Friday, April 18, 2014

A Return to Liberalism

Liberalism, as originally  and properly understood, is the historic advocate of individual freedom. It has promoted the rule of law and private property, with the free exchange of goods and ideas. Its opposition to censorsh

The entire liberal philosophy revolves around the primacy of the rights of the individual. As two philosophers put it: “Rights are the language through which liberalism is spoken” (Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl, Liberalism Defended).

Thomas Jefferson put this liberal ideal into one succinct paragraph in his magnificent Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed . . . .”

Liberalism turned the prevailing doctrines of human rights and politics upside down. For centuries it was assumed that man lived for the sake of the state; that what rights he possessed were gifts, given to him by his king or government. Li berals argued that the opposite was true. People possess rights first, and governments receive their sanction from the people. The government is not the giver of rights to the people but the people are the source for the legitimacy of the government.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Collective rights: winning the battle, losing the war.

Because many libertarians came to their philosophy from the Right they often bring with them a style of discussion that betrays their roots. While their position may be correct philosophically  the way in which they express themselves conveys meanings they may not intend, alienating the people they are hoping to address.

Libertarians believe in individual rights. I have no problem with that. Rights reside entirely with the individual. There is no such thing as collective rights, just the rights of the individual. So it would seem logical for a libertarian to shun terms like “woman’s rights” or “gay rights” or “minority rights,” etc.

We should be clear that people use the term “rights” in two different ways, and without clarifying which one is using can lead to unnecessary confusion. When a libertarian says that someone has “rights” they are referring to the ideal situation, not to the actual situation. It is to the libertarian vision of individual rights that they are referring.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Libertarian Look at Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was everything people have said about him—and yet nothing like the man they claimed he was. He was saint and sinner, a miracle for the nation, and just a man, flaws and all.

I was in line at McDonalds in Cresta, a northern suburb of Johannesburg, when suddenly the order clerk glazed over and stopped paying any attention to my order or me. I kept trying to finish the order with no response. My partner whispered in my ear: “Mandela just walked in.”

I turned to my left and, sure enough, there was Madiba, shuffling toward the back where his grandchild was celebrating a birthday. We got our food and sat down, watching Mandela and the children in the back of the restaurant. People stopped eating to stare. The mostly white crowd had cell phones out telling everyone they knew that they were in the presence of Mandela.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dumpster Diving and Libertarianism

The Left-of-center website, Demos, has a somewhat dishonest attack on libertarianism by a Mr. Matt Bruenig. Bruenig is happy to announce that a libertarian from the Cato Institute has agreed to discuss the nature of libertarianism with him. He then pulls one of the more dishonest stunts that one can pull in a debate or discussion—he set up an extreme, minority position as if it is the mainstream and then demanded his opponent justify it.

This is similar to conflating left progressives with the Communist Party USA. It was a shameful stunt when pulled by McCarthyites, Birchers and others on the extreme Right and it is just as shameful when pulled by left progressives, such as Mr. Bruenig.

Bruenig demands that his Cato discussant defend the antics of Han-Hermann Hoppe, who is absurdly described as “a very prominent libertarian academic.” In truth, Mr. Hoppe is hardly “prominent,” though he and his small band of followers would rush to agree with Bruenig—which makes Bruenig the one keeping odd company.

Bruenig notes Hoppe’s affiliation with the paleolibertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute—formed by a former staffer from the Conservative Book Club, well after Mises died. Now, if you were to take the budgets of the various libertarian-oriented think tanks and combine them together, you would probably find that this organization represents less than 1% of libertarian funding of ideas in any one year.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ten Commandments for Libertarians

It was once said: “I have met the enemy and he is us.”

Truer words were never said.

I think the libertarian vision is a noble one. It respects people. It sees each individual as an end in themselves and not the means to the ends of others.

With any such set of ideas there is the message and there is the messenger. Rationally it behooves us to keep the two separate. In reality though people often judge the message by the messenger.

And the libertarian movement worldwide has some really decent, hardworking, caring individuals at it’s helm. It also has some kooks, nuts, weirdos, cultists and certifiable lunatics out there as well. In other words it’s pretty much like the rest of the world.

Libertarianism is a set of ideas for sure. It is also a collection of people. Ideas don’t exist outside of people. Ideas require on people for their existence. Ideas only reside in the mind. They may correspond with things we see in reality but they themselves are a mental construct. To separate the message from the messenger becomes very difficult.

This movement we have chosen is filled with unique individuals. All of whom pretty much assert that they want to see libertarian ideas spread around the world and adopted. They mostly claim to be inspired by high ideals. Yet often they commit some deadly sins when it comes to promoting the fundamentals of liberty.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Latest Loans from Adam Smith Benevolent Fund

The Moorfield Storey Institute regularly makes small loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations. We believe that the best way to solve social ills in the world is with economic development. The greater the income the more health care, education, food, etc., that individuals are able to provide themselves.

These entrepreneurs often create jobs that benefit the entire community. Profit-seeking on their part encourages the kind of values necessary for a free society to flourish. A portion of income from book sales made at our site goes to benevolent purposes that encourage individuals to better their lives through self-initiative.

We have added
two loans to our list today:

Ester is 64 and a single woman. She has run a general store in Tanjay, Philippines for the last 9 years. She is using her loan to expand the business by purchasing additional goods that she can sell.

Angel sells electrical supplies in San Ignacio, Paraguay. He wishes to expand his business with more supplies so customers can always find what they need in his business. He is also hoping to expand into home improvement goods.

By purchasing books from Fr33minds you not only help the Storey Institute in promoting the values of a free society, but a portion is used to encourage the growth of market-based solutions in the developing world. Economic prosperity not only betters the lives of individuals but it leads to a more peaceful, interconnected world, something in the self-interest of everyone. Donations may be made to the Storey Institute here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Role of Fiction in Promoting a Free Society

A woman sat down with some paper, pen in hand, and started to write. Line by line she wrote out in longhand the plot she had devised. The characters she would invent would become known to a large percentage of the public.

She had a message, something she wanted to say. And, when she was finished, she had written a novel that helped spawn a political movement that changed the face of America.

Many viciously attacked her. The literary elite would pan the novel, claiming it was too melodramatic, yet in the century it was written its influence was only second to the Bible. The novel created a firestorm, with many praising it highly, while others seemed obsessed with attacking it. In the first years it sold some 300,000 copies. Some years later, during a time of national crisis, it suddenly became a best seller once again.

The woman was Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the novel was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe was appalled at the existence of slavery, and wrote in a white heat, trying to show the world the evil of this thing called slavery.

Many antislavery books had previously been written. Serious books discussing the detrimental effects of slavery were not uncommon. Theological treatises, for and against, were published and barely read. But, within one year of publication, Stowe’s little book had sold 300,000 copies. Although, only published in book form in 1852, no other book, except the Bible, sold more copies during the entire 19th century.