We are only neighbors

How commonplace is the remark above? How obvious? We are only neighbors. You are not a king over me, nor i over you. Nor can any arrangement of equal neighbors into groups, delegations, or political forces erase the vast fact of the equality of men. A consensus of millions does not have authority to rule or dominate an opposing consensus of one. A senate enacting a law does not add to the authority of the voter any more than the postman delivering a letter lends authority to its author. We are all only neighbors.

What kind of authority does a neighbor have over another? Well, if one is taking your things, trampling your property, injuring your person, interfering in your livelihood, or otherwise invading your own life, he enters into one of the classic crimes understood by humanity, any ancient moral code, and, of course, a tiny, tiny sliver of our modern law. And of course if he is doing none of these things, if he is leaving you be, leaving you to your own devices, he is obviously not in violation of these commonsense codes, nor under any sort of authority from you. We might describe the situation as each citizen having full jurisdiction over whatever is rightfully his; his person, property, and business…and no jurisdiction over that of anyone else.

This understanding of the relations of equal citizens seems obvious, but its implication for modern government is sadly unfamiliar because we operate (as voters) along an opposite principle, when we vote for measures or officials who promise benefits for some certain group over the general public, or restrictions on the private behaviors of our neighbors, or dictates the terms of commerce for consenting parties, or any number of fields now regarded as fair game for legislative interference. All of these measures violate the principle of “neighbor’s authority,” for they are written in the old way, regarding the private domain of each citizen not as a sacred field to be defended by the law, but as matter for the improving work of the law. The neighbor’s law says, “Keep your hands on your side of the fence and we’ll get along just fine.” The king’s law says, “I’m going to put my hands on things behind your fence, because I am in authority over you.” It is a real matter of philosophical disagreement about the legitimate scope of the law that gives rise to controversies like that over the drug war or the surveillance state , but it is not a new philosophical disagreement; it is the very same controversy that arose over the Stamp Act. It is again the question of whether the government’s authority extends beyond defense against crime, and into the business of interference in private life. A homeowner is right to shoot at a housebreaker, a victim is right to mace a mugger, a citizen is right to go out with his neighbors and his rifle to meet the invaders. The question is whether the government, as the delegate of the citizens, is right to do these things, or to do more. The question is whether this Thing we have instituted is right to tap phones, demand licenses, grant privileges, seize wealth, and invade foreign lands, when we know that we would be wrong to do these things. The question is whether the words and forms of “government” can sanitize what is known to be a crime without it.

 

Reflections on my first year as a small firm

April 15th 2015 was something of a landmark for me, since i started operations of my own firm on January 15th 2014, and if taxes were going to be the death of that firm, this past Wednesday would be their last chance to prevent me from calling 2014 a victorious year. i’m very pleased to have successfully made every mortgage payment out of the proceeds of a small enterprise, rather than a wage, for a Continue reading

19 Little questions for Non-Libertarians

Every thinking Libertarian had already answered the “19 tough questions for Libertarians” before they were even asked, in the course of merely organizing his own thoughts. i’m not going to be the thousandth person to answer those questions; i want to play a different game instead. The following are questions that are very easy for Libertarians, and i suspect consistent Continue reading

Regulation and Robert Higgs’ objection

Regulation is the kind of law that says, “This isn’t a crime, but I’m going to stop you from doing it anyway” that is, the kind of law that intervenes and prevents admittedly innocent activities, insisting that oversight is needed, even where everyone involved consents. It’s very easy to attack the “bad” kind of regulation, as in the familiar inept or corrupt building official or the captured agencies overseeing banking; but attacking “bad” regulation gets us nowhere on the question of regulation itself, because people merely think it needs to be replaced with “good” regulation. So let’s discuss the most popular major regulatory agency in the US: The Food and Drug Administration. Continue reading

Isn’t the equality of men a problem for you?

There are believers in Liberty, and believers in power. There are those who say, “The only way for the many to be happy is through their own good choices, and so the greatest necessity is to prevent their free choices from being undermined, whether by crime or oppression. We cannot make them good, we can only prevent the rewards of goodness from being snatched away” And there are those who instead say “Whether these masses be good or no, I am good enough, or clever enough Continue reading

The exploiters

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What does it mean for a firm to have a positive profit? People think of it as some sort of evidence of exploitation for a firm to take $10.00 worth of parts and pay a person $10.00 to assemble them, into a device that a consumer will buy for $40.00 (and boast about his purchase). But of course there is no injustice in this, as long as the person who gathered those parts and sold them for $10.00 voluntarily chose to make that trade, the employee who assembled voluntarily chose to apply for and not quit that job, and the consumer willingly handed over the $40.00 in exchange for the device he wanted more than the money. AND if no alternatives were destroyed, then not a single one of the people in this transaction is worse off than he otherwise would have been.

i anticipate the objection: “Why can’t the consumer get the device for $20.00? Or why can’t the laborer be paid $30.00? Isn’t the rest of the firm just an exploiter, collecting a rent while offering no contribution?” Continue reading

Distributism part 2

I missed a thing or two in my last post about Distributism, in order to conclude on a hard hit. I’ll sum the whole issue up in a few words, even though in my experience that’s the least effective way to make yourself clear; I have no idea why, since most of the time I wish long explanations were so condensed. To each his own, I suppose. Here’s the few words: The efficiency advantages of the giant corporations, and thus, their “natural” place in the market, is a false generalization. The reason for this is that the actual production methods that benefit from scale are relatively few, compared to those which only benefit from scale through regulatory and tax advantages. As a consequence, many, many huge organizations are really wasteful superstructure attached to a relatively small core of productive activity.

We are familiar to the comparisons between Distributist production and Capitalist production; the dozens of workshops versus the singular factory, the kitchen of every home versus the commercial kitchen, the five hundred farms of three acres each versus the single farm of fifteen hundred. But what if these aren’t the things we should be comparing? When we compare workshops and factories, we are not, almost by definition, comparing complete enterprises. We are comparing the productive cores of two enterprises, which is a very different thing when you consider the resources which are consumed in the other activities of the firm that owns that factory. Narrowing one’s focus to look exclusively at one of GM’s factories is to look exclusively at the most efficient part of the operation, and to disregard major forms of inefficiency, even those inherent even to the factory itself. Continue reading