Both The State And The Market Are Based On Coercion

It is common to hear people on the internet complain about the power of the state. It is regularly denounced for forcing people to obey its laws and pay taxes. Libertarians criticise this use of coercion and regularly compare it to a gang of thieves or the mafia. Many advocate that we either abolish or minimise the size of the state and replace it with a world where everything is based on voluntary co-operation and you are free to do what you want so long as it does not harm anyone (known as the Non-Aggression Principle). It seems like a simple choice between peaceful liberty or violent oppression. It is a handy debating trick as it allows libertarians to paint themselves as defenders of freedom while opponents look like tyrants. As nice as it sounds, it suffers from the fatal flaw that the market is just as reliant on the coercion as the state is. Continue reading “Both The State And The Market Are Based On Coercion”

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Why Competition Alone Is Not Enough

Free marketers view competition as the solution to most if not all problems in the market. If a business is charging too high a price or selling poor quality products then a new business can simply enter the market and take its place. If workers are mistreated or underpaid, then there will be an incentive for competitors to offer better conditions. Competition will cure all problems, prevent excessive profits, exploitative wages, protect the environment, increase your IQ and make you ten years younger (you may think I’m being facetious, but I have yet to come across a problem that libertarians haven’t claimed competition would solve). Continue reading “Why Competition Alone Is Not Enough”

A Thought About Property Without The State

It is common on the internet to encounter libertarians who decry the existence of the state which they view as nothing short of oppression. To them the state is a tyranny to which no one has agreed to. The world would be a better place if the state was drastically reduced in size or even abolished. Why should be people forced to obey rules against their will? Instead everyone should be free to do as they wish on their own property. However, I’d like to use a thought experiment to show how a world of solely private property is little different from our current world and how private property contains many of the arbitrary coercion that libertarians so passionately denounce in states. Continue reading “A Thought About Property Without The State”

Why Taxation Is Not Theft

Just as all political debates inevitably end with someone making a Hitler comparison, all debates with libertarians sooner or later involve the claim that taxation is theft. It doesn’t matter whether you are discussing the welfare state, universal healthcare or a TV licence, at some point a libertarian will accuse the government of acting like the mafia and stealing people’s money (just the last day a commenter asked me to “stop promoting the use of force against me or my family“, by which he meant don’t regulate bitcoin). Of course we all know this argument is melodramatic hyperbole, but it would be useful to spell out why. Continue reading “Why Taxation Is Not Theft”

Atlas Shrugged Is A Ridiculous Book

Atlas Shrugged is a hugely popular book among American conservatives and libertarians who see it as a symbol of resistance to government tyranny. This is surprisingly because it is a horrendous book containing cardboard characters, over necessarily long speeches, absurd plot lines and at least 500 pages more than it needs. Continue reading “Atlas Shrugged Is A Ridiculous Book”

The Two Types Of Freedom

In debate libertarians argue that their ideology is based on freedom, all they want is to be free of government interference. After all, liberty is so important to them they put it in their name. But how can anyone disagree with that? Do social democrats hate liberty? What I have found is that in the debates between left and right, people are arguing past each other rather than with each other. So the left does believe in freedom, but they just view it differently. In this sense there are two types of freedom. There is negative liberty or freedom from, which is the main principle advocated by the right and there is positive liberty or freedom to, which is the main principle advocated by the left. Continue reading “The Two Types Of Freedom”

Say It Isn’t So

Few economists openly admit to believing in Say’s Law anymore. It is generally considered a relic of the past, a once dominant theory that had faded away. Although it was prominent in the 19th century, it was swept away in the Keynesian revolution like so much of Classical economics. However, economic theories never die. Say’s Law lives on in conservatives think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and when Marco Rubio (who many favour as the next Republican candidate for President) rose to reply to Obama’s State of the Union address, it was Say’s Law he invoked. Even in the world of economics, some economists unconsciously channel the spirit of Say when they preach about the worries of crowding out and through Walras’ Law which is just a weak version of Say’s. This year’s joint winner of the (pretend) Nobel Prize in Economics Eugene Fama constructed an argument against government stimulus (unconsciously) based more or less on Say’s Law. Continue reading “Say It Isn’t So”