Robert Murphy2020/07/22

Is Government the antithesis of liberty?

Blog Post July 4, 2020


I have long been an admirer of Jon Stewart, the former host of The Daily Show on
Comedy Central TV. I regarded him as an iconoclast who very often rationally
exposed the hypocrisy and other negative activities of government servants,
corporations, and individuals in our society. In one show, broadcast on October 27,
2011, he was interviewing the libertarian-oriented Judge Andrew Napolitano, and
this interview resulted in 19 questions for Libertarians . Since I was not completely
satisfied with the Judge’s responses, I will list my own thoughts in a series of posts
.
Question 1. Is Government the antithesis of liberty?
So, let’s first define Political Liberty, which is the kind of liberty we’re talking
about. In a society where political liberty is recognized, people are free to act
unless and until their actions can be seen to cause measurable harm to the
liberty or actions of others. That, I think, is a pretty fair Libertarian definition of
political liberty.
So, what is Government? Libertarians define government as that group of
individuals who claim and possess a monopoly on the use of force within a
certain geographical area, and who can use force without fear of retaliation or
retribution.
Too many people think of “The Government” like a divine presence, like a
machine that churns out the rules we live by. IT extracts taxes from us, but IT
provides water, sewers, roads, and a semblance of order in the world. Sometimes
IT can be oppressive, and sometimes IT can be benevolent, but IT is always
present and inevitable.
But government isn’t an IT. Government is people. Those that make the laws we
have to live by are individuals with their own ideas about how things should be.
Many people seem to think that whenever someone is elected or appointed to a
lawmaking position they somehow shrug off their own ideas and work only for
“the public interest’. J.M. Buchanan won a Nobel Prize for pointing out that this
isn’t so – that people elected or appointed to public office take their own ideas
and prejudices with them, and exert their influence to enact those ideas into law.

Government is not a solid entity that acts alone. The laws that governments
enact and enforce are the resultant of many independent decisions by the
individuals of which they’re comprised.
Also, governments - whether monarchies, oligarchies, or democracies – operate
by enacting laws that the people in their area of control must obey, under threat
of arrest, imprisonment, or death for disobedience.
So, to answer the question “is government the antithesis of liberty?” it must be
said that government surely has the potential to be such, depending upon the
sort of laws they enact. Authoritarian governments enact laws that restrict action
or require people to act according to the political ideas that motivate the
individuals that comprise them.
Libertarian governments enact only those laws designed to protect individuals
from the depredations of others – to reduce, as much as humanly possible, the
initiation of force in human interactions.

Robert Murphy2020/05/16

My letter to Tulsi Gabbard

Dear Ms. Gabbard,


I am a delegate to the Libertarian Party National Convention, which will choose its POTUS and VP candidates on May 22nd.


As you may know, Justin Amash has joined our party and seems to be popular among the delegates for the presidential spot.

I'd like to know if you would be willing to be our VP candidate.


I'm speaking for myself alone - so far, I just started this meme - as a long-time Libertarian who once spent four hours in Frank Zappa's house trying to talk him into doing the same. My attempt failed. Zappa disliked the presidential candidate at the time - Ron Paul.


You, however, are an articulate veteran who has spoken out against the Warfare State and was then severely wronged by your own party. You were denied a voice. We could give you that voice, a national voice that isn't drowned in a sea of 435.


The Libertarian Platform is simple: Civil Liberty, Economic Liberty, a Non-Interventionist Foreign Policy. Please go to lp.org and read the platform. I think you'll agree with enough of it that you'll fit right in.


I can't guarantee to convince all of my fellow delegates to agree with me, but, if Mr. Amash is amenable and you are willing, I think this could be a presidential campaign for the history books.

When I saw you stand up to Stephen Colbert so brilliantly I thought, "Damn. I wish she was one of us."


It occurs to me that you're engaged in a reelection campaign. If so, that doesn't have to be disturbed by entering the LP VP race. If you aren't selected, that congressional race could go on uninterrupted. But if you were to run I think you'd be a shoe-in.

Think of it as the distillation of the best of the two Old Parties blending together like Tullamore Dew.

You would, of course, sometime in the next week or so, have to pay the dues and join the National LP.


You would also have to sign our Affirmation, which reads:

"I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals."


As the Consiglieri said to the Godfather, "Please, take this into consideration."


There will be online debates, or some kind of presentations on Thursday the 21st.


Sincerely,

Robert T. Murphy
LP Delegate from Oklahoma

Robert Murphy2020/05/16

Thorium Power

Humans Need Electricity to Live Well


I have just finished watching Michael Moore’s latest film Planet of the Humans.  I recommend it. It’s available for no cost on Youtube.


I think it’s fair to say that a recurring theme of Mr. Moore’s film career has been devoted to the negative effects of Corporate Capitalism on individuals and communities.  In this latest film, he points out that certain Corporate Capitalists have managed to use the Climate Change meme to enrich themselves by building popular but ultimately inefficient – and environmentally costly – methods to generate electricity.  They have done this, though, with the active support of many environmental groups. Mr. Moore’s rudeness in pointing this out has led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth among many Climate Change activists (Search for “Planet of the Humans Criticism” to hear the wailing).


Leaving aside the physics of photocells, generating electricity is relatively simple.  Long ago, a man discovered that a current can be produced by passing a piece of copper wire through a magnetic field.  Other men discovered that if you wound a bunch of wire around a core and mounted that core on a shaft mounted in a magnetic case, you could generate a lot of electricity by spinning the shaft.  The device was called a dynamo – or generator or alternator if you’re talking about cars and trucks.  The environmental problem has always been how to spin the shaft of the dynamo.


The genius Nicola Tesla invented the modern dynamo about a century ago – and with it most of modern civilization.  A man named Westinghouse licensed his design and used it to build a generating plant using the power of Niagara Falls to spin the dynamos. (Sadly, the naïve Tesla gave up his royalties in the design and died poor).  Since water power like Niagara wasn’t available everywhere, steam turbines were made to turn the dynamos.  Various fuels have been used to heat the water to make the steam to turn the dynamos – wood, oil, coal, or – more recently - natural gas.  In other words, we still generate electricity mostly by burning things, as we have been doing for heat and light for about 50,000 years.

Nuclear power held some promise to escape from fossil fuels, but the common nuclear reactors using Uranium are sometimes dangerous and produce dangerous radioactive waste.  It’s a dilemma.


Thorium Power


In the early days of atomic research, the scientists at the Oak Ridge Lab built a working generating plant using an element less radioactive than Uranium – Thorium.  The trouble was that a Thorium reactor couldn’t produce the type of Uranium or Plutonium that could be used in nuclear bombs, so the research was stopped.


From what I have read, Thorium reactors seem promising as a relatively environmentally safe alternative to burning things.  Because of the physics involved in the Thorium reaction, Thorium reactors can’t melt down or explode like Uranium reactors, and they can even digest the nuclear waste produced by Uranium reactors.  Thorium is fairly common in the Earth’s crust, and supposedly can be produced efficiently without much environmental harm.  I think the development of Thorium power is essential if we’re to convert electric power generation away from fossil fuels.


Coal and petroleum are called fossil fuels for a reason – they are the fossilized remains of plants and animals laid down eons ago.  I am not so worried about the CO2 contribution to Global Warming – I consider that solar activity has much more effect on our climate than CO2 – I fear more the acid rain and atmospheric Mercury generated by burning coal.  Forests everywhere are damaged by acid rain, and we are warned against eating too much fish because of their measured Mercury content.  This has to stop.  Thorium power seems a good alternative for generating the electricity we want.


We all want electricity, after all.  We want lights, heat, TV, telephones, computers, and all the things of modern life that electricity provides.  Without it, life would be brutally difficult.  It’s a wonderful phenomenon of nature that we have discovered and turned to our service.  We just have to develop a better way to produce it.