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Friday, August 10, 2012

Gary North digs himself deeper

It's amusing to see North continue flailing about, still avoiding the salient points while casting aspersions and lies on every side in a desperate attempt to distract the reader from the fact that his case is hopeless. And yet, a close reading shows that he knows his case is hopeless, as he is trying to respond to arguments that he dare not engage openly by name. Consider this interesting new assertion and the way it contradicts what he had previously written as well as what he later writes in the very same piece:
In my recent essays on tariffs, in which I have used the metaphors of badges and guns and invisible lines known as borders, I have been attempting to get people to think carefully about the underlying economic principles of free enterprise. I am asking people to think through the presuppositions and implications of their views regarding the way the economy really works and the way the economy ought to work.
Ah, so those invisible lines that are used to delineate the nonexistent nation are merely metaphorical now! He didn't actually mean to say that nations don't exist, after all, that would be entirely absurd and would prove my point that he is an intrinsically anti-American globalist.

But he's lying again, and the only reason he's trying to claim it is a metaphor is because it blows apart his entire argument... which is why he's promptly forced to return to the "metaphor" only a few paragraphs later.
They say that they do not believe that the state is the same as the nation. The problem is, most of them still operate in terms of the collective entity known as the nation. They still cling to the idea of the nation-state as the final source of guidance for the economy....

What do you mean, "the nation"? What is this nation?

How does special-interest legislation favoring a handful of domestic manufacturers defend the vaguely defined entity called the nation?

There is a true bait-and-switch operation going on here. Defenders of tariffs present themselves as defenders of the nation, when in fact the nation, from the point of view of economics, is not a collective entity. The nation, from an economic standpoint, is simply a convenient name that we give to people inside invisible judicial lines known as national borders.
But wait a minute? Didn't Mr. North just say that those invisible lines were metaphors? More importantly, it is clear that the only bait-and-switch taking place here is on North's part, as he is desperate to conflate the nationalist argument with a statist one. He has the hammer of his anti-statist argument and therefore the problem must be a nail. But it is simply false to claim that the nation is the state, and indeed, only a myopic and untraveled American like North is liable to make such a mistake. Nations are more than judicial constructs or units of Samuelsonian economic calculation, they are genetic and linguistic and they are not only distinct from political states, they predate them.

North tells more porkies when he provides a list of propositions he erroneously claims to be false, which are particularly embarrassing given his claims to be a historian. Consider this one: "Badges plus guns plus sales taxes increase the wealth of nations."

This isn't a false proposition. History is perfectly clear on how Rome's wealth, Great Britain's wealth, and America's wealth were all produced by badges, guns, and yes, taxes. Indeed, the observable decline of the USA traces back to the point when it had to begin competing in a world in which it was no longer the only state without a shattered industrial infrastructure. As I have pointed out before, Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy is not a fallacy so long as one breaks the windows in another town and shoots the glazier there. It is clear that North simply doesn't understand the important difference between the collective wealth of nations and the wealth of an individual nation, much less the nature of the dynamic relationship between the two concepts. Nor does he understand that the free trade he advocates requires the end of the very nations that he simultaneously claims are a) nonexistent and b) the beneficiaries of the wealth produced by free trade.

Instead of addressing the substantive arguments that I and others have offered, such as my economic calculation that it will require the emigration of nearly fifty percent of the U.S. workforce under the age of 40 to generate the same benefits from international free trade that are derived from domestic free trade, North prefers to attack straw men and centuries-old mercantilist arguments. But note that even in the quote from Mises that begins his latest debacle, the roots of my argument can be detected: "International division of labor becomes suspect because it hinders the full use of national sovereignty."

Translation: Free trade is incompatible with national sovereignty. And international labor mobility is incompatible with the very existence of nations.

Perhaps he's senile, or perhaps he's simply an intellectually overmatched coward, but either way, Gary North's continued attempts to tar all economic nationalists with the statist brush are not only false, they are dishonest. Consider his conclusion, which demonstrates the extent to which he fails to grasp the salient issues:
I do not expect to change the mind of any protectionist. But I would like those people who are the targets of protectionists' taxation program to recognize that the person making the argument for sales taxes on imports is a mercantilist and a welfare statist. The protectionist will not admit this to himself, and he surely will not admit it to anyone considering his arguments. He will staunchly deny that he is a mercantilist or a welfare statist, but his arguments are those of mercantilism and welfare state economics, so his denials should not be taken seriously.
Of course he would like the modern protectionists to do that... because then he'd have an argument against them! But the arguments being made are most certainly not "those of mercantilism and welfare state economics" as many of them have clearly never been made before! And in light of how feeble and dishonest his performance has been, it is more than a little amusing to see an unconfessed globalist utopian such as North trying to claim that anyone else's denials should not be taken seriously.
Most of all, I want them to stop claiming that they are believers in Austrian school economics and are staunch defenders of libertarianism.
If belief in international free trade is a prerequisite to believing in Austrian School economics, I have no problem declaring myself a post-Austrian. Mises isn't Holy Writ after all, and I suspect the Austrian School will be eventually seen as little more than a stepping stone that served as a useful contribution towards a more relevant and reliable post-Austrian economics. As for libertarianism, I will merely point out that liberty cannot exist in the absence of nations. The alternative to nations isn't liberty, but global totalitarianism and the absolute rule of evil.

Labels:

67 Comments:

Blogger Joe A. August 10, 2012 8:10 AM  

Mises seemed to tread more carefully and conscientiously on this subject than his followers who came afterward.

The whole Institute is moving increasingly toward anarcho-capitalism lately as well, unless they're just displaying truer colors as of late.

Blogger Dan Hewitt August 10, 2012 8:36 AM  

Gary North's continued attempts to tar all economic nationalists with the statist brush are not only false, they are dishonest.

I’m not sure why the statist accusation is even controversial at all. Have you not implicitly acknowledged this in your statement “…Rome's wealth, Great Britain's wealth, and America's wealth were all produced by badges, guns, and yes, taxes.”?

free trade…requires the end of the very nations

That is most likely true for the state, but could you please explain how that holds true for the nation?

Anonymous zen0 August 10, 2012 8:38 AM  

Political science considers a State, a Nation, and a Nation-State as distinct concepts. I think it would help economists to do this also.

Depending on the source, there are 189, 191, 192, 193, 194 or 195 states in the world today and 800+ nations.

State: The accepted definition of a state was supplied by Max Weber in his book Politics as a Vocation: "A sovereign entity (rules itself), within a defined/specific territory (in defined borders), that holds a monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in the enforcement of its order. An empire does not have borders as it chooses to continually advance them. A state does not necessarily rule a people with a common culture, it is merely a political concept. Examples of a state: Iraq/Yemen/any state in the United Nations.

Nation: A body of people who share a real or imagined common history, culture, identity, religion, morality, language, traditions, ethnicity or ethnic origin; typically inhabit a particular country/territory/region. Examples of a nation: the Kurds, which reside in northern Iraq and parts of Turkey; the Basque, which inhabit parts of northern Spain and southern France; the Palestinians.

Nation-State: Countries where the social concept of "nation" coincides with the political concept of "state" are called nation-state. Examples of a nation-state: France, USA, Israel.


It seems to me that Nation-States would be weakened by international division of labor in a global system just as the power of Nations are diluted by their inclusion with other Nations in one State.

A Nation-State like the U.S. would have a different economic interests internationally than a Multi-Nation State.

The intent of globalist seems to be to rid the world of Nation-States and make all States Multi-National.

Blogger Joshua_D August 10, 2012 8:41 AM  

Joe A. August 10, 2012 8:10 AM

Mises seemed to tread more carefully and conscientiously on this subject than his followers who came afterward.


From what I've read of Mises, he most certainly did tread much more carefully. I'm sure one of the Ilk would let me know if I'm wrong, but I never read Mises make a claim as whether free trade was inherently "good or bad" or "moral" or "beneficial".

North has be caught. He knows it. But since he wants to keep his subscribers, he can't quite bring himself to say he could possibly be wrong. Money always does that.

That's one reason why I like Vox's blog and others, even KD's, where people provide free information and share their views. When people can admit they were wrong about something, I tend to give a lot more credence to their opinions that seem to be consistent with reality.

I mean, we've all be wrong before, right? I don't know what has happened to a man who suddenly thinks there is no way he could be wrong. In North's case, it's even worse than that, because he still hasn't addressed any of the relevant arguments. He just moved from "guns and badges!" to "guns and bellies!"

Anonymous VD August 10, 2012 8:42 AM  

Have you not implicitly acknowledged this in your statement “…Rome's wealth, Great Britain's wealth, and America's wealth were all produced by badges, guns, and yes, taxes.”?

No. It's not a statist argument to simply note the historically obvious facts and point out that North's assertion is false. It would be a statist argument if I advocated increasing American wealth by conquering Canada.

That is most likely true for the state, but could you please explain how that holds true for the nation?

You have it backwards. The state, being a judicial entity, can survive regardless of who lives there. The USA will still be the USA when it is entirely populated by Mexicans and Africans. What it will not be is America, as what was once the American nation will be distributed all around the world as per the demands of the international labor market.

Blogger Dan Hewitt August 10, 2012 8:43 AM  

Also Vox, I recommend reading Rothbard's "Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State"

http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/11_1/11_1_1.pdf

Blogger tz August 10, 2012 8:45 AM  

The lines might be invisible, but the reason they exist is that things are VERY DIFFERENT on each side. On one side, rights are respected, contracts, are honored, there is a judiciary and arbitration, and things like fraud and theft and violence are punished. On the other side, evil dominates.

If the line is truly irrelevant, there is identical cultures, resources, etc. on each side of the line there is no reason for trade, no comparative advantage, equally industrious or lazy workers, same laws and legal system.

If the line is complimentary, say Alice handles food and clothing, Bob is Mr. Fixit, they trade. It is also probably one of the unspoken benefits of marriage - the ultimate free trade agreement.

If the line is between heaven and hell, righteousness and evil, there must be walls and there are no reasons even to have gates. Hell most definitely wants to enter heaven to exploit and ruin it. Heaven has no reason to enter hell. In the case of nations, any merchandise entering will be stolen or illicit - perhaps we should allow the import of fetus soup from China?

There are practical problems. Tariffs are often like regulation, they will be imposed by the import/export authority to protect us just like the SEC and OCC protect us from brokerages and banks. They shouldn't be blanket tariffs, but there should be a direct relation between the tariff and the evil being addresses. I would actually escrow the tariff and allow the foreign country's citizens to sue for damages, e.g. negligence that maims and kills workers, environmental damage, theft and fraud.

Banking as done, currency manipulation, and the rest is the biggest fraud. If the US Dollar is devalued 20%, that is an instant 20% tariff on imports and 20% subsidy on exports. That is what happened just after NAFTA in and by Mexico. North should address that too. You can't have free trade in any meaningful sense without a monetary standard. The "prices" across the "invisible" or metaphorical line can fluctuate not on any trade basis but on the whim of those with the guns and badges. Usually by creating monetary units. Having the freedom to trade in the monetary unit of choice, not that imposed by the government is a necessary pre-condition to even what North would describe as free trade.

(And gold leaving a country would cause deflation in gold and eventually alter prices until a balance was achieved, you cannot have an indefinite trade surplus or deficit - even now China is or was buying US Treasuries. But discussing under what circumstances trade should be done is beyond the topic)

Trade is good and necessary when goods are only available on the other side of the line, but care must be taken - the miners and farmers will need to exchange even if culturally and legally identical.

This is a common flaw to some of the anarcho libertarians. I described it before using the late Harry Browne's metaphor: Government breaks your leg then gives you a crutch. North would take away the crutch without doing anything about the leg and have you run a sprint against a foreign athlete on steroids allowed to cheat and call it a fair race.

Tariffs are one way to imperefectly level the playing field. But the distortions are on the other side of the line.

Blogger Dan Hewitt August 10, 2012 8:54 AM  

Thanks, I appreciate the replies.

It's not a statist argument to simply note the historically obvious facts and point out that North's assertion is false. It would be a statist argument if I advocated increasing American wealth by conquering Canada.

You’re advocating increasing American wealth by taxes, correct? When did taxes stop becoming statist?

The USA will still be the USA when it is entirely populated by Mexicans and Africans. What it will not be is America, as what was once the American nation will be distributed all around the world as per the demands of the international labor market.

In a world with nations and without states, there would be no danger of an American nation being populated by Mexicans or Africans. Again, the Rothbard essay is a good read, and I will try to find and post some Hoppe quotes – he’s also written some good stuff that I think you might agree with.

Anonymous VD August 10, 2012 9:07 AM  

You’re advocating increasing American wealth by taxes, correct? When did taxes stop becoming statist?

No, I'm advocating protecting the existence of America by laws. You need to pay attention to the actual arguments, not the arguments you hope I will make so that you'll have a ready answer for them. As for taxes, statism isn't binary.

In a world with nations and without states, there would be no danger of an American nation being populated by Mexicans or Africans.

That's nice. However, states exist in the context of this discourse. One of the things that separates me from North, Rothbard and others is that I'm not a utopian.

Blogger Joshua_D August 10, 2012 9:23 AM  

"I began to rethink my views on immigration when, as
the Soviet Union collapsed, it became clear that ethnic Russians had been
encouraged to flood into Estonia and Latvia in order to destroy the
cultures and languages of these peoples. Previously, it had been easy to
dismiss as unrealistic Jean Raspail's anti-immigration novel The Camp
of the Saints, in which virtually the entire population of India decides to
move, in small boats, into France, and the French, infected by liberal
ideology, cannot summon the will to prevent economic and cultural
national destruction. As cultural and welfare-state problems have inten-
sified, it became impossible to dismiss Raspail's concerns any longer."

Rothbard, Nations By Consent, pg. 7.

Blogger Joshua_D August 10, 2012 9:36 AM  

Overall, I have to say I mostly agree with Rothbard. Even in his anarcho-capitalistic pieces, he always points out that the anarcho-capitalist utopia is only something to aim for, understanding that "nothing on is perfect on this side of heaven."

I think that's one reason that I have mostly like what I've read by Rothbard and Chesterton.

Anonymous scoobius dubious August 10, 2012 9:52 AM  

Statist, mercantilist, who cares what you call it? When I walk down the street in America, I want to have the feeling of walking down the street in America --- not in Mexico, not in India, not in Somalia, not in name-your-monkey-hole.

Mutually beneficial free trade is only possible between equals (for these purposes I mean: social, political, economic, and environmental equals). Since the USA essentially has no equals (Western Europe comes close, but not quite), what might we expect to see as an outcome of free trade?

Oh, right: an exploding trade deficit, the erasure of vital industries, and the erasure of our own people and culture by swarms of grasping invading immigrants who have absolutely no business here, and whose only purpose is to suck our blood.

Do we see that?

Why, yes. Yes we do.

Who benefits?

Hell, why even ask the question, it's always the same.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler August 10, 2012 9:59 AM  

The "state" is the political organization of a body.

The "nation" is a group of interrelated families; i.e. race.

Nation is the group. Germans are a nation but a nation composed of different tribes; Austrian Germans are different from their Northern compatriots, Saxons, and Bavarian Germans are different. Bavaria was once ruled by a Monarchy for 800 years (until the American Woodrow Wilson forced its abdiction). The Monarchy is the State. Now, Bavaria is not a State but is a province under Berlin which is the State ruling over the various Teutonic tribes of Germany proper.

The State is the organization of a body politic. The State is the bureaucracy of a body politic.

Anonymous Mr Green Man August 10, 2012 10:39 AM  

I always thought the switch from GNP to GDP was a tacit decision by the economists that they could care less about the nation of nominal Americans -- they had to get the accounting right for the provinces of the UN. North seems to continue in that economic tradition of hating the notion of a nation of people with a common link.

Anonymous RC August 10, 2012 10:41 AM  

This ongoing series of posts have been very helpful but it's quickly becoming Me-So-Michelle all over again, Ms. Malkin's looks aside. Keep it up Mr. North, very educational.

Anonymous Klaatu Fabrice Aquinas August 10, 2012 11:04 AM  

I believe what drives North's ideology, his Weltanschauung, especially including his comprehension of 'human events,' is his chosen theology. Personally, I believe his theology is flawed, and therefore his filter on life is distorted. This is not just true of North, but many on this planet. Many that truly and sincerely seek their Creator's face, but for whatever reasons -- fail. North is a flawed human being, as we all are, and we will until such time as we are all fully redeemed, from the curse of this cosmos.

Mises et al, likewise seek truth, but because of their humanity, fail as well. It is not by accident, that the Austrian School genesis, the School of Salamanca (Spanish Scholastics), is the same as that of another institution, created in ~1540. There are too many similarities to count such as mere coincidences.

Having said all this, it is ultimately, that is necessary in this present universe of space and time, that such institutions exist, for the good of mankind. It is important, in fact paramount, that mankind understand that we need leadership that "may harm the good people, ...nevertheless rules the evil ones at the same time; and this is more necessary and proper for the world, since the world is nothing but a mass of evil people."

I share the sentiment that a post-system may come. Perhaps even in our lifetimes. I guess that depends just on our total perceptions of this present realm, and how we wish to live it. A current television show posits that Nature knows neither right or wrong. It only knows Balance, and that it must be maintained until such time something will supercede it. I believe may well just be witnessing a shifting of that -- Balance. Although, who knows when such will supercede it. Until such time, national sovereignty appears to be man's best means of order, and to secure liberty and justice for all. For, "No man can be an island." At least for the Christian, this appears to be the paradox between 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 and Romans 13...

Anonymous cherub's revenge August 10, 2012 11:08 AM  

There seems to be a recent anti-protectionism clamor. Forbes has been running free trade articles seemingly every other day for the last few months. Gary North's audacity (and chutzpah) pales in comparison to this guy:

Obama And Romney Are Wrong: Outsourcing Is America At Its Best

By Harry Binswanger

"Economic nationalism is as morally outrageous as racism. Buying on the basis of nationality or race is the same collectivist evil: judging men and their products by the group from which they come, not by merit."
...
"And this tribalist, xenophobic attitude is supposed to reflect Americanism?"
...
The “Hire American” premise is the opposite: everyone must cling to his own tribe...
...
"Contrary to the tribalist assumption...
...
Any outsourcing that saves costs and increases profits is to be celebrated. A Congressional Medal of Honor should go to the CEO who cuts his costs the most, ....




Mr. Binswanger, open US borders fanatic, committed Israel advocate and warmonger, of course doesn't have a tribalist bone is his body.

That's why in his many comments on Israel you'll find him advocating the same free trade and open immigration for them. Ha!

Blogger LP 999/Eliza August 10, 2012 11:11 AM  

Gary isn't done yet, expect more pieces like these.

Anonymous Josh August 10, 2012 11:15 AM  

So, if limiting trade through "taxes, badges, and guns" on the international market would increase wealth, why can't one make those same arguments about international trade?

Blogger Rahul August 10, 2012 11:16 AM  

Vox always attacks North. I'm sure many Austrian school guys think like him. It just seems Vox always posts about him.

In regards to free trade, we don't have it (like Ron Paul says). NAFTA and teh WTO don't represent free trade. The guys on CNBC say it is. But if you get rid of NAFTA and pull out of the WTO, that'd be much better than what we have.

Anonymous Josh August 10, 2012 11:19 AM  

Rahul, you're not allowed to pull the "no true free trade" card, only Vox is.

Anonymous VD August 10, 2012 11:33 AM  

In regards to free trade, we don't have it (like Ron Paul says). NAFTA and teh WTO don't represent free trade. The guys on CNBC say it is. But if you get rid of NAFTA and pull out of the WTO, that'd be much better than what we have.

Irrelevant. People keep bringing up that stupid stuff despite the fact that bringing it up only proves that they haven't understood the discussion. It makes no difference if you are talking about true and pure free trade of all goods and services or if you are merely talking about trade in goods that is slightly more free than before.

I can see I'll have to spell this all out for the slowpokes. I'll do it soon, but here is the shorthand.

1. If you are making a MORAL argument for free trade in goods, those very same arguments also apply to services, capital, and labor. You cannot split them apart on a MORAL basis.

2. If you are making an ECONOMIC argument for free trade in goods, you cannot appeal to morality.

3. Free trade is not a binary concept. It is a continuum. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between arguing ideal concepts and arguing practical ones. Most free traders dance between the two depending upon how their feet are being held to the fire.

Anonymous VD August 10, 2012 11:33 AM  

NAFTA and teh WTO don't represent free trade.

No, but they represent much FREER trade than before. To claim otherwise is a blatant and easily disproved lie.

Anonymous Josh August 10, 2012 11:39 AM  

Vox, what do you think of Mish's argument that the types of trade deficits, imbalances, and debt we see in our current global fiat system wouldn't occur in a hard money system?

Blogger Rahul August 10, 2012 11:47 AM  

"No, but they represent much FREER trade than before"

If you say so.

One point to add though (as RP notes), NAFTA + the WTO has over 20,000 PAGES!! That's just insane. I want less rules and regulations. If you have tariffs, cut taxes and spending. I could live with tariffs, but not bloated govt agencies.

Anonymous Jeffrey Quick August 10, 2012 11:52 AM  

"The alternative to nations isn't liberty, but global totalitarianism and the absolute rule of evil."

Or the world rule of King Jesus and the absolute rule of Good. That, however, can't be implemented by blog posts or politics.

Anonymous VD August 10, 2012 11:54 AM  

If you say so.

It's a fact. They eliminated thousands of tariffs and reduced many more. It's not open for discussion. I've never seen a single free trader argue for restoring all those tariffs because eliminating them "isn't free trade".

Anonymous WinstonWebb August 10, 2012 11:56 AM  

1. If you are making a MORAL argument for free trade in goods, those very same arguments also apply to services, capital, and labor. You cannot split them apart on a MORAL basis.

2. If you are making an ECONOMIC argument for free trade in goods, you cannot appeal to morality.


Unfortunately, if one attempted to ask North to state whether he is making a Moral or an Economic argument in an effort to pin him down, he'd most likely say "both" - then the cycle continues.
F'ing weasel...

Anonymous Stilicho August 10, 2012 12:00 PM  

a close reading shows that he knows his case is hopeless, as he is trying to respond to arguments that he dare not engage openly by name.

Ah, the argument that dare not speak its name.

Like free love, free trade sounds enticing until you wake up one morning with an STD (sexually transmitted disease or serial trade deficit, take your pick).

Anonymous Mr Green Man August 10, 2012 12:08 PM  

3. Free trade is not a binary concept. It is a continuum. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between arguing ideal concepts and arguing practical ones. Most free traders dance between the two depending upon how their feet are being held to the fire.

Don't forget that, in the primordial ooze of this discussion, the Free Trade Uber Alles anti-nationalist crowd staked out the position that history was irrelevant, data was irrelevant, and only through philosophical conjecture can anything be figured out. Thus, we wait for the appeal to historical facts, such as in the latest North piece, where he starts to pepper in data from 1970 and use economic history, which I thought they said was a no-no...

There also has been a reversal on the sainthood and infallibility of Adam Smith in the latest representation of anti-nationalist anarcho-capitalism missive from Mr. North. Didn't this adventure start with somebody screaming he stood on the mountain of truth, and that was Adam Smith?

One has to appreciate the yeoman's job Mr. North has done attempting to sell a reversal of the definitions "nation" and "state" which are pretty well understood from political science. "The nation, from an economic standpoint, is simply a convenient name that we give to people inside invisible judicial lines known as national borders." I'm not sure the mountains of truth he stood upon in spite of 200 years of history would have all agreed with that remark and not had the prejudices of the English, French, or German peoples, but he has the piano man playing and he's got his best barker's patter. The Kurds would probably disagree, too. It is like how Tim Russert reversed the classic blue/red labels and the conservative yokels drank up being the reds.

Anonymous Mr Green Man August 10, 2012 12:16 PM  

Per Rahul:
One point to add though (as RP notes), NAFTA + the WTO has over 20,000 PAGES!! That's just insane. I want less rules and regulations. If you have tariffs, cut taxes and spending. I could live with tariffs, but not bloated govt agencies.


One amazing thing: Mr. North and his acolytes will not allow for this simpler world. You are missing why Mr. North and his fans are just bad for America. Eventually, you have to govern the country, to at minimum do things like establish protection against foreign usurpation of your blissful libertarian utopia. Whoever you grant regulation of power -- that is government -- whether he meets in a tent or a group meets in a parliament house or capitol building.

Mr. North has systematically argued that the tariff -- which, aside from the capitation tax which was never implemented, is the mildest form of taxation America has ever known, and kept her government small and limited for a long time -- that same tariff is bad and should not be allowed.

So, if you start to make the case -- do something to starve leviathan -- the great ally of liberty Mr. North has cut off the option from those who would seek to repeal the income tax for tariffs and excises. You can paint the picture of Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein, and Harry Reid waving their pocket constitutions, shouting that they make common cause with Mr. North and other libertarians, that they oppose these discriminatory tariffs that take national origin into account -- and so we must have a heavier income tax because it's at least fair and doesn't rely on men with guns and badges on the border.

Mr. North, claiming to have Ron Paul's imprimatur, has diverged from Dr. Paul on how to fund the government. Those who want to ask -- wherefore government? -- wish to return to utopian discussion, which means shunning the actual operation of America and its accumulated history. One would say -- with friends like these... -- but they aren't friends.

Anonymous Freestater August 10, 2012 12:19 PM  

"As for libertarianism, I will merely point out that liberty cannot exist in the absence of nations."

I wildly Disagree. Wouldn't that oppose the entirety of Mises, Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell. The entire goal being the absence of a nation state.

Blogger Joshua_D August 10, 2012 12:20 PM  

Mr Green Man August 10, 2012 12:08 PM
"The nation, from an economic standpoint, is simply a convenient name that we give to people inside invisible judicial lines known as national borders."


That line that North wrote pretty much did it for me. Did it for me in the sense that I don't really care what else he has to say on the topic. What sane man would write such a thing and expect other sane people to agree?

Right, right, Mr, North. From the point of view of economics ... STFU. Economics has no point of view. Damnit with all this fracking personification and blathering about points of view of sciences!

Economics has no point of view. Math has no point of view. Biology has no point of view. ONLY PEOPLE HAVE A POINT OF VIEW. And from the point of view of me, and most other people, 'nations' are not just a convenient name.

Good grief.

Anonymous WinstonWebb August 10, 2012 12:24 PM  

"As for libertarianism, I will merely point out that liberty cannot exist in the absence of nations."

I wildly Disagree. Wouldn't that oppose the entirety of Mises, Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell. The entire goal being the absence of a nation state.


By all means, please provide an example to the contrary. Where has Liberty existed in the absence of a nation?

Anonymous JCclimber August 10, 2012 12:31 PM  

Vox,
out of curiosity, would you say it is likely that North (and the atheists) do not bother to take the simple step of boiling their own arguments down to 1 or 2 sentences?

Yes, it is difficult to do (simple, but difficult). But it can really save you a lot of embarrassment to do it yourself before someone else does it for you.

Is it laziness or moral cowardice? Both? I ask because I suspect you do this (boil it down first) yourself before writing your own pieces, in addition to putting out a sounding board on this blog before writing a piece for the weekly WND column...

Blogger Joshua_D August 10, 2012 12:42 PM  

WinstonWebb August 10, 2012 12:24 PM
"As for libertarianism, I will merely point out that liberty cannot exist in the absence of nations."

""I wildly Disagree. Wouldn't that oppose the entirety of Mises, Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell. The entire goal being the absence of a nation state.""

By all means, please provide an example to the contrary. Where has Liberty existed in the absence of a nation?


Don't be silly Winston. The answer is, the Garden of Eden, of course. Well, unless you consider that God Himself pretty much ran the place.

Blogger Vox August 10, 2012 12:46 PM  

I wildly Disagree. Wouldn't that oppose the entirety of Mises, Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell. The entire goal being the absence of a nation state.

You are making the mistake of attempting to conflate nation and state. They are two different concepts. And the nation-state is a subset that consists of the overlap of the two.

Is it laziness or moral cowardice? Both? I ask because I suspect you do this (boil it down first) yourself before writing your own pieces, in addition to putting out a sounding board on this blog before writing a piece for the weekly WND column...

I think their problem is actually intellectual dishonesty, but they are their own first victims. They begin their arguments with the answer, then try to figure out how they can get to that answer in a reasonably convincing manner. I very, very seldom begin with the answer in mind, but instead, prefer to begin from the basic facts and principles.

The advantage I usually have is that I really don't care much one way or the other. Does equality exist? Should women vote? Does free trade create wealthy societies? I have no emotional attachment to these things. So, I'm free to contemplate them without my thinking being clouded by the need to prove one thing or the other.

I mean, consider inflation/deflation. I wish I could be sure that inflation is in store. Then I'd borrow like crazy and buy gold with it. But I just don't see that as being the case.

Blogger Tom Swift August 10, 2012 1:07 PM  

I would like to congratulate North and VD on a well-played discussion. I'm not wearing my tin-foil hat today (yet), but if I was, I would swear that they have some sort of gentleman's agreement to verbally eviscerate each other on the subject of i-dotting and t-crossing in order to get more blog traffic.

Now, as a consumer, WHY DO I CARE?

I either pay more, or pay less, for an item, and, using my critical thinking skills (enhanced by cosmic rays from my tin-foil hat), I will tend to buy items that cost less. I'm not worried about the price of rice in China, or if Mexico is a nation-state, or if my purchase habits will hasten the collapse of America, or if the Bilderbergs are secretly plotting to establish a one-world government headed by a goat. I buy what I want to buy.

In all of this discussion, I haven't seen, perhaps impeded by my hat, the connection between the average Joe-citizen's purchasing decisions, and why any of the i-dotting and t-crossing is relevant. Although it is cathartic to engage in Free Speech, and revel in why the 'other person' is a palavering idiot, how's 'bout ya'll connect the dots?

Blogger Joshua_D August 10, 2012 1:10 PM  

Tom Swift August 10, 2012 1:07 PM

In all of this discussion, I haven't seen, perhaps impeded by my hat, the connection between the average Joe-citizen's purchasing decisions, and why any of the i-dotting and t-crossing is relevant. Although it is cathartic to engage in Free Speech, and revel in why the 'other person' is a palavering idiot, how's 'bout ya'll connect the dots?


I wouldn't say that it's your hat that's impeding anything ....

Anonymous WinstonWebb August 10, 2012 1:18 PM  

I'm not worried about...if my purchase habits will hasten the collapse of America...

Then you clearly have no real interest in the topic at hand. Might I suggest posting on a board/topic more likely suitable to your interests?

Blogger Tom Swift August 10, 2012 1:31 PM  

I'm interested in how people commenting on the current dialogue are certain that purchasing habits will bring about economic collapse. How is the correct definiton of a nation-state relevant? Or whether I buy 'American'? Or if borders are physical? Or whether Gary North is an unmitigated liar because he mixes metaphors like martinis?

Blogger IM2L844 August 10, 2012 1:39 PM  

The alternative to nations isn't liberty, but global totalitarianism and the absolute rule of evil.

I really can't understand why this central big picture point isn't blatantly obvious to everyone. The idea that the brotherhood of man should all be living together in a borderless global village/commune with a relatively small (in a per capita sense) centralized system to settle disputes and regulate would be abusers of Gaia and her peoples, is utter bullshit that is conspicuously ignorant of basic human nature.

Anonymous Suomynona August 10, 2012 2:41 PM  

The alternative to nations isn't liberty, but global totalitarianism and the absolute rule of evil.

I'm not aware that anyone has made the assertion that globalism = liberty. In fact, my impression is that those pushing for globalism, that is, leftists, are perfectly aware of the fact that a global government will be the most powerful, totalitarian government in the history of mankind. THIS time they will get it right! Leftists are all fascists to the core. I imagine the thought of everyone on the whole planet forced into submission to march to their leftist ideology under threat of death sends tingles down their legs.

Anonymous LES August 10, 2012 2:42 PM  

Ilk, please don't let Tom Swift in the batter's box.

Blogger Tom Swift August 10, 2012 2:56 PM  

I really can't understand why this central big picture point isn't blatantly obvious to everyone. The idea that the brotherhood of man should all be living together in a borderless global village/commune with a relatively small (in a per capita sense) centralized system to settle disputes and regulate would be abusers of Gaia and her peoples, is utter bullshit that is conspicuously ignorant of basic human nature.

The irony of this statement is that the Pilgrims, along with others, established just such a village, in order to better live according to dictates of conscience.

They did not seek a hedonistic utopia, merely the chance to live how they felt they ought to live. They survived, yes, barely, but what government representative was present, that the people did not first agree to? At that point, King George's authority and protection existed as a memory, not a reality.

Yes, we can agree that the "communal system" they first established failed (aka Socialism), but the principle remains the same: human nature is not inherently good, but it also has the freedom to make it's own choices. Were this not the case, redemption of mankind would not be possible, for what human nature, by itself, would choose to do what is right?

Anonymous Toby Temple August 10, 2012 3:14 PM  

Off topic but a nice source of discussion in your blog, Vox:

Abandoned Children in Europe

Blogger IM2L844 August 10, 2012 4:04 PM  

Tom, you're comparison simply isn't valid for obvious reasons.

Suomynona, are you unaware of the concept of international distributive justice being touted as the only road to liberty for all?

Anonymous Salt August 10, 2012 4:17 PM  

Leftists are all fascists to the core.

Virtually all leftists I have the pleasure of kicking around hate Corporations and their ties to government. But every damn one loves the State. One leftie stated that without taxes there would be no police, fire, schools, business or any service for that matter.

Their Commies.

Anonymous Stilicho August 10, 2012 4:17 PM  

those pushing for globalism, that is, leftists, are perfectly aware of the fact that a global government will be the most powerful, totalitarian government in the history of mankind

It's not that free trade libertarians are aware that they are advocating for a totalitarian world government, it's just that a totalitarian world government is a prerequisite for their proposed borderless free trade system with free movement of labor, capital, and goods. Ipso facto, they are advocating the creation of the very thing they profess to oppose.

Anonymous Anonymous August 10, 2012 4:28 PM  

I sometimes make that mistake: When losing a practical argument, I switch to a moral argument, and vice versa.

Gotta watch out for that. Thanks, Vox! Keep breaking it down for us slowpokes!

Blogger IM2L844 August 10, 2012 4:35 PM  

It's not that free trade libertarians are aware that they are advocating for a totalitarian world government, it's just that a totalitarian world government is a prerequisite for their proposed borderless free trade system with free movement of labor, capital, and goods. Ipso facto, they are advocating the creation of the very thing they profess to oppose.

Well put. That sums it up nicely.

Blogger Vox August 10, 2012 4:49 PM  

Ipso facto, they are advocating the creation of the very thing they profess to oppose.

Precisely. Which is why I keep belaboring the point about how maximizing tax rates does not maximize tax revenue. In the same way, minimizing law does not maximize human liberty.

Anonymous Suomynona August 10, 2012 5:28 PM  

Stilicho August 10, 2012 4:17 PM
It's not that free trade libertarians are aware that they are advocating for a totalitarian world government


Oh. I wasn't considering those guys even though that's the topic. Yes, yours seems like a reasonable assessment of the free trade libertarian's position. Although, one wonders why they're so oblivious to the inevitable ramifications of it. Are they being short-sighted, delusional, blinded by greed, or conveniently stupid?

Gary North has swallowed the globalist koolaid. There's no argument that will turn him away from his delusions of one big happy free world busily going on about its business with no governing body wielding those nasty badges and guns over everyone's heads. Nope. It's the World of Disney Market.

Anonymous Josh August 10, 2012 6:26 PM  

Badgeses...we hates them! Nasty, mean, tricksy badgeses!

Gollum...gollum...gollum...

Blogger IM2L844 August 10, 2012 6:31 PM  

Are they being short-sighted, delusional, blinded by greed, or conveniently stupid?

I want to believe it's more of a "can't see the forest for the trees" situation.

Anonymous Suomynona August 10, 2012 6:43 PM  

I want to believe it's more of a "can't see the forest for the trees" situation.

But, isn't there already one big stinking forest, called the EU, right in front of their stupid noses from which they can clearly see the disastrous results to liberty caused by that free trade zone?

Am I missing something, or isn't the EU a glaring example of why the same thing on a worldwide scale would be an even bigger bureaucratic monster controlling everyone's lives?

Anonymous scoobius dubious August 10, 2012 6:44 PM  

Since economics is not precise enough as a discipline to provide a single, overwhelmingly "correct" answer either for or against a particular argument, and since economics does not exist independently in a world where it alone suffices, to make a strictly "economic" argument does not and cannot persuade. Some things can be seen to be probably a bit more or less destructive along a particular curve, depending one what one values, but since everybody doesn't value the same things, that's about it.

Similarly, with respect to the moral argument, if we are talking about a global scale, there are too many different and conflicting moralities, and most of the major ones are too flexible, for the moral argument to yield a single overwhelmingly "correct" answer that will satisfy everyone it is morally "right". (I am not saying that an absolute morality doesn't exist or cannot be perceived, simply that everyone doesn't share it, and since they do not agree on mutually accepted terms, the argument can never be persuasive globally.)

Which doesn't mean North shouldn't be shredded, simply for fun and to keep one's claws sharp; it just means that these positions tend to asymptotically approach the ridiculous, because they exclude too many factors.

If Country A is willing to import huge numbers of cans of beans at a very cheap price, because what they value more than anything is cheap beans, and Country B is willing to supply the cheap beans at a detriment to themselves because in the long run what they value is Conquest and Victory (viz. after they've ruined everyone else's economies with their cheap-export strategy, they will own everything and can then have all the beans they please), then we are not comparing alike things.

Similarly, to say that, well, Country A just should have been wiser and deserves its ruin at the hands of Country B may also make no sense, especially if, oh let's just say for instance, Country A is actually run by a hostile elite composed of a small, closely-knit, malicious ethnic group who are deliberately leading Country A to ruin because it furthers their own cryptic ends.

I don't why that example popped into my head. Couldn't actually be happening, of course.

Anonymous scoobius dubious August 10, 2012 6:48 PM  

"the EU, right in front of their stupid noses from which they can clearly see the disastrous results to liberty caused by that free trade zone?"

Of course they can see it. They simply don't value liberty, it doesn't figure in their calculations. What they value is control, destroying Christendom for good, and eradicating white people from the face of the earth. And they're getting good value on all those things.

Anonymous Suomynona August 10, 2012 7:07 PM  

Of course they can see it. They simply don't value liberty, it doesn't figure in their calculations.

Then the term "free trade libertarian" is an oxymoron. The correct term is free trade totalitarian. You can always spot the snakiness of a concept by its use of words that convey meanings contradictory or uncharacteristic of its actual purpose.

Humans are easily bamboozled by language. Satan was the first one to recognize this.

Anonymous Freestater August 10, 2012 9:29 PM  

"By all means, please provide an example to the contrary. Where has Liberty existed in the absence of a nation?"

I wasn't stating that such a place exists today, I was merely noting that Lew Rockwell, Rothbard et al, believed that true liberty cannot be achieved until the state is abolished. I suppose I should not have conflated state with nation state.

Anonymous III August 10, 2012 9:43 PM  

"...his delusions of one big happy free world busily going on about its business with no governing body wielding those nasty badges and guns over everyone's heads."

Someone has to worship the Beast.

Blogger robert burns August 10, 2012 10:18 PM  

North, again, is not interested in counter arguments nor will he listen to them. He bombards with volumes of words. Volume equals substance. So much sophistry everywhere though. VD and Mish Shedlock are the sources for brief explanations.

Anonymous Koanic August 11, 2012 4:44 AM  

You've changed my mind and I agree with you VD but that still leaves the question of how to best formulate tariff policy.

It seems pretty obvious that Singapore followed a good strategy and perhaps the abstract is irrelevant and stupid, but I still want to work it out from the textbook islands example.

Say we ignore individual people and the IQ bell curve and pretend that economic friction is zero. And also ignore stuff like financial contagion, foreign military and cultural threat, etc. Just look at pure economic efficiency, maximizing economic well-being for the home country.

In that situation, is a rich US-like state better off with zero tariffs or not? If not, I have trouble picturing why.

If you agree that zero tariffs is best in the above imaginary scenario, then I can see the free trade case as basically a failure to account for humanity.

Blogger IM2L844 August 11, 2012 6:21 AM  

Am I missing something, or isn't the EU a glaring example of why the same thing on a worldwide scale would be an even bigger bureaucratic monster controlling everyone's lives?

The theory is that with total control you can have fair and equitable distribution of resources and a much more efficient system than what the EU could ever hope to achieve. It fundamentally breaks down, in my opinion, because, among other things, it doesn't factor in basic human greed at all levels. Particularly the administrative levels, but not exclusively. Rampant corruption is the Achilles Heel of all these sorts of schemes. The people we place our faith and trust in are seldom worthy of it to the same degree that we allocate it and that's doubly true for public officials and business men.

Anonymous Anonymous August 16, 2012 7:22 AM  

"It's not that free trade libertarians are aware that they are "advocating for a totalitarian world government, it's just that a totalitarian world government is a prerequisite for their proposed borderless free trade system with free movement of labor, capital, and goods. Ipso facto, they are advocating the creation of the very thing they profess to oppose."

absurd. governments are not necessary for anything. throughout history, there have been court systems that operated without government. laws did not come from legislative bodies, but from precedent, customs, and contracts. taxes were still paid, but that was tribute to the ruling class, much like it is today. the difference is that the modern political class has nationalized the court system in order to manipulate it for political gain, including criminalizing victimless actions (drug use, prostitution). the DA who buries a hit-and-run case because the perp is the nephew of a state senator, etc.


"No, I'm advocating protecting the existence of America by laws. You need to pay attention to the actual arguments, not the arguments you hope I will make so that you'll have a ready answer for them. As for taxes, statism isn't binary."

America exists regardless of whether or not a national government persists. its the people that make America exceptional, not the government. every town and city can become its own state. why should they have to pay taxes to another city just because theyre a "capital." decentralization should be advocated and taken to its logical conclusion. then hellholes like Detroit can be left to their own, rather than have resources thrown into that failure.


"Statist, mercantilist, who cares what you call it? When I walk down the street in America, I want to have the feeling of walking down the street in America --- not in Mexico, not in India, not in Somalia, not in name-your-monkey-hole."

who gives a sh*t what you want? if you dont like it, establish your own gated community. you never have to deal with a colored person again. but even if the roads were privatized, people will be free to walk. business owners are going to want customers to have easy access to their stores. residential areas would be another thing altogether, but i think that would be a good thing. it would drastically lower home invasions.

Anonymous Anonymous August 16, 2012 8:21 AM  

"If belief in international free trade is a prerequisite to believing in Austrian School economics, I have no problem declaring myself a post-Austrian. "

Vox, if you believe micro economic principles do not apply to macroeconomics, then you are not a Austrian of any sort, but a Keynesian. please stop with this whole anti-free trade shtick. its disheartening to see someone who fully understands monetary policy, fiscal policy, social policy, and even foreign policy (as anti-war conservatives are so damn rare compared to the chickenhawks) to be so completely and utterly wrong about trade policy. if tariffs create wealth, than it stands to reason that it will do so even at the local level. would American towns and cities having tariffs on each other create wealth? of course not. the same goes for international trade.

the last thing i want to say is that no one wins a trade war. the retaliation for the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was devastating to the US economy.

Anonymous Anonymous November 22, 2012 5:09 AM  

Seriously, this guy contradicts himself like anything. First of all, since he is an Austrian Economist, why is he advocating investment in currency? I thought fiat based currency is the bane of Austrian Economics. I mean, the fact that every government in the world has the power to inflate makes currency, no matter how sound the government's monetary policy is, inflationary by nature. He advocates purchase in rare metals and then turns around and advocates purchase of Singapore currency. How crazy can this be. And the funny thing is that those drones actually took his word seriously and is seriously considering purchasing singapore currency even though the currency is expensive, there is very little potential for further economics growth, housing price over there is already sky high, etc.

And seriously, his words can never be taken seriously. I mean have you ever read any of his commentaries? He just plucks verses from the bible and use them in support of his 'theories' even if they are being taken out of context. I read one of his book called 'Is the World Running Down' and it is really an eye opener that exposes him as a heretic. He uses the entire book to attack one person. And he is wrong not only in christianity, even his understanding of science is suspect. I mean he thinks that entropy is link to the advancement of the society and that by following ethics, we can actually reverse entropy when in actual fact entropy is actually physical evidence that useful energy is generally getting lesser and lesser in an enclosed system. He keeps using the miracles as evidence that entropy can be overturned when the fact is that miracles are considered super natural. No wonder he supports Rick Warren when any person who has a brain knows that books that uses references from different versions of the bible can never be taken seriously. I do not understand why the Mises School that is supposed to have a certain degree of respectability in terms of scholarship can actually consider him as a spokesperson. I mean how can anyone takes a Christian Reconstrutionist and a Covenant theologist seriously is really beyond me. I mean the fact that he thinks stoning is an acceptable punishment is really laughable. He forgot to take into consideration that stoning could have been part of the tradition of the Hebrews at that time and that stoning would be very primitive in our society. How can someone like him gain respectibility in Austrian Economics or even in Reformed Christianity is really beyond me

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