Saturday, March 24, 2012

Liberty, Law, Government

Liberty is most simply defined as the freedom to do as one pleases - it is the freedom to think or act without being constrained by necessity or external force.  Liberty is among the most fundamental concepts of human life: that the individual has both the ability and the right to exercise his or her own free will, to make choices for himself or herself, and to act on them, without interference by others.

Why is there such a thing as liberty?  Why does an individual have this ability and right?  The answer is self ownership.  This is your life - it does not and cannot belong to anyone else.  These are your thoughts - they arise from your consciousness in the privacy of your mind.  This is your productivity - those things that you create belong to you.  You own yourself, and because of this you own your decisions and the results of those decisions - your successes, and also sometimes your failures.  When you own something, you have control over it, whether it is physical or conceptual.  Your ownership of yourself gives you both the ability and the right.  Life itself yields this self ownership from which liberty flows.

Individual liberty is virtually without limit - the only natural and correct constraint on individual liberty are those activities which interfere with the liberty of other individuals.  In other words, you are free to do as you please, unless the action impedes another individual from doing has he or she pleases.  This is the true meaning of Law.  It is simply the codification of the above principle - your actions cannot diminish the liberty of others.
What is law? What ought it to be? What is its domain? What are its limits? Where, in fact, does the prerogative of the legislator stop?
I have no hesitation in answering, Law is common force organized to prevent injustice; — in short, Law is Justice.
- Frédéric Bastiat, The Law
So we see that Law is the intentional and cooperative creation of individuals whose sole purpose is the protection of their individual liberty.  It would seem the very meaning of Law provides a litmus test for the actions of any body of men who assert their authority over others.  Unfortunately, it is clear that the majority of the men and women running the government of the United States have resoundingly failed this litmus test.

These men and women claim to implement the Law, but in reality they have really implemented something entirely different, a monopoly of force whose purpose is the exact opposite of Law.  With heavy reliance on this monopoly of force, government seems now to exist solely to coerce individuals, to reduce their liberty, and to expand its own size and powers.  Government force is used to suppress dissent and crush individualism, and is often used at the behest of corporations in order to destroy competition. Yet people go on believing that government is there to protect them and that it is right and just for the government to have this monopoly of force.

It is startlingly easy to prove that this is bald faced hypocrisy.  Consider the rights of individuals.  If an individual does not have the right to commit violence against another individual, then a group, which is simply a several individuals gathered with common purpose, does not have the right to commit violence against an individual either.  Since neither an individual nor a group has the right to commit this violence, then of course neither can they delegate this right to another group, not even one calling itself "government".  A group, no matter is size or self described importance, can have no rights that an individual does not have, because rights belong to individuals.  That is the hypocrisy of the government monopoly of force.

One can see why prominent thinkers believed in and created a small government here in the United States - they knew there needs must be some kind of framework to implement the Law, but that any such framework could quickly get out of control.
The best government is that which governs least.
- Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Monday, March 5, 2012

Big bad oil industry

Two charts for your perusal, I will write something later. All data from EIA.

The first chart show the price of oil from 1986 to 2012, and the price of gasoline in New York and Los Angeles tracking the oil price quite well.  Layered on top are the two major wars we are involved in over there in the Middle East and the "great recession," that the government tells us has already ended.

The second chart shows the price of gasoline as a fraction of the price of crude oil and the trend - as you can see gasoline is actually getting cheaper compared to crude.

Here is the world oil production, and OPEC production, from 2001 on.  As you can see by 2005 OPEC and world production each increased by about 10% over the 2001 levels.