The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
National Treasury Union President Colleen M. Kelly recently described the 2014 IRS budget allocation as “woefully inadequate.” But the agency has not proven itself to be an efficient steward of taxpayer dollars. Here are ten ways the IRS lost the trust of the American people.
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
Do you trust your doctor? Most patients assume their doctor is working in their best medical interests whenever he or she orders a diagnostic test or recommends a particular treatment. Customers might wonder whether an unscrupulous auto mechanic is being truthful when he recommends a brake job or a new transmission. But most patients trust […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
For critics of the surveillance state, it is tempting to see President Obama’s speech a few weeks ago as a partial victory: Prompted by Edward Snowden’s leaks and the public pressure for National Security Agency reforms, he announced significant changes to the program that collects and stores information about all telephone calls. And he promised […]
The Conscience of an Anarchist
by Gary Chartier
Introduction by Jacob Huebert
Gary Chartier’s Conscience of an Anarchist , this week’s ebook of the week in the Laissez Faire Club, is a valuable addition to the literature of liberty. Whether you’re exploring the idea of a stateless society for the first time or are a longtime radical libertarian, here is a book that should open your mind to new ideas.
It will be the most stimulating if you’re a newcomer, of course, because you’ll be introduced to a way of thinking about politics and the world that turns the conventional wisdom on its head. We’re told from a young age that a coercive government is necessary to do so much: protect us from foreign and domestic criminals, stop the rich from exploiting the poor, ensure that people’s basic needs are met, keep our food and medicine safe, and on and on. Chartier challenges the reader to consider whether the exact opposite is true, whether the state has actually made things much worse than they otherwise would be in all of these areas.
Although this is a short book, Chartier takes on many of the toughest questions a reader is likely to have. Don’t we need police? Don’t we need national defense? Wouldn’t big corporations amass power that could be even worse than state power? When introducing someone to libertarian or anarchist ideas, it’s tempting to start with the easy cases, but Chartier plunges right in to the ones that are supposedly the hardest — and often manages to make the anarchist position, which runs contrary to one of our society’s most deeply held beliefs, seem like common sense.
Chartier doesn’t address every objection that a reader might have or detail how everything in a stateless society might work, but that’s not the point. The point, as he says at the beginning, is to ask you to open your mind to the possibility of a peaceful alternative to the coercive status quo. The books that change one’s life often aren’t lengthy academic treatises on economics, history, or political theory; rather, they’re short, radical, personal works like this one that seek to snap you out of your intellectual complacency. Readers who find the book’s ideas interesting will of course want to dig further into libertarian and anarchist literature, and Chartier provides helpful suggestions for additional reading at the end.
For those of us who already agree with most or all of Chartier’s substantive ideas, I’ll add that the book offers something else of value: an example of a different way to present our ideas that may help us reach more people.
In recent years, libertarianism has enjoyed an unprecedented surge in popularity. Several factors brought this about, including a stagnant economy that has eroded people’s faith in government, Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns, and the Internet, which has made a huge quantity of libertarian literature instantly available to everyone. (Incidentally, I use “libertarian” where Chartier would use “anarchist” because I consider consistent libertarianism and Chartier’s variety of anarchism to be the same thing.)
More popularity has lead to more attacks on libertarianism, especially from left-leaning mainstream-media pundits. The attacks often bash libertarians for being “selfish” adherents of an “every-man-for-himself” philosophy. Our opposition to state involvement in healthcare, for example, allegedly means we’re okay with letting people die in the streets. Although libertarians consistently oppose bailouts, subsidies, and every other form of corporate welfare, journalist Sam Tanenhaus can still claim in the New York Times that libertarians champion “private business” while “ignoring the rights of just about everyone else,” and a large portion of his audience will believe it.
I’m sure some of these people understand libertarianism better than they let on and are being disingenuous to score political points. But I’m also sure that many of them are sincere. So it may be worthwhile to think about why someone might hold this negative view of libertarians.
One reason might be because the typical statist leftist “knows,” and believes that every informed person knows, that government is necessary to do certain things — for example, to make sure that that poor people have enough food to eat. Thus, if a libertarian says “we should abolish government,” the statist leftist hears this as “we should stop doing what is necessary to make sure poor people have enough food to eat.” Thus, the leftist concludes that the libertarian is crazy, ignorant, or just doesn’t care about poor people starving. To the statist leftist, it appears that the libertarian is content to let many people die because of his devotion to an abstract principle — or maybe just because he wants the government to get its hands out of his wallet. And that seems wrong.
A libertarian of course sees a mistaken premise in that line of thinking: In fact, government is not necessary to ensure that the poor have enough to eat. Moreover, the libertarian believes that without government there would be much less poverty and people at the lower end of the economic spectrum would enjoy a much higher standard of living.
So if a libertarian wants the statist leftist to embrace libertarianism, at least on this issue, it should be clear what he must do: convince the statist that a genuine free market would serve the poor’s interests better than the state ever could.
It should also be clear what the libertarian should not do: appeal to a principle that the leftist doesn’t already share, such as the libertarian rule against all use of force and fraud. No doubt the leftist, like almost everyone, opposes force in general, but for him the general rule has a built-in exception for government — because, again, he thinks it’s necessary to avoid terrible consequences. So if you try to persuade him to accept the nonaggression principle before you address his concerns about consequences, you are asking him to embrace something he believes will lead to widespread misery and death. This is not likely to succeed.
I’m sure Conscience of an Anarchist will find receptive readers from all over the political spectrum, but it’s especially instructive in showing us how to reach out to the Left along the lines that I’ve mentioned. Chartier puts his concern for the poor and the powerless up front. For him, the benefits that the market gives to these people are not incidental, not something to be brought up only at the rebuttal stage of an argument; he counts them among the main reasons why he’s an anarchist. He also makes clear from the outset that big business is no friend of liberty. And he emphasizes other issues that are likely to resonate with people on the left, such as opposition to war and support for sexual freedom.
Although Chartier focuses on consequences rather than rights, none of this undermines the rights-based case for liberty. (As it happens, Chartier is an accomplished scholar in the field of natural law.) In fact, the opposite is true: by overcoming people’s concerns about consequences and showing how liberty serves other values that are important to them, we may make people more receptive to our ideas about rights than they would have been if we had just preached principles at the outset.
I should mention briefly that many libertarians may not agree with everything in this book. I, for one, am not as sure as Chartier seems to be that businesses would tend to be smaller and that labor unions would thrive in a free society, and I don’t think the corporate form is such a bad thing. But Chartier acknowledges that he could be wrong about some of the details, as could I. What’s more important is what we have in common: we agree that humanity would benefit greatly if the state were abolished, and we’re happy to let peaceful people decide what arrangements are best for them without coercion from the state or anyone else.