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Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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Taiwan Streets: a Case of Free Markets in Action

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

In Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition, Ludwig von Mises explains that classical liberalism “was the first political movement that aimed at promoting the welfare of all, not that of special groups.”

TaiwanIn an article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Professor Peter St. Onge, a long-time Taiwan resident, discusses a real world example of free markets working to promote the welfare of all members of a community.

In “Taiwan’s Social Safety Net Is the Street Market,” St. Onge reviews some of the most striking traits of the streets of Taiwan and the state’s loose regulations, giving us a better idea of what Mises wrote nearly 90 years ago.

According to Onge, libertarians and free market apologists are “often ridiculed” when they claim that free enterprise is the best substitute for the welfare state. They are often called naïve for suggesting that fully capable individuals would have a better shot at making a living if they were given freedom instead of government dependence.

In Taiwan, Onge writes, the welfare state is “tiny,” and the regulations aren’t as restrictive when compared to the United States or Europe. The few regulations the state has in place are also lightly enforced.

With the gaps created by government’s hands-off approach in the island of Taiwan, commerce exploded. The result? “Near-zero homelessness.”

The obvious effect of less restrictive regulations is the growth of business, which makes local streets bright with store signs, consumers, and shop keepers. But brick-and-mortar stores are not the only ones benefiting from this freedom. According to Onge, the island hosts a number of pop-up businesses that take over the streets, employing “mainly low-skill labor.” These businesses give the poor and the unskilled the chances that the state’s handouts can’t.

To illustrate his point, Onge writes that, every morning at 5 am, farmers bring their produce to a street close to the university where he works. Using folding tables, they place their products along the street undisturbed. As the diverse sets of customers arrive, the street is filled with color and sound. Some of the customers include the elderly, who aren’t healthy enough to drive to a large store, mothers with small children, and fathers getting ready to cook breakfast. At 7 am, farmers pack up and leave the spots, opening up the space to breakfast pop-ups like noodle shops, sandwich places, and joints offering full English breakfast.

Past noon, these spaces are freed again, giving the night crew time to set up different types of restaurants and stores.

At night, Onge reports, you can buy anything in that street. From fried chicken to kids’ toys. Customers can be seen enjoying the creative madness until 3 in the morning. Just a couple of hours before farmers are ready to unload their produce once again.

This “small river of entrepreneurial income” helps low-skilled workers find jobs, even if temporarily, while also bringing consumers what they want, conveniently.

Instead of crony capitalism, these streets are filled with old-fashioned free markets, allowing competitive enterprise to shape commerce, not government-backed favoritism.

The result is happier customers, more jobs, more safety, and cheaper products.

NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

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NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

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

Someone forgot to tell progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that times, they have already changed.

NYPDDuring the then mayoral candidate’s campaign, de Blasio vowed to ensure the New York Police Department would cease to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as a crime, but ever since he was elected, the number of marijuana-related arrests went up. This year, Gothamist.com reports, it went up nearly a third.

In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of fewer than 25 grams of weed. Users smoking or holding the bud in public, however, were still subject to police scrutiny. But while commissioner Ray Kelly was in command between 2002 and 2013, arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana went up considerably. In 2010, low-level pot possession had become the top cause of arrest in the city, mostly due to the fact 50,383 people had been arrested for related offenses throughout that year.

That’s when pressure began to mount.

Faced with countless accusations of racial bias, commissioner Kelly decided to send officers a memo asking them to stop “improper” marijuana arrests, which often involved blacks and Latinos.

Once de Blasio took office, however, marijuana-related arrests dropped, but that didn’t last. In 2014, police had made 26,400 weed-related arrests. Now, recent figures show that the number of people going to prison for related offenses has increased considerably.

During the first half of 2015, NYPD had arrested 7,236 people for marijuana possession, but during the same period this year, the number went up to 9,331: A 30 percent increase.

Despite de Blasio’s campaign promises, things might not get better for pot smokers in the Big Apple unless state laws change.

A bill from 2015 that is still stuck in the state legislature could help give marijuana users more peace of mind. But the bill isn’t perfect.

If S. 1747, or the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, passes, marijuana would be regulated and taxed like tobacco and alcohol. Proponents of similar pieces of legislation often say that while similar measures might have a negative effect on the overall cost of weed, it would keep officers from knocking people’s doors down in the middle of the night. But to many libertarians, only decriminalization of all substances, including marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, works.

Mises Institute’s David Gordon argues in a piece from 2002 that punishing a person for using drugs is to “impose a severe disability on him; and justice requires that punishment be imposed only on someone who violates rights.” Drug use, therefore, cannot be criminalized simply because it could lead to bad social consequences. After all, Gordon continues, “[t]o punish people simply because their acts encourage others to act in a way deemed undesirable is to use people as means, in a morally unacceptable way.”

Despite the strong support the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act has obtained over the past year, many proponents of the bill believe that it could take years for something similar to pass through the state legislature, forcing New Yorkers to think twice before stepping outside with a small amount of weed in their pocket.

​THANKYOU: Citibank Sues AT&T Over Infringement of Trademark Law

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​ THANKYOU: Citibank Sues AT&T Over Infringement of Trademark Law

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

Chapman University law professor Tom W. Bell once told Reason magazine that copyright law goes against free speech rights protected under the US Constitution. But to Citigroup, the banking giant, copyright law is worth the breach of the law left by our visionary ancestors.

TrademarkAccording to Ars Technica, Citgroup has filed a lawsuit against technology company AT&T claiming a trademark infringement. The federal lawsuit, which was lodged this past Friday in New York federal court, contends that Citigroup has trademarked “ THANKYOU,” effectively barring AT&T and other companies from using the same sentence to, well, thank customers.

The lawsuit argues that:

“For many years, Citigroup has used trademarks consisting of and/or containing the term THANKYOU, including THANKYOU, CITI THANKYOU, CITIBUSINESS THANKYOU. THANKYOU FROM CITI, and THANKYOU YOUR WAY, in connection with a variety of customer loyalty, reward, incentive, and redemption programs (collectively, the ‘THANKYOU Marks’).”

But AT&T’s new marketing campaign, which advertises the AT&T Universal Card, a credit card backed by both AT&T and Citigoup, uses “ AT&T THANKS,”  and “ thanks”  as part of their advertising phrases, causing “consumer confusion”  and constituting “trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in violation of Citigroup’s rights.” The company contends that, since everybody knows that the “THANKYOU marks” are synonymous with Citigroup, the lawsuit asks the judge to block the so-called illegal marketing campaign, adding that Citigroup is entitled to unspecified damages.

To patent attorney and director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom Stephan Kinsella, intellectual property is incompatible with capitalism.

In the past, as well as now, Kinsella argued during a Mises Institute event speech, intellectual property is how “sovereigns or monarchs”  issue “monopolies that [protect]  various goods and services for a limited period of time.”

When liberals, conservatives, and even some libertarians argue in favor of copyright laws and other intellectual property rules, Kinsella told the audience, they are arguing for the creation and protection of monopoly, an act that stands against the libertarian principles of free and voluntary trade.

The very roots of copyright, Kinsella also argued, is all about censorship.

When printing transformed communication, the government found a way to “control official and political thought” passing “copyright statutes to basically help limit what could be produced and said and what information people could copy and share with each other.”

In today’s world, large companies like Citigroup use copyright and trademark laws to strike deals and protect heir turf, crossing licenses to each other, just like Microsoft and Apple did, protecting their industry from giving smaller players the right to compete with them.

Again, instead of protecting the little guy, copyright laws are used to protect monopolies, making sure the industry’s giants are protected from outside competitors.

Instead of celebrating America’s free speech protections, companies like Citibank prefer to keep their influence unquestioned. Not surprising, considering the American multinational investment banking and financial services corporation is a powerful lobbying force in Washington.

Is American Entrepreneurship Dead?

in Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Is American Entrepreneurship Dead?

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

Promises of a better future post the 2008-2009 recession injected new confidence in the American economy. With the President Barack Obama administration’s push to use public money to stimulate the economy back to recovery, many believed that a full comeback was in order.

But years after the implementation of the stimulus plan, corporate debt continues to increase due to the federal reserve’s meddling, and the participation rate in the labor force continues to fall.

Entrepreneur

As the current administration claims falling unemployment rates prove the stimulus worked, it’s easy to see why so many believe that things are “back to normal.”

But according to Yonathan Amselem, an asset protection attorney in Washington, D.C., things are far from “normal.”

In an article published by the Mises Institute, Amselem explains that after a market crash, the unemployment rate eventually drops, naturally. He also reminds us that the Obama administration took over after the market crash. And that the so-called “recovery” may have just been a sign of a process that would have happened with or without the stimulus.

He also argues that a review of the type of industries that have been growing since the stimulus plan was put into action prove that the creation of jobs alone has nothing to do with economic recovery.

“We are pumping out an army of waiters, social workers, and associate professors with worthless six-figure degrees they have no hope of paying off in this life or the next,” Amselem argued. Instead of “high value, goods-producing workers,” America is producing workers who do not rely on innovation.

Individuals, Amselem argues, are not being encouraged to start businesses. Instead, they seem to believe that they are perfectly capable of turning “a six-year sociology degree into a job that doesn’t involve bringing people mimosas for brunch.”

But the workforce is not to blame for this shift in leading industries.

Instead, Amselen argues that the lack of incentives tied to entrepreneurship is forcing countless Americans to keep their dreams and aspirations locked away. As businesses now fail at a greater rate than they start, free market advocates like Amselen remind us that people are discouraged to try out on their own.

To the D.C. attorney, America’s structure of production has been disrupted by the political class in a dramatic way, making workers less competitive and forcing the entire nation to carry a very heavy debt burden while keeping the entrepreneurial spirit stuck under a mountain of bureaucracy.

As free market advocates continue to make the case against overwhelming regulations, urging the public to look at government intervention as a means to hinder economic development, media outlets and influencers often accuse them of being against the poor.

But economic growth can only be accomplished when competition and freedom are reinstated. Being against the poor means being pro-government intervention in the economy, which forces those with pauper means to resort to the black market for their needs.

Don’t Win the Debate by Losing Your Opponent: Walter Block on Debating

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

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a recent post at the LewRockwell.com blog, the great libertarian writer Walter Block — a superb defender Walter Blockof libertarian ideas both in print and in live debates — shares his views on debating:

“My goal, in debating, is, along with my opponent, to get that proverbial one millionth of an inch closer to the Truth. I know this sounds a bit mawkish, and in the heat of the event — I’m only human — I sometimes forget myself, but, at least, this is my goal. In order to do this, I find, it is good to be polite. Not try to hog the podium, not interrupt my debating partner, not engage in ad hominems, etc.

“There are two arguments in favor of this. If we Austro-libertarians approach debates in this manner, we are perhaps more likely to win over our opponents. And if not them, then, perhaps, members of the audience.

“Second, it is always easier to escalate than de-escalate. It is very difficult to start off in a hostile impolite manner and later change our tune than to begin on the note I advocate and then if it is not reciprocated, escalate the hostilities.”

Great advice, Dr. Block! Dale Carnegie made a similar argument in his classic How To Win Friends and Influence People:

“Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you? Why not let him save face? He didn’t ask for your opinion. He didn’t want it. Why argue with him? You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why? You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he’ll resent your triumph. That will make him strike back, but it will never make him want to change his mind. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

I’m also reminded of this hilarious remark from libertarian humorist Dave Barry (hopefully he’s joking!): “I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often — as a sign of their great respect — they don’t even invite me.” Ouch!

Block’s own story of how he became a libertarian is a great illustration of the importance of polite debate linked with a genuine desire to discover truth. He tells it in “How I Became a Libertarian.“ I highly recommend it. Here’s a quick summary.

Block was raised in a liberal household, and never had his leftist views seriously challenged — until 1963, when he was a senior at Brooklyn College and Ayn Rand came to give a lecture.

Says Block: “I attended, along with about 3,000 of my fellow mainly leftish students, in order to boo and hiss her, since she was evil incarnate. Afterward, the president of the group that had invited her to campus announced there was to be a luncheon in her honor, and anyone was welcome to take part, whether or not they agreed with her ideas. Not having had enough booing and hissing at Ayn in her formal lecture, I decided to avail myself of this opportunity to further express my displeasure with her and her views.”

The young Block boldly walked up to Rand and Nathanial Brandon “and announced that there was a socialist here who wanted to debate someone on economic issues pertaining to capitalism. (I was a bit of a chutzpanick in those days.) They politely asked, Who was this socialist, and I replied that it was me.

“Nathan very graciously offered to come to the other end of the table with me for this purpose, but he imposed two preconditions: first, I would be honor bound not to allow this conversation to lapse with this one meeting, but would continue with it until we had achieved a resolution: either he would convince me of the error of my ways, or I would convince him of his.

“Second, I would read two books he would later recommend to me (Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt). I agreed, and we spoke for an hour or so upon that occasion, followed up four or five times more for a similar duration at his apartment, where some of the other Randians took part, including Ayn, Leonard Piekoff, Barbara Branden and Alan Greenspan.

“At the end of this process I was converted to libertarianism.”

Block’s intellectual progress continued via spirited — but polite — debate and discussion with some leading libertarian intellectuals, most notably Murray Rothbard. (Again, you should read the whole story.)

Block’s story shows the importance — and the great pleasure — of friendly, spirited, and polite debate and discourse. Just imagine if Nathanial Brandon, instead of responding politely and helpfully, had simply dismissed Block or called him names. Would the liberty movement have lost the cocky young socialist — who went on to change his mind and become one of our finest writers and thinkers? (I shudder to think of the libertarian movement without the contributions of Walter Block!)

If you aren’t familiar with his work, Block is most famous for his groundbreaking classic Defending the Undefendable. Other books include The Privatization of Roads and Highways, Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty, Labor Economics from a Free Market Perspective, Building Blocks for Liberty, and Toward a Libertarian Society. Add to that countless essays and articles.

And here’s the best news of all: you can download them for FREE from the Mises Institute, along with a treasury of hundreds of other liberty classics. Take advantage of this wonderful gift from the Mises Institute and fill your e-reader with some of the world’s greatest libertarian writing — again, for free.

Go back to the full issue here.

Mises Institute: Free Downloadable Libertarian Library

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Mises Institute eBook LibraryThe Ludwig von Mises Institute has created one of the great online libertarian treasures. It has made hundreds of classic libertarian books available online — for free.

If you have an e-reader, or don’t mind reading on your computer, then an intellectual feast awaits you. In just minutes an incredible library of vital libertarian writing, worth thousands of dollars in cover value and of inestimable intellectual value, can be yours.

Many of the most important and essential works by the greatest libertarian authors are here. There are established classics and exciting new works. There’s so much great reading, in fact, that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

The newcomer to the writings of liberty can pick and choose from essential classics like these:

  • For A New Liberty, Murray Rothbard’s acclaimed 1973 libertarian primer.
  • What Has Government Done to our Money?, Rothbard’s short, easy-to-read mind-opening guide to the fundamentals of market-based money.
  • Defending the Undefendable: Walter Block’s superb assault on victimless crime laws (with a provocative new introduction by Block).
  • Great Wars and Great Leaders by Ralph Raico: Hard-hitting essays that will forever change the way you view modern history.


Those wanting to dig deeper into these ideas can explore all the works of Murray Rothbard, arguably the greatest libertarian thinker and writer of the past century. And all the works of Ludwig von Mises, arguably the greatest economist of the past century. And peruse books and other writings by a legion of legendary liberty writers: Friedrich A. Hayek, Albert Jay Nock, Robert LeFevre, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and so many more.

There’s even classic libertarian-themed fiction. Henry Hazlitt’s clever and enlightening Time Will Run Back. Eugene Richter’s 1893 anti-socialist novel Pictures of the Socialistic Future. Garet Garrett’s long out-of-print turn of the century business novels.

Even for the well-read libertarian reader, surprises abound. Think you’ve read all by Rothbard? Check out the collections of his short book reviews and memos for the William Volcker fund. Or his mesmerizing intellectual autobiography, The Betrayal of the American Right.

And still more. In addition to books, there are periodicals that were essential to the development of the modern liberty movement, including Rothbard’s Left and Right and Libertarian Forum, H.L. Mencken’s American Mercury, and the modern Liberty magazine. Some of the publications you’ll find had a circulation in the mere hundreds and have been virtually unavailable for years. Now they are yours, free.

And then there are the articles, the scholarly papers. (Tip: use the drop-down menus to narrow your search of the nearly 2,000 items available. For instance, if you only want books, click on Source and choose books. If you’re looking for all by an author, click on Author. These guides are very helpful.)

We’ve barely skimmed the surface. We could go on and on, listing titles and making recommendations. But by now you should be eager to start looking yourself.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this. Years ago, in the pre-web days, anyone seeking to learn about liberty quickly discovered that some of the greatest and most essential books and periodicals were unavailable except from rare book dealers or at large libraries. Some of the treasures the Mises Institute is offering for free were hard to come by even from those sources.

Now they are available to the entire world, instantly and free.

This is a magnificent gift to the liberty movement and to the world. Take advantage of it!