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Archive for the ‘Libertarianism’ Category

It’s time to make a very serious point, albeit with a bit of humor and sarcasm.

A couple of years ago, I shared an image of Libertarian Jesus to make the point that it’s absurd to equate compassion and virtue with government-coerced redistribution.

We all can agree – at least I hope – that it is admirable to help the less fortunate with our own time and/or money. Indeed, I’m proud that Americans are much more likely to be genuinely generous than people from other countries (and it’s also worth noting that people from conservative states are more generous than people from leftist states).

But some of our statist friends go awry when they think it’s also noble and selfless to support higher tax rates and bigger government. How is it compassionate, I ask them, to forcibly give away someone else’s money? Especially when those policies actually undermine progress in the fight against poverty!

With this in mind, here’s another great example of Libertarian Jesus (h/t: Reddit).

Amen (pun intended), I’m going to add this to my collection of libertarian humor.

But don’t overlook the serious part of the message. As Cal Thomas succinctly explained, it’s hardly a display of religious devotion when you use coercion to spend other people’s money.

This is why I’ve been critical of Pope Francis. His heart may be in the right place, but he’s misguided about the policies that actually help the less fortunate.

For what it’s worth, it would be helpful if he was guided by the moral wisdom of Walter Williams rather than the destructive statism of Juan Peron.

P.S. I’m rather amused that socialists, when looking for Christmas-themed heroes, could only identify people who practice non-coercive generosity.

P.P.S. On a separate topic, Al Gore blames climate change for Brexit.

Brexit was caused in part by climate change, former US Vice-President Al Gore has said, warning that extreme weather is creating political instability “the world will find extremely difficult to deal with”.

I’m beginning to lose track and get confused. Our statist friends have told us that climate change causes AIDS and terrorism, which are bad things. But now they’re telling us climate change caused Brexit, which is a good thing.

Maybe the real lesson is that Al Gore and his friends are crackpots.

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Because I’m worried about the future of the nation, I want a national discussion and debate about big issues such as the entitlement crisis and our insane tax code.

No such luck. The crowd in Washington and the media have been focusing on sideshow topics such as which side has the most fake news, the purported sloppiness of executive orders, and the Trump-Putin “bromance.”

And we now have a culture-war fight in DC thanks to Trump’s new policy on transgender bathroom usage.

The Justice and Education departments said Wednesday that public schools no longer need to abide by the Obama-era directive instructing them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their chosen gender. …The agencies said they withdrew the guidance to “in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved.” Anti-bullying safeguards for students will not be affected by the change, according to the letter. …There won’t be any immediate impact on schools, because the Obama guidance had been temporarily blocked since August by a federal judge in Texas, one of 13 states that sued over the directive.

Though, to be fair, Trump didn’t start this culture war. He’s simply responding to a battle that Obama triggered.

Moreover, even though I prefer that we focus attention of big-picture fiscal and economic issues, I’m not asserting that this issue should be swept under the rug.

That being said, I think the issue would largely disappear if we simply recognized boundaries. Not everything should be decided in Washington. Yes, it’s the federal government’s job to guarantee and protect universally applicable constitutional rights, but some decisions belong at the state and local level. And most decisions should take place in the private sector and civil society.

Here’s some of what I wrote in late 2015.

One of the great things about being a libertarian is that you have no desire for government sanctions against peaceful people who are different than you are, and that should be a very popular stance. You can be a libertarian who is also a serious fundamentalist, yet you have no desire to use the coercive power of government to oppress or harass people who are (in your view) pervasive sinners. For instance, you may think gay sex is sinful sodomy, but you don’t want it to be illegal. Likewise, you can be a libertarian with a very libertine lifestyle, yet you have no desire to use the coercive power of government to oppress and harass religious people. It’s wrong (in your view) to not cater a gay wedding, but you don’t want the government to bully bakers and florists. In other words, very different people can choose to be libertarian, yet we’re all united is support of the principle that politicians shouldn’t pester people so long as those folks aren’t trying to violate the life, liberty, or property of others. …And when you’re motivated by these peaceful principles, which imply a very small public sector and a very big private sector and civil society, it’s amazing how many controversies have easy solutions.

Let’s look at some more recent sensible commentary on this topic.

Roy Cordato wrote about the controversy in his state of North Carolina.

…lost in all the rhetoric surrounding this issue is the truth about both the original Charlotte law and the state’s response to it. …the Charlotte, North Carolina, city council passed an “antidiscrimination” law… The centerpiece of this law was a provision that prohibits businesses providing bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers from segregating usage of those facilities by gender, biologically defined. Biological males or females must be allowed to use the facilities of the opposite sex if they claim that that is the sex they identify with psychologically. …This ordinance was an assault on the rights of private property owners and economic freedom, regardless of one’s religious beliefs. …In a free society based on property rights and free markets, as all free societies must be, a privately owned business would have the right to decide whether or not it wants separate bathrooms strictly for men and women biologically defined, bathrooms for men and women subjectively or psychologically defined, completely gender neutral bathrooms with no labels on the doors, or no bathrooms at all.

And Roy says that the state law (which overturned the Charlotte ordinance) was reasonable in that regard.

The law in North Carolina that so many progressives are up in arms about does not prohibit businesses from having bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, etc., that allow use by people of all genders defined biologically, psychologically, or whatever. …the state of North Carolina codified a basic libertarian principle: the separation of bathroom and state.

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner has a similar perspective.

Government needs to get out of culture war issues as much as possible, the question of transgendered people in bathrooms included. …In North Carolina, Charlotte’s City Council made the first mistake. …the city passed a non-discrimination ordinance…that…basically legislated bathroom admission. …Charlotte passed this law, exposing private business owners to lawsuits and legal punishments. …The ordinance also stirred up fears of predators — men getting into a ladies’ room thanks to this law, and then assaulting or leering at vulnerable women. Nobody showed that this was a real threat, but the same mindset behind the Charlotte law — we need a law to ban a possible bad thing — drove the state legislature to pass HB 2. HB 2 blocked Charlotte and other cities from implementing their antidiscrimination laws. …both the liberal legislation and the conservative reaction were out of place. Charlotte shouldn’t have stuck itself into private restrooms, and the state shouldn’t have stuck itself into the city’s sticking itself into restrooms.

By the way, Tim’s column also makes the key point that people should be decent human beings. A bit of civilized consideration and politeness goes a long way when dealing with potentially uncomfortable situations.

Writing for Reason, Scott Shackford opines on the topic, beginning with an appropriate defense of transgender people.

Transgender citizens have the same right as everybody else to live their lives as they please without unnecessary government interference. …As a legal and ethical matter, …it generally shouldn’t matter why somebody identifies as transgender. It’s their right. In the event that somebody decides to pose as transgender in order to engage in some sort of fraud or criminal behavior, there are already laws to punish such actions. …so it would be appropriate that in any situation where the government treats a transgender person on the basis of his or her identity it respects their form of gender expression. That means the government should allow for any official documentation—such as a driver’s license—that requires the listing of a person’s sex to match the identity by which a person lives, as much as it’s feasibly possible. …Transgender citizens are seeing some big inroads both culturally and legally, and we should all see these generally as positive developments. …Transgender citizens have the right to demand the government treat them fairly and with dignity.

But Scott correctly observes that the government should not have the power to use coercion to mandate specific choices by private individuals or private businesses.

In the private sector, it’s all a matter of cultural negotiation and voluntary agreements. The law should not be used to mandate private recognition of transgender needs, whether it’s requiring insurance companies cover gender reassignment surgeries or requiring private businesses to accommodate their bathroom choices. The reverse is also true: It would be inappropriate for the government to forbid insurance coverage or to require private businesses to police their own bathrooms to keep transgender folks out.

Last but not least, my colleague Neal McCluskey explains that federalism is part of the solution.

Much of this debate has been framed as conservatives versus liberals, or traditionalists versus social change. But the root problem is not differing views. It is government — especially federal — imposition. …Single-sex bathrooms and locker rooms have long been the norm, and privacy about our bodies — especially from the opposite sex — has long been coveted. …Of course, transgendered students should — must — be treated equally by public institutions, and their desire to use the facilities in which they feel comfortable is utterly understandable. By fair reckoning, we do not have a competition between good and evil, but what should be equally protected values and rights. How do we resolve this? …not with a federal mandate. …So how, in public schools, do we treat people equally who have mutually exclusive values and desires? We cannot. Open the bathrooms to all, and those who want single-sex facilities lose. Keep them closed, and transgender students lose. The immediate ramification of this is that decisions should be made at state, and preferably local, levels. At least let differing communities have their own rules.

But the real answer, Neal explains, is school choice.

…the long-term — and only true — solution is school choice. Attach money to students, give educators freedom to establish schools with their own rules and values, and let like-minded people freely associate. Impose on no one.  …We live in a pluralist society, and for that we should be eternally grateful. To keep that, and also be a free and equal society, people of different genders, values, etc., must be allowed to live as they see fit as long as they do not impose themselves on others. That is impossible if government imposes uniformity on all.

But I’ll admit that these libertarian principles don’t solve every problem. States will need to have some sort of policy. Not because of private businesses, which should get to choose their own policies. And not because of schools, which will be privately operated in my libertarian fantasy world and therefore also able to set their own policies.

But how should states handle bathrooms in public buildings? Even if there are less of them in a libertarian society, the issue will exist. And what about prisons in a libertarian world?

I don’t pretend to know exactly how these issues should be resolved. Conservatives argue that you should be defined by the gender on your birth certificate and leftists say you should be to choose your identify.

My gut instinct is to cut the baby in half (I’m such a moderate). Maybe the rule for prisons is not how you identify or what’s on your birth certificate, but what sort of…um…equipment you have. If you were born a man but had surgery (which is your right so long as you’re not asking me to pay for it), then you’re eligible for a women’s prison. Likewise, if you were born a woman and surgery gave you male genitalia (I confess I don’t know if that’s even possible), then you get assigned to a men’s prison.

Government bathrooms are an easier problem. From a practical perspective, I’m guessing the net result of this fight – at least for schools and public buildings – will be a shift to single-use bathrooms. In other words, multi-person facilities for men and women will be replaced by a bunch of private bathrooms.

This will be bad news for taxpayers, because it is more expensive to build and operate such bathrooms.

And it will be bad news for women because that means they will be forced to use bathrooms that are less pleasant because men…um…tend to be less fastidious about…um…personal habits such as lifting toilet seats before…well…you know.

Men only have to deal with the messes made by other men when we have to sit down in a bathroom. And even then, the problem is minimized since other men generally will use urinals when they…um…don’t need to sit down.

But if we have a world of one-person-at-a-time bathrooms, women’s lives will be less pleasant.

P.S. Speaking of bathrooms, my only goal is simply knowing how to operate the various controls. I’ve been totally stumped by the design of foreign showers and, if you check out the postscript of this column, very impressed by the sophistication of foreign toilets.

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I’ve shared several surveys that people can take to determine whether they are libertarian.

Now the good folks from FreedomFest are taking this to the next level by conducting a survey to determine the “50 Most Influential Libertarians.”

I invite everyone to participate by clicking here, especially since filling out the survey gives you a $100 discount when registering for this year’s FreedomFest (to be held in mid-July).

Having worked in libertarian circles for many decades, I’m going to look at each of the categories and take a guess on who will get the most votes and also give my two cents on which of the people are the most under-appreciated.

We’ll start with libertarian authors.

I’m guessing P.J. O’Rourke will get first place in this category, though Robert Higgs and Charles Murray also are possibilities.

The most under-appreciated choice is James Bovard. I’ve known Jim for decades and his writing is both principled and entertaining. I’ve shared several of his columns if you want to get a taste.

Now let’s move the business and finance category.

I actually know only about half of the people on this list, so take my views here with a grain of salt. For my guess on who will win, I’m torn between listing David Koch and Charles Koch, who have done so much to build libertarian institutions, and Steve Forbes, who has done so much to popularize free markets.

For the most under-appreciated libertarian, I’m going with John Aglialoro. How can you not applaud a guy who finally delivered a movie version of Atlas Shrugged?

Now let’s look at libertarian celebrities.

I have no idea who will win this category. I’m wondering if voters will pick the biggest celebrity, meaning perhaps Clint Eastwood.

It’s also hard to pick the most under-appreciated libertarian in this category. But I’ll go with Penn Jillette. I’ve seen his Las Vegas show (Penn and Teller) two times and I imagine hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans have been both entertained and enlightened by the experience.

By the way, I wonder why Howard Stern wasn’t listed.

Time now for the top libertarian in freedom organizations.

This is another hard-to-guess category. If I’m basing my choice on (deserved) celebrity status, I would have to pick between Mark Skousen, who has made FreedomFest a must-attend event, Jeffrey Tucker, the guy who is dramatically expanding FEE’s outreach, and Johan Norberg, who is famous for his short videos on freedom.

For under-appreciated libertarians, Tom Palmer deserves praise as one of the most determined and effective libertarians ever to traverse the globe (literally and figuratively). And Barbara Kolm deserves some sort of prize for her yeomanlike (yeowomanlike?) efforts to save Europe with her annual Free Market Road Show.

Let’s shift to the media category.

I would be stunned if John Stossel didn’t win this category, though Judge Napolitano and the guys from Reason may give him a tough race.

My choice for under-appreciated libertarian would be Neal Boortz or Julie Borowski.

The big oversight is that Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit isn’t listed.

Here are the choices for politics.

I assume there’s not much suspense on who will win. If Ron Paul doesn’t come in first place, I’ll eat my hat. Actually, I retract that offer. Based on my less-than-impressive election predictions, I no longer feel confident about my ability to prognosticate. But I still think Ron Paul wins, perhaps followed by his son.

For under-appreciated libertarians, I’m going with Justin Amash and Thomas Massie. It is very helpful to have a couple of solid libertarians in the House of Reprehensibles. They probably should have included Congressman Brat as well.

Here’s another very difficult category, the top libertarian professors.

It’s impossible to make good selections since there are so many good choices. If you put a gun to my head, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell emerge in first place because they’ve both done such a great job over the decades with their books and columns.

It’s also difficult to pick the most under-appreciated libertarian. The crowd from George Mason University is superb, Richard Epstein and Randy Barnett are amazing legal minds, and the Schoollands do great work.

But I suppose I’ll go with either James Gwartney, since his work on Economic Freedom of the World is so valuable, or Deirdre McCloskey, who deserves praise for her books and other works.

By the way, it’s a terrible oversight that Robert Murphy and Ed Stringham are not on the list.

Last but not least, we have the think tank crowd.

It goes without saying that the Cato Institute (America’s most principled and effective think tank) should win this category. And you have lots of Cato people from which to choose, so pretend you’re a dead person in Chicago and vote early and vote often.

For the most under-appreciated libertarian, I’m going to pick someone who isn’t even on the list. Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center deserves lots of write-in votes. Not only did she escape France, but she’s been one of the most effective and determined policy economists in Washington. If you need any extra convincing, just watch this video.

Once again, here’s the link for those who want to take the survey.

P.S. On another issue, Paul Krugman once again has attacked me for my comments about California. For those  interested, here is my response.

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When trying to educate people about the superiority of free enterprise over statism, I generally show them long-run data comparing market-oriented jurisdictions with those that have state-driven economies. Here are some of my favorite examples.

It’s my hope that when readers look at these comparisons, they will recognize the value of economic freedom because it is very obvious that ordinary people become far more prosperous when government is small.

But there’s also another way of determining which approach is superior. Just look and see what happens when people are allowed to vote with their feet. Or, just as important, look at places where people are not allowed to vote with their feet.

The Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, for instance, existed to prevent people from escaping the horror of Soviet communism. Likewise, people in North Korea and Cuba don’t have the freedom to emigrate.

Totalitarian governments realize that their citizens would escape en masse if they had the chance.

In free countries, by contrast, there’s no need to imprison people.

And that’s why this Imgur image is not only funny, but also a good summary of population shifts around the world.

I’ll definitely have to add this to my collection of libertarian humor.

To be sure, not everybody who moves from a statist hellhole to a prosperous capitalist society is motivated by an appreciation for liberty. They may simply want a better life and have no idea that national prosperity is a function of economic liberty.

And they may not even want to earn a better life. They may simply want to get on the gravy train of government handouts (which is why I’m not a fan of America’s dependency-inducing refugee program).

But I’m digressing. The simple moral of today’s story is that decent societies don’t have to imprison their citizens. That only happens in place where government is not only big, but also evil.

P.S. Unlike some libertarians, I like borders.

P.P.S. People also vote with their feet inside nations, and the lesson to be learned is that smaller governments attract more people.

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Back in 2014, I looked at the vitally important battle over whether Santa Claus is a liberal or conservative.

Let’s now broaden that debate and contemplate the difference between libertarian Christmas and socialist Christmas.

We’ll start with this much-deserved jab at socialists, the people who continue to believe in coerced equality even though such systems always produce misery for ordinary people (though insiders often manage to get rich).

Sort of reminds me of this Chuck Asay cartoon.

And just in case anyone thinks libertarians don’t get into the Christmas spirit, here’s a new video from Reason TV showing the various gifts you can get for libertarians.

And if you like libertarian-themed Christmas videos, here’s another Reason production showing Santa Claus getting harassed by the TSA.

So what about the socialists?

Well, they definitely believe that government should be Santa Claus. Indeed, I’ve shared Christmas-themed cartoons making this point on many occasions (see here and here, for example).

But here’s something from the pro-socialist perspective. The goal is obviously to equate goodness with statism.

I like the Charlie Brown humor. That’s a nice touch. But there’s a too-big-to-ignore problem with the central message of this poster.

None of the examples involve government-coerced redistribution, which is the defining characteristic of the American left. Instead, we have five examples of voluntary goodness, a characteristic that is more commonly found where capitalism flourishes.

Indeed, it’s worth noting that supposedly selfish capitalists in America give far more to charity than supposedly compassionate Europeans. And you won’t be surprised to learn that people is red states are far more generous than people in blue states.

In other words, leftists are Scrooges with their own money who then try to mitigate their guilt by using coercive government to redistribute other people’s money.

Sounds like they should heed the words of Libertarian Jesus.

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I wrote a couple of days ago about a global ranking showing which nations enjoy the most personal and economic freedom.

Surprisingly, European nations dominated the top 20, which suggests (given the depressing amount of statism in Europe) that libertarians have a lot of work to do if we want good liberty-oriented role models for the world.

Heck, even the top three jurisdictions (Hong Kong, Switzerland, and New Zealand), while very admirable compared to most other nations, still have too much government.

In the fight for libertarian policy, we face several obstacles, including the “public choice” pressure for ever-growing government, as well as the fact that we simply need to learn how to be more persuasive.

And if we want to be more persuasive, we need to somehow convince people to apply sensible principles in a consistent manner. And this is why this Venn Diagram from Mark Perry’s collection is so valuable. It’s addressed to leftists and it challenges them to consistently apply their beliefs about the liberty of consenting adults.

Mark obviously hopes that the people who think there should be freedom for personal relationships will realize that it is inconsistent to simultaneously want to restrict freedom in economic relationships (in this case, the freedom to accept a job that doesn’t pay as much as some politicians would prefer).

But the Venn Diagram also could apply to conservatives by changing a few words. Folks on the right generally understand that consenting adults should be free to engage in voluntary economic exchange, but they sometimes want to limit consenting adults in the personal sphere.

By the way, a belief in freedom doesn’t imply that people have to be happy about the choices others make. You can think that it’s wrong and sad and unfortunate that some people have very limited skills and are able to earn only $5 per hour in the marketplace. And you can you personally disapprove of certain relationships between consenting adults.

Libertarianism is simply the principle and theory that you don’t support government coercion to prevent other adults from engaging in behaviors that you don’t like. Assuming, of course, that other people’s actions don’t conflict with your rights to life, liberty, and property.

P.S. You can enjoy other Mark Perry Venn Diagrams here, here, here, and here (newly added).

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Libertarians are sometimes described as people who don’t want the government to interfere in either the bedroom or boardroom, which is a shorthand way of saying that there should be both personal freedom and economic freedom.

Based on this preference for liberty and a desire to avoid government coercion, what’s the most libertarian nation in the world? Is it Australia, which I recommended as the best option for escaping Americans if the U.S. becomes a failed welfare state?

Not quite. According to the new Human Freedom Index, Australia gets a very good score, but the most libertarian-oriented place in the world isn’t even a country. It’s Hong Kong, a “special administrative region” of China.

Hong Kong earns its high score thank to it’s number-one status for economic freedom, combined with a top-20 score for personal freedom.

For what it’s worth, European nations dominate the rankings. Other than top-rated Hong Kong, New Zealand (#3), Canada (tied for #6), and Australia (tied for #6), every single nation in the top 20 is from the other side of the Atlantic.

So kudos to our friends from across the ocean. Most of them have big welfare states, but at least they compensate with free market policy in other areas, along with lots of personal freedom.

And what about the United States? We’re ranked #23, which certainly is decent considering that there are 159 countries that are scored, but obviously not worthy of superlatives.

The infographic below contains the specific scores for the United States. As you can see, our economic freedom score (7.75 out of 10) is worse – in absolute terms – than our personal freedom score (8.79 out of 10). But since more nations (especially in Europe) get high scores for personal freedom, our relative ranking for economic freedom (16 our of 159) is better than our relative ranking for personal freedom (28 our of 159).

And if we look at the sub-categories for personal freedom on the left side, you’ll notice that America’s main problem is a very mediocre score for rule of law. Thanks, Obama!

Let’s now look at the nations that have the most personal freedom.

I already mentioned that the United States is in 28th place, so we obviously don’t show up on this top-20 list. But you will find 17 European nations, along with Australia (tied for #12), Canada (#15), and Hong Kong (tied for #19).

By the way, Switzerland is the only nation to be in the top 10 for both personal and economic freedom. So maybe that country’s improbable success isn’t so improbable after all. You do the right thing and you get good results.

And honorable mention to Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom for just missing being in the top 10 in both categories.

In case you’re wondering why Hong Kong had the highest overall score even though it was “only” #19 for personal freedom, the answer is that the jurisdiction scores so much higher for economic liberty than the European nations.

P.S. For what it’s worth, I find it surprising that China, which ranks rather low for overall freedom (141 out of 159), is so tolerant of widespread freedom in Hong Kong. I assume (hope?) this is a positive sign that China will evolve in a positive direction.

P.P.S. The very last country on the list is Libya, so perhaps we can conclude that the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama intervention has not produced good results. Meanwhile, I’m guessing that the thugs in Caracas (154 out of 159) are happy that Venezuela isn’t in last place.

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