We hear a lot of sneers directed at the rich. Like “the 1 per cent,” “greedy” or “fat cats.” Today, I’ll ask: To what extent do the rich deserve these insults? Then, I’ll look at poverty, and ask: Why are so many people poor? And how might the problem of undeserved poverty be solved?
Thoughts on the Fallen
by Sean Gabb
11th November 2018
A hundred years today since the end of the Great War – a sentence ripe with melancholy. I am old enough to have been a child in the visible shadow of that war. Yes, I would listen to men and women, younger than I am now, talking of their part in the Dunkirk Evacuation, or discussing who had made a fool of herself in the street when the bombs fell on Chatham. That second war, filled with colour and excitement, was barely history when I was a boy. Its end was more recent than Tony Blair’s Serbian adventure is to us. Habits of life and patterns of friendship set in The War were still established facts in the world that I had joined. Behind this, however, loomed the greater and more terrible events of an earlier war. Every day, I saw the old women in black, the old men without arms or legs, or wearing dark glasses – the memorials built large so all the names of the fallen could be fitted on them in capitals an inch high. There was no colour in that war, no excitement – only the sadness of irretrievable loss. Read more
By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK
The national socialists were socialists, shock! This is as described by Sir Norman Tebbitt in a recent Daily Telegraph article:
“It is either delusional or deceitful to call the Nazi or Fascist parties “Right wing”. There could hardly be any more clear example of the tin containing exactly what is said on the label than Hitler’s Nazis, the National Socialist German Workers Party, nor Mussolini’s collectivist Fascists. They were the Left-wing of politics on the European mainland. And they both proudly wore the racist badge of anti-Semitism.”
With President Trump in the United States, President-Elect Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Chancellor Kurz in Austria, as well as several others, we’re seeing a lot of Non-Player-Character Leftists handing out epithets such as ‘Far-Right’, ‘Ultra-Right’, ‘Neo-Nazi’, and so on, to anyone who dares stand up against socialist hegemony. This is an attempt to try to link such politicians to the greatest ever bogey-man of the Left, Reichs Chancellor Adolf Hitler.
But what if it turns out that this bogey-man is actually a Leftist himself? And what if his political regime was also a totally Leftist construct? What would the NPC Left say then? Well, if they accepted it, they would probably be speechless. So they will be kicking and screaming, I should imagine, in the face of this Telegraph article, to completely deny it.
However, it remains undeniable. The national socialists were socialists.
In my opinion, the best full book on this subject is Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, written in 1944 by Ludwig von Mises. As a lover of liberty who had fled before the national socialists himself, in 1940, he knew exactly how to describe their political nature:
“The German and the Russian systems of socialism have in common the fact that the government has full control of the means of production. It decides what shall be produced and how. It allots to each individual a share of consumer’s goods for his consumption. These systems would not have to be called socialist if it were otherwise. But there is a difference between the two systems— though it does not concern the essential features of socialism. The Russian pattern of socialism is purely bureaucratic. All economic enterprises are departments of the government, like the administration of the army or the postal system. Every plant, shop, or farm stands in the same relation to the superior central organization as does a post office to the office of the postmaster general. The German pattern differs from the Russian one in that it (seemingly and nominally) maintains private ownership of the means of production and keeps the appearance of ordinary prices, wages, and markets. There are, however, no longer entrepreneurs but only shop managers (Betriebsführer). These shop managers do the buying and selling, pay the workers, contract debts, and pay interest and amortization. There is no labor market; wages and salaries are fixed by the government. The government tells the shop managers what and how to produce, at what prices and from whom to buy, at what prices and to whom to sell. The government decrees to whom and under what terms the capitalists must entrust their funds and where and at what wages laborers must work. Market exchange is only a sham. All the prices, wages, and interest rates are fixed by the central authority. They are prices, wages, and interest rates in appearance only; in reality they are merely determinations of quantity relations in the government’s orders. The government, not the consumers, directs production. This is socialism in the outward guise of capitalism.”
Omnipotent Government followed on from a much deeper analysis of socialism, in my favourite Von Mises book, Socialism, written much earlier in the 1920s, which analysed every facet of socialism known at the time. In this book, Von Mises distilled out the essential point via which we know whether a particular political system is socialist or not, later reflected in the above quote:
“The essence of Socialism is this: All the means of production are in the exclusive control of the organized community. This and this alone is Socialism.”
I always love the cognitive dissonance it provokes in Leftists when one correctly describes the national socialists as socialists. They generally hate being forced to acknowledge this reality, preferring to call them ‘Nazis’ instead, to somehow obliterate the link. However, the clue, as always, is in the name. Were they called ‘National Conservatives’? No. Were they called ‘National Liberals’? No. They were called ‘National Socialists‘.
Deal with it, Leftists. He was one of your own.
The Consumption Tax – A Non-Starter
By Duncan Whitmore
In a recent essay published on this blog1, the present author proposed a short series of aims that would reduce the burden of taxation on economic prosperity, in comparison to a programme proposed by the Adam Smith Institute (ASI).2 Part of the ASI’s programme consists of “replacing [the] income tax with a progressive consumption tax, so savings are not taxed”.3 In relation to this, we explained, briefly, that all taxes are paid for out of one of two sources of production – either income or wealth – and that
The individual names of all of the different taxes refer not to fundamentally different types of tax; rather, they denote either the specific kind of good to be burdened (i.e. property, alcoholic beverages, etc.) or the particular event that triggers the tax liability. For example, within the category of taxes on income, an income/payroll tax taxes the income at the point it is earned; a VAT or sales tax, on the other hand, taxes the income at the point it is spent.
Consequently, we concluded that a proposal for a consumption tax amounted to little more than simply moving a tax burden around and calling it a different name rather than eliminating its depressing effects upon economic prosperity:
Changing the precise moment when a tax is levied ultimately does nothing to ameliorate the effects of the tax – it simply means that you might be able to hang on to your money for a little bit longer before having to give it up. Neither also does changing the triggering event have any effect upon who, ultimately, pays for the tax. All taxes must be paid for out of production and so the burden of any tax always falls upon producers.
This essay will elaborate on why, for a programme that wishes to give a serious boost to economic prosperity by reforming taxes, the proposal to switch to a consumption tax from an income tax is a relatively pointless endeavour which should not be considered as a priority. We will also explain why the claim that “savings are not taxed” is utterly fallacious before exploring some particular difficulties that are inherent to introducing and operating a consumption tax. Although this essay concerns, mainly, the effects of a consumption tax upon economic prosperity, we will then move on to highlighting some further problems this method of taxation presents from a purely libertarian perspective. Finally, we will conclude by pointing out that any benefits a consumption tax could bring are unlikely to be realised in the absence of fostering a general government commitment to lower tax rates. Read more
I was involved in a blog conversation recently on the subject of “fake news.” The Darn-Poor Rhymer (the part of my alter ego which likes to write very bad verse) was inspired to write this parody of Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage.” At first, I thought that what I had written was no more than a piece of fun; but it wasn’t long before I realized that there were some deeper truths in there too. So, I re-present it here for your enjoyment.
Is all the Net a fake?
Are all the so-called “experts” merely liars?
They have their tricks and clever arguments,
And one man in his time learns many arts.
His thoughts move in six stages. First, the newbie,
His gaze, his ear, his mind glued to the screen,
Believing all he’s told. And then the troll,
Crying “fake news,” and “bull,” and “balderdash,”
Annoying and insulting all in range,
Until no-one will listen. Then the follower,
Seeking for wisdom in the godless depths
Of someone else’s arcane religion,
While parroting its credos. Then the warrior,
Shouting his narrative at top of voice,
Augmenting it with copious references
To sources just as biased as himself,
Using his subtle tricks and clever ruses
To seek to sow the seeds of doubt and guilt,
And rarely giving ground to others’ views;
But never once considering the thought
That it might be him, not his opponent,
Who’s got it wrong. The fifth stage shifts
To the truth seeker, doing what he can
To find the facts, and piece together truths,
And spread these truths to those willing and able
To listen to them. Sixth comes the free man.
Able to govern self, to live and let live;
Free from all need for politics or laws,
Free from all wish for violence or aggression,
Free from desire to lie, insult or slur,
Reciprocating others’ tolerance,
And judging people, not by who they are,
But what they do. Way back in Shakespeare’s time
There was a seventh stage, of slow decline;
But as I look out, it’s a sunny day,
And so, I think, that’s all I have to say.
Money Heist: State Counterfeiting on TV
By Duncan Whitmore
At first, Money Heist seems little different from any run-of-the-mill “cops vs. bad guys” series. A well-prepared group of eight, small time criminals, previously unknown to each other and using city names as pseudonyms, hijacks the Spanish Royal Mint in Madrid. Directed from the outside by their leader, the mysterious “Professor”, they capture tens of Mint staff and visitors to hold as hostages, including (deliberately) the teenage daughter of a prominent politician. Scores of armed police soon surround the building at the beginning of what turns into an epic, eleven-day siege.
One initial question concerns the objective of the hijackers. Is it robbery? Ransom? Terrorism? It soon becomes clear that the group, in spite of being armed to the hilt and having sequestered a major government institution, is imbued with an interesting set of morals. For they intend to neither a) kill anyone (although circumstance forces this scruple to be breached) nor b) steal as much as a penny from anyone’s bank account. They do, as it happens, intend to leave the Mint with more than one billion euros in cash. This, however, they plan to achieve by spending their eleven days holed up in the Mint printing the money they want (with the aid of the captured staff, whom they bribe with some of the loot) instead of raiding the vaults for cash that already exists. Their clever plan, therefore, is to escape with untold riches without having harmed a soul while, in the process, embarrassing the authorities and winning the sympathy of the public as “loveable rogues”. Read more
Church, King and State – Decentralisation and Liberty
By Duncan Whitmore
It scarcely needs to be said that life as a libertarian theorist and political activist is an often isolated and lonely existence. Even though we often have the evidence to illustrate that we are correct, our ideas are ridiculed, if they are ever listened to in the first place. While “free-marketism” from the point of view of generating “economic efficiency” enjoys a seat at the table of the mainstream and may, depending upon the circumstances, disseminate views which are taken seriously by the highest echelons of government, radical libertarianism does not. We are a bare minority of extremist nutcases, deluded by the romantic fairytale vision of the industrial greatness of the nineteenth century, the reality of which, we are told, meant spoils for the rich and destitution for the masses. Our intellectual heroes are derided as dogmatic crackpots who would do away with all of the civilising achievements of our social democratic world order and consign us all instead to a vigilante society reminiscent of the “wild west”.
Having said of all of this, the endeavour to justify libertarian principles is only a small part of the battle. In fact, the biggest difficulty in such justification is not in crafting high quality arguments that will consign statism and socialism to the intellectual rubbish heap. Rather, it is the fact that the die is so heavily weighted in favour of statism, and that the willingness to accept any kind of confirmation bias, however minute, for the status quo is so eager, that even if one was armed with a fortress of insurmountable libertarian arguments the debate could still be lost. No doubt many libertarian has been in the position of having taken a horse to water only to find that he will not drink – and that, sadly, we must be prepared to wait for him to realise that he is dying of thirst. Read more