Francesco Ferrara’s 19th Century War on Taxation


FEE

Alberto Mingardi

With a public debt to GDP ratio at 132% and general government spending at 51% of GDP, Italy can’t be mistaken for a beacon of classical liberalism. Things may have gone differently, had the country listened to its classical liberal economists. They had diagnosed some of the country’s most resilient problems with clarity and courage. Though often forgotten, they are still a source of inspiration. This is certainly the case of Francesco Ferrara.

Francesco Ferrara (1810–1900) was the most prominent Italian economist of the 19th century. A Sicilian, born in Palermo in 1810 of a family of modest origins, he entered the world of studies and politics as a statistician. In 1848, he took part in the Sicilian uprising. He was jailed briefly and later elected to the newly established Sicilian parliament. He was subsequently dispatched to Turin as part of a mission to offer the crown of Sicily to the Duke of Genoa, the brother of the Piedmontese king. When the House of Bourbon re-established its hold on Sicily, the envoys remained in Turin, to persist in their efforts to free Sicily. In 1852, the Bourbons condemned Ferrara to “perpetual exile” (Faucci). Later, in the unified Italy, Ferrara was briefly a cabinet minister and a member of the Italian tax court. In his forceful and prolific writings, the principles of individualism and economic liberalism were “glorified always and everywhere” (Weinberger). Commenting on Ferrara’s prose, Einaudi called him a “wizard” who “enthused thousands of mature men and ardent youths, making them fall in love with economic science”.

Ferrara was appointed to the chair in Political Economy at the University of Turin. He was widely engaged in policy debates and in 1858 was suspended from active teaching, as he frequently used his lectures to denounce the government and its policies—including the government’s monopoly in education. This prohibition to enter classrooms did not hamper Ferrara’s creativity and scholarship. He later taught in Pisa and eventually in Venice, after having served in a number of public offices.

Ferrara is best remembered for the remarkable publication series Biblioteca dell’economista, a far-reaching program of translations aimed at making the latest economic literature available to Italians. … In all, 26 books were published (two series of thirteen books each), most prefaced by a long introduction by Ferrara himself. These introductions were both biobibliographical and critical, full of insights. James M. Buchanan wrote of Ferrara’s introductions:

On the whole his criticisms are excellent by modern criteria, and he anticipated many of the neo-classical contributions. … He was forceful in his emphasis that value theory must be based on individual behavior, his whole construction departing from what he called “the economic action,” the author of such action being the individual who feels, thinks, and wants. … Ferrara was perhaps the first economist completely to shed all of the mercantilistic trappings in his rejection of economics as the science of wealth.

Not unlike the ‘Austrian’ economists, Ferrara trumpeted subjective value and was skeptical of the efforts to mathematize economics. He was critical of Ricardian economics and was heavily indebted to the French: Bastiat, who he considered a “hero and martyr in his battles for economic freedom” (Faucci), Antoine Destutt de Tracy, and especially Jean-Baptiste Say. Like Say, he based his view of the entrepreneurial function on a “knowledge-based approach” (Bini). He opposed intellectual property rights as a form of government-granted monopoly (for Ferrara, “a patent is the lottery win of industrious men”), endorsed free banking, and favored Italian unification but opposed the development of a strong, centralized Italian state. Ferrara maintained that centralization was not a price worth paying for unification: “I place my hopes in the unity of the Italian nation, but I cannot conceal that I am frightened by the centralization urges that manifest themselves everywhere whenever the Italian unification is mentioned, nor would I hesitate to proclaim that, in my opinion, a divided Italy is preferable to a centralized one.”

Besides the Biblioteca dell’economista, Ferrara engineered efforts to spread liberal ideas in Italy, including the publication of different journals in the Kingdom of Sardinia (one was called L’economista echoing the British Economist) and the establishment of the Società Adamo Smith in 1874, to bring together the intellectual devotees of free trade.

In the realm of politics, Italy moved increasingly in the opposite direction. In 1878 Italy abandoned Cavour’s free trade policies by introducing a modest tariff. In 1881, it embarked on a large program of naval construction, and in 1884 an Italian ‘industrial policy’ debuted with the creation of the Terni steel mills. In 1887, Italy got a new protectionist tariff, the second highest in Europe, for the sake of protecting not only infant industries but also agriculture. The rapid undoing of Cavour’s free trade policies is emblematic of a cause of a longstanding feature of Italian classical liberalism, namely its disenchantment with politics. It is hard to take politics seriously when the talk and conduct of political actors appear so capricious.

Ferrara was already well aware that “At the end of the day, all governments are a minority”. The downside of the representative system was that it enabled governing elites to manufacture an illusion of participation in collective choices, an illusion that greatly facilitated government spending:

The representative system is characterized by this serious flaw, that it can effortlessly become an instrument of delusion. The people is less loath to pay, when it deludes itself into believing that its taxes—as they are assented to by its representatives, whose interests are purportedly the same as its own—are for this only reason warranted by inescapable necessities. A large number of instances presented by modern history teach us how easily the good faith of peoples can be abused and reveal the covert motive that made not a few governments to reckon that, ultimately, it was in their own interest to suffer the establishment of deliberative assemblies, as a means to get rid of the odious appearance of oppressors of their own people and to enjoy the pleasure of spending large sums… When the administration has made an outlay unavoidable, majorities tend to feel obliged to allow it.

Buchanan highlights Ferrara as an important figure in starting the scienza delle finanze, the Italian tradition of public finance theory. “The ‘economic’ conception of fiscal activity was, to Ferrara, an ideal. In the actual state of the world, Ferrara considered that the levy of taxes tended to be oppressive and constituted the ‘great secret through which tyranny is organized.’ … Ferrara was intensely critical of the view, which had been expressed by German writers, that merely because tax revenues are transformed into public spending and are returned to the economy, society does not undergo a net loss” (Buchanan).

Scholars in the Italian tradition tried to develop a scientific definition of taxation, distinguishing two sorts: taxation necessary for financing for a limited government, and taxation that was essentially predatory. In its “purest meaning,” the imposta (tax) would be “the price—and a slim one—of the great benefits that the social state, the organized state offers to each of us”. Given the immense utility provided by the social state (that is: by the organization of law and order in society), such a price could be understood as something that would be paid voluntarily by each taxpayer. Since “Any tax is ultimately equivalent to a prevented consumption and a prescribed one in its stead,” and so it all boils down to the question whether “the substituted consumption is more or less productive than the prevented one”. For Ferrara, the cornerstone of the problems of taxation is the economic use of taxes, the fact that government should operate in a parsimonious way.

But if taxation can be theoretically understood as a fee, Ferrara was fully aware that historical evidence pointed in another direction:

In its philosophical concept, the organized state is the great reason that exalts the notion of taxation; in its historical understanding, however, taxation is the great secret that organizes tyranny… And if in its philosophical understanding the term “contribution” does appears to be truer and worthier, in its historical understanding I invite you to change it, but only to call it “scourge.”

Looking realistically at the dry facts of history, one sees taxation as the propellant of arbitrary government:

Would you like to fathom how a swarm of parasites and harlots can exist in the royal courts? Why ignorance and intrigue are exalted and knowledge and virtue are rejected and derided? How comes it that in a temperate government a bad minister can make the houses of parliament to be in thrall of his will? And representatives and newspapers can be found to conceal his faults and incompetence? Taxation contains and explains the whole riddle. Taxation is the great source of everything a corrupt government can devise to the detriment of the peoples. Taxation supports the spy, encourages the faction, dictates the content of newspapers.


This piece was excerpted and adapted from Alberto Mingardi, Classical Liberalism in Italian Economic Thought, from the Time of Unification, Econ Journal Watch 14(1), January 2017

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Government Experts Can’t Give You A Happy Life


FEE


Only you are expert on what is best for you and your family.


Ideological and political disagreements are healthy. They reflect different perspectives, experiences and priorities. And although masked by the farcical circuses that are political campaigns, discussions and debates do change minds and move public opinion.

Of course, some talk deserves less attention. Outright lies deserve no attention. So, too, with uninformed analyses that are passed off as informed analyses. If I, an economist, advise you on how to wire your home for electricity, ignore me. I’m no electrician. If you take my advice — say, because you’re impressed with the “Ph.D.” that I can gaudily parade behind my signature — your house will soon be in flames.

The same is true if I advise you on how to spend your money. You might think that because I’m an economist I have some expertise on this. But I don’t. Only you are expert on what is best for you and your family. I’m in no position to judge, say, whether it’s best for you to spend $1,000 on a family vacation or to save those funds for retirement. You’re the expert here, not me or anyone else.

Pretend Experts

Unfortunately, today’s world crawls with pretend experts whose titles and positions create the false impression that they have knowledge they can’t possibly possess.

Consider bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration. They don’t know you. None has any earthly idea of your preference for risk — say, how willing you are to risk possible death today to take a drug that might cure you of cancer that will otherwise surely kill you tomorrow. And yet these bureaucrats are commonly called “experts” on drug safety. What they have is expert knowledge of the various possible consequences, good and ill, of different drugs. But none of them has expert knowledge of the preferences and circumstances of each of the millions of individuals whose lives are governed by bureaucrats’ decisions on whether to approve a drug for public use.

Only you are expert on you and your family. Only you know if it’s “right” for you to deal with the risks and benefits of a certain drug. Of course, you’d be wise to seek input from a physician. But ultimately, even that physician shouldn’t have the final word over your medical treatment, for that physician is no expert on your preferences.

Similarly, only you are expert on what sort of employment arrangement is best for you. Despite the hordes of Ph.D.-boasting economists at the Department of Labor — and despite the countless reams of paper on which those scholars print the results of their econometric tests that reveal this or that variable to be “statistically significant” — those officials have zero knowledge of, say, whether it’s best for you to arrange for your employer to pay you overtime whenever you work more than 40 hours weekly. Of course more pay is nice, but you might prefer the greater job flexibility that your employer offers in lieu of overtime pay. But today, you, —the real expert — are overridden by the pretend experts in government who increasingly dictate your and other individuals’ terms of employment.

Government by pretend “experts” destroys government by true experts.

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The Too-Big-to-Fail Banks Have Failed and How Come The Whole World is Still Up and Running?


I am no economist. Keynesian economics makes no sense to me nor does any of the financial gurus’ reports.

Since 2008 there have been numerous reports about too-big-to-fail banks that have failed and more are failing as we speak.

These are a few big name banks to mention:

wells fargo

My question is why are they still standing? Oh yeah I know its got something to do with ‘bailouts’ and QE. The bailors are the central banks and governments. I think I can understand the central banks’ role in this, but I don’t understand governments bailing out the failed banks. Governments don’t have their own money and are in perpetual (national) debts which are too big-to-repay as the debts ‘grow’ every seconds, hour, day, week, month and yearly.

Let’s try to see the clear picture and try to understand what a “bank failure” means and its repercussions:

A bank failure occurs when a bank is unable to meet its obligations to its depositors or other creditors because it has become insolvent or too illiquid to meet its liabilities. More specifically, a bank usually fails economically when the market value of its assets declines to a value that is less than the market value of its liabilities. The insolvent bank either borrows from other solvent banks or sells its assets at a lower price than its market value to generate liquid money to pay its depositors on demand. The inability of the solvent banks to lend liquid money to the insolvent bank creates a bank panic among the depositors as more depositors try to take out cash deposits from the bank. As such, the bank is unable to fulfill the demands of all of its depositors on time. Also, a bank may be taken over by the regulating government agency if Shareholders Equity (i.e. capital ratios) are below the regulatory minimum. – wiki

In the above picture (if that’s accurate), a bank failure means it affects and virtually freezes all its customers’ activities be it business or personal in nature. Its just like when the electric power supplier stops every one will be in the dark.

The failure of a bank is generally considered to be of more importance than the failure of other types of business firms because of the interconnectedness and fragility of banking institutions. Research has shown that the market value of customers of the failed banks is adversely affected at the date of the failure announcements. It is often feared that the spill over effects of a failure of one bank can quickly spread throughout the economy and possibly result in the failure of other banks, whether or not those banks were solvent at the time as the marginal depositors try to take out cash deposits from these banks to avoid from suffering losses. Thereby, the spill over effect of bank panic or systemic risk has a multiplier effect on all banks and financial institutions leading to a greater effect of bank failure in the economy. As a result, banking institutions are typically subjected to rigorous regulation, and bank failures are of major public policy concern in countries across the world. – wiki

But according to wiki (again), a certain bank’s failure has the “spill over effect” and that to me seems catastrophic and that’s my big question –“How come the whole world is still up and running?”

Who or what organization / institution is holding and keeping the movie running when the theater have no more movies?

As aforementioned, the failure of a bank is relevant not only to the country in which it is headquartered, but for all other nations that it conducts business with. This dynamic was highlighted quite dramatically in the 2008 financial crisis, during which the failures of major bulge bracket investment banks held dire consequences for local economies throughout the broader global market. The high degree to which markets are integrated in the global economy made this a near inevitability. This interconnectedness was manifested not on a high level, with respect to deals negotiated between major companies from different parts of the world, but also to the global nature of any one company’s makeup. Outsourcing is a key example of this makeup. As major banks such as Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns failed, the employees from countries other than the United States suffered in turn. – wiki

Whoever or whatever has the capacity to keep the world running after the banks have failed must be a power to reckon with, so mighty perhaps second only to god?

Originally posted on Steemit

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These Are the Real Three Branches of Government


So much for the romantic doctrine of Separation of Powers. Here in Malaysia it is a “combination of powers” where the executive is very much the legislative.


 

FEE

by Robert Higgs

 

Ruling elites have three basic ways to keep the subject population under their thumb: threaten, bribe, and bamboozle. Everything they do is a variant of one of these basic actions. So, if the lush, misleading overgrowth were cut away, all government activities could be undertaken by only three departments: the Department of Cops and Soldiers; the Department of Santa Claus; and the Department of Delusion.

However, if such a drastic, visible simplification were undertaken, the efficacy of the bamboozlement would be greatly diminished. It would be a public disservice to load more truth on the public than it can stand.

Much of what the government does ostensibly to carry out some valuable purpose (e.g., assisting the deserving poor, the sick, the struggling millionaire farmers, the domestic sellers facing allegedly unfair import competition, the sober college students, the elderly, people suffering ethnic or racial discrimination; protecting the nation against menacing foreigners and aliens from outer space; containing disastrous global warming; promoting a cleaner, healthier environment; undertaking or subsidizing scientific and technological research) amounts to specific forms of bribery, to buying people’s loyalties by giving them a portion of the loot the government acquires by means of its threats of enforcement and its bamboozlement in regard to the subjects’ “civic duty” to cough up taxes as the government stipulates.

The state’s organizational complexity and its associated pragmatic and ideological veils prevent the general public from seeing what is really going on and then, perhaps, opposing it or becoming more recalcitrant in complying with government edicts and demands for tribute, thereby throwing sand in the state’s machinery of oppression and plunder.

As an exercise, you might test the TBB (threaten, bribe, bamboozle) hypothesis. See if you can find any significant government activity that does not fit under one or more of these three rubrics.


Reprinted with permission from The Beacon© Copyright 2016, Independent Institute.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for the Independent Institute and Editor at Large of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.

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Soon It’ll Be a Crime To Use Cash


TheAntiMedia

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(ANTIMEDIA) Government campaigns of intimidation — like the wars on drugs, terror, and poverty — have been used to extort the public for decades. Despite the previous failures of institutional “wars,” a new war on cash is being waged that threatens freedom in a more subversive way than ever before.

Banks and governments around the world are cracking down on the use of paper money, and in turn, eliminating any anonymity left in the current system. Through strict rules on cash transactions and civil asset forfeiture laws, for example, the system has already instituted penalties for using cash. But as payments evolve into a purely digital network, the consequences of this new paradigm are being brought into the spotlight.

The ability to track, record, and mediate transactions of all individuals is a power dictators throughout history could have only dreamed of. Those who value privacy are turning to alternatives like cash, cryptocurrencies, and precious metals, but these directly threaten central bank dominance. This ongoing tug-of-war in financial innovation will determine whether we enter an age of individual empowerment or centralized enslavement.

As mundane as it may seem, the main reason for this push to go cashless is directly tied to what world central banks are doing to prop up their economies. The manipulation of interests rates to zero or even negative has left central banks no ammunition to fight off the next recession. Without the ability to cut interest rates even further, stimulating economic growth is nearly impossible.

The decisions made in response to the 2008 crisis have led to a perverted environment in which customers could be charged just for holding money in their accounts. As long as individuals have the ability to move their funds into paper currency and escape the losses, banks are still limited to how far they can push the envelope. Regardless, the federal government continues to pressure banks into issuing “Suspicious Activity Reports” for withdrawals of even as little as $5,000. That amount will undoubtedly decrease if and when more people resort to stuffing cash under their mattresses.

Kenneth Rogoff, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, noted in a recent paper how a cashless world would expand banks’ options:

“In principle, cutting interest rates below zero ought to stimulate consumption and investment in the same way as normal monetary policy, by encouraging borrowing. Unfortunately, the existence of cash gums up the works. If you are a saver, you will simply withdraw your funds, turning them into cash, rather than watch them shrink too rapidly. Enormous sums might be withdrawn to avoid these losses, which could make it difficult for banks to make loans.”

Conditioning the public to believe privacy and mere possession of cash are criminal acts is key to the establishment’s push into this new digital model. The media’s focus on cash and Bitcoin being used to fund cartels, terrorism, and gang activity is just a smokescreen for the real agenda of complete control — especially considering the big banks have already been caught laundering money for cartels and terrorist groups. The disruptive role cryptocurrencies and precious metals will play in this grand scheme is yet to be seen, but for now, they’re the best competition to the fiat dollar hegemony.

Bitcoin has been the trailblazer of blockchain technologies. With its mobility and limitless applications, it has created an entire frontier for entrepreneurial innovation. Bitcoin’s peer-to-peer network promotes free association, free trade, and increased privacy without needing a government or bank stamp of approval. With the help of free-thinking developers, the cashless revolution could take shape as an open-sourced network that empowers people in incredible ways. The cashless central bank knockoff being put in place is nothing more than a trojan horse that, over time, will reveal itself as obsolete, like all other centralized models. The transformative effect on communication that will come with the development of the internet offers some idea of what the blockchain will do for the financial sector. Peer-to-peer banking has done a better job of encouraging small business growth and entrepreneurship than any government policy ever has.

The rapid rise of Bitcoin’s price created a frenzy of interest, but the volatility and hacking scandals that followed have stalled the momentum. If cryptocurrencies are going to have a real chance as a viable alternative to government paper, they have a lot to prove before they can win over the masses. The blockchain ecosystem needs time to stabilize, and the public needs a chance to educate themselves on its potential. Until then, a balance between this new technology and more stable, time-tested assets can create a foundation for those seeking financial independence.

Gold and silver bullion shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to personal finance; with a hard asset that preserves wealth, losses from inflation and negative interest rates can be a thing of the past. Not only have they outlasted every government fiat currency in history, but they also provide a way to hold value off the books and transact anonymously. With precious metals, there is no counterparty risk, and their worth isn’t dependent on any government, bank or company. Having tangible assets directly in your possession assures the purchasing power of your savings is secure.

Euro Pacific Capital CEO, Peter Schiff, warned about not diversifying out of fiat currency:

“People should have an escape valve for their money, their assets. If you have substantial financial assets, the government is going to confiscate the purchasing power of those assets and spend it.”

The government’s crusade to restrict financial freedom is just beginning; as always, fear and propaganda will be used to condition the masses into submission. The personal responsibility needed to protect yourself from the inevitable changes in the system can be overwhelming, but without taking the proper steps, the current ruling class will make the decisions for you.

A cashless society is sold as a way to protect your identity, prevent crime, and create a safer world, but there is always a tradeoff. The only cashless model that can succeed is a decentralized one that can sustain itself without bailouts or manipulation. Banks and governments aren’t motivated by some noble vision for society; like all humans, self-interest is paramount. If their power monopoly is threatened by cash, free speech, drugs, or anything else, that threat will be demonized and attacked with no mercy. Although this technology based future has many unknowns, hopefully, the path we choose will create opportunities for entrepreneurs to make real progress against this financial oligarchy.


This article (Why You Should Be Paying Attention to America’s Quiet War on Cash) by Shaun Bradley is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Shaun Bradley and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article to edits@theantimedia.org.


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Cash Banned Freedom Gone

Misses Institute by Thorsten Polleit Some politicians want to ban cash, arguing that cash is helping criminals. The first steps in that direction are the withdrawal of big denomination notes and the limits imposed on cash payments. Proponents of a … Continue reading

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Treacherous and Smart(phone)


1. The smartphone

NYTimes

How Spy Tech Firms Let Governments See Everything on a Smartphone

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SAN FRANCISCO — Want to invisibly spy on 10 iPhone owners without their knowledge? Gather their every keystroke, sound, message and location? That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup fee with an Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like — just check out the company’s price list.

The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that sell surveillance tools that can capture all the activity on a smartphone, like a user’s location and personal contacts. These tools can even turn the phone into a secret recording device.

Since its founding six years ago, the NSO Group has kept a low profile. But last month, security researchers caught its spyware trying to gain access to the iPhone of a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates. They also discovered a second target, a Mexican journalist who wrote about corruption in the Mexican government.

Now, internal NSO Group emails, contracts and commercial proposals obtained by The New York Times offer insight into how companies in this secretive digital surveillance industry operate. The emails and documents were provided by two people who have had dealings with the NSO Group but would not be named for fear of reprisals.

The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group’s corporate mission statement is “Make the world a safe place.”

Ten people familiar with the company’s sales, who refused to be identified, said that the NSO Group has a strict internal vetting process to determine who it will sell to. An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global bodies. And to date, these people all said, NSO has yet to be denied an export license.

“There’s no check on this,” said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. “Once NSO’s systems are sold, governments can essentially use them however they want. NSO can say they’re trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more surveilled place.”

The NSO Group’s capabilities are in higher demand now that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems, in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects.

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The founders of NSO group, Omrie Lavie and Shalev Hulio

The NSO Group’s spyware finds ways around encryption by baiting targets to click unwittingly on texts containing malicious links or by exploiting previously undiscovered software flaws. It was taking advantage of three such flaws in Apple software — since fixed — when it was discovered by researchers last month.

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2. The Treachous (Smart)phone

You’ve never seen anything like this – 24-year-old Jonas disappears in front of your eyes! More about the spot: http://spot.bfu.ch

3. Using SIM Cards To Track Everyone

Thailand is looking to issue SIM cards to all tourists to protect national security. They say they will be able to respond to tourists in trouble, but they are really looking to track everyone because of the rising threat of Islamic extremism. Domestically, you are already being tracked. Google wants to “verify” who you are by using your phone. The police can and do track people they intend to arrest by using their cell phone. So while many people are shocked by this proposal, the difference would be to only force tourists to use their sim or they could simply take your phone number and track you by using your current sim card. Welcome to the new age of global tracking.

continue reading…

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Rights Don’t Come from Governments


jfk


FEE

shutterstock_437499601_mini_ss

With every new mass shooting, it seems that everyone on social media is some combination of a gun expert, Islam expert, terror expert, security expert, etc. That’s all well and good, and I am all for people having conversations about these kinds of things. I’m admittedly no expert in any of these areas, and I’m not writing this to try to present any answers or solutions. But this topic, and others like gay marriage, seem to always show that many people profoundly misunderstand what rights are.


The Constitution and Bill of Rights have no role in terms of “creating” rights.


Rights and Law Aren’t Synonymous

You can see how far off people really are when you run across arguments along these lines: “The First Amendment and free speech aren’t absolute and can be limited, so the Second Amendment can be too”. There are several things grossly wrong with this argument: the first being that it gives way too much significance and power to the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights have no role in “creating” rights. The Constitution itself is useful only insofar as it lays out the guidelines, structure, and organization of the government. It has no place dealing with anything else.

Rights are extremely simple and bills of rights, constitutions, civics classes, etc. only serve to muddy the waters. They lead people into the confused belief that individuals or representatives or majorities can create rights by writing them down on a magical piece of paper.

What Rights Do You Have?

The concept is simple. You have one and only one right, namely property. And you have that right by virtue of being a conscious being. We divide that up into such “sub-freedoms” as freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, the right to bear arms, etc. just for the sake of ease of conversation when talking about specific types of property rights. But make no mistake, every legitimate right can be reduced to a right to property, while every illegitimate right cannot.


You own yourself and your rights only end where the rights of others begin. 


And as a conscious being , you are entitled to this natural right even if you are able to conceptualize it. Put differently, if you can think about having rights then you have them: regardless of whether they are written in a 200 year old document or not.

The second thing wrong with the above statement is that it’s completely false! Freedom of speech cannot be morally limited. You own yourself, and your rights only end where the rights of others begin; i.e. you can conduct yourself in any way you see fit so long as you do not violate the property rights of other conscious beings. The classic example typically given is that of someone yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. It is said that this speech can be rightfully prohibited, and so there are “obvious” limits to the right to free speech.

Though you may not rightfully yell “fire” in a crowded theater (most of the time), the reason for this has nothing to do with a limit on free speech. The reason you may not do this is that you would be violating the property rights of both the owner of the theater and the patrons. Most theaters have a code of conduct and yelling “fire” is almost certainly violating that code. Since you would be currently occupying the someone else’s property, you must follow all their conditions for using that property, or you must leave. Otherwise, you are violating their rights.

You would also be depriving the patrons of getting what they paid for. They purchased a ticket in exchange for viewing the film or performance being shown in the theater and so have a de facto form of temporary property claim on a seat or spot in the theater for the duration of the show. By yelling “fire” and presumably ending or delaying the show or performance, you are depriving them of their property and violating their rights.

Contractual Restrictions of Rights

It’s extremely important to remember that right(s) only exist in the space that does not encroach on the rights of others. This means that the above situation does not constitute a “limit” on freedom of speech, but rather is a realm in which free speech never existed and can’t exist. Rights can never serve to aid in the violation of another’s rights because true rights never conflict. This is easier to conceptualize when you consider all rights as only a right to property. You can say what you want because you own your body, but if you choose to occupy someone else’s property, you must abide by their rules or leave.

Now let’s bring it back to the original statement and the conflict surrounding the right to bear arms. You can bear arms, not because of a few lines of text in an antiquated document, but because you have a right to purchase anything so long all the people involved in the transaction are doing so voluntarily and knowingly. In other words, you can ethically buy anything you want (drugs, guns, sex) as long as the rights of others aren’t violated in the process. What individuals do with what they buy is a wholly different and unrelated argument.

Freedom of speech is absolute. The right to bear arms (any arms) is absolute. Neither one of these facts has anything to do with the Constitution, and neither can be morally limited.

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