Tag Archives: libertarians

WIKIPEDIA IS NO PLACE FOR OPEN DISCUSSION

Prove your arrogance and stupidity by wearing a shirt that shows which economic religion you follow.

Prove your arrogance and stupidity by wearing a shirt that shows which economic religion you follow.

Those of you mired in the teaching world may or may not be familiar with the so-called “Austrian School” of economics. Turgidly, the “Austrian School” holds that markets are perfect and the government should stay out of them so that they can work their magic. There is tremendous, if not total, overlap between Austrian economics and libertarianism. Ron Paul is an adherent of the Austrian School, as he and his followers constantly like to remind us.

You can get a quick introduction to the Austrian School by visiting its Wikipedia page which, apparently, has been locked in an internecine editing conflict. The conflict involves a criticism of the Austrian School by Paul Krugman which used to show up on the page. Certain libertarian acolytes have been taking down the Krugman part because they say it misrepresents Austrian economics. Others say that Krugman is a well-respected economist whose criticism should be included. Wikipedia has prevented the article from being edited for the rest of the month.

For my part, I do not see why Krugman’s criticism cannot be left up there. If the Austrian folks think his argument is a straw man, then they can always include a rejoinder from another economist demonstrating how. This would assume rational dialogue and open debate is also part of the Austrian School. Unfortunately, Austrian economics has become a fundamentalism to many of its followers and they live in a constant state of jihad.

There are Wikipedia pages about heroes of mine, like Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault (my avatar), that contain criticisms that I think are unfair. Never did I think of editing them out of existence. This is probably because Wikipedia is one very limited source of information. Those of us familiar with the ideas of these thinkers encountered them through the books they wrote. We have probably also read many books written by others that attempt to elaborate on these ideas and the criticisms they have faced. Therefore, when I read the Wikipedia pages of my intellectual heroes, I am already largely familiar with everything on the page. It is not a shock or an affront to read something negative about them.

This seems to be the crux of the entire Austrian School Wikipedia fiasco. It is a philosophy nay, an ideology, that has gained many converts in this age of the internet. People like Ron Paul have become heroes in cyberspace. His stances on issues like imperialist war, the War on Drugs and government surveillance appeal to a young crowd naturally and rightfully mistrustful of the system. On top of that, a generation of half-digested internet documentaries and websites convey many libertarian ideas in easily consumable sound bites and slogans. Someone who is honestly looking for news from a non-mainstream source cannot help but encounter these things, especially since many of them are the first, second, third and fourth entries that come up on Google searches.

Unfortunately, the whole anti-government tenor of the Austrian School is intellectually untenable. It posits that rules of the free market are immutably written on the face of nature, that a free market is the “natural” state of human society and that the existence of any imperfections in the market is the result of government interference. It is a system of beliefs that are not falsifiable. How does one “prove” that a “free market” is “natural”? This is such a loaded statement that it does not pass the giggle test. The Austrian folks take this as an article of faith, thereby betraying the spirit of economics as a social science. What sets science apart from most other fields is the fact that its conclusions are falsifiable through observation and analysis.

The great economist Joe Stiglitz called such people “free market fundamentalists”. He was referring to economists but the label can be easily applied to the laymen who consider themselves adherents of the Austrian School. Its tone of anti-authoritarianism appeals to people who mistrust the system. It just so happens that the internet attracts these types of people.

For my part, I have had many discussions with libertarians both at Occupy and in my salad days as an internet troll. When I ask what they would do with things like education, police, transportation, energy and other big government programs, their answer is always a simplistic “hands off” ideology for the government. For them, the role of government should be to merely hang back and enforce private contracts. When I would then ask them what happens if a monopoly starts to develop which is anathema to the free market, the answer either is “it won’t happen” or “there should be laws in place to prevent such things”. The first response is hokum with no basis in reality or history, another belief that is not falsifiable. The second response starts a slippery slope where every free market eventuality can be corrected with laws. In that case, free markets need the very same government that Austrian types blame as the cause for all of the free market’s ills.

What I have found is that people who believe this type of stuff fall into one of two categories. They can be wealthy people who have embraced an extreme “small government” idea that amounts to a bunch of self-serving nonsense. Or, more frequently, they are people with a simplistic, individualistic view of society who believe that everyone has full control of their destiny at all times. It is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” crowd. They are the people who watch a video of starving children in Africa and ask “why don’t they just move to where the food is?” or “serves them right for being lazy”. They are the people who think that the fact they can go camping in the woods for a weekend means they are “self-sufficient”, the meaning of that term apparently being totally lost on them. They are the people who believe that over 100 million unemployed Americans are just being lazy. They are the Ayn Rand fans and other assorted lickspittles of the wealthy.

It is no surprise that the page on Austrian economics is being purged of every criticism by its acolytes. To them, the internet is everything. Anything that is worth knowing about the world comes from cheesy documentaries and simplistic slogans delivered in pixels. The one idea that they have latched onto must be the correct idea, despite the fact they have not bothered to expose themselves to any other ideas. They are allergic to books, especially works of history since they tend to have a “liberal bias” or are a product of the filthy system. It is like the child who learns something at school and cannot wait to share it with everyone they know, assuming that they are the only ones privy to this awesome knowledge.

Despite what the Austrian folks think, they are not the guardians of knowledge and truth. Another person’s rejection of their beliefs does not automatically make that person an idiot. The world contains a vast array of ideas and perspectives. Knowing one theory about one discipline does not make you an expert on anything.

A Wikipedia page is not an indoctrination tool where every word has to follow the party line. It is supposed to contain a range of ideas associated with a subject, including criticism of that subject. This might not comport with the dogmatic, fundamentalist world in which they live but, after all, we do still live in the United States.

Although if the free market fundamentalists, Neoliberals and austerity hawks keep having their way, then I might not be living here for much longer.

 

American History, According to Ron Paul, Sort Of

America was founded in 1776 by August von Mises. He was upset because the British were violating free market principles with their stamp and tea taxes. After he led America to victory in the Revolution, he sat down to write the Constitution. In it, he was very clear that he did not want the new government to do anything but sit back and enforce contracts between private parties. Take a look at Article I, Section 8, Paragraph One: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…” This is clear proof that the founders wanted the government to stay out of everything and allow private corporations to handle the country.

The next 73 years or so were a golden age in American free market capitalist history. Americans were moving out west onto land that Native Americans foolishly considered their hunting grounds. Too bad for them that the free market was dictating that the land now had to be owned and farmed by white Americans. If they spent more time reading the internet instead of practicing their ancestral ways, they would have realized that the free market is natural and their big government style of family-centered, nomadic clans was doomed. Americans were allowed to spread their small government, free enterprise heritage by farming land they received from the government after being won in wars declared by the government or purchased by tax money given to other nations by the government. Heroes like Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and introduced interchangeable parts without any government help except for all that land and protection previously mentioned. Oh yeah, he also received federal government dollars for the rifles he had made out of interchangeable parts. Other than that, he was completely self-reliant like all of us should be today.

It is true that some Americans owned slaves. After all, there was a market for slaves and what place did the government have in telling people the kind of property they can own? We have already seen that the country was following free market principles at the time and the government was just hanging back and enforcing contracts. Instead, we allowed the states the deal with the slavery issue and we all know how well that turned out. Slavery built the cotton wealth of the American south. Plantations would produce cotton and ship them off to the north or Britain. It was a perfect example of free market America. These plantation owners made it all on their own without the help of anyone besides their legions of human property over whom they assumed they were racially and morally superior. They shipped their products to market totally on their own aside from all the government-built canals, turnpikes and roads made possible by the two central banks that were established in this period. Aside from their slaves and government-built infrastructure, these southern gentlemen were true Horatio Alger stories.

In this period we had five Founding Fathers as presidents. Between them we established two central banks, built the beginnings of our infrastructure, fought imperialist wars and introduced new forms of taxation. You can see from here that us libertarians are the true heirs to the Founding Fathers’ tradition. But then 1860 came and Lincoln was elected. He had no experience aside from organizing some rail-splitters in Illinois and donating money to ACORN. Lincoln threatened to end slavery, even though there was a healthy market for slaves in the economy. He was interested in nothing more than breaking the entrepreneurial and self-reliant spirit of the noble plantation owners. His big-government socialist ways caused the southerners to secede from the union. Nothing represents Lincoln’s socialist agenda better than the peroration from his first inaugural address, which sounds more like the Port Huron Statement than anything a real American would say: “We should not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it should not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” It is clear from this speech that Lincoln’s plan was to sell out the country to Zionist bankers. We may have lost the war but that does not mean America lost the entrepreneurial spirit that Lincoln tried to crush. We were ready to embark on another great age of rugged individualism.

It was up to the American people to rebuild what Lincoln tried to destroy. Railroads started to criss-cross the continent because that is what the free market demanded. By free market, we of course mean the Pacific Railroad Act where Congress mandated the creation of a transcontinental railroad. Railroad entrepreneurs like Jay Gould received free government land out west on which to build rail lines. Because of the commerce these rails would provide to otherwise isolated areas, the land they were built on became populated which raised its value 400 percent in some cases. It is clear from this that Jay Gould and the railroad corporations were totally free entities with no government help at all. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, unlike Americans today who always expect a government handout. Industries related to the railroads like steel, oil and even cattle started booming. This was the age of the robber barons. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were rugged individualists who employed hundreds of thousands of people at rock bottom salaries. There was no social security or pensions to pay into, so they got the fabulous wealth they deserved. They would become some of the first millionaires in the United States. The legions of overworked, underpaid workers were just too stupid to run a business themselves. There was no way they would ever succeed in a free market system. Their low wages had little to do with the open immigration policy of the federal government that was lobbied for by the robber barons. Nor did their low wages have anything to do with using federal law, court injunctions and the state’s military power to break strikes. That was just the government stepping in to ensure the free market did not fulfill the wishes of working people.

Historians call this period a Gilded Age but we here at the Ron Paul institute call it a Golden Age. Aside from corporate welfare, favorable regulation and the use of the state’s military power, the government had absolutely no role in the economy. Presidents like Theodore Roosevelt made attempts to stick his nose in the business of the private sector but we made sure they were undone later by Taft. Then Woodrow Wilson became president and Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act, the darkest day in history since the election of Lincoln. This was when we handed over the country to Zionist bankers who used fake American money to fund a campaign for a Jewish homeland. World War I came around and, once again, the government stuck to its free market principles by joining the fight because corporations knew it would be good for their profits.  People like J.P. Morgan made a killing during the war and with all that money they were able to influence the next three Republican presidents, all of whom were heroes for their recognition that America was a free market country that should handcuff government’s ability to interfere with the economy. The wealth gap between rich and poor grew; a sure sign that nature was taking its course and separating the wheat from the chaff. Bankers were allowed to speculate on the stock market. It was a wonderful time for everyone.

But then the stock market crashed. People might think the crash was due to the lack of government oversight in the economy. In reality, it was the Federal Reserve’s fault. They kept interest rates low, which forced these poor bankers to speculate in the stock market. I mean, if the federal government is going to hand you free money, what choice will you have but to gamble with it? Rather than listen to reason, the country elected Franklin Roosevelt who pretty much was the worst human being to ever walk the planet. Instead of waiting another four years for the Hoover tax cuts to work, FDR just used the power of the government to hack away at our entrepreneurial spirit. He did things like prevent banks from gambling with deposits, instituted a minimum wage and created social security. FDR was the biggest tyrant since Lincoln. He was a radical socialist who took us away from our tradition of government non-interference with the economy, a tradition that we have proven in this paper. Ever since that point, we have been a rotten socialist country, worse than Stalin’s Soviet Union.

FDR raised taxes to over 90 percent on the wealthiest Americans. In that time, we won World War II, built the highway system and had the biggest, most sustained economic growth in our history between 1945 and 1973. Things like collective bargaining, the GI Bill and, later, Medicare and Medicaid helped sustain a middle class with some sort of wealth parity. We also expanded rights of accused people, ended segregation and expanded opportunities for women. It was truly the most awful time in our history. The government was everywhere telling businesses how much to pay its workers, what kind of products to produce and who they can segregate at their lunch counters. A small part of the American dream was expanding thanks to socialist government, not through the free market as Mises called for in the Constitution. Instead of shooting picketing workers like the free market dictates, the government was giving them some protection. There were some rays of hope during this time, like when Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964. But the country was too stupid to support a visionary like him who wanted to get rid of the Civil Right Act, and so we got 4 more years of Lyndon Johnson.

Since then we have been trying to find our way back to our free market heritage. Both parties have been infected with the post-FDR disease of big government. Ron Paul is the only candidate who knows the Constitution or America. If you support him, you support freedom and liberty. We have a very logical vision: for the government to not have any power and allow all of the corporations who have gotten fat off of government welfare over the past centuries to do whatever they want to whomever they want. Our Founding Fathers loved corporations even though they did not yet exist. I know one thing: August von Mises was brilliant. Ron Paul is a doctor, did you know that? We mention that every time we discuss Ron Paul’s economic ideas. It sounds better to say “Dr. Paul”, because we all know that an obstetrician who disbelieves in evolution has to be an expert in the science of economics. Ron Paul is an independent thinker, even though he is a Texas Republican in office for nearly two decades. He is not business as usual. We may have never read a real history book or the Constitution but we know that Ron Paul is right about American history, government and economics. “Doctor Paul for President”

Free Market Drivel

The Founding, as told by Libertarians

There is no good reason to support the current wave of charter schooling. The American education system is too Byzantine for anyone but insiders and a few specialists to know very well. When laymen cry in unison with the deformers about our schools being in “crisis”, it is not out of any intimate knowledge they have of schools. It is because the school system is run by the state and the state in their minds mean inefficiency. All of the bad press surrounding “incompetent” teachers and “underperforming” schools is just the continuation of a war against the public sector that began 30 years ago. Laymen who want to replace public schools with charters are largely uninformed about the school system and how it works. Like everything else, they have been brainwashed to assume that public sector is bad and the free market is good. Their concern with education reform is disingenuous, their opinions are merely reflexes conditioned by decades of propaganda and their role is merely that of shills for the hedge fund brats who profit from the chartering of our public school system. Defenders of public education who debate the facts with charter supporters are wasting their breath. Instead, we must attack the Orwellian contrast of “free market good, public sector bad” that too many Americans take as a matter of faith.

The propaganda campaign against the public sector started in earnest with Ronald Reagan. The Watergate scandal, the loss in Vietnam, the Iranian hostage crisis and a host of other embarrassments made the nation ripe for the Reagan Revolution. Reagan preyed upon the public’s disenchantment by blaming the government for all of the nation’s problems. If only the government would get out of the way, competition could flow freely and innovation would abound. Reagan and others did a remarkable job of painting small government and free competition as the American way. In true Orwellian fashion, they gained control of history in order to gain control of the future.

But this version of history is incredibly skewed. It is a quaint, elementary school version made up of frontiersmen and cowboys taming the wilderness. It is a mythic idea of rugged individualism that has never been anything more than a myth. For every Horatio Alger story of a poor boy making good through pluck and application, there are just as many stories of those same poor boys being helped along at some point by the government. Rugged frontiersmen often obtained land from the government for next to nothing and were protected from Natives by a string of western military outposts. Even the hero of many small government types, Thomas Jefferson, envisioned a stateless society only after all Americans had been given free government land and educated at free government schools. Of course, the Reaganites airbrushed all of these communist tendencies of Jefferson’s out of existence (after all, he was deeply inspired by the French, who were innovators in communism), leaving behind only a rabid libertarian. The libertarian myth of American history is merely groundwork meant to prepare us intellectually for a libertarian future. The charter school craze shows us that, for teachers and students, the future is now.

While rank-and-file Americans might be easily fooled by the myth of small government and rugged individualism, charter school operators suffer from no such delusions. Every spate of privatization has been preceded by Orwellian double-speak. Government-run prisons in the 1980s were assaulted by accusations of being ineffective because they were unable to “reform” their prisoners. Having corporations run the prisons would instill “competition” and make the prisons more “effective”. Now that corporations control the prison system, nobody bothers to ask anymore how well they reform their inmates. Considering that incarceration rates have quintupled since the 80s, it does not seem they have done a very good job. This is what the reformers have in store for the school system. They are bludgeoning schools with the same accusations of failure. They will then insulate themselves from those accusations once they gain control of the system. The reformers know what they are doing. Their aim is not the restoration of America to its true, libertarian purpose. No such purpose has ever existed. Instead, they wish to profit from taking over functions that have largely always belonged to the state. They seek not a restoration but a revolution. Privatization is a radical change away from citizenship and towards consumerism.

The neat little libertarian narrative of American history allows corporations to insert themselves into the place of the plucky young man who gets ahead through hard work and intelligence. Instead of the innovating individual, it is the innovating corporation that will save our schools, prisons, military and every other facet of the public sector. It has been the most successful propaganda campaign of the past 30 years. We will decry the government as an inefficient bureaucracy and then, in the next breath, exalt these large, clunky corporations as paragons of efficiency. And why would we not? Corporations have to provide high quality products for low prices. Despite the financial crisis where an entire industry colluded to provide nothing but air for sky high prices, despite that so many privately-run charter schools in Florida have committed some sort of financial malfeasance and despite the fact that charter schools nationwide have not outperformed public schools on standardized exams, we still persist in this idea of the hero corporation. At every turn we have seen corporations do nothing but cut corners so that their CEOs will profit, yet we refuse to shake this libertarian notion of the superiority of the private sector. Even in the face of disaster wrought by the private sector there are still a substantial number of people who believe that it can save our education system.

What people mean when they say “small government” is “big corporation”. They want to make the government irrelevant so that the private sector can step into the vacuum. It is disingenuous for worshippers of the “free market” to assume that all that needs to be done is to get government out of the way so that free choice may take over. Leaving private citizens to fend for themselves is just a scheme to allow those already with wealth and influence to run the show. Yet, where would any of the wealthy classes be without the state? Where would oil, agribusiness, banking, transportation or any other industry be without corporate welfare and favorable regulations? Now that a chosen few have gotten fat off feeding from the government trough, those chosen few now want the government to get out of the way so they may sit on and solidify their gains. Maybe free market ideologues could be taken more seriously if, before they call for the government to stand down, they order corporations to give back all the wealth made possible by government largesse.

This shows that, many times, the teacher bashing in the general public is nothing personal. We are just the latest target of an indiscriminate war against the public sector, as well as citizenship itself.