Know Your Enemy – Charlie Hebdo and The Freedom of Speech
By Duncan Whitmore
In previous essays posted on this blog, I have often pointed out that opponents of private property (and of capitalism specifically) believe, incorrectly, that to advocate for a free society is to crave an orgy of individualism, greed and selfishness in which each person grabs as many riches for himself as possible while leaving those less fortunate to starve.
Empirically, of course, we know that private property orders have solved the problems of poverty and hunger more than any other socioeconomic alternative, for the reason that the wealth accumulated by the rich takes the form of capital goods that produce more and more consumer goods at lower and lower prices for ordinary people. In other words, even if someone wanted to accumulate as much wealth as possible for himself his only avenue of doing so is to serve the needs of others.
That aside, however, the theoretical error of the anti-capitalists is to confuse permissibility on the one hand with promotion on the other. Yes, capitalism and freedom give you the right to be selfish and greedy, but they do not demand that you be so – you are just as free to give away all of your wealth as you are to accumulate as much of it for yourself as possible. Thus, libertarians are advocating only for your right to choose your actions. They are not stating that any conceivable action within your range of options is necessarily a good and beautiful thing, nor should anything you do be immune from criticism simply because it is peaceful and voluntary.
For instance, a libertarian would say that a person should have the legal right to smoke three packets of cigarettes a day. But he is not saying that a person should smoke three packets of cigarettes a day, nor that such a heavy volume of smoking is a wise and beneficial choice. True enough, there will be libertarians who, out of either naivety or a personal commitment to libertinism, do indeed reason in such a fashion, seeing nothing morally wrong with any possible choice one may make so long as it does not breach the non-aggression principle. Libertarianism itself, however, entails no such advocacy – it is the foundation upon which wider moral problems should be solved, not the final word. Continue reading
The “Big Tech” Problem
By Duncan Whitmore
“The legislature, were it possible that its deliberations could be always directed, not by the clamorous importunity of partial interests, but by an extensive view of the general good, ought, upon this very account, perhaps, to be particularly careful, neither to establish any new monopolies of this kind, nor to extend further those which are already established. Every such regulation introduces some degree of real disorder into the constitution of the state, which it will be difficult afterwards to cure without occasioning another disorder.”
– Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
The debate over the power of social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook has intensified this past week when both platforms attempted to restrict the distribution of reports concerning allegations of corruption made against Democrat Presidential nominee Joe Biden. The precise details are unimportant; suffice it to say that the reports are likely to prove damaging to the Biden campaign if disseminated widely amongst the electorate. Both Twitter and Facebook restricted the sharing of the New York Post’s story on the matter, while the White House Press Secretary was locked out of her Twitter account. All of this, of course, takes place against the backdrop of “cancel culture” and the censorship of information (even from authoritative sources) that challenges the official narrative of lockdown and restriction in response to COVID-19.
Although, in this particular instance, the social media companies may end up succumbing to the “Streisand Effect” – the phenomenon whereby any attempt to ban or censor information increases its allure and, thus, leads to a greater degree of exposure overall – those on the right have responded in at least one of two ways to this latest betrayal of the apparent leftist bias that pervades Silicon Valley. Continue reading
By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK
So, there I was, at Speakers’ Corner, in Hyde Park, at 3pm, on Sunday the 18th of March, 2018. So what was I doing there? Attempting, in my own small way, to defend that most sacrosanct of English monuments to civilisation, peace, truth, freedom, and property, the concept of freedom of speech, that’s to say, the ability of an individual to say what some other person or group of people may wish to remain unsaid.
The other group of people who usually wish to suppress free speech are, of course, a group who like to call themselves ‘the government’, or even better than that, ‘the authorities’. Where they get this oft-claimed ‘authority’ is one of those things that they would prefer the rest of us never to think about, I suppose.
I personally prefer to call these people, who I regard as nothing more than a jumped-up tenacious mafia gang, ‘the state’.
And I regard that as a short-hand for Professor Hoppe’s words: The state is … “an institution run by gangs of murderers, plunderers and thieves, surrounded by willing executioners, propagandists, sycophants, crooks, liars, clowns, charlatans, dupes and useful idiots – an institution that dirties and taints everything it touches.”
Leftism versus Humanity
Speech to the Mises UK Conference
at the Charing Cross Hotel in London
27th January 2018
We are, I believe, at a turning point in history. I see a glimmer, the tiniest wee glimmer, of the ‘End of Socialism’. So what is socialism? At its core, it’s a religion of theft. And its God is ‘The State’.
So what’s ‘The State’? Well, the state is a murderous organised criminal gang, aided and abetted by its intellectual bodyguards who get their cut by masking this criminality.
My hero, Murray Rothbard; he was pessimistic in the short-term. He thought socialism would dominate the world. But he was equally optimistic for the long-term. When the masses suffer poverty, chaos and misery, that socialism always brings, in places like Venezuela, it eventually gets swept away.
But now we’re here in Rothbard’s long-term. Should we be pessimistic or should we be optimistic? This morning, I want to talk about why I think I can see the possible end of socialism and how we here can help accelerate this process along.
To do it, we need to analyse what makes socialism so appealing despite its utter stupidity. Then we can weaponise these ideas to put our boots onto its neck.
State Censorship, Corporate Censorship:
A Libertarian View
6th September 2017
Every age we have so far known has been one of censorship. This is not to say that opinion has been equally constrained in all times and places. Sometimes, as in the Soviet Union, it has been oppressive and omnipresent – even extending to an imposition of orthodoxy on the natural sciences. More often, it has been focussed on perceived criticisms of the established political and religious order. Sometimes, dissent has been permitted among the intellectual classes – especially when expressed in a language unknown to the people at large, and only punished when communicated to the people at large. Sometimes, a diversity of political orders has limited any particular censorship to an area of just a few square hundreds of miles. Sometimes it has been limited by a general belief in the right of free expression. But I can think of no time or place where publication has been absolutely unconstrained. Continue reading
By D. J. Webb
This is a brief note on a relatively new phrase. The word “troll” literally means a cave-dwelling giant or dwarf, but its use has been extended to people who inhabit Internet discussion boards and post deliberately provocative opinions. The idea is that such people are just trouble makers and should be ignored: don’t feed the troll. However, a much more recent term has come to my attention: a high-functioning troll. This phrase is new enough to have only 226 instances on Google. Continue reading