Author: Atilla Sulker

Atilla Sulker is a senior in the IB Program from James S. Rickards High School in Tallahassee, Florida. He has been fascinated with politics and economics for around two to three years, and cites Ron Paul, Walter Block, Lew Rockwell, Randall Holcombe, Louis Carabini, John Denson, and Murray Rothbard as his influences. He is the founder of the Free Speech Society, a Facebook organization dedicated to bringing people from various different political backgrounds in radical defense of free speech. Atilla is also a guitar player of 5 years and enjoys playing and listening to Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Ritchie Blackmore, Neil Young, and his all time favorite, Joe Satriani. He is also fascinated with technology and mathematics, and plans on studying mechanical or materials engineering in college. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

Waiting for the Collapse: A Liberty Revolution

Atilla Sulker | United States

The world of libertarian thought is far from being insufficient in regards to ideas. Interdisciplinary scholars have emerged all over the world with a vast interest in this doctrine, and have built upon the works of such great scholars as Rothbard and Mises. Rothbard himself was, in fact, an exponent of Mises, and to this day, thousands of great minds continue to carry the torch and bring a plethora of new and fascinating ideas to the conversation.

One could say such ideas are far more dense than those of mainstream thought. They provide a fresh basis for solving various problems in the world, rooted in the old classical liberal tradition of private property. It is from this foundation that so many new ideas have been derived. Whether it is libertarian applications of chaos theory or Walter Block’s privatization of oceans and space, a clear causal link can be seen between such ideas and property rights.

But the main problem in contemporary libertarianism is not the lack of good ideas. There are indeed plenty. It is not even the disunity between so-called “thin” and “thick” libertarians, or any factions for that matter. It is rather the means to the realization of the desired ends. Libertarians today have great ideas for the ideal free society but seem to be lacking when it comes to finding a means to implement such ideas.

How Should Liberty Be Spread?

I have always viewed this area as the hardest to deal with. It is not the development of ideas that is troublesome- it is outreach. Just how do libertarians spread their ideas? How do they do so without tainting their ideas with a populist gloss? To what extent must libertarians work with people from other political leanings? What is the proper outreach model? These are the fundamental questions one will end up asking themselves when trying to solve this dilemma.

There is no doubt that up to this point, libertarianism has grown significantly. What was once seen as a movement for those on the fringes of society now receives significant attention, especially following the presidential campaigns of Ron Paul. A change of heart and mind has occurred in many people already, but beyond this, the leviathan state continues to tighten its grip on our property, and consequently, our liberties.

Trying to get “freedom candidates” elected has been the traditional method that libertarians have been pursuing for so long, whether under the banner of the Libertarian Party, or in the form of electing populist, or libertarian-leaning Republicans. This phenomenon is the heart of why libertarians are struggling to bring forth political change. It is very much evident that the flaw is not necessarily in the efforts espoused by libertarians, but rather in the methodology, i.e., the idea that we can “vote our way to freedom”.

This is a deeply flawed view. While this does not necessarily invalidate the concept of a night watchman state or a decentralized constitutional republic, if it is actually carried out properly, it trumps the idea that the current state of affairs can magically be reversed. Robert Higgs’s ratchet effect theory clearly underscores this phenomenon. The Higgsian doctrine asserts that once a major crisis is over, government will shrink, but never back to the level it was at before the outbreak of the crisis. Hence we are all like the frog waiting in the boiling pot.

Data put out by the IMF shows that before the U.S. committed to being involved in WWI, less than 2 percent of GDP was public spending. After the war, the lowest public spending sunk down to was around 3.6 percent. Following the Great Depression and WWII, public spending came down to a level of about 14 percent, but never got any lower than this. A classic representation of the ratchet effect.

Is Voting Really a Solution?

The question becomes- can we really vote our way to freedom? Have we traveled too far into the void to repeal the leviathan state? The U.S. national debt is already 21 trillion and continues to grow. We have become more than a leviathan state at home, but also an empire abroad. It would be foolish to think that this could be reversed gradually with the stroke of a pen. And electing so-called “freedom candidates” does no good unless elected en masse. Cherry picking certain races to work to elect such candidates has little to no effect on the legislative process.

I had the opportunity to ask Lew Rockwell about this at the Mises Supporters Summit earlier in September. My question was along the lines of this: “Can we vote ourselves to a smaller government via electing “freedom candidates”, or do we need to scrap our government completely and rebuild political society from scratch?”. Upon answering, Rockwell described voting as a “sacrament of the state”, proclaiming that it is not the answer to our freedom. Rockwell then cited Hans Hoppe, stating “the wider the franchise, the more people voting, the less freedom there is.”. He closed off his remarks saying “ as a country, we were far better off when people had their own property… now everybody can vote, we have a leviathan state, and these are not unconnected things.”.

DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University Randall G. Holcombe did an excellent study on the gradual democratization of America, and its drifting away from its roots of constitutional republicanism. Holcombe cited the changes in the electoral college and the growth of populism in the Jacksonian era as the chief causes of the gradual shift to majoritarian rule and consequently, the decline of freedom. It is democracy that relies on voting, and democracy is far from liberty. Democracy has lead to the rise of mass scale, “national pork barrel politics”.

This is not to say that is it fallacious to vote for or support a candidate who may have good qualities. To see voting as a solution to the current state of affairs is an expression of great naïveté, but it can still be used as a tool to numb the pain, so to speak. The role of running for office or getting elected can be used as a bully pulpit position.

Regardless of this, the collapse is imminent. This is not to be an open invitation to further the growth of the empire, however. Where the leviathan state can be curtailed, it ought to be, if the opportunity becomes apparent. But it would be foolish to think the empire could be curtailed to such an extent as to enact a clean repeal.

Collapse as an Opportunity

It is with this mindset that one can begin to deduce a better solution to the problem of realizing libertarian ends. Though it may seem counterintuitive, perhaps the solution is not to vote our way to freedom, but to wait for the eventual collapse. Only then will there be a vacuum for libertarian ideas to be injected into. This vacuum is indeed the best solution, but for libertarians to prevail, they must make sure to fill it when they have the chance.

Spreading the ideas to fill the vacuum is by no means a spontaneous process. It must be done before the vacuum is created. It is the prevailing mindset of the population before the collapse occurs that shall determine how the vacuum will be compensated for. If the mindset preceding the collapse is one of socialism and dicta, then the vacuum will be filled with such. If the mindset preceding the collapse is that of neocolonialism and empire, then the vacuum will become compensated in such a way. In this same way, if the mindset is that of liberty and voluntarism, the restructuring of the political society will occur in favor of such principles.

Crane Brinton’s great work, The Anatomy of Revolution, underscores the causal connection between political change and prevailing ideas. In his book, Brinton compares the development of a revolution to that of a fever. He lays down four stages: 1. Incubation; 2. Symptomatic; 3. Crisis; 4. Convalescence. The incubation stage is that of underlying causes coming into contact with the political apparatus. The symptomatic stage is that of political struggle becoming observable and evident. The crisis stage is the breaking point, i.e., the collapse of the empire. And the convalescence stage is the recovery from the crisis.

The model does not necessarily have to be violent. It can be assessed and applied in such a way that it may be able to guide a peaceful revolution of ideas. We are well past the first stage and are in stage two. The problems associated with the leviathan state are very much evident now. The breaking point will be the collapse, but for libertarian ends to be properly realized, libertarian ideas must become more widespread first. The prevailing attitude of the public will ultimately determine what will happen following the crisis stage.

The 1917 Russian Revolution and the 1910 Mexican Revolution well exemplify the prevailing passions of the public determining the course of political society. It was the prevailing attitudes of the Russian public which lead to the crisis of the February and October Revolutions. As Lew Rockwell explains: “The Russian war itself was funded through money creation… the inflation affected every last person and inspired massive unrest that led to the triumph of Communism.”.

Ron Paul delivered some excellent remarks in regards to this issue at the September Mises Supporters Summit. “I just don’t think that the answer is in Congress and voting”, asserted Paul. “I don’t believe we’re gonna have, all of a sudden, an influx of libertarian-minded people”. “I think there’s gonna be a collapse. I don’t think we’re gonna transition out of this”. “It all depends on the education and changing people’s minds”.

Preparing for the Collapse

To wait for the collapse and expect change all of a sudden would be naively foolish. The second part, the education aspect, is integral. For if the prevailing attitude of the public is not changed, no political change can be expected. This is why organizations like the Mises Institute which focus on education rather than public policy are very important to the success of the libertarian movement. The prevailing attitude must become one of free markets and voluntarism before the collapse occurs. And as of now, it is beginning to lean towards socialism and economic interventionism. This is why libertarians must walk away from the political box for good and focus on education. They must shed light on the injustices of the leviathan state and the destruction the Federal Reserve is inflicting. They must underscore the lack of economic calculation under socialism as exposed by Mises. They must underscore the causal link between empire and socialism at home.

At the September Mises Summit, I had the honor to meet Louis Carabini, founder of Monex Precious Metals. Carabini released his new book Liberty, Dicta, and Force very recently. It is indeed a masterpiece. A truly “red pilling book”, so to speak, it connects the libertarian conscience to our daily acts of volition and voluntarism, and to the workings of the human mind. What the book fundamentally asserts is that it is foolish to have faith in the political process. All politics does is turn us against each other when in our everyday lives, we get along mighty fine. When government is factored into the equation, using force against each other is justified. In our personal lives, we would never justify using force against our neighbors, even if it were for benevolent causes.

It is perhaps the abandonment of the political process that will end, or at least significantly relieve the “thick-thin” libertarian debate. Personal views will simply be personal views, not horizons for political change. Libertarians will be able to unite under the banner of voluntaryism and leave personal beliefs to themselves.

Only when the prevailing attitude of the public yearns for liberty and when libertarians abandon the political box will there be hope for the liberty movement. Only then will the human will be set free.


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.

Featured Image Source

Advertisements

SaS and Richard Sulík Are Closest to Freedom in Slovakia

Atilla Sulker | United States

Last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jozef Martiniak at the 2018 Mises University. Dr. Martiniak came to Auburn all the way from Slovakia and had many great stories to tell about his experience growing up in a Cold War era Czechoslovakia. My conversations with Dr. Martiniak not only revealed an interesting story from the perspective of someone who experienced socialism firsthand but also sparked my interest in the politics of Slovakia. He mentioned that there was a libertarian-oriented party in Slovakia. So, I endeavored to examine the movement in Slovakia, analyzing its scope, significance, and authenticity.

The SaS Party and Richard Sulík

 

The main vessel of Slovak libertarianism nowadays is the political party “Freedom and Solidarity” (SaS). Economist Richard Sulík, the man behind the Slovakian flat tax, founded the party in 2009. In February of that year, the party collected the 10,000 required signatures for its establishment. Sulík became the first chairman.

According to their website, the party claims to run on a platform free of the typical populist propaganda loaded with catchy slogans. They also claim that experts in various fields, rather than ideologues, run the party.

This idea of “experts” or “elitists” running the party is reminiscent of the system which the founders of the United States government hoped to maintain. It was a system in which the people would only directly elect a small percentage of state officials. This gradual shift from elitism to a system more centered around direct election helped lead to the growth of the state. This phenomenon has led to the rise of “mass scale pork barrel politics” such as the socialization of healthcare.

The party is also centered around offering specific solutions on how to allocate the budget. On the contrary, they oppose putting out “unrealistic promises”. It also asserts that the armed forces must have clear objectives. This sort of reform effort, though, puts too much trust in the state. Governments are inherently very tough to reform.

Libertarian Similarities

Though SaS never explicitly claims to be anchored in the chief tenets of libertarianism, it puts heavy emphasis on free will and individualism. The party draws a connection between individual freedom and happiness. From this, the party asserts that it opposes economic intervention. The party emphasizes a more consequentialist argument regarding the effects of freedom on the collective population.

One interesting thing I learned through my conversations with Dr. Martiniak was that the “passion” present in many libertarians in America was not present in Slovakia. Rather, SaS libertarianism is more “contra the state” instead of a truly moral, Rothbardian form.

SaS lists the promotion of “basic solidarity” as one of its key tenets in Article II of its charter. This sort of concept is manifested in the “euro-realist” stance of the party. The party sees the European Union as an idea with great potential, but also one that demands significant reform. The party also asserts, however, that it seeks to curb the EU’s bureaucracy and regulations.

Party Shortcomings

Its perception of the EU, though, is flawed. SaS believes that the EU should exist for its promotion of free trade and free movement. However, in regards to this, a classic Bob Murphy argument comes into play.

In his article, “But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?”, Murphy comes to the conclusion that if a small-government society can sustain itself peacefully, these same people should be able to live together peacefully without a government. In the same way, if member countries of the EU really want free trade and movement, why would there be the need for a political union such as the EU? Even if countries were to reform the EU, it would gradually centralize power over time. The Iron Law of Oligarchy strongly suggests this.

In an article by The Telegraph, Louise Armitstead describes the sentiment of Richard Sulík. Sulík often receives criticism for being a nationalist, but Armitstead articulates that he is rather “the hero of all discontented Europeans”. This certainly demonstrates the growing resentment in Europe for the government. It underscores the borderless nature of freedom, its universal application. It is not something that remains within a single country, but rather, it spreads. Of course, it has nothing to do with nationalism.

An Imperfect Match

In my humble opinion, the efforts of SaS do not effectively line up with libertarianism. Sure, the party is pro-market, anti-centralization, and pro-civil liberties. At the same time, however, due to the fact that it is not grounded in property rights and the NAP, its attempts blur.

This is why it is so important that any attempt at libertarianism be grounded in these axioms. Otherwise, the message strays from being genuine. SaS embodies the more “pragmatic libertarianism” present in those such as Gary Johnson, rather than genuine Misesian or Rothbardian aesthetic.

Originally published on Mises.org


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.

Featured Image Source

Are American Libertarians Inherently Consequentialists?

Atilla Sulker | United States

At the superficial level, libertarianism is split into two main camps regarding a moral doctrine. There is the old Aristotelian natural law tradition, sometimes referred to as deontological libertarianism, which draws some of the most passionate libertarians, including the likes of Ron Paul, Andrew Napolitano, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand. And there is the consequentialist (often called utilitarianism) approach to libertarianism, advocated by many pillars of libertarianism including, Ludwig Von Mises, Milton Friedman, and David Friedman. The former group believes that libertarianism is valid because initiating force in any way is morally wrong. The latter on the other hand supports libertarianism simply because, in their minds, it leads to the greatest prosperity.

But the adherence to any form of libertarianism in America makes for a perplexing phenomenon. America has the greatest total wealth in the world and is the hallmark of the great machine that is capitalism. Surely there is some amount of freedom in America, despite the squabbles of libertarians. If not, the great works of entrepreneurial enterprise and competition would not be present to provide the average American with such goods as cars and electric ovens, products once classified as “luxury goods”.

Yet at the same time, the State tramples on the liberties of its citizens every minute. Wiretaps are initiated whenever the president feels like doing so. The state drafts young men to fight in territories unknown to them, showing how frugal its citizens are in its menacing eyes. Bureaucrats interfere with progressive efforts espoused by communities to take back control of their schools. Mandatory minimums tear apart families and lead to the mass incarceration of individuals who are supposedly detriments to society. Regardless of how you assess this claim from a moral standpoint, the argument could be strongly made that government in this day in age has become a far greater detriment to society than any drug lord.

Despite the mass regulations enforced by the state, the great bulwark of capitalism cannot be stymied. Sure, competition is slowly dying off and the Fed creates a false illusion of the growth of prosperity. But despite the destruction created by the Keynesian saga, prosperity still thrives to a much greater extent in America than most other nations around the world, further validating the extent of the notion that entrepreneurship drives the improvement in the material quality of our lives. Indeed the machine of entrepreneurship is far more powerful than the government. The great technological revolution of the late 20th century shows how the hindrances established by the government could not stop the glorious consequences of a market economy.

Now here’s a head-scratcher. Does an increase in the quality of goods in the market due to competition in the private sector necessarily signify an increase in liberty? Does a vibrant capitalist economy necessarily fall in line with a free world? Quite obviously not, as our country represents a good case study of this seemingly paradoxical phenomenon. But only superficially does it occur to be perplexing, for going beyond the layer of gloss shows that the situation is not that complicated.

A larger amount of wealth simply means a larger amount of capital for the state to exploit in its nefarious affairs. It means government simply has more wealth to steal and hence more wealth to fund the welfare-warfare state. This is evident with such tragedies as the growth of the military industrial complex and the bureaucratization of education. Lew Rockwell sums up this phenomenon:

In reality, the State is far more dangerous in a productive, capitalist society than it is in an impoverished, socialized society, simply because it has far more private resources to pillage and loot for the State’s own benefit. Availing itself of the vast fruits of private production, the State engages in self-aggrandizement, expansion, and, inevitably, imperialism.”

In retrospect, we see that much of the past imperialist adventures were supported through the exploiting of private capital, e.g. FDR’s redirecting of resources to support World War Two, or the rapid proliferation of nuclear arms during the Cold War. Indeed a capitalist economy could well be a catalyst for the expansion of the state. And more importantly, a desensitized public needs to be conditioned to express obedience. Think of the state as a block of sodium and the capitalist economy and obedience as a tub of water. Without the water, the sodium remains stable, but when put in the water, it becomes volatile. This is how the state works, it works parasitically- the more blood there is to suck, the bigger it becomes.

Comparing the United States to a garden variety third world country, we discover something interesting. While the former professes to be the beacon of the free world, it is so bloated and volatile that it tramples on the liberties of its people daily. The latter advertises itself as a monstrous entity that will drop the guillotine on any dissenters but is often so poor that it can’t actually enforce these codes.

Regardless of what a country’s government may proclaim itself to be, whether a slaughterer of masses or a liberator of worlds, to truly judge how free it is, we must focus on the actual situation of the country, i.e., the effectiveness of its means in realizing its desired ends.

Economic historian Robert Higgs adheres to this view, and used it to make a case for leaving the United States in search of another country. In a speech he gave, Higgs said:

If I were in your position, I would consider seriously getting out of this country, not because I think any other country is a paradise by the way. But because I think no other country has the means (emphasis added) that the government of this country has to carry out these horrifying surveillance programs, and other measures of state tyranny. So, I’m going to move. I’d suggest you might consider moving somewhere else.”

Higgs himself moved to Mexico in October of 2015.

So if one proclaims himself to be a natural rights libertarian, wouldn’t he be contradicting this assertion if he continues living in the United States? Natural rights libertarians are defenders of liberty even if it leads to economically inefficient outcomes. It would then follow that if they truly hold this to be true if they are truly the bleeding heart natural rights supporter that they claim to be, they would move to another country that does not have the means to enforce such control as our own.

I don’t believe that any libertarian can be classified as fully of the natural rights tradition or fully a consequentialist. Surely a consequentialist would become inclined to believe in some sort of natural rights if the government began to kill members of his family. He wouldn’t oppose it only on the grounds that it disturbs order and leads to disutility.

Now certain issues may invoke a more natural rights based defense. Such issues may include abortion and the defense of the second amendment. It would be hard not to be rooted in the natural law tradition to an extent, yet be an ardent supporter of the second amendment or the right to life.

Based on the actions of libertarians here in America however, on the economic front, the consequentialist doctrine trumps any belief that they may have in natural rights, not fully, but to an extent that libertarians have decided to stay here rather than follow the Higgsian vision. It would be foolish to try and sit here and say that we would defend liberty even if it didn’t lead to economically sound outcomes, yet live in a country in which the means to the destruction of liberty are far greater than most any other country in the world.

It is clear that we enjoy the fruits of entrepreneurship and capitalism as present in this country. For the American libertarian, the loss of this great prosperity in exchange for a more free lifestyle is not a convincing trade-off. Let’s face it, we all enjoy the constant new innovations in technology, in medicine, etc. We wouldn’t be willing to give up our cellular devices or our polio-free bodies in exchange for a more libertarian way of going about our lives.

America can be seen as a coin, having a free side to it, and an unfree side. As Lew Rockwell explains:By way of illustration, in the US today, we have two economies, one free and one unfree. The free one has given us the great abundance of consumer goods, the widest distribution of wealth, and the fastest pace of technological innovation known in the history of man. The unfree one—characterized by the two trillion dollar federal budget and the more than one-quarter of that spent on apparatus that builds and administers weapons of mass destruction—has produced what we have been reading about in the headlines for the last two months. Military Socialism, which exists by pillaging the free economy, is responsible for a brutal and immoral war on a civilian population halfway around the world—the destruction of hospitals, churches, nursing homes, residential neighborhoods, and town squares.”

So yes, it is the prosperity in the capitalist economy that keeps us here in this country. It is the reason why we enjoy the economic freedom present in this country. The atrocities committed by our government won’t drive us away, but the market economy keeps us latched. It thus follows that the American libertarian is inherently, to an extent, a consequentialist.


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.

Featured Image Source

Property Rights in the Digital Paradigm

By Atilla Sulker | United States

Earlier this year, I published an article on Lewrockwell.com in which I discussed social media sites, free speech, and “digital property rights”. In this piece, I came to the conclusion that social media sites and blogs are very much like physical buildings and firms. The property owner may set his own rules within his property, so long as these rules don’t involve violence. He may grant, limit, or completely revoke my right to free speech, and may expel me from his property if he wishes. Social media sites ought to operate in this same way.

What my investigation underscored, however, was something more fundamental. Not only did it shed light on the fact that free speech stems from property rights, or that property rights can be applied to the internet, but it also highlighted that private property rights are an excellent tool in combating disputes over speech, among other issues, and are the final arbitrator in such disputes. I am currently working on a paper in which I seek to give a more than superficial analysis of the internet through property rights, but for the scope of this article, I shall try to summarize my argument extending digital property rights beyond social media sites.

If social media sites are like private firms in the physical realm, then networks and ISPs are like private roads and road managers, respectively. The internet is comprised of multiple networks, each connected to form the aggregate. This conglomeration of networks allows the user to explore what we refer to as the internet, a set of connected networks.

Suppose that we lived in a society in which all roads were privatized and road managers could collect money for the use of roads through various different mechanisms. A given road manager could charge a fee per mile, a fee every time someone entered their road, a larger year-long pass fee, etc. Regardless of how the fee would be collected, competition would encourage the most convenient system, and so a one time fee covering a longer term of usage would probably become popular.

Now just as buildings and land are private property, private roads are as well. If a private road manager were given full access to his property rights, he would be able to curtail the entry of certain people, limit certain speech, etc. This could be very practical, as the majority of society would demand that certain people such as criminals not be let in, this demand being backed by their willingness to give the road manager their money. Roads could also prevent overflow by not permitting the entrance of people beyond a certain limit. We now see that roads are bound by the same property rights as houses and restaurants, given that they are privatized.

Since ISPs own a certain portion of the internet, their respective network can in many ways be likened unto road managers owning certain roads within the whole conglomeration of roads and highways. For one to own property, they must either homestead “common property” (property not owned by anyone, for example, a chunk of undiscovered land), purchase it from someone else, or steal it. Public property is another interesting phenomenon. No one owns it, but everyone uses it and funds it.

Many claim that the internet is “open” or public, but this defies the fundamental nature of how property works. “Common property” does not exist in the digital realm since bandwidth, which can be likened unto lanes in a road, is created by ISPs, hence they claim the original ownership. Henceforth, they have the exclusive right to use the property as they wish. In this sense, the idea of net neutrality is rebuked, for it is a violation of digital property rights, the equivalent to the property rights of the private road owner.

These roads lead the way to websites, which can be put into two categories. The first one is the one I discussed in my previous article- social media sites and blogs. Again, these websites are like physical property in which the owner may expel people. The second type of website would be simply meant for reading information, not including any accounts (for example, an informational site). These websites can be likened unto privately owned land/ landmarks not meant for letting people in, but meant simply for viewing as one drives down a road.

Ultimately, each ISP, like a private road would offer something to bring in more customers from other firms. Imagine that there is a Starbucks in the middle of nowhere and there exist two roads to get to it. Suppose one road is made of a material that drastically speeds up the cars using it, while another road is just a normal road. Assuming the price to use either road is near the same, the customer would choose the former as he would be able to get his coffee faster and get back to what he is doing. Customers could choose ISPs over each other in this same fashion. Certain ISPs could also limit internet traffic to prevent “overflow” and keep their networks efficient. Hence trying to homogenize each network is actually betraying the idea of consumer choice, despite the rhetoric of those supporting it.

My investigation has hopefully dispelled this notion that the internet is “free” or “open”. This is a common fallacy that ignores the hierarchical connection between property rights and free speech, the former being the apparatus which the latter stems from. If we treat the internet in the same way in which we treat the physical realm, it is seen that private property rights again become the final arbitrator of disputes. Domain owners own only their plot of “land” and ISPs own their “roads”. Taking this approach is not only moral but allows the market economy to properly function and bring on a plethora of competing firms and consumer choices.

References

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. “Of Private, Common, And Public Property And The Rationale For Total Privatization.” Libertarian Papers 3, no. 1 (2011): 1-13.


This article was originally published on LewRockwell.com

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 Social Media Censorship Problem, Solved

Atilla Sulker | United States

With the recent suspending of the accounts of many individuals on social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, people are beginning to question the validity of the move. In fact, some liken it to an attack on free speech and a bold censorship. To the libertarian, this is a major area of concern; before any actions take place, one must evaluate the situation critically.

We must first establish the premise that government tends to gradually prey on our liberties more and more. We are like the frog in the boiling pot, so to speak. If we assign government a small task, the scope of this task becomes larger over time. As a result, we end up with more regulations and fewer liberties. Based on this premise, the goal that the libertarian should be aiming at is to extend free speech as far as possible without violating the non-aggression principle.

The Nature of Rights

It is also important to realize how rights work. Rights are hierarchical, and at the top of the hierarchy is property rights. From property rights stems the freedom of speech and a whole range of other rights. Property rights not only allow the owner of the property to say what he pleases on the property, but also give him the power to use property such as billboards and signs to spread his message. In this way, property rights come before free speech. 

You can not come onto my property and say as you wish. I, as the owner, set the limits as to what people can and can’t say. Though I may allow you to say certain things, you have no initial right to speech on my property; I must grant it to you. We can clearly see the superiority of property rights to free speech.

So how does all this apply to the digital paradigm? I will now begin exploring a term I have coined: “digital property rights”.

Rights and Social Media

Many people use the argument that Facebook and Twitter, among other social media sites, are private companies and they hence have the right to pick and choose who can use their site. If one thinks about this, it is similar to businesses in the physical realm. For this analogy, I will be comparing social media sites to giant apartments.

If I were to rent an apartment, I would have access to a certain area of property, but I’d simply be renting it and would still have to live within a certain set of rules that the property owner sets. The apartment owner has laid out his terms in our contract. He could quite possibly charge me fees for various violations of the contract, whether it be a noise violation, a disturbance of peace, etc.

Connecting this to social media, it becomes clear that accounts operate in this same way. The account user is entering the “digital property” of the site owner. The site owner ultimately has the rights to grant or revoke the right of speech to the user. It is his or her “digital property”; hence, he or she sets the rules. We can think of account restrictions and temporary bans as fees charged to the tenant in the apartment for various violations of the contract. We can think of account terminations as the evictions of the digital realm.

The Implications

So where has this analogy lead us to, and what implications does it have for the libertarian? For one thing, it outlines the importance of the voluntary contract, but beyond this, it shows how fundamental property rights are to the libertarian conscience. It seems that property rights can solve practically any issue, and this is certainly one of them. It can, of course, be applied to areas beyond just social media, including websites and domains.

Now a common objection to the ideas I have laid down would be that these social media sites have conspired with the government to ban certain people, and hence this is not private discrimination, but public discrimination. Though this argument may be convincing, it is important to never lose sight of our goal, which is the diminution of the scope of government. If we were to try and stop social media sites from taking such actions, it would bring in further government intervention, which is not a good means to our desired ends. 

Another objection that I have heard is that these various social media sites are “monopolies”. In assessing this claim, it is important to look at monopoly from an Austrian economist’s perspective. To the Austrian, monopoly is not when a certain firm controls the majority of an industry, but when it has the government’s permission and privilege to do so. Luckily, there are still alternative routes to spread ideas on the internet.

The Only Fair Is Laissez-faire

The private industry is very important in protecting one’s freedoms because incentives for profit are directly linked to the satisfaction of the consumer. Some people think that it is wrong to criticize the censorship of certain social media sites, because they are private. However, one can criticize a private company, yet still believe in its sovereignty. After all, the whole point of privatizing is to ensure greater consumer satisfaction.

Laissez-faire capitalism is the only way to increase the amount of choices in an industry to the greatest extent. With the consumer in control, we will ultimately see the fate of sites like Facebook and Twitter. If the consumer does not like their execution of censorship, they may protest the sites and boycott them. These same protocols exist in any industry. The consumer decides the fate of a company, so if a firm is not pleasing the consumer, they will either have to change their ways or liquidate. This is one of the many benefits of capitalism. Vote with your dollar!

Originally published on Lewrockwell.com


71 Republic prides itself 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. We appreciate your support.

Featured Image Source