will reap great benefits!

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Filed under Libertarian, Mormonism, Personal, politics, role of government, Social Commentary

A Case for Free Markets

As many incorrectly blame capitalism and free markets for the current depression there is value in reminding ourselves the fruits that come when the market is left to work without central economic planning. A surprising source for such a case is found in the 1954 film Sabrina staring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. There is a scene where Bogart’s character, Linus, explains to David, William Holden’s character, why he is a business man. This dialogue provides a great case for the value of free markets and capitalism.

Linus: Making money isn’t the main point of business. Money is a by-product.

David: What’s the main objective? Power?

Linus: Ah! That’s become a dirty word.

David: What’s the urge? You’re going into plastics. What will that prove?

Linus: Prove? Nothing much. A new product has been found, something of use to the world. A new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines go in and you’re in business. It’s coincidental that people who’ve never seen a dime now have a dollar and barefooted kids wear shoes and have their faces washed. What’s wrong with an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds, and movies on a Saturday night?

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Filed under Austrian Economics, Libertarian

Home Depot: The Market Helps Again

I’m no handyman.  I’m lousy with my hands, actually.  Nor do I really enjoy working with my hands.  Since first grade and kindergarten, when I couldn’t cut out construction paper straight, to today, when I can’t do much of anything with simple instruments like a nail and a hammer, my life has been one big clumsy-fest.

But from time to time, there are certain home improvement projects that demand my attention.  Consider my yard: even a blind man can see weeds covering the gravel driveway and scattered throughout the patchy lawn.

The solution: a trip to Home Depot.  I’m an idiot when it comes to home improvement (I’m more familiar with the TV show), but hardware stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot are here to bail me out.  So into Home Depot I go.  I look around for three items.  The first is a weed killer (kills weeds for several months) and the second is a weed killer that doesn’t hurt grass.  Third, I wanted something to patch up the lawn.  I was thinking grass seed.

Little did I know that for novices like myself, there are inexpensive kits used to patch up lawns, complete with grasseed, mulch, and fertilizer.  And it was cheap.  There were a couple of options.  I picked one.

I could not help but think how all of this was completely independent of government action.  Yes, I’m sure there were licensing fees and regulatory fees and arbitrary environmental standards to be followed.  There were taxes and tarriffs.  But for me (and the company producing the item), government need not be involved in the transaction.  I had a need: the market voluntarily met that need.  And I willingly paid the market price.  It was a beautiful thing.

Suppose I am disappointed in one of the products I bought: I can always purchase a competitor’s goods next time to compare.  Or maybe I should have asked around before I bought.  In any case, government need not get involved.  From my perspective, there is no benefit.

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Filed under Libertarian, Personal, role of government

Great Economic Primer

The first of many podcasts by Lew Rockwell, Jr. was published Monday on lewrockwell.com (download the mp3 here). This podcast serves as a great economic primer for increased understanding of the challenges we face today. Here are some concepts he covers in the podcast:

  • difference between a recession, depression, crash, slowdown, and hiccup
  • impact and value of the Austrian economist Murray Rothbard
  • Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury
  • inflation
  • U.S. banking system
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac dibacle
  • current housing crisis
  • consequences of government intervention in the economy (in the name of “fixing” problems)
  • historical context and explanation of the depression in the 1920s

Latter-day Saints are admonished in scripture to understand “things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land” (D&C 88:78-80). This and future podcasts by Lew Rockwell will be a great boon for increased knowledge and understanding of our nation’s perplexities.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, fiscal policy, role of government

Correction: Losing Faith in Central Economic Planning

A recent article from the LA Times website with the headline “Americans may be losing faith in free markets” uses this teaser line:

Things are hard all over the financial landscape, and politicians and experts are now looking with favor at more, not less, government involvement in the economy.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the article to give more of a flavor of what is being stated:

For a generation, most people accepted the idea that the core of what makes America tick was an economy governed by free markets. And whatever combination of goods, services and jobs the market cooked up was presumed to be fine for the nation and for its citizens — certainly better than government meddling.

No longer.

Spurred by the continued housing crisis, turmoil in financial markets, spiking oil prices, disappearing jobs and shrinking retirement savings, the nation and its political leaders have begun to sour on the notion that the current market system is the key to a fair, stable and efficient society.

There are two assumptions this article makes that are particularly concerning but in no way new to how the United States economy is viewed by much of the media and many citizens as well. First, it assumes that our current economy is governed by a free market. Secondly it assumes that more government intervention will somehow solve current and future economic problems. Characterizing the United States’ current economy as “free market” is fundamentally incorrect and shows how blind many are to these three realities:

1. We don’t have a truly free market – to assume otherwise is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of our economy
2. Current economic difficulties are a result of too much government intervention and involvement in the economy, not the free market
3. Problems caused because of government intervention/planning cannot be solved with more government intervention/planning

The LA Times article shows a failure to understand the first two realities listed above and thus the conclusion of the article that more government involvement is necessary. This is like the doctor concluding that a bleeding patient needs to bleed more to heal. Sound silly? Well so does this LA Times article.

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Filed under Austrian Economics, fiscal policy, recession, role of government