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Personal Freedoms Are Economic Freedoms

Sometimes when discussing civil liberties, a line gets drawn between personal freedoms and economic ones. In fact, it is even seen as one of the defining characteristics between the political left and right. But while this certainly may be true of the policies that either side supports, I feel as though this misses the interaction between the two.

Let’s start with the First Amendment: Freedom of speech. This has been a hotly contested issue of late, with the Citizens United ruling several years ago. There was (and continues to be) much said about the validity of corporate money in the political arena. That in particular isn’t an issue I wish to focus on, but the interaction between speech and money is.

If an individual chooses to spend their money towards a political campaign, or flyers, or to self publish a book, those are all different forms of speech. To limit the amount of money that an individual is allowed to spend is akin to limiting the amount that they are allowed to say; the limitation on economic freedom becomes a limitation on personal freedom. The political left seems to think that while freedom of speech is beneficial for individuals, it is not the case for groups of those very same individuals; the reasoning behind this I cannot understand. Pragmatically, there is little reason to believe that the amount of money that one spends will guarantee a particular outcome. One must look no further than the current presidential election, where Jeb Bush outspent nearly every other candidate, and yet dropped out of the race dead last.

Another area that the two areas, personal and economic, interact is in trade. If I want to offer my carpentry services, it’s unfortunately not as simple as finding someone in need of my services, rendering them, and collecting payment. If I wish to keep the weight of the State off my back, I must first be licensed, register as a contractor, pay various fees, file my taxes quarterly, etc. There are numerous costs that I must incur before ever accepting that first payment. The economic restrictions become a restriction on my personal freedom by altering how I must spend my time in addition to my money.

Or what if I would like to hire somebody, but they’re not a citizen, or haven’t been through all the needed regulatory hurdles? That’s another restriction on my economic freedom, that is effecting my freedom of association as a consequence.

Liberty shouldn’t be seen as compartmentalized segments; it’s deep and dynamic, and restrictions on it have far reaching consequences.

If Breakfast Were Regulated Like Buildings

I am currently studying for my CSL license in MA. This is my take.


904.2. – Waffles

This section shall comply with NWAB 342.2.3.1, except where superseded by MGL 149.742.2.1, or explicitly stated herein.

904.2.1 Maple Syrup

Waffles may be served with maple syrup, provided it complies with IMSC 4242, up to 33% the weight of the waffles it is being served with, but at no point shall it exceed 4 oz. If more maple syrup is desired, a hearing can be requested before the breakfast official board.

904.2.2  Butter

Butter can atop the waffles, at a minimum of 1TB per 3sq. in., but not exceeding 3TB per 5sq. in.

904.2.3  Jellies, jams, and chutneys

Jellies are regulated under sections 907.4 – 907.6


Jams containing blackcurrants, and other jams from the grossulariaceae family, shall not be used, except with the express written permission of the breakfast official.


Chutneys, as defined in section 906.3, can be used only as garnish, not exceeding 1TB per 6 sq. in.

904.2.4  Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter can be used in any amount, provided it complies with PBRB 325

Quote Of The Day

Today’s quote comes from Mark D. Friedman, of Natural Rights Libertarian, from his book Nozick’s Libertarian Project: An Elaboration and Defense:

Thus, the commingling of the political and economic realms permits the development of a vicious circle in which constituencies use the apparatus of the state to achieve illegitimate financial advantages and the authorities use their ability to provide such rewards as leverage to further erode our freedoms. Just as the human body can tolerate extremely low doses of arsenic and other toxins (do not try this at home!), societies with deeply ingrained traditions supportive of the rule of law can withstand a substantial level of state interference in their economic lives without collapsing into outright tyranny. However, even “minor” abridgements of liberty are pernicious in and of themselves, and if such cancers are allowed to metastasize, the “patient” will eventually succumb.

I should note here that Mark D. Friedman has become one of my favorite political thinkers lately, both through his blog and this book. His writing is clear, cogent, and his arguments are often surprisingly persuasive; I find myself initially disagreeing with his positions sometimes, but am often convinced by the time he rests his case. And, above all, his commitment to the value of the individual is never lost.

Quote Of The Day

I was first alerted to this by Matt Zwolinski of Bleeding Heart Libertarians. It comes from Adam Smith, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:

The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands; and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper without injury to his neighbour, is a plain violation of this most sacred property. It is a manifest encroachment upon the just liberty both of the workman, and of those who might be disposed to employ him. As it hinders the one from working at what he thinks proper, so it hinders the others from employing whom they think proper. To judge whether he is fit to be employed, may surely be trusted to the discretion of the employers whose interest it so much concerns. The affected anxiety of the law–giver lest they should employ an improper person, is evidently as impertinent as it is oppressive.



Government Shutdown

Andrew Cohen of Bleeding Heart Libertarians has an interesting piece up, and I largely share his views (though there is an analogy in there I find rather weak…). From the article:

People who were promised paychecks will not get them. Some will get them late. Some will get smaller paychecks (due to furlough time). Some of these people will face tremendous difficulty. I think it fair to say they will be harmed–having planned their lives given the promise of a regular paycheck, they have legitimate expectations that are being set back. Perhaps the government should not have hired those people in the first place (after all, they are “non-essential” personnel!). But the fact is they were hired and treating them this way is wrong and makes a mockery of contract.

This is a good point that many libertarians and conservatives are apt to miss. Many libertarians in particular are going to dispute the legitimacy of those obligations, but if government is a legitimate entity, then the obligations it enters into need to be taken seriously and the obligations honored. Now certainly, in the private sector, jobs are generally not seen as secure as government jobs. Perhaps thats a good thing, as it promotes increased productivity and competition, ultimately helping to serve the consumer. However, there is an implicit expectation of continued work when a full time employee gets hired by someone, whether the government, a corporation, or small business, and possibly could be considered part of their work contract. The government, currently, is not honoring that contract. However, given it’s abysmal record of honoring individuals and their rights, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.

Quote Of The Day

This comes from F. A. Hayek in Individualism and Economic Order:

Especially remarkable […] is the explicit and complete exclusion from the theory of perfect competition of all personal relationships existing between the parties. In actual life the fact that our inadequate knowledge of the available commodities or services is made up for by our experience with the persons or firms supplying them– that competition is in large measure competition for reputation or good will– is one of the most important facts which enables us to solve our daily problems. The function of competition here is to teach us who will serve us well: which grocer or travel agency, which department store or hotel, which doctor or solicitor, we can expect to provide the most satisfactory solution for whatever particular personal problem we may have to face. Evidently in all these fields competition may be very intense, just because the services of the different persons or firms will never be exactly alike, and it will be owing to this competition that we are in a position to be served as well as we are.


But What Would We Do Without a Postal Service?

I recently bought two items on Ebay, one coming from Oregon, and the other from New Jersey. They were both shipped on the same day, the one from Oregon through UPS ground service, and the other through the Postal Service. Despite New Jersey only being about a 6 hour drive from here, the package is still going to take a week to get here, so the one coming from Oregon through a private carrier will cross the entire country in the same amount of time.

Why isn’t UPS allowed to carry mail again?