Month: January 2014

Why Economics, Choice and Tolerance are Inseperable

by Alex Merced

Often times people define issues into two categories, economic and social, as if there is no influence these have on each other. I contend a world with a more robust competitive economy would also be a world of greater tolerance. Many social and caste divides are born out of economic scarcity, out of a demand for a reason to justify taking more of the economic pie for “us” and leave less for “them” because the sentiment is that there isn’t enough for everyone. If anything history, I think, shows pretty clearly that wealth is more abundant when more of us cooperate and compete with each other to provide value (aka the FREE market) instead of competing over limiting market access to others (protectionism/regulated markets/no markets). Although these divisions over time get ingrained in the culture of these arbitrary groups and can lead to generations of resentment, hostility, and sometimes violence which is why a focus on robust free market policy is an imperative for wealth building but also social cohesion (if you are prosperous you’re less likely to resent other people for being prosperous, or try to prevent them from being so).

So, essentially, economic performance will make people more tolerant of each other, which in turn improves economic scale. So, essentially, any discussion of promoting tolerance can’t be separated from people’s quality of life (which is partly determined by the wealth, and in other part determined by internal factors which often come from peoples ability to pursue their interests and attain property). As people’s quality of life drops, whether from losing their economic (wealth) or autonomous (choice) means to pursue their ends (goals), they begin to look for scapegoats to blame.

Bottom line: A libertarian world view which focuses on empowering peoples economic opportunities and individual choices, is the formula to having a more tolerant socially cohesive society.

The Law, Legislation, and Tolerance

by Alex Merced

As mentioned by George Mason University economist Don Boudreux, F.A. Hayek had important insights into society’s institutional behavior in his distinction between the Law and Legislation.The distinction being that legislation are rules formally instituted by a legislative body (think government) and laws are the rules we universally and informally follow.

Driving home the distinction:

– It is legislation that prohibits the sale and use of marijuana in the United States, but it’s not necessarily a piece of legislation people follow strictly because this has weakened over time as social law.

– While there is no explicit rule to not cut people in line, we all know not to and generally don’t. This would be an example of a social law.

Often times legislation is guided by law, because legislation that runs contrary to the societal laws of the time will often be difficult to pass, much less enforce, without political consequences. From a libertarian standpoint, this creates several implications that libertarians should concern themselves with.

1. Societal Law can be a barrier to Coercive Legislation: While politics is not really an ideological sphere of society (politicians use ideology to gain power successfully more so  than ideologues use politicians to shape society successfully). So if libertarians are concerned with the size of government and equality under the law (meaning legislation that does create arbitrary societal divides), then the societal law (culture, norms, ethics etc) should hold these things in high regards so that legislation that runs counter to these goals finds it difficult to exist or be enforced. Luckily, the United States has a deep historical culture of inclusiveness (melting pot), skepticism of central rule (revolutionary war, Nixon Scandals, NSA), and celebration of individual achievement (when we think of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other entrepreneurs, we think of their individual achievement first, and barely, if ever, think of any indirect or direct government involvement in their enterprises). So the United States societal law has always been primed to keep certain lines difficult to cross more so than other nations (not that they haven’t been crossed, or that these barriers haven’t weakened at all).

2. Not participating in shaping societal law can make the fight against coercive legislation an uphill battle: If we don’t, through cultural transmission channels like family (how many laws/manners did you learn from your parents), media (how much did you learn from certain TV shows and movies), and the education system, attempt to make or keep things like property rights, non-aggression, and appreciation/tolerance of the individual part of societal law we will find legislation drifting further into larger violations of these values that libertarians hold dear.

So, distinguishing the external forces that shape our behavior and choices into law and legislation can be a very useful tool in solving the types of problems and issues us libertarians concern ourselves with. Another useful taxonomy is that of Institutions and Organizations from economist Douglass C. North. In this breakdown, institutions are the formal and informal human constructs that we allow to limit our behavior (legislation, laws, etc.) and Organizations are the hierarchies of how individuals organize to accomplish a shared goal. So if we look at a university, the distinction between the organization (the president, faculty, and their powers) and the institution (the formal school rules and informal traditions that have developed) can be broken down to help understand the social dynamics.

Libertarians making an effort to use these types of insights to improve and strengthen our understanding of society within the framework of Libertarian philosophy present a great opportunity to push forward the importance and argument for our cause.

A Landscape of Liberty Friendly Institutions

by Alex Merced

In every libertarian evolution, we go through a lot of different phases as we discover our core convictions and views. At different points in my ideological journey I’ve identified with labels such as classical liberal, conservative, minarchist, and anarcho-capitalist, and then I got to the point where I stopped worrying about all these nuances and labels and just said, “I’m a libertarian concerned more with promoting libertarian thought and libertarian means than focusing on any particular ideal power structure.” (Is there any ideal anything? If there was, would it always remain ideal?) At the end of the day, looking at issues from the perspective of, “Is there government intervention (bad), or not (good),” while totally agreeable in its implications, I feel it overlooks a great point. It’s a point which I think many more cutting edge libertarian philosophers and economists are starting to see. Our individual lives and ability to make choices regarding that life, and the property we’ve accumulated in that life, are affected by much more than just government. Institutions such as family, religion, etc. all play a role in our ability to make choices regarding our lives, property, and ability to pursue happiness. Appreciating this reality doesn’t imply any consent for the use of force, instead it just recognizes another dimension of the battle for liberty.

This dimension is molding institutions (social norms, laws, family, etc.) in ways that are conducive to a  view that respects an ability for an individual to make choices about their life and property.  This goal does not need force, but instead participation in social discourse through participation in these institutions so they can be reformed from the inside, through education, so others may make voluntary choices that reform these institutions, and through research so that we can learn more about how these institutions can be improved. (Are there better governance or management systems we can voluntarily adopt? What dynamics make successful families work that other families can adopt?)

In helping understand what reforms and institutions are liberty friendly, I’ve defined four characteristics of institutions that are liberty friendly and liberty hostile (notice how government often encompasses many of these features in the latter category):

Open (Friendly) vs. Closed (hostile): an open institution has very low barriers to participation. Due to this, the market/choice mechanism allows the institution to evolve. A closed institution has high barriers to entry which limits participation, giving the participants an over sized share of power in the institution which they often use to keep others out, slowing down its ability to evolve with other institutions.

Dynamic (Friendly) vs. Static (hostile): a dynamic institution has the flexibility to evolve with changing situations and circumstances while a static institution does not. This eventually will lead to its fighting liberty to protect itself from becoming obsolete.

Transparent (friendly) vs. Opaque (hostile): An institution that is transparent and allows a more free flow of information will enable people to make better choices. While an opaque institution hides information, often not allowing individuals to make proper assessments and choices of different situations (think the NSA).

Voluntary (Friendly) vs. Compulsory (hostile): A voluntary institution has a better feedback mechanism in peoples choices to determine if it’s providing value. A compulsory does not have this mechanism at all, which often leads to the development of the other three hostile characteristics.

So, to make the world more liberty friendly, as libertarians we should discuss how to make institutions more libertarian friendly and take the appropriate non-coercive methods to achieve these reforms.

A Discussion of the Civil Right Act of 1964

by Alex Merced

Having started an organization dedicated to building tolerance in a libertarian framework, I might as well go ahead an attack the elephant in the room when it comes to libertarians and issues like these. Often times when libertarians take on the mantle of social progress absent of government by discussing things like marriage equality or ending the drug war, progressives attempt to dismiss us libertarians by arbitrarily bringing up the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its public accommodations clause. In order to show why this dismissive argument is unfair and a distraction from modern discussions, let’s first learn about the contents of the 11 articles of the civil right act and see what libertarian reservations would be.

Article I – Banned unequal application of voting laws. I can’t imagine any libertarian having a problem with this particular clause. It’s the epitome of “equality under the law.” Although, all this did was end unequal application of current laws, it didn’t end other forms of voting disenfranchisement. This was later done in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was weakened in 2013 by the Supreme Court. I personally think the voting rights act was a reasonable law. It’s not about state or federal rights but preventing oppression by government and any tool that can prevent any oppression is fine with me. (From my understanding the VRA doesn’t violate any property rights, instead it restrains state governments from limiting the participation of it’s citizens in democratic elections.)

Article II – Often referred to as the public accommodations clause, it prohibits discrimination in hotels, restaurants, etc. engaging in interstate commerce (exempting private clubs, so essentially you can create an establishment only open to private members if you really want to be discriminatory). I will discuss the controversy over this particular clause and my take on it after I finish all the articles of the CRA.

Article III – This banned discrimination in public institutions like public parks and restrooms. While libertarians are generally for privatizing most public property, anything that is publicly owned should be open to well, the public. In other words, this is a no brainer for libertarians. It’s like marriage. While many libertarians don’t think a marriage license should exist, as long as it does it should be available to everyone.

Article IV – This enabled the desegregation of public schools. For libertarianism this is perfectly fine by the same logic as Article III.

Article V – Strengthened the Civil Rights Commission that was created in 1957, which only investigates and makes recommendations. From a libertarian perspective this is mild since it can’t really compel anything but it costs taxpayer money to maintain such a commission. I understand the need of a feedback mechanism for issues like these, but like them or not, don’t organizations like the NAACP and ACLU kind of serve this purpose with mostly voluntary donations?

Article VI – Bans discrimination by agencies that receive federal funds. While libertarians aren’t really big on public funds in the first place, I don’t see why regulating the use of public funds and public institutions would bother any libertarians. You’re not messing with anyone’s property that wasn’t already confiscated via taxation.

Article VII – Bans discrimination by employers of 15 or more (also exempts business where the trait you’re discriminating against is vital to the job). Myself along with most libertarians don’t think people should segregate their business or be discriminatory in hiring based on things like race. But, it’s always uneasy with libertarians when you set a precedent for telling people what do with their property (for many their business is their property). So this along with clause II is what usually gets us libertarians in trouble with the orthodoxy.

Article VIII – required the collection of race and gender data in voting. Aside from the cost to the taxpayer, I can’t think of anything to really complain about here. The data can be useful. Although when you collect data like this, you make people think of data in terms of race and gender vs. other traits and characteristics that may highlight other trends. (You can’t measure everything, but what one measures does shape how people think about things, which is worth thinking about)

Article IX – This article made it easier to take a state case ruled on by a segregationist judge and move it to the federal courts. I don’t see any problems with this, if someone is in a situation where they can’t receive a trial from an impartial judge there should be recourse.

Article X – Created the Community Relations Service, which helps communities resolve disputes over discrimination. Aside from the funding, I don’t see any particular thing to be offended about.

Article XI – Allows placing the violators of the other articles in criminal contempt for up to $1000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. Aside from the enforcement of charges against private property use I don’t see a particular problem with this.

My Personal Opinion

The civil rights act isn’t on anyones radar to repeal for two reasons:

– There are laws that create actual problems that need to be dealt with like Sarbanes Oxley, Affordable Care Act, and Dodd Frank. Usually this half-century old law only comes up as political fodder to entrap libertarians.

– When I look at all the articles I find that I can more often agree with than disagree with the law. (Although, in principle, the clauses that violate private property rights can make me feel slightly uncomfortable. However the clauses preventing local governments from segregating public spaces makes me feel good and makes up for the previously stated discomfort.)

The controversy

Most libertarians probably aren’t fully aware of all the articles in the CRA, but libertarians like myself are very hard pressed to ever express any kind of flexibility on our resolution of private property rights (because they are integral to functioning markets, and we tend to really appreciate how small concessions can lead to large losses of other freedoms over time).

At the end of the day if I was a libertarian congressman in 1964 (probably wouldn’t have been back then considering I’m Latino), I would probably have to cast my vote for the act due to the value of it’s restraints on government power to compel discrimination. While many libertarians are very split on this pointless hypothetical that is often given to us I think it is generally a worthwhile law with fewer flaws than many others.

This Think Tank’s Name is Ironic (Sort of)

by Brian William Waddell

The Libertarian Center for Tolerance. Think about it. If you’re a libertarian, or a Libertarian, or an anarchist, or a Republican with libertarian views, or even a civil libertarian you probably understand why this is ironic. Libertarians, in all their stripes, can barely tolerate each other’s views. I’ve seen liberty loving people arguing (albeit usually more intelligently than the arguments I’ve seen between the “two” “major” parties) over tiny points of disagreement that mean nothing in the larger scheme because neither side would ever push to have government step in and regulate the issue. I’ve been guilty myself at times. We need to be tolerant, and accepting, of the views of all liberty lovers because we are all on the same team. We need that team to be as strong as possible to accomplish the shrinking of government intrusion that we all desire.

Big “L’s” Small “l’s” and Other Letters

Yes, there is a difference between a libertarian and a Libertarian. Many libertarians are Libertarians, but not all. Many Libertarians are also libertarians, but still, not all. I’m not helping am I? Look at it this way, someone who believes in the philosophy of libertarianism is a libertarian. Somebody who registers as a member of the Libertarian Party is a Libertarian. There is also a difference between these two and anarchists and civil libertarians. Anarchists sit on the absolutist end of the liberty scale: They want zero government and each individual to be free to do as they please as long as they don’t harm others. How that works, and if it’s even possible, is fodder for another post, but for now just know they’re on the side of liberty. Civil libertarians tend to be the ones who are registered Democrats, and are fine with government intrusion into your wallet, but will fight to keep the government out of your bedroom or reproductive system. These are the people who are valuable allies in many situations and should not be alienated despite their generally big government leanings. Their belief in liberty bears as many caveats as the Republicans with libertarian views, but the caveats tend to be opposites.

In short, the liberty philosophy continuum goes something like this: anarchists::voluntaryists::libertarians::constitutionalists::civil libertarians and Republicans with libertarian views::Republicans and Democrats. All these differences should not divide liberty lovers of any type from one another. Our diversity should be our strength, not our weakness. The ability of liberty in any form to find a place in the hearts of humans should be celebrated and nurtured. We shouldn’t ridicule or ostracize those with slightly different views as long as they are working in the same direction, and everyone on the continuum up to Republicans with libertarian views is working in the same direction at least part of the time. Don’t get me wrong, healthy debate is fine. But when’s the last time you saw a truly healthy debate on Facebook?

Why the Name Works

The Libertarian Center for Tolerance. Most outside of the liberty movement don’t think of tolerance when they think of libertarianism. This is ironic, too. Tolerance and acceptance are cornerstones of libertarian philosophy. Just because I don’t agree with how you live doesn’t mean I can, or should, stop you from doing it. As long as one doesn’t steal or injure, a person’s decisions are their own.

The reality is, those who understand libertarianism and have been around the liberty movement for a while will see the name of this think tank as both redundant and ironic at the same time. Libertarianism is tolerance. It also needs a dose of it among its own members. But, it’s important to have that “Libertarian” out in front of the title so that more people start to realize how liberty, tolerance, and acceptance really do go hand in hand.

It’s Ok! Libertarians Can Think Something is Bad or Wrong

by Brian William Waddell

After my last piece, someone questioned whether a “true Libertarian” (this phrase alone begs the question of what a true libertarian is, and whether the size of the “L” matters, but that’s for another post) is allowed to think that having a female-only tavern or Christians only theater is wrong. Sure. Why not? I don’t personally think it’s wrong, I just think it’s bad business. But the idea that holding an anti-segregationist opinion flies in the face of libertarianism is absurd. The key distinction is that I will fight for your right to have that silly segregated business while I tell you it’s a bad idea and you shouldn’t do it. If that makes it so that I’m not a “true Libertarian” I’m okay with that.

Why Limit Your Possibilities?

If you were opening a retail business that had a target demographic of, let’s say, women between the ages of 21 and 35, would you only allow people in that specific group to come in? No, that’s silly. Maybe just limit it to women? That seems like a slightly smarter choice. But what if a man wants to purchase some of your goods for his significant other? Clearly this means the best route for the business is to be open to men and women. I can understand the niche market for a tavern only allowing women, ostensibly for a less meat market-like environment, but there is a reason there are not many of them around. Limiting your audience of your own accord is bad business. Usually the audience that a business serves is limited enough by outside factors without internal silliness.

I’ve run enough businesses over the years to understand that the best policy for building and maintaining a business is one of open arms and friendly smiles. Nobody should be turned away.

Right to Refuse Service

On that note, I’ve already written a piece on my own liberty-centric site regarding a recent event where a bakery declined to make a wedding cake for a wedding between two men. The baker was well within his rights as a business owner. He wasn’t within his legal capabilities as a business owner (according to one judge) in Colorado, however. Therefore, he was ordered that he had to make cakes for same-sex couples. This is the problem, and also the distinction. A business owner should be able to choose to not serve people for any reason. Yes, I said any reason. It’s wrong and ignorant to do it for certain reasons, but it’s still something that must be allowed. The free market dictates that just as the business owner need not serve people, people need not patronize that business.

I‘m Allowed

I think taking adverse action toward people based on the color of their skin is wrong. I think taking adverse action toward people based on their sexual preferences is wrong. I think taking adverse action toward people based on their religion is wrong. I’m allowed to think these things are wrong. I’m also allowed to say, “Yeah, that’s wrong, but he can run his business how he chooses. I’ll just never shop there.” On a philosophical level, at least, I have no problem with the creation of “black only” schools or other institutions. I have no problem with “Asian only” schools. I have no problem with “white only” schools. Frankly, as long as all groups are allowed to have their own institutions I don’t see how anyone is actually left out. Another requirement would be that nobody would be compelled to (they can if they want to, of course) pay for the institution. This would be allowed if we were truly living in a place of liberty. (I think all of the above institutions are silly and run counter to improving society because experiencing diversity is a key to becoming a well rounded individual. But, to each his own.)

Make My Day

Go ahead. Open a business where you only allow redheaded men with handlebar mustaches over the age of 33. Call me when you reach your first anniversary and I’ll throw you a huge party to celebrate.

Why libertarians should care about Tolerance

by Alex Merced

After my article on advocating for tolerance of/acceptance for the transgender population I got several critical messages not about whether people should be accepted/tolerated but attacking my libertarian bona fides for even discussing it, as if being libertarian means being completely agnostic on the outcome of all issues all the time. If anything, these individuals have seemed to miss the point of my article, and possibly of libertarianism itself.

From the libertarian perspective just about everything should be solved by the interplay of individuals and their choices, also known as markets. Which cell phones should be sold? Let the market decide. How should you educate children? Let the parents decide. Which house should you buy and how should you finance it? You should decide. This extends to the market for values and preferences (what you think is right or wrong, what rituals and traditions do you practice, how do these things change), etc. Although these things evolve in an interplay of individual choices (a market) as well, even if there aren’t direct exchanges of money, decisions are made and some social norms succeed and fail over time.

These markets work because people act on their preferences and values. As a libertarian, I want people to have a view on which cell phone they want, to choose to act on that view, and even evangelize their choice. I just don’t want anyone making the choice for them. As a participant in the market for social norms, I am entitled to being able to choose the norms I like and evangelize them. I’m free to make the claim that if people voluntarily embrace these norms the world may be better off (I just don’t advocate forcing people to adopt these norms).

To me, engendering a culture of tolerance and acceptance has many consistently libertarian benefits:

– Libertarians are against violence and coercion. It’s one of the primary reasons we have such a distaste for government as a mechanism for economic or social engineering  (the fact that it often works poorly at doing so doesn’t help). Intolerance can often be a big motivator of violence (a good transgender friend of mine was recently beaten and sent to the hospital with her boyfriend). While I think there should be equality under the law and a crime should be treated as a crime for a jury (the judge should have the discretion to lessen or worsen a punishment based on circumstances in my view, but the jury should only determine if a crime has been committed not determine whether they liked the motivation for the crime which is what hate crime legislation does). Although, if social norms were more tolerant from the get go, the violence may have never occurred for it to be a legal issue in the first place.

– Promoting tolerance doesn’t mean people don’t have the right to be intolerant with their own property and choices, but promoting tolerance is about ending the atmosphere that makes people feel it’s alright to destroy someones property because they may be different in some way.

My point is that if libertarians are anti-coercion and anti-force, creating a culture that exalts individual choice and property ownership and shames violence/coercion from government or individuals is a project that must be actively taken on. If this isn’t, other cultural norms that may be ok with violence/coercion will win out in the cultural market.

Monetary Policy and Income Equality

by Alex Merced

In a previous article I discussed that redistribution of income isn’t necessary to create equality, instead you should unleash market forces by reducing barriers into wealth markets. In this article I’d like to make the argument that another culprit in creating growing inequality is not only market controls but monetary policy, especially expansionary policy.

What is Monetary Policy?

Monetary policy is a policy tool, often controlled by central banks, that revolves around the control of a country’s money supply and credit. Monetary policy mechanisms usually consist of interactions with the banking system that make it easier or harder for banks to extend more credit. A couple of major mechanisms include:

Discount Lending: When banks have liquidity or solvency issues they may borrow from other banks to keep things going, but when there isn’t a bank to borrow from they can go to the central bank and borrow against typically high quality assets(“safe” stable liquid assets like government debt). These loans are usually in the form of deposits on the banks balance sheet (record of asset and liabilities).

Open Market Operations: Another way of getting money in and out of financial institutions is to enter short term contracts called Repurchase Agreements (repos for short) where the Central Bank lends money by purchasing an asset today with a contractual promise the bank will repurchase it from the central bank in coming days (the reverse of this is called a reverse repo when central banks need to take money from the banks).

Quantitative Easing: Similar to open market operations without the agreement to repurchase, basically the central bank outright sells or buys assets depending on their goals which can have the largest impact of three mechanisms discussed in this article.

What are contractionary and expansionary policy?

The central bank usually conducts either contractionary policy or expansionary policy:

Expansionary Policy: By increasing the amount of money in the economy (usually in the form of lending to banks) the amount of credit available increases. This is usually done when  central banks are worried about unemployment (due to what I believe is a misguided belief in a trade-off between unemployment & inflation). So by inflating the money supply several things happen such as…

– The lowering of real interest rates (rates after inflation) makes it unwise to hold money, or even relatively safe investments (since the return will still be negative after inflation), encouraging investment in riskier higher return investments

– Lower interest rates will encourage more borrowing (although the lower rates would discourage lending, the low real rates make it even worse not to).

Contractionary Policy: By decreasing the amount of money in the economy you end up with the opposite result.

How does this affect inequality?

While inflating the money supply may not immediately in the short run inflate the price level, it can have several pernicious effects on the distribution of wealth.

1. Drives up the prices of capital goods: the low nominal and real rates will make longer term, capital intensive investments more attractive resulting in driving up the prices of capital (natural resources, property, etc.). The result is that this increase in capital asset values increases return to the owners of capital (often the wealthier portion of the population) and squeezes out the resources available to firms to pay labor even if the purchasing power hasn’t depreciated yet (the low income population depends on wages a bit more).

2. Financial assets will also be driven up in value: Since financial institutions are the mechanism for increasing the money supply, money that isn’t lent will often go into buying financial assets like stocks. One signal that prices of stocks may be drifting away from the real value of the company is rising Price/Earning Ratios (often referred to as expanding multiples on financial television). This means the owners of financial assets (often the wealthy) get a pseudo-free gain on their assets increasing disparities in wealth. This is often justified under the idea of the “Wealth Effect” that people seeing their assets increase in value will spend and invest more.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with consumer prices and asset values rising, the intervention of the central banks creates a one sided arbitrary and regressive redistribution of wealth in the name of financial stability.

Libertarians Should Lead the Way for Transgender Acceptance

by Alex Merced

Libertarianism is often well known for its concerns over the use of government power in solving economic and social issues, primarily because such power often attracts the wrong people to wield it and can often do more harm than good (a government that is powerful enough to establish and enforce hate crime legislation is also a government strong enough to establish and enforce the fugitive slave act.) So when it comes to issues of tolerance, you won’t find a philosophy more celebratory of diversity and tolerance (a free market works because of a diversity of goods, services, firms, and individuals) but often lambasted for its refusal to cross the line of using government power to compel tolerance or intolerance (or compel anything in that matter).

Although, just because libertarians do not want to use government power to force social progress, it doesn’t mean libertarians shouldn’t express social values and engage in the discussion of social norms. Over time, social attitudes have changed to more tolerant ones. Tolerant in a greater way than just “I don’t mind those people” but extending to being able to share space and participation in social institutions such as entrepreneurship, leisure, and family. In the generation prior to mine this battle over tolerance was focused here in the U.S. over tensions between the African American and White populations, and in my generation it has been about tensions between homosexual and heterosexual populations. These days it’s not just that there is tolerance for African Americans and Homosexuals but widespread acceptance of their participation as business owners, as co-workers, consumers, and as part of household formation.

The struggle for tolerance and acceptance in the coming generation will have a lot to do with gender identity. We are currently witnessing controversy over how to handle bathrooms for transgender students, and physical assaults against them in photos on instagram or video on YouTube. While the transgender population has enjoyed an increase in tolerance along with homosexuals (the two populations are not the same despite often being lumped in the same category) acceptance of the transgender population still has a long way to go.

Now, tolerance and acceptance is not just about feeling good that peoples lives are a little bit better. It serves an economic and social function as well. A broader participation in economic institutions such as entrepreneurship benefits everyone, adding people to the labor force benefits everyone, but sometimes intolerance and a lack of acceptance can reduce participation in these institutions.

So how can libertarians improve tolerance & acceptance of Transgendered and other populations suffering intolerance at no fault of their own without the use of government force?

– Media: Shows like Cosby, Will & Grace, and other introduced these populations in a broader way not as a spectacle but as people with their own lives, challenges, and families. How about a sitcom with a transgender protagonist facing many of the same family issues we all do? The images we grow up with in our culture determine many of our sensibilities, so we should use this to our advantage. Transgender characters often do exist in media but often as a “spectacle” in roles that societies “allow” to be accepted (hairdresser, model, prostitute) but where is the transgender business owner or engineer (they do exist) in the public eye?
*The character of Sophia Burset in Orange is the new Black is by far the boldest transgender character on tv with complex family and health issues that make her interesting, although she is often found doing hair, thus keeping transgender activities in a narrow band.

– Support: Sometimes it’s just about breaking vicious cycles, many young children who open up to their parents are often cast out and forced to be runaways. Being ripped away from the support system of the family affects their ability to get educated and to later be able to participate in the traditional labor force. Fundraising and volunteering for shelters and education for runaway youth can help break the cycle.

Conclusion

While empowering government to solve social problems will often result in empowering them to create social problems, libertarians should not allow big government progressives to attempt to hold a monopoly on the fight for broader tolerance and acceptance of individuals of all types. We should come with a message not just more tolerance for a particular community, but that we want to include everyone in the greater community of individuals who can participate in social and economic institutions to all our benefit. We must make real front line efforts to advance these values through education and volunteering, and help craft the norms that make society wealthier economically and socially.

On Equality

by Brian William Waddell

To many libertarian thinkers, speakers, and writers, equality is somewhat of a dirty word. Many don’t like to discuss it because the very word brings forth an image of socialism and equality of outcomes. But that isn’t how equality should be looked at. Equality is important in a libertarian society. Everyone must be treated equally from the start. However, it is not equality of outcomes, but equality of opportunity that is important for society to function in a truly fair and equal manner.

A Metaphor

Imagine the home field of your favorite baseball team. See the grass and dirt, feel the cool breeze, hear the roar of the crowd. Now, think about how the field looks with your team in the field. Finally, think about how the field changes if the other team is in the field. Do artificial barriers suddenly rise up to keep fielders from throwing to first? Does the fence move in so that the home team has a much easier time hitting a home run? Of course not. That wouldn’t be fair. The scoreboard on that field would hopefully show more runs for your team than the other. It’s okay to hope for this because the field itself did not determine the outcome of the game, but the skill and athleticism of the players did.

Now imagine what a field would have to look like to make sure that all contests ended in a tie. The easiest way to do this would be to stop both teams from ever being able to score. Maybe a wall that pops up to stop you as you round third? Even ignoring the uselessness of a contest where neither team has a chance of winning, this would make for a very boring game. Maybe all the games would end in a 3-3 tie instead. This would be more interesting at least. If a team with an excellent pitcher (which wouldn’t be necessary given everyone will score the same amount of runs regardless) faced a team with a poor one the necessity of the field to control the run production could become very entertaining in and of itself.

As the third inning ends, it’s two to nothing in favor of the home team. When they return to bat in the bottom of the fourth, the leadoff batter hits a homerun. The next hitter gets up and takes a mighty swing. The ball flies out toward the wall in left-center. Just as the ball is about to go out of the park, the wall extends itself up four feet to keep the ball in the playing field and the hitter settles for a useless double. The next batter hits a shot in the gap and the runner comes from second, rounds third, and is immediately stopped in his tracks when a snare catches him by the ankle and his face meets the field. He is tagged out as he tries to loosen himself from the snare. The player who hit the ball stops at first because he doesn’t see the point of running to second since he has no chance of scoring.

Now, the field has to find a way to help the trailing team score three runs. After keeping the home team from scoring through the eighth inning the field only has the top of the ninth to get the visitors three runs. The pitcher for the home team strikes out the first two batters. Then, with every pitch, for six straight batters a wall pops up in front of home plate to keep the ball from reaching the strike zone. Three runners score due to the walks issued, and the pitcher strikes out the final batter.

In this scenario, the field becomes the featured player instead of the actual players or the teams. The fields with more inventive traps and ways to make teams score would have the highest ticket sales. Players would just be placeholders rather than valuable assets.

If you haven’t picked up on the metaphor you either know nothing about baseball, or are not a libertarian. So, I’ll spell it out just in case. Government, or the state, is the field. The players are the people. The scoreboard is simply the reflection of what can be accomplished by the players. With the state (field) predetermining outcomes there must be some system to hinder certain people (players) and to help others.

Another Naughty Word

Let’s step away from the metaphor for a minute. In economics and governmental systems a guaranteed equality of outcomes has a name. Anybody know it? Yes, that’s right, socialism. I know for some of you I may as well have just dropped the f-bomb. However, the stigma surrounding socialism doesn’t come from the pursuit of socialistic society. Instead, it comes from the state mandating socialist policy.

I personally believe that socialism is against human nature and cannot be achieved in a massive scale without state influence. The idea that millions of people would willingly pool their resources and talents (or lack thereof) to end up having the same amount to show for it as all of their neighbors is not a likely occurrence. Humans like to have their own stuff. This is more of a primal urge than many like to admit, but we have certainly not evolved past it. Nor are we likely to any time soon.

On the other hand, the free market exists seamlessly without state influence. I suppose that’s why they call it the free market though. It needs nothing, besides being left alone, to guarantee it exists. Millions of people are much more likely to willingly exchange their goods and services for other goods, services, or means to acquire such things.

I’m sure by now you can tell which system I favor. But, let me explain my view on these two systems more completely. I believe both systems to be honorable goals so long as every individual willingly adopts them and there is no governmental interference that compels the use of one system or the other. In theory, a town could decide to live in pure socialism. They could decide that all products that were produced there were the property of the town and not the individual. Even if they all agree initially, what happens if someone who does not agree with the system moves to the town? Can such a system survive without the town government compelling all citizens of the town to surrender their personal property at the town line? Maybe. Sort of? But the system ceases to be pure socialism once one person can have property of his or her own. Many, including (and maybe especially) constitutionalists, would argue that the one who believes in personal property should just move elsewhere. He can, if he wants to. But why can’t beautiful weather or even proximity to a loved one supersede a difference of opinion on personal property? All should be able to live how they choose, so long as it does not interfere with the lives of others, anywhere they choose.

The free market does not suffer a similar breakdown if any number of people willingly decides to share what they produce. No coercion is necessary to keep people freely trading goods and services.

But, I digress. Sort of. Socialism is a prime example of the fallacies that surround equality. If someone can answer this question in a manner that supports socialism, I will consider socialism a valid option for building a society based on equality: How is taking things from people who produce more and giving them to those who produce less actually equal?

The Human Aspect

No more finances, for now. Instead, human equality.  Yes, that’s right, the concept that all humans, regardless of any identifying trait or marker, should have equal opportunity is the most basic form of equality. The very categorizing of people into groups besides human is counter to equality. Allow me, not that you really have a choice, to use another sports analogy. ESPN does something every year before the teams going to the NCAA tournament are announced. The resumes of two bubble teams are put up on the screen without the names of the teams. Basing the decision solely on the merits of who had the better season, it is usually clear who should get into the tournament. Then they reveal the teams involved, and sometimes your mind is blown. “But that’s my team that clearly shouldn’t get in,” you say to the TV. Suddenly, instead of believing that the better team should get in, you pick your team. If you happen to be on the selection committee, then your bias has just kept the better team out of the tournament that they deserve to be in.

I think the implication here is clear, but once again I‘ll spell it out. Having a favorite is fine. You can gravitate toward people who are more like you, less like you, or not at all like you. But when you choose them over better-qualified individuals for jobs you are doing something wrong. Not only does it sometimes hurt the individual, it also hurts the organization when an inferior (due to ability, not any identifying trait) person is hired. We all have prejudices and we all discriminate. Ensuring that we are discriminating based on the quality of the individual, and not a prejudice against an institutionalized group they belong to, is the important part.

Treating people equally is important, but it won’t always happen. Some people will, unfortunately, choose inferior applicants for jobs because of the color of their skin or some other identifying factor. It’s wrong, but inevitable. But, in a free market where this type of discrimination is not institutionalized, the wronged individual can get a job somewhere else. And, as a bonus, the individual can urge people not to utilize the offending employer’s services. Exceptional people come in all forms and there will always be plenty of people out there who recognize that and will give those people the opportunities they deserve without any form of governmental or societal interference.

The Payoff

Equality evokes different images to different people. For many, equality means having all the same chances in life as everyone else if you’re willing to go out and find them. For others, it means having all the same things as everyone else no matter what your lot in life. The question really comes down to whether you value the opportunity to succeed and make something of yourself, or having stuff. I’ll take the opportunity to make something of myself any, and every, day. I can buy the stuff that I want that way, instead of the stuff someone else thinks I should have.