Saturday, 27 November 2010

Secession: Who Decides?

The EU is deeply unpopular in the UK and other European nations. The British people never voted to join the EU, and if there were a referendum, I have little doubt that the result would be Yes for the UK to withdraw (secede) from the EU.  The EU has brought about a resurgence in nationalism, and rightly so.

That no referendum has taken place is profoundly unjust. Membership of the EU should be decided upon by the British people, not by politicians, nor by anyone outside the UK.

But why stop at the secession of the UK from the EU? Consider Scotland. Who should decide whether Scotland should secede from the UK? To be consistent, it should be the people of Scotland, not politicians, and not the people of the UK. If the Scottish people want to secede from the Union, it is unethical for anyone to prevent this.  Membership of the UK should be decided upon by the Scottish people.

The same principle applies at an even more local level. If the people of the county of Cornwall, or Yorkshire, or Buckinghamshire wish to secede from the UK, or the people of the city of Oxford, or Liverpool, or Bristol wish to secede from the UK, it would be unethical for anyone to prevent their secession.

Perhaps you can see where this is going. If a small village community, or a family, or a single individual wish to secede from whichever state they are a subject of, who should decide? Well, the secessionist(s) themselves, of course, and not the entity they wish to secede from.

If one opposes the EU and believes in the right of secession at all, they must recognize the right of individual secession. That is, they must recognize the right of any individual to stop paying taxes and to stop following the rules and regulations forced upon him by the state, whenever he wishes.

Nationalism, while preferable to internationalism, is a blatantly inconsistent doctrine. The only consistent positions are a one-world government (which is justifiably, almost-universally unpopular) or individual secessionism, also known as libertarian anarchy.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Statism is at odds with diversity

A common argument against the EU is that it is not possible or beneficial to have a centralized authority controlling such a diverse group of peoples and cultures.

The idea is that the same governmental policies will not work over the whole of Europe. Laws will have to be different in different areas, because in different areas people have different cultures and values. It is recognition that values are subjective; nothing is ‘inherently’ valuable; if something is valuable, it means it is valuable to someone.

But when you think about it, there is no such thing as ‘group values’. Saying Scottish people like haggis is not literally true of all Scots and of no one else. It is a broad generalization. Italian people don’t value pasta as a group, although many of them value it as individuals. No two individuals have exactly the same values or opinions; we are a wonderfully diverse species.

So the above argument against the EU in favor of nationalism works equally well as an argument against nationalism and in favour of localism and ultimately individualism/anarchism.

If the people of Scotland should not have the same laws as the people of Turkey, why should they have the same laws as the people of England? The counties of Scotland each have their distinct character, where people have different values, so why should all of Scotland be controlled centrally from Edinburgh (or anywhere else)?

This line of thinking leads directly to individualism/anarchism: why should any two individuals have to live under the same laws if they don’t want to? After all, they have different values.

The End of War, or How to Minimize Conflicts

In a trivial sense, anarchy will eliminate war, because war can be defined as a conflict between states.

Needless to say, this response is not satisfactory to people who believe that without states, there will be more war. They are using a broader definition of war than just conflict between states.

The broadest possible definition of war would be any conflict between two individuals. Then the question of whether statism or anarchism will have less war becomes the question of what system will minimize conflicts.

The question of what ultimately causes conflicts lies largely outside the realm of political philosophy and economics (and in psychology), but we can ask:
  • Will conflict prevention industries be more effective in a free market or under state control?
  • Will conflict resolution industries be more effective in a free market or under state control?
In other words, we can examine arrangements in the security and law industries.

Before thinking about how the security and law industries might be structured in a free market (which is difficult because we are all personally familiar only with how states structure these industries), we can say, using general economic principles, that we can expect greater quality, efficiency and service, lower prices, more dynamism, diversity and choice, and less corruption, with a free market arrangement than with a state monopoly.

All this means that we have every reason to believe that there would be fewer conflicts if the security and law industries were provided by a free market, i.e. libertarian anarchy. That is, in the broadest sense, war would be minimized by anarchy.

For an examination of how free markets in security and law might be structured, see the writings of Murray Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe and David Friedman.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Do unschooling parents need to be all-wise?

The key idea of unschooling is that children should direct their own education, choosing their own teachers. They will find out how they learn best, because they have a natural curiosity and desire to learn. Too often, this passion for learning is stamped out of them by being taught things they don't want to learn, and coming to see learning as a passive, dull process, which is directed by somebody else, not by them. The directing could come from a state school, a private school, a private tutor, or their parents.

The proper role of the parent is to facilitate learning, primarily through imparting on their children how to teach themselves, or how to find teachers and resources. A young child may ask their parents 'how does a car work?' or 'when did dinosaurs walk the earth?' or 'what makes trees grow?'. Can you answer these simple questions in any kind of depth, without googling them, or asking someone, or going to a library to read up on them? If you honestly answer 'I don't know; but I know how to find out,' and then explore the answers to those questions along with your children, they will soon be teaching themselves things without your assistance. When they get a bit older and start to explore higher-level science, they may want to take some formal education, perhaps a university or specialist private school or private tutor, and if they do they should be encouraged.

So to address a couple of common concerns of parents who do not send their children to school, there is no need to hire a private tutor, and doing so may even harm the child's ability and desire to learn. And there is no need for a parent to be all-wise, able to answer any question; they must only know how to find out the answers, and enthusiastically encourage their children to seek out the answers.

David Friedman recognizes that a large part of his education came from places other than school, and he unschooled two of his children: here he talks to Stefan Molyneux about it.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Why do bankers love their central banks?

Bankers love having a central bank because it enables them to lend more money than they have, so they collect more (a lot more) profits from interest payments than they would otherwise. This is known as fractional reserve banking.  There are natural limits to fractional-reserve banking imposed by markets, and the central bank makes it possible for commercial banks to bypass these limits. The central bank is the institution through which the commercial banks are cartelized and protected from competition.

Bankers support the money monopoly, the "lender of last resort" function, deposit insurance, the high rate of inflation, and all kinds of regulations (FSA, EU, IMF, etc), because it strengthens their cartel. The ideal scheme for the bankers would be a global central bank, with a global monopoly of (ideally paper) money, and international bailouts and regulations. The history of banking is the story of how the bankers, and the politicians who are happy to go along (they can finance deficits and inflate away their debts), have removed one-by-one all the market-imposed limits on fractional reserve lending. See Murray Rothbard's 'The Case Against The Fed'.

Check out the Ludwig Von Mises Institute video 'Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve'. It avoids the serious economic fallacies that undermine the otherwise-decent videos 'The Money Masters' and 'Money As Debt', and lead them to offer false and terrible solutions, like Lincoln-style Greenbanks. It highly praises the gold standard, because having gold backing the notes is a major market-imposed limit to fractional reserve banking. But the ultimate goal is a market-based money. Re-imposing a gold-standard dollar, controlled by congress, would be a second-best or interim measure; it would still be a money monopoly, but the boom-bust cycle and inflation would be significantly reduced, and it may ease a transition to market-based money.

Ron Paul, well-known for his support of the gold standard, shows that his ultimate goal is market-based money, when he says:

"Money will be honest, the unit precisely defined, and its integrity guaranteed by government or by voluntary contracts. Counterfeiting privileges of the Fed will be abolished and relegated to notorious underground figures. Honest money will allow credit to be freely created in the market and not by the privileged banking cartel, yet controlled by the integrity of the market and the convertibility of the dollar. The economic benefits of low long-term fixed interest rates will be welcomed by all, since credit can then fuel true long-term economic growth." [emphasis added]