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download (5)We hear often from the more “progressive“ element of American politics, that the United States should begin to emulate the Scandinavian countries. They point out countries like Sweden and Norway as prime examples of well-functioning socialism. However, this is a serious misunderstanding of the economic system that is prevalent in those countries.

The success of Scandinavian economies is an example of the power of the free market and not a large public sector. Of great relevance to the American debate, fiscal restraint has been a hallmark of these successful economic policies. Public spending in Nordic countries has plummeted in the past 20 years with public spending falling by 20% between 1993 and 2007. The smallest change was in Denmark, where public spending decreased by 10% of GDP. (more…)

As libertarians, there’s nothing most of us like more than capitalism: what it means, what it produces, and what it stands for.  Politically aware as we are, we also understand that there are people in the world who despise capitalism, who want nothing to do with it, or who want to convince others of its so called ‘terrors.’  Separate from the protesters, picketers, and political activists, there remains an outlet professionals use to outline either the bad or the good of this ideology: entertainment.  Two examples of each extreme that I would like to discuss are Donald Duck; promoting capitalism and criticizing socialism. And, The Simpsons; shining a negative light on capitalism.  Entertainment, whether it is regular television or childhood cartoons, has a huge impact on what its audience consciously or subconsciously believes, shaping how we view the world, capital, and (big) business.

UrQp5IGFirst, we have The Simpsons, probably one of the most well-known T.V. series in North America, if not the world.  I have seen enough to understand the messages it puts out there that generally don’t support businesses, different forms of energy, or certain types of government.  For example, we all know that Mr. Burns, one of the main antagonists in the series, is the stereotypical ‘evil big-business’ figure, holed away in his company, making his money, contributing nothing, and laughing at the rest of the world. Which is ridiculous considering entrepreneurs should be respected for the efforts they’ve made towards creating a successful business.  Other than Mr. Burns, Homer Simpson’s character can be seen as a clear icon that speaks out against working conditions and workers’ mostly negative attitudes in American society.  From the very first episode, The Simpson’s included a jab at capitalism when Homer Simpson alludes to “the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.”  Homer hates his job, complains about the hierarchical system of American workplaces, and repetitively and satirically remarks on how necessary it is to choose money over “being cool,” or pursuing something you love; a shame considering pursuing what one loves is often the first step towards a successful entrepreneurial career.

Furthermore, the nuclear power plant in which Homer works is always given a menacing, dirty aura, despite nuclear energy to be one of the cleaner
electricity generating processes in the world
.  In the opening, a sign that says ‘2 days accident free’ is put up behind Homer, also silly considering nuclear reactors are safer than coal-, gas-, and petroleum-burning methods of producing electricity.   Then, of course, the audience is constantly barraged with Lisa Simpson’s Democrat-loving, anti-Republican talk.  The average Joe watching the Simpsons, not knowing the kind of information that us as libertarians seek to understand I think might automatically believe what the show portrays to be true.  (more…)

unnamedOn January 1st, 1994, 21 years ago, Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America formed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan had already implemented the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in 1988, so the extension of this agreement with Mexico became NAFTA. Despite controversial– and sometimes conflicting– studies, the agreement has been quite beneficial to the economies of North America.

NAFTA’s reduced protectionism has undeniably increased trade and investment across North America, not to mention lowered consumer prices. American export growth to Canada and Mexico has skyrocketed since ’94. Indeed, NAFTA has brought together these three countries to make the biggest “free trade area” on Earth, weighing in with a combined GDP of $20 trillion annually, which trumps the European Union’s output.

Furthermore, increased trade between the countries may point to better civil diplomatic relations. For skeptical fodder, NAFTA critics point to an initial job loss that correlated to the shuffle in North America’s labor market. In spite of the drop, each North American country has experienced improved employment opportunities and increased wages since NAFTA’s inception.

That being said, the 2,000-page NAFTA outline does need re-forming. Most of the document consists of varying tariff rates and trade barriers. It has certainly reduced protectionism across North America, but free trade is not just about reducing and managing protectionist policies; also, abolishing them. NAFTA has created an intergovernmental bureaucracy to manage this agreement, but bureaucracy breeds the same by nature, so… plain and simple, NAFTA should protect the voluntary exchange of goods and services.

Contradictory bureaucratic absurdities abound, including many provisions that allow the NAFTA governments to arbitrarily return to pre-NAFTA tariff rates, something that jeopardizes the progress made so far. A different provision reduces trade barriers for agreement partners, undermining other international goods; the document calls this “rules of origin,” wherein US-M-C goods receive “preferential tariff treatment.” Thus, commerce has fallen into political tyranny yet again.

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After my post about left-libertarianism, fellow campus coordinator Levi Gourdie wrote a response explaining what he takes to be benefits of right-libertarianism. There are a few points in his post that I’d like to respond to.

First, Levi uses Murray Rothbard as an example of a right-libertarian. There were certainly some very right-wing parts of Rothbard’s thought, and in certain periods, these were especially pronounced. However, Rothbard was a complex thinker, and taking his entire career as paradigmatically right-libertarian is no more plausible than taking all of it as paradigmatically left-libertarian.

In “Left & Right: The Prospects for Liberty,” Rothbard even says that he views free market libertarianism to be on the far left of the political spectrum. To better understand Rothbard’s complicated place in these debates, I recommend Roderick Long’s retrospective essay, “Rothbard’s ‘Left & Right’: 40 Years Later,” and signing up for our Rothbard Virtual Reading Group that Levi mentions, co-led by Roderick Long and Kevin Vallier.

The main distinction Levi draws between left-libertarianism and right-libertarianism is that while right-libertarians see liberty as a worthy goal all on its own, left-libertarians value it merely as a means to eliminating domination. This is odd both because left-libertarians typically also value liberty as an independently important value, and because right-libertarians also have their own set of instrumental uses for liberty.

In fact, neither of the right-libertarians that Levi refers to – Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises – valued liberty for its own sake. In her non-fiction, Rand believed liberty was instrumentally valuable for achieving life-centered values, and Mises was an ardent utilitarian. Both of these figures are crucial for understanding the idea of liberty, but neither saw liberty as an independently important goal.

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Olumayowa Okediran is a member of the Students For Liberty International Executive Board.

Africa has been a case of charity for too long, the narrative has been about a continent so poor that it cannot by itself break free from the shackles of poverty; it has been about a continent struck with the pestilence of corruption and horrendous economic situations. The usual solution to this quagmire peddled by our governments to the international community has been that of foreign aid. A United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA) and the NEPAD-OECD Africa Investment Initiative for African policymakers and their development partners’ policy brief reports that “Africa receives about 36%, of total global aid more than any other part of the world”. Over the past four decades, aid to Africa has quadrupled from around US$11 billion to US$44 billion, with a net increase of almost US$10 billion during the period 2005 – 2008 alone. Our governments have passed Africa’s begging bowl from one developed country to the other like a poor man begging for alms. As an African who loves his continent, I find this despicable and dehumanizing. (more…)