Did Our Founding Fathers Believe in Free Markets?

It used to be that you only encountered people in colonial-era dress at historical reenactments. These days, though, you're likely to see tri-cornered hats, evoking the nation's Founding Fathers, at political rallies for tea-party favorites such as Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann. These adherents of the Tea Party generally pursue an "anti-tax, limited government" agenda as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently put it.

Paradoxically, some supporters of Occupy Wall Street blithely assure the media that our country's founders never intended the present-day disparity of incomes between rich and poor, or the legal recognition of corporations as people; increased taxation of the very rich and increased regulation of Wall Street and business, some argue, must be introduced to correct these problems.

While it may be politically convenient to invoke our nation's founders to support our arguments today, how much do any of us really understand about the Founding Fathers' thoughts on capitalism, free markets and the economy? For most Americans, however politically engaged, the answer may be: Not a great deal, and not in any detail.

Plundering the past to make debate points?
Putting it matter-of-factly, Alan Pell Crawford, author of Twilight at Monticello: The Final Days of Thomas Jefferson says, "Rightwing politicians and their publicists, like their liberal counterparts, are interested in the past only as repository of pseudo-facts. They plunder the past to make debating points, most of which are unsupportable."

Crawford cites the Founders' views on government regulation as an example. "The evidence seems to suggest that Jefferson and Washington and the men of their time and place had no problem with government regulation of markets," he says.

"County courts in Virginia exercised what conservatives today would consider outrageous power over economic relationships and transactions. They could set the prices innkeepers could charge their customers -- that sort of thing. We might now recognize such powers as unwise or misguided, but Jefferson and Washington seem to have taken it for granted," he adds.

"This isn't to suggest today's conservatives are incorrect in their economics," Crawford concludes, "only that they are incorrect to attribute their views to people who could not possibly have shared them."

The market as innocent until proven guilty
Dr. Hugh Rockoff, a professor of economics at Rutgers University and co-author of History of the American Economy, offers a complementary view: "Madison and Hamilton envisioned a society in which the bulk of economic activity would be carried out in private markets by private individuals trying to get the best returns they could on their labor and capital."

"I think the founders saw this sort of economy both as efficient -- as the best way of generating a large flow of goods and services -- and as a way of protecting other personal liberties from despots," says Rockoff.

While the Founders' ideas largely came from Scottish Enlightenment-era economic thinker Adam Smith, as Rockoff explains, Smith is himself often misunderstood. "Nowadays we tend to think of Smith as a rigid free-market ideologue," he says. "But as anyone who has actually read Smith from cover to cover can tell you, Smith was anything but."

As Rockoff puts it, "Smith believed that the presumption should be that we leave people free to go about their private business as they see fit until experience has shown us that their liberties have to be constrained for the common good. It's a court of law: the market is innocent until proven guilty."

An enlightened, experience-based approach
No matter the ongoing political debate, the Founders' approach to the economy sets a good example for present-day Americans, argues Rockoff.

"We need to think through our policy toward each sector of the economy in the light of experience," he says. "We can't know what the founders would say about current problems, but we can adopt their 'enlightened,' experienced-based approach to trying to solve them."

What is called for, it seems, is less arguing and further study.

For a highly readable account of our nation's most recent financial crisis, check out Motley Fool columnist Morgan Housel's 99-cent ebook, Everyone Believes It; Most Will Be Wrong: Motley Thoughts on Investing and the Economy,available here.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 5:42 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Evidence-based economics? Sign me up.

    Solid article.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 5:46 PM, fizzed101 wrote:

    Great reminder that just because someone says it doesn't make it true!

    For historians out there, you can access "The Federalist Papers" written by Publius (aka Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison). These original signers of our Constitution wrote it as a series intended to expand upon the discussions that took place while the founding fathers were writing the document.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/18/pg18.html

    For anyone just wanting a great source for free eBooks that are no longer under copyright (I.e. old stuff and classics), just nose around the Project Gutenberg site

    http://www.gutenberg.org

    Regards,

    Ed

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 6:42 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<"Nowadays we tend to think of Smith as a rigid free-market ideologue," he says. "But as anyone who has actually read Smith from cover to cover can tell you, Smith was anything but.">>

    100% agree. And true for just about every famous dead economist quoted today, including Keynes.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 6:43 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    By that, I mean Keynes's work is often misconstrued to make him out to be someone he isn't.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 6:53 PM, TMFPhillyDot wrote:

    Great article Cat --really enjoyed reading it!

    Best,

    Jordan (TMFPhillyDot)

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 8:18 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Oh wow, I can't wait to spend more time on this post. Bookmarked for after the holiday weekend!

    In short, the Founding Fathers are not a homogenous group. Alexander Hamilton was a statist cretin in both word and practice. Jefferson was eloquent with words but often failed to follow the right path in power. Washington had almost no economic understanding at all.

    If you want to attack Establishment Republican talking points, have at it. They are designed to be superficial, as Establishment Democrat ones are.

    However, I have read Adam Smith cover to cover. He is absolutely 100% a free market ideologue. The problem is that his theory is not always sound, for example his theory of value is so close to Marx's labor theory of value that some suspect Marx copied it.

    But like Jefferson, there can be no questioning his intent or what they both believed was the correct path. You can quibble over how consistent they were and whether or not they understood all economic phenomena (in the late 1700s!!!) but there is no questioning whether or not they were ideologically committed to the free market.

    DJ,

    "Evidence based economics...."??? I doubt you know what that means. Please let me know of one single economic experiment that meets all criteria of the scientific method, including controlling for all variables. Obviously, there is no such thing. There is also no such thing as evidence based economics. Enjoy your search for it though. We'll meet again when you are long in the tooth.

    Morgan,

    Keynes is easy to misrepresent because he spoke in unclear language. As Paul Samuelson himself noted, Keynes' work was sloppy, poorly organized, and full of pontification without proper reference. It's his own fault.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 8:25 PM, Merton123 wrote:

    The European Commonwealth Experiment is a way to test what would have happened if Thomas Jefferson would have won the argument about strong state rights and a weak central government versus Alexander Hamilton who expoused a strong central power (Federalist Party) who brought in a central bank and created the political framework that the USA now works under.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 8:25 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    Is it wrong that I was refreshing this, waiting for David to respond rather than responding myself?

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 8:41 PM, Acesnyper wrote:

    @frankydontfailme,

    I was also hoping to see his writing on this.

    I greatly enjoy reading another history buff's thoughts.

    Also he's a darn better writer than I.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 8:42 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    ^Not at all, Franky. Even those of use who lean towards David's views on economic policy are unlikely to be as educated on the subject, eloquent in it's explanation, or enthusiastic in it's exposition.

    I'm gonna get some popcorn. This's gonna be good.

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 9:59 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    You guys are way too kind. I will be back to this on Monday. Maybe some good discussion I can join then.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 10:29 PM, MarLaz wrote:

    Excellent article

  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2011, at 11:23 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    ^^I'll look forward to it. A very Merry Christmas, David, to you and yours.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 12:20 AM, LongTime108 wrote:

    The Founding Fathers were an interesting mix of idealism and pragmatism. We seek to find guidance in addressing our current problems in the values they espoused, and in their wisdom we hope to develop an orthodoxy we can depend on. Many would agree that currently our most dire problem is the economy. This is my take on what we can learn if we take note of how the founding fathers addressed similar problems immediate to them.

    Well over 200 years since they went out of circulation, we still learn the phrase "It's not worth a Continental Dollar". The painful experience of the runaway inflation and collapse of the Continental Dollar following our government's first round of unrestrained issuing of fiat currency prompted the delegates to the Constitutional Convention to include the gold and silver clause into the United States Constitution so that the individual states could not issue bills of credit, or "make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts."

    From 1790 to 1900 we were on a bimetal standard, and then the gold standard until 1971, with a steep devaluation in 1933. The practice of deficit spending and the resultant debt make debasing the currency irresistible to policy makers as an easy out. Inflation of the money supply (devaluation) is a tax on everyone who holds dollars. History tells us that this tax, unchecked, will eventually be 100%, which is what happened to those who held the Continental Dollar.

    US Government debt has just passed 100% of GDP. The only reason our government still has credit and we aren't suffering like Greece is now, is that the US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world. Only if we maintain (and improve) the value of the dollar will it remain so.

    It is inevitable that we will eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt because the current trajectory is unsustainable. We can bite the bullet now or wait until we have no other choice. Our political class knows this, and has known it for a long time, and they also know that the longer we wait, the more destructive and painful the transition will be. They dither because in the short term they can continue to feather their own nests, and they hope that they personally can accumulate enough to weather the storm in the long run. Good luck to the rest of us.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 4:15 AM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    The better question is there anyone that does NOT believe in free markets?

    The phrase "believe in free markets" has been mis-used so often as to now be meaningless. Belief implies a non-proven, faith based assumption that something will happen. Well...free markets do work. They do exactly what they set out to do. Push down costs and push up quality of valuable goods and services. Only a fool (not the good kind) would deny this.

    Does anyone believe that free markets will solve all evils in society? I doubt it, but no rational person would make such a claim. Free markets are just an efficient way to distribute resources.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 11:24 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    Here's a good Adam Smith quote on regulation:

    "Exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments, of the most free as well as of the most despotical. The obligation of building party walls, in order to prevent the communication of fire, is a violation of natural liberty exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed."

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 11:44 AM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    What banking regulations did he here propose?

    If you teleported Adam Smith to modern America, I think you'd be hard pressed to convince him we needed more banking laws. Remember he lived in an era of free banking with more or less no laws on bank regulations. Banks could print their own currencies if they so desired and only keep .5% of their deposits on hand.

    Modern America is the most regulated banking jurisdiction that has ever existed, with over 15K pages of federal regulation alone (and more at the state and local level).

    I think it's a leap of logic to point out that Adam Smith was in favor of some regulation (which he was) and then extrapolate that into the argument "we need more regulation", (which we don't)

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 11:55 AM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    The general commitment to and preference for free-market approaches among the founding generation cannot be doubted. However, they certainly didn't fetishize these approaches the way hard right does today.

    Namely, neither aggressive regulation of business and the redistribution of wealth were not anathema to these men. The first tax ever enacted by the Washington administration was a tariff that was paid ONLY by the wealthy. Jefferson proposed a progressive property tax to combat economic inequity and concentration of wealth, which he witnessed in Europe and felt was a huge problem going forward. The idea of taxing the laboring classes to help pay for a government and economic system that primarily benefitted men of property would have been offensive in the extreme to the Enlightenment mindset.

    These were brilliant men, and their thinking was not monolithic and lacking in nuance. A lot of these nuances applied to 18th centuries that no longer exist, or have gotten lost in contemporary political discourse.

    I can't help but think of that Tea Partier who dressed up like Thomas Paine and got on youtube. If he understood what a populist radical Paine was on economic issues, not to mention how much Thomas Paine hated Christianity, maybe he should have arbitrarily chosen a different founding figure!

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 12:45 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Oh my, this is going to be fun. :lol:

    @Whereaminow: "There is also no such thing as evidence based economics"

    @CaptainWidget: "The phrase "believe in free markets" has been mis-used so often as to now be meaningless. Belief implies a non-proven, faith based assumption that something will happen. Well...free markets do work. They do exactly what they set out to do. Push down costs and push up quality of valuable goods and services. Only a fool (not the good kind) would deny this."

    These two claims directly contradict. Have at it, boys!

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 1:35 PM, TMFCatB wrote:

    Enjoying all the comments, y'all. Worth mentioning that there's a great book on the subject--Drew McCoy's Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America. I'm probably not going to reread my copy, so if you want it, let me know and I'll drop it in the mail.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 2:14 PM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    <<These two claims directly contradict. Have at it, boys!>>

    What are you, a 12 year old girl?

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 3:12 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Whereaminow: You said "Please let me know of one single economic experiment that meets all criteria of the scientific method, including controlling for all variables. Obviously, there is no such thing. There is also no such thing as evidence based economics"

    Ok, I said I applauded evidence-based economics, and you responded as above (complete with the addition of putting words in my mouth to stuff your strawmen with before you knock them down). If you truly don't think that we should learn from our experience and pay attention to empirical evidence, then to be honest there's nothing more we can talk about, because the alternative is made-up rules and ideology masquerading as education. While I recognize that in Austrian circles that's regarded as a feature, not a bug, in my experience I've found that respecting the lessons of experience and making analysis using what empirical evidence we can measure does, in fact, have value. That is the fundamental reason behind having labour and economic statistics constantly measured - to give us evidence with which to draw conclusions. I can't honestly believe that you're arguing AGAINST using evidence to make informed decisions.

    As an aside, there exists an entire field called "experimental economics" which I expect would take issue with your claim as well. But I can't speak to their techniques with anything more than a basic wikipedia understanding of what they do, so I'll offer that purely for entertainment value.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 3:15 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @CaptainWidget: "What are you, a 12 year old girl?"

    I have far more fun and far fewer worries than a 12 year old girl. :)

    Just enjoying the chance to run an experiment of my own. When presented with two contradictory arguments by proponents of the same school of economics, which will prove the stronger force - the quest for objective truth, or community loyalty?

    Come now, you must have a lot of fun with this stuff too or else you'd have long since stopped putting up with my crap.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 3:22 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    "The phrase "believe in free markets" has been mis-used so often as to now be meaningless. Belief implies a non-proven, faith based assumption that something will happen. Well...free markets do work. They do exactly what they set out to do. Push down costs and push up quality of valuable goods and services. Only a fool (not the good kind) would deny this."

    He never claimed we know free markets work because of evidence-based economics, we know they work because of logical deductions based on a priori truths. I'd recommend you read Von Mises or Rothbard for more information.

    If you haven't yet learned how economics is a soft science, and that empirical evidence is meaningless without proper negative and positive controls, I'd highly recommend reading these great thinkers.

    Otherwise, your comments sound silly.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 3:25 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    PS - For the record, you also said this: "Does anyone believe that free markets will solve all evils in society? I doubt it, but no rational person would make such a claim. Free markets are just an efficient way to distribute resources."

    And that is a statement I can absolutely agree with.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 3:27 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @Franky - Why even read the Motley Fool if you don't believe that analyzing information to inform your economic actions has value?

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 4:08 PM, devoish wrote:

    Captain Widget,

    I do not believe in "Free markets". I do not believe one has ever existed.

    I also do not believe that a free market would push up quality and push down costs. I believe that sometimes it will, and sometimes it won't, but not as well as a regulated market.

    I also do not believe that a free markets would solve all societies ills, or that regulation will.

    I also do not believe that the blanket statement that free markets are an efficient way to distribute resources is true. It may be true sometimes.

    Best wishes and Seasons Greetings,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 4:23 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @devoish - I think you're on to something there with your claim that no free market has ever existed. Every market has rules and constraints. No market is truly "free," in the true sense that word.

    It stands to reason that free market advocates actually mean something different, then, when they say "free markets."

    I'd be interested in hearing what that is.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 5:50 PM, devoish wrote:

    DJ,

    When you ask, also ask what the result of an efficient distribution of resources would look like. That could mean anything from providing resources to the vast majority or to a targeted minority. The last time I asked nobody wanted to be pinned down on who or how many they hoped free markets would provide how little and how much to.

    There is no need to set goals for a fantasy.

    I remember it as being David who first observed to me that no free market has ever existed. I do not want credit for anything beyond sharing the idea.

    Your observation to ask "which will prove the stronger force - the quest for objective truth, or community loyalty" was priceless. In all the discussion of causes of global warming, no sunspot advocate ever had a strong enough belief to argue against a milankovitch cycles. It is always the ideology of the ABC's of climate change - Anything But C02.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 6:03 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @devoish - agreed. I'm usually willing to concede that capitalist markets are good at allocating resources efficiently; I just feel that there's a lot more to life than efficiency. Killing a lot of people at once is very efficient; that doesn't make it a net positive.

    I'm with you on the global warming statement as well - and honestly, even if I didn't know the science behind it, sitting in upstate New York looking at weather forecasts of 50 degrees for the last week of December would probably convince me pretty quickly. We used to get snow in October.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 6:40 PM, devoish wrote:

    Dj,

    The point I was trying to make was to ask what efficiently allocated resources looks like.

    When you say "capitalist markets are good at allocating resources efficiently" how would I know if they really are? Does it mean 100% of the population gets to retire comfortably, or just half, or 80% can never retire at all? Does it mean everyone gets good quality healthcare or some just get aspirin? If so how many are contributing their lives to someone elses healthcare so the can have aspirin?

    The CEO of Victorias Secret made 8mil last year, the hottie in underwear on TV made 1mil. The girl who picked the cotton made nothing. Is that what "efficent" is supposed to look like?

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 9:28 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    Maybe they believed in bloodletting. Or maybe they believed Santa lived at the south pole. Is this really a topic for the fool? The history of economic thought was one of the most challenging and rewarding courses I took to earn my degree in economics. I wish it were included in more curriculum. But my wishes and their beliefs are equally inconsequential. I would say that free markets have out performed the command-economy alternatives as far as allocating resources. You have it and some one wants to pay you for it then it's a trade. I'm not interested in paying The Fool for articles like this.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2011, at 12:10 PM, wisehiney wrote:

    The example of regulation of tavern keepers prices and standards is poor proof of the founding fathers attitudes towards free markets. Tavern keepers were licensed with the understanding and appreciation of the necessity of uniform standards to provide for long distance foot/horse/carriage travellers. The owners, much like modern professional associations, supported these regulations. Most of the merchants, planters, commission agents, shippers, tradesmen, etc were self regulated through their own organizations, not by the government. More commentary by actual businessmen rather than academics is appreciated.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2011, at 12:13 PM, wisehiney wrote:

    Hey Steven, that hottie on tv sold a lot more drawers than that toothless gal picking the cotton. Sound efficient to me.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2011, at 1:09 PM, devoish wrote:

    Who was more efficient? That hottie that took millions from her employer or the gal picking the cotton that took nothing?

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2011, at 3:00 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    That is not an example of capitalism, but of the absence of capitalism. The girl was not allowed to freely transact on her capital (time, skill, etc.), as little as it may have been, which is a condition of free market capitalism. None of which has anything to do what the founding fathers' belief in free-markets.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2011, at 3:03 PM, MittyMo wrote:

    If Catherine’s right, perhaps some of our founders were as economically ignorant as the left are today.

    America's goal should be “the greatest good for the greatest number.” And despite their protestations they’re for the common man, Dems always fail to achieve that goal by adhering to tried and proven to fail policies first announced in the 1930s and 1940s (yet they call themselves “progressives”).

    As the astute Albert Einstein once pointed out, doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is absolutely insane.

  • Report this Comment On December 24, 2011, at 7:35 PM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    <<The CEO of Victorias Secret made 8mil last year, the hottie in underwear on TV made 1mil. The girl who picked the cotton made nothing. Is that what "efficent" is supposed to look like?>>

    The argument has nothing to do with efficiency. You're arguing for equality of outcomes. If you know a pragmatic way to achieve that, I'd be all ears. But it's never been accomplished in the history of humanity, and everytime it's attempted, it destroys the productive capacity of society.

    There's no magic wand in the world. There's no solutions, only trade offs. Sometimes to get those nice underwear produced at a price that pretty girls want to pay, some people will need to get paid very little and some will need to get paid quite a bit. If everyone made the same salary as the CEO, I don't think Victoria Secrets would have much of a business model.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2011, at 2:52 PM, devoish wrote:

    CaptainWidget,

    Are you suggesting that paying the girl picking cotton nothing, is not more economically efficient for Victoria's Secret than paying her more than nothing?

    And wouldn't the same principle of efficiently allocating resources apply equally to Victoria Secret's CEO and models?

    The CEO's income is enough to open 30 new stores if I pay her the same as the cotton pickers. 60 when I can get the construction workers to work for the same pay too.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2011, at 6:40 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    Steven,

    " capitalist markets are good at allocating resources efficiently" was the statement. The girl in Africa was not compensated, hence it is not capitalism. That's slave-labor (as is my understand of the recent allegations in the news that I'm assuming you are referencing). A capitalist market is based on voluntary associations. You can participate or not. Involuntary servitude is excluded by this arrangement. The African girl's output was inefficient exactly BECAUSE it WASN'T capitalism.

    Regards,

    Caleb

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2011, at 7:29 PM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    CaptainWidget, if you think the executive compensation is a matter of the free market, that the CEO of Victoria's Secret makes $20 million per year because she is charging what the market will bear for her services, that the company has to pay that much to find somebody as qualified, or that that level of compensation is in the long term best interests of the company and its shareholders, you are very naive indeed, and lack a good education in how executive compensation packages are reached in today's corporate culture.

    Further, there is no incompatibility between capitalism and slave labor (slaves are compensated with meals and lodging), apart from your unilateral declarations. It wasn't incompatible to our own southern slave economy, and it shouldn't be surprising that it isn't deemed incompatible in today's corporate culture. In many ways slavery is the ultimate conclusion of capitalist principals to pay the least amount of money for labor.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2011, at 7:38 PM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    MittyMo, if that is indeed the definition of insanity (it wasn't Einstein who said it, by the way), then certainly it is the Tea Party conservatives of today who are insane, in promoting and defending historically low tax rates for the wealthiest among us. After all, 19 of our nation's 20 best economic years in the modern economy (in terms of GDP growth and job creation) have occurred when the top tax rate was more than twice what it is today! By contrast, virtually all of the WORST economic years have occurred when top tax rates were below 35%. Despite all of the high-minded theorizing and philosophizing about "liberty," "efficiency," and the like, the actual record of our thirty year flirtation with supply side economics has been almost as disastrous as Coolidge's similar experiment that led straight to the Great Depression.

    To keep barking up the tree of voodoo economics, even though it has repeatedly proven to be an abysmal failure, by your own definition is mighty insane!

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2011, at 8:16 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    FoolishVintner,

    Capitalism had purged slavery from the far more capitalist northern states. Capitalism and slavery are not sustainable together. Participants must be enticed with compensation, not compensated ad hoc. From this arrangement capitalists emerge. One of the most valuable things to a society is effective stewardship. "A fool and his/her money will soon part ways", that money winds up with those better equipped. Capitalism will dispel not only slavery, but despots and monarchs as well, all of the overseers (even those in oversight committees), and do it at a rate proportional to its degree of freedom. It happened in Europe when the bourgeois middle-class challenged the rule of the kings. It happened here in the US. It's happening in China with their expanding middle-class challenging the socialist regime there. "All over the world, it's easy to see, everywhere people just gotta be free."

    GDP is more a measure of exchange, and only a proxy for growth.

    You do make one very valid point: CEO compensation is probably the result not of a free-market, but of a contrived one. Not necessarily intended as such, but such contrivances tend to have the effect of consolidating wealth.

    Regards,

    Caleb

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2011, at 8:34 PM, ETMatyahoo wrote:

    Sign me up for one of those wicked tricorner hats!

    I sincerely believe that historians are sad, pathetic non-workers themselves. Have *you* ever met one that's not a shirker or weasel? Some of them (who shall remain nameless) even like to twist 'facts' to suit their current fancies.

    Sure, I'm exaggerating - but to make a point. Completely leaving out the less harmful brand of history watcher, the Natural Scientist, Biographer, and various other stripes.

    What some old dude said about the writings about some other dead man - what is the use of even having an opinion on somebody's fancies or wishes? Look at the real world. Judge for yourself. (In case somebody already took the utilitarian and/or pragmatic view, sorry, I did not have time to read the entire thread.)

    Cheers & Merry X-mas!

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 12:09 AM, devoish wrote:

    capitalist markets are good at allocating resources efficiently" was the statement.

    So what does that mean? That resources get where they are going quickly at low cost? Or that they get where they are most needed? Or the combination of both - they get where they are most needed at low cost.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 7:40 AM, dbtheonly wrote:

    Caleb,

    You've nailed it exactly when you point out that CEO compensation is the result of a contrived market.

    The question is whether in fact a "free market" exists or can exist. A free market depends on equivalent bargaining power among all the participants.When an "owner" can offer the "worker" only two options viz. "work at wages that keep you one step above starvation" & "starve" there is no equality in bargaining power & thus no free market.

    I would assert that the current path of "crony capitalism" has us marching to banana republic economics, with a very wealthy & powerful 1% & an impoverished 99%.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 8:40 AM, devoish wrote:

    dbtheonly,

    so in a "not contrived" market, what improves the workers bargaining power beyond those two options?

    Exactly what additional leverage does that worker suddenly acquire, or that owner suddenly lose?

    What is a "contrived" market? I don't want to get caught up in arguing about a market completely without government regulation if that is not what you are actually talking about.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 11:34 AM, CHill8008 wrote:

    Steven,

    Gov. regs can promote a free market, but it is rare and fairly well understood (eg anti-trust laws). Free-exchange is a condition for a free society, from information and ideas to DNA to even goods and services and money. Free does not mean without conditions, but without coercion. Participation is voluntary. The scenario of choosing between starvation and subsistence wages is an unlikely one, in the real world right now. In a free-market there is always the option of "no thank you, I'll do business elsewhere". There are times when government action can result in this, but by reducing barriers to entry into a market making them more inclusive, but now many regs inhibit access, making them exclusive and resulting in regulator capture, crony capitalism, increased wealth disparity, etc. Hence my use of the term contrived market. A free-market is complex and organic, from which abstractions like GDP are derived. Using GDP to control markets would be an example of a contrivence. The rift between predicting and controlling is big enough to house a universe.

    The starvation/subsistence-wage dichotomy is a rare one, and CEO compensation north of a million dollars is rare too. Using the unusual instances to formulate general theories is toxic. To achieve the status of 1% of earners in the US takes about $400k. To achieve the status of 1% of earners in the world is about $34k. It must be understood that what we have here is weird both currently and historically. Most humans, including most of our ancestors lived at subsistence levels. I'm no american-exceptionalist, this wealth here that we take for granted occurred as the effect of actions taken, including those by the founding-fathers, regardless of there beliefs. I'm not going to say they believed in anything particular like a free-market (Hamilton argued against smith), but the government they framed certainly allowed for it. I think it was that tolerance for consensus-building that has the effect of wealth generation that is so historically weird, and that it can be exported elsewhere.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 4:22 PM, cattywampus wrote:

    The John Trumbull painting of the Founding Fathers that was displayed on the MF home page for several days with (left to right) John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert Livingston of New York, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania representing the Committee of Five is an interesting beginning point for your article. I particularly liked Roger Sherman with his Great Compromise that appeased the representation arguements by forming the lower and upper houses. Also interesting is the connection between Roger Sherman and Reed Hastings the grandson of Farnsworth Loomis a physician and professor and his brother Henry Loomis the head of the Corp. for Public Broadcasting. Their father was Alfred Lee Loomis who pioneered the concept of the holding company among other things.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 5:37 PM, devoish wrote:

    I am sorry, I am not making the connection between how a "not contrived" market would offer the young lady collecting cotton for nothing any other choices that she does not already have in our "contrived" market. She can say "no thank you" in the contrived market too.

    I understand the cost to entry issue of meeting Gov't regs that you bring up, but I see regulations as a solution to the issue of two people in a transaction externalizing some of their costs onto the surrounding neighborhood. A neighborhood that does not participate in the profits of their transaction but are ultimately saddled with costs from it. Centralia Pa is one such example. http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/centralia.htm

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 5:38 PM, rashworth wrote:

    While academics always like to have the last word or the words that reshape the discussion , always question it when an academic says, you didn't use my sources rightly. Let me correct you.

    What is the new bottom line on free markets: whatever we say is required today to constrain them t is okay, as long as we say a problem has come and our solution to that market problem is constraints. More discussion but in that direction only.

    Sounds a lot like the democratic or control the market speak of today. Hurrah for Europe. It is off to the debt snowball.

    Controlled markets went to far , so again we must control them more. If only we could stop the railroad from being squeezed out of passenger

    Markets. If only we could stop small farmers from being squeezed oUt of markets by big farms and small margins . If only we could stop land lines phone co's from being squeezed out by cell phones. Then we could set the markets up correctly.

    If we could just help the little guy bUy houses

    Then the market would be set right? Wait the market blew up, and the little guys lost their homes first. Then the gov. Stepped in and saved the day. The banks got money to save the economy and then they never took any losses on the mortgages they should have had to liquidate at a loss. So our gov. Fix of the market left the banks not suffer losses and the little guy who needs ours wisdom and help in the first place to make it in This life has now lost a lot. Yeah that does it.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 6:21 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    Regs are not necessarily a solution. Another, more efficient solution to externalities is an expedient, accessible, efficient, impartial court system where those in the neighborhood can call the transactors on their bs. This has the added benefit of dealing only with externalities in fact, not those imagined by legislators. And no the little girl did not have the ability to decline without fear of forceful reprisal. I don't know if you are familiar with the news event, and I am only tacitly familiar, but a young girl was forced to pick cotton. This cotton was incorrectly labeled "fair trade" and purchased by Victoria's secret and turned into drawers. The little girl's labor was forced. It was slave labor, so she certainly did not have the ability to sell her labor elsewhere, she wasn't allowed to sell it at all. I would like to point out my arguments do not apply to children or others that are not fully developed cognitively, but do to the vast majority of adults.

    I must say that my background is behavioral economics, and I am not currently practicing. From a very, very general perspective people of a complex society will not treat eachother as kith and kin. It is not in their faculties. Might as well expect them to spin webs or lay eggs like alligators. There must be some means to unite them, and there are two options: a profit mechanism to reward them, or coercion like the gulags, auschwitz, the killing fields, etc. In general free markets succeed as the former. It also explains why the ussr was unsustainable and no longer with us. There are not only human rights violations under socialism, but also rampant environmental ones too, see three-gorges dam, the deforestation of the ussr, the strip-mining of the ussr, the heavy-metals contamination of the ussr, etc. So the reg approach to managing externalities has about the same success rate as regs do with almost everything. A court can operate similar to a market, while legislatures have their own externalities. They act with little consequence to those actions.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 8:47 PM, donbcms wrote:

    CHill8008: :Yes, but, "An expedient, accessible, efficient, impartial court system" CAN vary even from State to State in enforcing solutions to Regs. ?.?

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 9:06 PM, dbtheonly wrote:

    devoish, @ 8:40

    I'm not sure what would balance the bargaining power of "capital" and "labor"; thus my questioning of whether a "free market" can exist. It takes no great knowledge of human nature to assert that one who has an advantage will use it.

    Despite the bald assertion that, "The starvation/subsistence-wage dichotomy is a rare one..." newspapers of about 110 years ago cataloged numerous examples. The "Wobblies" and other early Labor Movements also cataloged

    examples. "The Jungle" would not have made the impact it did, if the underlying facts didn't ring true.

    Equally the assertion, "CEO compensation north of a million dollars is rare too." has been adequately addressed by Alycia Lomax on this site. Even a scant perusal of her writings should relegate that claim to "MythBusters". Of course many CEOs have base compensation of "only" 6 figures, but when bonuses, stock options, retirement contributions, & other perks are included, the total compensation package rises significantly. It's all spelled out fairly clearly in your proxy materials; though I'll grant it's buried in other mounds of soporific figures.

    Current "Behavioral Economics" aside, Theodore Roosevelt wrote about 100 years ago, denying the dichotomy of "Individualism vs Socialism". Anyone wishing to understand the basics of practical economic application ought to read it.

    It's short.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 11:06 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    Donbcms,

    Not a court for testing legal compliance with regs, but a court testing for harms or even likely harms. Common law, not civil law.

    Dbtheonly,

    I'm not saying that it's rare for a CEO to make million(s), but that that is a rare event at all. This is a fraction of a single per cent of all people. Similarly, it really takes very little to survive, and very few people are at that level. These are the two extremes of human wealth, and do nothing more than to define these outward boundaries, they are useless as a basis for comparison. Using these extremes as if they are normal and deriving general theories from them is equally useless. There is more wealth now than ever, despite there being more people to divide it up among. That necessitates a generation of wealth. Most people throughout history were at subsistence levels. A much larger amount, in absolutes and proportionally, are not at that level anymore, but much above it. It is much more fruitful to evaluate under what conditions wealth is generated.

    I don't think I've even alluded to a socialist/individualist dichotomy, and I am unfamiliar with Teddy's argument, but I'll grant that it is a false dichotomy. I think the work of chomsky, and those since in the cognitive field, have demonstrated that a person is not a product of their society, but a society is composed of individuals. Freedom among those individuals to voluntarily compete and to cooperate produces a richer, more creative society. Treating measures of a society as manipulatable artifacts not only violates the reification fallacy, but may inflict real harm on those individuals that compose it and all while not achieving the aims. This, as I see it, is socialism not opposed to individualism, but socialism as a policy framework.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 1:29 AM, clbjblk wrote:

    How the times have changed,first we imported 90 and exported indian feathers, then we grew and became the almighty export giant and then we became the import giant,now we almost know how Rome felt,it is written all great nations fall from inside there own greed,is it to late to care or should we just roll over like the donkey party wants us to,I WILL NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! how many states are there?

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 7:38 AM, dbtheonly wrote:

    clbjblk,

    I don't know what you're trying to say, perhaps you need to hit the sack. 1:30 does not add to your coherence.

    But just for it, there are 50 States, the District of Columbia (whose residents get the worst of both worlds), & several US Territories, Puerto Rico, Guam, & many smaller Carribbian & Pacific Islands.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 10:51 AM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    " It takes no great knowledge of human nature to assert that one who has an advantage will use it."

    This is precisely right, and precisely why we must maintain free markets. A regulated market is a corrupt market. The only sustainable way to prevent unwarranted leverage of an individual or group over another is to disperse power naturally through the markets. Any distortion of this market through government force has always lead to uneven power distribution - big government begets big business begets big labor. We need freedom and a just legal system, which protects property rights - our founding fathers knew this well.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 11:36 AM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    The elephant in the libertarian room, of course, is the very same problem lacking in discussions about socialism. Conservatives are fond of pointing out the dismal record of socialist economies, but the same tactic can be used to destroy the assumptions of laissez faire economics. Can you name one - just one - country that works on free market principles, and that isn't in most ways a third world nation? The plain fact is that all of the most successful economies on our planet - all of them! - are controlled market economies with a central banking and regulatory system and social reforms. The farther away nations get from this basic model, it seems, the less prosperous that nation is.

    This is what is referred to, I believe, by "evidence-based economics." The last thing we need is a bunch of ideologues running our economy. This is serious business and we need people in power who understand and recognize what has been shown to work in the past, not people committed to the world of ideas that may or may not play out in the real world of complexities and unforeseen consequences.

    Take the common assumption that we keep hearing regarding taxes, and how if we lower them on the wealthy the revenues will go up and more jobs will be created. Any fifth grader can look at the relevant data and see that inflation-revenues absolutely tanked after both the Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and that for the last century, job creation is actually correlated with higher (MUCH higher!) taxes on the wealthy. In fact, for 19 out of the 20 best years for job creation since WWII, the top tax bracket was over 70%! The twenty worst years for job creation virtually all have occurred with the top tax rate below 35%.

    Certainly, correlation is not *necessarily* causation, but these correlations are undeniable. You can argue that there are complicating factors in the economy that tend to cloud the accuracy of analysis, but when the historical record so consistently shows a pattern that is the very opposite of supply-side theories, common sense would dictate that we either have to revise or abandon these theories! Yet we still hear these same debunked theories being touted as if they were incontrovertible truths. Why? Not because these people are stupid, but because they are devoted to a particular *ideology* of economic theory, as opposed to evidence-based practices. As long as the highly-politicized culture of the study of economics continues to emphasize theory over evidence, ideologues will always find some reason to rationalize why the realities don't support their theories.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 12:43 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    FoolishVintner, you completely ignore how virtually every sustained wealthy nation built their wealth through free markets. That the developed economies sacrifice the poor by neglecting the free markets once they acquire wealth is a sad reality. Talk about ideology...

    Correlations. You believe high taxes cause high growth? You suggest that you understand the difference between correlation and causation but make no effort to connect the dots. When the economy is booming, governments tend to raise taxes. When recessions occur, governments tend to decrease taxes (as Keynes proposed).

    No one is espousing "supply-side" economics. Deficit spending is deficit spending and big government is big government whether its Reagan or Obama.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 1:34 PM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    Franky, I think I was pretty clear that correlation doesn't necessarily equate to causation. I'm not arguing that high taxes cause greater job growth or economic expansion. (But if I did, I would certainly have a lot more evidence in my favor than those who are still trying to claim the opposite.)

    Your grasp of the relationship between taxes and GDP or job growth is severely lacking, and not supported by the history. Taxes have been raised during recessions, and lowered during economic expansions, there is simply no correlation to support your characterization. Taxes were raised during WWII in response to the war and the need for vigorous government spending (which finally ended the joblessness of the Great Depression, by the way). Taxes were gradually lowered in subsequent decades in response to political realities and a climate of increased prosperity. Clinton raised taxes during a recession, revenues immediately improved, paving the way for increased investor and consumer confidence which eventually saw the greatest sustained economic expansion in our lifetimes.

    In our grandparents generation, it was a no-brainer to raise taxes rather than run a deficit, irrespective of the business cycle. Hoover notwithstanding, voodoo economics hadn't been invented yet - it wasn't an available delusion - and it simply would not have occurred to anybody that you could have your spending cake and not have to pay for it. Eisenhower kept the top tax rate at 91% rather than send the bill for WWII unto you and me. That sense of fiscal responsibility is sadly lacking in conservative circles today, who keep trying to feed us the same ol' debunked Koolaid about lower taxes raising revenues - all evidence to the contrary.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 2:47 PM, devoish wrote:

    dbtheonly,

    Thank you for your reply to Chill8008, there was so much in that post that is unsupported by evidence, I went to sleep instead of trying to address it.

    Foolishvintner,

    I can also remember when a Conservative was someone who paid the bills, not drove the debt higher.

    CHill8008,

    You make an excellent point about not using extremes as if they were normal and drawing conclusions from them. I strongly believe that tax cuts can improve the economy and tax increases can improve the economy. Tax cuts from 90% down to 80% will probably help. Increases from 34% up to 39% will to.

    Of course that depends on what "improve the economy" means to each of us. To an economist it might mean to get more money flowing. To a employee it might mean get more money flowing into wages. To an investor it might mean get more money into investments. Everybody wants to improve the economy but I doubt we all agree on exactly what the result will look like.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 3:36 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    Interesting. It seems in the last few posts we have come to the conclusion that taxes in and of themselves are not as significant as deficit spending in entirety (raising taxes while increasing spending disproportionally isn't net raising taxes at all is it?)

    I especially appreciated the tirades against republicans who fail to balance the budget.

    I assume that you will join me in supporting the tea party's request to balance the budget?

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 6:32 PM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    I will certainly join you in supporting the tea party's request to balance the budget.

    I will NOT join the tea party, however, in keeping their ideological heads in the sand about the damage that the Bush tax cuts have done to our economy, or in their general anti-tax fetish that has come to resemble a kind of fundamentalist religion. We can all hold hands and sing about how we'd like the government to spend less, but until and unless it accomplishes that goal, we need to bring our tax margins back in line to what worked better in our recent past. Evidence-based economics needs to win out over dogmatic ideology.

    After all, it's not as if none of us can do basic third grade math. There's no way in all of the world that we're going to balance a trillion dollar deficit without raising taxes, cutting spending, AND growing the economy. Our government needs to adopt an "all of the above" attitude on what it's going to take to balance the budget, or it simply won't happen at all.

    If you think the Tea Party can come to its senses and support an "all of the above" solution, I can get behind it. But from what I've seen, the Tea Party is so ideologically hidebound in their predilection for voodoo economics that they're simply not going to get behind any kind of compromise solution that could actually work, on account of the fact that such a solution would certainly have to include some tax increases.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 6:46 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    I agree with you on that Fvintner, and if both sides could get past the political rhetoric I think we'd both be happy. Enough of the tax rich from the democrats, and enough of the no taxes at all from the repubs.

    I'm not optimistic...

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 7:33 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    Laissez faire is NOT a free market. Government intervention CAN free a market, promote free-markets, etc. I think policy propositions should be evaluated based on evidence where some is available, absolutely agree. It is correct that higher tax rates have existed prior, and they have correlated to higher GDP. During the 90% tax-bracket era there was also the event of high-paid pros adjusting their output downwards to stay out of the 90% bracket. There was a shortage at times, especially in metropolitan areas of services like doctors and lawyers. Time off beats working for free. These pros provide some of the most valuable services, and are in a position to be able to adjust their income downwards. The assumption is that an increase in income tax results in an increase in revenue. It can, but not always. The laffer curve shows it, but the actual curve is not as fluid as the one paraded around by Reagan. Krugeman has a curve that shows the relationship between spending and revenue, which is fascinating and probably valid. Krugman is pretty sharp.

    Like the founding fathers we each have our differences. Those men are an example of finding mutual benefit, and I think a free-market has demonstrated to do this best. Mutual is not to be confused with equal. There are similar concepts in economics that are accepted as effective. Marx, Krugman, Keynes, Friedman, and I all have advocated a universal, unconditional basic income (terminology varies). And there are other sources of revenue that are not income tax increases: excise taxes on natural resources (ore, land, petro, etc and this can also protect environment and stifle "dutch disease), non-protectionist import tarrifs, additional tarrifs on things from countries that manipulate their currency (not just China), are some. I think each of these has gotten me labelled a socialist at some point in my life;-P, as has my union membership.

    There are many, many differing opinions of what a strong economy is. There is a concept of complementary economies, or that several economies exist together, one for everyone. Co-ops and corporations and unions. Profits, non-profits, not-for-profits. Even having multiple currencies, some federal and some private. This has happened in the history of the US. Mutual-credit-exchanges with gold bullion with the greenback. Rather than a one-size-fits-all top-down model, a bottom-up get-in-where-you-fit-in pluralist model (a free-market).

    I agree that political talking points are useless, too. I've enjoyed the discussion, but this is likely my last post here. I hope that some historians will take my place and I can learn some colonial history.

    Regards,

    Caleb

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 8:55 PM, devoish wrote:

    Frankydontfailme,

    Why do I care if the federal budget is balanced?

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 9:11 PM, devoish wrote:

    During the 90% tax-bracket era there was also the event of high-paid pros adjusting their output downwards to stay out of the 90% bracket. - Frankdontfailme.

    Franky,

    Nobody wants to stay out of the 90% tax bracket.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 9:46 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    devoish - back to basics.

    When the government deficit spends, it expands the money supply. This is inflationary (all things being equal), and thus dilutes the purchasing power of the people's labor -disproportionally harming the poor who do not invest as much in inflation hedges and a large percent of their expenditures are food and energy based.

    I suspect that you would argue that all deficit spending is not created equal. Maybe you'd prefer the government deficit spend "on the poor" (create jobs, hand out entitlements etc.) Fine - but what happens when the "bad guys" are democratically elected? The mean old Republicans want to deficit spend to go war.

    Now the poor are doubly screwed. They disproportionally lose out to inflation, and so struggle to feed their families, tend not to benefit from the military-industrial complex, and also are much more likely to die on the battlefield. All the while the rich get richer.

    Even when the "good guys" get elected (in fairness I know you're a green party supporter and not a democrat) they tend to go to war just as much, and rather than help our the poor the deficit spending and regulation tends to benefit the well connected corporations anyway. Reverse robin hood.

    But what if the green party gets elected and they do all the happy good things that a socialist loves? It probably would be better for the poor relative to the previous joke parties we've looked at, but still there is a fatal flaw to deficit spending. In the real world, every time a government deficit spend and builds up debts for decades, the debt eventually balloons out of control and the bubble pops. When the bubble pops banks start to fail and banks are essential to extend credit to keep the economy going, so governments tend to bail them out. And so the poor foot the bill for the excess of rich. Every time a nations' debt builds up to extreme levels, there is a bubble. In 5'000 years of modern civilization there is not one exception.

    Ok so you mean well. You thought deficit spending could go towards good but it can't. Balance the budget. End the wars. Let the able work for a fair wage to feed their families without being robbed by inflation. Or not. Whatever.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 10:47 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Well, unfortunately I'm coming back to this one late. Let's take a few comments and see what I can do:

    ---->Laissez faire is NOT a free market. Government intervention CAN free a market, promote free-markets, etc.<-----

    Uh, no. The "free market" is the sum of all voluntary transactions at any given period of time. Government intervention is by definition, an involuntary element entering into the market. Laissez faire is the lack of government intervention.

    Government intervention is force.

    Laissez faire or free market is the absence of force.

    Force cannot be used to promote the absence of force. You run into the Law of Non-Contradiction there.

    So to clarify, you promote promote violence in the market. Now maybe, you think this violence promotes "good things" - whatever you think those good things are. It still does not justify the use of violence.

    ----->Why do I care if the federal budget is balanced?<------

    Why do I care if incomes are equalized?

    Lazy questions deserve lazy answers, but I'll be patient and explain.

    A balanced budget is not the perfect outcome, but barring the legalization of competing currencies or the establishment of a gold standard, it is merely a way to impose restraint on the State.

    Now, we know we know. You have faith in the almighty State to always do what's optimal (like killing hundreds of thousands of brown people is optimal I guess), but we think that the State is often a little loosey-goosey with that money. Silly us, right?

    We'd like to see some restraint, but we know the nature of the State is NOT to restrain itself. Revolution (hopefully bloodless) is pretty much the only answer.

    The State is the only institution in society that derives its revenue solely from the application of violence against non-violent peoples.

    To sum up, I would not like to see this institution rewarded with more power. You would. That is the essence of our disagreement and I think it's a rather important one.

    ----->The elephant in the libertarian room, of course, is the very same problem lacking in discussions about socialism. Conservatives are fond of pointing out the dismal record of socialist economies, but the same tactic can be used to destroy the assumptions of laissez faire economics. Can you name one - just one - country that works on free market principles, and that isn't in most ways a third world nation? <-----

    The United States from 1776-1913 operated on the assumption of laissez faire at the Federal level and became the most powerful, wealthiest nation on Earth.

    However, let's turn this argument on his head, because NOTHING can be proven through empiricism (if you understand the scientific method, you'll understand why).

    What evidence is there that a middle-of-the-road nation is better? There are MANY third world countries that mix fascism, socialism, and capitalism. Are they proof that mixed economies (of either a conservative or liberal bent) do not work???

    Of course not.

    What we do know is that for thousands of years the State had total control of markets, and their people suffered in absolute poverty. Only with the advent of laissez faire did wealth come to the masses. No one, and i mean NO ONE denies this truth. It is obvious at both the empirical and logical level.

    The only thing the champions of the State (and its violent interventions) have left to fall back on is the shadowy idea of wealth distribution and their general fear of the evil capitalist bogeyman (although I don't see Microsoft bombing Muslim countries right now....)

    Ok that's enough for now. I'm sure there'll be plenty more to respond later.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 11:27 PM, VolkOseba wrote:

    Do you trust some guy who wrote a book about Jefferson, or a book on economics edited and promoted by Jefferson himself?

    http://mises.org/store/Tracy-Treatise-on-Political-Economy-A...

    I think I'll trust the latter, thank you very much.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 11:33 PM, VolkOseba wrote:

    As for Hamilton... he was indeed not a free marketer.

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 11:53 PM, VolkOseba wrote:

    I should also point out the irony of saying Smith wasn't a free market ideologue, of all things. Adam Smith was indeed influential, but he was not the only--and not the earliest-- economic thinker to influence the founders. Rather, that distinction would belong to the French "ideologists," the physiocrats, who were labelled "ideologues" by Napoleon. Several of these men sent their manuscripts to and received encouragement from Thomas Jefferson. People such as Pierre-Jean Cabanis, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, Constantin-François Chasseboeuf, marquis de Volney, Jean-Baptiste Say and the author of the book mentioned in my previous comment, Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy.

    If I may digress from the topic at hand, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours is the father of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours, founder of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (NYSE: DD)

    As I was saying though... do try to learn your economic history before you go rambling on about what you think about the "Founding Fathers" (a phrase, by the way, which was coined in 1916 by Warren G. Harding)

  • Report this Comment On December 27, 2011, at 11:56 PM, VolkOseba wrote:

    Screwed up a name in my last post... that should be Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney. None of you have probably heard of him anyway.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 12:21 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    VolkOseba,

    Nice work. Don't forget about Turgot.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne-Robert-Jacques_Turgot,_Bar...

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 2:58 AM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    --->The United States from 1776-1913 operated on the assumption of laissez faire at the Federal level and became the most powerful, wealthiest nation on Earth.<---

    It wasn't until well after 1913 that we became the "most powerful, wealthiest nation on Earth." During the 19th century we were an isolated nation that was no match for the European powers. By the time the U.S. became a superpower we had long since abandoned laissez faire economics in favor of a centrally regulated economy and a fiat currency.

    As for "the shadowy idea of wealth distribution," I find it ironic that Obama is significantly to the RIGHT of the Republicans of the Greatest Generation on this issue. If Obama is a redistributionist socialist for wanting to bump the top tax rate up very modestly (by historical standards) to 39%, what would that make Eisenhower for holding it steady at a cool 91%? If Obama is a socialist, Eisenhower must have been a radical communist to the left of Trotsky.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 6:04 AM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    <<It wasn't until well after 1913 that we became the "most powerful, wealthiest nation on Earth." During the 19th century we were an isolated nation that was no match for the European powers. By the time the U.S. became a superpower we had long since abandoned laissez faire economics in favor of a centrally regulated economy and a fiat currency.>>

    not true, the greatest period of economic growth of any place and time in the history of mankind was post-reconstruction USA to 1910 or thereabouts. in 60 years the US went from 3rd world poor to the richest nation on earth.

    We started much poorer, and became much richer than any European nation during the laissez faire era of the US. that was not a coincidence

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 9:02 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    FoolishVintner,

    Yeah... now you're just buying the Keynesian kool aid.

    If you look at something like GDP, you'll see higher growth rates in the stagflationary 1970s than in the 1800s.

    Now, if you believe that nonsense, I have ocean front property in Arizona for sale.

    CaptainWidget is correct. Every serious economist of every stripe knows that the 2nd half of the 19th century was the most prolific period in American economic history.

    They are even all beginning to admit, even the Keynesians, that the 1870s was not a Long Depression, but a short recession followed by explosive and sustained growth.

    The reason they thought it was a Depression is because prices fell. That's funny to us, probably baffling to you.

    Now they just complain about wealth distribution during that period. Blah blah blah.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 9:45 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    ------>I am sorry, I am not making the connection between how a "not contrived" market would offer the young lady collecting cotton for nothing any other choices that she does not already have in our "contrived" market. She can say "no thank you" in the contrived market too.<--------

    What I don't understand is why you feel the young (noble, good hearted, angelic, blah blah blah) lady picking cotton deserves more than the hypothetical wage she is getting. I don't understand why you feel violence is the proper solution - violence forced on both her and her employer, since their contract was voluntary - is better than allowing her to work at her agreed upon wage.

    (And maybe it's not an oh so sweet little girl that just wants to be an astronaut oh so bad. Let's do an anti-socialist trick and imagine that it's a hairy old convicted felon with poor hygiene.)

    Socialism is the ultimate manifestation of selfishness. When you learn what a market is, you learn that in order to be successful in this world, you must be UN-selfish. That is, if you wish to have your achievements derive from voluntary cooperation.

    A market is a collection of people that have needs and wants. It is your friends, family, neighbors, and complete strangers on the other side of the planet. All of them want and need certain things and desire to pay for them.

    Now, you can either learn those skills or you can be a selfish little snot that thinks everyone deserves to be a super duper little art major if they want to be. Well, stamp your feet real hard and go be that art major. Fine by me. But when you're picking cotton the only person that is going to give two sh*ts is the whiny socialist that wants to use violence on us all to "make things right" - whatever that is to him.

    Every single person on this planet has the capacity to learn. If you look to the State to solve these problems, to teach your children, to manage your money, and to regulate your cooperative agreements with your neighbors, you get what you deserve: tyranny, bloated government, perpetual war, and constant economic turmoil.

    Deal with it. It's your bed. Lie in it. Take responsibility for it.

    Or choose liberty.

    Up to you.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 9:56 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    ---->I think you're on to something there with your claim that no free market has ever existed.<----

    Honestly, it's like watching two retarded kids try to hump a football sometimes.

    First, define free markets.

    A free market is the sum of all voluntary transactions at a given period of time.

    Second, define what makes a market "unfree", for lack of a better word.

    Violent intervention, usually in the form of the State, though any application of violence would make a market less free.

    Now, only a complete dumb*ss would say there has never been a free market.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 10:05 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    ----->f you truly don't think that we should learn from our experience and pay attention to empirical evidence, then to be honest there's nothing more we can talk about, because the alternative is made-up rules and ideology masquerading as education. While I recognize that in Austrian circles that's regarded as a feature, not a bug, in my experience I've found that respecting the lessons of experience and making analysis using what empirical evidence we can measure does, in fact, have value. That is the fundamental reason behind having labour and economic statistics constantly measured - to give us evidence with which to draw conclusions. I can't honestly believe that you're arguing AGAINST using evidence to make informed decisions.<------

    Aren't you the hyperventilating statist that once told me that money isn't a real thing?

    Why don't you take a deep breath and try to understand my point? In your response, I'll give you extra credit if you can rebut without the words "ideology" or "faith".

    Empiricism in economics has value only if it is rooted in a logical understanding of the underlying economic phenomena. It has no value, and can actually be problematic, if it is not.

    Since you're a market socialist, you may not be aware, but the market is a pretty darn complex thing with trillions of transactions. The money is constantly manipulated by the holders of monopoly use of force. The markets are intervened upon constantly. The tastes and preferences of market actors are constantly shifting. New technologies replace old. And on and on.

    To think that you can learn what you need to understand this tapestry with one college course on macro, or a summary statistic from the BLS is the Fatal Conceit.

    Unless you understand some basic a priori truths about human interaction, you will never understand the market.

    I have never said that there is no value in studying past empirical results. That's a smear tactic from a smear artist. I have said that empirical results, on their own, cannot prove anything, either for my cause or against.

    If you can't understand that, you'll probably buy just about any nonsense that's thrown your way as long as there are fancy numbers behind it, but never really understand any of it.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 10:31 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    When you say "Empiricism in economics has value only if it is rooted in a logical understanding of the underlying economic phenomena," I can certainly agree with that.

    Unfortunately, the point to which I was responding was the one where you claimed "there is no such thing as evidence-based economics."

    That's a fairly serious difference.

    If I have misinterpreted your claim, I apologize, but surely you can see how it is hard to derive the first comment from the second.

    Here's the thing about "basic a priori truths" - one man's "truths" are another man's discarded ideas. If you build up a logical chain from certain assumptions, you had better make darn sure those assumptions are factually accurate. But how do you do that without empirical evidence?

    Praxeology dictates a set of logical conclusions from first principles set forth by Von Mises and crew. The basic claim is that economics is too complex to understand using the empirical scientific method, so they apply "logical analysis" instead.

    A couple of problems with this method:

    A) the scientific method deals with complex subjects all the time; imperfectly, to be sure, but it is far from valueless.

    B) It has never been tested in the real world.

    At no time has there been a truly free market. Let's look at it praxeologically. An increased personal supply of the medium of exchange gives you an increased capacity to initiate actions, and in increasing scope of those actions (in the Von Mises sense of the word action). You will seek to maximize your gains and your increased supply of capital will enhance your ability to do so. In many cases, you will eventually reach a point where your returns can be better maximized through rent-seeking than through innovation. You will seek to impose your own controls on the market and, absent sufficient countervailing forces, you will succeed. Where do those countervailing forces come from?

    Historically, it's been government. Could some other system work? We don't know, because one has NEVER succeeded in the past.

    That certainly doesn't mean one could never succeed, but if it is so much superior to government regulation, I find it curious that it has never once arisen organically or overcome an existing state.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 10:34 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    ^^ And to address your riposte to that last bit before you launch it, speculations as to the anarcho-capitalist nature of primitive tribes are engaging but hardly provable. I could just as easily claim that such tribes lived in essentially socialist communes, drawing from the same set of known facts and logical deductions.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 10:54 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    ---->evidence-based economics<----

    Not in the way it is presented in this article, nor in the popular method of economic treatment. Certainly all human interaction has at its root element some evidence that an action leads to either good or bad results. But that's a far different cry from the sheaths of meaningless statistics that are trotted out of economic unthink tanks and then paraded as evidence-based economics.

    ---->one man's "truths" are another man's discarded ideas<-----

    Not at all. It is an indisputable truth that all human action is purposeful action. To deny that truth requires action, which leads us into the the world of Non-Contradiction.

    ------>The basic claim is that economics is too complex to understand using the empirical scientific method, so they apply "logical analysis" instead.<----

    It's not merely the complexity, though that is what I stressed above. The complexity of any system can be accounted for. The nature of an economic system is that the complexity is rooted in subjective values and choices. That means the information needed to unravel the complex mystery of market phenomena is only available to us after a choice has been made, and it is completely unavailable if no choice has been made. This is also a truth, and yet it is one that is most frequently disregarded by mainstream economists. They like to pretend that they can know what the choice should be, even when no choice was made and no information is available. That is when mainstream econ moves from scientific to quackery.

    ---->ou will eventually reach a point where your returns can be better maximized through rent-seeking than through innovation. You will seek to impose your own controls on the market and, absent sufficient countervailing forces, you will succeed. Where do those countervailing forces come from?<------

    On this point, I agree somewhat, but I would like to point out that this same property applies to seeking violence. At some point, the cost of increasing force (and the natural resistance or defense to that force) makes innovation the more suitable alternative.

    The problem as we see it is not that force will be applied by some against the will of others. That is part of human behavior. The problem, for us, is that the State codifies violence as an acceptable alternative to innovation, thus lowering the cost of using force and making innovation less likely. So the greater the control of the State, the less innovation there will be in society.

    ----->That certainly doesn't mean one could never succeed, but if it is so much superior to government regulation, I find it curious that it has never once arisen organically or overcome an existing state.<------

    If non-state peoples had one failure, it has been the inability to prevent the state from its constant expansion. I don't think that means the state is superior. It is merely superior in the application of violence.

    That's why I don't have a problem with people who cherish liberty, admit the need for a State, and then work to limit the State's power, such as Ron Paul. That path is preferable to being blind to the coercive, involuntary nature of the State, and offering up all our liberty and power to it.

    I don't believe the State is necessary. That doesn't mean it's ok to tear it down tomorrow. At the very least, as I understand its nature, I want to see it restrained as much as possible.

    ---->And to address your riposte to that last bit before you launch it, speculations as to the anarcho-capitalist nature of primitive tribes are engaging but hardly provable. I could just as easily claim that such tribes lived in essentially socialist communes, drawing from the same set of known facts and logical deductions.<-----

    Being state-less and anarcho-capitalist are not mutually inclusive, so I won't be making that claim. If a community wishes to be egalitarian and even communistic, I have no problem with that. It's only when they force others to live that way, does it become a problem.

    In return, I also would like the option of opting out. Let me get out of the State's mad schemes for retirement and wealth distribution. Don't want me riding on your State roads? Let us build our own, acquire the land for them without paying tribute, etc. Let us home school our kids without paying for State run mis-education. And on and on.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 11:33 AM, FoolishVintner wrote:

    --->only a complete dumb*ss would say there has never been a free market<---

    Only a complete dumb*ss would take the bate and use your rhetorical definitions. Or to try to gloss over important distinctions and assume that because some free markets have existed in some limited areas of human activity, it is therefore possible to achieve on a macroeconomic scale in all areas of human activity - all evidence to the contrary. Especially in this era of corporate personhood and "corporate political contributions are free speech."

    Please don't lecture me about personal responsibility. From health care choices, to the air that I breath, to food choices, I most emphatically did not make this bed! I take full responsibility for living in the world in the best possible manner given the choices and options I have in front of me. I lie in this bed well enough, but I surely did not make it. You'd have to be a complete dumb*ss to fail to see how corporations have conspired to curtail these choices, and regularly distort your simplistic assumptions about "the market" just as soon as they get successful enough to buy out a competitor or hire their first lobbyist.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 11:56 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    ------>You'd have to be a complete dumb*ss to fail to see how corporations have conspired to curtail these choices, and regularly distort your simplistic assumptions about "the market" just as soon as they get successful enough to buy out a competitor or hire their first lobbyist.<------

    Who says I don't see what corporations do? The difference between a libertarian and a liberal is that the libertarian knows what Corporatism means and rails against it. A liberal thinks Corporatism IS Capitalism and rails against Capitalism.

    ---->I lie in this bed well enough, but I surely did not make it.<----

    Sure you did. We all did. Every time you voted to give the State more power, you had a hand in making the bed. Every time you acquiesced when you neighbor was taxed, intimidated, or jailed for non-compliance, you had a hand in it.

    That's the nature of the beast.

    Just out of curiosity, do you know the origin of the Corporation? Corporations are a legal trick that gained fame in aristocratic Europe. You see, as markets were beginning to open up, fancy nobles and their government stooges decided to get in on the big game. They knew they could make favorable laws to benefit their business at the expense of less connected competitors.

    The problem was that these stooges were still stooges, and their businesses often failed. Rather than taking responsibility, they codified legal limited liability, so they could fold up their failed ventures and start over again (leaving everyone else holding the bag, mainly their creditors.)

    Voila! The birth of the Corporation. The Corporation is a State invention, and since its beginning has been a State tool to make winners out of losers in the market. Knowing this, how can you expect the State to limit the power of Corporations? And does it still surprise you, with this knowledge in hand, that every time the State is asked to limit Corporate power, it only makes them stronger?

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 12:23 PM, TopAustrianFool wrote:

    Wow!!! Way to make the right point with an article full of the wrong ideas and evidence.

    Just a few points.

    I agree that everyone seems to always summon the spirits of the past to prove their ideas correct. The problem with this practice is that is nothing but intellectually lazy. From his writting Adam Smith is obviously pro Free Market, the problem is that like everyone else before Von Mises and Von Hayek, he makes a lot of mistakes that are Keynesian in nature. Basically, from time to time he proposed things that eventually would lead to totalitarianism i order to implement, while correcting the unintended consequences. Now, who cares almost everything Adam Smith wrote about was plagiarized from others before him. He was particularly guilty of never citing ideas he took from others.

    And as to the Founding Fathers, some wanted limited government and some wanted to control everything. Who cares.

    If you want to be free, then you have to minimize regulations, allow for courts to arbitrate disputes and keep government from taking your money to help some one else.

    The realreal science behind Rational Economics shows that no one, not the government or Nobel Prize Laureates know enough about microeconomics to make macroeconomic decisions.

    Remember: "The courious task of economics is to teach men how little they know about what they imagine they can design..." F.A. Von Hayek

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 12:25 PM, TopAustrianFool wrote:

    ""We need to think through our policy toward each sector of the economy in the light of experience," he says. "We can't know what the founders would say about current problems, but we can adopt their 'enlightened,' experienced-based approach to trying to solve them.""

    This quote tells you everything you need to know about those enlightened one, that think they know enough to come up with policy tailored for each sector of the economy. Ha...

    Why don't you study the Soviet Union? Then you will be enlightened by 80 years of economic sector specific regulation.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 12:45 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    @whereaminow - that's probably the best posts I've seen from you, and one of the best I've seen in general.

    I've got to head out for now but I wanted to let you know that I didn't just ignore it and I'll be back to comment properly when I have a chance.

    Fool on!

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 12:49 PM, devoish wrote:

    David,

    How long do you think we can go before it turns to insult? Sorry for the lazy questions. Oops I guess the latest volley is already out.

    Lets start with agreement. We agree to say that violence is generally wrong in principle, and yet you are willing to commit violence to defend what you claim to own.

    Government is not the source of violence or force in society. Ownership is. The belief that you or I can own anything and can govern how that property is used, whether it is this land, this harbor, this house, this horse, this patent, this woman or this man is the source of violence.

    Your freedom also ends at my ownership. Our violence only ends with your acceptance of my ownership and my governance of that property or one of us being better at committing violence.

    When you and I as free men agree that one acre is yours to govern, and this acre is mine to govern, we have reached a contract to voluntarily surrender the freedom to use the other ones acre and each become the Government of our one acre and no more. When Fleabagger or any other member of society shows up, to expect him and every other member of society to abide by our agreement is a social contract, a concept of ownership you have disavowed being willing to be a part of. Whether Flea agrees to leave my acre voluntarily, or I chase him off violently, my claim of ownership restricts his freedom and opportunity to use the acre I claim as mine to govern.

    - What evidence is there that a middle-of-the-road nation is better? - David

    Better at what? Enforcing claims of ownership? Or enforcing demands for opportunity.

    The United States from 1776-1913 operated on the assumption of laissez faire at the Federal level and became the most powerful, wealthiest nation on Earth. - David

    I do not agree that the US acted as though it believed in laissez-faire at the federal level during this time period, or any other, or that it became the most powerful nation on earth during this time.

    The United States excused itself from any commitment to laissez-faire by excluding groups of people from personhood based upon race and sex and religion and nationality and excuse the violence some individuals committed against others.

    "What we do know is that for thousands of years the State had total control of markets, and their people suffered in absolute poverty. Only with the advent of laissez faire did wealth come to the masses. No one, and i mean NO ONE denies this truth. It is obvious at both the empirical and logical level." - David

    What we do know is that some private individuals whom David refers to as the "state" had total control of markets.

    What we do know is that population growth put pressure on the ownership society David calls "state" to share or lose ownership entirely.

    What we do know is that migration, marriage, laissez faire and violence were all means of exchanging one property owner for another, sometimes coming "from" the "masses".

    It was the social contracts of democracy, and socialism that are attemtping to bring greater wealth "to" the masses.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 1:08 PM, devoish wrote:

    "How long do you think we can go before it turns to insult? Sorry for the lazy questions. Oops I guess the latest volley is already out". - Me

    Wow. I didn't even get a reply out.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 1:24 PM, outoffocus wrote:

    great discussion...keep it goin...

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 1:59 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    <munching popcorn ravenously>

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 3:07 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    David,

    There is a distinction between a laissez faire economy and free market. My post above paraphrased Milton Friedman. The state is coercive, but the objective is to have a minimum amount of coercion. Your argument runs similar to the statists':

    "If the state does not do X, the X will not be done".

    The difference that the statists have X being education or caring for the poor, where you have X being force. Plenty of others can use force, and in the absence of state they will. This is also the position of Nozick and Paul. It is libertarian. But just about everything else you say I agree with philosophically. Thank you for revisiting my earlier distinction between Corporatism and Capitalism. Corporatism is a form of socialism.

    Steven,

    Oh Steven. Socialism habitually fails because it is based on assumptions of human nature that are flat wrong. Ownership is the basis for rights. You own this man Steven, so others cannot transact on Steven, they must have consent. Out from there Steven has given up things to have other things and as they were a product of Steven they are similarly protected by property rights. In psychology there is a theory that explains this very well, Cyborg Theory. Although the description of Cyborg Theory on Wikipedia is piss-poor.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 3:27 PM, VolkOseba wrote:

    Indeed, whereaminow... and speaking of Turgot, I should probably pick up a copy of his collected works...

    http://mises.org/store/Turgot-Collection-Pocket-Edition-P104...

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 4:01 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    ----> Government is not the source of violence or force in society. Ownership is. The belief that you or I can own anything and can govern how that property is used, whether it is this land, this harbor, this house, this horse, this patent, this woman or this man is the source of violence.<-----

    Let's start with the belief that you can own (for lack of a better word) your own body.

    In other words, I can decide how long my fingernails can be.

    Do you think I have the ability and the right to decide how long my fingernails should be, without instituting violence against you?

    If so, then there can be ownership without violence.

    Therefore, on civil liberties, you and I are going to generally agree.

    However, what is the outside force that may dictate what my fingernail length should be? It could be a voluntary organization like a company. Let's say a company tells me that I can't have 14 inch fingernails. And it is really important for me to exert ownership of my body. I have the liberty to quit, to find a new job, and to work somewhere that doesn't care about fingernail length.

    However, what if the State decides my fingernails must be clipped. Where do I go? If I try to flee, the State confiscates my wealth, harasses me, and depending on the level of tyranny, might even cage me to prevent me from leaving.

    Over what? Fingernail length.

    Yet, as ridiculous as that would be, the State engages in such behavior for minute expressions of liberty on a regular basis. This is because the State is not interested in providing liberty. It is interested in extracting wealth and expanding its power.

    Where we disagree is on ownership of natural objects, such as land or capital goods. However, even if the State removes all ownership rights from the subjects, it still maintains those ownership rights for itself. It will still own your labor - by telling you where and when to work, or else - or own you goods by telling you what you may keep after paying tribute.

    It is grossly misleading to say that government is not force. Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis feel differently, not to mention the hundreds of millions or more killed by the State in the last century or so. Government is the administration of the State. In and of itself, a community which chooses government that is voluntary and cooperative does not use force. But enter the State and all that changes.

    This is why politicians in a State society end up being nothing more than lever-pullers for the machine, and why the best lever-pullers win elections (see Romney and Obama 2012). Only lever pullers will get the machine's support, since they care nothing for individual liberty and believe completely in the efficacy of the State.

    --->I do not agree that the US acted as though it believed in laissez-faire at the federal level during this time period, or any other, or that it became the most powerful nation on earth during this time.<----

    Certainly not held up to a romantic ideal. Of course the State always fails to reach the perfection of liberty. That would mean the elimination of the State which runs counter to the State's goal of perpetual expansion.

    But by comparison to other States at that time, there is no doubt that America's commitment to laissez faire far exceeded them, and far exceeded past history of other States. That's worth something to me and many Americans.

    ------>by excluding groups of people from personhood based upon race and sex and religion and nationality and excuse the violence some individuals committed against others.<-----

    Those are problems that the State created. Like Harry Browne enjoyed saying, "The government breaks your leg, then hands you a crutch, and says 'see, without me you wouldn't be able to walk,'"

    As Howard Zinn documented in People's History, and I am fond of reminding Progressives, poor whites and poor blacks got along so well that the ruling elite decided to use the power of the State to segregate them and foment mistrust. That was the America that the Republic inherited from the colonies. American racism was a legislative decision made by powerful people. Americans today are still victims of those decisions.

    -----> What we do know is that population growth put pressure on the ownership society David calls "state" to share or lose ownership entirely. <----

    I think a review of the Tragedy of the Commons might be useful here. It is precisely because of the scarcity of resources that private property comes into existence. The more scarce they become the more important it is to respect those rights. The more property rights are disrespected or rejected, the more those resources will be wasted. Population growth, in and of itself, makes the respect for ownership a necessity for human survival.

    Hence, the State is not the answer to the problems of population growth. It also has been historically part of the problem by providing incentive or using force to cram as many people as possible into a small area to exert greater control.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 4:04 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    CHill8008,

    Thanks for clarifying your position.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 4:33 PM, outoffocus wrote:

    David,

    I think its time you write that post about the State and slavery. People are dying to know.

    Davita

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 4:40 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    ---> "But that's a far different cry from the sheaths of meaningless statistics that are trotted out of economic unthink tanks and then paraded as evidence-based economics." <---

    Yes, but grounded in the same principles. Obviously anyone can lie with statistics if they know what they are doing. But there are truths to gleaned from looking at the facts. The US tried a stimulus and then measured the results - not so hot. Europe tried austerity and then measured the results - even worse! But you can apply microeconomic lessons - people with more money in their pockets spend more - to macroeconomics and glean useful information from that, however imprecise and imperfect it will admittedly be.

    ---> "It is an indisputable truth that all human action is purposeful action" <---

    Now that's a philosophical claim and a half, but I can see the reasoning behind it. I am perenially skeptical of any claims that include the words "obvious," "common sense," or "indisputable," so bear with me here, but I believe the essential claim is that economics as a science is too complex for standard empirical or statistical analysis because it deals with human beings (presumably this argument also applies to the other social sciences). You understand my skepticism that you've elected to couple that claim with a claim of "indisputable truth" regarding the very same topic.

    ---> "The nature of an economic system is that the complexity is rooted in subjective values and choices. That means the information needed to unravel the complex mystery of market phenomena is only available to us after a choice has been made, and it is completely unavailable if no choice has been made" <---

    I would beg to differ. There are certain predictions that can be made about the choices of rational actors. For example - it is likely that you will buy food over the next month. It is likely that the vast majority of consumers with the ability to do so will also buy food over the next month. You're only able to paint with very broad strokes using such information - but you're able to paint with broad strokes. And that is not something to be discounted.

    Add in statistical (and otherwise) analysis of the data collected about the economy at large and you can modify your actions accordingly based on the additional information and refine your brush strokes. You will never be able to micromanage an economy perfectly - but that was never my claim. You can experience better policy outcomes, and indeed, to a large extent that's what we have been experiencing - the years following the war saw the creation of an entire new middle class with broad standard of living increases unlike anything seen before. That's a very positive outcome for a great many people and worth replicating and expanding on, though I recognize that's a moral judgment (and one I'm proud to make).

    ---> "The problem, for us, is that the State codifies violence as an acceptable alternative to innovation, thus lowering the cost of using force and making innovation less likely." <----

    On this point I can generally agree. In fact, I think we largely agree that runaway expansion of the powers of the state - at least as they pertain to the application of violence - should be as strictly curtailed as possible. And that requires constant monitoring by an informed populace ("a republic, if you can keep it"). At the same time as I accept that, however, you also accept that there is a certain minimum level of government which is required - even if you replace the word "government" with "impartial court system," at its barest minimum.

    ---> "In return, I also would like the option of opting out." <---

    To be fair, you have that option now. America retains a porous border, and also a representative government. You have the right to agitate for changes to the system that better reflect your views, just as I have the right to oppose that and agitate for my own changes.

    Now, consider the public option for health insurance - that was an "opt-in" and so even less restrictive than something which requires you to opt-out. Would you be willing to support such a thing?

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 5:08 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    -----> The US tried a stimulus and then measured the results - not so hot. Europe tried austerity and then measured the results - even worse! <----

    Well the problem here is a couple things. One, we'd have to define austerity. Austerity can be loosely translated as "taxpayers... pay up to the bankers, while we cut out the services you actually like".... As if it was the taxpayers, and not the politicians and bankers, that caused the mess. I really dislike austerity measures, if you can't tell.

    Second, there is no "control" for our "experiment." In order to properly measure the effects of either austerity or stimulus, we need to have a way to hold all other things constant, as they do in the hard sciences. This is where economics fails. It's not a hard science. It can't be done that way.

    So now what? This is the epistemological problem of economics. If you ask 99% of economics professors to discuss these problems, they will vaguely claim that those decisions where already made by previous generations and there's no reason to revisit them. On the other hand, they will usually admit that economics can be a dismal science. So perhaps they should rethink that first position. Maybe we do need to revisit the epistemological roots of economics.

    That's where Mises came in and that's why I enjoy his work. He questioned those roots and tried to discover a better way, which he called praxeology. I'm glad you are familiar with it.

    --->You understand my skepticism that you've elected to couple that claim with a claim of "indisputable truth" regarding the very same topic.<---

    I welcome your skepticism. You could nitpick that sneezing is not purposeful action, but we are only talking about those actions that involve ordinal ranking of values. In other words, choosing to stay on the couch and eat Doritos as opposed to going for a walk. Either choice is a human action and therefore, a purposeful action. The entire foundation of Austrian economics rest perilously on this "action axiom." And it's stood up for a few generations so I welcome the discussion.

    Another indisputable truth would be something easy, like "anything that is completely blue cannot also be completely red." I don't know how you would find such a claim incorrect, but in this universe you would be hard pressed to prove your case.

    ----> I would beg to differ. There are certain predictions that can be made about the choices of rational actors. For example - it is likely that you will buy food over the next month. It is likely that the vast majority of consumers with the ability to do so will also buy food over the next month. You're only able to paint with very broad strokes using such information - but you're able to paint with broad strokes. And that is not something to be discounted. <------

    I don't have a problem with that point of view. My concern is understanding the foundation, and in respect to understanding economics, the foundation is the price system. Where do prices come from? They arise from exchange based on the subjective values of market actors. As fundamental as this sounds, mainstream econ either completely ignores this concept or shortcuts around it in order so that it will fit into tidy models which can be lectured upon at $25,000 per speaking engagement. It's also great job security at the university level.

    This subjective element to economics impacts every aspect of the field and makes neat prediction extremely difficult. I think most econ readers know that excellent models and statistical predictions of near certainty have failed tremendously and will most likely continue to do so.

    -----> At the same time as I accept that, however, you also accept that there is a certain minimum level of government which is required - even if you replace the word "government" with "impartial court system," at its barest minimum. <------

    I would like to replace "impartial" with "competitive" but besides that, yes.

    ----->To be fair, you have that option now. <-----

    Eh, somewhat. I did live overseas for 10+ years so I know that I can live wherever I want. But my main contention here is that America was promised to Americans to be a land of liberty. If I feel that the State has grown out of control and no longer respects liberty, my response would be "why do I have to leave when it is they who broke the promise? Shouldn't we be kicking them out?" And that doesn't mention the harassment one faces if they wish to take up permanent citizenship elsewhere. Even when I lived overseas, I still had to pay tribute to the American State. (Something very few countries require of their citizens). For those who wish to leave for good, there are asset taxes and years of waiting in store for them. And it will only get worse.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 5:14 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Missed this one.

    ----> Now, consider the public option for health insurance - that was an "opt-in" and so even less restrictive than something which requires you to opt-out. Would you be willing to support such a thing? <---

    It's better but there is no way to avoided being "opted in" to pay for it if the program requires government borrowing to make up the costs. Government borrowing will reduce the value of the dollars in my pocket relative to their spending power, ceteris paribus. So I get opted in no matter what, even when I don't use the service.

    It also has other effects on existing competition that will eventually cause a drop in service on my non-government providers.

    And there are other economic impacts on the people it is designed to help that more than offset anything it is supposed to provide.

    So yes, it's better than an opt-out and it's better than mandated health care (it's not insurance), but it still fails many economic tests.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 5:30 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    ---> "Let's say a company tells me that I can't have 14 inch fingernails. And it is really important for me to exert ownership of my body. I have the liberty to quit, to find a new job, and to work somewhere that doesn't care about fingernail length" <---

    Provided you don't need that job to provide your health care so you can keep getting medicine you need to stay alive. And provided you aren't one of thousands of people competing for hundreds of jobs. And provided you don't live in a company town where you get paid in scrip and you work the same job your parents did because they can't escape without abandoning their kids - the sort of company town that flourished in the laissez faire era mentioned above.

    Economic freedom is at least as important as de jure freedom.

    ---> "However, what if the State decides my fingernails must be clipped. Where do I go?" <---

    Canada. :P

    In truth, though, if the state begins to pass laws mandating fingernail length, you fight back and oppose the laws. The invalidity of certain laws does not invalidate the legislative process. If we changed "fingernail length" to "my ability to shoot people in cold blood," the law wouldn't sound ridiculous at all. If the legislative process is so corrupted that only a certain cadre of financial elites control all the levers of power and begin passing laws that benefit themselves at the expense of the 99%, well, then you have modern America. And I think that modern America is not beyond saving.

    ---> "poor whites and poor blacks got along so well that the ruling elite decided to use the power of the State to segregate them and foment mistrust." <----

    I'm going to have to ask you to cite your source on this. By contrast, let me cite statistics on lynching - not exactly a rich man's past time: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/shipp/lynching...

    I think that passing off the visceral hatred evinced by White Southerners when faced with the prospect of forced integration as being somehow the result of previously forced segregation is a serious stretch. Slavery was a part of this nation from long before the Constitution was adopted and Southerners had their way it would still be a part of the nation. Do you really think that those people - who went out of their way to pass Jim Crow laws when slavery was forcibly taken from them as a tool - would not have simply economically crushed non-Whites in the absence of the state's intervention, as they had been doing for centuries already?

    ---> Population growth, in and of itself, makes the respect for ownership a necessity for human survival. <---

    Population growth is hardly a given. Developed nations rarely experience population growth save that which derives from immigration. In a sustainable world of stable population, an economic system based on scarcity would be in trouble - particularly in the face of automation coming onboard. In fact, we live in a time of great abundance - so great that we have an entire industry devoted to convincing people to buy more things. The fact that starvation, homelessness and inability to achieve education continue to persist - indeed grow - in such an environment is a serious flaw in our system for resource distribution.

    In any rational society, the need for people to do less work would be a GOOD thing. But because we have tied our livelihood (and, in America's for-profit health system, our very lives) up in the notion of a job, less work is a crisis. We have the tools to address it, but we refuse to use them. That is a serious problem. And I am positive we can do better.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 5:37 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    ---> I'm going to have to ask you to cite your source on this. <----

    Zinn, People's History, Chapter 2: Drawing the Color Line

    Zinn's argument is always that the human need for control of property drives all State decisions. I disagree, but that's not really important here (at least I don't think it is.)

    Zinn provides evidence that the power elite in Colonial America, pre-Revolution, turned whites and blacks against each other and laid the foundation for the lynchings and racism that would eventually become part of the American post-Revolution landscape. He supports this assertion with writing and laws passed by colonial governments to keep blacks and whites separate with the justification that if they ever went combined forces, it would overthrow the ruling caste's power.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 5:45 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    ----> In truth, though, if the state begins to pass laws mandating fingernail length, you fight back and oppose the laws. <----

    Well, we're trying. There are laws just as insane, such as outlawing raw milk (even though it's 2011 and there safety precautions are risks are known to every person that sells and consumers raw milk), medical marijuana, and probably thousands of other things that are perfectly normal and minor expressions of the right to own your body.

    But the State isn't listening. And of course, there are lots of other nasty things it is doing right now that are occupying everyone's interest....

    ----> The fact that starvation, homelessness and inability to achieve education continue to persist - indeed grow - in such an environment is a serious flaw in our system for resource distribution.<----

    Well, I wouldn't recommend asking the State to solve any of those problems, but you already knew that :)

    Take it easy. I appreciated our discussion.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 5:47 PM, outoffocus wrote:

    Did my comment get removed?

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 5:48 PM, outoffocus wrote:

    David,

    I think its time you did a blog on the State and slavery. Inquiring minds want to know

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 6:14 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --> "As if it was the taxpayers, and not the politicians and bankers, that caused the mess" <--

    Heh, I'm with you on this one. Funny how the answer for us is always "no more services" but the answer for them is always "need more free money right away!"

    --> "In order to properly measure the effects of either austerity or stimulus, we need to have a way to hold all other things constant, as they do in the hard sciences" <--

    That would be ideal, but as I mentioned above, economics doesn't claim to be a hard science (or, to be more accurate, I don't make the claim that it is a hard science - I can't speak for everyone else). I see you addressed that further along in your answer, so I'll leave it til I get there. I would like to point out something you should find amusing, though - you raised the point that Von Mises tried to find a better way that took into account the subjective nature of economic decision making, but he is not the only one to attempt this. Another - George Soros (reflexivity).

    Not often you see those two in the same paragraph without some serious adjective use.

    --> "The entire foundation of Austrian economics rest perilously on this "action axiom." <--

    I can accept the action axiom as stated in your post. Obviously there are constrained actions - if someone holds a gun to your head (even a metaphorical gun, such as the revocation of health insurance coverage) you still technically have a choice between actions but realistically 95% of people are going to choose the one they've been controlled into choosing.

    --> "I think most econ readers know that excellent models and statistical predictions of near certainty have failed tremendously and will most likely continue to do so." <--

    This applies equally to Austrian school economics.

    There are examples abounding where statistical models have failed and others where they have succeeded. Where they tend to fail most dramatically is so-called "black swan" events; where they succeed most dramatically are mundane areas with little change and large constraints on action. But they can and do succeed!

    --> "And that doesn't mention the harassment one faces if they wish to take up permanent citizenship elsewhere" <--

    Don't I know it. My wife is Canadian, and I'll be emigrating before 2012 is out, but it's been a bit of a difficult road, and Canada is not even that stern about immigration (particularly for a gainfully employed American). I'd much prefer to see an end to national borders in favour of a global framework of citizenship, though I recognize there are serious cultural milestones to bridge before we consider such a thing.

    --> "So I get opted in no matter what, even when I don't use the service." <--

    Agreed, but you also benefit even if you don't use the service. We can point to medicare versus private insurance - overhead costs are greatly reduced, administrative costs are reduced, marketing costs are dropped to nil, and the member pool is as large as possible since there is no competition. There are a great many ways in which this socialized (and wildly popular and well-regarded) health plan is superior to the private model, but we can debate that all day (though it's admittedly hard when the philosophical underpinning of your school of thought is that economic statistics don't represent a valid data point).

    What we would not be able to debate, however, are the benefits of a healthy, active population freed from the economic constraints of employer-based health care. Greater freedom in the labour market leads to more efficient allocation of labour and lower barriers of entry for entrepreneurial attempts, faster treatment of disease leads to reduced health expense outlays and lower lost productivity, and so on - all before we even begin to touch on the simple ethical component of taking care of each other. There is simply no argument to be had there - a healthy population is better for everyone than an unhealthy population that defers or denies treatment to large swaths of its labour force based on the vagaries of the market. And thus you benefit from it.

    The problem is that such gains are rarely priced into the health system, which means that the loss of those gains is an externalized cost that society bears while for-profit insurers reap the difference as profit.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 6:18 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --> "Zinn provides evidence that the power elite in Colonial America, pre-Revolution, turned whites and blacks against each other and laid the foundation for the lynchings and racism that would eventually become part of the American post-Revolution landscape" <--

    I can accept that in part, but I feel quite certain that it was more a case of elites taking advantage of pre-existing views and exacerbating them rather than creating them. Witness the blanket dismissal of native Americans as a people by European settlers - this was no isolated thing.

    I have long believed that the rich use race as a proxy for class in America which enables them to turn the working class against itself, so I can see where Zinn is coming from, but again, it's an exacerbation of existing lines rather than a wholsesale creation. That's why socialism is stridently anti-racist; we recognize we're very much on the same team.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 6:18 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    -->"Take it easy. I appreciated our discussion."<--

    And I as well!

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 7:35 PM, devoish wrote:

    It is precisely because of the scarcity of resources that private property comes into existence. -David

    No. Absolutely not true. Scarcity is not a requirement for the development of the concept or execution of the concept of property ownership.

    As I said violence is born of ownership. Violence predates States.

    It is interesting that you bring up the example of ownership of your body and your fingernails.

    People were most often the property of other individuals, not the State. The State was expected to enforce the right to own people as property until it was expected to enforce the right of that property to be free of ownership.

    Here is a clear example of how less private ownership results in more freedom.

    As you suggested we are in agreement that less private ownership is a good thing for society in general, if not for the former property owners specifically, at least concerning this example.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 7:58 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    Interesting, sounds like Steven is supporting slavery.

    Reasonable people might come to the conclusion that individuals own themselves and that it is the role of the state to protect property rights.

    For the issue of slavery, reasonable people might come to the conclusion that the solution is to properly respect property rights - with the right of self ownership taking precedence.

    Steven on the other hand, would rather the state own us all... or at least decide who owns who.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 7:59 PM, devoish wrote:

    "In any rational society, the need for people to do less work would be a GOOD thing. - DJDynamic

    So very true.

    "But because we have tied our livelihood (and, in America's for-profit health system, our very lives) up in the notion of a job, less work is a crisis. We have the tools to address it, but we refuse to use them. That is a serious problem. And I am positive we can do better." - DJDynamic

    And because right now the State is expected to enforce the right of people to own property, unless it became expected to enforce the right of property to be free of ownership.

    Property ownership restricts freedom and causes violence.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 8:09 PM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    Violence is in the essence of existence. A bunch of things competing for resources. Whether a bunch of other people get together and claim all property "public" or "private" has nothing to do with the initiation of force.

    At it's core, there's a finite amount of things, and the nature of man is to get as many of those things as possible.

    Working within that limitation, and the absolute knowledge, that man will always try to consume as much as possible around him, private property is the best tool to mediate that tendency. Private Property makes you choose where to utilize your time and resources, whether to consume new things or maintain old things. When private property is involved, people now have the risk associated with the ownership of land as well as the reward of acquiring new land.

    Fear (of losing already acquired properties) mediates greed (of wanting to acquire new properties).

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 8:28 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds to me like Steven is advocating communal ownership of all resources as a cure-all for violence. Aside from being incredibly naive, it was already tried in the early days of the pilgrims.

    All resources were deemed to be the property of the community, with each citizen receiving an equal share. This proved to be a miserable failure, with many people doing little or nothing to contribute, while being more than vigilant about exercising their "right" to their fair share (sound familiar?).

    It was only once families were given their own plots of land (private property) to work as they saw fit, with the attendant right to the fruits of their labors, that the citizenry became industrious and began to produce much more than before. So much so that surplus was produced and the colony prospered.

    Once you remove the right to private property, you remove the path to prosperity for the masses.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 8:49 PM, CHill8008 wrote:

    I agree wolfman, Steven assumes a maliability to human nature that does not exist. It may be as a result of state action that keeps one from owning another, any decree from the rulers may not be similarly followable. The !Kung have communal ownership, but they live as close to hand-to-mouth as it gets. Once there is any surplus there must be rationing. Without ownership there is no stewardship. People can take care of themselves, so owning people does not make sense, but inanimate object cannot take care of itself, so gets wrecked without ownership. I guess animals would be a gray area. People in a complex society require private property. It is how they understand the world. Not operating within these confines of human nature is ruinous.

  • Report this Comment On December 28, 2011, at 9:06 PM, TMFCatB wrote:

    Hi all. Cat here--writer of the article. Slavery did come up in my conversations with Dr. Rockoff and Alan Crawford, though I did not include their comments about it for various reasons. Here is what Dr. Rockoff said, for instance: "Slavery was the great moral failure of the early republic. That failure was well recognized at the time by political thinkers like Smith, and by some of the political leaders of the day such as Hamilton and Franklin. The Revolution strengthened the anti-slavery movement in the North and Slaves were gradually emancipated in the North. But it would take the Civil War to free the South’s slaves where slavery was more deeply entrenched."

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 12:24 AM, devoish wrote:

    All resources were deemed to be the property of the community, with each citizen receiving an equal share. It was only once families were given their own plots of land (private property) to work as they saw fit, with the attendant right to the fruits of their labors, that the citizenry became industrious and began to produce much more than before. - Wolfmann, sort of.

    So to go back to the story of the little girl picking cotton for Victoria's Secret, what you are suggesting is that she would be more productive if she was given the portion of the land she is working as an employee of the landowner to grow her own cotton on, rather than work in the employ of the landowner.

    I do not believe historians would agree with your story concerning the impact of communal living in plymouth colony.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 12:54 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    -->"Reasonable people might come to the conclusion that individuals own themselves and that it is the role of the state to protect property rights." <---

    I would reject that framing. Reasonable people might also come to the conclusion that "people" and "things" are two different concepts, and rights should be assigned accordingly.

    One can have human rights without property rights.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 12:55 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    Can we do this thought experiment, except using a cute little angelic "i wanna be an astronaut" little girl, can we use a fat stinky, ex-con with a general rude demeanor and no aspirations outside of his alcoholic and sexual avarices?

    That would be way cooler, and it might raise the bar for you a little bit, Steven.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 12:57 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --> "At it's core, there's a finite amount of things, and the nature of man is to get as many of those things as possible." <--

    There are a great many things in the nature of man.

    Not one of which cannot be overcome by the mind of man.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 1:45 AM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    <<I do not believe historians would agree with your story concerning the impact of communal living in plymouth colony>>

    Historians already agree with this. Even Wikipedia, the home of the basal, has recorded and cited the fact that the Plymouth "commune" was woefully underproductive compared to the lots of private land.

    Ethopia is another modern day example. A nation with some of the most fertile farm land in the continent, and no one is allowed to own a single square inch. Consequently, Ethopia isn't exactly well known for it's food surpluses.

    Find me a place with weak property rights, and I'll find you a place with dirt poor people. Even from a common sense level: why work hard to acquire something that you will see no future benefit from?

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 6:13 AM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    I see that people are being willfully obtuse in construing Steve's remarks.

    It's always so interesting to go back to the sources. Locke, for example, who was the favorite philosopher of the founders, writes on and on about "the commons." What in the world does he mean by that?

    As for "human nature" being "maleable" or not, a little walk through recent history should give you some ideas. Just think, at the dawn of the Republic, farming, cabinet making, and ship building were jobs. Now, OTC trading of derivatives and swaps are jobs -- some of the best paid jobs in the history of the world, in fact.

    Goes to show . . .

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 7:21 AM, dbtheonly wrote:

    TMFCat,

    In re slavery: Slavery was the price paid to the Slave Owners for joining the Union. A compromise to be sure & like all compromises, not the best position morally. Still guys like Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, & Madison couldn't come up with anything better.

    For me the unanswerable question is Lincoln's, "By what authority does anyone hold another in bondage?". Lincoln goes on to trash each of the "arguments" & left me with the idea that the the "power to do" so is the only answer.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 10:23 AM, devoish wrote:

    Can we do this thought experiment, except using a cute little angelic "i wanna be an astronaut" little girl, can we use a fat stinky, ex-con with a general rude demeanor and no aspirations outside of his alcoholic and sexual avarices?- David @12:55

    Sure. Captain Widget did not murder him @ 8:09 when he said " the nature of man is to get as many of those things as possible" and "man will always try to consume as much as possible around him", although he did murder generosity.

    It is safe to say we could be talking about that little girl working for a man that has no "aspiration outside of alcohol and sexual avarice" and as Captain Widget warns "will try to consume as much of what he wants as possible".

    As long you and Captain Widget don't try to place him strictly into the role of employee for the purposes of promoting a political ideology, I will not wedge him strictly into the role of an employer. That said, it is also fair to consider whether a little girl, or fat rude ex con is more likely to escape the economic servitude of that circumstance on their own, and by extension who is more likely to be trapped there, the little girl, or the fat rude stinky ex con. You would also certainly be right to have us consider the probability of a little girl using a financial control and economic opportunity to trap a fat rude stinky ex con alcoholic pursuing sexual aversions.

    It is absolutely within the realm of the not impossible. Good job.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 10:25 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    ROFL, that was fun.

    Thanks for that.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 10:57 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Ethiopia is a commune? The CIA Factbook indicates that it is a Federal Republic (which is also what the CIA Factbook considers the United States).

    I'm also curious what you would consider strong property rights. Is that a country with no government where everybody simply defends their own property with guns?

    I'm not sure how you get "strong rights" of any kind without some sort of agreement amongst the people of a nation that determines what those rights are and how they are protected.

    We could even call such an agreement a "constitution" and the agency which enforces it a "government."

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 10:59 AM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    ^^ That last one is for the Captain, forgot to post the quotes there.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 11:12 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    DJ,

    Ethiopia was a communist government from 1977-1991:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Ethiopia#Modern_Ethi...

    From 1977 through early 1978, thousands of suspected enemies of the Derg were tortured and/or killed in a purge called the "Red Terror". Communism was officially adopted during the late 1970s and early 1980s; in 1984, the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE) was established, and on February 1, 1987, a new Soviet-style civilian constitution was submitted to a popular referendum. It was officially endorsed by 81% of voters, and in accordance with this new constitution, the country was renamed the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on September 10, 1987, and Mengistu became president.

    A disabled T-62 tank in Addis Ababa after the fall of the DergThe regime's collapse was hastened by droughts and famine, which affected around 8 million people, leaving 1 million dead, as well as by insurrections, particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea. The regime also conducted a brutal campaign of resettlement and villagization in Ethiopia in the 1980s. In 1989, the Tigrayan Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF) merged with other ethnically based opposition movements to form the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In May 1991, EPRDF forces advanced on Addis Ababa. Mengistu fled the country to asylum in Zimbabwe, where he still resides.

    Hundreds of thousands were killed due to the Red Terror, forced deportations, or from using hunger as a weapon.[34] In 2006, after a long trial, Mengistu was found guilty of genocide.[35]

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 11:48 AM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    -I'm not sure how you get "strong rights" of any kind without some sort of agreement amongst the people of a nation that determines what those rights are and how they are protected.-

    We could even call such an agreement a "constitution" and the agency which enforces it a "government."- DJD

    Now you're being absurd. Are you even attempting to understanding the other side? The founding fathers established a "government" to enforce life, liberty, and property. They established a "constitution" to uphold these rights. Besides self-defense, this is basically the only role for the federal government - to uphold our rights... not trample over them. I can only speak for myself. but we aren't arguing for anarchy here. Do you really not understand that by now?

    Respect for civil rights means respect for the right of property. You believe the state should own all property? You believe we do not have the right to own any property? You'd prefer the state to violently take it away?

    Marxists idol worshipers never cease to amaze me.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 12:31 PM, devoish wrote:

    ROFL - David @10:25

    I am glad you laughed.

    I'm not sure how you get "strong rights" of any kind without some sort of agreement amongst the people of a nation that determines what those rights are and how they are protected.

    We could even call such an agreement a "constitution" and the agency which enforces it a "government." - DJDynamic

    Wow. I don't think those names will ever catch on, but the idea is brilliant. Sort of like defining some kind of "social contract" idea to reward Captain Widget financially for recognizing a land contract between you and David that he wasn't party to but it could also obligate him to not cutting off or polluting your water. And once the land is all "owned" what could you and David possibly offer Captain Widget. This sounds like it could be much more productive than spending all day fighting with making Captain Widget recognize a contract he is not getting paid to let restrict him. I really think this idea has legs but those names sound like they could fit on some old boat better.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 12:31 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    David - quite right, but the claim the Captain made is that Ethiopia's current struggles with agricultural production are due to weak property rights arising from communist government. 20 years on from the end of the communist regime, I think we can safely say there may be other factors at work.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 2:15 PM, devoish wrote:

    TMFCat,

    Sorry I helped distract from your original thread and thoughts.

    I think the description of bank charters on page 71 at this link shows that the last thing that was believed in the late 1700'2 was that unregulated free markets were a good idea.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=YXVALg0GntsC&pg=PA65&am...

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 2:16 PM, devoish wrote:

    The late 1700's.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 4:03 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Sorry Steven, I'm not going to even entertain your opinions here for two reasons:

    1. You haven't read enough on American and European banking history to have an intelligent conversation. For example, can you explain how the Peel Act failed the Currency School? Can you explain why the Scholastics believed that free banking would eliminate banking? Can you explain the rise and fall of the Medici bank? Can you explain the differences and similarities between Scottish and English banking laws in the 17-1800s? Can you explain the 19th century English law that confused and combined how scriveners and goldsmiths treated banking? And on and on.

    2. Since your argument is that voluntary cooperation is violence and involuntary authority is peace, there really is nothing left for me to do but to have fun with you. Now that that's finished, I'll move on.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 4:15 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    -->"Respect for civil rights means respect for the right of property. " <--

    First off, I take issue with your framing. Respect for civil rights does not, inherently and automatically, mean respect for property rights, nor vice versa. You can conflate the two if you like, but it's not an intrinsic property of either subset.

    --> "The founding fathers established a "government" to enforce life, liberty, and property. They established a "constitution" to uphold these rights." <--

    The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Hmm. If one is guaranteeing the right to life, doesn't that imply a right to food, oxygen, and all the other fundamentals of life? That's certainly how I interpret.

    You are free to interpret it differently, but that doesn't automatically mean you are correct.

    I'll also note that the Constition rarely deals with the subject of property rights. Primarily, you're talking 5th amendment:

    "No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

    In other words, the government is free to claim any of your property whatsoever for public use, provided you are compensated justly.

    What a crew of rampant socialists those Founding Fathers were, putting the public good into a position of primacy over individual property rights like that.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 4:16 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Steven @ 12:31 - lol +1 to that

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 4:50 PM, talan123 wrote:

    Before the constitution came along, I believed in the beginning that the Founding fathers were great believers in the rights of the States to govern themselves which lead to an all out free market.

    It was under the articles of the confederation, which ended in a spectactular failure with the soldiers of the revolution taking arms against their own government they had fought for.

    George Washington, who at the time was urging many through letters about forming a better and more energetic national government through the union of the states, in a letter to Henry Lee wrote in regard to the rebellion, "You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be found, or, if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for the disorders. Influence is not government. Let us have a government by which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured, or let us know the worst at once."

    The founding fathers found the limits of the free market. When markets were no longer in the people's best interests, they collapsed because the people took the power of the government away in order for the market to function.

    The constitution fixed most of the mistakes by making a STRONG central government that was the supreme law of the land that had the power to regulate the markets.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 6:01 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    ---->It was under the articles of the confederation, which ended in a spectactular failure with the soldiers of the revolution taking arms against their own government they had fought for. <----

    Uh, no.

    The Articles of Confederation failed because the States granted one power to the Continental Congress, the right to print paper money. The Continental Dollar failed. That was the impetus used to convene the Constitutional convention.

    However, merely discussing a new Constitution was not endorsed by all the people of the free and sovereign states. Many were opposed and there well articulated and often prophetic arguments are detailed in the Anti-Federalist Papers. (Brutus of New York deserving special attention.)

    It is a complete and total myth that the people of the Sovereign States under the Articles of Confederation were begging for a new government. It is far more likely that a few wanted it, a few didn't, and most didn't care. It is also rather clear that those who did want a new Constitution were politically well connected and stood to profit from it.

    -------->The constitution fixed most of the mistakes by making a STRONG central government that was the supreme law of the land that had the power to regulate the markets. <---------

    No, GOD No. Get a refund on your education. My lord, who teaches you this nonsense?

    The Constitution was devised such that there would be 14 Sovereign States, none with more authority than any other. Each State was sovereign and the central federal government was the 14th Sovereign. It had no powers except those explicitly listed in the Constitution in Article 1, Section 8. That's it. All remaining powers remained with the other 13 States, powers that were far more broad, obviously, than the Federal governments.

    The Constitution was a compromise between no inherent vested authority (Continental Congress) and some inherent vested authority (Federal Government), but did not in any way set out to regulate markets or create a STRONG central government.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 6:26 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    DJDynamicNC wrote:

    --------> Respect for civil rights does not, inherently and automatically, mean respect for property rights, nor vice versa. You can conflate the two if you like, but it's not an intrinsic property of either subset. <---

    That's possibly because you view civil rights in the same way as the mangled modern version, which is actually civil privileges granted by the State.

    For example, the State does not grant freedom of speech. It protects THE freedom of speech, thereby recognizing that the freedom to express your ideas (on your own property, btw, since it derives from property rights, i.e. THE freedom to own property) exists before the State and exists regardless of the State.

    However - and this mangled mess comes about due to intellectuals doing cartwheels trying to create a State that makes up for the previous State's racist legislation - civil rights in popular parlance does not protect THE freedom of anything or anyone. It grants special privleges that derive from the State.

    Even the mythical unicorn of Universal Suffrage is nothing more than a civil right, i.e. a privilege granted by the State. Under a true respect for liberty, one person's vote could never cause the loss of liberty for another. Yet, under today's mangled mess of "privileges" every vote cast is done so with the INTENT to deprive rights from another group or another person.

    Tax breaks here, inflation there, war there, zoning laws here, eminent domain there, who can marry whom here, who gets to go to college there, and on and on.

    Civil rights are a great sham. They are State granted privileges that peasants run to the voting booth in a desperate attempt to allocate as many as possible to themselves.

    True liberty derives from THE freedoms inherit before the State and after the State.

    They are simple. You have the right to your past, present, and future.

    The past is the work you have done which gave you the possessions you have. If you stole or murdered your way to wealth you have no right to those things, but if you didn't, they're yours to do as you please.

    The present is your body and what you do with it. You have THE freedom to stick whatever crap in there you want. Coca-Cola is more deadly than marijuana, but that doesn't give me justification to jail you for drinking it. As long as you don't infringe on others past, present and future, do with yourself as you please.

    The future is your life. For example, you have THE liberty to not get tossed in Unit 731 simply because some State wanted to expand into another market. Unfortunately, the State didn't see it that way. The State prefers civil rights, i.e. privileges (And usually just to make up for mistakes like Unit 731).

    That's liberty without privileges.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 6:31 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    I'd like to respond to the above but I'm about to leave for an extended weekend as today is my birthday and I have some seriously toxic substances to put in my body (ah, sweet Jagermeister) so I'll leave myself a note to respond on Tuesday, if this article can still be found.

    Until then, I must confess that I think there is no possible way to fail to infringe on any other person, and so certain infringements must be accommodated. I'll expand on that Tuesday.

    Until then, happy New Year's to all, and Fool on!

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 7:19 PM, devoish wrote:

    talan123,

    The Constitution gives the Federal government tremendous power and authority. It depends upon the balance of power in the Federal gov's structure, the oversight of the Supreme Court, and the judgement and integrity of elected men for its success, which reflects very highly on the character of those who wrote and signed it.

    It does not believe in free markets.

    Congress shall have the power...

    ...To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

    No ifs, ands, or buts, no how, why, or limit. 16 easy words, not 1600 pages.

    Article 1, section 8

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

    To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

    To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

    To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

    To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

    To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

    To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

    To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

    To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

    To provide and maintain a Navy;

    To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

    To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

    To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 7:41 PM, devoish wrote:

    I'd like to respond to the above but I'm about to leave for an extended weekend as today is my birthday and I have some seriously toxic substances to put in my body (ah, sweet Jagermeister) so I'll leave myself a note to respond on Tuesday, if this article can still be found - DJDynamic,

    Happy Birthday.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 8:04 PM, CaptainWidget wrote:

    <<David - quite right, but the claim the Captain made is that Ethiopia's current struggles with agricultural production are due to weak property rights arising from communist government. 20 years on from the end of the communist regime, I think we can safely say there may be other factors at work.>>

    You still cannot own land in Ethopia. Current day, 2011, it is illegal for a private Ethopian individual to own a piece of property. All farmers must seek license from the state to use the land.

    Is it any surprise that people don't bother?

    Ownership of the rewards is the only reason people take on the burden and liability of ownership. Without someone willing to take the burden, the rewards of production disappear as well.

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 9:58 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Happy Birthday, DJ

    It was a fun discussion all around.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 10:06 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    <<I do not believe historians would agree with your story concerning the impact of communal living in plymouth colony.>> Steven

    This is directly from the journal of Mr. William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony:

    "...they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery."

    This is in reference to the hunger and starvation experienced in previous years as a result of poor cooperation among the colonists.

    "....they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end.....and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content."

    When the colonists were granted plots of land to manage for themselves, and given the chance to provide first for themselves, they had the incentive to work harder. This, in turn, resulted in surpluses and plenty for all.

    "The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."

    Now that they could directly provide for themselves, instead of having their labor conscripted for the common good, they willingly went to work to plant the crops, as opposed to claiming infirmity to avoid having to labor for others, since to compel them to contribute their work to the community would have beent thought tyranny and slavery.

    "...that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God."

    They discovered that the utopian dreams that were promised to come about as a result of such a community were just that.

    "For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort."

    In short, the colonists grumbled about having to work for the benefit of others, who may not be working to their benefit.

    I think I've made my point.

    In spite of the claims by the proponents that communal living and equal sharing of property and resources brings about peace and harmony, it has never been found to work beyond (possibly) the family unit.

    In the Plymouth colony the young and able didn't see why they should have to work for the benefit of others' families without compensation, the strong didn't see why they should have no greater reward for their efforts than those who could do half as much, the senior members thought they should have a greater share than the young, and the wives didn't like the idea of being forced to see to domestic duties for other men (preparing food, doing their laundry, etc.), since that was seen as akin to slavery.

    The Founders Constitution; Volume 1, Chapter 16, Document 1

    William Bradford, of Plymouth Plantation 120--21

    in the year 1623

    Here's the complete link:

    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s1.h...

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 11:20 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    wolfman,

    Channeling my inner Steven....

    I do not believe that The Founders Constitution is telling the truth. I do not believe that William Bradford supported property rights. I bet the Pilgrims succeeded by making little girls pick their crops while they got fat and happy on land rents.

    In fact, right now I am going to search the Internet for an obscure passage that seemingly supports my position that William Bradford wanted to regulate the Plymouth market with a centralized State. While I'm at it, I will look one up that proves libertarians are violent sexists and racists that will kill everyone if the loving State doesn't smite them first, with swat teams purchased with their own tax money.

    Best wishes,

    Steven... er, David

  • Report this Comment On December 29, 2011, at 11:35 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    On second thought, after contemplation of the weight of your much superior viewpoint, I must bow to greater minds than mine.

    Thank you, David.... er, Stephen, for showing me the error of my ways.

    Seriously, David. I always look forward to your posts and your comments on others' posts. It's obvious to me that you are much more informed on such topics than am I. Your posts have led me to investigate for myself many things I thought I knew. I look forward to continuing my education. Fool on, and Happy New Year!

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 1:24 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    You are way too kind! Happy New Year to you as well!

    David

    And Happy New Year to Steven too.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 1:58 AM, devoish wrote:

    I have never before spoken with such eloquence as @11:20 and again @11:35. What wondrous words have come from my mouth, if not my thoughts.

    David, you know I have learned of the need to check any claim you make. It has to be assumed at this point that if you are honest it is merely by chance. Those that flock to your side I doubt by their association to you. Birds of a feather and all that.

    Wolfmann, You described me as advocating communal living. You said it was tried by pilgrims and failed. I doubted historians would agree with your story. You presented evidence to me, presented to you as the writings of William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation.

    David challenged me to check up on you, and accused me of doing so, even as I was.

    The obscure document I looked up that David refers to is the writings of Mr William Bradford, and the letters he received from the other people who settled Plymouth with him. What is clear so far is that Plymouth was not an experiment in socialism, or communism or communal living. It was a business deal, nothing more, nothing less. The letters reprinted in chapters 6 and 7 discuss the terms of that deal. Who would fish, who would farm. How many days they who did not put up cash would work for those who did, and how many for themselves. How much land each person would receive, how much more land those who put up cash would get. How to dispose of the property if anyone died, terms for new arrivals to buy in, how to account for the provisions of a servant who was to get neither property, but whose provision had to be made.

    A business deal.

    The only thing left is to find if the quotes that were shown to you are accurately quoted, there is some suggestion on your link that they have been rewritten, if they actually are quotes at all, and if any portion of the travelers to Plymouth intended to try communal living beyond the seven year terms of the contract they entered into in order to pay merchants for provisions and the ship and to pay for the land they bought, which could still validate your assertion of a communal experiment. I am also curious how they worked it out when they didn't actually get to the land they bought and landed at Plymouth instead. Which would lend some truth your assertion.

    It is interesting to me to read the writings of William Bradford for myself from a historical perspective, and to see for myself how accurate the representation of Bradfords writings in your link is to what I find.

    Having read your link, which might be like skipping to the last chapter of a mystery novel, and the break up of the business deal, I am getting caught up in the whole story of things. Check these passages out, the first concerning the difficulty of arranging the business deal, and the end of the second suggesting that some were persuaded in but then without htere knowledge the terms of the deals were changed and William Bradford's concern that things will go badly due to the cheating.

    I can almost see thunder clouds coming and hear dark music portending the strife to come.

    "But as in all bussineses the acting parte is most difficulte, espetially wher the worke of many agents must concurr, so it was found in this; for some of those that should have gone in England, fell of and would not goe; other marchanta and freinds that had offered to adventure their moneys withdrew, and pretended many excuses. Some disliking they wente not to Guiana; others againe would adventure nothing excepte they wente to Virginia. Some againe (and those that were most relied on) fell in utter dislike with Virginia, and would doe nothing if they wente thither. In the midds of these distractions, they of Leyden, who had put of their estats, and laid out their moneys, were brought into a greate streight, fearing what issue these things would come too; but at length the generalitie. was swaid to this latter opinion. 69.

    But now another difficultie arose, for Mr. Weston and some other that were for this course, either for theirbetter advantage or rather for the drawing on of others, as they pretended, would have some of those conditions altered that were first agreed on at Leyden. To which the 2. agents sent from Leyden (or at least one of them who is most charged with it) did consente ; seeing els that all was like to be dashte, and the opportunitie lost, and that they which had put of their estats and paid in their moneys were in hazard to be undon. They presumed to conclude with the marchanta on those termes, in some things contrary to their order and commission, and without giving them notice of the same; yea, it was conceled least it should make any furder delay; which was the cause afterward of much trouble and contention."

    And lightning cracks and the screen fades to black.

    Does anyone want the link to his writings, or do you want to trust someone else to tell you what it says. Let greater minds decide.

    Besides its a fun read so far.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 2:25 AM, devoish wrote:

    Now one of the travelers is expressing concern that they are leaving so close to the end of summer, with little time to prepare for their first winter in New England. If he is one of those "i told you so" types, he is going to be insufferable.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 10:14 AM, wolfman225 wrote:

    Hi, Steven. Happy New Year!

    I am familiar with the passage you posted, having read the same when I was searching Bradford's writings in search of the information I remembered in general, but not specifically.

    The Plymouth Plantation was initially an expedition funded by businessmen on the Continent in which the colonists as a group agreed to repayment terms. They also had a second agreement amongst themselves as to the disposition and allocation of property within the colony itself. It was this communal agreement I was addressing, in view of the poor results that were experienced in the early years of the colony, compared to the much greater prosperity that resulted when the people were free to benefit directly from their labor. This is what is made clear in Bradford's journal.

    I never claimed expertise in the underlying commercial contract between the colonists and their underwriters. That is not germain to the question of the superiority of a system of private property and individual rights vs. communal ownership and the individuals (forced) obligation to the collective.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 10:15 AM, wolfman225 wrote:

    I do agree, it IS a fascinating story.

    Best,

    Larry

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 12:03 PM, Toklat2 wrote:

    You cite a 'county court' controlling prices, that's a far cry from the federal government controlling prices, etc. People looking for lodging could go on to the next county, I've done the same myself when traveling. It's not so easy to move on to another country. While I agree the individual states making their own regulations would be a patchwork, the states making it difficult for businesses would see their income go down as businesses move to less regulated states. I don't have a problem with less regulation as long as we can trust our government and court system to be fair, which we definitely can't trust either courts or the federal government. Banks that make bad bets should go out of business, there shouldn't be any "Too Big To Fail". Also the people running these scams should lose all their assets to pay back the screwed investors(Jon Corzine for instance but there would be a long, long list covering the last ten-twenty years).

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 12:55 PM, devoish wrote:

    As we pick up the tale, in Merry Ole England, our corporate executives have secured boats and provisions. Is it wrong to refer to the leaders as corporate execs? On pg 72, the terms are spelled out.

    1) The adventurers and planters doe agree, that every person that goeth being aged 16. years and upward, be rated at 10li., and ten pounds to be accounted a single share

    2) That he that goeth in person, and furnisheth him selfe out with 10li. either in money or other provissions, be accounted as haveing 20li.. in stock, and in the devssion shall receive a double share.

    3) The persons transported and the adventurers shall continue their joynt stock and partnership togeather, the space of 7. years, (excepte some unexpected impedimente doe cause the whole company to agree otherwise,) during which time, all profits and benifits that are gott by trade, traffick, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means of any person or persons, remaine still in the commone stock untill the division.

    4) do you want the link, or be told what to think?

    5) That at the end of the 7. years, the capitall and profits, viz. the houses, lands, goods and chatles, be equally devided betwixte the adventurers, and planters; which done, every man shall be free from other of them of any debt or detrimente concerning this adventure.

    This one is interesting to me, in that these were Biblical people and I have recently learned there is Biblical precedent for wiping all the debt of every person off the books every seven years, not after seven years, unless I misunderstood it.

    There is more to the deal, others have put it on line for free and given you the freedom to choose not to be mislead about it.

    Do you want the link? Do you want this freedom?

    It is nice to have some perspective on this deal. These men, committed 700 days of their lives and got 100 acres of their own for it. Two days a week over seven years for 100 acres, and provisions from Merry Ole England, and a share in the profit of selling the fish and the fur they sent back from working those two days. I imagine when they thought of "freedom" it was from debt, not government.

    This was not a commune in upstate NY. This was a corporate entity with all the characters from Dilbert.

    And I think they could imagine a day when men would work 5 days a week for thirty years, for 1/4 of an acre or less. And that was why they left.

    This post was originally inspired by the often expressed "Constitutionalist" idea that we should guide our government today based upon the values of our founding fathers. And it is always connected with telling us that our founding fathers believed in free markets that were free from government intervention.

    Reagan told us markets should be free from taxation, and our debt to banks exploded.

    Reagan told us markets should be free from unions and paychecks stopped growing.

    Reagan told us trade should be free from tarriffs and civil rights demands and foreign children became bound to jobs.

    Alan Greenspan told us banks should be free from regulation.

    Clinton freed mortgage brokers, not banks, from regulation.

    Alan Greenspan freed investment banks from any obligation to count and declare mortgage backed securities.

    George Bush freed mortgage brokers from the investigations of State Attorney Generals.

    Libertarians want to rally their Tea Party army around freedom from government. They inspire them with words from our founding fathers about free markets.

    Your Libertarians want you to believe that our founding fathers wanted business's and banks to be free. @2:15 I posted a link that shows what they did was keep that bank on the floor, their boot on its neck and their hand its balls. And @ 4:00 the Libertarian got angry and didn't want to talk. Said I was ignorant.

    The Libertarian said our founding fathers wanted small Government and markets free from regulation.

    Others say we should never have taken the boot off of their neck.

    You were told by the Libertarian's cheerleader I believe in communal living. How communal living always fails, how our founding fathers at Plymouth plantation disavowed social experiments and we were shown one page from William Bradford's journal purporting to show the dissolution of a commune, a failure of a social experiment, and a moment in time when our founding fathers chose in favor of the holy grail of Free Markets and property rights and ownership.

    And it is not a true description of what happened.

    It was not a commune. It was a business. It had shareholders and debt, workers and leaders. The page that was shown to Wolfmann was not the dissolution of a commune, but the dissolution of a corporation. These people took the land they felt they were entitled to, while refusing to finish paying their debt to their financier.

    If we are to follow the guidance of our founding fathers, and this event is to be held up as an example of that guidance. Then we are guided to cancel debts. We are guided to moral hazard. We are guided to cancel every mortgage, every credit card bill, every student loan, every car loan. Because that is what our founding fathers actually did at Plymouth Plantation in 1623. And 150 years later, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts they still held their foot tightly on the neck of finance.

    Do you want the link?

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 1:14 PM, devoish wrote:

    I never claimed expertise in the underlying commercial contract between the colonists and their underwriters. That is not germain to the question of the superiority of a system of private property and individual rights vs. communal ownership and the individuals (forced) obligation to the collective - Wolfman

    Someone with a minimum of integrity might not even try to represent entering into a voluntary business agreement as a forced obligation to the collective.

    That was absolutely priceless.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 1:19 PM, fourdemocracy wrote:

    One thing is certain our founders as diverse as they were didn't want foreign rule. International corporations are a danger to any country since they don't care about what the people want only the bottom line. That is why regulations and over sight are needed. Didn't work for King George won't work for BP.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 1:41 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    ---->Didn't work for King George won't work for BP. <----

    BP is part of a State run cartel. They have a government privilege in both Britain and some privileges in America as well..

    In America, the entire oil industry was cartelized in the 1930s by FDR, directly copied from Mussolini's fascism (Mussolini, who once proclaimed that he stamped out putrid liberty.)

    Ask the State to regulate what the State created. Let me know how that works out for you.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 1:50 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Steven,

    As always you focus on what is important to you and you alone. Unlike people who actually try to understand your point of view, you have no interest in understanding ours, which is why you continuously misrepresent both our theories and our points.

    Wolfmann's point was very clear. When the colony was set up as a collective it failed. When it was set up with private ownership, it flourished. It's not relevant to us that they had debts to repay. It only makes it more clear that communistic living can't produce enough to repay debts, which should be worrisome to everyone since every socialist country encourages and now faces massive deficits.

    I know socialism fails because I understand the economic calculation problem of the socialist commonwealth. There have been hundreds of "plymouth rock" experiments, either with the land being purchased and granted at will or in debt. It hasn't mattered. I would consider them all failures as none of them achieved their stated goals. I understand why they failed and have tried to articulate that to you many times.

    I guess I have failed since there is not a chance in hell that you could properly explain the economic calculation problem even though I've blogged about it a half dozen times. You just don't take the time to learn competing ideas. It's a shame.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 2:08 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    <<Someone with a minimum of integrity might not even try to represent entering into a voluntary business agreement as a forced obligation to the collective.

    That was absolutely priceless>>--Steven

    I'm sorry, is there some reason why you have decided to impugn my integrity?

    Until now, we have all been able to conduct this discussion without personal attacks (at least on my part). We don't agree at all politically, but this was completely uncalled for.

    As I recall, I entered this discussion in response to your posting that private ownership of property is the root cause of violence, seeming to promote the idea that communal ownership of property and the elimination of private property rights would produce superior results.

    I disagreed with that and posted a competing belief that private property rights (a relative rarity in world history), along with the essential right to the benefits that may accrue from such ownership is superior in at least two ways: 1) The right to hold private title to property grants the citizen some measure of security against an uncertain future and 2) people who have the sovereign right to the production of their property will always be more diligent in it's use and maintenance than those who "don't have a dime in it".

    In addition, I sought out historical information that supported my viewpoint and I posted the relevant quotes and provided the link so the material could be seen in context. You can accept my sources or not, I have no interest in attempting to persuade the unpersuadable, but I ask that you refrain from such unwarranted attacks in the future.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 2:23 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    The idea of buying land to promote collective ownership gained prominence in Europe after the publication of Utopia by William More in the 1500s. The idea of utopian communistic living promoted by More and put into practice at Plymouth Rock followed in the tradition of Lycurgus and Plato.

    There is an excellent book called The Socialist Tradition by Alexander Gray that draws out a nice history of fanciful utopian socialist ideas from Moses to Lenin.

    It is another amusing irony of my discussions with American centrists (who are just Fabians that don't even know they are Fabians or what a Fabian is!), that I get charged with promoting utopian ideas by the originators of the utopian ideal.

    I love the Internet.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 2:32 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    Sry, book author's name was Thomas More, not William More.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia_%28book%29

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 3:13 PM, devoish wrote:

    Wolfmann's point was very clear. When the colony was set up as a collective it failed. - David

    You are not talking to me, remember. I am to ignorant for a snob such as yourself to address.

    The effort to misrepresent a corporation as an experiment in socialism or communal living is very clear to me. It was never some socialist "collective".

    If you want to argue that every corporation and business is an experiment in socialism or communal living I don't know that I could entirely disagree, but then GE becomes a success of communal living.

    That a corporation might fail and lose investors and lenders their money should not be beyond the imagination of anyone on this website, including yours.

    That these founding fathers walked away from their debt and kept their property should come as something of a surprise to those who have had their attention focused on the idea that our country was founded on a personal responsibility to pay debt.

    That is the business equivalent of me buying 30 Rockefeller Center with a loan from a bank, not paying the loan and keeping the building.

    That is the personal equivalent of me not paying my mortgage and keeping the house.

    If Wolfmann is to be considered correct, and they went on to enjoy prosperity, it was the step that freed them from debt that made it most possible. Not an allegiance to free market ideology or personal responsibility, or moral hazard, or the economy.

    And it is ok to say that discharging debt and the freedom from that debt was what allowed them to work for themselves, and was the step that renewed prosperity. It is not really correct to say a commune failed, unless we see a business venture as the equivalent of a commune.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 3:18 PM, dennisunum wrote:

    What I find interesting and many times distasteful about economists is something that is prevalent with Americans today; They lack a good work ethic which is the root of personal values. Frankly, for any economic system to work well and to work long there must be a compelling drive to work and achieve. Without these two basic drives, the destiny of that economic system is failure. One of the few areas where I have seen that the founding fathers faltered is by not making it clear in our Constitution that "at no time will the National or States government be in bed with the economic system". Big mistake that has bred big politics and has made crucial strategic errors in our Nation's health and development. Does anyone really believe that you can have a country formed on the concept of E Pluribus Unum without have an official common language, official common observances, official common laws with consistent enforcement, etc. Only one economic system can withstand the test of time and that is found rooted in that society's work ethic ultimately with in each individual.

    To remove any thought that I know what I am talking about relative to economics, I am just a Computer Scientist with a work ethic observing the downfall of my beloved Country.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 3:49 PM, wolfman225 wrote:

    I think I have just about exhausted the possibilities of this conversation. I think I'll move on before it degenerates into further name-calling and ad-hominim attacks. Before I leave, I would like to congratulate Catherine on an article that has managed to generate such a volume of interest.

    Fantastic job!

    David, I'll look for your byline. Be well.

    Fool on all, and have a Happy and Prosperous New year!

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 3:50 PM, devoish wrote:

    The idea of buying land to promote collective ownership gained prominence in Europe after the publication of Utopia by William More in the 1500s. The idea of utopian communistic living promoted by More and put into practice at Plymouth Rock followed in the tradition of Lycurgus and Plato. -David

    They did not buy land to promote collective ownership and such communistic (not communal or socialist?) outcome was not desired for Plymouth Plantation.

    Once again, prosperity began with the discharge of debt.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 3:58 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    --->Once again, prosperity began with the discharge of debt.<----

    So you support the repudiation of the national debt? I certainly agree that would bring America great prosperity.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 4:45 PM, devoish wrote:

    Until now, we have all been able to conduct this discussion without personal attacks (at least on my part). We don't agree at all politically, but this was completely uncalled for. - Wolfman, feigning innocence.

    On second thought, after contemplation of the weight of your much superior viewpoint, I must bow to greater minds than mine.

    Thank you, David.... er, Stephen, for showing me the error of my ways.- the not impeccably civil Wolfman.

    Civility had left the thread with Davids comments last night. Until you and he started again, we had been doing better. Not all of us, not perfect, but better than Davids posts last night.

    Now I am wondering if you willingly forgot Davids posts from last night and both yours from today. I haven't.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 5:06 PM, whereaminow wrote:

    This comment is for DJ if he returns to this after New Year's.

    Speaking of the madness of the rights vs. privileges semantic trick pulled on Americans, I am on this reddit thread where lawyers are discussing a class action suit against a 3rd party background check company.

    Quote from a lawyer: "Your rights depend on the laws of the state you live in..."

    That's the problem with lawyers. Your privileges granted by an authority depend on the authority of that area. Your rights never change. They exist before and after that authority.

    Conflating rights and privileges is very damaging to the cause of liberty.

    David

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 7:17 PM, devoish wrote:

    So you support the repudiation of the national debt? I certainly agree that would bring America great prosperity - David

    We've been talking about personal and corporate debt up until now. Have we established that it was the discharge of the debt owed to their lenders and investors that set the planters of Plymouth Plantation on the path to prosperity? Had that debt not been discharged they would not have been landowners for four more years.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 7:18 PM, devoish wrote:

    Conflating personal and national debt might be damaging to the cause of figuring out how to guide our politicians.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 7:19 PM, devoish wrote:

    Conflating personal and national debt might be damaging to the cause of figuring out how to guide our politicians.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 7:41 PM, Frankydontfailme wrote:

    If a person cannot own property, as Leninite Steven insists, then a person cannot be liable for debt.

  • Report this Comment On December 30, 2011, at 7:52 PM, devoish wrote:

    Frankydontfailme,

    That wasn't civil at all.

    Best wishes,

    Steven

  • Report this Comment On December 31, 2011, at 12:58 PM, TMFCatB wrote:

    Thanks for the kind words, wolfman225. Much appreciated.

  • Report this Comment On January 02, 2012, at 3:39 PM, fourdemocracy wrote:

    Our founders rebelled against the East India Trading Corporation and King George. They didn't like corporate manipulation of our trade and markets. Tea fixed, etc.

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2012, at 5:04 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    Well, just stumbled across my note to myself to check this article after the New Year, and it looks like all the usual Fools were still at it clear through the holidays. I'm sad I missed it but glad to have had the chance to read the remaining comments.

    I'm a bit late back to the party so I'll leave well enough alone, but I'm sure we'll meet again in yonder threads.

    Fool on!

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