amagi (liberty) [blog]

This is the archive for Liberty.

  • Day 309 – Dr. Richard Ebeling

    Tonight, Richard Ebeling travelled to Hillsdale to give a thought-provoking and engaging lecture, titled “Why the Berlin Wall Came Down and Socialism Failed: Ludwig von Mises and the Power of Ideas.”

    Dr. Ebeling is a prolific author, former president of the Foundation for Economic Education, and professor of economics at many different institutions, including Hillsdale from 1988-2003. In 1996, he and his wife, Anna Ebeling, obtained the lost papers of Ludwig von Mises, which had been kept in a formerly secret KGB archive in Moscow for 50 years. Dr. Ebeling is now on the faculty at Northwood University in Midland, MI.

    If you are interested in what Dr. Ebeling had to say tonight, read this article he wrote yesterday.

  • Day 308 – Articles to Read

    Have some spare time (unlike me)?

    Read these articles. They are very good. I had to read three of them recently for class, and the fourth I came across a little over a week ago.

    Menger: On the Origins of Money (PDF)
    Hayek: The Use of Knowledge in Society (PDF)
    Horwitz: Subjectivism (Google Book)
    Buchheit: Applied Philosophy, a.k.a. “Hacking” (HTML)

    I apologize for the lack of new photos and decent thoughts this week. I plan to get out and take some photos this weekend, when I won’t have more exams hanging over my head.

    The only worthwhile thought I have right now (worthwhile to this blog, that is) is that you should not trust the hype about the 3.5% increase in GDP last quarter. Do some research and see where it actually came from. I will give you a hint: Individuals’ consumption levels stayed roughly the same, investment stayed roughly the same, and net exports roughly stayed the same. What changed? Government spending! Does this mean things are getting better? No. In fact, unemployment went up last quarter.
    Beware of Christina Romer going on national news and trying to convince you that things are a lot better since GDP went up 3.5%. “It just ain’t so!”

  • Day 302 – Patri Friedman at Hillsdale

    Tuesday, political theorist, activist, former Google engineer, and World Series of Poker player Patri Friedman came to Hillsdale to give a talk on structural activism and seasteading. Friedman is the founder of The Seasteading Institute, whose mission is “to further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous ocean communities, enabling innovation with new political and social systems.”

    He gave a very interesting talk on structural activism and the seasteading movement. The talk was the culmination of his past few years of thought on how to change political structures in order to maximize freedom in a society while still maintaining the stability of that society. While significant work has been done on how to set up political systems to preserve a high level of freedom and stability while minimizing coercion, little –if any– work has been done on how to actually get to political systems like this. Until now. That’s where Friedman comes in.

    Does this interest you? If so, check out Friedman’s essay from April on the topic of structural activism and why he thinks it is the only way to make systematic changes that will lead us to a realistically freer world in our lifetime. The essay is basically an outline of what he spoke about on Tuesday night. Also check out Let A Thousand Nations Bloom.

  • Day 274 – Flavored Cigarette Ban

    Apparently the government decided to cast its oppressive shadow over more of America and ban flavored cigarettes.

    I don’t smoke, so it took me a week and a half to hear about this. This ban is garbage. I have a feeling that the FDA is just getting started with its regulations. Since a lot of people have a negative view of smoking, this was probably pretty easy to push through Congress. The oppressors legislators probably gave speeches about how smoking is ruining the health of Americans and how we need to do something about the number of young people starting to smoke.

    I venture to say that the ban has very little to do with trying to stop kids from smoking and almost everything to do with finding an excuse to regulate the tobacco industry. I asked some of my smoker friends if they started smoking flavored cigarettes, or if they knew anyone who did. None of them started with flavored cigarettes or knew anyone who did. Most of them have tried cloves, but thought they were gross. Granted, this is a small sample, but I think this might hold for a lot of the youth in America. Furthermore, flavored cigarettes are more expensive, which is a huge drawback for young smokers. Think of what kind of beer young people primarily drink – Natural Light. Why? It is dirt cheap. For the most part, young smokers are not going to routinely buy more expensive flavored cigarettes. They are going to buy the cheap stuff.

    Also, if the regulators really thought that flavored tobacco is what lures young people to smoke, why is every kind of flavored tobacco besides cigarettes untouched? I know a number of people who started smoking different kinds of cheap cigars (Black & Milds), then turned to regular cigarettes.

    Again, just so I am clear, I don’t smoke, and I don’t think other people should smoke. That said, I do NOT want to use the government in any way to force people to stop. The government reaching out its oppressive hands and regulating industries does far more harm than possible good, even in this situation.

    Here is what I predict will happen:
    There won’t be a statistically significant change in the number of young people who start smoking.
    –When the FDA figures this out, it will roll out more regulations under the guise of “protecting” America’s youth.
    Smokers of flavored cigarettes will switch over to flavored cigars or flavored pipe tobacco, or roll their own cigarettes, if the flavor is what they are really after.
    –With the increased usage of other types of flavored tobacco, more regulations will come.

    Since the The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is a blanket regulation that leaves the possibility open of fully regulating the tobacco industry, I predict that we will see more and more tobacco regulations coming in the next two years. (I say two years because I think the government is inefficient and it will take them a little while to get around to it, luckily.)

    Do you think I am overreacting? It is just a little ban for the common good, right? Wrong. The door of regulation is now wide open. In the last year, Congress managed to move its way from regulating the financial sector to the auto industry, and now they gave the FDA the right-of-way to even more closely regulate what Americans consume.

    Americans, hold on to your freedoms while you can. I fear that it won’t be long before most of them are gone.

  • Day 251 – “Cleaned By Capitalism”

    Starting on Earth Day in 2004, Don Boudreaux at did a series of posts titled “Cleaned by Capitalism”. These posts display low cost pollution-fighting technology that capitalism has brought the world. He only did a few posts in 2004, but in the last couple months, he has made a lot more posts displaying how capitalism cleans our lives.

    Check out the archives of these posts. They are really interesting, and usually things we take for granted, but would not have if it were not for capitalism!

  • Day 226 – Three Lessons of Freedom

    In this interview with, the Foundation for Economic Education’s President, Larry Reed, gave three lessons of freedom we are in danger of forgetting:

    1. Government can provide you with absolutely nothing except that which it has first taken from somebody else.

    2. A government big enough to give you want you want, is big enough to take everything you have.

    3. A free people are not economically equal, and an economically equal people are not free.

    On an unrelated note, I saw a young eagle today, perching in a tree outside of the Akin family’s house. Here is a quick shot I took right before it flew off:

  • Day 220 – Philosophical vs Utilitarian Arguments

    Brad and I drove up to his house on Chautauqua Lake this morning. On the way, we discussed some of the recent health care issues taking place in this country. (We also discussed various other things, but that is not the topic of this post.) While discussing the arguments against the health care reforms and how effective these arguments are, I was reminded of the importance of using philosophical arguments to win these types of battles.

    Though utilitarian arguments are useful for certain situations, I think individuals defending liberty ought to seldom use them. Most utilitarian arguments are single-use, since they are special tailored to each situation. If you are going for a one time, quick win, utilitarian arguments can be very useful and the statistical evidence can be easily shown to everyone. Defenders of liberty, however, need to focus their arguments a little more long-term. The downside to using utilitarian arguments is that, because they are tailored to each situation, one might need many additional arguments in the future for all the new situations that arise. “You’ve won the battle, but not the war” seems to fit this–a utilitarian argument shows why one should support/oppose X but usually says little to nothing about all situations similar to X but with different particulars.

    Philosophical arguments, on the other hand, strike at the root of the issue. If one can convince others that X is wrong on philosophical grounds, other arguments in the future on issues with similar foundations can be avoided. Instead of convincing people that your position on a single issue is correct, you can convince them that your philosophical outlook is correct and it will cover a whole range of issues.

    As for arguing against the proposed healthcare reform, instead of attacking it as costly and poorly designed, defenders of liberty should try to convince people using one of these arguments or something similar:

    Using coercion to justify and fulfill one’s preferences is wrong.
    Stealing money from individuals to support other individuals is wrong.

    Of course, there are many other ways to argue against the proposed health care reform. Here is a good article I recently read from the Center for a Stateless Society on a market anarchist approach to health care.