In Defense of Liberty: Responding to Comments


Thanks to our new reader, Lance, the blog has had an influx of comments on various articles challenging our views.  I figured that instead of answering each comment individually, I’d consolidate it all here in one place and answer everything point by point.  Not every comment was directed at me, so when they’re being directly towards someone else, I’ll discuss them in general terms.

This is where things get fun.  It is great getting comments from people who agree with me, but when someone doesn’t, they make me bear down and think through my thoughts.  And honestly, it’s much easier to write when you’re answering direct questions and/or criticisms.

I apologize for the length, but if you stick it out, I think you’ll find that Lance hit on some good dialogue points.

And just a word or two of qualification before I get started.  My defense of business and markets entails the defense of the rights of the producers and the consumers and how that plays into their interactions.  While I may defend some business practices, that does not mean that I defend or agree with anything and everything that a business does.

So here we go…

The first comment comes from the Right-to-Work article.

To the best of my meagre understanding, before the union in the NHL, players, like cattle, were owned by a team for their entire career. Players made about the same as a factory worker, had to have a summer job, and if they were injured on the job, were cut loose with no recourse or compensation. If they were killed on the job, their families got nothing. Just like the silver mines in Arizona, the meat packing in Chicago, the Canadian National Railway, and every Mexican hacienda still.

Don’t get me wrong, it’d be great if a company paid the family of an injured and killed worker (especially if the company is at fault).  However, when you work for a company, you’re selling your labor to the company.  If you get injured on the job, and it is not the fault of the company (i.e. they didn’t fraudulently make you believe that you were safe or breach a contract), why should they owe you anything?  If there was a contractual agreement made beforehand, that’s a different story.

If a company is hurting its workers, then I do think that it’s a good thing that the workers all quit or threaten to quit unless certain demands are met.  That’s the free market at work.

If you want to take things a step further, make yourself valuable as a worker to the point that your company wants to keep you protected from harm.  Injured and dead workers aren’t exactly good for the bottom line in skilled positions.

Y’all are free to hope that people are generally decent and would normally take care of those around them,

I believe that people are rational beings that use reason to operate in their own self interest.

but history says the exact opposite is the only outcome of every situation where companies are entirely free of government control.

This actually could not be further from the truth.  I would love to see some real examples of this.  Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, one of the typical whipping boys for the “robber barons,” quite literally saved the whales.  The advent of fossil fuels made it unprofitable for people to kill whales for their oil.  He also helped put an end to pollution.  Oil companies at the time were dumping their waste into rivers.  Rockefeller and Standard Oil figured out a way to use that waste to make more products instead of just dumping it.

If you want to point the finger at someone for rape and pillage, look no further than governments.  The trail of Tears, the Holocaust, religious persecutions in the Roman Empire, genocide, etc were all perpetrated by governments.   The list goes on and on.

The success of the internet is largely due to the fact that it was left mostly free.  Computer, cell phone, and other tech companies are successful not because people need their products to live, but because they’ve done a good enough job to make people want to buy their stuff.

Yucatan plantations still employ the situation where kids are responsible for their parent’s debts to the company store, the company does all the accounting, and the courts are owned by the industry directly. Generations of involuntary peonage continue to this day.

I did some quick research on the haciendas.  They do sound pretty bad, there’s no denying that.  Transferring debts onto children and forcing their own courts onto defendants is wrong.  But the lack of government regulation does not guarantee a free market will exist.  The coercive tactics of the haciendas jeopardize the liberty of the workers, and is thus immoral.  In a situation where not everyone has the same liberty, a free society cannot exist.

I don’t know much about Mexican law, but this is reminiscent of slavery in the United States.  In this case, it was legal to own slaves, so the practice was supported by the government.  Still, in a society free of government, evil will still exist.  I don’t claim utopia at all, but just realize that many potential issues that could occur in situations where government has no power have occurred over and over again when there is a strong state set up.

And this says nothing about the environment. Check out what happened with the smelters along the Columbia river circa 1950. On the Canadian side they dumped mercury cadmium and lead, on the US side the native’s rate of cancer went up over 1000x. Think the copper barons did anything for the natives ever? Not a single thing still.

Like I mentioned before, Rockefeller’s innovations helped the environment.  This remains true today with innovation.  As resources become scarce, people will look to get more out of them and waste less.

The Columbia River issue sounds like a case of lack of respect for property rights.  Independent DROs, if they want to keep the trust of their customers, wouldn’t rule in favor of the big companies over the people whose land was polluted.  I did a quick search on the Columbia River.  It seems that the US government was responsible for polluting the river with radiation but never telling anyone for years and years.

If you were to read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”, and after doing so had even a sense that society is in any way better off without unions, for a month I will wear a Flyer’s sweater blazing the name of Ed Snider with a couple bold $$ below.

Like it’s been said, the point isn’t that unions shouldn’t exist, it’s that the way many of them operate today is pretty messed up.  Many unions may have been good 100 years ago, but using that as evidence that they remain good today is like saying the Edmonton Oilers are a great hockey team in 2012 because of their dynasty in the 80s.  That’s absurd.

The next few comments are from the “No Farms, No Food?” post.

The Canadian Wheat Pool was started in the 1950′s (ish, I think). By fixing the price of wheat, they allowed small farmers to sell their grain to China. Without the wheat board, the big buyers would only buy from the big farmers, aka the ones able to fill a train, and the little guys were forced to find small / local buyers. Since Canada produces significantly more than it consumes, there would be no chance for most of the small grain farmers to find any buyer at all. Since the cabbage demand in Saskatchewan could be filled on about 4 square miles, that crop had no chance either, just like broccoli and squash and all other options for local markets.

So they artificially set the price of wheat, which likely made consumers spend more money to put food on the table.  How does increasing food costs beneficial to the individual?

So lets say that Beechnut, Cargill, ADM or Unilever then bought up the land for pennies on the dollar, and converted it all to Monsanto’s GM crops. What choice would be left for the consumer?

It sounds like the choice has already been made by the consumers.  If the small farms can’t generate enough business with their un-genetically modified foods, it means that the consumers don’t want it.  Furthermore, you don’t have the right to dictate to a seller what your choices are.  That is up to the seller to decide on what to supply—or supply what he is able to.  Consumers might really want the choice to be able to purchase cool jetpacks to fight moles, but there’s no supply of them, so it’s currently an impossibility.

The Wheat Pool just got disbanded. Last I heard the average age of a farmer in Saskatchewan is 63. Anyone want to bet on what happens next?

What’s the solution?  Force younger people to farm?  That wouldn’t be right.

The subsidies to farmers dampen the desire to innovate to produce better, cheaper crops on less land since there’s less risk involved.  I see that as a reason why the individual farming industry has gone stale.

New Zealand eliminated farming subsidies.  Here’s what happened there.

In Egypt currently people pay about 40% of their income for food. In Turkey the plebs pay about 75% of their income to rent. Both represent free markets without all that inconvenient government regulation. You’re probably good enough at math to see where this is going.

This is a straight up straw man argument.  Egypt and Turkey represent free markets?  They absolutely do not.  They rank 100th and 73rd on the index of economic freedom.  Furthermore, how do the Egyptians treat the Coptic Christians and how do the Turks treat the Kurds?  Just because a government isn’t regulating an industry does not mean that a free market exists.  How can a free market exist when certain groups of people are subject to rights violations by the government and other groups?  This is the same fallacious argument that Somalia should be considered libertarian paradise.

The solution to the issues you raise that I see starts with campaign finance reform. The #1 issue we face, imo, is to get the money out of the congress. Once the big businesses cannot buy votes, the people in power will be free to vote on what they really believe compared to the dictations of the party whip.

I think you’re trying to treat the symptoms and not the actual disease.  Big business buys votes because they are for sale.  Big business loves big government.  Big government writes favorable laws and regulations that keep competition down.  Eliminate the ability for the government to regulate markets and you’ll eliminate the need for businesses to spend money on government.

With the advent of the Al Gore, each candidate can now make their case for election with no money down. Or, each candidate could be allowed to spend $10 000 (or some random number with open accounting) so creativity and wise use would become obvious. The party system would become irrelevant, or could easily be abolished, and suddenly people would be free to vote according to the will of the constituents (as compared to the will of their contributors).

By limiting how much people spend their money, you’re effectively limiting their free speech.  You might have good intentions, but it’s a dangerous path to use utilitarianism to achieve your goals.

Beyond that, the reintroduction of Glass Stegall, the abolition of the IRS followed by a supply side tax,

A supply side tax would be passed right onto the consumer.

the decentralization of government through community leagues, paper ballots, and open books (online) for all courthouses and government institutions are all easily possible under the current system.

No revolution required. Just 1% of the people acting together to achieve predetermined goals.

Decentralization would be a very good thing.  Local problems are best solved with local solutions.

“How is paying someone $2 per hour theft?”

During the Diaz regime in Mexico (1876 – 1912) the generational land owners discovered a new law requiring them to have legal title, which really meant their mostly untitled land went to auction. Often sold for under $1 per acre, they did not have any currency with which to bid.

Consequently,the Figuero brothers found themselves owning 13 million acres and over 500 000 cows. As for the peasants, they now had new jobs. Since they had no options to work in the paint store, their only choice was to work on the hacienda for whatever wage they were offered. What’s worse, the ones who did have legal title found the government office was often unable to retrieve them. Emiliano Zapata had the where with all to seize control of the office in advance of the auction, then hid the titles off site, and saved the Moraleans of such egregious seizure.

Ah, you are correct, but this was caused by government intervention.  The game was rigged in favor of the people with money.

If I can create an industry where the workers do $20 and I pay them $1, is that theft? Are the workers entitled to the fruits of their labour, or are they only entitled to what I think their fruits are worth? Is it possible to seize equity legally? Of course. Does that mean its not theft?

Yes, it is fundamental that you have the right to the fruits of your labor.  However, when you agree with someone else to sell that labor, you transfer the right to the fruits of your labor for a predetermined payment.  That’s not theft.  That’s a voluntary transaction.

(We are in Phoenix and I have nothing to do. But we did discover a station called Link TV. We saw a documentary on a guy named Gene Sharp. Turns out the forward to his first book was written by Albert Einstein. I haven’t read more than 10 pages yet, if I do get further in and dig it, I’ll send some concepts along. Its about peaceful over throw of dictatorships. After watching their documentary called The Heist of the American Dream (thanks bill clinton) it seems a bit more important than before. If I could have that and RT Network, I’d never need the MSM again.)

Sounds great.  I’d love to hear the ideas in there.  If you give it a good review, I might give it a read (although I’ve got quite a book list as it stands right now!).  As an adherent to the Non-Aggression Principle, the topic sounds very interesting.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
What fun. The book hasn’t riveted me yet. But I’m getting kicks from this blog. We all likely believe that we ourselves would be able to manage freedom well, but historically, when others have received such opportunity, the peasants and environment usually get the shaft. Only because of a Chicago mom and a sympathetic court did GE have to stop dumping CFC’s. Rockefeller the environmentalist? Exxon didn’t make any money dumping oil into the Puget Sound, granted, and they most certainly didn’t make any money cleaning it up. Without government I wonder if BP would have even tried to plug… Read more »
a little aside – The Wheat Pool set a price ceiling as much as it set a price floor. Before its abolition wheat was selling at $2.30 per bushel (about 5 gallons). I don’t think we need cheaper wheat. And the comment about the Monsanto / ADM collusion was intended to be about letting the consumers have a choice and preventing the monopoly. If they bought all the non GM planting seed, then ditched it, followed by the release of only GM wheat, consumers can want the OG, but it wouldn’t really matter because it wouldn’t be for sale. Try… Read more »
Rollo McFloogle
“When Blockbuster entered Canada, they rented movies at $1 per week. After nine months all the other vendors were gone, and the price went up double what we were paying before. I don’t think we need that to happen with farming exactly.” Great monopoly Blockbuster is now. The market brought the money elsewhere. People don’t use Blockbuster anymore because they can use cheaper services that instantly let them watch content anytime and (sometimes depending on the service) anywhere. There’s Netflix, Amazon, On Demand, and I believe that HBO has a streaming service. The market took care of that Blockbuster issue… Read more »