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Leapfrog the West

by Michael S. Rozeff

Tunisians, Egyptians, Bahrainians, Omanians, Libyans, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Palestinians, and all the other many peoples of the world who are striving for better forms of government that will lead to real improvements in your lives, I wish you well. You are engaged in a difficult enterprise. Many of you are risking much to achieve it. May God be with you.

If I were to sit down with one of you in your country as your guest, after the exchanges and pleasantries of friendship, the conversation might turn to the ways of life that you wish to bring into being. That is my subject.

Your desire to imagine and create new ways of life, to cause to be where nothing was before, is the central human capacity, one that is given by God and one that is shared by all human beings. This creative power is freedom.

To love God I take to be man’s mission and God’s desire. We are in this together. To love God is to love his creation, which includes other people. To love one’s neighbor implies, at a minimum, tolerance of his freedom and the ways of life that he creates. Be slow in judging him. Be slower still in using force to hinder and dominate him. If, in your eyes, his ways are strange or evil, tolerate them. I am not speaking of the crimes such as murder, theft, arson, and rape of which we all know, but of the myriad of other behaviors on which human beings are prone to disagree.

If you desire a good society, you should not pursue it as an abstract goal, nor should you pursue it as a general goal obtained by the State’s uniform laws or by customs dictated to all or enforced on all by social means as supposed ways to make people good. Focus instead on the person, on each and every person. Each person has the highest value, over society and over state. These are not persons. They are merely organizations and tools to achieve other purposes and they are always seriously flawed. The good society is good when its people are able to be persons, which means they are in possession of the unhampered freedom to create.

My advice to you who are now involved in various revolutions and protests is something like the following, in very brief outline.

Leapfrog the West. Learn from the mistakes of the West. Don’t imitate the West blindly in the heat of the moment of attaining new governments. Opportunities like this do not arise often. Make the most of them.

Do not immediately or quickly fasten upon some more or less standard political agenda. They are all deeply flawed. They reflect the sins and mistakes of the West, which the West has not overcome. Seek instead to understand the fundamentals of human life and the human being as a basic guide to social, ethical, and political life.

If your educated class is promoting grandiose social schemes and promising grand results, don’t believe them and don’t approve their agenda. Such promises have been made in the West for several generations. These social engineering and wealth redistribution schemes all are coming to a bad end here. Don’t be enticed into repeating the Western follies.

My view is that the essence of the human being while on this earth is the free human personality. Our being is tied up with freedom at its very root. Every sacrifice of freedom that arises from the pressures, domination, and coercions of family, friends, business, church, society, and state, or from our own personal sacrifice and enslavement by ourselves, destroys a portion of that being or suppresses it, thereby causing a degree of non-being. As I understand the human condition, God created us as free persons. We are free to choose good or evil. Non-being is evil. Being, which presumes freedom and actualizes freedom, is good. The free human personality, as God’s creation, is good. It is a value that is above family, friends, society, organizations, and states. Its worth is above any of these.

Therefore, nurture freedom of the person. Nurture freedom of conscience. Nurture freedom of creativity. Nurture freedom of thought, expression, speech, and action. Nurture all of these at the level of each single person. Do not nurture domination by society, religion, state, family, business, or any other institutions. That which is good is the free spirit in each person.

Make no attempt whatsoever to create the “good life” or happiness or welfare of citizens (or subjects or individuals or voters) by means of the state or any institution or association that dominates and suppresses the person. That approach is godless and wrong. It invariably leads to a confusion of means and ends. The state uses violence as a means. If you allow the state to use violent means in the hope of achieving the ends of happiness or general welfare, you will destroy the freedom of the person. But freedom of the person is the good. It is what God brought into being.

Do away with notions of sovereignty by any person or group or institution. The U.S. Constitution is deeply flawed from the outset in its assumption that We the People are sovereign. Sovereignty is a godless concept. It is entirely at odds with the idea of a free person. God is not sovereign over human beings either. He does not determine what we do with our freedom. Even being sovereign over oneself distorts the idea of a free and creative spirit. In the same vein, the libertarian notion of “owning oneself,” although consistent with and correctly emphasizing the idea of freedom, is essentially a cold and bloodless view of a human being. The human being has a more fiery, passionate, hotter, and loving core in its free and creative spirit. The attempt to justify freedom by beginning with a natural right or self-ownership derives from an agnostic or atheistic view of human life. It doesn’t ground freedom in God and his creation. It treats the human being as matter or as a socially-derived institution of property. It doesn’t make us all brothers and children of God. It isolates the personality and thrusts the human being toward egoistic individualism. This is not an entirely false depiction of fallen human nature, of course. And yet the human spirit naturally reaches out to other similar spirits and to God. It reaches backward to creation and forward to the last days and the Kingdom of God. Purely rationalistic concepts of the human being that were born in the Enlightenment and have carried through in different forms to modern day democratic, social-democratic, socialist, and communist governments are insufficient to understand human nature and insufficient to move firmly away from the many varieties of slavery, overt and covert, and toward freedom. These old Western ideas have resulted in Western governments that suffocate and suppress persons. They culminate in efforts to spread the same kind of governments worldwide and to have one worldwide government.

The U.S. Constitution gets off on the wrong foot by making the general welfare an end. This leads only to the sacrifice of the person. Utilitarianism, which is the philosophy that sets happiness as the ultimate human value, is deeply flawed. It is basically another godless concept and one that leads to the adoption of violent means to create the end of happiness, thereby sacrificing the free person, which is the actual value.

Do not attempt to eliminate the everyday human failings and limitations by using force or the powers of society and state. Human beings must be free to choose between good and evil things. They must be free to make mistakes. Human beings cannot be moral beings without making choices for and by themselves. They cannot share in God’s grace without such freedom. Do not be legislating personal morals. Do not be imposing societal sanctions on beliefs, speech, clothing, art, sexual behavior, and discovery. Do not be attempting with such broad powers to create earthly utopias. This is not only impossible, but attempts to accomplish this go directly against the free and creative human personality, which is God’s creation.

Don’t bother catching up to the flawed Western ideas of politics. Surpass these ideas. They are not rooted in God, despite the rhetoric to that effect that attempts to fuse God, country, nation, and State. As such, the Western ideas lead to godless behavior. This was evident early on in America and is becoming increasingly marked over time.

Do not create theocratic states, however. They too are inimical to human freedom of thought, conscience and action. Power over the human person cannot be turned over to priests, clerics, and ayatollahs any more than to secular politicians. The combination of a powerful church and a powerful state is a recipe for suppression of the person.

Separation of church and state is a good idea. In practice, however, the State makes itself the new God. It tries to surround its immoral activities with an aura of high morality. In the U.S., there are many religious denominations. Somehow, though, the churches either make very little noise about the welfare-warfare State or else support it outright. The State has managed to get organized religion on its side, by and large.

Revolutions usually go about constructing a new State that is in no essential way much different from the old one. Avoid this at all costs. Otherwise, the people are doomed to another 50 or 60 years until the next revolution breaks out.

You simply must understand the nature of the State if you are to leapfrog the Western political structures. If you understand it thoroughly, then you will wish to minimize the State.

The State is the sword, that is, power. Its essence is power: holding power, increasing power, and administering power. This has been evident for several thousand years if one examines the rise and fall of empires throughout the entire world as well as their conquests, wars, and legalities. The state has no central interest in justice, righteousness, rights, or the freedom of people, its own or others. It would just as soon enslave everyone if people did not resist. It would make war continually against others or against its own citizens if it could. It makes war to prevent peaceful secessions. It claims territory through war and dictate, through ruse and stratagem, through conquest, blood and violence. It claims all within its boundaries.

The totalitarian states of the twentieth century provide clear examples of the demonic nature of the State. The worst of them under Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot butchered untold millions of persons. They sought meticulous control over economy, press, thought, money, and travel. The Western social democracies are not far behind in these respects, and they are already past masters at making war. Reject them as a model of government. Jesus rejected “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” Follow his example.

If it were not for man’s craving for a universal kingdom, his craving for power, his fears and desire for security, and his susceptibility to the hypnotic temptations that the State generates, this evil institution would not exist. It exists now only to be overcome and bypassed by humanity. Do your part in this endeavor.

The State promises order. Its order is a superficial pastiche of arbitrary laws and measures that typically discriminate unjustly while also imposing uniformity on those affected. The State promises to remedy chaos, but it creates chaos and non-being by suppressing the creative spirit of persons.

The idea of the State as a thing to win is an incentive to warfare and chaos. When a state loses control over the people, warfare often erupts among groups that cannot tolerate one another as all strive to gain control over a new state and impose their agenda on everyone.

One of the worst features of the State is that whatever is immoral for a person is made out to be moral for the State. The State uses its people to kill and maim, to torture and spy, to inform and rat on others, and to assault and destroy, and all of this is approved of and applauded as if nothing were wrong. Brutality becomes something that wins medals and is glorified in motion pictures. The most corrupt and lying politicians gain the most respect.

Putting in place a Western-style democracy is not going to create prosperity. It only introduces a source of friction at the heart of a society. It will be an institution that endangers property rights, seeks greater power, won’t allow secession, won’t tolerate any serious challenge, manipulates the public, caters to special interests, wastes resources, taxes onerously, corrupts the money, and takes every opportunity to control the people.

Taking foreign aid from the West is one of the worst things you can possibly do. You will simply doom yourself to being a satellite of the West and part of its machinations. You may well end up at the mercy of its bankers.

Rather than thinking about a new government, think instead about how to build a vibrant society in which persons can exercise their creative spirits freely, for that is the basis of a good society. Think about generating tolerance. Think about generating trust. Think about well-defined property rights. Think about free markets. Think about incorruptible money. Think about a variety of institutions of justice and defense. Think about justice itself.

The West is strangling in its own debt, its own corruption, its web of lies and deceits, its fearful peoples, and its overly large governments. Why look to the West? Why go backwards when you have a chance to go forwards? In short, leapfrog the West.

March 11, 2011

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Libertarians, Marxists, and Christianity

by William L. Anderson

In an earlier article, I looked at two of Jim Wallis’ criticisms of libertarianism, and also compared his own historical “Christian Marxism” to the libertarian point of view. What I found was something akin to Jesus’ admonition that people with beams in their own eyes should focus first on their own condition rather than to be criticizing others.

This time, I examine the following two attacks that Wallis makes on libertarian thinking:

* “The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin”;
* “The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian”;

We read the following from Wallis:

The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin. The exclusive focus on government as the central problem ignores the problems of other social sectors, and in particular, the market. When government regulation is the enemy, the market is set free to pursue its own self-interest without regard for public safety, the common good, and the protection of the environment ― which Christians regard as God’s creation. Libertarians seem to believe in the myth of the sinless market and that the self-interest of business owners or corporations will serve the interests of society; and if they don’t, it’s not government’s role to correct it.

Wallis then adds:

But such theorizing ignores the practical issues that the public sector has to solve. Should big oil companies like BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean? And is regulating them really un-American? Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean? Do we really want owners of restaurants and hotels to be able to decide whom they will or won’t serve, or should liquor store owners also be able to sell alcohol to our kids?

Now, I cannot say that I have read anything on any libertarian website or any publication or book espousing a libertarian point of view, and that includes Walter Block’s “plumb line libertarian” book, Defending the Undefendable, in which someone claims that markets are “sinless.” For example, a Christian who believes that adultery is a sin will not endorse prostitution, even if that same person believes that prostitution should not be a crime.

The reason that Christian libertarians might be against criminalization of prostitution is not because they believe market processes are “sinless,” but rather because we believe that crimes should be limited to those acts in which one person intends to harm another, and in which the participants in the action are not acting in a mutually-agreeable fashion. Again, to say that an act in which the participants are engaging in mutually-agreeable behavior does not mean the act is good or even Godly. Rather, our view is based upon recognition of the limitations of where we believe the law should go.

As for the environmental issues, I know of NO libertarian who believes that “BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean.” That is not even a caricature of the libertarian position; it is a false representation of our point of view, and I would contend that Wallis knows it is false.

Indeed, the “plumb-line libertarian” position on BP and other firms that cause oil spills and the like probably is more environmentally sound than anything Wallis and his fellow Marxists might believe. Wallis forgets that pollution is not a “capitalist” endeavor, given that communist countries have much worse pollution records than any nation where at least some free markets exist.

For example, in recent edition of Sojourners Magazine, blames poverty, pollution, and mine safety problems in West Virginia on capitalism and coal companies. Yet, the death toll and pollution that comes from state-owned coal mining operations in countries like China and the old U.S.S.R. dwarf problems that exist here.

In fact, state-owned firms are more likely to engage in pollution and have bad safety records precisely because they answer only to themselves, and the state is the ultimate “owner” of property. (Wallis falsely contends that private property is the source of pollution and oppression, but has no explanation for socialist pollution, except to ignore it altogether.) Libertarians, on the other hand, believe that private property is at the heart of production and exchange, and that if one violates another’s property, there must either be compensation or the violator of the property must cease and desist.

One of the real problems regarding the BP oil spill is that BP essentially was able to drill in “common property,” as opposed to operating in private property in which the owner could make environmental demands. Instead, we have companies operating according to politically-based government permits which provide a poor substitute for private-property rights.

Wallis then declares:

Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean? Do we really want owners of restaurants and hotels to be able to decide whom they will or won’t serve, or should liquor store owners also be able to sell alcohol to our kids?

First, he makes some heroic assumptions, the first being that private producers really don’t care about pleasing their customers. (In fact, elsewhere, he decries “consumerism,” although I must admit that I don’t know what “consumerism” really is, given that people don’t go to Wal-Mart to satisfy some ideological itch.) My experience with purchasing services from both people in private markets and from the government has told me that government agents are much less concerned about “pleasing” “customers.” If anything, government agents engage in a master-servant relationship, and regulators are no exception.

Second, he forgets that racial segregation did not begin with private businesses, but rather was enforced by the state. The Jim Crow laws (emphasis on “laws”) came about because politicians forced their views on everyone else. Furthermore, it was that great “Progressive” Woodrow Wilson who made the federal government into a racist institution, not J.P. Morgan.

Here is his next line of attack:

The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian. “Leave me alone to make my own choices and spend my own money” is a political philosophy that puts those who need help at a real disadvantage. And those who need help are central to any Christian evaluation of political philosophy. “As you have done to the least of these,” says Jesus, “You have done to me.” And “Blessed are those who are just left alone” has still not made the list of Beatitudes. To anticipate the Libertarian response, let me just say that private charity is simply not enough to satisfy the demands of either fairness or justice, let alone compassion. When the system is designed to protect the privileges of the already strong and make the weak even more defenseless and vulnerable, something is wrong with the system.

What is Wallis saying? First, he is saying that if someone wishes to be left alone and not be harassed by state authorities, then that person is engaging in a “preference for the strong over the weak….” Say what? Is this guy really telling me that whenever SWAT teams invade private homes or government agents harass people in airports or elsewhere, that the government is “weak” and individuals are “strong”?

This is ludicrous. Second, his view that if the so-called weak can harness the power of the state to take property away from the “strong,” then who is weak and who is strong here? Wallis is claiming that there is a class of “strong” people who always have been strong and a permanent class of the “weak” who need to be able to plunder the “strong.”

At this point, we are not dealing with economics or even a political/religious philosophy. Wallis is claiming that unless the state is free to plunder whomever the Left determines is “too wealthy” or “too strong,” then the state is not strong enough.

Don’t ever forget that this man endorsed some of the most murderous and bloody regimes in history because the leaders of those regimes claimed they were engaging in their acts in the name of “helping the poor.” As Lew Rockwell wrote a few years ago about the death camp that was Mao’s China, the “poor” were encouraged to murder landowners and anyone else deemed to be a “capitalist” or worse. Thus, if the “poor” were able to plunder and murder the “rich,” then just who was weak and who was strong?

Wallis, you see, believes that “justice” is served only when those who are “weak” are able to access the violent power of the state to become “strong,” and when that occurs, then and only then can real “justice” exist. This is a curious philosophy, for Wallis seems to believe that when the “poor” are in charge, then they cannot be oppressive – by definition.

Libertarians believe that private property gives people the right of exclusion. Indeed, at some level, we exclude people, and that includes Wallis and his friends. For that matter, I have found libertarians and people who own private property to be much more generous with their possessions than anyone representing the state.

Is the White House the “People’s House”? Fine. Try walking into the “People’s House” without an invitation and permission from the authorities. Try dealing with the Internal Revenue Service on your own terms. You will find out quickly who is “weak” and who is “strong.”

June 7, 2010

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit his blog.

Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Why this is the end of America

Why do these days mark the end of America? Not because terrorists destroyed the World trade Center, or because a president signed a liberty-destroying bill. The America we grew up loving and believing in, that we were taught about in school and whose flag we dutifully and without reservation saluted, that America has not existed in our lifetimes. That America was a slanted and barely half-truth myth, just one part of the story, leaving aside or gently explaining away the more unseemly parts of American history. No. That is not why it is the end of America.

It is the end of America because the red, white and blue colored glasses are coming off. People are seeing through the fabrications and lies. The results are in now from the lab. Minarchy is like a relentless weed; its only end is imperialism, empire, and then demise. It is like a mushroom surging up into being and then rapidly wilting away in its own death.

When the bipolar cold war era ended with the collapse of the Soviet state, the only appropriate course for the American state was also to shrink. The cold war masked, at least to many of us, the imperial ambitions of the American state. Now that the Soviet “threat” was ended, America could stand down. It did not. Far from it. Rather, its shallow, supposedly do-gooding, entwining hubris expressed itself in the now very open and brazen drive to become the world’s policeman and the ruling power of this age. The state stood out of the shadows, naked in its new boldness. Its sheen of goodness no longer covering its swollen girth.

It is the end of America not because of any great changes that have only just now occurred, but because we now see through. The shades have fallen from our eyes. The dream was only a dream. We must prepare to do something very new but very old. The state has shown its true nature. Let us try a different order—something that for lack of a better name has been called anarcho-capitalism. That is, an ordered world but one not molded in the coercive shape of the state. A world where each man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:5, 7), and where our moralities are not shaped by those who impose right and wrong as they see it upon us. We have not come to the beginning of utopia, but have come to the end of something else. And this is a good thing.

Young people figuring it out…

(via lewrockwell.com).

Toward a healthier humanity, pt. 1

Christianity and anarchism must inevitably stand opposed to non-Christianity and statism. It is true that most Christians are unexamined statists, but what we here speak of is the Christianity that takes seriously the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. It should also be noted that an ideology that is unexamined is not one that people have committed to or necessarily are likely to commit to.

Much of Christianity is not of this strong type, however; as Ellul notes,

Christians and the church have wanted an alliance with everything that represents power in the world. In reality, this rests upon the conviction that thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit the powers of this world have been vanquished and set in the service of the gospel, the church, and mission. We must use their forces in the interests of evangelism. Wealth and various authorities receive recognition in this way and are put in the church’s service.

But what happens is the exact opposite. The church and mission are penetrated by the power and completely turned aside from their truth by the corruption of power. When Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world, he says clearly what he intends to say. He does not validate any worldly kingdom (even if the ruler be a Christian). He puts us on guard against seeking any authority other than that of the Holy Spirit” (Jacques Ellul, The Subversion of Christianity, pp. 20, 21).

And

The acceptance of one power or authority, alliance with one secular power, leads inevitably to a combination with every social force. (Ibid., p. 31).

People in the church think that God has neutralized the power of the world and that they are clever enough to turn the world’s own features against itself and thus to advance the work of God. They fail to understand the depth of the biblical warnings concerning the world and the urgency of Heaven’s warnings against trusting in human intellect. Their endeavors to convert the world are largely crash-and-burn, and the world enters the church. The agency (the church) God intends to be His chief agent of healing in the world, is enrolled as an agent of the state. The state, of course, is a self-preserving coercive machine, thoroughly destructive of humanity, tending rather to dehumanize and impress a culture of helplessness upon its citizens and to teach itself as solution and necessity.

Those who wish to move toward a healthier humanity need to develop the character traits which make for such an outcome. Namely, faith in God, self-control, self-sufficiency in non-faith matters, the exercise of free will, and the exercise of thought unconstrained by all the poisons of statism.

We will further explore these ideas in posts that shall be forthcoming.

Why we couldn’t abolish slavery then and can’t abolish government now

Magnificent article! To the point, full of punch, easy to understand, makes you think. thank you, Robert Higgs.

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2589.

(Hat tip to strike-the-root.com.)

The state as superman

A very strong bit of cynicism runs through our world. A primary source is the state and its pretensions.

Presenting itself as necessary, impartial, essential arbiter of justice, protector of the peace, and faithful and unfailing defender of freedom—as superman robed in white—the image clashes sharply with the reality as experienced by many who are watching and thinking. In a world that does not come short of severe challenges, the state and pretension perpetuated in its name are precisely this distraction. As the ancient had recourse to idols made of wood, the modern makes statist ideas his bank of last resort. And does this surprise? After all, he was shaped in state schools from kindergarten upwards.

Could it be that the actual source of much of the sourness and anger seen in the daily news is the state itself? A state means power exercised over one’s fellow man, and, given time, this power inevitably corrupts. This is a phenomenon which cannot be fixed. So long as human nature remains as it is, the state will remain as it is.

But if the state is superman, reality is its kryptonite. At this stage of its inevitable totalitarian development, providence has given us also the cell phone and the internet and youtube. We will in a window of opportunity, when reality is exposing the state for what it is.

Whether o not we come to the place where the modern nation-state is peeled away, molted off, and left in the dust, and where men find their future as true men seeking a gracious God, and the way is opened for the realization of the potential inwoven in man, none can at present say. But this I know. There are at least some situations in which kryptonite comes in very handy. Thus, we may welcome the economic problems that are making the state tremble. At the end of the day, the state is the most inefficient means of accomplishing anything of substance for the world. Superman and his fiction must go their way, turn the corner, and fade into history side-by-side with Cinderella. I’ll take the kryptonite. And on the other side of the collapse, we will live as true men.

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