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Thursday, March 21, 2013


Does Inclusion in Democracy Lead to Liberty?

To increase inclusion in democracy, Young argues for proportional representation as means to encourage voter involvement in politics. A voting system that elects party members proportionate to the overall votes they receive, eliminating “single-member, winner-take-all” system that we currently utilize, “provides more opportunity for differentiated representation,” (Young 152) claims Young. Furthermore, “proportional representation tends to increase party competition and enable more parties to obtain legislative seats.” (Young 152) This, Young believes, will eliminate exclusion by giving minority groups more incentive to vote. She believes proportional representation to be a viable solution to many of the problems that are apparent in our democratic process.
            Young says participation is still an important factor in the success of proportional representation. Without it, representatives are “liable to become separate from the constituents, and the citizens relatively passive in relation to the representatives.” (Young 152) While Young discards this as a minor problem with the thinking that this model encourages participation by giving minority parties a deciding voice in political situation and one which holds politicians accountable, I disagree. Proportional representation gives these groups a false sense of inclusion, “you can speak and we will listen but, your voice doesn’t matter,” consequently promoting exclusion. In addition, it follows that the proportion of the popular vote that is received by a minority politician, is also the weight of their particular vote in legislative decisions. It seems improbable that the small percentage of influence that is possessed by a minority group could ever be enough to swing a positive result in their direction, even if several groups agreed on the same issues and voted accordingly, the problem would still persist.
            Political congestion is an inevitable outcome that would seem to positively correlate with the number of parties that exist. With an expanded legislative system that is required to accommodate proportional representation, it follows that inefficiency in the government process is a strong possibility. Assuming that the model works and many different groups are represented proportionately. With such diverse opinions presented across a wide range of represented groups, if a conclusion could ever be agreed upon, the concessions made to achieve a compromise would in no way satisfy the entire population of groups, if any at all. Assuming again that the model works and many different groups are represented, but disproportionately, the weight of their vote is once again taken into account making their vote irrelevant; much like a third party in our presidential elections.
Again, assuming that proportional representation does work and the new system does give opportunity for minority groups to gain power. The possibility then increases for radical groups to achieve representation. If inclusion is indeed promoted and representation is in fact accounted for, nothing is present to prevent groups like the National Socialist Party of America from gaining legitimate status in government. It may be a stretch to argue this fact, but a causal link does exist and with Young’s argument being so general in nature, it seems she overlooked some of the key variables that could have at least added some validity to her argument. 
Another reason for criticism of Young’s model is it fails to present any viable options for eliminating corruption through elections. With the existence of advocacy groups such as lobbyists and money from big business, whose interests often oppose those of the general public’s, the doors still remain open for unethical decisions that are influenced monetarily and predacious activity that is inconsistent with liberty. The process of campaigning for a political position and the money required to even be a feasible candidate presently puts the minority in a position of exclusion from the start. Until these problems are addressed it seems that any democracy that suffers these initial setbacks is flawed from the beginning. The quandary with the repeating process of political corruption is the group of politicians, businesses, and advocacy groups who benefit from the existing conditions, ironically are the ones who have the power to change them. If the incentive outweighs the likelihood of repercussion, political corruption through campaigning will persistently be a problem that needs to be addressed.  
Young argues that equal representation is a key aspect of justice and inclusion in democracy. I agree, but I fail to see where Young makes any clear accounts of how to accomplish this. The solutions that she supports don’t seem to rid politics of the oligarchy or even the fascist tendencies that are present in our contemporary model. The proportional representation model argued for in this instance, still allows for the same unequal grounds in representation that our current model boasts. Existing problems will endure until the terms money and politics are no longer synonymous or each individual citizen takes our political process to be one with intrinsic value.   

Young, Iris Marion. Democracy and Justice. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2000.

Monday, March 18, 2013


On the Verge of Totalitarianism?

Are We on the Verge of Totalitarianism?

On pages 70-71 of Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. 1, FA Hayek states:

"What concerns us here however, not so much the past as the present. In spite of the collapse of totalitarian regimes in the western world, their basic ideas have in the theoretical sphere continued to gain ground, so much so that to transform completely the legal system into a totalitarian one all that is needed now is to allow the ideas already reigning in the abstract sphere to be translated into practice."

If you believe FA Hayek, this is a bone-chilling prophecy. He is saying that although our law books have not yet caught up with the contemporary mindset, they are not far behind: all it would take is to allow the "reigning ideas of the abstract sphere" to become physically represented in our law books.

In chapter three of Rules and Order, Hayek describes the process by which lawyers establish law over time.  He argued that quite often, these lawyers are merely pawns serving their masters: "Tools, not of principles of justice, but of an apparatus in which the individual is made to serve the ends of his rulers."

He then goes on to describe how this process of change in legislation leads to the movement away from private lawyers, towards public lawyers, "whose main concern is the public law". Hayek claims that this movement has been occurring in error, based on the myth that spontaneous orders are something that can be easily adjusted or 'fixed' via government policies.

Hayek says that most contemporary legal philosophy is "full of outdated cliches about the alleged self-destructive tendency of competition, or the need for 'planning' created by the increased complexity of the modern world, cliches deriving from the high tide of enthusiasm for 'planning' of thirty or forty years ago, when it was widely accepted and its totalitarian implications not yet clearly understood."

Because the lawyers creating new legislation are not serving justice, but rather their masters, the law is beginning to resemble, more and more, the mind of the ruler. Hayek reminds us that it was not the evil men of the world who have brought the most pain and suffering, but that it is the great ideologues whose ideas have  infiltrated and permeated the abstract sphere who have truly been the most destructive, despite having "good" intentions.

On page 62, Hayek reminds us that we have strayed far from the original ideals embodied in classical liberalism, yet much of the population is still under the assumption that these are the ideals that still govern our nation. Because of this underlying misconception, Hayek fears we are dangerously close to falling back into a totalitarian state.

It is of utmost importance that each individual understands the ideal Hayek is promoting in this reading. If we do not understand the nature of spontaneous orders and the purposes they serve, we will easily be convinced that the solution to our woes is not more freedom, but is actually less!

If we do not take the initiative to investigate the "development of social institutions", we will, like the examples in Hayek's book, be likely to believe that when problems are 'fixed' within a spontaneous order, it is due to some kind of government intervention or regulation, not the process by which all problems are fixed within a spontaneous order - through the discovery process of competition.

It is time we stop "waiting for superman" or some other hero to solve our problems. This is the exact mentality that leads to a totalitarian state. A bunch of crying babies screaming "please help us" form exactly the perfect conditions for a totalitarian takeover.

"The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. ...This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector." - Plato

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Liberty and the GOP

Following the marathon filibuster last week, Senator Rand Paul took time today to evaluate the state of the Republican Party. While speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference Paul spoke out against the outdated structure and ideas of his party as well as his fellow peers. Although not formally responding to Senator John McCain’s comments last week where he referred to Paul and several others in Congress as “wacko birds,” in reference to their stance on the Obama administration and CIA Director John Brennan’s drone policy and the filibuster that accompanied it, his comments were clearly aimed that way. Paul took a stance separating himself and creating a more visible line of partisanship within the ranks of the right.
The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered. I don't think we need to name any names, do we? Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere. If we're going to have a Republican party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP. We must have a message that is broad, our vision must be broad, and that vision must be based on freedom.

There are millions of Americans, young and old, native and immigrant, black, white and brown, who simply seek to live free, to practice a religion, free to choose where their kids go to school, free to choose their own health care, free to keep the fruits of their labor, free to live without government constantly being on their back. I will stand for them. I will stand for you. I will stand for our prosperity and our freedom, and I ask everyone who values liberty to stand with me. Thank you. God bless America. (Paul)
Making several references to liberty in his speech, Paul makes it clear that the Republican Party has diverted from this concept with their inconsistent approach towards responsible government. Senator Paul’s philosophy is clear, republicans don’t need to be reinvented with new concepts and ideas they need to fundamentally change; a change that reverts back to what can only be defined as classical liberalism, at least in the sense of “economic and personal” liberty.
            How does one foster responsible government among the ranks of the immoral politician? More importantly, how does one revert a party and even a congress in such despair to accept a fundamental concept like liberty that has been abandoned for so long the mere definition is foreign to them? Challenging the opposition and even more importantly your own party to conforming to these standards like Senator Paul is attempting is a start. But blame falls elsewhere. First, unawareness of Americans in context to constitutional rights can account for a portion but the need for expedient action coupled with unawareness has guided us to our current state. As soon as problems are revealed there exists a need for prompt action. As we discussed there are two theoretical approaches to liberty, one where liberty has an instrumental value and the other where liberty has emotional value. The immediate call to action requires the instrumental or expedient process which in turn promotes unnecessary legislation that gradually has lead to our current condition of a depleted economy. As an obvious need for action exists, the importance of not resorting to expedient action is significant. Senator Paul’s call for a Republican Party that stands for prosperity and freedom is a step towards accountability and responsible government but if Americans continually choose haste our problems will continue.  


Comments on Hayek and equality

Hayek promotes governmental law based on equality. Discussed in Law, Legislation, and Liberty Hayek defines liberty as the rule that constrains everyone in the same way. No single person should attain a specific advantage over another in society.
In Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville states that citizens of democratic societies prefer equality, even at the expense of their freedom. Although most don’t realize they are facing a tradeoff that balances liberty and equality, Tocqueville realized this more than two hundred years ago. Liberty and equality are inversely proportional to one another he believes. Tocqueville says that when a society is founded on liberty, equality can only be imposed on society at the expense of freedom. Because equality is rooted in law, attempts to undermine it are difficult and its material benefits are more immediate and tangible. However, the benefits of freedom are less noticeable and take longer to effect society. Americans further favor equality because of a revolution to secure its presence. Because Americans believe that all forms of prosperity should be within an equal reach for all, they favor equality. When a society requires more central authority to promote equality, they in turn lose their freedom, which is the situation we currently find ourselves in. Because society requires equality to be protected by the government at the expense of freedom, the two concepts are at odds with each other.


Big Brother is watching

Obama’s administration bowed to bipartisan pressure yesterday from critics of his drone strike policy, issuing a terse statement saying the president doesn't have power to carry out such a killing on “an American not engaged in combat on American soil.”    Former adviser to President Bush stated, “something that resonates especially strongly on the libertarian right that would say, ‘I don’t want Big Brother to be watching me,’ but also on the left, with people saying, ‘Do I want the FBI to be reading my e-mail?”  Senator Ron Wyden went on to say, “You’re going to start to see the emergence of a checks- and-balances caucus, and that there will be a lot of Democrats in it."
 “As drone use becomes more and more common, it is crucial that the government’s use of these spying machines be transparent and accountable to the American people,” Naomi Gilens of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a web posting last week. “We should not have to guess whether our government is using these eyes in the sky to spy on us.”
  So if they did use drones and attack on U.S. soil, do they have the right or does the President have the right to kill a supposed terrorist on U.S. soil?  According to Rothbard, no.  For “reasons of State.” Service to the State is supposed to excuse all actions that would be considered immoral or criminal if committed by “private” citizens.  Libertarians make no exceptions.  Only the government, in society,
is empowered to aggress against the property rights of its subjects, whether to extract revenue, to impose its moral code, or to kill those with whom it disagrees.  So even the use of drones to spy on us would be immoral and an invasion of privacy by the US government and a violation of liberty.  If the government does use drones, not for killing but to spy on the populous, then there would still be an issue of violating privacy rights.  Since Rothbard passed away before the new technology was made available for modern warfare, he should agree that the use of such technology for the better of government would violate liberty.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013


On Utopia and Rothbard

This semester I'm taking a history course that covers the rise of modern Europe, spanning from the 16th to the 19th century. The past two weeks one of our texts included Thomas More's famous work called Utopia. Even though Utopian literature was named after More's book, the genre dates far back to Plato, who wrote of a similar utopian society called the Republic. Utopia means "no place" and More uses this idealistic country to demonstrate the failures of his present day England under the reign of Henry VIII, especially in regards to the government's use of capital punishment.
     Prior to reading Utopia, I was not aware that this "perfect society" has nothing to do with private property. At the beginning of Book Two, More's fantastic traveller from Utopia, Raphael Hythlodaeus, describes the Utopian cities. Raphael professes that if you've seen one Utopian city, you've seen them all because they all look alike and there's nothing special to distinguish one home from another. The Utopians grow up in a society that does not put worth into material possessions and considers material goods childish and petty.
     Households usually hold thirty to forty people and every thirty households "elects an official called a Styward every year." (More, 54) Stywards are also called District Controllers and every ten District Controllers report to a Senior District Controller. Raphael goes on to explain that the doors of each household are double-swing doors, "So anyone can go in and out - for there's no such thing as private property" (More, 53)
     Raphael's Utopian society does sound ideal if one solely looks at the surface. All citizens of Utopia work 6 hours a day and everyone is given an education, a job, a home and daily meals. Everyone seems happy and is given what they need to survive. What could possibly be wrong with this socialist system?
     In his Libertarian manifesto called, "For a New Liberty", Rothbard vehemently argues against communism. "We can state that this ideal rests on an absurdity: proclaiming that every man is entitled to own a part of everyone else, yet is not entitled to own himself." (Rothbard, 34) As a human race we are  meant to grow and flourish. By mixing our labor with the earth, we create goods that become our property. Why?, a Utopian might ask. Well, it's our property because we took the time and effort to make it! The daily meals that the Utopians eat together were not made from their own labor but from the labor of others. All food produced in Utopia is sent to the community halls where the food is divided amongst everyone registered there to eat. This may seem fine to the Utopians but they fail to see that the process goes under the supervision of those touching the Force; District Controllers. These elected officials have control over everything: the Utopians' food, their houses and even what textbooks they read in school.
       The presence of District Controllers and other authorities echos Rothbard's sentiments towards communism and ruling class. "In practice, then, the concept of universal and equal other-ownership is utopian and impossible, and supervision and therefore control and ownership of others necessarily devolves upon a specialized group of people, who thereby become a ruling class." (Rothbard, 35) Utopian society may start out with the best intentions, but one must realize that lack of private property puts its citizens at the mercy of authorities to organize the system and make it work. A society based on right to private property, on the other hand, has no need for government regulation because each individual is in control of the results of his or her own labor.


Mr. Paul Goes to Washington

         A rare practice that became famous through the famous movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington came to life right before our eyes when junior Senator Rand Paul took to the floor of the Senate and began an almost 13 hour, old fashion filibuster. A lot of pundits criticized Rand Paul and said that it was merely grandstanding but I saw it more as a single politician breaking ranks with both parties and trying to ensure that central government does not trample over the Constitution that is meant to limit it’s power and keep it from over reaching.
            Senator Paul argued that the federal government does not have the right to kill its own citizens without due process of the law, if they are not physically engaging in or posing an imminent threat to the United States, as covered under the fifth amendment of the Constitution. When this country was founded and the founders created the constitution, they envisioned a country where men were free to pursue their individual goals without fear of a tyrannical centralized government, so the founders inserted the first ten amendments entitled the bill of right in order put restraints on a beast that would not otherwise restrain its self. Thomas Jefferson wrote that when, “the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” This quote holds true today as it did back then, for how free is any person if they fear getting killed by their government because they are suspected of something they may or may not of done.
            There have also been a few pundits who said that the Supreme Court should have the final say and interpret how much power the President has in authorizing drone attacks. Why should five out of nine unelected people be the ones who decide how much freedom we should have? After all, the nine justices on the Supreme Court are but mere humans who are fallible in making decisions like in the rulings of “Plessy v. Ferguson” that racial segregation was constitutional, or Korematsu v. United States, which found that Franklin D. Roosevelt had the authority to detain citizens of Japanese descent in internment camps. My point is that the restraints that the founders put on the government should not be open to interpretation and should be followed to the word. So kudos to Mr. Paul for ringing the bell of liberty, just as Paul Revere once did, and showing the executive branch that they cannot bully their way down our throats. 


The "Do Nothing Congress" may be the solution

      Last year, our 112th Congress was known as the new "Do Nothing Congress" because of the small amount of bills that they passed. An interesting article in the Huffington Post goes more in depth with this.
      We are now in our 113th Congress and they just may behave the same way. Some people would think that this is a negative thing (in December 2012 the approval rating was 18%), but I argue that, especially according to Rothbard, this is a good thing.
      The 112th Congress passed roughly 200 plus bills to become law and this granted them their name; two hundred plus! According to Rothbard, the only crime is invasion, and he believes that the state is the most constant invader. This means that the state has invaded over two hundred times. This number seems excessive to me, and what's more is that this coined them as "Do Nothing". But if I was to assume that 200 laws over two years is not abnormal and is in fact a small amount of new laws added to the public, then I can see this as a positive result.
      I believe that we want government to play less of role in our individuals lives. Government is force, and most times they use their force inappropriately. This can make government a tyrant, and it is very tricky to try and limit government's tyranny. If the 112th Congress argued and bickered enough to not get anything done, then this is at least a bit of a win. Unfortunately, the unnecessary laws that they already had in place would still affect the public, but if they were able to get rid of some of those unnecessary laws and then proceed to stand at a stalemate, that may be the limited government that some people are striving for.
     The 113th Congress is shaping up to look like they will do much of the same as the 112th Congress. They already could not avoid the sequester that they claim that "no side wanted", and they are still arguing over new budget plans. Moving forward, I hope to see more legislatures concerned with liberty first so that they can destroy old laws that are unnecessary and are more careful about making new ones; but for now this is at least an interesting solution to the limited government problem.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Advocating Freedom: Sweatshops & Fair Trade

For a middle-class American, the thought of child-labor sweatshops is understandably despicable.  And I agree.   It is an unimaginable horror that we have a tough time relating too, and has become a hot-button political debate.  But that debate often times ignores other issues that are also a reality in our world and are even more despicable; issues like child starvation and child prostitution.  Children work long hours at garbage dumps for wages barely high enough for personal subsistence.  Children starve while begging in the streets.  Children prostitute themselves to be able to eat; or worse yet, vulnerable children are abducted and forced into prostitution as sex-slaves.   These evils are just as real as sweatshops. 
We must never forget that the modern evil of “sweatshops” is not slavery; the children choose to work there.  Why would they make such a choice?  There is only one answer: they are better off with a sweatshop job than without.  They make the choice to better their lives.  They have the economic freedom to choose to work instead of beg, prostitute themselves, or starve. 
The empirical data on sweatshop laws is quite clear.  When governments make laws to ban sweatshop, there is a quantifiable increase in child prostitution and starvation.   The bottom line is this: sweatshop laws are anti-freedom.  Government is taking the economic freedom from these children to make a better life for themselves and the results are that they are worse off.  They are forced back into lives that they freed themselves from with these job opportunities. 
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m anti-sweatshops and advocate Fair Trade.  I believe that people deserve better working conditions and better pay.  But I’m also pro-freedom.   I believe that government should not take away economic freedom from people who want to work to better their lives.
So what’s the solution to this apparent contradiction?  Economic freedom is solution on both ends.  I have the economic freedom to put my money where my mouth is.  I believe that workers in third-world countries deserve better pay, so I will shop fair trade.  Next time I buy a pair of tennis shoes, I’ll pay the extra $5 to know that they were made at a factory with good working condition a high pay.  That’s the economic freedom I have as a tennis shoe consumer. 
So if you are anti-sweatshop, you must realize that labor laws are not the solution: you’ll be taking away their freedom and forcing them back into starvation or prostitution. Instead, use your own economic freedom to shop fair trade.  Or better yet, sponsor a child.

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