Seizing Property

I just read an intriguing article which talks about Bush’s recent executive orders to enable the secretary of the treasury to seize the assets of anyone who is in any way, directly or however indirectly, interferes with Iraq or Lebanon.  While I agree that this is the utmost insanity, I have a more interesting argument to make than merely discussing the lunacy of the politicians of the day.  Here is a quote from the article linked above:

“While both orders bypass the Constitutional right to due process of law in giving the Secretary of Treasury authority to seize properties of those persons posing a risk of violence, or in any vague way assisting opposition to US agenda”

Oh, so the problem is that the Secretary of the Treasury now can do it without due process.  Meaning that they don’t have to notify you about how they’re just about to freeze and then steal all your assets.  It’s that they won’t permit you to hire a lawyer that this article is bemoaning.  While this is indeed bad, I think we’re all missing the point somewhat.  Shouldn’t the Secretary of the Treasury simply not have the power to just reach out and grab whatever they feel like?  Shouldn’t the government simply be unable to outright steal everyone’s assets?  The offhanded way that this article ignores the fundamental crime that is being committed here is disturbing.

On other current news, the government is handing out $700 billion to banks.  OK, so let me get this one straight.  You reserve the right to steal from citizens at will, and you restrict yourself by having little bits of paper which sometimes say you do, and sometimes you don’t.  However . . .  Unfortunately this makes perfect sense because the average citizen hasn’t the capital to siphon down from the great pie-in-the-sky that is government funds.  Fiscal governments raise barriers to entry.  Laws.  It’s what they do- they make regulations and restrictions, and they throw money around.  The bailout, the executive orders, everything, the whole deal is just business as usual.  Can you imagine how poorly the American government would be doing right now if it were a company?  If citizens had the option to leave and go to a competitor without dealing with the huge barriers to entry which are actually barriers to exit, they would be gone.  All the features the US government offers have become corrupted in recent years, from the Constitution to the balance of powers to the services rendered.  However they don’t care, quite simply because no matter what, they will keep their revenue stream alive.  That’s the purpose of taxes.

I’m going to cite Stefan Molyneux’s example, perhaps again, but I can’t be bothered to check.  Let’s say there’s a paperboy.  He goes from house to house and delivers papers.  Part of his job is to try to sell subscriptions to more houses.  If the paper offers more value to consumers then he sells more papers, and everyone is better off.  The consumer gets the paper, he gets paid, and the publisher makes money.  Now, let’s give this model a twist.  Let’s turn the paperboy into a government force- say the paperboy has the force of arms to walk up to someone’s house and tell them, flat out, that they are now subscribed to his paper and will pay the subscription cost.  He doesn’t care what they do with the paper- they can burn it for all it matters.  But they must subscribe and receive the paper, or there will be consequences.  For example, let’s say he can have them thrown in jail for failure to comply.  In the short term, you’ll see a massive increase in the number of subscriptions.  This looks like a fan-fucking-tastic idea.  True, some people get thrown in jail, but on the whole the economy is being stimulated, and so many more people are getting newspapers than they used to.  They’re keeping up to date, they’re reading, they’re becoming more international.  Of course, the paper no longer has any incentive to print anything at all- they could give out blank sheets of paper for all they care.  They have more subscriptions than ever, and are growing explosively.  If the paperboy is ethical, he might exercise his power to make the newspaper print good stories, but how do you judge that, and are you need boards and standards, and so on…  Of course, the paperboy is making a lot of money since he’s the crux of the operation- or at least him and others like him.  Of course, this puts the paperboy in a powerful position, giving him the option to push hard for more money, exploit his employer, turn corrupt, etc. etc.  Crime- at least, white collar crime, is a result of this crevasse created by the government.  For example, if the paperboy is trying to help people with his power, he might demand that people receive the paper in order to give the publisher more money with which to hire more reporters, editors, etc. to make more and better stories.  So everyone enjoys the paper more, lots of people are receiving it, and everything is just dandy.  This puts our paperboy squarely in the naive liberal point of view.  This is fantasy.  You can’t put the cart before the horse and expect it to go.  You can’t legislate that the machine will work.  You let people who want the machine to work fix it so it goes.  If nobody wants the machine to go- if it’s uneconomical to run it, then it shouldn’t be run anyway.  By demanding that people receive the paper, you’re skewing the incentives to screw over the consumer, or buyer, and thereby alleviate the burden on the seller.  If you expect them not to take advantage of that, you’re stupid.  The way to stop them is to regulate the seller, too, but now that crevasse is widened and you’ve made everyone worse off, and introduced counterproductive protocols and immense complication.  If it gets too complicated, you might even create niches for specialists to help people navigate and cope.  It’s madness.

Can you think of any parallels between this example and, say, the school system?  The stock market?  Other systems or government programs?  Can you guess why they use contractors whenever they actually need to get stuff done, and done well?  I have a thought experiment for you.  Let’s say that the government didn’t issue defense contracts.  Do you think that the defense contracting companies would even attempt to make weapons the way they do when they’re being paid for their effort?  How do they expect to make money?  Do you think these people just want to make weapons, and they would do it anyway even if they wasted millions or billions doing it?  Of course not.  Now, if there was a legitimate reason for those weapons to be built, agreed upon on a sufficiently massive scale to make the general public want to pay for their production out of their own pockets, they could be made.  But I don’t believe a situation like that has ever occurred without being created in the first place by one or more governments screwing their citizens.  I don’t want a company representing me to attack anybody- what a complete waste!  But of course that’s just the point.  The government doesn’t actually represent anybody.  Even if you wanted them to stop representing you, you can’t.  QED, they don’t represent you.  The reasoning behind this is very simple.  Let’s say you’re in a conversation with three other people, and one of them is telling the other two about your opinions.  At any point you can simply declare that person incorrect and retract their right to represent you, granted on a very temporary basis.  If they keep going and say, “No, I represent you.  You don’t get to argue with me,” they are clearly the problem.  I mean, seriously, does anyone actually think this is a sane way to run a conglomerate of millions of people?  At the end of the day, this stuff is truly simple, but so many people are being misled.  Like the “terrorist fist jab,” it would be hilarious, if it weren’t so sad.

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