Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Magna Carta Movement

In this post...Consequentialist Discussion - Ron Paul Forums...I suggested that anybody who appreciates consequentialist discussion should take a look on the 9th page of this thread...Where Do Ron Paul's Ideas Come From?

Yesterday, helmuth_hubener responded to my post in that thread.  As I mentioned in my blog entry, you won't be able to read the thread unless you're a member of the Ron Paul Forums.  This is because the owner of the forum has all anarcho-capitalist discussion moved to the Political Philosophy category in order to avoid giving Ron Paul any negative publicity.

Here's my response to helmuth_hubener...and my attempt to tie everything together using the concept I discussed in my last post...Perspectives Matter - Economics in One Lesson.

The Conceptual Foundation for a Magna Carta Movement.

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helmuth_hubener, I spent an hour listening to Ralph Raico's first lecture...History: The Struggle for Liberty.  You guessed correctly that I would find it very enjoyable and enlightening.  If you haven't already done so, please do me a favor and carefully read this post of mine...Perspectives Matter - Economics in One Lesson.  It should take a lot less time than an hour to carefully read.

The thing is... Raico's first lecture strongly supports my argument.  So I can't quite figure out why you're considerably more enthusiastic for secession than you are for tax choice.  Admittedly, I didn't listen to the second lecture...but felt it was worthwhile to first compare some notes to see if we might not be saying the same thing in different ways.

Here's what you said...
More pragmatic than your tax-earmarking plan -- which I'm not against mind you -- is to advocate for smaller polities. Political breakup. Secession. Nullification. 10th Amendment. Any movement toward the radically decentralized tiny polities that existed in the Western European situation that was so stunningly, unprecedentedly, shockingly, thunderingly successful. Your tax-earmarking plan I put in kind of the same category as the "Read the Bills" plan -- a nice idea, sure let's have Congress pass that, I'm all for it. Is Congress going to pass it? No. So in the meantime, let's do other things which are proven to work. Political decentralization has a track record like nothing else ever -- its track record is that it completely transformed an entire world and made us all rich.
...and here's what Ralph Raico said...
...it was taxpayers who were represented in these different assemblies.   So when people talk about let's say the democractic factor...in the Dutch cities or in the the Italian city states it's not to be understood in the sense of present day democracy.  It's not mass democracy by any means...it's democracy of the taxpayers.  And that's what was involved in these assemblies.  Now, mentioned representative assemblies...there was also the general scholastic philosophy of natural law, and I mentioned the different charters granted by rulers and acting as sets of limitations on their power.  The most famous is the Magna Carta in English history.  Not famous to my students.  Who I think, they aren't that bad, they're just kind of average.  They've all heard of a lady called Harriet Tubman.  Many many fewer of them... virtually none of them know who Martin Luther King was named after.  And as for things like the Magna Carta, well, it's pretty much a mystery... - Ralph Raico, History: The Struggle for Liberty
Err?  You don't think that tax choice...aka pragmatarianism...aka the Magna Carta Movement would work.  So you suggested we try something that has been proven to work.  In order to help me better understand exactly what that is...you provided a link to Ralph Raico's lecture...where he attributed the success of Western Europe to a "democracy of the taxpayers"...which was made possible by the Magna Carta.

Isn't tax choice just the modern version of a "democracy of the taxpayers"?   Here's a passage that Raico quoted in his lecture...
Almost everywhere in Latin Christendom the principle was, at one time or another, accepted by the rulers that, apart from the normal revenues of the prince, no taxes could be imposed without the consent of parliament … By using their power of the purse [the parliaments] often influenced the rulers policies, especially restraining him from military adventures. A.R. Myers, Parliaments and Estates in Europe to 1789 
Compare it to the passage on the Wikipedia article on tax choice...
To guard against despotic royal rule, parliament sought to limit the kings’ powers to impose taxes so as to curtail their ability to maintain a standing army beyond times of war and immediate external threat - The evolution of parliament's power of the purse
Why did the Magna Carta work?  Because it decentralized power and control.  It transferred the power of the purse from one person to many people.  Why would tax choice work?  Because it would transfer the power of the purse from many people to a multitude of people.

Would secession achieve the same results?  Well...let's take a closer look...
Within this system, it was highly imprudent for any prince to attempt to infringe property rights in the manner customary elsewhere in the world. In constant rivalry with one another, princes found that outright expropriations, confiscatory taxation, and the blocking of trade did not go unpunished. The punishment was to be compelled to witness the relative economic progress of one's rivals, often through the movement of capital, and capitalists, to neighboring realms. The possibility of "exit," facilitated by geographical compactness and, especially, by cultural affinity, acted to transform the state into a "constrained predator" - Ralph Raico, The European Miracle
It would be great if you could read my post on the Dialectic of Unintended Consequences.  Here's a brief overview.  In the 50s and 60s, when unions were at the height of their power...they demanded such high wages that it became economically sound for companies to move their production overseas...aka "exit".  Where did the companies go?  Well...they couldn't go to China because Chairman Mao had blocked China completely off.  So the companies went to countries that were open to foreign investment...Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.  Those countries developed and then sent their own foreign investment into China.  They were able to do so because Deng Xiaoping had opened China up to foreign investment.

Why is it a good idea to be open to foreign investment?  Why is it a bad idea to be closed to foreign investment?  Do we have to push for secession to help people understand this concept?  Let's consider it on the individual level.

A while back I was banned from the Bleeding Heart Libertarian website.  Check out this screenshot from Matt Zwolinski's website...


The screenshot is part of Steve Horwitz's article Hating the State and Loving Liberty.  On the top of the screenshot it says, "The more we talk about loving liberty, the more we will recognize impediments to liberty in all of their forms, and the more likely we are to persuade others who claim to love liberty but perhaps don't see all its implications".  On the bottom it says, "The site has blocked you from posting new comments.  Showing 0 comments."

All too often we do on the individual level what Mao Zedong did on the national level.  We close ourselves off to foreign investment.  We close ourselves off to new ideas.  We block people and concepts that we do not agree with.  We ban other people's perspectives.

What happens when we close ourselves off to different perspectives?  What happened when Mao Zedong closed China off to foreign investment?  What happens when our government closes the public sector off to the perspectives of 150 million taxpayers?   We invariably suffer from a fatal conceit that has negative consequences.  

Here's what you posted about Deng Xiaoping...
Right, excellent example, and interesting that he is a hero of yours. Certainly his actions caused a great increase in the well-being of hundreds of millions of people, something which is more than most of us can say about our lives.
In context, he was saying that to justify his adoption of more-or-less free market ideas and tossing communism in the garbage heap. One European economic paradigm, that of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, got tossed out because it didn't work, and another, the European or Western-style free market, got brought in. He was saying: guess what, guys? The free market works. It catches mice.
I think it's almost certain that Deng Xiaoping wouldn't have been able to accomplish what he did manage to accomplish if he had suggested tossing communism in the garbage can.   In a nation full of indoctrinated communists...that probably wouldn't have gone over too well.  He was also, after all, largely responsible....if not primarily responsible...for Tiananmen square.  When I lived in China I wasn't able to access Wikipedia... so... yeah... by no means did Deng Xiaoping suggest abolishing communism.

Of course...if you're not a member of this forum, then you wouldn't be able to access this Political Philosophy category.  Why is that?  Because the forum owner decided it might not be in Ron Paul's political interests to be associated with anarcho-capitalism.

The owner of the Ron Paul Forums and Deng Xiaoping both acted pragmatically.  What's the opposite of being pragmatic?  It's being dogmatic.  Both Mao Zedong and Murray Rothbard were dogmatic.

As I'm sure you're aware, Rothbard hated the state so much that if there had been a button that would have instantly and entirely abolished the state...then he would have pushed that button until his thumb blistered.  But by pushing that button he would have disregarded the multitude of people who, from their perspectives, believe that the state is absolutely necessary to ensure our survival and prosperity.  It doesn't mean that they are right...but it definitely means that Rothbard would have been wrong to completely disregard their perspectives.

As I argued in my post...Perspectives Matter - Economics in One Lesson...it's fundamentally important that we solely rely on persuasion to try and change people's minds.  

As far as I know, given that we live in a nation full of statists, you're not going to get anywhere by advocating that we abolish the state.  I might be wrong...but from my perspective, it's completely unnecessary to advocate abolishing the state or seceding from the state.  What we need to do is focus on promoting the idea that perspectives matter.

The basic idea is that two heads are better than one.  This is simply because we all have extremely limited perspectives.  I didn't know about Ralph Raico's lecture...but you did.  Why did you make the effort to share your partial knowledge with me?  Because you wanted to persuade me.  As a direct consequence of listening to the lecture I ran across this...
I now return to the fundamental question with which I began this article:  What is the difference between a just king and a great robber? For Aquinas, the difference is that the just king provides a public good: peace.  By diligently defending justice in the community, he shows himself worthy of his keep in the form of tolls and tributes limited by the fundamental law of the land, and he does not extract more than the maintenance his state requires. - Christopher Todd Meredith, The Ethical Basis for Taxation in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas
and this...
Thus, considered in themselves, in their own nature, in their normal state, and apart from all abuses, public services are, like private services, purely and simply acts of exchange. - Bastiat, Private and Public Services
and this...
The distinction between just taxation and legal plunder therefore hinges on the question of whether the taxpayer receives sufficiently valuable services in exchange for his payment. As Bastiat explains, “The state can put its taxes to either a good or a bad use. It puts them to a good use when it performs services for the public equivalent to the value it receives from the public. It puts them to a bad use when it squanders its revenues without giving the public anything in return.” - Christopher Todd Meredith, Taxation and Legal Plunder in the Thought of Frédéric Bastiat
and this...
Public taxes, even with the nation's consent, are a violation of property rights, since they can be levied only on values that have been produced by the land, the capital, or the industry of private individuals. Thus, whenever they exceed the indispensable minimum necessary for the preservation of society, they may justly be considered as an act of plunder. - Jean-Baptiste Say
and this...
If the socialists mean that under extraordinary circumstances, for urgent cases, the state should set aside some resources to assist certain unfortunate people, to help them adjust to changing conditions, we will, of course, agree. This is done now; we desire that it be done better. There is, however, a point on this road that must not be passed; it is the point where governmental foresight would step in to replace individual foresight and thus destroy it. It is quite evident that organized charity would, in this case, do much more permanent harm than temporary good. - Bastiat, Justice and Fraternity
and this...
In other words...this is a case of commerce producing tolerance, producing harmony, producing a willingness to interact of course for mutual benefit. - Ralph Raico, History: The Struggle for Liberty
Out of all these insightful passages...this one by Bastiat is perhaps the most relevant to the idea that perspectives matter..."There is, however, a point on this road that must not be passed; it is the point where governmental foresight would step in to replace individual foresight and thus destroy it."

How long ago did we pass that point in the road?  As Ralph Raico said in his lecture...his students have all heard of Harriet Tubman...but the Magna Carta is a mystery to them.  Our focus shouldn't be on abolishing the state...or worrying about the tax rate...or worrying about whether something is or isn't a legitimate public good.  Instead, our focus should be on helping people understand the value of opening our government up to "foreign" investment.  In other words...we should focus on trying to persuade people that's it's extremely valuable to integrate the combined foresight of 150 million taxpayers into the government.

In my post on a taxpayer division of labor...I discussed the idea of 150 million taxpayers each with their unique perspectives focusing on the areas that concern them.  Here's a pretty terrible illustration of the idea of 538 congresspeople blocking the perspectives of 150 million taxpayers.  A sword was easy to draw...but my girlfriend didn't quite grasp the concept until I explained it to her.



It's not just dangers that we might miss...but it's also opportunities that we might miss as well.  This is the Seen vs Unseen concept.

Of all people, you should be pretty aware that I'm not having much success doing this on my own.  So let's start a Magna Carta Movement!   In any case...you should really start your own blog.

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