Category Archives: Libertarian

Taiwan and Chinese Relations

Taiwanese and Chinese relations are growing closer.  This is an exciting international piece of news!

Since 2008, and the election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, there have been increasing closeness with regards to transport and trade.  For years, there were tensions, even high tensions, between the China (sometimes called the “mainland”) and Taiwan.  I recall a cruise missile incident about fifteen years ago which seemed scary.  Taiwanese presidents would provoke mainland Chinese anger by intimating that they were independent of mainland China, or that they would like to be so.  The People’s Republic of China has long been bristling at such notions.  President Ma has more of a “building on common beliefs” philosophy with respect to China-Taiwan relations, and it seems to be working well.  He works with the mainland on issues of mutual interest in a way that is innocuous or at least inoffensive to mainland China.

How have the countries grown closer?  Consider trade, for one.

Since 2000, direct trade between the countries was $31 billion.  In 2008, it was $100 billion.  Even with this increase, Taiwanese businesses and entrepreneurs would like even more trade barriers removed.  At this juncture, Taiwan and China are working on a trade agreement (called Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) which would enable even closer ties with fewer trade restrictions and tariffs.

Another difference would be travel.  In 2000, individuals desiring to travel from Taiwan to mainland China had to go through Hong Kong (and vice versa).  This restriction was recently lifted, and direct flights to the mainland are now commonplace.

In a world where the West (Europe and North America) seems increasingly statist and bent on cluelessly spending itself into oblivion, those in the East, especially China and India, seem to be moving in the other direction, at least in some aspects.  These are to be applauded.

I look forward to the day when the doors of the Gospel will be opened in mainland China.  Increasing closeness with Taiwan can only help in this regard.

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Filed under Christianity, fiscal policy, foreign policy, Libertarian, role of government, War

John Lilburne, Libertarian Hero

One of my heroes who fought unceasingly for liberty and freedom his entire life is John Lilburne.  As we study individuals like him, we gain a better appreciation for what we have and gain a better understanding of what we should do to spread principles and ideas of freedom.

One of his greatest legacies is the notion of rights that all individuals are born with.  At his time in England, there was a class structure (there still is, to some extent).  Royalty was at the top, followed by lords and gentlemen.  Commoners or peasants were at the bottom.  John was part of the middle-class.  Of course, those born into royalty or lordships were treated differently because of their perceived social status.  On the other end of the spectrum, peasants were looked down upon by nearly everyone.  There was this idea that rights were correlated with social or class status.  Royalty had more rights than lords and gentlemen, for instance, who had more rights than the middle-classes, who had more rights than peasants and commoners.

The idea of freeborn rights was revolutionary: all people are born with certain rights, regardless, (so the implication went) of social status.  Similarly, John fought for equality before the law, regardless of social status, increased voting rights, and religious tolerance.

John fought for his individual rights in remarkable ways.  For instance, early in his life, he smuggled in literature which went against licensing laws, a prime example of civil disobedience.  He was brought before the Star Chamber, a high court in England.  He demanded to know the charges brought against him in English, as the court spoke French in those days.  Thus began a series of trials and imprisonments which lasted nearly his whole life.

He was also revolutionary in writing proposed Constitutions for England.  Prior to this time, the idea of a constitution was much different than our conception; the English constitution was what constituted the body of English judicial, executive, and legislative tradition and legal history.  There was no such thing as a written Constitution; the concept was not even in the minds of Englishmen.  John Lilburne’s two attempts to write Constitutions for England were again revolutionary and paved the way for the founding of our nation, founded, as it were, by a written Constitution, which, in the minds of the Framers, bound the government by chains and fetters to enable a system based on individual liberty.

As we study the lives of people like John Lilburne, we better understand what we can do to further the cause of freedom; we are enlightened, enriched, and encouraged by his example.  In examining history, we see so much of growth of government, tyranny, and the shrinking of liberty.  But there are also shining lights which give us hope in greater liberty and freedom.  John Lilburne is one of those lights.

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GDP and a Culture of Consumption

Many have the misconception that a true advocate of the free market (a condition where individuals are free to exchange, invest, and economize without coercion) is necessarily an advocate of our consumer culture.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, as it is commonly known, measures three indicators: consumption, investment, and government spending.  GDP is the most commonly used indicator of economic strength among the mainstream.  As consumption is a presumed sign of economic strength, governments around the world perpetually create schemes and concoct incentives to try and boost consumption, for according to this measurement system (which I strongly disagree with), as consumption increases, so does the overall economic health of the nation.

Our culture of consumption is not a product of the unfettered free market, but is largely a result of state interventionism, including unholy alliances between governments and businesses of all stripes.  This is nothing new: the Austrian School of Economics has been preaching this for decades.  Economists of various flavors have been preaching this for centuries, if not millenia.

I clearly do not support increased government spending as a measure of economic strength.  Quite the opposite.  Investment alone (this would include what we call “saving”) is the prime indicator of economic health, in my mind.  As the government can do nothing constructive to assist this (except to protect individuals from acts of aggression), there is really no constructive purpose to measuring GDP.

One argument against measuring investment alone is that investment is bad for the economy in the short-term.  In a sense, this is true.  A consumption-oriented culture and economic system has a capital structure centered around perpetual consumption.  When that ceases, it is true that jobs are lost and companies go under as the capital structure is modified.

As opposed to consumption, investment is a long-term, rather than a short-term objective.  In the long-term, investment leads to stable growth.

Money saved now (and not consumed) will one day be invested in some capital expenditure of value and benefit to society: a car, a house, an education, etc.  Unfortunately, our consumption-oriented corporatist culture diverts resources from where they are most useful (i.e. investment) and puts them in an area where they have short-term gains at the cost of long-term rewards.  That money is diverted from its proper use to purchase some expendable and often non-essential good.  (When such purchases are made on credit, the consequences are even worse.)

Would consumption exist in a country with a small government and no measurement of GDP?  Of course: people still need to eat, shower, brush their teeth, and enjoy recreation.  But there would be less frequent frivolous purchases and more long-term planning and saving.

In short, capitalism gets a bad rap for our government-encouraged corporatist, consumer-driven culture.  My advice: stop measuring GDP, get government out of the business of business, and let the market go to work. In other words, stop interfering with every transaction between individuals: and let them economize and exchange freely, rather than being bound and fettered by onerous regulation, heavy taxation, and myopic incentives.

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Recession and the Austrian School

All is vanity. -Ecclesiastes 1:2

Who is right about the current recession?

Most economists from the Austrian School of Economics have been saying since the beginning (before most mainstream economists admitted we were even in a recession) that this economic downturn would be long and prolonged, likely a depression.  They are still saying this.  None of the failed Keynesian economic policies will change this for the better.  They will only prolong the agony, as Hoover and FDR’s interventions created and prolonged The Great Depression.

The Cold War taught us this: governments are not only unjust stewards of resources, but they are tragically inefficient as well.  Tens of millions died, for instance, due to Communist failures to allocate food properly.  If governments cannot even allocate food properly, the most basic of necessities, what makes us believe they are able to allocate capital, education, the environment, and health care (to name just four examples) more effectively than we as individuals are?

Mainstream economists have said, and some still say, that the recession will start to end this year.  This is tom-foolery.  We are already starting to see some mainstream shift in opinion (i.e. this news article).  This shift will only continue, validating the conclusions of the Austrian School of Economics.

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Responsibility Problems

We have a responsibility problem in this country.  It is everywhere, from the voters that voted for President Obama because he would pay their mortgage and utility bills for them (I do not recall him refuting this oft-repeated argument, by the way) to the auto bailouts to local and state governments clamoring for federal stimulus money.

I recently read this interesting and insightful statement in an article regarding record deficits and federal borrowing: “The deficits … are driven in large part by the economic crisis inherited by this administration,” budget director Peter Orszag wrote in a blog entry on Monday.

This follows the pattern: no responsibility.  The deficits are driven by government spending, pure and simple.  It may be true that such spending was seen as necessary by some.  However, to blame the economic crisis for irresponsible and reckless government spending is at least irresponsible and sounds nearly reckless.

Yesterday on the radio, I heard a story about how the Postal Service was needing to increase stamp rates (probably annually) to make up for lost revenue (over $1 billion this quarter alone).  At the end of the story, the reporter mentioned how that people who use email and make purchases online are largely to blame for this rate increase, but that such individuals will likely persist in their behavior.  Again, this sounds completely irresponsible.  Blame is shifted from who is truly responsible (the U.S. Postal Service for not providing a service whose costs are covered by individuals who will voluntarily pay) to those who are not (individuals acting freely, economizing to save money in hard times, or increase convenience in good times).

Lest you be concerned that I am pounding on democrats alone, I find that the GOP blame games which we have seen repeatedly over the years show a similar trend: the mainstream associated with both major parties shows major irresponsibility.

Contrast this with us, with you and I.  In a time of frozen credit and economic hardship, none of us can afford to make reckless personal economic decisions.  We can blame whoever we choose, but ultimately, it is our own individual responsibility to make sure that we are economically healthy.  None of us have the political clout and lobbying power to bend Washington to our will, nor should we.  Instead, we are to rely on tried and true principles of budgeting, economizing, and hopefully saving, consistent with provident living.

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President Obama on Science

President Obama has recently committed huge amounts of resources to science.  Is it bad to support science and scientific research?  Absolutely not.

However, the problem is that the funding mechanism for this scientific research is unconstitutional and unethical.  President Obama does not say to the American people, “You need to pay more for government-directed scientific research funding, and so we are at work now to determine the best way to take your money for this purpose; we will most likely increase our catastrophic indebtedness.”

He does not say this, and I do not think he means this, either.  President Obama, like most people, does not have a problem with a government of our size and cost.  In fact, he’d prefer it to be bigger.  Nor does he see taxation (including inflation) as inherently coercive and morally problematic, as I do, and as I believe our founding fathers did.

Another problem is that a false argument is constructed: you are either for us (our proposed government program) or opposed to scientific growth.

In reality, one can be opposed to the funding mechanism yet still highly supportive of voluntarily-funded (rather than coercively-funded) scientific research.

It is an unfortunate thing indeed for our allegedly post-partisan president to play such petty games.

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Good News on China

Reading this article gives me great hope in the future.

To see China investing in Taiwan, and the continuation of increasing ties and connections between the island and the mainland is very positive news indeed.

Why is it such great news?

One reason is the theology that contention is of the devil, and so reconciliation is a move away from the adversary’s ways and tactics and towards the Savior’s ideal of unity.

Another reason is that the closer relations between Taiwan and China become, the less likely a worldwide conflict will stem from their animosity (less than ten years ago, relations were significantly frostier between the two).  Avoiding world war, in my opinion, is always a good thing.

A third is that closer ties between Taiwan and China and the inevitable economic growth to follow is a great example to the rest of us to avoid isolating ourselves from each other, both as individuals and as nation-states.  For instance, are sanctions really that effective at punishing governments we oppose?  Are they moral?

A fourth, and perhaps the most important, is that a greater opening of China to the outside world will eventually result in the preaching of the Gospel on mainland China.  I am a firm believer the day is coming when the Gospel will be proselyted, at some level, in mainland China, and this type of information makes me think the day is increasingly closer.

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