A Radical Libertarian in the British Parliament
When Murray Rothbard was a young student, he wrote under the pen name Aubrey Herbert. I thought he made it up. Not so. There really was a man named Auberon Edward William Molyneux Herbert. He was a member of the British Parliament. He lived from 1838 to 1906. He was a disciple of Herbert Spencer who kept Spencer’s youthful idealism long after his mentor lost it. He was the author of “The Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State.”
That much I’ve known for a while, but I never bothered to read Auberon Herbert’s work. I did that recently, and I think I’ve found my muse. This man was incredible. I can’t say I’ve ever read more luxurious and erudite prose in defense of human liberty. And it’s not like the work of many people writing at the time, good on some stuff and bad on other stuff. Herbert’s writing is awesome on all subjects: property, markets, slavery, empire and colonialism, civil liberties, universal rights, and the state. He spoke about rights and the social consequences of violating rights with equal passion.
He wrote and spoke at a time of rising socialism in Europe. Britain resisted for a while, and Herbert was part of the reason. He presented one of the last clarion calls for pure liberty that occurred in the old world before World War I. He applied every effort to stopping the rise of the total state.
He penned his most famous writings in the 1870s, and they represented the best and most elaborate of the classical liberal school. He held the torch of liberty high and spoke out, consistently and constantly, for the principle of voluntarism. He viewed every state action that contradicted the principle of liberty to be a violation of rights.
Herbert presented one of the last clarion calls for pure liberty that occurred in the old world before World War I.
From his days in Parliament, Herbert came to be frustrated over the lack of fundamental questions regarding the purpose of politics. So many were involved in the attempted micro-regulation of every industry, all services, matters of state, and civic order, that state regulation of life was an ongoing threat. Herbert came to be appalled at how little thought was put into what this would do to people. Every law, every mandate, every rule, had to be enforced by violence against property and against people. They all violated the natural liberty that had giving rise to the glory of civilization at the time.
“Sooner or later,” he wrote, “every institution has to answer the challenge, ‘Are you founded on justice? Are you for or against the liberty of men?’”
Herbert argued that all state action violates the liberty of person, a liberty that should only be constrained according to Spencer’s rule: all should be permitted so long as no one is harmed. The state, despite the best of intentions, is always in the business of harm. It takes people’s property so that the politicians can use it. It takes away liberty so that the state can regulate industry. It takes away industry and creativity so that the state can enact its own plans. Looked at this way, everything the state is and does contradicts the principle of liberty.
An excellent example is national education. All the best-educated and well-to-do people seem to believe it is necessary. Taxes are levied against the richest in England, for they are the only ones with enough money to pay for it. The buildings are built and the teachers are hired. But who runs the system and who establishes the priorities for what is taught, when, and how it is taught? The elites and the rich. It is they whose views hold sway, while the working classes and the poor have very little to say about the matter. In the end, though the rich are bearing the greatest burdens of financing the system, it is the poor who bear the burdens of obeying the masters in charge of the system. This is contrary to justice.
It is also creates a system inconsistent with progress. National education means one plan for all, imposed without creativity or the possibility for adaptation to change. One view of religion must prevail at the expense of all other views. This is not tolerance but imposition, and it locks out perspectives that are different from those of the rich who administer the system. But cut the cord completely, grant full rights to all to their property and their own decisions, and tolerance at once becomes the rule.
As for self-responsibility, all state education drains it from parents. They are treated as if they can’t be trusted, and, in time, they come to confirm that perception. Public education acculturates the entire population to become passive and disempowered. This is contrary to progress because progress requires experimentation, toleration of differences, and celebration of new ideas and new ways of doing things.
Herbert further argues that any time a task is placed upon a government department, progress in that task comes to a halt. The system is frozen. To make a change appears dangerous to the bureaucracy, even revolutionary. Change happens to government agencies only under great pressure, and, even then, the change is perfunctory and cosmetic — enough to satisfy the public but not enough to fundamentally change the system. (The TSA comes to mind here, but so do all other government agencies.)
It is true in every sector of life, whether commerce, health, religion, family, or foreign relations. Once you grant the state the power to regulate some aspect of life, there will be no end to the arguments for how power is used. People will disagree on priorities. What makes one person happy makes another furious. What pleases one person pillages another. To realize the plans for one group is to subvert the plans of another. The result is a war of all against all, each interest group vying for control of the levers of power. This is not unity or peace but division, conflict, and war.
The state, despite the best of intentions, is always in the business of harm.
A person is either free or not free. It is not possible to split this difference and make a compromise, even by majority vote. Freedom is indivisible, Herbert said. Either our volition is our own or it is taken away and exercised by the state.
What are the implications of Herbert’s analysis? Taxation must be abolished and replaced by voluntary contributions to the government. If people are unwilling to pay, it is evidence that they do not consider the service rendered to be worth the price.
All monopolies and privileges granted by the state must be abolished, whether in education, the postal service, or trade. That includes libel law, since no one has a right to his or her reputation. When people call each other bad names, they must face those consequences themselves.
All state services must be abolished, including poor laws, nationalized mines, religious restrictions, and government subsidies for industry.
All restrictions on individual behavior must be abolished. That includes restrictions on alcohol and drug consumption, prostitution, mandatory vaccinations, and divorce. All must be free to do what they wish without being impeded by government decree. That includes repealing compulsory education laws, laws restricting what one does on Sunday, and child labor laws.
Finally, justice demands the end to all colonialism and imperialism against neighboring states. All people everywhere should be free to choose their own government. Nothing should be imposed on anyone, foreign or domestic.
Herbert was a voluntarist who rejected the term “anarchism,” which he took to mean lawlessness. He also rejected the use of violence in the reform of the system, writing that it is a different matter to hate the current system versus loving liberty. To love liberty is to seek peace, understanding, and universal rights and cooperation. To hate the system is to use every tactic to overthrow it, including violence. That second path does nothing to secure a lasting liberty.
As for socialism, Herbert saw it as a system resting fundamentally on force by the government against person and property. All the theories of socialism come down to this: the government can do to anyone whatever it wants in the guise of collectivization or any other excuse. It is a map for the total state — the total abolition of liberty.
Money Going to Washington
By Walter E. Williams
According to a New York Post article (May 22, 2016), in just two years, Hillary Clinton — former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state — collected over $21 million in speaking fees. These fees were paid by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Fidelity Investments, UBS, Bank of America and several hedge fund companies.
In 2015, lobbyists spent $3.22 billion lobbying Congress. In 2013 and 2014, just 10 chemical companies and allied organizations spent more than $154 million lobbying the federal government. The Center for Responsive Politics in 2013 reported that The Dow Chemical Co. "posted record lobbying expenditures" in 2012, "spending nearly $12 million," and was "on pace to eclipse" that amount. Fourteen labor unions were among the top 25 political campaign contributors between 1989 and 2014.
Many Americans lament the fact that so much money goes to Washington. Let's ask ourselves why corporations, labor unions and other groups spend billions upon billions of dollars on political campaigns, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a speech and wine and dine politicians and their staffs. Do you think that these are just civic-minded Americans who want to encourage elected officials to live up to their oath of office to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution? Do you think that people who spend billions of dollars on politicians just love participating in the political process? If you believe that either one of those notions applies, you're probably a candidate for a straitjacket and padded cell.
A much better explanation for the billions of dollars spent on Washington politicians lies in the awesome growth of government power over business, property, employment and most other areas of our lives. Having such life-and-death power, Washington politicians are in the position to grant favors. The greater their power to grant favors the greater the value of being able to influence Congress. The generic favor sought is to get Congress, under one ruse or another, to grant a privilege or right to one group of Americans that will be denied to another group of Americans. In other words, billions of dollars are spent to get Congress to do things that would be reprehensible and criminal if done privately. Let's look at one tiny representative example among the tens of thousands.
The Fanjuls are among the biggest sugar cane growers in the U.S. Both they and Archer Daniels Midland benefit immensely from reducing the amount of sugar imported to our shores from the Caribbean and elsewhere. As a result of the reduction, they can charge Americans higher prices for sugar, and because of these higher prices, ADM can sell more of its corn syrup sweetener. If they used guns and goons to stop foreign sugar from entering the U.S., they'd wind up in jail. However, if they find ways to persuade congressmen to impose tariffs and quotas on foreign sugar, they get the same result without risking imprisonment. In 2014, the combined lobbying expenditures of the Fanjuls and ADM totaled $2.8 million, and they spent $754,002 in political contributions.
The two most powerful committees of Congress are the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees. Congressmen fight to be on these committees, which are in charge of tax laws. As a result, committee members are besieged with campaign contributions. Why? A tweak here and a tweak there in the tax code can mean millions of dollars to individuals and corporations.
You might ask: What can be done? Campaign finance and lobbying reforms will only change the method of influence-peddling. If Americans would demand that Congress do only what's specifically enumerated in our Constitution, influence-peddling would be much smaller. That's because our Constitution contains no authority for Congress to grant favors or special privileges or give one American the earnings of another American.
Seeing as most Americans do not want a constitutionally bound Congress, I am all too afraid that an observation attributed to Benjamin Franklin is correct: "When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- about immigration and such things
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