Hobsbawm’s “What do Historians Owe to Karl Marx?”

Having read through historian Eric Hobsbawm’s chapter entitled, “What Do Historians Owe to Karl Marx?” I came to the conclusion that the answer is very little. A more pertinent question is what does humanity owe to Karl Marx? To which I’d answer that thanks to the ideas of Marx, millions of people died and there is a great deal more wanton suffering in the world. Historians could owe their entire discipline to Marx and it would pale in comparison to its real human impact. And thanks to historians like Hobsbawm, Marx’s ideas will continue to be such a delightful influence on man.

The Social Contract- Rousseau; Review

Emerging nationalism was one of the primary forces in shaping change in Europe throughout the late 18th and into the 19th centuries, in no small part due to the enormous influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Of the Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right, written in 1762 in France. Rousseau’s Social Contract attempted to answer the question, “is it possible to establish some just and reliable rule of administration in civil affairs?”[1] Rousseau explicitly laid out that his essay was an attempt to find a justification for the institution of government over man—his bondage—since government is a fact of life, but that most governments seemed to be in possession of arbitrary authority.[2] Given that governments and nations existed throughout the world, if man was going to be limited by them, there should naturally arises a tendency to question how this can be legitimate.

Rousseau believed that people would give up their freedom they enjoy in nature only in order that they secure their own advantage thereby. Rousseau denies that rights can be establish by facts, just as David Hume did; as such, he notes that the existence of slavery is not evidence enough to induce that slavery is a part of the natural order. Rousseau dispatches with the moral principle that might makes right, understanding that if this were true, right would add nothing to might, given that a change in one necessarily means a change in the other, which is a flimsy basis for a right.[3]

Rousseau notes it is odd to extend the principle that an individual can alienate his freedom in exchange for subsistence—that is, to sell himself into slavery—to a king, since subjects do not depend on their king for their daily bread, rather the reverse is true. Men would not give up their freedom in order “that their property also shall be taken.” Rousseau ultimately denies even the ability to alienate one’s liberty and voluntarily become a slave, since this would be to renounce the very essence of humanity and be a self-contradictory proposition. Rousseau denies Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius’s claim that victors in war have the right to demand slavery from the subjects of their conquered for, since wars are between state and state, rather than between individuals, so the only spoils that rightfully belong to the victorious state are the possessions of the vanquished state; to assert otherwise is simply an extension of the earlier-refuted maxim that might makes right. [4]

In Chapter V, Rousseau attempts to establish what constitutes a people, or a nation, since Grotius asserts that a people can alienate itself to a king, meaning it had to have been a body politic already in order to have deliberated and made such a decision.[5] If these individuals had not been a body politic, to establish authority over every one, every individual would have had to unanimously vote to give up their liberties, for the ability of a majority to bind a minority is only operative anterior to the creation of a body politic. Here, Rousseau elucidates his social contract theory, whereby men determine that the state of nature being harsh and unforgiving with each individual acting only with regard to his own self-interest, they would find it in their best interest to form an association capable of protecting their persons and property by using the “whole force of the community” to protect each individual member.[6] Rousseau moves on in Chapter VII to note that a social compact having been agreed to, and a collective body having been formed, it is the sovereign which takes on the role of the individual, in that it under no obligation to be bound to itself, namely that it cannot “impose on itself a law it cannot transgress”; in essence, it is a body of unlimited authority. Rousseau also stipulates that individuals give up all rights to property they were in possession of to the State, which is of little significant to him because possession of property by the state is actually “more secure.”[7]

Rousseau comes to the conclusion that it is nationhood, under the collective agreement that creates a republic, that defines a people; and all of the corresponding duties attendant to it are one’s highest political duties. In a footnote on page 171, Rousseau notes that although once a social contract has been agreed to, unanimity is no longer necessary to give force to the general will, it is necessary that everyone be able to vote on what actions the general will should take, because to do otherwise makes it an expression of a particular will rather than the true general will. Democracy, then, becomes an important aspect of the legitimacy of acts of the State in reflecting the general will of the people rather than the fancies of its leaders.

The significance of Rousseau’s Social Contract is that it gives parameters by which one can judge the legitimacy of governments in both their structure and substance. Governments must usually be democratic, because if they were not it means they are not attempting to ascertain the general will of the people. Similarly, leaders must act in accordance with the general will and those who contravene it are illegitimate; leaders who continue to act against popular sentiment have no right to rule under the social contract. Additionally, it seems to follow from Rousseau’s footnote on page 169 that government should redistribute wealth in order that they function efficiently, because too much inequality renders the social state only advantageous to the rich.[8] Furthermore, Rousseau’s ideas significantly impacted the French Revolutionaries of the late 18th century, whose motto was Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. These revolutionaries rejected the authority of the king since he was contravening the above-mentioned principles and subordinating the general will and common good to his own particular good. Equality and reciprocity, moving forward, become important foundations of Rousseau’s political philosophy and the modern nation-state. Rousseau’s ideas reflected and reinforced the movements in the late 18th century, such as in France, and those throughout the 19th century to create unitary states, in which the sovereign possessed full authority and plenary power, rather than enduring in the fragmented, decentralized situation many European nations like Germany had been in. This drive attempted to shed the arbitrary authorities of kings, princes, and other leaders by establishing anew a modern nation representative of the general will of the people rather than the special interest of the king.

[1] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and The First and Second Discourses, ed. Susan Dunn (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2002), 155.

[2]Ibid., 156. In Rousseau’s words: “Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains….How has this change come about? I do not know. What can make it legitimate? I believe I can settle this question.”

[3] Ibid., 156-158. Likewise, Rousseau says, “If one is compelled to obey by force, there is no need to obey from duty’ and if one is no longer forced to obey, obligation is at an end.”

[4] Ibid., 159-161. The convention of taking slaves rather than killing enemy combatants presupposes a state of war and terminates at the establishment of peace, so this cannot justify an absolute authority of a ruler over his subjects either.

[5] Ibid., 162.

[6] Ibid., 163.

[7] Ibid., 167.

[8] Here, Rousseau says “Under bad governments, this equality is only apparent and illusory; it serves only to keep the poor in their misery and the rich in their usurpations. In fact, laws are always useful to those who possess and injurious to those that have nothing; whence it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only so far as they have something, and none of them has too much.”

The Bitcoin Revolution: The Digital Money Paradigm and the Financial Crisis

Below, I have attached a link to a PDF file of my paper entitled, “The Bitcoin Revolution: The Digital Money Paradigm and the Financial Crisis.” I would greatly appreciate any suggestions, edits, errors, comments, or omissions you may have noticed.

My paper looks at the history of cryptocurrency/cryptography, how this relates to Bitcoin, and how cryptoanarchist concerns regarding government interference with digital communications and digital money appear to have been fleshed out by the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

The Bitcoin Revolution


Addressing Objections to Libertarianism

Spoken in class today by a leftist student of unknown ideology who probably loves Salon articles: “Some libertarians think individuals with vast economic power have the right to turn people into paupers.” They seem to misunderstand one of the most basic characteristics present in any human society.
No matter what the structure of society, there will always be some individuals who have more power than others. Further, in any society, there will always be some individuals who actively use their power to the detriment of others; this certainly is not limited to any particular ideology, class of individuals, or structure of society. To think otherwise is hopelessly naive and would deny the existence of sociopaths. If someone was actually concerned about instances of the misuse of power, they should take a look at government. Government has vastly greater power than any business or private individual could ever hope of having and the instances of abuse of this power are painfully obvious: 260 million individuals killed by governments in the 20th century and countless other abuses and violations of individual rights. Some people are so tunnel-visioned about the potential for power abuse in their pejorative hypothetical libertarian state they forget the catastrophic reality they are living in. And let’s be realistic here, unless they are supporters of some genre of anarchism, they ultimately accept the idea that the state may wield power and turn people into paupers through taxation. Awfully hypocritcal, wouldn’t you say?

The Bitcoin Divide: Austrian Economics, Mises, and Money


There has been a lot of talk recently regarding whether Bitcoin is money, simply a medium of exchange, or a fiat bubble waiting to burst. I thought I’d weigh in on the debate with some salient critiques on situation. I have more to say about this but these are my immediate thoughts.

The Emergence of Money

The need for money arises from the problems inherent in direct exchange between individuals in a barter economy. In a barter economy, one good is directly exchanged for another good; Person A exchanges their bread for Person B’s beef, and so on. The problem arises from the unlikelihood an individual will find someone willing to exchange the particular good(s) they possess for the particular good(s) someone else possesses. If Person A is looking to exchange his bushel of grapes for a loaf of bread, what is the possibility of finding a Person B with a loaf of bread who is willing to exchange it for A’s grapes? This mutual or double coincidence of wants expresses the unlikelihood of each party to an exchange possessing the particular good (in the particular quantity) that the other wants, at any one point in time. Hence, the need for a medium of exchange arises to correct this problem, allowing the medium to be exchanged in lieu of trading actual goods to facilitate an exchange; this is known as indirect exchange.

Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises is often cited by Austrian economists for his regression theorem, which asserted that all money arises out of a particular good becoming universally accepted, as a succinct theory upon which all money must theoretically adhere to.The implication of this theory is that in every instance of money emerging, it was at one time a good with value independent of its use as money; as a nonmonetary good. We can see this with gold; before it came to prominence as money, it had other nonmonetary uses in jewelry, ornamentation, decoration, etc. Its value derived from these nonmonetary uses until, at some point in time (we of course can never know exactly when), it began being used as a medium of exchange to such an extent that it achieved wide acceptance and ascended to money status.

Intuitively, Mises’s regression theorem is logical and concise; for anything to become universally accepted as a medium of exchange in a barter economy, it must be have been a good with uses independent of exchange, because no one would have originally accepted it as payment if they had no use for it; it would have been valueless. Mises’s regression theorem is a bottom-up theory of the spontaneous emergence of money; the alternative for this is a top-down constructivist approach by which some authority (government) establishes something as money by decree. The constructivist approach is a coercive mechanism bypassing the temporal element of achieving a universally accepted medium of exchange by dictating everyone must accept the government instituted currency, or else. In this way, money need not be a store of value at all; more than likely the government is going to choose a commodity with almost no value (pieces of paper with printed numbers on them) in order to enrich itself at the expense of the public, and allow, through the inflation of the currency, an expansion of government spending without using the more visible methods of taxation or debt financing because they are more politically unpopular. To wean the public from their logical desire to use commodities as their currency, the government uses paper certificates redeemable in denoted quantities of the favored commodity. When the government decides to stop the charade after it realizes redeemability imposes constraints on its ability to inflate or debase the currency, and thus on its spending ability, it halts redeemability of the currency and finally divorces itself from the original commodity it was intended to represent. As we can see, the coercive constructivist method may “work” in that it achieves universal acceptance as a medium of exchange, but the coercive mechanism, imposing this on individuals is illegitimate from a libertarian standpoint and therefore invalid if one is inquiring how money emerges on the market.


From an Austrian perspective, the traditional characteristics upon which all money may be evaluated are six fold: Divisibility, durability, portability, scarcity, recognizability, and fungibility. The first characteristic is divisibility, or the ability of money to be divided into definite, measurable quantities. The second characteristic is portability, or the ability to carry large quantities of the money with little transaction costs, i.e. it is easy to carry (value dense). The third characteristic is durability, or the ability to withstand daily usage without significant wear and tear that would impair or destroy its value. The fourth characteristic is recognizablility, which goes back to the point emphasizing individuals accept it as a medium of its change and recognize its value. The fifth characteristic is scarcity because no one wants to have a medium of exchange that is not superabundant and is not too rare either. The last characteristic is fungibility which refers to uniformity; one unit of money must be identical to, and equal in value to, every other unit of the currency. Gold has theoretically and historically fit these criteria well in many cultures because it is very uniform, divisible, scarce, a recognizable store of value, portable and durable.

The Divide

There are two strains of individuals who, as per se Austrian economists, do not accept Bitcoin as a form of money. The first strain can be characterized as those who use Mises’s regression theorem to reject Bitcoin as money. These economists have accepted Mises’s regression theorem unequivocally as sacrosanct; they (e.g. Gary North) challenge individuals to not just praise the positive features Bitcoin may possess compared to other monies and note all the challenges it poses to the state money monopoly (obviously a great thing), but, understandably, to develop a paradigm subject to reasoned evaluation defining money and describing the characteristics distinguishing money from a humble medium of exchange. The implication is these individuals will not accept Bitcoin as a form of money (or at least a legitimate form) regardless of how widely accepted Bitcoin becomes. They believe to become money, it is fundamental it must originate from a nonmonetary use as a commodity good. Ideally, they reject a definition of money as simply a universally or generally accepted medium of exchange if this definition does adhere to Mises’s theorem. Austrian economics assumes all of economics is logically deductible from basic premises, but for a lot of people it probably seems like North’s refusal to consider that Bitcoin may achieve money status in the future is an irrational clinging to gold and hard money in an age when technological advances may prove digital currencies to be superior to hard money currency.

The second strain of Austrian economists who reject Bitcoin as money are those who understand Bitcoin is used as a medium of exchange in smaller circles, but until Bitcoin gains a wider (general, or near universal) acceptance as a form of money in “restaurants, supermarkets, movies,” as well as for utilities and other commercial entities, it cannot be considered money. Likely, these individuals (Block, Gordon, Murphy, etc.) accept the validity of Mises’ regression theorem as a highly accurate predictor of the spontaneous emergence of money on the market, but also accept deviations from this theorem based on the reality of the situation; if everyone accepts Bitcoin and pays for goods in Bitcoin, how can we not call Bitcoin money? Similarly, as unfortunate and illegitimate as it may be, the dollar is money because it is universally accepted as payment for goods and services even though it achieved this status by a condition of coercion.

Those who believe Bitcoin is money likewise fall into two categories. One group of supports reject Mises’ regression theorem as a thing of the past. In their view, Bitcoin is revolutionary and requires upsetting the existing paradigms, both in Austrian economic theory and in the government monopoly on the supply and “coining” of money. Many of these individuals are young, tech-savvy, and optimistic about the future progress of technology. These individuals seem very concerned with “hacking the state” and using technology and ingenuity to bring about the inevitable demise of government monopolization in every manifestation. They consistently identify the virtues of Bitcoin and believe it’s strengths make it superior to both fiat currency and gold.

Others who support Bitcoin as money seem to simply have a low threshold for what qualifies as “money” under their definition. Some, such as William Anderson, believe since Bitcoin is accepted (somewhere) for payment of goods, thus facilitating indirect exchange, and since it operates as a parallel currency (somewhere) it qualifies as money. Therefore, they do not believe it needs to be universally accepted to qualify as money; if it functions as a medium of exchange and can be accepted as a form of payment, it must be money. At this point, some of them think Bitcoin has become recognizable enough to be accepted by a large enough number of people to qualify as money. (Some from each category likely are not aware of Mises’s regression theorem or implicitly reject Mises’s theorem by adopting such a low standard for a definition of money.)

Lawrence H. White, an economist at George Mason University, thinks a little bit differently; his train of thought is very useful when examining Bitcoin as a form of money so I will go through it briefly here. In this perspective, to define whether something operates as money, one needs to define the audience. Nothing, no commodity, currency, or anything else, is universally accepted as a medium of exchange. At particular points in time, gold and the U.S. dollar have each been in large-scale acceptance by huge swaths of the world population, but nothing has ever achieved universal acceptance throughout the earth. Hence, we cannot define money as requiring universal acceptance. Each country has her own currency; in that circle, defined by their borders (their population), the currency operates as money. In many cases, it is the coercive element of legal tender laws that forced acceptance, but it operates as money nonetheless.

Murray Rothbard had his own regression theorem of international anarchy, which can prove useful to apply to the theory of money. Rothbard said if we accept anarchy at the inter-State level, why should we limit anarchy’s validity only between states? Why not regress this down to the most basic level and accept the plausibility of anarchy at the individual level? Similarly, if we accept that money can occur without universal acceptance globally and depends on the circle of users, we must accept money can manifest even in some of the smallest circles, such as the cryptohippie circle (e.g. Paul Rosenberg). Ultimately, in certain circles where individuals readily give and receive Bitcoin as a medium of exchange, it is operating as money in these circles. In many cases, economists define money with respect to society as a whole; that is why many Austrian economists say Bitcoin is not yet money, but may be at some point in the future. This is not wrong since they are implicitly looking at whether Bitcoin operates as money across the whole of society, which Bitcoins clearly do not. However, I would argue the definition of money cannot be limited to whether it is universally accepted across all of human society, but must include smaller circles to be valid. To define whether a currency is operating as money, you must define your audience. From here, it becomes academic and arbitrary how we decide exactly when a medium of exchange becomes generally accepted by a population. In many cases, we can easily tell when something is or is not functioning as money; the U.S. dollar functions as money in the U.S. economy, Bitcoin does not.

Another obstacle Lawrence White brings up regards the problem with anointing Bitcoin as a medium of exchange. He says although the $30 million per day Bitcoin volume is significant, “not all Bitcoin transactions represent purchases of goods and services, and thus not all use is monetary use. I suspect that purchases of goods and services are only a small fraction of Bitcoin transaction volume…When John Doe buys Bitcoins with dollars in order to speculate against dollars, and expects to later sell his Bitcoin holdings for dollars, he is not using those Bitcoins as money.” In the U.S. economy, Bitcoin is functioning largely as a speculative (or hedging) financial tool and is an extremely volatile asset. Further, all of the problems Gary North constantly references to this nature, such as the bitcoin heist of $100 million (small pie compared to government theft through fiat money) need to be rectified if bitcoin is ever to reach money status in America. Bitcoin will need to over and over prove its utility as a secure payment processing tool to allay the fears of the general public and get them to adopt bitcoin. Further, brick and mortar businesses as well as traditional online retailers must participate in order for bitcoin to become money. (If someone like Amazon started allowing purchases to be made using bitcoin, it would lend a huge boost to bitcoin’s legitimacy and its ability to operate as a currency).

We must also remember gold is not immune to some of these same problems bitcoin has; a heavily armed individual might rob any individual, and business, or any gold storage facility and steal significant amounts of wealth from legitimate owners. $100 million might be a spectacular sum, but theft on this scale is very rare and speaks to the problems inherent in any organization entrusted with the deposits of numerous individuals. There is always the possibility of a disreputable individual taking advantage of unsuspecting users and stealing from then. I think people are so alarmed because of how easily someone might disappear and evade tracking than anything. It also doesn’t speak to a flaw in bitcoin itself but a flaw in the nature of human users who might be too trustworthy or too mischievous. Lax security and carelessness in the storage and transfer of any form of money will result in significant risks of theft or loss.

Although Bitcoin’s lack of extensive use as money in transactions for tangible goods has continued to be used against it, this may present a case for Bitcoin as having a nonmonetary use (similar to gold), which at some point may become generally accepted and meet Mises’ regression theorem. From what I understand, Bitcoin began as a good before it became a medium of exchange. The only option for original Bitcoin owners would have been to trade them for U.S. dollars or some other currency; no goods would have been available for purchase in Bitcoin until later because sites accepting Bitcoin in exchange for goods were not yet in existence. Bitcoin’s utility comes from its use as a quick, anonymous, and nearly cost-less payment processor. The network of users supporting the payment verification is nearly impossible to duplicate by a central authority, making this aspect very valuable. Bitcoin has been a very volatile asset over its short lifespan and is likely not going to change anytime soon. This does not preclude its ability to stabilize and become money at some point in the future, however.

To analogize with the past, the Bitcoin network is akin to a Wells Fargo in the 19th century, except instead of holding money in banks and transporting money using stagecoaches,  sailing ships, and steamers, Bitcoin holds money in “virtual wallets” and uses its advanced network to transfer Bitcoins over vast distances almost instantaneously. This is an explicitly nonmonetary use for Bitcoin and can satisfy Mises’s regression theorem. Bitcoin would likely not emerge from a state of barter as the most saleable good; that much is certain. However, as a society progresses and becomes more technologically advanced, the good that was once the most saleable may no longer be the most saleable good. Menger explicitly acknowledges this when he mentions that cows, before gold, were the most saleable good and were thus the generally accepted medium of exchange, until society advanced sufficiently enough and cows were supplanted by gold because gold meshed better in a more advanced societal framework. There is no reason to think Bitcoin, or some other currency, cannot replace gold in the indefinite future for various reasons, many of which are not evident to us today. As technology pervades our daily life more and more, Bitcoin becomes ever more viable as an alternative to gold as the most saleable good.

Thus, we do not need to throw out Mises’ regression theorem. However, we do need to take a novel view of the theorem in that financial instruments could be considered candidates for developing into money if the right conditions emerge to facilitate general acceptance as a medium of exchange. Mises’ theorem still applies to market-driven, spontaneously emerging currencies, and only time will tell whether enough individuals will come to accept bitcoins as money. What is clear is that if we define money within the scope of particular groups using it as a medium of exchange, we can absolutely see bitcoin does operate as money in small groups who covet the qualities Bitcoin possesses.

The future looks promising; more and more bitcoin-based businesses are appearing, nonprofits are becoming bitcoin friendly, websites are accepting bitcoin donations, there is a lot of opportunity for growth in the use of bitcoins as money.To refuse to accept the possibility of Bitcoin as money in the future either seems incredibly short-sighted or does not adequately understand the bitcoin network’s value.

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Is Corrective Democracy Our Saving Grace?

Can We Correct Democracy?, as The Freeman’s Tom W. Bell poses, is one of the most pertinent questions facing modern democratic nations, which I will begrudgingly label the United States. I say begrudgingly because it makes me cringe when i hear the rhetoric that “we are a democracy,” and attaching a stamp of approval on this as if democracy yields desirable results.

Going back to the birth of our nation, our founders (with almost no divergence) expressed their misgivings regarding the inherent deficiencies of a democratic state. They knew, before John Stuart Mill famously expressed it, that there were two kinds of tyranny: tyranny of the magistrate and tyranny of the majorityA democratic system such that a voting majority may grant positive rights (rights which we cannot enjoy unless we force someone else to provide them for us) or take away natural rights because “the people will it” is not a system any righteous lover of liberty would feel safe under.

The mythical quote from “Alexander Tyler”expresses this view aptly when it decrees, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a louse fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship.” As long as government is able to maintain a monopoly on force and expropriate its people at the barrel of a gun, it doesn’t matter whether a king or a majority are causing the mischief; it still lacks legitimacy so long as the results mean violations of individual rights.

We must also remember that the Constitution did not guarantee a democracy; rather, it guaranteed “a republican form of government,” because, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, democracy is “nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent.” It is no more just for a democratic majority to decree that (to use Murray Rothbard’s famous example) all redheads must be put to death than if a totalitarian ruler does the same, and this principle extends down to the minutiae of any individual rights violations.

In light of all this, we must ask: Are these defects of democracy capable of being corrected, or at least subdued, by some process so that each individual will be able to live a free and prosperous life? Tom Bell uses an example involving ice cream to show that under democratic decision-making it is difficult to arrive at a consensus of what action should be taken or, in his example, what flavor of ice cream they should buy, since they can only buy one. However, his example shows that although agreement on what should be done is difficult to achieve, even in small groups, what not to do or what mistakes can be avoided tend to prove easier to achieve unanimity. For example, we can observe that it will be difficult to reach a consensus on what single beverage everyone should drink, but it will be easy to come to a consensus that the single beverage everyone should be drinking is not bleach.

A corrective democracy, which Tom Bell lays out in his article, is one where a law, regulation, or ordinance may be struck down if a majority (or other agreed upon percentage) of voters decide it’s deleterious. This system would offer an added protection to our liberties because if a representative should violate some right the people believe they have and impose an onerous and/or costly law or regulation, they may vote it down. It allows a greater oversight of our government’s activities than simply waiting to “vote them out” of their office, which does not (and likely will not ever) correct the error made by the official.

Particularly concerning federal government, any new law or regulation added to the books becomes nearly impossible to remove and new regulations end up being piled onto it. Robert Higgs discusses this idea in depth in Crisis and Leviathan and shows how government initiates massive amounts of legislation during crises (such as wartime) as temporary measures, yet these measures never end up being temporary. The functioning corrective democracy would be able to alleviate the burden caused by these permanent-temporary measures through the power of the ballot box.

However, the downside of corrective democracy would mean that voters could use the ballot box to strike down measures that were in favor of protecting their freedom and their natural rights. What if, through the corrective process, the people struck down these “good” laws rather than the “bad” ones? Historically, it has been the case that the masses are generally in favor of “free handouts,” of one kind or another, so what is the likelihood that they would eliminate measures that provide benefits to their special interests?

If, Congress today eliminated Social Security, but, through a corrective democratic system, they struck down the law repealing it, wouldn’t we consider this as a hindrance rather than a help? We have seen the historical outcomes of laws or systems which were intended for one use, but ended up being used for other, more nefarious intentions. Our own Constitution is the prime example of intent versus reality. For example, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the government insists the Interstate Commerce Clause means Congress may regulate anything they want, even down to the wheat grown on your own farm for only your own use, because it can roundaboutly “affect” interstate commerce (Wickard v. Filburn).

The question of whether democracy can be corrected is an important one to ask, from a practical standpoint. The ability to eliminate the worst excesses of (democratic) government would be of immense benefit to the general public, and if corrective democracy can do this, I would wholeheartedly support it.

The Problem with Conservatives

Many libertarians applaud conservatives on their economic views, and rightfully so. Conservatives generally want to keep the government off our backs and reduce the regulatory burden so that businesses can operate unmolested and provide jobs to hardworking Americans (this doesn’t include those so-called ‘fake’ conservatives who support corporate welfare, bailouts, protectionism, etc., although historically this was what conservatism did support). Personal freedoms, on the other hand, is where it gets trickier in aligning with the conservative viewpoint. Certain personal freedoms, particularly those reserved specifically in the Constitution like the right to bear arms, are vehemently supported by conservatives which should to be commended accordingly. Even certain freedoms not enumerated in the Constitution, particularly in the sphere of the family, are also guarded jealously. However, conservatives fail to apply their support for personal freedoms across the boards. When conservatives are able to apply their principles consistently, they will be much better off. 

For example, conservatives cannot say something to the effect that “The U.N. should not have authority over the citizens or public policies of the United States” and then think that we are the policeman of the world and can exact our authority on foreign nations and their citizens both militarily and diplomatically. If we think as Americans we have a right to “protect our national interests,” and therefore we may invade and occupy foreign nations, how can we consistently say that the U.N. cannot have any power over us? Maybe the countries composing the U.N. are simply trying to protect their “national interests.” 

When we talk about protecting our national interests, it only begs the question: who decided these “national interests?” A conservative versed in economics should know that value is subjective; one person’s interests are not the same as another’s. And a majority’s interests doth not a national interest make; ask those who’ve had violence perpetrated on them during the Holocaust about the validity of “national interests” or the interests of the majority.

Not only this, but conservatives often rely on the U.N. to enforce sanctions on countries we dislike, patently violating their own view that the U.N. cannot have authority over sovereign nations and individuals. In reality what they mean is, “The U.N. cannot have authority over the citizens or public policies of the United States; however, if it’s in the United States’ interest, let it do our bidding.” They believe the U.S. stands on a moral high ground and is the de facto U.N. Only an intense form of nationalism could possibly answer for this contemptible stance.

It is equally amazing when conservatives make a statement like, “The permanent institutions of family and religion are foundational to American freedom and the common good, and the federal government has no business interfering in these institutions,” evidently concerned with personal and private issues, but then hypocritically want the government to interfere with other personal and private concerns like abortion, drug use, etc. No self-reflecting individual can believe that the government should not interfere with the institution of marriage because of its intense personal nature, yet want to regulate what we put into our bodies by advocating for ever-stricter penalties and enforcement of marijuana laws, even against medical users. 

From a property rights aspect, the same hypocrisy could be said for the right to possess guns vs. the right to possess marijuana (or any other physical good). Just because the right to possess marijuana isn’t enshrined in the Constitution via enumeration doesn’t mean we don’t have that right. As the Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Further, supporting the right to possess a certain class of property but not another weakens the whole argument for property rights generally.

To have a respectable viewpoint, to be practical is not enough; it must be principled. There must be reason consistently applied throughout the philosophy, or it will be filled with holes. In the end, the conservative philosophy doesn’t stand for anything consistent; it simply means that whatever they profess is supreme and should be enforced at the barrel of a gun. This is why there is a more pronounced convergence between liberals and conservatives in so many issues; they rely on the government to enforce their societal ideals on the rest of us, who may or may not share their particular perspective. Hypocrisy is rampant in politics and our two parties are paragons of this vice.