Americanly Yours

Promoting Free Markets, Free Trade, and Freedom!

In Praise of Edward Snowden

March 10, 2014 By: Phred Category: Uncategorized

Many people including President Obama have said that what Edward Snowden did was wrong because he should have complained to his managers before going public.  Well he did.  Ten times.  And he was ignored ten times.  He could have sat back and let this evil continue.  He could have complained an eleventh time and then a twelfth time…and eventually a two hundredth time, but it would have never made a difference.

So, rather than sitting back and doing nothing, he came forward with what he knew.  He defended his country against an egregious abuse of authority committed by the State–and for that he is a hero.  He risked his life by single-handedly standing up to the most powerful government in the history of the world and telling the world that what was happening was not right.

John Stuart Mill once said “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”  Well, Edward Snowden looked on, but had the courage to not do nothing.

Sanctions Kill

March 04, 2014 By: Phred Category: Uncategorized

Some people are calling for the US and EU to place sanctions on Russia for its deplorable actions in Ukraine. This is probably the worst thing that the US and EU can do about this situation without resorting to nuclear war. Sanctions are an act of war and should be opposed by all peace loving people.

Sanctions kill.

The Bush-Clinton-Bush sanctions in Iraq are just one example of how horrible of a policy sanctions can be. These sanctions killed an unknown but extremely high number of people. Sanctions also do not punish the offenders in the regime: rather they punish the innocent people who are already suffering under an oppressive regime. Estimates range from around 170K to around 600K or more children who were killed by these sanctions. I am willing to bet that not one of these children was a high ranking government official. In contrast: as terrible, as immoral, and as violent as the Iraq War was, estimates of civilian deaths range from around 100K to around 600K. In other words, sanctions killed as many or more people than did a massive military invasion followed by a bloody civil war.

Besides all this, some estimates put Putin’s personal wealth at $70 billion. Do you think that sanctions are more likely to hurt him or impoverished Russians?

Why Mandating Coverage For Preexisting Conditions Is Morally Wrong

July 16, 2012 By: Phred Category: Uncategorized

Despite overall disapproval with President Obama’s health care law, many of its provisions remain popular.  Perhaps the most popular provision in the law is one that prevents insurance companies from discriminating against customers based on “preexisting conditions.”  The logic is relatively simple at first glance: people with debilitating conditions will not be able to get coverage at affordable prices unless Congress mandates that insurance companies cannot discriminate against those with a preexisting condition.

We all know someone with a preexisting medical condition, be it cancer, diabetes, or pregnancy.  The fact that we all know someone who currently has or previously has had a preexisting condition is one reason why this provision is so popular.  After all, it is difficult to argue with someone who uses the emotional appeal of an aunt with cancer or a single pregnant woman who is uninsured.  Emotional appeals can be used to “justify” any side of any issue but they cannot prove anything.  Preexisting conditions can be tragically sad and are often not the fault of anyone, be it the victim or society as a whole.

There is a very important question that we must ask before we decide whether or not such a provision is a good idea: is it appropriate to punish someone who has done nothing wrong?

This is a very serious question.  If we decide that it is appropriate to punish someone who has committed no wrong, then we must not only answer why it is appropriate to punish the innocent, but who should punish the innocent and how severely they should be punished for their non-wrongs.

I do not see how any rational person who has thought about this question can decide that it is morally acceptable to punish a person who has done nothing wrong.

Therefore, if it is not appropriate to punish someone who has done nothing wrong, then we must absolutely reject the idea of Congress mandating that insurance companies not discriminate against those with preexisting conditions.  The reason for this is simple: forcing insurance companies to provide “affordable” coverage for those with preexisting conditions must result in increased costs for those of us without preexisting conditions.

Insurance is a vehicle which prices and protects against risk.  This is usually done by assigning people with similar characteristics to “risk pools” and charging them similar premiums.  In a free market for health insurance, 35 year old male smokers residing in the Chicago area who are overweight and have type 2 diabetes are likely to be placed in the same pool and will be charged the same or a similar monthly premium.  Under a system where insurance companies are prevented from discriminating against those with preexisting conditions, the previous group is merged with the group of 35 year old male smokers residing in the Chicago area who are overweight but do not have type 2 diabetes.  While this will result in lower premiums for those with type 2 diabetes, it will result in higher fees for those without the disease.

In other words, while preventing insurance companies from discriminating against those with preexisting conditions sounds like a noble idea, it ends up punishing those who have done no wrong.

I am sorry if you have a preexisting medical condition, I truly am, but unless you can conclude that your preexisting condition is my fault, you have absolutely no moral right to punish me for your condition.

Trayvon Martin Was NOT Killed By The Free Market

April 05, 2012 By: Phred Category: Uncategorized

The premature loss of any human life is tragic. I do not know whether Trayvon Martin death was or was not racially motivated. I do not know whether George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood or in self defense. In the final analysis Mr. Zimmerman is the only living person who knows exactly what happened that night.

I have my suspicions and I would be willing to share them with you later, but the purpose of this article is not to solve the mystery of what was going through Mr. Zimmerman’s head the night of Mr. Martin’s death; the purpose here is to refute claims that Mr. Martin’s death was somehow caused or enabled by anti-government sentiments. His death is not an example of renegade free market law run wild and this unfortunate incident should not be used as evidence of need for more government restriction on individual liberty.

Rutgers law professor David Troutt recently wrote an editorial in Politico in which he placed the ultimate responsibility for Mr. Martin’s death on “the invisible intersection of racial hatred and hating government,” as well as on “the extremes of privatization.” He further claimed that “hating government allows this to happen. It helps pass laws that put too much power in private hands while penalizing government for performing traditional duties like crime investigation.“

Mr. Troutt is absolutely wrong to condemn privatization and the market for causing the death of Mr. Martin.

First of all, there is not a free market system of private law which dominates in America. The American system, including that in use in Florida is a centralized bureaucratic system of law which is generated through the political system. Law is created by legislators, interpreted by judges, and enforced by an executive branch which includes police officers, justice departments, attorneys general, and so on. Jurors are conscripted from the general public and forced to participate in the legal process. In any given area, one local police department has monopoly jurisdiction over the handling of crimes committed in that area. Competitive policing agencies are non-existent: victims have no say which police department handles their case. The constituent parts of government justice systems are monopolies in which competition is not allowed and the price system cannot properly function. If a person is unhappy with the police or courts in their area, there is nothing that they can do about it short of moving to a different jurisdiction and hoping for better results.

This is a far stretch from a private legal system which is advocated by many libertarians. Under a private legal system, law would be created by competing agencies and would be adhered to voluntarily by individuals who sought protection from the various agencies. In a private legal system, law is not created through “legislation” (at least not in the current usage of the word), law is created contractually, or through the ruling of common law courts and arbitration societies. If an agency creates laws which coercively restrict the freedom of their clients, they will likely lose profits when their clients switch to a competing agency. It is likely that the providers of free-market law would resemble insurance companies, with their global networks, reinsurance contracts, teams of actuaries and underwriters, contracts and peaceful business dealings with competing insurance firms, etc.

It is clear that no such system operates in the United States of America. Mr. Troutt is simply taking the route most preferred by modern academics: blame “capitalism,” the market, deregulation, and radical privatization for all of society’s problems without either defining any of these terms or recognizing that capitalism is not a feature of the American economy.

Mr. Troutt also makes the claim that “laws that abdicate government responsibility in favor of personal ideas of justice often lead to unintended consequences.”

The author’s rhetorical trick has the effect of making the argument that only these types of laws have unintended consequences, while laws which increase government power are magically exempt from the possibility of creating unintended consequences. Furthermore, by making this comment, the author ignores the fact that all government legislation necessarily entails the abdication of individual liberty in favor of increased government power, and that this guarantees unintended consequences as well.

Yes, George Zimmerman was a member of the neighborhood watch program, but that hardly means that the market itself is responsible for his actions. Police officers kill unarmed civilians all the time—and no this fact does not in any way make what happened to Mr. Martin OK–but I suspect that Mr. Troutt has never argued that laws which protect police officers from immediate arrest are examples of bad legislation.

Mr. Zimmerman’s neighborhood watch duties were in the context of a governmental legal system. It was the government, not the market which passed the Stand Your Ground law which Mr. Troutt opposes. It was the government, not the market which released Mr. Zimmerman without charging him with a crime or holding him for questioning.

Troutt argues that “The Sanford police evidently conducted little investigation — relying instead on Zimmerman’s account.” Notice that the failure was not a market failure, but rather a government failure: it was the Sanford Police Department who allegedly botched the investigation, not the Acme Protective Services Corporation or any other privately run firm.

Mr. Troutt has issues with the “Stand Your Ground Law” which grants legal protection to those using deadly force to defend themselves against what they perceive to be a threat on their lives.

The author is correct to oppose laws which grant special protection to some people (ie, Stand Your Ground gives special protection to those who claim self defense), but he is wrong to argue that Stand Your Ground is a market reform. Stand Your Ground is a government intervention which, as pointed out about, inevitably leads to unintended consequences. Ludwig von Mises noted that statists tend to ignore the root cause of these consequences (the intervention itself) and call for further interventions. The process repeats itself as each new wave of interventions leads to worse and worse consequences and further interventions to combat these consequences.

Mr. Troutt’s article is offensive to defenders of freedom because of its implications; an unarmed teen was killed by a member of a neighborhood watch group and Mr. Troutt’s first reaction is to propose restricting freedom. Whether Mr. Zimmerman sought to murder Mr. Martin or whether this was an honest mistake, we do not know whether Mr. Zimmerman had even heard of the Stand Your Ground law before he shot Mr. Martin. We also do not know whether he would have acted any differently had no such law been in place. This makes it highly unlikely that Mr. Martin is dead because of the existence of that law or that repealing that law a few months ago would have saved Mr. Martin’s life.

If Mr. Zimmerman was a cold blooded killer on the prowl, he would have shot Mr. Martin regardless of whether or not Stand Your Ground was in effect. Killers kill people with disregard to the law. Hence the existence of murder even though it remains unlawful.

Conversely, if Mr. Zimmerman shot Mr. Martin in self defense as he claimed, he would have done that regardless of the existence of Stand Your Ground. When people feel that their live is being threatened, they tend to take whatever action the deem to be necessary to save themselves. They certainly do not tend to think about whether an action is legal or illegal before they act to save their own lives.

Under any system of law, there will always be people who commit murders, rapes, and other crimes. This is true of a free market system as well as of a totalitarian system. Those who use events like Mr. Martin’s death to advocate against individual liberty and for greater government control should think hard about what they are doing. Centralized governments have a horrendous track record with regards to human rights including murdering. In the last century alone, well over 100 million people were killed by governments, while the number killed by individuals is a tiny fraction of this number.

It is important to remember that a child is dead. This tragedy was not caused by advocates of the free market or by efforts at privatization. The goal of law is to achieve justice, to the maximum extent humanly possible. The Stand Your Ground law which led to Mr. Zimmerman’s release was a government intervention designed to grant special privileges to those claiming self-defense. If anything, this tragedy was not caused by the free market, but by the lack thereof.

Just Doing Their Job?

July 03, 2011 By: Phred Category: Uncategorized

Originally published on  Please feel free to comment here or there.

One of the arguments often used to defend poorly behaving police is the claim that they are “just doing their jobs.” This is such an absurdly silly argument that I am surprised that ANYONE takes it seriously.

I will not spend much time addressing the typical response to this most typical of arguments.  This response is the claim that the Nazi’s were also just doing their jobs too when they participated in the mass slaughter of innocents.  Yes, this argument is 100% true, but it hardly seems relevant in the America of today.  Furthermore, using arguments like this may lead us to fail in our attempts to convince others to fight against the arbitrary use and abuse of police power.

Agents of the Gestapo and the SS were indeed following orders when they committed their atrocities, however in many cases, they were forced under threats of violence or death to carry out these acts.  Often times people killed innocent people to prevent from being killed.  This does not in any way excuse these people or these acts, but it does provide us with some kind explanation for why some of these men participated in evil acts.

In America, the situation is different.  Yes, the United States government continually uses force and coercion against its subjects in order to get us to act according to their desires, but America is still a voluntary society in one important manner.  In America, people are not forced to accept jobs that they do not voluntarily choose to take.  This does not mean that we are all employed in jobs that are our first choices, and it does not mean that government acts of coercion have not prevented us from starting new businesses or being employed in the field of our choice.  However, there is no longer a military draft in America and we are still free to reject offers of employment for any reason whatsoever.

This is the key fact which makes the argument that police are “just following orders” or “just doing their job” so absurd.  The police officer who arrests kidnaps a person and throws them into a prison cage with rapists and murderers  for the “crime” of growing a plant marijuana is indeed following orders from his commanders when he makes said arrest.  However, no one forced the officer to become an officer.  He did not have to choose a career which he knew would lead him to cage humans for participating in victimless activities.  Most importantly, he does not fear that his superiors will hurt or kill him if he does not commit acts of violence against civilians.  We should have no sympathy for the officer who is ridiculed when he body slams a manwho is doing nothing but silently and calmly dancing in protest at the Jefferson Memorial, and we certainly should not defend him by arguing thaty he was just doing his job by enforcing the “law.”

In America, we have the right to refuse to be employed by a certain employer if we do not like the tasks that this employer asks us to undertake.  This right is not a secret; every one knows this.  No one is pointing a gun at police officers telling them they have to do things that they do not want to do–in fact, it is usually the police officer pointing a gun at an innocent person and forcing him or her to do things they do not want to do. It says a lot about a person’s character if that person willingly seeks out a job that will lead him to use violence and threats against peaceful people.

Next time someone gets righteous with you and informs you that some police officer was “just doing his job” when he used undue force to subdue a harmless individual, remind this person that the officer chose this job and if he truly did not want to be harming people, he is free to quit at any time.

A Solution

One of the big problems with coercive monopolies is that the providers of protection (police) do not have to answer to their customers. Costs go up, quality of customer service goes down. A tendency towards reducing crime statistics and increasing arrests arises. The problem today with police initiating force is only one of many symptoms of the larger problem: coercive government monopoly of services.

It is perfectly normal for people to aspire to go into the business of protection. People that put themselves in harms way to protect and defend should be praised and compensated accordingly.  However, there is no reason why this service cannot be provided privately and funded on voluntarily. In such a system, people who commit so-called “victimless crimes” would no longer be targets for arrest.  Furthermore, officers who abused their powers would be held liable for any harm that they have done.

To quote John Hasnas (page 35):

“If a visitor from Mars were asked to identify the least effective method for securing individuals’ persons and property, he might well respond that it would be to select one group ofpeople, give them guns, require all members of society to pay them regardless of the quality ofservice they render, and invest them with the discretion to employ resources and determine lawenforcement priorities however they see fit subject only to the whims of their political paymasters. If asked why he thought that, he might simply point to the Los Angeles or New Orleans or anyother big city police department. Are government police really necessary for a peaceful, securesociety? Look around. Could a non-political, non-monopolistic system of supplying policeservices really do worse than its government-supplied counterpart?”


Americanly Yours,

Phred Barnet