Isolation and Assumption or Hamilton v. Trump

alexander-hamiltonShortly after the United States became an independent nation a fellow named Alexander Hamilton was put in charge of the treasury. The debt accrued from the Revolutionary War was a large issue and Hamilton wrote something called The First Report on the Public Credit that promoted the plan of Assumption.

Yipee, Tom, you might say. What does that have to do with President Trump and the modern world?

The idea is rather complex and sort of anti-common sense. Hamilton believed that if the Federal Government assumed all the debt from the various states, Assumption, those states would link their financial well-being to that of the central government. That is, if the union failed, the debt would fall back on the states. If the states had a financial stake in the union they would do their best to promote it and serve it.

This is a powerful idea against isolationism. If we are financially tied to other nations, they have a vested interest in seeing that we succeed, for then they succeed.

President Trump seems to be pursuing an America First agenda. The proposed tariffs would make it more expensive for other countries to do business in the United States. At that point they are given a choice. Pay the price or go elsewhere. Certainly some will pay the price in order to stay here but some will leave. As more and more decide it’s not worth the effort of staying they become independent of the United States. They have no reason to want us to succeed.

If we stop funding the United Nations it will suffer, most certainly. But the remaining member nations will soon realize they can do without that money. It won’t be as lavish. There won’t be as much waste. It won’t be as powerful. But we also will have little say in its operations. When we disengage we lose influence.

When we tell a nation they can’t do business with us without paying a price then eventually they stop doing business with us. We pay a price for influence. It’s money.

I’m not telling you that America First is a bad policy. I’m just telling you it will diminish our influence in the world. Other nations will learn they can do just fine without us.

If China decides they want to become world’s financial capital, something that could very well happen, it will mean an extraordinary shift in the balance of power in the world.

By allowing yourself to be tied to other people, other states, other nations; you make them work for your success. Their success is bound to yours and vice versa.

I just want to be very clear here. While I’m all for economic engagement with other nations I’m not for forcing regime change on those that don’t fall in line. I think we can do far more good in this world by linking people to each other financially than any soldier or covert operative working on regime change could ever accomplish.

I speak of nations and states in this article but ultimately I’m talking about individuals. When a person I play chess with in Iran wants to continue playing chess online with me, he or she doesn’t want me to die. Because it’s in his or her interest to continue the enjoyable chess games.

So it is with nations, states, and most importantly; individuals.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

The Libertarian Chewing Gum Conundrum

Chewing-Gum-RemovalToday I blog about chewing gum. Yep, chewing gum. It all started when I read about President Trump’s press secretary’s chewing habits. My natural curiosity led me to discover a lot of interesting things about chewing gum.

Eventually I got to the section at Wikipedia about how discarded chewing gum is a big nuisance. I don’t have to tell anyone who has stepped in the mess and had to remove it. Or anyone who touched the disgusting blob under a table. Or any who has to clean it up. I think I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t find discarded chewing gum to be disgusting and a nuisance. At my upscale gym I occasionally see a piece in the urinal and I literally want to find the person who did it and punch them in the mouth.

Someone has to clean that, you dick. It takes time and effort to clean up and that means it takes money.

Many schools ban it for this reason alone and one country, Singapore, has banned it completely. Their public spaces and sidewalks must be a joy although I’ve never experienced them myself.

This all brings me to the conundrum. I’m a Libertarian. If people want to chew gum, more power to them. If they want to swallow it, go right ahead. But, by golly, I don’t want it under the table I’m sitting at while having dinner. I don’t want part of the price of my dinner being to have someone clean up the chewing gum from the table. I don’t want my tax dollars going to cleaning expenses.

To prevent people from disposing of their chewing gum improperly means ridiculous laws. It means law enforcement officers training their keen eyes on rude gum chewers who do not dispose in an acceptable way. It means fining people, potentially arresting them, for disposing of gum under a table. That’s not exactly up my Libertarian alley.

If we don’t have laws to keep people from sticking it under the table then some, asshole, people are going to continue right along doing it. What to do?

Certainly teach children how rude is this behavior. Certainly shame anyone you witness doing it. But laws? Regulations? Even just a small fine rankles my ideology. I don’t like the idea of police handing out tickets for such actions.

Make them clean it themselves? That again requires vigilant officers on patrol and I’m not sure I approve.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Libertarian. Especially if you’ve got gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Pre-Industrial to Industrial to Information

Industrial-revolutionI’ve seen quite a bit of debate both in person and online about the idea of Protectionism and why we either need to avoid it or embrace it. I find that people who believe one side of the argument seem to be largely immune to attempts to convince them otherwise. As you might imagine much of this debate is fueled by the current political climate in the United States.

President Trump is a strong protectionist. He believes that we must protect our workers from foreign depredation. On the other hand we have Libertarians like myself who believe in Free Trade. What I’d like to do today is not argue with you but ask you to argue my point. Perhaps no one will take me up on it, my blog viewership is somewhat short of the millions. However, perhaps a few people who believe in the Protectionist mantra will be willing to step forward.

So here we go.

Imagine that is not 2017 but in fact it is 1760. Before even the United States existed as a free nation.

Our economy is based almost completely on Pre-Industrial economics. Agriculture is the primary form of employment and wealth generation, as it has been for tens of thousands of years. People are born, live, and die all within fifty miles of a single location. On the horizon is a frightening thing. The Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution will destroy virtually every single job that exists today. I am a precursor of the Luddites. I believe this new way of doing things will destroy my family and my life. I will no longer be able to work, to make money. Tell me why I should embrace textile manufacturing, metallurgy, steam power, machine tools, chemicals, cement (my job is a brick layer), gas lighting, glass making, paper machines, automated agriculture, mining, canals, roads, railways.

These things will destroy my family. My children will work in a factory instead of providing subsistence farming at home. I don’t know the skills required to live in this coming world.

I will suffer. I will not have a job. You, the government, must protect me and my job from this new way of doing things. I don’t know how to write code, I mean fix a steam engine. Explain to me how it could possible be to my benefit, to my nation’s benefit, to the world’s benefit to move from pre-industrial to industrial. Why should we not fight this?


Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Ticketed for Leaving Car Running in Driveway

ticket-taylorThere’s an interesting story making the news regarding a fellow named Nick Taylor or Taylor Trupiano (depending on which article you read) who was ticketed in Roseville, Michigan because he left his car running and unattended in the driveway of his girlfriend’s home.

The reason for the law, according to Roseville Police Chief James Berlin, is that thieves sometimes steal cars that are left in this state, usually during winter months. Cars thus stolen must be dealt with by law enforcement officials. The police must investigate the crime and track down the criminal and might even have to engage in high-speed chases. The investigation costs money and the chases are dangerous to bystanders. Chief Berlin is unabashedly a supporter of such laws.

You all know me by now. I’m a Libertarian. I think the law is ludicrous but let’s take some time to examine why.

Let us take Chief Berlin’s assertion at face value. There are cars stolen in this manner. Investigating such events does cost money. A high-speed chase might result.

Let’s also take a look at some Libertarian points of view on the subject. Leaving a running car in your driveway hurts no one directly. It is a convenience in cold weather. It is your car. It is private property.

Now I want to examine Chief Berlin’s arguments

His first argument is largely that the law is designed to protect people from themselves. You might get your car stolen if you act in a careless fashion. I don’t think the state should be protecting us from our own stupidity. If we are stupid and do stupid things that is our business. Would we want police officers to fine someone wearing a nice watch in a bad part of town? The crime is committed by the thief, even if we act irresponsibly and put ourselves in dangerous situations. That’s our business, not the state’s business.

His second argument is that it costs money for the police to investigate crime. Yes. That’s true. That’s their job. People pay taxes to support the police force in doing this job. We should not be taxing through citation. This problem is largely created by municipalities that fail to fully fund their police force and use it as a cash cow to rake in revenue for City Hall. Which is, of course, the real reason behind the ordinance, not that Chief Berlin or the Mayor of Roseville would ever admit as much. Fully fund the police force. If crimes occur they will attempt to solve them. I certainly wouldn’t object to community outreach to explain not to leave your car unattended because it invites thieves.

His final argument is that high-speed chases endanger the public. He’s right. They do. And police should not engage in such chases for the safety of the citizens of the town and the officers themselves. Chases make sense when the criminal is violent and dangerous but do not make any sense for a car thief. Yes, the thief might get away. That’s true. But also: Yes, innocent people and officers themselves die in such chases. They aren’t worth it.

There are a lot of factors that go into such ordinances as we see in Roseville but as a Libertarian I cannot countenance them. Bad laws make people hate police officers. And that’s something law enforcement agencies would do well to consider.

When police work with the community both are served.

Should warming up the car unattended be a crime?

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Mexican Wall and Remittance Seizures

us-mexico-border-fenceWith the election of Donald Trump the idea of building a long wall along various places on the border between Mexico and the United States is being seriously discussed. The primary method of paying for this is something being called Remittance Seizures. I call it stealing.

The idea is that people send money to Mexico from that which they earn in the United States. Someone working in the United States earns money. They frugally save some of that money. They send it back to their friends or family in Mexico. What is being proposed is that the government simply takes a percentage of that money. That’s theft, plain and simple. There’s no other word for it.

The United States government is going to spend a bunch of money building something but they don’t want to use general tax dollars for the purpose, so they steal the money from a particular group of people hoping that the rest of the country will shrug and say, “well, it’s not my money they are stealing.”

If the federal government is allowed to do this, how long do you think before state and local governments start to fund their own little projects by stealing from you?

In my community of Libertarian and Anarchists there is a mantra that taxation is theft and there is some truth to that idea but I don’t want to muddy the crystal clear waters of this plan. If you want to propose and enact a tax in order to get money to build the wall I think it’s stupid but at least it’s legal, it’s not stealing.

This proposal is an extension of government power that should frighten everyone. This is no different than if you built a fence around your property and then went to your neighbors and took part of their paycheck to pay for it. It’s madness.

I’m not totally opposed to taxes. I drive on roads and a gas or mileage tax to pay for upkeep of the road makes sense. This is simply targeting a minority group and taking their money to pay for something they don’t use and certainly don’t want. It’s theft. I can’t say it more simply. it’s stealing from a group because you can. It’s a despicable proposal.

The words Republican and Conservative have become antonyms in this day and age. It’s shocking to this Libertarian.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Mexico, USA, Cars, and the Complexity of the Protectionist

protectionismThe recent election in the United States brought an avowed Protectionist to power and this raises interesting and complex economic questions. As a Libertarian I’m opposed to such policies.

I will not pretend that economics is a simple or easy to understand discipline. Nor do I even hope to convince those who agree with a protectionist agenda. I only hope to show you the situation is more difficult to understand than you might think.

At issue is the manufacturing of cars in Mexico. In the last twenty years building small cars in the United States has become an unprofitable business. When NAFTA was passed protectionism in North America was largely abolished. If you produced your goods in Mexico, Canada, or the United States then other countries are forbidden protectionist policies like tariffs, taxes, or other means. Free trade. If you can produce something more cheaply than the people in a neighboring country then you were allowed unfettered access to that market.

This means economic hardship for some and prosperity for others. If making a car in the United States cost X and making the same car in Mexico cost Y then manufacturers have a decision to make. In the last twenty years that decision was largely to move facilities to Mexico for production of small cars. The vagaries of economics made manufacturing them in the United States less or not at all profitable. This meant the loss of certain jobs. And that’s what Protectionists talk about the most. Yes, there is a loss of jobs.

However, let’s examine the likely outcome if the United States propped up the manufacturing of small cars through tariffs and other protectionist ideas. Japan and other car making nations would have gone to Mexico, as they have done and continue to do. They would then have been able to offer cars at a significantly better price than the U.S. companies could match. The only way to save those jobs would be for the U.S. to provide increasingly aggressive tariffs or to cut wages dramatically. Thus people in this country would be paying far more for cars or earning less, all to support jobs. That’s reality. That’s the inevitable outcome of protectionism.

Protectionists paint jobs going to Mexico and businesses moving plants to Mexico as a terrible thing. As stealing jobs from U.S. citizens. Movement of manufacturing to where it is best performed certainly saves consumers money but in the long run saves jobs as well. The jobs supposedly saved through protectionism come at a terrible cost and only delay the inevitable.

Imagine Protectionism comes to rule the day in the United States. Manufacturing comes back to the United States. What will be the result?

You will pay more for the same car until propping up the difference in price becomes unsustainable and the plant goes out of business anyway. The United States will produce goods at a higher price than everyone else in the world, meaning only we will purchase such products. Our global competitors will slowly take all our markets and in the meantime we’ll be paying more for everything. Businesses will eventually go bankrupt in increasing numbers and job losses and unemployment will rise as an inevitable result.

All to artificially preserve unsustainable jobs.

Protectionists wail about how manufacturing is going to other countries but the reality is the number one employer in the United States, besides the government, is Wal-Mart. They employ nearly six times more than the runner-up, McDonald’s. The main reason? Manufacturing performed in China. When Ford and Chrysler move plants to Mexico it actually creates wealth in this country. It creates jobs. Just different ones.

Protectionism has an allure. Be aware of the long-term dangers it presents.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray