Sunday, December 08, 2019

Two Liberties and the Futility of Utility - Economic Politics vs Political Economy pt3

To hear the proponents of 'Free Trade!' tell it, America's national policy should be guided by economic interests, and government should never interfere with international trade. Odd then, that the power to "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations" is one of the enumerated powers in the constitution, while 'Free Trade!' isn't even mentioned - and not just because the 19th century term 'Economics' wasn't yet a thing (though Adam Smith assuredly was). The then well known issues which Economics now claims to speak for, and which 'Free Trade!''rs claim the sole right to speak for, weren't even hinted at in the Preamble of our Constitution, because other concerns were understood to take precedence in its 'mission statement':
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
To be sure, a robust and prosperous economy was expected to follow from securing the 'Blessings of Liberty', and it did follow, once a Rule of Law had been established to govern upon the framework of our constitution, but that followed as an effect of our form of government and not as either a cause of it, or as a purpose for it.
"... liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty,
as well as by the abuses of power..."
James Madison, Federalist, no. 63

Am I trying to make a case for Govt intervention into business? Absolutely not. The case that I am trying to make, is that a sound Rule of Law is a necessary precondition for liberty and that is the government's primary concern, and from which secondary issues such as a Free Market can and will then follow upon and within that system, because those primary issues were attended to first. Once a government has established the framework for liberty, which includes providing adjudication of contracts and legal consequences for negligence, fraud, injury to persons & property, then that Govt has no further business involving itself in the operations of businesses within that or compatible external frameworks - but neither do businesses, or those 'economic experts' who claim to speak for them, have any business dictating how such secondary concerns should govern how government ought to handle its primary concerns.

The tendency to promote economic matters as a primary driver of national policy (whether that be pro 'Free Trade!' or pro 'Regulatory State' matters little, both are flip sides of the same counterfeit coin), is to adopt, at best, a Utilitarian view of the purpose of a nation's govt (and of its people), a view which is very much contrary to the understanding that our nation was derived from and founded upon. You'll often see this sentiment cheerfully expressed by Libertarians and Conservatives alike, through misleading lines such as this:
"There cannot be political freedom without economic freedom. This argument is not controversial, even on the left"
Each time I hear such statements, I want to grab someone by the lapels and ask: Why in the world would such a statement be controversial on the Left? If taken seriously, or simply accepted on the face of it, it induces you to put the effect (Economics) before its cause (Political Philosophy), in reverse of the requirements of liberty - hello, guess what Karl Marx himself proposed? In making or going along with such statements as that, you've agreed to play their game by their rules, at which point which 'team' you play for in their league is really of very little consequence or controversy for the Pro-Regressives of the Left (or Right). There are no 'economic rights' that aren't but features of the Individual Rights which give rise to them. To produce or purchase or contract to do either, are but a sliver of the actions which derive from the individual right to speak, associate and act, as well as the right to property which serves to anchor them into the laws of that society. To disregard that and fixate upon such abbreviated 'economic rights', severs them from their roots and props up a fragile and superficial facade in their place, which are then easily buffeted about by the winds of policies and popularity, while the roots that gave rise to them wither and become forgotten. Why in the world would that be controversial on the 'Left' - is that not their constant aim and pursuit?!

Secondary economic issues should not be advanced as if they were the highest priority, and especially not in our relations with foreign governments such as Communist China, which engage in widespread fraud & theft in their dealings with us, not to mention subjecting their own people to the rampant and oppressive denial and abuse of individual rights, enslavement and murder. Such issues are and should be the primary concerns of our government and its policies should be driven by them, while secondary concerns such as trade should come in at a distant second place. To prattle on about unrestricted and even unilateral 'Free Trade!' with such nations as Communist China, to demand the 'liberty' to aid & abet and enrich such nations as that in order to 'make a buck', displays such an appallingly disordered set of priorities that it is necessary to ask: What is it that they mean by 'Liberty'?

Taking liberties with Liberty
When people proclaim that they are 'for Liberty!', it is important to ask them what it is that they mean by that word. Case in point, you've probably heard of the book that is much admired by Libertarians and many Conservatives alike, "On Liberty", written in 1859 by John Stuart Mill - have you read it? If not, you should, if only to discover that there are a great many reasons to not be a fan of either the
book or of Mill, because what he promoted as Liberty, had a very different meaning from that understanding of Liberty which our nation was founded upon. If that seems surprising at first, it becomes less so when you note that Mill was deeply influenced by, and actually raised upon, the Utilitarian philosophy of the same Jeremy Bentham who considered those ideals of Natural Law and Individual Rights that America was founded upon, to be 'nonsense upon stilts'.

Liberty meant two very different things to J.S. Mill, and to our Founders and the system of govt they established to secure it - and we should all be very much aware of that.

For our Founders, Liberty wasn't an easy, thoughtless, condition of mankind. It was thought to be possible only to a moral & ethical people who, armed with an understanding of the nature of man, and acknowledging the necessity of establishing justice by securing the individual rights and property of its people under a written rule of law, such a people so armed stood a good chance of being able to devise a government whose laws would limit its powers to that purpose, and enable Liberty to flourish. That was understood in our Founder's era due to their knowledge of history and their familiarity with 'the harmonizing sentiments of the day', as Thomas Jefferson put it, which he said came from those '...elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney...', which is what he sought to give expression to in writing the Declaration of Independence,
"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,..."
That understanding of liberty is what formed the cornerstone of what came to be known as American Exceptionalism. Laws, in their understanding, were to be used to secure those rights that were by nature inherent in each individual so as to secure them the liberty to live a good life in pursuit of happiness, and those views are what led to the formation of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, which then led to a Free Market (or the closest approximation of one in history, before or since) and gave Lady Liberty her first secure home.

Two opposing understandings of Liberty
Utilitarians such as J.S. Mill, on the other hand, saw Liberty in only its narrowest of terms, as being little more than the absence of restraint, and far from seeing the purpose of govt as being to establish justice and secure liberty, they saw (and still see) it as a means of bringing about their ideal of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number". The 'liberty minded' Utilitarian intends to use Laws as tools by which political power can be harnessed to manipulate individuals into doing what 'those who know best' deem will bring about the 'greater good!' for them. Far from being in any way an exceptional ideal, those have been the unexceptionally common pretexts and excuses given as the purpose of nearly every other form of despotic government, socialism included, and by those who hunger for power through them.

I'm hardly the first to comment on the often disturbing nature of what Mill believed, or to realize that his beliefs conflicted with the angle he promoted in "On Liberty" (see "10 Books That Screwed Up the World"). No less a figure than the economist F. A. Hayek, author of "The Road to Serfdom" and a noted expert on J.S. Mill, argued that Mill:
“... by his advocacy of distributive justice and a general sympathetic attitude towards socialist aspirations in some of his other writings, prepared the gradual transition of a large part of the liberal intellectuals to a moderate socialism.”
J.S. Mill was a child prodigy, his father who raised and educated him (read: force fed his brain with useful facts), was a fervent follower of Jeremy Bentham and his philosophy of Utilitarianism. Mill, after a precocious youth, suffered a mental breakdown at a still young age, and began distancing himself from Bentham the person (and wrote some scathing evaluations of him). However, he didn't put much distance between himself and Bentham's core ideal of serving 'the greater good', and in fact Mill dove deeper into its implications in his own book on 'Utilitarianism', and he took a still deeper dive down the rabbit hole with Auguste Comte's brand of Positivism, while they carried on a mutually admiring correspondence from 1841 to 1847. Positivism, which has similarities with Utilitarianism, is another relativistic philosophy that is deeply incompatible with the principles of individual rights and natural law that America was founded upon. Auguste Comte, although largely forgotten today (his name, not his ideas, those are still thriving), was a founding father of 'Progressivism', a champion of Positivism, the (likely) originator of the term "Sociology", and authored several influential volumes on establishing a secular civil religion of the State ("Treatise on Sociology Instituting the Religion of Humanity"(an English version: "Religion of Humanity"), and promoting an all-powerful system of government ("System of Positive Polity"), which his Sociology was to play a large part in establishing and maintaining, and which Comte hoped would serve as a veritable handbook of totalitarianism... though presumably 'in a good way' of course, 'for the greater good!'.

Although Mill had his differences with Comte, in broad strokes he'd long considered himself to be a Positivist by the time he wrote "On Liberty", and what he meant by Liberty bore little resemblance to what our Founders understood by that concept. He 'championed' free speech and a minimum of laws not because he thought that the protection of rights were important to the nature of being human, but because he thought that 'the greater good' might be best served by permitting them. Mill was a materialist who saw Justice and Rights not as something inalienable to the nature of being human, but as external things and conditions which should be nudged and regulated by 'those who know best' for 'the greater good'. He saw Liberty, not as what a good, responsible and ethical people could become worthy of through the internal regulations of reason, knowledge and morality, and externally through a system of laws which limited the reach of their laws, but as little more than the absence of restraint upon the hot & cold twitches, urges and passions of the moment, such as any savage in the forest might 'choose', and as such his idea of 'liberty' had far more Libertineism, than Liberty, to it, and presumed that wiser leaders, 'experts' such as Mill himself, must use laws to restrain society here & there for 'the greater good'. As he expressed in his Jurisprudence [1825],
"...It is easy to see what is the standard, in conformity with which the rights in question ought to be constituted; meaning by ought, that which perfect benevolence would desire. It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. ..."
, and,
"...All rights of course are to objects of human desire,—of nothing else need shares be allotted. All objects which men desire, are desired, either as the end, or as means. The pleasurable state of the mind is the end; consisting of the feelings of the mind. ..."
The notion that your 'rights' exist only to serve your feelings and lead you towards various pleasures, is an even more ridiculous position than the Hedonism that Epicurus first proposed, but at least Epicurus hadn't yet heard Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero's devastating debunking of the shallow silliness of his philosophy. Mill, OTOH, had no such excuse, and neither the 'simple hedonism' of Jeremy Bentham, which Mill himself criticized, or his own 'modified hedonism', bring anything new to the notion other than useless machinations of nuance. Holding pleasure as being the ultimate good, has and will always lead to evil in the end, but jumping to such a mistake is at least an understandable error for an uninformed person to make, but for a person who's aware of its failings, to think that they can salvage that idea by having committees determine and regulate the utility of such passions, as a means to even higher pleasures for all, is the judgment of a bent and withered mind. When Individual Rights are thrown over for a vague sense of 'Rights!' as privileges permitted so far as they generally seem to serve 'the greater good', such 'Rights!' will be permitted to them only so long as 'those who know best' think they do just that. Such plans of govt as that, briefly wobble, then lean, and then finally topple over into an enshrinement of Power over Justice, and usher in tyranny - any expectation of something worthy of the name 'Liberty' following from those, is an exercise in futility.

Ethics, which our Founders' thought central to the possibility of achieving and sustaining Liberty, was a topic which Mill gave short shrift to in 'On Liberty', largely writing it off here on pg 20, with:
"It is proper to state that I forego any advantage which could be derived to my argument from the idea of abstract right, as a thing independent of utility. I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being. Those interests, I contend, authorise the subjection of individual spontaneity to external control, only in respect to[Pg 20] those actions of each, which concern the interest of other people. "[emphasis mine]
Not only does Mill brush Ethics off as an 'idea of abstract right' by which an individual is aided in living a good life, (which is what Ethics is), he's unconcerned with distinguishing between what is good & evil and right & wrong for an individual life, and so because he's replaced a concern for what is Good, for what seems (to who?) to be the most useful to the most people, he has explicitly redefined it along collectivist terms as being the arbiter of what is most useful to the greatest number of people in society as a whole. Mill wrote... a lot. And in that mass of verbiage, you can find much skillful splitting of hairs between how power should be used and divided between his 'liberty!' and 'the greater good', but in the end the head of his lady 'liberty!' is left bald, with the wig of socialism soon to be plopped upon it, as it must always be the case when truth and individual rights are discarded for the benefit of utility. It's interesting to note that most of the rest of Mill's minimal discussion of 'Ethics' in 'On Liberty', is confined to a single section where he is deriding and condemning the ethics of Christians, as he contrasts them with the ethical nature of the Koran (pg 93):
"... It is in the Koran, not the New Testament, that we read the maxim—"A ruler who appoints any man to an office, when there is in his dominions another man better qualified for it, sins against God and against the State."
And for those fervent and committed libertarian 'Free Trade!' individualists who carry 'On Liberty' around in their pocketses, they should keep in mind that on pg 180, Mill described 'Free Trade!' not as what individual human being had an inherent right to engage in... noOo... instead he said:
"Again, trade is a social act. Whoever undertakes to sell any description of goods to the public, does what affects the interest of other persons, and of society in general; and thus his conduct, in principle, comes within the jurisdiction of society: accordingly, it was once held to be the duty of governments, in all cases which were considered of importance, to fix prices, and regulate the processes of manufacture. But it is now recognised, though not till after a long struggle, that both the cheapness and the good quality of commodities are most effectually provided for by leaving the producers and sellers perfectly free, under the sole check of equal[Pg 180] freedom to the buyers for supplying themselves elsewhere. This is the so-called doctrine of Free Trade, which rests on grounds different from, though equally solid with, the principle of individual liberty asserted in this Essay..."[emphasis mine]
Which nicely states the justification for why bakers can be sued for not baking a cake for those purposes which 'those who know best' assert as best serving the 'greater good'. Once again this patron saint of 'Liberty!' declares that while you may be permitted to have the 'right' (so to speak) to trade, and to 'liberty', you do so solely because it seems to serve what some powerful person or committee has determined to best serve what they conclude to be the 'greater good' of those which they count as being in the greatest number - and the moment you fall out of those greater golden ratios, your liberty will be subjected to tyranny. I don't condemn Mill because I think that he would've approved of those abuses I've mentioned here, but for giving such a trifling regard to the consequences of thinking that such powers as he proposed would not soon corrupt all who possessed or sought them.

Grist for the Mill
Yes, Mill has a great many inspiring and 'liberty minded' lines and quips peppered throughout 'On Liberty', more than enough to fill many pages of Instagram memes, but the fact remains that for those who bother thinking about what they're looking at in his fine sounding statements and examining the basis for them, reveals no sound foundation for liberty. The ideas which J.S. Mill proposed and advocated for, could not form or establish a foundation for anything remotely worthy of our Founding Father's conception of 'Liberty', and on the contrary, at every turn they lead towards slighting and undermining the concept as it was understood by them. Mill also devoted much time and attention to attacking those who still supported what had been commonly understood in the Founders' era just 50 years before him, and without going too much further into the details, J.S. Mill had much to do with smearing and discrediting those concepts, and he did much to steer America and The West in general away from those philosophic roots which America had grown from (see especially his proto-Common Core ideas of Education).

What becomes clear with just a bit of poking around behind the sizzle of Mill's quips, is that his thinking had for so long inclined him towards such socialistic thoughts, that it should have been no surprise to anyone then, or now, that J. S. Mill ended his life as a sympathetic socialist. Because his entire philosophy was based upon 'fairness', which in his ideal amounted to an equal distribution of things, rather than equality before the law, those who attempt to follow his ideas down his road to 'liberty', risk winding up equally far from where they might first have intended to travel.

In short, if J.S. Mill is someone you look to for your thoughts on 'Liberty!', or if those 'thought leaders' that you respect, look to J. S. Mill for 'their' thoughts on 'Liberty!', then it is very possible and indeed likely that the extremely loose and shaky ground that your adopted 'Principles!' and notions of 'Free Trade!' are founded upon, are seriously undermining our ability to achieve a meaningful experience of Liberty in America today.

The reality of the matter is that if you want to see an example of a nation that has put 'economic freedom' (a meaningless term bereft of ethical principles) before 'political freedom' today, you need look no further than Hong Kong under Communist China. How do you suppose the Communist Chinese leadership deliberate upon and justify their actions against those students demanding something of an American sense of liberty in Hong Kong, except through deciding that the policies of 'those who know best' (aka: Themselves), will best serve the 'greater good'? That is the 'thinking', that is being demonstrated in Hong Kong right now, showing for all who're willing to see, the reality that the inhabitants of a communist nation, do not enjoy any individual rights or liberty, because the ideas which their nation stands upon, stand in direct and explicit opposition to Property, and to its elimination, as Marx stated quite clearly, that:
"In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. "
Any possessions their people may have at the moment, or economic activities that they are presently permitted to engage in, are nothing more than temporary allowances which the communist state has deemed useful for its own purposes to permit, and which can and will be withdrawn at a bureaucrat's next whim, as being for 'The Greater Good'. The status of the inhabitants of China, or any other communist nation, both those of its people who are presently allowed to roam about, and those who're chained in its factories and concentration camps, are what we call people who are denied the recognition of and free exercise of their individual rights - slaves - and there is no need to distinguish between those who slave in miserable conditions in the fields, or those who slave in luxurious comfort in the master's house - they are all slaves.

Tragically, as the West has turned its gaze from that fuller concept of Liberty held in our Founder's era, to the unrestrained economic pleasures of the moment, one thing that's agreed upon by nearly all of those who see themselves as being of 'those who know best' - Left, Right & Libertarian - it's that Communist China is an economic success, a financial powerhouse, and as several have recently said to me, 'more capitalist' than America (which, though for very different reasons, I don't dispute).

As most Libertarians have the wrong conception of 'Liberty!' driving their thinking(Mill's rather than Madison's), they are willing and eager to enrich themselves - sorry, 'the economy' (a suitably collectivist term all its own) - by demanding open and unrestricted trade with Communist China, turning a blind eye to the fact that those doing business there are made to sign away (or give 'access to', which amounts to the same thing) their Intellectual Property: in everything from their trade secrets, to those proprietary processes they've devised for efficiently manufacturing their products at a profit, and those few secrets which they might somehow manage to retain, become the targets of state espionage. Communist China abuses all who engage with and trade with it, criminally taking whatever value they find in those who 'trade' with them within their borders, and there's evidence to suggest those who are outside their borders as well. To pretend that those abuses don't happen, or to shrug them off while seeking unilateral 'Free Trade!' with Communist China, as if that could be beneficial to the interests of America, is well beyond merely foolish. Seeking such terms with such a state as that is, IMHO, not only a repulsive thought, but a suicidal one. What do you think that enriching a slave state, one that is committed to the eradication of what our nation is founded upon, while assisting it to accumulate the wealth needed to become a sizable military thorn, if not an outright threat to the security of our nation? What do they suppose will result, if matters continue to go their way? The Libertarians want to unilaterally extend 'Free Trade!' to Communist China, without regard to the nature of that regime, in order to make a buck. It'd be best if we all realized that their view of 'Liberty!' is akin to what Madison warned of in Federalist #63 that "... liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty, as well as by the abuses of power...", and it is incompatible with a meaningful understanding of the American concept and responsibilities inherent in Liberty.

The notion of 'Liberty!' that was promoted by J.S. Mill, is a liberty that serves in conformity to the Utilitarian ideal of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number", and while Communist China is several few steps further down that road of good intentions than Mill and most Libertarians are willing to go, they are firmly upon that road, and refusing to see where it leads won't stop anyone from getting there. If you think I go too far, I think you really need to recheck your premises - or better yet, check Mill's. Mill is the one who said "I forego any advantage which could be derived to my argument from the idea of abstract right" and Bentham before him, as many a like-minded smarty pants since, held that individual rights are 'nonsense upon stilts', and upon such ground as that, all Ethical considerations are simply laid to waste by: "I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions". Having gutted the meaning of what is 'Good' (look again at his statement about Ethics), and replaced it with Utility, by which he means the greatest pleasure for the numerical majority, then 'The Greater Good' means nothing more than what those in power calculate to be the most useful to their plans for... 'the greater good'. Have we really all forgotten that Chairman Mao found it most useful to end the lives of forty-five million of his own people, in service to his 'Great Leap Forward!' for 'The Greater Good!' of Communist China (you'd be hard-pressed to find a better metaphor for 'Progressivism' than that)?

I'm sorry, but the differences between Communism and Utilitarianism are not differences of 'principle' (a concept which neither system respects), but are only differences in the personal preferences of those in charge of defining what the 'Greater Good' is, and what they think best serves it, and to trust those in power to 'make good choices' about that, takes a naivete that borders on criminal negligence. Where else but the likes of Communist China, could such ideas lead to 'in the long run'? And while the likes of Keynes could afford to quip about his 'inconsistencies' from his end of history, that 'in the long run we're all dead', at our end of history we're very much at risk of becoming the living dead. People often ask me why I'm not a 'Libertarian', and the short answer is that I am not, and never will be a 'Libertarian', because I care too much about Liberty, and I don't care to see Lady Liberty being transformed into an extra in the Walking Dead.

Asking Primary Questions
So let's ask the question again,

  • What should the primary purpose of a nation be?
For myself today, having full awareness of the technological conveniences available in our age, it appears to me as it did to our Founder's in their era with no knowledge of such marvels, that a nation's primary purpose for existing, is to establish justice through the Rule of Law, under a government devoted to upholding and defending the Individual Rights and Property of it's citizens, by means of objective laws devoted to, and limited to, that purpose. That answer is more than me simply riffing upon my personal fancies, it is an answer that is more than hinted at in James Madison's essay on Property, as seen here at its conclusion:
"...If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights: they will rival the government that most sacredly guards the former; and by repelling its example in violating the latter, will make themselves a pattern to that and all other governments."
It's a brief essay and I strongly recommend reading it all (especially noting his idea of having 'property in rights'). Notice as you do, that for James Madison, the Father of our Constitution and primary author of our Bill of Rights, writing on the subject of Property no less, his purpose in limiting the powers that Govt should have over issues that we think of today as being economic factors,were not based upon Economic considerations, but upon the reasoning's of that Ethical and Political philosophy which our system of government was formed from and upon, which declares the protection of Individual Rights as being its primary concern, before other secondary considerations are taken into account. Which, incidentally, "...the lesson of history..." show that a thriving economy is what will result for those nations whose ideal of liberty follows an ordered system of thinking.

And yet again, for those blathering on about 'economic rights', it was Karl Marx that advanced an Economic interpretation of history, philosophy and politics, and who said of his entire philosophy and program of Communism, in chp 2 of his Communist Manifesto, that:
"In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. "
, and he did so in order to dispense with history, philosophy and politics in order to better utilize power for his own ideal of 'the greater good'. Communist China holds tightly to that dark aspect of Utility, and though it may be a utility as seen through a mirror darkly, it still must eliminate the understanding of Individual Rights & Property Rights which America was founded upon. The distilled essential understanding of what Communism is and aims to achieve, as stated by Marx himself, is diametrically opposed to that theme of ", liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." which our Declaration of Independence expressed as the true American Dream.

So where does this leave us in terms of tariffs and Communist China? Firstly, IMHO, with a proper observance of the full context of the issue, we are left with recognizing that this is not an economic issue, but is instead first and foremost a political issue. For myself, I'd prefer there be no trade with any Communist nation at all, China most definitely included, for reasons similar to why I'd want the police to shutdown any storefront operation that served as a front for fencing criminal's stolen goods - no matter how much 'economic sense' doing business with them might make(!). And no, extending 'Free Trade!' to Communist China is not going to lure them into the respect for individual rights that a Free Market requires, any more than criminals doing steady business through a crooked fence entices the crooks to 'go straight' - it simply rewards their behavior. Unfortunately we abandoned the path of no engagement, long ago with the despicable actions of Nixon and Carter (true bipartisanship!), and so with no good choices open to us today, the less bad choice which we must face is that there should be barriers to trade with Communist China, and they should be steep, if not insurmountable ones.

So, no, I don't fault President Trump for imposing tariffs on Communist China, but I do fault him for doing so in order to improve trade with them (but that's another matter for another post). To those with the smarmy comments of 'If only someone had warned us!" that applying tariffs to Communist China would produce economic difficulties for Americans, of course there have been such difficulties, any form of 'war' - trade, shooting, or otherwise - burdens its own people with the costs of waging that war, but only a craven fool makes that their primary concern. The question to ask in situations such as this is, is that war justified and necessary? If it is, it would be foolish to cavil and take inadequate steps and measures while hoping that 'somehow' they wouldn't make even greater wars still more likely & unavoidable. Such 'hopes' as those are far, far worse than merely foolish ones - see Neville Chamberlain for reference, for as Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the Polish Lithuanian who served as a colonel in the American revolution is said to have said,
"Tyranny anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere"
, and as Communist China is daily demonstrating, Liberty anywhere is perceived by every tyrant as a threat to them, right where they live.

We are not, and cannot rest in an easy peace with any nation that is dedicated to the elimination of private property, and so Individual Rights, and it is foolish to believe that we can, or worse, to think that we are getting away with it, or even worse still, to think that we can 'profit' from doing so. There is and can be no 'sensible deal' with Tyranny, still, I'd prefer that there be no war of any kind with Communist China, but the best course of action - complete disengagement with them, in trade or anything else - is no longer an option. President Trump thinks that he can use tariffs to make other nations drop their tariffs, and by doing so end up striking a 'good deal' for us with them. While that strategy has a good chance of working with Western nations... I'm nowhere near certain how it will work with Communist China, it's a gamble without good odds, but ...we'll see what we see. It will at least reduce their ill-gotten gains, and enable Americans to prosper more from such transactions, and hopefully slow down the sale of hemp for them to make our nooses from.

And to throw some sobering cold water on the enthusiasm that some people are now showing for a Trade War, no form of war should be taken lightly, nor should we be too surprised if the actions of a Trade War should lead to a full out shooting war (Pearl Harbor was a result of a trade war, in response to Japan's other wars (and our even earlier deals with that tyranny)), and thinking that one war can't lead to another, is even more dangerously foolish. The fact which remains though, is that the less bad option open to us now is to not allow Communist China to have their way, and to gamble that they have more fear of losing, than hopes of winning.

Having the liberty to freely trade in a prosperous economy (as a result of establishing some semblance of a Free Market), is a result of the American ideal of Liberty which our government was formed from, but it must not be mistaken for its purpose lest that purpose be dangerously undermined. The economy cannot be allowed to dictate the behavior of that government which it operates within, as allowing it to do so has and will undermine liberty for all. Far from the ideals of 'establishing justice' and 'the greater good' having similar meanings and purposes, they occupy different positions in cause and effect, and I would challenge you to consider whether any nation that long pursues such contrary principles as those as being their primary purposes for existing, can help but constitute a house divided - how can long can such a structure hope to stand? Eventually the pursuit of such a reversal of cause & effect will result in the individual rights and property of those same individuals being weighed in the balance with a big fat Utilitarian thumb pressing down on the scales, in favor of a truly de-moralized 'Greater Good!'.

The pursuit of Liberty on the basis of utility, is an exercise in futility that can 'in the long run' lead only to tyranny. If that's what your ideal of 'Liberty!' is based upon, isn't it about time you examine your premises?

Next post: history in the present day.

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