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Monday, October 31, 2011

 

The Latest Teen Craze and Economic Freedom

The Hunger Games series has teen cult-like following similar to that of Twilight and Harry Potter. Naturally, I absolutely had to read it. After such a popular following in the books, the first of three movies comes out in March. Unfortunately, unlike both Harry Potter and Twilight, Robert Pattinson will not be starring. I finished the last of the three books a few weeks ago and I noticed a relationship between the world of the Hunger Games and many ideas of economic freedom.

It takes place in the future in a country called Panem, which is post-apocalyptic North America. Twelve districts are lead by the Capital, a socialistic government that maintains control over its people by a violent police force called the Peacekeepers, control of all resources, and the yearly Hunger Games. In this event, children from the ages of 12 to 18 are chosen from each district in a raffle to compete against each other. A theatrical, but deadly arena is built for the players each year and it is televised just like a reality show. The last person alive is the winner. The Hunger Games is a tool for the government to maintain control over Panem. Acts of violence on these children foster a major fear of the government and quell any possibility of rebellion.

Government control of all factors of production creates scarcity. Consequently, starvation and poverty affect all of the twelve districts. One way to get more food is to add your name into the Hunger Games raffle again, increasing your odds of being chosen for the games. There is another way to get food or even liquor. A black market called “The Hob” exists in an old barn. The main character, Katniss Everdeen hunts in the surrounding forest and then sells or exchanges her game so that she can buy bread or other meat.

Even under an all powerful government, a market still forms. People want more than what the government provides in a socialistic government. The Peacekeepers (the government police) shop in The Hob. They like to buy soup made with strange meat, usually dogs or mice, from a creative cook name Greasy Sae. Haymitch, a notorious alcoholic, buys unlimited bottles of homemade alcohol here. When it’s burned down by the Capitol, Haymitch suffers withdrawals and has no other place to buy liquor. Government officials even have a weakness for products on the black market. Katniss sells strawberries to the mayor every week.

While this example is entirely fictional, it seems possible. It is possible for a nuclear war or major pollution to destroy most of the world. Throughout human history socialist governments have been formed and still exist today. The use of government force can always be manipulated and used to hurt its people. However, I appreciate the author’s choice to include a black market. People like markets. They allow consumers to be fully dependent on alcohol and eat weird dog meat soup or whatever their heart desires. It’s possible for a wide array of strange demands to be satisfied in a market.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

 

The Noble Highwayman

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its people may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end."
-C.S. Lewis
This particular quote draws our attention to the ethical side of liberty and makes no direct mention of economic freedom. However, I believe that its sentiment potentially captures what exactly it is about the government that so bothers the anarchists, and also occasionally irritates everyone whose government declares itself a protector of the arenas in which no one desires protection.
The next quote I will use is from The Ethics of Liberty by Rothbard. Rothbard’s claim is that there exists no way to structure government so that it will escape from certain allegations. Among these being that a government cannot possibly follow its own laws and creates a monopoly over things like the money supply, violence, and land/transportation using force and coercion. In chapter 22 Rothbard quotes a 19th century anarchist Lysander Spooner who points out that the way a government conducts its robberies is more ‘dastardly and shameful’ than that of a highwayman [a robber who conducted his robberies on the side of the highway up until the early 19th century]:
“[The highwayman] does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a ‘protector,’ and [to profess] that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to ‘protect’ those infatuated travelers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection.”
A further distinction, Spooner explains, between the highwayman and the government which ties in directly to the previous quote by C.S. Lewis is that:
“[The highwayman] does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful ‘sovereign,’ on account of the ‘protection’ he affords you. He does not keep ‘protecting’ you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands.”
And so it is; the government-unlike the upstanding highwayman or robber baron-skulks behind a parade of promises and empty justifications, tirelessly working to improve the lives of its subjects-whether they like it or not.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

 

Issue Avoided.

I stumbled upon this article while procrastinating of facebook a couple of weeks ago, and at first didn’t think of it for a blog until I read the comments. The article is about a girl who wore a shirt that said ‘Marriage is so Gay’ on it to her public school one day and was forced to change. She went to the news and explained she just wanted to show her support for the gay community. The ACLU got involved, and it became a big deal. Majority of the comments are people explaining how they think that being gay is the equivalent to being a child rapist, somewhere criticizing the school, some criticizing her parents, and other saying that they supported her but felt that the shirt was inappropriate for school.

It was these last kinds of comments that got me to thinking about economic freedom, and freedom of speech and such. Regardless of how you feel on the subject of gay marriage, the real question at hand here has to do with ‘freedom of speech’ or rather it even more so has to do with private property. Many people will say it is her right to wear that shirt because of free speech, other will say it is the right of the students to not be distracted.The question that came up a lot was where do you draw the line? The example used most frequently was what if she had worn a shirt that said ‘Marriage is so Christian’? These people who asked these kinds of questions will probably never realize that they were questioning the entire right to free speech. But as we established in class because there is nowhere to draw the line, the right to free speech is rubbish.

Instead of trying to figure out whether or not this young girl was within her rights to wear the shirt or not, why not just enforce property rights? If the school was privately owned, the owner gets to make the rules, and say yes you can wear that shirt to school or no, you can’t wear that shirt. If the girl and her parents don’t like it, they can go to another school, and the same extends for other students and parents.


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