Author: 71 Republic

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.

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Legalizing the Use of Child Labor

By TJ Roberts | United States

On May 8th, 2018, the Trump Administration announced their desire to repeal multiple child labor laws. While this is a cause for celebration, he should take it a step further. Trump should aim for the repeal of ALL child labor laws. Government overreach shows itself when it forbids a child from engaging in voluntary trade, or specifically telling them how they can work, for whom they can work, and for how long they can work.

While the masses hold child labor laws as sacred, one of our oldest and most valuable laws, child labor laws are comparatively new. The federal ban on child labor emerged from the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (the same act that brought about the disastrous minimum wage), a Depression-era regulation that artificially lowered the unemployment rate, by banning certain classes from working! In a time when people needed work the most, the government made it harder to work and prolonged the depression.

This legislation, however, had little impact in the long haul. By 1930, only 6.4% of minor children between the age of 10-15 actually had jobs, so the 1938 law did nothing more than give the government more control of your life. As a nation, America has been wealthy enough to not need child labor by a considerable margin for years. Otherwise, this law is not only useless, but inherently immoral.

And what of nations/localities that are so poor that they need child labor? Child labor laws won’t stop people from sending their children to work if they absolutely need the money to survive. Child labor laws just make it worse for people as children resort to black market activities (such as prostitution or gang activity). Child labor laws make people more desperate to survive, disproportionately hurting poor communities the most.

In addition, suppose you are a parent. Would you send your 8 year-old child to a sweatshop for an additional $200 per month? I most certainly wouldn’t. I most certainly hope you wouldn’t. There are opportunities that are much better for children, especially as they become more tech-savvy. If a parent would do that, that is a cultural issue, not a political issue.

Child Labor is consensual. A willing child worker applied for a job, and a willing employer hired the child. With this in mind, both parties must believe that this exchange is mutually beneficial. To tell a minor child that they cannot work is to claim that you have the right to violate the property rights of both employer and worker.

This is just another example of the need for freedom of choice. Child labor laws restrict the ability of you to choose what you do with your time. In fact, the government forces children to partake in labor for them through government schools. Horace Mann, the father of the American education system, made it very clear that government schools are not to make good people, but obedient citizens. It is a form of indoctrination that the State compels upon children. It is forced labor, although not “hard” labor.

America is seeing the results of this now. Employers overwhelmingly claim that college grads are unprepared for the workplace, and its no surprise. Government schools force you to consume much of your time focusing on obedience and not innovation. Where critical thinking and soft skills are essential to the workplace, government “education” miserably fails to prepare an individual for a career.

Government-mandated labor, however, has even more dire consequences: the loss of entrepreneurship. Since children have no legal ability to join the labor force, they are encouraged to follow orders, not think for themselves. Kids have been at the forefront of innovation historically, but that has been changing as young people have been forcefully adopted by the State, ripped away from their families that actually want what is best for them. Experience in the workplace is good for people. Child labor laws, however, are disastrous. They are a breach of fundamental liberties.


This post was originally published in LIFE.

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Intellectual Property: Enemy of Freedom and Society

By TJ Roberts | United States

You cannot own an idea. Although intellectual property is an idea Americans codified into their constitution, we must see that the idea of intellectual property is an idea that comes into direct conflict with the idea of freedom and human progress. It is important that humanity moves beyond the scourge of intellectual property so that we may live in a world that is no longer held back by corporate protectionism and inconsistent property law. But beyond that, lives are at stake in this fight.

Intellectual Property Violates Real Property

Lockean Property Norms

Perhaps the most important case against intellectual property is in its opposition to society’s property norms. The most prominent principle of property is the homesteading principle, which John Locke describes in chapter 5 of The Second Treatise on Government. In the Treatise, Locke explains that the Homesteading Principle is the idea that property can be justly acquired by two means: original appropriation and voluntary exchange. With original appropriation, the first user of a previously unowned resource becomes the de facto owner of the property. With voluntary exchange, justly acquired property may be exchanged between consenting senders and receivers. This is why theft is condemned. If I take your wallet from you without your consent, then the exchange was not voluntary and therefore violates Lockean property norms.

What is important to realize as well is that scarcity is fundamental to property. You cannot be the owner of a non-scarce good. In The Economics and Ethics of Private Property, Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains that in a realm of scarcity, property norms must be established. If, somehow, all scarcity ceased to exist (this would have to include scarcity in ourselves), then property norms would not be necessary. But in this world, scarcity is the cornerstone of Lockean property theory.

Ideas are Not Scarce

Since one cannot own a non-scarce good, it is the burden of the advocate of intellectual property to prove that ideas are scarce. If they do so, then intellectual property (IP) is legitimate. It is clear, however, that ideas are not scarce, and are therefore not subject to the restrictions of private property.

Consider a world in which only one person knows that two plus two equals four. If that person reveals this knowledge to someone else, that person knows that two plus two is four and the teacher still knows this. In other words, one’s acquisition of this knowledge did not inhibit another person from gaining the same piece of knowledge, and it did not degrade the knowledge the teacher originally had either. Because of this, knowledge is not scarce. Since knowledge is not scarce, we are not able to subject ideas to property norms.

Intellectual Property Assaults Private Property

Suppose I wrote a pamphlet and I sold it to you. For the law to tell you that you cannot reprint my pamphlet and sell it to others is to tell you what you cannot do with your private property. This is prohibitive on the sovereignty of the individual and private property. This is not, of course, meant to condone plagiarism. In “Common Misconceptions about Plagiarism and Patents: A Call for an Independent Inventor Defense,” patent lawyer Stephan Kinsella shows that IP “theft” is not plagiarism. Plagiarism wouldn’t run rampant without IP. One possible alternative to intellectual property is Creative Commons, which protects the fact that you created your work all the while not restricting your work to the bureaucracy of American intellectual property law.

Intellectual Property Holds Back Progress

One of the unique benefits of a market economy is that it incentivizes innovation. The consumer is in charge and their needs and desires frequently change. Competition, therefore, is essential to a prosperous market. Intellectual Property, however, holds back competition and protects those at the top. Imagine how much better technology would be if tech companies weren’t constantly under the threat of lawsuits from their competitors. If the focus changed from protecting one’s market power to providing a quality product for their customers in order to grow in the market, the world would have higher quality products at much lower costs.

Of course, progress has occurred in society, but that has happened in spite of intellectual property, not because of it. If we didn’t have intellectual property, software would be significantly cheaper as the potential costs of copying it would drastically decline. Inevitably, the only way for software companies to make a profit would be to provide a better product than their competitors since they won’t be able to artificially increase prices if they want to stay in business. If we abolished intellectual property, we would see a new age of progress.

Intellectual Property Has a Body Count

In 2016, Martin Shkreli raised the price of a life-saving medication to $750 per pill. This led to immense public outrage. But their rage was misplaced. The reason Shkreli was able to do this wasn’t corporate greed, but because of intellectual property. If people were able to copy the drug and sell it to compete with Shkreli’s company, such a price hike would have put him out of business.

This is just one of the innumerable symptoms of the disease of intellectual property. American IP law forbids competition against new ideas, especially medicines. Since a generic is effectively illegal for years after a cure is discovered, the poor are frequently left unable to pay for these life-saving medications. The abolition of intellectual property would save lives, allowing not only for prices to fall as competition rises, but also for quality of products to rise as innovation increases.

Intellectual Property Is the Enemy of Progress

In other words, intellectual property has failed the people. It is nothing more than corporate protectionism that flies in the face of Lockean property norms that has a very real cost to humanity. If we want a society that can advance quicker, allows for competition to drive prices down, and allow for a society based on consistent property norms, then we must reject the protectionist sham that is intellectual property.

Recommended Reading

Against Intellectual PropertyStephan Kinsella

Goods, Scarce and NonscarceStephan Kinsella and Jeffrey Tucker


This post was originally published in LIFE.

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Scarcity: A Natural Imperative to Human Reality

TJ Roberts | United States

My good friend Kevin Shaw released the article “Post-Scarcity and Freedom” to this website just yesterday. Mr. Shaw is a brilliant individual with a deep dedication of liberty for all human beings. His recent article brings up the progress humanity has made in spite of government regulations, almost reaching an apparent lack of scarcity in several industries.

The problem, however, is that scarcity will always exist so long as nature exists. Even if humanity achieves a superabundance of resources, which is hypothetically possible, it will still be impossible to shake off human nature.

Scarcity in the Garden of Eden

Suppose humanity managed to return to the Garden of Eden. Work is meaningless, for all that one desires is provided by nature. There is a superabundance of every resource. Even then, there is a form of scarcity, which demands the establishment of natural private property norms.

Even when all resources are readily available to the inhabitants of this hypothetical Eden, our bodies are still scarce. There is only one me. There is only one you. Our bodies, no matter what, are scarce resources. It is with this in mind that it is natural that I am the owner of my body in the same way that you are the owner of your body. Truly, we are the original appropriator of our own physical beings. To argue against this is to prove it, whereas to make the claim “I do not own myself” is to employ self-ownership.

Scarcity and Action

Whereas a human being owns themselves, it is axiomatically true that human beings act, i.e. they deliberately attempt to modify their condition to a condition that is more satisfactory based on their subjective valuation. Since human beings act, they choose. They must prioritize what they will do now and what they will do later. Even in a post-scarce world, time is scarce. Eventually, we will all die. With this in mind, there are things we will not be able to do or have.

But even if humans were immortal, time is still scarce. You cannot do several things at the same time. I must choose if I will eat an apple now, or if I will drink water now. I must choose if I will read or if I will watch a movie. The list goes on. As actors prioritize, certain goals are set aside for more pressing needs. By having a choice, you are incurring a cost upon yourself every time you act. This is the basic principle of opportunity cost. If my first choice in action is to drink water and my second choice in action is to eat an apple, the cost of me drinking water is the satisfaction abandoned in not eating an apple at that moment.

Scarcity and Reality

Throughout human society, technological advancement has made life easier. Whether it be the creation of agriculture in the Neolithic Revolution or the Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurship has allowed for a more efficient use of resources. This can make prices drop significantly, allowing for a cheaper and more comfortable life.

I agree with Mr. Shaw that the best way to increase abundance is to allow for the free market to flourish and to get the government out of people’s lives. What is problematic, however, is the belief that scarcity can be eliminated. No matter how efficient production becomes, scarcity will always be a natural part of life because we are all inherently scarce.


This post was originally published in LIFE.


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9/11: What the United States Failed to Learn

By TJ Roberts | United States

Seventeen years ago, Osama bin Laden recruited the entirety of the US military to fight for the agenda of al Qaeda: to destabilize the Middle East, to radicalize the inhabitants, and to revolutionize the region toward a totalitarian Islamic state. Seventeen years after 9/11, the U.S. is still too arrogant to see that its imperialist efforts not only created the fire of the bin Ladenites but also that its continued intervention in the Middle East only helps them.

Since 9/11, more than 5,000 Americans have died in combat in the Middle East, as far as we know. In Afghanistan, at least 30,000 civilians have died at the hands of the U.S. Military since 9/11. In Iraq, that number is at least 150,000. Entire civilizations have succumbed to the brute force of the American Empire. And worst of all, the people of America and the Middle East are neither freer nor safer due to these wars.

9/11 Was Not an Attack on Freedom

“They hate us for our freedoms!” That is what the warmongers say about the people of the Middle East. What they fail to mention, however, is that the United States sponsored al Qaeda in the Cold War in order to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden worked in close proximity to the Reagan Administration to fight the communists, and the Americans overstayed their welcome.

Very few people seem to remember Desert Storm and American intervention in the Middle East before September 11th, but the U.S. has been meddling with the Middle East since the early 1950s, during which they overthrew Iran’s regime and replaced it with the Shah. It is an undeniable reality that the U.S. is the aggressor in this conflict.

So no, they don’t hate us for our freedom (or what remains of it). What is an attack on freedom, however, is the treasonous PATRIOT Act that made a mockery of the sacred right to privacy and being left alone. What is an attack on freedom is the increased debt and taxation to pay for legalized mass murder around the world.

The War Drums Keep Beating

Despite the mistakes that America has made in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and so on, the neoconservatives are still trying to spread regime change as gospel. The atrocities in the Middle East are not because of Islam. They are not because of Russia. They are not because of Assad. Iran is not to blame. The American Empire is to blame.

Imagine if it happened here. Imagine if China invaded the U.S. What if they starved your community with sanctions? Imagine if a Chinese soldier slaughtered your family right in front of you. What if they overthrew your nation? Imagine if they forcefully repressed your culture. Would you think China has the right to do this to you? Would you retaliate and hit them where it hurts so that they can understand your pain?

Of course, you would. If not you, then someone else would. The Federal Government is using 9/11 to stir your emotions so that you allow them to hurl this nation into endless war. This is all for the goal of establishing an American Empire around the world. War will not reverse what happened 17 years ago today. If anything, it will provoke something even worse. It has already eliminated many of the freedoms Americans used to enjoy. Continued intervention can only get worse.

9/11: The Lesson

9/11 is now old enough to enlist in the military, and yet the U.S. refuses to learn what it actually taught. If anyone should have learned anything from 9/11, it is that the United States should never fund another revolutionary group, ever. It is that regime change always has failed and always carries catastrophic consequences. The United States is currently supporting al Qaeda in Syria right now. The U.S. is committing genocide in Yemen. The foreign policy that birthed ISIS must die. The people need to put foreign policy first and accept nothing short of non-interventionism, especially in the post-9/11 era.


This post was originally published in LIFE.


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