Author: Andrew Lepore

Advocacy For Any Law is Advocacy For Violence

By Andrew Lepore | United States

You may have heard the term you don’t talk about politics at dinner. But why has political discourse become so hateful and volatile? Well, the answer lies in the system we have inherited.

Our system of constitutional republicanism is one of involuntary participation and involuntary funding. The debate will always consist of who is being coerced, who is in power, and who is required to fund it all.

Participation in our system is not like a voluntary organization or corporation, which has to convince you to voluntarily give up your money in exchange for a good or service that is provided by the corporation. If you don’t value the benefits as much as the cost, you aren’t required to give them your money or use their services. If they began providing shitty services at higher costs, you can no longer give them your business if you so choose.

Under our system, Politicians do not have to convince the populace that their programs are worthwhile; if you don’t like it well too bad. You don’t choose how much money you give, you don’t choose where your money goes, and you definitely don’t have the option to opt out.

People will say, “but wait, you have the right to vote and you have the right to have your voice heard!” People are so conditioned that they believe that is sufficient to expropriate you and your property. Using that as justification for the state taking your money is comparable to somebody saying “oh well it’s not theft if the burglar allowed you to argue your case why it is immoral for him to be taking your money.”

This idea of coercion and involuntarism applies to every person, every law, and every tax. When somebody is calling for the rich to be taxed, they are calling for the state involuntarily rob those who are more successful of the fruits of their labor because that’s what they want. If the “rich” refuse men with guns will come to punish them.

When somebody is calling for drugs to be banned, they are not only calling for sovereign individuals to be locked in a cage for consuming a substance which the state does not approve of, but they are calling for everyone else to be required to fund this prohibition.

When somebody is calling for assault weapons to be banned, they are calling for the state to forcefully prevent sovereign individuals from acquiring whatever means they wish to achieve the end goal of self-preservation. If they refuse to cooperate and are found to be in possession of an inanimate object which the state disapproves of, they will be punished by men with guns.

Now you can probably see why the talk of politics at dinner can get someone’s blood boiling. When you talk about politics, unless you are a libertarian, you are arguing who should be coerced, who should be robbed, and who should be thrown in jail. If this was debated in any other scope besides through the force of politics and government, it would be conspiracy to commit a crime. In what other sectors of our lives are we allowed to Decide who gets robbed and who gets coerced without it being seen as an egregious moral enormity?

As long as the mechanism of politics is thinking you know what’s best for the lives of others, and seeking to enforce your ideal with violence, the discussion will be rife with hatred and partisanship. The argument is who will be coerced and who will receive the benefits. It is who will be controlled and who will have the power.

In conclusion, this moral dilemma and injustice can only be resolved with a libertarian ideal of free, voluntary, and noncoercive society. When we talk about the betterment of society, it does not have to be through the immoral paradigm of force through government. When we talk about the betterment of society, it should be through the paradigm of peace, cooperation, and voluntarism.


Featured image source.

Advertisements

The First Anarcho-Capitalist

By Andrew Lepore | United States

Although the word “libertarian” was coined in the late 1800s, The philosophy of individual liberty existed far before then. Many consider Lao Tzu, the founder of the ancient Chinese tradition Taoism, to be the very first libertarian philosopher.

Lao Tzu lived in 6th century B.C China during the authoritarian Zhou dynasty. The philosophy of liberty is especially novel for a time when those who expressed “anti-establishment” sentiment too loudly would be exiled or executed.

Though the overall tradition of Taoism is not a political philosophy (although Taoists vehemently opposed coercion and state interference), it is described as a way of life, to live in balance and harmony with “the natural order.”

Sun Tzu described the state to be a source of violence and coercion, and as a disruptor of the natural order. He believed peace and individual freedom was the best path to spiritual serenity and “harmony with the natural order”

Murray Rothbard had a well-known admiration for the 2600-year-old philosopher, which is no surprise as his teachings compliment, and take a different path to arriving at the same conclusions as, Austrian economics. Lao Tzu takes a “Spiritual” Eastern philosophical approach as the Austrian school takes the western approach of logic and reasoning. He believed individual liberty led to not only the happiness of the people but the overall prosperity of the people.

He defended the happiness of the individual to be the key unit of society.as of more importance than the demands of the collective. And with the individual achieving his own personal happiness, society will benefit in the process.

This is Similar to the Austrian praxeological approach that self-interest is beneficial to society as it drives making profits by providing others with a good or service that they will benefit from. Lao Tzu believed, as the Austrians do, that any interference by the state can only work to hamper the individual’s happiness and self-betterment.

During the Zhou dynasty taxes hurt innovation, and in the 21st-century taxes hurt innovation. His conclusion, the state must be limited to its smallest possible form. His “Watchword” reference to the role of the state is “inaction” as no action from the state will bring prosperity.

An interesting fact about Lao Tzu’s teachings, almost two centuries later, Chuang Tzu built on the original idea of government inactivity and followed it to its logical conclusion: individualist anarchism, or “Anarcho-capitalism” as we now call it.

Here are some interesting liberty minded quotes by Lao Tzu himself:

“The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished — The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be.”

“Act for the people’s benefit. Trust them; leave them alone.”

“where armies have been stationed, thorns and brambles grow. After a great war, harsh years of famine are sure to follow.”

“When taxes are too high, people go hungry. When the government is too intrusive, people lose their spirit.”

“The people hunger because theft superiors consume an excess in taxation”

“Therefore the Master says: I let go of the law, and people become honest. I let go of economics, and people become prosperous. I let go of religion, and people become serene. I let go of all desire for the common good, and the good becomes common as grass.”

” [ The state ]laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox, is to be more feared than fierce tigers”

“Governing a large country is like frying a small fish. You spoil it with too much poking”

The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be.

A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realizes it. Having realized it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.

“Therefore, the Sage says: I take no action yet the people transform themselves, I favor quiescence and the people right themselves, I take no action and the people enrich themselves—”


Featured image source.

How Portugal Is Winning The War On Drugs

By Andrew Lepore | United States

Recently, stigma had decreased about addiction as we learn more about it. As a result, our approach to solving the problem has changed. For the last 75 years, the attitude toward drugs was zero tolerance, and the solution to the problem of addiction has been punitive rather than rehabilitative.

Baby steps are being taken towards legalization by many countries around the world, the most significant being Portugal which in 2001 decriminalized possession of all substances in small amounts. The move saw relatively widespread support, many seeing the drug war to be a massive waste and failure, believing that there are better ways to handle addiction than harsh punishment.

But not everybody supported the move, some were in opposition claiming addiction rates will spike and Portugal will simply become Europe’s new center of Narco-Tourism.

It is 2018 now, 17 years later, and the decriminalization efforts have seen extraordinary success.

Portugal’s serious drug problem began in 1974. Previous to that year, addiction rates were at a normal level correlating similarly to other countries in Europe. In that year, Portugal’s longtime fascist dictatorship fell to a leftist democratic coup called what came to be known as Carnation Revolution.

Due to various factors, the country was flooded with drugs. Many experts attribute this spike in drug usage rates to many migrating from former colonies and other underdeveloped nations to Portugal, many of which were outsiders and sometimes criminals, who used drugs fully illegal in Portugal at the time. With the spike of drug usage came a rise in HIV, crime rates, and, of course, addiction.

The solution put forth by the Portuguese government was no surprise. They tried harsher penalties for drug offenders and more money being funneled into law enforcement and the drug war.

Despite a more authoritarian approach being taken, the situation continued to degrade. By the late 1990’s, Portugal had the highest rate of drug related AIDS deaths in the entire EU and heroin addiction reached an astonishing 1% of the population. Drug usage was rampant and little could be done to stop it. With so much resources being funneled into the war on drugs, crime rates had reached an all time high.

With the approach at the time failing so miserably, Portuguese officials understood they needed to make a drastic shift in strategy. They came to the conclusion that hardcore criminalization was not the answer to the problem. They decided to do an experiment which no other Western Nations had tried, decriminalization, rehabilitation rather than punitive punishment.

The new Portuguese policy regarding drugs consisted of a decriminalization of personal use of narcotics. This meant one would not be legally penalized for using and possessing a certain quantity of drugs defined as the amount for personal use of up to 10 days. Drug traffickers do still receive a legal penalty for the sale and trafficking of drugs, although the penalties are just a fraction of the penalty received for the same crime in the United States and many other European nations.

Many were in favor of the new approach, but as with any radical change, many were also in opposition. They suspected the situation would just get worse and worse. “How could making it easier for drug users going to make the situation any better?” they said.

Despite what the statists, fearmongers, and those who followed them said about the dangers of decriminalizing drugs in Portugal, the country has seen astounding and unprecedented results.

The rate of drug usage has been slowly but steadily declining since decriminalization; they went from a country with one of the highest drug usage rates in the EU, to falling below the European average.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation; the fall in usage may be because of other factors, but it shows decriminalization does not cause more drug usage. Data as shown in the graphs below:

 

 

 

Image source.

 

Despite what refuting groups claim, the drug overdose rate has fallen drastically since decriminalization.

Certain organizations such as the World Federation of Drugs will mislead people by claiming that by measuring “the number of people who died with traces of any illicit drug in their body”, the number of overdose deaths in Portugal has in fact increased. This claim was easily debunked, given an individual can be deceased with trace amounts of drugs in their body, without the drugs having anything do do with their deaths.

The number taken as the standard for the internationally accepted measure of overdoses and drug related deaths is a clinical assessments made by physicians, rather than toxicological tests. According to this measure, deaths due to drug use or overdose have decreased significantly – from approximately 80 in 2001, to 16 in 2012. This correlation may be indicative of causation due to the fact drug users have safer environments and methods to use than previous to decriminalization.

Drug related HIV and AIDs diagnosis’ have been steadily decreasing since decriminalization. This is another example where correlation can actually be attributed to causation. Decriminalization put an emphasis on harm reduction, and allowed addicts to more easily use in clean environments. Below is a graph of newly diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS among drug users.

 

 

As you can probably tell, in relation to drug harm statistics, decriminalization in Portugal has been a very large success. Although this is by no means a final solution, and it is far from a libertarian ideal for personal responsibility of the substances you consume without state interference.

This is in an essential step in the right direction, though.

The direction of convincing the world that not only is it immoral for the state to impose its will on its subjects through the initiation of force, but it is self-defeating to do so. The authoritarian solution to a problem always exacerbates the problem itself , as seen in Portugal before decriminalization, and the United States today.

Portugal has stepped up and set an example for the world. It has shown that the traditional solution to drug addiction, which was attempting to suppress through iron fist of government, is not the most moral nor efficient means of solving the problem. Hopefully, the world follows Portugal’s example and takes steps to end the 75-year-old worldwide tyranny of the war on drugs.


Featured image source.

Molon Labe: A Call Against Authoritarians

By Andrew Lepore | United States

Most of us know of the famous phrase “Molon Labe” meaning “Come and take it” in Ancient Greek. But many do not know the captivating history behind it, what it truly means, and how the phrase was originated.

The story behind this phrase represents defiance of authority and a refusal to surrender the natural right to self-preservation. In a time of extreme scrutiny towards the right to bear arms and an ever increasing authoritarian state, this story is an example of ultimate courage in the face of totalitarianism which is important to remember.

The phrase Molon Labe dates back to 480 BC during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The Persians Achaemenid Empire, led by King Xerxes I, had by far the largest military force in the world at the time. Xerxes wished to conquer all of Greece, wishing to complete the mission of his father who attempted to do the same but died in the first Persian invasion. Xerxes was determined, yet the Greeks would rather have died than become slaves to him.

At the time, Greece was a loose collection of city-states. They had formed an alliance to defend their homeland in the first Persian invasion and remained a loose confederation. Upon learning of the relatively unexpected Persian invasion, a state of panic ensued. They formed a plan to send 10,000 hoplites (the full size of the Spartan professional fighting force) to make a massive stand and hold their position near Mt. Olympus, in the valley of Tempe. But the plans were withdrawn when the true size of the Persian fighting force (which was estimated at the time to be over a million but now expected to be much lower).

Instead they mustered up a force of approximately 7,000 men ( 300 Spartans and their helots with 2,120 Arcadians, 1,000 Lokrians, 1,000 Phokians, 700 Thespians, 400 Corinthians, 400 Thebans, 200 men from Phleious, and 80 Mycenaeans) led by Spartan King Leonidas, to march north and block the Persian at the narrow coastal pass of Thermopylae, nicknamed “The Hot Gates”.

With the relatively small size of the Greek force, the terrain at Thermopylae was their best option for an advantage.The terrain consisted of a narrow, 15-meter wide mountain pass, with a sheer, jagged cliff one side, and the ocean to the other. The pass created a bottle like effect in which only a small portion of the attacking Persians could confront the Greek force at once. Unable to flank, the Persians would be forced to hurl wave after wave head-on into the Spartan Phalanx. This was the plan.

Upon Persian arrival, King Xerxes sent men to negotiate with Leonidas. He wished to avoid the headache of a battle, which he was sure would end with a quick Persian Victory, and move on to larger fish to fry deeper inland. They were offered their freedom, and the title “friends of the Persian Empire” if they bent the knee.

The Greeks refused.

Upon learning of the refusal, Xerxes sent back the messenger with a handwritten note ordering the greeks to “hand over your arms”. Despite being Outnumbered almost 100-1, Leonidas’ responded simply yet triumphantly with, “Molon Labe.” Come and take it.

Frustrated, the Persian messenger threatened “Our arrows will block out the Sun!” in which Leonidas calmly replied, “Then we shall have our battle in the shade!”

With the Greeks’ refusal came seething anger from the Persian King. To Xerxes it became personal, for nobody disrespected the “God King,” nobody denied his ultimate authority. To him, this was like a small child spitting in his face. Soon after, Xerxes and his Generals began making battle preparations.

On the first day of the battle, Xerxes ordered a mass of 5,000 archers to unleash a barrage of arrows at the awaiting defensive line. Despite firing tens of thousands of arrows from 100 meters away, they proved to be completely ineffective as they deflected off the greeks bronze armor and helmets.

Perplexed, Xerxes proceeded to launch a massive frontal assault, hurling waves of 10,000 Medes and Cissian’s. The terrain and fighting style enabled the Greeks to utilize the least amount of men as effectively possible. They stood shoulder to shoulder, forming a wall of overlapping shields and long spears protruding out from the sides.

This was the standard greek phalanx and it proved to be immensely effective against the massive hordes poorly equipped for this type of warfare. According to Ctesias, an ancient Greek historian, the first waves to engage the Greek Phalanx were “cut to ribbons.”

Getting increasingly frustrated, yet still believing the Greeks could not hold out much longer, Xerxes then threw 10,000 his most elite forces, the immortals, the most highly trained and well equipped fighting force the Persians had to offer, into the second assault. But the immortals fared no better than those who attacked before them.

The Greeks had heard stories of the immortals, they had heard the immortals were one of the most elite fighting forces in the world. Defeating them so decisively had been given the Greeks a source of hope, and became a source of even more courage than they had before.

On the second day, Xerxes launched yet another massive frontal assault, supposing that “the enemies, being so few, were now disabled by wounds and could no longer resist.” Yet after hours of relentless fighting, and wave after wave of Persian assault, they fared no better on the second day than on the first. After thousands of casualties, Xerxes (Totally Perplexed) halted the assault and regrouped with his generals back at their camp.

Xerxes reputation of being a “God-King” was at risk of being discredited, and he was desperate for a plan. Later that day, Xerxes received a massive break. A local named Ephialtes, incentivized by his desire for reward from one of the wealthiest king in the world, informed Xerxes of a path starting from the East of the Persian camp, which encircled the Greek force.

On the night before the third day, the Persians led by the Persian General Hydarnes, took position on the ridge above the Spartan position, effectively encircling them. Leonidas received word from a Phocian runner that the Phocian force had retreated, and that the Persians completely surrounded the them.

Upon learning this, Leonidas rallied his troops together. He proclaimed that as free men, those who wish to leave may leave, and those who wish to stay, to obey Spartan code of Honor and hold off the Persian advance, were welcome to stay with him and fight to the death. Of the original 7,000 men, about 2,000 of the remaining stayed, including all of the remaining Spartans.

These men knew the chances of them surviving were slim to none, yet they were determined to hold off the Persian army until their men could retreat, and carry word of the likely Persian advancement.

On the third and final day of the battle, Xerxes rounded up 10,000 of his most elite infantry and cavalry forces and marched towards the Greek front line. This time, as the Persian front neared 50 meters, the Greeks made a final charge forward from their original position to met the Persian infantry in a wider part of the pass, attempting to slaughter as many of the invading force as possible.

The Spartans put up a heroic last stand. In the clash, two of Xerxes’s brothers, Abrochromes and Hyperanthes, were slain by Greek hoplites. The Spartan King Leonidas was also slain in the assault, picked off by Persian archers. After some time, most of the Greek force had been annihilated, some men retreated to a small hill behind the pass where they made there final stand.

Accepting their fate, the remaining men fought to the death on that hill, while Persian arrows rained down on them. Herodotus wrote: “Here they defended themselves to the last, those who still had swords using them, and the others resisting with their hands and teeth.”

The final death toll at Thermopylae cost the Persians an estimated 20,000+ fatalities. The Greek fatalities, those annihilated in the rearguard and those who died in the first two days of battle, was estimated at about 2,500+ men. When Xerxes men recovered the body of Leonidas and presented it to him, he ordered the corpse to be beheaded, and the body to be crucified.

Some years later, after the Persian Invaders had been defeated, Leonidas’s bones were returned to Sparta, and a Stone lion placed at the battle sight to commemorate his courage and patriotism in the face of tyranny.

The Battle Of Thermopylae has gained a reputation for one of the most famous battles in human history. The last stand of the Greeks is an example of what courageous and determined men can do whilst protecting the liberty of their homeland. It has served as a symbol for patriots standing up to tyranny, and it has become a cultural icon for western civilization.


Featured image source.

Socialism Fails Due to the Lack of Economic Calculation

By Andrew Lepore | United States

In 1920, an article first appeared In the German Archive for social sciences which decimated the socialist economic model and laid the foundation for the Austrian price theory. Economist Ludwig Von Mises’s article, “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth”, demonstrates the impossibility of a successful socialist economy. For this reason, it is one of the world’s most important economic articles.

At the time Mises published it, those in academia were debating the problem with incentive under socialism. The incentive to work as much as others, to work your hardest, to provide the best services, to do the jobs nobody wants to do, etc. Scholars and left-wing economists were attempting to solve the problem of incentive under socialism, and once they did so, they thought, they would have a system just as productive as capitalism.

By publishing this article, Mises answered their question by proving it is an impossible problem to solve. Mises demonstrated that the incentive which drives economic actions, both on the supply and demand side, comes from monetary reward. The cost-benefit analysis of the individual ultimately is how a person decides what they will do and how much they will work.

Similarly with what a person decides to buy, an individual will use their capital to purchase the object of most value to them at the least opportunity cost, or the least amount of money spent. The medium for all of this; for how we represent economic calculation that takes place in the market, how we determine profits and losses, and how we measure the cost and compare it to benefit, is through prices.

Prices emerge when there are many private owners of the means of production competing in the marketplace to convince consumers to spend their hard-earned capital on their product or service. Or in other words, prices emerge when many companies compete for the business of many customers by convincing them they can get the best product at the lowest cost ( The lowest opportunity cost for the greatest benefit, economic calculation).

Mises proved that socialism wouldn’t work because It cannot distinguish more or less valuable uses of resources. Nevertheless, with leftists being as hard headed as they are, the debate over the socialist calculation problem still rages on.

I recommend to all readers who want a deeper economic understanding of the failure after failure of government programs. It’s a short read, yet is full of information. It will arm you with economic facts to counter argument for statist programs, both on the left and the right.

“The significance of Mises’s 1920 article extends far beyond its devastating demonstration of the impossibility of socialist economy and society. It provides the rationale for the price system, purely free markets, the security of private property against all encroachments, and sound money. Its thesis will continue to be relevant as long as economists and policy-makers want to understand why even minor government economic interventions consistently fail to achieve socially beneficial results. “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” surely ranks among the most important economic articles written this century.” – Joe Salerno


Featured image source.