On the Birth Control Mandate

The US Department of Health and Human Services issued new rules regarding an Obamacare birth control mandate.

According to CNN:

The rules would let a broad range of employers — including nonprofits, private firms and publicly traded companies — stop offering contraceptives through their health insurance plans if they have a “sincerely held religious or moral objection,” senior agency officials said on a call about the implementation and enforcement of the new rules.

Republicans want to make this about religious freedom while Democrats want to make this a women’s issue. Naturally, both parties miss the mark. I want to make this an issue of economics and property rights, two things both parties tend to ignore.

Again, from CNN:

The ACLU filed a lawsuit Friday. The organization’s senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri called the administration’s rules “blatantly unconstitutional.”

I’m not so sure the Obamacare mandates were constitutional in the first place! How can it be constitutional to force employers to cover their employee’s health insurance? This is a blatant violation of property rights. Just as I can’t force my neighbor to pay for my health care, neither should the government be able to force people to pay for other’s health care.

Of course, these new rules alarmed many women who have been getting birth control paid for by their employer through insurance. They would have been better off paying out of pocket for their own birth control all along. When a good or service is provided through insurance rather than paying out of pocket, the consumer is less worried about the cost of that good or service. Because insurance companies are covering the costs instead of individuals themselves, drug companies and other health care providers can increase prices. I would expect that the cost of birth control has increased since the mandate took effect. The increase in demand due to the mandate would surely continue to increase prices as more and more women gained access to insurance-covered birth control. So, any women who lose their insurance coverage for birth control will likely pay more out of pocket than if the mandate was never implemented.

The Trump administration is doing a good thing by changing the rules to accommodate for religious freedom. However, the mandate should be completely repealed and everyone should be exempt from being forced to provide insurance for anyone. This would be a start toward dismantling the regulatory monstrosity that is the US health care system.

More liberty is a good thing. If women wish to be free to choose, then they should respect their employer’s right to choose what insurance plan, if any, to provide as a benefit. I mean, nothing says independence and equality like using the state to force your employer to pay for birth control, right?

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5 Reasons why the Left Blames the Gun

Almost immediately after the attack in Las Vegas, some left-leaning politicians and  public figures pushed gun control as a solution to stopping mass violence. Some even tried to argue that Republicans and the NRA are responsible for these continuing tragedies. Here are 5 reasons why the left blames the gun:

  1. Political Points/Popularity/Ratings – Politicians, celebrities, entertainers, media, etc., are all quick to appeal to the populous by making emotional appeals to the gun control agenda in the wake of mass shootings. Regardless of how the individual feels about the issue, these appeals are easy points  for politicians and the media to garner public support. Of course, they can’t resist the opportunity to capitalize on a tragedy.
  2. To Hide the Government Failure – Apparently, Stephen Paddock bought his weapons legally. Many are quick to say that no one could have stopped this. But, wait… I thought the reason for mass surveillance on U.S. citizens was to prevent acts of terrorism and other mass murders like the one in Las Vegas. What good is all the police, military, intelligence, etc., funding if preventing attacks like this one is out of government’s hands? Of course, events hire private security inside the event. In the future, event producers shouldn’t assume the perimeter and nearby areas are secure even though the government is supposed to be responsible for security and defense.
  3. To Remove the Responsibility from Friends and Family – By blaming the gun, leftists can distance the debate from the idea that family plays a larger role in one’s life than the government. By blaming the gun, leftists somewhat remove the blame from the friends and family of the attacker. Whether friends and family ignored or missed warning signs, or if the attacker was influenced by an abusive or neglecting upbringing, blaming the gun puts these issues aside. There is no doubt that government policies have eroded the institution of family. Not only do welfare and other government policies lead to broken families, but children are forced to spend most of their day in government schools, away from family. Just as public school attempts to fill the family’s responsibility of raising children, gun control laws and others attempt to fill the individual’s responsibility of being responsible for themselves and their actions.
  4. To Promote Moral Relativism It is not enough that murder is illegal, we must ban guns as well! This is the implication when you promote moral relativism and deny an objective morality based on self-ownership. The left cannot say that murder is wrong and anyone who does it would face consequences. Rather, they go after the fact that the individual had the liberty to make the bad decision. Of course, most leftists will say that murder is immoral. However, the whole ideology is essentially predicated on the idea that violence is justified against peaceful individuals in certain situations. For example, some leftists will go as far as to say violence is justified to carry out the worker’s revolution and seize the means of production to be owned in common. More often, leftists say violence is justified in collecting taxes to from individuals. Another example is abortion. While most people recognize murder is wrong and that individuals must be held accountable, not the objects they use to carry out the murder, the left must blame the gun.
  5. Remove Responsibility from the Attacker – This ties in with numbers 2, 3, and 4. People on the left were talking about gun control long before any motive has been suggested. This skirts the responsibility from the shooter to the gun.

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Jimmy Kimmel: Reality doesn’t Care about your Feelings

Jimmy Kimmel made another emotional appeal on his show after the tragic event in Las Vegas. Whether he is crying for socialized medicine or gun control, Kimmel needs to realize: Reality doesn’t care about your feelings.

Reason, rationality, and logic must be used when we discuss matters of economics and politics. Two emotionally-charged issues that frequently come up in the media are health care and gun control. All the crying in the world cannot reconcile the facts that gun control doesn’t work and that socialism doesn’t work.

First, to address the universal health care delusion. Nothing on earth is free. We live in a world of scarcity. There are limited resources to be used to reach desired ends or goals. Universal health care does not address this. Implementing universal health care doesn’t change the reality that we live in a world of scarcity.

Because resources are scarce, they must be rationed in some way. Resources are rationed in markets by prices. Highly-demanded goods in low supply are more expensive so as to ration the available supply. For example, surgeries performed by a specialist will cost more money than a routine check-up. Prices help ensure that scarce resources be allocated efficiently. Because of the high price, less people will demand that good or service.

If medicine becomes socialized, it is “free” in that there are no prices for consumers. However, there must still be a rationing mechanism. In a universal health care system, goods and services are rationed by the government instead of by prices like in a market economy. So, rather than being in control of you and your family’s future, the government decides who gets what health care at what time. Of course, people would feel less compelled to stay healthy if they aren’t bearing the costs of their healthcare and there are  other problems with universal health care. Unfortunately, these concerns aren’t addressed by the weeping leftists on TV. This shouldn’t be surprising. Jimmy Kimmel is an entertainer whose job is to entertain and keep people watching, not bust people’s bubble regarding their utopian delusions.

Murder is illegal, but that doesn’t stop people from committing murder. As we can see in the UK and elsewhere around the globe, banning guns and other weapons doesn’t prevent violence. Rather, it only ensures that good-willed people won’t be able to defend themselves. Criminals don’t care about gun laws. They buy them illegally or steal them. Or, they use knives, automobiles, acid, etc., instead. The reality is that bad people will do bad things regardless of the law. Disarming the good people doesn’t prevent bad people from doing bad things.

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Video: Who Created Money?

The Austrian School of economics offers us great insight to the question: who or what created money?

Video Notes
  • Carl Menger, founder of the Austrian School of economics, theorized how money came to be in his work, “On the Origins of Money,” published in 1892.
  • Most people tend to assume money was invented or created by some king or some government at some point in history.
  • Menger debunked this idea. For one, he figured that an event so historic as the creation of money would surely have been documented and celebrated. We can see ancient monuments dedicated to the institution of laws or language, but we don’t see ancient monuments dedicated to the institution of money.

  • Menger’s subjective value theory gave him insight into why money wasn’t created by a king or government, but was a result of spontaneous order among people.
  • Money is useful as a medium of exchange because it has purchasing power. So, if a government tried to introduce a medium of exchange to a barter system, they would have to set the exchange rate for various goods and arbitrarily set the purchasing power of the money. It is unlikely that a medium of exchange would become universally accepted and become money, if its purchasing power were arbitrarily set by a government.
  • Menger understood that for something to become money, it must have some preexisting purchasing power. In a barter system, media of exchange would be introduced spontaneously by people over time to facilitate transactions.
  • In a barter system, exchanges can only take place when there is a double coincidence of wants. That is, 2 people want exactly what the other has and an exchange can take place.
  • The introduction of media of exchange is what brought civilization beyond a barter system and led to the creation of money. Over time, the less marketable goods being used as media of exchange would be used less and less until there was one universally acceptable medium of exchange which is money.
  • Historically, this has been gold and silver. These 2 metals have long been demanded as money because of their physical properties that make them very useful as media of exchange.

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Video: Minarchists Want World Government


Video Notes



  • Minarchy refers to limited government, whereas anarchy refers to no government.
  • Minarchists attempt to justify the need for a state in various ways. However, I think their arguments have unintended implications.
  • One argument that minarchists try to make is that because people don’t always do the right thing or behave morally, there must be a central authority or government to uphold law created by that government. They are essentially claiming that interactions between individuals must be governed by a third party to maintain order in society.
  • So, if minarchists are to be consistent, they should want to have a central authority or government over the individual nations of the world. If a government is required to maintain order between individuals, then why wouldn’t a world government be required to maintain order between countries?
  • The countries of the world are certainly in a state of “anarchy” as there is no central authority uniting of them.
  • Minarchists who believe in secession are inconsistent because if a state can secede from a union, then why not a county? Why not a city? Why not a community? And lastly, why not the individual?
  • The point of this video isn’t to further divide minarchists and anarchists, but to understand that we really share the common goal of limiting government. If limited government is better than big government, why shouldn’t no government be better than little government?
  • Of course, I would much prefer to live under a minimal government than the monster of a state that we have now. But, I prefer to advocate for the privatization of everything from policing to the courts system.
  • Read my article at LessonsInLiberty.net on public and private institutions to learn more about how private and public institutions operate differently.

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Policing, Calculation, and Free Markets

A recent incident involving a hot dog vendor on the UC Berkley campus should make people question how policing works in the U.S. How would policing work in free markets and what insights can we draw from Mises’s work regarding calculation and socialism?

According to a statement from Public Affairs at UC Berkeley:

“We have instructed our officers to monitor illegal vending outside our event venues. This action has been motivated at least in part by issues of public health, the interests of local small businesses and even human trafficking. In addition, while I cannot comment on the specifics of this particular case, our practice is to issue warnings before giving a citation. In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence.”

From the FAQ’s in the same statement:

“$60 was seized as evidence of the suspected proceeds of the violation and booked into evidence. There were no other items taken as evidence.”

Well, at least they didn’t take the poor guy’s hot dog cart. In all seriousness, are incidents like this one really worth the police resources and time? Should police be cracking down on so-called “crimes” in which there is no victim to be compensated? Would resources be allocated toward fighting victimless “crimes” in a free market?

This article by Tate Fegley, 2016 Mises Institute Fellow, helps answer these questions by applying the socialist calculation problem to policing. Fegley explains the calculation problem:

“Mises’s argument was that without private property in the means of production, there can be no market prices for capital goods and therefore no way of calculating the opportunity costs of using capital goods to produce certain goods instead of others. The decisions of central planners of what to produce and by what means would be arbitrary and chaotic.”

Public policing is an example of how central planners’ decisions are mostly arbitrary and are not based in consumer demand like private institutions are. Because police departments don’t have profit and loss mechanisms to tell them the opportunity costs of operating one way versus another, resources allocated to public policing are likely to be wasted on things of which there is no consumer demand.

Fegley states:

“Because government policing is provided bureaucratically, without market prices and profit and loss, there is no way for police to know whether they have allocated resources to their most highly valued uses. Instead of consumers determining what problems police focus on, bureaucrats and politicians decide.”

Public and private institutions operate very differently. If policing were done privately, there wouldn’t be consumer demand to prosecute victimless “crimes” like drug laws, unlicensed food vending, selling untaxed cigarettes, etc. In a free market, policing would likely only enforce crimes of people’s property and/or person such as theft, assault, rape, trespass, murder, etc.

Fegley gives a good example:

“Three days prior to the death of Eric Garner, who died shortly after his arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes, New York governor Cuomo’s website bragged about how much revenue his Cigarette Strike Force had generated. It is highly doubtful that the citizens of New York demanded that the NYPD allocate resources to tobacco tax enforcement.”

Not only is the prosecution of victimless “crimes” not demanded by consumers (who would be willing to pay for police to crack down on so-called “crimes” that have no impact on them whatsoever?) but, prosecuting victimless crimes is incentivized because of the ability of the police to seize property from citizens.

Fegley continues:

“Just like everyone else, police respond to incentives. According to economist Bruce Benson, the War on Drugs did not really start to escalate into what we know it as today until Congress passed the 1984 Crime Control Act, allowing police to take a cut of the revenue from drug crime through civil asset forfeiture. Benson found in Florida, as did many others replicating his study elsewhere, that when police allocate more resources to drug enforcement, they use fewer resources to defend property, and property crime goes up.”

It is in the interest of police departments to allocate resources fighting victimless “crimes” such as drug offenses. Money, cars, homes, etc., can be seized by the police department and used as revenue for the department. The first step in police reform is to remove civil asset forfeiture and decriminalize all non-violent and victimless “crimes.”

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Tragedy of the Commons

The “tragedy of the commons” illustrates the fundamental differences between the effects of public and private property ownership.

“If land is not owned by anybody, although legal formalism may call it public property, it is utilized without any regard to the disadvantages resulting. Those who are in a position to appropriate to themselves the returns — lumber and game of the forests, fish of the water areas, and mineral deposits of the subsoil — do not bother about the later effects of their mode of exploitation. For them the erosion of the soil, the depletion of the exhaustible resources and other impairments of the future utilization are external costs not entering into their calculation of input and output. They cut down the trees without any regard for fresh shoots or reforestation. In hunting and fishing they do not shrink from methods preventing the repopulation of the hunting and fishing grounds.” – Ludwig Von Mises (Human Action)

The “tragedy of the commons” is the lack of incentive for individuals to maintain the quality, quantity, standard, etc., of a publicly owned resource. Something that is publicly owned is not owned by a single individual and everyone has equal access to it. This is opposed to private ownership where a single individual has the right to exclusive access. There is no reason for users of a publicly owned resource to be careful about how they use that resource because there is no guarantee that the resource won’t be destroyed or used up by the rest of the public. No one has any interest in maintaining a resource they cannot have exclusive access to.

 

For example, if you go to the movies with a date and split a soda, it is commonly owned between the two of you. If you each buy your own soda, your sodas are your own private property. If you and your date are extremely thirsty, how will these two scenarios play out? If you split one soda between two thirsty people, they will drink it without much regard for how much they are each consuming. Because you can’t limit your date’s consumption of the common resource, it is in your interest to consume as much as you can before your date consumes a majority of the resource.

If you each get your own sodas, you each have exclusive access to your own sodas and can consume in a more appropriate fashion rather than trying to drink it all before your date does. In a world of scarcity, resources to be conserved are best owned privately rather than publicly. This way, there is a sole owner who is responsible for and has an interest in maintaining the standard of that resource.

 

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The Non-Aggression Principle

Non-aggression is always preferable to aggression…

Many libertarians are familiar with the non-aggression principle (NAP), though not all really understand what it means. In this context, aggression means any trespass of anyone’s person or property. For those who aren’t familiar, the NAP is akin to the Golden Rule that many can remember being taught as children. The Golden Rule is to treat others how you want to be treated. I define the non-aggression principle like this: Non-aggression is always preferable to aggression. The NAP isn’t a rule that all must follow for there to be a libertarian utopia. Rather, it is a philosophical axiom that is essential to understanding libertarian ethics.

Non-aggression is always preferable to aggression. This is undoubtedly true. To argue against the validity of the NAP is to choose a non-aggressive solution. If two people wish to resolve the question of if the NAP is a valid axiom, it is always preferable for them to act non-aggressively. This isn’t my opinion, but is logically necessary. It is impossible to resolve an argument by using violence. To resolve an argument requires finding an agreed upon answer, even if that answer is agreeing to disagree. If the goal is to resolve the question of whether the NAP is a valid axiom, only non-aggressive behaviors can be preferable. Using aggression, like violence, cannot be said to be preferable in this case because it does not arrive at an agreement.

This doesn’t mean that people don’t prefer to act aggressively in certain situations. Everyone has individual preferences, but non-aggression is universally preferable. In other words, aggression cannot be universally preferable because that would mean everyone would prefer aggressing against others as well as being aggressed on. It is absurd to imagine such a world where aggression is universally preferable.

So, non-aggression must be universally preferable to aggression. It follows that people living in a free and peaceful society would clearly demonstrate the existence of the NAP. They would prefer voluntary interactions, associations, and exchanges rather than coercive or forceful interactions, associations, and exchanges. For private individuals, the NAP is usually observed in our society. People tend to trade rather than steal. However, governments are only able to act aggressively. Everything governments have, they have only at the expense of taxpayers or other victims of expropriation.

If you accept non-aggression as a universally preferable behavior, you must reject the state. Any state that can be funded voluntarily isn’t a state at all, but would in fact become a business. Logically, libertarians must be anarchists.

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