Today's Libertarian Moment of Zen

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Paine

"If, from the more wretched parts of the old world, we look at those which are in an advanced stage of improvement, we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey, and permits none to escape without a tribute….

"The amazing and still increasing expenses with which old governments are conducted, the numerous wars they engage in or provoke, the embarrassments they throw in the way of universal civilization and commerce, and the oppression and usurpation they act at home, have wearied out the patience, and exhausted the property of the world."

Some words of wisdom from Thomas Paine, the anti-Christian, pro-booze, logorrheic Christopher Hitchens of the Founders. Today's Libertarian Moment of Zen was brought to you by Liberty Fund, on whose dime I am currently attending a conference on the author of Common Sense, The Crisis, and the words above, from Rights of Man.

Me on Tom Paine here.

UPDATE: Greatest. Comment. Ever.

From a Finnish reason reader: "When I went to look Paine up in the university library catalogue. Ironically, right below him in the author index was Paineastialainsäädäntötoimikunta, the beautiful 32-letter Finnish word roughly translating to "The Committee for the Regulation of and Legislation on Pressurized Vessels". It is unclear if this means pressure cookers or submarines or what, but I'm sure they have come with ingenious ways to tax air pressure."

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  1. Today’s Libertarian Moment of Zen was brought to you by Liberty Fund, on whose dime I am currently attending a conference on the author of Common Sense, The Crisis, and the words above, from Rights of Man.

    I’ve never attended a Liberty Fund conference, but I’ve always heard that LF has large sums of money to spend on them, but the money has to be spent on certain things (according to the terms of the trust fund that’s LF’s main source of funding). Like, even the shape of the tables is specified.

  2. That was me above. Forgot to change my name back after making a lame joke (again).

  3. Thank you, Sir, you made the morning of this European fan with these words.

    It was back to earth, though, when I went to look Paine up in the university library catalogue. Ironically, right below him in the author index was Paineastialains??d?nt?toimikunta, the beautiful 32-letter Finnish word roughly translating to “The Committee for the Regulation of and Legislation on Pressurized Vessels”. It is unclear if this means pressure cookers or submarines or what, but I’m sure they have come with ingenious ways to tax air pressure.

  4. Like I’ve said before, there is no libertarian movement without Ron Paul. Keep on blogging and having moments of zen with same 60 libertarian academics you write back and forth with. Feels good doesn’t it?

  5. Like I’ve said before, there is no libertarian movement without Ron Paul. Keep on blogging and having moments of zen with same 60 libertarian academics you write back and forth with. Feels good doesn’t it?

    Yeah, I guess the rest of us, who’ve been advocating libertarianism for years and years, are contributing nothing sans Paul.

    Damn.

    Guess it’s time to pack up and go home. Nothing to see here.

    [/sarcasm]

  6. It’s a stretch to compare Hitchens with Paine; Hitchens’ world is much larger, and Paine’s influence far greater. Paine was consistently reasonable whereas Hitchens is brilliant and/or ridiculous, depending on the day. But yeah, it’s comforting that they’re both pro booze.

  7. It was back to earth, though, when I went to look Paine up in the university library catalogue. Ironically, right below him in the author index was Paineastialains??d?nt?toimikunta, the beautiful 32-letter Finnish word roughly translating to “The Committee for the Regulation of and Legislation on Pressurized Vessels”. It is unclear if this means pressure cookers or submarines or what, but I’m sure they have come with ingenious ways to tax air pressure.

    This right here is probably the most epic post I’ve ever seen on H&R.

  8. Didn’t Tom Paine, like any good lover of liberty and freedom, realize that economic inequality (or at least want) was a danger to freedom and liberty?

  9. I learned that from Reason, actually:

    “It’s true that Paine proposed redistributionist schemes and other social programs throughout his life”

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/120352.html

    Tom was the original Liberaltarian, all right!

  10. JLE:

    Like the booze comment.

    Hitch brilliantly embellishes his book god is Not Great with his experiences as a foreign correspondent and expert on the homicidal politics of the Middle East. And he’s absurd in his support of the war in Iraq, for which the Chaney, Rumsfeld and Bush never bothered to formulate a plan.

    The relative size of Payne and Hitchens’ worlds, I think, is reflected in their views on religion: Payne an anti-Christian, Hitch an anti-theist.

    Would someone please elaborate on Payne’s alleged socialism? I have trouble conceiving of a socialist libertarian.

  11. Honestly, I think Paine would be better described as the Alex Jones of the founders.

    His name was pretty much dogshit amongst his contemporaries in a similar fashion.

  12. Richard-I think Paine, like of lot of people who feel that liberty is very important, do not equate some redistributionist and social programs as either “socialist” or anti-liberty.

    To say that someone is necessarily a socialist because they want to take money from people to support a government program that they feel is fundamental to either the general welfare or the safeguarding of liberty is to do violence to the concept of socialism.

    Websters Online defines socialism as “1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” To say there should be an inheritance tax, or unemployment insurance, for example, is to fall far, far short of that concept.

    Many (myself included) think that economic want and imbalance often lead to situations in which the overall exercise of liberty is limited and so we are willing to see some “coercive” government programs as OK. I’m not sure how different this is from the libertarian who supports a coercive program to fund a police force which then acts to actually maximize liberty (by protecting the weak/few from the many/strong, protecting property rights, enforcing contracts, etc).

    We’re not anti-business or commerce. Many of the things that have advanced my freedom relative to earlier historical eras or to poorer contemporary nations have come from the efforts of businessmen and women. Their efforts are crucial and should be celebrated, though not myopically worshipped as a shibboleth…

  13. we are willing to see some “coercive” government programs as OK.

    How do you keep them at ‘some’?

  14. Thank you for recognizing my extremely underrated host.

  15. That picture bears an eerie resemblance to Michael Shermer.. Maybe the good folks at Scientific American have figured out time travel and just aren’t telling us.

  16. “I have trouble conceiving of a socialist libertarian.”

    I have a friend who defined libertarian socialism as “people being allowed to do whatever they want, as long as nobody makes any money.”

    I thought that was funny.

  17. Maybe the good folks at Scientific American have figured out time travel and just aren’t telling us.

    This is time travel we’re talking about. They don’t have to have figured it out … yet.

  18. First, my apologies to the departed Thomas Paine, whose name I misspelled twice.

    Second, thanks to you, Mr. Nice Guy (hence the screen name), for elaborating on socialism, libertarianism, et al. The point that large disparities in wealth can threaten the stability of society is well-taken. However, I think the flip side is that such programs entail usurpation of our rights to the extent that social programs require regulation.

    Another problem is that the term libertarianism has several definitions today. Before Ron Paul, I understood it as:
    1. Applying the law equally to everyone.
    2. Allowing people to do what they like as long as they are not harming others (with the exception of clear-cut matters of public safety).
    3. In light of 1 and 2, holding people responsible for their own actions (the underlying principle any form of libertarianism, I think).

    No. 3 is where problems with social programs arise. To be less abstract, for example, to what extent should the rest of society be responsible for the children of poor people with high birth rates? Having children is a matter of choice. And choosing to have children you can’t feed, clothe, educate or socialize properly is irresponsible and a burden on everyone else. So would requiring proof of financial responsibility in order to receive a license to have a child be libertarian (making people responsible for their own actions) or anti-libertarian (telling people how many children they can have)? This is more than an academic question, by the way, since I think that as the population of a society increases so do the regulations required to keep it orderly — to guarantee that people are able to enjoy their rights.

    Boy, this is complicated!

  19. “Would someone please elaborate on Payne’s alleged socialism? I have trouble conceiving of a socialist libertarian.”

    See Paine’s essay on “Agrarian Justice.” See also Henry George, and Albert Jay Nock (author of “Our Enemy, the State”) on Henry George, especially his “Henry George: Unorthodox American” and the admiration he expressed for George in his “Memoirs of a Superfluous Man.” (All of the above is findable through Google.)

    I’d also emphasize what others have noted: Paine, while anti-Christian (though he had some kind words for Quakers) was also a pious Diest, and not an obnoxious athiest like Hitchens.

  20. A “pious deist”? Deism doesn’t involve any dogma or ritual that I know of. What’s to be pious about?

    Oh. And what makes Hitchens an “obnoxious atheist” is that he sees no reason to pander to people with an imaginary friend.

  21. My fave quote:

    “The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government.”

    – Thomas Paine

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