The Welfare State: Where’s the Freedom and Responsibility?

“Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” — Margaret Thatcher

Definition of Welfare State

1: a social system based on the assumption by a political state of primary responsibility for the individual and social welfare of its citizens 2: a nation or state characterized by the operation of the welfare state system

The United States of America is a welfare state, per the second definition. According to the most recent available statistics from the Census Bureau (4th Quarter, 2012) 35.4% of Americans are on one or more means-tested programs, and 49.5% of Americans received benefits from one or more programs, including non-means-tested programs, such as Social Security.

The number of people on benefits is growing, while the relative number of people supporting those benefits is decreasing. There was a time when there were no benefits, and people were expected to exercise personal responsibility regarding their financial situation. Now, as much as 70% of American families receive more from the government than they pay in taxes. This is not sustainable, any more than it is moral.

Some may object to the inclusion of Social Security as a welfare benefit. After all, it’s your money, right? Wrong. SCOTUS ruled in 1937 (Helvering vs. Davis), “The proceeds of both [the employee part and the employer part of Social Security] taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like internal-revenue taxes generally, and are not earmarked in any way.” Social Security withholdings are just a sneakier part of the income tax. SCOTUS ruled in 1960 (Flemming vs. Nestor), “A person covered by the Social Security Act has not such a right in old-age benefit payments as would make every defeasance of ‘accrued’ interests violative of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.” Yeah, lots of legalese. It says more, but basically they don’t have to pay you, even though you paid them. I feel like I’m already spending too much time defending inclusion of Social Security as a welfare benefit, but here’s one more point: the first person who ever drew Social Security was Ida May Fuller. She paid in $22.54 over three years, and then drew $22,888.92 in Social Security benefits over the next 35 years. Clearly, benefits aren’t directly dependent on inputs.

Welfare benefits are ultimately a redistribution of wealth scheme: they take from young people and give to old people, or they take from rich people and give to young people, or they take from some other people and give to yet other people.

If the recipients did this directly — without layers of bureaucracy between them and the victims — no one would be confused about the nature of this redistribution. Anybody could see it was theft, plain and simple. Tragically, legality confuses issues of morality for many.

Setting aside the issue of theft, a major problem with the welfare state is expressed well in the first definition: “a political state [assumes] primary responsibility for the individual and social welfare of its citizens.” Since when is it the role of government to be responsible for “the individual and social welfare of its citizens?” The very idea is nonsensical. As Southern Baptist preacher Adrian Rogers said, “The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.” Taking from some of its citizens would violate its responsibility to care for their welfare. And if it doesn’t take from them, it has nothing to care for the welfare of the others.

I’ll wrap this up now. As y’all know, I focus on the twin principles of freedom and responsibility. The welfare state violates both of these: the former by taking from people what they’ve earned, and the latter by giving to people what they haven’t earned. The welfare state needs to end.

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Stock Exchange

“Go into the London Stock Exchange – a more respectable place than many a court – and you will see representatives from all nations gathered together for the utility of men. Here Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt. Here the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist and the Anglican accepts a promise from the Quaker. On leaving these peaceful and free assemblies some go to the Synagogue and others for a drink, this one goes to be baptized in a great bath in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, that one has his son’s foreskin cut and has some Hebrew words he doesn’t understand mumbled over the child, others go to their church and await the inspiration of God with their hats on, and everybody is happy.” Voltaire

My sole voting Patron picked the stock exchange as the topic for my next post, so here it is. When he picked it, I didn’t know enough about the stock exchange to write about it — maybe I still don’t.

I had had an idea that somehow it was too complex to run without government regulation. That sounds ridiculous once it was articulated, because I believe the entire economy can function better without government regulation. Now I’ve done some research, and it turns out that most regulation in the stock exchanges — even the New York Stock Exchange — is largely performed by independent entities such as FINRA.

This makes this a much more boring and less abstruse subject than I anticipated. No matter, we can still discuss it.

The stock exchange is just a formal organization for free market activity, and as usual, government intervention is unnecessary at its best, and even detrimental.

The New York Stock Exchange was founded in 1792, but people still exchanged stocks before that, under a buttonwood tree. Amsterdam had the first stock exchange in the 1600s, and London and Philadelphia followed shortly before New York. The SEC — which regulates exchanges and such — wasn’t founded until 1934, in response to the Great Depression.

Congress blamed insider market abuses and inadequate disclosure of financial data for the Great Depression, and reacted by creating the SEC. In truth, the Great Depression had more to do with tariffs and poor Federal Reserve policies. I feel like I’ve heard this story before: the government causes a problem, and uses the problem as a reason to take more power.

Insider trading is probably among the top couple of financial crimes average Americans are aware of. Should it be a crime? Do we need the SEC to stop it? I say no, on both accounts.

If it’s viewed as a beneficial rule, individual stock exchanges can implement and enforce it within themselves, but I doubt its beneficiality. Market prices are set by the information available to the market, and most often this information takes the form of people buying or selling. If someone buys or sells based on information not generally available, his actions bring a piece of the information he has to the general public.

Disclosure of financial data has no need to be mandatory; the market and the exchanges already require it. They did it before Congress mandated it, and there’s no reason to think they would stop if Congress didn’t exist.

Of course, this financial data costs money to produce and disseminate. When the SEC requires more disclosure than the market demands, it limits the functional efficiency of the companies involved. When the SEC requires less or the same disclosure than the market demands, it is superfluous.

In summary, although no system is perfect, stock exchanges would perform just fine — and even better — with only nongovernmental regulation. We don’t need the SEC or the related Congressional acts. Freedom suffices.

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Bump Stocks: What To Do About These Frightening Implements of Death?

Someone murdered a lot of people in Las Vegas recently. I’m not going to name the suspect, because I support limiting notoriety for mass killers, as a step toward discouraging future copycats. I won’t question whether the suspect had the tradecraft skills and physical capacity to pull off the murders as stated in the MSM. I won’t question whether he acted alone, or whether the killer/s actually used the weapons and accessories in the official story. Rather, I’ll discuss first the accessories that were ostensibly used, then I’ll consider the reactions to this mass murder as they relate especially to those accessories, and finally I’ll discuss appropriate policies on those accessories.

First, we’ll consider the aforementioned accessories — bumpfire stocks, or just bump stocks. Some in the MSM would have you believe that these devices “make a AR-15 fire full auto like a machine gun.” Well, no. They don’t. What they do is utilize recoil to bounce the gun in a way that helps you pull the trigger rapidly, thus approaching full auto rates of fire. You can do the same thing without a specially-designed stock, but it takes practice. Bump-firing — with or without a bump stock — is not the same as turning it into a machine gun, or firing “full auto.” Legally and technologically speaking, a “machinegun” fires more than one round per action of the trigger (fully automatic, or full auto fire). Regardless, a bump stock is not a terribly useful accessory. I think of it as a freedom-simulation device. It lets you imagine for a few gunpowder-fueled moments that you’re living in a free country, enjoying the inherent joy of firing a fully automatic weapon, albeit one with substantially diminished accuracy. To summarize, a bump stock is a piece of plastic that helps you pull the trigger faster than normal.

Having considered the accessories in question, we’ll consider the emotional reactions to the mass murder as they relate to the bump stocks. Every time the MSM decides that a deadly event is tragic enough to lead in the evening news, emotional meltdowns and calls for laws that wouldn’t have actually prevented the tragedy in question are sure to follow. No, I’m not callous to the loss of life. Sure, I’m a bit cynical. Fifty-plus dead in one night in one place is news; the same number every month or so in Chicago is discussed occasionally, but not like a single mass murder; likewise the innumerable civilian women and children killed by U.S. bombs in half a dozen foreign countries; and thousands of innocent babies murdered in contract killings orchestrated by their own mothers and carried out by medical professionals aren’t even considered murders…. This article is about the bump stocks — not those other issues — so let’s get back to how people reacted to this tragedy. As soon as the MSM could figure out what a bump stock was, there were calls to ban them. Senator Feinstein introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, and a similar bill has bipartisan support in the House. POTUS Trump is looking intobanning bump stocks. Even the NRA has gotten in on it, actually asking the BATFE to review their ruling on the accessories with a view toward issuing more regulations on them! (How many times does someone have to betray you, before they stop being traitors and start being the enemy?) To summarize, fifty-nine violent deaths instigated emotional reactions across the board, spurring normally intelligent individuals (Senator Feinstein and her ilk excepted) to irrational plots to imprison or kill people for possession of a piece of plastic.

Having considered the bump stocks and the emotional reactions to the murders, we’ll now consider the appropriate policies for the bump stocks. In short — freedom, y’all. As I’ve written previously, there is no place in a free society for regulations on firearms accessories. It doesn’t matter that a bump stock is a nearly useless toy. It doesn’t matter that it’s been possible for years to 3D print one in your living room. It is immoral to imprison or kill people for simple possession of property. It is especially immoral when that property has anything to do with firearms, and thus relates to the fundamental right of self defense. All attempts to ban or restrict bump stocks — or any other firearm accessory —  are antithetical to the principles of freedom we all should hold dear. Support for these bans should be countered in every available forum. Organizations that promote these bans should be boycotted. To summarize, don’t kill people over a piece of plastic, and oppose those who would — morality is pretty simple, right?

In conclusion, we have considered the bump stocks, the emotional reactions to the murders, and the appropriate policies to adopt for bump stocks and other firearm accessories. It makes neither moral nor rational sense to ban a piece of plastic just because someone used one once to kill a lot of people that he probably could have killed more efficiently without the piece of plastic…. I hope this article has either clarified your thinking, or assisted you in clearing things up for someone you know.

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Cash in Ancapistan

Money provides such an advantage over barter, that it is indispensable for a functioning economy today. Modern civilization has been accustomed to a government or pseudo-government entity creating and maintaining a money supply. Indeed, these currencies have dominated the economy across the globe throughout living memory. Recently, cryptocurrencies have been on the rise, but they are far from replacing dollars, pounds, and yuan. In a truly free society, how would money be provided for the economy?

In short, it would be provided the same way all goods and services are provided in a free society: by mutually voluntary human interactions in the market. Without a government-mandated currency — printed with a legal obligation to accept it in payment of debts — people would be free to produce or accept any currencies they choose.

A variety of alternative currencies have been offered over time, but governments are typically opposed to currencies (or any other services…) that can compete with their own. China recently prohibited ICOs. The U.S. is prosecuting men for selling Bitcoin. Although Bernard von Nothaus got a fairly light sentence after being accused of domestic terrorism for his Liberty Dollaralternative currency, Jonathan May was imprisoned for years for attempting to create a non-fractional reserve alternative to the Federal Reserve system. In a free society, all cryptocurrencies would be free to compete on the open market with privately manufactured specie and paper instruments.

Likely, no more than a handful of currencies would come to dominate a free society’s economy. Bitcoin would be a strong contender, given its current dominance of the cryptocurrency market, but Monero‘s focus on privacy with its usability being as broad as Bitcoin’s thanks to XMR.tocould give it an advantage. Some people would prefer paper instruments, which would essentially be I.O.U.s backed by an individual’s or corporation’s creditworthiness and assets. Traditional specie might be used by those who prefer their currency to have intrinsic value. Specie could be issued expressly after the manner of the aforementioned Liberty Dollar, or metal bars and rounds manufactured by such companies as KitcoApmex, and JM Bullion could be pressed into service as currency. Similarly to the issuing of paper instruments in a free society, a company’s reputation would affect the value of their issued currency. Of course, just as with government currencies, paper instruments and even gold and silver currencies could be exchanged digitally.

To summarize, without governments disrupting the market for money, the market would provide a diverse array of currencies to fit the needs and preferences of all consumers, and the economy could continue to function with the competing monies.

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Abortion: A Voluntaryist Perspective

Voluntaryism is a philosophy summed up in the Voluntary Principle, i.e., “all human relations should happen voluntarily, or not at all.” How does this apply to the abortion debate?

First, realize that the science is clear on the humanity of a zygote. From the moment an egg is fertilized, there is a living cell with a unique set of human DNA. That is — scientifically — a human life. However, science cannot answer questions of morality on its own; that is the realm of ethics and philosophy and religion. Here, we consider the moral question from the Voluntaryist standpoint.

Prima facie, it is immoral under the Voluntary Principle to terminate a human life, except in self defense. Ergo, an argument in favor of abortion under the aegis of the Voluntary Principle must explain why the Voluntary Principle does not apply in this way. Some argue that the zygote or fetus violates the rights of the mother by his existence within her body. Others argue that human beings who have yet to be born do not deserve the protection of moral standards that apply to the rest of us, but this contradicts a plain reading of “all human relations….”

I posit that the creation of a human life is a unique point in human relationships. Human life can arise either through voluntary interactions (consensual sex or medical procedures) or through involuntary interactions (rape). In consensual sex, both parents have voluntarily participated while realizing the potential consequences of their actions include the production of a new human being. In the case of rape, only one parent has voluntarily participated while realizing the potential consequences of their actions include the production of a new human being. In either circumstance, the human being who is produced has no say in the matter whatsoever. Having been created, the new human being should enjoy the full protection of the same moral principles that protect the rest of us, including the Voluntary Principle.

What of the argument that the new human being is violating the rights of the mother? I find pregnancy to be analogous to a private airplane ride. The mother owns the plane, so to speak, and thus has moral control over who rides in it. In a pregnancy by consensual sex, the mother has analogously invited someone onto her plane, and is flying 30,000 feet above the ground. Clearly, to eject someone mid-flight without ensuring that they have the appropriate gear to survive, is murder. It matters not that when she issued the invitation, she perhaps never thought that they would take her up on the offer and show up to ride in the plane one day, so to speak. In a pregnancy by rape, the rapist has analogously smuggled a stowaway (against the stowaway’s will) into the plane — although obviously rape is far more heinous than illicitly hiding someone on a plane. Still, it is clearly murder to eject the unwilling stowaway from the plane without providing them the equipment to survive. The stowaway has not himself violated the rights of the plane’s owner or pilot, and thus it is inappropriate and immoral to retaliate against him. Even if the stowaway had been at fault, execution is probably a disproportionate response to the aggression.

In summary, we have considered the morality of abortion both in cases of rape and in cases of consensual sex, and we have found that under the Voluntary Principle, abortion is conclusively immoral.

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How an Airborne Ranger Became a Voluntaryist

The Definition of Voluntaryism, and How I Align With It

According to voluntaryist.com, “If you believe – that the initiation of force is wrong; that the institution of government relies on initiatory violence against peaceful people; and that taxation is stealing – then you meet the basic definition of being a voluntaryist.” That’s me: I concur on all three points. It continues, “Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society. ” That’s also me; specifically, I favor agorism. Then it reads, “We reject electoral politics, in theory, and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy.”  I understand this to mean, ‘don’t vote or support bills that promote freedom.’ Here I diverge somewhat. Does it legitimize the criminal gang in my neighborhood to discourage its leaders from engaging in criminal activity, or if there are rival gangs to encourage one of them to make things difficult for the other? No. I will support any proposition that results in a net gain of freedom. I don’t believe it’s an all or nothing proposition. The definition continues, “Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education.” I’m all for that as well. Many people assume that the State is necessary for the provision of services that could be provided better, more cheaply, and more efficiently by the voluntary actions of the free market: education is the natural remedy for this ignorance. In conclusion, I generally identify with the definition of a voluntaryist, except that I stop short of total abstention, believing that as long as the state exists it’s better to make it smaller and make freedom bigger, than to pretend and wish it didn’t exist at all.

How does Voluntaryism differ from run-of-the-mill libertarianism? In brief, a voluntaryist is more ideologically consistent, taking the principles of libertarianism further than most libertarians do. Libertarians often aren’t even minarchists. Some advocate a universal basic income, just because it would make for a simpler bureaucracy, even though it would certainly expand the role of government in the lives of many people. I believe we shouldn’t have government at all. However, since it exists, I believe there are responsible actions to be taken in regards to government, beyond non-participation in electoral politics.

Family Background, and Their Opinion On My Views

My earliest exposure to libertarian thought was the op-eds in the Backwoods Home Magazine anthologies gracing our bookshelves. I don’t think my parents read those much, but I believe they shaped my views for years to come. Even though I was seven years old at the time, I knew common sense when I saw it.

I grew up in a conservative Christian household, with parents voting Republican, Dad serving in the Army for a few years, kids bouncing back and forth between home school, public school, and a local Christian academy. We held a firm belief that government was handed down by God, that it was an institution to be obeyed as from God except in those matters that clearly contradicted Scriptural duties. My parents taught us the Bible, first and foremost, as well as how to think and apply logical conclusions to our lives. Having learned how to think, our logical conclusions sometimes outpaced their comfort levels. For example, I concluded as a teenager that if the American Revolution were a just response to the tyranny of King George and Parliament, then another armed revolution would likewise be an appropriate response to the tyranny found in the modern United States. As you can imagine, this alarmed my parents greatly.

To me, the difference between agorism and voluntaryism is voluntaryism focuses on non-participation in government, while agorism focuses on free market replacement of government. As my political views have evolved toward agorism and voluntaryism, I haven’t always discussed the evolving nuances of my belief system with my family. I’m not sure what they think about it. They live 500 miles away, and we all have busy lives and other things to talk about when we talk. Generally, the important thing to my parents is that my belief be based on the Bible, and of course not be heresy (contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture). One of my brothers thinks an independent arbitration system with a separate militia system (one arrangement I favor in place of the state) would constitute a government, so his difference of opinion seems to be mainly semantic.

Educational and Vocational History

I took a class in American Government at Carroll County Christian Academy, learning enough about our civic institutions that in a similar class a few years later in college, I felt I could have taught the class as well as the professor. Having learned a normative version of the political spectrum when I read Gary Allen’s None Dare Call It Conspiracy in elementary school, I remember declaring in my high school Am Gov class that I was so far to the right of the political spectrum I was practically an anarchist. I wasn’t. I was still a minarchist at best, and not a very educated one, either, believing government should provide roads, currency, and maybe even postal service, etc. College expanded my access to classics of libertarian thought, Austrian economics, and current work on libertarian principles. I still believed that our Constitutional Republic was the best form of human government ever devised. I still believe that, although my perspective on the belief has changed dramatically.

In both high school and college, I learned David Barton’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Constitution as a document clearly embodying the principles of Scripture. In college, I also encountered Ted R. Weiland’s eloquent rebuttal of the Constitution as a document departing in almost every important way from the guidance of the Bible. At the time, I found Barton’s arguments convincing. Much later, I realized the United States government is an excellent example of how even in the best possible circumstances – intelligent, educated, and experienced men with a respect for God and His Word, if not a personal relationship with Him, sitting down and rationally and peacefully creating a government from scratch, on a landmass possessing natural defenses from outside interference, abundant natural resources, and room to expand – human efforts at creating governments are bound to result in massive deprivations of liberty, in a fairly short period of time.

After graduating Cum Laude (B.A. in Political Science, Pensacola Christian College) in 2013, I enlisted in the United States Army, with aspirations of a career in Special Forces. I hoped to support the revitalization of the Constitutional Militia, as outlined by Dr. Edwin Vieira. The Special Forces career path failed to pan out due to medical reasons, although I did serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment for a time. I continued reading libertarian works and interacting with the libertarian community online. I started a Facebook page, which I had to take down for a while as my chain of command informed me it was not acceptable for a service member to label the Commander in Chief a “tyrant,” even through an anonymous internet soapbox.

About that time, I read Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman, finding it interesting and enjoyable, but failing at first to internalize the concept of agorism. I eventually began to realize that government fails at almost everything it does, although I continued to believe that we needed a government to provide many basic services.

The Turning Point

Still relying on Scripture as the foundation for my belief system, even while my understanding of God’s Word and the ways it applies to the world continues to evolve, I eventually arrived at a pivotal question: “Where in the Bible does God instruct man to create a government?” My college Poli Sci classes had posited that civil government was first instituted when God ordained capital punishment in Genesis 9. I had always hesitated to endorse that view, as I could see no mention of civil government in the text. The position assumes without textual foundation that capital punishment is the exclusive province of civil government. As I presented my pivotal query to my educated Christian friends, some pointed me to Romans 13 (the classic text for Christians who believe government must be obeyed in all things). However, I noted that divine guidance on the proper relationship with government is far from an endorsement of the institution. Consider Mosaic divorce law: divorce was clearly outside of God’s perfect will, but He nonetheless allowed for it in His Law, and gave guidance on the proper way to handle it. I noted also the guidance of Deuteronomy 17 regarding the selection of a King, which was certainly against God’s perfect will.

Ultimately, I have been unable to find anything in the Bible instructing us to create a government, other than the Deuteronomy 16 directive to choose judges and (militia) officers. Arbitration does not require a government now, any more than it did then. Nor does collective organized defense with a chain of command constitute a government. Having failed to find a divine command to create a government, and being unable to conclude that such a major aspect of human experience would be omitted by neglect rather than by intent, I am forced to conclude that human civil government is outside of the perfect will of God. I further conclude that the best form of governance (not government) is that prescribed by God Himself in the Mosaic Law, and practiced by ancient Israel during the time of the Judges, generally speaking. This would be a form of anarchy – “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” – with no coercive government taxation, conscription, eminent domain, etc. There would be individual responsibility to abide by God’s Law (as there is now, recognized or not) and communal responsibility to enforce His Law, e.g. execute murderers. Which parts of the Mosaic Law ought to be enforced under God’s current relationship with mankind is open for discussion among responsible adults. If such an anarchistic community declines to enforce some important aspects of the Law, they can hardly do worse than every government in the history of the world.

But I digress from the account of my transition to voluntaryism, into an explanation of my understanding of it, and an ideal application of it. The fact remains that I have concluded it would be better if governments did not exist, leaving men to interact voluntarily with each other. Furthermore, I believe much of God’s Law can be summed up in the zero aggression principle (initiation of force is morally wrong), furthermore government institutions inevitably rely on violations of that principle and thus of God’s Law, and – although we are instructed to pay taxes when doing otherwise would cause too much trouble – taxation constitutes theft, taking property without consent. Government directives to do evil (whether by commission or omission) do not override our conscience and our understanding of right and wrong. I favor agoristic obviation of government institutions. I support voluntary alternatives to government services as much as I can and continue to encourage government institutions to reduce and eliminate their restrictions on our freedoms.

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