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Addressing the Living Wage

Since the mid- to late-1800s, better working conditions have been proposed by both activists and government bureaucrats, with constant political pressure on entrepreneurs having yet to cease. Of the many policies that have been suggested or, better yet, enforced, there is one in particular that has remained consistent: increasing the minimum wage.

As of late, it has been referred to as the “living wage.” This policy essentially advocates that companies increase the pay of their workers, particularly those that maintain a meager amount of skills valued in the market. After brief analysis, however, one will conclude that the “living wage” is nothing more than an asinine populist term that maintains steep repercussions not only for companies, but also for the intended beneficiaries of the policy.

Even when examining this progressive concept without much thought, it still falls under scrutiny. Its advocates claim the wage is determined by calculating the expenses for food, healthcare, rent, transportation, childcare, and a handful of other costs in a particular area. Like the CPI, these costs are completely arbitrary. Of the millions of individuals who maintain subjective consumer tastes, preferences and tendencies, how can one accurately determine an average price that would efficiently fulfill each individual’s need?

Before we proceed, one must grasp those economic dynamics that determine wages, which we will find is nothing more than a price. Prices, and the signals they convey, are a vital tool in a market economy. They are essentially a language. They allow both producers and consumers to observe and communicate the aggregate value of a particular commodity or factor of production. These prices reflect the current market conditions of the good or service consumers wish to purchase, without having to know its current supply.

 

Think of it as a simplified ledger conveyed into a single number.

The determination of the price of the good or service is determined purely by its demand. This is not to insinuate that demand is the only influence of a price, but is rather the origin of the good or service in question. The supply of the given good or service maintains its importance in the determination of the price, but it is certainly not the driving factor.

The failure to realize demand is the vital determining factor of a price. This has created the claim that an increase in wages inflates the price of a good, which is misleading. Prices are not set by producers and the costs of production, but rather by consumers. The price can only be raised by the producer to the point where consumers are willing to purchase the good, due to elasticity. For the remainder of this analysis, we will refer to demand as the demand for labor.

When demand has been realized in the marketplace, workers will offer their labor to meet the demand, which constitutes the supply of labor.

the living wage

In essence, the living wage intends to support those who maintain little to no skills. The main concern with this notion is that there is already a large supply of unskilled workers in the marketplace. When the wage rate is mandated to be set above its equilibrium price, a surplus of labor arises. With each additional increase in labor, the utility of each additional laborer decreases. This is otherwise known as the law of diminishing marginal utility. During the production process, the entrepreneur utilizes the amount of labor required to fulfill the marketplace demand. With each additional worker enacting their labor, a point will ultimately be reached where an additional input of labor will generate no return, and instead increase the cost of production. This concept is known as the law of diminishing returns.

With these economic principles being realized, the entrepreneur will determine the amount of labor needed to generate the required output to receive a profit, or at the very least break even. The entrepreneurs will pay each laborer their price which was set by the market demand for their skills well before the production process is complete. This is because laborers tend to have a high time preference, meaning they prefer income now rather than later. This causes the individual with a high time preference to receive their income at a discounted rate.

This concept is what determines the wage rate of the laborer, known as the discounted marginal value product, or simply the marginal product. Simply put, each laborer’s wage is determined by the required output to satisfy consumer demand. But why, one may ask, has productive output increased over the past few decades, yet wages have been stagnant when adjusted for inflation?

One could make dozens of suggestions, but the most observable is the increase in the productivity of capital goods. One must recall that labor is not the only factor of production.

Contrary to those who favor a universal basic income and who maintain this erroneous fear of automation, the increase in output due to capital investment is a good thing. This is because the increase of output at lower production costs due to capital investments allow consumers to purchase goods at lower prices! This is why, contrary to Keynes in his General Theoryreal wages are what is important, not money wages. As long as artificial inflation is not induced, the purchasing power of real wages to consume goods and services ensures a respectable quality of life.

the living wage

We have established what constitutes the wage of a laborer, and have also determined that wage rates artificially held above the equilibrium price set by the market results in surplus labor, thus unemployment.

We may now conclude that this surplus of labor induced by the artificial wage set by the government, in fact, harms and discriminates against unskilled workers. As noted earlier, a brief observation of the “living wage” can be turned on its face. With further analysis, it is simply not feasible and maintains damaging ramifications. The “living wage” is nothing more than left-wing populist rhetoric that seeks to reach politically-expedient goals in the immediate future, disregarding the externalities and negative long-term effects of the policy.

This article was originally published on the website Being Libertarian. It can be found on their website here.

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The Meaning of “Voluntary”

This article was originally a Twitter thread written by Per Bylund on the meaning of “voluntary.” Per has generously given us permission to republish it here. Enjoy!

Since the days of Aristotle, voluntary has been a prerequisite for the morality of actions. Someone’s action cannot be judged morally unless it was voluntarily chosen. But the meaning of voluntary has shifted. Here follow a couple of thoughts on what voluntary means.

The formal definition of voluntary means the action or choice is made of free will. It must be without coercion, i.e. the use or threat of physical violence. Choosing with a gun to one’s head is not a voluntary choice.

meaning of "voluntary"

In everyday language we say there’s “no choice” if one option appears much better than the other ones. This is, strictly speaking, incorrect, since there *is* a choice. It only appears obvious due to one’s valuation of the alternatives. This applies whether it’s voluntary or not.

This misuse of the term misleads people to consider as the same situations without options (lacking choices), situations where options differ in value (one stands out as much more highly valuable), and where one values the options the same but force makes all but one too costly.

The situation where there are few/no alternatives is either the natural state or is created. Where created, the alternatives we should have had do not materialize because they’re artificially costly or prohibited. This is what I call the unrealized.

The unrealized is a matter of poverty imposed on you indirectly: restrictions placed on the actions of others cause a situation where you are deprived of alternatives that you otherwise would have had. (This explains much of the problems people face today.)

Is choice in such a situation (unrealized) voluntary? Yes, formally speaking for the chooser. But the situation is itself not the result of voluntary choices; it is the result of restricted choices. It’s thus not a purely voluntary-choice situation.

A situation where one alternative stands out as much more valued than the others (but not due to unrealized options) is sometimes called “voluntary but not euvoluntary” (to borrow from @mungowitz). It can be conducive to usury, exploitation, but is still formally uncoerced.

meaning of "voluntary"

Non-euvoluntary situations can arise entirely through voluntary means where neither the choice nor the choice situation is formally coercive. We can see this during economic development. A “solution” would require use of force to produce/make available equally valued options.

The third situation is the direct use of physical force or threat thereof to make all other options too costly for the chooser. This is obviously not voluntary.

I thus pose that there are 4 situations to consider: unforced choice between similarly valued options (euvoluntary), between differently valued options where the situation suffers from force (unrealized) or naturally arises (lacking optionality), and where the chooser is coerced.

There is no question about the first (euvoluntary) and the last (direct coercion). But the distinction between the middle two is rarely made.

Some (primarily on the left) claim choices are coercive because of the different value of options available. But this ultimately prohibits progress and innovation, because those new options are produced to be more valuable than what already exists. This morality stops the world.

Some (mostly on the right) claim choices are voluntary regardless of the value of options available. While formally true, this disregards the nature of the process that produced those options–if it is distorted by coercive restrictions, the choice situation itself is artificial.

We must recognize that being in a situation with few options or options of very differing value (to us) can be either the result of natural progress (voluntary) or of a restricted, distorted process (coercive). The latter (indirectly) causes damage on the chooser. It’s immoral.

Consequently, to understand our world and properly assess the situation people are in, we need to recognize the true counterfactual. What aspects of our world remain unrealized? What is the true cost of the restrictions imposed on us and all others?

Follow Per Bylund on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PerBylund

For our take on what constitutes voluntaryism, click here.

See our podcast interview with Per Bylund here.

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The Economics of Voluntary Charity

Have you ever thought about the economics of voluntary charity? Probably not. Let’s take a look together, shall we?

“The single most important factor about the free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”

A free market is one term for voluntary commercial actions, entered without interference from coercive government laws, programs, and regulations. But in a free market, is there any incentive to give to those less fortunate?

Some people say no, and therefore the government must force people to support the poor. This is obviously untrue, since many organizations such as Voluntaryism in Action exist to help the poor. But it’s not enough, some say: people who want to cast off the yoke of government welfare just hate the poor, and want them to be dependent on the whims of the rich.

Leaving aside for a moment the drawbacks of being dependent on the whims of government, is there nothing at work in voluntary charity besides the fickle feelings of wealthy folks? I say there’s quite a bit more: simply, that charity works like any other function in the free market, and the most efficient and effective solutions will be found through freely chosen, voluntary cooperation.

It’s easy to see what the receiver gets out of the voluntary charity. But what about the giver? There must be some incentive for them to give. On an individual level, this is easy to see: they feel good about themselves. Reducing voluntary charity to a simple market transaction, the donor exchanges his or her time, money, or goods in return for the euphoria—in common parlance, “warm fuzzies”—that comes from having helped someone.

But what about when it comes to large organizations, such as businesses? There’s no one individual to feel the euphoria, so does that mean that the incentive to give is gone? Not at all, but it is more complicated.

"The overall effect of the free market is that needs are satisfied in the most efficient manner possible."

In a free market system, any business depends on public opinion for its existence. Reputation is everything, and a poor reputation will drive away customers faster than anything. That’s why business have to be so careful to cultivate goodwill in the free market. For major corporations like Nike and Coca Cola, the most valuable asset is their brand name.

A fast way to gain goodwill is by helping needy members of the community. Again reducing it to a simple market transaction, the businesses purchase the goodwill of potential customers through the intermediary of the needy person. Then, by patronizing that business, the customers can experience the euphoria from charity, knowing that they helped to support the business that helped the needy person—essentially purchasing the euphoria from the poor person through the intermediary of the business.

In other words, a market-based system of voluntary charity provides incentives even for “greedy corporations” to help the needy. It is in the corporations’ best interests to bolster their reputation by supporting worthy charitable causes in order to add value to their brand in the mind of consumers.

Allowing the economics of voluntary charity to proceed unhindered also works in favor of helping needy individuals and ending poverty. The overall effect of the free market is that needs are satisfied in the most efficient manner possible. Keeping in mind that the charity market is essentially a market for the euphoria that comes from helping people, those who are most likely to receive donations are the ones who make the donors feel like they have made a difference—the ones who can show results.

Thus, the most efficient and effective use of charity money is on people who have a plan, utilize the donations well, and explain the success to the donors. Contrasted with a beggar seen regularly on the street, in the same condition no matter how much money they are given, the more satisfying choice is obvious. In this way, the euphoria of the donors is maximized, and the likelihood that they will donate again generally—and to the efficient receiver, specifically—is also maximized.

For the same reason, fraud is minimized in the voluntary market for charity. If the market is truly for purchasing the euphoria of helping someone, then finding out that you have been cheated will sap the will to give. Ergo, charity organizations may find ways to vet people who claim to be in distress and apply for aid. It seems logical that a person burned at one charity organization is also unlikely to give to another, and so charities would share information about abusers of their services with each other.

Since the existence of a charitable organization is dependent on continued donations, they will do everything they can to prevent fraud. When an organization can just take your money via force—like the state—it doesn’t have to be as careful.

For example, the US government recently passed bills creating more than $6 trillion in welfare to help the economy recover after the COVID lockdown measures they imposed. But not only did most of that go to politically connected special interests, the government also lost more than $200 billion to fraud.

When government steps in to regulate or replace charity with its welfare programs, the market function is distorted, as it always is when the government interferes. Without the direct and voluntary connection between giver and receiver, the euphoria of giving is nonexistent. The money taken for welfare programs then is nothing but a solid loss to those it was taken from.

And those who receive now do so through a faceless government bureaucracy with little, if any, accountability. Rather than being inspired to utilize the donations with maximum efficiency, the more they squander the money the more they will receive, since the government’s numbers will show them in even worse poverty.

Indeed, the government welfare system has an interest in keeping it that way, since the jobs of those who administer it depend on people being in poverty. As Isabel Paterson pointedly stated in The God of The Machine, “If the primary objective of the philanthropist, his justification for living, is to help others, his ultimate good requires that others shall be in want. His happiness is the obverse of their misery.”

“If the primary objective of the philanthropist, his justification for living, is to help others, his ultimate good requires that others shall be in want. His happiness is the obverse of their misery."

Government welfare creates a dependent class, both of welfare receivers and of administrators, all of whom live on money forcibly taken from others. In the economic sense, this is nothing but institutionalized theft. Voluntary charity, like any market action, is a voluntary exchange of goods.

And like any exchange in a free market, both parties benefit from the transaction—and the tendency is to encourage the most efficient producers of the good. Rather than creating a dependent class of moochers, voluntary charity tends to reduce the number of people in need by rewarding those who escape poverty and need, and discouraging fraud.

We believe that voluntary interactions are the only way to truly help others. It’s a fact of humanity that people will freely act out of their own self-interest—and as outlined above, that self-interest often includes meeting the needs of others. When government steps in, nobody ends up benefiting except the government agents—and in the long run, not even them. As Friedman said, both parties benefit when exchanges are made voluntarily on the free market.

At VIA, we strive for a world of voluntary interactions that benefit everyone involved. The economics of voluntary charity and free markets demonstrate that this is possible.

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Quit Helping or Go to Jail

This article, "Quit Helping or Go To Jail," was written by our volunteer David Day.

Living in south Louisiana was difficult in 2005, specifically because of two names: Katrina and Rita. These two hurricanes have had lasting effects that no one could have ever imagined.

If you wind back the clock a little bit, in 2005 the invasion of Iraq by the United States was still in full swing, and many of the engineers with the Louisiana National Guard were deployed oversees. So, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall and decades of corruption and mismanagement surrounding the government’s levee systems came crashing down, many people died and many more lost all their worldly possessions. Louisianans were left with nowhere to go, and with no timeline as to when things would be “fixed.”

I witnessed friends and family volunteering 12-to-16-hour days doing things like cooking, cleaning, and providing essentials.

At the time I was a freshman in high school living in a little town outside of Lake Charles, LA. While I did not personally know anyone who was affected from Katrina, I knew that I needed to help. My family and I decided to volunteer at the Lake Charles Civic Center which was the primary hub where the city was taking in those affected by the storm. In some sense it was a typical setup: there were rooms with cots lined up in rows, making a grid that spanned the entire Civic Center, but in another sense the Lake Charles Civic Center was atypical because of how much the volunteers cared for our brothers and sisters from the eastern side of the state. Something that I am proud of to this day is that we would serve Louisiana staples like gumbo, jambalaya, and pasta while other places would serve bread with spam—or worse—and call it a meal.

I witnessed friends and family volunteering 12-to-16-hour days doing things like cooking, cleaning, and providing essentials. Because of the increase in phone traffic, it was very difficult to make or receive phone calls, so I taught some of the volunteers how to use text messaging. They in turn reached out and taught people displaced from the hurricane how to text. Some people had loved ones that they were not able to reach out to and let them know that they were safe until we showed them how to use text messaging.

Then the unthinkable happened: while still serving the victims of Katrina, we discovered that an even stronger storm was in the Gulf of Mexico, only this time it was headed straight towards Lake Charles. Because of the tremendous loss of life resulting from government’s failures surrounding Hurricane Katrina, it seemed like the state was going to overcompensate by issuing a mandatory evacuation much earlier and enforcing the evacuation order with much more intensity.

The deputies said that if we tried to continue helping people, we would be taken to jail.

While some volunteers evacuated on their own, many of us, including me, wanted to stay to help until the very last minute. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s office unilaterally decided that the remaining volunteers did not need our help anymore. I will never forget deputies coming into the Civic Center kitchen and ordering me and the other volunteers to leave. The deputies said that if we tried to continue helping people, we would be taken to jail.

As a young teenager, this was a critical moment in my life. I remember evacuating to Pont Breaux shortly afterward and thinking to myself: “Why would they want us to stop helping?” We understood the risk. We understood the timeline. We remembered what happened from Katrina—this was why we wanted to stay as long as we could to help the remaining people. But none of that mattered to the deputies. The state could not make a risk assessment or value judgement for those volunteers who wanted to wait until the last possible minute. Unfortunately, what happened was that the help I could have provided was forcibly prevented by a top-down “solution” that was driven by the desire of politicians to save face from their failures with Katrina. This taught me a valuable lesson that the state, while sometimes well intentioned, is not the best way to help individuals.

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Unschooling and Voluntaryism

It’s safe to say that people in the liberty movement are fans of alternate school choices—the farther distance from government involvement the better.  Private schools may be a good fit for some families, but they are still subject to the same government standards as public schools.  Charter schools have this same requirement in most regions, but are an appealing option because they give you funding for your educational needs.  While this funding does come from the government through the charter, one could easily view it as a personal tax rebate.  Although charters do give you a bit more freedom of choice than public or private schools, the option that is most customizable is homeschooling.  (Look up your local homeschool laws here.)  Unschooling and voluntaryism are a perfect match. Unschooling—one of the many ways to homeschool—is most in line with voluntaryist philosophy and will help you teach your children by personal example how to live a life fully rooted in consent-based interactions.

Just as consent is central to voluntaryist philosophy, the same is true of unschooling. Unschooling is interest-based and child-led.  While not being permissive or neglectful, parents allow their children the freedom to decide what to study and when.  Subjects are learned holistically instead of being artificially separated.  Emphasis is placed on helping children develop a lifelong love of learning by making it a natural, unforced part of the family culture.  For example, simply by reading aloud to your children often and keeping plenty of interesting reading material handy, children even learn how to read on their own—no phonics books, no sight-word drills, no setting timers for forced daily reading practice.  Instead, they get the satisfaction of accomplishing this themselves and the natural pleasure derived from reading what you like when you like.

Reading is perhaps the most common educational concern parents have for their children no matter what method of schooling they choose.  Because of the very strict government expectations for reading levels at government schools, many parents struggle with the thought of giving their children this much freedom.  It is my belief, however, that following the government’s lead on when and how to teach reading—the way most parents are now used to being the one and only process—poses far greater risks.  When children are forced to learn something, they naturally resist, and it could cause an early and lasting dislike for reading.  Additionally, government schools tend to push reading earlier than when many children have the brain development needed for decoding the printed word—again, causing unnecessary frustration for parents and children alike.  This earlier push for reading also encroaches on children’s free play time, which is the best and easiest way for children to learn many things and should be tampered with as little as possible.  In this way, the unschooling way of learning how to read follows the child’s natural course of development.

In John Holt’s famous work How Children Learn, he was one of the first teachers to study the natural language development in children from infancy.  He makes the connection that if spoken language were broken down into bits and taught to children in the same way that reading is, a natural process would become an extremely difficult one.  He hypothesized that if reading were allowed to be learned holistically the same way children learn how to speak, the process would be far easier and more rewarding for children.  He also observed that children are naturally self-correcting, so if parents will take a step back and allow them more freedom to make mistakes on their journey to literacy, they will be able to manage most of the difficulties on their own. More recent studies have shown that whether a child is an early reader or later reader (even up to age 14 being in the normal range) makes no difference in their overall proficiency.

The next most common concern parents have with unschooling is that their children won’t choose to learn what the parents want them to learn, or what parents think they need to learn.  As Connor Boyack explains in his book Passion-Driven Education, not all children need to learn the same things. In this book he offers great ideas for changing your expectations, thinking outside the box of standardized government schooling, and making life an educational journey.  Children develop in different ways at different times from each other, making it futile to standardize their educational experiences.  Even within the same families, what works for one child may not necessarily work for their siblings.

If voluntaryist philosophy is important to your family, unschooling your children is the best way to live those values consistently.  By giving your children appropriate freedom of choice and becoming their educational facilitators instead of their masters, you demonstrate to them that consent is important in all facets of life and in every kind of relationship—not just our relationship to government.  And speaking of government, what better way to put more distance between their constant interference and your family? 

VIA is assisting low-income families with homeschooling resources and supplies—please click here to apply or to donate to this cause!

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Capsized By Charity

“Capsized By Charity” was written by Oliver A. from The Liberty Quill.

“Far too many equate compassion for the poor with support for government welfare programs. They are not the same thing.” Bradley Thomas (@EraseState)

Merely two months had passed since purchasing our new car, yet there we were, continually stalling and finally unable to start – sitting ducks in the middle of traffic. Exercising our one option, my wife and I called a tow truck and waited in joint bewilderment. A faulty sensor caused a particular tow truck driver’s path along with ours to converge that evening. We climbed into his truck and struck up a great conversation that continued until we reached the dealership to drop off the vehicle. Once there, the driver offered to drive us home, roughly a thirty-minute drive away. It beat waiting for a cab. As we continued conversing, the driver and I soon realized we had both overcome past addictions and began sharing how those victories had once more granted us abundant lives. Thirty minutes seemed like ten, and we were home. Thanking the driver, I took my wallet out of my coat pocket and asked him what we owed him. “Absolutely nothing,” he said. He added that the conversation had been an encouragement and was payment enough. Nothing? I was speechless. We exchanged some final words and said our goodbyes. As he drove away, my wife and I were left marveling at what had unfolded: genuine charity.

The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius once said,

“Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power.”

Many of us learn the benefits of sharing our toys and helping others early on in life. But where do these moral or societal norms come from, and how does applying them benefit us? In this quill, I will present the following three reasons individuals ought to be charitable: its importance throughout biblical scripture, the positive effect it has towards achieving individual happiness and peaceful society, and finally, how un-coerced charity erodes our reliance on government safety nets, potentially reducing the government’s influence over us.

Faithful Obedience

Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning that although the forthcoming section speaks to Christianity, specifically, I recognize many other belief systems place a similar emphasis on the importance of charitable works. However, as a professing Christian, I have chosen to adhere to what I know best. To the particular reader who may be averse to religious arguments, I encourage you to skip this first section rather than abandoning this work altogether. Now let’s dig in.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 from the King James Version (KJV) reads,

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Interestingly enough, the KJV is one of the few translations to convert this passage’s usage of the Greek word “agape” into “charity.” Most versions opt for the word “love” instead. Not to detract from the point at hand, but I find this helpful in demonstrating how closely associated the two concepts are.

The preceding passage addresses charity’s preferential position over individual spiritual fervor. Believers sometimes fall prey to the desire to impress others by voicing long-winded articulate prayers or trying to impart to others how closely they are to God. Please do not misinterpret me here; I am not saying articulated prayers, and a desire to grow closer to God is wrong. But the passage clearly states that if you demonstrate different types of spiritual gifts, claim to know God, but are not charitable, there’s a problem.

The website Britannica.com defines charity as,

“Charity, in Christian thought, the highest form of love, signifying the reciprocal love between God and man that is made manifest in unselfish love of one’s fellow men… In Christian theology and ethics, charity (a translation of the Greek word agapē, also meaning ‘love’) is most eloquently shown in the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ. St. Augustine summarized much of Christian thought about charity when he wrote: ‘Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it we love him.’”

So what do the accounts of Jesus Christ, and the bible as a whole, teach us about charity?

Let’s look at mercy as it relates to charity. In the biblical story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8), the Pharisees confront Jesus, remind him Jewish law requires that she be stoned to death, and ask Him what should become of her. Amazingly, although he recognizes her sin and knows the law, Jesus replies, “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Awestruck, the men withdraw from the scene, thus sparring the woman from a humiliating and almost certain death. Jesus then counsels the woman and addresses her wrongdoing before telling her to sin no more. He could have easily condemned her to ensure His continued good standing with the spiritual authorities of the day. Instead, he illuminated the reality of sin and pointed the light back onto them. The woman received a great measure of mercy.

Many people associate financial generosity with charity. A well-known biblical principle that supports this is the concept of tithing – giving a certain percentage of your income to advance the church’s work. Tithing is an Old Testament (OT) command that is re-affirmed again in the New Testament (NT). Modern believers sometimes disagree about whether or not the ten percent still applies under the NT. Nevertheless, most agree that faithful giving is an essential part of spiritual discipline and growth.

My wife and I currently operate a church out of our home. We have faithfully chosen to continue putting money aside even though we’re not associated with any organization or have any operating costs. The tithing discipline enables us to meet people’s needs when they arise and to support established charities. There are no shortages of opportunities to help, and the scriptures point many of them out to us. Scripture frequently addresses helping the orphan, the widow, and most often the poor. A thorough review of scripture should compel the believer to help those in need and warn them against turning a blind eye.

To the believing Christian, Jesus’ death on the cross represents the most remarkable demonstration of love the world has ever known. Jesus devoted his early years to the teachings of the OT scriptures. Later, as his teachings began to increasingly subvert the local authorities and Rome, he never backpedaled as pressure on him began to mount during his adult ministry. He could have recanted and saved His own skin; instead, He chose martyrdom. Jesus exemplified perfect love while enduring a slow, painful death on the cross in saying,

“…Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do…” (Luke 23:24)

The crucifixion account of Jesus and other accompanying scriptures has effectively spurred many Christians to make sacrifices to help elevate those around them.

Proverbs 25:21-22 describes the effects of being gracious and charitable on those who oppose us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” Most people expect to be repaid evil for evil. When we repay good for evil, this unexpected reply often stings the offender: something unanticipated. The world knows too much vengeance and too little forgiveness.

Creating A Peaceful Society

Charity’s effects on individuals and communities often contribute to a more peaceful society. As we circle back to our tow truck driver, we recognize the impact a charitable disposition can have in transforming would be adverse events. What could have been a lost evening and a sleep-deprived night was completely upended and displaced by optimism and general hope for humanity. I recall resolving to seek out opportunities to be generous to people least expecting it. This desire is best explained by the 2000 American drama film “Pay It Forward.”

The well-known non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity, defines “paying it forward” this way, “To pay it forward simply means to repay a kindness received with a good deed to someone else.” What would society look like if charitable acts were continually paid forward? Have you ever been in a drive-thru and discovered the vehicle ahead of you paid for you? I hope so – it definitely sheds new light on your day. And if you have, did you pay it forward by paying for the next person? Something to think about. Imagine the ripple effect of everyone paying it forward for one day. How would that impact the employees? Sure this scenario presents winners and losers in terms of its cost implications. Still, everyone would benefit from the kindness received and the feelings generated from passing on that kindness. Ok, maybe I’m seeing things through rose-coloured glasses, but a guy can dream. The drive-thru scenario is a simple illustration of how charitable actions contribute to positive attitudes and lead to beneficial outcomes.

On the topic of attitude, an evergreen article by Colleen Walsh of “The Harvard Gazette” states,

“Studies suggest that more money can lead to a significant bump in positive outlook when it brings people out of poverty, but when simply taking a person up a pay grade, there’s often only a minor change in attitude. And while the purchase of material possessions can offer a temporary lift, the effects of a new watch, car, or dress, studies show, are almost always short-lived.”

The article also references a Harvard Business School and University of British Columbia study stating the following correlation between the act of giving and levels of happiness,

“The findings showed that those who reported spending more on others, what the team called “prosocial” spending, also reported a greater level of happiness, while how much they spent on themselves had no impact on happiness.”

If happiness were capital, the preceding quote informs an individual’s expected return on investment when investing in others rather than themselves. Increasing levels of individual happiness can, in turn, have positive effects on the communities around them. Aside from helping with financial needs, people can also give of their time. A willingness to watch my neighbour’s children on short notice can significantly benefit them when something unexpected comes up. Knowing we are there for them can enlarge their sense of security and improve their overall mental and emotional state. Our neighbourly commitment to one another strengthens our mutual relationship. When our children have it out with one another (kids will be kids), both families have increased incentives to peacefully work things out.

Imagine this reality multiplied throughout an entire community: everyone would benefit. Neighbours would be better acquainted and have a vested interest in watching out for one another: making the community safer. In a more harmonious world, calling on law enforcement to lower the volume level of your neighbour’s music would be unthinkable. What might motivate your neighbour to comply with your request? The reciprocal nature of healthy relationships. Charitable neighbours make for better and more peaceful neighbourhoods.

For individuals living rurally, specific organizations exist, enabling charitable works and offering opportunities to get involved. “Voluntaryism In Action” exemplifies tangible voluntary initiatives aimed at strengthening communities. The organization’s mission statement reads,

“Voluntaryism in Action strives to empower and improve the lives of everyone across the globe through charitable, voluntary, and free market solutions.”

Their initiatives aim to improve community development, respond to urgent needs and disaster relief, contribute to education initiatives, and more. When life qualities are improved, we often witness less crime, leading to a more peaceful society. Whether done in person or from a distance, charity increases the prospect of peace. In an age where a growing number of people are becoming social isolates, reaching out to those around you can upend the individual tendency to withdraw. It may take time, but a little persistence can bring about remarkable results.

Continuing with the organization at hand, we find a compelling distinction within their vision statement, which reads,

“To be the premiere resource and venue for those who seek to help their fellow man through voluntary compassion rather than coerced altruism.”

Coerced altruism resulting from taxation and administered by the state lacks genuine charity’s upside and impedes its organic development. Government welfare is very effective, however, in creating individual and apathetic communities. In turn, this apathy strengthens the perception that the state is the only vessel capable of providing assistance to individuals in times of need.

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Reducing State Influence

Turning our attention to altruism’s troubling relationship with the state, we once again borrow from our friends at Voluntaryism In Action,

“Rather than mutual agreements and voluntary exchange, we find our daily lives and actions being dictated by bureaucratic third parties. We find it not only immoral to centrally plan society, but dramatically inefficient. The system designates A to force B to pay for C, while A takes a portion for his own keeping. We find that this state-instituted welfare system not only leaves many disenfranchised due to disincentives, it further harms the individuals it intends to assist.”

State welfare should not be confused with charity. In his classic book The Law,” famous French economist and philosopher Frédéric Bastiat wrote,

“You say, ‘There are men who have no money,’ and you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury, in favor of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens and other classes have been forced to send to it.” (pp. 20-21)

Government assistance is merely the re-distribution of resources obtained through forced taxation from one individual to another. Despite being disguised as philanthropy, the truth is the appropriation of funds that bankroll social safety nets is made possible by oppressing and plundering private citizens.

Coerced altruism also encounters problems of reduced effectiveness. I make no attempt to conceal that I’m a federal employee at the time of writing this. My livelihood depends on tax revenues, as do all public employees, including those overseeing government safety net programs. These salaries equate to high administration costs, diminishing the assistance provided to those who need it. Another drawback, often unnoticed, is what I like to call “divorced charity.” The term divorced speaks to the impersonal aspect of government hand-outs which can negatively impact individual psyches in numerous ways.

First, government bureaucracy forces applicants to navigate endless forms in hopes of qualifying and accessing benefits. This process can prove quite burdensome and can contribute to increased anxiety and feelings of disenfranchisement. I have seen this unfold in the lives of certain veterans struggling with PTSD while trying to navigate the system. True charity works to alleviate these sorts of experiences. If someone we knew expressed difficulties in paying their upcoming power bill, which of the following approaches would seem more charitable?

  • A – Ask them how much money they require and offer to do our best to help.
  • B – Ask them for recent bank statements and a monthly budget plan, offer them money, and request a receipt to ensure the money went towards paying the power bill.

Option A, and to be clear, I’m not concerned about enabling a few dishonest individuals along the way. My instincts usually don’t let me down. Moreover, as we’ve seen, charity’s benefits often apply as much to those giving as to those receiving. By nature, state “benevolence” is impersonal and often inefficient. But what effect does society’s reliance on state programs have on the government’s increasing size and mandate?

The famous economist and historian Murray N. Rothbard wrote the following in his classic work, Anatomy of the State,”

“Once a State has been established, the problem of the ruling group or ‘caste’ is how to maintain their rule. While force is their modus operandi, their basic and long- run problem is ideological. For in order to continue in office, any government (not simply a ‘democratic’ government) must have the support of the majority of its subjects. This support, it must be noted, need not be active enthusiasm; it may well be passive resignation as if to an inevitable law of nature.” (p. 18)

When seeking the citizenry’s support, perhaps no scheme is more effective than dangling one’s livelihood before their eyes. As governments continue to expand, the population’s reliance on government safety nets has increased with it. There are now endless discussions around enshrining certain benefits as human rights. These expectations have resulted in some individuals making incentive-based decisions about whether it is even beneficial for them to find employment. Clearly, the gravy train has gone off the rails. Long gone are the days when the government operated as a collective group of individuals legitimized by protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property. Today’s governments resemble huge cash cows, compelled to carry on funding all sorts of expensive programs and cooking up endless new positive right initiatives to maintain popular support. Every four years, many ballots are cast based on promises of increased financial incentives for the low and middle classes. As a consequence of central banking, most of these promises are funded without ever raising taxes, and few question the sustainability of such activities.

Consider the effects on voting behaviour if charity was solely an individual, community, or corporate pursuit. Back page topics would make their way into more serious discussions and contribute to superior policies – well, theoretically anyway. In the previous section, we visualized how communities, strengthened through neighbourly love, might impact society. Imagine how modified expectations might affect government size and the government’s claim to being our caretaker. For those yearning for freedom, from the classical liberal straight through to the anarchist, there’s consensus that the current size and scope of government is grotesque. Negating the government’s capacity regarding charity would take a small step towards undermining its authority, impacting future policies, and reducing its overall size.

In closing out this section, we would be wise to recognize government assistance for what it is – relief with conditions. The conditions being we accept the countless negative trade-offs, agree with the size and scope of government, and remember which hand has been feeding us through the next election cycle. Murray Rothbard put it simply in his book Power and Market: Government and the Economy,”

“It is curious that people tend to regard government as a quasi-divine, selfless, Santa Claus organization. Government was constructed neither for ability nor for the exercise of loving care; government was built for the use of force and for necessarily demagogic appeals for votes. If individuals do not know their own interests in many cases, they are free to turn to private experts for guidance. It is absurd to say that they will be served better by a coercive, demagogic apparatus.”

In Closing

“The Golden Rule,” as it is best known, instructs us to treat others the way we want to be treated. I recently heard the following thought-provoking statement from Michael McCullough during an episode of Russ Roberts’ show “EconTalk,”

“We’ve tried on a couple of occasions to study the Golden Rule and it’s hard, to study in the laboratory.”

Interesting. It’s as though most people accept this rule as a natural law despite having no explanation as to how it works. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t really matter in the end. Perhaps what matters is that generosity benefits both parties, increases the prospect of peace, and reduces government legitimacy. Sounds pretty good to me.

Towards charity,

OA

This article was reposted with permission from The Liberty Quill. The original article can be accessed here. You can read some of Oliver’s other great writing at libertyquill.com.

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The Rich Do Not Rule: The Voluntary Economy

“The capitalistic market economy is a democracy in which every penny constitutes a vote.”

– Ludwig von Mises

An assertion that I’ve heard often from opponents of a voluntary (i.e. free market) economy is that it will cater only to the rich. Their argument is that when every dollar (Mises said “penny,” but we’re accounting for inflation) is a vote on what should be produced, the people with more dollars will have a disproportionate amount of power. “Poor and middle class people will be economically marginalized!” they wail. “We’ll all be slaves to the giant corporations!” they insist, ignoring the government’s legal monopoly on violence, and all it implies.

However, a quick exercise of reason is enough to dispel these emotive arguments.  Let’s imagine a typical billionaire—we’ll call him Beff Jezos. Although this isn’t at all how wealth works, let’s assume that Mr. Jezos has $100 billion sitting in his bank account. Mr. Jezos could buy a lot of things with that $100 billion, or a few very big things. But does his ability to buy outweigh the rest of the population? There are approximately 330 million Americans. If only a third of them spent an average of $1K each, that would be $110 billion. They could outbid Mr. Jezos—even if he tried to spend his entire $100 billion. The spending power of the rich cannot compete with the spending power of the poor and middle-class masses. To further demonstrate, let’s try a logical exercise you can sink your teeth into.

the rich do not rule
An ultra high-quality steak.

Let’s say that billionaires want to eat ultra high-quality steaks. According to the argument from opponents of voluntary markets, the entire agricultural industry, desperate for the money of the billionaires, will reorganize itself to produce stupendous steaks. This will leave everyone who is not a billionaire with little or nothing to eat.  Suppose there are 100 billionaires who are willing to purchase steaks at $500 each. If they each eat a steak at every meal(!), they’re spending $150k per day.

While that’s surely a prize worth competing for, there are still >300 million people who need to eat. If they each spend $0.50 per meal, that’s >$450 million per day.

Put another way, 100 billionaires would each have to spend $1.5 million per meal to have the purchasing power of everyone else spending fifty cents each. While the needs of the few rich will quickly be met, all the other producers of steaks (and other things) won’t sit on their hands, waiting for the rich to want something else—meeting the demands of the masses can pay much better. And the masses have a lot of demands.

The capitalistic market economy is a democracy in which every penny constitutes a vote.

This already happens to a certain extent. The Waltons did not become rich by making Walmart a store for the wealthy. Amazon does not cater exclusively to billionaires, or even millionaires. The people who benefit most from Walmart’s inexpensive goods and Amazon’s fast deliveries are the poor and middle class. This has always been the case. And if today’s huge businesses can’t keep up with the demands of the masses, they can be dethroned quickly when outperformed by a competitor—remember when Kmart and Ebay were the big players?

Of course, competition can be squashed, but this can only happen to the detriment of customers when it’s done through coercive government action. Dr. Tom Woods has shown that the classic caricature of the monopolist—a fatcat mercilessly raising prices to gain profits—only happens when the government forces competitors out of the market. In a voluntary free-market economy, government economic interference (never voluntary) would not exist. There could be no billionaires who become rich through political graft—trade restrictions, buying off politicians, government bailouts, subsidies, tariffs, corporate lobbying, competition-killing regulations, etc. Then the only way for anyone to become rich would be to persuade people to voluntarily purchase the product or service they provide.

Milton Friedman stated that “the most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.” If the billionaire does not offer a good product or service to a wide range of customers, few people give them money—and in short order, they’re no longer a billionaire. In a voluntary economy, the rich do not rule, but the average Joe and Jane. It’s as close to the stated ideals of democracy that we can get—and unlike political democracy, nobody gets shot if they don’t comply with the majority.

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A Very Voluntary Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite Christmas stories. The classic tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s redemption from heartless miser to generous philanthropist is a holiday staple. It’s affected culture so much that the word “Scrooge” is synonymous with a greedy or cold person—or one who just doesn’t like Christmas.

There are many reasons given in the story why Scrooge doesn’t like Christmas, but a big one is that he just can’t understand why people would voluntarily give away their money, time, or even kindness to help other people. His one employee, Bob Cratchit, has a salary barely high enough to make up for Scrooge’s tightfisted disdain.

When a pair of gentlemen come to Scrooge's office asking for donations to help the poor, Scrooge points to the money taken from him by the government...

When a pair of gentlemen come to Scrooge’s office asking for donations to help the poor, Scrooge points to the money taken from him by the government: “Are there no prisons?…And the Union workhouses?…I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.” Unfortunately, this does little to help the poor—the gentlemen protest that “Many can’t go there, and many would rather die.” And it’s even more obvious from Scrooge’s cold, unfeeling demeanor that he gets nothing at all from “helping” the poor in this way.

***Spoiler Alert***

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old partner, Marley, as well as three Christmas Spirits. Marley, who lived his life much as Scrooge does, is still bound by the chains of his greed, tormented by how he could have helped his fellow men. The Spirit of Christmas Past shows Scrooge how he used to care and have compassion for others, until he let the cares of the world set his heart like concrete.

The Spirit of Christmas Present takes Scrooge around the earth, viewing the happiness made possible even in the midst of poverty by caring for others. His heart softening, Scrooge is distraught at the sight of the sufferers, and asks if there is nobody to help them. “Are there no prisons?” the Spirit replies cuttingly. “Are there no workhouses?” Stricken by his own callousness in using the government as an excuse not to care, Scrooge finds himself before the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, who shows him the dark, lonely life (and death) that await him—if his life continues unchanged.

But Scrooge has truly seen the light. He bursts from his house on Christmas morning like a ray of sunshine, spreading cheer where before he only brought gloom. No longer content to rely on the government to use money taken by taxation to help the poor, he begins a voluntary giving spree. He sees the gentlemen from the previous day and provides a donation so generous that they are shocked. When he next sees Cratchit, Scrooge is as munificent as he was miserly: “I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family…”

Notably, Scrooge's change of heart did not cause him to advocate for more taxes or welfare programs, but to voluntarily reach out to those around him.

The narrator records: “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more…” Notably, Scrooge’s change of heart did not cause him to advocate for more taxes or welfare programs, but to voluntarily reach out to those around him. By doing so, he affected their lives for the better in ways the government programs never could, and they in turn enriched his life in ways he never imagined.

The book refers to this as “keeping Christmas,” but voluntary giving does not have to be limited to a certain season. As Scrooge said: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” And you don’t have to be Christian—or religious at all—to feel the kindness and compassion that Scrooge felt in his heart, and use that to voluntarily bring light and hope to others.

“May that truly be said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one!”

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It’s a Voluntary Life

This essay by Sean Gale is the winner of VIA's 2020 Higher Education Grant essay contest.

The state has consistently used force to monopolize every aspect of human life, including the purge of voluntary association and transaction. This single statement is an immutable fact, as the list of laws, regulations, permit requirements, licensing, trade inhibitions, and wars against personal vices is nauseatingly long and wrought with violence. Conversely, there is a philosophy that resists tyrannous intervention, and seeks to bring about change in a free and nonexploitative manner. Voluntaryism, or the belief that the world should and would function without coercive and vile intercession, is one such belief.

The general populace appears unable to fathom that good can be done in the world without the hand of godlike men redirecting stolen funds to fuel an ever-hungry vacuous machine. If that mentality were to be lessened or dispersed, then the question remains: What would a world of voluntary transactions look like, and how would said world function? To answer in the simplest terms possible, this hypothetical place would not be absolved from the evils that plague the mortal plane, but would have strategies based on free will and choice that aid in the handling of complex and moral issues. A voluntary world is no utopia; however, the wickedness of man and the violence of the earth can be better handled through individualistic means. Choice would reign supreme in this scenario, and as Murray Rothbard once said, “There can be no truly moral choice unless that choice is made in freedom” (FEE.org, 2018).

Social welfare programs have neither ended poverty, nor done anything but create a cycle of dependence that drains money from the productive to give to their antithesis.

Firstly, social welfare is a system that statists consistently point to as if it is the only means by which those who have fallen on hard times can be lifted from poverty. In fact, many people use this one clause as a reason to submit to the state and resist voluntaryism entirely. Social welfare programs have neither ended poverty, nor done anything but create a cycle of dependence that drains money from the productive to give to their antithesis (Baetjer, 1984). In a world of voluntary association, economic strife would be lessened or managed via charity organizations, mutual aid societies, activist groups, food banks, friendly societies, educational and student led organizations, entrepreneurial endeavors unhindered by the state, religious groups, fraternal orders, and trade unions.

These organized groups already exist and have worked throughout history to support the wellbeing of their members and the general public. Examples include Odd Fellows, Free African Society of Philadelphia, Sanctuary Homeless Refuge, National FFA Organization, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Key Club, Shriners, Habitat for Humanity, Kiwanis, American Red Cross, 4-H, Boys and Girls Club of America, and Voluntaryism In Action to name just a few.

These entities can support members, perform community outreach, aid the impoverished, feed and care for the homeless, provide healthcare, educate youth, and assist the unemployed in finding jobs. In fact these organizations are so powerful at providing goods and services to those in need that “with the exception of churches, mutual aid networks constituted the most popular form of voluntary association in the US throughout the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A 1933 report by the President’s research committee estimates that one in three adult men were members of a fraternal society by 1920” (Adereth, 2020). Their effectiveness, and low cost of enrollment, made many organizations perfect for low income people to get aid.

The connective facet of each aid society or volunteer group is that the public good is being achieved via voluntary means. No one is being extorted through taxes, those getting help are being helped by real people void of state bureaucracy, and dependence on benefits is limited. Government welfare does not influence work or help to those who most need it and is vastly detached from the needs of the individual. Volunteer groups usually benefit their direct community, or one in dire need, through the work of average people. This directs the help from a complex, top down system to a one-way pipeline of goods and services to those who need them most. In a world of voluntaryism, these brotherhoods and organizations would be paramount to the benefit of all people in place of the current model.

The connective facet of each aid society or volunteer group is that the public good is being achieved via voluntary means.

Tangent to charity and volunteer work is the realm of business and the adjustment of price that would benefit lower income communities. Without state interference, people could use their resources and property to generate revenue that would potentially lift them from poverty. If someone did not have the means to do such, then they could sell their labor for a consented upon amount. These voluntary transactions would help provide for those that are suffering. Additionally, businesses would compete for labor and profit, meaning higher wages and cheaper goods for the general populace. The limited supply of money and goods would drive costs down due to price being reflective of consumer demand, leading to an overall benefit to all parties involved. Businesses would have no state enforced monopoly that allows them to be detached from the purchaser, meaning they would have to appease patrons in order to make money. Voluntaryism would promote free markets that better suit the needs of the consumer and do not leave them falling for enforced prices and involuntary transactions.

An example of the previous paragraph’s content would come in the form of the pharmaceutical industry. Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck, Gilead, Amgen and AbbVie are all companies that reside in the United States and are given monopolies over their market through the FDA and intellectual property laws (Compton, 2020). People could receive cheaper drugs if the market were not dominated by the same six companies, and if other innovators had the opportunity to benefit the healthcare industry. Instead, the state currently allows these companies to monopolize medicine and line their pockets with taxpayer and private dollars. Without these special protections they would have to modulate production for end users thus benefitting those with limited funds for treatment.

Another important facet of voluntary lifestyles is the internal locus of control that it propagates. People will have less ability to blame parties beyond their power for the circumstances of their lives, and the state would no longer be able to arbitrarily create criminals. Instead of leveraging power and violence, people will be forced to make good arguments for their causes and will no longer have the authority to condemn others for life choices that do not involve the former party. This will be especially important regarding victimless crimes, with an extreme focus on drugs and possession. What substances one seeks to put in their body is between them solely, however, the state does not see it that way. In fact, inmates with drug charges constitute 46.1% of the total prison population according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Poverty can tend to influence choosing alternative ways of making money, criminality, and substance abuse, and criminalizing that merely enslaves the poor to the prison-industrial complex. It is a vicious cycle, but not one that a voluntary world could not solve. The lack of arbitrary imprisonment would allow people to make money through unconventional means and use what substances they see fit. Aid for addicts would be given on a voluntary basis, as it vastly is through the innumerable private halfway houses and narcotics programs, though would perhaps lack the forced nature that the state uses to enroll people in such. A voluntary society would remove the life-ruining effects that the state imposes for victimless offenses, leading to a far more productive and happy society.

On another note, society’s problems can never be truly eradicated due to the nature of this broken world; however, through voluntary means, the blunt of disease, injury, death, famine, natural disaster, poverty, and loss can be better aided as each instance occurs. These unfortunate yet immutable facets of human existence can be better addressed when the person is the highest level of authority, and needs are handled on a purely individual level. It should also be noted that many problems in society would cease to exist due to the absence of an abusive and coercive state.

Money that is taxed from the poor can instead be used to care for their needs, an incentive to work and self-reliance would be bolstered, those experiencing financial woes could create new businesses which would flourish without state associated fines and permits, and intellectual property would not stop innovation from reaching areas that many monopolies feel are not worth the investment. The state creates innumerable societal issues that negatively impact everyone, especially those susceptible to welfare dependence. Adopting the voluntary lifestyle would combat regime dominance and put power in the hands of everyone instead of those who believe it is their right to dictate how everyone should live their life.

A voluntary life has choice as its cornerstone and freedom as its pinnacle.

Additionally, to think the state has aided in the end of societal issues, or has impaired such, is fundamentally flawed. Poverty is as rampant as ever, especially considering government intervention during Covid-19. Voluntaryism provides numerous ways to treat human problems and leaves the solutions to be as creative and individual choice-based as possible. The said philosophy does not provide a clear-cut, one size fits all solution to complex and nuanced issues, which appears to model the complexity and nuance of the individual. Government does the exact opposite by creating problems and enforcing poor, broad fixes that almost never truly address what they were intended to. The solutions to life’s multitude of calamities should be derived from free will and be given directly from the grace of those who seek to do good. An action cannot be good when the means to achieve it were wrought in theft and violence, as the perpetrator merely committed evil to benefit who they saw fit.

A voluntary life has choice as its cornerstone and freedom as its pinnacle. The world would function based on consent and aiding those who need it from a place of goodness rather than immorality. The ills of this mortal coil would not simply dissipate because the system has changed—however, the escapes from said ills would be numerous and not monopolized by a force driven entity. All solutions listed are but a drop in an endless ocean of creative, complex, and personalized possibilities for a voluntary society. This “perfect” world would never be truly utopic, however, the means to solve world problems would be morally justified. Voluntaryism is thusly the supreme societal format as it relies on the individual needs and wants of people rather than the needs of the elite beings elevated above all others.

 

Works Cited

Adereth, Maya, et al. “The United States Has a Long History of Mutual Aid Organizing.” Jacobin, www.jacobinmag.com/2020/06/mutual-aid-united-states-unions.

Baetjer, Howard. “Does Welfare Diminish Poverty?: Howard Baetjer, Jr.” FEE Freeman Article, Foundation for Economic Education, 1 Apr. 1984, fee.org/articles/does-welfare-diminish-poverty/.

Compton, Michelle. “Big Pharma – Drug & Device Companies, Lawsuits & Facts.” Drugwatch.com, 20 Apr. 2020, www.drugwatch.com/manufacturers/.

“Federal Bureau of Prisons.” BOP Statistics: Inmate Offenses, www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp.

Galles, Gary M. “33 Choice Quotes from the Great Murray Rothbard: Gary M. Galles.” FEE Freeman Article, Foundation for Economic Education, 2 Mar. 2018, fee.org/articles/33-choice-quotes-from-the-great-murray-rothbard/.

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Is Capitalism Voluntary?

Depending on your views, capitalism is one of the most hated or loved economic systems in the world. When you ask “is capitalism voluntary?” the answer depends on what the person thinks “capitalism” means. The primary factor to consider is the level of state intervention—or force—that is being considered.

What most detractors of capitalism are typically against is the union of big business with the government. That union is actually better defined as state capitalism or corporatism—a form of syndicalism that was the basis for the economic policies of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. This brand of “capitalism” is a system where the government grants special privileges to certain corporations, unions or other groups.

These privileges could be anything from outright monopoly, to tariffs and subsidies, to burdensome policies and regulations that drive small businesses out. But all these tactics have one thing in common: through the force of the government, people are being prevented from voluntarily choosing their economic actions. Essentially, the government picks which companies are winners and losers—and the citizens are stuck with what the government decides.

In free-market capitalism, it is customers, rather than the government, who picks winners and losers—and the winners are the ones who provide people the product or service they want.

I’ve found that most people who support capitalism are typically thinking about free-market capitalism, also called “laissez-faire” economics. Championed by classical liberal economists like Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman, this emphasizes the right of people to freely and voluntarily exchange goods and services. Under this free-market capitalism, the government is not involved in the economy at all, except to protect private property.


In free-market capitalism, it is customers, rather than the government, who picks winners and losers—and the winners are the ones who provide people the product or service they want. Often what people want is the product that’s the best quality for the lowest price, but not always. People who want to protect the environment can buy environmentally-friendly products. People who care most about supporting small and local businesses can do so. People who only want to buy “Made in America” products are as free as people who only want foreign goods.

What most detractors of capitalism are typically against is the union of big business with the government.

Most importantly from the producer’s viewpoint, people who can find a better way to produce a product or provide a service are free to try, without the weight of government regulations throttling them down. Most importantly from the consumer’s viewpoint, producers must compete for their purchases, resulting in higher quality and lower price.

It’s clear that state capitalism (fascistic corporatism) is not voluntary, since government intervention in the economy is involved by definition. But some people (particularly communists and socialists) declare that even free-market capitalism isn’t truly free or voluntary. They say it involves coercion, because if a person doesn’t work they starve—therefore people only consent to employment under the implicit threat of starvation.

To the extent that this has any merit, the criticism is actually still of state intervention into the market, for without regulations barring their way a dissatisfied employee could start their own business, or at the extreme even homestead a piece of property and start a farm—or choose a subsistence lifestyle.

You can imagine how long a modern communist would last on a deserted island, wailing that he's oppressed because he has to find food to stay alive.

However, I strongly suspect that what is being objected to by the communists and socialists is the plain fact that people must work (in a general sense) to live. They view this as oppression and ascribe it to capitalism, but it’s a fact of reality that the stuff to sustain life does not come automatically—this is not a unique trial of humanity. You can imagine how long a modern communist would last on a deserted island, wailing that he’s oppressed because he has to find food to stay alive. At the same time, the communists and socialists are ignorant that the bounty around them in developed countries is largely the result of human freedom—and therefore, they have a profound ingratitude for both the bounty and its source.


So, the answer to the question “is capitalism voluntary?” largely depends on what you’re talking about when you say “capitalism.” If you mean the fascistic corporatism of most modern states, then the answer is no—and giving more power to the state will only make it worse. But if you’re referring to the ideal of a free-market capitalism, then the answer is yes—and giving more freedom to individuals to make voluntary economic actions will only make it better.

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