Author: 71 Republic

If I Broke into Your House

TJ Roberts | United States

If I broke into your house, I would not be justified. I would be a violent criminal with no respect for private property and personal sovereignty.

If I broke into your house, you would be justified in using force to remove me from your house. You would even be able to use lethal force.

If I broke into your house, I would not be justified in using violence against you when you attempt to remove me. You have the right to do what it takes.

If I broke into your house, everything I do in your house is a breach of your rights, no matter how kind I am about it.

If I broke into your house and you pulled a gun on me, I do not have the right to kill you. I do not have the right to kill your family either.

If my friend told me to break into your house, I still would not be justified. My friend would be inciting violence.

If I broke into your house and took everything you had, you’d want your stuff back. You’d want your family back. You’d want revenge.

If I Broke Into Your House and Called it War, Does That Change Your Mind?

Why is it that these principles are so universally accepted when it applies to you, but not for others? Americans as a whole condemn any person or group who would violently invade the property of another. This attitude, however, immediately changes when we transition to war. America is an empire; there is no existential threat to the U.S. Ultimately, every war the U.S. is engaged in is nothing more than an act of aggression against another sovereign nation.

War is the foundation of the modern state. So far, the U.S. has killed more than 20 million people since the end of World War II in pursuit of empire. In fact, America’s attempt at destabilizing and radicalizing the Middle East has killed at least 4 million people. If other any nation was responsible for so many deaths, the world would rally against it and burn its leaders like the witches in Salem.

Now that the U.S. is withdrawing from Syria, it is time to withdraw the military from the rest of the world and truly pursue non-interventionism. The Military Industrial Complex has not made us free or safe. Rather, U.S. intervention has led to massive debt, breaches of privacy, and a complete disregard for civil liberties on the domestic front. It is even worse for the inhabitants of foreign nations. If the Chinese government murdered your family, you would want revenge. If the Chinese government slaughtered your friends, it would radicalize you. American intervention has killed millions, destroyed the infrastructure, and radicalized the survivors.

Blowback

This, of course, leads to blowback in the US. If you want to know why 9/11 happened, ask yourself what you would do if the United Nations invaded your nation, flipped its regime, killed your family, destroyed your home, crippled your infrastructure, and oppressed your culture. Would you want revenge?

This is exactly what happened on September 11th. While war hawks (who would never enlist to fight the wars they are calling for) will say that ending the wars will pave a way to the next 9/11, the fact is that U.S. occupation of the Middle East in the 90s is what caused 9/11. It wasn’t a random attack. It was unjustified, but the U.S. nonetheless created the climate for such an attack.

A Foreign Policy of Freedom

Perhaps our foreign policy should resemble the golden rule. If you were invaded, you would use violence to repel the invader whether the invader is a military or a home intruder. Why do you expect something different from sovereign nations that the U.S. government sees as its colonies? If you don’t want to be invaded, don’t invade other nations. To avoid falling victim to economic warfare, don’t engage in economic warfare. If you don’t want nations to bomb you, don’t bomb other nations.

It is time that we reject war as the racket that it is. Too many people have suffered as a result of the American Empire’s attempt to destroy the sovereignty of any nation that did not bend its knee to the will of the U.S. War is nothing more than legalized mass murder. It is breaking into someone else’s house. Don’t be surprised when they respond with violence.


This article was originally published in LIFE.

At 71 Republic, we pride ourselves on distinctively independent journalism and editorials. Every dollar you give helps us grow our mission of providing reliable coverage. Please consider donating to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

Featured Image Source

Advertisements

Universal Basic Income: Ultimately Botched and Inept

By TJ Roberts | United States

The concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) comes up as a potential alternative to the modern welfare state. What people don’t consider, however, are the consequences of such a system. A UBI is a system in which the state provides a certain income for all people within the polity. Also known as a Negative Income Tax, a UBI requires a heavily progressive form of taxation. All adults within a polity receive this payment regardless of their wealth and their employment status.

Many proponents see UBI as a means of securing people’s basic needs. In addition, they see this as far more efficient than the current system. This, according to a UBI proponent, alters the incentives toward a more productive incentive structure in the economy. Finally, advocates of a UBI claim that it allows for people to survive after automation eliminates the job market. While on the face level, these arguments all seem to have a point, but some basic economic analysis can show that UBI is fundamentally flawed. This article will first outline the arguments one may find in favor of a UBI. It will then refute the arguments. In addition, it will offer some other problems to a UBI.

Why People Support UBI

People support UBI for many reasons. The most frequent reason that people cite is that it guarantees people a certain quality of life. To these advocates, not all individuals are capable of finding employment, so society must provide for these individuals. In addition to the unemployed, a UBI is claimed to help the underemployed. In essence, a UBI is a living wage for everyone.

Another case that some fiscal conservatives and libertarians make in favor of a UBI is that it is more efficient than the current welfare state. With a UBI, there is no massive bureaucracy to determine who needs what. You receive the same living income as every other person. This drastically lowers administrative costs.

Another case that fiscal conservatives and libertarians make is that a UBI readjusts the incentive structures of society. Since everyone is guaranteed this money with no strings attached, says the UBI advocate, there is no poverty trap that encourages people to work less so that they do not lose their payments. This means that the UBI would replace all currently existing social welfare programs and would allow for commodities such as health insurance to be handled entirely by the private market.

Finally, advocates of a UBI claim that it is the only logical means of continuing human existence in the age of automation. People fear that AI and new technology will make low-level employment obsolete, and will, therefore, knock so many people out of work that they will not be able to afford to live without a UBI.

Why the UBI is Wrong

These arguments, however, all fall when one considers economic theory and empirical reality. To start, a UBI would not adequately guarantee that everyone receives an adequate quality of life. This is because a UBI would lead to overwhelming price inflation. If everyone is guaranteed a living income, then more people will be able to consume products. Because more people can afford more goods and services, businesses will be inclined to increase prices whereas this surge in the number of willing customers is an external stimulus to the economy caused by outside intervention.

If a landlord knows that their clients are now receiving a monthly check, the landlord then has an incentive to increase rent to take advantage of the new wealth. As prices rise, people become less capable of providing for themselves, so they spend less. When people spend less, businesses will decrease production, which leads to businesses having to lay off workers. These newly unemployed workers then lose the ability to spend as much as they did when they had a job. This leads to an endless cycle of increasing prices and decreasing employment.

Inflation

To add insult to injury, since the money supply is increasing, the money becomes less capable of holding value. The value of the dollar would tank under this system. This inflationary trap would compound, ending in a society in which most people are jobless, most businesses can’t afford to produce, and those who are employed have a money that is so worthless that they cannot afford anything. Such an inflationary policy overturns all the progress the market has achieved for this world.

Right now, the needs of more people are being met than ever before around the world, and no UBI caused this. Rather, it is decreasing prices that has allowed for the cost of living to drop in such a way that extreme poverty is disappearing from this world. Our World in Data illustrates this point beautifully in this slideshow. Declining prices are benefiting the worst off especially; the countries with the highest poverty rates are currently experiencing the fastest growth rates. A UBI and the inevitable price increases that follow would only harm this progress. We need more production, not redistribution.

We Cannot Afford a UBI

In terms of efficiency, while a UBI admittedly leads to cheaper administrative costs, the nominal costs make a UBI far more expensive than the status quo. Suppose the US implemented a plan that guarantees a living salary to all adults based on the cost of living in their area. According to MIT, the average living wage in the United States is $15.12 per hour. According to the US Census Bureau, there are 247,813,910 adults living in the United States. If one does the math, the cost of providing this basic income to every adult in the United States is $7,793,648,343,936 per year (this does not account for inflation and administrative costs). This is nearly $8 trillion. Given that the US spent $4.094 trillion dollars in Fiscal Year 2018, The United States would have to end every government program and more than double taxes in order to pay for this program alone.

UBI Perpetuates Poverty

While UBI may seem to eliminate the poverty trap, this is not the case. First, consider the inflationary effects of a UBI. If prices increase so dramatically that goods become unaffordable, then poverty increases. Also, the UBI does eliminate the incentive not to work that some means-tested welfare programs do have, but it also has negative incentives of its own. UBI gives businesses an incentive to slash wages.

If everyone working for a business is guaranteed a living salary, then businesses feel empowered to slash wages and keep the profits. UBI is just another form of corporate welfare. It allows for businesses to outsource the cost of having employees to the taxpayers. This makes it more likely for people to be content with what they are receiving from their guaranteed income and not pursue work at all.

In Defense of Automation

Automation is happening. But this is a good thing. Automation does not cause unemployment. Rather, it frees people to pursue other forms of work that individuals are more passionate about. The entire purpose of work is to satisfy humanity’s endless wants and needs. Since people are still poor in this world, it is clear that there are inefficiencies in the status quo. Automation allows for labor to become far more efficient. In the same way that the strides in efficiency that humanity accomplished in the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries did not eliminate the ability of regular people to find work, so too the automation revolution of the 21st century will not eliminate the need for work. Rather, it provides even more opportunities.

This is not to say that everyone will keep the jobs that they have right now. Some people will lose their jobs as automation makes the labor more efficient. But let’s consider what happens to people who lose their jobs due to automation. First of all, no one starved to death as a result of the milkman becoming obsolete in the late 20th century. People that worked as a milkman simply found other means of employment. They adapted to their times. They moved to new jobs that met consumer demand and often made these workers more prosperous

Automation Creates Jobs

But let us consider why someone would lose their job to automation. Resources are finite, but human desires are virtually unlimited. While at the face level, someone might lose their job in one area, that is because the consumer demand is being met more easily through automated processes that decrease prices and the cost of production. Automation brings prices down. This is why the cost of living has dropped so significantly that most Americans can afford something as complex as a smartphone. If people can produce more for less, prices go down.

When prices go down, consumers spend less on what they buy. When consumers spend less, they have more money. This allows for consumers to buy even more products. Since consumers can buy more, businesses have to produce more. This means that businesses need to hire more people in order to produce. Automation does not directly cause unemployment. Rather, it makes it easier for displaced workers to find new work.

Automation Creates Entrepreneurship

Another benefit of automation is that as prices go down and people become capable of affording more, people have more resources which allows them to engage in entrepreneurship. As people develop new industries (some of these industries will come directly from automation), new employees will be needed. As technology grows, the ability to acquire the means of learning new skills that improve your standing on the job market (take Skill Share as an example of this).

Automation enriches the labor force, allows for workers to find new and better jobs, allows workers to learn how to boost their resume, and brings new innovation that will create more prosperity at a lower price which especially benefits the poor. Automation does not justify a UBI. Rather, it shows why we need to avoid a UBI by any means necessary: the price increases caused by a UBI will offset the gains in human prosperity automation is causing.

How a UBI Takes Your Power Away

The greatest harm that a UBI causes is that it rips power away from the common person in the market. In a system with a UBI, people are capable of ignoring the law of supply and demand and pursue their own interests without regard for its marketability and at the detriment of those pursuing profitable work. Once again, someone has to pay for the UBI. If person X chooses to create products that they are passionate about but no one else is willing to buy, they still get the UBI and other people are forced into subsidizing their illegitimate industry.

In a truly unhampered market, person X would realize that their entrepreneurial effort is yielding no fruit and would therefore adjust their strategy to meet consumer demand. Under a UBI, the incentive to do this greatly diminishes. This is another proof that UBI is another form of corporate welfare. There is no sense in propping up industries that consumers do not want. Doing so only encourages behavior that sucks resources away from those who have an eye for what people desire. This is theft from the market and from all of us.

The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

On the surface level, Universal Basic Income comes across as an alternative to the welfare state that would make the world a more productive and prosperous place. But when one considers basic economic theory, UBI collapses under its own weight. UBI increases prices, decreases wages, and decreases productivity. This system undos the progress we have made in eliminating world poverty and causes runaway inflation that would make the current living standard unaffordable.


This article was originally published in LIFE.

71 Republic is the Third Voice in media. We pride ourselves on distinctively independent journalism and editorials. Every dollar you give helps us grow our mission of providing reliable coverage. Please consider donating to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

The First Step Act: A True First Step in Criminal Justice Reform

By TJ Robers | United States

Last night, the United States Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill that President Trump has pledged to sign. The bill makes massive strides in improving America’s justice system, but we must not get carried away. While every reform in this bill ultimately makes America’s justice system better, the First Step Act must not be the end. It must be the beginning because criminal justice in America still has a plethora of flaws that we must address if we are to be truly free.

What the First Step Act Does

“Criminal Justice Reform” is a god-term, meaning it invokes an immediate, positive, and powerful response from a listener. Fortunately, the First Step Act does not fall into the trap that laws like the PATRIOT Act fell into, in which a law destroys freedom despite the connotation that the name has. This bill actually takes steps in the right direction.

The First Step Act Reduces Crack Sentences

Crack and Cocaine are ultimately the same things. Despite this, crack carries a much more severe sentence. This has had a devastating effect on minority communities since the 1980s. The First Step Act takes measures to make crack and cocaine equal in terms of sentencing by lowering the sentences one would receive for possession of crack.

The First Step Act Reduces Mandatory Minimums

Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill included a three strikes rule in which someone convicted of their third felony will receive an automatic life sentence. The First Step Act converts this to a 25-year sentence. In addition, federal judges will have a “safety valve” that will allow them to subvert mandatory minimums. This will help 2000 people avoid mandatory minimums.

The First Step Act is Not Enough

It is a good thing that crack sentences are being reduced and that nonviolent offenders are avoiding mandatory minimums. What is a bad thing, however, is that any nonviolent individual is behind bars. Right now, America makes up 5% of the world’s population but holds 25% of the world’s prison population. Many of these inmates are nonviolent offenders who did nothing more but sell or smoke a plant the government does not like.

This is not to be critical of the First Step Act; it is a step in the right direction. But that is all it is. Let us not pretend that the justice system has been fixed in the United States because it hasn’t been. We ought to be thankful that this legislation is making progress. We must, however, ensure that a chilling effect does not set in, because the people who have been victimized by America’s criminal justice system need far more than this bill offers.

You own yourself. You should not be in prison for using a drug. The only person you are harming by doing so is yourself. That should be your choice, and I do not have the right to forcefully stop you from making that choice.

Perhaps a more sweeping fix would be to declare the drug war as what it is: a trillion dollar failure that has devastated the lives of millions, especially in our poor and minority communities. Every individual who is incarcerated but never created a victim should be free. Mandatory minimums should be eliminated. Crime is an individual phenomenon. Sentencing should be treated as such.

In other words, The First Step Act is a first step that will help a lot of people, but it is not enough. To truly have a free society, we must push for freedom for all people; this means fighting the prison industrial complex.


This article was originally published in LIFE.

71 Republic is the Third Voice in media. We pride ourselves on distinctively independent journalism and editorials. Every dollar you give helps us grow our mission of providing reliable coverage. Please consider donating to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

How I Became An Austrian Economist

Jozef Martiniak | Slovakia

In March of 2018, I attended a seminar on Austrian economics in Slovakia that was organized by an institute whose statements I had been following for a long time. The event lasted four days with lectures on economics, money, and business cycle theory among other things, and the statements made seemed consistent to me. The rhetoric remained the same – what was said ten years ago was still relevant to today.

Moreover, these views have somehow all given awareness to me, a man with common sense. Suddenly you find out that something that you feel intuitively has a 150-years-old historical tradition and that there is a school that studies and develops this tradition.

Surprisingly, the majority of the attendees ended the seminar with a conviction against Austrian economics, but I experienced a change. Out of the blue, I became an Austrian. My ideas were synthesized and I found out it all makes sense. I used to talk about this moment like the story of St. Paul’s fall off of his horse. It was a moment after which you start looking at the world through different eyes and you know it will never change, you will never get back. You start to realize the connections in everyday situations. Not long ago, you have not seen them, but now you can clearly. Tom Palmer says that suddenly you look at the world through the lenses of freedom, through a filter that the majority of people do not have.

You start to become aware that this change is not so obvious like you feel it is. You have a feeling that everybody must see it, so you control yourself, you dose your knowledge to people around you just in bits. Then you find out that people around you do not care about you at all and most of them have not noticed any change in you, they are preoccupied by their own problems.

The impression that you understand the world better is followed by the impression that people will not understand you anymore. Suddenly, it is clear to you how some things will end up, because you distinguish responsibility from irresponsibility. And that is what really irritates the eminent experts who somehow see the change happening in you, though they do not know what has happened, they just see that you can say something responsibly and hold your ground, because you simply know it is true. They do not like debating with you because instead of trying to understand your point of view, they focus on trying to humiliate you in rhetorical competition.

A side-effect of the “conversion” is that you suddenly start to understand the Idealists whom you did not understand before.

Hazlittian awareness of invisible consequences of the events that already happened is another consequence of the ‘conversion’. Only few people realize it. Most people simply analyze their lives and only see the closest area of consequence of the acts that happened and that are related to their past.

In the summer of 2018, I completed a course at Mises University and henceforth joined a sect of people with an Austrian point of view in economics. I have used the word “sect” on purpose since we fit into the characteristics of the word ‘sect’ – we are in minority, we look at the others like those who do not understand yet, but if they are insistent, they will find out where the truth is. The lecturers at the Mises Institute say we belong to the two percent of the population who understands economics better than the majority. Even if it is said as a joke, it seems to me inappropriate since those who really understand the nature of Austrian economics know that they really belong to that small percentage. And those who do not understand are uselessly given a false feeling of exceptionalism, because they do not know why and in what they should be exceptional.

I like working in a world where your steps have meaning. Since we are homo sapiens, we should stop and think about future consequences of our present actions. The economists of the mainstream cannot explain how debt of countries will impact their future. They cannot explain how long the FED and ECB control will work and the public will trust it. In these aspects, they have adopted Austrian rhetoric of “laissez faire” – let it be, it is working somehow.

The Austrians are not satisfied with an explanation that it will work out somehow, because everything has always ended up working somehow. They want to change this system – even though it is very corrupted – so that it is the furthest possible from disaster. I do not know how other Austrian economists came into existence, perhaps they were born like this (at least Carl Menger, as he was nobody’s pupil and he was quintessential to the marginal revolution), but I am for sure a convert.


Get awesome merchandise. Help 71 Republic end the media oligarchy. Donate today to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

Featured Image Source

Price Gouging: A Life-Saving Market Mechanism

By TJ Roberts | United States

As Hurricane Florence ravaged the Southeastern United States, social media warriors and “news” outlets exclaimed their outrage at the business owners who raised prices on essential items such as water, food, gasoline, plywood, and even hotel rooms. This “price gouging,” however, was absolutely essential, for people’s lives were at risk due to this storm. When clouded by emotion, increasing the price of these commodities may come across as detrimental, and even malicious. But a sober mind must acknowledge the necessity of price flexibility.

Price Gouging and Basic Economics

We can look at the effects of price gouging from two perspectives: supply and demand.

On the demand side, increasing the price of these goods makes consumers more conscious of their purchases. In other words, this encourages people to live within their means. When a disaster is incoming, such as a hurricane or a blizzard, people will see others at grocery stores stocking up on water and other essentials. They will, however, purchase too much if the price stays the same. Whereas a storm and its immediate aftermath may last for a few days, people will purchase enough to last them for months, resulting in shortages.

By increasing the price of a good, customers are more likely to purchase only what they need to survive. Now, many will say that this just means that the rich will outbid the poor on necessary resources. But this is not the case when one thinks on the margin. In everyday life, the rich don’t outbid the poor on food because the rich do not need all the food in the world. They will only purchase food so long as the perceived benefit acquired is worth more than the money they will have lost if they make the purchase. In other words, price gouging stops the rich from buying all of the water. Thus, it allows the poor to buy water that they may desperately need.

Keeping Prices the Same Hurts All

Suppose water stayed at the same price throughout a disaster. The receivers of the water will then be the first to show up. But what if the first comers take far more than they need for this disaster? Then there will be nothing left. By increasing prices, store managers are making sure that people only buy what they find to be necessary so that they do not run out of goods. This allows for a greater distribution of essential goods.

On the supply side, price gouging helps increase the quantity. The rich can only outbid the poor if there is a fixed amount of a given resource within the area in which a disaster has occurred. This is far from the case. By increasing prices, the market is signaling to businesses to reallocate resources to the area in need of resources. This has two effects.

First, entrepreneurs who live outside the disaster area see a willingness of consumers to purchase items at a higher price. That means that entrepreneurs will be far more likely to take the risk of traveling to the area to sell the items. This makes the number of goods to rise, allowing for more people to be able to access essential resources.

Second, charities see higher prices and begin initiatives to give resources to those in need. Governments cause shortages by implementing price controls. Charities and entrepreneurs save lives. There is not a fixed amount of goods. The price system readjusts incentive structures to ensure that enough people have what they need to survive a natural disaster.

In other words, price gouging is an act of heroism. Price gouging is no different from any other instance of price flexibility. Those who charge a higher price despite popular outrage deserve a medal, for they are saving lives by ensuring people only purchase what they need to survive a disaster. For all of you affected by Hurricane Florence, thank a price gouger!


This post was originally published in LIFE.

Get awesome merchandise. Help 71 Republic end the media oligarchy. Donate today to our Patreon, which you can find here. Thank you very much for your support!

Featured Image Source