My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

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The Distribution of Wealth

with 2 comments

     I will be the first one to admit that the world’s resources are unevenly distributed.  A more accurate way to say it is that people are unevenly distributed.  On one end of the spectrum is a person born into a wealthy family in an area where it is easy to make a living.  On the other end is a person born into a poor family where there is hardly any opportunity at all.  That situation stinks.

     However, there is no point in blaming anyone for that situation.  If one believes in God, I suppose you could lay the blame for the disparity at God’s feet.  Otherwise, you have nobody to blame.  There’s no evil king of the world who dictates where people live or who is going to be born where.  There is no cabal that decided that certain people would be born on Fifth Avenue while other people are born in Harlem.

     All sorts of historical events put people where they are in the world today.  Nobody has control over where they are born or over the socio-economic status of their parents and their extended family.  If a person is born to a farming family in Mexico, that’s the hand that he has been dealt–just as much by fate as a poker player’s hand is dealt to him.

     People do have choice later in their life.  I know a man from El Salvador.  He came to America for what he considers a better life.  He became a physical therapist and works at the center where my son is having therapy for his knee.  It wasn’t easy for him to immigrate or to work his way through school.  I admire him very much.  At the optical center where my daughters got their new glasses, I met a man from Ghana with virtually the same story.  I was pleased to congratulate him when his soccer team beat the United States team in the World Cup tournament.

     When people talk about uneven distribution of resources or uneven distribution of wealth, I am dumbfounded.  They seem to be under the impression that there is somebody who sits over a big store of resources or money, as though it is a giant apple pie, and decides how much to give each person.  This imaginary pie server gave Donald Trump a great big piece of the pie and gave my acquaintances from El Salvador and Ghana just a tiny little crumb.  Then they say that things are “unfair.”  If somebody is giving out money, then it is unfair for that person to give it out in unequal amounts, all other things being equal.

     Wealth is not a giant pie in some magical pantry.  Wealth must be created by people.  Oprah Winfrey created wealth from her talent as a talk show host.  Bill Gates created wealth from his technological skill.  They did not sit around waiting for somebody to dish them up a piece of the mythical pie.  They made their own pies, and by lots of ingenuity and lots of hard work, they made some very big pies.  Both of them have cheerfully shared their pies with people who did not have as much.  I admire them for that.  However, I do not admire anyone who believes that they somehow owed it to others to share their wealth.  If it was owed, then the value of their donations goes down.  What makes their philanthropy so admirable is that they voluntarily chose to share even when nobody was compelling them to do so.

      One could argue that Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, among others,  should “give back.”  Perhaps they feel that way themselves.  For my part, I would have preferred that they charge people a whole lot less for their products in the first place.  I would have been happy to pay less for my Microsoft programs.  I don’t watch Oprah Winfrey, but I suspect that her sponsors would have been happy to pay less, and their customers might have enjoyed the cost savings on those products.  (I did enjoy Oprah’s acting in the The Color Purple.)  After all, did either one of them need billions of dollars?

     Some folks believe that it would be a good thing to even things up.  President Obama, when he was running for president, told Joe the Plumber that he wanted to spread the wealth around.  There is so much wrong with that goal, and it is so obviously wrong that I cannot understand how anyone could support it.

     I understand the desire to help those in need.  I have felt the desire and have acted on it–at a greater percentage than many of our politicians who espouse “helping the poor.”  As I wrote above, I think it stinks that such huge disparities exist in the world between the haves and the have-nots.

     There are only two ways to make things even, or closer to even.  One is by people voluntarily sharing what they have.  The other is by people being forced to give away what they have. 

     The problem with forcing people to share, is that somebody has to do the forcing.  There can be no forced redistribution of wealth without somebody doing the forcing, and who has the right to do that?  The state has the right to tax people to pay the President and his cabinet, to pay for interstate roads, to build office buildings for members of Congress, and to meet a whole host of legitimate expenses.  In essence it is “the people” contributing toward their own government.  However, the state has no right to take people’s money for the purpose of handing it out to other people.

     If a man in a mask demands money from a bank, we call it a crime.  If a man in a suit votes to confiscate your money to give away, we call it a tax.  Essentially there is no difference.  One of them looks more respectable, but it amounts to the same thing, morally speaking.

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Written by ambrosianideas

July 29, 2010 at 2:52 am

A Big Shift

with 4 comments

     Something very important has happened, and as near as I can tell it has happened gradually over the last ten years.  I think you could trace its roots much farther back, but the culmination has been very recent.

     The something I am referring to is a shift in the way right-leaning and left-leaning individuals discuss the role of government, particularly the role of the executive branch of government.  Have you noticed the same thing?

     During the 1980’s and 1990’s it was common for conservatives in politics and in the media to argue that government should be limited.  The less government, the better was the approach.  Because liberals, naturally, argued that government was needed to solve all societal and even individual problems. 

     Now, however, it is very common to hear so-called conservatives arguing with liberals about what the government should do, instead of arguing about whether the government should do anything at all. 

     Take the debate about health care.  Many prominent politicians and pundits on the right admitted that the American health care “system” had problems.  They suggested ways that the government could fix those problems–ways that differed from the ways proposed by those on the left.  They simply assumed that the government had some role to play in the matter.

     The assuming is what bothers me the most.  It seems that most people in America assume that the government should do something about societal problems.  Many people now even assume that the government should do something about individual problems, as well.  It seems not to occur to most people that there is another option, which is for the government to do nothing.

     That is why, I believe, we need a third way more than ever.  Members of the general public need to be exposed to another option besides the government’s either doing what the rightists propose or doing what the leftists propose.  People need to hear that it’s possible for the government to simply butt out and to allow people to be free.

     Some of the details of this shift are that people. . .

  1. . . .mistakenly regard the  presidency as a sort of monarchy.  They expect the president to unilaterally solve problems.  They do not see him as the head of a branch of government that is limited by checks and balances imposed by the other two branches.
  2. . . .mistakenly believe that rights are granted by “the government.”  The founders of the United States believed that people naturally had rights and that government leaders must recognize and respect those rights.  In fact, they saw individual rights as imposing limits on the government, not the other way around.
  3. . . .mistakenly ascribe almost total power to the national level of government.  The Tenth Amendment indicates that all powers not already granted to the national government still belong to the states or to the people themselves.  After decades of having the national government dictate state and local policy, because they hold the purse strings, people seem to have accepted this arrangement as normal and even necessary.

     I see this shift most alarmingly in the knee-jerk reaction of people on the street and on television whenever a problem arises.  A natural disaster strikes?  They ask, “What is the government going to do about it?”  Unemployment rises?  They say, “The president had better create more jobs.” 

     I have seen it, sad to say, in individuals I know who used to be suspicious of big government.  It’s a shame and a pity.

Written by ambrosianideas

July 11, 2010 at 5:43 am

Why Run From Freedom?

with 2 comments

     Why are so many people scared to embrace freedom?  I think that there are many reasons, but the one that stands out among my guesses is this:  freedom brings with it more responsibility than most people can face.

     With freedom comes a need to care for oneself and to care for the people that one is responsible for.  It is possible to succeed hugely, but it is also possible to fail hugely. 

     Nobody wants to fail.  Nobody hopes to fail.  But sometimes it happens.

     I think people are afraid of freedom, because if they are free and if they fail, then they can blame nobody but themselves.  They have to admit that it was their own choices that brought about their failure.  They cannot blame “the government” or “society.”

     And they must resort to asking others for help.

     It is much easier to live with a “safety net” in which you force others to agree to support you in case you fail.  You force strangers to support you because it is easier than swallowing your pride to ask for help from people who know you–your own family, friends, associates, and community members.

     And if you do succeed financially, it is much easier to live with the false sense of guilt for being rich if you can say, “I pay my taxes.  I do my part.”  It keeps you from having to actually choose whether to give up your precious mammon to help others out or to remain greedy and stingy.  It even allows you to ignore your own family members and, if you have any, friends, because it’s “the government’s job” to take crare of them–not yours.

     Yes, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.  I am happy to say that I am one of the few is willing to accept both freedom and the responsibility that goes with it.  How about you?

Written by ambrosianideas

November 24, 2009 at 2:39 pm

The Night Before Christmas, Libertarian Style

with one comment

This is an atempt at humor.

———————————————–

A Libertarian Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,

But if he had stirred through the house that night,

It would have been his God-given right.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there,

And since he is a hard-working man,

Saint Nicholas would come, according to plan.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads–

Sugar plums subject to high taxation

And intrusive government regulation.

Mamma in her kerchief and I in my cap

Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

Our assets were safely invested in gold,

And so we slept soundly in spite of the cold.

Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was them matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutter and threw up the sash.

I took my Colt-45 just in case

A robber was trying to ransack my place.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave a luster of midday to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick.

I wondered if he had a permit to fly

With those eight tiny reindeer across the night sky,

And if he had to pay duty on all

Those toys that he brought to our humble hall

. . . . . .

As I drew in my head and was turning around,

Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.

I wondered what PETA would think of his coat,

Or if sliding down chimneys would get OSHA’s goat,

Or since he hired only elves and no gnomes,

If the EEOC’s mouths would foam.

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack–

Peddlars who supposedly should not gain

From their steadfast daily toil and pain,

For this weighty problem, the statists’ solution

Is coercive income redistribution.

———-

Santa spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk.

And laying a finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He rose the way the stock prices should

In a truly free market, which would be so good.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,

Happy Winter Holiday to all, and to all a good-night!

No, he didn’t say that, despite lots of flak.

He said, Merry Christmas, and I said it back.

Written by ambrosianideas

November 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

The Myth of Society

with 7 comments

     Long ago the people of the world were tired of taking the blame for everything bad that happened to them. They asked the Great Sky Father and the Great Earth Mother to give them a god that could be blamed instead.  The Sky and the Earth did what fathers and mothers do, and they gave the world. . .Society.

     If somebody committed a crime, the people could say, “It’s not his fault.  It’s the fault of Society, because Society drove him to commit the crime.

     If somebody noticed a problem, such as people fighting with each other, he would say, “Society should do something about that.  Really!”

     Nothing much got done, and crimes grew increasingly common.

     Time rolled on, as time always does, and eventually a very wise man arose among the people, seemingly out of nowhere.  “There’s no such thing as Society,” he proclaimed.  “Society is people.  You are Society, and I am Society. ”

     “If people are fighting, then you  have to do something about it, or I have to do something about it.  No entity called Society can do anything about it.  In fact, the best thing of all would be for the people who are fighting to realize that it is bad and just stop.

     It’s their fault after all.  There’s no such being as Society that can override people’s wills.  People are sovereign.  They have volition.  They can do whatever the want regardless of what others do or what others say.  To say that somebody else should be blamed for bad actions is actually belittling the person involved.  It strips that person of his humanity if he is under the control of some other entity.”

     The people listened.  As individuals began taking responsibility for themselves and for their own words and actions, an amazing thing happened.  The god called Society became more and more transparent–like a vapor.  As people began to solve their problems instead of waiting for Society to solve them, the god grew so transparent that he disappeared completely.

     Then things got done, because people were doing them.  Crime rates dropped, because people knew that they would be held responsible for the bad things that they did.

     The world is much better off with people than with Society.

Written by ambrosianideas

November 12, 2009 at 11:46 am

Another Obstacle–Drugs

with 8 comments

     As I grew up, my parents and my teachers were careful to warn me about the dangers of drugs.  I assumed that they were right about the need to keep certain drugs illegal and to put people in prison for using them and for selling them.

     Because I went along with that approach to drugs, I could not align myself with the Libertarian Party or even call myself a libertarian.  One of my turning points came when William F. Buckley, arch-conservative and one of my heroes, changed his mind.  I began to look at the issue a lot more deeply and a lot more seriously. 

     While I don’t want to see the United States of America become one giant hippie commune with everyone high all the time and billows of marijuana smoke floating over the countryside, I have decided that people should have the freedom to use marijuana (and perhaps other drugs) in the same way that they are free to use tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine.

     The War on Drugs, as it is called, is a stupid war and nobody is winning.  It is not actually preventing people from using drugs and it is actually fostering certain crimes that would probably cease to exist if we just made certain drugs legal to purchase and use.  The laws against marijuana certainly lead to more death than its recreational use does.  And lots of young people, especially black people, are in prison for nonviolent offenses.  That’s sad, and I believe that it is wrong.

     None of this means that I, or other libertarians, think that drug use is a good idea or that we do it ourselves.  I certainly never have. 

     It means that a thoughtful consideration of the problem of drugs and drug use leads me and others to the conclusion that we are better off letting individuals make their own choices and letting them suffer the consequences of those choices.  The law, in my opinion anyway, should step in when a particular drug-related action harms somebody else, but as long as people are harming only themselves (if they are doing so when they use certain drugs), then it should not be the state’s concern. 

     Worse yet, the state should not be locking people up who simply wanted to try out a new experience or who made the mistake of succumbing to peer pressure–locking them up with the result that they become hardened criminals in prison.  It’s an insane approach to take.  It is based on emotion rather than good sense.

     I knew that if I ever decided to become a Libertarian, I would have to make up my mind on this issue once and for all.  I knew that I would have to accept this aspect of the Libertarian platform.  I have, and I hope that you will consider it, too.

Written by ambrosianideas

November 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Libertarian Party, Libertarianism

Tagged with

An Answer for Scott Erb

with one comment

     Commenter Scott Erb recently brought up the idea that people do not earn their money in isolation but depend upon the benefits of the state in order to earn it. 

     Scott wrote:  “They are able to make that amount of money because of an infrastructure provided by the state, because of a court system that protects investments and contracts, because of an education system that creates skilled workers, and a whole myriad of different things paid for collectively.”

     Here are three things to consider: 

     First, the most glaring problem with your reasoning is that all those things were paid for by the people who benefit from them, especially the wealthy citizens.  Since the poor are paying no tax, and the middle class are paying relatively little, it falls to the wealthy to pay for those things through the heavy taxation forced upon them.  They paid for them, so they should benefit from them.  As you well know, there is no magic money-making machine in Washington, D. C., that the state can use to fund these things.  

     Second, without people earning money, none of those things could ever have existed.  The state would have no resources for financing them.  Therefore, the situation is the reverse of how you paint it.  The government depends upon wage earners, businessmen, and investors in order to have revenue for those projects.  

     Third, many Libertarians would rather the state did not pay for most of those things.   They know that private companies and individuals could do a more efficient job of providing some, most, or even all of them.  (Which, would result in more employment, also.)   However, as long as the state is sponsoring those things, people should take advantage of them–especially the people whose taxes paid for them.

     Scott also wrote, “Moreover, a stable monetary system is necessary, which is done through federal reserve notes (dollars) that are trusted world wide. ”

     People would have even more trust in a dollar whose value was continually increasing as wealth is produced by the people of our country.

     Scott also wrote, “Frankly, I think people would earn far, far less even with no taxes if they gave up what taxes provide, especially if they gave up using the federal reserve notes. ”

     Are you suggesting that if the state did not build roads, people would just do without them?  If the state did not operate schools, people would just let their kids grow up uneducated?

     He also wrote:  ” Besides that, part of the stability rests on avoiding social unrest. Since private assistance won’t be enough (never has been historically) to deal with poverty, you’re more likely to get a revolt of some sort if there aren’t state efforts to deal with problems of income distribution.”

     Surprisingly you do seem to be operating under the myth of the money-making machine, as if some entity called “the government” somehow produces money and distributes it to the people in equal or unequal shares.  The possibility of the people revolting is worth considering; however, you seem to be admitting that the alternative is for the producers to simply pacify the non-producers by giving them just enough to live on.  That’s not a pretty picture.

     I would rather the non-producers have an incentive, such as their own survival, to become producers.  Those who literally will not work,  have no <i>right</i> to demand, much less to extract by force, money from those who are producing wealth.  They can ask, and the request can be denied.  Those who cannot work should depend on their families, their neighbors, and private charities to help them.  I am sure that there are plenty of movie stars, sports players, and fancy lawyers to help those with legitimate needs.

Written by ambrosianideas

November 1, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Libertarianism

Tagged with , , ,