Give Me Wings To Fly

Steven Yates writes about a libertarian point of view on Affirmative Action.

Consider a basketball season in which certain teams play by all the familiar rules and others are compelled to play with each player having one arm tied behind his back.

No one, of course, would consider such games fair.

Now suppose someone proposed that for the next several seasons those teams whose players had been untied, were now to play all their games with an arm tied behind their backs, while those who had been tied up, now had both arms free.

Would turnabout be fair play?

Before answering, let’s improve the analogy. Let’s observe that there has been a complete turnover of players. All those who played in the first set of games have retired. The current players, therefore, are newcomers none of whom were involved with the original practice.

Now let’s ask again: would turnabout be fair?

Tyler Cowen on why Europe is no longer the world leader. It’s because they’re trying to stop orchestras from playing loud.

For me this article had a “jaw hits floor” quality. How about legislation saying that no composer can lose blood, sweat, and tears over a masterwork? Bach, after all, wrote the equivalent of twenty pages of music a day. He likely had some form of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Note that private solutions can alleviate the noise problem. Some orchestras increase the spacing between players. Some musicians use earplugs. Sometimes an orchestra will put plexiglass screens in front of the trombones. Or you don’t have to join an orchestra in the first place.

The Binary Circumstance comments on The Death of Politics.

The role of government has grown substantially since 1969 and their is no sign of that growth slowing down any time soon. It is my firm conviction that this is because government almost literally breeds government by creating an environment that is hostile to humans who are best adapted to live in freedom while providing a selective genetic advantage to those who are well-adapted to live in a politically predatory environment.

JD Roth writes about Democracy in America, a book that is sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.

For example, you’ve heard that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”? Here’s Tocqueville’s slightly different take:

Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power or debased by the habits of obedience, but by the exercise of a power which they believe to be illegal and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped and oppressive.

That nugget made me set the book aside and cogitate for several minutes. I don’t agree. I think that power itselfdoes tend to corrupt, though perhaps not always. And how many people believe that whatever power they might possess is illegal? Doesn’t everyone in power believe that they deserve their power, have earned the right to be in their position? His point regarding obedience makes more sense

Doug Miller on Hive Minds and Libertarianism

Doug Miller writes about some articles I linked to and the general ideas of “Hive Minds” and the philosophy of Libertarianism. Doug Miller is very well read with regards to science fiction, and I’m sure other things as well, and he refers to The Golden Transcendence, a novel by John Wright about these ideas.

In contrast to other utopian views of the future common in much current science fiction, Wright’s vision is of an unabashedly Libertarian human society. Throughout the three books, we get some tantalizing glimpses at the back story of how humanity reached this state through the 10,000+ years between today and the setting of the novels. Along the way we encounter several group mind entities, many of which are remnants of a period of human history where most, if not all humans were part of a planet-spanning group consciousness.

The crux of the interest of the book is to show how even the “most Libertarian” society can be come corrupt based on the explosion of influence, through wealth and prestige, that can come into the hands of a group that seeks to maintain it.

When Phaethon sets out to build a starship capable of carrying out his dreams of exploration and colonization, he is repeatedly oppressed and thwarted by a quasi-governmental group called the College of Hortators. Although the Hortators have no officially sanctioned power in the society of the Golden Oecumene, the enormous societal prestige and wealth allow them incredible societal influence. Indeed, they’re able to eventually hound Phaethon into near ruin by voting to ostracize him from society – with the added stipulation that any member of the Golden Oecumene that so much as speaks to him will share this ostracism. Phaethon has broken no laws, or harmed anyone. His only offense is to hold views that have the potential to reduce the influence and power of the Hortators by changing the status quo – and so they choose to attempt to coerce him into “proper behavior.” This part of the plot of Wright’s novels illustrates one of the primary concerns I’ve always had with Libertarian philosophy.

It is hard to reconcile this with Libertarian philosophy because I have not read the book so I don’t know the circumstances that would be too mundane and detailed for Doug to impart; and, because it is so obviously not Libertarian.

To believe it just and Liberty-loving to ostracize someone for a dream that does not demerit your Life, Liberty, or Property is certainly a sign of someone who does not believe in Liberty. What this seems to suggest to me is that the story is more about how a society could develop that seems like a Libertarian society–either because it once was or it has the trappings of one (people don’t disagree enough to be coerced so it seems like it doesn’t happen.)

The moral being that Liberty is something that must always before fought for and must never forget what can happen when you allow one group to “vote” (by any method a la government or dollars) to depose another of their Life, Liberty, or Property. Just like in the country I live in, America, there was once a value of Liberty and self-determination, but it has been replaced with Servitude, mob rule, and a socialistic nanny State.

There is, however, and issue behind this story that I think is the egg of Doug’s concern with Libertarianism. So, we say that people will watch out for themselves and because trade is good for both parties it will increase. Suppose then, that we say a Libertarian society will operate by people voluntarily agreeing to some form of identification which is then used to indicate “I trust this person in business” or “I don’t trust this person in business.” What then, if the people who manage this form of identification (or a well respected and trusted person/group) puts an “untrustworthy” mark on a person for no valid reason. (Valid reasons would be crimes, fraud, etc; the idea is that you put up economic embargoes rather than murdering or enslaving people.)

Supposing that happened, then the form of identification itself would be untrustworthy or a previously well-trusted group would suddenly be seen as less-trustworthy. The system corrects itself because it is open, and if it were not open it would not have ever been adopted. For this reason, I have trouble finding a reason why such a situation would be irreparable in a society that truly valued Liberty and embraced Libertarianism.

Comments and refutation welcome.

(Note: I am curious about how the hive minds in the books entered into. I plan on reading a book in this series and eventually reporting back.)

Liberation And Accounting

Ross Mayfield writes about transparency and protecting whistleblowers.

There is delicious irony in the news former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill broke against the most secretive modern presidency. Not just in dysfunctional innerworkings of the administration, ungrounded tax policy or the pre-mediation of war. You see, Paul O’Neill isn’t so isolated from the world. He worked as an executive (and read the newspapers) through a crisis of confidence in Corporate America. He had to confront the issues raised by deception in pursuit of power, the heralding of Sharon Watkins and transparent reform. Now in the private sector we have laws to encourage and protect just wistleblowing.

Camilo writes about protecting our security and our freedom.

Dave Weinberger says we must discuss comparisons, even if they say Hitler. By identifying what lies at the bottom of the problem, focusing on what we should do to avoid the evil that a decent society might suddenly find accepting, Dave raises the bar and makes the discussion centered about what might mean we are approaching such a place, and not equating a particular administration to any historical period. Indeed, if we avoid the oversimplification and, at the same time, remember the values that somehow are being forgotten gradually through the acceptance of restrictions and the convenient compromise stemming from purely security reasons, we poise ourselves, our government and the roles as responsible for our own civil government.

Jim Moore ponders accountability in politics and democracy.

How can we hold everyone in the presidential campaigns and election accountable for their statements and their biases/perspectives. Right now, the press jumps on one candidate or another, and asks superaccountability. Meanwhile other candidates are given a pass, at least temporarily. This process, in my view, has both a good and bad side. The good side is that it tests and tempers the political candidate–the person who hopes to be president. It is how we make steel in this country. The bad side is that the process is not systematic or fair.

How could we systematically hold everyone in the process to a high level of accountability?

The Binary Circumstance compares George Bush invoking God to Barry Goldwater‘s quote:

However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.

Yeti and The Binary Circumstance on Patriotism and Collectivism

The two main actors: The Binary Circumstance and The Yeti.

The setting: The Binary Circumstance writes about how “patriotism” can turn into the worship of human sacrifices for the preservation of the collective.

On Honour and Duty.

The Yeti:

An American soldier does not trade his life to get a flag. He risks his life because he believes in concepts like honor and duty.

The Binary Circumstance:

The Yeti-We speaks for an American soldier and presumes to know what he thinks, what his values are. In reality, The Yeti-We is telling American soldiers what they “should” think and what their values “should” be. The concepts of honor and duty imply “honor of something” and “duty to something.” What does The Yeti-We feel we should all honor? What does The Yeti-We think we all have a duty to? These are values and values are products of the individual mind. Rational values are not products of a collective. The Yeti-We is correct that soldiers don’t trade their lives for flags; a dead person can’t trade. It’s the collective Yeti-We that trades soldier’s lives for flags in order to perserve The Yeti-We’s collective flag-waving Yeti-We-self.

On Freedom:

The Yeti:

It’s trite to say that soldiers die so ingrates like the man at Binary circumstance can write freely on his website.

The Binary Circumstance:

It’s not only trite, it’s insulting to suggest that I have my freedom because some a bunch of twenty-somethings are fighting Bush’s war on Iraq. Most of those soldiers were not even born when I, as a gay man, started fighting for freedom. They were not even born when I fought for the lives of my friends during the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco when the government turned it’s back on us. I’ve been fighting for freedom for 52 years and haven’t seen it yet. In fact, I am still forced at the point of a gun by my own country to support a military that no gay man or lesbian serve openly and proudly in. If The Yeti-We sees freedom there, The Yeti-We suffers from delusions.

The Yeti:

Speaking of his contempt for breeders – Does anyone read this guy and start thinking of Phil Hendrie? I swear he sounds like the man who begins every sentence with “As a gay man and a gay journalist…” See – the idea is supposed to be that BC has suffered under the oppression of us breeders. Thus – he is more sensitive to nuances, and also isn’t responsible for buying into our breeder myths because none of us care about him and his kind.

I don’t care what your sexual orientation is, BC. I doubt your sincerity in this manner because you express such contempt for the society you live in it becomes impossible to separate what you believe from what you use to shore up your self-esteem.

On Values:

The Yeti:

In truth, all you can really do is feel sad for him. His life will always be lacking. To reach his age, and not understand what a line two-and-a-half miles long of teenage boys already understands.

The Binary Circumstance:

Again, the Yeti-We tells you how to feel. In truth, “all you can really do” feel sad for me. One option. No other choices. The truth is that The Yeti-We has sacrificed the Yeti-self and projects that it is the Binary Circumstance that is lacking. I might be lacking some things like a collective identity but a self is not one of them.

 

The Yeti:

And no matter what – in this country, we honor the fallen. We are acknowledging that a young man lost his life in service to his country.

The Binary Circumstance:

To accept that soldiers–mostly young men–are dead and not coming back forces us to ask ourselves, “Why did they die? Why did they die so young?” We would ask ourselves these questions about a young man who died of a disease and we would race to find a cure if hundreds of boys or girls were dying from the same disease. Why are we afraid to call dead soldiers dead? Why are we unwilling to find the cure for what’s killing them?

Could it be that we collectively regard their lives as less valuable than irrational, inanimate entities like duty, honor, and country? The Yeti-We would have to take a long deep look in the mirror at the collective Yeti-We-self to find that answer.

Later, The Binary Circumstance ponders why they are sacrificed:

Almost 500 soldiers have died while the NASDAQ climbed a staggering 60% in 10 months. That’s only 8.3 lives for each percentage gain in the market. Every percent gained means billions in new wealth for investors and the government, with most of it going to those who already have so much money they can’t count it, the same people that Bush already gave huge tax cuts to. In Objectivist terms: Are we trading a lower value for a higher value (a moral good) or trading a higher value for a lower value (a moral evil)? You be the judge.

On The Country:

The Yeti:

That Binary Circumstance can’t understand that, and instead sees a mystical ceremony of human sacrifice, speaks to his failures, not ours.

The Binary Circumstance:

Forgive me but The Binary Cirumstance doesn’t understand all things like The Yeti-We. I am a mere mortal. But there is one thing that the BC does understand: Things either exist or they don’t. A young man has a life and a mind. A country is an inanimate entity without a mind. To suggest that a young man should die for a country is to suggest that a young man should die for a rock. That would be sacrificing a human life for something of much lesser value, a bad trade that diminishes the value of human life. Conversely, for any one to trade his/her life in defense of his own rational mind, his liberty and his own individual values is a good and moral trade.

The Yeti:

Under your thought system, there should be no funerals for anyone – whether soldiers or gay men dead of AIDS-related diseases because they no longer exist – and the rest of us are foolish for wasting time and effort on people who no longer exist.

The Binary Circumstance:

I wish you well in attending all those funerals. I’ve already attended far too many for young men in my life.

Comment on Information Sharing and Corporate Databases

First a note. This issue is discussed in two books:

  1. Database Nation, by Simson Garfinkel
  2. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, by Lawrence Lessig

Both of these authors are associated with The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

This is primarily a reply to jsl32′s two comments.

I agree that many people solely want to look at the actions of the private sector and see evil, particularly when the size of the entity in question increases.

As you say, corporations exist to serve the consumer. And, all corporations DO serve their customers. (If you disagree: Why would I pay someone for something I did not want. And note, a cigarette company serves my taste but not my health, and by purchasing I have said that my taste is more important.) But they DO NOT serve “the public.” Only their customers, and they should only have to.

They should only have to serve their customers, because doing otherwise would be to support freeloaders. (Another note: A free trial does not serve the public, it serves the customers by turning potential customers into real customers.)

So, you are right too say that we must “find ways to make the current system work for us all” and “devise incentives to keep the corps honest.”

I think you are unfairly painting boycott as a solution and disincentive.

First, if it not clear that boycott is the issue:

  • Paying for goods is cash is boycotting credit card companies.
  • Reading books in stores/libraries is to boycott those institutions.

Secondly, if you don’t think boycotting is effective, notice that people do it all the time: Every company you don’t buy something from is the target of your “preference boycott.” The only question is whether political boycott is effective. But, for boycotts of either kind to have an effective on a corporation or product there must be enough people participating to effect the corporation’s bottom line. So, how do you get people to support a political boycott? It seems obvious to me that creating information about the reasons will be the best way to turn a political agenda into a preference.

But, boycotts of this nature are not always the most effective method. Namely, what if the benefit a service offers is greater than the pain it causes? Suppose it benefits me by 50 units to buy with a credit card and only hurts me by 20 units to have my information moved around. (This comparison is different for everyone, obviously.) Then it is better for me to just use the credit card, and benefit by 30 units.

So, to be most effective, rather than encouraging people to stop using credit cards all together and hurt by 30 units. What I should do, is create a credit card company that offers at least 30 units of benefit and does not share customer information. Then customers would naturally use my service because it is better for them.

This strategy can be used in any situation: Provide an alternative that is better.

The problem with trying to use public force (the government) and laws to change these things is that it enforces a model of happiness on people without room for experimentation.

Suppose you make it illegal for corporations to do this. Suppose I want them to. You’ve just hurt me. That doesn’t really “work for everyone” now does it?

If the government has an business in this matter it is to aide the education process. Some might say it is also best utilized to force corporations to reveal how they share information, but that could also be done by private means. Simply boycott companies that don’t reveal their information policies and create alternatives that do.

And a final comment to tabby676:

You write:

I think it is safe to say that most americans just don’t think about the fact that all of their purchases are being monitored, just like most americans have credit cards and don’t think about the fact that every single thing they buy and most of their day to day movements can be tracked by those…

You assume that no one could possibly like this. Why? And if I do, does my opinion not matter?

Secondly, Why do you think Americans are so stupid? If you don’t respect other people and their ability to help themselves then you will always seek to “help them” and make their lives better. What makes you need to protect them so much?

I point to this comment from Sabine Herold, the spokeswoman for Liberté j’écris ton nom (Liberty, I Write Your Name.)

I’d say that when you have no freedom and when you don’t respect the individual, it can lead to slaughter. And the only way to respect the individual is to give him the freedom to decide for himself.

I’d say that you can’t decide for others what they should be. When you try to centralize everything and when the state tries to help the people too much and to decide for them what is good, it doesn’t work. It didn’t work in China, it didn’t work in Cuba, it didn’t work in North Korea.

Because in those cases you are trying to impose a model on the people. But people are diverse, so no model can be applied to them. And then if you do want a model to be applied to the people, you have to kill the people. You should not create a model and then make the people adapt to the model — you have to do something that can adapt to the people.

Long Live Liberty

Kieran Healy points to Tina Fetner on the Iowa Caucus.

The opportunity for corruption in this process is enormous. Nobody could hear what was going on, the campaign leaders are striking deals with each other, but no one knows what the deals are. The campaign leaders are in charge of counting their own constituents. The rest of the people are sitting or standing around like sheep while all of this goes on around them. If they move, perhaps to talk with someone over from another campaign, they might not get counted. It was nowhere near the robust, townhall meeting exchange of views that I was hoping for. And it took forever – over 4 hours (not counting the platform stuff that makes up the 2nd half of the caucus). I was exhausted by the end of it.

Alex Halavais is against us! Burn him at the steak!

For a long time, I’ve wondered what a West Coast Revolution would look like: you know, secession by California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, and—for continuity’s sake if nothing else, British Columbia and Baja. If the latter two seem especially strange, remember that BC was a relative latecomer to Canada (joining in the 1870s) and often shares a cultural identity with the Pacific Northwest of the US, and that Baja is increasingly becoming a suburb of San Diego, and has a history of potential annexation. It’s been a while since I read Ecotopia, and ecological concerns might very well be a part of this, but I think the difference is cultural. The West Coast thinks differently, it is a different culture, and a different nation.

François-René Rideau writes about the Mars mission and gives a great quote:

I am irresistibly reminded of this quote from one of my favorite books, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman (RIP) and Charles Weingartner:

Consider this: The first hole ever dug on the moon by a man-made machine is now done. It is the most expensive hole in the history of the human race. Now what does that mean? How do we know whether this is one of man’s noblest achievements or if it is a game being played by a small group of lunatics for their own amusement — at our expense?

Postman hits the nerve, he knows what questions to ask, what assumptions to question. But being a depraved leftist, he can provide no justifiable criterion to answer.

An article at Game Girl Advance doesn’t really have an interesting content to me, but the headline is great: “Local man dances, awaits revolution.” (Click if you’re unhip for an explanation.)

François-René Rideau on the Lord of the Rings and the meaning of the One Ring.

Most importantly, the corrupting nature of the Ring’s power wasn’t explained, whereas in the book it is most important: the episode of Sam wearing it is most funny, whereas Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel and Faramir refusing it are most serious, and Boromir or Denethor desiring it is most sad.

What is the nature of the Ring, according to me, will you ask? Well, don’t read this summary, it’s bogus. You could also find similarities between Frodo’s quest and most any quests, including getting a PhD. But really, the meaning of the Ring, is really a libertarian message: in the words of Lord Acton, Power corrupts, and absolute Power corrupts absolutely. There is no way to achieve Good by using Power, because your very using it slowly turns you into the same Evil you wanted to fight. You can withhold Power, and prevent other people from using it; but ultimately, the only solution to the problems it raises is to destroy it.

The Binary Circumstance on what it means to be “homeless” in today’s political climate.

Both political parties exist to provide a home for well-financed special interests who wish to gain control of government so they can use government as a tool to control our lives and regulate the market to their advantage.

What kind of person would want to feel comfortable in that home?

Being homeless in the current political climate is a testament to self-esteem, respect for individual rights, and the quality of one’s character.

Paul Hein writes about “Democracy at Its Best.”

Moreover, the rules of the caucuses state that any candidate who does not have a sufficient number of supporters in a “preference group” cannot be considered; he must lend his support to another, more viable, candidate. It wouldn’t do, I guess, to have too many choices available to the voters. You can carry this democracy thing too far!

And it was delegates to the convention that the voters were choosing, not Presidential candidates. What’s more, the Iowa voters were not choosing delegates to the national convention, but to Iowa county conventions. These latter delegates, in turn, choose delegates to the national convention, but these delegates are not bound by anything but their own consciences; they are not committed to any particular candidate. Our triumph of democracy is an edifice of Jell-o, rooted in quicksand.

[...]

An innocent person — say a child — might assume that the way to elect a president would be to give each person a piece of paper, and ask him to write down the name of the person he favored for the job. The person with the largest number of votes moves into the White House. Obviously, this is NOT the way it’s done. The actual process is convoluted and confusing, and what the people think they’re doing at the polls may not be what they’re doing at all.

Fun-Loving, Freedom-Loving

Oliver Kamm writes about education as a positive externality–public good–with regards to the recent legislation pass in the UK.

According to Professor Nicholas Barr on Newsnight last week, the government’s proposals on top-up fees would mean that one-sixth of the current cost of a degree would be borne by the student, if and when he was in a position to pay. To raise this money from general taxation when 82% of taxpayers are not graduates is an overt case of sectional interests triumphing over the public good. The only possible case for objecting to this reform, given that poor students do not pay tuition fees, is that education is – in economists’ jargon – a public good that generates positive externalities. But as Alison Wolf, Professor of Education at London University, has pointed out, there is no clear link between student numbers and economic growth:

[W]ithin developed countries there is no clear link between student numbers and growth rates, GDP per head or productivity. For example, Switzerland, at the top of the income tree, has the lowest university participation rates in the OECD; while the US, also near the top, has the highest. Big increases in university numbers are at least as likely to follow periods of rapid growth as they are to precede them: Japan is a prime example.

So when a minister asserts that “We need more young people to go to university because it is an economic necessity,” he or she would be hard pressed to back up the claim.

Philip Greenspun writes about Cuba and socialism.

Flew from Miami to Panama City, Panama yesterday. While sitting in a comfortable leather seat aboard an American Airlines 757 and eating a filet mignon lunch, I looked down at Cuba. Supposedly they have everything to which we Americans aspire, i.e., universal health care and an excellent public education system. Yet Cubans are dirt poor and it is we ignorant and infirm residents of the United States who designed and built the 757. The comparison isn’t quite fair but really you’d think that the Cubans, being so well educated and blessed with a large and fertile country, would have done better for themselves. Perhaps politics do matter, a sobering thought as Election 2004 sweeps across the U.S.

What’s the quote? “The tragedy of capitalism is that people do not share in the happiness, and the virtue of socialism is that people share in misery.” Or something?

Good Health Care exists BECAUSE it is not for everyone.

Alex Tabarrok writes about Patent Theory versus Patent Law.

According to the economic theory of patents, patents are needed so that pioneer firms have time to recoup their sunk costs of research and development. The key element in the economic theory is that pioneer firms have large, hard to recoup, sunk costs. Yet patents are not awarded on the basis of a firm’s sunk costs. Patent law says the subject of a patent should be novel, useful and non-obvious but nowhere does it say the original idea should have required extensive costs of research and development as the economic theory would predict.

François-René Rideau, what do you think about this? (Note: I haven’t gotten to read Patents Are An Economic Absurdityyet so I’m not sure if you are referring to the theory or the law.)

Brad Edmonds proclaims he doesn’t “owe the Military anything.”

If the military is supposed to be defending our freedoms in the US, why is all the action in other countries? The only foreign action the US has seen is Pearl Harbor, into which the Japanese were goaded by FDR with his full knowledge and intent, as has been declassified only recently; and 9/11, which was most plausibly retaliation for 40 years of bombing women and children in the Middle East. I would be more willing to believe that the military was about defending our freedoms if they would limit themselves to defending our borders, and if they would do so successfully. Remember, on 9/11, the military couldn’t even defend the Pentagon.

It is much more plausible that the military is merely a tool for Congress and the White House to enact their foreign-policy desires. “Defending American interests abroad” explains the last 200 years far better than “defending freedoms at home.” [...]

Second question: If the military has done such a great job of defending our freedoms at home, why do we need a Department of Homeland Security? Wasn’t the Department of Defense supposed to provide defense? Instead, the Department of Fatherland Defense is an open, if unwitting, admission that the Department of Defense is in reality the Department of Offense, going abroad to force Congressional and White House foreign policy on whomever they want, whether the foreign party is willing or not.

Butler Shaffer write about unchaining liberty and being a free individual.

It should be evident that a system of private property fosters responsibility. If I, alone, control my actions, I, alone, am responsible for what I do. This is not a moral proposition, but a causal one, in much the same way that we can say a tornado was responsible for destroying Uncle Charlie’s barn. But to be responsible is to be accountable, particularly to the harshest critic we face in life: ourselves.

Most of us fear this sense of responsibility, which is why individual liberty is such a troublesome proposition to so many people. Walter Kaufmann has written of “decidophobia,” the fear of making decisions. If we delude ourselves that we have no control over our lives, then we cannot be held responsible. And if we are not responsible for what we do — even to ourselves — then we must be the victims of other people’s decision-making. Is it any wonder that men and women who, having smoked cigarettes for fifty years and developed lung cancer, now want to sue the tobacco companies for the consequences of their own actions, or that alcoholics seek damages from distillers for their cirrhosis of the liver? A recent news story told of a man who brought suit against his local cable television company for turning himself and his family into television addicts! Do you not see the connection between the continuing diminution, by the state, of respect for privately-owned property, and the rise of the “victimization” industry?

François-René Rideau explains why, economically, all politics is completely zero-sum.

Of course, in this con game of resource redistribution, there will be net winners and net losers; we already established that early on. In a way, the political market is a huge lottery — and that makes it all the more ironic that once again, collectivists will accuse the free market of being a lottery, whereas it isn’t and their system is one. But most importantly, the game of Politics is a negative-sum game the total cost of which to society is directly measured by the total visible benefits to some. To any government spending corresponds to a global waste to society exactly equivalent in value to said spending, except for a small part that profits but the politicians. That’s the famous rule of the double incidence of the loss, which is well known since the nineteenth century as applied to protectionism, but that applies just as well to any form of government welfare. We thus see that the One Lesson of Political Economics, that which is seen and that which is not seen, applies to every and all political intervention. And this is a praxeological law, that is valid even though you may fail to imagine where the resources are being wasted in a particular intervention.