Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Optimism is Rational

Monday, April 24, 2017

It's Not Socialism, It's Authoritarianism!

"Mother of all Marches," Caracas, Venezuela April 19, 2017

The other day I was chatting with an acquaintance on facebook about Venezuela -- and if you aren't following it, shame on you -- and they were angry with a headline that blamed "socialism" for the woe. He angrily exclaimed, "It's not socialism, it's authoritarianism."

That led to a fruitless semantic debate about one of the most slippery words in political discourse: socialism. Folks on the left and right simply could not communicate, because they couldn't agree on semantics.

Socialism means, in just about everyone's vernacular, that the state somehow "socializes" land, labor, or capital....or, collectively owns or controls, in any or all of those areas. There are only three main ways to do this: voluntarily, democratically, or autocratically.

Voluntary socialism is libertarianism. An excellent example of voluntary socialism is a group like the Freemasons. The collective owns and controls the assets, everyone is a member voluntarily, and you can leave if you choose by simply declaring it so. It's run democratically, but entry and exit is voluntary.

Democratic socialism, which barely exists in reality, is where you have a democratic society, and a socialist economy. It's a theoretical thing at best, and usually ends up being social democracy. That's like Bernie.
Social democracy, which many people mean when they use the word socialism, is not socialism at all -- it is capitalism with a safety net. Not socialism, but people in America call it that. In fact, when Bernie Sanders referred to Denmark as an example of the type of country that he, a democratic socialist, liked, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen disagreed: "I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy." We are talking about a "mixed economy," a mix of the free market and "socialism," or "economic interventionism," or "economic authoritarianism." All of those terms work for what is happening.

Then there is state capitalism, which is even more "socialized" than social democracy, which is everything from China, Germany, and Brazil, to a few other smaller countries...that's the mixed economy, where the state runs a heavy-handed "industrial policy." Now, to the socialist, these are "not socialism." Well, they are if it goes well. If not, it's not socialism, it's authoritarianism.

Now, every one of those words is slippery, confusing, and used differently by the people who use them.

The left usually uses them broadly one way, the right, another. Libertarians might use either way.

However, whenever we are discussing socialism in the news, we generally mean economic authoritarianism in one manner or another. We are not talking about some theoretical socialism that is either capitalism, or something that has never existed.

Either way, I seriously think we need to just start listening to what the person means more than the word they use....the point is, maybe we should exercise charity when we see these words, and really pay better attention.

Basically, I think making the claim that your definition is the only one is false, and making the claim that yours is the best one requires an essay and citations.

Semantics. The only way to win is not to play. Or at least, maybe forget about winning, and play to understand.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Libertarians Want What Progressives and Liberals Say They Want

(President Gary Johnson and Vice President Bernie Sanders of Earth JW-42017)

When I look at what people actually say and do, the mainstream left, from Bernie to Obama to Hillary, claim to want to make America more like Sweden and Denmark. Both of those countries are more libertarian than the USA by the numbers. If they want Sweden or Denmark, that's not socialism, that's regulated capitalism with a safety net, and more personal freedom than the USA, with higher taxes and a bigger/more comprehensive safety net.

Most conservatives never say what they want, since it's in Cloud Cuckooland of the past or future, but they seem to want Singapore. Free economy with a police state to "win the war on drugs/terror/etc." Or Russia. Russia's right wing, authoritarian conservatives seem to like that.

In practical matters, we have a lot in common with liberals. We both want to move society in the same general direction: more liberty overall.
In ideological matters, we THINK we have more in common with conservatives, but I'd say that was a marriage of convenience largely due to the Cold War, and we created a narrative that worked.

If we set aside utopian dreams and ideological rigidity, imagine what we can do. For now, we want the same basic thing: a society with more economic and personal freedom. We can work together to make that happen, and create more liberty, opportunity, and abundance.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What About The Roads?

What about the roads?

I like to say, "We'll see." For now, let's shrink the state to a more reasonable least let's become the most free country on earth according to the indices.

Let's deregulate the economy to the levels of Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, and Hong Kong, bring banking to someplace like Switzerland, maybe look to the Swiss and Singapore for our health care issues, cut defense, end mass incarceration, change the war on drugs from the mad Jihad that it is into to a medical problem that it ought to be, and so many more things...and yeah, let's get taxes as low as we can get them, and start switching them from intrusive invasions of privacy like the income tax, to fees for services and things that are already regulated through commerce law.

Things like that are my priorities. After we've solved all those problems, then I say we can worry about the roads.

For now, let's just not spend infrastructure money on boondoggles, and who better than Libertarians to know a boondoggle when we see one?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

With Great Taxation

Taxation is the price we pay for not being able to convince people there's a better way.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Christian Label

As is often the case around Easter, in between the debate about whether Jesus came out of an egg when he was resurrected, or the bunnies announcing the good news....there are several misconceptions I keep seeing about Christians and Christianity.
People seem to mean "right wing evangelical Christianity" when they say Christian. That kinda sucks, because mainstream Christians aren't all that conservative, and there are even a decent amount of moderate and progressive evangelicals.

Religious labels are hard -- maybe harder than political labels -- and there are progressives, liberals, libertarians, liberaltarians, conservatives, conservatarians, anarchists, and whateverists, in just about every denomination, and non-denominations as well.
All, that, plus just about every denomination has members who are ready to split over some issue they dissent on. The melting pots bubble over and form new soups and stews of ideas and spiritualities. It's actually quite beautiful.

Anyway, I think it's good to remember we are in weedy territory, and to be careful with sweeping generalizations. I know I have to remind myself a million times a day about this.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Case is Clear

The case for liberty has never been more clear. There are now about a hundred countries that are (true, flawed, and hybrid) democracies with (overly) regulated capitalist economies with safety nets. Actual socialism is a dead issue. The new game is social democracy.

Are these countries perfect? No. Are they better than what they had a century ago, or even fifty years ago? Heck, yeah.

Each one of these countries -- from New Zealand, to Denmark, to Singapore and Hong Kong -- each place makes a separate case for economic and personal liberty, and the more deeply we look at each one, the more we see that it does.

I think it behooves us to study these places, and learn from their failures and successes. Libertarians have the ability to go beyond left and right here, and look at actual liberty in these places, so we can make our case to Americans even more. The world has changed, and the facts are with us.