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]

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.


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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

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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


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The Florida Midterm Election Mess: A Recap

Atilla Sulker | United States

The recent midterm elections yet again exemplify the volatility of Florida politics. Like in the 2000 presidential election in which Bush defeated Gore by a small margin following a recount, the sunshine state continues to be plagued by a great confusion in regards to who has been elected.

Florida has been a key swing state for some time. As recent as the 2016 presidential election, it has been the focus of electoral controversy. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump defeated his opponent Hillary Clinton by a margin of less than 2 percent in the State- Trump leading with 49% and Clinton barely trailing with 47.8%.

In the most recent Senate election, incumbent Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson by a very slim margin of less than 0.5%. Scott won by a mere 12,562 votes, i.e. by 0.2 percentage points. Counties leaning in Nelson’s favor include Miami-Dade, Leon, and Broward Counties. Scott claimed a larger percentage of votes in Miami-Dade than did presidential contender Donald Trump in 2016.

Florida law requires that if a candidate wins by a margin of 0.5% or less, an automatic recount is triggered. Governor Scott filed a lawsuit on November 8th, making the accusation of election fraud. Scott boldly proclaimed: “I will not stand idly by while unethical liberals try to steal an election”. Scott was leading Nelson by around 57,000 votes at the close of the election, but this lead diminished to less than 15,000 within a few days.

Scott also appeared on Hannity recently where he expressed his disappointment with Senator Nelson, accusing his lawyers of trying to steal the election and referring to Nelson as a “career politician”.

In response to Scott’s accusations, on November 8th, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum tweeted: “Mr. @FLGovScott — counting votes isn’t partisan — it’s democracy. Count every vote”.

Broward County has been the center of focus in the election controversy, where a large wave of new votes were discovered after election night. Scott stated on Hannity: “We don’t know how many more votes they’re gonna come up with, but it sure appears they’re gonna keep finding as many votes as it takes to try to win this election”.

Trump responded to the Broward County incident on November 9th: “Mayor Gillum conceded on Election Day and now Broward County has put him “back into play.” Bill Nelson conceded Election – now he’s back in play!? This is an embarrassment to our Country and to Democracy!”

On November 10th, Trump also tweeted: “Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!”

Mayor Gillum, in response to Trump’s November 9th tweet, tweeted:” What’s embarrassing to democracy is not counting every vote — and you, of course. Count every vote.”

One twitter user under the name MaximusM76‏ who claims to be a supporter of Gillum responded to Gillum: “You are wrong Sir. I voted for you.. but you are wrong. NOT every vote should be counted. Fraudulent votes, which encompass several categories, should not count.”

Along with the senatorial race, the gubernatorial race in Florida has also been subject to much controversy. On election night, Representative Ron Desantis was leading Mayor Gillum by enough votes to bypass the 0.5% recount margin, but by November 10th, this lead had shrunk enough to fall within the margin of half a percent.

Gillum announced his concession from the race on election night, but retracted this concession on November 10th. Gillum loudly issued his clarion call: “I am replacing my earlier concession with an unapologetic and uncompromised call to count every vote.”

Florida continues to show its swing state characteristics and its evenly split tendencies. Rick Scott beat his 2010 gubernatorial opponent Alex Sink and 2014 opponent Charlie Crist by margins near 1 percent. These races remain hotly contested, but the razor-thin margins of this month’s elections and the mandatory recounts underscore that it is not an understatement to focus on the significance of the impact of small margins in any major Florida race.


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Kavanaugh Confirmed to Supreme Court

By Atilla Sulker | United States

On Saturday, the Senate finally voted on and confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. The confirmation marks a historic turning point in the decision. The vote had been delayed since the Senate Judiciary Committee initially set September 20th as the date on which its members would vote. President Trump nominated Kavanaugh on July 9th, earlier this year.

The Senate was nearly equally divided on the vote, with 48 senators voting against Kavanaugh and 50 voting in his favor. This is certainly tighter than the 54–45 vote which occurred during Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

Only one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, voted for Kavanaugh. Three Democrats joined the Republicans last year in voting for then-Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch’s confirmation. Senator Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican who did not vote in favor of Kavanaugh, instead voting “present”.

Around the beginning of the nomination process, Senator Rand Paul was seen as a possible swing vote among the other senators mentioned. Paul was concerned over Kavanaugh’s views on the Fourth Amendment but had later assured that after meeting with Kavanaugh, he had no more worries.

Trump immediately took to Twitter, stating: “I applaud and congratulate the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court.”

The nomination process exemplifies a polarizing political landscape in America in which both sides no longer debate over ideology, but instead sling mud at each other. Personal attacks have become imminent, gradually undermining productive political discourse.


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