Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Liberty Maniacs

A quick plug for a great company I like a lot (and buy from) is in order. LibertyManiacs.com, makers of "Freedom Products for Liberty Lovers", makes lots of fun and creative designs for t-shirts, posters, buttons, bumper stickers, hats, mugs, and just about anything you might want to slap a Ron Paul R[3VOL]UTION logo on. When you buy via Zazzle.com, it's also really easy to completely customize your item. I recently bought one of their Tank Man t-shirts. I specified that the t-shirt be pale blue, and even added my own text. The original said "Individualism" (and others say things like "Stop Something" and "Disobey"), but I wanted mine to say "Freedom Fighter". The finished product looks great, and I love letting my colors show when I wear it!

"Like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @libertymaniacs so you know when they have discount codes and new designs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Economic Freedom vs. Income Equality

Recently, in the "Comments" section of my post, The Immorality of Taxation, some clips of Jon Stewart discussing his views on taxation and income equality were brought to my attention. One thing that really caught my attention was Stewart's citation of the Index for Income Equality and his mockery at the United States' position at #64.

What I'm referring to starts at minute 2:55. (By the way, the data he shows  doesn't seem to gel with the table at Nationmaster.com, which ranks the US at #52. Is his information not quite up-to-date? But I digress.) "The United States of America is not a Third World Country, by any measure, except perhaps Income Inequality, where we rank worse than the Ivory Coast..." states Stewart, to the applause and laughter of his audience. To take this at face value, to accept that we aught to be ashamed of ourselves for this ranking, would be premature. Let's take a closer look.

Income Equality: What does it mean?

In a free market economy, there will naturally occur differences in income. Some jobs are higher paying than others (brain surgeons versus ditch diggers, for instance). Likewise, companies who are able to best provide what a willing and able consumer wants to buy will make more money than companies that don't. The ability to provide something that people want, whether it's a service or a product, is rewarded in proportion to the value the market places on it. Income inequality, therefore, is the result of a system of values made by consumers who vote with their dollars. So far, so good.

What happens when this free system is frowned upon, tampered with, and controlled, in the name of equality? The market is no longer allowed to make value judgments. Companies are no longer rewarded for making more of the things that people want when their profits are taxed away. Businesses that fail are bailed out by the State at the expense of the taxpayer. The ability for companies to attract the Best and the Brightest to work for them and increase their competitive advantage is diminished.

But Equality is Good, Isn't It?

Equality, as in our Natural Rights, the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness that we all have, is a good thing. But the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, though they do apply to one and all, do not mean that we will all achieve the same things and realize our highest potential as individuals.

Income equality, specifically, demeans the individual by failing to reward hard work, achievement, and the realization of potential. It says to the brain surgeon, "we as a society do not value the years of hard work and dedication to the medical field that you have demonstrated in the name of saving lives." It says to the wealthy entrepreneur, "we as a society love your products that you've made available to us at prices we're willing to pay, but don't feel that you should be rewarded for them." It says to the high school dropout living on welfare, "your lack of ambition and self-motivation is nothing to worry about, because someone else will take care of your basic needs for you."

Economic Equality Does Not Equal Prosperity

One of the best indicators of the prosperity of a nation is not income equality, but rather economic freedom. The freer the economy, the healthier and more prosperous the economy, and the higher the overall standard of living. Call it the "rising tide that lifts all boats" (Melissa trivia: this was the title of a paper I wrote on School Choice for one of my college economics classes). "Inequality of wealth and incomes is the cause of the masses' well-being, not the cause of anybody's distress. Where there is a "lower degree of inequality," there is necessarily a lower standard of living of the masses."[1] So let's compare two indices: The Income Equality Index and the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. Lets take a snapshot of the countries that rank first and last on the each of the two indices. I'll allow the data to speak for itself.


Equality Index Rank

Freedom Index Rank

GDP per capita
Hong Kong

*As you can see, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Liechtenstein, and the Sudan do not provide enough data to be counted on the list, so Zimbabwe is at the bottom of this list.

So, Jon Stewart, our levels of income inequality don't equate us with Third World Countries. On the contrary, it's one thing that keeps us from being a Third World Country.

Extra Credit:

[1] Inequality of Wealth and Incomes [The Freeman, 1955]

How do the 50 United States compare in Economic Freedom? Click here!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Libertarian Haiku

A little hobby of mine is writing topical haiku poetry*. This is what I came up with...

No masters, no slaves
Beholden to nobody
I make my own way

Laden with thick chains 
under the guise of safety
I can hardly move

Pretending to help
market manipulation
can only destroy

more State regulation
Pop goes the bubble

Taxation is theft
and the State is the bandit
picking my pocket

I hold my head high
For my burden is heavy
but my heart is Free

I would rather be
an enemy of the State
than of my neighbor

Left versus the Right
A play produced by the State
for its own pleasure

*If you're unaware, haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven, and the third has five again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Immorality of Taxation

I thought I'd kickstart the blog with a few thoughts on taxation. There's been more talk lately about higher taxes on the rich (from Obama and Buffett, to name two). "They should pay their fair share!" "The gap between the rich and the poor is too big. There needs to be more fairness!" "They can afford it!" Even hip-hop mogul Russel Simmons got in on the action, calling for higher taxes for his fellow millionaires and billionaires. How generous! Begging, pleading, for the government to take away their money and the money of their wealthy peers! 
"The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate with perfect equality." -Andrew Jackson

I'll let the little video at the bottom make my economic arguments for me since it does such a great job. Today I just want to make the other argument: the moral argument. As you'll come to see pretty quickly on this blog, I never met a tax I didn't hate. I hate what they stand for, and I hate most things that they're used for. For the things I like that taxes pay for, I'd rather they were done privately and voluntarily.

I Hate What Taxes Stand For

What is a tax, be it an income tax, a sales tax, a capital gains tax, a death tax, a property tax (the list goes on for miles) but the State's claim that they have more right to your property and the products of your labor than you do? Let that sink in. The State has more rights to your little slice of life than you do. It owns you, and can and will use force to take from you what it wants. Since the State is incapable of producing anything on its own, it relies on transfer payments to get things done. It takes money from one party and transfers it to another. If you think it's harsh to say that they use force via the threat of violence to take away your money, try not paying your taxes for a while, and see what happens. Taxation is nothing short of legalized theft. Imagine it on a micro scale: what if your neighbor demanded that out of every dollar you earned, you had to give him a quarter? You'd call it extortion or robbery. But when the State does it, it's for the greater good?
"The State is a gang of thieves writ large." -Murray Rothbard

I Hate What Taxes Are Used For

Picture taken in NYC on 8/6/11
Most things, anyway. It sickens me to think of the trillions of dollars spent on unnecessary, immoral, and unconstitutional wars. I'm incredulous at the thought of maintaining a vast American Empire all over the world, with over 900 military bases in 130 different countries. I can't believe that entitlements, which cost trillions every year, are always "off the table" when there are talks of cuts, despite the fact that they're completely unsustainable. The government keeps growing, like an out of control virus, and shows no signs of slowing down the trend, let alone reversing it. People now expect the State to take care of them, from cradle to grave, but how can everybody possibly live at the expense of everybody else? As anyone who followed the recent debt-ceiling debacle has come to realize, our borrowing and spending is completely out of control, and the burden on the taxpayer is only going to increase.
"We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." -Winston Churchill
I was going to write a third section to talk about my third point, "for the things I like that taxes pay for, I'd rather they were done privately and voluntarily," but I actually think that deserves it's own blog post, so I'll save it for another day. For now, enjoy my offerings below. I have a short video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity directly dealing with the "taxation of the rich" issue, an article offering brilliant yet simple solutions written by Gary North, and two articles, one short and one long, from the maestro himself, Murray Rothbard. Finally, have a little fun and listen to "Taxman", by the Beatles.

Restoring Liberty with Three Short Laws, by Gary North

Tax Day, by Murray Rothbard

The State versus Liberty, by Murray Rothbard

The Beatles: Taxman (@iTunes) on "Revolver"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Obligatory Intro Post for a New Blog

My other blog, The Home Economist, is my space for sharing my crafty, domestic side. More and more, however, I've been wanting to write about my other passions: free-markets, personal freedom, shrinking government, non-violence and non-aggression, voluntary action, and individual rights. If you want to put a label on it, Libertarianism and Austrian economics.

I wanted a separate blog for these topics so as to not alienate my readers who are mostly just interested in what I've been knitting lately. I don't have any fancy credentials that give me special authority on these topics; I do have my Bachelor's degree in Economics, but more importantly I have a thirst for knowledge and a love of Liberty. That's really the most important thing, because ideas are for everyone, not simply the academic elite. I'm really excited about this new venture!