Author Archive

Mr. Bitcoin

Antony — April 19, 2013

Cyprus and Bitcoin

Antony — April 5, 2013

Some social commentary on Cyprus, European politics, banker bailouts, and Bitcoin… in song form:

Hugs

Antony — January 22, 2013

Free-market entrepreneurship in action:

Reaction to Les Miserables

Antony — January 17, 2013

Following on from Dave’s post, I also recently watched the movie version of Les Miserables, and have a few comments. While I agree with Dave’s point that Jean Valjean should not be absolved from guilt for stealing the bread, the legal consequence he suffered were completely disproportionate, and would never occur in a libertarian society. In a libertarian restitution-based justice system, the primary goal of the law would be to seek appropriate compensation for the victim. For such a petty crime, it would not be worth the cost to invest huge resources needed to pursue Valjean over many years, since the damage done was so minimal. It is only by using the resources of the state that Javert’s costly manhunt can be maintained.

The fact that the state has taken over the codification and application of law in our society is what leads to the possibility for these excesses. The criminalization of “victimless crimes” is one example of this phenomenon; in a system of private law focused on restitution, it is unlikely that anyone would devote sufficient resources to banning or regulating acts that hurt no-one. For an excellent analysis of private versus state law, check out this recent talk by Stephan Kinsella.

The principle of restitution-based justice is demonstrated when Jean Valjean’s commits his second act of theft – stealing silver from the monastery. In this case the victim, the bishop, chooses not to seek restitution, in fact he does the opposite and actually gives more silver to Valjean. It is up to him whether to seek compensation, and in this case he exercises his prerogative to give Valjean a second chance, to seek his redemption, thereby setting the stage for the entire rest of the movie.

The State

Antony — December 14, 2012

How about some Murray Rothbard with your Dubstep?

Time Will Run Back

Antony — December 13, 2012

Book Review: Time Will Run Back, by Henry Hazlitt

Henry Hazlitt’s novel Time Will Run Back explores the subjects of capitalism and free society from first principles, by looking at them from the naive perspective of a world in which they are unknown concepts.

The novel is set about 100 years in the future, in a world in which the Soviets won the cold war. The entire world is run as a communist dictatorship with a centrally planned economy. Through a series of chance events, a young man named Peter comes to lead the nation. Peter, unlike everyone else in the society, has been raised without being indoctrinated into the communist ideology, and thus is able to approach the problems he faces as leader without any preconceptions.

The novel describes how Peter tries various methods of organizing the production and distribution of goods in society. In trying to solve his immediate problems, he keeps running into new problems as unintended consequences of his different economic interventions. These problems include both calculation problems, where the central planners are unable to obtain the information necessary to properly allocate resources, and motivation problems where the workers have no incentive to be productive. Through a series of trial and error steps, Peter comes to discover that a system of private property ownership with free exchange is the only way to properly organize an economy.

Although the book does an excellent job in its treatment of economic principles, it overreaches a bit when Peter goes on to sort out the political setup of the country. He basically ends up re-creating a democratic republic similar to the United States, but the reasoning for for this setup is not convincing. It seems contrived, and influenced by the author’s preconceptions, in contrast to the parts dealing with economic reform, in which the reasoning was logical, and various pitfalls with non-free market arrangements were well explained.

Overall, this book is well worth reading. The premise of a person naively trying to solve economic problems is an excellent thought experiment to explain the pitfalls of various forms of central economic planning. The novel was apparently inspired by Hazlitt’s reading of Socialism by Ludwig von Mises, and it does a good job of outlining the socialist calculation problem in a fun and accessible manner.

The Trees

Antony — December 7, 2012

This Rush song is an excellent commentary on egalitarianism.

“The Trees”

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the maples
(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the maples
Can’t be happy in their shade

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream ‘Oppression!’
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
‘The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw

Property Rights in China

Antony — November 22, 2012

There’s an interesting article in today’s National Post about so called “nail houses” in China. These are houses where the owners refuse to make way for developments, often holding out for more compensation. Even for government projects, individual landowners are refusing to budge, and the State seems unable to force them to leave. Does this mean that property rights are stronger in China than in the Western world, where the State routinely uses Eminent Domain to force individual landowners from their homes?

Nail House

Happy Laurier Day!

Antony — November 20, 2012

Today is officially Laurier Day, in honour of Canada’s seventh Prime Minister. It is an excellent opportunity to promote and celebrate of Canada’s libertarian heritage.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was known for vision of Canada as a land individual liberty and decentralized federalism. Among his notable quotes are: “Canada is free and freedom is its nationality”, and “Nothing will prevent me from continuing my task of preserving at all cost our civil liberty”. He worked to secure autonomy for Canada within the British Empire based on “absolute liberty, political and commercial”.

In many ways Canada has a strong  libertarian heritage, but it has been largely neglected. So let’s take this opportunity to rekindle awareness of Canada’s culture of liberty, and work to move our country towards a land of freedom and prosperity that we can be proud of.

Tax the Rich?

Antony — November 15, 2012

As the US approaches the so-called “fiscal cliff”, there are increasing calls to raise taxes on “the rich” to help increase government revenue. Many of the wealthy themselves, such as Warren Buffett, are joining this call, seemingly putting the greater good before their self interest. But if we analyze the situation more closely, we see that their motives may not be so pure.

Are they proposing that the government seize the accumulated fortunes (or a portion thereof) of people like Buffett? No, the increased taxes will be on high incomes. In other words, people who are already wealthy will not necessarily pay more tax, but those who seek to become wealthy will. People such as young ambitious entrepreneurs, or growing family businesses.

The effect on society? Further economic empoverishment by discouraging wealth creation and innovation. The effect on the likes of Buffett? Another handy crutch, courtesy of his government buddies, to hobble any up-and-coming competitors, and entrench him at the top of the wealth heap.

This is just another example of the rich and powerful elites using political influence to secure their positions of wealth, all while the unwitting masses cheer them on.