Archives for October 2015

Wealth Is Unlimited! (from the “Cliff Notes” version of “Healing Our World”)

The tragic sight of children starving in developing nations evokes the desire to eradicate poverty forever. To be effective is such a quest, however, we need to understand what wealth is and how it is created.

We usually equate money with wealth, but they are really two different things. Imagine a person stranded on a desert island without food, water, shelter, or medicine, but with $1 billion in gold coin. Is this person wealthy?

Hardly! Food, water, shelter, and medicine — prerequisites for survival – are true wealth. Money can only buy available goods or services. If no wealth is available, money is worthless.

For most of human history, people lived in poverty at about $1000 per year. However, in the early 1800s, that began to change. What we now call the developed countries began making wealth at a much more rapid rate. Third World countries remained poor.

What was the difference between countries that became rich and those that remained poor?  Studies have shown that the most important determinant of whether a country will be wealthy is how free it is from government aggression. The United States in the early 1800s was more economically free than modern nations had ever been.  The British government relaxed some of its restrictions on British citizens shortly after the American Revolution, making it much freer as well. Some European countries followed their example. The nations which remained poor did so because they also remained less free.

Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with virtually open immigration and almost no resources, went from abject poverty in the early 1950s to a per capita income that rivalled that of the United States in 1996. Hong Kong was consistently rated as one of the freest nations in the world prior to its takeover by China in the mid-1990s.

Studies also show that when nations abandon even some aggression through government, wealth creation in those countries increases. The poor benefit the most by this shift. For them, the increased wealth means a full belly and a chance at life. Encouraging economic freedom in the developing nations would be the fastest way to make starvation a historical curiosity.

Wealth is virtually unlimited, because it stems from use existing resources in new ways, often times by replacing the use of scarce resources with more abundant ones. Yet jobs, the source of modern day wealth creation, often seem limited. In the next post, we’ll explore how jobs and wealth creation can be thwarted by some of the very laws we hope will alleviate the suffering of the poor.

Dr. Ruwart shares these posts as part of a “Cliff Notes” version of her award-winning international best-selling libertarian primer, “Healing Our World.” The next post from “Healing Our World” will be “How Jobs Are Destroyed.” If you’d like to learn more about wealth creation before the next post, check out Chapter 2 of the 1993 edition of Dr. Ruwart’s book, “Healing Our World,” in her Free Library at http://www.ruwart.com/product/healing-our-world.

SAVE When You Inspire Family and Friends to Embrace Liberty This Christmas!

Sometimes those around us don’t understand our zeal for liberty—-and that can be pretty uncomfortable.  But what if you could change that with a simple $19.95 gift this Christmas.  Would it be worth it to you?

I wrote Healing to share the good news of liberty with Christians, environmentalists, pragmatists, liberals, and those in the personal empowerment movement. In easy-to-read prose, Healing shows how liberty enriches the poor, protects the environment, deters crime, and defuses terrorism.

I’ve lost count of how many people come up to me at conventions and tell me that they just didn’t “get” liberty until a family member or friend gave them a copy of Healing. “If someone explained libertarianism to me this way in the beginning, I’d have joined the movement a long time ago!” they usually confide.

But Healing isn’t just for family and friends. If you’ve ever been at a loss when someone asks, “How would this work in a libertarian society?”, you’ll probably want a copy for yourself too.  The 2015 edition of Healing has over 1300 citations of how liberty works in the toughest testing ground of all—the real world.

Healing retails for $29.95 and is only $24.95 here on my website.  Now, until Christmas, you can get an additional $5 off on your order, so you only pay $19.95 per copy. Volume discounts are also available, making it easy to show friends and family how liberty gives them just what the season is for:  peace on earth and goodwill to all. Click here to order now.

However you celebrate Christmas this year, I’ll be thinking of you and your dedication to making our world a better place!  Have a merry one!

 

Is Libertarianism Really About Politics? (from the “Cliff Notes” version of “Healing Our World”)

To answer that question, we need to know how libertarianism is defined. Libertarianism is the simple morality we learned as children: don’t start the fight by hitting first, don’t steal or destroy another’s property, don’t cheat, and keep your promises. If you inadvertently fail to live up to these standards, make it up to the person you’ve harmed.  This two-part ideology of honoring our neighbor’s choice and righting our wrongs is known as the non-aggression principle (NAP) and is the foundation of libertarianism.

You probably recognize the NAP as the way you normally relate to your neighbors on a daily basis.  The only time you’d engage in physical force would be to defend yourself from someone who is violating the NAP, like a would-be thief or murderer.  If you violate the NAP by putting a baseball through your neighbor’s window accidentally, you’d own up to it and replace it.  In most of our daily interactions, we are libertarians or “Good Neighbors.”

This philosophy is deeply embedded in many religions as well.  Christians, for example, might recognize the NAP as a way to “love our neighbors as ourselves” or a restatement of the part of the Ten Commandments that deals with human interactions.  Ethicists might see the NAP as a reflection of the Golden Rule.

Being a Good Neighbor keeps our neighborhoods peaceful and prosperous.  Few people want to live where residents frequently steal from each other or shoot at each other.  Such neighborhoods are dangerous to live in.  Property values plummet as people leave for better neighborhoods: neighborhoods where libertarianism (the NAP) is the norm.

Why then do we hear about libertarianism only in a political context?  The answer is simple: in politics, the NAP is generally abandoned.  As a society, we’ve come to accept certain forms of aggression as necessary and good as long as they done through government.  Libertarians who engage in politics are trying to make society aware that violations of the NAP—even by government—result in the same bad ends that we get in our neighborhood:  poverty and strife. In trying to do good through aggression, we get the bitter fruits of war and poverty instead.

The founders of the U.S. were, for the most part, aware of this problem.  They wanted liberty.  Liberty, in the political sense, is the freedom from aggression, especially aggression-through-government.  Liberty has come to be thought of—erroneously—as the freedom to do as we please. This misunderstanding happened because the things people wanted to do most—like working in a particular job so they could feed themselves and their families—were stopped by aggressive government.  Many Europeans immigrated to the U.S., for example, in order to escape the guild system imposed by their governments.  The idea that liberty was freedom from government aggression became entangled with the idea of freedom to do as one pleased.

Libertarianism became a political movement because, as a society, we’ve abandoned the NAP in that arena. In the posts to follow, we’ll explore how applying the Good Neighbor Policy in politics might heal the world by enriching the poor, saving the environment, deterring crime and defusing terrorism.  That’s the compassion of libertarianism—a better world for all!

Dr. Ruwart shares these posts as part of a “Cliff Notes” version of her award-winning international best-selling libertarian primer, “Healing Our World.” The next post from “Healing Our World” will be “Wealth Is Virtually Unlimited!” If you’d like to learn more about the NAP before the next post, check out the Introduction and Chapter 1 of the 1993 edition of Dr. Ruwart’s book, “Healing Our World,” in her Free Library at http://www.ruwart.com/product/healing-our-world.

 

Is the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) Dead?

Recently, the NAP has been the subject of a number of blogs posted by people who question its ethical basis, practicality, and universality.  As someone who has written extensively on this subject for over two decades, I thought I’d weigh in.

Basically, the NAP has two parts. First of all, we don’t threaten others with first-strike force, fraud or theft. If we do, we make things right again with the person we’ve harmed, usually through restitution. For example, if we put a baseball through our neighbor’s window, we buy a new one.  The NAP, or as I like to call it, the Good Neighbor Policy, is what most of us were taught as children.  In relating to each other on an individual basis, most of us still adhere to it.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise.  The NAP has been “discovered” and “rediscovered” by tribes/civilizations since before the written word and passed down as oral tradition. The Ten Commandments has language reminiscent of the NAP as well:  thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery (break contracts), thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness (commit fraud), thou shalt not covet … anything that is thy neighbor’s.

The NAP is not pacificism. If someone threatens first-strike force against us, we don’t violate the NAP by defending ourselves with enough force to stop the aggressor. If I come after you with a knife or gun, and you knock me unconscious with a baseball bat, that’s perfectly appropriate.

If, as I lie unmoving, you continue to beat me with the baseball bat, that would likely be use of excessive force. While you are entitled to restitution for any trauma I’ve caused, you risk becoming an aggressor yourself by exacting vengeance instead of giving me a chance to apologize and make things right with you once I’ve been stopped.

Restitution is both a deterrent and rehabilitation. Japan, which encourages a restitution settlement between victims and aggressors before the trial, boasts a low crime rate. In the U.S. and other western nations, cases resolved, in whole or part by restitution, have greater victim satisfaction.

Restitution is an integral part of the NAP; it re-balances the scales after first-strike force, fraud, or theft.  Since most of us will violate the NAP at some point, it’s important to understand how restitution works.

For example, let’s say you are standing at street corner waiting for the light to change.  You notice a man talking on his cell, oblivious to the fact he’s about to step off the curb right into the path of an oncoming car.  Just as he’s about to be hit, you grab the back of his jacket and pull him to safety.  You’ve initiated force against him, not to harm him, but to help him.

Do you feel like you’ve done something wrong?  No!  You’ve just saved the man’s life; he’s going to be thanking you, not suing for restitution.  You haven’t harmed him or his property, so there is nothing for you to restore.

Let’s take another example.  You are hiking in the woods with your ten-year-old child and lose your way.  Your child screams; he has been bitten by a rather large rattlesnake, which is now making a hasty exit.

Your son needs immediate attention. As you look frantically around, you see a house—finally! It looks lived in, but is vacant at the moment.  You see a landline telephone as you look through the kitchen window, which could be life-saving. You are too far out in the wilderness for your cell to work and you need first-aid instruction.  You see car keys in the kitchen and a car in the garage.  If you had directions to the nearest hospital, your son would have a chance.

Do you violate the NAP by breaking into the house, using the phone, and taking the car? The answer is almost certainly “Yes!”  You’re quite willing to pay restitution to the homeowner at some later date.  In most instances, the homeowner will just want the broken entryway replaced and maybe a full tank of gas. Helping is so instinctual that we usually take great pride in being able to render it.

Of course, the homeowner might not be “usual.” Maybe he’ll demand $100,000 as restitution for the day-use of his car.  The man whose life you saved might trip as you pull him from the curb, break his leg, and expect you to pay his hospital bills.  For times when people can’t agree, a third party, such as a judge or arbitrator, can be called upon for resolution.  Gray areas will exist in any system we choose to adopt when interacting with our neighbors.

How does government fit into all this?  Maybe government is just trying to protect us, by pulling us back from a figurative curb or taking what belongs to one person to help another.  How is this different from the violations of the NAP described above?

The difference is that government usually claims “sovereign immunity” to limit the restitution it must pay.  Most of the time, it pays no restitution at all.  Even when it does, the individual bureaucrats who harmed others with their decisions are rarely held personally liable, as you or I would be if we committed the same acts. They have little or no incentive to do things differently next time. Their violation of the NAP, and harm that they do, usually escalates as a consequence.

The libertarian philosophy, which has the NAP as its foundation, is primarily a political movement only because this ethic is missing in politics. In our individual interactions, most of us are libertarians. Maybe the reason that politics feels dirty is because harming others without making it right again feels like a criminal act, even when done by bureaucrats and politicians with the best of intentions.

Dr. Mary J. Ruwart is a research scientist, ethicist, and a libertarian author/activist. You can read her Q&A about restitution in the Free Library at http://www.ruwart.com/restitution or Chapter 13 of her award-winning book, “Healing Our World.”