What Libertarians Don’t Get About Gay Rights

A few weeks ago, I gathered that a friend is a homosexual. There were premonitory signs. He was eager to meet. He’d message me incessantly on Facebook. This doesn’t prove anything. I know another guy who does all this. He’s just weird. Maybe some people are neurotic. Perhaps their communication needs are much stronger. People are not straight forward, and perhaps these guys want to just feel safe.

This fellow is very good at his job. But, he’s still bothered by what happened in high school half a lifetime ago. When a guy tells me he’s depressed without giving me any good reason, my first guess would be that he’s gay. He doesn’t believe in marriage. When I probed further, no good reason seemed to be forthcoming. At some point, I felt he was hitting on me. There was nothing really sexual in what he said, but my intuitions don’t go wrong. I asked him whether he’s straight, and he said, “I don’t even know what I am”. I asked him whether he can give me a plain “Yes” or “No”, he said “You can’t put people in a box.” This is exactly the kind of thing leftist people say when they try to get away with something. I said, “Bye-Bye”. This is not my thing.  Continue reading “What Libertarians Don’t Get About Gay Rights”

Far above the millions that come and pass away tower the pioneers

Nietzsche compared himself to the flame that insatiably consumes and destroys itself.

“Far above the millions that come and pass away tower the pioneers, the men whose deeds and ideas cut out new paths for mankind. For the pioneering genius to create is the essence of life. To live means for him to create.

The activities of these prodigious men cannot be fully subsumed under the praxeological concept of labor. They are not labor because they are for the genius not means, but ends in themselves. He lives in creating and inventing. For him there is not leisure, only intermissions of temporary sterility and frustration. His incentive is not the desire to bring about a result, but the act of producing it. The accomplishment gratifies him neither mediately nor immediately. It does not gratify him mediately because his fellow men at best are unconcerned about it, more often even greet it with taunts, sneers, and persecution. Many a genius could have used his gifts to render his life agreeable and joyful; he did not even consider such a possibility and chose the thorny path without hesitation. The genius wants to accomplish what he considers his mission, even if he knows that he moves toward his own disaster.

Neither does the genius derive immediate gratification from his creative activities. Creating is for him agony and torment, a ceaseless excruciating struggle against internal and external obstacles; it consumes and crushes him. The Austrian poet Grillparzer has depicted this in a touching poem “Farewell to Gastein.” We may assume that in writing it he thought not only of his own sorrows and tribulations but also of the greater sufferings of a much greater man, of Beethoven, whose fate resembled his own and whom he understood, through devoted affection and sympathetic appreciation, better than any other of his contemporaries. Nietzsche compared himself to the flame that insatiably consumes and destroys itself. Such agonies are phenomena which have nothing in common with the connotations generally attached to the notions of work and labor, production and success, breadwinning and enjoyment of life.

The achievements of the creative innovator, his thoughts and theories, his poems, paintings, and compositions, cannot be classified praxeologically as products of labor. They are not the outcome of the employment of labor which could have been devoted to the production of other amenities for the “production” of a masterpiece of philosophy, art, or literature. Thinkers, poets, and artists are sometimes unfit to accomplish any other work. At any rate, the time and toil which they devote to creative activities are not withheld from employment for other purposes. Conditions may sometimes doom to sterility a man who would have had the power to bring forth things unheard of; they may leave him no alternative other than to die from starvation or to use all his forces in the struggle for mere physical survival. But if the genius succeeds in achieving his goals, nobody but himself pays the “costs” incurred. Goethe was perhaps in some respects hampered by his functions at the court of Weimar. But certainly he would not have accomplished more in his official duties as minister of state, theater manager, and administrator of mines if he had not written his plays, poems, and novels.

It is, furthermore, impossible to substitute other people’s work for that of the creators. If Dante and Beethoven had not existed, one would not have been in a position to produce the Divina Commedia or the Ninth Symphony by assigning other men to these tasks. Neither society nor single individuals can substantially further the genius and his work. The highest intensity of the “demand” and the most peremptory order of the government are ineffectual. The genius does not deliver to order. Men cannot improve the natural and social conditions which bring about the creator and his creation. It is impossible to rear geniuses by eugenics, to train them by schooling, or to organize their activities. But, of course, one can organize society in such a way that no room is left for pioneers and their path-breaking.

The creative accomplishment of the genius is an ultimate fact for praxeology. It comes to pass in history as a free gift of destiny. It is by no means the result of production in the sense in which economics uses this term.”-Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action.

Beautiful, beautiful prose. Mises was one of the heroes of my early youth.


Is It Fair To Blame The Farmers For The Price Rise?

ag_imgFarming is considered a patriotic enterprise, and nearly half of India’s labor force is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Almost everyone believes that in the election season, political parties should pledge to aid this patriotic endeavor to feed the nation.

After the Indian independence, the annual production of agricultural goods has risen many folds. At the same time, the prices of agricultural products have risen many folds too. In surveys, inflation is on the top of the list of the scourges that anger the Indian voters. Except for a short period in the early 2000s, inflation in independent India has always been high. How could agricultural productivity and prices rise simultaneously, year after year? It is surprising that such obvious questions have not occurred to the policy analysts who take such claims at face value. The prices rise when there is more money chasing fewer goods. Remember that even in 2008, when the then President Bush complained about rising global food prices, the average inflation in the United States was only 3.8 percentage. This was the highest in that decade. If this were fueled by the global economic crisis, it would have affected other countries too. But, in the countries were central banks are independent and have an inflation target, the inflation rates were often ridiculously low. India would not have found an inflation of 3.8 percentage worth losing sleep over. In its history, India has almost never seen such low levels of inflation.

But, if so many people produce so little as they claim, perhaps not many people should engage in farming. A short evening on a farm might have convinced the panegyrists of the past that the farmers themselves might not agree with their romantic view of the farmer.

Read my column in DNA.

Democracy:A Reading List

Who knows what the stupid people would vote?

Capitalism is just another form of discrimination. It discriminates against people who don’t want to work hard or who are not capable. Why should they be discriminated against? We have internalized that it’s the only kind of discrimination that is OK. You couldn’t discriminate against skin color, age, and disability. Why could you discriminate against someone who is stupid? There’s no reason. It’s just we’ve all agreed–and by we I mean the people who are not so stupid. If everybody voted, I’m sure the stupid people would–well, who knows what the stupid people would vote?-Scott Adams, Reason Magazine Interview With Virginia Postrel

“There is actually no more evidence for the wisdom of the inferior man, nor for his virtue, than there is for the notion that Friday is an unlucky day. There was, perhaps, some excuse for believing in these phantasms in the days when they were first heard of in the world, for it was then difficult to put them to the test, and what cannot be tried and disproved has always had a lascivious lure for illogical man. But now we know a great deal more about the content and character of the human mind than we used to know. There are minds which start out with a superior equipment, and proceed to high and arduous deeds; there are minds which never get any further than a sort of insensate sweating, like that of a kidney. We not only observe such differences; we also begin to chart them with more or less accuracy.”-Notes On Democracy, H. L. Mencken Continue reading “Democracy:A Reading List”

Friends Of Labor

Trade unions in India have demanded economic stimulus packages intended to increase employment in the next budget. They also emphasized the need for a national minimum wage law, which would bring in NREGS workers too under it. Curiously enough, the memorandum also calls for a prohibition on the entry of foreign companies and big corporates into the retail trade. Higher wages are expected by labor leaders when industries which make such higher wages possible are supposed to be regulated and taxed out of existence. Ayn Rand had the typical anti-capitalistic mentality in mind when she criticized people who desire cheap gasoline and at the same time want the industry to be taxed out of existence. Continue reading “Friends Of Labor”

Selfishly Selfless

A man feels: He has emotions. A man thinks: He has the capacity to reason. A thinking man acts. An action results in emotions: An acting man feels. It is neither possible, nor desirable on the part of a man to act suspending either his thoughts that leads to the act or the emotions he derive as the result of his act. Man is not omniscient: He might not always be able, with utmost certainty, to predict in advance the results of his acts or the emotions which results from those results. Nevertheless, he expects some results and those results are not the ends, but a means to an end – which apparently is, happiness or an end to his discomfort. Ascetics hope to derive pleasure from discomfort, ‘humanitarians’ from mass-slaughters and masochists from pain. Nevertheless, pleasure is the end-No matter what its nature might be. It goes without saying that man is not a being which acts without giving a moment’s thought to the results or his emotions resulting from those results. Even the insane are not devoid of it.
No man can escape the fact that every human act is directed by thought, on a conscious level or not. No man can escape the fact the ends of his acts results in emotions, though those emotions might not be in his direct control. There is no getting around it. No amount of sophistry can alter these facts. Even when one acts contrary to his desires, those acts aim at a certain goal from which he hopes to derive a feeling of comfort.
Every act is an exchange and every exchange happens in the first place as man, at the moment of the action, values the results higher than the efforts. A man wakes up from the bed when he values wakening to the comforts of the bed. One enters or stays in a relationship only when he values it higher than the state of its lack. A man does a job he despises only when he values his wage higher than the labor. One pays a beggar a penny only when he values the payment less than the discomfort aroused. One gives up his life for an ideal only when he values it greater than his life without. Every human act is selfish.
When one bends forward to pick up a cake in front of him on a table, no one brands his act as ‘selfless’. When one exchanges a day’s labor for his wage, no one screams ‘sacrifice’. Yet, the very same men brands a mothers love ‘selfless’ and perceives a mother looking after her child as ‘sacrifice’. None of these men hesitate to state that he who asserts those acts to be ‘selfish’ holds a ‘materialistic’ & ‘rational’ view of life. It is of course, rational. No view, but, is more materialistic and offensive than what places a piece of cake or a days wages over the closest of relationships. Such men are of course, of ‘I fucked her, but I couldn’t have helped it” School.
It is often asked: Isn’t an act of charity selfless? What could a man hope to derive from such an act? One could feel any of the three: happiness, resentment or blankness. There is no other way one can feel. One might do it for the sheer pleasure of it. Apparently, there isn’t anything selfless about it. It just draws light on the character and real intentions of men branding such an act selfless. A man might act contrary to his pleasure: He might donate what he has to charity striving against all his ‘instincts’ hoping to derive pleasure or prestige. He might even ‘succeed’ in making himself believe his own magnanimity; not knowing repression is draining all his energy. Deep inside, he feels resentment. Nevertheless, he too had aimed at something. His betrayal doesn’t alter the fact that he too has emotions. What could now, be said of one who feels nothing at all-blankness? Man is neither a robot, nor a machine. It is neither possible, nor advisable for a person to act without giving a moments thought to the results of his act or the emotions he wish to derive from those acts. No man can act cutting off emotions and rationality. Even a robot or machine should be programmed or acted on by a rational man who aims at certain ends.
It is usually argued an act of charity is above an act of achievement as the intentions constituting the act are superior to that of an act of achievement. Who do you think to be superior-A man devoting his mind to a creative purpose, or a man who dispenses with the products of others creativity? Who has done more good to the world? To answer a question of this sort is to approve of its obscenity. Ends and means, obviously are far, far superior in the former.
A business man’s goal, they say is not alleviation of poverty, and it is just an unintended consequence of his acts. It is the same men who strive for ‘good’ (which they equate with charity) by governmental action: by initiation of force. Does ‘charity’ done by force say anything of the moral status of that person? Isn’t it too an unintended consequence, with the difference that the motive is not pleasure, but fear? Why do you state the first and evade the second, the principle involved being the same? Why do you consider ‘good’ motivated by fear superior to that of what caused in the pursuit of wealth? Why, then, do you persist again and again in what you pretend to believe in?
A similar mode of reasoning can be found in their argument that capitalism ended slavery and kicked out the feudal lord off his throne not out of mercy, but out of self-interest. The very same men argue Soviet Communism failed not because the system was intrinsically evil, but as human nature is flawed. They argue, the flaw isn’t in bureaucracy as such, but in individual men. They scream ‘evils of commercialization’ when it comes to a private enterprise. Why is value judgment passed on the system when it comes to the Free Market? Why is value judgment passed on individual men when it comes to bureaucracy or statism? One should ask one selves.

Theft: The Origin Of Property?

“All property is theft”, said Proudhon. The very statement contradicts itself. An act could be called theft only if it involves taking the property of another which is legitimately owned. If no one legitimately owns any property, then how could it be termed as theft? If one could extort a grain of truth out of Proudhon’s statement, it would be that property was largely acquired through wrong means in the past. In India, in most cases land was forcefully appropriated by kings and distributed to Zamindars for the ease of tax collection. The Zamindars have no just claim to the land they acquired in this manner. There were cases of feudalism and slavery in the past. The crucial question is whether ownership claims to land possessed by the descendant of the looter have legitimacy or not. Should it be handed back to the descendants of the victims?

A few days back a reader of my blog posed this question to me: What if an industrialist who is creating wealth and providing jobs for millions is the descendant of a person who earned his wealth by loot? Should his right to property be respected? In all my readings I haven’t found a libertarian thinker deals with this aspect morally other than Murray Rothbard. Ayn Rand is said to have provided a moral basis to Capitalism. But she doesn’t deal with a crucial aspect –The initial allocation of property rights. Capitalism is a politico-economic system based on private property rights and this sort of evasion is hard to digest.

The question I was asked is quite valid. Take the case of Dalits. Most of them are poor. In the past property was acquired through wrong means and it can’t be denied that it has played a role in the poverty they suffer from. The same could be said of blacks in the United States. Should anything be done about it? I am not a fan of Arundhati Roy and was a strong critic of her views, but I shall quote a few interesting lines from Roy’s An Ordinary Person’s Guide To Empire “Even if it were true that there is a Hindu temple under every mosque in India, what was under the temple? Most likely an Adivasi Shrine. How deep shall we dig?” This is the reason I am not at all sympathetic towards Anti-Reservation activists.

I am of the strong opinion that Capitalism is the only moral and practical politico-economic system. There is nothing wrong with Capitalism as such. Capitalism is perfectly moral. It is only that some people suffer from the inequities of a wrong past system, which had nothing to do with Capitalism. Capitalism is incompatible with feudalism or slavery. The fact that in the past property was acquired through wrong means in no way means that people shouldn’t be allowed to keep the property they earned through right means. Two wrongs doesn’t make right. The fact that some of the wealthy inherited looted wealth doesn’t mean that all the wealthy should be taxed out of existence. It is not at all evident that all the wealthy got their wealth through wrong means. Past slavery and feudalism doesn’t make a valid case for Statism or Socialism. It is also not at all evident that confiscating all property and distributing among all would lead to a more prosperous society. It can only lead to poverty and chaos.

Let me quote some libertarian theorists in this issue. Rothbard writes in “Egalitarianism-As A Revolt Against Nature” that “It is not enough to call simply for defense of the “rights of private property”; there must be an adequate theory of justice in property rights, else any property that some State once decreed to be private” must now be defended by Libertarians, no matter how unjust the procedure or how mischievous its consequences.”

To quote Rothbard again, in the “Ethics of Liberty”: “Suppose, for example, that Henry Jones I stole a piece of land from its legitimate owner, James Smith. What is the current status of the title of current possessor Henry Jones X? Or of the man who might be the current possessor by purchasing the land from Henry Jones X? If Smith and his descendants are lost to antiquity, then title to the land properly and legitimately belongs to the current Jones (or the man who has purchased it from him), in direct application of our theory of property titles.” “Suppose that centuries ago, Smith was tilling the soil and therefore legitimately owning the land; and then that Jones came along and settled down near Smith, claiming by use of coercion the title to Smith’s land, and extracting payment or “rent” from Smith for the privilege of continuing to till the soil. Suppose that now, centuries later, Smith’s descendants (or, for that matter, other unrelated families) are now tilling the soil, while Jones’s descendants, or those who purchased their claims, still continue to exact tribute from the modern tillers. Where is the true property right in such a case? It should be clear that here, just as in the case of slavery, we have a case of continuing aggression against the true owners-the true possessors–of the land, the tillers, or peasants,by the illegitimate owner, the man whose original and continuing claim to the land and its fruits has come from coercion and violence. Just as the original Jones was a continuing aggressor against the original Smith, so the modern peasants are being aggressed against by the modern holder of the Jones-derived land title. In this case of what we might call “feudalism” or “land monopoly,” the feudal or monopolist landlords have no legitimate claim to the property. The current “tenants,” or peasants, should be the absolute owners of their property, and, as in the case of slavery, the land titles should be transferred to the peasants, without compensation to the monopoly landlord.”

Ludwig Von Mises’ ideas are entirely opposite in this regard. He writes in “Economic Freedom And Interventionism :“Under the conditions of the capitalistic market society this program of land reform no longer makes any sense. In the market economy the consumers daily decide anew who should own the material factors of production and how much anybody should own. By their buying or abstention from buying the consumers allot control of the material factors of production to those who know how to use them in the best and cheapest way for the satisfaction of the most urgent wants of the consumers. Ownership of land means in the market economy the sovereignty of the consumers. The owners are mandataries of the consumers as it were, bound to employ their property as if it were entrusted to them by the people. When they fail in this regard, they suffer losses. Then they are forced to improve their management or, finally, they go bankrupt. Others who know better how to serve the consumers replace them.”

I would have to state that I am totally in agreement with the views of Rothbard in this issue. Property appropriated wrongfully should be given back to the victims of his descendants wherever they can be traced.