¿Libre Comercio o Proteccionismo?

Razones en contra de las restricciones comerciales por Vincent H. Miller y James R. Elwood traducido por Alberto Mansueti El señuelo del proteccionismo El argumento en pro del llamado “proteccionismo” (que algunos llaman comercio “justo” o “leal”) puede sonar atractivo al principio. Los partidarios de las leyes “proteccionistas” sostienen que dejar fuera los artículos extranjeros conservará puestos de trabajo, dará a las industrias achacosas oportunidad de recuperarse y prosperar, y reducirá los deficits comerciales. ¿Son válidos esos argumentos? Proteccionismo: sus costos John Stuart Mill “el filósofo liberal clásico del siglo pasado” observó agudamente que “las barreras comerciales infieren graves daños a los países que las imponen.” Y eso es verdad hoy como entonces, por las siguientes razones: Empleos Perdidos: Las leyes proteccionistas erigen impuestos (derechos) sobre los bienes importados, y/o decretan límites (cuotas) sobre las cantidades que de los mismos se permite ingresar al país. Son leyes que no sólo restringen la elección de bienes de consumo, sino que también contribuyen grandemente al costo superior tanto de bienes como de hacer negocios. De esta manera, bajo el “proteccionismo” Ud. termina más pobre, con menos dinero para comprar otras cosas que Ud. quiere y necesita. Además, las leyes proteccionistas que disminuyen la capacidad de gasto del consumidor, terminan realmente destruyendo empleos. En EE.UU. por ejemplo, y de acuerdo a las propias estadísticas del Departamento del Trabajo, el “proteccionismo” destruye 8 puestos de trabajo de la economía en su conjunto por cada 1 que salva de una industria protegida. Precios Mayores: Los consumidores japoneses pagan su arroz 5 veces por encima de su precio mundial, debido a las restricciones que protegen a los agricultores de su país. Los consumidores europeos pagan “cariñosos” costos por las restricciones de la CE sobre los bienes importados, y pesados impuestos por los subsidios internos a los …

It’s Time To End Social Security

Why the System is Bankrupt – and How We Can Replace It by George L. O’Brien edited by Mark Valverde and James R. Elwood      “If the US government were required to keep its books the way businesses are required to keep theirs, the national debt wouldn’t be $5 trillion. It would be $17 trillion, an amount equal to 2½ times the nation’s gross domestic product.” Forbes, “The Legal Ponzi Scheme,” October 9, 1995 The Legal Ponzi Scheme Discussions of Social Security remind me of the joke about a man who jumps from the top of a fifty-story building and after falling half-way is asked, “How are you doing?” He answers, “Fine, so far.” The issue of Social Security has long been considered the “third rail” of politics – as on the electrified subway: “touch it and you die.” But like the falling man, Social Security is not really “fine.” There are many reasons for the popularity of Social Security. It is the only part of the welfare state which promises benefits to nearly every person. It is also seen to relieve adult children of the responsibility of supporting their elderly parents, and it helps the elderly poor for whom there is a great deal of sympathy. There is only one problem: the system is a fraud. In theory, Social Security is a form of “insurance.” In practice, it is a “Ponzi scheme.” Historian Mark Knutson, writes that in the summer of 1920, [Charles K.] Ponzi claimed he was giving investors just a portion of the 400% profit he was earning through trade in postal reply coupons. As Ponzi paid the matured notes held by early investors, word of enormous profits spread through the community, whipping greedy and credulous investors into a frenzy. Investigation later revealed that there were no coupons or …

How To Sell Liberty

by Jarret Wollstein   Why Liberty Must Be Sold In folklore, to succeed all you need to do is come up with a great idea or product. “Invent a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” Unfortunately, the world almost never beats a path to anyone’s door. Countless brilliant inventors, artists, and scientists have died in abject poverty. On the other hand, thousands of people who developed modest improvements have become wealthy and successful. What is the difference between these two groups? Why have so many ordinary people with so-so ideas succeeded while many brilliant people with great ideas have failed? Certainly there are factors outside of your control which contribute to success or failure. But one of the most important factors is something you can learn and develop: effective salesmanship. Salesmanship simply means presenting your product in a way that is attractive and emotionally compelling to your audience. If you want your ideas or products to be accepted, you must beat a path to the world’s doors. This is particularly true if your product is a new or misunderstood idea, such as liberty. Like any other product, liberty must be sold. Selling Liberty Below are some of the most important, basic principles involved in selling. Potential candidates for recruitment, contributions, etc., are referred to as “prospects.” 1. Set Realistic, Numerical Goals.If you don’t have realistic goals, you probably won’t accomplish much. In selling liberty, your goals could be how many new people you get to come to your meetings each month, how many activities you sponsor, or how much money you take in. When it becomes easy to meet an initial goal, set new, more ambitious ones. 2. Be Professional.Selling liberty is a serious business and you need to adopt a serious, professional attitude. …

Creating a Successful Libertarian Outreach Organization

by Jarret Wollstein WHY START A LIBERTARIAN OUTREACH GROUP? First, because it’s fun and emotionally-rewarding. Libertarians like to associate with other libertarians – as friends, lovers, business associates, and activity-partners. Starting a group and holding regular meetings makes it easier to find each other. Another reason is to advance the cause of liberty. Today liberty is under siege throughout the world. Taxes consume some 50% to 70% of your income, drastically reducing your standard of living. Possession of sexually-explicit pictures or unapproved drugs can put you in prison for decades. Small businesses are being taxed and regulated to death. Attempting to keep your finances private is now the “crime” of money-laundering. Parents who don’t send their children to government approved indoctrination centers – known as public schools – are subject to arrest and fines. Medicine is increasingly monopolized by the state and police confiscations are growing like an unchecked cancer. There’s plenty to be concerned about, and an urgent need to build effective outreach organizations. And we can win. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – begun by two women operating out of a spare bedroom, and now a national movement – demonstrates that with determination and courage, a few people can change the course of a nation. WHAT SHOULD MY GROUP DO? Get together and have fun. Your meetings should be entertaining and enjoyable or few people will show up. So have tasty snacks, meet at restaurants, or in a quiet area of the park. Eat, drink, dance, socialize, enjoy life. Once you’ve done that, you can start recruiting new members. In fact, people will seek you out. For several years, my Libertarian Social Club in the Washington, DC area was listed by several singles groups as one of the most enjoyable clubs in town. We regularly drew …

To Create Order, Remove the Planner

by Sheldon Richman Unplanned Order Which came first, the chicken of economics or the egg of economic action? Did the discipline of economics precede the object of its interest? The obvious answer is no. To say yes would be like saying that astronomy preceded the planets and stars – or that before Newton, apples didn’t fall from trees. Yet, there are people who speak as though they believe that there was no economy before there were economists. This isn’t just an interesting intellectual exercise. It bears on how we understand the economic process and ultimately how we view government involvement in that process. The first people who could be called economists were descriptivists rather than prescriptivists. They were concerned with what people do, not with what they should do. The discipline of economics began as a riddle to be solved. At least as far back as the Middle Ages, some perceptive observers noticed a kind of order – things were produced and placed in proximity to the people who were willing to make trades to obtain them. Yet this order was undesigned. No one planned the overall scheme. How did it happen? How could there be unplanned order? It was a paradox. The people who first set out to answer those questions were the first economists. The classical school of economics (for all its faults) focused on resolving that paradox. Adam Smith used the metaphor of the invisible hand to point out unplanned order to readers of The Wealth of Nations. Later, Frederic Bastiat saw that the task of economics was not to prove the existence of unplanned order. One needed only to draw attention to it. Rather, it was necessary to explain how such order comes about and how it works. Israel Kirzner, in his book The Economic Point of View, …

The Disaster of International Foreign Aid Programs

by Ken Schoolland FEAST AND FAMINE: An Age of Irony Conscience money, popularly known as “foreign aid”, cannot undo the harm that is done to developing countries by the trade and agricultural policies of industrial nations. While millions of people are starving across Africa, it is not uncommon to read about tons of food being stored or destroyed in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. These reports seem as if they were coming from different planets: an impoverished Third World suffers while a prosperous First World disposes of surplus food. The food being destroyed is not just the accumulated discard from schoolchildren’s lunch plates. Instead, the great destruction of food is the result of an official agricultural program to keep food off the domestic market in order to raise farm prices. PLANNED WASTE Not long ago, Japanese officials announced plans to destroy 8,600 tons of cabbages and radishes because their prices slumped below “acceptable” levels. West European officials are reported to have socked away mountains of butter and lakes of milk for the same reason. And US officials ordered 3.5 billion oranges, two-fifths of all production, to be removed from the California market in order to raise prices. One farmer in California, Carl Pescosolido, faced hefty fines because he chose to give two million oranges to the poor people of San Francisco rather than let them rot in the field. The authorities do not always look kindly on charity, unless it fits their own assistance plans. Emergency assistance in the form of famine relief grabs the headlines, but these paltry sums are dwarfed by the massive government programs that created the conditions of poverty in the first place. Nearly $100 billion is spent annually by governments to subsidize farmers in the developed countries. Over the long run, these massive …

The Looting of America (Civil Asset Forfeiture)

How over 200 Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Enable Police to Confiscate Your Home, Bank Accounts & Business Without Trial by Jarret B. Wollstein “A police dog scratched at your luggage, so we’re confiscating your life savings and you’ll never get it back.” Police stopped 49-year-old Ethel Hylton at Houston’s Hobby Airport and told her she was under arrest because a drug dog had scratched at her luggage. Agents searched her bags and strip-searched her, but they found no drugs. They did find $39,110 in cash, money she had received from an insurance settlement and her life savings; accumulated through over 20 years of work as a hotel housekeeper and hospital janitor. Ethel Hylton completely documented where she got the money and was never charged with a crime. But the police kept her money anyway. Nearly four years later, she is still trying to get her money back. Ethel Hylton is just one of a large and growing list of Americans – now numbering in the hundreds of thousands – who have been victimized by civil asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, everything you own can be legally taken away even if you are never convicted of a crime. Suspicion of offenses which, if proven in court, might result in a $200 fine or probation, are being used to justify seizure of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property. Totally innocent Americans are losing their cars, homes and businesses, based on the claims of anonymous informants that illegal transactions took place on their property. Once property is seized, it is virtually impossible to get it back. Property is now being seized in every state and from every social group. Seizures include pocket money confiscated from public-housing residents in Florida; cars taken away from men suspected of soliciting prostitutes in Oregon; …

Just Say No to “Extortion Futures!”

Why buying government bonds is a bad investment for yourself, and our future by James R. Elwood Most people think that buying government bonds is the safest investment you can make, and that the money is used for beneficial purposes. The truth is that lending money to governments causes more harm than good. It leads to higher taxes and wasteful spending. And, bondholders almost always lose money. Encouraging Waste and Corruption Politicians tell us that buying government bonds is “an investment in the future,” but giving government more money causes great economic harm. Most national government borrowings are designed to cover operating deficits – to subsidize wasteful spending. So long as the money flows, bureaucrats don’t have any profit-or-loss-incentives to control their expenditures. Indeed, success in government is measured by how large you can make your department budget and staff! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spends 80% of its budget on administrative overhead, while private charities are prosecuted for fraud if more than 20-30% of donations goes for staff. In California, there are an average of 132 administrators for every 100 teachers in the public schools, while there are only 18 per 100 teachers in the parochial schools. Average cost per high-school student: $5200 public vs. $2200 private. Billions of tax dollars are wasted, and are thus unavailable for creating productive private businesses and jobs. Many city or state bond-financed infrastructure projects are riddled with lavish fees for contractors and payroll “featherbedding.” Contractors and unions recycle large sums into corrupt politicians’ campaign accounts to ensure their re-election. These politicians then propose more projects. The special interests also use the loot to finance slick advertising campaigns to convince gullible voters that they should approve bond measures for projects of dubious public value, like fancy new sports stadiums. Bond …

Government Schools in Crisis

by George L. O’Brien edited by Geoffrey Erikson The tax-supported “public school”system is in trouble. There are chronic problems with discipline, mounting violence, declining test scores, and administrative costs spiraling out of control. Government schools continue to graduate functional illiterates, and US public school students’ math skills are now among the worst in the industrialized world. How bad is it? The US has 27 million illiterates as well as 40 to 50 million people who can barely read at the fourth-grade level. The US is also among the worst industrialized countries in the areas of math and science. More than half of all 18-year-olds cannot find Britain or France on a map. The defenders of the government schools claim the problem is a lack of money. However, in real terms, spending on education has actually risen over the last 40 years. The US ranks near the top in the world in per student spending – more than either the Germans or the Japanese. The cost per student in government schools is nearly twice that of a typical private school, yet the results are distinctly inferior. There is so much dissatisfaction with government schools that many parents are paying to send their children to private schools. This is after having already paid for government schools through their taxes. It is a ringing testimony to the failure of one of this country’s most ambitious social experiments. Origins of “Public Schools” The public schools movement began in the 1830’s, led by Horace Mann. Supposedly, the goal was to ensure that every child would have access to an education. However, from the beginning there was another agenda, and that was to control what was being taught so as to create so-called model citizens. Public schools meant taking control of education from the parents and placing it in the …

The Endangered Middle Class

  Why millions of Americans are on the verge of bankruptcy despite a “booming” economy by Jarret B. Wollstein On the surface, America’s economy is in great shape. Unemployment and inflation are reportedly low. Corporate profitability is at record levels. The bull market in stocks and bonds seems endless. But beneath the surface there are many warning signs: Debt is at record levels. Bankruptcies – both personal and business – are at the highest level since the Great Depression. Many people are working 60 or 70 hours a week, or more, to make ends meet. Taxes are at the highest level ever, taking over half of the average person’s income. The Orange County Register [10/7/95] puts it bluntly: “The old American middle class is vanishing. Stagnant incomes, growing gaps between rich and poor and corporate downsizing are changing how America lives. . . . Two-income families in 1995 earn less than the one-income family of the 1960s.” Here are some other warning signs: “The wages of the average American worker, after inflation and taxes, have decreased 17% since 1973,” according to Martin Gross, author of The Tax Racket.At the same time, the price of food, housing, clothing, cars, and other necessities – have been rising at 5-8% a year – hidden inflation, ignored by official government statistics. Many families are deeply in debt.Debt and fixed expenses (such as mortgage and car payments) now consume over 95% of the average family’s disposable income. [Source: Federal Reserve] Using credit cards to pay for necessities like food is becoming commonplace. Business debt is also at record levels. Personal bankruptcies have tripled, during the last 15 years. [Source: Dun & Bradstreet.] And for every person who’s declared bankruptcy, ten more are one or two paychecks away from bankruptcy, according to economic analyst James Davidson. An economic crisis …