Tag: Technology

Andrew Yang’s UBI Plan is No Breath of Fresh Air

Glenn Verasco | Thailand

If there’s one welfare state proposition that makes Libertarians reconsider their anti-government position, it might be UBI (Universal Basic Income). The concept of UBI is simple: every person in a given country gets cash from the government every month. Rather than rationing food, energy, or clothes like a purely Socialist society, a nation with UBI allows those on the receiving end to decide which of their needs should be met the same way people who earn their own money do.

Continue reading “Andrew Yang’s UBI Plan is No Breath of Fresh Air”

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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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Space: The Next Victim of American Expansionism

By William Ramage | United States

Manifest Destiny was the nationalistic ideology that westward expansion was inevitable, and that it was the destiny of the United States to occupy all of North America. It was the common belief that the land was provided by divine rule to nurture the nation, and the people of it were obligated to put it to use. The federal government went to great extents, often socially and morally unjust, in order to fulfill their destiny, such as the Mexican-American war, the Louisiana Purchase, and the construction of a transcontinental railroad. This not only benefited the land holdings of the Union but also a sense of national pride. Trade networks were constructed, and capitalism flourished.

Manifest Destiny was achieved to a great extent, leaving many expansionists with a temporary feeling of accomplishment. However, expansionism did not die when America reached its North American goal, and neither did the desires of the citizens; it has remained in society and continues to be a very big part of the American identity today. In modern America, opportunities for discovery and the ability to boost national pride in a peaceful way come seldom. However, often hidden in the shadow of “science and technology”, America’s quest for the colonization of Mars is essentially a modern-day Manifest Destiny.

It is in the progressive nature of Americans, a result of the ethics this country was founded on, to exceed expectations and set a high standard in everything we do. NASA leads the world in space exploration and is taking the global effort of Martian colonization into its own hands. When compared to other nations with exceptional space programs, the United States has continuously been the most successful and evidently had the most drive. The successful recent landing of Nasa’s InSight probe further advocates America’s expertise in this field. Space is the last frontier known to man, as humanity has managed to leave virtually no region on Earth unmapped.

The unknown and opportunity to explore, conquer, and obtain land has captivated Americans since the days of our founding fathers. As technology, science, and national pride began to climb as a result of the (mostly) successful conquest for North America, Americans were presented with the technological and financial means to map and explore an unimaginably large frontier. The desire and sheer will of accepting a task as mind-boggling as this was provided by themselves; the very reason NASA is as successful as it is.

In a nation infamous for its great political rifts, Americans have always been able to bond over exploration and discovery. This does not pertain solely to territorial acquisitions, but travels deeper. Contemporary American society will always have a desire to learn and deepen their understanding of the universe, an expansion of the mind. Therefore, modern-day expansionism is an effect of the American mindset and ideology and remains a prominent aspect of American culture as we all seek to expand our knowledge, liberty, and values of our country.

Expansionism is now at its greatest peak, as every day we get closer to providing social liberty and the greatest amount of political unity possible. Although America has expanded its territory and values to a great extent and already set a precedent for future democracies, it is still far from perfect and will continue to grow closer and closer to its ultimate goal of expanding ethically to all.


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Privatizing Mass Transit Could Solve the Global Gas Crisis

By Indri Schaelicke | United States

With oil and gas supplies dwindling, it is more imperative than ever that we cut back fuel consumption. For years, experts have been encouraging the populace to find ways to scale back. Easy ways to achieve this include carpooling, keeping vehicles up to standards that maximize fuel efficiency, walking, biking, and using mass transit. Public transportation infrastructure has greatly improved since the dawn of the concept. However, like any publicly funded program, public transportation suffers from several major issues.

Economic Flaws of Government Agencies

A flaw inherent to government agencies is that they have no incentive to turn a profit. These programs will continue to exist no matter how profitable they are. Hence, they have no reason to innovate and provide better, more appealing products. In the first three months of 2018 alone, the US Postal Service reported a $1.3 billion loss. A private business could not afford to experience such losses without going bankrupt, but the USPS has been doing this for years now.

In the years between 2001 and 2015, the USPS posted a loss in 11 of them. The Post Office has not been profitable since 2006, when it had a $900 million surplus. By comparison, UPS, a private mail delivery company, has posted a profit in excess of at least a billion dollars in 12 of 14 years since 2005. The company profited by $382 Million in 2007, and $807 Million in 2012. UPS attracts many more customers and makes a much greater profit because the goods and services it offers are more desirable to consumers.

Private companies must offer a desirable, in-demand product in order to make a profit and stay in business. A famous example of a company going bankrupt due to their products becoming obsolete is Blockbuster. The beloved movie rental store was run out of business because of the changing movie rental market. Customers were no longer interested in checking out a movie from a store, but rather, in on-demand streaming services. Blockbuster did not offer this, so its customers took their business elsewhere. As a result, companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon took off.

The Oil Crisis and Private Mass Transit

Current estimates say that the world could run out of oil by 2052. In addition, gas supplies will likely run on empty by 2060. In order to extend this timeframe so that we can find more reserves, we must drastically cut back on the amount we are using as a whole. Admittedly, automobile technology is making great strides every day, which will boost fuel efficiency and eliminate waste. However, this may not be enough. Experts have already been encouraging the widespread use of mass transit, a step in the right direction.

If the widespread adoption of mass transit is to be most effective, the industry must be privatized. Mass transit companies’ privatization would encourage the development of new, more efficient technologies as businesses seek to cut down on costs and offer better goods and services to consumers.

A prime example of the success privatizing mass transit could see is Elon Musk’s Boring Company tunnel in Los Angeles. Seeking a solution to the notoriously bad LA traffic, Musk has begun the construction of an underground tunnel, in which specialized vehicles will shuttle cars and people on a two-mile journey. By operating the venture in the private sector, Musk’s venture will avoid the ball and chain of the government bureaucracy. On the contrary, it can harness its profit incentive to drive innovation and provide the best services it can.

Failing Public Transportation

When governments run unpopular businesses, there is little to no chance for innovation. Since the foundation of Amtrak in 1970, the passenger railroad company has never generated a profit. The company has no incentive to survive the competitive transportation market, as it knows it will continue to receive government funding every year. A private company, however, could never afford to take losses for 48 straight years. It instead would need to innovate and create better services to attract customers. Mass transit must be privatized in order to promote innovation and bring costs down for consumers.

If the world is able to use privatized transit systems more than conventional automobiles, global gas and oil consumption will slow down, and the lifetime of our existing reserves will increase. This is crucial, as renewable energy resources are yet to be reliable and mainstream. Further development must go into renewable energy, and private mass transit will ensure that oil and gas do not run out before then.


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How the United States Can Increase Market Freedom

By Max Bibeau | United States

The American Dream, as outlined by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, has long been the shining beacon of hope for citizens and foreigners alike, offering a chance to be successful on an even playing field. Unfortunately, that beacon has been dimming in recent decades, leading the World Economic Forum to bluntly mourn that the American Dream is broken.

As class mobility continues to fall and the economic gap between rich and poor only seems to expand, many Americans are starting to give up hope in American capitalism. This has led to mass calls for change among the general populace, with everyone desperately looking for solutions. Some, such as Vermont Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, propose that it is time to look towards “democratic socialism” in the United States. Others, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, seem to be denying the problem completely, still claiming that “the circumstances of your birth do not determine the outcome of your life.”

As much as we might wish for Paul Ryan’s statement to be true, the facts stand against him. Since we are in grave need of a solution, and one does not appear to be coming anytime soon, we must ask how America can improve competition in modern capitalism. Luckily, it is not too late for capitalism to be saved and for America to recover, but the country needs to act fast. While there are many potential solutions, there are three primary ones which will specifically target major problems in the US economy. In order to address current problems in the economy, the United States should target inefficiencies in regulatory organizations like the FDA, foster blockchain development around the country, and crack down on state preference policies.

FDA Inefficiency

The problem of skyrocketing drug prices was first brought to the forefront of American politics in 2015 when the infamous Martin Shkreli increased prices on a lifesaving drug by over 4000%, from $18 a pill to $750 a pill, making the cost of treatment virtually impossible to cover. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, as the Center for American Progress describes how American pharmaceutical prices have “continued to skyrocket” in recent years, with manufacturers of Medicare-covered drugs raising prices 12% per year on average. Another study shockingly found that over the past 14 months, 20 different prescription drugs had their prices increased by 200% or more.

Price increases, especially of these unprecedented proportions, are a clear indicator of a lack of competition within the pharmaceutical industry, as confirmed by a Government Accountability Office study. To counteract price increases, the United States must directly tackle the sources of the problem: inefficiency and over-regulation, which leads to monopolistic markets. All of the prescription drugs that saw drastic price increases have one thing in common: they have little to no competition making the same substances. This is because of how unreasonably difficult and expensive it is to get a new drug approved for manufacturing by the FDA.

The Journal of Health quantifies just how expensive the process can be, totaling it at over $1.395 billion in out-of-pocket costs. That number skyrockets up to $2.870 billion when post-approval research and development costs are factored in. These astronomically high development costs make it extremely difficult for anybody looking to create a new drug to even get their business off the ground. High startup costs are one of the top reasons that new companies and drugs never find success, as it’s virtually impossible for new companies, even with perfect scientific viability, to raise nearly $3 billion in investments just to allow their drug to be widely sold.

Because of complex regulations and red tape encircling the pharmaceutical industry, it’s no surprise that the market is nearly devoid of competition. By removing excessive regulation on the industry and streamlining the FDA, new drugs could be approved faster and cheaper. This would dramatically lower startup costs for new businesses trying to develop drugs and would promote increased competition throughout the entire industry, making life-saving substances much more affordable.

Blockchain Growth and Development

The blockchain, developed and made popular by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, is currently a buzzword in American Congress. Politicians are scrambling to implement the budding technology into their cities and states, and have even formed the Congressional Blockchain Caucus to craft policy surrounding it. Luckily, the potential benefits of the blockchain, especially when it comes to increasing competition, cannot be overstated. To quickly summarize a complex technology, the blockchain is a completely digital, decentralized ledger of information, constantly being confirmed and updated by computers around the world. This has plenty of business applications.

Specifically, since the National Bureau of Economic Research contends that the blockchain removes almost all need for trust in a transaction, small businesses will no longer have to compete with larger businesses when it comes to reputability. Trust, especially when it comes to internet retail, is one of the largest problems that businesses face, preventing up to 30% of internet users from utilizing online retail at all.

However, as the blockchain expands and becomes more widely used, retailers, especially small, newer businesses, will be granted the same level of trust as established companies. The Pew Research Center has found that many consumers soon “expect to see improved technology emerge that will allow people to have confidence in the organizations and individuals with whom they interact online,” specifically through the blockchain. Once the blockchain and cryptocurrency have become mainstream, the issue of trust will be eliminated from the equation, promoting widespread competition in online retail by allowing small retailers with no reputation to provide legitimate competition to retail giants.

While many are afraid to buy from anywhere other than Amazon due to the threat of scams, the blockchain will almost completely mitigate that problem, giving startups a chance, and opening up the online retail industry to everyone. To promote this, the government should focus on effectively regulating and investing in blockchain companies. These regulations would allow them to thrive and innovate in the near future, while still protecting the safety of consumers.

Ending State Preference Policies

While it is commonly agreed upon by economists that international protectionism damages all parties involved, what is criminally under-discussed when it comes to increasing domestic competition is state-by-state protectionism, more commonly known as preference policies. These policies are outlined by the Mercatus Center, which describes that preference policies, often enacted by state or local governments, give a significant advantage to companies residing in-state when bidding on government projects.

When a state government wishes to have a project completed, whether it be building military bases or providing a government building with computers, they allow companies to bid on the project. In theory, this practice would reduce costs as much as possible, as competition drives prices lower. Unfortunately, as the Mercatus Center furthers, even if an out-of-state company bids with a significantly cheaper offer, the more expensive in-state company will still almost always get the job. Aside from drastically raising the costs of government projects on taxpayers, in-state preference policies are almost identical to international protectionist policies, and have almost identical impacts, especially when it comes to decreasing competition.

Essentially, these programs enable companies to raise their prices due to the lack of competition from other states. Similar to international protectionism, these policies are put in place with the goal of stimulating domestic growth. However, this growth often comes at the cost of cheap prices and quality services. While it may appear that this would only discourage competition when it comes to government services, that is not quite true. Because most of these state and local policies are very strict, they only give preference to companies that have a state/local business license, pay all state/local taxes, and hire only state/local employees.

Since these policies are so rigid, and only apply to exclusively state or local businesses, it often discourages companies, especially those which rely on government business to remain profitable, from expanding outside of state borders, given that they know this will likely cost them their government business. This has much more broad impacts, affecting competition around the entire nation.

An Increase in Market Freedom

The United States, viewed as a pioneer of capitalism around the world, has found itself entrapped by red tape and ineffective policies, all of which are hindering one of the key benefits of capitalism: competition. However, while the United States does have some dire problems, they can be addressed.

First, the country needs to crack down on inefficient and ineffective regulations, specifically in the pharmaceutical industry. Second, the US should encourage and foster blockchain development by establishing fair regulations that don’t stifle the technology. Finally, the unfair problem of in-state preference policies must be addressed. While hope may be in short supply for capitalists in the United States, some common sense changes to economic policy would allow the beacon of the American Dream to shine brightly once again. 


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