Tag: private property

The Case Against Democracy in a Free Society

Jack Parkos | United States

“We must do (X)!” says the politician. “We must do it to save democracy!” To the democratic politician, democracy is like its child; they ignore or rebuke all who critique it. But in reality, democracy deserves much criticism for its failures.

Indeed, many people grow up thinking democracy is the last step in political theory. Democratic republicanism is the only way and it must spread throughout the world, say the many. It may seem we live under a great system where everyone has a say in the government. However, all that this means is that everyone else has a say over your life.

From Republic to Democracy

In the United States, we are a republic. However, it has become more democratic throughout the years. For example, one no longer must own property to vote. As a result, those without property may vote to implement or increase property taxes, involving themselves in a matter that does not affect them. Furthermore, criminals and the uneducated have as much power as you. They can vote your rights away with ease. The democratic politician relies on the lower class to gain power.

Without a doubt, democracy can economically incentivize unsuccessful behavior. Under our democracy, antidiscrimination laws often protect those who do not succeed by virtue of alleged equality. For example, schools may no longer choose how they fund their athletics because of gender “equality”.

A Restriction of Rights

Democracy is simply a violation of private property. It is a way for some to receive free stuff at the expense of others. Universal suffrage allows for the uninformed groups to decide what the informed must do.

If the right to vote were expanded to seven year olds … its policies would most definitely reflect the ‘legitimate concerns’ of children to have ‘adequate’ and ‘equal’ access to ‘free’ french fries, lemonade and videos. – Hans-Hermann Hoppe 

Moreover, after democracy came to be, communism and Nazism were able to rise through a democratic process. Democracy can just as easily lead to tyranny as any other form of government.

Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy. – Plato

In a democracy, a tyrant needs only 51% of the people to support him and his tyrannical actions are legitimate. 51% can never truly constitute the will of the people, and neither can any other figure less than 100%. Majority support does not make an action morally right. A popular vote does not decide ethics.

Poor Democratic Leaders

Under a free society, the best leaders would naturally rise and be chosen voluntarily. Under democratic rule, the worst leaders are generally going to be in charge. Deceptive people have an edge over honest people due to the fact that they don’t have to play by the rules; not doing so makes it a lot easier to garner votes.

Democracy is not based on the common good of the community but rather on irrational voter decisions. Plato uses an example of the doctor and a candyman. The doctor offers you the painful truth that ultimately will benefit you. He may do unpleasant procedures on you, but ultimately, you will see the gains. Meanwhile, the candyman offers you a lollipop. This, of course, is a lot more attractive.

Voters are historically unable to look at longterm consequences of actions, and as a result, many may pick the candyman. This is an excellent analogy. In truth, many democratic voters are like children wanting free goodies. “Free” healthcare and welfare are a lot more attractive to some than long-term and sustainable success that doesn’t come from someone else’s paycheck.

Better Alternatives

In a libertarian society, leaders would rise by protecting their people without stealing from others. It would all be voluntary, unlike democracy. A majority of others agreeing on something does not mean that everyone consents. For example, we can take Ben Franklin’s classical analogy of democracy:

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

According to the democratic politician’s logic, the lamb consented to be eaten because the majority of the wolves decided it was okay. Does this sound absurd? My neighbor deciding to steal my income is not freedom in any meaningful way.

Short-term Solutions

Unfortunately, a pure libertarian society is not around the corner. In spite of this, what is a good way to better safeguard rights? The best, most pragmatic short term solution is to “undemocratize” our country. The Founders required that one own land to vote, as they feared that those without land would attempt to steal the land of property owners (they were right; this has happened). It is fair that one should own property to vote, at least on issues regarding private property.

It is also worth debating whether prisoners and the uneducated should vote. Perhaps these are good ideas, perhaps not. But like all ideas, they should see a full and proper debate before reaching a verdict. Many may claim that such a notion is entirely unfair, from the start. How else, though, is it feasible to reduce the size and scope of government?

What Can We Do?

It is unlikely these exact policies will exist. However, those who seek to shrink the state should support any policy that makes us less democratic and prevents a tyranny of the majority. There should be requirements to vote that are worth discussing. These policies will make our country less democratic and more republican (in political theory terms, not the parties).

Naturally, nobody has the right to vote about what someone else does with their private property. But the less property the government steals, the better. Democracy is not liberty; it is an illusion of freedom that politicians can use to gain power.

The Founding Fathers warned us many times of what would happen. The pure libertarian society will not come anytime soon, but any action that supports liberty must be pursued. Naturally, less democracy is more freedom: true freedom.


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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

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!

Intellectual Property: Enemy of Freedom and Society

By TJ Roberts | United States

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

Intellectual Property Violates Real Property

Lockean Property Norms

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

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

Ideas are Not Scarce

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

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

Intellectual Property Assaults Private Property

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

Intellectual Property Holds Back Progress

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

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

Intellectual Property Has a Body Count

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

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

Intellectual Property Is the Enemy of Progress

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

Recommended Reading

Against Intellectual PropertyStephan Kinsella

Goods, Scarce and NonscarceStephan Kinsella and Jeffrey Tucker


This post was originally published in LIFE.

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Collectivism Has Destroyed Venezuela

By Trey Johnson | Venezuela

Millions of Venezuelans escape a country destroyed by bad government and coercive collectivism.

The border of Colombia and Ecuador is full of Venezuelans who are doing their earnest to escape the clutches of a coercive regime in search of free markets and better opportunities. Common tourists, amongst the droves of Venezuelans, must wait hours and hours in a line that wraps around the immigration office here in Ipiales, Colombia. During peak days, it can take over 24 hours to cross the border between Colombia and Ecuador.

The border crossing’s elevation is 2898 m (9500 ft), which makes the experience a rather cold one as nighttime approaches. Individuals in line are able to stay warm with the help of vendors selling coffee, hot dogs, and empanadas.

Most South American countries have no choice but to allow free movement of these refugees due to treaties signed by UN member states. The strain of this situation hampers economic stability and the free flow of goods and services due to long lines at the border.

While in the line, one can also learn of the tragedies affecting the people of Venezuela and understand why they are leaving their beloved homeland. Men and women full of fond memories and past success, now crushed by coercive collectivism. Doctors, welders, and professionals of all sorts are throwing away their experience to land a job in a neighboring country, hoping to make the minimum wage of $300 per month in favorable countries such as Chile and Peru. Ecuador and Colombia are not desirable, and Brazil’s language barrier makes the destination unattainable.

To date, an estimated 4 million Venezuelans have left the country. Hyperinflation is the sole reason these people have left. “There is a lot of work, but there is no money.” The minimum wage is currently 2,000,000 Bolivars per month which equates to $3 USD per month. That is $36 per year. The price of a kilogram of beef in Venezuela is $3 dollars and the price of shampoo is also $3.

To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government instituted new currency controls on money entering the country through financial institutions. In order to send money to your family members stuck in Venezuela, you must have a bank account in both Venezuela and an outside country. One refugee believes this policy is “choking the people.”

The current administration’s new constitution would completely eliminate the ability to own private property. This market uncertainty makes investments impossible.

The people who are working to stay in the country are almost at the end of what seems to be the brink of collapse. Schools are functioning, but they have no food to feed their students. Most of the faculty members leave the schools in search of new opportunities. Revolutionaries like the violin playing patriot and Oscar Pérez have become heroes to Venezuelans trying to take back their country.

The Venezuelan regime is continuing to provide a box of food to each family in accordance with its collectivist agreement. This box is called CLAP and contains two packages of flour and rice along with powdered milk “if you are lucky.” The frequency of these food distributions is about once every 5 to 6 months according to a refugee waiting in the 24-hour line.

One wealthy Venezuelan had a stable career for over 15 years. He had a house, a car, and “a whole complete life.” He went on trips with his family inside and outside the country. Right now he is busy moving groups of Venezuelans to more favorable environments scattered throughout South America. He understands the attraction of collectivism and believes “the Venezuelans have to learn the lesson.”

A Colombian bus driver passes and asks, “are you going to Cúcuta?”, a town on the border of Venezuela and Colombia, 32 hours in the opposite direction from this particular crossing.

It is truly a sad state of affairs for the people of Venezuela who slowly lost their grip on freedom and their country. Experts believe it will take 30 years to bring this country back to its former self. Many Venezuelans will most likely never return to their homeland, which is but another civilization lost to socialism and coercive collectivism.

Thousands of Venezuelans at the Border of Colombia and Ecuador

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Government Conservation Leads To Black Markets

By Isaiah Minter | United States

As animal rights activists across the country mourn the death of Sudan, formerly the world’s last male northern white rhino, environmentalists continue to demonize the rhino horn trade. WildAid CEO Peter Knights said: 

We can only hope that the world learns from the sad loss of Sudan and takes every measure to end all trade in rhino horn. While prices of rhino horn are falling in China and Vietnam, poaching for horn still threatens all rhino species.

Knight’s take on the issue, while certainly well-intentioned, is misguided. The simple exchange of rhino horns in the market is not a threat to all rhino species:  horns can be removed without actually killing the rhino, and if done right, the horn will grow back. Rather, the current system of horn trade that is managed by the government is a threat to all rhino species, as rhinos are deliberately being killed just for their horns. In other words, while government action has only exacerbated the effects of horn trade on rhino populations, it does not have to be this way.

Instead of approaching rhino conservation with more government force and control, we should pursue free markets and property rights. Of course, none of this is pure ideology speaking, the southern white rhino is a testament to the wonders of this approach. However, before I address the role of the market in saving the southern white rhino, it is necessary to understand the situation rhino populations face, along with the government’s role in the said situation.

The Current Situation

To quote award-winning zoologist journalist Fiona Macdonald:

Right now, there are only 29,000 rhinos left on the planet, most of which are in South Africa. It’s an incredible drop from the 500,000 that roamed Earth at the start of the 1900s, and sadly, the majority have been killed as a result of poaching, which increased 9,000 percent (yes, you read that right) between 2007 and 2014.

That means more than 1,000 rhinos are now killed illegally each year for their horns. Most of these end up in Asia, where they can reach up to US$100,000 per kilogram on the black market. Those prices are driven by the fact that many countries see rhino horn as a status symbol, and in Vietnam it’s believed (with no evidence whatsoever) to cure cancer.

When rhino horns are more expensive than gold, the rapid rate at which rhino populations are declining should not come as a surprise to anyone. However, it may come as a surprise to many that government prohibition, not the vague notion of human greed, is to blame for the devastation inflicted on rhino populations.

The plain fact is, government banning a commodity does nothing to reduce the demand for it. In Asia, where horns are used for traditional medicines, the black market is alive and well. Black markets form in response to government prohibition: after the prohibition of drugs and prostitution, one would’ve hoped we had learned our lesson. Clearly, we have not, leaving yet another animal species to pay the price for our foolishness.

In banning the trade of rhino horns, the government has not only artificially inflated the price of the commodity but has also prevented the owners of rhinos to sell their horns on the open market. Thus, in order to meet the high demand of horns and capitalize on the high-profit opportunity, poachers routinely kill wild rhinos in wildlife reserves.

However well-intentioned politicians and animal rights activists may be, they ignore the question of incentives. Governments cannot abolish greed, we must not kid ourselves into believing that political actors are selfless and omniscient individuals. However, there is a crucial distinction to be made between public and private action:  the market harnesses greed and internalizes costs while government amplifies the destruction of greed and socializes costs.

The careers of politicians do not depend on the welfare of rhinos, therefore they have little incentive to preserve them. But private owners, who do depend on the welfare of their rhinos and vice versa, have every incentive to preserve them.

The government approach is the very source of the waste, mismanagement, and destruction that exists in the modern horn trade industry, the market approach the cure for the outlined ails. As an example, let us look to South Africa.

Yes to Property Rights

In 1900, the southern white rhino was the most endangered of the world’s rhinoceros species. Hunted to the brink of extinction by English and Dutch Settlers, swift action was taken in the mid-20th century to preserve the species. Courtesy of state-owned parks and a successful breeding program, the white rhino population was 840 in 1960. But, wildlife market institutions were still failing, as private ranchers had little incentive to breed rhinos.

Prior to 1991, all wildlife in South Africa was un-owned property, thus in order to benefit off any wild animal, it had to be captured, domesticated, or even killed. This condition was reversed following the Theft of Game Act of 1991, which allowed for private ownership of any animal provided that it could be identified according to specific criteria.

By securing property rights and allowing market prices to operate, this policy changed the entire incentive mechanism of private ranchers: they were now encouraged to breed and care for their rhinos, ensuring a continuous stream of cash, as opposed to the destructive past manner of shooting them on the spot. By privatizing ownership of animals, decision-makers directly bore the cost of their actions. In the decades since this policy, white rhino populations have flourished.

Market incentives and secure property rights are the most reasonable and proven model for African rhino conversation. In order to promote and preserve this model of free-market environmentalism, there must be government oversight, thus there is a role for government to play. But it is a limited role that creates a framework under which private ownership and voluntary exchange can flourish, not an active role that creates a framework under which corruption can flourish.

Nevertheless, governments across the globe have endorsed the latter model, which in turn has devastated the five species of rhinos. I hope I speak for all environmentalists when I say it is imperative that we put our governments back on the former model: not just for the sake of white rhinos, but for endangered species across the globe.


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