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The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare next week.  According to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, 56% of likely US voters favor the repeal of Obama's Healthcare Law.

Some may find solace in the fact that over half support the repeal of this egregious legislation, but I find it concerning that nearly half of Americans obviously do not understand the concept of human rights. It is even more frightening that the Supreme Court will likely rule in a 5-4 decision as to whether or not Obamacare is constitutional. The ruling may very well depend on what side of the bed Justice Kennedy wakes up on that morning.

Of course, over the last 200 years, the US Constitution has done little to stop the growth of the federal leviathan. Moreover, the Supreme Court has an abysmal record when it comes to upholding the restraints on government put in place by the Constitution.

Setting the Constitutional arguments aside, it should be clear that Obamacare is a blatant violation of human rights and should be acknowledged as such. We may have certain responsibilities to help men and women in need, but using the force of government to coerce people into providing a service is not benevolence. It is immoral laziness.

I understand that access to medical care is, in many cases, a matter of life and death. The debate around this subject carries correspondingly weighty emotional arguments. The public is bombarded with anecdotal talking points from the popular media that confound a myriad of surface-level, consequential concretes without any reference to a consistent system of ideas. Typically, the arguments around health care are framed in a manner which presupposes that it is a human right to secure some entitlement to special privilege: "Everyone has a right to affordable care. We are a rich country. We should provide health care to people who need health care."

The astute reader may ask the question, Who is the "we" that must provide that care? Perhaps the question one should consider is: “Can an entitlement to a good or service produced by another really be considered a human right. Can something be a right if it necessarily implies the obligation on the part of another?

To assert that medical care must be provided as a human right is a contradiction in terms. This necessarily implies that one person has a positive obligation to provide a product or service to another. The forced  surrender of labor and property (whether it be forced medical care or mandatory insurance) for the benefit of another is a stark violation of human rights. Even with best intentions, central planners cannot magically create human rights by abrogating the human rights of another.

Moreover, it is misleading to think of healthcare as a “system” that can be controlled and distributed to the needy by a central authority. ‘Healthcare’ is a generalized term for a very specific combination of goods and service of a scarce quantity offered by and consumed by individual humans. Health care does not just appear automatically in nature. It must be produced by someone through intense physical and mental effort.

The claim that it is the role of government to ensure everyone is provided with health care or health insurance is analogous to claiming that it is the government’s role to ensure everyone has access to a car, cell phone, and color tv.  Should everyone enjoy the right to these goods as well? Unfortunately, self-described Progressives today answer “yes”.

Many people have come to view modern conveniences as necessities without considering what has made the increased standard of living possible.  Human advancement for centuries was gradual or flat.  It was a social system built on the principles of freedom and individual rights that catapulted mankind into realizing achievements past generations could not even conceptualize.

Advocates of using a centralized, monopolistic instrument of coercion to force a group to work for the special privilege of another attempt to constrict the very engine that makes this debate even possible – a political/economic system that respects individual human rights.

Perhaps our vision of history and human rights has been skewed by our crystal-clear 21st century LASIK eyesight….

 
This article by Jason Riddle originally appeared in the Freeman on 11/09/2100.
_As I was watching the recent GOP debate in Las Vegas, I couldn’t help but think of the millions of people that enter the casinos expecting to beat the odds. Some do. However, most do not. There is a reason why gambling is a multibillion dollar industry. Big profits are made as relatively small amounts are lost by the masses trying to beat the system. Of course gambling may be regarded as entertainment, but the relevant feature of gambling for present purposes is that it is a zero-sum game. One person’s winnings are necessarily another’s losses. Wealth is transferred, and the house always wins so long as enough people play the game.

Similarly, politics operates as a zero-sum game. Economist Robert Murphy points out that our current political system is actually a negative-sum game, but even if we could eliminate all bureaucratic waste, we cannot escape the simple truth that when an individual wins political favor, he or she only benefits at the less obvious expense of someone else. There is no such thing as a magical public fund from which political gifts spontaneously generate. No matter how noble the intention or the cause, the benevolent politician is not Santa Claus. All goods distributed by government must first be created or produced by somebody. Whatever is given must first be taken. This is true for corporate subsidies and bank bailouts, just as it is true for transfer payments made to the very poorest members of society.

People by and large accept such a system because they believe they will be able to draw more in political advantage than they lose by way of political plunder. This mentality keeps the population playing the game, and like the casino, if enough people play the game, it is the political class and the politically connected that always win....
 

Today, Ron Paul released his Plan to Restore America.

“It’s the only plan offered by a presidential candidate that actually balances the budget and begins to pay down the debt.  And it’s the only plan being offered that tries to reign in the Federal Reserve and get inflation under control.”

Paul’s plan does not just rearrange the status quo. Paul’s Plan to Restore America is real fundamental reform. Here is a summary of what is included:


CUT SPENDING
  • Real cuts totaling $1 trillion during the first year of a Ron Paul Presidency.
  • Eliminates five federal cabinet departments – the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Interior, and Education. 
  • Abolishes the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and returns responsibility for security to private property owners.
  • Abolishes corporate subsidies.
  • Stops foreign aid.
  • Ends foreign wars.
  • Makes a 10% reduction in the federal workforce, slashes Congressional pay and perks, and curbs excessive federal travel.
  • To stand with the American People, President Paul will take a salary of $39,336, approximately equal to the median personal income of the American worker.
  • Returns most other spending to 2006 levels.

CUT TAXES
  • Lowers the corporate tax rate to 15%, making America competitive in the global market. Allows American companies to repatriate capital without additional taxation, spurring trillions in new investment.
  • Extends all Bush-era tax cuts.
  • Abolishes the Death Tax.
  • Ends taxes on personal savings.
CUT REGULATIONS
  • Repeals ObamaCare.
  • Repeals Dodd-Frank.
  • Repeals Sarbanes-Oxley.
  • Cancels all onerous regulations previously issued by Executive Order.
  •  

REFORM ENTITLEMENTS
  • Honors our promise to our seniors and veterans, while allowing young workers to opt out.
  • Block grants Medicaid and other welfare programs to allow States the flexibility and ingenuity they need to solve their own unique problems without harming those currently relying on the programs.
RE-INTRODUCE SOUND MONEY POLICY
  • Conducts a full audit of the Federal Reserve.
  • Implements competing currency legislation to strengthen the dollar and stabilize inflation.

 
The United States has the largest gold reserves of any nation in the world by a significant margin. The U.S. is reported to hold about 8,133.5 metric tonnes of gold. Germany is a distant second with 3,401.0 metric tonnes of the yellow metal. Italy has 2,451.8 metric tonnes in reserve. Could nations tap into their gold reserves to ameliorate their sovereign debt woes? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

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Presently, the Italian government’s annual deficit is nearly 4% of national output. In order cover this year’s budget shortfall at current spending levels, Italy would have to raise $72 billion. One way to do this might be to sell $72 billion of gold.

Unfortunately, Italy’s total gold holdings are only worth about $81 billion at today’s prices. That doesn’t get the Italian government very far considering Italy’s current debt has grown to almost $2.2 trillion after years of fiscal irresponsibility. Furthermore, Italy is going to have to come up with $151.55 billion in financing from September to the end of this year just to avoid default, according to Goldman Sachs. It seems the Italian welfare state is insolvent, having spent far more than they have or will be able to generate. The facts do not bode well for the world’s eleventh largest economy looking at a mountain of debt that is over 120% of national output.

The situation in the United States is not much brighter. The U.S. has 3.3 times the amount of gold as Italy, but nearly 6.6 times the amount of government debt. Sure, the U.S. has the largest gold reserves in the world, but the total amount of gold held by the United States is only worth about $270 billion at today’s prices. In other words, all of the gold held in Fort Knox and at the various U.S. mints would be enough to cover about one half the cost of Obama’s newest proposed spending bill.

In fact, at today’s prices, the value of all the gold ever mined in the history of the world comes to a grand total of $5.2 trillion. That is just enough to fund the U.S. Federal government for a little over a year at current spending levels.

The fact that government debt far outpaces the amount of gold reserves may be another signal that gold is undervalued relative to fiat currencies. This could actually turn out to be a golden opportunity to reduce sovereign debt. Perhaps, instead of dumping all of their gold at once to pay down debt, nations like the U.S. or Italy could actually take advantage of their large gold stocks and the public’s new appetite for gold by minting new coins of various weights and then selling them at a premium. The proceeds from the sale of new coins could be used to retire existing debt. As the new coins circulate, the public will be more accepting of gold. Increased demand will give countries like U.S and Italy a larger future income stream from selling their bullion.

Some economists have argued that over-extended governments should sell their assets on the open market to pay down the massive debts they have incurred. I certainly agree. This would reduce government debt and return valuable resources taking from the private sector. Gold reserves should be included in such an auction.

It is unlikely governments will sell bullion to pay debt. It is more unlikely governments will reduce spending in any meaningful way so long as it is easier for the politicians to print colorful paper tickets or make electronic entries to inflate the money supply. The chief problem is that governments do not have nearly enough real resources, actual or projected, to cover the cost of their exorbitant spending.  

History tells us that this age-old political game usually ends with destruction of the currency. It is unlikely the dollar or the euro will fare differently this time around as long as governments are controlling the money.

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Now that we’ve had exactly one month to digest the debt ceiling debacle, followed by the S&P’s downgrade of the US government, let’s take a deep breath and consider the reality of the situation.

The United States government remains very much in the midst of fiscal disaster. The debate over raising the debt ceiling for the 75th time since 1962 was a complete distraction from the real problem: Out of control government spending.

The meager deficit reductions included as part of the debt ceiling deal represent a decrease from the amount of increasing government spending. This was not an overall decrease in spending.

At the end of 2012, the government’s debt will have reached a total of over $16.5 trillion from its current level of $14.6 trillion. Ten years from now the U.S. government’s debt will reach $22 trillion dollars, given the most conservative projections. That is 51% higher than it is today. Today, our government officially spends about 3.4 trillion per year. In ten years, annual spending levels are projected to be 5.2 trillion per year by the CBO.

Given those projections, the government has knowingly promised to put us in debt to the tune of at least $22 trillion dollars. If that is the case, why didn’t Congress just raise the debt ceiling to $22 trillion since that is what they are promising to do anyway?

On August 2nd, our elected officials authorized the U.S. Treasury to borrow and spend an additional $2.4 trillion dollars over the next 15 months - conveniently, long enough to make it though the next election cycle. Clearly, the entire process of raising the debt ceiling for the 75th time since 1962 has been one of smoke and mirrors by both political parties.

But raising or not raising the debt ceiling isn’t the issue. The government is going to find a way to spend the money it wants to spend. Without question, the debt ceiling has proven to be an ineffective tool to constrain out of control government spending. At best, it is an inconvenient formality and an opportunity for cheap political posturing.

The evil here is not in the abuse of continuing to raise the debt ceiling; but rather in the government’s use of debt borrowing to fund spending on programs with which the government has no legitimate authority to be involved in the first place.

The appetite of government cannot be quenched and will continue to consume the wealth and income of those working in the productive private sector as long as we let it. We are caught in the “iron triangle” of politicians, bureaucrats, and special interest groups.

The only real solution to our government’s debt dilemma is to challenge the justifications for the size and scope of Washington’s reach over the lives the American people. The government has shown it has no plans to get its fiscal house in order.

Americans should rediscover the proper role of government and to stop asking the government to do things for us that we are not willing to do ourselves.

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Today Stephan Kinsella wrote a great piece for Mises.org about a five-week online course he is offering called "Libertarian Controversies". I have taken several courses through Mises Academy and have very much enjoyed the experience.

However, what captured my attention today was Kinsella's splendid articulation of the personal joys that come from championing a reason-based philosophy of life and liberty. Kinsella writes:

"What could be more beautiful than the idea that we ought to respect each other's rights so we can live in peace and harmony? It's refreshing to be part of a community that has a passion for justice, freedom, and goodness — for truth, reason, and consistency. We believe society and prosperity are achievable if we simply adopt a civilized political ethic. It's a beautiful way to look at the world.

Appreciating the logic of liberty and the role of property rights in the social order is enlightening, provocative, and inspiring. Our approach also provides striking analytical advantages over conventional "left" and "right" oriented political views. Leftist and rightist political thinking alike are hypocritical, inconsistent, collectivist, and contrary to economic science and human nature. They give lip service to liberty and reason but renounce it on a dime to preserve their cherished statist policies. They end up defending policies and consequences contrary to their professed values.

By contrast, the libertarian perspective strives for consistency and justice. It recognizes the nonaggression principle and the important role of property rights in justice and the promotion of peace and prosperity."

Well said Stephan Kinsella!

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Bruce Smith (1851-1937) in Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest against the Growing Tendency toward undue Interference by the State writes:

"The broad principles, then, which I should venture to lay down as guides for any one assuming the responsible position of a legislator are three in number.
  1. The state should not impose taxes, or use the public revenue for any purpose other than that of securing equal freedom to all citizens.
  2. The state should not interfere with the legally acquired property of any section of its citizens for any other purpose than that of securing equal freedom to all citizens; and in the event of any such justifiable interference amounting to appropriation; then, only conditional upon the lawful owner being fully compensated.
  3. The state should not in any way restrict the personal liberty of citizens for any other purpose than that of securing equal freedom to all citizens."

All legislators should keep these principles in mind. Unfortunately, guidelines that lead with the words "the state should not" are quickly ignored by rulers and central planners.
 
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I was recently asked: “What are the foundations of a free society?”

Here is my brief answer:

The foundation of a free society is a reason-based philosophy of liberty. By applying the concepts of an objectively determined morality, using the individual’s life as the ultimate standard of value, we are able to understand the concept of individual rights. Every person has a right to his or her own life. A right is freedom to act, not freedom to have any object unearned. Moreover, a right is a freedom from coercion, not a positive obligation or a claim upon the life of another. The right to life is the fundamental right from which all other rights are derived.

Since individual effort is required to sustain life, a right to life necessitates individuals are free to voluntarily act based on their own judgment and choices and to keep and dispose of the products of their individual physical and mental labor. From this we are able to deduce the right to justly-acquired property and the right to engage in voluntary exchange.

The right to self-defense is a necessary corollary to the right to life and the right to property. Every person has the right to defend his or her life, liberty, and justly-earned property. Just as the individual has the right to defend his or her own life, people have the right to voluntarily organize in order to protect their rights. The objective use of force to protect individuals against the initiation of force by aggressors is the only role of any such ‘protective institution’ in a free society.

The rational means by which to determine if an action should or should not be deterred by lawful force is to assess the action in terms of whether or not the action violates the individual rights of another. A society must operate under the rule of law if it is to remain free. Objective laws compatible with human rights are the only just laws, and the defense of individual rights is the fundamental principle of a proper legal system.

Finally, it must be noted that the conditions necessary to create and maintain a free society do not come about automatically. If a reason-based philosophy of liberty is the foundation of a free society, the concepts of individual rights briefly discussed above may be thought of as the pillars. However, neither the foundation nor the pillars of a free society can be constructed without individual members taking the initiative to educate themselves about the requirements of liberty. The mortar that holds the structure of a free society together must necessarily include the virtues of individual responsibility, honesty, integrity, and self-esteem.

A society well-educated in these fundamental principles will not be easily shaken by the seductive temptation of using political, coercive means to obtain short-term gain at the expense of others. Ultimately, a free society rests on the shoulders of individuals of exceptional character who take on the responsibility to understand the philosophy of liberty, share this message with others, and lead by example.

And isn't freedom what makes life worth living?

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"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”    – Benjamin Franklin, 1775


The holiday season is upon us. Over the next month, millions will be traveling to share this special time of year with friends and relatives. Many of us will elect to make the journey via airplane. For those who are accustomed to traveling, we have come to expect the various inconveniences of the airport – waiting in slow-moving security lines, removing shoes, packing liquids and gels in a quart-size bag, etc.

But recently, a host of new “inconveniences” introduced by TSA have been causing quite a stir in the news. Some travelers have become upset with being forced to give up your 4th Amendment rights, being subjected to controversial naked body scanners, and being groped by (always professional) TSA agents.

A retired special education teacher was left humiliated, crying, and covered with his own urine after a TSA officer carelessly (after being warned of the gentleman’s medical condition) broke the seal of his urostomy bag during an enhanced pat-down.

Another man was thrown out of San Diego International Airport and threatened with a lawsuit and a $10,000 fine after he told a TSA agent, "You touch my junk and I'm going to have you arrested."

Once passengers have been selected for the enhanced searches, they cannot opt out of both the scan and the pat-down. Even if someone in a security line becomes frustrated and decides not to fly, if they then try to evade the measures, they could face an $11,000 fine.

The enhanced TSA screening procedures carry with them health concerns and privacy concerns, but defenders of the government policy insist these measures are necessary for our own safety.

“Nobody likes having their Fourth Amendment [rights] violated going through a security line, but the truth of the matter is we are going to have to do it.” - Mo Mcgowan – Former Director of TSA Security Operations

The government’s only legitimate purpose is to protect our rights. How these bureaucrats justify efforts to protect our rights by violating our rights is beyond me.

But do more invasive TSA security measures even translate to more actual security?

I concede that TSA is really good at matching your boarding pass (you print at home and can easily alter) to your ID (you can easily obtain a realistic looking fake). And TSA is pretty good at monitoring that your liquids fit in a quart-size bag (until I go through security every time with a 1 fl oz bottle of eye drops in my pocket just to test them – they fail every time).

But the success record of TSA really breaks down when it comes to identifying and stopping real threats. A recent TSA report shows screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that TSA testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags.

In my personal experience, TSA has let me through with a butter knife I had left in my computer bag for my morning bagel. A friend made it through TSA security and onto the plane with a full can of pepper spray he had accidently left in his baby stroller. Bag screeners routinely fail to detect guns, knives, and other weapons. It is safe to say that TSA is not doing its job to make us safe at all.

In its nine years of existence, TSA has not once caught a terrorist during a preflight screening.

But surely the new TSA’s enhanced screening procedures make us safer?

Well, maybe not. In addition to the health concerns and privacy concerns, there is significant evidence to suggest the new machines don’t even work all that well.

The traditional magnetometers used today can detect high-density objects such as guns and knives, but according to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the naked body scanners fared poorly against “…low-density materials such as thin plastics, gels and liquids. Care to guess what Abdulmutallab's bomb was made of?”

Additionally, as Bruce Schneier, internationally renowned security technologist noted during a test, "The scanner caught a subject's cell phone and Swiss Army knife -- and the microphone he was wearing -- but missed all the components to make a bomb that he hid on his body... Full-body scanners: they're not just a dumb idea, they don't actually work."

But if there are health concerns, privacy concerns, and the new scanning technology doesn’t even work…Why did we spend $300 million of stimulus money to buy the naked body scanners? And why are we spending $340 million each year, including hiring an additional 5,000 TSA employees to operate the new machines?

One possible explanation could be that the executives of the companies that produce the naked body scanners are mostly former Homeland Security officials. Michael Chertoff, former head of the TSA, is now selling the scanning equipment to the TSA.

Another related explanation is that the enhanced screening procedures (and the TSA itself) are a classic example of Security Theater intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve it. Security Theater usual involves a very visible pretense of security and control. It can be something negligible (such as forbidding the passage of a 6 oz bottle of water though security but allowing a box of frozen vegetables). Or, Security Theater can involve a much greater suggested or actual threat to personal liberty (such as guards with machine guns or TSA agents with rubber gloves and pictures of you in your birthday suit).

Security Theater also needs new gimmicks and updated procedures so the public believes the authorities actually have the situation under control. I am confident the new naked body scanners will be a failure just like the recently scrapped multimillion dollar “air puff” bomb detection system the TSA implemented in U.S. airports. The “air puff” bomb detectors turned out to be both inaccurate and unreliable.

All in all the TSA is a costly failure. With TSA we have increasing invasiveness, decreasing airline customer satisfaction, increasing costs, and decreasing actual security. These are all simply the manifested symptoms of a more fundamental problem. It is that problem I would now like to address.

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The Root of the TSA Problem

Soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress urged the creation of a new government agency which they claimed to be absolutely essential to maintaining national security, as well as, ensuring the safety of airplane passengers. The Senate voted 100 – 0 to form the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to “…protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”

Apparently the government’s previous attempts at providing security were insufficient. In addition to the FBI, CIA, NSA, Customs, Air Marshals, and Police….Congress decided we needed to create a new protection agency that costs billions of dollars and employs over 50,000 new government bureaucrats. The political mentality regarding airport security might have been summarized best by Senator Tom Daschle when he infamously said, “You can’t professionalize if you don’t federalize!”

Senator Daschle, aware or not, cut right to the core of the issue. I am probably correct to assume the Senator, like most all politicians, truly believes that a society cannot exist “professionally” without a centralized authority directing our every step in all areas of life. However, I’ll limit the scope of the current analysis to the TSA and its protection function. 

Implicit in Senator Daschle’s statement is the assumption that central control by the federal government is required to efficiently and effectively provide the service of “protection” to the people. It is all too readily assumed (by most people) that the free market, though great for satisfying the wants and needs of consumers in other areas, is somehow inept when it comes to providing solutions in the realm of safety and defense. This is a grave misconception. For the same reasons that socialism fails to effectively solve any economic problem, socialized airport security also fails to deliver effective security.

Government Security vs. Free Market Security


It grows tiresome having to defend the merits of the free market, especially to those who claim it is “utopian”. It is far more utopian to take the position that government can efficiently and effectively satisfy the needs and wants of consumers better than the market in any area – including safety, protection, and defense. It is utter nonsense. However, the TSA debacle is another perfect example of government failure, so I will use this opportunity to explain the nature of the problem with which we are dealing.

Achieving a 100% safe environment is not possible. Whether or not we are talking about government security or privatized security, we have to balance a desired level of security with satisfying other wants and needs – such as being allowed to leave the house. Luckily, the question is not an all or nothing: “Do we want 100% security or do we want no security at all?” Rather, the real question is: “How do we maximize the benefits of providing desired airport security at an acceptable level of incurred cost.” In other words, what tradeoffs are we willing to accept?

This is where it starts to get interesting. If the fundamental question is “what tradeoffs are we willing to accept”, the next logical question is “who decides what tradeoffs are acceptable?”

Some people may prefer to pay less money or wait in shorter lines in exchange for increased risk. Other people may prefer to undergo a full body cavity search if it means an increased level of safety or pay more money if it means reduced risk. People balance cost, risk, and safety everyday with decisions they make regarding everything from what kind of car they drive to what kind of food they eat. People have different preferences. But is it the government's role to decide what our preferences should be? Besides, can the government better satisfy consumer preferences than the market?  

An article in the Freeman suggests we, “Free the airlines from the federal government’s stranglehold on security. Let each company determine what works best for its routes, customers, and specific risks. Does anyone seriously believe that politicians and bureaucrats know more about securing planes than pilots and executives who’ve spent their lives in the industry?”

Life is about solving problems and the free market has demonstrated time and time again that it is the best known system for creating solutions to the problems that confront human beings. It does not claim to generate perfect results, but it is the only political and economic system that allows for continual progress and promotes incremental increases in the degree of human flourishing. One of the wonderful conditions of human life is the freedom to choose how we live. Individually, we get to experience the rewards and responsibilities that come along with our choices.

Many people are conditioned to believe that government can provide what is best for the people, but it never does. It never has. Not only is this truly utopian fantasy of social engineering in direct conflict with sound economics, it is in direct conflict with the empirical evidence of all human history. I challenge you to think of a single instance where government encroachment into the marketplace has satisfied the wants and needs of the people more than the individual people would produce if left unhampered to engage in voluntary exchange. The situation becomes especially utopian when the socialist proponents think that central planners, armed with good intentions, know best what the wants and needs of the people should be.

In a free market, customers and airlines vote with their money to determine what kind of security procedures work best to meet their needs. This tends to produce results that satisfy the needs of the people. In a government run system, the customer has no vote. This tends to produce results that satisfy the needs of the government.

Proponents of government intervention want to remove the locus of decision making from the individual and place it in the hands of the all-knowing bureaucrat. They want to force a one- size-fits-all system on a population that has very different preferences. If a bureaucrat can tell you how much security you must accept and pay for, there is no reason they should also not be allowed to dictate what kind of food you eat, what kind of books you read, or what type of religious service you attend. Are adults capable of making their own decisions or do we need a nanny-state holding our hand and looking over our shoulder?

At this point, I’m sure some people are thinking that issues of safety and protection are fundamentally different than food and books. Perhaps in many regards they are, but not when it comes to the fundamental economic laws of human action. In August, AmericanlyYours published a great article on market solutions for the provision of police and fire services. I urge you to read it. The articles addresses the standard arguments used to justify government provision of protection services and outlines how these services might be better provided in the free market. Similar principles apply to the provision of airport security.

When government fails in its duties, it expands its reach. Our government didn’t prevent 9/11, yet they want to expand their oversight powers and expect us to follow them blindly. The security failure that resulted in the 9/11 attacks was a result of ineffective federal regulations. Security screeners (though private contractors) were operating in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) guidance which permitted box cutters aboard planes. These small knives were not in violation of government rules and neither were unlocked cockpit doors.  According to Becky Akers, “Had each airline set its own policies, had it relied on serious security rather than the charade that satisfies political pretenses, 3,000 people might be alive today."

TSA is the perfect example of government program that doesn’t have to answer to customers. If the naked body scanners and full-body groping really were good ideas, we would probably see these practices implemented at schools, shopping malls, and sporting events. (Don’t get any ideas government. I’m not saying it is a good idea.)

The government has control over the present good of force and doesn’t have any long term incentive to satisfy consumer preference. What we get is another government agency that costs the nation billions of dollars in real expense (plus the expense of unforeseen solutions that might have evolved in the unhampered market).

The TSA is no different than any other government program. What we are told is that the government is graciously stepping in to save us from another failure of the free market. In reality, some other government regulation caused the problem in the first place, and what we get as a fix is another unaccountable government agency mired in bureaucracy, inefficiency, and waste. The TSA undermines the protection of the nation's transportation systems while it encroaches on people’s basic freedoms. It should be abolished and the airport security should be 100% privatized for the moral and economic reasons stated above.

But then again, would it be possible to feel safe without Security Theater? The show must go on! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be advised - You may experience significant delays at the airport if you are traveling on Wednesday, 11/24/2010. It is “National Opt-Out” Day. People are trying to organize a massive protest of the new TSA procedures by electing to “opt-out” of the scanner and submit to the full-body pat down in hopes of crippling TSA resources on one of the busiest travel days of the year.


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The material luxuries and basic civil liberties we enjoy as Americans did not always exist in abundance (and still do not exist for most people in the world today). The freedoms we take for granted and the copious wealth to which many of us now feel a strong sense of entitlement are the direct results of a society that held great respect for property rights and the rule of law. The basic concept is the idea that men and women do not exist for the purpose of serving as tools for other people to use as they see fit. This seems to be a very simple concept, but I will repeat it again for emphasis. Men and women do not exist to serve as tools for other people.

Let's think about it another way. Is the purpose of any one man's existence - his reason for having life on earth - is it to be a servant for another man? Does he live only by the permission of other men. I like to think most Americans would say, NO! 

Sometimes it is a useful exercise to step outside of yourself and imagine life in another country...or even a past century. Imagine how people in North Korea might answer. Imagine how someone living 250 years ago (anywhere in the world) might have answered that question. In those societies it was and is accepted as inevitable that the purpose of certain human life is to serve the will of the ruling class. Many of these people may not even be able to imagine what it is like to be free.

Today we all agree that slavery is evil. The thought of forcing someone to work under threat of physical harm is outrageous, but the concept of individual human rights is actually a very recent development in the span of human history. It is so new that it is still not widely understood.

What can we learn about the abolition of slavery? We learn that it didn't happen overnight, and it didn't happen until the ideological foundation was sufficient to support such a drastic societal change. For thousands of years, slavery was an accepted institution in most all cultures. It was only with the discovery of the concept of human rights that the ideological shift began to allow for the permanent abolishing of this gruesome practice from civil society.

In thinking about slavery, and why it is bad, people also start thinking about liberty, and why it is good. By working to end slavery, the classical liberal thinkers began to make the positive case for liberty.

Below is an excerpt from a recent article by Edward Stringham and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel titled First, Ideological Change; Second, Social Change

"Perhaps one of the most stunning historical changes to result from an underlying ideological change in people's preferences was the abolition of chattel slavery. Slavery had been a source of forced labor since the dawn of civilization. People had owned slaves on every continent and for every conceivable task. Slavery, along with such other forms of unfree or quasifree labor as serfdom, debt bondage, involuntary apprenticeship, and indentured servitude, was the unenviable status of most humans prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Although no one liked being a slave, the institution was universally accepted as inevitable if not desirable until the first stirrings of antislavery fervor emerged in the late 18th century. Today, in contrast, we live in a world where the freedom to quit a job at will has become the accepted standard. Slavery may still persist clandestinely, but no ruler, no matter how vile or ruthless, would dare get up and publicly endorse owning another human being.

The abolitionist movement, despite beginning as a minuscule minority in most countries, eliminated in a little over a century a labor system that had been ubiquitous for millennia....The abolition of chattel slavery thus stands as the most impressive and enduring of all of classical liberalism's triumphs."

Read more of from this article, First, Ideological Change; Second, Social Change at Mises.org

For centuries, chattel slavery was popularly accepted in most all societies as inevitable. Similarly, in our society today, we accept the violations of a coercive central government as inevitable. We accept income tax as inevitable. We accept a despotic Federal government that passes new legislation that diminishes individual liberty and encroaches on individual human rights on a daily basis as inevitable.

Rule by a coercive, despotic central government is not inevitable. For the same reason slavery is wrong, our current system of government is wrong. People do not live by permission of government or society. It is immoral to use the force of a central agency to make people work for the benefit of another group. Yet, this is the system most people in the US accept and promote today. We don't like to think of it that way, but that is exactly what it is.

All too often we repeat the slogans and catchphrases of the past without a second thought. It is sometimes helpful to step back and break the bonds of limited thinking. It is then that the real issues and the real solutions become much clearer. Just look at any of the legislation that has come out of Washington in the past 80 years. Most all of it is a strict violation of the principle of human rights. Identify things as they are.

In short, every man and woman has a right to live their life. When this concept is fully understood we can begin to restore America. And it is then, when the ideological shift occurs, the necessary societal changes will become as obvious to future generations as the rejection of slavery is to us today.

I am optimistic liberty will prevail because liberty is right. It is moral. It is good.


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