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Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Question: If a free market with no government oversight and protections for the People is a successful model, then how come countries with failed/weak governments are not mopping up all the worlds’ business?

Free Market

Short Answer: If by “failed/weak” governments you are referring to the Third World, some “mopping up” is indeed occurring. Since governments that exploit their people the most usually have the lowest wages, U.S. and European manufacturers are utilizing the “cheap labor” there. If by “failed/weak” governments you mean something else, please give me more detail and I’ll try to answer you.

By the way, a free market is not one without “protections for the People.” Truly free markets usually require those who defraud or harm others to compensate their victims; this usually keeps them more honest than government oversight does. Indeed, the penalties for violating government regulations usually do little or nothing to restore victims and may even cost them more. For example, those polluting river water were usually successfully sued by those downstream for damages in both Great Britain and the western territories of the U.S. before they became states). Once the U.S. government took over the waterways, however, downstream landowners rarely got compensation, even from the fines imposed by government. They not only had to put up with the pollution, they had to pay taxes for the government oversight.

Makes you wonder who is being protected from whom, doesn’t it?

The Risky Business of Communicating Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

The Risky Business of Communicating Liberty

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Nobel Prize-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman was one of the earliest prominent public advocates of ending the War on Drugs.

In a 1991 interview on “America’s Drug Forum,” a national PBS public affairs talk show, Friedman made this excellent point:

risky business“The case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong and as weak as the case for prohibiting people from overeating.

“We all know that overeating causes more deaths than drugs do. If it’s in principle OK for the government to say you must not consume drugs because they’ll do you harm, why isn’t it all right to say you must not eat too much because you’ll do harm?

“Why isn’t it all right to say you must not try to go in for skydiving because you’re likely to die? Why isn’t it all right to say, ‘Oh, skiing, that’s no good, that’s a very dangerous sport, you’ll hurt yourself’? Where do you draw the line?”

This is a powerful argument for persuading others of the unfairness of the War on Drugs.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, being overweight or obese “substantially increase[s] the risk of morbidity from hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and sleep apnea and respiratory problems, as well as cancers of the endometrium, breast, prostate, and colon. Higher body weights are also associated with an increase in mortality from all causes.”

Scary stuff! Yet no one — well, almost no one — would support a violent War on Eating Too Much Food, with armed Food Police breaking into fast food joints and homes to stop people from overeating. Few would support outlawing common foods associated with obesity, despite the documented dangers and huge social costs.

And what about swimming?

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 3,600 people — many of them children — die annually from accidental drowning, the fifth largest cause of accidental death in the United States. Yet we allow adults and children complete freedom to swim.

Disturbing research finds that football, boxing, hockey and other contact sports can cause severe and permanent brain damage. Yet millions of Americans still support and participate in these sports.

There are countless other risky activities we casually accept. Bungee jumping looks crazy to me, riding a motorcycle isn’t my thing, and I won’t be gazing down at the world from atop Mount Everest. But I strongly support and defend the right of others to engage in these things – along with the great majority of Americans.

Indeed, the freedom to make risky choices in such personal matters is a bedrock American value. Most people today make exceptions to this value only in certain narrow areas — most notably drugs. (And just some drugs, of course — not, for instance, liquor and tobacco, to bring up another wild inconsistency.)

When you use comparisons and concrete examples like the ones above, you help your listeners grasp the unfairness, injustice and inconsistency of the War on Drugs. It can be very effective to have specific numbers and reliable sources when making these comparisons, as I’ve done here, but just citing any risky but legal activity can open minds.

Try it — the risk is yours to take!

Thanks to Carpe Diem, Mark Perry’s outstanding economic blog, for recently mentioning Milton Friedman’s interview, which can be read in its entirety here.

That interview is also in the superb book Friedman & Szasz On Liberty and Drugs: Essays on the Free Market and Prohibition (1992), which features essays by Friedman and the great libertarian psychiatrist Thomas Szasz.

The Biggest Danger: Terrorists or Government?

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Robert Higgs

Libertarian and economist Robert Higgs writes at his Facebook page about the relative danger to you from Islamic terrorists and U.S. governments:

“Unless you go to the Middle East, the probability of your being harmed by Islamic fanatics is so close to zero that for all practical purposes it may be taken to be zero.

“If you remain in the USA, however, the probability of your being harmed by governments at every level is 1.0, an absolute certainty. These governments will certainly appropriate your wealth in a variety of direct and indirect ways for their own purposes, many of which you will regard as abhorrent. They will certainly crush your freedoms in a multitude of ways; they will treat you as if you were a child or a mental incompetent; and they will disregard your own preferences for how you wish to live your life in peace.

“By their actions they will create effects and repercussions that guarantee the future will be less prosperous, less safe, and less socially content than it otherwise would have been. In short, these governments are your enemies: they intend to harm you, they have the capacity to harm you, and they do in fact harm you.

“Yet probably hundreds of millions of Americans fear faraway Islamic fanatics and fret about the fantasy of a looming global Caliphate. Therefore they support a variety of U.S. military measures in the Middle East and elsewhere purportedly aimed at the suppression of this looming menace, and they support a variety of overbearing and tyrannical government actions within the USA justified on the grounds that they protect Americans from terrorists.

“In short, they credit the bogeyman of their fevered imaginations (stoked by government officials, fear-mongering politicians, politico-clowns on talk radio) and more or less disregard the ceaseless pillage of their wealth and the rape of their freedoms by their real enemies, who are all too real and all too near at hand.”

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