When Libertarians Do History…

When Libertarians do history, it is a mess most of the time. Typically what ends up happening in the work of some libertarian scholars is some kind of conspiracy theory of the mainstream trying to hide the truth, and usually these things turn out to be assertions. Nothing but statements without evidence and this is bad. Case in point is the lecture by Jack Chambless on Alexander Hamilton.

Starting at 0:13:10 Chambless says :

In the Federalist Papers, it appeared much of what Hamilton wrote was in support of a limited government, and warned the American people of a government that was given too much power, but before the ink on the parchment was dry, Alexander Hamilton took a completely different course to undermine everything what limited government was supposed to stand for…

Alexander Hamilton was a genius in that the only way he could ever achieve the objective of a monarchy… was to have a Constitution ratified filled with enough clauses that could be interpreted by future governments in their own way so as to slowly bring about the objective that he wanted to achieve. The five hour speech failed to established anything that he wanted done in the Constitutional Convention. So why not support the Constitution as its written and then bit by bit, whether it was in support of Supreme Court justices, or the support of the Bank of the United States. Why not go bit by bit if you can’t get it all done.

I am not really sure what Chambless means by ‘limited government’ so I can’t really go ahead and rebut this claim that The Federalist Papers supported such a position. What I can tell you though is how The Federalist Papers and how the Constitution came about. In short, the Constitution was written as a new form of government to improve the system that we had, which was in the Articles of Confederation. All three of the authors in The Federalist Papers agreed that the powers of the central government were too limited in the Articles of Confederation. So, at least given this, all three authors had the intention to have a greater sized government than in the Articles. And this is exactly the position they defended in their 85 articles in The Federalist Papers. The reason for the advocacy of the Constitution was so that the Union would be preserved, and if it meant to give more power to the central government, so be it. This was the purpose of the government in the Constitution and in The Federalist Papers. To have a united nation, and not some confederacy where each State can make their own rules ignoring the rules listed in the central government. If this is what is implied in Chambless’ “limited government” label, then yes, The Federalist Papers support such a position, but I have a feeling that this is not what he is talking about when he means “limited government”.

And of course The Federalist Papers contain passages criticizing the role of “too much government”. But this criticism can be made by people in multiple political positions. Is Chambless implying that the only people who talk of “too much government” comes from those who are active in praising themselves in support of “limited government”? To apply this in historical context though, Americans were bothered from the fact that Britain failed to give the American colonies some type of representation in Parliament. So when Britain enacted taxes on the colonies, Americans felt that this was unjust because we didn’t have a representative giving “our side of the story”, we were just ordered to pay the taxes or else… This is an example of government going beyond its limits and its the type of government that the Americans at the time rebelled against, hence The Revolutionary War.

And it is equally puzzling when he mentions Hamilton’s advocacy for a Bank of the United States or support for supreme court justices and implying that this was just some steps made by Hamilton to transform the United States into this “monarch” system. I could only assume that he thinks of Jefferson and Madison as people who opposed such measures and considered them unconstitutional. But I’ll just give one example, which shows why these claims are without merit.

Here is James Madison in one of his most popular anti-bank quotes:

History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.

I am sure Chambless looks at this and goes, “Right on, the author of the Constitution was against central banking, see its unconstitutional!” Though, it was the same James Madison who signed into law the Second bank of the United States in 1816. It took the aftermath of a war, the War of 1812, to show to Madison that banks were needed for an economy. So maybe, it was Madison, not Hamilton, that envisioned the future state of the United States to be a monarchy for his signing of the 2nd Bank of the United States! Or (even better) Madison and Hamilton had this plan all along to blind people and make them believe that they were political rivals but in reality, they thought exactly the same! Of course the last two claims are absurd but that is exactly how Chambless views Hamilton when he states that Hamilton was a genius in making believe people he was anti-monarchy but in reality thought of monarchy as a supreme system and slowly implemented it by his support of the 1st Bank of the United States among other things. Like I said in the beginning of the post, many libertarians feel like they have to incorporate some type of conspiracy theory, for reasons that I can only speculate on. It is very horrible scholarship to do this and I really question FEE if they really believe that this guy is giving a true historical account of Hamilton, and not some libertarian fairy tale of Hamilton.

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Oh I Should Stop Youtube Commenting

I guess I am one of the few people who can start a comment on trying to make the case of Bart Ehrman as a historian and end up talking about Keynesian economics, Mises, and Henry Hazlitt. I just had to though, the claim was just too dumb not to comment on it. One can find the debate here in the comments section of the video.

The person that I was debating made a claim that Ehrman was not a proper historian, but merely just a textual critic. I asked if one needs to have a degree in the subject to be able to call yourself a historian, he responded, “yes.”**

Well this automatically encouraged me to point to Keynes, which he was trained as a mathematician, yet he was an Economist professionally. This is where I found out the person I was debating with was a libertarian or at least talked about Keynes as such. Here was his response:

You mean the same Keynes whose policies have resulted in rampant deficits and caused massive economic unheavals? You mean the same Keynes who ignores the human part of economics, because he thought as a mathematician and ignored human interactions in economies? That Keynes is your example? Who the hell cares that greedy politicians and kooky leftists believe in his theories, the collapsing economies around the world show the worth of his theories on economics.

Now when I mentioned Keynes, I really did not want to go into detail about Keynesian economics, I simply wanted to point out that there are people that are trained for one thing but yet does something else professionally, or in the case of Ehrman, they combine fields of study. But, okay, since he talked about Keynes like he did, I assumed (and assumed correctly) that he was a fan of Mises and Hazlitt, both of whom never had a degree in Economics. Hell, Hazlitt even dropped out of college, yet libertarians love to talk about Hazlitt as an economic god. I know, I even used to do it.  Using the person’s same logic, though, both Mises and Hazlitt were never really proper economists.

Now that I think about it, I should have mentioned Bruce Caldwell, who got his PhD in Economics, even went off to do post-grad Economics work at NYU, but nevertheless, he is known to be an Economic Historian. Are we going to go to the extent to not call Caldwell a historian, or looking at his work as not contributing to the field of History? I hope not. I love Caldwell’s work and have no problem calling it history, but I am sure Caldwell does not have the same historical training as people who actually have PhDs in History, but so what?

The way we label people to call them economists, historians, philosophers, political scientists, etc etc is by looking at their work and seeing how it relates to specific fields. Not only that, but to also show how their works contribute to the given field. When Ehrman claims to be a historian, you have to put it in context to his studies on Jesus and how he determines Jesus as an historical figure, the same way we would do it with anybody else. I don’t know, am I missing something? This seems like a perfectly logical way to explain how we label people this way. It sure makes more sense than, “If they don’t have a degree in History, they shouldn’t call themselves historians.”

**

Me: are you saying you cant be a historian without having a degree in history? are you saying that the method Bart uses to claim jesus as a historical figure is not the same method used by other historians to claim others as historical figures… come on now, you have to do better than this..

Him/Her: Yes that is what I’m saying. If I wrote a book about brain surgery, does that make me a brain surgeon? Historian is a career choice, which involves a lot of education, it’s not something you can become just because you decide to write a book on the subject. At best, Bart is an amateur historian, which I would give as much respect to as I would an amateur brain surgeon.

Government Working Around It’s Own System

Not too long ago, the Department of Justice (DoJ) sued a 90+ year old lady for failing to report the sale of a product (in this case suicide kits) in her taxes. Keep in mind the DoJ has made it clear that they are not suing her because of the sale of the suicide kits. But I think it is clear that the main reason that the DoJ sued this lady is because she is selling something that the government feels wrong to sell. The police department in San Diego know of at least four people in the last year that have committed suicide using these kits and one of them happens to be a 19 year old kid. This at least provides the incentive for government officials to get this product off the streets, even though it is not illegal to sell suicide kits.

But then one might say to me so far, “Well you are just being suspicious of the government. Clearly, she has done something wrong (not reporting the sales in her taxes) and she has to pay for it. The government just wants the taxes, nothing more, nothing less.” And I would agree with this criticism, maybe the government only wants the tax money and could care less about the product she is selling, if it wasn’t for the court’s ruling on this case. The court’s ruling states that she has to work for the IRS to pay back her debt, and she has to agree that she would not sell these suicide kits again. The first part of the ruling is pretty common in cases like these, ‘ You fail to pay your taxes, so you have to work to pay back the debt you owe us,’ but the second part is clearly not, ‘You failed to report the sale of suicide kits in your taxes, so you must agree to never sell these suicide kits ever again!’ Clearly the government wanted these suicide kits off the streets, and since there is no law restricting people to sell such objects, they have to work around the system. Wow, the system working around its own system, how ironic.

This is even more absurd if we were to substitute other objects instead of suicide kits For example:

  • ‘You failed to report the sale of used televisions in your store, therefore you must pay back your debt, and agree to never sell used televisions again’
  • You failed to report the sale of homemade candles at this swap meet, therefore you must pay back your debt, and agree to never sell your candles again!’

This is an obvious case of the government breaking its own laws. Don’t get me wrong, I want a government, I believe that in order to have a stable decent society, the society must have a government (which I know my ideas of the government differs from those of other libertarians, maybe it is more correct to call me a classical liberal), but I want a government that knows its laws and is consistent in how it looks after its society.

– Isaac Marmolejo

To Hell With Habeas Corpus In Certain Situations

“The Constitution’s guarantee of due process is ironclad, and it is essential, but … it does not require judicial approval before the president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war, even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen,” – Eric Holder

Stossel -v- Typical Republican

I feel bad for Stossel because for some reason he gets a harsh wrap in some libertarian circles, but I never really understood why. Many believe he is some Fox News puppet, pretending to be libertarian in order to bring libertarian viewers to Fox. But I do not this is the case for a couple reasons: 1: He is  very critical of the Republican establishment, just watch his show, 2: There is no evidence to support this claim, and 3: He is an open agnostic. But what I want to talk about in this post is the point of being critical of the Republican establishment, and this is quite clear if we look at the Drug War debate he had with Ann Coulter.

Clearly Stossel exposes Republican irrationality in this debate. Coulter’s basic premise of ‘we need to control what people do because we live in a welfare state’ is insane because this extends to what we can do in our daily lives, and not just what drugs we may consume in our own homes. But also her facts are all wrong. Coulter claims that death rates decreased during the times when alcohol was illegal because it reduced alcohol related deaths, and that murder decreased but as Stossel showed, murder rose during times of Prohibition. And what is the typical Republican response when facts contradict their beliefs : I don’t believe that!

But let me get back to Coulter’s premise – we need to control people because we live in a welfare state. She further justifies this position by saying because she is a tax payer of the welfare state that she has a right to control the lives of what people are doing because she assumes that people that takes drugs will lead to a higher dependence of public services. I do not know if this is necessarily true, as a lot of successful people have taken drugs before (and since she is the one making the claim, I would love to see evidence of this claim), but legalizing or at least decriminalizing drugs would reduce the amount of money we spend in prisons, that I can say for sure. They would reduce the policy programs that target solely drug users. The United States currently puts a lot of money into funding prisons and police drug programs and this would surely decrease if drugs were legal.

Also, in an economics perspective, according to Milton Friedman, an economist that is supposedly praised to the right wingers, criminalizing drugs generally brings drug users that use mild drugs to more heavy drugs. For example, in the case for weed,  where it is a bulky substance, thus relatively easier to detect, thus increasing the cost for it, has led people drugs like cocaine where it is less bulky. Also on top of that, making the drug costs more, leads people to create more harmful versions of hard drugs. For example, Friedman points out that one of the reasons for the creation for crack was because cocaine was too expensive.

In conclusion, it is going to be nearly impossible to convince the typical Republican on the issue on drugs, simply because they have this predetermined idea of their ‘perfect’ conservative society….sick and Coulter is the one calling us kooky, can you say ironic?

-Isaac Marmolejo

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Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty: Intro

I like the intro, and hopefully I can say the same for the entire book once I am finished.

The way I interpret the intro is almost of a critique to the current day liberty advocate.He claims that much of the writings on liberty have to do with appeals to emotion and Hayek understands why they appeal to emotion. The writings on liberty (in a libertarian or classical liberalist point of view) is often very powerful. In a sense, they get us ‘pumped up.’ Or as Hayek states, “[I]n writing about liberty the temptation to appeal to emotion is often irresistible (p. 6).” Nevertheless, Hayek wants to talk about liberty from a different point of view, specifically in a more intellectual point of view.  The emotions on liberty might be desirable, and very well need be to nourish, but “…the strong instincts on which the struggle for liberty has always nourished itself are indispensable support, they are neither a safe guide nor a certain protection against error. The same noble sentiments have been mobilized in the service of greatly perverted aims. Still more important, the arguments that have undermined liberty belong mainly to the intellectual sphere, and we must therefore counter them… (p 6)”

I agree with this and what I think where Hayek was going with this was that the classical liberals/libertarians need to become more practical in what they want to see happen. Don’t get me wrong, it is all fun and games when I get together with libertarians and come up with hypothetical situations, like assuming a stateless society or assuming a completely non regulated free market, etc. and debating on what to do given specific issues, or what is the most libertarian thing to do (under the given hypothetical situation), but I only look at these talks as fun mind games. These hypothetical situations assume away much of reality. What Hayek offers here is a start of a way to think about liberty in a more practical, intellectual view. Of course, this is not to say that the emotional aspect is pointless, its not, but we have to take into consideration other aspects in what makes liberty a philosophy that society should strive for.

A side note: I have mentioned this but just to be clear, ‘liberty’ is meant in a general classical liberal point of view and is defined throughout the book as implied on page 7.

-Isaac Marmolejo