Tag: libertarianism

Economics: What It Is and Is Not

Economics: What It Is and Is Not

“Economics is not about things and tangible material objects; it is about men, their meanings, and actions. Goods, commodities, and wealth and all other notions of conduct are not elements of nature; they are elements of human meaning and conduct. He who wants to deal with them must not look at the external world; he must search for them in the meaning of acting men.”
– Ludwig von Mises
 

The author is a first year law undergraduate and enthusiast of the Austrian School of economics. You can follow him on Twitter @HenryHazlitt3.

This article was originally published on austrianschooleconomics.blogspot.com. Read the original article.


In his seminal treatise, Human Action, Ludwig von Mises put forward a definition of economics as the scientific study of human action. Mises conceived of economics as a branch of what he called praxeology, his term for the general, formal science of human action. For Mises, it was of paramount importance that economic reasoning and analysis be predicated on human action and not material commodities and their physical properties. While this may seem trite, I hope this essay will convince you otherwise.

Human Action 

When we observe phenomena in the world and try to make sense of their underlying causation, we invariably discern between purposeful action and unmotivated behaviour. We can either explain phenomena in terms of the purposive actions of human beings, or we can attribute them to natural laws. In the economic realm, we explain phenomena by reference to purposeful actions on the part of human beings. Mises’ student and intellectual successor, Murray Rothbard, explained purposeful human action as,

“purposeful behaviour toward the attainment of ends in some future period which will involve the fulfilment of wants otherwise remaining unsatisfied.”

When a human acts, he employs means in an endeavour to achieve an end or a goal that he subjectively values. Moreover, since action is intentional we can say it is teleological. It is clear, then, that not all human behaviour constitutes action in the praxeological sense of the word: unconscious or reflexive behaviour — for example, coughing when exposed to tear gas — are evidently not forms of purposeful action. 

The A Priori Nature of Economic Theory

Mises’ definition of economics as the science of human action may not appear very controversial. In fact, it might seem like he is simply stating the obvious. But Mises says of economic theory,

“Its statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification and falsification on the ground of experience and facts. They are both logically and temporally antecedent to any comprehension of historical facts. They are a necessary requirement of any intellectual grasp of historical events.”

The assertion that economics is an a priori science distinguishes Misesian-Austrians from all other modern schools of thought. Besides the Austrians, all other schools regard economics as an empirical (a posteriori) science and its theorems as a collection of testable hypotheses. 

Mises did not see praxeology as a novel invention. Rather, he saw himself as merely recapitulating and systematizing economics as it had been conceived of by virtually every economist since the genesis of the discipline in the 18th century. While they did not use the term a priori, the view that economics constitutes a deductive science was held by the classical economists. This was also the view of Mises’ predecessors in the Austrian school (Menger, Bohm-Bawerk, and von Weisser).  However, at the same time Mises was formulating his theory of praxeology, a new trend was emerging in the economics profession.

Since the 1930s, an idea has prevailed that physics is the preeminent science and that all other sciences, including the social sciences, and economics in particular, must emulate its methods in order to be truly scientific. In the 1940s, the same decade Mises’ Human Action was published, Paul Samuelson’s highly successful textbook Principles of Economics was adopted by the mainstream pedagogy, and since then the neo-classical mainstream, the Chicago school, and all other non-Austrian schools have all strictly adhered to empiricist-positivism and conceived of economics as a quantitative and mathematical discipline. Only the Austrians remain true to the original and legitimate vision of economics as a deductive science. 

According to Austrian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, all true economic theorems can be “deduced by means of formal logic from this incontestably true material knowledge regarding the meaning of action.”  Hoppe rests his defence of Misesian praxeology on Kantian epistemology. The main characteristic of Kantian epistemology is the submission that synthetic a priori propositions exist. These are propositions whose truth is not derived from observational experience but by means of formal logic from a self-evident material axiom. Such axioms are self-evident because it is impossible to reject their validity without self-contradiction; the mere attempt to deny the axiom would result in implicitly assenting to its truth. What is the source of synthetic a priori axioms? They derive not from observational experience, but from internal, reflective introspection and experience.

Thus, the so-called action axiom satisfies the requirements of a synthetic a priori statement. First, any attempt at denial would by logical necessity have to be interpreted as a purposeful action. Secondly, the axiom is not derived from observation, but purely from reflective consideration. Therefore, all the implications that can be logically deduced from the action axiom must contain as much truth as the original axiom itself. It is these implications that constitute the grand edifice of economic theory. 

Conclusion 

So, what is economics? The answer should now be clear: it is the a priori science of human action. And, contrary to the empiricist-positivist trend of the last eighty years, it is emphatically not an empirical science. The damage inflicted by empiricism upon economics cannot be understated. As Hoppe points out, even if there is agreement on a particular theory, this agreement is superficial. For the positivist-empiricists believe such theories to be empirically tested propositions when they are actually true synthetic a priori propositions. Only the Austrians understand the true epistemological nature of economic science.

H


Bibliography 

Mises. 1949. Human Action 
Rothbard. 1962. Man, Economy, and State.
Hoppe. 1995. Economic Science and the Austrian Method.


The Problem With Agorism

The Problem With Agorism

“Much as I love the market, I refuse to believe that when I engage in a regular market transaction… or a black-market activity… I advance one iota nearer the libertarian revolution.” – Murray Rothbard

Michael Clem is an artist, and Program Manager in the construction management field. He and his wife Lauren reside in San Juan Capistrano California with their daughter Leona. You can find more of Michael’s political and economic commentaries on his personal site, handofglory.net

This article was originally published on handofglory.net. Read the original article.


Agorism, better known as the counter economy, is a truly wonderful thing. At its most reductive point, Agorism is a pure free-market economy based on voluntary exchange: its driving force being the direct action of creating an economy outside of the state apparatus. Based on non-violent action, Agorism immediately removes state intervention. Agorists operate marketplaces independent of the state by employing alternate currency, under-the-table work, or other black-market activities that deprive the state of its control and tax revenues. 

Agorism exists outside of the political sphere and while its direct actions have political and economic implications, Agorism holds no political ambition outside of its refusal to allow state interference within the Agora (marketplace). Agorism follows that participation in the political arena enables state interference into people’s lives and the marketplace, and illuminates an essential contradiction Libertarians ought not to ignore. How does one work towards a stateless society while simultaneously participating in the state apparatus? 

In defense of Libertarianism, it’s hard to imagine waking up to discover a stateless society, granted to us by the powers that be; It isn’t realistic. There exists but a handful of options, the predominant two being social and violent revolutions. Agorism is most definitely a method of social revolution in which we should all be participants. Still, it is not the end all be all action. Agorism is but one tool working towards accomplishing our great building project: a free society.

Agorism is beautiful, as any free market is. However, a problem lies in its limited scope. While it may deprive the state of some tax revenues, it does nothing to curb other issues, namely the state’s ability to print money to make up for shortfalls. A robust black market already exists within the US. According to the RAND Corporation,

“Spending on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine fluctuated between $120 billion and $145 billion each year from 2006 to 2016, rivaling what Americans spend each year on alcohol, according to a new study.”

Representing merely one segment of the US’ black market, those numbers are substantial and worth noting; however, the black market hasn’t slowed the parasitic nature of the state in the least. Agorism alone is not robust enough to deprive the state of its revenues.

Libertarianism requires action: one being regular participation in the Agora whenever possible. But that can’t be our only route to divorcing ourselves from the state. Frequent participation to achieve the unhampered marketplace is the end goal. Still, layer by layer, we must lift the state’s mandate. We must peacefully eliminate the state’s ability to tax, make demands on labor, manipulate currency, and so forth. No singular action will complete the project. It will take the concerted effort of every Libertarian device if we intend to reach a free society. Our ideas will only take shape when the whole of society can wrap their heads around them. As it stands, and not neglecting Agorism, we must spread the message of and fight for liberty by political means. 

MC


All Hat and No Cattle

All Hat and No Cattle

“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” – Thomas Jefferson


All talk and no action, all sizzle and no steak, all mouth and no trousers, all hat and no cattle; these idioms describe when someone’s actions don’t echo their claims. I often write on the ills of government and how ever-increasing laws infringe upon our natural rights to life, liberty, and property. But rather than focusing on state threats, this quill pivots to a matter of nuisance—a nuisance found within the ranks of the liberty movement.

I don’t presume to know the heart of every man, and the good Lord knows I’m incapable of attaining absolute consistency devoid of hypocrisy. But it strikes me that there are three main types within the liberty movement: 

  • Those who are all talk and no action. 
  • Those who act – then buckle under pressure. 
  • Those who hold fast to principles – even in the face of ruin.

Sounding off on the political state of affairs comes easy; we all partake in that. But for some, it represents a modus operandi. They complain like clashing cymbals and spit venom. They beat their chests like silver-backs as if that alone will bring change or relief. Calling social media platforms home, they build pseudointellectual fortresses from which to launch indiscriminate attacks on all who question them. And like the dark fishing spider, they devour their own, seeking short-term gains, no matter the cost.

This type does nothing to attract those new to the ideas of liberty. Their heavy footprints are mostly seen and felt within libertarianism’s perpetual infighting. I expect little from the individuals bent on lamentation – some of whom appear to be borderline neurotic, incapable of refining their ideas and presenting them in a manner that inspires.

“Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make.” – Eckhart Tolle

Our second type poses an even greater risk to lasting credibility. When writers, podcasters, and politicians in the movement achieve levels of success, they often acquire a follower base and attain notoriety. Here, we find our leaders and spokesmen, but beware of the grifters and charlatans. Some talk a great game but leave nothing but the curtains behind when the heat turns up. To them, liberty is an accouterment, a vibrant flag flown high only until it no longer brings any advantage. They are only concerned with themselves. 

Likening an invertebrate, their spineless retreat negatively impacts liberty’s advancement in two ways. First, they leave their followers disillusioned and frustrated – stalling overall momentum. Those who look up to them often put too much stock in their heroes’ opinions. When their bastions crumble, they often crumble along with them. Prudence would have us set our sights on principle over man and resist this tribal tendency.

Secondly, the abandonment of principles sends a clear message to opponents keeping a watchful eye over us: it’s a weak-willed movement. When a writer or podcaster publicly propagates one thing but privately does another, their lack of integrity does not go unnoticed. When politicians campaign on liberty only to throw those principles aside to maintain power, popping champagne bottles can be heard throughout the duopoly. In life, compromise is a reality, and nothing happens in a vacuum – but lines need to be drawn. 

Traveling off the beaten path is not easy. The prominent voices of today’s movement need to consider the costs of leading the charge. Leaders are held to a higher standard, and if they experience difficulty practicing what they preach, humility will be required to carry trust forward. No one should blame them if their heart is no longer in it. Increasing personal responsibility and reducing government is anything but fashionable, and speaking out against narratives brings down immense wrath. But there are two choices for those acting as beacons: withdraw from the spotlight and let another light the way, or press on accepting whatever consequences may come.

“When you see no present advantage, walk by faith and not by sight. Do God the honor to trust Him when it comes to matters of loss for the sake of principle.” ― Charles Spurgeon

As a committed Christian, perhaps I expect too much. I begin with the assumption that people should be willing to sacrifice for principles. Martyrdom comes in many forms and is not exclusive to Christianity. Like those I include in our third type, many individuals experience strong convictions and feel the weight of deep burdens. For them, backsliding from a belief because presenting it won’t come easy would be unthinkable. 

When a soldier stands his ground, ordered to hold the hill, the risk he faces is maiming or death. But the risks associated with the battlefield in question are of an entirely different nature. Reputations are destroyed, elections and livelihoods lost, ridicule ensues. Yet, many have tethered themselves to the ship – even when it’s taking on water. And whether or not elections are won, articles are read, and episodes are listened to, those faithful torchlights will carry on illuminating the message of individualism: a gospel of sorts. 

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every human being holds value, skill, and reasons for being here. My intention is not to spread malice or diminish individuals but rather to speak to the witnessing ability of our marginalized ranks. Our ideals, grounded in logic, tolerance, and freedom, are too important to hold back for not wanting to cause offense – and so I must be bold. To those who post and yell loudest and yet do nothing, contemplate your next steps. To those occupying seats of influence – examine yourselves and your loyalty to principle. If anyone finds themselves lacking the motivation or courage to saddle up and endure, consider hanging your hat elsewhere.

Towards integrity,

OA


Living By Example: 70 Years of Peaceful Resistance

Living By Example: 70 Years of Peaceful Resistance

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.” – Herodotus

John A. Dangelo III is an antiwar writer and full-time ER nurse. You can find his current content on IG @ antiwarwarvet.

This article was originally published on antiwarwarvet.com. Read the original article.


Despite an early chivalrous ring, World War I was not “the war to end all wars,” it was a harbinger. Western civilization emerged from the ruins of the “Great War” more belligerent than ever before, now for the sake of prognostications by so-called experts or in pursuit of ‘humanitarian’ ends.

The War to End War yet rages on, resolutely bloodless.  Soldiers for peace go over the top with an ever-expanding list of data points on failed interventions and human atrocities, working to convince their betters and their untapped legions of cannon fodder that peaceful ends must be achieved through peaceful means.  There can be no handsome unfurling of the victor’s flag above more corpses.  In place of marching tunes to remind them of love back home or of pride for their motherland, those within these wretched trenches are motivated by principle, by hope for progress, by frank human kindness.

I can think of few better who embody these mainsprings of peace, who stoically shoulder their charge amongst our ranks, than 85-year-old lifelong antiwar activist Joan H. Nicholson. 

Joan was raised in a Quaker home in Pennsylvania in the 1930s with deep connections to the Religious Society of Friends; her uncle an Executive Secretary.  Drawing on the rich history of her predecessors, Quakers “provided the background and ongoing inspiration to carry on a witness for peace and justice,” Joan recounts in our written correspondence.  

Attending college at Earlham with a Junior year at Edinburgh, Joan took her Friends-infused framework to post-war Europe like family before her. Joan’s father helped rebuild France after WWI while her aunt fed hungry German children during the interwar period.  Joan went to a workcamp in Austria where she saw the effects of blood-soaked modernity firsthand. 

After college, she joined the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Interns in Industry Project in Atlanta.  Joan worked in a bra factory by day and boarded at Morehouse College at night.  Factory workers protested their presence for residing at the all-black school over summer break and demanded the interns leave.  She did just that; taking a job on offer from Martin Luther King Sr. to teach children with Ebenezer Church.

After living in full-intentional communities in Georgia, Joan went back to Pennsylvania to teach with the Get-Set program for two years.  Failing to amend her contract in light of the Vietnam war and the burgeoning war-tax resistance movement, Joan resigned.  She refused to participate in the coercive funding of the American empire.

Over several hours on the telephone, Joan offers a firm refrain, spoken in her distinctly convicted, gentle voice, “war is just a thing that shouldn’t be.” She had decided somewhere along the way that her life would fully reflect that belief. 

As the war against Vietnam plodded on, peace protests gained new legs.  Joan joined a Quaker Action Group for weekly readings of the Vietnam war dead on the Capitol steps.  Joan read Vietnamese poems translated for an English audience. “We were arrested each time, but after five weeks, the judge finally ruled that it was unconstitutional to arrest us,” she writes. “That witness continued,” into the Pentagon itself – she laughingly interrupts herself – “can you imagine?” She remembers walking down steps into a common thruway where she and others began memorializing fallen American soldiers.  Joan and the others were promptly arrested.

Joan’s antiwar stripes were well earned, but she persisted.  Now in the late 1960s with violence in Vietnam reaching new heights, the draft was supplying incredulous holdouts for ‘service.’ Joan had other notions of what service meant.  Joan pens that she “joined the movement to nonviolently destroy or remove draft files in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.” The group “surfaced” and was called before a grand jury.  The case was dismissed as prosecutors struggled to connect activists to particular locations.

It was again alongside Quakers that Joan captured headlines in Rochester.  The Flower City Conspiracy broke into the Federal Selective Services building, the FBI, and the Attorney General’s Office and destroyed draft files.  The 8-person crew standing trial represented themselves to use the time before the judge and jury to highlight the criminality and injustice of the war against Vietnam.  The Flower City Conspiracy was facing 38 years, but the jury recommended leniency and Joan, the eldest at 36, received 15 months.

Joan’s penchant for protesting injustice ran roots even into her concrete cell block.  Joan took part in peaceful agitation for prison reform in solidarity with prisoners in Attica before the riots there.  After the smoke and gas had cleared in New York – with dozens left dead – Joan was moved with other women from Alderson to Texas where she spent the remaining 12 months of her sentence.  There, she penned a diary and began writing children’s books. 

After her release, Joan traveled back to Washington, D.C.  Amidst the shouts of the Mayday Tribe, one may have heard Joan’s cadence calling with the crowd, “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government.” The People’s Blockade, calling themselves the Mayday Collective, attempted to blockade 21 key positions around the U.S. capital.  The nation watched as police cracked down on permitted camps and tens of thousands of protestors with their usual tact of tear gas and low-flying helicopters.  Political chainsaw surgery for the manifestations of “Vietnam Syndrome.”

One morning Joan and a friend traveled to the White House, with names of the war dead echoing from the Capitol steps.  Joan had her blood drawn from a doctor and carried it with a rolled map of Vietnam into the East Room while tourists quietly shuffled between paintings.  Beneath the chandeliers with Washington himself watching like all the rest, Joan and her friend unfurled the poster reading “STOP SPILLING BLOOD” and splattered it with Joan’s blood.  She recalls that, “A small New York Times article reported that red paint had been used.” 

As overt military action in Vietnam ended, Joan went back to Pennsylvania, where she worked as a camp counselor for 12 summers.  Throughout the Cold War, with the state’s war apparatus still in the forefront of her mind, Joan remained active.  

Most pressing was the now-forgotten reconstruction of Vietnam and Cambodia.  In 1991 Joan spent three weeks with International Peace Works reaching out to Vietnamese and Cambodian communities in violation of the Trading with the Enemy Act that still wracked a Southeast Asia in recovery.  Desperate medical facilities were strangled for supplies as the IMF and World Bank were prohibited from making loans.  This economic warfare 16 years after the Fall of Saigon stymied progress as ‘legacy ordinance’ continued savaging a helpless people. “Our hosts were concerned about what might occur on the trip, because war wounds are so deep and pervasive, and we would be the first U.S. citizens seen by some of the Vietnamese since the war.  Incredibly, we were warmly welcomed by most of the people we met.  We were deeply moved and challenged by their forgiveness, courage and persistent hope for peace,” she remembers in a Friends Journal piece.  

At the end of her trip to Southeast Asia, Joan traveled to Hiroshima, Japan.  She wanted to personally bear the image, some fifty years later, of those who died beneath the uniquely American mushroom-cloud-shaped olive branch.

With over 40 years of peacemaking behind her, the road ahead became altogether different in 2001.  The once dichotomous Cold War model of supposed good versus evil transformed into a totalitarian nightmare of political-military global hegemony backed by corporate war-profiteers.  The justification for endless American military intervention struck New York City’s Twin Towers, and the Global War on Terror began.  In a few short years, as the laundry list of countries to be liberated grew, Joan hatched a plan.

Thanks to the generosity of “an old Friends Meetinghouse” owner, Joan began planting signs on the lawn facing Highway 1 in Pennsylvania.  Every morning – and every afternoon until recently – while weather permits, Joan stands outside quietly decrying the U.S. imperialism of the day.  Ever the slight, silent sentinel, Joan jealously guards her values in the face of thousands of community passersby.  

“CLOSE GUANTANAMO.”  

“STOP U.S. SUPPORT FOR KIEV.”  

“FREE MANNING, ASSANGE.”  

“ABOLISH U.S. NUCLEAR WEAPONS.”  

“STOP U.S. WARS FOR PROFIT AND PLUNDER.” 

Traveling with CodePink, Joan flew to Pakistan to meet with families and support victims of the U.S. drone program while they buzzed overhead.  She heard stories from families who lost innocent loved ones to so-called ‘precision-guided’ armaments.   She flew to Nicaragua and Haiti on mission trips supporting the impoverished and meeting with community action groups.

As she’s grown older, Joan travels less, needing help coordinating transportation and a friendly bed to rely on.  In a letter to a friend, she recalls a more recent trip to Washington.  Joan writes, “Christians and people of other religious faiths were gathered in the Hart Senate Building to pray for peace, for an end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Through prayer and stillness, word and song, we sought to reach out to the heart and minds of those who have voted for the madness of the invasions and occupation which destroyed the lives and welfare of untold millions of people and caused suffering that will endure for generations.”

In another visit to D.C., from the gallery of the House of Representatives, Joan watched as strident non-interventionist Representative Kucinich (D-OH) hosted a debate on ending the U.S. GWOT wars.  During the proceedings, a fellow member of the house repeatedly yelled, “al-Qaeda are global terrorists.” Joan couldn’t stand the hypocrisy and shouted down from the gallery, “The U.S. is the global terrorist!” She was arrested and banned from the capital for nine months. 

In 2011, on the 8th Anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Veterans for Peace organized a demonstration outside the White House to protest the illegal war and the treatment of Chelsea Manning.  Joan and the VFP members in attendance were arrested.  Everyone arrested, save Joan, was offered a $35 fee to forfeit.  Joan was told she would face the charges because of “previous cases.” Several of her fellow protestors from VFP refused to the offer and stood trial.  She writes, “As it turned out, I was thankful to be with the others on trial.” 

In her testimony, Joan criticizes the drone program and the tactics of the GWOT under the pretense of protection.  In her testimony’s closing remarks, Joan’s resolve reflected bluntly, “These unspeakable crimes against humanity were by themselves enough to compel me to join the veterans and others in front of the White House on March 19th… Peaceful efforts to effect change often seem to be futile gestures, but I believe we must never give up hope that our nation’s war policy can be radically transformed.”

That hope has ordered nearly every step Joan’s taken since she came into adulthood.  Contemptuous of an unjust ruling class and the “corporate media” she blames for perpetuating their lies, Joan manifests that dismay with kindness.  Though, there are no stars in the eyes that have seen so much.

I asked if she was at all optimistic; if she thought ‘our side’ had a chance of making real headway or effecting policy.  Stillness.

In time, Joan hesitantly chuckled. “My heavens,” she reflexively answered as she had so many times before.  

I sensed there’d been too much needless blood split for her to say; too many entrenched interests, too much money and power on the other side of no-mans land. Joan’s already connected countless weathered-by-war faces to the receiving end of the U.S. foreign policy establishment to muster the strength to lecture on change from her retirement home in Pennsylvania.

Instead, she incessantly pointed to those she considered more worthy of admiration than herself.  In each of our conversations, Joan downplayed her efforts for peace in place of those she’d come to respect throughout her years.  Joan saw my writing as a chance to highlight the work of others – earnestly agitating for peace in their times – rather than herself.

It’s precisely that deference that makes Joan’s life so admirable.  

In the era of unceasing expansion of ‘American exceptionalism’ at the barrel of a gun, Joan built her life into an obstacle; not for the sake of obstinance, but for principle.  Joan’s footprints are woven through some of the most pressing moments of 20th century America and the world beyond.

Joan’s not finished yet.  At the end of her letter to me, she writes that, “The situation in the world makes me want to continue witnessing for peace and justice as long as I can.” So tomorrow you can find her on Kennett Square’s Highway 1 – amidst her hand-written signs with a wispy peace sign – calling you to take these wretched trenches next.

John D.

Economics in 10 Tokens

Economics in 10 Tokens

A free eBooklet devoted to The Austrian School of economics

The Liberty Quill is pleased to offer “economics in 10 tokens” as a free resource for download. This eBooklet presents ten principles of Austrian economics using a tokenized approach. Please share the file found below as often as possible: that’s why it’s there.

Towards liberty.