Economics 101: Economic Sense & Wizard’s Tenth Rule: Treason to One’s Self (45m) – Episode 340

Episode 340 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: continuation of the Economics 101 mini-series concluding Walter Williams’ Economics for the Citizen series; continuation of the Wizard’s Rules mini-series, Wizard’s Tenth Rule: “Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to one’s self”; and more.

Listen to Episode 340 (45m, mp3, 64kbps)

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Government Should Follow Rules Too

People seem confused about what role — if any — government plays in our lives. This misunderstanding causes problems.

Government was never intended to be the master, but the servant. Your servant doesn’t tell you what you are allowed to do, nor punish you for not obeying him. The servant isn’t allowed to do things in secret with the master’s money, nor to keep any job-related secrets from the master. Your servant is accountable to you; never the other way around.

If someone takes a government job, they either accept their subservient position in society, or they can take a job — without such strings attached — in the productive sector. Forgetting their place should result in immediate unemployment with no chance of ever holding another government job.

Government wrongly claims to have the right to track everyone, spy on everything we do, collect all our information, and punish us for doing things we have the natural human right to do, but which government forbids. Nothing can trump natural human rights, not even the opinions of the vocal majority legislated and enforced by government employees.

Police across New Mexico object to a requirement to wear body cameras, which help them be held accountable to their bosses — the people of the community. If they can’t do their job under this condition, they are free to find other jobs. No one is forcing them to be police.

Locally, people are begging government for permission to re-open their restaurants, when government never had the legitimate authority to shut businesses in the first place. This illustrates the danger of allowing the servant to require business licenses. It’s none of their business who opens what kind of business, and nothing can make it their business. Not even if “this is how we’ve always done it,” which isn’t true anyway.

Local government is even pretending it should have the power to dictate whether someone will be allowed to use their own property as a subdivision.

This is crazy!

If we are to continue to fund government and give it our occasional obedience there must be rules for it to follow. Since the Constitution has been ignored for the past century and a half or so, what do you suggest be tried next?

Those who want to keep political government around are the ones responsible for keeping it out of the lives of everyone else. If you won’t rein in your troublesome servant, his misbehavior is on your head.

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“Anarchist” Is Not An Insult

“These are anarchists, these are not protesters,” US president Donald Trump said on July 20th, defending his decision to unleash Department of Homeland Security hooligans on anti-police-violence demonstrators in Portland.  Anarchist-bashing  — referring to “radical left-anarchists” in Minneapolis, “ugly anarchists” in Seattle, etc. — has become a consistent Trump campaign theme since May.

Does Trump have any idea what an anarchist is? Or is he just hoping that frequent repetition of a word he associates with widespread fear and loathing will get an increasingly hostile American public back on his side?

It’s somewhat amusing that Donald Trump considers the word “anarchist” an insult, or that he fancies himself morally fit to insult anarchists.

He’s got a lot of nerve, that guy. He’s a head of state. Or, in more accurate English, a second-rate mafia don, chieftain of an overgrown street gang with delusions of grandeur.

Trump and his type — the “leaders” of political governments —  murdered hundreds of millions of innocent victims in the 20th century and are already off to a bang-up start in the 21st.

Trump and his ilk steal more wealth, destroy more property, and kill more of the people they claim to serve in any given week than all the anarchists in history combined. Then they try to shift the blame onto their victims and onto the anarchists who stand up for those victims.

Gangsters like Trump (and his 44 predecessors) aren’t morally qualified to shine a Black Bloc rabble-rouser’s Doc Martens, let alone criticize the ideological anarchists who daily expose the protection racket called the state.

Anarchism comes in many flavors, but at root it’s a simple concept: It calls for the absence of rulers.

Note that second “r.” Not an absence of rules, but of charlatans who empower and enrich themselves and their cronies on the false claim that they serve society by enforcing rules.

Nineteenth century anarchist Lysander Spooner exposed the American version of that racket, incidentally prophesying the arrival of Trump:

“[W]hether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

Not all who hear themselves called “anarchists” resemble the remark or deserve the praise, but high praise it is indeed. Anarchists are defenders of freedom and opponents of the death cult known as the modern state.

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Yes, the Rent is Too Damn High — But Not Because the Minimum Wage is Too Damn Low

“Full-time minimum wage workers cannot afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere in the U.S.,” Alicia Adamczyk writes at CNBC, “and cannot afford a one-bedroom rental in 95% of U.S. counties.” Adamczyk gets her figures from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report.

Here are a few numbers NLIHC isn’t as eager to talk about:

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a whopping  1.9% of all American workers, and only 1% of full-time workers, earned minimum wage as of 2019. Also per BLS, minimum wage workers are more likely than average to be employed in food service jobs where wages are often supplemented with tips.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, 60% of workers in the lowest income decile (which would include minimum wage earners) receive public assistance benefits that top off a full-time minimum wage earner’s wages by an average of about $1.50 an hour.

And then we come to two assumptions in the NLIHC report that become problematic, especially when combined.

The first assumption is that rent is only “affordable” if it comes to less than 30% of a person’s income. But that seems awfully one-size-fits-all. What if spending 35% of my income on rent saves me 10% of that income somewhere else — utility bills or gas costs for longer commutes, for example?

The second assumption is that that there’s only one earner living in (or at least only one earner contributing to the rent on) the household. That assumption seems especially silly as applied to two-bedroom rentals. In reality, many people share housing. They move in with their romantic partners, or find amicable roomies. Just as many hands make light work, many paychecks make lower per-person rent.

Is the rent, as Jimmy McMillan says, too damn high? In some places, absolutely. In many places, probably.

Is the rent being too damn high a function of the minimum wage being too damn low? No. A tiny fraction of one percent of Americans struggling to make rent are full-time minimum wage workers without secondary sources of income.

The rent is too damn high because the housing supply is too damn limited.

Who are the geniuses limiting the housing supply with permit schemes, zoning restrictions, and supposed “fair housing” rules, all while pretending they’re doing tenants a favor?

The same geniuses who oppress workers with minimum wage laws, licensing requirements, and supposed “labor protections,” all while pretending they’re doing workers a favor.

Making it harder for the average worker to earn a living and find  a place to live may not be the intended purpose of government as we know it, but it’s certainly the result of government as we know it.

Perhaps it’s time for America’s workers to re-think government as we know it.

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Firing and the Left

Firing a worker is usually a serious harm.  Sometimes it’s devastating.  But we can still wonder, “Is firing someone morally wrong – and if so, how morally wrong?”

If this puzzles you, ponder this: Ending a romantic relationship, too, is usually a serious harm.  Sometimes that, too, is devastating.  Yet few moderns attach much moral blame to someone who dumps their romantic partner.  Even if you’re married, we rarely claim anything like, “If you break up, your ex-partner will wallow in misery for years, so you have a moral obligation to stay.”  (Close family members might privately maintain otherwise if you have kids together, but even then…)

In my view, firing is morally comparable to ending a romantic relationship.  In the absence of a formal agreement to the contrary, both kinds of relationships are – and should be – “at will.”  Yes, informed observers might have some grounds to morally criticize the termination.  Ultimately, however, close relationships – whether professional or personal – are complicated, riddled with misunderstandings.  Hence, outsiders should not only affirm that people have a right to unilaterally break up; they should practice the virtue of the tolerance by remaining impartial in thought as well as in action.

To repeat, that’s my view.  The normal view, in contrast, is that romantic and professional relationships should be governed by diametrically opposed standards.  In matters of love, the heart wants what the heart wants.  On the job, in contrast, governments should protect workers from employer abuse.  And even if the law says otherwise, firing someone who’s performing their job adequately is morally suspect.

While this “normal view” is now widely-shared, it’s still closely associated with the left.  Back when “freedom of contract” had more appeal, the left strongly argued that employers’ “freedom to fire” was tantamount to “the freedom to oppress workers.”  Back in high school, my social science teachers often philosophized, “Sure, physical coercion is bad; but so is economic coercion.  If your employer can fire you whenever he likes, you’re not free.”  This outlook naturally inspired the left to advocate a wide range of employment regulations, especially anti-firing rules.  While most non-leftists also favor such regulation, the left has long been more intense about it.  Their attitude is more radical – and so are the regulations they seek.

Which makes sense.  If you earnestly believe that firing a worker is a kind of economic violence, you’re going to firmly support stringent legal scrutiny of this violence.

From this perspective, the rise of “cancel culture” is deeply surprising.  Over the last decade, many leftists have not just moderated their former stance against firing.  They have become enthusiastic advocates of firing people they dislike.  “He’s performing his job adequately, so you have no right to fire him” has strangely morphed into a right-wing view.  If you don’t believe me, just start making insensitive remarks about race, gender, and sexuality on social media and see how your career goes.  “I was perfectly civil at work; I only offended on my own time” is now a frail defense.  Even if your boss and co-workers adore you, plenty left-wing activists will still pressure them to sack you.

Again, I have no principled objection to firing workers for their political views.  Indeed, I’ve long defended the blacklist of Hollywood’s Communists; while I tolerate a wide range of opinion, totalitarians are beyond the pale.  While we have no right to jail them, they don’t belong in polite society.  But if, like most people, you embrace the view that firing a worker is “economic coercion,” the left’s newfound love of firing their enemies should disturb you.  Consider: Their revised stance amounts to something like, “Firing a worker who’s performing his job adequately is a form of violence.  And if anyone crosses us, we advocate – nay, demand! – that this violence be done.”

To be fair, many leftists have yet to revise their stance.  Perhaps because they’re afraid of experiencing economic violence at the hands of the many other leftists who have.

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Back to School? “No Thanks” Say Millions of New Homeschooling Parents

Next month marks the beginning of the 2020/2021 academic year in several US states, and pressure is mounting to reopen schools even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Florida, for example, is now considered the nation’s No. 1 hot spot for the virus; yet on Monday, the state’s education commissioner issued an executive order mandating that all Florida schools open in August with in-person learning and their full suite of student services.

Many parents are balking at back-to-school, choosing instead to homeschool their children this fall.

Gratefully, this virus seems to be sparing most children, and prominent medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have urged schools to reopen this fall with in-person learning. For some parents, fear of the virus itself is a primary consideration in delaying a child’s return to school, especially if the child has direct contact with individuals who are most vulnerable to COVID-19’s worst effects.

But for many parents, it’s not the virus they are avoiding by keeping their children home—it’s the response to the virus.

In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued school reopening guidelines that called for:

  • Strict social distancing tactics
  • All-day mask wearing for most students and teachers
  • Staggered attendance
  • Daily health checks
  • No gym or cafetaria use
  • Restricted playground access and limited toy-sharing, and
  • Tight controls on visitors to school buildings, including parents.

School districts across the country quickly adopted the CDC’s guidelines, devising their reopening plans accordingly. Once parents got wind of what the upcoming school-year would look like, including the real possibility that at any time schools could be shut down again due to virus spikes, they started exploring other options.

For Florida mother, Rachael Cohen, these social distancing expectations and pandemic response measures prompted her to commit to homeschooling her three children, ages 13, 8, and 5, this fall.

“Mandated masks, as well as rigid and arbitrary rules and requirements regarding the use and location of their bodies, will serve to dehumanize, disconnect, and intimidate students,” Cohen told me in a recent interview.

She is endeavoring to expand schooling alternatives in her area and is currently working to create a self-directed learning community for local homeschoolers that emphasizes nature-based, experiential education. “There is quite a lot of interest,” she says.

According to a recent USA Today/Ipsos poll, 60 percent of parents surveyed said they will likely choose at-home learning this fall rather than send their children to school even if the schools reopen for in-person learning. Thirty percent of parents surveyed said they were “very likely” to keep their children home.

While some of these parents may opt for an online version of school-at-home tied to their district, many states are seeing a surge in the number of parents withdrawing their children from school in favor of independent homeschooling. From coast to coast, and everywhere in between, more parents are opting out of conventional schooling this year, citing onerous social distancing requirements as a primary reason.

Indeed, so many parents submitted notices of intent to homeschool in North Carolina last week that it crashed the state’s nonpublic education website.

Other parents are choosing to delay their children’s school enrollment, with school districts across the country reporting lower than average kindergarten registration numbers this summer.

School officials are cracking down in response.

Concerned about declining enrollments and parents reassuming control over their children’s education, some school districts are reportedly trying to block parents from removing their children from school for homeschooling.

In England, it’s even worse. Government officials there are so worried about parents refusing to send their children back to school this fall that the education secretary just announced fines for all families who keep their children home in violation of compulsory schooling laws. “We do have to get back into compulsory education and obviously fines sit alongside as part of that,” English secretary Gavin Williamson announced.

When school officials resort to force in order to ensure compliance, it should prompt parents to look more closely at their child’s overall learning environment. Parents have the utmost interest in ensuring their children’s well-being, both physically and emotionally, and their concerns and choices should be respected and honored.

After several months of learning at home with their children, parents may not be so willing to comply with district directives and may prefer other, more individualized education options. Pushed into homeschooling this spring by the pandemic, many parents are now going willingly, and eagerly, down this increasingly popular educational path.

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