Category Archives: Frederic Bastiat

An Evening With Bastiat

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a lecture hosted by the Charlotte chapter of the Bastiat Society.  I was thrilled to learn there was a local chapter in Charlotte and even more excited to learn there was a free lecture being given on Capitalism.  Those who don’t know, Claude Frédéric Bastiat was a 19th century French economist who wrote revolutionary, pro-liberty works such as The Law.  This book was responsible for my first step into the philosophy of Liberty.  If you haven’t read it, download a free copy of it here on audio or pdf at Mises.org.  

Seriously, it’s like 50 tiny pages and will take you less than half an hour.  Go learn something.  

The speaker for the evening was Clemson University Professor of Economics Dr. Bradley Hobbs.  He was very entertaining and informative, engaged the audience well, and gave a lot of excellent, historical and contemporary data about the benefits of Capitalism, why Socialists and the Left seem to be gaining popularity, particularly among the young and senior-aged cohorts, and gave some perspective on many of the common debates often heard on social and traditional media around the evils of Capitalism.  Dr. Hobbs will be sharing some of his presentation notes and references with us soon, so I hope to pass them on when I get them.  

One interesting exchange took place between me and an older, self-proclaimed Crony Capitalist (I’m 90% sure he doesn’t know what that means.  Pretty sure he thinks because he’s an entrepreneur and aged, that makes him one.)  Anyway, the exchange went something like this:

CC:  The problem with Capitalism is that people aren’t concerned about all these larger, global issues.  They’re selfish and only want to think about themselves.  They don’t think about what’s best for society.  That’s just human nature.

Me:  And so you are making an argument that because Human Beings are selfish and short-sighted, we should put Human Beings in charge of determining what’s best for everyone to deal with these issues?  Milton Friedman once asked “Who are these angels that are going to come down and organize society?  Where do we find them?”  

He didn’t like me tone, I guess, because that got him going.  

Somehow, we got to the topic of Public Safety and Motorcycle Helmet Laws.

CC:  Someone has to take responsibility for protecting us and keeping us safe.  The government enforces things like motorcycle helmet laws. . . .

Me:  So if I want to ride my motorcycle without a helmet, breaking the law, and I get into a crash, who is the victim?  

CC: Society is when my money has to take care of your family and loved ones because of your selfishness.  

Me:  So you are protecting Me from Myself [on behalf of my family]?

CC:  Yes because when you’re in the hospital and don’t have the money for emergency care, my money is going to pay for your care. 

Me: No, I do not want any of your money.  

CC:  You will someday.  When you’re laid up and have nowhere to turn.

It’s like a broken record, but I have this same exchange almost everywhere I go (physically and virtually) to talk about Free Markets, Choice, and Liberty.  I even had a similar exchange with a co-worker the other day.  The idea that elected officials, people who were slick enough to convince 50.1% of the voting population to put them into power, know what is best for the hundreds of millions of people in our country is beyond my tiny brain to comprehend.  

Invariably, Statists proclaim that the reason why Free Markets and Liberty fails is because people can’t be trusted.  Thus, People need to be placed​ in charge of everyone.  They also arrogantly claim responsibility and authority over my own free will to make choices about my life.  Because somehow they know what’s best for me.  

Updated edit – The organizer of the Charlotte chapter said I should lead one of the next lectures.  Hmmmm. . . .

 

I Hate War

Another election has come and gone, and the Republicans are celebrating.

Yeah! They took over the Senate.

Whoo hoo! Promises were made on the campaign trail!

Awww snap. Obama’s regime is gettin’ a smack down!

Take that, 2016 Democratic Presidential hopefuls!!!

We’re finally going to turn this ship around! Obamacare. Loose borders. Out of control EPA regulations. Federal Minimum Wages. Islamic Terrorists around the world.
IT’S ON!!

Now, I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, and I have lots of friends / readers that are on both sides of the 2-sided aisle. This was the first major election after deciding we will no longer vote. The last time we voted was in 2012, and we only voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee for President. We also voted for Dr. Ron Paul in the Republican primaries.

Looking back over the last 4 years, I have come a long way in my personal philosophy of Liberty, the role of government, the use of force, and voluntary exchange.

I’m sure I’ve written about it before, but it started when my friend David Henderson introduced The Law by Frédéric Bastiat to me.  It’s a short read, and I HIGHLY recommend it. And it’s free.

Before then, I was a pretty hard core Conservative Republican. I remembered the events of 9/11, Secretary Colin Powell’s speech in the UN warning us of the imminent biological and chemical warfare coming our way, and everything that led up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the time, it made sense to me. Visions of the Gipper swelled in my heart. These guys attacked us because they hated our Freedom. If we didn’t strike back hard, they would come at us again.

Right around that time, I saw this video from the Ron Paul camp concerning his stance on Foreign Policy.

I then found many others, particularly his clips from the primary debates, and he completely turned my world around.

For generations, our military has been running around the globe, trying to police the bad guys from the good.

We’ve been helping our allies keep their countries safe.

We’ve protected our interests, helped establish democracies, and freed countless refugees.

For so long, we’ve been accustomed to being the global police, that it sound like crazy talk to your average voter to even suggest withdrawing all of our troops, closing all foreign bases, and telling the world to fight their own fights. It really boggled my mind in 2012 when Republicans were praising Ron Paul for everything except his foreign policy, calling him an Isolationist or Non-Interventionalist (the later being more PC?).

When I started talking about cutting Military Spending, but maintaining or even increasing our Domestic Defense spending (as Ron Paul distinguished over and over again during the primaries), I would oftentimes get the deer-in-the-headlights look. I might as well have been talking about building a Time Machine out of a DeLorean.

I Hate Wars.

All of them.

I hate that we send young men and women away from their spouses and children to fight on foreign soil.

It’s preposterous that to even question our involvement in these wars somehow stirs up Love It or Leave It / Support Our Troops angry mobs or memories of 1960’s style Hippie protests targeting soldiers just doing their job.

It occurred to me that there was an episode of the Original Series Star Trek that perfectly describes our perception of War. The episode is A Taste of Armageddon. The planets, Eminiar VII and Vendikar, have been at war for over 500 years. However, they fight via computers and calculated casualties willingly walk into a disintegrator in order to avoid real battle and destruction of property. They’ve become so accustomed to being at war for generations that they willingly commit mass genocide.

 

In the same way, most Americans are isolated from the grotesqueries of war. We take comfort in our drones and missiles, killing thousands of people (many civilians) from a distance. Democrats and Republicans alike are more than willing to send your sons and daughters to die in a foreign land.

Our wars need to stop. We need to bring our troops home and reunite them with their families. Our foreign policy needs to be centered around establishing peaceful and voluntary trade. Our military should be dedicated to defending our shores.

To those families that still have active military serving overseas somewhere, I pray they will be sent home soon and safely.  For those that are considering a career in the military, until the American people say “enough“, please consider whether your life and family are worth the sacrifice, policing someone else’s shores and getting involved in someone else’s fight.

Watch Dr. Pauls’ video.  Ask yourself if our global presence is making the world more peaceful or dangerous.

Libertarianism Does Not Mean “Live and Let Live” | Connor’s Conundrums

http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/libertarianism-does-not-mean-live-and-let-live

Fellowship 3.0

Been seeing this clip trending on Facebook recently and it got me thinking. I understand what the author is trying to convey, that we should try to make connections with people. His premise is that by staring into a little phone display or your computer screen, you’re not really engaged with people. (The irony is that my friends are using Facebook to promote the notion to stop using Facebook so much. But I’m guilty of doing the same on other topics.)

What’s interesting to me is that the cover photo for the “Look Up” video clip shows 2 ladies at a bus stop using their phones and one woman without. The imagery is supposed to make us feel like we’re all isolated because of technology. What you don’t see (and yes, I’m bringing in Bastiat’s / Hazlitt’s “Seen and Unseen” into a post about relationships) is what the 2 ladies on their phones are doing.

Maybe they’re texting their spouses or their children.

One of them might have just found out about a loved one’s serious illness.

Maybe there’s breaking news about a controversial vote.

Who knows?

As I had shared in a previous post, the issue isn’t the mode
of communication we choose to use.

I know of at least 2 friends that found their spouses through playing games on the internet. Both couples have been happily married now for almost 15 years and they have lovely children.

The internet is responsible for my family getting to know, and eventually meet, some dear friends of ours. We’re going down to the Houston area this weekend to celebrate Jami’s high school graduation (I’m still coming to grips with the idea that little Jami is now an adult and transitioning into the next chapter of her life.)

Focus on fellowship, by whatever means available to you.

On Health Care

A friend on FB posted this link (Medical Bills Bankrupt Families of Mentally Ill Children) with no comments and of course, I had something to say about it. But, I restrained myself and decided to opine here instead.

The point of this story, of course, it to drum up anger and frustration. Surely, in a modern civilized society, families should not be losing their entire life savings over something as basic and fundamental as health care. They should get the care they need regardless of how much it costs. Don’t they have free health care in Europe and Canada? Why can’t we?

For a moment, let’s ignore the fact these so-called ‘progressive’ countries suffer from huge limitations on elective (and even some urgent) medical care because of rationing. There are two problems with this argument of ‘need’-based provision. 1) How do we determine which are the greatest needs? and 2) Can a centralized bureaucracy effectively administer (by force) the resources to meet those needs?

Until someone invents the Star Trek replicator converting energy into any kind matter we wish, scarcity will be the most basic truth of consumption. Since there’s only so much stuff available (whether it’s land, beef, gold, oil, time, Justin Bieber front-row seats, or Mickey Mantle rookie baseball cards), not everyone can have everything they want or even need. Further, not everyone values stuff the same way. I have absolutely no use or appreciation for the original 1960’s Batmobile but someone paid over $4 million for it.

Still not convinced? Let’s think about the question of how we determine greatest needs in a society. Whose needs should rank at the top of the list? The sick and dying? Women and Children? Health care is a commodity just like baseball cards and Batmobiles. It requires resources like materials, time, training, space, and energy to produce. Let’s just pick one of these resources – TIME.

Suppose we as a society used all available Time in the production of Health Care for all. Morning, noon and night, our Time was devoted to Health Care. Doesn’t take long to figure out that if this happened, we wouldn’t have anyone planting crops, raising animals, turning power and water on, building houses, etc.

Since we can’t devote all of society’s time to one cause or need, we have to use something less than ALL of our available resources. THUS, we will have scarcity which requires choices to be made by both producers and consumers. Producers have to choose what to make and how much. Consumers have to choose which products to purchase over another. In a free market, PRICE is where the two meet.

Some proponents of socialized medicine will argue that it is possible to provide the fundamental needs for free for all. In other words, take the Consumer’s choice dilemma above out of the equation. When you do that – guarantee unlimited supply to Consumers – you create infinite demand. What you’re left with, however, is the Producer’s choice. How will Producers of Health Care choose what to provide, how much of it, and for what price?

Stop and think about this point. If you are a Health Care Producer – whether you’re a doctor, pharmacists, EMT, dietician, drug maker, wheelchair manufacturer, prosthetics designer – you know that Consumers are guaranteed unlimited access to your goods or service. What would stop you from charging $1 million for a flu shot? Well, you’d say, who would pay that much for a flu shot? I would say, who’s paying for anything if it’s guaranteed? Without exception, unless the government sets a ceiling for prices and a maximum of procedures / services it can afford to guarantee, it will go bankrupt overnight. And once this rationing takes place, this question of whose needs get met first does not go away by simply guaranteeing the service. In fact, the guarantee for all creates an even worse situation than without it.

Why is it worse? Think of the Producers and their incentives. Invariably, the prices the government sets for goods and services will be well below the market rate – many times below actual cost to produce. So if I’m a drug manufacturer and know that all my R&D and manufacturing costs for Preventix will come to about $10 / pill plus $10 in profit I’d like to make, but the government is already setting my maximum price I can charge at $8 / pill, why would I stay in the drug manufacturing business? I wouldn’t even cover my costs. Let’s say they set the price at $12. I could still make a profit to cover my cost. But if I’m a business owner and know that I could take that $10 / pill investment and make more by instead just buying condos to rent or planting corn or even investing in bonds, again, WHY would I stay in the drug manufacturing industry? For altruism?

Let’s suppose Government takes over all the Production of Health Care. Just Health Care. Everything else is done “free market” style. Think of what the implications of this are. Education, Operations, Production, Manufacturing, Distribution. ALL under government control. And since it’s all owned by the Government and there is no longer any competition in the market, innovation and efficiency will disappear as well. No incentive for the best and brightest young students to someday create miracle drugs or procedures. No reason for college students to compete over getting into Harvard Medical School vs. Havana Medical Correspondence. For that matter, Harvard would probably get out of Medical School education and concentrate on producing more Economists and Lawyers.

Make no mistake about it. Socialists have a singular agenda – to remove all Choice from the world. They mask their agenda behind sob stories of families buried under costly care and union workers being out of jobs or teachers having to buy their own pencils for their classes. When they shove stories like these into mainstream media, what they neglect to tell you are the alternative that they’re suggesting. As Bastiat and Hazlitt have taught, the difference is not only recognizing that which can be seen, but also the things that are unseen.