Triumph

a major U.K. newspaper asks what "Atlas Shrugged can teach us"

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Be sure to read Harry Binswanger's comment.

I saw that and, as usual, Dr. Binswanger is (as he calls the article) dead on.

Part of his comment raised a question in my mind, that has nothing to do with the comment itself: Is it still accurate in 2008 to refer to the U.S. economy as "mixed?" While it's true that it has not been officially declared socialist, communist, or fascist by anyone, if a government has arrogated to itself power that reaches so far into every corner of citizens' lives that it dictates how many gallons the nation's toilets are permitted per flush, forces payment of sales tax in one place on purchases in another place simply because the purchaser passes through that first place, and (one I have personal familiarity with) decrees what kind of wastebaskets a business is permitted to use, and imposes millions of other intrusions, from nation to hamlet, then isn't it time to stop saying that that government permits any economic freedom at all?

Sure, the government is not yet a monolithic behemoth like the former Soviet Union, but when every government official from Barack Obama (President-Elect, http://change.gov/) to Tamara Weller (director of my city's Parking Authority, http://204.186.114.89/) is in the business of compulsion, what can possibly be called "mixed" about the economy?

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[...] what can possibly be called "mixed" about the economy?

There's still scattered elements of freedom left - that's why Obama is needed, to change that, to go after those who seem to think that selfishness is some kind of virtue (as he sneeringly stated.)

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Is it still accurate in 2008 to refer to the U.S. economy as "mixed?" While it's true that it has not been officially declared socialist, communist, or fascist by anyone, if a government has arrogated to itself power that reaches so far into every corner of citizens' lives that it dictates how many gallons the nation's toilets are permitted per flush, forces payment of sales tax in one place on purchases in another place simply because the purchaser passes through that first place, and (one I have personal familiarity with) decrees what kind of wastebaskets a business is permitted to use, and imposes millions of other intrusions, from nation to hamlet, then isn't it time to stop saying that that government permits any economic freedom at all?

There are still some areas that are relatively free. For example, the government has so far abstained from regulating the background colors to be used for online forums. In fact, there are no government regulations on computer software that I know of, and I work in the software industry. (I have only worked in EU jurisdictions, but I don't think this is any different in the United States.) The fact that IT more or less remains an oasis of laissez-faire means that people are still free to create wealth in this area by using their independent rational judgment--i.e, they can still live qua man.

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Part of his comment raised a question in my mind, that has nothing to do with the comment itself: Is it still accurate in 2008 to refer to the U.S. economy as "mixed?" While it's true that it has not been officially declared socialist, communist, or fascist by anyone, if a government has arrogated to itself power that reaches so far into every corner of citizens' lives that it dictates how many gallons the nation's toilets are permitted per flush, forces payment of sales tax in one place on purchases in another place simply because the purchaser passes through that first place, and (one I have personal familiarity with) decrees what kind of wastebaskets a business is permitted to use, and imposes millions of other intrusions, from nation to hamlet, then isn't it time to stop saying that that government permits any economic freedom at all?

It is not wrong because we still do have many economic freedoms. Just look at all the choices you have in the U.S. that we did not have in the Middle Ages or that people still do not have in many places in the world now.

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There's still scattered elements of freedom left...

Where? What's left in the economy (as opposed to, say, speech, which, at least until Obama takes over, remains free) that has zero government intervention? (I really, really want to use an expletive here, but I'll say...) For Pete's sake, my city has goons that go around on weekends hunting for and extorting on the spot people who haven't paid the $10* fee mandated by the city for permission to hold a garage sale.

_____

* It was $10 twenty years ago. It's probably higher now.

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There are still some areas that are relatively free. For example, the government has so far abstained from regulating the background colors to be used for online forums.

I'm talking about economics.

In fact, there are no government regulations on computer software that I know of, and I work in the software industry. (I have only worked in EU jurisdictions, but I don't think this is any different in the United States.) The fact that IT more or less remains an oasis of laissez-faire means that people are still free to create wealth in this area by using their independent rational judgment--i.e, they can still live qua man.

So the anti-trust suits brought against Microsoft for, among other things, distributing a free web browser, don't count?

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I just had an interesting thought, wouldn't it be tragic if the U.K. takes up the banner of freedom and the U.S. falls into dictatorship? Well, not tragic for the U.K., but America has become a major disappointment in the cause of liberty. Frankly, I’m a little depressed lately.

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There are still some areas that are relatively free. For example, the government has so far abstained from regulating the background colors to be used for online forums.

By the way, speaking of "aesthetic freedom," it wasn't long ago that my town tried to pass restrictions on what kind of furniture people could put on their porches. It failed, but that's the kind of control government thinks it can and should wield over our lives.

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I just had an interesting thought, wouldn't it be tragic if the U.K. takes up the banner of freedom and the U.S. falls into dictatorship? Well, not tragic for the U.K., but America has become a major disappointment in the cause of liberty. Frankly, I’m a little depressed lately.

I think PM Gordon Brown is doing everything possible to ensure this never happens.

Don't be depressed: go out; go see a movie. Remember, Quantum of Solace is coming out next week. ^_^

Look, the U.S. is still the country in which men who are incorrigibly opposed to the ruling elite are neither in jail (e.g. Burma and countless other Third World countries) nor in and out of court on trumped-up, non-objective charges (e.g. Canada). In America, such men can be multi-millionaires (e.g. Peikoff, Limbaugh, Levin, Hannity, etc.).

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I just had an interesting thought, wouldn't it be tragic if the U.K. takes up the banner of freedom and the U.S. falls into dictatorship? Well, not tragic for the U.K., but America has become a major disappointment in the cause of liberty. Frankly, I’m a little depressed lately.

I think PM Gordon Brown is doing everything possible to ensure this never happens.

Don't be depressed: go out; go see a movie. Remember, Quantum of Solace is coming out next week. ^_^

Look, the U.S. is still the country in which men who are incorrigibly opposed to the ruling elite are neither in jail (e.g. Burma and countless other Third World countries) nor in and out of court on trumped-up, non-objective charges (e.g. Canada). In America, such men can be multi-millionaires (e.g. Peikoff, Limbaugh, Levin, Hannity, etc.).

I do as a rule, Mercury, just seems like the bad news has been constant of late. You're right, there are lots of good things out there and I’m certainly not going to ignore them!

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There are still some areas that are relatively free. For example, the government has so far abstained from regulating the background colors to be used for online forums.

I'm talking about economics.

Trust me, when we get to the point that the government regulates the colors of websites, it will have an effect on the economy. There will be much fewer talented people desiring to work under such conditions, and those who do work in IT will be able to produce much less because they'll have to focus on avoiding punishment for putting bytes where they don't belong instead of using their minds to make their product as good as they can.

So the anti-trust suits brought against Microsoft for, among other things, distributing a free web browser, don't count?

Antitrust applies to every industry, and so do taxes. But even with their combined destructive effect, Bill Gates is better off than he would be in a purely socialist economy. And so are we.

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I just had an interesting thought, wouldn't it be tragic if the U.K. takes up the banner of freedom and the U.S. falls into dictatorship?
I have spent nearly 2 years in the U.K. and I can tell you that China is currently much likelier to take up the banner of freedom than they are.
Frankly, I'm a little depressed lately.
Howard Roark had many depressing things affecting his life too, but he did not care about them. He kept focusing on being as productive as the circumstances let him, and enjoyed it. I don't know what your job is, but it's probably at least as good as working in a quarry, isn't it? ^_^

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Trust me, when we get to the point that the government regulates the colors of websites, it will have an effect on the economy. There will be much fewer talented people desiring to work under such conditions, and those who do work in IT will be able to produce much less because they'll have to focus on avoiding punishment for putting bytes where they don't belong instead of using their minds to make their product as good as they can.

It is later than you think:

http://www.w3.org/WAI/Policy/#US

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I'm not sure what that means (and I don't think anybody is), but does it apply to Betsy choosing the background color of THE FORUM?

If you follow the links, you'll see that it absolutely does. It's like many laws - there are so many of them that they cannot all be enforced at once, just when somebody *feels* like it.

If you want another link, here. There are countless other examples that can be easily googled.

That's a general idea worth noting as well. Many people have the illusion that America is a "free country" because they're still able to act. If all of the countless laws in place were consistently enforced, you probably couldn't walk out your front door and drive away without violating a number of laws. That means that you're "free" by permission and lax enforcement. Somehow I find that uninspiring.

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There are still some areas that are relatively free. For example, the government has so far abstained from regulating the background colors to be used for online forums.

I'm talking about economics.

Trust me, when we get to the point that the government regulates the colors of websites, it will have an effect on the economy. There will be much fewer talented people desiring to work under such conditions, and those who do work in IT will be able to produce much less because they'll have to focus on avoiding punishment for putting bytes where they don't belong instead of using their minds to make their product as good as they can.

Agreed. Since the economic is not some special sort of "tacked on" mode of human activity as the majority seem to thing (e.g. government making a special category of "commercial" speech) but merely what humans do when they produce and exchange values in the course of living (Mises made an important point by calling his book Human Action), regulations not immediately aimed at "economics" nonetheless affect economic activity. However, this just reinforces my point.

So the anti-trust suits brought against Microsoft for, among other things, distributing a free web browser, don't count?

Antitrust applies to every industry, and so do taxes. But even with their combined destructive effect, Bill Gates is better off than he would be in a purely socialist economy. And so are we.

True, American socialism isn't as bad as in many other countries. But the questions remain: What is left that is not subject to government edict? And if there's nothing, then can the American economy still properly be called mixed?

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If you follow the links, you'll see that it absolutely does.
I did follow a links and spent several minutes trying to get it but the content just wasn't ......... accessible enough for my mind. ^_^

Could you sum up in plain English what it says and how it applies to the choice of background colors?

That's a general idea worth noting as well. Many people have the illusion that America is a "free country" because they're still able to act. If all of the countless laws in place were consistently enforced, you probably couldn't walk out your front door and drive away without violating a number of laws.
True. I agree that a country whose government forbids its people to live cannot be called a free country. However, an individual who is able to act without facing a threat of force is a free individual, at least in the areas where he is able to act. The fact that I have seen websites with all sorts of background colors makes me think you are still free to choose your background color. Laws that nobody reads, written in the kind of language that even lawyers only pretend to be able to understand, make no difference if they are not enforced. The only purpose they serve is make the second-handed bureaucrat who wrote them feel better about himself by not appearing to be a "useless member of society." I see no reason why an independent-thinking individual should give them more thought than he gives his toilet paper.

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But the questions remain: What is left that is not subject to government edict?
Oh, there's nothing left, no question about that. If there were something the government did not consider itself competent to legislate about, it would mean that the government recognized an inalienable right, and therefore that it still had the concept an inalienable rights--which it does not. The government thinks our "rights" are whatever it permits us to do.
And if there's nothing, then can the American economy still properly be called mixed?
Yes, because we are still permitted to do many things that inhabitants of a fully socialist country could not even dream about. And permissions is what your original question was about:
isn't it time to stop saying that that government permits any economic freedom at all?
(Emphasis added.)

Even the Hungary I grew up in was not a fully socialist country because people were allowed to farm their own land and run their own small businesses. But we could never dream of doing anything resembling what Bill Gates has done. The word "millionaire" (let alone "billionaire") automatically implied a foreigner. And what kind of foreigner was inevitably associated in everyone's mind with the word "millionaire" ? You've guessed it, an American!

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