Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nobody asked but …

I am late for MLK’s birthday’s anniversary.  It happened a week ago according to a record source I have seen.  MLK’s real birthdate occurred on January 15, 1929.  Every year we are reminded of the contributions that Martin Luther King, Jr. made to our society.

What I fear now is that we are doing it wrong.  We gather in public places to observe this holiday, but we treat it as though this man was principally a patriot and his campaign was to elevate a noble characteristic among the citizens of the USA.  His real hope was to correct a grievous set of errors made by the original founders and their hand-picked constituents.  Let us never forget, that MLK wanted society reorganized to fit the formulation that the USA had been officially lying about for 200 years or more.

I suppose that the thing that galls me most is that politicians hi-jacked civil rights, and made the story about politicians, not the Golden Rule.

A few years ago someone said to me that Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a libertarian because he chose the state as his main tool for setting things right.  Malarkey!  There was likely no way that MLK could have achieved what he did while keeping the politicos at bay.

Reverend King never once asked for the state’s intervention.  Ironically until the old white boys club saw the handwriting on the wall, “political glory,” they stonewalled MLK and his constituents at every turn.  Then the worms turned.  The politicos were responsible for the bandwagon, and the self-congratulations.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was responsible for the conscience of America.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Donald Boudreaux: Market Failure, Government Failure and the Economics of Antitrust Regulation (1h6m)

This episode features an interview of economics professor Donald Boudreaux from 2007 by Russ Roberts, host of EconTalk. They talk about when market failure can be improved by government intervention. After discussing the evolution of economic thinking about externalities and public goods, the conversation turns to the case for government’s role in promoting competition via antitrust regulation. Boudreaux argues that the origins of antitrust had nothing to do with protecting consumers from greedy monopolists. The source of political demand for antitrust regulation came from competitors looking for relief from more successful rivals. Purchase books by Donald Boudreaux on Amazon here.

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Non-Intervention: An Imperfect Solution to a Terrible Problem

On November 27, US president Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

The bill, passed by veto-proof majorities in Congress amid large protests in the “special administrative region,”  allows the president to impose sanctions on officials who violate human rights there, and requires various US government departments to annually review Hong Kong’s political status with a view toward changing trade relations if the US doesn’t like what it sees.

In response to the bill’s passage and Trump’s signature, the Chinese government in Beijing denounced US “meddling” in China’s “internal affairs” and threatened “countermeasures.”

Some non-interventionists agree with Beijing’s line on the matter, claiming that Hong Kong is intrinsically part of a thing called “China” and that the US simply has no business poking its nose into the conflict between pro-democracy (and increasingly pro-independence) protesters and mainland China’s Communist Party regime.

I happen to disagree with Beijing’s line, but that doesn’t mean I think the bill is a good idea. Non-interventionism is sound foreign policy not because the situation in Hong Kong is simple, but because it’s complex.

In 1842, the British Empire forced China’s Qing dynasty to cede areas including Hong Kong to it as a colony. In 1898, that same dynastic regime granted Britain a 99-year lease on Hong Kong.

When Britain’s lease ran out in 1997, Hong Kong wasn’t returned to the Qing dynasty. That dynasty no longer existed. It had been replaced in rebellion and civil war,  first by a notional republic under Sun Yat-sen’s Nationalist Party, then in 1949 by Mao’s Communist Party.

But Britain still returned Hong Kong to “China,” albeit with some negotiations for “special administrative status,” meaning more personal, political, and economic freedom than the people of mainland China enjoyed. Now the Beijing regime is acting to erode the prerogatives of that “special” status, and the people of Hong Kong are unhappy about it.

The problem is that the Westphalian nation-state model that has prevailed for the last 400 years treats given areas as “sovereign” even if the governments  within those areas change. “China” is the territory enclosed by a set of lines on the ground (“borders”) agreed to by politicians once upon a time, and nothing that happens within those borders is anyone else’s business, forever and ever amen.

Yes, Hong Kong was “returned” to a “China” completely different from the “China” it was torn from, but nobody gets to tell the new “China” what to do within the agreed borders. At least, it seems, not for more than 20 years or so.

I don’t like that, but I don’t have to like it. That’s how it is whether I like it or not.  Beijing doesn’t get to decide how Washington treats us. Washington doesn’t get to decide how Beijing treats the people of Hong Kong.

That being the case, the choice is non-intervention or some form of conflict, up to and including war. I prefer the former — and I hope we evolve out of the nation-state political model before the latter destroys us.

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Choosing to Intervene

Nobody asked but …

In my last blog post, I wrote about how to hide in plain sight from interventionists.  Now, we can examine more closely the process of being an interventionist.  An interventionist often believes he or she is blessed by being in the procedural wheel house (for example, a supervisor at the IRS is in an ideal spot to mess up personal lives), but we often forget that the interventionist is also enslaved by interventionism.  They cannot be happy until everyone else is intervened upon by them.  Even though they may devote 24/7/365 to minding other people’s business, they can only maximize their meddling when they occupy another individuals’ time 24/7/365.

You may argue that there are ways by which the state can maximize, multiply its intervention.  For instance, a state-employed educator can screw up the lives of many children and their families for years to come.  But there is a lot of leakage, much slippage.  No interveners are 100% effective, principally because they only have 24/7/365, and on the average can only screw up one intervenee at a time.  And then they can only invade another’s space when the other wants to eschew responsibility entirely.

If the schools were 100% effective at something that was externally desirable, we would not need gun control.  IMHO.

I often look at the NSA. And I look at 1984, George Orwell’s brilliant novel.  I realize that dystopia only comes when there is a juxtaposition, 1-to-1, between one intervened and one interventionist.  In real life, many are incapable of devoting themselves to 100% automatonhood, doomed to failure as an android without thought, unfit to reject the inconsistencies of individuality.  And there are others who have a high degree of attachment to real principles.

In dystopia, such as that found in 1984 and Atlas Shrugged, we see worlds populated by imperfect, fear-driven, unthinking failures, manipulated by imperfect, fear-driven, unthinking failures.

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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Christopher Coyne: Why Humanitarian Action Fails (46m)

This episode features a lecture by economics professor Christopher Coyne from 2014. He discusses the sometimes disastrous unforeseen consequences of poorly-planned humanitarian interventions around the world. Purchase books by Christopher Coyne on Amazon here.

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Mexico: One Failed US War Doesn’t Justify Another

On November 4, ten dual US-Mexican citizens  — members of an offshoot sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — died in a highway ambush, apparently the latest casualties of rampant and violent drug cartel activity in northern Mexico.

US president Donald Trump promptly called upon “Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.  We merely await a call from your great new president!”

Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador just as promptly rejected Trump’s proposal.  That’s not surprising. He ran for president on a platform that includes ending, not escalating, Mexico’s status as a battlefield in the decades-long US “war on drugs,” a war that created, and continues to empower, the cartels.

AMLO’s right.  Inviting direct US military intervention into Mexico’s internal affairs is not the solution.

The solution is for the US to re-situate American demand for recreational drugs from violent and corrupt “black markets” to peaceful legal markets.

After several decades of US regulatory, law enforcement, and military war on drugs, the “winners” of the war remain the cartels (who rake in billions serving customers forbidden to buy what they want legally) and US government agents (who dispose of huge budgets and earn comfortable salaries while boasting little impact on drug use at either the demand or supply ends).

Many (probably most) Americans like to get high.

Everything else being equal, they’d probably prefer to buy their marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and so forth from their local pharmacies, at reasonable prices and in known quantity, purity, and potency.

But if they can’t do that, they’re not going to stop getting high just because the US government tells them they must not. They’ll buy their drugs wherever they can find those drugs, even at the risk of being killed by the product or by the product’s sellers.

“Black market” sellers make bank on drugs because “white market” sellers don’t exist. The more money they make, the more they have to spend bribing government officials,  buying weapons with which to protect their drugs and their profits, and battling their competitors for market share with bullets rather than with lower prices or higher quality.

In the “war on drugs,” there was never any chance that the drugs would lose. Who does lose? All of us who continue to tolerate our rulers’ deadly and expensive folly.

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