Tag Archives: Free Market

Street View: by Mike Padrick

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One of the most common questions asked of a libertarian or anarchist when discussing the idea of a Stateless society with someone who believes in limited government is “What about the roads?”. In fact it becomes a cliché to anyone who debates regularly. I hope to share some history that is conveniently left out of the public school curriculum and provide an alternative to the current system.

Imagine a time when there was no direct tax on a federal level, limited state income tax and no sales tax on products purchased. With the exception of course during periods of war. This is the period in which the States first started commissioning private companies to build toll roads. From 1792-1845 there were 1552 toll roads in the United States. They were financed mostly by private stocks and were to pay dividends. Although the financing was mostly looked at as an investment in the local community. Inevitably the State governments created regulations on the construction, maintenance, toll collection and toll rates for the private corporations. The results of these regulations in turn made profitability difficult. Another problem was a practice known as “shunpiking” or toll evasion and the government restrictions on implementing countermeasures. However, even an unprofitable turnpike stimulated commerce, raised land values, and aided expansion.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century taxation was on the rise along with Progressive policies in all levels of government. The overall attitude of a private company owning a “public good” became taboo.
What do we have to show for 100 years of government roads? On average in the US, 48.5 cents per gallon is for Federal and State taxes. According to the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the average American driver logs 13,476 miles each year. Assuming an average fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon that would mean approximately $262 annually per vehicle paid in taxes. I drive a tractor trailer for a living and have seen more roads than most. Corruption is rampant.

“Without the government, who would build the roads?” is what we hear every time we offer alternatives. The truth is government takes your money and gives it to a government approved contractor to build the roads at a much higher cost than in a true free market. In a Stateless society there would be no taxation and all voluntary transactions would be uninhibited. The free market would provide solutions for infrastructure. One possible solution would be toll roads. Another would be advertising sponsorship for portions of a particular roadway. Still another option would be residents of a community voluntarily contributing to complete a roadway that would benefit them. In addition, the market without restrictions would inevitably provide solutions that haven’t been thought of due to government regulations.

Any time government forces it’s way into a market the products or services are inefficient, expensive and lack quality. Don’t let something as simple as roads prevent you from imagining a world without a coercive government.

Originally published on The Dropouts Media 5/16/2015

The Truly Human Alternative to 911

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Guest post by
Peacekeeper

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”—Buckminster Fuller.

This concept is at the heart of the Truly Human Society. We don’t need to abolish or even fight the State.  We don’t have to attack, either by voting or by violence, entities like the Post Office or 911.  All we have to do is build something better.  People will flock to it, rendering the government program it competes with obsolete.

We see this effect in action every day. Google didn’t have to wage war on Yahoo!.  They just built a better product, and consigned Yahoo!—once a virtual monopoly—to the dustbin of history.  FedEx didn’t have to abolish the Post Office.  All they had to do was build something better, faster, more fluid, more customer-centric than the 20th-century state bureaucracy, and render the Post Office obsolete.

The Peacekeeper AppThis philosophy is the market in action. It’s also at the heart of Peacekeeper. Peacekeeper is the world’s first market-based emergency response system.

911 is bureaucratic and inefficient. For every 100 people who call 911, 66 will wait more than 5 minutes for a response.  36.4 will wait more than 10 minutes. In poor neighborhoods, in minority neighborhoods, in neighborhoods with high crime, the wait times can be even longer. In an emergency, seconds count; yet we rely on the same bureaucratic system that gave us the DMV.

Peacekeeper’s not designed to fight 911. It’s not designed to reform or ‘fix’ the bureaucracy.  What we’re doing is much more revolutionary: we’re sidestepping the entire apparatus of government emergency response to offer an alternative.

Peacekeeper is to 911 as FedEx is to the Post Office. Faster, more fluid, more efficient, more elegant.  We’re giving people an alternative to government protection services.

Protection is at the heart of the State’s justification. Whenever anyone calls for ending the State, invariably the first response is, “We’ll all be defenseless!”  Without the State, many assume, we’ll be stuck in a post-apocalyptic Hell in which roving gangs of criminals prey on ordinary people.

That’s why Peacekeeper is essential to the Truly Human Society. Peacekeeper shows that community protection, and emergency response, can be handled by the market.

Peacekeeper.orgOur app lets you build a voluntary network of friends, family, and neighbors that can rely on each other in an emergency. The result can be faster and more humane than calling 911. If you don’t want to wait on a failed state-enforced system for protection, Peacekeeper is the world’s first alternative.

To get started, download the app and share it with interested friends and neighbors. Set up your Emergency Response Group (ERG). When one person has an emergency, they can send an alert in seconds. If you’re being burgled, you can tap the ‘Intruder’ alert and trust that your ERG will show up.  If you’ve broken your leg and need to go to the hospital, neighbors with medical training can respond. Because you’re relying on friends across the street instead of police across town, the results can be lightning fast.

Your ERG is voluntary and community-based. Everyone is on there because they want to be.  Members know and trust each other, which is crucial in an emergency.  Too many tragedies are caused by inserting armed badged strangers into crime scenes.

Peacekeeper is about giving you the tools to move beyond a failed, bureaucratic, and too often abusive system—and into something else. It’s about empowering you to handle emergencies on your own and with your network, instead of being dependent on the State.  It’s about creating a tiny island of a Truly Human Society.

Try Peacekeeper today. Introduce it to your friends and neighbors, and build an ERG that works to keep you safe.

Libertarians And The Poor: A Missed Opportunity?

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Making Voluntaryism More Appealing to Your Neighbors

I ended a recent post, “Government Appeals to Your Better Instincts“, with this suggestion for improving our success in spreading Voluntaryism:

If attacking the logic or morality of Government makes people unconsciously uncomfortable with our message, perhaps we would accomplish more by simply sowing seeds of doubt – illustrating Government’s actual record of failure relative to achieving the goals of our common drives.

And, finally, to affect real change, we must begin to consistently tie Voluntaryism into people’s visions of satisfying their core drives. Rather than discussing the mechanics of providing roads, we need to convince them that in a voluntary society they will have better food, and safer communities, and more opportunities for their children.

I really like this new blog by Shawn Gregory. I think it is an excellent example of employing this approach…

Libertarians And The Poor: A Missed Opportunity?

When the general public pictures a typical libertarian, they might imagine that person to be intelligent, analytical, but they generally don’t think of libertarians as particularly compassionate. In fact, from the perspective those who are most needy, (i.e. the poor), libertarians tend to seem indifferent, if not outright hostile. After all, libertarians challenge things like safety nets and minimum wage laws as an overreach of the government – an immoral use of force on otherwise peaceful people. Based on these notions, a poor person may get the idea that libertarians are against everything that governments do to help them. From this point of view, the general anti-government sentiments that libertarians espouse become synonymous with anti-poor sentiments, and if libertarianism is to gain any traction going forward, it must be adopted by a larger segment of the poor and working class.

Unfortunately, for the many who do not dig very deeply beyond this superficial perception, this anti-poor stigma will remain firmly attached to libertarianism, but for the few who are willing to listen, we libertarians often miss an opportunity to explain our ideas in a way that would better resonate with the average poor or working class individual. Rather than painting a positive vision of how libertarian ideals benefit everyone, including the poor, we tend to focus on the equally important anti-State case that condemns much (if not all) of what governments do. Even while making the anti-State argument, we could do a better job of explaining how governments are not the friends of the people that they claim to be.

For example, consider security – the one function that most people across the political spectrum agree that government should provide, (this author not included). As most people recognize, the security that the State provides comes with a whole host of other laws and regulations that have nothing to do with security at all. From the war on drugs to prostitution to crackdowns on “illegal” lemonade stands, the standard and correct libertarian line is that it’s not the State’s business to interfere with what consenting individuals do, and that it is the State that commits a crime when it bars individuals from participating in consensual activities.

While this is true – I’ve made this exact point many times – it should also be noted that these policies actually hurt the poorest among us the most. The war on drugs is largely waged on people who live in low income neighborhoods, turning these areas into virtual war zones. Between SWAT teams raiding homes to street gangs fighting for drug turf, the effect of this government policy is to make the poor people who are affected by it far less secure than they would otherwise be. Ending the drug war would dramatically decrease the number of poor people in prison due to the disproportionate enforcement of drug possession laws, and would significantly reduce the prevalence of violent gangs due to the inability of those gangs to fund their activities via drug sales.

Similarly, allowing consenting adults to engage in activities like prostitution or unlicensed cosmetology would keep those activities above ground, making the circumstances under which those services are performed more open to public scrutiny and therefore more secure. It is no coincidence that organized crime thrives on these kinds of banned activities. Government prohibitions make such activities more profitable and far more dangerous for everyone involved.

Clearly, there is a case to be made for drastically reducing government provided security. Yet, it is also true that criminals will always exist and that they are far more likely to congregate in poor neighborhoods. So, when libertarians take their anti-State philosophy to it’s logical conclusion and suggest that security need not be provided by government at all, are we simply suggesting that the poor should fend for themselves against the very real threats that the face on a daily basis? Absolutely not. In fact, I believe strongly that the poor would be much better off without government provided security.

Imagine a security team in your neighborhood that you don’t fear when they approach you. Imagine a security team that believes their job is to make sure that you go home to your family, whether or not they make it home to theirs. (Contrary to the popular notion that government police are there to “protect and serve” the public, the reality is that “officer safety” trumps your safety legally and by policy.) Imagine a security team that is trained to defuse a potentially violent situation in hundred different ways. Now, imagine this service being provided largely for free to people in poor neighborhoods. Sound to good to be true? It’s already happening on a small scale:

What we emphasize is one hundred ways – in a situation that would normally be fatal force oriented – a hundred ways to not have a violent or fatal incident take place. We perform twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We protect communities here in Detroit – upscale communities, like Palmerwood, Sherwood Forest, and The Golf Course. We have approximately a thousand homes that depend on us for safety, responding to them and their family and emergencies, and we have approximately five hundred businesses that are our clients as well. And then, the people who can not afford our services, we help them for free, and the reason we can do that is because there is a healthy profit margin left over from excellence from providing for our major corporations.

It should be noted that this particular organization works with like-minded law enforcement. However, as a rule, they try to avoid using the legal system as much as possible. As Dale Brown, the founder of the Threat Management Center, explains, his whole service is based on a true desire to protect the people that they serve and not on the kind of bully mentality that often pervades government security forces. Dale Brown and his team get paid to actually protect people not just to drive around menacingly in rough neighborhoods. That, I believe, would be the fundamental difference between what we have now and what we could have with privately provided security.

Take note also that poor folks in these neighborhoods are getting the benefits for free which I also believe would be fairly commonplace as building owners, landlords, and local businesses would cover the costs of these kinds of services. After all, if they want people to live in their neighborhoods and shop at their stores, it will benefit them to make sure that their customers can do so in a safe environment.

This is the vision that poor people should have in their minds when they think of libertarianism – not just a philosophy that’s anti-State, but a philosophy that envisions all of humanity thriving in a much freer future. And, the people who will see the most dramatic change for the better are the people are likely the ones who are the poorest among us today.

Read this post and more of Shawn’s writing at his WeebulTree Blog.

Competition for Liberty

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Last summer’s calls by libertarian activist Adam Kokesh for armed marches on Washington and on the fifty State Capitals elicited multiple responses from Shawn Gregory on his WeebulTree Blog.

I was particularly struck by the closing words of one post. He essentially wrote the best description yet of what Concurrent Voluntaryism all about:

In other words, what the liberty movement needs right now are practical solutions that the average person can immediately use and understand. We are living at a time when the technology is available for us to create a complete set of alternatives to what the State provides people now. It’s up to us to build it, and to invite our neighbors and friends to join us in using it. That’s something that we must do regardless of how the State eventually falls, so we might as well use it as our primary means for challenging the State. In this way, the State will eventually seem like a useless dinosaur, and no one will have to fire a shot to destroy it. It will simply fade away into history. That doesn’t mean that the State won’t put up a fight, but unlike a shooting match for which the State is well prepared, the free market is far too nimble for the State to outrun the death by a thousand cuts that it is on the brink of facing.

Get on the front lines and create or support a market alternative to the State today.

Read the full version of The Revolution For Liberty: Will It Be A Violent One?

Truly Human Police

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Imagine a police force focused on prevention of crime rather than on ‘law enforcement’. Imagine a police force dedicated to protecting people rather than on feeding the justice system and prison/industrial complex. Imagine a police force intent on preventing violence rather than monopolizing it.

I would really like to find a private security service like Threat Management Center near my home. That’s who I would want to call in case of trouble.

(But what about the poor? See the not-so-surprising answer in the video.)

 

Concurrent Voluntaryism

Concurrent Voluntaryism – The Plan

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Wouldn’t it be nice to minimize the level of government coercion in your own life right now, without having to wait for the whole country to wake up?

We have lots of interesting theoretical discussions about how we could better organize our society if we could just get rid of, or at least minimize, government, but no one seems to have a working plan to deal with that 800 pound gorilla blocking our path to a better society.

Maybe we’ve just been going down the wrong path.

Instead of spending all of our time and energy fighting the gorilla, perhaps we should simply follow a different path…

Earlier, I announced The Start Of A Truly Human Society and explained How We Can Have A Voluntary Society And The State.

In short, a voluntary society does not want to govern, so it is not competing for the right to govern. It considers those who govern to be ‘a criminal gang writ large’. The presence of a large, well-armed criminal gang is unfortunate, but does not preclude non-coercive people from conducting their affairs in voluntary ways, in every way possible.

Some of the big goals I have for our concurrent, voluntary, Truly Human Society are:

  1. To enable individual voluntaryists to gain the benefits of a community of like-minded people and organizations.
  2. To expand the range of voluntary options available to those who prefer to avoid coercively funded or operated organizations.
  3. To allow us to demonstrate that voluntaryism is not utopian.
  4. To instantiate voluntaryist structures and mechanisms ahead of time so as not to be caught unprepared in case any fortuitous changes lead to a period of anarchy or minarchy.

So here’s the plan…

The path to our voluntary Truly Human Society is actually simplified in some ways by the fact that the State is still present. Because we are not talking about ending the State as part of our plan, it means that we do not have to include in the plan such things as how to manage the transition of everyone who is currently dependent on the State.

This concurrent approach also simplifies our task in that we are not trying to satisfy everyone. Our Truly Human Society, being voluntary, will be comprised of only those who want to participate. We can implement just those things that we voluntaryists are interested in implementing.

In the plan itself, there is a primary piece and an optional piece. (The optional piece is actually aimed at the gorilla, because I can’t resist the urge to give him a poke.)

The primary part of the plan is aimed at reducing our day-to-day exposure to coercion.

Everything involved with government and its cronies entails coercion.

Government uses coercion to give itself monopolies in many areas, such as postal service, police, etc. And, government uses coercive regulations to support cartels for cronies in almost every area where big business has an interest.

Beyond the open coercion of enforcing monopolies for its ‘services’, there is also the method in which those services are funded. Voluntaryists well understand that government can’t offer them anything that wasn’t originally taken via coercion from someone else. Usage of government services, then, involves us in the coercion of others.

So, the primary part of the plan is to find ways to shun the monopolies and cartels that government attempts to force us to patronize.

Alternatives may be hard to find, in many cases, thanks to the successful efforts of the criminal gang. But we can all look – and share with each other what we do find.

Sometimes alternatives are not hard to find, just expensive relative to the coercively funded monopolies and cartels. (Private schools, for instance.) But if we purposefully direct more business to these alternatives it will encourage more start-ups and help bring down prices through greater competition.

Even where the alternatives do come at a relatively higher cost, that may still be acceptable, given the added value to you and I of thwarting the monopoly.

For instance, I used to go to a shooting range at a state park, which charged just $3 per hour. It was a very nice facility, and clearly the $3 from users was not fully funding it. Now that a private range has opened near me, I quite willingly give them my business at $18 per hour.

One potential bonus effect of enough of us shunning the monopolies and directing all of our business to their competitors can be seen in the looming bankruptcy of the US Post Office. Maybe that will become a template.

It seems that most people think poorly of politicians and government bureaucracies. But they also hold to the belief that government, even though composed of only politicians and bureaucrats, somehow provides valuable, necessary, even critical, services.

When people complain to us about government, we say “So why don’t we just get rid of it?”. But they then simply fall back on their list of important things “only government” can do.

So, for the second (optional) piece of our plan, I envision us identifying and supporting, or even creating, private equivalents to government services, so that every time the doubter says “only government can do X” we can point to an existing private alternative.

And, the private alternatives will no doubt provide better, more useful, services.

Take consumer protection, for instance, which lots of people see as a critical function that justifies the existence of government. Do you remember when all electrical devices (in the US) used to have the little round UL tag on the cord? UL was (is) a private company that rigorously tested new products for safety, and awarded them its seal if they met the appropriate standards.

UL was basically incorruptible. They knew that if they ever gave undeserved certifications and lost their reputation, they were finished. Same thing with Consumer Reports.

Contrast that with government ‘watchdog’ agencies that have well-deserved reputations for being bought and paid for, or ‘captured’, by the big crony industries they are supposed to be protecting us from.

All we seem to get from the government consumer protection agencies are lots of ugly, moronic warning labels all over products, and then when products are proven, by others, to be unsafe, they simply blame their ‘limited’ budget and go right back to work protecting their crony bosses.

If you think back to the recent controversies over Bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH) in milk and BPA in plastic bottles, the FDA fought tooth and nail to support the use of both of them until private organizations like EWG were able to bring enough public visibility and outrage to force the industry to ‘voluntarily’ abandon them. As far as I can tell, the FDA continues to support the use of both chemicals.

So the second piece of the plan is about continually undermining the path the gorilla sits on.

But remember, the primary reason to start our own Truly Human Society is to rid our lives of as much coercion as possible right now by working together as a community to find and support all of the private alternatives that will enable us to shun coercive government monopolies and crony cartels.

I will be blogging my ideas for our Truly Human Society on this site, and will be re-blogging pertinent posts from other sites here as well. Please add your ideas and suggestions in the comments, or tweet to @veresapiens, or send emails to ths @ veresapiens.org.

Let’s get it started!

 

Borderline Insanity

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When you control the questions, you don’t really have to worry about the answers.

So let’s begin to question the questions.

For instance, consider this politically hot question:

“What should the government do about the problem of illegal aliens?”

No, don’t answer. First let’s just question the question.

Why are ‘illegal aliens’ a ‘problem’ to be solved?

A common answer would be: “They don’t pay taxes, and yet are served by government programs (paid for by American citizens).”

That answer hints at a new way to look at almost all ‘political’ questions. The answer to why illegal aliens are a problem is centered around government programs (taxes and services).

In other words, we need to solve this problem (illegal aliens) because of the impact it has on government solutions to previous ‘problems’ (the collection of taxes and the provision of services).

What happens if we consider the problem of illegal aliens, setting government aside?

OK, setting government aside, what is an illegal alien? Borders are imaginary lines drawn by governments to declare their control over people and places. So, without government borders, there are no aliens, legal, illegal or otherwise. You just have people. No problem.

Well, what about taxes and services? OK, setting government aside, people in communities would work to create products to sell or trade, provide services to sell or trade, and would provide goods or services as charity for people in need. Taking from some people to give to other people is a government thing.

So, setting government aside, the ‘illegal alien’ problem simply starts to fade away.

You can follow this thought pattern on just about any political issue. Instead of answering the political question, as asked, try considering why the problem exists in the first place. It will lead you to different answers.

 

In a Free Society, the Only Way to Create Wealth is by Helping Others

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Creating personal wealth is often characterized as selfish, or even sinful. In fact in the Bible, two separate books of the New Testament contain the quote…

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Yet, in a free market, the person who makes the greatest fortune is the one who enriches the most lives in the community. When markets are free, meaning all exchanges are voluntary, each person offering products or services has to compete with all other sellers to provide the most value. In other words, the sellers are in competition to see who can most enrich the lives of the most people.

 

Specialization and Trade Create Wealth

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It is uniquely Human to “Trade, not Take”.

Of all of the life forms on this planet, only Man has the ability to decide, consciously, to trade for his wants and needs rather than taking what he can from others.

Obviously not everyone chooses that path. But, the path exists.

The next question is “Is there a real-world benefit to trading, or is it solely a morality issue?”.

As it turns out, the beauty of trading is that beyond providing the key to being truly Human, trading also creates additional prosperity for the whole community.

Some simple (I promise) numbers will illustrate this point.

Imagine a primitive community that is just beginning to add farming to its food gathering efforts. Assume that they have just figured out how to use a harness to have a cow or ox help plow a field.

The plow and harness mechanism is simple enough that the two village farmers are able to make both the plow and harness themselves.

Now, you might think that if one farmer was better at plow-making and one farmer was better at harness-making, then they would benefit from specializing in making one or the other and trading with each other. And that would indeed be true.

But what if one of the farmers was actually better than the other at both plow-making and harness-making? Would it make sense to trade then? Would it make sense for one farmer but not the other? (Remember, a trade only happens when both parties feel like they are gaining from the trade.)

In fact, even if one farmer is better than the other farmer at both plow-making and harness-making, both farmers will be better off if they still trade.

Sounds a little iffy? That’s why I promised you numbers.

Let’s assume it takes farmer Ed 3 hours to make a plow and 4 hours to make a harness. That’s a total of 7 hours for the whole apparatus.

And let’s assume that it takes farmer Jake 6 hours to make a plow and 5 hours to make a harness (a total of 11 hours to make one complete set).

How can farmer Ed benefit from a trade, when he can build all of the parts so much faster than farmer Jake can?

The key is for farmer Ed to focus on the part with the biggest time advantage. He can make a plow 3 hours faster than farmer Jake, but can make a harness only 1 hour faster.

It takes Farmer Ed 7 hours to make a whole plow and harness set, but he can make two plows in just 6 hours.

Farmer Jake takes 11 hours to make a whole set, but he can make two harnesses in just 10 hours.

So by trading, farmer Ed gets a plow and harness for 6 hours of work instead of 7, and farmer Jake gets his plow and harness for 10 hours of work instead of 11.

And, as a whole, the farming community only had to spend 16 hours of labor to get two plow and harness sets instead of 18 hours, making 2 extra hours available for other valuable activities.

Man can decide to trade, and the trade not only benefits each of the participants (or they wouldn’t participate), but trade also enables and rewards specialization, which makes the whole community more efficient, raising its standard of living.

 

Voluntary Trade is Always Win-Win

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Does each free and voluntary trading (buying/selling) transaction result in a winner and a loser at the end of the negotiations over price?

Of course not.

Each side feels like they are better off with the deal than without. Otherwise, why would they participate? So, by definition, it’s a win for both sides.

But suppose one side has a monopoly and can jack the price up?

Same thing. If the buyer participates, it is because the buyer expects to be better off with the deal than without. Even at the higher price.

Besides, monopolies don’t last long in a free market. When other participants see the price the monopolist is getting for his goods, there will be a mad scramble to bring more of that product, or viable alternatives, to the market to get in on the profits. And, this will quickly kill off the monopoly and drive the price down.