It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
I read The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat, again. It’s still great. Below you will find a few quotes. The really hard part is picking which passages to quote — the whole (short) book is entirely quotable. It’s short. It’s sweet. It’s practical. It’s brilliant.
Love does not steal from one’s neighbors to enrich oneself.
This plunder may be only an exceptional blemish in the legislation of a people, and in this case, the best thing that can be done is, without so many speeches and lamentations, to do away with it as soon as possible, notwithstanding the clamors of interested parties. But how is it to be distinguished? Very easily. See whether the law takes from some persons that which belongs to them, to give to others what does not belong to them. See whether the law performs, for the profit of one citizen, and, to the injury of others, an act which this citizen cannot per- form without committing a crime. Abolish this law without delay; it is not merely an iniquity — it is a fertile source of iniquities, for it invites reprisals; and if you do not take care, the exceptional case will extend, multiply, and become system- atic. No doubt the party benefited will exclaim loudly; he will assert his acquired rights. He will say that the State is bound to protect and encourage his industry; he will plead that it is a good thing for the State to be enriched, that it may spend the more, and thus shower down salaries upon the poor workmen. Take care not to listen to this sophistry, for it is just by the systematizing of these arguments that legal plunder becomes systematized.
– Frédéric Bastiat, The Law
I have seen Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” referenced many times through the years, and I’ve seen quotes pulled from it often. I finally decided to read it. I’m glad that I did. I think anyone interested in taking a stand against immoral laws should start with this letter.
Quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, 16 April, 1963
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
Words are sensible Signs, necessary for Communication of Ideas. Man, though he have great variety of thoughts, and such from which others as well as himself might receive profit and delight; yet they are all within his own breast, invisible and hidden from others, nor can of themselves be made to appear. The comfort and advantage of society not being to be had without communication of thoughts, it was necessary that man should find out some external sensible signs, whereof those invisible ideas, which his thoughts are made up of, might be made known to others. For this purpose nothing was so fit, either for plenty or quickness, as those articulate sounds, which with so much ease and variety he found himself able to make. Thus we may conceive how WORDS, which were by nature so well adapted to that purpose, came to be made use of by men as the signs of their ideas; not by any natural connexion that there is between particular articulate sounds and certain ideas, for then there would be but one language amongst all men; but by a voluntary imposition, whereby such a word is made arbitrarily the mark of such an idea. The use, then, of words, is to be sensible marks of ideas; and the ideas they stand for are their proper and immediate signification.
– John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book III, Chapter 2, OF THE SIGNIFICATION OF WORDS
Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?
Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.
Every time I set down to seriously consider evolution, I run into this wall – If evolution is true, then I can never know anything. I can only believe that which promotes my survivability and the propagation of my genes.
As I read through them, I was struck by the fact that not only am I susceptible to all of them, but many also double as heuristics – or ways that we can “cheat” for information that we don’t have or don’t have time to research. Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart
Question: So, is it a cognitive bias or a heuristic?
China has been successfully “cheating” communism by being capitalistic on the side, building the second largest economy in the world while quietly suppressing liberties. Have the limited capitalism that has brought China such huge financial success finally started to push against the communism of the Party? I’ve been watching this develop for years. Will China be the first country in history to be both communist and financially stable, or will the two ideologies of capitalism (Freedom) and communism finally be forced into the inevitable showdown?
D. G. Myers on Cancer, Dying, and Living on EconTalk
D.G. Myers, literary critic and cancer patient, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the lessons he has learned from receiving a cancer diagnosis six years ago. Myers emphasizes the importance of dealing with cancer honestly and using it as a way to focus attention on what matters in life. The conversation illuminates the essence of opportunity cost and the importance of allocating our time, perhaps our scarcest resource, wisely. The last part of the conversation discusses a number of literary issues including the role of English literature and creative writing in American universities.
Yuval Levin, author of The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas of Burke and Paine and their influence on the evolution of political philosophy. Levin outlines the differing approaches of the two thinkers to liberty, authority, and how reform and change should take place. Other topics discussed include Hayek’s view of tradition, Cartesian rationalism, the moral high ground in politics, and how the “right and left” division of American politics finds its roots in the debates of these thinkers from the 1700s.
Gavin Andresen, Chief Scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about where Bitcoin has been and where it might be headed in the future. Topics discussed include competing cryptocurrencies such as Dogecoin, the role of the Bitcoin Foundation, the challenges Bitcoin faces going forward, and the mystery of Satoshi Nakamoto.